Specials http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials.rss en Wed Nov 02 10:29:21 IST 2022 carl-gustaf-weapon-systems-production-in-india <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/25/carl-gustaf-weapon-systems-production-in-india.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/5/25/48-A-soldier-holding-the-Carl-Gustaf.jpg" /> <p>Somewhere in Kashmir, near the Line of Control, an officer barked at his men: “Okay boys, time to take ‘em out. Get the RL ready.” It was the early 1990s and cross-border firing was frequent. The “RL” (rocket launcher) was an 84mm recoilless rifle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Two soldiers got on the job. One positioned the weapon on his shoulder while another loaded it. A few seconds later, a boom was followed by a flash of destruction across the border. Plumes of smoke rose from what was a fortified bunker.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Carl-Gustaf, the Swedish-made, man-portable, recoilless rifle, was introduced in the Indian Army as an anti-tank weapon in 1976. It remains the go-to weapon for the infantry.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Brigadier Rumel Dahiya (retired) told THE WEEK: “Having used it so many times in exercises, field firings and competitions, what is impressive about the Carl-Gustaf is its versatility.” It can be fired from the shoulder, the air or a vehicle and can fire high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT), illuminating and smoke ammunition rounds. “It is light and packs quite a punch,” he said. “To my mind, it is the ideal anti-tank weapon, up to about 500 metres. We also use the Russian RPG 7 (rocket-propelled grenade), but nothing to beat the much sophisticated Carl-Gustaf.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Carl-Gustaf shares its name with the king of Sweden―Carl XVI Gustaf. The weapon’s name originates from the factory where its first version was made. (The factory was based in Eskilstuna, which received city privileges during the reign of King Karl X Gustaf.) It was introduced in Sweden in 1948. The most common version in use now―the M2―was introduced in 1964. The M4, the latest version (2014), is less than a metre long and weighs 7kg―the M2 is about 14kg and the M3 (1986) about 10kg. Every munition for the Carl-Gustaf has a calibre of 84mm and is compatible with every version.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, the Saab-owned Carl-Gustaf is used by 40 countries. The Americans have designated it M3A1, but often call it Gustaf (sometimes the Goose). In Norway, it is RFK (rekylfri kanon, meaning recoilless cannon), and in Denmark, it is Dysekanon (nozzle cannon). While Canadian soldiers call it Carl G, the Aussies have dubbed it “Charlie guts ache” and “Charlie Swede”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In India, the weapon saw extensive action in Sri Lanka when the Army was deployed for peace-keeping operations and then in the Kargil War. But, its widespread use began during the counterinsurgency operations in Kashmir and in the northeast.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Carl-Gustaf was an effective weapon, especially when it came to blasting inside concrete buildings and bunkers,” said a colonel, who requested anonymity. As a young lieutenant, he led a platoon of soldiers near the LoC. “It was so good that there was no need to seek a replacement with another weapon,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So loud is the sound and shock of the Carl-Gustaf that the soldiers firing two to four rounds complain of going deaf for a month! “It had its disadvantages back then,” said the colonel. “At 12kg, it was heavy and bulky. The sighting system was basic and the back-blast was substantial. The back-blasts have caused casualties, too. But the worst was the booming sound.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Carl-Gustaf’s back-blast charges out in the form of a triangular cone, with gas, fire and blast elements expanding as they exit the launcher to as far as 30 metres after which they dissipate. Because of the nature of the blast, the first 15 metres are considered a danger zone. The back-blast also gives away the position of soldiers firing the Carl-Gustaf.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Brig Dahiya said that the back-blast is a significant factor. “One has to take care that nothing catches fire from the powerful back-blast,” he said. “But, if a projectile has to be fired with so much of force that it can penetrate a thick steel frame, it requires a lot of momentum and thrust. That can only come if a lot of explosive is used.” He added that the boom was unavoidable as you cannot put a silencer on such a weapon. “Once fired you have to quickly move away, before the enemy counteraction,” he said. “The firing position has to be safe from retaliatory enemy fire.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While guns have come and gone for the 13-lakh-strong Army, the Carl-Gustaf stayed put. That is why it will now be made in Haryana’s Jhajjar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Having got approval for 100 per cent foreign direct investment, Saab has begun work on the first fully foreign-owned defence production facility in India. For that, a new company―Saab FFVO India Pvt Ltd―has been set up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India will be making the latest M4 with upgraded sighting technology and advanced carbon fibre winding with some component sourcing from local suppliers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The colonel, who is now serving in an operational area, said that the Carl-Gustaf was, in his opinion, the best close-quarter battle weapon because of its destructive nature and man-portability over all types of terrain, including mountains, rocky outcrops and jungles. “During counterinsurgency operations in Kashmir, we had intelligence that a three-storied building was housing seven militants,” he said. “And, there was no way to flush them out. But, the Carl-Gustaf’s shock effect pulled them out.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He said that he had made use of it extensively in three situations. “During the Kargil War, we used it for bunker-busting and for firing on concentration of troops,” he said. “It was exceptionally reliable and highly accurate, with great destructive power because of its high muzzle velocity. We used it also for unconventional operations near the LoC and for illuminating air bursts at night.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The effective firing range of the weapon is about 1,000 metres using the smoke and high explosive ammunition, 500 metres for stationery vehicles and bunkers, and 350-400 metres for moving vehicles, including tanks, for which HEAT rounds are used. Its muzzle velocity―the speed attained by a projectile when it leaves the weapon―is 240 metres per second.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Notably, it is not only the soldiers who are trained to use the weapon. It is part of the young officers’ course at the Infantry School at Mhow in Madhya Pradesh. Later, officers also use it at field firings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A disadvantage, apart from the back-blast, is that two men are needed to operate it―the gunner and the loader. Usually one patrol unit carries two sets of ammunition, with every set comprising two rockets. In the 1990s, the Carl-Gustaf was not available in big numbers and it was one weapon to a platoon (about 30 men). At present, one unit (about 10 soldiers) carries one Carl-Gustaf.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Brig Dahiya said that there were shortages of the weapon system. “Not all units have the complete authorisation for this weapon because of import restrictions,” he said. “So, it is a good step to have this factory at Jhajjar. The needs of the Army can be met much more easily and during times of need, the production capability can be ramped up. Moreover, the 100 per cent foreign investment policy to make military equipment also gives confidence to others to come up with their products.” In the process, he added, Make in India gets a thumbs-up.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/25/carl-gustaf-weapon-systems-production-in-india.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/25/carl-gustaf-weapon-systems-production-in-india.html Sat May 25 12:01:54 IST 2024 how-a-kerala-fb-page-helped-conserve-indigenous-mango-varieties <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/how-a-kerala-fb-page-helped-conserve-indigenous-mango-varieties.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/5/18/80-Sakhil-Thaiyyil-with-Kurukkan-a-common-variety.jpg" /> <p>The summer of 2020 was not a kind one. It was a scorching April afternoon when Sakhil Thaiyyil and friends reached Ottapalam in Palakkad, Kerala. As the road made a sharp turn, he noticed a gated house partly under the shade of a mango tree. The group stopped. On the other side of the gate, the woman of the house grew suspicious of the strangers staring at her property. When Thaiyyil asked her how good were the mangoes, she said, “Useless.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The lady’s reaction did not surprise him, having had several such encounters. He did what he has always done―picked up a mango, half-eaten by a bird, from the ground and took a bite of its unbitten side. And, he was in sweet heaven. “Were you talking about this same tree, <i>chechi</i> (sister)?” he asked the woman. The fruit was fleshy with little fibre. The woman sheepishly replied that she was sleepy and was caught off guard by the group of strangers who wanted to know about a mango tree. When asked if the tree had a name, she was baffled. Who names trees in their compound? Thaiyyil spotted the name of her child scribbled on the steps leading to the house’s main door. “Shall we call it ‘Kunjoos’, then?” he asked. The family agreed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from ‘Kunjoos’, there is ‘Anaswara’, ‘Arya’, ‘Kairali’, ‘Thrissurkaaran’ and more. Most mangoes ‘found’ by Thaiyyil’s group are named with some reference to their discovery. “Mostly, it is nicknames of children. Obviously, you cannot give sweet mangoes adult names like Babu, Sabu,” he said, laughing.</p> <p>Thaiyyil is a founding member of the Indigenous Mango tree Conservation Project (IMCP), a social media community that tours the length and breadth of Kerala in search of endemic mango varieties that need conservation and promotion. The ever-growing team operates over a Facebook group called ‘Naadan Maavukal’ (indigenous mango trees), created in May 2019, that has over 60,000 members.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We tour door-to-door across Kerala, every weekend of March, April and May when mango flowers blossom into fruits,” said Thaiyyil, who runs a dry fruits stall in Thrissur when not chasing mangoes. “Our members take down notes to identify more varieties. Each year, we find new types to share with the world.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>IMCP members call these trips ‘mango hunting’. They taste mangoes, and if good, ask the owners for a few more fruits. They will then produce saplings of the tree and distribute for free all over the state. Years of experience have helped Thaiyyil spot trees that may be unique. Large size, resistance to diseases, rare colour and aroma and a Brix measurement (sugar content) of 20 or more are among the qualities that can get a mango registered in their good books. Among the hundreds of varieties they have found so far, at least 100 are of fine quality and 50 are very unique, said the team.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thaiyyil and his tribe are, in a way, custodians of the legacy of 19th-century priest and social reformer Kuriakose Elias Chavara, who, he claims, was a mango hunter. Moved by the delicious mangoes from Goa he got as a gift, the reverend asked the seeds of the tree to be grown across seminaries, monasteries and churches. He wanted the mangoes to be called ‘Dukhranan’, which meant ‘our remembrance’ in Syriac. But the devotees called them ‘Priyoor’ as Chavara was their prior back then.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Over a century and a half later, however, Thaiyyil and co ensured that Chavara’s wish was fulfilled. When a rare blue desi mango tree was discovered in a church in Thuravoor of Alappuzha―Chavara’s home district―they named it ‘Dukhran’ (remembrance).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But why should there be a dedicated team to sprouting mango trees? Because things are not that simple when it comes to the king of fruits.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The natural survival rate of mango saplings is not that great,” said Thaiyyil. “Certain kinds become popular because of human intervention at some point in time. You take any famous mango variety and the story will be the same. But we have found hidden gems that can take the popular ones head-on.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mango seeds can be monoembryonic or polyembryonic. Monoembryonic seeds are the result of hybridisation and carry genetic traits from both female and male parent. Sprout them and the resulting trees will not bear the same fruit as their parents. In polyembryonic seeds, meanwhile, only one embryo is the result of crossbreeding; the rest carry genetic information from the mother tree and therefore produce the same fruit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Suppose a monoembryonic tree yields 2,000 fruits in a year,” said Thaiyyil. “If all the 2,000 seeds take root, none of them will possess all the characteristics of the mother tree. At least 500 will be entirely different.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The group has distributed at least 10,000 mango plants in the last three years for free. The story of the ‘Mogral’ tree in Kasargod district is the best example of the group’s intervention. Thanks to its popularity among the villagers, the tree got its name from its location―the Mogral Puthur Panchayat office. Two fruits from the tree easily weighed over a kilo. The freshly plucked mangoes would never reach the market as they would be sold right under the tree for around Rs150 per kg. That was true even during the pandemic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2021 though, the national highway broadening sealed the fate of the tree. The villagers were upset but knew the highway was a priority. They prepared to bid adieu to their favourite tree, slightly relieved that they had enough seeds to grow many more ‘Mograls’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the IMCP told the villagers and the panchayat that ‘Mogral’ was a monoembryonic tree, and hence one of a kind―cut the tree and the ‘Mogral’ is lost forever! The campaign resulted in the local body getting in touch with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research-Central Plantation Crops Research Institute so that grafting and budding methods could be adopted to ensure its rebirth. By the time the parent tree’s last days approached, Kasargod had over 5,000 grafted seedlings ready. The hunters had worked their magic, once again.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Almost all famous varieties of Kerala’s mangoes are polyembryonic,” said Thaiyyil. “But we found that there are more delicious types than the popular ones. They were not found anywhere else despite being polyembryonic; there was just one tree―Kunjoos, Thrissurkaaran are examples of such varieties we found.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like other hunters, these mango hunters also live by a code. At no cost should the location of a parent tree be disclosed. “This is to protect the privacy of the families,” said Thaiyyil. “We can’t let people reach out to a family regularly seeking mangoes. You come to us if you need a plant. No one’s stopping you, provided you agree to our terms and conditions.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And the terms are pretty simple. Those who take the plants home should post photos of them every three months in the community’s Facebook group. This is to confirm that the mango plant is alive and well. In case of stunt growth or diseases, fellow mango lovers can help with tips and solutions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Facebook group also does the marketing work. When they have saplings ready for distribution, a “mango review” with multiple videos and images of these saplings are posted. “We would have prepared 50 saplings, but will get over 200 inquiries,” said Thaiyyil. “We tell them enthusiasm alone won’t do. We need reviews on time. If you can do that, take the plants and go.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hyderabad-based Jayakrishnan V.U. was among the thousands of the group’s benefactors. He followed the rules to the T and now his ancestral land in Thrissur has several trees that yield mouthwatering mangoes. “I came to know about ‘Naadan Maavukal’ Facebook group and Ravi [T., member of the group] in 2021. I was working from home then. It was surprising to find such a huge collection of indigenous mango varieties in one place.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jayakrishnan’s first plant was ‘Kalkandapriyan’, a very rare variety. “Then, I went on to collect more types like ‘Chelan’, ‘Oloor’, ‘Ivory Kolambu’, ‘Thrissurkaaran’ from other members of the group. Now I have more than 15 mango varieties on my farm,” he said. “This group made me a custodian of local varieties that are fast disappearing from Kerala.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But societal commitments and pressure sometimes force them to give away plants in bulk to organisations headed by individuals they are close to. “Most trees distributed on June 5 (World Environment Day) and other occasions die because of lack of care,” said Thaiyyil. So, we charge groups to whom we cannot say no. If it is children or youth clubs, we ask them to get us fertile soil or tree bags as barter.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Wandering around Kerala in summer is no mean feat. Add to it people who could be wary and rude. It takes earnest efforts to win them over and open their gates. Thus, people skills become important.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“People naturally become suspicious. Some do not buy the fact that a team from Thrissur travelled all the way to Thiruvananthapuram or Palakkad to taste mangoes,” said Ravi. Things have become a little easier after the Facebook group’s membership grew. “We try not to offend them at any cost,” he said. “Some budge after realising that we can make them famous by naming the mango after them. With others, we plead and beg and show readiness to do as they demand.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Thiruvananthapuram, things are a tad easier for the team as they have a woman member. Jayasree Bhadran, who works at the Kerala Legislative Assembly, became an active member of the Facebook group during the pandemic. Today, she is a core member of the group in southern Kerala. ‘Pancharaneela’, ‘Chakkarakurissi’ and ‘Nalanda’ are among the indigenous varieties the group found in Thiruvananthapuram, she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a way, it was the coincidental discovery of ‘Nalanda’ that led to Bhadran becoming an active hunter from a passive member of the Facebook community. She was among the few who reported to work during the pandemic, and as always saw the tree on the way to Nalanda, a locality, from Nathancodu Junction. But then, she had never seen the tree in all its glory. “Every season, local residents would pluck baby mangoes in bunches to make pickles, and the public works department would auction whatever was left of the mangoes,” she recalled. “All this stopped during the pandemic, and we noticed it in its full majesty, brimming with golden gems. It had a peculiar taste and texture.” She packed a dozen of the fallen mangoes and took it to office. A colleague posted an image of the mangoes on Naadan Maavukal, and the rest is history.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Kerala University started a project to preserve indigenous mango varieties, they contacted Bhadran’s unit, which helped locate about 10 varieties.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Some nurseries have started to follow our modus operandi,” said Thaiyyil. “We are happy as it makes our jobs easier. Fame and records hardly allure us, it is just the cause we are bothered about.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But why go through so much trouble to preserve mango varieties? “I only have 20 cents, and there are only so many trees I can grow,” said Thaiyyil. “So I thought, ‘why don’t I just donate a mango sapling each to all my neighbours?’ After all, they will give a share of the fruits out of courtesy. This was the original thought.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And Thaiyyil thinks that there is no better gift than a mango sapling. “I still tell people to plant mango saplings at the homes of people they really care for,” he said. “That is the best gift you can possibly give. They will remember you every time the tree bears fruit.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/how-a-kerala-fb-page-helped-conserve-indigenous-mango-varieties.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/how-a-kerala-fb-page-helped-conserve-indigenous-mango-varieties.html Mon May 20 12:06:46 IST 2024 inside-the-complex-tapestry-of-ai-s-impact-on-society <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/inside-the-complex-tapestry-of-ai-s-impact-on-society.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/5/18/102-shutterstock.jpg" /> <p>The father of modern computing and World War II hero, Alan Turing, presented his seminal paper on artificial intelligence (AI) in 1950. The paper opens with these words: ‘I propose to consider the question: Can machines think?'</p> <p>Turing’s contemplations would set the stage for a technological revolution that is now transforming society positively, but is also bringing forth unforeseen challenges. Writing about it, tech researcher Nirit Weiss-Blatt described 2023 as the Year Of AI Panic. Even though AI and machine learning have been around for a couple of decades, things began to change in June 2017.</p> <p><b>THE NEW WORLD ORDER OF AI</b></p> <p>The world saw a paradigm shift when a bunch of Google engineers published, ‘Attention Is All You Need’―an oddly titled paper, proposing a new form of machine learning architecture called ‘transformer’. This paper paved the way for the dominance of large language models. Generative AI took centrestage replacing good old-fashioned symbolic AI.</p> <p>This newfangled set of algorithms fundamentally changed AI training models. Earlier, the problem with AI was the knowledge―you needed to feed enough rule-based knowledge to a machine about a subject for it to make intelligent decisions. Today, all you need is an enormous amount of data sets and enough computational power―the lever and fulcrum of the new world order.</p> <p>This is the story of how we discovered the phenomenon of Emergence in computational data. The phenomenon, which biologists used to explain complex behaviour arising from simple roots, such as swarming of birds and neurons of human brains, is now performing complex machine learning tasks.</p> <p>To put it simply, a large data set coupled with high computational power will yield machines that are capable of performing tasks with emergent properties. It is a kind of machine learning evolution, a sudden appearance of new behaviour. Large language models (LLMs), such as ChatGPT, display emergence by suddenly gaining new abilities as they grow. The data set behind ChatGPT, the new messiah of the digital world, is nothing but a large set of words; 300 billion to be precise, all scraped from the internet. It is an ever-evolving symphony where the notes of AI weave through the tapestry of constant self innovation.</p> <p>In an era marked by the rapid evolution of artificial intelligence, it is essential to avoid succumbing to a doomsday fear psychosis that indiscriminately vilifies all aspects of AI. Acknowledging and addressing risks associated with this burgeoning technology is the need of the hour.</p> <p><b>AI TRICKERY &amp; DEEPFAKES</b></p> <p>Rapid technological advancement is the cornerstone of human civilisation. From rubbing stones to inventing the wheel, technology has played a key role in societal evolution. All previous tech innovations helped us in communicating or propagating our ideas. While AI has the potential to revolutionise our lives positively, it also brings forth a side that is exploited by malicious actors to perpetrate crimes that were once unimaginable.</p> <p>Deepfakes, a form of AI-based manipulation, have become a significant concern, with far-reaching implications on trust, privacy and security. The recent barrage of deepfake audiovisuals has sent chills across different sections of society. These deepfake multimedia creations, designed to manipulate opinions and perceptions, can have serious consequences. The rise of misinformation, disinformation and cyber scams is evident, leading to financial losses and reputational damage, even strife. According to a recent study by Sumsub, India is among the top targets of deepfake identity frauds. From sextortion to deepfake videos and audios, scammers are already using AI to elevate chicanery to dazzling new heights.</p> <p>While governments and agencies across the globe are responding to this new theatre of crime, it is still a cat-and-mouse game. From the general public to big corporations and celebs, everyone is still figuring out the best practices to deal with AI enabled frauds, copyright infringements and reputational damages. There is more to this AI trickery than meets the eye. Deepfakes blur the line between reality and fabrication, requiring individuals to invest more effort in discerning the truth. The exhaustion of critical thinking poses a serious threat to society.</p> <p>One of the primary concerns revolving around deepfakes is the erosion of trust. Seeing is not believing. This erosion of trust has the potential to undermine societal structures, leading to what scholars call reality apathy.</p> <p>Fabricated narratives have the potential to influence the collective memory of a society, creating collective false memories despite evidence to the contrary, as in a phenomenon known as the Mandela Effect. It was named after the false collective memory of Nelson Mandela's ‘death’ in prison in the 1980s. In the age of AI and deepfakes, the lines between reality and illusion become even more blurred.</p> <p>The existence of convincing deepfake content can also give rise to what Robert Chesney calls the Liar's Dividend. Accusations based on recordings and videos can be dismissed by claiming that the source material has been manipulated using AI. This situation will be a formidable challenge for polity and society.</p> <p><b>THE ROAD AHEAD</b></p> <p>Amidst these emerging threats, which will impact not just individuals but society as a whole, the road ahead is littered with uncertainty. All the stakeholders―including governments, tech platforms and the general public―must unite and implement robust measures. Governments are exploring legislative measures to regulate the creation and dissemination of deepfakes. Recent initiatives by the Union government in this direction signal a growing awareness of the need to address the challenges posed by AI-based manipulation. The AI Act of the European Parliament, which will regulate the use of artificial intelligence in the EU, or the 'Kratt' initiative of Estonia, a small Baltic nation, are some good starting points.</p> <p>Technological efforts should focus on developing tools for flagging AI-based manipulations. Detecting and adding metadata and encrypted watermarking to AI-generated content is already being explored by tech companies and governments around the world. Google’s SynthID is one such tool, which is being developed to provide AI disclosures about any content. In fact, major tech platforms have pledged to add metadata and watermarks in an effort to curb the malafide use of AI generated content.</p> <p>However, despite some success stories, integrating AI into governance and public policy is still a distant dream. For the general public, education and awareness emerge as the first line of defence against AI-based crimes and manipulation. We need to incorporate media literacy programmes to equip individuals with the skills to critically evaluate the content they encounter. Training programmes that keep pace with technological advancements should be at the forefront now. For law enforcement agencies, the key lies in adaptation, innovation and collaboration. Harnessing the power of AI, not as a weapon but as a shield, is essential.</p> <p>The Assam Police's AI campaign, particularly its positive engagement in raising awareness about deepfakes, demonstrates the potential of AI as a communication tool. The #ThinkBeforeYouBelieve initiative of the Assam Police serves as a notable example of raising awareness about deepfakes targeting children.</p> <p>There are serious concerns about the privacy and safety of children because of the rising interference of AI in our lives. The emergence of AI-based toys, chatbots and social media has the potential of creating a seismic shift in the social and behavioural development of our children.</p> <p>Today's children are growing up in a society, which is largely augmented with AI, and their interaction with the world around them has been altered by AI. In a world where reality is just a click away from being reinvented, society must become the guardians of truth, armed with scepticism and a touch of digital Sherlock Holmes.</p> <p>AI presents unprecedented opportunities for societal advancement. From rapid advancements in the field of medical science to fighting climate change, AI is at the forefront of tech-based interventions in solving global issues. AI systems are now performing top-level scientific research, which will impact millions of lives positively. The field of clinical genomics has been completely transformed by AI’s ability to process large-scale data and predictive modelling.</p> <p>But it also comes with its fair share of challenges and risks. Instead of succumbing to panic, we need to adopt a more dynamic approach to prepare for and mitigate AI threats. With public awareness initiatives, adequate regulations, fair use clauses and multilateral collaborations, we can navigate the AI maze safely. Perhaps, it is time we applied the principles of Turing’s idea about machines' ability to think on humans. Let's take a moment to think before we react. Let’s prepare, not panic.</p> <p>―<b>Harmeet Singh is special director general of police, Assam. He is also in-charge of Assam Police Smart Social Media Centre-Nagrik Mitra, where Salik Khan is tech policy and communication consultant.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/inside-the-complex-tapestry-of-ai-s-impact-on-society.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/inside-the-complex-tapestry-of-ai-s-impact-on-society.html Sat May 18 13:40:39 IST 2024 how-jawaharlal-nehru-university-became-india-s-best <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/how-jawaharlal-nehru-university-became-india-s-best.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/5/18/104-Students-in-the-nine-storey-JNU-library.jpg" /> <p>This is not going to be a university like so many other universities that exist today, said Union external affairs minister M.C. Chagla as he tabled the The Jawaharlal Nehru University Bill in the Lok Sabha on November 16, 1966. When the bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha, on December 24, 1964, Chagla, who was former chief justice of the Bombay High Court and envoy to the US and the UK, had been the education minister.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The object of this bill is to establish in the city of Delhi a distinctive university; a university which will not be a mere duplication of other universities but a university which will have a personality of its own, characteristics of its own, unique in many ways,” he went on to say in the Lok Sabha. It took a couple more years for the Act to come into force, leading to JNU’s establishment in 1969. But, it is no overstatement that India’s best university has become what it was meant to be, and more.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 1,000-acre campus is housed on the rugged terrain of the Aravali hill range in Delhi. As per its vision statement, it “exemplifies the positive aspects of human habitation and intervention”. As you enter the campus, the greenery takes your breath away. The landscape is an explosion of colours thanks to the innumerable trees and shrubs. The campus, a birdwatcher’s dream, is also home to peacocks and nilgais.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The walls are decorated with posters representing different political ideologies and diverse thinking. JNU is a microcosm of India as it draws students from across the country and from different strata of society. For example, in 2022-23, of the 9,515 students, 1,428 were from scheduled castes, 677 from scheduled tribes, 3,285 from OBCs and 401 students were physically challenged. Women numbered 4,081.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, for the Indian nationals (77 foreign nationals were admitted in 2022-23), the fees are among the lowest in the world―tuition fee component starts at around Rs200 for UG, PG and PhD. Though for the PG diploma in big data analytics, this is Rs10,000. And, for MBA, the total programme fee is Rs12 lakh for general category students, Rs8 lakh for OBCs, and Rs6 lakh for SC/ST students and for students with disability. For overseas students, the MBA tuition fee for two years is $16,000 (just over Rs13 lakh).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prof Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit is the 13th vice chancellor of JNU. She is the first woman to head the university and also the first alumni of JNU to head JNU. She takes immense pride in what JNU stands for. “We are a very nationalistic university and very democratic,” she said. “We have all types of ideologies. Multiple narratives exist and we also agree to disagree here.” She added that JNU had the highest faculty to student ratio in the country―700 to 10,000―and that another 150 faculty roles were being filled. “Also JNU is the only university in the country that can affiliate all over the country,” she said. “For instance, the National Defence Academy cadets are all JNU graduates as they are awarded degrees from JNU.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pandit said that during her JNU days in the mid 1980s, there were only 2,500-3,000 students and the campus was not fully developed. There were only seven hostels at that time as against 17 now. The number of women in the university, too, was low as the women’s hostel was not full. “More schools and centres have come in now,” she said. “With the National Education Policy 2020, we have brought in courses of Indian knowledge systems in all types of schools. We asked schools to innovate and tried to align with the industry. We have courses such as disaster management and national security.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pandit also highlights the inclusivity at JNU. “One of our alumni, Sarita Mali who is now in the US, is the daughter of a flower seller from Mumbai,” she said. “Her father still sells flowers in Ghatkopar. While she was doing her PhD, she never wore a new dress. We have children from extremely poor families, we also have children of sex workers. We have physically disabled students as well as faculty. We have a faculty in the English department who is 90 per cent visually disabled.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another key factor which sets JNU apart is that it was interdisciplinary at inception, long before interdisciplinary became a buzzword in India in the 2010s and the NEP 2020 provided impetus to the approach. In fact, the JNU Act, 1966, says that the university shall “take appropriate measures for promoting interdisciplinary studies”. This was, at least in part, inspired by the universities in the UK and the US, which, as Chagla had said in Parliament, emphasised the “indivisibility of knowledge”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To this end, the university is not divided into narrowly defined departments, but into broader and more inclusive schools, under which come more specialised centres. As per the most recent annual report, there are 14 schools and eight special centres. As a result of such efforts, it is not uncommon for PhD students to work in areas like environment and literary studies, sociology and aesthetics or linguistics and biology.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The freedom given to the faculty to decide the syllabus and academic research is another key factor in JNU’s success. Apart from the continuous syllabus revision, JNU also runs “zero programmes”. This means that if a new area, which is not in the syllabus, becomes trending, then the faculty can take it up themselves and teach it even before the syllabus is updated. There is also the provision for a “zero semester”. This can be availed of if students need to take a break because of medical conditions, availing of scholarships/fellowships or visa constraints.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from their teaching, research and curriculum creation, JNU’s faculty is also renowned for their role in the development of the country. They participate in decision-making bodies and provide guidance and counsel on matters pertaining to both technology and policy. In terms of research output, JNU’s academic members published 170 books, 351 chapters in books and 1,111 papers/articles in journals in 2022-23. They also had 1,878 participations in seminars/conferences/workshops, delivered 1,393 lectures outside JNU, and were awarded 290 research projects.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The university’s largest schools are the school of social sciences, the school of international studies and the schools of languages and culture.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The school of social sciences has 13 centres, covering topics like history, geography, education, philosophy, social inclusion, economic systems, sociology and political science. Four centres―history, geography, political science and sociology―are globally ranked. Prof Kaushal Kumar Sharma, dean, school of social sciences, points out an interesting feature of the school. “Wherever we require some specialised contribution, we have a concurrent faculty, where a person or a professor who has qualification to teach in another centre can come and teach,” he said. “This is not happening anywhere else. So we do not have ad hoc faculty at all, because we have teachers who can teach in other centres.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He said that there was an emphasis on academic excursions and this opportunity for students to experience and understand what they have been learning in class is given due importance in the budget. Post these trips, students have to write a report and are asked questions about it during their assessment. All this is shared with other students in the centre. The school, which has over 3,000 students, also has a large number of chairs, like the World Bank chair, the RBI chair and the Ambedkar chair.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The school of international studies (SIS) started even before the establishment of JNU. It was founded in 1955 and later merged with JNU and today has 125 faculty members. Prof Amitabh Mattoo, dean, SIS, said that the school had alumni in all the top universities in the world. “The whole policy of non-alignment was generated through this school,” he said. “The principal justification for India’s policy and weaponisation was produced by this school; India’s intervention in East Pakistan, the rationale was produced by this school. So, whether it is in terms of policy or scholarship, there is no parallel to this school. Think-tanks can come and go, but institutions such as JNU, SIS are built by leaders for centuries. The SIS will last as long as scholarships matter in the world.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The school is currently planning a master’s programme in global governance and an MA in security studies. SIS also has executive development programmes for the industry and the government. “Already we have collaborated with the ministry of defence for short-term courses for their officers,” said Mattoo. “We are also devising short-term executive programmes for leaders. For instance, [geared to] big corporate groups [for their personnel] to understand international relations. For journalists, we have programmes focusing on how to cover conflict and wars. Also, how do you use AI as a productive tool.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another area SIS is into is risk analysis. “Suppose a corporate wants to set base in Africa, what kind of environment they are likely to face there, what is the situation there, what is the risk analysis there, what is the impact of investing there...,” said Mattoo. “SIS will become the number one international affairs school in the world. Harvard and Oxford do compete with us, but we will be the number one. There are 1,500 students in the school. A pool of the best and the brightest in the country.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Naina Khatri is pursuing her PhD from SIS. She has been in JNU since 2016 and her topic of study is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and its role in the life of refugee women. “I am doing a case study of Kenya,” she said. She said that she got to know about SIS from one of her professors at the University of Delhi while she was pursuing her UG and PG. “JNU has an environment to think and enhance one’s skill,” she said. “It also gives you reasoning and the skill to evaluate things. I have presented my papers in a lot of international conferences.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The school of language, literature and culture studies teaches 25 languages. This includes languages such as French, German, Russian, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Greek, Turkish and Indonesian. JNU already teaches more foreign languages than any other university in India. There are plans to introduce Malayan and Lithuanian, which has similarities to Sanskrit. The school of Sanskrit and indic studies has recently floated a certificate course in Pali.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The dean, Shoba Sivasankaran, highlights the flexibility the school offers to students. “In the five-year integrated programme those who want to leave after BA can leave,” she said. “Many students leave after BA because we have a successful placement programme as many MNCs hire our students (as interpretors and translators).” The language lab, where students learn to speak and translate, is a vital part of the school, which employs 120 faculty.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ashish Kumar Mishra is pursuing a masters in Russian. “While teaching basics in Russian language, the teachers use different methods such as teaching alphabets through songs,” he said. “They conduct quizzes and games, which are interesting and quite engaging. The newly built interpretation lab has advanced technology and helps to make interpretations like professional interpretors.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>JNU has an interesting mixture of courses, like yoga and wellness and ayurveda and biology. It also has a special centre for molecular medicine. It is collaborating with Patanjali and others to develop ayurveda and has also started the centre for Hindu studies, centre for Buddhist studies and centre for Jaina studies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The university offers technology courses like quantum computing, cybersecurity, network security, cryptography and mathematical robotics. In the field of sciences, it offers life sciences, nano science, bioinformatics and biotechnology. Moreover, the National Institute of Immunology’s doctoral programme leads to a JNU PhD. The university grants degrees to many other top research institutes. The institutes decide their curriculum, but are academically audited by JNU professors.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Considering what JNU has contributed to nation building, it is perhaps fitting that private companies are now coming forward to build things for it. For instance, HDFC has promised smart classrooms and solar lighting. JNU’s highest spend is electricity, which is free across the campus (as is WiFi).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Our aim now is to go completely solar and have LED lighting,” said Pandit. “We are paying around Rs36 lakh per month. We are looking at infrastructure improvement. I recently got Rs56 crore (to repair hostels and modernise the mess) from the ministry of education and the work is ongoing.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The biggest strength of any top institution is its alumni. JNU’s case is no different. Except that it can boast the likes of Union ministers S. Jaishankar and Nirmala Sitharaman, Nobel-winning economist Abhijit Banerjee, bureaucrats Amitabh Kant and Ajith Sen, and politicians Sitaram Yechury, Prakash Karat, Baburam Bhattarai (former prime minister of Nepal) and Ali Zeidan (former prime minister of Libya).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pandit is looking to her fellow alumni for additional monetary support and JNU has recently collected Rs22 lakh from them. “We have put up an online payment gateway so anyone who wants to donate can do so,” she said. “People will donate if they are confident that the fund will go directly to the university. Our alumni are well-to-do and are ready to pay. We have given alumni cards to our alumni like Jaishankar and Kant.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Research methodology</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>THE WEEK</b>-Hansa Research Best Universities Survey 2024 provides insight into the hierarchy of multidisciplinary, technical and medical universities in the country. This year, the study was done across 15 cities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To be eligible, universities had to be recognised by the UGC, offer full-time postgraduate degree courses in at least two disciplines and should have graduated at least three batches from the postgraduate programmes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A primary survey was conducted with 318 academic experts, spread across selected cities. The respondents were asked to nominate and rank the top 20 universities in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Perceptual score was calculated based on the number of nominations and the actual ranks received.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For factual data collection, a dedicated website was created and the link was sent to universities. Sixty-two universities responded within the stipulated time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Factual score was calculated based on information collected from universities and other secondary sources on the following parameters:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>* Age and accreditation</p> <p>* Infrastructure and other facilities</p> <p>* Faculty, research and academics</p> <p>* Student intake and exposure</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Final score = Perceptual score (out of 400) + factual score (out of 600)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some universities could not respond to the survey. Among them, for the universities which confirmed that they wished to be ranked, the composite score was derived by combining the perceptual score with an interpolated factual score based on their position in the perceptual score list.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Ashok Kumar Mittal</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Trends in Indian university education driven by the rise of AI and changing employer preferences prioritise skill-centric learning, practical abilities, adaptability, and lifelong learning, preparing students for the evolving professional landscape.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>founder chancellor, Lovely Professional University</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>N. Mallikarjun Rao</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Incorporating innovative assessment methods is crucial to providing a comprehensive evaluation of students’ learning outcomes. Therefore, the university should adopt assessment methods that go beyond traditional exams. This includes project-based assessments, portfolios and peer evaluations. These methods allow students to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and abilities in diverse ways, fostering a deeper understanding of the subject matter.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>registrar, Annamacharya University, Rajampet, Andhra Pradesh</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>S. Madhu</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is essential to focus on both the curriculum and teaching methodologies. For example, offer personalised learning paths and flexible course structures that allow students to customise their educational journey based on their interests, career goals, and learning pace. Provide guidance and support services to help students make informed decisions and navigate their academic path effectively.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>director, Anurag Centre for Educational Innovations, Anurag University</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Prof V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Technological interventions, deregulation and the National Education Policy 2020 are the trendsetters in the current higher education scenario in India. Universities are exploring adaptive learning platforms and personalised teaching methods to cater to individual student needs and learning styles. There is a shift towards integrating practical skills, such as critical thinking, problem-solving and communication, into curricula to equip students better for the workforce.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>vice chancellor, Somaiya Vidyavihar University, Mumbai</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Ashok Shettar</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In India, university education is experiencing several noteworthy trends. Apart from the shift towards digital and online learning platforms, interdisciplinary studies and flexible curriculum structures, universities are also focusing on fostering research and innovation ecosystems, promoting entrepreneurship, and enhancing exclusivity and diversity on campuses. These trends reflect a dynamic landscape in Indian higher education, characterised by advancements in technology, pedagogy, research and exclusivity efforts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>vice chancellor, KLE Technological University, Hubli</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Sardar Taranjit Singh</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is recommended that private universities increase their endeavour in widening their industry connections and recruiters network. Pre-placement training sessions should be made rigorous and tailored to an individual’s potential. The employability index of individual students should be determined; a customised grooming programme will improve the industry-readiness of the candidates.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>chancellor, JIS University</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Prof Devinder Narain</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To bolster students’ job readiness, universities can forge partnerships with MSMEs to offer real-world experiences through internships. MSMEs provide fertile ground for experiential learning, allowing students to understand the intricacies of businesses, adapt to dynamic work environments and cultivate entrepreneurial mindsets. Such partnerships bridge the gap between academia and industry, ensuring that graduates possess relevant skills and knowledge sought by employers, thereby enhancing their employability.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>senior director (human resource), Shobhit Univesrity</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Satnam Singh Sandhu</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Higher education institutions should offer multiple career opportunities such as entrepreneurship, research and professional sports to the students so that they do not have to just rely on campus placements. If placements are to be provided then the students should be prepared as per industry expectations. We must prepare today’s youth with the skills of tomorrow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>chancellor, Chandigarh University</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Atul Patel</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India has 25 per cent of the world’s student population. Making higher education more attractive will help in making the student development more complete. Teaching them to learn soft skills, like communication, critical thinking and effective collaboration, too, will help. Education is now beyond just exam scores.