Specials http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials.rss en Sun Jun 12 13:01:20 IST 2022 https://www.theweek.in/privacy-an-settlement.html arabian-sea-s-behaviour-is-changing <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/10/arabian-sea-s-behaviour-is-changing.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/2022/6/10/52-Seasonal-high-tides-leave.jpg" /> <p>Annirudhsinh Chudasama of Dholera, Gujarat; Vinayak Naik of Genaiyyanvade, Karnataka; Godson of Periyathura, Kerala; and Stephan of Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, do not know each other. But there is something common to all of them—they are all victims of the vagaries of the Arabian Sea.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chudasama’s land became barren because of the salinity ingress. Naik watched as seawater rushed into his paddy fields and submerged them. Godson, like hundreds of other traditional fishermen from Kerala, stopped going to the sea as the catch was getting meagre by the day. And, Stephan lost his home to the sea.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the past, the Arabian Sea was calm, as seas go. But not anymore; the frequency and intensity of cyclones have increased multi-fold in the last decade.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The west coast of India has been hit with mutiple “severe intensity” and “very severe intensity” cyclones since the disastrous Cyclone Ockhi in 2017. Cyclone Ockhi took form on November 29, 2017, and left a trail of destruction in the Lakshadweep archipelago and the southernmost districts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Cyclone Ockhi was followed by Cyclone Vayu (June 2019), Cyclone Kyarr (Oct-Nov 2019), Cyclone Nisarga (June 2020) and Cyclone Tauktae (May 2021). Formed close to Lakshadweep, Tauktae travelled up to the Gujarat coast and retained its fury for 24 hours after landfall. It brought severe rains over parts of Rajasthan, Delhi and even Uttar Pradesh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The Arabian Sea is no longer what it used to be,” said Roxy Mathew Koll, senior scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune. He pointed out that a colder sea surface prevents the formation of cyclones. “The Arabian Sea is getting warmer than other tropical ocean basins,” he said. “It was less prone to cyclonic storms earlier because it was colder than the adjacent regions. This change manifests mainly in the form of depressions and more frequent cyclones.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Data from IITM shows a 52 per cent increase in the number of cyclones in the Arabian Sea between 2001 and 2019. An 8 per cent decrease was observed in the number of cyclones in the Bay of Bengal during the same period. The most visible manifestations of the warming up of the Arabian Sea would be droughts and extreme rainfall events. “We are already experiencing all that,” said Koll.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As per the Union government, 2,002 persons were killed in hydro-meteorological events (cyclones, heavy rains, floods or landslides) in 2021 alone. Agriculture crops in 50.4 lakh hectares were destroyed last year because of extreme weather events. Dr Jitendra Singh, minister of state (independent charge) of science and technology and earth sciences, told Parliament in December 2021 that climate change and rising temperatures are kicking up more and more cyclones in the Arabian Sea. “Analysis of data from 1891 to 2020 indicates that the number of cyclones and the number of stations reporting very heavy and extremely heavy rainfall events have increased in recent years,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the sea is getting warmer, there is a corresponding rise in the sea level, too. This is more apparent on India’s western seaboard than on the east.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Coastal cities like Mumbai and Kochi are expected to be hit hard by compound events like sea-level rise, storm surges, and coastal erosion,” said S. Abhilash, director, Advanced Centre for Atmospheric Radar Research, CUSAT, Kochi. “Combined with these would be the extreme rainfall events, flash floods, and higher water run-off from the land. What we see in the form of increased instances of depressions, coastal erosion and flash floods are all wake-up calls indicating a climate emergency.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fisher communities are the worst hit. There is massive drop in catch, especially pelagic fishes. Bhavin Kotia, 35, a Porbandar-based boat owner lamented that while a fishing trip demanded an outlay of Rs5 lakh, the catch would only be worth Rs3.5 lakh. “This has been happening quite frequently now,” he said. “I have six boats. I cannot afford these losses.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most fishermen are now compelled to venture into deeper waters—which means more days at sea and more expenses on a single trip. On top of it is the reduction in the number of fishing days due to extreme weather conditions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Our coastal belts are under severe strain, as the fishermen are at a loss on how to deal with the changes in the Arabian Sea,” said Fr Peter Darwin, former parish priest of Vallavilai in Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu. “Their traditional wisdom about the sea is no longer helping them as there have been changes in wind patterns, resources and currents.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to researchers, the warming up of the sea is taking a huge toll on the marine ecosystem as the presence of phytoplankton—the major food source for pelagic fishes—has fallen by 20 per cent. The Arabian Sea had been one of the most phytoplankton-rich seas in the world and that was the reason behind the generous catches in the region.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fr Darwin added that fishermen are compelled to spend months together in the outer sea these days, which in turn has affected their social and personal lives. “The lives in the coastal belt are going through a very rough patch,” he said. “They are losing the trust they had in the sea.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If the coastal belt is the primary victim of the changes in the Arabian Sea, the hinterland is not far behind.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We are facing frequent cyclones,” said Pratap Khistarya, a farmer residing near Porbandar. “The monsoon is erratic. Crops are damaged, and it is difficult to fetch a good price.” He added that small farmers cannot bear these losses, and most of them will end up working as farm labourers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The cultivable lands and wells close to the coastal areas are increasingly becoming saline. The rising tides have started to flood paddy fields that are kilometres away from the seashore. The lands are becoming barren. Chudasama says he lost 15 bigha land over the last couple of years to salinity ingress. Showing a vast stretch of land in Mandvipura of Bhavnagar district, he added that villagers in the area were rehabilitated to other hamlets several years ago, as sea levels rose.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“What happens in the sea affects the land and what happens on the land affects the sea,” said Srikumar Chattopadhyay, former head of the Resources Analysis Division, National Centre for Earth Science Studies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Every expert whom THE WEEK met said that all the problems that are happening due to the changes in the Arabian Sea are only going to intensify in the coming days.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Koll said that the only way forward was to adapt to better survival techniques. “Calamities are for certain. We can survive that only with better risk mapping at a micro level,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The role of human interventions in turning the Arabian Sea into what it is today is equally significant as the larger culprit: climate change. “It is easy to blame everything on climate change as if it is a faceless behemoth sitting somewhere far away. But the reality is that every individual can play a role in stopping the world from reaching a tipping point,” said John Kurien, visiting professor, School of Development, Azim Premji University. “Every artificial port constructed, every plastic bottle thrown into the sea, every amount of pollutant flown into the sea beds, every unscientific method of fishing, every dam built on the rivers, every hilltop broken for quarrying and every act of deforestation will have an impact on the sea. The sea has been absorbing all the terrestrial sins flowing into it all these years. But how long can the sea take it?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chattopadhyay says that the solution lies in the hands of every individual. “There will be no aspect of our lives that will be unaffected by the changes happening in our oceans,” he said. According to him, even small steps like planting more trees to harvesting rainwater will have cumulative effects in the long run. “Micro-level planning is equally important as the macro-level ones,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>With inputs from Nandini Oza and Prathima Nandakumar</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/10/arabian-sea-s-behaviour-is-changing.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/10/arabian-sea-s-behaviour-is-changing.html Sun Jun 12 13:06:51 IST 2022 keralas-fisherfolk-are-facing-an-existential-threat <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/10/keralas-fisherfolk-are-facing-an-existential-threat.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/2022/6/10/58-A-house-destroyed-by-coastal-erosion.jpg" /> <p><b>PERCHED ON TOP</b> of a cracking wall, Godson, 48, looked silently at the dark sea. He is a security guard at the Madre De Deus Church, Vettucaud. Standing almost in the shadow of the great church, he looked like a statue. When pilgrims tried to cross the rope cordon in front of the wall, he shouted: “Do not cross it; there are no steps, there is no beach....”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To those who were sceptical, he added: “Everything has been swallowed by the sea. This wall could fall at any time.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some stepped back after hearing it. Others, who were still suspicious, tried to get a good look at the darkness beyond the walls. “When we came to the church last year, I had seen kids playing football on the beach. The beach was so wide and long,” Gomez Eliaz from Kollam said in disbelief.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Godson did not respond and looked blankly at the sea. “Everything has changed…” he mumbled.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A native of Periyathura, Godson had been an active fisherman till a few years ago. “Ockhi changed my life,” he said. He was talking about the “very severe cyclonic storm” that hit the Indian coast in November 2017, killing 365 persons. “The coast is being eaten up by the sea. There are not enough fish anymore. How long can one see kids go hungry to their beds? So, I stopped going to the sea and took up this job,” said Godson, adjusting his cap. “At times, I miss going to the sea.” He glanced at the lights of the fishing boats in the distance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some 150km away in Kuroor, Alappuzha district, Sivadasan K., 55, was busy emptying his fishing net. Helping him was his son Akhil. There was an empty orange bucket next to him. “I have not got any catch in the last two weeks...,” he said without taking his eyes off the net, which contained only chori (jellyfish). “It will cause severe itching if it touches your body; this is all we get after spending hours in the sea these days.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Akhil is in class 11 and wants to pursue marine engineering. “Even if we die of hunger, I will not send my son to the sea,” said Sivadasan. “She is no longer our kadalamma [sea mother]; she has become a demon.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That they no longer recognise the patterns of the Arabian Sea is a complaint one gets to hear across the Kerala coast. “We knew the currents, the wind flow and the water temperature. We used to predict the quantum of the fish catch. But traditional wisdom does not work anymore,” said Ponnan, 65, a fisherman from Beypore, Kozhikode.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is his 50th year at sea. “I knew the sea like the back of my hand.... but I no longer understand her mood swings,” he said, as he emptied the meagre catch he had managed to get after spending six hours at sea and spending Rs800 on diesel. It may fetch him a maximum of Rs100 in the market. “Going to sea only adds to our debts these days,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The data does say that the fish caught on the Kerala coast has come down drastically. Total fish production in 2021 had been just 3.9 lakh tonnes—one of the lowest catches in 50 years. It had been consistently around 6 lakh tonnes in the last decade.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The decrease in the availability of fish, especially sardines—the most sought-after fish in Kerala—is hitting the economic stability of coastal communities. The annual study report of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute says that the sardine catch was just 44,320 tonnes in 2019, and the yield dropped to one-third of that in 2020. It was 4 lakh tonnes in 2012.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The number of fishing days also has come down drastically in the last few years, thanks to the erratic weather. According to the annual marine fish landing estimates, Kerala had a 56 per cent drop in the number of fishing days in 2020 compared with the previous decade.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The government had stopped us from going to sea on 84 days in the last four months [of 2021], because of the IMD’s [India Meteorological Department] weather alerts. Once the alert is issued, the government’s job is done. But what about us, how will we survive?” asked Dasan B., a native of Ayikkara in Kannur. Adding to the depleting catch is the rapid sea erosion happening across the coastal belt, more so in central and southern Kerala. Many coastal villages like Chellanam in Ernakulam district, and Vizhinjam and Poonthura in Thiruvananthapuram district are increasingly becoming vulnerable to sea erosion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fisherfolk attribute everything from the sea getting warm to sea-level rise and the fall in catch to Ockhi. “Because that was a tragic event of immense proportion for them,” said A.J. Vijayan, an activist in the coastal belt. “But the fact is the sea had been changing for more than a decade, but that has been happening gradually, and nobody noticed it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not just the fishermen who are feeling the brunt of the changes in the Arabian Sea. The boat owners, fish vendors and middlemen in the harbour are also facing the heat. “The only people who are flourishing are the money lenders. Everyone else here is in debt,” said Jackson Pollayil, state president of Kerala Swathanthra Matsya Thozhilali Federation, a fishermen’s union. “The rest of the society feels the heat of the changes in the Arabian Sea only when the price of the fish shoots up. But for us, it is a day-to-day reality that threatens our lives and livelihood.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fisherfolk, in general, are said to be optimistic and resilient. “One would get to hear about farmer suicides very often,” said John Kurien, an expert in the field of fisheries. “But you rarely get to hear about the fishermen committing suicides because they know from their traditional wisdom that a good day will come after a slew of bad days. But now a time has come when the fishermen have started doubting this traditional wisdom.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And that certainly is a bad omen!</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/10/keralas-fisherfolk-are-facing-an-existential-threat.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/10/keralas-fisherfolk-are-facing-an-existential-threat.html Sun Jun 12 13:03:33 IST 2022 uttara-kannada-in-karnataka-is-fighting-multiple-climate-woes <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/10/uttara-kannada-in-karnataka-is-fighting-multiple-climate-woes.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/2022/6/10/60-A-school-close-to-the-sea-in-Honnavar.jpg" /> <p><b>HANUMANTHA THIMMAPPA</b> Naik, 55, a farmer from Sanagunda in Honnavar, Karnataka, left his farmland and migrated to the nearest town in recent years. His two brothers continue to farm in their three-acre plot in the village—but with fears about unseasonal rains or seawater destroying their crops. “We are a joint family,” says Naik. “We cannot survive in the village, because saltwater is entering our paddy fields. We had sown salt-resistant paddy varieties like kagga and halaga, but failed to get a good yield. [My brothers] are now trying their luck with the saavira ondu variety, which can give up to 40 per cent yield. But if saltwater enters the fields, the yield will be zero.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vinayak Naik, another farmer from the region says: “As a child, I used to see several families growing paddy, peanuts and sugarcane. We used to get three crops in a year. But now, people are abandoning the lands as they cannot grow even a single crop. The soil texture has changed and become useless for agriculture.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Honnavar is a port town in Uttara Kannada of Karnataka. It is here that the Sharavati river meets the Arabian Sea. Cyclones, coastal erosion, fish famines, destruction of paddy fields and wells yielding saltwater—the taluk had witnessed several climate disasters over the last few years. The region is witnessing a conflict between the land and the sea.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Expansion of oceans and melting of glaciers due to global warming is causing a rise in sea level. This is causing saltwater ingression into agricultural fields and salination of groundwater,” says N.H. Ravindranath, professor, Centre for Sustainable Technologies, Indian Institute of Science Bengaluru.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The island villages in Manki in Honnavar taluk are populated by backward communities like Namdhari, Sherugar and Idiga. The estuarine fields in which they work are slowly turning into salt marshes. Coastal flooding and coastline erosion are also becoming common in the region. Usman Hodekar, a local leader from the region, says his family has been living on the coast for 50 years. “In my childhood, we had to walk quite a distance from our home to reach the sea,” he says. “But now, the sea is inching closer. Sometimes, we are scared to sleep as the sea is almost at our doorstep.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dr M.N. Nayak, an ayurveda practitioner in Thoppalkeri village, said: “The seawall was washed away in a cyclone; water entered our homes, and the roofs were blown away. We have nowhere to go, we are living in fear. Prolonged monsoon and frequent cyclones have become the norm in the region.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The west-flowing Sharavati river is steadily swallowing Karki village of Honnavar. “The river mouth has been moving northwards. This has altered the landscape,” says Krishnamurthy Hebbar, a social activist and senior journalist from Honnavar. Change in wind direction is cited as the reason for the shifting of the river mouth. “More than 300 acres have already been lost to the river as the sea is pushing the river inwards and onto the land,” adds Hebbar. “A village named Mallukurva no longer exists; it got submerged. Other villages in Honnavar—Karkikodi, Mavinakurva and Hegdehitlu—are also feeling the effects of coastal erosion.” All these vanishing villages are testimony to the ruinous effects of climate change on Karnataka’s coastal belt.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The shifting of the river mouth is being exploited by the land mafia to usurp villages like Mallukurva,” says Dr Prakash Mesta, a marine biologist. “The river mouth has moved from Mallukurva to Kasarkod.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Kasarkod beach is now the epicentre of a protest against an upcoming private port. Locals complain that politicians are allowing big development projects without any sound rehabilitation plan for the local communities. In January, hundreds of fisherfolk jumped into the sea to stop a private firm from demolishing their homes. “The massive construction will aggravate the sea erosion and flooding in the coastal villages,” says Hebbar. “Heavy dredging [for the port] will affect marine biodiversity and snatch the livelihood of small fishermen.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fear of the locals is not misplaced. Scientists have flagged estuarine integrity as a requirement for sustaining marine fisheries. Marine fishes and prawns enter the estuary for breeding, and juvenile fishes grow in the estuary. Unless the estuaries are protected, the fish stock cannot be preserved, say experts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The traditional fisher communities of Uttara Kannada—namely Harikanta, Karvis, Mogaveera and Jalji—are facing troubles from commercial fishing syndicates, too. These syndicates are now elbowing out traditional fisherfolk.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shankar Harikanta, 37, from Manki village said that both fish variety and quantity have dropped due to mechanised fishing. “We go every morning at 4am and come back at 8am. But we do not make enough to sustain our lives. We are now forced to go farther into the sea for a good catch. Back home, we have no drinking water as open wells have turned salty.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Ravindranath, who has co-authored multiple UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, fishes are migrating toward the northern latitudes due to the warming and acidification of oceans. “Just like the agriculture crops, the nutrient value of fishes is decreasing,” he says. “Overextraction of fishes, bad fishing practices and pollution are affecting marine biodiversity, and climate change is only aggravating the problem.” The seasonal pattern of fish availability has been altered due to changes in water temperature and water currents in the region—another impact of climate change. The traditional fishermen are now finding it increasingly hard to predict the fish species available in different seasons.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Says Yathish Baikampady, CEO, Panambur Beach Tourism Development Project: “The construction of railways, highways and ports along the coastline have destroyed the coastal ecosystem, and the mechanised boats are ploughing through the sea, destroying fish habitats and breeding sites. The [people from] fishing communities are now ending up as daily wagers in the city malls. There is a need to make the fishing communities climate-resilient.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Scientists estimate that Karnataka will witness a 10 to 25 per cent increase in rainfall by the mid-2030s. Coastal districts like Uttara Kannada would see high-intensity rains and more flash floods in the coming years. It is also estimated that one-third of the biodiversity in the Western Ghats region of the state will be damaged by 2050, and fish production in the sea will suffer due to acidic oceans. These would affect the already stressed infrastructure, housing, fisheries and agriculture in the southern state.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ravindranath points out that to build resilience in the coastal communities and farmers, the government should extend crop insurance, encourage selective breeding of salt and temperature-tolerant varieties of fish in the inland region, restore the mangroves and promote growing salt-resistant rice varieties.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The government would give a compensation of Rs3,000 whenever cyclones devastate our lives,” says Kamalakar Babushettru, an old-timer from Pavinkurve village in Honnavar. “As farming is impossible due to saltwater seepage in the soil, I bought two cows to earn a living. Some of our neighbours used to till huge tracts of land. But, now people have to be content with the free rice being given by the government!”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/10/uttara-kannada-in-karnataka-is-fighting-multiple-climate-woes.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/10/uttara-kannada-in-karnataka-is-fighting-multiple-climate-woes.html Sun Jun 12 13:02:16 IST 2022 aryan-khan-case-it-will-take-time-for-ncb-to-repair-damaged-reputation <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/03/aryan-khan-case-it-will-take-time-for-ncb-to-repair-damaged-reputation.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/2022/6/3/30-Aryan-Khan-with-NCB-officials-new.jpg" /> <p><b>THAT THE NARCOTICS</b> Control Bureau gave a clean chit to Aryan Khan in the drugs-on-cruise case on May 27 has severely damaged the agency’s image. Aryan, the son of actor Shah Rukh Khan, had spent 26 days in jail last year. And though there has been a course correction—charges against six persons have been dropped—accountability, or the lack of it, is the elephant in the room.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Supreme Court has repeatedly advised law enforcement agencies to understand the distinction between having the powers to arrest someone and using them. Law enforcement agencies can only rush to arrest someone if there is reasonable evidence to believe that the accused would obstruct the regular course of collecting further evidence, is a habitual offender who may commit a similar offence or would abscond. On the other hand, if police officers are abusing the powers of arrest, they should be held accountable, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The NCB, in its internal inquiry, has chastised its own unit for procedural and investigation lapses that left many in the bureau red-faced. Indian Revenue Service officer Sameer Wankhede was heading the NCB’s Mumbai unit when it arrested several people in the case, including Aryan. In the internal report, which THE WEEK has seen, the NCB found the evidence collected “questionable, motivated and judicially weak”. Reads the report: “Though there were 20 accused in this case, for some reason or the other, the investigation revolved around Aryan Khan.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Former Rajya Sabha member and criminal lawyer Majeed Memon said the NCB has informed the NDPS (National Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act) court that there was no evidence against Aryan and five others. “This raises a curious question,” he said. “Did any evidence exist against Aryan when he was arrested? If yes, did it evaporate into thin air? The act of opposing the bail resulted in an innocent languishing in jail for 26 days.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last October, the NCB had received information that Aryan and others were going on the cruise liner Cordelia on October 2 from Mumbai Port. The information said that these people would participate in an event as guests and would be carrying drugs, concealing them in their baggage, clothes and accessories. The NCB team reached the spot and recovered six grams of charas from Arbaaz Merchant. Aryan was travelling with Merchant, but nothing was found on him. “Arbaaz accepted that he kept charas inside his shoes, but did not say that the drug was meant for any other person, including Aryan,” noted the NCB. Merchant is one of the 14 accused in the NCB charge-sheet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The NCB inquiry is also looking into how witnesses that Wankhede’s team identified on the spot were allegedly asked to sign on blank papers, even though they did not see any drug recovery. “Despite denial by Arbaaz regarding the involvement of Aryan... the investigating officer started looking at WhatsApp chats of Aryan without formally seizing the phone,” said the report.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The data extraction from Aryan’s mobile reportedly threw up various chats with different people alluding to consumption of weed, hashish, etc. But the NCB’s special investigation team, looking into the lapses in the case, alluded to several Supreme Court rulings to say that WhatsApp chats could not be treated as a primary source of evidence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The bigger blunder, found the inquiry, was that Aryan was slapped with charges of possession and consumption of drugs. A key element of the NDPS Act is the “doctrine of conscious possession”, which defines the offence as directly possessing the drug or carrying it at the behest of the consumer or drug dealer who wants to evade liability.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Niharika Karanjawala, part of Aryan’s legal team in Mumbai, said there was incorrect application of this principle as the NCB agreed that no drug was found on him. The internal report also admitted that the NCB had no proof that Aryan was medically examined for consumption of any drugs. “There are problems in the system we need to address so that this does not happen again in other cases,” said senior advocate Satish Maneshinde, who represented Aryan. “Despite pointing out all the lacunae in investigation, they kept him in custody for 26 days denying bail.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Said former NCB director general B.V. Kumar: “The NCB’s own charter of functions mandates the agency to investigate commercial quantity of drugs that are part of an international drug cartel.” Given the recent large drug hauls, the latest being the one at Mundra port in Gujarat, it is high time the NCB gears itself for its responsibilities, he added. Instead, the bureau seems to have zeroed in on Bollywood, starting with the case filed against Rhea Chakraborty in 2020 after the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The shoddy investigation in the Aryan Khan case had prompted the NCB to transfer Wankhede out of the bureau. After the internal inquiry, the Centre stepped in by transferring him to the office of Directorate General of Taxpayers’ Services in Chennai. Too little too late? “The NCB has instituted a vigilance inquiry and investigation,” NCB Director General S.N. Pradhan told THE WEEK. “We have done due diligence, after the lapses were found, without anyone telling us to do so. If the fingers point conclusively towards any officials and there is incriminating evidence to support it, we will take strict action.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The NCB has said that its excessive reliance on WhatsApp messages will be severely counterproductive during trials and has warned its field units against such practices. A strong directive has also gone to all NCB offices across the country to focus only on “cases with international linkages involving commercial quantity of drugs”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The biggest directive involves investigation. “If the NCB finds in its preliminary inquiry that the NDPS case involves a local drug cartel, it will hand over the case to the state police,” said Pradhan. “When the bureau goes after the entire case, it creates a problem.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The NCB seems to have learnt some hard lessons, but Wankhede is fighting back. “The zonal director is not the only one who is involved in an operation,” he told THE WEEK. “Also, the zonal director is not the arresting authority, it is the investigating officer. The public is with me. People know the facts. I know I have done no wrong. I followed the NDPS Act in letter and spirit.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He also questioned why only his name has cropped up in the case. “There have been several instances when the medical examinations have not been carried out by the Delhi team as well,” he said. “If the investigation was not done [properly], why are 14 others charge-sheeted in the case?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Along with the NCB and Bollywood, there was politics around the case, too. Maharashtra Minister and NCP leader Nawab Malik and Wankhede had exchanged allegations of wrongdoing; the state government had slammed Wankhede for “framing” Aryan; the Shiv Sena called it an attempt to “ruin a young man’s life”; a Congress leader called it an effort to discredit Mumbai and Bollywood; and the BJP remained largely silent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the clean chit, many people in the state’s political circles say that Malik has won. He is, however, currently under the Enforcement Directorate scanner in a money laundering case.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All said and done, not only will it take time for the NCB to resurrect its damaged reputation, but the increased federal mistrust generated by the case will also take time to fade away.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>With Pooja Biraia Jaiswal</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/03/aryan-khan-case-it-will-take-time-for-ncb-to-repair-damaged-reputation.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/03/aryan-khan-case-it-will-take-time-for-ncb-to-repair-damaged-reputation.html Fri Jun 03 18:38:06 IST 2022 st-stephens-delhi-university-logjam-is-representative-of-larger-debate-on-cuet <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/03/st-stephens-delhi-university-logjam-is-representative-of-larger-debate-on-cuet.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/2022/6/3/34-A-file-picture-of-students.jpg" /> <p><b>JUST WHEN THE STANDOFF</b> between Delhi University and St Stephen’s College over Common University Entrance Test (CUET) started heating up, the esteemed college got a shot in the arm with a superlative performance of its students in the civil services examinations. Three students from the college are among the top 10.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Founded in 1881, St Stephen’s is the oldest college in Delhi. First affiliated to Calcutta University, and then to Punjab University, it eventually attached itself to Delhi University and became one of its three original constituent colleges. A top choice among high-performing students, it elicits an Oxbridge kind of reverence in India, and is known to produce civil servants of the highest repute and leaders in the upper echelons of technocracy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>St Stephen’s is also the only college under Delhi University that holds interviews as part of its admission process. A time-honoured tradition, the college is now fighting to “retain its stellar, tried, and trusted interview process”, as noted last week by principal John Varghese in a letter written to Delhi University, which insisted that it does away with interviews for its general category students in light of the introduction of CUET—a difficult proposition for an institution that spots merit through other means than marks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Likely to be held in the first week of July, the single entrance exam is set to replace existing college admission procedures—which include weightage to class 12 marks, individual entrance tests, cut-off lists and interviews—with one sole determining factor—the CUET score.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>CUET-UG, funded by the University Grants Commission, is mandatory for all Central universities like Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, with several other institutions like the Tata Institute of Social Sciences also participating. CUET is being implemented in pursuance with the larger vision of the National Education Policy, 2020, which seeks to improve access, options and learning outcomes in the Indian education system. While preparations for the first edition of CUET is generating several anxious questions among class 12 students, the current stand-off between Delhi University and St Stephen’s college is emblematic of the larger debate around the college entrance exam itself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Back in 2001, Pranav Karol was a wide-eyed teenager from Chandigarh. He was about to appear for an interview at St Stephen’s College. His name had appeared on the merit list for BSc (Hons) in mathematics under the general category, after he scored 84 per cent in his CBSE board exams at Vivek High School. This was not the time when even a 99 per cent aggregate would engender anxiety while applying to the top colleges of Delhi University. At the interview Karol is asked the regulation theorems and formulas for solving sums on the spot. “Towards the end, one of the interviewers suddenly asked me, ‘So what’s going on outside this room?’ I said, ‘They are only discussing the three of you. They are saying that the lady in the room is asking gentle questions while the men are asking stern ones’,” says Karol in his impish way. The interviewers start laughing. Karol graduated in 2004 and today is a marketing professional in a watchmaking company.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Karol often wonders if it was his answer to that last question that clinched the deal and got him an entry into his dream college. “I find it hard to believe that from this year onwards, an all-India test score will be the sole determinant for admissions in colleges,” says Karol who lives and works in Delhi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Nowhere in the world great colleges or institutions give you admissions just on the basis of your marks or your grades. Of course they want to assess you on several different parameters, your personality, your communication skills. That’s the same for a job or a UPSC exam where you have to cross group discussions and interviews,” says Karol.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In its undergraduate admissions circular this year, St Stephen’s noted that admissions “will be based on 85 per cent of the CUET score and 15 per cent of the interview score for all categories of applicants.” St. Stephen’s is a Christian minority educational institution where during admissions, according to the Constitution, they can have up to 50 per cent reservations for students of their respective community. While Delhi University has allowed the college to conduct admissions on the basis of the combined merit of 85 per cent weightage to CUET scores and 15 per cent to interviews for minority candidates, it wants the rest 50 per cent of the open seats to be solely filled on the basis of the CUET score. Not doing so is a “clear violation of the admission policies approved by the statutory bodies of the University of Delhi” and “any admission done in violation of the admission norms and policies of the University… shall not be recognised and… treated as null and void for all purposes,” says Vikas Gupta, registrar of University of Delhi, in a letter to Varghese, dated May 24.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On May 31, the Delhi High Court issued a notice on a PIL filed by a law student that challenges the decision of the college to conduct interviews for general category students as it introduces an element of “subjectivity” and gives enough room for “discrimination and manipulation.” The case Konika Poddar V. St Stephen’s College &amp; Others is set to be heard on July 6.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Romy Chacko, the advocate representing St Stephen’s College, says the Supreme Court had considered a similar challenge in 1992 when a DU circular directed St Stephen’s to admit students solely on the basis of marks acquired in the college-going exams. Those exams are now replaced by CUET, Chacko says, adding that the judgment in the St Stephen’s College V. University of Delhi case clearly favoured the college. It was later upheld by an 11-member bench in 2002. It stated that as a minority-run institution, the college is not bound by the University of Delhi’s circulars in matters pertaining to its jurisdiction, as it will not align with its distinctive structure and character. “How does a new exam like CUET take away the right of St Stephen’s to hold interviews for general category candidates? Has the Supreme Court said so? The performance of the Stephanians in the recent UPSC examination justifies the autonomy conceded to St Stephen’s by the Supreme Court,” says Chacko.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, at the heart of the tussle lie several simple questions. How effectively will CUET manage the intense competition for the limited seats in top colleges of Central universities? What is the most fool-proof way to filter candidates entering colleges? How much more emphasis are we going to assign to marks and scores, whether they come from a board exam or an all-India test? Is there such a thing as good subjectivity? “CUET is a pro-student approach. In this online, MCQ test, human-related bias will be zero. A machine-evaluated score is a highly scientific method,” says UGC Chairman M. Jagadesh Kumar who in an earlier interview to THE WEEK made a case for CUET opening up opportunities for students from every corner of the country to try their luck in a top-ranked college.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rakesh Sood, former Indian diplomat and distinguished fellow at ORF, studied BSc (Hons) in physics at St Stephen’s in the late 1960s. Interviews in the college were mostly a formality back then. Now with the exponential rise in the number of eligible applicants, CUET does not seem like a gamechanger, he says. Sood recommends rationalisation of school boards instead or figuring out ways to offer more seats. “The current problem is because there is a mismatch between demand and supply. Introducing a test does not lead to additional seats. What is to say that this will not have as many subjective elements built into it as any other test. You are not addressing the real problem,” says Sood.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/03/st-stephens-delhi-university-logjam-is-representative-of-larger-debate-on-cuet.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/03/st-stephens-delhi-university-logjam-is-representative-of-larger-debate-on-cuet.html Fri Jun 03 14:56:01 IST 2022 photo-feature-monsoons-power-couple <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/05/27/photo-feature-monsoons-power-couple.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/2022/5/27/50-Indian-Pitta.jpg" /> <p>The Indian pitta is a shy bird; it is heard more than it is seen. This small migratory bird gives a whistle call in the morning and evening, thus earning its Tamil name aarumani kuruvi (the six-o-clock bird). Those who get a glimpse of it would confirm that its English name does not capture its glory. However, its Hindi name, navrang (the nine-coloured bird), aptly details the bird’s most characteristic feature—its brilliant plumage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A pair of Indian pitta nest in an abandoned ashram of the Bharat Yatra Trust in Bhondsi near Gurugram—which is now being converted into a nature park by the Haryana government. And, birders have been flocking to the couple’s monsoon home for the last few years. As monsoon set in, the pair would migrate from their summer haunts in south India or Sri Lanka to the Aravalli range.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the centre of the ashram complex is a popular temple dedicated to Bhuvaneshwari Devi. Mr and Mrs Pitta do not mind either the pilgrims or the battalions of photographers who come with their cameras and ‘bazooka’ lenses. Contrary to the perception about pittas, the Bhondsi couple is camera savvy. They often offer a full display of their nine-coloured plumage when they fluff up after picking something from the ground, or when resting on a perch. The birds have long, strong and pinkish legs, and stout bills. They have buff-brown crowns with black stripes running down the middle. Their eyes have distinct black stripes. The ‘shirtfronts’ are buff and green, and their vents are bright red. Their shoulder patches are blue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like a royal couple at a palace window, they seem to pose for the paparazzi who want to capture their private moments. It helps that the couple’s nest is in plain sight. There is a convention in the birding community these days to not post geotagged pictures of nests and eggs, as these may endanger the birds. The more persistent paparazzi are known to tramp quite close to nesting sites, sometimes even damaging nests and eggs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When the photographers leave, the couple get on with the pending, mundane chores of foraging for food and nesting material. Devendra Singh, additional secretary in the railway ministry, is a regular at the site. Like many others, he is also a visual chronicler of the couple’s monsoon love. “The birds’ calls are mesmerising,” he says. “No dance movement can compete with the poetry of the Pittas’ movements. And they look so tidy and groomed, as if they take a bath every hour.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The couple stays in the ashram until late August, and raise two or three chicks. Then the new family heads south as the winter mists roll over northern India.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/05/27/photo-feature-monsoons-power-couple.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/05/27/photo-feature-monsoons-power-couple.html Sun May 29 11:07:54 IST 2022 light-utility-helicopter-could-be-perfect-replacement-for-ageing-cheetahs-chetaks <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/05/20/light-utility-helicopter-could-be-perfect-replacement-for-ageing-cheetahs-chetaks.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/2022/5/20/30-The-final-assembly-hangar.jpg" /> <p><b>ARUP CHATTERJEE VIVIDLY</b> remembers that freezing Leh day from more than two years ago. As director (engineering and R&amp;D) of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), he was in Leh for the cold weather endurance test of the light utility helicopter (LUH) prototype.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His team’s task was to fly the LUH to a helipad at 17,000ft, leave it exposed there for 24 hours (at -30° Celsius), and check whether the chopper was still fit to fly. The team landed at the helipad, but was grounded for two days because of rough weather. “We were worried whether the helicopter would start,” Chatterjee. “If it did not, bringing it back would have been difficult. To our surprise, even after being exposed to such a harsh environment for 48 hours, the helicopter started. It told us that we were on the right track.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From its manufacturing base in Bengaluru, Chatterjee and his team flew the prototype to Leh, instead of sending it on a C-17-Globemaster transport aircraft. “We flew to Leh with breaks in between. The LUH flew for 6,000km without any fault,” he said. “At a stretch, it can fly for around 400km to 500km. Helicopters are, however, not meant for long-haul flights.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The LUH is expected to replace India’s ageing fleet of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters. Though designed and developed indigenously, the single-engine LUH is powered by the Ardiden 1U engine from Safran, the French aerospace major. The first LUH will be delivered in August 2022, on the occasion of the 75th Independence Day. “The LUH can operate at 20,000ft above sea level. It has a glass cockpit and dual controls,” said Girish Linganna, aerospace expert and managing director, ADD Engineering India. “Its single Safran Ardiden 1U turboshaft engine has seen big success and has been made to world standards.