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 fight-cancer-dont-fear-it-message-from-the-week-lic-event <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/03/fight-cancer-dont-fear-it-message-from-the-week-lic-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/2022/9/3/57-Dr-Sujit-Chatterjee.jpg" /> <p><b>EVERY SIXTH DEATH</b> in the world happens because of cancer, said Dr C.S. Pramesh, director, Tata Memorial Hospital, at the seminar on ‘Fight Cancer Find the Cure’, organised by THE WEEK in partnership with the Life Insurance Corporation of India. “By 2040, almost 70 per cent of all cancers will occur in low- and middle-income countries like India,” he added. “And countries like us, honestly, are ill-equipped to handle this increasing burden. Unless we have a systematic cancer plan, we will be troubled in the near future.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The event that took place on August 26 was the second seminar on cancer care hosted by THE WEEK (the first being in 2019). Leading experts from some of the most reputed hospitals providing cancer treatment in India were in attendance and spoke about the treatment modalities, post recovery care and the importance of health insurance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The panel discussion on cancer in males, moderated by Dr Vijay Haribhakti, director, oncology, Sir H.N. Reliance Foundation Hospital, gave an insight into the why and how of head and neck cancers in Indian males. On the panel were his eminent colleagues Dr Sewanti Limaye, director, medical and precision oncology, and director, clinical and translational oncology research; Dr Prasad Dandekar, head of radiation oncology and Dr Tushar Thorat, consultant surgeon (plastic, reconstructive and microvascular). The panel agreed that the top reasons that contributed to making India the “global head and neck cancer capital” were chewing tobacco and areca nut, use of condiments, lack of oral hygiene, smoking, and other habits, including alcohol. The takeaway from the discussion, said Haribhakti, was: Avoid tobacco, strive for early diagnosis, choose a specialist centre for treatment and aim for a cure the very first time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Veena Khan, senior divisional manager, LIC, spoke about how one can better manage the financial burden resulting from cancer treatment by opting for insurance, such as LIC’s cancer cover available for those between the ages of 20 and 65, and which covers early to later stages of cancer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The session on cancer care in women, moderated by Dr Sujit Chatterjee, CEO, Hiranandani Hospital, highlighted, among other aspects, how 26 in every one lakh women are at a lifetime risk of developing breast cancer and that their mortality rate was exactly half. The eminent panel included Dr Ashish Bakshi, medical oncologist and haematologist, Dr Namita Pandey, breast oncosurgeon, Dr Deepak Chhabra, surgical oncologist and Dr Amit Chakraborty, oncologist for head and neck cancer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The third session discussed cancer in children and was moderated by Dr Ruchira Misra, consultant, department of paediatric hematology, oncology and BMT at Narayana Health’s SRCC Children’s Hospital. The panelists comprised Dr Purna Kurkure, Dr Shripad Banavali, Dr Rasik Shah, Dr Monica Bhagat, Dr Sujata Mushrif and Dr Chintan Vyas.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fourth panel was moderated by Dr Vandana Dhamankar of the Indian Cancer Society. The discussion was on surviving cancer and the panelists were Dr Maya Prasad, Dr Savita Goswami, Dr Nisha Agarwal, Usha Banerji of St. Jude India ChildCare Centres and Preeti Phad, a cancer survivor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The takeaway from the seminar was: “Do not fear; rather, fight cancer.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/03/fight-cancer-dont-fear-it-message-from-the-week-lic-event.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/03/fight-cancer-dont-fear-it-message-from-the-week-lic-event.html Sat Sep 03 12:26:00 IST 2022 exclusive-india-stands-poised-on-cusp-of-a-major-transition <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/27/exclusive-india-stands-poised-on-cusp-of-a-major-transition.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/2022/8/27/16-Venkaiah-Naidu-new.jpg" /> <p><b>AS I LOOK BACK WITH</b> a sense of gratification and contentment, I find it difficult to sum up my term as Vice President of India and Chairman, Rajya Sabha, in one defining phrase or expression. However, during this eventful chapter in my journey in public life spanning five decades, I travelled extensively to various parts of the country and interacted with people drawn from all walks of life. My travels and countless interactions with people representing diverse sections of the population served to reinforce the fact that today India is well and truly on the move. As the country celebrates Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, I, as a citizen of this great nation, feel proud to say that the new India that is now emerging, replete with growing competence and confidence, is an India proud of its rich cultural heritage, while moving forward resolutely to earn its rightful place in the comity of nations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India today stands poised on the cusp of a major transition. In rural as well as urban areas, I could see Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mantra of governance—“Reform, Perform and Transform”—in action, fast-tracking development in multiple domains. I see this paradigm shift in governance as a singular accomplishment worth highlighting because it has transformed the development trajectory of this great nation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is not to say that there are no challenges. Poverty, illiteracy, socio-economic inequities, gender discrimination, uneven development and the rural-urban divide, among other maladies, are issues that need to be countenanced. What I found uplifting is the enterprise and enthusiasm of the youth everywhere to be proactive partners in the mission of India’s development.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Throughout my tenure as the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, I appealed to members to be guided by the mantra of “let the government propose, let the opposition oppose and let the house dispose”, as also “Debate; Discuss and Decide; Do not disturb.” I have always pointed out that dignity and decorum should be the defining features of the functioning of our parliamentary democracy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While constructive criticism should be welcomed, there is no room for disruption, which is sadly, on the rise in our system today. Disruption and disorder mar the functioning of Parliament and reflect impatience and intolerance. Enlightened debates should influence policy and decision-making and ultimately lead to development.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is my conviction that the distilled knowledge and wisdom of our collective civilisational consciousness finds expression in our mother tongues. As someone who takes immense pride in the country’s rich cultural and linguistic heritage, I have been a vocal supporter of the widespread use of Indian languages. As Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, I ensured that members could speak in any of the 22 languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An added achievement was that simultaneous interpretation service was provided in the Rajya Sabha leading to a greater use of Indian languages in the proceedings of the upper house. For instance, four languages— Dogri, Kashmiri, Konkani and Santhali—have been used for the first time since the Rajya Sabha came into being in 1952 and six other languages—Assamese, Bodo, Gujarati, Maithili, Manipuri and Nepali—have been used after a long hiatus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted lives globally and India was no exception. In a gigantic, collective effort of waging a war against a deadly virus, our medical fraternity— including doctors, para-medical staff, health and sanitary workers—as also our brave police personnel, ASHA workers in villages, scientists, innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers and vaccine manufacturers worked tirelessly, racing against time to save precious lives.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Keeping in mind the safety of the members of Parliament and the large pool of employees during the sessions, I held prolonged consultations with the Speaker of Lok Sabha, Om Birla, and other officials. We drew up a detailed protocol, which was implemented from the monsoon session of Parliament of 2020. The initiatives taken to check the chain of transmission were widely appreciated by members of both houses of Parliament.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have often pointed out how the concept of ecological protection is embedded in our DNA from time immemorial, as seen in our worship of rivers, trees and mountains, among other aspects of nature. In the backdrop of rising threats to the environment, I always counsel youth that, in order to save the planet, they must strive to protect nature and preserve culture for a better future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On a parallel note, as someone coming from a family of farmers, I believe that agriculture lies at the core of the nation’s cultural fabric. The resilience of the Indian farmer can be seen in the manner in which he stood tall in the face of the devastating pandemic, notching up a record production of food grains. In my visits to universities, my interactions with farmers, as also scientists and researchers, I have emphasised the role agriculture plays in the development architecture of the country. I repeatedly stressed upon the need for closer interaction between farmers and agricultural scientists to help farmers turn agriculture into a more profitable and sustainable activity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The progress of a nation hinges on the educational empowerment of women. I feel overjoyed when I see girl students at educational institutions prove their mettle and win gold medals. Over these five years, in universities and colleges across the country, I could see the progress we have made in girls’ education and women’s empowerment. This is reflected in women breaking the glass ceiling in multiple fields, including sports and games.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In my addresses to, and interactions with, students in various colleges and universities I have stressed upon the fact that education, especially higher education, is among the most powerful instruments of social change. I have tried to underscore the point that education holds the key to our presence at the global level in terms of economic growth, social justice and equality, scientific advancement, national integration and cultural preservation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As I reminisce with satisfaction at my tenure in the second highest Constitutional office in the country, I am filled with optimism and a robust belief that India is well on its way to becoming a Shreshth Bharat, Sashakth Bharat and Atmanirbhar Bharat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The author is former Vice President of India.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/27/exclusive-india-stands-poised-on-cusp-of-a-major-transition.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/27/exclusive-india-stands-poised-on-cusp-of-a-major-transition.html Sat Aug 27 13:49:01 IST 2022 indias-focus-on-solar-and-wind-energy-augurs-well-for-green-future <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/indias-focus-on-solar-and-wind-energy-augurs-well-for-green-future.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/2022/8/13/57-A-solar-field.jpg" /> <p><b>THE SUN IS SHINING</b> on a green future. Throw in the wind, the water and the sea, and you have a well-balanced and wholesome thali for climate action. That is, if India can de-addict itself from the lure of junk power from fossil fuels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It may seem a no-brainer, with clean renewables like solar and wind energy scoring on any flowchart possible over the polluting coal and natural gas. Yet, India has a difficult choice to make—should it give up a cheap source of energy like coal or make efforts to re-track towards a sustainable future with renewable energy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The government has been pushing the envelope. First it set in 2016 a target of 175 GW by 2022. A target of 450 GW was set for 2030, which was recently upped to 500 GW. Vision is one thing; reality is another. With less than five months in hand, only 114.07 GW of the target of 175 GW has been achieved. Bhagwanth Khuba, minister of state for new and renewable energy, told Parliament a month ago that an additional capacity of 60.66 GW power plants were at various stages of completion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A bigger challenge would be the elephant in the room—coal. The two bouts of coal shortage and power outages across states in the past 10 months exposed how India is still dependant on coal to produce electricity. Renewable energy’s share of India’s power bouquet is around 40 per cent. “We can’t ‘switch off’ the global demand for fossil fuels overnight. It is necessary to maintain energy security as we make the transition to net zero,” said Anish De, global head for energy, natural resources and chemicals at KPMG. “[But] renewable energy has created substantial capacity in India. A large supply base has been created with credible players, the power markets have evolved and supported new business models and greater flexibility.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The added impetus from the government has also helped. Prime Minister Modi has set India on a feasible roadmap towards reducing coal dependency and net zero carbon emissions by 2070.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“There have been some uncertainties, but the government by and large has been proactive,” said Manish Gupta, senior director, CRISIL Ratings. “That has led to good growth in the last few years.” With policies for green hydrogen and EVs, a production-linked incentive scheme for making solar photovoltaic cells, introduction of sovereign green bonds in public sector projects, and ambitious targets for ramping up renewable energy production, the Modi government is ensuring that the future is green.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The only way for renewables is forward. Everyone from the Ambanis and the Adanis to startups like ReNew Power are now planning mega investments, not to forget the traditional biggies like NTPC and Tata Power, who are all also making the shift. A report by KPMG on funding over the April-June period showed that, while global VC funding has been dropping, renewable energy businesses like electric vehicles, battery technologies and hydrogen were increasingly getting money.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“India can emerge as a major manufacturing and technology development hub for renewable and smart technologies,” said De. “We missed it largely in solar and cannot afford so for emerging cleantech. The government is taking measures, and would need to work with the private sector to unleash India’s tremendous potential.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>75 Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>COMPARISONS GIVE</b> a sense of perspective. That is why they are imperative when you trace the journey of a nation from a colonial leftover to an economic powerhouse. India was an economic mess when the British left in 1947. Much as our nation builders tried to create systems and institutions, they were constrained by the limited resources available to a fledging economy, and a volatile world order. Still India did well on many fronts and not so well on some.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It has clearly been a mixed bag. India’s per capita GDP, for instance, is about a fifth of China’s now. It was just half of that of the eastern neighbour in 2004, and about the same in 1990. Clearly, we are not growing fast enough. But you compare it with the British rule—while an Indian’s income hardly improved for almost 120 years before independence, it went up 10 times in the past 30 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India is now the world’s sixth largest economy (third, by purchasing power parity). While it reflects the strides the country made in the past three decades, it is also an indicator of the tremendous potential it holds. That potential is more evident than anywhere else in information technology, and the new poster boy of India’s digital prowess, UPI, has brought in a paradigm shift in the payment segment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>UPI is just one of the many game changers that will lead India to a crucial period when it will try to lift a big chunk of its population out of poverty. These initiatives offer not just better lives but also the promise of a better future.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/indias-focus-on-solar-and-wind-energy-augurs-well-for-green-future.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/indias-focus-on-solar-and-wind-energy-augurs-well-for-green-future.html Sat Aug 13 16:35:56 IST 2022 indian-manufacturing-is-on-the-rise-but-beating-china-will-be-tough <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/indian-manufacturing-is-on-the-rise-but-beating-china-will-be-tough.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/2022/8/13/60-Mobile-phone-maker-Vivo.jpg" /> <p><b>SAME SCRIPT,</b> different cast. Before ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Make in India’ tried to sex up manufacturing, a half-naked fakir did it with one of the simplest, yet unforgettable, slogans in Indian history—swadeshi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The times are changing, so is the cast; but the script remains the same. Seventy-five years since independence and under a new world order, India’s manufacturing sector still needs a leg-up, after all the Five Year Plans, National Manufacturing Policy (during UPA 2) and ‘Be Indian, buy Indian’ clarion calls. Can Atmanirbhar Bharat and its production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme, which offers incentives for companies setting up manufacturing in specified sectors in the country on an incremental basis, cut away from those that went before? And can it breathe life, and roar, into the nuts-and-bolts lion of ‘Make in India’?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many believe it is possible. “Even as the world is grappling with a host of economic and geopolitical issues, India is at the cusp of opportunities which must be leveraged,” said Deepak Sood, secretary general of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India. “We are seeing quite a bit of success [of the PLI scheme] in sectors like electronics and automobiles. We need to ramp up the campaign.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India’s manufacturing dilemma is an old woe. Since the colonisers arrived, India has been more of a consumer than a producer of manufactured goods. Post-independence, governments tried to deal with it with various strategies—Nehru imposed socialism and the ‘License Raj’ and Indira tried nationalisation, while Morarji Desai’s industries minister George Fernandes threw out Coke and IBM. After a near-bankruptcy forced P.V. Narasimha Rao’s finance minister Manmohan Singh to free up the market in the early 1990s, the economy boomed. However, India still imported more finished goods than it exported, and the deficit kept growing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While this did not matter for much of the 1990s and the 2000s, when the economy and trade boomed, the warning lights started blinking once a series of economic disasters struck—the 2008-09 global financial meltdown and its aftereffects, demonetisation, the slowdown of 2018-19 and then the pandemic, and now the Ukraine war and the fears of a looming global recession. Rounding up the litany of woes has been India’s increasing friction with China, and the realisation of its over-dependence on the big bully neighbour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Narendra Modi government’s push for self-reliance was insistent enough with Make in India right from 2014, but it turned into a relentless one with Atmanirbhar Bharat after clashes with China in 2020. A bedrock of Modi 2.0’s economic policy, it aims to reduce the dependence on imports and attract global manufacturers to set up production bases in India. “It is creating a robust manufacturing base in the country, which is enabling India to compete on an equal footing globally,” said Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal a few weeks ago.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the push has been relentless, there is also a school of thought that India should focus on the services sector, where it has always done better. According to the World Bank, manufacturing contributed to just 14 per cent of value to India’s national income in 2021, while services contributed around 50 per cent. “India should focus on building (human) capacities, not chips,” said former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, an ardent detractor of ‘imitating China’s path’, in an interview a few weeks ago. “We should focus on what our strengths are.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But with the might of the establishment behind it, Indian manufacturing might have a chance this time around. Registration of manufacturing companies has been at its highest levels in the past few years, according to a report by Emkay Investment Managers. It says this has the potential to add 4 per cent to the GDP. “After a long hiatus, manufacturing companies are likely to be the wealth creators, leaders of the next rally in the markets,” said Vikaas M. Sachdeva, CEO of Emkay.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The PLI scheme now covers 14 sectors, with an outlay of Rs2.4 lakh crore in incentives over the next five years, and it has already roped in big names. Those signing up for setting up production plants for anything from air conditioners to solar panels and semiconductors include the likes of Samsung, LG, Vedanta, Adani, Jindal and Bluestar. Apple is estimated to make iPhones worth Rs47,000 crore in India through its vendors, creating 30,000 jobs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The pandemic was the plot twister in this script. Many sectors restructured their sourcing and manufacturing footprints to “capitalise on India’s advantages in raw materials, talents and entrepreneurship,” according to Arjun Bajaj, CEO &amp; founder, Daiwa, and director, Videotex. “If we can specialise and build internationally competitive manufacturing centres, it offers India the most important chance to boost economic growth and job creation this decade.” This script could well have a happier ending.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/indian-manufacturing-is-on-the-rise-but-beating-china-will-be-tough.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/indian-manufacturing-is-on-the-rise-but-beating-china-will-be-tough.html Sat Aug 13 16:32:31 IST 2022 digital-india-has-nudged-indians-into-adopting-new-technology <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/digital-india-has-nudged-indians-into-adopting-new-technology.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/2022/8/13/61Digital-payment-methods-play.jpg" /> <p><b>IT WAS ON</b> August 20, 2014, that the cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved Digital India, a programme aimed at transforming India into a digitally-empowered society. It identified broadband highways, universal access to mobile connectivity, e-governance, electronic delivery of services and electronics manufacturing as key areas that would drive growth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The most visible among the many initiatives under the programme has been Unified Payments Interface (UPI), launched by the National Payments Corporation of India in 2016. UPI hit a billion transactions for the first time in 2019. In July 2022, UPI managed 6.28 billion transactions, which was the highest ever on the platform since its launch. The total transaction value in the month was Rs10.62 lakh crore. The transaction volumes almost doubled in a year and transaction value went up 75 per cent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Payment modes, especially UPI, are playing a major role in promoting financial inclusivity in the country,” said Anand Kumar Bajaj, MD and CEO of PayNearby, a fintech that offers financial services. “Initiatives by the RBI and the NPCI, such as UPI Lite, which aims to boost small-ticket offline digital payments, and UPI123Pay, which allows transactions through feature phones without an internet connection, will push its uptake and fuel the digital payments space in the future.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The growing e-commerce segment and the wider availability of the facility at stores are among the major reasons behind the success of UPI. In 2020-21, more than 22 billion transactions were processed over UPI. It is expected to grow to 160 billion in the next four years. “There has been a tremendous push by the government and regulators over the last decade to drive various digital initiatives,” said Vishal Maru, executive vice president (financial institutions and merchant services) of the payment solutions provider Worldline.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Driven by the increasing smartphone penetration and inexpensive data, the digital boom is not restricted to the big cities. According to the latest report by the data and analytics firm Kantar and the Internet and Mobile Association of India, there are 69.2 crore active internet users in India. Rural India has 35.1 crore users, whereas urban areas have 34.1 crore. By 2025, there will be 90 crore internet users in the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The so-called JAM trinity—linking the Aadhaar identity and mobile phone number with bank account—not just boosted digital payments, but also facilitated direct transfer of subsidies. More than 023 lakh crore has been sent directly to bank accounts of the beneficiaries through direct benefits transfer in the past eight years. Prime Minister Modi said around Rs2.25 lakh crore had been saved by direct transfer of subsidies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The government is now pushing another ambitious project—Open Network for Digital Commerce. Based on open-source technology, this is aimed at promoting open networks for exchange of goods and services. ONDC protocols would standardise operations like cataloguing, inventory management, order management and order fulfilment, and enable small businesses to use any ONDC-compatible application. “This will provide multiple options to small businesses to be discoverable over network and conduct business. It would also encourage easy adoption of digital means by those currently not on digital commerce networks,” said Som Prakash, minister of state for commerce and industry, in Parliament.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Enhancing local electronics manufacturing is also a big focus-area under the Digital India Mission. From just two mobile phone manufacturing units in 2014, India now has 200 and has emerged as the second-largest mobile handset manufacturing hub in the world.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/digital-india-has-nudged-indians-into-adopting-new-technology.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/digital-india-has-nudged-indians-into-adopting-new-technology.html Sat Aug 13 16:28:13 IST 2022 despite-challenges-educational-institutions-set-to-welcome-first-batch-of-students-under-nep <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/despite-challenges-educational-institutions-set-to-welcome-first-batch-of-students-under-nep.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/2022/8/13/65-A-class-in-progress.jpg" /> <p><b>K. KASTURIRANGAN, HEAD</b> of the drafting committee of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, told this correspondent a year ago that the new policy was not about tweaking the existing educational system, but transforming it. “Higher education will become much more student-centric and will focus on building 21st century skills. Our youth and adults will have the opportunity to keep learning throughout their lives to keep pace with a fast-changing world,” he said. Two years after NEP was announced, many colleges and universities are ready to implement it from this academic year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Experts and educationists stress that the implementation of NEP is more important than its planning and design. Delhi University Vice Chancellor Yogesh Singh said DU’s four-year undergraduate curriculum was ready. “We will focus on a multidisciplinary, student-centric approach where students are free to decide what they want to study. We are implementing it from this academic year.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) is changing its manual as per NEP provisions. NAAC Director S.C. Sharma said implementing NEP was a matter of perception and understanding. “The norms are flexible and can be adopted easily by educational institutions. We have also been changing our manual in accordance with NEP.