Showing posts from August, 2013

Nadeem Paracha : The Pakistan Ideology: History of a grand concoction

Most school text books that are called ‘Pakistan Studies’ usually begin with the words, ‘Pakistan is an ideological state.’  Pakistan Studies was introduced in the national curriculum as a compulsory subject in 1972 by the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.  Over the decades, these books, that are regularly taught at all Pakistani schools and colleges, have gradually evolved into becoming one-dimensional manuals of how to become, believe and behave like a ‘true Pakistani.’ Though the content in these books pretends to be of historical nature, it is anything but. It’s a monologue broken into various chapters about how the state of Pakistan sees, understands and explains the country’s history, society and culture - and the students are expected to believe it wholesale. Many detractors have even gone on to call it an indoctrination tool. It was introduced as a compulsory subject (almost in a panic) by the Bhutto regime soon after the country lost a war with India in 1971 and consequent

Obama's deceit and the Crossroads on Syria

The way out of war is always peace. The way out is not limited, well-tailored, well-spoken, discreet, "smart" shots across the bow which you pretend are not acts of war. But peace comes from negotiations: an activity of which this president has always spoken in the warmest terms but at which he has shown few results during five years in office -- not in Afghanistan, not in Iran, not with Russia or China, not on global warming or nuclear proliferation. Why not start with Syria?  Yesterday, in an interview aired by PBS, President Obama said that the United States must now attack Syria. The reason was the imminent danger that, if we do not, the Assad government will use chemical weapons against Americans on the U.S. mainland. "When you start talking about chemical weapons," the president  told  Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill, in a country that has the largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the world, where over time, their control over chemical weapons may erode, w

Evidence of human settlements in Bolivia date back at least 10,000 years

Archaeologists announced a discovery that has broad implications for the history of the Amazon: evidence of human settlements in Bolivia dating back at least 10,000 years. International researchers came to this conclusion  after discovering remnants of human activity in three mounds examined out of the hundreds that scatter the the Llanos de Moxos region in present-day Bolivia, according to the paper  published this week  in peer-reviewed scientific journal PLoS ONE. Inside some of the mounds was evidence apparently left by human foragers, including ancient sea shells, animal bones and charcoal. Radiocarbon dating of the soil suggests the mounds  are the oldest known archaeological sites in the area. The mounds may help researchers piece together the ancient culture's lifestyle and daily habits, according to Umberto Lombardo, a geographer at the University of Bern in Switzerland and one of the authors of the study. For example,  a layer containing traces of burnt clay may indi

The Anthropocene: Welcome to the Age of Modern Man

We are now faced with some planetary limitations that threaten our survival. If we are going to accommodate 9 billion humans in the next 35 years, and if those people are going to live in comfort, with enough food, water, energy and other important trappings of a liveable existence, then we are going to have to recognise these limitations and come up with innovative ways to overcome them. In most cases, whether it is about 'peak soil', peak timber', 'peak silver', 'peak fish', 'peak oil' or 'peak freshwater', the problem is that we are using the resource faster than it can be replenished through natural processes – sometimes by a factor of thousands. The solution may be to assist the replenishment or to use less of the resource. Either way, the solution calls for a combination of clever engineering, technology and social tools. Alien observers monitoring Earth for signs of intelligent life may well have choked on their intergalactic vers

Social media and the new feminism

Where should a 20-something feminist go when faced with a online barrage of rape and death threats? Unsurprisingly, Laura Bates turned to an anonymous talkboard to ask for help soon after she founded  the Everyday Sexism Project  18 months ago. Less predictably, perhaps, the childless campaigner chose to do so on parenting website  Mumsnet . Within hours, Bates had almost 100 responses. They ranged from the serious to the scatological, but all of them were supportive. To her concerns that she was being followed online, BasilFoulTea wrote: "Well, if they're stalking this one – hallo, nobbers. I bet you needle-dick wankers can't get a woman to shag you on a voluntary basis because you're all repulsive with halitosis and a total lack of sex appeal and charisma. <Waves>" "That was the first time I'd laughed since the emails began," says Bates, who is now feted by politicians and companies alike for her work tackling sexism. "I have a real s