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>dean (academics) and registrar, Charotar University of Science and Technology, Anand, Gujarat</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Dr D. Premachandra Sagar</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Artificial intelligence, machine learning and other emerging technologies are playing increasingly significant roles in higher education in India. They can be used to tailor experiences that help individual learning needs. Universities can leverage AI and ML to analyse student performance, attendance and engagement data. Predictive analytics models can identify at-risk students early on and facilitate targeted interventions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>pro-chancellor, Dayananda Sagar University</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Siddharth Chaturvedi</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Higher education institutions need to align with aspirations of students and the demands of the market. Introducing flexible pathways, micro-credentialing and personalised learning options accommodates various learning styles and career objectives. Interactive teaching approaches like flipped classrooms, gamification and virtual labs offer immersive learning experiences. Furthermore, promoting research, innovation and global exposure through partnerships and exchange programmes enriches the academic journey and equips students to tackle global challenges.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>chancellor, Scope Global Skills University</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/how-jawaharlal-nehru-university-became-india-s-best.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/how-jawaharlal-nehru-university-became-india-s-best.html Fri May 24 12:23:59 IST 2024 trust-jnu-s-strengths-says-former-dean-at-university-of-delhi <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/trust-jnu-s-strengths-says-former-dean-at-university-of-delhi.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/5/18/110-Anita-Rampal.jpg" /> <p>When we think of a university such as JNU, we go back to the momentous vision statements of independent India’s first Education Commission on University Education. In 1948, when the country was struggling to bring people together after a traumatic partition, the Radhakrishnan Commission had stated that universities should be seen as the “organs of civilisation”, the “homes of intellectual adventure”, where we “must cultivate the art of human relationships, the ability to live and work together overcoming the dividing forces of the time”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In almost prescient words, it went on to commit: “We must resist, in the interests of our own democracy, the trend towards governmental domination of the educational process. Higher education is, undoubtedly, an obligation of the State but State aid is not to be confused with State control over academic policies and practices. Intellectual progress demands the maintenance of the spirit of free inquiry. The pursuit and practice of truth regardless of consequences has been the ambition of universities. Professional integrity requires that teachers should be as free to speak on controversial issues as any other citizens of a free country. An atmosphere of freedom is essential for developing this ‘morality of the mind’.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>JNU and its committed faculty had, through serious deliberation over the initial years, evolved an admission policy which was true to the constitutional mandate of equity and democracy. It was probably for the first time that an institution of higher education acknowledged that the path to a university is disproportionately marked with severe hurdles for socioeconomically disadvantaged students. JNU worked on an affirmative policy to assign points during admission for disadvantage on various counts, and thus extended access to a large diversity of students from across the country’s uneven landscapes of inequality.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The entrance test was not the problematic type, such as CUET―the centralised, online examination with “multiple choice questions”, which our students are being subjected to under the present regime of the National Education Policy 2020. This is an unfair and unequal format that privileges those from better-resourced homes and from schools affiliated to the CBSE.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The JNU admission process, with fair attention to students’ written, analytical and oral explanatory capabilities, had been its major strength, coupled, of course, with an eminent committed faculty that strove to create a democratic environment in its classrooms. This is usually the biggest challenge for academics, who might think that their knowledge and oratory skills are enough to be a good university teacher. But in JNU, the faculty nurtured that critical intellectual space, in turn encouraging students to share the responsibility of cultivating academic freedom with criticality and the morality of mind essential for a university.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, with the changes in the students’ admission process and teachers’ selection record we have to see how long JNU will be able to withstand the present pressures and challenges.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>―<b>Rampal is former dean, faculty of education, University of Delhi.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/trust-jnu-s-strengths-says-former-dean-at-university-of-delhi.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/trust-jnu-s-strengths-says-former-dean-at-university-of-delhi.html Sat May 18 12:51:09 IST 2024 higher-education-institutions-need-to-be-highly-student-centric-amity-university-vc <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/higher-education-institutions-need-to-be-highly-student-centric-amity-university-vc.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/5/18/114-Prof-Balvinder-Shukla.jpg" /> <p>Prof Balvinder Shukla, vice chancellor, Amity University, Uttar Pradesh (Noida and Lucknow), has over three decades of experience in industry, academia, research and administration. She speaks to THE WEEK about the employability of graduates and the future of higher education in India. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How can employability skills can be developed in students?</b></p> <p><br> After Covid-19 a lot has changed and a student from any stream needs to understand digitisation and needs to develop digital skills. In 2019, when we were implementing the Education 4.0, which was aligned with Industry 4.0, we identified technologies which are extremely important for students of all disciplines and incorporated them in the curriculum. Technologies such as data learning, machine learning. Students learn these technologies and apply this knowledge in whatever job roles they get into. We used to conduct skill development courses for them in partnership with the industry. It helped our students in terms of employability as they were getting skills directly from the industry.<br> However, we do not prepare all our students for corporate jobs. When students join, we do an aspiration survey and prepare them according to their aspirations.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>There is a</b> <b>lot of talk about ViksitBharat 2047. Your views on this.</b></p> <p><br> The UGC is taking the initiative and meeting all the vice chancellors and has shared the five sectors of ViksitBharat with universities. The universities have created zone wise committees and communicated details about the vision to each zone. They are talking to students and faculty and have come up with suggestions as to how students will create ViksitBharat and how the university will design the curriculum to meet the skill requirements of the future.</p> <p>We are meeting various companies—the same vision document has gone to industry also. So the industry is also asking academia what can be done together. This is first time this is happening in the country. For instance, now that the privatisation of the space sector is happening, [there is discussion on] how educational institutions can develop the required talent pool. This way we are talking to different industries and companies about what can be done together. From the beginning, we had been transferring technologies to the industry. Now, with ViksitBharat, the industry-academia collaboration will increase manifold. Sponsored research and industry-partnered programmes will increase. We are discussing what the skill requirements will be five years down the line.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What do your think would be the future of higher education in the country?</b></p> <p><br> The future of higher education in India will depend on how the leadership in the field of education adapts to the changes and gives flexibility to the student as to how they want to and in which mode they want to have their education. Today, a student may go for a programme and exit after sometime, say one year, and then wants to come back after one or two years to the same programme. So, how that experience of those two years can be converted into credits for that student. Such aspects need to be looked at as every experience has a value.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What are the challenges in higher education in India?</b></p> <p><br> When I was a student, I felt that I was lucky as there was no internet and no mobile, so we interacted with our teachers all the time. Today, the use of mobile phones and the internet has made the life of a student very personal and private. Because of this, many things which are happening in their lives cannot be known by their parents or teachers. So, as a higher education institution one needs to be highly student-centric, so that one is able to support students emotionally and make them strong. Besides that, engaging the student in group activities is equally important which can help them develop social skills and bring in creativity.</p> <p><br> Today a student's concentration span is short and one cannot lecture them continuously at a stretch. In between one needs to engage the students in some other activity. Hence the focus should be more on learning than teaching. Therefore assessing their learning level has become important. The challenge is how to bring a student out of their mobile devices towards social engagement.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/higher-education-institutions-need-to-be-highly-student-centric-amity-university-vc.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/higher-education-institutions-need-to-be-highly-student-centric-amity-university-vc.html Sat May 18 16:03:35 IST 2024 future-of-higher-education-in-our-country-holds-promise-as-well-as-challenges-christ-university-vc <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/future-of-higher-education-in-our-country-holds-promise-as-well-as-challenges-christ-university-vc.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/5/18/114-Fr-Joseph.jpg" /> <p>Fr Joseph C.C., vice chancellor, Christ (deemed to be University), Bengaluru, speaks to THE WEEK about the current trends in higher education in the country and the challenges in the system. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What is trending?</b></p> <p><br> In the realm of Indian university education, a remarkable transformation is underway, characterised by a concerted drive towards skill enrichment, global engagement, technological integration, and an intensified commitment to research. Universities are actively integrating practical skill enhancement modules into their academic frameworks, ensuring that graduates are equipped with a diverse skill set tailored to thrive in today's fiercely competitive landscape.</p> <p><br> Simultaneously, there is a noticeable shift towards interdisciplinary education, nurturing innovation and critical thinking vital for tackling intricate societal issues. Moreover, endeavours towards internationalisation are gaining momentum, fostering cross-cultural exchange and collaboration through various partnerships and exchange programmes.<br> Technology occupies a pivotal role in this evolution, facilitating the adoption of digital learning platforms, virtual classrooms and collaborative research endeavours. Notably, research occupies a central position, with institutions investing in state-of-the-art infrastructure and cultivating a culture of inquiry to propel knowledge forward and steer societal advancement. Increasing emphasis on teacher autonomy and institutional autonomy are welcome changes which will help Indian higher education become globally competitive.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Changes in pedagogy</b></p> <p><br> We have enthusiastically adopted innovative teaching methods that prioritise active learning, critical thinking and problem-solving. Strategies such as flipped classrooms and project-based learning deeply engage students, enhancing their understanding and application of concepts.</p> <p><br> Furthermore, we have introduced virtual labs, online simulations and multimedia resources to create immersive learning experiences, fostering self-paced learning and digital proficiency. We have also integrated the case study method. To align with the National Education Policy 2020's emphasis on multidisciplinary education, we have overhauled our curriculum to offer interdisciplinary courses and programmes.</p> <p><br> In addition, we have woven service learning opportunities into our curriculum, echoing the NEP 2020 emphasis on community engagement. Through service projects and community partnerships, students leverage their knowledge and skills to tackle real-world challenges, fostering empathy, social responsibility, and civic engagement.&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The future and challenges</b></p> <p><br> The future of higher education in our country holds promise as well as challenges. The adaption of digital technologies, interdisciplinary approaches, and global collaborations supported by changing regulatory eco systems will continue to reshape the landscape of higher education, providing diverse educational pathways and preparing students for a rapidly evolving job market.</p> <p><br> Adapting to changing demographic and technological trends are among the key challenges that universities must navigate in the coming years. As demographics shift and technological advancements continue to accelerate, universities must remain agile and responsive to changing student needs and preferences. This requires ongoing investment in infrastructure, faculty development, and curriculum redesign to ensure that educational offerings remain relevant, accessible, and impactful.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/future-of-higher-education-in-our-country-holds-promise-as-well-as-challenges-christ-university-vc.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/future-of-higher-education-in-our-country-holds-promise-as-well-as-challenges-christ-university-vc.html Sat May 18 16:01:50 IST 2024 employability-issues-are-a-narrative-created-by-corporate-world-delhi-university-vc <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/employability-issues-are-a-narrative-created-by-corporate-world-delhi-university-vc.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/5/18/116-Prof-Yogesh-Singh.jpg" /> <p><i>Interview/ <b>Prof Yogesh Singh</b>, vice chancellor, University of Delhi</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prof Yogesh Singh is the 23rd vice chancellor of the century-old University of Delhi (DU). An engineer with a PhD in computer engineering, Singh has an impressive track record of teaching, innovation and research in the area of software engineering. He has more than 250 publications and his book, <i>Software Testing</i>, published by the Cambridge University Press, is well-received internationally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an interview with THE WEEK, Singh talks about trends in higher education in India, the challenges faced by big universities, and how to make higher education more interesting. Asked about the perception that Indian graduates are “not employable”, he reacts strongly, and emphasises the difference between training and higher education. Edited excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>QWhat are the trends in higher education in India and how do they compare with the west?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b>Higher education in our country is passing through a transformative phase. Many provisions of the National Education Policy 2020 were not there earlier. Now every institution is implementing the NEP. So things are improving at the ground level. We also need to understand that proper emphasis had not been given earlier to skill and value education. The purpose of education is also to make good human beings. In the higher education scenario, things were missing earlier. We are incorporating those in the curriculum.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another interesting aspect is the new credits system. For instance, if someone wants to play or wants to take sports as an elective, then credits are assigned to the course and those may be given to the student. Now, there is a system for assigning credit to such courses. Many good things are happening in the higher education institution. The NEP has given us a platform to experiment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>QWhat changes have you made in your curriculum?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b>We are in the process of implementing the NEP and are designing a new curriculum. We are continuously improving it. Now it is research-based and research-intensive. This promotes conceptual understanding. By the next academic session, we will have the revived MPhil (Clinical Psychology); MPhil was not under the NEP. There are also the programmes started last year, such as Hindu studies, Korean studies and BA LLB five-year programme.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>[Moreover,] it now is a multidisciplinary system. For instance, someone doing BSc Physics (Honours) can take minor in AI. Or, someone doing commerce can go for a minor in data analytics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>QHow can higher education or classroom teaching be made more interesting?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b>Many students used to tell me that classrooms were boring and that information was easily available through various means. Classrooms should be energetic. Discussions should take place. One concept, which has many propagators, is the flip classroom, wherein you prepare a 10-minute video of whatever you want to cover in the next class. On seeing it, students understand what is to be covered in the next class. When they come for the class they have ideas and thoughts in their minds. This can enhance learning capacity and make students more interested in discussions, thereby establishing relationship of the theory with practice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like this we can design new experiments and student participation will make our classrooms effective, energetic and positive. Technology is there to help us and it is an enabler. For instance, one can take a cue from the advertising industry. In a limited time frame of 50 seconds or so they have to show content and make it interesting.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>QWhat do you feel about the concerns around employability of graduates?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b>Employability issues are a narrative created by the corporate world. I do not agree with this. This is a narrative created in our country as one does not want to value the education system and the value to teaching in the education system. Through such narratives, a perception is created in the minds of the students that whatever they have learnt is not important.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many corporates say that they have to give specialised training for a few months to their people. In this context, my question is that if your six months training is so good then why don’t you employ students immediately after Class 12?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our students are good, but if you want to assess them on a particular technology or a particular procedure or your particular software... there is a broad difference between training and education. Training is a subset of education. We are not training centres, but higher education institutions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The purpose of education is learning to live together. We are not preparing students for a particular technology, software or thought process. Rather we want to energise and rationalise our students so that they can take right decisions at the right time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>QHow has the CUET exercise been?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b>In terms of inclusion and equity we are now getting more students from many states and small towns. Earlier also we were getting good students, but now it is not only from large cities, but from all places.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many state boards were in a disadvantageous position as some of them are generally strict. At the same time, some state boards are lenient. The boards of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, West Bengal are strict. So, earlier most of the students coming from these states were from the CBSE. But, with the CUET in place, we are getting students from across all boards.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The CUET looks at a student’s preparedness and involvement in the subject and does not differentiate among boards. The point here is that a student who has done well in intermediate is expected to do well in the CUET. Those who are thorough with their NCERT books should be able to perform well in the CUET examinations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>QWhat are the challenges which large universities like yours face?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b>Large-sized institutions have challenges. For instance, Delhi University is a 100-year old institution. So we have to not only create new infrastructure, but also maintain the existing one. We have received full support from the government and have got more than 01,500 crore. We are constructing new buildings and recruiting teachers as we feel that recruitment of teachers should not be a one-time activity, but a regular one. We recruited more than 4,500 assistant professors in the last year-and-a-half. We have a backlog and it will take six months to fill that.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/employability-issues-are-a-narrative-created-by-corporate-world-delhi-university-vc.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/18/employability-issues-are-a-narrative-created-by-corporate-world-delhi-university-vc.html Sat May 18 15:57:31 IST 2024 a-chennai-company-named-orbitaid-is-making-waves-in-the-world-of-space-tech-startups <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/11/a-chennai-company-named-orbitaid-is-making-waves-in-the-world-of-space-tech-startups.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/5/11/58-Sakthikumar-and-Nikhil.jpg" /> <p>Imagine refuelling satellites in space. Two young men did. They took their proposal to a businessman-cum-scientist in Bengaluru. But, he closed their painstakingly made file and threw it back to them. He said: “Find a lucrative job and save your family. Do not spend time on unwanted things.” They walked out with their heads down. Even their family members scoffed at the idea—a fuel station in space—calling it a fantasy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, they dreamt on. A decade later, the duo met the scientist who had shown them the door at a tech event. He was now singing a different tune. “I thought you would not make it,” he said. “Now you have made it a reality. I realise it was not a fantasy.” In the intervening decade, the duo, Sakthikumar Ramachandran, 35, and Nikhil Balasubramanian, 30, had launched a startup—OrbitAID—based out of the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, and backed by the government of Tamil Nadu. They are now ready to take their dream to space.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are thousands of satellites in orbit, more than 400 of them launched by ISRO. These satellites are usually designed to carry fuel for 15 years. After that they cannot keep their orbit position and start to drift. They slowly lose communication and become redundant, eventually turning to space debris. If these satellites can be refuelled in orbit, that would allow greater manoeuvrability and extend the life of a mission.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sakthikumar and Nikhil are part of a new kind of space race—the emerging field of on-orbit servicing (OOS). It involves refuelling satellites, extending their lifespan and reducing waste in space. OrbitAID is the first Indian company in OOS. It has designed tanker satellites which will go to space and refuel client satellites. The idea may sound ambitious, but this new frontier in space privatisation is estimated to have huge potential. According to Northern Sky Research, a satellite and space market research company, the OOS market is worth around $18 billion and at least one-third of that is refuelling.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The two men who are leading India’s entry into this exciting market are from diverse backgrounds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sakthikumar hails from a middle-class family in Vadakkalur, in the backward Perambalur district in Tamil Nadu. As a boy, he was passionate about science and felt it could explain every change in nature. Therefore, though surrounded by those who preferred literature or law, he considered science a worthier pursuit. Spending his nights watching stars on his terrace led to a keen interest in space. To get access to books on the subject, he depended on the district library and later a reader’s circle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The youngest of three siblings, he went to a government school in Perambalur. His father was a deputy block development officer at the collector’s office and his mother a homemaker. Growing up in awe of ISRO’s achievements, he wanted to find a solution to an unsolved problem. After his schooling, he completed his graduation in aeronautical engineering from VSB college in Karur and his postgraduation in space engineering and rocketry at the Birla Institute of Technology in Ranchi. In 2011, he joined the IISc as a researcher in the satellite propulsion department.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His wife, Aishwarya P., is a special educator. She was drawn to Sakthikumar’s passion for science and has been a constant source of support in his entrepreneurial journey. A voracious reader of science fiction, he also used to run an NGO in his hometown to help economically backward children. “I will have to ensure that the pause button is pressed sooner or later to help more children, once my startup becomes successful,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nikhil joined IISc as an intern in 2014. He was roomed with Sakthikumar. Nikhil was doing his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering at the Coimbatore Institute of Technology (CIT) at the time. During his three-month aerospace engineering internship at IISc, he got influenced by Sakthikumar’s ideas about space technology. The two remained in touch even after the internship and Nikhil, inspired by Sakthikumar, went on to complete his master’s and doctorate in the aerospace domain from Technion, Israel, and the Technical University of Munich, respectively.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nikhil is from an upper middle-class family. His parents are both cost accountants from Kerala; his father is from Palakkad district and his mother is from Kottayam. He was born in Kottayam, but the family moved to Coimbatore when he was three. His father runs a financial and accounting consultancy there and now helps OrbitAID with finance and compliance related issues. Nikhil is married to Benazir Begam Mohamed Ali, who was his batch mate at CIT and is now a product consultant at a German company.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During their work at IISc, the two men characterised the propellents mainly used in satellites. They also got projects from ISRO, the Defence Research and Development Organisation and some private companies in the satellite design field. This gave them invaluable exposure to satellite technology. They also researched fuel consumption of satellites and how long satellites can stay active in orbit. This led to the spark that would become OrbitAID.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As they went back to their room after a long day’s work, Sakthikumar asked Nikhil what he thought about a fuel tanker on orbit. As the two discussed and developed the idea, they also worked on various other projects that involved propellants and thrusters used in satellites. They also worked on “initial characterisation” of thrusters for ISRO missions, including Chandrayaan 2. “Initial characterisation means studying the behaviour of the engine pressure and the injector,” said Sakthikumar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This hands-on experience further fuelled the spark. But, now there was another consideration. By providing an option for refuelling, the cost of satellite launches could be reduced as fuel at launch can be cut down. As a result, OrbitAID’s first mission was to develop a constellation of tanker satellites to establish a fuel station in space.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These tanker satellites are equipped with the technological capabilities necessary for docking and fuel transfer to client satellites. They will be strategically positioned in various orbits and will carry a range of fuels, including monopropellants, bi-propellants, and electric propulsion fuels, depending on the specific needs of the client. “Every year, functional satellites that provide weather data, communications, and other essential services retire because of fuel depletion, becoming space debris,” said Sakthikumar. “Just as there is a robust refuelling ecosystem currently available for ground-based locomotives, a similar ecosystem is necessary in space for the efficient utilisation of spacecraft resources.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With an aim to simplify the on-orbit fuel availability and promote circular space economy, Sakthikumar and Nikhil have been developing this solution at their lab at IISc. They are poised to launch their first payload to space this year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The name they chose for the company—OrbitAID—indicates their ambition. “Initially, we thought that the name should connect with refuelling,” said Sakthikumar. “But, later we decided that we are not going to stop with refuelling and are going to venture into a bigger space like in-orbit servicing of satellites. So this was the apt name.” The two invested close to Rs50 lakh in all and OrbitAID received Rs4.5 crore as investment from the Tamil Nadu government’s startup mission.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>OrbitAID invented a new docking system for refuelling that can work with existing systems on satellites. “We came up with an integrated mechanism which will take care of docking plus refuelling the satellite,” said Sakthikumar. “We did this in 2014-2015.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even though OrbitAID is in the process of launching its tanker satellites, it is already considered one of the most exciting space tech startups globally. It has been named as one of the world’s top 20 space tech startups in a study that analysed 1,544 startups. It has signed agreements with six companies in India and Germany. Slowly, it has also established connections with companies in Europe and the UK, and also with the space agency in Germany. “We have a good connect with a few space agencies in Germany, Europe and the UK,” said Nikhil.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are a few OOS companies functional across the globe, supported by NASA. The UK-based Effective Space Solutions, which manufactures spacecraft intended to extend the life of communication satellites, and the Northrop Grumman Corporation, an American multinational aerospace and defence technology company, are the big players in the industry. OrbitFab, a US-based startup company, is a competitor for OrbitAID. As of now, Sakthikumar and Nikhil both feel that OrbitFab, which is focused on refuelling satellites, is their only competitor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It looks like the time is ripe for the OrbitAID boys to reach for the stars.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/11/a-chennai-company-named-orbitaid-is-making-waves-in-the-world-of-space-tech-startups.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/11/a-chennai-company-named-orbitaid-is-making-waves-in-the-world-of-space-tech-startups.html Sat May 11 12:26:14 IST 2024 k-c-verma-when-i-chanced-upon-raj-narain-who-humbled-indira-gandhi <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/04/k-c-verma-when-i-chanced-upon-raj-narain-who-humbled-indira-gandhi.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/5/4/56-Raj-Narain.jpg" /> <p><b>I WAS A</b> young assistant superintendent of police in 1973 when the Banka by-election was announced. The Lok Sabha constituency was a part of Bihar’s Bhagalpur district and the district magistrate (DM), Bhagalpur, was the returning officer. One morning, Wati Ao, the DM, curtly called me to his office. <i>“Jaldi ao,”</i> he shouted in his heavily Naga-accented Hindi. I scurried over to the DM’s office which was just 50 yards away.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A bizarre sight met my eyes in the DM’s chamber. There was a sizeable crowd in the room and the DM sat in a corner with a resigned expression. Sprawled on the large office table was an unkempt man with a green bandana on his head! I was about to scream at the kurta-pyjama-clad man, but Ao’s expression made me hesitate. Politely, I asked the man what he thought he was doing. He said he was on satyagraha. He complained that the DM had deputed an official to the treasury to deposit the security amount for Shakuntala Devi, the Congress candidate, when she came to file her nomination. He demanded that he should be extended the same courtesy. I assured him that I would get it done for him and asked him his name.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Surprised, he said, “You mean you don’t know who I am?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“No, sir, I don’t! And I don’t care. But I need your name for filling the treasury <i>challan</i>,” I said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My youthful brashness seemed to amuse him as much as his antics amused me. “Write down,” he said, “The name is Raj Narain.” Lying on the table, he took out a bundle of currency notes from his pocket and gave it to me. He clambered off the DM’s table only after the treasury counterfoil was brought, which he submitted with his nomination papers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Later, when the polling date approached, the district superintendent of police fell ill and I had to take charge of the security arrangements for a difficult election. It was indeed a clash of titans. Shakuntala Devi of the Congress treated Banka as her pocket borough and was confident of winning. The Communist Party of India (CPI) had fielded one of its giants―Tarni Mandal, who is now quite forgotten. Madhu Limaye, who ultimately won the election, was a towering leader of one socialist party. The enfant terrible of the pre-Emergency days, Narain, represented another socialist party. There were also other less well-known candidates.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was a remarkable election for several reasons. Even though many bigwigs came, and the contest was keenly fought, the election concluded peacefully. Many said it was the fairest election that they had ever witnessed and, unbelievably, the ruling party nominee forfeited her security deposit! In 1973, this was unprecedented. For me, however, the most memorable event was my encounter with Narain. In my mind’s eye today, more than 50 years later, I can still see him stretched out on the DM’s table in a pose reminiscent of Lord Padmanabha reclining on the serpent <i>sheshanag</i>!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Verma</b> was the director of Research and Analysis Wing (R&amp;AW).</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/04/k-c-verma-when-i-chanced-upon-raj-narain-who-humbled-indira-gandhi.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/04/k-c-verma-when-i-chanced-upon-raj-narain-who-humbled-indira-gandhi.html Sat May 04 12:33:35 IST 2024 tejas-thackeray-shares-his-passion-for-wildlife-conservation-and-photography <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/04/tejas-thackeray-shares-his-passion-for-wildlife-conservation-and-photography.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/5/4/60-Tejas-Thackeray.jpg" /> <p>At the Amboli wildlife reserve in Maharashtra’s Sindhudurg district, a tiger attacked and killed a cow at midnight last December. Chances were high that the big cat would return to claim its prey, which was lying off the road that ran along the reserve. Tejas Thackeray, the younger son of former Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, crouched not too far from the carcass to capture the moment on camera. But there was no sign of the tiger.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By 6am, Tejas was told that the tiger had killed two more cows around midnight. Maybe it had its stomach full and did not need this one, after all. Only then did Tejas go back to his cottage. “That kind of mad passion for wildlife is normal for TT,” said one of his fellow wildlife enthusiasts. Tejas, 28, is ‘TT’ for his close friends.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Tejas embarked upon his first herping trip to Amboli in 2012, looking for amphibians and reptiles, he was just a teenager. He discovered a new species of fish during that trip, which was later named Schistura hiranyakeshi. “It was a freshwater fish way smaller than our little finger and was easy to miss,” said Tejas. “It was ethereal and beautiful, unlike anything I had ever seen.” He returned to Amboli in 2017, with all necessary permits to document the fish. Tejas made public the entire process during the Covid lockdown in 2021. The pond at the Shiva temple in Amboli where he spotted the fish got the ‘Schistura hiranyakeshi biodiversity heritage site tag’ when Uddhav was chief minister.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tejas has to his credit a crab, a snake and a gecko that he named after his family. He has discovered nearly 60 species so far, a result of his extensive travels. “I have lived in all border areas of India, except the Pakistan border,” he said. “I once spent 99 hours on a boat to spot a tigress in the Sundarbans, I have lived on the Dri River in Arunachal Pradesh to spot Mishmi takin, a goat-antelope. I have been to the Sandakphu mountains in Nepal to see the red pandas in the snow. I have visited almost all national parks, wildlife reserves and other habitats in India. I have known the country as a traveller and an explorer.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Speaking with THE WEEK at Matoshree, the family home of the Thackerays in Mumbai, Tejas said that despite being a member of an illustrious political family, he had been largely successful in staying out of the limelight and following his passion. “I have been at every Dussehra rally. I have toured all of Maharashtra, but people would never notice me,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More than the crowds and the rallies, Tejas loves the jungle. During one such trip to Amboli, after discovering three new crab species, Tejas said he realised the limitless potential of what more could be done. “If I could discover three new species during a fun trip with friends, how much more can we achieve with a properly planned, concentrated effort on the freshwater crab diversity of Maharashtra?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The last person to work on the freshwater crabs of Maharashtra was an Indian-born British naturalist, Alfred William Alcock, back in 1909. “These crabs were seen for the first time after 1909. So I thought we should rediscover them. I spent almost five back-to-back monsoons in Koyna, Radhanagari, Satara, Sangli, Raigad and Konkan and ended up discovering 20 species of crabs and also one new genus, which was named Sahyadriana thackerayi,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tejas is also curious about fishes, geckos and snakes. After his initial adventures, he got more people to join him, setting up the Thackeray Wildlife Foundation in 2019. What began as a hobby gradually turned into a mission, requiring funds, permits, researchers, experts and much more.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On running the TWF and making it a full-time career, Tejas said a lot of people try to advise him. “But this is my baby. Let me have my own philosophy for it. Even though I have not been in politics, I come from a political family. I have seen my father and grandfather run the party. I have seen them nurture it. There has always been a philosophy and vision for the party, both short-term and long-term. And that is how I look at the foundation.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tejas developed an interest in geckos in 2015, when he went to Anamalai in Tamil Nadu for the first time. It was September, and the monsoon was about to end when he found his very first Cnemaspis, one of the most diverse geckos. “I was a random teenager walking in the dense rainforest. The canopy there was so dense that it was difficult to guess the time of the day. It was in the thick and dense leaf litter where one looks for geckos,” he said. While trying to find the Cnemaspis, Tejas almost stepped on a hump-nosed pit viper, which was completely camouflaged, looking like dry leaf. Once the visibility was so poor and he found himself face to face with wild elephants. He also encountered a tigress and her cubs. “Those tigers were quite different from the ones you find in other national parks in India as they have never seen any human beings in their lives,” he said. “Despite all these adventures, we could not collect the Cnemaspis because we did not have the required permits.” Tejas got the permits a few years later, and he submitted the details of his findings earlier this year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are many reasons why Tejas has chosen a career with a difference. “I was not the best when it came to academics. I was an average student, my maths skills were terrible,” he said. “But I always had a good understanding of the relationship various species had with their habitats.” In the years that followed, Tejas went from the Sahyadris to the Eastern Ghats, the northeast, the Andamans, the Malayan archipelago, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. “Everything in the tropics is interlinked,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2017, Tejas took a break after his graduation and travelled extensively, which included a 14-day trek to the Chinese border in Arunachal Pradesh, following the Dri River and camping in freezing cold to photograph Mishmi takin. He was accompanied by nearly 40 guards. That was when the Doklam conflict with China happened. But it did not stop him. “When TT is on a trip, he is in the zone. We eat, sleep and stay in the jungle. He leaves his phone behind and walks with locals. In some places, it is just impossible to have 40 security guards around; the forest department would not let us carry out the research,” said Akshay Khandekar, a colleague.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tejas found inspiration from his father to pursue a career in wildlife. “When I was growing up, my grandfather was at the peak of his political career. And my dad was into politics, but he loved photography and wildlife more,” said Tejas. “He used to travel a lot to the tiger reserves in Kanha, Tadoba and Bandhavgarh. He would go into the wild to shoot the photos of lions and tigers. He was crazy. I would keep saying that I wanted to accompany him, but I was too small.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tejas still remembers how his father would pick up one wildlife book for him from every store he visited. He now has a whole library filled with books his father bought for him. “My dad sparked interest for the whole thing in me,” he said. “Then we started going out together looking for tigers, but eventually my interest turned towards the smaller biodiversity.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What does his father have to say about his passion now? “He says what I do is crazy and I tell him that what he is doing is crazy. So we reach a common ground―let us do our own thing.” But it does not mean that Tejas is completely cut off from politics. People recognise him more these days, as his presence has grown on posters and on the party’s [Shiv Sena (UBT)] social media handles. “Yes, they have started putting my pictures on posters and I don’t quite enjoy being in the limelight. If it was in my hands, you still would not see me much. But then I cannot really disappoint my family either. It is always an act of carefully balancing between what I want and what I am duty-bound to do. Being a son, I am always there for my father.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet, nature remains his first love. “I am a nomad at heart, I am made for the jungles,” said Tejas. Even when he is in a room with his party workers, his heart is where the next species can be found.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/04/tejas-thackeray-shares-his-passion-for-wildlife-conservation-and-photography.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/05/04/tejas-thackeray-shares-his-passion-for-wildlife-conservation-and-photography.html Sat May 04 12:22:37 IST 2024 lakshmamma-temple-karnataka-has-placed-leaders-of-the-independence-struggle-alongside-divinity <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/27/lakshmamma-temple-karnataka-has-placed-leaders-of-the-independence-struggle-alongside-divinity.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/4/27/56-A-sculpture-of-Subhas-Chandra-Bose.jpg" /> <p>Millions of people in British India woke up to a new dawn on August 15, 1947. After decades of struggle under leaders of differing ideologies, from Subhas Chandra Bose to Mahatma Gandhi, Indians were no longer in the clutches of a colonial power.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As most of the country celebrated independence, the people of Raichur in Hyderabad were still waiting for freedom, along with the 1.6 crore people of the princely state. Hyderabad was yet to make a decision about acceding to either India or Pakistan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Razakars, the Nizam’s notorious paramilitary force, were guarding Raichur, a town on the princely state’s southwestern border, with orders to kill anyone who revolted against the Nizam. Raichur Fort, built by the Kakatiyas in the 12th century, had seen the rule of the Rashtrakutas, the Vijayanagara emperors, the Bahmani sultans and the Nizams. Now the fort was ready to witness another change.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During this turbulent time, Tappadi Dodda Narasareddy was famous among his <i>Munnuru</i> Kapu community for riding on horseback through Raichur town, wearing the uniform of Bose’s Indian National Army. Other members of his community were followers of Gandhi and they were hoping to liberate Raichur in a Gandhian way. The patriots of Raichur continued their struggle for another 13 months until the newly restructured Indian Army annexed Hyderabad and liberated Raichur, and indeed the whole state, by force.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Seven decades on, Raichur is now part of Karnataka. It is girded by rivers: the Krishna on the north, and the Tungabhadra on the south. Despite the reputation of being a dry and hot place, Raichur grows cotton and hosts hundreds of rice mills. Raichur’s Hatti is the only active gold mine in India―1.41 tonnes of gold was mined in 2023. Ashokan rock edicts of Maski highlight the region’s historical significance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Legends say that 300 people of the Kapu community, who were peasants, came from Telugu-speaking Warangal (now in Telangana) to Kannada-speaking Raichur to build the fort. They are called <i>Munnuru</i> Kapu in Raichur because <i>munnuru</i> means 300 in Kannada. The area of Raichur where most of them live is called Munnurwadi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Having lived under various occupying regimes over the centuries, the <i>Munnuru</i> Kapu knew the worth of freedom well. So, in 1959, when it was time to renovate the temple of the community’s goddess, Lakshmamma, community leaders who took part in the freedom struggle decided to carve the images of freedom fighters on to the columns of the temple, alongside gods and goddesses. They also added the national emblem of India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Lakshmamma temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. The <i>gopuram</i>, the main tower of the temple, is constructed in Tamil Nadu-style temple architecture. Despite being a colourful structure, the temple is hidden between three-floor residential complexes in Munnurwadi. The <i>Munnuru</i> Kapu community is now evidently rich, as most of them are into wholesale commodity business. It is also politically powerful and has produced an MLA.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During the restoration of the temple, each family contributed. The richer families gave hefty donations and poorer people volunteered as labourers, bringing in stone slabs on bullock carts from a faraway quarry. This scene is depicted on the temple’s wall in relief.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Our community was poor farmers those days and they were toiling in the fields under the sun,” says 62-year-old Sudarshana Reddy, a member of the community. “In these dry lands, they used to grow <i>jowar</i> (sorghum millet). People from each house came to build the temple. They carried stones and mud for its construction.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The columns near the main entrance have Ram and Hanuman on one side, and Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Bose on the other side. Near the sanctum sacrarium is a large, Ashokan lion in relief. Like all Lakshmi temples, it is busiest on Friday, which is the day dedicated to the worship of the goddess. Devotees who visit the temple also pay their respect to the freedom fighters. They apply vermilion <i>tilaks</i> on the sculptures, literally elevating these national heroes to the status of gods.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Birds, reptiles and animals are also depicted on the walls of the temple. The priest, Vishwanath K. Bhat, says this commemorates the living beings whose habitats were affected by the construction. “After stones were removed from nature, they lost their habitats,” he says. “It is because of that memory that fish, monkey, snake, scorpion and elephant are skilfully carved here.” Similar carvings of animals and scenes of people transporting stone slabs were also etched on to the walls of the Raichur Fort centuries ago.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ahuja Papareddy, 72, is among the oldest surviving members and the most influential people from the <i>Munnuru</i> Kapu community. He was elected MLA on a BJP ticket in 2004. When asked why the community gave Nehru a place next to divinity, he says: “Those days, people hardly ‘disliked’ Nehru in this part. That was confined to north India. Now, even in south India this is happening. But these statues are already done.” The sculptures are not three-dimensional figures created by fine craftsmanship. They are stone relief sculptures made by unskilled, amateur sculptors. As a result, one needs to look closely to identify the people who are depicted―Gandhi can be identified from his walking stick, and Nehru and Bose by their caps. But, despite the imperfections in the carving, the patriotism and the value attached to freedom is evident at one glance.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/27/lakshmamma-temple-karnataka-has-placed-leaders-of-the-independence-struggle-alongside-divinity.