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The toxic waters of religion

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Even as numerous steps are being taken towards cleaning the Ganga, Yamuna, and other rivers, researchers continue to suggest that various religious practices are responsible for polluting the holy waters on a much larger scale than toxic industrial waste.While yagnas (fire rituals), days of fasting, and walking barefoot to the shrine make up most Hindu activities, taking a ‘dip’ in ‘holy water’ to wash away the sins of mortals is a ritual often followed during various festivals. Even the immersion of deities after keeping them for days at home is another ritual causing damage to rivers.Every time a pilgrim takes a ‘holy’ dip in those river, they swallow copious amounts of toxic material flushed from power plants or the waste thrown in the river.In the latest trend, Chath puja in Delhi was observed by taking a dip in the pond at India Gate or at the already polluted Yamuna where huge idols of Lord Ganesha and Goddess Kali are also immersed every year. During the month of September, devotees flock to the beaches of Mumbai with thousands of Ganesh idols for immersion, days after which the idols often wash up on shore.Also, cremated remains are floated in the river, believing the dead will not attain salvation if the last remains are not immersed. This practice is adding to the woes of the rising problem of water pollution. According to a Rishikesh based NGO, Ganga Action Parivar, “When the river in Har Ki Pauri, Haridwar is cleaned for two months we collect a large quantity of wastes like matki, plastic bags, garlands, coins, etc. Not only this, Hindu’s mostly cremate ashes here. But these don’t harm the river as much as the idols made of cement, plastic, and other non-eco friendly things does which are dumped in the river. It resists the flow of water and makes it stagnant. The only way to prevent this is to use eco-friendly idols.”Poor Hindu pilgrims stand at their makeshift campsite. Devotees believe that taking a holy dip in the Ganges washes away their sins and paves the path to salvation. —Getty Images There are some religions which follow the practice of floating the dead bodies in the river which are then eaten by crocodiles. But with the increasing pollution even the habitat of crocodiles has been disturbed hugely. As a result, bodies now get stuck in the river plants or float to the banks adding to the degradation.“The bodies that are floated in the water to make sure it gains eternity, actually get stuck on the banks and infect the river and creates an imbalance to the ecosystem of the river,” said Vineet of Ganga Action Parivar.The Ganga was known to have self-cleansing effect but with the continuous abuse the losing its charm. According to Rakesh, a taxi driver from Uttar Pradesh residing in Mumbai, there is nothing wrong with the Ganga. “It is always needed and is done for good. Ganga can never be dirty, it is holy. Ganga water is used to cure all types of diseases and wash away sins,” he said.Water pollution experts estimate that around 32k human corpses are cremated each year in the Ganges river, Varanasi — GETTY IMAGESExpressing dismay over the deteriorating condition of Ganga, Saurav Tiwari a student of Benaras Hindu University said, “The Ganga river is not in a good shape. Along with industries, various religious practices have also joined hands in slowly poisoning the river.”Not only Ganga but the Yamuna in Delhi and the Mula Mutha in Pune get religiously polluted in the months of September and October.India’s chief sources of water are becoming increasingly unsafe for drinking and for aquatic life. The idea of implementing artificial ponds for devotees to take a dip and other alternatives have never seen the light of the day.

