Specials http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials.rss en Sat Aug 31 16:53:07 IST 2019 https://www.theweek.in/privacy-an-settlement.html covert-affair <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/covert-affair.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/5/22/12-Sheikh-Mujibur-Rahman-new.jpg" /> <p>For his neighbours, Ahmed Ali was master moshai, known for his proficiency in English, Urdu and the Quran. The soft-spoken 71-year-old used to teach students in the neighbourhood. He also used to lend money, at exorbitant interest. But he chose to keep it private, just like his rented apartment in Bedford lane, a central Kolkata locality with a significant Muslim presence, where he lived with his wife, Zareena, and their 10-year-old daughter.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“A long curtain always covered the gate,” said Safiq Ul Rahman, Ali’s landlord. “The door was always closed. Even I could not go in, although the house was mine. But he always paid the rent on time.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ali, who had been living in Kolkata since 1996, went missing from his house on February 21. Two weeks later came reports about his arrest in Bangladesh and the shocking revelation that he was Abdul Majed, a retired major in the Bangladesh army. He was wanted in Bangladesh for the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, revered as the father of the nation. He was executed on a long-pending death warrant on April 12.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For decades, Bangladesh has been doggedly pursuing six of its former military officers—Captain Abdur Rashid, Major Shariful Haq Dalim, Lieutenant Colonel Noor Chowdhury, Lieutenant Colonel Rashed Chowdhury, Lance Naik Moslem Uddin and Major Abdul Majed—implicated in Mujib’s assassination. Majed had been on the radar of intelligence operatives from India and Bangladesh for a while because of his trips to the US to meet his son from his first marriage and also for his frequent telephone conversations with his tainted colleagues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The sleuths moved in on February 21, reportedly without the knowledge of the West Bengal government and its intelligence apparatus. CCTV footage showed a five-member team picking up Majed in the morning. After extensive interrogation in Delhi, he was sent to Dhaka. There are reports that Moslem Uddin, too, has been picked up from West Bengal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By helping Bangladesh nab two of Mujib’s killers when the country celebrates his birth centenary, India has taken a big step in repairing bilateral ties which have come under considerable strain after the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and the passing of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Following Majed’s execution, a Bangladesh cabinet minister said Prime Minister Narendra Modi completed work left unfinished by Indira Gandhi. “The way he handed over the two fugitives will be recorded in history,” said the minister. Interestingly, India has remained silent about the whole process.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Majed’s execution, however, has come as a rude shock to his family and friends in Kolkata. “We had no clue about his past. He was a polite man who used to pray five times a day,” said Zareena’s brother Nazeemuddin Mullick. “A local lawyer brought us his proposal around ten years ago. After meeting him, we agreed to the marriage, although he was 30 years older than Zareena. My sister never had any complaints about him.” It was Zareena’s second marriage as well. Mullick said Zareena and her two daughters—she has a daughter from her first marriage, too—were in deep trouble. “We have written to the chief minister for monetary help. My sister is bedridden and has become mentally unstable,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mullick said Majed was a gentleman, but he used to get irritated when asked about his past. “He looked like someone with a military background,” said Mullick. Majed, who had always kept a low profile, started getting noticed after he played an active role in the anti-CAA protests. He had also established himself as a committed worker of the Trinamool Congress.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Majed was on good terms with the CPI(M) as well. He moved to Kolkata in 1996, after Mujib’s daughter Sheikh Hasina came to power in Bangladesh. At the time, the CPI(M) reigned supreme in West Bengal. He even managed to get a ration card in the below poverty line category. He switched his allegiance to the Trinamool Congress after Mamata Banerjee came to power in 2011. “In the past decade, he got everything, thanks to the local leadership of the Trinamool Congress,” said Sajjad Hossain, a local trader.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Majed came to Kolkata, he was forced to stay in one the most backward areas of Kolkata, where the streets were always full of garbage. “Only poor Muslims from Bihar used to stay there. Today, things have changed, but the area is still known as a settlement of impoverished people,” said social activist Shansha Jahangir.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Majed was forced to endure such indignity after Hasina decided to hunt down her father’s killers. After losing his job as Bangladesh’s defence attache to Libya, he fled to Thailand. From there, he found his way to Kolkata, which was, by then, a well-established refuge for exiled Bangladeshis. When Hasina lost the elections in 2001 to Begum Khaleda Zia, Majed briefly went back to Bangladesh. He stopped going after Zia was voted out of power in 2006.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like Majed, Moslem Uddin, too, had sought refuge in India. While Majed chose the slums of Kolkata, Moslem Uddin went to a border village in the North 24 Parganas district where he worked as a quack and ran a pharmacy. According to sources, Majed gave up Moslem Uddin’s whereabouts during interrogation. Bangladesh has confirmed that his identity is being verified and he, too, could soon face the death penalty.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mujib was only 55 when he was assassinated. A retired army officer said the rebel officers were initially not keen on killing the president. “He was given multiple options to save his life, including a chance to resign,” the officer said. “But being a mass leader, he chose to fight back. He threatened to call the Indian prime minister. Subsequently, the officers decided not to take any chances and shot him and most of his family members.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The entire operation was planned by Rashid and Major Farooq Rahman. Apart from the military angle, the assassination, which took place on the morning of August 15, 1975, also involved political and diplomatic operations. Awami League MP A.K.M. Rahmatullah, who was a student leader at the time, said Mujib’s cabinet colleagues like Khondaker Mostaq Ahmad, who became president for a brief period after the assassination, helped the military. Army vice chief General Ziaur Rahman—Begum Khaleda Zia’s husband, who was president from 1977 to 1981—too, joined the plot because he was miffed with the elevation of his junior officer K.M. Shafiullah as army chief. The United States also allegedly played a key role, with CIA station chief Philip Cherry being kept in the loop by the army.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The army was out on the streets by late night on August 14, but nobody was bothered because Mujib had declared a national emergency to counter the demonstrations organised by extreme left groups against the government’s handling of the famine of 1974. Many observers feel that Mujib’s idea to go ahead with a one-party system was a major reason behind the army’s decision to remove him. Rashid told the marching soldiers that the army and the top political brass wanted to finish the “autocratic regime”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was Noor who fired the bullets that killed Mujib. He was later made lieutenant colonel and was posted abroad as high commissioner to Hong Kong and ambassador to France. He now lives in Toronto under the protection of the Canadian government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Barring Rashid, Dalim, Noor, Rashed, Majed and Moslem Uddin, the rest of the conspirators were captured and executed between 2000 and 2010. Majed’s execution and Moslem Uddin’s reported capture have spurred Bangladesh missions abroad to nab the remaining four.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Speaking exclusively with THE WEEK, Bangladesh’s Minister for Liberation War Affairs A.K.M. Mozammel Haque said Majed could be executed only because of India’s help. “Moslem Uddin is in Indian custody, and his identity is being verified. Noor is sheltered by Canada and Rashed by the US.” He said the remaining two—Rashid and Dalim—could be in India or Pakistan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dalim had served at several Bangladeshi missions in the Middle East. When Bangladesh established diplomatic ties with Pakistan, Rashid was posted there. Now retired, he runs businesses in Kenya, but he reportedly stays in Pakistan. Dalim, who runs petroleum businesses in many countries, too, lives in Pakistan, according to intelligence reports.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Haque said Mujib’s assassination was an international conspiracy orchestrated by Islamabad. “All those officers were trained in Pakistan and had links with Pakistan army institutes,” he said. “Pakistan had a direct role in the assassination of the father of our nation. And, they had the support of many western countries.” Hasina has written to President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for their support in extraditing Rashed and Noor. While Noor’s case is going on in Canada’s immigration court, the US has so far refused to hand over Rashed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Noor leads a lonely life with his wife, after having stopped interacting with the local Bangladeshi community. “During a function five years ago, one man walked up to him and slapped him several times. He stopped socialising after that incident,” said Sajjad Rahman of the Canadian Bangladesh Centre.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Noor refused to respond to THE WEEK’s queries. His lawyer Barbara Jackman said Noor wanted to be left alone. “He is very much saddened. He does not want to be disturbed,” she said. Noor’s extradition battle has affected diplomatic relations between Canada and Bangladesh. “I am fighting in the court on his behalf. So, please do not ask me to reveal the details. It might jeopardise his case,” said Jackman.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rashed, however, travels across the US to take care of his business interests and is said to be close to several key politicians. Trump wrote to Hasina in April to wish her on Mujib’s birth centenary and called the former president a global icon, but he has so far refused to respond favourably to the extradition request.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We can understand Pakistan’s lack of commitment, but we have failed to understand the role being played by the US and Canada,” said Haque. “What would have been their reaction if we sheltered the assassin of an American president or a Canadian prime minister? Their logic is that death sentences are inhuman. But what about the murder of a head of state? Western leaders refuse to see what these people did and how they killed the entire first family of our nation, except for two people.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With one retired officer getting executed and five more in the line, there have been some concerns in Bangladesh about the army’s response. Information Minister Hassan Mahmud said the country was united on the issue. “Mujib’s killers are the most hated people in Bangladesh,” he said. “There is no hue and cry over the hanging of his murderers. We are confident that we will be able to bring all those criminals to justice.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/covert-affair.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/covert-affair.html Fri May 22 19:41:02 IST 2020 we-thank-prime-minister-modi-for-handing-over-mujib-killer <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/we-thank-prime-minister-modi-for-handing-over-mujib-killer.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/5/22/17-Abdul-Momen.jpg" /> <p><b>AS HIS COUNTRY’S</b> top diplomat, A.K. Abdul Momen handles the extradition of the assassins of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who is revered as the father of the nation. Momen scored a success on this front recently with the arrest and execution of Abdul Majed, a former Bangladesh army officer who was hiding in India. In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, Momen spoke about Bangladesh’s efforts to nab the fugitives. He also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for India’s cooperation in the process. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Bangladesh seems to be in a hurry to arrest and execute the remaining killers of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/This year marks the 100th birth anniversary of Mujibur Rahman. So we have taken an oath to find the remaining six who are hiding in different countries and bring them to justice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Why do you say they are self-proclaimed killers?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/They confessed to their crimes soon after the killing. The people of Bangladesh, India and the entire world know it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/What steps have you taken so far?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/We have written to the countries where we believe they are in hiding, seeking their extradition. India has been one such country. Two of the fugitives are in the US and Canada.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Are you talking about Noor Chowdhury and Rashed Chowdhury?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Yes. We are trying to bring them back as they have been convicted by a court of law in our country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/What did the US and Canadian governments tell you?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Both countries have come out with lame excuses. They say because of the death sentence awarded, the two fugitives cannot be extradited. Both countries are our close friends and we have strong business ties with them. But we cannot accept their response on such an emotive issue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How do you know that they are in the US and Canada?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Our missions abroad have been activated to find these people. These people were posted as diplomats in different countries. Our diplomatic missions got in touch with the respective countries and gave us reports about these people staying there. Both the US and Canada have accepted the facts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/What initiatives have you taken?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/I have spoken to authorities in many countries, including the foreign ministers of the US and Canada for the smooth handover of the two prime convicts. Our prime minister wrote to both heads of state. But the outcome, unfortunately, has not been satisfactory.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/One of the convicts was recently captured in India and handed over to you, which resulted in his swift execution.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/We were very lucky that India responded to our application with firm and positive action. India knows Mujibur Rahman and because of Prime Minister Modi we could get this man, who was later brought to justice by the Bangladesh judiciary.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/One more convict is said to be in custody.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/I have heard that Lance Naik Moslem Uddin has been captured as well. But his identity is yet to be verified. Both countries are working on that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How do you look at India’s cooperation on the issue?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Prime Minister Modi is very assertive and has supported us a lot in handing over major Bangladeshi criminals. We have also ensured that Bangladeshi territory is never used to promote anti-India activities. The Indian government’s help in this regard is paramount to the safety and security of Bangladesh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Barring the two convicts in the US and Canada, are you sure the rest are in India?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/I have no idea. But we are sure that if they are in India, the Indian government will hand them over to us. We will definitely get them today or tomorrow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How was your experience working with Mujibur Rahman?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/I travelled with him to West Pakistan [in 1970] for the round-table conference [after which he was arrested]. I used to look after his day-to-day paperwork. After independence, I served him in different ministries as a senior bureaucrat. I found him to be extremely committed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Now you work with his daughter.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Both father and daughter have big hearts.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/we-thank-prime-minister-modi-for-handing-over-mujib-killer.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/we-thank-prime-minister-modi-for-handing-over-mujib-killer.html Fri May 22 19:34:12 IST 2020 virtual-vile <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/virtual-vile.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/5/22/18-Virtual-vile-1-new.jpg" /> <p>Richa Sharma says it was just a “thinking” picture of her sitting, lost in thought, with her finger on her lips. But the 17-year-old from Bengaluru could not have imagined that the stranger she briefly interacted with on Instagram would morph it into the horror show it later became.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In early April, Richa got a message on her profile from a Delhi boy her age. She did not suspect anything fishy; he had a respectable-looking profile, she says. Richa has been running a YouTube channel on teenage dilemmas and she assumed the boy was a follower. Moving on from small talk, the boy urged Richa to send him a nude picture. Taken aback, Richa said no and ignored the alarming request. Fed up with her resistance, the boy, says Richa, pulled out the “thinking” picture from her profile and foisted her face on a nude body. He then sent her the photo. “The last message I sent him was me saying he could do whatever he wanted,” she says. “I never sent him anything from my side. Why should I have been scared?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The next day, on a story she posted on her profile, the same boy trolled her with obscene Hindi slang. Richa ignored it. Then, one Sunday, Richa saw the ‘Bois Locker Room’ incident trending on social media. A group of boys from upscale Delhi schools had allegedly shared, on Instagram, photos of underage girls with deeply misogynistic remarks, some even vindicating sexual assault. “I shared the news as a way to create awareness,” says Richa, whose father is a manager in a multinational company. “The next day, when the list of members of the locker room came out, I saw the same boy’s name [come up] as an admin. That is when I panicked.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Richa, an only child, does not want to take legal action or even tell her parents. They do not know about her YouTube channel. “I cannot talk about these things with my parents,” she says. “They are not very supportive. They will just ask me to wear full clothes or sit at home quietly.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, she got more information on the boy from an ethical hacker, but has not decided what to do with it. “At least in Delhi, this is happening in private chat rooms,” she says. “In my (Bengaluru) school, every day I hear someone come and tell me how they were inappropriately touched by boys outside, during the lunch break. And there are cops stationed around our girls’ school.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The last time the phrase “locker-room talk” gained attention was in 2016, when then Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump apologised for bragging about groping women, saying it was “locker-room talk”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most people have been subjected to snatches of crude, vulgar, extreme talk, especially about one’s sexual conquests, in closed-door spaces of schools, colleges, offices and so on. The Bois Locker Room case, which erupted on May 5, highlights how this culture of boasting plays out in the most insidious ways when it is transposed to the unfettered world of social media. A private chat group on Instagram, formed by a group of bored, well-off schoolboys in Delhi, has brought to the fore a viscous web of cyber criminality among minors who struggle to control their impulses for quick thrills and a sense of power. Fake profiles, stalking, bullying, blackmailing, morphing images, sexting, dating aggression, revenge porn, gang-violence, cyber-suicide—just this one case has come to represent the toxic cocktail of discontent in the private lives of modern Indian teenagers, clueless about netiquette and cybersecurity. “The Bois Locker room incident is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Pavan Duggal, a cyberlaw expert. “There are hundreds of cases of misuse available on various platforms that service providers know of, but have not yet been reported.” Pointing out the inadequacy of the current provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and also those of the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act to deal with cases of cyber-bullying, Duggal says no specific law on these issues is being contemplated. “The Indian cyberlaw was amended 12 years back,” he says. “Since then, there have been massive developments in technology, which necessitate that the law be updated to make it topical and relevant.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the same week the Bois Locker Room incident came to light, a 17-year-old boy jumped off the 11th floor of his apartment building in Gurugram. A girl had reportedly accused him, on social media, of molesting her two years ago. Mumbai-based cybercrime investigator Ritesh Bhatia talks about a case where four boys from a well-known international school in Mumbai ganged up against another boy—who was also their friend—to shame him in a private chat group on Instagram in April. The four boys found their friend to be a “sissy”; they did not like his “lady-like, effeminate” conduct on TikTok videos and in Instagram pictures. In the chat group, they would objectify his body parts. The boy took screenshots of their unsavoury conversations, showed them to his mother and then posted them on social media. The four boys, in turn, got cyber-bullied by a lot of people. “Do not make social media a court,” says Bhatia. “This boy, without informing anyone, put out everything on Instagram. The boys’ parents should have been contacted first. The principal suspended the four boys after receiving complaints against them. But the new fashion is to take everything online. This is not a platform to seek justice. Only when other platforms are not working should you name and shame.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bhatia strongly believes that the teens are only aping adults. “Aren’t we constantly trolling women journalists, vocal actresses and minority women with death and rape threats? Think about how (environmental activist) Greta Thunberg gets trolled,” he says. “What has the government done to take on these trolls? All the parents who troll others, now it is passing down to their children.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He adds that there has to be a way to instil fear of the law in trolls. “Teenagers on Instagram follow celebrities and they see how elders comment and how no action is taken either by the platform or the government,” he says. While the sedition law has been used to arguably muzzle dissent against political leaders, there has been precious little done to bring online trolls to task. “Online trolling is not an offence under the IT Act, 2000,” says Duggal. “Also, online trolling cannot be effectively covered under the existing provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. India has failed to get a single conviction concerning online trolling. This itself should be a trigger to amend its cyberlaw to not only cover online trolling, but also to make it a heinous offence.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Says Sonali Patankar, president-founder of the nonprofit Ahaan Foundation and Responsible Netism: “With early access to hand-held devices, online bullying starts in the fifth grade itself. Our ground research has shown that these kids are extremely independent; they seem to have everything sorted and they do not like any adult interference. But they are just not aware of the legal and psychological consequences of their online behaviour. People do not know that the bully needs more help than anyone else. I can teach my child to be empathetic and careful, but I am fighting an entire lobby of my friends who are teaching their kids just to do the opposite.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Patankar, who has worked across schools in Maharashtra to promote cyber education and online wellness among children and adults, says the lockdown has exacerbated bullying. “Let me tell you, this is happening across the board,” she says. “Minors are sharing horrifying content on social media and on WhatsApp. There is no economic, cultural, religious, gender or state divide. Boys are equally bullied. Vulnerabilities are higher with illiteracy and [among] first-generation internet learners. Gaming platforms are the worst-hit; you are threatened with death there because you just cannot play.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Sarah (name changed) from Delhi saw how the Bois Locker Room case exploded, she came out with her own story. A year ago, the 18-year-old from a prominent Delhi school became the target of a ‘girls’ locker room’. While one would expect the participants of such a group to direct their puerile remarks at men, this chat group was formed only to bully Sarah. While the trigger for creating this group sounds like a plot from an asinine American teen comedy involving mean girls and ex-boyfriends, the obscene dissection of her Instagram pictures and stories, apart from physical threats in clubs, drove Sarah to the therapist’s couch. “There were 15 other girls when this group started, but six of them were more active,” she says. “I actually threatened them with a case. After this, I was not in a good place mentally, so I slashed my wrists.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sarah, the only child of a real-estate developer in Delhi, was hospitalised after the suicide attempt. “Back then, the cops came to my house,” she says. “I even gave a written complaint. Instead, I got a lecture on how suicide was illegal. No action was taken against the admin of the girls’ locker room. Now that same girl has started a smear campaign against one of the girls who first outed these boys from the Bois Locker Room case.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sarah shared the screenshots of the girls’ locker room on social media only this month. “That was the only way I could find closure,” she says.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/virtual-vile.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/virtual-vile.html Fri May 22 19:29:02 IST 2020 starving-steeds <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/starving-steeds.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/5/22/58-A-sickly-horse.jpg" /> <p><b>A VISIT TO</b> the City of Joy feels incomplete without a ride around the Victoria Memorial in a horse-drawn carriage. The lockdown, however, has left the area deserted, in turn affecting the carriage business and leaving the horses underfed. The animals now loiter around in nearby Kidderpore, tired and looking for food.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On a regular day, before the pandemic, more than 150 horses carried tourists in well-decorated carriages and sometimes children on their backs. Now, however, their owners are unable to feed them. In fact, many of the owners have returned to their homes in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, abandoning the animals in Kolkata. “We are taking care of their horses,” said Mohammad Feroz, one of the local owners. “Even if the lockdown is lifted, there will be no tourists for some time. We used to earn Rs400 a trip and around Rs6,000 to Rs8,000 for weddings, depending on distance.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Said Ajay Daga, a member of the NGO People For Animals: “When news of a horse dying during the first week of lockdown appeared on social media, I got a call from (BJP MP and PFA founder) Maneka Gandhi. She inquired about the condition of the horses here.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The former Union minister, known to be an animal lover, has assured all assistance, he added. “At present, we are feeding these animals with the help of the people of Kolkata who are generously donating,” said Daga. “We also got support from the Kolkata Mounted Police and the local councillor.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As of now, PFA is feeding the horses for two and a half days a week; other organisations chip in on the remaining days. “We will feed the horses till the situation becomes normal after the lockdown is lifted,” said Daga.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Susmita Bhattacharya, the local councillor, said she was trying to help them in several ways, including by providing drinking water for the horses and by getting help from other organisations. “Normally, a sack of fodder would cost around Rs850; now it about Rs1,150,” she said. “Thanks to PFA, the Kolkata Mounted Police and others, we have been able to keep these horses alive.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/starving-steeds.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/22/starving-steeds.html Fri May 22 22:30:39 IST 2020 skeletons-of-the-economy <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/14/skeletons-of-the-economy.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/5/14/58-retail-new.jpg" /> <p>As the world is slowly opening up, businesses have started taking stock of the damages of the lockdown. The Covid-19 pandemic has left many sectors in ruins, and they are struggling to deal with the fall in demand, supply chain disruptions and shortage of labour. But they have already started piecing together the broken parts. This, after all, is just another test for the indomitable human spirit</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Retail: </b>The closure of shops and malls has washed out the sale of seasonal fashion accessories. The retail sector may see huge job cuts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Infrastructure:</b> Projects like construction of bridges, roads and metro lines depend on migrant workers. Most of these workers, however, have left the cities and might not return for a while.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Agriculture:</b> Farmers had big financial losses despite the government’s efforts to help them sell the produce. The slump in demand, ban on interstate transportation and labour shortage have left fruits and vegetables rotting in farms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Recreation:</b> Amusement parks and businesses depending on travel and tourism were badly hit as people’s movement was restricted and gatherings were banned.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Advertisement: </b>As companies have stopped spending on marketing and advertisement, most billboards remain naked, giving cities an apocalyptic look.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Manufacturing: </b>Medium and small scale industries are among the worst affected as they were under stress even before the pandemic broke out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Real estate:</b> Many realty projects have been paused because of the slow market and shortage of labourers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Cinema:</b> The halt in the production of cinemas and television series has left many artists and technicians jobless.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/14/skeletons-of-the-economy.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/14/skeletons-of-the-economy.html Thu May 14 18:43:05 IST 2020 stainless-steel <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/08/stainless-steel.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/5/8/12-Rajasthan.jpg" /> <p>Just over a month into his new job, Prabhu Narain Singh, the 40-year-old district magistrate of Agra, had an enviable assignment: to make arrangements for the visit of US President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, to the Taj Mahal. The visit went without a hitch, earning him praise. Little did he realise that another, much bigger challenge was coming his way.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On February 25, a day after the Trump visit, Sumit Kapoor, a local businessman, returned to Agra after attending a trade expo in Italy. On March 2, he tested positive for Covid-19 and was sent to Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi along with six members of his family. His brother-in-law Rohit Dutta, who had travelled with Kapoor to Italy, was the first positive case in Delhi. The same day, a group of 19 tourists reached Agra from Rajasthan. One of them tested positive and was quarantined in Rajasthan. A day later, 15 of them tested positive in Delhi. As the infection started spreading across the country, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba instructed chief secretaries of all states that district collectors should hold coordination meetings and set up teams for cluster management of the pandemic at district, block and village levels. The intervention proved to be crucial.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Agra receives a large number of tourists and we told hotels to reserve one floor for foreign tourists so that if someone tested positive, it can be contained there,” said Prabhu Narain Singh. “This helped us in limiting the contact of the Italians who were carrying a high viral load. We also quarantined 159 staffers of the five-star hotel where the Italians stayed.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The next challenge: members from 42 families in the city had gone to Italy for the expo. Two people (including Kapoor) passed it on to relatives. “It was the first cluster in the country. We were new at that time and were learning as we started contact tracing. So we were able to contain it without lockdown,” said Prabhu Narain Singh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The third wave in Agra came from people who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat meeting in Delhi. As the city successfully managed the challenge, the Centre announced on April 12 that the Agra model of cluster containment should be replicated across the country. The city, however, was hit by a fourth wave. Some of the patients who went to local hospitals infected more people. As Agra is a medical hub for the neighbouring areas, the infection spread to medical workers and patients, overshadowing the city’s early success.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In neighbouring Rajasthan, the biggest challenge was in two cities, Jaipur and Bhilwara. Additional Chief Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh said the state adopted ruthless containment—a term he coined—to tackle the pandemic. “You have to be polite, but firm. And you should address daily needs of the people so that they do not become your adversaries,” he said. He also stressed on the importance of tailoring strategies to suit local requirements. “Dealing with Bhilwara is different from dealing with the walled city in Jaipur. In Bhilwara, doctors were infected. They became super spreaders. Jaipur was different as there were individual cases. So we had to adopt a slightly different approach.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thousands of kilometres away in Kerala’s Kasargod district, the state government sent senior IAS officer Alkesh Kumar Sharma, managing director of Kochi Metro, to oversee the fightback after the local administration found it difficult to manage the spurt in cases. “When I was assigned the district, the lockdown was already on,” said Sharma. “But that was the first step. We went for cluster containment and then active containment where cases were coming up. The key was ensuring home delivery of essential goods. The next task was to find out primary and secondary contacts of infected people and also high-risk cases.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The massive fight being put up in 736 districts across the country is marked by the proactive role of civil servants, especially district collectors, also called district magistrates and deputy commissioners in different states. The fightback seems to be a part of their collective institutional memory as the civil services have been at the forefront of handling epidemics from the colonial times. It has brought the shine back to India’s famous steel frame. As they belong to the same service, it is easy for officers to share notes and seek advice from their successful counterparts. “Six of my batchmates are health secretaries in different states. IAS officers are better at coordination, and this is working as we go along,” said Rohit Kumar Singh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jammu and Kashmir, which is struggling with a fragile political and security situation, too, has witnessed an exemplary response to the pandemic. Shahid Choudhary, deputy commissioner, Srinagar, and Rohit Kansal, principal secretary and government spokesperson, are among the bureaucrats leading the response. By providing regular updates on social media about the pandemic, Kansal has emerged as a vital link between the government and the people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Haryana’s Nuh district, which is the epicentre of the pandemic in the state, Deputy Commissioner Pankaj said he enlisted the help of local imams and community leaders to get the message across in Muslim-dominated areas, after the return of people who attended the Tablighi Jamaat meeting.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Gujarat, too, IAS officers are leading the fightback against the pandemic in the two most affected cities of Ahmedabad and Surat. Municipal Commissioner Vijay Nehra turned Ahmedabad’s walled city into a fortress once again by swiftly implementing cluster containment after the return of Tablighi Jamaat attendees from Delhi. He launched intensified testing among vegetable vendors; 200 tested positive. Health cards were issued to vendors and people are advised to buy vegetables only from those with valid cards. Nehra, meanwhile, has gone into self-isolation on May 5, after he came into contact with two persons who tested positive subsequently. In Surat, Municipal Commissioner Banchhanidhi Pani was swift in dealing with a similar situation in the Rander area.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“In a crisis, there is no substitute to civil servants on the ground. When asked to deliver, they have delivered. The government is always dependent on civil servants,” said retired IAS officer Anil Swarup, author of Not Just a Civil Servant. He said the response to Covid-19 had demonstrated that the steel frame continued to be the same.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One major challenge for the officers while tackling the pandemic has been providing food for the poor and the migrants affected by the lockdown. “Initially, we arranged community kitchens through private help, but soon shifted to providing dry rations as no proper social distancing could be maintained. Though there may be some pilferage or hoarding, it is much more effective,” said Girish Dayalan, deputy commissioner, Mohali, Punjab.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the things that worked in favour of district collectors is that most of them are young. “We are able to run around and that is why we have been on the job. At the district level, even the chief medical officer is old and, therefore, in danger,” said Prabhu Narain Singh. When the government wanted a ground report after the country went into lockdown, the department of administrative reforms and public grievance conducted a survey among district collectors. They flagged the lack of preparedness and health infrastructure at the grassroots level and recommended extension of the lockdown. The government has gone by their advice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some of the bureaucrats even went beyond the Indian Council of Medical Research’s initial protocol of testing only symptomatic patients. “The ICMR asked to test only those who were symptomatic, but we went beyond that,” said Sharma, recounting his experience in Kasargod. Family members of those with symptoms were traced and quarantined. Rohit Kumar Singh adopted the same strategy in Rajasthan. “The ICMR offers the guiding principle, but you have to see the reality,” he said. “The ICMR suggested contact tracing of confirmed contacts of Covid-19 patients. Normally, it would mean family members, drivers and domestic helps. But you have to see the local situation where people pray together or sit together in the alleys. So that definition does not apply. We tested aggressively in Rajasthan.” Similar views were expressed by officials in Mohali and Agra. “We should be not afraid of the rising numbers as we can then contain them,” said Dayalan. “Not knowing positive cases will not help. In that sense, we did break from the ICMR protocol by going in for aggressive testing.” Such out-of-the-box thinking has gone a long way in tackling the pandemic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“There has been no substitute in independent India to the evolved collector. Given a chance, these chaps will come up with innovations,” said retired IAS officer Jawhar Sircar, who was CEO of Prasar Bharati. Often derided as status-quoist and slow-moving, the bureaucracy earned praise this time from Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Under Modi, IAS officers have been feeling the heat, with the government pushing for reforms and trying to reduce the overwhelming reliance on IAS officers in governance. The Modi government, for instance, has brought in a lot more non-IAS officers at the joint secretary level. A bigger blow was the appointment of 10 domain experts in 2018 as joint secretaries under the lateral entry scheme based on the recommendations of the Niti Aayog. Former Niti Aayog vice chairman Arvind Panagariya recently told THE WEEK that India needed a lot more outsiders with specialised skills. “The system will always need generalists, but the current balance is not right,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>IAS officers, however, feel that it is important to have generalists who are better at management. “An expert need not be a good administrator. For example, a doctor may not be good at clinical management. That is why a health secretary need not be a doctor,” said Rohit Kumar Singh. Sircar said the best brains from the IITs and the IIMs were joining the civil services. “I am not against inducting professionals through lateral entry, but they should be given permanent status so that they have a stake in the system,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the Modi government has been pushing for reforms, it has also been engaging actively with the bureaucracy after having realised that district collectors are crucial to the success of the government’s pet initiatives. Modi has entrusted his key bureaucrats with the responsibility of handling the ongoing health emergency. Gauba regularly holds meetings with state chief secretaries, Health Secretary Preeti Sudan has been instrumental in strategising government response, while joint secretary level officers Lav Agarwal and Punya Salila Srivastava have become the face of the government’s information and publicity outreach.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most of the officers have been working above and beyond the call of duty, even ignoring personal and family emergencies. Nikunja Dhal, health secretary of Odisha, and C.R. Kharsan, collector of Gujarat’s Valsad district, reported for duty a day after suffering a bereavement. Srijana Gummalla, commissioner of the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation, returned to office three weeks after giving birth. Punjab Special Chief Secretary K.B.S. Sidhu spoke about tehsildars and junior officers who came forward to cremate bodies of Covid-19 victims after their families refused to do so.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What has given a defining edge to the fight against Covid-19 has been the skilful use of technology. Many IAS officers have helped develop apps to map the location of patients and the availability of goods and also to address grievances. Munish Moudgil, special officer in charge of Karnataka’s Covid-19 war room, helped develop two apps—Quarantine Watch and Corona Watch—which gave the state an early edge by reducing the need for manual surveillance of primary and secondary contacts of confirmed cases.