Specials http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials.rss en Wed Nov 02 10:29:21 IST 2022 https://www.theweek.in/privacy-an-settlement.html living-a-life-of-forbidden-pleasures-in-lucknow <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/18/living-a-life-of-forbidden-pleasures-in-lucknow.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/2023/8/18/awadhi.jpg" /> <p>Today when I think of it, growing up in Lucknow in the 1980s and 1990s was a very different trip. I know our previous generation officially holds the right of being called the “trippy generation”, but we too had our share of fun, though not as much as them. The reason our fun was limited was because theirs was not. They overdid it, with drugs, sex, more sex, more drugs, alcohol.... So obviously the prohibition came cracking down on us for no fault of ours. As a result, I grew up subjected to a lot of NOs—no to TV, no to cinema, no to long hair, no to non-veg, no to cricket, and obviously, no to talking to girls, which is why a lot of us went to an all boys’ school. In fact there was an ever-ready no to anything that could be remotely associated with fun and enjoyment. So the obvious question was, what were we to do? Pat came the reply: “study”, along with a flying shoe that missed us by inches if we were lucky.</p> <p>So we opened our books and sat staring at the words. To while away the time, we modified all the pictures in our textbooks. Alexander was made to wear a stupid-looking skirt. We gave Akbar a woman's body beneath his torso. Kanishka’s statue had only a body and no head, so the entire school ran riot turning him into anything from Donald Duck to Mr Spock to Fido-Dido.</p> <p>One day I played badminton with a girl in a nearby park. Heads popped up from every household. Matters worsened when the game started and I said, “Love all”. Gosh, the entire neighbourhood thought I would elope with her. Word reached my father and I never again in my life played mixed doubles in any sport.</p> <p>Like most Lucknowites, I too grew up on a staple diet of Hindi cinema and Awadhi food, despite both being strictly prohibited. One might think it was middle-class morality, but in my case it had the added masala of strict vegetarianism honed by daily <i>aarti</i>&nbsp;rituals.</p> <p>Thankfully for me, my father had long given up on me pursuing an ambitious career like engineering or medicine. Being a strict believer of the theory that “a good film should have a great promo&quot;, my 10th standard mark sheet had made it evident to everyone that these run-of-the-mill careers weren't for me.</p> <p>All set to join the armed forces, my plans were completely foiled by Hindi cinema as they launched one blockbuster after another, just around the time I was supposed to be preparing for those exams. One door closes and another opens; mine opened into Lucknow University, which was a stone's throw away from Dastarkhwan—an entire street dedicated to Awadhi food. And so my tryst with it began upon my graduation. All my school friends had left to join either medical or engineering colleges, and thankfully I got a better set of friends who loved food, stories, poetry and lots of laughter.</p> <p>One such story was around Shivratri. On this day in Lucknow, even the most hardcore non-vegetarians abstained from non-veg. But I was a rebel looking for a cause, and here was one. I immediately took a trip into the future, visited my advertising days and read what John Hegarty—a sort of God of advertising— had written somewhere: “When the world zigs... zag”. The visual was that of a black sheep walking in the opposite direction to a sea of white ones. That’s when I felt this strong urge to eat kababs. I was that black sheep, wanting to break the shackles of vegetarianism.</p> <p>But here was when the stupid Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb surfaced. Apparently, the non-veg joints of Lucknow, most of which were owned by muslims, were all shut because of Shivratri. I wore the same expression on my face as Amitabh Bachchan in the film <i>Amar Akbar Anthony,</i>&nbsp;just when the song 'My name is Anthony Gonzalves' begins. What the hell! All non-veg joints shut just because a certain bunch of people are abstaining.</p> <p>My graduation began with a bang, almost literally. Just two days after an introduction party, I was standing in the college corridor with another classmate holding a gun to my temple. The reason? I was talking to the girls. So I asked him if there was any particular girl he did not want me to talk with, to which he replied: “All”. Because he was not clear which girl he liked or which one would end up liking him. Till that happened I would just need to lay off. But this prohibition did not last long as this gun-toting classmate of mine chose the wrong girl who was liked by a much bigger gun-toting senior, and he was beaten black and blue in front of a big crowd. But I admire his sense of pride; he was not seen in college for the rest of the year.</p> <p>As if the universe was waiting to celebrate this victory over evil by a bigger evil, the university hosted the youth festival. Just my kind of thing—with music, street theatre, dumb charades, and just about every other possible extracurricular activity one can think of, like a group of men thrashing one guy over a girl who did not even know it was for her. It is under these pressuring circumstances that I thought I too would take my chance of approaching a girl on that fateful day in February. And guess what happened? Oh forget it, you all know what happens now. And no, she was not the same girl with whom I played badminton. Guess I had paid the price of playing mixed singles.</p> <p><b>Ramendrra Vasishth is a writer who works in the Hindi film industry</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/18/living-a-life-of-forbidden-pleasures-in-lucknow.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/18/living-a-life-of-forbidden-pleasures-in-lucknow.html Fri Aug 18 13:00:35 IST 2023 indian-society-and-ways-of-living <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/indian-society-and-ways-of-living.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/2023/8/12/66-Divided-colours-of-united-India.jpg" /> <p>There are certain things about Kerala that no non-Malayali will be able to appreciate in its full scope: The irony of an autorickshaw driver 20 years older than you calling you ‘chechi’, or elder sister, because we don’t have an analogue for the word ‘miss’ in English. Or the derision with which we view outsiders who eat our traditional delicacies like ‘appam’ or ‘kappa’ with cutlery. Or the relish with which we check out the obituary section of the newspaper first thing in the morning. The only thing we find more entertaining than an obituary is a matrimonial―for non-drinking, non-feminist, ‘homely’ virgins. If you ask a 24-year-old Malayali boy if he wants to get married, he will reply: “Oh no, no hurry. I don’t mind waiting a month.” Then there is the universal acceptance of certain Malayalam expletives, the most common being: <i>“Nee poda patti.”</i> The English translation (“Scoot, you dog”) deprives the phrase of its linguistic genius, the way it is offensive and non-offensive at the same time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps the most knowledgeable proponents of a language are those who are most proficient in its expletives. If you can swear well in a language, it is a clear sign that you know the language well. Bengalis who know the meaning of the phrase <i>“Marbo ekhane, porbi shoshane”</i> will attest to this fact. It is the paraphrase of a line spoken by Mithun Chakraborty in <i>MLA</i> (2006) and roughly translates to: “I’ll hit you here and you’ll land in the cremation ground”. Once again, the translation is a pale replica of the original. “What of those words you may hear as you pass a squabble on the bypass to Kolkata’s new airport?” asks Sudeep Chakravarti in <i>The Bengalis: A Portrait of a Community.</i> “Or as you walk along the lake Rabindra Sarobar, among the few remaining natural saving graces of the city? Or along much of Bengal’s decrepit towns, these other places where our destitute, displaced, young, unemployed and restless live?”</p> <p>But of course, Bengal is much more than its profanity, just like Kerala is more than its. Each region of India is swathed in its own stereotypes and jokes, many of which are exaggerated or half-truths. South Delhiites, for example, only drink coffee from Starbucks, they say. Some of them are so loud they won’t respond to you unless you speak above a certain decibel. It remains a mystery to the rest of India how many of them flaunt a British accent despite never having been to Britain. They got it by reading letters from their NRI cousins, someone joked. They love their shimmer and can pass off bazaar couture as high fashion. In the eternal battle between Delhiites and Mumbaikars, the latter might marginally score on authenticity. Mumbaikars might be less inclined to drop names or claim they are only three degrees separated from the prime minister of the country. But Delhiites are less pretentious when it comes to their culinary choices. “You can take a Delhiite out of Chandni Chowk, but you cannot take Chandni Chowk out of a Delhiite,” it is said. Street food is the opium of the Delhi masses, and there are few who do not worship at the altar of a zesty ‘chaat’ or a ‘pav bhaji’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And seated on the citadel of cosmopolitanism is Bengaluru. But we don’t do justice to the people of Karnataka when we only speak of its capital city, says Bhumika K., an independent journalist from Karnataka. “Being Kannadiga is a matter of pride,” she says. “We are perceived as one of the safest and friendliest people in the country…. Our linguistic pride is further enhanced by our literary pride―eight litterateurs of Karnataka have won the Jnanpith. It is one of our few bragging rights. We like to be seen as an educated and broad-minded people who work hard and make a modest living.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As different as chalk and cheese might be the north Indians from those in the south, as though there is an iron curtain separating the two. “In Bollywood, we have 10,000 projects a year for fair heroines and 10 projects for dusky heroines, and all of them are art cinema,” joked comedian Vir Das in his Netflix special <i>Vir Das for India.</i> “Because, apparently, nothing glamorous ever happens to dusky people in India. They fall out of their beds into pathos…. Even in the south where you have duskier heroes, you overcompensate for that and put them next to the fairest girls in the world. That is all a south Indian movie is―it is contrast.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That contrast is obvious when you compare a Kannadiga in the south with a Kashmiri in the north. “The foundation of the Kashmiri identity is built on the axiom, ‘This too shall pass’,” says Beigh Saleem, former director general of tourism and culture in Kashmir. “Everything happens in a phasic manner, from the influence of the Afghans to the Sikhs to the Muslim militants. Kashmiris are characterised by a zest for good living, respect for elders and love for learning. In my childhood, our education used to go far beyond the school curriculum. Every day, after school, I used to visit a carpet workshop and a place that produced arrack, because I was so curious to learn how things worked.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite our differences, the real wonder is how India has managed to remain one monolithic entity. And it is not just our culture or history that has bound us together. It is also our oddities and eccentricities. We are the land in which myth becomes truth and truth becomes myth, in which we hate our colonisers and yet try to copy their ways, in which spitting is a national pastime and tardiness a matter of pride, and, in which, violence is used to defend non-violence. We are the nation of Amul, <i>Arthashastra</i>, Arjuna and Aryabhata, and all of them have made it into our curriculums. Our children know how to rote learn but are ignorant of the rudiments of analytical thinking. We have no dearth of creativity, though. As the joke goes, when a student was asked to solve a mathematical problem, he wrote: “Jesus, because Jesus is the answer to all our problems.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We love our freebies. Hotels have learnt how to stock up on disposable combs, mugs, shampoos and bath gels, because of the Indian guest’s penchant to ‘dispose’ of them into their handbags. We will create a ruckus if we are not served a ‘welcome drink’ at the reception, even if we have no intention of drinking it. We have a ‘jugaad’ solution to every problem. Apple CEO Tim Cook’s schedule in India, went a meme, included a meeting with PM Narendra Modi on April 19, a visit to Select City Mall for the inauguration of the iPhone Delhi store on April 20 and on April 21, a full-day meeting with Sonu Sardar in Ghaffar Market, Karol Bagh, to understand how the iPhone can be unlocked for Rs150!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our uniqueness lies in our contradictions. Modernists, pre-modernists and post-modernists all over the world have spent all modernity, pre-modernity and post-modernity trying to work out our inherent contradictions. But we Indians silently laugh at them. Every time they think they have figured us out, we come out of the woodwork and triumphantly exclaim: “Gotcha”.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/indian-society-and-ways-of-living.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/indian-society-and-ways-of-living.html Sat Aug 12 17:44:53 IST 2023 the-gujju-guide-to-being-economical-and-ecological <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/the-gujju-guide-to-being-economical-and-ecological.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/2023/8/12/70-Saving-the-earth-penny-by-penny.jpg" /> <p><b>INDIA IS MY COUNTRY</b> and all Indians are my brothers and sisters―all Indians are familiar with this oath taken in schools. But only in Gujarat, it is taken seriously. For, all Gujarati men and women have their names suffixed with <i>bhai</i> (brother) and <i>ben</i> (sister), respectively. At times, even couples―married or otherwise―call each other <i>bhai</i> and ben!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have a funny bone and know how to take a joke. We do not take much offense at the exaggerated and stereotypical portrayal in Hindi movies or serials; we just laugh at it. In mainstream Gujarati plays and movies, comedy is considered a safe and sure-shot formula.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We also know how to laugh at ourselves. Popular humorist Sairam Dave made a cracking observation: “We are a community that doesn’t want heaven or hell after death. We just want the contract for a shop on the road connecting both! We are such a funny bunch that we always toast the soft bread and soften the hard toast by soaking it in hot tea or coffee!”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We enjoy the sweet things in life, so much so that we tend to add it even when it is not usually required. Once a friend, a non-Gujarati, came home for lunch. He avoided having the dal, and when asked, said, “Dal? I thought it was dessert!”Be it dal or sambar, a dash of sugar is a must for us. But we do love spicy food, too. A favourite Gujarati snack is <i>ganthiya,</i> perhaps the only dish that can be had with extremely hot chilli or sweets like laddu or jalebi. That’s how Gujaratis are―sweet and spicy at the same time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Food is visibly an obsession for Gujaratis. Perhaps we think that one must eat with passion and that getting fat is a sign of getting wealth. Anyway, during the last rites, the weight of our corpses will be borne by someone else! At our weddings and in restaurants, we will go looking for Punjabi or Italian food or for that matter any other cuisine, but when in Punjab or Italy, we will scour the place for Gujarati food. Ironical? Maybe. Economical? Absolutely, especially if it involves foreign currency.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, it is not just about money; we even reuse juice bottles. We get the most out of mangoes. In almost all Gujarati homes, one can find pickles―both hot and sour―or sweet jams that last almost a year till it is mango season again. We also make a mouth freshener out of its dried seed and use its peel as feed for street cows!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No wonder, we are masters of recycling. We barter old clothes for utensils from vendors. In many affluent Gujarati homes, one can find a handmade quilt made of old saris or an old but expensive pant or shirt turned into a vegetable bag and later into a rag or wipe. The plastic wrap on our luxury car’s seats does not come off for months, purely unintentionally for ecological reasons. We save energy by not using the dryer in our washing machines; we rely on the sun, wind and wire to dry our clothes. We reduce carbon emission in a way by going for honeymoon in a group.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sant Morari Bapu, who always uses humour in his spiritual discourse, once said, “Missed call as a communication tool is a Gujju invention. We give missed call to the fire brigade! Without sense of humour, life is boring and one should not bow down to a master who cannot laugh.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gujjus get a kick out of getting a free pass, even if the ticket is affordable. We can form an alliance with an absolute stranger just to fetch more discounts. It has all trickled down from our moms and aunts, who would insist on free puri from the chaat counter or free coriander or curry leaves from the vegetable vendor! But we are finicky about our freebies―political campaigns run on freebies seldom make a mark in the elections.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are perhaps the only community that shows pride in its children’s ignorance of their mother tongue and are impressed by their basic fluency in English. We even have our own version of English, what we call Gujlish―a hotchpotch of English and Gujarati words―that would make any native English speaker faint. The American dream is the Gujju dream. Going abroad, particularly to the US, automatically ups your social standing. And, we take the <i>garba</i> wherever we go, be it the US, a wedding reception or a religious ceremony. We are a people in haste―we rush to get into the flight and we are the first to stand up once the plane lands; we honk at trains at railway crossings!</p> <p>Though Gujarat has a long history of prohibition, every second urban Gujarati movie has a scene with a drinks party or a hangover conversation! Contrary to popular belief, we really love books―the bank passbook and the cheque book. Stock market gambling is like a drug addiction in many Gujarati households. It has even become a religious ritual during festivals like Janmashtami, though Lord Krishna was against gambling. We easily condemn cinema but have no qualms in borrowing <i>filmi</i> tunes for our devotional songs. We take marriage counselling from sages who have taken celibacy vows. We can have more orgasms by saving tax than having sex.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That’s us―we pick laughter over slaughter!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Jay Vasavada</b> is an author and speaker</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/the-gujju-guide-to-being-economical-and-ecological.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/the-gujju-guide-to-being-economical-and-ecological.html Sat Aug 12 17:43:16 IST 2023 here-is-what-happens-when-a-malayali-man-meets-the-bottle <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/here-is-what-happens-when-a-malayali-man-meets-the-bottle.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/2023/8/12/72-Gods-own-brandy.jpg" /> <p><b>WHY DO THEY SAY</b> ‘Drink like a fish’? Do fish drink? Google defines the phrase as ‘To consume excessive amounts of alcohol’. In that case, there is another unique species to whom it would fit better: The Malayali Man. There are two places where you can get a sighting of this species in its natural habitat. One is at a wedding. How do you spot him? He is the mustachioed alpha male you see by the bar, belting out old melodies while balancing an aged bottle of brandy on his head.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He is not necessarily handsome, but going by his swagger, he obviously thinks he is. Three drinks down, his voice starts slurring (which is a badge of honour among the Brotherhood of the Wasted). Four drinks down, he starts a competition with his companions: whose humour is the raunchiest? The standard is very high. No one does raunch as well as the Malayali <i>machan</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Wives are nettled as they cast side-long glances at their sloshed husbands, whose singing is now drowning out the music from the stage where the children are performing a ‘synchronised’ dance in a very un-synchronised manner. They look pointedly at their watches. Is it time to go home? But the night is still young for the Malayali Man. He is on top of the world, and he is determined to let the world know it. The next morning, he will wake up with the mother of all hangovers, but he will still find the energy to share WhatsApp forwards about how the oldest man in the world attributes his longevity to the glass of whisky he has every day. The rest of his drink buddies on the WhatsApp group will hyuk-hyuk and post emojis of beer mugs clinking. All in good spirit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The second place where you saw the Malayali Man in all his drunken glory was in the Mallu movies of the noughties. Getting the hero or his sidekick drunk used to be one of the most powerful plot devices of our filmmakers. The preferred poison was Old Monk rum, and it was chugged down in one swig straight from the bottle without any mixers, which was for sissies. It had to go, of course, with ‘touchings’, or a plate of beef fry, which was finger-licking good―literally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Usually, you could tell what kind of scene was about to ensue from where the hero consumed his alcohol. If he got drunk in a sleazy bar with neon lighting and loud disco music, a fight scene was about to take place. A few tables and chairs would be overturned and the villain would get a good pummeling while the hero emerged unscathed, not a strand of his Brylcreemed hair out of place. If he got drunk with his friends in someone’s home, he was probably going to propose to the heroine in the next scene. If he got drunk in a hotel room, he was probably a politician about to receive a hefty amount as bribe in a briefcase with a golden clasp. Some of the most memorable one-liners have been perfected by our heroes in such a state. Even Osama bin Laden would cower in terror if he heard our heroes detonate these dialogues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Kerala of my childhood has largely disappeared. Perfumes are no longer called ‘scents’ and our Marthoma priests no longer travel on Bajaj scooters. Our Mariamma <i>chedathys</i> no longer hold forth in their Nasrani kitchens and our Kottayam <i>achayans</i> have given up their bling. Our Fair-and-Lovely mothers will no longer be asked which college they study in. You can hardly even find the cat-callers loitering outside ladies’ hostels in their Kitex <i>lungis</i>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With slice-of-life films replacing larger-than-life ones, our Macho Muscleman (minus the muscles) has graciously given way to the Aam Aadmi hero. Our foreign-educated lads speak in hosh-posh accents, and our girls sip at pina coladas with little umbrellas stuck in them. This is the age of pre-wedding shoots and themed birthday parties. The age of baby showers, bachelorettes and return gifts. Children celebrate holidays like Halloween, which I had not even heard of in my childhood. Thacholi Varghese has given way to Taylor Swift, and I doubt if our Gen Z has ever seen a Kathakali performance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But there is hope. If you go by the queue outside a beverages corporation on a weekend, you know that the Malayali Man has retained his love affair with his bottle. So much so that he is taking it to the outside world. At least five Malayali liquor brands have launched in the west in the last six years, such as Maharani Gin in Ireland and Mandakini Malabar Vaatte in Canada. Who knows? There might come a day when you find a Donald Trump crooning to ‘Top of the World’ in that wheezy contralto, with a glass of Komban Beer balanced on his head.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/here-is-what-happens-when-a-malayali-man-meets-the-bottle.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/here-is-what-happens-when-a-malayali-man-meets-the-bottle.html Sat Aug 12 17:41:47 IST 2023 bengali-love-for-music-and-food <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/bengali-love-for-music-and-food.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/2023/8/12/74-Bong-with-a-gong.jpg" /> <p><b>MY CHILDHOOD HAD</b> the unique soundscape of clanking, crashing and clattering Metro railway machines. Our house was on the main road and a station was coming up right in front. As a result, we all became slightly deaf, and everybody’s vocal projection became quite strong. It was quite embarrassing, but as I grew older, I found that speaking loudly (and turning deaf while somebody else is speaking) is a common trait for Bengalis. It is a shame to be a Bengali and not believe that my speech is the most important one in the present sociocultural context.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bengalis love criticising Bengalis and continuously label themselves as malicious, lazy and insipid, but they are up in arms as soon as a non-Bengali utters the same about them. There is a huge uproar the moment anybody calls Kolkata a dead or a dying city, or equates Bannerjee/Chatterjee to lethargy. But Bengalis don’t use their vocal cords only to argue and contradict, or to hurl slogans and slang, but also to sing, especially when the world is devoid of electricity. When I was growing up, load-shedding (our name for power outage) was a constant presence in our lives. The moment it descended in the evenings, all children thanked the divine (or governmental) intervention from the bottom of their hearts, because studying was immediately terminated. Within minutes, the whole family gathered with their hand fans and different degrees of sighs and lamentations, and that get-together soon transgressed to a delicious game of <i>antakhshari</i>, where film songs and Rabindrasangeet, Kishore Kumar and Kishori Amonkar were summoned with equal fervour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Learning Rabindrasangeet was a must for girls, though many boys were also students of that near-holy music genre. But boys didn’t have to sing them in front of prospective in-laws during arranged marriage tribulations. Hindi film songs though were strictly banned for children. When the menace of load-shedding was suddenly erased from our lives and one could relax and revel in the treasure of TV in the evenings, any programme like ‘Chitrahaar’or ‘Superhit Muqabla’ was a signal for my elder sister and me to leave the room immediately. If we didn’t, our mother transformed herself into Amrish Puri in such record time that we ran harder than Carl Lewis. I was tempted to write Ben Johnson, but alas, he doped and tainted himself, putting an end to one item in our versus-infested arguments. The Satyajit Ray vs Ritwik Ghatak and East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan squabbles sometimes became really boring, and even the South Kolkata vs North Kolkata quarrel eroded to clichés. And, Amitabh Bachchan vs Vinod Khanna did not last because Vinod rushed to Osho, depriving us of another enticing argument. Of course, it paved the way for Bengali weekly magazines to publish ‘well-researched’, semi-pornographic articles about wild orgies in that <i>ashram</i>, which were hidden from us by parents who were perpetually shocked when the advertisement for <i>nirodh</i> (condom) flashed on TV.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our home had a TV, and by common Bengali logic at that time, it belonged to the whole neighbourhood. If a hit film or a popular programme was scheduled to be shown, often members of our family had no place to sit, as all the seats were taken by neighbours who came early and sat tight with indisputable authority. Strangely, this sense of commune (communism?) was absent in the case of telephone. Members of the lone house having a telephone did their duty of course, by calling their neighbour loudly if a call came in, but people didn’t share a sense of ownership over that instrument.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the real prestige came from owning shelves bending under the weight of books. Going to the book fair at least thrice a week was a ritual we followed religiously and boasted about endlessly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But books were not the only draw; we loved fish fries sold at the book fair. There was no glistening packet of potato chips back then, but we witnessed the birth and reign of rolls (chicken, mutton, and even potato rolls) at every corner of the streets, and of course, there was <i>puchka</i> (panipuri), the queen of Kolkata street food. Though our stomachs could not keep up with our culinary adventure, we continued undeterred, because having an upset stomach almost daily was a badge of Bengaliness. Bengalis love their food and antacids equally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The real euphoric festival was Rabindra Jayanti. The Tagore Puja on the 25th of Baishakh was as important as Durga Puja. Rabindranath’s dance-based plays were performed in <i>pandals</i> in various neighbourhoods, but the most enjoyable part was the rehearsals. They were held on rooftops and in drawing rooms, supervised by enthusiastic uncles and aunties, periodically invigilated by other guardians to check whether an affair or two were blooming in the culture-induced proximity. But Rabindra-Cupid was stronger than them―with the sublime grace of the songs and the bewitching appeal of the dances creating a fairytale scenario, it was impossible for at least two or four pairs of eyes to avoid the conspiracies of hormones. Of course, most of these liaisons ended in frustration because love was as great a taboo as sex, but generally, no great damage was incurred (except a flourish of stupid poetry on some unfortunate pages).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was not only Tagore who fuelled our amorous ideas. Aamir Khan was also looking up from the posters of <i>Qayamat se Qayamat Tak</i> (1988) and making our hearts skip a beat. I placed his photo between the middle pages of my biology book and breathlessly prayed to God to make him mine. God has such a wacky sense of humour, Aamir Khan really came for a gala evening organised by Basushree Cinema, which was opposite our house. I was let in, and Aamir looked at me and autographed the copy I speechlessly held out to him. He even drew a cartoon of me! It is another story of how my elder sister went to her college the next day, taking the autograph copy (to prove that miracles happen to her family members) and it got stolen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aren’t all our childhoods stolen suddenly, in similar tragi-comic twists?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Sanchari Mookherjee</b> is editor of the Bengali web magazine, Daakbangla</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/bengali-love-for-music-and-food.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/bengali-love-for-music-and-food.html Sat Aug 12 17:37:06 IST 2023 the-inner-punjabi-ness-within-you-hardcoded-in-your-dna <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/the-inner-punjabi-ness-within-you-hardcoded-in-your-dna.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/2023/8/12/76-Turban-charged.jpg" /> <p><b>IT’S 2023.</b> Meditation is cool, and Punjabis are confused. Why would you be quiet? Why not just find yourself between laughs and ‘tikkas’ at a buffet table?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now that I have you hooked with a stereotype, let’s get the others out of the way: the wild dancing, the heart on the sleeve, the country bumpkin, the fancy cars, the larger than life weddings. They are all true, but also insufficient. Like Chicken tikka masala is “Indian food” to someone in London, but does not even begin to cover the whole universe of Indian food.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Also, it’s 2023. “Culture” is defined as what is trending on Instagram. Food delivery apps get you food from every part of the country. Malls look the same everywhere. You are watching a Korean web series with subtitles. Your grandparents have passed on and wedding rituals have been outsourced to Bollywood. Is there anything Punjabi, Gujarati, Malayali, Bengali or Tamilian about your way of life anymore?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thankfully, there is. Deep within you. Hardcoded in your DNA. It shows up in the words you speak when pushed to the edge of happiness, sadness or anger. It is in how you dance when no one is watching. It is in the instinctive decisions you ascribe to your “gut feel”, the terms of endearment you whisper to your partner, your “comfort food”, and your people who feel like home.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For me―a guy who grew up in Rajasthan, graduated from a college in Karnataka, and thinks of Delhi as home―that instinct shows up every day in ways I cannot explain. I find it in my tendency to say something inappropriate when it is funny, unmindful of the consequences. I am a comedian today, but everyone in my family agrees I have nothing on my grandfather’s sense of humour, most of whose jokes would be rejected by the fashionable woke culture. Sometimes, whether onstage or at a party with strangers, I tend to go with the flow and hit that sweet spot of inappropriate and hilarious. If someone takes offence, I evade responsibility and blame it on my grandfather. You see, I come from a lineage of people who made jokes into a mode of communication. People who retained their sense of community by sharing food and laughter in the face of invasions, riots and refugee camps. Our funniest memories involve laughing at things we would scoff at today. I am somewhat happy my grandfather passed on well before the woke era, and is indeed resting in peace.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That’s my big worry, by the way: grandparents passing on. It is they who are the custodians of every culture, simply because they lived closer to when that culture was created. Long back, I was in Amritsar, shacking up with a college friend. The morning I was to leave, his grandfather casually asked me if I had breakfast. I had never met him before, so with the formality typical of Indian guests, I feigned hurry and refused. He pointed a finger at me, looked straight into my eyes and in the deepest of voices, said, “You’re not leaving without breakfast.” It was a tone that was warm, hospitable and stern. It assumed a relationship closer than what really existed. I realised that is what we do, remembering the many times I met a new person with a hug, when a handshake was more apt. I mean, every community loves its food, but we are probably the only ones that use it as an ice-breaker.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a reason why Punjabi farmers protested most strongly against the now repealed farm laws. At the heart of it, beyond the world of profit and loss and power, was an agricultural community’s connection with its land. It was identity over business. The fact that the protest site became a centre of food, music and poetry tells its own uplifting story.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At this point, it just feels wrong if we don’t mention Pakistani Punjab. Especially the part that is relegated to history: the prosperous and democratic Punjab under Maharaja Ranjit Singh, with Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and the British making Lahore a cosmopolitan city. I have been told it is the remnants of that culture that made present-day Delhi, with refugees who came with that characteristic appetite for life. And probably why I go down a rabbit hole of Lahore food vlogs when gripped by insomnia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lahore and Delhi might have both come under assault from change and majoritarianism, but the age-old Punjabi instinct has travelled to Canada, Australia and the UK. It is like some farmer scattered his seeds, and the wind took a few of them far and wide. They thrive in newer ecosystems and climates, with their core DNA giving them the resilience to do so.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Which is why in 2050, when the world is operated by bots and drones, you will probably see a Punjabi guy eating tandoori chicken from a takeaway in Alaska, asking a passerby if he wants to join in.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Vikramjit Singh</b> is a writer and standup comedian</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/the-inner-punjabi-ness-within-you-hardcoded-in-your-dna.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/the-inner-punjabi-ness-within-you-hardcoded-in-your-dna.html Sat Aug 12 17:35:57 IST 2023 how-the-sights-and-sounds-of-chennai-gradually-stole-my-heart <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/how-the-sights-and-sounds-of-chennai-gradually-stole-my-heart.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/2023/8/12/78-Madras-mail.jpg" /> <p><b>BUS NUMBER 11A</b> came to a halt at the Safire theatre stop, and I plonked myself next to a window in the near-empty bus. A whistle and a singsong “righto” from the conductor flagged us off, and we were soon navigating the sparse afternoon traffic on Mount Road.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I craned my neck to observe the dramatic roadside hoardings, something that I had never before seen in the city where I had spent my childhood―Calcutta. It was a riot of colours, with glitter on the leading lady’s eyes, lips, and even blouse. The hero, dressed in a jazzy red suit, towered over everyone else. A few metres away, another hero, wearing a white <i>veshti</i> (dhoti) and a shimmering green shirt, pointed his menacing machete at passersby, giving a 3D effect.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“How on earth can these Tamil movies be so loud?” my inner voice condescendingly called out, reflecting my Calcuttan snobbery. Bengali films, in contrast, were more realistic, with definitely humbler hoardings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Ticket, madam,” called a voice, distracting me from my thoughts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I smiled at the uniformed man with a pencil moustache, gave him a two-rupee note and stated my stop: T. Nagar bus terminus. He quietly took the money and returned with the ticket. Two stops later, he, along with another uniformed man, got down.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My thoughts began meandering once again as the bus made its way towards Pondy Bazar, the city’s shopping district. I spotted a familiar billboard of the Tamil film <i>Billa,</i> featuring two Rajinikanths―one a gun-wielding, suited and booted version and another wearing a lungi. <i>“Enna maaa. Maharaanii!”</i> A loud voice shook me from my afternoon date with Madras. I looked up, confused. It was the whistling conductor, the bag with jingling loose change slung across his shoulder.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Why didn’t you get your ticket from me?” he hollered.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I got my ticket, sir,” I said meekly. “I asked another gentleman.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Aah. Do not act smart,” he said. “That was the ticket inspector. Why did you not buy your ticket from me before heading to your seat? Because of you, I got a warning from the inspector.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was at a loss for words. “Actually… I… I... thought that you would come for the ticket….” The shiver in my voice was palpable. “That is what happens in Calcutta, my city. I did not know it is different here, sir,” I said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“So, you are new to this place?” His tone was milder now.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Yes sir. I came only on Tuesday,” I said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Next time, buy your ticket as soon as you get into a bus. This is Chennai, not your Kalkattha. Understand?” He sauntered back to his seat by the rear door.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was relieved and embarrassed at the same time. In Calcutta, the bus rules were almost fixed by the passenger. The conductor would sometimes even plead with him to get the ticket, only to be shot an indignant glance accompanied by the bus passenger’s classic Calcutta one-liner: <i>“Aree, ami ki palachchi</i>? (Am I running away?)” Later, as if doing a favour, the passenger would part with that 40 paise!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Culturally so different!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But somewhere, I took refuge in my proud Calcutta roots and looked at Madras through a snobbish lens that I am not proud of today. I prided myself as a Calcuttan, defending the city in my debates with a Madras cousin.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Having said that, we were Tamilians to the core, settled in the Lake Market area of South Calcutta, where the whiff of sambar powder overpowered the fragrance of jasmine strands. Tamil shops sold almost everything that an average Tamilian needed, from coffee powder to <i>Kalki</i>, the weekly magazine. <i>The Hindu</i> hung there every evening, tempting the IAS aspirants whose other choice to help crack the civil services was <i>The Statesman.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My grandparents, who came as refugees from Rangoon after their house was bombed in 1942, had rented the house that would be our home till the mid-2000s. We only spoke Tamil at home, as my <i>appa</i> (father) was too proud to let his identity get diluted in the Bengali cauldron. But at the same time, we were told, rather admiringly by Bengalis, that we spoke Bangla without a thick Tamil accent. “No <i>endre pendre,”</i> they said, a pejorative Bengali reference to the Tamilians there. It angered my <i>appa</i>, but somehow never challenged my sensibilities. I took those ‘Madrasi insults’ jokingly, trying to be even more of a Bengali than them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Looking back, I still feel queasy about my shallowness. Every city has its own quirks and charm―its helplessness and frustrations―but they are all unique. I understood my <i>appa</i>’s sense of pride in an alien city, and admired the way he preserved it, even as he effortlessly absorbed the alternate identity of a non-resident Tamilian! I slowly began emulating that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Madras became Chennai in 1996, and five years later, in 2001―two years after I made Chennai my home―Calcutta was reborn as Kolkata. But by then, Chennai had grown on me. My lens was no longer coloured by partiality or superiority. Auto drivers―who scooted around with the infamous tag of “hot metres and hotter tempers”―seemed to have a quirky sense of humour. Shopkeepers and bus drivers were helpful.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I began drowning myself in the city’s myriad cultural landscape. The one aspect that moved me the most was the <i>“gaana paatu”,</i> a style of music with stark lyrics and fluid compositions. To me, it seemed to resonate with the American Blues. The pain, the pathos, the exasperation of the urban slums―the <i>gaana</i> had it all, and it had me under its spell.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By now, Chennai had stolen my heart. But a small part of it still belonged to Calcutta, where my old, dilapidated Calcutta home was almost always the scene of my dramatic dream sequences!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Subhashini Dinesh</b> is the author of the novel, <i>My Iron Wings</i></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/how-the-sights-and-sounds-of-chennai-gradually-stole-my-heart.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/how-the-sights-and-sounds-of-chennai-gradually-stole-my-heart.html Sat Aug 12 17:33:03 IST 2023 growing-up-in-a-self-proclaimed-microcosmic-pune <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/growing-up-in-a-self-proclaimed-microcosmic-pune.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/2023/8/12/80-The-Pune-bubble.jpg" /> <p><b>IN THE WORDS</b> of eminent Marathi writer P.L. Deshpande (known as PuLa), “It is not enough to just say I am a Marathi. It is important to define if you are a Punekar, Mumbaikar or Nagpurkar as that really defines what kind of a Maharashtrian you are.”That explains a lot about Marathi surnames, too. Tendulkars are people who come from Tenduli, or Manjrekars come from Manjargaon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I am a Punekar who is ‘evolving’to become a Mumbaikar. I say this because growing up in Pune, especially in old Pune, is like being a derby horse with blinders on. Punekars are known for their ignorance about the rest of the world, which includes the rest of Maharashtra. For us, Pune is the centre of the universe. The state is divided into six regions with six totally different landscapes and dialects. But if I have a right to comment, criticise, praise or get nostalgic about any part of Maharashtra, I would restrict myself to Pune and Mumbai. Pune is my <i>janmabhoomi</i> and, like most Marathi filmmakers, Mumbai is my <i>karmabhoomi.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I grew up in the heartland of Pune, born and brought up in the Peth area. For the first eight years of my life, I lived in Sadashiv Peth. It is the most regressive, conservative, old part of Pune. I often joke that though my physical age is 40, my mental age is hardly 32, as growth cannot happen when you stay in a Peth. Although when I lived in Sadashiv Peth, it was extremely charming. I grew up in a <i>wada</i>. It is a type of old stone/brick housing society with a very unique style of architecture. There is a huge rectangular courtyard at its centre and multiple rooms circling the courtyard. Usually, there is one <i>malak</i> (owner) and multiple <i>birhad</i> (tenants). We had three rooms, thanks to caste privilege. Sadly, I grew up in a casteist society with zero awareness of it. But the upside of <i>wada</i> living was that the neighbours’doors were always open, so no matter how much the society tried to divide us through caste, the aroma of food wafting through from other homes forced us to break the boundaries. The common courtyard served as everything―from a badminton court, a <i>papad</i> drying area to a marriage hall. People used to yell across the courtyard to have normal conversations. One could just sit in his own house and watch multiple stories being played at once. It was like having multiple content screens open all the time. This is probably where I got my roots in storytelling.