AIIMS to increase number of seats to 100 for UG courses from 2017

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi will admit 100 students from the country for its undergraduate programme from next academic session, increasing the number of seats from the existing 72, its director announced on Monday. Besides, seven foreign nationals would also be admitted for the institute’s MBBS course from 2017.”In sixty years of its journey, AIIMS has grown in strength, thanks to the sheer dedication of our predecessors and former directors who shaped this institution. It has grown tremendously with time, both academically and in service delivery. We have decided to increase our UG intake, and, I am happy to announce that from next year onwards, we will be admitting 100 students for this course,” AIIMS Director Dr M C Misra said. He was addressing a gathering on the occasion of the Foundation Day of AIIMS currently celebrating its diamond jubilee.The medical college currently admits 77 students — 72 Indian nationals and five foreigners — for UG courses. The percentage of reserved seats under various categories would remain the same, he said.AIIMS Registrar Dr Sanjeev Lalwani said relative share of seats meant for Schedule Caste, Schedule Tribe, OBC and physically handicapped reserved categories would remain the same.AIIMS was established in 1956. It was the vision of Rajkumari Amrita Kaur, the first Health Minister of India, that led to the establishment of a medical institute of international repute in India. Besides, the main Delhi campus, AIIMS also has six regional centres in Bhopal, Patna, Bhubaneswar, Jodhpur, Raipur and Rishikesh.”The regional centres currently admit 100 students each but no foreign nationals. So, the UG intake of AIIMS Delhi will be increased,” Lalwani said.”Besides, we have already increased by almost 90 per cent the intake for DM (Doctorate in Medicine) and MCh (Master of Surgery) programmes. We have been expanding facilities at our Masjid Moth campus here too and at Trauma Centre we have added 1,800 beds. In next 10 years, we target 6,000 beds for AIIMS,” Misra said.

Yoga belongs to Uttarakhand, says CM Harish Rawat

Dehradun: Describing Uttarakhand as the land of yoga, Chief Minister Harish Rawat on Tuesday said a proposal to develop Rishikesh as a wellness township will be considered while Jageshwar, Tungnath and Lohaghat will be developed as wellness centres.

File photo of Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat. PTIFile photo of Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat. PTI

File photo of Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat. PTI

Making the announcement at a state-level workshop on the International Yoga Day, he said yoga “belongs to Uttarakhand whose saints and seers taught the rest of the world about the miraculous effects of yogic postures” on the physical and spiritual well being of mankind.

“People in Uttarakhand are promoting yoga on both personal and institutional levels,” he said.

Last year, yoga programmes held in Rishikesh, Jageshwar and Haridwar had matched international standards and thousands of people from 100 countries participated in the yoga events held on Saturdays and Sundays as part of the Ardhakumbh fair this year, the CM said.

“A proposal to develop Rishikesh as a wellness township will be considered whereas a decision has been taken to develop Jageshwar, Tungnath and Lohaghat wellness centres,” he said.

Yoga education will also be provided in schools, he said, adding the Chief Secretary has been asked to link yoga trainers with schools on a part time basis.

Rawat also honoured people working in the field of yoga education on the occasion and laid the foundation stone of a yoga park at Shaheed Durgamal Park on Garhi cant road here.

Meanwhile, a slew of programmes were also held all over the city to mark the yoga day with Union Minister for Social Justice Thawar Chand Gehlot performing yogasanas at a camp o Rangers College ground and Governor K K Paul performing yogic postures along with Raj Bhawan staff on its lawns early in the morning.

Speaking on the occasion, Paul described yoga as India’s “unique gift to the world” and asked people to incorporate it into their daily routine for their own physical and spiritual well being.

Yoga tourism: Foreign delegation to participate in International Yoga Day celebrations in India

A 50-member foreign delegation from 20 countries will visit India to participate in the International Yoga Day, officials on Wednesday said.The delegation, comprising tour operators, travel agents, mediapersons and others will be split into two groups, and one will participate in the yoga day function in Delhi while the other in Chandigarh on June 21.”Ministry of Tourism is celebrating the 2nd International Day of Yoga on June 21 by hosting a FAM tour for a group of 50 foreign delegates…from 20 countries which are source markets and the markets that matter for promotion of yoga and wellness,” an official statement said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Both groups will also follow a tour programme including visit to the wellness and spiritual centres in Haridwar, Rishikesh, Trivandrum, Cochin, Neyyar (Kerala), Pondicherry and Chennai, it said.

