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Captain Lakshmi Sahgal (1914 - 2012) - A life of struggle




Captain Lakshmi Sahgal in the uniform of INA.


“The fight will go on,” said Captain Lakshmi Sehgal one day in 2006, sitting in her crowded Kanpur clinic where, at 92, she still saw patients every morning. She was speaking on camera to Singeli Agnew, a young filmmaker from the Graduate School of Journalism, Berkeley, who was making a documentary on her life.

Each stage of the life of this extraordinary Indian represented a new stage of her political evolution – as a young medical student drawn to the freedom struggle; as the leader of the all-woman Rani of Jhansi regiment of the Indian National Army; as a doctor, immediately after Independence, who restarted her medical practice in Kanpur amongst refugees and the most marginalised sections of society; and finally, in post-Independence India, her life as a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), years that saw her in campaigns for political, economic and social justice.

“Freedom comes in three forms,” the diminutive doctor goes on to say on camera in her unadorned and direct manner. “The first is political emancipation from the conqueror, the second is economic [emancipation] and the third is social… India has only achieved the first.”

With Captain Lakshmi’s passing, India has lost an indefatigable fighter for the emancipations of which she spoke.

First rebellion

Lakshmi Sehgal was born Lakshmi Swaminadhan on October 24, 1914 in Madras to S. Swaminadhan, a talented lawyer, and A.V. Ammukutty, a social worker and freedom fighter (and who would later be a member of independent India’s Constituent Assembly).

Lakshmi would later recall her first rebellion as a child against the demeaning institution of caste in Kerala. From her grandmother’s house, she would often hear the calls and hollers from the surrounding jungles and hills, of the people who in her grandmother’s words were those “whose very shadows are polluting.” The young Lakshmi one day walked up to a young tribal girl, held her hand and led her to play. Lakshmi and her grandmother were furious with each other, but Lakshmi was the one triumphant.

After high school in Madras, she studied at the Madras Medical College, from where she took her MBBS in 1938. The intervening years saw Lakshmi and her family drawn into the ongoing freedom struggle. She saw the transformation of her mother from a Madras socialite to an ardent Congress supporter, who one day walked into her daughter’s room and took away all the child’s pretty dresses to burn in a bonfire of foreign goods. Looking back years later, Lakshmi would observe how in the South, the fight for political freedom was fought alongside the struggle for social reform. Campaigns for political independence were waged together with struggles for temple entry for Dalits and against child marriage and dowry. Her first introduction to communism was through Suhasini Nambiar, Sarojini Naidu’s sister, a radical who had spent many years in Germany. Another early influence was the first book on the communist movement she read, Edgar Snow’s Red Star over China.

Meeting Netaji

As a young doctor of 26, Lakshmi left for Singapore in 1940. Three years later she would meet Subhash Chandra Bose, a meeting that would change the course of her life. “In Singapore,” Lakshmi remembered, “there were a lot of nationalist Indians like K. P. Kesava Menon, S. C. Guha, N. Raghavan, and others, who formed a Council of Action. The Japanese, however, would not give any firm commitment to the Indian National Army, nor would they say how the movement was to be expanded, how they would go into Burma, or how the fighting would take place. People naturally got fed up.” Bose’s arrival broke this logjam.

Lakshmi, who had thus far been on the fringes of the INA, had heard that Bose was keen to draft women into the organisation. She requested a meeting with him when he arrived in Singapore, and emerged from a five-hour interview with a mandate to set up a women’s regiment, which was to be called the Rani of Jhansi regiment. There was a tremendous response from women to join the all-women brigade. Dr. Lakshmi Swaminadhan became Captain Lakshmi, a name and identity that would stay with her for life.

The march to Burma began in December 1944 and, by March 1945, the decision to retreat was taken by the INA leadership, just before the entry of their armies into Imphal. Captain Lakshmi was arrested by the British army in May 1945. She remained under house arrest in the jungles of Burma until March 1946, when she was sent to India – at a time when the INA trials in Delhi were intensifying the popular hatred of colonial rule.

