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BOOK REVIEW: GRAM SWARAJ by Mahatma Gandhi

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Khidki (Window)

–Read India Initiative—

This is only an attempt to create interest in reading. We may not get the time to read all the books in our lifetime. But such reviews, talk and synopsis will at least convey what the book is all about.

    This book was compiled by H.M.Vyas. He has taken the writings of Gandhi from various sources (but primarily from Harijan and Young India magazines) and has converted it into a useful handbook. Printed and published by Navajivan Publishing first in the year 1962.

    The book encapsulates the thoughts and ethos of Gandhi in the form of excerpts. Indeed Gandhi ji was an amazing thinker and a genius who had the blueprint of India ready even before she was born. The book diagrams the functioning of the smallest community unit of human habitat—that is the village and then sums it up for the nation. The book simplifies an average Indian’s life. It gives that margdarshan specifically to each Indian and perhaps even to all the citizens of the world.

    This publication contains Gandhi’s views on different aspects of rural life including agriculture, village industry, animal husbandry, transport, basic education, health and hygiene.

    For Gandhi Swaraj was a sacred word, a Vedic word, meaning self-rule and self-restraint, and not freedom from all restraint which ‘independence’ often means. As every country is fit to eat, drink and breathe, and so is every nation fit to manage its own affairs, no matter how badly.

    By Swaraj Gandhi meant government of India by the consent of the people as ascertained by the largest number of adult population, male or female, native-born or domiciled, who have contributed by manual labour to the service of the State and who have taken the trouble of having registered their names as voters. Real Swaraj will come not by the acquisition of authority by a few but by the acquisition of the capacity by all to resist authority when it is abused. In other words, Swaraj is to be obtained by educating the masses to a sense of their capacity to regulate and control authority.

    The book has 29 chapters and within that you have sub chapters: Let me briefly take you through the headings of the main chapters in brief as that itself will give you a comprehensive flavour of the book.

