By Urmi Rupa Pal:
On the morning of 21st June 2015, Sunday, three young men came to our house in Burdwan and informed us that the Ward Councilor has demanded to meet us regarding the RTI we had filed about an illegal construction on the wetland adjacent to our house. My father and I went to meet the Councilor, and saw a mob of 25-30 people waiting for us along with the Councilor.
What happened next was beyond our worst nightmare.
The councilor threatened us that if we wanted to live in that locality we would have to withdraw the RTI. When I objected to this they started beating my father holding him by his collar, as he fell down some men started to kick him on his chest. When I screamed and tried to save him, four men grabbed me and lifted me from the ground. They twisted my arms, took my cellphone away, thrashed it on the road, stole the memory card and stamped on the phone. They threw me on the road and dragged me by my hair. They kicked me on my right shoulder and on my stomach. When I tried to stand up they kicked me again. One of them grabbed me by my bottom and tore my leggings. As I screamed for help the Councilor asked the goons to teach me a lesson and kill my father. At last someone turned up to help and shouted at the goons. He handed me my broken phone. My father and I ran for our home. But, the ordeal did not end there. The Councilor gathered more people. They chased us home and tried to break in while continuously making indecent gestures at us and shouting “let the girl out and let us do an ‘RTI’ of the girl”. For forty-five minutes they vandalised our garden, broke our windows, and kept banging and kicking against the collapsible gate. They kept calling for shovels to break the door open and get me out. My mother had sent me upstairs, where I locked myself in and tried to call the police. As I did not get any response from 100, I called my colleagues and seniors.
Why were we attacked on the main road in broad daylight in a meeting with our Ward Councilor? I work for a University Press and my parents are retired teachers. We have been living in this locality for 22 years and have done more than our fair share for the community. My father would religiously attest documents after documents for the locals when he was a Lieutenant with NCC. We would take part in all the important meetings and assemblies in our locality.
What went wrong was the fact that I have been fighting to save a wetland that belonged to the University of Burdwan for some time now by writing to people and collecting local support. The University had setup a board declaring the wetland to be the selected plot for an upcoming officers’ residence. After I had submitted a deputation collecting signatures from local residents to the VC, I came to know that the Botanical Survey of India had signed an MOU with the University to protect that same ecological zone. The VC said to the press that no concrete structures would come up in the area at the cost of wetlands and the University would take responsibility in protecting the flora and fauna of the region. The University decided to give a boundary to the wetland and in the process the contractors filled up a considerable portion of the wetland. Then, new construction started in the plots adjacent to that wetland, using the already filled up portion to transport raw materials.
When my father notified the VC, the University acted and closed the gap in the boundary wall, which stopped the easy access to raw materials for the workers. These upcoming constructions are not adhering to municipality laws. They are blocking the natural drainage system of the area, which is how the locality has flushed ever since it was inhabited. My father submitted an application to the municipality asking for help. Then he gave them a reminder as well. On getting no response, he filed an RTI on 15.06.15.
Two days after the attack, we moved to our relatives’ place in Kolkata for a period of three days. My parents and I could not bear the trauma anymore. While there, we received information that those miscreants, who attacked us on 21st June, were trying to plant false evidence at our home. We intimated the local PS, who sent a patrol and ensured us that things were under control. They requested us to come back to our home. When we came back day before yesterday, we saw that some more windows had been broken during our absence.
We are living in fear and pain while the culprits are still roaming free. How do we protect ourselves and the wetlands that belong to our community?
I am writing this today on 28th of June, using my left hand, as my right hand was injured in a brutal lathicharge by the armed forces. Kashmir University saw one of the most inhuman and unforgivable faces of occupation on 25th of June, 2015. With the unanimous decision of students, this day will be commemorated every year as a Black Day in Kashmir University.
Why did the students decide to call it a Black Day? What happened on 25th, and who will decide the authenticity of the day’s narrative?
Is it because of the statement of Kashmir University’s administration, polished by the recently appointed PRO, that we are terming it as a ‘Black Day‘? Or is it because of what thousands of students who while performing their religious duty of fasting were terrified by the gun shot in the proctorial wing (KU’s law and order dept.) and then beaten, dragged and thrashed by the baton charge of external police forces had to go through? I will let you verify the facts and decide upon the authenticity of the events that led to what can only be called the most brutal and violent day in Kashmir University.
On 25th, the third day of the protest, students were peacefully demanding the release of Muzamil Dar, a fellow student, and assembled in front of the Vice Chancellor’s chamber. The proctor came out and said that the VC had just spoken to the DGP and he would update the Vice Chancellor in two hours. The students decided to wait and started discussing the relentless struggles of Tunisian, Egyptian, Palestinian and Chechnian people and raised anti-administration and pro-freedom slogans. During the Zuhr Salah (noon prayer), in the lawn in front of the VC’s chamber, students waited to hear from the Vice Chancellor and requested the intervention of the Chief Minister in facilitating the release of Muzamil. Unfortunately, the VC had no intentions to come out from the comfort of his cozy AC room while thousands of students were sitting in the scorching heat, waiting for his response. The students demanded that when the VC has no issues in participating in so called “cultural programs” which have an ulterior agenda i.e. “Sadbhavna” charity program, then why was he hesitant to come out for five minutes to update us about the case involving one of the students?
Meanwhile, a female student got into an argument with one of the proctorial police security guard who in no time responded with firing in the air to silence the loaded voice of that girl, and out of nowhere (on the order of the VC, which he accepted in a press statement), external police came and charged at us with batons. They were ruthlessly beating up students, dragging girls by their hair and thrashing anyone who came within the reach of their batons, without differentiating between male and female students.
Suddenly, what we saw was an exemplary moment of courage when two girls stood and started beating the men in uniform back with kicks and slaps. In no time, every student turned back and hurled stones on the Vice Chancellor’s chamber, which I think was equally justified and a natural reaction considering the situation. I am amazed to see some intellectually bankrupt opportunists coming up with statements/articles which overtly or covertly are in defense of KU administration and attempt to poison the idea of political liberation of students, in a Foucauldian premise, from the shackles of power which functions through educational institutions.
Intellectual adventurism polished with linguistic jingoism can never deconstruct some grand narratives whether that is the belief in God or voices brimming with the idea of justice. Haven’t you heard that ideas are bulletproof and you cannot fire bullets on an ideology—Hum Kya Chahte!—Azadi. Nonetheless, it was not boys who crushed the glasses but those girls who were beaten and dragged by police who started dismantling everything which came in front of them. They started calling out to the Vice Chancellor and Proctor Nasir Iqbal about their moral standing for using police force to thrash students, especially girls. One of the girls shouted “Ghari chae na beni ti korie” (don’t you have daughters and sisters at your home?) “tuhie kyeapaeth loyewu assie tuhie aawu na insaaf” (how inhumanely you thrashed us, didn’t your heart stop you?) and the girl fainted on the spot. While she still resisted not breaking her fast, our Vice Chancellor ran away through the back door, probably because he was protecting his fast as he might have had to look at the na-maharam beating and dragging female students by the hair.
That day, we saw courage, steadfastness and political maturity in the eyes of Kashmir’s future generation against state oppression and violence. I can only smile at our University’s administration for their reductionist interpretation, but then this uncanny resemblance with the colonial state structure was also visible on 26th of June when girls were thrashed and forced to evacuate the hostels.
Let us name them, boycott them and stand firm against them like a wall – the proctor whose security guard opened fire, the deputy proctor, his assistant, Heads of three departments, the DSW, our new PRO who sent a concocted and fabricated report and the valley’s widely read newspaper, which by default is supporting the university administration because it really cannot afford to lose the gatbandhan with the University due to the influx of money coming from advertisements.