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/27/lakshmamma-temple-karnataka-has-placed-leaders-of-the-independence-struggle-alongside-divinity.html Sat Apr 27 14:49:21 IST 2024 the-week-jaslok-hospital-reader-awareness-seminar-on-parkinsons-stressed-the-need-to-personalise-treatment <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/27/the-week-jaslok-hospital-reader-awareness-seminar-on-parkinsons-stressed-the-need-to-personalise-treatment.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/4/27/60-Ravindra-Juvekar.jpg" /> <p>On April 7, THE WEEK in partnership with Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre conducted a reader awareness seminar on Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological disorder, causing degeneration of nerve cells that results in lack of dopamine. The main symptoms of the disease include slowness, tremors and rigidity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The seminar, held at Yogi Sabhagruh in Mumbai’s Dadar, began with a discussion on the cost of treating Parkinson’s and how it need not be an impediment. Dr Suyog Ghadavle from Star Health talked about insurance, especially for deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery―an essential aspect of the treatment. “In any tertiary care hospital, treatment for Parkinson’s will cost anywhere between Rs20 lakh to Rs22 lakh,” he said. “Since October 2020, IRDAI (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India) has come up with a regulation that these treatments will now be included in the policy, subject to the sum insured in the policy.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Over the last 15 to 20 years, researchers around the world have seen treatment for Parkinson’s evolve. Dr Paresh Doshi, a leading neurosurgeon with patients both in India and abroad, said that earlier there was a “bucket treatment”, but with better disease management, expectations of outcomes became more ambitious and sophisticated. “Initially, we would be okay if the tremors were controlled, but now we are in a position where patients expect to be able to play golf and badminton,” said Doshi, director of neurosurgery, and stereotactic and functional neurosurgical programme at Jaslok Hospital. “Also now, we know and understand that each patient’s requirement of treatment is different, depending on their type of non-motor symptoms. No one size will fit all. So the message we intended to give through this seminar is that all Parkinson’s patients are not the same. It is time to take the treatment of Parkinson’s, including DBS, to the next level, and that is personalised medicine.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The seminar also saw patients and their caregivers sharing their experiences. Ashish Dhingra spoke about his experience of caring for his father, a businessman who underwent DBS. “My father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s when he was in his 40s,” he said. “This was 15 to 20 years ago when we first started with medications. His symptoms started with hand tremors, but progressed to such an extent that he would randomly stop while walking. We were then told that surgery was the only answer. It has been about 10 years since his surgery. After hospitalisation for 11 days, his symptoms went away in a couple of days. Right now, we are able to manage the disease so well that he has got his quality of life back. He now travels four to five days a week within the city, can climb stairs and swim.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The seminar also stressed on the importance of selecting the right DBS implant. The choice of pacemaker depended on factors such as age of the patient, affordability, insurance and access to specialised care.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bharati Karkera, specialist nurse for Parkinson’s disease at Jaslok Hospital, spoke about medical aids and devices that can help improve patients’symptoms and also help them participate in activities they enjoy. For instance, the laser cane device can help reduce freezing of gait and assist the patient in walking. Then there is the smart spoon that can help feed a patient without human assistance. Karkera also spoke about the importance of adult diapers like the one made by Friends, which can help patients manage the challenges of urinary incontinence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Consultant anaesthetist at Jaslok Hospital Dr Aparna Budhakar, meanwhile, talked about the many ways in which meditation helps in managing symptoms of Parkinson’s.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the seminar, a video was played that narrated the inspiring story of Ravindra Juvekar, who was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s 10 years ago. The video showed him play the piano, carrom, make tea and more, offering those with Parkinson’s a ray of hope.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/27/the-week-jaslok-hospital-reader-awareness-seminar-on-parkinsons-stressed-the-need-to-personalise-treatment.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/27/the-week-jaslok-hospital-reader-awareness-seminar-on-parkinsons-stressed-the-need-to-personalise-treatment.html Sat Apr 27 11:33:21 IST 2024 recent-indian-military-war-exercises-walk-the-talk-on-the-theaterisation-jointness-and-integration-effort <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/12/recent-indian-military-war-exercises-walk-the-talk-on-the-theaterisation-jointness-and-integration-effort.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/4/12/54-A-supply-drop-during.jpg" /> <p>Surely ‘the times they are a-changing’. In the second week of March, an Indian Air Force Avro aircraft suddenly developed a snag mid-air and made an unplanned landing at the Bhopal civil airport. The problem turned out to be big―the engine had to be swapped out. Faced with a challenging situation, IAF and Indian Army engineers trooped in as if on cue, changed the engine and sent the aircraft up again. There could easily have been a round of applause.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More recently, on April 1, the IAF embarked on its biggest exercise―Gagan Shakti―when fighter planes and helicopters took off from different parts of the country to engage pseudo targets at Pokhran. But, the Indian Army also moved ammunition and about 10,000 IAF personnel on 12 passenger trains in order to validate the IAF’s Operational Rail Mobilisation Plan. The passenger trains were named Sanyukta Express to denote the inter-service camaraderie.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the first four months of 2024, four mega military exercises were organised. Gagan Shakti, which envisaged two-front war scenario and hence included logistics involving the western and northern fronts, preceded by the IAF’s Vayu Shakti (February 17), the Indian Navy’s Milan (February 19), the Indian Army’s Bharat Shakti (March 12). In all these, a key underlying theme was the unprecedented emphasis on jointness.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Such instances of synergy define the winds of change sweeping the Indian military landscape. The age-old practice of mainly operating in silos may soon be a thing of the past. The Centre’s vision of theaterisation, jointness and integration of the tri-forces is already under way under General Anil Chauhan, the chief of defence staff.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fittingly, the national capital hosted the first ever tri-services planning conference on April 8 where General Chauhan underlined the need for a joint culture among the three services.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In that context, the massive, unprecedented tri-service fire and manoeuvre exercise Bharat Shakti at Pokhran broke new ground. On March 12, the test firing range in Pokhran’s Charlie Sector thundered with the roar of IAF aircraft in the skies as the Army’s artillery, mechanised forces and the infantry opened up their booming guns in a display of synergy in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and firepower coordination and communications.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There were bombing runs and precision bombings by IAF aircraft and helicopters, operations by special forces, and Indian Navy operations (in digital format; telecast on screen because of terrain challenges) that set an example of joint operations of offence and defence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A target area in the desert―10km in length and 5km in breadth―bore the brunt of the bombardment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A highly placed Army officer said: “The exercise is remarkable because it is practice and demonstration of how an operation would actually unfold, depicting synergy in joint planning and execution.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A second Army source said: “Coordinating fire and manoeuvre drills by various arms and services is an essential requirement of such large-scale exercises and gives first-hand experience of dealing with such issues in actual battles. These activities include movement of large numbers of equipment and weapon pieces for firing and display, which involves coordination with other services at the highest level. While the efforts are in place and extensive plans are being made to orchestrate integration and bring jointness among the services, Bharat Shakti epitomises these efforts and highlights the contributions of the Army towards achieving integration.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The officer added that Bharat Shakti signalled to the world military community to subscribe to India’s large defence manufacturing potential.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a sense, Bharat Shakti may well mark the taking off of the integration effort. It is one thing to talk about it and another to walk the talk. Bharat Shakti walked the talk.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Military strategic analyst Lieutenant General Raj Shukla (retired) told THE WEEK: “India is undergoing the boldest and most ambitious national security reforms since Independence. They are deep, thoughtful and potentially game changing. The grand strategic geometry was laid out by the prime minister himself, in his address during the Combined Commanders’ Conference in December 2015.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shukla, who served as the general officer commanding-in-chief of the Shimla-based Army Training Command, added that there were also challenges galore. “On the one hand, we have the military gallop of a powerful China and on the other we face the most profound changes in the character of war in recorded history,” he said. “Bharat Shakti is a key element of this ongoing national security makeover.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The exercise may be the first attempt by the forces to work out a military manual of combined operations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The objectives of the exercise also have strategic connotations. Europe, especially the powerhouses France and Germany, view India as a credible military power that can be leveraged to make its presence felt in the Indo-Pacific. After all, the Indo-Pacific has become the new stomping ground for the world powers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Evidently, the number of military exercises between India and these two European powers has also increased in recent years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>US foreign policy is at its most unstable. The possibility of a comeback by Donald Trump is also being viewed with apprehension by Europe as it may entail a policy change.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It would therefore be in the fitness of things for European powers to assert themselves more autonomously, and, India, with its increasing military, economic and strategic heft, can play a pivotal role towards that goal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, with India being a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, the Indian military, mainly the Navy, will have to demonstrate its enhanced capability. The Indian Navy has propped up its presence in an unprecedented manner in three areas of operations―Gulf of Aden and adjoining areas, the Arabian Sea, and off the east coast of Somalia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since December, more than 5,000 Navy personnel have been deployed at sea, over 450 ship days (with over 21 ships deployed) and maritime surveillance aircraft have flown more than 900 hours to address threats. Milan, which took place at Visakhapatnam, saw the participation of about 50 countries. During the exercise, the two aircraft carriers ―Vikrant and Vikramaditya―sailing side by side in the Indian seaboard made for remarkable optics of power projection.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Before Milan, Vayu Shakti, the IAF’s biennial exercise, took place in Pokhran. This year’s exercise was the biggest ever. The IAF exploded 50 tonnes of ordnance in a 9sqkm desert patch in just two hours.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More than 120 aircraft of the IAF―including Rafale, Sukhoi 30, MiG-29, Mirage 2000, Jaguar, Tejas and Hawk fighter aircraft; Apache, Chinook, Prachand and other helicopters, besides the transporters C-17 heavy-lift Globemaster, the C-130J Super Hercules and the workhorse AN-32―had taken part.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The timing of Bharat Shakti was also interesting. Just six days before the exercise began, on March 6, two events on the same day marked two significant milestones for the Indian Navy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The first MH 60R Squadron was commissioned at Kochi representing significant and effective expansion in the Navy’s reach besides supplementing combat readiness. Addressing a gathering, chief of the naval staff, Admiral R. Hari Kumar said: “With their cutting-edge sensors and multi-mission capabilities, MH 60Rs will augment our maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But more significant, with regard to strategic implications, is the second event―the commissioning of INS Jatayu at Minicoy island. It will strengthen the Navy’s foothold in Lakshadweep “while extending capacity building, operational reach and sustenance in the region”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Said Admiral Hari Kumar: “INS Baaz to the east in Andamans and now INS Jatayu in the west at Minicoy will serve as the eyes and ears of the Navy... and the nation across the far reaches of the seas to safeguard our national interests―whatever be the challenge and whosoever be the challenger.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>INS Jatayu is basically a significant enhancement of the naval detachment at Minicoy that was set up in the early 1980s.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Explained Commodore R.S. Vasan (retired), director general, Chennai Centre of China Studies: “INS Jatayu will no longer be a naval detachment. It will be a full-fledged naval station with proper manpower and equipment sanction and unit holding.” He said the development was also related to what was happening in the Maldives, the Suez Canal area and the like. “So as a first responder in the region, the closer the Indian Navy is to the area of incidence, the faster it will be able to respond,” he said. “Moreover, it is close to the sea lines of communication.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the domestic front, too, compelling visuals from Bharat Shakti―signalling the rising capabilities of a major military power―would yield political dividends in a country that is going to the parliamentary elections from April 19.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his address at Bharat Shakti hammered in the elements, pointing out that Indian defence exports had increased eight-fold compared with 2014. He also spoke about the pre-2014 multiplicity of defence scams, scarcity of ammunition and deterioration of ordnance factories.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With China replacing Pakistan as India’s biggest adversary, the ground-breaking exercise was also a statement of India’s growing military readiness in the face of growing Chinese presence overseas like Sri Lanka’s Hambantota and on Myanmar’s southern seaboard, and China’s domination in the politics of the strategically located Maldives, not to speak of an up-and-running military base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. The Chinese moves are read by strategic experts as a furtherance of China’s String of Pearls strategic initiative.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An interesting facet of Bharat Shakti was that only homemade weapon systems, platforms, and technologies were featured. It was a message to the world that India can produce effective platforms on its own.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What slightly marred the exhibition of India’s synergised military machismo was the crash of a Tejas LCA fighter aircraft that had taken part in the exercise. The Tejas is expected to make up for the depletion of fighter squadrons in the IAF besides being a prime item of export to foreign countries.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/12/recent-indian-military-war-exercises-walk-the-talk-on-the-theaterisation-jointness-and-integration-effort.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/12/recent-indian-military-war-exercises-walk-the-talk-on-the-theaterisation-jointness-and-integration-effort.html Fri Apr 12 12:05:45 IST 2024 how-a-cattle-specimen-with-indian-roots-became-the-brazilian-cattle-industrys-billion-dollar-jewel <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/12/how-a-cattle-specimen-with-indian-roots-became-the-brazilian-cattle-industrys-billion-dollar-jewel.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/4/12/58-Viatina-19-FIV-Mara-Imoveis.jpg" /> <p>In the annals of livestock breeding, the sale of a single white Nelore cow in Brazil last year was a watershed moment. At an auction held in the central Brazilian town of Nova Iguaçu in Goiás state, one-third of the ownership of this Nelore cow was sold for $1.44 million, propelling her total valuation to an incredible $4.3 million (Rs36 crore). The price tag, certified by Guinness World Records, makes the cow the planet’s most valuable cattle specimen.</p> <p>The cow is named Viatina-19 FIV Mara Imóveis, and she represents the leading edge of biotechnological innovation revolutionising the global cattle trade. While Nelore bulls regularly fetch prices close to $2,000, there are specific reasons why a cow of the same breed was sold for such an astronomical sum. The bulls are typically sold for their meat and reproductive capabilities, but the value of Viatina-19 lies squarely in her impeccable genetics and pedigree.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Viatina-19 has Indian lineage. The Nelore breed, known scientifically as Bos indicus, is descended from the Ongole cattle of Nellore district in Andhra Pradesh. Ongole cattle are known for their exceptional ability to endure scorching heat and drought-like conditions, and have been revered for centuries as sacred beings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Both Ongole and Nelore are part of the cattle subspecies called zebu. It was in 1868 that zebu cattle first arrived on Brazilian shores―two bulls and two cows of the Ongole breed made the 13,000km voyage from Nellore to Brazil’s vast and pastoral Bahia state, as per the trade book Cattle Husbandry in India. The cattle were made to cross continents so that they could mix with the milk-laden Dutch breeds, begetting a cross that could better withstand the bugs that thrived in the warm Brazilian climates.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Zebu reinforcements arrived sporadically over the next decade, injecting Indian bloodlines into Brazil’s fledgling herds. A major influx of 100 Ongole cattle in the 1960s truly established the breed’s dominance in Brazil. Over generations, the Indian zebu’s mystique was absorbed into the rugged ethos of the Brazilian gaucho, the iconic cowhands who shaped the nation’s cattle culture.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, gauchos see themselves as gentlemen custodians of a breed with an almost mythical lineage, and whose cultural oeuvre is spread across Brazilian hinterlands. The city of Uberaba, for instance, has become a veritable “Zebu capital”, housing zebu restaurants, industry bodies and zebu labs, and hosting zebu expos.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Through biotechnological innovations, the ranchers are now optimising zebu cattle for the future. “Zebu genetics is one of the main tools for [bringing] sustainability,” said Gabriel Garcia Cid, president of the Brazilian Zebu Cattle Association and a descendant of one of the first Brazilian ranchers to import cattle from India in the 19th century.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nelore cattle have become the bedrock of Brazil’s cattle industry. They comprise a staggering 80 per cent of Brazil’s 225 million herd, and are present across Brazil’s diverse ecosystems, from the scorching Caatinga shrublands to the humid environs of the Amazon basin. The country’s prowess in cattle breeding―Brazil is the world’s largest beef exporter, with exports worth more than $8 billion in 2022―owes a lot to the high-endurance, low-maintenance Nelore cattle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I believe the record price reflects the success of the Brazilian scientists who have produced this valuable cow,” Suresh Reddy, India’s ambassador to Brazil, told THE WEEK. “It is also a matter of pride that the roots of this cow, and of Nelore cattle in general, are traced back to India, again reflecting the historical connect between our two nations.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pedigree apart, Viatina-19’s genome encodes a constellation of ideal traits―heat resistance, disease immunity, feed efficiency, high-quality marbling, and prolific reproductive vigour. Thanks to modern biotechnological processes like embryo transfers, in vitro fertilisation and cloning, her genes can be passed on on an industrial scale. While an ordinary Nelore bull can sire just a few dozen calves, this “queen” cow can spawn entire herds of optimised, sustainable, and highly productive cattle. With global demand for bovine meat projected to grow by 35 per cent over 20 years, Viatina-19 represents a “billion-dollar jewel” in the marketplace.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is not the first time that Viatina-19 has set a record. Two years ago, half of her ownership rights had been auctioned for a record $8,00,000 (Rs6.7 crore). The same share is worth a cool $2.15 million after the latest transaction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nelore cattle are so desirable for Brazilian ranchers mainly because of their remarkable ability to thrive in tropical climates. The Ongole cattle, which calls the dry and often arid Deccan Plateau home, were built to endure scorching heat and drought-like conditions. The Nelore breed’s signature traits include a bright white coat of fur, thick and loose skin that aid heat dissipation, and a characteristic hump that helps them store energy and survive environments that the more delicate European cattle breeds would find punishing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Also, the Nelore breed’s evolutionary journey has fortified it against a barrage of tropical diseases and parasitic infections that have plundered foreign cattle stocks. Their exceptional disease resistance, honed over centuries, helps Nelore cattle shrug off maladies that would cripple weaker breeds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the early 2000s, the Brazilian cattle industry launched a campaign promoting Nelore as Boi ecológico or ‘ecological ox’―a breed uniquely suited to sustainable beef production. The logic was simple: Nelore cattle could thrive on poor-quality forage, reducing the need for land conversion and feed cultivation. Their greater muscle mass meant more beef produced per head, theoretically minimising the environmental footprint.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Boi ecológico marketing blitz has faded, with researchers realising that Nelore’s carbon footprint was no greener than of other breeds. But the pursuit of sustainability remains a core driver of Brazilian cattle breeding. In the quest to create a ‘greener’ cattle stock, Nelore’s genetic repository holds immense potential. Breeders have been meticulously selecting traits that increase feed efficiency, reduce methane emissions, and optimise meat production―a feat that could redefine the environmental economics of cattle ranching. The trio of breeders that now own Viatina-19―Casa Branca Agropastoril, Agropecuária Napemo and Nelore HRO―have vowed to widely disseminate her genes, accelerating the breed’s evolution.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Viatina-19 symbolises the superior quality standard we seek, and her recognition from the Guinness World Records is proof that an investment in genetic excellence provides returns, whether in differentiated products, financial gains or prestige,” said Fabiana Marques Borrelli, director of Casa Branca Agropastoril.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Garcia Sid, breeders realise the importance of bringing genetic improvements. “The preservation of natural resources is fundamental for the future of livestock farming,” he said. “The cow’s new owners, Nelore HRO, have expressed their excitement and commitment to sharing Viatina-19’s genetics, indicating the potential for further advancements in the breed’s quality.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Genetics now plays a pivotal role in Brazilian cattle ranching. Long gone are the days when herds were left to breed haphazardly; today, the process is a science, with cutting-edge reproductive technologies amplifying desirable traits at an astonishing pace.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the forefront of this change are entities like Bioembryo, a leading bovine reproduction laboratory at Cuiabá in Mato Grosso state. At Bioembryo, ovaries from champion donors like Viatina-19 are meticulously assessed, with each ovule scrutinised under a microscope to identify the ripest, most viable eggs. The selected eggs are then fertilised with semen from elite studs, generating embryos preordained for genetic excellence. The procreation process itself has been revolutionised, with breeders surgically transferring embryos into surrogate mothers to avoid the hassles of natural conception.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cloning, too, has become a staple tool. At Geneal Laboratory, one of Brazil’s premier bovine cloning facilities, around 70 cloned calves are born every year. These reproductive technologies allow breeders who invest millions in cows like Viatina-19 to exponentially amplify the value of the genetic assets they own.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, for all the triumph surrounding Viatina’s record sale, storm clouds loom over Brazil’s cattle horizons. Environmentalists have long blamed the ranching industry for being the prime driver of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, one of the world’s most precious carbon sinks. Over the past 60 years, nearly a fifth of Brazil’s rainforest cover has been razed to make way for cattle pastures, a trend exacerbated by unscrupulous ranchers operating on illegally cleared indigenous lands.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The meteoric growth of zebu herds has only intensified the environmental pressures. While resilient and resource-efficient, the flatulence and belching of zebu cattle contribute a sizeable 14.5 per cent of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Every year, a single cow can emit more than a hundred pounds of methane―a greenhouse gas far more potent, though less lasting, than carbon dioxide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has vowed to curb deforestation, but the sheer economic might of Brazil’s beef industry could make grand proposals easier to proclaim than to actually execute. As the demand for beef surges alongside the increasing wealth in developing nations, limiting the environmental toll of cattle production has become an existential priority.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A path forward could be ‘green’ cows, which could drastically reduce the industry’s environmental footprint without compromising on productivity. Brazil’s proud ranchers, in a way, are betting the farm on Viatina-19. “The global recognition of Viatina-19,” said Borrelli, “elevates the prestige of Brazilian cattle ranching, and solidifies its status as a world-class genetic icon.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/12/how-a-cattle-specimen-with-indian-roots-became-the-brazilian-cattle-industrys-billion-dollar-jewel.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/12/how-a-cattle-specimen-with-indian-roots-became-the-brazilian-cattle-industrys-billion-dollar-jewel.html Sat Apr 13 11:22:52 IST 2024 the-week-sportsroom-with-rohan-bopanna-offered-more-than-a-peek-into-the-journey-of-a-modern-indian-great <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/12/the-week-sportsroom-with-rohan-bopanna-offered-more-than-a-peek-into-the-journey-of-a-modern-indian-great.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/4/12/62-Ayaz-Memon-and-Rohan-Bopanna.jpg" /> <p>Age no bar, cartilage no bar. Rohan Bopanna, at age 43―or level 43 as he likes to call it―became the oldest man to win a Grand Slam when he and partner Matthew Ebden won the Australian Open earlier this year. Not only was the feat impressive in itself, the fact that he did so with no cartilage in his knees made it an insane achievement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There was a time in 2006 when, following a shoulder surgery, Bopanna wondered if he would ever compete again. Nearly two decades later, he is world No. 1 in men’s doubles and has his sights set on the Paris Olympics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was this journey of grit and persistence that Bopanna shared with THE WEEK’s Sports Consultant Ayaz Memon at the magazine’s Sportsroom event presented by HSBC at the bank’s India headquarters in Fort, Mumbai, on April 4.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the stories swirled inside the colonial-era art deco building, the audience got a peek into not just Bopanna’s life, but also that of Indian tennis as a whole. The conversation―breezy and insightful―covered a lot of ground, including why there is a paucity of talent in Indian tennis currently, how Iyengar yoga and ice baths kept his body going, his love of coffee and exploring cities, the loneliness of travel, and how he came back from the dark days of his career.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As it turned out, he is proficient not only with racket in hand, but also on the mic. Sitting on stage in a light-blue jacket, wearing a gold locket with two crossed knives―a nod to his Coorgi roots―Bopanna talked about how he went from being a young singles player to a grizzled doubles veteran who is now like an uncle on the international circuit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Age never worried me,” he said. “We set our limitations ourselves. When you change limitations into opportunities, you have a better perspective.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His lowest point, he recalled, was in 2021, when he did not win a match for five months. That is when he told his wife, Supriya, a psychologist, that he was thinking of quitting. He was not enjoying it anymore. She told him he could do it, but urged him not to do so when he was down. And that triggered something.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bopanna talked candidly and at length about mental and physical toughness, but he also sprinkled in some amusing anecdotes. In 2008, for instance, he made a pact with his then physio Shayamal Vallabhjee that if he entered a Grand Slam quarterfinal, they would both shave their heads. It was a self-motivation tool. So, at Wimbledon 2010, when he lost in the quarterfinals, he headed to the locker room and straightaway went next door to the barbershop. After the deed was done, he walked past his family, and his mother did a double take. She had just seen her son, with a full head of hair, playing on court half an hour ago. “It tells you that you need to have a little bit of madness in you to become a champion,” noted Memon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Talking of champions, Bopanna also weighed in on the GOAT debate, saying that while Roger Federer was his favourite, Novak Djokovic was the best athlete. As for Indians, he said he had seen a lot of improvement in Sumit Nagal in the past one year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bopanna did not shy away from some of the prickly questions Memon had. For instance, on the friction in the past between the Indian tennis federation and the players. “Any time the federation was involved in picking the team, we had an issue,” said Bopanna, evoking chuckles from the 50-odd invitees, some of them lifelong tennis fans and players. “When the federation was not involved, it was smooth sailing.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Among those in attendance were THE WEEK’s Chief Associate Editor and Director Riyad Mathew, who talked about the importance of sport in life; those from the bank were: Jaswinder Sodhi, Head of Customers, Digital and Marketing, Wealth and Personal Banking, HSBC India; Ranganath Ananth, Head of Distribution, Wealth and Personal Banking at HSBC India; Shubham Golash, Director and Regional Head (West), Wealth and Personal Banking, HSBC India; Arkaprava Ray, Head, Marketing Strategy, Brand Partnerships, IP and Sponsorships, Wealth and Personal Banking, HSBC India; and Sandeep Sethi, SVP and Branch Head, Fort Mumbai, HSBC India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bopanna went on to explain that in professional tennis, a player essentially does everything themselves, like entering tournaments and funding their careers, which includes paying for air fare, coaches and physios. But for events like the Davis Cup, Asian Games and the Olympics, the federation has to enter them. Also, when picking teams, the federation might not go with the pair that has been playing together for a long time. This is where the problem lies. “Doubles is like a love marriage,” he said, “and when it came to the Olympics and such events, it was an arranged marriage.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Asked if he was going to have a go at tennis administration and what changes he would affect were he sports minister, Bopanna said, “I would love to be part of it.... We need to come together to make the sport work.” He added that the first step would be to broadcast matches of all Indians representing their country in tennis worldwide. In fact, before the event, Bopanna had told THE WEEK that he had in the past called up broadcasters to ask them whether they were going to show his matches.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Those days are now over; that he is firmly a star was evident by the rush at the end of the event to get a photo clicked with the ace.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/12/the-week-sportsroom-with-rohan-bopanna-offered-more-than-a-peek-into-the-journey-of-a-modern-indian-great.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/12/the-week-sportsroom-with-rohan-bopanna-offered-more-than-a-peek-into-the-journey-of-a-modern-indian-great.html Mon Apr 15 17:38:40 IST 2024 martial-arts-traditions-of-sikhs-hola-mohalla <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/06/martial-arts-traditions-of-sikhs-hola-mohalla.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/4/6/54-a-simulated-battle-between-two-Nihangs.jpg" /> <p>Amidst the colourful celebrations of Holi, a unique tradition unfolds in the streets of Anandpur Sahib in Punjab. Hola Mohalla, a three-day carnival that celebrates the martial arts tradition of Sikhs, wakes up the sleepy town nestled in the Shivalik foothills along the banks of the Sutlej. People from across north India pour in to witness the festival.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hola Mohalla was founded by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh guru, in the 17th century. Soon, it became an occasion for the Nihangs (warrior Sikhs) to showcase their martial skills in simulated battles. “Each year, the sacred grounds of Anandpur Sahib witness a convergence of Sikhs, with as many as 60 lakh devotees flocking to partake in the festivities that range from display of <i>gatka</i> [martial arts] to horse riding and soulful recitations of <i>bhajans</i>, all paying homage to the indomitable spirit of Sikh warriors,” said Kanwardeep Singh, tourist officer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Day one sets the tone for the grandeur to follow. People cutting across ages arrive in a cavalcade of tractors, bikes, trucks, and buses. Along with them are the revered Nihangs. Distinguished by their unique attire and adherence to a strict code of conduct, the Nihangs meticulously set up their abodes, spread across the fields around Anandpur Sahib, for the duration of the festival.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Horses are tied between the tents. “Setting a camp is an important exercise of warcraft. And there are kitchen units and a place for worship housed in different tents,” said Chiranjeev Singh, a 26-year-old Nihang. Having studied economics in Australia, Singh has been attending Hola Mohalla since he was 16, embodying the fusion of tradition and modernity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hola Mohalla begins to crescendo on the final day, as the town reverberates with the rhythmic beats from processions of Sikhs adorned in traditional attire. Led by the Nihangs, the procession winds its way from Gurudwara Sri Shaheedi Bagh Sahib to the revered Gurudwara Takht Sri Kesgarh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The showstopper is when horsemen exhibit their skills at the Charan Ganga Stadium in a marriage of horsemanship and swordplay. The jam-packed stadium becomes a mock battlefield of sorts, with every Nihang trying to outsmart the other.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the ground trembles beneath the thundering hooves of horses and the resounding clash of swords, Hola Mohalla emerges not just as a festival, but as a living testament to the unwavering spirit of the Sikhs.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/06/martial-arts-traditions-of-sikhs-hola-mohalla.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/06/martial-arts-traditions-of-sikhs-hola-mohalla.html Sat Apr 06 17:32:00 IST 2024 tapsi-upadhyay-wants-to-make-india-the-health-capital-of-the-world <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/06/tapsi-upadhyay-wants-to-make-india-the-health-capital-of-the-world.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/4/6/58-Tapsi-Upadhyay.jpg" /> <p>It is not clear exactly whose fame rubbed off on whom.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A few weeks ago, the Mahindra Group chairman Anand Mahindra shared a video on X of a 22-year-old woman driving a Thar―a popular off-roader from his company―which was towing a food cart on the streets of Delhi. She bought the vehicle with the money she made from the street food business.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the post that quickly went viral, Mahindra asks, “What are off-road vehicles meant to do? Help people go places they haven’t been able to before. Help people explore the impossible.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A woman running a <i>panipuri</i> stall may sound near impossible to those who are aware of the national capital’s law and order record and reputation when it comes to women. But then Tapsi Upadhyay believes in going places where she, or women in general, have never been to before.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like running a <i>panipuri</i> stall on the bustling streets of Delhi late into the night. Or rather, nearly 50 of them across the country―almost all of them run by young women.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is hard to determine if Upadhyay’s self-branded ‘B.Tech Paani <i>Puri</i> Wali’ food carts―now present in 46 locations from Hyderabad to Haryana and Ahmedabad to Delhi―is more of an epitome of the entrepreneurial streak among India’s startup generation, or a feel-good story of a young Indian woman breaking shackles to achieve her potential against all odds. Perhaps it is both.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But if you ask the woman at the centre of all the virality of the moment, the answer may surprise you. Customers hungering for her succulent <i>panipuris</i> are also peppered with eager youngsters on their way home from college wanting to meet her. “Ma’am, may I take a selfie with you?” teenybopper Kanishk Gupta, the obligatory backpack and smartphone accessories duly in place, asks Upadhyay, who happily obliges. “I saw your video,” he gushes. “It is quite motivational.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Upadhyay’s motivation is something quite different. Between the six carts she runs directly through her registered business and the other 40 <i>panipuri</i> carts she has as franchises across the country, her business may be thriving, but the aim was always something else.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Right from when I was a kid, I used to look around and see so many problems in our society,” says Upadhyay. “And I thought, why can’t I be the one who can solve them?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Only, she was not sure how. From a typical middle class family in Meerut in Uttar Pradesh with a homemaker mother and a father who worked with a local channel, Upadhyay threw herself into studies, as dutiful daughters in small-town India are expected to. She moved to Delhi on a two-pronged academic spree―joining engineering (the background from which the ‘B. Tech’ in her branding comes from) as well as finishing the preparatory syllabi for the UPSC Civil Services exam.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ironically, studying was what put her off studies. As such, she says she joined engineering only because of pressure from her parents. It did get her out of the confines of her hometown and into the hustle and bustle of Delhi, while the civil services prep led to an epiphany.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“During that period, it just dawned on me,” recalls Upadhyay. “Do I really need to become an IAS officer to bring about a change in society? So many lakhs of aspirants learn so much preparing for the civils, but very few make it. What do the rest do with all that acquired knowledge? Most take up some private job, never really using their knowledge to serve the society.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This made Upadhyay look around for another way. Politics would have been obvious, with the power that you can utilise for a change in the society, but as she says, “I don’t belong to that place.” It took her some time before hitting upon the street food idea.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I decided I would pick up one of the problems in our society, and connect other issues to that so I can keep on working and solving other issues as well,” says Upadhyay. She may sound grandiose, but these are words of a young Indian who has walked the talk. Her logic is simple―food is something everybody needs, the core of every industry. A majority of Indians go for affordable food from the streets. But healthy, tasty, nutritious and affordable food was still a chimera for millions of them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Upadhyay did her research before starting with <i>panipuri</i>. “It is Indian, our very own snack. And every corner of the country and every section of our society can emotionally relate to it,” she says. Or, even the very name, considering that West Delhi, where she started off from, prefers calling it <i>golgappa</i>, not <i>panipuri</i>. “It is known by various names in different parts of the country,” she explains. <i>“Puchka</i> in some places, <i>batashe</i>, <i>golgappe</i> in other places. But <i>panipuri</i> is the name by which it is known across the country.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What’s in a name, when the objective is loftier. “It is not just a business, I set out to offer a completely healthier version of the snack,” says Upadhyay. “My team and I are on a mission―we call it Mission Healthy Bharat.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, the <i>puri</i> is made using whole wheat and is air-fried, while the water used is reverse osmosis filtered. Only plant-based milk substitutes are used for the <i>dahi</i> and fresh green chillies in the masala, while utmost standards of hygiene―gloves, sanitisers―are complied with. And, no plastic waste.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We are doing Indian local food only, but in a way which is entirely healthier―quality food prepared and served with hygiene,” says Upadhyay. “Plant-based vegan food, we are not serving any dairy or cruelty food.” Recently, Upadhyay expanded her portfolio to include south Indian food, including healthier variants like millet <i>dosa</i> and ragi <i>idli</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, she did not inform her parents back home about this entrepreneurial venture; they thought their daughter was studying engineering and preparing for IAS entrance in Delhi. They came to know only once the business picked momentum and she became a sensation on social media.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Business is indeed thriving, with plans to set up shop outlets soon. A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows one cart making an average 01 lakh a month, with a neat profit of around Rs30,000.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But it was not always so. There were initial hiccups, including reluctance over girls manning (remember there is no word as ‘womanning’) a street food cart to shopkeepers protesting against a food cart on the footpath outside their outlets. Upadhyay, an ardent follower of Lord Krishna, took all this in her stride. For example, in Bihar, she couldn’t find girls to ‘man’ the food carts, and considering the security scenario, an exception was made for men to run the <i>panipuri wali</i> cart in Sitamarhi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I never worried about such issues, because for me, my objective was more important―to make India from being the diabetic capital of the world to the health capital of the world,” says Upadhyay. “It is way more important than becoming an IAS officer!”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While selling affordable, nutritious street food in more and more cities and spots seems to be the business model (Upadhyay already sounds like an MBA smart aleck when strategies like ‘price, product, promotion and place’ roll off her tongue), she is also planning an easy-to-use app that will help Indian housewives make healthier version of our staple dishes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What next? Politics? Social service? Or, another business idea? Upadhyay is quick to respond, “Politics maybe, after a few years, but I am already into social service (with what I am doing right now), and I will continue doing my social service.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps Upadhyay’s biggest contribution could be her impact, through social media and in the physical world, on young girls. “I have encountered many girls who are inspired to come out of their homes and get jobs or start their own business,” she says. “What is wrong if a girl stands on a street and serves people? They are earning their livelihood, saving for studies or helping their families.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/06/tapsi-upadhyay-wants-to-make-india-the-health-capital-of-the-world.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/04/06/tapsi-upadhyay-wants-to-make-india-the-health-capital-of-the-world.html Sat Apr 06 17:30:05 IST 2024 madras-music-academy-honours-tm-krishna-sangita-kalanidhi-award <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/30/madras-music-academy-honours-tm-krishna-sangita-kalanidhi-award.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/3/30/48-Krishna.jpg" /> <p><b>IN THE OTHERWISE</b> serene world of Carnatic music, vocalist T.M. Krishna has been a polarising voice. The divide seems to have reached a crescendo with many musicians protesting The Music Academy (popularly the Madras Music Academy) conferring the prestigious Sangita Kalanidhi Award on him. Singer sisters Ranjani and Gayatri said they would boycott the Academy’s annual music festival. Instrumentalist Chitravina N. Ravikiran, who received the award in 2017, said he would return it. Vocalists Trichur Brothers―Srikrishna and Ramkumar Mohan―have withdrawn from the Academy’s annual music conference. Vocalist Vishakha Hari criticised the Academy’s decision to honour Krishna.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Soon the liberals and Dravidian leaders came in Krishna’s defence. Chief minister M.K. Stalin, Lok Sabha member Kanimozhi and Dravida Kazhagam leader Ki Veeramani praised Krishna for his contributions. Academy’s president N. Murali replied to Ranjani and Gayatri, saying their stance was “unbecoming of artistes and in poor taste”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not Krishna’s music, but his politics that triggered the controversy. He is known to be a ‘communist’ and a sympathiser of Periyar E.V. Ramasamy. Many in the Carnatic music fraternity were upset when he came out with a composition on Periyar. In 2018, when a statue of Lenin was brought down in Tripura after the BJP’s victory in the assembly elections, author Perumal Murugan wrote a poem on how statues were the symbols of different thinking. Krishna composed it in the Kalyani raga and Adhi talam. In 2023, Krishna sang another song penned by Perumal Murugan―‘Sindikka Chonnavar Periyar’ or Periyar asked us to think―and released it on the occasion of the centenary of the Vaikom Satyagraha.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Krishna was once a darling of Chennai’s Carnatic music aficionados. A disciple of Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, he was a regular at the sabhas in Mylapore. Though a conservative in the beginning, he soon started thinking about democratising Brahmin-dominated Carnatic music. And he started talking about it. That was when the friction began.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Krishna’s intent is noble and needed. But sadly, in the process of trying to bring about change, he became aggressive, arrogant and egoistic, and he assumed a moral superiority over his peers without engaging with them in a constructive way to effectively bring the cause to fruition,” said Surya H.K., who is the great-grandson of the legendary Carnatic vocalist M.S. Subbulakshmi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Krishna’s comments that Subbulakshmi distanced herself from the devadasi culture to gain wider acceptance had triggered a controversy, and he was called “anti-national” and was not allowed to perform at the Dance and Music festival organised by the Airports Authority of India and the cultural body, SPIC-MACAY. “The only concern I have about Krishna’s statements about Subbulakshmi is that he makes it seem like it was a personal tragedy and claimed that her music became melancholic,” said Surya. “Since he is trying to be an activist, he should have been more nuanced and considered the larger context of the time. Subbulakshmi found her own ways of breaking the glass ceiling and navigating caste hierarchies and patriarchy. So a personal analysis of her life as being tragic is not true and there is no real evidence of this. Whether it is T.M. Krishna or Ranjani-Gayatri, they should fight their own battles and not needlessly drag Subbulakshmi’s name into every controversy.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A popular vocalist, Krishna’s concerts are always well-attended. And his worship of the art is absolute irrespective of the stage―be it a temple in Kerala or a concert in Mylapore or a stage in New York, he can traverse through the ragas and the talas with ease. His most popular book, <i>Sebastian and Sons: A Brief History of Mrdangam Makers</i>, talks about the caste divide in the world of music.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2015, Krishna and his activist friend Nithyanand Jayaraman started Urur Olcott Kuppam Vizha, a counter to the popular Margazhi music season in Chennai. It happens at a fishermen hamlet near Besant Nagar in south Chennai. The boys and girls in the hamlet now have an in-depth knowledge of music and dance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2017, when his Carnatic composition on Jesus triggered a backlash, Krishna announced that he would release one Carnatic song on Jesus and Allah every month. Another big controversy was him questioning some of the compositions of Tyagaraja Bhagavathar, the 18th century musician who is among the trinity of Carnatic music along with Muthuswami Dikshitar and Syama Shastri. “They reeked of caste and gender discrimination,” he said. It left many in his music fraternity upset.