Editorials - 18-08-2021

சுதந்திர தினத்தன்று உச்ச நீதிமன்ற வழக்குரைஞர்கள் சங்கம் ஏற்பாடு செய்திருந்த விழாவில் உரையாற்றிய தலைமை நீதிபதி என்.வி.ரமணா, நாடாளுமன்றத்தில் போதுமான விவாதங்களின்றிச் சட்டங்கள் இயற்றப்படுவது குறித்துக் கவலை தெரிவித்துள்ளது, நாடாளுமன்ற ஜனநாயகத்தை மேம்படுத்துவதற்கான நல்லதொரு அறிவுரை. அரசமைப்பால் வகுக்கப்பட்ட அதிகாரப் பிரிவினைக் கோட்பாட்டின் வரம்புகளை மீறி இந்தக் கருத்து அமைந்துள்ளதாகவும் சில விமர்சனங்கள் எழுந்துள்ளன. சட்டமியற்றும் அவை, நிர்வாகம், நீதிமன்றம் மூன்றும் சுதந்திரமாகத் தனித்தியங்கவும் ஒன்றுக்கொன்று இணங்கிச் செல்லவும் வேண்டும் என்பதுதான் அதிகாரப் பிரிவினைக் கோட்பாட்டின் அடிப்படையே ஒழிய, அரசமைப்பின் பிறிதொரு அங்கத்தின் தவறுகளை அனுசரித்துச் செல்ல வேண்டும் என்பதல்ல.

இயற்றப்படும் சட்டங்களின் முன்வரைவுகள் பெரும்பாலும் துறைசார் வல்லுநர்கள், அத்துறையைச் சேர்ந்த அதிகாரிகள் கருத்துகளைப் பெற்று உருவாக்கப்படுகின்றன. அவையில் முன்மொழியப்படும் சட்ட வரைவுகளைத் தெரிவுக் குழு அல்லது இரு அவைகளின் கூட்டுக் குழு மீண்டும் ஒருமுறை ஆய்வுக்கு உட்படுத்த வேண்டும் என்றும் நாடாளுமன்ற உறுப்பினர்கள் கோரிக்கை வைக்க முடியும். அதிலும்கூட கவனிக்கத் தவறிய விஷயங்கள் பின்பு விவாதங்களின்போது எதிர்க் கட்சிகளால் சுட்டிக்காட்டப்பட்டு, திருத்திக்கொள்ளப்பட வாய்ப்பிருக்கிறது. அரசமைப்புக் கூறுகள் தவிர, நாடாளுமன்ற இரு அவைகளின் விதிமுறைகளும் சட்டமியற்றும் நடைமுறையைப் பிழையற மேற்கொள்வதற்கான வழிமுறைகளை வகுத்துள்ளன. இவற்றையெல்லாம் தவிர்த்து அவசர அவசரமாகக் குரல் வாக்கெடுப்பு மூலமாகச் சட்டமியற்றுவது அவற்றின் நோக்கத்தையே சிதைப்பதாகும். விவாதிக்கப்பட்டு இயற்றப்படுவதாலேயே எந்தவொரு சட்டமும் அதற்கான தகுதியைப் பெறுகிறது. அரசாணைகளிலிருந்து சட்டங்களை வேறுபடுத்திக் காட்டுவது விவாதங்கள்தான். ஆனால், நடந்து முடிந்துள்ள மழைக்காலக் கூட்டத்தொடரில் 15 சட்ட வரைவுகள் இரு அவைகளிலும் நிறைவேற்றப்பட்டுள்ளன. அவற்றில் 14 சட்ட வரைவுகள் மக்களவையில் 10 நிமிடங்களுக்கும் குறைவாகவே விவாதிக்கப்பட்டுள்ளன. கடந்த 22 கூட்டத் தொடர்களில் மக்களவையிலிருந்து எந்தவொரு சட்ட வரைவும் தெரிவுக் குழுவுக்கு அனுப்பி, மறு ஆய்வுக்கு உட்படுத்தப்படவில்லை என்பதும் குறிப்பிடத்தக்கது.

உச்ச நீதிமன்றத் தலைமை நீதிபதியின் கருத்து நாடாளுமன்றத்தைப் பற்றியதே அல்லாமல், மத்தியில் ஆளும் பாஜகவை மட்டும் குறித்தது அல்ல. தலைமை நீதிபதியின் கருத்தை மத்திய அரசுக்கு எதிராகச் சித்தரிக்க எதிர்க் கட்சிகள் விரும்புகின்றன. நாடாளுமன்றம் என்பது பெரும்பான்மை பெற்றுள்ள கட்சியை மட்டுமல்ல, எதிர்க் கட்சிகளையும் உள்ளடக்கியதே. குறிப்பிட்ட ஒரு விவகாரத்தின் முக்கியத்துவம் கருதி, அதை நாடாளுமன்ற அவைகளில் விவாதிக்க வேண்டும் என்று வலியுறுத்தும் எதிர்க் கட்சிகள் தங்களது கோரிக்கைகளை விட்டுக்கொடுக்காமலேயே மற்ற விவாதங்களிலும் பங்கெடுப்பது குறித்துப் பரிசீலிக்க வேண்டும். அதே நேரத்தில், எதிர்க் கட்சிகளின் அமளியைக் காரணம்காட்டி உரிய விவாதங்கள் இல்லாமலும் தெரிவுக் குழுக்களின் மறு ஆய்வுகளைத் தவிர்த்தும், பெரும்பான்மையின அடிப்படையில் மட்டுமே சட்டங்களை நிறைவேற்றும் போக்கை மத்திய அரசும் கைவிட வேண்டும்.

பருவநிலை மாற்றத்துக்கான பன்னாட்டு அரசுக் குழு (ஐபிசிசி) வெளியிட்டிருக்கும் ஆறாவது மதிப்பீட்டு அறிக்கை, மனித குலத்துக்கு விடுக்கப்பட்ட இறுதி எச்சரிக்கை என்று சொல்லலாம். இன்னும் 20 ஆண்டுகளில் புவி வெப்பநிலை 1.5 டிகிரி செல்ஸியஸ் அதிகரிப்பதையும் அதன் கடுமையான விளைவுகளையும் யாராலும் தடுத்து நிறுத்த முடியாது என்று ஐபிசிசியின் அறிக்கை கூறியுள்ளது. கையில் இருக்கும் ஒரே புவியை நம் பேராசையிடம் சூதாடித் தோற்றுக்கொண்டிருக்கிறோம். இந்த நேரத்தில், உலகின் முன்னோடிச் சுற்றுச்சூழலியரான காந்தியின் நினைவு வருவதைத் தவிர்க்க முடியாது.

‘சுற்றுச்சூழல்’ (environment) என்ற சொல்லை ஒரு முறைகூடப் பயன்படுத்தாதவர் காந்தி. ஆனால், உலகெங்கிலும் இந்தியா முழுவதிலும் உள்ள சுற்றுச்சூழலியர்கள், சூழல்சார் பொருளியர்கள் பலரும் காந்தியால் உந்துதல் பெற்றவர்கள் என்பது ஆச்சரியம். உலக அளவில் ஈ.எஃப். ஷூமாக்கர், ஆர்ன் நேஸ் போன்றோரும், இந்திய அளவில் சுந்தர்லால் பகுகுணா, வந்தனா சிவா, மாதவ் காட்கில், மேதா பட்கர், ராமச்சந்திர குஹா போன்றோரும் காந்தியிடமிருந்து தாக்கம் பெற்றவர்கள். காந்தியின் சீடர்களான ஜே.சி.குமரப்பா, மீரா பென் போன்றோர் சுற்றுச்சூழல் செயல்பாடுகளுக்கு முக்கியமான பங்காற்றியிருக்கிறார்கள். இந்தியாவில் உருவான சிப்கோ இயக்கம், நர்மதா பச்சாவ் அந்தோலன் போன்ற சுற்றுச்சூழல் இயக்கங்கள் சத்தியாகிரகப் போராட்ட வழிமுறைகளைப் பின்பற்றியவை.

தன் வாழ்க்கை முறையால் மிகச் சிறந்த சுற்றுச்சூழலியராக காந்தி திகழ்ந்தார். காந்தி தென்னாப்பிரிக்காவில் உருவாக்கிய டால்ஸ்டாய் பண்ணை, ஃபீனிக்ஸ் குடியிருப்பு இந்தியாவில் உருவாக்கிய சத்தியாகிரக ஆசிரமம், சபர்மதி ஆசிரமம், சேவாகிராம் ஆசிரமம் போன்றவற்றில் கடைப்பிடிக்கப்பட்ட வாழ்க்கை முறை சுற்றுச்சூழலுக்கு மிகவும் உகந்ததாக இருந்தது. தன்னிறைவு கொண்ட ஆசிரமங்களாக அவற்றை காந்தி உருவாக்கினார். அந்த ஆசிரமங்களில் வசிப்பவர்களுக்குத் தேவையான நீர், உணவு, ஆடைகள் போன்ற வசதிகளைப் பெரிதும் அங்கேயே ஏற்படுத்திக்கொண்டனர். ஒவ்வொருவருடைய உழைப்பும் அவர் உண்ணும் உணவுடன் நேரடியாக உறவு கொண்டிருந்தது. தீண்டாமையற்ற, ஒரு முன்மாதிரிக் கிராமம் போன்று அவருடைய ஆசிரமங்கள் விளங்கின.

அவருடைய ஆசிரமங்களில் கடைப்பிடிக்கப்பட்ட மறுசுழற்சி முறை, கழிவு மேலாண்மை இன்று நமக்குப் பெருமளவில் வழிகாட்ட முடியும். காந்தி ஆசிரமங்களில் மனித, விலங்குக் கழிவுகளை உரமாக மாற்றி, தோட்டப் பயிர்களுக்கும் வயலுக்கும் உரமாக இடுவார்கள். நீர், உணவு, உடை, நுகர்வு, பணம் என்று எல்லாவற்றிலும் சிக்கனம் கடைப்பிடிக்கப்பட்டது. தேவைக்கு அதிகமான நுகர்வு ஆபத்தானது என்று காந்தி கருதினார். நம் அதீத நுகர்வும், இயற்கை வளங்களைச் சுரண்டும் போக்கும் இன்று நம்மை அபாயகரமான கட்டத்துக்குக் கொண்டுவந்து விட்டிருக்கிறது. ‘இயற்கை… நம் அன்றாடத் தேவைகளைப் பூர்த்திசெய்யப் போதுமானவற்றை உற்பத்திசெய்கிறது என்றும், இது இயற்கையின் அடிப்படை விதி என்றும் நான் துணிந்து கூறுவேன்; ஒவ்வொருவரும் தனக்குத் தேவையான அளவுக்கு மட்டும் இயற்கையிடமிருந்து எடுத்துக்கொண்டிருந்தால், இந்த உலகத்தில் ஏழ்மை என்பதே இருந்திருக்காது, பட்டினியால் எந்த மனிதரும் இறக்க வேண்டிய நிலை ஏற்பட்டிருக்காது’ என்றார் காந்தி. இனியும் தன்னால் தாக்குப்பிடிக்கவே முடியாது என்ற நிலையை இன்று இயற்கை அடைந்திருப்பதற்குப் பிரதானக் காரணங்கள், நம் பேராசையும் நுகர்வும் அலட்சியமும் அவற்றைத் தனது பசிக்கு இரையாகக் கொண்ட முதலாளித்துவமும்தான் என்பதை நாம் உணர வேண்டும்.

காந்தி தன் பெரும்பாலான பயணங்களுக்குப் பொதுப் போக்குவரத்தான ரயிலையே, அதுவும் ஏழை மக்கள் பயணிக்கும் மூன்றாம் வகுப்பையே தேர்ந்தெடுத்தார். சுற்றுச்சூழலுக்கு உகந்த வழிமுறைகளுள் ஒன்றாகப் பொதுப் போக்குவரத்தை இன்று உலகம் முழுவதிலும் உள்ள சுற்றுச்சூழலியர்கள் பரிந்துரைக்கிறார்கள். ஆனால், ஒரு தேசத்தின் தந்தை என்று கொண்டாடப்படும் ஒருவர், பொதுப் போக்குவரத்தைத் தன் வாழ்க்கை முறையாகக் கடைப்பிடித்து எல்லோருக்கும் முன்னோடியாகவும் முன்மாதிரியாகவும் இருந்திருக்கிறார்.

மனிதர்களைக் கடும் உழைப்பிலிருந்து விடுவிக்கும் தொழில்நுட்பம், கருவி (எடுத்துக்காட்டாக, தையல் இயந்திரம்) போன்றவற்றை வரவேற்ற அதே நேரத்தில், மனிதர்களை உழைப்பிலிருந்தே ஒட்டுமொத்தமாக விடுவிக்கும் தொழில்நுட்பத்தை காந்தி அச்சத்துடன் பார்த்தார். உற்பத்தி செய்பவருக்கும் உற்பத்தி செய்யப்படும் பொருளுக்கும் அதன் மூல நிலையிலிருந்து, தயாரிப்பு நிலை வழியாக, பயன்பாட்டு நிலை வரை உறவு இருக்க வேண்டும் என்று கருதினார். இன்று நம் கையில் இருக்கும் எந்தப் பொருளுடனாவது இந்த மூன்று நிலைகளில் ஏதாவது ஒரு நிலையில் உறவு இருக்கிறதா?

பெரும் உற்பத்திக்குப் பதிலாகப் பெருந்திரள் மக்களின் உற்பத்திக்கு காந்தி முக்கியத்துவம் கொடுத்தார். இந்தப் பெரும் உற்பத்தி தனக்குத் தேவையான வளங்களைப் புவியிடமிருந்து சுரண்டி, அந்த வளங்களைத் தீர்த்துக்கொண்டிருக்கிறது. காற்று, நீர், கனிமங்கள் உள்ளிட்ட வளங்கள் குறிப்பிட்ட அளவுக்குத்தான் புவியில் இருக்கிறது. இந்த வளங்களில் பெரும்பாலானவை மீள்தன்மை இல்லாதவை; அதாவது, பயன்படுத்தினால் மறுபடியும் புதிதாக உற்பத்தியாகாதவை. ஆகவேதான், இவற்றைச் சிறுகச் சிறுகப் பயன்படுத்த வேண்டியிருக்கிறது. இதில் விசித்திரம் என்னவென்றால், ஏழைகளுக்கும் ஏழை நாடுகளுக்கும் இந்த வளங்களும் அவற்றைப் பெறுவதற்கான பணவசதி உள்ளிட்ட வசதிகளும் மிகக் குறைவாகவே இருப்பதால், அவர்கள் இயல்பாகவே காந்தியர்களாக இருக்கிறார்கள். செல்வந்தர்களும் செல்வந்த நாடுகளும்தான் அளவுக்கும் தேவைக்கும் மீறி எல்லா வளங்களையும் சுரண்டிப் பயன்படுத்திக்கொள்கிறார்கள். ஆகவே, மேல்தட்டு வர்க்கம் காந்திய வழிமுறைகளைப் பின்பற்றினால்தான் இந்தப் புவியைக் காப்பாற்ற முடியும்.

காந்தியின் அகிம்சைத் தத்துவம் என்பது மனிதர்களுக்கு மட்டுமானது என்று குறுக்கிப் புரிந்துகொள்ளப்படுகிறது; கூடுதலாக, இறைச்சி உண்ணாமையோடும் தொடர்புபடுத்தப்படுகிறது. உண்மையில், அகிம்சை என்பது இயற்கை முழுவதற்குமானது. ஒருமுறை காந்தியின் சீடர் காகா கலேகர் பஞ்சினைச் சுத்தம் செய்வதற்கான வில்லின் நாணைத் துடைப்பதற்கு நான்கைந்து வேப்ப இலைகள் வேண்டும் என்பதற்காக ஒரு கிளையையே முறித்தார்; அதற்கு காந்தி, “இது வன்முறை. மரத்திலிருந்து இலைகளைப் பறிப்பதற்கு முன்பு அதனிடம் வருத்தம் தெரிவித்துக்கொண்டு, அதற்குப் பிறகு தேவையான இலைகளை மட்டுமே பறிக்க வேண்டும். நீங்கள் ஒட்டுமொத்த கிளையையே ஒடித்துவிட்டீர்கள், இது வீணானது மட்டுமல்லாமல் தவறானதும்கூட” என்றிருக்கிறார். இது நமக்கு அதீதமாகத் தோன்றலாம். ஆனால் இயற்கையிடம் எவ்வளவு நுட்பமாகவும் நுண்ணுணர்வோடும் நடந்துகொள்ள வேண்டும் என்பதற்கான ஓர் உதாரணம் இது. ஒரு வகையில் காந்தியிடம் இருந்தது, இயற்கையோடு இயைந்து வாழும் பழங்குடி மனப்பான்மை எனலாம். அகிம்சை என்பதை, ‘இயற்கையின் உள்ளுணர்வுடன் மனிதரின் உள்ளுணர்வு இயைந்து செயல்படுவது’ என்றும்கூட நாம் விரித்துக்கொள்ளலாம். இந்தப் புரிதல் மனிதர்கள், இயற்கை இரண்டின் மீதும் வன்முறை செலுத்துவதைத் தடுக்கிறது.

காந்தி, வாழ்க்கையையும் அது எதன் அடிப்படையில் நிகழ்கிறதோ அந்த இயற்கையையும் ஒரு பெரிய முழுமையாகவும் அதன் அங்கங்கள் ஒன்றுக்கொன்று தொடர்புடையதாகவும் பார்த்தார். ஆனால், நவீன மனிதர்கள் வாழ்க்கையை ஒன்றுக்கொன்று தொடர்பற்ற பகுதிகளாகப் பார்க்கிறார்கள். இந்தப் பிளவான பார்வைதான் இன்றைய பேரழிவுக்கு மிகவும் முக்கியக் காரணம்.

புவி வெப்பமாதல், பருவநிலை மாற்றம் என்பவையெல்லாம் ஒரு நோயின் அறிகுறிகள். இயற்கை மீது செலுத்தப்படும் வன்முறைதான் நோய். ஒரு நல்ல மருத்துவர் அறிகுறிகளைக் குணப்படுத்துவதைவிட நோயைக் குணப்படுத்துவதில்தான் அக்கறை காட்டுவார். அந்த வகையில், காந்தி நமக்கு முன்னோடி மருத்துவர். அந்த மருத்துவரின் மகத்தான மருந்தான அகிம்சைதான் இந்தப் புவிக் கோளையும் மனிதர்கள் உள்ளடக்கிய உயிர்களையும் காப்பதற்கான ஒரே வழி!

நம் அருகமை நாடான ஆப்கானிஸ்தான் 20 ஆண்டுகளுக்குப் பிறகு மீண்டும் தாலிபான் பயங்கரவாதிகளிடம் வீழ்ந்திருக்கிறது. இதன் மூலம், அமெரிக்கா-கூட்டணி நாடுகளின் 20 ஆண்டு காலப் போராட்டமும் அமெரிக்கா செலவிட்ட ரூ.700 லட்சம் கோடிக்கு மேலான நிதியும் நிரந்தரப் பயனில்லாமல் போய்விட்டன. ஏறக்குறைய 100 ஆண்டுகளாகத் தொடரும் யுத்தங்களால் நிலையற்ற தன்மையைச் சந்தித்துக்கொண்டிருக்கும் ஆப்கானிஸ்தான் மக்கள் சொல்லவியலாத துன்பத்தை அனுபவித்துக்கொண்டிருக்கின்றனர்.