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most of the Himalayas and the inhospitable areas in the northeast are now being served by Cheetahs and Chetaks manufactured by HAL under a transfer of technology deal with France, inked in 1974. HAL has produced more than 600 Cheetahs and Chetaks; 415 are still in service. Thanks to ageing and obsolete technology, the fleet is on its last legs. In 2004, a requirement of 384 helicopters was raised. After a feasibility study, HAL confirmed that it could produce a utility chopper as it was already rolling out the advanced light helicopter (ALH).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“After a lot of deliberation, it was decided that of the required 384 helicopters, 197 will be procured directly from foreign vendors and 187 will be made by HAL. The Army and the Air Force wanted a single-engine helicopter. We got the Cabinet Committee on Security’s sanction in 2009. We were not inspired by any international helicopter. We were confident about our capability to design and develop a helicopter,” said Chatterjee.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ALH and the LUH, however, are entirely different. The 5.8-tonne ALH can carry up to 14 passengers, while the three-tonne LUH is designed for six. The LUH can land in small helipads in high altitude stations like Siachen and Leh. The ALH, however, needs bigger helipads. The LUH’s top speed is 240kmph, but it can only carry around 75kg at the peak of its operational ceiling. But it is an improvement on the Cheetah and Chetak, which can carry only 30kg to 40kg. “We aim to increase the LUH’s capacity, but nothing has been finalised, yet,” said Chatterjee.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Designing and developing the LUH came with its own challenges. Developing the rotor and the transmission was one. “In aerospace technology, the design and development of a helicopter is much more complex than that of a fixed-wing aircraft. The LUH has a two-segmented rotor. It is unique in this range as the rotor can be folded, unlike in the ALH. No other helicopter in the three-tonne category has this capacity,” said Chatterjee. The foldable rotor adds to the storage space.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The gearbox of the LUH was developed by Microtek, Hyderabad; the transmission is by HAL. “It is the reason the project took a lot of time. Now we have mastered the art of designing the rotor and the transmission system on our own and this gives us the confidence to build future helicopters, such as the multi-role helicopter, without any foreign collaboration,” said Sreenivasa Rao Dunna, deputy general manager at HAL’s rotary wing research and design centre. “Over a period of time, the LUH will have more than 60 per cent indigenous content.” The tail rotor shaft, which used to be imported, was developed by HAL for the project. The ring gear, once imported from the UK, is now being manufactured by Shanthi Gears, Coimbatore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Developing an indigenous engine still remains a challenge. “We will have our own engine in the next five years. Initially, we thought we could use the ALH’s engine (Safran Ardiden 1H1). However, when the LUH was being designed, we realised that the same engine could not be used. Safran was asking for a huge amount for modification. So, we went for tendering. Safran won it, but the total cost came down because it was a competitive order,” said Chatterjee.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It took Safran more than three years to supply the engine as several specifications such as engine power, rotor capability, hover capability, rudder margin and manoeuvring capability had to be addressed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then came the indigenisation of the avionics and multi-function displays. These systems were earlier sourced from Israeli, which meant that there was a fat fee for every software update. So, HAL developed the software and sourced the hardware from Data Patterns, an Indian company based in Chennai.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Software requires continuous development as it has to be upgraded from time to time,” said Chatterjee. “The control panel of the LUH was developed by another Indian firm. The aim is to make an ecosystem for the LUH. Then there is the armour panel, which was developed by a Delhi firm. The lubricating pump and standby displays, too, were developed by Indian players.” The LUH has many crashworthy features which provides protection for aircrew in case of an accident.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So far, three prototypes of the helicopter have been made. The first flew in September 2016, the second in May 2017 and the third in December 2018. HAL has also made a ground test vehicle (GTV), which does not fly. All systems are tested on the GTV before those are put on the helicopter. HAL has also completed sea trials and hot weather trials.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another challenge that HAL faced was the shortage of integrated circuits that are imported from Taiwan and other countries. “Once semiconductor manufacturing picks up in India, then we can aim towards a higher level of indigenisation. The manufacturing facility in Tumakuru near Bengaluru is expected to be operational soon. More than 100 designers are currently working on the project,” said Dunna.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>HAL got the initial operational clearance from the Air Force in February 2020 and from the Army in February 2021. The Army, however, wanted some more improvements in the rudder margin, which plays a major role in controlling the yawing motion of a helicopter. After incorporating the changes, HAL completed the test flights. Pilots and engineers from the Army and the Air Force tested the helicopters at the base camp in Leh and at the Amar helipad, which, at 19,000ft, is among the highest helipads in the world. After the successful conclusion of the tests, HAL is adding features such as emergency float system and automatic flight control system.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Though the final order has not yet come in, we have been tasked to give the first helicopter in August. The Air Force and the Army have given us the letter of intent for 12 helicopters (limited series production). Once that is over, the actual order will come in for the remaining helicopters. We are going ahead and investing our own funds to build these helicopters,” said Chatterjee.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aviation experts are hopeful that the LUH would revolutionise India’s defence capabilities. “Indian forces need a chopper that can operate at 20,000ft. Such high altitudes pose challenges like the prevalent air density that thins out, allowing only a few rotorcraft in the world to operate,” said Linganna. “The ‘two-segmented blade’ adopted for the first time on the LUH rotor system offers a compact folded dimension. It can fold the blades within seven minutes and can also be used in aircraft carriers. It could be a game changer.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>The three-tonne LUH can operate at 20,000ft above sea level</b></i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>Up to 6 passengers can be accommodated</b></i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>It can carry around 75kg at the peak of its operational ceiling</b></i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>The LUH’s top speed is 240kmph</b></i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>First LUH will be delivered in August to mark the 75th Independence Day</b></i></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/05/20/light-utility-helicopter-could-be-perfect-replacement-for-ageing-cheetahs-chetaks.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/05/20/light-utility-helicopter-could-be-perfect-replacement-for-ageing-cheetahs-chetaks.html Fri May 20 14:22:07 IST 2022 welcome-on-board-mission-samudrayaan-indias-daring-deep-sea-manned-voyage <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/05/15/welcome-on-board-mission-samudrayaan-indias-daring-deep-sea-manned-voyage.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/2022/5/15/26-R-Ramesh-S-Ramesh-and-N-Vedachalam-new.jpg" /> <p>It is a steel sphere, around 14 feet high, mounted on a pedestal. I clamber a vertical ladder to reach the hatch on top, then descend another ladder to enter an alternate world. The “room” comprises a small seat for a pilot; around the inner walls runs another seat, which can take in another two passengers on either side of the pilot. My hosts squeeze in to make place for me, retracting the ladder and slotting it against the back wall, as I look around. There is a panel in front and a host of knobs and switches. Three small portholes are the windows to the outside. There are rows of oxygen canisters along the walls and two carbon dioxide scrubbers. Once the hatch is closed, we will be sealed off completely; the oxygen canisters will release life-giving air slowly, while the scrubbers will filter the air in the cabin, removing carbon dioxide from it. It looks like a space capsule, except that there is gravity here.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is the prototype of the human quarters of Matsya 6000, India’s human submersible, that hopes to take three aquanauts to the bottom of the Indian Ocean, some 6,000m below sea level. Work on Mission Samudrayaan, the country’s daring deep-sea crewed voyage—planned to be launched in 2024—is in full swing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are at the National Institute of Ocean Technology. Formed in a room at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras with five members in 1993, this institute now occupies a 50-acre campus at Velachery. It is the country’s premier institute in developing ocean technology—desalination plants to provide fresh water for islands, recreating beaches lost to anthropological activities, tsunami warning and weather prediction systems, and even ocean fish farming. Unlike the Indian Space Research Organisation, which has become a leviathan organisation with several centres, NIOT is small—10 scientists in the core team for developing Matsya 6000, eight working on the miner, Varaha-1. “Every scientist, however, has spent more than a decade on the high seas. That is why I call them young veterans,” says G. A. Ramadass, director, NIOT. “In a decade, NIOT will be a world leader in developing ocean technology, if not ahead of others, at least on par.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India launched the Deep Ocean Mission in 2021, which hinges on developing new technologies that NIOT is spearheading. The flagship project is Samudrayaan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India is not the first to send humans to the bottom of the ocean. The US, Russia, France, China, Japan and Australia have extensive underwater missions. The Americans had a head start, with their crewed submersible DSV Alvin making its first voyage in 1965 to a depth of 1,800m.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of late, deep ocean voyaging has even become touristy, with those who have the money getting into private cars to view the deep, just as they are hopping onto spaceships for a spin around the earth. Filmmaker James Cameron took a submersible ride into the deepest part of the Mariana Trench (10,908m below sea level) way back in 2012. More recently, in 2019, businessman Victor Vescovo went even deeper, to 10,927m, and also became the first man to reach the top (Mount Everest) and bottom of the earth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, what then is different in the case of Samudrayaan? To start with, it will be a technology demonstration that will make India the seventh deep ocean exploring nation. More importantly, it will signal the start of our era of exploration with human eyes into the Indian Ocean, waters that remain largely unexplored. “We have done an extensive survey of the Indian Ocean with scientific instruments, but nothing can beat the human eye,” says Ramadass. Unlike space rockets, which are mostly single-use (though reusable technology is being developed) submersibles can be used for several voyages.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The oceans are the future for nations in several ways. With resources on land becoming stressed, the search is on for other sources. For India’s blue water economy—with a focus on tapping the riches in the sea—the Deep Ocean Mission is important, as it is necessary to understand what lies beneath. The vehicle for that crewed exploration is aptly named after the first incarnation of Vishnu, Matsya. The number 6,000 refers to the depth for which it is designed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>NIOT scientists recently conducted an important experiment. Three of them got into the sphere and spent two hours at the bottom of a 7m deep pool on the campus. The crew comprised Ramadass, S. Ramesh—the project director for the human submersible—and R. Ramesh, the electrical and communication whiz, who “piloted” the voyage. He is a veteran of an Antarctic exploration, and operated India’s unmanned, remotely operated vehicle at depths of around 200m to 500m under the frozen sea, as part of biodiversity research experiments.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Every stage of development of Matsya 6000 is certified by an external accreditation agency, explains the project director. NIOT has a tie-up with DNV, a Norway-based agency, for certification. The scientists calibrated the shell on a range of parameters and also assessed human responses inside the shell—oxygen requirement, blood pressure and other vital parameters. None of them recorded any physiological aberrations like elevated heart rate or breathlessness in the confines of the shell. The joke at the institute is that the doctor, who was monitoring their health from the outside, had his blood pressure shooting up, what with the director of the institute himself inside the shell.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I used to be claustrophobic in my youth, but a career in ocean research took care of that problem,” says Ramadass. Spending days in cramped survey ships is one matter, getting sealed into an airtight shell is another level. He, however, had no trouble inside the shell.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The shell will also be tested soon for a crewed dip for six hours, and then, 12 hours. Later in the year, scientists plan to take it to the Bay of Bengal, off Chennai, for another test run at around 500m depth. None of these tests, however, will be anything close to the real voyage. For one, the shell will be part of a vehicle and not an independent unit. During experiments, the shell is connected to the surface with a cable. But Matsya 6000 will be an autonomous vehicle, with no moorings to the mother ship.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A steel shell is fine for withstanding pressure up to 500m; at greater depths, it will crumple like a sheet of aluminium foil. So, the material has to be sturdy enough to bear the pressure of a water column of 6km, and yet, be light enough to handle. Titanium is the metal of choice. The Indian Space Research Organisation is designing such a shell for the mission; NIOT is also looking at a foreign vendor for the same. The global upheavals, however, are impacting supply chains, so a ‘Made in India’ shell has immense appeal. Meanwhile, NIOT is getting the rest of the vehicle designed. The aim is that by the time the titanium shell is ready, the vehicle, too, would be.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, what will the real journey be like? Matsya 6000 will be taken on one of NIOT’s survey ships to a spot in the Central Indian Ocean, at around 13 degrees latitude, and lowered into the water. The ship ride to this location would take around eight days. The battery-run submersible’s descent will take four hours one way, maintaining a speed of around 25m per minute. The first 100 feet, says Ramadass, will feel like being inside a washing machine, but as the submersible goes deeper, surface turbulence would cease. Initially, the crew will see a variety of life—fish, seaweeds—from their portholes. Since sunlight sustains life through photosynthesis, almost 90 per cent of marine life is in the photic zone. Gradually, the light will fade. Then, they will enter the realm of eternal darkness, the bathypelagic zone (1,000m to 4,000m below the surface), with only the headlights of the vehicle illuminating the area around them. They are likely to be staring at nothing much, just water, with some stuff floating down from the living zone. The life forms will become stranger and less abundant.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Four hours later, when they near the bottom, the cameras outside will show them new terrain, littered with polymetallic nodules—the big prize for which the world is diving deep these days. Life finds a way to exist in just every niche on earth, and many life forms have made even the dark, inhospitable sea bed their home. Some of them emit their own light. They usually have long life spans, too. Given that pollution has also penetrated every niche, India’s aquanauts are likely to see evidence of that, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“If you want to stare into space, all you need is a terrace and a good telescope,” says S. Ramesh. “That is why people are fascinated by it, they can see it. But they cannot see the bottom of the sea, so they have very little knowledge about this area.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The challenge to get to the ocean bottom is perhaps even greater than finding the escape velocity to shoot out of the earth’s atmosphere. If the absence of gravity is a factor in space, its pull is a factor in the deep. Add to that, the pressure of water—which increases by one bar for every 10m down.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Matsya 6000 is not likely to touch the sea bed, but hover some metres above it. It will be capable of turning around 180 degrees, giving the crew a greater viewing scope. Within the ship, the aquanauts will not have much space to move around. The cabin will be pressurised and temperature-controlled, so, despite the weight of the ocean on it, the voyagers will be rather comfortable. They do not even need special suits, a comfortable T-shirt and jeans, with a jacket thrown in are good enough. They could have a drink or snack on some energy food, but they have to remember that there is no toilet facility here. Those luxuries will be available only at the end of the journey, once they reach the mother ship. Typically, a cruise is designed to last for around 12 to 16 hours, including travel time. The journey begins at daybreak and the aim is to get the submersible back before sunset. So, keeping another four hours for the return leg, the aquanauts will have around four hours to explore the deep. During the voyage, the travellers can peer out of the portholes, or watch the images on the panels along the walls, which the seven external cameras on the vehicle will be taking.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Who will India’s first aquanauts be? At NIOT, the scientists are eager enough to be part of the crew. After all, it is a technology they are designing, developing and demonstrating. Once, when the director asked casually about who would like to volunteer [for the test runs], he was surprised to see that almost everyone had raised a hand. They have carefully called the vehicle a human submersible, as against the commonly used name, man submersible, well aware that many women are as keen to go for such voyages. A week’s training is enough to make an aquanaut ready for the voyage. The pilot needs to know the vehicle, of course, and NIOT is in talks with the Indian Navy, hoping to get someone from the submarine branch for this job. The other passengers need to clear a basic fitness test. This journey, however, is not for the faint-hearted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Matsya 6000 is being made primarily for exploring the Indian Ocean for hydrothermal vents, and the source of minerals around them. “The maiden voyage, however, will not be in search of the vents, but an initial cruise of the depths,” says M. Ravichandran, secretary, ministry of earth sciences.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Communication with the outside world is minimal during such a voyage. “SONAR works, but the bandwidth is limited,” says Ramadass. He, however, sees no reason for anyone to panic. The vehicle is designed to provide 96 hours of oxygen supply, in case of an emergency. It will also be designed in such a way that if anything goes wrong, the vehicle will begin moving upwards, and the return leg can be sped up by a couple of hours. “This is safer than air travel,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Samudrayaan has the target year of 2024, the same as that of Gaganyaan, India’s human space flight mission. “It will be a landmark year,” says Jitendra Singh, Union Minister for Earth Sciences. NASA astronauts from the International Space Station connect with aquanauts in underwater sea labs. Will our gaganauts and aquanauts be able to communicate with each other, too, during their voyages? There are too many odds at play here.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The two missions might not happen simultaneously. Even if they do, the window for communication is small. Gaganyaan is planned for a week’s voyage, of which the initial days will go in settling down and the last in packing up for home, leaving maybe three days. Samudrayaan has a voyage time of only around 12 hours. “It is not impossible,” says Ramadass. “We are like the proverbial bumblebee. Aerodynamically, it is not supposed to fly. But it flies because it does not know it is not supposed to fly.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/05/15/welcome-on-board-mission-samudrayaan-indias-daring-deep-sea-manned-voyage.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/05/15/welcome-on-board-mission-samudrayaan-indias-daring-deep-sea-manned-voyage.html Sun May 15 12:10:22 IST 2022 deep-ocean-mission-crucial-for-developing-blue-economy-m-ravichandran <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/05/15/deep-ocean-mission-crucial-for-developing-blue-economy-m-ravichandran.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/2022/5/15/33-M-Ravichandran-new.jpg" /> <p><b>Q/ The oceans have become our new area of interest.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ We are already late. The government came up with a vision to explore both outer space and ocean depths in the 1980s. The space programme took off, somehow oceans went to the back burner.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, we have a thrust on developing a blue economy, which aims at increasing the country’s GDP by harnessing resources from the oceans in various ways. The Deep Ocean Mission is one programme. Sagarmala project (a shipping ministry initiative to interlink waterways and coasts) is another. Developing coastal tourism and offshore energy are other such initiatives.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What exactly is the Deep Ocean Mission about?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The blue economy envisages harnessing ocean resources for economic growth. But we have to first understand them well, we also have to develop technology to harness the resources. The DOM comprises several projects under six main heads: Developing technologies for deep-sea mining and human submersibles; developing ocean climate change advisory services; developing technology for exploring and conserving deep-sea biodiversity; surveying and exploring the deep ocean for hydrothermal vents; extracting energy and freshwater from the ocean, and developing an advanced marine station for ocean biology.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All of these initiatives are aimed ultimately at using the potential of the oceans to boost our economic growth. Our two biggest technology projects are developing an integrated mining unit for deep ocean mining and a human submersible.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What is the main thrust of deep-sea explorations?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The sea bed is a rich source of minerals. They are available as polymetallic nodules (PMN), or as deposits from hydrothermal vents. We already know the location of the nodules. We now need technology to mine them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The International Seabed Authority (ISA) has granted India 10,000sqkm of seabed in the Central Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, to look for these vents. We can identify the general region of a vent through tracers, testing for parameters like changes in water quality. But pinpointing one is very difficult as they are only a few metres big.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The main objective of the human submersible will be to search for these vents. However, the first manned voyage, targeted for 2024, will not be an exploratory mission, it will only be a technology demonstration, to prove we can take a crewed voyage to a depth of 6,000m.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ These explorations are all far away from India’s exclusive economic zone. What about research closer to the coastline?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ There are two factors here. The resources—PMN and hydrothermal vents—are available only in the deep ocean. That is why we have loaned the seabed from ISA for our research and technology development.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the other hand, we are also in the process of extending our EEZ. Under international law, the EEZ of a country extends to 200 nautical miles from the coast. However, there are provisions for extending the EEZ of the seabed to a maximum of 350 nautical miles. For this, a country has to prove through scientific documentation that the sediments on the seabed have come from its territory. If a country can prove that at least 1km depth of sediments on the seabed came from its land, the ISA grants that country the ocean resources for the additional area. On the west coast of India, this means an additional 0.6 million sqkm. We have submitted our application to the ISA and are hopeful of being granted the additional area. It is a long process. The claim also needs a go-ahead from neighbouring countries. Pakistan was granted additional seabed some years ago, we did not object to that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the eastern flank, there are many countries which are stakeholders—Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. We first need to resolve issues among ourselves before we stake a claim. That process is on.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/05/15/deep-ocean-mission-crucial-for-developing-blue-economy-m-ravichandran.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/05/15/deep-ocean-mission-crucial-for-developing-blue-economy-m-ravichandran.html Sun May 15 11:53:53 IST 2022 all-you-need-to-know-about-varaha-1-a-seabed-mining-machine-india-is-developing <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/05/15/all-you-need-to-know-about-varaha-1-a-seabed-mining-machine-india-is-developing.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/2022/5/15/35-NIOT-scientist-Cdr-Gopakumar-N.jpg" /> <p>It looks like a cross between a battle tank, a road construction machine and an animal, with its caterpillar tread, an elephantine trunk to pick up nodules, an assortment of plates and teeth to sort and grind them, and another contraption to pump up this harvest. In the looks department, it is certainly not in the league of a Formula One race car. Cdr Gopakumar N., however, is mighty proud of his strange-looking vehicle Varaha-1—named after the boar avatar of Vishnu.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Designed and developed by a small but inspired team of scientists at the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), Varaha-1 is a self-propelled seabed mining machine for the collection of polymetallic nodules (PMN). Unlike Matsya 6000, this one will not have any passengers. Its work is restricted to the collection and pumping of nodules, steadily and continuously over prolonged durations, in the deep-sea conditions up to 6,000m.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Upheavals on the ocean surface have minimal impact at depths of 3,000m and beyond, but there are other upheavals in the seabed. Hydrothermal vent activity at the tectonic plate boundaries and the back-arc basins form mineral-laden subsea geysers. Formed over millions of years, these accrete into subsea mounts and mineral deposits, providing polymetallic sulphides (PMS). Similarly, small rock-like nodules are formed over millions of years on the abyssal plains of the oceans. Mineral precipitation from the water accretes around the bones, shark teeth or rock fossils that descend to the seabed. Over millions of years, these become PMN—clods varying in size from a small grape to a large potato—rich in ferromanganese and the three critical metals of nickel, cobalt and copper. This is the treasure that Varaha-1 is preparing to harvest.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Net-zero is the new mantra. Experts forecast a spurt in electric vehicles (EVs), replacing fossil-fuel driven vehicles, over the next two decades. The known supplies of nickel, copper, and particularly, cobalt on land—key components in the batteries of EVs—are not adequate to meet these growing needs. Hence, the exploration for alternate supply sources. While space scientists are training their eyes on asteroid mining, oceanologists are looking at sustainable ways to commercially mine minerals from the ocean. PMNs are that manna, if only they can be brought up to the surface at commercially viable rates. Developing technology for deep-sea mining is an important project under the government’s deep ocean mission.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The open seas do not belong to any one country; their use is governed by several international bodies. Several countries and large business consortiums have staked prospecting areas of the ocean bed from the International Seabed Authority (ISA). Most of them are concentrated in the Pacific Ocean, in an area called the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, which has PMN in mineable proportions and is rich in cobalt and nickel. India was accepted as a pioneer investor by the ISA in August 1987 and was granted an area of 75,000sqkm in March 2002 in the Central Indian Ocean. Thus started India’s journey in survey and exploration, and the technology development efforts for mining of these nodules from depths up to 6000m. While the original allocation by the contract with the ISA was for 15 years, it was extended for five years in 2017 and only recently, for another five years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Union ministry of earth sciences estimates the PMN resource potential in this area is about 380 million metric tonnes (MMT), containing 4.7MMT of nickel, 4.29MMT of copper, 0.55MMT of cobalt and 92.59MMT of manganese.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The deep-sea mining team at NIOT, under Gopakumar, a former marine engineer in the Indian Navy, is developing an integrated mining system. This can pick up these coveted nodules from the ocean bed, crush them in-situ to smaller pieces, and then pump the slurry of crushed nodules and seawater through a flexible hose, first to an intermediate pump station, suspended in the water column, close to the seabed miner. From this intermediate pump station, the slurry would be transferred vertically to the ship through a riser system of flexible hoses.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Varaha-1 has already got wet, with a dive to a depth of 5,270m in February. With power and control from the surface, through an umbilical cable of over 6500m, Varaha-1 “crawled” a distance of 120m, spending over two and a half hours at these less-explored depths. The distance covered may seem modest, but it is the deepest that any vehicle has ever crawled underwater. By early next year, the team plans to conduct trials to demonstrate the miner’s capability in collecting, crushing and transferring the nodules up to the intermediate pump station level—just above the mining machine. The eventual plan is to successfully demonstrate nodule collection from the seabed and transfer them to the surface ship over a water column height up to 6000m by 2025-2026. The current deep-sea mining project is a technology demonstrator at pilot scales of nodule collections and vertical transfer. Converting this technology to a viable commercial mining programme is still in the future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While large consortiums from the United States, Europe and Japan have explored ocean beds for mineral wealth over several decades—and a few have undertaken pilot mining trials in the Pacific Ocean, particularly from 1974 to 1978—no one has come up with a technology for commercial mining, yet. The interest in deep-sea mining waned with the fall in metal prices. Only countries like India, China, South Korea, Japan and Germany had kept the interest in deep-sea mining alive.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gopakumar brings out a basket of nodules collected from the depths of the ocean. I pick one up, it is the size of a walnut, dark grey in colour and surprisingly light. As a nodule, it is a fossil—a record of the earth’s past. Mined and crushed, it is a resource that will power the earth into the future.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/05/15/all-you-need-to-know-about-varaha-1-a-seabed-mining-machine-india-is-developing.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/05/15/all-you-need-to-know-about-varaha-1-a-seabed-mining-machine-india-is-developing.html Sun May 15 11:47:43 IST 2022 urban-heat-islands-escalate-summer-discomfort <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/05/06/urban-heat-islands-escalate-summer-discomfort.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/2022/5/6/22-A-boy-walks-across-a-patch.jpg" /> <p>The only reason April 2022 was not the hottest April on record in the country is because northeast India had heavy rainfall, an occurrence so unexpected that even the Indian Meteorology Department (IMD), which now prides itself on accurate forecasts, said it had gone wrong. In northwest and central India, April broke all heat records.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The heat wave (which the weatherman describes as temperature above 40 degrees Celsius and 4.5 to 6.5 degrees Celsius above normal for that time of the year) may be ebbing from parts of the northwest and central lands, but the relief is temporary. April is technically late spring or early summer, May is the hottest month, while for the northern plains, June is as bad, if not worse. Forecasts grimly say that May is likely to witness above normal temperatures.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The World Meteorological Organisation noted that while it may be premature to put the onus for the extreme heat on climate change alone, it was consistent with what is expected in a changing climate—heat waves are more frequent and more intense, and starting earlier.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The early heat could have cascading effects. The Himalayan ice melt could start early, not just further affecting the glaciers, but also bringing gallons of melt rushing down the mountain rivers in quantities that could cause flooding and calamitous events. A very fine climatic balance, perfected over millennia, is poised to crash.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the immediate weeks, the additional water could be a blessing. The early heat has upped water and power demand, and inter-state bickering is escalating. With parched waterbodies and ground water down to abysmal levels, India is likely to feel the impact of the extreme climate event in many ways. Just as last year the railways ran oxygen trains to deal with the Covid-19 wave, this year passenger trains are being sidelined to ferry coal for generating power. For every one degree rise in temperature, the efficiency of electricity transmission drops by one to two per cent, said Hem Dholakia, lead specialist (research) at the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is no surprise that the PMO is convening meetings with stakeholders in the states to prepare for the weeks ahead. Following the IMD’s warnings, the Union health ministry, too, reached out to states, asking them to give out daily heat bulletins and implement the National Action Plan on heat related diseases. This entails ensuring adequate water supply, warning people in advance, and stocking up medical centres to deal with dehydration and heat stroke cases.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Memories of 2015 have not gone, when the country registered over 2,100 deaths due to heat waves, the highest since 1971. The unofficial toll must be several times higher. In 2015, the country declared heat wave as a “disaster’’ under the National Disaster Management Act, given its impact on human life and loss of productivity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>April also brought to light a phenomenon experts often talk about—the urban heat island. In Delhi, for example, on April 29, while the Safdarjung station (which is considered the standard for the city) notched the second highest ever April temperature of 43.5 degrees Celsius, another station at Akshardham recorded 46.4, a difference of three degrees. Urban heat islands develop due to various factors, like concretisation, industrialisation and high population density, often in combination with a decreased green cover. Concrete surfaces and roads have greater heat reflectivity, causing the temperatures in these pockets to be much above those of surrounding areas. “The maximum impact of urban heat islands is on minimum temperatures,’’ said IMD director general M. Mohapatra. Thus nights brings little relief.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The summer ahead is dire. And the summers in the years to come will test our preparation towards climate crisis mitigation. By 2050, 60 crore Indians will be living in urban areas. Climate resilient city planning is an urgency, said Anjal Prakash, lead author of the sixth assessment report, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Climate change is the result of 200 years of anthropogenic activities, and localised cosmetic measures may not stem events which are caused because of global changes. For instance, temperature rise in India is not necessarily due to activities in India alone. However, as one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change events, India has to develop mitigation measures towards heat events as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Understanding why a particular locality has become an urban heat island may require some scientific investigation. However, there are certain interventions that work irrespective of the cause. “We need to construct infrastructure for Indian needs and not ape the west,’’ said Prakash, a critic of using glass as construction material. “In a country with so much sunshine we do not need glass buildings, within which the cost of cooling goes up. We need to have passive cooling built into our architecture, for which we have enough traditional examples. Take the Hawa Mahal in Jaipur, where temperatures are easily around four degrees cooler than outside. And we have to build back our green and blue infrastructure.’’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indeed green cover and water bodies influence microclimates, bringing down temperatures by just that one or two degrees which could mean the difference between life and death. Simply ensuring fountains are on in the hot days is effective, as is keeping open public parks and gardens for people to take refuge in, said Dholakia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ahmedabad was the first city in the country to have a heat health action plan, which has been replicated on a national scale. The actions suggested are determined by local circumstances, the dry heat of north India needs different measures from the humid heat of the coasts. Unfortunately, while the first step of the plan, which entails the IMD giving out short term forecasts with a colour coded alert system, is in place, the actions that local authorities need to take on them remains sporadic. “There should be a system for declaring certain activities, like construction, not be done during the hottest hours. Or that school timings be advanced based on the weather alerts,’’ said Prakash. With climate events through the year impacting school life—floods, smog, extreme cold—instead of declaring holidays, authorities will now need to work their way around these events.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cool roofs is another initiative, working well for both upscale infrastructure as well as low cost tenements. Rooftop gardens is one measure, simply painting tin roofs with white reflective paint instead of black, heat absorbing paint, again brings temperatures down by a degree or two.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>March was the hottest on record, April was cruel. Will India be able to mitigate the miseries of May? It is one thing to recommend that a seamless electric and water supply be maintained and an entirely different challenge to ensure that it happens.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/05/06/urban-heat-islands-escalate-summer-discomfort.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/05/06/urban-heat-islands-escalate-summer-discomfort.html Fri May 06 16:47:50 IST 2022 cuet-bane-or-beacon-of-hope-for-students <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/04/29/cuet-bane-or-beacon-of-hope-for-students.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/2022/4/29/48-Ujjala-Bhattacharya-new.jpg" /> <p>At the Pariksha Pe Charcha held in Delhi on April 1, Prime Minister Narendra Modi fielded an interesting question from Hari Om Mishra, a Class 12 student of Cambridge School in Noida. Mishra said he had his concerns regarding the Common University Entrance Test (CUET), which has been made mandatory for admission to all central universities in India. “What should we focus on,” he asked the prime minister, “board exams or CUET?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Modi, who had earlier encouraged students to think of exams as a “festival”, responded by invoking the image of a khiladi (athlete) who must compete at various levels—from the tehsil and the district to the national and the international arena. Competition, he said, was one of life’s greatest gifts. “What is life without it? We should welcome competition in our lives,” he said to a round of applause.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The words, however, are unlikely to assuage Ujjala Bhattacharya’s anxieties regarding CUET. A Class 12 commerce student at Delhi Public School in Noida, Bhattacharya has been attending CUET coaching classes thrice a week. This is in addition to the regular tuition in maths, commerce and economics—her “domain subjects”, in CUET parlance—that she attends every day. She tops her rigorous routine with late-night, self-study sessions to prepare for board and pre-board exams. “My life would have been easier if I didn’t have to prepare for CUET as well,” said Bhattacharya.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She said all her classmates were attending CUET coaching sessions because the test syllabus included sections like mental ability, general knowledge and quantitative reasoning. Commerce and humanities students did not have to tackle these earlier. The challenge for the students is to not only prepare for CUET, but to score high marks in board exams as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I can’t risk ignoring my Class 12 exams, even if CUET scores determine admission,” said Bhattacharya. “Do you really think the top colleges affiliated to Delhi University will not internally judge you if you get only average marks in school? Between two CUET high-scorers, who would they choose?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>CUET is an online entrance exam for admission to 45 central universities, such as Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University, apart from several other institutions like the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. The inception of CUET, which will be held in the first week of July, will drastically change the admission process related to undergraduate courses in India’s top colleges. No longer will the colleges be able to lay down cut-off barriers such as scores ranging from the 98th to 100th percentile. Students affiliated to examination boards that usually award high marks to Class 12 students will not have an unfair advantage. The idea is to give a level playing field in the form of a milestone exam to students from across the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2019-20, 12.7 million students in India enrolled in Class 12. It means that CUET is set to surpass China’s mandatory National College Entrance Examination (popularly known as Gaokao) as the world’s largest college entrance exam. Last year, 10.78 million students appeared for Gaokao, which is required for entrance into almost all higher education institutions at the undergraduate level in China. This year, CUET is expected to surpass that figure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The competition and stress have only doubled,” said Bhattacharya. “My classmates and I often call ourselves lab rats because all the newest education policy experiments are tried on us first. I wonder how students who can’t afford coaching classes are preparing for CUET.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This academic year will be particularly difficult for the outgoing batch of Class 12 students. Worn down by the two-year-long pandemic-related restrictions that has not really ended, they will now have to take consequential academic exams in peak summer. With board exams in April-May and CUET in July, the students will have to quickly adapt to new changes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>CUET is divided into three sections. The first will test language skills in 45 minutes. The second section will have students opting for at least three or a maximum of six domain subjects from a list of 27. Tests based on the subjects will take up 45 minutes each. The third section, which colleges have the option to do without, will test aptitude and general knowledge.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some universities, such as DU, have been holding webinars to clarify doubts regarding admission and registration process for CUET. “The colleges will be doing what they have been doing all this while: choose students on the basis of three or four subjects tested. Only, the aggregate will come from CUET and not board exams,” said Amit Singh, professor at Ambedkar University, which is part of CUET.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Singh said that, under CUET, even those who did not have the opportunity to go to a reputable school stand a chance enrol in a good college. “If you can find ways to prepare for the test well, you stand a chance to find a good college,” he said. “But competition will be high because seats are limited. And the reference material is mostly from NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) books. Not all boards, like ISC (Indian School Certificate) and state boards in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, follow NCERT books. Students there might have trouble preparing for the exam.