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And then came the environmental song ‘I am Poramboke’ for the Save Earth, Save Wetlands and Save Ennore campaign. The song spoke about the evils of urbanisation and the need for protecting natural resources, but its lyrics had the caste and class subtext laced in it, which triggered a huge controversy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Interestingly, the Academy has always been the preserve of conservatism. A large majority of its patrons belong to the upper castes. In fact, Ranjani-Gayatri replied to Murali’s criticism suggesting that he and other Brahmins in the Academy’s executive committee should resign and make way for non-Brahmins. When asked about Ranjani-Gayatri’s statement, Murali told THE WEEK: “I have said whatever I want to say in our first letter. I don’t want to comment further and give them undue publicity.”</p> <p>While Krishna’s fight is against the poor practices in Carnatic music, much more is at stake. “We believe that Carnatic music has been and will be a unifying factor,” said the Trichur Brothers. “We have valid reasons to believe that Krishna is only being divisive with his narrative, and is unnecessarily making the issue political. Leave music out of it.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/30/madras-music-academy-honours-tm-krishna-sangita-kalanidhi-award.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/30/madras-music-academy-honours-tm-krishna-sangita-kalanidhi-award.html Sat Mar 30 12:09:08 IST 2024 g-n-saibaba-s-story-of-hope-is-also-a-story-of-love <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/30/g-n-saibaba-s-story-of-hope-is-also-a-story-of-love.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/3/30/50-Saibaba-with-wife-Vasantha-in-Delhi.jpg" /> <p>It is the last dash of spring before the heat of summer sets in on Delhi. The sky is blue―even in the most polluted city in the world―and the burst of red on a silk cotton tree in bloom reminds you that you have to hold on to hope with every breath.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>G.N. Saibaba, in an ironed blue shirt, his veshti spotless white, running his hands over his wheelchair, is proof that hope is resilient. He is in an isolation room in a crowded ward at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. The former English professor at Delhi University has spent about a decade in the Nagpur Central Jail; he was booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for having Maoist links. On March 5, the Bombay High Court acquitted him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His release came two days after his 33th wedding anniversary. This was the longest he had been apart from his wife. “Earlier, even on foreign trips, I would Skype her,” he says, as Vasantha comes in with a flask of hot tea. Saibaba’s battle to prove his innocence was fuelled by the sheer determination of his wife. It was she who spent every second of the 10 years fighting, outside, while he was locked in. It is a story of hanging on to hope, but it is also a love story, one that played out in almost silence for a decade.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even when they could write―his first letter took months to arrive―they were restricted by language. “We could not write in our mother tongue (they were barred from communicating in Telugu),” she says. “I had to write in either Hindi or English. Even in <i>mulaqat</i> (jail visits), we could not use our own language. What could I convey in a foreign language?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They had met in a tuition class when they were 15. Their versions of what happened differs slightly. He claims she spoke to him on her own, to help him with a math problem. “It was the 10th boards,” he says. “I thought I would fail mathematics.” She, however, believes it is was the teacher who prodded her to help him. “Sai used to come with his chappals on his hands and crawl to class (polio had paralysed him waist down),” she says with a smile. “The first time I saw him, I noticed that he was very bright in his studies. The teacher said he had come late and asked me to help him.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is, however, no disagreement on what happened next. “We stopped going to tuitions and started learning from each other,” he says. She would help him solve math and he would teach her English grammar. “We did very well in class 10.”</p> <p>Separation was hard. The first time that they met when he was in prison, they could not talk. “She came after a month or so, but it was very hard,” he says. “We could not really speak to each other across the fibreglass window.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The long train journey each month from Delhi to Nagpur was not easy. “We would get there at 8 in the morning for the <i>mulaqat</i>,” she said. She waited all day for the 20 minutes across a window. In <i>Why Do You Fear My Way So Much?,</i> a book brought out by Speaking Tiger a few years ago, Vasantha writes about longing to be able to hold hands across the fibreglass. In a poem, Saibaba describes a visit. ‘My cage prohibits all relations/ and bans love, proscribing the language/ of hearts, as the woman behind me/ reminds, “Speak only in Hindi,” while you/ stand on the other side of the opaque/ fibreglass window; words fail me, as though/ I have forgotten the language of our love and intimacy.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They had fallen in love reading. “We used to read books together and our friendship grew,” she says with a laugh. “It was literature that brought us together.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And it is apt that, in the absence of regular communication, she kept them bound by books. “The prison had no library,” he says. The only books available to read were those left by other prisoners. Vasantha, however, sent him a steady supply. But, in the darkest period of his time in jail―the pandemic―even the books and letters stopped. In what seemed like an endless stretch, loneliness unspooled those locked inside. There was no communication with the world. “People went mad,” he says. “There were those who refused to step outside their cell door, even when it was open.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Saibaba, prison not only robbed him of his independence, but also stripped him of his dignity. “All my life, it was very rare for me to feel my disability,” he says. “Till I went to jail.” His friends used to carry him to school. His brother used to take him on a cycle. He even crawled to tuition class, but never let the disability get in his way. “It was not in my consciousness,” he says. “I could do all kinds of jobs on my own. I have strong hands. But when I was taken to prison, the disability became visible and then the suffering started.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Saibaba turned to Faiz Ahmad Faiz for hope. “I translated Faiz in my mother tongue,” he says. “I translated 120 poems. I learnt how to write and read Urdu. Vasantha gave me Urdu books.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Saibaba would read even after 10pm. “I did not follow the rules,” he says. The lights were always on at night. In a letter, he wrote, “I still constantly dream that I am teaching students in a classroom. I cannot imagine my life without the classroom, blackboard and students.” And he did. As a vocal advocate of human rights, he knew he had to help. He did so by teaching other prisoners how to read.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vasantha, on the outside, was trapped, too. She lived in fear of him getting Covid. “We did not know how he was,” she says. “We used to send him medicines, but they would not reach. His body is polio-affected. He is prone to infection.” When she heard he was on hunger strike to get prisoners their rights―from newspapers to phone calls―she was worried. “I remember him writing to me to say, ‘I am in a small prison inside, and you are in a bigger prison outside’,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It has been just a few weeks since he gained freedom. There is a lot of lost time to make up for. As well as to grieve. Saibaba lost his mother to cancer, and was unable to conduct her last rites. He was not even allowed to see the ceremony on phone. Vasantha also lost her mother during Covid. Saibaba also missed his daughter growing up. Manjeera missed having a father to lean on. But most of all, they missed the companionship. She missed his cooking, and he missed being whole.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While Saibaba was being released from prison, the jailers came out with him through the main gate. “They wanted to take Vasantha’s signature. To say that they were handing over her husband to her. It sounds really strange. We asked why and they said that because I am a disabled person. Vasantha refused to sign it,” he says with a laugh.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/30/g-n-saibaba-s-story-of-hope-is-also-a-story-of-love.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/30/g-n-saibaba-s-story-of-hope-is-also-a-story-of-love.html Sat Mar 30 12:06:29 IST 2024 human-rights-activist-g-n-saibaba-interview <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/30/human-rights-activist-g-n-saibaba-interview.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/3/30/53-Saibaba-at-his-Delhi-home.jpg" /> <p><i>Interview/ G.N. Saibaba, human rights activist</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Could you tell us about your childhood?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> I was born and brought up in the Godavari delta region of Andhra Pradesh. Most of my childhood was spent amid nature, but I also have memories of discrimination and atrocities against dalits. As a child, I saw blood being spilt over the beautiful landscape. As dalits were educated, at least to an extent, they lived with dignity and refused to bow down to caste oppression. In these rich and fertile lands, the tears of the oppressed flooded alongside the waters of the Godavari.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In my early childhood, I witnessed a destructive cyclone that devastated the region; the same cyclone washed away our thatched hut as well. The marginal and small farmers, a section to which my father belonged, always remained at the receiving end in the caste-ridden society.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Why were you named Saibaba - were your parents devotees of Saibaba?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> In those days, around our family, some people were devotees of Shirdi Saibaba. The image of Puttaparthi Saibaba, the magician-saint figure, was coming up as a new influence. My mother was also a devotee of the old Saibaba and wavered between the old saint and the new one. My mother named me even as my father, as always, kept himself away from all kinds of religious rituals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What are your memories of your house, village and parents?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Our hut stood among coconut, tamarind and mango trees, but my father had to shift the family to the nearest town when I was around six as the landlords of the area captured his agricultural land.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the town paved a new way for us―we could go to school and get the best education.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How did you meet Vasantha? How did she influence you?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> In class 10, one day, I dreamt of failing in Mathematics in the Board examination. The next day, I visited a private tutor who taught Mathematics and English after school hours. I met Vasantha on my first day there. The teacher did not turn up that day. It was Vasantha who took the initiative and asked me why I came for the tuition classes and who I was. I told her I was weak in Mathematics. She asked me which problems I could not solve, and immediately showed me how to solve them, step by step. That was our first interaction. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Both of us decided to leave the tuition classes and teach each other as peers. In due course, during the preparation for the final examination, our interactions turned into a romantic affair. Thereafter, we never looked back and marched ahead in life and love together. It was she who pushed me to go to University of Hyderabad for my postgraduation. Before that, we read together an ocean of literature in which we drowned and dreamt.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How was your schooling like? Was there any discrimination?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> In the small town of Amalapuram, there was a municipal school near the house we lived in after we moved to the town. The headmaster admitted me straight into the fourth standard instead of the first after testing my learning skills. After fifth standard, my mother took me to a church-run school aided by the government, called St John’s High School. I didn’t face any discrimination in the school where most of the students and teachers were dalits.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The discrimination as a disabled person started particularly after I moved to a college. Nevertheless, I did extremely well and stood 1st in the university. This brought me a national merit scholarship. In turn, that helped me move to the University of Hyderabad for my postgraduation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ When did you discover that you could write poems?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ I wrote romantic poems during my intermediate and degree period, a few of which were published in the college magazine every year. I was elected to the editorial board of the magazine for all the five years of my college life. I also published some poems during my MA at the University of Hyderabad. Thereafter, my engagement with literary critical theory distanced me from writing poetry. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I also believed for a long time that poetry was read by only a few people, and that a vast majority of the oppressed people can’t read and enjoy poetry. I thought songs were the only vehicle through which one can reach out to the common people. That was the reason I stopped writing poetry. The time in isolation in the prison cell pushed me back into the world of poetry.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How was your life as a college student?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> One of the first issues that led me into the student movement in my college days was the movement for reservations in academic admissions and government jobs for OBCs. When V.P. Singh announced the implementation of Mandal Commission recommendations, I became part of the movement at the University of Hyderabad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How did you get attracted to Leftist thought? Who are your icons?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> It was through literature that Vasantha (his wife) and I developed a perspective in life. At that time our icons were Sri Sri, Premchand, [Leo] Tolstoy, [Maxim] Gorky, Chalam, Cherabanda Raju, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee and Rabindranath Tagore. But our reading was extensive, and we also read [Alexander] Pushkin, [Anton] Chekhov, [Ernest] Hemingway and others together. It was all the influence of the writers that worked on us rather than any political figures during our formative years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You liked teaching literature. Who are your favourite authors?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ It is very difficult to pinpoint a handful of writers. Shakespeare has remained a favourite writer till today, though I opposed the teaching of Shakespeare as a dominant figure in English literary courses. I continue to love Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Pablo Neruda, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o. Recently, I have enjoyed the works of Jerry Pinto, Meena Kandaswamy, Prayaag Akbar, K.R. Meera and Perumal Murugan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You were arrested 10 years ago. What were you doing at the time, and what was your immediate reaction?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> I was arrested in a background that spread between 2010 and 2013 when multi-pronged attacks on adivasis in central and eastern parts of India targeted village after village. [They wanted the adivasis] to vacate the forests [and wanted] to mine the rich minerals underneath their feet. Those were genocidal attacks.... Several intellectuals started raising their voice collectively through Forum Against War on People. I was elected as the convener at the all-India level and also as a coordinator at the international level. I was abducted in May 9, 2014, from the university campus and implicated in a fabricated case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You got interim bail in June 2015. How was your first year in prison?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> It was a traumatic experience. During my abduction and arrest, my wheelchair was broken, and I was dragged by my left hand, because of which the nerve system from my neck to the shoulder was broken and muscles were damaged. I suffered unbearable pain, and huge swelling continuously for nine months without any medical treatment. I was completely restricted to bed and could not even read or write. I got no relief till the Chief Justice of Mumbai High Court ordered the prison authorities in a suo moto case to admit me in a hospital and subsequently released me on bail on medical grounds. It was a traumatic experience as well for my mother, life partner and daughter, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Were you tortured?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> There was no physical assault, but I was tortured indirectly―both physically and mentally. For example, while I was being taken away from Delhi to Aheri in Gadchiroli, they did not allow me to go to a urinal for more than 48 hours. In the same process, my wheelchair was broken and badly damaged.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the Aheri police station, I was dragged and brutally pulled by my left hand. The ramp there was broken, and the wheelchair couldn’t go up and I had a bad fall there during the dragging. My left hand got damaged here and it was swollen. I remained in constant pain for the next nine months with my swollen shoulder without any medical treatment. It was [eventually] diagnosed as left brachial plexus injury. Practically, my left hand has been non-functional since. From then onwards, all my prison life, day and night, I have gone through a torturous experience because of this perpetual shoulder pain and lack of accessibility.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How did you spend time in the high-security <i>anda</i> (egg) cell?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>Most of the time I was reading and writing. Usually in the afternoon I taught fellow inmates. Another hectic activity was writing petitions for the prisoners. Most of them were illiterate and could not understand their cases in detail and had a lot of difficulty in appointing lawyers to look after their cases.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Who were your friends in jail?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>Initially, the jail authorities asked my co-accused to stay in my cell and help me around the clock. After 15 days, one of them, Hem Mishra, was transferred to Amravati Prison, and another co-accused Mahesh Tirki was brought in. After some time, another co-accused Vijay Tirki was also sent to my cell to help me. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When I was infected by Covid-19 during the second phase, my two co-accused who were not infected were sent away and another Adivasi inmate Bishan Singh Uikey, who was infected, was kept in my cell to help me. After that, a few others were also brought in as my cell mates from time to time. All these people remained close friends and helped me in every aspect of my daily life throughout these seven years. Apart from them, other inmates in the <i>anda </i>cell also supported and cooperated in several ways.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Did the police or prison staff show you any kindness?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> I was discriminated against by the jail authorities in my day-to-day life in prison, whether it be because of the kind of case I was put in, or because of my disability. The Nagpur Central Jail is a 19th-century prison that does not have any basic accessibility conditions for a disabled person. Most of the time when I was seriously ill, I was not taken to the prison hospital, whereas the other prisoners would be sent there for even complaints of headache.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Were you allowed to read and write in prison?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>In fact, it was my only pastime, but it was something I had to fight for. Initially, for a long time, no books or stationery were allowed easily. It was only after a long fight by presenting the prison authorities with various High Court and Supreme Court judgments, that books and writing material were allowed. After that, I could read regularly, and I went back to writing poetry addressing my family members and friends. These were collected and published as a book called <i>Why do you fear my way so much?</i> by Speaking Tiger.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Do you feel that a media trial was conducted to influence lower courts against granting you bail?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> A section of the local press in Nagpur and Maharashtra was extremely antagonistic and they published planted stories. A large section of the national press was interested in bringing out the facts and remained supportive throughout these 10 years. But a section of electronic media, particularly some television channels, propagated what was fed to them by the police agencies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Have UAPA and the NIA been misused more during the Modi regime?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>UAPA was a law made during the Congress-led UPA government. NIA was also instituted by the same government. The law and the agency were draconian in nature and should not have a place in a democracy. </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a civil rights activist, I was part of the campaign against draconian laws like TADA, POTA, UAPA, AFSPA, etc. for a long time, but one of those very draconian laws was used against me to silence my voice. UAPA, in particular, is against the provisions of our Constitution. All draconian laws have been misused during all regimes. The very enactment of these security laws is itself a misuse of power and is unconstitutional.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ A Congress government arrested you and a BJP government opposed your release from jail. What does this speak of the establishment?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> I was arrested during the last phase of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when there was no government office at the Centre and the Election Commission prevailed during that period. Perhaps it was done deliberately.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The establishment, whichever party in power, always took a stand against human rights and civil rights activists and defenders, instead of appreciating their untiring service to the people. The same thing happened in my case, though it turned out to be more aggressive and it was through illegal means.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What was the impact of years in prison on your health?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>No one who spends an extended period in the isolating and hostile atmosphere of the <i>anda</i> cell comes out without acquiring any psychological problems and trauma. I have acquired a serious heart condition, acute pancreatitis with cholelithiasis, spinal scoliosis, rotator cuff injury and fatty degeneration of rotator cuff muscles among others. I will have to perhaps live with these ailments throughout my life. Who will give my health back to me?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Do you feel that you should be compensated and that the authorities should be held accountable?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> This is a larger question that must be addressed by the higher judiciary and the eminent lawyers need to step in to seek full justice for all those lost years in my life and [those in the life] of others.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How do you look at today’s India?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>We are going through the darkest times known to me in my life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What do you think of the Maoist resistance in various parts of the country? Is it a lost battle?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> People’s struggles are the hope for a new society based on equality and non-discrimination. The larger people’s democratic struggles all throughout the country form the basis for hope in my life. Without them there is no hope.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What do you feel about dalit life at present?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Discrimination and atrocities have only increased. Today, dalits represent more than their percentage in prisons. A vast number of them languishing in jails are either innocent or involved in petty crimes. They have little refuge when it comes to seeking legal help.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/30/human-rights-activist-g-n-saibaba-interview.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/30/human-rights-activist-g-n-saibaba-interview.html Wed Apr 03 13:32:29 IST 2024 wing-commander-yogesh-suri-about-his-training-to-go-to-space <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/30/wing-commander-yogesh-suri-about-his-training-to-go-to-space.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/2024/2/24/56-yogesh-suri.jpg" /> <p>Four gaganauts have recently been chosen for India’s manned space mission next year. My congratulations to Group Captains Prashanth Nair, Ajit Krishnan, Angad Pratap and Wing Commander Shubhanshu Shukla for their selection. This is just the beginning. India is now in the process of selecting and setting up training facilities for a core of gaganauts to man our future ventures in space.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For India, human space flight is still uncharted territory. Apart from Kalpana Chawla with NASA, the only other Indian to have gone up is Rakesh Sharma, but that was courtesy the Russians and their experience in the field. Very soon, we will boast of sending our people with our own technology.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reading about the four gaganauts reminds me of the days that I was associated with the selection process for the first Indians in space. We started with 52 pilots, of which four were shortlisted. There were two wing commanders, Ravish Malhotra and S.C. Mittal, and two squadron leaders, Rakesh Sharma and myself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This would be further cut to two pilots, who would undergo full training in Russia. But, some aspects of training started before that final cut. We sat through Russian language classes, while our physical and medical evaluation was in progress. After coming back from the evaluation in Moscow, the four of us were put through some lectures by ISRO to familiarise us with outer space.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The evaluation and training of people who travel to space are elaborate processes. The conditions in outer space have to be simulated to the extent possible. The candidates go through these simulations to see if everything in their systems will work the way it is supposed to. Apart from regular medical evaluation, we were put through situations that bring on spatial disorientation. Like being strapped on to a rotating wheel. That is 10 times worse than being on the world’s trickiest roller coaster. Or sitting on a chair that rotates while your head wobbles. The vestibular system is thrown awry and you may feel sick. Quite obviously, any kind of discomfort or disorientation here would render you unfit for the job.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then there were the high pressure chambers and the centrifuge to test your capability to sustain G force. At 1G, you feel normal, but at 2G you feel like your weight has doubled. This is where our experience in flying fighter planes came in useful. While flying fighter planes, we normally sustain 4G to 5G. Every part of the body becomes heavier. It is difficult to lift your hand or keep your head up. The blood starts draining from the head and travels towards the feet, causing blackouts. In extreme maneuvers, we even sustain 8G to 9G momentarily.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Have you ever sat in a car that suddenly accelerates to a hundred kilometres an hour and you feel like you are being pushed back against the seat? Well, while going into space, multiply that feeling by a 100, especially when you are accelerating to escape velocity so that you can leave the earth’s orbit and get into outer space. And then that wonderful feeling of being in zero gravity, where you can float like a butterfly, but not sting like a bee. My apologies to Muhammad Ali. Both Ravish and Rakesh went through zero gravity simulation after the final selection.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Along with physical and medical tests comes mental assessment. Up in space you are quite lonely. Staring into a void for a long time could be disastrous for your mind. I have not been that far up in space. But, I have been on the MiG25 we used to fly in the stratosphere, at 26km above the earth―close to 85,000 feet. You do not see a blue sky at that height. The sky is a dark grey even in the afternoon. It is quite similar up in space.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To test our mental adaptability, we were individually put in a small room with a bed, four walls and no windows for 72 hours. Three days and three nights of isolation. Any longer and we would have started tearing our hair out! There were three video games placed next to the bed. Every now and then they used to ring a bell from the outside. We had to get up, check our vital parameters like pulse and blood pressure, and log our scores on the video games. Exciting stuff!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And finally, of course, there is the technical aspect of training, learning about the spacecraft, or the machine that you are supposed to be handling and the specific experiments that you are supposed to be carrying out in space.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I think a strong mental make-up is part of being a fighter pilot. That is why people selected for space missions around the world are mostly fighter pilots. Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, and the seven American astronauts trained for NASA’s Mercury programme were all fighter pilots.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rakesh and I were good friends. In 1972, we were together in the No 1 Squadron in Adampur. He was my senior at the National Defence Academy. Both he and I were young officers. He was from Hyderabad and I was from Delhi, but we had common friends. I fought the 1971 war as a forward air controller, because I had just got my commission. I was sent with the Army to guide air attacks. So, I fought in a tank with the 72 Armoured Regiment. After the war, Rakesh and I converted to MiGs. We had not known Ravish and Mittal earlier, but we got to know each other well during the year of my association with the programme.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From the start, we knew that only one person would go up in the Soyuz 7. There was no animosity or competition. We all had the may-the-best-man-go-up attitude. In the case of our four gaganauts, three of them will be on India’s human space mission. The fourth is also likely to go up in a joint mission with NASA.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The press is calling them the Fabulous Four.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Give them a break guys! The last four to be called the Fab Four were long-haired musicians from Liverpool. Give them an original name. The nation has new idols!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The four who are selected are capable pilots and my only advice to them would be: You are the pride of the whole nation. Do your job to the best of your capability, but in the process, do not forget to enjoy the ride.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>―<b>The writer was among the four test pilots initially selected for the space flight in 1984. After retiring from the Indian Air Force, he became a radio jockey and is now an actor.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/30/wing-commander-yogesh-suri-about-his-training-to-go-to-space.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/30/wing-commander-yogesh-suri-about-his-training-to-go-to-space.html Sat Mar 30 16:46:13 IST 2024 drafting-indonesia-into-the-quad-and-developing-the-andaman-and-nicobar-islands-india-s-maritime-security-plans <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/23/drafting-indonesia-into-the-quad-and-developing-the-andaman-and-nicobar-islands-india-s-maritime-security-plans.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/3/23/31-Navies-of-India-and-Indonesia-take-part.jpg" /> <p>“If you know your enemy and yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained, you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle,” said ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So let us know what China, which would remain our biggest concern, would likely be in 2047.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When free India turns 100 in 2047, Hong Kong would have completed its 50 years of ‘free’ existence, and would have to merge with China, fulfilling the arrangement that was made in 1997 when it got Hong Kong back from Great Britain after a 100-year lease. By then, something significant even on the Taiwan front also cannot be ruled out. Since one has to consider the worst-case scenario while planning, let us assume that in 2047 both Hong Kong and Taiwan would be under China’s control. This means China would have effective control of the Strait of Malacca, through which more than 20 per cent of the global trade and 60 per cent of China’s maritime trade take place.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>China is aware how vulnerable it is to a naval blockade of Malacca. Back in 2003, president Hu Jintao had termed it the ‘Malacca dilemma’. China’s current proactive actions and overtures aimed at dominating the Indian and Pacific Oceans through the strategically located South China Sea can thus be easily explained as attempts to create alternatives and break free of any possible blockade of the Strait of Malacca.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This has led to certain major regional and global permutations and combinations getting worked out by various affected actors in the Asia-Pacific region. The Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue)―comprising the United States, Australia, India and Japan―has emerged as one such association of the four major global economies getting threatened, or feeling insecure, by China’s domination of the Asia-Pacific. The Quad members, too, have stakes in the Strait of Malacca. Being thousands of miles apart, their shortest approach to one another is through the Malacca bottleneck.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If the basic philosophy of the Quad is to somehow contain China, then its peacetime economic and wartime military significance need to be effectively taken cognisance of. Thus, India automatically becomes the most important player as a result of its geographical location between the Europe-Middle East and the East Asia-Asia-Pacific regions. The importance of Hong Kong and Taiwan lies in being major global manufacturing hubs with port facilities in the Strait of Malacca. Therefore, the Quad as a group must start looking for a viable option to counter China effectively in the region as part of its preparation for 2047.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are two major requirements to achieve this. First, a port city has to be developed as an alternative to Hong Kong; second, Quad members should find a maritime route that can be an alternative to the Strait of Malacca.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Andaman and Nicobar Islands offer possibilities. India has already started working on developing the archipelago, especially the Greater Nicobar Islands. The project costing approximately $10 billion includes the Galathea Bay international container transhipment terminal, the Greater Nicobar international airport, the Greater Nicobar gas and solar power plant and two greenfield coast cities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But these are not enough. Rather than restricting the development merely to these presently envisaged goals, development vision needs to be expanded to make Greater Nicobar a viable alternative to Hong Kong by 2047. Hence the development of the Greater Nicobar should be a priority and responsibility of the Quad as such, rather than only of India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For the second requirement―to develop a maritime route that can be an alternative to the Strait of Malacca―one needs to look elsewhere. That is where Indonesia falls into the strategic picture. Greater Nicobar is closer to the western Sumatra region of Indonesia than any piece of Indian territory. The necklace-shaped island country, extending from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, makes the Quad contiguous. The Strait of Malacca passes through it for the major portion of its length. In addition, it has a few strategically important straits like Sunda, Lombok and Sumba which can prove to be an effective alternative to Malacca, if necessary. This route will not only help provide an option to bypass the Strait of Malacca in case of any Chinese blockade, but also will act as an additional maritime option that will reduce the existing congestion on the Malacca route.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In short, when the erstwhile Asia-Pacific region is being increasingly viewed as Indo-Pacific, it cannot be complete without Indonesia. Thus, the Quad must plan to get Indonesia on board at the earliest even if it entails a change of name altogether.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The author, a strategic affairs expert, serves as officer on special duty to the lieutenant governor of Delhi.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/23/drafting-indonesia-into-the-quad-and-developing-the-andaman-and-nicobar-islands-india-s-maritime-security-plans.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/23/drafting-indonesia-into-the-quad-and-developing-the-andaman-and-nicobar-islands-india-s-maritime-security-plans.html Sat Mar 23 16:01:08 IST 2024 the-world-of-spies-today-is-full-of-technology-but-human-intelligence-continues-to-play-its-crucial-part <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/23/the-world-of-spies-today-is-full-of-technology-but-human-intelligence-continues-to-play-its-crucial-part.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/3/23/58-Spooks-still-speak.jpg" /> <p><b>IN THE UNUSUALLY</b> cold August of 2019, after the Union government repealed Article 370, there was a communication blackout in Kashmir and suddenly all ‘chatter’ died down. Chatter here being the intelligence term used to describe the volume of communication between terrorists or spies, monitored by agencies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Intelligence reports claimed more than 200 terrorists were still hiding in the valley, but hardly any could be engaged as tech-driven intelligence was missing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the absence of phone records, the internet, encrypted chats and Google locations, counter-terror commandos went into a huddle. Security forces, who had their boots on the ground for decades, were reminded of their core competency―human intelligence. The voice of a counter-terror force commander boomed in a sparsely lit room, “Let us go back to the drawing board. Where are your assets?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It took a month for the security forces to revive their assets, meet old friends, visit different locations, start tracing patterns and put their ears to the ground to pick up chatter. Soon enough, Cargo―the code name for the base of Jammu and Kashmir Police’s elite anti-terrorism unit―tasted success because of its relationship with the locals. “A sizeable section of the officers joining the anti-terror special operations group (in Cargo) and other units outside Srinagar belong to the terror-affected districts―Shopian, Pulwama, Rajouri, Baramulla and Kulgam―from where intelligence flows naturally into their ears,” said Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police R.R. Swain, who is known in Pakistan’s ISI circles as a tough nut. “The lay of the land gives them the first movers’ advantage, the pulse of the people allows them the entry and the eye of the spy makes them successful.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In September that year, security forces gunned down one terrorist, while another escaped, after a local shepherd―an asset of 20 years―informed his trusted friend in camouflage of suspicious movement around the Harmukh mountain in Ganderbal district. It was suspected that a few infiltrators were using locals as their guides to revive dormant routes in the higher reaches of Gurez to slip into the valley. If not for the human asset, the forces would have missed this crucial input.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The biggest challenge in using human intelligence is the time taken between receiving the information and deployment. “It is not a Nescafe (instant coffee) moment,” said D.P. Sinha, former Intelligence Bureau special director and secretary (security) in the cabinet secretariat. “To develop humint, security agencies have to painstakingly work on patterns, keep sources in the vicinity and sometimes even personally meet enemy targets to identify them before an operation.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Spycraft using human assets is still the bedrock of Indian intelligence operations, be it for busting terror modules, giving the world evidence of Lashkar-e-Taiba’s involvement in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks or exposing transnational syndicates of Khalistani terrorists.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sinha said the skill was not only in gathering intelligence from human assets and relaying it to security forces on the ground, but also in changing the course of the enemy, influencing their judgement and finally changing their plans. “Longterm impact can only be achieved through human networks,” he said. “A lot of propaganda by proscribed Khalistani groups in Punjab has been busted, which helped end the phase of militancy in Punjab. Human assets were used to penetrate their networks and divert their narrative. These cadres were swayed by greed for money or easy pleasures of life. But it has not been the same for ideologically driven outfits like Islamic jihadists or the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). They were much more difficult to influence.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The spy game has to be upped when hardcore terrorists are involved. Had it not been for a human asset, the bundle of evidence in the 26/11 case would have been thinner.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>S.M. Sahai, a retired Jammu and Kashmir Police officer, had hit upon the idea to plant Indian SIM cards on LeT operatives across the border. If any of them entered the country and used those cards, they would land in the security net. A pack of prepaid SIM cards was sent to Pakistan through a deeply embedded human asset and planted on the operatives. The monitoring began. Finally, one of the SIM cards became active during the Mumbai attacks; Indian agents could hear the Lashkar operative talking to his handlers about the strike. Raising a human asset within an enemy organisation is a dying skill. It is painstaking and can, at times, lead to disastrous results because of unpredictable human nature. But once a credible asset is raised deep inside enemy territory, it can lead to a credible and actionable trove of information.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While India might not publicly thank its intelligence community, tales of their success in thwarting terror strikes goes beyond borders. Their cooperation with counterparts in keeping the subcontinent safe is an everyday job.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was August 2012. Indian agencies were looking for Yasin Bhatkal, the elusive top man of the Indian Mujahideen. Was he in Pakistan, Bangladesh or Nepal, or was he hiding within the country? This was the key question vexing counter-terror officials. The Patna unit of the Intelligence Bureau was put on the job. It developed a human asset in Nepal, and photos of Malik and other key operatives were circulated. After months of intense effort, Malik was spotted. Soon, a multi-agency effort brought him near the Raxaul border in Bihar from where he was arrested. The human asset had played a crucial role.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Within the country, humint networks have contributed in bringing peace to different theatres of conflict like countering Maoists and northeast insurgents, besides taking on militants in Kashmir, Punjab and the hinterland,” said former IB special director Yashovardhan Azad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Speaking of the northeast, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval once infiltrated the Mizo National Front in the 1970s as a field agent when the hostile outfit was unwilling for a settlement. His underground connections and unconventional human skills saw MNF leader Laldenga talk peace, which finally stitched the Mizo Accord of 1986, ending 20 years of insurgency.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The success of the Mizo Accord is quite evident as there has been peace in Mizoram ever since, which is in stark contrast with Manipur. That made all the difference,” said Lt Gen Shokin Chauhan (retd), former director general of the Assam Rifles.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unlike the capacity of the surveillance devices and cameras of today, resources were not unlimited when it came to human intelligence, recalled Azad. At times, spies were literally blindfolded and thrown into situations where only their instincts and skills could out-manoeuvre the enemy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I remember a time when we sat in a bathroom the entire night trying to recreate certain documents before placing them back in the original spot before dawn,” said a seasoned spy. “After all, there was no photocopy and darkroom printing had to be used. The only dark room was the bathroom.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Times, though, have changed, and spycraft is bending before the powers of artificial intelligence and new-age surveillance techniques. But whether it is creating virtual war rooms to fight propaganda (using cyber intelligence) or activating human assets in Russia through friendly spooks in distant lands, the playground for technical and human intelligence is so vast that the two can converge at several points.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“There is no competition here. One is not trying to replace the other,” said R.K. Yadav, a former R&amp;AW officer who wrote <i>Mission R&amp;AW</i>. “And wherever that has happened, it has led to calamitous outcomes. The Israelis are drawing lessons that their deeper assets are as much needed as the Iron Dome in the ongoing war with Hamas. On the other hand, the Russia-Ukraine war has shown the growing role of intelligence in achieving diplomatic and strategic goals.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, the large gathering of international athletes also brought many spooks into town. The Five Eyes, an intelligence-sharing network involving agencies of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US, was also there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Their representative used to meet her counterparts in North Block every day at 10am to discuss threats,” recalled a veteran spy. “One morning, they told Indian agencies that an IED (improvised explosive device) had been tested in Delhi.” An Indian mobile number that came in the intercept was shared and Indian intelligence began a secret inquiry. The number, they found, belonged to a Nepali helper in a house in western Uttar Pradesh. When the surprised Indian spies questioned her, she told them she was calling her Army-man husband while he was travelling from Bathinda to Siliguri. She was desperate to share the news of her pregnancy with him, and had said, “I got an IUD test done.” IUD, not IED. Importantly, it took a local spy in a Hindi-speaking state to bust this piece of tech intelligence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During the covert strike on terror launch pads across the border in September 2016, the National Technical Research Organisation had handed over extensive inputs to the commandos. However, to avoid alerting the enemy, they could not carry any electronic equipment across the barbed wire fences. What made them confident was the fact that their human assets were not far away. The local villagers who guided the infiltrators were also the humint assets of security forces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The advent of technology and fencing of international borders are not only stopping infiltrators today, but also human assets who used to move across freely for a chit chat here and there,” said Yadav.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These networks in states such as Rajasthan, Punjab, Tripura are drying up today. And with human interactions moving onto gadgets, it is not the same any more.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indian spies, however, have been quick to reinvent themselves and spread their resources and sources in many ways, be it technical or human intelligence. As one spy pointed out: “Even the venom-spewing 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed is no longer seen in open rallies and roadshows. This time it seems not just the chatter, but the noise has also died down.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/23/the-world-of-spies-today-is-full-of-technology-but-human-intelligence-continues-to-play-its-crucial-part.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/23/the-world-of-spies-today-is-full-of-technology-but-human-intelligence-continues-to-play-its-crucial-part.html Sat Mar 23 15:11:21 IST 2024 after-the-demolition-of-his-house-the-hero-of-silkyara-wakeel-hassan-refuses-to-budge <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/16/after-the-demolition-of-his-house-the-hero-of-silkyara-wakeel-hassan-refuses-to-budge.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/3/16/50-Hassan-his-wife-Shabana-and-their-eldest-son-Azeem.jpg" /> <p>Wakeel Hassan’s three children are resolutely finishing homework even as they camp along with their parents outside their demolished house in northeast Delhi’s Khajuri Khas. They are trying hard to support their father in every way. Less than four months ago, they were busy receiving guests with congratulatory gestures—Hassan and his team had returned after saving 41 trapped workers from the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarakhand. The world watched as Hassan averted tragedy. Now, he is faced with tragedy. And, the hero of Silkyara is sulking.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On February 28, his house was demolished by Delhi Development Authority bulldozers as part of a drive against encroachment. Amid accusations of selective action, the DDA, a body controlled by the Centre, clarified that action was taken on land that is “part of planned development”. It further said that the proceedings were initiated in 2016 and that the family was aware of their encroachment and had resisted enforcement in 2018 and again in 2022. As per the DDA, the ladies of the family had threatened self-immolation after barricading themselves within the premises.