Lynch is a bad word today, with mobs roaming the country lynching for the smallest reason and the Supreme Court asking to frame an anti-lynching law!

But there’s a choice, would you be a lyncher or lynchpin?

“Lynchpin?” you ask.

Journey with me to yonder village; you hear the rumble afar of ancient cart, and slowly bull and the cart it drags come into sight. The road is rough, the load heavy, and you wonder how crude wooden wheels are not coming apart, till you look closer and see the lynchpin, wedged in through the hub into the axle. The wheels can shake, the cart can totter, but the lynchpin sits grim and firm, holding all together.

The lynchpin holds no power of its own to move forward, nor strength to carry load, it’s just a fastener used to prevent the wheel from sliding off!

When India fought for Independence, Gandhiji often played a lynchpin role, binding different leaders with different ideologies together, making them fight for a common goal!

Another was Nelson Mandela of South Africa who fostered reconciliation twixt black and white across the nation!

Both were lynchpins! But look closely; they be pins, not mere cogs! A pin does an important job; it holds together! In describing key individuals, those who are central to the success of an enterprise, we often use words such as backbone, cornerstone, anchor, buttress and pillar, but here’s one more, a ‘lynchpin for the nation’ ‘the lynchpin of your family’! Could that be a way to describe what you are going to do from this moment?

In cricket this key person is often the wicket keeper, standing there behind the wickets, he encourages and motivates bowlers, fielders and sometimes a demoralized captain! Today you hear him clearly through the stump mike, quite often cheering his team to victory. The victory of eleven players made up of different men, from different communities, different castes, different creeds and religions, spurred on by a lynchpin behind the wickets!

Our country needs such lynchpins today, not lynchers!

You need not be the bull of the cart, nor the driver, nor the cart itself, but just a little ‘holding together’ pin!

Quiet peacemakers, bringing warring factions together! Calm minds moving beyond a conflict and seeing solutions! Firm men and women, not jostled by circumstances! Those are whom we need today!

Sssh! Do you hear the rumble of the village cart? Wheels tottering, load swaying? But behold the lynchpin, firmly fixed, unmoved, unaffected, untroubled just uniting!

Or do you want to join the violent mob and lynch with ropes, stones and words?

To be or not to be, lyncher or lynchpin, that should be your question..! 

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Have flown business class with Air-India on two occasions, and have been quite bowled over by their excellent service, “Yes sir! Please sir! What can I do for you sir!” “Will you have lobster for lunch sir, or caviar sir?” “Some champagne to go with your meal sir?”

And it’s not sir all the time, they also address you by name. It’s quite an experience and a delightful one! The seats are huge and comfortable, can be stretched right back and there’s even night clothes so your own won’t get crushed!

But today I heard, just as you are off to a long, enchanting sleep, there’s a tiny bite through those same soft clothes they’ve provided, and then another, and another, and soon that large, expensive, expansive seat, that stretches out for miles, becomes a torture chamber you’ve been assigned for the next twelve or seventeen hours!

Bedbugs in business class! How can it ever be?  

It’s called the Dreamliner, one of the latest aircraft. The sweetest airhostesses, like I said, they call you by name! The best food, and a big hole in your pocket, and this tiny creature crawls out while the plane flies over the Indian Ocean or Siberia, moves out of crevices along with brothers, sisters, friends and bedbug family and makes a meal of you!

The fliers who got off the aircraft, two days ago, on different flights, said their families were bitten all over by the time they landed at their destination. I can imagine how they felt when they entered Business Class, “Oh daddy it’s so cool!”

“What spacious, wonderful seats!”

And bristling bedbugs listened under same seats, grinning, waiting their moment to strike, pound, bite and devour innocents, fooled by lavish interior and fancy uniform!

Are we Dreamliner aircrafts too? Fooling people with reliable looking faces, gentle eyes, reassuring smiles and firm handshakes? All practiced in business schools and taught as marketing techniques and strategies?

Again and again we hear of godmen and priests from all religions, suddenly making headlines as dark sexual escapades or murky financial transactions creep out of their Business Class personalities!

Crores had been spent on the latest aircraft! The best pilots trained to fly the planes and some of the prettiest airhostesses hired to serve you, but tiny bedbugs have plunged the airline to a new low!

All it required was constant fumigating, checking cracks and crevices and cleaning.

And before we too fall like the airline is likely too, all that is required is to allow the Great Fumigator to clean us inside out, because fancy clothes,pleasant smile, and customer friendly look will not help when bedbugs of hidden habits, crawl out to destroy us.

Let’s get rid of those bedbugs and be genuineBusiness Class..! 