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Experts, however, point out that the implementation is not going to be easy as India has one of the largest and diverse education systems in the world. “There are about 1,100 universities and 43,000 colleges. The diversity in the institutional structure of the colleges is huge, with some being affiliated, some autonomous, some with special minority status, etc. Each of these education typologies have specific governing structures for decision making,” said Ali Raza Moosvi, vice chancellor, Khaja Bandanawaz University in Karnataka. “Then there is the fact that education is on the concurrent list, which means that both the Central and state governments have a say. ”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The NEP document was in the public domain and many rounds of consultations were sought from stakeholders, planners, academicians and teachers. “The existing structures do not allow for practical application to the extent that the policy envisages. Academic freedom to faculty, evenly spread workload or the option to step outside the confines of one’s discipline are ideas that are still far away. Then there is always the ‘holy-grail’ of academic autonomy,” added Moosvi. He also warned about the inherent political bias that often happened with policy pronouncements. “Opposition-ruled states do not want to fully implement NEP, while [NDA-run] states rush in with compliance. Both approaches seem to miss the point that any new idea needs time to germinate and grow and undue haste or delay reduces it to mere politics,” said Moosvi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite evident challenges, institutions are ready to welcome the fresh batch of students, presumably to an entirely new system. “It is going to be a roller-coaster, but surely an exciting ride that will irrevocably change the educational landscape,” said Pratibha Jolly, academic consultant, NAAC, and former principal, Miranda House.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the D-Day approaches, educationists have mixed feelings. Rajendra D. Shinde, principal of St Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Mumbai, spoke about the steps initiated by his institution. “We have been reading in newspapers that high-level committees have been formed at the ministry and at the university level to decide the mode and the way to implement NEP. We, at Xavier’s, have had four webinars, including one international conference, on higher education where NEP was discussed. We also had a workshop on its implementation,” he said. “Many colleges are waiting for government directives.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jolly said top-ranked institutions were well-geared to usher in the NEP changes. “The system is plunging headlong into uncharted territory. Implementation will rest primarily on the resilience and agility of the institutional communities and their capacity to adapt and to adopt innovative practices.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/despite-challenges-educational-institutions-set-to-welcome-first-batch-of-students-under-nep.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/despite-challenges-educational-institutions-set-to-welcome-first-batch-of-students-under-nep.html Sat Aug 13 16:25:23 IST 2022 blue-economy-could-well-be-indias-next-success-story <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/blue-economy-could-well-be-indias-next-success-story.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/2022/8/13/68-Indian-coasts-provide.jpg" /> <p><b>WITH A 7,517KM</b>-long coastline and 1,382 islands, India has a unique maritime position. Around 95 per cent of its trade happens via sea. The country has 12 major ports and 187 non-major ones that together handle about 1,400 million tonnes of cargo a year. It also holds an exclusive economic zone of 20 lakh square kilometres that has significant recoverable resources of crude and natural gas. Indian coasts provide a livelihood for 40 lakh fishermen. These vast interests make it imperative for India to have a robust ‘blue economy’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Introduced as a new economic policy in 1994 by Professor Gunter Pauli at United Nations University, Japan, blue economy reflected the need for developing sustainable models for using oceans for economic growth while preserving the health of the marine ecosystem. India had created a department for ocean development 13 years earlier. And, in the past three decades, it has made major technological advancements to gather data on various oceanographic features.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The government’s Vision of New India by 2030 highlights blue economy as one of the 10 core dimensions of growth. In 2021, India launched the Deep Ocean Mission to develop deep-sea technologies for sustainable use of ocean resources. India now has two contracts with the International Seabed Authority (ISBA) for deep ocean exploration of minerals (polymetallic nodules and hydrothermal sulphide) in the Indian Ocean.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since technologies required for deep sea mining have strategic implications and are not commercially available, India is working on developing indigenous technologies. On July 27, the government said that it was finalising a national policy for the blue economy. The draft policy framework envisions sustainable development of coastal areas with optimal utilisation of all maritime domains.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“In the South Asian or global context at large, India is among the most formidable players in the blue economy ecosystem,” said Atul K. Thakur, a policy professional and writer. “With a rich water resources base and marine environment, India is waiting for its moment to broaden the ambit by linking the blue economy framework to the economic growth and environmental sustainability, besides serving the national security interests.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is an ocean of opportunities. But there are many challenges as well. Nilanjan Ghosh, director of Observer Research Foundation Kolkata Centre, said there were threats from global warming and climate change, ocean acidification, marine pollution, depletion of the fish stocks, degradation of the marine ecosystem, illegal and unregulated fishing, habitat destruction, chemical pollution, and oil spills. “We have to consider what is happening in the coastal belt also,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thakur said India’s next success story might come from blue economy. “The opening of the new opportunities will revitalise the economic reforms as well. Moreover, a cleaner future will also help bring the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) equation into action where India’s response to the sustainable development needs is closely looked at globally. One stellar show with the blue economy will position India as a hope for the world.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/blue-economy-could-well-be-indias-next-success-story.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/blue-economy-could-well-be-indias-next-success-story.html Sat Aug 13 16:21:44 IST 2022 india-uses-more-groundwater-than-us-and-china-combined <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/india-uses-more-groundwater-than-us-and-china-combined.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/2022/8/13/70-People--from-Thadacha-Pada-village.jpg" /> <p><b>INDIA IS THE</b> largest user of groundwater in the world. With an annual extraction of 244.92 billion cubic metres (in 2020), India uses more groundwater than the US and China combined. Today, however, 63 per cent of Indian districts are facing issues related to falling groundwater levels, which also has a direct correlation with poverty rates. It is estimated that poverty rates are 9 to 10 per cent higher in districts where groundwater tables have fallen below 8m.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the 1960s, India witnessed a boom in groundwater irrigation with the launch of the green revolution. Over 60 per cent of India’s total irrigation is now groundwater-fed. About 85 per cent of rural drinking water supply, too, relies on groundwater sources.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Recognising that the unregulated use of groundwater is draining India dry, the Union government introduced two major initiatives in the last decade. The first one was the National Project on Aquifer Management (NAQUIM) launched in 2012. The principal objectives of NAQUIM are to detect and map aquifers, estimate the groundwater potential and promote groundwater management at the aquifer level. The programme envisaged a paradigm shift from “groundwater development” to “groundwater management”. Eshwer Kale, thematic lead of water resources development and governance at Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR), however, said aquifer maps generated as part of NAQUIM were unsuitable for making scientific and social interventions at a village level. “This is because these maps are generated at the scale of 1:50,000.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2019, the Union government introduced Atal Jal, another scheme to improve groundwater management through community participation, in seven states. The five-year implementation of the programme—with a total allocation of Rs6,000 crore—started in 2020-2021.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kale said while projects like NAQUIM were well-intended, the challenge was to demystify the unseen aquifer to the rural population and make them responsible for managing it. Since groundwater is not visible to naked eyes, groundwater resources are often subjected to unscientific extraction and overexploitation. Kale and his team developed a tool called CoDriVE—Visual Integrator, which helps villagers visualise water reserves lying beneath the ground. “The model helps rural populations to do water budgeting,” said Kale. “The precise estimation of groundwater helps farmers grow suitable crops and plan their irrigation schedules.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Taking traditional knowledge and local topography into account is crucial while implementing groundwater recharging techniques. Laporiya, a remote village located on the edge of the Thar desert in Rajasthan, is a good example. The village, which gets hardly 300mm rainfall annually, has a unique system for recharging groundwater. The village used to experience severe drought till a few decades ago. A group brought together by a school dropout, Laxman Singh, in 1977, to repair a small stone bund, changed the fate of the village. By 1984, the bund became the water source for 1,800 acres.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 1986, Singh founded an NGO named Gram Vikas Navyuvak Mandal Laporiya (GVNML) and launched a system to recharge groundwater levels. It consists of a series of square pits with mud walls. The small mud walls work as water-harvesting structures. The system slows down the flow of rainwater and gives it enough time to seep into the ground, thereby recharging underground water tables. The excess water gets diverted to nearby ponds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Our approach is to consider the original land use pattern and recharge groundwater,” said Jagveer Singh, CEO of GVNML. “When we started working on it, we involved the local community also. We developed this technology in a participatory manner.” He said the model could be replicated in most parts of India, except in hilly areas and places with heavy rainfall. “Our agriculture is flourishing,” he said. “We have sufficient drinking water even when other villages experience drought. We even have surplus water to supply to nearby villages.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/india-uses-more-groundwater-than-us-and-china-combined.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/india-uses-more-groundwater-than-us-and-china-combined.html Sat Aug 13 16:18:46 IST 2022 gI-tags-can-help-improve-economic-security-for-indias-youth <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/gI-tags-can-help-improve-economic-security-for-indias-youth.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/2022/8/13/72-Workers-pluck-tea-leaves.jpg" /> <p><b>DARJEELING TEA AND </b>Basmati rice are now household names worldwide. Both are recipients of geographical indication (GI) tags, which means they are of a specific geographic origin and possess unique qualities. According to the ministry of commerce and industry, the Union government is focusing on GIs through its ‘Vocal for Local’, ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Make in India’ campaigns.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some of the GI-tagged products shipped abroad in 2021 include king chilli from Nagaland, black rice from Manipur/Assam and mango varieties like Fazli, Khirsapati, and Lakshmanbhog from West Bengal and Banganapalle from Andhra Pradesh. “The government has initiated various action plans to ensure that the benefits to artisans and indigenous local communities are channelled in the right direction, and to provide them a global platform to market their products and add to the economy of the local region,” said IPR (intellectual property rights) lawyer Safir Anand, senior partner of Anand &amp; Anand.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As per available data, 420 GIs have been registered in India till March 2022. “GI protects communities that have perfected over time, the manufacture of arts, textiles, and products imbibing unique attributes owing to geographical origin,” said Anand. Quoting a report by the India Brand Equity Foundation, he said the number of destinations for Darjeeling tea rose from 35 countries in 2004 to 45 in 2019. “The GI protection is not granted to a single entity or enterprise, but rather to any association of persons, producers, organisations or authority established representing the interests of the producers in a particular area.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some experts, however, believe that a lot more needs to be done in transferring GI tagging’s economic benefits to stakeholders. “Darjeeling tea is one of the premier brands in the world. Unfortunately, it is being duplicated in every nook and corner of the world. Its GI owner, the India Tea Board, has not taken any steps to address the issue,” said IPR attorney Harikrishna S. Holla of Holla Associates. “The implementation and enforcement of GI rights has to be given preference besides creating awareness among the consuming public.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Holla said promoting a product was as important as getting the GI tag. “People who are involved in the production of GI-tagged products should be given economic support and should be registered as authorised persons as most of them are from very poor backgrounds. Also, co-operative societies should be formed in places where GI products are manufactured in order to encourage, sustain and promote them. The government should also promote tourism in places where GI products are manufactured,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A lot more needs to be done in IPR protection as well. India is ranked 43 of 55 countries on the International Intellectual Property Index prepared by the US Chambers of Commerce. “There is a lack of awareness among youngsters, including students, about IPR and its advantages. IPR is the foundation for research and innovation. An IPR culture is yet to grow in India,” said Girish Linganna, director, ADD Engineering Components India Limited. “Entrepreneurs are yet to realise that it is not enough to have knowledge, but that it has to be protected legally. The government, meanwhile, should create IP awareness by establishing information centres in colleges.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Linganna said GI tags from one country lacked legal value in another country. “If GI tags are to benefit consumers, there should be international protection of geographical indicators. The World Trade Organization has to apply its mind in this regard,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Market analysts are of the view that if India wants to create more economic security for its enterprising youth, it has to create awareness about the advantages of getting global recognition through GI. There should be a yardstick to measure the quality of unique products and that scale has to be GI. As long as GI really stands for quality and uniqueness, it would work both at the domestic and at the international level.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/gI-tags-can-help-improve-economic-security-for-indias-youth.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/gI-tags-can-help-improve-economic-security-for-indias-youth.html Sat Aug 13 16:14:53 IST 2022 how-to-make-learning-maths-fun <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/05/how-to-make-learning-maths-fun.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/2022/8/5/77-Tifin-Calcagni-new.jpg" /> <p><i>-I do not understand fractions.</i></p> <p><i>How old are you?</i></p> <p><i>-Nine.</i></p> <p><i>And, six months ago?</i></p> <p><i>-Eight-and-a-half.</i></p> <p><i>And just like that, the nine-year-old understood fractions.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>TIFIN CALCAGNI IS</b> filling the downtime in the middle of a meeting drawing circles and connecting dots. She is in another world, a world of numbers, working on a problem that kept her awake the night before. But her world transcends the numbers and patterns in front of her and opens into a larger enrichment of the human experience.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She is a brilliant mathematical mind but is convinced that mathematics is within everyone’s reach, and she is out to make mathematics something that people enjoy. She is a teacher by training but hear her talk mathematics and it is almost as hearing poetry for the first time, well, the mathematical version of it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Math is a beautiful thing, and it gives us a framework for understanding and appreciating beauty in other realms,” says Calcagni. “It sounds ambitious, but my hope is that it will make kids’ lives more pleasurable and fulfilling, whatever they end up doing.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, she is doing this as a teacher and as the driving force behind the Global Math Circle programme, a pioneering project reaching children from India to Brazil to America and open to children the world over. The Global Math Circle (www.theglobalmathcircle.org) can be distilled to its maxim, ‘Tell me and I forget. Ask me and I discover’. It is a different approach to teaching math—not by directing or showing but by asking questions that lead to discovery. There is no standard grading system, and the teachers follow the maxim quite strictly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Curiosity is always a finer spur than rivalry,” explains Calcagni. “We do not diminish the students’ discoveries by reciting the famous names of those who had gone this way before. Mathematics is our universal language, but each of us learns to make our own.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mathematics is to be understood and discovered, says Calcagni, who has taught in Brazil, Kazakhstan, Tunisia, Switzerland, Canada and the US. “Discovering patterns and finding where they lead,” she says. This results in discovering mathematics instead of memorising it. “When kids discover and explore mathematics, not only is it more fun, but it leads to a deeper level of understanding and an ability to think mathematically,” she says. “Kids who learn this way are more willing to try to solve problems that they don’t initially understand.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Global Math Circle, what most schools teach is not what mathematicians do. “Mathematicians do not repeat the same technique 20 times; they play with problems, they discuss them, they explore side-branches, they make mistakes,” it says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For the next year, Calcagni will be coaching and supporting circle leaders, training them, developing resources for them, and supporting schools and after-school programmes that want to implement math circles.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Life has come full circle for Calcagni, who began her math circle journey when she was trying to improve her teaching tools. She contacted Robert and Ellen Kaplan of Harvard, after reading their book on the math circle approach that made math a playful, joyful search.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When the Kaplans took the Global Math Circle programme online, Calcagni was by their side teaching math circles. “But the demand for circles was more than the three of us could provide, so Bob started bringing on PhD candidates to do outreach with us,” says Calcagni. “These amazing mathematicians had very creative plans for classes.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The pandemic created some difficulties, and they lost some leaders. But after Google invited Kaplan to do a recorded demo for children, Calcagni says that some Google employees joined the Global Math Circle board and upgraded its systems.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Everyone is a math person, is Calcagni’s message and mission. “Math can be learned, just like anything else,” she says. “It’s not for the gifted or privileged or those with a specific type of brain.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, she proves that with an example. Exploring prime numbers can stump even practiced mathematicians, but Calcagni’s pedagogic approach provides a glimpse into the value of the math circle approach she heads.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Let’s start with rectangles, she says, and explains how taking a different number of square blocks can make rectangles by aligning one square next to the other in a straight line. Then she points out that a set of four blocks can be stacked to make a rectangle, say two blocks on top and two at the bottom, making a four-block square. Then she asks, which numbers of blocks can make more than one rectangle?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Math Circle participants, she says, will, with a bit of exploration, notice that every even number over two can do this. They will quickly discover that any multiple of any number will be able to make more than one rectangle. The prime numbers make only one rectangle. It is these patterns that hold the answer on how to find the prime numbers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Kids learn that if they do not think the same way as the teacher, if they cannot quickly and efficiently apply an algorithm in the correct situation, that they are not a ‘math person’,” says Calcagni. This is not at all true, she adds. It is learning to think creatively about patterns that is important in understanding mathematics, she explains. Algorithms are secondary. But mathematics in schools has been reduced to this, and it is all kids are taught is important. This may be true for a computer, but not for a person.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We can, however, unlearn that memorising algorithms is important, and kids can easily start exploring again, when given the chance,” says Calcagni. “And if presented with the correct level of problem in a non-competitive, accepting environment, they often do.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Global Math Circle, a nonprofit organisation, trains teachers on the art of guiding shared discovery and has students in India working alongside students in other parts of the world. It accepts children of all ages and offers scholarships based solely on financial need. It is the math circle’s vision and Calcagni’s goal to see a world where math is everyone’s favourite subject, to see schools where kids are excited to work together to discover the mysteries and secrets of the universe.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As Calcagni says, “Together, we can reveal the secrets of something that, individually, we thought was unknowable.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/05/how-to-make-learning-maths-fun.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/05/how-to-make-learning-maths-fun.html Fri Aug 05 15:22:25 IST 2022 why-we-should-worry-and-not-panic-about-monkeypox <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/30/why-we-should-worry-and-not-panic-about-monkeypox.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/2022/7/30/28-A-health-worker-inside-an-isolation-ward-built.jpg" /> <p>Decisions and announcements might well be outpacing the speed at which monkeypox is spreading. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared it a “public health emergency of international concern’’. More than 75 countries from five regions in the world have reported 17,000 cases of this zoonotic viral infection in 2022. This does make it an ‘outbreak’ although, despite the geographical spread, it is still not a ‘pandemic’’. India has four confirmed cases—three in Kerala, one in New Delhi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is now clear that in a globally connected world, local outbreaks can spread within days to different parts of the world. Despite every check, like screening of passengers, the infection will spread, though its speed can be curtailed. For instance, a traveller in the pre-clinical stage of infection may not exhibit symptoms. Again, the very measures that are supposed to stop the spread of infection may induce people not to reveal too many details that could hamper their travel plans, or worse, put them under prolonged quarantine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The association of the disease with homosexual relations could well become a reason for people not to report symptoms, fearing stigmatisation. A recent study involving more than 500 cases between April and June across 16 countries notes that 98 per cent were homosexual or bisexual men, 41 per cent were also HIV positive, and that in 95 per cent of the cases, the spread could be linked to sexual interaction. While identifying communities where the spread could be greater is important, there is a huge risk of putting certain communities under the social spotlight. The WHO has carefully worded its advisory: “Some cases have been identified through sexual health clinics in communities of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. It is important to note that the risk of monkeypox is not limited to men who have sex with men. Anyone who has close contact with someone who is infectious is at risk. However, given that the virus is being identified in these communities, learning about monkeypox will help ensure that as few people as possible are affected and that the outbreak can be stopped.’’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Stigmatisation is a risk, agrees Dr Mrinmayee Bhushan, chemical and biological security analyst and director of Mindfarm Novatech. “But the doctor-patient confidentiality should take care of it to some extent,’’ she says. In present times though, it is easy to leak information from other sources. For instance, reports about a recent suspected case in Delhi’s LNJP hospital—the person came from Himachal Pradesh—say he attended a “stag party’’. The innuendo is clear. Experience with HIV cases shows how entrenched stigmatisation can be, even when it is known that the disease does not spread through touch. In the case of monkeypox, while the spread is slow, it can spread through close contact, and family members and health care providers, too, can get the infection. “Not talking about it publicly also has a risk for further spread of the disease,’’ adds Bhushan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the present outbreak is spreading through humans, monkeypox also jumps from animals to humans. In fact, every new outbreak is traced to an animal reservoir. The US has also reported its first case in a pregnant woman.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Monkeypox has traditionally stayed within central Africa. Despite its name, its original animal reservoir is not known, though it is believed to be found in many animals, like primates, porcupines and rodents. The only outbreak outside Africa before the present one was in 2003, when 47 people in the US fell ill after contact with pet prairie dogs. The outbreak was finally traced to a consignment of animal imports from Ghana.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the spread itself is an issue, experts say that the disease is self-limiting, and therefore, there is not much reason to panic. The case fatality may seem high when compared with Covid-19. Monkeypox fatality is up to 11 per cent, though with good management, these days it is between 3 to 6 per cent. Of the around 75 deaths so far, almost all are within Africa.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Covid-19 has a global fatality rate of over 3 per cent. However, its spread is rapid, the morbidity rates are higher, and given that it is a new virus, doctors are still learning about its long-term effects. Monkeypox has been known since 1958, the first reported cases come from the 1970s. There have been outbreaks in the past, and there is already a treatment and vaccination regimen in place, though that is constantly updated as new science comes up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So how it is that the WHO was so quick to declare the disease an international public health emergency? “When dealing with a big country like China, which is the suspected origin of an infection, organisations are very cautious about repercussions. They do not have to worry too much about antagonising countries like Congo, from where monkeypox originates,’’ says virologist Jayaprakash Muliyil. Given that from Africa, the virus has led to outbreaks in the developed world, global health organisations are more alert.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Covid experience has shown that there is always a need to have infrastructure and a mechanism to deal with a spreading infection. NITI Aayog member (health) Dr V.K. Paul said there was no need to panic, but one must report in time if they spot any symptoms. India’s disease surveillance system, he said, is re-energised to investigate more such cases and diagnostic laboratories are also being readied.