Specials http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials.rss en Thu Oct 14 16:16:39 IST 2021 https://www.theweek.in/privacy-an-settlement.html magnificent-maharashtra <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/01/magnificent-maharashtra.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2022/1/1/56-The-audience-received-the-announcements.jpg" /> <p>The government of Maharashtra provides world-class health amenities at 50 per cent less cost,” Minister of State for Tourism in Maharashtra, Aditi Tatkare, said during the meet-and-greet conducted by the Maharashtra tourism department in Dubai. “We strive to provide quality, comfort and affordability in medical care.” A lot more were in the kit, which the audience received with great enthusiasm.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The memorandums of understanding (MoU) signed by Maharashtra’s Directorate of Tourism and Medical Value Travel Council of India (MVTCI) with the UAE, Bangladesh and Oman to bring wellness and health care tourism offerings to citizens and residents in these countries were distinctive among the team’s achievements during the visit. Two videos were displayed which beautifully captured the majestic serenity and the regal charm of the state, and spoke loudly about its vast potential.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Milind N. Borikar, Director of Tourism Directorate, commented on the occasion that, “Maharashtra is the one-stop destination for end-to-end health care services and specialised health care providers, diligently creating a healthy ecosystem.” The minister elucidated on how and why the state has been recently recognised at World Trade Mart–London for its eco-village and tiger conservation projects, in addition to winning global responsible tourism awards, and the prestigious International Agro Tourism Award for having over 1,000 agri-tourism centres.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Owing to some of the most famous heritage destinations such as Ajanta and Ellora (Aurangabad) as well as the 720-kilometre coastline, Maharashtra attracts a very high share of domestic and foreign tourists who visit India. Cities such as Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur are well connected by roadways, railways, waterways, and airways with a road length of over 3,00,000 kilometres, and with a railroad density of 6,209.98 kilometres.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Maharashtra has the largest network of highways in India with 18 national highways that make up 17,757 kilometres. With 14 airports including three international ones, it stands first among Indian states. It has the maximum number of UNESCO world heritage sites in India and, with around 63 forest reserves, the state attracts wildlife tourism enthusiasts also.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Under the Regional Tourism Development Scheme (RTDS), more than 250 destinations are being developed; Maharashtra Tourism has already spent approximately Rs3,000 crore in the past five years for various projects, Tatkare told the experts in the tourism sector. Tourism specialist Preeti Vanage Pawar also spoke on the occasion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Thanks to the minister and team for portraying my state in such a wonderful way. This is the first such experience in my three-decade-long expatriate life,” said a travel agent from Abu Dhabi during the Q&amp;A session, which certainly reflected the whole spirit of the roadshow.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/01/magnificent-maharashtra.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/01/01/magnificent-maharashtra.html Sat Jan 01 12:31:16 IST 2022 lock-stock-and-laughing-barrels <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/16/lock-stock-and-laughing-barrels.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/12/16/6-Kisan.jpg" /> <p>In the weird world we live in, icons can turn into pure con, trophies can become catastrophes, and supermen can be rendered superfluous. In keeping with these hyper-interesting times, here is our honours list that covers the good, the bad and the junglee.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>MAN OF THE YEAR</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No doubt, it is our humble farmer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The kisan has weathered all that the government could throw at him. He survived water cannons, a rogue car driven allegedly by the rogue son of a minister, and the constraints of the pandemic. He even compelled a prime minister, who never backs off, into accepting defeat. All hail the farmer!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now, if you want to learn how to boost farm productivity, you would have to look elsewhere—because India prides itself in sticking to the least efficient methods of cultivation and procurement. But, if you want a masterclass in sustaining a movement through thick and thin, your teacher is the farmer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>MOST DISRUPTIVE THINKER</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He is with the BJP; he is with the Congress; he is nobody’s man; he is Navjot Singh Sidhu.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He is practicing what management gurus have been preaching to us for years—thinking out of the box. So, he gets our vote for the Most Disruptive Thinker. Early feedback suggests that there is no question that Sidhu is disruptive. Now whether he is also a thinker—ah, the jury is still out on that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>BEST LABOUR-SAVING IDEA</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The medal goes to Janata Dal (United) MLA Gopal Mandal, who was seen moving around in his underwear in a train from Patna to Delhi. When fellow passengers complained about this wilful wardrobe malfunction, Mandal came up with an ingenious explanation: he had an upset tummy, and needed to use the bathroom frequently. So why go through the rigmarole of unbuttoning, unfastening, etc?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What an idea, sir ji! We just hope it does not catch on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>AUTHOR OF THE YEAR</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not Amitav Ghosh, not Amish Tripathi, not even Chetan Bhagat. Our pick is Mamata Banerjee. Do not go by appearances, the West Bengal chief minister is an author as well as an artist. Her paintings are bought by collectors who know which side of their bread is buttered, and her books by those who know it pays to be her fan. Banerjee has a whopping 102 books to her name now, and that number could have doubled by the time you read this. Titles include My Journey, My Unforgettable Memories, and so on. Interesting stuff, no doubt, but none of them are as enthralling as the ‘how-dunnit’ could have been—how Mamata beat the BJP at its own game of divide and misrule. Last heard, Akhilesh Yadav is taking a correspondence course from didi on how to write bestsellers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>QUIETEST ANNIVERSARY AWARD</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anniversaries are a noisy nuisance, especially when politicians get into the act. A regulation anniversary, with toxic firecrackers and flagrant display of buntings, can send nature scurrying for cover. So, the Ecology Award for Quiet Anniversaries goes to the dignified manner in which the government marked the fifth anniversary of demonetisation. It was so quiet that it could have been mistaken for a funeral. Perhaps it was a funeral—of a failed idea. Once touted as the biggest booster shot for the Indian economy after Manmohan Singh’s liberalisation, DeMo never lived up to its billing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Two lessons emerge. One, when it is a question of money, listen to your central banker, not the netas. Two, anniversaries are meant to be celebrated. A quiet anniversary is an admission that things have not worked out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘<b>HEALTH IS WEALTH’ AWARD</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We were all set to hand over the award to Amitabh Bachchan, but then we had second thoughts. That is quite like what Big B did after he decided to endorse the brand Kamala Pasand. On second thoughts, Bachchan cancelled his contract because it was brought to his notice that the company was running surrogate ads for tobacco. We are curious—what exactly did Big B think he was promoting when he signed the Kamala Pasand deal?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>THE ‘MONA LISA SMILE’ AWARD</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It goes to Kiran Gosavi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Who? Well, he is the one whose selfie with Aryan Khan took the country by storm. Everything about him made news—from his shaven scalp to his enigmatic look. More people in India have speculated about his smile than they have talked about Da Vinci’s masterpiece.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What is Gosavi smiling about? Is he happy to be in the news or is he delighted to be in the company of a superstar’s son, or is he thinking about the deal that will soon be struck and musing about what a man can do with 150 lakh? Whatever the reason, he cannot be smiling much now, as he has been hauled up for cheating. We hope our Smile of the Year medal offers him some consolation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘<b>MAKING BRITAIN GREAT AGAIN’ AWARD</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Brits have been lax about whom they let in. In 1997, music composer Nadeem Akhtar Saifi of the ill-starred Nadeem-Shravan duo sought to put distance between himself and the police in India by seeking refuge in England. Then came the turn of Vijay Mallya. More recently, Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi used England as a transit to exotic hideaways. None of this has done Brand Britain much good.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But now, there is good news at last. The Ambanis have acquired a fabulous mansion near London. Officially, the family denies that they are relocating to the UK. So, all we will say is that Stoke Park, Buckinghamshire, sounds classier than Antilia, S.K. Barodawala Marg.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>GHAR WAPSI AWARD</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Corporate acquisitions usually leave the common man cold. But when Air India returned to the Tata fold, it was a ghar wapsi that spread good cheer all around. After all, everyone is susceptible to the Tata charm.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, will Tata be able to re-work its magic? We are keeping our fingers crossed for even the most cynical among us have a flame of naïve hope flickering within us. Meantime, here is a ‘Welcome Back’ award to the much loved Maharajah.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/16/lock-stock-and-laughing-barrels.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/16/lock-stock-and-laughing-barrels.html Sun Dec 19 11:43:01 IST 2021 israel-has-a-number-of-technologies-worth-exploring-for-the-benefit-of-india-avi-jorisch <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/16/israel-has-a-number-of-technologies-worth-exploring-for-the-benefit-of-india-avi-jorisch.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/12/16/12-Avi-Jorisch-new.jpg" /> <p><i>Guest Column- Author of ‘Thou Shalt Innovate: How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World’, available currently on the subcontinent in English and Hindi, and soon in Kannada and Marathi.</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In early March of 2020, a few weeks before the coronavirus roiled the world, my three young sons and I piled into the Washington Convention Center in D.C. for a policy conference. I wanted them to see how technology—from advanced water preservation techniques to highly sophisticated plastic recycling methods—can help solve some of the world’s most intractable problems.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As we wandered through the massive crowd, we bumped into Eli Beer, founder of United Hatzalah (“Rescue”), an Israeli non-profit that has revolutionised emergency care. Over the past two decades, Eli’s organisation has brought together volunteer emergency medical technicians (EMTs)—Jews, Christians and Muslims—to save thousands of lives. One of his innovations is an Uber-like app that connects people needing emergency care with volunteer EMTs who are in their area. These EMTs often travel by ambucycle, a refitted motorcycle that acts as a mini-ambulance and is nimble enough to weave through traffic. In Israel and elsewhere, Eli’s innovation has helped to drastically reduce EMT response time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With my sons Eiden, Oren and Yaniv, I explored Eli’s booth. All three boys strapped on a set of virtual reality goggles and learned what it’s like to work as a United Hatzalah volunteer. As their eyes widened, I felt optimistic about technology’s ability to make the world a better place—and about the next generation’s contribution to our planet. “When I get older, I don’t want to drive a car,” Eiden later told me, as my two other children nodded vigorously. “I want to ride an ambucycle and save lives.” I’ve never been prouder.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The secrets behind Israel’s technological success lie in the story of United Haztalah and the many other innovations coming from this part of the Middle East. How did Israel, a tiny country in a hostile Middle East, become a tech powerhouse? And what lessons can Indians learn from Israel’s success that they can integrate for their own benefit?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are several explanations for Israel’s success: mandatory military service, renowned universities, smart government programmes supporting innovation, a diverse population, and a dearth of natural resources. Yet no list would be complete without mention of chutzpah, an Israeli national trait that is best described as a combination of self-confidence and audacity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indians will identify with the fact that Israel is not just a “start-up nation,” but a place where people of all religions and ethnicities strive to make the world a better place for everyone—even as the surrounding region is mired in seemingly intractable wars.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Israel and India have many similarities. Since India declared independence in August 1947, it has transformed its economy from one of the world’s least developed to one of the largest and fastest growing. Much of the fuel for this astonishing metamorphosis is technology and innovation. Both countries have ancient religious and cultural traditions; both are relatively young, established within a few months of each other; both have a history of British rule; both have diverse populations and outstanding universities; both live under constant military threat; both have become regional superpowers; and both have a strong start-up ecosystem.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India has an ancient culture and has given the world fibre optics, yoga, cataract surgery, and the cure for leprosy and lithiasis. India also has one the world’s fastest-growing economies, which in recent years has experienced growth, job creation, increased access to resources, improved education, and enhanced health care. In the last decade, India has produced several thousand start-ups. According to NASSCOM, India’s national association of software and services companies, the country’s start-up ecosystem is the third-largest in the world, after the US and the UK, and one of the fastest growing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Israel has mobilised to solve problems that originally appeared unique to it, but ultimately proved to be applicable elsewhere. As India looks to the global stage for the best innovations to improve the lives of its citizens, Israel has a number of technologies worth exploring for the benefit of all. These are but a few examples:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>THE UBER OF AMBULANCES</b></p> <p>Today, India has over 50 cities with a larger population than Jerusalem, including Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. Response time to emergencies varies widely in different locations. In 2016, to save as many lives as possible, India’s Telecom Regulatory Authority recommended adopting a single emergency number, 112, for use around the country. This number now connects Indians with the police, ambulance services and fire departments.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Jerusalem, a city of about nine lakh, an ambulance can take more than 20 minutes to arrive at the scene. That’s far too long in a place with devastating terror attacks. Beer, who nearly died in a terror attack as a child and has been interested in emergency care since then, wanted to speed up the process and make it more efficient. About 20 years ago, he started United Hatzalah with a group of volunteer EMTs, but in order to save more lives, he needed to expand the group. To do that, Beer had to solve two problems. First, he needed to construct a highly trained network of people all over the country. Second, he had to create a system to ensure that medics can treat victims almost immediately.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, Beer has more than 6,000 volunteers in Israel, including secular and religious Jews and Muslim and Christian Arabs, and Hatzalah has chapters in the United States, Brazil and Panama. All its EMTs use a smartphone app that sends a notification to the five volunteers closest to the person needing help. These EMTs often travel on ambucycles, and each has a trauma kit, an oxygen canister, a blood sugar monitor and a defibrillator. Hatzalah volunteers treat approximately 2,45,000 Israelis annually, including 27,000 children. A quarter of the calls the organisation fields are for life-threatening situations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In July 2017, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Israel, he met with Beer, who illustrated how Hatzalah’s model could be used in India’s congested cities and in the outlying countryside. “With the congested streets that are characteristic of many of India’s cities, and large segments of the population who live in areas with difficult terrain,” says Beer, “having local volunteer responders in India could save many lives.” After the meeting, Modi said that he wanted to adopt a similar model for India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A MODERN-DAY JOSEPH</b></p> <p>According to the Indian Grain Storage Management and Research Institute, each year, India loses 12 million to 16 million metric tonnes of food as a result of improper storage and infestation. To lower post-harvest waste, farmers use chemical pesticides that impact the health of consumers and of the environment. But an Israeli-developed technology presents an excellent solution.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>About 30 years ago, Professor Shlomo Navarro developed the Grain Cocoon, a large, hermetically sealed bag for rice, grains, spices and legumes, which could save millions of people from malnutrition. Farmers in the developing world have traditionally used burlap sacks to store their goods, but these sacks are easily infiltrated by insects that sometimes destroy more than half the harvest. Some farmers use pesticides, which can not only cause sickness and death, but become ineffective over time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reducing post-harvest losses, experts say, will play a critical role in the fight against world hunger. Navarro’s cocoon traps bugs and their eggs inside and deprives them of oxygen, suffocating them to death and making pesticides unnecessary. The cocoon can save more than 99 per cent of a farmer’s crops, and since it was introduced by Navarro’s company, GrainPro, in the early 1990s, it has been used in 100 countries and saved their harvests from insects, rodents and other pests.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite the Grain Cocoon’s benefits, it has gained little traction in India, and pesticides still reign supreme. A major reason is cost. Each cocoon, which stores upwards of five tonnes of grain, sells for more than $1,000, a hefty price for most poor Indian farmers. The Indian government should consider subsidising the costs of the cocoons.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>THE SUN KING</b></p> <p>Over the last half century or so, interest in solar water heating has spread because we are consuming oil, gas and coal at an alarming rate. These fossil fuels emit harmful greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, and policymakers around the world now realise that they must fight climate change. In India specifically, inexpensive clean energy will play an important role in helping the population rise to the middle class.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2018-2019, India generated 72 per cent of its energy via coal-fired power plants, which are expensive to operate and far from environmentally friendly. But India has roughly 300 days per year of sunshine, and with energy consumption on the rise, using solar energy panels would be smart on almost every level. It is also worth mentioning that two of India’s international airports, Cochin and Kempegowda [Bengaluru], already run fully on solar power (Cochin was the world’s first).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the early 1950s, Israel was newly independent and struggling. Israeli physicist Harry Zvi Tabor knew that Israel would need a cheap and reliable energy source. Tabor developed special stripping that collected solar energy, and he connected the stripping to a water collection device. This solar heater, which yielded more hot water and produced more electricity than a turbine, is now ubiquitous in Israel and one of the most recognisable features on many rooftops around the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 1976, Israel’s parliament passed a law requiring every building constructed after 1980 to have solar water collectors. Over the years, this has saved Israel and its citizens billions of dollars in energy costs. Today, about 90 per cent of all households in Israel use Tabor’s invention—and many buildings throughout the country are moving to solar power. India should consider drafting similar legislation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With government assistance and through increased awareness, this innovation could play an important role in powering India’s economy. The solar water collector has the potential to serve as a powerful energy bridge between Israel and India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>NAMASTE-SHALOM</b></p> <p>India and Israel have tremendous potential to solve the world’s greatest challenges, deepen their commercial interests, and create technology together. To further promote innovation, India and Israel should strengthen their ties. In 2018, the two countries launched the India-Israel Industrial R&amp;D and Technological Innovation Fund, which involved an annual investment of $4 million from each country for five years, for a total of $40 million. The memorandum of understanding they signed is meant to boost cooperation in science and technology, specifically targeting technological innovations in areas of mutual interest such as water, agriculture, energy and digital technologies. Innovation experts are optimistic that the programme will turn out to be one of India’s and Israel’s most important diplomatic achievements in recent years. Nevertheless, these two democracies can do even more to leverage their relationship for the benefit of their societies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the world faces many grave challenges, including some threatening the very future of our planet, Israel is playing an outsized role in creative solutions that make an impact. As Indian policymakers, aid workers, scientists and others look to solve these challenges, they should consider turning to Israel—for existing innovations that can make a difference, or to work to create new ones together. Israel’s Uber of ambulances, grain cocoon, and solar water collector provide excellent opportunities to strengthen the relationship between the two countries. Integrating these innovations into Indian society could improve and save the lives of an untold number of people.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/16/israel-has-a-number-of-technologies-worth-exploring-for-the-benefit-of-india-avi-jorisch.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/16/israel-has-a-number-of-technologies-worth-exploring-for-the-benefit-of-india-avi-jorisch.html Thu Dec 16 19:40:55 IST 2021 eureka-now-what <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/16/eureka-now-what.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/12/16/22-Eureka!-Now-what-new.jpg" /> <p>A single scene in Interstellar captured well a moment many scientists spend their entire lives pursuing. Murph runs down a corridor with her notes in hand, throws her papers into the air and shouts “EUREKA!”, startling her colleagues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“<b>IT’S TRADITIONAL,” SHE LAUGHS.</b></p> <p>What happens next was skimmed over: A spacecraft massive enough to carry a significant fraction of Earth’s population off the dying planet is conjured out of Murph’s research idea. The painful process of developing an idea—proving it works, getting funding to scale it up and all the countless man hours of engineering required to get it off the ground—is tastefully left out of Christopher Nolan’s cinematic vision.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To scan news coverage of scientific research in India is to find a galaxy of such Eureka moments. There is no dearth of lab discoveries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Scientists have found, as headlines breathlessly announce, new ways of extracting hydrogen (solving the energy crisis), new methods of sucking CO2 out of the air (tackling global warming), new applications of graphene (a super material poised to revolutionise every industry from semiconductors to electric batteries). But years pass and we still run cars on petrol, emit more CO2 than any existing machine can capture, and manufacture graphene by the gram.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not innovation that is lacking, says Ajit Rangnekar, director-general of the Research and Innovation Circle of Hyderabad (RICH) and former dean of the Indian School of Business.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Think of it in four steps. The first is research, done purely in discovery mode,” he says. “The second is innovation—finding new use for the research. The third is entrepreneurship—having found an application, can you make a business out of it? The fourth is growing this entrepreneurial journey to something that can make a big impact. These four things cannot reside in one person.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a world of difference between producing something at 5ml and 500 litre quantities, he adds. To put it another way, research scientists need to work with engineers and industry to make their ideas a reality.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a problem that Professor Vivek Polshettiwar knows all too well, when he tried to scale up his discovery of “black gold”. By changing both the gaps between gold nanoparticles as well as their size, his team at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) were able to synthesise a material that could take CO2 and convert it to green fuel methane, using solar energy, at atmospheric pressure and temperature.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His research was highlighted by the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Chemical Science journal in 2019. The promise? Artificial trees with leaves made of high-efficiency solar panels (black gold nanoparticles), that could assist in carbon capture while also producing green fuel. The problem? The conversion rate of CO2 to methane was not efficient enough. Polshettiwar says he is working on a solution by introducing another metal to the process.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nanomaterials research suffers from a scalability problem, as a 2016 Nature article highlighted. Elements show novel and exciting properties at a nano-scale. But manufacturing them en masse, with known methods, will not necessarily replicate these.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Polshettiwar also highlights another issue he faces: Making a business out of fundamental discovery—and getting the permission and support needed to do so. “We proposed to start a non-profit company as we cannot do everything in our lab. But we didn’t get the permission,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition, he has had trouble getting industries to invest in the idea—they want him to demonstrate the research at a scale he cannot achieve in his lab. “Ideally, industry should come on board and say let us do it together,” he says. But there is hope still: He is in talks with Tata Steel. “I said I don’t just need funding. It should be a real collaboration. We should do something together which can be upscaled and is commercially viable. We started talking and they are going to visit my lab.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He notes that public institutes have started to make headway towards encouraging more start-up-creation from within their ranks, pointing to IIT-Madras’s success with its Incubation Cell.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Scaling-up is an engineering problem that continues to challenge makers in India. Some industries are friendlier than others—defence, aerospace and pharmaceuticals are fields where commercialisation of ideas is supported by industries and research institutes that have the heft to scale up, Rangnekar points out.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A SOLUTION WITH MANY SUITORS</b></p> <p>In 2018, one of the world’s thinnest materials was synthesised in Gujarat by Harini Gunda, a PhD researcher working with Kabeer Jasuja, professor of chemical engineering at IIT-Gandhinagar. Gunda’s research in 2018 explored the applications of two-dimensional metal-boride-derived nanostructures. One of them was making solid propellants up to 78 per cent more efficient.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>By adding boron-based nano-additives to solid rocket fuel, the propellant can burn at lower temperatures. The rockets will need to carry less additives as well (which traditionally can take up 30 per cent of the fuel’s weight). And it costs 40 times less than the materials currently used.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>ISRO, DRDO, and the Indian Army have quite understandably expressed interest. But the research may never have happened if Gunda was not able to demonstrate it. At an early stage, she needed access to solid rocket fuel to demonstrate her hypothesis. With what she had developed in her lab, she was unable to demonstrate applications for rockets. But she and her professor collaborated with Professor Chinmay Ghoroi from the same department, who had been studying on improving the flowability of a solid propellant—ammonium perchlorate. Using this, she was able to implement her idea and get her foot in the door at DRDO, which took it up eagerly to test it at the pilot scale.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While both the military and ISRO see utility in her research for their missiles and rockets, her research has diverse applications including use as electrodes for batteries, hydrogen evolution by water splitting, and as an advanced material for solid-state hydrogen storage (for which she is working in collaboration with the Sandia National Laboratory, California). Gunda now looks to establish a startup that provides material-based solutions to various technologies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>ART OF THE PIVOT</b></p> <p>Before the pandemic, scientists at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB), Delhi, were working on a technique to use the CRISPR gene editing tool to diagnose sickle cell disease, resulting in the creation of FELUDA (FnCas9 Editor Linked Uniform Detection Array).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When the first wave of the pandemic brought about an urgent need for a fast and accurate test, they found an industry partner, Tata Medical, and got to work. TATA MD-Check received regulatory approval in September as India’s first CRISPR-based Covid-19 test. It has since been used to test for Covid in tier-2 and tier-3 cities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the advent of mutant strains, the IGIB scientists swiftly found that their tests could be repurposed to identify the unique signature of a variant. Their prototype, RAY (Rapid variant AssaY), can test for variants faster than genomic sequencing can. With Alpha, Beta, Delta and now Omicron, the importance of catching variant infections before they can spread has been made horrifically evident.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dr Debojyoti Chakraborty, senior scientist at CSIR-IGIB whose work with Dr Souvik Maiti led to the new test, says the technology can be adapted to diagnose any change to nucleic acids. From community surveillance to personalised healthcare and even agricultural biotechnology, his testing method could prove a multi-tool for health care workers the world over.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>UNCOVERING THE HOLY GRAIL</b></p> <p>If there is one breakthrough that scientists across the world are chasing, it is a method to efficiently produce graphene at scale. Graphene, an allotrope of carbon, has demonstrated tantalising properties. It can replace silicon and become the next-generation semiconductor in chips, it can make batteries that hold far more power than convention lithium-ion equivalents and that can be charged faster, it can serve as a perfect material in aerospace, being both lightweight and incredibly strong.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The problem? It works best when it is a monolayer and making this is time-consuming and highly inefficient. Bulk synthesis of high-quality graphene is a huge necessity, says Dr Anup Kumar Keshri, researcher in the department of metallurgical and materials engineering at IIT-Patna.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To that end, his team has exfoliated the graphite to graphene using an age-old “plasma spray”gun. He says it is an “ultra-fast and scalable technique which can quickly exfoliate the graphite into high-quality, defect free graphene in sub-kilogram scale, without the use of any solvents, intercalants, or classically purchasable chemicals”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The next step? Besides working to reinforce the lab-procured graphene, Keshri’s team is in the process of further refining the process and exploring the feasibility of filing patents as well as of bringing the product from lab to market.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>FROM LAB TO NETWORK</b></p> <p>While the situation in India is improving, many scientists still look to the United States as a better model for encouraging scientific research, due to its multi-fold advantages. Polshettiwar points out that almost all institutions there have tech transfer departments, people who can help take the research, form it at viable scale, and set up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Efforts to better connect scientists with industry and relevant partners are under way in India. The February 2020 budget included an announcement of “University Research Joint Industry Translation Clusters” in 10 locations—one of which is Hyderabad.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Compared with the landscape from a decade ago, things have improved, says Rangnekar. His work at RICH has made him optimistic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I think there has been enormous improvement,” he says. “The making of RT-PCR kits in India is a great example. Earlier, we had to import these kits. Within two-three months, Indian startups were able to make them. And they survived, even after China dropped the price of their kits dramatically. Today, India exports these kits. There was collaboration between Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune—when things go wrong in this country, everyone comes together and does an amazing job of collaboration.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Networking makes all the difference for a scientist with an idea or innovation. “Where do I find those 20, 30, maybe 200 people needed to take a research problem from lab to manufacturing level,” he asks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Initiated by the Telangana government, RICH works to link research institutions, academia and industry with venture capitalists, angel investors and incubators, with a focus on three sectors: Aerospace, food and agriculture, and life sciences.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rangnekar gives the example of a diagnostics startup that wanted quality data from hospitals. Such startups need cleaned data, but many hospitals take records in analog form. RICH helped connect the startup with the hospitals they needed, creating a two-way flow of communication that would otherwise not exist in the wild. Doctors could now tell startup engineers the problems they faced and the solutions they needed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a solution CoffeeMug.ai is also attempting to offer. The social media platform looks to connect everyone from would-be founders to data scientists and supply chain experts. You pick who you would like to meet and in what industry, and the AI-powered platform will send you an email each week to make new connections.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Change is possible, but over time. And India cannot turn into an innovation superpower overnight. India spends just 0.65 per cent of its GDP on research and development according to the latest Economic Survey. In 2016, the US spent four times that, according to World Bank data (Rangnekar points out that with scientist wages being low, labour productivity might be a better metric).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It may also be business-related: “All failed companies are the same: they failed to escape competition,”writes Peter Thiel in Zero to One. What India tries to produce for the first time, many other countries may already be producing at scale, competitively.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Only true innovation can give India a leg up. And this takes time. Thiel writes that most of a tech company’s value will come at least 10 to 15 years in the future. Rangnekar, too, feels the journey for Indian research to start having a transformational impact will take time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Is entrepreneurial Indian science on the cusp of a revolution, albeit one that has been 15 years in the making?</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/16/eureka-now-what.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/16/eureka-now-what.html Sun Dec 19 19:19:55 IST 2021 general-rawat-will-be-remembered-for-initiating-india-biggest-military-reform <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/09/general-rawat-will-be-remembered-for-initiating-india-biggest-military-reform.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/12/9/44-General-Bipin-Rawat-new.jpg" /> <p>In late December 2019, when the Union government appointed General Bipin Rawat as India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, his job was to restructure military commands and utilise resources better by bringing about jointness in operations. The target was ambitious, but the general seemed to be on track.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unfortunately, on December 8, General Rawat, his wife, Madhulika, and 11 others died in a helicopter crash near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu. The couple is survived by their two daughters.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>General Rawat was born in Pauri, Uttarakhand, in a Garhwali Rajput family that had served the armed forces for four generations. His father, Laxman Singh Rawat, was from Sainj village in Pauri Garhwal district, and had been a lieutenant general.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The son climbed higher. In his latest role as CDS, the four-star general was a single-point military adviser to the government. He was to serve for up to three years; the government had extended the age of retirement to 65 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though the office of the CDS does not have any operational role in the functioning of the services, the increasing complexity of modern warfare meant that India needed a CDS for an integrated approach to defence strategy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In January 2020, days into his appointment, General Rawat started brainstorming on how to streamline coordination between the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. A few months later, he began to prepare for India’s biggest-ever military reform—reorganising the forces into theatre commands (like in the US and China) for synchronised operations in future wars.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>General Rawat planned to have five such main commands—northern, western, peninsular, air defence and maritime—by the end of 2022. These commands would have specialised units from the Army, Navy and Air Force, and would be led by commanders drawn from the three services. The Indian military currently has 17 single-service commands. The three services, Rawat had believed, discharged their duties with a marked lack of operational synergy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A group of ministers that studied the Kargil Review Committee (1999) report had first raised the demand for a CDS in 2001. The services initially feared that such a reform would lead to complicated turf wars. A former IAF chief had said that the theatre commands would increase spending without ensuring commensurate returns. The Air Force, which has limited assets, was also concerned that the Army would dominate military strategy. General Rawat’s remark that the IAF—the world’s fourth largest air force—was a “supporting arm” like the Engineers had upset many. The Air Force’s resistance to the theatre command idea means that it is stuck in limbo.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>General Rawat also planned to have a separate training and doctrinal command modelled on the US structure, and a separate command to take care of logistical requirements.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Given that warfare was going to be more futuristic, he came up with the idea of Integrated Battle Groups—an ambitious combat formation aimed at making the force more lethal and technology-driven. Though some veterans said that it was not a novel concept, General Rawat gave it fresh dimensions. Brigade-sized and self-sufficient, the IBGs have elements of each arm and service, mixed together as per the terrain and operational requirements. They would be tailor-made, based on the three Ts—threat, terrain and task—and would strike swiftly against enemies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While serving as Army chief, General Rawat wanted to make the 1.3 million-strong force leaner and meaner, and to enhance its combat capabilities. He commissioned four internal studies to enhance the operational and functional efficiency of the force, optimise budget expenditure, facilitate modernisation and address aspirations. He was the third officer from the Gorkha Rifles to become Chief of Army Staff, after Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw and General Dalbir Singh Suhag. He was Army chief during the Balakot airstrike in February 2019 and the 2016 surgical strike, and had supervised the cross-border counter-insurgency operation in Myanmar in 2015.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As CDS, he had to prioritise military procurement and questioned the wisdom of having three aircraft carriers. These, he had said, were costly and vulnerable to torpedoes; he favoured submarines and shore-based capabilities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>General Rawat’s bold and outspoken nature had led to some heartburn in the military fraternity. He had once denied hotel stay for officers on outstation duty, saying that such rooms were being used to “exchange briefcases”. He had called out soldiers who faked disability to claim the disability pension, sparking another row.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He had also awarded the Chief of Army Staff’s commendation card to Major Leetul Gogoi, who had tied a Kashmiri civilian to the bonnet of his Jeep, apparently to prevent stone pelters from targeting his convoy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A few days before taking over as CDS, General Rawat had triggered another controversy by publicly condemning those leading “violent” protests. He had said that leadership was not about guiding people to carry out arson and violence, apparently in a dig aimed at the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests across India. Though many people criticised him for such statements, General Rawat was steadfast in his beliefs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As for his legacy, the Army said he was a visionary who initiated far-reaching reforms in the military’s higher defence organisation. “He was instrumental in creating the foundation of India’s joint theatre commands,” read the Army statement, “and in giving impetus to the increased indigenisation of military equipment, a legacy which will be carried on and strengthened by successive generations.