  1. Meaning of Swaraj: Swaraj can be maintained, only where, there is a majority of loyal patriotic people to whom the good of the nation is paramount and above all other considerations including personal profit. Swaraj means government by many. But where, the many are immoral or selfish, their government will only spell anarchy and nothing else.
  2. A picture of an ideal society: There will be neither paupers nor beggars, nor high nor low, neither millionaire employers nor half-starved employees, nor intoxicating drinks, or drugs. There will be the same respect for women as vouchsafed to men and the chastity and purity of men and women will be jealously guarded. Where, every woman except one’s wife, will be treated by men of all religions, as mother, sister or daughter according to her age. Where there will be no untouchability and where there will be equal respect for all faiths. They will be all proudly, joyously and voluntarily bread labourers.
  3. Which way lies hope: Industrialism on a mass scale will necessarily lead to passive or active exploitation of the villagers as the problems of competition and marketing come in. Therefore, we have to concentrate on the village being self-contained, manufacturing mainly for use. Provided this character of the industry is maintained, there would be no objection to villagers using even the modern machines and tools that they can make and can afford to use. Only they should not be used as a means of exploitation of others.
  4. Cities and villages: There are two schools of thought in the world. One wants to divide the world into cities and the other into villages. The village civilization and the city civilization are totally different things. One depends on machinery and industrialization, and the other on agriculture and handicrafts. We have given preference to the latter.
  5. Village Swaraj: To serve our villages is to establish Swaraj. Everything else is but an idle dream. If the village perishes India too will perish. It will be no more India. Her own mission in the world will get lost.
  6. Basic Principles of village Swaraj: According to me the economic constitution of India and for that matter of the world, should be such that no one under it should suffer from want of food and clothing. In other words everybody should be able to get sufficient work to enable him to make the two ends meet. And this ideal can be universally realized only if the means of production of the elementary necessaries of life remain in control of the masses. These should be freely available to all as God’s air and water ought to be. They should not be made a vehicle of traffic for the exploitation of others. Their monopolization by any country, nation or group of persons would be unjust. The neglect of this simple principle is the cause of the destitution that we witness today not only in this unhappy land but in other parts of the world too.
  7. Bread labour: The great nature has intended us to earn our bread in the sweat of our brow. Everyone, therefore, who idles away a single minute becomes to that extent a burden upon his neighbours, and to do so is to commit a breach of the very first lesson of Ahimsa. The divine law, that a man must earn his bread by labouring with his own hands, was first stressed by a Russian writer named T. M. Bondaref. Tolstoy advertised it and gave it wide publicity. In my view the same principle has been set forth in the third chapter of Gita, where we are told, that he who eats without offering sacrifice eats stolen food. Sacrifice here can only mean bread labour.
  8. Equality: My idea of a society is that while we all are born equal which means we have a right to equal opportunity, all do not have the same capacity. It is, in the nature of things, impossible. For instance, all cannot have the same height, or colour or degree of intelligence, etc.; therefore in the nature of things, some will have the ability to earn more and others less. People with talents will have more, and they will utilize their talents for this purpose. If they utilize their talents effectively, they will be performing the work of the State. Such people would exist as trustees, on no other terms. I would allow a man of intellect to earn more, I would not cramp his talent. But the bulk of his greater earnings must be used for the good of the State, just as the incomes of all earning sons of the father go to the common family fund.
  9. Theory of Trusteeship: Suppose I have earned a fair amount of wealth either by way of legacy, or by means of trade and industry, I must know that all that wealth does not belong to me, what belongs to me is the right to an honourable livelihood, no better than that enjoyed by millions of others. The rest of my wealth belongs to the community and must be used for the welfare of the community.
  10. Swadeshi: There is a verse in Bhagavad Gita that says, masses follow the classes. Even, concept of Swadeshi like any other good thing can collapse and die if it is made out to be a fetish. That is the danger that must be guarded against. To reject foreign manufactures, merely because they are foreign and to go on wasting national time and money in the promotion in one’s own country of manufactures for which it is not suited, would be a criminal folly and a negation of the Swadeshi spirit. Remember Swadeshi is not a cult of hatred. On the contrary a doctrine of selfless service that has its roots in the purest Ahimsa, i.e., love.
  11. Self-sufficiency and cooperation: Truth and non-violence form the foundation of the order of my conception. Our first duty is that we should not be a burden on society, i.e., we should be self-dependent. From this point of view self-sufficiency itself is a kind of service.
  12. Panchayat Raj—Gandhi writes about Panchayats in pre-independence days: Panchayat has an ancient flavour; it is a good word. It literally means an assembly of five elected by villagers. It represents the system, by which the innumerable village republics of India were governed. But the British Government, by its ruthlessly thorough method of revenue collection, almost destroyed these ancient republics, which could not stand the shock of this revenue collection. Congressmen are now making a crude attempt to revive the system by giving village elders civil and criminal jurisdiction.
  13. Nai Talim: was popularly and correctly described as education through handicrafts. This was part of the truth. The root of this new education went much deeper. It lay in the application of truth and love in every variety of human activity, whether in individual life or a corporate one.
  14. Chapters 14 to 18 are on Agriculture and cattle welfare and deals with various agriculture related issues of those times. Our villagers who are mostly Kisans depend on agriculture and cattle for ploughing. I am rather ignorant in this respect for I have no personal experience. But there is not a single village where we have no agriculture or cattle. Our workers will have to keep a careful eye on the cattle wealth of their village. If we cannot use this wealth properly, India will be doomed to disaster and with that we shall also perish. For these animals will then, as in the West, become an economic burden on us and we shall have no option before us except for killing them.

    The book deals with the problem of ownership of land: The Kisan is the salt of the earth which rightly belongs or should belong to him, and not to the absentee landlord or the Zamindar.