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tamil Nadu’s Tiruppur district, which is a red zone, is a hub for making personal protective equipment for health workers. It is also home to 1.3 lakh migrant workers. “We have mapped them, created a database and we are soon going to enumerate their bank accounts,” said District Collector K. Vijayakarthikeyan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The young DMs are intelligent, they need an independent hand to drive innovation,” said Sircar. “It is from the joint secretary level that there should be reforms and change of attitude, be it weeding out the corrupt, or adopting paper-free decision-making for faster delivery.” Sircar said there was a perception that IAS officers did not do any work, but the fight against Covid-19 had dispelled those doubts. “I do not see any dramatic change happening in the civil services,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the iconic character Sir Humphrey Appleby from the British television series Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister says, “Real reductions in the size of the service? It’d be the end of civilisation as we know it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>WITH TARIQ BHAT, LAKSHMI SUBRAMANIAN, NANDINI OZA AND AAYUSH GOEL</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/08/stainless-steel.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/08/stainless-steel.html Fri May 08 19:47:02 IST 2020 the-force-awakens <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/08/the-force-awakens.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/5/8/17-Women-police.jpg" /> <p>As additional superintendent of police in Uttar Pradesh’s Jhansi district, Saad Miya Khan, 29, used to be busy nabbing criminals and maintaining law and order. But what keeps him occupied these days are bags of flour and potatoes at the police station in Bijauli.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Khan’s day begins at 5am. He checks rations, liaises with merchants to source supplies, and joins his colleagues to prepare meals in the community kitchen run by the police. Every day, they serve thousands of hungry migrant labourers and tribals who flock to the station.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Khan, who was ranked 25 nationally in the UPSC exams in 2018, had trained at the prestigious Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy in Hyderabad. He had taken charge as trainee ASP in Jhansi in December last year. On March 23, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown to battle Covid-19, he got a suggestion from Pramod Tiwari, a veteran sub-inspector in Jhansi. Tiwari suggested that Khan make arrangements for a community kitchen, saying the battle against the novel coronavirus was going to be a long one. Khan recruited one cook and six helpers, and set up the kitchen at the Bijauli police station. He says that was how his real training began.A month since, what Khan started in Bijauli has turned into a model for cities across UP. “It is the best training an IPS or IAS officer can get,” he told THE WEEK. “Our batch is lucky that it got a chance to work on the field during a pandemic.”Vallabhbhai Patel, India’s first home minister, had called the civil services the “steel frame” of good governance. Today, officers like Khan are wiping the rust off that decades-old frame. “The police in India are shedding their colonial tag and becoming people-friendly,” said D.K. Pathak, former director general of the Border Security Force. “Though the police have always been the first responder in all crises, its image had been maligned by political interference, inefficiency and the excesses of the last 70 years.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Covid-19 has transformed policing priorities. The forces across the country are now as focused on distributing food and medical supplies as they are on enforcing the lockdown. In UP, the police have even started a “mask bank”, which churns out more than 1,000 masks a day with printed messages on them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The inspiration for the bank was Nikita Singh Gaur, a 27-year-old assistant professor in Lucknow who runs an NGO for underprivileged women. After seeing women violating social distancing norms while queuing up to access their Jan Dhan bank accounts, Gaur began handing out masks with messages printed on them. The masks became popular, and the superintendent of police in Jhansi city, Rahul Srivastava, took note of it. He asked Nikita’s help to set up the mask bank. “We started making masks in bulk, which were then distributed by women constables,” said Gaur. Srivastava said NGOs have helped the police make a difference. “Social distancing norms and lockdown measures cannot be enforced by the police without people’s cooperation,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Asim Arun, former chief of UP’s anti-terrorism squad, policing has become people-centric rather than criminal-centric. Arun is now additional director general of the Integrated Technology-enabled Citizen-centric Services, an emergency management system launched in October 2019. The system, a phone helpline (112) that had been handling criminal complaints, now responds to civil emergencies as well. A network of officers, communication specialists and support staff handles people’s urgent needs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The real challenge for the police, however, would be to safely restore the supply chains that the lockdown has broken. The harvest season has begun, and food grains have to be brought to granaries. The police will have to ensure that the chain remains safe from end to end—from farmers who harvest their produce to those who store and sell it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Every day, nearly 5,000 trucks crisscross Punjab, Rajasthan and UP to get supplies to the markets,” Dinkar Gupta, director general of police in Punjab, told THE WEEK. The mission, according to him, is to restore the chain gradually. “We have doubled the number of marketplaces from 1,700 to 3,800,” said Gupta. “The areas where heaps of wheat are kept have been spaced out.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The procurement period has been extended to ensure that only limited produce is brought to the market at a given time. More than 9,000 police personnel on special duty will assist farmers in harvesting and procurement; around 2,000 volunteers have also been roped in.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Women police personnel are leading the Covid-19 battle on the social front. “As women officers, we are more in tune with the feelings of the people. They find us approachable,” said Amneet Kondal, senior superintendent of police in Fatehgarh Sahib. Kondal has started an initiative to distribute sanitary pads to women in slums. “There are more than 400 women in nine slum areas and we are educating them on hygiene,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Delhi, Dwarka has taken the lead in taking care of the elderly. Anto Alphonse, a 2008-batch officer, is focusing on social activities. “Our policing efforts are focused on senior citizens who are living alone,” he said. “In this big city, these senior citizens have found their sons and daughters in policemen who visit them regularly.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Innovation has been a watchword. In Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli, Deputy Commissioner of Police A. Saravanan has developed an app called Smart Cop to help people reach out to him personally. “We were inspired by a similar system followed by the Mumbai Police,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Jammu and Kashmir, the Central Reserve Police Force has been leading the aid efforts. “When Kashmir went into lockdown on August 5 last year, the CRPF launched a helpline called Madadgar to assist Kashmiris in different parts of the country,” said Rajesh Kumar, inspector-general of the CRPF in Kashmir. “Now we have extended its reach to all parts of the country.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Madadgar is being managed by Junaid Khan, assistant commandant of the CRPF in Kashmir. Every day, the helpline gets 20,000 calls for food, medicines and other essential items. On April 14, one such call came from Tahir Ahmad Dar, a poor labourer. Dar’s wife had delivered a baby with a heart condition that required an immediate surgery. Doctors had recommended that they take the baby to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi, but the lockdown had made it impossible.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So Khan arranged for the surgery at the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences in Srinagar. Since Dar could not bear all expenses, Khan also arranged for the CRPF to pay Rs30,000, which would cover half the costs of the surgery. “Once the lockdown ends, we will take the baby to AIIMS,” said Khan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The northeast has fewer number of Covid-19 cases compared with other regions in India, but the difficult terrain, poor infrastructure and insurgency have made the job of policemen difficult. Anand Mishra, superintendent of police in Assam’s Charaideo district, said he had been leading the life of a “jungle boy” since the lockdown began. He organises street patrols in urban areas during the day and counterinsurgency operations in remote border areas in the night. Work is so hectic that sometimes he can only manage “a quick nap in the morning”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I join my constables for street patrolling to enforce the lockdown and lend assistance to people,” he said. “This keeps me connected with the local people.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mishra runs a YouTube channel called Patroller Cop to attract motivated youth to work as volunteers. These volunteers have been given special passes to deliver medicines and essential items on motorcycles to people in far-flung areas.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mishra is a good motivator. Every day, after his duties are over, he picks up his guitar and sings songs of valour to inspire his constables to prepare for another day of battle. “It is the mindset that drives us,” said Mishra. “We can overcome the Covid crisis; it is all about attitude.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>WITH PUJA AWASTHI AND LAKSHMI SUBRAMANIAN</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/08/the-force-awakens.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/08/the-force-awakens.html Fri May 08 19:32:56 IST 2020 police-training-programme-needs-thorough-revaluation <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/08/police-training-programme-needs-thorough-revaluation.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/5/8/20-Bhaskar-Jyoti-Mahanta-new.jpg" /> <p><b>Q/How are you ensuring supply of essential items to remote areas like Majuli island?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/We have used boats, enlisted community support and leveraged private boat operators to ensure unhindered supply in Majuli. This was done because our own resources were nowhere close to the demand of boats in the current situation. I will be forever grateful to these selfless patriotic citizens. Assam was one of the first states to set up village defence parties, which are being used to create awareness about social distancing. VDPs and police stations are being used to identify people’s needs, which are addressed by networking with NGOs and using police infrastructure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/What about illegal immigrants in detention centres?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Some have been repatriated to Bangladesh. But others whose documentation is not complete... are still in detention centres and are in the process of getting released. Adequate steps are being taken to keep them safe. No case of Covid-19 has been reported from there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/What about the Tablighi Jamaat followers?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Around 800 Tablighi followers here were found to have visited the markaz in Nizamuddin. The police has tracked each one of them and they have been tested and quarantined. Sixteen have been cured and released. But it was a huge concern.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Assam also has a migrant population.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Migrant in the current context would mean people from other districts as well as states. In order to address their needs, we have set up specific helplines, and have received close to 30,000 requests as of April 16. We have been able to address almost all the reasonable requests in a timely manner.... Central forces like the Border Security Force and Assam Border Police have been doing a stellar job in ensuring that no untoward incident takes place on the international and inter-state borders. All land ports have been closed and a tight vigil is being kept on the border.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Have counterinsurgency operations been hit?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/The Myanmar army recently carried out operations against insurgent groups, prompting them to take shelter in border areas. We are keeping a tight vigil since the insurgents can be carriers of Covid-19 and weapons. So, operations are continuing in full force, and advisories have been issued to people living in border areas to not give them shelter. If these insurgents want to surrender, we will first quarantine them and then take action.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How are you tracking suspect Covid-19 cases and ensuring people listen to the police?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/We have leveraged some existing technologies that we use in a very different context. So, we are reorienting the focus of the team to use the same technologies for contact tracing. We are also experimenting with new technologies. But I believe there is no replacing the work done by the boots on the ground and it is not at all a psychological operation. People can see through such intent. They are going out of their way to assist us because the core policing [policy] in Assam is to serve the people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Do you see a new normal in policing after Covid-19?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Our training and development certainly did not prepare us to respond to such a situation. But we have been able to cope with it in an effective manner through deliberate and scientific communication to the last person on ground, not only in terms of standard operating procedures laid down for enforcement but also for self protection and protection of families of our men and women. So, a thorough revaluation of our training programme has to be done to ensure our people are better prepared not only for such situations but also for their sociocultural and economic fallout.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>Excerpts have been edited for brevity and clarity.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/08/police-training-programme-needs-thorough-revaluation.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/08/police-training-programme-needs-thorough-revaluation.html Fri May 08 19:25:58 IST 2020 sports-patrol <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/08/sports-patrol.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/5/8/21-Ajay-Thakur.jpg" /> <p>On regular days, Akhil Kumar meets his staff at his Traffic Tower office in DLF phase IV, Gurugram. The assistant commissioner of police (traffic), in charge of posh east Gurugram, then assesses the situation on the 30km stretch of the Delhi-Jaipur highway that comes under him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But these are not regular days. The boxer, who won gold at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, has his hands full. He has to ensure that people do not hit the roads unnecessarily during the nationwide lockdown.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The initial days were especially tough, and Kumar spent endless hours trying to manage the migrant workers who were walking home to their villages. “People were getting information from various verified and unverified sources,” he told THE WEEK. “It was not just the poor and the uneducated who were defying the lockdown, even the so-called educated were flouting norms.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While he could be stern with the educated rich, Kumar found himself helpless while dealing with the poor. “You try explaining to the migrants that this is being done for their own good, but how much can you convince them?” he asked. “We had directives to not use any force with the migrating public or speak rudely to them. However, once we were told to ensure that the movement was stopped, we had to be firm. After the first few days, things smoothed out.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With his focus on the streets, Kumar now finds barely any time to spend with his wife and daughter. Neither do his colleagues, who sometimes stay at work for 10 days at a stretch rather than take the risk of spreading infection by going home.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a former athlete, Kumar knows how to enforce discipline. But dealing with the poor was emotionally draining, he said. Days into the lockdown, a hungry couple approached his car on the highway, asking for food. He gave them all he had, but many others showed up, hope in their eyes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He returned home that day and called up his athlete and school friends in Gurugram. Together, they started pooling money and feeding the homeless living in shelters. “Three of us started by contributing towards 100 packets, which included 3kg of atta, dal and 1kg rice each,” said the Arjuna awardee. “The group of friends started expanding and more people contributed. We try to do our little bit.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gagan Ajit Singh, too, is doing his bit. The former India forward had scored many a memorable goal during his hockey days, but as deputy commissioner of police, security and operations, Amritsar, he is currently enforcing the lockdown in the city, and leading teams that distribute food and essential supplies to the old and needy. “The situation is different,” he told THE WEEK. “It is not a typical law and order situation. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and DG (Director General) Punjab Police had told us to ensure that the lockdown is strictly followed. The inter-district and inter-state borders have all been sealed, and we have to ensure no one is transgressing.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Earlier, as Mohali DSP, Singh was in charge of security during the India-Australia match in the 2016 T20 World Cup.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Every day (of the lockdown) is a different challenge,” said Singh. “Initially, people would come out citing different reasons, but then when passes were issued, things got streamlined. We have a tie-up with NGOs and the state government supported us in ensuring that food and essential supplies reach those who need them. SHOs (station house officers) of each area have been tasked with identifying such persons and we try to do the needful.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In neighbouring Himachal Pradesh, another India star in on the job. DSP Ajay Thakur, former kabaddi national team captain, has been monitoring the law and order situation in the 50 villages under his jurisdiction. A sleep-deprived Thakur traverses the Bilaspur region in his Jeep, using the public address system to ask people to remain inside. “It was tougher initially, especially reining in youngsters who would be out in their cars or on bikes,” he told THE WEEK. “This generation has not seen anything like a curfew or lockdown, so following the orders all the time is difficult.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, with orders from above to track those who have returned from the Tablighi Jamaat event in Delhi, his workload has increased. “Yes, we have been going to mosques and houses to check their travel history and report,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While his wife is with him in Bilaspur, he has not been able to check on his parents, who live in Solan, about 120km away. “My mother is very worried that I am out and about doing my duty with everyone else in,” said the 33-year-old Padma Shri awardee. “She keeps calling to check on me and tells me to take precautions.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another athlete-turned-policeman on the ground is Joginder Sharma, hero of the 2007 T20I World Cup final. With ball in hand, he defended India’s target against Pakistan in the last over; as Hisar DSP, he is defending his countrymen from the pandemic. On his toes all day, Sharma patrols the city and district, and barely has time to talk. “It is challenging, but an opportunity to serve the nation,” he said. “Our duty, essentially, is to make people aware of the methods to fight Covid-19 and the importance of staying indoors. I must say that people have been understanding.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Force is not the way to enforce the lockdown; persuasion is key, he said. And that is where cricket helps. “Cricket has taught me the significance of teamwork,” he said. “We are working hard to reach out to people.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He cuts short the conversation to hurry back to duty. A duty that will not end any time soon.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/08/sports-patrol.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/05/08/sports-patrol.html Fri May 08 22:42:43 IST 2020 working-for-local-and-global-solutions <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/30/working-for-local-and-global-solutions.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/4/30/55-Dr-Renu-Swarup-new.jpg" /> <p>The hunt for a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 is starting to pick up pace across the world, with multiple candidates now in clinical trials. Indian scientists and vaccine manufacturers, too, are in the race. The Union government has constituted a task force co-chaired by Professor K. VijayRaghavan, principal scientific adviser to the government of India, and Dr Vinod Paul, member of NITI Aayog, to coordinate vaccine development and drug trials in the country. The department of biotechnology (DBT), of the ministry of science and technology, is functioning as the central coordinating authority for vaccine development. Renu Swarup, secretary, DBT, who heads the department, is a scientist with a doctorate in genetics and plant engineering. In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, Swarup says that the DBT is working on international collaborations, supporting Indian vaccine manufacturers and promoting academia-industry collaborations. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The DBT received several applications for funding. Three companies were approved for vaccine development. What were the criteria for selection?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have received around 500 applications covering vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics and other interventions. Around 10 per cent were for vaccines. The review is still on; it is being done in phases. In the first phase, 16 projects were approved which included three companies for vaccine [development]. A multifaceted approach is being adopted to ensure that vaccine candidates are utilising different platforms, and at different stages of development are fast-tracked. Both repurposing of existing vaccine candidates for immediate protection of high-risk groups and novel vaccine candidate development were considered while selecting proposals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The DBT has approved funding for trials of a recombinant BCG vaccine. What is your take on the interest surrounding the BCG vaccine?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Exploring existing interventions for some known evidence from experimental studies suggests that BCG vaccine meant for tuberculosis has beneficial effects and immune modulatory properties that might protect against infectious diseases other than tuberculosis. Therefore, BCG vaccine candidates will be studied in the high-risk population.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Which of these candidates appear most promising? When will we have a vaccine?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Each of these candidates is unique and interesting in their own way. We will have to wait and see how they move ahead. In addition to the three approved for funding, there are many other interesting candidates from both industry and academia. There are a number of international collaborations, too. We are also in discussions with CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations), WHO and the US-NIH. Globally, too, vaccine development is in early stages.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How will the development of the novel vaccine evaluation platform at the National Institute of Immunology help the vaccine development process?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>[The] platform [would] support SARS-CoV-2 vaccine development in resource-limiting settings. This facility will be made available to other vaccine developers to expedite vaccine research. The purpose is to have indigenously available research sources for different steps of the product development value chain. This will be very helpful for academia, startups and industry.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What challenges do you foresee in developing a vaccine in India? Also, how would the vaccine be made accessible to all?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are many scientific challenges. But I have confidence in our scientists and researchers, and we are committed to provide them all possible support. The current crisis demands a solution not just for India, but for the world. We are working at all fronts to deliver local as well as global solutions. We are leading the efforts towards SARS-CoV-2 vaccine development by ensuring international collaborations, supporting Indian vaccine companies and promoting academia-industry collaborations. The key factor is a rapid regulatory pathway, which has already been developed jointly by the DBT and the CDSCO (Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation).</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/30/working-for-local-and-global-solutions.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/30/working-for-local-and-global-solutions.html Thu Apr 30 22:26:08 IST 2020 irrfan-the-explorer <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/30/irrfan-the-explorer.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/4/30/69-Irrfan-Khan-new.jpg" /> <p>It was in the parking lot of Star India’s office in Mumbai that I first met Irrfan Khan. His film Jazbaa (2015) was about to release. As he walked with me to the green room, he enquired about my work. I was both intimidated and humbled that someone of his repute was interested in what an executive producer of a chat show does.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But that was how he was. Akarsh Khurana, who directed him in Karwaan (2018), remembers being intimidated by his achievements. “But he started engaging with all of us and made us all very comfortable. He had this great ability to have conversations with anyone on the set,” said Khurana , recalling how Irrfan was interested in learning from the young Mithila Palkar about how the digital media works.. “I have realised fame and money are not the answer to happiness, engagement is,” Irrfan told THE WEEK in 2017, ahead of the release of Qarib Qarib Singlle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The wide-eyed actor, who breathed his last on April 29 after being hospitalised for a colon infection the previous day, had been battling neuroendocrine cancer for almost two years. He enjoyed success in a range of films, be it art-house or commercial, even making a name for himself in Hollywood. For the National School of Drama graduate, the road to success was not easy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Irrfan often mentioned how he thought he was not good enough to become a hero. But he drew inspiration from watching Mithun Chakraborty in Mrigayaa (1976). It took a while for the industry to recognise his talent, but not before he slaved it out for years in television.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Irrfan would say that he is made of his experiences. And that is what he wanted for his sons, Babil and Ayan, too. During the making of QQS, he pushed his elder son to take a gap year and be an assistant in the cinematography department. “It was my way of telling him to explore whatever he wanted, and come to his own understanding of things,” Irrfan told me. “See what interests you, instead of worrying about the results or the monetary gains. Find your voice.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the last few years, the actor started enjoying a variety of roles, breaking the image of the serious actor that he built. In the 2017 interview, Irrfan said he had pondered about the years he had spent acting. “I had got fame, I had got money, but it did not serve me well,” he said. “I had started thinking what I would do with all of it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The pleasure for him was in exploring aspects of the unexplored life. Irrfan’s last film, Angrezi Medium, saw him as the owner of a sweet shop in Jodhpur. It was shot while he was undergoing treatment for cancer. Homi Adajania, the director, told me: “It was overwhelming, but I embraced the whole thing. With Irrfan, his resilient spirit, his mastery over his craft... it was just very inspiring. His attitude to life just showed me a lighter way of being.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/30/irrfan-the-explorer.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/30/irrfan-the-explorer.html Thu Apr 30 19:26:57 IST 2020 distance-yearnings <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/23/distance-yearnings.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/4/23/12-Social%20distancing.jpg" /> <p>In Delhi, the beginning of summer is announced by a tiny purple fruit—the phalsa. Sweet and sour, the phalsa is as much part of the summer experience in the national capital as the hot Loo that blows across the plains.</p> <p>“It is my favourite bit of summer,” says Pooja Sharma, exclaiming over the peacocks that visit her Vasant Kunj terrace each day. “I miss the phalsa wallah.” Her longing for what is missing—her connection to the world—has been distilled into just this absence of the vendor’s call.</p> <p>This summer, the streets of Delhi are desolate. “I am standing in my balcony, looking outside, and there is not one person out. Usually the colony is alive with people walking, kids shouting and horns [blaring],” says Sharma.</p> <p>Across the city, in Nizamuddin, more than just a Covid-19 hotspot and the headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat, Aamir, who lives in the basti and works as a guide, is learning to restrict his life to the confines of his small home with his wife, three children and other family members.</p> <p>The restrictions are tougher here in the shadow of the Jamaat, despite the basti being Covid-free. It was an unusual shab-e-barat—the night of forgiveness. “We prayed all night,” he says. “Women prayed at a different time, as far away as they could,” he says. “Men went up to a terrace, if they had one, or did it at a different time.”</p> <p>The soundtrack of neighbourhoods—a chorus of chatter, the whistle of a pressure cooker, clattering pans as they are dumped into sinks, children playing and shouting—has been muted. The bastis, mohallas and chawls are an intricate, tangled web of interaction. “The essence of good living is interaction,” says Saif Mahmood, lawyer and author of Beloved Delhi: A Mughal City and Her Greatest Poets. The writer has explored the Walled City—Shahjahanabad or Old Delhi—on foot, and points out that the design of Shahjahanabad, with its cramped galis, is such that no contact is impossible. In fact, it is actively encouraged. “It is one place where you can safely say your neighbour knows more about you,” he says.</p> <p>For a country like India—where every experience is sensory, be it smell, touch, taste or sound—the loss of a connection with the world outside amid lockdown is unsettling. It is also deeply lonesome. “You will see community groups in trains. You find people hanging around the local paan wallah,” says Rajesh Parikh, a neuropsychiatrist. “College students will hang around in the canteen. We like hanging around.... To be consciously deprived of it will feel odd.”</p> <p>Social distancing is a word that has no equivalent in India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, fond of usually finding an Indianised version for everything, has been unable to find one for social distancing. It is also very much at odds with the image India has chosen to project abroad: Atithi Devo Bhava (The guest is God). The tagline of the tourism ministry, it has become the centre of Indian identity and certainly a measure for hospitality. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family)—another favourite with the Modi government—means that shutting the doors is chafing against Indian ethos.</p> <p>Social distancing is so much a foreign concept that chalk circles have been drawn for people to stand in while waiting in queues to shop. “Look at an Indian railway station,” says Parikh. “You will find that people tend to huddle around the centre rather than distribute themselves evenly across the platform. In terms of getting into the compartment or finding a place to sit, the latter makes more sense. That is what you tend to see in Europe or the US.” Social distancing, he says, is a “huge effort” for Indians. “We have to remind ourselves that I cannot go so close,” he says.</p> <p>In India, interaction is not impersonal, including buying. Bargaining is steeped in the desi blood. It is about engagement and conversation, etiquette even, especially in bazaars. Cities in India, especially in the north, are designed around this interaction. Weekly bazaars are common. That is the first place that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had to shut. The sudden disappearance of a way of life is not easy.</p> <p>And, it holds true across India. Especially in Varanasi. “There is nothing impersonal in Varanasi,” says Hemang Agarwal, a designer. His days have lost the usual rhythm of interacting with weavers every two hours, of being outside the house and going to office. “It is a taste of retired life,” he says, laughing. Varanasi, which has been intrinsically tied with weaving, has felt the jolt of social distancing in its own way. “Every act of weaving is collaborative,” says Agarwal. “A master weaver has six to seven apprentices sitting with him.” All aspects of weaving, from untangling the thread to stretching it out, need more than one person.</p> <p>One of the world’s most ancient cities, Varanasi might be the city of death, but it has always been throbbing with life. Today, the looms are silent, the ghats empty, the temples shut. “Varanasi is like an Indian wedding,” says Agarwal. “It has every colour conceivable. You never see the ghats empty. You can see the Statue of Liberty or the Taj Mahal in isolation. But there is not one image of the ghats of Varanasi without a single person.” Its now deserted avatar feels like a stranger. “It is not Varanasi,” says Agarwal.</p> <p>In Bhopal, sitting in a sprawling garden with mango trees, flowers and vegetables, Shubhra Chatterji has not heard a car honk since March 18. “You never realise how much you miss a sound, even if you do not like it, until it is gone,” she says. Chatterji has lived across India, and prior to the lockdown shuttled between Dehradun, where her husband works, and Mumbai, where she works. She is now staying with her mother who is a doctor. “In small-town India, because people have space and grow stuff, you always share. Even today my mother took tomatoes to hospital,” she says. “A bowl of food that you make is always sent to the neighbours. Especially, if you have made something nice on a regular basis, and not only around Diwali.” Chatterji has spent years researching food, and making shows on it. “Even in Mumbai, in buildings, you know exactly what is cooking in the neighbours’ house. You can smell the tarka (tempering). There is a sense of community,” says Chatterji, who goes by the handle @historywali on Twitter.</p> <p>The feeling of community is very common in Kolkata. The para, or neighbourhood, is the version of the extended Bengali family. It is the soul of Kolkata, a city that still feels like a town. Anil Kuriakose Elias grew up in a para, very much a Bengali. The lockdown has left him feeling marooned. “I went to drop off stuff for my parents who live in the para I grew up in,” he says. “It was silent. The chai shop, where people did adda [loosely translated as hangout], was deserted. This was where everyone gathered to talk about politics and Sourav Ganguly’s cricket. But everyone is locked in. The camaraderie is missing. It is difficult.”</p> <p>Ask Tejas Motwani, a lawyer who now spends his days on Zoom calls, what he misses most? “Chai,” he says. “Not from anywhere special. But I miss catching up with friends at a chai stall at the end of my day around 11:30pm.” Nothing special would be discussed, just ordinary stuff about the day gone by. But the lockdown has taken away this idea of normalcy.</p> <p>Food is often synonymous with community in India. In a country where even strangers bring out food as a way to break the ice on trains, food becomes a metaphor. It is feasting, fasting, celebrations, comfort and certainly a way to cope with loss. “No one cooks for one in India,” says Asma Khan, who runs the Darjeeling Express restaurant in London. “You cook to share.” It is so ingrained that sharing tiffins in school becomes a part of friendships. “My daughter and her friends tried to have lunch together after their classes on Zoom for the first few days,” says Shweta Agarwal, who lives in Mumbai. “But they gave up in a week. It wasn’t the same if you couldn’t dip into anyone else’s box.’’</p> <p>So, while video calls have become more frequent and families talk more often even if they are in the same city, the physicality of not seeing the person takes away the intimacy and the warmth of the meet-up. “It was my mother’s birthday [on April 10],” says Shweta. “She turned 70. I cried. She cried. Her friends were upset [for not being there with her].” Her daughter’s birthday was on April 13, and while she had her friends make a video for her to tide over not being there, Shweta spent most of her day feeling that something was missing.</p> <p>Social distancing sure has taken an emotional toll on people. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 45 per cent of Americans say the pandemic has taken a toll on their mental health. In India, where ties of family are binding, it is worse.</p> <p>While Shweta may feel adrift without the connection of her family, Pushpesh Pant, a political scientist, says we have always practised social distancing. The caste system based on purity ensured it. “Even at homes, it was practised against widows and menstruating women,” he says.</p> <p>The politics of caste aside, social distancing has been hard especially for those who have lost family members. Aruni Kashyap, a writer from Assam who lives in the US, lost his brother recently. Unable to travel to India, Kashyap spent 13 days observing the rituals alone. “In this period, there have been births and deaths, and marriages postponed,” he says. “We heal only through the community.” Loss, in India, is always processed in a community. His father, who lives in rural Assam, was alone. But people came. “They maintained social distancing. Even food came from other houses,’’ says Kashyap. “There weren’t many, but they came.”&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/23/distance-yearnings.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/23/distance-yearnings.html Thu Apr 23 18:20:16 IST 2020 screen-taught <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/23/screen-taught.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/4/23/58-Himanshu%20and%20Kanishka.jpg" /> <p>Every day, fourth-grader Himanshu Aryal and his second-grader sister Kanishka wake up early, bathe, breakfast and get ready for school, which begins at nine. Their classrooms these days are WhatsApp groups their teachers created. Over the next few hours, the siblings, who study in a New Delhi Municipal Council-run school, take turns with the lone smartphone in the family. They listen to the five-minute audio clips from their teachers about a new lesson. They look at the screenshots of pages from the textbook and take down instructions for the assignments, which range from learning spellings, solving sums and a lot of self-expression through essays and artwork. Kanishka’s day was made when her teacher gave her a “Good” on the group. She ensures that she does not miss a single lesson.</p> <p>The Covid-19 pandemic had forced schools to close even before the nationwide lockdown; the academic year was curtailed and students were promoted without final examinations. The new academic session began on April 7, and schools made students report to virtual classrooms.</p> <p>This experience is as novel as everything around us right now. Nursery school teacher Shalini Jain said it was for the first time that an entire batch of children had begun school life over videoconferencing. It is a different reality with many challenges, including the fact that many teachers are not savvy with virtual classrooms. But, as Jain said, the classroom has eased into this system pretty quickly. She starts with morning prayers, then moves on to lessons ranging from laughter yoga to rhymes and art work. “There are joys and frustrations, like always,” she said. “The one big difference is that I do not have to deal with children crying to go home, which happens all the time during the first few weeks of school life.”</p> <p>Virtual schoolrooms in India were born out of necessity, and are taking baby steps during the lockdown. The biggest challenge is ensuring that every child has access to the classroom. In Himanshu’s class, where most students are from low-income groups, fewer than 10 students attend regularly; more than 30 are enrolled. Most students were not able to buy new textbooks as schools had shut down. So, teachers have had to innovate at various levels.</p> <p>“We are aware that children from the economically weaker section may not have laptops,” said Shashi Banerjee, principal, Shiv Nadar School, Noida. “We also do not take for granted that in better-off homes, our students might have unrestricted access to laptops. Parents are working from home and there may be siblings, too. We, therefore, have a blended approach, with many pre-recorded sessions. We try to limit screen time to three hours a day, with another two for assignments. For the early years and primary classes, it is an entirely different curriculum that focuses on well-being, getting them to appreciate that they are in the midst of a big event in history. We also encourage home learning with experiments in the kitchen.”</p> <p>For all this to happen, teachers have to work without breaks. Soon after the lockdown was announced, schools began holding web-conferences and getting ready with lesson plans for the new session. For the junior students, a continuity with academics and a need to keep them constructively engaged were the driving factors. “My primary concern is not Arjun’s academic progress right now; it is more important that he stays safe,” said Lucknow-based gynaecologist Shipra Kunwar, mother of a fourth grader. “But these classes keep him busy. He is learning how to upload his homework on Google Docs.” Kunwar notes that it takes a family and more to teach a child, as the parents themselves learn the ropes of navigating virtual classrooms.</p> <p>Educators note that, over the past three years, Delhi-NCR students lost many schooldays because of weather and conflict. The 2019-20 academic session was particularly bad, with the smog first, then the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and now the pandemic. In many upscale schools, the shift to virtual learning had already begun in small measures. The lockdown has been the catalyst for making it democratic and wide-reaching.</p> <p>Apart from WhatsApp, the Delhi government also uses SMSes and the interactive voice response system to reach out to students. There are about 16 lakh students in schools run by the Delhi government alone.</p> <p>While a large number of students may have fallen off the education net, there is always that story of inspiration. Like the one about a student borrowing his neighbour’s smartphone to attend class. Certainly an improvement from posing for inane TikTok videos.</p> <p>Most schools have kept the redesigned curriculum positive, aware of the effect depressing news can have on a child’s mental well-being. Indeed, whether private- or government-run, schools first reached out to parents for an induction into the new systems. The Delhi government, for instance, launched the “every home a school, every parent a teacher” initiative on April 11, and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said parents, too, would receive “daily briefings through audio calls on how to conduct reading, mathematics… mindfulness and empathy at home”. The government’s happiness classes, said Sisodia, would help create a positive environment during these turbulent times.