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Later, we moved to Asia’s fastest growing suburb―Kothrud. Those who have watched <i>Bajirao Mastani</i> will get the context for these places easily. Peth is where Bajirao Peshwa lived with his wife, while Kothrud is where he kept his muse/mistress. Most aboriginal Punekars often make this move from Peth when they want to liberate themselves just a little bit. Peth happens to be the birthplace for the Ganesh festival and the Deccan Education Society. Kothrud-Karve Nagar is the area where the American company Cummins tied up with top Marathi industrialist, Kirloskar. This sort of defines my trajectory for sociopolitical awareness, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Although growing up in old Pune was not that bad, pretty enriching actually. However conservative it sounds, Pune is highly educated and culturally vibrant. In Marathi, we have a word called <i>vyasanga</i>. It literally means diameter. But when one claims his <i>vyasanga</i> is wide, it means that the person has been exposed to a lot of literature, art and culture. The kind of cultural bombarding that used to happen growing up here in the 1990s had an unknowing impact on my <i>vyasanga</i>, too. I still remember attending the Gandharva festival at the age of five. My entire family used to attend the all-night festival. The likes of Bhimsen Joshi, Zakir Hussain and Bismillah Khan were regulars at this festival. My brother and I were too young to appreciate classical music. Mostly, we would just doze off on our parent’s lap by midnight, while these maestros performed in the background as if singing us lullabies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If you are a real Punekar, exposure to theatre is unavoidable. As soon as you enter class 11, most of the biggies in Marathi theatre have one degree of separation from you. Maharashtra has a buzzing inter-collegiate theatre culture. Thanks to this, all my theatre schooling has happened in my commerce college. Culture for teenaged Punekars is freedom. The cultural awakening begins with a simple teenage drive of finding ways to stay out of the house under the pretext of theatre rehearsals, dance practices or a <i>dhol pathak</i> (drum circle) rehearsal. While beating the <i>dhols</i> or having an extremely milky coffee with <i>sutta</i> (cigarette) in the middle of the night, seniors from the cultural groups play the dangerous game of name-dropping. From writers like Orhan Pamuk to Girish Karnad, and filmmakers like Satyajit Ray to Jean-Luc Godard, no one is left alone. The Pune intellects have an opinion about everyone. They are often referred to as <i>kattyavarche buddhijivi</i> (coffee shop intellects).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I am 40 now and I have stayed in Pune for three quarters of my life. So no matter how hard I try to be a Mumbaikar, I will not be able to take the Punekar out of me.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Sarang Sathaye </b>is a director, actor and cofounder of the Marathi digital brand, Bhadipa</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/growing-up-in-a-self-proclaimed-microcosmic-pune.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/growing-up-in-a-self-proclaimed-microcosmic-pune.html Sat Aug 12 17:31:28 IST 2023 the-week-aditya-birla-sun-life-mutual-fund-seminar-on-holistic-wellness-for-life <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/the-week-aditya-birla-sun-life-mutual-fund-seminar-on-holistic-wellness-for-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/2023/8/12/83-Mathew-T-George-and-Rajendra-Kalur-Amit-Trivedi.jpg" /> <p>The verdant campus of The Yoga Institute (TYI) in Santa Cruz presents an uncommon sight in Mumbai. Trees shade every available open space, and the atmosphere is one of mindfulness. Step into this minimalist space, and you might forget that you are in Maximum City.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In late June, TYI hosted a seminar that saw the coming together of two unlikely subjects―yoga and personal finance. THE WEEK-Aditya Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund seminar series on personal finance had picked ‘Holistic Wellness for Life’ as the theme. And, there could not have been a better venue than The Yoga Institute (TYI), which was established in 1918 and is regarded to be the oldest organised yoga centre in the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The panel comprised K.S. Rao, executive vice president and head of investor education at Aditya Birla Sun Life AMC Ltd; Amit Trivedi, personal finance expert and founder of Karmayog Knowledge Academy; and Rajendra Kalur, management consultant, and chairperson of the CFA Society of India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The invocation to the divine was led by Shailesh S. Parikh of TYI; Shree Kumar Menon, THE WEEK’s resident chief general manager in Mumbai; and the panellists. Rao then took the audience through a quick introduction to the theme. Following this, the panel discussion began.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Among the many angles discussed, Rao spoke about the cumulative effect that was common to yoga and financial planning. “In both cases, it is best to start early and not expect sudden gains,” he said. “The benefits come over the years, when you stay at it.” He elaborated that financial products and health products that promise sudden gains might surprise us when we least expect it. “It is important to stay the course and tune out the noise,” he said, “in yoga and personal finance.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the discussion progressed, Kalur drew parallels between financial planning and the therapeutic benefits of yoga. “Going to a doctor when you fall ill is a reaction. Most people have a reactive approach to financial events, too. But we have an example in yoga, which offers a preventive approach to good health. If you take care of yourself, it is unlikely that you will be surprised by a health event. You might avoid a nasty surprise entirely, or you could see something coming and be prepared for it. In the same way, a personal financial plan foresees financial events to the extent possible and ensures that we are prepared.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Stressing the need for a financial planner, Trivedi asked the audience if one would become a perfect yoga practitioner by just reading through the <i>Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.</i> The audience answered with a resounding negative. “A yoga guru corrects your posture and shows you the right way to do things. In the same manner, financial plans need to be monitored and corrected regularly,” Trivedi said. “Call the person a mentor, guide, or planner, as you wish, but you need one to keep your plan on track and updated. There is also the matter of ego, which should be taken out of yoga and financial planning.” The panel discussion closed with an open mic session for the audience.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The much-awaited second half of the programme was all yoga. It began with a yoga session led by the humorous and energetic Vinay Zende from TYI. The audience was led through basic exercises and posture correction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The best was yet to come―a discourse by Hansaji J. Yogendra, director of TYI. A best-selling author, speaker and yoga practitioner, Hansaji is president of the Indian Yoga Association. In her inimitable style, blending humour and wisdom, she held the audience in thrall.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Yoga is many things,” she said. “But at its core, yoga is a science of awareness. How you must behave and how you behave are different. But you must have the awareness to distinguish between the two. If external events influence your behaviour all the time, how will you have peace? The absence of peace leads to the absence of good health. So, watch yourself. Ask ‘What is happening to me?’ instead of dwelling on something someone said or did. With awareness, you will have peace, and everything else will follow.” And, that is a lesson applicable to both yoga and financial planning!</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/the-week-aditya-birla-sun-life-mutual-fund-seminar-on-holistic-wellness-for-life.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/the-week-aditya-birla-sun-life-mutual-fund-seminar-on-holistic-wellness-for-life.html Sat Aug 12 17:28:40 IST 2023 expanding-breast-cancer-care-for-indian-women <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/expanding-breast-cancer-care-for-indian-women.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/2023/8/12/84-Union-Minister-Dr-Jitendra-Singh.jpg" /> <p>There was a time when cancer was a rare disease. Today, it looms large and stares back at us. According to Union Minister Dr Jitendra Singh, 37.2 per cent women died of breast cancer in India in 2020, as compared with 34 per cent in Asia, while the global average that year was 30 per cent. Singh―who was the guest of honour at THE WEEK’s ‘Expanding Breast Cancer Care for Indian Women’ (second edition)―said the high mortality rates with breast cancer in India could be related to late diagnosis, which is primarily due to lack of proper awareness and the absence of screening for the at-risk population.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A diabetologist by profession, Singh also stressed on the importance of early detection to control type 2 diabetes, many lifestyle disorders, and breast cancer. While praising THE WEEK Connect’s breast cancer initiative and the magazine’s Health supplement, and congratulating Resident Editor R. Prasannan on the effort, the minister underlined that the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) labs, under the [Union] ministry of science and technology, are leading India’s cancer research efforts. He said the Central Drug Research Institute in Lucknow is leading the way in developing high-value generic drugs through non-infringing and cost-effective synthetic route, designing and synthesising of new chemical entities against clinically validated cancer drug targets, preclinical evaluation of potent anti-cancer entities, among other activities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the world might have come out of the shadow of the pandemic, the threat from non-communicable diseases is a glaring problem. Vishal Chauhan, joint secretary, ministry of health and family welfare, who was one of the guests at the event, noted how non-communicable diseases, particularly cardiovascular diseases and cancer, were the biggest challenge at the moment. But he said more people are conscious of health―the health ministry has been getting 25 per cent of all Parliament questions, of which 10 questions were being asked in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha every week. “That’s the level of policy thinking going on,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Singh said the parliamentary standing committee on health and family welfare had visited various cancer institutes all over the country for making cancer treatment available and affordable for everyone.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We believe preventive and promotive health is very important. We need to change our lifestyle to beat non-communicable diseases, and no amount of alcohol or tobacco is safe. Rather, tobacco is the biggest risk factor for oral cancer. Our health and wellness centres prescribe yoga, cycling, Zumba at least 10 days a month. What we eat is also very important,” said Singh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When it comes to the treatment of cancers through radiotherapy, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that there should be one radiotherapy machine for 10 lakh population. “By that measure, India should have about 1,300-1,400 machines but we have only about 650,” said Chauhan. He lists out states like Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Odisha that suffer on this account. “But, southern states are better equipped,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is always a silver lining. In the last seven to eight years, the number of undergraduate and postgraduate seats have doubled in the country for medical students, which signals a brighter future for medical sciences in the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another drawback in cancer care in the country remains late diagnosis. Professor Vinod Raina, chairperson of oncosciences, Fortis Gurugram and ex-chief of Delhi Cancer Registry, said that people do not go for checkups in early stages. The problem fosters when the lump becomes large and the diagnosis is late. However, he notes that this is changing in metros as an increasing number of women are going for examination after 40-45 years of age. “In younger women, the breast is dense. So, mammograms might not be very useful in detecting, but after 45 years of age, it works,” said Raina.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dr V. Seenu, senior professor, department of surgical disciplines, AIIMS, Delhi, said that breast cancer had surpassed lung cancer in the country but is three to four times lesser than in the US. The only difference, he said, was in the fact that people get screened often in the US, but in India, they go for tests only when there is a prominent lump, which leads to a poor survival rate in breast cancers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Talking about the root cause of cancers, Dr Chintamani, former head, department of surgery, Vardhman Mahavir Medical College and Safdarjung Hospital, Delhi, notes that a healthy vegetarian diet and a healthy lifestyle could reduce the risk of cancers to a great extent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Elaborating on healthy life practices, Dr Bhawna Sirohi, director, medical oncology, Balco Medical Centre in Nava Raipur, gave some golden tips to lead a good lifestyle. “The diet has a very important role to play. One must avoid tobacco, alcohol, processed food, supplements, sugar, and breastfeed for one or two years, do yoga and exercise,” she said. According to her, walking solely will not reduce the risk, she suggests an exercise regime that makes one’s heart rate go up, or brisk walking. “One must also know their family history of cancers. I suggest eating at least two hours before sleep and getting screened,” said Sirohi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Seconding her was Dr Anurag Varshney, vice president and head, drug discovery and development research, Patanjali Research Institute, Haridwar, who also talked about the importance of consuming a vegetarian diet to avoid the risk of cancers. He noted that the research and testimonies of cancer patients at their institute revealed that a complete ayurvedic treatment for cancer, if detected early, could eradicate the disease as effectively as the allopathic medicinal and radiation treatments. However, he favoured a preventive approach through an ayurvedic lifestyle and yoga to avoid the risk of cancers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While screening might not be a viable option for all due to several limitations, technology is bridging the gap in ensuring cancer testing goes on unhindered. Dr Geetha Manjunath, founder, CEO and CTO, Niramai Health Analytix, Bengaluru, has developed an artificial intelligence (AI) model to facilitate the same. When her close aides succumbed to breast cancer, it inspired her to do something about women who lose their lives to the disease. She developed thermal imaging process to detect cancers. Geetha, who has over 25 years of experience in IT innovation, has developed a breakthrough AI-based test that detects early stage breast cancer in a non-invasive radiation-free manner. The technique can be used to also detect cancers as small as four millimetres, which is stage zero cancer, she said. “AI can analyse a lot of data, and imaging can look at high resolution information about the body. The best application of AI in health care is in radiology,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While tests help detect cancers, medical practitioners also suggest self-examination as a first step towards determining it. Dr Navneet Kaur, professor of surgery, University College of Medical Sciences and GTB Hospital, Delhi, said that self-examination means checking for lumps on the breast, which every woman must do every few months. “When diagnosed, many people are initially in denial and seek second opinions and some ignore it leading to a delay in treatment. The state of public hospitals, too, leads to a lot of delay in treatment, which may lead to advanced stages. While treating a patient, it is the responsibility of the doctor to be transparent and also of the patient to do some research before consultation to ask the right questions. It is important to know the perspective of the patient―if they want to save costs, remove the whole breast, save a part of it or not burden the family,” said Kaur.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The initiative, sponsored by LIC and Fortis, was held on July 27 at the India Habitat Centre in Delhi.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/expanding-breast-cancer-care-for-indian-women.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/08/12/expanding-breast-cancer-care-for-indian-women.html Sat Aug 19 10:27:38 IST 2023 the-unique-bond-between-leopards-and-humans-in-bera-village-in-rajasthan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/29/the-unique-bond-between-leopards-and-humans-in-bera-village-in-rajasthan.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/2023/7/29/56-Ottaram-from-Bera-bows.jpg" /> <p>It was late afternoon when I reached Bera, 140km from Udaipur in Rajasthan. The Aravalli hill ranges surrounding the village stood tall in the afternoon light. And in the caves and crannies of these hills reside leopards. I was in ‘leopard country’!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As soon as I arrived, my guide, Pushpendra Ranawat received information that Tara―one of the 30-40 leopards inhabiting the 11 hillocks of Bera―could be out on a stroll. If we made haste, we could catch a glimpse of her. And so, I joined him for an evening safari. I was excited thinking about the possibility of sighting Tara no sooner than I had arrived. As we approached the hills, I could hear roars, not of leopards, but safari jeeps. Astonished, I asked Ranawat, “How did a safari jeep get permission to go up the hills? Are there no restrictions at all?” He said that this had become a major concern, as it disturbs the leopards and other fauna.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To my great excitement, Tara soon emerged from a cave. I started clicking immediately, as it was close to sundown and the light was fading. But my enthusiasm was short-lived. Tara disappeared. However, I kept my eyes, camera and telephoto lens glued for a sighting. A member from another team assured me that she might soon be out on the prowl.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tara was named so for her eyes that glow like stars in the darkness. Leopards here are named and revered, not tamed or feared. Shy by nature, they are nocturnal predators. The ones here usually feed on wild boars and nilgai. Only when the prey is hard to come by do they venture into the village, looking for goats and cattle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The villagers, many of whom are from the Rabari community (shepherd), believe that it is perfectly reasonable for the cats to visit the village in search of food. Ranawat said that they could claim compensation from the forest department for the loss of cattle, but it was too much hassle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Also, the villagers firmly hold that the leopard is connected to Lord Shiva―portraits of Shiva usually show him draped in leopard skin. Thanks to their professed proximity to the divine, leopards feature in the wall art of the temples that dot the hills. The villagers of Bera, therefore, share a unique bond with the leopards, making it one of the few places on earth where humans and leopards coexist peacefully. “Sittu (local name for leopards) live in that hill there,”said Otaram, a local resident and caretaker of one of the temples. “They never attack anybody. We do not disturb them either.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The only clash you will see here is among the leopards, either over a mate or territory. The hillocks near Bera are a female leopard’s domain. “We have witnessed such fights,”said Ranawat. “Sometimes female leopards, too, fight a male intruder on their territory.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Local residents who run leopard camps and resorts have many thrilling stories about the leopards, their habitat, behaviour and pattern. Storytelling forms an integral part of the safaris they organise. And, the leopards are not the only attraction in Bera. The Jawai River, which flows through Bera, has the picturesque Jawai dam across it. Seeing the sun rise and set here brings immense joy to tourists, who have been thronging the village to witness the harmony between man, animal and nature here. The tour guides arrange tea and snacks at this spot early in the morning and late evening as part of the safari.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even as tourism is booming, it brings with it its own worries. Efforts are on to build a resort very close to the hillocks. The ad spiel will no doubt include a promise of leopard sightings. If that happens, Tara and her ilk may move out in search of a more peaceful habitat. With the leopards gone, there will be no bond to boast about.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/29/the-unique-bond-between-leopards-and-humans-in-bera-village-in-rajasthan.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/29/the-unique-bond-between-leopards-and-humans-in-bera-village-in-rajasthan.html Sat Jul 29 16:34:44 IST 2023 how-to-stop-flooding-in-our-cities <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/21/how-to-stop-flooding-in-our-cities.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/2023/7/21/56-Raining-solutions.jpg" /> <p><b>OPENING UMBRELLAS</b> in Kollam, when it is raining in Kochi.” Sounds innocuous, till you are told that these two places are around 150km apart. Going by the floods in Delhi, it can be modified as, “When it rains in Himachal, get on to boats in Delhi.” Though the popular saying in Malayalam is to make fun of doing things out of place, it has become true in Delhi. When rains poured in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the Yamuna overflowed in Delhi, inundating its areas. It touched 208.66m, above the danger mark of 205.33m, breaching its own record of 207.49m, set 45 years ago. Delhi suddenly got raving comparisons to Venice, as its highways turned into waterways. Thousands got affected and had to be shifted from their dwellings, many of them illegally built on the Yamuna floodplains.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Why did the Yamuna take this <i>ugra-roop</i> (fierce form)? The Yamuna is normally in deep slumber in its 22km stretch in Delhi. The Yamuna hardly ‘flows’ here for much of the year, confined between Wazirabad and Okhla barrages, living up to its moniker ‘Kalindi’, meaning one with dark hue. Here it is just a dark cesspool of sewage or industrial waste, brought in by the 18 major nullahs on its banks. Only 11 of these nullahs are tapped now. Efforts are on to tap the rest. Sewage treatment plants are built or being built to prevent ingress of untreated water. This 22km-stretch accounts for 90 per cent of pollution in Yamuna’s 1,376km journey from Yamunotri to Prayagraj to make its tryst with its destiny―the Ganga.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We can blame it on climate change-induced high-intensity rainfall and our failure to manage it. There are other reasons, too―rapid urbanisation; extensive tiling or concreting causing diminished permeability; high runoff; reduced open areas; poor maintenance of rainwater harvesting structures; silting up and disappearance of water bodies, which results in less water soaking or storage capacities and less groundwater recharge; poor urban planning and ineffective implementation of laws. Then there are encroachments on the Yamuna’s floodplains, depleting green cover, inadequate drainage capacity, improper solid-waste management and clogging of nullahs. We may never run out of excuses, but the excess water will run out of Delhi, even taking the streets, if needed!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After the deluge, later in summer, drinking water shortage hits the city, with many areas needing tanker water supply. Isn’t this a classic case of improper demand-supply management? Is there a way out? Yes. Urban water challenges are multi-dimensional, warranting cocktail solutions. It calls for scientific urban planning, recognising water and rivers as key resources. We have to prepare urban river management plans (URMPs), acknowledging rivers as engines for tourism and economic growth that improves city aesthetics and health of people. We must ensure people’s participation and promote water reuse. Above all, we need a strong political will to implement the URMP, rising above politics of one-upmanship. We need to catch the rain, where it falls and when it falls―catch, train and drain out the rains, <i>pyar se</i> (with love).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Floodplains are to be demarcated, ensuring zoning regulations to protect life and property from fluvial floods. ‘Room for the river’ is a concept implemented in the Netherlands. Maharashtra demarcates riversides with blue and red flood lines, indicating the flood levels from 25 and 100 years ago. While no development is allowed between the blue lines on riversides, restricted development is allowed between the red and blue lines. In many cities, development progresses till the edge of the rivers, making these areas prone to floods. While cities located on the banks of well-managed rivers, like London, have leveraged rivers as growth engines, Indian cities have missed the boat by misusing the rivers flowing beside them as sewage and industrial waste conveyors.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We need to adopt innovative unconventional solutions―a hybrid of engineering and nature-based or decentralised. Adopt localised flood management like maintaining healthy water bodies―lakes and ponds―to serve as effective catchments to capture storm water, which can efficiently abate the magnitude and intensity of floods.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cities can learn much from each other and share experiences. The River Cities Alliance (RCA), a first-of-its-kind alliance in the world set up recently by the National Mission for Clean Ganga and the National Institute of Urban Affairs, is a dedicated platform for river cities in India to ideate, discuss and exchange information and URMP preparation. With more than 120 member cities, the RCA provides a platform for dedicated discussions on urban river management. There are online modules developed to build capacities on river-sensitive urban planning.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If the URMP concept is well accepted, we may see cruise rides on Indian rivers and a ‘tankers-mukt Bharat’. If the URMPs prepared are dumped in a well, be prepared to suffer the water curse.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>―<b>Kumar is director general, National Mission for Clean Ganga. Views expressed are personal.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/21/how-to-stop-flooding-in-our-cities.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/21/how-to-stop-flooding-in-our-cities.html Fri Jul 21 16:52:59 IST 2023 why-deaths-of-cheetahs-brought-to-india-have-set-alarm-bells-ringing <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/21/why-deaths-of-cheetahs-brought-to-india-have-set-alarm-bells-ringing.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/2023/7/21/58-A-cheetah-inside.jpg" /> <p><b>EIGHT SEEMS TO</b> be a recurring number for India’s ambitious Project Cheetah, and it does not bode too well for the big cats.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Eight months after the moment of pride and celebration when the first batch of eight cheetahs from Namibia was released in Kuno National Park (KNP) in Madhya Pradesh, the mood has turned sombre with eight of the 24 wildcats dying in the past three and a half months. South African expert Dr Adrian Tordiffe, who is associated closely with the project, said the frequency of the deaths at Kuno was alarming.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Speaking exclusively with THE WEEK, Tordiffe, the top name on the consulting panel of international cheetah experts linked to the Cheetah Project Steering Committee, cautioned that if the situation related to deaths was not turned around, Project Cheetah could be in jeopardy as the South African government might decide against sending more big cats to India. Rajesh Gopal, chairman of the steering committee, however, said such mortalities were expected in the initial phase of the intercontinental translocation project. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), which is the project implementation agency, too, was against the “premature conclusion on the success or failure of the project as it has not completed even one year”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Project Cheetah was launched on September 17, 2022, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi released eight cheetahs from Namibia into KNP, 70 years after the sleek cats were declared extinct in India. On February 18, 12 more from South Africa were flown in. Tordiffe, veterinary wildlife specialist from the University of Pretoria, had accompanied both the Namibian and the South African cheetahs to Kuno.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Four of the 12 cheetahs from South Africa are now dead, along with one adult from Namibia and three cubs of a Namibian cheetah. Tordiffe said there was real concern about the lack of involvement of experts in the project and delays in providing information. “We are willing to help and provide advice. We are not trying to tell Indian authorities how to do everything, but at this stage they really need inputs from us, otherwise the project is in jeopardy,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Referring to the latest deaths of the two cheetahs named Suraj and Tejas, Tordiffe said, “The veterinary staff at Kuno failed to correctly diagnose the cause of death. They also did not make any attempt to communicate with us. We only got partial information about the case until I was sent the video of the second male cheetah that died on July 14. I asked to participate in the steering committee meeting that was held in New Delhi, but my request was ignored. The Kuno management does not consult international experts,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tordiffe warned that the continuing deaths and the failure to consult experts from host countries might prove detrimental. “We have to defend this project before our own governments to ensure that we can continue to supply cheetahs to India,” he said. “If things go wrong in India and our government decides that it is too risky to send more cheetahs, then we are in for a real problem. The project will actually be dead. We want to transport additional cheetahs to India sometime next year, and for that to happen we have to turn this situation around.” Tordiffe said the South African government was still supportive of the project, but if there was too much negative publicity and poor cooperation from India, it might change. The expert later added that he had a discussion with NTCA officials and was assured of better cooperation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Suraj died on July 14, and prima facie evidence pointed to the wounds on his neck and back. Tejas died on July 11, from “traumatic shock”, according to Kuno authorities. Postmortem examination showed that Tejas’s internal organs were severely compromised and that he weighed only 43kg, compared with the average weight of 55kg to 60kg of similar cheetahs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After seeing the video of the postmortem examination and learning about the details, Tordiffe said both cheetahs appeared to have died from complications related to their satellite collars and the heavy rainfall at Kuno in recent weeks. He said there was severe skin infection on Suraj’s neck and maggots on his wounds. “The wounds that I saw in the video were almost certainly not caused by another animal, but by a problem that we did not foresee because we put collars on cheetahs in Africa without any problem. But the wet weather extending over several days during the monsoon in India seems to have caused a real problem. The moist skin under the collar got infected, attracting flies and fly larvae. They invaded the wounds and made them deeper, spreading along the back of the animal. Since the wounds were on a part of the body that the cheetahs could not lick and clean, there was the invasion of bacteria which spread through the body to cause septicaemia (blood poisoning) and ultimately shock, leading to death.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tordiffe suggested an immediate assessment of all the cheetahs at KNP to find out the extent of the problem. He suspects most cheetahs are affected. In that case, he suggested long-acting insecticide treatment administered through darts. “But it will protect the animals only for two weeks and will not help the inflammation of the skin caused by bacterial infection. Antibiotics could be used, but is not recommended for repeated use until the end of monsoon. The final solution might be to remove the collars of the affected cheetahs and bring them into the acclimatisation camp for monitoring without collars,” he said. The apprehension turned out to be right as by July 17, three more cheetahs were found to have neck wounds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Two other experts―Dr Laurie Marker, founder of the Namibia-based Cheetah Conservation Fund, and Vincent van der Merwe, manager of the Cheetah Metapopulation Project, South Africa―were also of the view that Tejas and Suraj died from septicaemia caused by collar wounds. They said the wet weather made the skin moist and prone to infections.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indian authorities, however, said the situation was not alarming. Rajesh Gopal said that in such a venture one should be prepared for mortalities. He said, “Our action plan mentions that the mortality rate may even go up to 90 per cent (of the founder population).” He added that the cheetahs were fragile animals and that the international translocation had changed their biological clocks and circadian rhythms. “They have to get used to this and also to the anti-predator strategies of the prey animals in the new areas, the forest cover and the presence of other competitive animals. They do this through exploration. The Kuno cheetahs are currently in that exploratory phase. In this phase, there might be wrong turns and they can get killed or die. Only finally when they call out their territories will they settle and stabilise. This can take at least three or four years,” said Gopal. “Collar-related deaths are unusual and require more studies to find the exact cause. Meanwhile, other animals need to be examined urgently and possible preventive measures taken,” he said. Currently, 11 of the 15 adult cheetahs are in the wild, while four adults and a cub are captive in quarantine enclosures. Capturing the animals in the wild for examination might prove to be a difficult task. At the time of writing this report, staff at KNP are engaged in the task.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gopal also confirmed that Suraj’s death was caused by bacterial infection related shock and that his body was full of maggots. Infighting, violent interaction with other animals and poaching were ruled out because of the absence of evidence. Gopal speculated that infection-related shock might have killed Tejas, too. Earlier, the cause was believed to be wounds from violent mating, but that no longer seems possible.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gopal said collars themselves could not cause infection, though they might aggravate the condition. Also, he did not agree to the theory that rainy weather might have caused the problem. In his work of a lifetime with collared tigers, Gopal said he had not seen any such problem. “But since these animals have been brought in from a different continent, we need in-depth studies to find out the exact cause of the infection,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a speculative theory, Gopal said the cheetahs might have been infected by some disease-causing organisms found in the local livestock, causing any small wound to deteriorate. This is more likely because the agro-pastoral system (livelihood system integrating crop and livestock production) around the national parks and sanctuaries, which is typical to India, is not so common in countries like Namibia and South Africa. He also mentioned that during the steering committee meeting on July 15, the possibility of managerial lapse was ruled out. “There are nine personnel monitoring each of the cheetahs and it is quite adequate. We cannot be more intrusive than that.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Responding to Tordiffe’s accusation that he was not allowed to attend the steering committee meeting, Gopal said all members and experts were sent the link for the online meeting. He also contested the point that international experts were not consulted, saying that although the KNP had a team of eight or nine veterinary experts, consultations with international experts were made as and when required, but not for all routine things.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The NTCA has come out with a detailed note related to the deaths. It said the project was yet to complete a year and it would be premature to conclude the outcome in terms of success and failure. It denied that the deaths were caused by radio collar wounds and stressed that all the deaths were natural. The report said blaming the deaths on radio collars was not based on any scientific evidence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Global experience suggests that in the initial phase of reintroduction of cheetahs in African countries, there was more than 50 per cent mortality. The mortality may happen because of intra-specific fights, diseases, accidents before release and post release, injury caused during hunting of prey, poaching, road hits, poisoning and attacks by other predators,” said the note. Considering all these eventualities, an action plan has been made, with a provision to bring in new cheetahs annually to manage their demographic and genetic composition. The NTCA also revealed that it is consulting international cheetah experts and veterinary doctors from South Africa and Namibia for investigating the cause of deaths.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Wildlife activist Ajay Dubey, however, said that some concerns still existed. “The Madhya Pradesh forest department’s note on the death of Suraj showed that the monitoring team noticed the cheetah to be sluggish and that there were flies around it at 6:30am, but the doctor could reach the animal only by 9am. Similarly, whenever there is an emergency medical situation, veterinarians from Bhopal and Jabalpur, which are very far from Kuno, rush there. This shows a lack of expert vets on the ground,” said Dubey. He also mentioned that Uttam Sharma who runs KNP also had the charge of the Madhav National Park in Shivpuri (120km from Kuno), where two tigers were recently released.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bhupender Yadav, Union minister for environment, forests and climate change, told journalists that the government was in touch with experts, including international experts, to review the situation. “We are aware of all the concerns and would deal with them with sensitivity,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yadav ruled out shifting the cheetahs out of Kuno. “They will not be relocated,” he said. “We will take the best measures here and we are sure that the cooperation of the people of Madhya Pradesh and the hard work of the officers will pay off and bring good results. I am hopeful that the project will be successful.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Trouble in the jungle</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>September 17, 2022</b> 8 cheetahs (5 females and 3 males) from Namibia released in Kuno.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>February 18, 2023</b> 12 cheetahs (5 females and 7 males) from South Africa released.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>March 23</b> Jwala from Namibia delivers four cubs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>March 27</b> Sasha from Namibia dies, likely of renal infection.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>April 23</b> Uday from South Africa dies, likely of cardio-pulmonary failure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>May 9</b> Daksha from South Africa dies, likely of injuries due to violent mating.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>May 23</b> One of Jwala’s cubs dies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>May 25</b> Two more cubs of Jwala die–all three deaths likely because of low birth weight and severe dehydration caused by extreme heat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>July 11</b> Tejas from South Africa dies due to “traumatic shock”. He was underweight and his internal organs were compromised.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>July 14</b> Suraj from South Africa dies of septicaemia caused by wounds on neck and back, and consequent shock.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/21/why-deaths-of-cheetahs-brought-to-india-have-set-alarm-bells-ringing.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/21/why-deaths-of-cheetahs-brought-to-india-have-set-alarm-bells-ringing.html Fri Jul 21 16:49:02 IST 2023 china-investing-in-sea-cucumber-farms-in-sri-lanka-raises-environmental-and-strategic-concerns <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/15/china-investing-in-sea-cucumber-farms-in-sri-lanka-raises-environmental-and-strategic-concerns.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/2023/7/15/50-Yusuf-Francis-president.jpg" /> <p>The road from Jaffna to Poonakari in northern Sri Lanka offers a picturesque view. Flanked by lush green paddy fields, expansive farms, giant windmills and tall palms, the two-hour drive is a rewarding experience. The farms and the windmills disappear as the road takes a turn towards the scenic, Chinese-funded Sangupiddy bridge. Through Kilinochi and the dense Vanni forest, it finally reaches Kiranchi, a remote fishermen’s village. Catamarans and fishing nets lie scattered on the beach, and the sea looks calm. Two men atop a navy watch tower are scanning the horizon with their binoculars.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A few metres from the shore, a few thatched hutments dot the shallow waters. This is sea cucumber territory and the hutments belong to fishermen who watch over the farms. Sea cucumbers are echinoderms with a thick, wormlike body, having tentacles around the mouth. Star fish and sea urchins, too, belong to the same family. While a few varieties of sea cucumbers live in deep waters, most inhabit the shallows, like in Kiranchi. There are more than a thousand known species, but only about two dozen are commercially important. It is a delicacy in China and southeast Asia, and is also known for its medicinal properties.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Everyone says sea cucumber farming is dangerous for marine life. But it is my livelihood,” says Seenianna Navarathnam, president of the fishermen’s association at Kiranchi. Navarathnam owns a one-acre farm, which fetches him at least ten lakh Sri Lankan rupees a year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sri Lanka’s sea cucumber fisheries is primarily artisanal and supports the livelihood of fishermen in the coastal region between Puttalam and Mannar in the Tamil-dominated Northern Province. Of the five districts in the province, Jaffna, Kilinochi and Mannar have shallow waters and are hubs of sea cucumber farming. According to official estimates, there are 720 farms in Jaffna, which were sanctioned after extensive debates and discussions among the local people and the government. And now 213 more applications await approval. In Kilinochi, there are 273 farms and 274 pending applications. In Mannar, already 159 acres are under cultivation, while 204 applications are pending.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“This is one of the major sources of income in the Northern Province. The fishermen here are just workers. The farms are owned by doctors, lawyers and several corporates who live in Colombo or elsewhere,” says Thusiyan, an employee working in one of the farms. Thusiyan used to work on a farm at Kautharimunai in Jaffna, where China had set up its first farm. “Some of the farms there are closed now, including the Chinese farm,” says Thusiyan. “There was strong opposition from local people against the Chinese farms at Kautharimunai as it has a huge impact on fishing. We feel the Chinese chose the place because it is deserted and also because of its proximity to India,” said Kilinochi MP Shritharan Sivagnanam.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kautharimunai is just 54km from Rameswaram and it takes only 20 minutes to cross the sea in a twin-engine fibreglass boat. “It is easy to watch the Indian shores from Kautharimunai,” says Sivagnanam. As an MP, he has been fighting against the mushrooming sea cucumber farms in his constituency. “The farms are increasing by the day in places like Kiranchi, Poonakari and the coastal areas in Kilinochi. It is harmful to our ocean environment,” he says. He blames the government for not offering any support to the Tamils in the Northern Province. “I have been raising it in parliament. The government is not supporting the people in any way except for the sea cucumber farms.