The Hindu: November 19, 2015 01:25 IST
Stop this brinkmanship
As Nepal reels(music composed for dancing a reel घूम घूम कर नाचना) under shortages of essential supplies just months after a debilitating(impairing the strength and vitality दुर्बल) earthquake brought distress(psychological suffering दुःख ) to many of its citizens, the answer to why it is happening depends on to whom the question is posed(introduce प्रश्नों से घबरा देना). Prime Minister K.P. Oli puts the blame on an "economic blockade(prevents access or progress अवरोध)" by India. But the plains-dweller(a person who inhabits a particular place निवासी ) protesting against the fact that the new Constitution insufficiently addresses the concerns of the Madhesis, pins it on Kathmandu's insensitivity. New Delhi has meanwhile(at the same time but in another place इसी दौरान) denied there is any "blockade" and put on Nepal's ruling establishment the onus(an onerous or difficult concern दायित्व ) of resolving the instability in its southern plains in order to help ease(freedom from difficulty or hardship or effort सुगमता) movement of goods across the open border between the two countries. There is some element of truth in all these answers, but in themselves they do not fully explain the reasons for the state of affairs. (ashokeditorial.wordpress.com) It is true that economic coercion(using force to cause something to occur ज़बरदस्ती) of the covert(secret or hidden गुप्त) kind practised by India at the border has given a fillip(anything that tends to arouse प्रोत्साहन ) to what the Nepali hill elite(selected as the bestउच्च वर्ग) has taken recourse(act of turning to for assistance सहारा) to for years — anti-India jingoism(fanatical patriotism कट्टर राष्ट्रवाद). At the same time, the fact that even after a six-year-long constitutional deadlock(a situation in which no progress can be made or no advancement is possible गतिरोध ) over the question of inclusive federalism(the idea of a federal organization of more or less self-governing unitsसंघवाद) the Madhesi concerns have not been sufficiently addressed has heightened(increase) the anger in the plains. The grievances(a resentment strong enough to justify retaliation , शिकायत, अन्याय) are not just against Kathmandu but also the Madhesi politicians for not having sought to match the expectations of the plains. This has caused violent protests in the plains, and hurt cross-border movement.
Mr. Oli put the blame for the situation on Nepal's southern neighbour, in a televised speech last week. This is an attempt to 'wriggle out of'(escaped from से बच निकालना) his government's responsibility to contain the protests in the Terai by reaching out to address Madhesi concerns. Reactions in the Terai to his remarks suggest that this "nationalist" response by the government has few takers. (ashokeditorial.wordpress.com) It is not surprising that Prime Minister Oli and the members of his new Cabinet are not trusted enough by the protesting plains-dwellers. Mr. Oli and his close colleagues in the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) have for long espoused(choose and followसमर्थन करना) status quoist positions and been least enthusiastic about the country's transition to a republic and the state restructuring demand. It remains to be seen whether Mr. Oli would be willing to break away(move away or escape suddenly अलग हो जाना) from the habitual recourse(act of turning to for assistanceसहारा) to nationalism as a ploy(an opening remark intended to secure an advantage for the speaker चाल) to prevent further democratisation(the action of making something democratic प्रजातंत्रीकरण) in Nepal. This has been a standard tactic(a plan for attaining a particular goal कार्यनीति) but one that has yielded diminishing returns. It was used by different erstwhile(belonging to some prior time भूतपूर्व) monarchs; most recently, the last king, Gyanendra, sought to play the "China card" in order to rebuff(a deliberate discourteous act ) domestic and international pressure on him to lift curbs on democratic institutions. For New Delhi, there are a lot more options and ways to register its concern with the instability in Nepal than prolonging(lengthen in time लम्बा या दीर्घ करना) the acts of economic coercion(the act of compelling by force of authority ज़बरदस्ती) at the border. It is high time the major actors both in Kathmandu and New Delhi ended the brinkmanship(the policy of pushing a dangerous situation to the brink of disaster (to the limits of safety अस्थिरता).