</p> <p>A new appreciation of the world around them forms a large part of the self-expression exercises, whether it is in appreciating the clear skies and chattering of birds, or of understanding what it is like to be locked in.</p> <p>With senior school and college students, however, there are other pressing concerns. The curriculum is vast, and missing out on vital classroom teaching could impact them badly. As the pandemic stretches, educators foresee that business would not return to normal anytime soon, and administrators are exploring newer avenues for online learning. The Delhi government is in talks with the online education provider Khan Academy to develop customised packages for the secondary level upwards. The human resource development ministry had, at the beginning of the lockdown itself, written to various education boards and coordinating bodies to encourage the use of the government’s various knowledge portals—like Diksha, e-Pathshala and Swayam—which are a repository of books, research papers, videos and audio clips for every stage of learning.</p> <p>With every passing day, more and more are welcoming virtual learning, including the older generation. Many in the medical profession recommend it for continuing medical education (CME) for doctors. “It is economical and makes learning more of a democratic exercise at one’s own convenience,” said Nimain Mohanty, CME co-ordinator, Pediatric Association of India.</p> <p>However, the naysayers also have a loud voice, and many Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) members have protested on several counts, ranging from poor internet accessibility for students who have returned to their villages, to the risks of using apps like Zoom for classrooms. With abusive posts and outsiders entering these virtual classrooms, many colleges have even suspended classes. Other institutes have moved onto more secure classrooms, using platforms such as Microsoft Teams.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the information and technology ministry has announced a competition, with a Rs1 crore prize, for designing a virtual classroom/video-conferencing app.</p> <p>“There are always excuses,” said a history professor requesting anonymity. “Data is cheap and accessible to most college students, who are perpetually on their smartphones. Those who want to teach and study will find a way in any circumstance.” She continues her classes for the final-year batch. “I get around 10 students regularly from a class of 30. These are the same students who were regular in college, too.”</p> <p>Indeed, virtual classrooms are not that different from physical ones. The sincere students take the lessons seriously, the fun-loving play their pranks. In the initial days, especially, when teachers were not as competent with the medium, many a lecture ended up with an agitated teacher controlling chatter across chat boxes, till she learnt the “mute” option. Students who would turn off the video option pleading poor connectivity and play hookey while getting attendance were soon called out. The exercise has been as much a learning for educators as for students.</p> <p>The University Grants Commission is now deliberating on how to conduct exams, especially practicals. All institutions are awaiting guidelines, which should be announced any day. Experts feel that this time, the emphasis will be more on assignments and project work, and that perhaps, there could be online viva and testing, too.</p> <p>One thing we know for sure is that education processes are going to change drastically. “Everyone used to say that education was waiting for a big disruption. I believe this is it,” said Banerjee. “We do need to build back better. How we build back our education and health systems will decide what lessons we have learnt from the pandemic.”&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/23/screen-taught.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/23/screen-taught.html Thu Apr 23 15:50:08 IST 2020 lockdown-brought-clarity-on-e-learning <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/23/lockdown-brought-clarity-on-e-learning.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/4/23/61-Poonia.jpg" /> <p><b>The lockdown has caused much turmoil within the education system.</b></p> <p>Our biggest and immediate concern right now is how to conduct examinations for students. There are options for online assessments, but how do we manage the practicals? We are awaiting guidelines from the University Grants Commission (UGC).</p> <p>Meanwhile, we are encouraging continuity in learning through online portals. We are organising over 15 faculty development programmes (FDP) on key emerging subjects like Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things through webinar sessions.</p> <p>The government had launched the National Educational Alliance for Technology in January to bring all technical educational products on a single platform for personalised learning. There are 13 companies providing 45 products as of now, and student registrations peaked after lockdown; we have 68,000 students registered with us.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Will the lockdown impact the next academic year, too, since entrance exams have been postponed?</b></p> <p>I do not think so. Admissions continue till mid-August; we have time in hand for that. Our priority is the examinations. Students should not lose a semester.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Online education has emerged as a success story of the lockdown.</b></p> <p>Undoubtedly. While we have been working on e-learning methods to reach out to more students, the lockdown period has certainly brought a lot more clarity on how feasible this is.</p> <p>Under the proposed new education policy, the target is a 50 per cent higher gross enrolment ratio than at present. In the conventional classroom format, we are lacking in hard infrastructure like classrooms and teachers, and the target is difficult to achieve. But online and distance learning options can bridge this gap swiftly. The UGC, in 2019, had announced that institutions [should] register with it for online courses, and around seven institutions, like Amity, had already begun the process. More should now get encouraged to do so.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The Work from Home concept also got a boost.</b></p> <p>Yes. This WFH experience has really opened up our minds on how much more efficiently a lot of work can be done virtually. Traditionally, we send teams to inspect colleges, but a lot of that work can be done via videoconferencing link-ups, leaving only a small amount of the work to be done physically. A lot of what we are using as improvisations today will [become] routine once things return to normal.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/23/lockdown-brought-clarity-on-e-learning.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/23/lockdown-brought-clarity-on-e-learning.html Thu Apr 23 15:43:55 IST 2020 right-click <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/23/right-click.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/4/23/62-elearning.jpg" /> <p>The blackboard has been replaced by the LED screen, the sway of the ruler with the flicker of the cursor. “My school has launched an app through which homework and class notes are sent,” says Rishikesh Chandra Roy, a class IX student in Bihar, “I attend my classes online, even while sitting at home.”</p> <p>The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown has inadvertently catalysed the steadily trotting growth of online education into a full gallop. Many K-12 schools as well as colleges have scrambled to move their curriculum online. The options being used include web platforms that offer course and reference material, video conferencing apps like Zoom to conduct ‘virtual classrooms’ and homework and study materials sent through WhatsApp and email.</p> <p>But the precipitance of the pandemic has put many educational institutions in a spot. “Typically, it takes months, if not years, to develop an online (educational) platform,” said Pallavi, an edtech communication specialist. “For many traditional institutions, particularly those that have been slower to embrace online education, the challenge is even more formidable.”</p> <p>This is where supplementary edtech platforms have sensed their opportunity. Many of them, from the domestic market leader Byju’s to the global player Coursera, promptly made access to their course material free. GradeUp, another prominent player, has launched a campaign, #PadhaiNahiRukegi (Learning Will Not Stop), while Vedantu came out with a #21daylearningchallenge, featuring messages from the likes of Hrithik Roshan and Shikhar Dhawan.</p> <p>“We have seen a 60 per cent increase in the number of students using the app to learn from home daily,” said Divya Gokulnath, cofounder of Byju’s. “Queries from parents and students have more than doubled in the past week.” While the situation has prompted parents to encourage students to use online study tools, the spike is “especially true for JEE and NEET aspirants, with their entrance exams being postponed”, said GradeUp founder and CEO Shobhit Bhatnagar.</p> <p>Globally, around 1.5 billion students have been affected, according to UNESCO. This includes some 250 million school-goers in India. UNESCO has launched a campaign, titled Global Education Coalition, to encourage companies to provide technology and content for remote learning. The Indian government has SWAYAM, or Study Web of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds, which has 1,900 free courses accessible online. Though running for the past four years, traffic on the site increased three times after the lockdown started. The courses stretch across NCERT textbooks, secondary and senior secondary courses, engineering and e-books for school-goers. Additionally, the UGC runs ‘massive open online courses’ for undergraduates and postgraduates, besides its e-PG Pathshala and Shodhganga platforms.</p> <p>Schools have also latched on to the potential of the internet to tide over the unexpected break in the academic session. St Columba’s in Delhi has formed WhatsApp groups to send links and time tables, while Amity schools uses its own Amitranet platform. School management systems like LEAD School@Home (used by Telangana and Karnataka), Vedantu (Kerala and some metros), Entab-CampusCare (private schools in Bihar), Bright Tutee (government schools in Haryana and Rajasthan) and Next Education have all suddenly found mainstream acceptance for dispersing study materials and conducting live lectures. Schools in big cities also use conferencing apps like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Blackboard to conduct virtual classrooms.</p> <p>The situation has also opened new avenues. “We anticipated this, and have been training teachers in the use of digital processes,” said Sunita Gandhi, director of GETI, which trains teachers to teach online. Teachers were taught how to use props and hand-made mobile holders to make teaching videos, while students were asked to make videos of their homework, explaining what they understood.</p> <p>Adults, too, are turning to online tutorials to make use of the free time to upskill or pick up hobbies like music, yoga and drawing. Shine Learning, from the leading Indian job site shine.com, uses an algorithm to figure what new skills a professional might need in a post-Covid-19 future workplace by analysing their resume, job sector and application history.</p> <p>“This shift in user behaviour toward online learning is here to stay,” said Zishaan Hayath, CEO &amp; cofounder, toppr.com. “As parents and students continue to explore various features, they will realise that online learning is a lot more powerful than an offline class.”</p> <p>While technology has come in to save the day, it has also highlighted the digital divide even more starkly. The virtual classrooms on Zoom and homework on WhatsApp still remain the preserve of the privileged. Sachin Sharma, the son of a driver, studies in a village school near Kanpur. He blinks when asked about online classes. For him, the Holi break has just extended into a long summer vacation. Then, there are the practical difficulties. Teaching Hindi, for example, has run into a digital drawback—the limitations of the keyboard. Drawing is another. “How do they expect my son to study drawing over the internet, I don’t know,” said Bindu, who lives in the Khan Market area in Delhi, and has been struggling to balance her job, a husband who is working from home and a son who has online assignments. “How many people can afford three computers in a household? I am associated with the health care sector and the maid is not coming since the lockdown started. I also have to sit and learn the online content and then teach my son.”&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/23/right-click.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/23/right-click.html Thu Apr 23 15:40:41 IST 2020 the-state-government-is-not-taking-speedy-decisions <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/17/the-state-government-is-not-taking-speedy-decisions.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/4/17/Devendra-Fadnavis.jpg" /> <p>Maharashtra has reported the most number of Covid-19 cases in India. Opposition leader and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said it was the time to work together to mitigate the crisis. In an exclusive interview, he spoke to THE WEEK on a range of issues—from the state government’s handling of the pandemic to the allegation that an IPS officer had helped the promoters of DHFL violate the lockdown.&nbsp;</p> <p>Excerpts from the interview:&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Are you satisfied with the handling of the Covid-19 outbreak in the state by the Maha Vikas Aghadi government?</b></p> <p>A/I am not speaking as the leader of the opposition. We feel it is time to work together. I have spoken to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and have made suggestions. Maharashtra has the highest number of cases; approximately 50 per cent of deaths are in our state. It is an emergency situation in Mumbai, where community spread appears imminent. I feel a different strategy is needed to handle the situation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/What changes would you suggest?</b></p> <p>A/There is a need to decentralise supplies. We have received food stock from the Centre for public distribution, but the state government is taking conflicting decisions. Our demand is that those who have ration cards be given food grains through PDS. Around 15 states have decided that those who do not have ration cards should also get supplies through PDS. There are over one crore people in Maharashtra who do not have ration cards; they are mostly migrant labourers. It is our duty to supply them food grains. The state government says they will be provided food through community kitchens, but that is an impractical proposal.</p> <p>Then there is the issue of supplying food grains to grocery shops (to prevent hoarding and price hikes). The Uttar Pradesh government has chartered 20,000 vehicles for doorstep delivery of essential items. The BJP is providing food grains and meals to 38 lakh people in Maharashtra.&nbsp;</p> <p>There was a need to create a special protocol for hospitals. But we did not do it, because of which five or six big hospitals in south Mumbai alone had to be sealed. We also could not provide sufficient PPE (personal protective equipment) kits to government hospitals. Nearby industries could have been asked to make such kits.</p> <p>Another issue is that lockdown is not being strictly followed in segregated zones and certain localities. The government should not think about vote bank politics now. They should ask the State Reserve Police Force to conduct flag marches twice or thrice a day in areas where people are not following lockdown rules. The flag marches will instil positive fear in people. But the government is not taking speedy decisions. I feel the will to take speedy decisions is missing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How is the coordination between different departments, which are being headed by different political parties?</b></p> <p>A/There is absolutely no coordination between the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress, and between the departments they are heading. Ask people in the Sena or those close to the chief minister, and even they will say that they are not getting cooperation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/The Union government recently announced a package of Rs1.7 lakh crore to tackle the crisis. But there is strong criticism that it is not enough.</b></p> <p>A/This package is just the beginning. I am sure more is being planned. What we need right now is a long-term strategy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/You recently demanded that the chief minister ask for the resignation of NCP leader and Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad. Why?</b></p> <p>A/A person posted against Awhad on social media. Government guards went to that person’s house, picked him up and brought him to Awhad’s bungalow. The person was beaten up badly in front of the minister and was made to apologise. That person has registered a police complaint. He has named the minister in the complaint and the police have arrested five NCP workers in the case.</p> <p>I have a simple question: If Awhad was present [when the person was beaten up] and has been named in the complaint, why is there no case against him?&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Senior IPS officer Amitabh Gupta, whom you had appointed as principal secretary (home) in August 2018, recently gave a letter to Kapil and Dheeraj Wadhawan of DHFL, who are wanted by the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI. The letter allegedly helped the Wadhawans travel to a hill station amid the lockdown. The government has now sent Gupta on compulsory leave.&nbsp;</b></p> <p>A/When we appointed Gupta, there was no adverse remark against him. There was neither a complaint nor any ongoing inquiry against him. Having said that, I feel that he has made a big mistake.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Do you think there was pressure on Gupta to issue the letter?</b></p> <p>A/Which additional director general of police would issue such a foolish letter without having been told to do so? They have sent him on leave now and are carrying out an inquiry. But, will that inquiry also look into who was calling the shots? Also, why send him on leave; why not suspend him?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/The state government says civil service officers come under the Union government.&nbsp;</b></p> <p>A/They are saying that to divert attention. The state government has every right to suspend an IAS or IPS officer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Will you name the person who was behind this letter?</b></p> <p>A/The letter was issued with the blessings of a very big political leader in Maharashtra. I will not name him now. But those who understand will know who the person I am referring to is.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/17/the-state-government-is-not-taking-speedy-decisions.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/17/the-state-government-is-not-taking-speedy-decisions.html Sat Apr 18 10:16:21 IST 2020 we-will-soon-start-trials-with-anti-leprosy-vaccine <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/17/we-will-soon-start-trials-with-anti-leprosy-vaccine.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/4/17/56-shekhar--c-mande.jpg" /> <p>As the world looks desperately at the ongoing drug and vaccine trials to tackle Covid-19, Dr Shekhar C. Mande, DG, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, says the next three to four weeks are crucial. Of the 37 laboratories under the CSIR, many are working round the clock to develop various solutions such as drugs, vaccines and hospital equipment that will help India’s fight against the pandemic. The challenge, Mande says, is scientists are yet to fully understand the virus. “Once we do that, it will be easier to design a drug or a vaccine.”</p> <p>Excerpts from an interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What is the CSIR’s core strategy in fighting Covid-19?</b></p> <p>A/ We decided early on to work on a core group strategy with four verticals and one horizontal. These include surveillance through digital and molecular methods, rapid and economical diagnostics, new/re-purposed drugs, hospital-based equipment and PPEs and supply chain and logistics support systems. There is another vertical that we have just begun thinking on, about how CSIR technology can be used to support income-generation activities for those who have gone back to their villages.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The laboratories under the CSIR recently received the nod for testing. How has that panned out?</b></p> <p>A/ Fifteen laboratories are doing the RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) testing. The challenge with RT-PCR tests is the paucity of trained people to conduct the tests, sourcing the kits and, if the numbers rise exponentially, the number of RT-PCR machines. We are also training a large number of people to do these tests.</p> <p>One of our laboratories has developed a low-cost, paper-strip test which can detect the new coronavirus within an hour. This test will not require the use of an RT-PCR machine. The Indian Council of Medical Research’s approval for Truenat beta CoV test will also help, since it is made in India. This is a screening test, and all positives will have to go for a RT-PCR test. But it will help decrease the load on the laboratories. We haven’t been able to work very much on serum-based diagnostics. Serological tests are also tricky—antibodies take about 7-10 days to develop. For example, if you are virus positive but serum negative, it means you are early in the infection, but have not developed antibodies. If you are serum positive but RT-PCR negative, it means you had the infection at some point, and recovered without knowing about it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ After the National Institute of Virology, two CSIR labs are working on sequencing the SARs-CoV-2 genome.</b></p> <p>A/ Yes, the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Delhi, are working on sequencing the virus samples from different parts of the country. If a person in Delhi gets it, and he had travelled to Goa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, etc, a genome sequence can help in reconstructing the history of where the person picked it up from. So we can go back to that area and alert people there. Sequencing will also help us understand whether there are mutations in critical regions, and hence, drug resistance. It will also help in answering questions such as whether Indians have immunity to the virus since we have fewer cases compared with other countries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What about new/repurposed drugs?</b></p> <p>A/ We are closely watching the clinical trials of drugs that are being tested. The plan is to be ready to make these drugs as soon as any of the trials give positive results. For instance, the drug Favipiravir [anti-viral used to treat influenza in Japan], is being tested for Covid-19. Now, making the drug requires several steps, and you need to have all the ingredients to make it. So we are working overtime to synthesise such drugs, so that as soon as they are clinically evaluated and approved, they can be made in India from the very next day. If we wait for the drugs to get regulatory approvals and then start synthesising, there will be a gap of four to five weeks. We have also synthesised the two anti-HIV drugs that are currently under trial for Covid treatment.</p> <p>Besides, we are also going to begin trials of our own, with the extract of Cocculus hirsutus, a tropical, invasive creeper with the common name broom creeper or Patalgarudi. The plant is used as a medicine in some areas of Madhya Pradesh by the tribals. This is already in phase-2 clinical trials for dengue, and since we found some similarity between the dengue virus and the new coronavirus, we will be starting human trials shortly. Some hospitals have been roped in for this. We are also working with the Ayush ministry to take up four other botanicals for trials.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What about vaccine research?</b></p> <p>A/ We are planning to test the Mw (Mycobacterium w) vaccine for Covid-19. The Mw vaccine is used against leprosy. It is an immune booster. The bacterium was discovered in India. The world is talking about the BCG vaccine now, and Mw is a cousin of the BCG vaccine. The trials will start in another week or so. At this stage, it is hard to say whether it will be a drug or a vaccine, first. The next three to four weeks are crucial.</p> <p><b>Q/ What about hospital equipment?</b></p> <p>A/ We are working on masks, gloves, PPEs, ventilators, oxygen enriching equipment and thermometers. Two of our labs have created a 3-D printing mask that has already been transferred to the industry for mass production. We are also looking at two ventilator designs which are being transferred to the industry. The Central Building Research Institute, Roorkee, is working with some state governments to build makeshift hospitals. The construction of one such hospital has already started in Haridwar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How has the industry responded?</b></p> <p>A/ Everything that we spoke about has an industry element to it. No one is thinking about profits right now. Everyone is concerned about society.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/17/we-will-soon-start-trials-with-anti-leprosy-vaccine.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/17/we-will-soon-start-trials-with-anti-leprosy-vaccine.html Sat Apr 18 09:59:15 IST 2020 lung-boosters <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/09/lung-boosters.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/4/9/58_Chakrasana.jpg" /> <p>If you are missing your gym, fitness class or the park because of the lockdown, fret not. For, yoga will come to your rescue. Yoga is the ancient science of complete physical, mental and spiritual well-being that can be done anywhere and at any time. The best time to practise yoga is at the crack of dawn as this will keep you active, energetic, positive and focused through the day.</p> <p>Start with sukshma vyayam or subtle exercises—gentle rotation of the neck, arms, wrists, hips and ankles to slowly warm up the joints. Walk around briskly, and stretch and mobilise your muscles. This will prepare your body for the asanas, and keep you safe from practice-related injuries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Chakrasana (The wheel pose)</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Lie down on your back</i></p> <p><i>Fold your legs at your knees and ensure that your feet are placed firmly on the floor</i></p> <p><i>Bend your arms at the elbows with your palms facing the sky. Rotate your arms at the shoulders and place your palms on the floor on either side beside your head</i></p> <p><i>Inhale, put pressure on your palms and legs and lift your entire body up, to form an arch</i></p> <p><i>Relax your neck and allow your head to fall gently behind</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Benefits</b></p> <p><i>Beneficial for the heart</i></p> <p><i>Strengthens arms, hands, shoulders, wrists and legs</i></p> <p><i>Stretches the chest and lungs</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Dhanurasana (The bow pose)</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>Lie down on your stomach</i></p> <p><i>Bend your knees and grip your ankles with your palms</i></p> <p><i>Lift your legs and arms as high as you can</i></p> <p><i>Look up and hold the posture for a while</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Benefits</b></p> <p><i>Cures constipation</i></p> <p><i>Improves blood circulation</i></p> <p><i>Gives flexibility to the back</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Hastha Uthanasana (Raised arms pose)</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Stand straight (in samasthiti)</p> <p>Raise your arms over your head and stretch upward</p> <p>Ensure that your palms face each other</p> <p>Gently bend back</p> <p>Keep your knees straight and your eyes open</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Benefits</b></p> <p><i>It stretches and tones the muscles of the abdomen</i></p> <p><i>It expands the chest and the rib cage, resulting in full intake of oxygen. The lung capacity is fully utilised</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Along with yoga and meditation, switch to a healthier diet with more natural and fresh food. Yoga naturally supports the immune system by lowering stress hormones in your body. Apart from this, yoga conditions the lungs and respiratory tract, removes toxins from the body and ensures the optimal functioning of your organs.</p> <p>—<b>The writer is a Bengaluru-based yoga-preneur and author.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/09/lung-boosters.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/09/lung-boosters.html Thu Apr 09 15:33:16 IST 2020 cry-the-beloved-country <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/04/cry-the-beloved-country.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/4/4/1Workers-from-Delhi.jpg" /> <p>Migrant labourers were the backbone of the unorganised sector that looked after the everyday needs of the affluent Indian. When Covid-19 forced a lockdown across the country, they were suddenly unwanted. THE WEEK follows the abandoned as they try to get back home</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Workers from Delhi head to their hometowns in Uttar Pradesh via the NH24 | PTI<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thousands wait to board buses in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh | PTI</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Narayan Mehran, a construction worker in Kochi, cries after his earnings and belongings were stolen while he slept under a bridge. He was desperate to catch the next train to Odisha but could not do so because of the lockdown \ Tony Dominic</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On return to Purulia, West Bengal, from Chennai, a man self-isolates on a&nbsp;banyan tree, as there is no separate room in his family’s shanty | PTI</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Families travel on an open trailer truck on the outskirts of Ahmedabad,&nbsp;Gujarat | Reuters</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Migrants reach out for food packets being distributed by volunteers at a bus stand in Patna, Bihar | PTI</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An elderly man being taken on a carrying pole in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh | PTI</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A construction worker and and her child on their way out of Bengaluru, Karnataka | Bhanu Prakash Chandra&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/04/cry-the-beloved-country.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/04/cry-the-beloved-country.html Sat Apr 04 11:37:41 IST 2020 unkindest-cut <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/04/unkindest-cut.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/4/4/61-corona-bollywood.jpg" /> <p>On the evening of March 15, Wahid Shaikh was at the entrance of the Welcome Ground in Film City. He was waiting for his turn to do a shot for the Ananya Pandey-Ishaan Khatter starrer <i>Khaali Peeli</i>, along with other junior artistes. Choreographer duo Bosco-Caesar were prepping the 200-odd artistes for a song with a mela as the backdrop. Then a call came. Amid the growing spread of Covid-19, the entertainment governing bodies had called for shoots for all mediums—cinema, television and web—to be stopped.</p> <p>Ever since he dropped out of school 18 years ago, Shaikh has been working as a junior artiste. For an eight-hour shift, he makes Rs1,050 when shooting for a television or web series and Rs2,100 for a film. He is currently president of the Junior Artistes Association.</p> <p>Talking on the phone from his Mira Road home, where he lives with his wife and seven-year-old daughter, Shaikh says panic struck on the set of<i> Khaali Peeli </i>on March 15. “What would happen to us and our families if no shoots happen?” people were asking. March had not been kind for many of the workers; assignments were hard to come by as producers were postponing shoots. According to Shaikh, many junior artistes had been finding it difficult to get work even before. And now, their savings are drying up.</p> <p>Sachin Kumhar, who worked as a spot boy (helper on the set) for almost 12 years, is also worried. In February, he worked on Ranveer Singh’s <i>Jayeshbhai Jordaar </i>with Yash Raj Films, earning Rs1,127 a day. He made enough to sail through a month. He had missed the outdoor schedule of the production house’s next film, <i>Bunty Aur Babli 2</i>, but was hoping to be in its Mumbai schedule. It was then the shoots were halted.</p> <p>He supports a family of six. The savings can see them through a fortnight, but he predicts it will be difficult after that. On other occasions, when Kumhar does not get regular work, he offers his services at editorial shoots or with fashion photographers or for advertisements, sometimes for theatre, too. But right now, it is a stressful situation for him.</p> <p>The work has stopped in an unprecedented way, says Rajan Shahi, founder of Director’s Kut Productions that makes TV shows like <i>Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai</i>, which has been running for 11 years. Shahi’s new show <i>Anupamaa</i> was also scheduled to air on Star Plus from March 16 in the prime 9pm slot. “But after conversations with the channel, it was decided to launch it only after the situation improves,” says Shahi.</p> <p>Since the outbreak of the virus started making news, channels sent out strict instructions that the health of members on the sets should not be compromised. Doctors were deployed, hand sanitisers were placed in and around the sets and everyone was vigilant. Shahi says that people who have been associated with them for long are now being helped, financially or otherwise.</p> <p>“Everyone is stressed,” says Pankaj Singhania, an artiste coordinator with Ravindra Suri &amp; Company. “We have around 1,900 artistes enrolled with us and we look for as many opportunities as possible for them,” he says. But even on a regular day, it is not easy to find employment for everyone. The demand for artistes is much less than the supply.</p> <p>Singhania, who has been in the industry for more than 25 years, says even occasional worker strikes have never dented the daily earnings of people as much as he suspects this shutdown period would. “Some of these artistes don’t have enough money to sustain themselves if they don’t get work for more than three or four days,” he says.</p> <p>A distribution drive of rations to the 4,000 most needy from the artistes’ fraternity was planned on March 22. But with the Janata Curfew and now the nationwide lockdown, the packets are still with the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE). “We are trying to figure out ways to hand over the packets, but it has been difficult,” says Ashok Dubey, general secretary, FWICE. Moreover, the Producer’s Guild is crowdfunding to help the daily-wage workers in the industry, and Salman Khan has pledged to financially support 25,000 of them through his charity, Being Human Foundation.</p> <p>Despite these efforts, the situation is grimmer than it looks. It could still spiral out of control and affect more people than one can imagine in an industry that mostly works with contractual employees at almost every level.</p> <p>Tarannum Khan, a make-up artist, who also works on a contractual basis, was in Punjab with the team of Aamir Khan’s next film, <i>Lal Singh Chaddha</i>, for over two months. “Because of Covid-19, the Delhi schedule of the film, which was to follow, was cancelled,” she says. Tarannum admits that she can sail through the next few months with her savings, but what worries her is the plight of those like the dress man or the light man who were earning meagre amounts, working individually and do not have any assistance or parent company to look to in this time of need.</p> <p>Most of those who could move before the complete lockdown have gone back to their hometowns. “There was nothing to do in Mumbai,” says Sonu Shrivastava, a coordinator of background dancers in films, who returned to Bhopal. He emphasises on the high cost of living in Mumbai. “What was the point of staying there? I told everyone to head back home as soon as possible. At least you will be with your family.”</p> <p>Nobody knows if everything will return to normal. The shoot of Karan Johar’s Takht was scheduled to kick off on April 24, but has now been delayed indefinitely. A lot of junior artistes were hoping to get work in this big-budget drama. If the lull continues for long, more films and TV shows could be delayed or shelved for fear of becoming dated and irrelevant. And that is not good news for anyone in the industry.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/04/unkindest-cut.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/04/04/unkindest-cut.html Sat Apr 04 11:08:21 IST 2020 caught-in-a-loop <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/03/13/caught-in-a-loop.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/3/13/16-Asha-Devi.jpg" /> <p>Every day between 8pm and 9pm, Asha Devi goes to a memorial in her housing complex in Dwarka, west Delhi, and lights a lamp for her daughter, the 23-year-old physiotherapist intern who was brutally gang-raped and killed in one of the most horrific crimes in India in December 2012. For Asha Devi, keeping alive the memory of that bright young girl is very important. And also very difficult, because the ugly memories of her last days keep popping up. The distraught mother has not found closure, not while the killers stay alive.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are no lamps in the hovel at Sant Ravi Dass camp in south Delhi, where an old and lonely widow ekes out an existence on the charity of others. Known locally as tai (aunt), she is the mother of Ram Singh and Mukesh, two of the six men who violated the girl. Ram Singh died mysteriously while he was an undertrial in Tihar jail in 2013. Mukesh is on the death row; his lawyer is making another desperate bid to extend his life, though legally it appears that all recourses have run out. Among the impoverished, there is a greater acceptance than there is among the middle class, which places a premium on morality. In this neighbourhood, residents can separate the criminal from his family, and the social ostracism one finds in better neighbourhoods is more tempered here.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In another home nearby lives another mother; her son Pawan Gupta is on death row, too. She does not smile, not even at the adorable antics of her toddler grandchild. To those who do not know, the home almost appears normal, with a younger son and daughter who are studying and a married daughter who visits often. But in a family where the older son is just days away from the noose, normalcy is an ideal they can only dream of. Pawan’s ageing grandparents are just too baffled with life to utter anything.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Every time the courts push the date of hanging, which has now been set for March 20, Asha Devi withers a little more inside. “Only after these four men [including Akshay Thakur and Vinay Sharma] are executed will I believe that there is justice in our system. It has been so long. Seven years,” she says, wearily. She, and her husband, Badrinath Singh, are frustrated by a system that is dragging its feet over a sentence that was given within months of the crime. “What is the use of fast-track courts?”she asks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The couple waited patiently for law to follow its course. It was only in July 2018 that the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence, which was announced in September 2013. “We waited for another year, but when nothing happened we wrote to the apex court, asking why the execution was not done,” recalls Badrinath. After their third letter, they were told they were not a party to the case, which was now between the government and the convicts. “We then hired lawyers and got an intervention and became party,” he says. “That is how matters began moving last year. But it is still dragging.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the homes of the convicts though, every deferment is received with mixed feelings. The relief that their sons can draw a few additional breaths is subsumed by the knowledge that time is running out, and fast. Denial and dread plague these families. Most conversations with them follow a similar pattern. It begins with a ferocious denial of their sons’ crimes. However, even they find it difficult to sustain that argument for long, and though they are baffled that their boys, with no criminal antecedents, could have committed this horror, they know it is the bitter truth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then come the excuses. Pawan’s mother insists her son was underage. That one of the six accused got away because of juvenility hits her every day. The juvenile has been free since December 2015, when he was released from a comparably easy term in a reform home. With the anonymity that the law gave him, he got a second lease at making a more meaningful life. Whether he is at peace with himself is something the world is not likely to know.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Finally, it comes down to a plea for mercy. “Let them not hang. Let them be in jail for the rest of their lives, but let them live,” wail the mothers and sisters.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pawan’s family is not rich, but reasonably comfortable with a small business. That business has taken a hit though, with his father, Heeralal, busy doing the rounds of the jail and courts on his battered Honda Activa and trying every recourse to save his son.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The last seven years have taught all these families who are, at best, moderately educated a lot about the legal system, especially its loopholes. They have learnt about a lethargy in the system when it comes to going ahead with an execution. They have learnt that matters can be delayed ad nauseam by rapping on the courts’ doors repeatedly. That co-convicts in a case cannot be hanged separately, yet there is no rule that mandates them to file their pleas together. While the loopholes frustrate the victim’s family, they provide hope for the convicts. For Asha Devi, the focus shifting to the rights of the killers is yet another blow. What about the rights of the victim and her family, she asks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mukesh’s mother does not understand any law or loophole. She vacillates between prayer and pleading, between tears and relief. “God will listen. He cannot be so cruel to me,” she says. Her husband died last year, a broken man. She keeps going back to December 2012. The couple had returned to their village when the crime happened. “Maybe if we had been here, this would not have happened,” she says. “How could this happen?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The victim’s parents have made their peace on this one count. “It is kaal (destiny). There is no point thinking that if only we had stopped our girl from going out, she would have been alive,” says Badrinath. “I heard an old man on television berating himself for sending his son to buy milk. The boy never returned—he was killed in the riots [in North East Delhi recently]. It was destiny; he could not have changed it.” Their mission is to ensure the killers meet their destiny, too, and soon. “It is not only for our daughter that they should hang. It is for so many other women who were brutalised subsequently, because criminals are confident of getting away,” says Asha Devi. And, the hangings will not be the end of the road for them. They next plan to challenge the lacunae in rules that they encountered during their fight for justice. The victims have become crusaders.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The couple has conducted itself with dignity, never uttering a derogatory word against the families of the convicts, despite coming face-to-face with them several times in court. But they cannot forgive. “They are crying over losing their sons. That is the grief they have to live with. I have lost my daughter, and how. I am living with that grief,” says Asha Devi. She has kept her two sons out of the limelight so that they get a chance at a normal life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The killers are allowed time to meet their families. It is a difficult choice when the visiting slot coincides with a court hearing. Vinay’s family went to meet him in jail on March 2, when the hanging was deferred to March 20, after Pawan filed his clemency plea. The four were scheduled to hang on March 3, and Vinay’s family chose to spend what could have been last minutes with him, instead of being in the midst of the nail-biting tension in court. Vinay has now approached the Delhi Lt Governor Anil Baijal to commute his death sentence to life imprisonment. Akshay’s impoverished family, including wife and a ten-year-old son, lives in a remote Bihar village.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The meetings, across a glass partition, do not help much either. “He tells me, ‘It is OK, what has to happen will happen’,” says Mukesh’s mother, who cannot even afford the trip to the jail. “Watching my son cry, how will I feel?” asks Pawan’s mother, bitterly. His older sister remembers meeting him on January 31. “I told him then that if he was not wrong, he would live. But if he was wrong, he will face God soon.” Her words will be put to test in the days to come.