    The other important question for consideration… was whether cow farming should be in the hands of individuals or done collectively. I myself had no hesitation in saying that she could never be saved by individual farming. Her salvation, and with her that of buffalo, could only be brought about by collective endeavour. It is quite impossible for an individual farmer to look after the welfare of his cattle in his own home in a proper and scientific manner. Amongst other causes lack of collective effort has been the principal cause of the deterioration of the cow and hence of cattle/ in general. The world today is moving towards the ideal of collective or co-operative effort in every department of life.

    One potent way of increasing crop production is proper manuring. Artificial manures, I am told, are harmful to the soil. The compost manure emit no bad odour. It would save lakhs of rupees and also increase the fertility of the soil without exhausting it.

    Food Shortage in India is not unfamiliar with starvation and death of tens of thousands, if not millions, due to famine, natural or man-made. I claim that in a well-ordered society there should always be prearranged methods of successful treatment of scarcity of water and food crops.

  1. Khadi & spinning: Every family with a plot of land can grow cotton at least for family use. Cotton growing is an easy process. In Bihar farmers by law were compelled to grow indigo (a tropical plant of the pea family, which was formerly cultivated as a source of dark blue dye) in one of their cultivable land. This was in the interest of the foreign indigo planter. So, why cannot we grow cotton voluntarily for the nation on a certain portion of our land? Decentralization commences from the beginning of the Khadi processes. Today, cotton crop is centralized and has to be sent to distant parts of India. Before the war it used to be sent principally to Britain and Japan. It was and still is a cash crop and therefore, subject to fluctuations of the market. Under the Khadi scheme cotton growing becomes free from this uncertainty and gamble. The grower grows what he needs. The farmer needs to know that his first business is to grow for his own needs. When he does that, he will reduce the chance of a low market ruining him. A combination of home grown cotton and charkha.
  2. Other village industries: I recall a conversation I had with Fazalbhai in 1920 when I was on the eve of launching the movement of Swadeshi. He characteristically said to me, ‘If you, Congressmen, become advertising agents of ours, you will do no good to the country except to put a premium on our wares and to raise the prices of our manufactures. His argument was sound. But he was nonplussed when I informed him that I was to encourage hand-spun and hand-woven Khadi which had been woefully neglected and which needed to be revived if the starving and unemployed millions were to be served. But Khadi is not the only such struggling industry. I therefore suggest to you to direct your attention and effort to all the small-scale, minor, unorganized industries that are today in need of public support.
  3. Village transport—a plea for the village cart: “Animal power is not costlier than machine power in fields or short distance work and hence can compete with the latter in most cases. The present day tendency is towards discarding animal power in preference to machine power. If a farmer has his own cart and travels in it, he has not to spend anything in the form of ready money but uses the produce of his own field in producing power by feeding bullocks. Really grass and grain should be looked upon by the farmer as his petrol, and the cart the motor lorry, and bullocks as the engine converting grass into power. The machine will neither consume grass nor will it yield manure, an article of vast importance. Then the villager has to have his bullocks; where, in any case he has his grass. And if he has a cart, he is also maintaining the village carpenter and the blacksmith; and if he is keeping a cow, he is maintaining a hydrogenation plant converting vegetable oil into solid butter or ghee and also at the same time a bullock manufacturing machine—thus serving a twofold purpose.”
  4. CURRENCY, EXCHANGE AND TAX: Under my system, it is the labour which is the current coin, and not the metal. Any person who can use his labour has that coin, has wealth. He converts his labour into cloth, he converts his labour into grain. If he wants paraffin oil, which he cannot himself produce, he uses his surplus grain for getting the oil. It is this exchange of labour on a free, fair and equal terms—hence it is no robbery. You may object that this is a reversion to the primitive system of barter. But then is not all international trade based on the barter system?
