India’s First ‘No Caste-No Religion’ Certificate Approved For TN Lawyer Who Always Left ‘Caste’ & ‘Religion’ Columns Blank

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When Efforts For Good tried getting in touch with M.A. Sneha, a 35-year-old advocate from Tirupattur, Tamil Nadu, she was recording an interview with BBC News. Overnight, she has become an inspiration for India, for officially securing the country’s first ‘No Caste No Religion’ certificate from the government.

Sneha, who was brought up in a secular environment with no influence of any casteist or religious sentiments, feels her victory would motivate the future generation of India to create a more peaceful society.

She grew up without caste & religion

Talking to Efforts For Good, Sneha shared how her ideology was shaped from childhood by her advocate parents, both of whom are firm believers in equality. “We are three sisters. Our parents named us in the most secular manner – Sneha, Mumtaj and Jennifer – to prove how equality reigns above all religions,” she shares.

When she was three years old, her parents took her for school admission. “They left the ‘caste’ and ‘religion’ columns blank in the application form,” she told when inquired on how it started. That was the start. Sneha has always made sure to skip these two columns in all her application forms ever since.

A strong and supportive family helped her maintain her liberal mindset all along. “There were a few objections from people, I won’t deny. They would tell me that I would never get married as no one would opt for a ‘casteless’ girl. But, I was sure I would find a progressive man who would gladly accept my ideas,” she admits. Sneha got married to Tamil professor Parthiba Raja in 2005, in a unique revolutionary wedding set-up unknown to Indians.

“Our wedding was devoid of any religious rituals and traditional customs. The famous liberal poet Inkulab conducted our marriage,” she narrates. The couple has three daughters, all of whom bear secular names like Aadhirai Nasreen, Adhila Irene and Aarifa Jessy, which are a confluence of Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian names. They are also being raised without any ‘caste’ or ‘religious’ identity.

No Caste No Religion
Sneha with her family

A long struggle for the certificate

Since 2010, M.A. Sneha has been willing to make her ‘casteless and religionless’ status official, but her applications for the same were rejected multiple times. “The authorities would cite reasons like there was no precedent of a woman ever receiving the sanction for such a status. People would tell me that I would face a lot of difficulty as a citizen without mentioning caste and religion,” she reveals.

Sneha, an expert lawyer, stuck her ground and patiently explained to everyone time and again that it was a ‘no pain, no gain’ situation for her. Neither has she opted for any government benefits or reservation, nor is her status going to offend anyone’s sentiments. “If people can avail caste certificates, why cannot one obtain a ‘no-caste’ certificate?” she would question.

No Caste No Religion
The copy of the certificate

Her final appeal in 2017 brought her success when it was eventually accepted. She was handed over the certificate on February 5, 2019, by Tirupattur Tehsildar T.S. Sathiyamoorthy. Sneha informs that B. Priyanka Pankajam, the sub-collector of Tirupattur, played a key role in approving her application. Her certificate was finally issued after Pankajam gave a go ahead, making this the first such instance in the country.

Sneha wishes to clarify that she is never against reservation policy by the government. “The reservation benefits were initiated after a lot of struggle from the lesser privileged section. I would always wish that the policy helps to uplift the backward communities and offer them equal opportunities,” she states.

After her success, her sisters and husband have also decided to get a similar certificate. “I would also try the same for my daughters. I believe if the government starts approving such certificates, we can dream of a more harmonious society one day.” she signs off.

Efforts For Good take

In a deeply religious country like India, we often see instances of violence based on religion and caste. In the past centuries, religious sentiments have created a divided social set-up and casteist hierarchy, marginalising many. For a society blinded by hatred and discrimination, M.A. Sneha’s rebellious decision will surely prove to be a light in the right direction. Efforts For Good hopes that she becomes a role model for the upcoming generations.

Also Read: 38-Yr-Old IIS Officer Becomes First Woman To Trek Kerala’s Men-Only Peak

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‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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