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Island Girl from Remote Kadamtala Island Plays Active Role in Forest Conservation and Community Upliftment at Rajasthan

Meet Ms. Sunita Das, a 24 year old Social Innovator from Kadamtala, M. Andaman D/o of Ajit Das, currently working as SBI Youth for India Fellow in Udaipur District, Rajasthan. Sunita completed her Graduation (B.A. B. Ed in Geography) from Regional Institute of Education Bhubaneswar, Orissa and Masters in Local Governance and Development from Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth and Development, Chennai, Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sport.

She says, as a development practice student; she always wanted to learn new things and experience from the new places. After completion of her post Graduation, Sunita got an opportunity to be a part of SBI Youth for India Fellowship and it has given her a platform to explore experience and contribute to the Rural India.

As her fellowship project, Sunita today is enabling community institutions like Gram Vikas Committees, Nature Club, SHGs, and Forest Protection Committees for Sustainable Forest Management and restoring 65 hectares of Common land as a Joint Forest Management with native forest sampling and making boundary walls to secure them from animals.

Presently Sunita lives in Jhadol Block of Udaipur District of Rajasthan, where 95% are tribal population, practicing agriculture, migrant laborers who collect forest products for livelihood. Sunita says, “When I started interacting with the villagers and taking awareness sessions on forest conservation, I realized that people really did not care about conserving forest in spite of being depended on forest. Because of overuse of forests and common land, it started degrading and become an open barren land and people weren’t left with much land to do forestry in their backyard.

Sunita then came up with the idea to restore the forest land and also help the villagers for their livelihood. Now she is rejuvenating 65 hectares of common land with income generation plantation and native forest sampling as a Joint Forest Management and also formed a Forest Protection Committee to take care of land, which also includes women, youth and men of the village. From whatever forest produce which is being sold in the market, a percentage will be deposit in the village common bank account for village development work.

Sunita is also converting four Government Schools into “Green School”

She says, “We urban people can easily get fruits and Vegetables from super markets. But the poor kids they can’t enjoy the taste of fruits because their parents earn only 4000 to 5000 Rupees per month and they can’t afford. Sunita then came up with an idea for planting fruit tree in the school boundaries, so that village children can enjoy the fruits without any cost. She has also formed a Nature Club with school students to take care of plants after she leaves.

Sunita has also bought a desktop for village kids and is training them on basic computers.

Sunita has also involved herself in providing training to the tribal women on basket making with the help of forest departments for their better livelihood. Hailing from an Island territory and living in an entirely different region is an amazing experience for me. Experiencing different culture, different geography, language, food, traditional practices etc is a thrilling experience, Sunita expressed. It also enhances my knowledge and teaches me how to live life with basic amenities, patience, kindness and much more.

The SBI Youth for India Fellowship is a platform where one can dedicate 13 months for Rural Development while experiencing a wonderful 13 months journey with new people and new place, Sunita adds. 

To know more about fellowship, log on to

Shimul Bijoor, Dakshin Foundation

This summer, I worked at the Andaman and Nicobar Environment Team (ANET) as an intern, to study the governance and management of marine protected areas in the islands. As a recent graduate in Environmental Studies and Policy, my field of interest is in the social sciences, which means studying human society and relationships between different groups of people and their environment.

ANET has seen a flood of biologists coming in year after year, studying marine and terrestrial ecosystems of the Andamans. These scientists travel the islands, conducting fantastic research that has helped people understand these island ecosystems better. Their interactions with local communities during the course of their studies has made ANET well-known among islanders as “The Company” of scientists.

However, in this flood of biologists there is an occasional social scientist. Our work differs from the natural sciences in that we don't always have quantitative datasets, fixed measurements, and fixed explanations for phenomena. For instance, my project aimed to understand why it's so difficult for different groups of people to work together and develop an effective system for managing natural resources in marine protected areas. After one month of research in the islands, we don't yet have a singular and solid explanation for this, and probably never will. But our outcomes are more along the lines of identifying patterns in how groups such as fishermen and the government interact with each other, and where their perspectives diverge such that they have a hard time cooperating.

This is perhaps why I felt a little out of place when I first came to ANET, as my skill-set and work was so different from a majority of the researchers there. It's almost intimidating when your work often elicits questions like,

“Come on, it's not a real science. Is it?”

“You get grant money just to travel the islands and talk to people?!”

Of course, most of this is only banter, and any intelligent conservationist knows the importance of integrating human dimensions into research to improve conservation outcomes. As such, any conservation program cannot be implemented effectively without first knowing the various people or stakeholders involved, how they interact, and at which points the project could lead to either conflict or benefit.

Even though this may sometimes seem obvious, it's still very difficult to explain social sciences to someone with a vastly different ideology or background. Most of why I find it so difficult to explain, is that social science methodology is more about figuring out all the reasons why you can't make certain explanations. For instance, it may have been easy to assume that the reason why Protected Areas don't have management systems in place is due to the negligence of concerned authorities, but only after delving deeper can you know exactly why making this inference would acknowledge only a very small portion of the complications that actually stand in the way of developing effective management systems in marine spaces.

