Specials http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials.rss en Wed Nov 02 10:29:21 IST 2022 https://www.theweek.in/privacy-an-settlement.html clean-ganga-mission-asok-kumar-interview <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/28/clean-ganga-mission-asok-kumar-interview.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2023/1/28/48-G-Asok-Kumar.jpg" /> <p>The Ganga, one the longest rivers in the world, sustains more than 40 per cent of India’s population. People, however, have not been kind to the Ganga. They have polluted the river in myriad ways. Cleaning the Ganga has been a gigantic task, often a political duty of governments over the years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed it as his “destiny” to serve the Ganga.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Eight years ago the Modi government initiated the Namami Gange project to clean the Ganga. Now, the programme has made a significant shift―from merely cleaning the river through a network of sewage treatment plants, it is becoming a model for propelling rural economy with a focus on the cultural aspects of the Ganga. Last month, the United Nations recognised Namami Gange as one of the top 10 world restoration flagships to revive the natural world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The director-general of the National Mission for Clean Ganga, G. Asok Kumar, who redoubled efforts to clean the Ganga, has an attachment to water. He is known as the rain man of India. In an earlier assignment, he was instrumental in the sanctioning of 9.5 lakh water conservation and rainwater harvesting structures in the country to rejuvenate the ground water. He has also spearheaded several innovative initiatives such as the monthly water talks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Excerpts from an interview:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How was Namami Gange recognised by the United Nations?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b>It is a big recognition for the Namami Gange. The United Nations is celebrating 2021-30 as the decade of ecosystem restoration. At the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biodiversity, the UN announced Namami Gange as one of the top 10 world restoration flagships. It was selected from over 150 such initiatives from across the globe. They had 10 principles for evaluation for recognising projects which have helped in halting and reversing degradation and ensuring people’s participation. There were interesting projects from countries like South Africa, Burkina Faso and China. It was an evaluation done by an independent agency, which went through scientific data and conducted field visits.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The recognition is important as Namami Gange is probably one of the largest programmes in the world. It is a flagship programme of the government of India that is closely monitored by the PMO as it is very close to the prime minister’s heart.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/And the progress?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b>The programme was started in 2014-15 with an outlay of 020,000 crore. And, in 2021, we got extension till 2026. The detailed project reports and planning were not proper, which slowed down the programme. In the last two years, we made sure that all stakeholders were involved, and people who were actually associated with the grounding of the programme were taken on board. The detailed project reports were properly prepared. We built the capacity to handle these programmes. We adopted the hybrid annuity model, which is used in highways’ development. This is now propagated by the World Bank as an effective model. We also came out with ‘one city and one operator’ model, which means the STPs [segmenting-targeting-positioning] operating in a single city are handled by the same operator to prevent shifting of blame.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Modi gave the concept of Arth Ganga. That now seems to be the mainstay of the Ganga restoration project.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b>Namami Gange is to revive, clean and rejuvenate the river. There were four themes: Nirmal Dhara, Aviral Dhara, Jan Ganga and Gyan Ganga. Arth Ganga was added after the prime minister announced it in 2019. We are making it into a jan andolan (people’s movement) in more natural ways. Cleaning Ganga was more a contractor-driven work. Now, we are going for nature-based solutions by involving people living along the river, also students, and turning them into guardians of the Ganga. That is a change which has come in last one year, without compromising on the core mandate of the project.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/What does Arth Ganga entail?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b>We have identified six verticals for Arth Ganga. One is natural farming and increasing the income of farmers. The sewage can be treated, but the farms are spread across the length of the river. So, if farmers use chemical fertilisers and pesticides, these flow into the river. But, when they adopt natural means, it will help the river. This is the major thrust of Arth Ganga. We have organised around 15 meetings with farmer groups, where we have engaged over 3,000 farmers in the Ganga basin states.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Second is monetisation of the treated water and sludge for revenue generation by the urban local bodies, and conversion of sludge into reusable products. The water is given to public sector undertakings (PSUs). Third is livelihood generation where there are projects like the Ghaat Mein Haat, designed to sell local products. We also conduct programmes like Jalaj where volunteers work to protect biodiversity, act as tourist guides, work in interpretation centres, sell local products and create homestays.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Then there is cultural heritage and tourism. There are a lot of places of importance along the Ganga. We conducted a study to identify cultural and historical sites. We checked on events, traditions, cuisines, festivals and products along the river. We are promoting holding of Ganga aartis by the river.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/How is Namami Gange involved in holding Ganga aartis?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b>Ganga aarti has started in many places. We are training people in conjunction with Parmarth Niketan ashram (Rishikesh). Already 60 people have been trained. Training is being done to follow standard operating procedures. So, the aartis could have 75 per cent uniformity, and rest can be local traditions. We recently started aarti at the Yamuna. This will help in getting tourists, generating income and keeping the ghats clean. It will also help in local economic development.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/When will the Ganga be clean?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A/We are focusing on polluted stretches, and in the next two years we will be able to stop drains from flowing into the Ganga. Cleaning is a continuous process. We are ensuring that the inflow of dirty water into the river is stopped; the drains are tapped and corrected; chemical based agriculture is reduced. The Ganga mainstream is rather clean. We are focusing on tributaries, like the Yamuna. By March we will have another 1,000 millions of litres per day capacity for sewage treatment plants (STPs). We have identified various polluted rivers, and are monitoring the works along with state governments.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/We appear to be a long way from ensuring clean rivers.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b>Rivers are the most easy way of disposing garbage and sewage. The municipal commissioners never thought about the river as a way to enhance their cities. The cities dump the waste there, thinking it will go downstream. They forget that there is city around the river. In the process, the river was violated and vitiated. We are conducting training programmes, along with the National Institute of Urban Affairs, to create urban river management plans. We have formed river city alliance with 30 cities, which has increased to 74 cities with rivers by their side. We are telling them how to use rivers to enhance the capabilities in cities. All big cities along the river, across the world, use their river systems very well. It is used for cruising, riverfront development and property development. We are telling them how to make rivers part of their urban planning. Earlier the focus was on roads, flyovers and parks. We are sensitising people that river is an engine of growth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q/Mahakumbh is coming up in 2025. Will the Ganga be clean?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A/</b>Last time when we had Mahakumbh, we had a clean Ganga. We expected seven crore people, but 20 crore came. The publicity was from word of mouth that the river was clean. Even the prime minister took bath in the Ganga, which means the river was clean.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/28/clean-ganga-mission-asok-kumar-interview.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/28/clean-ganga-mission-asok-kumar-interview.html Sat Jan 28 17:12:28 IST 2023 mumbai-coastal-road-project-photo-feature <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/28/mumbai-coastal-road-project-photo-feature.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2023/1/28/56-An-aerial-view-of-the-project-site-at-Haji-Ali-Dargah.jpg" /> <p>What does a Mumbaikar value the most? Time, perhaps. It is a luxury very few can afford in a city that is always on the move, as if in a race against time. And, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the wealthiest in the country, is trying to buy some time for its citizens. It has come up with an ambitious project that is expected to reduce travel time between south Mumbai and the western suburbs from two hours to 40 minutes. It will also help ease traffic on some of its busiest roads like the Western Express Highway and Link Road.</p> <p>The Mumbai Coastal Road project intends to connect the iconic Marine Drive in the south to Kandivili junction in the north. The high-speed corridor―35.60km long―comprises an eight-lane road reclaimed from the sea, a bridge on stilts, an elevated road, and twin tunnels below Malabar Hills. There will be new green spaces, a sea wall and multiple interchanges for traffic dispersal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The coastal road project seeks to create large patches of open green space, a rarity in Mumbai. But it would come at the cost of the sea―about 111 hectares will be reclaimed, of which 70 hectares will be landscaped to provide cycle tracks, promenades, amphitheatres, children’s play areas and other recreational spaces. The project predictably ran into trouble, with petitions being filed in the High Court about its impact on coastal ecology. It also received backlash from the fishing community. The project, which saw a start in November 2018, was stayed by the High Court. The matter then went to the Supreme Court, which finally lifted the stay in December 2019.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, that is when the work on the first phase―coastal road project (south)―truly began. The first phase, costing Rs12,721 crore, involves the construction of a 10.58km-long coastal road from Shamaldas Gandhi Marg (Princess Street Flyover near Marine Lines railway station) to the Worli end of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. Once open, Mumbaikars can cover the stretch in just 10 minutes, says the BMC. From Malabar Hill to the sea link, the coastal road is mostly built on reclaimed land, around 50m to 70m into the sea. India’s largest twin tunnels will have three lanes, one of which will be reserved for emergency traffic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The coastal road project (south) has a November 2023 deadline, and 65 per cent of its work is complete. Work on the second phase, said to start from Versova and end at Dahisar, is expected to begin this year.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/28/mumbai-coastal-road-project-photo-feature.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/28/mumbai-coastal-road-project-photo-feature.html Sat Jan 28 17:06:24 IST 2023 itbp-dog-training-academy-haryana <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/21/itbp-dog-training-academy-haryana.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2023/1/21/32-dog-handlers-training-their-dogs-1.jpg" /> <p>Anamika, 22, stood in a queue with other women before she was ‘chosen for life’ by Charlie. The handsome boy came up to her, sniffed, nodded and that was it―he was hers for life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Charlie is no ordinary boy from the block. He is a four-month-old dog, a Belgian Malinois aka Belgian Shepherd at that, and Anamika is among the first lot of eight women being trained as dog handlers at the Indo-Tibetan Border Police’s (ITBP) National Training Centre for Dogs and Animals in Haryana.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I found dogs doing work like bomb detection and tracking interesting. [That is when] I decided to become a dog handler,” said Anamika.&nbsp; “Charlie is bonded with me for life.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An armed forces security dog bonds for life with its handler. Both train together, eat together, spend time together and are even transferred together. It is so much a bond nurtured and perfected over time and training that once on active duty the dogs will only listen to their own handler’s commands even while being around other dog handlers and sounds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nestled in the Shivalik foothills near Panchkula, the ITBP centre was designated as a national training centre in 2005. “We have been training dogs for central armed police forces and (many) state police forces for free,” said ITBP Inspector General Ishwar Singh Duhan. “The centre can train over 250 dogs at a time.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Recently, Trade Records Analysis of Flora and Fauna in Commerce (TRAFFIC) India sent its inspectors and dogs from various national parks for training in detecting wildlife-related crimes like poaching. Ilu, for instance, will head to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh, where cheetahs were recently introduced. The centre is getting interest from other countries, too. Police dogs from Nepal and Bhutan have been trained here.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A day in the life of a four-legged soldier starts early. Chow time is thrice a day for puppies and twice for adults. After a walk and morning rituals, there is physical exercise and grooming before basic training starts. This ranges from saluting and rolling to navigating obstacle courses, where the difficulty level is increased gradually.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Later in the day, the handler and the dog practise advanced tasks like narcotic drug detection, bomb detection and tracking culprits. There are various modes including some indigenously designed methods like carousel training. In this, similar-looking tiffin boxes are spun around, and the dogs have to sniff out the right one with explosives, and then sit silently beside it. When it comes to narcotics, they have to sit and bark. This helps the handler figure out correctly what the haul is.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is also specialised training, say, for rescue operations during an avalanche, as many ITBP posts are in the snowy heights of the Himalayas. Canines sent to naxal areas or to borders on the plains are trained in landmine detection.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So far, the centre has trained 2,800 four-legged soldiers. Vinay Shankar Tyagi, second-in-command vet at the centre, said 60 Belgian Malinois and Labrador Retriever pups have been trained at the centre. Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s shoutout to Indian dog breeds in his ‘Mann ki Baat’ radio talk, the centre is now planning to train desi breeds like Mudhol Hound and Rampur Greyhound and even feral Indies. “We have started looking for suitable puppies,” said Tyagi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like many an ex-serviceman, these canine soldiers, too, do not put their feet up post retirement. “(Even) after retiring from service, these dogs are put to use in society,” said Dr Hitesh Shandilaya, second-in-command vet at the centre. “They are taken to NGOs working with autistic kids and in old age homes, where they play and do light work for them.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>True soldiers at heart, the call of duty does not end with the sunset roll call.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/21/itbp-dog-training-academy-haryana.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/21/itbp-dog-training-academy-haryana.html Sat Jan 21 15:07:25 IST 2023 nuclear-fusion-technology-development-importance-of-nuclear-energy <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/07/nuclear-fusion-technology-development-importance-of-nuclear-energy.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2023/1/7/34-A-technician-reviews-an-optic-inside.jpg" /> <p>If nothing, 2022 will be remembered for the momentous breakthrough in the field of nuclear fusion energy coming 88 years after Italian scientist Enrico Fermi achieved nuclear fission.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In just eight years after Fermi’s discovery, the first nuclear reactor had been successfully tested at the University of Chicago in the US. One must wait and see how soon we can have a nuclear reactor running on fusion energy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Fusion technology is slated to be a complete game changer in the field of nuclear energy―providing cheap, clean and limitless fuel for all our energy needs. Not only is the fuel abundant and inexpensive, but also there is very low-level radioactive waste.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Scientists have been working in different countries, including India, for several decades to make fusion successful. The problem was that they had to invest a huge amount of energy to get a little bit back.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Towards the end of 2022, it was reported that US scientists had made a historic breakthrough and got more energy than they used for initiating the fusion process, making nuclear fusion a viable energy source in the future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s fusion facility targeted 192 lasers on a miniature spherical capsule creating temperatures multiple times hotter than the centre of the sun with high levels of energy to initiate a fusion reaction. It produced about 2.5 megajoules of energy using the 1.1 mJ of energy in the lasers to initiate the process, which is about 120 per cent net energy gain. Thus, making fusion energy commercially viable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But what is fusion energy?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Understanding a few of the basic concepts may give us clarity regarding this technology.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The palpable solid material world is made up of extremely tiny particles of atoms, molecules and subatomic particles. Furthermore, what we consider mass of a particle is nothing more than concentrated energy. In both fission and fusion technology, we want to tap this source of energy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity says there is equivalence of mass and energy in the famous formula E=MC2 which means that mass can be converted into energy and vice-versa. However, a little amount of mass converted into energy can release huge amounts of energy because the ‘C’ is equivalent to the speed of light―1.86 lakh miles per second, C2 is 34,59,60,00,000 miles per second.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Thus, the amount of energy in mass is huge―if we convert 20 gram mass into energy it may result in the energy released being equivalent to that in the explosion of a five lakh-tonne hydrogen bomb.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The problem is, we cannot easily convert mass into energy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During experiments on subatomic particles, scientists have observed a particle completely annihilate into energy (electromagnetic waves) after colliding into its anti-particle. They have also noticed subatomic level collision of particles travelling at high speeds giving rise to the birth of a third particle which was not there earlier, demonstrating that energy also converts into mass.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In nuclear fission, the usual method in which we get nuclear energy, atoms are split to release energy, reactors consume radioactive material and eventually convert it into electrical energy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nuclear fusion is a type of nuclear reaction where two light nuclei collide together to form a single nucleus. Fusion results in a release of energy because the mass of the new nucleus is less than the sum of the original masses. The extra mass converts into energy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Although the fusion of small atoms gives off a lot of energy, initiating this process requires a significant amount of energy to overcome the repulsion between protons.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are different types of fusion reactions, but most involve two isotopes of hydrogen―deuterium and tritium.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This type of fusion reaction takes place in the sun. Two pairs of protons (two pairs of hydrogen atoms) collide and become two atoms of deuterium. Each deuterium then combines again with a proton (hydrogen) to form helium-3, which combine again and eventually form helium-4.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At each stage a neutron is also formed and most of the energy released is in the form of high energy neutron.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Therefore, the sun’s energy, comes out by hydrogen atoms (under the sun’s gravity with high pressure and temperature) fusing into helium, which is less in mass than hydrogen, and the extra mass being converted into energy, which is released at the rate equivalent to billions and billions of nuclear power stations. It is through fusion that nuclear energy is generated in every star.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Each second, the core of the sun loses 600 million tonnes of hydrogen, gaining 596 million tonnes of helium. Four million tonnes of hydrogen are converted to 3.8 x 10^26 joules of energy. It is the sun’s energy that is used by every animal and plant on earth for all our activities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With the fusion technology, fuel is not going to be a problem because deuterium can be extracted inexpensively from seawater. Tritium can be made from lithium, which is also abundant in nature. There is enough deuterium in the oceans to meet the human energy needs for millions of years, scientists claim.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For long researchers have been trying to harness fusion as a cleaner form of nuclear energy and reproduce it on earth in a controlled manner with a process where they generate more energy than they consume.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nuclear energy through fission now provides about 10 per cent of the world’s electricity from about 440 power reactors. Nuclear is the world’s second largest source of low-carbon power (28 per cent of the total in 2019). Nuclear power plants are operational in 32 countries. India has 22 operable nuclear reactors, with a combined net capacity of nearly 7,000 MW electrical energy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Building a fusion power plant is a challenge because deuterium and tritium must be heated to about 100 million degrees centigrade. At that temperature a fully ionized gas-plasma is formed. The plasma is then ignited to create fusion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Currently, scientists are pursuing two methods for achieving nuclear fusion: inertial and magnetic confinement. In inertial confinement systems, laser beams are used to compress deuterium-tritium fuel pellet to extremely high densities. When a critical point is reached, the pellet is ignited through heating. The resulting heat is then used to generate steam that powers electricity-generating turbines.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In magnetic confinement systems, electromagnets are used to contain the plasma fuel. The tokamak device (a toroidal apparatus for producing controlled fusion reactions in hot plasma) contains the plasma in a doughnut-shaped chamber. A powerful electric current, microwave, radio wave or accelerated particles are sent into the plasma to achieve high temperatures of several hundred million degrees centigrade.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One must realise that it is the strong gravity of the sun which makes hydrogen atoms fuse at 15 million degrees centigrade. On Earth, one requires temperatures as high as 150 million centigrade to make hydrogen atoms fuse. At 150 million degrees centigrade, hydrogen atoms form an ‘electrically charged gas’ known as plasma, another form of matter.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The world’s largest nuclear fusion reactor, ITER, costing $18.2 billion, has begun development in southern France and it is slated to be running by the year 2025 at a commercial scale. ITER (the Latin word for ‘The Way’) is a large-scale scientific experiment intended to prove the viability of fusion as an energy source. It is an international effort with seven partners―China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the US―having pooled their financial and scientific resources to build the biggest fusion reactor in history. It intends to produce 500 MW of fusion power from 50 MW of power invested to heat plasma and generate fusion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are government-funded fusion research centres in 26 countries, including India, the US, the UK, Germany, China, Korea, and Japan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With large scale nuclear fusion likely to be here in just 15 years, private sector fusion energy companies have also started pouring money into the sector.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>WHAT IS NUCLEAR FUSION?</b></p> <p>Nuclear fusion is a type of nuclear reaction where two light nuclei collide together to form a single nucleus. Fusion results in a release of energy because the mass of the new nucleus is less than the sum of the original masses. The extra mass converts into energy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?</b></p> <p>* The waste produced by nuclear fusion is much less radioactive than that produced by nuclear fission and it decays much more quickly</p> <p>* Fusion is mostly done using hydrogen, which is abundant and can be extracted cheaply from seawater or lithium</p> <p>* It does not generate greenhouse gases that are hazardous to environment</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>WHEN CAN IT BE SCALED UP?</b></p> <p>Not any time soon will fusion power our homes and factories. Some experts say in about 20 years, it would start giving meaningful yields.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/07/nuclear-fusion-technology-development-importance-of-nuclear-energy.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2023/01/07/nuclear-fusion-technology-development-importance-of-nuclear-energy.html Sat Jan 07 18:32:44 IST 2023 independent-weathermen-of-india <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/31/independent-weathermen-of-india.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2022/12/31/58-Santosh-Subramanian.jpg" /> <p>When it rains, it pours in queries. Will schools go online? Will flights be delayed or cancelled? Will it affect crops? Should I carry an umbrella to office? Will the cricket match be called off? Braving a volley of questions is a growing community of independent weathermen in India that has been capturing cloud images and tracking rainfall, temperature and wind direction to accurately predict weather and weather events like thunderstorms or floods. The technology upgrade in weather forecasting has been a boon for aspiring weather bloggers as they now get real-time data―satellite images, maps, charts and weather models―on their mobile phones. Their timely updates and predictions are not only making the common man weather-wise, but also helping avert loss of life and property. And, in the age of the internet, they have acquired celebrity status, especially post the 2015 Chennai floods.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These weather enthusiasts come from diverse backgrounds, bound together by a passion for all things meteorological. Take, for instance, Rajesh Kapadia, 69, a retired businessman from Mumbai. He runs the Vagaries of the Weather blog. Then there is Sai Praneeth Burra (@APWeatherman96), 25, an electrical engineering graduate. His forecasts benefiting the villages in Andhra Pradesh even found a mention on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mann Ki Baat. In Kolkata, Santosh Subramanian, 28, relies not just on real-time data but also on real-time reporting from a huge community of citizen reporters to update his Weather of Kolkata blog. Pradeep John, 40, better known as Tamil Nadu Weatherman, is the go-to man for people of Chennai, a city that witnesses relentless rains for eight months a year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kapadia, a self-taught meteorologist, started his blog (www.vagaries.in) in 2008. Today, it ranks second in India and 33rd in the world on Feedspot’s 100 Best Weather Blogs and Websites. “Ashok Patel, the first weather blogger of India (gujaratweather.com), and AccuWeather (an American weather forecasting company) helped me organise the blog,” recalls Kapadia. “Every day, I check if there is any big system coming in that is likely to disturb the atmosphere and livelihood of people. Systems are graded as low pressure, depression, deep depression and cyclone, and a closer examination of the weather data and weather models helps one predict accurately and perhaps give early warning.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a child, Kapadia was drawn to rains and clouds and would flip through newspapers to read the weather forecast. “I used to visit the regional meteorological centre in Colaba,” he says. “The observatories had to record the readings manually. In the 1980s, the centre started accessing satellite images once a day around 4.30pm. Now we have automatic weather stations in every state. The weather chart and the satellite images are accessible on your mobile phones. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) continues to rely on manual stations to officially record the parameters as per the norms set by the World Meteorological Organization.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If it was the movement of clouds that intrigued Kapadia, John was wonderstruck by the 1994 cyclonic storm. “During the cyclone, I heard a howling sound and got intrigued,” says John, whose Facebook page ‘Tamil Nadu Weatherman’ saw an uptick in followers following his updates during the 2015 Chennai floods. “Again in 1996, heavy rains that lashed the city resulted in a two-week holiday for schools. I later learnt that it had rained nonstop for 36 hours.” There was no power, and all he could watch was the rising water level. “I grew fond of the rains and I never get bored watching it,” he recalls.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2016, John’s popularity soared further following his predictions on Cyclone Vardah. From a few likes in 2010, his page today has more than 800k followers. “In 2014, my FB page had very few likes but after 18 months, following the 2015 Chennai floods, people started watching my updates keenly,” says John, senior manager, Tamil Nadu Urban Infrastructure Financial Services Limited. “The blogging community chipped in and gave instant updates, gave tips on how to interpret radar data. Weather is being taken seriously now even by the common man.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That is not surprising for a city that boasts the highest number of weather bloggers. And, that includes one of the country’s oldest weather blogs―KEA Weather started by K. Ehsan Ahmed in 2004. KEA Weather is also the first in India to have an automatic weather station to track live weather. In 2005-06, the KEA Weather blogging community started growing as the city faced both severe drought and floods. The community has now percolated to the micro-level, with locality-wise groups operating and giving instant updates.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Many people in Chennai are interested in weather as the city has eight months of rainfall from June to January and the period between February and May is dry,” says John. “The temperature soars in May and is locally known as kathiri veyil (scorching sun). As it is eventful all through the year, people here have become aware and are weather-wise.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Citizens of Kolkata, too, keep a keen eye on weather events. It has helped Subramanian immensely with his Weather of Kolkata blog. He now works with a group of six people, who are based in Kolkata, Hyderabad and the United Arab Emirates, and his weather community has around 500 citizens sharing data and live visuals from across West Bengal during any events.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It has been a decade since we started doing hourly updates for West Bengal and eastern India,” says Subramanian, who started his blog in 2011. “We average out the data from IMD and international weather models to arrive at an accurate forecast. Readings come in only by 8.30am, and it takes another two to three hours to analyse them and then we send the daily update on social media. The second half of the day is dedicated to tracking possible weather events over the next week or later.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A graduate in computer hardware and networking, Subramanian strives to devote more time to his passion during weather events amid his hectic professional commitments of running an event management and photography company. Cyclone Amphan that razed through West Bengal, Odisha and Bangladesh in May 2020 pushed the team to step up and work from remote locations. Subramanian is now reading through the city’s data on rainfall and the minimum and maximum temperature recorded between 1880 and 2010. “There is a distinct pattern,” he says. “In 1978, Kolkata witnessed the flood of the century. I feel we are overdue for such an event in this decade. The 2007 flood was devastating but it was on a lesser scale. The truth is still hidden in the data.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kolkata’s weather is distinct, says Subramanian, owing to its proximity to the ocean and its pollution woes as it lies in the same fog belt as Delhi. “We enjoy three distinct seasons unlike many other cities that might have a lengthy monsoon and a shorter winter,” he says. “Over the last three decades, I have noticed a pattern where the onset and withdrawal of monsoon is getting delayed. This has a huge impact on agriculture and people. Prior to 2010, the ‘Kalbaisakhi’ (Nor’wester/summer storm) used to arrive in Kolkata between 3pm and 5pm. But now it does not reach Kolkata before 6pm. There has been an extreme change in weather. This Durga Puja, we had 90mm rainfall in just 40 minutes, which is unprecedented.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The updates and predictions by these independent weathermen are helping not just farmers and common people but industries, too. “This year, steel industries and tea estates sought specific forecast to tweak their work cycles to minimise losses and to better prepare for eventualities,” says Subramanian. “A tea estate company told me that they could save 15-20 per cent of losses if I could provide them forecast with 80 per cent accuracy. Often, the IMD forecasts might not reach them on time, or the format might not be user-specific or user-friendly. We alert the farmers in northeast India, too, as they also get Nor’westers. If we alert them three to four hours in advance, they can take effective steps to protect their harvest. Many farmers in West Bengal who feared the winter rains messaged us directly before sowing the seeds, as hailstorm destroys new saplings.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For farmers and villagers, Burra from Tirupati started posting weather updates on Facebook and YouTube, and on Instagram for the urban crowd. “The prime minister mentioned my efforts during his Mann Ki Baat show in July 2021 as I was trying to help local farmers dealing with uncertainty owing to lack of timely weather updates,” says Burra, who is senior engineer with Bosch in Bengaluru.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Burra started his weather blogging journey in 2012, there was limited data available. He had to pay to subscribe to agencies for weather information. The weather models, too, were not accurate till the technology evolved in 2014. His day starts at 5.30am when he goes through the radar data from IMD and satellite data from international agencies.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“As most people go through weather updates by 7am, before they head for work, I need to post the updates early,” says Burra, who frequently attends workshops at the National Atmospheric Research Laboratory in Andhra Pradesh to keep abreast of latest weather technologies. “After collecting data from multiple sources, I analyse it based on past patterns. The monsoon season is the most hectic in Andhra for weathermen as it rains in the morning and people expect an early forecast. I have simplified the process to save time by preparing a code to read different data together during analysis. I copy the final data (update) to social media.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No matter how many hours they spend poring over data, predictions do go wrong at times. “Sometimes, we are trolled for inaccurate predictions,” says Burra. “But it is part of the game. Mistakes prod us to learn.” But the trolling that independent weathermen get is nothing compared with the ridicule the IMD is subjected to online.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Independent weathermen are much sought after as they are direct and precise, and communicate fast and in a simple language, unlike the IMD, whose cryptic messages and jargon cannot be decoded by the common man. But the IMD has a lot on its plate, say independent weathermen, and cannot cater to every corner like localised bloggers can. IMD forecasts are meant to assist weather-sensitive activities like agriculture, irrigation, shipping, aviation and offshore oil explorations or give warning against severe weather phenomena like tropical cyclones, Nor’westers, dust storms, heavy rains and snow, cold and heat waves that cause destruction of life and property. Even though the IMD is bolstering its observational network by adding more radars, automatic weather stations, rain gauges and satellites to improve predictability, mistakes are bound to creep in.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I am a meteorologist and not a magician,” says Kapadia. “Nobody can predict weather accurately as it is nature and changes happen constantly. If the pressure drops, you know the night is going to be stormy. Wind direction at various levels, pressure at the surface level and temperature are factors that need to be looked at. If the sea is warm, the brew is stronger. But as the conditions keep changing, predictions might not be accurate.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Also, the timing plays an important role. “The weather models give different indications depending on the time of the reading,” says John. “Two weeks prior to the event, the accuracy is only about 50 to 60 per cent. Nearing the event, the model accuracy is better. Bloggers can afford to forecast rains with certainty while the IMD can say it is only a probability owing to its format of releasing data for consumption by various departments or sectors from aviation to agriculture. We, too, cannot give town-wise predictions as the grid size in the weather models is 11-27sqkm and weather situation varies drastically over time and space. Each member in the global model ensemble gives out data and if 50 per cent of members have predicted rains, the prediction might have better accuracy. Sometimes, none can predict accurately.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The way forward is to simplify forecast and ensure better outreach, says Burra. “The accuracy is improving as India now has better weather models and a supercomputer at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune,” he says. “Wind is the basic parameter for weather forecast. We need to see if it is dry or wet wind. Temperature is another parameter as a cyclonic system causes rain and an anti-cyclonic system will lead to a dip or rise in temperature, depending on the season. The precipitation chart alone does not assist in forecasting as wind analysis and the knowledge of past events and patterns help in achieving accuracy.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The art of weather forecasting is like the clouds that quietly brew a storm or a rainfall. Only a careful reading of data and intuitively drawing inferences from past patterns make for accuracy. Not many would guess that it is actually the type and pattern of the clouds in the sky that determine if it is going to rain. It takes an intriguing mind to observe why cyclones rarely strike during the monsoon months or that the warmer oceans brew stronger cyclones. The weathermen of India who are on a roll seem to have some answers and a multitude of questions.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/31/independent-weathermen-of-india.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/31/independent-weathermen-of-india.html Sat Dec 31 12:30:00 IST 2022 the-hunt-for-himalayan-viagra <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/24/the-hunt-for-himalayan-viagra.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/2022/12/24/46-Jagat-Singh-Ganghari-with-wife-Prema-Devi.jpg" /> <p>Prerna Devi and her husband, Jagat Singh Ganghari, fall on their knees and bend over on the floor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prerna is 52 or thereabouts, Jagat 65. On a crisp November afternoon in Munsiyari―a quiet hamlet at 7,200ft in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district―they are demonstrating how they burrow for the tip of a rare fungus in snow-peaked mountains.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Munsiyari, often charmingly referred to as Little Kashmir, local residents often point to the five famous peaks, namely Panchachuli, girding the Kumaon region far into the horizon, as if the peaks are the source of all sustenance in this quaint little hill town perched between the borders of India, Tibet and Nepal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Standing outside her spacious, pucca house on a broken road, Prerna looks petite and rough-hewn. She chirpily talks about walking over the remnants of a glacier from the Nanda Devi east base camp to search for keeda jadi or cordyceps―a mummified caterpillar fungus with a slender, brown body whose benefits were perhaps first described in An Ocean of Aphrodisiacal Qualities, a 15th century Tibetan medicinal text.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is known as Yartsa Gunbu in Nepal and Tibet, a poetic name meaning summer grass, winter worm. The mushroom is renowned as ‘Himalayan Viagra’ for its rumoured use as a sexual stimulant. But Prerna is least concerned with such saucy connotations. For her family of three in Munsiyari, keeda jadi is the most important source of income in a region mostly amenable to growing potato, rajma and medicinal herbs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This April, the couple trekked all the way to the Nanda Devi east base camp and climbed further ahead to procure keeda jadi. They managed to collect 400 pieces of the fungus hidden under patches where the snow had melted. On the way down, they sold off their collection to a thekedaar [contractor] for Rs10,000. The people of her village made a total of Rs10 lakh this year selling keeda jadi. In the international market, a kilogram of keeda jadi costs Rs65 lakh, making it perhaps the most expensive mushroom in the world, costlier than gold or diamonds.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We didn’t even know such a valuable resource existed on our side of the Himalayas,” says Jagat, while calling attention to his bruised elbows and shins. “First, people from Nepal came quietly through the jungles and went up to collect this insect-herb. Then the people in Dharchula (a town in Uttarakhand, close to the Nepal border) got to know of this and they, too, headed for the mountains. We, in turn, got to know from the Dharchula folks when they descended the mountains.