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Does it mean that the boards that do not follow NCERT curriculum have to eventually align their higher secondary syllabus with what CUET demands? “They have to [do it],” said Lucknow-based educationist Sunita Gandhi. “You have to really bridge the gap between NCERT and other boards. It’s a clear indication of direction.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Gandhi, CUET poses some urgent problems related to equity. “The timing of CUET could have been a lot better,” she said. “There is no rush to change the system. The school kids have just come out of the Covid period with a lot of uncertainty. And [CUET] adds to it. There is not enough preparation time, especially because it will be held right after the board exams.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For some students, though, CUET is a beacon of hope. Saleem Ahmed, a humanities student at Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya in Nithari, Delhi, said he wanted to study either Hindi or history at DU. Ahmed is now cramming for CUET and board exams without attending tuition. “I am good at my studies, so I will manage. Earlier, so many students from our school could not get the required marks to enrol in good DU colleges. I have told them that we should study hard and prepare well for CUET,” he said. “This time, they will make it.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/04/29/cuet-bane-or-beacon-of-hope-for-students.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/04/29/cuet-bane-or-beacon-of-hope-for-students.html Sun May 01 12:03:37 IST 2022 competition-in-cuet-is-low-so-students-should-focus-on-board-syllabus <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/04/29/competition-in-cuet-is-low-so-students-should-focus-on-board-syllabus.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/2022/4/29/51-Jagadesh-Kumar-new.jpg" /> <p><b>Q/ It is estimated that CUET would become the largest college entrance exam in the world. How does that solve the problem of cut-throat competition for admissions to top colleges?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ First of all, the introduction of CUET is to overcome the challenges that our students are facing. It is not to set any world record. Unfortunately, when we talk about undergraduate admissions, the cut-off marks in many colleges are ridiculously high. We decided that we should take this pressure away from the students.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Point two is that we have a large number of boards across the country. And in some of these boards, it is very easy to score 95 per cent marks. In others, it may be difficult to get even 80 per cent. We wanted to remove this disparity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Students are attending CUET coaching because they are clueless about how to prepare. Do you think that this dependence on private tuition will become a norm, like it is in the case of medical and engineering entrance exams?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ We have about 16,000 IIT seats and some 12 lakh [aspirants]. So the competition is one to 75. But if you consider BA, BCom, BSc and similar courses we are offering in central universities, we have about 1.2 lakh undergraduate seats. Fortunately, many other top universities in the country, such as the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, are joining CUET this year. So the number of seats may go up to three lakh. Some 12 lakh students are contesting for these three lakh seats; so the competition is one to four. Since the competition is low, my request to students is to focus on their board syllabus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The reference material for CUET is mostly NCERT books, and not all boards follow the NCERT curriculum. Students there might have trouble preparing for the exam.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ We do agree that there is some [syllabus-related] difference between state boards and NCERT. Nearly 21 states have adopted NCERT syllabus; the remaining states are using state board syllabi. So, to overcome this problem, we are doing two things: In each test paper, we are giving 50 questions, but the students have to answer only 40, so there is a wide choice. Two, we have experts from across the country to set question papers and they are also sensitised about the small differences between state board and NCERT syllabi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Educationists are worried about the reduced emphasis on board exams. They say there is a danger of students not developing holistically, as they will be focused on CUET.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ I would like to tell the educationists that CUET is not new at all. It started in 2010; fourteen central universities had been conducting it. All that has now happened is that more central universities have joined this exam. It is not that the students will stop focusing on their board exams because these universities have joined CUET.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In JEE (the joint entrance exam for admission to engineering courses), some 12 lakh students apply to get selected to IITs. Although the minimum percentage required is 75 per cent, you typically see that majority of students have scored more than 80 per cent in their board exams. Can this happen if they neglected their studies in school?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Those who say that students will neglect board exams—do they have any data to substantiate this? Has there been a scientific study?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The University Grants Commission wants more universities, including those run by states and private managements, to join CUET. What could be some of the challenges in making everybody come on board?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ You see, this is a voluntary process. CUET is, of course, compulsory for all central universities. I am sure other universities will see the benefits, sooner or later. I have been meeting vice chancellors of state-funded universities in every state. So far, I have completed meetings in almost 20 states. I have been telling them to let students experience a national-level entrance test. Why take away the opportunity [to get admission to a top central university] from them?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All said and done, central universities have better infrastructure and are well-funded. They have very good teachers, and good research is happening. So why deprive students of a chance to join one of these universities?</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/04/29/competition-in-cuet-is-low-so-students-should-focus-on-board-syllabus.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/04/29/competition-in-cuet-is-low-so-students-should-focus-on-board-syllabus.html Fri Apr 29 16:51:29 IST 2022 exclusive-the-week-takes-you-to-the-worlds-highest-motorable-road <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/04/29/exclusive-the-week-takes-you-to-the-worlds-highest-motorable-road.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/2022/4/29/56-snakes-through-snow-capped-mountains.jpg" /> <p>April 20, 2022; 8am. We rounded a blind curve to find a yellow milestone. Welcome to the world’s highest motorable road, read the message from the Border Roads Organisation. My colleague Pradip R. Sagar and I pierced the quiet with a yell. THE WEEK had become the first Indian publication to reach the road. Umling La, at 19,024ft, is higher than the Mt Everest base camps.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Cold be damned, I thought as our driver Dorjee Gyalson pulled over, and jumped out with my camera. The mountains did not care for my bravado, though; I was gasping for air before I could shoot. It was -11 degrees Celsius and oxygen was scant. The icy winds froze my hands and the bright sunlight blinded me. The adrenaline helped me click a few quick shots before the thin air slowed me down. I had to stop.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I took a moment to take in the view. The sky was a clean blue, the ground snowy white. The yellow milestone shone like a gold medal for the BRO. Looking down, I saw the narrow, serpentine road that had carried us here.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Before Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated Umling La under Project Himank last December, Khardung La in Leh was India’s highest motorable road. The 52km Umling La connects important towns in the Chumar sector of eastern Ladakh. It cuts travel time from Leh to Demchok by three to four hours. Currently, the locals and the Army have used it; but more travellers are expected in the summer. The BRO took six years to build the road in extremely challenging conditions. It was inaugurated alongside 24 other key infrastructure projects in the middle of a border stand-off with China.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When we started from Leh, we were not sure about reaching Umling La. There were no clear directions from the Ladakh administration, even though the BRO’s website promotes it as a key attraction. We were not even sure whether civilians were allowed to go there. A group of bikers was also asking around for information on how to get there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From Leh, we travelled for more than 250km in about eight hours and spent the night at Hanle. The small village in the Changthang region is a treat for stargazers. There was no hotel, so Dorjee took us to a home stay. We were given homemade food and advice; go with a guide, we were told.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We started around 6am the next morning and asked our guide, Stopgal Wangchuk, for the ETA. “It all depends on the Almighty,” he said with a smile.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He guided Dorjee through the narrow, bumpy roads and pointed out some shortcuts; we reached in about two hours. On the way, we saw some wild asses—the only other animal out on the desolate roads.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Once there, we saw an Indian Army hut by the road. Some jawans were clearing the spot for a visit by a senior officer. They waved us over for hot tea and biscuits at, as the Army puts it, the “world’s highest cafe”. “You are lucky to reach here. It is no ordinary feat,” said one of them, thrilled at the sight of civilians.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They did not want to be photographed, but talked warmly for about 10 minutes. As we were leaving, the jawans insisted on giving us a parting gift—biscuits and juice cartons.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Love survives, even in those heights.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/04/29/exclusive-the-week-takes-you-to-the-worlds-highest-motorable-road.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/04/29/exclusive-the-week-takes-you-to-the-worlds-highest-motorable-road.html Sun May 01 11:50:35 IST 2022 book-excerpt-when-vallabhbhai-patel-undermined-a-patriotic-rebellion <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/04/22/book-excerpt-when-vallabhbhai-patel-undermined-a-patriotic-rebellion.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/2022/4/22/48-Policemen-after-arresting.jpg" /> <p><b>IN FEBRUARY 1946,</b> sailors of the Royal Indian Navy rose in rebellion. Enraged by terrible working conditions, discrimination and neglect, as many as 20,000 men captured 78 ships and 21 shore establishments, and replaced British flags with that of the Congress, the Muslim League and the Communist Party of India. Ordinary people took to the streets to support the mutiny.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To quell it, the British sent warships and fighter planes. The ratings responded by training naval guns on the Gateway of India, Yacht Club and dockyards.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was, writes award-winning publisher Pramod Kapoor, India’s last war of independence—one that hastened the end of the British Raj. But the details of the mutiny have been left out of popular narratives of India’s freedom struggle. After years of research, Kapoor has come out with a book that brings to light a forgotten chapter in India’s freedom struggle. Exclusive excerpts from 1946 Royal Indian Navy Mutiny: Last War of Independence:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>BOMBAY WOKE TO</b> what became the bloodiest day of the mutiny. On Friday (February 22, 1946), even as the political leadership turned their backs on the ratings, ordinary citizens took to the barricades to bravely face tanks and bullets in support of the strikers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Newspaper reports estimated that somewhere between 350 to 700 people were killed and between 1,000 to 1,500 people were injured, some gravely.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This day of martyrdom belonged to the workers and students of Bombay. The civilian death toll was comparable to the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh on Baisakhi Day, 13 April 1919. The difference was, in Bombay, civilians—mill-workers and students—fought pitched battles against British troops and policemen. And, in contrast to Jallianwala Bagh, 22 February 1946 is not commemorated by any memorial or ceremonies, and it has been edited out of the ‘approved’ history of the Independence Movement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>◆ ◆ ◆</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>THE RATINGS HAD</b> gauged that the national leaders were not on their side. Two major political parties, the Congress and the Muslim League, had been uncaring and unequivocal in their disapproval and were both discouraging the ratings from continuing their protest. Only the communists had stood solidly behind these brave young men.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>◆ ◆ ◆</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>FEARFUL THAT THE</b> communists and ratings were gaining public sympathy, Sardar [Vallabhbhai] Patel stated that Congress was fully qualified to resolve their grievances.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Whether by design or accident, Patel undermined the ratings’ cause by publicly speaking out against the strike. The Congress clearly wanted a negotiated settlement with the British.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One theory is that the Congress simply did not want to share the glory of gaining freedom with these young men who had become the new poster boys for the freedom movement. Another possibility was that they wanted the British on their side, even after independence….</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the morning of 22 February, the Free Press Journal and other newspapers carried a statement by Sardar Patel: ‘There should be no attempt to call for a hartal or stoppage of mills or closing of schools and colleges. The Congress is a big party in the central assembly and it is doing its best to help them (ratings)…. Such a thing is not likely to help the unfortunate naval ratings in their efforts to get redress… All efforts are being made by the Congress to help them out of their difficulty and to see that their genuine grievances are immediately redressed. I would, therefore, earnestly appeal to them to be patient and peaceful….’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Sardar was an elder statesman and his words carried a great deal of weight. His statement was a quintessential example of ‘neutrality in a conflict’. It did what it was intended to—it left people confused.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>◆ ◆ ◆</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>LET DOWN BY</b> the political leaders who claimed to be fighting for independence and threatened with overwhelming force by the British, the ratings saw their best option as a direct plea to the people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They issued an appeal to citizens to support them by conducting a sympathy strike. People poured out into the streets in response…. Shouting patriotic slogans and plastering posters urging Indian soldiers in the British army not to fight their fellow Indians, crowds thronged the Gateway of India. By now, the authorities had replaced Indian troops with British ones, preventing ratings from coming ashore. This created more anger as people made their feelings known to the forces who tried to beat them back.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>◆ ◆ ◆</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>THE [BRITISH] TROOPS</b> trained their guns on the ratings, preventing them from landing. The shouting and sloganeering reached fever pitch. The troops sensed the dangerous mood of the crowd and hesitated to attempt a crackdown which could backfire badly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While ratings on the ships could not come ashore, those in the barracks had no problems moving around. Dressed in civilian clothes, the ratings at the Fort Barracks moved out into the city early in the morning.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>◆ ◆ ◆</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>STARTING 22 FEBRUARY,</b> Bombay burnt for three days. There was no end to the mob fury. Battles between British troops with machine guns and stone-throwing mobs took place all over the city. Looting, arson and stone-throwing was especially severe at Sandhurst Road, Ripon Road, Northbrooke Gardens, Abdur Rehman Street and Kalbadevi, as the unrest spread all over the city….</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indiscriminate firing in all of Bombay, particularly Fort area to Dadar, led to bodies piling up. But the fights continued as defiant citizens huddled behind barricades and hurled stones. Well-armed and well-trained British forces were unable to control civilians armed with stones. Common citizens, sick of years of brutal suppression, refused to back down.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>1946 Royal Indian Navy Mutiny: Last War of Independence</b></p> <p><i>By</i> <b>Pramod Kapoor</b></p> <p><i>Published by</i> <b>Roli Books</b></p> <p><i>Price</i> <b>Rs695;</b> <i>pages</i> <b>376</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/04/22/book-excerpt-when-vallabhbhai-patel-undermined-a-patriotic-rebellion.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/04/22/book-excerpt-when-vallabhbhai-patel-undermined-a-patriotic-rebellion.html Fri Apr 22 12:21:21 IST 2022 photo-feature-silence-of-the-trams <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/04/22/photo-feature-silence-of-the-trams.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/2022/4/22/50-In-its-heyday.jpg" /> <p>My first brush with the tram was through a poem describing Kolkata by Rabindranath Tagore, which I read as a little boy. “Rasta cholechhe jato ajagar shaap/Pithe tar tramgari pore dhup dhap (The roads snaked like pythons/ The tramcars fell hard upon them),”read the poem. I also have memories of my father taking me on a tram ride in 1985. Much later, tram rides became a part of my daily life. Even now, on occasion, I take a tram from Dharamtala to College Street. Of the few routes on which the tramcar still plies, this is one of the oldest.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Inextricably connected to Kolkata, the agreeable and quaint tramcar is one of the city’s icons. In 1880, the Calcutta Tramways Company, registered in London, started its innings with the horse-drawn tram, thus marking the beginning of Asia’s longest-running tramways system. The first electric tram made an appearance in 1902. In its heyday, the tram plied on 52 routes. Connecting the twin cities of Kolkata and Howrah on the bank of the Ganga, it once plied right along the stretch of the Howrah Bridge. This service was discontinued in 1994.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Before independence, the tram tracks covered nearly 70km. As per the company’s records, in 1960 there were 450 tram cars running the length and breadth of the twin cities. But with urbanisation, the tram and its tracks made way for the metro and the flyovers. Tramways cause congestion on roads, it was argued. The counter argument would be that all forms of public transport, including buses and autos, contribute to the city’s traffic snarls. The tram is a mere casualty of modernisation, a victim of the system, so to say.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The near-departure of the environment-friendly, relatively cheap, sustainable and safe mode of public transport run by the government is somewhat intriguing. Although it is only in Kolkata that it still exists, it has been relegated to obscurity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The death knell for tramways was probably sounded in 1992 when the Calcutta Tramways Corporation introduced a fleet of buses on 40 routes. The city chose speed over eco-friendliness, lament tram loyalists. Today, owing to the apathy of the authorities, the tram plies desultorily on just three routes. Its busiest route is said to generate a revenue of 15,000 per day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, the tram continues to draw a handful of people. An organisation of dedicated tram users, with the Calcutta Tram Users Association (CTUA) at its helm, is working to revive it. Since 2018, the association has organised campaigns and protests demanding increased services. “We wish to reinstate the tram to its rightful position because it is an eco-friendly form of transport that the city once loved, and we already have a fantastic infrastructure for it,” says Dr Debasish Bhattacharyya, president of CTUA.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While there have been efforts to revive the tram, like the mobile library inside one and a museum called Tram World Kolkata, they have not yielded much success. Kolkata could very well take a leaf out of Kochi in Japan and Melbourne—the Australian city continues to operate the world’s largest network of trams, with its 250km track and more than 5,000 services daily.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But all is not lost for Kolkata trams. At the C40 World Mayor’s Summit at Copenhagen in 2019, Firhad Hakim, then mayor of Kolkata, had said that trams would play an important role in making Kolkata’s transport system electric by 2030. He is now the transport minister of West Bengal. “We are committed to making Kolkata a green city,”he said soon after taking charge. “The tramways are very much in our scheme of things.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hope trundles on wheels.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/04/22/photo-feature-silence-of-the-trams.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/04/22/photo-feature-silence-of-the-trams.html Sun Apr 24 09:57:20 IST 2022 nda-fully-prepared-for-women-cadets-says-air-marshal-sanjeev-kapoor <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/04/07/nda-fully-prepared-for-women-cadets-says-air-marshal-sanjeev-kapoor.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/2022/4/7/54-Air-Marshal-Sanjeev-Kapoor.jpg" /> <p><b>THE NATIONAL DEFENCE</b> Academy in Khadakwasla, on the outskirts of Pune, is known as the cradle of military leadership in India. Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru laid the foundation stone of this tri-services academy on October 6, 1949; it was formally inaugurated on January 16, 1955.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The NDA trains young men—and soon, women—who want to be military officers. Their education covers science, technology and arts. At the end of the training, they are awarded a degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University. Every year, close to five lakh boys write the entrance exam; 400 to 500 are selected.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The nerve centre of this institute is the Sudan Block, the main administrative area. So far, the NDA has produced 27 chiefs of the Indian armed forces. The current chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force are all NDA alumni.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Former NDA Commandant Air Marshal Sanjeev Kapoor, who finished his term on April 1, is also an alumnus. In an interview with THE WEEK in the third week of March, he talked about the academy and how it was preparing to welcome its first batch of women cadets. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/The first batch of women cadets will join in June. What will be the changes at the NDA?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/The NDA is fully geared to receive women cadets [between] 16 and a half and 19 years. Being one of the premier institutes in the world, our administrative and infrastructural setup is well established for the induction and training of girl cadets with minimum changes to the<br> existing curriculum.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How many women cadets will join in the first batch?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/A total of 19 vacancies have been allotted by the service headquarters for the first batch. Of these, 10 are for the Army, six for the Air Force and three for the Navy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/What infrastructure changes are being made for them?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/One of the squadrons is being refurbished with amenities and requirements specific to the training of girls. Actions are underway to augment the existing infrastructure. Requisite modifications would be undertaken to conform with gender-specific lifestyle requirements. In the long term, a separate accommodation for girls is being envisaged.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Will the training be any different to what the male cadets undergo?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/The training in academics, drills and outdoor activities will be gender-neutral. However, owing to physiological differences between a male and a female cadet, the aspects of physical training may entail certain changes. Dedicated support staff comprising the Corps of Military Police and instructors will be provided [to train] the girl cadets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Would the training be held jointly?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/A majority of the training activities shall be conducted jointly, keeping their employability in mind; women officers are [often] required to command troops of men. Similar methodology exists in other training academies like the Officers Training Academy, the Air Force Academy and the Indian Naval Academy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/The Army originally wanted women to write the NDA entrance exam in May 2022, but the Supreme Court advanced that date. Has this resulted in any challenges?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/No. The NDA is almost 70 years old and has sound administration and infrastructure. We are fully poised to induct women cadets from June 2022.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How do you see the future of women in the armed forces 25 years down the line?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/We are a developing nation with the second-largest armed forces in the world. We are modernising and indigenising our defence infrastructure at a rapid pace and moving towards the theatre-isation of commands of the three services. There is no doubt that women have a role to play in the armed forces in the future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How have the curriculum and training changed in order to prepare cadets for the challenges of future warfare?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/The training curriculum is ever-evolving and, over the years, has kept pace with changing training requirements. We have a system in place wherein, every five years, the curriculum and content of all aspects of training are reviewed and revised. This has helped us be future ready. Even during the pandemic, training remained unhindered and the methodology switched from contact mode in the classroom to online learning. The cadets have access to the National Knowledge Network, web portals of technical education and e-learning modules covering the domains of cyber security, cyber warfare and information security. The cadets are also given an opportunity to interact with personalities of national and international repute; their minds are impressionable and can imbibe attributes desirable in the military leaders of tomorrow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/The best Indian talent still prefers IITs over the NDA. What are your plans to make the NDA attractive to students?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Comparison with IITs would not be entirely correct as these are two distinct institutes with varying aims and charters. Youth today seek to join professions of their calling. Four to 4.5 lakh aspirants write the NDA exam and it is reflective of the passion among the youth to join the armed forces and serve our nation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/The armed forces continue to grapple with a shortage of officers. How do you think this problem can be solved?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/The issue of shortage of officers in the Indian armed forces is being pegged at the highest levels. Career opportunities in the armed forces are being offered in the form of various entry schemes such as university entrance, technical entry and direct entry. The induction of women is another such step towards mitigating the shortage of officers. On the lines of less government and maximum governance, several vacancies are being outsourced and ex-servicemen are being hired in advisory capacities. But, of course, recruitment is a time-consuming process. The quality of the induction of officers is paramount.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/04/07/nda-fully-prepared-for-women-cadets-says-air-marshal-sanjeev-kapoor.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/04/07/nda-fully-prepared-for-women-cadets-says-air-marshal-sanjeev-kapoor.html Thu Apr 07 17:05:20 IST 2022 hope-for-a-better-tomorrow-reigned-supreme-at-the-weeks-womens-day-event <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/11/hope-for-a-better-tomorrow-reigned-supreme-at-the-weeks-womens-day-event.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/2022/3/11/74-Ananya-Birla-new.jpg" /> <p><b>#BREAKTHEBIAS</b> was the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day. And it found resonance in THE WEEK’s ‘Indian Women Pathbreakers—Shaping a New Dream’ event in Mumbai on March 8. That hashtag holds multiple meanings—for some, it could mean breaking the rules, to a few others it could mean following one’s heart and not letting society dictate one’s path and for some others it could mean not letting anything come in the way of being who one is or realising one’s dreams.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, the five illustrious panellists who were part of the discussion at the Women’s Day event stand for all that and more. From singer and businesswoman Ananya Birla and actor Swara Bhasker to ICMR-National Institute of Virology’s senior scientist Dr Pragya Yadav, noted gynaecologist Dr Kiran Coelho and Navy Commander (retd) Prasanna E., each of these women preached what they practised in their lives during the panel discussion. As they shared their stories of courage, passion and ambition, one thread that ran through them was hope for a better tomorrow, where the Indian woman finds her voice, the courage to believe in her dreams and to make them come true.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prasanna, who hails from a small town in Kerala, fought for the dreams of tomorrow’s women. She stood up against gender inequality in the Indian Navy. She joined the Navy as an air traffic controller at a time when women were refused permanent jobs in the Armed Forces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“After 14 years of service in the Navy, I had to leave without any hope [of a job] outside the Armed Forces,”she said. “No second career could be taken up because that experience was not counted. There were no pensions for us, no medical facilities either.”This, Prasanna thought, could deter young women from taking up a job in the Armed Forces. “It was then that I decided to fight it out in the court with a few other colleagues,”she said. “And, we won that case in 2020, which has been a landmark victory, because women will be given all the benefits that had so far only gone to men, including permanent jobs in the National Defence Academy and Sainik School.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prasanna’s story of grit and valour found an echo in Bhasker’s journey to stardom and to being the opinion maker that she is. “My journey is no different than anyone else’s,”she said. “But my greatest learning has been two things: one, don’t let other people define your ambition, your dream and your worth. This is an industry where everyone will try to tell you what your worth is. There have been so many times I have been told that I don’t look like a heroine, I’m not lead material…. Two, have faith in your own belief and the confidence to fight for it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bhasker has never shied from voicing her opinion, no matter how bad the trolling or threats. The versatile actor’s latest projects include Sheer Qorma—an LGBTQ-themed romance co-starring Divya Dutta and Shabana Azmi—and Jahaan Chaar Yaar. “My filmography is the result of having said yes to roles which were rejected by every other actress in the industry and yet, they have been films that won me my awards,”she said, emphasising on the importance of self-belief.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Self-care is equally important, as Coelho reminded the gathering. “If a woman must be a super-achiever and ace in every walk of life, she has to be in the best of health,”she said. While science had advanced by leaps and bounds in the area of women’s reproductive health, she said it is about time that those advancements reached the poorest of the poor. She recounted how she removed 44 fibroids from the uterus of a 36-year-old through minimal access surgery. “That was without a single incision,”she said. “We now need to take high-tech reproductive health care to the last woman standing.”Yet, she admits that her journey has not been without sacrifices. “I still have a mother’s guilt of not having given full time and attention to my two kids back then,”she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yadav, who heads the team that developed Covaxin, would relate to that guilt. A mother of two teenagers, she barely saw her children in the last two years. She cannot emphasise enough about having a support system in place. The last two years saw Yadav and her team, mostly young women, working by the minute in clockwork precision. Working in the laboratory in extremely controlled conditions was physically demanding, emotionally draining and mentally exhausting.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Our families never really got to see much of us, especially in the first year of the pandemic,”she said. “Our team worked round-the-clock to isolate and propagate the virus to understand its characteristics and pathogenesis. It has all been the result of an unflinching faith in ourselves and being motivated with what we love to do.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Faith in oneself and doing what you love is a mantra that Birla swears by. She has combined ambition and passion to deliver success—all at 27. She heads the Ananya Birla Mental Health Foundation and is a key voice on strategy in critical projects at the Aditya Birla Group. “I’m very lucky to be in a position where my close-knit family was very open-minded, so I have personally never faced any inequality from within my family,”she said. “But there has been a lot of inequality around me, right from the time I was born. There was a lot of pressure on my mother to give birth to a boy, but then I was born. From a story like that to me establishing my presence in the fintech space to dabbling in diverse fields, I think self-belief has worked for me. There have been times when there hasn’t been a single woman in a boardroom full of men, except for me.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A day before the event, Birla passed a resolution that her company would recruit equal number of women and men in every leadership team. Despite her achievements, like any other young woman in our society, she, too, often gets the marriage question. “In every single function I attend, I’m asked when I am going to get married,”she said. “In my family, every girl has gotten married between the ages of 18 and 24. But we need to be focusing on ourselves as individuals first and bring in our gender later.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Following the panel discussion, the panellists honoured 40 Sheroes—health care workers who were at the frontline in our war against Covid-19. Supported by Apollo Hospitals Navi Mumbai, Canara Bank, Indian Oil and Jyothy Labs, the Indian Women Pathbreakers event ended on a note of hope for a better tomorrow for women across India and the world.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/11/hope-for-a-better-tomorrow-reigned-supreme-at-the-weeks-womens-day-event.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/11/hope-for-a-better-tomorrow-reigned-supreme-at-the-weeks-womens-day-event.html Sun Mar 13 11:30:55 IST 2022 we-the-women-meet-the-drivers-of-change <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/11/we-the-women-meet-the-drivers-of-change.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2022/3/11/79-Navya-Naveli-Nanda-and-Shweta-Bachchan.jpg" /> <p>In 2016, Khabar Lahariya, India’s only women-run newspaper took a bold leap—it shifted from print to the digital medium to deliver rural news. This trailblazing move by a bunch of women from the country’s hinterland was also the subject of the Oscar-nominated documentary, Writing with Fire. But Meera Devi, bureau chief of Khabar Lahariya, who led the change along with editor Kavita Devi said that years ago she was told women can just look at computers, but not touch them—because if they did, the devices would be damaged.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She later attended a basic computer course, during which these women were introduced to the internet. “We felt like the internet gave us wings,” she told journalist Barkha Dutt during the Global Townhall of ‘We The Women’ event on March 6. Kavita Devi also shared her journey from being married off at the age of 12 to the constant fight she put up to be educated and for the right to make her own decisions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This year’s edition of ‘We The Women’, hosted by Dutt on her digital platform, Mojo Story, featured conversations from an eclectic mix of speakers on the virtual stage. While Meera and Kavita spoke of how patriarchal gender norms limit women’s access to technology in rural areas, Dutt’s interaction with entrepreneur Navya Naveli Nanda threw light on a contrasting life in another side of India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Navya, actor Amitabh Bachchan’s granddaughter, said she understands her privilege and wants to use the same to address issues of women, help them find their own voice and chart their own paths. Navya, who appeared on the show with her mother, Shweta Bachchan, said she was very proud of her legacy, but wanted to create something of her own. Navya is the co-founder of Aara Health, a women’s health platform that focuses on feminine health in India. She also founded Project Naveli that deals with social and economic empowerment of women.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Navya has taken her privilege and made it into something positive,” Shweta, who is also a writer, said. Empowerment starts from the home “where the mother’s voice is heard not just about what is on the menu, but about politics, or finances”, Shweta said, referring to growing up with strong women like her mother and grandmother.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Besides discussions on feminism, gender digital divide, sports, art, and business, the event witnessed some difficult conversations about sexual abuse, and the internal and external battles that follow. For the first time, the survivor in the 2017 actress sexual assault case, opened up about her journey from always blaming herself to finding the strength to fight for justice. “There are so many times I desperately wanted to go back to the time before any of this happened. So that my life would be normal,” the actress said. “Every time I thought about it, I would go in a loop back to where I started and keep blaming myself.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, it was in 2020—when trial in the case started and she had to appear in court for 15 days—that she began to identify herself as a ’survivor’ and not a ‘victim’. “It was a whole different level of traumatic experience. When I came out of the court after the last hearing, that is when I realised I am a survivor. I am not just standing up for myself, but for the dignity of all the girls who will come after me,” she said. The actress, who was trolled and victim-shamed on social media, said that the idea of victims coming out in public and voicing their trauma should be normalised.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Speaking of women and leadership amid the pandemic, Dutt pointed out that even though women comprised 70 per cent of the global health workforce, they held only 25 per cent of leadership roles in the health care sector. Ameera Shah, MD, Metropolis Labs, opened up about her struggle with self-esteem issues at the beginning of her journey. “As a woman, you are expected to be successful in too many roles—as a wife, as a mother. I couldn’t trust my own emotions and my own instincts. It was a big battle that I had to fight,” she said. Ameera was part of the panel of ‘Top Healthcare Leaders’ which also featured Dr Joan Benson, Shagun Sabarwal and Rama, an Asha worker.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Can a woman take the entrepreneurial plunge at 50? Of course, said Falguni Nayar, founder and CEO of Nykaa. “Age, gender or education are no bar to what you want to do. You can always learn,” she said. Falguni, who was an investment banker, spoke about her initial struggles with technology when she launched the beauty ecommerce brand 10 years ago. She said: “There are enough resources out there, you can always learn.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a women-centric brand, Nykaa understands what women want, she said. “Women want beauty for themselves; they are not trying to use beauty products to impress either another man or woman. That is a very big insight that we brought to the table.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From national themes, the discussion moved to international subjects and the impact of the Ukraine-Russia crisis with Gita Gopinath, first deputy managing director of the IMF, joining the session. The war will have severe consequences, she said, adding that they are still absorbing what the massive economic sanctions will do. One of the biggest dangers to the recovery of the global economy is that we are seeing the prices of commodities going through the roof again, she said. The economically weaker sections will be hit the most when these prices rise. “With respect to trade links with Ukraine and Russia, we expect to see countries in eastern Europe and central Asia taking bigger hits,” she added.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The session moved to a lighter note with an interaction with actress Alia Bhatt, who is riding high on the success of her latest film, Gangubai Kathiawadi. On working with director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, she said: “He is extremely profound and vocal. He won’t tell me what to do. But he will give me adjectives, scenarios. He will give me a thought process and I would absorb a lot of that.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Alia said she was born in a household of honesty and that she wears her feelings on her sleeve. But as an actress, she is expected to maintain a decorum, she said, and a lot of emotions get bottled up. She talked about her weight-loss journey and struggle with body image issues. “It is about eating healthy, being fit, and all that. But stop micromanaging everything,” she said. At her chirpy best, Alia ended the conversation with a piece of advice: “Eat that fry if you want to.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/11/we-the-women-meet-the-drivers-of-change.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/11/we-the-women-meet-the-drivers-of-change.html Sun Mar 13 11:29:31 IST 2022 midnights-daughters-women-who-fought-for-the-idea-of-India-and-her-freedom <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/midnights-daughters-women-who-fought-for-the-idea-of-India-and-her-freedom.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/2022/3/6/womens-special-freedom.jpg" /> <p>Search for Hansa Mehta, and a black-and-white image from May 1946 in New York jumps up. She sits at the edge of a plush sofa, the only woman not in a skirt. Her eyes downcast, Hansa fits the image of the traditional Indian woman, her sari draped neatly and her head covered—not the stereotype of a firebrand committed to fundamental rights, who made space for women to be equal and free. She changed the world, literally, with a word.</p> <p>On the committee to draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the newly founded United Nations, Hansa is credited with altering the charter to read: all ‘human beings’ are born free and equal. The original sentence said ‘men’ instead of human beings; the shift was revolutionary. Her insistence changed the vocabulary of rights forever. It is a memory that barely exists in India. If it does, it stays firmly in diplomatic circles.</p> <p>“To me, it was one of the most remarkable contributions of India on the global stage,” said diplomat Syed Akbaruddin, who served as India’s permanent representative to the UN. “She took on at that stage the US and the French constitutions, because the original wording of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drawn from the French and the US that all men are equal. For a woman coming from a traditional outlook to make that forward-looking thought, to get it done and push it through, even getting Eleanor Roosevelt, who was the wife of the [former] US president, to approve it, is one of the greatest achievements by India on the world stage.”</p> <p>Moreover, it was Hansa who officially presented the national flag to the Constituent Assembly for adoption, minutes after the stroke of midnight on August 14-15. The flag was raised on Parliament House next morning. That was the first tricolour officially hoisted in independent India. And, the Constitution would not have been the document it is without the 15 women who were part of the Constituent Assembly.</p> <p>Much before India’s muscular diplomacy became a concept, there was the quiet power of women who led the way. At a time when India, newly independent, was to establish its credentials, Indian women were at the forefront of global battles for equality and shaping the discourse, and they were here, back home, helping lay the foundations of a democracy which completes 75 years this year.</p> <p>This is the story of our ‘Midnight’s Daughters’. While many of them, like Sarojini Naidu and Kasturba Gandhi, are household names, there were so many more whose contributions to the country are either forgotten or remembered as mere footnotes or only within certain circles. These Midnight’s Daughters occupied almost every sphere, they even donned uniforms, much before the Indian Army inducted its first women officers. They wrote, they led, they taught and they healed.