  5. VILLAGE SANITATION: Divorce between intelligence and labour has resulted in criminal negligence of the villages. And so, instead of having graceful hamlets dotting the land, we have dung-heaps. The approach to, many villages, is not a refreshing experience. Often one would like to shut one’s eyes and stuff one’s nose; such is the surrounding dirt and offending smell. If the majority of Congressmen were derived from our villages, as they should be, they should be able to make our villages models of cleanliness in every sense of the word. But they have never considered it their duty to identify themselves with the villagers in their daily lives. A sense of national or social sanitation is not a virtue among us. While taking a bath, we do not mind dirtying the well or the tank or the river by whose side or in which we perform our ablutions. I regard this defect as a great vice which is responsible for the disgraceful state of our villages and the sacred banks of the sacred rivers and for the diseases that spring from insanitation.
  6. VILLAGE HEALTH AND HYGIENE: In a well-ordered society the citizens know and observe the laws of health and hygiene. It is established beyond doubt that ignorance and neglect of the laws of health and hygiene are responsible for the majority of diseases to which mankind is privy. The very high death rate among us is no doubt largely due to our gnawing poverty, but it could be mitigated if the people were properly educated about health and hygiene. “Mens sana in corpore sano” a Latin phrase is perhaps the first law for humanity. Which means “A healthy mind in a healthy body” is a self-evident truth. There is an inevitable connection between mind and body.
  7. Diet: Gandhi suggests a diet chart for men with sedentary habits as follows: Cow’s milk 2 lbs. Cereals (wheat, rice, bajra, in all) 6 oz. Vegetables leafy 3 oz, others 5 oz. Raw 1 oz. Ghee 1½ oz. Or Butter 2 oz. Gur or white sugar 1½ oz. Fresh fruit according to one’s own taste and purse. In any case it is good to take two sour limes a day. The juice should be squeezed and taken with vegetables or in water, cold or hot. All these weights are of raw stuff. I have not put down the amount of salt. It should be added afterwards according to taste. Now, how often should one eat? Many people take two meals a day. The general rule is to take three meals: breakfast early in the morning and before going out to work, dinner at midday and supper in the evening or later. So try it out.
  8. VILLAGE PROTECTION: Peace Brigade. Some time ago I suggested the formation of a Peace Brigade whose members would risk their lives in dealing with riots, especially communal. The idea was, that this Brigade should substitute the police and even the military. This reads ambitious. The achievement may prove impossible. Yet, if the Congress is to succeed in its non-violent struggle, it must develop the power to deal peacefully with such situations.
  9. THE VILLAGE WORKER: The centre of the village worker’s life will be the spinning wheel. The idea at the back of Khadi is, that it is an industry supplementary to agriculture and co-extensive with it. The spinning wheel cannot be said to have been established in its own proper place in our life, until we can banish idleness from our villages and make every village home a busy hive. The worker will not only be spinning regularly but will be working for his bread with the adze or the spade or the last, as the case may be. All his hours minus the eight hours of sleep and rest will be fully occupied with some work. He will have no time to waste. He will allow himself no laziness and allow others none. His life will be a constant lesson to his neighbours in ceaseless and joy-giving industry. Our compulsory or voluntary idleness has to go.

    In chapters 28 & 29 he has covered Government and the village and its links with Khaddar and India and the world.

    Overall it’s a great book just in case you want to know about Gandhi in a much more comprehensive manner. Even, when, the book was written way back one finds the central theme so very relevant for India even today. I’m convinced every Indian should read it.

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

RHYTHM … in poems

(Published in January 2019. The book contains 50 poems. The poems describe our day to day life. The book is available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha)

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SONI, SELJA DIG IN HEELS, WON’T VACATE BUNGALOWS- Such unwieldy politicians likely to fade away from the Indian political map

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By Kamlesh Tripathi

ambikaselja

Once upon a time American and European fuel guzzling cars were very popular all over the world because there was no other choice. Then came, the fuel efficient Japanese cars that took the car markets by storm where some of these companies faced the threat of closure and some actually closed. Finally, to survive every car manufacturer had to manufacture fuel efficient cars. They say global trends are more powerful than national and national trends are more powerful than the local.