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/09/general-rawat-will-be-remembered-for-initiating-india-biggest-military-reform.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/09/general-rawat-will-be-remembered-for-initiating-india-biggest-military-reform.html Sun Dec 12 16:27:34 IST 2021 fateful-flight <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/09/fateful-flight.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/12/9/48-Fateful-flight-new.jpg" /> <p>General Bipin Rawat had miraculously survived a helicopter crash in 2015. A single-engine Cheetah had crashed minutes after it took off from Rangapahar in Dimapur, Nagaland. Rawat was then commander of the Dimapur-based 3 Corps. He and three other Army personnel got away with minor injuries. But, Rawat’s luck ran out on December 8.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 63-year-old chief of defence staff and his wife, Madhulika, were among the 13 killed when an Mi-17V5 helicopter crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu. The Indian Air Force has ordered an inquiry to establish the cause of the accident. The probe is also looking at the height at which the chopper began its descent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The chopper came from the 109 Helicopter Unit of the Sulur airbase, near Coimbatore, and was part of the VVIP fleet. The Mi-17V5 is a military transport helicopter produced by the Russian firm Kazan Helicopters. India ordered 80 of them in 2008 for $1.3 billion. They were delivered in 2013. The Mi-17V5 is the latest twin-engine iteration of transport helicopters and is used regularly for high-altitude operations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It can carry 30 personnel and fly at a maximum speed of 250km per hour. While its main fuel tank range is 675km, two auxiliary fuel tanks allow it to fly for 1,180km. It can carry 4,000kg. In a recent rescue operation, the chopper saved 10 people stranded in the flood in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The crash on December 8 is reminiscent of the February 1952 Devon crash that could have wiped out the Army’s future leadership. Two officers who would become Army chiefs, S.M. Shrinagesh (then lieutenant general) and K.S. Thimayya (then major general), were among the survivors. The pilot, Flight Lieutenant Suhas Biswas, was awarded the Ashok Chakra for his heroics and remarkable presence of mind. It was the IAF’s first Ashok Chakra. Biswas died in a crash in the Nilgiri Hills a few years later.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On November 23, 1963, an Aérospatiale Alouette III helicopter of the IAF crashed in Poonch, Jammu and Kashmir. Six distinguished officers of the armed forces were on board, including three general officers, an air officer and a brigadier. All six died. It was the worst crash India had seen and prompted the decision to allow only one flag officer in an aircraft.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Eastern Army commander Lieutenant General Jameel Mahmood was killed with his wife in an Mi-17 crash in Bhutan in 1993. He was on an official visit. In November 1997, minister of state for defence N.V.N. Somu and three Army officers were killed in a helicopter crash near Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh. The tragedy prompted prime minister I.K. Gujral to cancel his two-day visit to Bombay, where he was to commission the INS Delhi.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/09/fateful-flight.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/09/fateful-flight.html Fri Dec 10 17:26:07 IST 2021 my-aim-is-to-create-a-more-proactive-approach <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/09/my-aim-is-to-create-a-more-proactive-approach.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/12/9/58-Rakesh-Asthana-new.jpg" /> <p>Of the 1,788 rape cases registered in Delhi this year, till November 15, 23.01 per cent were against persons who were in live-in relationships with the survivor or refused to marry the survivor after promise of marriage. In 99 per cent of the cases, the accused were people known to the survivor; 46 per cent were friends or family, 14 per cent relatives, 11 per cent neighbours, 27 per cent other known persons and one per cent employers or colleagues. One of the fundamental issues in the offence of rape is consent, but, when consent is obtained by fraud, cheating or undue influence, it amounts to rape.<br> </p> <p>Nine years after the gang-rape and murder of Nirbhaya drew global attention to the heinous crimes against women in the capital and brought about harsher punishment for rapists, changing social dynamics portend a new challenge for the police. A more nuanced approach to policing is the need of the hour. Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana said that separating law and order, and investigation at the police station level is making ground-level policing more effective. Asthana is also focusing on soft-skill training for police officers and improving the quality of investigations.</p> <p>The Safe City Project, financed by the Rs 850 crore Nirbhaya Fund, is expected to aid Asthana's efforts. The first phase of the project is scheduled to be launched by June 2022. Under it, an integrated command and control centre is being established at the Delhi Police headquarters. The centre will link the nearly two lakh standalone CCTV cameras, including private installations, in the city and use video analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning for predictive policing, face recognition and social media analysis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Edited excerpts from an exclusive interview with Asthana:<br> </p> <p><b>What is the situation of crimes against women in the capital and what steps are you taking to make policing more effective?</b><br> <br> &nbsp;Seventy per cent of crime in the capital is petty street crimes like chain snatching, bag lifting, mobile snatching and thefts. Thirty per cent is crimes like murder, dacoity, attempt to murder and robbery. Crimes against women are also a part of this 30 per cent. These include heinous crimes such as rape, molestation, stalking and outraging the modesty of a woman. I believe that if ground-level policing is good, these crimes are easier to prevent and detect.<br> </p> <p>&nbsp;To strengthen day-to-day policing, our aim is to make police stations more effective and empower beat constables, to increase their effectiveness. Keeping this in mind, we have separated law and order, and crime investigation at police station level. Till now, there was little clarity on who will investigate.<br> </p> <p>Sometimes, the staff changed and the investigation passed on from one policeman to the other. At other times, complainants visiting a police station did not know who would listen to them. Now, with the separation of law and order, and investigation teams, at least one team of investigators is present at the police station round-the-clock to listen to complaints.<br> </p> <p>Secondly, there was also a huge pendency of investigations. When there are focused teams for investigation, the pendency will automatically reduce. When investigations are carried out expeditiously and culprits are booked on time, the effect is visible on society.<br> </p> <p><b>How will you ensure there is cohesion between law and order and those doing investigations? </b></p> <p><br> Today, on an average, every police station has 8-10 teams of investigating officers who are handling different types of cases. These teams are led by an assistant sub inspector, head constable, sub inspector and inspector depending on the nature of crime. This ensures focussed attention to solving the crime. The law and order portion is being handled by policemen who take preventive action against known criminals and history-sheeters. If both good investigation and good prevention go hand-in-hand, crime prevention, detection and overall law and order situation will automatically improve.&nbsp;<br> </p> <p><b>In the Nirbhaya case, there was criticism of the police control room's response time. How are you changing that?</b><br> </p> <p>&nbsp;Our effort has been to merge the police stations with the police control room (PCR), which makes the PCR vans the asset of the police station. In this way, the manpower of the PCR has been merged with the police station staff and the overall strength of the police station has gone up. By doing this, we have been able to allocate enough manpower for separate investigation and law and order duties. With the increase in vehicles to patrol within a police station area, the patrolling area has become [more manageable] and the response time has reduced. It has been brought down from seven minutes to three minutes and seven seconds.<br> </p> <p><b>Women are apprehensive about reporting rape and other sexual offences as they may not be treated sensitively. How are you going to change that?</b><br> </p> <p>&nbsp;We are focusing on providing soft-skill training. We are doing regular courses at the Delhi Police Academy. We have also started calling soft skill trainers from the private sector, like the airline industry. We are also taking help from other government organisations to address the issue in a structured manner.<br> </p> <p><b>There are concerns around the efficacy of CCTV cameras in crime detection and prevention. Your comments.</b><br> </p> <p>There are more than two lakh CCTV cameras in the city. They are being monitored by the police, resident welfare associations, market welfare associations, and Public Works Department. But all these are standalone cameras and there is no networking.<br> </p> <p>We are launching the Safe City Project with Rs 850 crore allocated to us by the Centre from the Nirbhaya fund. The first phase is likely to be launched by June 2022 where an integrated command and control structure will be set up at the police headquarters for integration of all private and non-private cameras in the city. It will provide video analytics, face recognition techniques, artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive policing techniques to give the necessary technological aid to police. Another 10,000 CCTV cameras will be added and state-of-the-art technology will be used to decode and analyse the data generated. We are training policemen and will hire experts from the private sector.<br> </p> <p><b>The misuse of social media is a growing security threat. How are you handling it? </b><br> </p> <p>I have created a social media monitoring cell in the headquarters where we not only project the good work done by the Delhi police, but also counter propaganda against the police and the system by putting facts and figures in the public domain. A special cell is working to track those who misuse social media to create unrest.<br> </p> <p><b>Can law enforcement be the main deterrent against crimes against women?</b><br> </p> <p>&nbsp;My aim is to create a more proactive approach instead of a reactive approach. It also means the accused should be apprehended immediately, so that there is some solace to the victim. This needs to be followed by a speedily conducted scientific investigation and filing of the charge-sheet in court. After I assumed charge, the horrific gang-rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl took place near Delhi Cantonment on August 1. The accused were rounded up quickly and after a scientific investigation, a charge-sheet was filed in court within days. We have requested for a fast-track trial.<br> </p> <p><b>What steps are you taking to increase the number of women in the police force?</b><br> <br> At present, we have 13 per cent women in the police force. As per directives of the government, we are increasing their strength gradually and we are hopeful of having around 25 per cent women in the force by 2025.</p> <p><br> <b>How are you handling rising crimes and drug mafia on the dark net? </b><br> <br> The Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations Unit is providing assistance to police stations for investigating and preventing cyber crimes. The thrust area is countering cyber terror by tracking drug trade, criminal and organised crime rackets on the dark net. There are around 2,500 trained policemen and another 7,500 police officers are being trained for working in cyber police stations in districts. For the first time, every district will have a cyber crime police station. Since all the evidence is in digitised form, I feel the convictions can also be high.<br> </p> <p><b>Are you proposing any changes to the Indian Penal Code? </b><br> <br> At the moment, snatching cases are registered by combining two IPC sections and the offender gets a maximum punishment of three years for theft and two years for use of criminal force. We are proposing introducing a separate section with enhanced punishment in the IPC for snatching and a proposal for the same will be sent to the government.<br> &nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/09/my-aim-is-to-create-a-more-proactive-approach.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/09/my-aim-is-to-create-a-more-proactive-approach.html Fri Dec 10 16:39:23 IST 2021 exclusive-kashi-vishwanath-temple-gets-a-grand-new-look <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/exclusive-kashi-vishwanath-temple-gets-a-grand-new-look.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/12/4/16-the-Kashi-Vishwanath-temple-complex.jpg" /> <p>Between unending pyres marking the ends of mortal frailties, and the embrace of a creator transcending all ends and beginnings, lies a pathway that bridges the spiritual and the temporal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is the Kashi Vishwanath Temple corridor, the most visible manifestation of the Kashi Vishwanath Dham project initiated in 2018. The passage offers unfettered access to the mandir from the Ganga, a river that is believed to have been brought to Earth and tamed by Lord Shiva.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Kashi (also known as Varanasi), the holiest city of Hinduism, Lord Shiva resides as Vishwanath or lord of the world. The name of the city means that which emits endless light to the world. It is a city that ancient texts such as the Shiv Puran say will outlast the end of the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The temple itself was not the original residing place for the shivling, the abstract representation of its reigning deity. It was placed in at least five other locations, say experts. From the end of the 10th century, the temple and the city faced an unending onslaught of foreign attacks. Its present form—a central spire (shikhar) flanked by two smaller ones—was constructed by the Maratha queen Ahilyabai Holkar in 1780. The only major addition after that was in 1839, when two spires were gilded with gold gifted by Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. Its most imposing neighbour is the Gyanvapi Mosque, the foundation for which was laid by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the latter half of the 17th century.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Ganga lies eastward from the temple complex, which can be accessed from three other sides, too. The corridor, which is in its last phases of completion, is designed to welcome pilgrims coming by water. They will alight at the ghat that lies between the Manikarnika and the Lalita Ghats, climb up the ghat, enter through a gateway and cross a distance of some 400m through undulating land. There will be escalators, too, for those who need them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The project covers just over five hectares, of which 70 per cent is open space. Its religious significance lies in the opportunity it gives people to be in a sacred space for long hours as opposed to what has been possible till now.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To carve that space, houses around the temple had to be acquired and demolished. Deepak Agarwal, the divisional commissioner of Varanasi, said that the initial plan envisaged acquiring 197 properties (including those owned privately and by trusts), but this number crossed 300 in the final plans. That translated into 1,400 entities to be rehabilitated. Agarwal heads the Shri Kashi Vishwanath Special Development Board—the development authority overseeing the project. He said the process was centred on constant dialogue, with even Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath chipping in when things got difficult.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The acquisition and subsequent rehabilitation and/or resettlement were complicated by the fact that some properties had no legally defined owners. And, some owners chose to shut their doors on the government.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“As challenging as that was, we never stopped moving, working on different aspects concurrently. Our success can be measured by the fact that there is not a single case before any court today,” said Agarwal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pilgrimage to this shrine, surrounded by narrow galis (lanes), had been an unpleasant experience over the years. In addition to the physical challenge of moving in a narrow space and the problems of sanitation and hygiene, the temple as it existed till recently had only a few feet between the inner sanctum and the man-marked boundaries. A visit at any hour would thus entail just a few moments with the deity, after perhaps hours of jostling in queues. The restored complex has an expansive ambulatory (cast in stone from Chunar) arcade around the sanctum. From the river to the temple are public facilities, an auditorium, a mumukshu bhavan (where terminally ill and elderly wait for death in prayers), a gallery, museum and a Vedic centre among other structures.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shrikant Mishra, the chief priest of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple said that the temple was unlike any other in the world because it was in the capital of Lord Shiva. In Kashi, Shiva comes together in his forms as teacher and king. This unity of the dualities is reflected in an oft-used phrase around the city, ‘Ka Raja, Ka Guru’ (roughly: what is the difference between ruler and teacher).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The temple is the court of Shiva where he rules in consultation with his ministers. These ministers of the king include the gods Tarkeshwar and Bhuvneshwar, whose shrines lie adjacent to the main temple. Kashi’s lofty pedestal is both physical and symbolic. In Vedic Sanatan Dharma, it is not built on earthly land, but on the middle prong of a trident. It has equals in seven other cities of the world (including Ayodhya and Ujjain) which offer paths to salvation, but the belief is that all these paths would lead the souls to Kashi for final liberation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The shivling here resides with his female counterpart Annapurna, who decides how the prayers of pilgrims are to be answered. It is thus an important seat of feminine divine power as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The project, to be dedicated to the faithful on December 13, has been designed by Ahmedabad-based HCP Design, Planning and Management Private Limited. HCP’s managing director Bimal Patel’s roster of significant projects includes the Central Vista redevelopment project in Delhi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Patel said that the most astonishing discovery when the project got underway was how “callously” temples within the homes—that were acquired—had been treated. “In many cases, the shikhars (spires) had been used as architectural props,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was the imagined destruction of the idols within these temples that provoked a section to protest against the project. These idols will, however, find space in a gallery on the path of the corridor where they are to be worshipped as previously.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These disapprovals clustered under the banner of the Mandir Bachao Andolan (Save the Temple movement) have been chronicled in a book called Udta Banaras by a former journalist Suresh Pratap. “People sat crying outside their houses as they were torn down,” he said. “Brother was turned against brother. While one tried to delay the process, another was given a contract (by the administration) to carry out the demolition.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For the project’s makers, however, it marks how the present can be carved without disrespect to the past. Patel said: “Our respect for heritage must not paralyse us from respectfully and sensitively bringing about a transformation”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is only in that spirit that the ages can coexist, as Kashi’s favourite deity symbolises.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/exclusive-kashi-vishwanath-temple-gets-a-grand-new-look.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/exclusive-kashi-vishwanath-temple-gets-a-grand-new-look.html Sun Dec 05 11:45:11 IST 2021 at-every-stage-dialogue-remained-our-basis <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/at-every-stage-dialogue-remained-our-basis.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/12/4/22-Yogi-Adityanath-new.jpg" /> <p><b>Q What is special about this project?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ This is the prime minister’s dream project. Through the prime minister’s chosen projects, we can see the culture of India being protected and restored. We see this in different forms. The Kedarnath Dham was destroyed in 2013. The first phase of its restoration has recently been completed and it looks beautiful.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Between the 11th and 17th century, Kashi was attacked numerous times, starting from the time of Muhammad Ghori to Aurangzeb. The first complex, after being annihilated by Aurangzeb, was built by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar (of Indore in 1780). The gold to cover the spires was gifted by Maharaja Ranjit Singh (of Punjab in 1839).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 1916, Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, came to Kashi. He had sharp criticism for it. He said that if a being from another world were to drop into the temple area, he would feel that he had landed in hell; such was the dirt and stench.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a devotee myself, I have been dismayed by the narrowness of the lanes and the filth. The prime minister was firm that people [of Kashi] should not be inconvenienced during implementation of the project, and that livelihoods should be protected.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the initial project design, 196 properties had to be acquired. Negative campaigns were started against us. It was through dialogue that things became clear. People gave up their properties voluntarily. Compensation and rehabilitation is ongoing. In the 400 structures that we demolished, 1,400 people have been rehabilitated. Soon, the mandir complex in its grand form will be dedicated to the people. It was the prime minister’s inspiration, leadership and direction that made it possible.</p> <p><b>Q/ You are known to keenly monitor projects. Here, too, you intervened at the smallest levels.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ At the start, some saints were misinformed. They became eager to agitate. I spoke to each one of them, satisfied everyone and received the blessings and support of all. Those opposing the project were constantly doing propaganda.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Houses throughout the corridor had temples and idols. All these were taken out with due respect and their puja continued. Yet, some people got discarded idols from idol makers, or stone that had been discarded, and [they] threw these by the corridor, made videos of it and spread it through social media. I came that very night. At every stage, dialogue remained our basis. We presented correct facts. We made people understand that Kashi was getting something very big.</p> <p><b>Q/ How do you respond to environment experts who argue that the project causes great damage and that its assessment reports were not given due publicity?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The implementation of any big project is open to comments by the public, as is this one. I would give two examples to those opposing it. I was on an inspection on a National Disaster Response Force steamer. A senior officer told me that earlier new recruits at Varanasi would get red blotches on the skin within two-three days of joining (as they underwent diving and swimming training in the Ganga). Leave alone drinking, the water was not even fit for bathing. That no longer happens. This indicates that the pollution levels are lower. Recently, during the preparations of the Dev Deepawali, I saw dolphins in the Ganga. This is also indicative that the water is clean. The results of the Namami Gange (National Mission for Clean Ganga) are there for all to see.</p> <p><b>Q/ Does any community need to be cautious or afraid of the scale at which temples are being restored?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ There is no need for anyone to be scared. This is the preservation of culture. Everyone should be a part of it. The day that this project is dedicated to the public, everyone will thank the prime minister.</p> <p><b>Q/ There is a petition before the court in Mathura, on behalf of the Sri Krishna Lalla, to remove the Shahi Idgah Masjid on the premises of the Katra Keshav Dev Mandir. This, despite The Places of Worship Act, 1991, prohibiting any change in the status of existing religious places. Do you think that such petitions are merely for the sake of publicity?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ There is a need to steer clear of such things. Once a matter is sub judice, we anyway cannot and will not interfere with it. The courts will examine all perspectives.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/at-every-stage-dialogue-remained-our-basis.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/at-every-stage-dialogue-remained-our-basis.html Sun Dec 05 11:41:47 IST 2021 art-law-in-india-a-warning-to-plagiarists <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/art-law-in-india-a-warning-to-plagiarists.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/12/4/24-Asif-Kamal.jpg" /> <p>A few years ago, an Amrita Sher-Gil canvas was put up for sale. Lawyer Debottam Bose was asked by his client to assist with its purchase. The London-based lawyer flew in to see the work and inspect the original documents. It was certified as authentic by a well-known artist and a relative of Sher-Gil, and the paperwork appeared to be in order.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bose was taken to the home of a well-known artist who was no more. His widow was brought in on a wheelchair. The painting was displayed, and the documents laid out on a table. Bose inspected the papers and was about to ask the widow how and when her husband had acquired the Sher-Gil, when he was given a letter on the late artist’s letterhead. The letter mentioned that the painting had been in his collection. It was, as is known in art circles, a ‘provenance letter’, which provides the chain of ownership.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On further investigation, Bose found that the letter was forged. The painting did not belong to the late artist. It was an ‘orphan work’, meaning it could have been a stolen work with forged papers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The investigation to establish both title and authenticity is important,” said Bose. “In this instance, we saved my client from embarrassment and also from spending a princely amount of money.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The incident gives a sneak peek into the exciting world of art law, where the lawyer has to go far beyond iron-bound contracts and cut-and-dried statutes to act like a sleuth, a Sherlock Holmes if you may. The art lawyer has to be alert to signs, however slight, of the work being a fake or a forgery. And while he or she may or may not be an art connoisseur, it certainly helps to be interested in the arts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a fairly new legal specialisation in India, spurred on by the boom in art business. Bose, recognised as India’s first art lawyer, said part of his job is very much investigative in nature, which involves inspecting the artwork personally and carrying out a thorough check of the authenticity and title—what they call ‘due diligence’ in legalese.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anticipating a growth in demand, law firms are setting up teams of lawyers who cater to artists, gallerists, individual collectors, museums and trusts. The annual business in art is estimated to be around $2,000 crore, and paintings form a large part of it. Even during the pandemic, art worth around $900 crore was auctioned online. Sher-Gil’s ‘In the Ladies’ Enclosure’ (1938) was auctioned for $37.8 crore in July, making it the second-most expensive work of Indian art sold globally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The art law scene in India is evolving slowly as artists and patrons are becoming increasingly aware of the value of their art as an asset, and the rights attached to such art,” said Anand Desai, managing partner, DSK Legal, which launched its art law practice in 2020. “Art law is not just a single legislation, but traverses across various laws.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Desai said the field is not yet at par with more developed practices such as corporate litigation or taxation laws, but will eventually become important because the value of art is only going to increase and will involve complex issues, including ownership, valuation, transfers, inheritance and taxation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The genesis of art law is as fascinating as its practice. A need for legal expertise was felt in the aftermath of World War II, when restitution of artwork stolen by Nazis from museums and families in various European cities was carried out. An example is the story retold in the 2015 Helen Mirren-starrer Woman in Gold, a biopic depicting the legal battle waged by Maria Altmann, an elderly Jewish woman, and her lawyer Randy Schoenberg against the Austrian government. The duo fought to recover a Gustav Klimt painting of her aunt, snatched away from her family in Vienna by the Nazis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In India, art law draws from an already existing range of laws such as media laws, copyright laws, intellectual property rights, estate planning, taxation laws, the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act and the Museum Grant Scheme.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“While the focus on antiques and the great Indian masters is intact, a number of younger artists are now in the national and international spotlight,” said Rodney D. Ryder, founding partner, Scriboard. “The general excitement around Indian art has attracted lawyers as well. The range of issues is staggering from the creation of art, to contracts between buyers, sellers and galleries to issues in online auctions and internet art.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The increased interest and business boom, however, has resulted in a proliferation of fakes. In 2014, a Swiss expert on fine arts had estimated that nearly 50 per cent of all artwork on the market is fake. Concurs Bose, saying that eight out of every 10 works that come to him are fake and the ninth involves some fraud such as the sellers not having the right to sell. He recounted the instance of an S.H. Raza painting that was accompanied by an authentication certificate and a photograph of the renowned painter with his work. A closer look at the photograph revealed that Raza’s hand was rather awkwardly holding the artwork. It was a case of superimposition and the artwork turned out to be fake.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Raza is among the most faked artists in India; others include M.F. Husain, Jagdish Swaminathan, Jamini Roy, Nandalal Bose, Manjit Bawa, Jehangir Sabavala, Ganesh Pyne, F.N. Souza and Anjolie Ela Menon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Due diligence involves a thorough checking of documents, but lawyers say that there are other signs that indicate that a painting is fake. Like, the back of the canvas, the smell of paint, signs of efforts to artificially age a work or merely discrepancies in the seller’s story.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The issue of fakes is a global problem and not just in India,” said DSK Legal partner Chandrima Mitra. “Every few years, you will come across incidents involving fake art being auctioned or sold. Sometimes, art assets without clear ownership title are sold. Buyers are still learning about these issues and how to navigate through them.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are other issues, too, such as injunctions by banks on sale of artwork by their owners, which, for obvious reasons, are kept under wraps by the sellers. Fortis promoters Malvinder Singh and Shivinder Singh were accused by whistle-blowers of having violated the Delhi High Court’s order by selling assets that included artwork by Souza, Raza, Husain, V.S. Gaitonde, Ram Kumar and Nicholas Roerich.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Subhash Bhutoria, partner designate, L&amp;L Partners, one need not be a fine arts expert, but must have a reasonably good knowledge about different stakeholders and art forms. Advice is offered on matters such as proper documentation, valuation, authentication, insurance, commissioning and loaning of artwork, tax matters and inheritance. Disputes include divergence of views on authenticity or provenance, issues with regard to bidding, or insurance and legal action against sale of fakes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most disputes, lawyers say, are dealt through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism since the people involved are very often eminent personalities who want matters to be handled discreetly. In the art domain, said Bhutoria, transactions and even disputes are often personal and emotional and lawyers can create a fine balance of rights, laws and equity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dubai-based businessman and art connoisseur Asif Kamal pointed towards the lack of transparency in art business in India as one of the main pitfalls for art lawyers here. He spoke about monopolies operating that do not allow an objective authentication or pricing of artworks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kamal said that he had sued Christie’s in 2015 for having allegedly put up a fake Raza for auction. The auction house had vehemently denied the allegation. “The authenticity of an artwork changes from gallery to gallery, auction to auction,” said Kamal. “One wrong painting can’t be right if sold by a monopoly player. Similarly, one right painting can’t be wrong if sold by a small-time dealer or gallery. It was on this very issue that I fought Christie’s in court.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lawyers raise the issue about the entrenched establishment not allowing artists their right to royalty. According to Ryder, while the copyright law covers sale of artworks within the copyright period—ensuring that a percentage is paid to the artist so long as the price exceeds $10,000— there has so far been no case in India to demand the same.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another issue highlighted by lawyers is the general lack of awareness about art law as an expertise and a requirement among stakeholders. Renu Modi, owner of Gallery Espace, said that she has so far relied on advice from lawyer friends informally, even as the documents are drawn up on legal stamp paper. While she believes art law is yet to become an integral aspect of art business, “it could help in making art business better organised” and protect the rights of artists and other stakeholders.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The exciting world of art law beckons, and India is only just waking up to it.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/art-law-in-india-a-warning-to-plagiarists.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/art-law-in-india-a-warning-to-plagiarists.html Sun Dec 05 11:39:08 IST 2021 document-everything <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/document-everything.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/12/4/27-Bahaar-Dhawan-Rohatgi.jpg" /> <p>My story began at the bustling offices of Delhi’s prestigious law firm Amarchand Mangaldas. Lawyer by day and artist by night, I led a double life for five years. When I got married and had to juggle family, work and art, I took a sabbatical from my legal job in 2015. I tested the waters with my first exhibition in 2015; the show was sold out and I started creating every day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My legal background helps me create art with a purpose; it invokes thought and is often a comment on society. My mixed media work predominantly evokes emotions, from longing to aspirations or even nostalgia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As someone straddling both the worlds, I realise there are innumerable legal issues loaded against artists. They are at the receiving end of the mess as they shy away from pursuing their legal rights.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from consignment notes, which galleries readily provide, they do not sign proper agreements, setting out legal remedies in the event of loss or damages to the artwork, unless you are represented by the gallery. They also hold on to the artist’s work indefinitely.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Aggravated expenses and the fear of breakdown of relations with gallery owners dissuade artists from standing up for their rights. There should be proper sharing of information regarding insurance details of the work—even if it is being held on commission basis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Galleries also do not disclose the buyer of your works, which serves no purpose. Every artist should be aware of who bought the work. Today’s artists are tomorrow’s masters, and documentation of their art and its owners will discourage the emergence of fakes later and help with verifying the provenance. This would also help track subsequent sales and lay the foundation for artists’ royalties. At the beginning of my art journey, I learnt an important lesson—document everything.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unfortunately, artists receive no royalty on resale of artworks. Many of us do not even insist on such clauses in the agreements for sale.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Issues can arise at any stage of the transaction. Recently, there were issues pertaining to a shipment of my installations to the US. Many hidden costs were shared with me after the works were in transit, and I had to clear them all or risk forfeiting my works.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was once bullied by a gallery to create artworks, which were initially approved and appreciated, but [later] I was told that they were unsuitable for display as those colours do not sell well. They also made no effort to promote the show despite charging a huge commission from the sale of my artworks. As a lawyer, I could have rescinded the contract with immediate effect. However, as an artist, I kept my calm. I realised it is important to have terms and conditions in writing before you proceed with any professional relationship in the art world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In another episode, one of my works was completely damaged while being transported from Rajasthan to Delhi. It was lent to an organisation, and they failed to compensate me because the gallerist blamed the transport company and the transporters blamed the laborers. I could have pursued it, but eventually the labourers would have suffered.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A few years ago, I had loaned huge panels of artwork to a renowned alcohol brand as part of a travelling bar. After it was showcased across the country for two years, the sculptural panels disappeared without a trace.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have learnt my lessons—business cannot be done based on assurances, no matter how much people try to tell me this is how things work in the art world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rohatgi is a lawyer-turned-artist, with more than 40 shows in India and abroad, and more than 300 sales worldwide.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>As told to Soni Mishra</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/document-everything.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/document-everything.html Sat Dec 04 15:16:37 IST 2021 art-lawyers-build-bridges-add-value <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/art-lawyers-build-bridges-add-value.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/12/4/28-Debottam-Bose.jpg" /> <p>Debottam Bose, known as India’s first art lawyer, says that art lawyers are more important now than ever before because of the boom in the art market, and with fakes and forgeries abounding. The globe-trotting lawyer has worked in various international law firms. He advises institutions and lectures on art law around the world. Excerpts from an interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How do you view the art law scene in India?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since 2003, as the country’s economy looked up, affluent Indians started collecting Indian modern and contemporary art. In the past decade, art has been viewed as an alternative asset class. As art prices have gone through the roof, an unprecedented number of fakes and forgeries [have been produced]. The need for an art lawyer–for independent verification, investigation and for protecting the rights of artists and collectors—is more important than ever.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What is the role of an art lawyer?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An art lawyer advises clients on all aspects of art transaction. The work is equally investigative in nature. You have to physically see the artwork, meet buyers and sellers, gallerists, source and consult art experts, compare market prices, taxes and other legalities to finally arrive at whether a work is genuine with a good title, and close the deal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How much of an art expert does an art lawyer need to be?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is important to have an aesthetic eye. I studied art history. I also rely on art experts for their opinion. The key issue is independence and ability to access world authorities and experts on various artists and keep everything confidential.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>What challenges did you face as a pioneer in the field?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is still a niche field in India. One has to practise as a lawyer and gain a diverse amount of experience. This serves as a good foundation since as an art lawyer it is important to understand the dynamic, resolve disputes and maintain relationships. It is not only about contracts and enforcement but also [about having] no conflicts, maintaining confidentiality and having the ability to win clients over and close deals. Alternative dispute resolution is an important cornerstone of art law practice and mediation is important.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A friend and mentor used to say that my role is to build bridges and add value to the relationship.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How aware are the various stakeholders?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is still early days in India. People are just not used to consulting lawyers, especially an art lawyer, before purchasing art since they won’t even know an art lawyer exists. What makes it alarming is when they are buying expensive works of art. When one buys a property, one involves a lawyer for title search. So why not for an expensive art work? Equally, artists do not know much about their resale rights.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Can you cite an instance where you dealt with authenticity issues?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My team and I travelled to Hamburg, Germany, to investigate and view a Leonardo da Vinci painting. We met the seller’s side. Documents and authenticity affidavits were shared. Whenever I asked to see the painting, there would be a delay. This was an alarm bell. Then we were informed that the seller wanted us to make a deposit and that the painting was not in Hamburg, but in Madrid. This is where I took the decision to abort the deal. Later, I was informed that the work was a fake and an entrapment to secure deposit money from unsuspecting buyers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>How well equipped are Indian laws in dealing with issues in the art market?