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/03/13/caught-in-a-loop.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/03/13/caught-in-a-loop.html Sat Mar 14 10:54:07 IST 2020 state-of-apathy <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/03/13/state-of-apathy.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/3/13/20-The-primary-health.jpg" /> <p>There was a little girl who dreamt of flying to faraway lands and taking her parents along once she grew up. “In her own way, she fulfilled that promise. They took her to Singapore to be treated and came back with her dead body,” says Suresh Kumar Singh, 52, uncle of the 23-year old physiotherapy intern who was gang-raped on the night of December 16, 2012, in Delhi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Suresh is the youngest of four brothers; the intern’s father, Badrinath, is the third one. Suresh is the only one who stayed back in the family’s ancestral village of Merwara Kala in Uttar Pradesh’s Ballia district that borders Bihar, and tends to the five acres that the brothers share. Suresh says Badrinath was adamant that his three children would study as much as they wanted. “He worked overtime in his job as a loader,” he says. So careful was the intern’s family with money that in the aftermath of the gang-rape, though desperate for the comfort, they did not ask their relatives from the village to come to Delhi. Suresh says he went nevertheless, armed with a sack of rice and dal so that his brother’s family would not be burdened.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the immediate aftermath of the gang-rape, a nation’s collective conscience was so shaken by the brutality of the act that it revisited its laws on rape and juvenile justice. International media descended on the village. “At 4am, when we would rise to perform tilanjali (an offering of sesame seeds in water) to a peepal (sacred fig) tree near our home, an Australian television crew would come to film us,” says Suresh. “They did so every day till the 13th day. Politicians of all hues came to the village.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Akhilesh Yadav, then chief minister, flew in, landing on a helipad built on a ground neighbouring the village’s secondary school. Overnight, the road to the village from the Ghazipur-Hajipur highway was fixed with a mix of cement and soil. Yadav announced that a hospital would be built and named after Nirbhaya. An intermediate college was also promised, as were jobs to four members of the family. None of those promises were fulfilled.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not much remains of the helipad today. The road is bits of smooth earth between innumerable potholes and takes 30 minutes to cover. At the end of it is a plaque stating that a cement-concrete road was constructed in the fiscal year 2018-19 and dedicated to the public by MLA Upendra Tiwari, now minister of state for sports, youth welfare and panchayati raj. Next to the plaque stands a primary health centre (PHC)—the version of the hospital that was promised. It is an expansive pink structure. But villagers say it is incomplete. There are no drains. There is no provision for the water tank to be filled. On the day we arrive, its gate is locked. “This is usual,” say villagers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The PHC has no doctor, only two pharmacists. “They are most unhelpful,” says Arya Pandey, 22, who is doing her master’s in English literature in Ballia. She says that she had gone there when her friend cut her palm with a blade. When she asked the pharmacists for medicine, they pointed to a box and told her to pick up whatever she wanted from there. “I asked if they could at least bandage the wound. They said it wasn’t their job to do so,” says Pandey.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pandey also volunteers for the Red Brigade Trust that trains girls in self-defence skills. On February 9, she and a couple of other volunteers staged a sit-in by the PHC’s locked gate, demanding that a doctor be appointed. About six volunteers stayed the night at the spot. They called up the superintendent of police for protection, but to no avail. Only a constable from the nearest police station came to check if the protesters were up to anything illegal. Two days went by and the number of protesters swelled to 50.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On February 11, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Pritam Kumar Mishra came to the protest. He asked if any youth from the village had it in them to study for 17 years to become a doctor. “Pehle doctor paida karo, phir doctor maango (First produce a doctor, then ask for a doctor),” he mocked them. Someone said, “We had sent a daughter of our village to study, look what happened to her.” The CMO retorted, “Which daughter?” The villagers replied, “Have you heard of Nirbhaya?” He snapped back, “Why did she go to Delhi?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Admitting that the exchange was wrong, district magistrate Srihari Pratap Shahi tells THE WEEK that a doctor has been attached to the centre. He had also written to the principal secretary (health) to name the PHC after Nirbhaya, but the said officer was transferred two days later, he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shahi admits that the Ballia of today is not much different from what it was eight years ago. Job opportunities remain scarce and the push factors for migration are high. “This is an agriculture-based district. There are no industries,” says Shahi. “I have been in talks with farmers to set up some agro-based units.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even under the state’s much-touted ‘One District, One Product’ scheme that seeks to give a boost to the flagship product of a district through investment, marketing and export, Ballia has had an unexciting deal as its product is bindi. But Shahi says that it is a low investment product and could yield high profitability. “If we can look at mechanising its production and packaging, it could do well,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is nothing in Ballia to show that it is the home of former prime minister Chandra Shekhar. Except for rail connectivity, it seems untouched by India’s development story. Given the slightest opportunity, its young would like to leave. At the Shri Murli Manohar Town Post Graduate College, Pooja Singh, 23, who is pursuing a BEd course, shares another reason for this sentiment. “I was very young when it [the gang-rape] happened. But it still makes my hair stand on end,” she says. “I did my graduation from Allahabad. There is such a vast difference in the way boys and girls interact there. I had to walk for an examination the other day. The whole time I was scared of what could happen to me. In Ballia, girls will never know what it is like to live without fear.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ballia’s MP Virendra Singh was addressing a function at the college the same day. When asked about the unfulfilled promises to Merwara Kala, he says, “What Merwara Kala? I have limited interest in that matter. My knowledge about it is also limited; hence I will not talk about it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lalji Singh, 69, the younger brother of Nirbhaya’s grandfather, says even if half of what the village was promised was delivered, it would be shining today. “But time has stood still,” says the retired teacher.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, with the hanging of the convicts, Merwara Kala will be forgotten—its hopes for a better future snuffed out, like the life of its most well-known daughter was.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/03/13/state-of-apathy.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/03/13/state-of-apathy.html Fri Mar 13 15:11:23 IST 2020 my-father-said-no-to-bapu <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/03/06/my-father-said-no-to-bapu.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/3/6/68-Mahatma-Gandhi.jpg" /> <p><b>ONE MORNING IN</b> March 2005, the phone rang in my Bhopal home. The caller was Tushar Gandhi, a great-grandson of the Mahatma. “I want you to do what your father did long back. Do join us on our march to Dandi,” he said. I promised him that I would be there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On reaching Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, I spotted my father’s name in The Dandi Marchers list there. I could feel the warmth of his presence in the ashram, and the stories he had told me came rushing back into my mind. My father, Theverthundiyil Titus, better known as Titusji, had lived there for five years. He was the only Christian among 81 salt satyagrahis who marched to Dandi 90 years ago.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Starting from Sabarmati on March 12, 1930, they had taken 25 days to walk 388km to the coastal village of Dandi, where they made salt on April 6. Re-enacting the historic march in 2005, we followed the same hallowed route they had taken.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At Dandi I recalled my father telling me how Mahatma Gandhi in his dhoti had waded into the Arabian sea and picked up a lump of salt, which he then sold to a rich Indian. His followers, including my father, boiled sea water in large vessels to make salt, thus breaking law. They were beaten with steel-studded police lathis, put in a goods train to Bombay and then taken by truck to Yerwada jail in Pune. Gandhiji was spared. He was, however, jailed after a month for instigating millions of others to break the salt law.</p> <p>My father was 25 at that time. He was the fourth child of a small farmer of Maramon village in central Travancore. He joined a newly opened English medium school at class eight, and after his matriculation, became a teacher at another school 30km away at a handsome salary of 018 a month. On weekends, the 16-year-old teacher walked home through dense jungles, lighting his path with a candle burning in a coconut shell. Wild elephants mercifully ignored him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After a few years he applied for an Indian Dairy Diploma course announced in 1924 by Allahabad Agricultural Institute (now University of Agriculture). The institute offered him a scholarship and free accommodation. He borrowed 0100 and went to Allahabad, changing trains at Madras and Bombay. In Bombay, a relative gave the dhoti-clad boy western dress to wear on campus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the institute, he cut weeds on the huge campus, in return for food. He took the diploma in 1927, but unable to find a job, he did not vacate his hostel room. One night the principal, Dr Sam Higginbottom, knocked at his door. My father shivered, thinking that the principal had come to throw him out. Instead, the missionary from Manchester handed him a bunch of keys and said: “You are appointed manager of the institute’s dairy farm. Go and take charge right now.” The dairy manager had been found lying drunk on the road and summarily sacked.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My father was expert at pasteurising and chilling milk and at making curds, buttermilk, butter, ghee and different varieties of cheese (then consumed by the westerners only.) He worked there for two years and then joined a dairy in Gorakhpur.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His brother in Maramon told him about Gandhiji putting out an advertisement for a dairy expert in Sabarmati. My father applied and got an interview call. Bapu was working his charkha when the young man met him. He looked up once and said: “We have a dairy here with many cows. I want you to run it scientifically and cleanly. The cows have to be given a bath daily. The milk from the dairy is consumed by 200 inmates of the ashram. As long as you are here, you have to observe celibacy. Here even newly married couples sleep separately. Besides the dairy work, you have to help in the kitchen for two hours. Wash your clothes in the Sabarmati river. Clean all the latrines when your turn comes.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Young Titus asked the most important question of his life: “Do I get any salary for my services here?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bapu explained: “In the ashram, the practice is that no one is big or small. All your expenses will be met from the common fund. You will get pure vegetarian food and khadi dress.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“But I have an aged father in Kerala,” Titus protested. “I have to send him some money every month.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Leave his name and address with me,” said Bapu. “I will arrange for some money to be sent every month.” (Bapu sent five rupees to my grandfather every month.) “But remember this would be the most important decision of your life. And make sure to see the dairy before you leave.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After a week, Titus sent an acceptance letter to Bapu and went off to Maramon to meet his relatives and break the news. He became a hero in central Travancore and started accepting invitations. He gorged on meat dishes of Kerala maybe for the last time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He joined Bapu on Diwali Day in 1929. There were oil lamps lighting up the area and songs and garba dances and sweets. A barber gave him a military haircut, after which he got khadi clothes, a charkha, a plate, a katori and a glass. Slowly he got used to the ashram’s austere ways. Bapu was happy with him. When Bapu visited Kerala in 1934, he called on my grandfather and assured him that Titus was doing well at Sabarmati and that he should not worry about him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There were 50 or 60 women in the ashram working along with the men, but love affairs were forbidden. Once an old lady got hold of a love letter and handed it over to Bapu. He called a meeting and said: “These things are happening because of my sins. I will commit suicide if such activities are repeated.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A few months later, a few children in the ashram were fatally afflicted with smallpox, yet Bapu refused to allow vaccination in the ashram as the vaccine is extracted from cows. So Titusji and others did not get themselves vaccinated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After Sardar Patel was arrested and put in Sabarmati jail, Bapu told the male inmates of ashram that those who did not want to take part in the salt satyagraha could leave. Unlike the other salt satyagrahis, Titusji did not wear the Gandhi cap. When the matter was reported to Bapu, he remarked, “I don’t wear a cap, so I cannot force him to do so.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After a few days of vigorous marching, Titusji’s feet were swollen and painful. He went to Bapu for a remedy. “Keep your legs in hot water and then keep them raised,” he was told. The treatment worked.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 1934, Titusji went to Kerala and married beautiful Annamma, who was 12 years younger than him. When he returned to the ashram with the bride, Bapu (who was in Wardha) allowed him to use his room for some days. Annamma had four gold bangles and a gold necklace. “Give these to me,” Bapu demanded, pointing at the ornaments, on meeting her. She refused. But Titusji persuaded her to give them away. On another occasion Bapu asked her to clean the latrines, and she refused. Once again, Titusji made her obey Bapu.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After Annamma went back to Kerala, Titusji got a telegram from Bapu to meet him in Wardha. When he reached Wardha, Bapu asked him to identify some fertile land there to start a new dairy farm.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“This place is not fit for any dairy farm. It is all dry, parched land,” Titusji told him. But Bapu was adamant. “We have decided to start a dairy farm here,” he said. “And you have to work under Mirabehn.” She was standing next to Bapu, her tall frame wrapped in a white sari. Born Madeleine Slade, she was the daughter of a British rear admiral and had arrived in Sabarmati in 1925. There is a hut at Sabarmati Ashram named after her and another named after Vinoba Bhave.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Titusji could not comprehend it. How could someone who was thrown out of train by a white man in South Africa ask a dairy professional to work under a British novice!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Sorry, Bapu,” said Titusji. “I am unable to obey you this time. I won’t work under her.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bapu said: “You don’t trust me, Titus.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“No, Bapu, you don’t trust me,” replied Titusji, with salty tears rolling down his cheeks. He left for Travancore not too long after, to be with Annamma. Like Bapu, his disciple was adamant, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Gandhian influence on his life, however, remained undiminished even as he managed big dairies in Ooty, Pune, Delhi, Bhopal and Bhilai. In Bhopal in 1956, he was a gazetted officer in the agriculture department, training gram sevaks in dairying, veterinary service and farming. Yet he was perpetually short of money as he had seven children.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He told me stories of his life while living in Bhopal in the evening of his life. One day in August 1980, he went to his eldest daughter’s house 10km away, felt uneasy and died in hospital. He was diabetic and 75 years old. A few hours before his death, a cow in the household had walked into the drawing room at ten in the night—a strange omen marking the end of a dairyman who knew the Great Soul.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/03/06/my-father-said-no-to-bapu.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/03/06/my-father-said-no-to-bapu.html Sat Mar 07 16:03:34 IST 2020 hit-and-run <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/02/28/hit-and-run.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/2/28/32-Balakot-town.jpg" /> <p><b>THE PUNITIVE AIR</b> strike at Balakot changed the security narrative in the subcontinent. Having been a victim of the Pakistani deep state’s sponsored terrorism for too long, India raised the costs for Islamabad with the punitive air strike. A new normal also emerged. India’s political leadership realised that use of airpower need not be escalatory; that there exists a large window for sub-conventional or limited war options between two nuclear powers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The action also exposed the existence of state-run terrorist camps in Pakistan. The proof of the pudding is that there has been no major terrorist attack since then.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The attack on a CRPF convoy at Pulwama on February 14 killed 40 jawans. By evening, Jaish-e-Mohammad’s involvement was confirmed. By the time the cabinet committee on security met the next morning, the Western Air Command (WAC), on the directions of the air chief, had briefed him on the options for punitive action.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Operation Parakram was ordered after the 2001 attack on Parliament, in which the militaries on both the sides were deployed for a full-fledged conventional war. A sub-conventional plan was formulated, post Parakram, involving select squadrons. A few fighter squadrons and units were put on standby 24/7 for short-notice missions. After the Kaluchak massacre of May 2002, we prepared for air strikes against terrorist camps in Pakistan. After the 26/11 Mumbai attack of 2008, we had a tacit clearance from the government for a punitive strike.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This time, Balakot in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which was across Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, was finalised as a target when the national security adviser met the service chiefs, the Research and Analysis Wing chief and his deputy on February 18. The R&amp;AW had good intelligence on a large Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp on the crest of a ridge called Jaba Top. It was an ideal target—the location was on an isolated hill, which reduced collateral damage; the target was big enough to be clearly identified; and it was a single target with multiple DMPI, or designated mean point of impact.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fresh images of the site were obtained, and the eight-figure GPS coordinates reverified. The strike was planned to be conducted after Aero India in Bengaluru ended on February 24. The exact date was left to the political leadership. February 26 was tentatively picked, though we knew we could get better weather two days later. The weather was marginal, with five western disturbances rolling in one after the other. Those who remember the National War Memorial inauguration on the evening of February 25 would recollect the thunder showers over Delhi after the event. The weather affected satellite imagery, which was needed to check on enemy deployment and defences.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There were more challenges. We had to ensure secrecy. Units not involved were kept at a lower readiness state or peace-time mode. Briefings with the operational crew were done personally or over secure lines. Mobile phones were a no-no. The boys were eager, but told not to show excitement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The next problem was to keep it all under cover. Twenty Mirages were to be armed with multiple weapons; the upgraded Mirages carried six MICA missiles each. Six Mirages were armed with SPICE bombs and six with Crystal Maze surface-to-air missiles. Arming these would itself be a major event involving three Mirage squadrons. So much activity on the Gwalior tarmac would be noted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The next worry was, how to fly such a massive force across from Gwalior to the target without the world and our own civil radars knowing about it. Sixteen aircraft took off from the runway and taxi track simultaneously to save time. Once airborne, hiding them was tricky. Commercial aircraft taking off and landing in Delhi were in the process of climbing or descending, thus taking up large height bands. We resolved this by rehearsing the event partially two days earlier and getting a person with authority at Delhi area control.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The planes flew over 1,500km on a dark night, refuelling in mid-air from IL-78 aircraft; all the while, real-time information was being relayed from AWACS. We planned a strike route over the mountains to evade enemy radars. So the team flew from north of Srinagar in a westerly direction. Everything was monitored at the operations room in the WAC.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Five impact points were selected. The largest structure in the Balakot complex, a mosque, was not targeted. The first hit was at 3:28am IST on February 26, by Mirage 2000s with SPICE-2000 penetration bombs. Each bomb was planned to be followed by a Crystal Maze, which has a two-way data link with the aircraft through which it could provide imagery for assessing battle damage. One SPICE bomb failed for technical reasons; none of the Crystal Maze missiles were released because of procedural issues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The time was selected as 3:28am as it would be 2:58am in Pakistan; the terrorists would be asleep and the moon would have risen above 30 degrees. (February 19 was a full-moon night.) We knew that the terrorists prayed five set times a day, starting with salat al-fajr before sunrise. So, the strike was timed accordingly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yes, there was no precise body count. But the issue was not about how many terrorists were killed; it was about sending a strong message. Was Pakistan caught off guard? Yes, in spite of their readiness. Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had moved squadrons to their satellite bases, and increased the number of aircraft in operational readiness platforms. We were aware of these moves.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Did we encounter the enemy? Yes, we picked up the PAF’s Saab 2000 early warning aircraft holding south of Kamra on a north-south pattern. At 3:05am, we spotted two F-16s getting airborne and flying east–west over Murid. This was a close call. To divert them, we sent two Su-30s and four Jaguars towards Bahawalpur. The decoy pilots were ordered not to cross the border. The ruse worked beautifully. When the first bomb hit the Balakot camp, the closest PAF combat air patrol was 230km away.</p> <p>As soon as the Mirages reached their bases, we declared a pan-India air defence alert. We were prepared for a full-blown conventional war, but we made all out efforts not to escalate the conflict.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet, we were certain that Pakistan would retaliate quickly. The next day, February 27, saw action from their side. Our air defence was on full alert; the AWACS was on station northeast of Adampur in the morning and so were the aircraft on combat air patrol. At 9:42am, the Integrated Air Command and Control Station warned of an increase in air activity over Pakistan. Fighters were launched from Kamra, Murid, Chander, Sargodha, Rafiqui and Jacobabad. They were at medium altitude, and some had their friend-or-foe identification on initially. That was a decoy—they were showing themselves on our radar to make it seem like routine activity; some aircraft tried to hide at low altitude. Some of these airfields are close to the border and fighters are routinely airborne for training. Unless hostile intent is seen, taking action would require a lot of effort.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Soon, PAF fighters regrouped and turned east for the attack. The first enemy package crossed the border in the Line of Control sector at 9:58am on the Akhnoor axis, and approached the LoC around 10:06am. Another package approached the Poonch axis, staggered by five to seven minutes. A third package was opposite Anupgarh sector.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Each package had eight to ten aircraft, supported by multiple combat air patrols, Saab 2000s and Dassault Falcon 20s for electronic support. On our side there were two upgraded Mirages on combat air patrol east of Udhampur, and two Su-30s near Srinagar. Two MiG-21 Bisons were scrambled in two lots (10:01am and 10:03am) from Srinagar, two Bisons from Awantipur, two MiG-29s from Adampur and two Su-30s each from Halwara, Bathinda and Jodhpur.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The PAF ensured that they did not cross the International Boundary or the Line of Actual Control. Two MiG-21 Bisons, flown by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and Squadron Leader Vyas, were scrambled from Srinagar at 10:03am for the package on the Poonch axis. On reaching the sector, Abhinandan spotted enemy aircraft at low level, and the radar informed him that all aircraft to his west were hostile. He went for the target in contact on close combat mode with R-75 missiles.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The radar had asked the formation to turn back because of the threat developing on them. Vyas heard the call and turned around. Jammers prevented Abhinandan from getting the call. In the melee, it is presumed that the Bison shot down an F-16D, while breaking off from the attack.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The enemy dropped 11 weapons—two each at Kishan Ghati, Bhimber Gali (Hamirpur), Kesbowl and Tackundi Bowl, and one each at the 251 Ammunition Point in Rajouri and Bharat Gala—but could not cause any damage. The debris indicated use of H4 bombs (range 120km) and range extension kits (60km) on Mk-83 bombs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Why did the weapons not cause damage? I see two reasons. One, the enemy was forced to turn back by IAF interceptors before weapon release. Or, they were not allowed effective follow-through. Five AMRAAM missiles were fired by the F-16. Debris of AMRAAM AIM-120C5 were picked up and shown on national TV at 7:30pm on February 28.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Why were such beyond-visual-range missiles ineffective? One theory is that PAF wanted to draw our air defence forces to a planned kill box without crossing the LoC and use their superior AMRAAM to get aerial kills. Since this ploy did not succeed, they launched their missiles at longer ranges. We simply defeated their superior weapons with superior manoeuvring. Anyway, Pakistan’s retaliation was a giveaway that our Balakot strike was successful.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There were many tactical lessons for us. One, the PAF’s superior beyond-visual-range missiles give them an advantage of first-shot capability with better kinematic range. Our planned induction of the Meteor missile with Rafale fighter jets would change that. Two, weather and mountains do impose physical limitations on aerial surveillance. Good and real-time intelligence will always be the most critical requirement in any conflict.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Three, communication jamming was a vulnerability. The IAF has been crying hoarse for years for securing communications and progressing the case for operational data link. The case has got traction now. Four, dominance in the electromagnetic spectrum will play a key role in future conflict. Five, clear rules of engagement are important in less-than-war situations. These rules need to be reviewed quickly. Seven, combatants need to be trained to quickly switch from peacetime rules to wartime activities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The shooting down of our own Mi-17V5 helicopter is unpardonable. It was a combination of many mistakes, including personnel being trigger-happy at the first exposure to a conflict. The conflicts of 1965, 1971 and 1999 have shown that the maximum attrition for any air force is in the first three days of conflict, when we experience the ‘fog of war’. The US air force, which leads in combat experience, realised this over years of iteration. The main objective of the Red Flag exercise in the US is to train personnel in handling the first three days of combat with reduced attrition.</p> <p>With stand-off ranges increasing, involving air power for sub-conventional operations will open more windows of conflict and conflict resolution. Today’s rule is that military planes should not operate less than 10km from the border. At normal speeds, this distance can be covered in less than a minute. The issue gets compounded with induction of weapon systems which have assured stand-off ranges, like the Meteor missile (which has a range of more than 100km), SCALP (300km) or S-400 (380 km), with AWACS giving cross-border visibility of 450km. Thus, the fight could take place without crossing the border. We need to remember that it works both ways.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One may ask, why use aircraft when surface-to-surface missiles or cruise missiles are available? The answer is: they are more dangerous because of the warhead options or the threat of disproportionate retaliation. Perhaps long-range artillery or rockets and armed drones or unmanned aerial vehicles are more acceptable. The conflict in the Middle East has shown effective use of affordable low-tech drones causing unacceptable damage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our response reflected a strong political will, quick decision-making, good intelligence in selection of target, meticulous planning, good tactical acumen, maintenance of secrecy, excellent execution in adverse weather, robustness of the Integrated Air Command and Control System and excellent tactics and training.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Total war between countries is slowly becoming history. We need to be prepared and trained for border conflicts like Kargil, heightened tensions at Doklam or punitive surgical strikes, as in Pakistan and Myanmar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The bigger message: If major terrorist strikes reoccur, we will hit again and hit harder.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Air Marshal C. Harikumar was the air officer commanding-in-chief of Western Air Command during the Balakot strike.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/02/28/hit-and-run.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/02/28/hit-and-run.html Sat Feb 29 16:48:09 IST 2020 a-homage-to-heritage <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/02/22/a-homage-to-heritage.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/2/22/60-A-homage-to-heritage-new.jpg" /> <p><b>THE CHEETAH WENT</b> extinct from India around the time the country got independence. Now, if all goes well, it could be spotted again around the 75th year of independence. With the Supreme Court having cleared the decks for introducing cheetahs into India on an experimental basis, officials are upbeat. They say that once a home has been set up, the first batch could be imported from Africa in 18 months, even as sceptics wonder at the feasibility of, or even need for, such an expensive programme.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>M.K. Ranjtsinh, former director, wildlife preservation, and Dhananjai Mohan, chief conservator of forests, Uttarakhand, will assist the government and the National Tiger Conservation Authority to implement the project.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yadvendradev V. Jhala, dean and scientist, Wildlife Institute of India, said that the first step will be the reassessment of the sites—Kuno-Palpur and Nauradehi in Madhya Pradesh, and Shahgarh in Rajasthan—identified for cheetahs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At Nauradehi, 20 villages were relocated from the core area and the compensations were paid at Project Tiger rates—Rs10 lakh per adult member in every family. Kuno-Palpur, on the other hand, had already been cleared for introducing Asiatic lions from Gujarat—a plan which fell through. After an investment of Rs20 crore on clearing out the area, it will be a waste if it is not used for some wildlife programme.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The next step will then be to secure a population of cheetahs from Africa. The cheetah which was hunted into extinction from India was the Asiatic cheetah (Acionyx jubatus venaticus). Iran, the only place which has Asiatic cheetahs today, is down to its last 30. So, the only choice left now is to get the African cheetah (Acionyx jubatus jubatus), a different sub-species, and the Supreme Court emphasised that this programme could, therefore, not be called a “reintroduction”. At the time when the proposal had been mooted a decade ago, officials had identified Namibia for importing cheetahs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Procuring the animals is the least of the expenses. Officials say that the purchase should not cost more than Rs10 crore for 20 animals. They are also hopeful that some cheetahs might come to India as gifts, given the new push in India-Africa friendship. Getting the habitat ready, however, is another story altogether. Low survival rates of cubs is an issue with cheetahs. Animal-human conflict is another issue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A good species introduction programme requires at least 40 individuals, though 20 is the minimum number. It is likely, however, that not all cheetahs will be brought in together. The officials could try a first instalment of two males and four to six females; then depending on the success, more individuals could be introduced.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The introduction into a new home is a gradual process. Initially, the animals would have a “soft release” into an enclosure of natural vegetation, so that they de-stress and get over the homing instinct. In fact, they could initially be fed on carcasses till they establish in the new home.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The cheetah’s extinction is an emotive issue for India. It has gone extinct solely because of hunting by humans. The animal, which gets its name from the Sanskrit word chitraka (which means the spotted one), once roamed over vast swathes of the land, from the Terai belt in the north to as far south as Karnataka. The last were shot by the Maharaja of Surguja in 1948, though the last sighting of a female cheetah was in 1951.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The cheetah is a part of the country’s culture and history, it needs to be remembered,” said Jairam Ramesh, who, as environment minister, had made a forceful bid to get cheetahs. Bringing back the cheetah has always been part of wildlife conversation projects, even though nothing worked out so far. In the late 1970s, then prime minister Indira Gandhi had spoken to Iran about exchanging our lions for their cheetahs. Iran then had 250 cheetahs and could afford to exchange. The plan flopped.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The recent order of the court, interestingly, is a turnabout from its 2013 decision, when it saw no merit in getting cheetahs from Africa, while there were more pressing wildlife concerns like a new home for Asiatic lions and rescuing from extinction animals like the dugong, Manipur brow-antlered deer and great Indian bustard. At that time, the government wanted to get cheetahs into the Kuno-Palpur forests, which had been cleared as second home for Asiatic lions—a programme that was fizzling as Gujarat was loath to part with its USP.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The order is time bound; the court expects an initial progress report by the expert committee in four months, and at an interval of four months subsequently. The naysayers have a host of doubts, starting from available habitat to the need for bringing in an exotic species that never roamed these lands. Former Project Tiger director P.K. Sen, a fierce opponent of the project, points out that Kuno-Palpur, cleared as a scrubland, has grown trees over the years, and is not ideal for cheetahs. “Cheetahs were hunted to extinction by the Maharajas for sport, now erstwhile royalty wants them back for sport. Even if we get cheetahs in India, what conservation role will they serve?” he asked.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The cheetah lobby is as emphatic. “The cheetah is not like the dinosaur, which disappeared millions of years ago,” said Jhala. “We still have memories of this animal here. As for the African variety being exotic, the two cheetahs were as different as people in Spain and Germany are. Yellowstone National Park in the US got back its wolves, we should get the cheetah, too.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/02/22/a-homage-to-heritage.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/02/22/a-homage-to-heritage.html Sat Feb 22 15:18:44 IST 2020 engineer-meets-eco-warrior <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/02/07/engineer-meets-eco-warrior.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/2/7/37-Sreedharan.jpg" /> <p>There are not many things environmentalist Dr Madhav Gadgil, who calls himself a practising scientist, swears his allegiance to. Science, undoubtedly, is on the list; the other is India’s Constitution and the rights it guarantees. In this country whose Constitution starts off as ‘We, the people of India’, said Gadgil, people have to be at the core of whatever we do. He was addressing a select gathering after receiving THE WEEK’s Man of the Year 2019 award from Dr E. Sreedharan, principal adviser to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, at a function in Kochi on February 4.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In recent times, Gadgil has become synonymous with the Western Ghats or the Sahyadri—the name he prefers over the anglicised version. With many of his predictions about natural disasters coming true, the 77-year-old environmentalist is seen as a prophet of the times. When the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, headed by Gadgil, tabled its report in 2011, he stated: “The Western Ghats has been torn asunder by the greed of the elite and gnawed at by the poor, striving to eke out subsistence. This is a great tragedy, for this hill range is the backbone of the ecology and economy of south India.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The report, popularly known as the Gadgil Report, warned of imminent natural disasters unless urgent steps were taken to protect eco-sensitive zones in the Western Ghats. It recommended restrictions on mining, quarrying, and use of land for non-forest purposes and construction of high-rise buildings. The report, however, was widely criticised and dismissed as anti-development, triggering massive protests across the six states in the Western Ghats region—Maharashtra, Gujarat, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. His recommendations were rejected by the state governments, and the Union government appointed another committee under former ISRO chairman K. Kasturirangan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After the devastating Kerala and Kodagu floods of 2018, and an encore in 2019, Gadgil’s recommendations are back in focus. “Our report has been faulted, but nobody has ever pointed out a single error of fact or illogicality. Nobody has ever said that there is anything in the report that is contrary to our Constitution. All our recommendations are based on two values—those of science and our Constitution,” Gadgil said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He added that he had never expected his recommendations to be immediately accepted because he was aware of vested interests. “Nothing more could have been expected in a country as inequitable as ours,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By honouring Gadgil, Sreedharan said, THE WEEK was sending out a tremendous message to the country on the importance of respecting environmentalists. Had Kerala paid heed to at least a few of Gadgil’s recommendations, the state would not have suffered, he said. He also released a copy of Malanirakalude Kaavalkaran (Guardian of the Mountains), a Malayalam book on Gadgil brought out by Manorama Books. Malayala Manorama Managing Editor Jacob Mathew and THE WEEK’s Chief Associate Editor Riyad Mathew presented shawls to Gadgil and Sreedharan, respectively. The uniquely designed shawls had sound waves of Gadgil’s and Sreedharan’s speeches woven into the fabric, along with QR codes that can be scanned to listen to these speeches.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Calling the monsoon fury a ‘man-made calamity’, Gadgil pointed out the irresponsible environmental policies of the governments. Though he hailed Kerala as the country’s most progressive state, he lambasted its ‘unconstitutional’ move to amend the Panchayat Raj Act, depriving panchayats of their rights to protect lives and livelihoods of the people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>THE WEEK’s Editor Philip Mathew said ‘climate change’ was the most fearsome phrase in today’s times. “Kerala refused to believe Gadgil, and we paid the price,” he said. He hoped people would recognise the work and ethos of those like Gadgil, and learn to live differently and in sync with nature.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gadgil said that India was particularly susceptible to global warming with effects more far-reaching than for most other countries. India would witness heavier rainfall, and more landslides and droughts than other parts of the world, he warned. Besides other factors, he blamed it on the thicker concentration of aerosols in the atmosphere, far exceeding global levels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Gadgil, the Man of the Year award is a recognition of his work for the people at the grassroots. Much like the man himself, the memento, too, is rooted in nature and science. Conceived by designer Lakshmi Menon and crafted by sculptor K.D. Dayalu, the memento is a representation of the Fibonacci sequence. The sequence is at the heart of nature itself—be it in the human body or arrangement of a flower’s petals. While this signifies nature’s underlying rules, the memento also featured Chekutty dolls—a reminder of nature’s fury and Kerala’s fight for survival.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2018, when floods struck Kerala, handloom weavers in Chendamangalam, Ernakulam district, lost their only source of livelihood—their weaving units were fully damaged, and raw materials soiled. It is from these ruins that the tiny Chekutty doll—made from pieces of the stained handloom saris—emerged as a mascot and symbol of hope and resurrection for the flood-ravaged state. With a smile drawn on its face, the doll is a collective representation of tales of survival, and of lessons learnt.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As Chekutty dolls adorn the memento presented to Gadgil, the man whose warnings went unheeded, it is a stark reminder of the times—of an irreparable past, a crucial present and a precarious future.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/02/07/engineer-meets-eco-warrior.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/02/07/engineer-meets-eco-warrior.html Sat Feb 08 11:29:08 IST 2020 what-the-tibetan-high-lamas-have-to-say-about-dalai-lamas-reincarnation <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/31/what-the-tibetan-high-lamas-have-to-say-about-dalai-lamas-reincarnation.