A Grateful Nation watches a Roman circus beyond the frame of sycophancy

Bharat Bhushan on the birthday gala to refurbish 'Brand Modi'     The birthday celebrations of Prime Minister  Narendra Modi  have metamorphosed into a three-week project of “Service and Dedication” from the single week of “Seva saptah” followed until last year. They will showcase a grateful nation thanking the prime minister for his service. The events projected as entirely voluntary have, however, been planned down to the last detail. It has not yet gone as far as the birthday celebrations of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il in North Korea, where citizens must begin the day with offering flower bouquets at their “shrines” and statues and workplaces organise group activities, hold spot-competitions, art performances and screening of revolutionary films, lectures, and oath-taking. Non-participants are designated as “ideologically sick” and even black-listed. Kim Jong-un though has not as yet declared his birthday a national holiday and celebrations are not public. Dear Leader Drea

Afghan women stage protest in Kabul after Taliban crack down on women's rights – video report

More than a dozen women staged a protest in Kabul on Sunday, holding up signs calling for the participation of women in public life. The protest came as female government employees in Kabul were told to stay home, with work only allowed for those who cannot be replaced by men. The order was given by the interim mayor of Kabul, detailing the latest restrictions on women by the new Taliban rulers. Kabul government’s female workers told to stay at home by Taliban ‘We don’t want people to be in a panic,’ says chief of Taliban morality police

Sarah Johnson: Climate crisis leaving ‘millions at risk of trafficking and slavery’

Millions of people forced to leave their homes because of severe drought and powerful cyclones are at risk of modern slavery and human trafficking over the coming decades, a new report warns. The climate crisis and the increasing frequency of extreme weather disasters including floods, droughts and  megafires  are having a devastating effect on the livelihoods of people already living in poverty and making them more vulnerable to slavery, according to the report, published today. Researchers from the  International Institute for Environment and Development  (IIED) and  Anti-Slavery International  found that drought in northern Ghana had led young men and women to migrate to major cities. Many women begin working as porters and are at risk of trafficking, sexual exploitation and debt bondage – a form of modern slavery in which workers are trapped in work and exploited to pay off a huge debt….

Omair Ahmad: What would the proposed large-scale cultivation of oil palm mean to India’s ecology and economy?

The truth is that Indians have switched to palm oil not because of some great choice but merely because it has come cheap. For most people cooking their food in palm oil or some mixture thereof, the content makes little difference. It is just another vegetable oil to them. The very versatility of the oil is what allows us to use it as a substitute for other kinds of oil. But the low price point of palm oil is inherently linked to the conditions of Southeast Asia. It is the massive clearing of old growth forest, abusive labour conditions that often mimic those of colonial days, and high precipitation levels that allow the price to be so low.  Indian conditions are different, and thus the state is subsidising both the production and buying of the oil to create the illusion that it is cheap. In doing so, we are destroying the industry and livelihoods of those in other industries, such as groundnut oil, and destroying existing domestic industries that have taken much time and effort to bui

The India Forum on government propaganda; sexual violence, periodic labour, the new agricultural laws, and more

The torrent of fake news from groups sympathetic to the ruling party that flows through the Indian public discourse everyday is  a phenomenon analysed by Neelanjan Sircar  who writes of the 'disinformation' that is curated and then disseminated under centralised control to intimidate and harass critics as well as caricutarise the Muslim community. It is a year since Hathras when a young Dalit woman was gang raped and murdered. There has been no let-up in the sexual violence against Dalit women, and children. V. Geetha offers us an understanding of the  unrelenting violence at this political and social conjuncture How does one make sense of the contradictory findings of the Periodic Labour Force 2019-20, whose coverage included the national lockdown of March-May 2020? Ishan Anand & Anjana Thampi look at a longer period of three years of the PLFS to discern  trends in employment and wages.  The picture is dismal. This detailed analysis follows the piece last week by Rahul M

Javed Anand: On RSS reassurances to Muslim, deeds matter more than words

NB: To this forthright letter, I would like to add just one point. What exactly is the reasoning behind all this verbiage about DNA? Does it follow that people with 'the same DNA' must think alike, or love one another, or even belong to the same 'Nation'? Sometimes even twins don't have the same DNA. In any case race theory has been debunked by the Genome project, so why does the top genius of the RSS think this is any kind of reassurance?  Is possessing the same DNA a prerequisite for respecting human dignity and practicing basic human decency? Racial identity as a basis for national unity is a Nazi theory, please read the Nazi Citizenship Laws of 1935 . These sophists cannot utter a single sentence without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge. Alas! I fear not even intensive transfusions of the best DNA will cure the galloping cretinism of our ruling Sangh Parivar. DS Javed Anand: On RSS reassurances to Muslim, deeds matter more than words Respected Shri M

Leon Wieseltier: 'The Wise, Too, Shed Tears'

One of the greatest satisfactions in the history of philosophy is the inconsistency, even the hypocrisy, of the Stoics. For as long as I have studied them, I have quarreled with them. Like the late Tolstoy, they get into your head. The Stoics were meticulous students of human breakability and raised it into a subject for philosophy. Nobody in the West ever pondered more rigorously the actualities of pain. The integrity of their ideal - tranquility of mind achieved by the stilling of strong feelings - is incontrovertible. Who lives too serenely?.... Leon Wieseltier: 'The Wise, Too, Shed Tears' How close to the world can one be? How far from the world should one be? Those questions represent two mentalities, two doctrines — the aspiration to nearness, the suspicion of nearness; engagement as a form of strength, engagement as a form of weakness; the hunger for reality, the horror of reality; the nobility of belonging, the nobility of alienation. We begin with the world and we end