Suppression and coercion can never permeate the hard-edged secularist agenda in Kashmir and will only strengthen, and add the fuel of commitment to the idea of Azadi in the consciousness of our upcoming generation. I am happy to see the statements of the Bar Association, the Doctors’ Association, and the pro-freedom faction for criticizing the brute manifestation of state terrorism in the campus. But I am, not surprisingly, amazed to see the ideologues, architects, intellectuals and teachers of Kashmir University absent from the discourse. I would like to ask you, the torchbearers of Kashmir University, to have a moment without your conscience and ask yourselves: Who are you? Are you the worshippers of money? Or are you pacified subjects? Bathroom intellectuals? Who are you? Do you claim to shape the future of this nation? Do you really think so? I think you lost the legitimacy the day Rafiq Shah was arrested, the day more than hundred civilians were killed in 2008 and 2010 and you kept mum, the day Asiya and Neelofar were raped and killed in cold blood, the day Afzal Guru was hanged for satisfying the collective conscience of Indian nationalism, the day police used forces on the daughters of this nation and, last but not the least, you lost the legitimacy when time and again teachers and teachers-turned-administrators were in news for exploiting female students/scholars and you satiated your already dead conscience by chanting “Keep Silent”.
I pity the conscience of the Vice Chancellor, professors and administrators for issuing statements which are actually blatant lies and fabricated concoctions. Using power, psychological tactics and brute manifestation of state terrorism could never extinguish the light of resistance from the hearts of conscious people because they willingly and consciously believe in the idea of justice. We request you not to teach us intellectualism, morality, ethics and justice which altogether are absent from the quintessence of your existence. Call yourselves the slaves of your Nafs.
The author studies in Kashmir University and prefers anonymity because of threat to his career.
By Kabir Sharma:
Almost every day we read about a scientific study linking something or the other we eat or do with increased chances of contracting an ailment. Often the next day we read the exact opposite has been proven by science. Which is true?
It turns out, probably neither. A large fraction of scientific research that gets published, is false.
This astonishing revelation is the result of Dr. John Ioannidis- Professor of Health Research and Policy at Stanford University – and team’s pioneering meta-research (research on research) on the truth of published scientific findings.
In his 2005 paper, strikingly titled ‘Why Most Published Research Findings Are False‘, Ioannidis- a sort of a hero in the scientific community now – found two major factors behind this. Non-conformance of scientific good practices, such as choosing nonrandomized (i.e. selective) and small sample sizes, statistical misinterpretation, etc; as well as bias. The very existence of bias, defined as “the combination of various design, data, analysis, and presentation factors that tend to produce research findings when they should not be produced“, is a most dangerous sign for science.
What it means is that if a research team has the incentive to arrive at a particular result, and has enough leverage in their method, it is likely that it would be able to show what it wants to.
Though the paper has become hugely influential and popular among the scientific community it targeted, it surprisingly did not shock many scientists. It seems everyone already had an idea of what was going on.
Consensus Across Fields: Irreproducibility
Ioannidis’ work showed theoretically how, and how much the above factors influence published scientific papers, and focused on the biomedical sector (which has direct implications on healthcare). The findings have since stood consistent with various empirical studies. Three years ago, when drugs company Amgen tried to replicate the “landmark publications” in the field of cancer research, 47 out of 53 could not be replicated. Researchers at pharmaceutical companies have reported that their attempts to replicate the conclusions of peer-reviewed papers fail at rates upwards of 75%.
“You can question some of the details of John’s calculations, but it’s hard to argue that the essential ideas aren’t absolutely correct,” says Doug Altman, an Oxford University researcher who directs the Centre for Statistics in Medicine.
Over recent years Ioannidis’ findings have shown to hold true in multiple fields of enquiry as well; including psychology, economics, as well as the physicochemical and social sciences.
The major findings of the seminal research work are discussed below.
The Greater The Financial And Other Interests And Prejudices, The Less Likely The Findings Are To Be True.
For a large fraction of studies, the former factor is debilitating. Funders want results to be in line with what they want to project, and they seem to be getting what they want. It is always worth checking to see who funded a piece of research.
A very recent publication showed an astonishing 97% of drug trials back the firm that paid for them. A study finding chocolate to be “scientifically proven to help with fading concentration” was funded by Hershey. Tobacco companies have a long history of funding fraudulent health research — getting the WHO to call this “the most astonishing systematic corporate deceit of all time.” Today this legacy is carried forward by oil companies who are funding scientists denying global warming and dozens of groups sowing doubts about climate change.
Another issue is that scientists need publications to progress in their careers, and people like to see big, flashy results. Hence, there is much incentive to fudge studies. Such manipulation could be done, by “serendipitous inclusion or exclusion of certain patients or controls… commercially available data mining packages actually are proud of their ability to yield statistically significant results through data dredging.”
The Hotter A Scientific Field, The Less Likely The Findings Are To Be True
Fast-moving fields of research with many competing teams working on the same problem see high pressure to come up with positive results, resulting in the publication of numerous false findings. And higher the number of teams, lower the probability of a published result being true!
And unfortunately, in many fields the siloed investigator writing grants promising to discover something worthy of the Nobel Prize is still the dominant paradigm.
The Smaller The Study, And Smaller The Impact, Less Likely The Findings Are To Be True
Small studies (taking a small set of people, or animals, or anything else) are far more likely to result in statistically significant results that are in fact a false positive, so they should be treated with caution.
Most effects of a big magnitude – like the link between smoking and lung cancer – have already been recognized. Studies today deal with much smaller effects, and consequently to find meaning with the small ‘signal to noise’ ratio, they need to be a lot more sensitive, which they aren’t.
Delving a little deeper, the extent of these issue becomes clearer.
Scientific journals, the media, people in general- like to see positive results. Research teams reaching positive and flashier conclusions by fluke, or by coercive means, are thus more likely to be published than others showing negative results, perhaps through more robust analyses.
The problem starts at the funding stage, where only the flashiest proposals get funding, and then are bound to deliver. And indeed, for reasons of career, tenure and funding, it is important for scientists to publish prolifically, resulting in a huge amount of manipulation.
Isabelle Boutron, a professor of epidemiology at René Descartes University in Paris, points out that peer reviewers are influenced by trial results; a study showing they not only favored a paper showing a positive effect over a near-identical paper showing no effect, they also gave the positive paper higher scores for its scientific methods.
Harms Of Little Negative Research Getting Published
Wakefield’s study had concluded that the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine caused autism, and became a huge sensation when it came out. Later, a study definitively refuted it, but failed to get the same response from the public. Indeed, negative results rarely become popular, even if they get published. This gives a skewed representation of evidence. Due to this, studies continue to be referenced for years after they are debunked, and a lot of research builds on that which was wrong in the first place.
Besides, many scientists don’t like to step on each other’s toes. “They feel a lot of pressure not to contradict each other,” said Elizabeth Iorns of Science Exchange. “There’s a lot of evidence that if you do that, it’ll be negative for your career.”
Problems In The Peer Review Process
Though scientists constantly praise the value of the peer-review process, researchers admit among themselves that biased, erroneous, and even blatantly fraudulent studies frequently slip through it. Nature, the epochal science journal, stated in a 2006 editorial, “Scientists understand that peer review per se provides only a minimal assurance of quality, and that the public conception of peer review as a stamp of authentication is far from the truth.” What’s worse, the peer-review process often pressures researchers to shy away from doing genuinely groundbreaking research, instead building on the findings of their colleagues (that is, their potential reviewers).
Further, reviewers are often unable to spend enough time to go through papers in all their depth before accepting them. Even worse, famous scientists may suppress via the peer review process the publication of findings that refute their findings, condemning their field to perpetuate false dogma. Empirical evidence on expert opinion shows that it is extremely unreliable.
A series of articles in the Lancet noted that, in 2010, about $200 billion (a staggering 85% of the world’s spending on medical research) was squandered on studies that were flawed in their design, redundant, never published or poorly reported.
Among suggestions to improve the state of affairs, it is a consensus that steps to ensure replicability of studies, by for example, improving data accessibility must be incorporated. An increasing number of journals have recently begun to emphasize this as well as the importance of negative results, including Nature and Science.
Also, investigators ought to be rewarded for performing good science rather than for submitting flamboyant grant proposals and papers making extravagant claims. Better peer review at multiple levels, including post-publication and promoting large scientific teams are other suggestions.