Kamla Advani’s ashes immersed in Haridwar, Rishikesh

Veteran BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani on Sunday immersed the ashes of his wife Kamla Advani in the river Ganga in Haridwar and Rishikesh.Accompanied by his son Jayant, daughter Pratibha and 40 other family members, Advani arrived at Har ki Pauri ghat in Haridwar this morning and immersed the ashes of his wife, who died on Wednesday at the age of 83.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>BJP veteran L K Advani with his daughter Pratibha Advani looks on as son Jayant Advani immersing the ashes of his late mother Kamla Advani in Haridwar on Sunday. PTIAfter spending an hour in Haridwar, they went to Pramarth Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh and immersed the remaining ashes in the river Ganga there, BJP MLA from Haridwar Madan Kaushik said.File Photo PTIUttarakahand BJP chief Ajay Bhatt, former Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, other party leaders, Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Swami Chidanand of Pramarth Niketan Ashram attended accompanied them, he said.

Maha Shivaratri celebrated with gaiety and fervour in India

Amid pealing of temple bells and chants of ‘Har Har Mahadev’, devotees thronged temples across the country including in the national capital to pay obeisance to Lord Shiva on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri, amid enhanced security following a high terror threat.Soaked in religious fervour, devotees cutting across ages, from Kashmir to Assam stood in long queues outside ‘shivalayas’ as bedecked streets and temples wore festive look.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In Delhi, long queues of men, women and children were seen at main temples including at the Chhatarpur Temple where faithful devotees made offerings to the deity and distributed sweets.Temples in Dehradun such as Tapkeshwar Mahadev Mandir, Prithvinath Mahadev Mandir and Siddheshwar Mahadev Mandir also saw huge gathering as people waited for their turn to offer holy waters of the Ganga and milk to Lord Shiva.The annual festival marks the mythical wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati and is considered one of the holiest festival by the Hindu community.India remained on high alert owing to a terror threat on ‘Maha Shivaratri’ on Monday as temples and strategic places were under tight vigil amid inputs that 10 LeT and JeM terrorists have entered India from Pakistan through Gujarat which saw an unprecedented security cover.Ancient shrines dedicated to lord Shiva in riverside towns like Haridwar, where the Ardhkumbh Mela is underway, and Rishikesh witnessed an unending stream of devotees throughout the day.Lakhs of devotees descended on the banks of the Ganga in Haridwar to take a holy dip in the river.A bath in the Ganga on Mahashivratri during Ardhakumbh holds special significance for devotees this year due to the coincidence of Shivayog and Mahamrityunjay Yog.On an alert following intelligence inputs about LeT and JeM terrorists having entered the country through Gujarat, security was beefed up throughout the mela area in Haridwar especially on the most popular ghats like Har Ki Pauri, Subhash Ghat, Malviya ghat and Mahila ghat where lakhs of devotees gather on important days like this for a holy bath.

Missing Dutch woman traced in Rishikesh: Sushma Swaraj

A Dutch woman, who had gone missing in Rishikesh last week, has been found there and is being brought to Delhi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said.On Sunday, family of Sabine Harmes, 32, had requested Swaraj to help them locate her, four days after she went missing. “My officers have located the missing Dutch girl Sabine Harmes. She is presently in Swatantra Ashram, Rishikesh. Our Regional Passport Dahradun has met her. She appears to be mentally disturbed,” Swaraj tweeted.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The minister on Sunday had asked the Uttarakhand government to trace the woman. “She received treatment at the Nirmal and Jolly Grant hospitals for injuries on her legs. We are informing her family/Embassy about this,” said Swaraj.Sabine’s sister Suzanne Lugano, in a tweet to Swaraj, had sought her intervention in the case. Responding to a tweet by Sabine on Monday, the External Affairs Minister said Indian Embassy in Netherlands will contact her and give her a visa to visit India.Suzanne, who lives in Nijmegen in The Netherlands, said Sabrina had attended a gathering of a ‘guru’ named Mooji and, when she did not return to the hostel on Wednesday, her roommates contacted the police.