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India has dealt well with outbreaks in recent years, like the Nipah virus. States that have a higher number of international passengers need to be better prepared with isolation centres. “Apart from the usual guidelines to the medical fraternity regarding differential diagnosis, routes of transmission and treatment, there should also be guidelines on the genomic findings of current strains found in India as well,” says Bhushan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During the present outbreak, while the cases within central Africa are few, the spread across the UK, US, Brazil, Canada, and Germany is already in the thousands. While these countries are already talking about vaccines, especially for vulnerable populations, the WHO has made it clear that vaccines alone are not enough, responsible behaviour is as important. Paul echoes the sentiment in his statement: “We have to play responsibly.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/30/why-we-should-worry-and-not-panic-about-monkeypox.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/30/why-we-should-worry-and-not-panic-about-monkeypox.html Sat Jul 30 14:52:56 IST 2022 monkeypox-will-not-reach-pandemic-proportions-in-india-dr-pragya-yadav-of-nv <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/30/monkeypox-will-not-reach-pandemic-proportions-in-india-dr-pragya-yadav-of-nv.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/2022/7/30/31-Dr-Pragya-Yadav.jpg" /> <p>As in the initial days of Covid-19, all samples of monkeypox cases in India are being sent for testing to the Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Virology in Pune. India has so far confirmed four cases of monkeypox. In an interview with THE WEEK, senior scientist Pragya Yadav talks about how the virus spreads and whether India needs to be concerned about the disease. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How concerned should India be about the monkeypox spread?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ [People in more than] 75 countries have already been infected. We can only imagine how many more cases are waiting to show up in the coming weeks. A challenge is that people hesitate to approach doctors. So we don’t really know the exact number of cases. Then there are congested communities in slum areas where the chances of transmission are very high. But even then it will not reach pandemic proportions—that is for sure. The community-level transmission will happen at a slow rate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ So the transmission will not be as high as it was with Covid-19?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ No. A document circulated by the World Health Organization has calculated the number of cases month wise and week wise. If one were to analyse the numbers, one would see that until May there were hardly any cases. And then, suddenly in July, it peaked.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This virus has two genotypes—central African and west African. The current outbreak is with the west African strain, which is less pathogenic and has low mortality. The risk will be to those individuals who are immuno-compromised and have co-morbidities. But they will recover. The challenge is that the recovery period is two to four weeks. So, they have to stay in isolation for a month until full recovery. But the reproduction number during Delta was six—that is one person could infect six persons. And during Omicron, one person could infect 10. But for monkeypox, it is just one. So the spread is much slower.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ According to the WHO, many of the monkeypox cases have been seen in men who have sex with men. Is it the same for cases in India?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ All four cases of young adult males are of men who have sex with men [MSM], but they don’t reveal that. This is because of the stigma in society. One showed us a heterosexual history; the second one denied, the third one, too, denied it. They didn’t open up.</p> <p><b>Q/ Can children contract monkeypox? The United States identified two monkeypox cases in children.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Assuming that parents or the elderly are infected, children will contract the infection—especially if the parents are not aware that they are carrying the virus. If they have lesions, then it is very infectious and children can contract it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ WHO officials said they were exploring the possibility of the virus spreading via new modes of transmission. Please explain.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Initially, it started with MSM, but if people are infected they infect everything around them, including linen and surfaces, and other people can get infected, too. Also, even if it is not as infectious as Covid-19, it can spread through droplets. Coughing, sneezing or those with infected blisters can cause transmission. This is very contagious, but not deadly or extremely severe like the smallpox virus. In a country like India, those over the age of 45 must have already gotten the smallpox vaccine. So that will give 60-70 per cent protection against monkeypox as well. But those below the age of 45 will be susceptible to the monkeypox infection.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/30/monkeypox-will-not-reach-pandemic-proportions-in-india-dr-pragya-yadav-of-nv.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/30/monkeypox-will-not-reach-pandemic-proportions-in-india-dr-pragya-yadav-of-nv.html Fri Aug 05 08:39:50 IST 2022 flame-throwers-sheet-anchors <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/23/flame-throwers-sheet-anchors.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/2022/7/23/54-Tina-Brown.jpg" /> <p>The Windsors are obsessed with teddy bears. Prince Andrew, officially the worst Windsor after being accused of having sex with a minor, has 72 of them.</p> <p>Unlike his brother’s disturbing teddy love, Britain's king-in-waiting's bear obsession brings images of his childhood. “Charles’s childhood teddy bear, which is still patched whenever necessary by the Prince’s former nanny Mabel Anderson…, went everywhere with him,” writes Tina Brown about the Prince of Wales in The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor, the Truth and the Turmoil, the most delightful book of the season.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Brexit forgotten, Megxit not so much, and with the Platinum Jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II over, realisation looms large that the end of her reign is near. “It is actually a very perilous time for the monarchy,” says Brown, in a Zoom interview. “Seventy years, she has been there. Now we are at a moment when things are very fragile, but we will not have her to keep calm and carry on.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Coming 15 years after her Diana Chronicles, a sensitive portrayal of the beloved princess, The Palace Papers is deeply researched and filled with delicious anecdotes. Brown is observant, wry and riveting. She breaks new ground even in a scandal that has littered papers across the world. “The Oprah interview [with Prince Harry's wife, Meghan Markle] made it very hard to patch things up with his family,” says Brown.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With a $20-million tell-all memoir by Harry on the cards, there is more hurt in store for the family. “I don't see how the family can really deal with yet another round of toxic revelations from Harry... They are very anxious about it,” says Brown.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Brown's story of the family is insightful. She paints them as real, relatable and human. “I'm told that many of them did expect Harry to bail out of the royal family,” says Brown. “They knew he was fragile. But nobody thought that he would go off and live a life of a celebrity, a sort of instagrammer. ”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The queen,” says Brown, "presided over the Megxit.” In one of the most telling anecdotes—littered like gems across the book—the queen in her Christmas broadcast in 2019 asks for the picture of Prince Harry, Meghan and baby Archie to be removed. “The previous Christmas, a family portrait of Charles, Camilla, the five Cambridges and Harry and Meghan was exhibited at Her Majesty’s elbow,” she writes. “...the Queen told the director of the broadcast that all the displayed photographs were fine except one.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Brown penetrates the privileged bubble to offer a glimpse of the family with the palaces, tiaras, princes and princesses. The stories are juicy but never salacious, and her portraits show the palace life pageantry-free.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is also nuanced. There is the fragility of Diana, but also her ability to be manipulative; Prince William's ringside view of his mother's infidelity; Camilla and her loneliness,; and even Charles with his teddy bear. There is something desperately sad, and deeply lonely—offering just a peek at the little boy trapped inside the rather ruddy-faced organic farming advocate, the future king.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is more than the nostalgia-tinted image of Diana. “I have tried to talk about the impact she had as a mother, on her boys, and how it wasn't all good,” says Brown. “She was a wonderful, beautiful, loving, caring mother. But she also caused them a lot of pain.” The story is much more complicated, as Brown writes. “Time and again, as we have seen, Diana chose to invade her own privacy, often for the capricious reason of making the men in her life jealous.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a buffet-array of delicious details, Brown writes about a party in 1980. “Camilla and Charles’s behaviour on the dance floor was overtly demonstrative,” writes Brown. Even Camilla’s parents “were discomforted by such a blatant display of intimacy in front of Camilla’s husband.” Her husband, Andrew Parker Bowles, didn’t flinch. He “opined to a guest, ‘HRH is very fond of my wife. And she appears to be very fond of him'.” Fidelity was never Parker Bowles's strong suit. “I think Charles’s tragedy is that nobody really cares about it,” says Brown. “But it is a great love affair that somehow people don't feel romantic about. He fell in love with Camilla in his early 30s. And he stayed in love. And he is now 75.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If Charles has waited for years as the future king—“a transitional monarch”—Camilla has spent a lifetime in the shadows to finally be acceptable. “He just wanted to be married to this woman,” says Brown. “And he couldn't. There is something very appealing about the fact that he really wanted to be with this age-appropriate, country-loving, not particularly svelte, certainly not glamorous woman who shared his interests.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Brown creates a vivid image of Charles with his complaining, his fussiness and his odd ideas of environment—now very much spot on. But it is Camilla who is, in many ways, the heroine of the book. “I became very fond of Camilla, in the course of this book,” she says. “She is humorous, gracious, strong, salty, robust. She just simply gets on with it. I mean, in a way she resembles the queen. She doesn't complain. She doesn't explain.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Palace Papers is a tribute to the woman who has been the monarch for a lifetime—the “still-centre of the storm”. “The queen is very tough,” says Brown, who has brought out her toughness as well as her softer side in the book. For instance, her relationship with her mother—they spoke every day—and her sister Margaret.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Palace Papers is ultimately a love story. The most important decision for the royals is who they choose to marry, writes Brown. There is the love story that was never to be, of Charles and Diana. Then the real love story sans glamorous princess but plenty of romance—Charles and Camilla. The steady marriage of William and Kate—essential for the future of the monarchy. Harry and Meghan, very much a love story of the times lived in a social media bubble. But what started it all was the most enduring love, the queen’s. “It was one of the few times that the queen decided that she wasn't going to listen to anybody,” says Brown. In love with Prince Philip since she was a child, it was only during the pandemic that the two got to live their lives alone, far from the limelight, the longest they ever spent together.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The disapproval of the Queen Mother ran strong. She referred to Prince Philip as 'the Hun' and thought he was “dangerously progressive”. Yet, it was a marriage that was strong. “He was absolutely devoted to serving her to being the consort and the spouse that she required,” says Brown. “He kept her real. And that was the best thing he did for the queen.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor, the Truth and the Turmoil</b></p> <p><i>By</i> <b>Tina Brown</b></p> <p><i>Published by</i> <b>Penguin RandomHouse UK,</b></p> <p><i>Price</i> <b>Rs799;</b> <i>pages</i> <b>571</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/23/flame-throwers-sheet-anchors.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/23/flame-throwers-sheet-anchors.html Sat Jul 23 13:23:27 IST 2022 exclusive-windsors-are-fascinatingly-dysfunctional-family-says-writer-tina-brown <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/23/exclusive-windsors-are-fascinatingly-dysfunctional-family-says-writer-tina-brown.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/2022/7/23/56-Camilla-Prince-Charles-Queen-Elizabeth-II.jpg" /> <p><b>No one writes about the royals as Tina Brown does. The award-winning journalist, who has been editor of Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Newsweek and The Daily Beast, wrote The Diana Chronicles in 2007—an instant bestseller. Her latest book, The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor, the Truth and the Turmoil, is a sequel. In an exclusive interview with Mandira Nayar in July, she looks deep into the psyche of the royals.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Edited excerpts from the interview:</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>You have said that the British will not know what it is to be British without the queen. We are almost at the end of an era. What next?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is actually a very perilous time for the monarchy. The great thing about the queen [is], while all the madness happened with her family, she was always the still centre of the storm. It was always ‘everything would be okay ultimately,’ because she was there to keep calm and carry on. Now things are very fragile, but we will not have her to keep calm and carry on, because she is not in good health.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>People are poised for what is known as Operation London Bridge, which is the code word for when the queen finally does leave us. There is a big sense of anxiety about that and a desire for Prince Charles to be buffed up and strengthened in his whole persona. Just when that is trying to happen, it was suddenly revealed that he took suitcases of cash from a UAE dignitary. [Though] it was not for himself but for his philanthropy, it makes people concerned about his judgment again, and about how he is going to<br> manage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is [also] anxiety about how they are going to keep Prince Andrew quiet. In medieval days, Andrew would have been banished to some castle in Scotland or beheaded. But where do you stash a very healthy 62-year-old man who hasn’t got the memo that nobody wants to see him anymore? There he was, on the day of the Order of the Garter ceremony, the most dignified ceremony at Windsor Castle, trying to push his way in, until Prince William and Charles put their foot down and said, no, he can't be there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So you get a sense of a lot of perilous stuff happening behind the scenes. [But] the fact is that there isn't a great movement to get rid of the monarchy. But I don't think that Britain would tolerate a weak or disreputable monarch. In past centuries, it hasn't really mattered. But it would matter now. We have had 70 years of an unblemished record of the queen. No one is going to put up with anything less.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The queen has represented a sense of integrity. With Boris Johnson, there is disillusionment.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ You could not be more right. The most poignant example of that was the imagery of the queen sitting alone at her husband's funeral. It was a tiny little funeral, because she was so dutifully following Covid rules. That very night before Boris Johnson had hosted a bibulous party at Downing Street breaking all of his own Covid rules. It was such duality, and it was interesting that the only person who got booed at the Platinum Jubilee was Boris Johnson. That really says a great deal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You have this great imagery of Charles as the man who has been in the waiting room for so long. As you said, there is a Calamity Jane sort of thread that runs through his life. Like when he was going to marry Camilla.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Even the pope died on his wedding day! One of the things that Charles likes to say about himself, which sums him up, is: Oh, just my luck. Nothing ever goes according to plan for Charles. When he sets foot abroad, hoping that he is going to get publicity and plaudits for his environmental agenda, one of his children does something catastrophic at home. Actually, in this last instance, he has had luck for the first time in his life, because the cash being delivered to him in Fortnum &amp; Mason bags for his foundation was dominating the news.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ I think the heroine of this book really is Camilla.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Right. I became very fond of Camilla in the course of this book. She is humorous, gracious, strong, salty, robust. And she just simply gets on with it. In a way she resembles the queen. She doesn't complain, she doesn't explain. She has had worse press than anyone could possibly imagine. The press have called her old hag, old witch, old bag, old trout. In fact, she often signs her letters to Charles ‘Your devoted Old Bag’. She has been called an old bag so many times, but she laughs about it. I am sure it has caused her some pain. But she has just got on with it. And there is something very appealing about that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a lot that people love about the British character in Camilla. She is absolutely a quintessential, keep-calm-and-carry-on kind of a woman. And she does it with a great sense of humour. She laughs and laughs, and being in her company is always a lot of fun.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You also talk about the calming effect she has on Charles.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Actually, I call her the horse whisperer of his emotional needs. [But] she knows how to get in tough love when necessary. She will say, ‘for goodness sake, give me that drink, I'll do it. Don't ask the butler to do it.’ She is very forthright, but he takes it because he knows it is done with a lot of love.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ When Charles becomes king, do you think Diana will hang around as a ghost, in a way, because she was so loved?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The ghost of Diana was beginning to settle but now we have in Prince Harry another flame thrower, just like his mother. When he throws his bombs, I no longer think that Diana's ghost has been exorcised. He uses Diana as his standard bearer of grievance. People say Diana would be pleased with the way Harry has rebelled and left. I don't think that is true. Although she was such a bomb thrower, she was also a monarchist. She would not have left the royal family if she had not got divorced. She found the palace maddening and stuffy and oppressive, but she also understood what monarchy gave her. She understood that when she shook hands with the Aids patient, without gloves, in the walkabout in Middlesex Hospital in London, in the early 80s. That gesture had its potency because she was the Princess of Wales, because she was royal. She never gave up Kensington Palace, she did not flee the country and go and live in California or Paris. She stayed very firmly in Kensington Palace, and always felt that being royal was a quintessential part of her identity, an essential part of her ability to make change.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What role do princesses actually have is a question that keeps coming back.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ It does keep coming back. Because, the family is human, and women of spirit and passion come into the monarchy and are unmanageable as they are in any family. Princess Margaret was a rebel, she wanted love, she felt ill used by having not enough to do. But Diana was a transformational presence, she really did have a vision of what she wanted to do, and proceeded to do it. And, in a way, changed the face of monarchy forever by her humanitarian gifts, and her desire to show what she could do with this extraordinary position. Instead of just doing kind of retail walkabouts, and going to various countries and shaking hands, she turned each of those moments into something of an enormously different level.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Yes, a different level.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ A completely different level. And so she is not an easy act to follow, because she was also such a tremendously interesting mixed bag; not everything admirable about her. In this book, much more than in The Diana Chronicles, I have tried to talk about the impact that Diana had as a mother on her boys, and how it was not all good.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The boys lost their mother at 36; she was a wonderful, beautiful, loving, caring mother. But she also caused them a lot of pain. She did those TV interviews where she went public with her affair with James Hewitt, where she denigrated their father. These boys had to watch this on television, and they were at school being teased. It was a tremendously painful thing for them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You bring that out quite wonderfully, and painfully, when you talk about Prince William, how she calls him her wise man.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ This is the irony. He was such a judicious young man that she came to depend on him very much, as a sort of replacement husband sometimes. She would bring him into press meetings. She brought him to lunch with the tabloid flame thrower Piers Morgan, who was anathema to the royal family. It is inconceivable today that Princess Kate would do that with any of her children; she would feel it is a reckless, crazy thing to do. But Diana did these things. And people forget the effect that must have had on William as he sat there, while she talked to Piers Morgan about her affair. It was extraordinary.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ While William found a way to deal with the pain of watching his mother unravel, Prince Harry was very disturbed.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ What I found in my reporting, actually something I did not realise, was that the family were very much aware of Harry's fragility, for a very long time. They knew that there were real problems with Harry. It was one of the reasons why he was so keen to go into the army. While in the army for 10 years, he was immensely supported, protected. He was a superb soldier and he loved it. He felt the protection, the privacy that you get by being part of a military team, treated like everybody else, and shielded from the press. He was more at home on the frontline in Afghanistan, than he was being photographed coming out of nightclubs; he felt that this was his manly fulfilment. Harry proved that he was a leader of men in the army; he was very successful in the army.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was actually a tragedy for Harry that he had to come out of the army. Everyone in the family was very nervous when he came out of the army because they knew that he was a bit of a ticking time bomb.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Eton he used to get into fights. He should not have been at Eton because academically he found it very, very hard to keep up. He felt secondary, all the time, to William who was able to keep up. William was no academic star, but he was fine academically.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So the family understood that Harry was fragile. From the time he was an adolescent, he had tabloid reporters stalking him, hacking his phones, the phones of his girlfriends. It was just hideous what they were doing to him. Having lost his mother in that press car chase in the Paris tunnel, it left him with a residue of enormous anger. Every time anyone from the press emerged from the shadows with a camera, he would go absolutely ballistic. His girlfriends found it maddening. One guy with a camera would come out, and Harry would just do a U turn in the road and just squeal back to his apartment, his little house at Kensington Palace, and order in pizza. That was it, no more going out. He would be in a sulphurous mood for the rest of the night.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ While Harry hates the press, his life now depends on [limelight].</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ This has baffled his family. Nobody thought that he would go off and live a life of a celebrity, sort of instagrammer, in Montecito. They thought he would be off in the country, probably farming in Scotland or in South Africa, where he would be off the grid, almost. He right now has reality show cameras in his house in Montecito. No one expected that; there is an enormous sense that he has gone off the rails. And more important, Harry is now writing a memoir, which has upset the family; it is hanging over them. They don't know who he is going to blame or trash. There is a great fear that he will lay into Camilla, his father and his brother. No one expects him to say anything amiss about the queen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ He has been playing $20 million, so he is going to need a tell-all.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ He is not being paid $20 million to talk about his life in the army, for sure. They should pay him to withdraw it, because I don't see how the family can really deal with yet another round of toxic revelations from Harry.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You wrote a lot about Meghan.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Meghan was utterly deluded about what she thought being married to Prince Harry was. Harry is number six on the royal call sheet. He is quite low on the pecking order. Megan just had not done her homework. She said on Oprah [show], ‘I didn't do any research.’ You bet she didn't. I wish she had been able to read my book before she boarded the plane for England. She really did believe it was going to be fairy castles. She was going to be Princess Diana, travelling the world as the big humanitarian princess, in a kind of combination of Angelina Jolie, Diana and Michelle Obama.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She found herself, in the end, unable to have a voice. That was one of her great complaints. But when you marry into monarchy, it is a bit like a secular version of taking the vow—you are supposed to represent the country and keep your private opinions to yourself. That is the exact opposite of what Meghan wants. I can see how frustrating that was, for a very accomplished career woman with an agenda.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She was stuck as well in what she saw as a kind of underfunded operation. She wanted more staff, a much bigger platform, she did not even have a grand house. For the first year, they lived in the middle of Nottingham Cottage, which is a little like Harry's bachelor apartment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ She thought it was going to be a Disney version.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The press in England are very, very tough. They were racist when the news of her was first covered. There was definitely tabloid, misogynistic, racist colouring to the coverage. Then she enraged the press, too, by accepting private plane trips to stay with Elton John. She didn't go to the Balmoral to stay with the queen; she turned down that invitation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ In some ways all of them are actually looking for approval.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/The Windsors are a fascinatingly dysfunctional family. When Meghan talked about all these difficulties with the family, I thought to myself, ‘try marrying into the Ambani family’. I am not suggesting there is anything particularly bad about that. I just think that probably it is not easy for an American girl married in the Ambani family, just as it is to marry into the Rupert Murdoch family or the Rothschild family. These big dynastic families are very difficult places to inhabit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I don’t think the Windsors are that different from from any of these kinds of families. To survive in them, you have to be willing to drink Kool-Aid and decide, ‘I am going to learn the rules, and play them to my best advantage.’ And that is what Kate has done.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kate is one of the most amazing figures in this entire story, this girl from an affluent middle class family in the country. When she married William in 2011, people said how will this go, how she will ever adjust to becoming the future queen. Well, now, people say, how would the family survive without [her].