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/1/31/Trinley-Dorje.jpg" /> <p>The 84-year-old Nobel Laureate and world peace leader— The 14th Dalai Lama has said he will leave a set of instructions to be followed to recognise his successor. With Communist Party Of China asking all Tibetan High Lamas to register themselves with the Chinese government and conducting training workshops to equip them with methods to recognise the reincarnation of Dalai Lama, the trans-Himalayan Lamas in exile, have thrown their weight behind Dalai Lama saying that only His Holiness Dalai Lama or his office in Dharamsala can decide on his reincarnation. Dalai Lama himself says that if it is decided that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama should continue and there is a need for the Fifteenth Dalai Lama to be recognized, responsibility for doing so will primarily rest on the concerned officers of the Dalai Lama’s Gaden Phodrang Trust. They should seek advice and direction from these concerned beings and carry out the procedures of search and recognition following tradition. He said, &quot;I shall leave clear written instructions about this.<br> <br> <br> </p> <p><b>The 17the Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorjee: Issue of reincarnation is open to manipulation &nbsp;</b><br> <b>(Head of Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism )</b><br> <br> <b>(from his open letter to Dalai Lama written from his retreat in November )&nbsp;</b><br> <br> We must investigate China’s policy on His Holiness’ reincarnation and its repercussions. Our vehement response should not be limited to just saying that we completely reject them. Some devious people both in and outside Tibet these days have been arbitrarily recognizing reincarnation of lamas without any regard for the traditional Tibetan system of recognizing reincarnation, while others seek recognition from certain high lamas by deceiving them through various means. It is of paramount importance that there should not be even an iota of mistake in recognizing his reincarnation.<br> <br> </p> <p><b>Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche: Dalai Lama and Tibetan people are inseparable &nbsp;</b><br> <b>(Holder of the Drikung Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, that has a large following in Ladakh )&nbsp;</b><br> <br> <br> Whether the reincarnation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama will be born or not is a matter that will be decided only by His Holiness himself and no one else. It is only to be expected that the tradition of the continuance of the lineage of the Dalai Lamas through successive reincarnations shall remain for the sake of the people of Tibet and Buddhism. Some many signs and oracles have been used to choose the Dalai Lama and other important Rinpoches over the years.<br> <br> </p> <p><b>Ganden Tripa Rinpoche: We must not allow ourselves to be led astray by China &nbsp;</b><br> <b>(The head of Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, Ganden monastery in Karnataka )&nbsp;</b><br> <br> The tradition of reincarnation originated in Tibet from Karmapa after Karmapa Pakshi was recognized as the reincarnation of Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa some eight hundred years ago. If the reincarnation brings the same benefit to sentient beings as their predecessor then it is extremely useful. This also serves the purpose of reincarnation. The question of misuse becomes possible when you fail to recognize the authentic reincarnation, largely when the one who is recognizing fails to recognize the unmistaken reincarnation. What China is doing is political gimmicks, that has no basis in facts. Many have even sacrificed their own lives. However, instead of sacrificing our precious lives, we must contribute in whatever way we could to serve the cause of dharma and sentient beings.<br> <br> </p> <p><b>Sakya Trizin: Right motivation and practice is important</b>&nbsp;<br> <b>(The Head of Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism in Dehradun)</b>&nbsp;<br> <br> The Sakya school has its origins in the ancient Khon family of Tibet. It is a hereditary lineage. But with the right motivation, we can continue the practice. The Sakya tradition follows the complete Buddhist teaching of <i>sutras, tantras</i>&nbsp;and outer sciences laying stress on the study as well as practice.<br> <br> </p> <p><b>Menri Trizin: The reincarnation of Dalai Lama will continue to be reborn</b>&nbsp;<br> (<b>The head of native Tibetan Bon religion; located in Solan, Himachal Pradesh)</b>&nbsp;<br> Generally speaking, the patron saint of Tibet is Chenrezig – Avoloketeshvara or the Bodhisattva of Compassion - and His Holiness the Dalai Lama is believed to be a manifestation of the Chenrezig. Thus, in my opinion, the Tibetan people, as well as all religious traditions of Tibet, are united in their belief that as long as the sufferings of the sentient beings inside Tibet are not alleviated, the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama will continue to reborn. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has already devolved the political authority of Gaden Phodrang. Therefore, his reincarnation is strictly a religious matter. The way he acknowledges all in the same unique compassionate manner, it is but natural that the others invariably feel a deep reverence for him.&nbsp;<br> </p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/31/what-the-tibetan-high-lamas-have-to-say-about-dalai-lamas-reincarnation.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/31/what-the-tibetan-high-lamas-have-to-say-about-dalai-lamas-reincarnation.html Sat Feb 01 17:04:35 IST 2020 better-by-design <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/31/better-by-design.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/1/31/54-Vaibhav-Chugh.jpg" /> <p>We live in difficult times—expenses are rising, retail inflation rate touched 7.35 per cent in December. At the same time, interest rates are falling. Between February and October, the Reserve Bank of India cut repo rate by 135 basis points in a bid to give a lift to the economy. Equity markets have been volatile. Even as the benchmark indices have hit new highs over the past few months, people who have invested in small- and mid-caps have earned hardly anything in the past couple of years. In such a scenario, how do you plan for your dreams? How do you secure your family’s future?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a seminar organised by THE WEEK and Aditya Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund in Mumbai, experts shared tips and ideas on the need for financial planning and how one should plan for the good times and bad times.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The annual savings rate of Indians has typically been around 30 per cent. Yet, barely about 2 per cent of the people invest in equity or equity-linked instruments. Traditionally, Indians preferred investing in gold or property. Over the past few years, however, residential real estate market has been down, and prior to 2019, gold delivered subdued returns for several years. As India does not have a social security system, planning to ensure that the financial goals are achieved is extremely crucial.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is necessary to write down your goals first, said K.S. Rao, head of investor education and distribution development at Aditya Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund. “There is a study which says that if I have a goal and I have not written it down, there is an 80 per cent possibility that I will not accomplish it. If I have a goal and I write it down, there is an 80 per cent possibility that I will accomplish it,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is also important that you share your goals with family members. “Financial planning is a joint activity,” said certified financial planner Gaurav Mashruwala. “I encourage couples to go on financial date. Go on a date with your spouse every three months and spend time keeping yourself abreast of your finances.” It is crucial that couples periodically take stock of their investments and check if there are adequate funds to achieve near-term goals, and ensure that their KYC details are up to date and nomination is done to ensure that they are prepared for any future uncertainties, said Mashruwala.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Once the goals are clear, one should think about the time one has to achieve a particular goal and assess the risk appetite as well. Risk-averse investors tend to save money in bank deposits. But, saving does not necessarily mean investing. Also, given that interest rates are falling and inflation is rising, and such deposits are taxable, most of these investors would hardly make any real returns. “There is a big difference between savings and investment. Savings will put money together. Investment makes the money work for you in a way that you end up making money much more than inflation rate,” said Vaibhav Chugh, zonal head (west), retail sales, Aditya Birla Sun Life AMC.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That is where mutual funds come into the picture. They offer multiple choices based on one’s risk appetite and time horizon. “Today, the mutual fund industry has grown in a way that if you have a requirement for one day, or you have a 100-year goal, you will have products from mutual funds,” said Chugh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For risk-averse investors, liquid funds could be a good alternative to bank deposits for short-term goals or to build an emergency corpus. Liquid funds invest in safe short-term instruments like call money (a very short-term bank loan), treasury bills and government securities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>People who have a 2- to 3-year investment horizon and do not want the ups and downs associated with equity investments can explore balance funds as a category, where the money is invested in a combination of equity and debt. “Over a period, it keeps your money secure, but at the same time, it also counters the biggest villain of our life—inflation,” said Chugh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For long-term investors, there are many different types of mutual funds, some investing in large-caps, some in mid-caps or small-caps, and some investing a mix of securities. Experts say one needs to remain focused through the duration of investment and not be swayed by external developments like market movement and economic growth. “If our goals, responsibilities and dreams do not change based on external conditions, why are we using those external parameters to procrastinate our decisions? That is the basic mistake,” said Mashruwala.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Life coach Gaur Gopal Das, who also spoke at the event, stressed on the need for investing in “building ourselves”. People should identify things that are not under one’s control, or challenges, and not allow them to hurt their lives. “The takeoff and the landing are not in our hands at all. During the journey there is a lot of turbulence as well. That turbulence is not in our control. Your journey is not defined by the takeoff, or the landing or the turbulence; they all are beyond you. Your journey depends on the choices that you make and that is completely in your control. Life is exactly the same,” said Das.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Das noted that just like markets have its ups and downs, in life, too, there will be challenges. “Identify the constants in your challenges,” he said. “If you cannot identify what is unchangeable, you will keep putting your effort to change the unchangeable and only keep hurting yourself.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/31/better-by-design.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/31/better-by-design.html Fri Jan 31 12:05:03 IST 2020 rules-of-return <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/24/rules-of-return.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/1/24/16-The-Dalai-Lama.jpg" /> <p>As China moves ahead with its plans to name the next Dalai Lama, there is concern among Tibetan Buddhists and also in India, which is home to tens of thousands of Tibetan refugees, including the 14th Dalai Lama.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Flanked by a hostile Pakistan and an aggressive China, India has so far been reticent in playing the Dalai Lama reincarnation card. The United States has recently taken up the challenge to target China over the issue. After the Donald Trump administration stepped up pressure, China permitted US ambassador Terry Branstad to visit Tibet last May. It was followed by the visit of Samuel D. Brownback, US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, to Dharamshala to meet the Dalai Lama.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The role of picking the Dalai Lama’s successor belongs to the Tibetan Buddhist system, the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan Buddhist leaders,” said Brownback. “It does not belong to anybody else, not any government or any entity.” His comments drew sharp response from Beijing. The Chinese foreign ministry said the reincarnation of the living Buddhas, including the Dalai Lama, should comply with Chinese laws and regulations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the US and China were involved in a spat, New Delhi remained a silent spectator. Although it allowed Brownback to visit Dharamshala, India remained tightlipped about the reincarnation issue. No Indian official has visited the Dalai Lama recently. Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Dharamshala on November 7 for a global investors’ meet, he did not visit the Dalai Lama.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>New Delhi has been remarkably patient on the Tibetan issue, focusing more on its soft power. Addressing the United Nations General Assembly last September, Modi said India’s gift to the world was Buddha’s wisdom. By preserving the Buddhist culture and its scriptures from which the reincarnation theory of the Dalai Lama also emanates, India stands to gain as a global spiritual power. It also gives India a strategic advantage over China.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We must keep in mind that for China, there is no short-term strategy,” said Amitabh Mathur, who was adviser on Tibetan affairs to the Union home ministry till September 2018. “Even its shortest-term strategy looks 30 to 60 years ahead. What we may be preparing for today, China must have prepared for long ago.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The seeds of an inevitable conflict between New Delhi and Beijing on the issue was sown 60 years ago. Disguised as a solider, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, fled the Potala Norbulingka palace in Lhasa on March 17, 1959, fearing arrest by an increasingly aggressive Mao Zedong regime. After a fortnight-long trek, the 23-year-old Dalai Lama entered India via Tawang. Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru granted him political asylum and a Tibetan government-in-exile was established in Dharamshala. The Dalai Lama was the temporal and spiritual head of the Tibetan government till 2011 when he gave up much of his political authority to make way for a democratically elected Central Tibetan Administration (CTA).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Six decades after the Dalai Lama slipped out of its dragnet, China is gearing up to unsettle the status quo. The process started in 2007 when it issued a set of guidelines on the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation. Speaking exclusively to THE WEEK, CTA president Lobsang Sangay said it was ridiculous that the Communist Party of China, which taught that religion was poison, had started certifying lamas. “The communist party continues its assault on Tibetan religion, culture and the way of life,” said Ngodup Dongchung, representative of the Dalai Lama in New Delhi. “Ideological education and fealty to the party are now mandatory for monks and nuns who only want to engage in spiritual practice.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are nearly 1,300 lamas who are registered with the Chinese government. They have to attend annual workshops, should be loyal to the communist party, should not disagree with the government and should not have any contact with international organisations or with the Dalai Lama. “The Dalai Lama is missing from this list of lamas, but the Chinese government says it will select his successor. It is unacceptable because his holiness will live for at least 20 more years. Before he passes away, he will give written guidelines to choose his reincarnation. The communist party has no locus standi on the issue,” said Sangay.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, is the only high lama recognised by the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama. Karmapas are heads of the Karma Kagyu, one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Dorje, however, was not present at a conference held last November in Dharamshala to discuss the reincarnation issue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It was a very important conference,” said Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche, an important lineage holder in the Karma Kagyu school. He said the Karmapa was away on a retreat, which could go on for up to three years. The Karmapa sent a letter through his emissary, supporting the Dharamshala declaration, which said the decision on the reincarnation rested solely with the 14th Dalai Lama. The Karmapa, however, warned of “devious people both inside and outside Tibet who have been arbitrarily recognising reincarnation of lamas without any regard for the traditional Tibetan system”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Karmapa had escaped from Tibet and reached India when he was 14. He arrived in Dharamshala on January 5, 2000, and stayed on till May 2017. The Karmapa, however, had a strained relationship with a section of the Indian security establishment which suspects that he may be a Chinese spy. He was watched closely by intelligence officials and had to face stringent security restrictions. He also found it difficult to travel abroad without a regular passport. After a trip to the US in 2017, the Karmapa did not come back. He obtained a passport from the Commonwealth of Dominica, apparently without informing the Indian government. Intelligence officials said if the Karmapa applied for an Indian passport, they might consider his case positively.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mathur said it was important for India to keep the Karmapa’s trust. “The Karmapa can play a major role in calming Tibetan tempers in the post Dalai Lama scenario.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sangay said abandoning Tibet for India was a big leap of faith for the Karmapa. “He went into exile because all his main teachers were in exile. In Tibetan Buddhism, the teachings are passed on from teachers. To continue as the Karmapa, he needed those teachings which he could pass on to the next generation. From the material point of view, he was better off in Tibet. But as far as freedom was concerned, he was better off here,” said Sangay. “I believe that he will eventually return to India. India needs to resolve the Karmapa issue to keep China at bay. If New Delhi plays its spiritual diplomacy cards well, the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation issue could be the glue that binds all Tibetan spiritual leaders, including the Karmapa.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Describing the credible ways of recognising the next Dalai Lama, Karmapa said in his letter, “The ultimate measure is the reincarnation reliably recounting his previous life and speaking about it as well as the predecessor’s predictive letter and other instructions. If his holiness’ reincarnation is recognised based on his own predictions, it would be accepted by all and would obviate other means like the dough-ball and golden urn methods.’’ Other methods include asking reliable spiritual masters for their divination, seeking predictions of mundane oracles and observing visions that manifest in the sacred lakes of protectors.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Tibetan Buddhists are clear about the need to ensure that the Dalai Lama’s succession will be undisputed and credible, given the past experience of the Chinese Panchen Lama, the second highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism. “The Chinese Panchen Lama is a puppet. Though it was a recognised institution, the Panchen Lama picked by China stays in Beijing and goes to Tibet when Beijing asks him to,” said Sangay.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, besides reincarnation, there could also be emanation, which means the Dalai Lama can choose his successor during his lifetime. And, this could be a matter of worry for China. Notably, two Dalai Lamas were born outside Tibet—the fourth Dalai Lama was born in 1589 in Mongolia and the sixth Dalai Lama was born in 1682 in present day Arunachal Pradesh. It raises hope that the next Dalai Lama will be born in the trans-Himalayan region.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Khenpo Sonam Tenphel, a member of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile, said the Dalai Lama could recognise his own successor by a process called madhey tulku. “Ordinary sentient beings generally cannot manifest an emanation before death, but superior Bodhisattvas, who can manifest themselves in hundreds or thousands of bodies simultaneously, can manifest as an emanation before death,” said Tenphel.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Samdhong Rinpoche, the first directly-elected president of the CTA, warned the Tibetans against playing into China’s hands. “Talking of reincarnation is not only unnecessary, but is also a reaction to China. For instance, China chose its own Panchen Lama, but it proved to be useless,” he said. “It is certain that when his holiness passes away, the Chinese administration will choose its own Dalai Lama, but he will never be acceptable to the Tibetans. The 15th Dalai Lama will be recognised in exile.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Tibetan people want India to openly support the Dalai Lama and the succession plan laid down by him. “The Dalai Lama is the most important Tibetan that China wants to control,” said Lobsang Wangyal, writer and activist who runs the popular website Tibet Sun. “We are grateful to India because it is our host. But India’s geopolitical strategy has not been strong enough.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>China is flexing its muscle in the Indian subcontinent. Pakistan is its all-weather friend and now Nepal is growing increasingly dependent on China. Wangyal said Nepal had stopped issuing state permits to Tibetans, curtailing their basic rights, including access to education, health care, jobs and rations. “They cannot commemorate the Tibetan day on March 10, the Dalai Lama’s birthday on July 6 or the Tibetan democracy day on September 2,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even more alarming is the fact that Tibetans crossing over to India from Nepal are being sent back to China where they are allegedly imprisoned for years. A Chinese official in New Delhi, however, dismissed the allegations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Maintaining status quo on the Tibetan issue and using Tibetans as a shield against the Chinese march in the Himalayan region may not work as a long-term strategy. But the Dalai Lama seems to be thinking ahead. He asked the Chinese leadership to first find the reincarnations of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping if they indeed believed in reincarnation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Dalai Lama is quite clear about his succession. “At the time of my death, I will write the will of my rebirth. So when Chinese hardliners express their desire for the 15th Dalai Lama, I want to tell them that they will have to wait for another 30-40 years.” On last Christmas day, he reiterated the message. After arriving at Bodh Gaya for his annual visit, the 84-year-old spiritual leader said the Tibetans were backed by the power of truth. “The Chinese have the power of gun. In the long run, the power of truth is much stronger than the power of gun.”&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/24/rules-of-return.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/24/rules-of-return.html Fri Jan 24 19:49:10 IST 2020 the-geopolitics-of-reincarnation <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/24/the-geopolitics-of-reincarnation.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/1/24/21-The-Dalai-Lama.jpg" /> <p>The Dalai Lama has been making conflicting statements over the issue of his reincarnation—that he simply “would not be reborn”; that there could be a “female reincarnate” and so on. In an interview with THE WEEK in July 2019, he had mused on ending the tulku reincarnation system, which has created a “feudal system”. Beijing has been saying the same.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reincarnation is critical to the Tibetans’ identity politics. The exiled Central Tibetan Administration has a roadmap on reincarnation to be anchored by the heads of major Tibetan religious sects. The clergy heads met recently in Dharamshala to urge the Dalai Lama to take a call on his reincarnation. They also said any China-imposed candidate would not be accepted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Dalai Lama’s own edict of September 2011 had envisaged a reincarnation plan after he turns 90. It tasks his private office to carry out the search and recognition as per past practices.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Beijing, which has never got along with the current Dalai Lama, claims a sovereign right to determine his lineage on the ground that it was China’s Qing dynasty that had instituted the Dalai Lama’s seat in 1653. Claiming to be the successor to the imperial state, the communist regime insists that determining the reincarnation lineage was never a purely religious or personal affair, but a sovereign one.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>China will not dispute the search for the Dalai Lama’s soul in another body as long as it is found according to the Chinese law and within China’s territory. Beijing cites the Qing-era norms, comprising a set of religious rituals and historical conventions as criteria for recognising the Dalai Lamas. Those were followed by the Chiang Kai-shek government for appointing the current Dalai Lama in 1940. Thus, Beijing is all set to pick the next Dalai Lama as per the Qing-era norms and in compliance with China’s state laws and regulations under Order No. 5 that currently regulate the reincarnation of Tibetan ‘living Buddhas’. The Communist Party of China has rebuked the Dalai Lama for threatening to terminate the system; in the party’s view, it is tantamount to ‘profaning’ Buddhism, showing disrespect to and betrayal of Tibetan traditions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So far, successive Dalai Lamas have been found within Tibet. But what makes the reincarnation issue a geopolitical one is the Dalai Lama’s threat to be born outside of the Tibetan borders, ostensibly in a ‘free country’ like India. Beijing has reacted strongly to this. But the Dalai Lama needs to think twice, for it would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, which would make China’s task easier.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Only the US, which wants to offset Beijing’s plans, has so far put its weight behind the Dalai Lama. The US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom Samuel D. Brownback recently visited Dharamshala to reaffirm his country’s support. He also hinted at building global support through the UN.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is where the US and the Dalai Lama are going wrong. Any attempt at making reincarnation an international issue serves China’s purpose. History, territory and realpolitik favour Beijing’s case. China’s heft in world politics has only grown since 1989. The Tibetan leader will not be able to blunt Beijing’s global outreach.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The conflict would intensify if there are two claimants to the post—one selected by the Dalai Lama’s office and another by Beijing. The exiles would reject any Beijing-chosen candidate. Countries supporting the candidate born outside Tibet would risk their ties with Beijing. China has every arsenal—political, diplomatic and economic—to get global endorsement for its chosen Dalai Lama. This leaves Dharamshala to drum up support from the Buddhist clergy of Vajrayana states like Bhutan, Mongolia, India, Russia and Nepal. But their political leaderships may be averse to directly interfering in the selection process.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even on the spiritual front, China may have its aces. The Panchen Lama Gyaltsen Norbu is a good source of support for Beijing. Getting the Karmapa to return to Tibet for the next Dalai Lama’s validation is another option before Beijing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It will not be easy for New Delhi to steer clear of the issue. The Tibetan government-in-exile is in India, and it might choose its own candidate born in a Tibetan or an Indian family. But, the Dalai Lama institution is neither rooted in India nor was there was any precedent of India influencing a Dalai Lama’s selection. A rebirth in India may lead to bitter ties with China permanently. The present border standoff could get prolonged to a few more generations with the high strategic cost involved.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are other territorial costs. The birthplace of any Dalai Lama would inevitably get linked to the Tibetan mythical worldview that China would fully exploit for its territorial claims. The Dalai Lama’s plausible rebirth in India could further strengthen China’s claim on the boundary issue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Dalai Lama is capable of shrewdly using India’s vulnerabilities over the Tawang issue for settling scores with China. But New Delhi has lately marginalised the Dalai Lama factor in its China policy. As of now, China wants India on its side if the issue is to be solved in its favour. Probably, the Wuhan process was about that. At best, India could maintain the balance, keeping the religious issue with the Tibetan community to settle, and not getting involved in the legitimisation business.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Dalai Lama told his followers late last year not to hurry his reincarnation plan, since he is in good health. It is unclear why he has delayed his final call—whether he is still left with sufficient time or he wants to give Beijing some more time to seek a common ground on the issue. The CTA has suggested that any amicable solution can be found only if China accepts its middle way proposal for resolving the issue of Tibet, but Xi Jinping has not taken a call for reconciliation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Beijing, in its last move, may allow the Dalai Lama to return as a spiritual leader. The Dalai Lama may agree, provided he is allowed to have a say in choosing his successor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>P. Stobdan is author of the recent book, The Great Game in the Buddhist Himalayas: India and China’s Quest for Strategic Dominance.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/24/the-geopolitics-of-reincarnation.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/24/the-geopolitics-of-reincarnation.html Fri Jan 24 19:48:05 IST 2020 china-should-change-its-tibet-policy <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/24/china-should-change-its-tibet-policy.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/1/24/22-Samuel-D-Brownback.jpg" /> <p>Religious freedom is a universal right. To have a faith or not, to convert, or to pick a different course of action is an individual’s right. The government’s role in all of this is simple. It is to protect the right of religious freedom.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like all faith communities, Tibetans must be able to practise their faith freely and select their leaders without interference. The decisions regarding the selection of Tibetan Buddhist leaders rest with the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhist leaders and the people of Tibet. Any effort to subvert this selection affects not just Tibetans, but the global Buddhist community.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I reaffirm the US commitment to raising Tibetan issues with the Chinese government at multiple levels. American officials are making continuous efforts to establish conditions that lead to a direct and meaningful dialogue between China and his holiness or his representative—without preconditions—that can lead to a sustainable settlement. The US urges China to change its policies in Tibetan areas that have created tension. There is a need to respect and preserve the distinct religious, linguistic, and cultural identity of the Tibetan people and permit Tibetans to express their grievances freely, publicly, peacefully, and without fear of retribution. China should fulfil its human rights commitments by protecting the internationally recognised right to religious freedom to all individuals and respecting the human rights of members of all religious groups. Doing so will further peace, stability and security in China and among its neighbours.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To ensure accountability for those who commit human rights abuses around the world, the US state department has designated China as a ‘country of particular concern’ under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for engaging in or tolerating particularly severe violations of religious freedom.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Religious intolerance is on the rise around the world, touching every continent. There have been increases in anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic and anti-Christian rhetoric and also a rise in xenophobic incidents. Tragically, this intolerance and hatred is a social contagion. It is seeping into the moral fabric of a society, giving way to religious discrimination, xenophobia and even violence. It causes strife and deepens rifts, polluting the society from the inside out. Finally, the rise of non-state actors who seek to persecute members of religious communities, including those of no faith, has become an international problem. These actors threaten security within our own countries and frustrate our efforts to realise greater global stability. This is why the discussion of religion as a means to achieving greater peace is so important.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Through our efforts, we are chasing a very simple, but important dream: that one day people around the world will be able to worship freely and believe in what they want.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The author is United States ambassador-at-large for religious freedom.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/24/china-should-change-its-tibet-policy.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/24/china-should-change-its-tibet-policy.html Fri Jan 24 19:47:11 IST 2020 the-fight-goes-on <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/24/the-fight-goes-on.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/1/24/32-Preeti-Sudan-Dr-Balram-Bhargava-Dr-Shekhar-Mande.jpg" /> <p>Screening for breast cancer and diagnosing it early are the only ways to win the war against the dreaded disease. The emphasis on preventive action and making women ‘breast aware’ was a key takeaway from a day-long THE WEEK Connect conference in Delhi. The theme was ‘expanding breast cancer care for Indian women’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The event, which top oncologists, researchers, medical students, survivors and journalists attended, saw vibrant discussions on the disease that kills more Indian women than any other cancer. Experts from premier institutions such as AIIMS, Tata Memorial Centre and Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology talked about the rising incidence of breast cancer and the genetic links, the importance and nuances of screening, the relevance of genome sequencing, latest treatment modalities, and the experience and practical issues that confront a patient.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The low survival rates for breast cancer patients (50 to 60 per cent) were “embarrassing” for a country that aimed to be the world’s leading economy, said Dr Shekhar Mande, secretary, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and director general, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Mande said the centre would undertake a large-scale genomic sequencing project that would help control diseases that affect Indians.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In her keynote address at the conference, Preeti Sudan, secretary, Union ministry of health and family welfare, said that the government had screened 92 lakh women in India for breast cancer at the health and wellness centres under Ayushman Bharat. “Of these, 29,820 women have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and 17,108 were already undergoing treatment,” Sudan told the audience. She also revealed how her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 70—and recovered fully—and emphasised that women should be made aware of symptoms of the disease and report it early. “Though she was aware of it, my mother hid it from us. Women in India tend to hide the disease. They should report the slightest inconvenience,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To address the growing burden of cancer in India, Sudan said the government had approved 20 tertiary care centres, 18 state cancer institutes had been set-up and work was on to strengthen medical colleges. Under the Ayushman Bharat-PMJAY, the government was also providing 150 oncology packages to the needy. “I urge everyone to visit the newly set-up National Cancer Institute in Jhajjar, where the latest equipment for cancer treatment is available,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dr Balram Bhargava, secretary, department of health research, and director general, Indian Council of Medical Research, said the government had embarked on an ambitious programme to screen for non-communicable diseases through the planned 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He also emphasised the importance of self-examination. “Though the incidence of breast cancer in Indian women is one-third of that in the west, the numbers diagnosed early in our country is much lower,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The department of health research had found, through several cancer registries, that breast cancer cases in India had doubled since 1990, he told the audience. “Affordability remains a key issue in our country. Treatment with a new drug such as Herceptin, which was giving excellent results in advanced breast cancers, for instance, costs Rs10 lakh to Rs12 lakh a year. The government is providing Rs5 lakh under Ayushman Bharat-PMJAY, but more needs to be done to fill the gap.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Younger, pre-menopausal women, particularly, needed to be more alert because their cancers were less receptive to latest treatments and more aggressive than in the post-menopausal women, several experts including Bhargava said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In his presentation, Professor Ravi Mehrotra, CEO, India Cancer Research Consortium, highlighted the trends in breast cancer in India. “Eighteen lakh women in India have this cancer in this year, 2020, and 76 per cent are advanced, at stage 3 and 4,” said Mehrotra. Breast cancer is now the number one cancer in the world, he added. “It is a trend that has been seen across many countries undergoing transition... as economic standards improve, the cases of breast cancer go up, cervical cancer goes down,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Several experts also deliberated on studies that have shown how breast cancer in India is different from that in the west. In India, the cancer peaks twice, and it is the more aggressive version of the disease. “In India, the cancer peaks first in the 30s and 40s [and later in the 60s],” said Professor Chintamani, department of surgery, Vardhman Mahavir Medical College, Delhi. “We see younger women getting it; this cancer is aggressive, and progresses fast. This is as opposed to an 80-year-old getting cancer, where the disease is not as aggressive... which is why our screening programmes have to be different.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Professor Rajiv Sarin, Tata Memorial Centre, cautioned that India was staring at an “epidemic” in a few years. “One of the big risk factors is the changing lifestyle,” he said. “Though our numbers for breast cancer are one-third of those in the west, the numbers will soon catch up due to changing lifestyle, when women born in the 1980s and the 1990s reach their 50s and 60s.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The pros and cons of mammograms, which have been a preferred, albeit controversial tool for detecting breast cancers in the west, were also discussed. “Screening through mammograms is an expensive modality for India, and would require trained professionals to interpret the images,” said Chintamani. “As of now, when patients walk into the clinic, they already have lumps, and are symptomatic and in need of treatment.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Self-examination also does not work in younger women, when the breast tissue is dense, has more fat and the tumour is smaller than one centimetre, said professor H.S. Shukla, former dean, Banaras Hindu University and ex-president, World Federation of Surgical Oncology Societies. The women are able to detect malignancy themselves only after they are 45, he said, which means that a trained medical professional needs to conduct the examination. He added that mammography also works only after 40.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“In India, we have a shortage of radiologists. Besides, to interpret images, you need special training, too,” said Dr Anjali Agrawal, senior consultant and head, Teleradiology Solutions, Bengaluru, and general secretary, Society for Emergency Radiology, India. “In mammography, another issue is that the equipment needs high-quality maintenance, too. To overcome this issue, we can use ultrasound, which is cheaper and works especially in the case of younger women. However, the use of ultrasound, too, requires additional training since you are looking at a narrow body part, and specific characteristics of the tumour. There is also MRI, which is highly sensitive and is being used for younger patients in the high-risk category.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sarin also pointed out that the number of women who would have to be screened to save one life would run into hundreds and the government would need extensive resources to run such a programme. Instead, he emphasised on “low-hanging fruits”—genetic screening for women who had family history of the disease.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The conference also saw doctors and survivors narrate their experiences. “It is one of the few cancers that is curable,” said Dr Ramesh Sarin, surgical oncologist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, Delhi. “Women should be made aware of that, including the risk factors. The death rate in the US has been going down progressively, owing to screening through mammography and early diagnosis. In India, too, we need to screen at least those who are at high risk of getting the disease.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dr Neeti Leekha Chhabra, founder and president of the NGO Yes to Life, said that the cost aspect of treatment remained an important factor. “Patients have to wait in long queues for treatment,” said the survivor. “The government is rationalising prices and putting caps on the prices of drugs, but they need to keep a check on production and distribution as well. Besides, insurance companies do not provide cover for you if you get cancer again.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the closing of the session, Dr Anurag Agrawal, of the Institute of Genomics, said that the way forward lay in capitalising on the silver lining—the willingness of different sectors to collaborate on the issue, the scope of early intervention, and, importantly, management of those who are diagnosed as high-risk patients. “To fight the disease, we need to understand the tumour through better studies using all novel technologies that are available,” said Agrawal. “Multiple partners such as those on the clinical side, research [side], [those in] technology, and academia, government and young entrepreneurs need to be brought together for a mega programme.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/24/the-fight-goes-on.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/24/the-fight-goes-on.html Fri Jan 24 19:53:33 IST 2020 burns-and-bias <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/17/burns-and-bias.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/1/17/56-Shahnawaz-Ahmed.jpg" /> <p>The last visual memory that Shahnawaz has is of watching Shaktimaan—the Hindi serial about a superhero. He was five then. That night, as Shahnawaz lay asleep next to his mother, he sensed a searing heat on his face. “It felt as though someone had flung hot tea on me,” he recalls. “Then, a thousand electric currents began racing across my face. When I covered my face, my hands felt the same heat and then pain.