Ioannidis, now director of the new Meta-Research Innovation Centre at Stanford (METRICS) designed to perform research on research, still remains a great believer in the scientific method; and feels it is the greatest thing achieved by humans. “I am optimistic. I think that science is making progress. There’s no doubt about that. It’s just an issue of how much and how quickly.“
By Abhishek Jha:
On Thursday last week, Rohini Salian, special public prosecutor in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, made some damning revelations about the progress of the case. “Last year I got a call from one of the officers of the Nation Investigation Agency, asking to come over to speak to me. He didn’t want to talk over the phone. He came and said there is a message that I should go soft,” she told the Indian Express. The NIA has denied the same in a press release. Asked whether she had seen a shift since the new government came in, Salian replied, “Yes, yes, throughout.” Since the supervision of the NIA lies in the hands of the central government, the power and responsibility to constitute special courts and appoint public prosecutors for cases being investigated by the NIA rests with the government, this shift is plausible and, therefore, worrying.
The BJP’s softness towards Hindutvawaadi organisations is not new and not surprising. However, this revelation is likely to make the BJP uncomfortable, which has had to work hard to wash away the communal image of the Modi-Shah duo. It is also a reminder to the rest of the country of the illusion they bought into by voting on the faux development agenda. The recent riots in Atali are a further attestation to that.
What ought to be done then? The case of communalism in Maharashtra was studied in detail after the 1992-93 riots and, therefore, we cannot deny having prior expertise in handling the situation. One of the suggestions by the Justice B.N. Srikrishna Commission Inquiry, commissioned by the Maharashtra government, said, “There is continuing cynicism in the minds of the public that the criminal justice administration system is skewed; innocent people are punished, while the influential and moneyed invariably get off. There is imperative necessity for dispelling this impression, not by mere propaganda but effective steps taken at the police station level.” That people belonging to the majority community also hold this undue power has been felt by their repeated acquittal in cases of rioting. “I never had much faith that we would get justice in this case. Today I have realised that we will get justice only at the doorstep of Allah. I do not expect mere mortals to provide justice for my dead son,” Nisar Ahmed, who lost his 9 year old son in the Malegaon blasts told the Indian Express.
Under the heading, freedom from interference, the report says “It is hoped that the Supreme Court which has evolved a mechanism for insulating the C.B.I. from political interference, would also lay down guidelines for similar freedom of the police administration from political interference, in a matter which it is already seized of.” What the report says about the police does surely go for the judiciary and investigative agencies as well. So, when the prime minister asks the judiciary to not be influenced by “five-star activists“, he should also ensure that members of his own party or government are not breathing down investigators and advocates. The NIA may or may not have knowledge of such an instruction being passed out but, that such an instruction reached the prosecutor, that it came via an officer of the NIA needs to be investigated before it denies it.
There is a need for the suggested changes because the hegemony of the Hindutva agenda feeds on the current system that has scope for this interference built in it. Legal communalism is more effective because it is protected by the law, as has been shown by the free hand that is given to the hooliganism of the RSS, VHP, and the like. The NIA’s explanation, that Salian’s denotification is routine and does not have anything to do with orders/suggestions coming from people in higher positions, is exactly that. It is the answer of the ruling power to our criticisms of it. We need a better rebuttal for that.
By Shambhavi Saxena:
Before we get down to answering the question at hand, allow me to first write this paean to the incredible abilities that our furry companions possess. Besides being absolute goofballs, warm pillows and persistent table-scrap connoisseurs, dogs’ sensory organs put ours to shame. Depending on the breed, a dog can have up to 300,000,000 scent glands, and have 60 times the odour analyzing capacity as us. Their sense of smell allows them to sniff out cancer in human patients, and many institutions actually employ medical detection dogs for diagnosis! That’s not all.
In low light, dogs’ vision is way better than ours, the result of their large pupils, larger number of retina rods and tapetum (the reflective thing in your dog’s eyes that ruins all your family photos). Their ear musculature is designed to pick up and channel sounds that are imperceptible to us. Additionally, dogs can tell sadness from other human emotions and respond proactively. They can also sense the frequencies produced by earthquakes and you’ll often see a pet dog wig out before a quake hits. With this amazing in-built sensory apparatus, the theory that dogs can see, or at the very least sense ghosts, spirit matter and other friendly or gruesome apparitions seems very likely.
Popular superstitions seem to believe that a very tangible link between dogs and the supernatural exist, like the one that says: “When a dog is staring intently, at nothing, for no apparent reason, look between the dog’s ears and you’ll see a ghost“, or the one suggesting “a home where a well cared for, happy greyhound lives will never be haunted by malicious spirits.”
In 2009, Peggy Schmidt published her book ‘Tails Of The Afterlife‘ which documented instances of pets continuing to interact with owners who had passed on. Popular website ‘True Ghost Tales‘ also offers up some accounts of dogs’ prescience of death and their subsequent behaviour following the death of a loved one. Now you can say what you want about these testimonies, but they’ve got to be coming from somewhere right? People have repeatedly reported ghost sightings – so much so that businesses have grown out of ghost spotting and ghostbusting – so is it really impossible to think Tiger, Snowy or Tommy are perceiving the departed?
All religions have their say about ghosts and what happens to people’s souls, but did you ever think good old Einstein’s law of the conservation of energy could be used to explain the existence of ghosts in our world? Think about it. Energy can never be freshly fabricated, nor can it be destroyed (since it only moves from one form to another). When we die, to use smash-hit anime Bleach’s terminology, our spirit energy, freed from its corporeal bounds, probably floats around until someone screams “ghost!” Though there is no conclusive evidence to show that this is indeed the scientific process of ghost-formation, the idea that human spirits or souls wander the earth after the body dies has captivated human imagination since the time we learned about the inevitability of death itself. That being said, the theory that dogs, who are basically all little snuffling Bill Murrays, can pick up on these wandering clouds of energy, sounds very extremely, like, almost totally plausible.
By Arati Nair:
The restaurant down the kerb, Gymkhana, won the prestigious 2014 National Restaurant Award. The highlights of its delectable menu include samosa papdi chat, pulao rice, chicken tikka masala, tandoori gobi and chole bature. Well, chicken tikka masala in particular, for it is also the national dish of the country.
Which country, one might wonder bemusedly.
These accolades for a desi restaurant and an equally desi dish, in fact, belong to Great Britain. Gymkhana is the newest Michelin star eatery in London and chicken tikka now shares the high mantle with good old native fish and chips.
Before proceeding further, let me disclose at the outset that all words used in this article are purely English, approved by the Oxford dictionary even. The colonial invasion of India inevitably paved way for intermingling of cultures, the most perceptible being culinary exchanges. Today, with a booming Indian diaspora the world over and English being their lingua franca, colloquial words and phrases from the subcontinent have also wiggled their way into everyday English speech. We have overtaken much more than their collective palate.
The angrez rani of the last century just turned over in her grave.
But the indignation of the Queen would be misplaced, as the modern avatar of the English language has imbibed much from foreign tongues. In the 11th century, England was the only European country to have developed a native standardized language to challenge the hegemony of Latin as a written tongue. This attempt failed after the Norman invasion denigrated English to the ‘mongrel’ language of the lower classes. Subsequently, refined words such as ‘hath’ and ‘doth’ were pronounced with a lisp and became ‘has’ and ‘does’ respectively. Over the centuries, similar lingual overtures precipitated changes in the Queen’s prized language.
Similarly, the etymology of several Anglo-Indian words can be traced back to a period prior to the British Raj exercising control over its colonies.
The words ‘ginger’, ‘mango’ etc. have their roots in Malayalam and were accepted globally before the 17th century, after spice trade between India and Europe expanded significantly. The influence of Persian and Arabic is quite evident with words like ‘shawl’, ‘kiosk’, ‘kurta’, ‘lemon’ and ‘orange’ becoming common. Sanskrit has also contributed its fair share with ‘juggernaut’, ‘karma’, ‘mantra’ and so on.