Captain Lakshmi married Col. Prem Kumar Sehgal, a leading figure of the INA, in March 1947. The couple moved from Lahore to Kanpur, where she plunged into her medical practice, working among the flood of refugees who had come from Pakistan, and earning the trust and gratitude of both Hindus and Muslims.

CPI(M) activist

By the early 1970s, Lakshmi’s daughter Subhashini had joined the CPI(M). She brought to her mother’s attention an appeal from Jyoti Basu for doctors and medical supplies for Bangladeshi refugee camps. Captain Lakshmi left for Calcutta, carrying clothes and medicines, to work for the next five weeks in the border areas. After her return she applied for membership in the CPI(M). For the 57-year old doctor, joining the Communist Party was “like coming home.” “My way of thinking was already communist, and I never wanted to earn a lot of money, or acquire a lot of property or wealth,” she said.

Captain Lakshmi was one of the founding members of AIDWA, formed in 1981. She subsequently led many of its activities and campaigns. After the Bhopal gas tragedy in December 1984, she led a medical team to the city; years later she wrote a report on the long-term effects of the gas on pregnant women. During the anti-Sikh riots that followed Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, she was out on the streets in Kanpur, confronting anti-Sikh mobs and ensuring that no Sikh or Sikh establishment in the crowded area near her clinic was attacked. She was arrested for her participation in a campaign by AIDWA against the Miss World competition held in Bangalore in 1996.

Presidential candidate

Captain Lakshmi was the presidential candidate for the Left in 2002, an election that A. P. J. Abdul Kalam would win. She ran a whirlwind campaign across the country, addressing packed public meetings. While frankly admitting that she did not stand a chance of winning, she used her platform to publicly scrutinise a political system that allowed poverty and injustice to grow, and fed new irrational and divisive ideologies.

Captain Lakshmi had the quality of awakening a sense of joy and possibility in all who met her – her co-workers, activists of her organisation, her patients, family and friends. Her life was an inextricable part of 20th and early 21st century India -- of the struggle against colonial rule, the attainment of freedom, and nation-building over 65 tumultuous years. In this great historical transition, Captain Lakshmi always positioned herself firmly on the side of the poor and unempowered. Freedom fighter, dedicated medical practitioner, and an outstanding leader of the women's movement in India, Captain Lakshmi leaves the country and its people a fine and enduring legacy.

Lakshmi Sehgal is survived by her daughters Subhashini Ali and Anisa Puri; her grandchildren Shaad Ali, Neha and Nishant Puri; and by her sister Mrinalini Sarabhai.


SOURCE: http://www.thehindu.com/news/nationa...cle3672666.ece



Last edited by pikesh50 : 5th September 2012 at 06:40 PM.

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Postman runs charitable society for cancer patients



A 56-year-old postman in Kerala is delivering an inspirational message by setting up a charitable society for cancer patients. Ordinary people can do extraordinary things - the 56-year-old, Babu is the true recipient of this adage. A postman by profession, Babu also saves the lives of many cancer patients.

He, along with some of his well-wishers started the Santhvanam Charitable society in 2007. The society arranges meals for poor cancer patients and organises free cancer diagnosis camps. Babu came up with the idea after he lost his sister Florence to cancer seven years ago.

“It is shocking to see how poverty forces many patients to skip meals during cancer treatment. Though the government offers a 20 per cent discount in treatment expenses to BPL citizens at the Regional Cancer Centre, many can’t afford the treatment or eat food during treatment. It is heartbreaking,” said Babu.
Santhvanam Charitable Society Secretary MS Mathew said, “We are a set of senior citizens, who decided to start this society after retirement. Babu came to us with the idea, explaining the plight of cancer patients. We try to reach out to them through all possible means.”


Initially, each member contributed towards the society. Then, money poured in from various other sources as more and more people became aware of the good work done by this organisation.

Now, whenever the society manages to collect large sums of money, they organise functions to donate it. In June 2011, a hundred BPL cancer patients received Rs 3,000 each. The society also donates Rs 25,000 every quarter to the Regional Cancer Centre.