பாகிஸ்தானின் ஆதரவு

பாகிஸ்தானுடனான நீண்ட எல்லையானது ஆப்கானிஸ்தானுக்கு மட்டுமின்றி, தாலிபான்களை உருவாக்கிய பாகிஸ்தானுக்கும் தொடர் தலைவலிதான். இந்த எல்லையின் இருபுறங்களிலும் ஆப்கானிஸ்தானின் பெரும்பான்மை இனமான பாஸ்டூன் இன மக்கள் வாழ்ந்து வருகின்றனர். இந்த எல்லையைப் பயன்படுத்திதான் தாலிபான்கள் தங்களுக்குத் தேவையான ஆயுதங்கள், போக்குவரத்து மற்றும் நிதி உதவிகளை பாகிஸ்தானிடமிருந்து தொடர்ந்து பெறுவதோடு, போதைப் பொருட்களைக் கடத்துவதால் தங்கள் இயக்கத்துக்குத் தேவையான நிதியையும் திரட்டிவருகின்றனர். தெற்காசியாவுக்கும், முன்னாள் சோவியத் ஒன்றியத்திலிருந்து பிரிந்த மத்திய ஆசிய நாடுகளுக்கும் போதைப் பொருட்கள் ஆப்கானிஸ்தானிலிருந்துதான் எளிதாகக் கடத்தப்படுகின்றன.

முன்பு பாகிஸ்தான், அமெரிக்காவின் துணையுடன் சோவியத் ஒன்றியத்தை எதிர்த்துப் போராடிய முஜாஹிதீன்கள், சோவியத்தை ஆப்கானிஸ்தானிலிருந்து வெளியேறச் செய்தனர். அதன் பின்னர், பாகிஸ்தான் இந்த முஜாஹிதீன் போராளிகளை இந்தியாவில், குறிப்பாக காஷ்மீரில் பிரிவினைவாதிகளுடன் சேர்ந்து இந்தியாவுக்கு எதிராகப் போராடத் தூண்டிவிட்டது. தற்போது அமெரிக்கப் படைகள் வெளியேறிய பின், தாலிபான்கள் ஆப்கானிஸ்தானில் ஆட்சியைப் பிடித்துள்ள நிலையில், இந்தப் போராளிகள் பாகிஸ்தான் உதவியுடன் இந்தியாவில் காஷ்மீரிலும், சீனாவின் ‘ஜின்ஜியாங்’ மாகாணத்திலும் மற்றும் மத்திய ஆசிய நாடுகளான முன்னாள் சோவியத் ஒன்றிய உறுப்பு நாடுகளிலும் உள்ள பிரிவினைவாதிகளுக்குத் துணைபோக மாட்டார்கள் என்பது என்ன நிச்சயம்?

ஆப்கானியரின் சந்தேகம்

மூன்று நாட்களுக்கு முன்பு டெல்லியில் ஆப்கானிஸ்தானிலிருந்து இந்தியாவில் தஞ்சம் புகுந்திருப்பவர்கள் என்னிடம் பகிர்ந்துகொண்ட தகவல்கள், ஆப்கானிஸ்தான் வீழ்வதை உலக சமூகம் வேடிக்கை பார்த்து நின்றதோ என்ற ஐயத்தையே ஏற்படுத்துகிறது. அமெரிக்கக் கூட்டுப் படைகள் ஆப்கானிஸ்தானில் இருந்தபோது பெண்களுக்கான கல்வி, கட்டுமானங்கள், மருத்துவ வசதி, பள்ளி மாணவர்கள் படிக்கத் தேவையான பொருட்கள், போக்குவரத்து, பள்ளி-கல்லூரிகளில் பணிபுரியும் ஆசிரியர்களின் ஊதியங்கள், ஆப்கானிஸ்தான் மேம்பாட்டுக்காகத் தங்குதடையின்றித் தொடர்ந்தன. அதே நேரத்தில், போரினால் பாதிக்கப்பட்ட ஒரு நாடு ஜனநாயக வழியை ஏற்கும்போது அரசு ஊழியர்களும் அரசியலர்களும் பெரும் ஊழல்வாதிகளாக இருந்தார்கள் என்பதையும் ஏற்றுக்கொண்டுதான் ஆக வேண்டும். முன்னாள் ஆப்கானிஸ்தான் அதிபர் அஸ்ரப் கனி பண மூட்டையுடன்தான் ஓடியிருக்கிறார். இவர்கள் தங்களைப் பற்றியும், தங்கள் குடும்பங்களைப் பற்றியும்தான் அதிக அக்கறைகொள்கிறார்கள் எனப் பகிர்ந்துகொண்டார் ஒரு பெண் அகதி.

ஹீரத் மாகாணத்தைச் சார்ந்த ஒரு மாணவர், ‘தாலிபான்கள் மீண்டெழுந்து வந்துவிட்டார்கள். ஆப்கானிஸ்தான் 2,000 ஆண்டுகளுக்குப் பின்னோக்கி நகர்வதைத் தவிர்க்க முடியாது’ என்று கூறினார். ‘பெரும்பான்மையான மக்கள் தாலிபான்களை வெறுக்கிறார்கள். இதற்குக் காரணம், இன்று தாலிபான்கள் தாங்கள் மாற்றம் அடைந்திருப்பதாகக் கூறினாலும் பெண்கள் பாதுகாப்பு கேள்விக்குறிதான். இந்தப் போராளிகள் திருமணமானவர்களாக இருந்தாலும் பல மாகாணங்களில் துப்பாக்கி முனையில் இளம் பெண்களை இவர்கள் மீண்டும் மணம்முடிக்கிறார்கள்’ என்று கண்ணீருடன் கூறினார் ஒரு மாணவி.

ஆப்கானியர்கள் தங்கள் நாட்டை நேசிக்கின்றனர். ஆனால், அடிமைகளாக இருக்க விரும்பவில்லை. தாலிபான்கள் தங்களுக்குச் சாதகமான ஆணாதிக்கச் சட்டதிட்டங்களை நிறைவேற்றுவார்களே அன்றி மக்கள் நலனைக் கருத்தில் கொள்ள மாட்டார்கள். ஹார்வர்டு பல்கலைக்கழகப் பேராசிரியர் நிக்கோலஸ் பர்ன்ஸ் கூறுவதுபோல, ‘அமெரிக்கப் படையினர் நீண்ட போரை முடிவுக்குக் கொண்டுவந்தது வரவேற்கத் தக்கது. ஆனால், பேச்சுவார்த்தையுடன் அரசியல் தீர்வையும் கொடுத்த பின்பு வெளியேறியிருக்க வேண்டும்’.

தவறிப்போன கணிப்புகள்

மேற்கத்திய நாடுகளைச் சேர்ந்த சர்வதேச உறவு வல்லுநர்களின் கணிப்பைத் தகர்த்தெறிந்திருக்கிறார்கள் தாலிபான்கள். ஆப்கானிஸ்தான் ராணுவத்தினருக்கு மேற்கத்திய நாடுகள் கொடுத்திருந்த ராணுவப் பயிற்சியையும் அதன் விளைவுகளையும் சரியாக ஆராயாததன் காரணமாகவே இன்று ஆப்கானிஸ்தான் துன்பத்துக்கு உள்ளாக்கப்பட்டிருக்கிறது. மேலும், இன்றைய பல முனைகளைக் கொண்ட சர்வதேச உறவில் உலகின் ஒரே வல்லரசான அமெரிக்காவின் தற்போதைய செயல்பாடுகள் சர்வதேசப் பிரச்சினைகளுக்கு அவர்களிடம் தீர்வு அளிக்கும் வல்லமை இல்லையா அல்லது அறிந்தேதான் இவ்வாறு செய்கிறார்களா என்ற ஐயங்களைத் தோற்றுவிக்கிறது. ஒசாமா பின்லேடனை வீழ்த்திய பிறகு, அமெரிக்கக் கூட்டுப் படைகளின் நோக்கம் தாலிபான்களை வீழ்த்துவதாக இருந்தாலும், அரசியல் தீர்வுதான் ஆப்கானிஸ்தானின் பாதுகாப்புக்கும் ஸ்திரத்தன்மைக்கும் தேவையானது என்பதை அவர்கள் எப்படி அறியாதிருக்க முடியும்?

ஆப்கானிஸ்தானில் அரசுக்கும் தாலிபான்களுக்கும் இடையே எந்தவிதமான சமாதான ஒப்பந்தமும் ஏற்படாத நிலையில், அமெரிக்கப் படை வெளியேறுவதற்கான முடிவை டொனால்டு ட்ரம்ப் தன் உள்நாட்டு அரசியல் லாபத்துக்காக அவசரப்பட்டு அறிவித்தார். இதற்கு அமெரிக்க மக்களின் ஆதரவும் இருந்ததால் இன்றைய அதிபர் ஜோ பைடனும் அந்த முடிவைப் பின்பற்றுவதற்கு மறைமுகமாக நிர்ப்பந்திக்கப்பட்டுவிட்டார். அமெரிக்கப் படை வெளியேற்றத்தால் ஆப்கானிஸ்தானின் தற்போதைய நிலையைக் கண்டு வருந்தும் அமெரிக்க அதிபர் பைடன் இந்தப் பிரச்சினை என்னுடன் முடியட்டும் என்று கூறியுள்ளார். ஆனால், தாலிபான்களின் பயங்கரவாதம் முழுமையாக அழிக்கப்பட வேண்டுமென்றால், ஆப்கானிஸ்தான் தொடர்புடைய அனைத்துத் தரப்பினருடனும் இடைவிடாத தொடர் பேச்சுவார்த்தைகளால் மட்டுமே அரசியல் தீர்வை அளிக்க முடியும்.

இதைச் செய்யத் தவறியதால் தங்களுக்கு எதிராக வரும் சவால்களை ரஷ்யா, சீனா மற்றும் மேற்கத்திய நாடுகள் அறிந்தே இருக்கின்றன. இந்தியா-பாகிஸ்தான் இடையே நல்லுறவு இல்லாத இந்தச் சூழ்நிலையில், இந்தியாவுக்கு எதிராகத் தாலிபான்களைத் திருப்பும் முயற்சிகளைத் தொடங்கவும் வாய்ப்பு உண்டு. ஆப்கானிஸ்தானை தாலிபான்கள் மீண்டும் கைப்பற்றியதன் விளைவுகள் என்னவாக இருக்கும் என்று ஆப்கானிஸ்தானில் மேம்பாட்டுத் திட்டங்களைச் செய்துவரும் இந்தியாவுக்குத் தெரியும். ஆனால், அவற்றைச் சந்திக்க இந்தியாவிடம் தேவையான கொள்கை முடிவு உள்ளதா?

 ஒரு வருடத்திற்கு மேலாக, ஒன்றன்பின் ஒன்றாக வெவ்வேறு நாடுகளில் காட்டுத்தீ பரவல் அதிகரித்து வருகிறது. அல்ஜீரியாவில் மட்டுமல்லாமல் மத்தியதரைக் கடல் நாடுகளான கிரீஸ், துருக்கி, சைப்ரஸ் ஆகிய நாடுகளில் கடந்த சில வாரங்களாகக் காணப்படும் காட்டுத்தீ ஒட்டுமொத்த உலகத்தையும் அச்சத்தில் ஆழ்த்தி இருக்கிறது. அமெரிக்காவில் அமேசான் காடுகள் தொடர்ந்து பல வாரங்களாகப் பற்றி எரிந்ததும், ஆஸ்திரேலியாவில் காட்டுத்தீயை அணைக்க முடியாமல் தவித்ததும் சமீபத்திய நிகழ்வுகள்.
 "இன்டர் கவர்மென்டல் பேனல் ஆன் கிளைமேட் சேஞ்ச்' (ஐபிசிசி) அமைப்பின் ஆறாவது அறிக்கை வெளியாகி இருக்கிறது. 234 விஞ்ஞானிகள் கொண்ட குழு தயாரித்திருக்கும் அந்தப் புதிய அறிக்கை உலகம் ஆபத்தை நோக்கி நகர்ந்து கொண்டிருப்பதைச் சுட்டிக் காட்டியிருக்கிறது. உலகின் பல பாகங்களிலும் எதிர்பாராமலும், அசாதாரணமாகவும் காட்டுத்தீயும், பிரளயமும் அதிகரிப்பதன் பின்னால் பூமி வெப்பம் அடைதலும், தட்பவெப்பநிலை மாற்றமும் இருப்பதை அந்த அறிக்கை சுட்டிக் காட்டுகிறது.
 ஐக்கிய நாடுகள் சபையால் நியமிக்கப்பட்டிருக்கும் ஐபிசிசி ஏழு வருடங்களுக்கு ஒரு முறை இதுபோன்ற தட்பவெப்ப நிலை குறித்த அறிக்கையை ஆய்வு செய்து சமர்ப்பிக்கிறது. மனிதர்களின் செயல்பாடுகளின் மூலம் உலகத்தின் வெப்ப நிலை அதிகரிக்கிறது என்பது மட்டுமல்ல, அதன் தொடர்ச்சியாக அதிகரித்த மழை, புயல் காற்று, வெள்ளம் என்று மிகப்பெரிய பேராபத்துகள் நம்மை எதிர்கொள்கின்றன என்பதை சமீபத்திய அறிக்கை சுட்டிக்காட்டி எச்சரிக்கிறது.
 மத்தியதரைக் கடல் நாடுகளிலும், அமெரிக்காவிலும் எதிர்பாராமல் ஏற்படும் காட்டுத்தீயும், ஜூலை மாதம் பெய்த பெருமழையின் பாதிப்புகளிலிருந்து இன்னும்கூட மீளாத ஜெர்மனியும் உலகத்தின் தட்பவெப்ப நிலை உஷ்ணமயமாவதை வெளிப்படுத்தும் முன்னறிவிப்புகள்.
 பூமியின் வெப்பநிலை தற்போதைவிட 1.5 டிகிரி செல்ஷியஸýக்குக் கீழே இருப்பதை உறுதிப்படுத்த வேண்டும் என்பதுதான் சவால். இப்படியே போனால் 2040-க்குள் நிலைமை கைமீறிப் போகக்கூடும். 2100-க்குள் புவி வெப்பம் மேலும் 2.0 டிகிரி செல்ஷியஸýக்கு மேலாக அதிகரிக்கக்கூடும். புவியியல் அறிஞர்களின் எதிர்பார்ப்புகளைத் தோற்கடித்து 2030-க்குள் புவி வெப்பம் மேலும் 1.5 டிகிரியைக் கடந்துவிடக் கூடும் என்று சமீபத்திய ஐபிசிசி அறிக்கை எச்சரிக்கிறது. சில நாடுகள், மிக அதிகமான கரியமிலவாயு வெளியேற்றத்தின் மூலம், உலகத்தின் ஒட்டுமொத்த தட்பவெப்ப நிலையையும் காலம் தவறச் செய்கின்றன என்று குற்றம் சாட்டுகிறது அந்த அறிக்கை.
 இந்தியாவில் ஒவ்வொரு பத்தாண்டிலும் 17 மீட்டர் நீளம் கடல், கரையை உள்வாங்கும் சாத்தியம் காணப்படுகிறது. கரியமில வாயு வெளியேற்றம் குறைக்கப்படாவிட்டால், 2100-இல் கடல் அளவு 40 செ.மீ. முதல் 1 மீட்டர் வரை உயரும் என்று அந்த அறிக்கை எச்சரிக்கிறது.
 தொழில் புரட்சிக்குப் பிறகு மனித இனம் நிலக்கரி, கச்சா எண்ணெய் போன்ற எரிபொருள்களை மிக அதிகமாகப் பயன்படுத்தத் தொடங்கிய பின்னர்தான் பூமிப்பந்தின் வெப்பமயமாதல் ஆரம்பித்தது. ஒருநாளும் மீட்டெடுக்க முடியாத பூமியின் ஜீவ சக்தியை அதனால் இழந்து கொண்டிருக்கிறோம்.
 பூமியின் வெப்ப நிலை ஒன்றரை டிகிரி செல்ஷியஸ் அதிகரித்தால் 30 ஆண்டுகளில் வட துருவத்திலுள்ள பனி மலைகள் உருகிக் கரைந்துவிடும். கடல் நீர் கூடுதல் அமிலமயமாகும். கடல் நீரிலுள்ள பிராணவாயு அளவு குறையும். பல கடல்வாழ் உயிரினங்களும் இறந்துவிடும். இதுபோன்ற மீட்டெடுக்க முடியாத இழப்புகளை உலகம் எதிர்கொள்ளக்கூடும்.
 பூமி வெப்பநிலை அதிகரிப்பை ஒன்றரை டிகிரி செல்ஷியஸýக்குக் கீழே நிலைநிறுத்த வேண்டும் என்கிற குறிக்கோளுடன், 2015-இல் கொண்டுவந்த பாரீஸ் தட்பவெப்ப நிலை உடன்பாட்டை நடைமுறைப்படுத்தும் நடவடிக்கைகள் எடுக்கப்படவில்லை. இதே நிலைமை தொடர்ந்தால், அறிக்கை கூறுவதுபோல அடுத்த 30 ஆண்டுகள்கூட நிலைமை கைமீறுவதற்குத் தேவைப்படாது.
 நவம்பர் மாதம் ஸ்காட்லாண்டிலுள்ள கிளாஸ்கோவில் ஐ.நா. சபையின் தலைமையில் 26-ஆவது பருவநிலை மாநாடு நடக்க இருக்கிறது. பாரீஸ் பருவ நிலை மாநாட்டில் எடுக்கப்பட்ட முடிவுகளை உடனடியாக நிறைவேற்றுவதற்கான அடுத்தகட்ட தீர்மானங்களை கிளாஸ்கோவில் எடுத்தாக வேண்டும். வளர்ச்சி அடைந்த நாடுகள் தங்களது கரியமில வாயு வெளியேற்றத்தைக் கடுமையாகக் குறைப்பதுடன், வளர்ச்சி அடையும் நாடுகளுக்கு எந்தவித நிபந்தனையுமின்றி புதிய தொழில்நுட்பங்களை வழங்கி, நிதி உதவியும் செய்து, பூமி வெப்பமயமாதலைத் தடுத்தாக வேண்டும்.
 ஆய்வுகளும், பருவநிலை ஆராய்ச்சியும் அதன் அறிக்கைகளும் வெறும் கற்பனைகள் அல்ல, உண்மை நிலை. ஐபிசிசி அறிக்கை அந்த உண்மைகளை வெளிச்சம் போட்டிருக்கிறது. அதனடிப்படையில் செயல்பட வேண்டிய கடமை ஆட்சியாளர்களுக்கு உண்டு.
 உலக நாடுகளின் இன்றைய ஆட்சியாளர்களால்தான் பூமியைக் காப்பாற்ற முடியும். ஏனென்றால், அடுத்த பத்து ஆண்டுகளில் அவர்கள் செய்யப்போகிற அல்லது செய்யாமல் விடுகிற செயல்பாடுகளின் அடிப்படையில்தான் வருங்கால தலைமுறையினரின் வாழ்க்கை அமையும். அதனால், அரசியல், பொருளாதார லாப - நஷ்ட கணக்குகளை ஒதுக்கி வைத்துவிட்டு, பூமியைப் பேரழிவிலிருந்து காப்பாற்ற வேண்டும் என்கிற உன்னத நோக்கம் மட்டும் அவர்களிடம் காணப்பட வேண்டும்.
 