While all these words underwent modification from their native roots, several others have retained their indigenous form while switching over to English. For example not much has been done to spruce up ‘arey’, ‘yaar’, ‘churidar’, ‘dhaba’ or ‘bhelpuri’, which are being used as they are. The Oxford dictionary has officially accepted these words as English, thanks to Indians who are slowly enmeshing the English language with Hindi slang, making the two inseparable on numerous fronts. Interestingly, Punjabi swear words have quite a few takers among the English youth. Apparently, cussing in a foreign language is a common habit among humans everywhere.
Jeremy Butterfield, the ex-editor-in-chief of the Collins dictionaries, feels that this trend of amalgamation is set to continue over the next few decades. He rubbishes claims of English losing its purity with the invasion of multi-cultural words. As long as global interactions continue, more words are likely to be imported from the subcontinent.
External influences including Geek-speak and internet dialects are reshaping English everyday. Just as words like ‘face-palm’, ‘selfie’, ‘google’ have been easily accepted for standard usage, Indian words have also seeped into the linguistic discourse of the language. This assimilation elevates English to a higher pedestal of global integration, rather than maligning its superior image as perceived by a minority. That should adequately allay all fears of Chaucer, Victoria and their living acolytes.
With India’s road and rail infrastructure in most high-traffic areas running at full capacity, the government plans to raise Rs 1 lakh crore ($15.6 billion) to develop ports and improve inland waterways.
The Sagarmala (necklace) plan, as it is called, envisages a series of ports and coastal and inland-shipping routes that will not just move cargo but also reduce India’s carbon footprint and save energy.
Coastal shipping is the cheapest and least polluting mode of transport, 63% cheaper than road and 38% cheaper than rail: Rs 0.55 per tonne-km versus Rs 0.90 for rail and over Rs 1.50 for road, according to the estimates by the erstwhile Planning Commission.
The project aims to develop ports and make them drivers of economic activity by linking them to road, rail, inland and coastal waterways.
But first: Improve India’s ponderous ports
India’s port efficiency is low and work moves slowly, compared to leading international ports.
India has 12 major ports and 200 minor ports. Ports in India carry 95% of India’s total trade in volume and 68% by value.
Coastal shipping in India transports just 7% of domestic cargo. Compare that with 42% in Japan and 20% in China.
Another important drawback for coastal shipping is the slow turn-around time, the time a ship spends entering the port, loading, unloading, and departing.
The average turn-around time for India, as of April-November 2014, was reported to be 2.1 days (50 hours).
A two-day wait for a coastal container ship increases costs in India by close to 10% for short voyages.
India’s inland water-transport is also poorly developed.
Of 14,500 km of navigable inland waterways, only 5,200 km (36%) of major rivers and 485 km (3%) of canals can handle mechanised vessels. Only 0.5% of India’s cargo traffic is handled by inland water-transport, compared to China at 8.7%, the US at 8.3% and Europe at 7%, according to this KPMG report.
Ports start to get a leg up
An agreement was signed recently for a satellite port in Dahanu between Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) and the Maharashtra Maritime Board. The port is expected to reduce the traffic at Jawaharlal Nehru Port.
Similarly, the central government is planning six ports including the Rs 12,000-crore deep-water Sagar port in West Bengal, Colachel in Tamil Nadu, the Rs 6,000-crore Vadhavan port in Maharashtra and the Rs 1,200-crore Haldia dock 2.
Kandla with more than 87 MT in cargo traffic in 2013-14 was India’s busiest port. Its average turn-around time was 2.9 days (69.6 hours). Building ports as part of the Sagarmala plan will, clearly, not be enough.
This article was originally published on IndiaSpend. (Mallapur is a policy analyst with IndiaSpend.)
By Bhanvi Satija:
In Saudi Arabia, it seems, justice is being equated with decapitation. The country is on pace to break its record for the number of people beheaded in a year, as it recently conducted its 100th execution in 2015.
Saudi Arabia is not the only country that gives out death sentences, but what makes it stand apart is the country’s bizarre, age old method of execution – beheading. It is the only country in the world to still use it. A high number of executions take place in other countries too, however, Saudi Arabia’s rate of execution per capita is 30% higher than the US. What’s even more shocking is that almost half of these executions carried out this year were for non-violent crimes.
Watch this video by AJ+ Global News Community, which gives us a deeper insight into what’s happening in Saudi Arabia.
By Pamela Eapen:
China has become notorious in the past few years for animal cruelty. The recent dog meat festival in Yulin carried on, despite numerous online protests to shut it down, with thousands of dogs butchered for it. However, there is another trend involving the brutal deaths of small creatures happening in Beijing – vendors are selling keychains and trinkets in the forms of live animals sealed in plastic bags. Yes, you read that right – soft-shell tortoises, and small fish and amphibians are being placed into water-filled plastic bags and attached to keys, phones and bags as fashion accessories.
The vendors say that the animals are placed into the bags along with “crystallised oxygen and nutrients” that allow them to live for days – but in actual fact, the oxygen within the bag depletes rapidly, and the animals die within hours of being sealed into these plastic vacuums. It is a cruel procedure that doesn’t only kill the animal, but does it in the most tortuous manner possible – suffocating them slowly until they have no air left. Let me put it a different way – imagine being put in a tiny room filled with no food and a limited supply of oxygen until you finally find you have nothing left to breathe in but stale air and despair.
Animals are largely regarded not to be sentient by many people who oppose animal activists, such as Tsinghua University professor Zhao Nunyan who has argued that animal rights form a part of Western Imperialism. However, many cases have shown animals not only to exhibit intelligent behaviour, but emotional intelligence as well. There are many that would argue that there is a large level of hypocrisy when it comes to defending the rights of certain animals over others – there was, after all, a huge outcry over the dog meat festivals in China, but none at all over the disgusting pig and cow abattoirs all over the rest of the world. The solution to this would be to promote the notion of animals as “friends not food” – or, in the case of fish trinkets and fur coats, as “friends not fashion”. It’s still a long way coming, however, and especially so in China where animal rights laws are lax at best.
The trend of animal trinkets is not a recent one, but the problem is. The fact is that despite global outcry, practices like this aren’t ceasing to exist – in fact, they’re growing. China’s lack of enforcement regarding animal welfare laws – which do exist – promote horrific activities like bear bile farming, where the bears are caged for life with permanently open wounds in their stomachs through which the farmers extract bile from their gallbladders. China is also the world’s largest fur farming nation, where in many cases animals are skinned alive for their fur or beaten to death with sticks.
It must be noted that there have been significant successes regarding animal rights in China in the past, such as the cancellation of the Jinhua Hutou dog festival in 2011; and the imprisonment of two men who killed a Kiang, a Tibetan donkey of an endangered species. Although small in number, these successes can and will add up if enough people commit themselves to the cause. Contrary to popular belief, there are huge activist movements within China itself that work to promote and protect animal welfare and rights.
Add your signature to the Avaaz petition to help put a stop to the practice of sealing live animals into plastic bags.
By Bhanvi Satija:
Amidst the chaos of admissions at Delhi University, it’s very important to pick and choose the right combination of course and college. A year ago, when I was in the same position as many of you reading this are, I finally rested my finger at Lady Shri Ram College for Journalism (Hons).
This decision came after the exciting admission process at DU. The process, by itself is simple – you go to the college, fill in another college form that requires stuff like your Best Four Score, and the course preferences etc. The next step is that if you are meeting the cut off, you will be required to submit your documents and pay the fee. The process has an exciting element to it – its the first step into a whole new life, and you experience a bundle of mixed emotions while you fill that form or stand in line to submit your documents.
The term ‘journalism’ took my mother by surprise. She hasn’t stopped me from doing anything ever in my life, and of course what I want to study was going to be solely my decision, but I could definitely make out by her face that she was worried; this was only because she had no idea about the course and its prospects later on.
So what does one study in journalism? Everything. Journalism is an interdisciplinary course and is made for those like me who don’t want to get themselves stuck in one single subject for the next three years of their life. The course is structured in a way that it reaches out to many other fields, and the students gain an insight into all sorts of subjects – from history, political science to economics, advertising and culture studies. However, the course lacks in the practical aspect to it (like most of the curriculums in this country). But that’s where my choice of college has played an important role – LSR now has a media lab with a set of equipment that are needed to teach certain basic skills like photography and videography. It’s not perfect, because we still have a long way to go in order to learn these skills, but we are on our way and that’s all that matters. Another course, Bachelor of Multimedia and Mass Communication (BMMC), offered only by the Indraprastha College for Women, beats our course in this respect. The compulsory internship component of the course at LSR gives students a first-hand insight into how the world of media actually functions.