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Since art law is in its nascent stage in India, the laws and their enforcement have a long way to go. [With the entry of] non-fungible tokens, crypto art legislation is yet to be framed.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/art-lawyers-build-bridges-add-value.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/12/04/art-lawyers-build-bridges-add-value.html Sat Dec 11 13:02:22 IST 2021 greenwashing-solar-and-wind-energy-today-could-lead-to-heavy-payback-tomorrow <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/25/greenwashing-solar-and-wind-energy-today-could-lead-to-heavy-payback-tomorrow.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/11/25/58-A-solar-farm-in-Pavagada-Karnataka.jpg" /> <p><b>IN THE UTOPIAN</b> world of today’s climate campaigners, wind and sun will energise the earth. The air conditioning in your home and the boilers in the factory, cars on the road and even planes in the sky will be powered by harnessing the sun’s heat and the wind’s might, tidal and geothermal power, and bio fuels. No more digging the earth to excavate coal or drilling the seabed to get petrol. Humans will not be pumping tonnes of carbon into the air, and therefore, global temperatures will not rise. A net zero emission and 1.5° Celsius (temperature rise) will be attainable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The green dream is tempting. But everyone, including its campaigners themselves, know that it is unattainable with the technology and consumption patterns of today. They might frown upon India for refusing to detach its development needs from coal and gas, but the truth is that solar panels and windmills alone cannot lift India into an economy that matches those in the west. Worse, there is a cost to pay for these alternatives. Indeed, just how green is green energy?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Renewable energy sources, as of today, face the problems of scalability and storage. Regular supply is another problem. For instance, if a photovoltaic cell says it has a capacity of 10KW, it means the cell will generate that energy when it is new, and also when the sun is at its brightest. Given the wear and tear of panels, and the fluctuation in sunshine during the course of a day and across seasons, the actual energy generated by that cell will be much lower, said Gurudas Nulkar, economist-turned-ecologist and author of Ecology, Equity and the Economy: The Human Journey.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Energy generation from wind mills, too, remains unsteady, he added. India’s grand boast of having 450GW of installed capacity of renewable energy by 2030 means just that, installed capacity. The actual yield, or capacity factor (total yield over a time period divided by installed capacity) could be much lower. Typically, for solar plants, the capacity factor is 10 to 25 per cent, and for wind, around 25 per cent. Coal, on the other hand, has a capacity factor of around 70 per cent, while nuclear tops the chart at around 90 per cent. However, nuclear plants are very expensive and time consuming to build, and take their time to go critical.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The manufacture and installing of solar and wind farms come with a massive environment cost. Mandar Datar, plant ecology scientist, said that the choice for solar farms was usually open tracts of lands, supposedly non agrarian. However, grasslands have their own role in ecology and biodiversity, which get destroyed when these farms come up. He said wind farms across the plateaus of Maharashtra have already begun destroying the fragile ecosystems of lateritic outcrops that nurture unique lifeforms that may not be found anywhere else on earth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These gigantic blades can only be transported by long bed trucks, for which one needs to build proper roads right up to the site. For installation, the rock bed has to be blasted and filled with cement. Every windmill needs one ton of oil for lubrication, which is then discarded at the site itself. They also need to be cleaned with harsh chemicals to remove algal growth, which too, are left at the site. These plateaus are sources for springs that once nurtured not just local ecology but also human habitations. “All this, for a 25 per cent yield. The Energy Return on Energy Invested (EroEI) for wind farms is minuscule,” said Nulkar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The worst that windmills do, however, is eliminate the raptors from the region. These birds of prey hit against the blades and die in big numbers. Research at the Chalkewadi Wind Farms in Maharashtra a few years ago revealed a drop in raptor population and corresponding rise in lizard population, given the absence of their predators. The lizards, however, responded poorly to stress, not a good trait for their long-term survival, in the new environment, which, researchers concluded, was the direct result of the elimination of their predators. The lizards were so unafraid that they let the researchers come extremely close to them. Is it any wonder that from an ecologist’s viewpoint wind farms are a nightmare? Ironically, wind farms are exempt from environmental impact assessment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“There are plans for installing solar panels over canals. A good idea to optimise space, maybe, but what will happen to the diatoms that need sunshine to grow and are the agents for huge carbon sequestration?” Nulkar asked. These diatoms nurture the chain of aquatic life. Once gone, the entire chain crumbles.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Solar panels and wind turbine blades both come at a high energy, and usually, carbon-intensive cost of production. India has largely been importing solar chips from China, the Atmanirbhar aspect is largely limited to assembling the panels here. Wind turbine blades are usually made of fibreglass, and the emissions they give out during the manufacturing stage are extremely high. Only a tiny component, if at all, is manufactured with ‘green energy’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the end of their lifecycle, too, these components are polluting, crowding landfills—and in the case of solar panels—leaching chemicals, too. The life of a solar panel is around 25 years, a wind turbine around 15 to 20 years. In the absence of any policy, this waste itself could become a huge problem in the years to come, given the boost to scale up renewable energy production.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“There are emissions associated with all activities. What is important is that renewable energy infrastructure does not continue to emit carbon dioxide through its entire lifetime,” said David Antonioli, an international expert on environment and voluntary carbon markets. That may be true. However, as renewable energy infrastructure scales up in India to compete with traditional coal and fossil fuel ones, it is not a bad idea to scrutinise each project and look for the hidden carbon footprint.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/25/greenwashing-solar-and-wind-energy-today-could-lead-to-heavy-payback-tomorrow.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/25/greenwashing-solar-and-wind-energy-today-could-lead-to-heavy-payback-tomorrow.html Sun Nov 28 09:59:08 IST 2021 best-hospitals-webinar-2021-the-week-honours-excellence-in-health-care <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/25/best-hospitals-webinar-2021-the-week-honours-excellence-in-health-care.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/11/25/60-Bhagat-Singh-Koshyari.jpg" /> <p><b>NINETEEN MONTHS INTO</b> the pandemic, hospitals across India have earned battle scars. Yet they have renewed, reformed and redefined themselves. Having faced tough times in the face of unprecedented financial stress, huge patient loads and fatalities, and a sharp decline in revenues, hospitals learnt their lessons early on and started implementing policies that could redefine the way health care is managed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For instance, universal masking and hand washing became institutionalised. Screening of patients and staff on a regular basis to minimise the risk of cross-contamination has become a priority across most hospitals. As we move on into the next year, it is pertinent to know that the ‘next normal’ for health care sector will look nothing like the ‘normal’ we leave behind.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>THE WEEK’s Best Hospitals Webinar, 2021, based on the theme—‘Health of our healers’, discussed how our hospitals and the entire medical fraternity came together as one, when dealing with a pandemic.</p> <p>Eminent panelists including Dr H. Sudarshan Ballal, chairman, Manipal Hospitals; Dr Reshma Tewari, chief, critical care unit, Artemis Hospitals; Harish Manian, CEO, MGM Healthcare and Dr Arvind Sharma, head of the department of neurology and stroke specialist, Zydus Hospitals, Ahmedabad, spoke about how they had reformed their hospitals to align them with the changing realities induced by the pandemic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>THE WEEK’s 18th edition of the Best Hospitals of India survey and rankings is a way of honouring our doctors and health care workers who gave their all in the fight against the pandemic, while ensuring that their patients came first.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Held at The Taj Mahal Palace and Towers, Mumbai, the ceremony was graced by the Honourable Governor of Maharashtra Bhagat Singh Koshyari, who acknowledged the “herculean task of shortlisting the best hospitals from across India” and suggested the inclusion of a new parameter—‘help extended to the needy’ in future surveys.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Hospitals across India became warriors during the pandemic. Right from nurses and the ward boys to doctors and other medical specialists went beyond their call of duty to help those who fell prey to the novel coronavirus. As we move forward and into the next year, it is important that hospitals leverage their power and expertise towards the service of the poorest of the poor in India and ensure that nobody is left out from quality health care,” said Koshyari.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The chief guest at the event, Professor K. Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) emphasised on the realignment of public health infrastructure and policies to bring them in line with the country’s changing realities, so that quality and affordable health care reaches the last mile and covers those in the remotest parts of the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apollo Hospitals (Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad), Medanta Medicity (Delhi NCR), Manipal Hospitals (Bengaluru), Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital and Medical Research Institute, Mumbai, Zydus Hospitals (Ahmedabad) and Alexis Multispecialty Hospital (Nagpur) emerged as the winners of the Best Hospitals of India, 2021.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Under the regional categories, Medanta—The Medicity, emerged the winner in the north; in the west it was Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital and Medical Research Institute; and in the east, Apollo Hospitals bagged the Best Hospital Award.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/25/best-hospitals-webinar-2021-the-week-honours-excellence-in-health-care.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/25/best-hospitals-webinar-2021-the-week-honours-excellence-in-health-care.html Sun Nov 28 09:53:53 IST 2021 west-must-give-climate-finance-says-environment-minister-bhupender-yadav <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/20/west-must-give-climate-finance-says-environment-minister-bhupender-yadav.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/11/20/42-Bhupender-Yadav.jpg" /> <p><b>UNION ENVIRONMENT MINISTER</b> Bhupender Yadav rose to global prominence on the last day of the climate summit in Glasgow when he famously announced that consensus on the Glasgow Climate Pact remained elusive, and explained just why India cannot sign a document on a phaseout of coal. India forced the hand of the 26th session of the Conference of Parties (COP26) to make last-minute changes in the draft to accommodate this perspective. In an interview with THE WEEK, Yadav explains why the summit was a success, western media criticism notwithstanding.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ The western world sees the outcome of the summit as a failure. How do you see it?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ The COP26 was successful in alerting the world to the climate crisis and securing commitments from all towards ‘keeping 1.5 degrees alive’ and accelerated action towards mid-century global net zero.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We are dealing with a complex problem where countries are guided by umpteen factors, from personal interests to economic constraints. My meetings with world leaders reflected immense positivity in bringing about a change and understanding the urgency of the problem.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The west has to, however, realise that it has to work in a collaborative framework where the developed countries have to walk the talk, instead of just setting the agenda and expecting the world to follow. India voiced the developing world’s argument of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR–RC).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is the west’s responsibility to part with the promised climate finance, even as the developing world is making its attempts at adaptation and mitigation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the whole, COP26 has had a positive outcome. Countries, as part of the agreement, also agreed to meet next year to discuss further carbon cuts so that the goal to limit warming to 1.5°C can be reached.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ When you made the final pitch for India on November 13, what was the best outcome you were hoping for?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ From India’s perspective, it was the best outcome. India’s demand to change the text—“phase down” rather than “phase out” fossil fuels—was considered at the very last minute and it got support from 200 countries. The revised version was then drafted in the Glasgow Climate Pact.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Developing countries have been able to bring in a language that conveys, for the first time perhaps, that it ‘notes with deep regret’, the failure of developed countries to deliver the promised climate finance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ In financial commitments, the global north still has not committed.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ We have said it in no uncertain terms, that the global north has benefited from decades of unsustainable development and lifestyle. Since the environment is a shared resource, we are all paying a price for it. India believes cooperation, not confrontation, is the way ahead.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India pressed for greater transparency in climate finance reporting from developed countries. Towards this end, the standing committee in finance has been mandated by the COP to work towards definitions of climate finance, so that the wide range of numbers in climate finance can be resolved.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>[A sum of] $100 billion [a year in climate finance] was a goal under the Convention [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change], and this is a goal until 2025. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address, said that ‘India expects developed countries to provide climate finance of $1 trillion at the earliest’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A structured process through a work programme has been launched for working on the new collective quantified goal (NCQG) that will complete its work by 2024. The programme will consider the needs of developing countries, call for submissions from parties and experts, undertake technical work and then give its recommendations. This is a big step forward towards forcing the hand of developed countries to realise that there has to be a NCQG by 2025, and this goal must come through a structured process under COP.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ India did not sign the forest pledge, the methane pledge or the pact on sustainable agriculture.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Developed nations should first make climate finance available. All the mitigation we have done so far is from our own resources. It is only now that developed nations have even agreed to define climate finance. A committee on targets is being set up now. On the other hand, we have never rejected anything from the transparency framework for finance reporting to several other proposals and our track record and intent on meeting nationally determined contributions (NDC) targets on renewable energy [is evident].</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Prime Minister Modi said India will achieve net-zero emissions by 2070. India also enhanced its goals saying: we will bring our non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030; will bring our economy’s carbon intensity down to 45 per cent by 2030; will fulfil 50 per cent of our energy requirement through renewable energy by 2030; and will reduce 1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions from the total projected emissions by 2030.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ Are we confident of meeting our 2030 targets?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ India has already installed 100GW of renewable energy. It is the only G20 country progressing rapidly to meet its climate goals. India has progressively continued decoupling economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions. India’s annual renewable energy addition has been exceeding that of coal-based thermal power since 2017. In the last six years, India’s installed renewable energy capacity increased by two and half times, and solar energy capacity increased by 13 times. We are well on course to achieve our targets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/ By when will we begin phasedown of coal?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/ Our renewable energy dependency is already at 40 per cent. What we are saying is that action on coal must be according to national circumstances. When we are setting out a 2070 net zero target, the commitments have to be in accordance.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/20/west-must-give-climate-finance-says-environment-minister-bhupender-yadav.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/20/west-must-give-climate-finance-says-environment-minister-bhupender-yadav.html Sat Nov 20 17:00:06 IST 2021 covid-19-jab-might-be-an-annual-phenomenon <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/20/covid-19-jab-might-be-an-annual-phenomenon.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/11/20/52-Dr-D-Nageshwar-Reddy.jpg" /> <p><b>COVID-19 EXPOSED THE</b> chinks in our armour. Our health care system, already overburdened, was stretched beyond limit. The second wave particularly left us gasping for breath. But Covid-19 was not all about loss. There has been a lot of learning as well, says Dr D. Nageshwar Reddy, chairman of AIG Hospitals, Hyderabad. Excerpts from an interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/As a doctor and chairman of the hospital, what has been your learning from Covid-19?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/The most important thing we learnt was regarding focus on infection control, which has been very poor in our country—not only as a public health component, but also in hospitals. Simple things—like frequent hand washing, using PPE kits and masks and maintaining distance in the hospital—were not observed earlier, but are being practised now. These are good practices that will not only defeat Covid-19 but also other infections.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The second lesson was on how to manage our resources properly. For example, we realised how to use oxygen in the right way for the right patient. Though the oxygen capacity in our country was large, we were not able to deliver it because we did not have enough trucks. We realised that every hospital needs an oxygen plant.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The third lesson we learnt was that there was a definite integration between non-communicable and communicable diseases. For instance, we realised that in Covid-19 patients, the ones who had a higher mortality rate or whose condition turned severe were those who had diabetes, hypertension, cardiac problems and so on. So an important lesson we learnt was to not only look into infection, but also into the preventive aspects of non-communicable diseases.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fourth lesson was about the importance of virtual medicine, not only in terms of communication and patient treatments, but in terms of manpower, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Though telemedicine has made health care more accessible, there are still tier-II and tier-III cities that lack access to advanced treatments. Do you think hospitals should start expanding to these cities?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Absolutely. Our private sector is very strong in metros, but not that strong in tier-II or tier-III cities. Ideally, we should have a spoke-and-hub model, where large metro hospitals have small centres in tier-II and tier-III cities. They can then collaborate among themselves to form a chain of health care, where people are treated with adequate care in these cities…. So we have to structure our care very carefully, in a pyramid fashion, where most common diseases are effectively treated in primary centres. To some extent, primary health centres are supposed to do that. Unfortunately, they are not playing that role because of several reasons….</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another important role is communication, between hospitals and doctors themselves. For example, if I am working in a small village or city, and I do not understand a patient’s condition well, I can communicate with bigger centres, and then get help through them or even electronically show the patient to the doctors there. This is happening to some extent. Like, we are connected with the Mayo Clinic in the United States. The other important component of this is electronic medical records. And this is where our country is lacking a lot. We need to have very good electronic medical record system because only then can we transmit data from one centre to another, and study patient histories and give proper advice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/What kind of innovations is the hospital working on?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/Innovations are important, especially for a country like ours, to cut down costs and to treat our type of patients who are different from those in the west. So, we have brought the clinician directly in contact with basic scientists. The Institute for Basic Sciences at the Asian Healthcare Foundation works towards bridging the gap between research and patient care.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Similarly, we have got engineers from IITs and the Indian Institute of Science coming together to make cheaper instruments. For example, with our basic scientists, we were able to establish a very high-end stem cell lab. We are able to produce liver cells, cardiac cells and so on. This has very high potential because these artificial cells can then be used to treat the patient.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In terms of engineering innovations, we are bringing out certain type of devices that can help treat diabetes. These are small bags, into which we can load insulin producing cells and put it under the patient’s skin to produce insulin. We have also teamed up with the Indian Institute of Science to create endoscopy simulation machines, which are extremely costly otherwise. We will be able to make very cheap machines, which can teach students how to do various endoscopic surgeries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/It seems like we will be living with the pandemic for some time. What advice would you give to people going forward?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/First of all, I am more optimistic. I think we are out of this pandemic to a large extent and Covid-19 is going to become an endemic disease, meaning it is going to be present in small pockets continuously throughout the year, and might not come in huge spurts worldwide. So the pandemic is slowly becoming endemic now. You can see this very clearly in our country. The reasons for this are: one, of course, vaccination; two, the population is developing antibodies against the virus. And, we are getting very effective treatment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For example, we have recently published a large study in the Journal of Internal Medicine, where we showed that monoclonal antibodies have 100 per cent success in reducing the severity of the disease and preventing them. There are two new oral antiviral drugs that are coming in. And so this is going to become a very easily treatable disease.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, I would suggest that we follow the Covid-19 protocols till the middle of next year…. Everyone should get vaccinated. This vaccination is going to be an annual phenomenon for all of us, as we have found that after six to nine months, antibodies come down. So you have to get yourself re-vaccinated, or booster doses have to be given.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/20/covid-19-jab-might-be-an-annual-phenomenon.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/20/covid-19-jab-might-be-an-annual-phenomenon.html Sun Nov 21 09:51:46 IST 2021 qila-darhal-the-jammu-village-which-repulsed-a-pakistani-invasion-on-its-own <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/11/qila-darhal-the-jammu-village-which-repulsed-a-pakistani-invasion-on-its-own.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/11/11/22-Bhagwan-Singh-Ishar-Singh-Basant-Singh-and-Raghubir-Singh.jpg" /> <p>Sardar Basant Singh was barely 13 when Pakistanis attacked border villages of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir in September 1947. The invaders, who were backed by the Pakistan army, captured several villages and towns. But Qila Darhal, Basant’s village near Nowshera town in the Jammu region, held out. Basant still remembers the heroic resistance put up by about 50 villagers, who kept the invaders at bay for 54 days—from September 4 to October 28—until Jammu and Kashmir acceded to the Indian Union and the Indian Army joined the battle. The feat has not many parallels in Indian history.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We were just about 50, against hundreds of invaders. We fought with country-made rifles and gave them a tough fight which they never anticipated,” Basant told THE WEEK, which is the first national publication to meet the heroes of Qila Darhal. The villagers erected a memorial in 1952 to honour the brave hearts; Shaheedgarh is perhaps the only war memorial in India dedicated to civilians. The 12ft-high marble and granite memorial on a 4ft-high platform carries the names of the martyrs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Every year, on October 28, the commander of the Nowshera Brigade of the Indian Army pays homage at Shaheedgarh, and a fair is organised to commemorate their valour. The villagers say the event has helped cement the bond between the civilians and the Army.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nowshera is a strategically important town on the old Mughal Road, which connects Srinagar to Lahore. In 1586, emperor Akbar conquered Kashmir valley, and his son Jahangir constructed forts and wells along the route for travellers and the royal caravan. Noor Mahal at Nowshera still stands, where Jahangir’s beloved consort, Noor Jahan, used to stay during her trips to Kashmir. Qila Darhal, inhabited mostly by Sikhs, lies 20km northwest of Nowshera.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After the partition of India, a war-like situation erupted in Jammu and Kashmir. Hari Singh, the maharaja of Kashmir, refused to join India or Pakistan after the Indian Independence Act was passed by the British parliament. The king wanted to sign a standstill agreement with both countries, which would guarantee the continuation of all existing arrangements with the British government. Pakistan signed the agreement immediately, and used it to take control of communication channels, telegraph services and transport facilities in Kashmir.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On September 4, small bands of armed mercenaries, backed by the Pakistan army, raided border villages and started looting and killing civilians. Supply lines of food, fuel and other essential commodities to Kashmir were cut off.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While many villages surrendered, a small group of villagers led by Jathedar Ram Singh and Subedar Ranjit Singh resisted the invaders at Qila Darhal. Ranjit Singh, a World War II veteran, trained the villagers in guerrilla warfare. Even a small group of women led by Sardarni Bhagh Singh participated in the war alongside their husbands.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While Basant survived the battle, his father, Sardar Ram Singh, was killed in action. “We were given some 20 odd country-made rifles by the maharaja’s army to counter the invaders, who came by the hundreds. But we put up a brave fight and kept the invaders out,” said Basant, whose task as a bal sainik (he was a boy soldier as he was under 18 years of age) was to deliver messages and weapons.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Raghubir Singh, 82, former headmaster of a government school in Nowshera, said Hari Singh’s army was not big enough to counter an invasion. “Anticipating danger, the people of Qila Darhal, irrespective of caste and religion, came together in the first week of September,” he said. “We started preparing for our defence with whatever little resources we had. We also stored sufficient ration and other essential commodities for six months. His father, Hukum Singh, died in the attack.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Raghubir has many stories about the bravery of the villagers. He spoke about the martyrdom of young Bhagat Lal Chand. “We were short of arms and ammunition,” he said. “So, we sought help from Colonel Naran Singh of the maharaja’s force, whose post was about 8km away. Bhagat Lal Chand was young and energetic, and he volunteered to carry the handwritten note. But he was caught and brutally murdered by the invaders.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Raghubir wants more recognition from the Army for the Qila Darhal martyrs. “We are not asking for money. A letter of appreciation to acknowledge their selfless supreme sacrifice would be enough,” he said. His son Shabinder Singh, an inspector with the Jammu and Kashmir Police, said Jammu would have been the border with Pakistan, but for the brave hearts of Qila Darhal and Nowshera.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While villagers in Nowshera managed to hold back the invaders, further up north, Hari Singh’s regular forces were getting routed. Thousands of tribal mercenaries and the Pakistan army captured Muzaffarabad on October 22, while Baramulla fell on October 26. Alarmed, Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession with the Indian government on October 26, and the Indian forces flew into Srinagar the next morning.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Indian Army’s battle for Nowshera was led by Brigadier Mohammad Usman, known as Nowshera ka sher (the lion of Nowshera). Brigadier Usman, who headed the 50th Parachute Brigade, was the highest-ranking officer to die in action during the first India-Pakistan war in 1947-48. He was awarded Maha Vir Chakra, the second-highest military decoration. But before Brigadier Usman and his troops arrived, there were the villagers of Qila Darhal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“For over 50 days, we did not allow the enemy to move further, till the Indian Army took over,” said Basant. “We lost 10 of our brave men and we are proud of them. So, every year, we celebrate their valour and sacrifice.” Basant was felicitated by prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru during his visit to Jammu later in 1947. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, thanked him for helping the Indian forces and protecting the country, not just in 1947, but also in the wars of 1965 and 1971. Modi was in Nowshera on November 4 to celebrate Diwali with soldiers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the Army faces a growing manpower shortage, it needs the help and support of the locals who can serve as its eyes and ears, especially in the forward areas. At Qila Darhal, the villagers seem eager to carry forward their glorious tradition. “We have been ready for war since 1947. As we live in a border village, we are constantly under threat. I am still ready to take on the enemy, even though my age and health do not support me,” said Bhagwan Singh, 76, who played a key role in the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan and also in several anti-terrorist operations of the Army. Acknowledging the importance of local people, the Army set up Village Defence Committees (VDCs) in the mid-1990s in the Chenab valley area of Jammu and Kashmir. The VDC members get training in weapon handling and maintenance, and marksmanship.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Basant’s great-grandson Jasvinder Singh, a schoolteacher, spoke about Qila Darhal’s rich tradition of serving in the armed forces. “The brave stories of our elders have inspired generations to join the military. Our village has produced several soldiers who have fought multiple wars,” he said. Captain Sunder Singh from Qila Darhal was awarded the Ashok Chakra, India’s highest peacetime military decoration, for bravery against the Pakistan army at Hussainiwala border near Ferozepore, Punjab, in March 1956. Similarly, 12 young soldiers from Qila Darhal and adjoining villages died in the Kargil war in 1999.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The legacy of bravery is being passed on to the next generation. At the Shaheedgarh memorial, THE WEEK met Jasbir Kaur and her two children. “We come here with our children because they should know about their glorious past,” said the 40-year-old, who has been visiting the memorial since she was a child. “We must inculcate in them a strong sentiment in favour of our nation.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/11/qila-darhal-the-jammu-village-which-repulsed-a-pakistani-invasion-on-its-own.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/11/qila-darhal-the-jammu-village-which-repulsed-a-pakistani-invasion-on-its-own.html Sun Nov 14 10:58:03 IST 2021 youth-power-at-cop26-led-protests-and-also-offered-solutions <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/11/youth-power-at-cop26-led-protests-and-also-offered-solutions.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/11/11/34-Greta-Thunberg.jpg" /> <p>At a time when almost all the powerful men and women of the world were in Glasgow, teenager Greta Thunberg still managed to steal the thunder, as she and her massive following marched through the streets of the city, calling out world leaders for their inaction and pre-deciding the “last chance to save the earth” meet as a failure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thunberg may not be far from the truth, because even a unanimous agreement does not amount to much if pledges, given so lavishly, are not even halfway met. The track record with promises of money, technology or a commitment to lower emissions, so far has remained brazenly unkept.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, even as she highlighted the inequities of climate justice, her rabble-rousing is limited because she does not offer viable alternatives. One of Thunberg’s peeves was carbon offsetting, which basically means a nation or company emitting carbon in one place does an emission compensatory project elsewhere. The issue is a complicated one, and a big task of this summit was to formalise how these carbon markets would be regulated globally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rwandan Environment Minister Jeanne Dárc Mujawamariya even said Thunberg and co were “complaining just for the sake of complaining”. Countries like hers rely on carbon offsets (selling carbon removing projects, like reforestation) to the west, to finance their domestic green transition and climate adaptations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It is not Greta’s job to provide solutions, let others do it. She is raising awareness, and that’s phenomenal,” said a collegian from Edinburgh, who had come for the rally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Youth power, however, was not limited to raising awareness alone. There were many who came up with solutions. One of the young stars was Indian teenager Vineesha Umashankar, 15, from Tamil Nadu, the youngest finalist of the Earthshot Prize launched by Prince William for finding environmental solutions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Umashankar, who was felicitated by a host of global leaders, had designed a solar powered ironing cart which would power a steam ironing box. The cart was designed for roadside ‘presswalas’ who conventionally use charcoal-burning ironing boxes. She said that her generation had every reason to be angry with world leaders who had failed to deliver, but she had no time for anger. “I want to act,” she said, calling herself a girl from earth, not just India. Umashankar may not have roused the thousands to George Square, but she has impressed everyone from Boris Johnson to Anand Mahindra.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Souryadeep Basak was another young Indian speaker at the summit. Basak, in his early 20s, is pursuing a PhD at The Energy and Resources Institute. He spoke on sustainable development goals, and was one of the youngest speakers at the meet. Basak co-developed a low-cost, solar-powered hydroponic fodder unit for rural farmers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the average age of the negotiators, as one attendee pointed out, was 60, the presence of the youth across the summit—from the negotiating table to making impassioned speeches or providing solutions—was strong. Panama’s official delegation was a young one, the average age of its negotiators was reportedly 27. Among indigenous communities, the climate ambassadors were largely the under 30s. Txai Surui, 24, from Brazil made an impression, even as her president, climate change naysayer Jair Bolsonaro, did not attend. Brianna Fruean, 23, from Samoa, came in a printed dress inspired by the tropical forests, with a white hibiscus tucked behind her ear. As she raised the issues of the Pacific Islands, she called her community the resilient beacons of hope, their cry being, “We are not drowning, we are fighting,” even as she asked the leaders whether they had the political will to do the right thing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The organisers, too, had several events around youth power, with YOUNGO, the official children and youth constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change chairing a session on youth voice, where they submitted a statement representing views of over 40,000 young climate leaders from the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nearly two dozen nations made pledges on climate education, including net zero schools. Then, there was the start-up group, which is already working on profitable tech solutions. California based Brett Parkindon, 29, works with C-Zero, a firm that removes carbon from natural gas, while Natasha Bousling, 28, from the UK spoke about the low-carbon construction firm she co-founded. Science had the solutions, they emphasised. US President Joe Biden had said that climate transition could provide big economic opportunities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Disha Sarkar, 25, from Assam, spoke about her project on capacity building for green jobs in the northeast, how these youngsters can identify their talents, then seek funding from the right places. “Youth activism is crucial to putting pressure on decision making, but it is alone not a solution. We need to be involved in advocacy, negotiations and solutions, too,” said Sarkar. She has hopes from this meet. She has hopes for the earth.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/11/youth-power-at-cop26-led-protests-and-also-offered-solutions.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/11/youth-power-at-cop26-led-protests-and-also-offered-solutions.html Thu Nov 11 17:14:10 IST 2021 a-glacier-in-glasgow-with-bubbles-of-atmospheric-stories-trapped-within <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/11/a-glacier-in-glasgow-with-bubbles-of-atmospheric-stories-trapped-within.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/11/11/37-Arctic-Basecamp.jpg" /> <p>It was a huge block of ice, dripping and melting rather rapidly. What we consider biting winds of Glasgow were a warm embrace for this visitor from the Arctic, and the cold rain a sauna bath.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Forty tonnes when it was removed from its refrigerated shipping container, and not even a handful of it will return home. But while it was there, this chunk of ice told a chilling story. About how a faraway world is melting away and how that will destabilise everything as we know it now.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Look at this ice, it’s different,’’ said Lovru Valcic, an instrumentation scientist and director of operations with Arctic Basecamp, the organisation which dared this stunt for the Conference of Parties (COP) 26 summit, “See these bubbles trapped within? They are records of what the atmosphere contained hundreds of years ago.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Arctic ice is not formed by freezing water, it is formed as snow falls, and hardens over time. This snow traps in the air, and all that it contains at that moment in time—pollen and particulate matter, greenhouse gases or emissions. Scientists study this trapped air at various levels of the glacier, to glean an idea of what the earth’s atmosphere was like in times past.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The poles are distant places, not accessible to most people on earth. Arctic basecamp, therefore, brought a piece of the poles to a venue visited by people from around 200 nations. This organisation, founded by Gail Whiteman, comprises a group of experts and scientists who “speak science to power”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Situated a little away from the official venue, the glacier chunk was not an official delegate to the event, but a star attraction, nonetheless. The organisers created a mini basecamp, with the same material used by scientists in the Arctic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The idea was for people to understand polar ice, and to make this distant place and concept tangible. This glacier chunk, for instance, was not carved out of the polar caps. It was a piece that had broken off and was lying on a beach in Norway, a victim of global warming already, said Valcic. And now that they have seen and touched it, people better appreciate numbers and facts. Like what it really means when they say that between 2011 and 2014 alone, one trillion tonnes of ice has melted from the Greenland ice sheet alone. Since the melt at the poles is at twice the speed compared with the rest of the planet, this world is fast changing, and now, Arctic peatfires are raging.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unlike Vegas, what happens in the Arctic does not remain there, but impacts the rest of the world. It impacts climate all the way down south, causing long frigid spells or persistent dry ones, and prolonged floods. And even wild fires. “The actual situation is far, far worse that the worst case scenarios scientists have drawn up at these meets,” says Valcic. “Time is running out fast, unless we do something drastic towards the 1.5 degree goal, there is doom ahead.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Several visitors posed for selfies around the glacier. They even touched it, and looked for the bubbles of atmospheric stories trapped within. And as they saw the glacier drip away, creating a puddle, they understood better what melting caps mean.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Valcic took me into the basecamp, swearing me into secrecy as he smuggled out a little something for me. It was a bottle of water. Not just any water, though. Arctic Melt, said the label, with a line below saying: “Unnatural Greenland water sourced from melting icebergs caused by climate inaction”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Arctic basecamp bottled a thousand litres of this ice melt, to distribute to important guests at the venue. The glass bottling was done in Scotland. Later that evening, as I opened the bottle and took a sip, I felt humbled. I was sipping on something that took thousands of years to form, but was melted in hardly any time at all. A record of the past, gone.