 அண்மைக்காலமாக சில மதப் பிரசங்கிகள் இந்தியர்கட்கு கல்வியை, விஞ்ஞானத்தை, நாகரிகத்தைக் கற்றுக் கொடுத்தது ஆங்கிலேயர்களே, கிறித்துவ மதமே என்று மேடைதோறும் முழங்குகிறார்கள். ஏசுபிரான் தம்மை சிலுவையில் அறைந்தபோது "பிதாவே இவர்கள் தெரியாது செய்கின்ற பிழையை மன்னியுங்கள்' என்றதுபோல, நாமும் இவர்கள் தெரியாது செய்யும் பிழையை மன்னிக்க வேண்டுவோம்.
 கல்வியைப் பொருத்தவரை 11-ஆம் நூற்றாண்டு தொடக்கத்தில்தான் இங்கிலாந்து நாட்டில் பள்ளிகள் தோற்றமெடுத்தன. ஆக்ஸ்போர்டு என்ற ஊரில் 1096-இல் தொடங்கப்பட்டதுதான் ஆக்ஸ்போர்டு பல்கலைக்கழகம். கேம்பிரிட்ஜ் பல்கலைக்கழகம் தோற்றுவிக்கப்பட்டது 1209-ஆம் ஆண்டில்தான். ஆனால் பாரதத்தில் 18-ஆம் நூற்றாண்டு தொடக்கத்தில் 7,32,000 உண்டு உறைவிட குருகுலங்கள் இருந்தன.
 குருகுலக் கல்வியின் பாடப்பிரிவுகளில் கணிதம், வானவியல், மருத்துவத்தில் ரண சிகிச்சை, மாற்று உறுப்பு சிகிச்சை, நீர் மேலாண்மை, வேளாண்மை, நெசவு, காடு வளர்த்தல், தோட்டப் பயிர் காத்தல், உலோகவியல், இயந்திரவியல், கப்பல் தயாரித்தல், வானூர்திகள் வடிவமைத்தல், போர்க்கருவிகள் செய்தல், கட்டடக் கலை, சிற்பம், ஓவியம், சோதிடம் போன்ற 64 கலைகளையும் கற்றுணர்ந்தார்கள்.
 ஆயிரம் ஆண்டுகட்கு முன்னரே தட்சசீலம், காஞ்சி, காந்தளூர் சாலை, நாளந்தா போன்ற இடங்களில் பல்கலைக்கழகங்களை தோற்றுவித்தார்கள். நாளந்தா பல்கலைக்கழகம் 800 ஆண்டுகள் புகழ் பெற்று கோலோச்சியது. 1,400 ஏக்கர் நிலப்பரப்பில் ஒன்பது மாடி கட்டடத்தில் உயர்ந்து நின்றது. இதன் தொல்பெருமையை உணர்ந்த முன்னாள் குடியரசு தலைவரும் அணு விஞ்ஞானியுமான அப்துல் கலாம் நாளந்தா பல்கலைக்கழகத்தை புதுப்பிக்க முன் நின்றார்.
 அதில் சீனா, திபெத், இலங்கை, மியான்மர், துருக்கி, கிரேக்கம், பாரசீகம், சயாம், சாவகம், சுமத்ரா போன்ற நாடுகளிலிருந்து சுமார் 10 ஆயிரம் மாணவர்கள் தங்கிப் படித்தனர். 2,000 ஆசிரியர்கள், 11 மாணவர் விடுதிகள், 10 கோயில்கள், தியானக் கூடங்கள் உடையதாக அது இருந்தது. சீன நாட்டு அறிஞர் யுவான் சுவாங் இங்கு தங்கி 15 ஆண்டுகள் பெüத்தம் கற்று நாடு திரும்பினார்.
 பேராசிரியர் ஜான் ப்ளேஃபயர் 1789-இல் எழுதிய "பிராமணர்களின் வானவியல் ஆய்வுகள் பற்றி சில குறிப்புகள்' என்ற கட்டுரையில், கி.மு. 3102-இல் தொடங்கியதாகச் சொல்லப்படும் கலியுகம் உண்மையா, கற்பனையா என்று ஆய்வு செய்து முடிவாக, பிராமணர்கள் இந்த கிரகங்களை, அதன் நகர்வுகளை எப்படி கருவிகள் இல்லாமல் வெறும் கண்களால் கண்டு குறித்து உள்ளார்கள் என்று ஆச்சரியம் பொங்கச் சொல்லியுள்ளார்.
 இதன் தொடர்ச்சியே இன்றைய நாளின் "பஞ்சாங்கம்' எனில் மிகையில்லை. ஜான் ப்ளேஃபயர் இந்த அட்டவணைகளைப் பார்க்கும் போது அதை உருவாக்கியவர்கட்கு ஜியாமெட்ரி, எண் கணிதம், திரிகோணமிதிக்கு இணையான கால்குலஸ் போன்றவையெல்லாம் நன்கு தெரிந்து இருக்க வேண்டும் என்று கூறியுள்ளார்.
 மருத்துவத் துறையில் விழித்திரை லென்ஸின் ஒளி ஊடுருவும் திறன் குறைபடும் போது அதைச் சரிசெய்து பார்வையை மீட்டெடுத்து இருக்கிறார்கள் இந்தியர்கள். சிறுநீரகக் கல்லை நீக்க வயிற்றில் தற்போது ஐரோப்பாவில் எந்த இடத்தில் அறுவை சிகிச்சை செய்கிறார்களோ அதே இடத்தில் இந்தியர்களும் செய்திருக்கிறார்கள்.
 உறுப்பு மாற்று சிகிச்சையும் இந்தியாவின் மேற்குப் பகுதிகளில் மேற்கொள்ளபட்டதாக லண்டன் ராயல் சொசைட்டிக்கு 1872-இல் அனுப்பிய ஆவணத்தில் டாக்டர் ஹெச். ஸ்காட் குறிப்பிட்டுள்ளார். இரண்டு ஆண்டுகள் கழித்து அனுப்பிய மற்றொரு ஆவணத்தில், மூக்கு அறுபட்டவர்கட்கு புதிய மூக்கைப் பொருத்துகிறார்கள் என்றும், உடலின் உடைந்த பாகங்களை ஒன்று சேர்க்கும் பசை ஒன்றையும் லண்டனுக்கு அனுப்பி வைத்தார்.
 "நீர்ப்பாசனம், வேளாண்மை எல்லாம் பாரதத்திற்கு மட்டுமே சொந்தமான விஷயங்கள் அல்லதான். ஆனால், இந்தியாவில் மேற்கொள்ளப்படும் அளவுக்கு விரிவாகவும், தொழில் நுட்ப நேர்த்தியுடனும் உலகில் வேறு எங்குமே மேற்கொள்ளப்படவில்லை' என்று வேளாண் நிபுணர் அலெக்ஸாண்டர் வாக்கர் கூறியுள்ளது நினைவுகூரத்தக்கது. இரும்பு, எஃகு உற்பத்திக்கென 18-ஆம் நூற்றாண்டின் பிற்பகுதியில் இந்தியாவில் இருந்த உருக்காலைகள் சுமார் பத்தாயிரம்.
 இந்திய இரும்பு - எஃகு நிறுவனத்தை நிறுவிய ஜே.எம். ஹீத் பின்னர் ஷெட்ஃபீல்ட் பகுதியில் எஃகு தொழில் வளரக் காரணமாக இருந்தவர். அவர் "இரண்டரை மணி நேரத்தில் இந்தியாவில் இரும்பை எஃகாக மாற்றி விடுகிறார்கள். நம் நாட்டில் (இங்கிலாந்தில்) இந்த கால அளவுக்குள் தரமான எஃகைத் தயாரிக்க முடிவதில்லை' என்று கூறினார்.
 1790-களில் பிரிட்டிஷாரின் விஞ்ஞான தொழில் நுட்பத் தேடலை பெரிதும் கவர்ந்த பொருள் "ஊட்ஸ் ஸ்டீல்'. இந்தியாவில் இருந்த டாக்டர் ஸ்காட் பிரிட்டிஷ் ராயல் சொசைட்டியின் தலைவரான சர் ஜே பேங்ஸீக்கு இந்திய எஃகின் சிறு துண்டு ஒன்றை அனுப்பி வைத்தார். இங்கிலாந்தில் பல உலோக நிபுணர்களின் சோதனைக்குப் பிறகு மிகச் சிறந்த எஃகு அது என்று மதிப்பிடப்பட்டது.
 உடல் அறுவை சிகிச்சைக்கு தேவையான மிக நுட்பமான, கூர்மையான கருவிகள் செய்ய இந்த எஃகு தான் இந்தியாவில் இருந்து இறக்குமதி செய்யப்பட வேண்டும் என்று ராயல் சொசைட்டி தலைவர் கூறினார். (மதராஸ் பப்ளிக் புரொசீடிங்ஸ் - ஜனவரி-1825)
 செல்வச் செழிப்பில், நனிநாகரிகத்தில், தொல்மொழியில் செம்மாந்து நின்ற இந்தியர்களை ஏமாற்றி வணிகப் போர்வையில் ஒளிந்து வந்து ஆட்சிக் கட்டிலில் அமர்ந்தார்கள் அந்நியர்கள். அவர்கள் முதலில் இந்நாட்டு கல்வி முறையில் கை வைத்தார்கள்.
 பாரதத்தில் இருந்து வந்த பாரம்பரிய குருகுலக் கல்வி முறையை மாற்றி, மெக்காலே கல்வி வரைவினை 1858-இல் அறிமுகப்படுத்தினார்கள். பாரத கல்வி முறையை ஆய்வு செய்த ஜி.டபுள்யூ. லூத்தர், தாமஸ் மன்றோ ஆகியோர், வட இந்தியாவில் 97 சதவீதம் பேர் கல்வியறிவு பெற்றவர்களாகவும், தென் இந்தியாவில்100 சதவீதம் பேர் கல்வியறிவு பெற்றவர்களாகவும் உள்ளதை கண்டு வியந்தனர்.
 அப்போது மெக்காலே, "இந்த இந்தியக் கல்விமுறை நடைமுறையில் இருக்கும் வரை இங்கிலாந்து என்றைக்கும் இந்தியாவை ஆட்சி செய்ய முடியாது. எனவே ஆங்கில கல்வி முறையை அறிமுகப்படுத்துவது அவசியம்' என்றார். 1850 வரை இந்தியாவில் இயங்கி வந்த குருகுலங்கள் தடைசெய்யப்பட்டன. சம்ஸ்கிருதம் சட்ட விரோதமான மொழி என்று கூறி, அதனைக் கற்பிக்கும் ஆசிரியர்களை அடித்தும், சிறைப்படுத்தியும் ஆங்கிலேயர்கள் கொடுஞ்செயல் புரிந்தார்கள்.
 முதன் முறையாக கல்கத்தா நகரில் "கான்வென்ட்' திறக்கப்பட்டது. இந்த கல்வி முறை அனைவருக்கும் என்று சொல்லப்பட்டது. பின்னர் கல்கத்தாவில், பம்பாயில், மதராஸில் பல்கலைக்கழகங்கள் தொடங்கப்பட்டன.
 மெக்காலே தனது தந்தைக்கு எழுதிய புகழ்பெற்ற கடிதமொன்றில், "இந்த கான்வென்ட் பள்ளிகள் எல்லாம் இந்தியர்களாயினும் ஆங்கிலேய அறிவு கொண்ட பிள்ளைகளை வெளிக் கொணரும்.
 அவர்களுக்குத் தங்கள் நாட்டைப் பற்றிய அறிவு இருக்காது; தங்களின் நாகரிகத்தைப் பற்றித் தெரியாது. அவர்கள் தங்கள் பாரம்பரியம் பற்றியும், மரபுவழி மொழி பற்றியும் அறியாதவர்களாக இருப்பர். பிரிட்டிஷார் இந்தியாவை விட்டு வெளியேறினாலும் இந்நாட்டில் வாழும் பிள்ளைகள் ஆங்கில மொழியில் இருந்து விடுபட முடியாது' என்று எழுதியது இன்றைய நாளில் நாம் உணர்ந்து வரும் உண்மையாகும்.
 பாரத தேசமெங்கிலும் எவரும் ஆங்கிலத்திற்கு அளிக்கும் மதிப்பை தம் தாய்மொழிக்கு அளிப்பதில்லை. இதனால்தான் மகாகவி பாரதியார், ஆங்கில மொழிக் கல்வி கற்போரை, "முன்னர் நாடு திகழ்ந்த பெருமையும் மூண்டிருக்கும்மிந் நாளின் இகழ்ச்சியும் பின்னர் நாடுறு பெற்றியுந் தேர்கிலார் பேடிக்கல்வி பயின்றுழல் பித்தர்கள்' என்று தனது மனக்குமுறலைக் கொட்டினார்.
 கவியரசர் தாகூர் தமிழ்நாடு வந்தபோது அவருக்கு பாராட்டிதழை ஆங்கில மொழியில் வடித்து வழங்கியபோது அதை மகிழ்ச்சியாக ஏற்காது "ஏன் உங்களின் தாய்மொழியில் வழங்க கூடாது' எனக் கேட்டார். ஆங்கிலேயர்கள் இந்நாட்டில் இருந்த செல்வங்களைக் கொள்ளை கொண்டது மட்டுமல்லாது, நம்மை மொழியில் வேறுபடுத்தி ஜாதி, மத பேதத்தில் பிளவுபடுத்தி ஆண்டுகள் பலவாக அடிமைப்படுத்தி இருந்தனர் என்பதே உண்மை.
 சில ஆண்டுகளுக்கு முன்னர் இந்திய நாடாளுமன்ற உறுப்பினர் சசி தரூரை இங்கிலாந்தில் உள்ள ஆக்ஸ்போர்டு யூனியன், உரையாற்ற அழைத்தது. சசி தரூர் உரையாற்றுகையில், "ஆங்கிலேயே அரசு உலகின் மிகப் பெரிய செல்வந்த நாடாக இருந்த இந்தியாவை அடிமைப்படுத்தி உலகின் மிக ஏழை நாடாக்கி விட்டது. கி.பி 1765 முதல் 1938 வரையிலான காலகட்டத்தில் இங்கிலாந்து 45 டிரில்லியன் டாலர்களை (சுமார் ரூ.3,348 லட்சம் கோடி) கொண்டு வந்து விட்டது. இது இன்றைய யு.கே.யின் தற்போதைய ஜி.டி.பி.யின் அளவைக் காட்டிலும் 17 மடங்கு அதிகம்.
 இந்தியாவில் ஆங்கிலேய அரசு அமைந்தபோது ஜி.டி.பி. 23% ஆக இருந்தது. இங்கிலாந்து அரசு இந்தியாவை விட்டு வெளியேறும் போது ஜி.டி.பி வெறும் 4% ஆகக் குறைந்தது. உண்மையாக இப்போது இங்கிலாந்து அந்த லாபத்தை எல்லாம் இந்தியாவுக்கு திருப்பி வழங்க வேண்டும், அது தான் நீதி' என்று கூறினார்.
 நம் முன்னோர்கள் முட்டாள்களல்லர்; உலகத்துக்கே முன்னோடிகள். "பாரத நாடு பழம்பெரும் நாடு நீரதன் புதல்வர் இந்நினைவகற்றாதீர்' என்ற மகாகவி பாரதியாரின் வரிகள் உணர்த்துவது அதைத்தான்.
 
 கட்டுரையாளர்:
 தலைவர்,
 திருக்கோவலூர் பண்பாட்டுக் கழகம்.
 

உடல் நலம்

நம்மில் பலர் வியாதி வராமல் நல்ல உடல்நலத்துடன் இருக்கிறோம் என்று நம்பிக்கொண்டு இருக்கிறோம். உண்மை அதுவல்ல. உடல்நலம் என்பது ஓர் உயிரியல் அமைப்பின் நல்ல செயல்பாடு. ஆற்றலை உள்வாங்கி, அதனை மாற்றி, இடத்திற்குத் தகுந்தபடி அவற்றைச்  சரியாகப் பிரித்துக் கொடுத்து, பயன்படுத்தி அதன்மூலம் அதிகபட்ச செயல்திறனை பயன்படுத்தும் திறமையே நல்ல உடல் நலம் ஆகும்.

உலக நல நிறுவனத்தின் கருத்து

உலக சுகாதார அமைப்பு (WHO) உடல்நலம் பற்றி 1948ன் அமைப்பு விதியின்படி கூறுவது "உடல்நலம் என்பது ஒருவரின் முழுமையான உடல், மனம் மற்றும் சமூக நல வாழ்வே; வெறுமனே நோய் மற்றும் பலவீன நிலையை எட்டாமல் இருப்பது மட்டும் அல்ல" என்றும் தெளிவாகக் கூறுகிறது. நலம் என்பதின் மிக முக்கியக் காராணியாக இருப்பது சமூக மற்றும் பொருளாதாரச் சூழ்நிலைகள், உடல்நிலை, தனி மனிதச் செயல்பாடு ஆகியவை ஆகும்.

நலம் நிர்ணயிக்கும் காரணிகள்

நலம், சமூகத்தின் பல்வேறு கூறுகளால் தீர்மானிக்கப்படுகிறது. உயிரியல், சூழலியல், வாழ்வியல் சமூக, பொருளாதாரக் காரணிகள் ஒருவரின், அவர் சார்ந்த சமூகத்தின் நலத்தைத் தீர்மானிக்கிறது. ஒருவர் உணவு, உடற்பயிற்சி, கல்வி, உறவுகள், சமூகத் தொடர்புகள், வீட்டு வேலைச் சூழல், மருத்துவச் சேவைகள், பண்பாடு, பழக்கவழக்கங்கள் எனப் பல நுண்ணியக் கூறுகள் ஒருவரின் நலத்தைத் தீர்மானிக்கின்றன. அதனால் நலம் என்பதை நோய், நோயை குணப்படுத்தல் என்ற குறுகிய வரையறைக்குள் விளக்க முடியாது. 

அரசியல் சாசனம் சொல்வது

உடல் நலம் என்றால், உடல் மற்றும் உள்ளம் சார்ந்ததுதான்  என அடிப்படை உரிமையில்  கூறப்பட்டுள்ளது.  அதுதான் உயிர் வாழ்தலில் அடிப்படை பங்கேற்பும். இதில் உடல் நலம், சமூக சீர்த்திருத்தங்கள் அரசியல் வாய்ப்பு, பொருளாதார வாய்ப்பு மற்றும் பாலின பாகுபாடு போன்ற சமூக காரணிகளை உள்ளடக்கியதே.