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“At no point of time before or during demolition were officials aware about the recent contribution of Wakeel in the rescue operation in the Silkyara-Barkot tunnel in Uttarakhand,’’ a DDA statement says. “When this fact came to light, officials of DDA, having made alternative arrangements for shelter to Wakeel and his family, went on site and contacted him. But he refused to avail of any offer and demanded a permanent house at the same location or in the vicinity.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Offers rejected by Hassan so far include a “ready-to-move-in flat” in Narela, north Delhi, and a two-bedroom flat in Dilshad Garden, around 8km from Khajuri Khas. “I have been living in this house for more than 32 years and have grown up in this house,” he says. “I should get a house in the same colony or the authorities should renovate my demolished house.” Since the demolition, Hassan and his family have been camping in front of the razed structure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“When my team and I entered the tunnel in Silkyara, we were driven by humanity,” says Hassan. “All we cared about was saving the lives of the people trapped inside. I had never imagined that we would be repaid in this way for the work that we did for the country and of which the entire world took note.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In December 2023, Hassan and his team of 12 did what imported machines failed to do. They manually bored through the last 18 metres of debris in the collapsed Silkyara tunnel using chisels, shovels and gas cutters to remove the iron girders and hard rocks. Their work space was an 800mm pipe. They were hailed as heroes for freeing miners who had been trapped for 17 days.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To Hassan, the burden of his helplessness now is more troubling than putting his life at risk inside the Silkyara tunnel. “Before we were given the task, the previous team had mined for about 25-26 metres,” he says. “They backed out as the risk in completing the remaining distance had enhanced manifold.” Hassan looks at his three children, Azeem, 17, Aliza, 15 and Arish, 7, who now use the only bed to complete their homework, before continuing: “Although chances of the mountain collapsing were high, all we cared about was saving our trapped brothers.” Hassan and his team tied moist towels over their noses to cope with breathlessness caused by dust.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Visiting Hassan in this time of need, his teammate Irshad Ansari says they are being wrongly called “rat miners”. They use the rat mining technique of digging small tunnels, not to mine but to connect pipelines.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rat mining, an “unscientific” and dangerous occupation, was banned in India by the National Green Tribunal in 2014. “[In urban areas,] we have to go into pipelines that are at risk of sudden gushes of water; we also face risks of electrocution and from toxic fumes and poisonous reptiles,” says Hassan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Saddened at Hassan’s predicament, Ansari and his other teammates question their decision to help. “We could have done deals and earned money in the rescue, but that was never our intention and perhaps we are paying for that,” says Ansari. “We may be poor, but we are skilled enough to make ends meet. However, the way we are being treated has demoralised us.” He is still hopeful that his friend’s demands would be met.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even as Hassan battles for his family, the politics over the demolition has taken root. A day after his house was brought down, BJP MP Manoj Tiwari met Hassan and his family. He said what happened was sad and “targeting” one house in a populated area showed injustice had been done. Tiwari is the BJP candidate from North East Delhi for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. He also said the lieutenant governor was “saddened and surprised” by this and has stated that the family should be compensated. Aam Aadmi Party leaders also came to console Hassan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Leaders have been visiting me, but nothing has been done so far,” he says. “I do not want any politics on the issue. I just want my house back.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Readying himself for the struggle ahead, Hassan says: “My family was so happy when we rescued the workers. I was a hero to my children. Now, I will fight for my children who have been rendered homeless.” He said he expected more from the government after working selflessly to save lives. “Until my [ask is met], I will not leave even if it costs my life,” says Hassan, who is preparing to go on a hunger strike if the need arises.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/16/after-the-demolition-of-his-house-the-hero-of-silkyara-wakeel-hassan-refuses-to-budge.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/16/after-the-demolition-of-his-house-the-hero-of-silkyara-wakeel-hassan-refuses-to-budge.html Sat Mar 16 12:00:56 IST 2024 awacs-aircraft-india-engineering-functionality-control-systems <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/16/awacs-aircraft-india-engineering-functionality-control-systems.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/3/16/52-Netra-DRDOs-Airborne-Early-Warning-and-Control-System-on-an-Air-Force-aircraft.jpg" /> <p>A November morning, 1996.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the mist had cleared over the Yelahanka airfield near Bengaluru, a host of VVIPs, including prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, defence minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, star-bearing air marshals and DRDO chief A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, sat down to watch dazzling fighter jets taking off and getting into stunts at Aero-India, India’s biennial air show. Just then, a pedestrian voice announced from the ATC: “Next, ASP Avro.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That was the understatement of the year. Hardly anyone paid attention to an Avro.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From a corner of the airfield, an old Avro lumbered down the runway and lazily lifted into the air, like an ostrich too heavy to fly. The propellers whirled noisily, eating up the air in front and keeping the garishly painted giant machine afloat. A thousand eyes turned to the slowly rotating dome, perched asymmetrically over the plane, somewhat like a Great War cannon on a pack-camel’s back. It kept a monotonous pace with the rambling plane, yet slowly activated a magnetic field of pride, admiration and envy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Those who were on the airfield and watching could not believe their eyes—they were looking at an Indian AWACS in flight!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sadly, as the superstitious would say, it attracted the evil eye too. About two years later, during an experimental flight from INS Rajali at Arakkonam, near Chennai, “after 90 per cent of the project had been completed”, the whole aircraft, complete with the rotodome, four scientists and four IAF men, crashed. The rotodome collapsed over the plane, and the plane “did two somersaults, then swerved to avoid electricity lines and the villages”, as an eyewitness told THE WEEK correspondent then.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With that went down India’s AWACS dreams.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fast forward to February 11, 2017.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The mist over Jodhpur airfield had not yet cleared when the radio inside a gadget-filled room crackled: “Chanakya! This is Mission Commander Antrix. Porus claims the simulated enemy aircraft; targets destroyed.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Antrix, the crew in Netra, India’s eye in the sky, was reporting to Chanakya, the ground station, that combat air patrol Porus had destroyed a simulated enemy aircraft called Sorethumb.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Netra had spotted Sorethumb for Porus to destroy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The two crisp sentences electrified the small bunch of military scientists and IAF officials huddled in the room. They had done it. Three days later, on February 14, the ‘eye in the sky’, or the first India-built AWACS, was handed over to the IAF. With that, India became the seventh country to have built its own flying radar—after the US, Russia, China, Israel, Brazil and Sweden. “It was our Valentine’s Day gift to the nation,”recalls Dr Rajalakshmi Menon, director of the Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS), Bengaluru, which had developed the flying radar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India’s AWACS story is as thrilling and as mystifying as that of the mythical bird Phoenix from Greek mythology, that is believed to live a thousand years, burns itself into ashes, and then is born again from the ashes. The Indian AWACS, too, has had its births and deaths, and is now reborn. Netra is the third, achieved after two failures.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The idea of AWACS—airborne warning and control system, essentially a flying radar, or a plane with a radar that would spot enemy planes as soon as they take off from their home fields—had captured the imagination of air warriors since the 1960s. The idea was simple. A ground radar picks up enemy aircraft only when the enemy gets too close, because enemy aircraft tend to fly low. That leaves very little time for defending forces to react. But what if one has a radar that flies up in the sky? It would spot the enemy plane as soon as it takes off from hundreds of miles away.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The higher we fly, the more the distance that can be seen; that gives us the advantage of early detection to carry out the strike,” says Dr Suma Varughese who, along with Rajalakshmi, was part of the core team that developed the ill-fated ASP Avro under the supervision of Dr Sargunaraj Christopher.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The same team later developed the Netra, which is today flying the Indian skies and prying into enemy skies. Christopher retired after heading the DRDO, and Varughese is now heading the Micro Electronic Devices, Computational Systems &amp; Cyber Systems (MED &amp; CoS).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The first AWACS that appeared in the global skies was the US Hawkeye, which was soon put up for sale. Pakistan could not afford it, but when the US sold one to Saudi Arabia, Indian air warriors worried that it could be lent to Pakistan if the latter asked. Since India could not afford to buy one, the Indira Gandhi government ticked the option to develop one locally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Studies began in 1985 under project ‘Guardian’, later renamed ‘Airawat’, after Indra’s white-skinned flying elephant. By a coincidence, the first office was set up in a hotel, which had a rotating dome, in New Delhi’s Asiad village! “Yes, Airawat was the butt of jokes as the proverbial white elephant,”recalls Christopher who was asked to develop its surveillance system at Bharat Electronics. “The Airawat was the first phase where a feasibility study was conducted on a paper design based on Russian A50 aircraft, which is nothing but the Ilyushin 76 aircraft modified with a dome on top for AWACS purpose.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The challenges were two-fold. One was to build a rotating dome that would emit radar signals and capture them back when reflected by enemy aircraft. The second, more challenging, involved structural engineering—how to fix a rotating dome over an airplane filled with electronic command and control systems, and keep the plane stable in the air.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Funds were at a premium. As the national kitty got smaller and smaller towards the politically unstable late 1980s, priorities had to be reordered. Techno dreams like guided missiles, combat aircraft and battle tanks got priority over flying radar, and slowly Airawat was given a quiet burial.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But when science dreams, you cannot kill it. The idea of an Indian AWACS stayed in the minds of men like CABS’s founder director Dr K. Ramchand and Christopher, as also the ever-dreaming mind of Kalam. Even otherwise, labs like the DRDO’s Electronics &amp; Radar Development Establishment (LRDE) were working on radar technologies for the IAF and the scientific minds could not keep themselves off packing them into a flying object.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The ASP project was the phase II where an attempt was made with HS 748 aircraft (Avro), which is an old British design produced and maintained by HAL. IAF spared two of their transport HS 748, which were modified by DRDO to carry a rotodome,” says Christopher.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Technology development was sanctioned, and soon the HAL built a 24x5 foot rotodome, which could house the radar antenna. The idea was to develop technologies, mount the ASP onto these aircraft, test the systems, and then go for development. “We had our first flight just with the rotodome on September 5, 1990, an achievement by itself,” recalls Rajalakshmi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That gave the confidence to work further. CABS was set up in 1991 under Dr Ramchand to act as a system house and integration agency. The challenge was to rotate the dome for all-round coverage. That is where they failed a second time, leading to the unfortunate crash in January 1999.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I went in that ill-fated aircraft in the previous sortie, for the trials of my systems on the airborne radar. I felt that God had spared me to complete the indigenous development of our own AEW&amp;C [Airborne Early Warning and Control System] and I was determined to complete it,” recalls Christopher.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Air Marshal Philip Rajkumar, who headed the inquiry wrote later: “During the course of flight testing, the aircraft was cleared to a maximum speed limit of 180 knots... and altitude of 10,000 feet.... However, the speed limit for lowering the flaps was left untouched and it was presumed that the take-off flap at 150 could be lowered at the laid down limits of 180 knots, but was never tested in flight or analysed on the ground.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The problem was with structural engineering. “The rotodome design was such that the centre of pressure was towards the front half of the rotodome and therefore the load on the rear bracket was presumed to be compressive,” the report continued. “However, when the flaps were lowered at 180 knots, the aerodynamics of the rotodome changed in such a fashion that the lower half became tensile because of the shift in centre of pressure. Under these circumstances, the two rear brackets failed, as established by the Court of Inquiry.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Give it up, DRDO was told by political masters. If the IAF wants one, they can buy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Christopher and team did not give up. “We all believed that if America or Israel can do it, so can we… and we decided to do it all our way. Well, it means indigenous,” recalls Varughese. They still nursed hopes of building another, probably not one with a rotodome that was unstable, but something more robust. “The crash was a costly lesson we learnt,” says Rajalakshmi. “Also by then, the technology had changed from mechanically scanning to electronic scanning.” In other words, you don’t need a rotodome to rotate; you can have a fixed panel that emits electronic waves all around. “From 1999 to 2001, we did a lot of studies on newer technologies,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Experiments began with an Israeli Phalcon airborne surveillance system mounted on a huge Russian Ilyushin-76 aircraft. At the same time, the effort to develop the indigenous AEW&amp;C continued earnestly since 2004. The challenges were manifold.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The prime sensor, the radar, was the first AESA [Active Electronically Scanned Array] where the critical components, the technology and its first use directly on an airborne installation posed many challenges,” recalls Varughese.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Basically, three systems had to be developed—the AESA-based Primary Radar (PR), Identification Friend or Foe (IFF), an electronic intelligence and signal intelligence system all hosted on the Embraer-145.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Luckily, by the 2000s, funds were no longer a problem. Liberalised India was shining, making money, and spending money.</p> <p>In October 2004, the project to design and develop three AEW&amp;C systems at a cost of Rs1,800 crore was approved and the funds were released in December 2004.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Subsequently, the Operational Requirements was changed by IAF four times with increased systems such as air-to-air refuelling, additional crew and their seats, enhancement of flight endurance with reserve fuel and icing certification. This resulted in several iterations of design and suggestions to IAF even for a change of platform to meet the ORs. Hence, the compliance matrix could be signed between DRDO and IAF only in February 2007, which is the real start of the programme,” points out Christopher. “I was involved in the phase I programme when I was in BEL, Ghaziabad, and continued in phase II when I was in LRDE, DRDO, Bengaluru. Later, I was in full control of the phase III of the programme which ended successfully in Netra.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Soon it became a joint effort with agencies like Centre for Military Airworthiness &amp; Certification (CEMILAC), Directorate General Quality Assurance, the IAF, the Electronics &amp; Radar Development Establishment (LRDE), and many others, with CABS in the lead role.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We were sanctioned 43 schemes to develop all kinds of technologies,” says Rajalakshmi. “We collaborated with multiple labs within the DRDO, academic institutions, public sector units, and several small industries.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The sleek Embraer that replaced the giant Ilyushin was fitted with homemade radars. “We developed the radars, we developed the mission systems and integration was done fully by us,” says Rajalakshmi. “There were many foreigners who would like to come and discuss and say that, okay, they would be able to give the technologies or develop, co-develop or even try to sell their products. But we had decided it had to be indigenous.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rajalakshmi makes another point: “None of the big companies responded to any of our tenders. It was only MSMEs who responded. And they were in the learning phase. We were also in the learning phase. Together we have actually succeeded”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On January 26, 2017, the AEW&amp;C was flown for the first time in the Republic Day Fly Past with the call sign Netra. After being successfully flight-tested in Chabua, Bathinda, Jamnagar, Gwalior, Leh and many other places in India, and in Brazil, Norway and Sweden (the Americans did not allow tests in Alaska) before the final testing run in Jodhpur on February 11, 2017, it was handed over to the IAF on February 14, 2017.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The composite sorties totalled more than 11,700 hours. It was the first time in India that such an extensive flight test of an airborne system had been carried out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The Indigenous airborne surveillance system was like the proverbial Phoenix that rose from the ashes of the crash of the ASP of 1999,” says Dr Varughese. No other country has mounted that many systems on an Embraer 145 platform, but the hunger to succeed led us to innovate and come out with success.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But what gives Dr Rajalakshmi goose pimples even now is the memory of IAF’s cross-border strike on a terrorist camp in Balakot in Pakistan in 2019 when the surveillance systems placed on an Embraer jet hovered around in a supporting role to the raiding IAF fleet of fighters. It was crucial to the IAF operations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“For a military scientist, to induct a system in one’s lifetime is in itself a dream,” she says. “To see it being used and operationally deployed is amazing. Otherwise, when we are doing the flight trials, we know a system’s capability but then we cannot speak about it.” Rajalakshmi’s latest obsession is to put the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition &amp; Reconnaissance (ISTAR) in place.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The AEW&amp;C or the Netras are doing well,” says Christopher. “Even international press reports say that the Balakot victory was due to Netra! These AEW&amp;Cs are virtually one-tenth in size and fuel consumption, but have all the functionality of AWACS. Therefore, for immediate requirement, the IAF has asked DRDO to give another 12 systems, out of which six will be in the same Embraer aircraft while the other six will be built on Air India’s used Airbus 321 aircraft.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The future looks bright for the Netra, including on the export front. A gritty never-give-up story of human tenacity and endurance overcoming repeated failures. “Right from the beginning there was demand from South American countries and later, Indonesia also joined the league,” says Christopher. “The profits are expected to be large, but this depends on the industry that is going to be producing the same. More than that, the maintenance and upgrade contracts will be for at least another 30 years. The tacit benefit is the relationship between India and other countries.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>With R. Prasannan</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/16/awacs-aircraft-india-engineering-functionality-control-systems.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/16/awacs-aircraft-india-engineering-functionality-control-systems.html Wed Mar 20 10:01:46 IST 2024 nasa-science-mission-directorate-associate-administrator-dr-nicola-fox-interview <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/16/nasa-science-mission-directorate-associate-administrator-dr-nicola-fox-interview.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/3/16/58-Dr-Nicola-Fox.jpg" /> <p><i>Interview/ Dr Nicola Fox, associate administrator, NASA Science Mission Directorate-NASA headquarters</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Apollo 11, the American spaceflight, first landed humans on the moon, nine-month-old Nicky stirred in her crib at her family home in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, in England. Her father then “propped her up” in front of the TV and gave a running commentary of the momentous occasion. Nicky grew up to become Dr Nicola Fox—only the second woman after astronaut Mary Cleave to be head of science at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). And, it comes as no surprise that she credits her father for her passion in space science.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fox, who was appointed associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD)-NASA headquarters last February, was on her first visit to India this March. She was in Bengaluru to celebrate the partnership between NASA and the Indian Space Research Organisation on the soon-to-be launched NISAR (NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar), an advanced radar imaging system that will provide an unprecedented and detailed view of earth. A day prior to her visit to ISRO’s U.R. Rao Satellite Centre, Fox, who studied in an all-girls school, visited Maharani Lakshmi Ammanni College for Women along with NASA’s Earth Science director Dr Karen M. St Germain. The two women spoke their minds during ‘Space Talk with NASA Women Scientists’, organised by the US Consulate General, Chennai.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During the interaction, Fox took the audience through the functions and pursuits of the six divisions at NASA’s SMD—planetary science, joint agency satellite, astrophysics, biological and physical sciences, earth science and heliophysics—that have an annual funding of $8 billion. Exhorting students to pursue careers in space science without any self-doubt, Fox said the key to being a scientist is to love asking questions. If you are fascinated about how and why things work, you are already a scientist, she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In her nearly three-decade-long career at NASA, Fox has been part of several missions, including the Parker Solar Probe—first spacecraft to touch the sun—and the Van Allen Probes to study the Van Allen radiation belts that surround the earth. She is currently working on the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the sidelines of the student interaction, Fox spoke to THE WEEK about matters close to her heart but far away in space—from the Parker Solar Probe to NISAR to Aditya-L1 and the much-awaited total solar eclipse in April. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How would you explain heliophysics to a layman?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Heliophysics is the study of the sun and literally everything the sun touches. We think of the sun as a bright light in the sky, but it is much more than that. The outer atmosphere of the sun—the corona that you see during a total solar eclipse—actually sort of moves away. It gets accelerated and moves away from the sun and it calves out to [create a] protective bubble for our whole solar system as we are orbiting in the Milky Way. So the sun’s atmosphere kind of protects us from interstellar space. The solar wind, what we call the atmosphere, interacts with all of the planets, including our earth, and can cause big effects. We call that space weather, which can impact power grids to orbiting spacecraft. For me, what’s really cool about heliophysics is that the sun is a star and it is our star, and even though it is hard for us to send missions to the sun, it is a lot easier to send them to the sun than to another star. By learning about the sun, we can learn how other stars work and that, of course, will help search for life in the universe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/The Parker Solar Probe was launched on August 12, 2018, decades after Dr Eugene Parker predicted the existence of solar wind. Why did it take so long for NASA to launch a probe?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> It took 60 years for the probe after a paper that was published in 1958 had predicted that the sun’s atmosphere would indeed form a solar wind and expand away from the sun. A lot of people did not believe the paper then. So, the only way to prove whether or not that was correct was to actually send a spacecraft into the solar wind. A few years later, they did discover there is an atmosphere and the space is not empty. Going to the sun is hard. It took us a long time to get to the technology needed for it. In 1958, the type of electronics available to communicate was a rotary telephone that was on the wall. And now, we all have iPhones that we use for probably everything, except for making a phone call! Think about how much technology you hold in your hand when you hold a mobile phone. Getting everything miniaturised, light weighted and then also finding materials that could withstand the incredible heat when we go to the sun… yes, it took us 60 years to get a mission that could actually live and survive in the sun’s corona.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/When the solar probe completes its seven-year mission in 2025, what would it have accomplished?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> The solar probe is doing these sort of orbits, like the petals of a flower, and it is going very close to the sun and then it comes out around the orbit of the planet Venus. We fly by Venus, and we use that to kind of make the orbit smaller and smaller. So as we are going through the sun’s atmosphere, we are closer and closer to the sun. Actually, it is around the end of December 2024 that we will do our closest approach and get within four million miles of the sun surface. If it does not sound particularly close, [imagine] the sun and the earth are put one metre apart, the Parker Solar probe will be 4cm from the sun. So, it kind of makes you realise how close to the sun it is. Formally, the seven-year mission finishes in 2025. But as long as the spacecraft is healthy, it will continue to do these paddle orbits around the sun and give us more and more data about what is going on in the corona.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Till now, what kind of data has the probe sent back?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> We wanted to study three main mysteries from the data. One was sort of like a head-scratcher over why the atmosphere of the star is 300 times hotter than the surface of the star. That does not make sense—if you walk away from a campfire, it gets colder; it does not get hotter. But if you moved away from the sun, it gets much, much hotter, and there was no sort of physical or scientific phenomena that could explain it. So the only way to study it was to go right up into it and take the data there. The other mystery was basically why, once superheated, can this atmosphere break away from the pull of a giant star and accelerate out into the solar system. The third mystery was basically why the sun has these flares and why does it have these sort of explosive releases of energy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We will use data from other solar spacecraft to be able to put together the whole picture. But Parker Solar Probe has actually flown into the region where this magic happens, where suddenly the corona is superheated and where the acceleration starts and we have actually gone on the other side of that boundary. The sun has a magnetic field just like the earth does. Everything rotates like one rigid body when it is close to the sun. But as you get across this boundary, the atmosphere starts to accelerate and moves away. So going beneath it to look at what physical processes are happening helps. There are a couple of physical processes that are going on. One is called ‘magnetic reconnection’—essentially where magnetic field lines break, attach and break again and that actually puts out a ton of energy into the system. This can cause a lot of heat. We also saw magnetic field lines were twisted on themselves, and like a garden hose, which springs back straight again when you put in a kink, the magnetic fields break and go straight, releasing a lot of energy and heat into the atmosphere.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/When you say solar atmosphere protects the earth and the rest of the solar system, what is it protecting us from?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Solar atmosphere protects us from a lot of cosmic rays and processes that happen outside our solar system. Cosmic rays coming from outside our solar system can actually cause a lot of damage. The shield that the sun’s atmosphere forms keeps out about 70-75 per cent of cosmic rays. So it protects us from all the stuff that is going on in interstellar space. In future, we will send a mission that will go straight out and tell us what is in interstellar space and then we will better understand what we are being protected against.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/After the Parker Solar Probe launch (NASA) in 2018 and the Solar Orbiter launch (NASA-European Space Agency) in 2020, ISRO launched Aditya-L1 in 2023. Is there a progression in what we are trying to see in terms of data and technology upgrade? Where do these three probes meet in terms of the knowledge gathered and the technology?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> The location of Aditya being at the L1 point means it is sitting exactly at the same point (staying put) between the sun and the earth. It is like a warning system to tell us what is coming towards the earth and it tells us roughly an hour before the solar wind actually impacts the earth. The solar wind travels at about a million miles an hour. It is a million miles away and tells us what to expect here at the planet. It also has a coronagraph that flies with it and blocks out the light of the sun, so essentially it creates a solar eclipse. So you can really study the corona and look at the big events that will be coming towards us. The Parker Solar Probe is taking the measurements really close to the sun. The Solar Orbiter is able to look at the sun in different wavelengths. The orbiter will actually move out of the ecliptic plane so that the earth’s sun line will move up and it will be able to look down on the poles of the sun, which is going to be a unique viewpoint for us…. So, the three of them together make a great team to study the sun; they complement each other.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Could you please elaborate on the NISAR project?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>In Earth Sciences, we have our first joint mission with India— NISAR—to provide an unprecedented, detailed view of earth using advanced radar imaging. NISAR is the big thing I am so, so excited about now. It is groundbreaking science. Also, the applications are really important to India, as it helps look at agriculture, how agriculture is changing, how the coastal regions are changing, the soil moisture, the changes to the Himalayan glaciers affecting climate. So it is a really great partnership of not just doing amazing science together, but also producing results that really impact our daily lives and our ability to protect our planet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Why is the total solar eclipse in April important for NASA?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>We have 18 missions focusing on and taking data of the sun during that eclipse and we are really excited. Aditya-L1 will be doing the same and we will pool all of that data to study the event through different experiments. The eclipse creates an artificial nighttime and the protective layer—ionosphere—changes, too. It is very different from the sun setting in the regular cycle. It is an instant nightfall and you can see animals going quiet, the nocturnal animals coming out. We will have sounding rockets and balloons that will look at how the planet changes because of an eclipse. Obviously, it is a great time to look really close at the sun and since it is an actual moon, we are able to look at and study the photosphere. The data will be public, and as part of our citizen science initiative, we will have volunteers all over the world joining us to make scientific discoveries with our data. We really encourage anyone to look up our NASA Citizen Science programme (science.nasa.gov). But I am very excited about PACE (plankton, aerosol, cloud, ocean ecosystem), launched last month, bringing those first light images of our planet. If you think the planet is beautiful, wait till you see the PACE images.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/16/nasa-science-mission-directorate-associate-administrator-dr-nicola-fox-interview.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/16/nasa-science-mission-directorate-associate-administrator-dr-nicola-fox-interview.html Sat Mar 16 16:21:11 IST 2024 para-cricketer-amir-hussain-lone-jammu-and-kashmir-about-his-life-career <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/09/para-cricketer-amir-hussain-lone-jammu-and-kashmir-about-his-life-career.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/3/9/78-Amir-Hussain-Lone-in-the-nets-in-Waghama.jpg" /> <p>Just before the Sangam bridge over the Jhelum in Anantnag, 40km from Srinagar, there is a path to the left. Drive on it for 10km and you reach Waghama, a village of cattle rearers and apple growers not found in travel guides or geography books. Yet, from the narrow lanes and old houses has emerged a story that has not only lit up social media, but grabbed the attention of Sachin Tendulkar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Amir Hussain Lone, a cricketer with no arms, first found fleeting fame in 2016, when then India captain Virat Kohli tweeted about him, and Tendulkar sent him a bat as his token of appreciation. It took Amir another eight years to meet his idol in the flesh, but patience and grit have been his strongest allies in life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Born to Bashir Ahmed Lone and Raja Begum, Amir is the second of four siblings. One day, when he was eight, his mother sent him off to the family workshop with lunch for his older brother. Amir, wearing a new jacket his father had brought him from a trip to Delhi, handed over the lunchbox and began playing near the bandsaw there. “My jacket got caught in the machinery, swiftly pulling me in and severing both my arms,” recalled the 34-year-old. They did not have a vehicle and sought help from the local Army camp. A car was called, but the driver, despite the family’s pleas, dropped them off at the highway and refused to go further. The Army personnel stepped in and drove them to hospital. The stay there was long, and cost a lot. Amir’s father sold the bandsaw and some land, all the while fielding questions from nosy villagers about the need to spend so much on a “disabled boy”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, Amir’s family stood behind him like a rock, none more so than his grandmother Fazi Begum, who died in 2010. Her belief in him gave Amir the strength to face the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For instance, when he started school after the accident, a teacher suggested he stay home. But Amir was adamant that he wanted to study. He relied on a classmate for notes, but one day when the latter refused, he started trying to write with his foot. “I practised on cardboard and then started writing on paper slowly,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After school, Amir would watch the village boys play cricket and longed to join them. But no one would pick him. When his friends would go swimming, he would watch from the bank. One day, unable to resist the urge, he jumped in and nearly drowned. A woman washing utensils nearby rescued him and told his grandmother, who forbade him from going near water again.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But Amir was curious. One day, he observed a duck swim with its webbed feet and decided to mimic the technique. After many tries, he astonished everyone by swimming across a stream during a fishing trip with friends. “Everybody was screaming that I would drown, but after reaching the other side, they were in awe,” he recalled with a smile. It was a pivotal moment in his life, igniting hope that he could play cricket and follow in the footsteps of his idol.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The next challenge was getting equipment. A shovel became the bat; a piece of wood, the ball; and his courtyard, the field. His grandmother became the bowler and Amir, with the shovel tucked under his chin like a violin, began playing some shots. Gradually, he perfected the technique.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Next, he learnt how to light a match with his foot and work a gas stove. With this, he could make food and tea for himself when alone. After finishing school, he enrolled in a college at Bijbehara in Anantnag. There, his friends encouraged him to apply for a government job, but his application was rejected. The interviewer was unimpressed with his skills, including his use of a laptop with his feet, and sent him home.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though disheartened, Amir soon found another opportunity. While at college, he saw some students playing cricket on campus. He asked to join and was welcomed in. When it was his turn to bat, the players were amazed to see his technique. His teammates applauded his effort and told him to try out para-cricket.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He did, moving the selectors, and made his way into the team. But there was a problem. He was not allowed to wear track pants to college, only formal trousers. He was not given a meeting with the principal to state his case and he eventually dropped out. However, his passion for cricket remained; though he was more challenged than his teammates, his will and skill eventually made him captain of the Jammu and Kashmir team, in 2015.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His big opportunity came when his team played a tournament in Delhi. On the eve of the first match, he needed a shave but had not brought his kit. He knocked on a neighbour’s door in the hotel and asked for help. “The man said that if I could shave with my foot, he would gift me the shaving kit,” said Amir. “When I did, he hugged me and kept his promise.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The following day, during the match against the Kerala team, he discovered that his benefactor was the umpire. Then, to everyone’s disbelief, Amir removed his right shoe, gripped the ball with his toes, and spun it―he was literally a leg-spinner. The umpire recorded this on his phone. Amir got a batter out caught at mid-on and also chipped in with 25 runs with the bat in a memorable win. The Kerala players carried him on their shoulders to the pavilion. “They were all in tears and I, too, was overcome with emotion,” said Amir.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Word about Amir spread, and his videos reached the national men’s team. In 2016, during the T20 World Cup in India, there was a life-changing call from former India player Ajay Jadeja. He initially thought it was a prank, but was overjoyed to hear that Jadeja had invited him to the semifinal between India and the West Indies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Upon reaching Mumbai, he felt lost and could not find a phone to call Jadeja. “A man came to me and asked, ‘Do you really know Ajay Jadeja?’” he said. “I said ‘Yes.’ He gave me the phone and said, ‘Put it on speaker’.” When Jadeja did show up, everybody around was surprised. During his stay, Amir learnt that India bowler Ashish Nehra had sponsored his trip.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After India lost the semifinal, Kohli tweeted: “Amir embodies the determination to never accept defeat. Never lose hope, life never ends, it only begins. Hats off to this young man.” Former India cricketers V.V.S. Laxman and Aakash Chopra also tweeted about him. Tendulkar, who sent him a bat, posted: “Amir has made the impossible possible. Well done for inspiring millions who are passionate about playing the sport.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Eight years later, when Tendulkar was in Kashmir this February, he invited Amir to his hotel. “Meeting him and receiving a signed bat with the inscription ‘real hero’ is the biggest achievement of my life,” said Amir. “I spent an hour with him and he said, ‘What you have achieved is unprecedented’.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Amir has gone on to participate in tournaments in Afghanistan, Nepal and the UAE, but there are newer hurdles in life. He now has to balance his passion with his duties as a young father. He got married in 2018 and had a son, Imad, a year later. Also, being a para-cricketer is not a high-paying job. He recently worked as a night security guard at a local shop for a month, but was let go. The joint family, which includes Amir, his wife and child, his older brother’s family, and his younger sister, earn their livelihood from a small apple orchard they own. “He is not dependent on anybody,” said his wife, Shokee Akhtar. “He is a highly self-respecting man, and everybody appreciates that.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mother Raja Begum, full of pride, said her biggest concern after the childhood accident was how he would face life’s challenges. “He has not only overcome challenges, but has brought glory to our name,” she said. “Now, my biggest concern is his livelihood.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/09/para-cricketer-amir-hussain-lone-jammu-and-kashmir-about-his-life-career.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/09/para-cricketer-amir-hussain-lone-jammu-and-kashmir-about-his-life-career.html Sat Mar 09 15:13:34 IST 2024 climate-migrants-from-delhi-could-endanger-uttarakhand <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/02/climate-migrants-from-delhi-could-endanger-uttarakhand.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/3/2/34-There-is-a-spurt-in-people-from-the-NCR-investing-in-realty-in-Dehradun.jpg" /> <p>Chartered accountant Sanjeev Tiwari moved to Dehradun three years ago because his two children had developed breathing problems in polluted Delhi. Alok Shankar and wife Ankita came from Gurugram during Covid-19 and did not want to go back to the chaos of the National Capital Region. Deepak Longani gave up his footwear business in Delhi and has become used to the quiet and peace of the valley.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They are among several families from the NCR who now merrily dwell in Imperial Heights, a multi-storey residential society on Mussoorie Road, Dehradun.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“There are two primary factors for migration to cities in Uttarakhand, accessibility and climate,” says Subhash Pokhriyal, sales manager, Imperial Heights, who himself reverse migrated from Ghaziabad to give his family a better life. “There is a spurt in people from Delhi and NCR investing in Uttarakhand, especially since Covid-19. Many who bought flats in this society are non-residents.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A similar pattern is evident in and around other cities on the Himalayan foothills like Haridwar, Rishikesh, Kotdwar, Kathgodam, Corbett and Haldwani. Investments in middle and higher reaches of Uttarakhand are also on the rise, but the numbers are low compared with the foothills.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A LocalCircles survey, with nearly 9,000 responses from Delhi, Gurugram and Noida recently found that 44 per cent of the respondents face various health issues. A survey by health care provider Pristyn Care in November 2023 found that six of 10 residents of Delhi and Mumbai are considering relocation because of pollution. According to a 2021 Knight Frank report, two in five respondents, across income segmaents, showed interest in buying a second home. The report highlighted that people were valuing air quality, proximity to green areas and access to good health care more.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rakesh Ranjan, a developer in Uttarakhand, thinks that places like Dehradun fulfil most of the conditions that such buyers are looking for. “People are investing [in greener and affordable avenues] away from the capital, but within 300km,” he says. “This has inflated demand and the realty market in Uttarakhand is at its peak.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shalin Raina, managing director, residential services, Cushman &amp; Wakefield, a global property consultant firm, says that the market in places like Dehradun have grown exponentially. “It has good health care, educational institutions and retail brands,” he says. “Enhanced connectivity and accessibility through roads and airport also make it viable for Delhiites to own property there.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to district records, there are nearly 2,500 government-run schools and 30 higher education institutes in the city. There are also around 100 private schools and approximately 20 private higher education institutions. Similarly, there are five top hospitals in or around Dehradun―AIIMS Rishikesh (around an hour away), the Government Doon Medical School &amp; Hospital, the Coronation Hospital, the Shri Mahant Indresh Hospital and the Combined Institute of Medical Science &amp; Research. Less than a year ago, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya laid the foundation stone for a new 500-bed hospital under the Pradhan Mantri Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Potential in crucial sectors is huge,” says Pokhriyal. “The government must leverage it by creating necessary infrastructure.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Urban areas are not the only places being increasingly inhabited by climate migrants. Doon Heights, about 25km from the city, is a residential colony in Dunga village. A serene patch of residential plots overlooking the Himalayan range, Doon Heights is surrounded by lush greenery and the Sone river is just half a kilometre away.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>R.R. Verma, who retired from the environment ministry, stays there with his family. He says that most of the land owners there are from the NCR. “In the past one-and-a-half years alone, plottings have increased manifold in this area,” he says. “Most plot sizes in this area are around 250sqm-400sqm, and are bought by people who want an alternative from busy city lives. Of late, a lot of construction has also started.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Property dealers attest to the increase in demand and land prices. Babu Rawat, a local dealer says: “In my 20 years, I have not seen so many people from NCR investing so heavily in Uttarakhand. Land that was being sold for Rs8,000-Rs9,000/sqm till a year ago has now gone up to Rs14,000 to Rs15,000.” The prices get higher closer to the city, he says, ranging from Rs20,000/sqm to Rs30,000/sqm. “Most importantly, people are willing to pay,” he says. Siddharth Dhiman, a local architect adds: “I am being contacted by a lot of people from outside for design approvals from the local authority.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The promise of good returns on property is also driving people to invest more. “From an investment point of view the market is more viable as buyers can invest their money in bigger properties,” says Raina. Adds Rashmi Narula, sales executive of LA City, a luxury society on the Manduwala-Dunga road, “The prices for independent villas start from Rs1.1 crore whereas 1,500sqft-apartments range from Rs70 lakh to Rs90 lakh.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The sudden influx of “outsiders” has not gone unnoticed by the local populace and ecologists. Says S.C. Arya, whose ancestral house is in Almora: “Land availability for local people is shrinking by the day. The demography, environment and the character of the state is changing. In the long run, it may not bode well for our children.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ecology experts also have concerns. Mashhood Alam, senior research associate, BRCG Research and Development Foundation, says that the rapid urbanisation and commercial development in Uttarakhand raise numerous environmental concerns. “Clearing forests for infrastructure, expanding urban areas and escalating pollution levels endanger essential habitats, fragmenting natural environment and depleting valuable resources,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hemant Dhyani, member-coordinator of Ganga Ahvaan―an NGO working for conservation of rivers―is against the flourishing consumption-based economy in Uttarakhand. “Resource management comes naturally to local people who know the importance of a sustainable life,” he says. “They know how to respect nature, use its resources judiciously. But, people from outside who buy land to make big resorts and societies have only consumptive attitude and mindset. They are not sensitive to the sacrosanctity of the region. This will have an adverse effect on the socioculture and environmental fabric of the Himalayan state.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anoop Nautiyal, founder of the Social Development for Communities Foundation in Uttarakhand, says that the unabated, uncontrolled and unregulated urbanisation is the result of years of dilution of land laws in the state. “Dehradun has become a ticking time-bomb from where the developmental fault lines are [originating],” he says. “The situation is full of red herrings and has been acknowledged by the government also. It has also been flagged in the he Mussoorie Dehradun Development Authority’s (MDDA) draft master plan 2041.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The population of Dehradun has increased from around 5.5 lakh in the early 2000s to 17 lakh in 2022. “Dehradun is being sandwiched between migration from upper reaches as well as plains,” says Nautiyal. “A mere observation indicates that it has far exceeded its carrying capacity.