The Hindu: November 19, 2015 02:38 IST
Death at the school
Among the many failings of the school education system identified by the National Study on Child Protection Mechanisms conducted by the Childline India Foundation is this: only 12 per cent of school principals have had any training in child rights and child protection. Not surprisingly, when three-year-old Syeda Xainab Fatima Jaffery lay trapped between the lift and the first floor of her nursery school in Hyderabad on Tuesday, nobody around quite knew what to do. For one frantic(excessively agitated उत्तेजित) hour, as the child's mother watched in horror, fire services personnel and school staff struggled to extricate(release from entanglement of difficulty छुड़ाना) her lifeless body. (ashokeditorial.wordpress.com)As such incidents all too frequently do, the death brought to the fore a number of shortcomings in the way schools are run: child-unsafe construction, lack of adherence(faithful support for a cause or political party or religion समर्थन) to fire safety norms, unchecked speeding in school zones and school buses being driven by unlicenced drivers, open manholes outside school gates, and so on. These are only the problems that expose children to clear and present danger. What of those phenomena fraught(marked by distressव्याकुल) with equally grave(dignified and somber in manner गंभीर) and longer-term consequences, such as sexual molestation, corporal(affecting or characteristic of the body as opposed to the mind or spirit शारीरिक) punishment, absence of toilets and clean drinking water? Indeed, taken together the child's experience at school runs the whole gamut(a complete extent or range सारे पहलू) of risks. Why must the years at school be a minefield(a region in which explosives mines have been placed विस्फोटक स्थिति) for children to navigate?
It is no defence at all to say that for all of the problems exposed by Xainab's death, there are regulatory norms in place and that her death was a freak(a person or animal that is markedly unusual or deformed अनूठा ) accident. The mechanisms don't work. If inspections by district education officers were any more than cursory(hasty and without attention to detail; not thorough शीघ्रता या असावधानी से किया हुआ), why would only 4 per cent of our schools give filtered water to the children, and why would only 28 per cent of them have separate toilets for boys and girls? It has emerged from the Xainab incident that school lifts in some States fall in the no-man's land between the fire services, the electricity utility and the civic authority, with leeway(a permissible difference कमी) enough for each to disown (prevent deliberately परित्याग करना) responsibility. In practice, the governance and regulation of child safety in schools has become a Tom and Jerry act between school managements and regulators: for one to pursue(carry out अनुसरण) and for the other to elude(escape, बचना). We need to redefine child safety at school not as a game but as a goal, and resort to a 360-degree approach with the well-being of pupils at its heart. For a start, schools will have to adopt child safety protocols(code of correct conduct शिष्टाचार ) and train their staff and wards to adhere to them. As for the civic utilities and education departments, it would help if the inspections and certification procedures were made subject to some kind of involvement, even oversight, by parent-teacher bodies. The picture of Xainab lying face down in the lift with a pink satchel on her back bore(a hole छिद्र) a staggering(so surprisingly impressive as to stun or overwhelm लड़खड़ाहट) similarity to the image of a Syrian toddler(a young child नन्हा बच्चा ) found lifeless on a Turkish beach in September. That image stirred(being excited or provoked to the expression of an emotion द्रवित) the world's conscience(a feeling of shame when you do something immoral जमीर). This must rouse(become active उत्तेजित) ours.
Record amounts of rain have hit Chennai and other parts of northern Tamil Nadu. A low-pressure area over the Bay of Bengal has meant that Tamil Nadu, coastal Andhra Pradesh and parts of Sri Lanka have been battered by rainfall - Chennai received 23.5 centimetres of rain between 8 am, Sunday and 8 pm, Monday, the most in 30 years. The city couldn't handle this; large parts of it have been flooded for days, and at least 10,000 people have had to be evacuated from their homes. About 1,000 of those were rescued by a battalion of the National Disaster Relief Force; the Madras Regiment of the army was also called out, as was the navy. Even the air force said it had rescued 22 people, airlifting them out of difficult situations, using helicopters flying sorties out of the Tambaram Air Force Station. In spite of that, at least 70 casualties have been reported in the city and other parts of the state.