கரோனாவும் உடல்நலமும் சுவாசக்குழாயும்

கரோனா வந்து உலகையே ஆட்டிப்படைத்துக் கொண்டிருக்கும் காலத்தில் எல்லோரும் உடல்நலத்தை நினைக்க வேண்டிய மற்றும் பாதுகாக்க வேண்டிய சூழலுக்குத் தள்ளப்பட்டுள்ளோம். நோயெதிர்ப்பு சக்தி உள்ளவர்கள் மட்டுமே இந்த கொள்ளை நோய் கரோனாவின் கொலைப் பிடியிலிருந்து தப்பித்து உள்ளனர் எனலாம். கொவைட்19 என்று சொல்லப்படும் கரோனா, முக்கியமாக சுவாச மண்டலத்தைப் பாதிக்கும் நோயாகும். கரோனா, மேல் சுவாசக்குழாய் (சைனஸ்கள், மூக்கு மற்றும் தொண்டை) மற்றும் கீழ் சுவாசக்குழாய் (காற்றுக்குழாய்  மற்றும் நுரையீரல்) ஆகியவற்றைப் பாதிக்கும்.

கரோனாவும் நுரையீரலும்  

கரோனா பாதிப்பு ஏற்பட்ட மக்களில் 5% பேருக்கு நுரையீரல் சுவர் மற்றும் அதிலுள்ள காற்று சிற்றறைகளின் உட்சுவரை  மோசமாகப் பாதிக்கிறது. உடல் நோய்க்கிருமியுடன் போராடிக்கொண்டிருக்கும்போது, நுரையீரல் வீங்கி, காற்று சிற்றறைகள் நீரால் (ரத்த தந்துகிகள் உடைவதால் ரத்தத்திலிருந்து நீர் வெளியேறி) நிரம்பி விடுகின்றன. இதனால் உடலுக்குள் உள்ள கரியுமில வாயு, காற்று சிற்றறை வழியே வெளியேறவோ, உடல் ஆக்சிஜனைப் பெறவோ முடிவதில்லை. இந்த நிலை நிமோனியா எனப்படும். இது அதிகரிக்கும்போது, காற்றறைகள் உள்ளுக்குள் வந்த ரத்த தந்துகிகளின் கசிவால், நீர் நிரம்பி நிற்கும். காற்றறைகள் அடைபட்டு ஆக்சிஜன் உள்ளுக்குள் வரமுடியாமல் மூச்சுத் திணறல்/சுவாசிப்பதில் சிக்கல் ஏற்பட்டு, சுவாசம் நின்று போகும். இதற்கு நுரையீரல் செயலிழப்பு என்று பெயர்.

சுவாசமும் நுரையீரலும்

நாம் பிறந்ததிலிருந்தே, உள்ளேயும் வெளியேயும் சுவாசிக்கிறோம். ஒற்றை உயிரணு அமீபா முதல் பல செல் விலங்குகள் வரை ஒவ்வொரு உயிரினமும் சுவாசிக்கிறது. நுரையீரல் என்பது மனித சுவாச மண்டலத்தின் சிறப்பு பகுதி. இது நம் வாழ்வின் கடைசி கணம் வரை தொடர்ந்து செயல்படுகிறது. மூளை, இதயம் மற்றும் பிற உறுப்புகளைப் போலவே, மனிதர்கள் மற்றும் திமிங்கலங்கள், டால்பின்கள், தவளைகள், பறவைகள், ஊர்வன மற்றும் பிற விலங்குகளிலும் நுரையீரல் முக்கிய பங்கு வகிக்கிறது. மற்ற விலங்குகள் மற்றும் பறவைகளுடன் ஒப்பிடும்போது, ​​மனிதர்களான நமக்கு சிறப்பு நுரையீரல் உள்ளது.

நுரையீரல்

நமக்கு ஒரு ஜோடி நுரையீரல்கள் உள்ளன.அவை மெல்லிய சவ்வுகள் மற்றும் மூச்சுக்குழாய்கள் எனப்படும் சிறிய குழாய்களால் கட்டமைக்கப்பட்டுள்ளன. இங்கே காற்று சிற்றறைகள் (alveoli) எனப்படும் பலூன் போன்ற அமைப்பு மற்றும் ரத்த நுண்குழாய்களின்/தந்துகிகளின்  வலையமைப்பையும் உள்ளடக்கியது. இவை  வாயுக்களின் பரிமாற்றத்திற்காக நுரையீரலின் பரப்பளவை அதிகரிக்கிறது.

காற்றறையும் வாயுப் பரிமாற்றமும்

நுரையீரல்கள் தொண்டைக் குழிக்கு கீழே மார்புக்கூட்டுக்குள் பாதுகாப்பாக வைக்கப்பட்டுள்ளன. அவை  மென்மையான, பஞ்சு போன்ற மீள் உறுப்புகள் ஆகும். அவை ப்ளூரா எனப்படும் மெல்லிய சவ்வால் இணைக்கப்பட்டுள்ளன. 

நுரையீரல் மூச்சுக்குழாய் எனப்படும் சிறிய கட்டமைப்பாக பிரிக்கப்பட்டுள்ளது. அவை மூச்சுக்குழாய்கள் காற்று சிற்றறைகள் (Alveoli) எனும் அமைப்பில் முடிகிறது. இவையே நுரையீரலுக்கு அதிக பரப்பைத் தருகிறது. மேலும் இவைதான்  நுரையீரலுக்குள்  ஆக்சிஜன்-கரியுமில வாயுக்களின் பரிமாற்றத்தை அதிகரிக்கின்றன .

நுரையீரல் பற்றிய சுவையான உண்மைகள்

The rapidity with which Afghanistan has unravelled has shocked and surprised everyone. The fall of Kabul, and the ignominious end of any resistance to the Taliban within six weeks of the U.S. forces vacating the Bagram airbase (near Kabul) on July 2, reveals how brittle the vaunted Afghan Security Forces were. The departure of Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and almost the entire top political leadership of Afghanistan to safer havens, removes the last vestige of hope that the Taliban can be checked. Like a ‘house of cards’, Afghanistan has fallen apart the moment foreign forces vacated the country.

Taliban’s duplicity

The enormity of the current situation is only now beginning to be evident to much of the outside world. The Taliban’s duplicity in projecting, at one level the image of a mature group during the Doha talks while at another, perpetuating violence of the most ferocious kind, is clearly evident as events unfold. The worst is, perhaps, yet to come. Afghanistan today is in a condition that is far worse than what existed when the Russians withdrew in the 1990s.

At that time, there was at least a titular leader around whom those opposed to the Taliban could hope to mobilise and put up a fight. Moreover, the ‘retreat’ of the United States from Afghanistan in 2021 is far more humbling than the Russian withdrawal in the 1990s, for the latter at least had to contend with the actions of a superpower, like the U.S. This time the Taliban having played fast and loose with the U.S. has left the ‘superpower’ with not even the fig leaf of a honourable withdrawal. U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to set a date for the withdrawal of the American forces, and treat this decision as one carved in stone irrespective of the situation within Afghanistan — without any consideration of the consequences — clearly enabled the Taliban to take over.

After the Russian withdrawal in the 1990s, Afghanistan still had a future, for in the final years of the 20th century, the world was intent on making efforts to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a ‘black hole’ that would create mayhem across a vast region that bordered Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. In the 1990s, moreover, the Taliban were a band of outlaws. Today, it is recognised — may be with different degrees of disdain — by powers such as the U.S., Russia and China, and is on the brink of gaining a country. For a regulated international order that most countries across the world seek, there could be no greater tragedy than the emergence of a ‘rogue’ state under the Taliban.

Paving the way for terror

The Afghan Establishment seemed to give up the fight against the Taliban earlier on by ceding authority to private militias, former Afghan warlords and a rabble of disparate armed groups. To expect that this kind of armed rabble would resist the Taliban was clearly a mistake. As the Afghan state implodes, one should now expect a wider cleaving between Pashtuns, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Hazaras and the myriad other clans that populate Afghanistan. The virtual death of the Afghan nation, approximates as it were to the ‘end of history’.

The collapse of organised resistance to the Taliban within Afghanistan, together with the group being courted by Russia, China and quite a few other nations, apart from Pakistan — not excluding the U.S. — marks the saddest day in the history of a proud nation. This is also a moment of tragedy for Asia as a whole. It virtually spells the death-knell of any possible Afghan renaissance in the near future. Instead, the situation is far more likely to encourage erstwhile terror groups, such as the one led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar — a one-time client of Pakistan and a traditional opponent of the Taliban — to return to their erstwhile hunting grounds.

Afghanistan versus Syria

References to Afghanistan becoming another Syria are again misplaced. At the worst of times, Syria had a relatively strong President (Bashar al-Assad), while Afghan President Ghani can hardly be compared to him. The territory of Afghanistan is also very different from that of Syria. Afghanistan’s borders, with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, unlike that of Syria are extremely porous and almost impossible to guard or protect. More to the point, the end-game in Afghanistan has little in common with the power equations witnessed in Syria. In Afghanistan, the Taliban is intent on keeping absolute control and is counting on China, Russia, and Pakistan to do so. All of them are more intent on keeping out the U.S., and in effect India.

Indulging in a blame game at this time may appear inappropriate. However, the U.S. cannot shrug off a major share of the responsibility for Afghanistan’s current plight. Apart from the decision of Mr. Biden not to alter the last date for the exit of U.S. troops in Afghanistan — which sent a clear signal to the Taliban of a collapse of U.S. resolve to safeguard the interests of Afghanistan — the stealthy exit of the U.S. from the Bagram airbase also left an indelible impression as far as the Taliban was concerned: that the U.S. had acknowledged the Taliban’s supremacy in return for the safe passage of their troops. All this has diminished the image of the U.S. in Asian eyes. In light of this, U.S. claims to ‘make America great again’ sound extremely hollow.

Old threats may resurface

Some political commentators seem to believe that after the initial success of the Taliban and the collapse of the Afghan state, the natural political dynamics of the region would assert itself. This seems like a pious wish. After two decades of active involvement in the affairs of Afghanistan, and spending over a trillion dollars in the process to defeat terrorism and the al Qaeda, the U.S. has left Afghanistan in a worse situation than when it entered. It is not possible to discern any reduction in terrorism or the demise of any of the better known terror groups, such as the al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS), or for that matter, of lesser known terror outfits. As a matter of fact, there has been a resurgence in al Qaeda activities recently. The IS, after some earlier setbacks, is again regrouping and currently poses a real threat to areas abutting, and including, Afghanistan. Radicalised Islamist terror and the forces of ‘doctrinaire theocracy’ have, if anything, thus become stronger. The collapse of the Afghan state will ignite many old threats.

Compared to the situation when the U.S. left Vietnam in 1975 — which was also seen by many as a kind of ‘retreat’— the Afghan ‘misadventure’ has been a disaster. Under the leadership of the Communist Party, Vietnam was able to emerge as a vibrant nation with a thriving economy. Under the Taliban regime, Afghanistan cannot hope for any such outcome. It would remain the ‘sick man of Asia’ for generations to come, a standing folly to perils of outside intervention in the affairs of another nation.

Stakes for India, Iran

Among Afghanistan’s neighbours, India and Iran are two countries that would find accommodation with a Taliban-dominated Afghanistan very difficult. Pakistan may be an enigma of sorts, but the Taliban will need Pakistan at least in the short and medium term. Relations between Taliban Afghanistan and Uzbekistan and Tajikistan may not be easy, but will not lead to any major problems for now. India, even more than Shia-dominated Iran, may be the outlier among Afghanistan’s neighbours for a variety of reasons, including its warm relations with the Karzai and the Ghani regimes in the past two decades.

If the 21st century was expected to become the century of progress, the situation in Afghanistan represents a severe setback to all such hopes and expectations. The aftershock of the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban can be expected to continue for long. For India, the virtual retreat of the U.S. from this part of Asia; the growing China-Russia-Pakistan nexus across the region; and an Iran under a hardliner like Ebrahim Raisi, all work to its disadvantage. A great deal of hard thinking is needed as to how to retrieve a situation that for the present seems heavily tilted against India.

M.K. Narayanan is a former National Security Adviser and a former Governor of West Bengal

Remembrances of mass killings and collective violence can play an important part in societies seeking forgiveness for the crimes they committed against humanity and resolving that they will never let those terrible events happen again.

Israel remembers the Holocaust for more reasons than one. For different reasons, Germany too remembers the Holocaust through discussions in schoolbooks, public events and more. Japan, by actively remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki, has not allowed the world to forget the destruction caused by the nuclear bombs dropped on the two cities. Not all nations, though, are committed to national remembrance. The United States, for instance, has not cared to publicly remember the genocide of the Native Americans during the 18th and 19th centuries.

A refusal to remember

The biggest example of forgetfulness of a 20th century event is that by India. It has never cared to collectively remember the estimated two million Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs who died in targeted murders and the tens of millions who were displaced in British India during the months before Independence. India’s holocaust, which never has an ‘H’ to it, is for the most part something we remember as having happened because of British perfidy and Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s cunning ways. As a society we bear no responsibility, we believe. But it is only by constantly telling ourselves what happened that we can come to terms with the mass murders of the time. By not remembering the crimes perpetrated on each other, we do not reach closure, we only push them aside in our minds.

There is no national memorial for the millions murdered, sexually violated, and displaced during Partition. School textbooks only note the killings; they do not remember them. There are no names, there are no faces, there are no voices of those millions. In a reflection of the national attitude, the arts too barely remember the slaughters. Saadat Hasan Manto’s stories, Bhisham Sahni’s novelTamas(which was also turned into a film for TV), and the fictionalised presentations in the filmBhaag Milkha Bhaagare exceptions. The academic world has over the past quarter century sought to make amends with a wide body of work of Partition studies and the creation of Partition archives, but these have not permeated into wider society. (There is, though, a Partition Museum that has been established in Amritsar, not by a government but by a trust set up by a dedicated group of citizens.)

The blame for this post-Independence refusal to remember and seek forgiveness must be laid squarely at the door of the governments since 1947. In their anxiety to deny the two-nation theory, the state of the new republic sought to gloss over the terrible killings of Partition. It did not forget the mass murders, but it did not seek to actively remember the horrors that had taken place only a few years earlier. Pakistan was no different in not remembering the violence that happened on its side of what became a new national border.

Independent India’s call was ‘Let us get on with building a nation of communal harmony’. Yet it was the opposite that happened. In the absence of collective remembrance, people’s memories of the mass violence became easy fodder for the embers of communal hatred. Indeed, the refusal to openly acknowledge and atone for the Partition slaughter was an important cause of the communal violence that dotted the decades after 1947. A string of violent events took hundreds of lives each time, if not thousands, from Jabalpur (1961) to Ahmedabad (1969), Jamshedpur (1979), Moradabad (1980), Bhiwandi (1984), the Rath Yatra killings of 1989, Bhagalpur (1989), the Babri Masjid demolition violence of 1992-93, Bombay (1993); the list is endless extending to Gujarat (2002) and beyond. All these conflagrations are testimony to the outcome of the divisions built around Partition that have lingered ever since.

Reopening wounds

It is never late to begin the process of remembrance and to come to terms with the past without erasing it. This remembrance must be of all the communities — Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs — in undivided India, on both sides of the present borders, in the west and the east, who saw unimaginable devastation. It must be a journey of remembrance that seeks forgiveness and makes us say ‘Never again’. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision (let us make no mistake: the decision has the Prime Minister’s imprint all over it) to institute August 14 every year as ‘Partition Horrors Remembrance Day’ cannot be such a beginning. No communities are mentioned in the Prime Minister’s statement, but the choice of the date tells us what it is about. Up to two million people of all religions died, but it is on the day which marks Pakistan’s emergence as a nation that we will remember the brutalities of Partition.

This kind of remembrance will reopen wounds and give a new edge to the divisions that led to the deaths during Partition. If the post-Independence error was to avoid talking about the mass killings, the new decision will keep the past on the boil. This is not remembrance; it encourages us to let the wounds fester. We are surprised with this decision, but we should not be. It is in keeping with the idea of India as a Hindu Rashtra. A part of the Rashtra was ‘lost’ to Pakistan on August 14, 1947, and we are now told that we must remember on that very day those who lost their lives during the events that ended with the break-up of the so-called Akhand Bharat.

This is not a dog whistle ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections; it is something more dangerous. Seventy-five years after the birth of two countries, this decision by the Prime Minister of India seems to be aimed at recalling that the emergence in 1947 of two independent nations, rather than just one, was a mistake that we cannot be allowed to forget. The institution of ‘Partition Horrors Remembrance Day’ will then not help us remember and grieve in silence for the people who were killed. It will have the opposite effect — perhaps even intentionally — of retaining the anger over Partition. Such a decision could have dangerous consequences in the future.

If we truly want to make a beginning at remembrance of the horrors of the time, we could start by establishing a national museum of Partition in the heart of New Delhi. Mahatma Gandhi had suggested after Independence that the Viceroy’s House (now Rashtrapati Bhavan) should be turned into a hospital; the suggestion was not taken up. Perhaps, now we could turn the new residence of the Prime Minister, proposed as part of the Central Vista Redevelopment Project, into a museum that remembers the millions of people of all communities who were killed or were forced to flee their homes 75 years ago.

Such a national memorial in India could be a catalyst for Pakistan and Bangladesh to establish similar museums to honour the dead in those parts of British India. This may well mark a larger South Asian process of remembrance of everyone who died, whatever their religious denomination and wherever their location at the time of Partition. This would be a true collective atonement for those terrible events.

C. Rammanohar Reddy is Editor of The India Forum

In 2002, in light of two progressive pronouncements by the Supreme Court of India (Miss Mohini Jain vs State of Karnataka and Ors.andState of Himachal Pradesh vs H.P. State Recognised and Aided Schools Managing Committees and Ors.), the right to education found a secure constitutional home in the fundamental rights chapter of the Indian Constitution. This fundamental right, set out in Article 21A, guarantees every child between the ages of 6 and 14 access to free and compulsory education. In a series of rulings (Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India, andAvinash Mehrotra vs Union of India), the top court has interpreted the right in a broad and expansive way, holding that it imposes an affirmative obligation on the government and civil society to secure its enjoyment.

Consistent with this spirit, the Court held inFarzana Batool vs Union of Indiathat, while access to professional education is not a fundamental right, the state must take affirmative measures to secure the right to education at all levels.

State’s failure

Against this backdrop, the cavalier dismissal of the right to education under the garb of “ensuring balance between copyright protection of the publishers and public access to affordable educational study material” by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce in a recent report (https://bit.ly/3maSZhq), is deeply worrying. The Committee suggests curtailing fair dealing provisions under Indian Copyright law — which enable access to the work without the copyright holder’s consent — since it was informed that the provisions pose “a detrimental impact on the publishing industry and authors who are mainly dependent on royalties”. To highlight this as a concern instead of the abject state failure to remedy impediments to accessing educational material, exacerbated by the novel coronavirus pandemic, betrays complete ignorance of the state’s obligation to secure the right to education.