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mallika Bhanot, an independent environmentalist working on the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone adds: “The rapid influx of people from outside is going to massively affect the state, especially the resort construction that has been taken up at a scale not commensurate with the carrying capacity of the place. This will lead to overburden. Issues like dumping of solid waste, parking, electricity and water will spring up in a big way in the coming days. It is hoped that new laws will address these concerns.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The first ever limit on land purchase by non-residents was brought by chief minister N.D. Tiwari in 2003 who capped it at 500sqm. This was further reduced to 250sqm by the BJP-led government of B.C. Khanduri. But, these restrictions were lifted by chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat in 2017 to foster economic progress. This led to widespread investment into the state, especially on agricultural land. “The pretext of employment generation and economic progress is a myth,” Dhyani. “What [local people] get is fourth-grade employment (like cleaners and security guards). I do not think people want that.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An agitation in December 2023 by a group of social organisations brought the issue of migration to the forefront. They took out a march demanding stricter land laws and a stop to large-scale sale of lands to “outsiders”. Concerns were also raised about issuing domicile certificates to non-residents. A singer, Narendra Singh Negi, penned a song ‘Utha Jaga Uttarakhandiyo’ to mobilise locals and said that the issue concerned the future of their children.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Uttarakhand government was quick to respond. Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami immediately formed a five-member committee to study the 2022 draft report that recommended amendments to the state’s land laws. One of the most important recommendations of the draft was the introduction of an essentiality clause like in Himachal Pradesh. In the essentiality test, necessity of the purchase by non-agriculturists and non-residents is gauged before issuing approvals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The government, for now, has put a ban on sale of agricultural land. The MDDA has started a campaign against illegal plottings, which are now listed on its website. The environmentalists and locals are hopeful that strict restrictions will follow. “While there should be a blanket ban in the upper reaches of Himalayas, which are highly eco-sensitive, the capping in lower areas should be as low as possible for long-term sustainability of entire region,” says Dhyani.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We understand that we live by our Constitution that allows anyone to buy property anywhere as common citizens of the country,” says Nautiyal. But, if action is not taken now, Bhanot contends, “the entire local ecosystem will be compromised”. To strike a balance, it is time, Mashhood suggests “to promote responsible investing in the region”.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/02/climate-migrants-from-delhi-could-endanger-uttarakhand.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/02/climate-migrants-from-delhi-could-endanger-uttarakhand.html Sat Mar 02 12:56:04 IST 2024 sharenting-can-have-lasting-implications-on-a-child-s-life <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/02/sharenting-can-have-lasting-implications-on-a-child-s-life.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2024/3/2/54-sharenting.jpg" /> <p><i><b>75% of parents have shared a picture, stories or videos of their children on social media.</b></i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>80% and more parents have used real names.</b></i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>source <b>security.org</b></i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Amid the incessant sharing and virtual documentation of our existence, a perilous trend has emerged. A seemingly innocuous act, akin to leaving a door ajar, actually exposes the vulnerability of young lives to prying eyes and potential dangers lurking in the virtual shadows. It is like unwittingly handing over the keys to a child’s bedroom to a stranger on the internet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an age dominated by social media, the practice of ‘sharenting’ has become ubiquitous. A portmanteau of parenting and sharing, sharenting is defined as parents oversharing content about their children on social media. This includes photos, videos and personal stories. While this apparently allows parents to connect, celebrate milestones and share the joys of parenting, sharenting exposes children to the darker side of the digital world. Momentarily alleviating social isolation and bringing about perceived social validation can have perilous consequences for the child.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to a survey by security.org, 75 per cent of parents have shared a picture, stories or videos of their children on social media, and more than 80 per cent parents have used real names. A study by Barclays Bank predicts that by 2030, annual occurrences of identity fraud associated with sharenting could lead to damages up to $900 million.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In today’s influencer culture, vlogger parents also use their kids for creating social media content, putting their child’s life and future at risk. These parents not only broadcast their own lives, but also that of their children to the world. The consequences of such forms of sharenting, influencer or otherwise, can be far-reaching, with potential risks ranging from digital kidnapping to cyberbullying to emotional scarring of the child and sextortion, possibly hurting even future prospects. People tend to miss the latent issue with sharenting, which is surveillance and privacy issues that come with exposing data and not envisaging worst-case scenarios.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Digital kidnapping, grooming and cyberbullying</b></p> <p>One of the gravest risks associated with sharenting is digital kidnapping. Malicious individuals can exploit the shared images and information to create false online identities, falsely claiming the child as their own. This distressing phenomenon not only violates the child’s privacy but can also cause emotional turmoil for the entire family. Sharenting also opens the door for potential predators who may use the information shared online to identify and groom children. Establishing a relationship with a child through the details disclosed on social media, predators may groom, exploit or abuse children offline. Additionally, children’s images and personal details can be misused by peers for cyberbullying, leading to emotional distress and potential harm to the child’s well-being.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Sextortion, AI-based image manipulation and identity theft</b></p> <p>The risk of sextortion, where perpetrators threaten to share compromising content unless the child complies with their demands, is another alarming consequence of sharenting. Sharing personal information, such as full names, birthdates and locations, increases the risk of identity theft. Criminals may use this information for fraudulent activities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Advances in technology are making it easier for malicious actors to manipulate images using AI tools, creating fake or altered content that can damage a child’s reputation and privacy. While sharenting itself poses multiple risks for the safety of our children, the integration of AI can exacerbate these dangers, leading to serious consequences. Deep fake tech enables the manipulation and morphing of images with unprecedented realism. The creation of fake or altered content featuring children could make it difficult to discern between real and manipulated images, and it can potentially put children in compromising situations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Convincingly fabricated false narratives and scenarios involving children can lead to grave consequences, ranging from emotional trauma, cyberbullying to even the creation of explicit content using a child’s face. Responsible sharing practices, prioritising privacy and staying informed about evolving technologies help mitigate these dangers and protect the safety of our children in the digital landscape.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Violation of privacy and safeguarding children</b></p> <p>Children have a fundamental right to privacy, and sharing a child’s images and personal details without their consent infringes upon this right. Exposing children to the digital world without their consent also robs them of the choice not to be on social media. Parents need to consider long-term repercussions, while the potential for harm continues to increase daily.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To mitigate these risks, parents should minimise sharing data on social media and enable privacy settings. Please do not share full names, ages, dates of birth, home addresses, names of schools, names of pets or even favourite places and photographs. Sensitive information that could compromise a child’s safety and mental well-being should never be disclosed online.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Keeping it vague is another strategy to maintain a safe environment for sharing content. If sharing pictures is deemed necessary, consider images that don’t show the child’s face or disclose specific details about their parents or guardians.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Legal framework and child rights on the internet</b></p> <p>Kidfluencing―influencer culture using children―is a matter of great concern, given how young kids are used (read misused) against their consent. The realm of child social media influencers can prove extremely profitable, as their earnings soar through advertising agreements and merchandise transactions. According to Forbes, children below the age of 10 feature among the top earning influencers in the world. One of them is eight-year-old American Ryan Kaji, whose toy review channel raked in $27 million in 2021. The commodification of a child’s innocence, fuelled by unregulated influencer space, is impacting the privacy and safety of children. Scholars now argue that this kidfluencing culture is akin to child labour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Legal safeguards for child rights and protection on the internet have begun emerging. France has passed a legislation to prevent parents from sharing photos of their children online. This is the first-ever legal safeguard by any country specifically addressing the concerns of sharenting. Recently, Illinois became the first state in the US to pass a law safeguarding child social media influencers, used by their parents to mint money. The law aims to prevent parents who would attempt to take advantage of their child’s talents and use them for their own financial gain. Similarly, the Digital Service Act (DSA) passed by the European Union in 2022 aims to contain the spread of harmful content and create a mechanism that can easily detect and punish illegal content featuring children.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted General Comment No 25 in February 2021, emphasising children’s rights within the digital landscape. This landmark document underscores that the principles of human rights extend to children both in the physical and digital realms. By acknowledging the significance of the digital environment, the UNCRC reinforces the idea that children deserve protection, dignity and equal rights online.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Educating stakeholders through digital literacy programmes</b></p> <p>Raising awareness about the potential risks associated with sharenting is essential. Encouraging responsible online behaviour that prioritises safety helps create a supportive online environment for children. Implementing digital literacy is yet another proactive step. Assam Police’s groundbreaking awareness campaign―#DontBeASharent―stands out as a beacon in this domain. Leveraging the power of artificial intelligence, the campaign strategically employed AI-generated visuals to highlight the potential hazards of sharenting. The innovative approach not only garnered widespread attention but also earned the campaign international acclaim, receiving accolades and extensive media coverage across the globe. A research conducted by Real Research after our viral campaign was launched found that the “tweet by Assam Police served as an eye-opener, as 52.67 per cent found sharenting concerning, 38.03 per cent were somewhat concerned, 5.04 per cent were not so much, and 4.26 per cent were not concerned at all”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sharenting comes with significant risks that can impact a child’s well-being and privacy. By prioritising privacy, obtaining consent and implementing digital literacy programmes, we can navigate the challenges of sharenting and create a safer online environment for our children. It is time to recognise that children are not social media content, but individuals deserving of protection and respect in the digital age. The time to address the evolving challenges and opportunities presented by the digital age while emphasising the need to ensure a safe and inclusive digital space for the younger generation is right now.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Harmeet Singh</b> is special director general of police, Assam, and in-charge, Assam Police Smart Social Media Centre-Nagrik Mitra. <b>Salik Khan</b> is creative consultant, Assam Police Smart Social Media Centre-Nagrik Mitra.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/02/sharenting-can-have-lasting-implications-on-a-child-s-life.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/03/02/sharenting-can-have-lasting-implications-on-a-child-s-life.html Sat Mar 02 12:02:34 IST 2024 justice-madan-lokur-about-indian-jurist-fali-s-nariman <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/24/justice-madan-lokur-about-indian-jurist-fali-s-nariman.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/2024/2/24/23-Madan-Lokur-and-Fali-Nariman.jpg" /> <p><b>FALI S. NARIMAN [1929-2024]</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>IN THE PASSING</b> away of Fali Nariman, the country has lost not only an outstanding lawyer, but also a pillar of strength and a conscience keeper of the legal fraternity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Soon after Emergency was declared in 1975, Fali (as he was popularly known) resigned as additional solicitor general of India, finding it impossible to represent an authoritarian regime. In those days, few would have dared take such a step, sending out a clear signal to the government of the day that suspension of our fundamental freedoms was unacceptable. That was Fali.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a law student in Delhi, I had heard a lot about Fali’s court craft, presentation of submissions before the court, his legal acumen as well as his clarity of thought. It was a couple of years after joining the bar that an opportunity presented itself when I could actually watch Fali in action. It was a case having complicated facts and raised complex legal questions. Fali painstakingly took the court through the maze of facts and then expounded on the law with great lucidity. My senior (later a judge of the Supreme Court) who was opposing him, told me after the day’s hearing had concluded that he had yet to witness such a virtuoso performance. For the record, we lost the case.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In later years, I had the occasion to brief Fali in a couple of cases and also oppose him. On each occasion, I came home much wiser having learnt not only the law, but also how to prepare a case.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One advice that Fali often gave young lawyers was to sit in court and watch cases being argued. This would not only expose young members of the bar to different disciplines of the law, but also teach them how to argue a case and how not to argue a case. Equally importantly, it would enable the lawyers to understand the judges through their reactions. A few years ago, I was surprised to learn from Fali that when he does not have a case (which was seldom), or he is waiting for his case to be called out, he would follow his advice and spend time sitting in court and educating himself by watching the proceedings. Imagine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fali was not only highly respected as a lawyer, but was also loved and respected as a human being. He was kind and considerate to young lawyers and gracious to his colleagues at the bar, enquiring about their welfare and praising them for their achievements. I have not known of Fali criticising anybody; as he would say, everyone is entitled to their point of view.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I had the good fortune to hear Fali for a few days when he argued the challenge to the Constitutional amendment introducing the National Judicial Appointments Commission. He placed his submissions from all possible perspectives, emphasising, time and again, the importance of judicial independence. Now on the other side of the bar, I realised how outstanding and articulate a lawyer was Fali.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fali’s fame was not confined to our country. Many lawyers and judges from different parts of the world expressed their respect for him on several occasions, and some actually held him in awe. I recall a senior judge emeritus from California holding him in very high esteem and frequently asking about him. A few others, whom I am in touch with, would invariably ask about his welfare and request to convey their regards to him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There can be no doubt that we have lost a wonderful human being and an outstanding lawyer. May his soul rest in peace.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Lokur</b> is a former Supreme Court judge.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/24/justice-madan-lokur-about-indian-jurist-fali-s-nariman.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/24/justice-madan-lokur-about-indian-jurist-fali-s-nariman.html Sat Feb 24 12:41:45 IST 2024 narendra-modi-s-likely-third-term-could-see-an-omnipotent-centre-that-holds-all-the-cards <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/24/narendra-modi-s-likely-third-term-could-see-an-omnipotent-centre-that-holds-all-the-cards.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/2024/2/24/53-A-bulldozer-demolishes-the-house.jpg" /> <p><b>PRIME MINISTER NARENDRA MODI</b> exuded confidence while speaking on the ‘Motion of Thanks’ for the president’s address recently in Parliament. He said the BJP and the National Democratic Alliance would cross their past majorities, and that his party would win 370 seats of the likely NDA tally of 400. The miscalculations of the Congress and its inability to bring together the INDIA bloc could well presage a long period of uninterrupted BJP rule and the breakup of the Congress.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Back in 2004, I saw the massive ‘India Shining’ campaign of the Vajpayee government from the Alpine heights of Geneva, and its collapse. Of course, that campaign would pale into insignificance beside the gaudy G20 glitz, the sengol veneration and the opulent Ram Mandir. The election results will show whether the lowest quarter of our population is impressed by this chutzpah. But what next?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The home minister has already announced that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act will become a reality before the election. Aadhaar cards may have to come in two colours―one for the citizens and the other for the rest. Or else, a separate citizenship card may have to be introduced. The Uniform Civil Code may be introduced across the country, creating tension in some areas.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The delimitation of parliamentary constituencies will occur in 2026, based on the postponed 2021 census, resulting in a shift in political balance between states. The states that have faithfully followed policies initiated by the government for family planning will stand to lose political power. Once more, language issues may arise; there could be efforts to strengthen the use of Hindi, thus reducing the national presence of non-Hindi-speaking people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>New farm laws, which had to be hastily withdrawn on the cusp of the Uttar Pradesh elections, could be introduced. With the possible introduction of the ‘one nation, one election’ plan, there will be enough time to enforce farm laws without the nuisance of an intervening state election. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, recognising this possibility, is once again at the borders of Delhi. The imposition of income tax on farmers may not occur as most of the wealthy farmers are in the Hindi heartland. Labour laws may not be changed across the country. Differential labour laws and their enforcement may benefit some states and handicap others. In education, rewriting history may gather pace and free thinking may be discouraged.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The second term of the Modi government was also marked by increased activism by governors and lieutenant governors in opposition-ruled states. This may increase in the third term, and new provisions could be introduced in the Constitution to give them more powers over elected sub-federal governments, as was done in the case of the Delhi Services Act.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The judiciary’s role has been changing, and recent judgments seem to treat the letter of the law as given. No new jurisprudence, as was created by the Bommai case and the Kesavananda Bharati case, may sprout to scrutinise new laws in the light of the spirit of the Constitution. The independence of the judiciary, particularly the [trial] courts, has been in doubt, and the Supreme Court has taken serious note of it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Investigative and regulatory agencies have been given a free hand to wield the big stick against select corporations and individuals. The use of bulldozers to suppress agitations will probably continue in the northern states. The media have been largely brought to heel, and the outliers may be under threat in the next stretch. Control over social media and the telecom networks may grow. The westward tilt in foreign policy would continue, while Kautilya’s Mandala theory (the neighbour’s neighbour is your friend) may guide relations with neighbours.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The unitary elements of the Constitution have been gaining prominence. The flexibility given to states by the 14th Finance Commission by raising their share in allocable resources has been taken away by reducing the Central share in centrally-sponsored schemes. At the same time, centrally-sponsored schemes have multiplied, which are helpful to certain states, but not to others. Cesses and surcharges, which are not shared with states, have gone up in number and volume. The Centre and certain Central public sector undertakings have been borrowing freely from the markets, while putting constraints on the states. Financial stress of states, particularly some of them, has been growing, and a situation may arise when the use of Article 360 (invoking financial emergency), with the Centre taking over financial powers, may become inevitable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is little doubt that the economic policy of the government will be heavily tilted towards the corporates as it is now, with some sops to the very poor. The poor are grateful and will respond positively to a pittance while the rich grows richer and income inequality rises. The middle class has been largely ignored. While corporate tax rates were brought down by 10 per cent in October 2019, there has been no relief for the middle classes, which also labour under the burden of inflation, high fuel prices and job uncertainty. They will hope for a change in approach. The pressure on corporations to locate their new plants in certain states and to use corporate social responsibility funds for specified purposes may intensify.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thus, we are moving swiftly towards a new concept of India. The economy will undoubtedly grow unless there are unanticipated financial shocks, as happened in 2008-2009 during the great recession and in 2019-2021 during the pandemic. Yet, the Indian economy is unlikely to deviate from the track set in 1991, and it has acquired the resilience to weather storms, slowly spread its wings, and scale new heights without the government’s support. The growth of infrastructure, unquestionably an outstanding contribution made by the Modi government, will further strengthen the development of Indian industry.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Will there be an opposition resurgence in the remaining few weeks before polls? “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success,” said Henry Ford. The opposition parties do not seem to have even started “coming together”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The author</b> is former Union cabinet secretary.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/24/narendra-modi-s-likely-third-term-could-see-an-omnipotent-centre-that-holds-all-the-cards.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/24/narendra-modi-s-likely-third-term-could-see-an-omnipotent-centre-that-holds-all-the-cards.html Sat Feb 24 11:48:21 IST 2024 uae-continue-to-inspire-the-world-with-their-commitment-to-religious-freedom-and-pluralism <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/24/uae-continue-to-inspire-the-world-with-their-commitment-to-religious-freedom-and-pluralism.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/2024/2/24/55-Visitors-at-the-BAPS-Hindu-Mandir-in-Abu-Dhabi.jpg" /> <p><b>A MYRIAD THOUGHTS</b> and memories flashed through my mind as I watched on television the inauguration of the BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 14.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was in early 2007 that I reached Dubai to serve as India’s consul general. The Hindu temple in Dubai was one of the first places of importance I visited. It was a small, nondescript temple which functioned from 1958 in the first floor of a building that housed shops in the heart of the old city. The building was located right next to the main mosque and the ruler’s court, and it housed a Shiva temple, a Krishna temple and a gurdwara.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Migration of Indians to Dubai can be traced to its days as a trading hub and centre for pearl fishing, much before the discovery of oil and the birth of the UAE as a nation. Sheikh Rashid, father of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (ruler of Dubai and vice president and prime minister of the UAE), was a hero to the Indian community. It was thanks to the welcome extended by him that Indians in Dubai grew in numbers and flourished. I heard many stories of how Sheikh Rashid used to be a regular at Diwali celebrations. Sheikh Rashid embodied secular governance at its best. A telling story was how some conservatives protested the permission granted to the Hindu temple and its location right next to the mosque. They asked him to take back his decision. Sheikh Rashid’s response was that all people are welcome to practise their religion in Dubai and visit a temple or mosque as they please. However, they will all obey the law. Anyone breaking the law will go to jail, irrespective of whether they are Hindu or Muslim. That is why a jail is situated between the mosque and the temple.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Indian community was grateful for the religious freedom they enjoyed, but was concerned about the lack of space and facilities in overcrowded Bur Dubai, especially with the Indian population continuing to grow rapidly. I recall being invited to the temple on Shivaratri to see the long, snaking lines of devotees and how a small group of volunteers and a handful of policemen would struggle to regulate them. Land for a large temple with sufficient parking was a request repeatedly voiced by the community from much before my time in Dubai. I conveyed the same to the leadership in Dubai and Abu Dhabi many times and so did our ambassadors and visiting leaders from India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, senior member of the Abu Dhabi royal family and the UAE’s minister for tolerance, was the most important ally of the Indian community in this effort. It was befitting that Sheikh Nahyan represented the UAE government at the opening of the BAPS Hindu Mandir. Known in the UAE as the “People’s Sheikh” for his friendly and accessible nature, Sheikh Nahyan championed the idea of land for a new temple and recommended the same to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the UAE. It is on the foundation of Sheikh Nahyan’s efforts that Prime Minister Modi built his religious diplomacy and the temple became an important subject of official exchanges.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sheikh Nahyan is a living example of the UAE’s commitment to religious tolerance and pluralism. He takes great joy in meeting spiritual leaders from all over the world. There is probably no prominent spiritual leader from India who has not been welcomed to his majlis. While Sheikh Nahyan enjoys great love and respect within the country and abroad, India and Indians have always had a special place in his heart.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Religious freedom and pluralism in the UAE owe a lot to Sheikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi, the father of the nation and the founder president who ensured that it was embedded into the social fabric and was made a constitutional guarantee from 1971 when the nation was born. Generous offers of free land have been made to many religious communities. Dubai witnessed the construction of St Mary’s Catholic Church in 1966, Bur Dubai Church in 1975 and the Jumeirah Presbyterian Church in 1979. Today, Dubai has over 80 churches catering to various Christian denominations. Abu Dhabi is home to the Abrahamic Family House, opened last year, which combines a church, a mosque and a synagogue. A spacious Guru Nanak Durbar opened in the Jebel Ali area of Dubai in 2012 and an equally large and beautiful Hindu temple was built next to the gurdwara in 2022. The Shiva mandir and the gurdwara in the old Bur Dubai temple were relocated to the new temple, while the Krishna mandir continues to function in the old location.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Offering land and support for the BAPS Hindu Mandir is yet another important step taken by the UAE to promote inclusivity and religious diversity. President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed deserves accolades for his bold decision to permit the temple to be built in traditional Indian style with sculptures and carvings on the outside. Considering the conservative views that still exist in UAE society and the conflict and polarisation in the world, this is a revolutionary step. It reflects the determination of the leaders to reinforce the message that Islam can coexist with religious diversity and the UAE will continue to strengthen its character as a modern, liberal and progressive state.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>BAPS deserves the highest of praise for having raised the resources and built this great stone temple in record time. The temple will not just serve the spiritual needs of the Indian community, but will also act as a cultural landmark and forum for inter-religious discourse. Prime Minister Modi and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed also deserve praise for their personal attention and support for the project which has fulfilled a longstanding dream and need of the Indian community. Since 2015, the two leaders have imbued the relationship with rich personal and political content. Historic ties, geographical proximity, people-to-people contacts and trade and economic relations have always closely bound the two nations and its people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For the UAE, the BAPS Hindu Mandir represents yet another milestone in a continuous and consistent journey and celebration of pluralism. The UAE’s model of religious tolerance stands as a beacon of hope in a world yearning for end to strife and peaceful coexistence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>―<b>The writer</b> is a former career diplomat who served as consul general of India in Dubai from 2007 to 2010 and is the author of the book, <i>India and the UAE: In Celebration of a Legendary Friendship. </i>He is currently professor of diplomatic practice at O.P. Jindal Global University.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/24/uae-continue-to-inspire-the-world-with-their-commitment-to-religious-freedom-and-pluralism.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/24/uae-continue-to-inspire-the-world-with-their-commitment-to-religious-freedom-and-pluralism.html Sun Feb 25 12:58:33 IST 2024 how-a-one-of-it-s-kind-avian-focused-veterinary-hospital-in-kerala-is-giving-a-healing-touch-to-exotic-birds-and-pets <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/24/how-a-one-of-it-s-kind-avian-focused-veterinary-hospital-in-kerala-is-giving-a-healing-touch-to-exotic-birds-and-pets.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/2024/2/24/56-Dr-Rani.jpg" /> <p>Mittu was weak, nauseous and struggling to breathe when she was brought to Dr Rani Maria Thomas’s hospital in the coastal village of Thumpoly in Kerala’s Alappuzha district. Mittu’s panic-stricken caregivers had little hope as Rani and her team rushed her to the ICU for oxygen therapy. After Mittu calmed down, they took an X-ray, and found out that she had ingested a piece of lead. To avoid reaction between lead and gastric juices, they crop-fed her medicine via a tube. Mittu recovered gradually and was discharged within a week, after the lead was out of her system.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This was not a regular hospital case―Mittu is a grey parrot and Rani, 32, is an avian veterinarian. Her 2,000sqft veterinary hospital, Sara’s Birds and Exotic Animal Hospital, has facilities that rival many hospitals for humans. The hospital, located on NH66, is an oasis of rare plants and trees caressed by sea breeze. The air is filled with high-pitched shrieks of sun conures and rainbow lorikeets, chirps of finches, the coos of diamond doves and nun pigeons, the witty retorts of human-imitating macaws and cockatoos, the barks of golden retrievers and Labradors, the yawns of sulcata tortoises and the hermit-like silence of iguanas.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rani’s parents live next to the hospital. It was there that she grew up along with her elder sister and ‘siblings’ from different species―just like Mowgli in <i>The Jungle Book</i>. The family runs Sara’s Exotic Pet Farm, a collection of 70 species of exotic birds and pets that is named, like the hospital, after Rani’s grandmother. Among the pets, Rani’s favourite is Ginger, a golden retriever who she says is her “brother”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Besides the pet incubator ICU unit, diagnostic lab and pharmacy, the hospital has equipment to carry out endoscopy, X-ray, radiographs, microscopy, ultrasound scan, blood transfusion and inhalant anaesthesia. “For example, the serum machine can measure liver and kidney values. And the progesterone machine helps check calcium, thyroid and vitamin D levels in sulcata tortoise, monkeys and iguanas, while the CBC (complete blood count) machine can take RBC, WBC, haemoglobin and platelet counts,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The hospital also has a grooming centre and a pet spa for dogs and cats. Another attraction is a pet shop selling imported toys and accessories. The hospital also offers a boarding facility for pets whose owners are travelling. When Mittu was under treatment, her owner was in constant touch with her via video calls.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was during her externship at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital in 2016 that Rani was introduced to the state-of-the-art equipment and expert care provided to the raptors treated there. This inspired her to replicate them in her hospital. “The sheikhs would bring hundreds of falcons for checkup before they went out hunting. These birds of prey would undergo all sorts of tests to ensure they are healthy. I couldn’t lower my standards after the externship. If you ask me to use injectable anaesthesia on birds, I am not comfortable with it. Instead I use inhalant anaesthesia, which is the best way to sedate birds and it helps with speedy recovery,” says Rani.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The hospital was established in August 2021. It also conducts major and minor surgeries, avian DNA sexing, skin disease treatment, vaccination and anti-snake venom treatment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite securing a rank of 2012 for MBBS admission, Rani traded the coveted seat for a bachelor’s in veterinary medicine at Kerala Veterinary and Animal Science University, Wayanad, in 2010. “I am glad I didn’t opt for MBBS, because this is a more relaxed and happy profession for me. I’m at peace now,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was her father, K.T. Thomas, 67, who suggested that she become an avian veterinarian, pointing to the dearth of medics treating birds. Thomas and his wife, Beena, have been parents of exotic pets for about four decades. A former coir exporter, he had hoped that either of his two daughters would become a veterinarian and is glad that Rani has chosen the road less taken. “My inspiration and guidance comes from my parents,” says Rani. “And my husband, Mathan John, is equally supportive and is a pet lover, too. He is an applications engineer who was based in Kuwait, but is currently working from home. He accompanies me whenever I have to travel abroad and makes sure that I have all the help I need.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Talking about her professional struggles in becoming a doctor for winged patients, Rani says, “In the vet school, you don’t study much about birds or exotic [animals]. Whether it is anatomy or physiology, it’s just two pages. In India, we don’t have courses focused on avian veterinary, but there are places where we can work with birds. And now there are lots of veterinary associations that are providing online courses. In my clinic, too, we are conducting an avian orthopaedic training course in March. So, I am also doing what I can to contribute to this field.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rani completed her masters in veterinary epidemiology and preventive medicine in 2019. She also has postgraduate diplomas in One Health (an integrated approach to optmise health of people, animals and ecosystems) and the therapeutic management of pet animals and birds. “It’s a continuous learning process. Even now I am doing online and offline courses to keep myself updated,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rani is irked by veterinarians who just click photos with birds and call themselves avian doctors on social media. “I have seen some vets who just prescribe antibiotics without proper diagnosis. Whether it’s an infection or internal injury or even flu, birds display similar symptoms like getting fluffed up and not eating food. So if you administer antibiotics indiscriminately, the bird may not survive. That’s one reason I got all this equipment, so that I can ensure proper prognosis.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She says that only those who specialise in avian endoscopy can be a complete avian doctor. “Endoscopy allows breeders to find out if a bird is a male or female at a young age. It can also help understand if the bird is ready to breed. The technique also helps in assessing the conditions of internal organs, including heart, lungs, air sacs, liver, kidneys, spleen and intestine. So, if one wants to be an avian vet, they should be well-versed in endoscopy,” says Rani, who practised avian endoscopy at the Dubai-based sports club F3 Falcon, where raptors are bred for falcon racing. She also practised orthopaedics at Vet Plus Centre in Sharjah.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her future plans include setting up a CT scan and laser treatment facility for birds. She is also considering opening a facility near Kochi, which has a strong community of breeders of exotic animals and a high density of pet population.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Becoming a pet parent, says Rani, is like having a baby. “Don’t buy an exotic bird because your neighbour has one, or just because you can afford it. This is not just about those who buy exotic birds, but about pet parents in general. Buy pets only if you have time to invest, if you can take them to a vet, or a grooming centre or for a walk. It is like having a baby. Research a lot before you buy them.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><a name="__DdeLink__20_1328407715" id="__DdeLink__20_1328407715"></a>When Rani decided to become a veterinarian, she was determined to set up her own hospital. Rani says she had to shell out around Rs60 lakh for facilities and equipment, most of which were procured from Delhi. “The endoscopy machine alone cost around Rs15 lakh, and the X-ray equipment Rs10 lakh. I paid around Rs7 lakh each for the CBC and serum machines,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many people were pessimistic. “Alappuzha is a slow town,” says Rani. “Some said I won’t get enough patients and will have to wind up in a few months. But I was confident, and so were my parents. I was ready to run the hospital without profit for the first few years. But we soon started getting patients from all over Kerala. Now, we have birds and animals being brought from Coimbatore, Salem, Hogenakkal, Chennai, Bengaluru and even Kolkata.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Momo, an umbrella cockatoo with deformities on upper and lower beaks, was couriered from Kolkata via Chennai, while another breeder couple and their children drove down from Kolkata to get their three macaws treated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rani says she does not charge exorbitantly. For example, Mittu’s one-week treatment cost Rs5,000, while Momo’s surgery cost Rs15,000. Rani holds monthly consults in Delhi and Kolkata and she often volunteers in Jaipur during the kite festival and takes classes for students and local residents. In 2017, while volunteering with the Jaipur-based NGO Raksha during the annual kite festival in 2017, she recalled how she encountered thousands of birds injured by glass powder-laced manja strings during Makar Sankranti.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“As a child, I was surrounded by happy birds. But when I went to Jaipur, I came across thousands of suffering birds cut by manja. It was January and cold. Those birds were bleeding, and it was really stressful for me. For three weeks, we would start the surgeries early in the morning and continue till midnight,” she says. “That was a sad experience. But in the end, I feel fulfilled that I could travel there and help those birds.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/24/how-a-one-of-it-s-kind-avian-focused-veterinary-hospital-in-kerala-is-giving-a-healing-touch-to-exotic-birds-and-pets.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/24/how-a-one-of-it-s-kind-avian-focused-veterinary-hospital-in-kerala-is-giving-a-healing-touch-to-exotic-birds-and-pets.html Sat Feb 24 15:52:27 IST 2024 milan-a-biennial-congregation-of-world-navies-complements-india-s-maritime-vision <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/16/milan-a-biennial-congregation-of-world-navies-complements-india-s-maritime-vision.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/2024/2/16/50-A-meeting-of-minds.jpg" /> <p><b>THE NAVY IS</b> sometimes called the strategic service. This moniker is not easily applied to the other two services, the Army and the Air Force since their influence is often limited by geography and scale of interaction. The Indian Navy, on the other hand, is a truly global force which is distinctly international in character. This is not a new phenomenon. The characteristics of naval forces make them eminently suited for tasks well beyond the horizon, carrying friendships across the oceans and, if necessary, delivering lethal power to engage adversaries far away from own shores or assisting people in need such as our own diaspora in times of crises.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Besides being the primary manifestation of national maritime power, the Navy’s contribution in furthering the nation’s foreign policy has been stellar. Of the major roles of the Navy, its diplomatic role is the most visible and effective in the international maritime arena. From humble beginnings, this role has steadily grown in tandem with our ever-expanding global influence and diplomatic outreach. MILAN, a biennial maritime congregation of world navies, conducted by the Indian Navy, is a manifestation of this reality.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>MILAN, as the name suggests, is a meeting of sorts. The idea germinated in the early 1990s, when a small conclave of navies of the eastern littoral of the Indian Ocean met once every two years at Port Blair. Just four regional navies participated in the first edition in 1995, represented by a small delegation. Later, one or two ships from friendly navies would call at Port Blair to coincide with the event. It was then more an ‘ice-breaking’ event with little operational content. MILAN steadily grew in strength and stature, with increasing participation by regional navies and much richer content. In 2018, 17 navies congregated at Port Blair. The normally harbour-based interactions expanded to include a sea phase of exercises.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With increasing participation and content, MILAN shifted to the picturesque port city of Visakhapatnam, the headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command. This was done for ease of logistics on the mainland. MILAN 2020 was planned on a large scale, but was called off because of the pandemic. MILAN 2022 saw a tectonic shift in the complexion of the event with 39 foreign navies, 13 foreign warships and one foreign maritime patrol aircraft participating, besides high-level delegations, many led by chiefs of navies. Apart from a rich operational content, there was a vibrant cultural exchange, city parades, exhibitions and much pageantry. It altered the perception of the Indian Navy to one that had ‘arrived’ on the world stage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>MILAN 2024 promises to be a ‘never before’ event. A nine-day interaction among world navies from February 19 expects to witness 50 navies in attendance with 15 ships and one aircraft from friendly countries, along with more than 20 Indian naval platforms, including both aircraft carriers, Vikramaditya and Vikrant. The scope and complexity of the interaction will see an exponential enrichment. A defence technology expo, cultural events, seminars and public interaction including a city parade will also be integral components of this global naval interaction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>MILAN, which started as a small meeting of a few navies, has metamorphosed into a signature event that has paid the nation rich diplomatic and maritime dividends. It has cemented the Indian Navy’s reputation as a prominent force that stands for cooperation, peace and good order at sea, in keeping with the nation’s maritime vision and aspirations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The author is former commander-in-chief of the Eastern Naval Command.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/16/milan-a-biennial-congregation-of-world-navies-complements-india-s-maritime-vision.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/16/milan-a-biennial-congregation-of-world-navies-complements-india-s-maritime-vision.html Fri Feb 16 15:23:53 IST 2024 the-adventures-of-an-intrepid-space-scientist-who-wanted-to-experience-all-that-he-had-learnt <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/16/the-adventures-of-an-intrepid-space-scientist-who-wanted-to-experience-all-that-he-had-learnt.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/2024/2/16/58-Suresh-Kumar.jpg" /> <p>He gazed out at the curvature of the earth. Below him was what looked like a blue fog covering the surface of the earth. Above him, the dark sky was sprinkled with stars, in the middle of the day. A short while ago, he had been in Russia. Now, he was in the stratosphere.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As India celebrated its 68th Independence Day, an Indian was getting into the back seat of a MiG-29. At 11:30am, local time, the fighter jet carrying T.N. Suresh Kumar took off from the Sokol airbase in Nizhny Novgorod. Land fell away rapidly. Kumar was mesmerised, taking in every second of the awe-inspiring experience. Soon, the jet was shooting through the sky at a speed of around 2,000kmph (Mach 1.7). And Kumar, even in a G-suit, felt the staggering force of 7G―gravity pulling him back to earth with a force seven times his body weight. But, no force could break his will. For he had dreamed about this for too long.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was in 2006 that Kumar, an Indian Space Research Organisation scientist, first heard about the edge-of-space flight in Russia being offered to civilians. The MiG could go as high as 20km-22km, depending on weather and temperature, but, 17km was guaranteed. Technically, that is a flight to the stratosphere (approximately 12km-50km above the earth’s surface). The delineation used by most scientists for the edge of space―the Karman line―is 100km above the earth’s surface. However, only astronauts and cosmonauts had ever gone higher than the Russian edge-of-space flights which were taking tourists.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When he heard about the opportunity, Kumar had just returned from Antarctica. But, he jumped upon the chance and made inquiries in Russia. The excitement though was shortlived―the experience would cost Rs47 lakh. He could not afford it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kumar had cherished a lifelong aspiration to behold the earth from the vantage point of space. In fact, he came close to getting on a flight to space―ISRO had planned a manned mission to space in the mid-1980s, in collaboration with NASA. Kumar signed up for selection and made it to the final four from 800-odd aspirants. But, after NASA’s Challenger broke apart killing all seven crew members, the ISRO mission was called off.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Two decades later, it seemed like Kumar’s hope of reaching at least the stratosphere had been crushed by the cost. But, space-related tourism grew fast and the costs came down. And, at long last, he made the trip in 2014, becoming the first Indian to do so. He shelled out Rs15 lakh and chose August 15 for the flight.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, the trip was by no means as easy as paying the fee and choosing a date. “It required lot of documentation and paper work, clearance from ISRO and the Russian embassy,” Kumar told THE WEEK. “The procedure took six months, including pre-flight training.” Kumar lost his mother around two months before the flight. He put in a request seeking permission to carry his mother’s photograph during the flight, along with the Indian flag. His chosen date and requests were approved.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kumar had undergone a few medical tests in India. But, when he reached Russia, he had to repeat many of them. Apart from physical and mental fitness, those aspiring to be on the flight must also have basic aerospace knowledge. The aspirants’ height must not be more than 6’5”, as that may lead to their head hitting the canopy of the cockpit during in-flight manoeuvres. They also should not have spinal and cardiac problems or prior surgeries. “People who do not qualify are sent back,” said Kumar, who had to sign an indemnity bond before the flight.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After the medical tests and documentation, Kumar was introduced to the pilot Sergei Sara, who gave him additional training for around five days. As Kumar was not a fighter pilot, the focus was on how to eject in case of an emergency. “One has to get adjusted to the Mach speed of the aircraft,” said Kumar. “During the flight, the pilot is always mindful of the tourist’s safety.” He said the flight was one of greatest experiences of his life. “At 10,000 metres, the pilot even allowed me to manoeuvre the MiG-29 and after returning to the troposphere, we did many manoeuvres such as rolls, inverted flight and nose down,” said Kumar, excited at the memory. The flight lasted 48 minutes from take-off to landing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Six months after the flight to the stratosphere, he came to know of the zero-gravity flight, which was being offered from the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Centre in Moscow. The cost was around Rs6 lakh. The flight, called Aerolab, used the 46.59m-long Il-76 MDK aircraft. During the flight, the interiors simulated zero-gravity conditions. This was done by flying to a height of around 9,000m and then curving downward. The tourists would feel weightlessness at the upper point of the parabola. This state would last up to 30 seconds and could be recreated 15 times in one flight of around one-and-a-half hours. So, of the total 5,400 seconds, zero gravity could be experienced for about 450 seconds. The interiors were padded to protect the floating tourists.