</p> <p>Along with Hansa at the UN, there was Lakshmi Menon, a lawyer, who fought for “non-discrimination based on sex’’ in the human rights declaration, as well as Begum Hamid Ali, who was part of the first UN Commission on the Status of Women. Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit became the first woman to serve as the UN General Assembly president. When she was posted to the United Kingdom in 1954 as high commissioner and went to meet prime minister Winston Churchill, he reportedly told her, he did not want her to “put ideas” into heads of other women.</p> <p>The independence movement was a turning point for women in the country, because it was for the first time that women from “good families” came out in the public, noted writer and critic Rakshanda Jalil. When you see the wives, daughters and sisters of leaders taking part in strikes and resistance—a Sarojini Naidu with Bapu out on the streets—the presence of a woman in a public space no longer becomes taboo.</p> <p>“This transition from domestic to public is very important,’’ said Ritu Menon, publisher, Women Unlimited. “This distinction is important; it is a watershed moment. These women, with the exception of Mridula Sarabhai, and Qurratulain Hyder, were all married. None of them were a committed public life person. They all had family and other commitments. Nevertheless, they were able to exercise a choice, which was made available to them because of their engagement in this enormous project—first to fight for independence and then, to realise that, in the work they did in the country they became independent.”</p> <p>In <i>The History of Doing</i>, feminist and author Radha Kumar wrote, “The number of women arrested [during the independence struggle] mounted rapidly. Four hundred women, who were picketing election booths in Bombay, had been so successful that the elections had to be postponed till the next day.” The price was high. Indumati Goenka was given nine months imprisonment for selling khadi door to door. Another got seven months for breaking a prohibitory order. The British retaliation on women was so strong that the Congress compiled a special report on it for its Lahore session in 1931.</p> <p>“When in response to large-scale prohibitory orders, the Congress issued calls to court arrest, the rush to obey came from women in both urban and rural areas: in 1932-33, Girijabai Manorama Nail and Ambabai Pai from Udipi picketed foreign cloth shops, and courted arrest; Ambabai Kilpadi, a 65-year-old woman from Bantval, and Kamlabai Talchekar, an 18-year-old, were among the dozens of women who courted arrest in South Kanara…,’’ wrote Kumar.</p> <p>Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay was the first woman to stand for elections in Madras Presidency. She lost, but opened a path for others to win. Post independence, she kept alive the swadeshi dream, documenting and safeguarding textiles and crafts of India.</p> <p>If Indian women have universal adult franchise today, it is thanks to efforts of women like Muthulakshmi Reddy, whose fight started way before India got independence. One of the early doctors of the country, Reddy’s contribution is multi-faceted. She was the first female legislator in Madras (the second state after Travancore to allow women legislators).<br> Reddy’s stamp is there on many freedoms Indian women take for granted today. She worked within, as well as outside, the legislature for getting the <i>devadasi</i> system and child marriages abolished. In her book, <i>Lady Doctors</i>, Kavitha Rao wrote that she even took on men like Gandhi, who felt that achieving independence was more important than social reforms at that time. The age of consent was progressively increased. However, it was another doctor, Rukhmabai Raut, whose personal battle to be free of a husband she was married off to as a child resulted in the creation of Age of Consent Act, 1891. She faced criticism from people like Balgangadhar Tilak, but she remained unfazed.<br> Another of Reddy’s lasting legacies is the Adyar Cancer Institute, which she helped found in memory of a sister she had lost to the disease. On Reddy’s death in 1968, Indira Gandhi said, “Were it not for women like Muthulakshmi Reddy and Dr Sarojini Naidu, we [women] would not be occupying the high positions that we do today.”</p> <p>Anasuya Sarabhai, hailing from a rich textile family, founded the oldest textile union and became the first woman to lead a mill strike in 1918. Post independence, she continued to be in battle, inspiring, perhaps, one of the most active and defiant women’s groups, SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association). Rajkumari Amrit Kaur—“idiot’’ to Gandhi, who signed off as “robber’’ or “tyrant’’ in his letters to her—founded the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. “It has been one of my cherished dreams that for postgraduate study and for the maintenance of high standards of medical education in our country, we should have an institute of this nature which would enable our young men and women to have their postgraduate education in their own country,” she said in her speech to the Rajya Sabha on February 18, 1956.<br> There was Subhadra Kumari Chauhan, who, while still a teenager, joined Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement. Her pen was her weapon, with which she urged people to fight for independence; poems like ‘Jhansi ki Rani’ and ‘Jallianwala Bagh me vasant (Spring in Jallianwala Bagh)’ have the power to rouse the nationalistic spirit even today. She became a member of the state legislature, though her life was snuffed out in a car accident in 1948. But she, like Rashid Jahan, laid the template on which later writers, who had longer runs in independent India—Ismat Chugtai and Quarratulain Hyder—built on.<br> Jahan, said Jalil, may be a footnote in literary history, but she pioneered with some daring subjects, speaking about women’s sexuality and reproductive health, for instance. Her work as a doctor allowed her access to homes of both the rich and the poor, and her writings are rich with these experiences. Jahan was a founding member of the Progressive Writers’ Association and Indian People’s Theatre Association.<br> Chugtai, of course, had a long inning, during which she touched upon issues of sexuality that people were extremely uncomfortable with, such as suggestion of female homosexuality, for which she was even summoned to court for “obscenity”. That was in 1942—clearly, she was much ahead of her times.</p> <p>Women writers brought the female perspective into the literary domain. Whether it was talk about reproductive and sexual choices, or the impact of large-scale changes, seen through female eyes. Amrita Pritam’s <i>Pinjar</i> touches upon how the blows of partition fell on the woman’s body, Chugtai’s <i>Masooma</i> is about overnight impoverishment due to partition, again from the woman’s perspective.</p> <p>The first woman to become the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in independent India, Sucheta Kriplani was instrumental in mobilising women into a political collective. She even famously defied Gandhi to get married to J.B. Kriplani in 1936, a testimony to her strength. She was arrested for a year during the Quit India movement. “It was a very uphill task,” Kriplani acknowledged in an interview. “Thousands of women have participated in the various struggles of the Congress, but women had not been properly organised so far, and there was no women’s organisation, parallel to, or as part of, the Congress’s organisation,” she said in 1974.</p> <p>Women would come very easily to take part in jail-going programmes, when their husbands, fathers, brothers or sons were arrested. “… but it is difficult to get them for day-to-day political work leaving their domestic responsibilities,’’ she said.</p> <p>The grand old lady of Quit India movement, Aruna Asaf Ali—beautiful, vocal and a firebrand—managed to straddle two worlds together. Ali, who had sort of disappeared from the political landscape for a decade, re-emerged during Quit India, when she unfurled the flag at Gowalia Tank Maidan (now August Kranti Maidan) in Bombay on August 8, 1942, amid tear-gas and a lathi charge. She went underground to evade arrest—the only leader the British could not capture. Her property was seized by the government and sold. The British put a 05,000 reward for her capture. “She fell ill, and hearing this Gandhi advised her to surrender: ‘I have sent you a message that you must not be underground. You are reduced to a skeleton. Do come out and surrender yourself and win the prize offered for your arrest. Reserve the prize money for the Harijan cause.’ However, Ali surfaced only when the warrants against her were cancelled on the 26th of January, 1946,’’ wrote Kumar in <i>The History of Doing</i>.</p> <p>At that same flag hoisting was another young girl, Usha Mehta. She was the voice of Bombay’s conscience for many years; Mumbaikars remembered her as the woman who never missed going to Gowalia Tank on the Quit India anniversaries. They knew her as an academician, a Gandhian and a member of Mumbai University’s senate. Once, at a convocation, she spoke about how, in her youth, they used to call the city “bomb, bomb Bombay”, lamenting that the fighting spirit of the city was dying. Coming from a Gandhian, that speech seemed strange, but then, most people had forgotten that she used to run an underground radio station at age 22, coming up with new ways to evade being caught, including jamming the All India Radio, which they termed Anti India Radio. She was finally caught, and spent four gruelling years in jail, including a stint in solitary confinement. Usha’s voice was respected. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in response to a letter from her, got a play on Nathuram Godse, which was to be staged in Mumbai, called off.</p> <p>It was befitting that the last public appearance she made was on the anniversary of the Quit India movement in 2000, when she went, as per tradition, to Gowalia Tank, despite being unwell. She died two days later. Partition affected women worse than men, but it brought out more women to the forefront. Mridula Sarabhai, who was part of Gandhi’s <i>vanara sena</i>, took to the streets to stand fiercely in the midst of hate, taking it with all her strength. Integral in helping women rebuild their lives, she was instrumental in recovering abducted women in the aftermath of partition.</p> <p>“During Gandhi <i>ji</i>’s fast [post independence],” says Ayesha Kidwai, linguist, “thousands of women marched in Old Delhi—many of them who had been raped—for peace. It is admirable.”</p> <p>It was often those who had lost everything that provided hope. Anis Kidwai was one such woman. Anis’s husband was killed in October 1947 in the communally charged atmosphere. Devastated, Anis rushed to Bapu, who asked her to wipe the tears of those like her. Anis was put in charge of the refugee camps in Humanyun’s Tomb and Purana Qilla. It was in these camps—crammed to the brim with those who witnessed the worst violence—that Anis continued to fight and preserve humanity. “They incorporated the resistance into their humanity,’’ said Kidwai. “We are so caught up in nuance and the weight of history that we feel, we get stuck in believing that they didn’t inherit a baggage of hate. From 1947, they had seen religious violence for 30-40 years... We tend to ignore the role of the state, but it kept fomenting divide after divide. But instead of feeling powerless, they kept trying for 20-25 years. What was courageous of them was that they waded into these pools of hate and stood there firmly and said no.”</p> <p>Women did not shy away from a fight, either. There were enough of them among the revolutionaries. Kalpana Dutta learned to make bombs when still a student, and took part in the Surya Sen-led Chittagong Armoury Raid. Her teammate Pritilata Waddedar was perhaps the first of the women revolutionaries to consume cyanide to avoid arrest. There was Lakshmi Swaminathan, later Sahgal, who joined Netaji’s Indian National Army (INA) and led the Lakshmibai Regiment. For many of the revolutionaries, social reform was a natural transition. Both women joined the Communist Party subsequently. Datta went back to academia working at Kolkata’s Indian Statistical Institute, but Sahgal remained in the public eye till almost her last years.<br> There was Durga Bhabhi, wife of revolutionary Bhagwati Charan Vohra, best known as the woman who pretended to be Bhagat Singh’s wife to help him escape. Durga did not think twice before even dragging her young son Sachin into this daring escapade. She may have retired from the public eye after independence, but in her own way, she continued to build the nation, running a school for the poor in Lucknow. She lived till 1999.</p> <p>It was a battle that these women were committed to—a boundary they continued to push in free India. Hansa not only brought women under the umbrella of human rights, she opened the doors to women in science when she was the vice-chancellor at Baroda University. The first batch was only 15. They were part of debate and discourse within India. Mridula, who had been to jail during independence, found herself labelled a “traitor’’ because she supported Sheikh Abdullah and was imprisoned without trial for months in the Kashmir Conspiracy Case. Pandit, too, might have been Nehru’s sister but found that speaking her mind—especially to her niece Indira Gandhi about the Emergency—had costs.</p> <p>While Pandit retired to Dehradun, Saghal continued to fight in public. Sahgal was perhaps that rare Midnight’s Daughter who lived well into the new millennium, relevant almost right to the end, fighting valiantly for what most would consider “lost causes”. “She was a person who was always committed to a cause. It mattered little to her whether she was going to see its fruition in her lifetime; it was the cause that was worth fighting for,” recalled her daughter Subhashini Ali. She worked in a clinic for refugees from East Bengal in 1971, led a medical team to Bhopal in 1984 after the gas leak, and led a protest against the Miss World pageant in 1996. She was opposed to the objectification of women, and protested the pageant, keenly aware of its popularity. When everyone else would have retired, she resurrected herself in 2002 to contest against A.P.J. Abdul Kalam for the President’s post, because she felt he should not be elected unopposed.</p> <p>Right now, when the creative folks are looking to tell the forgotten or untold stories of India’s freedom, Usha Mehta’s story has found appeal with not one, but two filmmakers—both her national award-winner nephew Ketan Mehta and blockbuster maker Karan Johar are planning biopics on her. But there are so many other women, and their stories still need to find a space in the grand independence narrative littered with towering men. It is time to find space for her in the freedom struggle—one that she fought for.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/midnights-daughters-women-who-fought-for-the-idea-of-India-and-her-freedom.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/midnights-daughters-women-who-fought-for-the-idea-of-India-and-her-freedom.html Sun Mar 06 18:32:09 IST 2022 tawaifs-unsung-warriors-of-indias-independence <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/tawaifs-unsung-warriors-of-indias-independence.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/2022/3/6/26-begum-akhtar-Rita-Ganguly.jpg" /> <p><b>This age brings </b>with it the call for freedom/No one fears your jail, your oppression/Martyrdom has become for us child’s play.</p> <p>Resistance is sometimes in song. For Vidyadhari, a <i>tawaif</i> living in Banaras at the height of the non-cooperation movement in 1921, it was much more. Rebellion, it was revolutionary. Swept up by the desire to be free, she insisted on singing this song at every <i>mehfil</i> (musical gathering) that she was invited to.</p> <p>“She spun the charkha,”says documentary filmmaker and writer Saba Dewan. “She wore khaddar. It was a big deal, as <i>tawaifs</i> needed to be dressed a certain way. It was a statement.”</p> <p>Vidyadhari was not the only one. In <i>Tawaifnama</i>, Dewan has chronicled contributions of <i>tawaifs</i> to the political struggle for freedom. Tawaifs, loosely translated as courtesans, were skilled singers and dancers who entertained the nobility.</p> <p>There is Gauhar Jaan, the superstar from Calcutta, who holds a concert to raise money for Gandhi; a princely sum of Rs24,000. The story goes that when Gandhi failed to turn up at the concert as promised, a miffed Jaan sent only half to his kitty.</p> <p>Begum Akhtar—in her <i>mehfil</i> filler avatar before she chose to get married—also lent her voice to the cause. “She held a concert and sang so well that Sarojini Naidu sent her a khaddar sari,”says Dewan.</p> <p>Their contribution can be traced to 1857. “In Delhi and Lucknow, even colonial accounts mention a few that took part in the battle,” says Dewan.</p> <p>Unfortunately, this is a <i>ghadar</i> (rebellion) story that has been wiped out of memory. The story of Rani Lakshmi Bai’s valour charging into battle is known but not Dharmman Bibi’s, the <i>tawaif</i> who fought with her patron Babu Kunwar Singh. Heavily pregnant, she hid in a temple—and in what sounds almost like a film script—went into labour as the British tracked them down and Kunwar Singh went to fight the troops off. While Singh fights till his dying breath, Dharmman, with her newborn twins strapped to her, rides to Delhi. “Apart from a footnote in the gazetteer which says she rode with Babu Kunwar Singh into war, there is nothing,’’ says Dewan.</p> <p>Then, there was Azeezan, who lived in Kanpur. “She was a fervent nationalist,’’ says Dewan. “In colonial accounts, she was portrayed as a bloodthirsty monster [who] supervised the massacre of English women and children.” Begum Hazrat Mahal, who led the rebellion after her husband, the nawab of Awadh, was exiled to Calcutta, too, had <i>tawaif</i> blood.</p> <p>While scattered references of the <i>tawaifs</i> remained during the <i>ghadar</i>, with the rise of Gandhi and his stands on morality in the 1920s, the <i>tawaifs</i> and their resistance—quiet, determined and brave—often got left out. “They are often brushed aside because the nationalists were uncomfortable with them being there,’’ says Dewan. As the non-cooperation movement went beyond just shunning foreign-made cloth to cleansing social ills, the <i>tawaifs</i> found themselves on the outside, their voices silenced.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/tawaifs-unsung-warriors-of-indias-independence.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/tawaifs-unsung-warriors-of-indias-independence.html Sun Mar 06 18:47:13 IST 2022 anuja-chauhan-on-the-dawn-of-indian-women <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/anuja-chauhan-on-the-dawn-of-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/2022/3/6/34-womens-special-achievers.jpg" /> <p><i>Ijjat se jeene ka</i>,” says Gangubai Kathiawadi, brothel madam and mafia queen, to whistles and applause in a new film currently breaking all records for movies top-starring a female actor at the box office. “<i>Kisi se darne ka nai</i>.”</p> <p>This dictum—demand respect, be unafraid—pretty much sums up the emotion simmering in the hearts and minds of Indian women today. The signs are everywhere—in the Shaheen Bagh protests, where women led the way, in the Instagram reels of The Rebel Kid Apoorva and the songs of Neha Singh Rathore, in the burqa-clad girl defiantly shouting <i>Allah-hu-Akbar</i> at a crowd of blood-lusting <i>bhakts</i>, in the post-marriage film choices of Deepika Padukone, the frontline reports of Barkha Dutt, the courage of Priya Ramani, the Ramanajun prize for Mathematics for Neena Gupta, and the audacity and unapologetic ambition of Priyanka Chopra and Mamata Banerjee.</p> <p>Girls growing up today have more heroes and role models than ever before. In almost every field, they can point a finger at a female hero and say, “Look, amma, look appa, that’s who I want to be. She did it, and I can, too.” With agonising slowness but undeniable inexorability, stellar examples of female achievement are starting to bloom in what used to be a pitch-dark sky, with Gangubai shining like a <i>chand</i> (moon) in her white sari, and dawn imminent.</p> <p>Of course, the damning statistics and the savage backlash against this surge is there for all of us to read in the newspapers every day. But every day the shame shifts just a little, the awareness increases infinitesimally, the agency increases, the fear decreases and hope springs eternal in the feminine breast.</p> <p>It helps that our film industries, perhaps because they no longer dare to speak up on issues of caste or religion or corruption, have embraced the cause of the uplift of middle-class Hindu housewives and their daughters with a vengeance. We have seen <i>Dangal</i>, <i>Thappad</i>, <i>Bulbbul</i>, <i>Guilty</i>, <i>Haseen Dilruba</i>, <i>Rashmi Rocket</i>, <i>Pagglatt</i>, <i>Aarya</i>, <i>Badhai Ho/Do</i>, even <i>Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui</i>. And, there is more content releasing every day. I, for one, am certainly not complaining.</p> <p>Besides, working from home has made the smug ‘working’ men and women aware of how gruelling housework is, and how vital, and how it can be done equally well by people of any gender. Advertising, that faithful, grovelling mirror to all things trending, has captured that in campaigns like #SharetheLoad.</p> <p>The other really exciting development is that the lifespan of women’s careers is increasing. They are remaining visible, active and relevant well into and beyond middle age. Falguni Nayar founded Nykaa at 49; daily television’s number one soap <i>Anupama</i> tells the story of a divorced woman, who restarts her life at 45, finding a career, a love interest and societal acceptance along the way; Sania Mirza hung up her tennis sneakers at the fairly advanced age of 35, while Mary Kom continues to go strong at 39; Seema Anand preaches and practises the unapologetic pursuit of sexual pleasure at 58; Neena Gupta, Madhuri Dixit, Pooja Bhatt and Raveena Tandon are all back at work, their reappearance on our screens as much a message as the content they are spearheading.</p> <p>Going forward, both as a democracy and as a society, we need to emphasise the non-negotiability of being a feminist. Uplifting humanity cannot happen if half of humanity gets left behind. Education, nutrition, security and dignity need to be guaranteed to all. Later marriages, longer careers, younger husbands for older wives, shared chores and equal pay for equal work need to be normalised, while sexism and ageism need to be called out, even if it means offending every uncle <i>ji</i> and aunty <i>ji</i> on your family WhatsApp groups.</p> <p><i>Ijjat se jeene ka, darne ka nai</i>, needs to make the transition from Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s dreamverse into our lives. It is the only way our timorously twinkling night sky will transform into a blazing dawn.</p> <p><b>Chauhan is a bestselling author.&nbsp;</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/anuja-chauhan-on-the-dawn-of-indian-women.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/anuja-chauhan-on-the-dawn-of-indian-women.html Sun Mar 06 18:45:46 IST 2022 chanels-global-ceo-leena-nair-wears-humility-and-empathy-on-her-sleeve <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/chanels-global-ceo-leena-nair-wears-humility-and-empathy-on-her-sleeve.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/2022/3/6/36-leena-nair-wikipedia.jpg" /> <p><b>Chanel’s arrival </b>in India back in 2005 could not have been timed worse. Just a few hours before the gala launch party, bombs started going off across the national capital in an apparent terrorist attack. The French fashion house, however, went ahead with the launch, which featured a fashion show and had the crème de la crème of society sipping champagne and nibbling canapés even as death and devastation reigned outside the colonial-era luxury hotel where the event was held.</p> <p>Nearly two decades down the line, Chanel has made another India decision. This time, it checks all the boxes on the woke-o-meter. The appointment of Leena Nair (Indian-origin; British citizen, though) as its first non-white global CEO is as much an acknowledgement of the emergence of Indian talent on the global corporate stage, as it is a smart move forward for the old-world fashion establishment to show a more encompassing ‘diverse’ face. Nair, who will operate from London rather than Chanel’s headquarters in Paris, joins an elite club of Indian women CEOs of global companies, like former PepsiCo chief Indra Nooyi and Gap’s Sonia Syngal.</p> <p>“I am inspired by what Chanel stands for,” Nair wrote on LinkedIn after her appointment. “It is a company that believes in the freedom of creation, in cultivating human potential and in acting to have a positive impact in the world.”</p> <p>The learning curve will be sharp for Nair, as she makes the transition from a 30-year stint at a consumer behemoth—she was chief of human resources of Unilever till January—to a niche, iconic luxury brand. In fact, one of Nair’s first assignments at Unilever was as a manager on the factory floor, a world away from the upper crust fashion label that exudes stately elegance.</p> <p>However, Nair, who was born in Maharashtra, does have her secret superpower—her people skills. For a better part of her tenure at Unilever, her responsibilities included employee relations, workplace diversity and organisational development. Humility and empathy are attributes she wears on her sleeve, and those should stand her in good stead in the post-Covid corporate scene where the old rules of engagement do not apply any longer.</p> <p>For Chanel, the appointment of a self-made woman achiever of Asian descent is equally a strategic move. For a brand that only the affluent can afford, Chanel may punch above its weight with global revenues of a whopping $10 billion, thanks to the enduring popularity of iconic fragrances like Chanel No.5. Yet, that is cold comfort when you realise that its revenues have seen a dip in recent years, while that of the fellow luxury conglomerate LVMH, which has brands like Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton, have gone up.</p> <p>The brief for Nair seems clear: Take Chanel on its next growth phase, focusing on emerging pockets of affluence in Asia and elsewhere, and broad base the offering through collaborations and acquisitions that will boost the company’s bottom line in the post-pandemic boom years.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/chanels-global-ceo-leena-nair-wears-humility-and-empathy-on-her-sleeve.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/chanels-global-ceo-leena-nair-wears-humility-and-empathy-on-her-sleeve.html Sun Mar 06 18:44:44 IST 2022 the-first-indian-woman-to-describe-50-species-of-frogs <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/the-first-indian-woman-to-describe-50-species-of-frogs.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/2022/3/6/40-sonali-garg-sanjay-ahlawat.jpg" /> <p><b>Frogs are just frogs, </b>right? Surely not, says Sonali Garg. Want to hear a story? Long before the India plate collided into Eurasia and raised Mount Everest and the Himalayas, a family of narrow-mouthed frogs lived in what is now the Western Ghats. Today, their nearest relatives live 2,000km away, in south east Asia.</p> <p>So what?</p> <p>Well, for one, how did the frogs get there? Popular theories say that the dispersion of species from India happened after the landmasses finally joined, some 30 million to 40 million years ago. But this frog is endemic to the southern Western Ghats. So, it did not travel north, but eastwards. How? There must have been a primordial land bridge that connected India to southeast Asia. And to think that Garg and her research guide, Dr S.D. Biju, found the clue to this bridge in a roadside puddle.</p> <p>&nbsp;The research team found a mysterious tadpole in a puddle. It took the team three years to collect the first adult. Further research resulted in the identification of a new genus, Mysticellus; the sole member of the new species is M. franki, or the mysterious narrow-mouthed frog.</p> <p>So, frogs are not just frogs, and the 34-year-old Garg is the first Indian woman to describe 50 new species of them. Her life was mostly lived away from frogs, in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi. Hailing from the small textile town of Pilkhuwa in Uttar Pradesh, she studied in Mayo College Girls’School, Ajmer, and then joined Hansraj College in Delhi for a bachelor’s in zoology.</p> <p>The turning point came when she joined Delhi University’s Department of Environmental Studies for a master’s in environmental studies. She met Biju there, and frogs, and was convinced that this was to be her life. She turned down an MPhil seat at Oxford University and joined the doctoral programme at the Systematics Lab in her old department.</p> <p>“I had explored many subjects in my undergraduate and postgraduate years,” Garg said. “But I was still looking for a purpose, a calling. And, I found them in frogs. Growing up in northern India, to me, frogs were brown and generally unattractive animals that crawled into homes when it rained. And then I saw the variety in the Western Ghats and in the northeast, and was amazed.”</p> <p>She described her first new species in 2014, from the genus Micrixalus, popularly called dancing frogs. And the fiftieth one came in January, from Nicobar—Microhyla nakkavaram. The frogs in between came from Sri Lanka and Indonesia, too.</p> <p>It has not been an easy journey for Garg. She is the first PhD from a family of businessmen. “Being the lone woman in the field or being the woman working alongside men demands acceptance,” she said. “Acceptance from family, colleagues and the general public. And, frogs bring a different set of challenges. They are out mostly at night. They are in abundance during the monsoons. And, where there are frogs there are snakes. As a woman, I have had to be more cautious about people more than animals! Thankfully, I have met lots of supportive people along the way.” She credits her parents, Raj Bala and Satendra Garg, for backing her choices. “My strength, in a way, comes from my mother,” she said. “Even my grandparents accepted my rather unorthodox career choice with open arms.”</p> <p>Her stint as a postdoctoral researcher at the Systematics Lab will end in March. Then it is on to Harvard University for two years as she has been awarded the prestigious Edward O. Wilson biodiversity postdoctoral fellowship. But, she is not leaving before June, when the first rains will bring the frogs out in strength.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/the-first-indian-woman-to-describe-50-species-of-frogs.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/the-first-indian-woman-to-describe-50-species-of-frogs.html Sun Mar 06 18:43:20 IST 2022 falguni-nayars-makeover-magic <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/falguni-nayars-makeover-magic.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/2022/3/6/38-falguni-nayar.jpg" /> <p><b>It came as a </b>surprise to many when Falguni Nayar quit a highly successful career in banking and a plum job at Kotak Mahindra Group in 2012 to start her own venture. A graduate from IIM Ahmedabad, she wore many hats at Kotak Mahindra; she set up its international operations in London and New York. She was the investment banking head at Kotak Mahindra Capital when she left the company.</p> <p>Nayar was almost 50 when she started Nykaa, an e-commerce platform for beauty and cosmetics, using family funds. She was inspired by the entrepreneurs that she had met while she was an investment banker. “I realised that beauty consumption in India is at a very early stage and with a large geographical market like India, where you have to reach the length and breadth of the country, e-commerce may be a better way to service Indian consumers with beauty products. So, at a time when everybody didn’t believe in the beauty market in India, and many brands were leaving the country, Nykaa came in,” she said.</p> <p>Having lived in London and New York, she was aware that the Indian market lacked retail formats that could sell beauty products well. Unlike in the west where they are sold in big department stores, they were mostly sold in India by neighbourhood stores, which had limited product offerings.</p> <p>Over the years, Nykaa has become one of the leading platforms for beauty and cosmetics. It has also expanded into fashion and opened physical retail stores in 45 cities. In the quarter ended December 31, 2021, it had 22 million average monthly visitors in the beauty and personal care vertical and 16.4 million in the fashion vertical.</p> <p>For the astute banker in Nayar, like expansion, profitability, too, mattered. Nykaa turned profitable in less than a decade, a rarity in the startup space. In the year that ended in March 2021, the parent company, FSN E-commerce Ventures, reported a revenue of Rs2,440 crore and a profit of Rs61 crore. “Nykaa was built with a lot of financial prudence, and a lot of respect for capital in a way that we had a business model that was very frugal and focused,” said Nayar.</p> <p>Nykaa went public in November 2021; the Rs5,352 crore initial public offering got subscribed almost 82 times and the stock was listed at an 80 per cent premium to its issue price on November 10. “Nykaa remains a differentiated player with its focus on three Cs—content, curation and convenience—creating a rapidly growing and loyal consumer base,” said Sachin Dixit, an analyst at JM Financial Institutional Securities.</p> <p>It took a lot of courage for Nayar to leave a good job to enter the uncertain world of entrepreneurship. “Very often, women are afraid that they would upset the apple cart at home if they take on too many responsibilities,” she said. “First, it has to begin in their minds that they want it for themselves and they are ready to do what it takes to be where they want to be. Once they have the resolve to do that, I don’t think the world is holding them back.”&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/falguni-nayars-makeover-magic.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/falguni-nayars-makeover-magic.html Sun Mar 06 18:41:58 IST 2022 44-year-old-woman-gives-board-exams-inspires-child-brides-to-join-her <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/44-year-old-woman-gives-board-exams-inspires-child-brides-to-join-her.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/2022/3/6/38-ganga-devi-gujar.jpg" /> <p><b>When the results </b>of class 10 board exams of Rajasthan State Open School (RSOS) were announced in December 2021, Ganga Devi Gujar’s name did not figure in the list of successful candidates. But the 44-year-old has surely passed with flying colours as far as her efforts to promote girls’education are concerned.</p> <p>Thanks to Gujar, three child brides, who had dropped out of school after class eight, took the board exams with her. This was the first time in Padampura village—dominated by Gujars (a cattle-rearing community)—in Ajmer district that girl dropouts had resumed studies. Though none of the three passed the exam, their determination to do so has increased manifold.</p> <p>But the toughest question that Ganga Devi faced was how to get the girls to write the exam. The girls were married off young, but continue to live with their parents as they wait for their <i>gauna</i> (when girls are sent to their husband’s house once they attain puberty). Ganga Devi, an accredited social health activist, understood why parents were reluctant to let the girls study further.</p> <p>The families come from a deeply patriarchal and rural setup. They did not see the need for married girls to study further. They found a ready though practical excuse—they could not let the girls travel alone to the proposed exam centre, which was 15km from the village. The exams were scheduled in October 2021. It was harvest season, and the men refused to take the girls to the centre. So, ‘Ganga madam’, as she is known in the village, decided to.</p> <p>A child bride herself who quit school after class 9 in 1994, Ganga Devi appeared for the board exams. “Despite being busy with the Covid-19 vaccination programme and my housework, I told the families that I would appear for the exam, chaperone the girls and see to their safety,” she told THE WEEK.</p> <p>But Ganga Devi first had to figure out a way to ensure that she and the girls reached the exam centre safely and on time. “We have no public transport from the village. So we would start two hours before the exam time,” recalled the mother of five who adopted a daughter. “I would send the girls one by one with the villagers who deliver milk on motorcycles to Makadwali, about 4km from our village. I would ask the girls to wait at a particular spot and then we would take a tempo to the exam centre, another 10km away.” On their way back, they would walk the 4km from Makadwali to their village.</p> <p>The unusual quartet will appear for class 10 exams again this year. “We could not study well [earlier] as it was harvest season and we had to work on the farm and at home, too,”said Satya Gujar (name changed), who is keen on clearing the exam because she wants to “become like Ganga madam”. Her brother Mahendra supports girls’education—a rare act for a man of Padampura. “The unexpected help from Ganga madam was the main reason Satya was able to try and fulfill her dream,”he said.</p> <p>Chhotu Singh Rawat, a member of Mahila Jan Adhikar Samiti that is running a Child Rights and You (CRY)-supported adolescent empowerment programme in Ajmer district, said that they had tried to persuade 15 teenage girls to take the exams, but only three agreed, that, too, because of Ganga Devi.</p> <p>But she is up for the task. “I want to convince more dropout girls and their families so that maximum number could appear for the board exams next time,” she said. “I am sure I will be able to do it.”&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/44-year-old-woman-gives-board-exams-inspires-child-brides-to-join-her.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/44-year-old-woman-gives-board-exams-inspires-child-brides-to-join-her.html Sun Mar 06 18:40:21 IST 2022 nasscom-president-debjani-ghosh-is-the-torchbearer-for-women-at-workplace <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/nasscom-president-debjani-ghosh-is-the-torchbearer-for-women-at-workplace.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/2022/3/6/40-debjani-ghosh-new.jpg" /> <p><b>Debjani Ghosh</b> is used to being the only woman in the room, be it a board meeting or a seminar or a brainstorming session. A colleague once gave her a tip to deal with such situations: “When you are in a room and stick out like a sore thumb, remember that everyone is looking at you. So decide what you want to do—either hide under the table or turn the situation to your advantage.”</p> <p>Ghosh, the first woman president of NASSCOM, the umbrella body of India’s software industry, has been taking this advice to heart for decades now, stealing the thunder in most rooms she has been in.</p> <p>It is a fight she has gone into with all guns blazing. While her professional role of championing the cause of India’s tech ecosystem keeps her head busy, just as important for her heart is being the torchbearer for women in the workplace in corporate India.</p> <p>In fact, her career-changing stint at Intel came about precisely because there was another woman in the room, for a change. Deborah Conrad, then chief marketing officer of the American chip giant, asked her the right questions. “She [asked] me brilliant questions related to my goals, aspirations and career, [and not] the usual questions like when I would marry and have kids,” Ghosh recounted.</p> <p>“I don’t consider myself the ‘token’ woman because I do add value to whichever table I am at,” she said in another interview. Ghosh calls it the ‘five-minute challenge’, when she gets condescending looks at an all-male meeting. “It is a little amusing as I am the only woman in the room but that is only till you start talking. Then you can see the perceptions changing around you.”</p> <p>By now, she is used to changing not just perceptions. For someone in the cockpit of India’s software industry, Ghosh’s background is surprisingly non-tech—graduation in political science followed by an MBA. And her career track has seen her sprinting between sales, marketing and, before NASSCOM, hitting the spotlight by expanding the India business of Intel. “It gives you a 360-degree understanding of the business,” she said.</p> <p>Ghosh took over as NASSCOM chief in 2018, after two decades at Intel. Interestingly, prior to this, she had been president of the hardware umbrella body MAIT (Manufacturers Association of Information Technology). “Ghosh is an accomplished professional with global exposure that she today brings to the Indian industry ecosystem,” said MAIT’s present president Nitin Kunkolienker.</p> <p>Ghosh’s vision for Indian IT has been three-pronged: talent development and re-skilling, developing the culture of innovation and working with foreign countries to open new opportunities. It is a blueprint that has acquired an added impetus following the new normal the pandemic has thrown up, with an emphasis on digital.</p> <p>Right at the advent of the first wave, Ghosh spearheaded the desi IT industry to be prepared for future skills, besides launching courseware on subjects like artificial intelligence, big data and cybersecurity in an attempt at skill-proofing for the future. “Agility is going to determine the leaders of the new norm and so will resilience,” she wrote in an article after the pandemic hit. “We will have to have an adaptable mindset above all in this journey and learn from our mistakes and successes as we go along.”&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/nasscom-president-debjani-ghosh-is-the-torchbearer-for-women-at-workplace.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/nasscom-president-debjani-ghosh-is-the-torchbearer-for-women-at-workplace.html Sun Mar 06 18:37:11 IST 2022 meet-delisha-davis-the-first-Indian-woman-to-drive-a-fuel-tanker <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/meet-delisha-davis-the-first-Indian-woman-to-drive-a-fuel-tanker.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/2022/3/6/42-delisha-davis.jpg" /> <p><b>That appearances</b> can be deceptive holds true in Delisha Davis’s case. Her plaited hair, gold chain and bindi give nothing away. The 23-year-old is the first Indian woman to get a licence to transport hazardous cargo—mostly tankers carrying petrol or diesel. She had been at the wheel for four years, ferrying 8,000 litres of petrol every day, on Kerala’s roads. Recently, she became the first Indian woman to get an international licence to transport hazardous cargo in the United Arab Emirates.</p> <p>“I have been crazy about driving ever since I was a child. I have been accompanying my father, a tanker truck driver, since I turned 10,” said Delisha, who did her master’s in finance.</p> <p>When Delisha requested her father, P.V. Davis, to teach her to drive a tanker, he had only one condition—do not drive like women as most of them are bad drivers, he told her. “I wanted her to drive like men,” said Davis. “Delisha said that she would drive better than most men.” And, she does.</p> <p>Delisha’s mother, Treesa, however, was not too enthused about Delisha becoming a driver. She was worried about what people would say. Her eldest of three daughters is a nurse, and the youngest a lab technician. “I took the licence without my mother’s knowledge. She used to think that I was working as an assistant to my dad,” said Delisha. So when Davis told her that it was Delisha who was driving the fuel tanker, Treesa almost fainted.</p> <p>Initially, Delisha had to battle patriarchal mindsets. Seeing a woman behind the wheel, some would suddenly stop their vehicle in front of the tanker, some would hoot. And, there were some who would say that it was Davis, and not Delisha, who was driving the tanker. “There is a notion that women are bad drivers,” she said. “I wanted to prove that notion wrong. Driving a fuel tanker is certainly tough. But if I can do that, any woman can.”</p> <p>Delisha came into the limelight during the first lockdown, when a vehicle inspector stopped the tanker seeing a young girl behind the wheel. When she showed her licence, the police said that this should make it to the news as it would encourage other women, too.</p> <p>Driving a hazardous vehicle requires special training. To get the licence in the UAE, Delisha had to train for three months. “As it is an international licence, she will be able to drive tankers anywhere in the world,” said Davis, proudly. She will be driving an 18-wheel tanker there, carrying 60,000 litres of petrol, he added.</p> <p>Was he never worried about his daughter taking up this profession? “I knew she was capable, so I had no worries on that front,” said Davis. “But my wife did worry about what society would say about a girl of marriageable age driving a tanker. But I convinced her that daughters are not meant to be confined within the four walls of a house.”</p> <p>But what Treesa feared came true. “Many marriage proposals did not work out when they came to know about her profession,” said Davis. “But Delisha insisted that she would only marry someone who is supportive of her career choice.”</p> <p>Delisha’s decision seems to have paid off. Marriage proposals have been pouring in ever since she got the job in the UAE. “A strong and capable daughter is far better than having 10 sons,” said Davis, beaming.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/meet-delisha-davis-the-first-Indian-woman-to-drive-a-fuel-tanker.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/meet-delisha-davis-the-first-Indian-woman-to-drive-a-fuel-tanker.html Sun Mar 06 18:36:10 IST 2022 one-womans-drive-to-bring-premium-quality-frozen-food-to-your-kitchen <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/one-womans-drive-to-bring-premium-quality-frozen-food-to-your-kitchen.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/2022/3/6/44-swarnamugi-karthik.jpg" /> <p><b>Like all things,</b> this one stemmed from necessity and curiosity. It was a personal need that prompted Swarnamugi R. Karthik to enter the frozen fruits and vegetables market with her Swadhika Foods. A foodie, Swarnamugi loves to spend time in the kitchen. Being a businesswoman and a mother of two daughters though, time is precious and so she prefers quick but healthy recipes—her Instagram Reels are full of them. One thing that would bug her was the time spent on peeling and cutting vegetables and fruits. Also, she had to pick her recipes according to the availability of seasonal fruits and veggies. So, she wondered if she could get seasonal fruits and vegetables all through the year—fresh and natural but cut and packaged. Voila! Swadhika Foods came into being in 2017.</p> <p>Swadhika Foods is today a leading processor and exporter of premium quality, IQF (individually quick frozen) fruits and vegetables and ready-to-cook products. So, it has everything from mangoes, guavas, pineapples, bananas and melons to farm fresh veggies like okra, green peas, cut carrots, beans, cauliflower, peeled garlic and onion and more. One IQF processing plant is set up in Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor, close to farms that supply most of the fruits and vegetables. Mango varieties are sourced from different parts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu; they are washed, peeled, diced and frozen at the plant. Swarnamugi’s Frozen Tropicals Pvt Ltd, a unit of Swadhika Foods, now has one more facility in Pochampalli, Tamil Nadu.</p> <p>But Swarnamugi’s entry into the food business was not as quick as she would have liked. Coming from a business family, she always had the entrepreneurial streak. After her graduation in engineering and postgraduation in embedded systems, she joined her father’s company—BGR Energy Systems—as executive assistant in 2005. Her father, B.G. Raghupathy, believed in climbing the corporate ladder, step by step. “He wanted me to learn at work,” recalls Swarnamugi.