</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Family has turned out to be very, very important yet again. Kate's family is a very solid family, just as Camilla's family is. This critical thing you have to have, to be able to live and survive in these situations, is your own support system. Camilla’s support system was a very, very loving family and siblings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kate's family has been a remarkable ring of steel around her. Her mother, Carol, was one of my favourite characters, because she is the archetypal, managing mother. Without being heavy-handed, she has helped to guide and steer and shield and encourage and push to get Kate where she is. She is Kate's confidant, which means that secrets don't end up in the press. Her two siblings have been immensely loyal. The Middleton family should get their own Nobel Prize for just creating a situation where the monarchy can survive. That is what Kate has had from that background. It has made her a very stable, composed individual.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What do you see when Charles becomes king?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Charles is obviously a transitional monarch. We don't know how short his reign will be. But he is stepping into the role at a time when his own passions—organic farming, climate, the endangered and such—are also those of the nation and of the world. He was immensely prescient about it all. And that sense gives him a kind of stature. So he can be a great convener. I think he will use his position as king to bring together people who share like-minded views about the environment and about youth unemployment, which he cares enormously about.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He is going to have to downsize as well. He is already talking about making Balmoral a museum of the queen. He doesn't want to live there. He prefers Burke Hall, which is the house far on the estate that used to belong to the Queen Mother. He is very happy there. His reign ought to be about preparing things for William. If he can do that successfully, and then step out, things will be fine. Depends how long it goes on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ There is the love story of the queen and Prince Philip. She went against convention, followed her heart.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ It was one of the few times that the queen decided that she was not going to listen to anybody. This was a great marriage; it had its problems. Philip did have something of a roving eye, but he was absolutely devoted to serving her, to being the consort and the spouse that she required. And he kept her real. That was the best thing he did for the queen. He was funny, abrasive, often did very embarrassing or politically incorrect things. But he kept her real. She knew he would always tell her the truth. And he did. He vowed to be her liege lord, who would serve her, and he did right to the end. It is a very moving story, because she adored him. In his own way he was devoted to her.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/23/exclusive-windsors-are-fascinatingly-dysfunctional-family-says-writer-tina-brown.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/23/exclusive-windsors-are-fascinatingly-dysfunctional-family-says-writer-tina-brown.html Sun Jul 24 10:03:33 IST 2022 despite-potential-teething-problems-nep-may-take-universities-to-the-next-level <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/17/despite-potential-teething-problems-nep-may-take-universities-to-the-next-level.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/2022/7/17/94-Students-at-BITS-Pilani.jpg" /> <p>A visit to the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in Pilani is an interesting experience. Pilani is a five-hour drive from Delhi. The town, in Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu district, is unremarkable. But, the BITS Pilani campus can leave you mesmerised. It is this magnificent campus—a veritable factory of excellence—that has made the small town of around 50,000 people widely recognised.<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Established in 1964, BITS Pilani, which is the top private technical university as per THE WEEK-Hansa Research Best Universities Survey, 2022, has an alumni network that boasts more than 6,000 CEOs and more than 3,000 academicians, including vice chancellors and directors at prestigious educational institutions across India. BITS now has three more campuses—Dubai (established in 2000), Goa (2004) and Hyderabad (2008). The campuses have identical curricular structures, and, together, have 17,500 students and 935 faculty members.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As we reached the campus, Prof Souvik Bhattacharyya and Prof Sudhirkumar Barai were eagerly waiting to greet us. Bhattacharyya is the vice chancellor of BITS Pilani and Barai is the director of the Pilani campus. Bhattacharyya’s spacious office overlooks the new academic block designed by architect Hafeez Contractor. The vice chancellor puts the new block in perspective: “This campus is a wonderful blend of tradition and modernity.” The balance is not limited to architecture; retaining and building on effective methods and constantly updating where necessary has helped BITS become what it is today.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, will the time-tested traditions at BITS be affected by the government’s attempt to modernise education through the National Education Policy 2020? Not in the least, says Bhattacharyya, because the kind of norms envisioned by the NEP are not new to BITS. In its early days, BITS Pilani benefited immensely from its association with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Among the key value additions were the development of a modern approach to pedagogy and curriculum design.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Benefits of an NEP-like model</b></p> <p>“We provide a curriculum structure with utmost flexibility,” says Bhattacharyya. “For instance, if you are a mechanical engineering student, you can blend it with a management subject, any other technical subject, a data science subject or a language or social science course. Students blend their choices depending on the demands of the market and personal preferences. We are glad to see this being captured in a national policy document, but we, at BITS, have been following this for more than three decades now.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He adds that the dual-degree programme at BITS can generally be completed in five years. “Typically, an MSc in a science discipline and BE in an engineering discipline are combined, leading to unique expertise blends,” says Bhattacharyya. “The IITs started dual-degree programmes (BTech and MTech in a five-year course) in the late 1990s. I feel that the government and regulators would do well to allow complete autonomy for institutes that are performing well so that they implement quality academic designs based on innovative ideas with contemporary interests, moving away from the prescriptive regulation approaches.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At BITS, there is a unique industry immersive curriculum design with two “Practice Schools” to give students more exposure. PS-1 is for two months for second-year students to familiarise them with a work environment and give them exposure to problem solving and other functions. PS-2 is in the final year and it is for five-and-a-half months. Barai says that at this stage, the student is almost like an employee. “In some industries, our students have even got a stipend of Rs1.3 lakh per month during their five-and-a-half month stint,” he says. “The median stipend in the last academic year was Rs36,000 per month and the total stipend paid to BITS students was Rs63 crore. We have more than 500 companies connected to the Practice School division.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Devanshu Sahoo, a third year BE (electrical and electronics) student at BITS Pilani, says that there is a lot of flexibility and freedom. “There is zero per cent attendance requirement,” he says. “In some institutes, you cannot give examinations without an attendance of 80 per cent to 85 per cent. Here, if you feel like not attending a class, you don’t attend. The recordings of lectures are made available.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sahoo says he is working on a project for Akshay Cooperative, the supermarket on campus. “I am trying to make Akshay independent of the electrical grid through solar energy,” he says. “We have achieved 80 per cent independence.” It is such a structure that has helped BITS create an innovation ecosystem, which in turn has led to the creation of over 7,000 startups, including unicorns like Swiggy (now a decacorn: $10 billion-plus valuation) and BigBasket (acquired by Tata).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Implementation: Challenges and opportunities</b></p> <p>The situation at a large multidisciplinary university is quite different from BITS. For instance, the University of Delhi—India’s third best multidisciplinary university as per THE WEEK-Hansa Research Survey—is responsible for around 80 colleges and more than seven lakh students. So, a visit to the university, which is celebrating its centenary, was warranted to understand the progress made in NEP implementation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prof Yogesh Singh, vice chancellor, University of Delhi, works out of a grand office in the historic Viceregal Lodge in Delhi. The building had housed four viceroys—Lord Hardinge, Lord Chelmsford, Lord Reading and Lord Irwin—before it was handed over to the university in 1933.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The vice chancellor says the university is now in the implementation stage of the NEP. “If we do not implement it the way it should be, then the country will not get the fruits of the NEP,” he says. “Implementation is more important than planning and designing of the NEP. In Delhi University, our four-year undergraduate curriculum is ready. We will focus on a multidisciplinary, student-centric approach.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Under the NEP, says Singh, students who secure admission for the BSc physics (honours) course, can also pursue courses like psychology, based on their interest. “After four years, if one is able to earn 24 credits in the psychology stream, then one can get a major in physics and minor in psychology,” says Singh. “Many international universities are practising this, but, for us, it is a new thing. Another aspect is practice-oriented teaching and how to do it.” Besides this, there is multiple entry and exit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He says the university was giving a second chance to students who could not complete their degree courses earlier. “So far, we have received 6,000 applications,” he says. “A few people who had registered in the 1970s, but did not complete their degrees, now want to complete.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As per the NEP, says Singh, students will get undergraduate certificates even if they exit after one year. “If they exit after two years, they will get undergraduate diplomas,” he says. “After the third year, it is an undergraduate degree.” He adds that the University of Delhi gives honours after three years and, after four years, it would give a multidisciplinary degree with a major and a minor. “It is a student-centric approach,” he says. “They are free to decide what they want to study. We are implementing this from this academic year.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Regarding the controversial CUET (common university entrance test) Singh says that till last year, admissions were based on marks. “But, we have multiple education boards in the country,” he says. “Some are lenient, some are strict. So, there was no uniformity. Hence students studying in a lenient board were getting high marks and some students in strict boards were getting less marks. I feel that when we are admitting students, there should be uniformity. This should be relevant to all students, coming from different backgrounds and regions of the country.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vidya Yeravdekar, principal director, Symbiosis Society, and pro-chancellor, Symbiosis International (Deemed University), Pune, feels that the NEP is a comprehensive document which defines the true spirit of holistic and all-round development. “Undoubtedly, the NEP has included all aspects of the Indian education system after massive stakeholder consultations,” she says. “The NEP is the most progressive document, not only in India, but also abroad. [Because of] NEP implementation, foreign universities are excited for collaborative higher education opportunities in the sphere of teaching, learning and research.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She says that Symbiosis International has been a forerunner in imparting multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary education and that students were given the opportunity to earn credits from varied courses of their choice. “With the NEP, it has become focused and institutionalised for us as well as for other Indian universities to strive for holistic transformation of students,” she says. She adds that Symbiosis International has formed eight committees for the effective implementation of the NEP; they deal with aspects like multidisciplinary education, research and innovation, and internationalisation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The committees, says Yeravdekar, have drafted a robust roadmap which shall be implemented in the coming academic year. “The NEP has paved the way for new global initiatives for students,” she says. “It has provided the opportunity to pick and learn courses as per the interest of the students. By the next academic year, as part of our internationalisation pursuits, we shall launch dual and joint degree programmes in collaboration with global universities.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yeravdekar feels that with deemed-to-be and private universities implementing initiatives of the NEP and adapting to changes quickly, the challenge lies in how government universities embrace it flawlessly. “In the coming year, we may face teething challenges in effective NEP implementation,” she says. “However, by 2023-2024, we shall see the actual transformation in the Indian educational system.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She further adds that post NEP implementation, there will be a sea change in the career moves and job placements of students. “Future workplaces shall prefer multi-skilled and talented all-round professionals with strong interdisciplinary ability,” she says. “Besides technical forte, they lay emphasis on critical, lateral, collaborative and creative thinking skills.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Research in focus</b></p> <p>Despite the ongoing changes in the Indian education sector, research has remained a high priority area for Indian universities. For example, Prof P.B. Sharma, vice chancellor, Amity University, Gurugram, says that the multidisciplinary environment of the university is further supported by a research culture. The university offers more than 108 undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. “Our innovation incubator is supported by the ministry of electronics and information technology and our biotechnology research group is engaged in cutting-edge research in areas of high relevance such as cancer research and infectious diseases, and computational biology,” says Sharma.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kaustav Bandyopadhyay, who is leading the plant biotechnology group at the university, says: “We are working towards designing a biosensor that can detect the presence of heavy metals like cadmium and arsenic inside a plant in real time without killing the plant. This will help farmers to determine whether there is a chance of contamination in their produce and will save consumers from long-term health concerns.” There is also a nanobiotechnology group that is researching a new method to diagnose diabetes-related complications.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The nanoagriculture group is testing a “quantum dot” which can absorb solar energy. When applied to plants, these dots can provide extra energy to the leaves, which can then convert it into food. Drug research is also high on the agenda, with three groups developing innovative approaches to combat fungal infections, which lead to more than 1.5 million deaths a year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sharma says the university also has a herbal drug design and drug discovery centre that has filed 22 patents. “These include a herbal drug derived from Gular tree milk for treatment of liver cirrhosis and migraine treatment from Akara flowers.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The university also focuses on ocean and atmospheric sciences and has an active collaboration with the NASA Gordon Space Research Centre for monitoring atmospheric aerosol.</p> <p>Clearly, Indian universities do not lack initiative. The implementation of the NEP could provide even more room to experiment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>RESEARCH METHODOLOGY</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>THE WEEK-Hansa Research</b> Best Universities Survey 2022 provides insight into the hierarchy of multidisciplinary, technical and medical universities in the country. This year, the study was done across 15 cities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To be eligible, universities had to be recognised by the UGC, offer full-time postgraduate degree courses in at least two disciplines and should have graduated at least three batches from the postgraduate programmes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A primary survey was conducted with 340 academic experts, spread across selected cities. The respondents were asked to nominate and rank the top 20 universities in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Perceptual score</b> was calculated based on the number of nominations and the actual ranks received.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For factual data collection, a dedicated website was created and the link was sent to universities. Sixty-two universities responded within the stipulated time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Factual score</b> was calculated based on information collected from universities and other secondary sources on the following parameters:</p> <p>❖ Age and accreditation</p> <p>❖ Infrastructure and other facilities</p> <p>❖ Faculty, research and academics</p> <p>❖ Student intake and exposure</p> <p>❖ Placements (only for technical universities)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Final score = Perceptual score (out of 400) + factual score (out of 600)</b></p> <p>Some top universities could not respond to the survey with factual information. For these universities, composite score was derived by combining the perceptual score for the university with an interpolated appropriate factual score based on their position in the list.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/17/despite-potential-teething-problems-nep-may-take-universities-to-the-next-level.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/17/despite-potential-teething-problems-nep-may-take-universities-to-the-next-level.html Sun Jul 17 19:12:46 IST 2022 nep-is-a-matter-of-perception-and-understanding-says-naac-director <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/17/nep-is-a-matter-of-perception-and-understanding-says-naac-director.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/2022/7/17/110-Sharma-new.jpg" /> <p>Professor S.C. Sharma has vast teaching and administrative experience. He has published 366 research papers and 18 books, holds six patents, and is honorary distinguished professor at IIT Guwahati’s Centre for Energy. Sharma spoke to THE WEEK about the steps taken by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) to improve the quality of assessment and the role of higher education institutions in today’s India. Edited excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Universities are gearing up for a post-Covid world, India is implementing the National Education Policy 2020. In this changing scenario, what are NAAC’s criteria for grading universities?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ NAAC is reckoned the world over as a quality assurance leader. [India has] one of the world’s largest higher education systems and it is also diverse and complex. There are different types of universities—central, state, deemed, private. It is a herculean task for anybody to manage the assessment and accreditation of such a system.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Over the years, NAAC has instilled the much-needed panacea—infusion of quality consciousness among institutions of higher learning—and has thereby transformed the mindset of the academic fraternity. We introduced many new-age measures such as the Internal Quality Assurance Cell, Data Validation and Verification, and Student Satisfaction Survey. These have become popular with HEIs (higher education institutions) and is resonating in their efforts to achieve, sustain and enhance quality.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What impact did Covid-19 have on NAAC’s functioning?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ In spite of the pandemic, we took transformative steps to usher in more rigour in the assessment framework and thereby ensured holistic development of quality culture. NAAC has seamlessly metamorphosed itself to suit the changing requirements of HEIs and has kept stakeholders in the loop.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Various academic activities were enacted and an effective mechanism was evolved to keep up the momentum of assessment and accreditation during the pandemic. NAAC has also taken proactive measures to implement the directions issued by the University Grants Commission, in letter and spirit. NAAC is utilising digital platforms to address quality concerns of HEIs, day-to-day functioning and also in addressing academic and administrative matters. Various academic committees have been constituted to look into routine matters. A series of online meetings, webinars, and other programmes concerning assessment and accreditation activities have already been held and many are in the pipeline. Many HEIs reached out to NAAC during the pandemic period and the quality momentum was not unduly affected. Total number of accreditations done by NAAC across all cycles is 723 for universities and 13,791 colleges, which is an amazing feat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What kind of innovations are India’s universities likely to adopt in the post-Covid world?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ In the last two years, many factors, including the pandemic, shaped the way HEIs function. There has been a perceptible shift in the mindset of students and academic fraternity and new-age courses based on industry requirements gained prominence. Some new-age courses such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics and robotics gained prominence due to the inherent demand as well as the pandemic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What changes have you observed in the teaching methodologies of universities?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ I feel that the post-pandemic world is the right opportunity for faculty and students to explore and utilise digital resources. Recently, many new home-grown educational IT startups have emerged. They are doing well and are even competing with large IT companies. Increasingly, Indian universities and HEIs are opting for home-grown software for online classes and video conferencing. The ambitious hope of “Digital India” has to be rigorously pursued.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Retaining tempo for academic activities through online methods by cancelling vacation periods during summer, winter and festival seasons, conducting special online courses during weekends, spearheading new projects for the development of digital infrastructure, encouraging both staff and students to take up online courses, and integration of academia and industry for enhanced multi-skills are the need of the hour for HEIs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How has the road to the adoption of NEP 2020 been?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ NEP is a matter of perception and understanding. The norms are flexible and can be adopted easily by educational institutions. We have also been changing our manual in accordance with NEP. We have taken steps to sensitise the HEIs about NEP. The policy insists on several parameters like multidisciplinary graduate programmes, multiple-entry and exit, graded autonomy, and development of institutional quality through institutional development plans. These need to be acknowledged and accommodated by the accreditation framework. Institutional quality is the key to attaining excellence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What steps has NAAC taken in this regard?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Extensive interactions with the stakeholders were arranged to gather their responses and perceptions. In the process, there were regional level stakeholder consultations, consultations with NAAC academic staff, former directors of NAAC, academicians of great repute and with policy makers in the education ministry, the UGC, the All India Council for Technical Education and the National Board of Accreditation. Apart from this, an online survey was also conducted. About 4,000 stakeholders of higher education were involved in this process.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What are the innovations and changes NAAC is bringing to its process?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Quality is a continuous process of doing things excellently, every time. We are committed to this conviction. We organised a slew of innovative activities such as a project by our research and analysis wing to publish annual quality assurance reports and state-wise analysis of accreditation reports. So far, there are 34 state-wise analysis of accreditation reports.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Besides this, there were zone-wise meetings that were held at Gangtok, Sikkim and Lucknow, and a 12-lecture series on educational management and quality concerns in higher. Thousands of participants from higher education institutions across the country participated in these initiatives through our web platform.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are also in the process of implementing an artificial intelligence-based solution to automate peer team selection and assignment. The system will function on two key parameters—HEIs and assessors (vice chancellors, principals, professors) to arrive at the most effective mapping between them. Since it is data driven and self-learning (based on cases), it produces more stable plans, than the manual process.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When this system is in place and a peer team visit arises, it will automatically select the team members. Efficient and fair screening of assessors is the biggest challenge in talent acquisition. Achieving this will help reduce the delays in assessment and assignment of resources, and streamline the peer-review process.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/17/nep-is-a-matter-of-perception-and-understanding-says-naac-director.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/17/nep-is-a-matter-of-perception-and-understanding-says-naac-director.html Sun Jul 17 18:38:53 IST 2022 covid-19-has-triggered-an-uptick-in-child-marriages-in-india <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/08/covid-19-has-triggered-an-uptick-in-child-marriages-in-india.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2022/7/8/38-Deepti.jpg" /> <p>Deepika Gurjar has an innocent face and the mischievous eyes typical of a 16-year-old. A class 11 science student from a village near Ajmer in Rajasthan, Deepika is a talented footballer who was selected for a national coaching camp in Bengaluru last November. She is part of a girls’ team set up by the NGO Mahila Jan Adhikar Samiti (MJAS). “I want to become an international footballer,” she says, her eyes shining.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her elder sister Sapna, 18, is the captain of the MJAS team, and idolises former Indian cricket captain M.S. Dhoni. An undergraduate arts student, she wants to be an IAS officer and a football coach, given that there are not many female coaches in Rajasthan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Talking to these confident teenagers with such definite goals in life, it is difficult to imagine that both were married off this May 2. Though MJAS encourages girls, mostly from traditional families, to break gender barriers and helps them stave off early weddings, the sisters could only fight for so long. They had managed to stall their weddings, scheduled in May 2021, but had to bow to family pressure this year. With the world opening up after the Covid-19 pandemic, pending weddings, including those of minors, are being conducted in a hurry.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Our family has promised that our gauna (formal send-off to the groom’s place at the proper age) will not be held for some years and we will be allowed to pursue our dreams. We would like to believe that the promise would be kept,” says Sapna.