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shahnawaz’s face had been bathed in acid. His alleged attacker, Kayyum, was a tenant of his father, Said Ahmed. The two had fallen out as Ahmed had asked Kayyum to vacate the house. Ahmed’s eldest daughter was to be married and the family needed money, for which they wanted to sell the house. On the night of the attack in August 1997, Ahmed, a cement supplier, was not at their home in Meerut. Well aware of the layout of the house—which has a courtyard with a gate that leads to the road outside—Kayyum, an electrician, had snapped the electricity connection and pocketed the keys to the courtyard gate. To reach the house, he had hopped over a row of connected terraces in the densely packed locality of Zaidi Farm. He waited on the roof till the night grew darker. When he jumped from the roof onto the courtyard, his mask slipped. Shahnawaz’s elder sister, who looked out on hearing the thud, saw him in the moonlight. Before she could cry out, he flung the liquid on Shahnawaz’s face and fled with the gate keys.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was easy to identify where Shahnawaz slept—he was the only child on the cot; his four sisters had their bedding laid down on the floor. “Attacking me was his way to render my father useless,” says Shahnawaz. “Daughters get married and have other responsibilities. I was the only one who would have grown up to take care of my parents.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Two hours passed before Shahnawaz was taken to the hospital. Though the family’s cries had brought the neighbours to their doorstep, no one could get in because the gate was locked. The only other way was to climb an electric pole and scale the courtyard wall. Neither the neighbours nor the family inside had the presence of mind to break open the door. It was Ahmed who, upon his return from Delhi, climbed the pole.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“He wrapped me in a thick blanket and took me to the nearest doctor,” recalls Shahnawaz. By then Shahnawaz’s mouth was full of blisters and though he desperately wanted to ask his father for reassurance, no words would come out. “That is what frightened me the most—that I would never be able to speak to my father,” he says. Later, the police found a glass bottle of acid, half empty, in a drain outside their home and a pair of slippers on the roof. “They [slippers] had been bought by my father for Kayyum,” says Shahnawaz. “My father thought of him as a son.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kayyum was subsequently arrested and jailed. Shahnawaz’s family, meanwhile, ran from Meerut to Hapur (in the National Capital Region) and then to Delhi for treatment. Months later, they would come to know that Kayyum had been granted bail. He is absconding since.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shahnawaz is part of the larger untold story of acid attack survivors in India. He is a man. His attacker was not, as per common understanding, a rejected or disgruntled lover. He was the victim of a hate crime, which, though it claims more female victims, does not spare males.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On November 2016, Aslam Khan, 32, a native of Hapur and an e-rickshaw driver, was hired by three men to drop them off at a temple on the road that led from Hapur to Delhi. The men, however, kept asking him to go further from the destination, leading him to a deserted patch on the road. “One of them whipped out a knife and slashed my neck. Another flung acid on my face,” he says. “They took away my wallet and fled with my e-rickshaw. I had my mobile and pressed the last dialled number of a friend. I gave him my location and pleaded that he come and save me.” The attack left Aslam blind. Though his attackers were arrested, he is yet to receive any compensation despite having completed the requisite paperwork. His greatest worry is over the future of his three children, the youngest of whom is four. Tradition does not permit him to allow his wife, Reshma, to step out to work. Earlier, the family had a sewing machine on which Reshma worked on and off. It has since been sold off to fund Aslam’s frequent visits to Chennai for treatment at Sankara Nethralaya.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another dominant thread in the narrative of acid survivors is that it is a crime committed only by men. So, on October 24, 2019, when a report was sought to be lodged against Muskaan Hilal, 19—who had flung acid on Faizad Zafar, 20—at the Quarsi police station in Aligarh, sub-inspector Lakhami Singh was stumped. “This is the first time I have come across such an incident,” says Singh, the investigating officer in the case. “The girl confessed that she had flung acid as the boy was refusing to marry her. Medical investigation has confirmed that the liquid used was acid—the kind that is used to clean toilets. The boy has lost vision in one eye.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Three and a half years ago, acid was poured on to Meerut-based Umerdaraj’s neck; it was a woman who lured him to the site of the attack. He had a tiff with the local goon Irfan and his wife Rizwana had been calling Umerdaraj repeatedly to end the feud. “That day, too, it was she who called me for a meeting,” says Umerdaraj, 37. “As we stood talking, two strangers threw acid on my neck. I turned around. Some of it fell on my chest. It felt as though my heart would stop beating.” A father of four, he pulled his eldest child out of school in the aftermath of the attack, and took a loan of Rs1.5 lakh to undergo three surgeries. He needs more surgeries, but cannot afford them, he says. The District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) offered him Rs1 lakh as compensation. Though a FIR was filed against Irfan, Rizwana and two unknown persons, only Irfan was arrested. The police were unable to find Rizwana. Umerdaraj, meanwhile, keeps his neck covered and avoids going out as his neighbours call him ‘Jalawa’ (the burnt one) to his face.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In July 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that acid attack victims shall be paid a compensation of at least Rs3 lakh by the state government/Union territory towards after care and rehabilitation. Any victim compensation schemes in existence then or brought into effect post the ruling would have to comply with the said order. This was to be in addition to any fines to be paid under Section 326A (a section added to the Indian Penal Code in 2013, along with Section 326B to recognise, define and penalise acid attacks and attempts to attack with acid). None of these are gender-specific. But within the government and judicial apparatus, these are presumed to apply only to female victims.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2014, Chandrahass Mishra, 36, who had been attacked by acid in 2011, approached the DLSA in Meerut to claim compensation. He was told that there was no provision for male survivors. “This does not happen to men, they told me,” he says. The attacker was his landlord’s son, Akshay Khanna, who was miffed over Mishra’s constant objection to his indecent comments and actions towards women. Mishra had gone as far as threatening his attacker with a police complaint if he did not stop. “In school, I was part of the Scouts and Guide team. I have a sister and female cousins,” says Mishra. “It was only natural to object to indecent behaviour.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The acid that had landed on the right side of Mishra’s face had scalded his scalp and ear before trickling down to his chest and arm. The medical measure of his burns was less than 40 per cent, and so he was not eligible for a disability certificate. After multiple surgeries and postoperative care burnt through his savings, he started his struggle for compensation. The police were clueless about it, as were the district magistrate’s office and the office of the chief medical officer. Mishra’s persistence with the DLSA got him 01 lakh under a generic compensation scheme applicable to victims of acid attack, rape, human trafficking and murder. His initial reaction was to reject it, but then he accepted it. Mishra’s is one of the 12 cases that lawyer Anuja Kapur has used to start a public interest litigation which, among other prayers, calls upon the Supreme Court to consider that “present laws involving acid attack are women-centric and gender-biased in nature”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The broader plea of the PIL, titled Anuja Kapur vs Union of India and others, is to call upon state and Union territories to file their responses on what has been done on ground since acid attacks were recognised as a specific and separate form of crime. It thus asks for directions to be issued for maintenance of records related to “jobs and education, compensation, medical facilities and legal aid and services, provided to the victim of acid attack at the Central and state level”. It also called for termination of licenses of shopkeepers for illegal over-the-counter sale of acid.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kapur, an advocate practising in the Supreme Court, says that till date, of the 42 respondents named in the PIL, only 28 have filed counter affidavits. Among those yet to respond are the ministry of health and family welfare and the state of Uttar Pradesh, which recorded the highest number of acid attacks as per the latest data released by the National Crime Records Bureau. “The law is handicapped as it is not serving its purpose,” says Kapur. On the last hearing of the PIL on August 5, 2019, the court directed the respondents to file responses within four weeks, failing which they would be liable to a penalty of Rs50,000. The next hearing is on January 24.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, Shahnawaz, who has never sought compensation, has a disability certificate that reads “He has got 100 per cent disability”. He has no vision in his left eye. The right one has some. The skin on his neck folds and crumbles, so it appears that his neck is fused to his face. He has difficulty moving his head. But he does not want his story to be one of pity or defeat. He has a hand-operated plastic moulding machine through which he makes a living. “I am very good at my work,” he says. “Tell me of a plastic part used anywhere, say, in a car, and I will make it for you. All I need is financial assistance to get an automatic machine that does a neater and quicker job.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He clearly needs no superheroes to mould his future.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/17/burns-and-bias.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/17/burns-and-bias.html Sat Jan 18 17:08:32 IST 2020 strict-but-slow <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/17/strict-but-slow.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/1/17/61-Shivani-Tyagi-new.jpg" /> <p>Victimhood can be addictive and its seduction enduring. We encounter it multiple times when reaching out to acid attack survivors in the hope of documenting untold stories of grit. One asks for money, another for a washing machine, and a third says that a sewing machine would suffice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is no denying the corrosive physical and emotional trauma of an acid attack. Imagine the sting of a burning matchstick. Multiply that a hundred times over. Add to that the disfigurement of the face and limbs, possible loss of vision and hearing. In India, 244 such attacks were reported in 2017—the latest year for which data has been released by the National Crime Records Bureau.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Acid attacks are born from animosity that could stem from rejected suitors, caste disputes and property tangles—broadly any reason that could cause ill-will between individuals. It takes many calls and multiple contacts to persuade Kavita Verma, 27, living in Lucknow’s Rajajipuram locality, to share her story. Now married and expecting her first child, Verma was attacked at the age of 22 by a much older, married man who wanted her attention. “I told people my experience and it was published in a book. The others whose stories were featured got money. I got nothing,” Verma tells THE WEEK.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The months following the attack were hard. Her father questioned her character, and neighbours told her that she was so ugly that death would have been a better option. So, she attempted suicide. Her attacker was jailed for 10 months, but was granted bail when Verma told the court that she could not identify him—a statement she says she made under pressure from her father. She has since moved appeals in higher courts to record a fresh statement. In 2015, Verma got a compensation of Rs5 lakh from the Uttar Pradesh Rani Laxmi Bai Mahila Evam Bal Samman Kosh. In 2016, she found work with Sheroes, a café that employs 26 acid attack survivors in its two branches at Lucknow and Agra.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Between 2013 and 2015, the Supreme Court, in the Laxmi (on whose journey the upcoming movie Chhapaak is based) versus Union of India and others case, pronounced numerous judgements that changed the way acid attacks were viewed by the law. The lawyer who filed and pursued that public interest litigation (PIL) for nine years was Aparna Bhat. Several individuals and organisations have since then claimed credit for at least one feature of that judgement—the ban of over-the-counter acid sale. Bhat, however, despairs the lack of implementation of the law. “I was hoping that the Stop Acid Attack (SAA) campaign, which had tried to claim credit for the success of the PIL, would do advocacy and ensure implementation. That is yet to happen,” she says. Alok Dixit, cofounder of SAA, says that the movement is still figuring out a way to bring about that change.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Verma’s counsel Nishant Shukla says that apart from the tardy implementation, the law has been unable to deter false prosecution. “Our system is heavily dependent on the capability of the investigating officer,” he says. “As laws get stricter, those who can manipulate it find more ways to do so at that level, while those in genuine distress continue to suffer.” He adds that the survivors’ search for justice often gets derailed by the negative celebrity limelight they receive, a contention borne out of the many cases he has fought for acid attack survivors who have preferred to go to functions and felicitations instead of being in court for hearings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite the popularity of the cause, there is also disbelief for those who do not fit in the mould of a survivor. One such woman is Vimla Passi, 39, whose ordeal started with a rape in 2008. This was followed by four acid attacks (the last in July 2017) and a gang-rape in October 2012. In March 2017, when Passi was attacked with acid the third time, she was working at Sheroes. A month later, a local newspaper ran a story questioning her claims. In March 2019, Passi filed a Right to Information query addressed to the DGP office asking how her description of the crime had been held invalid when she had photographs and medical records to prove otherwise. “I might be an uneducated woman, but I know that a mobile phone’s location can be traced. Has it been proved that it was not at the crime scene?” she asks. “I was unfairly dismissed from my job on the pretext that I was irregular. They said I wanted to claim false compensation from the government.” Passi was allocated a Rajiv Gandhi Awas in Rae Bareli. She shows papers of an earlier allotment of a similar house in Lucknow, which she could not get as it already had an occupant.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ajay Patel, founder-director of the Red Brigade Trust, says that Passi’s caste has played some role in the mistrust she has generated. “She was a dalit woman in a state that had a dalit chief minister,” he says. “She was discredited for wanting to claim compensation under the SC/ST act. Unlike many survivors who have a straight, set narrative, hers is complex.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Every support story does not have a fairy tale ending. In 2017, Shreya Pareek, a Bengaluru-based journalist, had undertaken a crowdfunding campaign for an acid attack survivor, who wanted to open a beauty parlour bigger than the one she was running from home. She says 43 donors had contributed Rs52,007, which she transferred to the survivor. But Pareek never heard back from her. “I felt cheated by the experience,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anurag Verma, an additional advocate for the Uttar Pradesh government, says that successive amendments to law, particularly after the 2013 Delhi gang-rape case, have made the law very stringent. He cites the example of a juvenile, accused of assaulting, attacking with acid and subsequently causing the death of a man who was in a relationship with his sister. “We opposed the bail,” he says. “Under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, bail to a juvenile can be refused, if it defeats the end of justice. Unlike earlier, now the law does not condone misplaced sympathy for juveniles.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In November 2018, two men attacked Shivani Tyagi, 31, on her way back home from work in Meerut’s Partapur area, and a third one flung acid on her face. The third man, says the mother of three, was Ajab Singh, 55, in whose school Tyagi had taught till three months before the attack. “He did not want me to leave the school.... He would come home and drink with my husband in the evenings. I was very uncomfortable around him,” says Tyagi, who was, at the time of the attack, working as a security guard in a mall. Her attackers were arrested, and the man who had supplied the acid was also in police custody but just for two months. And, Tyagi received a compensation of Rs1 lakh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meena Soni, 46, has not let her condition dictate her life. Her attacker was her husband, who subsequently drank acid and died in the same hospital where she had been admitted. Soni was married at 16. Her husband intermittently worked and then stopped completely when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Soni then found a job with an organisation working on women’s issues. “My husband suspected that I was having an affair,” she says. And, one Sunday in June 2004, he threw acid over her, disfiguring the right side of her face. Today, she manages a restaurant in Lucknow and has registered a NGO. “If a woman asks me what happened to my face, I respond in brief. But if a man asks me the same, I tell him about the patriarchy that frowns upon any display of independence by women. I tell him to change the way he views women,” says Soni.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tyagi says that though she is confined to her room in a rented accommodation at Gautam Buddh Nagar now, she will step out boldly some day. “When I go to the terrace, neighbours say I must stay in as their children get scared,” she says. “But one day I will get the courage to not hide my face. My spirit is not dead.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She will be viewed as a victor, not a victim.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/17/strict-but-slow.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/17/strict-but-slow.html Sat Jan 18 17:07:13 IST 2020 survival-distinct <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/03/survival-distinct.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/1/3/28-Shirley-Davis.jpg" /> <p>The quaint, old, colonial style house, surrounded by trees and a small garden, offers a welcome calm from the city’s chaos. And, its residents exude warmth, despite us committing the cardinal sin of dropping in unannounced on a lazy Sunday noon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is home to elderly sisters Shirley Davis and Mabel Scolt, and is among the very few traditional Anglo-Indian homes that have stood the test of time in Whitefield, once a designated settlement for the Anglo-Indian community in Bengaluru. In 1882, King Chamraja Wodeyar IX, the Maharaja of Mysore, had granted 3,900 acres to the Eurasian and Anglo-Indian Association for the establishment of an agricultural settlement. Named after David Emmanuel Starkenburgh White, the association’s president, Whitefield was a quaint little town until the early 1990s when it was absorbed almost completely into Greater Bangalore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, there are hardly any traditional Anglo-Indian houses in Whitefield; the skyline is dotted with tall buildings housing IT firms. Families have either migrated or simply ceased to exist with the last of their members dying.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Outside the sisters’ home, Davis’s grandson, Sean Lawrence, 40, is busy painting the roof tiles that had come off over the years. Working on the tiles is part of his plan to conserve the ancient family home.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Inside, Davis, 86, has just finished making rose cookies, a traditional Anglo-Indian sweet, and is prepping for lunch with Scolt, 76. Davis’s daughter, Judy Lawrence, is busy with chores in her part of the residence within the compound. The interesting cohabitation of the Davises, Lawrences and Scolts is a perfect example of an Anglo-Indian family in modern India, trying to balance the past with the present and being watchful of the future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Davis and Scolt, who still teach English to neighbourhood children, list several Anglo-Indian families who lived in Whitefield. “Very few are left now,” says Davis. “Most moved away and the elders passed away. We decided to stay on. This is the home we know.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Home is a concept the community has struggled with since India’s independence. Many Anglo-Indians—people with mixed Indian and European ancestry—left for their fatherland in the 1940s and 1950s. Later, the Indian Constitution made special provisions to safeguard their interests, one of which was political representation for Anglo-Indians in the Lok Sabha and legislative assemblies. In December 2019, the Union government scrapped the quota, triggering a sense of uncertainty within the community.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anglo-Indians, however, have been worried for long about their future owing to dwindling numbers. Take, for instance, the sleepy town of McCluskieganj in Jharkhand. It was established in 1933 by the Colonisation Society of India as a settlement for Anglo-Indians on 10,000 acres of forest land, given by Raja of Ratu, and was named after businessman Ernest Timothy McCluskie. A huge British-styled bungalow on a sprawling campus stands forlorn in the middle of what was once a major Anglo-Indian settlement. The only residents today on the campus are the caretakers and Brian Mendies, 80, who stays in an outhouse.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mendies agrees to speak to us only because we are accompanied by Sandeep Razdan, a popular local. Mendies arrived in McCluskieganj in 1940 as a one-year-old with his parents, grandfather and extended family. Instead of living with his two daughters in Dehradun, he prefers the seclusion of McCluskieganj and wants to die and “have his bones buried here” because his wife, a son and a daughter were laid to rest here.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The bungalow, known as Christineson bungalow, was originally owned by his father, Harry, says Mendies. It was later sold to one Lucas, who gifted it to his sister, Mrs Christineson. Mendies’s daughter Yvonne married Christineson’s son Bryan. While Mendies sold his own property in McCluskieganj and moved into the outhouse. “I have lovely memories associated with this house and this town,” he says. “We had a great time eating the traditional delicacies our mother cooked, attending get-togethers and playing badminton at the local club, running around in the fields and having picnics and hunting expeditions at Dulee (a nearby village). I have seen tigers and panthers here and lots of other animals. It was a veritable forest. Ganj is still green, but it has certainly changed a lot.” The biggest change though has been in the number of Anglo-Indians staying here. “From over 200 families at one time, we now have no more than 25-30 people, not families, staying here,” he rues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A little distance away, in a small home, surrounded by orchards, lives the ‘face of McCluskieganj’—Catheline ‘Kitty’ Texeira. ‘Aunt Kitty’ has been the most featured person in stories on the settlement. But the fame has done little for the 69-year-old, who was born here. Since the age of 11, Kitty has been struggling to make ends meet. She would walk about 3km twice a day to sell fruits at the railway station. She still sells fruits, though from home, and also rears goats. “Ganj is going down,” she says with a faraway look in her eyes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The downward spiral is visible in almost all Anglo-Indian settlements. The only exception, perhaps, is Bow Barracks, located in the heart of Kolkata. Seventy per cent of the 132 families that reside in its red-brick apartment blocks are Anglo-Indians, says Angela Govindraj, secretary of the Bow Barracks Residents’ Welfare Association. Built by the British as military housing almost a century ago, Bow Barracks is one of the few surviving clusters of Anglo-Indians in the country. In the recent past, it faced the threat of demolition. But Govindraj says that the Kolkata Municipal Corporation has decided to declare it a heritage site; conservation work is expected to start soon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But rather than Bow Barracks, it is the situation in the once-thriving settlements of McCluskieganj and Whitefield that better describes the condition of Anglo-Indians in India. The community does not live in clusters anymore, and is scattered across the country and abroad. But wherever they are, they continue to live a spirited life, imbibing the Indian way of life even while staying true to their culture. Initially, their proficiency in English got them jobs in the railways, and in schools as teachers. But now they have diversified.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is no denying the fact though that their numbers have declined. The main reasons are intercommunity marriages, owing to which children of Anglo-Indian women who married outside the community are not considered Anglo-Indians, and emigration of young Anglo-Indians since independence. Community leaders hesitate to give an exact figure, putting it “somewhere around 4 lakh” to “a few lakhs” at best.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Several Anglo-Indians take umbrage at the perception that the community is dying or their numbers dwindling. “We should be very careful about the choice of words,” says Kolkata-based octogenarian Melvyn Brown, a chronicler of the community. “The community is rather scattered and not living in clusters and that is the only point.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Creative director of June Tomkyns chain of hair salons, Priscilla Corner, says that the community is, in fact, growing because of globalisation and intercommunity marriage, though in a different format as many are not born in India. “But by the way of blood lineage, we are certainly a growing community,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 2011 Census, however, puts the number of Anglo-Indians in the country at 296, a figure that has shocked community members. Now, with the Union government deciding against extending the constitutional provision for nomination of Anglo-Indians to Lok Sabha (two seats) and the state assemblies (one seat), their political reservation comes to an end on January 26, 2020. This, despite protests against the move from the community. The reasoning behind the decision apparently was that since the community was doing better now, it did not need political reservation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Former nominated member of the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly Loren Lobo, who terms the move as “very sad and unfortunate”, says there is no constitutional basis for the reservation to be discontinued. Former member of parliament Dr Charles Dias calls the government’s decision an “injustice and cruelty to the community”. He cites the various problems the community faces, as highlighted in a 2013 report by the ministry of minorities—from unemployment to housing issues and lack of higher education. “So the logic of the community being well-off now does not work,” says the Kochi resident.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite the problems plaguing the community, it has found ways to thrive. For instance, in McCluskieganj, former member of Jharkhand assembly Alfred George de Rozario opened a school—Don Bosco Academy—in 1997, which led to economic opportunities for the members of the community and others—some opened hostels, others preschools and bridge schools. It also brought back some people like Malcolm James Hourigan, who had left town owing to lack of opportunities. He returned to McCluskieganj in 2007 after doing a series of non-teaching jobs with private schools in different states, and now runs a hostel and bridge school mainly for tribal children.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though there is a general perception, even among community members, that Anglo-Indians tend to have a ‘eat, drink and be merry’ attitude, without giving a thought for the future, most community leaders say that there is a change in the mindset. “There are many more graduates now and they are landing good jobs and coming up in life. But many are also leaving the country, fascinated by the opportunities abroad,” says Brown.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Agrees Bengaluru resident Shirley O’Leary, who says that earlier youngsters did not pursue higher education as their families expected them to start earning once they were old enough. But, Vivienne D’souza did not let the epicurean perception of her community deter her from doing her MBA from XLRI, Jamshedpur, in 1973. She had a successful career in banking and now runs a corporate training company in Bengaluru. “Being an Anglo-Indian does not automatically mean you are easy-going,” she says. “It is just that some people choose to see it that way and want to justify not succeeding.” Also, Quinton Doll, 30, a school teacher from Pune, says that Anglo-Indians were streotypically seen as only railway employees or teachers. “But social media has brought in opportunities for inclusiveness and assimilation,” she says. “Also, knowledge of English brings respect and society does look up to you.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anglo-Indians, however, do know how to make merry and also hold on to their culture and traditions, be it through their food, music, dance or attire. Traces of their culture have been caught for eternity in family photographs, and handed down through heirlooms, furnitures, cutlery and religious icons.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Anglo-Indians are very open-minded and hospitable people with very strong emphasis on religious and family values,” says Ursula Fosberry, president of the Anglo-Indian Guild, Bengaluru. “Everyone likes to be together for religious or social occasions.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lin Ann Dlima, a Jabalpur-based lawyer, says that Sundays or holidays are very much reserved for family get-togethers as are occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. “Along with traditional food, it is also time for music and dance and having fun,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fosberry says that though Indian dishes have made their way to Anglo-Indian dining tables, there is still enough hint of traditional food in their meals. Breakfast is porridge or bread, butter and omelette with fruits and juices, though there are days of dosas and idlis, too. Lunch is usually Indian—rotis, rice, dal, veggies, fish or any other non-vegetarian dish. Dinner, however, takes on a more European touch with bread, chicken roast and mashed potatoes. Then there are special dishes like meatball curry, stew, cutlets and roasts and typical sweets like ‘Matrimony’ (a coconut-cashew barfi), says Davis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To further retain their culture, the community is leaning towards more intracommunity marriages. A marriage bureau run by the Anglo-Indian Guild has helped conduct 10 such marriages in the last four years, says Fosberry. Gilbert Faria, president of the Anglo-Indian Welfare Association, Delhi, who insisted on getting his daughter married to an Anglo-Indian, says, “Though the matches are difficult to find, mainly due to higher education among girls, efforts are still made in the direction.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Retired rear admiral Alan O’Leary, 67, who still travels around his Cooke Town residence in Bengaluru on a scooter with wife Shirley, 66, sums it up best: “Though a lot of our kin and people we know have left the country and done quite well for themselves, some wished they had never left their native shores as they longed for the days gone by, though it is no longer a reality. As for us, we are very comfortable in India. We are Indians at heart and we like our independence, our kind of music, our kind of cuisine and, overall, our kind of life.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/03/survival-distinct.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/03/survival-distinct.html Sat Jan 04 16:28:43 IST 2020 move-to-end-political-representation-darkest-day-in-our-history <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/03/move-to-end-political-representation-darkest-day-in-our-history.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/1/3/33-Barry-OBrien-new.jpg" /> <p><b>Q/ Where is the Anglo-Indian community in India poised at this point in time?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ According to me, the community is approaching its ‘Everest moment’ in the sense that a large majority of Anglo-Indians are now focused on jobs and higher education, which was not the case a couple of decades ago. The community is very secure and comfortable in modern India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Please elaborate.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ There was uncertainty in the 1940s and 1950s as to whether they will be able to go on with their way of living post independence. That is why several of them went back to the fatherland. But many were not comfortable in other countries and returned. However, leaders like Sir Henry Gidney and Frank Anthony worked to bring the community together, and Anthony even underlined that India was the country of the community and they should not leave. The 1960s and 1970s saw community members leaving to reunite with family abroad. The community did not look for a tomorrow in India and did not realise the importance for their children to get higher education. Things, however, changed post liberalisation. The importance of English and adaptation of ‘Anglo-Indian pattern’ of school education changed the relation of the community with the society at large, making it friendlier. In the 1990s, the community realised the importance of higher education and made tremendous progress in the last two decades.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ But there have been worries about dwindling numbers of the community.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Ours is undoubtedly a small community and it has existed for 400-500 years now. We have our culture, our way of life that spark within people a sense of joie de vivre. We should continue to revel in the fact, and not dilute our culture or lose our identity. We should be ourselves, and not be concerned about what happens in 20 or 50 years from now in terms of numbers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Is there a push for intracommunity marriages from the association?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Not at all. Marriages are an extremely personal matter.... We brought about a very important change last year. The spouses and children of women who marry outside the community, if they choose so, are welcomed as members of this great family and can participate in all the social and charitable activities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ There seems to be no official figure available on the community.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ There has been no official counting done. So, I should not be putting any figure out. The closest I can say is a few lakhs. Our association has 12,000 families as members, but we find it difficult to open branches in smaller places with just two-three families.... When I was nominated MLA in the West Bengal assembly, I tried to get a count done. But it is not possible without adequate process and machinery. If a counting is done through Census, I am certain 99 per cent of the community members would register themselves as Anglo-Indians.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Do you support the continuation of political representation for the community, slated to expire in January 2020 (Parliament scrapped the quota in December 2019)?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Yes, I support the demand for continuation of nomination of community representatives to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, but the important thing is about adopting a transparent and tight selection process for this nomination. Largely, these reserved seats have been politicised. Affiliation to a party cannot be a basis for selecting the representatives. The person nominated must have a connect with the community and a vision for its welfare and progress. Also, the nomination by the AIAIA cannot be ignored as it is the largest body representing the community. Over the last two decades, the AIAIA has been ignored in this regard. There is a move to end the representation and if it happens, that will be darkest day in the history of my small yet gallant community.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/03/move-to-end-political-representation-darkest-day-in-our-history.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/03/move-to-end-political-representation-darkest-day-in-our-history.html Fri Jan 03 13:14:29 IST 2020 our-very-existence-is-being-challenged-now <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/03/our-very-existence-is-being-challenged-now.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/1/3/34-Charles-Dias.jpg" /> <p>The Anglo-Indian community emerged when Europeans married Indian women and their descendants, right from the 16th century. They were recognised by the British by the Act of 1935 and defined in Article 366 (2) of the Indian Constitution. The community was more identified with the European way of living, but slowly adapted to Indian conditions. Though barely about four lakh in number, the community produced two Air Chiefs, two Naval Chiefs and many war heroes like Air Marshal Denzil Keelor and Wing Commander Trevor Keelor. They also made their mark in the field of education, sports, nursing and other key disciplines.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>English language and their unique culture unite all Anglo-Indians. The Anglo-Indian culture is centered on the western style of dressing (though it is undergoing changes now) and community living, with family functions like birthdays and wedding anniversaries being celebrated with fanfare. The Anglo-Indian culture is best reflected during weddings. The cake-cutting ceremony, toast, the first-table where unique Anglo-Indian dishes are served and the presence of the godmother and godfather of both bride and groom are worth mentioning. Dances like the foxtrot, waltz, tango and cross-steps (usually for youngsters) are performed. Advent is observed by Anglo-Indians in a pious way. Sweets like kulkuls and bebinca are compulsory items for Christmas. Homemade wines are prepared by each family, and their recipes are a ‘family secret’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sir Henry Gidney, the pioneering leader of the community, took up the issue of Anglo-Indians before the British, and later Frank Anthony convinced national leaders about the need for constitutional protection for the community. Special provisions were provided for Anglo-Indians for job reservations in central services (Article 336, valid up to 1960), nomination of two members to Lok Sabha (Article 331), nomination of members to legislative assemblies (Article 333), special provision with respect to educational grants (Article 337, valid up to 1960). Still, the big question is how far the community could progress in independent India, despite the constitutional safeguards.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The community is going through a tough period as their very existence is being challenged now. The colony style living of Anglo-Indians has been disrupted. The community failed to build its own cultural centres, and therefore the Anglo-Indian way of life is slowly diminishing. Economic constraints and educational disabilities have put them in distress.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While I was member of Parliament, a fact-finding team was appointed by the ministry of minority affairs in 2013 to identify the pertinent issues of the Anglo-Indian community. The team observed and recommended as follows:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>*The Anglo-Indian community in India is a community with unique history and culture. The contribution of Anglo-Indians in the past has been significant in the areas of education, post and telegraph, railways, customs as well as in sports. Almost all Anglo-Indians live in state headquarters and cities. Their population is low and largely scattered in different parts of the cities they live in.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>*It is observed that amongst the various challenges and problems being faced by members of the Anglo-Indian community in India, the more significant ones are related to: (i) identity crisis (ii) lack of employment, (iii) educational backwardness, (iv) lack of proper housing facilities and (v) cultural erosion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Considering the grave problems facing the community now, the government has to take urgent measures to extend the period of Article 334 (relating to political representation of the community) to save it from further deterioration.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Former member of Parliament, Dias is president of the Federation of Anglo-Indian Associations in India (Bengaluru).</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/03/our-very-existence-is-being-challenged-now.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/03/our-very-existence-is-being-challenged-now.html Fri Jan 03 13:10:54 IST 2020 nehru-in-100-volumes <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/03/nehru-in-100-volumes.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2020/1/3/52-Jawaharlal-Nehru-and-Indira-Gandhi.jpg" /> <p><b>JAWAHARLAL NEHRU</b> was expansive in everything that he wrote and spoke. After having served as a leader of the freedom movement for 30 years, he was prime minister for 17. It took 48 years to collate the archival material generated over the 47 years of his public life. The Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, popularly known as the Nehru Project, is now complete, with the recent release of the 100th and final volume of the collection.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Madhavan K. Palat, who took over as the editor of the collection in 2011 and at volume number 44, describes it as the largest single archival publication of a historical kind which offers a panoramic view of 20th century Indian history from the perspective of one of its key figures.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We do have publications of correspondence of Sardar [Vallabhbhai] Patel, Rajendra Prasad, Rajaji [C. Rajagopalachari] and so on. But none of them can be compared with the prime minister himself. And, especially a prime minister who was in a leadership position of a kind that was just next to [Mahatma] Gandhi’s,” said Palat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund started the project in 1972. Prime minister Indira Gandhi, who chaired the fund, saw in it a lasting memorial to her father. The first editor was historian Sarvepalli Gopal, who laid the foundation by assembling all the documentation. This included the archives at Nehru’s house as well as documents from various government departments. Editors who followed in his shoes include historians like Mushirul Hasan and Mridula Mukherjee.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The volumes contain Nehru’s speeches, interviews, letters and minutes of his meetings with world leaders among other documentation, which could help the reader understand how various decisions and policies were arrived at.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Palat, however, said that there are blank spaces in the project because of the ministries of external affairs, defence and home not sharing documents with the research team. Specifically, he spoke about the inability to publish papers related to Kashmir, China and Pakistan, and a majority of the defence matters.