</p> <p>She was soon appointed director of corporate strategy on the board of BGR Group. While she was trying to expand her father’s business, a part of her yearned to start her own venture in the food industry. Initially, she wanted to enter the ready-to-eat packaged food market, but those around her ridiculed her, saying, “Why do catering? Just follow in your father’s footsteps.” And then her father died in 2013. Swarnamugi was 31 and as the eldest in the family, the responsibility of running a multi-crore company fell on her.</p> <p>But that did not stop Swarnamugi from following her passion. Slowly yet steadily, she started learning about the food industry. She went around the globe, visiting food fairs—having a pilot for a husband helped. So keen was she on having her own food venture that she went scouting for a factory in Madhya Pradesh with her husband while pregnant with her first child. And, three days after she signed the papers for setting up Swadhika Foods, she came to know that she was pregnant with her second child. “We got the first order [from Poland] when I was in the hospital for a scan to check the baby’s heartbeat,” says Swarnamugi.</p> <p>Today, products from Swadhika Foods are much in demand in Europe, Canada and the US. Swarnamugi is now eyeing the traditional Indian kitchen where packaged and frozen food are considered taboo. “I will very soon break the taboo,” she says. “Our women are not against buying cut vegetables or fruit pulp. But they don’t want peeled onions.” That is a challenge she will conquer, layer by layer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/one-womans-drive-to-bring-premium-quality-frozen-food-to-your-kitchen.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/one-womans-drive-to-bring-premium-quality-frozen-food-to-your-kitchen.html Sun Mar 06 18:35:08 IST 2022 we-are-creating-leadership-paths-irrespective-of-gender-alisha-moopen-aster-dm-healthcare <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/we-are-creating-leadership-paths-irrespective-of-gender-alisha-moopen-aster-dm-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/2022/3/6/45-alisha-moopen.jpg" /> <p><b>When they were</b> pregnant with her, Alisha Moopen’s parents were sure that they were going to have a son and they had even decided on a name—Zubin. When they were blessed with a girl, they kept the name and Alisha was called Zubin for 15 years. “There was a boy in my class who was also called Zubin and I hated it,” says Alisha, deputy managing director of Aster DM Healthcare, one of the largest health care service providers in GCC and India. “I went to my father and requested him to change the name and that is how my name was changed to Alisha. At that time there was a demon playing in my head that I should have been a boy and not a girl.”</p> <p>Moopen was born in India and grew up in Dubai. She wanted to become a doctor like her father, Dr Azad Moopen, chairman and managing director of Aster DM Healthcare. “But my mother said that to become a doctor I would end up studying for 15 years. ‘When are you going to get married and have babies?’ she asked. So I had to re-route my career choice from being a doctor to becoming a chartered accountant,” says Moopen.</p> <p>Her mother, however, motivated her to be independent. “On the other hand, my father used to say that I needed to be interdependent as we are one world and we have a lot of interdependencies among each other. Interdependency helps you leverage each other's skillsets whether it's your partner, your husband or your family,” says Moopen.</p> <p>Her father had given her the freedom to make career choices. He did not expect her to come back and work with him, and had asked her to find her own journey. In fact, one of her two younger sisters is a doctor. “After I did not become a doctor, my mother told us that one of us could be a doctor,” says Moopen.</p> <p>She feels that in the end it is one's merit and hard work that take one to places irrespective of background. When she returned from the UK after working there as a consultant, she was going through a rough personal space after a divorce. “I still recall a message someone sent my father saying that if his daughter could not even make her marriage work, why was he trusting her? Such kinds of walls keep coming, but it is important how you play with the demon in your head,” says Moopen.</p> <p>When she joined the organisation, the leadership team had only a handful of women despite a majority of the workforce being women. “Over the past few years we have decided to create leadership paths irrespective of gender, but making it clear that we also want women on the table. Now our head of HR is a woman, and head of quality and medical affairs is also a woman,” she says.</p> <p>Moopen is overseeing the strategic direction and development of Aster DM Healthcare and is spearheading the expansion of the group into new markets. The company is present in seven countries and currently employs some 18,890 people, of which around 2,900 are doctors and around 6,400 are nurses.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/we-are-creating-leadership-paths-irrespective-of-gender-alisha-moopen-aster-dm-healthcare.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/03/06/we-are-creating-leadership-paths-irrespective-of-gender-alisha-moopen-aster-dm-healthcare.html Sun Mar 06 18:33:16 IST 2022 india-75-the-real-sarvarkar <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/02/19/india-75-the-real-sarvarkar.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/2022/2/19/26-Savarkar-new.jpg" /> <p>The legacy of a man as contested and polarising as Swatantryaveer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar becomes an issue of contemporary politicking and raucous debate. In all this melee the real picture of the man, his life and philosophy get sadly obliterated, as I was to discover in my five-year-long journey into understanding the many complexities of his character.</p> <p>As a young man, hailing from Nasik in Maharashtra, Savarkar took to revolutionary thoughts early in life, being influenced by the Italian revolutionaries Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi. Barely in his teens and being deeply moved by the execution of the chivalrous Chaphekar brothers of Poona who had assassinated oppressive British officials, Savarkar established India’s first secret society—the Mitra Mela, which later became Abhinav Bharat—and facilitated a fantastic network of revolutionaries across India. Under the leadership of Tilak, he organised the first-ever bonfire of foreign clothes as a student in Poona’s Fergusson College in 1905, protesting against the Partition of Bengal. He was fined and rusticated from college hostel for this.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Later, on Tilak’s recommendation Savarkar moved to London on a scholarship awarded by Shyamji Krishna Varma, ostensibly to study law at the Gray’s Inn. But while in London, he became the nucleus of a vast intercontinental, anti-colonial armed struggle to free India. From India to Europe, and even America, a network of brave-hearts guided by him made contacts with Irish, French, Italian, Russian and American leaders, revolutionaries and the press to bring British India and the misery of Indians to the forefront of global discourse. No doubt, the British Government categorised him as one of the most dangerous seditionists. Along with luminaries such as Madame Bhikaji Cama, Sardarsinh Rana, Madan Lal Dhingra, V.V.S. Aiyar, Niranjan Pal, Virendranath Chattopadhyay, Lala Hardayal and M.P.T. Acharya and others, Savarkar spearheaded numerous revolutionary acts ranging from procurement and smuggling to India of bombs, pistols and bomb manuals to orchestrating political assassinations of the British both in India and in the heart of the Empire—London.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Parallelly, Savarkar created a vast intellectual corpus for the revolutionary movement by penning the biography of Mazzini and a well-researched, definitive magnum opus on the 1857 uprising. Terming it ‘The First War of Indian Independence’, he sought to elevate the importance of an event, hitherto disparaged as being a mere Sepoy Mutiny. This book was to serve as an inspiration for revolutionaries decades after it was written—from Bhagat Singh to Rash Behari Bose and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and his INA.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The British were determined to extradite Savarkar to India at all costs. Slapping an unfair Fugitive and Offenders Act (FOA) of 1881, he was deported to India and tried with no right to appeal or defence. He was sentenced to two life-imprisonments totalling 50 years and packed off to rot in the Cellular Jail of the Andamans, where he suffered the worst punishments. Fettered in chains, flogged, condemned to six months of solitary confinement, made to extract oil all day being tied to the mill like a bullock, punished with standing handcuffs for days on end, denied the most basic human needs of toilets or water and fed with foul food that had pieces of insects and reptiles—horrific Kala Pani was indeed the Indian Bastille.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The bogey of the clemency that he sought while at the Andamans is often invoked to discredit him. But these petitions were a normal route available to several political prisoners (including important revolutionaries such as Barin Ghosh, Nand Gopal, Hrishikesh Kanjilal, Sudhir Kumar Sarkar or Sachindra Nath Sanyal who availed the same). Savarkar was also acting as a spokesperson for other prisoners in his petitions where he seeks a general amnesty for all, especially after the First World War and demands clarification of the position and relief that a political prisoner could legally claim. For instance, in his 1917 petition he states: “If the Government thinks that it is only to effect my own release that I pen this; or if my name constitutes the chief obstacle in the granting of such an amnesty; then let the Government omit my name in their amnesty and release all the rest; that would give me as great a satisfaction as my own release would do.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>British Home Department officials like Sir Reginald Craddock who interviewed Savarkar opined that the latter “cannot be said to express any regret or repentance”for whatever he did. “So important a leader is he,”Craddock noted, “that the European section of the Indian anarchists would plot for his escape which would before long be organized. If he were allowed outside the Cellular Jail in the Andamans, his escape would be certain. His friends could easily charter a steamer to lie off one of the islands and a little money distributed locally would do the rest.” The Government obviously rejected his petitions and nothing changed for Savarkar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sachindra Nath Sanyal in his memoirs reveals sending identical petitions as Savarkar and being released while Savarkar and his elder brother Babarao were still imprisoned since the Government feared that their release would rekindle the fizzled revolutionary movement in Maharashtra. Moreover, the entire issue of petitions was not some new discovery made in recent times, as is made out to be. Savarkar was not the first, nor the last, to file petitions. Also, he had mentioned these candidly in his own prison memoirs ‘My Transportation for Life’ and his letters to his younger brother Narayan Rao.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From his prison confines Savarkar had watched with horror the dangerous fire that Gandhi was stoking by linking religion with politics through his Khilafat agitation and yoking it to Indian freedom. By promising support to Indian Muslims to re-establish a pan-Islamist Caliphate in Turkey that the British had won in the First World War, Gandhi had sought to receive Muslim support for the non-cooperation movement. But this agitation was doomed to failure as the British were not obliged to listen to the demands of their colonies. The inevitable failure of the movement resulted in widespread clashes across India all through the 1920s—the Moplah incident in Malabar, Gulbarga, Kohat, Delhi, Panipat, Calcutta, East Bengal and Sindh to name a few. Each time, Gandhi’s lukewarm response and the pusillanimity of the Congress angered Savarkar. In this backdrop Savarkar wrote his treatise on Hindutva in 1923, as a direct response to Gandhism and Khilafat. He called for unifying Hindu society and challenged trans-national loyalties through his definition of India’s sacred geography and territorial integrity. Anyone who considered this land as the land of his ancestors and their holy land (including Muslims and Christians) was a ‘Hindu’—not by its religious term, but as a cultural marker of shared common history and bloodline. From then on, Savarkar fashioned himself as the champion for the cause of the Hindu community, though he did not care much for the ritualistic aspects of the religion itself, being an agnostic and rationalist.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From 1924 to 1937, Savarkar engaged himself in massive social reforms in Ratnagiri where he was kept in conditional confinement after being released from prison. He strove hard for unity in the Hindu society advocating a complete eradication of the caste system, varna tradition and untouchability, and championed inter-caste dining, inter-caste and inter-regional marriages, widow remarriage, female education and temple entry for all castes. His views were more in sync with those of Ambedkar than with Gandhi’s on matters of caste. Savarkar’s degrees were snatched away from him; his property confiscated. Like a few other revolutionaries in Bengal who were given a sustenance income, the Government gave him a pension of Rs60 per month between 1929 and 1937 as he had no source of livelihood.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 1937, after being released, he took over as the president of the hitherto decrepit All-India Hindu Mahasabha. On the one hand he countered the Congress’s abject appeasement policy and on the other the divisive politics of Jinnah and the Muslim League. His party was the one that opposed the partition of India till the very end. The Constitution of free India, according to Savarkar, was to be one where equal rights and obligations were conferred on all people irrespective of caste, creed, race and religion. “We want to relieve our non-Hindu countrymen,” said Savarkar, “of even a ghost of suspicion that legitimate rights of minorities with regard to their culture, religion and language will be expressly guaranteed.” Quite erroneously he is often described as the progenitor of the dubious Two-nation theory, which actually went back to the 1880s and the times of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. Savarkar opposed the militant groups within the Muslim community and alluded that, given the imagination of a pan-Islamic ummah under a common Caliph, many Muslims did think of themselves as being a separate entity. But he for one opposed the creation of Pakistan or a nation within a nation on religious terms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like several other leaders of the time, from Maulana Azad to Ambedkar, who were opposed to the Quit India Movement being launched with no clear plan of action and at a time when the Japanese were threatening to invade India at the height of the Second World War, Savarkar too disapproved of it. He instead encouraged youths to enlist in the British Army, get trained and then defect to Netaji’s INA. That was more likely to win India her freedom, he believed, than jail-filling agitations. The Mahasabha also formed coalition governments with non-Muslim League Muslim parties such as the Krishak Praja Party in Bengal and the Unionist Party in Sindh to split Muslim public space. A brief alliance with the League in government went awry. Of course, in these crucial years leading to partition and freedom, the failure of Savarkar as a leader also comes through; as someone who could not even control the warring factions within his own party or present a cogent alternative to the Congress.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shortly after freedom, Savarkar was arrested on the suspicion of being complicit in Gandhi’s murder since the main assassins Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte had been his acolytes in the Hindu Mahasabha earlier. He was arrested and the Red Fort Trials went on in Delhi for over a year. In his testimony in court Godse, however, said: “It is not true that Veer Savarkar had any knowledge of my activities which ultimately led me to fire shots at Gandhiji.” Godse, in fact, spoke about being disillusioned with Savarkar’s pacifism after 1945 and that he decided to break away from him. The edifice of the prosecution’s case stood on the statements of the police approver Digambar Badge’s claims that he, along with Godse and Apte, had visited Savarkar, who wished them success in the conspiracy. The police also got coercive statements from Savarkar’s secretary Gajanan Damle and bodyguard Appa Kasar as being witnesses to this meeting. Curiously, Damle and Kasar were not even brought to court by the prosecution despite their statements being the supposed clincher of Savarkar’s crime. Justice Atma Charan eventually exonerated Savarkar of all charges and interestingly, Nehru’s Government did not appeal against the acquittal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Jeevan Lal Kapoor Commission, which was set up closer to the time of Savarkar’s death in 1966, chose to unilaterally blame him for Gandhi’s murder without, once again, calling upon Damle and Kasar to testify among its 101 witnesses. From maintaining all through that a Savarkarite faction within the Mahasabha had committed the murder, it jumped to the abrupt conclusion that Savarkar was responsible for it without any corroborative evidence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And it is this contentious legacy of Savarkar that gets dragged into contemporary political feuds and toxic electoral discourse. Whether or not to give him a Bharat Ratna posthumously raises huge hackles. On his death in 1966, the then prime minister Indira Gandhi praised him by stating that “his name was a by-word for daring and patriotism” and that “he was cast in the mould of a classic revolutionary.” She got a stamp issued in his name, a film made on his life and her private money donated to a memorial. The question that today’s Congress needs to answer is why their tallest leader would be endorsing a man whom they love to call a British stooge, coward, Islamophobe and Gandhi’s assassin. The sooner we extricate characters of the past from the hurly-burly of today’s politics, the better justice would be meted out to history.</p> <p><b>Dr Vikram Sampath is a historian, author of a two-volume biography of Savarkar—Echoes from a Forgotten Past &amp; A Contested Legacy—and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, UK.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/02/19/india-75-the-real-sarvarkar.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/02/19/india-75-the-real-sarvarkar.html Mon Feb 28 10:14:56 IST 2022 road-to-atmanirbharta-is-through-science-mos-dr-jitendra-singh <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/02/19/road-to-atmanirbharta-is-through-science-mos-dr-jitendra-singh.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/2022/2/19/70-71-Dr-Jitendra-Singh.jpg" /> <p><b>INDIAN SCIENTISTS ARE</b> a respected community worldwide. Indian science, however, has a patchy reputation. It throws up brilliance and success stories, and then gets mired in mumbo jumbo. Ahead of National Science Day (February 28), Minister of State for Science and Technology, Space and Atomic Energy Dr Jitendra Singh speaks about how the government approaches science. Excerpts from the interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/We are doing this interaction ahead of National Science Day, which commemorates C.V. Raman’s announcement of the Raman Effect, for which he got a Nobel Prize. Science, however, remains below the radar in India.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/I think the Narendra Modi government has given a new impetus to science in India. The budgets for science and health ministries have been increased. In fact, Modi ji took the revolutionary step of “unlocking science”. The government no longer wishes to be the zealous custodian of the “strategic sciences” and has made these spheres accessible to people.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Centre first released geospatial data and maps in the public domain. It then opened up the space and atomic energy sectors to private enterprise. Our thinking has shifted from safeguarding the knowledge to being a guardian of that knowledge and technology.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This government also sees science as the game changer. Science provides solutions. We earlier worked in individual spaces, now the science ministries are in regular touch with each other’s work. We also have reach-out sessions with other ministries. Back in 2015, Modi ji got space scientists to interact with every ministry to identify problems and get solutions. Thus, we began using space technology to identify objects in the path of an incoming train; the technology was used to handle unmanned crossings, too. Do you hear of so many rail accidents anymore?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From another inter-ministerial interaction, it emerged that the Jal Shakti ministry needed to map groundwater. We have developed heli-borne technology for that, which was then provided. The government is also actively engaging with the private sector, especially startups, to get practical applications of our scientific developments.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Are you saying all this was not happening earlier?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Maybe it was, but not in the organised manner that we are doing it now.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/You lay great emphasis on startups. Please elaborate.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/People believe that startups are tech firms; they do not realise the potential of agri and other startups that are associated with livelihood. Startups are the quickest way of taking technology from the labs to the fields; we have already seen so many success stories.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Centre for Science and Industrial Research (CSIR), under the Aroma Mission, developed high essential oil-yielding strains of lavender, for instance. One of the first farmers to switch over from maize was Bharat Bhushan in Doda district (Jammu). Today, his neighbours have all become lavender farmers. The income is much higher (lavender oil sells at Rs10,000 per litre). Others have joined in with the marketing of the produce.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Similarly, CSIR has taken asafoetida cultivation to Spiti. This crop was never grown in India. In the northeast, they are experimenting with saffron, another high-income crop, which was earlier only confined to Kashmir.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have the case of a group of young men who took to dairy farming with the help of the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) in Bengaluru. Now their MBA friends have joined in for marketing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The job of a good government is to provide livelihood to people, not provide each one with employment. The road to Atmanirbhar Bharat is through the science ministries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/The pandemic shone the light on India’s scientific work, didn’t it?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Yes. It gave an opportunity for the world to take notice of our resilience and ability. The work by the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortium (INSACOG) in sequencing the virus genomes and monitoring the trends is among the best in the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not many know it, but the DNA vaccine for Covid-19 was developed in the DBT. They are also working on the nasal vaccine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Whether it was in scaling up activities [or] developing low-cost ventilators, India’s scientific prowess was on show. In the early days of the pandemic, even the Department of Atomic Energy chipped in with technology to radiate personal protective equipment and reuse them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Samudrayaan is the new big project. What is the idea behind it?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/It is an initiative of the ministry of earth sciences. Is it not interesting that this ministry, about which so many remain unaware, will take India towards achieving its Blue Economy dreams that Modi ji has talked about?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have 7,000km of shoreline, and a wealth of minerals and other riches at the bottom of the sea. The first step is to explore the seabed. Samudrayaan is part of the deep ocean mission to explore the bottom of the seas. It is a manned project. The launch is slated to be in 2024. In that year, we hope to have one set of Indians heading to outer space, another to the bottom of the sea—symbolic of the height and depth of our scientific prowess.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have a lot to be proud of. We began our space mission when NASA was sending a man to the moon. Today, we are equal partners with the top space agencies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Yet, India’s good work gets shadowed by pseudoscience utterances. Somehow, your government has not been able to quieten the mumbo jumbo.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/I agree that fake practices should not be encouraged. They can cause much harm. We have seen that in Covid times. The government takes this very seriously and is evolving ways to eliminate fake practices.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the other hand, we are in an era of an integrated approach to science, when we can take ancient knowledge along with modern science. The pandemic has shown how integrated medicine can be incorporated, including yoga.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Our best minds still go overseas to head the top agencies and companies in the world.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/The government has set in place a mechanism to encourage Indian scientists to return home. There are age relaxations in government jobs for them, for instance. Covid-19 has interrupted the progress, but many scientists have shown interest in returning. The trend will change, for sure. Now they are giving a thought to returning, instead of pulling their entire department out to work with them abroad.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/02/19/road-to-atmanirbharta-is-through-science-mos-dr-jitendra-singh.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/02/19/road-to-atmanirbharta-is-through-science-mos-dr-jitendra-singh.html Sat Feb 19 13:35:19 IST 2022 weaponising-space-not-isro-mandate-says-new-chief-s-somanath <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/20/weaponising-space-not-isro-mandate-says-new-chief-s-somanath.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/2022/1/20/somanath-isro.jpg" /> <p>He is a film buff, and has offered to sit for a session dedicated only to discussing film dialogues—be they from potboilers or classics, Akira Kurosawa or Adoor Gopalakrishnan. S. Somanath, 58, the chief of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) himself has a cine star flamboyance about him, with his thick mop of hair, dark moustache and stylish mannerisms. Unlike the stereotypical scientist, he is an excellent, if breathlessly fast-paced, communicator, who can convince not just top decision makers about a proposal, but explain rocket science to school students in a way that they see themselves flying out in a spaceship.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The rock-star personality hides the keen mind of a rocket scientist and aerospace engineer that has made him ISRO’s go-to trouble-shooter. Whether it was fixing a last minute issue with the first PSLV launch in 1994 or detecting the helium leak in the GSLV Mk III rocket for Chandrayaan-2 in 2019, Somanath was part of the team.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He takes over at a time when India is entering a new age in space, opening up for private enterprise. At the same time, ISRO itself is emerging from the setbacks of the pandemic. He has the task of flying Indian astronauts into orbit and landing a probe on the moon. Here is Somanath, himself, in conversation with THE WEEK:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/What will be your top priorities as you take charge? There appears to be a lot of unfinished work at ISRO.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/No, there is no unfinished work. There are new works which require to be done. I believe work is progressing everywhere—it starts, continues and gets finished. So, there is work in progress, nothing is unfinished. There are new works which require to be done. But that is only one part of the activity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More important, now, is to give direction for the future, and a lot is going to happen in this front. The government has started reforms in the space sector, but it only gives an overarching idea. The department of space has to convert it into an action plan. We need to create new verticals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We created NewSpace [India Limited]. A top priority is to get it fully functional, so that new actors can come in. We also have to make new policies. At present, there is no legislation or policy directing how new players can enter the space sector. We need to work out legal issues for activities like launch authorisation and frequency management.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A third aspect will be on how to convert the space sector into a bigger operating environment and bring in more business. Technology is inspiring, but it will sustain only if it gets into a business environment, producing self-sustaining results. Otherwise, our space sector will continue working as a government-subsidised programme.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/What is ISRO’s role in India’s first manned deep sea probe, Samudrayaan?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/We will make the human-rated titanium sphere, in which the team can descend to a depth of 6,000 metres. It will be two metres in diameter and made of titanium. When we learnt that National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) was looking for a shell manufacturer, I offered that ISRO team up. K. VijayRaghavan, the principal scientific advisor to the government of India, liked our proposal and we got the mandate. Various stages of manufacture will be at different facilities across India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/There are big ticket missions, which seem to be behind schedule. Will their deadlines be shifted?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/I have not studied them, so I cannot comment on it. We have been working on deadlines given by my previous chairman, but if I have to answer your question, I will have to first study it myself. We are working on big exploratory missions—Gaganyaan, Chandrayaan-3, the solar probe Aditya. Many spacecrafts were waiting to be launched, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How much has the pandemic impacted ISRO’s work?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/It has certainly impacted us in a big way and made us think about evolving another work model. At present, our work is spread across various centres in the country, it is not under a single facility. The model was evolved to make use of the strengths of various facilities and minimise costs. However, it entails a lot of travelling of personnel and transporting material back and forth; every activity cannot be shifted into the virtual mode.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Take the example of making a cryogenic engine—it involves at least five work centres spread across the country. To conduct a launch from SHAR [Sriharikota Range] several teams of people have to travel at various stages. Our model created a bottleneck during the lockdowns. We did what we could in a limited way, but the pace was greatly reduced.</p> <p><b>Q/What lessons did ISRO learn from the pandemic?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/(Laughs) Why just ISRO, the country, the world, has learnt a lesson that despite medical advances, pandemics are possible and that they can disrupt economies and livelihoods. But we are good at finding solutions to problems. We developed new mechanisms for remote inspection of manufacturing, new systems of procurement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How do you see ISRO evolving over the next few years?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Since I am secretary, department of space, I will not just talk about ISRO, but the entire space sector. The department should not just remain a promoter of ISRO, but an enabler for anyone who wants to create new enterprises, new technologies. ISRO will always remain the prime organisation with technological supremacy. I see the space sector growing substantially; its monetary value should grow three to five times the present amount.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ISRO has started space explorations. Will we see space tourism next?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Space tourism is happening elsewhere, but it can never be a priority for ISRO. How can we use public funds for such activities? A private entrepreneur, however, can always take it up as a commercial activity in the country, taking advantage of the new space enterprise-enabling outlook of the government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Will there be militarisation of space under the new policy? What will be your role in it?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Space can be used for peaceful or not so peaceful purposes. We are a peaceful organisation; we develop technology for peaceful purposes. There are departments—armed forces and strategic groups—which are mandated with protecting India’s strategic assets. It is not the mandate of the department of space or the ISRO. We are technology holders of many things, whatever help is required, we will continue to give.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How do you want to see ISRO evolve during your tenure?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/I would like to see the substantial change and expansion. The type of inspiration ISRO has created over years needs to be sustained.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/20/weaponising-space-not-isro-mandate-says-new-chief-s-somanath.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/20/weaponising-space-not-isro-mandate-says-new-chief-s-somanath.html Sun Jan 23 14:22:34 IST 2022 vip-security-in-poll-season-will-need-adequate-training-equipment-coordination <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/20/vip-security-in-poll-season-will-need-adequate-training-equipment-coordination.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/2022/1/20/24-Security-personnel.jpg" /> <p>The Punjab Police was still licking its wounds following allegations that it failed to provide adequate security to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the poll-bound state, when it was tipped off about a bomb threat near Amritsar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Special Task Force was alerted on January 14 that an improvised explosive device (IED) was about to go off at the Attari market area, barely two kilometres from the border with Pakistan. Troops were alerted; a bomb disposal team rushed to the spot and deactivated the 5kg device. The IED contained 2.7kg explosives, 1.3kg iron balls, two iron containers, three electric detonators, one timer switch and seven batteries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the country moves into yet another election season, security agencies are worried about ensuring the safety of not just the VIPs, but also the common man, as newer threats continue to emerge. Punjab goes to the polls on February 20, while elections are also being held in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>BJP national general secretary Tarun Chugh has asked the Punjab government to issue a white paper on border security in view of the serious security threats ahead of assembly polls. He said the Congress government was trying to push its lapses “under the carpet” and was “playing with national security in the border state”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The alarm being raised over the prime minister’s security breach might have given politicians a stick to beat each other, but rogue drones flying in from Pakistan with guns, grenades, and IEDs masked as tiffin boxes are making life difficult for security forces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The challenge is not only about securing the VIPs who are on the move during the election season, but also tackling multiple threats to convoy movements, crowds and gatherings,” said a senior police officer from Punjab.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sticky bombs are the latest IED threats. Magnetically attached IEDs (MAIEDs) or sticky bombs were used by the Taliban in Afghanistan to conduct targeted strikes by attaching them to vehicles. “Most of these IEDs are sophisticated in nature and indicate the role of state or quasi-state entities,” said M.A. Ganapathy, director general of the National Security Guards (NSG), in an exclusive interview with THE WEEK.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At least 16 IEDs have been recovered by security forces in the Punjab and Jammu sectors in recent months. Most of them are planted in tiffin boxes with magnets that can stick to targets and cause maximum damage. These IEDs come assembled from across the border—air dropped in many cases—and have made their way even into a court complex in Ludhiana, where one exploded on December 23.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another device was found and defused by the NSG in the Ghazipur flower market in Delhi on the same day the Attari bomb was found. In Delhi, the IED was on a timer, but the NSG’s bomb disposal squad was quick to neutralise it. However, the sophistication of the device was remarkable, with little chance of failure. So far, the NSG has not found any links between the MAIEDs used in Afghanistan and the sticky bombs being smuggled into Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At least four Central forces—the Special Protection Group (SPG), the NSG, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP)—have been deployed for providing round-the-clock protection to VIPs. These forces also liaise with the state police whenever required.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the SPG’s mandate is to provide proximate security to the prime minister, organisations like the NSG have a much broader mandate, providing security to former prime ministers, serving and former chief ministers and other leaders facing serious threats. Protection detail by the NSG’s Black Cat commandos, who gunned down Pakistani terrorists during the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, has become a status symbol for VIPs. Presently, the NSG is guarding 11 VIPs, after pruning its list to focus on emerging security challenges facing the country (see box).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not much is talked about the NSG’s bomb disposal squad, which has been quite active in the past few months. The squad flew to the Air Force base in Jammu last June, when drones dropped explosives there. It has also been making regular visits to international borders in Jammu and Punjab. “There is turbulence on the international border,” said an intelligence official. “Multiple agencies are at work to neutralise the threats.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The NSG’s bomb disposal squad provides regular, specialised six-to-ten-week training to batches of Black Cat commandos at its base in Manesar, near Delhi. It also collates and analyses data from threats across the globe, like the January 17 bomb attacks at a major oil facility in Abu Dhabi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Whether it is the VIPs or the common man, the need of the hour is to keep pace with the changing threat landscape,” said retired IPS officer D.P. Sinha, who was secretary (security) in the cabinet secretariat and special director in the Intelligence Bureau. “Only a few security forces are doing it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As threats have metamorphosed, VIP security challenges have also moved from the physical to the technological realm, said Sinha. “There is an urgent need to build expertise in handling new age threats like drone strikes and bombs and explosions triggered by mobile phones,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Senior officials involved in VIP security duties said whenever a politician with a high threat perception moved around in public, especially during election campaigns and rallies, the parameters of threats multiplied manifold. During such times, more than the number of boots on the ground, what is important is adequate training, right equipment and seamless coordination between various security forces. The absence of one or more of these elements can lead to incidents like the security breach of the prime minister.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“State governments ask for several companies of Central forces during elections. The focus is on numbers rather than expertise,” said a paramilitary officer. Often, there is lack of trust and inadequate coordination between Central and state forces. This is more prevalent in opposition-ruled states, which makes the job of security agencies tougher.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A glaring example is West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s refusal to avail the security cover provided by Central agencies. While campaigning during last year’s assembly polls, she suffered a foot injury and had to seek treatment, which she alleged was a “conspiracy” against her. Yet, she refused the Union home ministry’s offer of maximum possible security. She continues to be guarded by special commandos of the state police. “Mamata has not asked for protection by the NSG or any other Central force,” said a Union home ministry official.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>O.P. Singh, former Uttar Pradesh director general of police, said although law and order was the responsibility of the state government, if the state police did not have the wherewithal to provide foolproof security, it would affect the VIPs as well as the common man. “There is an urgent need to plug the gaps. The latest security breach of the prime minister is the biggest example,” he said. “It appears that actionable and credible intelligence was not available with Punjab Police. And even if it was there, there were violations somewhere that led to the breach.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Singh’s views were supported by former Maharashtra DGP Praveen Dixit, who is among the former IPS officers who wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind, demanding a probe into the prime minister’s security breach. He said if laid down procedures were followed during VIP movements, the chances of anything going wrong were quite low. “Unless there is a goof up or a deliberate ploy, a security breach cannot happen,” said Dixit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But what about instances when the VIPs themselves break protocol? Not many security czars have an answer to that. In 2019, Congress president Rahul Gandhi held an impromptu interaction with journalists in Amethi that led to a security scare. There were reports that a “laser’’ was pointed at him at least seven times outside the Amethi collectorate, where he filed his nomination for the Lok Sabha polls. Questions were raised whether a sniper was aiming at him. An inquiry by the SPG, which was guarding Rahul back then, found that the laser came from the mobile phone of the official photographer of the Congress. The Gandhis are now guarded by the CRPF.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Times have changed and so have the requirements. The focus has to be on training, coordination and adequate use of technology to avoid a security nightmare. Moreover, the Central government needs to take immediate steps to stop the pilferage of explosive materials from industries,” said a CRPF official. With IED recoveries indicating a looming threat, the National Investigation Agency has asked the Union home ministry to create a digital database to keep track of the manufacture and sale of explosive materials, and fix accountability.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Till then, leaders should stop playing politics over security threats, say officers involved in VIP security. “They should cooperate with security forces and pay heed to the advice of officers on duty. Throwing caution to the wind during interactions with the public or deliberately breaking security protocols can put many lives at risk,” said a senior officer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There was a time when presidents and prime ministers could walk the streets and interact with people. A retired officer who handled VIP security recalled a visit by president Neelam Sanjiva Reddy to Hyderabad. He was at the zoological park and was about to step into his car to go to the Raj Bhavan, when he saw a group of people. Reddy started chatting with them and the conversation went on for about 15 minutes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Traffic was held up outside and commuters were getting agitated. Just as the police reluctantly released the traffic, Reddy finished his chat and got into his car. The convoy was soon caught in a messy traffic jam. After being stuck in the car for some time, Reddy stepped out and started walking. His cavalcade finally caught up with him and drove him to the Raj Bhavan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, it will be an unimaginable scenario for VIPs and their security planners.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>NSG PROTECTEES</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>YOGI ADITYANATH</b><br> chief minister, Uttar Pradesh</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>RAJNATH SINGH</b><br> Union defence minister</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>MULAYAM SINGH YADAV,</b><br> former chief minister, Uttar Pradesh</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>L.K. ADVANI</b><br> former deputy prime minister</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>SARBANANDA SONOWAL</b><br> Union minister for ports, shipping and waterways</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>RAMAN SINGH</b><br> former chief minister, Chhattisgarh</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>GHULAM NABI AZAD</b><br> former leader of opposition, Rajya Sabha</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>PARKASH SINGH BADAL</b><br> former chief minister, Punjab</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>FAROOQ ABDULLAH</b><br> MP and former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>MAYAWATI</b><br> former chief minister, Uttar Pradesh</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>N. CHANDRABABU NAIDU</b><br> former chief minister, Andhra Pradesh</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/20/vip-security-in-poll-season-will-need-adequate-training-equipment-coordination.