Reading: A dying hobby

Sitting down with a good book to read was once considered a preferred pastime of children and adults alike. Books mean different things to different people. While to some reading is the greatest form of pleasure, to others it’s nothing short of an agonizing task. The reading habits of adolescents specifically have drastically changed over a period of time.  The reasons to which this change is attributed to are numerous.

Leisure reading by definition is the reading students choose to do on their own, as opposed to reading that is assigned to them. Also referred to as voluntary reading, spare time reading and self-selected reading ,leisure reading involves personal choice, choosing what one wants to read and reading widely from a variety of sources-not just books.

To put it plainly, children and adolescents have seemingly lost interest in reading. The magnificent world of books no longer holds any wonder. Technology could be considered as one of the greatest factors that have led to this decline in interest. An average adolescent today spends most of their time on the internet or watching television. I-pods, I-pads, mobile phones, gaming consoles have gradually replaced books. When a child gets back from school their first instinct is to turn on the TV or access the internet. The distractions are so huge in number that reading gets pushed to the bottom of the ‘to-do’ list.

The education system itself has begun to use the aid of technology to make classrooms more interactive. Tablets and laptops are now frequently used instead of textbooks and notebooks. If reading is not encouraged at the school level itself, how is one supposed to inculcate the habit in children? And if reading is not inculcated at a young age what guarantees that an adolescent will abruptly begin to read? It is important for parents to inspire children to read during their formative years. Developing and sustaining the habit of reading is the key.

It is unfair to label all adolescents as the ‘non-reading’ variety. Many adolescents greatly enjoy reading be it magazines, comics or novels but this breed is slowly declining as technology is overpowering every facet of their lives.

The benefits of reading are known world over.  Numerous studies have shown that students who are exposed to reading before preschool are more likely to do well in all facets of formal education. Reading develops speech skills, logical thinking, enhanced concentration and discipline.

The lack of time is also one reason many adolescents don’t read. Extra homework in addition to schoolwork often burden students and they end up far too tired to engage in leisure reading. What initially may start as an ‘I’ll read tomorrow’ eventually snowballs into something much larger and over a period of time, children completely cease to read.  It is wrong to blame just one agent for this decline. Multiple factors have together led to this impactful change in the reading habits of adolescents.

While there isn’t any one certain way to ensure students of all ages spend more time reading, small steps can be taken to encourage the habit in them right from the time they’re toddlers. Parents could spend more time reading to their children instead of allowing them to play on mobile phones. Teachers in schools should devote a section of their class time asking students to read newspapers so the concept of reading doesn’t gradually become alien to them. Since children, in their formative years, spend most of their time at educational institutions, measures should be taken to create an environment in classrooms that is conducive to reading. These changes need to be brought about at the primary level so children can grow up understanding how essential reading is and learn to cherish it.

Modi arrives in Assam to review flood conditions

As the flood situation worsens in Assam due to continuous heavy downpour, Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Guwahati on August 1 , 2017 to review the destruction caused by the floods. Modi arrived at Guwahati’s international airport after which he left for Khanapara. He then visited the Assam Administrative College where several review meetings were held to assess the situation. One of the main topics of discussion was the infrastructural damage caused because of the floods, reports Times of India.

Modi is also scheduled to hold talks with the Chief Minister of Assam Sarbanada Sonowal where they will discuss ways to combat the flood, provide more protection and carry out damage control. According to the Economic Times, the centre has already taken some measures to handle the situation with Modi announcing an ex-gratia amount of 2 lakhs for the families of the deceased in the floods and 50,000 rupees for those who have been seriously injured.

The Finance Minister of the state Himanta Baswa Sarma stated that the purpose of Modi’s visit to Assam was to find a permanent solution to the flood problem. Assam is currently witnessing one of its most destructive floods where more than half of Assam’s districts have been harmed by the flood with several roads and bridges going underwater. Nearly 25 lakh people are grappling with the deluge and over 70 people have lost their lives.

News Source: Economic Times, Times of India

Image Source: PMO/ Twitter

Elderly woman rescued by fisherman after floating in river for 13 hours

A 62-year-old woman Tapati Chowdhury managed to stay afloat for 13 hours after accidently falling into the Damodar River in the East Burdwan district in West Bengal. Her heroic act led to her rescue the next morning when fishermen found her floating around 80 km away from where she originally slipped.

Chowdhury is an Anganwadi worker who lives in Kalibazar in the East Burdwan district, reports India Today. Her accident was a result of her visit to the Damodar river which is currently swollen due to heavy floods in the Burdwan district.

According to Outlook, Chowdhury did not give up and managed to stay afloat all night. Her cries for help went unheard as there was nobody in the vicinity to come to her rescue. Finally, after a night of turmoil, her pleas for help were heard by fishermen at around 7.30am.

They immediately went to her rescue and got her out of the water conscious. Soon after, she was rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment where she recuperated. On returning home, Chowdhury was interviewed by several reporters where she discussed how she was still coping with the trauma and is astonished at the fact that she had a close encounter with death.