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>China has a huge hatchery at Ariyalai in Jaffna called the Gui Lan farm. It has supplied over five lakh sea cucumber seedlings to local farmers, free of cost. The baby sea cucumbers are nursed in the farm and then sold to commercial farms. “We get seedlings from these hatcheries. Sometimes we get it from our own farm. But it has to be carefully harvested. Otherwise, it dies very soon,” says Mahendran Arithu, who owns a one-acre farm in Kiranchi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No special gear or net is needed to harvest sea cucumbers. It is harvested by hand by scuba divers or skin divers. “The sea cucumbers eat mud and move down into the mud deep inside the shallow waters. We dive in and check them every day. If they move into the sea, we bring them back into the shallow waters,” says Yusuf Francis, president of the Poonakari cooperative fishermen federation. Within three to four hours of harvesting, sea cucumbers are brought to the factory for processing. “If it gets delayed, the intestine will come out and it gets spoiled,” says Thileepan, who works in one of the factories. War widows and elderly women are employed by many factories to clean the catch. “This is the major source of livelihood for women in this region,” says the factory supervisor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2021, Sri Lanka exported around 336 tonnes of sea cucumber to China, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Sea cucumber fetches around €250 per kilogram in the export market. Some of the rare varieties are sold even for €2,500 per kilogram. The farmers get up to 1,000 Sri Lankan rupees for 50gm. It has become an important source of income for fishermen in the north, east and the northwestern coastal regions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In June 2022, the Sri Lankan government approved a proposal for a sea cucumber farm spanning 5,000 acres in Jaffna, Mannar, Kilinochi and Batticaloa districts. According to the National Aquaculture Development Authority, sea cucumber export has brought in considerable amount of foreign exchange. “There has been much opposition. But it is the livelihood of most fishermen in our country. It is for exports. We set up the farms only after thorough research,” says Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda, who is an MP from Jaffna.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While sea cucumber farming supports more than two lakh families in the northern and eastern provinces, there is stiff opposition to it. “These farms will hurt fish reproduction. Sea cucumber is only for export and it is not for our own primary marine industry business. It will destroy our traditional fishing industry, which has been the source of our livelihood for generations,” says Annalingam Annarasa, leader of a Jaffna-based fishermen’s association.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Annarasa does not mind the Chinese presence, as he is concerned only about the marine environment. In fact, he says China has been quite benevolent towards local fishermen. “The Chinese gave 150 litres of fuel each to two lakh families. In the Northern Province alone, 27,000 families have benefitted,” says Annarasa. China also has plans to distribute fishing nets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Devananda, too, does not appear bothered by China. “More than the sea cucumbers, our fishermen are facing a bigger damage from the trawlers used by Indians,” says Devananda. “We need to support our fishermen. We need technology and investment to support our people in the Northern Province.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Interestingly, the Sri Lankan fishermen who earn their livelihood by selling sea cucumbers have never tasted it all these years. “We cannot eat this,” says Edward, a 43-year-old fisherman from Poonakari. “It looks disgusting. You won’t find this in our markets. Only the Chinese can eat this.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/15/china-investing-in-sea-cucumber-farms-in-sri-lanka-raises-environmental-and-strategic-concerns.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/15/china-investing-in-sea-cucumber-farms-in-sri-lanka-raises-environmental-and-strategic-concerns.html Sat Jul 15 16:38:42 IST 2023 the-week-honouring-doctor-entrepreneurs-for-their-stellar-work-during-covid-crisis <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/15/the-week-honouring-doctor-entrepreneurs-for-their-stellar-work-during-covid-crisis.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/2023/7/15/62-Riyad-Mathew.jpg" /> <p>It has been three years since Covid began spreading worldwide. Despite the challenges and pressures they faced, doctors and medical professionals in India saved lives with their selfless work.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On July 2, the day after India celebrated National Doctors’ Day, THE WEEK honoured a group of unsung heroes in the medical fraternity—the ‘doctor-preneurs’, or doctors turned entrepreneurs who ran their own hospitals as the pandemic raged. The event, named Healers and Heroes, felicitated 25 such doctor-preneurs in Chennai.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tamil Nadu Health Minister Ma Subramanian inaugurated the event and honoured the doctors. He reminisced about his association with <i>Malayala Manorama</i> and his visit to the Manorama office in Kochi when he was the mayor of Chennai. <i>Malayala Manorama</i> and THE WEEK, he said, were known for their exemplary work in journalism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Subramanian also spoke about Tamil Nadu’s innovative health care initiatives. He said schemes such as the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance, the 108 ambulance service, eye-care for schoolchildren, doorstep delivery of medicines, and free treatment for road accident victims in the first 48 hours were the first of its kind in India. “The government alone cannot make these schemes succeed,” he said. “If private hospitals, too, come together to work with government hospitals, these schemes can be implemented well.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He said the scheme for accident victims—named <i>Innuyir Kappom Thittam: Nammai Kakkum</i> 48—has saved 1.6 lakh lives in 688 hospitals since its launch in December 2021. “We have spent Rs150 crore for saving people’s lives,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The state government has spent Rs7,730 crore on the chief minister’s insurance scheme, he said. As many as 1,513 diseases have been identified for treatment under the scheme, for which the government spends Rs1,546 crore every year. “Tamil Nadu is the only state in India where the chief minister’s insurance scheme is implemented professionally. There are 968 private hospitals and 811 government hospitals that treat people under this scheme,” said Subramanian.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>THE WEEK’s Chief Associate Editor and Director Riyad Mathew felicitated Dr Randeep Guleria, former director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi. Delivering the keynote address, Guleria highlighted how data science and technological innovations can help the health care industry improve the quality of treatment and reduce costs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We have to use technology to reach out to remote areas where health care workers or doctors are unavailable,” he said. “A lot of hospitals have started doing outreach programs using technology and telemedicine. We can make it better so that every nook and cranny of the country is covered in terms of providing health care.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He spoke about how Bharat Biotech swiftly developed Covaxin during the pandemic, and how a group of engineering students visited AIIMS and developed—and later patented—devices that provided better health care. “I would really encourage all hospitals to see how they can become entrepreneurial,” he said. According to him, health care is both a science and an art that required doctors to empathise with patients.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>V. Vishnu, IAS, managing director and CEO of Guidance Bureau, Tamil Nadu’s nodal agency for investment promotion, delivered a special address encouraging doctors and hospitals to focus on research and development and come up with cutting-edge technology. “We have the right infrastructure. What we need is a push towards really niche, high-end R&amp;D, especially in drug delivery. There are R&amp;D opportunities in areas like medical devices, biotechnology, bio services, pharma and nutraceuticals,” said Vishnu.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to him, the state has been a leader in health care and medical tourism, and it is now looking to develop the life sciences sector. “Tamil Nadu is the only state to have a life sciences policy,” he said. “We recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Omron in Japan.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/15/the-week-honouring-doctor-entrepreneurs-for-their-stellar-work-during-covid-crisis.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/15/the-week-honouring-doctor-entrepreneurs-for-their-stellar-work-during-covid-crisis.html Sat Jul 15 16:11:35 IST 2023 building-a-secure-cyberspace-through-the-india-uae-israel-cyber-security-partnership <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/08/building-a-secure-cyberspace-through-the-india-uae-israel-cyber-security-partnership.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/2023/7/8/56-The-UAE-based-EliteCISOs-signed-a-memorandum.jpg" /> <p><b>DR MOHAMED AL KUWAITI</b> has been a busy man, of late. Kuwaiti, head of cyber security for the government of the United Arab Emirates, has been on his toes, what with the UAE being hard at work at cementing the India-UAE-Israel partnership for shaping a new Middle East. The partnership is based on regional security integration to beat common threats. The three countries are also building alliances to strengthen economies by creating food corridors and inking agreements on energy, transportation, trade and health care.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For all future projects and partnerships, securing the digital space is key, and the cyber security heads of the three countries are joining forces. Take, for instance, Israel, which has cutting-edge technologies at its disposal. “Artificial intelligence is helping us create an Iron Dome in the Israeli cyber security space,” said Ronen Bar, director of Israel Security Agency, which is also known as the Shin Bet. Creating a cyber dome that goes beyond Israel’s cyberspace to help its partners is not a distant thought. And, it is wooing the UAE big time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the last fortnight, Kuwaiti travelled to two ends of a geostrategically significant arc―India and Israel. He carried a basketful of innovative ideas and technology for cooperation in cyber security to the two countries. His visit is symbolic in light of the I2U2 (India, Israel, the UAE and the US) grouping, reaffirming support to the Abraham Accords for Israeli-Emirati normalisation that transcends political or regional challenges.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>New Delhi is an active partner in this strategic convergence. Predictably so, Kuwaiti’s first stop was India. He held hectic closed-door meetings with top cyber security officials of India’s National Security Council Secretariat with the aim to maximise innovation, entrepreneurial dynamism and technology in all four countries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Top government sources said an India-UAE cyber partnership is in the works to create opportunities for both public and private sectors in the digital arena. This is besides offering innovative solutions for growing threats to the cyber security ecosystem that go beyond geographical boundaries and even human imagination. Israel is using its research and development labs in the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be’er Sheva, its cyber capital, to create solutions for imminent threats from the misuse of AI, ChatGPT and the Internet of Things. With AI already being used for running trains and driverless buses, building smart homes and regulating water, power and all essential supplies and critical infrastructures, governments around the world can ill afford to be manipulated, said Dr Isaac Ben, director of Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center at Tel Aviv, who is considered the father of cyber security in Israel.Moreover, radical terror groups like the Islamic State―the first terrorist organisation that recruited, trained and organised real-time terror attacks using online platforms―and its affiliates are a threat to the entire region. Besides this, the growing military and cyber heft of China has given enough reason to New Delhi to review its cyber preparedness in an entirely new way. And, it is looking at the UAE and Israel to play a huge role in securing its digital space and strengthening national security. It is the UAE’s moment under the sun, with Kuwaiti pitching Emirates as a hub for Israel to share its cutting-edge technological advancements and cyber security prowess, opening a floodgate of tie-ups between the two. “Cyber security is a shared responsibility that can never be addressed by one person, organisation or country alone,” said Kuwaiti, who attended the annual Cyber Week Conference at Tel Aviv. “Instead, it requires mutual collaboration between the private and public sectors. Partnership with the industry and academia is critical as it brings all stakeholders of the digital ecosystem together with a common vision.” The end result, he said, will be a more secure, resilient digital future, not only for the UAE but also for its partners and friends.The US cannot agree more. Whether it is Russia’s assault on Ukraine or Iran’s recent cyber attack on Albania’s critical digital infrastructure, the US is well aware of the fast-evolving dangers in cyberspace. Nathaniel C. Fick, US ambassador-at-large for cyberspace and digital policy, said joint efforts with Israel to build a defensible, resilient and rights-respecting digital ecosystem is the way forward. For all countries, trust is important, which is why Kuwaiti has been on a mission to give a personal touch to the bonding in cyberspace. The outcome has been promising. The UAE and Israel have decided to create a skilled workforce in cyberspace that understands the common threats and jointly blocks them. The UAE-based EliteCISOs, a global cyber security community, signed a memorandum of understanding with Cyber Together, an Israeli NGO. “This MoU, a strategic partnership between two leading cyber security stakeholders, further strengthens our relations and represents the shared benefits of the Abraham Accords beyond the relationship between governments to partnerships between organisations and people,” said Oded Joseph, deputy director general, head of Middle East Division in the ministry of foreign affairs of Israel.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India is not far behind and the next big partnership for New Delhi is being readied during GITEX Global, the world’s largest tech showcase in Dubai in October. The event will bring Israel, India and the rest of the world to the UAE and create new opportunities for technical collaboration in the region.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/08/building-a-secure-cyberspace-through-the-india-uae-israel-cyber-security-partnership.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/08/building-a-secure-cyberspace-through-the-india-uae-israel-cyber-security-partnership.html Sat Jul 08 16:40:03 IST 2023 uae-government-head-of-cyber-security-dr-mohamed-al-kuwaiti-interview <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/08/uae-government-head-of-cyber-security-dr-mohamed-al-kuwaiti-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/2023/7/8/58-Dr-Mohamed-Al-Kuwaiti.jpg" /> <p><b>Q/ How do you view the Israel-UAE partnership in cyber security?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> The I2U2 gives us a platform for communicating with Israel on many issues. From the cyber security point of view, it has brought many partners and entities―government or businesses―that can help us achieve our mission of becoming a global hub for data and technology. The Abraham Accords definitely opens a great opportunity for both Israel and the UAE. It is helping in sharing information on cyber security, and both countries have startups that are bringing a modern, futuristic vision. The governments need to encourage this collaboration.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What is the UAE’s cyber security strategy?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> It focuses on five pillars―national and international collaboration, cyber security, resilience, innovation and building a cyber-smart nation…. The UAE is moving towards digital transformation and that covers all domains, from aviation, transportation, education, oil and gas, health care to many critical infrastructures on which our lives depend. If we transform and move towards digitisation without doing it right, we are taking a very big risk.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What is the UAE’s vision and goals on cyber security?</b></p> <p><b>A/</b> We are planning to make the UAE a hub of data and digital technology and we are working with many entities to achieve this. There are many companies from the UAE and in Israel [that are] exploring these opportunities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Cyber awareness and a culture of cyber hygiene is the need of the hour. Your comments.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> We are trying to uplift the cyber culture. It needs to become the DNA of our day-to-day life. Our kids use technology more than we do. The risk they see and the landscape of that threat is much bigger than what we can see. Therefore, we are working with different sectors on cyber culture education from a young age. One of them is ‘cyber pulse’for children from kindergarten to class 12. We are working with the ministry of education to embed some cyber terminology in the curriculum so that kids become familiar with keywords.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Have the number of cyber attacks on the UAE gone up?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> From 20,000 cyber attacks per day, the UAE [now] deters around 50,000 attacks per day. The use of technology and artificial intelligence has increased the numbers and canvas of attacks. There are huge attacks happening all the time. Any unwanted contact with our network is considered an attack.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How are India and the UAE collaborating on cyber security?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> An MoU on operational collaboration on cyber security has been signed between India and Israel. The relationship is attaining new heights, with startups creating newer opportunities. GITEX Global, the world’s largest tech showcase in October, will be testimonial of this relationship, whether it is India or Israel or other countries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ From whom is the UAE facing maximum threat?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> We do not go into names or nations. We do not attribute threats to state or non-state actors, but we treat them as threats like APT, ransomware, DDoS and phishing. We stop at that. There is no attribution. If you bring any company that claims attribution of an attack is possible and identifies the origin, I will [sign a] contract with that company right now! No one speaks of attribution. Everyone talks about speculation. So we try to defend ourselves. We are unified in our efforts and we need to be resilient and help each other. Recently, we discussed cyber terrorism at the United Nations and how technology is being used in a harmful way. All countries agreed that it is a double-edged sword. So, the focus should be to create a culture of cyber security and spread it by using technology and by framing cyber policies and laws in a useful way.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/08/uae-government-head-of-cyber-security-dr-mohamed-al-kuwaiti-interview.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/08/uae-government-head-of-cyber-security-dr-mohamed-al-kuwaiti-interview.html Sat Jul 08 16:36:16 IST 2023 minor-planets-named-after-indian-scientists <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/01/minor-planets-named-after-indian-scientists.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/2023/7/1/66-Kumar-Venkataramani-Rutu-Parekh-and-Aswin-Sekhar.jpg" /> <p><b>ASWIN SEKHAR</b> is India’s first professional meteor astronomer. Kumar Venkataramani is an astronomer at CalTech who observes comets and asteroids. Ashok K. Verma is a senior flight dynamics engineer at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and Rutu Parekh is a planetary geologist studying icy surfaces on various celestial bodies, including Mars. Until recently, the four scientists had only one professional commonality―their involvement in advanced space research. However, on June 21, there came another. At the annual Asteroids, Comets, Meteors meeting (a renowned international gathering of scientists), the International Astronomical Union (IAU) named four minor planets after these scientists.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They joined an esteemed group of Indian scientists―Srinivasa Ramanujan, Subramanyan Chandrasekhar, C.V. Raman, Vikram Sarabhai, and Vainu Bappu―who have had the same honour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“There are two ways in which minor planets are named,” said Sekhar, whose minor planet lies about 5.87 crore kilometres from earth. “The first way is more ceremonial; any person who discovers an asteroid or a minor planet has the right to name it after someone. However, there are criteria that prevent randomly naming it after any person; it must undergo a filtering process by the IAU nomenclature committee. Once the committee assesses the contributions and track record, they approve those names.” This is how M.K. Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore and Viswanathan Anand had minor planets named after them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“So that is almost like a discoverer’s small gift to the person he/she would like to honour,” said Sekhar, currently an astronomer in the meteor science team at the prestigious Institute of Celestial Mechanics, Paris Observatory. “The second way involves scientific nominations. In this case, accomplished individuals in the field of astrophysics nominate a fellow scientist for the IAU’s consideration to have a minor planet named in their honour. The IAU then examines the nominee’s body of work and contributions to science before approving or rejecting the name.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sekhar’s job is to forecast potential threats to earth from asteroids or other celestial bodies. Essentially, prevent a hit like the one that wiped out the dinosaurs. Currently, earth is relatively safe from highly impactful collisions, he promises. “Such events are pretty rare,” he said, adding that earth is more susceptible to threats from smaller celestial bodies, specifically those with a diameter of less than 1km. “There are numerous objects within this size range, and we lack an exact database or precise knowledge of their locations,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Understanding the trajectories of near-earth objects is crucial to defend against them, and Verma, 39, has done this for years. He has developed software to determine the orbits of asteroids and has played a major role in enhancing the world’s radio astronomy capabilities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These asteroids, while dangerous, can also hold valuable insights. And Venkataramani dissects them. His work, he said, primarily focuses on studying the chemical composition and evolution of comets and asteroids, which offers clues about the early stages of the solar system’s formation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Parekh, the fourth in this quartet, studies ice found on planets and moons using data obtained from exploration missions like Cassini and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Ice is a key ingredient for creating a habitable planet. A recipient of the prestigious Chevening scholarship, the 32-year-old’s interests are evident in her Twitter username, ‘Icy_planetnerd’. She recently joined as a post-doc at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory-CalTech on the Europa Clipper mission. Europa is one of Jupiter’s moons.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I had quite a roller-coaster ride, I did my under-graduation in biochemistry but then switched to remote sensing and earth science for graduation,” she said. “After graduation, I worked for a few years and conducted research on agriculture, urban planning, and land-cover mapping. At this time, I was introduced to planetary science and instantly fell in love with the wonders of the universe. I remember looking at the images of Saturn’s moon that were acquired during the Cassini mission in early 2000. I could not wrap my head around the fact that we had reached so far in the solar system, yet there were endless secrets we needed to unlock.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Although many researchers in the field discovered astrophysics later in life, many others were enthusiastic star gazers as children. “One incident that really motivated me [as a kid] was a star-gazing event organised by Nehru Science Centre near my house in Mumbai,” said Venkataramani.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sekhar, raised in a family where most members wanted to be doctors, attributed his passion for astronomy to two childhood mentors who sparked his interest― Krishna Warrier, former additional director of the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, Thiruvananthapuram, and Shashi Warrier, a novelist. “They used to encourage me to visit the planetarium and science museum, and observe celestial phenomena such as meteor showers, comet visits and eclipses,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sci-fi movies also helped grow the curiosity. “One movie that comes to mind is Independence Day, which portrayed an alien invasion,” he said. “It was both scary and fascinating at the same time. I believe I was in eighth grade when I watched it, and it made me contemplate the existence of aliens and related topics. Although Hollywood often depicts exaggerated elements, it also sparked thoughtful ideas.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The young astronomer is also passionate about his science outreach programmes in India. “I undertake various projects to inspire children, particularly those from rural and tribal areas,” he said. “I collaborate with numerous individuals within the government to contribute to science education and science outreach initiatives. I also strive to create opportunities for young individuals to pursue research outside India.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indeed, it is these very outreach programmes that have the potential to create the next Sekhars, Venkataramanis, Vermas and Parekhs.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/01/minor-planets-named-after-indian-scientists.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/07/01/minor-planets-named-after-indian-scientists.html Sat Jul 01 18:12:44 IST 2023 sri-lanka-economic-crisis-current-political-scenario <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/24/sri-lanka-economic-crisis-current-political-scenario.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/2023/6/24/18-Balangoda-Kassaba-Thero.jpg" /> <p>The iconic Galle Face Green near the presidential secretariat in Colombo is eerily quiet. Even the usually crowded space around the statue of former president S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike is deserted. A year ago, it was the nerve-centre of the anti-government protests that rattled Sri Lanka. The historic Aragalaya (people’s struggle) was launched from here on March 1, 2022, which led to the ouster of president Gotabaya Rajapaksa.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sri Lanka is now largely peaceful. The country has been offered a bailout package by the International Monetary Fund. Luxury cars are back on the roads. Wedding parties and celebrations have returned to the European style buildings in Colombo. The beaches are full of foreign tourists. The long queues outside petrol stations and supermarkets and the unending power cuts are largely absent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But while life is back to normal for rich Sri Lankans, the poor and the middle class continue to struggle. Prices of essentials still remain high, the Sri Lankan rupee continues to be volatile and the fuel and power crisis could return any moment. The growing inflation and price rise have made economic recovery difficult. “I used to make 10,000 rupees (6,000 Indian rupee) before the protests. With that I was able to feed my family and even save some money,” said Hasan Mohammed, an autorickshaw driver from Wellawatte, a Colombo neighbourhood. “Now what I get is not enough for buying fuel for my auto rickshaw. How do I provide for my family?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The latest economic data is alarming. Nearly 40 lakh Sri Lankans face food insecurity. While it is certainly an improvement from the situation last year, certain communities suffer disproportionately, such as estate workers, daily wage earners and households that rely on social assistance. One in every five households is forced to skip meals. “Food insecurity covers several pillars like availability, accessibility, utilisation and stability. In Sri Lanka, food insecurity in the current context is largely related to accessibility,” said Tanya Jansz of the World Food Programme in Sri Lanka.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unfortunately for the island nation, along with the economic crisis, it is also experiencing a socio-political churn. The young Sri Lankans who led the Aragalaya protests are targeted by the administration headed by President Ranil Wickremesinghe. Many of them have lost their jobs, some have been arrested and a few even lost their lives. Although Wickremesinghe came to power after president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and prime minister Mahinda Rajapaksa were forced to resign, his government relies on the support of the Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP) led by the Rajapaksa clan. So, it was not surprising that one of the first actions Ranil took was to force the protesters out from Galle Face Green.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Melanie Gunathilaka, a 36-year-old climate activist, the past year was nothing less than a harrowing ordeal. She was arrested in May for protesting outside parliament, but was soon released. She was picked up again in September, this time for being one of the faces of the Aragalaya movement. “I am still fighting the cases,” said Melanie, who was working as a climate activist with a private company in Colombo. Recently, when she was attending a protest with a friend, a policeman came and asked her friend to stay away from her. “This is the kind of intimidation we are facing. Every time I step out of my house, my mother is scared. If I say I am going for a protest, she is even more scared.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After getting caught in the legal tangle, Melanie could not get her contract renewed. Now she is finding it difficult to find another job. Unemployment is a major concern in Sri Lanka even for the highly qualified. “Many doctors have relocated to other countries. Skilled workers are moving to the Middle East,” said Udahiruni Atapattu, research analyst at Advocata Institute, a Colombo-based think tank.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Amila Jeewantha Peiris, a Catholic priest who was part of Aragalaya’s core group, said he, too, is constantly watched. Peiris, who works among the socially backward in the Central Province, said wherever he went for work, he was followed by the police. Three cases are registered against him. “This is intimidation,” he said. Peiris no longer wears his cassock when is outside the church. “They can identify me easily with the cassock and I might be attacked,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Marisa DeSilva, a human rights consultant and an avid supporter of the Aragalaya movement, said that despite the hardships faced by the activists, it helped many people realise the importance of civil rights. “This is the [most significant] non-violent, democratic protest that any South Asian country has seen in its history. And, we were able to bring about change,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But for W.P. Piyasena, a 56-year-old soldier who lost both legs while fighting the civil war against the Tamil Tigers, Aragalaya has brought nothing but misery. His son Kelum Mudannayake, who was students’ union president at the University of Kelaniya, is in a Colombo jail for the past six months. Piyasena travels at least thrice a week from his house in Galgamuwa in the North Western province to Colombo to arrange legal assistance for his son. “He tells me not to travel because of my physical problems. But there is no one else for him,” said Piyasena. “I am still serving the army. I never thought that working for my country would cost me something this big. My son has done nothing wrong.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are two cases against him―damaging public property and rioting inside the university campus. “There was a clash between two student groups and as president of the students’ union, he mediated between them,” said Piyasena.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many other student leaders, too, are facing similar legal troubles. Former Inter-University Students Federation leader Wasantha Mudalige, Inter-University Bhikkhu Federation convenor Galwewa Siridhamma Himi and activist Hashantha Jeewantha Gunathilake were detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), one of Sri Lanka’s most draconian laws. Mudalige now lives alone as he does not want the police to trouble his mother and siblings who were intimidated by the police. Mudalige, Gunathilake and Himi are accused of conspiring against the state. Apart from the PTA case, Mudalige has also been charged with trespassing into the president’s house during the protests. “We fought for the people’s rights. But the government calls us terrorists,” said Himi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Balangoda Kassaba Thero, a 30-year-old Buddhist monk who was on a Satyagraha campaign during the Aragalaya protests, too, is facing charges. “I was fighting for people’s rights and they arrested me for that. Buddhism preaches peace. But they say even a monk is wrong, although our protests were peaceful,” said Kassaba, sipping a cup of coffee at a Colombo cafe. He said that even after Aragalaya, Sri Lankans did not have the freedom to express themselves. “To protest and question the government is our fundamental right. But we are being harassed for it,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite the setbacks, some observers say the movement made the younger generation aware of their political rights. “Aragalaya was a decisive political movement for the people of my generation and it completely politicised a certain section of society and told them that they could question the government,” said 36-year-old human rights lawyer Swasthika Arulingam. Swasthika, who was one of the organisers of the movement, is now part of a lawyers’ group which provides legal assistance to Aragalaya activists. “We look into who can go to the police station, who can appear in court, who will look into the documentation issues, who will file the fundamental rights cases and who will go before the human rights commission.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nuwan S. Bopege is another attorney who fights for the activists. “Cases were registered against more than 5,000 people on 60 different charges,” said Bopege, who faced arrest last July. After getting out on bail, he filed a fundamental rights petition against deputy inspector general of police Deshabandhu Tennakoon. “I filed a case against him for his undemocratic acts against the protesters,” he said. The authorities were also unhappy as he chose to represent Gunathilake, Mudalige and Himi. “Last July, after Wickremesinghe took over as president, I was assaulted by unknown people,” said Bopege. The ordeal has been so traumatic for his family that his five-year-old daughter hides under the table whenever someone enters their house.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the attorneys and professionals are able to fight for themselves, the poor, the less educated and the minorities are at a huge disadvantage. Rebecca David, a 41-year-old social media strategist, faces the double trouble of being a Tamil and a Christian. Some of her detractors say that she is being funded by the church while others point to her Tamil background. Since the Aragalaya movement made use of her professional skills, she is being targeted by the establishment. Her attempts to educate the people about their constitutional rights, too, have made her a lot of powerful enemies. David and her family now face surveillance constantly. “My social media activities are monitored. The CID came to my place to inquire about me. This is being done to intimidate my family,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aragalaya changed the nature of political protests in Sri Lanka as it helped breach the divide between the Sinhala-majority south and the Tamil-dominated north. People in the south who never bothered to oppose the rulers did not hesitate to question the politicians this time about their broken promises. “During Aragalaya, everyone, including the ultra left and the far right and even those without any political ideology came together,” said Chameera Dedduwage, a digital media strategist who works for a leading advertising company in Colombo.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A year later, however, Dedduwage, and many others like him, are disillusioned about how things have unfolded after the protests. “Unfortunately, there is a lot of polarisation,” said Dedduwage. “The left thinks the entire protest was their monopoly. In that sense, people like me are marginalised by both sides―because we oppose the politicians and because we are not leftists.” Dedduwage’s friend Buddhi Prabodha Karunaratne, another prominent Aragalaya leader, got so disappointed that he allegedly took his life. Dedduwage said it was Karunaratne’s Facebook post that prompted a large group of protesters to march to Gotabaya’s private residence in Colombo. Karunaratne, who was undergoing treatment for depression, died from a medicine overdose.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dedduwage said the only change that Aragalaya brought was to Sri Lanka’s political leadership. “Wickremesinghe is someone who is preferred by the upper echelons of the society in Colombo. Apart from that, there is no big change,” he said. “The protesters have gone back to look after their own lives.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/24/sri-lanka-economic-crisis-current-political-scenario.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/24/sri-lanka-economic-crisis-current-political-scenario.html Sat Jun 24 13:44:50 IST 2023 can-mahindra-rajapaksa-make-a-comeback-to-sri-lankan-politics <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/24/can-mahindra-rajapaksa-make-a-comeback-to-sri-lankan-politics.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/2023/6/24/24-Mahinda-Rajapaksa.jpg" /> <p><b>ON MAY 1,</b> former president Mahinda Rajapaksa addressed a well-attended May Day rally at the Campbell Park ground in Colombo. It was his second public meeting after the Rajapaksa clan was dislodged from power a year ago. The 77-year-old leader confessed to the crowd that his family could not do justice to the overwhelming mandate people had given them. He said they made certain “wrong decisions” and urged the people to “unite to overcome the challenges and take the country towards victory”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For the Sri Lanka Podujana Party (SLPP) run by the Rajapaksa clan, the rally was a show of success. “It was a cheerful crowd,” said party MP S.M. Chandrasena. The SLPP remains the largest party in parliament and President Ranil Wickremesinghe relies heavily on its MPs as he tries to work out a deal with the International Monetary Fund to revive the Sri Lankan economy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though the Aragalaya movement was successful in sensitising the youth against corruption and in making them invested in politics, the SLPP is confident that the Sinhala majoritarian feeling is still alive in the country. Besides, no other party in Sri Lanka has a sizeable presence across the country. The day-to-day affairs of the SLPP is now managed by Mahinda's eldest son Namal Rajapaksa, who hopes to attract more young members to the party.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A year ago, when Gotabaya Rajapaksa was forced to quit as president and flee the country following the Aragalaya protests, most observers were prepared to write the Rajapaksas off. They saw Gotabaya's retreat as a clear symbol of relinquishing power. The Aragalaya movement did the unthinkable to a man known for his authoritarian streak and ruthlessness. But those close to Gotabaya say he fled because he did not want to hurt his people. “Gotabaya is not an autocratic leader. He is a man of simplicity,” said Eranda Ginige, a former adviser to Gotabaya. “As a man who won the civil war, he never wanted to use violence to stifle the protests. He is a strong proponent of constitutional democracy. Even when protesters broke into his residence, he did not ask to control them.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to sources close to the Rajapaksa family, even India had advised him not to step down or flee the country. But everything went out of control as Gotabaya did not want to use the military to crush the protests. “The Indian government very clearly told him to continue in office. It was his decision to go. It happened because he had isolated himself at that time,” said Rohan Gunaratna, former director general of the Institute of National Security Studies, Sri Lanka.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While Gotabaya was responsible for his own decisions, the family feels that there was a larger conspiracy by external forces to throw the family out of power. They even suspect a foreign hand in funding the protests. “I strongly believe that Aragalaya was part of a conspiracy. Most of the kids who went to Aragalaya are victims of the conspiracy. They didn’t know what they were doing,” said Namal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Although the Rajapaksas are eyeing a comeback, there are differences within the family about several decisions made by Gotabaya. For instance, Gotabaya had asked Mahinda to step down as prime minister. As per the Sri Lankan constitution, if the president quits, the prime minister can take over. Had Mahinda been allowed to continue, he could have taken over when Gotabaya left. “He should not have fled the country. That was a bad decision,” said Namal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gotabaya has, meanwhile, dropped hints that he is not interested in making a comeback to politics. Mahinda and other members of the family, however, see a more active political role for themselves. World leaders, including top leaders from India, continue to be in touch with Mahinda. Namal said his father still enjoyed a huge appeal among the Sinhala majority. “He is still popular among the masses. And people believe in him, especially the SLPP followers and those who voted for Gotabaya. A majority of them voted for him because of Mahinda,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Namal has been travelling across Sri Lanka, meeting office-bearers and cadres of the SLPP. His efforts are supplemented by Mahinda’s younger brother Basil, who is working on a political strategy to bring the family back to power. When the Rajapaksas were out of power in the past, it was Basil’s groundwork that helped them launch the SLPP and make a comeback.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though the Wickremesinghe government appears stable at the moment, political observers feel that it is a temporary arrangement which could change once the IMF deal is worked out. “The MPs have become extremely corrupt. Their support comes based on many conditions even for passing bills,” said an SLPP member. And the Rajapaksas believe that they are ready to take over when the right moment arrives. “As a family, we believe that we have done our best,” said Namal. “My father has done enough for the people.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/24/can-mahindra-rajapaksa-make-a-comeback-to-sri-lankan-politics.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/24/can-mahindra-rajapaksa-make-a-comeback-to-sri-lankan-politics.html Sat Jun 24 13:37:55 IST 2023 slpp-leader-namal-rajapaksa-interview <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/24/slpp-leader-namal-rajapaksa-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/2023/6/24/26-Namal-Rajapaksa.jpg" /> <p><b>Q/ How would you describe the situation in Sri Lanka? What has changed and what has not?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> President Ranil Wickremesinghe has managed to restore law and order, and has addressed certain basic issues, like 16-hour-long power cuts and long queues at fuel stations. There was a problem with supply chain. It has been resolved and the economy is stabilising. But I am not saying that the government has done everything to put the economy back on track. Yet, there has been a massive change in the past 12 months, considering where we were last year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You say there was a conspiracy to dethrone the Rajapaksa family. Who was behind it?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> There were many forces behind it. This is not the first time that Sri Lanka has gone through something like this. I am sure countries like India, as it heads towards becoming an economic superpower, will always find people who do not want to see certain countries in Asia becoming bigger because we were colonies once. I will not blame anyone, because as a government, we must be prepared to face this. But we have to make sure that something like this will not happen again.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Has Sri Lanka lost confidence in the Rajapaksas, particularly in Mahinda?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Mahinda Rajapaksa is still very popular among the masses. He is very active and has his own policies and vision. And the SLPP (Sri Lanka Podujana Party) is his party. The SLPP has a bigger role to play now.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We were elected with 69 lakh votes in 2020. Unfortunately, we could not go ahead. It may be an external force or a conspiracy, but it made us take one step back. But again, we have got back together and got President Wickremesinghe elected. We have a responsibility towards our people to bring back normalcy and help the current government to stabilise the economy. I believe president Mahinda Rajapaksa has a bigger role to play in that, with his experience and knowledge. This is his 53rd year in parliament. I am sure when there is an election, the SLPP will win the majority.