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Will we all, too, be headed that way?</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/11/a-glacier-in-glasgow-with-bubbles-of-atmospheric-stories-trapped-within.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/11/a-glacier-in-glasgow-with-bubbles-of-atmospheric-stories-trapped-within.html Thu Nov 11 17:00:58 IST 2021 more-than-75-of-parents-in-india-not-aware-of-child-restraint-systems-in-cars <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/11/more-than-75-of-parents-in-india-not-aware-of-child-restraint-systems-in-cars.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/11/11/shutterstock_1138928795.jpg" /> <p>Blanket? Check. Snacks? Check. Toys? Check. Promethazine? Eh? Avomine tablet! Ah, check.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No, this is not a pre-flight checklist for a trans-Atlantic trip. It is a checklist for a two-hour drive on Indian roads with my three-year-old daughter. When my husband drives, she, at times, would want to sit in front, on my lap—a safety hazard on many levels, especially so because airbags are dangerous for children. Even when she is seated in the back with the seatbelt on, I am worried, because that, too, is not the safest position for a toddler.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Unlike most developed nations, India does not have strict guidelines for travelling with a toddler in a car or on a bike. It is not mandatory to install a child safety seat. Many times, children are seated on the laps of adults, in front and back seats. Why so? Most kids like it that way, and then there is the advantage of being able to accommodate more people! While the question of over-crowded vehicles is a discussion for another day, children on adults’ laps means putting the child in harm’s way.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So, this gets one thinking—are road safety laws letting our children down? Children riding pillion on bikes and scooters is a common sight in India, and those children are almost never wearing helmets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to a study by the NGO SaveLIFE Foundation, more than 55,000 children have died in road accidents in India since 2008. What’s more, close to 76 per cent of parents in India are not aware of their vehicles’ child restraint systems, and only 20 per cent of parents own child helmets.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Every day, more than 30 children die in road crashes, said Piyush Tewari, CEO and founder of SaveLIFE Foundation. “It is a significant challenge that needs to be addressed…. Adults accompanying children should be penalised more, if they violate a traffic regulation. This will ensure the child’s safety.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, it seems the government is keen to make amends. Last month, the Union ministry of road transport issued a draft notification by revising the existing Motor Vehicles Act. It mentioned safety measures to be taken by bike and scooter riders with co-passengers below four years of age. Henceforth, children aged between nine months and four years will be under the jurisdiction of the amended Motor Vehicles Act. According to the rule, children must wear ISI-certified helmets, and the speed limit is set at 40kmph. The burden of compliance is on the parent/ adult accompanying the child.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Once passed, these rules will be applicable from 2022. But what about cars? Children, especially below the age of 12, tend to move around a lot in a car, which can result in them being gravely injured, if the vehicle meets with an accident. Moreover, airbags have been proven to be hazardous for kids below age four. Airbags inflate forcefully at a speed of 322kmph or within 1/20th of a second, which can cause serious injuries to a toddler.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Keeping a small toddler on one’s lap is not a good option as there is risk of the child being injured during hard braking, said Dr Shankar Vishwanath, honorary traffic advisor to Mumbai Police. “Parents must ensure that children, up to the age of seven, sit in child seats while travelling in the car,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A few overseas Indians that THE WEEK spoke to said that the attitude towards child safety on Indian roads was careless.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Child safety is the missing block that everybody seems oblivious to, said Prahlad Balagopal, a mechanical engineer in Singapore. “Making the child sit on an elder person’s lap or even in the seat with a standard seatbelt across their necks are horrors that play out. It is quite understandable for parents or grandparents to have the desire to hold the new bundle of joy in their laps while travelling, but the indefinable tragedy that could unfold in the event of a collision is dismissed,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>US-based Divya Anand, a mother of two, said, “Car seats for children should be made mandatory in India, and children should be prevented, by law, from sitting in the front seat of any vehicle. This will go a long way towards ensuring the safety of children.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indians living in various parts of the world are seen to take road rules seriously and abide by them, said Suja Karthika, a professor at Hong Kong Metropolitan University. “But in our country since the price to pay is not relevant, people just don’t seem to bother,” she said. “Once things are legitimised, and people follow it as a rule with high penalty, then slowly it will become a way of life. If Indians can wear masks and make it a part of their wardrobe in a matter of days, changes like this can be easily implemented.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In September 2019, a one-year-old baby in Kerala fell from a moving car. Thankfully, the child was unharmed and was rescued by officials nearby. But the scene certainly paints a grim picture of child safety on Indian roads. Ensuring that the child-lock is on, driving at a safe speed and being vigilant are simple things that can be done to ensure the safety of children.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/11/more-than-75-of-parents-in-india-not-aware-of-child-restraint-systems-in-cars.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/11/more-than-75-of-parents-in-india-not-aware-of-child-restraint-systems-in-cars.html Sun Nov 14 10:20:01 IST 2021 how-modi-announcement-became-the-biggest-buzz-at-climate-change-summit <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/06/how-modi-announcement-became-the-biggest-buzz-at-climate-change-summit.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/11/6/60-Narendra-Modi-and-Boris-Johnson.jpg" /> <p>It was a closely guarded secret, and officials in the environment ministry threw red herrings all the time. While almost everyone knew Prime Minister Narendra Modi would make a big announcement, true to style, in Glasgow, there was speculation on what this would be. Would he talk about India’s Energy Swaraj by 2047 as the additional commitment or would the transcontinental solar global green grid be the big thing? So, when he announced India’s commitment to reach net-zero (emissions) by 2070, everyone did a double take. India had finally bitten the bullet, or had it? Modi’s speech was in the late afternoon when a certain drowsiness had enveloped the summit, and not just US President Joe Biden. The announcement roused everyone into exclamations and discussions, and it remained the biggest buzz at the World Leaders Summit at the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP26), putting aside the doomsday prophecies that were earlier dominating the narrative.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The year 2070 is half a century away, and two decades behind the global north’s clarion of a 2050 deadline; none of the leaders of today are likely to be around then to call each other out. Yet, Modi’s big announcement, along with a slew of others—with 2030 as the deadline for a 45 per cent less carbon-intensive economy, a 50 per cent renewable component in the energy mix and the Indian Railways going totally powered by renewables—brought in relieved praise from India’s bilateral buddy and COP26 host, the United Kingdom. It was a commitment they wanted to this new fancy of theirs, net-zero emissions. Though India has maintained that net-zero emissions alone do not solve the climate crisis, it made the needed commitment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India’s 2070 target seems ridiculous and unambitious at first, but it might actually be closer to being met than the bigger claims other nations have given. Modi’s announcement is ambiguous on whether the net-zero is for carbon emissions or all greenhouse gases, but there is no ambiguity in the trajectory India has taken towards tackling climate change. As Modi pointed out once again, it is the only G20 country on track to meet the commitments it had made in Paris in 2015. “Countries like ours cannot stick to western deadlines; none of us in south Asia can think of removing coal anytime soon; we have to set targets doable for us,” noted Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder, an environmental science professor from Dhaka.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We are a global force in carbon emissions, we need to have a plan to bring it down. Yet, given India’s so far rigid stance against net neutrality, the announcement did come as a surprise,” said Anjal Prakash, lead author of the sixth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “Since China had given a 2060 deadline, India’s 2070 is natural, though we, too, could have accelerated it by a decade.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sunita Narain, director, Centre for Science and Environment, said that given India’s comparatively low per capita contribution to global emissions and the energy needs of the country, we did not have to make these announcements, but we did, and now this should be a challenge to the already rich world to step up their act. She said that India’s net-zero target matched the commitment of the already industrialised countries, but for the world to reach the 2050 deadline, the west should get there by 2030 and China by 2040.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Speaking, as he said, on behalf of the developing world, Modi took up the issue of climate financing. While other leaders made emphatic reminders of the $100 billion commitment pledged a dozen years ago by the developed world, Modi took it a step further, demanding a scale-up of the climate finance ambition in return for scaled-up climate action commitments. India alone needs a trillion US dollars at the earliest, he said. The demand from countries to see the pledged finances on the table reached a crescendo over the two days of the leaders’ summit. Will it shame the developed world into reaching for their wallets finally? They are realising that the pledge has now become an issue of their sincerity to the cause of climate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>French President Emmanuel Macron called the $100 billion fund delivery the second big objective of the summit, the first being the scaled-up ambition to keep temperature rise within 1.5°C of the pre-industrialised normal. In Paris, in 2015, the consensus was to keep the outer limit at 2°C. The new target means bringing down greenhouse gas emissions even more rapidly now.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Finances aside, the sincerity of the rich is under question as they often stray away from the talk. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is a late but enthusiastic entrant to climate concern, but his demands that the world do more are being juxtaposed against his own domestic decisions—giving subsidies to domestic flights, and even the assessment for a new colliery in Cumbria even as the UK announced it would not finance coal projects overseas. Biden announced a quadrupling of US funds for the $100 billion pledge, launched a Build Back Better roundtable and spoke about the American “obligation to help” other countries in making a clean energy transition. The impunity with which the US walks out and back into treaties with leadership changes, however, does not inspire hope in continuity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The many fractures in the world became apparent as around 120 world leaders gathered together. While the poorer nations called out their richer cousins over the money and technology they had promised but did not give, within the developed world itself, the squabbling became personal. Macron and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison continued their rancour from Rome, where they reportedly came down to name-calling. France cannot forgive Australia for rejecting their submarine deal and ganging up with the British and Americans as AUKUS. Macron and Johnson shared an uneasy body language, too, though their squabble over fishing in the English Channel finally de-escalated when France decided to withhold sanctions against British fish exports for the present. This tiff underscored the zealousness with which nations protect their natural resources from others. Will they be able to win against climate change, too? China called out the organisers for deliberately scuttling President Xi Jinping’s address. Biden accused big emitters, China and Russia, of walking out of climate change, conveniently forgetting US behaviour under Donald Trump. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to skip the event at the last moment; no explanations were given.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was not surprising then that the youth, both within the venue as well as outside, felt that the leaders were not sincere about climate change. Youth icon and climate crusader Greta Thunberg, who was not invited to the meet, had crowds thronging her event in the city, where she sang a string of swear words against politicians. Just how it helped the cause of climate change remains unclear. Within the event, India Logan-Riley, a Maori climate activist from New Zealand, said, “I am the same age as the negotiations. I have grown up, graduated, have fallen in love and out of it, all while the global north fudges with the future.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The climate in Glasgow is certainly fraught. What will emerge from the remaining days of negotiations? A new mantra? Some diplomatically cobbled consensus like the document that emerged from the G20 meet, and which does not really say much? COP26 president Alok Sharma said that while Paris pledged, Glasgow must deliver. Deliver ‘what’, however, remains the question. Carbon cut? Or, could he have meant cash and tech?</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/06/how-modi-announcement-became-the-biggest-buzz-at-climate-change-summit.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/06/how-modi-announcement-became-the-biggest-buzz-at-climate-change-summit.html Sat Nov 06 15:15:17 IST 2021 act-now-or-the-world-will-face-the-problem-of-climate-migrants <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/06/act-now-or-the-world-will-face-the-problem-of-climate-migrants.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/11/6/61-Amor-Mottley-new.jpg" /> <p>Mia Amor Mottley, prime minister of the island nation of Barbados took on the global north at the Conference of Parties (COP26), accusing them of making climate commitments based on technology yet to be invented, calling it reckless at best, disastrous at worst.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She spoke to THE WEEK on the sidelines of the summit. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ You made a riveting speech from the island nations’ perspective about the climate crisis at the World Leaders Summit and called out the developed world. What are your expectations from countries like India?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ Time is not on our side. I expect that all countries of the world—India, China, European Union, the United States, everyone—respond to get it right for the world this time. We have to put in the added effort of ambition to stay as close to 1.5°C [limiting global warming to below 1.5°C] as possible. We also need to find the finances for adaptation. Island countries like mine have to adapt to continue to exist, and we need resources for that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ 1.5 °C or 2 °C?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ We have to scale up ambition to keep close to 1.5 °C rise; 2 °C rise is disastrous for countries like mine.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite all talk of fund commitments, the finances have not materialised from the global north. Countries have to recognise that if they do not act now for mitigation and adaptation, the world will have the problem of climate migrants. Those nations which are now not that affected, too, will get affected one way or the other, either through climate change events, or through the influx of migrants. So, it is in everyone’s interests to act now.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ What is your country committing to the action?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\We are working towards getting all our electricity generation by renewables by 2030, all vehicles to run on green fuel by 2035 and also to align the rest of our economy towards renewables by 2035. We all have to do our share.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Do you believe there will be a consensus among countries by the end of the summit?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\I am hopeful. But I am also realistic. Let us see.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/06/act-now-or-the-world-will-face-the-problem-of-climate-migrants.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/11/06/act-now-or-the-world-will-face-the-problem-of-climate-migrants.html Sat Nov 06 23:10:01 IST 2021 climate-change-summit-what-will-indias-position-be <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/10/13/climate-change-summit-what-will-indias-position-be.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/10/13/56-Activists-at-a-climate-march.jpg" /> <p><b>THE WORLD’S BIGGEST</b> climate meet is around the corner—the Conference of Parties (CoP26), under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Glasgow, the host city, is gearing up for a fortnight (October 31-November 12) of hectic negotiations where world leaders will sit down to the tough task of forging a consensus on how to save the earth before it is too late. Alarmist studies say that perhaps it is already too late, but the effort at CoP26 will still be to bring the earth back from a point beyond which it will be impossible to change the trajectory of temperature rise.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The basic objective is the same. Rising temperatures and extreme climate events are undeniable realities across the world. Almost everyone (now that the biggest naysayer, Donald Trump, is out of the picture) agrees that as long as global temperature rise is kept within 2°C —through preferably 1.5°C—of the pre-industrialised norms, there is still hope of reversing the anthropogenic changes on climate. To do this, existing emissions need to be halved by 2030 and reach a net-zero by 2050.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The differences arise when it becomes a matter of how to share the responsibility. The biggest difference is over the universal issue of who pays the bill. The work, therefore, in Glasgow is pretty clear cut.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the Paris meet five years ago, countries had to submit their intended nationally determined contributions (INDC), towards the goal of staying within 1.5°C. However, as the CoP26 literature points out, these INDCs are not adequate—they will still lead to a 3°C rise by 2100. Countries were asked to revise ambitions and give updated INDCs by 2020. Only around a dozen countries have done that so far. The western world, especially the US, is pushing other countries to raise their climate ambitions. John Kerry, the US presidential envoy on climate change, while visiting India in September, said he was hopeful of hearing about India’s raised ambitions one way or the other. He also said that major economies must stretch to do more at the summit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India’s INDC was praised for its ambition and doability in 2015, subsequently, it has upped its target to generate 450GW of renewable energy by 2030. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also recently announced the goal of reaching “energy independence” by 2047. India has often said it is no point announcing newer ambitions, instead, it should meet the commitments it has made. Will India present these new targets as its revised ambition or announce some fresh plans in Glasgow? Observers feel India might have an announcement for Glasgow. In Paris, Modi had floated the idea of an alliance of solar rich countries—the International Solar Alliance was the result of that proposal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is talk that India might float the idea of a transnational solar grid, under a plan called One Sun, One World, One Grid. Modi is expected to attend the conference.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Smaller, island countries, which are already sinking, are vocal about the world raising climate ambition, but they want the polluters to do more, put in the finance where it is needed. Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih recently noted that the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C is a death sentence for the Maldives. In 2009, developed nations had pledged to put in $1 billion per year into climate financing by 2020; the money put on the table is far below the target ($79 million in 2019), and much of it is from private funding. “We do not recognise private funding as part of climate finance,” environment secretary R.P. Gupta recently said. India is also clear that existing funding commitments should not be passed off as climate financing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“India should not get defensive, we are doing far more than promised,” said Chandra Bhushan, who heads International Forum for Environment, Sustainability and Technology (iForest). He noted that at the negotiating table, India is clubbed with countries like China, South Africa, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Brazil. “We are an outlier in this group—our developmental needs are more in tune with the lower end of the world,” said Bhushan. Even though the words “historic responsibility” were kept out of the Paris document (this would mean that the developed nations, which began polluting at least a hundred years before others, have a responsibility to do more) the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC) still stands.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The focus will be on China, which accounts for 25 per cent of global emissions at present. India’s contribution is a mere six per cent. In the post-pandemic scenario, where anti-China sentiment is high, what China commits and how it negotiates will make news. Will the world get any binding promises from China, however, is the big question.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the last 25 years of climate negotiations, a lot has changed. Today, climate change mitigation is looked upon as a business and economic opportunity, and the private sector is heavily involved. The business of mitigation, therefore, will take up a major chunk of negotiations. The Paris rule-book has to be finalised at this meet. Observers are looking at the outcome of Article 6 of the rule-book, which covers international voluntary cooperation, through which outcomes of mitigation can be traded with another party, just as builders trade development rights. “As industry and technology take over the climate debate, topics like oceans and conservation are taking a back seat. I hope there will be some conversation on these topics, too,” says environmental planner Mrinal Mathur.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the aims of the conference is to protect communities and ecosystems, so perhaps, conservation will find a toehold in the discussions, which will otherwise be dominated by mitigation markets, climate financing and ambition and of course, the buzzword, net-zero.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/10/13/climate-change-summit-what-will-indias-position-be.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/10/13/climate-change-summit-what-will-indias-position-be.html Thu Oct 14 16:17:15 IST 2021 bengaluru-is-going-all-out-to-thwart-bikers-from-racing-performing-wheelies-on-roads <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/10/13/bengaluru-is-going-all-out-to-thwart-bikers-from-racing-performing-wheelies-on-roads.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/10/13/58-Bike-riders.jpg" /> <p>In 2016, Shiny Kiran, 18, a pre-university student, was headed to a pub with her friend, Keertan Richie, 18, a student of fashion technology. Shiny fell off the bike when Richie performed a wheelie to show off. A minivan which was right behind them ran over Shiny, killing her. Richie, who was driving a friend’s bike and had no driving licence, fled. He was later charged with culpable homicide by the Indiranagar Police.</p> <p>Despite such incidents little has changed for adrenalin junkies in Bengaluru, who fancy drag racing and perform bike stunts on public roads, risking their life and endangering the lives of others.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In June 2020—Mohammed Aadi Ayaan, 16, Maaj Ahmad Khan, 17, and Syed Riyaz, 22—from Govindapura died while performing bike stunts on Airport Road. In January 2021—Syed Idayat, 20, and Arbaz, 22—from Yeshwanthpur died while performing wheelies. They crashed into a crane on Doddaballapur-Yelahanka Road.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the number of vehicles in Bengaluru touching 83.5 lakh (57 lakh two wheelers) traffic violations are becoming a menace. The city reported 2.16 crore traffic violations in the last three years including overspeeding and racing. The Bangalore Police are cracking down on stunts and racing on public roads. Alarmingly, most errant riders are underage. Over the last three years, the Bengaluru Police has registered 73 cases of free-wheeling. Often, the police need evidence (like a video-clip) to book offenders. Many were tracked after the police found video footages of stunts posted on social media.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The passers-by post these videos and we track down the offenders. We also break into their group,” said B.R. Ravikanthe Gowda, joint commissioner of police (traffic), Bengaluru.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He said special squads conduct drives and register cases not only against errant riders, but also against parents of underage riders, and vehicle owners. “We counsel them at a social welfare centre,” said Gowda. “The traffic violators are taken to the Traffic Training and Road Safety Institute, Thanisandra, for a two-hour mandatory training session, where they are taught riding etiquette and safety rules. A virtual simulator is used to train riders in risk prediction ability. The idea is to make them responsible road users.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The NICE Road, the Outer Ring Road, Hosur Road flyover, Ballari Road, Tumkur Road flyover and Mysore Road are some the favourite haunts of adrenalin junkies. While most offenders are let off with a small penalty of Rs2,000 to Rs5,000, police have brought in stringent measures to dissuade youngsters from repeating the offence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We suspend their driving licenses. They are also made to provide a bond, from Rs2 lakh to Rs5 lakh, under CrPC Section 107. If they default, they will be imprisoned and will forfeit the bond amount. We are also booking garage owners and mechanics who are illegally modifying bikes,” said Gowda.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In some cases, citizens take it upon themselves to “punish” errant riders. A few years ago, two youngsters performing bike stunts on the Bengaluru-Tumkur National Highway were thrashed by women and handed over to the Nelamangala police station.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Said Gowda, “Drag race is not allowed on public roads anywhere in the world. It is permitted only on special racing tracks. But, young people are taking it casually and ending up getting killed or endangering lives of others.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Said Anil Kumar, a former professional racer, CEO and founding mentor of Bengaluru-based Apex Racing Academy, “Racing enthusiasts are taking to public roads as they lack information…. Today, there are academies for every sport, be it badminton or cricket. But very few people know that there is a racing academy, where you can enrol and train to be a professional racer. Many young people are egotistic; they feel they are already good racers and need no training. Once they are trained, the athletes [riders and racers] don’t indulge in irresponsible behaviour on roads as they distinguish between a professional track and public road.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kumar said his academy gets two to three emails every day from racing enthusiasts. “They say they are the fastest in their neighbourhood and want an opportunity to take part in racing events,” said Kumar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He and his staff hand over visiting cards on spotting young people racing on public roads or doing stunts at traffic signals. “Parents should be watchful. If children are interested in riding and racing, they should be enrolled in an academy. If parents don’t allow their children to get trained, they will do it without the knowledge of parents, and end up riding dangerously on public roads, which can prove costly. Many children tell their parents they are going on a weekend trip and come to the racing academy to get trained as they fear they will not get consent,” said Kumar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He said his academy has made it mandatory for aspirants to mention their emergency contact number at the time of registration. “Then our back end team will call up in the number to verify if it is genuine,” Kumar said. They will also speak to the parent or guardian to inform them about their ward joining the training and the risk involved. Often, we find that people were unaware that their son, daughter or husband was at the racing track.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/10/13/bengaluru-is-going-all-out-to-thwart-bikers-from-racing-performing-wheelies-on-roads.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/10/13/bengaluru-is-going-all-out-to-thwart-bikers-from-racing-performing-wheelies-on-roads.html Thu Oct 14 16:15:00 IST 2021 need-to-prioritise-maintenance-of-school-toilets-as-offline-classes-resume <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/10/07/need-to-prioritise-maintenance-of-school-toilets-as-offline-classes-resume.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/10/7/62-Maa-Ram-Pyari-college.jpg" /> <p>In his first Independence Day speech as prime minister in 2014, Narendra Modi promised to build toilets in all schools across India. This ambitious target was to be achieved in a year, especially to reduce the dropout rate of girl students. Slogans like ‘toilets before temples’ had become the buzzword.</p> <p>Seven years on, the figures on toilets built is not all too disappointing, as per the fact sheet presented in Parliament in July in response to a query on water and sanitation facilities in schools. In 2019-2020, 9,88,293 of 10,32,569 government schools listed across states and Union territories (including Ladakh) had separate toilets for women and 10,01,788 had drinking water facilities.</p> <p>But the standard for school sanitation should always be judged on the metrics of usability and functionality of toilets for adolescent schoolgirls. Experts underline the crying need to maintain school toilets, especially with schools reopening amid fears of a third wave engulfing the under-18 cohort. Prevention of Covid-19 and other transmissible diseases in schools needs more than masks, sanitisers and social distancing. Essentials—like soap, steady water supply, drinking water, cleaning staff, separate urinals, disposal of solid and liquid waste, ramps, handrails and wide doors for children with special needs—can no longer be glossed over.</p> <p>“In terms of sanitation infrastructure, schools in Kerala and Tamil Nadu are standouts,” says Raman V.R., head of policy at WaterAid India. “In Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, the role of panchayats is better.” It is the unrecognised, unaided private schools that always slip through the cracks, he says. They offer minimal infrastructure and are more problematic than government schools.</p> <p>Take, for instance, the schools that Laxmi and Sweta go to. The two friends are enrolled in private schools in nearby villages of Varanasi district; they are both in class 12. Laxmi goes to Maa Rampyari Memorial Balika Intermediate College in Harhua and Sweta to Sri Lalta Prasad Adarsh Inter College in Tendui. With no steady work, their fathers struggle to pay the monthly fee of Rs200. But Laxmi and Sweta are both determined to make it through; both rejoined school in August.</p> <p>“They do not even teach maths in mine,” says Laxmi. Sweta has it worse. “There are no lights or fans in my classroom,” she says. Laxmi’s school is a dark, empty brick structure, just a kilometre away from a model government school adorned with colourful murals. “There is one hand pump outside my school, but there is no water in it,” says Laxmi. “A <i>dai</i> fetches a pail of water from the government school. This bucket of water is used by all the girls in my school. We are some 250 students.”</p> <p>On a humid afternoon, just outside Laxmi’s school, a <i>mohalla</i> class of uniformed primary school students from the government school is in session under a tree. Each student has a tablet. The teacher taking the <i>mohalla</i> class also teaches Hindi in Laxmi’s school. “Although it is shut, I have the keys to the washroom in the government school nearby. I have never used the toilets in Maa Rampyari,” says the teacher. “<i>Hamara </i>school Ram<i> ko pyara ho gaya</i> (My school is as good as dead),” Laxmi cheekily remarks. “During periods, most of us do not go to school.” A shed doubles as a toilet here.</p> <p>Sweta takes us to her “horror show” of a school. There is no board outside. There is a hand pump here, too, but it ejects sand mostly. Behind the dusty, cobwebbed classrooms strewn with desks, there is a tin shed shrouded in foliage serving as women’s washroom. Sweta pulls a face. “Nobody goes inside the two washrooms. Usually it is so unclean that the teachers and students do everything outside,” she says. On the way out, she runs into her principal, standing with his arms akimbo near the school gate. “I do not want to be caught complaining,” says Sweta, as she quietly leaves the premises. “I somehow managed to complete my class 11 here. There is one more year. I really want to keep studying. My father keeps encouraging me to get good marks.”</p> <p>Fortunately, their learning is not restricted to the schools. At a makeshift stitching centre in Gaharpur village, Swati Singh runs the Muheem Welfare Society, an NGO. She has drawn the outline of an ovary on a blackboard. Sweta and Laxmi have learnt a good deal about menstruation hygiene here and how to stitch cotton pads. Singh, 27, too, had dealt with urinary infections in her school days. She refused to go to school after class 10. “I was better off studying at home. I could not have used the toilets in my school if I needed to,” she says.</p> <p>Singh has not heard about the recent campaign for a three-day ‘period leave’ by Uttar Pradesh Mahila Shikshak Sangh, a newly formed organisation of women teachers. Neither have her students. “But why should we have one?” asks Singh.</p> <p>The latest independent figures on school sanitation are hard to come by as schools have remained largely shut in the last one-and-a-half years. The 13th Annual Status of Education Report Rural, a citizen-led survey released in early 2019, revealed that 22.8 per cent rural schools had unusable toilets in 2018. According to data released by World Health Organization and UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme on WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) services in August 2020, only one in three schools in India had the requisite facilities in 2019. The renewed debate around period leave is an effective gateway to understand the state of sanitation in rural schools.</p> <p>“If all working women, including cops and doctors, also demand period leave, one half of the population will go on leave,” says Shalini Gupta, not without a touch of sarcasm. She is one of eight teachers at a government primary school in Rasulpur Ojhaniya village in the Muftiganj block of Jaunpur district. The previous school she worked at was 25km away, but had clean toilets. She, however, often had to use the backyard of strangers to answer the call of nature on her long journey to work. These pit-stops gave her urinary infections. She now teaches at an English medium school in Muftiganj, which is closer home—17km. But the cleanliness of toilets here leaves much to be desired. The <i>safai karamcharis</i> hardly show up. She often cleans the toilet herself. At times, snakes slither in from the farm behind during monsoons.</p> <p>“Period leave is not a solution for bad toilets,” says Gupta. “It is not going to solve problems of absenteeism or dropouts. It is not like we do not have to do any house work during periods. We should not be talking about equal rights if we ask for period leave. Please let us not make it a weakness. The ones who need it can apply for sick leave.” What she wants is sanitary pad vending machines on remote rural stretches.</p> <p>According to Arundati Muralidharan, manager of policy (WASH) at WaterAid, period leave can be counterproductive to girls’ education if it is not segregated from individual medical problems that cause severe menstrual pain. “We need to unpack it very carefully and understand what it means and who needs it and what purpose it will serve,” she says. “There are some states where schools have come up with rules like a separate room where they have pads, some medicines and a mattress [for] students [to] lie down, perhaps miss one class and feel better. Like the ‘pratishtha rooms’ in Maharashtra. The teachers are right to demand facilities in school…. But this cannot be equated with period leave. Teachers need to be clear what they are asking period leave for.”</p> <p>For Sai Damodaran of Gramalaya, an NGO, schools in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are better prepared to ensure effective WASH facilities. He, however, adds, “Electronic disposal of used sanitary napkins is not functional in a number of schools here. Urinals need to be repaired and renovated. During lockdown, some people may have opened toilets to use them secretly, leaving them in a poor condition.” He has built 750 school toilets with disposal incinerators in rural Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.</p> <p>Lack of proper management of resources has always raised a stink. “The government’s policy now must include a cleaner or a cleaning facility for school toilets,” says K.P. Rajendran, CEO of Society for Action in Community Health, an NGO, that has constructed toilets in over 250 government schools in Punjab and Meghalaya under HDFC Bank’s CSR initiative. “It has become imperative now to keep a budget for everyday cleaning. The cleaning assistant’s salary is not part of the school budget. They get a maintenance allowance of Rs10,000-Rs20,000, which is not used for cleaning toilets.”</p> <p>The link between sanitation and education of girls is well established. This opportunity for repairing the real issues should not go down the toilet.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/10/07/need-to-prioritise-maintenance-of-school-toilets-as-offline-classes-resume.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/10/07/need-to-prioritise-maintenance-of-school-toilets-as-offline-classes-resume.html Thu Oct 07 15:35:12 IST 2021 drive-to-live-shabana-azmi-on-her-road-accident-and-the-learnings-from-it <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/09/16/drive-to-live-shabana-azmi-on-her-road-accident-and-the-learnings-from-it.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/9/16/60-Shabana-Azmi.jpg" /> <p>Shabana Azmi is often called the Meryl Streep of Indian cinema. In a career spanning over 47 years, Azmi, 71, has acted in more than 120 films, which includes legendary ones like City of Joy and Madame Sousatzka. She is the only actor to have won the National Award for best actress five times. A well-known social activist, Azmi and her husband, lyricist Javed Akhtar, are known for their support for the oppressed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In January 2020, Azmi met with a road accident on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway; her car rammed into the rear of a truck. She suffered severe injuries and was briefly unconscious. She was moved to a Mumbai hospital, where she recovered in less than a month.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In an exclusive chat with the Drive to Live team, Azmi talks about the accident and the learnings from it. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Your husband was travelling in another car on that day. He said your car had become a heap of junk. Do you remember anything?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ I was sleeping on the back [seat], and rolled over to the floor. I must have fainted immediately. So, I remember nothing except that I woke up at the intensive care unit of Kokilaben Hospital in Mumbai.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I was told that I was attended to at a hospital on the way, in Panvel. They provided first aid and put my neck in a cast. An ambulance from Kokilaben was rushed there and then I reached smoothly, all thanks to Tina and Anil Ambani.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ How long did it take for you to recover?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ I was in the hospital for three weeks. It is really surprising that there were no fractures, because I have a tendency to break my bones easily. I have broken my shoulder, my wrist and my foot previously. I was shooting in Budapest 40 days after I had this near-fatal accident.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ How has the experience changed you as a person?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ I was overwhelmed by the love and prayers I received from all over the world. My family and friends stood by me like a rock. I bow my head in gratitude to them. I realise life cannot be taken for granted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ One debate triggered by your accident was whether the media should refrain from publishing images linked to road accidents, as it could be distressing for loved ones. Do you agree?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\The media was [only] doing its job. When you are a public figure this is inevitable. My friends were shocked because they had seen me dancing away till 5am that morning at Javed saab’s birthday celebrations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ A few blamed the Mumbai-Pune expressway, and said there is little monitoring to prevent rash driving. Is it so?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ One, the first ambulance took a long time to come. What was sadder was that the ambulance that arrived was a Maruti van. The steel stretcher was placed on the floor of the van with no cushioning. My legs were sticking out, so they had to keep the doors [of the ambulance] open. And this [was] on a national highway.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It’s on occasions like these that you realise the difference between your [country’s] standards and those in the west! All said, people were very kind. They helped to push me over the divider because the ambulance was parked on the opposite lane.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Today, what are the safety steps you take while in a car?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ I make sure everyone puts their seat belts on, and that the driver has had enough rest before we go on a long road trip.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q\ Around 1.54 lakh people have died in road accidents in India in 2019 alone. What is your advice to rash drivers? What are the urgent steps to be taken to reduce road accidents in our country?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A\ First, respect human life. Even one fatal accident is one too many. [There should be] strict adherence to speed limits. There should be strict monitoring of those driving under influence. And help [should be] available within minutes. It also requires the public to be responsible. We should have zero tolerance for reckless driving.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/09/16/drive-to-live-shabana-azmi-on-her-road-accident-and-the-learnings-from-it.