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi, Deepti, now 19, was married off to a 31-year-old in November 2020. She had resisted, but her father told her that he could not take care of her and her elder sister (also married off along with Deepti) because the pandemic had left him poorer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Before she could come to terms with her mother’s death—she had succumbed to Covid-19 in mid-2020—Deepti was in an alien home. And there started a nightmarish phase. Her husband and his family were suspicious of her “character” and resented her tendency to talk back; they abused her physically and verbally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, Deepti, not yet 18, returned home within six weeks. It was hardly a warm welcome, but she stood firm and did not return to her husband. Soon, with help from the NGO Shambhunath Singh Research Foundation, Deepti began reclaiming her life. She has passed her class 12 exams and wants to join the police. “The condition at home is bad and I have fallen back to weaving air-cooler panels to earn money. But I am determined to get to a better position in life,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>K. Silamma could not stand up to her family like Deepti. This May, the 16-year-old in Telangana’s Nagarkurnool district was caught in a “trap” that she thought she had escaped last year. The NGO Shramika Vikasa Kendram had tried to dissuade her father, an agriculture labourer, but he said the pandemic had broken him financially, and he wanted to marry off his daughter to ease his burden. To avoid further intervention by the NGO, Silamma’s family, on May 4, took her away to another village and got her married surreptitiously.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>SVK, which is supported by Child Rights and You (CRY) and works in 52 villages of Nagarkurnool and Wanaparthy districts, had only prevented two of 33 reported child marriages between January and October 2021. And even in those two cases, both girls, including Silamma, were married off this May.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Within the next six months, another 32 child marriages were reported in these 52 villages. “Most of these happened without anyone knowing. Yet, the numbers in the area we cover is quite low compared with other areas in the state,” says SVK project director Y. Laxman Rao.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In April, in one of the rare cases of legal action against child marriages, police booked the parents of two minors in Madhya Pradesh’s Rajgarh district, along with the guests, the priest, the caterers and the cameramen. The groom was 12; the bride, nine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rajgarh Childline project coordinator Manish Dangi, who played a major role in getting this FIR lodged, says that, this year, a major upswing was noticed in the number of child weddings, especially around the auspicious occasion of Akshaya Tritiya (May 3). He says that most of those involved said it was because of the lockdowns in the past two years. But he also adds that child marriages had taken place during the pandemic, but most went unreported because of the lockdown.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Several grassroots social organisations say that the pandemic has reversed a lot of good work done on the ground level in the past several years to eradicate child marriages.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>TELLING DATA</b></p> <p>A comparative study of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data of 2019 and 2020 is revealing, says Puja Marwaha, CEO of CRY India. While overall crime in the country dipped 13.26 per cent in the duration, the cases registered under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, jumped by 49.52 per cent. Compared with 2015, child marriage cases jumped 167.92 per cent in 2020, she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ground organisations working for CRY say that the higher figures in 2021 (see graphics) might also be because of greater focus on prevention of child marriages after lifting of lockdowns, and that it was clear that there were more attempts to get minors married.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Bhopal Child Line, run by the NGO Aarambh, along with the police and the department of women and child development (DWCD), stopped 37 child marriages between April 2021 and March 2022. They had stopped 21 marriages in 2020-21, and 20 in 2019-20.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aarambh director Archana Sahay says that these figures are just the tip of the iceberg. “In our experience, if 100 child marriages are held, we get information of at most 30,” she says. “In urban areas, information about half the marriages planned might be available, but in rural areas, it is difficult to get information on even 10 per cent.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the state level in Madhya Pradesh, in April 2022, 192 marriages were stopped and, on May 3, which was Akshaya Tritiya, 51 child marriages were stopped, DWCD data shows.</p> <p><br> The fifth edition of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data, from 2019 to 2021, showed a significant dip in underage marriage cases in the past decade. But experts point out that a significant portion of the NFHS-5 data was collected before the pandemic struck, and the rest after the first lockdown period (in late 2020 and early 2021), and may not well represent the impact of the pandemic on child marriages.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Those working in the field say that there was a major reversal of the trend—of child marriage cases going down—because of the pandemic. Laxman Rao says that the child marriage scenario in the villages that SVK works in had returned to the level it was 10 years ago. “The pandemic has hit poor families badly, and the government needs to extend additional social security benefits, ensure local livelihood sources and create good health infrastructure at the grassroots level to give confidence to people that they can survive,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Madhya Pradesh DWCD director R.R. Bhonsale says that several child marriages were prevented this year, especially during Akshaya Tritiya, because of stricter monitoring through virtual meetings and regular reports from district-level officials. “Though we had no specific feedback on this point, there is a possibility that the pandemic (and consequent easing of lockdowns) might have led to an increase in the ceremonies this year,” says Bhonsale. “However, we were alert in the routine course. We want to achieve a major reduction in the figures.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>WHY WE SHOULD WORRY</b></p> <p>The situation in India is in line with the global trend. The UNICEF’s country profile for India, 2020, says, “Across the world over the past decade, the proportion of young women who were married as children decreased by 15 per cent, from nearly one in four to one in five. This means that, over the last 10 years, the marriages of some 25 million girls have been averted.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, it adds: “This remarkable accomplishment is now under threat. Over the next decade, up to 10 million more girls will be at risk of child marriage as a result of Covid-19, putting the global total number of girls at risk at 110 million girls by 2030.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For India, child marriages should be one of the biggest worries, given the huge number of young people it affects. The UNICEF 2022 profile estimated that India has 226.3 million girls and women married before 18, of which 99.8 million were married before 15.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A UNICEF programme brief on ‘ending child marriage and adolescent empowerment’ says: “Child marriage ends childhood. It negatively influences children’s rights to education, health and protection. These consequences impact not just the girl directly, but also her family and community. A girl who is married as a child is more likely to be out of school and not earn money and contribute to the community. She is more likely to experience domestic violence and become infected with HIV/AIDS. She is more likely to have children when she is still a child. There are more chances of her dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It further says, “Child marriage negatively affects the economy and can lead to an intergenerational cycle of poverty. Girls and boys married as children more likely lack the skills, knowledge and job prospects needed to lift their families out of poverty and contribute to their country’s social and economic growth. Early marriage leads girls to have children earlier and more children over their lifetime, increasing economic burden on the household.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>THE PANDEMIC’S IMPACT</b></p> <p>A CRY policy brief on ‘Combating Child Marriage During Covid-19 and Beyond’ says, “Since economic insecurity is one of the key drivers of child marriage, a fragile social protection system unable to reduce household-level vulnerabilities is a direct contributor to increasing child protection violations as well as child marriages during humanitarian crises (like Covid-19).”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It further says that dysfunctional child protection systems (the systems were severely impacted because of the pandemic) increase risk of gender-based violence and child marriage, physical and emotional maltreatment and psychosocial distress of children. “The pandemic also weakened social structures, which added to anxieties related to girls’ safety within households. In these adverse situations, child marriage is seen as a solution to protect girls for fear of stigma arising from various forms of abuse, including sexual assault,” says the policy brief.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sahay says that the impact of Covid-19 on child marriages was seen in two phases—one while the pandemic was raging and lockdown was in place, and the other when lockdown was lifted. “During the pandemic, most families, especially of marginalised communities, suffered major livelihood losses,” she says. “Whatever resources they had, they thought it wise to spend on fulfilling important responsibilities like getting their daughters married. The lockdown restrictions gave them the opportunity to organise very small weddings, during which two or three siblings or cousins (irrespective of their age) were married off at once at a very low cost. Another factor—very typically Indian—was the emotional pressure from elders of the family who said they wanted to see their grandchildren married off before something happened to them because of the pandemic. After lockdowns eased in mid-2021, those who had been waiting to get their children married rushed into the ceremonies before restrictions were imposed again. Adolescent girls, who had fallen out of school during the lockdown period, became vulnerable to underage marriages as families were worried about their safety and possibility of them getting into ‘unsuitable’ alliances.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indira Pancholi, a social researcher and founding member of MJAS, Ajmer, explains it like this. “We have to understand the centrality of the institution of marriage in the Indian society,” she says. “Everything in life revolves around marriage. Traditionally, society has wanted to control sexuality, reproductive ability and labour capacity of both men and women, and marrying them off at a very young age was the best way of control. When grown up, individuals are liable to make their own choices and society does not want to allow this. So, breaking off the child marriage alliances are heavily penalised, forcing the couple and the families to stick to it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As for the impact of Covid-19, she says that when the pandemic was raging, there was a big upswing in early gauna as economic distress and deaths in families required that extra helping hand. “Then when the lockdown was eased, there was a rush of underage marriages,” she says. “This was because adolescent girls sitting at home were considered a big risk. Also, the confidence and power of negotiation of girls reduced as their school routine was broken and there was emotional pressure due to distress in the family. As a result, we noticed a 30 to 40 per cent reduction in girls’ resistance to marriage at an early age.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>BIG CHALLENGE</b></p> <p>Rolly Singh, programme director, SRF (Varanasi), says that work to eradicate child marriages, especially amid the distress caused by the pandemic, is challenging because it is a socially accepted tradition and there is resistance to steps taken against it. “It is important to work on root causes leading to child marriages such as child protection (safety of girls), poverty, lack of education and so on. Patchwork approach will not help,” says Singh. “There are many laws and rules, but no effective implementation or monitoring. Adequate dedicated resources through proper planning and budgetary allocation are very important, as are appointment of dedicated decentralised personnel, an implementing and monitoring body and inter-departmental coordination in the government.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>CRY CEO Marwaha emphasises that girls empowered with education are better able to make informed decisions regarding their life and participate in decision-making processes both within the family and outside. “Ensuring education to the girls as a legal right up to the age of 18, universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, addressing societal gender norms and attitudes regarding role of girls and women, and building agency through life-skills education for adolescent girls and boys are some of the key components, which, we believe, can a go a long way in re-scripting the social reality for adolescent girls.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Creating awareness among girls of the existing socio-cultural norms, and supporting them to change the narrative by growing to their full potential is something that CRY holds very close to its heart. It is extremely crucial that young girls set goals and stubbornly pursue them, come what may. We are sure their grit and resilience will inspire others to break age-old barriers.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>... AND CHILD GROOMS TOO!</b></p> <p>While underage marriage of girls has found some focus, there has been little discussion on that of boys. The first-ever analysis on child grooms by UNICEF in 2019 said that an estimated 115 million boys and men around the world were married as children. Of these, one in five children, or 23 million, were married before the age of 15. Girls remain disproportionately affected, but in child marriage-prone states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, 30.1 and 28.7 per cent boys, respectively, were married off before the legal age of 21, according to the fifth edition of the National Family Health Survey.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Child grooms are forced to take on adult responsibilities for which they may not be ready. Early marriage brings early fatherhood, and with it added pressure to provide for a family, cutting short education and job opportunities,” the UNICEF analysis said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an Indian context, Pancholi says families want the young couples to bear a child as soon as possible so that the boys could be forced to start earning a livelihood. Naturally, they lose out on education, skill development and socio-economic growth opportunities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Singh says that along with the above, lack of adequate sex education has a physical, medical and psychological impact on the young grooms. “The boys who earn even a small livelihood are considered a good catch as a groom, irrespective of whether they are mentally, psychologically and physically ready for marriage,” she says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Also, a big fallout of child marriages is that the boys abandon the girls once they grow up, start earning well and have a choice. “Even if the wives from childhood marriages are accepted,” says Singh, “they are subject to severe domestic violence.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i>(Names of all minors changed to protect their identity.)</i></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/08/covid-19-has-triggered-an-uptick-in-child-marriages-in-india.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/08/covid-19-has-triggered-an-uptick-in-child-marriages-in-india.html Fri Jul 08 13:05:14 IST 2022 coming-soon-indias-first-underwater-metro-rail <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/01/coming-soon-indias-first-underwater-metro-rail.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/2022/7/1/40-A-worker-in-one-of-the-two-tunnels.jpg" /> <p>The two old cities of Howrah and Kolkata, on the banks of the Hooghly, have a rich, shared history and culture. In 1943, an engineering marvel helped link the two—the Howrah Bridge, later renamed the Rabindra Setu after Rabindranath Tagore. Today, it is probably the busiest cantilever bridge in the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Almost 80 years later, a new link between the cities is getting ready—a metro rail through the riverbed. It will be the first underwater metro in India and is expected to start operation in early 2023. The underwater rail will connect Howrah to BBD Bagh (Dalhousie Square) in Kolkata and is part of the East-West metro project (Howrah Maidan to Sector 5, Salt Lake, Kolkata) sanctioned in 2008. This corridor is particularly significant because it has stops near the two major railway stations of Howrah and Sealdah, Kolkata. The allocation for the partially functional East-West project is Rs1,100 crore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Mamata Banerjee came to power in 2011, she said she would make Kolkata look like London. The chief minister is criticised for the statement even today. But, she may have hit upon an apt parallel! After all, Calcutta was capital of British India and now Kolkata has architectural similarities to London, which is on the banks of the Thames. Moreover, Howrah has often been called the Sheffield of the east for its engineering acumen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When I visited the underwater metro tunnels, I got gooseflesh—I was standing in the middle of the riverbed taking pictures while the Hooghly flowed above. I have been travelling from Howrah to Kolkata all these years by bus, taxi, train or steamer. I never imagined that a day would come when I would travel under water.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As per the Kolkata Metro Rail Corportation (KMRC), the Howrah metro station will be the deepest metro station in the country, 33 metres under ground. The Hauz Khas metro station in New Delhi, with a depth of 29 metres, currently has this distinction. One has to descend 267 steps to reach the platform level, which will have 26 escalators, seven lifts and double-discharge facility (passengers can board or alight from both sides). The Hooghly river is 225 metres from the station.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The underwater tunnels—two of them—are 520m long. Special heat-proof train tracks have been brought from Austria. (For the entire East-West project, about 1,600 tonnes of rail tracks have been imported.) There is a ventilation and evacuation shaft along the centre of the tunnels. The 44-metre shaft opens on to Kolkata’s Strand Road and is reinforced using the sophisticated ‘New Austrian’ tunnelling method.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was in 1972 that prime minister Indira Gandhi laid the foundation stone for India's first metro rail in Calcutta.&nbsp;Tapan Nath, one of the first motormen of the KMRC, remembers the first journey in 1984. “People, overwhelmed by curiosity, had so overcrowded the station that in the ensuing chaos the train could not depart on time,” said Nath.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Much has changed in Kolkata since then because of rapid urbanisation. But, there is still a lot of excitement for the underwater rail. And, this new engineering marvel is sure to become another icon for the twin-cities.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/01/coming-soon-indias-first-underwater-metro-rail.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/01/coming-soon-indias-first-underwater-metro-rail.html Sun Jul 03 10:50:37 IST 2022 we-need-oxygen-every-day-and-we-have-to-plant-trees-every-day <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/01/we-need-oxygen-every-day-and-we-have-to-plant-trees-every-day.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/2022/7/1/52-J-Santosh-Kumar.jpg" /> <p><b>WHILE PARTICIPATING IN</b> an event in Hyderabad recently, actor Salman Khan turned to Joginapally Santosh Kumar and asked, “What if there are too many trees and the sun's rays are blocked?” Anyone who has followed the work of Santosh Kumar, Rajya Sabha MP of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, would have had the same doubt. Between 2018 and 2022, Kumar spearheaded many campaigns that resulted in the planting of 16 crore saplings, not just across India, but also in Europe, north America and Australia. In 2018, he initiated the Green India Challenge, which requires a participant to plant three saplings and nominate three more people to do the same. It caught up like wildfire with the active involvement of movie stars and politicians.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A man on a mission, Santosh Kumar says it is a lifelong exercise and there is no end goal. In an interview, he talks about his inspiration, journey with the Green India Challenge, bond with fellow parliamentarians and the need for stringent forest acts. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How did you come up with the Green India Challenge?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ In 2018, a few friends and I were discussing various kinds of challenges, like the bottle cap challenge and the ice bucket challenge. We thought why not do something useful for society. Taking inspiration from my uncle's [Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao] work of the past 22 years, I decided to go ahead with this challenge. When he was an MLA in the 1990s, before the formation of Telangana, he had initiated the Siddipet ki Haritha Haaram to encourage people to plant trees. He used to give incentives and saplings.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2014, he scaled up the programme to the Telangana ki Haritha Haaram. About 240 crore saplings have been planted by the Telangana government as part of the programme. The survival rate is 80 per cent. This way, the green cover has increased by 8.2 per cent, as per the surveys done by the forest department. Taking that as inspiration, I started this in 2018. The idea is to plant three saplings and challenge three others to do it. It has caught up. As part of the Green India Challenge, we also adopt forests. We have planted 16 crore saplings. We are translocating some 100-year-old trees that have been affected by infrastructure projects.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What has been the impact of the challenge?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ People are participating with a lot of emotion. In a far-flung village in Adilabad, teachers and students of a school planted saplings and posted it [on social media]. The way it has spread is amazing. A while ago, a 70-year-old person called and blessed me. This is the most satisfying thing in my life and it gives me immense pleasure. People are planting even for their wedding anniversaries, or when there are deaths in the family. It is as if they are remembering their elders through those plants.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The initiative has also created fear among those who want to cut the trees. We are taking up complaints. State forest guards have told our team that we have made their job easier as encroachment attempts on forest lands have come down. The topics of global warming and climate change are also covered in this programme as everything is interlinked. We will need oxygen every day and we have to plant trees every day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Why did you think of roping in celebrities and popular personalities for this challenge?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Stars like Chiranjeevi have millions of fans and our message got penetrated easily that way. Whether it is cinema or political celebrities, we are only taking their help to influence society. On KCR's birthday, we launched a campaign for planting one crore saplings, and it was a big hit. On brother KTR's (K.T. Rama Rao, minister for municipal administration and urban development) birthday, 3.5 crore plants were planted and that was also a big success. Actors Prabhas and Nagarjuna adopted forests. Corporate houses are ready to adopt thousands of acres of forests in our state. I have not seen any such challenge going beyond a few months. But this is going strong and it is good for society.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How challenging was it to get politicians from other parties on board?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ After I became a Rajya Sabha member, I involved other parliamentarians. It wasn’t challenging because it had nothing to do with politics. Politicians cutting across party lines participated in it. Some five months ago I started planting one lakh saplings in Delhi. About 40 MPs from 13 parties participated in it. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi appreciated my work.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>NCP MP Vandana Chauhan took up the challenge and went to schools in Pune and encouraged students to plant trees. Recently, when there was a meeting of top forest department officials, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh appreciated me and asked me to explain my programme to the participants which included fellow MPs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Do you think any policy change is required to conserve green cover?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ I am in the forest and environment committee and I can say that there are huge encroachments on forest lands. There is rampant smuggling across the country. There is a need to bring in stringent acts. There is a need to protect wildlife also. State governments should play a proactive role to achieve this. In Telangana, we are marking borders to prevent smuggling and encroachment. Earlier, smugglers used to walk away with illegal forest products effortlessly but now the fences will not allow them to escape easily. We are also taking good care of the forest officials right from top to the lower staff.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What role did social media play in popularising your message?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ If there was no social media, the message would not have gone so fast. It played a great role. Only 30-40 per cent of information related to participation reaches as there are many who are going about it without any fanfare. So imagine the extent of its popularity. On internet searches, the impressions and results of Green India Challenge are better than many other trending hashtag searches.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/01/we-need-oxygen-every-day-and-we-have-to-plant-trees-every-day.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/01/we-need-oxygen-every-day-and-we-have-to-plant-trees-every-day.html Sun Jul 03 10:08:03 IST 2022 titanic-at-25-why-indians-are-still-in-love-with-the-classic <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/01/titanic-at-25-why-indians-are-still-in-love-with-the-classic.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/2022/7/1/54-A-sketch-depicting-the-sinking-of-the-Titanic-new.jpg" /> <p>It is an online lecture called ‘The science of deformation’. The speaker is Prof Rajesh Prasad of IIT Delhi, an expert in applied mechanics. He asks the students what seems to be a fairly straightforward question: “If steel hits ice, which one do you think will break—steel or ice?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not so fast.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The question was preceded by a sequence from the film Titanic. The protagonists, Jack and Rose, climb on to the stern rails as the giant vessel breaks into two and is swallowed by the ocean. The connection to the question is obvious. The Titanic had been the largest moveable object made by man until it struck an iceberg and sank in the Atlantic on the midnight of April 14, 1912, killing more than 1,500 passengers and crew members. The ship was made of 46 million kilograms of the finest steel available, and yet it had crumbled like a cookie when it hit the iceberg.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The question is,” asks Prasad, “Why did the Titanic sink so easily? The ship’s steel was more than an inch thick—a very high-quality steel at the time.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Soon, Prasad begins to explain why the ship went down, using jargon that sounds as poetic as it is esoteric—elastic and plastic deformation, ductile and brittle fracture, and so on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The lecture, available on YouTube, is just one example of how the classic film based on the ‘unsinkable’ ship continues to be a talking point in India. Indeed, ‘Titanic the steel behemoth’ may have sunk in ice-cold waters, but ‘Titanic the movie’ continues to sail majestically in the warm sea of public consciousness. Twenty-five years since its release, James Cameron’s Titanic has become more than an operatic tragedy; it has turned into a cultural touchstone that can enliven even a tedious physics lesson.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When it was released in 1997, Titanic heralded the entry of global blockbusters into the heart of India. Dutta Khuri of Assam still remembers the time when the entire state was gripped by the Titanic craze. Khuri’s father, Hemant Dutta, was a dramatist who was part of Kohinoor, the famous mobile theatre company founded by the thespian Ratan Lakhar. “Kohinoor staged the Mahabharat even before it reached Indian television. We showed Pompeii before Hollywood turned it into a movie,” says Khuri.