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are reports that you are rebuilding the SLPP.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The SLPP is a party with a vast network. It is not based in the urban areas. The masses are our base. But, at the same time, I believe that we must restructure our party, especially our policies. The current government has managed to do a lot of things. But there are gaps everywhere, especially regarding the domestic economy and our manufacturing industry. We also need to ensure mass employment creation. The SLPP is working very closely with a lot of organisations to restructure ourselves and redefine Sri Lanka. We are working on a policy paper about making Sri Lanka a trillion dollar economy in the next 20 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What do you have to say about India’s role when the Aragalaya movement was at its peak?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Everything happened because Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as prime minister on the request of president Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Gotabaya then resigned because he did not want any violence. He could have saved the government by employing the military. He had two options: either save the government or save the country. He took a step back and decided to keep the country safe, so that the next group of people who are going to be elected from the parliament can move forward. None of them consulted any foreign country because we believe that our decisions should be based on the interests of the people of Sri Lanka.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Did Gotabaya make a mistake by fleeing the country?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> I believe that it was not the right decision. At the same time, I understand that it was unavoidable, because of security reasons. You have to go through that emotional process to understand that and also to realise how dangerous it was.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We can make statements as politicians and as individuals. But once you go through that kind of trauma, only then you understand. I was stuck inside the Temple Trees (prime minister’s residence) then. The houses of the parliamentarians were burnt. My house was burnt. One of our MPs was killed. But there was no support from the police or the military. I understand why he fled, but I believe he should not have. But it was his choice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What is the psychological impact the Aragalaya protests have had on the Rajapaksa family?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> We had a tough time. But we have gone through similar situations earlier. Back in 1989, our house in Tangalle was bombed just after my baby brother was born. I was only three. Now our houses were burnt by the same political party. My wife and my son, who was one and a half years at that time, experienced a bigger trauma as they don’t have any political background. Their vehicle was attacked. Something similar happened with my brothers and their families as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But as a family we believe that we have done our best. When my father took over the country, we were a $17-billion economy. In ten years, he made it a $85-billion economy. He also ended a 30-year-long war. Under him, the economy was growing at 6.7 per cent, and the unemployment and interest rates were in single digits. Entrepreneurs were booming and industries were well established. But this is politics. We are used to it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What kind of support did you get from China? Do you think Sri Lanka is caught between India and China?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> I thought like that at one point of time. We thought that we were trapped between two big countries. But things are changing. Eventually, I believe it is all about trade. China was a very strong trade and infrastructure development partner for us during my father’s tenure. But neither China nor India has been doing politics in our country. Perhaps certain political parties want that. But I am sure that those countries are not interested.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/24/slpp-leader-namal-rajapaksa-interview.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/24/slpp-leader-namal-rajapaksa-interview.html Sat Jun 24 17:14:13 IST 2023 denmark-s-ambassador-to-india-freddy-svane-interview <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/24/denmark-s-ambassador-to-india-freddy-svane-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/2023/6/24/56-Freddy-Svane.jpg" /> <p>India and Denmark launched a green strategic partnership back in September 2020, focused on cooperating and promoting sustainable development. Freddy Svane, the ambassador of Denmark to India, says the partnership is ready to take off now like a rocket, with many initiatives and projects already under way. Excerpts from an interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><a name="__DdeLink__16_1523265903" id="__DdeLink__16_1523265903"></a><b>Q</b> <b>Could you tell us more about the India-Denmark energy partnership?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> Denmark and India have embarked upon a special trajectory. We established the green strategic partnership back in 2020. And now it is really taking off. We have quite a number of significant initiatives, projects, some completed and others are in the making. The whole idea is to combine all the missions of the Indian government with whatever we can do and bring enough skills from our side. Energy is a very important part of it. And energy efficiency is a low-hanging fruit, and one company I have to highlight here is ROXUL ROCKWOOL, which is doing technical installations. And instead of investing in huge infrastructure, you can do a little bit yourself by using that kind of thing. Denmark and India, we are on the same track, we are working to secure that this world will be able to fight climate change.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is important to understand that Denmark is only six million people whereas you are 1.4 billion. But you have the right to develop. India's energy demand will triple towards 2040 or so. We can't just tell Indians stop using more electricity because the world is going to collapse. Therefore, we bring in our skills, so India can grow in a sustainable way. We bring in what we have from our side, and especially the private companies, and they are the leaders; they have the technologies, they have the products.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q When we talk about sustainability and clean energy, which are the areas in which the two countries are looking to deepen cooperation?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> It is plentiful. Of course, the generation of renewable energy is important. That can be water, solar, biofuel, biogas, and so forth. Denmark is a clean nation. But, there are also many other things. You have green buildings, but you need to make sure that green buildings are not overspending energy. So, in that context there are a lot of things that can be done. How do you spend energy in a more efficient way? That's not only about switching off the light, but also bringing in new ways of saving energy. Energy efficiency is definitely something where Denmark has a strong position. We have a number of companies that have already invested in India. They are going to invest even more.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q When it comes to transition towards clean energy, what are the challenges you see in this shift, because the progress has been fairly slow?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> Right you are. Things are not always moving as fast as we would like to see them move. Politicians have to be visionaries. Prime Minister Modi has set out very important targets at COP 26 in Glasgow. Hopefully, India will be able to achieve them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I am pretty sure that we will see a huge development that will pick up the pace. India is known for its scale, but India is also known for its ability to take established technology and develop and make it affordable and resilient.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q Can we become fossil fuel free in the near future?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> If it is five years from now, that is impossible. If it is 10 years from now, perhaps to a large extent. It is about setting a direction. In Denmark, we were forced to give up our heavy dependence on fossil fuel in the early 1970s. At that time, we were 100 per cent dependent on oil and gas. Suddenly, the supplies were stopped. I was young and I could see how difficult it was because we could not use our cars. I was born on a farm. We were not allowed to use our tractors, lifts or escalators. And that forced us into a green transition. That led to the redefinition of an old technology based on wind. We developed a double-digit US billion dollar industry, the wind industry, and it created jobs, it developed new technologies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>You can take energy efficiency, you can take insulation, things will move and India is a pace setter and a game changer. So it will come. Your prime minister has set 2070 as the date for net zero. I am pretty sure that with the ability that India has, these targets will be met far earlier than anticipated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q What percentage of energy is now coming from renewables in Denmark?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A </b>We had more than 70 per cent of electricity generated from wind and solar. Then, we have biofuel, we have other renewable energy forms. We are no longer dependent on imported gas and oil. I admit that Denmark is a small country. But we are smart people and think about all the youngsters you have here in India. They are sharp, they have a hunger to change, and they want a better life. So, they can do it and they will do it. So, India will set the agenda. Without India on board we cannot really save the planet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q Do you think India should set more ambitious targets?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> Politicians will have to set targets and set the direction. We can always ask our governments to do XY set on our behalf. But, who is using the water? Who is using electricity? You and I. If we do not take individual responsibility, change our lifestyle, then it will be difficult. So, you can do more, I can do more, and all those who are listening to this can do more. Think about a small drop of water that can be saved, for instance, by 1.4 billion Indians. That will add to a huge amount of water that could be saved.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q How are the current geopolitical tensions affecting the economic and business environment?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A</b> See the prices of fuel, the shortage of fertilisers. Food, fuel and fertiliser are big challenges. We also had the pandemic; it was destroying the social fabric, the societies, economies, the livelihood of many people. Have we overcome that? Yes, to a large extent. We still fight with some of the consequences. But, we also grew stronger from the pandemic. See how India really developed the Covid vaccine platform and how many doses were administered here.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The unprovoked attack by Russia on an independent sovereign country is continuing to have devastating consequences. But, the more we cooperate, the more robust we will be in order to cope with the challenges coming from a pandemic or geopolitical tension. There is no alternative to cooperation and collaboration. We stand for that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>***</p> <p><b>&nbsp;ROXUL ROCKWOOL&nbsp;looking to increase production in India</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>ROXUL ROCKWOOL, a company that makes technical insulation products for industrial units and buildings, is looking to expand its production capacity in India, at a time when demand is rising and the existing capacity is nearing full utilisation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Copenhagen, Denmark-headquartered company operates a factory in Dahej, Gujarat, with an annual capacity of 33,000 tonnes, according to Vinay Pratap Singh, business unit director, ROXUL ROCKWOOL Technical Insulation India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;We are currently selling around 30,000 tonnes, so we are almost through. That is why we have started thinking about the next phase of expansion,&quot; Singh told THE WEEK.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the company has started discussions with the board on the future expansion, plans haven't been finalised yet, he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>ROXUL ROCKWOOL&nbsp;India makes and supplies a full range of smart and sustainable insulation products for the construction and process industries. It uses volcanic rock to make stone wool insulation.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While such insulation products have been used by industries for equipment like boilers and storage tanks for several decades now, it's only in the recent years that awareness towards using these products for buildings has started increasing, especially in the wake of growing awareness towards reducing carbon emissions and bringing down energy usage. Singh expects demand in the next five-six years will only increase as more buildings adopt insulation products.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;I am confident in the next four-five years, we will see a huge expansion in India,&quot; said Singh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While in the initial years, almost 70 per cent the production at its plant in India was exported, now nearly 90 per cent of it gets sold in the country itself, he said. The growing local demand has changed the group's perspective towards India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;The group perspective has changed in last four-five years and they are seriously looking at Asian markets. We have six factories in Asia, including in Japan, China and India. Within Asia, India is on top from a group perspective,&quot; Singh added.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/24/denmark-s-ambassador-to-india-freddy-svane-interview.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/24/denmark-s-ambassador-to-india-freddy-svane-interview.html Tue Jun 27 15:40:13 IST 2023 nasa-isro-synthetic-aperture-radar-launch-nisar-details-and-applications <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/24/nasa-isro-synthetic-aperture-radar-launch-nisar-details-and-applications.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/2023/6/24/58-NISARs-scientific-core-being-prepared-inside-a-spacecraft-assembly.jpg" /> <p><b>THEY WERE ON</b> each other’s radar, their wavelengths matched and it was a coming together like no other. No, romance was not in the air, but a rocket soon would be.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The rocket―the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark II (GSLV-Mk II)―will carry the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR). The launch date is set for early next year. The GSLV-Mk II will unload NISAR at an orbit 747km above Earth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>NISAR, to put it simply, will perhaps be the fanciest, high-tech version of a camera out there. Only, it will produce fine-resolution images of the Earth’s land and ice surfaces, helping measure the changing ecosystem and provide data about natural hazards, sea level rise and groundwater level. NISAR will be on a three-year mission, observing the planet every 12 days, morning and evening, come rain or shine. This is the first-ever collaboration between NASA and ISRO on an Earth-observing mission. And, NISAR is likely to be the most expensive satellite―$1.5 billion. That is probably because its payload will be the most advanced radar system ever launched.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A rocket’s payload can be a satellite, a space probe or a spacecraft carrying humans. NISAR’s payload is a satellite, consisting of two radar systems―the 24cm-wavelength L-band built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in South California, and the 10cm-wavelength S-band built by ISRO. The S-band was shipped to JPL in March 2021. The two bands were integrated and tests were done to check if they work well together. And, on March 6 this year, the payload was flown in to ISRO’s U.R. Rao Satellite Centre in Bengaluru.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The payload will undergo further integration with the satellite bus propulsion system,” said ISRO chairman S. Somanath. “After that, all the satellite parts will be integrated. It will then go through a lot of evaluation, vibration and antenna deployment. It should be completed by September 2023. If all goes well, we are planning to launch it (from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh) by January-February 2024.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the NISAR dream has been more than a decade in the making. After several months of preliminary coordination at the agency level, JPL’s project scientist Paul Rosen was asked to travel to India in December 2011 to talk about NASA’s radar mission concept and to try and engage the scientists here. It turned out to be a trip to remember, and since then Rosen has travelled to India 28 times in 12 years (except the three pandemic years).“Travelling solo for the first time to India, arriving at 3am in Ahmedabad after 30 hours of travel, it was a surreal and new experience for me,” Rosen told THE WEEK in an exclusive interaction from the US. “The talk and subsequent discussions were successful and led to a preliminary agreement to work together, where NASA would provide the instrument, and ISRO would provide the spacecraft and launch vehicle. However, after my return, ISRO expressed a need to participate in the instrument development. I suggested that we add a second radar instrument at a different frequency. Due to the unique design of NISAR, this was possible using the basic design originally proposed. The agreement was then solidified, and the rest is history.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Having two radars has its advantages. As Somanath, who is also secretary, department of space, explained, “They can give a deeper insight into various aspects, such as tectonic shifts, movements of ice, water bodies, agriculture, soil moisture and so on. The data will come from across the world.” According to aerospace and space expert Girish Linganna, S-band radars have become a vital tool for weather observation and their unique wavelength of 8-15cm and frequency of 2-4GHz make them less susceptible to attenuation, providing a reliable means of observation for both near- and far-range weather patterns. “The instrument structure of the S-band radar is also noteworthy, featuring a stationary antenna reflector constructed from gold-plated wire mesh,” said Linganna, director, ADD Engineering Components India Limited. “Measuring an impressive 39ft, this reflector works to concentrate the radar signals that are both emitted and received by the feed facing upwards. With this innovative technology, meteorologists and weather experts are better equipped than ever to track and predict weather patterns with greater accuracy.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rosen clarified that though there have been many airborne missions that use SAR technology similar to that of NISAR’s to collect the same kind of data, radars flown aboard airplanes cannot match the surface coverage of a space-borne instrument.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>NISAR is expected to transmit 80 terabytes of data a day. “Initially, the data will be available only to NASA and ISRO,” said Somanath. “Later, the two space agencies will decide with whom the data can be shared. Although the mission is being termed very expensive, we are looking at the benefits it will give us and not the monetary aspect.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Experts agree that undertaking a mission of the magnitude and intricacy of NISAR comes at a price. “The satellite will operate in a complex orbit and will require a large amount of ground support infrastructure, including antenna systems, data centres and processing facilities that are expensive to build and maintain,” said Srimathy Kesan, founder and CEO of Space Kidz India, which is into design, fabrication and launch of small satellites, spacecraft and ground systems. “The NISAR mission represents a significant investment in the future of Earth science research and will provide valuable insights that will benefit humanity for years to come.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, how will those insights translate on ground? “One major benefit of the NISAR mission will be that it will help communities manage changes in land and other natural resources as well as infrastructure more effectively,” said Rosen. “The satellite will monitor soil moisture to help farmers use water more sustainably. NISAR will also monitor the expansion and shrinking of wetlands and forests, providing valuable information for their management. Its measurements of subsidence―the gradual sinking of land―will be used to improve the accuracy and consistency of groundwater usage estimates. NISAR’s data will also be able to reveal subtle movements of bridges, dams, levees, roads and buildings, potentially helping infrastructure managers identify structures that are at risk of failure.” That way it would make a great prediction and warning system, especially in places like Joshimath in Uttarakhand that started sinking this January. “In the case of hilly regions like Joshimath, the high-resolution mapping capabilities of NISAR can enable the identification of vulnerable slopes, geological structures and soil properties that may contribute to landslides,” said Rosen. “By monitoring these areas with NISAR’s all-weather imaging capability, researchers can detect subtle changes in surface deformation that may indicate the onset of a landslide, enabling early warning and evacuation of people living in disaster-prone areas. In the case of vanishing coastlines, NISAR’s mapping capabilities can enable the monitoring of coastal erosion and sea level rise.”</p> <p>Besides NISAR, ISRO is gearing up for its third moon mission―Chandrayaan-3―set for a July launch. A follow-on mission following the Chandrayaan-2 debacle in 2019, Chadrayaan-3, too, will aim to perform a soft landing on the moon and demonstrate its ability to traverse its surface. The Chandrayan-3 landing station is a replica of the previous one, but its design has been modified to address the deficiencies of its predecessor. The hefty LVM Mark III, consisting of a flight module, lunar lander and a compact rover, will launch the satellite into the Earth’s orbit, where it will commence its journey to the Moon on its own.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, as per the Indian Space Policy 2023, published on April 20 after years of preparation, ISRO will move out from producing operational space systems and instead focus on research and development of advanced technologies. This is in line with the reforms it initiated in 2020 that opened up the space sector to private participation and foreign investors. “According to the new policy, ISRO must share technologies, products, processes and best practices with non-government entities (NGEs) and government enterprises,” said Linganna. “It will concentrate on cutting-edge research and development and long-term initiatives like Chandrayaan and Gaganyaan. At the same time, NGEs can engage in end-to-end activities in the space sector by establishing and operating space objects, ground-based assets and related services such as communication and remote sensing and navigation.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/24/nasa-isro-synthetic-aperture-radar-launch-nisar-details-and-applications.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/24/nasa-isro-synthetic-aperture-radar-launch-nisar-details-and-applications.html Sat Jun 24 16:22:43 IST 2023 nasa-s-nisar-project-scientist-paul-rosen-interview <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/24/nasa-s-nisar-project-scientist-paul-rosen-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/2023/6/24/61-Paul-Rosen.jpg" /> <p><b>Q/ How important is the NISAR mission and what new capabilities can it offer?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> The Earth is constantly changing in small and monumental ways, and NISAR will provide a dynamic, three-dimensional view of nearly the full breadth of these changes. The satellite is designed to detect the movement of land and ice surfaces down to the centimetre, and will also be able to map how vegetation in forests, wetlands, and agricultural regions are responding to evolving weather and climate conditions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Earlier, there have been airborne missions that use similar synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to collect the same kinds of data, but generally speaking, a radar flown aboard an airplane cannot cover the vast areas of the planet’s surface that a space-borne instrument can. NISAR will be able to cover nearly all of Earth’s land and ice surfaces twice every 12 days, and it can do so in all weather conditions, day or night.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The NISAR science payload is the most sophisticated radar system ever to be launched as part of a science mission NASA has been involved in. The NISAR science payload consists of two radars, the L-band and the S-band. By combining measurements from two radars that operate at different frequencies, the mission will be able to observe changes in the Earth over a wider range of environments than either instrument could do alone. Due to its broad coverage of the planet, NISAR will produce about 80 terabytes of data per day (80,000GB)―the most data ever released by an Earth science mission that NASA has been involved in.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What are NISAR’s applications?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> There are many applications, and we have really only scratched the surface in terms of understanding its potential. For instance, NISAR will provide critical information to inform our response to urgent challenges posed by climate change. By improving estimates of the carbon exchange between the atmosphere and plant communities in forest and agricultural regions, it will help scientists improve their climate models.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Additionally, NISAR will also measure the motion and melting of sea ice and ice sheets in the planet’s polar regions, which will improve our understanding of sea level rise, and it will identify changes in the shape of coastlines, helping us gauge the impacts of the rising ocean on coastal ecosystems and communities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>NISAR data will help communities prepare for natural and human-caused hazards, as well as respond to and recover from these events. For example, it will be able to detect subtle, slow-moving changes in the shape and elevation of the land surface that can precede natural hazards such as earthquakes, landslides, and volcanic unrest. Then, following such events, NISAR data would be used to assess damage on the ground, providing disaster response agencies with actionable information within hours or days.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How was this mission conceived?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> The idea grew out of the US National Academy of Science’s 2007 Earth Science Decadal Survey, which expressed a need for more data and insight on Earth’s ecosystems, the deformation of its land surfaces, and changes in its ice sheets and sea ice. NASA and ISRO [were both interested]. So, in 2014 the agencies signed a partnership agreement to develop and launch NISAR.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/24/nasa-s-nisar-project-scientist-paul-rosen-interview.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/24/nasa-s-nisar-project-scientist-paul-rosen-interview.html Sat Jun 24 12:02:06 IST 2023 bci-notification-about-rules-and-regulations-permitting-foreign-lawyers-and-firms-to-practise-in-india <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/10/bci-notification-about-rules-and-regulations-permitting-foreign-lawyers-and-firms-to-practise-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/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2023/6/10/18-Indian-lawyers-are-divided-over-the-pros.jpg" /> <p>‘<b>FLY IN, FLY OUT’</b> was the only way foreign lawyers were permitted to function in India. Fly in, advise your client and fly out. There had been stiff resistance to the idea of foreign lawyers and firms setting up practice in India, and whether to open up the Indian legal system and in what manner had been one of the longest pending and most intensely debated issues. In this backdrop, the notification issued by the Bar Council of India (BCI), the regulatory authority for legal services in the country, on March 13 allowing foreign lawyers and firms to set up practice in the country, although with riders attached, came as a huge surprise for the country’s legal fraternity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Post liberalisation of the Indian economy in the 1990s and especially since the BJP-led NDA government came to power at the Centre in 2014, the discussion on opening up the legal sector in the country had gained an element of urgency. It was discussed threadbare by policy makers, the Law Commission of India, the BCI and the representative bodies of lawyers. The discussions among policy makers took place even as the courts, including the Supreme Court, had their say in the matter. The BCI notification has only intensified the discussion. If there is guarded optimism among foreign players, the Indian legal fraternity is divided on the pros and cons of the move.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Foreign firms had been looking to tap into the growing Indian legal market, following an increasing number of foreign companies investing in the country post liberalisation. These companies had thus far been looking to international arbitration centres such as in Singapore, Dubai or London to meet their legal requirements. Many foreign firms had already set up India desks overseas to cater to clients operating in India and looking for legal services in another jurisdiction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As per the Bar Council of India Rules for Registration and Regulation of Foreign Lawyers and Foreign Law Firms in India, 2022, foreign lawyers can practise foreign law and diverse international law and arbitration matters in India on the principle of reciprocity. They cannot practise Indian law and their functioning would be limited to non-litigious matters. They can be allowed to practise transactional work or corporate work such as joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property matters, drafting of contracts and other related matters on a reciprocal basis. However, they cannot be involved in any work pertaining to conveyance of property, title investigation or similar works. Foreign lawyers or firms would have to be registered with the BCI, which would be valid for five years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many prominent foreign law firms such as Quinn Emanuel Urquhart &amp; Sullivan LLP; Clifford Chance; Ashurst; Allen &amp; Overy; and Baker McKenzie are looking keenly at India as a legal market with great potential. Most of them already had services focusing on India but provided elsewhere, where their firms and lawyers could provide clients with legal services beyond the shackles of the ‘fly in, fly out’ restriction.</p> <p>According to an official in a foreign law firm who spoke on condition of anonymity, international firms will be cautious in making their moves in the Indian market. First and foremost, they would want greater clarity on the terms and conditions on which they can function in India. There is also a desire for the issue to settle down a bit before they explore their opportunities here. Also, setting up office in India would be a gradual process and at present it would be difficult for them to spell out for certain when and how they will begin their India operations within Indian boundaries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We are reviewing the Bar Council of India’s announcement carefully,” said Allen &amp; Overy. “It is early days and we will continue assessing the details and evaluating the options for our clients and our market-leading India practice.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, Piyush Prasad, counsel (foreign law) at WongPartnership LLP, Singapore, said that while the full scope of the regulations is not known yet and certain aspects may require clarification, “certain firms will be willing to take the first mover advantage to be on the ground in India for their clients, whilst others will watch the space with anticipation before entering the market”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indian firms, on the other hand, are divided on the pros and cons of the move. Many feel it is a step that was belated and the country has lost out on precious time to emerge as a force to reckon with in international arbitration and that the opening up of the legal sector will have a wide-ranging positive impact on the legal industry in the country. It is felt that the move would bring in greater professionalism and accountability, and enhance the image of the Indian legal sector globally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“This is a watershed moment for the Indian legal industry. It is a welcome move that would result in more structured, professional and mature legal practices,” said Sameer Jain, managing partner, PSL Advocates &amp; Solicitors.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As India attracts growing foreign direct investment, international corporates have been looking at other arbitration centres to sort legal issues so that they can seek the advice of their chosen firm. Singapore, in particular, has been a major beneficiary. International firms have also taken on board Indian lawyers to help with India-specific services.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many Indian lawyers feel that while this was a highly contentious and intensely debated issue, it will help that a decision has finally been taken and there is clarity in the matter. According to Rohit Jain, managing partner, Singhania and Co., a big positive will be the greater opportunities for Indian lawyers. “Foreign law firms will have to take on board Indian lawyers, because their role is limited to foreign law and Indian lawyers will be needed to provide advice on Indian laws,” said Jain.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Prasad, when he was practising in India, his collaborations with foreign counsel had been an extremely enriching experience. “My hope is that a closer interaction with foreign lawyers will provide a platform for Indian lawyers to learn from the experiences of their counterparts and vice-versa,” he said. “As regards competition, it keeps the market participants on their toes and ultimately benefits the end user.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a feeling that retainership for lawyers in the country will go up since the options for them increase manifold. This is coupled with the concern among mid-sized and small-sized firms of poaching of their talented lawyers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indian law firms, initially wary of the entry of foreign firms, had over time lowered their guard, convinced that the firms in the country could compete with foreign players. But they still wanted the government to open up the sector in a phased and sequential manner. It is pointed out that international players, especially the UK and the US, have lobbied hard for opening up of the legal sector. It is felt that the sense of urgency in the BCI announcement has come from the UK-India Foreign Trade Agreement negotiations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Senior advocate Lalit Bhasin, president of Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF)―a group of 125 law firms―said the notification went against the Advocates Act, 1961, and the Supreme Court’s order of 2018 that stated that foreign lawyers and law firms cannot practise in India, litigation or otherwise. He also voiced concerns about there being an uneven playing field for Indian firms and lack of clarity on how reciprocity would be ascertained and ensured.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Yes, it is bad in law,” said Bhasin. “These regulations have come out of the blue. We had a meeting in early March, convened by the commerce secretary. I was invited to attend as president of SILF. The Bar Council of India was invited, but they did not attend.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If the authorities failed to address the concerns of the Indian law firms, he said they would be forced to knock on the doors of the Supreme Court.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Clarity is key here.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/10/bci-notification-about-rules-and-regulations-permitting-foreign-lawyers-and-firms-to-practise-in-india.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/10/bci-notification-about-rules-and-regulations-permitting-foreign-lawyers-and-firms-to-practise-in-india.html Sat Jun 10 12:42:32 IST 2023 society-of-indian-law-firms-president-lalit-bhasin-interview <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/10/society-of-indian-law-firms-president-lalit-bhasin-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/2023/6/10/24-Lalit-Bhasin.jpg" /> <p><b>Q/ The Bar Council of India’s notification appears to have come as a surprise to the legal fraternity.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> It has come as a surprise and a shock. Various governments, including Congress ones, had been toying with the idea of allowing foreign lawyers to practise in India. But the [fraternity] had opposed it. This was all happening since 1994. By 2014, we saw a sizeable increase in the number of good law firms. At an inter-ministerial meeting organised by the commerce secretary in 2014, SILF conveyed that we were now prepared, so please take steps to bring in foreign law firms and that it should be done in a proper, sequential manner, not like a midnight announcement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ SILF has raised issues of legality about the BCI notification.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> The Supreme Court (in 2018) interpreted the provisions of the Advocates Act, 1961, and very clearly and categorically held that (foreign lawyers) cannot practise law in India. After this judgment, the government resumed discussions. We told them that now you are faced with this judgment, you have to amend the Advocates Act.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ So the BCI notification is bad in law?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Yes, it is bad in law. These regulations have come out of the blue. We had a meeting in early March, convened by the commerce secretary. I was invited to attend as president of SILF. The BCI was invited, but they did not attend.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The commerce secretary graciously asked us, ‘How do we bring the Indian legal profession to a level-playing field?’ We submitted our proposals. Then, within a month or so, these rules and regulations emanated. It completely bypasses and ignores what the Supreme Court has said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It will only take a minute for anyone to challenge it. But we have put on record that we are not going to take recourse to litigation. We want to have a dialogue with the ministry and the BCI to reframe the regulations, to bring them in conformity with our earlier discussions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Are there concerns about survival of Indian law firms?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Foreign law firms who have now converted themselves into companies are like corporate bodies. They are big limited liability partnerships. They can come and start practice in India. That is totally against not only the law, but also the ethos of our legal profession. It is still a profession; it is not a business for us. They are being allowed to set up practice here. How can we compete with them?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It would seriously impair the ability and survival of the Indian law firms. All the emerging law firms, which have come up in a big way, are second to none. They can compete favourably. But we do not have those resources. We do not have those deep pockets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The BCI has issued a clarification that the Supreme Court’s order has been taken into account.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> They have obviously not taken it into account. Otherwise these regulations could not have been there. Can they enlarge the scope of what is a right to practice when the Supreme Court has very clearly said and held so? I do not know how these regulations have been framed. I feel bad that India’s regulator should come up with these regulations that can be challenged immediately. So far, we have not heard from the BCI.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What next if you fail to convince them to bring about the changes?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> If we do not get a response from the BCI, and if they go ahead with implementation of these rules, then there will be no other option but to take it to the court. Or, the Parliament has to step in to amend the law. But the Parliament has other priorities.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/10/society-of-indian-law-firms-president-lalit-bhasin-interview.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/10/society-of-indian-law-firms-president-lalit-bhasin-interview.html Sat Jun 10 12:35:36 IST 2023 rise-in-human-wildlife-conflict-in-india <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/02/rise-in-human-wildlife-conflict-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/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2023/6/2/49-Arikomban.jpg" /> <p><b>ON MAY 30,</b> Palraj, a 57-year-old resident of Cumbum in Tamil Nadu, became the latest victim of Arikomban. The rogue wild tusker had been captured by the Kerala government from Idukki district in April and released into the Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary close to the Tamil Nadu border. According to its radio collar, the elephant crossed forest ranges and, on May 27, entered densely populated areas of Cumbum resulting in chaos and the fatal attack on Palraj.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Official records said Palraj was Arikomban’s eighth victim. But residents of Idukki say the tusker’s victims are in the double digits. Estimated to be 35 years old, it got its name because of frequent raids on shops for rice (<i>ari</i> means rice and <i>komban</i> is tusker). It has been causing trouble in Idukki, a high-range district that is a hotbed of human-wildlife conflict, since 2005. Apart from the people it killed, it destroyed 60 houses and shops.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After calls for its relocation intensified, the state forest department ordered its capture on February 21. The original plan was to tame it to be a captive elephant. But this was opposed by animal rights activists, leading to a legal battle. Ultimately, the court ordered the government to collar and release it. Since being released, Arikomban has crossed forest ranges in Kerala and Tamil Nadu multiple times. The media has portrayed its movements as an attempt to “return home”. But Dr Arun Zachariah, the Kerala forest department’s chief veterinary surgeon, who led the team which relocated Arikomban, criticised such labelling. “Where is home? The Western Ghats were a continuous landscape of elephant corridors,” he told THE WEEK. “That entire system should have been considered home.” Forested areas of the Ghats are now heavily fragmented by human settlements.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India currently has more than 700, mostly disjointed, protected areas. However, 70 per cent of elephant ranges, 40 per cent of lion ranges and 35 per cent of tiger ranges are outside protected areas, according to a 2021 report by the World Wide Fund for Nature and the UN. Ecologist Madhav Gadgil said the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, has enabled an atmosphere where wild animals can invade human habitations with impunity. He explained the optimal foraging theory in ecology, which states that animals try to maximise nutrient intake while minimising time, effort and risks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“[My colleague] R. Sukumar has shown that even if elephants have the option of obtaining food in forest ecosystems, they invade agricultural areas and forage on crops which provide a much greater amount of nutrients for a given effort,” he said. “Because of the Act, many wild animals have learnt that they can invade croplands or humans habitations as people will not resist them.” He called the Act unconstitutional as people needed official permission even to drive out marauding animals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Human-wildlife conflict has reached alarming levels in states across India. People being killed by animals, retaliatory killing and subsequent imprisonment of the killers have become distressingly common. For instance, on May 26, a leopard was cornered and beaten to death with sticks and stones by villagers in Madhya Pradesh’s Khargone district after it attacked and injured a man. In response, the authorities said that action would be taken against all responsible.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Maharashtra, human-wildlife conflict led to the death of 86 people in 2021 and 105 in 2022—a sharp increase compared with the last decade when average human deaths were around 40. Experts said the increasing population of wild animals, like big cats, owing to effective conservation efforts, combined with the changing landscape of the corridors where these animals live because of human activity, is causing more deaths. In the Vidarbha region, this has manifested as increased tiger attacks; in the Konkan, the conflict is between elephants and humans.