There is considerable anger against the state government. (ashokeditorial.wordpress.com) The chief minister, J Jayalalithaa, was elected to the Assembly from a city constituency, R K Nagar. Visiting the area after the rains hit, she pleaded for patience, saying that the flooding was "inevitable(incapable of being avoided or prevented जो टल न सके)". Given that "the rain that was meant to be spread out over the monsoon months has poured in just a few days... No precautionary(taken in advance to protect against possible danger or failure एहतियाती) measures would have managed to prevent waterlogging and damage," she said. However, she did announce a Rs 500-crore relief package, the opening of 50 additional state-run grocery stores to ensure the availability of food, and various other measures. Ms Jayalalithaa has a point; but the Opposition has pointed to the fact that recently-installed, expensive storm drains were supposed to deal with problems of this kind but signally failed to deliver. The Indian Express reported that, sometime in July 2014, a Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority engineer wrote a confession letter to his superior detailing how a multi-crore storm water drain project at Koyambedu was executed(implement) without concrete reinforcements(an act performed to strengthen approved behaviorमजबूती ) or cement, but instead with "quarry(a surface excavation for extracting stone or slate) dust". Certainly, Ms Jayalalithaa's image as a formidable(extremely impressive in strength or excellence महापराक्रमी) administrator has taken a hit.
The lessons of Chennai's floods, however, go far beyond state politics. In fact, the combination of circumstances reveals how unprepared Indian cities are for the extreme weather events that will accompany global warming. Cloudbursts of the sort Chennai suffered are increasingly becoming common. They will put urban drainage under stress; and this is especially true of those cities that have been built on swampy(soft and watery दलदली) or marshy(soft and watery कीचड़दार) land, such as Chennai or Kolkata, but in which rampant(unrestrained and violent अनियंत्रित) overbuilding has destroyed the natural drainage and watercourses. (ashokeditorial.wordpress.com) India must prepare better for such cloudbursts. The National Disaster Management Authority, in particular, cannot just coordinate responses to disasters; if it is to exist at all, it should at least also try to get ahead of the curve and anticipate problems. It must begin to build scenarios for future such events so that state governments have templates(a model or standard for making comparisons नमूना ) on which to try and restructure towns.
The Assam Rifles have a mandate(a document giving an official instruction or command आदेशपत्र) to fight terrorism in the northeastern states. That does not, however, empower the paramilitary force to tell the media what it can publish. The notice sent by the Assam Rifles headquarters to five newspapers in Nagaland, in which they claim that publishing articles mentioning the demands of the NSCN(K) is tantamount (being essentially equal to something बराबर) to violating the provisions of an anti-terror law, is a clear case of overreach(fail by aiming too high or trying too hard अधिक महत्वाकांक्षी होने के कारण असफल हो जाना) and a deliberate(carefully thought out in advance इच्छित) misreading of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. The Union government must step in and instruct the force to keep off the media and let the latter decide what is best for readers. The Assam Rifles, undoubtedly, have a tough task in a region with a long history of insurgency, but it must stick to its core competency — which certainly does not include news judgement and selection.
The Assam Rifles' gag order attempts to draw legitimacy from a section in the UAPA that says that "whosoever advocates, abets(assist or encourage, usually in some wrongdoing उकसाना), advises or incites(give an incentive for action भड़काना) the commission of any unlawful activity", or assists the operations of a banned organisation, is liable for punishment. But what constitutes advocacy, abetment and incitement to unlawful activity? Does mere(only) reporting of the activities of a banned organisation or one of its members fall into any of these categories? The now-repealed(cancel officially रद्द करना) Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002, included a section criminalising anyone who "invited support" for an organisation banned under the anti-terror law. (ashokeditorial.wordpress.com) The vagueness(unclearness by virtue of being poorly expressed or not coherent in meaning अस्पष्टता) of the provision had enlarged the scope for abuse and, with the state targeting activists and politicians, Parliament was forced to repeal(cancel officially रद्द करना) the act.
The NSCN(K), though a banned organisation, is a factor in Nagaland's public life, and no serious media organisation can ignore or suppress(to put down by force or authorityछिपाना) news about it. The report that appears to have triggered the ridiculous(inspiring scornful pity हास्यास्पद) diktat(order अलोकप्रिय और कड़ा आदेश) was on the death threat issued by the NSCN(K) to lawmakers whom the terror outfit deemed(keep in mind or convey as a conviction or view विचार करना) to be collaborators of the Indian state and opposed to Naga sovereignty(government free from external control सत्ता). Newspapers could not possibly ignore news that the most dangerous insurgent(in opposition to a civil authority or government विद्रोही) group in the region was planning to target the state's legislators. How to report the NSCN(K) is a task best left to editors, who are stakeholders in Nagaland's public affairs as much as, or even more so, than the Assam Rifles. The Assam Rifles mistake the role of the media if they think that the latter ought to serve as dutiful handmaidens(in a subordinate position नौकरानी) to the paramilitary(of or relating to a group of civilians organized to function like or to assist a military unitअर्द्धसैनिक) forces engaged in counter(indicating opposition or resistanceविपरीत-)-insurgency operations.