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of Kohinoor’s most memorable plays was Titanic, which was staged 400 times across Assam in just 10 months after its premiere in 2000. “James Cameron took audiences in cinema halls to the Atlantic Ocean; we brought the Atlantic to the stage for the people of Pathshala,” says the 43-year-old Khuri, who was in college when the play opened in Pathshala, a small town in Assam’s Bajali district that is well known as a hub of mobile theatre.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kohinoor’s Titanic had a 200-member cast and crew. For the play, Dutta and Lakhar mounted an elaborate set—polystyrene (thermocol) was used to build a replica of the giant ship and the iceberg, while the Atlantic was recreated with a combination of plastic and light. The thermocol iceberg broke with an impressive sound effect, and the famous arms-outstretched-like-wings scene in the film was recreated by a clever manoeuvring of the movable stage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The audience, most of whom had never seen the Cameron film, were mesmerised. Busloads of people thronged the village ground to watch the blockbuster play. “My parents almost needed security to manage the crowds,” remembers Khuri. “Among those invited were members of the Ulfa (United Liberation Front of Assam) and the NDFB (National Democratic Front of Bodoland). The NDFB wanted to form a committee and restage the Titanic but our parents flatly refused. NDFB pressurised Kohinoor theatre a lot back then but no one bothered. The show just went on and on.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kohinoor was staged at Delhi’s National School of Drama as well. “We were invited to Berlin to take our Titanic there, but couldn’t because of financial constraints,” says Khuri.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Those who have seen the film cherish their favourite moments. “The ‘I am flying’ pose of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio is a dream image of love,” says Abhay Kumar, poet-diplomat and India’s ambassador to Madagascar and Comoros. “Decades ago, when I was visiting the Andamans with my IFS batchmates and we were cruising from one island to another, we would often take turns to mimic that pose on the bow of the ship we were travelling in. For us, it symbolised freedom, achievement and success.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bibhu Prasad, project manager in a logistics firm in Bengaluru, was a teenager when he first saw the film. Like many others, he was awed by the film’s scale and special effects, but after the fourth and fifth viewing, the overarching feeling he gets is sadness—about how it is impossible to find a love so pure and self-contained as shown in the film. “Titanic teaches you to trust your own inner voice about how you feel about another person,” says Prasad, 31.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Abhilasha Ghosh, a 29-year-old publicist from Kolkata who first saw Titanic when she was 17, the film is not a love story at all. “It was all about Rose’s emancipation,” she says. “Jack was only the agent to get her to plunge into a whole new world. I am very curious to know how Rose rebuilt her life from scratch after she left everything behind. How she really survived to tell the tale. There should be a sequel just for that.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Baadal Nanjundaswamy, a street artist noted for his 3D work, the pandemic has given a cheeky twist to the trope of everlasting love in Titanic. During the lockdown of 2020, he created a large mural in Bengaluru’s RT Nagar, showing Jack hesitating to join Rose at the stern rail. Both of them were also shown wearing masks. “In those unreal times, we became scared to go anywhere near our loved ones,” says Nanjundaswamy. “Even Jack couldn’t help avoiding Rose under the circumstances.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Why is Titanic so enduringly popular in India? Perhaps, because it may be the most Bollywood of Hollywood films. In his 2008 book Seduced by the Familiar: Narration and Meaning in Indian Popular Cinema, National Award-winning critic M.K. Raghavendra dissects how Cameron’s vision of love allows for an Indian reading. Jack being awestruck by Rose’s beauty in the very first meeting, then rescuing her from the clutches of her rich, selfish fiancé and stern, unrelenting mother, their union being blessed by the maternal figure of Molly Brown, Jack’s ultimate sacrifice and his extraction of a promise that Rose will live, love and bear children, and how Rose remains faithful to Jack’s memory—all of these are essentially tropes that Hindi cinema has long explored.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“When the film came out in India, it was for the very first time I saw emblems of a Hollywood film emblazoned on autorickshaws,” says Raghavendra. “The sinking ship motif could be seen on autos, where normally you would see an Indian actor or a Hindi movie poster.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Titanic disaster is the Mount Everest of shipwrecks. Everyone wants a piece of it. And there had to be a master storyteller who would capture the mosaic of heroism, greed and tragedy that this legendary maritime incident exemplified. But can India deliver its own ocean drama? Who could be the contenders to direct a motion picture epic on a scale as grand as the Titanic? The sinking of SS Vaitarna in 1888 has been dubbed as the Titanic of Gujarat and there was once an attempt to make a film on it in 2017 starring Rana Dagubatti as the investigator/researcher of the disappearance of the steamship. The project never took off. Maritime or naval disasters in South Asia haven't really been explored on celluloid as a feature film. &quot;This entire thing of exploring the past by focusing on a single historical event is missing in India. And the ones that are there veer towards sentimental patriotism,&quot; says Raghavendra.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to him, a reason for the lasting appeal of Titanic is the one key factor that sets it apart from another iconic tragedy—Romeo and Juliet. Titanic, he says, is not as grim as Romeo and Juliet; it is, instead, a “happy tragedy”.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/01/titanic-at-25-why-indians-are-still-in-love-with-the-classic.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/01/titanic-at-25-why-indians-are-still-in-love-with-the-classic.html Mon Jul 04 20:57:12 IST 2022 titanic-at-25-the-survivor-from-india-who-never-returned <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/01/titanic-at-25-the-survivor-from-india-who-never-returned.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/2022/7/1/57-Ruth-Becker-Blanchard-with-Edwina-MacKenzie.jpg" /> <p>Don Lynch, a historian at the Titanic Historical Society (THS), first heard of Ruth Becker Blanchard in 1975. Ruth was 12 years old when she survived the sinking of the Titanic on April 14, 1912. She was 90 when she died of age-related ailments in California in 1990.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lynch says Ruth had an important Indian connection—she was born and raised in India. “The last Titanic survivor to have a really good memory of the ship was someone from India. Ruth was an American, but she grew up in India. She could tell the story of the fateful day from start to finish. She gave us a wonderful account of the sinking,” says Don over phone from Los Angeles.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some of Ruth’s evocative recollections became dialogues in James Cameron’s Titanic, spoken by an older Rose portrayed by Gloria Stewart. In an early scene, when Rose looks at images of the ship’s ruins, she is gently prodded by researchers to recollect her memories of the ship. Before long, she raises her hand for silence and starts, “It’s been 84 years… and I can still smell the fresh paint. The china had never been used. The beds had never been slept in.” In the biographical article on Ruth in the 1990 winter issue of The Titanic Commutator, THS’s official quarterly magazine published online, Don had recounted how the gleaming newness of everything was the ship’s most impressive aspect for her.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Don first met Ruth in 1982—the 70th anniversary of the disaster. She was 82 years old, a “tall, vibrant lady” who had just returned from a snorkelling trip in Mexico. It was in that memorable meeting in her Los Angeles home that Don learnt of her fascinating childhood in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the youngest survivor of the Titanic tragedy, Ruth had recounted her ordeal to an American children’s magazine in 1913. After that, she had kept quiet for nearly 70 years. It was only when she began talking about it again, in her eighties and when Don met her, that even her children came to know the backstory.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the 1990s, Don was hired by Cameron as he prepared to shoot the film. He was part of the first team that dived to the wreck in the bottom of the Atlantic. The elderly Rose might well have been conceived in Ruth’s living room in 1982.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Ruth was 90 years old when she died,” says Don. “At the time, there were several survivors who were older than her, but they weren’t telling as good a story. They were like a broken record repeating the same stuff.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Don joined THS in 1974, having nurtured a fascination for shipwrecks since high school. The 1955 classic A Night to Remember by Walter Lord, which provides a blow-by-blow account of Titanic’s final hours, proved to be a turning point for Don. He became obsessed about Titanic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>THS was cofounded in 1963 by Edward Kamuda, historian and Titanic specialist who dedicated his research to preserving the biographies of people on board the doomed ship. Don, who had earlier worked in a defence company, joined THS because of his academic interest in one of the greatest maritime disasters in history. He is now THS’s official historian, and responsible for bringing out The Titanic Commutator, an invaluable resource for Titanic scholars and enthusiasts around the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Don, Ruth’s father, Allen Oliver Becker, served as a missionary in India. After marrying Nellie E. Baumgardner, who came from a prominent Ohio family, the Beckers set sail for India in 1898 and landed in Guntur in December that year. They settled in Narasarowpet, some 45km southwest of Guntur. Ruth was born in 1899, reportedly the first Caucasian child to be born in Guntur. She enrolled in a boarding school in Kodaikanal. In 1907, her brother Luther died because of a tetanus infection. Her other siblings, Marion and Richard, were also born in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Beckers could not take to the “harsh climate” of undivided India. Nellie feared she might lose another child, so she wanted to leave. So, on March 7, 1912, Nellie and the children travelled to London from Madras. The journey lasted around a month, and on April 10, they boarded a train for Southampton and finally boarded the Titanic on April 12.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“They took the Titanic just because it was leaving and they had to get to America. It had nothing to do with it being the maiden voyage. They just took the next ship available, and it was the Titanic,” says Don.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Don remembers Ruth recalling how she could not manage to speak to her co-passengers because her English was heavily inflected with Telugu; how her mother had sewn a $100 bill into her coat before the journey; and how she did not remember eating anything at the opulent dining room. She could well have blacked out the room from her memory bank, as most of her table companions died.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Beckers survived the sinking, but none of them would visit India again. “Ruth’s father, the Reverend Becker, would have wanted to; he loved India. But her mother did not,” says Don. “The climate, the famine, the epidemics, losing a child, and then, of course, the Titanic. She would never cross the ocean again. Ruth, too, never went back to visit either. She probably would have liked to, but it never really came to pass.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/01/titanic-at-25-the-survivor-from-india-who-never-returned.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/01/titanic-at-25-the-survivor-from-india-who-never-returned.html Sun Jul 03 13:20:05 IST 2022 titanic-at-25-the-little-known-mystery-of-indias-own-titanic <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/01/titanic-at-25-the-little-known-mystery-of-indias-own-titanic.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/2022/7/1/59-The-SS-Vaitarna.jpg" /> <p>More than two decades before the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912, an Indian-owned passenger ship, the SS Vaitarna, sank off the coast of Gujarat. Not many have heard of this tragedy, the records of which are usually hard to come by. But the available information is somewhat sufficient to piece together a narrative.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The SS Vaitarna was known locally as Vijli, or Haji Cassum ni Vijli, after Cassum Ibrahim Agboatwala aka Haji Cassum, who was the captain of the ship at the time of the incident. The name Vaitarna may have come from the river in Bombay Presidency; the local name, Vijli (electricity), derived from the ship being lit up with electric bulbs. This was done long before external lighting was made mandatory for safe navigation at sea.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The SS Vaitarna shuttled between Mandvi in Kutch and Bombay, carrying passengers and goods in around 30 hours against a fare of 08. Stories around the sinking of the ship have led to it being dubbed the ‘Titanic of Gujarat’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On November 8, 1888, the SS Vaitarna set sail for Dwarka and, later, Porbandar. Owing to bad weather, it was unable to berth at Porbandar and headed for Bombay. She is believed to have been wrecked in a cyclonic storm before reaching Bombay. Apparently, 703 passengers were on board. The number would be higher if additional embarkations, usual in those times, are factored in. At the time of the event, casualties were estimated to be between 700 and 900.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the day of the fateful trip, say sources, there were 13 wedding parties on board and several students headed for Bombay to appear for their matriculation exams.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Vaitarna was owned by A.J. Shepherd &amp; Co. in Bombay and built by Grangemouth Dockyard and Co. Ltd in Scotland. Its keel was laid in 1882 and the ship was launched in 1885. The three-year construction period is indicative of its large size and sophistication. The engines were made by Dunsmuir &amp; Jackson in Glasgow and the ship was registered in Glasgow itself. Her value was estimated to be 10,000 pounds, and she was insured for 4,500 pounds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Haji Cassum, the ship’s “Musalman skipper”, was an aristocrat from Kutch who held tracts of land between Borivali and Dahisar in Bombay, had his office on Abdul Rehman Street, and lived in Malabar Hill.</p> <p>Mahomedbhoy Dawood, captain of the Savitri, the vessel that was sent to search for the Vaitarna, had known Cassum for many years. Dawood knew Cassum as one of the most careful navigators.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fading saga of Cassum and the Vaitarna was gleaned from a few rare surviving archives. Two triggers call for revisiting the tragedy. This is the silver jubilee of the release of Titanic, the blockbuster starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. Secondly, in March, the Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton’s ship—the Endurance, which sank in 1915—was located in the Weddel Sea, six kilometres from where it had disappeared. For a 107-year-old shipwreck, the Endurance was in fairly good condition.</p> <p>Unlike the original Titanic, the Vaitarna did not leave behind survivors. In fact nothing of the ship’s wreckage could be traced. The Return of Wrecks and Casualties in Indian Waters (1888), a report by the then government of India, claims that when the Vaitarna left Mandvi for Bombay, she was efficiently manned and fully equipped. Her hull and machinery were in good order. In the report, a marine engineer known as Mr Macintyre said the Vaitarna could safely pass through a cyclone. The storm that wrecked it would have been considerably violent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That the Vaitarna left no survivors indicates that the ship did to have life boats. A ‘marine court of inquiry’, set up by Bombay Presidency to investigate the circumstances that led to the sinking, said the Vaitarna was ill-equipped on the safety front. The aneroid barometers used aboard steamers such as the Vaitarna were later found to be faulty. The barometers would have failed to forecast stormy weather.</p> <p>Much effort was undertaken to locate the remains of the steamer. The Savitri, under Dawood’s command, did not find anything. A huge sum of Rs14,050 was spent in search of the Vaitarna. The shipping company faced persistent inquiries from anxious relatives of the victims, some of whom even promised to spend large amounts on charity if their loved ones were discovered. Just a day or two after the incident, newspapers like The Pioneer, The Bombay Guardian and The Times of India not only narrated the entire incident, but also went on to report the unsuccessful steps taken to look for the wreckage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The “Vaitarna disaster” was the lesson that reformed India’s shipbuilding and navigation systems. There was realisation about the need for relaying early, credible forecasts about storms and better arrangements for life-saving equipment in passenger vessels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mishaps of such monumental stature leave a deep and lasting impact. A famous folk song—‘Haji Cassum, tari vijli re madhariye veran thai’ (Oh Haji Cassum, your Vijli has sunk to the bottom of the sea)—perfectly commemorates the story of Vaitarna.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>The author is a Navy veteran and guest faculty at Gujarat Maritime University. The content research and curation for this essay was led by Odakkal with his adjunct associates, Sudhir Dongare and Riddhi Joshi. The research was mentored by Prof S. Shanthakumar, director, Gujarat Maritime University, Gandhinagar.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/01/titanic-at-25-the-little-known-mystery-of-indias-own-titanic.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/01/titanic-at-25-the-little-known-mystery-of-indias-own-titanic.html Fri Jul 01 13:03:57 IST 2022 titanic-at-25-a-posthumous-gift-from-indias-own-titanic <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/01/titanic-at-25-a-posthumous-gift-from-indias-own-titanic.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/2022/7/1/61-Saeed-Ibrahim-and-wife-Naila-new.jpg" /> <p>November 8, 1888. It is a Thursday, dull and slightly overcast. The usually staid seaport of Mandvi in Kutch has come alive with activity. There is jubilation and excitement in the air as a giant new ship, the SS Vaitarna, prepares to set sail from Mandvi to Bombay. Throngs of curious bystanders have gathered on the pier side to admire the vessel. Being the first steamer to be lit up with electric bulbs, the Vaitarna is nicknamed “Vijli”, or electricity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The dock area buzzes with activity, as there are several marriage parties bound for Bombay with a fully equipped Gujarati musical band. Running hither and thither, trying to get a last-minute passage, is a motley group of students headed for Bombay to appear for the matriculation examination. Among the other passengers waiting to board the ship are an anxious couple, Hajra and Jan Mohammed, my great-grandparents. They are keen to reunite with their 16-year-old daughter, Aisha, who on a previous visit, had stayed back in Bombay with her mother’s sister. They are planning her wedding and Jan, who runs a profitable crockery business in Bhuj, has already ordered a bone china tea set from a porcelain manufacturer in Staffordshire, as part of Aisha’s wedding trousseau.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At noon, the Vaitarna leaves Mandvi with 520 passengers and 43 crew members. She reaches Dwarka, picks up an additional 183 passengers, and leaves for Porbander. But because of bad weather, she does not stop at Porbander; she heads for Bombay.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She would never reach Bombay.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Later that evening, the Vaitarna encounters a heavy cyclonic storm. High, gusty winds and torrential rain produce gigantic waves that lash the sides of the ship, tossing it like a mere toy. The ship is ill-equipped to withstand such tempest. After a valiant battle with the sea, she sinks off the coast of Mangrol.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ship is declared missing the following day. Bombay Presidency and shipping companies send out steamers. But there are no survivors. No wreckage, no debris, and no bodies are found. Vaitarna has just vanished; its passengers and crew are consigned to a watery grave.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>News of the Vijli’s disappearance is slow to reach the families in Bombay. When it does finally get to them, it is met with shock and utter disbelief. Aisha, who would become my grandmother, is devastated. Her cries of anguish echo through the house; no words can console her.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One day, her aunt informs her that a consignment of goods has arrived in her name from England. It is the bone china tea set that her father had ordered for her. It is a beautiful blue-and-gold set of the finest egg-shell china. Six dainty cups and saucers, a large and elegantly shaped tea pot, milk jug, sugar bowl, half a dozen dessert bowls and an equal number of side plates.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aisha is overwhelmed. This unexpected, posthumous gift from her parents lifts her spirits. She feels engulfed by their loving presence. Where other attempts to console her had failed, this symbol of her parents’ great love for her finally brings her comfort.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Orphaned at the age of 16, the void left by the loss of her parents remains with her throughout her life. But, with the unstinting support of her family, she learns to grapple with her loss and face life with equanimity. She grows from childhood to womanhood, marriage and motherhood.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My grandmother’s 19th century bone china tea set has come down to us as a family heirloom, and it has been the inspiration behind my book, Twin Tales from Kutch.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>Saeed Ibrahim is a Bengaluru-based author.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/01/titanic-at-25-a-posthumous-gift-from-indias-own-titanic.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/07/01/titanic-at-25-a-posthumous-gift-from-indias-own-titanic.html Fri Jul 01 12:59:05 IST 2022 ever-lost-money-to-digital-fraudsters-join-the-club <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/24/ever-lost-money-to-digital-fraudsters-join-the-club.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/2022/6/24/16-shutterstock.jpg" /> <p>On May 5 last year, Gurugram resident Umesh Gupta filed a complaint with the station house officer (SHO), Sadar Thana. When his Covid positive cousin’s oxygen saturation had started plummeting, he searched online for oxygen cylinders. That is when he got a WhatsApp forward about a ‘Mr S. Dasgupta’ who was selling cylinders. On May 1, after speaking to him a couple of times, Umesh advanced Rs11,000 to Dasgupta’s SBI account. The deal was that the cylinder would reach him within two hours of the advance being credited. But no cylinder was delivered. Umesh called Dasgupta several times, only to be brushed off with vague explanations. The next day, Dasgupta called and demanded another Rs12,000. A suspicious Umesh got a few of his friends to call Dasgupta for cylinders. Each time, Dasgupta would give different account numbers under different names. He also stopped picking up Umesh’s calls.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When the SHO took no action, Umesh got an attorney at the Gurugram district court to appeal to the the cyber cell. The cyber cell ignored it, until the attorney moved court. A few weeks later, the judge asked the cyber cell for a status update. “The person from the cyber cell was very rude,” says Umesh. “He seemed unhappy to register my complaint. Right now, I am not pursuing the case to get my money back. I just want to make sure no one else gets cheated by these people.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Umesh’s case is not an isolated one. Fraudsters are dime a dozen, offering everything from free coaching classes, online discount coupons and “Rs20 lacs loan in just few clicks”. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, cybercrimes jumped by almost 84 per cent in two years—from 27,248 in 2018 to 50,035 in 2020.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even more damning is a global tech support scam report released in July 2021 by Microsoft. Of the 16 countries surveyed, India reported the most number of people who lost money through these scams. Thirty-one per cent of Indians who continued with scam interactions said they lost money in 2021.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ramanuj Mukherjee, a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur who founded a pro bono legal platform called ‘Lawyers Against COVIFRAUDS’, says that it is extremely difficult to nab these fraudsters. One of the reasons is that there is no comprehensive cyber law in India. “We have only one law that governs cybercrime—the Information Technology Act,” says advocate Heena Joshi, a member of Mukherjee’s team. “This act is not limited to crimes in India; fraudsters in other countries are also liable to be punished under this act. Unfortunately, this is not implemented because the cyber portal in India does not allow you to register international numbers. This means fraudsters are misusing international numbers, even from within the country, to commit these crimes.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another reason is that many of these scams involve multiple states. If you file a case in one state and the scammer is in another, the police is most probably going to drop the investigation. The coordination across state borders is not great, says Mukherjee. Out of the 17 cases Mukherjee’s team took up, money has been recovered only in one. According to the RBI, there were 73,988 card/internet frauds (ATM/ debit/ credit card/ internet banking) reported between April 2020 and March 2021; total amount involved—Rs228.65 crore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The cyber police, too, express their helplessness in recovering the money and nabbing the fraudsters. “After we receive the complaint, we try to freeze the bank account within 24 hours,” says G.R. Radhika, superintendent of police (Cyber Crimes), Andhra Pradesh. “But by then, the money is routed to multiple other accounts. It is very difficult to arrest the accused because most of the documents submitted to the bank are fake.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It does not help that Indians fare extremely poorly on cybersecurity awareness. In a recent National Privacy Test conducted by global VPN service provider NordVPN, India ranked 19th out of 21 countries when it came to online security habits. Only Turkey and Japan featured below us. Indians fell easy prey to fake online bargains and were found to have poor awareness on information that should not be shared on social media platforms. Almost one-third Indians said they would entertain fraudsters offering to repair their “malware-infected” device; globally, only 4.5 per cent of respondents said they would fall for such scams.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>★★★</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In March, author Rakesh Anand Bakshi googled FASTag and came across a website that promised to deliver it to his house. He paid 02,000 by credit card. Within 20 minutes, he realised that the transaction had been fraudulent because he had not received any receipt by email or SMS. Within an hour he had blocked the card. He kept calling the number on the website every 20 to 30 minutes. At first, a girl answered the call and he demanded to have the transaction reversed at once. She said she would look into the issue. “But the problem is that they keep changing numbers. They destroy several SIMs a day,” says Rakesh. “I should blame myself for losing the money. Even while I was filling in my details, I knew there was something wrong. The website had the same look as ICICI Bank’s. Even the colours and the logo looked genuine. They fool us by adeptly duplicating these things.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What happened to Rakesh is just one of the dozens of scams that are doing the rounds. Some of them include SIM swap/SIM cloning, where fraudsters pose as staff from the service provider and ask for details to upgrade mobile connections from 3G to 4G. After they get access to the SIM, or obtain a duplicate SIM, they carry out digital transactions through the OTP received on the duplicate SIM. Then there are frauds on online selling platforms, where fraudsters show an interest in your product. Instead of paying for the product, they use the “request money” option on the UPI app to steal money from your bank account. There are countless other scams—UPI phishing scams (where fraudsters send an email or SMS containing unauthorised links), fake cash-back scams, scams using screen-sharing apps, scams through unsolicited emails, redirect-to-website scams, scams through pop-up ads or windows….