The opportunities available to a student after doing this course are tremendous. Since we study everything in these three years, (well almost!) we have access to all sorts of opportunities – from taking up a job in the media to doing a Masters in any field you wish to take up, or doing law, or taking the IAS exam. This is contrary to the notions most people have once you tell them you are a student of journalism – “Accha beta, TV pe aane ke shaunk hain? Arnab Goswami banoge?” is something you will gradually become immune to once you know how many different things you can actually do after the course.
However, everything is not good about the course either. The course, B.A (Hons) Journalism is offered only by five colleges in DU, namely – DCAC, Maharaja Agrasen, Kalindi, Kamala Nehru and LSR. Out of these only the first two are co-ed colleges – which can be putting off for the guys who aspire to take up the course, or those girls who are not willing to attend a girls’ college. Moreover, being a professional course, we have the highest attendance requirement of 75% in the college – which means you can miss/bunk classes only with great thought while others have a massive advantage of only a 66.66% requirement. Plus, we don’t get the extra marks for this attendance. This is one issue that bothers a lot of us, especially when you dream of the ‘ideal’ life at DU. On top of this, we mostly have classes from 8:45/9:40 am till the last period which ends at 4:55 pm (and our classes barely get cancelled). For me, an added disadvantage is that I have to travel approximately two hours to get to college. Which means on days, I have to leave home by 6:30 in order to reach on time.
But none of our decisions in life will ever be perfect – we just need to weigh the pros and the cons of each of them. For me, this has been the best decision, making all the difficulties and inconveniences worth the effort.
By Steve Korver:
The secrets of great sex and satisfying relationships unveiled! Secrets of the world’s most sexually satisfied countries! The internet knows your darkest secrets! These news flashes and more in this week’s Sex in the Press.
In Search For That Ultimate Secret
People are always looking for easy answers when it comes to having great sex and satisfying relationships.
This urge for clarity explains the popularity of articles such as: ‘Six secrets of couples still having great sex in long-term relationships.‘ (In short, it involves lots of practice-practice-practice and communication – and it also helps if you share similar sex drives and kinks.)
Or an article such as: ‘Multiple orgasms for men? The fascinating technique that might open up whole new sexual experience.‘ (In short, it involves lots of practice-practice-practice and giving up on that old boring idea that ejaculation = orgasm).
So is the secret just hard work?
What’s The Secret Behind The Most Sexually Satisfied Countries?
Condom brand Durex did extensive research to come up with: ‘12 most sexually satisfied countries unveiled.‘
“Countries that are more socially liberal and have relaxed attitudes toward sex tend to have lower rates of STDs, teen pregnancies and abortions, and much more satisfying sex lives in general.” This is certainly the case for countries such as Switzerland, the Netherlands and Germany.
A general openness to sexual matters seems to drive the sexual satisfaction of traditional Latin lover countries such as Spain, Italy and Brazil.
A willingness to openly discuss their sexual desires seems to drive the Greeks to have the most sex on average in the world (164 times per year).
Then there’s the winner: “Nigeria is rated the number-one sexually satisfied nation in the world with 67 per cent of its population claiming sexual gratification. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Nigerians also take the longest time having sex, at 24 minutes per average session.”
That doesn’t sound that hard.
Loose Hips Make For Loose Lips
“In the aftermath of having experienced an orgasm, people are more likely to share important information with their partners,” according to ‘Orgasms and alcohol influence pillow talk.‘
In other words, people are more prone to share their secrets after sex.
“Oxytocin, a ‘pro-social’ hormone, floods a person’s brain immediately after orgasm. Elevated levels of oxytocin are linked with a greater sense of trust and reduced perceptions of threat.”
But meanwhile (and contrary to popular belief): “mixing alcohol with sex is unlikely to lead individuals to divulge more of their important secrets.”
So can we conclude that if you want to keep a secret, you should drink more and orgasm less?
What kind of secret is that?
Your Darkest Secret: Now On Google
It’s amazing what secrets lurk just a web search away: ‘”We were related“: Singles reveal the most shocking secrets they found out about their date just by GOOGLING them.‘
The app Whisper allows the sharing of anonymous secrets, and its users did indeed dig up some spicy stuff:
“He’s married and has kids.”
“He was wanted by the police for grand theft auto.”
“She had a breast reduction.”
“He did a few sex tapes.”
“Farts. He had a video of himself farting.”
The Internet Knows When You’re Having Sex
“Larger commerce companies like Amazon and Target can, by analysing your data, roughly predict whether a women is pregnant. They can even guess when her due date is,” according to ‘These companies know more about your sex life than you might be comfortable with‘. But yes, it’s not rocket science: the companies just check whether you’re buying diapers or vitamin supplements.
“Now imagine it is Saturday evening, you’ve been playing upbeat songs all day via Spotify, then around 7pm you play some dinner music and at 9pm you switch to some Barry White. It doesn’t take a genius to know what you’re doing.”
“If you are wearing an Apple Watch (at all times, right?), FitBit or Jawbone UP then those companies have that intimate data too. Every time you turn around, or move that arm up and down, and up and down, and… well, you get the idea.”
“You check Facebook every 2 minutes, right? So when you and your date get together and for exactly 43 minutes don’t check anything, and then at the same time check back in again? Yep, Facebook knows.”
Perhaps there are no secrets.
By Shambhavi Saxena:
On Saturday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi got the ball rolling on his #SelfieWithDaughter campaign, which quickly became a twitter trend. Part of the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ campaign, the hashtag aims at improving women’s status in India, but a recent exchange between All India Progressive Women’s Association’s secretary Kavita Krishnan and actor Alok Nath has highlighted some very significant problem areas.
— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) June 28, 2015
Following this tweet, Kavita Krishnan was lambasted by many twitter and facebook users. It was these responses that revealed the shallowness of the campaign and the tough-to-remove-stain of patriarchal, sexist and racist attitudes that many Indians harbour – including supporters of #SelfieWithDaughter! Krishnan’s biting reply to actor Alok Nath’s own selfie was a reminder to those who have forgotten, or those who willingly obscure the truth, that the highest seat of power in this country is occupied by a man who was allegedly involved in a stalking scandal, which came to be known as #snoopgate. In 2009, “Madhuri, a Bangalore-based architect, was surveilled by the Gujarat police beyond the boundaries of the state,” reported Gulail, an investigative journalism platform. Krishnan’s tweet is really a question about whether Modi, who allegedly had a key role in Snoopgate, is really the ideal person to be tra-la-la-ing over daughters. What are the other glaring problems you ask? Well, look no further than some of the responses to Krishnan’s tweet. You’ll see what I mean.
@kavita_krishnan Did he stalk u? My God! Venomous witch!
— Ritika Jha (@Ritzi177) June 28, 2015
— RahulForPM (@ProudBhagavathi) June 29, 2015
Perhaps you’ve noticed the irony here – that these supporters of the #SelfieWithDaughter trend are the same creeps who make no bones about abusing women.
You know a person is highly prejudiced when their only response to an argument – a well founded one worth thinking about – is to bring up her appearance and her ‘unwomanly’ ability to make choices and have thoughts all on her own.
We humans have a long and rich tradition of silencing women’s voices, employing every trick and trade in the book. Call her ugly, and she no longer serves her only purpose as a woman – a pleasure object. Call her crazy, and you can discredit any and every rational argument she has made. Call her a bitch, and send her rape threats, because women who don’t listen should become targets of verbal and physical violence.
But obviously, Kavita Krishnan, like any strong feminist who knows what she’s about, will not succumb to foul remarks online.
