Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Mananeeya Nivedita Bhide interacts with invitees

Mananeeya Nivedita Bhide, Vice President of Vivekananda Kendra Kanyakumari, interacted with a select gathering of people from varied backgrounds at VKIC on March 14, 2017. She was introduced to the audience by Prof. Parimal Chandra Bhattacharjee, Director of Research Advisory Council. 

Prof. Bhattacharjee explained the purpose of the gathering, and after briefly mentioning about VKIC and its vision,  spoke about the tremendous scope of work that an organisation like VKIC can explore in the near future. He sought guidance of the assembled well-wishers of VKIC in framing the road map for the coming years. 

The programme was carried forward with a thematic presentation of VKIC by Dipankar Mahanta on the 20 years journey of VKIC. In his presentation, Sri  Mahanta referred to VKIC as a social enterprise and its founder Mananeeya Eknathji Ranade as a great social entrepreneur. 

After the presentation Prof. Kalyan Das, Honorary Associate Director of VKIC’s Research Advisory Council solicited views and suggestions from the audience to help formulate a roadmap for the future.

Some of the suggestions included: impact of digital India in cultural preservation, identification of vulnerable communities and how best to help their traditional culture, possible means to promote local cultural products. 

Summing up the discussion, Mananeeya Nivedita Bhide said that through VKIC’s role in engaging community members in its seminars and workshops the communities are benefited. When the community people are encouraged to speak about their traditions and customs, they are heard and appreciated, it builds confidence in them. It helps them realise that their traditional beliefs and practices are not outdated; but rather a matter of protection and preservation. Agreeing with what the noted economist S Gurumurthy refers to in his book 

Development through Culture, Mananeeya Nivedita ji concluded the speech with a remark that for real and sustainable economic development, the communities must be involved in the process. She also emphasised a core belief of VKIC, Culture Nurtures Unity.  

Foundation Day, 2017

VKIC celebrated its 21st Foundation Day on January 31st, 2017 at its Williamson Magor Auditorium in a solemn function. The main highlight of the programme was the conferring of VKIC Sanmaan 2017. Every year VKIC honours a person of distinction who has worked tirelessly for the promotion of indigenous faith and culture of his or her people on its Foundation Day. This year the award was conferred on Srimad Shyamananda Brahmachary of West Garo Hills. The Award comprised a selang chadar, citation, memento and a sum of Rs. 25,000.

In his welcome address, Dr. Parimal Chandra Bhattacharjee, Director, Research Advisory Council, stated that the objective of VKIC is to find the commonalities existing within the different ethnic communities; focusing mainly on the cultural aspect of the communities. VKIC works with the belief that “Cultures nurtures Unity.”

Srimad Shyamananda Brahmachary, the spiritual leader of Borkona Ashram Dhubri, in his acceptance speech shared his experience of taking up the task of working for the uplift of people from various communities - Hajong, Koch, Garo and Rabha. He made an appeal to the people to support him in his struggle to retain the indigenous faith, traditions and culture of these ethnic communities. He said that lack of education and employment opportunities were compelling people to forsake their ancient beliefs, culture and heritage.

The Chief Guest of the Programme Prof. Anil Dattatraya Sahasrabudhe made a power-point presentation on “Innovation: Key to India’s Transformation.” In his presentation Prof. Sahasrabudhe, currently the Chairman of All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), showcased the rich innovative spirit and skills prevalent during ancient times, and stressed the need of encouraging “Innovation” among the younger generation of today. He also highlighted the steps taken up by the Government of India towards this end with projects like mygov.in, an e-initiative for citizens to participate in innovative programmes. He, however, added that the ambience of creating an innovative atmosphere lies with the people and not just with the government.

A cultural presentation by a Tiwa Cultural group concluded the programme. The Tiwas are among the many indigenous communities of Assam with rich traditions of customs, rituals and folk culture. They are known also for their melodious songs which celebrate Nature in its many forms. 

The performing artistes of the Tiwa community impressed the audience by presenting vignettes of their rural life, which including agricultural activities,marriage rituals, ceremonial naming of a child, and traditional community fishing, Today, Tiwa society, like many others in Assam,is undergoing transformation. However, many of them, particularly community elders, cherish and promote their traditional beliefs and pristine culture.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Panel Discussion on ‘Development Through Culture’

As part of VKIC Foundation Day celebration, a panel discussion on 'Development through Culture' was organized on January 29 at the conference hall of VKIC. It centred on the book by the same name by S. Gurumurthy, the noted economist.

Sri Gurumurthy had carried out field studies travelling across India trying to understand what made certain regions of the country excel in the field of production and export of industrial goods through mutual support or collaboration. His study of small towns like Tiruppur, Morbi and Ludhiana which emerged as premier production and export centres of industrial goods revealed that these successful local production systems are entirely driven by mature local institutions where personal and social relations ensure intra and inter community cooperation, trust as well as competition. He concludes that culture-driven model of development is the only sustainable model of development.

The panel discussion was undertaken to carry forward the philosophy behind S. Gurumurthy's book, and also to understand it better in the developmental context of India's North East taking into account the behavioural and cultural characteristics of the region for greater sustainability and well being of all.

The programme was moderated by Sri Kashi Nath Hazarika, former Chairman, NEDFi. The speakers were Prof. Kalyan Das, OKDISCD, Dr. Manjit Das, Associate Professor, Bodoland University and Shri Dipankar Mahanta, Member of Executive Council, VKIC.

Shri Kashi Nath Hazarika opened the session stating that the idea of initiating this discussion is to disseminate the concept that culture is an important aspect of development and not an impediment to development.  It is an attempt to sharpen our understanding of the imperatives that dictate development initiatives in the North East and also to reach out, generate and stimulate people at the policy level to design policy interventions attuned to the needs and aspirations of the people.

Prof. Kalyan Das made a power point presentation on some of the important economic activities carried out in North Eastern states. Citing examples of the agricultural sector, he opined that agricultural sector faces huge challenges like lack of efficient irrigation system, land use change and others. In handloom sector too, weavers face the problem of getting silk yarn and have to pay high prices for procuring raw materials.

He was of the view that individual initiatives in the existing production spaces need to be recognized, and efforts of the people need to be complemented by infrastructure development. Technological and financial intervention, developing inter-firm relations and at the same time linking with the larger markets is essential. He concluded from his studies that for an industry to succeed, behavioural norms, social institutions, state actions and legislations need to complement each other.

Dr. Manjit Das through his power point presentation communicated the problems faced by the bell metal industries of Assam and what can be done to resolve those. Assam has three main bell metal centers namely in Raha, Nagaon and Titabor.  Five types of laborers are involved in the production process. Each village involved in the production process produces specific designs and shapes and no two villages come out with the same design. They mainly use second hand scrap imported from Pakistan as brand new raw materials are expensive.  The artisans suffer health hazards from constant working on the metals.

Sri Dipankar Mahanta spoke about his experiences and works undertaken by VKIC guided by the philosophy of development through culture. He said that North East abounds in natural resources but it has not been harnessed properly. For instance the region is a hub of bamboo and bamboo reflects the culture and way of life of the people. However, the policy adopted by the government for enhancement of bamboo production like the National Bamboo Mission and the National Mission for Bamboo Application failed as they are not represented by the people with indigenous traditional knowledge. Folk traditions also hold the key to ecology development and most of the folk songs, dances and cultural practices carry a message for ecological protection and sustainability.

Shri Kashi Nath Hazarika added that we lack entrepreneurs in this region and industries need to go beyond meeting the local needs. For sustainable development, competition as well as cooperation is required, and at the same time this should connect with the culture of the local people.