Murali, the husband of a cancer patient, said, “My wife needs to undergo chemotherapy once in a month. I am a labourer who gets daily wages. Only due to the help that we get from organisations like Santhvanam, I am able to treat her.”
Cancer patient Lalitha said, “It’s difficult to spare Rs 1,000 every month for treatment. With the amount I received today I can buy medicines for the next three months. I am really grateful to Santhvanam.”

People from different classes of the society, from IAS officers to labourers, joined hands and formed the Santhvanam charitable trust. The person who joined the dots for the noble cause is postman Babu. He now wants to reach out to families who have lost their only earning member to cancer.

VDO OF THIS GUY IS HERE ::http://ibnlive.in.com/shows/India%20...ve/288554.html

http://news365.co.in/1575/health-new...patients-1575/




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India's Unsung Heros :

In November 1980, when Mohinder Singh Gujral, took charge of the Indian Railways as the chairman of Railway Board, the Indian economy had just begun showing signs of recovering from a major economic setback. India’s gross domestic product had declined by about five per cent in 1979-80. A new government, headed by Indira Gandhi, was in place in early 1980 and had begun initiating steps to revive the economy.One of those steps was the appointment of Gujral as the chairman of Railway Board. After a short stint with the Indian Army, Gujral had joined the Indian Railways in 1948. When he was appointed to head the Railway Board, Gujral had served the Indian Railways for about 32 years and had reached the age of 57 years. In the normal course, he should have retired in a year’s time, but Gujral got two more years instead.

In the process, he changed the way the Indian Railways ran its goods haulage business.Goods transportation by the Indian Railways moved up marginally from 193 million tonnes in 1979-80 to 196 million tonnes in the following year. The Gujral effect, however, showed in 1981-82, when goods movement by railways went up by 13 per cent to 221 million tonnes. In 1982-83, the rise in goods transportation by the Indian Railways was modest at three per cent, which in those days of relatively low economic growth was considered a decent performance. What did Gujral do to achieve that dramatic rise in railway goods movement in one year? He allowed the goods trains to carry more load in each wagon. The increased freight load by eight tonnes for each wagon meant a one-third increase in the Indian Railways’ carrying capacity. He ensured a longer and extended run by goods trains without changing the locomotive engines. If the practice till then was to change the locomotive engine for a goods train on its Delhi-Mumbai run at two or four points during the journey, Gujral had ordered that the number of engine changes would be only at one or two points. This reduced the time a rake took to reach its destination. The new Railway Board chairman also reduced the frequency of checking wagons and tracks during a trip. This led to a reduction in the frequency of manual checks on wagons and tracks at different stations on the route, resulting in fewer causes of delay.


Was safety compromised? There were howls of protest from within the Indian Railways in those days that carrying more load on the same tracks or reducing the frequency of checks or change of locomotive engines could result in accidents. Gujral, however, remained unmoved and introduced the changes on a trial basis. His argument was that improvements in technology and the use of better quality rails should result in tangible gains for the Indian Railways. The three-pronged Gujral formula was aimed at realising such gains.


Gujral left the Indian Railways in 1983 and soon thereafter his formula was abandoned. But almost 22 years later, the same formula was used when Lalu Prasad was the railways minister, and to great effect and the benefit of the Indian Railways.


Immediately after completing his tenure at the Railway Board, Gujral joined Coal India Limited as its chairman. The coal producing behemoth then was suffering from industrial unrest with trade unions virtually deciding what the management should be doing to produce more or less coal. One of Gujral’s first decisions soon after taking charge at Coal Bhavan in Kolkata in 1983 was to shift the office of his chief public relations officer next to his own. A tough manager had realised that he needed to get his communication with stakeholders right if he wanted to remain effective.


Gujral’s colleagues in Rail Bhavan and Coal Bhavan recall that he was tough and unwilling to compromise on an issue where he knew he was right. An emissary of a minister in Indira Gandhi’s government then (who also happens to be a minister in the present government of Manmohan Singh) had once visited Gujral with a recommendation for a favour. Gujral made no secret of his anger and tore off the recommendation letter in front of the emissary. He was equally tough in his dealings with Coal India’s trade unions and enforced the principle of pay cut for the number of days for which a striking employee remained absent from work.