SOURCES: INDIA TODAY, OUTLOOK INDIA

IMAGE SOURCE: AFP

Suicide car bomb in Kabul kills over 35

Over 35 people have been killed in Kabul on July 24, 2017, after a car driven by a suicide bomber collided with a minibus carrying government officials. According to Sky News, the attack occurred in the western part of Kabul around 7 am during peak traffic hours. Kabul Police said, the government employees, who got killed belonged to the Afghan ministry of coal and petroleum. The Taliban has officially claimed responsibility for the attack by releasing a statement to Al-Jazeera. The blast also destroyed several small shops and other cars in the surrounding areas. Afghanistan’s interior ministry termed it as a “criminal attack against humanity.”

President Ashraf Ghani commented on the atrocity saying “Once again, these terrorist are attacking civilians and targeting government.” While the exact reason for the bombing hasn’t been found, it is speculated that the attack was aimed at a demonstration by the Hazara community, which was going to happen in the same area, against a similar suicide bombing that occurred last year, reported the Guardian. However, the demonstration was cancelled last minute due to several security reasons.

The conflict in Afghan continues with more accounts of violence and terror attacks being reported. A UN report states that over 1,6662 people have been killed because of the ongoing disturbances in the first half of 2017. While the casualty toll for this suicide attack stands at over 35, reports suggest that it could rise further.

Sources – Irish Times  , The Guardian Sky News

4 ethnic Hazara people shot dead in Balochistan

In the Mastung area of Balochistan, at least 4 people belonging to the Hazara community were shot dead on July 19th, 2017. The assailants were unidentified shooters who fired on a vehicle with four family members and their driver as reported by ANI. According to police sources, the victims were travelling to Quetta from Karachi when the attackers targeted them while riding bikes. The gunmen escaped the scene after the attack. The victims’ bodies were then shifted to Sandeman Civil Hospital in Quetta.

After the incident, the police and LEAs (Law Enforcement Agencies) reached the scene and began an investigation. Police sources have confirmed that the incident very clearly appears to be an act of targeted killing on the ethnic community of the Hazara’s. The Home Minister of Balochistan, Sarafaraz Bugti was quoted saying “the incident is against the social and tribal norms of Balochistan”, reports Dawn News.

Such acts of violence have been recurring in Balochistan over the last decade. Earlier, the Sunni Muslim extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi were allegedly responsible for the sectarian attacks in Balochistan. The minority Muslim communities which include the Shia’s and the Hazara’s have been repeatedly targeted with over 1,400 incidents being reported in total.

News Source: ANI, Dawn News

Image Source: Reuters

US Supreme Court approves Trump’s travel ban on 6 Muslim Countries

The US Supreme court has passed the Trump administration’s travel ban on 6 Muslim countries including Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The decision came into effect on June 29th, 2017 after a five month long struggle with various activist groups. The ban is currently temporary and the travel restrictions are 90 days for visitors and 120 days for refugees. The government has made an exception, allowing individuals from the countries mentioned above with ‘close family relationships’ or ‘formal, documented’ relationships to enter the US. People exempted from this new rule include students, journalists and workers who have either valid contracts or invitations into the country.

Various human rights organisations and activist groups have openly condemned this move because of its evident bias against Muslims. “It remains clear that President Trump’s purpose is to disparage and condemn Muslims,” said Omar Jadwat, who is the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. The Trump administration on the other hand is fiercely standing their ground as they believe the ban is necessary to ensure terrorists do no enter the country.

Trump’s travel ban first took effect in January 2017 under Executive Order 13769 which attempted to reduce the number of refugees entering the USA and simultaneously suspending the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) for 120 days. What followed were widespread protests and multiple legal battles which lead to its eventual revision. The current temporary travel ban was another attempt by the government to filter the entry of individuals into the country, which the Supreme Court has agreed to.

Sources: The Hindu, The Times of India

Continuous rains in Southern China raises death toll to 56

Continuous rainfall in Southern China has led to massive flooding and the death of 56 people. 22 people are also missing as reported by the Chinese Ministry of Civil affairs. The deluge has caused widespread havoc and chaos with power being cut off in several regions and the roads being clogged with traffic. A staggering total of 48.6 cm of rain has fallen on several cities in the Southern region since Thursday. As of now, over 11 million in 11 major southern provinces have beeches been affected by the floods.

Water levels in many rivers and water bodies have risen dangerously causing distress to the citizens and the authorities. Daily life has come to a standstill with most flights and trains to major cities like Chengdu, Changsha and Guangzhou being cancelled and delayed. Travellers all over were left abandoned. The airport at Chengdu was shut down on Monday because of the rain, causing 13 incoming flights to land at other locations. To add to the inconvenience several roads to towns and villages in the neighbouring areas have been cut off. News telecasts have shown footage of homes and shops being submerged in the water. Respite from the rain will not come soon as the National meteorological centre has predicted more rain in Southern China for the coming week.

Sources: Times of India, The New York Times