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jagat first learnt about keeda jadi in 2011 and has been a regular visitor to the higher reaches, often braving floods, snow-melt and avalanche to camp onsite from April to June every year. In 2013, his tent with all the rations, utensils and woollens tumbled down the valley as a glacier collapsed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The first time my wife and I went there, we didn’t get a single piece,” recalls Jagat. “It is hardly ever visible on the ground. You have to crawl on your knees and elbows, which start bleeding from the cold. You have to keep crawling. Every year there are casualties. So many have slipped on ice and died.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He says he can trek 65km a day, his wife even more, although searching for keeda jadi is getting increasingly difficult with their faltering eyesight. “I will go one more time,” he says. “Just one last time next year.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prerna interjects: “At least our son has completed his education because of the money we earned from keeda jadi.” She explains how she soaks the unsold fungus in water for a week or two so the juice seeps out, and then drinks it up like a hot beverage.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The couple even eats it raw. “It has cured our fever, stomach ulcers and knee pain. Maybe, it is protecting us from the harsh, cold climate in the mountains, too. The buyers cannot afford to eat it because it gets more and more expensive. But we obviously can,” chuckles Prerna.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The rare plant-animal herb dictates fortunes in parts of Uttarakhand, specifically in the Pithoragarh belt. It grows abundantly in the bugyals (alpine meadows) of the state. In the fruiting season in spring, the mushroom pops out of the head of the exoskeleton of a dead caterpillar. The fruiting and harvesting are wrapped up in less than two months from mid-May to June.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Local healers and traditional practitioners list several uses of the magic fungi. C.S. Negi, professor of zoology at Motiram Baburam Government Postgraduate College in Haldwani, has been researching on keeda jadi for more than 15 years. In a 2016 paper, he lists how it can treat 21 different ailments, starting from erectile dysfunction, malignant tumours, bronchial asthma to diabetes, cough and cold, jaundice and alcoholic hepatitis.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“In some parts of Nepal, Yartsa Gunbu is powdered and combined with the rhizome of Dactylorhiza hatagirea [the creeping rootstalk of an orchid species found in the Himalayas] for consumption, which along with honey and cow’s milk is used as tonic and aphrodisiac. People of both sexes normally use a combined dose of one dried Yartsa Gunbu with half litre of milk and two teaspoons of ghee (clarified butter) for a week. Invariably, young or immature Yartsa Gunbu.... are recommended for the preparation of the sexual-stimulant,” states the paper published in the International Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Dharchula, it is often consumed with the local alcoholic brew called chakti. And in Munsiyari, one need not go to far-off, remote villages to find collectors of keeda jadi. From shopkeepers and tailors to an ex-armyman or gas station guard, everyone has a keeda jadi story to share.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fungus has been widely used in Tibetan and Chinese medicine for centuries, and there are regulations on its harvesting and trade in the two countries. The Nepal government in 2020 disallowed the annual trek to harvest the fungi because of its near-constant depletion. The same year, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature listed it as “vulnerable” to extinction.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But there is little awareness or chatter around conservation of this precious resource on the Indian side of the Himalayan belt. Because the sale of cordyceps is banned in India, collectors and harvesters are always furtive around referencing keeda jadi even if a major chunk of their household income depends on it. Most of the produce is smuggled into Nepal for it to be legally traded to China, which sees the highest demand for the fungi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Navin, a resident of Papari village in Munsiyari, runs a clothing store in the main town. He shows us videos of himself in gumboots, slashing snow with a wooden stick in the high altitudes to tease out keeda jadi. His family of five is cared for, thanks to him venturing into the mountains every year. The highest amount he has ever managed to earn by selling his haul in the last seven years is 03 lakh. This year, he made Rs80,000.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He loses his composure when he talks about keeda jadi’s price in the international market. “Our government is arresting us for selling something as natural and vital as keeda jadi,” he says. “We work hard, the land is ours, we do the collection but everything is going to Nepal and China. Why does it have to be this way?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At the Tribal Heritage Museum in Munsiyari, samples of keeda jadi are quietly displayed behind a glass wall among artefacts of cooking pots, bowls, kettles and vanity boxes derived from the Bhotia people. An audio guide in Hindi blares out a guided tour of the private museum. When the narrator’s voice describes the discovery, uses and abuses of the magic herb, it encapsulates in a few pithy sentences the state of apathy keeda jadi lives under in India. “People are thoughtlessly scrambling for it. No one cares about tomorrow,” it warns.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yogesh Rawat, a businessman, lives with his wife and daughter a few hundred metres away from the museum. He is originally from Bauna village in Pithoragarh. The same village was one of the first Indian outposts to learn about keeda jadi in its own backyard in 1999. Rawat has grown up seeing elders in his family sell keeda jadi, which, at one point, used to be Rs9,000 per kilogram.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It is not like the yield of this insect-herb has gone down in the mountains. It is still the same. It is just that more people now land up to look for it,” says Rawat, as he pulls out two rolled-up paper pouches of the dried-up insect herb. One is set to go to Rajasthan and will sell for Rs70,000.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I have the best stock,” he says. “All my clients from Rajasthan and Haryana are sportspeople. I go to Delhi Haat to sell other medicinal herbs but also establish contacts for keeda jadi. Now I don’t have to go anywhere for marketing. I get calls sitting here in Munsiyari.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rawat once made 033 lakh just from a week’s haul of keeda jadi. “Going to collect this mushroom is always like entering the jaws of death. We almost skate with our bare feet. We go to Panchachuli and pitch tents there. We do kirtan bhajans and wear lightly shaded clothes because dark clothes are worn by the goddess Nanda Devi,” says Rawat, indicating the respectful ways to keep the mountain deity in good humour before undertaking the dangerous task of harvesting the insect-herb.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rawat is related to Love Raj Singh Dharmshaktu, who has climbed Mt Everest seven times. People who go up to search for keeda jadi are far more risk-taking trekkers, Rawat says. His only mission is to promote the herb in his own proactive way. “If we give GST for this, then it is not illegal. Indian scientists work for outsiders. If they spend one day on keeda jadi, India will make crores. Uttarakhand will not have to sell alcohol,”he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rawat laments that research in the practical applications and medicinal uses of the herb is not done in India, even if there is limited scientific evidence to back the claims. But keeda jadi has helped his family save money on medical expenses. His wife’s joint pain, he says, magically disappeared after its consistent use over 15 days.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We keep eating this all the time. We just feel very light,” he says. “When I eat this, I can walk 5km, instead of 1km. But you have to take it over a period of time. It is not like any English quick-fix medicine.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rawat wants the government to legalise the sale of keeda jadi for real conservation. “The maximum gold medals are won by Chinese athletes. Keeda jadi is the secret,” he says. “I am sure Xi Jinping also eats this. He doesn’t ever grow old.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/24/the-hunt-for-himalayan-viagra.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/24/the-hunt-for-himalayan-viagra.html Sat Dec 24 16:24:34 IST 2022 the-fall-of-ndtv-capt-g-r-gopinath-guest-column <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/24/the-fall-of-ndtv-capt-g-r-gopinath-guest-column.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/2022/12/24/61-Prannoy-and-Radhika-Roy.jpg" /> <p>Is it curtains for indepe ndent television, with the exit of Prannoy and Radhika Roy from the NDTV promoters’ board? Is it also the end of civilised television debate?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Prannoy Roy, the founder of NDTV, was the epitome of grace and courteousness. He had a natural charm and was always cool and composed. He was unruffled even amidst a heated and polarising debate. Uncouth aggressive guests calmed down in his presence because he was not condescending. He never talked down to his guests and panelists as if they were idiots.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Can we say the same about the rest of our anchors on various channels, most of whom seem to be on steroids? Instead of eliciting opinions from all guests so that their audience can make up their mind on the contested issues, most of these anchors browbeat the speakers and shout them down if their opinions are at variance with their own. Even the junior anchors of Prannoy Roy often crossed swords with various BJP spokespersons, causing walkouts. They did not learn from him the fine art of moderating and moderation while remaining dispassionate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>NDTV anchors were known to question the BJP government. Ravish Kumar, who anchored its Hindi channel and was a harsh critic of the party, has almost a cult following in the Hindi heartland. A free press should be a watchdog against those who exercise power―irrespective of the party or individual in power.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are those who think that NDTV and Prannoy were blatantly anti-Modi and pro-Congress. Like Caesar’s wife, a journalist should be above suspicion. A journalist walks on the razor edge. The moment he attacks the ruling party he is in danger of being perceived as serving the interest of the opposition. NDTV, however, may not be able to shake off charges that it was soft on the Congress during the United Progressive Alliance years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Notwithstanding those accusations, Prannoy Roy strode like a colossus and pioneered television news reporting and election forecasting. He was a beacon in the science and art of opinion polling and became an icon for millions.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gautam Adani acquired the pledged shares of the Roys’ holding company from an entity owned by Reliance Industries, which originally had lent the funds for a seemingly generous ten years, interest free. That entity had the option to convert the debt if it remained unpaid―a sting in the tail overlooked by the Roys who were over-leveraged. Or their back was against the wall.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Adani exercised the option to convert the unpaid debt into equity of roughly 26 per cent and took control of the company by buying more shares through an open offer. It is intriguing: If shares have merely passed hands from one major corporate to another―that is, from Mukesh Ambani to Gautam Adani―why all this hue and cry? Why this mourning by liberals who worship a free press?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reliance could have converted the pledged shares into equity and taken over NDTV, but did not. Why would anyone be so magnanimous in the ruthless corporate world and lend huge sums without interest and not demand repayment or choose the option to convert the debt into equity even after ten years? Is there more to it than meets the eye?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reliance already owned CNN-IBN, English and Hindi, CNBC, the entire group of ETV channels and Money Control, and a clutch of other media assets. They are avowedly pro-right and pro-government. Now if Reliance does not demand its money back, but allows NDTV to be totally independent and gives a free hand to Prannoy Roy to run his channel as he always did―attack BJP and go soft on opposition―one plausible speculation which doesn’t seem far-fetched could be that it was a very astute long-term strategy for a mighty corporate. It is future insurance when the opposition comes to power some day. The twin wheels of Time and Fortune forever roll, and power changes hands. “Fortune is a right whore,” said the dramatist John Webster [d. 1632]. She is fickle.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Large business houses in India have generally played their cards safe. They bet on more than one horse. In the end their loyalty is to their empire and not to any party or any individual in power. They come and they go. The empire is for ever.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An Adani-appointed board has now taken over the affairs of the channel. Will the new board serve the ruling party like many other channels or will it tread a bipartisan path―neither right nor left but a centrist path―and serve the people and show fealty to the Constitution and not to any party or individual? Is that a utopian wish? Can a corporate house serve both God and Mammon? Time will tell.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A free press paradoxically serves both those in power and those in opposition. It is a self-evident truth but those who ascend the throne are blinded by power and think they will rule for ever.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But when they lose power sooner or later and sit in opposition, which is inevitable, free press is what they will pray for―it is their best armour and ally to regain power.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>How do entrepreneurs who―fired by the fervour of upholding press freedom―start a media venture save it from financial collapse or prevent acquisition by business houses? Saving a venture from corporate predators may not be enough. Television channels and print and online ventures have mushroomed and, barring very few, they are toadies of the party in power. They will change their ideological robes and shift camps when power changes hands. They are a bigger threat to survival for bipartisan media companies and individuals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Courage and patriotism do not suffice to survive in the treacherous world. At one plane, as in any venture, a media enterprise must manage its people and its finances well, by providing visionary leadership and ensuring that its revenues are higher than its expenditures. It must learn to manage its cash flows and debt by having sound finance professionals.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A media venture that swears by objectivity and speaks fearlessly against injustice will always be in danger not faced by normal ventures. It will instantly find itself in the crosshairs of the government and incur the wrath of those who wield power. Such a noble calling will always be facing many kinds of threats from the government to silence it or drive it out of existence―raids, harassment, violence and withdrawal of advertisements, etc.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are two main streams of revenues for a media company: advertisements and paid subscriptions. Building a credible brand for objective reporting, excellence in coverage of diverse topics, contending with new technology, continuous innovation and running a tight ship are key to success. It is not easy by any stretch of imagination. Credibility for fearless reporting, free from bias, may in fact be the USP to attract viewers and readers, and thus ensure higher revenue. The success of The New York Times, which returned to profitability by courageous reporting during the turbulent Trump era, and a small clutch of media houses in India is a case in point.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is a calling fraught with many risks; it is a perilous voyage on high seas. But those who serve truth through the media are worthy warriors of that noble calling and deserve all praise, honour and support from society which it defends.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not easy to educate the public about the immeasurable values of impartial journalism, the dangers of fake news and the necessity to separate fact from fiction, and the distinction between jingoism and patriotism.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mark Twain’s words may serve us well: “Loyalty to the country always, loyalty to the government when it deserves it.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/24/the-fall-of-ndtv-capt-g-r-gopinath-guest-column.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/24/the-fall-of-ndtv-capt-g-r-gopinath-guest-column.html Sat Dec 24 16:16:37 IST 2022 aaya-ram-gaya-ram-politicians-switching-parties-in-india <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/aaya-ram-gaya-ram-politicians-switching-parties-in-india.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2022/12/17/20-train.jpg" /> <p>The year 2022, like every other year and the one before, has had its share of politicians jumping ships, switching sides, and floating new fronts. Some, like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Hardik Patel, quit with much fire and fury, some after a few comfortable days at luxury resorts, while some others moved away in silence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Whenever a leader worth his salt switches sides, political commentators like to hark back to the patron saint of floor-crossers—late Haryana politician Gaya Lal. For the uninitiated, he is the ‘Gaya’ in the p<a title="https://www.theweek.in/news/india/2020/03/12/aaya-ram-gaya-ram-a-contemporary-history-of-defections-to-the-bjp.html" href="https://www.theweek.in/news/india/2020/03/12/aaya-ram-gaya-ram-a-contemporary-history-of-defections-to-the-bjp.html">opular political adage ‘Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram’</a>. If you have been hiding under a rock, or cooped up at home minding your business or mining crypto all these years, let me attempt to introduce this humble politician who earned a place in the annals of history by changing political convictions at the drop of a topi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Decades ago, in the autumn of ‘67, Gaya Lal, an MLA from Hodal constituency in Haryana, flitted in and out of Congress two times in nine hours. Lal quit the Congress to join the non-Congress United Front only to come back to the Congress hours later. Lal’s defections were so quick that had there been moolah involved, one would wonder if he had enough time to count it all before moving sides. Now, counting the number of times Lal switched sides in the next few years might take a bit of your precious time that you might as well spend on scrolling down your social media feed or doing nothing; suffice to say that his constantly vacillating loyalties gave political pundits a prase that former Haryana chief minister Rao Birender Singh used first while introducing Lal to the press—’Gaya Lal is Aaya Ram now’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Now back to my point, and this is a humble appeal to everyone and his uncle who would like to remind the readers, viewers, trolls, and nobody in particular about Lal and his vexatious ways. Spare Lal; forget him, for good. The phrase that frequent floor-crossing shenanigans of this career politician birthed has had its run, and it is time we retired this usage. Why, you may ask! The reason might be as plain as the nose on your face. Those moving alone or as a herd to greener (mostly saffron) pastures are not likely to come back, IMAO, unlike Lal who found it so easy to move between sides. Because, why would they?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The major victim of men jumping ships has been the Congress. The party, more than anyone else on the political spectrum, these days is faced with the Schrodinger’s cat paradox when it comes to who is still with it—you never know who is with you until he/she announces that they are no longer with you. It is even harder for the party to read the signs and the signposts, especially when there are mixed signals like a rebel group coming up with ways for revival only for a few of them to exit a few days later.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>New year, old woes</b></i></p> <p>When does a leader usually quit a party? If you thought the decision comes when one is displeased and disaffected because nothing interesting comes by, R.P.N. Singh of the Congress may have a laugh at your expense! For the man quit after the party picked him to be a star campaigner for the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls in January, proving that no post can hold you back when the saffron side beckons. Calling his next few words predictable would be too predictable. Singh, or RPN—who spent 32 years in the Congress, some of these as a Union minister—said he was all set to make his “contribution to nation-building under the visionary leadership and guidance of” you know who! Now, expecting someone who just realised that it is time he worked on nation-building to make a comeback to his old fold is like betting on a dead horse. Give it a rest, RPN is unlikely to validate the use of your political leitmotif.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>Another month, another exit</b></i></p> <p>When it rains defections, it pours, especially for the Congress. If it took three decades for RPN to realise that it is time to finally contribute to nation-building, for Ashwani Kumar it took four decades, and a few years more. In February, Kumar, who once defended the leadership against the letter-writing revolutionaries of the Congress, realised that that the thinking of the nation and the thinking of the Congress are diametrically opposite. Now, you cannot blame him for finally figuring out a few things, all on his own. The Congress may think, ceteris paribus, walking from one end of the nation to the other might build national unity, but the nation might see it as just an exercise for weight reduction for a few. “Dark future”, “hollow structure”, and “reduced dignity” were some of Kumar’s parting shots for the Congress. If I may take some liberty to put this into perspective for the HBO watching crowd, in Game of Thrones’s lingo, he called the party and everything in it “a Mummer’s farce.” Now, despite many rumours that followed his exit, he has not given into the natural rhythm of things and moved on to the saffron side, but that is no guarantee that he will honour Lal and be back with the Congress!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>Patel out!</b></i></p> <p>Hardik Patel only had a fanciful three-year fling with the Gujarat Congress, which also came with the sweet nothing of the post of state working president. Realising that the dalliance is going nowhere, Patel announced the end of courtship, saying, “of course, it isn’t me, it is you” to the party leadership, in May. Like every youngster looking for reasons to put an end to things before they turn dicey (assembly polls were only months away), Patel left saying that leaders were preoccupied with phone and food. He said top leaders were busy with their phones when he reached out to them. He also said Gujarat leaders were keen on ensuring the top brass get their chicken sandwiches on time, instead of mingling with the youth. Now, pop culture may tell you that some who end a relationship find immediate solace in binging on everything from ice cream to Netflix, some in beer, while still others in lifting weights with a vengeance. Patel did something similar. Two weeks after ending the tumultuous affair, Patel found his true calling, to be a soldier of “Narendrabhai.” Will a solider abandon his post? Quite unlikely.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>Azad ho gaya azadi</b></i></p> <p>If I need to insult someone in good measure, I would borrow a few words from Charles Dickens, and call the aforementioned beneficiary of my insult “an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato,” but I wouldn’t go so low as to find fault with his DNA, unlike a certain Congress spokesperson did after Ghulam Nabi Azad’s departure in August. The fault, dear Brutus, is not with our star(s?) but with your Modi-fied DNA, said the spokesperson after Azad put in his papers, blaming the “coterie of inexperienced sycophants” who are stage-managing a “non-serious” individual. Tougher words than this have been said about the Congress, but only by those who are on troll duty! Even when you are punched hard in the gut, there are blows that you do not deal, even in a no-holds-barred street fight. Then again, electoral politics gets dirtier than street fights as Azad realised the moment he ended his association with the Congress. As if a mock funeral for him was not enough, tears that Modi shed for him months before in Parliament (which Azad had clarified were not for him) were recalled to vilify Azad’s DNA. Azad is no Lal, and is unlikely to make a comeback to his old fold, especially now that he is the bossman of his own outfit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>Politician and a gentleman</b></i></p> <p>Not all roads lead to Rome; not all who dump the Congress end with the BJP! While some of his former buddies found their “nationalistic voice”, Sibal, who was among the 23 rebels with a definite cause, realised he needed an “independent voice,” of course with some support of the Samajwadi Party. The statement that followed Sibal’s renunciation of the Congress system of things was indeed the stuff of legend. Thirty years with the Congress made Sibal understand that he is a member of the party and hence “has to abide by the discipline of that party.” There was no acrimonious huffing and puffing though, unlike the many other political departures, because Sibal, above all, is a gentleman, a rare find in politics. His parting shot was not a list of his grouses—for he may have had exhausted the list—but stoic silence!</p> <p><i><b>In search of voice</b></i></p> <p>Five decades into the party, it dawned on Sunil Jakhar that he has a “nationalistic voice” that needs to be heard. Before he said, “Good luck and goodbye Congress,” in a Facebook live, Jakhar gave a bit of a lecture on assets and liabilities to the Congress leadership. He asked the Gandhis to know their assets and liabilities if not their friends and foes. He had earlier claimed that unlike the party leadership believed, former Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi was “not an asset”. Like many men before him, Jakhar did not take long to turn all saffron and blame his previous party for attempting to smother the nationalist in him. Whole three days after his departure, he was in the BJP fold, and the usual words were uttered as he announced that he was now all the more patriotic than ever before—’nationalism’, ‘unity’, ‘brotherhood’, ‘interest of the country’. Now, you cannot fault him for finally siding with wholesale dealers of nationalism; neither can you expect him to come crying back to those who he claimed attempted to muzzle him.</p> <p><i><b>In gods we can’t trust</b></i></p> <p>I do not know if it is the beaches, shacks, cheap alcohol, or the general festive vibe, in Goa, politicians find it hard to stick with one party. Curse of Goa they call it, as the state regularly sees its leaders playing political musical chairs. The year 2022 was not different either, as eight of the 11 Congress MLAs, including former CM Digambar Kamat, embraced the saffron shade even as Rahul Gandhi began his efforts to jodo Bharat, in September. Before it all began, in January, in a bid to tame the monster of defection, Congress candidates for the Goa assembly elections marched up to a temple, church and dargah and swore loyalty to the party and promised to resist the temptation to switch sides after victory. Little did the Congress top leadership seem to know about the Adam Smithian idea that people—unlike chess pieces that their political masters, and their gods want them to be—have a principle of motion all of their own, altogether different from what someone else chooses to impress upon them, when they decided to trust the gods to keep their leaders in check. If gods could not get them stay in their fold, can mere men hope to do much?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>Real vs Original</b></i></p> <p>While the Congress has been finding it hard to hold on to its leaders, the Shiv Sena faced a bigger problem. In June, the party, which was in power along with the Congress and the NCP, suddenly learned that it is not one, but two; and very disagreeable two. While one side, who claimed that they were the “real” Sena, wanted to have nothing to do with the Maha Vikas Aghadi partners, the “original” Sena, led by Uddhav Thackeray, was all for the partnership. After moving from one resort to another—Surat and Guwahati—the “real” Sena of Eknath Shinde, which had more manpower because of some ‘real’ support from the BJP, managed to stage a coup and show Thackeray the door of Varsha. A coming together of the ‘real’ and ‘original’ to be ‘originally real’ or ‘really original’ is unlikely now, at least not as long as the predominant political colour in the country is saffron.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>And there was one!</b></i></p> <p>It is not just the Congress that faces the natural flow of leaders into the saffron sanctuary to where most roads lead. The JD (U) in Manipur, which had six MLAs in the assembly, found on one September day that its bench strength was down to one man as five of them had merged with the BJP. Two of them, L.M. Khaute and Thangjam Arunkumar, may have taken a lesson or two from Lal’s escapades as they were with the BJP, but joined the JD(U) in February after they were denied tickets, only to get elected and return to the BJP. All’s fair in love, war, and politics! But, for optics’ sake, came a disclaimer; almost a tearjerker of a disclaimer. The crossover was because—well, you guessed it right—people wanted them to do it. After Nitish Kumar dumped the BJP in Bihar, the JD(U) MLAs in Manipur were moved by the urge, as all politicians are wont, to stay loyal to people who elected them from the NDA platform and did the right thing. Nonetheless, just because two of them were inspired by Lal once, you cannot expect them to repeat history every other day!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Defections are here to stay, in election season and off it. To keep the score every day, every month, and every year is indeed a laborious task. It is time we got a bit creative and came up with something with no Lal in it, because frankly, my dear, no Ram who comes to where things have been Modi-fied gives a damn about returning!</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/aaya-ram-gaya-ram-politicians-switching-parties-in-india.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/aaya-ram-gaya-ram-politicians-switching-parties-in-india.html Sun Dec 18 16:47:29 IST 2022 role-of-kasturba-gandhi-in-indian-freedom-struggle <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/role-of-kasturba-gandhi-in-indian-freedom-struggle.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/2022/12/17/42-Kasturba-with-Mahatma-Gandhi-new.jpg" /> <p>The sky is crayoned blue. The ground is squelchy like chocolate left out in summer. Rain has pelted nonstop for a week. And the sun filters through the freshly laundered leaves. At the Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Rural Industrialization campus in Wardha, the smell of turpentine—sprayed to ward off termites eating away Gandhian institutions—is eye-watering.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Across a bridge painted in tricolours, is the thatched house where Gandhi lived.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Wardha where everything is Gandhi-touched, there is a little-known space of the other Gandhi—Kasturba. Ba ki Rasoi (Ba’s kitchen) is now turned into a shrine with an LED display of her husband. This is where his followers, those engaged in sangarsh for satya—the battle for truth—found sustenance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was no small task, catering for a revolution. Kasturba would be up at 4am. “She took part in all Ashram activities, besides—such as cleaning grain, cutting vegetables, making chapatis, etc.,’’ wrote Sushila Nayar, her doctor in an article on Ba and Bapu.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is a large room. Faded photographs on the mud-plastered walls offer a glimpse of the sheer size of the operation it would have been. It was like feeding an army. She was as much a hard taskmaster as Gandhi, her organisational skills military efficient. “She demanded punctuality, scrupulous cleanliness, good manners and participation... from everyone eating in her kitchen,’’ wrote G. Ramchandran, who spent 1925 at Sevagram working with Ba in the kitchen.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This part—very much essential to the freedom struggle—has been taken for granted. But what has dropped off the mainstream memory is her being an active satyagrahi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Those memories, if awakened, should be stirring even a century and a half after her birth. More so, in the 75th year of independence, when the freedom story is expanding to become more inclusive and has chosen to find the individual voice rather than the collective. Kastur, who was Gandhi’s comrade and companion, was a woman of strength who experimented with the power of truth.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She broke taboos by offering satyagraha in South Africa to protest a law that allowed only marriages performed under Christian rites to be registered. It nullified “…all marriages celebrated according to the Hindu, Musalman and Zoroastrian rites,’’ wrote Gandhi in the book Satyagraha in South Africa.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kasturba wanted to resist the law. “‘Could I not then join the struggle and be imprisoned myself,’ she asked. Mr Gandhi said that she could but that it was not a small matter,’’ reported the Indian Opinion newspaper on October 1, 1913. It was a “tough” conversation in the teeth of discouragement by her husband, says their grandson, the historian Rajmohan Gandhi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She was in the first batch of satyagrahis—12 men and four women—who travelled from Phoenix to Transvaal border on September 15, 1913. The women satyagrahis, besides her, were Kashi Chhaganlal Gandhi, Santok Mangal Gandhi and Jayakunwar Manilal Doctor. Their arrest created a sensation in India. In a public meeting, held in Bombay on December 10, 1913 to pass a resolution on the treatment of Indians in South Africa and to ask for an inquiry, one of the founders of the Indian National Congress, Pherozeshah Mehta, thundered: “While we are speaking and speechifying, those mild and gentle women who have enrolled themselves with husbands and brothers, under the banner of Passive Resistance, are lying in jails herded with common criminals.’’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They were sentenced to three months of hard labour. “The women’s bravery was beyond words. They were all kept in Maritzburg jail, where they were considerably harassed. Their food was of the worst quality and they were given laundry work as their task,’’ wrote Gandhi. Finally they emerged, “in many cases utterly broken down in the hard prison life…. Mrs Gandhi suffered most of all,’’ wrote C.F Andrews after their release.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kasturba went to jail four times in India, each time in her own right. During the civil disobedience movement, when Gandhi was in jail, she chose to take his place. She addressed meetings and was arrested on January 11, 1933 and taken to Sabarmati Jail. She was sentenced to one and a half months of simple imprisonment. Her companions got three and a half months of rigorous imprisonment. She protested the preferential treatment and insisted on being treated the same. When she was released she plunged back into the movement and was jailed for six months.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 1939, she was arrested for protesting the “reign of terror’’ that the ruler of Rajkot had unleashed on satyagrahis. And in 1942 during the Quit India movement, she was arrested as she left to address a meeting that Gandhi was to address. She never left the Aga Khan Palace alive.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She had stood in for Gandhi for the first time when he was in Yeravada Jail in Poona in 1924. She went to Borsad, responding to a telegram sent by women who had been lathi-charged. “We want Ba with us,’’ it read. She had not been keeping well, but as an eye-witness account suggests, it did little to dampen her spirits. “She was no more the meek woman who sat quietly in her hut… spinning the charkha.’’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She was 70 when she chose to go to prison, agitating against the ruler of Rajkot. It was a choice that Gandhi did not really encourage and he was not keeping well. But Ba, who had an emotional attachment to Rajkot, chose to become part of the movement. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel tried to stop her, but in vain. His own daughter, Maniben Patel, was arrested along with her.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Kasturba often played the role of an empowered and independent woman on her own,’’ says Siby K. Joseph, director of Jamnalal Bajaj Memorial Library and Research Centre, Sevagram, who has written a book, Kasturba Gandhi An Embodiment of Empowerment. “She came out on critical moments of national life displaying a rare kind of grit and determination. This was more when the Mahatma was away. But her life and her role in the struggle have remained largely unexplored.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Gandhi scholar was on a visit to South Africa and the Phoenix Settlement when he realised how “massive’’ her role was. “During this phase Gandhi was virtually absent. She managed it,’’ he says. He wrote the book in an attempt to ensure that she is given her due.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“My first view of Phoenix disappointed and depressed me,’’ wrote Millie Polak, one of the first western women followers of Gandhi. The Polaks had lived with the Gandhis in Johannesburg. It took them two days and nights in a train to reach Durban, from where the Settlement was 14 miles away. They reached the place after a “long two-mile tramp along a badly constructed road across difficult country, our paths lighted only by a flickering lamp, and the fear of snakes constantly in our mind.’’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If Kasturba had similar thoughts, they went unwritten. It is hard to fill in her silence. Gandhi made it his project to get his illiterate wife to read and write. It was a lifelong commitment. Even in her seventies, when she was imprisoned at the Aga Khan Palace, he tried to make her read the Gujarati primer. Kasturba did not leave behind her thoughts.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But HarperCollins India has published The Lost Diary of Kastur, My Ba, which has been translated from Gujarati by her great-grandson Tushar Gandhi. “We have all collectively neglected Ba and decided that she needs to be kept in the background,’’ says Tushar. “In translating the diary, I felt an intimate connection with Ba.’’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The diary was found at the Gandhi Research Foundation Jalgaon. From January to September 1933, the diary records common aspects of ashram life; prayers, reading the Gita and spinning. It captures the mundanity of life of running a revolution. The purity of soul that Gandhi demanded meant a complete transformation of self.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tushar claims the diary is proof that Kasturba was not illiterate. To be fair to him, there has long been chatter of Ba keeping a diary. Sushila Nayar, her doctor, chronicled her memories of Ba in 1944, under the instructions of Gandhi who wanted her to be remembered. Sushila wrote about consulting diaries of Ba in this period. But these were largely believed to be dictated by Ba.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The only voice that exists is Gandhi’s. And that presents a fundamental problem of her relationship with Gandhi. Her dutifulness and her surrender, a word that is unpalatable in woke times.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“She has not been given her due,’’ says Urvashi Butalia, writer and feminist. “It is also the prism in which she has been framed [where she is seen only with Gandhi]. Women in the struggle were also wives who looked after their husbands. Men’s lives get represented. It is more important when, within the marginalised space, this is a marginalised voice. But it takes time.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kasturba was not the only one of her generation not to document her life. Kamala Nehru, who was highly literate, never wrote about her life. That Kasturba resisted Gandhi has been documented; her reluctance to embrace his mission against untouchability, for instance. She did not accept blindly.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She retains her own kitchen. Was that autonomy? “The question of autonomy is a misplaced question as far as Gandhi’s family is concerned,’’ says the scholar Tridip Surhud. “It would not have been a question if she was not his wife. In family, a lot of surrender and sacrifice take place, especially in the 19th century family. We forget that they were married in the 19th century.’’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There was silence, but there are memories. Stories that are now emerging. “I don’t remember hearing these stories when I was growing up,’’ says Sukanya Bharatram, her great-granddaughter. “I remember sitting with family members, even our extended family members, and talking about the freedom struggle as the past. I am grateful because it taught me to live in India in the present instead of living in the past that could have been limiting.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her mother, Tara Gandhi, is writing a book. She was 11 when Kasturba died. In an anecdote that reveals her grandmother’s character, Tara remembers the time she and her family went to visit the Gandhis at the Aga Khan Palace prison. “I asked her if I could play in the next room,’’ she says. “I said there were no guards. She said no. She was clear what wasn’t allowed, wasn’t allowed.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her brother Rajmohan Gandhi, a year and a half younger, too, has memories of her last days. “I remember the barbed wire around it and the soldiers guarding it,’’ he says. “It was called a palace, but it was a detention centre. I remember her being very affectionate. Just a constant flow of affection.’’ It was Ba who brought him into the world. And it was she who tended to his sister when she was very ill.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Sevagram, Bapu still holds sway. It is different from his earlier experiments. He was 67 when he came here. Time is very much still. Sunlight filters through the trees. The prayers that Bapu started at 4am continue each day. As do the evening prayers. The kitchen, however, is not like how Ba had it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Near the tulsi plant in Sevagram is Ba Kutir. Two bare rooms, the walls plastered in mud. No photographs allowed inside; the rule for Ba Kutir is strict. The hut was built as a concession to her advancing age—she was older than him. “There is very little of anything that belongs only to her,’’ says Kanakmal Gandhi, former director at the ashram. “Everything was jointly owned.’’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If Gandhi became Bapu, the father of the nation, Kastur was the universal Ba. It was Subhas Chandra Bose who, in a heartfelt tribute when she died in 1944, referred to her as the mother of the Indian people. “She became the mother of the nation before Bapuji became father of the nation,’’ says Tara. “But not in a formal way.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But more than the “mother of the Indian people’’, Ba was the spirit of the fight. “It was Ba that women came to pour their hearts out to,’’ says Vibha Gupta, chairperson, Magan Sangrahalaya, Wardha. “She was like the thread in a string of beads. It is invisible but it keeps the beads together.’’