prepared by ashok sharma
A wake-up call in West Bengal
Successive electoral victories at various levels in West Bengal seem to have provided a cover for the Trinamool Congress (TMC) to indulge in brazen displays of violence in the recent civic polls. West Bengal's ruling party openly defends its unruly cadres who engaged in irregularities. Had the TMC been responsible enough to accept that its sympathisers were responsible for the widespread vote-loot, it would have been reasonably easier for the party to publicly acknowledge that regulating the cadres is impossible once they believe that the customs of their tribe are the laws of nature, to echo George Bernard Shaw. However, as the scholar Gregory Benford theorised, "... stable societies oscillated between banquets and barbarism", and the TMC's management decided to let the cadres resort to the latter to ensure the party's electoral success. Such barbarism in order to win an election, be it to the civic council or the State Assembly, is nothing new in West Bengal. What the Congress had done in the 1970s the Communists replicated in elections in the years that followed, especially when they faced the prospect of losing the mandate. In later years, the TMC used the inimitable phrases, 'scientific rigging' and 'social engineering', in order to embarrass the Left Front.
The Communists made way for the TMC after three decades in power; but no one would have expected the TMC to amend its predecessor's formula of 'social engineering' to outright barbarism so very quickly. Thrashing senior citizens, targeting journalists and capturing booths, the TMC won conclusively. And its leaders refused to express any regret and blamed the Governor, the Opposition and even the State Election Commission for the mayhem in the Asansol and Biddhannagar municipal areas. In doing this, they seemed to overlook the fact that the electorate had earlier refused to countenance similar arrogance on the part of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). State violence in Nandigram and Singur united the anti-CPI(M) bloc to facilitate the TMC's victory in the 2011 election. Soon after the first round of violence in Nandigram in March 2007, Kolkata had witnessed protest rallies by civil society activists : it turned out to be a shrill wake-up call for the CPI(M). This week, some journalists came together again to protest against targeted attacks made at them. Many who took part in the rally were close to the ruling party. Meanwhile, the TMC also lost in the Siliguri Municipal Corporation and Mahakuma Parishad. So the wake-up calls are loud and clear in the run-up to the 2016 Assembly elections.
Ø wake-up call
› If something that happens is a wake-up call, it should make you realize that you need to take action to change a situation:
For the insurance industry, these floods were a wake-up call.
› obvious, without any attempt to be hidden:
He told me a brazen lie.
Disorderly and disruptive and not amenable to discipline or control.
› to move repeatedly from one position to another:
The needle on the dial oscillated between full and empty.
› formal If you oscillate between feelings or opinions, you change repeatedly from one to the other:
My emotions oscillate between desperation and hope.
An elaborate and formal evening meal for many people, often followed by speeches.
Absence of culture and civilization.
Make an exact copy of; reproduce
So good or unusual as to be impossible to copy; unique.
Ø rigging noun [U] (DISHONESTLY ARRANGE)
› the act of arranging dishonestly for the result of something, for example an election, to be changed:
Opposition parties have protested over alleged vote rigging in the election.
Cause (someone) to feel awkward, self-conscious, or ashamed.
Make minor changes in (a text) in order to make it fairer, more accurate, or more up-to-date.
Beat (a person or animal) repeatedly and violently with a stick or whip.
Violent or damaging disorder; chaos.
A person's face or facial expression
(of a voice or sound) high-pitched and piercing.
The Hindu: October 9, 2015 02:04 IST
Security concerns trump diplomacy
New Delhi's decision to highlight the atrocities by Pakistani forces in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and in Balochistan, as reported by this newspaper, is a clear departure from past practice. The difference can be gauged by comparing the strong reactions six years ago to the previous Indian government's acceptance of Balochistan in the Sharm el-Sheikh statement, with how the Ministry of External Affairs now openly accepts in the context of Balochistan that India "is home to persecuted people everywhere". Meanwhile, a spokesman of the Baloch Liberation Organisation — that faces a barrage of charges in Pakistan — has been speaking freely at public meetings in Delhi. Coming as they do a week after India highlighted suppression of protests and atrocities in PoK, these meetings make it clear that the government is on the "front-foot", as officials have indicated, and that it intends to use PoK and Balochistan to counter Pakistan's persistent allegations of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir. These allegations have been particularly sharp over the last year, perhaps owing to Islamabad's discomfort over the progress India has made in pushing for a seat in the UN Security Council. It remains to be seen whether New Delhi's new tack will help tone down Pakistan's position on J&K. Or will it only serve to highlight international issues that India has preferred to keep in the bilateral space so far, and to flag Pakistan's outrageous allegations that India is responsible for terrorist acts on its soil? In any case, with this turn of events, India-Pakistan relations, which have remained at a low ebb for decades, are worsening. Diplomacy is the loser.