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Palat said that Nehru’s correspondence with president John F. Kennedy after the Chinese invasion in 1962 was procured from US sources. “I would obviously like to have our own government’s official, authenticated version, not the American copy of Nehru’s letter, although that is totally authentic,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even the record of Nehru’s discussions with Kennedy when he was in America in 1962 could not be procured from the government. Palat, however, discovered it by accident. Three weeks after the Kennedy-Nehru meeting, the foreign secretary sent the minutes of the discussion to Indian ambassadors. By chance, a copy arrived in a collection, and Palat used that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Getting specific documents on whether Nehru asked the Israelis for help in 1962, and if he did get any help from them, would have helped since it is all shrouded in mystery. “There are various statements by various people,” said Palat. “Actual documents would have helped. It is not surprising anymore since we have a close relationship with Israel now. Earlier, in the context of non-alignment, taking help from Israel would have been debatable.” Palat thinks the government officials are afraid of getting penalised if a document generates controversy. “Their way of exercising caution is to put a blanket ban on sharing all documents,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The initial part of the series covers the planning for a post-independent state that began even before independence. Nehru chaired a number of sub-committees; Subhas Chandra Bose was the president of the Congress then. Then, there was the question of partition and communal riots.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The volumes also reveal Nehru’s nervousness about the reorganisation of the Indian states. “He had just come out of partition,” said Palat. “To his mind, states’ reorganisation looked like more partitions coming. However, it worked very well. On Punjab, he took a stand, saying what the [Shiromani] Akali Dal wants is a communal state, and not a linguistic one. After his death, it was conceded as a linguistic state.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While Nehru was known to be an impatient man, in his letters he would not tire of explaining matters, and came across as a flexible and accommodating leader. “Master Tara Singh, for example, in his letters to Nehru, would go on and on about Punjabi Suba and his demands for it,” said Palat. “Nehru would keep on explaining to him the contrary view. You can tell that Nehru means to write, ‘See I am weary of telling you the same thing again and again, but let me say it again’.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Also, the exchanges were always courteous and civilised, no matter the differences. According to Palat, the only two persons who seem to have offended Nehru in their letters are the socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia and an Army general, Nathu Singh Rathore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nehru, said Palat, responded to every letter. He would normally reply the next day, and would apologise even if it were late by a few days. “Everything that came out of Nehru’s hands was actually drafted by him,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the question of the project’s relevance in today’s times, when there is a perceived assault on Nehru’s legacy, Palat said he was under attack from the extreme right and the extreme left even during his own time. “He has to be relevant for the important role that he has played in our history,” said Palat.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/03/nehru-in-100-volumes.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2020/01/03/nehru-in-100-volumes.html Fri Jan 03 12:39:09 IST 2020 fear-in-the-air <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/28/fear-in-the-air.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2019/12/28/16-Taliban-fighters-near.jpg" /> <p><i><b>DECEMBER 24, 1999; 4:12PM IST</b></i></p> <p>Indian Airlines Flight 814, flying from Kathmandu to Delhi, was passing over Lucknow. Flight purser Anil Sharma finished serving tea to Captain Devi Sharan and copilot Rajinder Kumar and came out of the cockpit. Instantly, he ran into a stocky man in a grey suit and a red monkey cap. The man pointed a copper-coloured pistol at Sharma’s chest; his other hand held a grenade.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Don’t move,” said the man. “I have pulled the grenade’s pin. If you do anything, we will blow up the plane.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Before Sharma could warn the pilots, the man entered the cockpit and told them to fly to Lahore. Sharan said he did not have enough fuel to do so. The man, referred to by the other four hijackers as ‘Chief’, replied: “Then we will blow the plane up.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>VARANASI ATC, 4:57PM</b></i></p> <p>It was an ordinary day at the air traffic control in Varanasi. On duty were controller Sampat Kumar and watch supervisor Y.K. Rohilla. At 4:57pm, IC 814 informed them of the hijack.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ATC alerted Delhi. Inspector Yadav, who happened to be in the room, dialled a senior official in South Block and broke the news.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>THE PLOT</b></i></p> <p>The hijack had a single aim—free the most prominent terrorist in the subcontinent, Maulana Masood Azhar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Masood had been in jail in India for more than four years. Attempts to break him out of prison had failed several times; once, he got stuck in a tunnel because of his girth. “You will not be able to keep me in custody for long,” he had told an investigator.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Masood turned out to be right. It was to free him that terrorists hijacked the plane carrying 155 passengers on the eve of the last Christmas of the last millennium.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What turned out to be the subcontinent’s longest hijack drama was coordinated by Masood’s brother Rauf. The plan got its final touches on December 13, 1999, when the five hijackers—S.A. Qazi (aka ‘Burger’), A.A. Shaikh (Chief), Z.I. Mistry (Bhola), S.A. Sayeed (Doctor) and R.G. Verma (Shankar)—met at the Kathmandu Zoo. Also present at the meeting was Abdul Latif Momin of Mumbai who helped the hijackers obtain forged documents, including passports. “Momin wanted to be part of the operation,” said M. Narayanan, who headed the investigation into the hijacking. “But he was asked: If they were caught, who would carry on the operation in India? So he stayed back.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Well-trained, well-armed and highly motivated, the five men knew exactly how to control the hostages. “They knew exactly how much pressure to apply and when to release it,” recalled R. Parthasarathy, one of the passengers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>K.V. Rajan, who was the Indian ambassador in Kathmandu, was at a podium when he got a slip of paper telling him of the news. He left for the embassy, where he had more bad news—an officer of the Research and Analysis Wing, S.B.S. Tomar, was on the flight. Tomar was a sitting duck, unless he kept very quiet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the embassy, Rajan got a call from a devastated Jaswant Singh. “‘You know what has happened?’” he recalls the foreign minister asking him. Singh suspected that terrorists had got off a Pakistan International Airlines flight before boarding IC 814.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>INSIDE THE PLANE</b></i></p> <p>Businessman Romesh Grover, who had almost missed the flight, remembers the passengers being asked to put their food trays on the floor and blindfold themselves. Grover could not tie the sash around his head, so he shut his eyes instead. The next thing, there was a cold knife at the back of his head. “I was told that I was next,” he said. “I should have really missed [the flight].”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Twenty years on, Grover has overcome his fear of flying. He was in Bangkok when he spoke to THE WEEK, and said that he had never gone back to Kathmandu. “It was a rebirth,” he said of the ordeal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More than the fear, it was the feeling of helplessness that really shook him. “All we were given during the day was half a cup of water,” said Grover.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The hijackers wanted the flight to land at Lahore. But the ATC refused the demand. So, they threatened to kill the passengers one by one. Finally, at 6pm, the plane was allowed to fly to Amritsar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>AMRITSAR, 7PM</b></i></p> <p>Captain Sharan still feels the gun’s cold barrel against his head. Twenty years on, he still has nightmares about it. “It isn’t the same each time,” he said. “The versions differ, but there is always a gun to my head.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At Amritsar, the nervous hijackers feared a surprise operation; the crew hoped for it. Anxiety was palpable in the 45 minutes that the plane was in Amritsar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ATC had asked the pilot to park the aircraft at the end of runway 34, but Sharan had made it clear that he would follow the hijackers’ instructions. The ATC’s efforts to communicate with the hijackers failed. “The pilot kept asking for the bowser,” said Narayanan. “He said if it didn’t come in five minutes, they would start killing passengers.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The bowser failed to come on time. The deadline was extended, by five minutes. To stress their point, the hijackers took seven passengers to the executive class and tied them to the seats. Two passengers, Satnam Singh and Rupin Katyal, were stabbed in the chest. Katyal was a newly-wed, and his wife, Rachna, was unaware of the attack. He bled slowly to death, becoming the lone casualty of the ordeal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>IN THE COCKPIT</b></i></p> <p>Burger entered the cockpit and declared that they had killed three passengers. Another request was made to the ATC. Chief threatened to let the aircraft take off without refuelling, and the countdown from 16 began. “I had hoped that the bowser would block the way and prevent a takeoff,” said Sharan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No such luck; he was forced to take off using half the length of the short runway. Destination: Lahore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Katyal’s death still haunts Sharan. “My wife and I went to see his parents when we returned,” he said. His wife, Navneet, still remembers the scene in the house. On the table was the wedding album, which had just come in. “The parents were broken,” she said. “You could see that they were wondering why it was their son who had lost his life.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rachna remarried years later. “The day before the wedding, she came to see us,” said Sharan. “I think she hoped that I would have some answers for her, about her husband. I didn’t.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>LANDING AT LAHORE</b></i></p> <p>The scariest moment Sharan had during the entire episode was when the Lahore ATC refused his request for an emergency landing and switched off all emergency lights. With the aircraft dangerously low on fuel, crash-landing was the only option.</p> <p>Permission to land, however, came through just in time. The plane was refuelled; but Sharan’s request to drop off the injured passengers was denied. (He later recounted the ordeal in his book Flight Into Fear: The Captain’s Story, co-written by veteran journalist Srinjoy Chowdhury.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The authorities allowed the plane to take off at 10:32pm, before the helicopter carrying Indian ambassador G. Parthasarathy could reach the airport. “I asked them what games they were playing,” said Parthasarathy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>MANAGING THE CRISIS</b></i></p> <p>Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was on a plane when IC 814 was hijacked. National security adviser Brajesh Mishra briefed him after he landed. At 6pm, 23 members of the crisis management group gathered at Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan in Delhi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An officer remembers his shock at the meeting. On a blackboard were names and designations of those in the group and Salman Haider was listed as foreign secretary. Haider had retired two years earlier; the incumbent was Lalit Mansingh. “There was no handbook,” said the official, “nor a guide about how to deal with such a crisis.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The external affairs ministry worked through the night to build international pressure. When the flight landed at Dubai, the UAE extended full support to India. After prolonged negotiations, the hijackers released 26 passengers and Katyal’s body.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>ENDGAME BEGINS</b></i></p> <p>IC 814 landed at Kandahar, Afghanistan, on the morning of December 26. The first Indian to arrive at the airport was A.R. Ghanshyam of external affairs ministry. He was the youngest in the Indian negotiating team.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Posted in Islamabad, Ghanshyam had flown in on a United Nations plane and was received by Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, foreign minister in the Taliban government. The hijacking had by then become a global story. Kandahar’s tiny airport, which had barely two rooms and a functioning toilet, was packed with journalists eager to cover the talks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But Taliban forces were eager to storm the plane. Ghanshyam met Major Usman, the core commander at Kandahar. “Even if there were 200 sheep in there, we would have blown up the plane,” said the impatient major. Ghanshyam retorted: “Your Excellency, if they were sheep, even I would.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Other members of the negotiating team arrived by nightfall. There was N. Sandhu from the Intelligence Bureau, C.D. Sahay, Ajit Doval and Anand Arni from R&amp;AW and Vivek Katju from the external affairs ministry. They were accompanied by relief crew and medical staff.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ghanshyam made first contact, which led to negotiations over the phone for several days. “The army commander used to come each time there was an impasse,” said Narayanan. It was Usman who rejected the hijackers’ demand for ransom, saying it was un-Islamic. Chief was a tough negotiator; he demanded that 36 militants who were in Indian jails be freed. The negotiators tried to whittle down the number.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Inside the aircraft, toilets had stopped working. Grover recalled not eating or drinking for fear of needing to relieve himself. “We took the curtains off the aircraft windows and used them as mats,” he said. “They had tried to clean the bathrooms without the right equipment and the carpets were soaked.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Each morning, the hijackers would threaten to kill more passengers. “They were very rude to the passengers on December 28,” said Narayanan. “They didn’t allow food or water to come in. The situation was getting bad.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On December 30, the hijackers told the passengers that they were going to die. “Everyone was asked to bow down,” said Parthasarathy, the passenger. “We sat there for a long while.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But talks resumed after Afghanistan’s foreign minister intervened. “As time stretched on, I realised that there was some hope,” said Parthasarathy. “[The hijackers] had used the plane’s system [to address the passengers], which meant they wanted the negotiators to hear their threat.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It worked. The negotiators struck a deal with the hijackers and the following day, Jaswant Singh flew to Kandahar with three terrorists whose freedom the hijackers had demanded—Masood Azhar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Singh was later criticised for his decision to accompany the terrorists. “The threat was real; it could not be brushed off: what if the aeroplane is blown up?” he later wrote in his memoirs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Singh said it was the most “emotionally draining decision of his life” and that he could not accept the responsibility of letting the hostages die. “At first I stood against any compromise; then, slowly, as the days passed, I began to change.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The passengers were freed after the three militants landed in Kandahar. They were flown back to India on a special flight, even as Taliban ensured safe passage for the terrorists.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I remember that we had vowed to visit every pilgrim spot if we survived,” said Pooja Aneja Kataria, a passenger. “Twenty years later, we still have Pashupatinath left.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>Survival instincts</b></i></p> <p><b>JEAN MOORE</b> was the only American on board IC 814. She helped the hijackers spell ‘coffin’ when they sent their demands in writing. It was only on the fourth day, when the hijackers asked for passports, that they discovered she was American. She came back home with three pieces of bread, which she had hidden away to eat when desperate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>Massive evidence</b></i></p> <p><b>THE ILL-FATED</b> aircraft became possibly the largest piece of evidence in any investigation. The sleuths got fingerprints of the hijackers from it. It was later sold as scrap—the hull is believed to have fetched 022 lakh. A model, complete with seat numbers, was created to be produced in court and a court official was trained to assemble it, as it was unwieldy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>Language barrier</b></i></p> <p><b>THE INDIAN</b> negotiators in Kandahar suspected that they were being monitored. Three of them who knew Kannada—Anand Arni, A.R. Ghanshyam and C.D. Sahay—often spoke in the south Indian language. Pakistani newspapers reported that the Indian negotiators spoke in code language. Thus proving the suspicion that their rooms were bugged.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/28/fear-in-the-air.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/28/fear-in-the-air.html Sat Dec 28 17:32:14 IST 2019 instigator-in-chief <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/28/instigator-in-chief.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2019/12/28/21-Masood-Azhar.jpg" /> <p><b>THE CLOSEST INDIA</b> has got to tightening the noose around Masood Azhar is a diplomatic win in New York. On May 1, 2019, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) designated Masood Azhar a global terrorist. It took a decade and four attempts for India to get Azhar’s name on that list; China had repeatedly blocked it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a result of the UNSC listing, Pakistan must freeze Azhar’s assets, and impose a travel ban and arms embargo on him. In theory, it ensures a total shutdown of Azhar’s operations. However, in reality, these sanctions seem to be only on paper.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Azhar was arrested in March 2019, along with his son Hammad, his brother Rauf and 40 other militants, to demonstrate Pakistan’s resolve against terror. India had shared a dossier with Pakistan that named Hammad and Rauf. (Rauf is believed to have been the handler of the IC 814 hijack.) But Indian intelligence agencies say that Azhar was secretly released in September. In an interview, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that Azhar is in Pakistan, and is “really unwell”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indian agencies believe the alleged release of Azhar was a strategic step, in retaliation to India revoking Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir; Indian sleuths said he has been asked to increase terrorist activity in the valley. There have been concerns about an “underwater attack” by Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). India has been stressing on “irreversible action” against Azhar, the man behind many terrorist attacks, including the 2019 Pulwama attack. He was charge-sheeted by India’s National Investgation Agency for the 2016 Pathankot attack.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reflecting India’s concern, the 2+2 joint statement with America called on Pakistan to take “immediate” action against terror groups. Specifically, JeM, Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Haqqani network, Hizbul Mujahideen, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, and Dawood Ibrahim’s D-Company. This came on the heels of India and Japan asking Pakistan to take concrete action against terror.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Azhar is believed to be living in a crowded area in Bahawalpur in Pakistan’s Punjab province. He has shown a knack for surviving calls for his arrest amid international pressure. He was detained by Pakistani authorities in December 2001, following the attack on the Indian Parliament earlier in the month. In 2008, too, he was reportedly placed under house arrest in connection with the Mumbai attacks. But Azhar was never charged.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Azhar’s release 20 years ago has changed the India-Pakistan equation significantly. The demand for a clamp down on Azhar’s terror activities has been part of every India-Pakistan exchange during that time period, especially after the 2001 Parliament attack. And, even after the UNSC listing, Pakistan has not taken significant and irreversible steps.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/28/instigator-in-chief.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/28/instigator-in-chief.html Sat Dec 28 14:39:44 IST 2019 american-realignment <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/28/american-realignment.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2019/12/28/22-Bill-Clinton.jpg" /> <p><b>THE LAST FEW</b> weeks of the last two years of the 1900s were testing times for the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Its May 1998 nuclear tests were being condemned by the world as an act of nuclear irresponsibility by a small power that was yet to develop a robust national security apparatus. And so when the Navy chief, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, defied the orders of the civilian cabinet, though over totally unrelated issues, that was being seen across the world capitals as further proof of the lack of maturity of India’s democratic institutions. The stand-off finally led to the ignominious sack of the chief, a first in independent India, on December 30, 1998.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A year later, on the Christmas eve of 1999, the regime faced blackmail from terrorists who had hijacked an airplane and were asking for the freedom of three of their leaders in return for the lives of the passengers. If the Vajpayee government had showed spine in handling the year-end crisis of 1998, it capitulated before the blackmailers in the 1999 crisis. Not only did the government free the terrorists, it even sent a cabinet minister and its intelligence chief to escort them to safety.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Much had happened in the intervening year that had tested India’s security nerves. The military crisis of 1998-end was followed by a series of attempts by the Vajpayee regime to repair the frayed relations with Pakistan. The attempts culminated in Vajpayee’s much-hailed Lahore peace bus trip, but within weeks Pakistan mounted a military aggression on the Kargil hills.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Adversity, at times, can bring out the best in one. The stab in the back brought out the best in Indian diplomacy. Diplomats who had been fighting what had appeared to be a losing war against the sanctions imposed by the west suddenly found themselves invested with a new brief—gain world support against military aggression from an insidious neighbour. India, which was being condemned as perpetrator of a ‘militarised nuclear evil’, suddenly became the victim of a nasty act of military chicanery perpetrated by its neighbour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps the finest hour for Indian diplomacy during the Kargil crisis was when India refused to send its prime minister to Washington for a US-mediated parley with Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Get them out of Kargil, and we will talk, was the line that Vajpayee gave president Bill Clinton. The latter had no option but to ask Sharif to climb down from Kargil unilaterally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If India spent the summer of 1999 on fighting the intruders in Kargil and winning the world’s hearts and minds, the autumn was spent on another debilitating election campaign. Despite the stellar military victory in Kargil, the Vajpayee government could improve only marginally over its 1998 tally. Thus it was a war-weary and election-exhausted India that faced the winter of 1999. It was then that the hijack further tested the nation’s security resolve. The adversity did not bring out the best in India’s leadership.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the hijack also helped India to expose the insidiousness of the Taliban regime in Kabul which had been supported by Pakistan, and was doing underhand business with the US (the Taliban’s telecommunication network had been built by US companies.) Throughout the Kargil War, the Indian foreign office had been pointing to the axis of evil that had developed between Islamabad and Kabul, but the US had been turning a deaf ear.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The hijack helped change the western perception. The fact that the aircraft was taken into Afghan territory, that the Taliban regime there had played dishonest brokers in the talks with the hijackers, and that the freed terrorists had a safe passage through Taliban territory gave much heft to India’s case that Pakistan’s ISI were the friends, guides and philosophers of the Taliban regime.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the weeks that followed, foreign minister Jaswant Singh made much of these in his frequent meetings with his US interlocutor, deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott. The fact that the US had condemned neither the hijack nor Pakistan’s role in it strongly, that it had not moved its little finger in putting pressure on Pakistan and the Taliban, and that the Taliban regime had openly declared that it was being counselled by the US during the hijack drama, all put Washington on the defensive. So much so that Singh’s more hawkish colleagues in the government, defence minister George Fernandes and national security adviser Brajesh Mishra even accused the US of having adopted a “lackadaisical attitude” towards India’s security concerns.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As if to make amends, Talbott, when he met Singh in London in mid-January 2000, agreed to establish a joint working group on counterterrorism. Its first meeting was in Washington in early February. The Clinton visit of March turned out to be a major turning point. Though Clinton took credit for having persuaded Pakistan to climb down from Kargil, he took care not to mention the hijack in any of his public speeches in India. The visit put the relations on an even keel, which enabled the successive regimes in both countries to take them farther into a robust security partnership.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/28/american-realignment.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/28/american-realignment.html Sat Dec 28 16:09:05 IST 2019 arakkonam-aces <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/28/arakkonam-aces.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2019/12/28/58-Arakkonam.jpg" /> <p><b>LIEUTENANT COMMANDER</b> Ambica Hooda and eight fellow officers swung into action as soon as they received a three-word code on their phones—“fire, fire, fire”. Responding to the call, they assembled in the mission briefing room of INS Rajali naval air station in Arakkonam—and it was just about 6am. The station houses the Indian Naval Air Squadron 312A and India’s most potent asset for aerial reconnaissance—the Poseidon-8I, a variant of the Boeing 737. Arakkonam, some 80km from Chennai, is one of the hottest towns in India, with temperatures going past 43 degrees Celsius regularly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When THE WEEK visited, however, the temperature had dropped after a good monsoon. Inside the briefing room, Captain Ravi Kumar, the commanding officer of the squadron, called Sky Lions, updated them about the movement of a Chinese landing platform, Dock Xian-32, which was passing through the southern Indian Ocean region, before it entered Sri Lankan waters. Hooda, who has more than 3,400 hours of flying experience, left in a Poseidon-8I, along with Lieutenant Commander Aruna Bhardwaj and Lieutenant Deepa Singh. They were joined by two pilots, two in-flight technicians and two other male officers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After nearly six hours, Hooda’s team spotted the Dock Xian-32, photographed it and sent the images to naval bases and coastal radar stations for follow-up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“‘Welcome to the Indian Ocean’. This is the message we usually send whenever we spot a Chinese warship or submarine. In this mission, our task was only to track the Chinese warship,” Hooda told The WEEK. In addition to surveillance gear, the Poseidon-8I is equipped with armaments for anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hooda is part of the Navy’s ‘women warrior’ team: In 2016, the Navy inducted 22 women aviators to crew the P-8I. The total strength of the team is 89. Aged between 21 and 35, these women Observers monitor sea-search radars and magnetic anomaly detectors to track down submarines and warships.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Captain Kumar, who has been an Observer, says he is proud that the Navy is the first armed force in the country to give female war-fighters equal status.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the past six years, the squadron has flown from over 30 airfields across the world and has undertaken missions to support all three services.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“If a man can sacrifice his life for the nation, why can’t a woman? I am more than willing to make the supreme sacrifice if required,” says Hooda, who hails from Rohtak, Haryana. “We are just officers. I do not find any particular challenge as a woman in handling all those weapons and sensors. In this squadron, we are just officers.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The eldest of three siblings, she always dreamt of flying. She joined the Navy after completing her graduation in English literature from Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak. “Joining the armed forces had always been my dream. Luckily, I was part of the Navy. I had already flown Dornier aircraft before joining this squadron. After operating [the P-81], I have realised this is one of the best, with sensors and state-of-the-art technology. We usually fly more than nine hours in a sortie and it is a different experience every time.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bhardwaj, who has been mission controller on several occasions, said that with a maximum speed of 907kmph and an operating range of over 1,200 nautical miles, the P-8Is could detect threats much before they enter Indian waters. “We maintain an unfettered eye over and under the sea and form the first line of India’s defence at sea,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Navy’s first P-8I squadron was set up at INS Rajali in November 2015. “We have eight aircraft and every day some part of the Indian Ocean has to be visited,” said Kumar. “We used to call ourselves the eyes and ears of the Navy. Now we are the eyes, ears and arms of the Navy.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The squadron proved this in the days following the Pulwama attack. “We played our role to provide cover or intelligence to the ground forces,” said Hooda. The squadron has had a variety of missions, including rescue operations during the 2018 Kerala floods and cyclone Ockhi. “During cyclone Ockhi in Kerala, our aircraft was the first to launch in the extreme weather,” said Lieutenant Commander Priya Chhetri, who is from Dehradun. “We managed to save many lives. It is more satisfactory than finding a Chinese submarine.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lieutenant Deepa Singh, who was also part of the mission, said they saved 47 stranded people. Their P-8I was able to direct naval ships, merchant ships and Air Force helicopters. Guided by the P-8I crew, IAF helicopters winched people from the water. Singh, the youngest of the lot, joined in May 2015; this is her first posting. “Initially, my family (in the Churu district of Rajasthan) was hesitant when I told them about me joining the Navy. But joining the offensive platform has now made them proud,” she said. “Most of the time, I do not tell them where I am going for a mission. But when they find that my phone is not reachable, they guess that I am in air.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Said Lieutenant Commander Tannu Lall, who hails from Odisha: “Times have changed. People do accept woman in combat roles. Being in this squadron gives you a unique identity. You get to know everything happening on the borders, whether it is land or sea. And you get to see the action first hand.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her husband is also in the Navy, but posted in Mumbai. “Both of us getting leave together is difficult,” she says. “Though we try to strike a balance between our professional and personal lives.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her senior colleague Lieutenant Commander Sapna Dhiman agrees. “Once you are married and have kids, it becomes challenging,” she says. “I cannot leave my one-and-a-half-year-old alone while flying for nine hours and not know what has happened until I land. But, ultimately we are officers by choice.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And though they might be away from their families, the crew is one big family at the base. “My house has become a preferred choice for get-togethers as there is hardly any hangout place in the town,” she says. “We do enjoy music and gossiping.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As far as missions go, Deepa says the operation to rescue Commander Abhilash Tomy was the toughest. “It was September 24, 2018,” she says. “We took off from Mauritius at first light. Finding such a small boat was a huge task. During those seven to eight hours of flying, we were continuously hoping for his well-being, as he was transmitting his position regularly to the bases. The sea was terrible. We were praying. It was tense, because we were losing him repeatedly. It was my sortie that transmitted the message to the Australian navy. Luckily, I saw his transfer from the boat to the merchant vessel. The operation took four days and when we saw him safe, it was a big relief.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Sky Lions also supported the Balakot airstrike this year. Defence sources said that the P-8I provided intelligence on the Jaish-e-Mohammad terror camp, which helped Air Force jets carry out a precise attack. And, after the attack, the P-8I squadron was on watch on the western border. The P-8Is also shared real-time pictures of Chinese troops during the 2017 Doklam stand-off.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“In the Army, women officers are not allowed in combat roles,” said Bhardwaj. “In the Air Force, the fighter stream has recently opened for women. In the Navy, we Observers are among the first persons to go to war for surveillance.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For this reason, Bhardwaj and her teammates want a change in their designation. “We have proposed that our designation be changed from Observer to Mission Commander,” she says. “In case of war, Observers will be very much part of it. And when the situation demands, you will be firing the weapons in the aircraft. Every six months, Observers are tested for their firing abilities. And if you fail, you do not get upgraded.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Adds Lieutenant Commander Sarthak Chauhan, a pilot in the squadron, “We never look at our female colleagues with a difference. They are equally capable and talented. When we are flying, we are only officers.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/28/arakkonam-aces.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/28/arakkonam-aces.html Sat Dec 28 12:08:14 IST 2019 haunted-and-divided <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/20/haunted-and-divided.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2019/12/20/68-Praveen-Kumar.jpg" /> <p>Unique signs welcome you to Dhebbakuntapally, a village near the temple town of Yadadri—50km from Hyderabad. Thousands of devotees visit the Lakshmi Narasimha Temple on a hillock in Yadadri everyday. A narrow road from the town leads to nearby villages and fields. From there the colour of the territory changes from saffron to red. At almost every junction, red flags and arches with revolutionary slogans inscribed on them could be seen. The region, at one point of time, was a breeding ground for the Naxalite movement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, Dhebbakuntapally, with a population of about 3,000, is living in fear of a “ghost”. Neither the temples nearby nor the left ideology in their blood could provide them solace. Many villagers claim to have encountered the “ghost”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It all started when a 60-year-old widow, Susheela, who lived in the scheduled caste colony in the village, committed suicide. Her son Praveen Kumar and his wife, who were staying in Hyderabad, relocated to the village after the tragedy. Soon, Praveen came to know the many spooky stories associated with his mother, from his neighbours and extended relatives.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Narasimha, a mason who lives in the village, claims to have met Susheela’s ghost one night. “I was having dinner and she asked for food,” recalled Narasimha. “I refused initially, but she kept on insisting, and finally I gave her food. After that she asked me to accompany her to the backyard. When I started smoking, she got angry, shouted at me, and left the place.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Praveen's wife, Pranathi, told me the story of a boy who had an encounter with 'Susheela'. “The boy saw my mother-in-law on top of a water tank at night,” she said. “She beckoned him. Before he could reach her, something stopped him. He fell ill the following day.” There have been other sightings of Susheela, dancing near a graveyard, asking for water and the like.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Praveen is a dispirited man now. His relatives and other villagers have shunned him and his family. “They have ostracised us,” he said. “I had to keep my mother’s photos hidden as neighbours were scared to even see her photo through the window of our home.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The SC colony wears a deserted look in the evening. People do not venture out after dark. Knocks at the doors go unanswered. To ward off the ghost, villagers light bonfires, keep broomsticks outside their doors and apply vermilion on the front doors. Interestingly, the superstition has a communal angle also. While Praveen and his immediate family members are Christians, his extended relatives and other members of the SC colony are Hindus. His Hindu relatives and neighbours have been insisting on seeking the help of a sorcerer to perform some rituals at his house. “They want me to spend Rs15,000,” said Praveen. “I do not want to do it. My religion does not allow that and I do not have the money.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Praveen's uncle K. Srinivas is a strong proponent of the ghost theory. “People started falling sick for no reason,” he said. “I saw the ghost of Susheela in my dreams and she tried to strangulate me. For the next three days I was bedridden. The truth is that Susheela’s body was not disposed off properly, as the rituals were not performed. That is why her soul is wandering in the village.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a caste divide, too, on the issue. On the other side of the road separating SC colony are houses of people belonging to forward castes. “These are just useless talks. My field is near her grave and I have not seen anything,” said Jaganmohan Reddy, who belongs to the forward caste. “These people drink a lot and discuss about ghosts, and that is leading to them imagining bizarre things.” Others who live nearby share his opinion. And the dalits are not impressed. “I really hope that the ghost haunts you,” said Srinivas, one of them. “For all the problems you [forward caste] people create for us, you deserve to see the ghost and not us.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The police have tried to sort things out in vain. They visited the village and counselled the villagers. “I tried to give confidence to the villagers by telling them that some of her belongings was with us for a few days after her death, and even then we could not see anything abnormal,” said Sub Inspector P. Ranjith. “There is no issue at all, but some of the villagers are spreading panic.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even the Atheist Society of India has not been able to convince the villagers. Its state president B. Naresh spent time at spots which were said to be haunted. “I took them around and showed them some video clips to prove that there are no ghosts,” he said. The confidence he gave disappeared like the ghost, the moment he left.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/20/haunted-and-divided.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/20/haunted-and-divided.html Sat Dec 21 12:48:10 IST 2019 death-own-district <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/20/death-own-district.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2019/12/20/104-Bahapada.jpg" /> <p><b>Jnanesh</b> is seven years old, but he weighs just 10kg. As his contemporaries run around and play games, he is so frail that he cannot even sit up on his bed. His body is emaciated; his stomach is shrunken and ribs poke out through his skin. Jnanesh can barely open his eyes when his mother runs her fingers through his hair. He is so weak that he cannot even cry out in anguish.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jnanesh is one among thousands of children suffering from malnutrition in Maharashtra’s Palghar district. Between 2016 and 2018, more than 1,100 malnourished children in Palghar died. According to a recent study published in the journal PLOS One, three of every five tribal children in the district are stunted, and more than half of them are underweight. A Children’s Day medical camp organised at Jawhar on November 14 this year saw hundreds of malnourished children from tribal hamlets taking part.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Palghar is not a remote district, though. It is just 100km from Mumbai, and is one of the districts through which the proposed bullet train between Ahmedabad and Mumbai will run. The bullet train project will cost Rs2,00,000 crore; but Maharashtra, despite being India’s richest state, spends less than Rs15,000 crore every year on public health. The Shiv Sena-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government is now said to be wondering if the money earmarked for the bullet train project could be spent on improving the lives of people in Palghar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tribals and farmers make up a majority of the population in Palghar. They mainly produce ragi and wheat, but the hilly terrain and recurrent droughts have kept productivity and incomes low.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I visited a tribal village during harvest. Most of the men were in Mumbai in search of work, so the women and children toiled in the fields. I saw a seven-year-old braving the sun with her mother and grandmother; her tender hands helping them reap the harvest. Apparently, there is not enough money to hire a farmhand.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Malnutrition is just a symptom of this larger disease—poverty. Lack of job opportunities, low wages and shortage of drinking water have created a situation that contributes to the death of children. Studies have indicated that malnutrition in Palghar is more prevalent among boys than girls. Even though shortage of food and dietary imbalances have been found to be the culprits, the authorities continue to be in denial. Official statistics attribute the deaths to lung- and heart-related diseases.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The crisis in Palghar had first attracted attention in 2006, when 718 malnourished children died. The dance of death so shocked the government and health care volunteers that they rushed in to find solutions. A slew of measures were then announced to address the problem, but there has not been any study on whether the measures are actually working.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apparently, they are not; hundreds of malnourished children in Palghar continue to die every year. Those who manage to survive, like Jnanesh, are barely there. Some of them, if grew any thinner, would just disappear.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/20/death-own-district.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/20/death-own-district.html Sat Dec 21 12:52:40 IST 2019 floating-sentinels <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/20/floating-sentinels.