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/09/16/drive-to-live-shabana-azmi-on-her-road-accident-and-the-learnings-from-it.html Thu Sep 16 16:26:56 IST 2021 making-kerala-roads-safer <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/09/16/making-kerala-roads-safer.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/9/16/61-Antony-Raju-new.jpg" /> <p>Road accidents endanger human lives and cause losses to the economy of the country. Most accidents happen because of negligence. Kerala sees around 40,000 road accidents every year, resulting in around 4,400 deaths and 46,000 major injuries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Safe Kerala enforcement wing of the Motor Vehicles Department is exclusively engaged in law enforcement, rescue and road-safety activities. There are 85 enforcement squads, one in each taluk. They undertake rescue operations in the event of accidents, and monitor vehicles and road users round the clock, making quick interventions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We have a novel project called Suraksha Mitr, which is nearing completion. This aims to monitor all transport vehicles with the help of a GPS-based tracking system. At the state level, there is a master control room, and one each in the 14 districts. Every violation can be monitored, and offences booked effectively and transparently. It will help curb violations, avoid frequent checking and will provide ample scope for field officers to focus more on road-safety activities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We also have Operation Clear Pathways that aims to prevent road accidents due to blocks on roads and footpaths. Then there is Operation Rash, that aims at stopping stunts and speeding on roads. Operation Rescue aims at preventing illegal modifications of vehicles like fitting additional lights, non-standard horns and tinted windows.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With these stringent measures, it is expected that we can control road accidents in Kerala, thus reducing casualties. Let us work unitedly to achieve this goal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The writer is the transport minister of Kerala.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/09/16/making-kerala-roads-safer.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/09/16/making-kerala-roads-safer.html Thu Sep 16 20:35:09 IST 2021 the-taliban-is-trained-for-fighting-in-the-social-media-battlegr <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/09/09/the-taliban-is-trained-for-fighting-in-the-social-media-battlegr.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/9/9/20-taliban.jpg" /> <p><b>Look who changed</b> while you were not watching!</p> <p>For the past few years, most people had accepted that the Taliban in Afghanistan was a reality that could not be ignored. The Taliban, however, is not just real, it is virtual, too. Its online presence is slick, suave and cut with a precision to suit its target audience.</p> <p>While the world was wondering just how a medieval-minded set of gun-toting men would try to take over the country from the US and its allies, the Taliban was changing, adapting to the new tools of the age. Today, the Taliban leadership communicates all its official announcements and ideas through Twitter. While the main spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweets mainly in Pashto, the other spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, communicates in English. Mujahid has 3.88 lakh followers and Shaheen 4.72 lakh, including diplomats, analysts, strategists and ordinary people. If social media is the new battleground, the Taliban is armed and trained in this warfare, too.</p> <p>Harsh Pant, of the Observer Research Foundation, notes that the genesis of the Taliban’s makeover began in 2011, when it was first invited to London for talks. Over the next few years, as its representatives moved from five-star hotels across various countries and spoke across the table with top-notch diplomats, the leaders quickly picked up on tricks needed to stay relevant. By around 2017, they had learnt the ropes. “Outfits learn from each other,” says Pant. “ISIS is a very social media-savvy group. Some of their videos were made very professionally, which is how they attracted youngsters from even the west into their fold.”</p> <p>This year has seen the Taliban use social and mainstream media to effectively put across its messages and shatter what it considers western propaganda or misinformation. Mujahid recently tweeted a video of women demonstrating in Mazar-e-Sharif, asserting their right to wear a hijab. It was to counter charges that the medieval Taliban would force its women behind the veil.</p> <p>Shaheen also tweeted that its leader Mullah Baradar did not have any social media presence; any address created in this name was fake. It is obvious that the group has a trained social media team monitoring the virtual world, and is quick with rebuttals.</p> <p>Twitter recently said that, as long as the Taliban did not use the site for “glorification of violence, platform manipulation and spam”, it would be allowed to keep tweeting. On other platforms like Facebook and YouTube, where the Taliban is blocked, there are several proxy accounts that effectively communicate the group’s messaging, say observers.</p> <p>The new-look Taliban has made it easy for one-time adversaries to engage with it, as well as supporters to stand by it. If the Taliban needs China, says Pant, then it has to turn a blind eye to the developments in Xinjiang (Uighur Muslim crisis). Unlike the last time, the Islamic world has not rushed to recognise the new regime without assessing what it will be like.</p> <p>The past two decades was a learning phase for the Taliban; its new leadership now knows the importance of optics in the world of diplomacy, says Vishal Chandra, research fellow at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. “They know what to say and to whom,” he says. Clearly, the messaging it put forth—like calling women health care workers to report to work, or the back to school video showing young girls—is aimed at the global audience, as well as the section of Afghans it needs to win over.</p> <p>For reaching out with a peace offering to India, it cleverly selected Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, head of the outfit’s political office in Doha. Stanekzai is among the top leaders of the Taliban; he was so even in the old regime. However, there was a well-timed reminder of him being an alumnus of the Indian Military Academy, before he made the open outreach to India through a video message. Whichever side released this nugget, social media surely amplified it. Stanekzai, therefore, became the most acceptable face for India to engage with, which India’s ambassador to Doha, Deepak Mittal, finally did on September 1.</p> <p>It is not only what the Taliban tweets that creates a buzz, but also what the group chooses not to. Shaheen, whose tweets are more about the outfit’s foreign office meetings, did not tweet about Mittal’s meeting. The omission has analysts breaking their heads over every facet of the India-Taliban tango.</p> <p>The Taliban, now set to rule, knows it has to shed its barbaric image of the past, and fast. Despite the stop on the Afghan exodus now, the country has suffered much brain drain. If it has to stem the bleed, it needs to sell the promise of Afghanistan to Afghans as much as it has to the world. Banning the internet, as it did 20 years ago, is counter-productive, and if you cannot beat them, join them is the credo.</p> <p>Is this the real face of the Taliban? Or is it just a mask? “Deep down, the Taliban hasn’t changed,” says Pant, predicting that, soon, there will be a tussle between the various factions within the Taliban—the conservatives, moderates and liberals. Chandra adds that while the political and diplomatic wing of the Taliban is on showcase now, the military wing is another entity altogether.</p> <p>While in all likelihood the new regime will not be as bad as the first Taliban rule, it is not likely to be in accordance with the rosy picture the group’s public relation machinery is churning out either. Chandra notes that while the attention is in Kabul, developments in the provinces do not augur too well. Summary executions have begun. Many insurgents from various outfits are returning to villages. Will the new leadership be able to control these men, who largely supported the Taliban because it endorsed their own mindsets?</p> <p>Mujahid recently tweeted to Taliban cadres to not fire celebratory shots in the air, as this scared the public. The audience was clearly the outside world, not the foot soldiers. For them, the orders must have been direct.</p> <p>The Taliban is smart enough to know that managing its own men is not going to be as easy as managing social media narratives. The months to come, therefore, are going to be testing times for all.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/09/09/the-taliban-is-trained-for-fighting-in-the-social-media-battlegr.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/09/09/the-taliban-is-trained-for-fighting-in-the-social-media-battlegr.html Thu Sep 09 19:47:12 IST 2021 uphold-science-based-origins-tracing-oppose-political-virus-chinese-ambassador <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/09/02/uphold-science-based-origins-tracing-oppose-political-virus-chinese-ambassador.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/9/2/58-Weidong-Sun.jpg" /> <p><b>THE COVID-19</b> virus has repeatedly mutated while the pandemic keeps rising and falling worldwide. At this critical moment—when all people are fighting the virus—a certain country is wantonly spreading a “political virus” in an attempt to politicise and stigmatise the origins-tracing. Such virulent and destructive “political virus” must be eradicated in time, to stop it from harming the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>From trumping up and calling Covid-19 the so-called “Wuhan Virus” to smear China last year, to abruptly withdrawing from the World Health Organization, the US has tried to politicise the pandemic, stigmatise the virus, and use origins-tracing as a tool. It even turns a blind eye to the hard work of scientists by resorting to using the intelligence services to conduct origins-tracing. The US intelligence community has recently compiled a so-called report on the origins of Covid-19. It is a mendacious report made up for political purposes, and has no scientific basis or credibility. Origins-tracing is a serious scientific issue. Relying on the intelligence community for it is not scientific.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The US is actually trying to shift responsibility for its botched pandemic response and aims at achieving the political purpose of discrediting and suppressing other countries. We urge the US to stop politicisation and return to the track of science-based origins study in the interest of the lives and health of its own people and that of people around the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For origins-tracing, we should figure out some basic questions:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>First, why should we conduct origins-tracing? From the Black Death in the Middle Ages, the flu pandemic at the beginning of the last century, to AIDS that still plagues mankind, viruses have brought huge disasters to mankind again and again. Origins-tracing are aimed at preventing future pandemics and providing a reference in order to avoid recurrence of tragedies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Second, who should conduct origins-tracing? It is a scientific issue. We should let science be science and let professionals do their job, instead of trusting it with several politicians, intelligence community or “conspiracy theorists”. The US, on the basis of “presumption of guilt”, has absurdly ordered its intelligence community to give out investigation conclusions in limited time. It makes no sense.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In sharp contrast, nearly 80 countries have recently expressed support for the WHO-China joint study report and opposed politicising origins-tracing by sending letters to WHO director-general, and issuing statements or diplomatic notes. Over 300 political parties, social organisations and think tanks from 100-plus countries and regions in the world submitted a joint statement to the WHO secretariat, calling on the WHO to conduct the study on Covid-19 origins-tracing objectively and fairly, firmly opposing the politicisation of origins-tracing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Third, how should we conduct origins-tracing? More and more reports have pointed to separate outbreaks in multiple places in the world in the latter half of 2019, and these cases show that Covid-19 seems to have multiple origins and emerged in different localities. Accordingly, origins-tracing should be conducted in various places and countries around the world with a global perspective.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At least five states in the US alone had Covid-19 infections before the first officially reported confirmed case. In July 2019, respiratory diseases of unknown cause happened in Virginia, and a large-scale E-cigarette or Vaping Use-Associated Lung Injury (EVALI) broke out in Wisconsin. In October 2019, American military athletes attended the World Military Games in Wuhan, and the data concerning the sick athletes has never been released.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The team and lab of epidemiologist Ralph S. Baric has been engaged in coronavirus research for a long time, with extremely mature capability in synthesising and modifying coronavirus. The US has been refusing to respond to the international community’s reasonable doubts on the Fort Detrick biolab and the over 200 overseas bases for biological experiments, trying to cover up the truth and avoid being held responsible. The onus is on the US to give the world an answer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>China has always been participating in the international origins-tracing cooperation with an open attitude. China has taken the lead in cooperating with the WHO on origins-tracing. It has twice invited WHO experts for origins-tracing joint studies, and has made tremendous efforts to this end. The experts went to all the places they wanted to go, met all the people they wanted to meet. The WHO-China joint study report made a scientific conclusion that “a laboratory leak is extremely unlikely”, and made important recommendations such as “searching for possible early cases on a global scale”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>China’s position on global origins-tracing is consistent and clear-cut: first, we stick to the fact that origins-tracing is a matter of science, and we oppose the politicisation of this matter and slandering and attacking other countries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Second, the findings and recommendations of the WHO-China joint study report must be respected and implemented by all parties, and serve as the basis to conduct future works.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Third, China has all along supported and will continue to take part in science-based origins-tracing efforts. What China opposes is politicising origins-tracing, or origins-tracing that goes against the World Health Assembly resolution and disregards the joint study report.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fourth, origins-tracing should act on the WHA resolution, conduct effective cooperation on the basis that the views of member states are fully respected through comprehensive consultation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Covid-19 virus jeopardises human lives, “political virus” endangers human conscience and international solidarity. To this regard, origins-tracing needs cooperation rather than discrediting, truth rather than lies, and a respect for science rather than political manipulation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>China will continue to support and participate in international origins-tracing cooperation in the spirit of openness, transparency, science and cooperation, and contribute its part to humanity’s final victory over Covid-19 and the establishment of a global community of health for all.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The writer is ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to the Republic of India.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/09/02/uphold-science-based-origins-tracing-oppose-political-virus-chinese-ambassador.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/09/02/uphold-science-based-origins-tracing-oppose-political-virus-chinese-ambassador.html Thu Sep 02 17:12:40 IST 2021 partners-in-progress <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/09/02/partners-in-progress.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/9/2/61-Merkel-new.jpg" /> <p><b>A 16-YEAR-LONG ERA</b> is coming to an end. If you look at world leaders whose tenures coincided with Angela Merkel’s chancellorship in Germany, you will see among them four American presidents, four French presidents and two Indian prime ministers. Merkel took charge four years after the 9/11 attacks. She has often been at the helm of crisis management, and she changed the prevailing political landscape.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Indo-German relationship has become much stronger in her time. It is partly because of her interest, and mostly because of India emerging as a power. She has always believed in India as a country and as a multicultural powerhouse of 1.4 billion people. She has said several times that she has a lot of respect for India because the people, the administration, the languages, the states, the religions and the cultural influences are all so different, and that running such a country takes a lot of skill. It is one of the things she admires about Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As she often says, “It is so difficult to be in his shoes.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ten years ago, we started the biennial Indo-German consultation, which is very helpful because every two years you can set an agenda. We do not have it with many countries. It was her decision to do it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Merkel met Modi five times in Berlin and she visited India four times. She has always been interested in India and its culture. It was also a philosophical interest, about organising a country with 7,000 years of culture and without easy neighbours. She always wanted to see things in India. The last time she came here was in 2019, when we broke protocol and went to the Jama Masjid. We could stay there only for half an hour. But she got to see at least something. I guess it is the price that you pay for being such a known face. You cannot do all the things you want.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have worked very closely with her. I told her I did not want to go to France or Russia as ambassador. I said I wanted to go to India. And she agreed, as she had an understanding about it. She also knows that I am a musician, so she said I would be in my element here. She said India was an important country and that there was something special about it. I think perhaps the physicist in her wants to go to the real source of things. Why is India so complex? What does it take to run India?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Modi and Merkel see eye to eye on many issues, like the reform of the UN Security Council. India and Germany believe that it is an outdated arrangement. The UN is losing its credibility, unless it is changed. That is why we are in the G4 [along with Brazil and Japan].</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India has been a peaceful nation; it never invaded any other country. Moreover, there is a lot of German interest in Indian culture. The economy is also important. We have 2,000 German companies in India. And we need to look at future technologies such as Economy 4.0, Industry 2.0 and artificial intelligence. But how do we go about it after the pandemic? There are more and more robots. But we need jobs for our people. What do we do? Who pays the people who are unemployed now? The digital revolution.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The future of work was a matter of discussion when Merkel and Modi met. The last time the prime minister was in Germany (April 2018, I think), he had dinner with the chancellor. She hosts special guests in a room with a balcony, in the chancellery. The two leaders were on the balcony. It was really cold, but they kept on talking, I think for more than half an hour. She did not tell me what they were talking about, but knowing her, it must be the philosophical aspect. She always talks very positively of Modi.</p> <p>As a leader, Merkel is moderate and does not show much emotion. As a politician, you have to sometimes keep your emotions under check. That is helpful, especially during a crisis. Merkel is modest, smiles a lot and has a girlish charm. She is different from some of her former flashy male counterparts like former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and former US president Donald Trump, who like to show off. She does not like mansplaining. She would rather be quiet, but would make her point.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While dealing with world leaders—be it Chinese President Xi Jinping or Russian President Vladimir Putin—she would remain focused. She is also a good listener. If you are in the car with her, she might open up, but she mostly listens. It is interesting how she has kept her empathy and curiosity alive even after 16 years in power.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Such a long tenure changes people, it makes them tough. But if you meet Merkel privately, she still radiates the aura of a young girl. She is clever, fast thinking, funny and charming at the same time. And she likes jokes. Many politicians are serious and tense all the time, but she likes to let go at times.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Merkel is never fake. Even when the whole world showered love on president Barack Obama, she would say, “Let us not go overboard”. With Trump, she had made it clear that he could not treat her as he pleased.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As one German politician said, becoming chancellor is like climbing Mount Everest. Normal politicians reach up to 7,000m, which is difficult enough. But to be chancellor, you have to climb the last 1,000m, which is the death zone. There you have to be extremely fit and good and show that you are better than others. There is no room for error. Merkel did that seven days a week, 24 hours a day for 16 years, dealing with international politics, domestic politics and party politics.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After a while, she gained the reputation of being an extremely capable leader. Many around the globe look up to her and ask for her advice. It is not easy to stay modest and not let it get to your head. But Merkel has done it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Two of her major decisions with far reaching repercussions, which she made despite much resistance, were: giving up nuclear power in highly industrialised Germany and accepting a million refugees. Merkel’s own party was a big supporter of nuclear power, but after the Fukushima disaster, she said, “We cannot do this. It is not responsible and morally justifiable anymore. We don’t know what to do with the waste, we cannot exclude tragedies like the one in Japan. If this happens here, I am the one responsible.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2015, she accepted a large number of refugees, saying “Wir schaffen das (We can do it)”. It caused a lot of resistance in Germany, but she held the course. She did these two things because she has a clear moral compass. She has it, maybe because she is the daughter of a priest. She has ethics in politics. People, even ambassadors, who never voted for her, changed their minds and became strong Merkel supporters in the end. If she would run again, she would very likely have achieved a fifth term as chancellor.</p> <p><b>The author is the German ambassador to India.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/09/02/partners-in-progress.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/09/02/partners-in-progress.html Thu Sep 02 20:09:54 IST 2021 at-all-costs <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/09/02/at-all-costs.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/9/2/63-Davendra-Singhvi.jpg" /> <p><b>IN THE FIRST WAVE</b> of Covid-19, which struck India in the first quarter of 2020, all listed hospitals across the country reported heavy loses and a sharp decline in revenue. Smaller hospitals laid off staff and cut salaries to contain costs. During the second wave this year though, there was a sharp turnaround, with most listed hospitals showing good profits. This was true not just for India but for hospitals in the Middle East as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So what changed between the first and second wave? How did hospitals overcome the crisis? These and other such questions were answered at the ‘Sustaining quality and affordable health care in the post-Covid world’ webinar, held by THE WEEK and Medi Q Healthcare Group.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the panel were Latesh Sen, group chief financial officer, Medi Q Healthcare Group, a Dubai-based company that provides organisations with comprehensive health care advisory services; Dr K. Hariprasad, president, Apollo Group of Hospitals; Dr Harish Pillai, CEO, Aster India, Aster DM Healthcare; Davendra Singhvi, group CFO, Saudi German hospitals, UAE; Sameer Agarwal, group CFO, Manipal Health Enterprises Pvt Ltd; and Cdr Navneet Bali, regional director-north, Narayana Health.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While Hariprasad agrees that the initial period of Covid-19 was total mayhem, what eventually worked was a better understanding of the virus, followed by a better response to fight it. “A study in our own hospital found that among health care workers who were vaccinated, the number of people who needed hospitalisation after turning positive was less than one per cent and there was no mortality in these patients,” he says. “And so, vaccines did work and helped health care workers attend to patients well.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Manipal Health, which has acquired Columbia Asia and Vikram Hospitals, the pandemic provided an opportunity for expansion. Also, the finance function there went digital, says Agarwal. “That way we conserved cash,” he says. “We did supply chain and cost optimisation at least thrice a year and that’s why we have not passed on any cost increase [to the patient].”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Narayana Health did not bother about profit margins, says Bali. “We spoke to doctors to see if we could tweak the settings on ventilators to give optimal oxygen to patients as a way of cutting costs,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Hospitals in the Middle East, meanwhile, tried to make health care accessible to all. Pillai says hospitals in Dubai work on a 100 per cent health insurance model, which means more pressure on hospitals to be cost-efficient. “In India, as in my own hospital in Kochi, the pay for treatment is 70:30, where 70 per cent will be cash or out-of-pocket payment and the rest will be different forms of credit,” he says. By 2025, he predicts a decline in out-of-pocket expenses in India, owing to a massive growth in private health insurance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Singhvi agrees, pointing out another difference: “The health care spending of the UAE is around 4.8 per cent; in India it is around 1.3 per cent of its GDP.” Also, visa and investment regulations have been relaxed by the UAE, thereby increasing the scope of medical tourism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the virus here to stay, Sen says we need to devise strategies to keep the cost of care under control, and that makes the role of chief financial officers more important. She uses the example of Kaizen, a Japanese term meaning constant improvement with zero waste, as a way for hospitals to continue providing quality health care at affordable prices.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/09/02/at-all-costs.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/09/02/at-all-costs.html Thu Sep 02 17:14:55 IST 2021 with-cji-ramana-at-its-helm-the-judiciary-is-asserting-its-independence-and-how <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/26/with-cji-ramana-at-its-helm-the-judiciary-is-asserting-its-independence-and-how.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/8/26/20-supreme-court.jpg" /> <p>On March 24, 2020, when a nationwide lockdown was announced to prevent the spread of Covid-19, lakhs of migrants working in cities began their long walk home. Shortly afterwards, the Supreme Court, hearing a petition seeking relief for the stranded workers, refused to intervene. A bench headed by then chief justice of India S.A. Bobde accepted the government’s submission that not a single worker was on the road.</p> <p>The same court, in the aftermath of the second wave of Covid-19 this year, directed the Centre and states to provide relief to migrants.</p> <p>This February 9, a bench comprising Bobde and Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian dismissed a petition challenging the constitutionality of the sedition law. A few months later, the top court agreed to examine the same, with Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana asking the government if the colonial era law was needed 75 years after independence.</p> <p>In October 2018, a Supreme Court bench headed by then CJI Ranjan Gogoi sought price details of Rafale fighter jets in a sealed envelope from the Centre, raising eyebrows. Recently, hearing a plea of the Election Commission, a bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah batted for transparency by refusing to restrict the media’s coverage of court proceedings. There is a distinct change in the top court’s approach to cases, making experts sit up and take notice.</p> <p>Concerns about the executive’s looming shadow on the apex court’s functioning tumbled out in January 2018, when four of its senior-most judges held an unprecedented press conference to voice their unease. In the following years, there have been questions on the court’s impartiality, criticism about the manner in which an allegation of sexual harassment against a sitting CJI was handled and outrage over the same CJI accepting a nomination to the Rajya Sabha shortly after retirement.</p> <p>It is against this backdrop that there appears to be a break from the past. And, the changes coincide with the change of guard in the Supreme Court, with many attributing it to the Ramana effect.</p> <p>Last year, there had been widespread criticism of the apex court’s stance in the migrants’ case.</p> <p>High Courts were seen as being more active in dealing with Covid-19-related issues. Eventually, the Supreme Court, under Bobde, began its suo motu hearings in Covid-19 related matters.</p> <p>After Bobde’s retirement, when a bench of Justices Chandrachud, S. Ravindra Bhat and L. Nageswara Rao began hearing the matter and took the government to task over issues ranging from oxygen supply to its vaccination policy, the government accused the court of judicial overreach.</p> <p>Additional Solicitor General Satyapal Jain, while disagreeing that courts were overstepping their bounds, did sound a cautionary note. “The court has to see whether the action of the government is within its permissible limits,” he said. “Unless there is a strong mala fide [intention] or the action is arbitrary, the courts should not enter the arena.”</p> <p>However, the Centre’s U-turn on procuring vaccines is being attributed to the apex court pulling up the government on its vaccination policy.</p> <p>“The Indian Supreme Court is rated as one of the most powerful courts and it also enjoys a good reputation as a court of justice,” said Prof Ranbir Singh, former vice chancellor of the National Law University, Delhi. “If one would refer to Article 142 of the Constitution, it has inherent powers to grant appropriate relief for doing complete justice.”</p> <p>And now, there is keen interest in how the top court deals with the petitions filed before it with regard to the politically-sensitive Pegasus snooping controversy.</p> <p>“Unfortunately, the previous three chief justices—Justices Dipak Misra, Ranjan Gogoi and S.A. Bobde—disappointed the nation,” said Supreme Court advocate Lokendra Malik. “The sequence of events during their tenure was such that the trust of the people in the judiciary was shaken. Be it Covid-19 or human rights, the Supreme Court was not able to work as effectively as many of the High Courts did.”</p> <p>The Supreme Court’s CJI jinx appeared to claim Ramana, too, just months before he took charge. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy had alleged that Ramana’s kin had made questionable land deals in Amaravati, the proposed state capital, and that Ramana was interfering in the functioning of the state High Court. However, the judiciary and the bar closed ranks with him. Several members of the legal fraternity wanted Reddy to be hauled up for contempt of court, even as they were disappointed that the Supreme Court’s in-house inquiry report was not made public.</p> <p>Ramana took charge as CJI on April 23; his tenure will last till August 26, 2022. He has, through his public utterances at events, appeared to set the course for the judiciary. At the recent P.D. Desai Memorial Lecture, he spoke about the need for the judiciary to apply checks on governmental power and action, for which it has to have complete freedom. He stressed on people’s right to protest, saying criticisms and protests are integral to the democratic process.</p> <p>Experts believe that the CJI came with the task of restoring the credibility of the judiciary, and provide it with a direction.</p> <p>“After taking charge, CJI Ramana made it clear that the High Courts should not worry about the interference from the Supreme Court,” said Pradeep Rai, vice president of the Supreme Court Bar Association. “The message was given loud and clear, and we can see the effect in the orders passed by the High Courts.”</p> <p>Supreme Court lawyers say that while PILs are being sent to other benches, Ramana is attending to many routine, pending cases, and most importantly, bail matters. Ramana, as a student activist during the Emergency, had to go underground to avoid getting arrested. Experts say that experience has left a mark on him and is reflected in the importance that he attaches to matters involving personal liberty.</p> <p>It is said that that since he was not flamboyant and did not speak much, everyone had to look to his judgments to gauge what was coming. A bench headed by him held that even when a stringent law like the UAPA has been applied, the accused can get bail when there is no likelihood of the trial being completed within a reasonable time.</p> <p>Soon after taking charge, as he participated in the discussions to appoint the new CBI director, Ramana cited a Supreme Court order with regard to the selection criteria, which resulted in the government’s favourites getting knocked out. That indicated a change in court-government dynamics.</p> <p>“I certainly see a perceptible positive change in the views of the media about the credibility of the Supreme Court, after Justice N.V. Ramana took over as CJI,” said former Supreme Court judge Justice R.V. Raveendran. “A change in leadership always gives rise to hope and expectations. I am sure that the present CJI and his successors will steer the Supreme Court in a manner that it is seen as the guardian of the fundamental rights and rule of law.”</p> <p>As an advocate-on-record in the Supreme Court, Sneha Kalita said that, after Ramana took over, “listing of matters has become much easier, and accessibility of registry officers has improved”.</p> <p>“The present CJI has shown his deep compassion and concern and is very passionate about [providing] justice to the people,” said Ranbir Singh. “It is hoped that the access to justice will become a reality in the real sense of the term and not be a teasing illusion.”</p> <p>ASG Jain, however, said that the earlier doubts about the court’s impartiality were unfounded. “The Ram Janmabhoomi dispute was in the courts for the last 70 years,” said Jain. “The Supreme Court took a unanimous decision on the issue. Simply because the decision is not to someone’s liking, that person will say that the court is compromising with the executive.”</p> <p>Meanwhile, experts say while there are some welcome changes, much more needs to be done. “Many Constitutional matters are pending, such as Article 370, National Register of Citizens-Citizenship Amendment Act, electoral bonds, farm laws,” said Malik.</p> <p>A radical idea being proposed by Ramana is the setting up of a National Judicial Infrastructure Commission. Experts believe that if he can pull it off, it will shake up the judicial system.</p> <p>A big challenge for Ramana would be to set the house in order as regards the Supreme Court collegium. Its functioning has, in the recent past, only garnered more criticism—from lack of transparency to the perception that it has compromised on certain names in keeping with the government’s likes and dislikes. The collegium, which had failed to recommend a single name for appointment to the Supreme Court since September 2019 because of internal divisions, recently cleared nine names, including those of three women judges, for the top court. The collegium’s decision was historic as Karnataka High Court judge Justice B.V. Nagarathna stands a chance to take over as the first woman CJI in 2027. However, there are questions about why Tripura High Court Chief Justice Akil Kureshi, higher in the judges’ seniority list than those nominated, has been superseded.</p> <p>Meanwhile, as judges’ vacancies in the higher courts mount, the wish list of experts ranges from the court standing up to the government with regard to appointments to building bridges to smoothen the differences with regard to the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) on judicial appointments.</p> <p>As of June 2021, nearly 40 per cent of judges’ positions in the higher judiciary are vacant. In the Supreme Court itself, ten of the 34 sanctioned posts are vacant.</p> <p>Jain said it was wrong to blame the government for the vacancies. “The Supreme Court collegium failed to make any recommendation for the top court for two years. With regard to the High Courts, not more than 40-50 recommendations are pending with the government,” he said.</p> <p>The CJI has asked chief justices of the High Courts to ensure that the recommendations for judges’ appointment to the courts reflect the social diversity of the country. He has also asked the High Courts to consider names of lawyers practising in the apex court for appointment as judges.</p> <p>However, even as the collegium has sought to make amends by recommending three women judges for the top court, there is immense dissatisfaction over the collegium’s failure to appoint more women judges to higher judiciary. “Women deserve better representation in all courts,” said Malik. “It is the responsibility of the Supreme Court collegium to ensure timely elevation of women judges to the higher courts.”</p> <p>Surya Prakash B.S., fellow and programme director at DAKSH, said that the collegium system is in need of an overhaul. “The court should begin by making the MoP public,” he said. “It should set up a secretariat, which will receive applications and process them, doing the necessary analysis to evaluate them. The secretariat’s findings can be recommended to the collegium, which will then take the final call.”</p> <p>Senior advocate Vikas Singh, who also heads the Supreme Court Bar Association, wants mentioning of urgent matters. “I strongly feel that for the Supreme Court to be alive to the problems of the common man, mentioning of urgent matters and physical hearing has to resume,” he said.</p> <p>Ramana recently quoted English judge Lord Denning to say: “The best judge is one who is less known and seen in the media.”</p> <p>But the soft-spoken judge has made himself heard loud and clear.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/26/with-cji-ramana-at-its-helm-the-judiciary-is-asserting-its-independence-and-how.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/26/with-cji-ramana-at-its-helm-the-judiciary-is-asserting-its-independence-and-how.html Thu Aug 26 18:40:35 IST 2021 judiciary-failed-to-safeguard-its-independence-owing-to-lack-of-leadership <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/26/judiciary-failed-to-safeguard-its-independence-owing-to-lack-of-leadership.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/8/26/26-justice-lokur.jpg" /> <p><b>Justice Madan B. Lokur lauds</b> the manner in which the Supreme Court has responded to Covid-related issues of late. The government, following the judicial intervention, had to act to save face, says the former Supreme Court judge.</p> <p>Lokur was among the four senior-most judges who had addressed an unprecedented press conference in January 2018 to highlight what they believed was a grave threat to the independence of the judiciary. In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, he says public confidence in the judiciary has been dealt a blow by various factors, and hopes Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana will bring about a change for the better. Excerpts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. Do you feel the Supreme Court has discharged its duties during the pandemic?</b></p> <p><b>A. </b>Not really. The pandemic was a countrywide disaster and called for a proactive response from all institutions and sections of society. The response of the Supreme Court could have been more positive and proactive. It was quite disappointing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. There seems to be a change in the court’s approach to Covid-related issues—from not intervening on the migrants issue to passing orders on oxygen supply and vaccination policy</b>.</p> <p><b>A. </b>The migrant workers crisis was in 2020 and the Supreme Court did not react in the manner in which it was expected to. Perhaps it realised that it had erred and was therefore more proactive in 2021 when disaster struck again in the form of lack of oxygen, lack of vaccinations and so on. In fact, it appears that the government had no laid-down policy and had to act to save face when the Delhi High Court was breathing down its neck with regard to oxygen supply and the Supreme Court was also [doing the same] with regards to an absence of a vaccination policy and oxygen supply. Yes, there has been a change for the better.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. In the last few years, the view that the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, has shown deference to the executive has gained strength. What are the factors that have contributed to this view?</b></p> <p><b>A. </b>Looking back, the problem started when an allegation of sexual harassment was made against the then Chief Justice of India. This was followed by a few judgments that gave the impression that the Supreme Court was deferring to the views of the executive rather than protecting the rights of citizens. Thereafter, mixed signals were sent out. On one hand, cases of great importance such as the electoral bonds case, habeas corpus petitions and so on were relegated to the background, and on the other, there were swift but unexplained interventions by the Supreme Court in some cases. This was followed by the absence of positive directions during the pandemic, [giving] the impression that the Supreme Court was giving greater importance to the views of the executive rather than the citizen. This build-up had its own impact on public confidence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. The judges’ press conference had highlighted the perceived threat to the independence of the judiciary. Why has the judiciary failed to safeguard its independence?</b></p> <p><b>A. </b>I would put it down to a lack of leadership, not necessarily strong leadership but just leadership.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. How do you view former chief justice of India Ranjan Gogoi’s decision to accept the Rajya Sabha nomination?</b></p> <p><b>A. </b>The nomination to the Rajya Sabha is the first of its kind, but the election of Supreme Court judges to the Rajya Sabha has happened before. The difference between then and now is that today the judiciary is under far greater scrutiny because of the events of the last two years or so and in the context of what might be perceived as a decline in the overall ethical standards in the judiciary. A combination of these factors led to widespread criticism of the nomination.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. The Supreme Court found senior advocate Prashant Bhushan guilty of contempt. Contempt proceedings were initiated against comedian Kunal Kamra, too. Your views.</b></p> <p><b>A. </b>I think both the proceedings were totally unnecessary. They have not served any purpose at all.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. While the courts have been criticised by the civil society for not acting on certain issues, the government has criticised the courts for judicial overreach.</b></p> <p><b>A.