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Friday, December 4, 2020
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A Witness to the great Annihilation
by P C K Prem Time of total destruction of the universe had arrived it was apparent. It was an age of darkness and emptiness. In this age nothing existed and yet the Invisible Creator, the supreme Lord lived, witnessed the destined end of the Universe. It was the end of Kalpa (a long yuga). None could avert the time of destruction, as it was ordained. It was a horrible scenario, unendurable to see. Brahma was witness to the grand and hair-raising event of Mahapralaya (a huge catastrophe). All monks were stunned. When annihilation began, it destroyed the moon, the sun and the air. The animate and the inanimate world began to die and thus,... More
Moscow’s long shadow
VARGHESE K. GEORGE A foreign leader and a country that feature frequently in American campaign speeches these days are Vladimir Putin and Russia. From being the less significant presence it became in the U.S. strategic calculus immediately after the collapse of its Communist forebear, Russia has now returned to trouble U.S. policymakers. In many ways, its troubled relations with Russia signify the complications that the U.S. faces in managing foes and friends across the world. How to deal with Russia will be one of the first questions to confront the next President of the U.S., and U.S.-Russia relations will have implications for India. ... More
Moscow’s long shadow
VARGHESE K. GEORGE A foreign leader and a country that feature frequently in American campaign speeches these days are Vladimir Putin and Russia. From being the less significant presence it became in the U.S. strategic calculus immediately after the collapse of its Communist forebear, Russia has now returned to trouble U.S. policymakers. In many ways, its troubled relations with Russia signify the complications that the U.S. faces in managing foes and friends across the world. How to deal with Russia will be one of the first questions to confront the next President of the U.S., and U.S.-Russia relations will have implications for India. ... More
Negligence of water resources
There is some grim irony in the huffing and puffing over the impact of the climate change and the danger of carbon emission because we don’t pay serious attention to environmental issues until consequences are felt to be too grave to ignore attention. Major sources of fresh water for are in decline as researchers found an overall decline in the amount of water flowing into the world’s oceans. Human activities such as the building of dams and the diversion of water for agriculture have attributed largely to the reduction, though climate change was the biggest reason as rising temperatures were altering rainfall patterns and increasing rates o... More
Freedom for the farmer
The Maharashtra government’s decision to promulgate an ordinance this week to exempt farmers from having to mandatorily sell their fruit and vegetable crop at mandis governed by a 1963 law on marketing farm produce, is a bold and laudable step. That Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has stood his ground against the powerful lobby of middlemen, who shut shop in protest, is even more commendable. The problem with the present regime, under which produce has to be sold through Agricultural Produce Market Committees, is that farmers seldom benefit from price movements; traders rake in the upside that consumers are forced to shell out. When onion p... More
Why not a Common Civil Code for all?
A set of laws to govern personal matters of all citizens irrespective of religion is the cornerstone of true secularism. It would help end gender discrimination on religious grounds and strengthen the secular fabric The recent progressive decisions of the Shani Shingnapur and Trimbakeshwar temple trusts to allow entry of women in the wake of a series of protests constitute a welcome development in what has been a long march towards gender equality. They also served to rekindle a countrywide debate on ending widespread gender discrimination, especially on religious grounds. It is a matter of concern that close to seven decades after Independ... More
Gap widening
Human settlements are classified as rural or urban depending on the density of human-created structures and resident people in a particular area. Urban areas can include town and cities while rural areas include villages and hamlets. While rural areas may develop randomly on the basis of natural vegetation and fauna available in a region, urban settlements are proper, planned settlements built up according to a process called urbanization. Many times, rural areas are focused upon by governments and development agencies and turned into urban areas. Unlike rural areas, urban settlements are defined by their advanced civic amenities, opportunit... More
To be equal before the law
India’s decision to abstain on a vote at the UN Human Rights Council on the LGBT issue sharpens the focus on the Supreme Court’s next steps on Section 377 On June 30, following a seminal vote, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution creating a post of an independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity. This expert, once officially appointed, will be tasked with the job of studying and reporting annually on the nature, the cause, and the extent of discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons around the world. In many ways, the establishment of the new post exemplifies a growin... More
The fallacies of the faithful
Why are children in Kerala’s Muslim-dominated Kozhikode and Malappuram districts dying of diphtheria? Propaganda by orthodox Muslim community leaders and alternative medicine practitioners that vaccination is un-Islamic is the main cause, reports Rajeev G.R. Her years of clinical experience had not prepared her for that damp, rainy night when death lingered in the air inside the operation theatre. As Mohammad Afzaz (14) desperately gasped for air, he told her, “You do the surgery fast, just let me breathe.” The Class IX student, afflicted with diphtheria, died within hours after the surgery on the morning of June 23. That he would have bee... More
Terror impact
Frequency of security forces personnel getting killed in militant attacks in the state was both "tragic and worrying. At a time when terrorist attacks and thwarted plots regularly dominate the news headlines, when long queues at airport security checks have become all-too-common, and when once innocuous items (drinks, shoes, backpacks) can become the means of deadly attacks, it is clear that the threat of terrorism hangs over us as never before. Terrorism is currently at the top of the national security agenda in India and in many other countries around the world. Indeed, terrorism is widely considered to be the greatest security challenge... More
NSG membership: The writing on the great wall