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/20/vip-security-in-poll-season-will-need-adequate-training-equipment-coordination.html Sun Jan 23 12:59:22 IST 2022 nsg-chief-weaponised-drones-will-be-next-gen-terror-tactics <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/20/nsg-chief-weaponised-drones-will-be-next-gen-terror-tactics.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/2022/1/20/29-NSG-commandoes-during.jpg" /> <p>In the run up to the assembly polls in five states, the National Security Guard (NSG) has defused several improvised explosive devices (IEDs). While a court complex in Ludhiana witnessed a deadly blast on December 23, security agencies have been successful in defusing two sophisticated IEDs—one each in Punjab and Delhi—on January 14.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, NSG director general M.A. Ganapathy said sticky bombs and weaponised drones would be the next major challenge for security forces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The NSG has defused several IEDs in the past few months. What is the latest pattern?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The threat of IEDs has increased significantly in recent years. There is a clear pattern of IEDs being dropped in India’s border areas through drones. A large number of such IEDs have been defused and analysed by the NSG’s bomb disposal teams. Most of these IEDs are sophisticated and indicate the role of state or quasi-state entities behind their fabrication. The latest trend is of sticky bombs. The NSG is aware of the threat of IEDs emanating from forces inimical to India and has the wherewithal to deal with it.</p> <p>The NSG is also the repository of bomb data from across the country. The National Bomb Data Centre has been collecting and analysing data for many years. The NBDC will be upgraded through a digital portal where all stakeholders are connected under one platform and there is seamless flow of information regarding all major IED blasts in the country. Such flow of information will also include post blast as well as predictive analysis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ There are concerns about NSG commandos being roped in for VIP security duty instead of focusing on counter-terror operations.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The NSG has a separate vertical for close protection duties. They are not drawn from the anti-terror force. Over the years, the NSG has also excelled in this field and has updated its tactical methodology to keep up with new age threats to protectees. However, the NSG now covers a very small number of protectees, and the focus of the force is primarily on anti-terror tasks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, there is a feeling within the government that the NSG should gradually get out of close protection duties and focus only on anti-terror matters. The idea is for the NSG to train state police forces and upgrade their skills in VVIP security, so that they become self-reliant. In this regard, the NSG training centre at Manesar has increased the training slots for state police forces in close protection training, so that such duties can be taken over by them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How is the NSG enhancing its counter-terrorism profile?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Constant state of preparedness of the force and readiness for operations is the best means to meet emerging security challenges. To this end, the NSG has also revised its training methodology, weapons profile and equipment profile. I can state with conviction that the NSG will be equal to the task whenever it is employed for action against urban terror threats of any kind.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As you are aware, the NSG’s core competency is in building interventions, anti-hijacking operations and bomb disposal and analysis. The NSG has the competence in the entire gamut of tackling urban terror scenarios. We constantly upgrade our operational skills by analysing global and national terror trends. Given India’s neighbourhood and the security challenges emanating from there, the NSG is ever ready to deal with any terror situation competently.</p> <p><b>Q/ Is the existing anti-drone technology effective?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The anti-drone technology is still a work in progress in much of the world. However, it is improving very fast to keep up with the evolving nature of drone threats, which is multi-dimensional. The NSG has the latest anti-drone systems and is also looking to upgrade the systems as per changing threats from weaponised drones of different kinds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Weaponised drones are likely to be the next generation of terror tactics. It is a cost-effective and risk-free arsenal in the hands of terrorists. Given this fact, we have to gear up in a major way to effectively tackle this threat. For that to happen, anti-drone systems and protocols need to be of the highest order.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Put simply, such systems should be indigenously made and be easily available to all security forces, including police, at low cost. Government of India has already formulated a draft anti-drone policy and it is being finalised. The NSG is also in the process of setting up an anti-drone training school for the benefit of all security forces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How will you compare the NSG with its counterparts around the world?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The NSG is a world class special force in terms of the calibre of its manpower, tactical skills and the use of latest technology for operations. But comparisons with other special forces are not always appropriate in view of the differing threat environments in different parts of the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But it needs to be emphasised that the NSG is rather different from other special forces in terms of its composition, since there are elements of both the Army and the paramilitary forces in the NSG. This is a unique model and the best practices of both are harmoniously synchronised. This has certain advantages vis-à-vis other homogenous special forces.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How useful are the regional hubs the NSG created after 26/11?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The NSG hubs were created to reduce the response time needed to mobilise and deploy the force. The hubs have come up in the west, east and south to effectively fulfil this requirement. They are self-sufficient in operational matters and can tackle normal terror incidents without any backup from other specialised task forces of the NSG based in Delhi/NCR (National Capital Region). Hence, the vision behind creating the hubs has largely been fulfilled. Only if there are unprecedented multi-city, multi-target attacks, backup support will be needed from other resources within the NSG.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Is there a reduction in the response time of the force?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Yes, there is a major reduction in response time. Also, we have revised our SOPs to reduce the load of personnel and equipment required while mobilising, which has further improved the response time. The NSG can reach any part of the country at short notice. Civilian aircraft can also be used for this purpose, as per the government mandate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/20/nsg-chief-weaponised-drones-will-be-next-gen-terror-tactics.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/20/nsg-chief-weaponised-drones-will-be-next-gen-terror-tactics.html Sun Jan 23 12:57:40 IST 2022 how-to-beat-viruses-and-other-biothreats <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/20/how-to-beat-viruses-and-other-biothreats.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/2022/1/20/58-Wuhan-China.jpg" /> <p>Last September, health ministers from G20 nations, including India, met in Rome to discuss pandemic threats from nature. Biological Weapons Convention experts, meanwhile, gathered in Geneva, deliberating on rising threats from terrorists misusing microbes. Around the same time, Kerala was hit by a Nipah virus outbreak, the third such instance since 2018. Such biological threats, both natural and man-made, have become more frequent and complex.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us that it is ideal to prevent biothreats and control them early, before they explode catastrophically. Building further on the lessons learnt, India needs to assess the dynamics of existing biothreats and enhance the preparedness for averting them and managing them better.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Although pandemics originating from nature are generally taken as inevitable, it is human activity which is altering the natural history of infectious diseases and biothreats. Almost three-fourths of Emerging Infectious Diseases or newer infectious diseases are zoonotic, that is, coming from animals. Science has proven that fragmentation of wildlife habitat is birthing natural biothreats by bringing populations and livestock into closer and more frequent contact with wildlife. The geo-climatic and socioeconomic conditions make India particularly prone to zoonotic diseases. Two other natural biothreats to India are the increasing resistance of microbes to available antimicrobials and insect-borne diseases like dengue fever.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The man-made biothreats—accidental or intentional—have grown manifold in the last two decades because of the dazzling developments in biotechnology and microbiology. The number of laboratories and people handling the dangerous microbes has surged, raising the risk of misuse. Also, it has become more challenging to securely manage the genetic and other important information of the microbes. The worrying aspect is that knowledge in biosciences is developing faster than society is learning ways to keep it from misuse.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Accidental biothreats arise from human errors, resulting in unintended pathogen release from laboratories, hospitals or biowaste disposal. This happens because of inadequate training, poor understanding or negligence of the handling personnel, and improper facilities, procedures or protocols adopted in handling microbes. Intentional biothreats, on the other hand, originate from enemy states or people, when they misuse microbes for warfare, terrorism or in crimes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India’s vulnerability to accidental biothreats is like that of any other country, whereas intentional biothreats cause country-specific concerns. The porous borders and the prevailing external and internal security scenarios raise the range and degree of intentional biothreats. There have been reports in the western media that terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and Islamic State are attempting to develop bioweapons. That underscores the urgency for India to muster robust means to counter biothreats.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Three misunderstandings about biothreats constrain our efforts to counter them efficiently. First, biothreats are often viewed as a human health sector responsibility, ignoring the relevance of other key sectors like animal health, environment, defence and security and disaster management, which are needed for tackling them. This not only discourages other sectors from owning up responsibility, but also deprives them of commensurate financial allocations.</p> <p>Second, biothreats are perceived mainly from their consequences angle; the preventive and preparedness angles are missed. This is because their consequences are obvious, while the underlying causes are often obscure. Our approach, therefore, remains reactive rather than proactive.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Finally, our outlook towards natural, accidental and intentional biothreats is mostly causally segmented, whereas despite disparate contributing causes, they all have identical consequences, and it is not always possible to pinpoint their origins once they strike. Moreover, biothreats, irrespective of their causes, have common early detection and response, and even several functionalities involved in their prevention overlap and complement. Biothreats, therefore, call for a comprehensive and proactive outlook.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One Health—the interconnectedness of the health of people, animals and environment—is acclaimed internationally as the best approach to address natural biothreats. The UN bodies like WHO, OiE (World Organisation for Animal Health) and FAO (Food and Agricultural Organisation) have consistently endorsed the adoption of One Health. This concept has become all the more significant because of the rapid changes in interaction between people, animals and the environment. The coordination and collaboration between human health, animal health and environmental sectors have gained urgency in the wake of recurring pandemics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thailand has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the initiative. Like most other southeast Asian nations, Thailand harbours several species of bats carrying the Nipah virus. These bats shed the virus seasonally, through their sputum and excreta. Humans can get infected when they come in direct contact with excreta or through contaminated food. The virus from bats can infect even domestic animals like pigs, from whom it can spread to human beings. By embracing a proactive and team-based approach along these multidimensional routes of infection, Thailand has stayed ahead of Nipah virus outbreak.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A scientific study published in the One Health Outlook journal by Supaporn Wacharapluesadee of Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, elaborates how integrated teams comprising personnel from human health, veterinary and wildlife sectors in Thailand work together under the banner of One Health to prevent Nipah virus outbreaks. Wildlife personnel collect and test random bat excreta for the presence of the virus. This annual exercise happens during predetermined seasons when bats shed the virus. A few bats are captured for Nipah tests on their sputum and blood serum. Modern tools like machine learning are used for earmarking bat habitats, and GPS for tracking the bats' flight routes. This helps in identifying regions prone to contamination.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In these focused regions, veterinary experts test blood serum and nasal swab samples randomly from pigs for the Nipah virus every year, during seasons corresponding with virus shedding. They also advise pig farmers on precautionary measures. Similarly, personnel from the human health sector test serum and oral swab samples randomly for the virus from volunteer residents, including pig farmers. All the symptomatic cases from these areas are also tested for the virus. The medical personnel also make residents aware of risky behaviour that predisposes them to infection and train them on vigilance measures for early detection. The comprehensive screening of likely viral routes thus keeps the virus under close watch, which also helps in prevention and early intervention.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thailand thought of adopting One Health after facing a severe setback in the bird flu pandemic in 2005. A committee headed by the country's deputy prime minister then decided that the complexity of emerging infectious diseases involving many factors could not be resolved independently. They undertook two National Strategic Plans between 2005 and 2010 to counter bird flu, with the collaboration of the ministries of public health, agriculture, natural resources and environment, and science and technology.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 2009 swine flu pandemic drove Thailand further towards One Health. The country expanded the second National Strategic Plan beyond bird flu to include all types of emerging infectious diseases. It took help from international institutions for capacity building and established the One Health Network in 2011. With wide participation from key sectors and public involvement, the country formulated an evidence-based, bottom-driven policy in 2011-12. On August 28, 2012, the Thai cabinet adopted the National Strategic Plan on Emerging Infectious Diseases, fructifying a One Health success story.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In India, One Health has so far existed largely in discourses. Only a few instances, like the bird flu outbreak and the Covid-19 pandemic, saw some episodic convergence across human health, animal health and environmental sectors. Otherwise, the three sectors, at Central and state levels, exist with differing goals and power dynamics in their traditional designs. Their cumulative potential remains untapped in preventing natural biothreats. These sectors do not even have zoonotic diseases as a priority in their extant policies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Certain positive developments which happened recently offer some hope. The NITI Aayog's white paper, “Vision 2035: Public Health Surveillance in India”, which was released in 2020, talks about integrating disease surveillance across human health, animal health and wildlife sectors. An announcement was made to establish a One Health Institute. The government has also launched a One Health Consortium, comprising 27 nationwide institutions from three sectors, working under the National Institute of Animal Biotechnology. Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya wrote recently in an oped article that the Pradhan Mantri Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission will finally “deliver the One Health approach” in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Accidental biothreats are best countered through biosafety—the measures taken to prevent microbes escaping from laboratories or other settings. India has elaborate biosafety regulations. The task of implementing the regulations is assigned to the ministries of science &amp; technology and environment. However, the laboratories working on microbes are mainly run by the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, which are under the ministry of health and the ministry of agriculture, respectively. Coordination, therefore, remains an issue. Also, the regulations are meant only for laboratories dealing with high-risk pathogens BSL (biosafety level)–3 and BSL-4 labs. These are not applicable to BSL-2 laboratories, which are aplenty in the country. These labs also need to be brought under the ambit of accreditation for basic minimum standards. The disposal of biowaste from laboratories and hospitals without disinfection, too, remains a hazard. Even indiscriminately used, genetically modified microbes in experiments or field applications can lead to accidental biothreats. These modified microbes interacting with environmental microflora can be dangerous.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The mechanism to address intentional biothreats exists in the Biological Weapons Convention, to which India is a signatory. And biosecurity is to intentional biothreats what biosafety is to accidental biothreats. The National Security Council addresses India’s security threats, and the Defence Research and Development Organisation under the ministry of defence helps counter biothreats. Besides, respective ministries coordinate their responses to intentional biothreats. But India still lacks a comprehensive biosecurity policy, although there are innumerable laws, like the Epidemic Diseases Act, the Livestock Importation Act, the Wildlife Protection Act, the Weapons of Mass Destruction Act and the Disaster Management Act for governing biosecurity. Some of these Acts are of the 19th century vintage. Most regulations under these Acts empower inadequately trained customs officials rather than subject-expert quarantine officials for screening incoming baggage. The public awareness on biosecurity matters, too, remains negligible.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For handling biological emergencies, the National Disaster Management Authority Guidelines of 2008 prevail. These guidelines also refer to replacing the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 with a comprehensive policy for biological disasters, which remains to be formulated. An attempt was made through a Public Health Bill in Parliament in 2017, but it got lapsed. Several states have now opted for their own legislation. In the past, too, legislative efforts to strengthen biosecurity have fizzled out. The Agriculture Biosecurity Bill, 2013, got lapsed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India needs to revamp its entire mechanism of countering biothreats. A comprehensive and proactive approach is essential to confront biothreats successfully. At the apex level, a single entity dealing with all types of biothreats is the need of the hour. This entity should be assisted by a team of relevant organisations across different sectors. It should have pan-India, full-time responsibility, backed by related rules, bylaws and policy enforcement. It is crucial to have public involvement and participation through constant communication on desired practices. A trained workforce with appropriate knowledge and attitude holds the key to success. The preventive and preparedness operations need to be supported by effective data management, and research and development on complete continuum of biothreats, spanning from causative factors to testing to vaccination and recovery. Necessary resources must be allocated for capacity and capability building across sectors. Ensuring coordinated and efficient functioning of the apex entity across ministries and states will be of paramount importance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed significant shortcomings in our approach towards threats from infectious diseases. It also provides potential avenues for India to alter relevant policies, institutional relationships and organisational frameworks. The country should focus holistically on biothreat prevention and early detection. Efforts and investment made in tracking potential pathogens in wildlife and in building biosecurity of livestock systems through One Health will surely prove productive in thwarting natural biothreats. The focused approach on deterrence similarly helps to keep accidental and intentional biothreats at bay.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The author is a microbiologist trained in biowarfare protection. narwalvet@gmail.com</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/20/how-to-beat-viruses-and-other-biothreats.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/20/how-to-beat-viruses-and-other-biothreats.html Sun Jan 23 12:19:31 IST 2022 freedom-series-shastri-might-have-irreversibly-established-secularism-says-ashis-ray <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/15/freedom-series-shastri-might-have-irreversibly-established-secularism-says-ashis-ray.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/2022/1/15/16-Lal-Bahadur-Shastri-new.jpg" /> <p>In sharp contrast to his political guru Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, 15 years younger, was very much of an indigenous upbringing. Shastris are normally Brahmins. But Lal Bahadur was a Kayastha or of a different caste. He earned the title Shastri—a person with a higher learning—after securing first-class marks in his graduation at the ancient city of Varanasi, with its plethora of temples, quite holy to devout Hindus, in Uttar Pradesh. This, therefore, became his surname. Influenced by Gandhi and Nehru in his formative years, as the mass movement for Indian independence mushroomed, he came to assimilate and appreciate Gandhian secularism and Nehruvian socialism.</p> <p>After the country’s freedom, he was appointed minister of India’s state-owned railways—one of the world’s most widespread networks—in Prime Minister Nehru’s cabinet. Dedicated and scrupulously honest, he famously resigned in 1956, taking moral responsibility for a train accident. Frequent previous such incidents had been worrying both the government and the public. In August of that year an accident occurred in which 112 people lost their lives. Shastri put in his papers. Nehru, though, coaxed him to continue. Then in November, another accident took place, this time killing 144 passengers. On this occasion, there was no withdrawing his notice.</p> <p>Announcing Shastri’s departure from the government in parliament, Nehru stated with a heavy heart: “I should like to say that it has been not only in the Government, but in the Congress, my good fortune and privilege to have him as a comrade and colleague, and no man can wish for a better comrade and better colleague in any undertaking—a man of the highest integrity, loyalty, devoted to ideals, a man of conscience and a man of hard work.”&nbsp;</p> <p>On his return to government after the 1957 general election, he increasingly won the prime minister’s trust and was eventually assigned the powerful and prestigious portfolio of home affairs.</p> <p>In the early 1960s, food production in India fell below demand, thereby necessitating imports to feed a ballooning population. Subsequently, in September 1962, India experienced a harsh humiliation, with China invading the country before retreating to its soil under western, particularly American, pressure. United States Air Force and (British) Royal Air Force planes descended on India’s forward areas as a show of solidarity with India. &nbsp;</p> <p>The bitter pill inflicted by the Chinese was not merely testimony to the unpreparedness of India’s armed forces, but a failure of New Delhi’s foreign policy, over which Nehru presided, he holding additional charge of the ministry of external affairs. Nehru prided himself on his understanding of international matters. But he had misread the Chinese communist regime. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>North-East Frontier Agency or NEFA, later renamed the state of Arunachal Pradesh, which the Chinese claim as being South Tibet and part of its territory, was ceded to India in a tripartite agreement (Tibet being the other party) in 1912 but not ratified by China in 1914. British India recognised Chinese suzerainty, not sovereignty, over Tibet at the time. Consequently, China sweeping into Indian soil in disregard of what historically emerged as the Sino-Indian border, known as the McMahon line, shook him immensely.</p> <p>In 1958, Nehru had expressed a desire to quit office. He told a meeting of the Congress parliamentary party: “I feel now that I must have a period when I can free myself from this daily burden and think of myself as an individual citizen of India and not as prime minister.”</p> <p>He had earlier quite candidly complained to the press: “I have said that I feel stale. My body is healthy, as it normally is. But I do feel rather flat and stale and I do not think it is right for a person to feel that way and I have to deal with vital and very important problems.”After the China debacle, though, his health perceptibly declined.</p> <p>In January 1964, he suffered a stroke at Bhubaneswar, where he had gone to attend a session of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). With such a colossus laid low by illness, a question first asked the previous year in a book by Welles Hangen titled “After Nehru, Who?”noticeably resurfaced. Britain’s <i>Guardian</i>&nbsp;newspaper noted on January 23: “It looks as if Lal Bahadur Shastri is being ‘evolved’as the next Indian Prime Minister.”</p> <p>Meanwhile, following the setback on the China front, the Congress’s popularity began to wane. Indeed, in 1963, Kumarasami Kamaraj Nadar, then chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, had proposed to the Congress working committee—their highest decision-making body—that some state chief ministers and cabinet ministers in the central government should quit their positions to devote time to party work.</p> <p>Accepting this idea, christened the “Kamaraj Plan”, several ministers in the Nehru administration resigned, including Shastri. That notwithstanding, by the conclusion of the Bhubaneswar conclave—and Kamaraj had become party president by then—Shastri had clearly surfaced as the most likely successor to Nehru, enjoying both the prime minister and Kamaraj’s confidence.</p> <p>Shastri returned to the cabinet as minister without portfolio. In a conversation between him and Nehru in Hindi, he asked: “What work will I be doing?”The prime minister replied: “You will have to do all my work.”This became <i>de jure</i>&nbsp;when Nehru passed away on May 27, 1964.</p> <p>Shastri’s senior aide, Chandrika Prasad Srivastava, later an illustrious secretary-general of the International Maritime Organisation in London, revealed in his biography of Shastri that the latter met Nehru’s daughter, Indira Gandhi, on May 30 and suggested that she should succeed her father. Shastri confided in Srivastava that he had conveyed to her in Hindi: “You should now assume responsibility for the country.”According to Srivastava, Indira refused the offer, “saying she was then in such grief and pain that she just could not think of contesting the (party) election (for the post of prime minister)”.</p> <p>The next day, the Congress working committee resolved that unanimity was the way forward through the efforts of Kamaraj. On June 2, at a meeting of the Congress parliamentary party, Gulzarilal Nanda, who had been officiating as interim prime minister, proposed 59-year-old Shastri’s name as leader. This was seconded by Morarji Desai, a right-wing politician, who had himself been a strong contender.</p> <p>Shastri was all of five feet in height and was unflatteringly portrayed in foreign media as a “little sparrow”. The Pakistani military dictator across the border, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, misread his humility and simplicity for weakness. There was concealed within a steely resilience.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Pakistani establishment, Khan included, deemed post-Nehru India and Shastri to be vulnerable. It also interpreted the Indian army’s capitulation to Chinese forces in 1962 as its un-readiness. The combination of the two was sensed by India’s neighbour as an opportunity to annex the disputed territory of Kashmir.</p> <p>Thus, in April 1965, Khan embarked on seizing the Valley contiguous to Islamic Pakistan, which it claimed on the basis of its Muslim majority. Hostilities broke out between the two countries in September of the same year.</p> <p>Historian Ramachandra Guha records: “He (Shastri) displayed a knack of taking quick and decisive actions during the war.”The Pakistanis overlooked the fact that, while Indians were caught napping against the Chinese, a programme of defence production and purchase initiated by V.K. Krishna Menon—who was compelled to resign as&nbsp;defence minister after the China embarrassment—had begun in the late 1950s and had partially come to fruition by 1965. Besides, the Indian Army was now commanded by General Joyanto Chaudhuri, who as a captain in the British Indian Army in World War II had distinguished himself, indeed been decorated for his services, for his tank warfare capabilities in North Africa under General Bernard Montgomery against the redoubtable “desert fox”German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.</p> <p>Overrunning Kashmir was Pakistan’s overriding ambition. However, there was another friction over a barren swamp, the Rann of Kutch in the western Indian state of Gujarat. Following skirmishes between the two nations, they were persuaded by the British prime minister&nbsp;Harold Wilson to set up an international tribunal to settle the disagreement. (Three years later, Pakistan was awarded 350 square miles of this territory as against its claim of 3,500 square miles.)</p> <p>After being restrained by Wilson, Khan imagined the Indian Army would not be able to withstand a surgical strike at a narrow segment of India south of Jammu &amp; Kashmir, thereby sealing off the state from the rest of India. Khan assumed Muslims in J&amp;K were inherently hostile to Hindus and therefore to India. He attempted to fuel an uprising by covertly sending in saboteurs. He rudely discovered that Indian Kashmiris were in no mood to cooperate and in fact swiftly neutralised this design.</p> <p>In early August, tens of thousands of Pakistani regulars had crossed the United Nations mandated Line of Control in Kashmir. On September 6, India counter-attacked in Punjab, thus into the Pakistani heartland. The western press commented the Indian assault was “not unprovoked”.</p> <p>The Indian troops came within range of the airport in Lahore, Pakistan’s second biggest city and the capital of its Punjab, despite Pakistan’s much higher ratio of troops and more modern military hardware, including American Patton tanks and F-86 Sabre jets, compared with India.</p> <p>The confrontation, though, was heading for a stalemate when the UN called for a ceasefire, which the two nations accepted. Neutral observers estimated that the Indian army cornered 710 square miles of Pakistani soil and the Pakistani army 210 square miles of India’s territory; that India lost 3,000 soldiers as opposed to Pakistan losing 3,800.</p> <p>India actually faced a multi-pronged threat from China, Indonesia and Iran, which sided with Pakistan in the conflict. Before fighting escalated, Beijing declared its full support for Pakistan. It sent a threatening note to India citing “successive serious violations of China’s territory and sovereignty by Indian troops.”It demanded: “India dismantle all the aggressive military structures it has illegally built beyond or on the China-Sikkim border, withdraw its aggressive armed forces and stop all its acts of aggression and provocation against China in the western, middle and eastern sectors of the Sino-Indian border.”</p> <p>India firmly responded: “The Chinese protest is intended to malign India and to cause confusion in the international world and also to prepare a pretext for any illegal actions directed against India which the Chinese Government might be contemplating.”</p> <p>Shastri shrewdly called Beijing’s bluff. In his view, China could not go beyond rhetoric as the world knew its accusations were unfounded. Stuart Symington, a senior member of the US senate foreign relations and armed services committee, said America could intervene, hinting at the Pentagon’s interest in Chinese nuclear installations.</p> <p>As the war proceeded, the Soviet Union in no uncertain terms cautioned China against “incendiary statements”. More materially, China’s mal-intentions were nullified by the Soviet Union warning Beijing that if it moved against India, it would do likewise against China. This reflected a significant shift in Soviet policy towards to India, which was to climax in a Friendship Treaty in 1971 before the liberation of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) by Indian troops.</p> <p>Also in 1965, as a sign of solidarity with Pakistan, Indonesian naval vessels steamed towards India’s east coast before being ordered to turn back. This <i>volte-face</i>&nbsp;occurred after Shastri sent Biju Patnaik, father of the current Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, to prevail upon the Indonesian president Sukarno to abandon the move. Patnaik, an air force pilot during World War II, had in a daredevil mission in the 1940s, before Indonesian independence, rescued Sukarno, then a nationalist leader, when he was hopelessly cornered by Dutch colonial forces.</p> <p>In effect, Shastri notched up external affairs successes in liquidating second and third fronts. As for the war itself, India was widely recognised as the victor. On stepping into his predecessor’s shoes, the dapper little man in his <i>dhoti, kurta</i>&nbsp;and waistcoat, sporting a moustache had remarked in the Lok Sabha: “I tremble when I am reminded of the fact that this country and parliament have been led by no less a person than Jawaharlal Nehru…”But the diminutive prime minister had metaphorically grown tremendously in stature. He was now an unbridled hero; emerging out of the immense shadow of his predecessor into the spotlight.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>During the Indo-Pak war, he coined a slogan <i>“Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan”</i>&nbsp;(Victory to the Soldier, Victory to the Farmer), which immediately struck a chord among the Indian masses. And he would stirringly round off his speeches at mass rallies with <i>“Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, Jai Hind”</i>(Victory to India).&nbsp;</p> <p>The Soviet Union hosted peace talks at Tashkent (now in Uzbekistan) between India and Pakistan in January 1966. Shastri and Khan represented their governments. An agreement was duly signed. The next day, while still in the Uzbek capital, the Indian leader died of a heart attack. He was 61.</p> <p>He had endured a milder cardiac thrombosis in 1958, when he was a cabinet minister, and again in 1964, shortly after becoming prime minister. He was in the habit of working long hours. Srivastava recorded “his working day in the secretariat seldom ended before 10 pm”. When Nehru got to know of this, he rang Shastri and “admonished him in a most caring way”. As Srivastava put it, &quot;the truth was that the privations of his early life and the almost round-the-clock work for many years took their toll”. Hangen had in his book notably forewarned that one of Shastri’s most serious handicaps for the top job was his health. “A former colleague in the (Indian) Union Cabinet says that his first attack caused no lesion but a second or third could be crippling,”he had observed.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Shastri’s belief in secularism and his commitment to implementing Nehru’s vision were never in doubt. But even before he became prime minister, he emphatically demonstrated an ability to win the respect and trust of Muslims, with whom the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Jana Sangh, an offspring of the Hindu Mahasabha and precursor to the current Bharatiya Janata Party, was constantly at loggerheads.</p> <p>On December 26, 1963, a particularly awkward situation arose in Jammu &amp; Kashmir. A sacred hair of the Prophet Mohammed, preserved for 300 years at the Hazratbal mosque on&nbsp;the outskirts of Srinagar, had disappeared, suspected to have been removed by miscreants. Muslims were infuriated. Hindus and Sikhs, too, joined in expressing their displeasure.</p> <p>Nehru was nervous. India was always on tenterhooks about fissiparous tendencies among a section of Kashmiri Muslims, with a small faction openly pro-Pakistan. Eight days after the theft, the relic was mysteriously rediscovered at the shrine. Yet the tension didn’t subside, as demonstrators demanded a special viewing in order to deliver a verdict about its authenticity. As the agitation gathered momentum, police fired on mobs, killing people.</p> <p><i>The Times, </i>London, reported: “It appears that the demonstrations expressed the continuing public suspicion in Kashmir that the true relic of the Prophet has not been recovered since its theft last month and that the hair now in Hazratbal shrine is not the one that was stolen.”It added: “There must be a danger, at least, that the continuing movement will aim at the Indian government.”Pakistan showed itself to be ever anxious to take advantage of the delicate circumstances and foment communal disharmony in the Valley.</p> <p>It was freezing in Kashmir; and Shastri unsurprisingly didn’t possess an overcoat. So, Nehru lent him one as well as a <i>carte blanche </i>to deal with the trouble. In Srinagar, leaders of the disgruntled action committee insisted that a team of devotees free of political affiliations should vouch for the genuineness of the relic that had reappeared.</p> <p>Shastri’s advisers counselled him against conceding the committee’s stand. But he decided to consult with the agitators.</p> <p>Srivastava disclosed: “Shastri came to the conclusion that, in all probability, the relic was genuine. He then concluded that, in regard to such a holy relic, no Muslim divine or devotee would risk rejecting its sanctity for political reasons. Shastri therefore ruled out the possibility of a mischievous verdict.”Nevertheless, it was a gamble.</p> <p>On February 3, a special viewing took place. The UK’s <i>Daily Telegraph’s</i>&nbsp;despatch from Srinagar the same day read: “Amid mounting tension, venerable priests meeting in the historic Hazratbal Mosque outside Srinagar…agreed today that the lost and now recovered hair of the Prophet Mohammed was genuine.”</p> <p>Thousands had thronged the mosque awaiting the ruling. Relief and joy cascaded through them when the announcement was made. “Shastri was literally mobbed by the crowd,”noted Srivastava.</p> <p>K. Rangaswami, a leading Indian political commentator of the time, was of the opinion that “Lal Bahadur Shastri had returned to the capital (New Delhi) adding another laurel to his credit in the public and political life of India. His asset is his basic nature to deal justly and with tolerance and understanding even towards opponents. It is this quality which won him the affection and the confidence of all groups in Kashmir…”&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Sheikh Abdullah, the “Lion of Kashmir”, had long been a political prisoner. It was feared that any further detention would be unhelpful to India as far as the Kashmir situation was concerned. Shastri got Nehru to agree to his release, which paved the way for a further easing of tension in the Valley.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>When he took over the reins as head of government, there was, as Srivastava said, “the ever-present danger of communal strife”. He confirms: “Shastri did not believe in the divisive concept of majority and minority religious communities. To him religion was a personal matter, and it could not be the basis of political activity. For all that, he did not believe in amoral politics. According to him, politics had to be founded on those clear moral and ethical principles which are the fundamental elements of all faiths. He wanted every citizen of the country to feel emotionally and intellectually as an Indian first and last, with pride in the country. It was therefore one of his primary aims to foster nationalism, patriotism and secularism, and to promote a national unity which was perpetually threatened by communal undercurrents, as he had seen closely when a cabinet minister.”</p> <p>In fact, Shastri was annoyed by a BBC report during the 1965 warfare, which said he being a Hindu was ready for a war with Muslim Pakistan. At a public meeting organised in Delhi a few days after the ceasefire with Pakistan, he asserted: “The unique thing about our country is that we are Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis and people of other religions. We have temples and mosques, gurdwaras and churches. But we do not bring all this into politics.”He went on to emphasise: “This is the difference between India and Pakistan. Whereas Pakistan proclaims herself to be an Islamic state and uses religion as a political factor, we Indians have the freedom to follow whatever religion we may choose, and worship in any way we please. So far as politics is concerned, each of us is as much an Indian as the other.”</p> <p>Shastri’s was only a mere 20-month tenure as prime minister. But he represented a continuity of Nehru’s vision. Under him, the foundation of secularism laid by his predecessor remained unimpaired.</p> <p>As a general secretary of the Congress, he played a key role in the party’s landslide victories in the 1952, 1957 and 1962 general elections. Both Hindu and Muslim communal forces had gained ground during the 1940s in a political vacuum created by the British incarcerating practically the entire Congress leadership in the aftermath of Mahatma Gandhi’s “Quit India”movement of 1942. Yet, the Jana Sangh won just three, four and 14 seats out of a total of 489, 494 and 494, respectively, in the three elections concerned. Shastri, thus, played a significant part in keeping bigoted thinking at bay.</p> <p>Shastri never deviated from the principle of preserving secularism. It, of course, helped that the Congress was in a commanding position on the Indian political stage. But his integrity in not permitting dilution of the ideological footprint left behind by Nehru was impressive.</p> <p>His sudden and untimely death was a manifold tragedy for India. A longer innings would, arguably, have consolidated the nation’s institutions, probably made government more competent and, perhaps, rendered more permanent inner-party democracy in the Congress.</p> <p>Shastri died with a negligible bank balance and an unpaid loan for a second hand car. His popularity had soared after India blunted the Pakistani military’s sinister designs. This immediately enhanced his authority. With the backing he now enjoyed and given his skilful, steady and fairly swift style of functioning, he was likely to improve governance; and by so doing, irreversibly establish ideals, such as secularism.</p> <p><i><b>The writer is a journalist living in London</b></i></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/15/freedom-series-shastri-might-have-irreversibly-established-secularism-says-ashis-ray.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/15/freedom-series-shastri-might-have-irreversibly-established-secularism-says-ashis-ray.html Sun Jan 16 12:36:40 IST 2022 magnificent-maharashtra <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/01/magnificent-maharashtra.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/2022/1/1/56-The-audience-received-the-announcements.jpg" /> <p>The government of Maharashtra provides world-class health amenities at 50 per cent less cost,” Minister of State for Tourism in Maharashtra, Aditi Tatkare, said during the meet-and-greet conducted by the Maharashtra tourism department in Dubai. “We strive to provide quality, comfort and affordability in medical care.” A lot more were in the kit, which the audience received with great enthusiasm.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The memorandums of understanding (MoU) signed by Maharashtra’s Directorate of Tourism and Medical Value Travel Council of India (MVTCI) with the UAE, Bangladesh and Oman to bring wellness and health care tourism offerings to citizens and residents in these countries were distinctive among the team’s achievements during the visit. Two videos were displayed which beautifully captured the majestic serenity and the regal charm of the state, and spoke loudly about its vast potential.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Milind N. Borikar, Director of Tourism Directorate, commented on the occasion that, “Maharashtra is the one-stop destination for end-to-end health care services and specialised health care providers, diligently creating a healthy ecosystem.” The minister elucidated on how and why the state has been recently recognised at World Trade Mart–London for its eco-village and tiger conservation projects, in addition to winning global responsible tourism awards, and the prestigious International Agro Tourism Award for having over 1,000 agri-tourism centres.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Owing to some of the most famous heritage destinations such as Ajanta and Ellora (Aurangabad) as well as the 720-kilometre coastline, Maharashtra attracts a very high share of domestic and foreign tourists who visit India. Cities such as Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur are well connected by roadways, railways, waterways, and airways with a road length of over 3,00,000 kilometres, and with a railroad density of 6,209.98 kilometres.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Maharashtra has the largest network of highways in India with 18 national highways that make up 17,757 kilometres. With 14 airports including three international ones, it stands first among Indian states. It has the maximum number of UNESCO world heritage sites in India and, with around 63 forest reserves, the state attracts wildlife tourism enthusiasts also.