</b> This is a problem which has been festering for a long time. If the government does not perform its constitutional obligations and is compelled by the Supreme Court to do so, the natural reaction of the government functionaries will be that of judicial overreach. It is a matter of common knowledge that sometimes the government is compelled to fulfil its obligations only because of orders passed by the Supreme Court, as for example, in the recent case of framing a vaccination policy. The policy was framed only because of the intervention of the Supreme Court. If that is judicial overreach, so be it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. The courts were prompt in switching over to online hearings during the pandemic. However, pendency of cases has grown during this period. Also, as cases mount, vacancies in the High Courts and the Supreme Court emerge as a major issue.</b></p> <p><b>A.</b>&nbsp;These questions will require long and detailed discussions. I believe the judiciary must take the lead, introspect and then do something about it. Ad hoc measures and knee-jerk reactions will only hinder the required transformation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. How does the apex court deal with the issue of appointment of judges, especially since it is perennially locked in a confrontation with the government with regard to certain names?</b></p> <p><b>A.</b> Once again, leadership is the answer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. Do you feel that the functioning of the collegium, which has been criticised for its opacity, for disregarding talent and, at times, for bowing to pressure from the government, requires to be revamped?</b></p> <p><b>A.</b> No one has suggested a substitute, let alone a good substitute for the collegium system. But yes, it can be improved. I do not think it requires to be revamped.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. What are your expectations from Chief Justice N.V. Ramana?</b></p> <p><b>A. </b>Justice Ramana&nbsp;has leadership qualities and if he chooses to bring about a change for the better, I am confident he will succeed and restore the prestige of the judiciary to a very large extent.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/26/judiciary-failed-to-safeguard-its-independence-owing-to-lack-of-leadership.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/26/judiciary-failed-to-safeguard-its-independence-owing-to-lack-of-leadership.html Thu Aug 26 19:36:25 IST 2021 our-system-for-appointing-judges-is-the-worst <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/26/our-system-for-appointing-judges-is-the-worst.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/8/26/27-mathur.jpg" /> <p><b>Justice Govind Mathur,</b> who retired as chief justice of the Allahabad High Court this April 13, gained repute as a pro-liberty judge who fiercely defended Constitutional values through his judgments, like in the Dr Kafeel Khan case or the ‘name and shame’ posters put up against Citizenship Amendment Act protesters.</p> <p>Mathur, who perhaps lost out on a chance to become a Supreme Court judge because the collegium failed to recommend any name for the top court for more than a year, said judges’ role in appointment of judges must be curtailed. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. Why has the perception that the judiciary is working under the executive’s pressure grown in recent years?</b></p> <p><b>A. </b>Over the past three years, a perception has certainly been there…. There must be valid reasons for this, but I believe that the judiciary as an institution never works and must not work under any pressure. There may be a few individuals who may work under pressure, and if they are at the helm of affairs, it gives an impression of the institution working under pressure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. The judges’ press conference in 2018 conveyed that independence of the judiciary was under threat.</b></p> <p><b>A. </b>I don’t believe the judiciary is working under political pressure. But some orders or actions give rise to questions in the mind of the ordinary citizen.</p> <p>Judges must be free from all pressures, including pressure from the executive and the psychological pressure related to their future after retirement. Judges must ensure independence of judiciary by keeping themselves free from any allurement of re-engagement under the government after retirement. Unfortunately, we have several forums where retired judges are appointed statutorily.</p> <p>To ensure independence of judiciary, there must be a constitutional prohibition to hold any government employment by retired judges.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. The Supreme Court was criticised for the ‘sealed envelope’ approach in the Rafale case and for the delay in hearing Jammu and Kashmir habeas corpus cases or the electoral bonds case.</b></p> <p><b>A. </b>It would not be proper for me to comment on the apex court’s order to have certain details in a sealed cover. Sometimes, some facts cannot be made public. The court may ask for placing such facts before it in the manner it considers appropriate, but this must be done sparingly. In the Rafale case, the circumstances that called for facts in a sealed cover were not disclosed. The court should have made at least the circumstances open. Transparency in the court’s working demands that.</p> <p>The Jammu &amp; Kashmir habeas corpus cases should have been taken up on top priority…. In the last few years, our sensitivity for personal liberty has lost its fine nerves and tissues. We are not treating habeas corpus petitions with the required sensitivity.</p> <p>Electoral bonds have a direct impact on our election system and democracy. Validity of such a law should have been tested by the Supreme Court with top priority.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. Several jurists termed former CJI Ranjan Gogoi's nomination to Rajya Sabha as damaging for the judiciary.</b></p> <p><b>A.</b> To avoid any adverse impression in the minds of the public, it would have been appropriate that the nomination was not accepted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. The Supreme Court was criticised for not intervening in the migrant workers’ issue last year.</b></p> <p><b>A.</b> After independence, it was the largest migration. People marched on helplessly with tearful eyes. It was strange that the apex court, instead of protecting the fundamental rights of the people at such a critical juncture, chose to shut its doors. It could have guided the government towards protecting the citizens.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. How do you view the role of courts during the pandemic?</b></p> <p><b>A. </b>To tackle Covid-19 is a responsibility of the executive and the courts intervened very cautiously. Several High Courts, including the Allahabad High Court, had special benches to deal with these cases and effective orders were passed. The vigil by High Courts played a positive role in implementation of Covid-19 protocol.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. How do you view the Delhi High Court granting bail to students charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act? What do you think of the Supreme Court’s order in the case?</b></p> <p><b>A. </b>I welcome the order…. I feel the Delhi Police is invoking provisions of this act intentionally despite knowing well that its intent is absolutely different.</p> <p>I would not like to comment on the Supreme Court’s order. But yes, the interim order is unique as it stays the precedent value of the High Court order without affecting its actual result.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. The Allahabad High Court intervened on issues such as charges against Dr Kafeel Khan under NSA, 'name and shame' posters against anti-CAA protesters or the anti-conversion law. What does this tell us about the situation in Uttar Pradesh?</b></p> <p><b>A.</b> Uttar Pradesh is the most populated state with enormous diversities and has been the favourite battlefield for powers that be. In this background, many vested interests operate here. Personal liberty and privacy of the individual are the biggest victims.</p> <p>The judiciary carries a legacy to protect the rights of the people and the constitutional values. As Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, I noticed a sense of pride among judges and the Bar with regard to this great legacy. I believe Uttar Pradesh judiciary will be in a lead role if there is any threat to our constitutional and democratic values.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. The Allahabad High Court's order to impose a lockdown in some UP cities was much discussed.</b></p> <p><b>A.</b> The order is well reasoned and provides adequate justification for lockdown. The justification of the order further stands fortified by the fact that the state government, in spite of having stay order from Supreme Court, kept the five cities under lockdown for the next few weeks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. Observers say there is a change in the Supreme Court's approach to cases, that it has rediscovered its voice.</b></p> <p><b>A.</b> Courts are meant to impart justice and cannot afford to be shirkers. You can notice a change in public perception in the last two months. People's faith in judiciary is being restored. Now, judicial administrators have to come out of Corona fear and find ways to work in full swing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. A crucial issue is the vacancies in higher judiciary. How do you view the working of the collegium?</b></p> <p><b>A. </b>There are vacancies as our system for appointing judges is the worst. I am also a product of the same system, but I feel the entire process is rotten. Several interests operate in it. It consumes a huge amount of time of the seniormost judges in non-judicial work. It promotes sycophancy among lawyers and judicial officers, and makes judges in the collegium arrogant.</p> <p>Our Constituent Assembly was wise to confine judges to judicial work, but judges want to become babus by undertaking maximum administrative work.</p> <p>Judges’ role in appointment of judges must be curtailed. The collegium system has adversely affected the credibility of the higher judiciary. We need a process that is more transparent and democratic. The government, after the Supreme Court judgment in the National Judicial Appointments Commission case, should have introduced a new legislation with desirable amendments.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/26/our-system-for-appointing-judges-is-the-worst.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/26/our-system-for-appointing-judges-is-the-worst.html Thu Aug 26 19:41:46 IST 2021 courts-must-take-lead-in-protecting-citizens-rights-writes-justice-deepak-gupta <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/26/courts-must-take-lead-in-protecting-citizens-rights-writes-justice-deepak-gupta.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/8/26/28OxygenCylinders8.jpg" /> <p>Courts in India, especially the Supreme Court and High Courts, have a vital role to play, not only in adjudicating disputes but also in protecting the rights of citizens. India is one of the few countries where the right to approach the highest court for enforcement of fundamental rights is in itself a fundamental right.</p> <p>It is not as if there were no remedies similar to writs prior to the framing of the Constitution. Remedy in the nature of habeas corpus was available under criminal law, and any officer could be compelled to do his duty enjoined under the Specific Relief Act, similar to a writ of mandamus. These were, however, statutory rights, and as noted by Dr B.R. Ambedkar in his Constituent Assembly speech on December 9, 1948, they could be taken away at any time. Therefore, the Constitution has vested very wide powers upon the superior courts under Articles 32 and 226.</p> <p>Under the Constitution, there is separation of powers among the three wings. The judiciary is, however, vested with the power to ensure that any action, legislative or executive, falls within the ambit of the Constitution, and if the rights of a citizen are taken away, then that citizen can approach the court for enforcement of his rights.</p> <p>In the recent past, views have been expressed that the superior courts have not diligently discharged their Constitutional functions. The courts have two main functions: i) adjudicatory function; and ii) guardian of the people. As far as the first is concerned, other than long delays, one could say that the courts have effectively discharged their functions. However, with respect to protecting human rights, I do feel that some courts have fallen short of what is expected of them.</p> <p>Looking back at the last couple of years, many High Courts have done a commendable job in discharging their function as the guardian of the people. Justice Govind Mathur as chief justice of the Allahabad High Court led from the front and took a number of decisions that highlighted the role of the High Court as a protector of rights and enhanced its image and stature.</p> <p>Whenever actions of the state violated the fundamental rights of the citizens, the Allahabad High Court rose to the occasion and did not hesitate to take the bull by the horns. One of these decisions is the case involving the Uttar Pradesh government putting up posters with details of protesters of the Citizenship Amendment Act for damaging public property. The court took suo moto cognisance and held it to be an “unwarranted interference in privacy of the people”.</p> <p>Many High Courts have worked tirelessly even during the pandemic. Significant decisions, too many to be enumerated, were rendered by the Bombay, Madras and Karnataka High Courts, where the chief justices led from the front to protect the rights of the citizens.</p> <p>The Delhi High Court granted bail to persons arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for their participation in the anti-CAA protests. It firmly dealt with issues related to Covid-19, including shortage of oxygen in Delhi. The Kerala High Court granted anticipatory bail to a filmmaker in a sedition case filed against her for her remarks criticising the government’s action in Lakshadweep. The Patna High Court came down heavily on the state government for its reluctance to put in public domain the number of Covid-19 deaths.</p> <p>The Tripura High Court effectively monitored the distribution of vaccines. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court directed the government to explain what steps it was taking to vaccinate disabled people. The Manipur High Court directed the state to ensure adequate ICU beds and other medical facilities in remote areas. The High Courts would have done an even better job if the retirement age of High Court Judges was the same as that of Supreme Court judges and there was no mad scramble to reach the highest court.</p> <p>However, as far as the apex court is concerned, it has been a mixed bag. There have been orders upholding the rights of citizens like in Arnab Goswami’s case and Vinod Dua’s case, but in some equally important cases, either the petitioner was asked to go to the High Court or orders were not passed for a long time.</p> <p>In cases relating to Jammu and Kashmir—be it the challenge to the abrogation of Article 370, or the challenge to the detention of political leaders—the Supreme Court by not deciding the issues did not enhance its stature. These were extremely important matters, which should have been decided expeditiously. If the Supreme Court could decide important issues like Maratha reservation and some not-so-urgent cases like Prashant Bhushan’s contempt case, I see no reason why extremely important issues relating to Jammu and Kashmir could not be decided.</p> <p>Habeas corpus petitions are always treated as extremely urgent and normally get precedence over all other matters. Almost all habeas corpus petitions from Jammu and Kashmir were disposed of as infructuous after the government released the leaders. I feel that just as Justices S. Rangarajan and Rajendra Nath Aggarwal of the Delhi High Court decided a petition even after release of the detenu in the Bharti Nayar case (1972), the apex court, too, should have decided whether the detention of these political leaders was legal or not. Every citizen who is detained even for a day has the right to know whether his detention was lawful.</p> <p>The manner in which the apex court dealt with cases of detention of persons under laws like the UAPA was also not proper. The bail applications were either rejected or kept pending for a long time. Even if the bail applications were rightly rejected, it was the duty of the court to ensure that the trial was concluded at the earliest. This was not done. Resultantly, some citizens have been incarcerated for many years and the trials are nowhere near beginning, what to talk of conclusion.</p> <p>Another area where in my view the apex court could have done better was in cases relating to the rights of citizens who had been forced to migrate from cities when the first lockdown was announced in March 2020. In the beginning, the courts may have been right to not interfere, because the executive assured the court that it was taking care of the migrants. However, when soon it was apparent that the statements being made on behalf of the Union, that all is well, were not correct, the court should have played a much more active role in ensuring that these poor citizens were not denied their fundamental rights. On the other hand, many High Courts took up the cause of the migrant workers and did a creditable job in protecting their rights during the first lockdown. Even during the second wave of the pandemic, various High Courts actively monitored the situation related to shortage of essential supplies, virtually forcing the Supreme Court to intervene.</p> <p>It is the duty of the apex court and the High Courts to intervene when it is brought to their notice that fundamental rights of citizens have been violated. A little bit of friction between the judiciary and the executive or the legislature is always welcome, because that shows that the courts are actually doing their job.</p> <p>But all is not lost and there is more than a glimmer of hope. In the recent past, there have been some notable actions taken by the Supreme Court, which reinforce our faith in the courts. One of these is the non-judicial but extremely fair and independent action of the Chief Justice of India in the matter of selection of the CBI director. Another is the manner in which the Supreme Court dealt with matters relating to the second wave of the pandemic. It clearly spelt out that it meant business and was not cowed down by the aggressive stance of the government. What gives me great hope is the strong message sent out by the CJI in his recent P.D. Desai Memorial Lecture, where he voiced his strong support for the ‘rule of law’ and the importance of dissent in democracy.</p> <p>In any court, there are bound to be differences of opinion among judges, which is always welcome. It would be a sad day if all the judges always took the same view, liberal or conservative. There has to be a balance between both the views and I see no problem in this because as judges we take an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws. The only Gita, the only Quran, the only Guru Granth Sahib, the only Bible and the only Zend-Avesta for judges is the Constitution of India. Judges cannot have any religious, political or social agenda, and they must remain true to their oath and diligently perform their duty of upholding the Constitution without fear or favour, affection or ill will.</p> <p><b>Justice Gupta is a former Supreme Court judge.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/26/courts-must-take-lead-in-protecting-citizens-rights-writes-justice-deepak-gupta.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/26/courts-must-take-lead-in-protecting-citizens-rights-writes-justice-deepak-gupta.html Thu Aug 26 18:22:26 IST 2021 what-should-be-on-cji-ramanas-priority-list <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/26/what-should-be-on-cji-ramanas-priority-list.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/8/26/Ritwika-Sharma-deepika-new.jpg" /> <p>As of June 2021, 437 of 1,114 positions in higher judiciary are vacant (nearly 40 per cent), and case pendency is nearly 60 lakh. Between June 2020 and June 2021, the collegium recommended appointment of 83 new judges across High Courts. But with 76 High Court judges and six Supreme Court judges due to retire between June 2021 and June 2022, the vacancy gap is only going to widen if the collegium’s current pace of functioning continues. It is, therefore, imperative that Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana take urgent measures to make appointments efficient and transparent.</p> <p>One reason behind the widening chasm between retirements and appointments is the current procedure for appointment, premised on the Memorandum Showing the Procedure for Appointment of the Chief Justice of India and Judges of the Supreme Court of India (usually called MoP). The MoP bears no correlation between the time when a vacancy arises in the Supreme Court and when a recommendation for appointment is made. Such gaps need to be filled. Through the National Judicial Appointments Commission judgment of 2015, the Supreme Court directed the Union government to revise the MoP. It, however, remains stuck in a limbo with the executive and the judiciary sparring on contentious issues. It would be worthwhile for Justice Ramana to initiate the conversation on finalising the MoP and expedite the process at the judiciary end.</p> <p>In the context of transparency, a grey area in judicial appointments is the criteria for determining suitability. The Constitution lays down the basic eligibility criteria, like age and years of experience at the bar. However, suitability, which is determined during consultation between the collegium members, hinges on informal criteria developed over time, ranging across geographic diversity, demography, and most prominently, seniority.</p> <p>The absence of well-defined suitability criteria was exemplified during former chief justice S.A. Bobde’s term. In a bid to fulfil most of the factors in the informal criteria, the collegium did not make any recommendations to the Supreme Court. The recommendation of nine judges to the Supreme Court by the present collegium has come about after more than two years. Earlier this year, the collegium failed to arrive at a consensus on elevating Justice B.V. Nagarathna. Her elevation would have come ahead of Justice Abhay Oka’s, her senior in the Karnataka High Court, running contrary to the seniority convention in recommending judges from High Courts to the apex court. It is worth mentioning that both Justice Oka and Justice Nagarathna have been recommended for elevation. Justice Ramana should mull the possibility of devising a well-thought-out suitability criterion for appointment.</p> <p>International declarations, such as the Beijing Statement of Principles of the Independence of the Judiciary in the LAWASIA region (1997), establish a link between appointments and merit. To assess merit, a set of objective criteria, catering to the judiciary’s functions, is paramount. Appointments should also be guided by the principles that the judiciary wants to stand for—one such being ensuring gender diversity on the bench. It is commendable that the recent resolution has recommended three female judges for elevation. Assuming all three get confirmed, female judges will still make up only 8 per cent of the sanctioned strength.</p> <p>By bringing in transparency in criteria for judicial appointments and in the process and outcomes, Justice Ramana, in his short tenure, can have a long-lasting impact.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Kinhal is a senior resident fellow at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy and leads its judicial reforms work. Sharma, also a senior resident fellow, leads Charkha, Vidhi’s Constitutional Law Centre.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/26/what-should-be-on-cji-ramanas-priority-list.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/26/what-should-be-on-cji-ramanas-priority-list.html Thu Aug 26 18:17:42 IST 2021 step-in-bystanders <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/19/step-in-bystanders.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/8/19/56-Piyush%20Tewari.jpg" /> <p>On April 5, 2007, while heading back home from work, Piyush Tewari got a distressed call from his father informing him that his cousin Shivam had been in a very serious road crash. About 15 minutes after that, he received another call saying Shivam had passed away. &quot;I still remember that moment very distinctly because I was on the road and had to park on the side to take that call. After hearing that, I could not drive. I could not move. Shivam was like a son to me. It was devastating for us to lose him. I think that even today, 14 years down the line, I still struggle to recall the incident. It was a huge shock,&quot; says Tewari.</p> <p>The incident pushed Piyush to study a lot more about road safety, try to understand more. &quot;I discovered that in India, 50 per cent of injured persons died, despite having treatable injuries like in my cousin’s case. Most of it is because of bystander inaction. Despite it being such a massive issue, no one was addressing it. It was almost considered to be a natural death. So after about 10 months of researching, thinking and deliberation, I set up the SaveLIFE Foundation in February 2008&quot;.</p> <p>&quot;The biggest challenge was that the problem of road fatalities was considered to be a non-issue. It was not regarded to be serious enough even though there was data behind it. It was almost considered to be the by-product of development— the potential damage that comes with building new roads, having more vehicles, and so forth. On the contrary, this was anti-development. It was killing more poor people and the young— the most productive age group of our country, as well as causing crores of rupees in losses each year. It could not simply be stated as a cost of development. Getting across this point was a long process, but eventually, it was done,&quot; Tewari says.</p> <p>The organisation’s early mission was to enable Bystander Care — the immediate care that the police and public can provide emergency victims, especially those of road crashes, to enhance their chances of survival. In 2012, it moved the Supreme Court of India to institute nationwide protection for Good Samaritans. In February 2021, Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said, India's road accident scenario is more &quot;dangerous than COVID-19 pandemic.&quot; According to a report by the WHO, 11 per cent of global deaths due to road accidents take place in India. In the 4.5 lakh road crashes that take place on an average per annum, at least 1.5 lakh people lose their lives.</p> <p>The World Bank-SaveLIFE Foundation report Traffic Crash Injuries And Disabilities: The Burden On Indian Society that came out in February 2021 also reported that 75 per cent of low-income households in India reported a decline in income as a result of a road crash. Among lower-income groups, the losses or expenses incurred due to a road crash amounted to more than seven months income. The disparity exists as the more vulnerable are forced to share road-space with the less vulnerable, the report reads.</p> <p>&quot;Lower-income families are more affected due to road crashes as the victim is more often the only breadwinner of the family. He or she then becomes financially dependent on other members of the family or other members are forced to take up additional jobs to make ends meet,&quot; Tewari says.</p> <p>Karuna Raina, Director, Public Policy &amp; Research at SaveLIFE Foundation says, &quot;The Burden of road crashes is disproportionately prone by low-income households in comparison with high-income households as they experience deterioration in the quality of life. This is truer for lower-income households in rural areas. Low quality of life is often accompanied with psychological distress&quot;.</p> <p>According to the report, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, account for 35 per cent of road crash-related fatalities in India.</p> <p>KN Harilal, a member of Kerala State Planning Board and professor at Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram says, &quot;mostly pedestrians are victims of road accidents. And if the victim is from a family that is below the poverty line, it becomes difficult for them to maintain their quality of life, especially if they lose a limb as a result of the accident, as in a lot of the cases they are everyday labourers or those living on daily wages&quot;.</p> <p>The organisation utilised 150 traffic cones, 350 safety barriers, 150 spring posts, 220 road studs and over 200 litres of paint to ensure safer mobility and refuge space for vulnerable road users over nearly 12,000 square meters of the junction.</p> <p>More than 12,000 people from Bhalswa, Mukundpur and Jahangirpuri were educated on road safety via 18 interactive puppet show sessions were conducted in and around Bhalswa, Mukundpur and Jahangirpuri, educating the public about safe road practices and the Tactical Redesign for Delhi ZFC. Out of these, 9 muppet shows were conducted in government schools and 9 shows were conducted in public spaces and community areas.</p> <p>Given the success of the initiative, the Govt of the NCT of Delhi has requested SLF to adopt 10 more high-fatality intersections.</p> <p>Another example of the foundation’s on-ground success is its Zero Fatality Corridor model, which has resulted in a 52 per cent reduction in road accident deaths on Mumbai-Pune Expressway and 54 per cent on National Highway 48. In June 2021, Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari recognized SaveLIFE Foundation and Mahindra &amp; Mahindra efforts to make Mumbai Pune Expressway a Zero Fatality Corridor. SLF is now working with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to replicate the success of MPEW on other stretches on national highways in UP and Maharashtra.</p> <p>Tewari feels strongly about the condition of the roads in India and says that roads in hilly regions lack safety barriers or they aren’t visible. He also feels that a lot of signage needs to be graphic, universal and should be understood easily by everyone. &quot;The language needs to be simplified,&quot; he adds.</p> <p>He also feels that roadways need to be redesigned to accommodate the needs of pedestrians, vendors and cyclists. And that retro-reflective zebra crossings that are visible from about a kilometre away would be more effective in preventing accidents.&nbsp;</p> <p>Finally, he believes that there has to be a better system of filtration to determine who gets to drive and who doesn't. &quot;A vehicle in the hands of a bad driver is a weapon,&quot; he says.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/19/step-in-bystanders.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/19/step-in-bystanders.html Fri Aug 20 11:49:36 IST 2021 this-ngo-has-a-unique-idea-to-prevent-road-accidents-involving-stray-dogs <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/19/this-ngo-has-a-unique-idea-to-prevent-road-accidents-involving-stray-dogs.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/8/19/56-Chaitanya-Gundluri.jpg" /> <p>If you are on a two-wheeler, an encounter with a stray dog will rarely end well. The encounter can kill you and the dog. Or, you alone. Or, leave you bedridden for life. The best outcome you can hope for is to escape with injuries. Road injuries. The kind that takes time to heal. And, most such encounters happen at night.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Collar Up, an animal welfare NGO from Hyderabad, has demonstrated that the number of such accidents can be brought down with reflective collars. A few months back, Collar Up started putting reflective collars on stray dogs that live along the highways and busy roads of both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The logic is simple: The dog becomes instantly visible when it is within the reach of the vehicle’s headlight, and the driver becomes alert.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Collar Up’s efforts are showing results. For instance, volunteers from Madanapalle in Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor district collared around 80 dogs along the local highway. This significantly reduced the number of accidents in the area. Volunteers said that at least one or two dogs used to die every day in accidents in the area. Now, the number is zero on most days. In the IT corridor of Hyderabad, accidents involving dogs fell after Collar Up’s initiative.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is one of the many success stories of the organisation. Today, it has collared more than 4,000 dogs across nine states. “We were into a lot of animal welfare activities earlier, but collaring was not one among them,” said Chaitanya Gundluri, founder of Collar Up. “We observed that humans and animals were losing lives because of road accidents involving strays. We wanted a simple solution that would benefit both humans and strays. At that point, this idea of collaring came up.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The members then explored different options to implement their idea. “We observed that the normal China-made collars go well with pets, but not stray dogs,” said Chaitanya. “The material is cheap, but it is heavy. It can occasionally be removed if it is a pet, but a stray has to carry it for a lifetime.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chaitanya and his team then settled on a nylon strip with a 3m-wide reflective tape which is water-proof and fungus-proof.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The organisation, which now has 280 members, approached rural women entrepreneurs to manufacture the collar. “We provided them with sewing machines and material, this way they also made some money,” said Chaitanya. The volunteers focus on collaring stray dogs in busy areas. “Around 60 per cent of stray dogs are friendly and 40 per cent are aggressive,” said Chaithanya. “We approach them with some treats. We win their trust by patting and cuddling them. Once they get friendly, we wrap the collar and pin it. The entire process may take about 20 minutes.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The initiative has managed to attract attention and Collar Up has been receiving feelers from those who want to be part of its mission. Their latest project is to collar strays in Ladakh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a flip side, too, to these efforts. The flashy and fancy collars have attracted unwelcome attention. Many collars put on strays were stolen. A few pet owners were found to be using these stolen collars for their dogs. Since this is proving to be a big challenge, members of Collar Up have approached a few celebrities to create awareness about their mission and ensure that collars remain on the streets to save lives.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/19/this-ngo-has-a-unique-idea-to-prevent-road-accidents-involving-stray-dogs.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/19/this-ngo-has-a-unique-idea-to-prevent-road-accidents-involving-stray-dogs.html Thu Aug 19 16:19:34 IST 2021 ahead-of-aug-15-vice-president-venkaiah-naidu-takes-stock-of-indias-long-journey <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/12/ahead-of-aug-15-vice-president-venkaiah-naidu-takes-stock-of-indias-long-journey.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/8/12/24-agriculture.jpg" /> <p>As India celebrates its 75th Independence Day on August 15, it is an opportune moment to take stock of this sufficiently long journey. Listing the achievements, failures and missed opportunities is in order. It is more important to identify the ‘reset’ required to make up for the lost time, and fully tap the promised potential of our nation.</p> <p>The long and hard fought freedom struggle was all for self-rule, with the people as the masters in shaping their destiny. The stated goals of this struggle were ensuring ‘free’ Indians a life with dignity, encompassing basic rights, equality, socio-economic justice and prosperity. It is time to assess the gap between this stated mission statement and the ground reality.</p> <p><b>The birth pangs</b></p> <p>Free India launched its journey as an illiterate, poor and iniquitous entity, against the backdrop of the painful partition. But we had a comprehensive socio-economic, political and philosophical mission statement in the form of the Constitution of India. Building a modern India out of the diverse, hierarchical and unequal socio-political and economic complexities was the main challenge. Poverty eradication, improving the quality of life and meeting the aspirations of a rising number of Indians through economic development have been the broader contours of this journey. Policy modifications and re-prioritisation, from time to time, have defined this arduous journey.</p> <p>The birth pangs were further compounded by the inter- and intra-regional inequalities, ethnic and social tensions, emergence of extremist elements, regional assertions, the dynamics of global geo-politics and Cold War, and the complexities of the new global economic order. During this course, India was sucked into five wars with mixed results that brought out the country’s strengths and weaknesses into the open, and impacted the global perception about the emerging India. Contemporary challenges are even more complex than the birth pangs. This backdrop of experiences shall define the new mission and the timeframe to achieve it.</p> <p><b>The honours</b></p> <p>Not many were hopeful of the free, diverse, illiterate and poor India surviving as a single entity and as a democratic republic. Disproving such doubting Thomases has been the most significant achievement of the journey so far. Indians gave themselves the right of universal adult suffrage in one stroke, while many advanced nations took much longer to do so. The enthusiastic participation of people in the democratic process resulted in changing the governments eight times out of the 17 elections to the Lok Sabha so far. Beginning in 1977, governments have been changed eight times in 12 elections to the Lok Sabha. The way the people democratically revolted against the ‘Emergency’ excesses in 1977 was a forceful demonstration of how much they valued their political rights and civil freedoms.</p> <p>This success of the democratic project of our country has been stellar as it gave a major boost to the democratic aspirations across the globe. In the era of the rising yearning for basic rights of the people and expression of self, India’s political survival and democratic consolidation is no mean achievement. Being the world’s largest and most vibrant democracy is a core element of our rising soft power. All Indians deserve credit for this.</p> <p>Regular famines that marked the long colonial rule continued to haunt free India in the form of shortage of food grains leading to imports from the US under PL-420. It was humiliatingly called ‘living from the ship to the mouth’. Attaining self-sufficiency in food grains production and even becoming an exporter of food grains is another feather in the cap of free India.</p> <p>Substantial reduction in poverty, increased literacy (including female literacy) and steady rise in average lifespan have been laudable accomplishments towards life with dignity. Steady advances in science and technology, with India being in the elite group of countries reaching the Moon and Mars, have made us proud. The revolutionary changes in the communications domain, and India emerging as a leading IT power are praiseworthy. India being a responsible nuclear power in pursuit of meeting the civil and defence requirements enhanced the country’s standing on the global stage.</p> <p>Infrastructure of all kinds has acquired a new makeover with substantial improvements in road, rail, air and water connectivity. The rural road network has expanded hugely.&nbsp;</p> <p>On the economic front, the miserly growth rate of around 3.50 per cent has been more than doubled. The last 30 years of economic reforms have opened the gates to a flood of investments. India is now among the fastest growing economies of the world, besides being the third largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity. These strides are only illustrative and not exhaustive.</p> <p><b>The concerns</b></p> <p>Despite the success of the democratic project, the intersection between crime, money and politics is loathsome. Caste, creed, community and region still influence political considerations and outcomes.</p> <p>The increasing disruption in the functioning of our legislatures is a matter of serious concern. It has emerged as the preferred political ammunition replacing the weapon of debate. It needs to be quickly realised that this ammunition can misfire and should be given up. The occasional territorial transgressions among the three pillars of the Constitution should not be repeated.</p> <p>Rising pendency of cases in the courts calls for immediate reforms and streamlining of procedures as justice delayed is justice denied. Huge governance deficit, particularly in some states, denies citizens of their due besides adversely impacting economic activities. The 73rd and the 74th amendments to the Constitution, empowering local bodies with funds, finances and functionaries, should be upheld in letter and spirit. This assumes significance as the 15th Finance Commission recommended transfer of increased share of divisible resources to states.</p> <p>We are ranked very low in the Human Development Index. We have very few educational institutions among the best in the world. The burning issue of the quality of learning outcomes is still to be fixed. The pandemic has exposed the neglect of the health sector for too long. As elsewhere, the growth centred development model is accentuating inequalities, despite heavy and sometimes unsustainable direct welfare interventions by both the Central and state governments. Environment is being seriously threatened with serious consequences. Gender equality is still far, despite some improvements. Caste and communal clashes continue to blot the harmony project.</p> <p>Transition from the socialist to the mixed and the markets-led models have thrown up their own set of issues from time to time. Our services-led GDP composition does not reflect realities. The farm sector still supports 65 per cent of the labour force but accounts for less than 15 per cent of the GDP. Share of manufacturing in GDP is still below the optimal even as the demand for jobs rises fast. Huge unorganised sector is a major concern. Again, these are only illustrative and not exhaustive.</p> <p><b>Focus, intent&nbsp;and energy</b></p> <p>India, in some quarters, has come to be described as a nation that has failed the expectations. Though it has consolidated as a democratic entity with several impressive strides in some domains, its much talked about emergence as a potential superpower is far from being a reality. This may be attributed to the nation’s efforts and initiatives marked by ‘fits and starts’. The much talked about economic reforms of 1991 were driven by the balance of payments crisis and came very late for the nation grappling with poverty.&nbsp;This applies to other sectors as well.</p> <p>Our nation of about 140 crore people rejoiced when Mirabai Chanu won a silver medal on the first day of Tokyo Olympics. Our poor show on such forums reflects our lack of focus and energetic pursuit.</p> <p>Any nation gets its due place in the global high table based on its economic, scientific and military prowess. It is further aided by the inherited and acquired soft power. India has been finding its voice in the global arena over the last few years, further to the new found focus and stated intent and their energetic pursuit. The people of our country voted for a majority government in the 2014 elections, after 30 long years of coalitions, and bestowed even higher numbers in 2019. This needs to be understood from the perspective of the people, about their own lives and the state of the nation. It shall define the mission for India@75.</p> <p><b>New mission</b></p> <p>It shall enable India to emerge as a superpower that it was expected to be, and is capable of, given the huge reservoirs of human and natural resources. The latent energies of every Indian needs to be unleashed towards this end by creating and enabling an ecosystem. Rapid and inclusive economic development needs to be realised in the quickest possible time to make up for the lost time and missed opportunities and the diffused approaches of the past. Unity of purpose and action among all the stakeholders is the key. Various deficits mentioned above shall be fixed by all the concerned collectively. Mission India@100 shall not be allowed to slip.</p> <p>Mirabai, who carried firewood in the early life, lifted India to the silver medal in the Tokyo Olympics. With such steely resolve India can achieve this new mission.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/12/ahead-of-aug-15-vice-president-venkaiah-naidu-takes-stock-of-indias-long-journey.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/12/ahead-of-aug-15-vice-president-venkaiah-naidu-takes-stock-of-indias-long-journey.html Mon Aug 23 09:58:31 IST 2021 india-and-us-just-have-a-month-to-resolve-rs-750-crore-lincoln-house-dispute <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/05/india-and-us-just-have-a-month-to-resolve-rs-750-crore-lincoln-house-dispute.