What is perhaps more significant is that the government's new policy indicates the growing space ceded to India's security establishment in the external relations sphere. By engaging in a "spy-vs-spy" and "tit-for-tat" engagement, and seeking to answer Pakistan's false claims on J&K with a series of counter-allegations, New Delhi has only stooped to the level of the neighbour that it seeks to contain. India's actions have included the handing out of videos, and leaking of details from dossiers of wanted criminals and terrorists under investigation. More important, it is unclear how its efforts would play out on the international stage. There, Pakistan is already discredited on the issue of sponsoring and training terror groups, while India is seen as a powerful and responsible country waging war against terror. Eventually, diplomacy is a projection of a country's own values, and must prevail over all other instincts. Former U.S. National Security Adviser Walt Rostow, credited with America's original push into South East Asia in the 1960s, once said: "We are the greatest power in the world — if we behave like it." That should hold true for India, too.
› If you trump another player's card, you beat it with a card that belongs to the group of cards that has been chosen to have the highest value in the game you are playing.
› to beat someone or something by doing or producing something better:
Their $60 million bid for the company was trumped at the last moment by an offer for almost twice as much from their main competitor.
An extremely wicked or cruel act, typically one involving physical violence or injury.
Estimate or determine the magnitude, amount, or volume of.
Subject (someone) to hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of their race or political or religious beliefs.
A concentrated artillery bombardment over a wide area
Shockingly bad or excessive.
Give up (power or territory).
Bend one's head or body forward and downward.
Reforming IIT fees
Govt should free IITs to be financially sustainable
A proposal to almost triple the annual fees paid by students of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to Rs 2.5 lakh has emerged from the IIT Council. According to a report in this newspaper, the proposal has been referred to a committee, which will submit a report to the Union ministry of human resource development for it to take a decision on the extent of the fee increase. However, some reports also suggest that the Council, headed by the Union human resources development minister, may have put any decision on hold in view of the coming Bihar Assembly elections. Instead, the council has set up a committee to look for ways to make available more loans to students and maintain and enhance scholarships available to needy students. In this context, it is worth noting that fees paid by students attending the National Institutes of Technology have recently been raised nearly three times, to Rs 2 lakh per year, without much public fuss. There are now quite a few IITs, as many as 18, and three more are coming. With this many around, it is time to be realistic about fees charged by government-funded institutions. Private institutions offering equivalent degrees charge students in the Rs 2-10 lakh range. Even the Rs 2.5 lakh a year proposed for the IITs is still about Rs 1 lakh short of what each student costs the government per annum.
Education, particularly quality higher education, is a great social equaliser and should be made available to all. Nobody qualifying for admission to an IIT should fail to get in because she cannot afford the fees. At the moment, only about half of the IITs' students pay the full fees; those coming from the reserved categories or families with an annual income of less than Rs 4.5 lakh pay only 10 per cent of the prescribed fees. Concessional loans are also an important way of increasing access to tertiary education. As the financial system deepens and spreads, the costs of administering such education loans will decrease. Any future plans to make the IITs self-sustainable in terms of cost should indeed have student loans as a key element, combined with the existing concessional fee rates for the most needy.
It is also true that the IITs should do more to generate their own financial resources. Sponsored projects currently account for only about 24 per cent of their total revenue; their equivalents globally earn 60-80 per cent through this route. Greater attention to these will also impart a more applied, as opposed to fundamental, tone to academic work, and produce engineers who are more job-ready when they graduate. The IITs should also strive to build their endowments, with donations from industry and successful alumni. Well-known Indian business houses and iconic names in business have chosen to sponsor chairs in leading institutions abroad. Certainly, business leaders may have their reasons for doing so; for one, the IITs are still far away from matching the research potential of many Western universities. But, perhaps, the IITs need to become more business-friendly, too; if they did, targeted endowments would surely follow sponsored projects. This needs government action: the human resource development ministry must minimise the overpowering red tape associated with such projects and endowments.
A display of unnecessary or excessive excitement, activity, or interest.
The action of endowing something or someone.
Ø red tape
official rules and processes that seem unnecessary and delay results:
We must cut through the red tape.
Don is done with the courts, while his master is only out on bail.
Somnath Bharti's dog has been exonerated of charges filed by the troubled AAPster's wife, in which she had alleged that she was incisively targeted by the canine, at the behest of his master. Correctly believing that replicability is the essence of the scientific method, a Delhi court asked Bharti to bark commands to his dog, such as, "Don, bite!" When he was soundly ignored, the court dismissed the charges of Lipika Mitra, Bharti's wife, and honourably discharged the dog from custody.