Indian political market is somewhat heading in the same direction where the culture of VVIPISM is frustrating the Indian population as a whole. Prime Minister Narendra Modi keeps harping about the strength of the young Indian population which happens to be under the age of 35 and is 60% of the Indian population. And this population will soon be up for grabs if they don’t find employment in other sectors, and they will turn into politicians and that will be only good for the Indian Political Market.

For this new breed of politicians will be lean, wieldy, needy and talented, and putting it more appropriately–fuel efficient. Like the Sonis and Seljas they won’t require Bungalows to reside in, vehicles and drivers to cart them, secretaries to communicate, peons to lift their baggage and security guards to protect them. They will be confident and self-sufficient.

And they will be ready to operate out of small residence, carry their own luggage, drive their own cars or move in public transport without security guards and operate their own laptops; pretty much, away from the hulky and unwieldy syndrome.

Looking in the manner the current generation of politicians is frustrating India through VVIPISM; the talented young India is seeing an opportunity in this. And this may happen quite soon. Arvind Kejriwal came quite close to this methodology but for some reasons moved away. But the younger generation is still contemplating the opportunity and it will require only 5-10 young crusaders to announce this new kind of politicking; and will become the new hero of new India—the lean Indian Politician.

Read the TOI column, Thursday, May 21, 2015

New Delhi: Former Union ministers and Rajya Sabha MPs from Congress Ambika Soni and Kumari Selja have slapped privilege notices on the urban development (UD) ministry for asking them to vacate their official bungalows.

The ministry served them eviction notice on the ground that they were no entitled to the ministerial bungalows. Both the MPs have contested the claim and have dubbed the notice as a breach of their privilege as parliamentarians. The UD ministry has been intimated by the Upper House.

“The two have given privilege notices to the urban development ministry in response to its eviction notice served on them for vacating their Type-VIII bungalows.” said an official.

Soni and Selja are staying in 22, Akbar Road and 7, Moti Lal Nehru Road, respectively, which are allotted to them when they were ministers in the previous UPA government. The UD ministry claimed they were entitled to accommodation meant for MPs as per their seniority but not ministerial bungalows.

This came even as all MPs staying in the Ashoka Hotel have vacated it. “Dushyant Chautala of INLD was the last to vacate the hotel.” an official said. At one point, 120 newly-elected MPs were staying at Ashoka Hotel.

ARTICLE: THE HYPE OF #LITERACY AND DILEMMA OF #EMPLOYABILITY

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DEFINITION OF LITERACY

    Literacy, as defined in Census operations, is the ability to read and write with understanding in any language. A person who can merely read but cannot write is not classified as literate. Any formal education or minimum educational standard is not necessarily to be considered literate.

    (UNESCO) has drafted a definition of literacy which is, “the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.”

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    The National Literacy Mission defines literacy as “acquiring the skills of reading, writing and arithmetic and the ability to apply them to one’s day-to-day life. The achievement of functional literacy implies (i) self-reliance in 3 R’s-reading, writing and arithmetic, (ii) awareness of the causes of deprivation and the ability to move towards amelioration of their condition by participating in the process of development, (iii) acquiring skills to improve economic status and general well being, and (iv) imbibing values such as national integration, conservation of environment, women’s equality, observance of small family norms.”

    According to the latest report released on 31 March 2011 the literacy rate of India has increased to 74%. This means a decadal growth of around 10 %.

BUT CAN MERE LITERACY GUARANTEE EMPLOYMENT?

Is the moot point, as literacy only provides general ability to read, write and a sense of better awareness, but jobs, require deeper and varied skills that need to be created. In the recent Times Ascent edition of 27th November, I read; in the just concluded PAN-IIM World Management Conference held at IIM-KOZHIKODE our HRD Minister Smriti Zubin Irani harping on some appreciative facts about India as a routine lullaby.