</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Most of these scams started spreading after demonetisation, when people started using online payments,” says Anand Prakash, an ethical hacker employed by companies like Facebook and Uber. “With Reliance Jio, everyone had 4G connections and people started understanding how things worked online. Earlier, in the days of net banking, there were a lot of steps to transact money. Five years ago, you would never have a provision for QR code scanning in stores. With UPI and online payments, everything became extremely easy. But with more ease comes more risk.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to him, the scammers are 50 to 100 member gangs spread countrywide. They create multiple bogus accounts in different places to bounce money around before collecting it, so that the trail grows cold and it becomes nearly impossible to track it. “It is definitely happening on a large scale,” he says. “I myself get around 20 requests a day from victims.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One kind of fraud which has seen a sharp rise in recent times is crypto fraud. There are many fake websites that offer to generate large profits by investing in cryptocurrencies. Ongole, a small town in coastal Andhra Pradesh, has witnessed a sharp rise in these frauds. Radhakrishnan (name changed) from Ongole tells us how he was scammed into trading in crypto. He chanced upon a website offering a variety of cryptocurrencies that assured a profit of 5 to 10 per cent in under two days. He initially invested a few thousand rupees and made a significant profit in just a few days. Elated, he encouraged his cousin also to invest Rs5 lakh, and became eligible for a referral bonus. The rising value of their investment kept the duo happy. A while later, a slight change in policy was conveyed to them—a minimum lock-in period of 30 days would apply to large amounts. After a few days, they realised that their account had become inactive. There was no further communication from the other side.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“There is no way one can properly monitor cryptocurrencies,” says D. Sai Satish, a cybersecurity expert. “A person sitting in Malaysia or Singapore could be running these fake websites. Cryptocurrencies can be easily used in money laundering.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>★★★</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A woman was watching a movie on her computer when a pop-up ad appeared on the desktop, saying that her PC was locked and she had to call a particular number to unlock it. She calls the number mentioned in the ad, and a man called ‘Luke’ picks up the call.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Is this your personal computer or your family computer?” asks Luke.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It’s a work computer,” she replies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Do you have an IT guy in your office?” asks Luke.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“No, I brought my office computer home,” the woman replies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“There will be a one-time charge if we fix the problem for you today,” says Luke.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Why would my computer be locked in the first place,” asks the woman. “I was just watching movies.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Could be that there was a virus on the online movie website,” replies Luke.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“How much is the charge?” asks the woman</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“50 pounds,” replies Luke.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In reality, Luke is Lalit C., a scammer sitting in a Delhi building housing a fake travel agency called Faremart Travels, a front for a scamming business. These scammers buy malicious adverts which claim that your computer has a virus and then lock your PC. The adverts then appear as pop-ups on the victim’s computer so that he or she is forced to call the number on the pop-up to unlock the PC.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The main building in Delhi hosted legitimate businesses. Behind that building, however, was another one where the scammers—numbering from two to 22 depending on the time and day—sat. If the police ever raided the main building, they would find nothing illegal. The alleyway between the buildings was used by the scammers to move between the legitimate and sham businesses.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Last year, however, their scam backfired spectacularly, because the man they were trying to scam was an Irish ‘scam buster’ who goes by the pseudonym, Jim Browning. When the scammer tried to connect to Browning’s computer, he was able to reverse the connection and see exactly how these scams were conducted through the CCTV camera installed in the building. What Browning captured and uploaded on YouTube was one of the most detailed exposes of a tech support scam. The company’s Paypal account showed that thousands of dollars were being transferred into it every month from victims in the US, the UK and Australia. Faremart made $3 million a year through these scams. Browning shared the footage with the BBC, which made a documentary on the call centre. This prodded the police to close it down and nab the CEO of Faremart, Amit Chauhan, a globe-trotting ‘entrepreneur’ whose Facebook page showed him vacationing in Germany, Amsterdam, Singapore and a number of other places.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are hundreds of such sham call centres in the country, most of them clustered around Delhi and Kolkata. The scammers operate a highly decentralised network, where each aspect of the crime is delegated to subcontractors. “These include sellers of phone numbers; programmers who develop malware and pop-ups; and money mules,” an FBI agent in Delhi told The New York Times.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The police have been busting many of these rackets. But there are many hurdles to making the charges stick. Until these glitches are solved and a robust cyber law is put in place, all there is to do, it seems, is to educate ourselves on the myriad ways in which one can get scammed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>with Rahul Devulapalli</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/24/ever-lost-money-to-digital-fraudsters-join-the-club.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/24/ever-lost-money-to-digital-fraudsters-join-the-club.html Fri Jun 24 16:35:48 IST 2022 spam-republic <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/24/spam-republic.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/2022/6/24/21-Daulat-Singh.jpg" /> <p>In plain daylight, he is the sarpanch of his village in Bharatpur, Rajasthan. As the village head, he is responsible for resolving disputes and handing out punishment for notoriety. His name evokes fear and respect in the community. But mention the word "Olx" and he immediately clams up. “I don’t know what you are talking about. Don't waste my time,” says the 62-year-old on the phone before he hangs up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The otherwise respectable sarpanch is one among the many in his village who live an alternate persona on online platforms such as Olx, Indiamart, and Quikr. He is also known as the “Olx master” because of his many disguises as a prospective seller of sundry items. There were several arrests in his subdivision of scamsters luring buyers into thefts, where bank details were harvested in the guise of payment for listed items that do not exist. Most CNG fuel stops in Bharatpur have boards with warning signs against "Olx thefts". In the main town, crowded with electrical repair shops and pushcarts selling vegetables, locals respond with wry smiles to inquiries about Olx conmen. "That's practically everyone's side hustle here,” says Pushpesh, a mobile shop owner, "First they were cheating people in the name of selling gold bricks and coins, now they have moved to selling home appliances, vehicles and whatnot online, often in the guise of Army personnel."</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Local cops talk about multiple instances of cyber thugs being accused in Olx frauds, sextortion, or setting up illegal call centres in slums and making off with lakhs in a month. But tip-offs and raids are like walking on eggshells; they constantly warn of violent reactions and counterattacks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Almost like localised virus outbreaks, cybercrime hubs keep popping up in geographies with murky, mixed-up mobile towers. Bharatpur, Mathura, and Mewat form the tri-junction of three states—Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana respectively—where a black spot of mobile towers is created in border areas, making it difficult to nab fraudsters. For more than two years, this tri-junction has emerged as the epicentre of several cyber frauds—from an MLA in Mumbai falling prey to a sextortion racket via Facebook to a daily wager losing access to his Jan-Dhan account. From Olx frauds that do not spare the daughter of Delhi’s chief minister to soliciting donations for the PM Cares Fund—the sheer range of cybercrimes emerging from this no man's land is leaving law enforcement agencies breathless.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While there is no formal data on the extent of crime, 80 per cent of cybercrime cases in Gurugram were reportedly committed by perpetrators originating from this region.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A popular theory in crime is often invoked to explain delinquent tendencies from a particular place and time. According to the Social Learning Theory, crime is mastered and more likely to occur when there is a direct and indirect association with different groups of people who are engaged in criminal activities, when there is continuous exposure to delinquent models, if there are more benefits and fewer punishments.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To simplify the concept, take the instance of Jamtara. The unassuming little district in northeastern Jharkhand became the hub of phishing crimes in 2016. Armed with a smartphone, the barely literate gangs of cyber fraudsters would cheat people of thousands and lakhs of rupees after acquiring their bank details. Actor Amitabh Bachchan in an episode of Kaun Banega Crorepati mentioned how he was once conned by cyber-punks from Jamtara. Entire families in the village would acquire scores of SIM-cards using fake IDs and mint several lakhs by placing spurious calls in nearby cities and faraway metros. "Your ATM card has been deactivated," was one of the dreaded openers employed in the guise of "bank officials" to entrap unsuspecting victims.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Trishant Srivastava—who co-wrote the popular Netflix show Jamtara: Sabka Number Ayega (2020)—began his research for the first season of the web series, the cops had already begun swooping down to bust networks of cheating gangs in the district. Recently, when he went back to Jamtara to research season two, due to be out this year, there were hardly any of his previous case studies left. Srivastava says, “They had left Jamtara and gone to other parts of the country. A lot of them got arrested. They went to jails, met other boys, taught them the basics, and those boys, in turn, went back to their districts and started the same game.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What struck him the most while writing the script was the age of these criminals—most of them were between 15 and 25, and all of them were meticulous and intelligent. "They used to make 100 calls and only two would materialise. And even if the two materialised, they would be earning Rs5,000 to Rs10,000 a day,” says Srivastava, who believes that the lack of sophistication of these small-time cybercriminals from Jamtara, Bharatpur, Mathura, and Mewat is what works for them. "The disorganised nature of the crime brings a certain brashness, a certain naivete in the way they do things. They don't even know who they are calling. It can reach anyone. It can be a high-profile individual or a daily-wage labourer,” says Srivastava.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The criminals from Jamtara married English-speaking women from other states to help them trap more educated victims. "Logically when you hear a female voice talking, you take it more seriously,” says Srivastava. He recalls how once a female cop honey-trapped suspects from Jamtara by posing as a prospective bride. He even dramatised this incident in his web show.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“These thugs speak such good English with a polished accent. They extensively use Google translate,” says Triveni Singh, superintendent of police (cybercrime), Uttar Pradesh Police. One of the leading officers investigating cybercrime and financial frauds, he has been keeping a tab on several cases emerging out of Bharatpur, Mathura and Mewat. “It is difficult for them to open fake bank accounts. So, they hijack the accounts of those who don’t know how to operate them. For example, they might tell a rickshaw puller that he will be getting money from a government scheme. The account owner then doesn’t suspect much as long as he gets his few thousand rupees,” says Singh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Almost every station house officer in Bharatpur will attest that sextortion cases are peaking in the region. Newspapers in Mumbai and Delhi regularly carry reports on investigating teams descending on the former princely state to arrest a fraudster on charges of extorting money by threatening to reveal evidence of sexual activity where the victims are shown adult clips and their video calls are simultaneously recorded.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In October, Hakmuddin, 24, from Bharatpur was arrested by the Delhi Police for minting Rs30 lakh from a sextortion racket that managed to waylay some 300 victims from across the country. Most of the victims were entrapped via Facebook and WhatsApp.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some months ago, an investigative team from the Delhi Police identified two men—Samaydeen and Munfed—as gang leaders of an interstate sextortion racket. They were intercepted in Bharatpur after a tip-off. The network extracted money from 200 victims, including cops, businessmen, and government officials, spread across Delhi, Haryana, Gujarat and Rajasthan. Together they operated 14 bank accounts where the initial estimate of the extracted money is believed to be Rs22 lakh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Olx and Quikr frauds was their golden hour. Now it is sextortion in most of the villages of Bharatpur, namely in subdivisions like Kaman, Nagar and Pahari,” says Hariman Meena, cybercrime in-charge in Bharatpur, “Last year they had started a wine-selling racket. Actor Shabana Azmi and comedian Johnny Lever fell for their fake liquor-delivery platform. They were also selling fake puppies online and making amounts ranging from Rs6,000 to Rs20,000. While these are small items, sextortion is a high-stakes game. Nobody supports the police here. Entire families can be involved in such crimes. We don't have the requisite technology to track them.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Daulat Singh, SHO at Kaman police station, says widespread illiteracy feeds into criminal tendencies in the tri-junction. He recalls how even matrimonial sites have not been spared; thugs posing as event managers have summoned families of brides and grooms, humiliated them and extorted money. “Public behaviour here is very rude. Anyone who looks different or is from outside is suspected in these villages. The miscreants and their family members carry arms. They just shoot,” says Singh, recalling a recent motorbike chase where he almost missed his target.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ajay Kumar, a local journalist in Bharatpur, talked about the newest gambling game in town— the Butterfly. Players from other states are brought in and made to pay a hefty entry fee running into lakhs of rupees to enter a room. Once enough people are locked in this room, a butterfly is released. The player on whose head it lands wins the jackpot. “This place never fails to come up with the most innovative ways to trick people,” he says.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/24/spam-republic.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/24/spam-republic.html Mon Jul 04 19:17:43 IST 2022 winter-session-likely-in-new-parliament-building-lok-sabha-speaker-om-birla <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/24/winter-session-likely-in-new-parliament-building-lok-sabha-speaker-om-birla.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/2022/6/24/25-Om-Birla-new.jpg" /> <p><b>LOK SABHA SPEAKER</b> Om Birla has been in the hot seat for three years now, and has seen many a disruption in the house. But he insists that dialogue and discussion prevailed at the end of the day. In the backdrop of the critique by the courts on the speakers’ decisions regarding defection by legislators, he says that the anti-defection law could be amended. In an interview with THE WEEK, Birla says a committee of speakers has studied the powers of the speaker under the Tenth Schedule or the anti-defection law and submitted its initial report. The panel, he says, is now set to seek legal opinion, after which a proposal will be made to the government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With respect to the allegations made by the Congress that its MPs were manhandled by the Delhi Police as they protested against the Enforcement Directorate, Birla says the complaints will be dealt with as per rules. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ As you complete three years as Lok Sabha Speaker, what would you list as your major achievements?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ In the last three years, the productivity of the Lok Sabha was 106 per cent, the highest compared with the last three Lok Sabhas. The house worked for over 995 hours, functioning till late at night, much beyond the scheduled time. More bills were introduced and passed, and there was discussion on the bills for a longer duration. We were able to prevent disruption through dialogue. On every issue, we had a detailed discussion in the house and that yielded good results.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What is the progress on making Parliament paperless?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Around 45 per cent of notices given in the 16th Lok Sabha were e-notices. Now, 95 per cent of them are e-notices. A mobile app for use by members is being developed. All the debates of the Lok Sabha, from the first to the seventeenth, are being digitised. Digitisation of around 20 million pages of library documents will start in July 2022. An upgraded version of the digital Parliament app is being developed to connect all the assemblies. By using digital technology and through other measures, the 17th Lok Sabha has seen an unprecedented saving of Rs668.86 crore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You have expressed concern over the number of sittings of legislatures being on the decline.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ In our presiding officers’ conferences, concern has been expressed on the number of sittings of legislatures decreasing. A lot depends on how much business the state government [brings] to the Vidhan Sabha. It is on the basis of the business that the government proposes that the sittings of the house are decided.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You have often expressed concern over the decay in discipline and decorum in the legislatures.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ This issue has been discussed for long. In 2001, when G.M.C. Balayogi was the Lok Sabha speaker, this issue was comprehensively discussed, and back then, too, it was felt that discipline and decorum in our legislatures was on the decline. All political parties will have to evolve a code of decorum within their organisations on how their members should behave in Parliament.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ You have spoken for the need to have uniformity of laws and procedures in the legislatures.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The issue has been discussed at our presiding officers’ conferences. A committee was tasked to look into it and it has submitted its report. We will seek legal opinion on it and it will be discussed with the states. It is also true that the Vidhan Sabhas are autonomous bodies and we cannot impose rules on them. It has to be a collective effort.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ A committee of speakers was set up to look into the powers of the speaker under the Tenth Schedule or the anti-defection law. What is the progress on it?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The committee has submitted its initial report. The committee, which is headed by C.P. Joshi, speaker of the Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha, has recommended that the views of legal experts be sought on the issue of redefining the powers of the Speaker under the Tenth Schedule. The committee will now talk to legal experts and submit its final report.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Why was the need felt for a relook at the anti-defection law?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Courts had made certain observations with regard to the role of the speaker on the issue of defection by legislators, and the presiding officers were hurt by these observations. It was felt by the speakers that it is necessary to ensure that fingers are not pointed at their decisions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Can an amendment of the anti-defection law be expected soon?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ It is with regard to amendment in the anti-defection law that we need to seek the opinion of legal experts. After the committee headed by C.P. Joshi submits its final report to me, I will discuss the issue with the government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The post of deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha has been vacant for a record time.</b></p> <p>A/ A discussion is on with regard to this issue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ A Congress delegation met you to complain about the alleged ill-treatment of their MPs by Delhi Police during their protest against the Enforcement Directorate. MP Jothimani has written to you about the violation of her parliamentary privileges. Will you act on their compl</b>aint?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Yes, a delegation had met me and informed me about the incidents that happened in the last few days. Later, a written representation in this regard has also been sent to me.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a definite procedure laid down to deal with such issues. These matters are disposed of under the rules. In relation to this incident, too, action will be taken as per rules.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ What is the progress on the new Parliament building?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Our effort is that the new Parliament building is ready before the winter session. The work on the new building is going on in full swing. We are behind schedule by one week, but it should be made up in the coming months.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The new Parliament building will have a bigger seating capacity for the Lok Sabha. Do we need more Lok Sabha MPs?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ This is something that the entire country is in agreement on. When the delimitation commission begins the process of redrawing Lok Sabha constituencies, I am confident that the number of seats will go up.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/24/winter-session-likely-in-new-parliament-building-lok-sabha-speaker-om-birla.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/24/winter-session-likely-in-new-parliament-building-lok-sabha-speaker-om-birla.html Fri Jun 24 16:14:40 IST 2022 were-sauropod-dinosaurs-closer-to-birds-than-reptiles <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/24/were-sauropod-dinosaurs-closer-to-birds-than-reptiles.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/2022/6/24/54-shutterstock.jpg" /> <p>The titanosaurid sauropods dominated the Indian subcontinent about 67 million years ago, thumping their pillar-like limbs and waving around their huge tails. It is well known that dinosaurs, birds and crocodiles are close cousins, belonging to the same sub-class of animals (archosaurs), and that birds actually originated from dinosaurs. Still, it is quite difficult to imagine that the towering titanosaurid sauropods were closer biologically to present day birds than reptiles. However, a rare fossil of an ‘abnormal’ dinosaur egg discovered at a village in Dhar district in Madhya Pradesh might help boost this perception and open up a new vista of study on dinosaurs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The find of the first of its kind ‘ovum-in-ovo’ (one egg inside another) dinosaur egg by a team of Delhi University researchers has thrown open a possibility that as far as the reproductive system went, the titanosaurid sauropods might have been closer to birds, rather than reptiles like crocodiles, lizards and turtles.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The details of the rare discovery were published on June 7 in Scientific Reports, an online publication of the internationally acclaimed journal Nature. The paper said abnormal eggs had been documented earlier in the case of birds, turtles and dinosaurs. However, till this latest find in India, no egg-in-egg cases had been reported in dinosaurs, or for that matter in any other reptiles, anywhere in the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The egg-in-egg fossil find has thus given rise to the working hypothesis that the titanosaurid dinosaurs had segmented reproductive tracts like crocodiles and birds, rather than unsegmented tracts like that of lizards and turtles, said Guntupalli V.R. Prasad of the department of geology, Delhi University, and corresponding author of the scientific paper. “Also, the find suggests that these dinosaurs might have actually adopted the sequential egg-laying characteristics of birds—laying one egg at a time, rather than laying all eggs simultaneously like crocodiles, turtles and lizards,” said Harsha Dhiman, lead author of the paper.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The rare egg fossil, measuring about 16.6cm by 14.7cm, was one among 10 eggs found in one of the 52 titanosaurid dinosaur nests close to Padalya village in the Bagh area near Dhar, about 260km from Bhopal. The investigation of the microstructure of the abnormal egg and that of an adjacent egg in the same nest provided evidence that they could be identified with that of titanosaurid sauropod dinosaurs, said Prasad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Further studies showed that the abnormal egg showed two continuous and circular eggshell layers separated by a wide gap which is typical of birds. Also, the fact that the 10 eggs were spread over a big area lends support to the hypothesis of sequential egg-laying (observed in birds) for the titanosaurid dinosaurs, said Prasad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers ruled out any other reason for the abnormality noticed in the egg fossil. They discounted the possibility of hatched eggshells accidentally covering adjacent eggs, which was reported from titanosaurid nests of the Auca Mahuevo site in Argentina. In this case, however, the two eggshell layers are not in close contact with each other. “They are separated from each other by a significant gap and maintain a fairly circular outline of the eggs which is not expected if it was caused by accidental and random fall of hatched eggshells,” said the paper.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Explaining the reasons for the abnormality, the researchers said that it was possibly the response of the animals to stress, caused by sickness, competition for space and food resources, scarcity of food, floods and droughts, high population density, environmental stress and the lack of suitable substrates for nesting. “Since the number of pathological eggs documented are very limited (only one) from the present study area, we believe that it was a specific problem and can be attributed to an old or incapacitated individual following injury or sickness or one that underwent significant stress due to jump scare caused by a nearby predator.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prasad said the new find highlighted the fact that central and western India held great potential for dinosaur fossils which may offer important information on dinosaur eggs diversity, nesting behaviour and reproductive biology. “The Bagh-Kukshi area holds the key to many such wonderful fossil finds,” said Vishal Verma of Bakaner Higher Secondary School, Dhar, who is another co-author of the paper. “But it needs further systematic scientific exploration.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/24/were-sauropod-dinosaurs-closer-to-birds-than-reptiles.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/24/were-sauropod-dinosaurs-closer-to-birds-than-reptiles.html Fri Jun 24 12:45:47 IST 2022 inside-mahdi-bagh-indias-smallest-religious-sect <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/18/inside-mahdi-bagh-indias-smallest-religious-sect.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/2022/6/18/64-A-nikah-ceremony.jpg" /> <p>Women in traditional lehenga-chunni and little girls wearing churidar-kurta, embroidered skullcaps and face masks thronged the first floor of the Masjid-e-Ebrahim, a two-storey heritage structure at Mahdi Bagh in Nagpur. There was hardly any commotion, though; just an air of excitement. A wedding ceremony was about to begin.