The issue of ‘purpose’

The Committee takes note of the Delhi High Court’s landmark judgment in the DU photocopy case. In that case (The Chancellor, Masters & Scholars of the University of Oxford & Ors vs Rameshwari Photocopy Services & Anr.),the court (both the Single Judge and the Division Bench) adopted a robust understanding of the educational exception enumerated in the list of fair dealing provisions in the Copyright Act. Section 52(1)(i) allows the reproduction of any work by a teacher or a pupil in the course of instruction. The court held that ‘course of instruction’ therein is not confined to the time and place of instruction, and would include anything that could be justified for the purpose of instruction. This includes steps commencing at a time prior to lecturing and continuing till after it. It also noted that apart from Section 52(1)(a), which provides for the right to a “fair dealing” of any copyrightable work, other rights/purposes enumerated under Section 52 would not have to meet the express requirement of fair dealing.

Thus, Section 52(1)(i) was recognised as enumerating an affirmative purpose exempt from infringement. The fairness of use under these Sections can be deemed to be presumed by the legislature as long as it is justified by the purpose specified. Consistent with this, the court also noted that there are no quantitative restrictions on the extent of the reproduction permitted as long as it is justified by a specific purpose under Section 52.

In its report, the Standing Committee notes that it is distressed that the conflict between educational institutions and copyright owners does not bode well for the “overall literary culture and image of the country”. In a bid to make the system fair and equitable, it calls on the government to amend Section 52 to allow for such copying only in government-owned institutions. It further states that there should be a quantitative limit on how much copying is permissible and regulation of the storage of copied works in digital formats.

A flawed view

The Committee’s views are flawed for multiple reasons. First, they betray a profound misunderstanding of theraison d’etrefor granting copyright in educational content. As the single judge eloquently noted in the DU photocopy case, the purpose of copyright is to increase the: “harvest of knowledge, motivate the creative activity of authors and inventors in order to benefit the public”. Therefore, the rights of publishers are only a means to an end.

Relatedly, the Committee misunderstands the role of fair dealing provisions within this framework. Fair dealing provisions are user rights which are no less important than the rights of publishers. Given the fundamental character of the right to education, the importance of these rights can be traced to the Constitution. Therefore, their interpretation should reflect their salutary nature.

Second, the Committee errs in assuming that the rights of publishers were not duly accounted for in the DU photocopy judgments. Addressing arguments regarding any adverse impact of adopting a broad interpretation of the educational purpose exemption on the market of the concerned copyrighted works, the Division Bench noted with an example that access to copyrighted material for literacy and education does not curtail the market for these works. It held that students are anyway not potential customers of 30-40 reference books in the library, and that citizens with improved literacy, education and earning potential expand the market for copyrighted materials in the long run.

Third, having quantitative restrictions on the extent of permissible copying would be inapposite, because any limit would be arbitrarily arrived at. Instead, what is needed is a test suited to Indian realities and its development needs of making access to education more equitable and fairer in a context of deepening socio-economic inequalities.

Looking backward

The novel coronavirus pandemic has revealed the inadequacy of our fair dealing provisions to promote educational access. Specifically, these provisions were not designed to promote the free dissemination of educational content in digital form and to facilitate the sharing of resources required to effectively offer virtual education.

The Committee should have focused on suggesting amendments to Section 52 that would have made our copyright law fit for today’s challenges. That it has decided to look backward instead of forward is deeply troubling. Given the Supreme Court’s richly articulated constitutional obligation of the state to secure access to education, copyright law should facilitate, as opposed to attenuating its enjoyment.

Rahul Bajaj, a Rhodes Scholar, is a Senior Resident Fellow at the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy. Anupriya Dhonchak, also a Rhodes Scholar, is a law graduate from the National Law University Delhi

In 1921, the Nobel Prize Committee requested two Nobel Prize winners, Allvar Gullstrand and Svante Arrhenius, to evaluate if Albert Einstein should be awarded the Nobel Prize. They concluded that Einstein would have to wait and the Nobel Committee decided not to award the Prize to anyone in 1921. Opinions changed in a year and when Einstein did receive the 1921 Prize in 1922, it was not for his theories of relativity but for “his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect”. The citation harked back to the revolutionary theories that Einstein had established in 1905. ‘Annus Mirabilis’, or the Year of Miracles, is how 1905 is remembered by physicists because Einstein, only 26 then, published four remarkable papers that year. One of them explained that light was made of photons and when light shone on metal, each photon’s energy correlated to electron’s speed on the metal’s surface. This theory redefined the composition of light and Einstein himself dubbed it revolutionary. It was for this that he received the Nobel Prize.

Special theory of relativity

Einstein propounded theories of relativity. The special theory of relativity was published in 1905. The questions that necessitated research on relativity were deceptively simple. Ever since the pre-Newtonian days of Galileo, it was known that motion was relative. For example, if two bicycles ride in opposite directions, the speed of the second observed from the first is the sum of the speeds. James Maxwell had established that light was an electromagnetic wave and the value of its speed was calculated. Building on this, Einstein understood that while moving from one frame of reference to another, which is moving at a different speed, the speed of light remains a constant. He gave a physical interpretation to the equations governing the transformation from one frame to another based on this fact.

So, how does light’s velocity stay constant? Einstein’s theory establishes that time moves slower within a moving body when measured from a point at rest (but moves normally within the moving body itself) and the length of the moving body contracts when measured from an outside point at rest. When a moving body emits light, the length contraction and time slowdown of the moving body are just exactly what are needed to restore the speed of light to its constant value.

Einstein’s insight was that there was no absolute time because time was measured by the simultaneity of two events and this simultaneity would be observed differently, say, within a moving train versus from a railway platform. As lagniappe to the scientific community, Einstein published his famous mass-energy equivalence E=mc2 in late 1905. A mundane example of the application of the special theory of relativity is the use of GPS on our phones: satellites account for time differences in their clocks due to their high speed and their positions away from earth’s gravity and then calculate the geo-location.

General theory of relativity

From 1907, in bouts of scientific creativity, Einstein sought to generalise the special theory of relativity. Put simply, how does gravitational force act instantaneously between massive stars and planets that are millions of miles away? His research led him to geometry of curved spaces and multi-dimensional geometry that Bernhard Riemann had pioneered in the 19th century. With some help from his mathematician friend Marcel Grossmann, Einstein worked out equations using tensors, the mathematical implement to describe transformation of different dimensions. In November 1915, Einstein completed the general theory of relativity.

As per this theory, space and time form a continuum, like a fabric, and every object in the universe distorts this fabric, much like how dropping a large ball distorts a taut trampoline sheet. This distortion is gravity. It produces two effects. One, the fabric causes any other object in the vicinity to move towards the heavier object and this is why gravity causes an object to pull things towards it. Two, it bends light in the process of attracting it. This bending of light was what was observed as experimental verification of the theory, in 1919, by the English astrophysicist, Arthur Eddington. The theory is general enough to apply to all forms of motion, including those where gravity does not appear. Under specific simplifying conditions, the equations matched Newton’s laws. The Nobel Laureate S. Chandrasekhar said that “it is probably the most beautiful of all existing theories”.

In just two decades, Einstein led physics out of its traditional moorings, laid the entablature of modern physics on Newtonian and Maxwellian pillars of classical physics and opened it up to newer questions.

Varahasimhan is a history of science enthusiast based in Chennai

A major stumbling block faced by Indian farmers pertains to the lack of affordable good quality feed and fodder for livestock. A study by the Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute has observed that for every 100 kg of feed required, India is short of 23.4 kg of dry fodder, 11.24 kg of green fodder, and 28.9 kg of concentrate feed. This is one of the chief reasons why Indian livestock’s milk productivity is 20%-60% lower than the global average. If we break down the input costs, we find that feed constitutes 60%-70% of milk production costs. The significance of Sub-Mission on Fodder and Feed recently announced by the Indian government is underscored by the fact that livestock is the major source of cash income for about 13 crore marginal farmers and is an insurance in the event of crop failure. The lack of good quality feed and fodder impacts the productivity levels of cattle. As about 200 million Indians are involved in dairy and livestock farming, the scheme is important from the perspective of poverty alleviation.

Revised scheme

When the National Livestock Mission was launched in 2014, it focused on supporting farmers in producing fodder from non-forest wasteland/grassland, and cultivation of coarse grains. However, this model could not sustain fodder availability due to lack of backward and forward linkages in the value chain. Therefore, the Mission has been revised to make the programme focus primarily on assistance towards seed production and the development of feed and fodder entrepreneurs. It now provides for 50% direct capital subsidy to the beneficiaries under the feed and fodder entrepreneurship programme and 100% subsidy on fodder seed production to identified beneficiaries.

The Sub-Mission on Fodder and Feed intends to create a network of entrepreneurs who will make silage (the hub) and sell them directly to the farmers (the spoke). It is premised on the idea that the funding of the hub will lead to the development of the spoke. The large-scale production of silage will bring down the input cost for farmers since silage is much cheaper than concentrate feed. Studies have indicated that by growing fodder crops one can earn Rs. 1.60 by investing Rs. 1 as compared to Rs. 1.20 in the case of common cereals like wheat and rice. Private entrepreneurs, self-help groups, farmer producer organisations, dairy cooperative societies, and Section 8 companies (NGOs) can avail themselves of the benefits under this scheme. The scheme will provide 50% capital subsidy up to Rs. 50 lakh towards project cost to the beneficiary for infrastructure development and for procuring machinery for value addition in feed such as hay/silage/total mixed ration. The scheme can be used for covering the cost of infrastructure/machinery such as bailing units, harvester, chaff cutter, sheds, etc. The revised scheme has been designed with the objectives of increasing productivity, reducing input costs, and doing away with middlemen (who usually take a huge cut).

Availability of green fodder

A major challenge in the feed sector emanates from the fact that good quality green fodder is only available for about three months during the year. So, the ideal solution would be to ferment green fodder and convert it into silage. Hence, under the fodder entrepreneurship programme, farmers will receive subsidies and incentives to create a consistent supply chain of feed throughout the year. The idea is that farmers should be able to grow the green fodder between two crop seasons and entrepreneurs can then convert it into silage and sell it at nearby markets at one-tenth of the price of concentrate/dry feed ensuring affordable quality fodder to dairy farmers.

In this context, it is heartening to see successful models of silage entrepreneurship by several start-ups across the country. Since India has a livestock population of 535.78 million, an effective implementation of this scheme will play a major role in increasing the return on investment for our farmers.

Atul Chaturvedi is Secretary at the Ministry of Animal Husbandry and Dairying. Views are personal

The disquiet over the absence of adequate debate or discussion in Parliament is quite widespread. Concerned citizens and sections of the Opposition bemoan the evident haste with which laws are pushed through; presiding officers fret over the low productivity due to time lost amidst unruly protests; and even government representatives may worry that their legislative agenda is not being carried out in time. The Chief Justice of India, Justice N.V. Ramana, has added a new dimension to this sense of discontent by pointing out the absence of any help from parliamentary debates when the courts are faced with ambiguities or lacunae in laws. His description, of a “sorry state of affairs”, would resonate as crucial pieces of legislation are indeed passed without sufficient debate, and often with nothing more than a Minister’s brief reply or a mere assurance in response to any concern raised by some members. The CJI’s concern was possibly occasioned by some specific law such as the Tribunals Reforms Bill, recently passed with a few clauses struck down by the Supreme Court. However, the import of his observation, at a celebration to mark the 75th Independence Day, was that when the courts were unable to fathom the intent behind some laws, the parliamentary record could throw some light if the debates were sufficiently enlightening. He referred to the illuminating debate on the Industrial Disputes Act as an example.

It is quite true that a fuller debate in the legislature would provide greater insight into the intent behind laws, but a situation that requires a scrutiny of such intent ought not to arise in normal circumstances. Legislation should be drafted clearly and the letter of the law should not stray much beyond its purpose and scope. A purposive interpretation of statute is normally required only when the wording of the law is unclear. Otherwise, reliance on House committee reports or parliamentary debates is only an extrinsic aid, and not fully determinative of a law’s meaning. In a recent example, the Supreme Court ruled that the 102nd Amendment to the Constitution ousted the power of State governments to identify backward classes, even though it was vehemently argued by the Government that it was not Parliament’s intention. It highlights the need to have the wording of the law fully reflect the legislative intent. More than the quality of debate, it is the scope for detailed discussion that imparts clarity and a much-needed proximity to the original intent and purpose to any statute. For this, it is vital that important pieces of legislation are scrutinised by standing committees, which will have the advantage not only of eliciting replies from the executive but also inputs from the wider civil society, before the statute is framed.

Long before the pandemic struck, health experts had warned of a health epidemic — one that involved non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The last two years, however, managed to expose the frailties of even robust health systems in the country that saw not one, but two debilitating waves of COVID-19. It also exposed the chinks in what was traditionally believed to be the armour of health care — institution-based treatment. When access to these institutions was severed all of a sudden, States had to introspect about how they could bolster their health-care set-up in ways that would protect it from such disruptions. For Tamil Nadu, this introspection resulted in its ‘Makkalai Thedi Maruthuvam’ scheme, a community-based intervention to tackle and treat NCDs and to address the crucial issues of prevention and early detection. Inaugurated by Chief Minister M.K. Stalin earlier this month, it involves a tentative budget in excess of Rs. 250 crore. It includes population-based screening for the 18-plus population for 10 common conditions — hypertension, diabetes, oral, cervical and breast cancers, TB, leprosy, chronic kidney disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, mental health — and the delivery of hypertension/diabetes drugs to patients aged 45-plus besides to those with restricted or poor mobility. The State, which has a high burden of NCDs, also acted on data that indicated very low community control rates for hypertension (7.3%) and diabetes (10.8%) among patients.

Once the tenacious link between NCDs such as uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension, and COVID-19 outcomes was apparent, it became clear that control of these health parameters was paramount and would necessitate uninterrupted access to health-care services. According to the India: Health of the Nation’s States report, in 2016, 55% of the total disease burden in India was caused by NCDs, with the burden of NCDs increasing across all States from 1990 to 2016. The disruption of access to health care during the pandemic did affect compliance to drug regimens, and led to uncontrolled disease, with implications for quality of life too. It is ideal that nations prepare themselves to face further epidemics that might occur and cause similar disruptions in society by arming themselves to overcome such drawbacks. The Tamil Nadu initiative is a well-meaning notch in trying to address this; the efficacy of its chosen method of door delivery of drugs has been proven earlier with the supervised drug regimen, or DOTS therapy used in tuberculosis control. Ultimately, the success of a well-conceived programme rests in the proper implementation of each of its components. If Tamil Nadu is able to demonstrate, with this scheme, that it is possible to maintain the continuum of care even in the most trying of circumstances, then, here is a model that could inspire other States to follow suit.

The President, Mr. V.V. Giri, delivering the convocation address of the Bombay University this evening [Bombay, Aug. 17], said that the primary purpose of education should be to inculcate the virtues of humanism, tolerance, reason and breadth of vision among the students and instil in them the fervour for imaginative ideas and quest for truth. In this task the teacher played a unique and distinct role, he said. Viewed in this context, the President said in different parts of the country discipline and integrity were fast waning from among the people. Mr. Giri pointed out that if discipline was eroded either in the educational institutions or in the community life the future of the nation was bleak and whatever progress one might make or academic excellence one might acquire, one was doomed to failure. They must protect their community and educational institutions from this danger. The association and relationship between the students and the teachers was more than ordinary, he said. The President emphasised the importance of elevating the teacher-student relationship to one of understanding, cordiality and mutual co-operation.

Nagaland ceases to have an Opposition as parties unite to pursue a peace deal with rebels. It’s problematic.

Nagaland became a virtually Opposition-mukt state on Monday after the ruling People’s Democratic Alliance that includes the BJP, and the chief Opposition party, the Naga People’s Front (NPF), signed on a resolution to form a Nagaland United Government (NUG). The NUG constituents say they have set aside their rivalry to form a united government “to achieve a peaceful solution to the Naga Political Issue”. The NPF, which insists that it has joined the alliance only for the sake of the peace deal, had lost office in 2018 though it won 26 seats in a House of 60 MLAs.

The intent behind the NUG is laudable, but it seems a tall and problematic claim. Two questions arise in this context. One, the Naga peace deal, referred to as NPI by political parties, has always been negotiated by the Centre with the insurgent groups, mainly the NSCN (I-M). The state government has hardly any role. This is understandable since the main issue of contention concerns national sovereignty: The NSCN (I-M) seeks to establish an independent Nagalim, with territory carved out from Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and even Myanmar, where Naga tribes reside. The Centre announced a framework agreement with the NSCN(I-M) in 2015 but a closure has eluded the agreement since the rebels have refused to eschew their demand for a separate flag and Constitution. There is no evidence to suggest that the NUG constituents have the heft to influence the NSCN(I-M); on the contrary, many legislators are dependent on the rebels to win elections. The second question is the role of the legislative assembly in the absence of an Opposition. The assembly is also a platform to scrutinise legislation, public policy and delivery of public goods. The Opposition is mandated to hold the government to account on behalf of the people. Until this June, the NPF legislators were seen to be punching holes in the claims of the administration regarding Covid management and posing tough questions to the PDA government. However, as preparations began for the realignment of parties, reportedly after a meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the Opposition withdrew into silence.

Peace is a non-negotiable goal, but so should be enforcing accountability of government. In any case, political parties in Nagaland have a patchy record on this matter. Coalitions of convenience, often dictated by the ruling party/alliance at the Centre, have been the norm, and few of them have governed with distinction. The onus is firmly on the NUG to prove the sceptics wrong — it has time till 2023 when assembly polls are due next.

This editorial first appeared in the print edition on August 18, 2021 under the title ‘Unity in adversity’.

In its severity, the situation recalls Delhi’s moment of reckoning with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. This is no less a test of India’s foreign policy

There could be many ways to bid goodbye, and United States President Joe Biden did not find the best words. His 18-minute speech defending the decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by August 31, a decision that led to the collapse of a costly two-decade experiment with democracy and the Taliban taking back Kabul almost exactly 20 years after their ouster, will go down in history as a stark lesson in how a superpower does business with the world: It always acts from self-interest. This is well understood but Biden underlined it. His definition of the objective of the war in Afghanistan as not nation-building but for “preventing a terrorist attack on the American homeland” contradicted years of US policy and involvement in Afghanistan, pouring of cash into holding elections and propping up chosen leaders in Kabul. But Biden’s speech was most egregious for the manner in which he dismissed Afghans as a people who do not have the will to fight their own war, but instead want American soldiers to fight it for them. Apparently, Afghan soldiers who were killed fighting alongside US and NATO troops count for nothing, and neither do the efforts of ordinary Afghan civilians who threw themselves into the same “nation-building” project that Biden dissed, and the risks they took in the hope that it would help to keep the Taliban out forever. There was no acknowledgment, even for form’s sake, of the uncertain future the Afghan people and the entire region now face. What he conveyed unequivocally, though, is that the US has closed this chapter in its history.