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ba helped in spreading Gandhi’s message; in making it accessible and relatable for those who did not necessarily understand his philosophy. It is her that turns the saint, human. She keeps the family together; she helps with the delivery of Rajmohan; she finds a way to restore Devdas Gandhi to his health when he has a breakdown. And it is she who insists that Gandhi free Sushila Nayar, who was with them in the Aga Khan Palace, from her self-imposed vow of not writing letters home to her mother. Gandhi had taken a decision not to write letters as he was not allowed to write political letters. Sushila’s brother Pyarelal, who was Gandhi’s secretary, also takes the vow. Ba, however, understands that the mother would worry. She includes the stories of Sushila in her letters to Devdas so that he can pass the message on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She had the same concern for her daughters-in-law. “Ba changed the order in the kitchen when my mother went to visit in Sabarmati,’’ says Tara. “She said, ‘I know there is a rule here that you don’t put rice in the evening. But my daughter Lakshmi has to have rice.’” Lakshmi, daughter of C. Rajagopalachari, was from rice-loving Tamil Nadu.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In her book Kasturba, Sushila narrates her first meeting with Ba in 1920. Her mother was unhappy about Pyarelal joining the freedom movement. She asked to meet Gandhi. “She was going to him to request him to send her son back to her,’’ Sushila writes. She was to meet him in Lahore. “But when she reached there, she found both of them too busy to see her, so she spent the day talking with Ba and unburdening herself. Ba was all sympathy and in return narrated her own experiences and the hardships that she had passed through whilst following in her husband’s footsteps in the service of the country. By the time Gandhiji sent for my mother in the evening, she was a different person. She had been deeply impressed by what Ba had told her. She had argued with herself that after all Ba, too, was a mother like herself. If Ba could sacrifice so much, why could not she? So she said, ‘Gandhiji, you can keep my son for four or five years at the most, but send him back to me after that. I have lost my husband and he is the only light of my house…’ My mother had simply fallen in love with her. Gandhiji had twitted her for clothing herself and even her little child (me) in foreign clothes. He had also spoken to her about the vanity of attachment to the world. All that was perfectly true, but although it served to silence my mother it left her sighing. The air was too rarefied for her to breathe. With Ba it was different. She spoke to her from her own level—as one woman to another.’’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a way Kasturba helped transform him. As Gandhi told the Pashtuns in 1938, “She became my teacher in nonviolence.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But at the heart of the Kasturba story lies the legacy of Gandhi. While it is essential that her role as a freedom fighter be recognised, theirs is also the story of togetherness. And of a marriage of respect and love. Bapu and Ba were exceptional as they were the only couple involved in the freedom struggle in public life. There was no other. “They had an equal relationship,’’ says Tara. “She never did anything obediently. She argued, she accepted if she wanted to. She never said forgive me.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Like in life, even in afterlife, Gandhi continues to dominate the landscape. But his dutiful wife—his nurse, his faithful companion, his comrade, his partner and his teacher, Mrs Gandhi, as he referred to her in many letters—was always beside him. He was conscious of her influence. Besides making Sushila put down her memories of Kasturba, he founded the Kasturba Memorial Trust to carry on her work in the villages. “Give me an example of a man who spun enough yarn for two saris,’’ says Suhrud. “He wove her saris. One, she was cremated in. The only other survives at Sabarmati Ashram. If that is not love, what is?’’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Seventy-five years after freedom, it is time perhaps to expand the frame to include her more. And acknowledge the relationship of the only public political couple that battled together for freedom.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/role-of-kasturba-gandhi-in-indian-freedom-struggle.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/role-of-kasturba-gandhi-in-indian-freedom-struggle.html Sat Dec 17 20:48:07 IST 2022 the-greatness-of-kasturba-gandhi-by-tara-gandhi <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/the-greatness-of-kasturba-gandhi-by-tara-gandhi.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/2022/12/17/50-Tara-Gandhi-new.jpg" /> <p><b>I WAS NEARLY</b> 11 when Kasturba died; and nearly 14 when Gandhi died. My views on them are based on my personal contact with them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She was the witness to Gandhi. They were about 14 when they got married. I sometimes wonder: did it ever strike her that she was marrying a man who would be the man of the century, a legend like the Buddha and Christ? And that life would be a struggle, a sangarsh for truth?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She was a typical Indian rural woman, but not uneducated. She was illiterate, but educated. She saw Gandhi grow. And she grew with him spiritually and logically. At every step, she argued. It was only after argument that she accepted. If she liked it, then she understood it, followed it. She understood his philosophy better than what he did. In a way, she became even stronger in her convictions on Gandhi’s philosophy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In her last days in the Aga Khan Palace, when we went to visit her, we had to book the compartment. I mean, we travelled by third class. Bapu would be so smiling. I could see his happiness on seeing my father (Devdas Gandhi) and all of us. He had mellowed down and was on a spiritual journey. So was Kasturba. Her main aim was to look after his health all the time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Whenever we went to the palace, we saw her lying down, very frail. But she also thought of the rights of her family, especially the granddaughters and daughters-in-law. ‘If people give something, why should I not have them for my daughter-in-law?’ She gave me a sari. It had very nice embroidery: red, green, yellow, orange. I wore it so often in my college.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I took that sari very naturally from Kasturba but I knew what my grandfather would say: it should not go to her; it should go to the last person, to the needy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>So I was hugging the sari and trying to run out of the jail, but then I looked at him. He smiling and spinning his yarn. It meant: ‘it is yours.’ And I understood the meaning of ‘really needy person’. One is needy for food, a roof, clothes. Sometimes you need love. I was a needy person and she was in need of giving it to her granddaughter.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are pictures of her washing his feet. She did not see it as slavery. You bend down because you have the dignity. You have the courage to do that. She was that.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She looked after his food and everything. My mother said something which she could only share with me. I am a daughter in the family. My mother was a daughter-in-law. She could not say it openly. She could not share it with my father. She said to me: ‘Ba ke jaane ke baad Bapu anaat ho gaye. Unke kapde itne saaf nahi hai, unke khaane ka dhyan itna kisi ne nahi diya aur unke aaraam ka bhi. I am not saying this because no one is looking after him. They are, with all their heart. But it is like he has been orphaned.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>My mother had tears in her eyes when she said so. There is a combination of mother and father in every person, in a friend, in a husband, in a father. There is a mother in the father. There is a father in the mother. And later on the children become like your parents. She had the role of a mother, of a colleague, of a co-worker, and of a co-satyagrahi. She could not read and write, but she was educated. Bapuji tried very hard to teach her. This is Kasturba as I saw it. There were many times that we went to Sevagram and could not see Bapu, but we saw Ba and it almost made up for it. She became the mother of the nation even before he became the father. In a way, not in a formal way.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>They had an equal relationship. She accepted bramacharya when he said that. And what she said was the courage in her heart, self willed and her understanding of Gandhi’s philosophy. She did not want Gandhi to fail in his experiments.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When she was in prison in the Aga Khan Palace I said to her: ‘Ba, I want to go and play in that room. There is no guard there.’ She said, ‘No, it’s not allowed.’ There was a profound message: self-control. On one of her visits to Kingsway Camp she said, ‘Tomorrow I have to go to a meeting.’ She used to be invited to speak. She was a public figure. She was called to speak at a congregation in Hapur. And she said, ‘My granddaughter will come with me.’ We left in the car in the wee hours of the morning. There was a big stage for her. She went up, with me holding her hand. I kept saying, ‘I am hungry.’ She said, ‘Keep quiet.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There was a centre seat for her. But she took a corner seat. I shared it with her. I don’t remember how she said a few words. There were no big words; only the spirit of Gandhi. When the meeting was over, she said, ‘My child is very hungry. Please give her something.’ I remember it very well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>As told to Mandira Nayar</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Tara Gandhi is Kasturba’s granddaughter</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/the-greatness-of-kasturba-gandhi-by-tara-gandhi.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/the-greatness-of-kasturba-gandhi-by-tara-gandhi.html Sat Dec 17 20:22:00 IST 2022 kasturba-gandhi-life-character-and-brilliance-by-rajmohan-gandhi <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/kasturba-gandhi-life-character-and-brilliance-by-rajmohan-gandhi.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/2022/12/17/51-Rajmohan-Gandhi.jpg" /> <p><b>IT IS TRUE</b> that Kasturba is only seen alongside Gandhi, but she is seen a few steps behind Gandhi in the imagination, serving him and assisting him. There is no doubt about that. She did serve him. She did assist him. But then, she was far more radical and independent than people acknowledge or are even aware.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>People are aware of the 1919 satyagraha against the Rowlatt Act. It was a very consequential event. It led to the Jallianwala Bagh incident. It all began when Gandhi said there would be a nationwide strike, a hartal, all across India in one day. It was the first national hartal, as far as I can observe historically. There had been amazing movements before. But this was the first nationwide demonstration in March-April of 1919.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gandhi would never have done this—or could never have done this—but for Kasturba’s role in getting him out of a very deep depression. He was physically and emotionally completely drained at the end of 1918. He was very unwell. The doctor said to him that he should take milk to have any chance of recovery. Gandhi was in a quandary. He had taken a vow not to drink milk. At this point, Kasturba said to him, ‘Look here, when you took that vow not to drink milk, you had just returned from Calcutta, where you had seen the horrible way in which cows were being treated. You had the cow in mind when you talked about milk. But you were not thinking of goat’s milk. You can take goat’s milk.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gandhi felt that this was a very clever suggestion. He could take goat’s milk and adhere to the letter and spirit of the vow. He accepted Kasturba’s logic, which was ingenious. It was Kasturba’s intervention that preserved Gandhi’s moral and physical fitness. From that day, he survived on goat’s milk. This was a very important role played by Kasturba in the story of India’s freedom movement. Very few people are aware of it. She was like a lawyer. He might have been a barrister-at-law, but she was a very natural lawyer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This also emerges from Gandhi’s conversations with her. In 1901 they were leaving South Africa—for good, they thought. (Maybe he thought his work in South Africa was over, but we know it wasn’t. Within a year there would be cables summoning them back.) He had not yet discovered satyagraha and had become quite a radical: he was determined that he was going to live for the community, for the Indian people at large, not just for himself and his family. There were farewell parties and they were given jewels and presents by the grateful Indian community in South Africa.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gandhi decided that he would return all these and form a public trust. And there was a very interesting conversation between him and Kasturba. You know this not from Kasturba, but from what he himself has written. He wrote and published it well before Kasturba died, and if there was any error in it she would have protested and objected. Their children, too, would have objected because they were very partial to her. My father and her other sons were deeply devoted to her. So if there was any injustice in writing about their mother, they would have immediately protested.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We can take that account of that conversation when Kasturba says to Gandhi, ‘You want to give these things away—have you consulted me about it? What about my future daughters-in-law? The future, we don’t know. And why should I part with gifts that have been lovingly given.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She cried. Gandhi said, ‘No, no, no, the boys will not marry young.’ And if they did marry, their wives would be free from the lure of ornaments. If ornaments were needed, Kastur could ask him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At this point, Kasturba said, ‘Ask you? I know you by this time. You deprive me of my ornaments. Fancy you offering to get ornaments for my daughters-in-law! You were trying to make sadhus of my boys. No ornaments will be returned.’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And she went on to say, ‘What right do you have to my necklace?’ Gandhi in a very heartless manner said, ‘Was the necklace given for your service? Or for my service?’ Then Kasturba said, ‘All right. But service rendered by you is as good as service rendered by me. I have toiled for you day and night. Is that no service? You force all and sundry on me. I slave for them.’ She was arguing like a lawyer. Ultimately, Kasturba acquiesced because Gandhi had, very cleverly, already persuaded the sons to agree with him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Later, they returned to South Africa. And there was a very big march in South Africa. It was really quite a huge thing. People have forgotten it. The Indian community, middle-class people, traders, and indentured workers on the farms, and sugar farms and in the mines took part in this amazing march. Women took part in it because Kasturba insisted that she would take part. Again, there was a tough conversation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gandhi said, ‘You say you want to take part. But then if they send you to jail, what will you do? And if you don’t go to jail and say forgive me, I won’t. What will happen to the satyagraha?’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Again, he asks a tough cruel question. ‘If this happens, and you do this, what will happen after that to our relationship? How could I then harbour you and how can I look the world in the face?’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But Kasturba says, ‘You can have nothing to do with me if I am unable to stand jail and secure release by an apology. If you can endure hardships, and if my boys can endure hardships, I will also endure hardship. I am bound to join the struggle.’ It was that resolve which made a huge difference to the movement.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>People don’t know today the impact of this news when it reached India. This was a time, in 1913, when there was no idea of educated women, so called respectable women, going to jail for a political issue. It was an incredible sensation in India at that time.</p> <p>This was Kasturba and her determination. She had the lawyer-like skill, and the toughness of leadership. She had intellectual jousts with her husband. She won and she lost. But even when she lost she achieved a change in what resulted in, what should be done. Thousands and thousands of women took part in satyagraha and went to prison. So many lakhs of people today remember their grandmothers who took part.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a way Kasturba was a pioneer here. She initiated women’s participation in 1913 in South Africa—there is historical evidence of it. She did it in the teeth of discouragement and questioning by her husband. The discouragement and questioning was also a way of testing her. To be fair to him, he wanted it, but he wanted to be sure that the woman meant business. She did mean business.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>—<b>As told to Mandira Nayar</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Rajmohan Gandhi is Kasturba’s grandson</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/kasturba-gandhi-life-character-and-brilliance-by-rajmohan-gandhi.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/kasturba-gandhi-life-character-and-brilliance-by-rajmohan-gandhi.html Sat Dec 17 20:43:26 IST 2022 saving-nallamala-forest-andhra-telangana-anka-rao <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/saving-nallamala-forest-andhra-telangana-anka-rao.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/2022/12/17/64-Every-day-Rao-collects-waste-1.jpg" /> <p>Komera Anka Rao will never have a scarecrow on his one-acre farm at Karempudi village in Palnadu, Andhra Pradesh. The sole reason he grows crops on his only piece of farm land is to feed birds. Jaji, as he is locally known, grows pearl millet and sorghum as they require less water and labour. The farm hosts a variety of birds, including Indian parrots, baya weavers, pigeons, mynas and the Indian Pitta.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though he loses Rs25,000 a year on the farm, Jaji does not mind. He cares for the birds and the Nallamala forest too much. His land is on the periphery of the vast forest, an important green cover in the Eastern Ghats in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. It has the largest tiger reserve in the country and is spread over 9,000sqkm.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Jaji, Nallamala is a retreat and an obsession. His daily schedule is harmoniously linked to the forest. At 5am, he sets off on his gearless bike with empty sacks tucked into the storage space. After going deep into the thick forest, sometimes as deep as 30km, Jaji starts his hours-long hunting expedition. His prey is not animals, but things left behind by revellers and tourists—plastic glasses, paper plates, beer bottles, polythene covers and any other trash that does not belong in a forest. He stuffs all he gets into the sacks and takes it to a dumping ground far from the forest. He says he has cleared three truckloads worth of garbage so far.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Several community events are held in the forests where families have lunch in the open,” says Jaji. “There are also youth who want to experience the thrill of a forest picnic. There is a constant flow of tourists who eat or drink and dump the waste. Who will clear this waste that affects animals and plants? I feel responsible for this forest. It gives us oxygen and keeps us alive.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 40-year-old has been on this mission for more than two decades. His tryst with the forest began when he was barely 15. A sickly child with little money at home, he had dropped out of school after class 10. One day, the curious boy ventured into the forest a few kilometres from his Karempudi home. His trips became more frequent and, over time, Jaji struck an unusual friendship with the birds in the jungle and began bringing them food from home. They reciprocated with sounds and movements, he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On one such trip, he saw something that broke his heart. “A sparrow lay dead. It was not shot at, so that ruled out hunting. Some distance away, I saw broken beer bottles with a mix of alcohol and water in them. The leftover food looked contaminated. I was sure the bird died after eating the food. I had seen birds feeding on the waste, but I never knew it could kill them.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At that moment, Jaji vowed that he would clear all the trash that could hurt his feathered friends. Now, whenever he bumps into tourists dumping waste, he tells them the importance of forests and how their irresponsible act could lead to an imbalance in nature. “I have only come across people who appreciated me and promised to not repeat the act,” he says. “Nobody reacted aggressively.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jaji is a strong believer in the power of nature—he feels that the forest has healed and protected him on numerous occasions. The doctors had told his parents that their child was unhealthy and that he was unlikely to lead a normal life. When he was in school, his face and body would swell up with little physical strain. As a middle-aged man, Jaji feels stronger than ever and credits the forest for completely curing him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Once, I heard birds making frantic noises as if to warn me,” he says. “I turned around to see a venomous snake heading towards me. I jumped from its path and that saved my life. In another instance, I felt uneasy while walking in the forest. My legs gave up and my stomach was hurting. I could not take it any longer and came back home. Within hours, the weather in the forest had turned rough. There was heavy rain. I have been going to the forest for so many years and not once was I harmed. I believe that if we take care of nature, it will take care of us.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Jaji, the forest is a confidant. He has broken down under the shade of a thick tree or on a hillock several times. With a wife, two children and parents to take care of, Jaji is torn between his ideals and his responsibilities. His work is voluntary and hardly fetches any stable income. The only money he gets is from some villagers who come to him for medical advice and the occasional ayurvedic company that consults him on rare plants.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I stopped going to village fairs during festivals as my shirts are old or torn,” he says. “Once I did not have 010 in my pocket to go to another town to take an award for my work. If my children fall sick, I do not think I can find enough money for their treatment. I might be an inspiration for many people in this world, but my parents shed tears when they talk about me. They feel I ruined my life. They are right in their own way, but I love nature and cannot afford to deviate from my path.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jaji’s duty does not stop with just picking up garbage. For years now, he has been planting seeds in the forest. He used to have a YouTube channel, on which he talked about the plants and medicinal herbs he found. It has almost a lakh subscribers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He visits schools, with a programme called ‘Prakriti’, and teaches students about the forest, how to identify important plants, and how animals contribute to the forest’s well-being. He claims to have visited 5,000 private and government schools in the past 20 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jaji wants to grow his tribe so that his work can be continued. He is confident that he can start a chain movement that will safeguard the forest to which he has dedicated his life. “When in the forest, I am happier than any crorepati,” he says. “What is life without nature?”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/saving-nallamala-forest-andhra-telangana-anka-rao.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/saving-nallamala-forest-andhra-telangana-anka-rao.html Sat Dec 17 19:59:46 IST 2022 the-hidden-life-of-bellboys-lift-operators-guards-cleaners <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/the-hidden-life-of-bellboys-lift-operators-guards-cleaners.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/2022/12/17/128-shutterstock.jpg" /> <p>A recent piece in TIME magazine titled ‘How to be both ambitious and fulfilled’ advised that one should focus on the task and not the rewards, prioritise your relationships, strive for growth, do not try to monetise everything and practice gratitude. But what kind of growth is there if you are a bellboy, a lift operator or a salesgirl? How do you not try to monetise everything when you are struggling to feed your family, send your children to school and take care of an ailing mother? Of course, you might argue that the principles delineated in TIME are only for white-collar workers and salaried office-goers. But don’t others also have a right to live fulfilled lives?</p> <p>Talk of balance sheets, profit margins and quarterly reports are meaningless for them. For them, what matters is the relentless pounding of the sun while standing by the roadside for hours holding a ‘HOTEL’ sign. What matters is changing out of their uniforms so that they can shrug back into their identities outside of work.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Who can blame them if they let their minds drift while scanning bags at mall entrances or garlanding guests at five-star resorts. Do they wonder what if, in a spectacular reversal of fate, they changed places with the businessman in the natty suit who just walked in through the revolving door? Do they try to guess what is in the suitcase that the ‘Lady in Bling’ just rolled into the lobby? Do they wonder what those troublesome children with the identical crew cuts are fighting about? Do they try to guess the price of that heavy gold watch that the father of the little monsters—who is currently trying to unentangle their limbs—is wearing?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Who cares about striving for growth at work when striving for survival is work enough? And to think that we expect them to serve us with efficiency, respect and—here’s the clincher—cheerfulness. In fact, spreading cheer is a job requirement. All their troubles must be swept under the carpet of THE SMILE. Smiles should have no expiry date. CVs that guarantee “Perpetual Pleasantness” will be given preference over those that do not. Take a salesgirl at a textile shop, held in the vice-like grip of visitors’ bad tempers. Yet, she is expected to be sunny. She hears the same questions over and over again: “Does this blouse need lining? Is this chiffon or silk? How much cloth will I need for a skirt this length?” Yet, she must not let go of the one cardinal rule of salesmanship: “Thou shalt not let the corners of thy mouth droop.” On top of everything, she must defy the law of gravity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even then, her job might not be secure. Talk of artificial intelligence taking over human work is like the persistent buzz of a mosquito hovering near you—you live in constant fear of the bite. AI might soon enough make its bite felt. According to a recent report by economists at MIT and Boston University, robots could replace as many as two million workers in manufacturing alone by 2025. In which case, this section of the work force might be the first to lose their jobs. After all, it is already happening. FASTag is making toll collectors obsolete. Telephones are disappearing and with them, telephone operators. Computers can easily do the work of cashiers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet, all might not be lost. Humanity still has a trump card: Emotion. Every morning, I am cheered by the wave, smile or nod of the security guard outside my apartment complex. He might ask me whether I had breakfast, and I might reply that I did. And both of us would know that he did not give a damn whether I had breakfast or not, but he was simply tangoing to the eternal rhythm of this thing called ‘small talk’. It is the breakfast enquiries of hundreds of security guards, bellboys and hotel receptionists that ensure that the hinges of this country are well-oiled. It is what proves that in the great battle of Man vs Machine, man is still kicking some serious butt.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is, of course, not to trivialise the work done by these ‘invisible’ people. Or to say that they are always ranting and raging at fate. Quite the contrary, in fact. A surprising number of them have found contentment, and it is not something they have learnt from a manual.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Whatever I do, I do it with my whole heart,” says Kunjumol, the hospital cleaner. “My superiors always say that once you send me into a room, you can be sure it will be spotless by the time I am done.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I just want customers to be happy with their shopping experience as that is what I am supposed to ensure,” says Swati, the sales assistant.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I like interacting with foreigners so I can learn new English words,” says Asharam, the bell desk attendant. “I love to ask questions, but without being intrusive.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the ultimate scheme of things, it might be the have-nots who have it all.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/the-hidden-life-of-bellboys-lift-operators-guards-cleaners.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/the-hidden-life-of-bellboys-lift-operators-guards-cleaners.html Sat Dec 17 19:51:06 IST 2022 life-of-a-lift-operator-narayanan <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/life-of-a-lift-operator-narayanan.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/2022/12/17/131-A-NARAYANAN.jpg" /> <p>Life has landed blow after blow on A. Narayanan, lift operator at a posh apartment complex in south Chennai. Hailing from a backward district in Tamil Nadu, Narayanan, 52, moved to Chennai in search of a job at the age of 12. Since then, it has been a daily struggle to meet expenses. He began as a helper at a small roadside restaurant. After six years, he moved to a hotel close to Meenambakkam airport. His earnings—Rs4,200 a month—were more than sufficient, and he could not have been happier when the restaurant owner made him the supervisor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But his happiness was short-lived as a fall at work led to partial paralysis. He was admitted to the government general hospital for more than four months. Over the years, his wife, who works as a domestic help, managed to raise their three children—a son and two daughters.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But life had to move on. After the accident, Narayanan could not return to his job at the restaurant. He soon got a job as a watchman at an apartment complex in T. Nagar. But night shifts and irregular timings cut short his time there. He then went to work on contract as a lift operator at a government building. But the contractor refused to renew his contract once it expired, and he was once again on the hunt for a job.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It was a good job, and I was drawing a salary of Rs6,000 a month,” says Narayanan. “But the lift got stuck many times, and I could not handle the service part like others.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A few months before the pandemic began, a friend got him his current job, where he earns Rs5,500 a month and an additional Rs500 as tip. “It is only a four-storied building and there is not much work,” he says. “I am making little money to support the family.” Even as his work ‘lifts’ him up, his troubles weigh him down. In that in-between zone, Narayanan lives his life.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/life-of-a-lift-operator-narayanan.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/life-of-a-lift-operator-narayanan.html Sat Dec 17 19:48:38 IST 2022 life-of-a-hospital-cleaner-kunjumol <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/life-of-a-hospital-cleaner-kunjumol.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/the-week/specials/images/kunjumol-joseph.jpg" /> <p>In the 40 minutes I speak with her, Kunjumol’s smile never falters, until I think to myself that it might be the most dependable part of her, the one thing I can count on. Sometimes, she laughs shyly and then looks at me. Usually, the joke is a self-deprecating one, and she is looking either for validation or to see whether I was offended. Which, in truth, is the real joke. After all, she is the one doing me a favour. She is the one who has given up her lunch break to speak with me.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The real miracle, however, is that smile. Even when she talks of the most tragic events of her life, the smile remains in place. Some might say that life has pressed her hard enough to squeeze out the smile. Two years ago, she lost her husband to liver disease. She had taken a loan to get him treated, and is now in considerable debt. Both her daughters are unmarried and her son is in class 12. In the three cents of land that she owns, she has not been able to build a house. She earns Rs9,000 a month as a cleaner at a mid-level hospital in Kerala, which is hardly enough to make ends meet. She gets some financial help from her elder daughter, who works at a nearby hospital as a receptionist. “I had got an offer from the same hospital, but my daughter asked me not to take it up,” says Kunjumol, 50. “She said it pained her to see her mother as a cleaner in the same place that she works.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kunjumol wakes up at 5am every morning and prepares her children’s meals. Once she sends them off, she gets ready for her shift from 9am to 5pm. In the hospital where she works, she will be assigned different wards every day. She sweeps and mops, takes out the waste, and cleans the bathrooms—around 17 a day. Her home is quite far from the hospital, and she reaches back by dusk, after which she does the remaining housework—washing and ironing clothes, sweeping the courtyard and cooking. If she has time, she will watch children’s talent shows and music contests on television. She ends her day with a prayer. “I don’t pray for wealth or privilege,” she says. “I only pray for the health to be able to do my work.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She does not watch movies; somehow, she lost interest in them after her husband’s death. Even as a family, they stopped going to cinema theatres. “My children don’t insist that I take them,” she says. “They understand our financial constraints, and how I am struggling to educate them.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, her three children are her greatest hope and treasure. “My husband, while he was alive, was insistent that they be taught in English medium schools,” she says. “After he died, I used to drill into them how important it was to get an education. We don’t have anyone to depend on but ourselves, I used to tell them. Only an education can help you become independent. Those times, they would jokingly ask me, ‘If you knew all this, then why didn’t you study beyond 10th standard?’ I would tell them it was because there was no one to push me the way I was pushing them.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her father was a farmhand and from a young age, she used to go out to the fields to help with the cultivation. During the harvest, she would skip school altogether. After her 10th standard exams, she never went back to school. “There was no one to force me to study further,” she says. “If only someone had forced me, I might have completed my education. Then I might have gotten a better job.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She does not say this with bitterness or anger, but rather, with acceptance. In fact, she likes her job as a cleaner. She has made her work her calling. “Whatever I do, I do it with my whole heart,” she says. “My superiors always say that once you send me into a room, you can be sure it will be spotless by the time I am done.” The secret, she says, is never to compare. She, for example, has never once in her life compared herself with someone wealthier, more fortunate or with a better job than her. “Sometimes my children compare,” she says. “I lived in a two-storied house in my childhood. All my siblings have homes of their own. Occasionally, my children ask me why we don’t have our own home. That time, I tell them that a home is not our priority currently. What is important is ensuring a secure future for them. I tell them jokingly that I will ensure that they get married into families with homes of their own.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She also makes it a point never to worry about the future. “Who can say where I will be in 10 years?” she asks. “Or whether I would even be alive? What good does worrying do? Sometimes, in a lighter vein, I tell my children that if they can’t take care of me in my old age, they should choose a good old-age home.” She laughs at that and looks at me. Laughter for her, I understand, is often a defence mechanism. She wants me to understand that she does not take her problems too seriously, so why should I? Perhaps she has not found the meaning of life—which is best left to philosophers and saints—but she has found meaning in life. It lies in treating it with a light touch. It lies in facing it with a smile. That smile has become part of her identity. She waves it like the banner of a general who has tasted victory in war.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/life-of-a-hospital-cleaner-kunjumol.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/life-of-a-hospital-cleaner-kunjumol.html Mon Dec 19 12:55:07 IST 2022 life-of-a-bell-desk-attendant-asharam-rawat <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/life-of-a-bell-desk-attendant-asharam-rawat.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/2022/12/17/134-ASHARAM-RAWAT.jpg" /> <p>While growing up, Asharam Rawat had three interests—maths, kabaddi and cricket. Now at 25, Asharam, who works as a bell desk attendant at the Hyatt Regency in Lucknow, still pursues the three. He occasionally picks up a maths textbook, gently dusts it off and solves a couple of problems. That is his stress-buster. Asharam is a mathematics graduate from Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Avadh University at Faizabad (now Ayodhya). His ambition was to join the army and he cleared the National Defence Academy’s preliminary examination twice. “But there were financial constraints in the family and I decided to stop trying,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Asharam is the second of four brothers and two sisters. Two of the brothers help his father with the family’s farmland in Barabanki district, around 70km from Lucknow. The yearly income from the maize, wheat, mustard and rice grown on the land, covering an area of less than two acres, barely sufficed to make ends meet for the family. Now, however, with one brother driving a taxi and Asharam in the hotel industry, they are better off.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His first job was in 2017, as a room attendant at another Lucknow hotel. There, he underwent a five-day-long training. Yet, he yearned to interact more with guests and be more visible at the front desk. Thus, three years ago he jumped at the opportunity to shift to the Hyatt Regency—shortly after it opened. His dedication, curiosity and pleasantness were noticed by his bosses, and he was soon given additional charge of the concierge and travel desk as well.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“My father had drilled into me that work is work,” he says. “It is neither small nor big.” So, when the occasional guest is miffed, Asharam does not take offence; he puts it down to a bad day. His greatest joy and pride come from repeat guests asking for him by name.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some months ago, Amitabh Bachchan was in Lucknow for a shoot. Asharam was his designated attendant. “He is such a big man, but so humble,” he says. “He put his arm around me and said, ‘Good job, beta (son)’.” And though no selfies were possible because of the hotel’s security norms, that memory makes Asharam smile every single time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Most guests, Asharam says, are polite. Foreigners are more profusely thankful for every little thing. “I like interacting with them because I can learn new English words. I love to ask questions—but without being intrusive,” he says. He also reads up on all that is happening around the city, and has numerous sight-seeing and shopping tips to offer, making him especially popular with first-time visitors to the city.</p> <p>Asharam’s day starts at 6am with some jogging. He stays just 200m from the hotel, and thus walks to work. He reports to the general manager at 8am for his shift. The first tea break is at 10am. Lunch hours can sometimes be erratic. By 5pm, his shift ends.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On the two weekly offs that he gets, he goes to his village with his wife Prema Devi and two children—a five-year-old son and a nine-month-old daughter. “The glamour of the hotel is one thing, but it is a different kind of pleasure at the village,” he says. A cricket match is usually a must. Asharam is a bowler, and he loves throwing jerkers which, he says, his childhood friends are defenceless against.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though he did not get the government job he had initially dreamt of, Asharam has no regrets. There is just a searing ambition to grow. His goal is to become a concierge manager someday. “I am not scared of how long that will take. I am willing to put in all the work required,” he says.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Some days can be monotonous at work, with only a few guests in the hotel. His seniors then order some food and the whole team settles down for a leisurely lunch. The staff is also permitted access to the gaming zone.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>His only wish is that his children should never have to face the life of want that he has. “I was a very serious child as I knew the family’s circumstances were not good,” he says. “I will never put my children through that.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If he has it his way, he would want both his children to become doctors. “The aim is to serve in the best way that one can,” he says. “The manner does not matter.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/life-of-a-bell-desk-attendant-asharam-rawat.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/life-of-a-bell-desk-attendant-asharam-rawat.html Sat Dec 17 19:43:21 IST 2022 life-of-a-sales-assistant-swati-sen <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/life-of-a-sales-assistant-swati-sen.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/2022/12/17/136-SWATI-SEN-new.jpg" /> <p>When we met Swati Sen, she was walking. Every day, Swati, 24, walks around 7km each way to and from work. However, she does not fret about this. Actually, she smiles a lot. And it is this quick smile that is the reason for her success as a sales assistant at a supermarket in one of the biggest malls in Bhopal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Every day, Swati, who handles the fruit and vegetables section at the supermarket, has to bear with the unpredictable moods of her customers, but she manages well. “Normally, people like me,” she says. “I think this is because I am respectful and affable. If someone comes to the store in a bad mood and snaps at me for no reason, I have to understand that.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But for all her geniality, customers hardly notice her. She is just a fly on the wall. She has no complaints about this, too. “Regulars do look for me when they come to the store, though they do not engage in conversation,” she says. “That is fine with me. I just want them to be happy with their shopping experience as that is what I am supposed to ensure. Also, my seniors at work are helpful and my co-workers are non-interfering. I mainly focus on my work.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But does she want to continue with the current job profile? The answer is an emphatic no. She would actually like to get a job with the Indian Railways, which has been a childhood dream. “If not with the Railways, I want to at least do some work that will bring me respect and my family recognition,” she says. “But I don’t see how that is possible.” Her face falls at this. The smile, it is soon apparent, is only a front to hide her troubles.