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, elephants from Karnataka and Goa, too, are coming to Maharashtra as the elephant corridors in those two states have shrunk. They enter Maharashtra from the Tillari forest region and as the area offers excellent food and water sources, they keep returning. The region did not have elephants earlier. They started entering from Karnataka and Goa after 2000.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sunil Limaye, former principal chief conservator of forests, Maharashtra, said the state has paid about Rs450 crore in the last 10 years towards compensation for deaths and other losses. “We pay Rs20 lakh for death,” he said. “But, compensations have to be paid immediately, otherwise people get angry.” Limaye said it was important to have mitigation measures when the government constructs linear projects. “Linear projects always divide forests, affecting corridors of wildlife movement,” he said. “Measures implemented for the Samruddhi Expressway are good and should be replicated for all linear projects.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Kerala, human-wildlife conflicts have led to the death of 718 people since 2017. Wild elephants and wild boars caused the maximum fatalities. The insecurity faced by farmers living near forests has led to new farmers’ groups. Alex Ozukayil, chairman, Kerala Independent Farmers’ Association, said a wild animal protected under the Wildlife Protection Act was protected outside the reserved area, too. “Our demand is that the place of occurrence be considered,” he said. “If the attack happens in the forest, the offender is the human. But when the attack happens in a human-inhabited space, the human is the victim.” KIFA was formed to “resist the negative campaign against farmers” in 2020 after a pregnant elephant died as a result of eating an explosive-filled pineapple (used to keep boars off fields).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ozukayil said the term human-wildlife conflict was a misnomer. “[It is no conflict]; wild animals are attacking unarmed farmers,” he said. “There were around 9,000 gun licenses in Kerala. But two-thirds were not renewed. There is a negative attitude towards issuing new licenses to farmers.” He said the interpretation of the Wildlife Protection Act could leave poor people defenceless.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In his 2022 speech—Pitting People Against Nature—Gadgil said that the policies for wildlife protection in independent India was driven by erstwhile Indian royals and British tea and coffee estate owners; neither group had much sympathy for ordinary folk.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ozukayil said it was the interpretation of the Act by the state that decides people’s fate. “The Act says that killing or wounding a wild animal in self-defence shall not be an offence,” he said. “But it is the state’s discretion whether to consider an act self-defence. Last September, Gopalan, a tribal man from Idukki killed a leopard in self-defence. He is, disputably, the first person in Kerala who was not arrested for causing the death of a protected animal.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Almost nine months after the leopard attack, Gopalan, whose left hand was severely injured, still remembers the excruciating details. “I pushed it away from my neck and stabbed it with a knife, but, it bit my hand,” he said. “Bones on my left hand broke; I still cannot go to work [under MNREGA].” He said he did not get any compensation, except for an initial amount that was paid at the hospital. “Now, we survive with the little money my wife earns.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kerala Forests and Wildlife Minister A.K. Saseendran admitted to THE WEEK that the compensation system was in disarray. “There are two main issues,” he said. “First, the allocated funds are insufficient. In the previous financial year, the forest department received only 25 per cent of allocated funds. In the recent state budget, only Rs75 lakh was earmarked for compensation. If a person dies, we give Rs10 lakh. If it is a grave injury, we give Rs2 lakh. Second, there is no efficient system to deliver the compensation promptly.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Akhileshwari Reddy, a senior resident fellow at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, said that compensations were done by government orders without specific legislation. “As a result, the compensation amount can be altered arbitrarily,” she said. “For instance, in the case of crop damage, compensation is estimated by observation. There should be a uniform national compensation policy with specific criteria.” She said that when a person is killed, at least part of the compensation should be provided immediately to cover funeral costs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Zacharia said reducing human-wildlife conflict is not going to be an easy task. “The conflict with each species is unique and will change with ecological changes,” he said. “The problem should be identified at habitat-based and species-based levels. There is no common solution. The conflict has to be mapped in each area, and then mitigation measures have to be defined.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gadgil supports scientific culling. The ecologist said that no other country bans hunting outside protected areas. He said that India should emulate the Scandinavian countries which have a “rational system” based on the belief that wildlife populations are a renewable resource that must be carefully regulated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>With inputs from Dnyanesh Jathar</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/02/rise-in-human-wildlife-conflict-in-india.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/02/rise-in-human-wildlife-conflict-in-india.html Fri Jun 02 16:25:37 IST 2023 hemant-saryam-madhya-pradesh-activist-who-aims-to-conserve-and-propagate-tribal-culture <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/02/hemant-saryam-madhya-pradesh-activist-who-aims-to-conserve-and-propagate-tribal-culture.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/2023/6/2/60-Hemant-Saryam.jpg" /> <p><b>ON MAY 2,</b> a unique mass marriage ceremony was held at Betul city in Madhya Pradesh, around 180km from Bhopal. The event was organised jointly by the Akhil Gondwana Mahasabha and the Gondwana Students’ Union, and it saw 78 couples of Gond and Korku tribes tying the knot. Each bride received a unique wedding gift—a 750sqft plot where they could build a house. The benefactor: Hemant Saryam, social activist and district president of the tribal Gondwana Gantantra Party.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I am really happy; I never thought I would become a plot owner,” says Savitri Uikey, 29, who married Mahesh Dhurve, a 32-year-old labourer. “My family has an agricultural smallholding, but we had to do manual labour to sustain ourselves. My husband’s family also has a similar background. The land gifted by Hemant <i>bhaiya</i> gives us a chance to not only have our own home as a couple, but also earn a better livelihood in the city. More importantly, couples like us will be staying nearby, and we will have opportunities to work together on social and cultural issues.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At current market rates, each plot is worth Rs3.85 lakh. So the total value of the donated property? More than Rs3 crore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hemant Saryam, 40, has no airs of being a big donor or even a politician. Sitting on an outcrop close to the donated land, he speaks candidly in a steady baritone about what prompted him to give away his property. The basic aim, he says, is to support young tribal couples who can work to conserve and propagate tribal culture without having to worry about making ends meet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I work as a social and RTI activist on issues of land, forests and water,” says Saryam. “During my work, I felt that the younger generation in the tribal community is not much aware of their identity, culture, traditions and laws, as many of them have to keep their noses to the grindstone to earn their living. They are hardly in a position to pay attention to these aspects. My mission is to create a pool of youth who can forget worrying about surviving and work together to revive the tribal identity and preserve tribal traditions, culture and laws.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The donation of land to women symbolises this effort, he says. “According to tribal laws, women do not get a share of their father’s property. My effort is to strengthen this tradition. By gifting land to women during marriage, I want to give mental strength to them that they are not worse off by not getting a share of their father’s property,” says Saryam.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Hindu Succession Act guarantees equal rights to male and female heirs, but section 2(2) of the act says it is not applicable to any scheduled tribe. In September 2022, the Supreme Court asked the Centre to reexamine provisions that deny inheritance to tribal women.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Saryam, indigenous tribal traditions and Indian laws ensure that married women have legal rights to a share in her husband’s property and income. They will also receive maintenance after divorce. “In such a situation, the issue of a daughter’s share in her father’s property only creates huge familial and social rifts,” says Saryam. “It is also against indigenous and natural laws. The important thing is to ensure social and familial respect and economic rights for the women in her marital home. My land gift to women during marriage is an attempt to underline this point.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When he came up with the idea of gifting his land, the first challenge he encountered was internal. “I kept thinking whether it would be the right decision,” he says. “What will happen to my children (he has a 14-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter), my wife, and so on? I also had to deal with my wife’s objections. But I told myself that we had eight acres of ancestral land, of which six acres are jointly owned by me and my two brothers. I had sole ownership of two acres.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Saryam knew that if he gave away the two acres, he could become landless. “If that happens, I can seek government land as per provisions of the Madhya Pradesh Land Revenue Code (which has provisions for granting government land to landless tribals). So I was not on losing ground. I explained this to my wife and told her that doing work for the community was more important than holding property. She was finally convinced and gave me the go-ahead.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Saryam invited landless tribal youth to get married at the mass ceremony. “We received about 225 applications from across the district. I spoke to them in detail about my overall vision and then selected couples who would be able to take the movement further. Also, they had to agree to pay the land registration and ownership transfer fees of about Rs43,000 per head.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Saryam says he does not want to contest polls. He plans to help the couples build houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. Most of the men are manual labourers who can get better opportunities in Betul city, which is 9km from the gifted property. They can also form committees for collecting forest produce, and form self-help groups to benefit from Central and state welfare schemes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mannulal Ahake, who married Geeta Narve at the marriage ceremony, has high hopes of the future. “We want to work for the betterment of our communities and the preservation of traditions,” he says. “Staying together will help us in a big way.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/02/hemant-saryam-madhya-pradesh-activist-who-aims-to-conserve-and-propagate-tribal-culture.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/06/02/hemant-saryam-madhya-pradesh-activist-who-aims-to-conserve-and-propagate-tribal-culture.html Fri Jun 02 16:12:30 IST 2023 the-journey-of-migrants-through-darien-jungle-in-search-of-the-american-dream <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/26/the-journey-of-migrants-through-darien-jungle-in-search-of-the-american-dream.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/2023/5/26/56-Migrants-from-Haiti-making-their-way.jpg" /> <p>For hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, the path to the United States passes through the dense jungles, swamps, rivers, and slippery mud hills where South America ends and Central America begins. It is an unconquered, oppressive land that has for centuries rejected those who dared to penetrate its depths.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, it is the new gateway to the ‘Promised Land’ for many, driven by a determination born of desperation. They hope to get to the US by crossing the length of Central America and Mexico. It is one of the world’s most dangerous and ruthless migration routes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They are weary travellers, their eyes bright with hope and fear, their hearts heavy with the weight of their dreams and a yearning for the lands they left behind. They are of all ages, from young teens to those in their 60s; there are families with pregnant women and children, and young, middle-aged, and old couples. They have been oppressed, mistreated, sexually abused, left hungry and without opportunities or hope in their own land. But they still have a smile on their faces. There is truly an innocence that breaks your heart.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They are Haitians, Venezuelans, Ecuadorians―some have walked across Brazil and into Chile. They have been stuck at borders between Peru and Brazil, and between Peru and Chile. They have, at times, been stuck for months in squalid conditions. Some have made it to Chile, and seen their dreams broken.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many have walked across the Atacama Desert, hitchhiked, bussed, and otherwise made their way to the edge of the subcontinent. Now they are joined by downtrodden masses from Nepal, China, Laos, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Africa, and the Middle East. They all have the United States in their minds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many have been conned: They were told it was a short jungle trek; they have been charged all they can pay; some believe the US is just on the other side. But deep in their hearts they know better.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The heat is oppressive, suffocating and unrelenting. It seems as though the sun itself has made its home there. Darién is out to punish those who have the audacity to enter its realm. Though there is no road in this part of Colombia, Darién is the only break in the Pan-American highway that links the Americas from Alaska to Argentina’s tip at Tierra del Fuego. We are about to enter one of the world’s most difficult and treacherous places.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Under different circumstances, one could stop and take in the breathtaking nature, the forest ahead, the coral reefs on the Caribbean. We stand close to the northernmost part of Colombia, on the eastern side of the left-curving branch of land that connects the two subcontinents. The Panama border is a few kilometres northwest, the Pacific Ocean some 50km west, the Caribbean sea due north. The other side of the jungle is a 100km gauntlet through a vast wilderness teeming with dangers, desolation and the ether of death. It is a rough and bumpy boat ride to get there, among high winds and tall waves. It took six hours to cover the 270km across the Gulf of Urabá from Colombia’s Cartagena to Capurganá.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many of the migrants are making their way to Capurganá from the town of Necocli on the coast of the Gulf of Urabá in Colombia’s Antioquia region; they have made their way there on foot and are now packing themselves in speedboats in numbers of 50 or more for the two-hour trip, and are arriving in Capurganá by the hundreds each day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The beaches of Necoli now resemble the squalid camps where Haitians and Venezuelans gathered on the Brazil-Peru border just over two years ago. But the jungle-covered hills and turquoise waters with palm-fringed, remote fishing villages along the way are beautiful and picturesque, serene from the distance. It is not hard to imagine this could be the beginning of a new and beautiful life in America. Capurganá is one of those villages. There are no roads to get there and no cars, but small planes land there, servicing a tourist niche of nature lovers. It is a diving paradise.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the tony hotels with lavish meals are not for you.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>People are coming to the area in myriad small boats, most of them hungry like those making lines at the wall between Cuidad Juarez in Mexico’s Chihuahua state and El Paso, Texas. You have seen them on television. For many, this is where the journey to America really begins.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But it is a gaping chasm that separates this place from the Texas border―one treacherous, hostile, unpredictable odyssey across seven international borders fraught with extreme danger and exasperating uncertainty. And it starts with a dive into the most unforgiving jungle on earth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A Venezuelan couple and their three-year-old son whispered silent prayers and crossed themselves, stopped for a second, looked up to the heavens, the woman kissed the child, held his head tight against her bosom, and they forged into the jungle and the perilous unknown, wearing new shoes. It is sad to say, but they were the only ones that stood out to memory among the thousands who start their journey north.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A group of Asians carrying their children and their belongings wrapped in makeshift plastic backpacks formed a crooked line into the Darién, their faces etched with lines of experience. Some of them forced a smile or perhaps they were just glimmering with hope, thinking of the paradise across the verdant abyss.They wear clothes with American logos, they have earrings, smartphones, and carry purses, backpacks, some even have pet dogs. Many have rosaries, scapulas and cross necklaces. It is surprising to see so many $100 bills and the cash they carry.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That is perhaps why many seem to fall victim to thugs, cartels and sinister factions looking for valuables and who submit the women to the added ordeals of sexual assault and violation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When being robbed, the women say that the attackers insert their fingers in their intimate parts, looking for valuables. They are often taken by the outlaws and made to pay with their bodies for the passage of the men they don’t kill. These are not the shell-shocked refugees of war, but the experience is clearly one that takes a psychological, mental, and emotional toll.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A woman in her 40s, overweight and already struggling, trudges bravely―her ankles swollen and mosquito-bitten dozens times over. It is an endless stream of people, mostly single-lined along the roadless jungle, making paths at the cost of their bodies and their lives, scraping and cutting themselves, as a sudden hot rain turns the ground around their feet into slush, barely releasing each step. Ahead, loamy mud makes the rocks slippery and dangerous.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The border is at the top of the hill. For some, it is a feeling as that of conquering Everest. But in this no-man’s land, the border is merely a lonely handwritten sign, half-eaten by the jungle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then it sinks in. They are nowhere―thick jungle stretching out to the north, and to all sides the view is the same. No one is getting anywhere today. The five-hour trip many were promised is now a clear and cruel lie. It may be a few days to a week or more for those who make it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Smugglers make money selling easy dreams. Cartels, drug traffickers, guerillas and an assortment of crooks and opportunists sell to these people the dream they want to buy. They are experts at telling them what they want to hear. If they don’t get their money, somebody else will. And if they don’t have money, they are not leaving.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ones running this group of refugees, mostly fall into the latter category―organised local opportunists who take control of the arriving migrants as soon as their boat reaches land. They tag them with wrist bands, send them to shelters or onto the “guides”―smugglers or coyotes, really―who will charge them to lead them through the jungle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Committed now, people are in the thick of the jungle on top of a hill many struggled to conquer. They are told they are in Panama, unofficially; there is no telling whether that marker is the actual border or just a cruel illusion created to give people the impression of progress, lest it stop others from paying to follow them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is now a slow highway of unprepared, disoriented people. Some fall, some break their bones, some get sick, some get lost, some die. Reminders of those possibilities come often, in the form of fluttering rags of what was once clothing around living people, now just a few bones.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Death is very real here. It could come by accident, by illness, by deadly animal or insect bites, or by people who rob and sexually abuse and decide to kill for fear, or for fun. If this jungle has a law, these gunlords are it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Emmanuel Houngbédji of Cotonou, Benin, has been walking with Omar and Fatima, a Bangladeshi couple in their 30s who are afraid to give their last names. Fatima is pregnant and Omar has carried her through the swamps and up the hills. Emmanuel has been carrying their stuff on top of his, it includes a cooking pot, a burner and a gallon of water. They did not have the money to get to Panama by boat, so they are paying Emmanuel to help them get through on foot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most people travel only with their countrymen. Most are Haitian. The dense forest and rugged terrain of the Darién have made it virtually impassable for centuries. With no roads or established crossings, it has for centuries been considered virtually impassable. The few paths and trails seen there in the 1960s were said to belong to isolated, hostile tribes that had no contact with the outside world, and the myths and legends that made their way back were of encounters with cannibals and hungry beasts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the 1970s and 1980s, incursions by drug traffickers and guerrillas gave the area a reputation of a wild, lawless place where violence was a dangerous reality. In popular perception, it became the impenetrable barrier between South America and the North.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the years since, largely through the brutal work of cartels and smugglers, some paths have been opened across the gap. They have cost countless lives, but have also created a lucrative route for people smuggling and migrant trafficking.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, criminal groups run the show. This territory and routes are controlled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Gulf Clan, known in Colombia as Clan del Golfo, a powerful drug cartel and one of the largest criminal organisations in the country. They have opened strategic routes for moving drugs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The paramilitary cartel is known for its use of violence and intimidation to maintain control over territories and drug routes. Indeed, there were people walking the gap, whispered to be drug mules. But it is a whisper that could cost your life. The cartels can be brutal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So many have been making the exhausting and dangerous journey on foot under the oppressive, unrelenting heat, enduring an air that is so dense with humidity that it clings to the body like a tight, suffocating blanket. Swarms of buzzing, relentless insects assailed the stream of people making their way through the jungle, leaving trails of bites and welts on the body, but that was nothing compared with the venomous snakes, painful bullet ants, poison dart frogs, crocodiles, spiders, and even jaguars that could be poised to strike the moment you stray or drop your guard.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Through the rain-soaked leaves and the constant attack and danger from unseen creatures, the migrants slip and fall, dislocate their joints and scrape their flesh. In this group, the elderly are carried by others, the younger wounded ones are passed by the rest. It is hard to see, and harder to ignore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The journey is hard, it is dangerous, it is daunting. Rivers rise, currents separate families, and children are lost. Steep hills are a muddy slush that at once suck you in and slide you down. Like a green Everest, the climb is gruelling and tough. It is a formidable challenge, and there are women with children, some pregnant, babies, men with swollen limbs, young men out of breath, battered. And the tracks are dotted with skulls and clothing of those who did not make it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Slippery rocks coated with the remnants of rain are a constant threat, they could send one tumbling onto the jungle floor where everything from sharp rocks to venomous snakes await. Everyone knows they have to get to a clearing to make camp and survive the night.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The nights are humid and stifling, oppressive with their warmth. As darkness comes, the insects come alive, they buzz ceaselessly, biting and persisting, tormenting the senses. It is dark and it swallows you into a great void, the only thing that helps people get through is the flicker of a better future. They know they are following steps of those who came before them and made it through, or so they hope.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The humanitarian need is such that Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) has set up assistance camps halfway through the unforgiving jungle labyrinth. The MST camp at Bajo Chiquito in the Panamanian Darién is in a remote and secluded community in the middle of the untamed wilderness. It is a rugged and demanding place, yet it is an island of respite for the injured, worn-out, hungry and battered migrants. MST says it has provided over 50,000 medical consultations, helping the wet, weak and bewildered travellers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gashed limbs, injuries from falls, serious intestinal problems from dehydration and drinking dirty river water, infections, skin lacerations and bug bites, stings, ankle and foot problems and festering blisters are things they see every day. Pregnant women, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to records from the Panamanian migration department, in 2022, as many migrants passed through the Darién as they have in the past 12 years. And the number, about 2.5 lakh, was nearly the double of the 2021 numbers. This year, the numbers are already several times higher than in the same period last year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the United Nation’s International Organization for Migration and its Missing Migrants Project, 36 people died in the Darién last year. That number is most certainly missing those whose remains speckle the jungle; the remains tell the fragmented story of anguished deaths, their frozen poses evincing the desolation at their last moments on earth. “Deep in the jungle, robbery, rape, and human trafficking are as dangerous as wild animals, insects and the absolute lack of safe drinking water,” said a UNICEF press release in 2021, quoting its regional director director, Jean Gough. “Week after week, more children are dying, losing their parents, or getting separated from their relatives while on this perilous journey,” said Gough, estimating that as much as half of the children who cross the Darién are under five.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to UNICEF estimates, at least a thousand children were unaccompanied or separated last year. MSF says that beyond the gruelling physical experience, the toll of seeing corpses and injured people left behind to be consumed by the jungle adds a psychologically damaging component.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet, it is not the only thing that haunts their journey. Lurking shadows of armed factions cast a sinister pall over their passage. Exploitation, robbery, violence and the menace of human trafficking threaten to shatter their hopes and inflict untold suffering upon their vulnerable souls.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the American dream is a powerful magnet and despite the warnings about the arduous 100km trek across the Darién’s six lakh untamed hectares plus another 4,000km through seven countries to get to Texas, perhaps only to be arrested and deported, the allure remains strong and steadfast among the throngs of new people “yearning to be free”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For humans, dreams never die.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the base camp, I learn the name of the child of the Venezuelan couple. It is not a boy; her name is Adriana. She is smiling, and there is a sparkle in her parents’ eyes.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/26/the-journey-of-migrants-through-darien-jungle-in-search-of-the-american-dream.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/26/the-journey-of-migrants-through-darien-jungle-in-search-of-the-american-dream.html Sat May 27 15:21:58 IST 2023 the-week-hansa-research-survey-2023-india-s-best-universities <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/12/the-week-hansa-research-survey-2023-india-s-best-universities.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/2023/5/12/100-Students-at-the-Banaras-Hindu-University.jpg" /> <p>Sayajirao Gaekwad III was a huge source of support to a young B.R. Ambedkar. The ruler of Baroda (now in Gujarat) provided him scholarships and employment. It would not be wrong to say that Ambedkar went on to become an institution. Sayajirao also made a telling contribution to another great Indian institution. In 1927, he donated Rs2 lakh towards the establishment of the Central Library at the Banaras Hindu University.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The university librarian Dewendra Kumar Singh proudly tells THE WEEK that they have priceless manuscripts, some of which are written in gold. “In the last couple of years, our library has grown phenomenally,” he says. “We have around 16 lakh printed documents, 86,000 e-books, and around 1.5 lakh video lectures, plus 10,000 journals. All our publications can be accessed remotely.” The library has around 5,000 daily users and is open almost round-the-clock―it is closed only for cleaning, which takes three hours. Even during those hours, students continue to queue up outside, sometimes numbering around 500, as per Singh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Research and citations are the strength of BHU, and a few science departments such as life sciences and medical sciences are among the top ones,” says Dr Vijay Kumar Shukla, rector, BHU. “With the IoE (institute of eminence status and the associated government grant), we have been trying to encourage our young faculty and other faculty members to go ahead with their publications. Under the IoE, we have appointed 15 to 20 post doc fellows. They are now in a position to produce good publications.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>BHU is the largest residential university in Asia, housing around 20,000 students in-campus and another 20,000 close by. But, like other top Indian universities, it is not ranked among the best in the world. For example, in the QS World University Rankings 2023―one of the world’s most-consulted such lists―there are no Indian universities in the top 100. A reason for this is that apart from criterion like academic and employer reputation, research and faculty-student ratio, the ranking also focuses on diversity―international student and faculty ratio. This puts Indian universities at a disadvantage because aspirational migration is usually higher to western countries. For instance, Rice University, Houston, Texas, which is ranked 100th in the QS list, scores 90 out of 100 for international faculty ratio and 92.6 for international student ratio. BHU scores 1.3 and 1.9, respectively.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, BHU, which is ranked second among multidisciplinary universities in India by THE WEEK-Hansa Research Survey 2023, is determined to bridge the diversity gap. It has earmarked posts for foreign faculty and has set up accommodation. It is also attempting to attract foreign students and is ready with hostels for them. Moreover, it has separated foreign student admissions from the Common University Entrance Test as they want confirmation by March.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Teaching is never done in a closed environment,” Prof Arun Kumar Singh, registrar, BHU tells THE WEEK. “People should come from different countries and our people should go to different countries. Most of our students are from Uttar Pradesh, Bengal, Bihar and surrounding areas. When they get exposed to the teachers coming in from different parts of the world, it will help them widen their horizons.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prof A.K. Tripathi, director, Institute of Science, BHU, says excellence and ranking are different things and adds that the university has a few institutes par excellence such as the institutes of medicine, agriculture, environment and sustainable development. He also points out that BHU is one of the Indian government’s Sophisticated Analytical Technical Help Institutes, along with IIT Delhi and IIT Kharagpur. SATHIs have the facilities and analytical instruments to help industry, other universities and national laboratories. “Samples that were send abroad are sent here now,” says Tripathi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For the University of Delhi (DU), which is third among multidisciplinary universities in THE WEEK-Hansa Research survey, the size and challenges are vastly different from foreign universities, says Prof Yogesh Singh, vice chancellor. “Many teachers were working on an ad hoc basis for several years, but now we are hiring more teachers,” he says. “We are conducting interviews 20 days a month and, in the last eight to nine months, we have recruited more than 500 teachers. At the same time, we are focusing on funding research and recruiting people with the right kind of research potential.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He adds that the university’s international department is taking a keen interest in admitting international students. “We do not have international faculty on a regular basis,” he says. “Currently, we have around 20 adjunct international faculty members who have been engaged from different countries. Those who have an idea of the international system know that DU is a good university, but there may be professors who do not have any idea about India or Indian universities. The government of India recently allowed having international faculty. [With] the government taking the right steps, the image of India has improved in the last few years. I am hopeful that in the next few years, universities from India will be among the world’s top universities and DU will be one of them.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Singh points out that there has been a huge response to the undergraduate courses in Delhi and many students are not able to get admissions for them. “But many students from India still prefer to go abroad for higher education, especially in the US and the UK,” he admits, adding that the perception would change over the next few years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Singh is of the opinion that if foreign universities set up their campuses in India (the University Grants Commission is moving in this direction), it would be good for the country as students will have different kind of opportunities. “[Indian campuses of] foreign universities may not be affordable to all, but they will create different types of opportunities for our students in emerging areas of knowledge,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>IIT Bombay, ranked first among technical universities in THE WEEK’s survey, is on the right path, says its director, Prof Subhasis Chaudhuri. “One needs to understand the journey to the top for IITs,” he tells THE WEEK. “The first 20 to 25 years since inception―that I call IIT 1.0―IITs had to concentrate on creating extraordinarily trained manpower, which they have been doing very well ever since. Subsequently, the need was felt to also emphasise on research-based postgraduate education. This is what I call IIT 2.0. For the last five to 10 years, we are also focusing on industry interaction for greater economic and societal impact. I would say all these would slowly make IIT Bombay truly world-class.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He also points out an issue with the definition of “foreign” faculty. “In most western countries and ranking organisations, they look at the citizenship at birth, while majority of them had done their PhD in the same country,” he says. “This may be taken as ethnic diversity, but there is no academic diversity. On the other hand, IITs have tremendous academic diversity where a large number of faculty members have their PhDs from all over the world, but very few with non-Indian ethnicity. Most of the faculty members, thus, do have significant international exposure. Further, IITs, being centrally funded technical institutes, have excellent cultural diversity. In my opinion, academic diversity is more important than the passport of faculty.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chaudhuri says that as India is a large country with a highly aspirational youth, foreign universities setting up their centres in India would be a welcome move. “I shall be happy to be of help in such initiatives and I am sure all IITs will be happy to collaborate with them, should there be such opportunities,” he says. “However, we need to be careful in ensuring that there is no compromise in the quality of education that these foreign universities deliver in India.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>IIT Bombay, which produces the largest number of PhDs in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) in India (449 PhDs last year), has been working towards an ecosystem that fosters cutting-edge research and innovation. With the Centre’s IoE grant, it has been setting up world-class laboratories to ensure that researchers have access to high-end tools and facilities. Several interdisciplinary centres and various centres of excellence have been set up. These include the Koita Centre for Digital Health, the Centre for Machine Intelligence and Data Science, and the Centre for Climate Studies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The entrepreneurship ecosystem, which has incubated companies with a combined valuation of more than $2.5 billion, is set to get stronger―a new research building, which will house startups, will be ready in six to eight months. IIT Bombay is also setting up a translational research centre that will take early concepts in academic departments to maturity and “productisation” stages. Curriculum updation is, of course, continuous, in keeping with global technological developments. “Once in 10 to 12 years, we do a major overhaul and the last major change in UG education happened in 2021,” says Chaudhuri.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prof Rangan Banerjee, director, IIT Delhi, ranked second among technical institutes by THE WEEK, feels that academic institutes, particularly IITs, have a role towards society as they are training future manpower and not just competing for international world university rankings. “We have many things to do to increase the impact of our education and research,” he says. “We would not do it with the goal of improving our ranking. We have to provide an all-round education for our students and also see what is needed, in terms of whether it is societal organisations, government or the industry. In such cases, we need to be aware of what is happening across the world. Our focus would be to do things that will enhance the student experience, see that we are doing research on relevant problems, see that the knowledge that we generate actually makes an impact on society and provides leadership of thought.” He adds that doing these things would automatically improve IIT Delhi’s global ranking.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Banerjee says that IIT Delhi attracts a diverse group of students from across the country and that its students are doing well and making an impact, but adds that the impact now needs to be enhanced. “There are certain areas where we need to get the groups of faculty members together and make a greater impact,” he says. “In health care, we are planning a new campus in Jhajjar, Haryana. We are working with AIIMS Delhi and the National Cancer Institute. We are looking at personalised medicine and new areas of sports-injury prevention and sports performance.” He adds that IIT Delhi also has a school of artificial intelligence funded by alumnus. “We are going to get a separate high-performance cluster which is going to be for AI,” he says. “It will be a national facility predominantly for AI. It will also be open for researchers from across India.” Banerjee says the government has asked the institute to have an international presence and, consequently, IIT Delhi is going to have an Abu Dhabi campus soon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He says having foreign faculty can surely help and adds that IIT Delhi has temporary faculty from Japan and Germany. “We even have Nobel laureates visiting us,” he says. “The whole idea is that we have different ways of looking at things and we do joint workshops and research projects with different universities. We will prioritise a set of universities, but we are insisting on two-way traffic in linkages. Under this, students can go and come.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Banerjee emphasises the need to keep reinventing. “It is an interesting and exciting time,” he says. “One of the challenges for higher education is that students now have lots of choices and can google in the classroom. It is challenging to actually get their attention. The approach cannot be conventional.” For this reason, he says, IIT Delhi has an innovation ecosystem where students and faculty can run with their ideas. “We would like many of our students to become job creators rather than just go and sit for placements,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Prof Sajal Dasgupta,</b> vice chancellor, University of Engineering &amp; Management, Kolkata</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Having foreign faculty and/or Indian faculty with substantial international experience is important to bring in foreign and global perspectives in the area of study. This also helps promote inclusiveness in education and explore more dimensions of the subject.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Kadhambari S. Viswanathan,</b> assistant vice president, Vellore Institute of Technology</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Future-ready programmes ensure that students become capable of strengthening and influencing the future of work. Such programmes in a student-centric learning environment―with technology-enabled peer learning through interactive strategies― will help train students with competencies desirable today.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Prof Devinder Narain,</b> senior director, corporate relations &amp; human resource, Shobhit University</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A combination of factors contribute to making a university stand out. This includes a strong academic reputation, excellence in research and innovation, having an impact on society, valuing diversity and inclusion, and strong alumni network that can offer students valuable connections.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Prof P.R. Sodani, </b>president, IIHMR University, Jaipur</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Universities have to be committed to harnessing the new opportunities emerging in our dynamic, fast-changing world through interdisciplinary research, innovations in pedagogy, providing world-class infrastructure, and facilitating entrepreneurship. Current research by faculty should be integrated with teaching, leading to industry-ready students.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Sardar Simarpreet Singh,</b> director, JIS Group</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Universities must produce society-makers who are capable of providing leadership to their fellows and juniors. They can innovate the essential things for the society of the future and add value to the rapidly changing world. Also, the internation-alisation of education is a growing urge of the universe and is gaining momentum.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Research methodology</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>THE WEEK-Hansa Research</b> Best Universities Survey 2023 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 302 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. Fifty-four 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>◆ Placements (only for technical universities)</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> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/12/the-week-hansa-research-survey-2023-india-s-best-universities.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/12/the-week-hansa-research-survey-2023-india-s-best-universities.html Sat May 13 11:42:27 IST 2023 infosys-co-founder-narayana-murthy-exclusive-interview <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/12/infosys-co-founder-narayana-murthy-exclusive-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/2023/5/12/115-Narayana-Murthy.jpg" /> <p>Infosys co-founder N.R. Narayana Murthy has commented regularly on the state of education in India. The visionary leader spoke to THE WEEK about how Indian universities can improve. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Indian universities do not feature in global top-100 lists. What more needs to be done to improve the standards?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Indian universities must create a plan to improve their own institution in [relevant] criteria―whether it is patents, papers in reputed journals, the kind of jobs that the students get, and the quality and the number of PhD students passing out each year. I have always believed that competition is the best management guru. Therefore, Indian universities must study their competitor-universities which are in the top 20 in the world, find out what is it that they do to be in the top 20, and start doing it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ It is said that AI could replace certain jobs. What kind of courses should students choose to get jobs that will stay relevant? What changes should universities effect to enable this?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> We should use these technologies in a human-assistive mode rather than in a human replacement mode. Therefore, our universities, particularly the technical ones, will have to frame the curriculum for their courses on new technologies like ChatGPT, AI and other new technologies to teach the students how these technologies can be used in a human-assistive mode. They should teach how these technologies, used in such a way, have improved the productivity and progress, how they have reduced the cost, and how they have improved entertainment and comfort. Once the universities do these things, the students will become more useful to the industry, and they will automatically get jobs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You spoke about the role of technical universities. But, a large number of seats in STEM courses are vacant. One possible reason is students going abroad. How can universities rectify this situation?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> There are two ways of handling these problems. The first way is for the industry associations to obtain the estimates for the economic growth from the relevant agencies in the government for the fifth year from today, obtain the standards for productivity of engineers from the companies, and compute the net increase in the number of engineers needed five years from now (as they are four-year courses). Obviously, that estimate would be approximate, but it is better than what we do today. Based on the association data for increases in the number of engineers published in newspapers and reports, the engineering colleges in the country should start increasing or decreasing the number of seats.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The second way is to study the quality of education in graduate and doctoral studies abroad, particularly in the developed world, vis-à-vis the Indian universities and educational institutions. Most of our students who go abroad go for job opportunities in the countries where they go for their graduate studies. My view is that the number of students going abroad for higher studies and jobs is a small percentage of total number of students in our country. I do not think that we should be worried too much about it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Could you elaborate the points you mentioned about students going abroad?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> The students are looking at job opportunities. It so happens that the developed world offers better paying jobs. It is easier there to obtain good schooling for their children. There is a possibility of obtaining good jobs for their spouses. There are facilities like good nurseries for children when the parents go to their offices. Therefore, the students feel that the quality of life in these countries is better. It is very natural that a certain percentage of our children who can afford to go abroad will obviously want to go abroad and study. I feel there is nothing wrong in that. I would request these youngsters to become model citizens of whatever society they adopt and bring respect, honour and prestige to India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Many universities have brought in full-time foreign faculty or faculty with international experience on a full-time basis, apart from having foreign visiting faculty. Does this help? If so, how?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> The Indian universities and educational institutions will benefit by inviting faculty from those universities that are ranked high in teaching and research. The faculty members coming from the developed world would seed critical thinking and problem-solving skills in our students. That is the way our universities can reach higher in the rankings and produce students who are beneficial to our country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The UGC seems to be getting ready to allow the functioning of campuses of foreign higher educational institutions in India. If foreign universities come to Indian shores, what impact will it have on the educational system in India?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> I am very happy that the UGC has introduced a policy to welcome setting up of campuses in India by foreign universities. I would only hope that we would receive acceptance of this invitation by universities from the developed world. I believe that it is better for the country since the quality of students passing out of such foreign universities operating in India will generally be higher. They would have learnt problem-solving skills, and they would be highly employable. In the end, the country will benefit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This policy will result in faster growth of our country. Market competition determines the winner and the loser. The winner is one that has a larger market share of students aspiring to join them. It means that such universities attract better quality of students and make them more employable. Therefore, these students will get better jobs. Regulation of market competition by an open, fair, and transparent regulatory agency will only produce high-quality graduates. Parents or guardians will not send their wards to Indian universities that do not produce employable students. Over time, they will atrophy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How can the academia-industry collaboration be improved in India?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> There are many ways to improve the academia-industry collaboration. The academic institutions should introduce courses that will make students employable. These institutions should work out an arrangement with various companies to invite successful leaders and managers of these companies to give lectures as part of their courses. They should constantly update their curriculum to keep up with the demand for skills that the industry demands. The researchers in academic institutions should spend a few months every year in the industry to understand the context in which their graduating students will contribute to the betterment of the company. They should also do R&amp;D projects to solve some of the major technical problems faced by the industry. They may use such visits to decide on the research topics for the thesis of their PhD students. If the academic institutions do some of these things that I have suggested, I believe that the industry and the academia will work very closely on a win-win basis.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/12/infosys-co-founder-narayana-murthy-exclusive-interview.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/12/infosys-co-founder-narayana-murthy-exclusive-interview.html Fri May 12 12:21:09 IST 2023 king-charles-iii-queen-camilla-coronation <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/05/king-charles-iii-queen-camilla-coronation.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/2023/5/5/54-A-cafe-displays-a-poster.jpg" /> <p>On May 6, as King Charles III and Queen Camilla are crowned in all their finery at Westminster Abbey, over a thousand people, dressed in more modest yellow T-shirts will be gathered down the road at Trafalgar Square, clutching in one hand their water bottle, potato crisps and sandwich and in the other a yellow placard screaming, “Not my King”. Similar protests will take place in Cardiff and Nottingham, as well as in the Scottish cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ultimately this feeble whiff of republicanism may not dampen the coronation party. A troubled world will inevitably pay attention to this glittering extravaganza, if nothing else than as an anachronistic bejewelled distraction, steeped in pageantry and richly doused with a mysterious ritual that goes back to the ancient Kings of Israel. But this coronation is unlikely to have the idealism, the romance or even the patriotic sentiment that attached itself to the black-and-white 1953 event, when a young and vulnerable-looking Elizabeth took charge of a war-battered kingdom. Instead, more mundane questions have been swirling around the event: Will the Sussexes be invited? By last reports only Harry will come, though it is not quite clear where he will sit. Will Camilla wear the Kohinoor? Thankfully not. Will she be crowned Queen or Queen Consort? Well, if a King cannot make his wife Queen…. Will the song I’m Gonna Be (500 miles) be part of the coronation music playlist? It will not, given the republican tendencies of the band, The Proclaimers. Clearly the confetti will still come down by the bagful―since an estimated 100 million pounds is being spent on it―but once it has settled, the reflection on the monarchy’s future, in full swing since the passing of Queen Elizabeth II last September, will continue unabated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When the new monarch appears, as per tradition, at the balcony of the Buckingham Palace, he will be all too aware of the challenges gathering beyond the wrought iron gates. Prime among these is the need to maintain public support for the monarchy, for it is ultimately public will―and not divine grace―that sanctions the House of Windsor today. In recent polls, nearly 60 per cent still support the monarchy while 26 per cent would prefer an elected head of state. But there is a disturbing generational angle: a much larger percentage of support (78 per cent) exists in the over-65s, while it crashes to 32 per cent among the 18-24 age group, with only 12 per cent of this group regarding the institution as “very important”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To maintain even this level of support is not going to be easy. First of all, the King is the not the Queen, if you know what I mean. The Queen―in popular perception of living generations, there really will be only one―was, to quote former prime minister Boris Johnson, “a changeless human reference point in British life”, a pillar of stability, dignity and political neutrality; the public outpouring of grief at her passing was genuine and widespread. Charles, on the other hand, besides being the oldest monarch to be crowned, comes through as awkward and impatient (remember the leaking pens?). The baggage of his breakup with Diana, which broke the heart of global romance, has not quite been shed, despite the miraculous rehabilitation of Camilla. His frequently expressed political opinions to government members, evidenced in his “black spider” letters (the reference being to his squiggly signature), could invite accusations of political meddling if not strictly curbed. And, of course, the family is at war with itself. Prince Andrew’s antics have brought back the spicy whiff of sex to the royal soap opera and the revelations of the Harry-Meghan firm have shown up the royals as misogynist, racist and inflexible. Even Meghan’s absence at the coronation is being read by some as a calculated snub to the King; on the other hand, her presence would have been a protocol and PR nightmare that is best avoided.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a country struggling with a serious cost-of-living crisis, questions about public funding of royal indulgences are inevitable. Half the people polled felt that the King should pay for his own coronation. Others ask why have a coronation at all: after all, other European monarchies work perfectly well with just proclamations. Royal finances―even the wills of obscure royals―are shrouded in secrecy, leaving the field to investigative journalism led by The Guardian. Under the Sovereign Grant―David Cameron’s 2011 funding arrangement that replaced the civil-list system are far more transparent―the monarch presently receives 86 million pounds a year in public money as well as a share in the Crown estate profits, which could amount to another 250 million pounds. This is embarrassing enough for the King to have asked for a reduction in future payments; already his personal wealth has been estimated at 1.8 billion pounds, though the Palace has dismissed the estimate as “a highly creative mix of speculation, assumption and inaccuracy”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Much else is coming into the public domain: the millions of pounds that go to the royals from the two hereditary estates, the duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster, under a long-debated arrangement; the monetisation of the two country estates of Balmoral and Sandringham, including the renting of 300 houses at the latter; the equine assets of the late Queen and much else. The several costly gifts, works of art and costly jewels with the royals are also under the scanner, with calls for more clarity between official and private holdings under the gift policy, which interestingly came into being only in 1995.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Calls for present transparency mingle with demands to settle with a dark past. Ancestors of the royals have long extended patronage to trans-Atlantic slave trade and owned slaves of Virginia’s tobacco plantations. These revelations only go to fuel demands for reparations for colonial repression and strengthen the moves to republicanism, particularly in the Caribbean realms. Barbados has already left the group of 14 countries that still regard the British monarch as head of state; Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, as well as St Vincent and the Grenadines, are seriously debating similar moves. To limit damage, Charles has offered to support research into the “appalling atrocity” of slavery; such calibrated admission, falling far short of apology, will only prove to be too little too late. Ultimately, the departure of a Caribbean realm or two, or even distant Australia, may be less serious than a breaking away of Scotland, or a reunification of Ireland. It will be small consolation then that an independent Scotland would retain Charles as head of state; Ireland certainly would not. Charles would end up being King of England and Wales, which, after all the razzmatazz of the coronation, doesn’t quite have the right ring to it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite all these challenges, it is quite possible that the monarchy may yet muddle through for the foreseeable future. Much will depend on how King Charles tailors his ceremonial role, introduces transparency and brings the larger family in line. His accessibility to the public and parliament post his accession goes to his credit. His restriction of the family to seven working royals, the relative scaling down of the coronation, the presence of multi-faith leaders in an abstruse Christian ceremony are small steps to reflect a modern and diversified country. What is perhaps most important is that much of conservative heartland Britain may still need the idea of a monarchy. It provides an X-factor, a certain oomph and tabloid-level distraction from the political uncertainties and harsh economic realities of a post-Brexit United Kingdom. With some luck and imagination, King Charles III may yet steer the HMS Royalty into safer waters of the 21st century.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The author is former High Commissioner to the UK and author, most recently, of the novel Crimson Spring.</b> </p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/05/king-charles-iii-queen-camilla-coronation.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/05/king-charles-iii-queen-camilla-coronation.html Fri May 05 18:59:09 IST 2023 king-charles-and-queen-camilla-connection-with-wellness-centre-soukya-bengaluru <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/05/king-charles-and-queen-camilla-connection-with-wellness-centre-soukya-bengaluru.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/2023/5/5/58-Charles-and-Camilla.jpg" /> <p><b>ON THE OUTSKIRTS</b> of Bengaluru, Queen Consort Camilla and King Charles III found a haven. SOUKYA, a holistic health centre, has been their favourite getaway from the palace’s heavy security and public scrutiny in the UK. So much so that Camilla has made quiet visits to the wellness centre, not once but eight times, in the last decade. Her last visit was in October 2022. Charles had accompanied her in November 2019.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The royal couple’s frequent visits reiterate their patronage of and belief in integrative, holistic medicine, says Dr Issac Mathai, who cofounded SOUKYA with his wife Suja in 2011. Mathai has been a holistic physician to Charles for more than a decade and is one of the very few to be invited for the coronation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Ms Camilla is a humble person,” says Mathai, adding that she prefers to carry her bags and be treated like any other patient. “When I met her in London after the Queen’s funeral, she told me she wanted to visit SOUKYA as it had been planned much earlier. She told me the visit was very important for her. The palace officials told me that the royal couple get privacy at SOUKYA, which they cannot get in the palace with a fleet of security and staff. Camilla is down to earth and genuinely feels for people. Over the last 10 years, she has grown closer to the people of [Britain]; [that] is what I [have] learnt from friends in London. Her family members are ordinary people.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During her visits to SOUKYA, Camilla is often accompanied by her sister, other family members or friends. The security is usually light, except during her last visit for eight days as queen consort. She has celebrated Diwali thrice at the centre. “The royal couple were witness to a special firecracker session―not the noisy crackers―hosted for them at the centre,” says Mathai. “The royal couple had planned a visit in January but it was called off at the last minute owing to apprehension over a fresh Covid outbreak.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A stay at the centre begins with a morning yoga session at 7:15. The couple, both in their 70s, do the asanas with relative ease. “The couple chose the common treatment area instead of a private space attached to their suite,” says Mathai. “They did yoga with all others during the sessions.” After breakfast, it is time for rejuvenation treatments, followed by lunch. After an hour of rest, the second round of therapies begin, followed by a meditation session before dinner and lights out by nine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The royals love the food served at the centre, even packing some for their flight back home. Breakfast is usually south Indian food―<i>dosa, appam</i> with stew, and with an option of omelette and eggs benedict. “During his visit, King Charles told me that the eggs benedict served here was the best he had had in recent times,” says Mathai, adding that Camilla is a light eater. “They love fruits [which come from the organic farm] and fruit juices, especially water melon and pomegranate. They also relish chapati, lentils and beans. We serve continental food as a second option for dinner. But they prefer Indian food.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The couple loves taking long walks through the sprawling campus, visiting the organic farm or the cattle shed. A walk through the garden is one of Charles’s favourite pastimes. “It is pretty much a wild garden and not a manicured one and the king likes it as it reminds him of an English garden,” says Mathai. “The king has strong views on climate change and global warming. Camilla’s brother, who passed away, was a big supporter of elephant protection and she, too, shares his passion. When they visited Kerala, they visited the elephant camp.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Charles had also mooted the idea of forming a group from south India to take up environment and wildlife protection in collaboration with his British Asian Trust. “I had held discussions with some prominent people like Nandan Nilekani,” says Mathai. “But then Covid happened and it got shelved.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mathai was touched by Charles’s gesture when he offered assistance in managing the centre during the Covid-19 lockdown. He had initially thought that the inquiry had come from Charles’s office. “But when I visited him in London, he told me he was worried about how we were managing and was offering to help us. I told him I was happy that he had thought of me,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mathai meets the king once every three to four months as a personal physician. “The king’s medical team has 45 specialists, mostly allopathy practitioners,” says Mathai, adding that the king was a patron of alternative medicine much before the duo met. “There is a royal homeopathic pharmacy. Since 1985, the king has been a patron of the British Holistic Medical Association. An interaction between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and King Charles resulted in the launching of an Ayush centre in London in 2018, where research on the effectiveness of Indian science systems in health care will be studied. SOUKYA has a facilitator’s role in the project.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Charles is even keen on having an Ayush centre on his estate―Dumfries House in Scotland, a 2,500-acre organic farm with lodging facilities and a primary health centre (PHC), says Mathai. “The PHC is providing free treatment to the locals, which is funded by the king, and the plan is to include ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy as part of the treatment module along with western medicine and traditional homeopathy,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The bond that the royal couple has with SOUKYA seems to be only growing, just like the champak tree planted by Charles and Camilla in 2019.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/05/king-charles-and-queen-camilla-connection-with-wellness-centre-soukya-bengaluru.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/05/king-charles-and-queen-camilla-connection-with-wellness-centre-soukya-bengaluru.html Fri May 05 17:47:07 IST 2023 why-english-royalty-has-avoided-the-name-charles <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/05/why-english-royalty-has-avoided-the-name-charles.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/2023/5/5/60-Charles-I.jpg" /> <p><b>MANY HAD EXPECTED</b> Charles to adopt a new regnal name on his coronation, just as his stuttering grandfather Albert of <i>The King’s Speech</i> fame had taken the name George VI. For, no English king has borne the name Charles after a Charles was executed in 1649 and his son, another Charles, presided over a lecherous reign marked by national calamities. Thus, the new king, by retaining his given name, is making a bold statement to his subjects―that he won’t be cowered by the ghosts of England’s past.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>First about names. The British have Burke’s Peerage, but they have no Maneka Gandhi with a Book of Baby Names. When it comes to naming babies, the English royals have had few choices. Since the Norman conquest of 1066, England has had about 40 kings, but just about a dozen names to give them. Thus, they have had eight Henrys and Edwards, six Georges, four Williams, three Richards, two Jameses, and two Charleses ruling them. Indeed they have had one-off names here and there―like a Philip, a Stephen, and, of course, a John.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The name John has been avoided since the early 13th century, after their only John brought ignominy to the crown. He went back on the promises of liberty he had made in Magna Carta, and brought about England’s first political strife, known in history as the Barons’ War. He paid the price for his sins―he drowned to death while fleeing with his loot.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The names James and Charles had been shunned since the tumultuous 17th century. Never did the English people suffer as much as they did when two Jameses and two Charleses reigned over them one after the other with a short, but equally disastrous, republican spell. In those 85 years England had its only tyranny of 11 years, a decade-long civil war, a purge of parliament, the only public trial of a king, the only judicial beheading of a king, the only experiment with republicanism which was no better than a Christian Taliban rule, the restoration of monarchy, the great plague, the great fire of London, ill fame around the palace as a virtual whorehouse, religious persecution, arrest and trial of bishops, and finally the flight of a king in fear of his people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Never before or never again did they have a Charles or a James.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though both had been English Christian names earlier and still are, the two names came to the English royalty as imports from Scotland. When the illustrious Elizabeth died reputedly a virgin, they imported the first James, her second cousin, from Scotland. The two crowns were thus conjoined in 1603 under James I who had been Scotland’s James VI. Two centuries later the parliaments, too, would.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Scotsman’s unfamiliarity with the English parliament’s powers caused problems, but he managed with his peaceful demeanour and scholarly conduct, even surviving the Gunpowder Plot of Catholic zealots to blow him up and the parliament. He put them to death, followed a careful religious policy in the Protestant-majority country, wrote the world’s first known thesis on the ill-effects of tobacco, claimed divine right for the king to rule, and commissioned a translation of the Bible into English which is still celebrated as the King James Bible or Authorised Version. Young journalism trainees even today are told to read the James Bible for brevity of expression. The shortest sentence in English literature is said to be contained in it―“Jesus wept” (John 11:35); in Wimbledon and other tennis courts the phrase refers to women players’ skirts―as short as possible.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>James’s son Charles took the divine right theory to the extreme. For eleven years he tyrannised England without calling the parliament, whose consent was needed for imposing taxes. And when it was summoned, he marched into it with his guards seeking to arrest his critics. When parliament continued to defy him, he raised an army and prepared for war.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To cut a long story short, the parliament, too, raised its own army, defeated him in battle and took him prisoner. Then they tried the king of England for waging war on the crown of England (what a splendid logic of law that distinguished the person of the king from the state!), found him guilty and executed him, the only instance of a king being judicially executed in England. His son, the future Charles II, fled to Europe, leaving England to a republican experiment under Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The protectorate banned even music and dance, and soon the people began longing for monarchy. The death of Cromwell, and the misrule by his son paved the way for the restoration of monarchy under Charles II.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The new king followed a careful religious policy of pandering to the Protestant majority who were suspicious of his Catholic sympathies. Anyway, he soon gained a reputation as the ‘Merry Monarch’, filling the palace rooms with his concubines. One of them, Nell Gwyn, was reported to have cried out when a Protestant mob, mistaking her for the Catholic Duchess of Portsmouth, mobbed her coach at the gates of the palace when she was riding out in the morning after a merry night with the king, “Pray, good people, be civil; I am the Protestant whore.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Calamities visited the kingdom under Charles II’s reign. The great plague of 1665 killed a recorded 68,596 Londoners (the actual number could be more than 100,000), and many more in the rest of the country. The very next year came the great fire of London that gutted most of the prosperous merchant houses of the city.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Charles died without a progeny, his Catholic brother James II succeeded him. James’s absolutism and pro-Catholic acts further angered parliament, alienated the people, and provoked the Church of England. The last straw was perhaps the arrest of seven bishops, on the king’s orders, on the charge of seditious libel. The court acquitted them, further undermining the credibility and authority of the king. Meanwhile, the birth of a son to the elderly king spread fears of a Catholic continuation on the throne, leading to the influential peers inviting James’s daughter Mary and her Protestant husband William of Orange, the monarch of Holland, to depose James. Before the ship carrying the daughter and son-in-law anchored at Torbay, James fled England. The event is remembered in history as the Glorious Revolution or Bloodless Revolution of 1688.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No other Catholic or Charles or James has sat on the English throne since.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All the same, there is said to have been a positive aside to the calamities that visited the last Charles’s reign. The great plague killed a large number of people, leading to a severe labour shortage, which in turn paved the way for mechanisation of production. The great fire that gutted London the following year is said to have also destroyed all the plague germs that could have been there in the subterranean hovels of the mediaeval city. Industrial production soon boomed, and the huge profits therefrom led to the rebuilding of a great city of topless towers, grand mansions, and smoke-spewing factories. Within a few decades, England was the leading industrial power in Europe, and soon in<br> the world.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/05/why-english-royalty-has-avoided-the-name-charles.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/05/why-english-royalty-has-avoided-the-name-charles.html Fri May 05 17:42:54 IST 2023 excerpts-from-the-biography-of-king-charles-our-king-by-robert-jobson <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/05/excerpts-from-the-biography-of-king-charles-our-king-by-robert-jobson.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/2023/5/5/62-Charles-with-UAE-President-Sheikh-Mohammed-bin-Zayed-Al-Nahyan.jpg" /> <p><b>IT IS SUPPOSITION,</b> of course, as we do not know what stance the late Queen took with [UK prime minister Tony] Blair [on the Iraq war], and what he told her. Like Her late Majesty, ultimately King Charles would have had to acquiesce eventually to remain politically neutral, as he must. That said, given his deep knowledge and extensive and high-level contacts in the Gulf states, and the esteem in which he is held in in the Arab world, it is hard to imagine Charles would have remained silent, and that Blair would have had an easy ride.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Charles was not alone in his grave reservations about sending in the troops in what was being called an ‘illegal war’, as the offensive did not have United Nations backing. Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary-general, stated clearly in September 2004 that he believed the US-led, UK-backed invasion of Iraq was an illegal act that contravened the UN Charter….</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sources close to Charles, however, believe that while as monarch he would have had no choice but to allow Blair to pursue his agenda, he would undoubtedly have voiced ‘his strongest possible objections’ on the war. ‘He most certainly would have advised the prime minister to think again and warned against British military intervention,’ said an informed source. His advice to Blair, senior sources confirmed, would have been to heed the warnings of experienced Arab leaders in the region, rulers with whom Charles had built up a good rapport and working relationships over many years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As Prince of Wales, Charles’s desire to be seen as a pioneer and a shaper of ideas, and to enjoy growing political influence, was a source of serious concern to his advisers. Several said that the prince actively engaged in contentious issues because it raised the debate on a subject that would otherwise be swept under the carpet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>★★★</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, as the King, Charles is a respected figure in the Gulf states and Middle East, not least for his sympathetic speeches about Islam when Prince of Wales. Like Tony Blair, he has studied the Koran in depth, and he started learning Arabic in 2012, although he admitted that he struggled and eventually gave up. When corresponding with Arab leaders, he always signs his name in Arabic, another show of respect and a small nod to respecting the other culture.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>★★★</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When given the chance, Charles would point out why the delicate differences in culture in the region were so crucial to understand. It was a region, he would stress, still dominated by tribal loyalties. So, marching in carrying a banner for Western-style democracy was futile, in his view. One of Charles’s circle of friends, who was fully aware of his views, said, ‘The prince was wise enoughto foresee that. Why weren’t the politicians of the day? It was as if they had. Perhaps it didn’t suit their or the government’s hawkish agenda at the time.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Charles’s view, the only way to achieve anything resembling a proper democracy in Iraq and for the West to have stood any chance of winning the so-called ‘war on terror’ was by dealing with the ‘real toxin’ infecting the whole world: the Israel–Palestine question. To this day, privately, he maintains that the West must focus on education and resisting what he believes is a ‘terrible distortion’ of Islam and how it is perceived in the West. Only then―when the wider world embraces the true Islam, combined with a serious collaborative effort to find a workable solution to the Israel–Palestine question―will, in his opinion, the rage that drives the war on terror start to wane.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘I have heard him [Charles] say time and again, “Remove the poison and you remove the cause of so much of the terrorism,”’ a source close to the King said, adding that it was his core belief on the issue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Our King: Charles III: The Man And The Monarch Revealed</b></p> <p><i>Author: <b>Robert Jobson</b></i></p> <p><i>Publisher: <b>John Blake Publishing</b> (imprint of Bonnier Books)</i></p> <p><i>Pages <b>304;</b> price: <b>Rs1, 824.57</b> (e-book)</i></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/05/excerpts-from-the-biography-of-king-charles-our-king-by-robert-jobson.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/05/excerpts-from-the-biography-of-king-charles-our-king-by-robert-jobson.html Fri May 05 17:38:06 IST 2023 here-comes-the-king-and-his-leather-covered-toilet-seat <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/05/here-comes-the-king-and-his-leather-covered-toilet-seat.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/2023/5/5/63-King-Charles-III-reads-the-weather-for-the-BBC.jpg" /> <p><b>THERE ARE MANY</b> questions that plague the world right now. When will the Ukraine war end? Will the Supreme Court legalise same-sex marriage in India? But there is one question that is more enduring than any of these. Is it time to abolish the British monarchy? Despite the seriousness of the issue, the people who most want the monarchy to continue are not the royalists, it is the comedians. After all, what other institution can boast of people with titles like ‘James the sh*t’, ‘John the babymaker’, or 'Richard Queen Dick’? What other people are governed by so many rules that it would put to shame an American high-security prison? British royals cannot have their Christmas dinner without weighing themselves first. They must keep a record of the official gifts they receive. They cannot play Monopoly, wave with their right hand or eat shellfish.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But keeping these archaic rules will not be uppermost on the mind of King Charles III. He has many other things to worry about. How to connect with ethnic minorities in a Britain that is increasingly becoming racially diverse. How to bring about change while remaining conservative. How not to interfere in politics while making his voice heard. And then there is the issue that overrides them all―how to make people forget the image of him breakdancing at a charity event.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Charles’s mother and predecessor, Queen Elizabeth II, was renowned for her sense of humour. Charles might be decidedly less humorous. Maybe his decades-long wait as heir apparent has rusted his funny bone. But of course, this is not to say that Charles has not occasionally delivered a coup de maître. Once, at a Prince’s Trust gala, Charles played a waiter in a sketch with Stephen Fry and Roger Moore. A group of Charles lookalikes comes and serves Fry and Moore. Finally, the real Charles comes with a towel draped over his arm and asks whether the food had been to their liking. “I know who he is supposed to be, but he needs to work on his voice a little,” Fry tells Moore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another time, Charles delivered the weather report for the BBC. “Who the hell wrote this script?” he joked while reporting snow over the royal residence of Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire. At the 1994 British Comedy Awards, comedian Spike Milligan called Charles “a little grovelling bastard”, and later wrote to him asking for a knighthood. “Try a little judicious grovelling,” Charles answered.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When it comes to humour, however, more jokes have been made about him than by him. Many wrongfully describe him as a walking, talking parody. Unfortunately, gaffes are nothing new to the king. There was the time he called China’s ageing leaders “appalling old waxworks”. Then there was the “leaky pen” affair that went viral on the internet. Then, of course, there was the infamous Tampongate, where Charles tells Camilla he wishes he was a tampon so he could live inside her.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The truth is that, whatever Charles does will become grist for the humour mill, and he knows it. The world will call him by different names as they have before, whether it is ‘Hooligan of the Year’ (by the RSPCA when he hunted boar in Liechtenstein), ‘Prince Red Chow’ (by the Kainai tribe of Alberta) or ‘Pommy Bastard’ (by the Timbertops School in Australia). They will make fun of him for his pick-up line in Cambridge (“I like to give myself heirs”), for sleeping in the nude and for taking his toilet seat (covered in white leather) wherever he goes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He is in a no-win situation, unless…. He could, of course, turn his snooty nose up at these commoner comedians and say nothing. Or, he could dust off that funny bone and come up with some royal rejoinders. He could put his reputation on the line and give as good as he gets. That would be more momentous that Watergate, Tampongate and all other gates. For Charles, this could be payback.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/05/here-comes-the-king-and-his-leather-covered-toilet-seat.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/05/05/here-comes-the-king-and-his-leather-covered-toilet-seat.html Fri May 05 18:52:21 IST 2023 ujjain-mahakal-lok-corridor-photo-feature <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/04/28/ujjain-mahakal-lok-corridor-photo-feature.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/2023/4/28/46-A-sculpture-in-the-Mahakal-Lok-corridor-showing-Shiva.jpg" /> <p>Shiva looms large in Ujjain. The screen of the autorickshaw that I take to the Mahakaleshwar Temple has “Jai Shree Mahakal” printed on it. And the security guard who ushers me into the compound chants the mantra.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a crisp spring morning, and a state-of-the-art sound system fills the air with “Om”. I am at Nandi Dwar, a 26ft-high gate that opens to a 900m corridor leading to the centuries-old temple. Both the gate and the corridor are designed to dwarf visitors.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The corridor is the longest of its kind in the country. It is being constructed along the banks of the Rudra Sagar lake and the river Kshipra at a cost of more than Rs850 crore. Named ‘Mahakal Lok’, the corridor will have 200 statues and a 100ft-wide mural wall.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Beyond Nandi Dwar is a lotus pond. In the middle is a towering statue of a meditating Shiva surrounded by gushing fountains.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As many as 108 <i>stambhas</i> (pillars) line the corridor. Made of sandstone from Rajasthan, the <i>stambhas</i> have carvings of Shiva performing <i>anand tandav.</i> The tallest is the 54ft-high Shiv Stambh, which is higher than the famous Hollywood sign in Los Angeles (45ft). Atop the Shiv Stambh is a <i>panchmukhi,</i> or five-faced Shiva.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Visitors usually take around two hours to explore the corridor. At the end of the passage is the grand temple, its dome hidden by the roof of a waiting hall. Meant to decongest the temple premises, the hall has devotees queuing up, chanting “Jai Shree Mahakal”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Beautifying the temple is the next phase of the project. For now, unlike the modern and ordered path to the temple, the mandir area retains an old flavour. Roads are narrow, autorickshaws jostle for space, and shopkeepers hawk sundry items―from incense sticks made of flowers offered to the temple, to momos, panipuri and ice cream.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Elderly women carrying red and yellow pots―denoting the colour of the sandal paste in them―sit on the pavement. They look for devotees who want to ‘mark’ their spiritual experience on their forehead. A devotee, Rajiv of Jaipur, gets the word Mahakal drawn on his forehead in yellow for 020. Rajiv’s son captures the process on his cellphone. “The number of devotees visiting the temple has increased manifold after the prime minister inaugurated the corridor last year,” says Rajiv.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Mahakaleshwar Temple holds special significance for Hindus. It is believed to have one of the 12 <i>jyotirlingas</i> (pillars of light) in India. Also, the <i>jyotirlinga</i> in Ujjain is the only one facing the south; all others face the east. Hence its fame as <i>dakshinamukhi.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The temple’s name, too, has a deeper meaning. The Sanskrit word <i>kala</i> refers to both time and death. As the one who conquered both, Shiva was called Mahakal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His abode in Ujjain is also interlinked with the concept of space-time. In ancient times, Ujjain was considered as the place where the prime meridian and the tropic of Cancer intersected. In the 18th century, Maharaja Jai Singh II built an observatory with 13 architectural instruments to study astronomical phenomena. The place is known as Jantar Mantar or Vedh Shala.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the Mahakal Lok corridor, Ujjain has added another layer to its deep links with time and space, and the physical and the philosophical.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/04/28/ujjain-mahakal-lok-corridor-photo-feature.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/04/28/ujjain-mahakal-lok-corridor-photo-feature.html Sat Apr 29 09:07:24 IST 2023 raising-a-child-with-autism <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/04/08/raising-a-child-with-autism.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/2023/4/8/60-Ellis-with-son-Tomas.jpg" /> <p>Wherever I have lived in the world, I have always talked about autism, and about Tomas. One, because it is true our son Tomas is autistic, and two, to get beyond the fear. You have to show to people that it is okay. It is a bit scary—a diagnosis like that—but there is nothing to be scared of.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tomas was born in 1997. We had always thought there was something unusual and slightly different about our son. He was delayed in speech, which is where we thought there might be something going on. We spoke two languages—Portuguese (my wife is Portuguese) and English. And, he did not speak very much till he was about three. [We] saw a speech therapist, who said, ‘switch to one language, so that he [speaks] quickly’. Then we moved to Brussels. To be honest, he was okay in school before that, but the European school he went to said, ‘We can’t educate him’. This was the first time we had the school saying this. He was seven. Then he was diagnosed [with autism] in February 2005. It does not come as a bolt from the blue. Nevertheless, it is quite a shock when it happens. The next thing I thought was, he is no different from [how] he was the day before; it is not like he has a disease. It is just that that is the way his brain is wired. It is a diagnosis, but it is not a change in him at all.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>First, you have to make peace with the diagnosis and the nature of your child yourself. I think I did [struggle] with [that]. You have expectations about what your child is going to do. I played a huge amount of sports. I thought my son is bound to want to play sports. But [he did] not. But that has got nothing to do with autism, that is just how life is. It may just apply in a slightly more acute way to being a parent of a kid on the autistic spectrum.