For India, this is a new challenge. On the back of the American presence in Afghanistan, India had built on its age-old ties with the country to win back the influence it had lost after the exit of Soviet troops and with the advent of the mujahideen, and eventually the Taliban. Delhi’s three-year-long confusion — to talk to the Taliban or not — was finally overtaken by the speed of events over the last few days. As of Tuesday, India has zero diplomatic presence in Afghanistan. Re-establishing it will depend upon the kind of dispensation that takes shape in Kabul over the next few days, and on whether India decides to engage with it.

Pakistan, which has finally achieved the objectives of its Afghanistan policy with the Taliban victory, will want to clip India’s wings. India is now virtually friendless in the region, cut off by the China-Pakistan axis, and more or less by Russia too. Even South Block’s friends in the erstwhile anti-Taliban Northern Alliance have seen the writing on the wall, taking the first opportunity to visit Islamabad. What India wants to achieve by courting an increasingly pro-China Iran remains to be seen. Overall, India has a tough task ahead, re-balancing equations in the region and beyond, even as it shores up its security. In its severity, the situation recalls Delhi’s moment of reckoning with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. This is no less a test of India’s foreign policy.

This editorial first appeared in the print edition on August 18, 2021 under the title ‘Ungraceful retreat’.

Like for all the world-conquering sides of the past, a halo is beginning to grow and shine around India’s pace-bowling quartet. The halo of world-beaters.

The victory at Lord’s is not merely a win that Indian cricket will remember for years, it was also a forceful statement of quality and willpower of Virat Kohli and his team. From every setback, they have emerged victorious, much like the Australians in the first decade of this century. To bowl out England inside two sessions on a benevolent surface seemed an improbable proposition, but India’s pacers put out a collective performance of high-class skills, and unrelenting intensity. It is as if the Indians are the new Aussies of world cricket.

It was as much a triumph of their physical skills as a reflection of their mental strength. This team is simply unwilling to quit. Not on the final morning, when Rishabh Pant got out and a defeat loomed. The much-mocked Indian tail-enders showed they have steel as well as sting. They took blows on body and helmet, and fought on valiantly till India was safe. The unexpected batting heroes — Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah — might never morph into all-rounders, but they showed the guts to dig in their heels in the face of adversity.

Later, when England battled defiantly, after the early collapse, a draw lurked. Just about 10 overs remained, and India seemed to be running out of ideas. Then came in Jasprit Bumrah with a laser-guided off-cutter from around the stumps to break the resistance. Mohammed Siraj overpowered the last two batsmen in the space of four balls to ring in an unforgettable victory. It has been the pattern throughout the game; whenever India buzzed SOS, someone would invariably get the job done. Every member of the quartet had a match-deciding moment in the game, be it Siraj’s triple twin-strikes, or Bumrah’s spell from hell at the start of the second innings, or Ishant Sharma’s two-wicket burst in the first innings, or Mohammed Shami deceiving a well-set Rory Burns in the first dig. Like for all the world-conquering sides of the past, a halo is beginning to grow and shine around India’s pace-bowling quartet. The halo of world-beaters.

This editorial first appeared in the print edition on August 18, 2021 under the title ‘The quartet’.

The incidents have been reported from parts of the country with Tamils being the worst affected, a spokesperson of the Tamil United Liberation Front said. Under the emergency, the government has special powers to deal with the situation.

President J R Jayewardene on August 17 declared an island-wide emergency in Sri Lanka following a spate of violence, looting and arson in the last 10 days. Earlier the police reported to the President that there have been seven deaths because of violence, 196 incidents of arson, 35 incidents of looting and 15 incidents of robbery. Unofficial figures are much higher. The incidents have been reported from parts of the country with Tamils being the worst affected, a spokesperson of the Tamil United Liberation Front said. Under the emergency, the government has special powers to deal with the situation. There has been no announcement of curfew, but a government spokesperson said that the police could impose curfew in troubled areas.

Pant quits

K C Pant and Mohammed Shafi Quraishi, former Union ministers of state and Congress-U general secretaries, resigned from the party. Pant, a member of the Rajya Sabha, also submitted his resignation to the Congress (U) parliamentary party. He proposes to sit in the Rajya Sabha as an independent member. Neither Pant nor Quraishi have given any reason for resigning from the party. Pant’s going will reduce the number of Congress (U) members in the Rajya Sabha to 15.

Workers’ march

The opening day of the Monsoon Session of Parliament saw thousands of workers demanding angrily that the ordinance banning strikes in essential services should be withdrawn completely.

UP cabinet expanded

The UP Council of Ministers was expanded with the introduction of one cabinet minister, Nau Nihal Singh, four ministers of state, Gulab Sehera, Ranjit Singh Judeo, Praveen Kumar Sharma and Premwati Tiwari, and one deputy minister, Om Prakash Richharia. Their portfolios have not been announced.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan writes: The Swaraj that Mahatma Gandhi dreamt of should be founded on the atmanirbharta that PM Modi speaks of.

“I dream of an India that is prosperous, strong, and caring. An India, that regains a place of honour in the comity of great nations.” In the last 14 years of my government, I have often reflected on these words by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. As we celebrate India’s 75th year of Independence, we must chart a route that will not only create a progressive, prosperous, and caring nation, but will also give us the necessary strength to hold this greatness intact for future generations.

Not long ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi exhorted us to partner with him to create an “Atmanirbhar Bharat”. The tumult of the last year and a half has given us the opportunity to galvanise our efforts to create a strong, secure, and self-reliant Bharat.

Over the years, I’ve become firmer in my belief that true independence lies in being able to choose the right response in dire straits.

When we were hit by Covid last year, we stood by the people and fought the pandemic. It was only after successfully containing the virus that we rested. While we were still celebrating, the virus returned in a more lethal avatar. We did not lose hope and fought, despite the losses. We sought all possible help from the Centre, and the state government, the bureaucracy and the people came together to stop the virus. Victory was won when we clamped down on its further onslaught.

As I write this, we are in a much better position with robust preparedness against an imminent third wave. We have developed the Sarthak portal for capturing real-time facility-wise patient data for monitoring oxygen consumption. In order to ensure oxygen availability, we have ordered 186 PSA plants from the Government of India and other sources, with a total capacity of 229 MT.

It has been heart-wrenching to witness so many deaths. As a result, we have augmented the healthcare facilities to ensure widespread coverage by increasing the oxygen-supported bed capacity to 11,185 beds, with a plan to further augment this by 3,063 beds. The government has also provided healthcare staff training and development. We have trained over 1,50,000 healthcare workers to amp-up our efforts against the third wave, and over 700 doctors and nurses to treat paediatric Covid cases.

As we rally against this health emergency, it pleases me to note India’s historic win at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games, with seven medals in all. I am overjoyed about Madhya Pradesh’s contribution in securing a bronze medal through Vivek Sagar Prasad’s remarkable performance in field hockey. News like this makes my chest swell with pride, as I repose my trust in the power and imagination of our youth.

Our PM had said, “the youth will become the strong foundation of India’s future.” I am committed to serving the youth of Madhya Pradesh by ensuring that they are provided with state-of-the-art sports facilities so that they can aim for gold in the Paris Olympics in 2024.

In the past few months, I have reflected much upon my work to create Madhya Pradesh as “prerna aur pragati ka pradesh”. Parallels can be drawn between the atmanirbharta that Modiji speaks of and the self-reliance that Mahatma Gandhiji referred to. In fact, I believe that atmanirbharta is the bedrock of Gandhiji’s call for “Swaraj”.

Every government before us developed numerous schemes for the state’s people. But were these well-received and beneficial for all stakeholders? Were people able to choose what they needed? Within the responses to these questions is a nugget of administrative wisdom which says that until we put the freedom to choose in the hands of the people, our plans and policies will not result in the desired progress and growth, least of all in achieving Swaraj.

Therefore, in the 75th year of Independence, I commit to ensuring that the freedom to choose from a bouquet of government schemes will lie with the people of my state — the end beneficiaries. It is my deep desire that Madhya Pradesh lead from the frontlines as India sets out to become the vishwaguru in all spheres of life. With our political will, efficient administrative capabilities and the pervasive model of jan-bhagidari, we can achieve this.

The public has invited me to lead the state from strength to strength. To honour this mandate, my cabinet and the administration have worked together to build and execute a strategy to make Madhya Pradesh an atmanirbhar state — a state which is anchored in the idea of progress for all.

In fact, we are also the first state in India to ensure prompt action to achieve PM Modi’s vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat. We have outlined our vision under the four pillars of physical infrastructure, governance, health and education, economy and employment. This will help us move from contributing to create an India@75 to ensuring a well-rounded MP@75 in the next ten years, as Madhya Pradesh prepares to celebrate the 75th year of its foundation in 2031.

This epidemic has taught us what could be the lesson of a lifetime — to ensure that even the smallest voice gets heard. Hence our journey from India@75 to MP@75 will be of immeasurable significance and value. It will lay down a path and a resplendent future for generations to follow. It will tell the world that because no one gets left behind, Madhya Pradesh is indeed a prerna aur pragati ka pradesh.

Shyam Saran writes: Remembrance can be a prelude to healing from a tragedy, to foster a determination among people to never allow the tragedy to repeat itself, but it can also be used to reopen old wounds and reignite ugly passions.

On August 14, Prime Minister Narendra Modi solemnly declared that henceforth every August 14 will be observed as the “Partition Horrors Remembrance Day”. Of course, it was not lost on anyone that the new anniversary also happens to be the day when Pakistan celebrates its independence. The Partition of India into two independent states had been announced in June 1947, but the physical contours of the two successor states of India and Pakistan became known sometime after their formal independence on August 15 and August 14 respectively.

We should certainly keep alive the tragic memories associated with Partition because the blood-letting that scarred people of both countries must never be repeated. The horrors of Partition did not occur on a single day but spanned several weeks and months, both preceding and succeeding the declaration of independence of Pakistan and then India, just one day apart. If the new anniversary intends to ensure that the monumental human tragedy is not repeated, then it may be of some therapeutic value. If the intent is to cast India-Pakistan hostility in stone, as may well be suspected by the choice of the date for its commemoration, then it can only spawn negative domestic political consequences while seriously limiting India’s foreign policy options.

The announcement comes at a time when we are witnessing an upsurge in anti-Muslim communal incidents in various parts of the country. Just a few days ago, activists allegedly belonging to the Bajrang Dal assaulted Afsar Ahmad, a rickshaw-puller in Kanpur, even while his young daughter clung to him and cried for his life to be spared. He was collateral damage in a feud between two neighbouring families, Hindu and Muslim, though he himself was not involved. There have been similar incidents in other parts of the country. We have also witnessed the rabidly communal slogans raised at a recent Jantar Mantar gathering in the capital. As parties gear up for the crucial Uttar Pradesh elections next year, communalisation is once again being seen as a potentially winning strategy by the BJP despite its recent setback in the Bengal elections. As the date for the UP elections draws closer, the communal card will be seen flashing more and more in the state. The PM’s declaration on the Partition Horrors Remembrance Day should be seen in this context.

Remembrance can be a prelude to healing from a tragedy, to foster a determination among people to never allow the tragedy to repeat itself. Remembrance can also be used to reopen the wounds of yesteryear, to reignite ugly passions, where past horrors are regurgitated so they may be re-enacted with renewed passion. The date chosen for the remembrance of Partition horrors — Pakistan’s independence anniversary — may fall in the latter category.

Such a brand of politics is dangerous and carries within it the seeds of India’s possible unravelling as a nation. Writer Sadat Hasan Manto described the dangers spawned by Partition most evocatively: “…. human beings in both countries were slaves, slaves of bigotry… slaves of religious passions, slaves of animal instincts and barbarity.”

Do we want to conjure up that dangerous world once again by using a selective and curated memory to reignite violent communal passions? Or should this tragic history be used instead to heal the wounds of yesteryear and resolve never again to become slaves to ugly passions ignited through a cynical political calculus?

On the occasion of India completing 74 years of independence, it is time to recall what is truly remarkable about our country — that it is home to an extraordinary spectrum of ethnicities, religions, languages and cultures and yet proudly and expansively Indian. Any attempt to impose an arid uniformity over this vibrant and colourful diversity will fail. Worse, it may unravel a national fabric whose myriad strands celebrate a complex tapestry which is the legacy of an extraordinary mingling of races, faiths and philosophies without compare in the world. The Partition of India in 1947 is a warning of what can happen when the politics of exclusion overwhelms the culture of inclusion. There are many partitions waiting to happen if we, as a people, do not derive the right lessons from 1947 and recognise the ugly scars that it has left in its wake.

At the moment, we are focused on the dangers of communal passions that are being unleashed in the run-up to the UP elections and which will be followed by others. Other fault lines are simmering under the surface. These relate to caste divisions, regional and linguistic identities and economic and social inequalities. There is an unspoken assumption among some political managers that a Hindu-Muslim binary will somehow enable the political consolidation of other constituencies under the Hindu banner. This is a failure to understand how political and social dynamics work. The continuing farmers’ agitation is a case in point as is the electoral outcome in West Bengal, despite the immense and intense political and communal investment made by the BJP, led personally by Prime Minister Modi himself.

The response to this perceived decline in political capital has been to double down on the communal platform, and the announcement of the “Partition Horrors Remembrance Day” may well be a part of that effort. There is also an effort to gain political advantage through the use of the levers of a security state and the Pegasus affair points to that. The beauty of a security state is that every security failure leads to the enhancement of its role rather than its retreat. Every failure leads inexorably to further limiting the freedom of citizens while enhancing the power of security agencies. This is quite visible in the slew of legislation that has been already passed or which are on the anvil.

We may end up with a coercive state which tries belatedly to prevent the fragmentation of the country’s social and political fabric, which its own policies have spawned. This is not the vision of India that the Constitution of India envisaged. It is not the miracle of unity in diversity that has been the calling card of India through the ages.

Amrita Dutta writes: Government’s refusal to talk to the Opposition as equals, using ideas of honour and propriety as a smokescreen for a ruthless exercise of power is a dissolution of democracy. It’s a game familiar to those growing up in Indian homes.

Dear ladies log, we have seen this film before, haven’t we? The men of the house moved to tears in the name of order, discipline and “sacredness”, usually when confronted by difficult daughters or forbidden love or a challenge to authority.

Rare is the Indian woman whose desires and decisions — to love, to study, to marry or not — have not been questioned thus: “Do you know how much this will hurt your father/family? Do you know how much we love you?” A venerable Indian tradition in which the powerful do not just stamp out your freedoms, but it breaks their heart if you object to it. And so, in the horrified hush that follows, the house rallies around the patriarch’s feelings, the young woman sacrifices hers — and the rebellion is sidestepped. End of debate.

I was reminded of such expert emotional arm-twisting, as I watched the foiling of debate and deliberation in the Monsoon Session of Parliament, which ended with Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu in tears. The anguish of the veteran BJP leader was at the disruption of the House by Opposition members, who refused to give in to the magnificent mandate of the Modi government, often useful to ram through sweeping changes in laws.

This time, the government used it to dodge straight questions on whether it used the Pegasus spyware against Indians, allegations which have moved many other governments to action. The Opposition insisted on answers and made a ruckus. The government did not relent. It flexed muscles and cried anarchy, and Naidu said he lost a night’s sleep. No, somehow, the tears were not at the prospect of a predatory state snooping and hacking phones; at the citizen being turned into the enemy.

As Hindi cinema’s fathers through the ages have shown us, the tears of those in positions of authority are often effective — in breaking up couples and getting sons to fall in line, in silencing the mutinous and snatching back the currency of victimhood.

It happens in Houses of Parliament, as well as our ghar-parivar and gali-mohalla, where young girls (and boys) are trained to tiptoe around the fragile emotions of loving fathers and husbands, to keep their voices down, bite that cheeky answer back, and not ask inconvenient questions.

My mother recalls how, at dusk and with the imminent arrival of their father from work, her boisterous siblings and she would be ordered to turn into silent shadows at home. The girls would pull bangles up their little arms, so that they did not tinkle disobediently.

>But bangles will clink — and some girls grow up to be women with difficult questions, at home and in the House. They will not go gently, if they are being forced into marriage or yanked out of college and love; or being told to respect disrespectful and abusive elders. In Indian families, such revolts are met with gaslighting (outright denial of oppression), the tears of those who wield authority over children and women, and their fury at being challenged.

It’s something we have seen play out often in our public life in the last couple of years. The Modi government has muscled through legislation as varied as the Citizenship Amendment Act, the abrogation of Article 370 and the farm reforms. When vast numbers have taken to the streets to say, “Sorry, we do not agree. Your laws will harm our lives and identities”, it has responded with injured pride and pique, vilification and sedition cases.

Paternalism sustains homes and domestic hierarchies. In schools and colleges, it trains us in deference, not doubt. Increasingly, it also bleeds into our political and social life, as worship of authority and the authoritarian turns into a cult. The state bloats a little more every day on a diet of our freedoms. It has drawn Lakshman rekhas around who we can marry, what faith we can follow, and what films we can watch. It even wants the power to cancel old films cleared by the CBFC, just in case.

The monsoon session of Parliament saw a prolonged stalemate, but also extraordinary instances of protesting Opposition members being edited out of the Lok Sabha TV telecast. The government believes that the grave questions thrown up by the Pegasus scandal or the year-long farm protests or its mismanagement of the pandemic can be muted by invocations of national or parliamentary honour.

It believes, like good Indian parents, that since it knows best, it is beyond reproach. Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla has rued the “poor productivity” of the House, another minister has likened Opposition’s unruly behaviour in the House to vandalism. Naidu has denounced the Opposition’s protests as “sacrilege” in a “temple of democracy”.

All of this points to an idea of parliamentary democracy in which the sarkar is the headmaster, and the others misguided children who must keep their fingers on their lips. Or, at best, a clearing house for bills, bound to meet KRAs of productivity.

But the Parliament of a large democracy must be held to higher standards — it must engage with things that adults deal with, such as dissent and disagreement. It is more — a staging ground of politics, noise and protest. It is not a temple, where accountability must bow to reverence, or where notions of purity are wielded to exclude large sections.

The refusal to talk to the Opposition as equals, the need to use ideas of honour and propriety as a smokescreen for a ruthless exercise of power is a dissolution of democracy. It is a game still played in Indian families, but daily challenged as well by the anger and aspiration of young men and women. But if Parliament is turned, without a fuss or a furore, into such a pygmy patriarchal set-up, tears must be shed for such a travesty.

Sujan R Chinoy writes: Taliban will have to show moderation if they wish to be accepted as a member of the global community.

The world over, television screens are full of images of the extraordinary takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban. This time, the Taliban have done it even faster than in 1996. An unfolding humanitarian tragedy has engulfed the country.

Thousands of Afghan citizens are fleeing in an attempt to put distance between themselves and the Taliban. With neighbouring countries still averse to admitting refugees from Afghanistan through overland routes, air travel out of Kabul seems the only option.

Chilling images of stampedes at Kabul airport, including of people running alongside a US Air Force plane and desperate stowaways plummeting to their deaths have shaken the global conscience.

The Afghan government and its defence forces have completely collapsed. Key leaders have fled the country. In staying on, Hamid Karzai, Abdullah Abdullah and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar are perhaps banking on their personal networks.