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/8/5/34-Lincoln-House-history-dates-back.jpg" /> <p>On his maiden two-day visit to India in July, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with top diplomats and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss a range of issues, from Covid-19 and vaccination to human rights and democracy and defence transfers and technologies. However, there was no mention of one significant issue—the sale of the Lincoln House in Mumbai. Earlier this year, when Blinken was up for confirmation as secretary of state in Washington, he reportedly committed to prioritising the resolution of the Lincoln House dispute, which was referred to as “an unnecessary irritant in the bilateral ties” between the two nations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the heart of the matter is the lease transfer of the 88-year-old mansion by the US to the Poonawallas, the Pune-based vaccine tycoons, for Rs750 crore. If the transfer happens, it could be the biggest-ever real estate deal in the history of India. But it remains stuck as the Indian government, despite several attempts by US officials, refuses to give its stamp of approval. If there is no headway by the end of this month, the Americans will lose a buyer in the Poonawallas who, as per the contract, can opt out of the deal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The lease rights for the mansion was first put up for auction in 2011 when the US consulate, which had been occupying it until then, chose to relocate. Three years later, the Poonawallas made a bid and it was touted to be the most lavish real estate deal by an Indian family. As Adar Poonawalla, CEO of Serum Institute of India (SII), reportedly said then, Lincoln House has location, history, size and so it was worth the money. The swanky three-storey mansion, spread across a two-acre plot, is located in the Breach Candy area and has a royal past. The tony locality has a touch of terror, too—opposite the mansion is the Moksh gym, which was reportedly frequented by 26/11 terror accused David Headley while he was in Mumbai scouting for locations for the attacks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Lincoln House of today, a grade-III heritage property, is an uninspiring pallid structure, sullied by chipping paint and crumbling walls. A bunch of security guards man the two tall, black gates, but nobody has been assigned the task of looking after its interiors, the guards tell THE WEEK. The nameplate on the right side of the gates is rusting and tilted. Any conversation regarding the property is discouraged and photography is strictly prohibited. Only a tiny window on one of the gates allows a glimpse of the structure inside and thereby a peek into its glorious past—a maharaja’s palace that it once was.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lincoln House’s history dates back to 1933 when it was called the Wankaner House. It was named so after Maharana Amarsinh Jhala, the last ruler of Wankaner, a former princely state in Gujarat. The maharaja built it as a residential property for close to 40 members. Progressive for his times, he combined the revivalist Indo-Saracenic architectural style with Art Deco interiors across the 50,000sqft palace, presently labelled as a private, heritage property. Around the same time and barely a few kilometres driving distance from Wankaner House, the maharaja designed and built Amar building, which is today one of Mumbai’s most notable landmark—the old Reserve Bank of India building. The royals, belonging to Jhala Rajputs in Gujarat’s Saurashtra, would spend a couple of months in a year at Wankaner House. In 1957, the maharaja decided to transfer the lease rights to the American government (or the US consulate) for a paltry 018 lakh, on the terms of ‘lease of perpetuity for 999 years’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It does pinch that such a stellar property was sold off for a negligible amount, but then those times were different,” says Yogini Kumari of Rajasthan’s Sirohi royalty who married Kesrisinh, the scion of the Wankaner royal family, in 2012. “Post-independent India did not allow for the kind of lavish lifestyles we were used to in the British times and the kind of entertainment and hospitality that those lifestyles called for. Hence, it was prudent to get rid of the property at the time.” She further tells THE WEEK that “contrary to what got reported in international media, the upkeep of the palace was never an issue. Right now, the Wankaner palace [Ranjit Vilas palace] in which we live in Gujarat is many times bigger than the Lincoln House and we are still maintaining it beautifully. So, as royals we never tire of the upkeep of our homes.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When the Wankaner family resided at the Mumbai palace, it was distinguished for its massive swimming pool that looked out into the sea, two tennis courts, a state cannon, vast manicured lawns and gardens. Of these, only the cannon and the lawns remain. The rest, including the tennis courts, were lost to land reclamation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Months after the sale of the Wankaner House, Amarsinh bought a number of apartments at the upmarket Altamount Road and distributed them among his cousins. These flats have been all rented out, with the ownership remaining with the royals. The royal family presently resides in Gujarat, where they are involved in diverse areas including education, real estate, stock market and charity. Yogini Kumari and Kesrisinh are hoping to convert the Ranjit Vilas palace into a heritage hotel.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yogini Kumari last visited the Lincoln House in 2012 with her husband and father-in-law Digvijaysinh, India’s first Union environment minister, just when the consulate had begun to vacate the mansion. “My father-in-law had very good equations with the consul general,” she says. “He would often recall hosting a number of foreign dignitaries, including heads of state and politicians, at the Lincoln House. It was never over for him. The place continued to hold strong emotions even years later.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When the consulate announced its decision to move out of Lincoln House to a bigger, swankier space in Mumbai’s Bandra-Kurla complex, Lodha Developers made a pitch for it, says Yogini Kumari. The Tata Housing Development Company, too, made a bid. However, development restrictions and regulatory issues stalled the bids. “Things were also stressful at that time because there were talks of the iconic building being completely knocked down. We were all worried,” recalls Yogini Kumari. “But a few years later when Cyrus Poonawalla [chairman and managing director, SII] expressed interest, my father-in-law was very happy because he personally knew Poonawalla; they were friends. Cyrus uncle is a man of great taste and we would be extremely happy if this deal just pushes through and the Poonawallas get it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Architect Abha Narain Lambah, too, would like the Lincoln House to go to the Poonawallas. “The architectural significance of the Lincoln House is best expressed in the fact that it was designed by renowned architect Claude Batley, who also designed the Mumbai Central station and other places of historical importance in Mumbai alongside the J.J. School of Arts,” says Lambah, who helped restore some of the most significant landmarks in Mumbai. “But it was built as a private residence, not as a facility of public utility. It was meant for the rich and that is how it should be continued. What is the problem if it continues to be held by another rich family that’s willing to pay for it? It is neither a monument nor a building of public importance, except for its heritage value. Hence it must rightfully be given to the Poonawallas.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lambah recalls visiting the Lincoln House for soirees. “They had a lovely upper floor that was used for parties by the consul general, while he resided with his family in the south wing,” she says. “It had a lovely Art Deco style staircase, but most of it is in ruins right now. A wealthy industrialist family that can invest in the upkeep of the building and help the heritage structure survive must be encouraged.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But the Poonawallas remain silent on the issue. Experts say that the members of the billionaire business family—passionate about thoroughbred racehorses and vintage cars, travel in Ferraris and private jets, and own acres spread across Mumbai and Pune with all properties bathed in opulence—have nothing to lose even if the deal falls through.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2019, Adar had reportedly said that the family had paid a substantial portion of the bid amount to the US government in 2015 and called the stalling of the deal “bureaucratic harassment”. He had reportedly blamed the defence estates department of the Union ministry of defence for the deadlock.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As per protocol, since the auction involves a foreign government, the final decision about the property transaction will be taken by the Prime Minister’s Office, say experts. However, both the Maharashtra government as well as the defence estates department claim to be the owners of the land. The ministry of external affairs as well as the ministry of defence declined to comment on the issue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, with only a month to go, the US government remains steadfast in its appeal to the Indian authorities to speed up the process. In an email interview to THE WEEK, Nick Novak, spokesperson, US Consulate General in Mumbai, said, “With respect to the US consulate property in Mumbai known as Lincoln House, we are working with the government of India to reach a satisfactory agreement to complete the lease transfer of the property.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/05/india-and-us-just-have-a-month-to-resolve-rs-750-crore-lincoln-house-dispute.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/08/05/india-and-us-just-have-a-month-to-resolve-rs-750-crore-lincoln-house-dispute.html Thu Aug 05 19:43:24 IST 2021 a-big-chunk-of-accidents-on-indian-roads-are-median-crashes <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/07/22/a-big-chunk-of-accidents-on-indian-roads-are-median-crashes.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/7/22/62-car-crashed-into-a-road-divider-near-Kozhikode-new.jpg" /> <p>Malayalam cinephiles almost lost their favourite on-screen wit when actor Jagathy Sreekumar was laid low by a harrowing road accident on March 10, 2012. Jagathy—as he is popularly known—was on his way to a film location in Coorg on the Kerala-Karnataka border when his vehicle rammed into a median strip on a bend in the road near Kozhikode.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The accident at the crack of dawn left the actor with multiple injuries to his head, chest and abdomen. The 70-year-old thespian, who had ruled the realm of comedy in Mollywood through versatile roles in over 1,100 films, has been mostly away from tinsel town for the last nine years as he is still recuperating from the cruel twist of fate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Anil Kumar, who drove Jagathy’s car on the fateful day, distinctly recollects the brutal crash that occurred on one of the most perilous stretches of the National Highway 66 (erstwhile NH 17). “It all happened in a split second. I heard a sound and the moment I turned to one side, the car hit the median,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kumar, who has recovered from his injuries and still works as a chauffeur in the cinema industry, however, puts partial blame on the median strip which, he claims, had no reflectors. “It was still dark. There were no reflectors on the divider. Also, there were no street lights in the vicinity,” he says, pointing to one of the oft-neglected pitfalls in road infrastructure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The median strips, meant to streamline turbulent traffic and avert chances of a head-on collision, turn into death traps for commuters when installed without following safety guidelines. The speeding vehicle either rams into a divider that appears from nowhere or hits the lip of the median strip, flips and rolls into oncoming traffic. Though the finger of blame in most such cases is pointed at the man behind the wheel, there are reasons beyond his control, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Poor visibility coupled with lack of proper reflectors on the median strip is a recipe for disaster. In some cases, high beams of oncoming vehicles or glaring lights from roadside shops blind the driver temporarily and he fails to spot the unanticipated median head in time. Equally hazardous are thick bushes and untrimmed plants on median strips, which hide drivers’ visibility.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“As per the Indian Road Congress specifications, medians should be provided only if the road has a minimum width, and there should be enough space on both sides to ensure smooth passage of vehicles,” says T. Elangovan, executive director, Kerala Road Safety Authority. On curves, the median should be placed only if the road is at least 12m wide, he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The width of the median itself is important as a wide median increases visibility. As per IRC guidelines, the optimum width of a median is five metres and the minimum width in urban areas is 1.2m. Elangovan admits that many of our roads have medians that are just 45cm to 60cm wide, which pose serious safety hazards. “In cities and urban areas, there would be enough light on the road, but if we install such low-width medians on highways, many a time the driver would fail to notice them, especially on curves,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>High-width medians, too, if not marked by reflective tapes, could become difficult to spot, especially at night or during heavy rains. “Usually, a white line (edge marking) in 10cm thickness is provided along the median, and studs (cat’s eyes) are pasted on it. It gives a jerking effect to the vehicles once they move closer to the divider,” Elangovan says, adding that reflectors in red and yellow colour could be installed on the edge of the median itself.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Elangovan further adds that the median strip, which usually accommodates installations like lamp poles and electric posts, should have a covering space of at least 30cm on both sides of the pylons, lest vehicles carrying protruding goods should hit them, leading to accidents. “The proper maintenance of the median is the responsibility of the road-owning agency,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In February this year, 14 people died after a minivan hit the median strip, jumped off it and collided with an oncoming truck on the Hyderabad-Bengaluru highway. In a similar accident last year on the Coimbatore-Salem highway, a truck rammed into the median strip and hit a Kerala RTC Volvo bus heading to Kochi, killing 20 people. These high-casualty accidents apart, a lot of blood is being spilled on our highways, with raised medians playing a villainous role.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Road safety expert and Indian Institute of Road Safety director Upendra Narayan believes that ignorance is a major reason for unscientific road infrastructure in India. “Many of the foreign countries use forgiving and collapsible water-filled plastic barriers. However, we still use solid concrete medians which will not break up even when the road gets damaged,” says Narayan. According to him, thermoplastic paint marking is more than enough to segregate traffic in areas like intersections.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In most cases, it is drivers who are not familiar with the road terrain that fall victim to median crashes, like tourists and pilgrims. However, many measures can still be taken to mitigate such mishaps. “As per IRC guidelines, high intensity, orange, warning blinkers should be installed 100m before the median head begins and retro-reflective high-intensity grade signboards should be set up. Also, repeated warning stripes can be drawn across the road using thermo-plastic paint,” Narayan says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If all these fail to reduce accidents, he says, soft humps can be erected on the road; the humps should be 4m wide and have a maximum height of 20cm in the centre. “All structures on the road should be forgiving and collapsible,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Installation of high mast lights at intersections, setting up and proper maintenance of street lights, regular eviction of encroachment in areas where the central median begins are some of the other measures that can lessen the accidents caused by median strips, says the road expert.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ministry of road transport and highways has already issued a set of guidelines, directing that all multi-lane highways be provided with depressed or flush medians and that the existing raised medians, especially in open country or rural areas, be replaced with them. For narrow medians, as generally provided in urban areas, the ministry suggests New Jersey-type concrete crash barriers with anti-glare screens.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, these guidelines do not reach the roads as several vested interests are involved in road construction and maintenance, says Narayan. He alleges that the sector is rife with corruption and fund misuse. “In many cases, the roads are designed unscientifically with exaggerated estimates so that the contractor gets enough benefit and many other middlemen earn a fair amount as commission,” he says. He signs off by saying that the road engineer should be named as co-accused in accidents caused by poor infrastructure.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/07/22/a-big-chunk-of-accidents-on-indian-roads-are-median-crashes.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/07/22/a-big-chunk-of-accidents-on-indian-roads-are-median-crashes.html Sat Aug 07 15:37:12 IST 2021 cabinet-reshuffle-modi-wants-to-regain-trust-by-focusing-on-delivering-promises <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/07/15/cabinet-reshuffle-modi-wants-to-regain-trust-by-focusing-on-delivering-promises.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/7/15/28-Narendra-Modi-new.jpg" /> <p>The year 2022 is a year of deadlines. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to usher in a “New India” by the time the country celebrates its 75th year of independence. From doubling of farmers' income to sending an Indian to outer space in an indigenous spacecraft, the BJP had made 75 ambitious promises in its 2019 elections manifesto. The prime minister had promised to fulfil them by 2022.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Modi 2.0 has so far delivered on several of its ideological poll promises—for instance, abrogation of Article 370, abolition of triple talaq and bringing the Citizenship Amendment Act. But its promises to provide better infrastructure and turn the economy around have lagged.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the economy front, the recovery and employment generation has been slow, though the Reserve Bank of India in its June bulletin saw reasons to be “cautiously optimistic”. A rampaging Covid-19 worsened the existing vulnerabilities of the economy. To revive the economy, the government needs successful management of Covid-19, capital expenditure on infrastructure, disinvestment, fast implementation of reforms, and new policies in the social and corporate sectors. Fulfilling the 2022 targets is crucial before the prime minister could go back to the people with a report card.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To make this possible, Modi initiated a major revamp of his team by booting out 12 cabinet ministers. He brought in 36 new faces and promoted seven ministers to cabinet rank. The intent was both political and governance-oriented as it balanced caste equations in the poll-bound states. Modi's induction of new faces in key portfolios like health, education, railways and IT showed that he wanted to shake off inertia and focus on delivery.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The cabinet expansion brings new performers to the centre stage, who may be politically less visible; they need to get the work done, while the challenge of winning elections will be left to Modi-Shah's charisma and strategic planning. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar retained their respective portfolios. This means security and finance, the two key pillars, were kept untouched, while the other two—infrastructure and the social sector—were completely revamped.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It is a big message,” said the BJP spokesperson Gopal Krishna Agarwal. “There are several challenges post-Covid, especially on the economic front which needed a focused approach at the implementation level. This required certain talent, new zeal and enthusiasm.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Modi’s surprise pick was Mansukh L. Mandaviya, a low-key party leader from Gujarat, who was promoted within the cabinet to run the health ministry—perhaps, the hottest seat in the country now. Mandaviya was also given charge of the chemicals and fertilisers ministry to bring synergy between the health and pharmaceutical industry. What is interesting to note is that only Dr Harsh Vardhan has been given the boot, while all the bureaucrats and officials who were handling Covid management through different panels have been retained. With the third wave of Covid-19 supposedly in the offing, Mandaviya will be tested soon. He needs to fulfil the promises of completing India’s vaccination drive by December 2021 and establishing 75 new medical colleges by 2022.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A key trick to prolong the stay in Modi’s cabinet was to remain controversy-free and also not run for the limelight. During the first meeting with his council of ministers, Modi advised the newcomers not to run after publicity, but to focus on the delivery, a message he has consistently conveyed to his party MPs. Those who adhered to it have got seats in his team.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The amenable Kiren Rijiju will helm the law ministry, which is considered a fiefdom of veteran lawyers-turned-politicians. Rijiju holds a law degree from Delhi University. The promotion has come for him as he ran a controversy-free tenure since Modi 1.0.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Another surprise inclusion has been Ashwini Vaishnaw, a former IAS officer of the 1994 batch. Modi and Shah had personally called up Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to help him get elected to Rajya Sabha. Patnaik was favourably disposed towards the former bureaucrat who had efficiently handled many crises in the state, including cyclones. Vaishnaw, an alumnus of IIT Kanpur and Wharton Business School, Pennsylvania, is expected to bring railways on track as it suffered losses during the pandemic, and fast-track high-speed corridors. At the information technology and communications ministry, Vaishnaw’s role will be to help the rollout of the 5G network, bringing broadband to the villages, and, of course, handle social media giants with finesse—unlike his predecessor Ravi Shankar Prasad, who had assumed a threatening tone.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The BJP has inducted a record number of dalits, tribals, OBCs and women as ministers after the cabinet reshuffle. There are 12 ministers from scheduled castes—two with cabinet rank—eight from scheduled tribes and 27 from other backward classes. Eleven women are also now part of the Union government. Modi inducted allies from the Janata Dal (United) and the Apna Dal, Lok Janshakti Party to give a larger message of political engagement ahead of 2024 polls.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Predictably, with elections to seven states scheduled for next year, these states have been given adequate representation. Uttar Pradesh got the highest share with eight ministers, Gujarat six, one each from Himachal Pradesh, Manipur and Uttarakhand. Hardeep Singh Puri, the Sikh face in the government, was promoted to cabinet rank as Punjab goes to assembly polls next year. He retained the urban affairs ministry that is involved in the redevelopment of the Central Vista. Modi-Shah's trusted election management expert, Bhupender Yadav, will helm environment and labour, the two ministries needed for pushing reforms in the corporate sector. As the country goes for a big infrastructure push, the role of the green ministry becomes important in safeguarding the environment, while at the same time handling permissions. He is the first Yadav cabinet minister in the Modi government, whose elevation is seen as a signal to the crucial vote bank in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Haryana.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jyotiraditya Scindia’s entry into the cabinet was expected, after he helped bring down the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh. As civil aviation minister, a post once held by his father Madhavrao Scindia, he is expected to push for disinvestment of Air India, improve air connectivity among states and modernise the airports.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A big gainer in this reshuffle is Dharmendra Pradhan, as he will helm the education ministry, which has witnessed many ministers in the last seven years. Smriti Irani, Prakash Javadekar and Ramesh Pokhriyal had earlier held the portfolio, but could not manage to win the trust of sangh affiliates who wanted quick and drastic changes in the education segment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As Dr Harsh Vardhan got dropped, Meenakshi Lekhi, who represents the New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency, has been made a minister of state (MoS). The key inclusions as MoS include Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Anupriya Patel from Apna Dal, OBC leader S.P. Singh Baghel and B.S. Yediyurappa acolyte Shobha Karandlaje. The BJP rewarded its Tamil Nadu state president, L. Murugan, too, with a ministerial position for the party’s good show in the recent assembly elections.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The changes in the cabinet have to be read along with new governor appointments that preceded it. Dalit leader Thawar Chand Gehlot, former minister of social justice and empowerment, took over in Karnataka, Goan leader Rajendra Arlekar in Himachal Pradesh and Mangubhai C. Patel, a tribal leader from Gujarat, in Madhya Pradesh. Both Gujarat and Goa will have assembly elections next year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala described the cabinet reshuffle as a defector adjustment expansion. “If performance and governance were the criteria, then Defence Minister Rajnath Singh would have been sacked for Chinese intrusion; Home Minister Amit Shah for failing to control terrorism, Naxalism and mob lynching; and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for bringing down the GDP growth from 8 per cent to -8 per cent,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The BJP counters the criticism. “The prime minister’s approach is to make a matrix of performance and accountability,” says Agarwal. “Before there was no accountability.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As the Union government enters a challenging phase, it has kept its eyes on reforming another sector—cooperatives. It comes with a lot of political intent, as Home Minister Shah will handle the newly-crafted ministry. However, the opposition parties see the creation of this ministry as another attack on the federal rights of the states.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While cooperative societies are a state subject, the Union government can formulate rules and policies for the sector, which has a direct connection with the urban and rural poor. There are over 8.5 lakh cooperative societies with a membership of over 28 crore people. The 97th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2011—related to the working of cooperative societies—had given the Centre the power to define its role. The matter is now under the consideration of the Supreme Court as the amendment was challenged saying it violated the federal structure. Various political parties have already questioned the motives of the government. They are likely to ask Shah to make the contours of the new ministry clear in the upcoming Parliament session.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/07/15/cabinet-reshuffle-modi-wants-to-regain-trust-by-focusing-on-delivering-promises.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/07/15/cabinet-reshuffle-modi-wants-to-regain-trust-by-focusing-on-delivering-promises.html Thu Jul 15 20:10:41 IST 2021 vaccinating-india-will-top-health-minister-mansukh-mandaviya-to-do-list <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/07/15/vaccinating-india-will-top-health-minister-mansukh-mandaviya-to-do-list.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/7/15/34-Mansukh-Mandaviya.jpg" /> <p>When Mansukh Mandaviya was named India's new health minister, many were surprised that Narendra Modi picked him to head the ministry at this crucial juncture. The decision, however, was rather natural. The low-profile man from rural Gujarat is not new to Delhi. He has walked the power corridors for around a decade—first as a Rajya Sabha member, and since 2016, as Modi's man across ministries, taking on the role of junior minister, be it road transport and highways, or chemicals and fertilisers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Modi relies on a certain brand of men and women for executing his vision. He likes technocrats. And, he likes people he has worked with in the past, especially the younger lot who can go far if they work well. Mandaviya is from the latter group, having been a legislator when Modi was Gujarat chief minister. During their Gujarat years, Modi had said he saw a bright future for Mandaviya. The 49-year-old has so far proved worthy of Modi's trust in almost every assignment, whether it was in managing the BJP’s membership drive in Gujarat or representing India at the United Nations on sustainable development.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mandaviya's elevation has much to do with his quiet, diligent work. While Rajpath was abuzz with what the cabinet reshuffle would bring, Mandaviya was busy visiting the premises of Zydus Cadila, which is making the ZyCoV-D vaccine for Covid-19. He is vested with two ministries now—health, and chemicals and fertilisers—hoping to bring synergy between them. The need to ramp up vaccination is underscored by doctors and researchers alike, who say the severity of the dreaded third wave is directly dependant on how well India vaccinates its population.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The medical code of ethics does not allow doctors to promote drugs on brand name, and the same code should be extended to the minister, too. Handling this combination of ministries could cause a conflict of interest,” says J.A. Jayalal, national president, Indian Medical Association. In these extraordinary times, the helmsman’s ability will ensure whether conflict can be turned into confluence of interest. As junior minister in chemicals and fertilisers, Mandaviya helped establish more than 5,100 Jan Aushadhi stores, providing over 850 medicines at affordable rates. So far, he is on the right path.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The task of vaccine management, from manufacture to procurement to ensuring it reaches the neediest, will claim a lot of his time. Its success or failure will be overtly visible. Failure, however, will scream louder than success. “Mandaviya needs to ramp up infrastructure and manpower for that third wave, if and when it happens,” notes Shuchin Bajaj, founder director of Cygnus Ujala Hospitals and member of StepOne, a collective of professionals and volunteers fighting the pandemic. The country cannot afford the helplessness and global humiliation of April, when the world saw India gasping for breath and even countries that had so far been recipients of Indian largesse sent us oxygen cylinders.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While infrastructure is slowly building up, its even distribution has to be ensured. The northeast is now dealing with rising cases, and an implosion in those ill-equipped and far-to-reach areas needs requisite infrastructure. Mandaviya, along with Modi, has already had discussions with ministers of these states.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Human resource is tiring and needs fresh inputs fast. With the NEET-PG postponed, hospitals attached to colleges have an acute shortage—there are around 45,000 seats lying vacant. Doctors have been mocking the irony that they are expected to report for Covid duty, but sitting for an entrance test is deemed risky for them. With his daughter, Disha, herself a medical student on Covid work, Mandaviya has a personal understanding of the situation. He is the original Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao man, having done a padyatra in Gujarat to raise awareness for girl child education much before it became a national slogan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Beyond the pandemic, too, Mandaviya needs to ensure that schemes like Ayushman Bharat stay functional. “Seventy per cent of health care is in the public sector, but planning considers only the private sector. Here, again, he needs to build synergy,” says Jayalal. Bajaj adds that he needs to work at making non-communicable diseases part of primary health care. “While it is good to have dialysis centres, managing hypertension at early stages reduces increase in kidney ailments,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most importantly, Mandaviya has to show he is the right man for the job. The health ministry cannot afford the luxury of “giving him a chance”. His predecessor, Dr Harsh Vardhan, was much beloved, with a squeaky clean image, but even well-wishers admitted he failed at his job, despite being a doctor. Mandaviya needs to be the face of pandemic management, a slot currently filled by a joint secretary in the ministry. Many policy decisions, like vaccination or Vaccine Maitri, are taken at the prime minister’s office, but the inputs come from the ministries concerned. He will need to be prepared for the known unknowns of the pandemic, for this virus cuts the smug to size, and how. If he builds a cadre of medico-crats, health management in the country will improve. Another synergy he needs to work on is Centre and state, so that the ugly spats of the past months are not repeated.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mandaviya's success will lie in how he walks the tightrope between managing his ministries and toeing the political line. For instance, while the government talks about yet another synergy between various branches of medicine, he will need to maintain the purity of systems, and let the Ayush ministry do its task. So far, he has let his work do the talking. He would do well to keep it that way, given how his predecessor's unfortunate utterances spelled his career doom.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/07/15/vaccinating-india-will-top-health-minister-mansukh-mandaviya-to-do-list.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/07/15/vaccinating-india-will-top-health-minister-mansukh-mandaviya-to-do-list.html Thu Jul 15 20:04:47 IST 2021 ashwini-vaishnaw-experience-in-ias-business-will-help-in-managing-big-portfolios <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/07/15/ashwini-vaishnaw-experience-in-ias-business-will-help-in-managing-big-portfolios.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/7/15/38-Ashwini-Vaishnaw-new.jpg" /> <p>Contrary to the general assumption, Ashwini Vaishnaw is not from Odisha. The Union cabinet minister in charge of the power-packed portfolios of communications, electronics, IT and railways is from Rajasthan—his family hails from Pali and he grew up in Jodhpur. For all practical purposes, though, he is Odia. He is from the state’s IAS cadre, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha from there and he is an ardent follower of Lord Jagannath. In the first five days of his ‘cabinetdom’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new blue-eyed boy sought blessings from the Lord of Puri four times.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vaishnaw would need more science than spirituality, though, to rise to the task he has been asked to do. The reason Modi chose a low profile insider for the crucial portfolios is not hard to figure out—during his IAS days he was part of Vajpayee’s PMO; he has been a startup entrepreneur and has held corporate positions in the likes of GE and Siemens. The Wharton alumnus’s short tenure in the upper house of Parliament has seen him defending government laws crunching data, and he has often been called in by the PMO for inputs on policy and technology.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The rapid changes in the world of technology and its growing role in everyday life have raised the importance of Vaishnaw's portfolios stratospherically in recent years. Even while his predecessor, Ravi Shankar Prasad, seemed obsessed with a slugfest with Big Tech in general, and Twitter in particular, many legislations and reforms desperately needed for the rapidly changing world lagged by the wayside.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For instance, it is still 'future unknown' for the Personal Data Protection Bill—nearly four years after the government started working on it. Arguably, the single-most-important piece of legislation that could have formed a blueprint for a future tech-fuelled life, it has been mired in umpteen parliamentary committee hearings. Its original spirit as envisaged by the Supreme Court’s ‘Right to Privacy’ judgement, recommendations by the Justice Sri Krishna Committee and global role models like Europe’s GDPR has been undercut in the final draft.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Same with the rollout of 5G telecom technology. As Modi stormed back to power in May 2019, Prasad promised that 5G would be rolled out in 100 days. It has been some 700 days; a clear-cut 5G policy, spectrum auctions and clarity on trusted equipment providers are not yet there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The health of the telecom sector is in need of an intervention. State-owned BSNL and the private operator Vi (formerly Vodafone-Idea) are in dire straits. The sector is a feeble shadow of its reform-energised heady days, even as its importance in taking Digital India to the next level could not be stressed enough.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then there is the vexatious issue of social media. While nobody is ready yet to come out and say that Prasad took it too far, it is likely that a more temperate approach would be followed in the matter by Vaishnaw. His first pronouncements after taking over and meeting secretaries at Electronics Niketan, though, stuck to the status quo that Twitter must follow Indian laws.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The positives [of IT rules 2021] have been accompanied by legal and technical challenges that might hinder the operationalisation of these rules and lead to untoward implications on the digital rights of the citizenry,” said Kazim Rizvi, founder of The Dialogue, a public policy advocacy forum. “A key area of engagement would be creating harmonious and interoperable policies that make India ready for the world when it comes to technology.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That is right up Vaishnaw’s street, with his penchant for data and harnessing technology. His experience in logistics is also expected to come in handy while giving a makeover to Indian Railways, the other ministry he has been tasked with.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The next wave of economic growth, and consequently power in the global scenario, lies in how effectively we make use of technological change. We can aim for efficiencies, and opportunities never thought of before, if they are based on a stable bedrock of policy that is in sync with each other,” said Rizvi. Modi’s line of thinking might have been that Vaishnaw’s varied experience in dealing with the red tape from all three corners—as a bureaucrat, as an entrepreneur and as a politician—would help him make that giant leap of faith. With such great expectations, it is just as well that this technocrat seeks some divine help once in a while.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/07/15/ashwini-vaishnaw-experience-in-ias-business-will-help-in-managing-big-portfolios.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/07/15/ashwini-vaishnaw-experience-in-ias-business-will-help-in-managing-big-portfolios.html Sat Jul 17 12:33:06 IST 2021 ministry-of-cooperation-the-lure-for-amit-shah <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/07/15/ministry-of-cooperation-the-lure-for-amit-shah.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/7/15/44-Amit-Shah.jpg" /> <p>Amit Shah never lets a good crisis go to waste.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2000, a financial crisis in the Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank helped him get elected as chairman of the board of directors and wrest control of the bank from the Congress. The bank had for years failed to pay dividend; it had just posted a net loss of around Rs20 crore, and was struggling to keep customer confidence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shah’s task was cut out. To prevent the bank from going under, he had to shore up its capital reserves and ensure money flow. A time-honoured practice in such situations was to ask for more aid from NABARD (the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, which finances cooperative banks) and more lenient terms from the usually hawkish Reserve Bank of India. But since the RBI had sensed that Gujarat’s famed cooperative sector was itself under considerable stress, Shah did not have much leeway.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So he led the bank into the lucrative domain of securities trading, financing brokers and accountants who mostly traded in small-cap equities. Those were good times for the stock market: indices were climbing record highs mainly on the back of fledgling, internet-based tech startups. The term ‘dot-com bubble’ was yet to enter the lexicon.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shah’s bank leveraged the profits accrued from the boom to turn itself around. By the end of the year, it had made a net profit of around Rs6 crore and paid a 10 per cent dividend. Shah went on to quietly increase the BJP’s grip on the state’s deep-rooted cooperative structure, which included sectors as varied as diary, agriculture, textiles, labour and infrastructure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shah’s cooperative experiments later proved instrumental in the BJP’s successive poll victories in Gujarat. As Union minister for cooperation, he is now eyeing a bigger playground: India has one of the largest cooperative ecosystems in the world, with collective revenues running into several lakh crore rupees a year. Experts say the new ministry will be a game-changer. Cooperatives have long been a state subject, but the Central legislation that is bound to come soon will take powers away from states and towards the Centre.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It’s a revolutionary step,” said R.S. Sodhi, managing director of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, or Amul, the world’s second largest cooperative by turnover. “They have recognised that the cooperative way of doing business is a viable alternative to big businesses. Cooperatives are big businesses of small people—farmers, taxi drivers, traders and so on.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, what exactly is a cooperative? Put simply, a cooperative is like a corporation—except, a corporation is made up of units of capital called shares, while a cooperative comprises people who want to achieve a common economic goal. While those who own the most number of shares control a corporation (one vote for each share, generally), members of a cooperative have equal power irrespective of the number of shares they own (one vote for each person). Corporate shares are traded; cooperative shares are not. And, just as corporates try to maximise profits, a cooperative can maximise its utility and value for its members.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The cooperative model has dreary shades of socialism, and perhaps because of that, it is not as visible as the corporate sector. But, most of the world’s mega cooperatives are in advanced market economies. The annual list of the world’s top 10 cooperatives is regularly dominated by institutions from Japan, France, Germany and the US. The UK, where the model was born in the 1800s, is home to a large number of consumer and labour cooperatives; Germany and the Netherlands have century-old cooperative banks; Spain is home to the world’s largest infra cooperative; and two of the biggest retail chains in Switzerland are farm-based cooperatives.