Nov 19, 2015 : The Times of India (Ahmedabad)
Stiffing (not moving or operating freely मजबूत) The Poor
Stop the cow protection brigade(army unit smaller than a division) from wreaking economic havoc(violent and needless disturbanceबरबादी)India, as a Hindu majority nation, discourages cattle slaughter in a directive principle of the Constitution, but couches (formulate in a particular style or languageवर्णन करना) it in an economic argument. In other words, there has always been hypocrisy(an expression of agreement that is not supported by real conviction पाखंड) around cow slaughter while upper-caste Hindus uphold the cow's holiness, India's meat production and trade in cow hide, skin, bone, etc has thrived(grow vigorously पनपना) with the participation of Hindus as well.Now, the climate of fear around cows has provided sanction(sanction मंजूरी देना) for harassment and inflicted(impose something unpleasant दण्ड देना) serious economic damage.
By now, 24 Indian states have laws banning or limiting cattle slaughter. In Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Rajasthan the burden of proof is on the accused; some states even ban bull and buffalo slaughter as well as the consumption of beef.Given that India is the world's largest exporter of beef (mostly buffalo), this has deep and wide economic ramification(a development that complicates a situationजटिलता). Apart from striking at individual rights and imposing the religious beliefs of one powerful community over others, these harsh laws combined with vigilante(member of a vigilance committeeसतर्कता समिति सदस्य) cow protection activists have struck hard at the livelihoods of those who have anything to do with cows. Minorities and lower castes, who deal with cattle and or consume beef as a source of cheap protein, are worst affected. India's agrarian economy was already in crisis last year. (ashokeditorial.wordpress.com) Restrictions on cattle trade have deepened the crisis as farmers are stuck with unproductive heifers(young cowvबछिया ) now. Once they are no longer lactating or reproducing, a cow's upkeep(activity involved in maintaining something in good working order पालन ), fodder and feed is expensive. The meat-processing industry, worth Rs 29,000 crore in 2014-15, has seen a sharp decline this year. The leather industry is also reeling(walk as if unable to control one's movements लड़खड़ाना) because of the panic around cowhide it has recorded an 8% fall in exports. Flayers, tannery owners, contractors, truckers and traders are all running scared. Related business in gelatin, animal fat soap, pharmaceuticals, etc is also impacted.
The irony ( a witty language used to convey insults or scorn विडंबना) is that all this pious(having or showing or expressing reverence for a deity धार्मिक) activism doesn't help the cow.According to the cattle census, there is already 53 lakh stray( having no home or having wandered away from home भटका जानवर) cattle abandoned(forsaken by owner or inhabitants छोड़ा हुआ) by their owners. Now, with all the fear around disposing (give, sell, or transfer to another समाप्त करना) of aged cattle, farmers have even less of an incentive to rear(bring up पाल पोसना) them.Hindutva activists will find that the more deified(consider as a god or godlike देवता मानना) the cow is, the more it is condemned(express strong disapproval of निराकरण करना) to be a marginalised drifter(a wanderer who has no established residence or visible means of support आवारा) fated (determined by tragic fate भाग्य में लिखा हुआ)to starve(be hungry; go without food भूखा मरना) slowly to death. It's imperative(requiring attention or action अनिवार्यता) to defy((resist or confront with resistance अवहेलना करना) their blandishments(flattery intended to persuade चापलूसी) and switch from gai-vernance to governance.
Nov 19, 2015: The Economic Times (Bangalore)
Turn of the Tomato to Play Spoilsport
Industry, services cannot race too far ahead of farm
With industry and services growing to 85% of India's GDP, one would think that the days of the economy being a gamble on the monsoon are behind us. One would think wrong.(ashokeditorial.wordpress.com) A whole lot of demand for the produce of industry depends on income being generated in rural areas, which income depends on agricultural output. If industry slackens(become slow or slower निर्बल करना), so would the need for a variety of services.Add to this the RBI's decision to make the food-heavy consumer price index its measure of inflation and to make containing inflation the sole(MAIN) objective of monetary policy. With this, a spike in food inflation would lead to tightening of money, well, adding to the economy's woes(misery resulting from affliction दुःख) from depressed farm incomes. The monsoon stays king.