The US has expended much treasure, and shed much blood, over the last two decades. The original trigger for the US military intervention in Afghanistan was the 9/11 attacks. The objective then was to eliminate the al Qaeda sanctuaries hosted by the Taliban. That goal was quickly attained, as was another one — the elimination of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011.

The US was thereafter sucked into a vortex in which its mission oscillated between counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency. Even under four consecutive Presidents, US policy towards Afghanistan remained in flux. The military presence in Afghanistan has been questioned by the US political firmament for a decade. The US has long been searching for an honourable exit. Meanwhile, the trillions of dollars pouring into Afghanistan into development and reconstruction programmes had led to vested interests in the form of private security contractors, service providers and NGOs.

Today, the rise of China is the main geo-strategic threat for the US. In 2001, the US had taken its eye off the ball in diverting its attention to the global war on terror. Beginning with Afghanistan, it meandered through Iraq, Libya and Syria, with mixed results.

The US now regards China as its principal strategic competitor. The latter’s muscle-flexing in the East and South China Seas calls for a renewed effort by the US to protect its stakes. China’s recent ratcheting up of pressure on Taiwan has also sounded the alarm. The US can ill-afford the continued burden of a military presence in Afghanistan, that too of little avail, if it has to tackle China effectively in the Indo-Pacific in order to secure its interests.

China had shrewdly invited Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar early on in an attempt to secure assurances that prevent Afghan territory from being used to host Uighur separatists.

In welcoming the latest developments, the spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry has expressed willingness to “continue to develop friendly and cooperative relations with Afghanistan”. The engagement with the Taliban may pay dividends. At the same time, China cannot be unmindful of the fact that the US, having rid itself of the albatross of Afghanistan from around its neck, will have better options and greater resources in dealing with China.

It should come as no surprise if a Taliban government in Afghanistan were to be friendly towards China and Pakistan. The new regime in
Kabul is likely to open the door to economic investments from China. At the geopolitical level, the BRI may well receive a boost, given China’s interests in connectivity that could straddle the region, from Pakistan to Iran.

In 1996, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan were quick to recognise the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan established by Taliban 1.0. This time around, too, Pakistan has shown alacrity in welcoming the change of guard in Kabul. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s remarks about Afghans having freed themselves of the “shackles of slavery” may irk the US.

At the multilateral level, the UN Security Council’s press statement issued on August 16 by India’s Permanent Representative, in his capacity as its rotational President, calls for “an immediate cessation of all hostilities and the establishment, through inclusive negotiations of a new Government that is united, inclusive and representative”.

In recognition of the hard-earned gains made over the last two decades, it also underscores the need for the continued participation of women in governance. The statement also expresses concern about the violation of human rights and international humanitarian law.

The Taliban juggernaut is endeavouring to project a more moderate image of itself to a global audience that has vivid memories of its draconian rule in the 1990s. By announcing that there would be no reprisals, the Taliban have sent out a signal to this effect. However, the world will need more than just words by way of evidence in the coming months. The Taliban cannot afford to alienate the global community through a repeat of its retrograde policies, particularly on matters concerning safe havens for terrorists and the rights of women and minorities.

Taking over a country by force is one thing but governing it effectively is quite another matter. Through the recent campaign, the Taliban revealed a proclivity for violence. They will now have to demonstrate a capacity for governance. They will have to show moderation if they wish to be accepted as a member of the global community and to retain the talent nurtured in recent years.

Maintaining the vastly improved communications network, energy infrastructure, hospitals and healthcare facilities, and efficiently running the many community development projects in place will otherwise emerge as major challenges.

Obviously, the change in Afghanistan has security implications for India and the region at large. A spill-over of any chaos and instability in Afghanistan beyond its borders could give terrorism a shot in the arm.

It could also singe Pakistan if it does not review its malevolent practices, which favour terror as an instrument of state policy. India should prioritise the welfare of the Afghan people, whenever the opportunity presents itself. Currently, about 2,500 Afghan students are enrolled in educational and vocational institutions across India. They will no doubt wish to extend their scholarships.

Hundreds of fresh students in Afghanistan may be waiting in the wings to come to India, having already secured admissions. One wonders if they will be able to leave Afghanistan under the present circumstances.

As a close neighbour, India has keen stakes in ensuring a stable, secure and developed Afghanistan. As the rotational President of the UN Security Council for August, India has an opportunity to engage important stakeholders on the way forward. Beyond that too, India’s presence in the UN Security Council till the end of 2022 will provide a platform to explore options with greater flexibility.

Sriram Veera writes: There is no question about the team’s talent and aggression. Whether it’s Lord’s or Gabba, they will stay, fight, and win.

India’s sledgehammering of England at Lord’s isn’t a sporting miracle or an underdog story to populate this hallowed editorial space, but one reason supersedes any reservations — it’s a welcome evisceration of a diffident memory. This Test win feels like a triumph to a generation of fans who once banged their leather-covered radios to tune into the crackle of short-wave commentary; and the storming of the famous Grace Gates at the ground where Sunil Gavaskar was brusquely sent back by rude stewards does feel sweet. But the real joy lies in its greater significance: The pleasant loss of reverence about overseas Test victories.

It doesn’t feel like a surprise anymore. It doesn’t feel like something to crow about. That’s the real triumph at Lord’s. Indian cricket has the most overflowing coffers in the world. A semi-consciously designed feeder system has been able to tap into the ambitions of a population that obsesses about a well-democratised game. Such wins should be the norm, and it is now.

When they stretchered out battered bodies in Australia after the loss of captain Virat Kohli, nobody told them that they weren’t supposed to win that series with a second-string team. Match after match, they kept bleeding out supposedly irreplaceable players. Yet, they triumphed. When they started the final day at Lord’s by losing Rishabh Pant, England thought it was time for personal payback for the peppering of James Anderson by Jasprit Bumrah a couple of evenings ago. You couldn’t really fault them for that feeling of revenge as they, perhaps, thought they had the game sewn up. They went for Bumrah and Shami’s heads and lost their own in the process.

This Indian team has that curious effect on the opposition. It triggers inchoate emotions in battle-scarred teams who know their ideal headspace should be silence, a beautiful nothingness that aids in tunnel vision. Instead, they almost get emotional and lose their bearings like Australia’s captain Tim Paine did at the start of the year and now England’s Joe Root. It’s not entirely due to the in-the-face presence of pumped-on-adrenalin Kohli, as he wasn’t there in Australia, but it perhaps has something to do with it — his presence, even in his absence, at least in the minds of the opposition. Maybe.

A couple of years ago, the South African opener Dean Elgar, a tough professional who has captained his country, captured that feeling. “I see you guys aren’t yet used to the way of this Indian team, but I can tell you there is huge respect for their kind of cricket and attitude in our team. We know we are in for a real hard battle on the field.” Once, Ravi Shastri was all agog because the most imperious cricketer of his times Viv Richards told him that he appreciates the attitude and the fight in this Indian team. This was before Australia, and Shastri cooed, “King Viv ney bola, boss!”, the only validation that would please the man who threatens to be forever frozen in joyous adolescence.

The effect of that in-your-faceness might be debatable — it has certainly led many to love to hate this team, as deep inside many want their heroes to be graceful. But there is no question about the talent and the fight in the team. One example would suffice. During the phase where they peppered his head, not once did Bumrah back away to the leg. When a bouncer crash-landed on his helmet and rolled to third man, he didn’t take the single and waved back Shami. In the past that would have been interpreted as an Indian tailender being dazed, the after-effects of the hard impact. It is telling that now it was almost universally seen, without a shadow of a doubt, as a statement. That he meant to do what he did. “I am not going to skulk away to the safety of the other end, bring it on, I am here”. Just like this team. Swinging Lord’s or pacy Gabba, they will stay, fight, and win. And it’s no longer a surprise.

Ravi Shankar Prasad writes: Instead of disrupting Parliament and trying to embarrass government, the party must reflect on its decline.

Democracy is indeed the best form of government, in spite of some shortcomings. Debate, discussion, bipartisanship and accountability are significant traits of this form of government. However, respecting the popular mandate constitutes its cornerstone. In fact, in the last 74 years, the biggest lesson of independent India is that people know they can change a government led by any party or leader through the power of the vote.

The real problem of the Congress party, including its leader Sonia Gandhi, is the refusal to acknowledge the back-to-back mandate Prime Minister Narendra Modi received in 2014 and 2019. The tone and tenor of her article, ‘In need of repair’ (IE, August 6) reinforces this point.

The Congress, having dominated the polity for so many years, is reluctant to reconcile with its present status: It failed to get the numbers to be acknowledged as the leading Opposition party in the Lok Sabha. Recent Vidhan Sabha elections, too, confirm the party’s consistent decline. An otherwise great party has become a family concern. Curiously, Mrs Gandhi wrote her article on a day when a woman leader left her party and another leader questioned the ability of some family members to lead the party.

In his very first prime ministerial address on August 15, 2014, PM Modi gave due credit to all the previous prime ministers, including Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, besides recognising the role of other giants of our freedom struggle, like Sardar Patel and Lal Bahadur Shastri. He appreciated their role in this year’s address too. However, it was surprising to see Sonia Gandhi mentioning Patel and Subhas Chandra Bose in her article.

After independence, the Congress governments led by the Gandhis had ignored these leaders’ contributions in the making of modern India.

Patel, who unified India, died in 1950, but he was given the Bharat Ratna only after 41 years, in 1991. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, another giant of the freedom movement, died in 1958 and he got the Bharat Ratna only in 1992. The prime minister in 1991-92 was P V Narasimha Rao, a non-family leader. The insult meted out to Rao after his death is well known — his body was not allowed to be kept in the Congress office in New Delhi. When Mrs Gandhi talks about the need to repair institutions, she would be well advised to repair the institution that was the Congress in the past.

Yes, debates are very important in Parliament. The government had repeatedly offered to debate all the issues, ranging from the farm laws to price rise and from Covid to Pegasus.

However, papers were thrown at the Chair, members were blocked from speaking, Parliamentary staff and marshals were physically abused and documents were snatched from the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology when he was making a statement on the Pegasus issue. Many issues of national importance were not allowed to be raised. Congress members, along with MPs from other parties, climbed on the table in the Rajya Sabha and threw the rule book at the Chair and then publicly justified this. A forcible attempt was made throughout the Monsoon Session to disallow Parliament from functioning so that the government could be embarrassed.

Parliament is meant for debate, but legislative work is also important. Bills to strengthen the Juvenile Justice Act, protect small investors’ investments in the banks and undo retrospective tax were all important. If the Congress could participate in the debate on the OBC Bill, what prevented them from participating in debates over other Bills?

Mrs Gandhi has to answer for her party’s flip-flop on the fight against Covid. In the last session, there was a good debate in the Rajya Sabha. Why was this not allowed to happen in the Lok Sabha? The PM called the leaders of all the political parties for an extensive briefing on the fight against Covid. Why did the Congress boycott it? Is it not a fact that in the last one year, Rahul Gandhi has done his best to mock, oppose and derail the government’s efforts in the fight against Covid? When a “Made in India” vaccine is today being recognised as a global success story, did he not make fun of it? The PM personally visited the vaccine laboratories and inspired them to work harder. This shows leadership. Today, 55 crore Covid vaccine doses have been administered, an impressive figure as 25 per cent of India’s population is below the age of 12.

Mrs Gandhi talks of inclusive politics in her article. Then why did a party under her leadership oppose a Bill to ban triple talaq? I need to remind you, Soniaji, that in 1986, the Congress made dowry harassment a non-bailable offence (which was a good step) and in the same year reversed the Shah Bano judgment. It is vote bank and not inclusive policy that governs the Congress — be it about Shah Bano or Shayara Bano.

Today, initiatives like direct benefit transfer, Ujjwala Yojana, Digital India, Ayushman Bharat, digital payments etc, are empowering the common person. When 80 crore Indians are being given free rations without any religious bias, it shows sabka saath sabka vikas. Middlemen no longer play a role in the government’s decisions. The way the country’s safety and security has been assured and the way Jammu and Kashmir has seen the unfurling of the Tricolour in every corner shows a resurgent India under the leadership of PM Modi. Congress leaders had even questioned the courage and sacrifice of our armed forces during Uri and Balakot. Really, it is the Congress which is in urgent need of repair.

Byju Raveendran writes: It must focus on developing solutions that allow businesses in key sectors to meet goals of national importance, viewing India’s economic and social challenges as opportunities for growth.

India holds a unique position in the world for several reasons, and having one of the youngest populations is perhaps the most pivotal. With 62 per cent of the population in the working age group and 54 per cent below the age of 25, we have the advantage of leveraging the skill and ability of our youth to drive the nation forward through productive output and innovation.

While India has historically and culturally been an entrepreneurially-driven nation, the last decade-and-a-half has witnessed a significant change in the landscape — from the founding of new startups, to global investor interest, to the advances made in infrastructure and policies. In 2021 alone, Indian startups have so far raised upward of $20 billion in funding, achieved unicorn statuses, and more.

The proliferation of this startup economy has brought with it new business opportunities, innovation, tech-centric approaches and job creation across sectors. While the flow of investments from traditional industries into tech-focused sectors has been instrumental for entrepreneurs, India’s own growing tech prowess has had an inspirational journey in the last few decades.

From 2011, when India’s first private company achieved unicorn status, to being on track to have a 50-plus strong “Unicorn club” in 2021 according to Nasscom, the country now finds itself at the epicentre of entrepreneurship.

A mature startup ecosystem, with seasoned entrepreneurs and technology-led solutions, paves the way for innovation and expanding its global footprint. And if we look back at the seven-and-a-half decades since India’s independence, the economy has rapidly diversified and grown beyond agriculture to become a potential technology powerhouse, where entrepreneurs are creating world-class products and services to solve real-time challenges.

While value creation lies at the centre of entrepreneurship, Indian startups are also taking big strides in building synergies and partnerships with global entities, further demonstrating the evolution of the startup ecosystem and its appetite for innovation, collaboration and disruption.

Even amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Indian startups have rapidly innovated to provide indigenous, tech-enabled solutions to combat challenges from testing kits and ventilators to remote monitoring, and preventive technologies, as well as innovations in supply chain management, logistics, and education. In fact, one of the paradigm shifts brought about through technology during the pandemic has been systemic shift to online education and remote learning at scale. Solutions built by Indian startups saw widespread adoption not just domestically but also on a global scale, firmly establishing the country as a cornerstone of tech and innovation in the world.

The steady rise of Indian IT companies in the 2000s, a large talent pool of a skilled workforce, increased expendable income, and rising capital inflows have collectively contributed in large part. Today, India is home to more than 40,000 startups and is building a robust tech and internet infrastructure. Moreover, the ability of the young generation to take risks, move fast, and disrupt things without fear, has become our biggest asset today. The fact that Indian startups are becoming global entities by creating products and solutions for world markets is a testament to this approach.

From industrial conglomerates, banks, automobile giants, software pioneers to tech startups, India has been steadily scripting its growth story. Global investors too are realising the potential upside in India’s huge, under-penetrated market as the country steadily makes a place for itself as a leading R&D hub for many Silicon Valley companies.

However, in order to transition beyond the current capabilities and achieve the demographic dividend, education, and reskilling, and upskilling of our workforce is crucial. We must also recognise and acknowledge that apart from the domestic policy environment, the global environment and technological advances are also changing, and it is imperative that India is prepared for this revolution. And so, apart from policy-level decisions that promote entrepreneurship, the onus is also on India’s corporate sector to foster entrepreneurialism, and create synergies to build impactful technology solutions, sustainable and resource-efficient growth.

With Indians set to make up one-fifth of the world’s working-age population in the next five years and likely to have an estimated 850 million internet users by 2030, the country stands at the cusp of unprecedented economic growth, and the opportunity to be a global game-changer. Speed, inclusion, and sustainability are key elements in this mission, as is the youth of the country. Coupled with the nation’s focus on strengthening digital infrastructure in healthcare and education, and boosting employment in manufacturing, there is little doubt that India@100 will be a powerhouse of the global economy.

The collective future efforts of the public and private sectors to improve physical and digital connectivity will also help unlock the untapped potential of rural and semi-urban India to truly lead Industry 4.0 and beyond.

In view of achieving this transformation at scale, the Indian startup ecosystem must focus on developing solutions that allow businesses in key sectors to meet goals of national importance. It also must view India’s economic and social challenges as opportunities for growth and leverage new technologies. While India@75 is on the precipice of change, I hope for a golden era of global entrepreneurship, technology, and innovation for India@100.

Bina Agarwal writes: Despite significant advancement in inheritance laws, only a small percentage of women own land in rural landowning households

Seventy-five years after India’s Independence, 65 years after the passing of the Hindu Succession Act (HSA), 1956, and 15 years after the enactment of the Hindu Succession Amendment Act (HSAA), 2005, are Indian women anywhere near equality in owning agricultural land, the most important property in rural India?

The case for women’s land rights is as strong today as it was at Independence. A large global literature shows that owning land would enhance a women’s well-being, improve children’s health and education, reduce domestic violence, raise farm productivity, increase family food security, and empower women socially and politically. Gender-equal land rights is also a key target in SDG 5 on gender equality. Yet policy is far behind.

I first made a strong case for women having independent rights in agricultural land in my 1994 book, A Field of One’s Own: Gender and Land Rights in South Asia, and traced inequalities in both law and practice across five countries. There was little prior research then.

In 1956, the HSA had given Hindu women substantial rights in property, but two major inequalities remained. First, the inheritance of agricultural land devolved according to land reform laws which were highly gender unequal, especially in six northern states. Second, daughters were excluded from coparcenary rights in joint family property. In 1976, Kerala abolished joint property altogether while between 1986 and 1994, four states (Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra) amended the HSA to recognise unmarried daughters as coparceners on par with sons. But the discriminatory clause for agricultural land remained. The HSAA 2005, however, following a civil society campaign that I led, brought about gender equality in law on both counts across all states.

What about practice? Until recently this question could not be answered, given a lack of gender-disaggregated data on land ownership. Neither the agricultural census nor the NSSO surveys on ownership holdings disaggregate by gender, and people often incorrectly cite gender figures on operational holdings as ownership figures. Some smaller data sets provide limited insights. Now, however, we have more answers. Using ICRISAT’s longitudinal data (2009-2014) for nine states, I analysed with two colleagues (Pervesh Anthwal and Malvika Mahesh) “How many and which women own land in India”. Our paper in the Journal of Development Studies, April 2021, https://doi.org/10.1080/00220388.2021.1887478, does not bring good news.

Before I share the results, two points are worth noting. First, to effectively assess inter-gender (male-female) gaps in land ownership we need not one but several measures such as: What percentage of rural landowning households have women owners? What percentage of all landowners are women? What percentage of women own land and how much land, relative to men? Second, we need to ask: Which women in the family own land? Legally today under Hindu law, both daughters and widows have equal inheritance rights in a man’s separate property, but daughters additionally have shares in joint family property. Although legal amendments have expanded daughters’ rights, socially widow’s rights have always carried greater legitimacy, since the time of the Dharmashastras.

In our study — the first for India — we covered both inter-gender gaps in land ownership and intra-gender differences between women.