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2019/12/20/110-Jawans-spending.jpg" /> <p>Their mandate is to thwart all illegal entries—infiltration attempts as well as smuggling of livestock, drugs and currency—through the riverine borders of India. They do this while battling the forces of nature and some tough terrain. Meet the jawans of the Border Security Force’s floating border outposts (FBOPs).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My visit to two FBOPs, in Koteshwar, Kutch, Gujarat, and in Hasnabad in the Sundarbans helped me appreciate the trying conditions these jawans face. In Hasnabad, cyclones that form over the Bay of Bengal are a threat. The treacherous weather in the Sundarbans is an everyday challenge. For the team at Kutch, the major concerns are the constant exposure to saline water, which affects their joints, and the marshy terrain near the creeks. Says Head Constable (Master) George P. Nixon, from Kottayam, Kerala, who is a navigator at the Sundarbans FBOP: “We touch base occasionally as blood pressure and sugar levels fluctuate on water. We get the assistance of doctors to deal with such problems.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>FBOPs, which hold crews of 35 to 40 members, operate at sea for three weeks at a stretch before they return to base for refuelling. Designed and built by Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited, the vessels are 34.5 metre-long and are fitted with 2x300hp Cummins engines. They have modern surveillance equipment such as echo sounders and advanced communication systems. The vessels are air-conditioned to beat the humidity and dampness. Each FBOP has four fast patrolling boats (FPBs) to monitor narrow creeks which larger vessels cannot enter. In Koteshwar, the BSF also uses better armed fast attack crafts to patrol the creeks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For the men aboard FBOPs, days start with puja, followed by yoga on the deck. The platforms have rudimentary gyms, too. There is a kitchen and a mess. After breakfast, patrols set off on FPBs. The jawans on night duty sometimes undertake ambush patrolling. They stop the FPBs in the dark and lay in wait for smugglers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Harami Nullah, with its mouth in Pakistan, poses a significant threat and is under constant surveillance. The international boundary dividing the Sundarbans between India and Bangladesh passes through several rivers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My stay on the FBOPs gave me opportunities to interact with the jawans. I met Selim, from Murshidabad, West Bengal, in Koteshwar. Talking to him was as easy as talking to my neighbour. As we chatted in Bengali, I realised how lonely these men must be. They are cut off from their families because of their remote postings. But, the high tide, which brings much work for them, also brings with it network signals (the vessels rise with increasing water levels) that enable them to make quick calls home.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While their stay and work is difficult, the officers and jawans have their moments of leisure, too, playing games like carrom, ludo and chess. They have a camaraderie which only men in such high-pressure jobs can share.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/20/floating-sentinels.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/20/floating-sentinels.html Sat Dec 21 12:53:48 IST 2019 kingdom-keeper <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/20/kingdom-keeper.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2019/12/20/142-Travancore-era-artefacts.jpg" /> <p>Passion is a peculiar thing. Overwhelmed by passion, one might do things that others might consider unimaginable. And if one is passionate about history, like Abhilash Kumar is, one may devote one’s present towards recreating and preserving the past for the sake of the future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Everything about the Travancore kingdom—ruled by one of the most illustrious and progressive royal families in the country—had fascinated him from a very young age. He went searching for Travancore-era buildings and found most of them to be in bad shape. Many of them were no longer in Kerala; a good number of them are now in Tamil Nadu. Kanyakumari, an integral part of the kingdom was cut off during the state reorganisation. The state of the historic remnants in Kanyakumari aggrieved Abhilash so much that dedicated his life to preserving and recreating them. He dropped out of the MA History course in Kerala University, sold most of his property and spent nearly 20 years to recreate history in his hometown, Amaravila in the Thiruvananthapuram district, a few kilometers from the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Many call me a maverick. But when one is passionate about something, nothing else matters,” said Abhilash as he opened a 12ft-high, 400-year-old wooden front door and invited us in. The door led us to a complex from the Travancore era. Spread over an acre was a pathinaru kettu—a traditional Kerala-style mansion with a huge courtyard. Built in 1629, the mansion used to stand near the famous Padmanabhapuram Palace, on the way to Kanyakumari. The mansion—earlier known as Chuttumalika, now rechristened as Charitra Malika (history mansion) by Abhilash—was the residence of a siddha practitioner close to the Travancore royal family.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The mansion had been abandoned for more than 85 years when Abhilash decided to buy it. For him, the mansion was the epitome of the architecture of erstwhile Travancore. “Everything about it—its special red tiles, artefacts, utensils and designs—offered a slice of Travancore life and I wanted to maintain it at all costs,” said Abhilash.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The first step cost him three years; the property was held by a joint family, and he had to convince every stakeholder. Once that was done, he went in search of the families of the court artisans who had built the structure four centuries ago.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The structure of the mansion was very complicated. Only those who have some exposure to similar designs would be able to dismantle it and reconstruct it,” said Abhilash. He was not able to track down the families, but somehow managed to dismantle the entire mansion and reconstruct it in Amaravila.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Abhilash was about 21 when he started out on his quest, and by the time the relocation was complete, he was in his late 30s. He sacrificed a career and marriage, too. “I knew I was getting into something complicated, and did not want any distractions,” he said about his life choices.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But what he has got in return was Charitra Malika. Everything behind that 12ft-high wooden gate is certain to fascinate history buffs—the cellars, secret chambers, naturally climate-controlled interiors, his collection of 4,800 artefacts, including utensils, grindstones of different sizes and shapes, wooden containers, iron implements and urns made of mixed clay, stone and wood. The soothika griham (labour room) and the subterranean kalarithara (training space) will take your breath away. In one corner is a kedavilaku, an eternal flame.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though one may initially think that the entire complex comprises of just single-floor structures, there are layers to every structure, linked by tunnels. I stepped into an underground room and followed the passages, only to find that I had reached the other end of the mansion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Grindstones of various sizes and shapes were on display on a poomukham (verandah). “Each grindstone was used for various purposes. There was one to make medicines for fever, another for headaches and yet another one for internal treatments. Also, there were separate grindstones for [grinding ingredients of] every dish. Such was the knowledge system of our past,’’ he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pointing to the complex atmiya poomukham (main entrance) where the most senior members used to sit, Abhilash said it was constructed without using a single nail. “Unbelievable,” said Sini, a student who had come from Alappuzha to see the Charitra Malika. Her friends nodded in agreement. What they did not know then was that they were all sitting on a ledge under which was a 42ft-deep well that supplies water to the underground kalari. When Abhilash told them, they jumped off their seats, stunned.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The awe on the faces of students while being introduced to different elements of the past is what Abhilash seeks, he explained. “Lifestyles are undergoing drastic changes. It is important to preserve at least a few glimpses of the past for posterity. It will help them to stay rooted,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, he welcomes only school and college students to Charitra Malika. “I really have no intention of opening this to the public,” he said. “Only those who are really interested about our cultural past need come. I have no time for casual onlookers. Also, I have no money to employ guides and other staff on a daily basis.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Abhilash recently said no to a reputed Malayalam film director who wanted to shoot a Travancore history-based period film here. ‘’I asked him some basic questions about Travancore history and he had no idea,” said Abhilash about why he rejected the proposal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, for how long will he be able to preserve this 23,000sqft structure on his own? “As of now, I am [managing]. I have sold most of my property to maintain this. But if you ask me how long will I be able to do this, I do not know,” he said, running his fingers over a wooden pillar with secret chambers that were used to hide gold coins. Abhilash has also hired traditional practitioners to train youngsters in everything from kalaripayattu to siddha, music and dance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Is his family supportive of his venture? “As I am a free bird, nobody is there to stop me or support me. Even my parents have only a vague idea of what I am up to. They do not know that I have sold off most of my possessions,” he said. “Nobody interferes as they know I am strange.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Abhilash, however, has one grouse—that Kerala agreed to cede Kanyakumari, during the reorganisation of states. “Who will agree to give away the most important part of one’s history and culture without even a whimper [of protest]?” he asked frequently during our conversation. Knowing that he is unlikely to get an answer, Abhilash said he cannot understand people’s lackadaisical attitude towards their history and cultural past. “A society which does not preserve and value its past will not survive long,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Just about then, he got a phone call with the caller inquiring how much he charges for entry. His tone was curt and dissuasive. “If one is truly passionate about something, he or she will go for it despite any amount of dissuasion. Only such people need come here,” he said. And, Abhilash has every right to say that.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/20/kingdom-keeper.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/20/kingdom-keeper.html Sat Dec 21 12:59:21 IST 2019 future-shock <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/17/future-shock.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2019/12/17/44-Future-shock.jpg" /> <p>At no point in history had human activity held power enough to shape the future of our planet as it has now. We mitigate natural calamities, we have the means to tame most epidemics, and some of us even have contingency plans to move to a space colony in case of an apocalypse. Advancement of science and technology made all these possible, no doubt.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The relationship between mankind and technology has mostly been a cordial one. We invested heavily—money, effort and time—in developing technology, and it reciprocated in kind, giving us the power to conquer the mightiest of elements on earth. This relationship, however, now seems to be moving fast towards an inflexion point. Ever since man employed technology to alter the course of nature, he knew how dangerous it was and how powerless he was in front of it; he knew that it could go wrong any moment and wipe out humanity. But he also knew that technology alone could not do anything—it needed a “bad” human brain to do bad. That was, however, only until technology started developing brains of its own.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE</b></p> <p>It has not been long since man started seeing technology as a potential usurper—something which is capable of replacing him as the ruler of the world. Tesla’s cofounder Elon Musk called it humanity’s “biggest existential threat”. “As AI gets probably much smarter than humans, the relative intelligence ratio is probably similar to that of between a person and a cat, maybe bigger,” he said in an interview a year ago.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That is scary, considering the power of intelligence and the pace at which AI is striding towards the future. What distinguishes humans from apes is a tiny increment in problem-solving ability and coordination. The consequence of this tiny increment is that the existence of apes—and that of any living organism on the earth, for that matter—depends on human decisions. So, if and when artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence, the existence of humankind will depend on the decisions of some machines.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many people have been talking about an “intelligence explosion”, which would be triggered when software becomes good enough to make better software without human intervention. If that happens (rather, when that happens), smart machines will vault over the rest of the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While AI is probably the only technology that has the potential to replace humans as the rulers of the world, it is not the only one that poses a grave threat to the existence of humankind. These threats are real and the danger is imminent. But we are divided on how to deal with them. One reason for that is that we have benefitted a lot from these technologies, and our systems of regulations have so far been good enough to keep them away from “bad brains” to an extent. That, however, is no assurance for a safe future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>BIOTECHNOLOGY</b></p> <p>Pandemics have killed more people than wars, calamities and accidents put together. However, man has always found a way around them, with the generous help of his natural powers. There are always some people who are resistant to a pathogen. Then the offspring of survivors are usually more resistant to the pathogen. Again, evolution does not favour parasites—a reason why many virulent epidemics of the past are manageable diseases now.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unfortunately, man can also make a disease much worse. For instance, bioengineers have ways to artificially boost the contagiousness of diseases. “When I look into the near future, the thing that worries me the most is the threat of a bioengineered pandemic created out of the lab,” said Bryan Walsh, journalist and author of the book End Times: A Brief Guide to the End of the World.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Biotechnology is getting better by the day. And it is getting cheaper as well, increasing the risk of potentially dangerous tech getting into the hands of wrong people, like a terrorist group or a cult with higher purposes like the elimination of the human kind. “These technologies can advance even faster than the practitioners realise, and there is no control system,” said Walsh. That is a concern because the biggest users of bioweapons have been governments. Some four lakh people, for instance, might have died in the Japanese biowar programme during World War II.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>GENE EDITING</b></p> <p>One of the scarier things in modern science, gene editing is probably the most divisive one as well. Experts are not yet done weighing the benefits, dangers and ethical issues of the technology. The confusion was evident last year, when Chinese researcher He Jiankui announced the birth of the world’s first germline genetically edited babies (a pair of twins); the announcement triggered sharp reactions worldwide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Germline cells are those that make sperms and eggs or the cells in an early embryo. A change in any of them will go on to affect every cell in a body and will pass on to offspring. On the other hand, changes in somatic cells, which are cells in organs or tissues that perform a specific function, are much less significant. A mutation in a heart cell, for instance, will lead to many mutant heart cells, but it will have no impact on the kidney or the brain. In gene editing, if you mess with a germline cell, it will affect all the future descendants of a human being. But if you work on a somatic cell, the change is restricted to a particular organ of an individual.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is an argument that gene editing will make gene therapy a lot more effective. Aimed at repairing faulty genes in individual organs, gene therapy so far has given mixed results but continues to be one of the biggest hopes of medical science. The National Institutes of Health, the primary agency responsible for biomedical research in the US, has an ethical research programme to develop tools for curative gene editing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Editing germline cells and creating designer babies, however, is a different story. We do not know anything about how safe the procedure is and what its consequences are. Also, even if the procedure is safe, it is fraught with ethical problems. It could very well usher in an era of eugenics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>MIND READING AND BRAIN HACKING DEVICES</b></p> <p>Man has tried umpteen techniques to read the mind—from hypnosis and clairvoyance to polygraph and neuroimaging. He seems to have hit the jackpot with brain-machine interfaces that can translate thoughts into words. Social media giant Facebook has been funding a research on this at the University of California San Francisco. The tech can decode brain signals and convey the thoughts without the involvement of a single muscle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Currently, for this to work, electrodes need to be surgically implanted on the surface of the subjects’ brains. An algorithm reads the brain activity and decodes it. Scientists are working on a less invasive way—one that does not require surgery—like a headset with near-infrared light that can detect blood-flow changes in the brain.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Elon Musk’s Neuralink also is developing brain implants that allow you to control devices with thoughts. Companies like Kernel and Paradromics, and the US armed forces are also in the race.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ethical implications of this technology are vast, so are the concerns over privacy. It will breach the final frontier of privacy, our minds. And, because a human-computer interface is as vulnerable as any available technology, there is always the threat of someone—probably the machine itself—hacking into your brain. What could be worse than that?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>NANOTECHNOLOGY</b></p> <p>Nanotechnology lets you control matter with atomic precision. That is a big opportunity, as it is ideal for fast, cheap manufacturing, and it can be very helpful in tackling pollution, climate change and depletion of natural resources.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the tech in itself is not dangerous, it can lead to dangerous things. “It would allow anyone to manufacture a wide range of things,” said a report by the Global Challenges Foundation, which was set up in 2011 with the aim of funding research into risks that could threaten humanity. “This could lead to the easy construction of large arsenals of conventional or novel weapons made possible by atomically precise manufacturing.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The problem is, it is almost impossible to detect such manufacturing, let alone regulate it. The unavailability of technology is the only thing that stops many countries and groups from producing weapons. In a world where anybody can “print” dangerous weapons, the arms races will be a lot faster and conflicts will be multifold.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The atomic precision that nanotechnology offers can make things really small. Weapons can be small, robots can be small—anything that can be manufactured can be made small. Think about smart poisons that can enter your body without you knowing it or gnatbots that always keep you under surveillance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While it is too early to call nanotechnology an existential risk, its ability to give us whatever we wish for, especially its weaponisation, is a recipe for disaster.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/17/future-shock.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/17/future-shock.html Sat Dec 21 16:57:02 IST 2019 instrument-of-change <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/17/instrument-of-change.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2019/12/17/66-SARATH-S-NAIR.jpg" /> <p>As the car rolled up a winding path lined with trees, I wondered if we were indeed visiting a research centre. A tall building with a curtain wall façade—that is the picture most of us have of a scientific research centre. This centre was anything but that, with massive pillars at the entrance, intricate etchings, statues of majestic lions, floors with elaborate patterns and slanting roofs with grooved terracotta tiles. “Welcome to the Satelmond Palace!” said a staffer. Confused yet overwhelmed by the beauty of the place, I walked in and saw a whole different world hidden in what was once a royal residence. Who thought a palace could be converted into an extensive biomedical research centre! You will find everything, from testing labs, research and development cells to conference halls and an animal house, at the Biomedical Technology (BMT) wing of the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST)—all set up without destroying the traditional architecture of the palace.</p> <p>The BMT wing, about 11km from SCTIMST and away from the hustle and bustle of Thiruvananthapuram, was designated as a technical research centre for biomedical devices by the Union government in 2016. And, it has played a leading role in establishing a medical device base in India by successfully developing and transferring technologies of diverse medical products.</p> <p>The centre’s royal connect dates back to Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, granddaughter of the celebrated painter Raja Ravi Varma. She lived in the Satelmond Palace in Poojapura and ruled erstwhile Travancore as a regent on behalf of her nephew Maharaja Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma. The Malayala Manorama described her reign as the golden age of Travancore. The queen’s portrait still hangs in the hallway at the entrance of the main building.</p> <p>Past the hallway is the library, with old shelves in shades of mahogany lined in rows, half-open reading cubicles and fat, hardbound books with ivory-hued pages. Every cubicle had a person reading a book or taking down notes.</p> <p>A set of wooden stairs took us to a conference room and a grand dining area. As I headed to the next set of stairs, which probably led to the attic, a staffer said, “It is better not to go up; some of the stairs are shaky and some broken.” My curiosity subdued, I headed in the opposite direction. But this made me question the stationing of the research centre at a palace so rich in history—should it not be a museum instead? “What is better—preserving history or creating it?” asked Dr P.R. Harikrishna Varma, head, BMT wing. “We are doing both.”</p> <p>After the Maharani moved to Bengaluru to be with her daughter and grandchildren post independence, the palace stood neglected. In 1972, chief minister C. Achutha Menon invited Dr M.S. Valiathan, a cardiothoracic surgeon, to set up a mutlispeciality hospital in a building gifted to the Kerala government by Chithira Thirunal. Valiathan also wanted to promote medical research; he asked the queen for the use of the palace. She agreed, and the BMT wing came up there. “The BMT wing is not just a significant part of history, but it is also in the process of scripting stories that will one day go down in history,” said Harikrishna.</p> <p>As we enter the 3D printing lab, we are asked to change into lab slippers. “It is part of good lab practices,” said a research scientist. With sanitiser bottles at every corner, staffers are expected to prevent any possible cross-contamination. “The key focus area of the 3D printing lab is development of tissues, organs and other biomaterials for testing of medicines. Even artificial skin is developed here; this would be very beneficial to the cosmetic industry as they can perform testing of their products on 3D printed tissue,” said Harikrishna. Even the entry doors of the microbiology labs swing inwards to prevent outflow of contaminated air.</p> <p>“We have a well-trained and committed team of engineers, scientists, clinicians, public health experts and technicians as well as unique research, development as well as testing facilities—all under a single roof, working towards radical innovations to improve health care facilities,” said Harikrishna. A behemoth in the research field, the institute holds several national and international patents for devices and processes developed under various programmes. Some of the technologies are in production. With a series of new products and technologies under development, their vision for 2030 focuses on nine areas—cardiovascular devices, neural prostheses, orthotics and rehabilitation, in vitro diagnostics, hard tissue devices, biologics, regenerative technology, point-of-care devices and connected health. Here are the top five technologies by the BMT wing that are at different stages of development.</p> <p><b>VEIN VIEWER</b></p> <p>Ever got into a tiff with a nurse for getting jabbed in the wrong place? Most people dread blood tests for this very reason. This can be nerve-wracking for the nurse, too. Spotting veins just got easy, thanks to the vein viewer device that uses near-infrared light to visualise the veins. “This is a great tool to prevent needle-stick injuries and make blood tests and intravenous drips less miserable. It comes in both hand-held and hands-free models,” said Sarath S. Nair, scientist. Though there are other vein finders in the Indian market, the BMT’s vein viewer displays a larger area of the skin.</p> <p><b>BIOCERAMIC BEADS</b></p> <p>We then moved to material science, Harikrishna’s area of interest. Enter a large lab with models of bones, and a bunch of enthusiastic scientists gather around to talk about bioceramic beads. “Bone infection or osteomyelitis is one of the most dreaded complications after trauma and implantation,” said Harikrishna. As there is low blood flow in the bones, systemic antibiotic treatment is less effective. The best way to treat it is on-site delivery of antibiotics. “Currently, bead-shaped PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate) bone cement loaded with antibiotics is used. The implanted beads are to be surgically removed later as they cannot be resorbed,” he said. According to him, the new bioceramic beads, designed with micro-nano porous structure, deliver the antibiotic and later get integrated with the host bone. Therefore, there is no need to surgically remove the beads later. These beads are also used to fix spinal injuries.</p> <p><b>ORALSCAN</b></p> <p>We got out of the material science building and climbed another set of stairs till we reached a quiet corridor, with just a row of cabins. No lab equipment or researchers in white coats here. “This is our business incubation centre—TIMed. We have about 10 startups now,” said Harikrishna . We stopped at one of the startups—Sascan Meditech Private Limited. “We develop a scanning device here,” said a staffer. And not just any scanning device, this one identifies cancer sites in the mouth. With increased use of tobacco and alcohol, oral cancer is no longer a rare ailment. Thanks to OralScan, diagnosing the disease is as easy as taking a photograph. The common sites of the cancer are tongue, lining of the lips, floor of the mouth and upper throat and then it spreads to other regions. Most people ignore the symptoms as it usually starts as a painless white patch, which then thickens and turns into red patches and continues to grow. Or, it can be a persistent ulcer on the lips that does not heal. “Early screening and detection of oral cancer is usually difficult owing to the lack of affordable screening techniques, painful procedure and high costs,” said Subhash Narayanan, founder and CEO, Sascan Meditech. “OralScan solves this issue. It has a noninvasive intraoral multispectral imaging camera. It detects cancer from tissue fluorescence and diffuse reflectance and identifies the most malignant site for biopsy. It is so user-friendly that health workers with minimal training can also operate it.” The two-piece device includes a hand-held scanner and a tablet that generates images of the scan.</p> <p><b>TB TESTING DEVICE</b></p> <p>According to the World Health Organization, India accounts for the highest number of deaths due to tuberculosis. “Currently, there is no device to screen a mass of people,” said Dr Anoop Thekkuveettil, scientist, division of molecular medicine. “If we do the screening in India, I think all of us will show TB positive because at some point in our life, we have been exposed to the infection.”</p> <p>TB is highly treatable, but most people ignore its early symptoms. Also, multi-drug resistant TB cases are on the rise, hence the faster it is screened, the sooner it can be eliminated. According to Anoop, the WHO has mentioned that skin-based test can no longer be performed in India for the detection of the disease; it has to be DNA-based. “Currently, there is a machine that can test four samples at a time and takes around three hours to complete the process,” he said. “In this case, around 12-14 samples are tested a day. In Kerala itself, we have around 20-25 patients who are suspected to have [MDR-TB]. So, there has to be a system that will enable faster detection.”</p> <p>The device developed by his team can test 20 samples simultaneously within 20 minutes, said Anoop. “SCTIMST has patented the device and it is going to be game-changer for our country,” he said. “The device costs only Rs10,000 and it has high specificity. India has a vision to completely eliminate the disease by 2025, but we are nowhere close to even detecting the infection. If this device is supplied to all the peripheral centres across the country, then we can diagnose and treat the disease in its early stages.”</p> <p><b>UTI DETECTION KIT</b></p> <p>A urinary tract infection (UTI) is usually self-diagnosed based on several minor symptoms like a persistent urge to urinate, burning sensation while urinating, cloudy, red or cola-coloured urine and pelvic pain. It is an infection in any part of your urinary system—kidneys, ureter, bladder and urethra. It is not always serious but if not treated, it can affect the functioning of the kidneys. At the BMT wing, Dr Maya Nandkumar, scientist and head, department of microbial technology, has developed a self-contained detection kit with her team. “Collect 3ml of the urine sample and add to the vial in the kit with injection water,” she said. “With the help of a dropper, transfer 0.5ml of the sample to 12 different vials with different antibiotics and leave it for two hours. The colour of the liquid will be green initially, it will turn to orangish yellow if the sample has the infection.” The kit also helps identify the antibiotic that will aid treatment; the vial with no change in colour is the one with the antibiotic that will work. “It can be easily performed in an outpatient clinic or primary health centre without a lot of training,” said Maya.</p> <p>According to her, every technology has its own uniqueness. “As scientists, our responsibility is to identify a need and then invent a technology that caters to it,” she said. “The happiness we get through this is beyond words.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/17/instrument-of-change.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/17/instrument-of-change.html Sat Dec 21 12:35:25 IST 2019 heads-we-win <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/17/heads-we-win.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2019/12/17/74-SHAKY-SIGNAL.jpg" /> <p>There was a switch from the regular toothbrush to an electric one, perhaps because a pinched nerve made the up-down, side-to-side movement of the regular toothbrush harder than usual. Then there was a tingling sensation in the right leg, and soon in the left leg as well. So, the obvious thing was done—the one that doctors hate—check for symptoms on the internet. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), it said. Petrified, a visit to a neurologist was made. The right way of diagnosis was suggested—a scan. The MRI showed that it was Parkinson’s disease, and not ALS. From the initial denial to acceptance in the next couple of months and then figuring out a way to live with it, the journey is nothing less than difficult. After all, they say, Parkinson’s is not a death sentence, but a life sentence—you do not die of the disease, you die with it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 1817, when British apothecary James Parkinson published his ‘An essay on the shaking palsy’, where he gave a detailed description of the condition, little did he know that 48 years later the disease would bear his name. Today, an estimated one crore people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease. It is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. From barely noticeable symptoms like slight tremors in one hand to regular tremors, stiffness and slowing of movement, the symptoms worsen as the condition progresses over time. Although Parkinson’s cannot be cured, medication might improve symptoms. And when the abnormal movements cannot be managed by medicines, the treatment is taken on-site.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), Thiruvananthapuram, director Dr Asha Kishore, also a movement disorder specialist, and her team of engineers and doctors are working with engineers from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) on the first indigenous advanced technology in the field of neuroprosthetics—a new and improved Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) system for movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor and dystonia. “DBS treatment has been around for the past 20 years, both in the west and in a few institutions in India,” says Kishore. “In the Comprehensive Care Centre for Movement Disorders (which she heads), about 300 patients have benefited from the technology. The SCTIMST was the first in the country to provide this treatment for Parkinson’s disease.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Kishore, the teams at BARC and SCTIMST have started with optimisation of existing technologies to make it simple, user-friendly and affordable. “In India, the cost of rechargeable DBS with a 15-year life span is about Rs12 lakh, but if it can be manufactured and sold at even half the price, it will cater to a larger segment of patients,” she says. The two teams have already put in three years of work into the project, and are quite optimistic about its success. “Right now, the prototype is getting ready and we are looking at 2022 for clinical testing of the device. But I am not at liberty to talk a lot about it as we have an agreement with our partners and it is a little too early,” says Kishore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In DBS, a set of platinum electrodes on a thin, insulated wire are implanted in both halves of the patient’s brain. The electrodes are inserted through small holes made at the top of the skull. An MRI is used to identify the site for the electrodes, which are connected through a cable that travels under the skin of the neck to a battery-powered pulse generator implanted under the skin of the chest. “The device operates on a lithium-powered battery, which is not manufactured in India and had to be imported,” says Kishore. “When it comes to placing the pulse generator under the skin, extra care needs to be taken so as to avoid fluid from entering the battery. In order to avoid this, a new sealing technique has been used in our prototype. It is a very high-risk device and we are looking at absolute safety when it comes to the electrodes, pulse generator, wireless recharging and the associated electronics.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In all DBS systems, low-energy electrical stimulation is given to the brain using the pulse generator. These electrical impulses modify brain activity in a controlled manner, by blocking faulty nerve signals that cause movement disorders like tremors, stiffness and walking problems. “After the activation of the stimulator, the doctor programmes it from outside the patient’s body using a controller,” says Kishore. “We regulate the amount of stimulation according to the requirement for each patient.” According to her, DBS treatment offers significant relief from symptoms that stop patients from living a normal life. DBS can also reduce dependence on drugs. Patients can enjoy good quality of life for 10 to 15 years, if it is done before the disease is too advanced. In later stages, when it has spread to other parts of the brain, DBS alone may not be enough. DBS can now also be used to treat obsessive compulsive disorder. “Researchers are also looking at the effects of DBS for intractable epilepsy, depression, bipolar diseases and even drug addiction,” says Kishore. Currently there is limited application, but Kishore says that DBS is going to be a technology that will have widespread application in the future. “Right now, we look at the patient’s symptoms and set the stimulator, but the new model of DBS under development will sense what is happening in the brain when symptoms appear and provide stimulation for the time that it is required and not continuously, thus saving battery life,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While high-risk device development is not new to SCTIMST, Kishore says that they have the best research partners in BARC. “[But] it is not an easy task to find a suitable medical device industry partner to transfer the technology to manufacture the device and commercialise it,” says Kishore. “We have a technology business division for that.” The research teams work closely with the industrial unit to train them in manufacturing the product.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The SCTIMST was declared an Institute of National Importance in 1980 under the Union government’s department of science and technology (DST). According to Kishore, the institute has a unique mandate that combines advanced patient care in medical specialities and research in medical sciences, biomedical technology development and health sciences under a single institutional framework. “The Rs100 crore funding under the Technical Research Centre for Biomedical Devices by the DST has been a big boon for us,” she says. “It has kickstarted some of the breakthrough projects in our institute. We want our team of researchers to think beyond the norm and innovate radical technologies at affordable prices.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From disposable blood bags, the first product developed by SCTIMST to the TTK-Chitra heart valve, the institute has had some successful commercialisations in the past. These products have fared well in the market, competing with well-established and imported brands. “It has been 28 years since the launch of the TTK-Chitra heart valve and more than 1.5 lakh people around the world have benefited from it,” says Kishore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Currently, SCTIMST is concentrating on regenerative technologies and spinal fixation devices and orthopaedic implants to address geriatric needs. “In 2020, we plan to start work on artificial joints, bone fixation devices, spine correction and exoskeleton electromechanical devices that can help people who are paralysed from the hip down to stand on their feet,” says Kishore. The SCTIMST has already transferred 18 devices or biomaterials in the last three years and plans on transferring at least 34 new technologies within the next five to seven years. Of these, 16 are procedure-based projects. “High-risk technologies are our forte. But next year, we are planning on transferring 15 technologies that are low risk and low-moderate risk,” she says. “We are excited about the number of patents that some of our researchers have filed and are going to file. It is great to know that scientists are now sensitised about the right way of documenting its work.” In a bid to achieve their technology transfer target, SCTIMST is gearing up on all fronts such as infrastructure and facilities, human resources, external expertise and networking with higher centres of learning and excellence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the number of lifestyle disorders and degenerative diseases of the elderly set to increase in the coming years, Kishore says that they have a big responsibility to provide affordable medical devices that are crucial in prevention, early detection, treatment and rehabilitation. “Now, most of the medical devices are imported from the west,” she says. “We are working towards a future in which our country is self-sufficient to meet its medical devices needs. Discover, design and develop—this must be the chant of every innovator and researcher in this field in the country,”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Looks like the next couple of years are going to be revelatory for the medical field in India. Keep an eye out for the ‘Made in India’ tag!&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/17/heads-we-win.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/17/heads-we-win.html Sat Dec 21 12:36:20 IST 2019 stay-calm-and-invest <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/13/stay-calm-and-invest.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2019/12/13/58-Rao.jpg" /> <p>What is your preferred option to finance a car? Most people will say 'vehicle loan' in the blink of an eye. But that is only till Gaurav Mashruwala explains how much money you are losing as interest. “Drive the car you are currently driving for a few more years. Invest the same amount of money you would have been paying as loan instalment in a mutual fund. Instead of losing money on interest of the loan, you will be earning from the investment,” he told a packed audience at an investment education seminar organised by THE WEEK and Aditya Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund in Thiruvananthapuram.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The logic is applied to all consumer loans. “Never buy a mobile phone with a loan,” said Mashruwala. There are, however, two exceptions. “Take loans only to buy a house to live in and for education.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The event in Thiruvananthapuram, held on October 24, was the second one of the three seminars under the theme 'Wealth Creation through Mutual Fund'. The first seminar was held in Kochi on October 23 and the last one in Kozhikode on November 7. Investment gurus Mashruwala, who is a certified financial planner and practitioner, K.S. Rao, who heads investment education and distribution development at Aditya Birla Sun Life AMC, and S. Gururaj, assistant vice president, investor education and distribution training, at Aditya Birla Sun Life Asset Management Company, talked at length on the timely subject of 'Financial Planning in this Turbulent Time'.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The audience was all ears. And many of them, especially retired people who were banking on their investments to support their post-retirement life, were concerned about the diminishing value of their investment. Rao instantly figured out their problem, pointing out that their high tax outgo could be the issue. He recommended the more tax-efficient systematic withdrawal plans for such investors. SWPs allow investors to withdraw from their mutual fund schemes every month.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>THE WEEK Wealth Creation through Mutual Fund is an investor education initiative by THE WEEK, India's largest selling English news magazine, and Aditya Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund, India's fourth largest fund house. The investors, predictably, were worried about the slowdown in the economy. But, the three wise men explained how every crisis was an opportunity and why every opportunity should be utilised.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The icing on the cake, however, was Mashruwala's peroration on Yogic Wealth. It gave an entirely new perspective on how investors should manage their money and lives. He discussed the emotions that the mind experiences on matters related to money, and how such emotions prevent us from enjoying our wealth.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/13/stay-calm-and-invest.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2019/12/13/stay-calm-and-invest.html Fri Dec 13 17:26:38 IST 2019