While the evidence may have legal standing, logically speaking, all that the court established is that Don is a disobedient animal. Stronger proof for this conclusion would have been elicited if the court had asked Bharti to issue contrary orders, such as, "Don, don't bite!" If Don had disobediently leapt for the seat of the opposing counsel's pants, the case would have taken an interesting turn. It is a common strategy for parents to con their children into doing things they don't like by proscribing those very things, and in some respects, dogs are rather like small children.
On the other hand, Don's behaviour could reflect his current opinion of his master, rather than his unwillingness to assume the role of biological weapon in the past. It may be recalled that when Bharti was denied anticipatory bail by the Delhi High
Court and went underground, he had left Don's cardiac medication in his locked cabin, and his vet had declared that he would die if he was denied his pills. Withdrawal of life-saving medication is not behaviour calculated to endear. It is guaranteed to estrange even man's best friend. But in that case, shouldn't Don have tried to embarrass his master by biting to order?
(especially of an official body) absolve (someone) from blame for a fault or wrongdoing, especially after due consideration of the case.
A person's orders or command
Evoke or draw out (a response, answer, or fact) from someone in reaction to one's own actions or questions.
Cause to be loved or liked.
Oct 09 2015 : The Times of India (Ahmedabad)
Heed The President
Government and political parties must listen to him and curb hatemongers
Presidents always watch their words carefully , mindful of their status as head of the republic. This is why President Pranab Mukherjee's assertion that India's "core civilisational values" of tolerance, celebrating diversity and plurality are intrinsic to its survival is so significant. He has evocatively pointed out that these principles form the bedrock not only of the "marvel" of our democracy but also of India's ancient culture which has survived for centuries while others perished. After a week in which we have seen the worst of our political culture on full display over Mohammad Akhlaq's lynching in Dadri, the President's words couldn't have come a day sooner.
Equally welcome is Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to finally break his silence on the issue. His unequivocal statement, at an election rally in Bihar, that people should not be swayed by politicians making divisive statements but only listen to the President's advice on tolerance, that Hindus and Muslims should be one and that the only fight they should have is a joint effort against poverty was much needed.
The PM's public reiteration of the President's message matters. While incidents of intolerance pile up by the day , no party has reined in its storm troopers. Home minister Rajnath Singh issued a stern warning the other day saying "strongest possible action" will be taken against those trying to disrupt communal harmony , his ministry had advised states to take stern action against those exploiting religious sentiments and finance minister Arun Jaitley had said Dadri like incidents don't give India a good name. Nevertheless, BJP hotheads such as party MP Sakshi Maharaj went on as before, even as Sushil Kumar Modi likened the Bihar poll to a contest between "beef eaters and protectors of cows" and the SP government in Uttar Pradesh allowed all kinds of politicians to make political capital in Dadri.
This growing climate of intolerance must be checked. BJP MLAs physically assaulting independent MLA Engineer Rashid in the Jammu & Kashmir assembly for hosting a beef party , Shiv Sena stopping Ghulam Ali's concert in Mumbai and intemperate statements by politicians all round are inimical to the very idea of India and indeed, to the economic dreams of the Modi government.It is time to say enough is enough.
Pay attention to; take notice of
(hatemonger) one who arouses hatred for others
Move or cause to move slowly or rhythmically backward and forward or from side to side.
(of a person or their manner) serious and unrelenting, especially in the assertion of authority and exercise of discipline.
Having or showing a lack of self-control; immoderate
Tending to obstruct or harm.
Oct 09 2015 : The Economic Times (Mumbai)
Reduce Sulphur in Diesel, First of All
Without clean fuel, vehicles cannot cut pollution
Delhi must stop beating about the bush on air pollution and, instead, speedily reduce sulphur content in diesel to proactively improve environmental standards. Slapping an environmental cess on trucks entering Delhi might actually worsen pollution levels, with traffic choked at toll gates. The Centre, in announcing last week India's intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) for climate action, said it aims to improve fuel standards "in the near future". India is not obliged to set out its actual target dates in a negotiating document. Yet, as the expert committee, headed by Saumitra Chaudhuri, thenmember, Planning Commission, noted last year, in the business-as-usual scenario, the deadline to improve fuel quality is 2025 "or even beyond".
The panel stressed that reducing sulphur levels in diesel is essential to reduce tailpipe emissions, particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen. The government needs to speedily improve fuel quality nationally . As the expert panel noted, Bharat Stage-III diesel, with sulphur in the range of 350-500 particles per million (ppm) is still supplied in much of the country . BS-IV (sulphur levels at 50 ppm) is now increasingly available in the major towns, but vehicles on long-distance routes are more likely to run on BS-III fuel. The expert report emphasised that BS-IV diesel is a must for pollution abatement devices like catalytic converters to function. It added that when sulphur content reduces to 10 ppm (BS-V), the efficiency and durability of the onboard pollution control devices improve.