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Slowly, she opens up about her life. It takes her over two hours to walk to and from work daily, thus lengthening her nine-hour work day to almost 12 hours. She cannot afford to purchase a two-wheeler or even take public transport. She needs to utilise every rupee of her modest salary (about Rs8,500 per month) to take care of her parents, and for the medical expense of her paralysed father.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Youngest among the three children of Ramdas Sen, Swati decided to shoulder the responsibility of caring for her parents, even as her two elder brothers shifted back to their ancestral village in the neighbouring Sehore district, along with their respective families.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ramdas, who used to run a barber’s shop in Bhopal, became immobile about seven years ago when he fell off a moving train. An expensive surgery in 2020 did not help. Swati, who was in class 12 at the time of the accident, started working immediately after her exams. She has been working since then, first with a tele-communication firm, then with a bakery and for the past few months, as sales assistant with the supermarket.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>She, however, did not give up studies and completed her BA in 2018, with the support of her teachers at her government college. That year, she cleared a written examination for a clerical job with the Railways. However, soon after, her father’s medical condition worsened, and she could not appear for the interview. She still wants to do an MBA and try for a better job, but has no time or money to pursue her dreams. Swati leaves home by 8am, returns by around 7.30pm, and then cooks the evening meal so that her mother Usha can rest. She says her mother gets tired of the household chores and taking care of her father when she is not there.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“But it is not that I am frustrated with my situation,” she is quick to clarify. “I feel that it is my responsibility to take care of my parents as they took care of me when I was young, and raised me well enough for me to be able to help them now. Whenever I think of them, I forget my own dreams and just want to keep working so that they are happy. That is the ultimate satisfaction for me.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/life-of-a-sales-assistant-swati-sen.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/life-of-a-sales-assistant-swati-sen.html Sat Dec 17 19:41:29 IST 2022 life-of-an-atm-security-guard-bhura-batham <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/life-of-an-atm-security-guard-bhura-batham.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/2022/12/17/138-BHURA-BATHAM.jpg" /> <p>It is an irony that Bhura Batham, 32, guards lakhs of rupees, yet he himself earns only Rs5,000 per month. He is a security guard at the ATM of a nationalised bank at night and a masseur at a salon during the day. The salon job is better paying; he gets Rs12,000 per month. Even so, he struggles to meet expenses and educate his two children—a 14-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The nights are endless for him, and he waits for daybreak so that he can go home and have a quick nap before he gets ready for the salon job. Hailing from a small village near Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, he followed his cousins to Gujarat a decade ago, hoping for a better job with dignity. Since then, he has been doing a number of odd jobs; he has been at the ATM for two years now.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He gets only four hours of sleep a day, and only one break a year of about 15 days, when he goes to his village. He does not have the luxury of celebrating festivals or functions. Occasionally, he might get a reprieve when the ATM is shut because of some technical issue. Even if he nods off sometimes at the ATM, he has conditioned himself to wake up at the slightest noise.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Often, he is weighed down by his job, facing abuse from customers if the servers are down and the ATM stops working. “I can only tell them that I am helpless,” he says. “I explain to them that if they have any complaints, they can approach the bank in the morning.” Once, he had to call the police when a couple of boys broke into a fight inside the ATM. Luckily, he escaped unhurt, but his friend standing nearby took a few blows.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He is the youngest of three siblings. Both his brothers are farmhands in their village. His dream is to own a garment store, but where is the money, he asks despairingly. “Nobody gives you a loan unless you can prove that you own property,” he says. “How can I do that?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He has studied only till the eighth standard. That is why he wants to ensure that his children get a proper education. Currently, they stay with their grandparents in UP, while he and his wife live in Ahmedabad. He has grand dreams for his son and daughter. Dreams, after all, cost nothing.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/life-of-an-atm-security-guard-bhura-batham.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/life-of-an-atm-security-guard-bhura-batham.html Sat Dec 17 19:39:34 IST 2022 the-world-needs-smart-pr-humour <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/the-world-needs-smart-pr-humour.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/2022/12/17/6-Nirmala-sitharam.jpg" /> <p>To err is human, to get good PR guys onboard is smart. As things stand, however, there is an embarrassing PR deficit in much of what we do. Actually, stupid PR isn’t something that has cropped up of late. It has been around longer than you and I―in fact right from Adam and Eve. How incredibly naïve of the authorities back then to call the apple from the Tree of Knowledge ‘forbidden fruit’! Forbidding anything is the surest incentive for red-blooded mortals to want to take a bite. If only there were PR experts around, they would have packaged the apple as ‘High Phosphorus Health Food’, and made sure that nobody in his or her right mind would touch it. Since then, branding and PR experts are doing their best to make the bad things sound good. Some topped, some flopped.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Humpty Dumpty Rupee</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Our Hon’ble Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman isn’t a professional PR person in the strict sense of the term. But like Amitabh Bachchan in Namak Halaal who could ‘walk English, talk English…’, Sitharaman can walk PR, talk PR, and laugh PR well enough to leave the PR professionals behind. While all of us were bemoaning the fall of the rupee, our finance minister put matters in perspective. “The rupee is not sliding,” she pointed out, with oracular insight, “it is the dollar strengthening.” Wah! I am so relieved.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Kejriwal Counter Feat</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The sharpest minds in the world are working to crank up the economy. Some of them win Nobel Prizes, others try to win the Gujarat elections, and one of them is Arvind Kejriwal. His ‘Eureka’ moment in monetary theory came when he told us that the reason our economy was doing badly was because of Gandhi ji, the Red Fort, the Sanchi Stupa, etc. No, it’s not because none of them voted AAP, it’s because their pictures on our currency notes were a dampening influence. He suggested we replace them with images of Lord Ganesh and Goddess Lakshmi. God-Help-Us! Kejriwal and I mean that literally. While the idea may not have found acceptance, it’s made everybody happy. We, the people, are happy because we may have found in Kejriwal a worthy successor to Abhijit Banerjee―our last Nobel laureate for economics. The gods are happy they have been spared being printed on notes that would sooner or later pass from greasy palm to grasping hand. As for Kejriwal, he is laughing all the way to the bank―er…, the vote bank.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘<b>Musketeer’ Wields the Axe</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Elon Musk’s online dismissal of Vijaya Gadde with a brusque ‘You’re fired’ may have been fake but the memory lingers. Since then, there’s been a pink-slip pandemic with en masse sacking in Meta and Amazon. Our hearts go out to the staff and to an industry going down the tube. But most of all, our hearts go out to the process of sacking itself. Musk’s ham-handedness has made wielding the axe a vulgar spectator sport. It wasn’t always like this. In the good old days, PR ensured that sacking was communicated with the delicacy of touch usually associated with condoling bereavement. You could be, as the expression goes, ‘kicked upstairs’. Or you could find yourself summarily, inexplicably transferred, e.g., from Paris to Palakkad. They could make things easy for you by publishing an advertisement for the very post you are holding. As you go through the job description, qualifications required, etc., realisation will slowly dawn that you are reading your own obituary Gently, does it, Mr Musk.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The Himalayan Yogi</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After the 2G scam, elaborate schemes to rob hard-pressed tax-payers have become commonplace. So how do you tell one from another or in advertising terms, what is their USP? Early this year, smart PR showed the way. The man in the cross-hairs was not your usual oily businessman or wily politician. It was a Himalayan Yogi―a ‘Siddha Purusha’ adept at e-mails, and keen to hear top secret tattle about which brokers to favour and whom to promote out of turn in the office. Brand experts would hail this paranormal paramahansa as the ‘big idea’, for it distracted us long enough to help Chitra Ramkrishna escape media glare. Eventually, of course, the long arm of the law brought the yogi down to earth. But don’t expect very much, folks. If our law enforcement agencies can’t arrest beer-bellied barons and diamantaires (posh term for another fat cat from Zaveri Bazaar), what chance do they have against a yogi from the Himalayas!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Russia vs Ukraine</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It’s clear that the Ukrainians are winning―if not the war on the ground, certainly the battle in people’s minds. Putin’s image of invincibility, despite his iron physique and his famous walk, lies in tatters. That’s not because of Putin but because of PR. Russia makes great vodka and caviar but their books are long, their movies boring and their PR tongue-tied. First of all, they didn’t tell us it never was a war. It was actually an opportunity for NATO to field-test their high-tech missile systems. The impression we now have is of Ukrainians courageously fighting great odds. And all the Russians seem to be doing is wrecking hospitals and shutting off their electricity. So the next time Zelenskyy makes a piteous call for more missile systems, Putin must make an even louder plea for better PR agencies. That should turn the tide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Football is Batting for Cricket</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What’s the FIFA World Cup? Some people believe it is an ingenious PR exercise devised by the BCCI to help us overcome our disappointment at the pathetic performance of our stars in the recent cricket World Cup. When you are caught with your pants down, the best thing to do is distract attention by pointing in a different direction and yelling, ‘Look There, Snake!’ Going by the theory that the human mind has only limited capacity for fallen heroes, when we see Messi &amp; team come a cropper against Saudi Arabia or Germany going down on its knees to Japan, we will forget about our men in blue. So, Rahul, Rohit and Pant can escape unscathed.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Drowning Street!</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For a long time, big-ticket builders had led some people to believe that if they paid upwards of Rs35,000 per sq. foot, they would be flood-proof. Imagine their mortification when they saw waters of decidedly middle-class colour and origins enter their exclusive portals. Opulent optimists have alas turned soggy pessimists, cynically wondering if they need to recalibrate their speedometers for nautical miles per hour. Now, obviously, even the world’s most competent PR professionals can’t prevent the rain from falling. But what they can do, however, is to change our perceptions. A weather forecast that warns us of ‘Heavy rain, and the possibility of flooding’ makes all the money spent on storm water drainage seem literally like money down the drain. But things will change depending on the spin you give it. Instead of the conventional forecast, focus on the positive by saying brightly: ‘Wonderful stay-at-home weather. Time for onion bhajiyas.’ If large tracts of your manicured neighbourhood are likely to get inundated, make a good impression by saying: ‘City elders pledge to build Temporary, Free Swimming Pools across city. Happy splashing!’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Sologamy, the Way Forward</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shama Bindu from Vadodara did not just think out of the box, she married out of the box. In place of conventional matrimony, she opted for ‘sologamy’, and got wedded to herself. Unfortunately, all she got for her efforts were amusing headlines. That’s because most people don’t know that India’s population is growing fast, and by next year, we could overtake China to become the world’s most populous nation. Clearly then, what India needs now is more ‘self’ marriages―Shama style. The PR angle to this is obvious. Our prime minister has been telling us all along to be self-reliant or ‘aatmanirbhar’. Shama has followed his advice to the hilt, giving us all a shining example of extreme ‘aatmanirbharta’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Dog’s Own Country</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was back in 1989 that an ad agency came up with a masterpiece ‘God’s Own Country’. The line may not have been original, but it did what few slogans do―fit in so well with our own image of the product that it became Kerala’s tagline. But that was then; now an unsung genius with biting (excuse the pun) sarcasm has christened the state ‘Dog’s Own Country’. Given the number of stray dogs being allowed to run free, this too is apt. But there is competition from our national capital. In Delhi, an IAS couple, Sanjeev Khirwar and Rinku Dhugga, gave their pet dog enviable treatment. They had the Thyagaraj Stadium shut early so that the athletes using the grounds would be out of the way and they could walk their pet in peace. Now, it is up to us to decide which state is going to the dogs faster.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>In the Fitness of Things</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Say yoga, and the first neta who comes to mind is our prime minister. That’s PR at work because out there in Bengal, Didi is also doing her bit to promote yoga. A couple of months ago, she publicly castigated a member of her party for his size XL potbelly. As she put it in her inimitable style: “How can you have such a big ‘Madhya Pradesh’? She went a step further and offered the out-of shape party worker prize money of Rs1,000 if he demonstrated 1,000 kapal bhatis (an asana involving the forced exhalation of breath). How often have you seen a leader put their money where their mouth is?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Apna Time Aayega</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When Winston Churchill said all those nasty things about Indians―“rogues and free-booters, men of straw”, etc―we didn’t say a word. Silence is sometimes strategic PR. We kept our fingers crossed or rather we kept them splayed for that’s how it is done in rap. Under our breath, we hummed ‘Apna Time Aayega’. Enoch Powell came and went. Brexit came and went. Apna Time Aayega, we told ourselves. Finally, with Rishi Sunak our time has come. We can savour the thought of Sir Winston turning in his crypt at Blenheim Palace. Now we need to follow the same strategy in the US because Kamala Harris is just a couple of steps away. Indians will rule the world. Apna Time Aayega.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A Blunder a Day</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It’s not easy building Brand Rahul Gandhi. He has always been saying the wrong thing but now he has perfected the art. He says it at the most embarrassing moment. There were a million other occasions when he could have said what he thought about Veer Savarkar, but he chose the very moment to express his views when his allies (all sworn Savarkar fans) had joined his yatra. A faux pas? Yes, but the PR guys worthwhile are those who find the silver lining in every black cloud. If you have had enough of politicians and their pretence, turn to the one who is obviously too naïve to be a neta. Think about all this in 2024.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I am confident that whatever the world throws at us, our communications guys will help us come out on top. We have nothing to fear―as Bollywood once put it: ‘PR kiya to darna kya’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The South Says it Better</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin can breathe easy. He does not have to fear being overwhelmed by Hindi. For whatever Amit Shah may say or do―even start offering medical education in Hindi―it’s soft power that matters. Ultimately people vote with their cinema tickets, and the recent numbers show that Bollywood’s dreams are losing their shine. More and more people are now dreaming in Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam. Since the PR machinery of the Khans and the Kumars is not delivering as expected, let’s turn to the Rajnis and the Dulquer Salmaans.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/the-world-needs-smart-pr-humour.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/the-world-needs-smart-pr-humour.html Sun Dec 18 11:33:16 IST 2022 the-transition-of-radio-over-the-years <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/the-transition-of-radio-over-the-years.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/2022/12/17/18-shutterstock.jpg" /> <p>When she was little, Bharathi Ghanashyam thought that if a radio set were opened, she would find people inside.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Such was the power of the medium,’’ says Ghanashyam, 66, from Mysuru. She remembers waking up to the iconic tune of Akashvani every morning, as her father got ready for work. “Even as the announcer said, ‘Yeh Akashvani hai,’ I would groan, knowing it was time to get out of my warm quilt,” she recalls. “As I entered my teens, I became hooked to a film songs programme dedicated to soldiers. The afternoon [film song] request programme and the late night programmes gave my mother sleepless nights as she thought my brothers and I spent more time listening to the radio than studying.” She was a regular listener of Radio Ceylon’s hugely popular Binaca Geetmala, too, and would often wonder how one could listen to broadcasts from another country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But it seems the love for radio was in her genes. “My grandmother often told me that my grandfather ran a radio station with little other than passion,” says Ghanashyam, an independent health journalist and an associate at Embode, a Bangkok-based human rights consultancy. “Her favourite story was that of my father, as a child, singing Baa Baa Black Sheep on air, forgetting his lines and breaking into tears.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ghanashyam’s grandfather Dr M.V. Gopalaswamy, a professor of psychology, set up India’s first private radio station in 1935. He had no grant or assistance, and would compensate artistes who came to perform with homemade upma and coffee. “Women artistes were given thamboolam (offering of betel leaves and betel nut),” says Ghanashyam. “Travel allowance was in the form of a tonga ride to and from home! It is to the credit of artistes of those days that they, too, responded with the same passion and were eager to come and perform with no monetary remuneration.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Ghanashyam’s recount of her grandparents’ stories reminded me of my paternal grandmother, who had won a gold medal for topping class seven in the former princely state of Travancore in 1933. Back then, passing class seven was as good as clearing class 12. In her twilight years, her world revolved around the radio. As her hearing grew weaker, the songs got louder, much to our annoyance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Radio, in its early days, was more than a source of entertainment; it fired the imagination for some like Saideep Bharadwaj’s uncle. His uncle would listen to cricket commentary on radio. “Whenever the commentator said the ball went for a six, he would imagine the batsmen to be giants,” says Bharadwaj from Bengaluru. “You need to be hefty to hit a six. The Indian players at that time were not that well built, unlike their West Indies counterparts.” Bharadwaj, too, grew up listening to cricket commentary on the radio. “That’s something I would compare with reading a book. When you read a book, you’ve to fill in things using your imagination, which is something very similar to listening to commentary and trying to visualise what might be happening,’’ he says, smiling. “Now when I watch the game on TV, [it] doesn’t leave much to the imagination.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While TV and now internet are providing more services than the humble radio, some like Dr Yash Gulati prefer its no clutter-and-chatter workings. All India Radio is his go-to medium for news. “I find that on TV [news channels] there is so much of exaggeration and shouting,” says the senior joint replacement and spine surgeon at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, Delhi. “Also, I listen to radio for music, especially while travelling.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Making waves</b></p> <p>India’s incredible journey in sound waves started in June 1923 with a broadcast by The Radio Club of Bombay. Other radio clubs like the Calcutta Radio Club soon followed. The Indian Broadcasting Company was set up in July 1927, only to be liquidated three years later. Then came the Indian Broadcasting Service in April 1930. The IBS became the All India Radio in 1936.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Back in the 1920s, when radio broadcasting began in India, it was primarily a hobbyist’s affair, with interested amateurs running local stations”, says N. Ramakrishnan, a radio entrepreneur and teacher at Jindal School of Journalism and Communication at O.P. Jindal Global University, Haryana. The government and commercial broadcasters did not really have a role to play till much later in Indian radio broadcasting, he adds. “Today’s internet radio and podcasting era is a kind of a return to radio’s roots, with amateurs and individuals once more having the power to produce and distribute content without the mediation of other entities,” observes Ramakrishnan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Radio has come a long way in 100 years. It has become faster, quirkier and amazingly unconventional. While many obits have been written over the decades, radio has always bounced back. In an age that demands undivided, in-your-face attention, the radio is happy to play in the background and yet stay relevant. It is perfect company, be it on long commutes or while doing daily chores. “If you go to any place in the world and you hear their local radio, it will tell you a thing or two about its people. Radio is a human barometer of a city,’’ says Neel Adhikari, a music composer for radio, film and web shows.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Local, social</b></p> <p>That overarching power of the radio is what Mumbai-based radio jockey Malishka Mendonsa knows and believes in. And as host of ‘Morning No 1’, Red FM’s award-winning breakfast show, she has used it to bring about real change. “Some of the greatest things in our city have happened because of radio,” she says. “It works in many ways—sometimes quietly or sometimes very insidiously or loudly.” During the pandemic, Malishka went beyond just letting people know where to get vaccines or oxygen cylinders and helped them connect with doctors.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The key to social transformation, says Ramakrishnan, is dialogue. “And the fact that radio is local, bypasses literacy barriers, and is relatively cheap to establish and operate makes it an ideal platform for the kind of social dialogue and debate that leads to social change,” he says. “Community radio, in particular, by being hyperlocal and dialect-based, is especially suited for this purpose, and should be central to grassroots democracy, and to establishing communication as a right for every citizen.” Ramakrishnan’s Ideosync Media Combine has been working on community radio for nearly two decades.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Community radios are a lifeline of sorts in rural areas. Take, for instance, Mandakini ki Awaaz, a community radio station in Uttarakhand’s Rudraprayag district. Owned and managed by a Garhwali community group called Mandakini ki Awaaz Kalyan Seva Samiti, the radio helped save lives during earthquakes and landslides. And when it is not on lifesaving duty, it offers a variety of content, from folk music to stories and interviews. Around 25,000 people have taken part in these programmes. One among them was Madhuri, a young girl from Pinglapani, a remote village. She became famous in her village after a Garhwali song she had sung was broadcast on the community radio. Mandakini radiowallahs often visit the villages in search of content. Villagers can also share their content with the station through WhatsApp.</p> <p>“Women in the community call it meri (my) or hamari (our) radio station,” says Saritha Thomas, founder and managing trustee, People’s Power Collective, the capacity-building and training partner of Mandakini ki Aawaz. “It truly has the potential to be their safe, secure and happy place, where they, too, have an identity and where they can find solutions by being part of it themselves.’’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Likewise, people are at the heart of Mangaluru’s Radio Sarang 107.8 FM. “Among our producers, there are fisherfolk, people who roll beedis, daily wage earners and auto drivers,” says Dr Richard Rego, one of the forerunners of the community radio movement in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Pavitra Ghanshyam from Mysuru had a stint with Radio Active, a community radio run by Jain College, Bengaluru, that offers a platform for marginalised communities. “Community radio has the potential to create niche spaces for issues that don’t get reported by mainstream media,” she says. “However, despite government encouragement, its potential has not been fully exploited in India. It is important to explore why and fill these gaps.’’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Community radios also help preserve heritage and culture. “We used to broadcast folk songs like Yakshagana in vernacular languages, including Tulu and Konkani. Now commercial radio follows our footsteps,” says Rego, director of Institute of Communication and Media Studies, St Jospeh’s College, Bengaluru.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>FM boom</b></p> <p>But there is no denying that radio owes its revival in India to the entry of private players in 2001. It is estimated that FM radio channels are likely to grow at 6 to 8 per cent every year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“FM is what started my journey,” says Adhikari, who is best known for the music of Netflix series Little Things. He says he can never resist the charms of radio and absolutely loves making radio jingles. “The length of radio jingles or spots is usually under a minute or so,” he says. “I really enjoy the challenge of creating something meaningful in such a short duration and conversely I also enjoy the fact that it’s momentary and out of our system in a week at the most.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is never a dearth of talent on radio, says Nisha Narayanan, director and COO, Red FM and Magic FM. “It is just that the talent is pouring in the wrong vessel,” she says. “We simply have to figure out ways to align these talented individuals to their heart’s calling so their skills could be better utilised.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>FM channels in India are on an experimenting spree. Even Malayalam, a language that does not lend itself to innovations easily, has seen some very ingenious and daring experiments. “Till private FM radio came along, presenters on government-run radio spoke formally in chaste Malayalam,” says Ravi Nair, director, programmes, Radio Mango, Kerala’s first Malayalam private FM station. “FM radios brought a more casual, laidback style, where English words peppered the delivery.’’</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>‘Tell Your Secrets Secretly’, a campaign launched by Radio Mango, encouraged listeners to reveal their best-kept secrets. “It received an overwhelming response,’’ says Lishna N.C. aka RJ Lishna, the first private FM RJ of Kerala. “One of our listeners confessed that he had spread Vicks on bread instead of jam.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Content is king when it comes to radio. And, it has to be relevant, especially for today’s generation. That is perhaps why What Women Want, a FM radio show hosted by actor Kareena Kapoor Khan became popular. “It dealt with themes like patriarchy and modern-day relationships,” says Mala Jadwani, a postgraduate in international journalism from London Metropolitan University. “Kareena was appreciated for her solid content, and not for glamour. What is challenging about radio is having no visual and yet making sure your listeners are visualising what you are saying. That requires some sort of talent.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Content rich in local flavour is also a big pull. “Our popular programmes like ‘Choklate Baya’ and ‘Detective Choklate’ are rich in Odia flavour. ‘Choklate Baya’ that aims at creating awareness on social issues is broadcast in an Odia dialect of yesteryears,’’ says Monica Nayyar Patnaik, founder of Radio Choklate 104 FM, an initiative of Sambad, the largest circulated daily in Odia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, radio channels are adapting themselves to the changing consumer needs. “Our audiences are changing—from primarily housewives to a mix of housewives and youth—and we tailor our programmes to cater to their specific needs and interests. We have changed our programming pattern eight times over the last 16 years,’’ says Patnaik.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Digital support</b></p> <p>Robin Lai, consultant, programming for Radio Mirchi, Kolkata, has worked in radio for almost 28 years, and has been told that radio is dying every now and then. But that is definitely not the case, he says. There are shows that have brought back storytelling to radio, and in turn brought in listeners who tune in with family. “What is new these days is that we connect not only through radio, but also on social media like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to reach out to a larger audience and provide them with additional content to consume,’’ says Lai.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All India Radio has been one of the earliest to adopt emerging media, be it web or social media platforms. Today, AIR has millions of followers and likes on various social media platforms, says N. Venudhar Reddy, director general, AIR.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Reddy admits that the biggest challenge before AIR is to make itself relevant to younger people while not jettisoning its traditional values. “AIR recently launched dedicated programming for young people called #AIRNxt in all languages and dialects, wherein younger people are invited to AIR studios to anchor programmes,” he says. “More than 20,000 boys and girls are expected to participate in this programme in 52 weeks.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>How does AIR respond to competition? “FM has brought in a fresh breeze into radio universe,” says Reddy. “Its quality of sound and accessibility on mobile handsets and cars took it closer to listeners. AIR is also investing heavily on FM and is hopeful that it would take AIR closer to people.” Dealing with competition involves being aware of your strengths and using them effectively. “AIR’s strength is its ability to work with micro local audiences in their own language or dialect. No other medium reaches people in about 200 languages/dialects. It also gives a unique advantage to advertisers to micro-target their intended consumers,’’ says Reddy, adding that AIR needs to again become an intrinsic part of society as it used to be in bygone generations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sudha Thampy, 82, from Thiruvananthapuram would agree. As a child, she used to take part in radio drama. Her father could not go a day without listening to AIR news. “Though he studied in Oxford, he preferred AIR to BBC Radio,’’ she says. Radio continued to be an integral part in Thampy’s life, too. She started lending her voice to Mahilalayam, a women’s programme.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But not everyone is happy with the way radio has grown. Content has given way to commercials and the ratio of the former to the latter is so skewed that it is no longer enjoyable to listen to radio, laments Ghanashyam. “While bottomlines are important, it is content that makes any media relevant and I often wonder how that priority can be brought back to centre,” she says. “However, I must add that AIR still continues to give prominence to content and as a radio lover I hope that doesn’t change.’’ Ghanashyam suggests private FM stations look for alternatives to advertising. “If OTTs can do it through subscriptions, why can’t radio,’’ she asks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many feel that it is high time private radio channels are allowed to broadcast news. “AIR news reminds you of [government] press releases. It is not real journalism,” says Meera K., cofounder of Citizen Matters, a civic media platform. “During the pandemic, they had news bulletins every two minutes on Vividh Bharati. Initially it was nice. But over the last two years, it has become the government’s voice. Riots and protests, people questioning vaccines, are all conveniently omitted by AIR. It does not deserve to be called news.” Both community radio and commercial radio have their own revenue limitations. The public broadcaster has kind of completely given up. “Who serves the community then?” she asks.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/the-transition-of-radio-over-the-years.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/17/the-transition-of-radio-over-the-years.html Sat Dec 17 17:59:52 IST 2022 changes-in-it-laws-in-india-concerns-effects <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/03/changes-in-it-laws-in-india-concerns-effects.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/2022/12/3/28-Narendra-Modi.jpg" /> <p>On an unremarkable autumn night recently, Mumbaikar Vaibhav Borle came face to face with the demons of India’s digital boom. The 23-year-old CA aspirant was out on a post-dinner stroll when his Facebook Messenger pinged. The message was from his uncle, Vinayak, who stayed in another corner of the megalopolis and had recently recovered from a bad bout of Covid. “I have an emergency, can you ask your dad to transfer Rs10,000 to the following account?” Vaibhav asked his father to send the money immediately.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He soon got another message asking for another Rs10,000. Vaibhav complied with that, too, but the warning bells started ringing when he got a third message asking for more. “That was when I thought it was strange, and I called mama up,” said Vaibhav. He was in for a shock when Vinayak told him that his Facebook account had been hacked and such messages were being sent to everyone on his friends list. A cousin abroad had already sent Rs50,000.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vaibhav’s ordeal for the next few days involved running from police station to cyber cell to a friend’s mom who worked at the Reserve Bank to track the money trail. By the time the authorities froze the account to which the money was transferred―it was traced to a remote location in Uttarakhand―it had been emptied out. Vinayak himself struggled for long to regain his Facebook account. Even with the police involved, it took a week before the social media giant moved to restore the account to the original owner.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Vinayak and Vaibhav’s story is bone-chillingly commonplace. As everything from banking and shopping to socialisation and entertainment moved online, it has also spawned an entire ecosystem of crimes. Stealing, cheating, extortion, defamation, misinformation, incitement, violence, even murder―you name it, there is a digital version out there hunting for gullible Indians clicking that one wrong link or button. Jamtara, as it turns out, is everywhere.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Making matters worse has been the lack of laws and provisions to deal with this wave that had virtually turned an outing online akin to a sojourn into the wild west. On paper, the Information Technology (IT) Act of 2000 is the umbrella legislation covering the digital world, but it has proven woefully inadequate, as the nature and use cases of technology itself transformed over the years, leaving many of the law’s assumptions and provisions inadequate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Though late, the authorities have woken up. “The challenges that the internet and the technology space represents today are far more challenging and the changing nature of technology far more disruptive, leading to the need of a new [legal] framework,” said Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Union minister of state for electronics and IT.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fightback will be primarily in the form of three new landmark legislations. The Telecommunications Bill, 2022, the first, will replace the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933, and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act 1960. Its draft is already out. The proposed law aims to redefine communications by bringing into its ambit all parties, from telecom service providers to over-the-top (OTT) players and internet-based communication platforms under one umbrella legislation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The second is the Data Protection Bill, which covers matters of use of data as well as privacy. It was initially released in 2018 but withdrawn after major opposition from various quarters. A new draft was released recently and it is open for public consultation till December 17. The third is the ambitious Digital India Act (DIA). An all-encompassing law to oversee India online, it will replace the 22-year-old IT Act and is expected to be out next month.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The loudest opposition to the two drafts now out in public has been to the sweeping powers the government has assigned for itself to suspend the internet or intercept private communication by citing national security and public order. Also worrying are the new rules like a KYC clearance for users and a license for operators like WhatsApp.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The biggest worry in a country like India is that if sweeping powers as envisaged in the draft bill, like intercepting messages and suspension of internet services proceeds and become part of the final bill, it may lead to abuse of power by the authorities,” said Satya Muley, a lawyer who specialises in constitutional law. “In the past we have seen political bosses use their power to satisfy their political aims and objectives. The concerns are genuine; it will impact the fundamental right to privacy and the right to communicate very seriously.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the authorities have been at loggerheads with messaging services on accessing their end-to-end encrypted messages for long, the issue is dealt with in a roundabout manner in the new law. “No provision as such touches end-to-end encryption and it will apparently continue,” explained Muley. “However, the bill gives sweeping powers to the centre to intercept and access end-to-end encrypted messages in the event of public emergency, for protecting national security and public order.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is another danger. “Platforms providing end-to-end encryption will have to store such data to comply with the law. This will defeat the very purpose of end-to-end encryption,” said Kazim Rizvi, head of the public policy think tank The Dialogue. “Such large amounts of data being collected to comply with the law may present cybersecurity challenges in the form of attracting cyber attacks and forced breaches.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The government’s effort to control pesky telemarketers has also come in the crosshairs as it envisages a KYC-style verification of every user on all platforms, including social media and messaging apps. “Users having to submit identification documents will affect user anonymity online, potentially having a chilling effect on free speech,” said Rizvi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While there is clarity on spectrum allocation, bunching everyone from a cellular company to an internet platform under one umbrella and subjecting them to licensing has raised concerns. “Such omnibus and catch-all definition can compromise regulatory efficiency and affect the orderly growth of the internet economy,” wrote senior Supreme Court lawyer Gopal Jain in a column. “By extending licensing to OTT platforms and making them licence-centric, even though India jettisoned the licence permit raj decades ago, [India is] setting the clock back.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Licensing has not worked in countries like China,” said Rizvi. “It has historically acted not only as a barrier to entry for new players but can also affect growth and innovation in the industry as larger sums of money may be needed for compliance.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Equally worrisome have been the dilution of powers of the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRAI) under the new law. Also, it remains to be seen if Big Tech would really be reined in. Section 11 of the draft Telecom Bill waters down the regulator’s powers, though Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has said that TRAI will be the implementing consultant for the new laws.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Given the role the telecom industry plays―it is the backbone on which Digital India runs, we really need an independent regulator who will represent the interests of all stakeholders,” said Sunil David, co-chair, Digital Communications working group, IET Future Tech Panel. “I’m not very sure who is behind this [move] to dilute TRAI’s powers.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And Big Tech? “In the current bills, we don’t see many rules that make Big Tech accountable,” said Muley. “But you can see that the government is proceeding in that direction by defining concepts like social media intermediaries, requirements for compliance and grievance officers.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The government, on its part, is moving carefully, putting up all the draft rules for extended public consultations and showing readiness to modify at least some provisions. It knows too well the far-reaching impact of these rules, and does not want to make any missteps like what happened with the farm bills, or even the 2018 version of the data protection bill.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All the nitpicking on various provisions of the new laws apart, perhaps the only area everyone agrees on is that rules to govern the online space are long overdue―with internet of things (IoT) and 5G getting more and more into the connected ecosystem and new modes like Web3 and metaverse knocking on the doors, trust, accountability and openness on the internet are even more crucial than ever before.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The common man wants trust when he goes online. He doesn’t want his data to be misused, and if for some reason there is a misuse, there should be regulatory certainty―he should know who to go to if there is an issue,” said David. “The new laws should not stifle innovation and at the same time we don’t want lax regulation. Getting the balance right is important.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><i><b>(Some names have been changed.)</b></i></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/03/changes-in-it-laws-in-india-concerns-effects.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/03/changes-in-it-laws-in-india-concerns-effects.html Sat Dec 03 12:17:09 IST 2022 electronics-it-minister-rajeev-chandrasekhar-interview <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/03/electronics-it-minister-rajeev-chandrasekhar-interview.