Transphobia now by bhakts. Poor things, they think I wd be insulted to be called trans. I am queer and proud of it. pic.twitter.com/tsKh3Y8hdu
— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) June 29, 2015
By Zoya Sham:
The Indian Institutes of Management draft Bill 2015 proposed by the HRD Ministry has been the subject of many debates, most of which determined that its cons outweigh its pros. As the Modi government’s first substantial legislation in terms of education, it is vastly contrary to the PM’s goals of ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance‘ and enhancing India’s image in the field of business and free market.
With the aim to make IIMs ‘institutions of national importance, and empower them to attain standards of global excellence in management and management research’, the bill is seen by administrators as a bureaucratic exercise to micro-manage the institutes. It gives the government sweeping powers in the operation of the IIMs and threatens their autonomy by reducing them to mere government departments. A.M. Naik, chairman of IIM-Ahmedabad, told the Indian Express, “With the government holding sweeping powers, the bill will make the institution only an operational centre, with all the major diktats, directions and approvals happening from Delhi… There is nothing much left in the institute to do. It is like operating here, but the control is somewhere else.”
The issues in the bill that could be potentially problematic are:
• Institutions have to seek approval from the government before making any decisions on the fees charged by them. This is likely to affect the admission process and the institutes’ dependence on government funding.
• The government will appoint Directors for the institutes. This opens up some of the prime positions in the Indian education sector to government misuse.
• The institutions are bound by policies made by the government for their operations, giving officials major administrative control over them. This may be injurious as policies may change with changes in government, leading to inconsistencies in the operation of IIMs.
• The bill asks for the formation of a Coordination Forum of IIMs headed by the HRD Minister. This forum of IIM directors will include a number of government officials that are likely to skew opinion in the favor of politics rather than for the development of the institutes.
• The institutes have to take government permission to make regulations on the tenure, remuneration and terms and conditions of employees. The faculties of these institutions are large contributors to their reputation and excellence. This threatens the leaders of the business world who take the time to mold the minds of future leaders.
The provision of the bill that is considered its major strength is, it would enable IIMs to grant degrees instead of a postgraduate diploma and fellowship programmes. Currently, an IIM alumnus has to request his or her respective institute to provide a certificate saying that the diploma is equivalent to an MBA degree in India. This step will also help IIMs gain global recognition and attract more foreign students. However, administrators of the IIMs contest that the institutions have already achieved a reputation and standard of excellence as dispensers of education and knowledge that is recognized around the world, regardless of the certificate they award.
IIMs have produced numerous leaders of the Indian and international business world, all great assets to the nation. They have maintained their standard and position of excellence in the global arena of B-schools. As these institutions have been established by the government, they must be accountable to it, but not at the expense of their autonomy. Politicians should oversee operations but shouldn’t take policy and administrative decisions of IIMs. Those decisions should be taken by people who have vast knowledge and experience in the fields of management, business and education; people who have made IIM the prestigious institution they are today.
By Kabir Sharma:
There are too many issues on the ground today which bring to mind the Emergency, in one way or another.
Be it the bans and censorship, the cruel sterilizations and associated deaths, the crackdown on rights of citizens, stifling of dissent, they all exist in various forms today: some blatant, some insidious.
The PM and his government have reminded us how terrible the emergency was, and how we as a nation need to increase the strength of our democracy, but too much of what is being seen is the opposite: a systematic crackdown on the freedom of multiple arms of our nation.
As Pratap Bhanu Mehta has very succinctly noted in his recent piece, “The authoritarian side of the Emergency won in subtle forms. Democracies have since been smarter about suppressing protest. The structures of democracy have weakened students, peasants and labour.”
Indeed, the government has been telling the poor it is on their side, but relentlessly breaking their will with its actions. The passing of amendments to the land acquisition bill which remove the clauses needing farmers’ consent and Social Impact Assessment is one such instance. The bill, having very bullishly subverted legislative process taking the ordinance route earlier, makes it legal for corporations to overlook the fundamental concern of the farmer whose land is taken.
Powerful instruments designed for the empowerment of the poor like the RTI and the RTE are in dire straits today. The major reduction in their budgetary allocations, like the 40% budget cut the Central Information Commission has seen, have left them severely compromised.
Too many rights-based social welfare schemes for the poor have been squeezed, while starting various Yojanas that are not, saving the government from active responsibility in executing them.
The savage 29% cut in the Union Budget to the primary education sector – another equalizer- raises serious questions on the intent of the government. The country’s premier educational and research institutions: IITs, IIMs, FTII and ICHR are all in crises with the government wanting and taking control. Directors of FTII and ICHR, bludgeoned in by the government, are very questionable people. The last 8 months have seen 4 major academicians resigning from the apex of institutes as the Ministry was meddling too deeply in their matters, and pushing its own agenda. This includes chairman of IIT Bombay’s Board of Governors and renowned atomic scientist Anil Kakodkar and NCERT Chief Pravin Sinclair. Even syllabus in schools is being altered by those with non-neutral inclinations.
Culture, which inevitably raises questions on the system, has seen massive slashes in its funding. Budget allocations for Sahitya Akademi (SA) and National School of Drama (NSD) were cut by 54 and 44 percent respectively this year. The scheme of Financial Assistance for promotion of Art and Culture has been brutally axed with money allocations reduced from 59.33 crore to 3.20 crore.
Oppression and attacks on minorities across the country are being treated with absolute indifference. Riots in Trilokpuri, attacks on churches in Delhi, and things like ghar wapasi which should be unthinkable in this day and age, were treated by the prime minister with obliviousness and silence until pressure was built up on him to respond.
The deaths of so many women in the state run mass sterilization program in Chhattisgarh where they were forced by health workers into camps, reminds of Sanjay Gandhi’s shocking blitzkrieg 40 years ago. The fact is that of the 4 million women sterilized every year in India, 34% say they are not “informed that sterilization is permanent.” Without fail, the people who are funnelled into sterilization camps are overwhelmingly female, less educated (often illiterate), and poor.
Preventive detention and detention without trial thrives in multiple regions of the country. Draconian laws like AFSPA and seditious clauses of the IPC are being abused too often as legal pathways for the government to repress its citizens’ rights. Indeed, there is little need to impose emergency to have these effects anymore.
It is being said that conventional and social media puts us beyond any possibility of any threat of suspension of democracy in the future. It very well might, but ownership of a huge portion of mainstream media by big corporations very friendly with the administration is an alarming concern. Showing only what they want to show, self censorship is a massive problem with the media today.
We heard little about Assam’s floods and nothing about riots against the marginalized in Rajasthan’s villages where the police stood by as a mob burnt down an entire village of the marginalized, as both an MLA and MP had interests in the land.
Journalists who expose too much are being killed on a routine basis all across the country, very often by the police and bodyguards of ministers.
Talking of social media, there is clear evidence of its biggest platforms having been manipulated to meet the agenda of the US government on numerous occasions, including the Arab spring. Indeed, technology giants like Google- who every minute, all of us willingly give swathes of information to- are not as innocent as their logos seem. They are hand in hand with aspirations of governments. Ambitious and corruptible, there is no reason why they wouldn’t team up with anyone else.
It is well and good for the prime minister and finance minister (who, it must be added was part of the struggle against the Emergency and so knows how bad it was) to say technology will prevent any usurpation of power by the state, but we all know what happens to people who reveal too much. Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.
Internet and technology are today increasingly becoming more and more prone to surveillance by governments and corporations. The Aadhar card is being linked with our every move, and much of our online activity through our phone numbers, generating big data for corporations to get to know us better and improve understanding of their market. The Big Brothers- the government and large corporations are together looking down on most of our actions today.
Censorship, bans and arrests for cartoons, movies, books and internet posts which question, expose and provoke had reached a peak before the Supreme Court struck down 66A earlier this year. But the government is mulling another, more powerful legislation to subvert this – taking on the judiciary’s sensibilities with its absolute majority in parliament.
The censor board itself has witnessed India’s most renowned cultural personalities quitting because of government interference and coercion; leading journalists have left their jobs due to the attempts of big corporations and the government to control their freedoms.
And RTI activists continue to be murdered, very often by heads of villages.
If questioning and expressing dissent is so difficult, there can be no doubting that the foundations of our democracy are tenuous.