&nbsp; You have to do a hard thing, which is, mourn the future, and say, well, this is not going to be how you might have imagined it to be. But you have to get over yourself a bit on that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The second thing you have to do is to lose any sense of shame. Shame is a corrosive and powerful social emotion. But you do it. You have to reach acceptance in yourself because everyone has to accept their children. Then you have to not project anything other than confidence and pride and love in your child to the rest of the world. The rest of the world very often is uncomfortable with differences. Human beings, as animals, are wired to be cautious about differences.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then you have to be realistic. You do not want to put your autistic child in particular situations that are going to be very stressful for them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tomas is now 25. He has finished university. He is very creative. He writes. He is sometimes given scripts to read to comment on by production house(s).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I found that the good teachers were very confident with Tomas, and they just looked at him like they are looking at all the other pupils, in terms of just being an individual.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is very hard to draw the line between what is autism and what is Tomas. It is who he is. That makes it quite hard to diagnose. There is no blood test, and there is no antibiotic you take to kind of remove it. So I like Tomas and that includes some bits that people would think of as autistic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I think the labels help from the point of view of dealing with a school. But they can also be limiting. Look at some of the outstanding paralympic athletes, for example. I was ambassador in Brazil when they had the Rio Paralympics. You might think, ‘Oh, that’s a person with no legs.’ That is kind of true, but he is also an amazing athlete.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I remember we got very good, practical advice from Tony Atwood, who is quite an expert in this area. Somebody was talking about handwriting. My son’s handwriting was terrible. [He said] ‘why bother, just type!’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>You have to push them in some areas, and understand the things that will give them pleasure. And, find things that you are going to enjoy together, maybe the things you never imagined. I do not think I had ever expected to spend time in the world of Warhammer. But I did with Tomas, I just enjoy it very much.</p> <p>Tomas was not bullied very often, partly because he is big and partly because he just does not respond. But I think at one of his schools in Brazil, a kid was trying to bully him. If I remember rightly, that kid sort of taunted him, in the way that teenage boys do, about being gay. And our son said, “Well, I wouldn’t mind if I was. In any case, why are you so homophobic?” I think he was lucky in that he is very confident. Tomas is very ‘unbullyable’. He was born confident.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the whole, people are actually very accepting. They adapt pretty quickly. Our son is very sensitive to and aware of people who respond to him in a warm and open way. Occasionally, people do not. But you have to carry on and have a good life. But in the end, he has to deal with it more than anyone else.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I think it is attributed to Gandhi, I don’t know whether it is correct or not—we think the enemy is hate; the enemy is not hate, it is fear. Fear and shame are very corrosive. Tomas’s life is just life, like everyone else’s. You have to get rid of social shame. That is just nonsense. [There are] people [who] want to make you feel ashamed. But that is just silly. You just have to ignore that. You have to understand what are the things that are going to work for your child. And, ask yourself ultimately—is my child happy?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>As told to Mandira Nayar</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/04/08/raising-a-child-with-autism.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/04/08/raising-a-child-with-autism.html Sat Apr 08 12:26:55 IST 2023 cmc-vellore-professor-dr-gagandeep-kang-interview <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/04/01/cmc-vellore-professor-dr-gagandeep-kang-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/2023/4/1/61-Narendra-Modi.jpg" /> <p><b>FOLLOWING A SPIKE</b> in Covid-19 cases, the Union ministry of health issued an advisory on preventive measures. While some people have started worrying again, others are not ready to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour. Virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang, professor at Christian Medical College, Vellore, does not find the rising numbers a problem yet. Excerpts from an interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Why the sudden increase in Covid cases?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> While there is an increase in the number of cases, we should look at the rate of change. What we are seeing here is not a steep hill. It is not that this week there are 100 cases, and next week there are 10,000 cases. So, this is reflective of a population that has a certain level of immunity. It is also complicated by the fact that we are not testing every person with symptoms. Your cases are decided on how many people decided to get tested or their doctors decided that they had enough symptoms to get tested.If there was a huge wave, then you would start to see rapidly that almost all of the illnesses that we were seeing in people were Covid. That is not the case. A few people are hospitalised, or are in ICUs, or have died, according to the numbers we have. This is nothing like what we saw previously. Most of us in are the base of a pyramid. We might get infected, but very few of us are so sick that we need to see a doctor. If we were testing everybody―symptomatic, asymptomatic, mild symptoms, severe symptoms―the numbers would be very high.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Do we need to be worried as we don’t see people following Covid-appropriate behaviour?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Covid is not going away. Also, is Covid the only condition we should worry about? Clearly, no. Covid-appropriate behaviour is appropriate for all respiratory diseases, be it TB, influenza or any other disease. So, if I am infectious, it is my responsibility to mask up and not infect others. The bulk of Covid infections right now are in people who have no idea that they are infected.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Won’t asymptomatic people be a cause for concern?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> The only way to limit worry is to make sure that everybody tests every day and if they test positive, they don’t go out. That’s not feasible. In life, there has to be some risk. If you want to protect yourself from an infection, you should mask up, but you can’t place that responsibility on everyone else without a reason. Some people do make the argument that all of us should wear masks forever because we will reduce the risk of getting infections and transmitting those to others. I don’t think that is feasible in the world we live in. You could decide that based on proportions of cases testing positive, or on total number of cases, or on the number of admissions in hospitals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What do you think the threshold would be?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ I think it depends on the level of countries or the population’s risk. For me, I have been vaccinated, I have had Covid. In general, I am pretty healthy. Unless there is a lot of Covid in the community, I don’t think I will wear a mask. So, it really depends on an individual’s level of risk tolerance and the decisions that people make. I think that within our populations, there are sub-populations that need to protect themselves at levels of risk that are relatively low.People will mingle, people will travel and the viruses will travel with them. Covid is not going anywhere. What we are seeing is a slight uptick in cases because we have a new variant that is causing some symptoms, mostly mild.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What challenges are we facing while trying to cope with Covid?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> The rest of the world has resources where they can worry about Covid endlessly. However, for us, it would be a disservice if we ignore all other health problems that we are facing in the country. We should be thinking about making our health care system stronger, in general, and not worry about just one infectious disease. I never think that we spend enough money on health or research. We can always invest more.When policymakers don’t spend enough on health and research, we ignore the fact that the health and education of our population is the most valuable resource we have. It’s not about the buildings we build. It really is about the people we educate and protect. Investing in people and in their health and wellbeing can never be wrong.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/04/01/cmc-vellore-professor-dr-gagandeep-kang-interview.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/04/01/cmc-vellore-professor-dr-gagandeep-kang-interview.html Sat Apr 01 17:40:45 IST 2023 success-of-chatgpt-and-the-future-of-artificial-inteliigence-in-india <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/25/success-of-chatgpt-and-the-future-of-artificial-inteliigence-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/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2023/3/25/50-Rise-of-the-machines.jpg" /> <p>Vivek Tripathi wanted to write a haiku to surprise his wife on their wedding anniversary. But he did not have the time or inclination to sit down and ruminate, and let his creative juices do the deed. So the bureaucrat, who works on high-speed rail, turned to his new personal assistant.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No, it was not a secretary or some prolific new recruit. Tripathi just instructed ChatGPT, the new chatbot on the internet, to make a haiku for him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It came out pretty accurately!” he said, mighty impressed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, making Japanese poems of seventeen syllables is not the only thing that Tripathi does with this artificial intelligence (AI) tool that has taken the world by storm in the past few weeks. He uses it to schedule his meetings and draft routine emails to employees that otherwise would have taken up a good chunk of his time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I use ChatGPT, as well as many other AI tools, to increase my personal productivity,” said Tripathi. This ranges from asking Dall.E, a web application that can give visual answers the way ChatGPT comes up with text, to tailor a meme to send to his son on his birthday to asking ChatGPT to prepare an algorithm for a dynamic pricing mechanism for trains when booking goes beyond a certain percentage. “I’ve become a keen user of these technologies, now that I have seen what it can do,” he said. “AI is going to make a world of difference.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That world, in fact, is already here. Talk of generative AI or machine learning (ML), where computer networks use data from billions of sources to come up with predictive human-like options, has been doing the rounds in the past few years. But then, they were thought of as geeky gobbledygook rather than anything that really concerned common people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not anymore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>AVATAR</b></p> <p>Artificial intelligence burst into Indians’ consciousness this winter when a startup halfway across the globe launched ChatGPT three months ago.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Created by San Francisco-based OpenAI, Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer is, to put it simply, a free computer program (there are paid, advanced versions now available, including the next generation large language model GPT-4 which came out a few days ago) that can write human-sounding answers to almost anything you ask―from Mughal history to quantum physics with a literary flair. What about an article detailing Narendra Modi’s Gati Shakti plan and how it will change India’s urban infrastructure? Or an ad copy for a washing machine with a humorous twist? No worries! How about a legal argument for Manish Sisodia’s bail application? It gets down to it, instantly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No wonder then that Chat GPT’s impact has been viral. While some colleges in Bengaluru banned students from using it, worried that they may make it write their assignments, some politicians alleged bias in the results it generated. Fears also abound on it killing jobs in many sectors.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A BRAVE NEW WORLD</b></p> <p>However, for the time being, more intriguing has been its across-the-board adoption. From corporate executives in Mumbai using it to simplify office tasks and software engineers in Bengaluru fine-tuning their codes with it to copy writers in Gurugram generating client pitches using it, everyone is having a go at ChatGPT.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Intrepid startups are piggybacking on it to develop unique customer care solutions. Last month, fintech company Velocity came up with ‘Lexi’, which, it calls, India’s first AI-powered chatbot. Wrangler, the denim company, incorporated a GPT-based bot on its social media handles for customers last month. “The bot engaged with customers to celebrate ‘Anti-Valentine’s Week’ , giving funny tips to help them break out of unhappy relationships,” said Sidharth Bhansali, founder of Noesis.Tech, which did the back-end work. “The GPT-based approach allows for a more natural conversation between a customer and an automated system. Unlike the existing models of customer care, it is not limited to a pre-defined list of options. We are excited to see where this technology will take us in the future.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So ‘human’ are ChatGPT’s capabilities that existing chatbots like Alexa and Siri now actually sound neanderthal. Recently in Hyderabad, Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella (Microsoft is an investor in OpenAI) argued with the bot on stage on whether biryani was a ‘tiffin’ meal or not, with ChatGPT finally agreeing that it was wrong in calling biryani a ‘tiffin’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>AI FOR INDIA</b></p> <p>While ChatGPT is the flavour of the season, it is just the tip of the AI iceberg that is about to cross paths with humankind. And India has bagged a starboard side seat for the ride―as per a study by the Brookings Institution, India is only behind the US and China in AI research, and features at No. 8 on the list of the world’s top nations in AI advancements and funding. India has filed more than 5,000 AI patents so far, and at least 10 AI startups from the country entered the unicorn club (companies with a valuation of more than $1 billion) in 2021 alone.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The future could well belong to the neural machines. A report by Accenture predicts that use of AI could raise India’s growth rate by 15 per cent by 2035. The government, of course, has been an active cheerleader. NITI Aayog laid out its National Strategy for AI way back in 2018, and the last Union budget provisioned for Centres of Excellence for AI and robotics at top institutes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Make AI in India and Make AI work for India,” said Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her budget speech. In a post-budget speech on February 28, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reinforced the focus on AI, when he urged people to identify 10 problems in society that can be solved using AI.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, it is not like AI was not being used earlier. From internet recommendations on video and shopping sites to filters used on mobile phone pics, elements of AI have long been in play even on the consumer-facing side. But the technology was essentially hidden within layers of back-end infra.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With applications like ChatGPT and Dall.E, it is now directly in the hands of individuals and small businesses. As Debjani Ghosh, president of the software industry association NASSCOM, wrote in the industry report ‘AI Gamechangers’, “AI no longer remains confined within the walls of the research labs; it’s out of the cocoon and making its impact felt across industries.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The buzz this ‘AI for the masses’ campaign has created is hard to ignore. References to AI, ChatGPT and related terms have gone up not just on social media and search engine trends, but even in recent corporate earnings calls. Nvidia, which makes chips for complex AI computing tasks, is one of the best performing global stocks this year. The reason could simply be the far-reaching transformation AI promises.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“AI will disrupt all facets of life, going forward,” said Soma Dhavala, director, machine learning at Wadhwani AI, a Mumbai-based institute that studies the impact of artificial intelligence in India and deploys AI solutions for social change. “Any space that is AI-ready will gain from AI. Jobs will change as well, as will many aspects of how we interact with and perceive the world.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>AI is already in use across industries, ranging from the factory floor to customer-facing services. “[It] is being used in almost every sector in India,” said Soharab Hossain Shaikh, assistant professor at the department of computer science and engineering, BML Munjal University, Haryana. Maruti Suzuki, India’s largest carmaker, uses it to run chat bots for its Nexa and Arena sales and after sales services. “These new-age digital tools help us to quickly respond to common queries and provide an enhanced customer experience,” said senior executive officer Shashank Srivastava.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many companies are capitalising on its seemingly unlimited talent possibilities for anything from cutting costs on the factory floor and implementing new healthcare paradigms to empowering breakthroughs in agriculture and education. The startup Carnot, funded by the Mahindras, runs a tractor subscription service in central India in which the vehicles are hooked up with AI sensors that can monitor crop growth and soil quality.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, what has excited many in India is how AI can be a powerful change agent by bridging the digital divide, by providing the benefits of the internet to those who do not know English or even read or write. “With advances in speech, language and vision processing and understanding, how we interact with technology will become a lot more human-centric,” said Dhavala. “As a result, all technologies, services and products can be made more accessible and inclusive, which presents enormous and diverse opportunities.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>EX MACHINA</b></p> <p>“AI has come a long way, and its continued evolution is likely to shape the way we live and work in the years to come,” said Shaikh of BMU. That brings with it its own worries. While job losses are very much a concern since the advent of ChatGPT, bigger worries of privacy and Orwellian scenarios in a world run by machines and data have resurfaced with gusto.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“AI technology can potentially be used for malicious purposes, such as fraud, data theft, and identity theft. It is still relatively new and lacks regulation in many areas, leaving it susceptible to misuse,” said Satya Muley, Supreme Court lawyer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, one of the initial worries ChatGPT spawned was, in a sign of the times, about the neutrality of its data, rather than the authenticity of it. OpIndia, a right-wing publication, was one of the first to point it out, when it revealed how the chatbot came up with a tirade when asked to write about Narendra Modi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“ChatGPT carries inherent risks such as hallucinations, biases and the black box nature of its response. The legal implications of the content it produces are not fully understood yet,” said Arun Chandrasekaran, distinguished vice president and analyst at Gartner.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Privacy is another issue. If the algorithms and data analytics of Big Tech in the past decade were consternating enough, AI takes it a step further, considering the amount of data it uses. There are three worry points here: the information the user inputs while asking a question, the data that the machine uses to come up with a reply, and the way in which the resultant answer is used.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“A lawyer may share details of a divorce agreement or a programmer might ask it to check a code. These pieces of information, along with the generated essays, become part of ChatGPT’s database and can be used to further train the tool and be included in answers to other users’ prompts,” said Muley. There is more. “It may happen that the common public might misinterpret the information.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And that is just ChatGPT. AI systems are already at an advanced stage when it comes to public surveillance using facial and gait recognition. “There is also the looming threat of lethal autonomous weapons like drones and swarms,” said Shaikh of BMU. “AI-enabled terrorism, and lack of explainability” could be a real fear in the future, he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>JUDGMENT DAY</b></p> <p>Chandrasekaran of Gartner believes governments will now step in. “The governments so far have not legislated generative AI but that will soon change owing to deep-rooted implications of these applications and their impact on privacy, bias and other societal issues,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the job front, the predictions are mixed―while some fear many jobs could get extinct, others believe AI and ML could spawn a whole new set of skills focusing on managing the new scenario. “Be it ChatGPT or AI, it will never replace humans,” said Infosys cofounder N.R. Narayana Murthy a few weeks ago in Mumbai, pointing out how similar fears abounded when computers came to India, but were misplaced.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The biggest question, of course, is what dystopian nightmares are made of―will AI replace humans, or will it make Sapiens its slaves?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Ultimately, the objective of AI is to attain human-level intelligence,” said Shaikh. For example, a recent breakthrough at an Aussie lab suggests that ‘brain organoids’, or self-assembling aggregates of neutrons generated in a petri dish using stem cells, can go into creating the next generation of bio computers which could someday, or so some believe, develop a form of consciousness. Whatever the future brings, it is clear that we need to exercise prudence and prioritise ethical practices during the development of AI systems.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tripathi, perhaps, sums up the ‘brave new world’ of AI best: “We might mess it up rather than AI messing us up!”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/25/success-of-chatgpt-and-the-future-of-artificial-inteliigence-in-india.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/25/success-of-chatgpt-and-the-future-of-artificial-inteliigence-in-india.html Sat Mar 25 17:15:37 IST 2023 minister-of-state-for-electronics-and-it-rajeev-chandrasekhar-interview <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/25/minister-of-state-for-electronics-and-it-rajeev-chandrasekhar-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/2023/3/25/56-Rajeev-Chandrasekhar.jpg" /> <p><b>Q/ How important is AI and its role in business?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> The new wave of AI platforms is breathtaking in its velocity and scope of adoption. It is important to know that AI as a technology has been around for many decades… but was missing that ‘something’ to get it to critical mass―perhaps computing power or models to get it to be useful. Just to place in context, almost three decades ago, my master’s thesis was on AI and robotics!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However today, that early AI has evolved into sophisticated learning models from neural networks to AGI. ChatGPT is one such tool that is expanding in a variety of ways and at unprecedented velocity. That AI is going to disrupt many conventional technologies and businesses is obvious. Take search engines, for example. The long-standing dominance of Google is being challenged now. Take the potential impact on entertainment and media industry. In recent times, south Indian movies have been expanding audiences and revenues dramatically through OTT and dubbing. AI and simultaneous, automatic natural language translation―the Digital India Bhashini platform that the Narendra Modi government is investing in and building―could significantly disrupt [this] content creation space.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have said that AI will be the kinetic enabler of digital economy and tech innovation. It will also deeply improve governance and digital government. In governance in particular, AI can and will play a transformational role in improving design and efficacy of government programmes, from bridging the digital divide to civic delivery in a more effective manner.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Under IndiaAI, we will also soon be launching three AI Centres of Excellence, and the largest public accessible datasets program called the India Datasets Program. These datasets present India’s consumers with a huge opportunity for the next generation of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms and if leveraged properly, is an estimated opportunity of $200billion to $500 billion. Even the government can use it to create better targeted policies [while] AI researchers can look at technology solutions. For example, in education, AI can help identify which district is lagging behind in what subject, or other parameters, so that the government can talent-pool the teachers depending on that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>IndiaAI has tremendous applications that will make the next generation of governance, health care, agriculture and innovation more impactful, efficient, targeted and with more lasting outcomes, making India a global leader in the field.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ AI and machine learning are evolving from the west, while China has also made announcements. Where do you think the Indian tech ecosystem figures in this scheme of things?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> These are early days in AI, but India is rapidly growing its footprint in this area. Our chairmanship of the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) is a recognition of India’s leadership in this critical area.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to a recent Nasscom Report on State of Data Science and AI Skills in India, India currently ranks first in terms of AI skill penetration and AI talent concentration, and fifth in AI scientific publications. India’s AI Skills Penetration Factor has been reported to be 3.09, the highest among G20 and OECD countries. More than 1,900 AI-focused startups are building innovation in the country, primarily in the areas of conversational AI, NLP, video analytics, disease detection, fraud prevention and deep fakes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The government wants to catalyse this sector, therefore, in addition to the India Datasets Program, we will also be launching a comprehensive programme called the IndiaAI and you will see AI deeply embedded and layered on the India stack―Aadhaar, Unified Payments Interface (UPI), DigiLocker, CoWIN and more.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ There are worries over AI being both a job-killer as well as a privacy-killer. Do you eventually see governments having to crack down with legislation?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> On jobs, our government’s view is that digitisation in general and AI in particular is not reducing the number of opportunities but is creating newer opportunities which require different types of skills and upskilling. Our focus should be [on] the new skills that are required in this new landscape. PM Modi has recently announced a 08,000-crore three-year-plan for skilling focused on exactly this―preparing young Indians to be skilled with industry-ready, future-ready skills.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the issue of privacy and the impact of AI, the government is coming up with the Digital Data Protection Bill and the Digital India Act (DIA), and among the issues that laws will deal with are issues like algorithmic accountability and ethical use of emerging tech and guardrails that prevent misuse of AI.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our government strongly believes that while the good of technology should be promoted, there is a need for clear guardrails to protect digital citizens from its harm, misuse and exploitation. The DIA will be built to ensure this.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/25/minister-of-state-for-electronics-and-it-rajeev-chandrasekhar-interview.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/25/minister-of-state-for-electronics-and-it-rajeev-chandrasekhar-interview.html Sat Mar 25 16:59:38 IST 2023 cisco-india-and-saarc-president-daisy-chittilapilly-interview <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/25/cisco-india-and-saarc-president-daisy-chittilapilly-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/2023/3/25/58-Daisy-Chittilapilly.jpg" /> <p><b>AMERICAN DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS</b> giant Cisco offers many solutions driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning. Cisco India chief Daisy Chittilapilly talks about the opportunities and the challenges the technology offers. Excerpts from an interview.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How do you put in perspective this AI trend, and in what manner will AI fundamentally change the way we work and play?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Today, technology is all-pervasive, especially AI, which has revolutionised various aspects of our world. AI has transformed the way we communicate, learn and work, and has the potential to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. AI/ML (machine learning) technology has been integrated into numerous industries, such as mobile apps for food delivery and customer-service chatbots, for several years now, largely operating unnoticed by the general public. But with the advent of ChatGPT, the vast presence and, more importantly, the immense possibility of AI has been brought to light.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>AI in India is still in its nascent stage, with a NASSCOM report estimating its economic impact on India’s GDP to be around $500 billion by 2025. As we continue to explore the possibilities of AI, it will be essential for organisations and governments to embrace this technology and leverage its potential to solve critical issues, including but not limited to improving citizen services, discovering new medical treatments, addressing supply chain issues, and combating climate change.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ In which way do you think the incorporation of AI can help India in bridging the digital divide?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/ </b>India is a country with a diverse geography, linguistic variations, and socioeconomic differences, and this provides a significant opportunity for AI to bridge the digital divide and create an inclusive society. Over the past few years, India has established itself as an AI hub by fostering deep-tech startups, promoting academic research, and enabling digital transformation across every major sector. The government has also leveraged AI and data to address challenges and enhance crisis and city management, critical citizen services, and financial services.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the digital-first world, companies that can use AI to unlock real-time value from their data will have a significant competitive advantage. The possibilities for AI are endless, ranging from precision farming to customer service, health care, and traffic management. For instance, through multilingual support, an NLP chatbot or conversational AI can bridge the language gap between India’s English-speaking and non-English-speaking populations. By recognising handwriting across various languages, AI can simplify data entry and create a clean data lake, which amplifies India’s demographic advantages. By investing in research and development and collaborating with industry, academia, and government, India can become the world’s AI innovation garage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Once AI evolves further, what is the shape it will take, and what are the transformative effects we can expect?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> As AI continues to evolve, we can expect it to become increasingly central to India’s economic growth, revolutionising everything from manufacturing to innovation and workforce productivity. India, in particular, is poised to benefit significantly from AI, with AI expected to add $967 billion to the Indian economy by 2035, according to Meity. Several government missions are already using artificial intelligence to boost research and solve problems. Through the Digital India Bhashini portal, for instance, the government is enabling access to resources, AI and natural language processing (NLP) for startups and academia working on making their products available in Indian languages.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As AI models scale, the focus will shift to the quality of input data and the development of platforms and services that make it easier and faster to train, tag, and manage models. Today, we are already starting to see AI coming to the rescue of IT Ops teams to help automate routine tasks such as monitoring, provisioning, and troubleshooting. Generative AI is another exciting area that we expect to see grow, particularly in AI-powered language applications that have the potential to revolutionize virtual meetings. AI will also become increasingly important in security, with applications such as threat detection and prevention, malware detection and analysis, user behaviour analytics, vulnerability management, fraud detection, and security response automation. As we work toward creating a green economy, AI will also play a vital role in helping companies mitigate environmental risks through more transparent, traceable, and decarbonised supply chains.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What are the worry points regarding the use of AI?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b> Organisations need to ensure their priorities regarding the use of personal data are aligned with those of consumers when leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation to make decisions. This is especially true when the data is used to take actions that may affect individuals. Cisco’s 2022 Consumer Privacy Survey found that 60 per cent of consumers are concerned about the way organisations use and apply AI today, and 65 per cent have already lost trust in organizations over their AI practices. This disconnect can lead to several issues even when consumers generously share their anonymised data and lend their support for better AI solutions. What organisations can do to make the use of AI a more comfortable option for consumers is first by providing opt-out options. Increasing the level of human touch and assurance by ensuring that a human is involved in the decision-making process. Imbimbing a code of transparency throughout and adopting AI ethics principles are certain approaches companies can look at while tapping AI.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Additionally, there are also concerns regarding the potential for AI to amplify biases and its misuse. To address these concerns, organisations must prioritise transparency, fairness, accountability, privacy, security, and reliability when developing and using AI. They should adopt AI ethics principles, imbibe a code of transparency throughout, and provide opt-out options.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another significant opportunity and challenge is the shortage of skilled talent in India. TeamLease reports that there will be more than 2 million AI, cybersecurity, and blockchain jobs unfilled by 2023. This can be addressed by investing in education and training programs to upskill existing professionals and promoting collaboration between academia and industry to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical applications.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/25/cisco-india-and-saarc-president-daisy-chittilapilly-interview.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/25/cisco-india-and-saarc-president-daisy-chittilapilly-interview.html Sat Mar 25 16:56:52 IST 2023 role-of-ai-in-healthcare <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/25/role-of-ai-in-healthcare.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/2023/3/25/60-shutterstock.jpg" /> <p><b>CIM HAS NOT</b> attended medical college. It is not even human. But the AI-based engine is way more equipped to give a better diagnosis than you googling your symptoms and hoping to play doctor. Recently integrated into the clinics at Apollo Hospitals, CIM, or Clinical Intelligence Machine, analyses symptoms, determines causes and recommends the best course of action for a patient.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The engine is only part of the many AI-based initiatives implemented by Apollo across the country to “improve diagnosis, doctor productivity and patient satisfaction,” said Sangita Reddy, joint managing director of Apollo Hospitals. “We have moved a step forward for better patient experience. Technology is transforming the face of healthcare, making it more patient-centric and also reducing the burden on health care professionals.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Startups and tech companies have been devising AI and ML tools that can assist in healthcare, both preventive and curative. “From the perspective of AI for social impact, health care is an immediate beneficiary,” said Soma Dhavala, director, machine learning at Wadhwani AI, an institute which studies how AI can be used to improve lives and livelihood.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apollo has launched many AI initiatives. AI-CVD, for instance, is an intelligent platform to predict heart attacks―designed specifically keeping Indians in mind. It is developing similar AI-based algorithms for diabetes, cancer and other non-communicable diseases, too. Besides CIM, it uses ProHealth platform, an AI-enabled personalised predictive health-risk assessor that uses data and functions to personally guide individuals to manage their own health.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“With adoption and implementation of AI in the health care sector, medical experts are now being able to deliver a customised and more precise health care services to the patients,” said Reddy. The AI initiatives at the hospital chain range from better diagnosis and better monitoring (smart in-patient room automation with AI-powered triaging system that continuously monitors the patient’s heart rate and respiratory rate) to even in radiology.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many health care startups are looking at including predictive analysis, where a patient’s condition is compared both with data of hundreds of thousands of other similar patient records (available through cloud servers) and the patient’s own status, or predict whether the patient is likely to have a recurrence. Such techs are increasingly in demand in many countries where immediate re-admission of an insured patient comes with government penalties.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, the age of ‘goodbye doc, hello app’ may still have to wait, but progress in medical AI has reached a stage where tech companies, in India and abroad, are investing big in coming up with tailor-made solutions. Harman, a subsidiary of Samsung, recently came up with two offerings―one, a media suite that can track a patient to alert the nursing station or doctor the moment the patient behaves ‘abnormally’, and second, an Intelligent Healthcare Platform (IHP), targeted at making players right from insurance companies and pharma majors to the hospitals and their ancillaries’ systems interoperable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Built at its Bengaluru centre and made for the world, these new AI tools could reimagine patient care. “In reality, patient data is only based on info from one company, whereas you can get much better decision matrices if you bring in data from the patient’s records in other systems too,” said Jai Ganesh, chief technology officer of Harman.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The proliferation of AI in the medical sector depends on how well its appetite for data is satiated, though that could bring with it its own set of issues. “To some extent it will be scary if you don’t implement a lot of the control mechanisms,” said Ganesh. “Responsible AI is important, the model should be explainable, bias free, trustworthy and ethical. The data scientists and machine learning engineers should be trained on some of these aspects, rather than (just) bytes and coding.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While patient care is one area where AI could work its magic, it could save billions of dollars in the drug industry. Bringing a new drug to the market is an expensive process, with the drug discovery alone costing a third of the total cost. With AI designing drugs for various purposes, pharma can substantially cut costs and the time required for drug discovery, said Mayank Mathur, academic director of the Institute of Data Science at Indian School of Business in Hyderabad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The World Economic Forum predicted that AI could sort India’s acute shortage of doctors (64 for one lakh people compared with a global average of 150). The government’s Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme last year onward started using automated disease monitoring right down to local levels to filter and collate events of interest, giving advance notice to a possible infectious outbreak. It is now leveraged by the verification cell of the National Centre for Disease Control.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Medical science could gain more once AI technologies evolve and advance. “AI techniques are being employed to solve complex problems such as predicting protein properties, designing molecules, optimising synthetic routes, and visualising protein-drug interactions and protein-protein interactions,” said Soharab Hossain Shaikh, assistant professor at BMU. “In the days to come, we may witness the integration of AI with tissue engineering, promoting bone regeneration and advancing the field of regenerative medicine.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/25/role-of-ai-in-healthcare.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/25/role-of-ai-in-healthcare.html Sat Mar 25 16:54:35 IST 2023 traps-in-student-migration-causes-challenges <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/18/traps-in-student-migration-causes-challenges.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/2023/3/18/28-Henna-Ashraf.jpg" /> <p><i>Do you dream of studying in Moldova?</i></p> <p><i>Er... not really.</i></p> <p><i>What about Afghanistan, Mozambique or Somalia?</i></p> <p><i>Eh? No, not at all.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That seems about right. Except, it is not.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to data shared by the ministry of external affairs in Parliament in August 2022, Indians who travelled abroad for education between 2019 and 2022 ended up in 228 countries/dependent islands. While a majority of students from India continue to go to the developed world, a few of them are even going to countries that are less developed than India, like Afghanistan (at least 60), Mozambique (15) and Somalia (one) in Africa, and Nauru (seven), an island country in Oceania.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Why? According to D. Dhanuraj, chairman, Centre for Public Policy Research, such choices reflect the “anxiety” of an aspirational generation. “They feel that educated Indians in less developed countries have an advantage,” he says. “There is less competition and if they stay on after their studies, they can build successful businesses and make good money. We hear many such stories, especially from African countries.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another reason for choosing smaller countries is the fee. Mohammed Abdul Raheem, who is studying medicine in Moldova (one of Europe’s poorest countries), says the tuition fee he has to pay over six years at the Nicolae Testemiţanu State University of Medicine and Pharmacy, the country’s only state-run medical university, is less than the fees charged by private universities in India. This is not indicative of low standards, says Joe Sharon, another student at the university.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The government places great emphasis on developing and upgrading infrastructure and facilities,” he says. Indian students now occupy more than 40 per cent of the seats at Nicolae Testemiţanu State.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These microtrends, while noteworthy, represent just the tip of the iceberg. The larger trend of increased student migration from India is evident in the numbers. As per data shared by Union Minister of State for Education Subhas Sarkar in the Lok Sabha in February, 30.13 lakh Indian students have gone abroad for higher studies since 2017. In 2022 alone, 7.5 lakh students left―a 69 per cent increase compared with 2021 and a 28 per cent rise from the pre-pandemic figure in 2019.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to a 2021 report by Redseer Strategy Consultants, spending by Indian students on higher education abroad―mainly tuition, enrolment and living expenses―is poised to be more than $75 billion (over 06 lakh crore) by 2024. Most Indian students choose countries such as the US, the UK, Canada and Australia. Germany and France, too, have become preferred destinations in recent years.