However, to move to ultra-low sulphur fuel requires capital investment of the order of ` . 80,000 crore in oil refineries. The report called for a 75 paise sulphur cess per litre of automotive fuel to reach BS-V by 2020, and BS-VI by 2024. The report was submitted last May , before the slide in oil prices. The government needs to address the root cause of urban air pollution and, given the far softer oil prices, levy an appropriate charge on auto fuel sales to revamp refineries. We must in the near future move to BS-V fuel norms and not wait to do so only by 2020.
· beat around the bush
>o avoid talking about what is important:
Don't beat around the bush - get to the point!
(of a person or animal) have severe difficulty in breathing because of a constricted or obstructed throat or a lack of air.
Give new and improved form, structure, or appearance to.
When a nation came together
Ten years have elapsed since the Kashmir earthquake of 2005. The temblor jolted this country into the realisation that nature's wrath knows no boundaries.
The death toll almost touched 75,000 according to the official count and more than 86,000 according to unofficial figures.
It was one of those moments when most Pakistanis would remember what they were doing when they first heard of, or experienced, the quake. Over the next few days, the news filtered in slowly of the sheer scale of the devastation.
Many of us remember the dramatic appeal from the United Nations for a relief effort on the magnitude of the Berlin airlift, the riots around aid distribution points in the most affected areas and the traffic jams on the roads as citizens from across the country mobilised to rush food and other supplies to the quake-hit spots.
It would be well worth it to remember a few other things too. First and foremost is the warning from the world's leading geologists who study this region that this earthquake "may not have released more than one-tenth of the cumulative elastic energy that has developed since the previous great earthquake in the region in 1555".
There are more to come — either tomorrow or 50 years from now. With a clear warning that more such events will occur in the decades to come, the biggest lesson from the 2005 destruction is that preparedness is key. Fortunately for us, preparing for earthquakes is not as difficult or complicated as it is for other types of natural disasters such as floods.
At the top of the list are building codes to ensure that dwellings and other structures can withstand the shock of a temblor. In the two cities at either end of the epicentre of the 2005 earthquake, hardly any concrete structures survived; many of those that did were rendered unusable.
Ten years after the catastrophic event, there is a patchy track record of implementing earthquake-resistant building codes. The Development Authority of Muzaffarabad, for example, has certainly promulgated new codes and state buildings have adhered to them, but many private dwellings continue to violate these. The same is true in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The state played a largely laudable role in the rehabilitation of the affected areas, even though important gaps between the promises made at the time and what was eventually delivered persist to this day.
Out of a total of Rs207bn that were pledged for reconstruction, about Rs140bn were eventually disbursed. The job was gargantuan, but, by and large, the government of the time rose to the occasion. Whatever the general opinion of his rule may be, Gen Musharraf provided a sturdy guiding hand when the staggering scale of the crisis fuelled a sense of panic in the country.
However, less than five years later, the floods of 2010 would prove that no lasting lessons were learned in how to manage natural disasters.
The earthquake reminded us of our insignificance compared to the forces of nature that envelop our lives so completely. But the aftermath, which brought countless tears to countless eyes, brought out the best in each of us as people scrambled to contribute in any way they could.
Doctors trekked across dangerous mud slopes to reach affected communities while journalists dropped their pens and joined in the search for survivors under the rubble. Edhi volunteers cut a trail of sheer bravery as they crossed impassable terrain with large convoys of relief goods, being the first to arrive in many locations.
At relief collection points in the cities, people reported that even beggars were coming forward to share their meagre takings — even if much of the effort may have been hasty and ramshackle, and there were stories of how some made money off the misery of others.
The help that Pakistan received from the world community was also significant. But 10 years on, let's not forget how the people of Pakistan pulled together to face a terrible calamity, registering for generations to come that the bonds of common empathy that bind them to each other are alive and well — and stronger than any force of nature, and certainly stronger than any politics or any ideology that seeks to tear the people apart.
(of time) pass or go by.
Push or shake (someone or something) abruptly and roughly.
Extreme anger (chiefly used for humorous or rhetorical effect).
Existing or happening in small, isolated areas.
Promote or make widely known (an idea or cause)
The consequences or aftereffects of a significant unpleasant event.
Make one's way quickly or awkwardly up a steep slope or over rough ground by using one's hands as well as one's feet.
Go on a long arduous journey, typically on foot.