Tomato prices are spiking(manifest a sharp increase स्पष्ट रूप से बढ़ जाना), thanks to unseasonal rains in some producing regions and deficient rains in others.This comes in the wake of an onion price scare and a steep(devote (oneself) fully to अत्यधिक) elevation(the event of something being raised upward ऊँचाई) in the price of lentils(the fruit or seed of a lentil plant the fruit or seed of a lentil plant), the chief source of protein for most Indians. The country cannot afford to continue with a farm sector that is so unpredictable and undependable. Every bit of the country's agricultural strategy desperately(with great urgency ) needs reform.
We need better seeds and plant breeds, including genetically modified crops.
We need more and better-managed irrigation. We need improved marketing of farm produce, to minimise the role of the middleman and link retail prices to the price the farmer gets. We need expanded and climate-controlled storage. We need crop insurance and selective buffer(protect from impact) stocking, a stable export-import regime with tariffs that can vary(become different in some particular way, without permanently losing one's or its former characteristics or essence घटना बढ़ना) in a known range. We need to invest heavily in food processing so that tomato puree paste and onion powder paste can stand in for the fresh produce and can be stored across the land in trade channels.
We need to move from public funds for agriculture being wasted in inefficient subsidies to larger public outlays(the act of spending or disbursing money खर्च ) pouring(flowing profusely घनघोर) into intelligent farm investment. With a new network of roads and electricity reaching rural areas, none of this agenda is beyond our grasp(the limit of capabilityपकड़), political will permitting.
'HUMAN error' is the refuge(a safe placeआश्रय लेना) of officials who are asked to explain a major mishap(an instance of misfortune दुर्घटना ) in Pakistan. All too often the image of an errant(uncontrolled motion that is irregular or unpredictable पथभ्रष्ट) pilot or driver is greeted by public calls for reforming the individual — although the suspicion(an impression that something might be the case शंका remains that the institution the person worked for is being allowed to get away without a serious investigation. The latest example is the derailment(an accident in which a train runs off its track पटरी से उतरना) of the Jaffar Express in Balochistan's(ashokeditorial.wordpress.com) Bolan area on Tuesday, in which the first suspect was the train's driver who was among the at least 14 people killed. But as evidence emerged that the crash could have been caused by brake failure, the blame wagon changed course in the direction of those responsible for the maintenance of the Pakistan Railways stocks. The finger was pointed at the mechanics who ought to have ensured that the train's brakes were in perfect running order before they signed the fitness certificate allowing it to set off from Quetta on Tuesday morning. But whereas this may be the routine start to the process of bringing the lazy and irresponsible to justice the exercise will remain incomplete unless there is a deeper probe(an inquiry into unfamiliar or questionable activities तहक़ीक़ात) into the mess that has existed for long in the railways and that goes beyond the fancy vows(a solemn pledge शपथ) of those in charge of its affairs.
If initial reports about the accident indicate a casual attitude on part of the maintenance staff in Quetta, it is in sync with the lethargy(weakness characterized by a lack of vitality or energy सुस्ती ) that has come to be associated with this national service. The railways minister has been constantly heard making popular noises about turning around the organisation. While some experts have found reason to praise Minister Saad Rafique, those with greater expertise in the field often caution against the much-celebrated surface changes that hide the ugly reality: that the railways' infrastructure is in a shambles(a condition of great disorder गड़बड़). The truth is that whatever 'improvements' are carried out within the system in the name of safety, speed and reliability, are limited to the more visible and more privileged sections — for instance, the two favourite routes, the Lahore-Karachi and Lahore-Rawalpindi sections. Areas such as Aab-i-Gum in Bolan stand by and are lost to officials until they abruptly(quickly and without warning अचानक ही) become the news as in Tuesday's accident when a driver tried to apply the brakes on a long slide. If this is human error the blame must rest at the top of the fragile(easily broken or damaged or destroyed दुर्बल) system.