</p> <p><br> “If we go back a couple of decades, people were going, but in fewer numbers,” says Ankit Mehra, CEO and co-founder of education finance marketplace GyanDhan. “That had a lot to do with a lack of awareness and an unfavourable socioeconomic structure. Now, India has a growing middle-class and educational opportunities are limited, especially when it comes to quality education. The other reason why people want to study abroad is that they want to use education as a way to migrate.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rechitha Mary Mathews, who is pursuing a postgraduate diploma in health care administration at St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Canada, says that the chance to lead a better life was the major reason she decided to study abroad. “Renowned universities and the thriving job market here are also attractions. Though I have a huge education loan, with the job prospects here, I am confident that I can pay it back in no time.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The increased availability of loans to study abroad is helping students from middle-class families to pursue the dream of foreign education. In the last 10 years, 4.61 lakh students have availed loans from public sector banks to study abroad. In 2012-2013, the number was 20,366. And in 2021-2022, it was 69,898.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mehra says that in 2015 (when GyanDhan was founded), no Indian private sector banks were giving education loans to study abroad. “And, [most] public sector banks were giving loans only up to 17.5 lakh,” he says. “So, the products were not there. And that was something which was restricting demand.” But, in the second half of the past decade, more banks and financial companies recognised the huge market opportunity. “They understand that if they do loans right, there is good business on offer,” says Mehra. “Because [overseas education] loans are typically longer tenure loans. So, the number of products and the accessibility to them have increased.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dhanuraj says the prevalent political, economic and cultural conditions in India, too, fuelled the increased migration. “Success stories of Indian-origin people in foreign countries are now getting greater visibility,” he says. “Aspirational youth think that this cannot be achieved by staying. They want a liberal and competitive environment. Troubles at our top institutions, like the Jawaharlal Nehru University, have affected perception. They think our campuses are not peaceful. The government’s approach has also created insecurity, though some fears are exaggerated. Overall, they wonder whether it is a sensible idea to stay in India.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another perception, says Dhanuraj, is that our higher education institutions are not independent and autonomous and that we are behind in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. An alarming number of higher education seats, especially in STEM courses, are vacant. About 34 per cent of engineering seats were vacant in 2021-2022. Even in IITs, NITs and IIITs, over 7,000 seats in PG courses and over 3,000 seats in PhD programmes were vacant.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aneeshma Peter, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Alberta, migrated to Canada in 2017 after becoming convinced of the “unfavourable atmosphere” in Indian universities. “In India, it takes at least five years to finish a PhD,” she says. “In Canada, Europe or Australia, you can finish a PhD in three to four years. Canada offers a good research environment―in terms of time, money, work culture and relationship with lab mates―and a multicultural space. In India, I witnessed people becoming mentally stressed because of pressure from supervisors. At times, they have to compromise on their work ethic to please supervisors. Student rights and wellness get high priority here.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Redseer report observes that around 70 per cent of outbound students are opting for specialised and advanced courses. It says such courses in India are offered in few institutes, resulting in higher competition, and cites lack of funding as one of the main issues restricting the potential of universities to offer specialised courses, especially cost-intensive STEM programmes. “Hence, it comes as no surprise that STEM courses are the most popular abroad. The US, Germany and Canada are some of the top destinations for the same,” it says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mohammed Abdul Haseeb, who is pursuing an MS in photonics at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, a public research university in Germany, agrees with this observation. “I wanted a specialised course in optics and optical technologies,” he says. “In India, I could not find anything close, except for one course at IIT Madras, where the competition to get in is too high.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Amrit G. Kumar, professor in the department of education at the Central University of Kerala, says the lack of autonomy in Indian universities is the major roadblock in implementing new ideas and courses. “Our universities have academic autonomy, but no financial autonomy or administrative autonomy,” he says. “It is a travesty.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>Flying into traps?</b></i></p> <p>As the demand for overseas education increased, consultancies, both foreign and indigenous, have mushroomed. And, this has led to more students getting scammed.</p> <p>Avinash Rai (name changed), an undergraduate student of political science at Zakir Husain Delhi College, subscribed to a two-year plan by an edtech firm that claimed to be based in Silicon Valley. He was convinced after the agency arranged a Zoom meeting with a former subscriber who he was told had secured admission in the US. The “student” vouched for the company. By the time Rai’s relationship with the firm ended one and half years later, he had spent close to 11 lakh. He finishes his degree this year and does not wish to do a “worthless” postgraduation in India. But, he is yet to find a programme abroad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Henna Ashraf, who is currently pursuing a master’s in audiology from the Cardiff Metropolitan University, also had a bad experience with an agency. After her initial application was rejected, she secured the seat in Cardiff on her own. When she told the agency of her success, it, says Ashraf, contacted the university and tried to get her admission revoked. “It was a blatant attempt to force me to pursue a less desirable programme through them,” she says. “I was disheartened and felt betrayed by their ulterior motives.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Denny Vattakkunnel, chairman and managing director of Santamonica, an overseas education facilitator that has been operational since 2002, says “new-born agencies” have agreements with a handful of institutions and pressurise students to join them. “There are also cases where franchises vanish after collecting money,” he says. “The government has to introduce strict regulations and new legislation, and should identify genuine overseas education facilitators.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The University Grants Commission advises students to contact the Association of Indian Universities or visit its website (www.aiuweb.org) for information on foreign universities. But, the AIU has been unable to study the number of students going to institutions not recognised by it. Secretary general Pankaj Mittal told THE WEEK that this was because detailed data regarding migration trends was not available (the government data reveals only destinations).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another risk that migrating students have to keep in mind is exploitation while they look for part-time jobs, which would be necessary for a majority to meet the rising costs in education hotspots. For example, in the UK, where the rent can average more than 150,000 per month, authorities are investigating five Indians suspected of recruiting Indian students to work in care homes and exploiting them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Martin Plimmer, a senior investigating officer with the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), told THE WEEK that 60 victims had been identified, as of March. “As students, they were allowed to work 20 hours per week, but they were working 80 and not being paid for those hours,” he says. “They were in overcrowded rooms and were charged excessive rent. They were not given contracts or payslips or the required training, and they were given false profiles.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Plimmer adds that the recruiters threatened students that if they complained, they would be deported to India. The GLAA is preparing the criminal case against the exploiters. Plimmer says the GLAA also met 50-plus Indian students in another recent operation in Liverpool, but they said they were not victims.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“They were in overcrowded rooms and were not given contracts and payslips,” he says. “I think we are only beginning to see the true picture.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/18/traps-in-student-migration-causes-challenges.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/18/traps-in-student-migration-causes-challenges.html Sun Mar 19 12:20:01 IST 2023 uae-space-mission-najmonaut-sultan-al-neyadi <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/10/uae-space-mission-najmonaut-sultan-al-neyadi.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/2023/3/10/40-Al-Neyadi-takes-a-selfie.jpg" /> <p><b>ON MARCH 7,</b> Sultan Al Neyadi was busy harvesting tomatoes. Only that he is not at some organic farm in Dubai or in his vegetable garden. The Emirati is at the International Space Station (ISS). He is the first Arab to travel to space on a long-haul mission. He is not the first Arab space traveller though―Prince Sultan bin Salman Al Saud, a former Royal Saudi Air Force pilot, is said to be the first Arab and Muslim in space. He flew as a payload specialist on a seven-day international mission in June 1985. In 1987, Syrian air force officer Muhammed Faris flew to the Mir orbital space station as a research cosmonaut. In 2019, Hazza Al Mansouri, a fighter pilot of the United Arab Emirates, embarked on a seven-day mission―the UAE’s first―to the ISS.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Arabs are taking great pride in their fourth ‘najmonaut’ (‘najma’in Arabic means star). Al Neyadi will spend six months at the ISS. He is part of the four-member SpaceX Crew-6, which arrived at the ISS on March 2 in the Crew Dragon Endeavour vehicle. The initial launch was rescheduled from February 27 owing to a technical glitch. The Crew-6 members include Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg of NASA and Andrey Fedyaev of Roscosmos. With them, the ISS now has 11 residents, seven of whom had arrived earlier in two separate crews.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ISS is an orbiting laboratory 400km above the earth. At 28,000km/hr, it takes only 90 minutes to orbit the earth. In 24 hours, it completes 16 orbits of the earth, which is why ISS residents witness 16 sunrises and sunsets in the said period. The ISS consists of five space agencies―NASA (US), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe) and CSA (Canada). It is almost as big as an American football field―357ft, end to end. There are internet-enabled laptops on the ISS, and astronauts can make voice or video calls to their loved ones. It has six sleeping quarters, two bathrooms, a gym, and a 360-degree view bay window called the Cupola.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a NASA podcast prior to his space travel, Al Neyadi had said that all astronauts run towards the Cupola to see Earth. “I want to go there with a camera,” he said. “I want to capture that moment of looking back toward Earth. I want to see everything. I want to see home―the UAE, Al Ain, my hometown. I want to see the places that I visited and liked, where I studied, for example, in the UK and Australia. The oceans, forests, mountains are all on the list. Seeing Earth and the magnificent view, that layer of atmosphere that is protecting everything that we know, I think it is a really profound experience.” On March 8, he tweeted a photo of himself against the backdrop of the cupola. “The dream has come true and now we dream bigger,” he tweeted in Arabic and English.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During his first address on board, Al Neyadi spoke in Arabic, and the ground control in Houston greeted him on board with Ahlan wa Sahlan (welcome in Arabic). “I can’t be happier than this, I mean, seeing all friends in space, gathering as a big family―this is the essence of space exploration,” he said. He underlined the point that “the UAE is taking great steps towards pushing the boundaries of science and exploration by cooperating with space-faring nations in seeking new endeavours in space”. The UAE now is the 11th country in the world to send an astronaut on a long-haul space mission. Its moon mission is already in orbit; the Rashid Rover is expected to land on the lunar surface on April 25. It also launched its Mars mission―Hope Probe―in 2020. The UAE wants more of its ‘najmonauts’ in space, and therefore the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre is planning interactive sessions between Al Neyadi and school students. As part of its community outreach programme, 13 live calls and 10 ham radio calls have been announced. Videos taken from space will also be telecast in schools.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Al Neyadi will spend the holy month of Ramadan, expected to begin by March 22, in space. While religious leaders said that it is not mandatory for astronauts to fast, Al Neyadi said he would and that he would also share dates with the crew members.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hopefully, he would not have to harvest tomatoes while fasting. Some of the tomatoes he harvested recently must have gone into a tasty, tangy salad for the crew; a part of it would also be used for the (Veg-05) botany study, which is working towards developing a system to produce fresh food in space. Another experiment that the crew is working on is studying the impact of microgravity on astronauts. “One day people will go to the Moon and Mars. We have to understand the effects of microgravity on our bodies,” he told UAE’s Vice President, Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in an Earth-to-space call on March 7. “We monitor the impact and the effects of space on our bodies so we can avoid this in the future.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The UAE clearly has its sights set high.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/10/uae-space-mission-najmonaut-sultan-al-neyadi.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/10/uae-space-mission-najmonaut-sultan-al-neyadi.html Fri Mar 10 17:19:00 IST 2023 mudhol-hounds-find-new-friends <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/03/mudhol-hounds-find-new-friends.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/2023/3/3/50-Mahantesh-Chauhan.jpg" /> <p>It seemed business as usual at the All India Championship Dog Show in Mysuru. Around 400 breeds, from different parts of the state and the country, were being showcased. When some of the dogs could not stomach the heat, the owners ushered them to their cars and switched on the air conditioner.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yes, most dogs here were special. One, more so.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sitting quietly, away from the hustle and the bustle, was Sankarappa Poojari, 58. He had travelled all the way from Siggeri village in north Karnataka with Ranadheera, his beloved six-year-old Mudhol hound, a breed that has its origin in north Karnataka. These dogs, with dangling ears and wide jaws, are known for their hunting and surveillance skills. They can orient themselves in hot conditions and race long distances.</p> <p>Today, Ranadheera needed to stay sharper. Poojari poured water on the hound to keep him cool. Tied to a banyan tree it looked annoyed with some of his exotic rivals sauntering around. With his long tail and tall build, Ranadheera stood out at the show. With his weathered complexion and rugged dhoti, Poojari, too, was conspicuous. When he walked with Ranadheera towards the ring, the owner received a special applause. Winning a medal for Ranadheera was important for Poojari. The offspring of champion dogs bring good money. So less privileged dog owners like him pool money, hire a bus, and travel long distances to shows across the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The hounds are now being used by the Special Protection Group, the Army, the Air Force and the Central Armed Police Forces. When Rana, a German Shepherd of the Karnataka forest force, passed away in August, the force was on the lookout for an indigenous breed. And it turned towards Mudhol hounds. Soon, two Mudhol pups were picked up from the Canine Research and Information Centre (CRIC) in Timmapur village in Mudhol taluk of Bagalkot district.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>CRIC, which has helped revive the Mudhol hounds, is a part of the Karnataka Veterinary, Animal and Fisheries Sciences University.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It periodically delivers pups to government agencies and security forces. Training, depending on where the dogs are headed, would last six months to two years. Most Mudhol hounds can serve at least seven years and live up to 15 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For several farmers of Bagalkot, the Mudhol hounds are the only source of livelihood. It helps that they can withstand extreme conditions with minimal food. In fact, they can survive on millets and goat milk―also the staple of the villagers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Malojirao Ghorpade, the last king of Mudhol, recognised the uniqueness of the dogs and, being an avid hunter, he bred the best hounds in Mudhol with the greyhounds from Central Asia. On a visit to England, Ghorpade presented a few of these dogs to King George V, who dubbed them the Mudhol hounds. In recent times, two vets from Karnataka―Dr B.C. Ramakrishna and Dr D.T. Jayaramaiah―have helped revive the declining population of the hounds, and spread awareness about them. And since 1990, both vets have had a hard time persuading villagers to give up hunting and start breeding the hounds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Poojari, meanwhile, has returned to his village. As he herded his goats into the neighbouring jungle, Ranadheera accompanied him. Mudhol hounds are fiercely loyal to their owners and Ranadheera is no exception. Today, Ranadheera has company―Hunter, Raju, Rakhya―are the other Mudhol hounds in the locality. Some 500 families in Bagalkot own 800 dogs between them. “Since hunting is banned we do not engage in it anymore,” says Mahantesh Chauhan, Raju’s owner.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Villagers like him recently got good news from the government. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, in his budget speech, announced a grant of Rs5 crore to develop the hounds. No wonder Ranadheera’s strides seem to have got quicker.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/03/mudhol-hounds-find-new-friends.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/03/03/mudhol-hounds-find-new-friends.html Sat Mar 04 14:49:23 IST 2023 clean-ganga-mission-asok-kumar-interview <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/28/clean-ganga-mission-asok-kumar-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/2023/1/28/48-G-Asok-Kumar.jpg" /> <p>The Ganga, one the longest rivers in the world, sustains more than 40 per cent of India’s population. People, however, have not been kind to the Ganga. They have polluted the river in myriad ways. Cleaning the Ganga has been a gigantic task, often a political duty of governments over the years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed it as his “destiny” to serve the Ganga.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Eight years ago the Modi government initiated the Namami Gange project to clean the Ganga. Now, the programme has made a significant shift―from merely cleaning the river through a network of sewage treatment plants, it is becoming a model for propelling rural economy with a focus on the cultural aspects of the Ganga. Last month, the United Nations recognised Namami Gange as one of the top 10 world restoration flagships to revive the natural world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The director-general of the National Mission for Clean Ganga, G. Asok Kumar, who redoubled efforts to clean the Ganga, has an attachment to water. He is known as the rain man of India. In an earlier assignment, he was instrumental in the sanctioning of 9.5 lakh water conservation and rainwater harvesting structures in the country to rejuvenate the ground water. He has also spearheaded several innovative initiatives such as the monthly water talks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Excerpts from an interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How was Namami Gange recognised by the United Nations?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b>It is a big recognition for the Namami Gange. The United Nations is celebrating 2021-30 as the decade of ecosystem restoration. At the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biodiversity, the UN announced Namami Gange as one of the top 10 world restoration flagships. It was selected from over 150 such initiatives from across the globe. They had 10 principles for evaluation for recognising projects which have helped in halting and reversing degradation and ensuring people’s participation. There were interesting projects from countries like South Africa, Burkina Faso and China. It was an evaluation done by an independent agency, which went through scientific data and conducted field visits.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The recognition is important as Namami Gange is probably one of the largest programmes in the world. It is a flagship programme of the government of India that is closely monitored by the PMO as it is very close to the prime minister’s heart.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/And the progress?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b>The programme was started in 2014-15 with an outlay of 020,000 crore. And, in 2021, we got extension till 2026. The detailed project reports and planning were not proper, which slowed down the programme. In the last two years, we made sure that all stakeholders were involved, and people who were actually associated with the grounding of the programme were taken on board. The detailed project reports were properly prepared. We built the capacity to handle these programmes. We adopted the hybrid annuity model, which is used in highways’ development. This is now propagated by the World Bank as an effective model. We also came out with ‘one city and one operator’ model, which means the STPs [segmenting-targeting-positioning] operating in a single city are handled by the same operator to prevent shifting of blame.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Modi gave the concept of Arth Ganga. That now seems to be the mainstay of the Ganga restoration project.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b>Namami Gange is to revive, clean and rejuvenate the river. There were four themes: Nirmal Dhara, Aviral Dhara, Jan Ganga and Gyan Ganga. Arth Ganga was added after the prime minister announced it in 2019. We are making it into a jan andolan (people’s movement) in more natural ways. Cleaning Ganga was more a contractor-driven work. Now, we are going for nature-based solutions by involving people living along the river, also students, and turning them into guardians of the Ganga. That is a change which has come in last one year, without compromising on the core mandate of the project.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/What does Arth Ganga entail?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b>We have identified six verticals for Arth Ganga. One is natural farming and increasing the income of farmers. The sewage can be treated, but the farms are spread across the length of the river. So, if farmers use chemical fertilisers and pesticides, these flow into the river. But, when they adopt natural means, it will help the river. This is the major thrust of Arth Ganga. We have organised around 15 meetings with farmer groups, where we have engaged over 3,000 farmers in the Ganga basin states.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Second is monetisation of the treated water and sludge for revenue generation by the urban local bodies, and conversion of sludge into reusable products. The water is given to public sector undertakings (PSUs). Third is livelihood generation where there are projects like the Ghaat Mein Haat, designed to sell local products. We also conduct programmes like Jalaj where volunteers work to protect biodiversity, act as tourist guides, work in interpretation centres, sell local products and create homestays.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then there is cultural heritage and tourism. There are a lot of places of importance along the Ganga. We conducted a study to identify cultural and historical sites. We checked on events, traditions, cuisines, festivals and products along the river. We are promoting holding of Ganga aartis by the river.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How is Namami Gange involved in holding Ganga aartis?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b>Ganga aarti has started in many places. We are training people in conjunction with Parmarth Niketan ashram (Rishikesh). Already 60 people have been trained. Training is being done to follow standard operating procedures. So, the aartis could have 75 per cent uniformity, and rest can be local traditions. We recently started aarti at the Yamuna. This will help in getting tourists, generating income and keeping the ghats clean. It will also help in local economic development.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/When will the Ganga be clean?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/We are focusing on polluted stretches, and in the next two years we will be able to stop drains from flowing into the Ganga. Cleaning is a continuous process. We are ensuring that the inflow of dirty water into the river is stopped; the drains are tapped and corrected; chemical based agriculture is reduced. The Ganga mainstream is rather clean. We are focusing on tributaries, like the Yamuna. By March we will have another 1,000 millions of litres per day capacity for sewage treatment plants (STPs). We have identified various polluted rivers, and are monitoring the works along with state governments.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/We appear to be a long way from ensuring clean rivers.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b>Rivers are the most easy way of disposing garbage and sewage. The municipal commissioners never thought about the river as a way to enhance their cities. The cities dump the waste there, thinking it will go downstream. They forget that there is city around the river. In the process, the river was violated and vitiated. We are conducting training programmes, along with the National Institute of Urban Affairs, to create urban river management plans. We have formed river city alliance with 30 cities, which has increased to 74 cities with rivers by their side. We are telling them how to use rivers to enhance the capabilities in cities. All big cities along the river, across the world, use their river systems very well. It is used for cruising, riverfront development and property development. We are telling them how to make rivers part of their urban planning. Earlier the focus was on roads, flyovers and parks. We are sensitising people that river is an engine of growth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Mahakumbh is coming up in 2025. Will the Ganga be clean?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b>Last time when we had Mahakumbh, we had a clean Ganga. We expected seven crore people, but 20 crore came. The publicity was from word of mouth that the river was clean. Even the prime minister took bath in the Ganga, which means the river was clean.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/28/clean-ganga-mission-asok-kumar-interview.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/28/clean-ganga-mission-asok-kumar-interview.html Sat Jan 28 17:12:28 IST 2023 mumbai-coastal-road-project-photo-feature <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/28/mumbai-coastal-road-project-photo-feature.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/2023/1/28/56-An-aerial-view-of-the-project-site-at-Haji-Ali-Dargah.jpg" /> <p>What does a Mumbaikar value the most? Time, perhaps. It is a luxury very few can afford in a city that is always on the move, as if in a race against time. And, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the wealthiest in the country, is trying to buy some time for its citizens. It has come up with an ambitious project that is expected to reduce travel time between south Mumbai and the western suburbs from two hours to 40 minutes. It will also help ease traffic on some of its busiest roads like the Western Express Highway and Link Road.</p> <p>The Mumbai Coastal Road project intends to connect the iconic Marine Drive in the south to Kandivili junction in the north. The high-speed corridor―35.60km long―comprises an eight-lane road reclaimed from the sea, a bridge on stilts, an elevated road, and twin tunnels below Malabar Hills. There will be new green spaces, a sea wall and multiple interchanges for traffic dispersal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The coastal road project seeks to create large patches of open green space, a rarity in Mumbai. But it would come at the cost of the sea―about 111 hectares will be reclaimed, of which 70 hectares will be landscaped to provide cycle tracks, promenades, amphitheatres, children’s play areas and other recreational spaces. The project predictably ran into trouble, with petitions being filed in the High Court about its impact on coastal ecology. It also received backlash from the fishing community. The project, which saw a start in November 2018, was stayed by the High Court. The matter then went to the Supreme Court, which finally lifted the stay in December 2019.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, that is when the work on the first phase―coastal road project (south)―truly began. The first phase, costing Rs12,721 crore, involves the construction of a 10.58km-long coastal road from Shamaldas Gandhi Marg (Princess Street Flyover near Marine Lines railway station) to the Worli end of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. Once open, Mumbaikars can cover the stretch in just 10 minutes, says the BMC. From Malabar Hill to the sea link, the coastal road is mostly built on reclaimed land, around 50m to 70m into the sea. India’s largest twin tunnels will have three lanes, one of which will be reserved for emergency traffic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The coastal road project (south) has a November 2023 deadline, and 65 per cent of its work is complete. Work on the second phase, said to start from Versova and end at Dahisar, is expected to begin this year.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/28/mumbai-coastal-road-project-photo-feature.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/28/mumbai-coastal-road-project-photo-feature.html Sat Jan 28 17:06:24 IST 2023 itbp-dog-training-academy-haryana <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/21/itbp-dog-training-academy-haryana.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/2023/1/21/32-dog-handlers-training-their-dogs-1.jpg" /> <p>Anamika, 22, stood in a queue with other women before she was ‘chosen for life’ by Charlie. The handsome boy came up to her, sniffed, nodded and that was it―he was hers for life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Charlie is no ordinary boy from the block. He is a four-month-old dog, a Belgian Malinois aka Belgian Shepherd at that, and Anamika is among the first lot of eight women being trained as dog handlers at the Indo-Tibetan Border Police’s (ITBP) National Training Centre for Dogs and Animals in Haryana.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I found dogs doing work like bomb detection and tracking interesting. [That is when] I decided to become a dog handler,” said Anamika.&nbsp; “Charlie is bonded with me for life.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An armed forces security dog bonds for life with its handler. Both train together, eat together, spend time together and are even transferred together. It is so much a bond nurtured and perfected over time and training that once on active duty the dogs will only listen to their own handler’s commands even while being around other dog handlers and sounds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nestled in the Shivalik foothills near Panchkula, the ITBP centre was designated as a national training centre in 2005. “We have been training dogs for central armed police forces and (many) state police forces for free,” said ITBP Inspector General Ishwar Singh Duhan. “The centre can train over 250 dogs at a time.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Recently, Trade Records Analysis of Flora and Fauna in Commerce (TRAFFIC) India sent its inspectors and dogs from various national parks for training in detecting wildlife-related crimes like poaching. Ilu, for instance, will head to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh, where cheetahs were recently introduced. The centre is getting interest from other countries, too. Police dogs from Nepal and Bhutan have been trained here.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A day in the life of a four-legged soldier starts early. Chow time is thrice a day for puppies and twice for adults. After a walk and morning rituals, there is physical exercise and grooming before basic training starts. This ranges from saluting and rolling to navigating obstacle courses, where the difficulty level is increased gradually.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Later in the day, the handler and the dog practise advanced tasks like narcotic drug detection, bomb detection and tracking culprits. There are various modes including some indigenously designed methods like carousel training. In this, similar-looking tiffin boxes are spun around, and the dogs have to sniff out the right one with explosives, and then sit silently beside it. When it comes to narcotics, they have to sit and bark. This helps the handler figure out correctly what the haul is.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is also specialised training, say, for rescue operations during an avalanche, as many ITBP posts are in the snowy heights of the Himalayas. Canines sent to naxal areas or to borders on the plains are trained in landmine detection.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So far, the centre has trained 2,800 four-legged soldiers. Vinay Shankar Tyagi, second-in-command vet at the centre, said 60 Belgian Malinois and Labrador Retriever pups have been trained at the centre. Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s shoutout to Indian dog breeds in his ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio talk, the centre is now planning to train desi breeds like Mudhol Hound and Rampur Greyhound and even feral Indies. “We have started looking for suitable puppies,” said Tyagi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like many an ex-serviceman, these canine soldiers, too, do not put their feet up post retirement. “(Even) after retiring from service, these dogs are put to use in society,” said Dr Hitesh Shandilaya, second-in-command vet at the centre. “They are taken to NGOs working with autistic kids and in old age homes, where they play and do light work for them.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>True soldiers at heart, the call of duty does not end with the sunset roll call.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/21/itbp-dog-training-academy-haryana.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/21/itbp-dog-training-academy-haryana.html Sat Jan 21 15:07:25 IST 2023 nuclear-fusion-technology-development-importance-of-nuclear-energy <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/07/nuclear-fusion-technology-development-importance-of-nuclear-energy.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/2023/1/7/34-A-technician-reviews-an-optic-inside.jpg" /> <p>If nothing, 2022 will be remembered for the momentous breakthrough in the field of nuclear fusion energy coming 88 years after Italian scientist Enrico Fermi achieved nuclear fission.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In just eight years after Fermi’s discovery, the first nuclear reactor had been successfully tested at the University of Chicago in the US. One must wait and see how soon we can have a nuclear reactor running on fusion energy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fusion technology is slated to be a complete game changer in the field of nuclear energy―providing cheap, clean and limitless fuel for all our energy needs. Not only is the fuel abundant and inexpensive, but also there is very low-level radioactive waste.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Scientists have been working in different countries, including India, for several decades to make fusion successful. The problem was that they had to invest a huge amount of energy to get a little bit back.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Towards the end of 2022, it was reported that US scientists had made a historic breakthrough and got more energy than they used for initiating the fusion process, making nuclear fusion a viable energy source in the future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s fusion facility targeted 192 lasers on a miniature spherical capsule creating temperatures multiple times hotter than the centre of the sun with high levels of energy to initiate a fusion reaction. It produced about 2.5 megajoules of energy using the 1.1 mJ of energy in the lasers to initiate the process, which is about 120 per cent net energy gain. Thus, making fusion energy commercially viable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But what is fusion energy?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Understanding a few of the basic concepts may give us clarity regarding this technology.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The palpable solid material world is made up of extremely tiny particles of atoms, molecules and subatomic particles. Furthermore, what we consider mass of a particle is nothing more than concentrated energy. In both fission and fusion technology, we want to tap this source of energy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity says there is equivalence of mass and energy in the famous formula E=MC2 which means that mass can be converted into energy and vice-versa. However, a little amount of mass converted into energy can release huge amounts of energy because the ‘C’ is equivalent to the speed of light―1.86 lakh miles per second, C2 is 34,59,60,00,000 miles per second.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thus, the amount of energy in mass is huge―if we convert 20 gram mass into energy it may result in the energy released being equivalent to that in the explosion of a five lakh-tonne hydrogen bomb.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The problem is, we cannot easily convert mass into energy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During experiments on subatomic particles, scientists have observed a particle completely annihilate into energy (electromagnetic waves) after colliding into its anti-particle. They have also noticed subatomic level collision of particles travelling at high speeds giving rise to the birth of a third particle which was not there earlier, demonstrating that energy also converts into mass.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In nuclear fission, the usual method in which we get nuclear energy, atoms are split to release energy, reactors consume radioactive material and eventually convert it into electrical energy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nuclear fusion is a type of nuclear reaction where two light nuclei collide together to form a single nucleus. Fusion results in a release of energy because the mass of the new nucleus is less than the sum of the original masses. The extra mass converts into energy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Although the fusion of small atoms gives off a lot of energy, initiating this process requires a significant amount of energy to overcome the repulsion between protons.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are different types of fusion reactions, but most involve two isotopes of hydrogen―deuterium and tritium.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This type of fusion reaction takes place in the sun. Two pairs of protons (two pairs of hydrogen atoms) collide and become two atoms of deuterium. Each deuterium then combines again with a proton (hydrogen) to form helium-3, which combine again and eventually form helium-4.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At each stage a neutron is also formed and most of the energy released is in the form of high energy neutron.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Therefore, the sun’s energy, comes out by hydrogen atoms (under the sun’s gravity with high pressure and temperature) fusing into helium, which is less in mass than hydrogen, and the extra mass being converted into energy, which is released at the rate equivalent to billions and billions of nuclear power stations. It is through fusion that nuclear energy is generated in every star.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Each second, the core of the sun loses 600 million tonnes of hydrogen, gaining 596 million tonnes of helium. Four million tonnes of hydrogen are converted to 3.8 x 10^26 joules of energy. It is the sun’s energy that is used by every animal and plant on earth for all our activities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the fusion technology, fuel is not going to be a problem because deuterium can be extracted inexpensively from seawater. Tritium can be made from lithium, which is also abundant in nature. There is enough deuterium in the oceans to meet the human energy needs for millions of years, scientists claim.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For long researchers have been trying to harness fusion as a cleaner form of nuclear energy and reproduce it on earth in a controlled manner with a process where they generate more energy than they consume.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nuclear energy through fission now provides about 10 per cent of the world’s electricity from about 440 power reactors. Nuclear is the world’s second largest source of low-carbon power (28 per cent of the total in 2019). Nuclear power plants are operational in 32 countries. India has 22 operable nuclear reactors, with a combined net capacity of nearly 7,000 MW electrical energy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Building a fusion power plant is a challenge because deuterium and tritium must be heated to about 100 million degrees centigrade. At that temperature a fully ionized gas-plasma is formed. The plasma is then ignited to create fusion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Currently, scientists are pursuing two methods for achieving nuclear fusion: inertial and magnetic confinement. In inertial confinement systems, laser beams are used to compress deuterium-tritium fuel pellet to extremely high densities. When a critical point is reached, the pellet is ignited through heating. The resulting heat is then used to generate steam that powers electricity-generating turbines.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In magnetic confinement systems, electromagnets are used to contain the plasma fuel. The tokamak device (a toroidal apparatus for producing controlled fusion reactions in hot plasma) contains the plasma in a doughnut-shaped chamber. A powerful electric current, microwave, radio wave or accelerated particles are sent into the plasma to achieve high temperatures of several hundred million degrees centigrade.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One must realise that it is the strong gravity of the sun which makes hydrogen atoms fuse at 15 million degrees centigrade. On Earth, one requires temperatures as high as 150 million centigrade to make hydrogen atoms fuse. At 150 million degrees centigrade, hydrogen atoms form an ‘electrically charged gas’ known as plasma, another form of matter.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The world’s largest nuclear fusion reactor, ITER, costing $18.2 billion, has begun development in southern France and it is slated to be running by the year 2025 at a commercial scale. ITER (the Latin word for ‘The Way’) is a large-scale scientific experiment intended to prove the viability of fusion as an energy source. It is an international effort with seven partners―China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the US―having pooled their financial and scientific resources to build the biggest fusion reactor in history. It intends to produce 500 MW of fusion power from 50 MW of power invested to heat plasma and generate fusion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are government-funded fusion research centres in 26 countries, including India, the US, the UK, Germany, China, Korea, and Japan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With large scale nuclear fusion likely to be here in just 15 years, private sector fusion energy companies have also started pouring money into the sector.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>WHAT IS NUCLEAR FUSION?</b></p> <p>Nuclear fusion is a type of nuclear reaction where two light nuclei collide together to form a single nucleus. Fusion results in a release of energy because the mass of the new nucleus is less than the sum of the original masses. The extra mass converts into energy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?</b></p> <p>* The waste produced by nuclear fusion is much less radioactive than that produced by nuclear fission and it decays much more quickly</p> <p>* Fusion is mostly done using hydrogen, which is abundant and can be extracted cheaply from seawater or lithium</p> <p>* It does not generate greenhouse gases that are hazardous to environment</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>WHEN CAN IT BE SCALED UP?</b></p> <p>Not any time soon will fusion power our homes and factories. Some experts say in about 20 years, it would start giving meaningful yields.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/07/nuclear-fusion-technology-development-importance-of-nuclear-energy.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/07/nuclear-fusion-technology-development-importance-of-nuclear-energy.html Sat Jan 07 18:32:44 IST 2023