Kolkata: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee lauded the Sabooj Sathi project, where bicycles are given free of cost to students of Classes IX to XII of state-run and aided schools, on World Bicycle Day.On the occasion she tweeted: “Today is WorldBicycleDay. A bicycle is not just a means of transport but an instrument of empowerment too. The Bangla Govt has distributed over one crore bicycles to students under Sabooj Sathi scheme. These cycles have enabled them to attend school even from far-off places. The Sabooj Sathi project was declared a ‘Champion Project’ at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Prizes given by ITU, a United Nations organisation in April, 2019, out of 1,140 projects across 18 categories.” Also Read – City bids adieu to Goddess DurgaBengal is the only state in the country where more than one crore bicycles have been distributed among the students of state-run and aided schools. The project has successfully brought down the number of school dropouts and reduced the number of early marriages among girls. The Bengal government has spent over Rs 2,000 crore for the project. The Backward Classes Welfare (BCW) department has the names of the students along with the classes they are studying in, names of their guardians and the schools and the day the cycles were given to them. The cycles have been maintained for one year and the department has given training to over 3,500 unemployed youths from the SC and ST categories to repair cycles as a part of the project to make them self-reliant. Also Read – Centuries-old Durga Pujas continue to be hit among revellersThe BCW department gave them kits free of cost. These youths have been engaged to maintain the cycles under Sabooj Sathi project. It may be mentioned that in New Town, the cycle sharing scheme introduced by the Housing and Infrastructure Development Corporation (HIDCO) has become very successful. Under the scheme, a person can hire a cycle, use it for commuting and then leave the cycle on the stand after paying the requisite charges. In New Town, graded paths have been constructed only for cycles. The cycles are also fitted with GPS. It may be recalled that in the early 20th century, Jagadish Chandra Bose and his wife Abala used to demonstrate bicycle riding in different localities to inspire Indians to ride them to work, which symbolised self-confidence and nationalism as only the British used to ride cycles.
UN News/Elizabeth Scaffidi | Tadodaho Sid Hill, Chief of the Onondaga Nation, gives a ceremonial welcome to the eighteenth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.“This is of particular importance in helping us follow up on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, said Mr. Rybakov.He mentioned key activities in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including, in September, the first SDG Summit for State heads since the 2030 Agenda was adopted and the UN High-level Political Forum (HLPF) in July to review six of the SDGs, including on quality education, economic growth and combatting climate change.“These topics are of central importance to indigenous peoples and the attainment of their human rights”, he said, saying that the Permanent Forum and its follow-up activities “demonstrably contributes” to reaching these goals.“Along with recognition comes the need to acknowledge the source, ownership and protection of traditional knowledge”, Mr. Rybakov said.Thriving for ‘millennia’The Executive Secretary of the Convention on biological Diversity, Cristiana Pasca Palma, credited her Romanian grandparents – who used traditional agricultural methods passed down for centuries, to till the soil – for nurturing her appreciation of biodiversity and related traditional knowledge.“All of our ancestors have always lived off the land and waters in one form or another”, she said. “And their traditional knowledge, often transmitted especially through women – grandmother to mother, to daughter – have enabled us as a species to thrive for millennia”.The event also enjoyed a performance by Sjisäwishék, or ‘Keeping the fire strong’ – indigenous girls of the Onondaga Nation, Haudenoasuanee Confederacy, and a ceremonial welcome by the traditional Chief of the Onondaga Nation, Tadodaho Sid Hill.The session runs from 22 April through 3 May, with regional dialogues to be held during the second week.Established by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 2000, the Forum provides it with advice and recommendation on indigenous issues. The 16 independent experts of the Forum – eight nominated by UN Member States and others by indigenous organizations globally – work in their personal capacity. Noting that 2019 is the International Year of Indigenous Languages, she said that “we have to celebrate our languages, but also take concrete action to preserve them and save those on the verge of extinction”.Ms. Nuorgam pointed out that in many countries, indigenous children are not taught in their language. Citing Article 14 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) , she recalled that indigenous peoples have the right to provide education in their own languages.“However, this needs financial and technical support from Member States and the UN System”, she stated.As studies show that children learn best in their own mother tongue, Ms. Nuorgam encouraged everyone to “make sure our children” are connected to their indigenous communities and cultures, as they are “inextricably linked to their lands, territories and natural resources”.“This enables us to protect our traditional knowledge”, asserted the chair.Indigenous issues linked to world developmentRecognizing UNDRIP as a “watershed moment” in 2007, General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa lamented that it still faced implementation challenges, saying that the world has a “historic debt with the indigenous peoples” and that much more must be done to overcome the implementation gap.She also drew attention to indigenous women, pointing out that while women are key agents of change for tackling poverty and hunger, they face multiple forms of discrimination and violence. In his opening remarks, Valentin Rybakov, Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), explained that the Forum’s expert advice on indigenous peoples’ issues, informs ECOSOC deliberations and decisions. Anne Nuorgam, who is a member of Finland’s Saami Parliament and head of the Saami Council’s Human Rights Unit, described the Forum as an opportunity to share innovations and practices, developed in indigenous communities “over centuries and millennia”.Indigenous peoples make up less than six per cent of the world’s population, but account for 15 per cent of the poorest on earth, according to the Forum. They live in some 90 countries, represent 5,000 different cultures and speak the overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 6,700 languages.The @UN Forum 4 Indigenous Issues @UN4Indigenous, began Mon in NYC – with call for protection of traditional knowledge #WeAreIndigenous. Watch day 1 here: pic.twitter.com/Rk3d39PABf— UN News (@UN_News_Centre) April 22, 2019