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2022/12/3/31-Rajeev-Chandrasekhar.jpg" /> <p><b>Q. From the intermediary rules to the upcoming Data Protection Bill and Digital India Act, the government is aiming to bring some order into the chaotic digital landscape in India.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A.</b> India has become the preeminent nation using technology in governance. India Stack is a powerful globally recognised symbol of Indian innovation, with Aadhaar and UPI creating an entire ecosystem of their own. An interesting fallout has been that India’s innovation ecosystem is now one of the fastest growing in the world. As the prime minister said, the next decade can be India’s ‘Tech’ade!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>[But] if you look at the framework, we have a 22-year-old Information Technology (IT) Act. The challenges that the internet and the technology space represents today are far more challenging and the changing nature of technology far more disruptive, leading to the need of a new framework. The first element of that is the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill. Second [is] the Digital India Act (DIA), essentially a successor to the IT Act, and there [will be] other elements, like the Telecom Bill and Cyber Security Acts. But the two underpinning legislations are the DIA that is in the pipeline and the Data Protection Bill which is around the corner.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. What were the concern points that led to these new laws?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A. </b>The internet of 2022 is dramatically different, qualitatively, quantitatively and substantively, from the internet of 2010 or 2019. The challenges and opportunities are very different. Therefore, the laws have to be contemporaneous with those challenges and opportunities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Secondly, by the very nature of what is technology, every two years or every three years there are going to be new trends, new challenges. No law can stand still and has to be by its very architecture and design evolving. Since the earlier laws were built for a particular time and particular landscape of technology and we are in a very different world today and going forward our ambitions are very different, the law have to be much more contemporaneous. The difference is one [that is] evolving versus [one that is] static. The scope of the law is much broader today than what it was in the past.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. Can you tell us more about the Digital India Act (DIA)</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A.</b> Not all of the 1.2 billion Indians getting on the internet are tech experts. Indians in remote parts of the country use it as a lifeline, to claim pensions and benefits. Therefore the internet cannot be but safe and trusted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have been associated with the internet right from its early days [when] it was seen as a power for good, to connect people and exchange ideas. That utopia has long since then been demolished by Big Tech and the toxicity of the past few years. But we cannot allow Indians to be subject to that user harm.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The IT Act is from 2000, that is why [it cannot deal with] a lot of the challenges we face today on the internet. Because it was not envisaged for the internet’s toxicity and its user harm. The internet today is like the water in a pipe in a village, you should be able to trust the quality of the water. Because a vast majority of Indians are going to use it for their livelihood, safety and trust on the internet is paramount.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>See the Competition Commission of India’s decision on Google. I am not commenting on the decision. But clearly many Big Tech companies have a huge influence on the nature of free choice and competition and value creation. Those are the issues we want to create the right balance on. It is not just social media that is an intermediary, there are different intermediaries. AdTech and sharing of media revenue for example. There should be some fair formula that drive monetisation of content. Those will be addressed in the DIA. There should be no presence on the internet that distort free and fair competition, and free and fair choice.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. Even now, somehow Big Tech is taking it lightly.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A.</b> For too long, the platforms have evaded accountability by pretending to be innovators. ‘We are technology, innovators, why should the government come in our way?’ For the last 10 years, the world [agreed to this] and now, we are where we are. They have become big, they have money and lobbying power and they are very difficult to regulate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>You saw FTX collapse. It was a $32 billion company. In the future of technology, there will be some dos and don’ts. I’m not saying the government is going to regulate the internet. But clearly, there will be obligations cast by law on every platform and intermediary, and in India’s case, that will be (for) openness, safety and trust, and accountability.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. For long the issue has been that the law has been trying to catch up with technology.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A.</b> Governments have been trying to catch-up with Big Tech. The world has woken up, India has taken the lead. We will not play catch-up, we will set the boundary conditions and now everybody should play by those. And, by the way, Mister Big Tech, this is not adversarial. This is as much in your interest as it is in the people’s interest.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. Talking of privacy, the Data Protection Act was delayed for long.</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A. </b>It was not a delay. We withdrew it for a reason. Because it had become too complex and unwieldy and it would have finished off our startup ecosystem.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Second, there is a general impression that there is a choice to be made between supporting startups and protecting individual rights. It is not a binary, we will do both. We will keep it easy for startups and we will ensure individual’s right to data protection is maintained. The current document is a new formulation. The previous bill dealt with so many issues beyond data protection, including regulating social media. So we withdrew it and [have] come up with something modern, contemporary.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Q. The 2019 draft had raised a lot of allegations of Big Brother and too much government control. Would you say the new draft addresses all those?</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>A.</b> That you will have to tell me after you see it. I will say this is a much more contemporary bill. A bill that will be allowed to evolve. There will be subordinate legislation that will take care of situations we cannot foresee today. It is an evolvable framework that balances both ease of doing business as well as individual’s rights to data protection.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/03/electronics-it-minister-rajeev-chandrasekhar-interview.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/03/electronics-it-minister-rajeev-chandrasekhar-interview.html Sat Dec 03 12:14:32 IST 2022 women-restoring-mangrove-trees-to-save-sundarbans <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/03/women-restoring-mangrove-trees-to-save-sundarbans.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/2022/12/3/56-Women-carrying-mangroves.jpg" /> <p>Sarojini Mondal, 55, of Lahiripur island in the Sundarbans is worried about her sons, and her family’s future. After her husband’s death, her two sons have moved to south India, where they work as casual labourers.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Three years ago, her husband, Sambhu, went fishing in the Sundarbans, one of the largest deltas in the world. Sambhu and his neighbour Radhakanta ignored official warnings and ventured deep into the mangrove forest. Crabs from deep in the Sundarbans―where boats do not ply and banks are muddier during the low tide―are much sought-after, often selling for up to Rs1,500 per kilogram. With the Sundarbans turning increasingly dry because of global warming, they probably did not have any other option. Unfortunately for them, it is an area increasingly frequented by the Bengal tiger. Long after they had crossed the danger line marked by the forest department, they were attacked by a tiger. Radhakanta, who tried to fight back with a stick, was carried away by the tiger. His body was never found. Sambhu, who was profusely bleeding, managed to row back to the village. A few hours later, however, he succumbed to injuries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sarojini is now a tiger widow―as they are known in the region―and so is Saraswati, Radhakanta’s wife. Many more such widows inhabit the hamlets of the Sundarbans, especially after Cyclone Aila struck the region in 2009 and damaged the flora and fauna. Subsequent storms and cyclones have destroyed the region’s forest cover, leading to a rise in tiger attacks and depletion of fish stocks. The rising water level has also submerged many islands. “Since 2016, around 750 men have been killed by tigers while catching crabs near the core area of the forest, according to official figures. Only three bodies have been recovered,” said Tapan Mondal, an activist.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The West Bengal government is working on a project to give a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to tiger widows. But they need to prove that the victim was killed by a tiger. And that process involves courts and the forest department. “But the forest department often holds the fishermen responsible for their own deaths,” said Mondal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rekha Mandol lost her husband two years ago, to a tiger attack. While Rekha is fighting her case for compensation, her only son, Moloy, goes crab fishing, although he is one of the very few graduates in the village. “That is the only source of income for us,” said Rekha.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The widows, however, do not blame the tigers. They say the rampant felling of mangrove trees and global warming were the reasons why the tigers have become aggressive. “All these happen because of our previous generation. They felled mangrove trees and did not care for this place,” said 40-year-old Pushpa Mondal, another tiger widow.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Backed by several NGOs, the widows have initiated a mission to restore the pristine glory of the Sundarbans. They are planting five crore saplings across the delta, under a project launched by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. “We want to plant more mangrove trees so that the tigers would remain inside the forest,” said 35-year-old Aparajita Mandol, who lost her husband last year. “Only that would save our men.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the women try hard to grow the forest cover, experts remain worried. “A recent study has shown that the waters of the Sundarbans have as much salt as the deep sea,” said Abhay Chandra, who teaches oceanography at Jadavpur University. The reason behind such a drastic increase in salinity is the drying up of the rivers in south Bengal. It has pushed up the salt level of the Sundarbans, affecting the fish population and the mangrove forest. Chandra said it could also affect the tigers and, subsequently, the people. “If mangroves are destroyed, then animals like deer would have less flora to eat. When their numbers go down, the tigers would attack human beings, leading to more deaths.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/03/women-restoring-mangrove-trees-to-save-sundarbans.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/12/03/women-restoring-mangrove-trees-to-save-sundarbans.html Sun Dec 04 10:52:30 IST 2022 the-week-best-hospitals-awards-2022 <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/25/the-week-best-hospitals-awards-2022.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/2022/11/25/46-Lt-Governor-V-K-Saxena.jpg" /> <p>The pandemic has changed the way we look at our health. People have become hyper aware and are increasingly expecting quality health care from hospitals. And though initially found wanting, the health care sector in India did rise to the challenge of an ever-evolving virus. The technological advancements made post Covid-19 are set to change the way health care is being practised. As Lt Governor of Delhi V.K. Saxena, who was the chief guest at THE WEEK Best Hospitals Awards 2022, said, not everything that happened during the pandemic was bad. “Big innovations in health care technology and pharma industry happened during the period,” he said. But the challenge will be to make quality health care affordable.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“According to the World Health Organization, 5-8 million people die every year in lower- and middle-income countries due to poor health care,” said former AIIMS director Randeep Guleria, who was the guest of honour. “These deaths can be prevented if we are able to improve quality of health care. When we talk of improving health care, it has to be from primary health centres to tertiary care hospitals. Quality health care means ensuring safe, effective, timely, equitable, people-centric care and a culture of excellence in hospitals and [must be] linked with assured outcomes.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, it is on those very qualities and more that THE WEEK has been ranking the best hospitals in the country for 19 years. Saxena gave away the prizes to the best hospitals at the event, which also saw a panel discussion on ways to ensure quality.</p> <p>One way of improving quality, said Dr Anupam Sibal, group medical director, Apollo Hospitals, was the accreditation system for hospitals. “Infection indices get better, average length of stay becomes less, communication and surgical errors reduce,” he said. “Accreditation leads to a culture of improvement.” He added that only technology could make health care more accessible.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Agreed Dr Santosh Shetty, executive director and CEO, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Mumbai, who said that technology was a key enabler to patient safety, reducing chances of error, improving diagnosis, reducing risk of complications and improving quality of life for patients. What, however, is lacking is collaboration with other hospitals. “Hospitals are wary of putting out data, fearing how they will be perceived by peers,” he said. “Unless we share with peers, there is no way we can improve.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dr Anand R., head (quality), Manipal Health Enterprises, said that accreditation standards need to evolve. “There is no homogeneity of data,” he said. “All hospitals have to send data to the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals…. How are they going to compare hospitals? Moreover, hospitals are wary of publishing data because of negative publicity. We need to create awareness… that if a hospital is facing a challenge, it is not a problem with the hospital. We need to accept errors.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dr Devlina Chakravarty, managing director of Artemis Global Life Sciences Limited, however, raised a valid point―if technology does not bring down the cost of health care, then it is a problem. “It is a double-edged sword,” she said. “We should adopt [technology], but [also see] how much the cost goes up. Yes, time is [reduced], queues are [shortened]. But we are importing technology. Unless we start making in India, we will not be able to bring down the cost of health care.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/25/the-week-best-hospitals-awards-2022.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/25/the-week-best-hospitals-awards-2022.html Fri Nov 25 17:47:54 IST 2022 delhi-lg-vk-saxena-speech-the-week-best-hospitals-awards-2022 <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/25/delhi-lg-vk-saxena-speech-the-week-best-hospitals-awards-2022.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/2022/11/25/49-Lt-Governor-V-K-Saxena.jpg" /> <p>It is said that adversity brings out the best in us. As Covid-19 spread across the world, most advanced countries in Europe and elsewhere reeled under it. India calibrated its response systematically and dealt with the situation with unprecedented innovations and ingenuity. The manner in which we were able to provide for food and other essentials during the lockdown and vaccinate a billion and more of our people has been a remarkable feat. Indeed, there were problems about oxygen availability and drugs shortage. But we faced the situation with fortitude, thanks to the thousands of our health care personnel. As the world is limping back to normalcy, it is becoming clear that not everything that happened during the pandemic was bad. Big innovations in health care technology and pharma industry happened during the period, often because of the urgency necessitated by the pandemic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The pandemic changed the world as we knew it. This was also a period when THE WEEK came up with some of its best stories. It was the first Indian magazine to talk in detail about the looming threat of the pandemic in a cover story from China in February 2020. While most publications focused on the consequences of the spread of the virus, THE WEEK embarked on a mission to find its origins in another cover story in June 2021.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I would like to take this opportunity to bring to your notice the endemic issue of air and water pollution and mounting solid waste in Delhi. Even as we grapple with ways and means to address the challenges posed by the former two, we have been able to make a substantive beginning in the disposal of solid waste. And, it seems to be on the right track of reaching its logical conclusion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All of us have seen these unseemly and stinking mountains of waste in the east, south and north of Delhi. These are mountains of legacy garbage being dumped at these sites over the past three decades. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged these unseemly health and environmental hazards as the capital’s “Mountains of Shame” on October 2, 2019, the total legacy waste accumulated at these three sites was around 280 lakh MT.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bioremediation of solid waste is the only sustainable way of disposing solid waste. The MCD made several efforts to get rid of these mountains. It did achieve success, but to a limited extent. Segregation of solid waste through trommeling and its disposal on the principles of recycle, reuse and reduce in a sustainable manner is what bioremediation is mostly about.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Apart from the existing legacy waste at the three dumping sites, Delhi generates about 11,000 MT of waste every day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We increased the number of trommel machines from 6 to 50 during the last few months. About a week ago, another 25 trommel machines were added. These machines are converting waste into far more reusable products than before.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Processing of garbage through trommel machines produces the following by-products:</p> <p>• Inert (soil &amp; dust): Used for filling, road construction and making interlocking blocks</p> <p>• Construction and demolition waste (C&amp;D waste like bricks, concrete and stone pieces): Used for filling, road construction and making interlocking blocks</p> <p>• Refuse-derived fuel (plastic, clothes): Used for burning in waste-to-energy plants</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>About 8,000 MT of RDF is being consumed/burnt at four waste-to-energy plants in Delhi, which leads to production of about 100MW of electricity. We made a public appeal to lift inert and C&amp;D waste from landfill sites for free. In less than five months, over 40,000 MT of inert and C&amp;D waste have been taken by people at their own transportation cost. National Highways Authority of India is the biggest consumer of inert and C&amp;D waste. NHAI has committed to use about 30 lakh MT from our landfill sites.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>We did a comprehensive study of measuring the gross calorific value of RDF, and upon finding it suitably competitive, made an appeal to cement industries to use RDF as a substitute to coal. An MoU was subsequently signed with a cement company for lifting 50,000 MT of RDF annually. In less than two months, 4,000 MT of RDF has been lifted from Delhi’s landfill sites. This bold step resulted in a win-win situation for all. Earlier, MCD used to pay Rs1,765 per MT for lifting RDF from landfill sites, but now MCD is getting rid of the legacy waste and also earning from it. On the other hand, the industry is obtaining fuel at just Rs100 per MT, compared with Rs6,000 per MT that it paid for coal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These steps resulted in expeditious bioremediation of waste accumulated at Delhi’s three landfill sites. From June to October 2022, about 30 lakh MT of waste was disposed, compared with 51 lakh MT between 2019 and May 2022. The monthly disposal rate increased from 1.4 lakh MT to 6.52 lakh MT. The aim is to level and finish these garbage mounds of shame within the next 18 months and I am sure that we will be able to do it.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>However, our bigger aim as a city should be that no new garbage dump comes up and no fresh waste is added to the existing three sites. This can be possible only if we concurrently dispose our daily garbage in a sustainable manner. I am happy to share that we have taken many steps in this direction. Of about 11,000 MT of waste being generated by Delhi every day, about 9,000 MT is being recycled and reused every day. We are hopeful that the balance 2,000 MT will soon be processed concurrently.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>No enterprise can succeed without the proactive participation of its most important stakeholders. In this task, while the government and its agencies are implementers, the people are the stakeholders and indeed owners.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I appeal to you to come forward and become leading stakeholders in the task of making Delhi clean and healthy.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/25/delhi-lg-vk-saxena-speech-the-week-best-hospitals-awards-2022.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/25/delhi-lg-vk-saxena-speech-the-week-best-hospitals-awards-2022.html Sun Nov 27 10:42:07 IST 2022 rise-in-suicides-due-to-covid19-pandemic <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/25/rise-in-suicides-due-to-covid19-pandemic.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/2022/11/25/52-Amit-Yadav-with-wife-Tina-new.jpg" /> <p><i>Ek failure insaan</i> (a failed person).</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That is how Amit Yadav, 33, signed off the last note of his life in the rain-swept wee hours of August 23 in Bhagirathpura, Indore. He had hanged himself next to the bodies of his 30-year-old wife, Tina, three-and-half year old daughter Gyana and one-and-a-half year old son Divyansh aka Timu. All three had died of poisoning.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The discovery of the bodies in the single room tenement had sent shockwaves in the congested, old locality where Tina had grown up.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tina’s parents, who live 100m away, are inconsolable. “What hurts us most is that we are totally unaware of the reason for this extreme step,” said Tina’s father Ramesh Yadav, 67, who retired as a class IV employee of the state government. “Had our daughter spoken to us about whatever problem they had, we would have tried our best to resolve it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Amit and Tina got married in 2017. The two were distantly related from Tina’s maternal side. Tina was a graduate and her family was told that Amit was an engineer. But a police probe revealed that he had failed his class 12 exams. Amit lived in Indore with his parents, but moved to his maternal grandparents’ home in Sagar after his father fell sick. After marriage, Amit tried his hand at business with help from Tina’s uncle; it failed, and he suffered a loss of Rs8 lakh. The couple then returned to Indore with their daughter in 2019. Soon, the pandemic-induced lockdown began. Amit and Tina were financially dependent on her parents. Tina and the children would spend the day with her parents. She would take meals to Amit during the day and return to the rented room at night with the children. Once the lockdown was lifted, Amit would leave home early morning lying that he was going to work.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Their financial woes hung heavy in their almost bare room. Amit had failed to pay the rent―Rs2,500 a month–for eight months and also a few monthly instalments (Rs1,200) on a Rs17,000 mobile phone. In his suicide note, he said that he was unable to repay the loan taken from five apps and was taking the extreme step “out of fear of (losing) dignity”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The police, however, found that Amit’s debt would not have exceeded Rs40,000. Also, he had repaid some of the loans he had taken via apps. In documents provided by four app companies, there was no record of harassment calls or messages, said Nimish Agrawal, deputy commissioner of police, Indore.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bhagirathpura police sub-inspector Mahesh Singh Chouhan, who investigated the case, said that it looked like the couple had a tiff over financial issues, and Tina might have given the children tea mixed with poison and later consumed it herself around 3am. A shocked Amit might have hanged himself about four hours later, after writing the two-page suicide note.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Tina’s mother, Gangabai, said her daughter was normal the day before the suicide. Gangabai, Tina and three of her four sisters had gone on a trip to Ujjain to visit the Mahakal temple. “She was very normal all through that day and enjoyed the trip despite the heavy rain,” said Gangabai. “At night, Amit came to take the kids up one by one. That is the last time we saw them alive.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>That grief-tinged bafflement resonates with many families across India―cases of mass suicides or familicides, where a family member kills others and dies by suicide, have been reported with shocking regularity from different states during Covid-19. The pandemic lugged around with it Pandora’s box―out came loss, of life and livelihood, followed by loneliness. And then came the tipping point―losing one’s mind. Economic distress along with aggravated mental health issues pushed many to suicide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And, statistics prove that. The Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India (ADSI) report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) indicates a rise in the cases of mass/family suicides from 72 in 2019 to 131 in 2021. The report does not list the causes for mass suicides separately. But for suicide cases, the 2021 data shows that 5,320 of 1.64 lakh suicides were due to poverty and unemployment. In 2019, it was 3,973, and in 2020, it stood at 5,449. Of all the suicides in 2021, 64.2 per cent were by people with less than Rs1 lakh annual income. Another 31.6 per cent were by those earning between Rs1 lakh to Rs5 lakh annually.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Moreover, an analysis of the NCRB data by NGO Vikas Samvad showed that suicides due to mental illnesses rose from 11,009 in pre-Covid 2019 to 13,796 in 2020. The number was almost the same in 2021―13,972.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sachin Jain of Vikas Samvad quoted a recent analysis of 27.69 crore people registered on the e-SHRAM portal of the Union government after the pandemic. It showed that over 94 per cent workers in the unorganised sector were earning less than Rs10,000 per month. “This data when matched with the NCRB data on financial status of persons who died by suicide makes the role of economic distress clear,” he said. “This, when compounded by physical and mental health issues that escalated during the pandemic, has made a big impact on people. Many do not see a way forward, especially when they have family responsibility.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Given the spate of familicides in the past few months across the country, experts fear that the numbers will only rise in 2022. One such incident was recently reported from Chennai. On September 20, Ramkumar, 37, a clerk and sole earner in a family of four, called his office, saying that he wanted to take leave so as to die by suicide. The police were immediately informed, but by the time they broke open the door to his house, Ramkumar, his mother Meenakshi, 67, widowed sister Santhana Lakshmi, 40, and autistic daughter Shanmuga Priya, 18, had apparently consumed poison. They were rushed to the hospital. Santhana Lakshmi and Shanmuga Priya were declared dead on arrival; Ramkumar and Meenakshi died the next day. The police said that Ramakumar had taken a loan of several lakhs, which he was unable to repay.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a gruesome instance this May, L. Prakash, 41, a techie, killed his sedated wife and two children, aged 13 and 8, using an electric saw in Pallavaram, Chennai. He then used the saw on himself. The saw was reportedly running when the bodies were found by Prakash’s father-in-law. The police said that Prakash had borrowed money during the pandemic to help run his wife’s drug store. The inability to repay it drove him to suicide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Madhya Pradesh saw nine such cases between April and August 2022. In a particularly tragic tale in Badi town of Raisen district, jeweller Jitendra Soni, 37, strangulated his wife Rinki, 35, and sons, aged 13 and 10, before hanging himself on April 26. Only the 10-year-old survived. Four months later, Jitendra’s father, Dhanraj Soni, 62, also died by suicide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Jitendra’suicide note mentioned unpaid loans and a land dispute with the government, but did not blame anyone. He wrote that he killed his family to prevent lenders from harassing them. The elder Soni’s note named four moneylenders who harassed him following Jitendra’s death.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Amrit Meena, Raisen’s additional superintendent of police, said that a murder case was registered against Jitendra, but the case was closed owing to his death. A case of abetment to suicide against the moneylenders was registered in Dhanraj’s death, but the family refused to pursue the matter further.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rinki’s uncle, Mahesh Soni, said that she had told her family about Jitendra’s extramarital affairs, but there were no indications of any major turmoil. A teacher, he added that people should turn to family and friends if depressed, and they could get the necessary help for them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But what if you doubt your own family? Manikuttan, 52, who used to run a tuck shop in Thiruvananthapuram, was found hanging from the ceiling in his home on July 2; his wife Sindhu, 36, sons Ajeesh, 15, and Ameya, 13, and aunt Devaki, 80, were found poisoned to death. The police said that Manikuttan poisoned the others before killing himself. Manikuttan’s mother, Vasanthi, had a narrow escape as she did not eat with them.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Manikuttan’s relations with his family members were strained,”said circle inspector Vijaya Raghavan, who was part of the investigation team. “He suspected that his wife had extramarital affairs.” There were financial troubles, too. Apart from the tuck shop, Manikuttan was also into farming and had a timber business. He had leased a mango orchard in Tamil Nadu, funded by loan sharks. But the pandemic ruined his plans and threw him into a debt trap.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More than a fortnight later in Nagpur, Maharashtra, Ramrajatala Bhat, 58, set his car on fire in a bid to kill his wife, Sangeeta, 55, son, Nandan, 25, and himself. He died on the spot, and the others a week later. Chandrakant Yadav, in-charge of Beltarodi police station, told THE WEEK that Bhat’s suicide note named financial distress as the reason for the suicide.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Suicidal tendencies occur in people when they are not able to open up to people around them,” said Dr Vasanth R., consultant psychiatrist, Fortis Malar Hospital, Chennai.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Alimi Srinivas, 52, from Metpally town in Telangana, said that he wished someone from his sister’s family had talked to him about their financial problems before deciding on a suicide pact. In January, Srinvas’s sister, Sri Latha, 50, husband Pappula Suresh, 56, and sons, Akhil, 27, and Ashish, 24, left their Nizamabad flat for Hyderabad after switching off their phones. After a brief stay, they headed to Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh. They checked into a motel, visited Kanaka Durga temple and checked out, only to return to the motel after a while. Inside their room, all four allegedly injected themselves with insulin. Sri Latha and Ashish died soon after. Since Suresh was diabetic, the insulin perhaps had a neutralising effect. He survived, and so did Akhil. A few hours later though, the duo jumped to their death in the Krishna River. “Who commits suicide like that,” asked Srinivas.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Suresh ran medical shops and owned an agency that distributed medical equipment. And, Akhil had invested in a petrol pump. The family led a comfortable life till the pandemic upended it―their investments in the petrol pump and a nursing home came a cropper. Before ending their lives, Suresh and Sri Latha sent Srinivas audio recordings of conversations they had with financiers who threatened them with dire consequences. They also named the loan sharks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The financiers have been arrested and the case is in trial. But Srinivas is yet to fathom why his family took the step. “As per my knowledge, they had a debt of Rs50 lakh. Even if it was Rs1 crore, there was no need for them to die as the children could have worked hard and repaid it,” he said. “But the financiers made it impossible for them to live. I got to know that they were slapped inside their home by goons sent by the financiers. When I opened their flat in March, there was blood all over. I do not know what caused it.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Analysing the case, Akheel Siddiqui of Hyderabad-based Roshni Counselling Center, said, “The person would have felt helpless as debts rose beyond his reach. His concern would have been to save his family from moneylenders.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a puzzling case in Delhi, a family of three died by inhaling noxious fumes from store-bought braziers on May 21. Manju Shrivastava, 55, and her two daughters―Ankita, 30, and Anshika, 26―were known to be quiet and unobtrusive. The police reportedly found a handwritten note outside the door warning people of the hazardous gas inside and with instructions on how to ventilate the room before entering.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“There were seven-eight notes inside the house explaining why they took this step,” said an eyewitness who discovered the bodies on bed, with their mouth covered in blood. “It was mostly out of financial distress after the girls’ father, Umesh (a chartered accountant), died the year before (due to Covid-19).” Manju had been ill for a long time and the girls had reportedly slipped into depression after their father’s death.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Rajinder Singh, a Delhi-based psychoanalyst, finds the aspect of smoke emanating from a sealed room particularly interesting, besides the fact that there were multiple suicide notes. “It is almost as if they wanted people to find them,” he said. “They desperately wanted their stories of helplessness and distress to be heard, something they could not do when they were alive. They wanted the smoke from a long-festering fire to seep out and engulf the world outside, for the society to be implicated for driving them to this state.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Depression, said Singh, worked like a contagion in a family. “Even if one family member is dejected and down in the dumps, others around him are bound to be affected,” he said. “And, in some cases, that one unhappy member is highly persuasive in convincing others―although they might initially protest―to see the futility of earthly existence.“</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to Delhi-based journalist Dayashankar Mishra, who runs a suicide prevention initiative called Jeevan Samvad, mental health issues, social beliefs like superstitions and patriarchal gender roles play a major role in mass suicides. “In [such] cases, often the instigator is the male head of the family, who has a strong feeling that his family might not be able to survive without him,” said Mishra. He suggests mass-level counselling facilities, mood swing tracking by friends or family, and revival of family communication as ways of preventing suicides.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Siddiqui said that apart from NGOs, governments, too, have a role to play in tackling suicides. During the pandemic, Kerala, which has a mental health policy in place, launched a scheme named ‘Ottakkalla, Oppamundu’(You are not alone, we are with you) to help children tackle depression and suicidal tendencies. In 2020 alone, 324 children died by suicide in Kerala. In 2021, the state launched another suicide prevention scheme―Ninavu―under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Madhya Pradesh government recently constituted a task force that would make recommendations for drafting a suicide prevention policy. Indore police commissioner Harinarayan Chari Mishra has launched a suicide prevention helpline―Sanjeevani. “Our experience suggests that there are some crucial hours before depressed/upset people take such extreme steps,” he said. “If they can get help during that period, the suicidal thoughts pass over.”</p> <p>―<b>With Lakshmi Subramanian, Rahul Devulapalli, Nirmal Jovial and Sneha Bhura</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/25/rise-in-suicides-due-to-covid19-pandemic.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/25/rise-in-suicides-due-to-covid19-pandemic.html Tue Nov 29 22:13:50 IST 2022 community-help-to-people-with-suicide-tendencies-dr-harish-shetty <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/25/community-help-to-people-with-suicide-tendencies-dr-harish-shetty.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/2022/11/25/56-Dr-Harish-Shetty.jpg" /> <p>It is important that in every locality or neighbourhood, community members ‘encroach upon’ people or families who behave in an odd manner, like not leaving their homes for over a week, not paying bills and so on. Such behaviour indicates that there must be something very wrong with them and those around them need to ‘cross the limit’ and approach such people, ask about their wellbeing and make all efforts to get them to seek professional help.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Also, if anyone notices any behaviour or hears any talk in public places or transport that indicate depression or suicidal tendencies, they should monitor such people, notify authorities and professionals and get help for them. Similarly, if any sudden aggressive or violent behaviour is noticed, like beating up or abusing family members or any exhaustion is noticed among people who are dealing with ill or mentally unstable family members, get immediate help for them, too. The point is that there is need for the community and family members to pay extra attention to all people who are in distress.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is not much difference between causes and prevention of mass suicides or homicide-cum-suicides and individual suicides. There is need for increased mental health awareness, a suicide prevention policy in every state, and training of field health workers to enable them to identify potential cases. Like the Swachh Bharat Mission, it has to be a mass movement. Common people have to connect to the mission for preventing suicides.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The major role of the governments is to allocate necessary funds for the purpose. Currently, only 2 per cent of the entire health budget is allocated for mental health. Look at it this way: there are far more deaths by suicide than by tuberculosis. But every district has a tuberculosis officer; there is a mass-scale DOTS programme for control and there is a promise by the Indian government to the World Health Organization for total eradication of TB. There is no such passion for mental health issues. There was no special mental health programme taken up by the Central or state governments during the pandemic and now it is seen that there is a 17.9 per cent increase in suicides between 2019 and 2021.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I will repeat that mass-scale awareness is needed on mental health issues. Though dengue deaths are not anywhere close to those by suicides, awareness posters for dengue prevention are put up on every house by government agencies when there is an outbreak. We require similar efforts on mental health issues.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>―<b>As told to Sravani Sarkar</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The writer is a Mumbai-based psychiatrist and a member of the task force for drafting Madhya Pradesh’s suicide prevention policy.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/25/community-help-to-people-with-suicide-tendencies-dr-harish-shetty.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/25/community-help-to-people-with-suicide-tendencies-dr-harish-shetty.html Fri Nov 25 17:21:33 IST 2022 remaining-narrow-gauge-service-in-north-india <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/25/remaining-narrow-gauge-service-in-north-india.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2022/11/25/58-The-narrow-gauge-line-between-Dholpur.jpg" /> <p>India may soon have its own bullet train, but not everyone is looking forward to it. Certainly not Mahabir Prasand. The anganwadi worker in rural Rajasthan is a regular in the only narrow-gauge train in the Indian plains.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The slow speed and the comfort of travelling attracted me to the train,” he said. “It is a pleasure travelling on it during the monsoons.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The narrow-gauge line between Dholpur and Sarmathura has weathered many storms. With all other narrow-gauge tracks (except those in the hills; see box) converted into broad-gauge ever since the railway ministry embarked on a massive conversion spree in the early 1990s, work has already begun on converting this route as well. But, for now, it continues to be the lifeline of many in rural Rajasthan. The five coaches, hauled by a diesel engine, make two trips every day―first at 4am and second at 10:40am. Tickets are priced at 030 to Tantpur and Rs45 to Sarmathura.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The track was constructed by Ram Singh, the maharaja of Dholpur, back in 1905―the service started three years later―primarily to ferry the red sandstones for which Dholpur and surrounding areas are famous.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While minor maintenance of the engine and coaches is done locally, major overhauling is done in Mumbai. There are no narrow-gauge tracks for the train to travel beyond Dholpur. The engine is lifted and loaded onto a truck for the 1,000km-plus road journey.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The narrow-gauge trains up in the hills―be it the UNESCO World Heritage Committee inscribed Darjeeling Himalayan Railways or the famous Nilgiri Mountain Railways―are well known with tourists flocking to these places from all over the country. Today, the Dholpur narrow-gauge track is half-forgotten. Nevertheless, a journey in it is an enticing prospect―passing through idyllic hamlets, verdant fields and earthy stone quarries.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The passengers are primarily villagers travelling to buy medicines, groceries and fertilisers. School children also hop in once in a while, while some intrepid boys race their cycles alongside, trying to outpace the slow-moving train.