Bihar to waive off 50 per cent taxes levied on e-rickshawas


PATNA: Alarmed at growing rate of  pollution, the state government’s seven departments have collectively prepared an integrated action plan to tame the menace of pollution in Patna and other cities.

According to a survey report of WHO, Bihar’s three cities namely Patna, Gaya and Muzaffarpur have been found to be among the most 20 polluted cities of world.

Speaking at a world environment day function on Wednesday evening, deputy chief minister of state Sushil Kumar Modi said that all possible steps are being taken to check the pollution in cities growing at an alarming rate.

“In a move to beat air pollution,the government has decided to waive 50% of total taxes levied on the purchase and running of battery-propelled e-rickshawas”, he said.

He further claimed that arrangements have been made to check the pollution emission from vehicles at over 500 fuel refilling centres in addition to run eco-friendly electric buses.

“On 45 fuel-refiling centres in Patna alone, arrangement has been made to issue online pollution check certificates in order to down the level of pollution”he said, adding that state government was committed to control the pollution through awarness among vehicle users and systems.

Musahar Family in Gaya Faces Boycott for Converting to Christianity


Sanjay Manjhi, a poor dalit man in his late 40s, and his family, have been facing social boycott for converting to Christianity. Manjhi is a resident of Shahpur village in Gaya district of Bihar and is facing boycott by the Musahar community to which he belongs.

Manjhi said that he and his family members were being targeted after they converted to Christianity. He alleged that the villagers who targeted them were instigated by local Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal activists from the neighbouring villages. “We patiently tolerated their attacks initially. They taunted us, harassed and even abused us for converting to Christianity. However, there were no problems until 10 days ago, as till then we had neither reacted nor protested,” he said.

Manjhi said last week he was forced to approach the police and file a complaint against the collective social boycott by villagers following a diktat from his own community panchayat. “Some people from my Musahar caste had managed to pass an order for our social boycott. Following the order, we were stopped from using the community well and the handpumps for water, and later some youths from the village disrupted our electricity supply. All of these were done on the behalf of some activists of VHP and Bajrang Dal to put pressure on us to re-convert,” he sid.

The Gaya district police was forced to rush to the village after Manjhi lodged a police complaint against over half a dozen villagers for alleged social boycott, harassment and threatening them.

Manjhi, a landless labourer like most Musahars in Shahpur village under Barachatti police station in Gaya ,told Newsclick that he and his family were singled out for converting to a different religion. “We Musahars are dalits who follow social and religious rituals similar to tribals. My family and I voluntarily converted to Christianity. What is the big deal about it, and why are some Hindutva organisations trying to threaten us? We were Hindus only by birth, we had been treated as untouchables all our lives and hardly enjoyed any respect or dignity.”

Backing him, Ranjeev Bhuiya, a local water-rights activist, said Manjhi’s family was barred from using water from the well and handpumps, adding that this was an attempt to put pressure on them at a time when the drought-hit Barachatti block in Gaya was facing its worst water scarcity.

Manjhi and Bhuiya belong to the dalit Musahar community, one of the most marginalised sections of society for centuries. They live with their families in thatched houses, built on gair-majarua (government-unclaimed) land because neither they, nor their fathers or grandfathers, owned any land. For generations, they have been earning their livelihood as landless agriculture labourers.

Manoj Kumar Singh, Station House Officer in charge of Barachatti police station, said Manjhi and his family were targeted after they refused to give donation (chanda) for a Musahar tribal puja, saying they had converted to Christianity. “This angered some villagers, who had ordered social boycott. After intervention from the police, the issue has been solved”.

Singh also denied the accusation of involvement of Bajrang Dal or VHP in the matter. “We have no information about it so far,” he added.

Kamlesh Manjhi, a local villager associated with Bajrang Dal, said the decision to boycott Sanjay Manjhi’s family was taken unanimously by the villagers. After police intervention, villagers have now decided to allow them to use the water sources but would stick to their social boycott.