JAY MAZOOMDAAR - Asaram Bapu: The Saint And His Taint // Father of the girl reveals their story

Once his name is mentioned, almost everybody seems to have an  Asaram Bapu  story. A popular Bollywood director known for his comedies with a message recalls how Asaram’s men were after him to get him to popularise the idea of celebrating Matri Pitri pujan diwas, Bapu’s brainwave to counter Valentine’s Day, even offering to fly him to “locations” in the ashram’s chartered planes. A prominent foreign tour operator recalls how a group of clients insisted on making a payment of several lakhs through Dubai and confided, after a sundowner too many, that the hawala transaction was done through “Asaram’s ashram channel”, only to laugh away the conversation in the morning. One of 400-odd shopkeepers of Revdi Bazaar, an Ahmedabad market originally meant for Sindhi refugees from Pakistan, whispers that “Asaram’s crores” keep circulating in loans to businessmen, at interest rates ranging from 1.5-4 percent a month, depending on the amount and the paying capacity of the borrower. Then, of c

NAPM Press release - New Land Acquisition Bill will further land acquisition and conflict

New Land Acquisition Bill in name of public purpose and inclusive growth will further land acquisition and conflict Historic opportunity lost to address historical injustice Justice denied to 10 Crores displaced at the altar of development since 1947 New Delhi, August 29  : Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill 2011 was discussed and debated today, with many members of Parliament appreciating the fact that colonial Land Acquisition Act, 1894 will be replaced.  NAPM welcomes the introduction of a comprehensive bill and recognition of resettlement and rehabilitation as right but is disappointed at the neglect of ground realities and legitimacy of acquisition for 'private profit' in the name of public purpose.  Members of many political Parties during the debate echoed the sentiments prevailing in the country amongst farmers and those dependent on land but those alligned with UPA advocated the agenda of inclusive growth and PPP.  UPA is hiding behind the

Sandeep Bhushan - Digitisation and Dumbing Down, or Why the Indian broadcast news industry is staring at an abyss

The recent sacking of 300-odd employees by the TV18 Group has again triggered panic in India’s TV broadcast industry. The fear being: ‘What next?’ And ‘Will it be me?’ From cameramen and video editors to producers (in charge of both news features and shows) and journalists, all have been shown the door by the media behemoth. Those in the know say they saw it coming. A senior editor who protested against the presence of certain names on the retrenchment list was asked to either lump it or leave. At least two prominent primetime anchors have saved their jobs by settling for a 30-40 per cent salary cut. A senior cameraman tasked with forwarding a list of people to be retrenched chose to step down instead of succumbing to the whims of an axe-wielding management. This is not the first time it has happened. In 2009, an identical number of people had been sacked in the wake of the crippling blow of the financial meltdown. The significance this time round is that ‘load shedding’ has come cl

HARISH KHARE - This perverse rage against the poor

With the economic boom petering out, those who benefitted from it are angry with the government for the Food Security Bill because it is paying attention to the needs of the underprivileged for a change This week’s received wisdom insists that the Indian economy has irretrievably collapsed because on Monday, the Lok Sabha passed the National Food Security Bill (NFSB).  The Hindu Business Line  headline (Aug.28, page 1) said it all: “Re, Sensex sink on fears Food Bill will feed deficit.” The subtext of the lament appears to be that the rupee decline was the market’s way of registering a pointed disapproval of the food security initiative. The Schadenfreude- wallahs are as happy as are the market-reformers that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) leadership has been fixed so gloriously for venturing into a “populist” course of action. The bandwagon routine has acquired a momentum of its own; even Hindi and other vernacular newspapers have allowed themselves to be mesmerised by the