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Under the Regional Tourism Development Scheme (RTDS), more than 250 destinations are being developed; Maharashtra Tourism has already spent approximately Rs3,000 crore in the past five years for various projects, Tatkare told the experts in the tourism sector. Tourism specialist Preeti Vanage Pawar also spoke on the occasion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Thanks to the minister and team for portraying my state in such a wonderful way. This is the first such experience in my three-decade-long expatriate life,” said a travel agent from Abu Dhabi during the Q&amp;A session, which certainly reflected the whole spirit of the roadshow.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/01/magnificent-maharashtra.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/01/magnificent-maharashtra.html Sat Jan 01 12:31:16 IST 2022 lock-stock-and-laughing-barrels <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/16/lock-stock-and-laughing-barrels.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/2021/12/16/6-Kisan.jpg" /> <p>In the weird world we live in, icons can turn into pure con, trophies can become catastrophes, and supermen can be rendered superfluous. In keeping with these hyper-interesting times, here is our honours list that covers the good, the bad and the junglee.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>MAN OF THE YEAR</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No doubt, it is our humble farmer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The kisan has weathered all that the government could throw at him. He survived water cannons, a rogue car driven allegedly by the rogue son of a minister, and the constraints of the pandemic. He even compelled a prime minister, who never backs off, into accepting defeat. All hail the farmer!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, if you want to learn how to boost farm productivity, you would have to look elsewhere—because India prides itself in sticking to the least efficient methods of cultivation and procurement. But, if you want a masterclass in sustaining a movement through thick and thin, your teacher is the farmer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>MOST DISRUPTIVE THINKER</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He is with the BJP; he is with the Congress; he is nobody’s man; he is Navjot Singh Sidhu.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He is practicing what management gurus have been preaching to us for years—thinking out of the box. So, he gets our vote for the Most Disruptive Thinker. Early feedback suggests that there is no question that Sidhu is disruptive. Now whether he is also a thinker—ah, the jury is still out on that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>BEST LABOUR-SAVING IDEA</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The medal goes to Janata Dal (United) MLA Gopal Mandal, who was seen moving around in his underwear in a train from Patna to Delhi. When fellow passengers complained about this wilful wardrobe malfunction, Mandal came up with an ingenious explanation: he had an upset tummy, and needed to use the bathroom frequently. So why go through the rigmarole of unbuttoning, unfastening, etc?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What an idea, sir ji! We just hope it does not catch on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>AUTHOR OF THE YEAR</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not Amitav Ghosh, not Amish Tripathi, not even Chetan Bhagat. Our pick is Mamata Banerjee. Do not go by appearances, the West Bengal chief minister is an author as well as an artist. Her paintings are bought by collectors who know which side of their bread is buttered, and her books by those who know it pays to be her fan. Banerjee has a whopping 102 books to her name now, and that number could have doubled by the time you read this. Titles include My Journey, My Unforgettable Memories, and so on. Interesting stuff, no doubt, but none of them are as enthralling as the ‘how-dunnit’ could have been—how Mamata beat the BJP at its own game of divide and misrule. Last heard, Akhilesh Yadav is taking a correspondence course from didi on how to write bestsellers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>QUIETEST ANNIVERSARY AWARD</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anniversaries are a noisy nuisance, especially when politicians get into the act. A regulation anniversary, with toxic firecrackers and flagrant display of buntings, can send nature scurrying for cover. So, the Ecology Award for Quiet Anniversaries goes to the dignified manner in which the government marked the fifth anniversary of demonetisation. It was so quiet that it could have been mistaken for a funeral. Perhaps it was a funeral—of a failed idea. Once touted as the biggest booster shot for the Indian economy after Manmohan Singh’s liberalisation, DeMo never lived up to its billing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Two lessons emerge. One, when it is a question of money, listen to your central banker, not the netas. Two, anniversaries are meant to be celebrated. A quiet anniversary is an admission that things have not worked out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘<b>HEALTH IS WEALTH’ AWARD</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We were all set to hand over the award to Amitabh Bachchan, but then we had second thoughts. That is quite like what Big B did after he decided to endorse the brand Kamala Pasand. On second thoughts, Bachchan cancelled his contract because it was brought to his notice that the company was running surrogate ads for tobacco. We are curious—what exactly did Big B think he was promoting when he signed the Kamala Pasand deal?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>THE ‘MONA LISA SMILE’ AWARD</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It goes to Kiran Gosavi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Who? Well, he is the one whose selfie with Aryan Khan took the country by storm. Everything about him made news—from his shaven scalp to his enigmatic look. More people in India have speculated about his smile than they have talked about Da Vinci’s masterpiece.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What is Gosavi smiling about? Is he happy to be in the news or is he delighted to be in the company of a superstar’s son, or is he thinking about the deal that will soon be struck and musing about what a man can do with 150 lakh? Whatever the reason, he cannot be smiling much now, as he has been hauled up for cheating. We hope our Smile of the Year medal offers him some consolation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘<b>MAKING BRITAIN GREAT AGAIN’ AWARD</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Brits have been lax about whom they let in. In 1997, music composer Nadeem Akhtar Saifi of the ill-starred Nadeem-Shravan duo sought to put distance between himself and the police in India by seeking refuge in England. Then came the turn of Vijay Mallya. More recently, Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi used England as a transit to exotic hideaways. None of this has done Brand Britain much good.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But now, there is good news at last. The Ambanis have acquired a fabulous mansion near London. Officially, the family denies that they are relocating to the UK. So, all we will say is that Stoke Park, Buckinghamshire, sounds classier than Antilia, S.K. Barodawala Marg.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>GHAR WAPSI AWARD</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Corporate acquisitions usually leave the common man cold. But when Air India returned to the Tata fold, it was a ghar wapsi that spread good cheer all around. After all, everyone is susceptible to the Tata charm.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, will Tata be able to re-work its magic? We are keeping our fingers crossed for even the most cynical among us have a flame of naïve hope flickering within us. Meantime, here is a ‘Welcome Back’ award to the much loved Maharajah.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/16/lock-stock-and-laughing-barrels.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/16/lock-stock-and-laughing-barrels.html Sun Dec 19 11:43:01 IST 2021 israel-has-a-number-of-technologies-worth-exploring-for-the-benefit-of-india-avi-jorisch <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/16/israel-has-a-number-of-technologies-worth-exploring-for-the-benefit-of-india-avi-jorisch.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/2021/12/16/12-Avi-Jorisch-new.jpg" /> <p><i>Guest Column- Author of ‘Thou Shalt Innovate: How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World’, available currently on the subcontinent in English and Hindi, and soon in Kannada and Marathi.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In early March of 2020, a few weeks before the coronavirus roiled the world, my three young sons and I piled into the Washington Convention Center in D.C. for a policy conference. I wanted them to see how technology—from advanced water preservation techniques to highly sophisticated plastic recycling methods—can help solve some of the world’s most intractable problems.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As we wandered through the massive crowd, we bumped into Eli Beer, founder of United Hatzalah (“Rescue”), an Israeli non-profit that has revolutionised emergency care. Over the past two decades, Eli’s organisation has brought together volunteer emergency medical technicians (EMTs)—Jews, Christians and Muslims—to save thousands of lives. One of his innovations is an Uber-like app that connects people needing emergency care with volunteer EMTs who are in their area. These EMTs often travel by ambucycle, a refitted motorcycle that acts as a mini-ambulance and is nimble enough to weave through traffic. In Israel and elsewhere, Eli’s innovation has helped to drastically reduce EMT response time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With my sons Eiden, Oren and Yaniv, I explored Eli’s booth. All three boys strapped on a set of virtual reality goggles and learned what it’s like to work as a United Hatzalah volunteer. As their eyes widened, I felt optimistic about technology’s ability to make the world a better place—and about the next generation’s contribution to our planet. “When I get older, I don’t want to drive a car,” Eiden later told me, as my two other children nodded vigorously. “I want to ride an ambucycle and save lives.” I’ve never been prouder.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The secrets behind Israel’s technological success lie in the story of United Haztalah and the many other innovations coming from this part of the Middle East. How did Israel, a tiny country in a hostile Middle East, become a tech powerhouse? And what lessons can Indians learn from Israel’s success that they can integrate for their own benefit?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are several explanations for Israel’s success: mandatory military service, renowned universities, smart government programmes supporting innovation, a diverse population, and a dearth of natural resources. Yet no list would be complete without mention of chutzpah, an Israeli national trait that is best described as a combination of self-confidence and audacity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indians will identify with the fact that Israel is not just a “start-up nation,” but a place where people of all religions and ethnicities strive to make the world a better place for everyone—even as the surrounding region is mired in seemingly intractable wars.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Israel and India have many similarities. Since India declared independence in August 1947, it has transformed its economy from one of the world’s least developed to one of the largest and fastest growing. Much of the fuel for this astonishing metamorphosis is technology and innovation. Both countries have ancient religious and cultural traditions; both are relatively young, established within a few months of each other; both have a history of British rule; both have diverse populations and outstanding universities; both live under constant military threat; both have become regional superpowers; and both have a strong start-up ecosystem.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India has an ancient culture and has given the world fibre optics, yoga, cataract surgery, and the cure for leprosy and lithiasis. India also has one the world’s fastest-growing economies, which in recent years has experienced growth, job creation, increased access to resources, improved education, and enhanced health care. In the last decade, India has produced several thousand start-ups. According to NASSCOM, India’s national association of software and services companies, the country’s start-up ecosystem is the third-largest in the world, after the US and the UK, and one of the fastest growing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Israel has mobilised to solve problems that originally appeared unique to it, but ultimately proved to be applicable elsewhere. As India looks to the global stage for the best innovations to improve the lives of its citizens, Israel has a number of technologies worth exploring for the benefit of all. These are but a few examples:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>THE UBER OF AMBULANCES</b></p> <p>Today, India has over 50 cities with a larger population than Jerusalem, including Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. Response time to emergencies varies widely in different locations. In 2016, to save as many lives as possible, India’s Telecom Regulatory Authority recommended adopting a single emergency number, 112, for use around the country. This number now connects Indians with the police, ambulance services and fire departments.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Jerusalem, a city of about nine lakh, an ambulance can take more than 20 minutes to arrive at the scene. That’s far too long in a place with devastating terror attacks. Beer, who nearly died in a terror attack as a child and has been interested in emergency care since then, wanted to speed up the process and make it more efficient. About 20 years ago, he started United Hatzalah with a group of volunteer EMTs, but in order to save more lives, he needed to expand the group. To do that, Beer had to solve two problems. First, he needed to construct a highly trained network of people all over the country. Second, he had to create a system to ensure that medics can treat victims almost immediately.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, Beer has more than 6,000 volunteers in Israel, including secular and religious Jews and Muslim and Christian Arabs, and Hatzalah has chapters in the United States, Brazil and Panama. All its EMTs use a smartphone app that sends a notification to the five volunteers closest to the person needing help. These EMTs often travel on ambucycles, and each has a trauma kit, an oxygen canister, a blood sugar monitor and a defibrillator. Hatzalah volunteers treat approximately 2,45,000 Israelis annually, including 27,000 children. A quarter of the calls the organisation fields are for life-threatening situations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In July 2017, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Israel, he met with Beer, who illustrated how Hatzalah’s model could be used in India’s congested cities and in the outlying countryside. “With the congested streets that are characteristic of many of India’s cities, and large segments of the population who live in areas with difficult terrain,” says Beer, “having local volunteer responders in India could save many lives.” After the meeting, Modi said that he wanted to adopt a similar model for India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A MODERN-DAY JOSEPH</b></p> <p>According to the Indian Grain Storage Management and Research Institute, each year, India loses 12 million to 16 million metric tonnes of food as a result of improper storage and infestation. To lower post-harvest waste, farmers use chemical pesticides that impact the health of consumers and of the environment. But an Israeli-developed technology presents an excellent solution.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>About 30 years ago, Professor Shlomo Navarro developed the Grain Cocoon, a large, hermetically sealed bag for rice, grains, spices and legumes, which could save millions of people from malnutrition. Farmers in the developing world have traditionally used burlap sacks to store their goods, but these sacks are easily infiltrated by insects that sometimes destroy more than half the harvest. Some farmers use pesticides, which can not only cause sickness and death, but become ineffective over time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reducing post-harvest losses, experts say, will play a critical role in the fight against world hunger. Navarro’s cocoon traps bugs and their eggs inside and deprives them of oxygen, suffocating them to death and making pesticides unnecessary. The cocoon can save more than 99 per cent of a farmer’s crops, and since it was introduced by Navarro’s company, GrainPro, in the early 1990s, it has been used in 100 countries and saved their harvests from insects, rodents and other pests.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite the Grain Cocoon’s benefits, it has gained little traction in India, and pesticides still reign supreme. A major reason is cost. Each cocoon, which stores upwards of five tonnes of grain, sells for more than $1,000, a hefty price for most poor Indian farmers. The Indian government should consider subsidising the costs of the cocoons.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>THE SUN KING</b></p> <p>Over the last half century or so, interest in solar water heating has spread because we are consuming oil, gas and coal at an alarming rate. These fossil fuels emit harmful greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, and policymakers around the world now realise that they must fight climate change. In India specifically, inexpensive clean energy will play an important role in helping the population rise to the middle class.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2018-2019, India generated 72 per cent of its energy via coal-fired power plants, which are expensive to operate and far from environmentally friendly. But India has roughly 300 days per year of sunshine, and with energy consumption on the rise, using solar energy panels would be smart on almost every level. It is also worth mentioning that two of India’s international airports, Cochin and Kempegowda [Bengaluru], already run fully on solar power (Cochin was the world’s first).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the early 1950s, Israel was newly independent and struggling. Israeli physicist Harry Zvi Tabor knew that Israel would need a cheap and reliable energy source. Tabor developed special stripping that collected solar energy, and he connected the stripping to a water collection device. This solar heater, which yielded more hot water and produced more electricity than a turbine, is now ubiquitous in Israel and one of the most recognisable features on many rooftops around the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 1976, Israel’s parliament passed a law requiring every building constructed after 1980 to have solar water collectors. Over the years, this has saved Israel and its citizens billions of dollars in energy costs. Today, about 90 per cent of all households in Israel use Tabor’s invention—and many buildings throughout the country are moving to solar power. India should consider drafting similar legislation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With government assistance and through increased awareness, this innovation could play an important role in powering India’s economy. The solar water collector has the potential to serve as a powerful energy bridge between Israel and India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>NAMASTE-SHALOM</b></p> <p>India and Israel have tremendous potential to solve the world’s greatest challenges, deepen their commercial interests, and create technology together. To further promote innovation, India and Israel should strengthen their ties. In 2018, the two countries launched the India-Israel Industrial R&amp;D and Technological Innovation Fund, which involved an annual investment of $4 million from each country for five years, for a total of $40 million. The memorandum of understanding they signed is meant to boost cooperation in science and technology, specifically targeting technological innovations in areas of mutual interest such as water, agriculture, energy and digital technologies. Innovation experts are optimistic that the programme will turn out to be one of India’s and Israel’s most important diplomatic achievements in recent years. Nevertheless, these two democracies can do even more to leverage their relationship for the benefit of their societies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the world faces many grave challenges, including some threatening the very future of our planet, Israel is playing an outsized role in creative solutions that make an impact. As Indian policymakers, aid workers, scientists and others look to solve these challenges, they should consider turning to Israel—for existing innovations that can make a difference, or to work to create new ones together. Israel’s Uber of ambulances, grain cocoon, and solar water collector provide excellent opportunities to strengthen the relationship between the two countries. Integrating these innovations into Indian society could improve and save the lives of an untold number of people.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/16/israel-has-a-number-of-technologies-worth-exploring-for-the-benefit-of-india-avi-jorisch.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/16/israel-has-a-number-of-technologies-worth-exploring-for-the-benefit-of-india-avi-jorisch.html Thu Dec 16 19:40:55 IST 2021 eureka-now-what <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/16/eureka-now-what.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/2021/12/16/22-Eureka!-Now-what-new.jpg" /> <p>A single scene in Interstellar captured well a moment many scientists spend their entire lives pursuing. Murph runs down a corridor with her notes in hand, throws her papers into the air and shouts “EUREKA!”, startling her colleagues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“<b>IT’S TRADITIONAL,” SHE LAUGHS.</b></p> <p>What happens next was skimmed over: A spacecraft massive enough to carry a significant fraction of Earth’s population off the dying planet is conjured out of Murph’s research idea. The painful process of developing an idea—proving it works, getting funding to scale it up and all the countless man hours of engineering required to get it off the ground—is tastefully left out of Christopher Nolan’s cinematic vision.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To scan news coverage of scientific research in India is to find a galaxy of such Eureka moments. There is no dearth of lab discoveries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Scientists have found, as headlines breathlessly announce, new ways of extracting hydrogen (solving the energy crisis), new methods of sucking CO2 out of the air (tackling global warming), new applications of graphene (a super material poised to revolutionise every industry from semiconductors to electric batteries). But years pass and we still run cars on petrol, emit more CO2 than any existing machine can capture, and manufacture graphene by the gram.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not innovation that is lacking, says Ajit Rangnekar, director-general of the Research and Innovation Circle of Hyderabad (RICH) and former dean of the Indian School of Business.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Think of it in four steps. The first is research, done purely in discovery mode,” he says. “The second is innovation—finding new use for the research. The third is entrepreneurship—having found an application, can you make a business out of it? The fourth is growing this entrepreneurial journey to something that can make a big impact. These four things cannot reside in one person.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a world of difference between producing something at 5ml and 500 litre quantities, he adds. To put it another way, research scientists need to work with engineers and industry to make their ideas a reality.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a problem that Professor Vivek Polshettiwar knows all too well, when he tried to scale up his discovery of “black gold”. By changing both the gaps between gold nanoparticles as well as their size, his team at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) were able to synthesise a material that could take CO2 and convert it to green fuel methane, using solar energy, at atmospheric pressure and temperature.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His research was highlighted by the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Chemical Science journal in 2019. The promise? Artificial trees with leaves made of high-efficiency solar panels (black gold nanoparticles), that could assist in carbon capture while also producing green fuel. The problem? The conversion rate of CO2 to methane was not efficient enough. Polshettiwar says he is working on a solution by introducing another metal to the process.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nanomaterials research suffers from a scalability problem, as a 2016 Nature article highlighted. Elements show novel and exciting properties at a nano-scale. But manufacturing them en masse, with known methods, will not necessarily replicate these.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Polshettiwar also highlights another issue he faces: Making a business out of fundamental discovery—and getting the permission and support needed to do so. “We proposed to start a non-profit company as we cannot do everything in our lab. But we didn’t get the permission,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition, he has had trouble getting industries to invest in the idea—they want him to demonstrate the research at a scale he cannot achieve in his lab. “Ideally, industry should come on board and say let us do it together,” he says. But there is hope still: He is in talks with Tata Steel. “I said I don’t just need funding. It should be a real collaboration. We should do something together which can be upscaled and is commercially viable. We started talking and they are going to visit my lab.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He notes that public institutes have started to make headway towards encouraging more start-up-creation from within their ranks, pointing to IIT-Madras’s success with its Incubation Cell.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Scaling-up is an engineering problem that continues to challenge makers in India. Some industries are friendlier than others—defence, aerospace and pharmaceuticals are fields where commercialisation of ideas is supported by industries and research institutes that have the heft to scale up, Rangnekar points out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A SOLUTION WITH MANY SUITORS</b></p> <p>In 2018, one of the world’s thinnest materials was synthesised in Gujarat by Harini Gunda, a PhD researcher working with Kabeer Jasuja, professor of chemical engineering at IIT-Gandhinagar. Gunda’s research in 2018 explored the applications of two-dimensional metal-boride-derived nanostructures. One of them was making solid propellants up to 78 per cent more efficient.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By adding boron-based nano-additives to solid rocket fuel, the propellant can burn at lower temperatures. The rockets will need to carry less additives as well (which traditionally can take up 30 per cent of the fuel’s weight). And it costs 40 times less than the materials currently used.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>ISRO, DRDO, and the Indian Army have quite understandably expressed interest. But the research may never have happened if Gunda was not able to demonstrate it. At an early stage, she needed access to solid rocket fuel to demonstrate her hypothesis. With what she had developed in her lab, she was unable to demonstrate applications for rockets. But she and her professor collaborated with Professor Chinmay Ghoroi from the same department, who had been studying on improving the flowability of a solid propellant—ammonium perchlorate. Using this, she was able to implement her idea and get her foot in the door at DRDO, which took it up eagerly to test it at the pilot scale.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While both the military and ISRO see utility in her research for their missiles and rockets, her research has diverse applications including use as electrodes for batteries, hydrogen evolution by water splitting, and as an advanced material for solid-state hydrogen storage (for which she is working in collaboration with the Sandia National Laboratory, California). Gunda now looks to establish a startup that provides material-based solutions to various technologies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>ART OF THE PIVOT</b></p> <p>Before the pandemic, scientists at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB), Delhi, were working on a technique to use the CRISPR gene editing tool to diagnose sickle cell disease, resulting in the creation of FELUDA (FnCas9 Editor Linked Uniform Detection Array).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When the first wave of the pandemic brought about an urgent need for a fast and accurate test, they found an industry partner, Tata Medical, and got to work. TATA MD-Check received regulatory approval in September as India’s first CRISPR-based Covid-19 test. It has since been used to test for Covid in tier-2 and tier-3 cities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the advent of mutant strains, the IGIB scientists swiftly found that their tests could be repurposed to identify the unique signature of a variant. Their prototype, RAY (Rapid variant AssaY), can test for variants faster than genomic sequencing can. With Alpha, Beta, Delta and now Omicron, the importance of catching variant infections before they can spread has been made horrifically evident.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dr Debojyoti Chakraborty, senior scientist at CSIR-IGIB whose work with Dr Souvik Maiti led to the new test, says the technology can be adapted to diagnose any change to nucleic acids. From community surveillance to personalised healthcare and even agricultural biotechnology, his testing method could prove a multi-tool for health care workers the world over.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>UNCOVERING THE HOLY GRAIL</b></p> <p>If there is one breakthrough that scientists across the world are chasing, it is a method to efficiently produce graphene at scale. Graphene, an allotrope of carbon, has demonstrated tantalising properties. It can replace silicon and become the next-generation semiconductor in chips, it can make batteries that hold far more power than convention lithium-ion equivalents and that can be charged faster, it can serve as a perfect material in aerospace, being both lightweight and incredibly strong.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The problem? It works best when it is a monolayer and making this is time-consuming and highly inefficient. Bulk synthesis of high-quality graphene is a huge necessity, says Dr Anup Kumar Keshri, researcher in the department of metallurgical and materials engineering at IIT-Patna.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To that end, his team has exfoliated the graphite to graphene using an age-old “plasma spray”gun. He says it is an “ultra-fast and scalable technique which can quickly exfoliate the graphite into high-quality, defect free graphene in sub-kilogram scale, without the use of any solvents, intercalants, or classically purchasable chemicals”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The next step? Besides working to reinforce the lab-procured graphene, Keshri’s team is in the process of further refining the process and exploring the feasibility of filing patents as well as of bringing the product from lab to market.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>FROM LAB TO NETWORK</b></p> <p>While the situation in India is improving, many scientists still look to the United States as a better model for encouraging scientific research, due to its multi-fold advantages. Polshettiwar points out that almost all institutions there have tech transfer departments, people who can help take the research, form it at viable scale, and set up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Efforts to better connect scientists with industry and relevant partners are under way in India. The February 2020 budget included an announcement of “University Research Joint Industry Translation Clusters” in 10 locations—one of which is Hyderabad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Compared with the landscape from a decade ago, things have improved, says Rangnekar. His work at RICH has made him optimistic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I think there has been enormous improvement,” he says. “The making of RT-PCR kits in India is a great example. Earlier, we had to import these kits. Within two-three months, Indian startups were able to make them. And they survived, even after China dropped the price of their kits dramatically. Today, India exports these kits. There was collaboration between Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune—when things go wrong in this country, everyone comes together and does an amazing job of collaboration.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Networking makes all the difference for a scientist with an idea or innovation. “Where do I find those 20, 30, maybe 200 people needed to take a research problem from lab to manufacturing level,” he asks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Initiated by the Telangana government, RICH works to link research institutions, academia and industry with venture capitalists, angel investors and incubators, with a focus on three sectors: Aerospace, food and agriculture, and life sciences.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rangnekar gives the example of a diagnostics startup that wanted quality data from hospitals. Such startups need cleaned data, but many hospitals take records in analog form. RICH helped connect the startup with the hospitals they needed, creating a two-way flow of communication that would otherwise not exist in the wild. Doctors could now tell startup engineers the problems they faced and the solutions they needed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a solution CoffeeMug.ai is also attempting to offer. The social media platform looks to connect everyone from would-be founders to data scientists and supply chain experts. You pick who you would like to meet and in what industry, and the AI-powered platform will send you an email each week to make new connections.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Change is possible, but over time. And India cannot turn into an innovation superpower overnight. India spends just 0.65 per cent of its GDP on research and development according to the latest Economic Survey. In 2016, the US spent four times that, according to World Bank data (Rangnekar points out that with scientist wages being low, labour productivity might be a better metric).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It may also be business-related: “All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition,”writes Peter Thiel in Zero to One. What India tries to produce for the first time, many other countries may already be producing at scale, competitively.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Only true innovation can give India a leg up. And this takes time. Thiel writes that most of a tech company’s value will come at least 10 to 15 years in the future. Rangnekar, too, feels the journey for Indian research to start having a transformational impact will take time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Is entrepreneurial Indian science on the cusp of a revolution, albeit one that has been 15 years in the making?</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/16/eureka-now-what.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/16/eureka-now-what.html Sun Dec 19 19:19:55 IST 2021 general-rawat-will-be-remembered-for-initiating-india-biggest-military-reform <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/09/general-rawat-will-be-remembered-for-initiating-india-biggest-military-reform.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/2021/12/9/44-General-Bipin-Rawat-new.jpg" /> <p>In late December 2019, when the Union government appointed General Bipin Rawat as India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, his job was to restructure military commands and utilise resources better by bringing about jointness in operations. The target was ambitious, but the general seemed to be on track.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unfortunately, on December 8, General Rawat, his wife, Madhulika, and 11 others died in a helicopter crash near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu. The couple is survived by their two daughters.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>General Rawat was born in Pauri, Uttarakhand, in a Garhwali Rajput family that had served the armed forces for four generations. His father, Laxman Singh Rawat, was from Sainj village in Pauri Garhwal district, and had been a lieutenant general.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The son climbed higher. In his latest role as CDS, the four-star general was a single-point military adviser to the government. He was to serve for up to three years; the government had extended the age of retirement to 65 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though the office of the CDS does not have any operational role in the functioning of the services, the increasing complexity of modern warfare meant that India needed a CDS for an integrated approach to defence strategy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In January 2020, days into his appointment, General Rawat started brainstorming on how to streamline coordination between the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. A few months later, he began to prepare for India’s biggest-ever military reform—reorganising the forces into theatre commands (like in the US and China) for synchronised operations in future wars.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>General Rawat planned to have five such main commands—northern, western, peninsular, air defence and maritime—by the end of 2022. These commands would have specialised units from the Army, Navy and Air Force, and would be led by commanders drawn from the three services. The Indian military currently has 17 single-service commands. The three services, Rawat had believed, discharged their duties with a marked lack of operational synergy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A group of ministers that studied the Kargil Review Committee (1999) report had first raised the demand for a CDS in 2001. The services initially feared that such a reform would lead to complicated turf wars. A former IAF chief had said that the theatre commands would increase spending without ensuring commensurate returns. The Air Force, which has limited assets, was also concerned that the Army would dominate military strategy. General Rawat’s remark that the IAF—the world’s fourth largest air force—was a “supporting arm” like the Engineers had upset many. The Air Force’s resistance to the theatre command idea means that it is stuck in limbo.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>General Rawat also planned to have a separate training and doctrinal command modelled on the US structure, and a separate command to take care of logistical requirements.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Given that warfare was going to be more futuristic, he came up with the idea of Integrated Battle Groups—an ambitious combat formation aimed at making the force more lethal and technology-driven. Though some veterans said that it was not a novel concept, General Rawat gave it fresh dimensions. Brigade-sized and self-sufficient, the IBGs have elements of each arm and service, mixed together as per the terrain and operational requirements. They would be tailor-made, based on the three Ts—threat, terrain and task—and would strike swiftly against enemies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While serving as Army chief, General Rawat wanted to make the 1.3 million-strong force leaner and meaner, and to enhance its combat capabilities. He commissioned four internal studies to enhance the operational and functional efficiency of the force, optimise budget expenditure, facilitate modernisation and address aspirations. He was the third officer from the Gorkha Rifles to become Chief of Army Staff, after Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw and General Dalbir Singh Suhag. He was Army chief during the Balakot airstrike in February 2019 and the 2016 surgical strike, and had supervised the cross-border counter-insurgency operation in Myanmar in 2015.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As CDS, he had to prioritise military procurement and questioned the wisdom of having three aircraft carriers. These, he had said, were costly and vulnerable to torpedoes; he favoured submarines and shore-based capabilities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>General Rawat’s bold and outspoken nature had led to some heartburn in the military fraternity. He had once denied hotel stay for officers on outstation duty, saying that such rooms were being used to “exchange briefcases”. He had called out soldiers who faked disability to claim the disability pension, sparking another row.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He had also awarded the Chief of Army Staff’s commendation card to Major Leetul Gogoi, who had tied a Kashmiri civilian to the bonnet of his Jeep, apparently to prevent stone pelters from targeting his convoy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A few days before taking over as CDS, General Rawat had triggered another controversy by publicly condemning those leading “violent” protests. He had said that leadership was not about guiding people to carry out arson and violence, apparently in a dig aimed at the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests across India. Though many people criticised him for such statements, General Rawat was steadfast in his beliefs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As for his legacy, the Army said he was a visionary who initiated far-reaching reforms in the military’s higher defence organisation. “He was instrumental in creating the foundation of India’s joint theatre commands,” read the Army statement, “and in giving impetus to the increased indigenisation of military equipment, a legacy which will be carried on and strengthened by successive generations.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/09/general-rawat-will-be-remembered-for-initiating-india-biggest-military-reform.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/09/general-rawat-will-be-remembered-for-initiating-india-biggest-military-reform.html Sun Dec 12 16:27:34 IST 2021 fateful-flight <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/09/fateful-flight.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/2021/12/9/48-Fateful-flight-new.jpg" /> <p>General Bipin Rawat had miraculously survived a helicopter crash in 2015. A single-engine Cheetah had crashed minutes after it took off from Rangapahar in Dimapur, Nagaland. Rawat was then commander of the Dimapur-based 3 Corps. He and three other Army personnel got away with minor injuries. But, Rawat’s luck ran out on December 8.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 63-year-old chief of defence staff and his wife, Madhulika, were among the 13 killed when an Mi-17V5 helicopter crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu. The Indian Air Force has ordered an inquiry to establish the cause of the accident. The probe is also looking at the height at which the chopper began its descent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The chopper came from the 109 Helicopter Unit of the Sulur airbase, near Coimbatore, and was part of the VVIP fleet. The Mi-17V5 is a military transport helicopter produced by the Russian firm Kazan Helicopters. India ordered 80 of them in 2008 for $1.3 billion. They were delivered in 2013. The Mi-17V5 is the latest twin-engine iteration of transport helicopters and is used regularly for high-altitude operations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It can carry 30 personnel and fly at a maximum speed of 250km per hour. While its main fuel tank range is 675km, two auxiliary fuel tanks allow it to fly for 1,180km. It can carry 4,000kg. In a recent rescue operation, the chopper saved 10 people stranded in the flood in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The crash on December 8 is reminiscent of the February 1952 Devon crash that could have wiped out the Army’s future leadership. Two officers who would become Army chiefs, S.M. Shrinagesh (then lieutenant general) and K.S. Thimayya (then major general), were among the survivors. The pilot, Flight Lieutenant Suhas Biswas, was awarded the Ashok Chakra for his heroics and remarkable presence of mind. It was the IAF’s first Ashok Chakra. Biswas died in a crash in the Nilgiri Hills a few years later.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On November 23, 1963, an Aérospatiale Alouette III helicopter of the IAF crashed in Poonch, Jammu and Kashmir. Six distinguished officers of the armed forces were on board, including three general officers, an air officer and a brigadier. All six died. It was the worst crash India had seen and prompted the decision to allow only one flag officer in an aircraft.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Eastern Army commander Lieutenant General Jameel Mahmood was killed with his wife in an Mi-17 crash in Bhutan in 1993. He was on an official visit. In November 1997, minister of state for defence N.V.N. Somu and three Army officers were killed in a helicopter crash near Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh. The tragedy prompted prime minister I.K. Gujral to cancel his two-day visit to Bombay, where he was to commission the INS Delhi.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/09/fateful-flight.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/09/fateful-flight.html Fri Dec 10 17:26:07 IST 2021 my-aim-is-to-create-a-more-proactive-approach <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/09/my-aim-is-to-create-a-more-proactive-approach.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/2021/12/9/58-Rakesh-Asthana-new.jpg" /> <p>Of the 1,788 rape cases registered in Delhi this year, till November 15, 23.01 per cent were against persons who were in live-in relationships with the survivor or refused to marry the survivor after promise of marriage. In 99 per cent of the cases, the accused were people known to the survivor; 46 per cent were friends or family, 14 per cent relatives, 11 per cent neighbours, 27 per cent other known persons and one per cent employers or colleagues. One of the fundamental issues in the offence of rape is consent, but, when consent is obtained by fraud, cheating or undue influence, it amounts to rape.<br> </p> <p>Nine years after the gang-rape and murder of Nirbhaya drew global attention to the heinous crimes against women in the capital and brought about harsher punishment for rapists, changing social dynamics portend a new challenge for the police. A more nuanced approach to policing is the need of the hour. Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana said that separating law and order, and investigation at the police station level is making ground-level policing more effective. Asthana is also focusing on soft-skill training for police officers and improving the quality of investigations.</p> <p>The Safe City Project, financed by the Rs 850 crore Nirbhaya Fund, is expected to aid Asthana's efforts. The first phase of the project is scheduled to be launched by June 2022. Under it, an integrated command and control centre is being established at the Delhi Police headquarters. The centre will link the nearly two lakh standalone CCTV cameras, including private installations, in the city and use video analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning for predictive policing, face recognition and social media analysis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Edited excerpts from an exclusive interview with Asthana:<br> </p> <p><b>What is the situation of crimes against women in the capital and what steps are you taking to make policing more effective?</b><br> <br> &nbsp;Seventy per cent of crime in the capital is petty street crimes like chain snatching, bag lifting, mobile snatching and thefts. Thirty per cent is crimes like murder, dacoity, attempt to murder and robbery. Crimes against women are also a part of this 30 per cent. These include heinous crimes such as rape, molestation, stalking and outraging the modesty of a woman. I believe that if ground-level policing is good, these crimes are easier to prevent and detect.<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;To strengthen day-to-day policing, our aim is to make police stations more effective and empower beat constables, to increase their effectiveness. Keeping this in mind, we have separated law and order, and crime investigation at police station level. Till now, there was little clarity on who will investigate.<br> </p> <p>Sometimes, the staff changed and the investigation passed on from one policeman to the other. At other times, complainants visiting a police station did not know who would listen to them. Now, with the separation of law and order, and investigation teams, at least one team of investigators is present at the police station round-the-clock to listen to complaints.<br> </p> <p>Secondly, there was also a huge pendency of investigations. When there are focused teams for investigation, the pendency will automatically reduce. When investigations are carried out expeditiously and culprits are booked on time, the effect is visible on society.<br> </p> <p><b>How will you ensure there is cohesion between law and order and those doing investigations? </b></p> <p><br> Today, on an average, every police station has 8-10 teams of investigating officers who are handling different types of cases. These teams are led by an assistant sub inspector, head constable, sub inspector and inspector depending on the nature of crime. This ensures focussed attention to solving the crime. The law and order portion is being handled by policemen who take preventive action against known criminals and history-sheeters. If both good investigation and good prevention go hand-in-hand, crime prevention, detection and overall law and order situation will automatically improve.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p><b>In the Nirbhaya case, there was criticism of the police control room's response time. How are you changing that?</b><br> </p> <p>&nbsp;Our effort has been to merge the police stations with the police control room (PCR), which makes the PCR vans the asset of the police station. In this way, the manpower of the PCR has been merged with the police station staff and the overall strength of the police station has gone up. By doing this, we have been able to allocate enough manpower for separate investigation and law and order duties. With the increase in vehicles to patrol within a police station area, the patrolling area has become [more manageable] and the response time has reduced. It has been brought down from seven minutes to three minutes and seven seconds.<br> </p> <p><b>Women are apprehensive about reporting rape and other sexual offences as they may not be treated sensitively. How are you going to change that?</b><br> </p> <p>&nbsp;We are focusing on providing soft-skill training. We are doing regular courses at the Delhi Police Academy. We have also started calling soft skill trainers from the private sector, like the airline industry. We are also taking help from other government organisations to address the issue in a structured manner.<br> </p> <p><b>There are concerns around the efficacy of CCTV cameras in crime detection and prevention. Your comments.</b><br> </p> <p>There are more than two lakh CCTV cameras in the city. They are being monitored by the police, resident welfare associations, market welfare associations, and Public Works Department. But all these are standalone cameras and there is no networking.<br> </p> <p>We are launching the Safe City Project with Rs 850 crore allocated to us by the Centre from the Nirbhaya fund. The first phase is likely to be launched by June 2022 where an integrated command and control structure will be set up at the police headquarters for integration of all private and non-private cameras in the city. It will provide video analytics, face recognition techniques, artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive policing techniques to give the necessary technological aid to police. Another 10,000 CCTV cameras will be added and state-of-the-art technology will be used to decode and analyse the data generated. We are training policemen and will hire experts from the private sector.<br> </p> <p><b>The misuse of social media is a growing security threat. How are you handling it? </b><br> </p> <p>I have created a social media monitoring cell in the headquarters where we not only project the good work done by the Delhi police, but also counter propaganda against the police and the system by putting facts and figures in the public domain. A special cell is working to track those who misuse social media to create unrest.<br> </p> <p><b>Can law enforcement be the main deterrent against crimes against women?</b><br> </p> <p>&nbsp;My aim is to create a more proactive approach instead of a reactive approach. It also means the accused should be apprehended immediately, so that there is some solace to the victim. This needs to be followed by a speedily conducted scientific investigation and filing of the charge-sheet in court. After I assumed charge, the horrific gang-rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl took place near Delhi Cantonment on August 1. The accused were rounded up quickly and after a scientific investigation, a charge-sheet was filed in court within days. We have requested for a fast-track trial.<br> </p> <p><b>What steps are you taking to increase the number of women in the police force?</b><br> <br> At present, we have 13 per cent women in the police force. As per directives of the government, we are increasing their strength gradually and we are hopeful of having around 25 per cent women in the force by 2025.</p> <p><br> <b>How are you handling rising crimes and drug mafia on the dark net? </b><br> <br> The Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations Unit is providing assistance to police stations for investigating and preventing cyber crimes. The thrust area is countering cyber terror by tracking drug trade, criminal and organised crime rackets on the dark net. There are around 2,500 trained policemen and another 7,500 police officers are being trained for working in cyber police stations in districts. For the first time, every district will have a cyber crime police station. Since all the evidence is in digitised form, I feel the convictions can also be high.<br> </p> <p><b>Are you proposing any changes to the Indian Penal Code? </b><br> <br> At the moment, snatching cases are registered by combining two IPC sections and the offender gets a maximum punishment of three years for theft and two years for use of criminal force. We are proposing introducing a separate section with enhanced punishment in the IPC for snatching and a proposal for the same will be sent to the government.<br> &nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/09/my-aim-is-to-create-a-more-proactive-approach.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/09/my-aim-is-to-create-a-more-proactive-approach.html Fri Dec 10 16:39:23 IST 2021 exclusive-kashi-vishwanath-temple-gets-a-grand-new-look <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/exclusive-kashi-vishwanath-temple-gets-a-grand-new-look.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/2021/12/4/16-the-Kashi-Vishwanath-temple-complex.jpg" /> <p>Between unending pyres marking the ends of mortal frailties, and the embrace of a creator transcending all ends and beginnings, lies a pathway that bridges the spiritual and the temporal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is the Kashi Vishwanath Temple corridor, the most visible manifestation of the Kashi Vishwanath Dham project initiated in 2018. The passage offers unfettered access to the mandir from the Ganga, a river that is believed to have been brought to Earth and tamed by Lord Shiva.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Kashi (also known as Varanasi), the holiest city of Hinduism, Lord Shiva resides as Vishwanath or lord of the world. The name of the city means that which emits endless light to the world. It is a city that ancient texts such as the Shiv Puran say will outlast the end of the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The temple itself was not the original residing place for the shivling, the abstract representation of its reigning deity. It was placed in at least five other locations, say experts. From the end of the 10th century, the temple and the city faced an unending onslaught of foreign attacks. Its present form—a central spire (shikhar) flanked by two smaller ones—was constructed by the Maratha queen Ahilyabai Holkar in 1780. The only major addition after that was in 1839, when two spires were gilded with gold gifted by Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. Its most imposing neighbour is the Gyanvapi Mosque, the foundation for which was laid by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the latter half of the 17th century.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Ganga lies eastward from the temple complex, which can be accessed from three other sides, too. The corridor, which is in its last phases of completion, is designed to welcome pilgrims coming by water. They will alight at the ghat that lies between the Manikarnika and the Lalita Ghats, climb up the ghat, enter through a gateway and cross a distance of some 400m through undulating land. There will be escalators, too, for those who need them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The project covers just over five hectares, of which 70 per cent is open space. Its religious significance lies in the opportunity it gives people to be in a sacred space for long hours as opposed to what has been possible till now.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To carve that space, houses around the temple had to be acquired and demolished. Deepak Agarwal, the divisional commissioner of Varanasi, said that the initial plan envisaged acquiring 197 properties (including those owned privately and by trusts), but this number crossed 300 in the final plans. That translated into 1,400 entities to be rehabilitated. Agarwal heads the Shri Kashi Vishwanath Special Development Board—the development authority overseeing the project. He said the process was centred on constant dialogue, with even Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath chipping in when things got difficult.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The acquisition and subsequent rehabilitation and/or resettlement were complicated by the fact that some properties had no legally defined owners. And, some owners chose to shut their doors on the government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“As challenging as that was, we never stopped moving, working on different aspects concurrently. Our success can be measured by the fact that there is not a single case before any court today,” said Agarwal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pilgrimage to this shrine, surrounded by narrow galis (lanes), had been an unpleasant experience over the years. In addition to the physical challenge of moving in a narrow space and the problems of sanitation and hygiene, the temple as it existed till recently had only a few feet between the inner sanctum and the man-marked boundaries. A visit at any hour would thus entail just a few moments with the deity, after perhaps hours of jostling in queues. The restored complex has an expansive ambulatory (cast in stone from Chunar) arcade around the sanctum. From the river to the temple are public facilities, an auditorium, a mumukshu bhavan (where terminally ill and elderly wait for death in prayers), a gallery, museum and a Vedic centre among other structures.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shrikant Mishra, the chief priest of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple said that the temple was unlike any other in the world because it was in the capital of Lord Shiva. In Kashi, Shiva comes together in his forms as teacher and king. This unity of the dualities is reflected in an oft-used phrase around the city, ‘Ka Raja, Ka Guru’ (roughly: what is the difference between ruler and teacher).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The temple is the court of Shiva where he rules in consultation with his ministers. These ministers of the king include the gods Tarkeshwar and Bhuvneshwar, whose shrines lie adjacent to the main temple. Kashi’s lofty pedestal is both physical and symbolic. In Vedic Sanatan Dharma, it is not built on earthly land, but on the middle prong of a trident. It has equals in seven other cities of the world (including Ayodhya and Ujjain) which offer paths to salvation, but the belief is that all these paths would lead the souls to Kashi for final liberation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The shivling here resides with his female counterpart Annapurna, who decides how the prayers of pilgrims are to be answered. It is thus an important seat of feminine divine power as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The project, to be dedicated to the faithful on December 13, has been designed by Ahmedabad-based HCP Design, Planning and Management Private Limited. HCP’s managing director Bimal Patel’s roster of significant projects includes the Central Vista redevelopment project in Delhi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Patel said that the most astonishing discovery when the project got underway was how “callously” temples within the homes—that were acquired—had been treated. “In many cases, the shikhars (spires) had been used as architectural props,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was the imagined destruction of the idols within these temples that provoked a section to protest against the project. These idols will, however, find space in a gallery on the path of the corridor where they are to be worshipped as previously.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These disapprovals clustered under the banner of the Mandir Bachao Andolan (Save the Temple movement) have been chronicled in a book called Udta Banaras by a former journalist Suresh Pratap. “People sat crying outside their houses as they were torn down,” he said. “Brother was turned against brother. While one tried to delay the process, another was given a contract (by the administration) to carry out the demolition.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For the project’s makers, however, it marks how the present can be carved without disrespect to the past. Patel said: “Our respect for heritage must not paralyse us from respectfully and sensitively bringing about a transformation”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is only in that spirit that the ages can coexist, as Kashi’s favourite deity symbolises.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/exclusive-kashi-vishwanath-temple-gets-a-grand-new-look.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/exclusive-kashi-vishwanath-temple-gets-a-grand-new-look.html Sun Dec 05 11:45:11 IST 2021 at-every-stage-dialogue-remained-our-basis <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/at-every-stage-dialogue-remained-our-basis.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/2021/12/4/22-Yogi-Adityanath-new.jpg" /> <p><b>Q What is special about this project?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ This is the prime minister’s dream project. Through the prime minister’s chosen projects, we can see the culture of India being protected and restored. We see this in different forms. The Kedarnath Dham was destroyed in 2013. The first phase of its restoration has recently been completed and it looks beautiful.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Between the 11th and 17th century, Kashi was attacked numerous times, starting from the time of Muhammad Ghori to Aurangzeb. The first complex, after being annihilated by Aurangzeb, was built by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar (of Indore in 1780). The gold to cover the spires was gifted by Maharaja Ranjit Singh (of Punjab in 1839).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 1916, Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, came to Kashi. He had sharp criticism for it. He said that if a being from another world were to drop into the temple area, he would feel that he had landed in hell; such was the dirt and stench.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a devotee myself, I have been dismayed by the narrowness of the lanes and the filth. The prime minister was firm that people [of Kashi] should not be inconvenienced during implementation of the project, and that livelihoods should be protected.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the initial project design, 196 properties had to be acquired. Negative campaigns were started against us. It was through dialogue that things became clear. People gave up their properties voluntarily. Compensation and rehabilitation is ongoing. In the 400 structures that we demolished, 1,400 people have been rehabilitated. Soon, the mandir complex in its grand form will be dedicated to the people. It was the prime minister’s inspiration, leadership and direction that made it possible.</p> <p><b>Q/ You are known to keenly monitor projects. Here, too, you intervened at the smallest levels.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ At the start, some saints were misinformed. They became eager to agitate. I spoke to each one of them, satisfied everyone and received the blessings and support of all. Those opposing the project were constantly doing propaganda.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Houses throughout the corridor had temples and idols. All these were taken out with due respect and their puja continued. Yet, some people got discarded idols from idol makers, or stone that had been discarded, and [they] threw these by the corridor, made videos of it and spread it through social media. I came that very night. At every stage, dialogue remained our basis. We presented correct facts. We made people understand that Kashi was getting something very big.</p> <p><b>Q/ How do you respond to environment experts who argue that the project causes great damage and that its assessment reports were not given due publicity?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The implementation of any big project is open to comments by the public, as is this one. I would give two examples to those opposing it. I was on an inspection on a National Disaster Response Force steamer. A senior officer told me that earlier new recruits at Varanasi would get red blotches on the skin within two-three days of joining (as they underwent diving and swimming training in the Ganga). Leave alone drinking, the water was not even fit for bathing. That no longer happens. This indicates that the pollution levels are lower. Recently, during the preparations of the Dev Deepawali, I saw dolphins in the Ganga. This is also indicative that the water is clean. The results of the Namami Gange (National Mission for Clean Ganga) are there for all to see.</p> <p><b>Q/ Does any community need to be cautious or afraid of the scale at which temples are being restored?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ There is no need for anyone to be scared. This is the preservation of culture. Everyone should be a part of it. The day that this project is dedicated to the public, everyone will thank the prime minister.</p> <p><b>Q/ There is a petition before the court in Mathura, on behalf of the Sri Krishna Lalla, to remove the Shahi Idgah Masjid on the premises of the Katra Keshav Dev Mandir. This, despite The Places of Worship Act, 1991, prohibiting any change in the status of existing religious places. Do you think that such petitions are merely for the sake of publicity?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ There is a need to steer clear of such things. Once a matter is sub judice, we anyway cannot and will not interfere with it. The courts will examine all perspectives.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/at-every-stage-dialogue-remained-our-basis.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/at-every-stage-dialogue-remained-our-basis.html Sun Dec 05 11:41:47 IST 2021 art-law-in-india-a-warning-to-plagiarists <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/art-law-in-india-a-warning-to-plagiarists.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/2021/12/4/24-Asif-Kamal.jpg" /> <p>A few years ago, an Amrita Sher-Gil canvas was put up for sale. Lawyer Debottam Bose was asked by his client to assist with its purchase. The London-based lawyer flew in to see the work and inspect the original documents. It was certified as authentic by a well-known artist and a relative of Sher-Gil, and the paperwork appeared to be in order.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bose was taken to the home of a well-known artist who was no more. His widow was brought in on a wheelchair. The painting was displayed, and the documents laid out on a table. Bose inspected the papers and was about to ask the widow how and when her husband had acquired the Sher-Gil, when he was given a letter on the late artist’s letterhead. The letter mentioned that the painting had been in his collection. It was, as is known in art circles, a ‘provenance letter’, which provides the chain of ownership.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On further investigation, Bose found that the letter was forged. The painting did not belong to the late artist. It was an ‘orphan work’, meaning it could have been a stolen work with forged papers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The investigation to establish both title and authenticity is important,” said Bose. “In this instance, we saved my client from embarrassment and also from spending a princely amount of money.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The incident gives a sneak peek into the exciting world of art law, where the lawyer has to go far beyond iron-bound contracts and cut-and-dried statutes to act like a sleuth, a Sherlock Holmes if you may. The art lawyer has to be alert to signs, however slight, of the work being a fake or a forgery. And while he or she may or may not be an art connoisseur, it certainly helps to be interested in the arts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a fairly new legal specialisation in India, spurred on by the boom in art business. Bose, recognised as India’s first art lawyer, said part of his job is very much investigative in nature, which involves inspecting the artwork personally and carrying out a thorough check of the authenticity and title—what they call ‘due diligence’ in legalese.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anticipating a growth in demand, law firms are setting up teams of lawyers who cater to artists, gallerists, individual collectors, museums and trusts. The annual business in art is estimated to be around $2,000 crore, and paintings form a large part of it. Even during the pandemic, art worth around $900 crore was auctioned online. Sher-Gil’s ‘In the Ladies’ Enclosure’ (1938) was auctioned for $37.8 crore in July, making it the second-most expensive work of Indian art sold globally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The art law scene in India is evolving slowly as artists and patrons are becoming increasingly aware of the value of their art as an asset, and the rights attached to such art,” said Anand Desai, managing partner, DSK Legal, which launched its art law practice in 2020. “Art law is not just a single legislation, but traverses across various laws.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Desai said the field is not yet at par with more developed practices such as corporate litigation or taxation laws, but will eventually become important because the value of art is only going to increase and will involve complex issues, including ownership, valuation, transfers, inheritance and taxation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The genesis of art law is as fascinating as its practice. A need for legal expertise was felt in the aftermath of World War II, when restitution of artwork stolen by Nazis from museums and families in various European cities was carried out. An example is the story retold in the 2015 Helen Mirren-starrer Woman in Gold, a biopic depicting the legal battle waged by Maria Altmann, an elderly Jewish woman, and her lawyer Randy Schoenberg against the Austrian government. The duo fought to recover a Gustav Klimt painting of her aunt, snatched away from her family in Vienna by the Nazis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In India, art law draws from an already existing range of laws such as media laws, copyright laws, intellectual property rights, estate planning, taxation laws, the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act and the Museum Grant Scheme.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“While the focus on antiques and the great Indian masters is intact, a number of younger artists are now in the national and international spotlight,” said Rodney D. Ryder, founding partner, Scriboard. “The general excitement around Indian art has attracted lawyers as well. The range of issues is staggering from the creation of art, to contracts between buyers, sellers and galleries to issues in online auctions and internet art.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The increased interest and business boom, however, has resulted in a proliferation of fakes. In 2014, a Swiss expert on fine arts had estimated that nearly 50 per cent of all artwork on the market is fake. Concurs Bose, saying that eight out of every 10 works that come to him are fake and the ninth involves some fraud such as the sellers not having the right to sell. He recounted the instance of an S.H. Raza painting that was accompanied by an authentication certificate and a photograph of the renowned painter with his work. A closer look at the photograph revealed that Raza’s hand was rather awkwardly holding the artwork. It was a case of superimposition and the artwork turned out to be fake.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Raza is among the most faked artists in India; others include M.F. Husain, Jagdish Swaminathan, Jamini Roy, Nandalal Bose, Manjit Bawa, Jehangir Sabavala, Ganesh Pyne, F.N. Souza and Anjolie Ela Menon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Due diligence involves a thorough checking of documents, but lawyers say that there are other signs that indicate that a painting is fake. Like, the back of the canvas, the smell of paint, signs of efforts to artificially age a work or merely discrepancies in the seller’s story.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The issue of fakes is a global problem and not just in India,” said DSK Legal partner Chandrima Mitra. “Every few years, you will come across incidents involving fake art being auctioned or sold. Sometimes, art assets without clear ownership title are sold. Buyers are still learning about these issues and how to navigate through them.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are other issues, too, such as injunctions by banks on sale of artwork by their owners, which, for obvious reasons, are kept under wraps by the sellers. Fortis promoters Malvinder Singh and Shivinder Singh were accused by whistle-blowers of having violated the Delhi High Court’s order by selling assets that included artwork by Souza, Raza, Husain, V.S. Gaitonde, Ram Kumar and Nicholas Roerich.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Subhash Bhutoria, partner designate, L&amp;L Partners, one need not be a fine arts expert, but must have a reasonably good knowledge about different stakeholders and art forms. Advice is offered on matters such as proper documentation, valuation, authentication, insurance, commissioning and loaning of artwork, tax matters and inheritance. Disputes include divergence of views on authenticity or provenance, issues with regard to bidding, or insurance and legal action against sale of fakes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most disputes, lawyers say, are dealt through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism since the people involved are very often eminent personalities who want matters to be handled discreetly. In the art domain, said Bhutoria, transactions and even disputes are often personal and emotional and lawyers can create a fine balance of rights, laws and equity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dubai-based businessman and art connoisseur Asif Kamal pointed towards the lack of transparency in art business in India as one of the main pitfalls for art lawyers here. He spoke about monopolies operating that do not allow an objective authentication or pricing of artworks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kamal said that he had sued Christie’s in 2015 for having allegedly put up a fake Raza for auction. The auction house had vehemently denied the allegation. “The authenticity of an artwork changes from gallery to gallery, auction to auction,” said Kamal. “One wrong painting can’t be right if sold by a monopoly player. Similarly, one right painting can’t be wrong if sold by a small-time dealer or gallery. It was on this very issue that I fought Christie’s in court.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lawyers raise the issue about the entrenched establishment not allowing artists their right to royalty. According to Ryder, while the copyright law covers sale of artworks within the copyright period—ensuring that a percentage is paid to the artist so long as the price exceeds $10,000— there has so far been no case in India to demand the same.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another issue highlighted by lawyers is the general lack of awareness about art law as an expertise and a requirement among stakeholders. Renu Modi, owner of Gallery Espace, said that she has so far relied on advice from lawyer friends informally, even as the documents are drawn up on legal stamp paper. While she believes art law is yet to become an integral aspect of art business, “it could help in making art business better organised” and protect the rights of artists and other stakeholders.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The exciting world of art law beckons, and India is only just waking up to it.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/art-law-in-india-a-warning-to-plagiarists.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/art-law-in-india-a-warning-to-plagiarists.html Sun Dec 05 11:39:08 IST 2021 document-everything <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/document-everything.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/2021/12/4/27-Bahaar-Dhawan-Rohatgi.jpg" /> <p>My story began at the bustling offices of Delhi’s prestigious law firm Amarchand Mangaldas. Lawyer by day and artist by night, I led a double life for five years. When I got married and had to juggle family, work and art, I took a sabbatical from my legal job in 2015. I tested the waters with my first exhibition in 2015; the show was sold out and I started creating every day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My legal background helps me create art with a purpose; it invokes thought and is often a comment on society. My mixed media work predominantly evokes emotions, from longing to aspirations or even nostalgia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As someone straddling both the worlds, I realise there are innumerable legal issues loaded against artists. They are at the receiving end of the mess as they shy away from pursuing their legal rights.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from consignment notes, which galleries readily provide, they do not sign proper agreements, setting out legal remedies in the event of loss or damages to the artwork, unless you are represented by the gallery. They also hold on to the artist’s work indefinitely.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aggravated expenses and the fear of breakdown of relations with gallery owners dissuade artists from standing up for their rights. There should be proper sharing of information regarding insurance details of the work—even if it is being held on commission basis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Galleries also do not disclose the buyer of your works, which serves no purpose. Every artist should be aware of who bought the work. Today’s artists are tomorrow’s masters, and documentation of their art and its owners will discourage the emergence of fakes later and help with verifying the provenance. This would also help track subsequent sales and lay the foundation for artists’ royalties. At the beginning of my art journey, I learnt an important lesson—document everything.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unfortunately, artists receive no royalty on resale of artworks. Many of us do not even insist on such clauses in the agreements for sale.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Issues can arise at any stage of the transaction. Recently, there were issues pertaining to a shipment of my installations to the US. Many hidden costs were shared with me after the works were in transit, and I had to clear them all or risk forfeiting my works.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was once bullied by a gallery to create artworks, which were initially approved and appreciated, but [later] I was told that they were unsuitable for display as those colours do not sell well. They also made no effort to promote the show despite charging a huge commission from the sale of my artworks. As a lawyer, I could have rescinded the contract with immediate effect. However, as an artist, I kept my calm. I realised it is important to have terms and conditions in writing before you proceed with any professional relationship in the art world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In another episode, one of my works was completely damaged while being transported from Rajasthan to Delhi. It was lent to an organisation, and they failed to compensate me because the gallerist blamed the transport company and the transporters blamed the laborers. I could have pursued it, but eventually the labourers would have suffered.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A few years ago, I had loaned huge panels of artwork to a renowned alcohol brand as part of a travelling bar. After it was showcased across the country for two years, the sculptural panels disappeared without a trace.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have learnt my lessons—business cannot be done based on assurances, no matter how much people try to tell me this is how things work in the art world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rohatgi is a lawyer-turned-artist, with more than 40 shows in India and abroad, and more than 300 sales worldwide.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>As told to Soni Mishra</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/document-everything.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/document-everything.html Sat Dec 04 15:16:37 IST 2021 art-lawyers-build-bridges-add-value <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/art-lawyers-build-bridges-add-value.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/2021/12/4/28-Debottam-Bose.jpg" /> <p>Debottam Bose, known as India’s first art lawyer, says that art lawyers are more important now than ever before because of the boom in the art market, and with fakes and forgeries abounding. The globe-trotting lawyer has worked in various international law firms. He advises institutions and lectures on art law around the world. Excerpts from an interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How do you view the art law scene in India?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since 2003, as the country’s economy looked up, affluent Indians started collecting Indian modern and contemporary art. In the past decade, art has been viewed as an alternative asset class. As art prices have gone through the roof, an unprecedented number of fakes and forgeries [have been produced]. The need for an art lawyer–for independent verification, investigation and for protecting the rights of artists and collectors—is more important than ever.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What is the role of an art lawyer?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An art lawyer advises clients on all aspects of art transaction. The work is equally investigative in nature. You have to physically see the artwork, meet buyers and sellers, gallerists, source and consult art experts, compare market prices, taxes and other legalities to finally arrive at whether a work is genuine with a good title, and close the deal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How much of an art expert does an art lawyer need to be?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is important to have an aesthetic eye. I studied art history. I also rely on art experts for their opinion. The key issue is independence and ability to access world authorities and experts on various artists and keep everything confidential.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What challenges did you face as a pioneer in the field?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is still a niche field in India. One has to practise as a lawyer and gain a diverse amount of experience. This serves as a good foundation since as an art lawyer it is important to understand the dynamic, resolve disputes and maintain relationships. It is not only about contracts and enforcement but also [about having] no conflicts, maintaining confidentiality and having the ability to win clients over and close deals. Alternative dispute resolution is an important cornerstone of art law practice and mediation is important.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A friend and mentor used to say that my role is to build bridges and add value to the relationship.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How aware are the various stakeholders?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is still early days in India. People are just not used to consulting lawyers, especially an art lawyer, before purchasing art since they won’t even know an art lawyer exists. What makes it alarming is when they are buying expensive works of art. When one buys a property, one involves a lawyer for title search. So why not for an expensive art work? Equally, artists do not know much about their resale rights.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Can you cite an instance where you dealt with authenticity issues?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My team and I travelled to Hamburg, Germany, to investigate and view a Leonardo da Vinci painting. We met the seller’s side. Documents and authenticity affidavits were shared. Whenever I asked to see the painting, there would be a delay. This was an alarm bell. Then we were informed that the seller wanted us to make a deposit and that the painting was not in Hamburg, but in Madrid. This is where I took the decision to abort the deal. Later, I was informed that the work was a fake and an entrapment to secure deposit money from unsuspecting buyers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How well equipped are Indian laws in dealing with issues in the art market?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since art law is in its nascent stage in India, the laws and their enforcement have a long way to go. [With the entry of] non-fungible tokens, crypto art legislation is yet to be framed.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/art-lawyers-build-bridges-add-value.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/art-lawyers-build-bridges-add-value.html Sat Dec 11 13:02:22 IST 2021 greenwashing-solar-and-wind-energy-today-could-lead-to-heavy-payback-tomorrow <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/25/greenwashing-solar-and-wind-energy-today-could-lead-to-heavy-payback-tomorrow.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/2021/11/25/58-A-solar-farm-in-Pavagada-Karnataka.jpg" /> <p><b>IN THE UTOPIAN</b> world of today’s climate campaigners, wind and sun will energise the earth. The air conditioning in your home and the boilers in the factory, cars on the road and even planes in the sky will be powered by harnessing the sun’s heat and the wind’s might, tidal and geothermal power, and bio fuels. No more digging the earth to excavate coal or drilling the seabed to get petrol. Humans will not be pumping tonnes of carbon into the air, and therefore, global temperatures will not rise. A net zero emission and 1.5° Celsius (temperature rise) will be attainable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The green dream is tempting. But everyone, including its campaigners themselves, know that it is unattainable with the technology and consumption patterns of today. They might frown upon India for refusing to detach its development needs from coal and gas, but the truth is that solar panels and windmills alone cannot lift India into an economy that matches those in the west. Worse, there is a cost to pay for these alternatives. Indeed, just how green is green energy?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Renewable energy sources, as of today, face the problems of scalability and storage. Regular supply is another problem. For instance, if a photovoltaic cell says it has a capacity of 10KW, it means the cell will generate that energy when it is new, and also when the sun is at its brightest. Given the wear and tear of panels, and the fluctuation in sunshine during the course of a day and across seasons, the actual energy generated by that cell will be much lower, said Gurudas Nulkar, economist-turned-ecologist and author of Ecology, Equity and the Economy: The Human Journey.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Energy generation from wind mills, too, remains unsteady, he added. India’s grand boast of having 450GW of installed capacity of renewable energy by 2030 means just that, installed capacity. The actual yield, or capacity factor (total yield over a time period divided by installed capacity) could be much lower. Typically, for solar plants, the capacity factor is 10 to 25 per cent, and for wind, around 25 per cent. Coal, on the other hand, has a capacity factor of around 70 per cent, while nuclear tops the chart at around 90 per cent. However, nuclear plants are very expensive and time consuming to build, and take their time to go critical.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The manufacture and installing of solar and wind farms come with a massive environment cost. Mandar Datar, plant ecology scientist, said that the choice for solar farms was usually open tracts of lands, supposedly non agrarian. However, grasslands have their own role in ecology and biodiversity, which get destroyed when these farms come up. He said wind farms across the plateaus of Maharashtra have already begun destroying the fragile ecosystems of lateritic outcrops that nurture unique lifeforms that may not be found anywhere else on earth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These gigantic blades can only be transported by long bed trucks, for which one needs to build proper roads right up to the site. For installation, the rock bed has to be blasted and filled with cement. Every windmill needs one ton of oil for lubrication, which is then discarded at the site itself. They also need to be cleaned with harsh chemicals to remove algal growth, which too, are left at the site. These plateaus are sources for springs that once nurtured not just local ecology but also human habitations. “All this, for a 25 per cent yield. The Energy Return on Energy Invested (EroEI) for wind farms is minuscule,” said Nulkar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The worst that windmills do, however, is eliminate the raptors from the region. These birds of prey hit against the blades and die in big numbers. Research at the Chalkewadi Wind Farms in Maharashtra a few years ago revealed a drop in raptor population and corresponding rise in lizard population, given the absence of their predators. The lizards, however, responded poorly to stress, not a good trait for their long-term survival, in the new environment, which, researchers concluded, was the direct result of the elimination of their predators. The lizards were so unafraid that they let the researchers come extremely close to them. Is it any wonder that from an ecologist’s viewpoint wind farms are a nightmare? Ironically, wind farms are exempt from environmental impact assessment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“There are plans for installing solar panels over canals. A good idea to optimise space, maybe, but what will happen to the diatoms that need sunshine to grow and are the agents for huge carbon sequestration?” Nulkar asked. These diatoms nurture the chain of aquatic life. Once gone, the entire chain crumbles.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Solar panels and wind turbine blades both come at a high energy, and usually, carbon-intensive cost of production. India has largely been importing solar chips from China, the Atmanirbhar aspect is largely limited to assembling the panels here. Wind turbine blades are usually made of fibreglass, and the emissions they give out during the manufacturing stage are extremely high. Only a tiny component, if at all, is manufactured with ‘green energy’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the end of their lifecycle, too, these components are polluting, crowding landfills—and in the case of solar panels—leaching chemicals, too. The life of a solar panel is around 25 years, a wind turbine around 15 to 20 years. In the absence of any policy, this waste itself could become a huge problem in the years to come, given the boost to scale up renewable energy production.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“There are emissions associated with all activities. What is important is that renewable energy infrastructure does not continue to emit carbon dioxide through its entire lifetime,” said David Antonioli, an international expert on environment and voluntary carbon markets. That may be true. However, as renewable energy infrastructure scales up in India to compete with traditional coal and fossil fuel ones, it is not a bad idea to scrutinise each project and look for the hidden carbon footprint.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/25/greenwashing-solar-and-wind-energy-today-could-lead-to-heavy-payback-tomorrow.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/25/greenwashing-solar-and-wind-energy-today-could-lead-to-heavy-payback-tomorrow.html Sun Nov 28 09:59:08 IST 2021