A tough public sector manager, who brooked no interference either from the politicians or from trade unions, died on May 4. After completing his Coal India tenure, Gujral was involved with several private sector companies. But his death last Friday was almost unnoticed by either the government, the Indian Railways, where he served for 35 years, or Coal India Limited. Gujral, like any other professional, may have had several shortcomings. But the forthright and effective manner in which he led the Indian Railways and Coal India should be an inspiration for all managers, including those who are in the private sector.

http://indiarailinfo.com/news/post/72023


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Six Unsung Heros :

Former President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam honored six extraordinary individuals and an organization from across India at the diamond jubilee celebrations of Shanmukhananda Fine Arts and Sangeetha Sabha, reported The Indian Express.

Kalam said in his address "When I heard the sabha's theme for celebrations was 'celebrating life', I did not understand what they meant but after meeting these men, I fully understand it."

The ‘diamond award’ included a cash prize of Rs 2.5 lakh, a five-ft tall lamp, a shawl, a citation, a trophy and the sabha's icon. Sabha president V Shankar said the awardees were selected by mark of their devotion to duty and their commitment to their respective pursuits. “Most of them are unsung heroes who have gone about their work despite suffering and poverty. Some have been in the glare of publicity but kept their focus,” as reported by The Indian Express. The organization that was felicitated was Pune NGO Horizon for peace and progress.

...............




T Mahadev, a public undertaker from Bangalore, for dignity of human body:

Mahadev was felicitated at the function by Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam.

Mahadev has a great story to tell. He is an undertaker in the city of Bangalore who ferries unclaimed bodies and organizes their funeral. He has organized funeral of over 42,000 human bodies so far. In November 1999, he was awarded the Chief Minister's Gold Medal by then Chief Minister of Karnataka, S. M. Krishna. Mahadev was discovered by a local magazine. This thoughtful man provided burial ground to thousands of dying unclaimed bodies.

---------------------------------------------------





E Sreedharan, former Delhi Metro Rail Corporation chief, for nation building:

E Sreedharan was also felicitated at the event. He was the managing director of Delhi Metro during 1995-2012. Dr. Sreedharan is recognized for changing the face of Indian public transport by his tireless work in building the Konkan Railway and the Delhi Metro. It is only due to his sheer hard work and dedication that he was awarded the ‘Padma Shree’ by the Government of India in 2001, the ‘Man of the Year Award’ by The Times of India in 2002 and was named as one of ‘Asia’s Heroes’ by TIME in 2003. The Government of France also honored him with the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur in 2005.

He has held a number of assignments as Assistant Engineer, Executive Engineer, Divisional Engineer and Deputy Chief Engineer on the Southern and South Eastern Railways, when he was in-charge of new line constructions. During this time, he was given the Railway Minister’s Award for restoring the Pamban Railway Bridge in 46 days, 125 spans of which were washed away in a tidal wave in December 1963. He was also in-charge of investigation, planning and design of the first ever Metro in the country, at Calcutta.

---------------------------------------------------


C Suresh, a lottery-cum-pan shop owner from Kerala, for probity and honesty:

Suresh was also felicitated at the function.

Suresh is a poor lottery-cum pan-shop owner. Ayyappan, a customer had asked Suresh to keep for him a lottery ticket. Ayyappan used to buy lottery tickets from Suresh’s pan shop, and had bought a ticket of the Karunya Lottery of the Kerala Government. The customer had not even taken the ticket from Suresh but asked him to keep it till he took it after paying him. That particular lottery ticket won Rs 1-crore prize. Suresh could have kept the ticket and prize money, but the honest man promptly informed Ayyappan about it. Suresh said “How can I take it? I had already sold that ticket and so the prize is not mine,” as reported by yahoo.com.

Suresh proves that honesty is certainly the best policy. He chose to be a model in honesty in today’s world.


contd,..........

Last edited by pikesh50 : 5th September 2012 at 07:03 PM.