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kumar said when he went on the zero-gravity flight, it had 15 people from various countries. “I was the only Indian on board,” he said. “One doctor was also with us. People started doing different things; one person did yoga. But, many people started experiencing nausea and vomiting. With change in gravity, the body experiences a lot of changes like dehydration. Before the flight, the Russian team had explained about the manoeuvres and the changes the body experiences.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He said there were specialists on board to help the participants float in various poses. “I requested for the <i>padmasana</i> yoga posture,” he said. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience as we don’t have this facility in India for the common man.” On this flight, too, he carried the Indian flag and his mother’s photo.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though the flight to the stratosphere and the zero-gravity flight were related to the space scientist’s profession, his trips are not limited to space-related adventures. The travel enthusiast has been to 167 countries and all seven continents. The 66-year-old, whose travels started in 1998, said that he gets rejuvenated by travel. At his villa, on the outskirts of Bengaluru, he has a whole set of jumbo passport booklets with visa stamps from all the countries he has travelled to.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The trip to Antarctica in 2006 was when he completed visiting seven continents. He said that he had always been fascinated by icebergs and how big some of them are. He had not seen snowfall, snow-laden mountains and icebergs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though there are stations in Antarctica set up by the Indian government, he did not want to go through all the procedures and approvals which were required to visit them. “I wanted to travel as an individual,” he said. “I had options. From India, it takes 66 days, from New Zealand it takes 22 days and from South America, it takes 21 days. So, I decided to go through South America. I went to France, then to Brazil and from there I travelled in a ship to Antarctica. He said he remained on the ship, but enjoyed seeing seals and penguins and the imposing mass of ice. “We touched other islands, too,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kumar retired from ISRO around six years ago, after more than 40 years of service. He was from a humble background and his parents were not well educated. But they did not let the same happen to their son. Kumar started his career at ISRO’s space application centre in Ahmedabad in 1978 and later shifted to Hassan, Karnataka. He worked on the Bhaskara and Apple communication satellites and was involved with the missions for more than 32 satellites, including INSAT, GSAT and IRNSS. As flight director, Kumar performed station-keeping orbit manoeuvres for satellites and also worked as a spacecraft power expert during satellite operations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kumar was involved in setting up the earth station for the GE Americom satellite and was deputed by ISRO to Canada for mission operations of INSAT-3B. He was also a fly-by coordinator and liaised with international space agencies during ISRO satellite missions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After ISRO’s manned mission to space was cancelled in the mid-1980s, Kumar was highly disappointed. He had sleepless nights as he really wanted to go to space. But, he found a way to cope. “Since I could not go to space, I thought why not travel across the world and explore all the countries,” he said. “My wife encouraged me and that motivated me to move ahead in life. But, at that point it seemed difficult because of the huge amount of money required. Gradually, we started saving for the overseas trips. The pay commission money helped me save more.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He added that since both he and his wife, Geetha, were scientists at ISRO, they got many benefits. “We got quarters and we used to get subsidised food in the office,” he said. “Besides, we lived in Hassan, where the cost of living was not as high as in the metros. My daughter’s schooling was in Kendriya Vidyalaya, which has a subsidised fee structure.” He added that he and his wife do not spend on luxury items or costly clothes. “Our aim is to save money and explore the world,” he added. “I accumulated leave and took them in one go for the travel.” Geetha has accompanied him on trips to 70 countries. His daughter, Raksha, who now works in Bengaluru for a UK-based company, has been to 53 countries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A factor that has helped Kumar reduce the cost of travel is the fact that he carries ready-to-eat food packets from India. This is because he is a vegetarian and it is, at times, tough to find vegetarian food to his taste during travels. A favourite is the Gujarati flatbread <i>thepla</i>, as it can be stored for many days. He also carries a rice cooker. Moreover, he does not spend on expensive hotels, preferring home stays, budget hotels and rentals with a kitchen. He does not buy clothes, expensive artefacts and luxury items during the trips. As he reiterates, the trips are geared towards seeing, not buying.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His scientific temperament often takes over during his travels. He cited his visits to Africa. “I cherish my travels in Africa,” he said. “Everything is different. We have tall buildings here, there are tall trees in Africa. I like meeting people, understanding their culture, talking to them. Till date, I have had no problems while travelling. In Africa, for instance, I have lived in small huts. I came to know that North Africa’s landscape had many similarities with Mars. I got a first-hand feel of various things during my trip to North Africa, like rock formations, and different types of snakes.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kumar also has a keen interest in active volcanoes. Since India does not have any, he has travelled to see them, to countries such as Congo (Mount Nyiragongo), Vanuatu (Mount Yasur), Nicaragua (Masaya Volcano) and Guatemala (Pacaya).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Age has not diminished his enthusiasm. He went sky diving after retirement. When he gets time, he shares insights with students from NITs and IITs and other institutes and motivates them to become space scientists. He also wants to keep exploring the world. However, his next trip will be within India and he definitely will not have to pack <i>theplas</i>―he is planning a 10-day visit to Gujarat to explore the state fully.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I am a firm believer of science and nature,” he said. “I do not believe that there is a next life, hence I want to experience every geographical aspect of mother earth. What I learnt in school, I wish to experience. I have experienced icebergs, the midnight sun, the northern lights, jungles of Africa and the Amazon, and the Coriolis effect at the equator.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, after travelling to the edge of space and the bottom of the ocean (in a submarine in Indonesia), and all seven continents, what was next? “I wish to complete the remaining few countries in the next few years,” he said.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/16/the-adventures-of-an-intrepid-space-scientist-who-wanted-to-experience-all-that-he-had-learnt.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/16/the-adventures-of-an-intrepid-space-scientist-who-wanted-to-experience-all-that-he-had-learnt.html Sat Feb 17 10:21:13 IST 2024 the-feud-between-zelensky-and-ukraine-army-chief-zaluzhnyi-explained <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/09/the-feud-between-zelensky-and-ukraine-army-chief-zaluzhnyi-explained.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/2024/2/9/53-General-Valeriy-Zaluzhnyi-with-President-Zelensky.jpg" /> <p>For a week from January 29, speculation was rife regarding the removal of Ukraine's commander-in-chief, General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi. There were anonymous quotes and leaks, especially in news and analysis from western media—most of it from military journalists, bloggers, MPs and politicians. The names of the two contenders to replace Zaluzhnyi were mentioned—army chief General Oleksandr Syrskiy, who was instrumental in liberating Kharkiv and Kherson in 2022, and military intelligence head, General Kyrylo Budanov. But it was reported that both of them refused. Zaluzhnyi was reportedly offered the chair of the National Security Council, which he turned down. While the people of Ukraine anxiously watched, initial statements from presidential spokespersons refuted all speculation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No sooner had the debate calmed down than it rose again, when Zelensky broke his silence. On February 5, he told Italian radio Rai 1 that he wanted to change some leading figures in the country, not only in the army. His statement broadened the horizon of the changes and the first change came that day itself with the resignation of the minister in charge of veterans’ affairs, Yulia Laputina, who was appointed in 2020. Finally, on February 8, Zelensky announced Zaluzhnyi’s dismissal and named Syrskiy as his successor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Among the possible reasons for the dismissal of Zaluzhnyi are the differences regarding the war strategy and Zaluzhnyi’s growing popularity, with ratings above 90 per cent. Zaluzhnyi was appointed in 2021 before the war, and he rose to prominence after 2022, as the war progressed. While the Ukrainian political leadership failed to anticipate the attack and to ask people to evacuate, Zaluzhnyi and his team tried their best to conduct trainings and to manage fortifications. They also made attempts to protect their fighter planes and to hide crucial resources. That gave Ukraine its first signs of resilience as Russia failed to get Kyiv “in three days” and also the northeast.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Zaluzhnyi became one of Time&nbsp;magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2022. His popularity has not waned, although the much promised counteroffensive in 2023 did not yield the desired results. This was primarily because Ukraine's allies did not supply the required military aid. In an article in the&nbsp;Economist&nbsp;in November 2023, Zaluzhnyi described these points, his perceptions and the mistakes in detail, concluding that the war had reached a stalemate. This was criticised by Ihor Zhovkva, deputy head of the president’s office. Zaluzhnyi’s media exposures led to apprehensions that he might be harbouring political ambitions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On November 20, in an interview with&nbsp;The Sun, Zelensky expressed his dissatisfaction: “With all due respect to General Zaluzhnyi and all commanders on the battlefield, there is a clear understanding of the hierarchy. It is singular, according to the law, and during the war, it cannot even be discussed. [Questioning] it does not lead to national unity.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Soon afterwards, the issue of a rift between the political and military leaderships came up. Opposition politicians, notably former president Petro Poroshenko, said dismissing Zaluzhnyi might harm national unity. Former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko also supported Zaluzhnyi and said that his dismissal when the war was going on was not judicious. Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko also voiced similar concerns.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, we know from history that generals were dismissed during wars, either because of poor performance or for showing signs of defiance. General Douglas MacArthur was fired by president Harry S. Truman during the Korean War; during the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln grew frustrated with General George McClellan and fired him. In Zaluzhnyi’s case, it is neither poor performance, nor defiance, rather some differences. Therefore, on February 5, Zelensky, referring to these controversial issues, said, “A reset and a new beginning is necessary. I am thinking about the change (without specifically mentioning the name of Zaluzhnyi), it is true. This is related to the whole management which is at the helm of the country.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These statements have caused a ripple of reactions among the Ukrainian citizens. We must never forget that people—although they do not hold the reins of power—like “to feel the pulse”, always. The war has only deepened their commitment. The communication on this issue between the political leadership and the people was not timely and well-managed, to say the least.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We know that all international armed conflicts are information warfare. The Russians have not left a single stone unturned to use propaganda to their benefit, both at home and abroad, meticulously catering to respective target groups and regions with their vertical chain of command. Ukraine being a democratic country is facing a bigger dilemma with its merits and vulnerabilities. Information in Ukraine is never vertically controlled. Despite the unified nationwide news service, cable channels operate freely, not to speak of blogs and social networks. The Ukrainian media holds the key. Alina, a journalist working for a local media outlet, asked, “Why do we have to learn about our internal news from foreign news sources?” Ukraine’s blogosphere echoed her remarks manifold. Journalists are visibly upset.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The war brought sweeping changes in the world of statecraft. It has also shown what ordinary people can do for their country. It has proved that whatever political decisions are taken, people have to bear the consequences. Zelensky’s desire to reset has added more responsibility and challenge on his shoulders. One such challenge is that his track record of being an excellent communicator now needs some fine-tuning. He should be able to instil confidence among people, who still doubt the rationale of his decision.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After Zaluzhnyi's dismissal and Syrskiy’s appointment as commander-in-chief was formally announced by Zelensky, more reserved remarks emerged—calling for calm and stating that the main idea and strategy of the war will never change. Zaluzhnyi's ouster should not mean a 180-degree reversal, or any change at all. Rotation of military officers is a regular phenomenon. However, the task of getting resources, funding the war and carving the path to victory would get longer and complicated. I thought it must be tough for the soldiers themselves. I hesitated, but still asked my acquaintance Olexiy, who fought at the front, and was on leave for 10 days, about Zaluzhnyi's dismissal. Olexiy was calm, and told me, “I have seen so much there. Life in the trenches, in open fields, firing from all sides. I know for certain: change is life. Let people change. Our aim should not change. We have to fight and win, as the proverb goes, à la guerre comme à la guerre.” This literally means, to be at war is at war, that is, one must make the best of each situation. The fine line is how change will ensure uninterrupted continuity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Mridula Ghosh,</b> formerly with the UN, is based in Kyiv, and teaches at the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/09/the-feud-between-zelensky-and-ukraine-army-chief-zaluzhnyi-explained.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/09/the-feud-between-zelensky-and-ukraine-army-chief-zaluzhnyi-explained.html Mon Feb 12 10:39:38 IST 2024 inclusys-org-foundation-training-and-employing-neurodivergent-individuals-for-it-companies <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/09/inclusys-org-foundation-training-and-employing-neurodivergent-individuals-for-it-companies.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/2024/2/9/56-Amal-Joshy.jpg" /> <p>He is at work, wearing a red shirt with a Chinese collar. Through his thick glasses, he peers at his screen to check whether his keystrokes are accurate. Pings from his teammates in Bengaluru occasionally flash on screen; every now and then, his guide Jincy helps him better understand the tasks. Commitment defines his work―there is no room for idle chatter, cigarette breaks or water-cooler chats. A lunch-break at precisely 1pm punctuates his workday; an hour later, the afternoon session starts and goes on till 4:30pm.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“My name is Don Thomas Punnoose,” he says. “I am 31 years old, and I work for Crayon, a company based in Bangalore.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Don’s voice is soft, and he does not make eye contact. He has overcome Down syndrome to become an adept IT professional at Crayon, a multinational firm specialising in software, cloud, data and AI solutions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Crayon hired him after a three-round selection process. “I was very happy when I got selected. Because they said, ‘You have a good command of English,” says Don.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His mother, Laila Punnoose, is happy and proud. “On January 31, Don completed one year at Crayon, and the company extended his contract for another year,” she says. “Last Christmas, he gifted some money to his elder sister and told her, ‘Buy whatever you want.’ In the past, his sisters used to offer him pocket money; but this time, he did.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Don was born when Laila was 39, as the youngest of her three children. A former teacher in Bahrain, she lost her husband 15 years ago. “Seven years ago, after my retirement, we returned to our hometown in Kerala. It was not easy for Don, who had been in Bahrain his entire life,” says Laila. “He had completed O-level in the British curriculum, and he was good in geography. But after we returned to Kerala, I was worried about what he would do. He stayed home for close to two years, before undergoing some vocational training. Then came an organisation named Inclusys. Their training [in IT skills] helped him get a job, lifting a major worry from my heart.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Currently, Don works remotely from a development and training hub run by Inclusys Org Foundation, which works to enhance the lives of “neurodivergent” individuals like Don by equipping them with skills in fields such as AI, data annotation and no-code software development.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A non-medical term, ‘neurodivergence’ characterises people whose brains develop, or function, differently from a typical one for various reasons. It serves as an umbrella term for conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, dyspraxia, Down syndrome and intellectual disabilities. In India, neurodivergent individuals often find it difficult to get jobs, particularly in corporate settings, because of stigma, bias and the dynamic nature of workplaces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“However, neurodivergent individuals often possess specific qualities that are advantageous in fields like IT,” says Smitha George, skilling and delivery head, Inclusys. “For example, a number of them exhibit attention to detail and the ability to perform repetitive tasks without boredom. Additionally, their work etiquette, discipline and commitment are noteworthy. We established this organisation because we recognised that targeted skill development can significantly enhance their employment readiness in the IT industry.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Inclusys is a not-for-profit company founded in 2022 by Robin Tommy, a digital technology strategist who heads TCS Rapid Labs, and Joseph Koluthuvallil, a Catholic priest who has extensive experience in the social welfare space. “Compared with many other sections of differently abled people, neurodivergent individuals receive less support from the government and other agencies,” says Joseph. “Robin, who has worked and researched neurodivergent individuals for over a decade, shared insights into the scenario and job opportunities in the IT sector. This led us to create this initiative, which has surpassed our expectations.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Inclusys has trained more than 150 neurodivergent individuals for IT companies. Says Reshmi Ravindranathan, associate consultant at TCS and mentor-facilitator at Inclusys: “Those who complete training engage in foundational tasks such as data cleaning, data segmentation, data transcription, data annotation and even video annotation and transcription―areas where they excel.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Inclusys aims to train more than 500 neurodivergent individuals in Kerala by 2025, and plans to extend the initiative to other parts of India. “Among the 150-plus individuals we have trained, 18 have been employed by companies such as Tata Consultancy Services, FedServ, Crayon, and Fragomen Solutions,” says Smitha.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The organisation has established nine skilling and development centres across seven districts in Kerala, in collaboration with various NGOs and vocational training centres.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Don has been undergoing vocational training at St Alphonsa Vocational Training Centre at Angamaly in Ernakulam district. He joined the Inclusys programme a year and a half ago. According to Sr Roncy Tom, a Catholic nun and special educator at the Angamaly centre, only those neurodivergent individuals who have the ability to successfully complete training are initiated into the Inclusys programme. When THE WEEK visited the centre, two neurodivergent individuals were undergoing a typing exercise to determine their suitability for the Inclusys programme.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Inclusys offers a six-month curriculum in four phases―generic IT skilling, advanced IT skilling, capstone projects and internships. The training process, says Roncy, involves many recap sessions of lessons. THE WEEK witnessed a session in which Roncy, assisted by Levin Eldose, a neurodivergent individual who was part of the first Inclusys batch at Angamaly, taught candidates to annotate individual elements in a video frame. Levin was initially shy to address the class in the presence of THE WEEK, but with a bit of encouragement he did a brief session.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another neurodivergent individual, Anal Varghese, did a system demo. Throughout the session, the steps for annotating elements in individual frames in the video were reiterated multiple times. “Recap and repetition are crucial when formulating a pedagogy for training neurodivergent individuals,” says Sr Roncy. “Importantly, we focus not only on technical skills, but also on enhancing the communication skills of these boys and girls.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mercy Eldose, Levin’s mother, says the Inclusys training had remarkably improved her son’s communication skills. “He started mingling more and became a lot more active,” she says. “A lot of people ask me, ‘How did this change happen in such a short span?’”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Levin has been epileptic since he was three. Despite attending a regular school, he had trouble comprehending most subjects because of a learning disability. But, with the help of a scribe, he successfully passed Class 10 and 12 exams. “However, it was at Inclusys that Levin discovered subjects that fascinated him, and he was granted the freedom to learn at his own pace,” she says. Levin faced challenges understanding theory, but excelled on the practical side. “Once he understands a pattern, he can quickly follow it,” she explains.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mercy, too, attended training sessions with her son. “All the parents were encouraged to attend sessions, because parents could easily assist them and address their doubts even at home,” she says. Both Levin and Anal are now freelance IT professionals at Inclusys Neuro Org, an IT-gig economy startup established as a sister concern of Inclusys Foundation. Supported by the Kerala Startup Mission and Startup India Mission, this one-of-its-kind organisation assigns neurodivergent freelancers to AI and data-related projects. “Inclusys Neuro Org is also involved in developing assistive technology for education, skilling and rehabilitation of people with disabilities,” says Robin.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Smitha explained the reason for establishing a separate startup. “It may not be easy for every neurodivergent individual to secure a position in an IT company and navigate a corporate environment. They encounter multiple challenges, including locomotive issues, physical disabilities and other mental pressures. The corporate world may not always be accommodating as well. To address both these issues, we thought, why not start a startup exclusively for neurodivergent individuals?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Inclusys Neuro Org has more than 40 neurodivergent individuals working on a variety of IT projects for various governmental and nongovernmental organisations. Upon completing training, most neurodivergent associates of Inclusys Foundation undertake internships at Inclusys Neuro Org, although there have been instances where they interned outside.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“At the very core of Inclusys Org Foundation is a unique, homegrown framework called SHIFT, which stands for sensing, harmonising, and transforming,” explains Rashmi. “Through sensing, we understand the problem statements; harmonising involves bringing them together with technology, and we use this process to transform the lives of our customers as well as that of the neurodivergent associates.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Companies such as UST Global, FedServ and Abhasoft, along with government agencies like Kerala Knowledge Mission, have conducted campus visits to Inclusys Foundation. At Infopark in Kochi, THE WEEK met Majo Philip and Aby Antoo, two Inclusys-trained neurodivergent individuals recruited by FedServ. Majo is on the Down syndrome spectrum, while Aby has an intellectual disability and an auditory processing disorder. Both are now junior process executives at FedServ, mostly handling data entry projects.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Four of us from Inclusys were initially on the [FedServ] list; two of us got selected,” says Majo, 25. The company gave them two weeks of generic training, followed by on-the-job training. According to Majo, he now receives more assistance in the workplace than he ever did while studying in regular school. “There are a lot of people to explain things and help us with tasks,” he says. “I can do a lot of things on my own now…. I made many friends at this company.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anoop Sasi, Majo and Aby’s team lead, says both of them were “a little shy” initially. “But they started to hang out with us, and they are now an integral part of our team,” he says. “Of course, it was a little tough for them to grasp and find things initially, and they had many apprehensions. But we all supported them, and now both of them consistently meet assigned targets. I can definitely say that they are not the same individuals who joined this company almost a year and a half ago.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sumesh Nair, associate vice president at Federal Bank (FedServ’s parent company), says both Majo and Aby are now assigned “equal tasks, equal opportunities, and equal activities”, just like any other employee in their team.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“They are on par with their teammates now, and are given all activities, including critical tasks,” he says. “And, of course, they are performing very well.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The training duration for neurodivergent individuals varies across IT companies. For instance, Amal Joshy and Anna Shaji, trained by Inclusys and placed in one of India’s leading IT services firms, have been undergoing training for over a month now. Amal says the current training regimen is more challenging than the one in Inclusys. Both of them, however, are confident of securing a position in the company.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An aspect that most neurodivergent individuals find challenging is the dynamic nature of workplace relations or assignments. For instance, says Laila, Don struggled to cope with the departure of Delvy, his former guide who left Inclusys to join another company some months ago. “He still says that he misses her,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a mother, though, Laila is happier than ever―as a successful young professional, Don is no longer as dependent on her as he had once been.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/09/inclusys-org-foundation-training-and-employing-neurodivergent-individuals-for-it-companies.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/09/inclusys-org-foundation-training-and-employing-neurodivergent-individuals-for-it-companies.html Sat Feb 10 15:06:10 IST 2024 neuralink-chip-elon-musk-significance-in-beating-brain-deficits <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/03/neuralink-chip-elon-musk-significance-in-beating-brain-deficits.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/2024/2/3/41-A-Neuralink-logo-featuring-Elon-Musk.jpg" /> <p><i>Interview/ Prof Hardik J. Pandya, IISc Bengaluru &amp; Dr Shabari Girishan K.V., Ramaiah Memorial hospital, Bengaluru</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>ON JANUARY 30,</b> tech billionaire Elon Musk claimed that his company Neuralink successfully implanted one of its wireless chips inside a human brain. In a post on X, Musk said “promising” brain activity had been detected after the procedure and the patient was “recovering well”. The procedure is expected to help attain the goal of “connecting human brains to computers to help tackle complex neurological conditions”. In an interview with THE WEEK, Dr Hardik J. Pandya of the department of electronic systems engineering at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, and Dr Shabari Girishan K.V., consultant neurosurgeon and associate professor at Ramaiah Memorial hospital, Bengaluru, explained the significance of Neuralink’s achievement in the area of neurosurgery and in the larger realm of mind mapping, brain fingerprinting and further technological advancements. The duo, part of a larger team leading cutting-edge research in brain co-processor chips in India, said it was indeed a milestone for neurological sciences.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Excerpts from the interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What is your take on the significance of Neuralink’s achievement?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Pandya: </b>At IISc, we have been working on implantable devices that can be placed inside human bodies. Along with IIT Kanpur, we are also into indigenous fabrication of these kinds of devices. So, it is indeed very exciting that Neuralink has been able to achieve this feat of installing a chip inside the human brain. This is remarkable and revolutionary in problem areas relating to motor skills, vision and epilepsy because these implantable devices are really the only solution we have right now. However, the challenging part for us here is that we don’t know exactly which area they have implanted the chip into, how many electrodes are there and what the tech really looks like. As of now, all we know is that the patient in whom the chip has been placed is in the recovery stage. Unless we are able to generate data from the patient that spans a considerable period of time, we will not know the effectiveness of this technology. But such a device that can be used to help human beings overcome some of the deficits in the brain is really exciting.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Implantation in the human brain has been going on for a long time. What is new here?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Shabari Girishan:</b> The procedure is not new; we have been performing DBS (deep brain stimulation) for years. What is novel is the size of the device and its functionality. The device is very flexible and small, which is very helpful for surgeons to implant in the brain. It is supposedly a hair-like sensor, going into the brain substance. The major advantage is that this device can be implanted directly in any part of the eloquent region in the brain (a very important area which controls motor and sensory functions). So once we implant, the data that can be gathered can be vast. It could be motor functional data or visual data or cognitive data. So the applications are going to be numerous.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What is particularly concerning regarding this chip?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Shabari Girishan:</b> It is a very small device and you are trying to simplify the brain function too much because one function is not really part of just one single area. Considering the size of the device, they need to look at the implantation of multiple areas. I guess an important role of the device is to enable communication with the external appliances for patients who really cannot use them because of various neurological deficits. We are working to improve this technology further and make some indigenous electrodes in India itself that are affordable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Before Neuralink, there have been other companies that made similar advancements. Is it good marketing that brought Neuralink into focus?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Pandya:</b> A lot of companies such as Meta, Synchron and Kernel are coming up with medical applications like motor assistance, prosthetics, communication and wheelchairs. Or it can be non-medical applications like education, VR (virtual reality) gaming, physical amplification, memory augmentation, lie detection. The way Musk approaches the problem is what makes Neuralink different. It all depends on the team. There is a team of engineers, scientists and doctors to get the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) approvals. The stronger the team, the easier it is to achieve success. Of course, Musk’s idea, his vision and his zeal to invest in such technological advances is something worth applauding. We require people like him and hopefully we will have many like him from India some day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Are we working towards developing even more advanced technologies here in India so that we can have Neuralink come down to collaborate with us?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Pandya:</b> Of course, that is the aim. There are companies in India, particularly when you talk about innovative technologies. But very few fabricate neural implants. We don’t develop devices, although we have the capability to do that, only because we don’t have the right set of collaborators to work with. Now with funding available from Pratiksha Trust, a charitable trust founded by Kris Gopalakrishnan (co-founder, Infosys Technologies) and Sudha Gopalakrishnan, we, at the IISc, are working on a Brain Computational Data Sciences Moonshot Project. We are developing not only non-invasive technologies, but also invasive technologies to address a challenging problem in the area of neural engineering. And in five to ten years, a lot of things will be made indigenously.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All these technologies that are currently available are not affordable. So what we require is not only philanthropist investment, but also bigger funding on neural engineering technology development from the government, so that many institutes can come together and work on larger projects.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/03/neuralink-chip-elon-musk-significance-in-beating-brain-deficits.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/03/neuralink-chip-elon-musk-significance-in-beating-brain-deficits.html Sat Feb 03 12:11:26 IST 2024 inside-ookhu-the-pencil-village-of-india <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/03/inside-ookhu-the-pencil-village-of-india.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/2024/2/3/60-Poplar-trees-from-Kashmir-are-widely-used.jpg" /> <p>Nestled along the meandering banks of the Jhelum River is the village of Ookhu at Kakpora in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, 26km from Srinagar. Ookhu has earned itself the title of ‘pencil village of India’, and rightly so. It has beaten competition from China and Germany to become a major supplier of raw materials to leading pencil manufacturers in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Manzoor Ahmad Allaie lives in one of the 250 quaint homes that comprise the village. He was born into the timber trade. As a young boy, he watched his father―a small-time timber trader―toil hard to provide for his wife, two sons and a daughter. After he finished schooling in 1996, Allaie persuaded his father to sell some land to buy a bandsaw mill and set up Jhelum Agro Industries. He began by making poplar boxes to transport Kashmir’s famed blood-red apples.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The mill improved the family’s finances, but Allaie had bigger dreams. In 2012, he travelled to Jammu and convinced Hindustan Pencils, India’s top pencil maker, that Jhelum Agro Industries could meet their raw material needs. It first supplied poplar logs and then shifted to slats―5.2mm thick wooden blocks that could be used to make four pencils. That was a decisive move, as demand for slats soared. Allaie hired 15 people, secured a bank loan to buy a machine to make slats and a generator to power the machine during power cuts. “Making a slat is half the job done,” explains Allaie. “We succeeded in that and the business took off.” His success inspired his neighbour Feroz Ahmed, owner of Barkat Saw Mills, to follow suit and provide raw materials to pencil manufacturers outside Kashmir.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But their success story would be incomplete without stressing on the role of poplars. India has nine varieties of poplar, four of which are endemic and the rest exotic. In Kashmir, the exotic <i>P. deltoids</i>, locally called <i>roosi phras</i>, has nearly replaced the indigenous <i>kashur phras</i> (Kashmir poplar), which takes around 40 years to mature. <i>Roosi phras</i>, which matures at 15 years, was introduced in Kashmir in 1982 as part of a World Bank-aided project. <i>Roosi Phras</i> is erroneously called Russian poplar. But it has nothing to do with Russia; it is American. Roosi also sounds similar to the Urdu word for dandruff. Some experts say that the name must have come from the pollen that its fluffy seeds shed. No matter the variety, the poplars in Kashmir provide top-notch timber and are cheaper than the German and Chinese varieties. There are reportedly 10 million to 20 million poplars in Kashmir, and they are the second largest source of income, after apples.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ookhu and other villages are now supplying slats to leading pencil makers like Hindustan Pencils and DOMS. Presently, there are 14 prominent slat-producing units in Kashmir; 13 of them are in south Kashmir (predominantly in Pulwama) and one in Srinagar’s Parimpora. These units collectively employ around 3,000 people, encompassing a diverse workforce that includes local men and women as well as migrant workers. The yearly turnover is around Rs150 crore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jhelum Agro Industries employs nearly 150 people during the winter months. From band saw drivers to plank cutters and machine handlers, their skill set is varied. Workers are also needed to sort and grade slats by hand. During summer, the workforce expands to 180 as migrant workers stream in from various parts of India, mainly the north. The work hours are from 9am to 5pm.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sami Rasool is among the 24 young girls from neighbouring villages employed at the unit. “Our job is to collect the slats, make bundles of them and remove the defective ones,” she says. Her colleague Shazia Jan is grateful for the pickup-and-drop facility provided by Jhelum Agro Industries. All workers enjoy a day off every week, and wages are paid on time, say the workers. Migrant workers who continue through the winter receive free accommodation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The one-acre plot that houses the unit also has Allaie’s residence. When his business grew, he had to acquire more land to store raw material and sawdust. In winter, slats are dried in hot rooms at another facility, located in the industrial estate at Lassipora, some 18km away.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lassipora has proven to be an ideal location for several slat manufacturers to expand their business, thanks to the land, electricity and improved connectivity provided by the government. Some of these units go the extra mile by offering conveyance and free lodging to workers from outside Kashmir.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shabir Ahmed, owner of Shabir Agro, one of the largest units in Lassipora, says that his unit provides 7,000 bags of slats per month (800 slats per bag) to Hindustan Pencils. He currently employs 125 people. Some workers, like Umar Ahmed Mir and Anil Kumar, are contract workers who are paid based on the number of bags they fill. Umar says he earns about Rs25,000 per month. Shabir Ahmed has also hired some skilled workers from outside Kashmir to operate six machines.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Imtiyaz Ahmed Dar of Soft Wood, who transitioned from timber trade to slat production in 2017, has two machines at his unit and a drying facility. He says pencil companies lease machines used for slat production and the slats they make are exclusively supplied to these companies. He wants the government to help buy the machines, as it would increase production and create more employment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With all that government assistance and availability of skilled labour, why not make the finished product in Kashmir? Muhammad Younis, proprietor of Hycon, has the answer: “Even if all the necessary resources were available, the core of the pencil, made from graphite powder, poses a significant challenge owing to its explosive nature.” Younis used to supply undressed poplar logs to Hindustan Pencils before transitioning to slat production. “Because of security concerns, the prospect of producing pencils as a finished product appears remote.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, slat makers hope that as the security situation in Kashmir is improving, the government would allow the production of pencils in the region. A slat producer points out that stone quarries in Kashmir also require explosives for rock blasting, so why restrict the use of graphite?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prime Minister Narendra Modi commended Pulwama in one of his Mann Ki Baat sessions, emphasising that nearly 90 per cent of the country’s demand for pencil slats is fulfilled by Kashmir, with Pulwama playing a substantial role.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite the notable achievements of the relatively new industry, there are lingering challenges. A recent government directive has called for the felling of poplar trees in Kashmir, as the pollen they release in spring causes allergies. The directive has raised concerns about a potential shortage of poplars in the future. Post revocation of Article 370, the government’s decision to remove encroachments on grasslands and wetlands―significant sources of poplar trees―has further intensified apprehensions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The government must acknowledge our concerns and take proactive measures to ensure the sustainability of poplar plantations,” stresses Allaie. “It is imperative that people be allowed to plant on the land from which they have been evicted.” He expressed concern over the inability of the departments of irrigation and social forestry to grasp the potential impact that the scarcity of poplars could have on the industry.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Younis is worried about the already reduced profit margins owing to inflation and taxes; a shortage of raw materials would negatively impact an industry with unexplored potential, he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dar points out that some timber traders are selling undressed poplar core to factories in Punjab, a practice that should be banned. “This will further impact the availability of poplars for slat making,” he says. Poplars also play a crucial role in making plywood, which is then sold to dealers outside Kashmir, he adds. “We are not against that, as it is a finished product and provides jobs, helping the local economy,” he says.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/03/inside-ookhu-the-pencil-village-of-india.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/02/03/inside-ookhu-the-pencil-village-of-india.html Sat Feb 03 11:33:29 IST 2024 modi-govt-s-plan-to-disband-cantonments-consequences <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/modi-govt-s-plan-to-disband-cantonments-consequences.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/2024/1/27/32-Landour-cantonment-in-Mussoorie-Uttarakhand.jpg" /> <p>Cantonments, those vast stretches dotted with ‘grant bungalows’, Gothic churches and green meadows across which military men march in misty mornings or sweat it out in sultry afternoons, will vanish soon. The military will keep their stations and camping grounds; the civilian part of the cantonments will be merged with neighbouring municipalities or give rise to civil towns. With that will end an institution that took birth with British rule in India, and lasted more than 250 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Civilians often confuse cantonments with military stations. Military stations―more than 200 in India―are secured areas where the armed forces run their establishments. You can be shot―and no questions asked―if you enter those places without a pass, permit or invitation. Cantonments―there are 62―are semi-civilian local bodies, much like the municipalities with regular politics, protests and polls.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One can trace the rise and spread of British power in India if one follows the chronology of cantonments. The British began their rule in India after Robert Clive defeated Bengal Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula at Plassey in 1757. So as to quell any challenge to their authority, the British set up the first ‘cantonment’, a place where the troops were cantoned, in Barrackpore near their fort in Calcutta in 1764.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The East India Company acquired tax collection rights over Bihar, Bengal and Odisha, too, in 1765, after Hector Munro defeated the combined armies of the Mughal emperor, the raja of Benaras, the nawab of Bengal and the nawab of Awadh at Buxar. The second cantonment came up in Danapur in Bihar in 1765. Following the Regulating Act of 1773, the English parliament resolved all the lands that came into the possession of the East India Company, and later the colonial government, by trade, intrigue or conquest, would be the property of the government in Calcutta.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A need was felt to station troops near towns. The idea was to locate them away from major towns so that they would not get ‘polluted’ by local politics, but not too far so that they could quickly march in to quell unrests. There would, of course, be several civilians, originally camp-followers such as servants, cooks, carpenters, masons, ostlers, grooms, barbers, paramedics and prostitutes in or near the cantonments who were to service the army and its troops. Provisions were made for them to set up shops and homes, and loyal local worthies granted land to build bungalows―still known as ‘grant bungalows’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Soon, the Marathas captured Delhi and made the emperor their forced ally. In 1803, Lord Lake defeated their combined forces, making the British the overlords of most of the Gangetic plain. Cantonments sprouted all acorss the Gangetic plain, starting with Meerut in 1803 and Agra in 1805. As the chieftains of Bundelkhand, Rohilkhand, Awadh and the neighbouring regions continued to be restive, cantonments sprouted in Bareilly (1811) and Varanasi (1811). When the British marched into Nepal to crush the Gurkha power in 1815, they set up the Almora cantonment on the way.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thrown out of the Gangetic plain, the Maratha chiefs took up stand across central India. As the British marched into the Deccan and central India against them, they set up cantonments in Kirkee (1817), Pune (1817), Jabalpur (1818), Kamptee (1812), Sagar (1835) and other places.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Having conquered most of north and central India, they looked to the northwest. As the Sikh empire declined after the death of the illustrious Ranjit Singh, there arose border clashes with the company’s domains. Punjab was annexed after three Anglo-Sikh wars, and cantonments set up in Jalandhar (1848), Amritsar (1856) and Dalhousie (1867). The great revolt of 1857 shook the faith of the British in the loyalty of the natives of the Gangetic plain and the adjoining hills. So a chain of cantonments was set up including Allahabad (1857) and Lansdowne (1887).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most cantonment laws evolved in the 19th century. As the British resident in the Satara kingdom, Sir Bartle Frere set up committees that collected funds and kept the town clean in the 1860s. As Indian towns were found to be filthy, laws were made to empower cantonments to build drains and set up clinics. In 1882, Lord Ripon allowed local self-government in cantonments, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 20th century cantonments are spread out across the country―Ahmedabad (1905), Dehradun (1913), one near the new capital in Delhi (1914), one in Mhow towards the end of World War I (1918), Wellington (1924), and Belgaum (1932), and then during World War II in Cannanore (1938), Clement Town (1941), Ramgarh (1941) and the last one at Khasyol (1942).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Following the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms which introduced diarchy, a new Cantonments Act 1924 was passed, allowing elected civilian representation, levy of taxes, and regulation of building and trade. Elected civilians and nominated army men were made equals and equal in number. Troops were exempted from taxes. This scheme survived even the Government of India Act of 1935 and the Constitution of 1950. After the first Kashmir war, free India set up cantonments in Badamibagh in Srinagar and Jammu (both 1954), Morar (1956), Dehu Road (1958), Babina (1959) and Ajmer (1962).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Cantonments Act, 2006, introduced more democracy, with more powers to civil members. Narasimha Rao’s 74th Amendment to the Constitution gave a third of the elected seats to women. Larger cantonment boards were allowed up to 16 members, eight of them politically elected. The local MP and MLA were made special invitees to board meetings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All the same, the ex-officio head is the local station commander, and a civilian officer from the defence ministry’s estate office is always the chief executive and member secretary. Thus, the civilians say, there is no way for the elected reps to have their say or way, even when the military blocks roads or switches off lights.