Showing posts from April, 2021

Devjyot Ghoshal, Krishna Das. Exclusive: Scientists say India government ignored warnings amid coronavirus surge // Kapil Komireddi: Modi Fiddles While India Burns

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A forum of scientific advisers set up by the government warned Indian officials in early March of a new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus taking hold in the country, five scientists who are part of the forum told Reuters. Despite the warning, four of the scientists said the federal government did not seek to impose major restrictions to stop the spread of the virus. Millions of largely unmasked people attended religious festivals and political rallies that were held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and opposition politicians. Tens of thousands of farmers, meanwhile, continued to camp on the edge of New Delhi protesting Modi’s agricultural policy changes. The world’s second-most populous country is now struggling to contain a second wave of infections much more severe than its first last year, which some scientists say is being accelerated by the new variant and another variant first detected in Britain. I

Dan Hind - 1400 journalists have been murdered since 1991: Rewrite journalism to achieve press freedom

It is time to liberate our media systems from the political and economic forces that have long subtly controlled them   Monday will mark World Press Freedom Day. It’s a moment to celebrate the work that journalism does in holding power to account. It’s also a moment to raise awareness of the dangers facing journalists in many countries.  At least 1,400 journalists  have been killed for doing their job in the three decades since the first World Freedom Day in 1991. Many of those were killed by their own governments, or by organised crime groups linked to political elites. This year’s coverage will focus on this violence, and on the culture of fear it is intended to promote. And this is right and proper. As long as people can’t go to work without fear of violent retribution there is a pressing need to bear witness. Committee to Protect Journalists But for those of us lucky to live in countries where journalists are not regularly subjected to official harassment, intimidation or worse,

Suhas Palshikar: A monumental failure of governance // ‘There should be no clampdown on information, people can voice grievances on social media’: Supreme Court

NB : The only caveat I have to make on this incisive comment refers to the (admittedly conditional) phrase: "instances that must haunt any ruler left with an iota of conscience." Our rulers do not have an iota of conscience . Within days of the latest lockdown, the RSS general secretary was talking about anti-national forces  conspiring to create an atmosphere of negativity and mistrust. How predictable and how shameless! Who and what has created the negativity and mistrust, if not the criminal negligence and arrogance of the RSS surrogates sitting in the highest executive offices of the land? All they are worried about is image management . An op-ed piece in Israel's Haaretz sums it up: Modi is guilty of negligent manslaughter . One reader's comment sums it up: //This is a country which has nuclear weapons, aircraft carriers, it sends vehicles to Mars and Moon, it claims a seat on the UN Security Council. Yet it miserably and willfully failed its people, who are dy

Arun Kumar: Articles and discussions on COVID and impact, Global Corporate taxation and Academic Autonomy

Article on the US proposal for a common minimum tax on corporations and its likely benefits for India in The Hindu on April 27. It is attached here   Panel discussion on reverse migration of workers during second coronavirus wave in India, organized by IMPRI on April 26. https://youtub.e/xopvAKaivV4    Article on fighting the second wave of coronavirus. Why vaccination is not the immediate solution and lockdown is the need of the hour April 25.   Panel discussion on `Free Trade Post Pandemic – Rationale vs National’ organized by MMA on April 17, 2021.    Academic autonomy as a societal issue and why it is weak in Institutions of Higher Learning in India. This is the lesson of recent c

India Covid-19: Deadly second wave spreads from cities to small towns

The pandemic has now firmly gripped many smaller cities, towns and villages where the devastation is largely under-reported. Rajesh Soni spent eight hours taking his father from one hospital to another in a tuk-tuk in Kota district in the northern state of Rajasthan on Tuesday. He couldn't get an ambulance and the rickety vehicle was his only option. At 5pm, he decide to end his search for a hospital bed as his father's condition was deteriorating. He then "left everything to fate" and came home. "I am giving him medicines at home, but I am not sure that he will survive. We have been left to die on the streets," Rajesh said. He says several private hospitals even "conned" him and took money to do tests, only to tell him later to take his father away as there were no beds. "I am not a wealthy person. I spent whatever I had to pay the tuk-tuk driver and to hospitals. Now I am going to borrow some money to get an oxygen cylinder at home."

Anne Michel and Simon Piel - Rafale case: Fresh moves towards a corruption investigation

On April 22, the Sherpa association lodged a complaint against X with the constitution of a civil party to open a judicial investigation into the highly sensitive case of the sale of 36 combat aircraft by Dassault Aviation to India in 2016. The Sherpa association, which fights against economic crime, is bringing back to court an ultra-sensitive and politically inflammable case: the Rafale affair, this sale of 36 French fighter planes by Dassault Aviation to India, in 2016, on which weigh heavy suspicions of corruption, now widely documented by the Indian and French press. According to information from  Le Monde , Sherpa lodged a complaint against X with the constitution of a civil party, Thursday, April 22, with the judicial tribunal of Paris, for acts of "corruption and active and passive influence peddling", "concealment of corruption, influence peddling and favouritism”, “active money laundering and influence peddling” and “concussion”. After two unsuccessful atte