The country is rife with a milieu of emergencies, and there is a certain collective fear we as citizens feel from our own government today, without having done anything wrong. Even as forums of challenge themselves are systematically being weakened, there is silence from the government on too many things, and little resistance tolerated on the ground.
Numerous antics to get foreign investment and international relation bonanzas are doing their job at overshadowing what is going on within the country, in the form of a quiet siege.
We are living through a condition of diffused emergency, which may not have the need to explode into an official statement suspending democracy to have very deep, long lasting harm.
The sentiment was captured sharply by Unny in his cartoon in the Indian Express.
By Sajai Jose:
For the first time ever, the year 2014 saw India’s carbon dioxide emissions growth accounting fllutor the largest share of global emissions growth, according to a new global report. India’s CO2 emissions from energy use had increased by 8.1% during the year, making it the world’s fastest-growing major polluter.
It was the single-most significant trend revealed in the latest edition of British Petroleum’s comprehensive Statistical Review of World Energy, but the Indian media got the story upside down. Most coverage celebrated India’s sky-high energy-consumption figures, while glossing over its record-breaking emissions growth, a historical milestone with serious implications.
India’s contribution amounted to 28%, or almost a third of global emissions growth in 2014. That number alone does not convey the magnitude of the larger shift it reflects. Consider these supplementary facts:
Trends are reversible, but the pattern that emerges from these numbers clearly point to a pivotal shift. India has bucked a global trend to emerge as the single-most critical player when it comes to carbon emissions, and thereby, climate change.
The triad: energy, growth, emissions
The triad of economic growth, energy consumption and emissions/pollution is joined at the hip. India’s GDP growth, which has driven up energy consumption to a historic high point, is also driving growth in its emissions.
On the other hand, economic growth has slowed globally, leading to a steady decline in global energy consumption in recent years, reaching its nadir in 2014 at just 0.9% (the slowest rate of growth since the late 1990s).
India stays at odds with the world because of a host of supplementary trends: globally-significant emission cuts by the EU, a major Chinese push in renewables, and the “virtual collapse” of highly-polluting industries like coal, steel and cement in China as its infrastructure boom plateaus.
Sharpest divergence in coal
It is in coal consumption that India most diverges from the rest of the world.
When most major countries have minimal or declining coal consumption, India’s coal consumption has grown by 11%, the world’s largest volumetric increase for the year.
Coal is the single biggest source of primary energy in India and China, but from the perspective of climate change and air pollution, it is also the dirtiest. Comparing growth in coal consumption with that of renewable energy gives us a better idea of how India fares against the rest of the world in terms of current energy priorities:
A many-sided problem
As the IndiaSpend series showed, it’s only when you apply criteria like population and historical emissions that you get an accurate picture of energy consumption and emissions by countries. But country-wise estimates themselves can be misleading in a globalised economy—where rich nations routinely ‘outsource’ emissions to developing nations.
So, it’s worth repeating: The Indian exception is in the rate of growth in energy consumption and emissions; India’s net consumption and emissions remain low. In per capita terms, India is neither one of the world’s major polluters and nor was its emissions growth rate in 2014 the absolute highest worldwide.
But India’s size, and the consistent rise in its emissions growth puts India in a league of its own. This trend is unlikely to abate since projections show India is set to grow faster than any other major economy, propelled by a massive, coal-fuelled, Chinese-style industrialisation drive.
India taking over from China
The last five years’ data reveals declining Chinese emissions growth (after peaking in 2011 at 7.9%), and accelerating Indian emissions growth. Energy, economic growth and emissions being connected, what we are seeing is the baton being exchanged from one Asian giant to the other, a shift tangentially reflected in recent GDP trends.
This is what makes these latest numbers so alarming–for the world, but even more so for India.
This article was originally published on IndiaSpend.
(Jose is a freelance media professional based in Bangalore)
By Devika Kohli:
Bernie Sanders, the Senator of Vermont has emerged as one of the most prominent contenders in the 2016 American Presidential election. Other popular candidates are Hillary Clinton from the Democratic Party, and real estate magnate Jeb Bush (younger brother of former President George W. Bush) from the GOP. Many believe that the decision of Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders to challenge Clinton for the Democratic nomination offers a ‘bold’ alternative.
Is Bernie the alternative?
The founding statement of People for Bernie movement launched by more than 50 activists is “[W]e support Bernie Sanders in his bid to become the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party. We stand firmly behind Senator Sanders as the strongest progressive possibility in the race right now. [..]Sanders is the bold alternative” .
However, no matter how critical Bernie may be of Hillary, who steered liberal and left supporters towards the Democratic Party whose policies and politics he claims to disagree with, he is nowhere near acting as the “bold alternative.” If he was truly keen on mobilizing millions to resist the status quo in U.S. politics, he would have employed other options rather than plunging himself into the circus of a Democratic presidential campaign. But he rejected them.
Bernie could have opted for an independent presidential campaign, thus opposing both the capitalist parties, Democrats and Republicans. But he refused to consider it, not because he had little chance of winning, but because (to the great relief of the Democrats) he didn’t want to compete for vote with the Democrats’ eventual nominee. In doing so he has failed to provide a political “alternative” and the necessary challenge his party could have provided to a two-party system that offers nothing to the workers.
However, Moumita Ahmed, the grassroots coordinator for the People for Bernie campaign who I got in touch with recently, defended Bernie’s stance to run as a democrat by saying that, “majority of democrats care about the issues he’s talked about for ages and there’s a lot of them. By not running as an independent Bernie is opening up his platform to a larger audience. It’s also a very strategic move on his part because in places like New York, we hold closed primaries meaning only democrats and republicans vote. Bernie really cares about making sure the things he’s talking about reach everybody and running as a democrat helps him do that.”
Will Bernie pave the way to success for Hillary?
Mainstream liberals want Hillary to win. Nationally, she’s the most popular Democratic figure in the race who can sustain the party’s popularity among women. Also, a big victory in 2016 could lead to a Democratic Congress. Bernie, on the other hand, is taken seriously by the voters. He has the credibility that comes from being a sitting senator and is a forceful voice for wealth redistribution.
Hillary however doesn’t consider Sanders as a threat but rather as an asset to her campaign. She is well aware that the golden rule for election business is that: whoever has more gold wins. He will bring the requisite attention to the Democratic primaries and help her frame the election on populist terms that have widespread support.
A brief insight into Bernie’s politics
Bernie seems to be spreading the message of hope for working class by promising to fight for them, create new jobs and take on the corporate control of the political quagmire. However, it is important to remember that he will do this as a ‘Democrat’ and the democratic actions in the past have gone against interests of the worker. For instance, it is their neoliberal policies, from Bill Clinton onwards, that exacerbated the sell-out of the American workforce. Thus, some believe that the Democrats must be abandoned altogether.
Bernie will certainly criticize the failed policies, fast tracked free-trade agreements and corporate plutocracy, but his embracing of the Democrats somewhere undermines his own criticisms. Sanders has over time become less and less radical on a host of issues, such as class inequality. For example, Bernie denounces the minimum wage as a “starvation wage,” but he doesn’t support the low-wage workers’ movement demand for $15 now. Instead, he proposes a more “realistic” increase to $15 “over a period of years, not tomorrow”.
While Bernie may come across as sincere about class politics, he is a militarist who shares belief in the U.S. supremacy. He supported the ugly war on Kosovo, the invasion of Afghanistan, and funding for the Iraq disaster. He voted in favor of Clinton’s 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which expanded the federal death penalty and acted as the precursor to the PATRIOT Act. As for Israel, Bernie has been a hawkish advocate that would never halt the $3 billion the U.S. government sends to the country every year. Last summer he backed Israel’s murderous bombing of Gaza. He’s even made negative comments about Palestine’s right to resist. Thus it is important to weigh the pros and cons before choosing Bernie.
His supporters view this differently though, and Moumita speaks for most of them when she says that, “he has one of the strongest environmental records. He rallied against the KXL pipeline and wants to make republicans take a stand on climate change. He is the only elected official that is fighting for students and recently put out legislation to employ 1 million youths in America and make 4 years of public education free and is a huge supporter of a 15/minimum wage for fast food worker and other low wage workers. But most importantly he would overturn citizens united. He’s also not taking any money from PAC’s or corporations which proves that he is working for the people and our interests.”