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The civilian citizens say they are doubly discriminated. One, within the cantonments, the military gets preference on scarce resources including right of way through roads. (Remember the hullabaloo when Nirmala Sitharaman as defence minister ordered a few cantonment roads to be opened?) Two, since the boards do not have norms to determine APL or BPL, cantonment citizens are denied of most central, state or municipal welfare schemes. Moreover, the cumbersome lease and ceiling laws lead to delays in land transfer, house building or opening businesses, leaving cantonment denizens poorer than their town cousins.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The British had also given away cantonments like Bangalore to civilian control. Now independent India is following suit―well, full suit. But critics of the civilian drive have another point―that if the boards go, land sharks will despoil the vast virgin lands and raise concrete jungles there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At stake are a million or more green acres.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/modi-govt-s-plan-to-disband-cantonments-consequences.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/modi-govt-s-plan-to-disband-cantonments-consequences.html Sat Jan 27 16:14:56 IST 2024 lucknow-cantonment-embodies-melancholy-beauty <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/lucknow-cantonment-embodies-melancholy-beauty.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/2024/1/27/36-The-gun-mounted-jeep-named.jpg" /> <p>For many of us, it is a goosebump-inducing sight to drive by the gun-mounted jeep named after Param Vir Chakra awardee Abdul Hamid. The jeep was used by infantry troops to destroy the enemy’s Patton tanks in the 1965 India-Pakistan war. ‘Vir’, the sobriquet Hamid earned, destroyed eight of these.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is equally pride-inducing to read the billboard about Lieutenant Premindra Singh Bhagat, the Victoria Cross recipient, named the ‘saviour of Lucknow’ for his brilliant plan to plunge boulder-laden trucks into the Gomti when it flooded in 1971, thus plugging a potential highly destructive breach.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Lucknow Cantonment, which holds these and many other reminders of the country’s bravest and finest, is so located that no one en route to the airport (from most parts of the city) can miss it. The <i>Lucknow Gazetteer</i> puts the area of this settlement at 6,700 acres. Among its many distinctions is India’s longest racecourse (3.5km) and the Kothi Bibiapur (a country residence built by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula), which has the country’s first serpentine wooden staircase. There are features it shares with other cities―such as the Top Khana (a place for storing artillery) bazaar and a quaint club named Mohammed Bagh, where little bells are still used to summon servers. It also includes some head scratchers―among them, a Gun Factory area, despite the fact that no such factory existed in the cantonment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bhavana Singh, principal director, Directorate Defence Estates, Central Command, speaks about the rich history of the cantonment, harking back to the time of India’s First War of Independence. It was after that war that the British established their new cantonment in the Dilkusha area―a plateau that overlooks the Gomti.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The earlier cantonment, at Mandiyaon, was on the north of the Gomti. It posed a challenge of access from the residency―the residence of the British Resident General in Awadh―as the river had to be crossed, by what one text (<i>History of Cantonment</i> produced by the Headquarters Central Command) describes as a “crazy” bridge of boats. It was also perilously placed as it put the European population in close proximity to the ‘natives’, thus making them vulnerable in case of an attack.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dilkusha―meaning alluring or enchanting in Urdu―was a hunting lodge-cum-retreat built by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan. It lies to the east of the city. It was from here that General Colin Campbell would launch an operation for the recapture of the settlements held by the ‘rebels’ in 1857.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ruins of Dilkusha and the well-laid gardens around it still whisper the sounds of the shells fired at it. What remains of the lodge, modelled on the Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland, England, from the rebellion and later neglect are some pierced walls and crumbling edifices. It was only in 1862 that the entire cantonment around it would be laid out and notified. To Singh, in its ruins, is a melancholy beauty that offers one the opportunity to reconnect with oneself. Its expansive parks―among them Kasturba and Dilkusha―provide “respite to the weary urbanite”, she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Singh, who joined the Indian Defence Estate Service in 1993, has been posted at various cantonments in different capacities. (The Central Command, the estates of which she holds charge now, covers seven Indian states.) But it is in Lucknow, where she is posted currently, that she finds a “beautiful symmetry” unlike others. “It is a very well-laid-out cantonment, be it the roads or crossings,” she says. “There is a clear distinction between civil and military areas, which makes it convenient for us to administer it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The administration of the cantonment has changed with the demands of time, says Singh. “The cantonment board is comprised of both officers of the armed forces and representatives of civilians,” she says. “The administration thus protects the interests of both the populations in the correct perspective.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lucknow Cantonment is also an assembly constituency. In 2017, Aparna Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s younger daughter-in-law, had contested the election from here, losing by a small margin to BJP’s Rita Bahuguna Joshi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yadav, who is now with the BJP, believes that the government’s decision to sever military areas from their civilian parts, and merging the latter with urban local bodies is a much-needed “good change”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It will be difficult to believe that there are no sewer lines in the civilian areas of the cantonment,” she says. “How will the prime minister’s vision of Swacch Bharat ever reach these places?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During her vigorous campaign and much after that as Yadav researched and built connections across the constituency, she concluded that depriving cantonment areas of basic facilities was akin to an abandonment of “moral responsibility”. “No one is saying let us build multistorey buildings in the area and jeopardise the security of the armed forces. No one is in favour of killing the green cover,” says Yadav. “Our contention is that civilians have just as much right to basic facilities like roads, street lights and drinking water. On paper, the cantonment board might offer balanced representation, but decisions invariably get stalled due to resistance by the armed forces.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Till cantonments continue to function in their present manner, Yadav believes it shall be like being under a double-edged sword. “And that can never be a good thing,” she says.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/lucknow-cantonment-embodies-melancholy-beauty.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/lucknow-cantonment-embodies-melancholy-beauty.html Sat Jan 27 16:16:15 IST 2024 meerut-cantonment-is-now-battling-surging-population-and-large-scale-encroachments <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/meerut-cantonment-is-now-battling-surging-population-and-large-scale-encroachments.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/2024/1/27/38-A-view-of-the-Meerut-cantonment.jpg" /> <p>A red sandstone memorial, with a weathered plaque, in Meerut says, “Here stood the Officers’ Mess of the Native Infantry Regiments. Sepoys of these regiments revolted on the eve of the 10th of May 1857 in the First War of Indian Independence.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Near the memorial, and reclining on a charpoy, is an elderly man who appears to be from a slum. He is sunning himself after hanging his clothes to dry on the memorial’s iron grill.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“<i>Bhai,”</i> someone bawls out, <i>“kapra utha lijiye. Yeh sahi nahi hai; aisa kabhi bhi nahi hona chahiye.”</i> (Brother, take your clothes away. This is not right; this should never happen.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The scene is an apt metaphor for the state of the cantonment in Meerut, once considered the military centre of the British Empire in north India. Few cantonments have been so overwhelmed by civilians as much as the one in Meerut. There is no clear boundary demarcating the cantonment from the city.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Established in 1803, the cantonment comprises 3,568.06 hectares―a civil area of 149.51 hectares and a bungalow area of 3,418.55 hectares. “From 1816, the East India Company in Meerut had three regiments stationed in a large area [that was] cleared by displacing two villages and located slightly away from the city. It was the military headquarters of the company and the launchpad of operations,” says Amit Pathak, senior fellow, Centre of Military History and Conflict Studies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meerut was chosen because of many reasons. It was a vantage point for the British to foray into Afghanistan, Persia and Central Asia, which was the plan before the 1857 revolt erupted. Located between the Ganga and the Yamuna, Meerut had ample water supply. It was also close to the mountains up north, where the climate was much more pleasant.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I have such good memories of Meerut, when the cantonment was many times better off than civilian areas,” says Pathak. “It was beautiful and spotless. Rules were strictly applied to any type of construction. Things were meticulously kept. There were trees lining all roads. It was a beautiful place to live.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The British had initially planned the cantonment to be outside the city. But over time, the garrison grew into a bustling centre frequented by merchants and mercenaries, and centres for recreation and entertainment came up. As boundaries faded, the city and the cantonment gradually became a connected whole. Meerut’s main bazaars are now within the cantonment area, where about two lakh people live.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Interestingly, the civilian residents in the cantonment do not have land ownership rights. The East India Company had framed rules in such a way that all land was owned by the company. Civilians have long been demanding land rights and are willing to pay for it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Meerut cantonment has been deteriorating since the 1970s, when the rapid rise in civilian population and large-scale encroachments began. Litigations have since risen exponentially, and the courts are clogged with cantonment-related cases.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Pathak, the government’s decision to reduce cantonments to military stations “is 100 per cent essential”. “It has been the experience of the past 200 years that the armed forces should be completely segregated from the civilian areas. And the interaction between these two segments should be purely official,” he said. “The old-world charm is gone in most cantonments. So something should be done urgently before things become worse.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/meerut-cantonment-is-now-battling-surging-population-and-large-scale-encroachments.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/meerut-cantonment-is-now-battling-surging-population-and-large-scale-encroachments.html Sat Jan 27 16:17:46 IST 2024 deolali-cantonment-retains-its-charm <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/deolali-cantonment-retains-its-charm.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/2024/1/27/41-Children-walk-past-the-Deolali-cantonment-board.jpg" /> <p>Simon Bhandare has worked at the Deolali cantonment for 40 years. While a lot has changed in that time, he says, the peaceful atmosphere and beautiful weather of Deolali remain the same.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I come from neighbouring Nashik, and the changes in the weather there are not visible here,” he says. “The atmosphere in Deolali today is just as it was 40 years ago, thanks to the green surroundings.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The pleasant weather, perhaps, was the reason why the British set up base here. Deolali is perched on a 2,000ft high plateau on the banks of the river Darna. It was established as a class one cantonment in 1869. A year later, the Deolali camp was opened as a main depot for the arrival and departure of troops.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The temperature in Deolali is moderate through the year,” notes Rahul Gajbhiye, CEO of the Deolali Cantonment Board. “Deolali was set up as a transit camp for British troops, who would acclimatise themselves here before being deputed to various places around the country.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The place some called ‘Doolally’ back then also served as the departure port for the British military, with soldiers waiting for days and months for their next ship home. Several sanatoriums were also built here for exhausted and ailing soldiers, who were suffering from, as the British called it, ‘Doolally <i>tap’. Tap</i> means fever in Marathi. As you enter Deolali, its main Lam Road is still dotted with sanatoriums, many of them built by the Gujarati and the Parsi communities. Usually, the elderly or those with various ailments come here to relax and recuperate. “Especially, patients suffering from tuberculosis used to be treated here,” recalls Bhandare. The number of sanatoriums over the years has only increased, he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Deolali was also a training hub for British troops during World War I. In 1905, the Army Staff College was set up here. A few years later, it was moved to Quetta in Pakistan. After partition, India’s Defence Services Staff College was set up at Wellington in the Nilgiri mountains. However, the School of Artillery is still located in Deolali. A premier institution of the Army, it offers various diploma, degree and postgraduate courses in subjects such as weapon systems. It also evaluates new equipment for induction and develops new doctrine for application of artillery fire.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Over time, a lot of civilians came and settled here, in part providing support and services to the military camp. As per the 2011 census, Deolali had a population of 54,000. Of these, 14,000 are military personnel, says Gajbhiye.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Over the last few decades, the nearby Nashik city has developed and expanded fast, with several companies like Mahindra &amp; Mahindra setting up shop. It also has the government’s currency printing press, and is known for its wine. Over time, farm lands have given way to constructions, and Nashik is now almost at the doorstep of Deolali.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, the Deolali cantonment still retains its charm. One reason is the restrictions on large constructions. “Our FSI (floor space index) is very low, 0.5 only,” says Gajbhiye. “So, if you have a 1,000sqft plot, you can only construct over 500sqft. There are height restrictions here as well, mainly due to the presence of the military camp.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Deolali may well change in the future, what with the Union government’s proposal to separate military and civilian areas. The people of Deolali await their fate. “The proposal is to hand over the administration of the civilian areas of Deolali to the state,” says Gajbhiye. “This proposal is pending with the state government.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Whether Deolali is merged into the Nashik Municipal Corporation or whether a separate local body is created needs to be seen. All that the residents here hope for is that the charm and peaceful life that Deolali has retained over many decades continue in the future.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/deolali-cantonment-retains-its-charm.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/deolali-cantonment-retains-its-charm.html Sat Jan 27 16:19:02 IST 2024 landour-cantonment-is-less-quaint-and-more-crowded-now <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/landour-cantonment-is-less-quaint-and-more-crowded-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/2024/1/27/42-Ganesh-Saili.jpg" /> <p>Anjenie’s love story is what romance novellas are made of.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A Gujarati from Mumbai, she met the man of her dreams when she was in her 20s at the Standard Grand skating rink near the cantonment town of Landour in the early 1960s. Prem Dutt Bijalwan, a strapping mountain man, was the ice skating champ. Love blossomed and culminated in marriage in the face of stiff parental opposition. Even after 60 years, Anjenie’s eyes well up when she remembers the days gone by.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“They say love marriages don’t last, mine did,” says Anjenie. “Every day, we worked together shoulder to shoulder. And we were so happy.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her earliest memories of Landour, about 35km from Dehradun, are vivid and every moment tied to her late husband. “The Landour military cantonment was such a beautiful place,” recalls Anjenie. “The streets and drains were clean, everything was spic and span. It was a sleepy hamlet where everyone knew everyone.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the times have changed, so has the cantonment. “In the last 25 years, it has become horrible and messy,” says Anjenie. “I find it difficult to step out from my front gate to go buy vegetables. There is dirt all around. It is messy and the crowds have invaded. There are vehicles every minute ferrying excited tourists up the hill. Now I don’t even know my neighbours. Many have left, new people have come.” And, there are no more skating rinks, she says, wistfully.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anjenie lives in an old stone house that her in-laws had bought from the British in the early 1960s. It needs renovation, but being inside a cantonment area, Anjenie will need permission from the cantonment authorities before making any changes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She is in two minds over the government’s move to disband cantonments. “I have heard there will be smaller military stations,” says Anjenie. “I just don’t know whether it is for better or worse. In Landour, we have only known the cantonment board. We do not know how the civilian municipality will function. We have heard that there will be a plethora of taxes―for water, for power, for everything. But permissions to build bigger buildings and hotels will be easier. The beauty of Landour, of whatever remains, will vanish.” Anjenie’s two grandsons have brought out a book of poems on the Landour that was.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Named after a small Welsh town Llanddowror, Landour saw its first permanent building being built by the British in 1825. All of 1,040 acres with 86 houses that pay tax, Landour is a small cantonment on a comparative scale. Of the 62 cantonments in the downsizing list across the country, nine are in Uttarakhand. Of these nine, seven are on the de-notified list. The two exceptions as of now are Landour and Chakrata, about 90km northwest of Dehradun.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The bazaar gossip is that the cantonment is being wound up,” says Ganesh Saili, author, photographer and illustrator. “As far as Landour is concerned, I don’t think it really is a good idea.” Saili has been in Landour all his life after his father, a cantonment employee, built a home on a hillside. “I was born here in 1948,” he says. “These are the roads where I have walked with my father.… The times we saw were simple times, of simpler people.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even then, a sense of community prevails in the town. “It is also a melting pot of cultures,” says Saili. “There are students from 29 nationalities that are studying in Woodstock school.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Close to Saili’s beautiful home, Victoria, a young lady from Nagaland, and her husband have set up a cozy food joint serving Naga and Korean food.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The once sleepy town is slowly waking up to a new reality.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/landour-cantonment-is-less-quaint-and-more-crowded-now.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/landour-cantonment-is-less-quaint-and-more-crowded-now.html Sat Jan 27 16:20:16 IST 2024 delhi-cantonment-houses-two-starkly-different-worlds-that-are-still-learning-to-coexist <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/delhi-cantonment-houses-two-starkly-different-worlds-that-are-still-learning-to-coexist.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/2024/1/27/44-A-Kargil-War-memorial-in-the-Delhi-cantonment.jpg" /> <p>Lt Gen (retd) Rajendra Ramrao Nimbhorkar first saw the Delhi cantonment in 1979. A hero of the Indian Army’s 2016 surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Nimbhorkar had three stints as a cantonment resident.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He has fond memories. “Till the 1980s, the cantonment was a far-off place from Delhi. It was isolated, and life was peaceful,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The downside, according to Nimbhorkar, was the lack of proper transport facilities. “Public transport was inconvenient and unreliable. There were few taxis from the railway station to the cantonment. Yet, I would very much like to go back to that life.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The core area of the cantonment has not changed much. Tidy roads lined by shady trees, immaculate sidewalks, vast open spaces, signposts placed with military precision, landscaped lawns of the officers’ bungalows, and so on. But, that is just the core area of the cantonment. Not far from it is the chaos of the polluted and bustling national capital.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The arterial National Highway 8, which connects Delhi to Gurugram in Haryana, cuts the cantonment into two. But it seems the sense of order in the core cantonment area is infectious. Traffic in the neighbourhood is smooth, and surprisingly quiet―unlike the maddening one in Delhi. Adding to the serenity is the fort-like St Martin’s Church, built in typical Indo-British style. About three and a half million bricks, sourced locally, were used to build it in 1929.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not far from the church is the Delhi War Cemetery, built in 1951. Set up by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), the cemetery has close to 1,000 graves of soldiers from across the commonwealth countries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Delhi Metro has a station inside the cantonment―the Shankar Vihar stop, which is bound by military laws. If you are a civilian with no business in Shankar Vihar, you cannot step out of the station. At 10,452 acres, the cantonment is still learning to coexist with the invasive urbanisation fuelled by the burgeoning population.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The British set it up in 1914. Like others, the Delhi cantonment was also established away from the city centre. Over time, civilians trooped in to offer services for soldiers. It is now a ‘category I’ cantonment, with a civilian population of more than 50,000. It houses schools, hospitals, air bases, the Army’s Delhi area headquarters, the Directorate of General Defence Estates, and the Controller General of Defence Accounts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Between the cantonment’s orderly core military area and chaotic civilian sections such as the Gopinath Bazar and Sadar Bazar, there is a world of difference. Perhaps it is the reason why authorities rarely talk of the Delhi cantonment as a composite whole.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“In the military, even the mess menu is a secret,” goes an old joke among journalists that pokes fun at the military’s excessive emphasis on maintaining confidentiality even in cases where it is not required. Clearly, it seems to have rubbed on to the bureaucrats in the civilian fold manning the Delhi Cantonment Board.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/delhi-cantonment-houses-two-starkly-different-worlds-that-are-still-learning-to-coexist.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/delhi-cantonment-houses-two-starkly-different-worlds-that-are-still-learning-to-coexist.html Sat Jan 27 16:21:25 IST 2024 shillong-cantonment-has-remained-small-even-as-others-have-grown-in-strategic-importance <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/shillong-cantonment-has-remained-small-even-as-others-have-grown-in-strategic-importance.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/2024/1/27/46-The-office-of-the-Shillong-Cantonment-Board.jpg" /> <p>Known as the ‘Scotland of the East’, Meghalaya’s capital Shillong has a distinct colonial character. It was just a small village of the Khasi tribe till 1864, when it became a British administrative centre. It was the capital of undivided Assam till Meghalaya was hived off in 1972. Shillong’s military cantonment, set up in 1885, has been the only one in the northeast. It will soon be shrunk into a military station.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The cantonment was set up away from the hustle and bustle of the administrative centre. But it is now surrounded by municipal areas and territories of the local Khasi chieftain, as per local laws.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The first thing that strikes you upon entering town is the cantonment area, and how it intermingles with the civilian areas,” said Wing Commander (retd) Tarun Kumar Singha, who had three stints in the city from 1987 to 2018. “Unlike many other cantonments in India, the Shillong cantonment was always very open to civilian movement. There were plush bungalows on the left and right. We would always envy the owners.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Singha has happy memories of the place. “The Garrison Ground, the fetes, the ‘melas’ where all of Shillong would congregate. Pine trees lined up, greenery in the heart of the town…. Unlike in many other places, there was less politics in the cantonment board,” he said. “But during my last visit, I saw that a lot of the cantonment’s beauty had gone, with road construction and other activities on.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cantonments in India were set up for various reasons. The one in Shillong was established because its invigorating climate reminded the British of Scotland. The cantonment did not have much military value, so it has remained relatively small even as others have grown in strategic importance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Among the few military installations in Shillong, the most prominent is the military hospital. But it has fewer footfalls now, as many services have been transferred to the military hospital in Guwahati, which is easier to access for patients from neighbouring states.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The cantonment has two sections. One comprising the hospital, signal units and the National Cadet Corps office, and the other housing military barracks outside the town. “My father would talk about American troops stationed in the Shillong cantonment during World War II,” said Manas Choudhuri, who was editor of the <i>Shillong Times</i> for 30 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Few people have so closely observed Shillong’s evolution as Choudhuri has. He was born and brought up in the city, which his father made home in 1928, and was a minister. “The cantonment is now located in the heart of the town,” said Choudhuri. “Since it was not very big, it did not occupy much space in public imagination.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is not much nostalgia for it either, apparently. “Old people have mostly left, and the city is experiencing a peculiar reverse migration phenomenon because of a number of issues,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unlike the areas housing military installations and officers’ bungalows, the cantonment’s civilian segment remains congested. Choudhuri said he had devised a master plan to address the civic issues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“But the cantonment board never took proper care of the civilian areas within, nor did military officers show much interest in developing them. The indifference was stark,” he said. “As a result, facilities became very rudimentary. It compares very poorly with other cantonments in the country.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/shillong-cantonment-has-remained-small-even-as-others-have-grown-in-strategic-importance.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/shillong-cantonment-has-remained-small-even-as-others-have-grown-in-strategic-importance.html Sat Jan 27 16:22:54 IST 2024 transcendental-meditation-programme-by-the-global-union-of-scientists-for-peace-in-hyderabad <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/transcendental-meditation-programme-by-the-global-union-of-scientists-for-peace-in-hyderabad.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/2024/1/27/65-Ukrainian-Transcendental-Meditation-expert-Vadym-Bykovets.jpg" /> <p><b>IN EARLY 2005,</b> security checkpoints at the Abu Ghraib prison complex in Iraq―notorious for torture and abuse of its inmates―were overrun by armed militants. The surprise attack met with strong resistance from US coalition forces guarding the site. Several American soldiers suffered injuries, and many militants lost their lives. Brian Rees, a doctor with the US military, remembers rushing out to treat civilian casualties. Whenever he got a chance, he said, he would retreat to a corner and meditate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rees has learned to find peace among chaos. He meditates twice a day―20 minutes each in the morning and in the evening. Transcendental Meditation (TM) has been a source of strength for him while serving in Iraq and in Afghanistan. It helped him beat long periods of boredom and to cope with the shocking sights of blood and gore. “I felt I could use TM to reset. It kept me resilient on the ground. It is important to maintain a healthy rhythm or things can go very wrong,” said the veteran about the benefits of meditation in a war zone.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rees has introduced hundreds of US veterans to TM in the last 10 years, helping them return to normalcy after stressful missions. He still remembers a veteran telling him just two minutes after attending a session that TM was going to save his life. “The veterans have a lot of questions on why this is happening. But they have no answers,” said Rees. “TM will really help them see hope and remove negative aspects.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nearly 4,000 TM practitioners from outside India like Rees and 6,000 Indians took part in a residential meditation programme organised by the Global Union of Scientists for Peace (GUSP), a group that works to carry forward the legacy of the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It was held for two weeks from December 29 at the Kanha Shanti Vanam ashram near Hyderabad. The programme was intended to trigger a world peace field based on a theory propagated by the Maharishi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tony Nader, chairman of GUSP, explained the idea behind getting 10,000 people at one place. “The research is based on findings of 50 years that when one per cent of the total population practises Transcendental Meditation in any city, there is a reduction in crime, conflict, hospital admission and road accidents. One per cent of the world population today would be 81 million and it is a big number to bring together for meditation. The Maharishi produced a new technique, which is based on Patanjali yoga sutras, where it was found that the square root of one per cent of the population is enough to achieve the desired effect. It means that instead of 81 million, its square root―9,000―could be used. The number 10,000 was selected to have the safety factor on top of the needed number.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nader, who leads TM-related organisations in more than 100 countries, hails from conflict-ridden Lebanon and credits meditation for helping him survive the horrors of the civil war in the 1970s. The 14-day programme saw participants practise basic TM, yoga sutras and flying sutras. Frederick Travis, director of the Centre for Brain, Consciousness and Cognition, Maharishi University of Management, Iowa, used a special device fitted with 19 sensors on a participant to study the impact of group meditation on the brain. He recorded a high coherence in the brain as a result of meditation practised by thousands in the vicinity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Alex Kutai, a theatre actor-turned PR professional from Israel, said meditation was an antidote to war. Kutai, an active TM teacher, was drawn to the movement after the 1973 Yom Kippur war. “After every war, the interest in TM becomes high. Thousands learned TM after the Yom Kippur war. I thought it could support my well-being,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kutai said many people were suffering from trauma, depression and pain because of the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict. “When people along the Gaza Strip had to be evacuated, we taught them meditation so that they could cope with the loss. We are also teaching TM for free to those who are suffering from the loss of lives of close ones,” he said. Kutai lives in Hararit, a village near the Lebanon border which was created by a community of TM members in the 1980s. Though he has not taught TM to Palestinians, Kutai said he was willing to teach friendly Arabs who reside around his village.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another participant in the programme was Vadym Bykovets, a Ukrainian who nurses war wounds even though he is not physically involved in the war with Russia. The 49-year-old lives in Lithuania and works in the private sector. He counts his friends and acquaintances among those who died or were seriously wounded. He encourages fellow Ukrainians to practise meditation. “I feel that they are emotionally wounded and stressed. Without meditation, they would feel terrible. They are even scared of loud sounds.” How does meditation help him? “War is a painful topic. Regardless of what information I get from back home, I meditate,” he said. “It cleans my mind and soul, and I do not feel involved in that situation.” The reason Bykovets came all the way to Hyderabad is to support the belief that meditation is the right medium to achieve global peace.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/transcendental-meditation-programme-by-the-global-union-of-scientists-for-peace-in-hyderabad.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/transcendental-meditation-programme-by-the-global-union-of-scientists-for-peace-in-hyderabad.html Sat Jan 27 15:49:42 IST 2024 manipal-hospitals-ceo-and-managing-director-dilip-jose-interview <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/manipal-hospitals-ceo-and-managing-director-dilip-jose-interview.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/2024/1/27/68-Dilip-Jose.jpg" /> <p><i>Interview/ Dilip Jose, managing director and CEO, Manipal Hospitals</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Bengaluru-based Manipal Health Enterprises Private Ltd, also known as Manipal Hospitals, is India’s second biggest hospital network, with 33 facilities and more than 9,500 beds and 6,000 doctors. Every year, Manipal Hospitals serves more than five million patients.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last year, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek Holdings bought a majority stake in Manipal Hospitals for $2 billion. Manipal is now on expansion mode. Under managing director and CEO Dilip Jose, it has completed the acquisition of Kolkata-based AMRI Hospitals, and is exploring greenfield and brownfield opportunities. Jose has more than 32 years of experience across sectors, including 18 in leadership positions in health care. Before joining Manipal, he was the group CEO of CARE Hospitals, managing a network of tertiary care facilities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an exclusive interview, Jose speaks about his expansion plans and the current strategy with Temasek controlling the majority stake.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How have been things post Temasek acquiring a majority stake?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Temasek has been an investor in Manipal Hospitals for over six years. They raised their stake from 18 per cent to 59 per cent. Dr Ranjan Pai now holds 30 per cent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From our perspective, it is the same set of investors. There is continuity, because all investors are familiar with the company and the health care sector in India. There is continuity in management and governance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We already have a national footprint and want to be in under-served areas of the country. With Temasek’s investments, we would be able to pursue our aspirations smoothly. We are doing well, and have seen a 6 to 8 per cent increase in the number of patients. Our revenues have grown by 15 to 17 per cent in the past one year―well above pre-Covid levels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Manipal Hospitals has been on an aggressive expansion mode. What is your strategy?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> We are keen to enhance our reach within our existing geographies as well as in newer areas. For instance, in Bengaluru alone we are building three greenfield hospitals, and two of them will become functional in the next 12 months. The third one will be ready in the next 24 months. Another greenfield project―a 350-bed tertiary care hospital―is coming up in Raipur in Chhattisgarh. We feel that central India is an under-served market and Raipur as a town can cater to surrounding regions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We will continue to look at brownfield opportunities, too. In north India, we have three hospitals―one each in Delhi, Gurugram and Ghaziabad. We are looking at acquiring two more facilities in Delhi, as we would require 250- to 300-bed hospitals in the National Capital Region. We would focus on brownfield opportunities in the region, as greenfield ones take longer to complete. Hyderabad is another city that we are very keen on, along with Visakhapatnam, for brownfield growth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What size of hospitals will you be looking at for brownfield expansion?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Our understanding is that a 250- to 350-bed hospital is ideal. [It] would be able to cater to a population living around [a radius of] eight to 10 kilometres. I feel the time for 600 to 700-bed hospitals is not there anymore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What are the parameters you look for before you acquire a hospital?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>There are multiple parameters. Geography is one of the most important. The second key concern is the cultural fit of the hospital. When we acquire a brownfield hospital, it comes with a whole set of doctors and staff. A cultural fit with that team is very important [for] the integration of that asset. Cultural fit is in the way we look at the patient, and the way we treat them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Broadly, there are three filters through which we look at different acquisitions―clinical excellence, patient centricity and ethical practices. By ethical practices, I mean that the hospital should be transparent in its processes and communication. It should be known for its ethics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How has the AMRI acquisition helped you?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> AMRI was always a well-known, multi-specialty, tertiary-care hospital in Kolkata. It fitted very well with our thought process. The acquisition took 15 to 18 months, and we spent around Rs2,400 crore. We added around 1,200 doctors.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Eastern India is where we always wanted to be; we cannot be a national player without having a substantial presence in the east. Before AMRI, we only had a single hospital in Kolkata, which came to us through the acquisition of Columbia Asia Hospitals. It is only a 100-bed hospital. Though it gave us a foothold, it did not give us an opportunity to tap into the east fully.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Post the AMRI acquisition, we have four hospitals in Kolkata and one in Bhubaneswar. We have over 1,200 beds. We also have a 500-bed hospital in Gangtok.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With our presence in Kolkata firmly established, we are looking at tier-II cities in the region. We will pursue more hospitals in the region, including in the northeast. We believe that it is a region that is still very much under-penetrated. Even now, many people travel from Kolkata to our hospitals in Delhi and Bengaluru.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What about expansion in other parts of the country?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> We are already present in the western region. We have two hospitals in Pune, including one in Baner. It is doing very well. We would like to have one more hospital in Pune. Mumbai is also of keen interest to us, but building a greenfield hospital there is very difficult.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our hospital in Goa is the largest private hospital in the state, and the only complete oncology centre in the state. We also do transplants there. In Rajasthan, we have a large hospital in Jaipur. The 350-bed hospital is doing very well. In the south, Kerala is a place we are very much interested in. Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam are two other places we are looking at. Our expansion in Pune is our immediate priority.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What is your hiring strategy?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Every year, we add 80 to 100 doctors, in addition to filling vacancies and meeting requirements in new hospitals. The hiring of doctors every year creates a talent pipeline for the future. We believe investing in talent as we invest in technology. We also keep adding nurses, and their number is linked to the number of beds we operate. High quality nurses are in short supply these days, but we try to maintain a bench.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What are the challenges you face?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> The primary challenge is people. There is a constant need to get good doctors and talented managers. There are supply-side issues we need to keep addressing. Many global supply-side issues are now stabilising post Covid. Earlier, the supply of medical equipment for CT and MRI [scans] and cath labs was a concern. The supply is now stabilising.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Any new specialisations you are looking at?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> We have had all super specialties for many years. Currently we are adding transplants. We have added cancer and robotic treatment in several of our hospitals in the last one year. We procure robotic technologies. We have orthopaedic and spine robots.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You are collaborating with Fujifilm India.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>Last year, we entered into an agreement with Fujifilm India for storing sensitive medical documents and images. Under the longterm agreement, Fujifilm India will provide us a large-scale ‘picture archiving and communication system’. PACS eliminates the need for manually storing, retrieving and sending sensitive information. The next-generation system will also enable the storage of medical documents and images on secure off-site servers, while the PACS software will ensure that such sensitive medical data can be accessed via mobile devices and workstations from anywhere in the world. The deployment will cover our 23 hospitals and 45 tele-radiology facilities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A Radiology Information System PACS has also been developed. It is now available for radiology and cardiology specialties, and is scalable to more clinical specialties. It currently covers three million studies a year. RIS PACS will provide our patients quick access to medical images from any of our hospitals, digital access to reports, and diagnosis from radiologists and cardiologists across the country.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/manipal-hospitals-ceo-and-managing-director-dilip-jose-interview.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/27/manipal-hospitals-ceo-and-managing-director-dilip-jose-interview.html Sat Jan 27 15:40:02 IST 2024 ram-idol-sculptor-arun-yogiraj-is-a-master-at-bringing-his-imagination-to-life <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/19/ram-idol-sculptor-arun-yogiraj-is-a-master-at-bringing-his-imagination-to-life.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/2024/1/19/60-Saraswati.jpg" /> <p><b>ARUN YOGIRAJ, 38, </b>has carved himself a special place in history. His sculpture of the lord Ram will be installed in the sanctum sanctorum of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya for <i>pran prathishthan</i> (consecration) on January 22.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Shri Ram Janmbhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, which oversaw temple construction, had commissioned two other sculptors also for the main idol, G.L. Bhat of Bengaluru and Satyanarayan Pandey of Rajasthan. Arun’s work was finally chosen: a 51-inch idol of Ram as a five-year-old, standing and holding a bow and arrow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The rare honour has Mysuru celebrating. People have been thronging Arun’s residence-cum-workshop in the heart of Mysuru, called Kashyapa Shilpakala Niketana, even though the sculptor is yet to return from Ayodhya.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I am so proud of Arun; he has divine blessings,” said his mother, Saraswati. “I feel humbled that he got the opportunity to sculpt lord Ram’s idol at Ayodhya. I wish his father were alive to see this day.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Arun is the youngest of three children of the famous sculptor Yogiraj Shilpi, whose father, B.S. Basavanna Shilpi, was a disciple of Shilpi Siddanti Siddalingaswamy, the sculptor and ‘rajguru’ of Mysuru kings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Arun, who follows the Hoysala style of sculpting, has been carving idols for two decades. People admire his dedication, craftsmanship and the “divine charm” of his creations. He is an MBA.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He first received national attention for a 12ft statue of Adi Shankaracharya, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled at Kedarnath in November 2021. It was again Modi who unveiled Arun’s 28ft black granite sculpture of Subhas Chandra Bose at India Gate in 2022. Arun gifted Modi a miniature of the statue at the event.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The family has to its credit an impressive list of sculptures, such as the Ramakrishna Paramahamsa statue at Andolana Circle in Mysuru; the goddess Rajarajeshwari idol, Mumbai; the Shivakumaraswami idol at Siddaganga Mutt, Tumakuru; the Maharaja Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar statue in Mysuru; the monolithic stone sculpture of Hanuman at Chunchunakatte; a white marble sculpture of B.R. Ambedkar in Mysuru; and a stone sculpture based on the “creation of creation” concept at the University of Mysore. The Ayodhya project, however, was the most cherished, according to the family.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In January 2023, Arun received a call from the Union ministry of culture asking him to make a PowerPoint presentation on the Ayodhya statue. After he and two other artists were selected, he reached Ayodhya in June and began work in a tent assigned to his team.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“He left for Ayodhya with five others,” said his wife, Vijetha M. Rao. “He had meticulously prepared for the project. He studied thousands of photographs of five-year-olds… He wanted the sculpture of young Ram to be both authentic and divine, as Ram was no ordinary child. I believe Arun saw a divine manifestation of the face of young Ram. It is the feeling people get when they look at idols carved by Arun.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The family lives in a sprawling, old-fashioned house that Mysuru maharaja Sri Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar gifted to Basavanna Shilpi. Pointing to an idol of lord Ganesh in the living room, Saraswati said, “The idol was sculpted by my father-in-law. Many people, enamoured by its beauty and intricacy, offered him huge sums for it. But my father-in-law declined, saying he wanted to keep it to inspire his descendants.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Basavanna was just 11 when he became a disciple of Shilpi Siddalingaswamy and began working for the royal family. His son Yogiraj, too, followed in his footsteps. Yogiraj trained many sculptors, including his two sons. A taskmaster and perfectionist, he was hard to impress. “For the first time, my father-in-law had tears in his eyes the day Arun completed the Shankaracharya sculpture,” recalled Vijetha.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tragedy struck the family after Arun left for Kedarnath to instal the statue. “His father met with a fatal accident while returning from our farm,” said Saraswati. “He should have been alive to see this day.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Arun had grown studying Yogiraj at work. “As a little boy, he would rush to the workshop every morning and marvel at how stone changed its form each day as his father worked on it,” said Saraswati.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vijetha said Arun would lose himself in his work for hours at a stretch. “He is married to his art,” she said. “During his frequent visits to temples he would sit quietly, watching the architecture and people and their expressions.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Animals, too. “He brings home abandoned animals, especially dogs,” she said. “Once, when he was sculpting a Nandi idol, he brought home a cow that was being taken to a slaughterhouse. He took very good care of it, and when the family insisted on giving it up, he started crying.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Arun is a master at bringing his imagination to life. “He likes to work alone, especially in the <i>brahma muhurta</i> (early morning), when he finally sculpts the face of the idol,” said Surya Prakash, his brother. “People are spellbound to see the finishing, as the facial expression of the idol evokes a sense of divinity.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On several occasions, he said, Arun himself was mesmerised by the divine charm of his sculptures. Said Vijetha: “Idols of the goddess Tripura Sundari and Adi Shankaracharya, which he carved with his father, are his favourites for emotional reasons.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Arun enjoys teaching sculpting to youngsters. Every year, the Kashyapa Shilpakala Niketana takes in five students, providing them free food, accommodation and training.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I have been learning under Arun sir for the past five years,” said Ajay Kumar, a 19-year-old who joined the workshop soon after completing class 10. “He tells me to do the finishing in such way that the idol looks divine from every angle. He advises us to spend as much time as possible with the stone to develop a bond.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/19/ram-idol-sculptor-arun-yogiraj-is-a-master-at-bringing-his-imagination-to-life.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2024/01/19/ram-idol-sculptor-arun-yogiraj-is-a-master-at-bringing-his-imagination-to-life.html Sat Jan 20 12:37:55 IST 2024