But this uncertainty is also what makes it all the more engaging for me. Each conversation we have unveils a new layer of complexity and changes our understanding of a particular phenomena. Speaking to different groups of people (or stakeholders), listening to their stories, and identifying patterns, conflicts, and consistencies among all of their stories is awfully exciting.

My work involved talking to various groups of stakeholders, including officials from the Forest Department, Fisheries, Tourism, Revenue, and Agriculture Departments, the Directorate of Shipping Services, the Andaman Lakshadweep Harbour Works, and, most importantly, local islanders such as fishermen, farmers, shop owners, vegetable vendors, school teachers, and retired government workers. Together with my project partner, I spent each day on field moving from one house or office to another. We spoke to each person with the intent of understanding how they use marine spaces in and around protected areas, what they felt about the designation of these areas for conservation, and how these Protected Areas affected their daily lives and occupations.

Sometimes a single conversation would occupy an entire day, and sometimes they would last only a few hours or minutes. Sometimes we would have to sit upright and nervous in the office of a high ranking official, and sometimes we attempted to shout above the noise of a running motor while interviewing a fellow passenger on a speeding dunghi (a small wooden dugout motor boat).

“How do you get actual analysable data from just hearing stories?”

After the fun part of hanging out with different people and collecting their stories, came the flummoxing question of what to do with all of these stories, and then eventually the stage of sifting through them to conduct some analysis. This meant transcribing each conversation, rereading them several times, and highlighting repeated themes, unusual comments, or leads for further reading. This initially sounded like the most boring part of the whole process, but it turned out to be my favourite. On field, I sometimes felt flustered, as there were so many parallel conversations happening with different stakeholders, that it became difficult to always keep track of how each story connected with another. But once I was off the field and had 'coded' all my field notes, things started to fall into place, and putting everything down into a coherent report seemed a lot less daunting.

Putting together the findings of our fieldwork helped us understand the larger picture regarding complications faced by the administration of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in establishing management plans for marine protected areas. This can potentially be taken forward to design interventions to help overcome some of these challenges. 

Historically, conservation research and implementation has largely been restricted to the natural sciences, and only recently have the social sciences been gaining a wider audience. As a new participant in a relatively new field of study, my internship has been not just an exploration of the subject itself but of people's understanding of it, including my own. So perhaps the next time I go on field, we will have to worry less about whether “social science” is just an oxymoron or not, and more about how every scientist can best apply their chosen scientific method to understand the world we live in.

The small fan I’d bought just three months back, made a series of grunts and came to a grinding halt. With much experience, having travelled in Mumbai locals, I whipped out a comb, inserted it into the grill and turned the blade, but unlike the success I’d had in those old trains, these fanblades refused to move. Disappointed, I called my driver and told him to take it to the electrician. He came back in ten minutes, “Made in China fan sir! Electrician says it can’t be repaired!”

It had hardly lasted three months and had gone kaput! Today, I see more of such products coming from our great neighbor,fading away shamelessly without a whimper.

A few years ago, while shopping in Hong Kong, I decided to buy myself a colourful cardigan. I found one, it was a Tommy Hilfiger and paid quite a price for it. While unpacking, back home in India, I turned the sweater inside out to see where it had been made and wasn’t I pleasantly surprised to see a ‘Made in India’ label?

“Jai Hind!” I whispered proudly.

And more and more am I seeing our label throughout the world. While in America at the beginning of this year, I bought a coloured mug and found I was taking home what had been made at home! I smiled and felt proud, our products were now good enough to be sold in high end retail stores!

And as I handle the cardigan and mug today, I think of their manufacturing factories where they’veobviously kept strict adherence to quality; no compromises in finish, good grade raw materials, disciplined workers and strict supervision, all culminating in world class products.

Today we export Yoga to the world. There’s no doubt in the qualitative difference it makes in the lives of individuals; reducing stress, calming troubled minds, healing illnesses and bringing peace and stillness in chaotic situations.

The world loves this Made in India product and turns to India with smiles of gratitude, many even coming across the ocean to visit the source, the factory where this wonderful product is being manufactured.But do they see such tranquility and calm here?

Just as the factory which makes a quality product reveals a high degree of excellence, does our nation show the same calm, peace and stillness yoga reveals?

Shouldn’t it?

As exporters of a meditative process that has already got for itself a day assigned for it, let our nation too show the world those same characteristics of understanding, tolerance, lack of prejudice, patience and quiet,Yoga brings.

I hold aloft the cardigan and mug with pride and hope, and pray that soon I will also hold to the world the calm and peace that exists in our land, which we export under the label, Made in India..! 

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