Jonathan Amos: World's glaciers melting at a faster pace

The world's glaciers are melting at an accelerating rate, according to a comprehensive new study. A French-led team assessed the behaviour of nearly all documented ice streams on the planet. The researchers found them to have lost almost 270 billion tonnes of ice a year over the opening two decades of the 21st Century. The meltwater produced now accounts for about a fifth of global sea-level rise,  the scientists tell Nature journal . The numbers involved are quite hard to imagine, so team member Robert McNabb, from the universities of Ulster and Oslo, uses an analogy. "Over the last 20 years, we've seen that glaciers have lost about 267 gigatonnes (Gt) per year. So, if we take that amount of water and we divide it up across the island of Ireland, that's enough to cover all of Ireland in 3m of water each year," he says on  this week's edition of Science In Action  on the BBC World Service.... Restoring fo

EC’s ‘too little, too late’ decision, and India’s ‘Kafkaesque’ reality // Reality of Lucknow’s Covid funerals stands in stark contrast to UP govt’s claims

The selected cartoons appeared first in other publications, either in print or online, or on social media, and are credited appropriately. Alok Nirantar | Twitter Election Commission responsible for spreading Covid-19, should probably be booked for murder: Madras HC // Bharat Bhushan on the departing CJI: Good riddance Reality of Lucknow’s Covid funerals stands in stark contrast to UP govt’s claims BBC on India coronavirus: Round-the-clock mass cremations

Pragya Akhilesh - The pandemic has exposed India’s dirty truth: a broken sanitation system

Newly-built “dry latrines” and “hanging toilets” in rural India are the result of the lockdowns of 2020-21 despite the Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, and a strict ban. Sanitary toilet usage has declined because of the COVID-19 scare as, currently, more than six lakh toilets in rural India have acute water shortage. Around 1,20,000 toilets have no water supply and thousands of toilets are completely abandoned, with collapsing roofs, water pipes in poor shape and soggy, broken doors. This is primarily the reason for the construction of illegal toilets, as sanitary toilets have become hotbeds of disease. The usage of both dry latrines and hanging toilets puts the communities around them at high risk of illness, beyond COVID-19. Therefore, both the construction and usage of these units need to be eradicated. In rural India, long power cuts with no water coverage amidst the pandemic have again put the burden of maintaining sanitary toi

Pratap Bhanu Mehta: The ruthless politics of the Centre’s vaccine strategy

In the face of India’s catastrophic pandemic, the tongue goes silent and the pens fall dry. What can one say that is meaningful? There is seldom any consoling story to be told about grief or mass suffering. There are brave journalists bearing witness. But what does bearing witness do in a culture of official nationalism where the images of death offend more than death itself? There is an urgent need to fix several policies. But what do policy proposals mean, when all policy is about managing headlines, not achieving an objective? There is a need to fix accountability. But how does accountability get fixed when so many institutional sinews from federalism to bureaucracy have snapped? There is justifiable anger at the Prime Minister, whose self-obsessive callousness and abdication of leadership has contributed immeasurably to the current crisis. But in the case of this government, anger seems misplaced. Anger presumes a leader who is standing within the space of reason, where the point o

Dipankar Ghose: In the mining villages of Raniganj, broken roads, homes - and system / Vidya Krishnan: India's moral failure

The residents of the mining villages of Raniganj are all too familiar with this soot emanating from the Sonpur Bazaari mine. For decades, it has covered their broken roads, flown into their cracked homes, and seeped into their lungs and bodies. Run by the Eastern Coalfields and approved in 1995, this mine has been the subject of multiple protests - acquisition of land, alleged non-delivery of promises of development, rehabilitation. Little has come of these protests. In Bazaari village, Saikat Bose says the residents’ worst fears have come true. “Look at the rest of Bengal or the country. Roads are being built, there is development. That development comes on the back of our villages, and we get nothing. Our roads are damaged, our homes are always dirty, and there is absolutely nothing here. The food we eat and water we drink has coal in it. We feared this, and protested but nothing happened. Now it is our fate.” On April 26, the constituencies around the mine - Jamuria, and Pandabe

Israel is committing the crime of apartheid: Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch has accused Israeli officials of committing the crimes of apartheid and persecution, claiming the government enforces an overarching policy to “maintain the domination by Jewish Israelis over Palestinians”. In a  report released on Tuesday , the New York-based advocacy group became the first major international rights body to level such allegations. It said that after  decades of warnings  that an entrenched hold over Palestinian life could lead to apartheid, it had found that the “threshold” had been crossed. “This is the starkest finding Human Rights Watch has reached on Israeli conduct in the 30 years we’ve been documenting abuses on the ground there,” said Omar Shakir, the group’s Israel and Palestine director. Shakir said his organisation had never before directly accused Israeli officials of crimes against humanity.... Robert Fisk: In the cases of two separate h

Albena Azmanova: Safe speech vs free speech: higher education’s false dilemma

In the ‘cancel culture’ era, universities should remember that the original purpose of free speech was to empower the weak, not to shelter them. Universities in the US and the UK have become a battleground in the war between safe speech and free speech. I believe that this is a false dilemma – and understanding its falsity can enable us to detect the social forces imposing it on us. “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear,” wrote George Orwell in 1945 in an  introduction  to  Animal Farm. The introduction was so controversial that it was not made public until 1972. In it, Orwell relays how hard it was to get the novel published. Significant sections of the English intelligentsia in the 1940s held Stalin in high regard, so a book that was a thinly veiled attack on the Soviet Union and its dictators was scarcely timely. Four publishers, afraid to expose themselves to public scrutiny, rejected it. One said: “I think the choice of