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shree Bhagwan Meena, 49, works as an attendant in the rail route. His father and grandfather worked in the same position. Meena grew up hearing stories on how the train used to ferry stones from the quarries.</p> <p>“My grandfather’s tales got me attracted to the job,” said Meena.</p> <p>He may also tell his grandchildren tales about the train, but they won’t be as fortunate as him.</p> <p><b>REMAINING NARROW-GAUGE SERVICES</b></p> <p><b>1</b> Kalka to Shimla</p> <p><b>2</b> New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling</p> <p><b>3</b> Pathankot to Joginder Nagar</p> <p><b>4</b> Matheran to Neral</p> <p><b>5</b> Coonoor to Udagamandalam</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/25/remaining-narrow-gauge-service-in-north-india.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/25/remaining-narrow-gauge-service-in-north-india.html Sun Nov 27 10:32:12 IST 2022 fast-track-phd-program-drawbacks <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/11/fast-track-phd-program-drawbacks.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/2022/11/11/30-PhD-scholar-Shivam-Mogha.jpg" /> <p><b>DOCTORAL RESEARCHERS</b> have never had it easy. A 2021 study by the Central University of Kerala’s department of public health and community medicine reaffirms the grim realities of a PhD scholar’s life where they often wonder: “Why am I doing this?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In the analysis on depressive disorders among doctoral students―published in the Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education―240 PhD students, with one half from the sciences, were interviewed to understand their mental health status. “Financial hardship, disagreement between student-supervisor, compromised students’ support services and an uncertain job market” were some of the crucial reasons reported for a range of depressive disorders. Students from economically weaker sections, earning less than Rs20,000 a month in their PhD years, veered the most towards moderately severe and severe depressive disorders, the study noted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Why is it so hard to be a doctoral scholar in India? Among other reasons, the PhD years in India typically cover ages 25 to 32―a time to start earning an income that covers rent and food. Or when one can begin to feel somewhat financially independent, irrespective of inclinations to study or work.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>To reduce the pre-PhD years, the University Grants Commission now has a revised set of norms for PhD admissions. According to the recently released draft regulations, four-year undergraduate degree holders with a minimum CGPA (cumulative grade point average) of 7.5 can now directly enrol for PhD programmes. They can skip the master’s programme. Also, those with 55 per cent marks in the four-year undergraduate degree can apply after a one-year master’s course. MPhil has already been discontinued from the academic year 2022-23. However, these reforms come amid little information on whether a PhD scholar would get a better stipend, enough for him to confidently jump into academia.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Financial insecurity is one of the biggest reasons scholars rethink their decision to pursue research. Even though PhD students in central universities are eligible for a few scholarships, not all of them are well-endowed. A non-NET (National Eligibility Test) fellowship for a PhD scholar in a central university is up to 08,000, usually claimed after the synopsis is accepted. Last year, a government-appointed panel suggested replacing this with a “NET-II fellowship”, where the stipend would depend on performance in the NET exam. This removes the concept of universal assistance to research scholars at central universities, and would hurt poor students the most.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Asked if there were plans to increase the non-NET stipend, UGC chairperson M. Jagadesh Kumar says, “Scholarship amounts are periodically increased to take care of cost of living and other expenditures that students incur. The stipend of a JRF (Junior Research Fellow) selected through NET is Rs31,000 for the first three years. In addition, an annual contingency grant of 020,000 per fellow is provided to the university/institution.” The JRF is for the top scorers in the exam. And contingency funds are for, well, contingencies and not easily claimed, less so annually, according to scholars who do not wish to be named. “If someone does not want to do a PhD after a UG degree, they can always do a PG degree and then work for a PhD degree. Isn’t it a good idea to provide multiple options and flexibility to the students?” asks Kumar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The revised PhD reforms have several other tweaks. There are plans to do away with mandatory publication of research papers in peer-reviewed or Scopus-indexed (a type of database) journals as a requirement for awarding doctoral degrees. It is projected as a way to stem the proliferation of dubious journals or research fraud, especially seen in humanities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These are important changes under the National Education Policy 2020, and have far-reaching implications. They raise several questions on how the research training of scholars is likely to be affected. What kind of curriculum changes in the undergrad system will prepare students for the rigours of academic research? Is it just a rush to produce more PhDs? Or is an expedited PhD only for high-performing students in college? And how will it affect the research aspirations of those seeking fellowships abroad where there already exists a power imbalance between the global north and global south when it comes to academic research?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Several PhD students across India do not think a bachelor’s programme is enough to find a firm footing in academia, no matter how focused or exceptional a student might be. Ritapriya Nandy is a second-year PhD student at the Centre for Regional Studies in the University of Hyderabad. She went into her PhD in the middle of her MPhil course, which had helped her sharpen her thesis on borderlands and migration. “You may have a very clear idea about what you want to work on,” she says, “but research is not just about your topic, theme or area, but also a practice in academic writing. One cannot simply write good academic stuff without training. MPhil was actually that training period that taught us how to write academically.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Nandy also questions the wisdom of doing away with the need to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. “Okay, some people might see it as a burden to get their work published,” she says. “But the identity of a PhD scholar is tied to research. It is how he stays in touch with the wider academic community. You are doing a PhD because research is your passion. And this passion drives you to get published and get recognised in academic circles.” She does not believe any progressive policy for PhD students can work without improving funds and stipends for scholars.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Shivam Mogha, who has just entered his second year of PhD at Jawaharlal Nehru University’s sociology department, completing his research in agrarian politics outside India looks unlikely. “I am one of those unlucky ones who did not do an MPhil. You see, MPhil was mileage when applying for scholarships abroad because they consider it research experience. I was the second in the waiting list for a fellowship in Germany last year but had to bow out to the one who had an MPhil. My synopsis was passed only in the second year of PhD. I might as well complete my PhD in India now because just a synopsis-pass is not enough experience for getting fellowships abroad,” says Mogha, who finished his class 12 in an Uttar Pradesh board school. “You see, in school, I did not even know there was such a subject like sociology or anthropology. I got to know they existed only when I came to college to do my BA. It was only in MA that I realised that I want to go much deeper into the subject. I feel the kids in private universities like Ashoka or Shiv Nadar have contacts to get scholarships outside. In fact, they enter their bachelor’s knowing everything about sociology and anthropology. Jumping straight into PhD after bachelor’s seems like a rich man’s game.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Social science scholars, more than those in pure sciences and other technical subjects, struggle with infrastructural gaps and lack of funds. Also, getting published in a peer-reviewed journal in humanities is much harder. The number of reputed journals in STEM outnumber those in humanities and social sciences. For a student at IIT, it is not unheard of to jump into a PhD programme right after their bachelor’s. So much so that some of the IITs are planning to scrap or revamp their MTech programme to curb the attrition rate.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At IIT Bombay, says Naveen, they are either reducing the number of MTech seats or offering more self-sponsored seats where the students pay a substantial fee on their own. “The first year of master’s goes in coursework itself. From the second year onwards, the students start preparing for placements,” he says. “Faculties are questioning the point of these MTech programmes as they are not contributing anything to research. Students are coming here to just get a job. And most often, those who are coming in from electrical engineering hardly take up any engineering jobs. They are just going for consultancy, banking and private equity.” He adds that getting published in journals is always an unwritten rule for PhD scholars even though it is never made mandatory on paper, with each department having its own internal requirements. “It is not like it is easier for students to get published in reputed journals just because they are from IIT. For instance, it is very difficult for students in the mathematics department to get published because it is already an established, well-researched discipline. But something which is emerging like nano-electronics and AI, where the industry is just opening up, has more takers.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Krishnan Unni P., associate professor of English at Deshbandhu College of Delhi University, does not think reducing pre-PhD years will ensure any qualitative jump in research. “It might encourage a ‘cut and paste’ culture. In humanities, research will become a cakewalk. In science, this will bring more disasters as originality will disappear.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Lucas Tudu, a first-year PhD student in conflict studies at Loyola College in Chennai, has a more balanced view. He completed his MA in English this year, but is yet to come up with his thesis topic. “People can adjust in any circumstances if there is such a system of going into PhD after bachelor’s,” he says. “Students who choose this route will learn to cope. But the point is, they will be deprived of many kinds of learnings, information systems and ways of gathering that information. There will be a risk of a short-cut system. Sometimes I feel I would have been more confident with an MPhil. My next stage of learning would have been smoother, more vivid and more enjoyable.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/11/fast-track-phd-program-drawbacks.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/11/fast-track-phd-program-drawbacks.html Mon Nov 14 12:53:10 IST 2022 climate-finance-cop27-egypt <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/11/climate-finance-cop27-egypt.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/2022/11/11/78-A-school-in-Assam-situated-near-the-Brahmaputra-damaged-by-erosion.jpg" /> <p><b>INDIA WANTS THE</b> crux of the entire global climate change effort―climate finance―to be addressed at COP27, held in Egypt (November 6-18), which is the biggest jamboree of global climate stakeholders. India feels, and rightly so, that nations must not close an international meeting with just high-sounding words and assurances. The time has come for implementation. Egypt has rightfully named COP27, as the COP of “Implementation”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India plans to support Egypt with a plan of action that answers the needs of developing countries. The goal of the international meeting is to make nations work towards “faithful, balanced and comprehensive” implementation of the convention and the Paris Agreement, by its principles. The Paris Agreement is a “legally binding” international treaty on climate change. Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared with pre-industrial levels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the major stumbling blocks is that even though funds have been flowing purportedly for climate change into developing countries, it is not known where and how the funds are being utilised as there is no agreed definition of climate finance yet. It is here that India would like clarity and a consensus to be built among parties.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As a leader of developing nations, India would like systems evolved so that developing countries can accurately assess the extent of finance flows for climate action. Where is the money coming from? Which area is it being utilised in? There is a need for total transparency on the issue.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is the developed nations, the biggest polluters, that have shouldered the responsibility of generating funds for global climate change and transferring required technology to developing nations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to commitments made by countries on climate finance, nearly $100 billion is to be generated every year towards climate finance. But, unfortunately, the goal is yet to be achieved. As there is no agreed definition of what climate finance is, different estimates are doing the rounds. Work is on in trying to improve the implementation of climate finance targets and scale up the effectiveness of the financing from all sources globally.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Climate finance, from developed to developing countries, increased between 6 per cent and 17 per cent in 2019-2020. The fifth Biennial Assessment and Overview of Climate Finance shows that global climate finance flows were 12 per cent higher in 2019-2020, as compared with the previous biennium, reaching an annual average of $803 billion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>International public climate finance plays a critical role in funding climate change as developing nations are always struggling with challenges due to extreme weather, food, and energy crises, which are a big drain on their economy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>More funding means greater climate change efforts through more energy efficiency in buildings, more money being spent on electric vehicles, and more defences against flooding. For climate-friendly efforts, industry and people must make changes and adjust.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India has asked all countries to join the LiFE movement―Lifestyle for Environment―a pro-people and pro-planet effort that seeks to shift the world from mindless and wasteful consumption of natural resources to their mindful and deliberate utilisation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India strongly feels that individuals and communities have an important role to play in climate change. By making little changes to their day-to-day behaviour, people can make significant alterations to their environment and climate. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), if one billion people, out of the global population of eight billion, opt for environment-friendly behaviours in their daily lives, global carbon emissions could drop by approximately 20 per cent.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>How to adapt and bear the loss and damage due to climate change are some of the important issues being discussed at COP27. The existing financial mechanisms have not been able to adequately deliver funds for adaptation and damage due to climate change. They are underfunded and accessing funding is cumbersome and time-consuming. Most of the funding, in fact, is for mitigation. On the anvil will be best practices, new technologies, and new modes of collaboration for technology transfer and capacity building.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>International adaptation finance flows to developing countries, which was $90 billion by 2020, is estimated to be five to 10 times below the estimated needs. Estimated annual adaptation needs are $160 billion to 340 billion by 2030, and $315 billion to 565 billion by 2050.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At Egypt, a wide range of activities and events will also be held on all aspects of transparency under the banner “Together 4 Transparency”, which will assess the results achieved under greenhouse gas emissions and removals, climate actions, as well as support needed and received from all governments.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There will also be a capacity-building hub where climate change capacity-building organisations, experts, practitioners, and enthusiasts will gather to exchange data and contribute towards enabling greater climate action across the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>―<b>The writer is an author and a former journalist.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/11/climate-finance-cop27-egypt.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/11/climate-finance-cop27-egypt.html Fri Nov 11 16:31:13 IST 2022 the-week-seminar-experts-agree-on-need-to-be-vigilant-against-breast-cancer <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/04/the-week-seminar-experts-agree-on-need-to-be-vigilant-against-breast-cancer.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/2022/11/4/58-A-panel-discussion-on-breast-cancer-held-by-THE-WEEK.jpg" /> <p>Breast cancer has surpassed cervical cancer as the most prevalent cancer in India. As a woman gets older, there is a higher chance of her getting breast cancer. A mammogram is recommended once in a few years after the age of 40. Women who are obese are predisposed to breast cancer. These and other pertinent aspects came up at the seminar on breast cancer held by THE WEEK in association with Apollo Cancer Centres on October 29 in Mumbai. On the panel were leading cancer specialists from Apollo Hospital in Navi Mumbai―Dr Anil D’Cruz, director, oncology services, Dr Aneeta Bajaj, consultant radiologist, Dr Sandip Bipte, consultant breast oncoplastic surgeon, Dr Sandeep De, consultant radiation oncologist, Dr Rituparna Ghosh, consultant psychologist, Varsha Gorey, senior clinical nutritionist, and Dr Shalushubham Keni, consultant physiotherapist. Citing the numbers shared by Global Cancer Observatory, which releases data on cancer, Dr D’Cruz said the global incidence of cancer has increased exponentially over the years, from 12 million in 2012 to 18 million in 2018, and 19.3 million in 2020. Said Dr Bajaj, “While until now two-thirds of all cancers were in developed nations and one-third in developing nations, the situation will reverse soon.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In case of breast cancer, the lumps or lesions can, at times, be completely missed out if the breast tissues are dense, said Dr Bajaj. “That is why self-examination is essential for a woman to know the initial signs. This should be followed with a clinical examination and a mammogram,” he said. Breast reconstruction surgery, said Dr Bipte, has been one of the most revolutionising aspects of breast cancer treatment. “Gone are the days when the patient would be required to stay back in the hospital for the surgery. This is a day surgery and it is carried out with such finesse that one cannot make out the difference between the natural breast and the affected breast,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>All experts agreed on the need to be vigilant against breast cancer. Breast cancer is highly preventable and highly curable; the earlier it is detected, the better are the chances of effective treatment and survival.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/04/the-week-seminar-experts-agree-on-need-to-be-vigilant-against-breast-cancer.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/11/04/the-week-seminar-experts-agree-on-need-to-be-vigilant-against-breast-cancer.html Sun Nov 06 13:10:45 IST 2022 itbp-jawans-lac-mental-health <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/28/itbp-jawans-lac-mental-health.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/2022/10/28/16-Jawans-admitted.jpg" /> <p>Shimla is usually pleasant during summer. And so, this April, we drove to the farthest corner of north India where Himachal Pradesh ends and Tibet begins―the Line of Actual Control. “Are you mad?” asked a deputy commandant of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, based in Shimla. According to the weather update on his smartphone, the next few days would be anything but pleasant. He gave the go-ahead only after much persuasion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The ITBP was raised in 1962 after the war to guard the Indo-Tibetan border. In 2004, the entire stretch of the India-China border came under the ITBP.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Line of Actual Control is around 100km from Chitkul, the last Indian village along the LAC. “No one is allowed beyond Chitkul, except security forces,” said the ITBP officer. His weather update soon came true. We encountered heavy winds about 50km from Chitkul. Fearing nature’s onslaught, even the chai stalls called it a day at 3pm. Our car driver was worried that it would rain rocks from the mountains. His fears came true in Mastrang, the border outpost which is a two-hour drive from Chitkul. The road ahead was blocked, and the Army was at work clearing the rocks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The road was lined with Army transit camps. The ITBP camp at Mastrang is is the last outpost―14,000ft high; temperature―5°C. Around 150 jawans are stationed here. Fifty of them are packed into a room lined with cots. The jawans, wearing windcheaters, were seeking warmth inside sleeping bags.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Inder Kumar, a 55-year-old jawan, said they had no alternative but to slide into sleeping bags. “Our hands have turned stone cold,” he said. “What else could we do?” His eyes are bloodshot and he has no appetite. Sleep, too, is elusive, because of the altitude and fear of avalanches or landslides. The jawans are fed tinned meat, which reportedly causes piles, anal fissures and irritable bowel syndrome in many. Headaches at high altitudes are quite common―I experienced them, too. Some 40km away is another border outpost―Nittal Thatch―where a change of guard is under way.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sub-inspector Ashwini Rana will lead the team of around 150 jawans to scale the mountain from Nittal Thatch. A vehicle would take the troops to the last border outpost―Nakdum. The Army is constructing a road from Nakdum to Yamrang La, the last line on the LAC in the sector. But till the time the road is built, the jawans have to walk for 20km with arms, rations, water and winter gear to reach the LAC.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>During the walk to the LAC itself, the water they are carrying will freeze. Many of them will get frostbite, some will have high-altitude cerebral oedema. Rana has had pulmonary oedema. “Many have lost their fingers. Limbs have been amputated, and some of them have died in avalanches as well,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The deputy commandant in Shimla said that in emergency cases, soldiers were treated at the local Army hospital and if it was a chronic case, they were shifted to the ITBP Base Hospital in Delhi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The jawans near Yamrang La are at an advantageous position as they are stationed on a hilltop and can keep an eye on the Chinese below. But, at times, the Chinese soldiers do come up during the change of guard and put up posters in Mandarin, instigating the jawans. ITBP soldiers are taught Mandarin as part of their training. “The poster headlines clearly state that the Chinese soldiers would like to redraw the LAC,” said Rana. “Sometimes, the posters have objectionable language against our leaders.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But Indian soldiers never react to such provocations. “Special order has been given not to fall into their trap,” said an ITBP commandant at the headquarters in Delhi. “For, they could turn it into a gun battle like in Galwan or as tense a situation as in Doklam.” Rana said it was a mind game between India and China.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand share a 545km border with Tibet. In Himachal Pradesh alone, around 6,500 jawans are deployed in 32 border outposts, covering 25km to 30km per outpost. So, each border outpost would have around 200-odd jawans that many believe is too small a number, considering the length of the LAC. However, a 40km stretch between Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh has been left unguarded by the ministry of home affairs. THE WEEK spoke with Sanjay Arora when he was the director general of ITBP. “The ministry of home affairs is aware of the situation and appropriate action would be taken, considering the sensitivity of the place,” he said. Guarding the border amid a tough terrain in harsh weather and against an ever-invasive enemy demands grit of a higher level. And, some crumble, physically and mentally. At the Base Hospital in Delhi, ITBP jawans fill up beds, not just with physical injuries but more so with mental ailments.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Take, for instance, Niraj Kumar, who was deployed in Leh. He became lonely, forgetful and suicidal. Things were fine at home and work. A father of two sons, Niraj, 43, had received a salary hike thanks to the implementation of the seventh pay commission. But Niraj has no clue why he feels suicidal. All he knows is that when he needed to be tough in the extreme conditions at the border, he would turn “angry and restless” instead. Chief Medical Officer Dr Prashant Mishra called it a case of extreme depression. “I started [him on] yoga and meditation,” said Mishra, a psychiatrist. “Then there was cognitive behaviour therapy. We gave him antidepressants along with anxiolytics to lift his mood.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Amitabh Agnihotri, 35, who originally hails from Jharkhand, has served in high-altitude areas for 14 years. That took a toll on his mind and marriage, which ended in divorce. When he would go home on leave, he would have constant fights with his wife. Unaware of his depression, she left their home, saying she should not have married a dark-skinned man like him. “I started crying when she left me,” said Agnihotri. “I had to sign the divorce paper otherwise she would have slapped cases on me. I decided to commit suicide because I was dark and no woman would like me ever. I wanted to be left alone.”One day, he tried to hang himself. He was saved by his brother in the nick of time. “He had a fixed idea about his dark complexion,” said Mishra, who asked his team to treat Agnihotri with caution. Even the medicines were fed to him by the nurses. He was also given counselling. “He was taught why a job is more important than ending his life and what he could do with his salary,” said Mishra.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mahendra Kumar Saini from Rajasthan got a “healthy posting” after serving in high-altitude places in four states. The only healthy part about the posting was that it was in the plains―he was sent to Chhattisgarh to battle Maoists in 2021. His wife had been requesting him to take her along on his postings, even to the high-altitude areas, ever since their wedding in 2017. He tried to tell her that such areas do not provide good accommodation to families, but she would keep insisting. “In Chhattisgarh also, she wanted to come with me,” he said. “When I refused, she filed for divorce.”While they were married, Saini had paid Rs10 lakh bribe to a government agent to get his wife a teacher’s job. He had borrowed the money for the bribe. Now, his wife has asked for alimony to care for their three-year-old daughter, and Saini has now taken another loan of Rs12 lakh to fight the divorce case, which involves dowry charges. He is left with just Rs25,000 from his salary every month. The divorce battle coupled with financial woes pushed him into depression. Mishra said that without telling his seniors or peers, he consulted a gastroenterologist, cardiologist and a neurologist. He would pop 10 tablets every night. His battalion commandant found him dizzy one day, and he was sent to the Base Hospital in Delhi. Mishra reduced his tablets to two per day. “With pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment, he is now 85 per cent fit. It will take some time for him to be fully fit,” said Mishra.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sources said the hospital gets around 500 patients from the one lakh strong force every month. The number is low, say officials, because ITBP has a psychological guide in every battalion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>What makes it worse for ITBP jawans is that when they are not guarding the LAC, they are posted either in Kashmir or Chhattisgarh, where they have to face militants and Maoists, respectively. And, sometimes, such postings scar their families, too.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Gourishankar Rao, a constable from Andhra Pradesh, was posted along the Ladakh border since 2017. For three years, he did not communicate with his wife and two children, aged nine and seven. One day, he was told that his wife had hanged herself. “I came to know about her death after a week. I went into severe depression and could not bear the pain,” said Rao, who is being treated at the Base Hospital in Delhi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But there are those like Rahul Kumar Rajak, 21, from Bihar, who are still bright-eyed about their future in the ITBP. “Adventure is a top priority for me,” said Rajak, who joined the force last year and is learning Mandarin. “Could you imagine that I would be surrounded by snow-laden mountains?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>May the light never leave his eyes.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/28/itbp-jawans-lac-mental-health.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/28/itbp-jawans-lac-mental-health.html Fri Oct 28 16:58:40 IST 2022 mobile-phones-ringing-in-the-moolah <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/25/mobile-phones-ringing-in-the-moolah.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/2022/10/25/iphone-14.jpg" /> <p>Mobile phones have a luxury conundrum. “People buy luxury products as an extension of their lifestyle and their personality,” says luxury and hospitality brand consultant Deepa Misra Harris. “It says ‘This is who I am’.” But, how exactly do you stay luxe and distinct from the rest of the herd when almost everyone on the face of the planet has it?<br> </p> <p>Art curator and luxury consultant Arvind Vijaymohan defines luxury as “quality, heritage and legacy coming together in perfect form”. While this may work for a handmade bag from a century-old European atelier or a fashion house with bespoke tailoring, how does it work for a product that is all about the latest technology and the latest features, and that goes obsolete in a year?<br> </p> <p>“Phones is one of those rare categories where luxury is within the access of more people than a typical luxury product,” said Ashwin Rajagopalan, lifestyle consultant. “Even if you take something like an iPhone 14 Pro Max, everyone (in your circle) might be carrying one. (Even those outside your circle) can get one with EMIs and cashbacks.”<br> </p> <p>Handset makers had tried to break out of it. Nokia had Vertu, its luxury mobile phone brand, way back in 1998. The phones came with all the luxe works—gold, sapphire bezel, jewels and black leather. “It worked for a while, as at that point, a phone did not do much beyond calls,” said Rajagopalan. But once the era of the smartphone began, “Vertu was not able to create a real customer experience beyond the luxury trimmings”.<br> </p> <p>Today’s mobile phone market is marked by camera features, artificial intelligence, OS ecosystems, memory, storage and many other tech features. They need cutting edge innovation, and a new killer discovery can change the entire landscape overnight. This makes it difficult for a luxury brand to play in the same field, restricting luxury trappings to perhaps a designer phone case or other accessories.<br> </p> <p>But, while owning a ‘one-of-a-kind’ phone may be impossible, something curious has indeed been happening in India’s mobile phone retail space—a clear and distinct shift towards expensive phones. “The share of phones costing more than Rs 30,000 was 4 per cent in 2019; it increased to 9 per cent last year,” said Varun Mishra, senior analyst at Counterpoint Research. “In terms of value, the constitution is 28 per cent of the total smartphone revenues.”<br> </p> <p>Globally, the growth in the $1,000 and above price segment has been a whopping 94 per cent.<br> </p> <p>Indian phone users have shown a distinct preference to upgrade their phones. “As 5G is becoming more prevalent, consumers are upgrading their devices,” said Mishra. “Consumers whose finances were not affected by the pandemic have been using the extra disposable income created due to restricted travel to buy more expensive devices, including smartphones. During the pandemic, users also realised the importance of smartphones and started seeing more value in upgrading their devices. Another interesting factor is that this trend in the ultra-premium market is ubiquitous across regions, despite inflationary pressures.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/25/mobile-phones-ringing-in-the-moolah.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/25/mobile-phones-ringing-in-the-moolah.html Tue Oct 25 11:03:24 IST 2022 progress-is-when-luxury-becomes-necessity-gautam-singhania <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/25/progress-is-when-luxury-becomes-necessity-gautam-singhania.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/2022/10/25/Gautam-Singhania.jpg" /> <b>Q/ How exactly have luxury consumer tastes changed since the pandemic? </b><br> <br> A/ Consumption of luxury has gone up across the board. People saved money during the pandemic and are now ready to spend. I think people are spending money, people are going for self-gratification. We are seeing quite a bit of that.<br> <br> <b>Q/ In India, do you see any particular trend different from the global pattern?</b><br> <br> A/ The trend is in the right direction. If you see luxury in India, the one thing that catches my eye is the amount of destination weddings that are taking place. It has gone up exponentially. Every luxury hotel around wants to sell wholesale (bookings) and don’t want to sell retail (individual rooms). There is so much of demand.<br> <br> <b>Q/ As far as the luxury market is concerned, do you think there has been a shift that has happened in favour of experiences, more than buying products and labels?</b><br> <br> A/ If you see, travel has significantly increased. I was trying to book in Cambodia for March, and there is nothing available. I was trying for Croatia for next August, and was told that if you don’t book right now, nothing will be available for next year! So people are travelling, people are going in for experiences. Accommodations are getting booked out all over the world.<br> <br> <b>Q/ If we trace the evolution of luxury in India, would you say it opened up with the international brands coming in?</b><br> &nbsp;<br> A/ Luxury in India is different from what international luxury is, while conceptually it is the same. If you think the foreign brands are selling any large quantities in this country, the answer is no. But are Indian brands up there in the luxury segment, the answer is yes.<br> <br> Take individual designers in this country. Earlier, they had shops that were 2,000-3,000 sqft. Today they have 25,000 sq.ft. shops. That shows the designer has moved up the luxury value chain, and he sees that there are so many more consumers coming, and therefore it takes (that big a showroom) to offer such a nice experience. Luxury in India is also moving. The Indian consumer is travelling; he is seeing in the media and he is seeing it everywhere.<br> <br> <b>Q/ The exposure itself has grown exponentially. From social media to TV to the fact that we are all travelling more. I think all that contributes to the evolution of the market.</b><br> <br> A/ A guy on the street has a mobile phone, he’s got access to Instagram, he’s got Facebook, to everything. I was driving in Arunachal Pradesh a few years ago — a kid took a simple video of the cars going by and we got millions of hits in a couple of hours. It’s crazy! The definition of progress is when is a luxury becomes a necessity.<br> <br> <b>Q/ When the pandemic happened, it seemed that the luxury market was facing an existential crisis. Because people were so focused on their health, in surviving and getting through the pandemic alive. Since then, the market has exploded. As you said, people had saved up money while being stuck at home, and all the more reason they wanted to experience. Would you say this is correct?</b><br> <br> A/ As I said, it is all about self-gratification. They have been so cooped up at homes for (so long), they (have realised), boss, let’s do life! There is no certainty to life, (you never know) when you (will) go.<br> <br> People are now slowly realising the value of living every day. And when you realise the value of living for the day, you (start saying) ‘I don’t mind spending a little bit more, but let’s be happy for the moment.”<br> <br> <b>Q/ There was once a belief that luxury and digital were twains that will never meet. But since the pandemic, would you say that has changed, with luxury brands also (being forced to) go online. What’s your take on this trend?</b><br> <br> A/ Luxury is all about the experience, you know. It was going to happen. Online is there, you can’t take it away. But luxury is all about the experience, the touch-and-feel.<br> <br> <b>Q/ How have luxury businesses transformed since Covid?</b><br> <br> A/ I don’t see anything specific. Where the luxury market is suffering today is on the supply side.<br> <br> <b>Q/ You are getting into luxury realty. Why do you think this is the right time to venture into this field?</b><br> <br> A/ The Address by GS (Raymond Realty) is a premium real estate product. It is a value-for-money luxury real estate.And it seems to be doing reasonably well. Post-Covid we see that (more and more) people now want their own homes. The demand for real estate today is very, very high.<br> <br> <b>Q/ When do you think we can see a mainstream Indian luxury brand emerge from India?</b><br> <br> A/ What do you mean ‘from India’? I think India has lots of luxury brands. The volume of sales we can do here are more than that of many brands internationally, because India has so many more people. (India) has tremendous amounts of luxury brands, whether it is in the aviation space, whether it is in the hospitality space or whether it is in the retail space. Even in the telecom space. Just because it is not in (say) the UK, doesn’t mean it is not a luxury brand. http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/25/progress-is-when-luxury-becomes-necessity-gautam-singhania.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/25/progress-is-when-luxury-becomes-necessity-gautam-singhania.html Tue Oct 25 10:59:01 IST 2022 indian-luxury-market-bridge-brands-homegrown-fashion-labels <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/21/indian-luxury-market-bridge-brands-homegrown-fashion-labels.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/2022/10/21/60-Apara-Disum.jpg" /> <p>If one truly needs to assess the wealth of a country, a great idea would be to visit a mall. Department stores are great indicators of a nation’s fiscal health. Not only does one have an overview of the premium stores invested in the country, one could also assess how many mall visitors are actually carrying shopping bags, and of which brands.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An understanding of the luxury business is important for any economy. According to Statista, a leading provider of global market and consumer data, the global luxury goods market was worth around €1.14 trillion in 2021. That is a sizeable business. The global luxury goods industry includes cars, private jets, alcohol, fashion, fragrances, watches, jewellery, cosmetics, luggage and handbags. All of these have been on a steady uptick for more than a decade. Luxury goods makers focus excessively on brand, marketing, aesthetics of the product, stores and communication so that the products become status symbols and, thus, coveted.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The economic stability of a country clearly has a bearing on the well-being of the luxury market. The US is the world’s leading luxury consumer and China is close at its heels. China is expected to become the world’s largest luxury market in 2025.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India is a comparatively new market for the global luxury business. It has been a ‘new market’ for exactly two decades now, since the opening of the first luxury label―Louis Vuitton―in 2002. In 2009, the Indian luxury industry was estimated at $4.76 billion, and it was expected to touch $14.7 billion in 2015, according to a 2010 report by CII-Kearney. It did not live up to the hype, though. In 2022, it is just about $8.5 billion, according to the market research company Euromonitor International.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India’s growth clearly decelerated in the luxury goods sector. Multiple factors led to this slowdown.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The BRICS nations, which were in the spotlight for a while, were particularly affected by the global slowdown. China faced many challenges related to regulatory issues, tariff structure and currency. Brands rushed in droves to open in China but began to shut shop within a few years. The entire global luxury industry felt the pullback. Brazil went into recession, too. Russia saw a commodities slowdown, a drop in currency and eventually a war with Ukraine. South Africa saw stunted growth, and India a muted one.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2015, the Indian government made permanent account number (PAN) mandatory for all transactions above Rs2 lakh. This rule, though a well-intentioned one, rang the death knell for the Indian luxury market. India thrived on a cash economy, as opposed to a digital or credit economy as in many western countries. Stories of customers walking into Louis Vuitton or Christian Louboutin stores in the DLF Emporio mall in Delhi and shopping for several lakhs in cash abounded. The cleaning up of a flawed system hurt the luxury business the most.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India’s super-rich, while still a minuscule per cent of its population, mostly shops abroad. Its aspirational middle class, the tax-payer, makes purchases with circumspection rather than indulgence. This led to two interesting new growth patterns: The rise of the bridge or premium brands (cheaper than luxury brands; for example, Michael Kors in India), and the spectacular rise of homegrown luxury labels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The rise of homegrown labels was inevitable. India’s luxury market was largely dependent on its gargantuan, unorganised wedding market. A KPMG report in 2017 valued India’s wedding industry at $50 billion, second only to the US. Quoting celebrity wedding planner Devika Narain, Atlas of Affluence―a white paper report published by Reliance Brands’ online digital magazine Voice of Fashion―says a high net-worth individual (HNWI) spends more than $1 million (about Rs8 crore) on a wedding. Leading bridal designer Gaurav Gupta says HNWIs spend between Rs5 lakh and Rs10 lakh for an outfit.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>International luxury labels may not have found the success they hoped for in India, but they did help shape India’s luxury industry. Indians have always been purveyors of expensive products and great aesthetics. Thanks to its long handcraft and handloom heritage, making things by hand (what the Italians call ‘fatto a mano’ and the world pays top dollar for) is rather quotidian to Indians. Kolhapuri slippers are handmade and sold from a few hundred rupees to a few thousands across Maharashtra. Like language and cuisine, every state of India has a local textile that is its speciality.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Indian fashion designers are craft entrepreneurs and hugely dependent on artisans to either make fabulous embroideries for them or for rich textiles. The Indian luxury brands, led by fabulous artisan-friendly brands like Good Earth in home, Sabyasachi in fashion, and Jaipur Rugs, have been thriving.