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Among the women were four brides, but it was difficult to pick them out. All women were wearing similar clothes. One had to look for the veritable glow on their faces to identify the brides.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the ground floor were four bridegrooms, and they were even more difficult to spot. All men wore similar, spotless white cotton kurta-pajama, phenta (a traditional, turban-like headgear) and saaya (long jackets).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The couples got distinctive looks only after the short and simple nikah. They were given garlands of red and white flowers, which they wore across their body and wrapped around their wrists to symbolise their marriage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The wedding ceremony was followed by a feast. The guests split into small groups and sat on the floor along with the newlyweds. Tables were laid only for the elderly. The families of the couples personally served the food. Everyone ate from large, common plates.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The modest ceremony belied the fact that the couples came from well-to-do families. “Marriage is a bond between two individuals that brings contentment and happiness,” said Nisreen Banu Jeevaji, one of the brides. “It is the understanding between the couple that ensures it; not expensive dresses and lavish ceremonies. Also, we do not want to indulge in anything that others in the community might not be able to afford.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The four couples are members of the unique Mahdi Bagh Institution, a tiny community of progressive Muslims who belong to the Atba-e-Malak Badar—the smallest known religious sect in India. The Mahdi Bagh Institution has only around 1,000 members from 300-odd families, some of which are now spread across the world. More than half the community live in the main settlement at Mahdi Bagh, which is 130 years old and serves as a perfect example of peaceful, disciplined and simple community living.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Mahdi Bagh Institution was founded in Bombay in 1891 by Maulana Malak Saheb (aka Abdul Hussain Jeeva Bhai) and Maulana Badaruddin Saheb (aka Badruddin Ghulam Hussain Miya Khan). The Nagpur settlement was established in March 1892. Atba-e-Malak Badar means “the followers of Maulana Malak and Maulana Badar”. The community’s main language is Gujarati, as most of the early converts hailed from Gujarat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The institution has branches in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh; Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh; Hyderabad, Telangana; California, the US; and Sharjah in the UAE. Members also live in Pune in Maharashtra, and London.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Maulana Amiruddin Malak Saheb, the current spiritual head of the community, the community’s basic religious beliefs are not very different from mainstream Islam. Members of the Mahdi Bagh Institution strictly adhere to all basic Islamic tenets and rituals—they follow the Quran, offer namaz, do roza (fasting), give zakat (donation) and undertake the Haj.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Certain beliefs, however, set them apart from other Muslims. One such key belief is that salvation is possible only through the daee, the community’s spiritual master. Members also believe that each of their daees is in communion with the imams, whom the community members regard as infallible leaders of Islam after the prophet.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Maulana Amiruddin said the community is more of an individual spiritual entity than a religious sect. “Our ancestry is traced to Hazrat Muslim ibn Aqeel, who was son-in-law of Imam Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Mohammad,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Spread over 25 acres, the Mahdi Bagh Institution houses separate residences for each family. But there are no boundary walls separating them, and houses are never locked. The settlement has its own roads, water and electricity supply, rainwater harvesting facility, dispensary, and a large community hall.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The heritage mosque, the Masjid-e-Ebrahim, was constructed by the first group of settlers. It was thrice renovated and expanded, but its heritage features remain intact,” said Moinuddin Malak, president of the Mahdi Bagh Youth Club and Maulana Amiruddin’s son.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A thriving community, the Mahdi Bagh Institution maintains sports and recreation facilities—swimming pool, fishing pond, golf course, cricket and football ground, tennis court, volleyball and badminton courts, facilities for indoor games such as table tennis, and picnic spots on the banks of a lake. For a visitor, it is evident that the community focuses on keeping the campus clean and eco-friendly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If a new couple wants to move into a separate house, the community allots them a plot. The houses can be built in any style, provided they adhere to the community’s overall development plan. The cost of maintaining common amenities are divided among members equally. The daee administers all land- and property-related matters in the settlement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The community’s guiding principles are simplicity, peace, love, brotherhood, gender equality, respect for all faiths and an emphasis on education. Interestingly, membership is not a birthright for those born into the community. “A child born to parents who are members of the institution has the opportunity to attain membership only as an adult, and only after taking a pledge that he or she has fully understood the community’s fundamental spiritual beliefs and principles and is willing to accept them and abide by them,” said Moiz Mannan Haque, a member of the Mahdi Bagh Institution and head of the department of mass communication at Nagpur University. “In simple terms, being born into the institution is like getting a passport; and taking the pledge, with the permission of the spiritual master, is like getting a visa [to join the community].”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The community is neither exclusivist nor expansionist. There have been several instances of individuals being accepted into the fold through marriage, but only after taking the mandatory oath. According to Maulana Amiruddin, members celebrate all festivals irrespective of religion. Also, two of the community’s most venerated early spiritual leaders—Maulatena Maryambai Saheba (born Shivbai Raghunath) and Maulana Abdullah Yahya Saheb (born Vishamrao)—were Hindus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Wedding ceremonies are always simple, and more than one couple is married in a ceremony. Dowry is prohibited; only Rs7 or Rs11 is given as a mahr—an obligatory payment made by the groom to the bride. The bride and groom get only one set of new clothes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Women are considered equal to men. They offer prayers in the mosque, do not wear burqa, and are well-educated. Ayun Malak, wife of Maulana Amiruddin, said spiritual leaders of the community decided to do away with burqas around 30 years ago. Ayun, whom members reverentially address as ‘aai saheba’ (mother), said the status of female members could be gauged by the fact that the seniormost spiritual figure after the daee is a lady—Moulai Saheba Zainab Lamak, the granddaughter of founder Maulana Malak.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Right from its inception, the community has made stellar social contributions. Early spiritual leaders were known for their wide-ranging social and philanthropic work in the fields of health, education and environment. They were instrumental in the setting up Rotary Club units and Masonic lodges.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They also supported the freedom struggle. Maulana Badruddin, who was one of the founders of the Aligarh Muslim University, made his opposition to the colonial rule known by giving up a plum post in the British treasury department in Africa. Yet, many years later, his outstanding service to society prompted Britain to confer the title of ‘Khan Bahadur’ upon him. At the peak of India’s freedom struggle, the Malak family hosted Jawaharlal Nehru at the Mahdi Bagh Institution.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The community has long been deeply involved in business and trade. Maulana Mohammad Ebrahim Riza, who succeeded Maulana Badruddin, set up the Mahdi Bagh Shop at Sadar, which became Nagpur’s first and largest department store, more than half a century before the concept became popular in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The third daee, Maulana Hasan Noorani Malak, transformed the store into a first-of-its-kind luxury textiles showroom in central India. The opening of the showroom in 1982 was a watershed moment in Nagpur’s business history.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 1986, the daee Maulana Hasan set up Bagh Fruits, a fruit and vegetable processing unit that not just created a number of jobs for educated youth, but also gave the region’s orange-growers an opportunity to add value to their produce.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The present daee, Maulana Amiruddin Malak, is carrying forward the community’s rich legacy. He has been encouraging research in Persian and Arabic (language as well culture), and the study of Sufism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Three of Mahdi Bagh’s sons have fought for India. Jiva Malak was awarded four medals for gallantry in the 1971 India-Pakistan war. Captain Tayyab Ali was a decorated officer of the Army Medical Corps. Flight Lieutenant Turab Ali, who was decorated for his bravery in the 1971 war, was one of the ten Air Force pilots selected to be trained on the Jaguar fighter aircraft. He died in 1976 when his MiG 21 crashed near AFS Kalaikunda, West Bengal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The community has also produced prominent sports personalities. Moin Malak was captain of the Indian golf team that defeated Pakistan in a 2007 amateur championship. Cricketer Faiz Fazal, a batting all-rounder, made his international debut in 2016 against Zimbabwe. It was under Fazal’s captaincy that Vidarbha won its maiden Ranji Trophy in 2018.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All of these individuals have been flag-bearers of the Mahdi Bagh Institution’s uniquely communitarian model. Members say it is the community’s guiding concepts that bind all of them together. One such concept is jodidars (partners)—children born around the same time who become life-time companions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“These jodidars grow, play and study together, and their companionship allows them to grow as balanced individuals,” said Shaira Mehdi, a baker and a mother of three. “During the pandemic, for instance, the jodidars always had each other to fall back on. So, when educational institutions closed down, they were not lonely at all.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/18/inside-mahdi-bagh-indias-smallest-religious-sect.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/18/inside-mahdi-bagh-indias-smallest-religious-sect.html Sat Jun 18 15:08:12 IST 2022 i-make-powerpoint-presentations-but-basic-teachings-remain-the-same <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/18/i-make-powerpoint-presentations-but-basic-teachings-remain-the-same.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/2022/6/18/69-Maulana-Amiruddin.jpg" /> <p><b>Q/ What defines the Mahdi Bagh Institution, and on what principles was it founded?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ There is a Quran verse—unfortunately used only during bereavements or sad times: ‘To God we belong, and to him do we return’. This signifies the purpose of our existence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We believe that God mercifully sent a series of prophets and books of revelations. We believe that throughout history, right from Adam, there have been 1,24,000 prophets who spoke different languages to different communities across the world. The basic purpose of the prophets was hidayat—preaching to the people. The very last prophet on earth was Prophet Mohammad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the command of God—amar, as we call it—has to continue…. We believe that it was Imam Ali, son-in-law and cousin of the prophet, to whom amar was transferred. After Imam Ali and his sons, Imam Hasan and Imam Hussain, the amar passed down from father to son. And there have been 21 imams on earth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 21st imam went into seclusion, more than a 1,000 years ago. But they left an organisational hierarchy—imams, followed by hujjats, who are people who do argumentations, and the daees, who give daawat (invitations). So the Mahdi Bagh Institution is a daawat—inviting people towards righteousness and piety.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How do you follow the teachings in practical life? Are they different for other Islamic sects?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The underlying principles are the same…. Where we slightly differ from others is that our religious beliefs and teachings take the shape of manzum (a poetic form) and are converted into nazms (recitations). So in our spiritual gatherings, apart from the sermons, we also sing nazms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Does the changing times, the internet especially, pose a challenge to your traditions?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ It certainly is a challenge in the 21st century. But right since birth, we imbibe this culture. Children sitting in a majlis (spiritual gathering), listening to zikr and nazm—it forms an indelible impression on their minds that sustains them. Even if they go overseas, they carry with them these moral values. It is difficult to erase them from one’s psyche, and that is what holds us all together.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The internet revolution has helped us hold the majlis online. For example, today’s majlis was broadcast all over the world to our community members.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Did you have to change your style, or the content of your sermons, with the changing times?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Now I use a lot of English in my sermons. It is easier for many to understand and relate to it than fasih and nafees (eloquent and exquisite) Urdu and Arabic. I use modern terminologies. I even use PowerPoint presentations now, but the basic teachings remain the same.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There has also been some change attire-wise. This is our traditional dress (points to his kurta-pajama, headgear and jacket), which was strictly adhered to earlier. But now I often move about—except on spiritual occasions—in my golf T-shirts and pants, like everyone else. Similarly, about 30 years ago, women stopped using burqas.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ In a tiny, close-knit community like yours, won’t intra-community marriages cause genetic issues?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ For the first 30 years after the foundation of the institution, new members joined. But about 100 years ago, as a deliberate decision, new entries were stopped. Now the membership is only by birth. But we haven’t faced any problem as yet. We haven’t seen any birth deformities. We feel we yet have a very diverse genetic pool.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Is there a special focus on women empowerment?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Yes. After the daee (spiritual head), the highest spiritual ranking person in the community is a lady (Moulai Saheba Zainab Lamak). Even before her, that position was held by a lady. There is absolutely no [gender-based] discrimination. Women pray in mosques, pursue careers and get involved in all community activities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ How do you prepare your community to deal with communal problems that are increasingly becoming commonplace?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Fortunately, our community has long been very well-respected. We have a good rapport with every political party. Jawaharlal Nehru was very close to the founders and even visited the settlement. At present, [Union Minister] Nitin Gadkari is a close friend. We also have close relations with [spiritual leader] Swami Avdheshanand; he has also prayed twice in our mosque. Everyone has so much regard and reverence for us; there is really no place for prejudice.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/18/i-make-powerpoint-presentations-but-basic-teachings-remain-the-same.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/18/i-make-powerpoint-presentations-but-basic-teachings-remain-the-same.html Sat Jun 18 15:00:25 IST 2022 education-best-new-courses-for-the-changing-world <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/18/education-best-new-courses-for-the-changing-world.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/2022/6/18/92-Rahul-Samuel-Anilal.jpg" /> <p>It is going to change the world, says Rahul Samuel Anilal about his undergraduate course. He is pursuing bachelor’s of engineering in artificial intelligence and machine learning, one of the recently introduced courses at R.V. College of Engineering (RVCE), Bengaluru. “AI has relevance in all domains,” he says. “The versatile nature of AI is recognised by corporates around the world and is reflected in the substantial funding for AI research. Humans can leave the drudgery of everyday life to this invention and have more time to do what they do best: decision-making, creativity, cultural arts and more.” He adds that AI will increasingly offer promising career prospects.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anurag Kashyap, a student at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, is fascinated by the study of data. So, when he heard about a new elective on analytics for e-commerce and retail operations in his postgraduate programme, he was thrilled and wasted no time in opting for it. “It (the elective) gives a holistic understanding of critical issues in e-commerce and retail operations, and the role of analytics in solving these problems,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like Rahul and Anurag, many students are taking advantage of such new courses. Colleges and universities across the country are fine-tuning their programmes or introducing fresh ones to cater to changing requirements. For instance, after starting the BE (AIML) in 2021-2022, RVCE is planning to introduce BE programmes focusing on data science and cybersecurity for the next academic year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Explaining the rationale behind the new courses, K.N. Subramanya, principal, RVCE, says that the adoption of AI and ML in core sectors such as health care, agriculture, energy, automotive, infrastructure, manufacturing and banking and finance has led to an increase in demand for engineers with specialised knowledge and expertise in AI and ML. He adds that data science has also assumed utmost significance. “An individual was generating 1.7MB of data per second by the end of 2020,” he says. “Going forward, there will be increased demand for skilled data science professionals across industries.” A specialised course in cybersecurity, he said, would give students a comprehensive understanding of contemporary cybersecurity and how to apply the techniques in the real world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Areas like fintech and edtech have become more relevant. As a result, more domain specialisation courses are becoming available. For example, Great Lakes Institute of Management (GLIM), Chennai, has started specialisation courses in e-commerce, fintech and edtech. The institute has also augmented its strategy offerings by reorienting strategy-related subjects to bring in digital strategy and introduced more courses in digital, web and social media marketing and analytics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sanjoy Sircar, director, postgraduate programme in management, GLIM, says that the focus has been on introducing experiential courses that will enhance the readiness of students to hit the ground running and deliver on the job from day one. “The domain specialisation courses deal with a fast-evolving business landscape where the current handbook of rules do not apply,” he says. Sircar adds that employment opportunities being generated in the new-age sectors are immense and that students need a deeper understanding of the sectors to take advantage of the opportunities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Keerthi Janardhan Reddy, a student at GLIM specialising in marketing, wants to work as a brand manager. She believes that courses such as brand management, consumer behaviour, digital strategy, consumer-focused product planning, and channels and pricing decisions, will help lay the foundation for her career.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>IIMB’s elective on analytics for e-commerce and retail operations aims to equip students with the knowledge and confidence to apply analytics in the field, says Prof Ananth Krishnamurthy. The institution of excellence is now also offering an elective in project management that aims to introduce the fundamentals of the discipline and equip students with the skills necessary to execute projects in any domain. Prof Nishant Kumar Verma said the elective was added because project management has evolved into an indispensable instrument for organisations to hone their internal operations, seize any external opportunities quickly, and anticipate and prepare for future challenges.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>T.A. Pai Management Institute (TAPMI), Manipal, has rolled out experiential courses in sustainability and strategic thinking that use simulations. The institute has also introduced a supply chain management course with simulations. This will give students a cross-functional understanding that will enable them to perform in operations and supply chain roles. Another interesting course that TAPMI launched recently is marketing performance metrics. This is expected to help students enhance their performance in sales, distribution, brand management and revenue management roles. Prof Gururaj H. Kidiyoor, dean (academics), says TAPMI has increased its use of experiential methods, which was already notable, in recent years and that applied learning segments were getting incorporated in more and more courses.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>BITSoM, a b-school established by BITS Pilani, is focusing on providing a new-age business management course. Technology is embedded in the curriculum, which has a high focus on developing leadership skills and deep industry integration, including inputs from industry mentors who engage with each student. BITSoM, located in Mumbai, has brought in Ranjan Banerjee as dean; he was previously dean of one of India’s top b-schools. Banerjee says that the entire course structure at BITSoM is innovative.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Every student goes through a unique set of courses titled ‘winning at the workplace’, which build multiple soft skills; self-awareness, deep listening and critical thinking are among the focus areas,” he says. “Innovative courses like politonomics and a course on the Constitution helps the student have an integrated viewpoint.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Amity University, Noida, has introduced a slew of new courses such as BTech with focus on data science, internet of things and cybersecurity, including blockchain technology. Then there is a BSc with focus on nutrition and dietetics. The university hopes to find takers for this programme because of the experience of the pandemic. There is also an MTech in defence technology, which is aligned to the current and future needs of the defence industry. There are also plans to introduce an integrated BTech (automobile engineering) and MTech in electric vehicle technology. The EV course will be conducted in collaboration with TATA Technologies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“These programmes are aligned with market demand and industry requirements,” said retired Major General Bhaskar Chakravarty, director (admissions), Amity University, Noida. “Recruitment and talent hunt is a continuous and consistent HR policy followed by Amity. The USPs of the new courses entail the career prospects for the students.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shiv Nadar University, Delhi-NCR, also has a series of new courses. Focus on digital technologies and their relevance in modern day management education has been one of the key focus areas of the university. It has introduced various courses on business analytics, including ‘introduction to data science using R and Python’ and ‘data visualisation using Tableau’ (R and Python are programming languages; Tableau is a software). It had also launched a certificate programme in data science and analytics for working professionals in 2020. Later this year, the university is planning to start a certificate programme in cloud computing. And, next year, it is planning to start a full-time residential PG programme in analytics—master of science-business analytics (MSBA).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The stress on analytics by multiple institutions makes its perceived importance abundantly clear. Vallurupalli Vamsi, assistant professor, department of decision sciences, operations management and information systems at the School of Management and Entrepreneurship, Shiv Nadar University, reiterates this. “Analytics is at the heart of decision-making in all business functions these days and the importance and adoption of analytics are rapidly increasing across industries and geographies,” he says. “India, being the largest growing economy and home to a growing number of start-ups, and an IT powerhouse, faces a large demand for trained analytics professionals.” He adds that the global market for data analytics was $231.43 billion in 2021, a 10.6 per cent increase from $206.95 billion in 2020. “India is expected to have more than 11 million job openings for data science and analytics professionals by 2026,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vamsi adds that experiential learning is a significant component of all analytics courses. “In the classroom, students learn the conceptual foundations of the subject,” he says. “And as part of projects, they are mentored by the faculty to complete projects similar to the ones they may encounter in their jobs. Students who go through these courses develop sufficient skills to work in various techno-functional analytics roles, including, but not limited to, data scientist, analytics consultant and risk analyst.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though digital and data have emerged as key focus areas, Indian institutions are also doing a lot to offer students more choice. Gitam University, for instance, has changed its regulations to provide interdisciplinary options to students. From the 2021-2022 academic year, students have not been straitjacketed into combinations decided by logistic or administrative concerns. “The popularity of liberal education has been increasing,” says the university’s pro vice chancellor (academics) Prof Jayasankar E. Variyar. “We were a science and technology school. We have now recruited faculty in the performing arts, humanities and social sciences, and researchers in the sciences and management. The objective is to make career fulfillment the goal, not the first job.” The university has also introduced a masters’s in public policy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>New programmes at Loyola College, Chennai, include MA (international relations) and MSc (counselling psychology). The MA (IR) aims to integrate students from different backgrounds into the programme. Loyola principal, Reverend A. Thomas SJ, says this mix will build a holistic understanding of the purpose of nations, relationships between countries and international organisations. He adds that the psychology programme was started because of the dearth of mental health professionals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A couple of programmes introduced by St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, though not exactly “new-age” courses, are noteworthy and, perhaps, especially relevant in the context of the religious divisions that are becoming prominent in society. The college’s department of inter-religious studies has started two online diploma courses—inter-religious traditions, and comparative and applied ethics. Applicants can opt specific modules within each course rather than do the entire course. The principal, Rajendra Shinde, says the first course can help students appreciate the need for inter-religious harmony and the second can help them to become critically aware of contemporary cultural issues and their ethical bases and implications.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rector Keith D’Souza SJ, director of the department, says that St. Xavier’s would like its students to become peacemakers in society. “Besides this goal, the courses facilitate analytical and critical thinking, as the students will be exposed to various philosophical viewpoints and argumentation,” he says. “The courses are aimed at broadening personal horizons, by coming to learn about other ethical standpoints and other cultural and religious traditions.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/18/education-best-new-courses-for-the-changing-world.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/06/18/education-best-new-courses-for-the-changing-world.html Sun Jun 19 11:04:30 IST 2022 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