SHYAM SARAN India is better served fashioning an appropriate strategy for the changing global order, rather than single-mindedly pursuing NSG membership. The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meeting in Seoul last week ended with no decision on India’s application to join the group as a full member. This outcome was widely expected ever since China took a public stand against a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) being granted membership, since it felt this would undermine the international non-proliferation regime. It elaborated this position further by suggesting that the NSG thoroughly discuss the subject of member... More
Crafting the joyless university
By PULAPRE BALAKRISHNAN A public audit of the UGC’s functioning is required before it can do further damage to higher education. One phase of a long-standing stand-off between the University Grants Commission (UGC) and a section of our university teachers appears to have ended on June 16. As reported in the press, on that day the Government of India announced that it was acceding to all but one of their demands on the rules governing their functioning. Some peace would have been bought no doubt, but it cannot really further the principle that at the end of the day, after everyone’s rights and responsibilities have been granted and codifi... More
Bitter medicine for the Centre
The Supreme Court has given the Centre a deserved rebuke by using its extraordinary powers and setting up a three-member committee headed by former Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha to perform the statutory functions of the Medical Council of India. The government now has a year to restructure the MCI, the regulatory body for medical education and professional practice. The Centre’s approach to reforming the corruption-afflicted MCI has been wholly untenable; the Dr. Ranjit Roy Chaudhury expert committee that it set up and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare in the Rajya Sabha had both recommended structural cha... More
NOTA on my ballot
Voters in this round of Assembly elections have made or will make, depending on where their constituencies fall in the staggered poll schedule, acquaintance too with a new symbol on the ballot. The last option on the electronic voting machine now carries a symbol of a big, fat cross mark to denote “none of the above”, or NOTA. It was designed by Ahmedabad’s National Institute of Design — and its introduction may focus attention on the ways in which this tool is being used by voters to drive home a message. Just recently, women activists in Kerala launched an awareness programme, asking voters to hit the NOTA button if they do not see women c... More
The season of scorching ironie
It is the Supreme Court and not Parliament that has found time to pay attention to serious issues of drought relief and mitigation for hundreds of millions of Indians Irony. This one word captures our response to the ongoing nationwide drought in more ways than one. We have woken up to the reality of drought a full six months after the end of monsoon. After waking up, we focus on the drinking water crisis in urban centres and not the multidimensional crisis of life and livelihood in rural hinterland. A petition on a cricket tournament, rather than the plight of the people and its real culprits, has triggered media attention to the drought. ... More
Out of depth
Oil and gas exploration, especially in deepwater, is a risky business that requires highly sophisticated technology which, in turn, requires huge funding. Those hoping to strike riches without equipping themselves with the appropriate technology and adequate expertise will almost certainly come to grief, as the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) has. The state-owned company has spent over Rs.17,000 crore of public money over the last five years in the Krishna-Godavari Basin with nothing to show for it in terms of either oil or gas output. A report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG) points out — and quite rightly — ... More
Understanding the Islamic State
Like its predecessors, the group reads Islam’s history and its foundational texts selectively, choosing the thinkers and parts that fit into its vision of brutality. It is important to remember that, for a long time, there have been other paths. After every fresh outrage claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (IS) — like the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels and the suicide bombing of a football stadium near Baghdad, which killed dozens and injured hundreds — a standard debate ensues: does Islam condone these atrocities against civilians? With its extreme violence and nihilistic mindset, the IS seems a death cult bent on senseles... More
Who will heal our drug industry?
There has been little done by either the influential pharmaceutical industry or the government to improve the quality of medicines sold in less-regulated markets like India On March 11, the Supreme Court dismissed two Public Interest Litigations (PILs) that I had filed praying for an urgent reform of India’s drug regulatory framework. Both PILs were part of an effort that I personally funded and led for the last two and a half years. The motivation for both PILs came directly from my experience as a whistleblower in the Ranbaxy case. The data fabrication and duplicity that I discovered at Ranbaxy led me to resign from the company and report... More
A firm handshake, not an embrace
Definitive changes in policy do not happen suddenly one day; often they happen over weeks and months, and sometimes years. The three-day visit of U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, which concluded on Tuesday, appears to fit into a new security paradigm that is unfurling under the Narendra Modi government. By agreeing to sign the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), India has sent out a clear signal that it has no inhibitions about being bound in strategic engagements with the U.S. Once concluded, the agreement would give American aircraft and warships access to Indian military bases for logistical purposes, including refuel... More
Green shoots? Maybe, but they need watering
Are there green shoots in the economy? Do Achche Din lie ahead of us? Given the number of times such false hopes have been raised over the past couple of years, it is much too hasty to conclude that the recent thread of positive economic data puts the country firmly on the path of accelerated economic growth. While three data points suggest that the economy may be turning the corner, they don’t offer conclusive evidence that there will be a period of sustained growth. The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) has registered a 2 per cent growth in February after three consecutive months of decline. While it is significant that industrial activ... More
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