If you ever find yourself driving down the secluded, dusty National Highway 96 in the remote Pratapgarh district of Uttar Pradesh, you probably will notice a billboard flashing this message in Hindi: “If you find any unclaimed dead body, inform us. We will cremate it in accordance with full religious procedures.”
Well, that’s one worry out of the way.
Mangla Charan Mishra, a 31-year-old “god-fearing” Brahmin who lives in one of the country’s most rural districts – and one of the most starkly divided on the basis of caste and religion – says the “Brahma” (formless God) lives in every individual regardless of his caste or religion, and they have the right to be taken to the gates of heaven once they die. The trouble is finding a guide to get there.
The India cricket team’s opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan has spent more time in the dressing room than the crease lately. The extended poor form of the left-hander, who saw a dream run with his batting back in 2013, is one of the major concerns as India embarks on a journey to defend their cricket world cup title.
Cricket’s showpiece event, the World Cup, begins on Feb. 14, with 14 teams divided in two groups fighting for the trophy. India starts its campaign with a game against Pakistan at Adelaide on Feb. 15. The final will take place on March 29. India will play its league matches against Pakistan, South Africa, the UAE, the West Indies, Ireland and Zimbabwe.
India’s holiest river is due for a clean-up, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking personal responsibility for restoring the Ganga and ridding the 2,500 km long river of industrial effluents and untreated sewage.
Uma Bharti, Modi’s minister for water resources and Ganges rejuvenation, has said the river would be clean in three years. Earlier this month, India’s Supreme Court asked the government for a roadmap on the project so that the court could monitor it.
Indian students in recent weeks have protested the use of English in the country’s difficult civil service examinations. The students, usually from Hindi-speaking regions of India, say that the exams reflect a class divide: if you speak and write English well, you are seen as part of the educated, urban elite. If you do not, it’s because you are one of the disadvantaged, usually from smaller towns or villages.
English is a tricky subject in India. A language imposed by colonists who exploited the people and resources of the land for centuries, it also was the one language that people seeking independence from the British could use to speak to one another. It remains one of two official languages across India, though many people do not speak it well or at all. I spoke to some of the civil service aspirants who have complained about the language requirement and the structure of the exams, and learned about the role that they hope the exam will play in their lives.
Many people see Anurag Thakur, 39, as the youthful face of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition to the Congress party-led government and the party of prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi. He is the son of the former chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, and was named one of the World Economic Forum’s global young leaders this year.
In an interview with Reuters, Thakur spoke about Modi’s popularity as well as criticisms levelled against him. He also spoke about internal problems at the BJP, the party’s perceptions among Muslims, Congress PM contender Rahul Gandhi and more.
Sapna is a 21-year-old woman from a lower-middle class family in the Nand Nagri area of eastern Delhi. Her face is scarred by acid. Last August, her 32-year-old relative hired men to throw it in her face as she returned from her part-time job as a helper at an adhesives factory. The relative was angry because she rejected his marriage proposal.
She was supposed to receive 300,000 rupees (around $4,800) from the Delhi state government to help her with medical bills, according to a directive from India’s Supreme Court. Of this amount, 100,000 rupees or $1,600 was to be given within 15 days of the attack. But it took six months for Sapna to get her due.
It’s just after sunrise on a foggy winter morning in north India. Most people are snuggled up in quilts, but a group of teenagers with hockey sticks is out on the field. The ragtag bunch chasing a ball in Khera Garhi village, about 20 kilometres from central Delhi, shares a dream — to play in India’s field hockey team.
It’s an unusual dream in a country obsessed with cricket, but one that former national player Rajesh Chauhan hopes to foster among youngsters across India. Chauhan, 37, played for India during the second half of the 1990′s and set up the Jai Bharat Hockey Academy in 2011 to try to restore Indian hockey to its former glory.