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Post pandemic, Reliance Brands and the Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail have invested in designers such as Sabyasachi, Abraham &amp; Thakore, Tarun Tahiliani, Manish Malhotra, Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla, Ritu Kumar, Rahul Mishra and Anamika Khanna to scale up their businesses.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Businessoffashion.com and Mckinsey’s ‘State of Fashion 2022’ report recognises that, post-Covid, the global fashion industry has faced several challenges but is now finding itself on firmer footing. “Despite ongoing headwinds, there were signs by mid-2021 that things were taking a turn for the better, particularly in markets where vaccination rates were high. In the US, the release of pent-up demand created spikes of so-called “revenge buying”, leading to a growth spurt that echoed an earlier phenomenon in China. Return-to-work and occasion styles topped consumer shopping lists.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The pandemic, however, has only served to exacerbate inequalities in performance that have become a persistent theme over recent years. A small handful of leading brands are equalling, and in some cases surpassing, their pre-pandemic performance. This should not, however, be confused with a universal return to form. Large numbers of companies will continue to struggle to create value―and, in some cases, to survive―as the bruises of the crisis linger on. According to the report, China has recovered to 2019 levels of economic activity faster than the rest of the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India’s luxury market has performed better than most other businesses in the country, owing to the deeper internet penetration, the growth of e-commerce and the rise in entrepreneurship after people lost corporate jobs. Most jewellery makers, for instance, are doing better than the pre-pandemic levels. Much of this had to do with Covid restrictions on travel and crowds, which left more money to be spent on personal jewellery instead.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Over the past decade, the domestic market has done extremely well on many fronts, including sales, product innovation, sourcing optimisation, and evolving consumer preferences. According to some estimates, the Indian jewellery market is worth close to $80 billion,” said Milan Choksi, convener, promotions, marketing and business development at Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council. “India is among the leading centres for jewellery design innovation with the rapid adoption of advanced manufacturing equipment and techniques and greater focus on training and upskilling artisans with the establishment of institutes like the Indian Institute of Gems &amp; Jewellery.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2021, India ranked sixth among the top gem and jewellery exporting nations. Out of total global exports of $813.66 billion last year, India contributed $38.15 billion. India also ranks first in cut and polished diamond exports, fourth in gold jewellery exports, second in silver jewellery exports, and third in coloured gemstone exports. India is the world’s biggest rough diamond importer, and the second-largest gold importer. The jewellery industry accounts for 7 per cent of the country’s GDP and employs some 5 million people. GJEPC has set a target of achieving $75 billion in exports in a few years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>International labels like Bulgari have invested hugely in marketing campaigns in India, with the Italian jeweller roping in Priyanka Chopra Jonas for its mangalsutra launch. “India has time and again attracted foreign jewellery brands like Tiffany &amp; Co, Bulgari, Harry Winston and Cartier who maintained a symbolic presence here. Perhaps the unfavourable duty structure prevents many more from doing so,” said Choksi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India’s hospitality sector, especially its fabulous palace hotels, have always allured luxury seekers from all over the world. But industry stalwarts say the mainstay of the business is the domestic traveller. “Growth has been substantial. Data shared by the government indicates that tourism has grown twofold, and specifically so due to domestic tourism. The luxury hospitality sector continues to create a strong niche for itself, and is yet to realise its full potential,” said Manvendra Singh Shekawat, managing director of MRS Group of Hotels, which runs the charming Narendra Bhawan in Bikaner, Suryagarh in Jaisalmer, and Mary Budden Estate in Binsar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shekawat said the policies for tourism are fragmented. “We need more policies that would not only provide the industry players with support but also assurance that the industry would keep growing. A luxurious hotel would be incomplete without connectivity and infrastructure. The experience of a tourist is dependent on various factors right from the process of procuring a visa to reaching their desired destination,” he said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The pandemic has certainly changed the definition of luxury. “In the last year, we saw the emergence of conscious travellers and their evolving needs. Travellers now realise the importance of slow travel, enjoying the luxury of a simpler, more fulfilling way of life. Millennial travellers, who form an important segment, especially look for native experiences when they travel. From exploring the local culture to ticking a thing or two off the bucket list, they want to experience everything but in a unique way. Hotels are now more focused on providing authentic experiences that acquaint customers with a place or culture on a deeper level,” said Frans Westraadt, general manager, Six Senses Fort Barwara, the glamorous property launched with actors Katrina Kaif and Vicky Kaushal’s wedding last year.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While street food and quick service restaurants thrive in India, the upscale ones rarely do. According to Statista, India’s food service market is estimated to be $110 billion by 2025. “Of course, there has been significant growth in the restaurant industry in the last decade. This has been a result of more restaurants opening in the same city but also smaller cities upping their F&amp;B game,” said Gauri Devidayal, founder and CEO of Food Matters India, which runs leading fine-dining restaurants in Mumbai such as The Table and Magazine Street Kitchen. “India has a long way to go, but it is definitely making its mark. However, the unease of doing business in India has slowed down the pace for the industry’s potential. I don’t think the government has fully recognised the contribution that the F&amp;B industry makes to the country’s GDP,” she said.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Upscale restaurants usually depend on bars to cover their capital expenditure. “If the restaurant has an alcohol licence, it definitely depends on alcohol sales, given the cost of obtaining and renewing an alcohol licence. The government is clearly encouraging homegrown brands over imports, which is reflected in the significantly higher duties for alcohol as compared to any other imported item. The government also reduced the duty free allowance previously available to restaurants (a benefit calculated on the amount of foreign exchange earned during the year through foreign credit card transactions) thereby raising the landed cost of alcohol to restaurants.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Ipsita Das, managing director of Moet Hennessy India, India’s luxury alcohol business is as good as gold. “Premiumisation is one that has obviously led to the growth of the industry. Especially during the pandemic, the fact that we were not much into entertaining and not spending on anything else led to exposing ourselves to premium products and now that we have tasted great quality products, it is unlikely we would change our preferences. We are also seeing a lot of pride being taken in made-in-India products. The idea of a drink not being up to the mark if not imported is changing,” she said. “The premium consumer is not just from the top three or four cities but an entirely new segment in non-metros, too.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite two years of pandemic-induced standstill, the industry has seen a 4 per cent compound annual growth rate in the past five years. “2022 has been a phenomenal year for the industry, and especially for premium and luxury brands,” said Das.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The rise of home interiors and art in the past few years cannot be ignored. Even though stagnated incomes and inflation have taken a toll on middle- and upper middle-class consumers, the pandemic has encouraged people to make their homes more enjoyable. “The luxury home decor space has grown significantly, but more importantly it has widened its scope as more consumers have entered the space. It is no longer a niche market but an aspirational one,” said Shilpa Kalanjee, furniture and interiors designer and founder of Fusion Access. “There is also a marked appreciation for homegrown brands. Consumers especially love customising furniture which Indian brands offer.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And there is a marked boom in the art market. “Auctions are performing splendidly,” said Anupa Mehta, director of Anupa Mehta Arts and founding editor of the Art India magazine. “The secondary market for moderns has traditionally done well, but the works of younger contemporary artists are on the upswing as well. Most galleries across India are doing well and present at international fairs. We are also seeing buyers from tier II cities. The collectors are younger with more international exposure and look at art as an acceptable asset class.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to the Knight Frank Wealth Report 2021, Asia topped its five-year UHNWI (ultra high net worth individuals) growth forecast by 39 per cent. Indonesia leads the list at 67 per cent and India at 63 per cent. This should be enough to drive luxury sales higher, even while many of India’s top-notch businesses are facing challenges from within.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/21/indian-luxury-market-bridge-brands-homegrown-fashion-labels.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/21/indian-luxury-market-bridge-brands-homegrown-fashion-labels.html Fri Oct 21 19:30:22 IST 2022 indian-luxury-homes-demand-increase-post-covid <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/21/indian-luxury-homes-demand-increase-post-covid.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/2022/10/21/67-New-home-rules-1.jpg" /> <p><b>HOME IS WHERE</b> the heart is. Home is also where the art is. As ‘cabin fever’ set in after months of being cooped up within their homes because of the pandemic lockdowns, rich Indians started taking stock. This led to two sweeping attitudinal changes.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Shaken out of their comfort zones, they started questioning the basics of their living,” said art curator and luxury connoisseur Arvind Vijayamohan. “You realise your time is finite and you have all this money, but what are you doing with it?”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>First, it directly led to a surge in collecting art, as “those stuck at home and used to things of beauty and culture in their travels wanted ‘something nice to look at’ in their homes, too,” said Vijaymohan.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Second, it led to a surge in home-buying, especially in the luxury segment. Home sales in the price range above Rs1.5 crore witnessed a 230 per cent increase this year, according to the Confederation of Real Estate Developers. “After the pandemic, many people reassessed their priorities and began to appreciate the sense of security that comes with having a home,” said Avneesh Sood, director of Eros Group.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This surge, coming after nearly a decade of no-growth, had some distinct trends, shaped by the experiences from the pandemic. “Customers now want bigger, greener open spaces,” said Amit Goyal, CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty (South Asia). “While earlier it was all about location, people are now okay with places 30 to 40 minutes outside city limits where they can get better space, quality of life and amenities.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In Delhi it has translated into an uptick in villa and farmhouse sales; in Mumbai, the sale of large duplex apartments went up. The list of recent big-ticket buys in Maximum City include Tata Group chairman N. Chandrasekaran’s Rs98-crore Peddar Road duplex, Dmart founder Radhakishan Damani’s dream property in Malabar Hill, Bollywood couple Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone’s Rs119-crore quadruplex in Bandra and Amitabh Bachchan’s 12,000sq ft apartment in Four Bungalows.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Bengaluru, Mumbai and NCR are markets where luxury demand is high, driven by the size of the market or the incremental size of income,” said Vivek Rathi, director (research), at Knight Frank India. “Interestingly, Bengaluru earlier had not seen much luxury buying, but it has boomed in the past several months.” The unicorn and tech boom has had a dramatic impact on the property market of India’s Silicon Valley.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Post-RERA and demonetisation, investors in realty had moved on to other areas of investments, but there are indications that they are back. Rentals have gone up and prices have had an upward momentum. Other factors that are causing an impending boom in the luxury real estate sector include the relatively low interest rates and the drop in the value of the rupee against the dollar, which has made buying a big fat Indian home even more attractive for overseas Indians.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/21/indian-luxury-homes-demand-increase-post-covid.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/21/indian-luxury-homes-demand-increase-post-covid.html Fri Oct 21 16:37:12 IST 2022 indian-luxury-car-market-growth <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/21/indian-luxury-car-market-growth.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/2022/10/21/68-Balbir-Singh-Dhillon.jpg" /> <p>If you have ‘arrived in life’, what is the best way to tell the world? Well, you arrive in style, of course, on some very fancy wheels! “Having a Louis Vuitton bag or a Mercedes-Benz car or a Rolex watch―these are the signs of having arrived in life, and something that places a higher reference in the Indian context,” said luxury consultant Arvind Vijaymohan. “Earlier, even conservative people thought twice about getting them. But now, there is a percolation of luxury values across the board. There is a certain comfort in spending.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Small is beautiful, but big is bountiful, as Indian car buyers have shown in recent years, distinctly switching their preferences to premium cars. And this has meant luxury cars achieving the quickest revival in any category since the pandemic. “Post-Covid, the YOLO (you only live once) attitude has given rise to the indulgence quotient. There is also an increase in disposable income along with pent-up demand, which is aiding growth in the luxury car segment,” said Balbir Singh Dhillon, head of Audi India. “The pace will pick up in the months ahead. With the upcoming festive season, we are expecting good growth on the back of sustained demand.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the auto industry in India is struggling to reach its pre-Covid peak of 44 lakh vehicles―sales were just at 37 lakh last year―the luxury car segment hopes to achieve a full revival once this year’s festive season sales are complete. Audi witnessed a growth of 49 per cent in the first six months of this year, and Mercedes-Benz India MD and CEO Martin Schwenk had exultantly declared that 2022 was going to be the company’s best year in India. BMW Group India president &amp; CEO Vikram Pawah recently commented that luxury car sales in India could even triple in size if the government does away with the cess.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The super cars segment of Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis, though minuscule in volume, is also positive on its outlook. “Earlier, we were selling our cars to third or fourth generation businessmen. Now, our buyers are first generation businessmen, entrepreneurs and women. The customer base has expanded,” said Lamborghini India head Sharad Agarwal.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is indicative of the dramatic shift that is fuelling the growth of the luxury car industry in the country.“Wealth has got younger,” said luxury consultant Deepa Harris Misra. “Traditionally, wealthy customers were much older―maharajas, people who had made their fortunes, the landed gentry. Today, younger people have been coming into money much faster, from tech millionaires to industry scions.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>And these young consumers behave differently―from being comfortable about shopping phygitally (as information and buying decisions are today done “seamlessly to bridge the digital and physical worlds”) to what the car’s impact on the environment will be and how a particular model of a car (EVs) reflects their personality.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The evolved luxury customer has been there, done that, and is now conscious of the choices they make in life,” said Misra. “The second bit is the personalisation. They are saying ‘I want to own this car, but can [this car] kind of reflect who I am?’ All that personalisation comes in, which car companies have been doing.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It also explains the high traction that electric cars have gained in the luxury space, considering that paying a premium is not a hassle for these affluent customers. Mercedes EQS, an electric car, was sold out just a day after its launch in India. As was the Lamborghini Urus. BMW, which launched three electric cars in six months, claimed they were “sold out in minutes”.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/21/indian-luxury-car-market-growth.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/21/indian-luxury-car-market-growth.html Fri Oct 21 16:32:22 IST 2022 indian-luxury-watches-market <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/21/indian-luxury-watches-market.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/2022/10/21/70-Cuprita-roja-dial-new.jpg" /> <p><b>THE SECOND WEEKEND</b> of October brought a rare opportunity for connoisseurs of luxury watches in India―they got to see 84 of the finest luxury watches that were launched this year. Organised by Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) and Indian luxury watch retailer Ethos Watch Boutiques, the show displayed the shortlisted nominees for the GPHG Awards, often called the ‘Oscars of Watchmaking’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The exhibition was a landmark for the Indian luxury watch market, which is still a small one, when compared with the US or China. According to a report released by the Federation of Swiss Watch Industry FH, last year, Switzerland exported watches worth CHF 3,078.8 million to the US, CHF 2,967.2 million to China and CHF 2,133.4 million to Hong Kong. Exports to India, No. 24 on the list, stood at CHF 156.8 million, about 5 per cent of the US exports.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But change seems afoot, if not in terms of market expansion, certainly in terms of how luxury watchmakers are viewing the market. India has long been ‘the next big thing’, but it always remained in China’s shadow. However, the pandemic and its effects on global markets have made luxury watchmakers rethink their strategy for the top markets, especially China.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Federation of Swiss Watch Industry report says that exports to India went up by 61.7 per cent in 2021. Furthermore, a forecast report by Statista says the luxury goods market in India would be worth $7.52 billion in 2022. The ‘Luxury Watches &amp; Jewellery’ segment is the largest contributor to this with a market volume of $2.21 billion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is more proof that India is strengthening its position. This year saw the entry of many independent brands into the country, such as Armin Strom, Raketa, Angelus, Norqain, and Bovet 1822. Watch and jewellery maker Bulgari toured major Indian cities with its award-winning Octo Finnissimo line. Rolex strengthened its Indian presence by opening a new boutique in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, with retailer Cooke &amp; Kelvey.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The most telling indication of how brands are viewing the country was probably in the limited-to-India watches created this year. Franck Muller, in association with Kapoor Watch Company, created 150 ‘India special edition’ watches to commemorate the retailer’s 55 years and the 75th anniversary of India’s independence. The watches have a map of India etched on the caseback. Bulgari created a special malachite dial Serpenti Tubogas in steel and 18K gold, limited to 40 pieces, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Mumbai-based retailer Rose. And the independent Czapek &amp; Cie collaborated with the collectors’ group, Watch Collectors India, and crafted a special, cuprita roja stone dial watch inspired by its Antarctique collection. Limited to 11 pieces, the watch was exclusive to the members of the group, and had a price tag of Rs24,00,000.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/21/indian-luxury-watches-market.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/21/indian-luxury-watches-market.html Fri Oct 21 16:28:10 IST 2022 visa-delays-in-uk-likely-to-hit-indian-tourism-industry-hard <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/14/visa-delays-in-uk-likely-to-hit-indian-tourism-industry-hard.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/2022/10/14/50-File-photo-of-a-tourist-at-Pushkar-Rajasthan-new.jpg" /> <p><b>CAMILA WATSON</b> wakes up each morning, heads straight to the Indian high commission’s website and prays for a small miracle: An appointment slot for a visa. As a small tour operator who specialises in tailor-made holidays in India, the last week has been a nightmare for her. She had fallen in love with India when she was backpacking and has passionately recommended the country to others for years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“The earliest date for an appointment is in the last week of November,” says the London-based Watson. “These delays rule out any last-minute travel around Christmas and limit the business.” They also affect well-laid plans. “It takes about three weeks to process, so if you’re travelling in the first week of December, would you want to take the chance?” she asks.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The e-visa facility for the UK and Canada—which are the largest markets for tourists to India—is still suspended. The Centre had halted the service in March 2020, because of the pandemic.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Additionally, on October 7, the Indian high commission in the UK said it was investigating visa agents who helped facilitate visas for a small fee, and also began enforcing a rule that requires applicants to personally deposit the documents at the VFS centre. In a press release, the high commission said that there were “unauthorised agents and individuals” who were “illegally” charging and “misleading” visa applicants. As agents usually book appointments in advance, individual travellers are not getting slots.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It is not always easy,” says Watson. “One of my customers lives in northern England. The nearest centre was a couple of hours away by car. They would have had to book a hotel and stay the night to appear for an appointment the next day. Apart from the additional expense incurred, it is a waste of time.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>These centres are in big cities and even at the best of times, tour operators claim, there are very few. “There was a shortage of appointments last year,” said a travel marketing and PR company executive, requesting anonymity. “I had one client who had to fly and was forced to take an appointment in Cardiff even though she was from London.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In one fell swoop, the order effectively curtailed the travel of thousands of visa applicants. It also led to a flurry of cancellations. “It has been chaotic,” says Yasin Zargar, owner of UK-based Indus Experiences, which has been sending tourists to India for the past 27 years. “Visa agents have been working successfully since the e-visa system was suspended.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>With a bulk of the passports submitted through visa agents, the status of the applications is in limbo. Moreover, there are agents who have already taken the fees and are refusing to refund it. “We were all completely clueless,” says Zargar.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The stakes are high. “The UK market has historically accounted for almost 10 per cent of the inbound traffic to India,” says Aashish Gupta, consulting CEO, Federation of Associations in Tourism and Hospitality. In 2019—the last full-tourism year—close to 1.09 crore foreign visitors came to India, according to industry experts. “Of these, 68 lakh were non-resident Indians,” he says. Over 10 lakh of the total were from the UK, a steady figure which held for 2018 and 2017. The UK also accounts for more than 50 per cent of tourists coming into India from western Europe. Canada accounts for 3.5 lakh tourists a year. “These are the top source markets and the industry is concerned,” says Gupta.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Indian Association of Tour Operators has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to restore e-visas for the UK, Canada and other important source countries. In all likelihood, though, the next two months—peak tourism season—will be hit by cancellations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“This was the time for India to capitalise and diversify our incoming basket,” says Gupta. Especially as China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, which accounted for over 10 crore tourists a year, are out of bounds. East Europe, too, is out with the Ukraine crisis, and Sri Lanka is reeling from an economic crisis. “We have been asking the government to target source countries, especially in short-haul areas so that we diversify the market for incoming tourists.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The clampdown on the “illegal” practice means that it will take a very committed traveller to come to India. “More importantly, it has punctured the confidence in the market,” says Zargar. “If it is such a hassle, people are asking why they should even travel to India. Most of my customers are over 50 and they plan their trips typically eight months in advance. We feel this episode is likely to cloud next year, too.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Said a travel operator who specialises in off-the-beaten track experiences: “It is very difficult to sell India as a destination to foreign tour operators. It is already a difficult destination and it is easier to just go to Thailand. If we make it tougher, we might lose out totally.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Indian high commission, on its part, has clarified that the rules have not changed. “As per established procedure, individual applicants are and always have been required to submit visa application at the VFS centres in person,” reads the press release.</p> <p>On October 12, the High Commission tweeted a message from High Commissioner Vikram Doraiswami. “First, we are ensuring that more bookings are released on our online booking service, and ensuring that these appointments, modules, are not being misused, which has been the case unfortunately, until fairly recently. Second, we are ramping up capacity in partnership with our service provider VFS. This include the following steps. First, we're opening a new visa application centre in Glasgow by early next week. We will be opening a new one in central London, hopefully by the end of the month.... And, we are increasing our capacity at our existing centres, including to handle and receive applications on Saturdays and on afternoons of weekdays as well.... The essence of this effort is to ensure that we go up to about 40,000 visa applications per month, which is a doubling of our existing capacity. We also hear your concerns with regards to the ease of being able to submit applications. We're working on solutions for this with our service provider.”</p> <p>The winter chill is yet to set in. But for the tourism industry in India, the status is frozen. Already in Pushkar in Rajasthan, which depends on UK tourists, hotels fear that they will have another year of emptiness. This coming at a time when tourist arrivals went from 27.4 lakh in 2020 to 15.2 lakh in 2021 because of the pandemic, as per the India Tourism Statistics 2022. “Cancellations are now coming in,” said an executive who works at a travel marketing and PR company that specialises in the Indian subcontinent, requesting anonymity. “At a time when other destinations are making it easier, we are making it tougher for tourists to come to India.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/14/visa-delays-in-uk-likely-to-hit-indian-tourism-industry-hard.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/14/visa-delays-in-uk-likely-to-hit-indian-tourism-industry-hard.html Sun Oct 16 11:44:37 IST 2022 new-cds-faces-unprecedented-challenges <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/08/new-cds-faces-unprecedented-challenges.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2022/10/8/38-Gen-Chauhan.jpg" /> <p><b>THE CRISP MOUNTAIN</b> morning of September 10 saw a blazer-clad gentleman alighting from an Army chopper at a hilltop helipad at Kibithu, Arunachal Pradesh. He was of medium height, with trimmed hair, military manners and a firm handshake. His name: Anil Chauhan, military adviser to the National Security Council Secretariat in Delhi and a retired lieutenant general.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chauhan was in Kibithu for naming the military garrison there after Gen Bipin Rawat, who was chief of defence staff when he died in a chopper crash in the Nilgiri last December. For Chauhan, it might have been a personal pilgrimage—both he and Rawat hailed from Uttarakhand’s Pauri Garwal district and had their military moorings in the Lucknow-headquartered 11, Gorkha Regiment. Chauhan is also a connoisseur of Tibetan arts. Incidentally, some distance away from Kibithu, on the Tibetan side, lay the Chinese military post at Sapchu—those with perfect eyesight can see the village clearly; others would need binoculars.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Few could foresee that Chauhan would be called back from retirement 18 days after his Kibithu visit. On September 28, he was named as the new chief of defence staff (CDS), ending nearly 10 months of speculation regarding who would succeed Rawat. As the first-ever Army officer to come back from retirement to don a four-star general’s uniform and regalia, Chauhan will be the “first among equals” in the apex military quartet comprising the three service chiefs and the CDS.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“Gen Chauhan is highly focused, sober and deeply intelligent,” said security analyst Lt Gen (retd) Rakesh Sharma. “I have known Gen Chauhan throughout our service careers, as we are from the same regiment. We had served together in Army headquarters in the adjutant general’s branch in 2016. I have closely seen him working on the global competition on the design of the National War Memorial. He did superlative work in the finalisation of the design for the memorial.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chauhan was reportedly chosen after considering around 20 candidates. Apparently, his stint as Director General Military Operations (January 2018 to September 2019) and as adviser at the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), headed by National Security Adviser and fellow Garhwali Ajit Doval, gave him an edge.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It was during Chauhan’s tenure as DGMO that the Balakot air strike (February 26, 2019) in Pakistan and ‘Operation Sunrise’ (2019) against insurgents on the Indo-Myanmar border took place. He took over as the general officer commanding-in-chief of the Eastern Command in September 2019, overseeing the massive deployment and consolidation of Indian forces along the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In October 2019, Chauhan oversaw HimVijay, a novel military exercise to improve the Army’s offensive capabilities against China. At the centre of the exercise were integrated battle groups (IBGs)—self-contained fighting units that are slightly larger than brigade formations, and comprise a mix of infantry, artillery, tank, air defence and logistics units. IBGs have the potential to change the way wars are fought, and they have huge implications for India’s efforts to establish integrated theatre commands comprising the three services.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The game-changing airlift of US-made M-777 howitzers—they were slung underneath the newly-acquired Chinook helicopters—also happened around the same time as HimVijay. It caught the Indian military’s imagination, as the airlift promised to overcome the logistical challenges posed by geography and topography at one stroke.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>After his retirement on May 31, 2021, Chauhan was intimately involved in the setting up of the National War Memorial, even as he was inducted into the NSCS as military adviser, affording him a closer look at the internal security situation in the country.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>He has become CDS at a time when the Indian military is coming to prominence on the global stage, in keeping with the country’s growing economic and strategic heft. Unlike in the case of Rawat, who was named CDS before his retirement, Chauhan’s appointment came after several roadblocks were cleared and appointment rules tweaked.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In some circles, former Army chief Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane was seen as the next CDS, as a natural progression to having led the 13-lakh-strong Indian Army. But the fact that China’s incursions in eastern Ladakh and the violent skirmish between Indian and Chinese soldiers in Galwan Valley took place under his watch stacked up against him.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Without doubt, Chauhan’s appointment as CDS is a China-centric move, marking India’s changing military focus from Pakistan to China. It is now clear that policymakers consider China as India’s prime adversary, militarily and economically.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As CDS, Chauhan would have a lot on his plate. Prime among them would be the mega project that had stalled after Rawat’s sudden demise—setting up integrated theatre commands and ensuring jointness of services in military operations. There are also ruffled feathers that will have to be smoothened. The Air Force, for instance, has reservations against dividing its already scarce platforms and assets to set up theatre commands.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“We are not opposing any process of integration or any process of theatre commands,” said Air Force chief V.R. Chaudhari recently. “We have certain reservations with respect to the structures…. Each service has a doctrine. The doctrinal aspects of the IAF should not be compromised in any way by the new structures.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Chauhan knows that theatre commands come with huge challenges. Setting up such commands involves not just the amalgamation and integration of personnel, but also of weapons systems and platforms. It calls for the infusion of artificial intelligence-centric technology, which in turn would require the deployment of massive resources and funds in an unprecedented scale.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The prevailing conditions, however, are unlikely to help Chauhan in his mission. There are economic challenges (the rupee’s slide, depleting forex reserves), geopolitical uncertainties (Russia-Ukraine war) and political priorities (the next round of assembly polls in several states) that could draw out resources and funds that could otherwise have been used for military modernisation—an imperative for setting up theatre commands.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In a nutshell, Chauhan faces unprecedented challenges in his new assignment. But, as a hardy Garhwali, he could well prove equal to the task.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/08/new-cds-faces-unprecedented-challenges.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/10/08/new-cds-faces-unprecedented-challenges.html Sat Oct 08 16:41:00 IST 2022 distance-learning <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/30/distance-learning.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2022/9/30/56-Distance-learning-new.jpg" /> <p>By definition, solo polyamory means having several intimate relationships without a primary partner. One chooses to have a single, independent life in the midst of a vibrant dating circle with multiple meaningful connections. When Sejuti Biswas (name changed) learnt about the phrase in June 2020, she had an epiphany of sorts. Just before lockdown started in March, Biswas, a Delhi-based freelance publishing professional, was fresh off a breakup. While isolating in her two-room flat, she reached out to her once-distant neighbour, college friends, cousins, mother, random dates, her two cats and her paintbrushes to become functional again. Theoretically, she knew that it took a sum total of all relationships to feel happy and complete, and not just a romantic partner. But it was really a pandemic-induced lockdown that made her get off the “relationship-escalator”—the bundle of social scripts on how a romantic union is supposed to develop, from attraction and love to sex, cohabitation, marriage and children. “I have had a lot of romance in the conventional sense but that hasn’t led to a primary partner,” says Biswas, now 39. “Initially, I was not okay with it, but later I realised it is such a great thing. It is like you don’t have anything to lose. I discovered that every experience is an end in itself. I felt quite free.” There are multiple combinations that are acceptable now. “People can have sex without getting attached. People can only be emotionally attached. They can only meet once a year. Or, communicate only via text. Or, never meet at all. All of it is valid,” says Biswas, enumerating the many patterns and permutations in her own love life.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Post-pandemic, post-traumatic, post-romantic. Is it fair to say, as we slowly emerge from the clutches of a receding virus, that there is a new consciousness around how we understand love and relationships? The internet is awash with research findings on how the pandemic transformed relationships for better and for worse. Like, lockdowns forged better connections between couples, married or dating; divorce rates shot up during pandemic. The findings are confounding at best. But few surveys account for pre-existing vulnerabilities or the fact that how we define and experience love needs to be re-evaluated. A monumental health crisis made us dissect distance and isolation at its most visceral level.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“I have seen a lot of festering insecurities around finance flare up. There have been uncertainties around employment, whether to have children or not, and mental health issues like anxiety disorders have been further triggered. Boredom was on the rise and so was infidelity,” says couples therapy expert Shivani Misri Sadhoo. “The result is that people are now much more cautious about what they want in marriages and relationships. They are also a lot more responsible.” She attributes these changes to a culture of embracing social distancing protocols since the pandemic started.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Mumbai-based advocate Dhruti Kapadia saw a 130 per cent jump in divorce cases in 2020 and 2021, compared with pre-Covid times. But the number of uglier divorces came down with more amicable settlements and out-of-court resolutions. “Because the courts were shut, mediation was hugely responsible for fast-tracking divorces,” she says. “Before Covid, people didn’t care for this kind of dispute resolution. They would go, abhi court mein dekhenge (we will see you in court).”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Even with so many dysfunctional relationships ending, the self continued to stay like seashells after a hurricane. Prachi Gangwani, author of Dear Men: Masculinity and Modern Love in #MeToo India, says that couples have never felt more helpless or experienced this scale of loss of control over relationships, whether they lived together or apart. And, there is a new awareness around respecting one’s needs. “I think what has happened is that people have started to pay more attention to their own lives, their professional and social ambitions, where they want to live, what kind of lifestyle they want to have, what kind of jobs they really want,” says Gangwani. “The sort of structure we took for granted in the past has been shaken because of the pandemic. And, experimenting with different types of relationships is just a side-product of that.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For her book, she mostly interviewed married men all through 2020 and early 2021. The context then was understanding what sexual boundaries mean to Indian men in the shadow of the #MeToo movement or why they hurt the women they love and how they manage traditional gender roles. But if she had to re-situate her book as ‘Dear Men: Masculinity and Modern Love in #Covid-19 India’, there is only one thing she would like to highlight: mental health. “Because men are less likely to recognise their own mental health concerns and even less likely to seek help, the impact of their unresolved issues on their relationship is, quite often, much higher,” says Gangwani.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Philosophers have for centuries inquired into the meaning of love. But for the purposes of this story, there are some whose writings are more relevant (or accessible) to the workings of modern-day romance. The “existentialist power couple” Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre lived in an open relationship for more than 50 years. They talked about couples zealously guarding their individuality and managing their differences. How did this pan out in their lives? To give an example, in spite of their intimate relations, Beauvoir and Sartre did not live under the same roof. They often met in cafes to trade notes on their respective lovers, among other things. Plato, in his “ladder of love” theory, espoused spiritual love to be the highest and purest form of love, while for German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer all the ecstasy around love was just an illusion, a non-stop headache except for sex.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Perhaps the most lucid illustration of post-romanticism has to be attributed to British philosopher Alain de Botton who with his hugely successful YouTube channel—The School of Life—has developed a global following. He says that romanticism as the ideological foundation for love has been a disaster. Romanticism teaches us to be hopeful of marriages to last a lifetime and retain the excitement of a love affair. It always unites love and sex or rather elevates sex to the supreme expression of love. It discounts marriage of reason, and insists on acting on instinct by entering “a marriage of feeling”. He has a list of alternative models like the parenting relationship, which is most concerned with securing the well-being of children while parents can find partners elsewhere. Or, the yearly renegotiated relationship union, where it is assumed that there will be an audit after the expiration of a year, perhaps like an appraisal in a contract.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Funny as they are, these ideas force us to revisit our most complacent assumptions about how we have learnt to enter, enjoy or suffer romantic unions. But Dr Sraboni Bhaduri, a Delhi-based psychologist, says that so-called alternative relationship models start to take shape at a certain stage in an ever-evolving, highly complex phenomenon called romantic love. “The pull is mostly towards converting it back to the conventional. But whether it is a conventional kind of union or an alternate one, both end up being a search for the mythical,” says Bhaduri, who believes that in the present generation women have covered a lot of ground as empowered individuals. “The way men react to this when studied as a cultural phenomenon in urban Indian metros is leading to several relational issues. A man’s mother and a man’s partner are vastly different people today.