Why should Americans vote for Bernie?
Sanders doesn’t offer a principled anti-imperialist politics but his defense of the welfare state stands in marked contrast to Hillary Clinton’s business-friendly policies. Sanders is the only candidate who can move the discussion leftward — forcing Clinton to make the kind of bold commitments to appease a disgruntled progressive base.
Sanders describes his potential run as an attempt to build pressure from the left: “If I run, my job is to help bring together the kind of coalition that can win, that can transform politics.” His candidacy is an opportunity for movement building and can strengthen the Left in the long run.
Also, according to his past record, he usually sticks to his positions on issues relating to labor, veterans, children, corporate cheats, and certain social issues (for example, marriage equality).
Choosing the lesser evil
One wonders how Bernie expects to create radical change in the U.S. if the radical grassroots activism he seems to advocate is hijacked by the Democratic Party – a political entity that is owned by the very same banks and corporations he claims to oppose.
The reality of US politics in the current age is that any progressive who wishes to retain his power must temper his left-leaning politics. The more powerful their position, the more compromise is required. Bernie Sanders understands this all too well and acts accordingly. The nature of the U.S. economic and political system thus ensures that the Americans will be forced to choose the lesser evil in the upcoming 2016 elections. After all, politicians who do not agree with the US insistence on military superiority and economic hegemony rarely get to Washington, much less to the White House.
By DTE Staff:
Note: This article has been republished from Down To Earth.
A group of students at the Isaac Newton Academy in Essex, England, have invented a ‘smart’ condom to detect sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the wearer. Called S.T.Eye, the latex condom is covered with antibodies that would react with the bacteria found in STIs, triggering a change of colour. This would occur on both sides of the condom. In the presence of STI, the condom would turn green for chlamydia, purple for genital warts, blue for syphilis and yellow for herpes.
The idea, which is still at the concept stage, is the brainchild of Daanyaal Ali (14), Chirag Shah (14) and Muaz Nawaz (13), who won the TeenTech award this week for their proposal. The competition encourages 11-16-year-olds to create “technology to make life better, simpler or easier“, and includes prize money of £1,571 and a trip to Buckingham Palace.
The winners told BBC Newsbeat that they took inspiration from an HIV testing method called Elisa which utilises colour-changing technique. “Once the bodily fluids come into contact with the latex, if the person does have some sort of STI, it will cause a reaction through antibodies and antigens hanging on to each other, which triggers an antibody reaction causing a colour change,” Ali explained. They wanted to make detecting harmful STIs safer and easier, in the comfort of one’s home and without the embarrassment of going to a clinic. “We noticed how big the condom market was—there were over 4,50,000 STI cases in England in 2013 alone,” Ali said.
The young students have already been contacted by a condom company who is keen on developing the concept further. “The technology for colour change in the presence of an antigen is certainly something that does happen. It normally requires some additional chemicals in that process and with a condom you would obviously need to make sure that those chemicals are not going to be harmful or toxic or in any way cause irritation,” Mark Lawton, a consultant in sexual health and HIV at the Royal Liverpool Hospital, told BBC.
By Sayantani Jana:
So turns out a lot many of you agree with us that ‘Music – On, World – Off’. Thrilled with the response we got when we asked you to share all that makes up your playlist – the groovy, the funk, the whack and the purely melodious, here is Sayantani’s #MyMondayPlaylist. Listen up!
1) Bob Dylan – ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ 1965:
By Nishtha Relan:
In China, the residents of Yulin follow a tradition of celebrating the Yulin Dog Festival annually, where they slaughter about 10,000 dogs and cats to consume as food. Dog meat is the most expensive meat in China, and is considered a delicacy. Recently, there have been rumours about terrible and cruel methods used by them to kill the animals. Apparently, it is believed that the more the dog suffers the better luck it brings to the consumer of its meat, which results in thousands of dogs being tortured cruelly and even being burned alive.
It has come to the attention of the entire world recently with the attempts of activists to help abolish this cruel practice, by getting people to sign an online petition and increase pressure on the Chinese government to ban this festival. The followers of this tradition, however, answer the moral questions by saying that they do not object to anyone eating beef or pork, and thus nobody has the right to tell them not to eat dog-meat. The BBC reported that the festival went ahead despite global outrage. “The Yulin government distanced itself from the festival and announced new restrictions, but eateries reached by telephone reported brisk business during the event ostensibly held to mark the summer solstice,” says a report in The Star. Watch this video to know more about the festival.
By Pallavi Ghosh:
I am a Bengali woman; a Hindu; an Indian and the list goes on. So what really is my identity? Knowing the irreducibility of beings, can we then speak of people having one fixed identity?
When we speak of transgender identity in particular, the subject positions are equally fluid and changing. For whether one chooses a masculine or feminine or a combined sexual identity is contextual, and what is most comfortable for the subject in question. Moreover, if we take out some time to reflect these shifting positions from masculinity to femininity and vice versa, it is not restricted to the transgender community only, but gets expressed in subtle ways in the heterosexual lives thought of as natural by many. For example, when we look at a simple enough phenomenon of cooking, how do we determine it as masculine or feminine? We often hear how the world’s leading chefs are men while home-made cooking or cooking for the family is usually, though not always, associated with women. In other words, the simple act of cooking is both feminine as well as masculine; what changes is the context and the subject position.
Religion is one of the other simple and everyday acts of life and its relation with sexuality is as complex as the relation that exists between the multiple factors that shape identities through which identities are derived. While there is much currency to the thought that anything other than heterosexuality is against the order of nature amongst a set of staunch believers, mythological accounts seem to counter these claims especially through strong transgender characters symbolising power, devotion and bravery.
So how has mythology captured this fluidity of identities with relation to transgender characters? One can recall the tale of Agdistis, said to be born a hermaphrodite or a double-gendered being, was castrated by the Greek god Zeus. The myth goes that the dual character of Agdistis was thought of as threatening by the Greek pantheon; and thus, Cybele, the goddess of nature and fertility was created. Similarly, one can remember tale from our childhood about the warrior Shikandi, who became Bhisma’s foil at Kurukshetra.
There are special rituals amongst the Hindu folk involving the transgenders. For example, Tamil Nadu has a long tradition of their village deity – Aravan or Kootnadavar, which is as special ritual practiced by transgenders in a festival that re-enacts the mythological tale of Aravan. According to the ritual, the first evening of the pilgrimage signifies marriage to Aravan, wherein the god is well-adorned and the devotees are tied thalis by the temple priest. Many of them are dressed like women during this time. The next morning these devotees take to widowhood once the head of their Aravan is cut. They break their bangles, remove their vermillion mark and dress in white.
Even the native American myth about two-spirits, who are people with both masculine and feminine identities are said to have enjoyed equal, if not more privileged status as compared to single-gender identities.
Historical accounts speak of eunuchs in the Mughal court, who were delegated the task of disciplining the harems of the emperors. They were mostly brought from Asia and Africa and were valuable to the emperor for reasons more than being mere managers of their pleasure drives. In fact, they were consulted for political advice and also served as informants to the royalty.
It is indeed curious that even though mythological and historical accounts portray the double-gender or transgender identity as powerful and noble, in reality they are live a life of acute marginalisation. It is only in the 21st century that we hear of the first transgender Principal, Dr. Manabi Bandyopadhyay, in the country. In fact it is only last year that the third gender was included as a category in the electoral rolls just before the iconic 16th Lok Sabha elections. Also, Census data before 2011 did not recognise the existence of the third gender. The recent developments have certainly been encouraging. But the struggle for survival is more than mere recognition and it is here that the provisions fall short. Lack of employment opportunities means that there is concentration of transgender people in the limited work opportunity available to them, i.e. begging and sex work, both of which bespeak the acute vulnerability and marginalisation the community faces as a whole. Equal rights, respect and opportunities seem to be a far-fetched dream still for half a million people who belong to the community.