    That India is one of the world’s largest democracies and according to some studies 57% of our population is under 30. Our average age is expected to be less than China and the US by 2050. This means more workers, or in other words, a demographic dividend. India has a large pool of workforce that is predominantly English-speaking. 4.4 million Graduates join the Indian job market annually, so there is no shortage of skilled workers in our country. So be it.

    But then do we have appropriate jobs for all as she has not spoken about those unpleasant figures of unemployment. ILO indicates sluggishness in the job market over the last two years where jobless rate could be around 3.8% this year which sounds optimistic. On a more historic note the unemployment rate has been hovering around 6-8 % on an average over the last decade or so. So, can one say, each time when literacy levels have gone up unemployment hasn’t come down?

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    This necessitates, we should take up skill building on fast track. Which horrifyingly comes up in India at a later stage of our educational system. And considering, the alarming school dropout rate of 40% with more girls facing the brunt, this should start at secondary school level.

CAUSE OF SYSTEMIC WORRY

    It is worrying to see, important ministers making isolated parroted statements in coveted milieus like IIMs and IITs, where even otherwise everything is hunky dory. And it goes without saying the stark reality continues to remain as it is and nothing much has changed on the ground. So the big question is how will the additional annual workforce of 4.4 million per annum be adjusted in the job market, and what is the road map for creating such jobs each year. Time has come when at least 74% of the literate Indians would want to know end-to-end on how these jobs would be created, before one brags about the English speaking workforce of 4.4 million and the young India. The central point therefore is the job-creators and the workforce creators of India need to meet on one platform to align, which is still missing.

    In any case most IIT and IIM graduates or post graduates won’t remain unemployed, rather would be gainfully employed. But what is more worrying is the lower end of the pyramid that will bear the brunt of unemployment.

    Considering the present unemployment rate. HRD minister would have done well by initiating a dialogue with those states and departments where huge vacancies are lying unfilled, especially teachers and police constables. The low hanging fruits. Which I guess is also the baby of HRD ministry. Needful to mention teacher appointments in some states have been subjected to scams, and appointments cancelled subsequently.

INDUSTRY INTERFACE

    One of the biggest sources of employment in any country, with India being no exception is through business and industries. Where, according to the World Bank we are still at an agonizing 142 in the ease of doing business out of 189 countries. And time taken for registration of a business is currently at 27 days that needs to be cut down to one day, as in Canada and New Zealand.

    Government intends to go online on approvals, for over 200 state and central permits by April next year which is laudable. Currently 81 state level clearances and another 133 at the central level are being put on line and out of these more than 50 relate to railway ministry, alone. But the big question remains; whether we can set up industries at a pace matching 4.4 million jobs a year, which will only increase by leaps and bounds. The answer as of now is no and that necessitates searching for other alternatives. And so; where is the MEA proposal (Ministry of External Affairs) if we were to export our workforce to various aging countries about which our Prime Minister talks so often? And which new countries have been identified where our young English speaking workforce can go and work safely with proper work permits and visas, in a safe manner. I guess, the two distinguished ladies Sushma Swaraj and Smriti Irani should meet on this agenda and at least identify the countries, and if for some reason it happens to be Germany, Smriti should not think of replacing German by Sanskrit.

THE ROUTE AHEAD

    For brand India, literacy to full employment will be a long and arduous walk, considering its size and scale. Where, premier institutions such as IIT and IIM should also brainstorm to show the way out. And we will have to figure out other avenues also, where I guess PM Narendra Modi’s team needs to come together on one platform.

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By Kamlesh Tripathi

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Share if you like it

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases. Should you wish to donate for the cause the bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

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Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(CAN BE BOUGHT FROM ON LINE BOOK STORES OR WRITE TO US FOR COPIES)

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