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>According to UN figures released in 2020, India is home to the world’s largest youth population, with almost 600 million below the age of 25. When Tinder set up its first international office in India in 2016, 50 per cent of the country’s population was under 25. This particular age cohort continues to dominate the user base for Tinder, which truly introduced the concept of dating and hookups in the Indian cultural landscape. “Dating has become more fluid and honest with more than 62 per cent of singles in India not looking for a committed relationship and preferring friendships with romantic potential, casual dating, whilst remaining noncommittal in defining what they want and seeking more open-ended relationships,” says Ahana Dhar, communications director at Tinder India. “This new generation of daters are continuously asking for more from us: more ways to show off their authentic selves, more ways to have fun and interact with others virtually, and more control over who they meet on Tinder and how they communicate. IRL (In Real Life) dates have become more about experiential activities than traditional icebreakers.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>For Arnab Deb, 29, going “parasocial” has helped him train his mind to be happy with the little he has. By “little” the assistant professor of literature in Kolkata means his personal portrait of the famous French actress Juliette Binoche. Parasocial relationships are long-term, one-sided affairs with someone far away, typically a celebrity, or a “face-to-face relationship between spectator and performer [that] may be governed by little or no sense of obligation, effort, or responsibility on the part of the spectator”. Deb is most enamoured by Binoche’s depiction in Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami’s 2010 film Certified Copy, where two strangers who meet for the first time in an Italian town hit it off so well that they seem as close as a long-married couple—romantic possibilities Kiarostami could not have explored in a more conservative Iran. “I will never meet Binoche in the bus, tram or the rickshaw I take around the city,” says Deb. “But in my subconscious mind we know each other well. I become the stranger who can pull her out of her unhappy marriage, if only for a day. And I keep playing and replaying the picture of happy domesticity. It is realistic enough for me to keep going, to feel more hopeful when my own real relationships are rocky.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/30/distance-learning.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/30/distance-learning.html Tue Oct 04 00:08:54 IST 2022 its-all-in-mind <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/30/its-all-in-mind.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2022/9/30/59-Pracheta-Banerjee-new.jpg" /> <p>Many of us might have called a fictional character our first love. But how many of us would go to the extent of marrying them?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2018, Akihiko Kondo and Hatsune Miku made headlines for their odd pairing. ‘The Man Who Married an Anime Hologram’, screamed the news. While it may not seem that far-fetched a possibility in anime-crazy Japan, where there are hotels in Tokyo that allow people to spend a night with their ‘characters’, it does offer a lesson in coming to terms with a new arrangement—fictosexuals. Depressed and bullied, Kondo, a school administrator, found solace in the afterglow of a smart device that contained a twinkling, holographic Miku, a computer-generated pop singer. They dated for 10 years before tying the knot. Their dates consisted of meals and museum tours and they honeymooned in Hokkaido. But how does he answer a scornful world that does not get his relationship? “I don’t understand the feelings of ‘men who like men’, but I can respect them. I would be grateful if you could respect me as well,” says Kondo in an email interview with THE WEEK.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Are there fictosexuals in India? Pracheta Banerjee from Kolkata thinks she is one. She also calls herself a demisexual where one can have any gender identity, but they only feel attracted to someone they have an emotional bond with. She is inspired from Harajuku fashion that celebrates wild, colourful street styles in an eponymously titled Tokyo district. She is particularly into the Lolita subculture from Harajuku. In 2005, Banerjee, an award-winning artist and cosplayer, started to feel an intense emotional connection to an anime character—Inuyasha.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At first, Banerjee had great empathy for the character—Inuyasha, an orphan hated by his half-brother, fights for women and respects everyone’s privacy. She also liked the show’s animation and storytelling. But soon she found herself falling in love with Inuyasha. It was something she had never experienced before and it took her months to open up about it. “At first, most people didn’t understand how serious I was until they saw me being in love for years, even to this day. So they accepted it, understood it and supported me,” says the 28-year-old. “But yes, if I fall for a real living person, there will always be a huge celebration because that is almost a miracle for me.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Banerjee says that what she feels for Inuyasha is no different from falling in love. “It is just that the person isn’t real, but a piece of fiction,” she says. She took to drawing because of her love for Inuyasha. “I felt that art was like the only language I could use to connect to Inuyasha,” says Banerjee, who has won the prestigious Millarworld Award in 2016 for comic art.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Kondo is already married to his dream character. “I just want to live in peace every day,” he says. Banerjee says she feels unconditional love and admiration for Inuyasha, who gets married in the series. But would she marry a fictional character? “In a heartbeat,” pat comes the response.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/30/its-all-in-mind.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/30/its-all-in-mind.html Tue Oct 04 00:09:44 IST 2022 arranged-heaven <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/30/arranged-heaven.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2022/9/30/60-deepanshu.jpg" /> <p>Priya Aggarwal, 33, made sure her potential partner got screened by her therapist.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In 2019, when a professional matchmaking service, MatchMe, fixed her up with Deepanshu Manchanda, 37, Priya had a clear set of expectations and non-negotiables, especially after a traumatic first marriage that ended in 2018. “Have you seen that show Indian Matchmaking? Where Seema Taparia was the matchmaker? A profile of one of the guys from the show had also come my way,” she says, laughing. “Well, I met Deepanshu through a similar boutique matchmaking firm. But I don’t think someone like Taparia would be open to divorcees.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Their two-year-old daughter, Meera, prances around the sofa in a plush flat in Gurugram, while Deepanshu amusingly recalls the battery of background tests he had to undergo to prove his integrity to Priya. “Only lie detector and blood test didn’t happen,” he says, with a wry grin.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The pairing of Deepanshu, cofounder of Zappfresh, a meat delivery service, and Priya, a former corporate communications head and now an entrepreneur, will not fit into the traditional mould of an arranged marriage. No kundli-matching here or a dictatorial matchmaker calling the shots. There is no talk of dowry or caste or religion. But all the same, families are involved in selections, there is no protracted courtship period and finding a suitable partner does not come cheap. In the case of Priya and Deepanshu, it was Rs3 lakh for the matchmaker.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a middle path being taken here, a halfway house, almost like hyper-intentional dating where both sides have a very clean grasp over who they are and what they want. And, no one is being bombarded with a “buffet spread” of matches, as Deepanshu likes to call it. He did not even have the time to make a profile. He trusted his marriage consultant at MatchMe after a thorough briefing in his office.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Priya’s previous arranged wedding was all about boisterous joy and other people’s priorities. The second time was less noise and more clarity. In a way, her journey mirrors the way arranged marriages are evolving in India in certain sections of the population, where the focus is entirely on the needs of the girl and the boy even within an ecosystem of families and marriage brokers. “Therapy has helped me a great deal to know who I am and what I want. And it has given me the courage to put my wants across the table,” says Priya.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Arranged marriages continue to be the norm in India. In a 2018 survey, 93 per cent of 1.6 lakh married respondents said theirs was an arranged marriage. While popular matrimonial sites like Shaadi.com continue to offer a “buffet spread” of choices, a new set of matchmakers for the rich are doing things they believe are the way forward. “We are targeting a very different clientele which is more educated and progressive,” says Mishi Mehta Sood, cofounder of MatchMe. “Our work is more with people who have evolved and are not bound by caste and community considerations. So we have people from south India who would be open to considering matches from north India…. So it is opening up, but the change is slow.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/30/arranged-heaven.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/30/arranged-heaven.html Tue Oct 04 00:11:24 IST 2022 alone-together <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/30/alone-together.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2022/9/30/61-Jagriti-Gangopadhyay-with-husband-and-son-new.jpg" /> <p>In 2013, I decided to get married to my partner, now husband, Srijan Sengupta. There was only one catch. Both of us were doing our PhDs from different institutes and neither of us intended to relocate post marriage. Hence, Srijan and I decided to enter into a new arrangement: we get married and live in different cities, finish our PhDs and then look for jobs in the same city. Today, we are on our way to completing 10 years of married life and we also have a child together. However, we continue to live in different cities, pursuing our own career choices.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>When we decided on this arrangement, I did not know it had a name and definition. But after meeting several couples in similar unions, I decided to conduct a study on this new type of family structure. That is when I began reading academic articles and realised that this living arrangement is common in countries such as Sweden, the UK, Australia, Canada and the US, where it is known as “living apart together” (LAT).</p> <p>Technically, LAT as a concept implies that couples are in an intimate relationship, but do not cohabit with each other to preserve their independence. However, I interviewed only married couples who were in this arrangement, as non-married couples living in different cities or married couples where the husband is in the Army or Navy or in another country are defined as “long-distance relationships” or “long-distance marriages”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Through my study, I found that all the couples were equally qualified and that both partners wanted to stay on in their jobs. My study participants were doctors, corporate professionals, public sector employees and faculty members in different academic institutes across India. On a personal note, work autonomy and individual development as an academic were the main reasons for not relocating with my husband. Quality child-care in the form of crèche and daycare facilities at Manipal (where I am currently located) were added factors for not relocating. My study participants also highlighted that flexible timings, creative freedom in workspaces, high salaries and personal growth were the main reasons for not quitting their current job and looking for a convenient gig in their spouse’s city of residence.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The challenges of this kind of coupling, however, cannot be ignored. For instance, my biggest difficulty is living alone with a child and relying on paid childcare for everyday support. Consequently, when my child falls ill, I have to take leave to care for him. My study participants with children also expressed similar concerns. On the other hand, other couples chose to remain child-free as they believed that living apart together would be difficult with a child.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As per the International Labor Organization’s (2019-2020) data, workers in India work 48 hours a week—the longest across Asia. This increase in work pressure and the constant need to perform at one’s organisation is creating a culture of “work ethics”, wherein individuals are prioritising their careers over families and marital lives. Owing to this, India is witnessing a change in its popular family structures that we know as joint and nuclear. Single parents, child-free couples, live-in couples and single individuals are gradually rising in urban India. It is important to acknowledge these family structures both in policy and academic scholarship to understand the future of living arrangements in India.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>Gangopadhyay is assistant professor at the Manipal Centre for Humanities.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/30/alone-together.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/30/alone-together.html Sun Oct 02 11:23:18 IST 2022 knot-single <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/30/knot-single.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2022/9/30/62-Kshama-Bindu-new.jpg" /> <p>The first thing you notice about Kshama Bindu, who married herself on June 9 in a clandestine ceremony in Vadodara, is the sindoor in the parting of her hair. “I will wear it every day now,” she says. Her face is fully covered with a scarf, save for her eyes. She does not want to be recognised. Her curious decision to self-marry was all the rage in this quiet sanskari nagri.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Dressed in an all-black ensemble, with her t-shirt tied in a knot around her waist, the 24-year-old knows how to match her chunky sneakers with chuda (red bangles) on both hands. Instead of the initials of a better half, her dark brown mehendi has self-celebratory vows like ‘I will never quit on myself’ etched onto her hands.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The nuptial symbols are meant to denote Bindu’s commitment to the long life and well-being of her own self as a sologomist. “Other couples worry about how their life will change after marriage. I have found salvation after marriage. There are no expectations from anyone and now I am truly only accountable to myself,” says Bindu. Her big day was attended by a handful of her closest friends. The wedding feast comprised her friends’ favourite dishes, delivered at home. Her wedding expenses: Rs10,000. Bindu remembers contacting more than 25 priests to officiate her wedding in a temple. One of them agreed but then backed out, forcing her to shift the ceremony to her rented house. “I thought he understood everything I told him about sologomy,” recalls Bindu. “But later he told reporters he thought I wanted to marry a tree!”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Sologomy is a bona-fide act of self-love, driven by a great sense of self-belief and self-reliance, “emotionally, financially, sexually”. Bindu, who identifies as a bisexual, says even if she develops feelings for another person at a later date, she would not act on it. “I have been in relationships in the past,” she says. “But they were never enough. They have all treated me well. But I have never felt fully understood. Also, I am a lot to deal with.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bindu says she learnt to choose herself very early on in life, since she was eight. Born in Ahmedabad, raised in Daman and now living alone in Vadodara, she has seen a lot, she says. She prefers to stay tight-lipped about her immediate family who did not attend her wedding. For now she is looking for a new place and a new job to stay on in Vadodara. When news of her marriage broke out, reporters descended on her house, clamouring for her soundbyte. “It was worse than being a celebrity,” she says. “My landlord wants me to vacate the house as soon as possible.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Bindu began working at 17 and later dropped out of her journalism degree. She has worked in multiple roles till date, from a retail store worker to a placement consultant to dabbling in stock market and choreography to becoming a digital creator and writing and reciting poetry in cafes. Her embracing of the self has led her to question several crowd-pleasing habits, including shaving her armpits. She has learnt to be “the odd one out” in her rather uptight city.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Her Instagram account is often besieged by trolls whose biggest worry revolve around her sexual life. She lists the barrage of unsolicited warnings like how her fingers will get tired, how she will run out of vegetables or how she might need an extra hand, apart from other vile jokes on atmanirbharta. “I only have one answer for them,” she says. “Majority of Indian women don’t know about an orgasm. What would have I achieved by marrying the way they like it?”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/30/knot-single.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/30/knot-single.html Tue Oct 04 00:12:40 IST 2022 love-is-a-beach <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/30/love-is-a-beach.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2022/9/30/63-pooja-prasad-new.jpg" /> <p>Quasar Malik and Atreya Sahu met for the first time in Manali. The unemployed 20-year-olds poured all their puny savings into a “holidate” that started on the last day of 2020. “We didn’t even have any money to get a heater in the peak of winter. But I guess that worked in our favour,” says Atreya, the corner of her lips crinkling into a mischievous grin as she recalls her 10-day jaunt in the hills with Quasar—a blissful blur of camping, hitchhiking and stargazing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Quasar is from Mumbai and Atreya is from Odisha. They met on Tinder—thanks to its premium feature Passport which allowed users to change their geographical location and connect with singles anywhere in the world. “I thought Bombay had a much better crowd, so I randomly started searching matches there to kill time,” says Atreya. “That’s where I ran into Quasar. Our energies and interests matched. We even saw films together online. And then we decided we had to meet.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This one picture-perfect trip led to several others later, squished between lockdowns and virus flare-ups. The duo managed to pack in their best selves between beaches and mountains. No banalities of day-to-day living or time-managing study-life balance. No room for romantic misery and frustration till the holiday lasted. It was not until their third trip that Quasar and Atreya realised they were in a ‘vacationship’.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“It is not possible for us to have a conventional relationship because we don’t live in the same city. But there is definitely a case for being a holiday couple. Life then seems like an endless beach,” says Quasar, laughing. “At some point, if we decide to stop, that will also be during a trip,” chimes in a giggling Atreya.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are several descriptions for this seasonal relationship, spawned by an ecosystem of apps, solo traveller hostels and sunny romcoms. Holiday hookups, vacation dating, “long-distance with a four-day foundation” or just “What happens in Vegas, etc”.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>There are ways to do it right between consenting adults. They need to choose a place that both agree is an exciting holiday destination. Booking arrangements—boutique hotel or a budget Airbnb—need to be made in advance. Convenient add-ons: An itinerary of planned and unplanned pursuits, and emergency funds if the vacation-date turns out to be killjoy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The best course of action is to refrain from judging the local cuisine, says Ranchi-based Pooja Prasad, who often travels alone and strikes a date with people on the go. “The best way to explore a place is through the eyes of a local,” she says. “Once I met this cop in Bhutan when I reached the top of the Tiger’s Nest monastery. I was ravenously hungry and he offered me food in a place where one couldn’t have found any shops. We hit it off and decided to explore the place together. He took leave to be with me all through the next two days.” She fondly remembers her date from Bhutan, although she does not know if she will visit the country again.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The 35-year-old language teacher is on her way to Spain this year. “Dating can be very complicated,” she says. “Vacationship opens up possibilities of companionship without losing your freedom. Although it is short-lived, it still can be fulfilling as a romantic experience. The idea of exploring new things with someone new is thrilling.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/30/love-is-a-beach.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/30/love-is-a-beach.html Tue Oct 04 00:13:21 IST 2022 fight-cancer-dont-fear-it-message-from-the-week-lic-event <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/03/fight-cancer-dont-fear-it-message-from-the-week-lic-event.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2022/9/3/57-Dr-Sujit-Chatterjee.jpg" /> <p><b>EVERY SIXTH DEATH</b> in the world happens because of cancer, said Dr C.S. Pramesh, director, Tata Memorial Hospital, at the seminar on ‘Fight Cancer Find the Cure’, organised by THE WEEK in partnership with the Life Insurance Corporation of India. “By 2040, almost 70 per cent of all cancers will occur in low- and middle-income countries like India,” he added. “And countries like us, honestly, are ill-equipped to handle this increasing burden. Unless we have a systematic cancer plan, we will be troubled in the near future.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The event that took place on August 26 was the second seminar on cancer care hosted by THE WEEK (the first being in 2019). Leading experts from some of the most reputed hospitals providing cancer treatment in India were in attendance and spoke about the treatment modalities, post recovery care and the importance of health insurance.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The panel discussion on cancer in males, moderated by Dr Vijay Haribhakti, director, oncology, Sir H.N. Reliance Foundation Hospital, gave an insight into the why and how of head and neck cancers in Indian males. On the panel were his eminent colleagues Dr Sewanti Limaye, director, medical and precision oncology, and director, clinical and translational oncology research; Dr Prasad Dandekar, head of radiation oncology and Dr Tushar Thorat, consultant surgeon (plastic, reconstructive and microvascular). The panel agreed that the top reasons that contributed to making India the “global head and neck cancer capital” were chewing tobacco and areca nut, use of condiments, lack of oral hygiene, smoking, and other habits, including alcohol. The takeaway from the discussion, said Haribhakti, was: Avoid tobacco, strive for early diagnosis, choose a specialist centre for treatment and aim for a cure the very first time.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Veena Khan, senior divisional manager, LIC, spoke about how one can better manage the financial burden resulting from cancer treatment by opting for insurance, such as LIC’s cancer cover available for those between the ages of 20 and 65, and which covers early to later stages of cancer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The session on cancer care in women, moderated by Dr Sujit Chatterjee, CEO, Hiranandani Hospital, highlighted, among other aspects, how 26 in every one lakh women are at a lifetime risk of developing breast cancer and that their mortality rate was exactly half. The eminent panel included Dr Ashish Bakshi, medical oncologist and haematologist, Dr Namita Pandey, breast oncosurgeon, Dr Deepak Chhabra, surgical oncologist and Dr Amit Chakraborty, oncologist for head and neck cancer.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The third session discussed cancer in children and was moderated by Dr Ruchira Misra, consultant, department of paediatric hematology, oncology and BMT at Narayana Health’s SRCC Children’s Hospital. The panelists comprised Dr Purna Kurkure, Dr Shripad Banavali, Dr Rasik Shah, Dr Monica Bhagat, Dr Sujata Mushrif and Dr Chintan Vyas.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The fourth panel was moderated by Dr Vandana Dhamankar of the Indian Cancer Society. The discussion was on surviving cancer and the panelists were Dr Maya Prasad, Dr Savita Goswami, Dr Nisha Agarwal, Usha Banerji of St. Jude India ChildCare Centres and Preeti Phad, a cancer survivor.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The takeaway from the seminar was: “Do not fear; rather, fight cancer.”</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/03/fight-cancer-dont-fear-it-message-from-the-week-lic-event.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/09/03/fight-cancer-dont-fear-it-message-from-the-week-lic-event.html Sat Sep 03 12:26:00 IST 2022 exclusive-india-stands-poised-on-cusp-of-a-major-transition <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/27/exclusive-india-stands-poised-on-cusp-of-a-major-transition.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2022/8/27/16-Venkaiah-Naidu-new.jpg" /> <p><b>AS I LOOK BACK WITH</b> a sense of gratification and contentment, I find it difficult to sum up my term as Vice President of India and Chairman, Rajya Sabha, in one defining phrase or expression. However, during this eventful chapter in my journey in public life spanning five decades, I travelled extensively to various parts of the country and interacted with people drawn from all walks of life. My travels and countless interactions with people representing diverse sections of the population served to reinforce the fact that today India is well and truly on the move. As the country celebrates Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, I, as a citizen of this great nation, feel proud to say that the new India that is now emerging, replete with growing competence and confidence, is an India proud of its rich cultural heritage, while moving forward resolutely to earn its rightful place in the comity of nations.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India today stands poised on the cusp of a major transition. In rural as well as urban areas, I could see Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mantra of governance—“Reform, Perform and Transform”—in action, fast-tracking development in multiple domains. I see this paradigm shift in governance as a singular accomplishment worth highlighting because it has transformed the development trajectory of this great nation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>This is not to say that there are no challenges. Poverty, illiteracy, socio-economic inequities, gender discrimination, uneven development and the rural-urban divide, among other maladies, are issues that need to be countenanced. What I found uplifting is the enterprise and enthusiasm of the youth everywhere to be proactive partners in the mission of India’s development.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Throughout my tenure as the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, I appealed to members to be guided by the mantra of “let the government propose, let the opposition oppose and let the house dispose”, as also “Debate; Discuss and Decide; Do not disturb.” I have always pointed out that dignity and decorum should be the defining features of the functioning of our parliamentary democracy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While constructive criticism should be welcomed, there is no room for disruption, which is sadly, on the rise in our system today. Disruption and disorder mar the functioning of Parliament and reflect impatience and intolerance. Enlightened debates should influence policy and decision-making and ultimately lead to development.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It is my conviction that the distilled knowledge and wisdom of our collective civilisational consciousness finds expression in our mother tongues. As someone who takes immense pride in the country’s rich cultural and linguistic heritage, I have been a vocal supporter of the widespread use of Indian languages. As Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, I ensured that members could speak in any of the 22 languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>An added achievement was that simultaneous interpretation service was provided in the Rajya Sabha leading to a greater use of Indian languages in the proceedings of the upper house. For instance, four languages— Dogri, Kashmiri, Konkani and Santhali—have been used for the first time since the Rajya Sabha came into being in 1952 and six other languages—Assamese, Bodo, Gujarati, Maithili, Manipuri and Nepali—have been used after a long hiatus.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted lives globally and India was no exception. In a gigantic, collective effort of waging a war against a deadly virus, our medical fraternity— including doctors, para-medical staff, health and sanitary workers—as also our brave police personnel, ASHA workers in villages, scientists, innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers and vaccine manufacturers worked tirelessly, racing against time to save precious lives.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Keeping in mind the safety of the members of Parliament and the large pool of employees during the sessions, I held prolonged consultations with the Speaker of Lok Sabha, Om Birla, and other officials. We drew up a detailed protocol, which was implemented from the monsoon session of Parliament of 2020. The initiatives taken to check the chain of transmission were widely appreciated by members of both houses of Parliament.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>I have often pointed out how the concept of ecological protection is embedded in our DNA from time immemorial, as seen in our worship of rivers, trees and mountains, among other aspects of nature. In the backdrop of rising threats to the environment, I always counsel youth that, in order to save the planet, they must strive to protect nature and preserve culture for a better future.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>On a parallel note, as someone coming from a family of farmers, I believe that agriculture lies at the core of the nation’s cultural fabric. The resilience of the Indian farmer can be seen in the manner in which he stood tall in the face of the devastating pandemic, notching up a record production of food grains. In my visits to universities, my interactions with farmers, as also scientists and researchers, I have emphasised the role agriculture plays in the development architecture of the country. I repeatedly stressed upon the need for closer interaction between farmers and agricultural scientists to help farmers turn agriculture into a more profitable and sustainable activity.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The progress of a nation hinges on the educational empowerment of women. I feel overjoyed when I see girl students at educational institutions prove their mettle and win gold medals. Over these five years, in universities and colleges across the country, I could see the progress we have made in girls’ education and women’s empowerment. This is reflected in women breaking the glass ceiling in multiple fields, including sports and games.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>In my addresses to, and interactions with, students in various colleges and universities I have stressed upon the fact that education, especially higher education, is among the most powerful instruments of social change. I have tried to underscore the point that education holds the key to our presence at the global level in terms of economic growth, social justice and equality, scientific advancement, national integration and cultural preservation.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As I reminisce with satisfaction at my tenure in the second highest Constitutional office in the country, I am filled with optimism and a robust belief that India is well on its way to becoming a Shreshth Bharat, Sashakth Bharat and Atmanirbhar Bharat.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>The author is former Vice President of India.</b></p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/27/exclusive-india-stands-poised-on-cusp-of-a-major-transition.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/27/exclusive-india-stands-poised-on-cusp-of-a-major-transition.html Sat Aug 27 13:49:01 IST 2022 indias-focus-on-solar-and-wind-energy-augurs-well-for-green-future <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/indias-focus-on-solar-and-wind-energy-augurs-well-for-green-future.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2022/8/13/57-A-solar-field.jpg" /> <p><b>THE SUN IS SHINING</b> on a green future. Throw in the wind, the water and the sea, and you have a well-balanced and wholesome thali for climate action. That is, if India can de-addict itself from the lure of junk power from fossil fuels.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It may seem a no-brainer, with clean renewables like solar and wind energy scoring on any flowchart possible over the polluting coal and natural gas. Yet, India has a difficult choice to make—should it give up a cheap source of energy like coal or make efforts to re-track towards a sustainable future with renewable energy.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The government has been pushing the envelope. First it set in 2016 a target of 175 GW by 2022. A target of 450 GW was set for 2030, which was recently upped to 500 GW. Vision is one thing; reality is another. With less than five months in hand, only 114.07 GW of the target of 175 GW has been achieved. Bhagwanth Khuba, minister of state for new and renewable energy, told Parliament a month ago that an additional capacity of 60.66 GW power plants were at various stages of completion.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>A bigger challenge would be the elephant in the room—coal. The two bouts of coal shortage and power outages across states in the past 10 months exposed how India is still dependant on coal to produce electricity. Renewable energy’s share of India’s power bouquet is around 40 per cent. “We can’t ‘switch off’ the global demand for fossil fuels overnight. It is necessary to maintain energy security as we make the transition to net zero,” said Anish De, global head for energy, natural resources and chemicals at KPMG. “[But] renewable energy has created substantial capacity in India. A large supply base has been created with credible players, the power markets have evolved and supported new business models and greater flexibility.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The added impetus from the government has also helped. Prime Minister Modi has set India on a feasible roadmap towards reducing coal dependency and net zero carbon emissions by 2070.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“There have been some uncertainties, but the government by and large has been proactive,” said Manish Gupta, senior director, CRISIL Ratings. “That has led to good growth in the last few years.” With policies for green hydrogen and EVs, a production-linked incentive scheme for making solar photovoltaic cells, introduction of sovereign green bonds in public sector projects, and ambitious targets for ramping up renewable energy production, the Modi government is ensuring that the future is green.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The only way for renewables is forward. Everyone from the Ambanis and the Adanis to startups like ReNew Power are now planning mega investments, not to forget the traditional biggies like NTPC and Tata Power, who are all also making the shift. A report by KPMG on funding over the April-June period showed that, while global VC funding has been dropping, renewable energy businesses like electric vehicles, battery technologies and hydrogen were increasingly getting money.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>“India can emerge as a major manufacturing and technology development hub for renewable and smart technologies,” said De. “We missed it largely in solar and cannot afford so for emerging cleantech. The government is taking measures, and would need to work with the private sector to unleash India’s tremendous potential.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>75 Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav</b></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><b>COMPARISONS GIVE</b> a sense of perspective. That is why they are imperative when you trace the journey of a nation from a colonial leftover to an economic powerhouse. India was an economic mess when the British left in 1947. Much as our nation builders tried to create systems and institutions, they were constrained by the limited resources available to a fledging economy, and a volatile world order. Still India did well on many fronts and not so well on some.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>It has clearly been a mixed bag. India’s per capita GDP, for instance, is about a fifth of China’s now. It was just half of that of the eastern neighbour in 2004, and about the same in 1990. Clearly, we are not growing fast enough. But you compare it with the British rule—while an Indian’s income hardly improved for almost 120 years before independence, it went up 10 times in the past 30 years.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India is now the world’s sixth largest economy (third, by purchasing power parity). While it reflects the strides the country made in the past three decades, it is also an indicator of the tremendous potential it holds. That potential is more evident than anywhere else in information technology, and the new poster boy of India’s digital prowess, UPI, has brought in a paradigm shift in the payment segment.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>UPI is just one of the many game changers that will lead India to a crucial period when it will try to lift a big chunk of its population out of poverty. These initiatives offer not just better lives but also the promise of a better future.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/indias-focus-on-solar-and-wind-energy-augurs-well-for-green-future.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/indias-focus-on-solar-and-wind-energy-augurs-well-for-green-future.html Sat Aug 13 16:35:56 IST 2022 indian-manufacturing-is-on-the-rise-but-beating-china-will-be-tough <a href="http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/indian-manufacturing-is-on-the-rise-but-beating-china-will-be-tough.html"><img border="0" hspace="10" align="left" style="margin-top:3px;margin-right:5px;" src="http://img.theweek.in/content/dam/week/magazine/theweek/specials/images/2022/8/13/60-Mobile-phone-maker-Vivo.jpg" /> <p><b>SAME SCRIPT,</b> different cast. Before ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Make in India’ tried to sex up manufacturing, a half-naked fakir did it with one of the simplest, yet unforgettable, slogans in Indian history—swadeshi.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The times are changing, so is the cast; but the script remains the same. Seventy-five years since independence and under a new world order, India’s manufacturing sector still needs a leg-up, after all the Five Year Plans, National Manufacturing Policy (during UPA 2) and ‘Be Indian, buy Indian’ clarion calls. Can Atmanirbhar Bharat and its production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme, which offers incentives for companies setting up manufacturing in specified sectors in the country on an incremental basis, cut away from those that went before? And can it breathe life, and roar, into the nuts-and-bolts lion of ‘Make in India’?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Many believe it is possible. “Even as the world is grappling with a host of economic and geopolitical issues, India is at the cusp of opportunities which must be leveraged,” said Deepak Sood, secretary general of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India. “We are seeing quite a bit of success [of the PLI scheme] in sectors like electronics and automobiles. We need to ramp up the campaign.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>India’s manufacturing dilemma is an old woe. Since the colonisers arrived, India has been more of a consumer than a producer of manufactured goods. Post-independence, governments tried to deal with it with various strategies—Nehru imposed socialism and the ‘License Raj’ and Indira tried nationalisation, while Morarji Desai’s industries minister George Fernandes threw out Coke and IBM. After a near-bankruptcy forced P.V. Narasimha Rao’s finance minister Manmohan Singh to free up the market in the early 1990s, the economy boomed. However, India still imported more finished goods than it exported, and the deficit kept growing.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While this did not matter for much of the 1990s and the 2000s, when the economy and trade boomed, the warning lights started blinking once a series of economic disasters struck—the 2008-09 global financial meltdown and its aftereffects, demonetisation, the slowdown of 2018-19 and then the pandemic, and now the Ukraine war and the fears of a looming global recession. Rounding up the litany of woes has been India’s increasing friction with China, and the realisation of its over-dependence on the big bully neighbour.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The Narendra Modi government’s push for self-reliance was insistent enough with Make in India right from 2014, but it turned into a relentless one with Atmanirbhar Bharat after clashes with China in 2020. A bedrock of Modi 2.0’s economic policy, it aims to reduce the dependence on imports and attract global manufacturers to set up production bases in India. “It is creating a robust manufacturing base in the country, which is enabling India to compete on an equal footing globally,” said Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal a few weeks ago.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>While the push has been relentless, there is also a school of thought that India should focus on the services sector, where it has always done better. According to the World Bank, manufacturing contributed to just 14 per cent of value to India’s national income in 2021, while services contributed around 50 per cent. “India should focus on building (human) capacities, not chips,” said former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, an ardent detractor of ‘imitating China’s path’, in an interview a few weeks ago. “We should focus on what our strengths are.”</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>But with the might of the establishment behind it, Indian manufacturing might have a chance this time around. Registration of manufacturing companies has been at its highest levels in the past few years, according to a report by Emkay Investment Managers. It says this has the potential to add 4 per cent to the GDP. “After a long hiatus, manufacturing companies are likely to be the wealth creators, leaders of the next rally in the markets,” said Vikaas M. Sachdeva, CEO of Emkay.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The PLI scheme now covers 14 sectors, with an outlay of Rs2.4 lakh crore in incentives over the next five years, and it has already roped in big names. Those signing up for setting up production plants for anything from air conditioners to solar panels and semiconductors include the likes of Samsung, LG, Vedanta, Adani, Jindal and Bluestar. Apple is estimated to make iPhones worth Rs47,000 crore in India through its vendors, creating 30,000 jobs.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>The pandemic was the plot twister in this script. Many sectors restructured their sourcing and manufacturing footprints to “capitalise on India’s advantages in raw materials, talents and entrepreneurship,” according to Arjun Bajaj, CEO &amp; founder, Daiwa, and director, Videotex. “If we can specialise and build internationally competitive manufacturing centres, it offers India the most important chance to boost economic growth and job creation this decade.” This script could well have a happier ending.</p> http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/indian-manufacturing-is-on-the-rise-but-beating-china-will-be-tough.html http://www.theweek.in/theweek/specials/2022/08/13/indian-manufacturing-is-on-the-rise-but-beating-china-will-be-tough.html Sat Aug 13 16:32:31 IST 2022