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Manohar Aich, a body builder from Kolkata who recently celebrated his birth centenary, for healthy mind and longevity:

Manohar Aich was also felicitated at the function by Dr Kalam for healthy mind and longevity. Manohar is an Indian bodybuilder. He was born in Comilla District (now Bangladesh) in a remote village named Dhamti. He presently lives in Kolkata. He won the Mr. Universe - Group III championship in 1952. He has also been a three-time Asian Games gold medalist in body building. Being only 4 feet 11 inches tall, he was given the title "Pocket Hercules".

In 1942, he joined the Royal Air Force under India’s British colonial rulers and it was there that he began his persistent pursuit of body building.

He recently turned 100, and said that happiness and a life without tensions is the key to his longevity. Manohar overcame many hurdles, including grinding poverty and a stint in prison, to achieve body building glory.


---------------------------------

Nemi Baba, a 108-year-old folk musician from Rajasthan, for folk art:

Nemi Baba was also honored by Dr Kalam. He was given the Folk Art award for singing and playing traditional wind instrument ''algoza'' at the ripe age. At 108 years, he is the oldest active Rajasthani folk musician. He plays the algoza which is a wind instrument that resembles a pair of wooden flutes. With three fingers on both sides of the flute and by breathing rapidly into it, the instrument emits a bouncing, swinging rhythm.

The musician, who comes from the Jat monopoly of Bedham in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan, gave up his family and all worldly possessions when he was 55. He renounced the life of a wrestler to devote his life to god, playing the algoza. Since then, he has been living in a little Radha Krishna temple, where he plays the algoza to his lord. He believes he sees the lord in each member of his audience.

Nemi baba told TOI "Just like Krishna played the flute among the gopis and his cows, I, too, wandered with my buffalos near the village pond when I was 14 or 15. It was there that I carved the algoza from the trunk of the andara plant (a hollow plant like the bamboo) and have been playing it since."


------------------------------------------------------

Jadav Payeng, a forest builder from Assam, for environment:

Jadav Payeng, an uneducated layman from Assam is a hero for his effort to turn a flood-washed 550 hectors of sandbar into a thick forest. The sandbar that locates in the center of the Brahmaputra River in Assam has been converted to a dense forest with a massive variety of trees in over 30 years. The forest today houses many wild animals, reptiles and other creatures.

Payeng has been spending whole his lifetime since 1979 for Molai's forest. Molai is the pet name of Payeng, who started his hard work in frustration of a huge flood in 1979, which washed away the trees and habitats of many creatures in the locality. Since then, he has been working in the area, which was lying dejected, plating bamboo first and other trees later on.

As part of making the land fertile for other trees, Jadav depended on many rustic methods like growing red ants and other small creatures. As of now, this single man forest has at least five tigers, a number of elephants and many wild creatures.


================================================
Source: http://www.siliconindia.com/news/gen...cid-1.html/1/2

Last edited by pikesh50 : 5th September 2012 at 07:06 PM.

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BINALAKSHMI NEPRAM (EAST)



At the age of 14, Binalakshmi Nepram witnessed a massacre in her village at the hands of security forces. She grew up in insurgency prone Manipur, where 20,000 men have lost their lives in the last 5 decades,
leaving behind only women. Nepram founded the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network, taking 80 such women under her care and helping them financially earn a living.
What Bina gives these women is dignity and the promise of a secure future.

VDO :: http://ibnlive.in.com/videos/170851/...ed-widows.html




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Last edited by pikesh50 : 7th September 2012 at 04:07 AM.

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CHANDRALEKHA (NORTH)




As a daughter of Nat Purwa, a village close to Lucknow, where every girl is raised to be a prostitute, Chandralekha had no choice but to get into the profession. But she's spent her life making sure the next generation of girls break out of the 300 year old tradition. She got a job in the local Anganwadi School and despite threats convinced most families to send their daughters there. She even helped the girls of Nat Purwa get married and employed. Lack of funds has forced her to shut down her self help group for women. But her fight is on.

VDO ::: http://ibnlive.in.com/videos/173125/...-to-study.html


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