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India has 8.5 lakh cooperatives with 29 crore people as members. An equal number of people is indirectly dependent on them. The total working capital in the sector exceeds Rs12.5 lakh crore, and the network of cooperatives covers more than 90 per cent villages in the country. The largest cooperative by turnover is IFFCO (Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Ltd), a conglomerate with five crore farmers as beneficiaries. Its interests span agriculture, insurance, technology and logistics. Its annual revenues exceed Rs25,000 crore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The cooperative sector in India is largely fractured, though, as each state has separate laws and regulatory bodies. And since cooperatives can function as a stable vote bank, politicians find it useful to control such organisations and undercut cooperatives led by rivals. When A.B. Vajpayee was prime minister, the Union government had tried to liberalise the sector by bringing in a law to form multi-state cooperatives, but it largely failed. In 2012, the Manmohan Singh government passed a constitutional amendment giving every citizen the right to form cooperatives, but provisions of it were later struck down by the Gujarat High Court. (The Supreme Court is now hearing an appeal filed by the Centre in this issue.)</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“As a consequence [of the High Court verdict], state cooperative acts have not been liberalised or updated,” said Satish Marathe, founder of the Maharashtra-based NGO Sahakar Bharati. As an RBI Central Board director, Marathe played a key role in the formation of the new ministry, which he says would help usher in long-delayed reforms.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“India missed the bus in entering new areas of cooperatives,” he told THE WEEK. “We have no cooperatives in mutual funds, insurance, telephony or electricity and water supply. In the past, we had consumer cooperatives; but today, the number is very small. Such cooperatives can play a very effective role in price stabilisation. Countries like Singapore, the UK and the US have huge retailers like Walmart, but still the share of consumer cooperatives in these countries is high—between 20 and 30 per cent. We need consumer cooperatives in a big way, because India is substantially urbanising.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ghanshyam Amin, chairman of Gujarat State Cooperative Union, said the formation of the new Union ministry bode well for Gujarat. Cooperatives in the state had long been demanding a separate department at the Centre to handle issues related to the sector. &quot;Although India has the largest cooperative movement in the world, it is not strong enough,&quot; said Amin. &quot;Being from Gujarat, both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah know the sector well. Shah would be able to handle the ministry ably.&quot;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Setting up consumer cooperatives could be a part of the BJP’s game plan in poll-bound Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, where last year’s farm reforms have considerably eroded support for the party. The Centre apparently wants to promote Swiss-style farm cooperatives, which can procure and sell produce. The BJP expects this push to help in the speedy delivery of financial assistance to farmers and in countering charges that the party is favouring corporates. The government has already been implementing the Kisan Credit Card and Soil Health Card schemes through cooperatives. Apparently, plans are afoot to at least double the food storage capacity in the cooperative sector (23 million tonnes currently, or 15 per cent of the total storage capacity in India) to defuse protests and give farmers greater economic freedom.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But such steps would require wide-ranging legislation that would affect state governments. Opposition leaders fear that Shah will use the opportunity to help the BJP in states where it has been struggling. In Kerala, for instance, the party has long been trying to break the left’s hold on the cooperative sector. “There is apprehension about the Union government’s move because cooperation is a state subject,” said Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. “It is still not clear why the ministry has been formed out of the blue.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said the new ministry was a “violation of the federal principle”. “They are doing it to hijack cooperative movements across the country,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Maharashtra, where the Nationalist Congress Party controls many sugar cooperatives, there is fear that the new ministry would upset the power balance. The Centre’s move has also come at a time when NCP chief Sharad Pawar has joined hands with the left in an effort to float a third front.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But, despite this, there is hope that the new ministry will help resolve problems in cooperative banking. The run on the Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative Bank in 2019 had earlier prompted demands that the Centre form a separate department to look into cooperative banking issues. The demand has been gaining traction since last year, when a Central ordinance enabled the RBI to regulate urban cooperative banks across the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“With RBI regulations, the autonomy of urban cooperative and district cooperative banks is now in danger,” Jayant Patil, Maharashtra minister and NCP state president, told THE WEEK. “Shah was in charge of a [cooperative] bank in Gujarat, so I am confident that he will bail out the sector from all this.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In recent times, the RBI has been cracking the whip on shoddy book-keeping and dubious lending practices in urban cooperative banks in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala. Most of these banks, say experts, suffer from non-performing assets, inadequate capital reserves and an inability to raise funds to meet growing demands.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Cooperatives have no access to capital markets, so they are totally dependent on the government,” said Marathe. “Ease of doing business norms should also be extended to cooperatives.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Such reforms, however, would require the Centre to come clean on its motives. “The decision [to form the ministry] is okay. But the intention has to be seen,” said Arup Roy, cooperative minister in West Bengal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Would the ministry help solve problems faced by cooperative institutions? “I doubt that,” he told THE WEEK. “The Centre harmed cooperative banks through demonetisation. All the banks suffered because of the draconian decision of the government [to not let cooperative banks exchange banned notes]. It was to offset that damage that the Centre brought in an ordinance last year bringing these banks under the RBI.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The question is, how would Shah proceed now? He had succeeded in rescuing the Ahmedabad bank in 2000, but it did not set a desirable model for other cooperative banks. The Madhavpura Mercantile Cooperative Bank, for example, had tried to take a leaf out of the Ahmedabad bank’s playbook by lending hundreds of crores to a chartered accountant called Ketan Parekh, whose involvement in a trading scam later led to the biggest Sensex crash since 1992. If it were not for the combined efforts of the Central and state governments and the RBI, as many as 168 banks who had large deposits in the Madhavpura bank would have also gone under. Shah himself was a member of the panel that was constituted to prepare a bailout package for the banks. In 2002, less than a year after the mess began to recede, Shah became number two in the newly elected Narendra Modi government in the state.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Opposition leaders who know this history are wary. They know that Shah and the BJP may well make good use of the current crisis as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>With Rabi Banerjee and Cithara Paul</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/07/15/ministry-of-cooperation-the-lure-for-amit-shah.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/07/15/ministry-of-cooperation-the-lure-for-amit-shah.html Fri Aug 13 18:02:08 IST 2021 how-a-hyderabad-couple-got-the-world-costliest-medicine-for-their-child <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/07/08/how-a-hyderabad-couple-got-the-world-costliest-medicine-for-their-child.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/7/8/46-Ayaansh-Gupta.jpg" /> <p><b>AYAANSH GUPTA COULD</b> string together words when he was just one, his parents said. And he could recite mantras when he was two. At three, he does console his mother whenever he notices tears in her eyes. Words have been the lifeline for Ayaansh, who cannot yet sit, stand, chew or even breathe properly. “His speech helped us fight for him. It kept us motivated,” said his father, Yogesh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2019, just before he turned one, Ayaansh was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Hyderabad residents Yogesh and Rupal were told that their son would live for only two or three more years. The rare genetic disease affects the central nervous system, severely limiting muscle movement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The couple had first observed abnormalities when he was six months old. “He had limited movement,” said Yogesh. “He used to get tired in just one or two minutes. We thought it could just be a delay in development. One day, he suddenly lost control of his neck.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After a mental assessment and a few tests, the neuromuscular disease was diagnosed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“After the reports came, we broke down in front of the doctors as we did not know what to do,” said Yogesh. “The doctors also conveyed that if we plan to have another child, there would be a 20 per cent chance of the child having the same disorder.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yogesh, who works for a private equity firm, and his wife, who quit her IT job, dedicated their lives to finding a solution for Ayaansh’s condition. The biggest shock was the realisation that he would need gene therapy involving the world’s costliest medicine—Zolgensma, produced by Novartis, costs about Rs16 crore. Simply put, the single-dose intravenous injection replaces the defective SMN1 gene with a therapeutic gene.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are two other drugs in the market to treat SMA but they have to be taken lifelong and would cost Rs3 crore to Rs4 crore a year. So, Yogesh and Rupal reached out to support groups and even registered for programmes in which a select few would receive Zolgensma for free. When nothing worked out, the family launched a crowdfunding appeal on social media in February. The target was met by May, with 65,000 donors pitching in.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“My wife was confident that it could be done as she had seen a lot of fundraising campaigns in the US. But I was a little sceptical,” said Yogesh. “We started increasing the visibility and awareness of the campaign. And that is how I think it worked. We used Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, and also reached out to corporates.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Celebrities played a big role in popularising the appeal; Anushka Sharma, Virat Kohli, Rajkummar Rao and Karan Johar were among the celebs who donated. The campaign also led to the import tax for the drug being waived. The family was guided by Rainbow Children’s Hospital, Hyderabad, which applied for the drug.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Zolgensma is transported at -60°C, and the hospital that receives it must store it between 2-8°C. The drug “is stable for 14 days from receipt” when stored at the prescribed temperature. The cold chain is so critical that Novartis reportedly has an exclusive deal with US-based Savsu Technologies to transport Zolgensma. Savsu’s speciality is “temperature controlled systems and transport containers”. Additionally, it tracks all consignments in real-time through its cloud-based application, evo.is.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dr Ramesh Konaki, consultant paediatric neurologist at Rainbow Hospital, is one of the few Indians with the training to administer Zolgensma. “Some blood tests needed to be done [before the injection]; one of the samples had to be sent to the Netherlands for antibodies. We could start only if the result was negative,” he said. The result was negative, and Ayaansh was given the jab in the second week of June.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Zolgensma is administered like any other intravenous medicine. Ayaansh was admitted on the morning of June 9. The process took about one-and-a-half hours. He was kept under observation for a few hours and discharged in the evening.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“(The procedure) is exciting because gene therapy itself is revolutionary,” said Dr Ramesh. “It is like nature has taken away a gene from you, and science has reached a stage where you can replace the gene and rectify the genetic difference.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>SMA affects 1 in 10,000 children in India. Among the three types of SMA, babies with type-1, like Ayaansh, rarely survive for more than two years. Those with type-2 and type-3 variants need lifelong, expensive medication to survive. Currently, there are close to 800 SMA patients in the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This brings up the question of Zolgensma’s high price tag. Amir Ullah Khan, research director, Centre for Development Policy and Practice, said that currently only the uber-rich in India could afford Zolgensma. He said the government should encourage Indian companies to develop and sell a similar drug at a lower price.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ayaansh is now back home, and the family is expecting full recovery in seven to eight months. “I never knew there were so many kind souls in the world,” said Yogesh. “When he grows up, I am going to tell him about those who supported him. He will give back to the society that helped him so much.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are other heartening stories, too, in the SMA saga, like the one about little Muhammad Rafeek from Kannur, Kerala. The Rs18 crore needed for him was raised in seven days, following an appeal by his parents in late June. Novartis, too, is funding free supplies through its CSR division. In June, four children each received free Zolgensma injections at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, and at Bangalore Baptist Hospital.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/07/08/how-a-hyderabad-couple-got-the-world-costliest-medicine-for-their-child.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/07/08/how-a-hyderabad-couple-got-the-world-costliest-medicine-for-their-child.html Thu Jul 08 17:10:45 IST 2021 memories-of-an-air-force-man-who-outran-milkha-singh <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/06/25/memories-of-an-air-force-man-who-outran-milkha-singh.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/6/25/Milkha-Singh3.jpg" /> <p><b>I first saw</b> Milkha Singh in 1956, at the National Athletic Championship in Patiala.</p> <p>I had joined the Air Force three years earlier as a 17-year-old fresh from school, and was stationed in Ambala. During a two-day holiday, my friends and I visited the Bhakra Nangal Dam. On our way back, we stopped in Patiala to see the famous palace and the athletic championship being held at Yajuvendra Stadium.</p> <p>When we entered the stadium, the victory ceremony of the 400m race was in progress. First on the podium was Alex Silvera, known as the “dark horse of the railways” and the first Indian to cover the distance in 48 seconds. Second was Milkha Singh, who was not an established athlete then. As a spectator, I never thought that I would also be standing on the podium with Milkha one day.</p> <p>In December 1959, the head of my department in Ambala compelled me to take part in the 100m and 200m races in the annual sports event at the Air Force station. I did not have running shoes and had never participated in the athletics earlier. I was a fairly good cricketer, though. In an inter-school tournament, Chandu Borde—who would go on to become a famous Test cricketer—was my captain.</p> <p>At the annual event in Ambala, I surprised myself and everyone else by winning the two races. The same year, I won the Air Force Championship and was selected to compete in the Services Athletic Championship at the National Stadium in Delhi in January 1960. That was the second time I saw Milkha—this time, as competitor. He was representing the Army’s Southern Command and was participating in five events—100m, 200m and 400m races, and two relays—to help his team win the championship.</p> <p>I entered the 100m final, along with established names like Milkha and Makhan Singh. Milkha came first, Makhan second, and me third. I was then selected for the 4x100m relay team representing the services in the national championship.</p> <p>In 1960, Milkha was hardly the rookie he was in 1956. After winning two gold medals in the 1958 Asian Games in 200m and 400m, he was consistently winning races and improving his performance. As the most talented and outstanding Indian athlete, he was looked upon as a medal prospect in the Rome Olympics that would begin in August 1960.</p> <p>In the national championship, which was held in February that year, Milkha again participated in five events. He won all three individual events (100m, 200m and 400m) and helped the team win the 4x100m and 4x400m relays. In the 4x100m relay, I ran in the third leg and handed over the baton to the Flying Sikh. Though he was slow in receiving the baton, he finished the race in record time.</p> <p>After the championship, Milkha was sent on a tour of Europe to participate in competitions and gain experience. He not only won several events, but also improved his performance each time, raising hopes of him becoming the first Indian athlete to win an Olympic medal in athletics. But, as luck would have it, he ended up losing the bronze by a fraction of a second.</p> <p>In 1961, both Milkha and I were stationed in Delhi. Both of us practised at the National Stadium. He would arrive in a Fiat and be surrounded by athletes requesting autographs or advice. After making everyone happy, Milkha would start practising. But I could see that he no longer set his mind to it. The passion of the old days, when he would continue practising until he was forced to leave the ground, was gone.</p> <p>I once asked him about his plans. He replied honestly that he had none for the next Olympics. He would be 34 by then, he said. To win a medal in 400m, one would have to clock in well below 44 seconds—a difficult target considering his age.</p> <p>Milkha continued representing the services as a disciplined soldier and won the 400m at the national championship at Jalandhar in 1961. I, too, was part of the services team and won the 100m bronze.</p> <p>In 1962, the services meet was held in Lucknow. It was probably Milkha’s last appearance for the Army. He again participated in five events, and won three, to help his team clinch the championship—a parting gift to the Army’s Southern Command that had groomed him as an athlete.</p> <p>As a member of the Air Force team, I participated in 100m and 200m. In the 200m semi-final, Milkha and I were in the same heat. I gave it my all and came first. Milkha probably had not given his best; he came second. The press, however, played up the result. ‘Tawde pushes Milkha Singh to second place in 200m’, said a big headline.</p> <p>Milkha and I had earlier qualified for the 100m final, after coming first in separate heats. A journalist came to me and said, ‘Beat Milkha tomorrow in the 100m final, and we will highlight the news on the front page.”</p> <p>This put me under pressure. The race, however, started out well and I was leading till near the finish line. Just then a thought struck me for a fraction of a second: where is the great Milkha Singh? And then I saw him gain his second wind and beat me to the tape. After the race, he shook hands and said, “Well run; keep it up.”</p> <p>That was the legend’s last 100m race. To be on the podium with him was something I had never dreamt of. I felt elated.</p> <p>Both Milkha and I retired from service in 1962. Milkha became director of Punjab’s sports department. I was to join the Tata Group at Telco’s Jamshedpur plant, but China’s border aggression that year prompted the Air Force to call me back.</p> <p>In 1963, we represented Punjab and Maharashtra, respectively, in the national championship at Jabalpur. We took on each other in the final lap of the 4x400m relay. I had a small lead when I received the baton, but Milkha soon overtook me and won gold for Punjab. Maharashtra won silver.</p> <p>Though he had no passion left for competing, he dutifully represented Punjab in the 1964 national championship, too. That was his last event. I could not participate in the championship because of an injury. Milkha was selected for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as well, but he took part only in the 4x400m relay. It was his last international event.</p> <p>I met Milkha again in 1965, after I joined Telco. The occasion was the national athletic championship in Chandigarh, organised by the Punjab government. Milkha was chairman of the organising committee then, and he proved his mettle as an administrator by providing excellent lodging facilities for athletes in the MLA hostel.</p> <p>I met him again in 1966, when he was chairman of the national selection committee. He said he was happy with my progress in 100m. I was selected for the Commonwealth Games in Kingston and the Asian Games in Bangkok that year. But an unexpected economic crisis forced the government to prune the size of the contingent for both the events, and I was left out.</p> <p>I retired from active sports in 1971, after winning the 100m silver at the national championship in Ahmedabad. I moved on to sports administration and was elected secretary of Maharashtra’s Athletic Association in 1976. I met Milkha in 1985, and he told me that he was happy that I had taken up the task of improving sports in India.</p> <p>I held several administrative posts over subsequent decades and continued to meet Milkha occasionally. He was always prompt in responding to messages and appreciating good work.</p> <p>Milkha never let fame affect his appetite for hard work. Once, after recognising the need to speak English, Milkha hired a tutor to teach him the language. He was also particular about his appearance—he was always immaculately dressed.</p> <p>Milkha was not just an outstanding athlete, but a thorough gentleman and caring human being. With his departure, I have lost a dear friend.&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/06/25/memories-of-an-air-force-man-who-outran-milkha-singh.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/06/25/memories-of-an-air-force-man-who-outran-milkha-singh.html Fri Jun 25 15:50:12 IST 2021 the-right-helmet-at-the-right-moment-could-save-thousands-of-lives <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/06/25/the-right-helmet-at-the-right-moment-could-save-thousands-of-lives.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/6/25/56-Keep-your-head-new.jpg" /> <p>There is no positive to having a motorcycle accident besides recognising the luck by which you survived it and—hopefully—gaining real-world data that could help you become a safer driver.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What can I share on road safety, besides my own accident experience? In the small hours of a night in August 2015, I wrung the throttle on an empty Bengaluru highway, my 135cc engine roared almost as if it were alive. The world was good in that moment. In the next, an unmarked speed-breaker that had not been there the week before appeared. I jammed the brakes—it was already too late—braced for impact, and then, was airborne.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At that speed, the world was not good. But certainly, my braking had not been for naught, else I would have flown further and faster. More certainly, it would have been best had I not been speeding at all. Lesson #1.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is said, based on an American study, that every 16kmph increase in speed after 100kmph doubles your chance of dying in a crash. The World Health Organisation offered a more clinical estimate—“an increase in average speed of 1 kmph typically results in a 3 per cent higher risk of a crash involving injury, with a 4–5 per cent increase for crashes that result in fatalities”. Most studies looked at cars, but a study of over 1,000 motorcycle accidents in Germany estimated a 2/3 chance of serious injuries in crashes at 70km/h. Lesson #2: Speed limits exist for a reason.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With no real opportunity to Google these odds while being airborne, all I could think about was what was in front of me: the tarmac. As my ungloved hands stretched towards it, I thought, “Well, this is going to hurt.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I tumbled upon impact. Those who watch MotoGP and who know to wear All The Gear All The Time (ATGATT) know better how to tuck your arms in and try to slide it out, using the protective layers of your riding gear as a form of armour. Lesson #3: Riding gloves are cheap. Wear them. Get a set of motorcycle pants, too, and a good jacket if the weather is kind.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Of course, hindsight is always 20/20. But the real life-lesson came mid-tumble. As I hit the road, rolled and got disoriented, I felt a distant thud through my helmet, which was the sound of my head hitting the ground for the first time. I remember thinking in that split moment: “Oof. That helmet just saved my life.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thankfully, the accident happened in front of a hospital, so I escaped with just a broken clavicle, and did not hurt anybody else through my own stupidity. I could only thank my stars that the helmet fit me well, that I had dutifully fastened the chinstrap every time—despite taking it off multiple times at multiple stops before the accident. An unfastened helmet—or one that does not fit well—can be the biggest mistake of your life. Lesson #4: Helmet discipline saves life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is little use to personal anecdotes in something as dangerous as motorcycling; hard facts should suffice more than circumstantial rolls of the die. It is such a fact that helmets save lives and yet, so many in India will ride without them—whether to preserve their hairstyles, to feel the wind, or out of some other unfathomable reason.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thirty seven per cent of the 1.5 lakh people who died on Indian roads in 2019 were on two-wheelers; 44,666 of those victims were not wearing helmets, according to transport ministry data.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Not all helmets are made equal, and from June 1, it is mandatory for helmets to bear the IS 4151: 2015 standard mark, by virtue of the Two Wheeler Motor Vehicles (Quality Control) Order, 2020. The commonly seen construction helmet, used to save riders not from injury but from the ire of policemen, will no longer do even that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, the new standards introduce a paradox, for some. The government wants you to stop using helmets that do not meet safety standards—but in hopes of enforcing this, have made only one safety standard the passing criteria, that of the Bureau of Indian Standards. However, many in the motorcycling community advocate for helmets that adhere to safety standards like SNELL, SHARP or ECE 22.06.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some manufacturers tread a safe middle ground by adhering to all standards: Royal Enfield’s website states that a helmet “that is not only certified for IS 4151 Indian Standard but also DOT...and ECE 22.05 is a perfect solution and a balance between all prevalent standards of certifications.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Among helmet standards, SNELL’s are arguably the most stringent—with criteria regularly updated and listed by the non-profit Snell Foundation. The foundation itself was started to honour the memory of William “Pete” Snell, a Californian amateur sports car race driver whose helmet failed to protect him. On the other side are American DOT-certified helmets—controversial among bikers who see its self-certification requirements and outdated safety parameters as emblematic of bureaucratic indifference (YouTube channel Fort9 has done a fantastic video on what’s wrong with DOT).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Smart riders take no chances with their helmets, or with their gear. This includes dodging half-helmets that leave your chin unguarded. For Nikhil Infant, who has been riding for over 16 years, he prioritised fit, safety rating, colour, design and the brand of the helmet, in that order. “A right sized full-face helmet, strapped properly, will save lives,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2016, Bengaluru made helmets compulsory for pillion riders. The move, while designed to save lives, can pose practical issues for motorcyclists—who need an extra bag or mounting equipment to carry the extra lifesaver. “If I know that I’ll take a pillion, I carry a helmet in a bag. But usually, it is just me. As difficult as it is to do this, I think it’s a good rule, but what’s sad is, unless you carry a helmet on your bike you cannot offer people lifts on the road like before,” said Nikhil.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Noah Chetri, who purchased his first bike in 2020, spent months researching helmets, gear and best practices before taking the plunge. “I’d say safety would be of utmost importance,” he said. “But you also have to remember that a helmet which isn’t comfortable is going to bother you during long rides, same for ones that aren’t ventilated or that don’t have protection against dust or glare. After all, riding is an activity that requires 100 per cent focus.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On helmet safety, Noah highlights a range of factors: From the material of the outer surface to features such as the Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS)—which incorporates sliding surfaces within the helmet to reduce the amount of rotational damage one can suffer in a crash. True, racing grade ARAI helmets can cost as much as a commuter motorcycle, but ECE-certified helmets can be bought without breaking the bank.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/06/25/the-right-helmet-at-the-right-moment-could-save-thousands-of-lives.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/06/25/the-right-helmet-at-the-right-moment-could-save-thousands-of-lives.html Sat Aug 07 15:42:22 IST 2021 covid-19-showed-resilience-of-indian-education-sector-fortitude-of-our-students <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/06/17/covid-19-showed-resilience-of-indian-education-sector-fortitude-of-our-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/2021/6/17/online-education.jpg" /> <p>Imagine that you looked out your window and saw your neighbour's college-going son staring at the bushes outside his house. You would probably think: “Poor kid, he may be losing his mind, being cooped up inside during his college years.” However, if he happens to be a botany student, chances are that he was attending a practical class. As colleges pulled out all the stops to ensure continued learning, botany students were asked to study the plants in their neighbourhood.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>V. Prabhavathi, associate professor of botany, Shivaji College, University of Delhi, said that during online sessions, faculty demonstrated “live lab specimens” (plants) and supplemented it through informational videos. In subsequent classes, students were asked to bring specimens. They were also randomly asked to give demonstrations of specific aspects of the experiment. She said that compared with lab work, self exploration evoked greater interest among students.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In other lab-intense subjects, short video clips were used, along with quizzes on the tools and techniques, chemicals and reagents, and the outcomes of experiments. Practicals for computer science programmes were moved to online platforms, where the coding skills of students could be tested. Virtual labs, including the government’s vlab.co.in, were used extensively for a variety of subjects. So were simulations and case studies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, despite the best efforts of colleges, some offline sessions remained a necessity. Also, the basics of handling lab equipment could not be imparted to first-year students. Luckily, institutes managed to schedule offline lab sessions in the respite between the first and second waves. But, exams could not be completed before the surge; the incomplete exams were held in viva-voce mode. “Neither teachers nor students were satisfied with this curtailed experience,” said Rajendra Shinde, principal, St. Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Mumbai. “We plan to redo certain practicals as and when possible.”</p> <p>Apart from the ‘practical’ problems created by Covid-19, a major issue was the much curtailed social experience of students, especially first-years. As University Grants Commission Chairman D.P. Singh, told THE WEEK: “Campus life is a new social experience. Meeting and mingling with fellow students and teachers inculcates curiosity, inquisitiveness, creativity and competitiveness. It also strengthens harmony and fraternity and, more importantly, enables students to appreciate and accommodate differences of opinions.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not difficult to imagine how much first-year students were looking forward to all that and more. However, they now seem to have come to terms with reality. Jojo Joseph, 18, a history student at Loyola College, Chennai, only stepped into the institute’s vast and vibrant campus earlier this year, when it was opened briefly, in a restricted way, to give the students offline access to faculty and the library. “There is a feeling that my second year, too, may be online,” he said. “But, given the scenario, it is the best alternative.” He added that even if offline classes resumed, his mother was apprehensive about sending him to college.</p> <p>Even for the senior batches, Covid-19 was a bitter pill to swallow. Sanjana Saxena, 19, a second year journalism and mass communications student at Amity University, Lucknow, said: “Mentally, it was difficult for me to stay away from the campus; to be away from friends and teachers.” She added that she fully appreciated the Covid-19 regulations only after she and her family tested positive in April 2021. Saxena, still on multivitamins post the infection, managed to finish her year-end exams online. She is full of praise for her faculty and the university. “They were regularly inquiring about my health and even gave me the option to appear for the exams at a later date,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Such support from institutions has been crucial in helping the students cope with the stress caused by the pandemic. Psychologists and counsellors, too, were thrust into the thick of the battle and rose to the challenge magnificently. Shivani Manchanda, a counsellor at the Student Wellness Centre, IIT Bombay, said the focus of counselling outreach was handling stress, anxiety and fear. “A change in perspective was also offered to students—they were asked to transform loneliness into solitude through self learning and growth.”</p> <p>Holistic learning has suffered immensely, especially in professional courses like management programmes. A. Venkat Raman, professor at the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi, said that the foundation courses for the first-year students were extremely critical and despite the hybrid nature of online courses, there was still a sense of void among the faculty. “Subject-specific learning for the final year students is based on interaction with the faculty and in undertaking research projects.” Online interaction, he added, is no substitute to learning informally over a cup of tea or in the college cafeteria. Subhasis Chaudhuri, director, IIT Bombay, also said that the quality of learning takes a hit in the virtual mode, “more so for students who are not toppers”.</p> <p>Lack of access to the online medium continues to be a problem. Even when measures are taken to give access, training children in virtual learning is becoming a challenge. “Students, especially the ones from rural backgrounds, struggle to cope with digital classrooms or online-proctored exams,” said S.R.R. Senthilkumar, principal, Sona College of Technology, Salem. But, as Anil Dattatraya Sahasrabudhe, chairman, All India Council for Technical Education, told THE WEEK: “If a level-playing field can be created, it is only through digital technology. Because in order to have education for all, if you have to build brick-and-mortar infrastructure and induct a huge number of faculty, it will be expensive. The online mode is much more economical.”</p> <p>Despite all that the country’s education sector has been able to achieve during the pandemic, the first and, sometimes, only, concern for Indian parents would be placements. Most top b-schools have maintained that their placements were not hit too badly by Covid-19. Venkat Raman of FMS said: “We did not face difficulties in the corporate placements of our final year MBA students. All of them are raring to join their prospective employers.”</p> <p>Aman Mittal, additional director, Lovely Professional University, Punjab, said that more than 7,000 placement offers were made to students of LPU during the pandemic. “We also created [online] internship opportunities,” he said. “Our teams spoke to companies in various domains, including IT, fashion and hotel management. This helped in creating additional opportunities. ”</p> <p>Sahasrabudhe said placement figures for engineering colleges affiliated to the AICTE had reduced slightly. “Because many companies were not fully running during the lockdown,” he said. “Even internships have been affected because the number of companies which allow students on their premises decreased. But, I am very happy that two major IT companies have taken 40,000 students from our engineering colleges. So it is not as bad as what we were expecting.”</p> <p>“Once industrial activity gets back in full throttle, I am sure there will be a huge requirement for jobs and students will get placements,” he said. His optimism is almost infectious. And, considering the resilience the education sector showed in the face of a global crisis, optimism is indeed warranted.</p> <p>—<b>With Sneha Bhura</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>POINTS TO PONDER<br> </b></p> <p><b style="font-size: 0.8125rem;">Practical solutions</b><br> </p> <p>While the theory classes were comfortably shifted online, it was a real challenge to cope with the practical sessions. We did try to use simulations whenever possible, but in some cases, we had to wait for the university to permit strategically spaced, offline, practical sessions, when the situation allowed it. In courses like psychology, we have tried to use online modules with the same concepts as in actual therapy sessions today. We also used videos and case studies as tools.</p> <p><b>Sam Paul</b></p> <p><i>Director, Krupanidhi Group of Institutions, Bengaluru</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Continuous evaluation</b><br> </p> <p>We do not have final exams. Evaluation is continuous in each module of every course via assignments, projects, presentations and tests. Field trips, however, have not been conducted.There can be mental and social issues because of the pandemic. We have been organising student meetings with course heads and management—deans and the director—to lessen the anxiety of our students. We are in a global problem and we hope that normalcy and safety will soon return.</p> <p><b>J.B. Mistry</b></p> <p><i>Dean (academic), Xavier Institute of Communications, St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai</i></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Portal power</b><br> </p> <p>We have created a portal of study material. This is a library, onto which content from all subjects were uploaded. There are self-evaluation questions and practice questions. It also has a discussion forum, where all 8,000 students can communicate. The portal tracks the hours spent, number of tests taken, questions in the discussion forum and so on, and assigns points. These points will give us an idea of how much a student has studied for each course and outcomes in marks are correlated.</p> <p><b>K. Sundararaman</b></p> <p><i>Chief executive officer, Sri Krishna Institutions, Coimbatore</i></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/06/17/covid-19-showed-resilience-of-indian-education-sector-fortitude-of-our-students.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/06/17/covid-19-showed-resilience-of-indian-education-sector-fortitude-of-our-students.html Thu Jun 17 20:08:50 IST 2021 a-revival-of-the-study-abroad-sector-is-not-far-away <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/06/17/a-revival-of-the-study-abroad-sector-is-not-far-away.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2021/6/17/FarhanKhan-new.jpg" /> <p>In April, when India was put on the red list for travel in the UK, Farhan Khan’s heart sank. The 26-year-old Uttar Pradesh boy had enrolled for a one-year photography course at the University of London. He had also paid 03.5 lakh as advance fees. He is now at his parents’ house in Aligarh, hoping against hope that the ban will be lifted in time for him to reach the UK before the course starts in September. “When I enrolled in February, things were fine,” he said. “A photography course has to be offline and I need to be at the campus.”</p> <p>Khan is among scores of Indian students whose aspirations of studying abroad are in limbo. Many students have deferred their admission to the next academic cycle. Amit Ratanpal, founder and managing director, BLinC Investment, said that the pandemic caused a drop of around 20 per cent in the value of the study-abroad sector in India (allied services like consultancy and training) in FY21.</p> <p>Shruti Parashar, a higher education professional, career transition coach and founder of education consultancy Goalisb, said: “International applications had increased for master’s and doctoral programmes, but the enrolment decreased because of Covid-19 and pursuant travel advisories [and other restrictions].” She added that the Indian education sector had definitely seen a spike in applications because of this.</p> <p>However, international universities have also responded fast to change pedagogy and course structure to enable them to shift to online delivery models. Some top institutes, like Harvard, MIT and Stanford, have even achieved 100 per cent enrolment. “Many universities continue to accept applications and are trying to complete admissions, conduct online interviews and start classes online,” said Neeti Sharma, co-founder and president, TeamLease EdTech. But, the desire to go abroad may drop in view of the current situation, she added.</p> <p>Another issue in India, which supplies an estimated 1/5th of international students, is the delay with regard to the Class 12 examinations. Sharma said the study-abroad sector could help potential applicants continue their application process, to take up an online programme and to prep for the eventual interview (most application cycles start in August). “This way, the study-abroad sector can reduce the immediate impact of the pandemic,” she said.</p> <p>Prof Gurinder Singh, group vice chancellor, Amity Universities, said that Covid-19 may have affected academic cycles, but has not dampened the spirit among Indian students for studying abroad. “Foreign universities are as keen as ever to welcome Indian students, and have also removed the mandatory requirement of test scores like SAT,” he said. “Latest data shows that the number of applications is, in fact, up, with early estimates showing an increase of Indian applications by at least 30 per cent for the US, with growing preference for other destinations like Canada.”</p> <p>According to Pavithra Srinivasan, founder, Galvanize, an edtech company, campuses abroad are working towards resuming on-campus instruction in the fall, which starts in September. “Students from countries where Covid-19 is under control are unlikely to face travel bans and the increase in vaccination reach in the 18-45 age group in India would lead to easing of travel restrictions and resumption of visa services,” she said.</p> <p>Srinivasan said that those with valid student visas, and numerous H-1B workers, are in the process of petitioning the US government to allow the arrival of vaccinated Indians. While any such development would be a major relief for those who aspire to study abroad, they must get globally accepted vaccines like Covishield in time. In India, that could be a challenge, too. &nbsp;</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/06/17/a-revival-of-the-study-abroad-sector-is-not-far-away.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2021/06/17/a-revival-of-the-study-abroad-sector-is-not-far-away.html Thu Jun 17 20:03:01 IST 2021