Sanjay Manjhi said he had informed police officials that Bajrang Dal activists had threatened him and his family to reconvert to Hinduism if they wanted to live in the village.

A local police officer told Newsclick on the condition of anonymity that some members of Bajrang Dal, VHP, and others religious groups have been visiting the village and putting pressure on Musahar villagers to ensure that Sanjay Manjhi’s family reconverts soon. He said, “This village of Musahars has become an important focus for Hindutva outfits in recent days, thanks to Sanjay Manjhi’s conversion to Christianity”.

Gaya Senior Superintendent of Police Rajiv Mishra said he had asked local police station officials to regularly visit the village and reach out to Sanjay Manjhi. “We will not allow anyone to put pressure on him and his family to reconvert,” he added.

Bodh Gaya’s Mahabodhi Temple to Receive New Hi-tech Illumination System


The Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, India, one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the world, will soon by illuminated by a state-of-the art LED lighting system by the end of this year, with funding for the extraordinary initiative offered by Siddhartha’s Intent India with support from Khyentse Foundation and Vana Foundation. The new lighting system is designed to illuminate every part of the temple in accordance with the highest safety and quality standards to ensure a long-lasting and sustainable solution.

The project, called “Lighting the Mahabodhi,” is one of the largest and most ambitious light-offering initiatives in Buddhist history. According to the Bhutanese newspaper Kuensel, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, founder of Khyentse Foundation, who initiated the lighting project, came up with the idea in 2015, and in 2017 the proposal was approved by the Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee and the Gaya District Magistrate. The total cost of project is around US$1.4 million, with more than 30 per cent of the budget allocated since the project was launched.

“If there is one thing in the world that resembles our minds, it is light,” said Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. “As Buddhists in the Rime tradition, our aim is to illuminate our minds free from judgment, prejudice, or pride. And so, it is to symbolize that realization and to appreciate the Buddha’s infinite compassion and skillful means in guiding us toward it, that we are now offering light at the very place of the Buddha’s enlightenment.” (Kuensel)

The Mahabodhi Temple, one of the most spiritual destinations for Buddhists pilgrims, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site marking the place where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. Beside the temple, there are seven other sacred sites in Bodh Gaya, including the descendent of the original Bodhi tree.

“The atmosphere created by the Mahabodhi Temple is so potent it’s as if you fall into a trance,” explained Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. “Here you’ll find the vajra seat (vajra asana, also known as the Diamond Seat) where, after many years of searching for the truth and six excruciating years of penance by the banks of the Niranjana River, Siddhartha finally discovered the Middle Path and achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. (Khyentse Foundation)

“Centuries have passed since the Buddha attained enlightenment at this spot, and the temple has weathered many eras of both resplendence and shocking neglect. In this present era, the temple has been upgraded, is well tended to, and in comparatively excellent shape,” said the president of Siddhartha’s Intent India, Prashant Varma, in a press release on 31 May. “Lighting the Mahabodhi is building upon this support to update the lighting in a way that will last for generations to come. (Khyentse Foundation)

B-Lit, a lighting design company from Bangkok, Thailand, is providing the design offering free of charge as an offering of devotion. The overall lighting system will include high-end LED technology, as well as software to control and automate the myriad of high-efficiency, low-heat LED bulbs and fixtures.

According to the Khyentse Foundation, the lighting project will incorporate: 

Automated lights that are durable, energy efficient, and ecologically friendly, with minimal light pollution.
• Top technical quality lighting with systematised controls.
 Synchronized with the lunar cycles, and adaptable to the many special rituals and needs of the Mahabodhi Temple.
 Light fittings and fixtures able to withstand changing seasonal and weather conditions.
 Safe and easy operation and maintenance.

“We hope to have part of phase one—the core of the temple lighting—ready by the end of this year,” noted Varma. “We shall then steadily work toward completing all other areas of the temple complex, other than the Sarovar Lake and the new Meditation Park, by the end of 2020.” (Kuensel)