Despite significant advancement in inheritance laws, women were found to own land in only 16 per cent of the sampled 1,114 rural landowning households, and just 8.4 per cent of all females owned land, averaged across states. Overall, women constituted barely 14 per cent of all landowners and owned only 11 per cent of the land, with an average area of 1.24 ha relative to 1.66 ha for men. These figures changed rather little over 2009-2014.

Also, strikingly, most of the landowning women had acquired land through their marital families, typically as widows and not as daughters through parents, despite the legal strengthening of daughters’ rights since Independence. Very few women were co-owners in joint family property, and over half the owners of both genders were aged 50 or more. Hence, even women who own land receive it too late in life to notably improve their well-being or bargaining power in families.

There are of course state-wise differences (the dataset did not include Kerala). Female landowners constituted 32 per cent of all landowners in Telangana but only 6 per cent in Odisha. Telangana’s success lies in a long history of government and NGO efforts to help women acquire land. N T Rama Rao, thrice chief minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh, introduced policies to help women, especially Dalit women, acquire land in groups. He was behind Andhra’s early amendment of the HSA 1956 to make unmarried daughters coparceners in joint family property. But laws alone are not enough. For example, in Maharashtra, which made a similar amendment in 1994, only 11 per cent of landowners are female. What we need is a change in rigid social attitudes.

Fathers fear losing control over land if given to married daughters. Daughters fear damaging family relations if they claim their shares. Policymakers say they fear land fragmentation. But relations based on gross inequality are already damaged. And ownership need not cause fragmentation if plots are still cultivated together by families, as is common in northwest India, or with neighbours.

Looking ahead, we urgently need more gender-disaggregated data on land ownership, and innovative policies to increase women’s actual ownership. Telangana’s example shows that state leadership, starting with chief ministers, can make a big difference. So can civil society. Women themselves need to raise their claims more vocally, as they did in the 1930s and ’40s. Notably, despite vast numbers of women joining the ongoing protests against farm laws, we hear barely a whisper about their claims in family land.

Also new ideas deserve attention, such as joint ownership and group cultivation (which can bring scale economies). Group farming by women is already practised in several states, including Kerala, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Bihar and West Bengal. The idea of group ownership still awaits attention.

C Raja Mohan writes: For a patient, open-minded and active India, there will be no dearth of balancing opportunities in Afghanistan.

As we reflect on the rapid collapse of the Afghan government and the triumphant return of the Taliban, it is worth recalling the insight of K M Panikkar on the relationship between Kabul and Delhi. Panikkar affirmed that developments in the Kabul Valley inevitably affect the empires of the Gangetic plains. He was referring to the innumerable invaders consolidating in the Herat and Kabul valleys before attacking northern India’s heartland.

Recent developments in South Asia certainly point to a recurring dynamic between Afghanistan and India. The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979 and the 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington followed by the US intervention have had profound effects on the domestic, intra-regional and international politics of the subcontinent.

There is no question that the Taliban’s entry into Kabul on Sunday marks the beginning of a new phase in the relationship between Afghanistan and India. The pattern gets more interesting when we consider the “Indus Rider” to the “Panikkar thesis”. Put simply, the kingdoms on the Indus have had a powerful role in shaping the contests between alien forces and the heartland empires. That rings true when you consider Pakistan’s persistent politics of balancing against India, with the help of external powers, in the post-Partition international relations of the subcontinent.

The restoration of Taliban rule in Afghanistan with Pakistan’s support undoubtedly presents some very serious potential challenges for Indian security. But the gloom and doom that descended upon Delhi since the swift meltdown of the post-2001 political order in Kabul is excessive. India has seen much worse before on its northwestern frontiers. A measure of strategic patience could help Delhi cope with the adverse developments in Afghanistan and find ways to secure its interests in the near future. But first to 1979 and 2001 and how they changed the subcontinent.

At the end of 1979, the Soviet Union launched a massive military invasion to protect a communist regime in Kabul. The US and Pakistan responded by unleashing a religious jihad that bled the Russian bear and compelled it to withdraw by 1989. The 1980s would transform the region irrevocably. The jihad against the Soviet Union facilitated General Zia ul Haq’s rapid Islamisation of Pakistan’s polity. It also gave great impetus to violent religious extremism across South Asia. Pakistan’s critical role in the Afghan war against Russia allowed Zia to secure the political cover for the country’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.

The Pakistan army turned the jihadi armies to gain control of Afghanistan and launched a proxy war against India, especially in the Punjab and Kashmir regions. The turbulence of the 1990s saw deepening conflict between India and Pakistan, both countries conducting nuclear weapon tests, and the establishment of Pak-backed Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s triumph in Kabul, however, turned out to be short-lived. Al Qaeda, hosted by the Taliban, launched terror attacks against the US on September 11, 2001. Swift US retribution brought an end to Taliban rule and compelled Pakistan to reconsider its policies.

America’s ambition to undo the sins of 1979 by “draining the swamps” of international terrorism in the Af-Pak region, and Musharraf’s plans for “enlightened moderation” at home, seemed to open up new pathways for the region. Tensions between India and Pakistan yielded to a productive dialogue that produced tantalising possibilities for normalisation of bilateral relations, including a resolution of the Kashmir dispute. After 2001, there has also been a significant expansion of the India-US strategic partnership.

By the end of the decade, though, Musharraf had been dethroned and the Pakistan Army had swung back to its default positions — renewed support for the Taliban in Afghanistan, expanding attacks on the Kabul government’s positions, and scuttling of civilian leaders’ efforts to expand the engagement with India. Pakistan also teased an increasingly war-weary Washington into a negotiation with the Taliban for a peace settlement.

Last week marks a huge triumph for Pakistan’s Afghan policy. It not only ensured a swift Taliban advance across Afghanistan but also a peaceful surrender of Kabul. The Taliban leaders are also saying all the right things about letting the foreigners leave, protecting lives and properties of Afghan people, and respecting the rights of women. Reports from the provinces, however, point to gross human rights abuses by the Taliban. If the new Taliban dispensation demonstrates a better record in Kabul, it might encourage the world to respond positively. That of course is a big “if”.

For Delhi, a bigger question mark will be about the Taliban’s renewed support for international terrorism and Pakistan’s re-direction of jihadi groups that have allegedly fought with the Taliban towards India. Delhi, however, will go by evidence from the ground rather than verbal promises.

What about the Taliban’s ideology? Like all radical groups, the Taliban will have trouble balancing its religious ideology with the imperatives of state interests. Delhi would want to carefully watch how this tension plays out.

Equally important is the nature of the relationship between the Taliban and Pakistan. Although Pakistan’s leverage over the Taliban is real, it may not be absolute. The Taliban is bound to seek a measure of autonomy from Pakistan. India will have to wait a while, though, before the current chill between Delhi and the Taliban can be overcome.

While Delhi must fully prepare for a renewal of cross-border terror, the international conditions of the 1990s and 2020s are rather different. There is a lot less global acceptance of terrorism today than in the permissive 1990s. No major power would like to see Afghanistan re-emerge as a global sanctuary of terror. The world has also imposed significant new constraints on Pakistan’s support for terror through mechanisms like the Financial Action Task Force. Unlike in the 1990s, when Delhi simply absorbed the terror attacks, it now shows the political will to retaliate forcefully.

What about a regional geopolitical alignment against India after the American scramble out of Afghanistan? While the US retreat has been humiliating, there is no question that the US would have left sooner than later. It is also important to note that the US and the West will continue to have a say in shaping the international attitudes towards the new regime. The Taliban and Pakistan appear to be acutely conscious of this reality. Meanwhile, the US withdrawal compels the creation of a new balance of power system in and around Afghanistan. On both fronts, the contradictions facing the Taliban and Pakistan are real.

Structuring the internal balance of power within Afghanistan has always been hard. It remains to be seen if the Taliban and Pakistan can do any better than the last time when the Taliban ruled. A deeper Sino-Pak partnership in Afghanistan will inevitably produce countervailing trends. For a patient, open-minded and active India, there will be no dearth of balancing opportunities in Afghanistan.

Dhiraj Nayyar writes: For those who don’t become world beaters in sports, a good education would ensure a high standard of life in some other profession.

India loves a champion in sport. It wants many more. That it requires more money and better infrastructure spread out across the country is well known and often repeated. But what is also needed is a less tangible element which is often missed out in the discourse on how to create more medalists at the highest level — empathy, love and reward for those who will never win a Gold, Silver or Bronze. India celebrates achievement, now it even embraces failure (provided it is followed by success). But it has antipathy for those who straddle the vast middle between the top of the class and those detained for a repeat year.

That may sound counter-intuitive given that the vast majority falls in precisely the “in-between” or “average” category. It’s human instinct to be comfortable amongst one’s own type, so it would be reasonable to assume affinity with other unexceptional people. But it is overpowered by another human instinct — the Darwinian one — to be the fittest (best). Since, by definition, it’s impossible for everyone to be the best, there is vicarious comfort in seeing one’s own become a champion. Society is ready to shower them with recognition and reward.

That is not particularly useful in creating champions. Rarely, if ever, do sporting greats come readymade. Raw talent needs to be nurtured. But it is only in very few individuals that talent converts to greatness. Therefore, the bigger the talent pool, the likelier it is that more champions will emerge. However, if there is no reward for striving hard but falling short, parents are unlikely to send their children into sports. The risk is too high.

It is a folly to equate being average with being mediocre. One can strive to the best of one’s ability and not become a champion. Mediocrity describes those who do not put in their best effort. Two things need to change fundamentally for India to create more champions. First, the education system needs to be more flexible to enable the young to maximise sporting ability without being treated as pariah “quota” students. The choice that is usually forced upon students in the Indian system is between doing well in academics and excelling in sports. In the West or even in an emerging sporting nation like China, this is a false binary.

For those who don’t become world beaters in sports, a good education would ensure a high standard of life in some other profession. There may be some sports which will never deliver the kind of monetary returns that cricket does. An alternate post-retirement career path for students who pursue such sports is also required. A second change must come from employers. It is important to recognise that people who have spent a long time playing professional or even semi-professional sport bring certain skills like teamwork, discipline and problem solving which the bookish type with a plethora of degrees may not. They should have an equal pathway to professional success outside sports. Employers must give credit for years spent in professional sport as work experience so that they are not disadvantaged vis-à-vis those who began a professional non-sports career at an earlier age.

It is interesting how so many sportspersons in India end up in clerical or relatively low level jobs in government. Before winning her Silver Olympic medal Mirabai Chanu was a ticket collector in the Railways. Some others are junior commissioned officers of the armed forces. Perhaps Subedar Neeraj Chopra will now rise up the ranks after winning an Olympic Gold, but suppose he had not, should there not have been a pathway for him to become a commissioned officer?

That even some of our non-Gold Olympic medalists have expressed their wish to get a government job above all else shows what little economic prospects there are for toiling sportspersons who don’t capture the nation’s imagination with a Gold.

Champions exist because the rest of us are average. In the quest for gold, let us not forget the rest.

A study by Delhi’s Sir Gangaram Hospital which shows hardly any extra protection from a single vaccine dose against Covid-19 must prompt GoI to hasten second dose delivery to beneficiaries. Against 43.5 crore first doses, just 12.3 crore second doses have been administered so far.

One reason for this lag is the mandatory 84 day gap between first and second Covishield doses. Given that there is a discernible increase in supply in recent days, GoI must consider reducing this gap. Further, it must ensure that greater effort is taken to ensure that those who took one dose return for the next shot.

Read also: Single Covid-19 vaccine shot offers virtually no shield, says hospital study

GoI must also preorder more doses so that vaccine companies are incentivised to up production. The new vaccines expected to be available by late September or early October could be reserved for the unvaccinated. Having set itself a target to fully vaccinate all adults by December, governments mustn’t rest on the laurels of partial vaccination. With nearly 400 million people yet to have Covid antibodies and the Delta virus predominating in circulation there is no room for complacency.

Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan has evoked some strange observations. Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan used it as a convenient peg to characterise English-medium schools in his country as an example of adoption of someone else’s culture. He was apparently unmindful of the irony that comes from his own education, which included a stint in a British school that traces its origin to the 7th century, and also time at Oxford. But on this occasion, his views may have had some in India nodding in agreement.

A popular framing of this argument in India is that if a child’s early years of schooling is in the mother tongue it aids learning. In the political arena, it becomes a case of English, a colonial inheritance, versus Indian languages. This is incorrect and also unfair as the same logic doesn’t seem to apply to the kin of many important people who propagate this line. There are two issues to consider. A salient feature of Indian society is its linguistic diversity that is also the basis of the formation of some states. The Constitution has 22 languages in its eighth schedule. A straight comparison with countries that lack this level of linguistic diversity is inappropriate.

Increasingly, English is the popular choice as a medium of instruction. Data from the 75th round of NSS (2017-18) shows that 16.7% of students picked English-medium instruction as the reason to attend private schools, the third most cited cause. UDISE report of 2019-20 shows that a little over 25% of schoolchildren now study in English-medium schools, with Haryana reporting a 23 percentage point increase over a five-year period. More than half the schoolchildren in the five southern states chose English-medium.

There’s a practical reason for this trend. English opens a pathway to a global repository of knowledge and opportunities. By contrast, Indian languages have been hamstrung by the lack of effort in creating adequate material to keep up with an ever-expanding universe of knowledge. National Education Policy 2020 seeks to address it with the promise of high quality bilingual textbooks to help students speak in both their home language and English, the very thing the Andhra Pradesh government is trying. Being practical is not slavery. NEP also pointed out that languages such as English, Japanese, Hebrew, among others, remain relevant through a steady stream of quality learning material and a consistent update to their vocabularies. That should be the focus of Indian language institutions.

A fundamental difficulty confronts opposition parties talking of a united front against BJP in 2024: Sooner or later they must draw the contours of their political ambition or a pre-poll alliance will start looking increasingly unviable in public perception. TMC’s welcoming of ex-Team Rahul member Sushmita Dev, scouting for fresh openings in Tripura, and its unwillingness to join the Congress-led bloc’s protests in Parliament are clearly hurting GOP. Similarly, AAP has announced its intent to go all out in Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa, Gujarat and UP in next year’s assembly polls.

Congress’s decline has created opportunities for parties across the spectrum. Outfits led by netas with national ambitions aren’t content limiting themselves to one state. Earlier, Sharad Pawar and Mayawati ensured legislative presence for their parties in multiple states. Now there’s Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal but with a catch – unlike its leader Rahul Gandhi’s middling stature in the opposition’s estimation, the Congress organisation dwarfs TMC, AAP and every other regional outfit with its pan-India presence.

Moreover, Congress, despite frequent setbacks, is eyeing its own turnaround. Whether Prashant Kishor’s recent meetings with the Gandhis are part of GOP revival efforts remain to be seen. But this must contend with key states like Maharashtra, UP, Bengal, Bihar and Tamil Nadu where present and prospective allies won’t cede space to Congress. Therefore, there is the risk of fragmenting opposition votes. Congress’s lack of political hunger to score wins is another sore point with tall regional leaders. Given Congress’s lacklustre record in Tripura, Assam, Bihar, UP, etc, TMC and AAP’s spirited performances in Bengal and Delhi breaking BJP’s juggernaut reflect poorly on the GOP leadership. A pre-poll alliance will entail sacrifices. As the largest tent without enough supporting poles, Congress will face increasingly imperious demands from small parties. For 2024, there are many deal-breakers.

2027 may well become the year that the country sees the first woman Chief Justice of India (CJI). On Wednesday, the Supreme Court (SC) collegium cleared nine names for appointments to the apex court. One name stands out. As this newsaper had reported, Justice BV Nagarathna, if elevated to the SC, could become India’s first woman CJI. To be sure, these collegium recommendations, now sent to the Union law ministry for approval, haven’t been formally appointments yet. Additionally, Justice Nagarathna will be CJI only for a month. Nonetheless, it is a symbolic and substantive achievement.

The Indian judiciary lags greatly in terms of gender parity. In 1980, Justice M Fathima Beevi became the first woman judge to be appointed to the SC. Today, of the 27 judges in the SC, there is only one woman, Justice Indira Banerjee (who is set to retire in 2022). In its 71-year history, of the total of 247 judges appointed to the SC, there have been only eight women (constituting a mere 3.2%). The average percentage of women judges in all high courts (HCs) is 11.8%, with Madras HC having the highest number of women judges, and five HCs not having a single woman judge. Further, of the 416 persons designated as senior advocates by the SC to date, only 18 are women (4.05%). There are more women judges in the lower judiciary, but their elevation remains few and far between due to institutional biases. Gender diversity in the SC has the potential to change this, make the judiciary more diverse, ensure sensitisation, and add to faith in the system.

The judiciary shapes society, and, therefore, should reflect social diversity. Justice Nagarathna, who is currently a judge of the Karnataka HC, is the daughter of former CJI ES Venkataramiah. Among her judicial interventions is a significant judgment in 2020, where, in the case of a divorce, she iterated that the patriarchal system has failed women. This system bleeds into the judiciary as well. Justice Nagarathna’s possible appointment will not just inspire women to have ambitions but also erode structural bottlenecks and have a domino effect on other related institutions. For instance, the Bar Council of India does not have a single woman member in its committee or as its chairperson. It can also serve as a clarion call for the collegium to promote gender representation when making recommendations. The judiciary must show the way.

As the Taliban takes over Afghanistan, Afghan women, fearful of their lives and rights, have been speaking up. These fears are rooted in the country’s dark history of the Taliban rule, between 1996 and 2001, when systemic violations of women and girls were institutionalised. The regime imposed Sharia and interpreted the Islamic law ruthlessly, prohibiting women from working and girls from attending school, and allowing women in public places only if they covered their faces and were escorted by male relatives.

Now, as the Taliban returns, so do memories of the horrors of its brutal rule. Nearly a quarter of a million Afghans were forced to flee since the end of May, 80% of them women and children, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. More Afghan women and children were killed in the first half of 2021 than in the first six months of any year since records were kept in 2009.

The last two decades saw millions of Afghan girls attending school and Afghan women engaging in public life — for instance, female literacy rate shot up from less than 17% in 2000 to 30% in 2018, as per the World Bank. The Taliban has, in its first press conference since the takeover, said that it will honour women’s rights, albeit within the norms of Islamic law. While this can be seen as an attempt to win international legitimacy, it is important to go by the Taliban’s actions and history, and not merely words. The international community must make the equal and fair treatment of women a precondition for formally recognising the Taliban regime in Afghanistan — with an enforcement mechanism to ensure that reality matches commitments. The brutalisation of women must not be allowed again.

​​A more efficient way is to bring all indirect taxes under GST. It will enable exporters who have paid embedded taxes in the value chain ending in export to claim a routine refund. This will also avoid any possible disputes over export incentive schemes at the WTO.

The imaginatively named, 8,555-product and `12,544 crore, Remission of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products (RoDTEP) scheme is neither efficient nor sustainable. Its stipulated goal is to remove embedded taxes from the value of exports. The scheme seeks to reimburse exporters the non-GST taxes and levies their exports bear — central and state taxes, duties and cess on petroleum products and electricity — the entirety of GST paid is claimed as input tax credit, because exports are zero-rated under GST.

A more efficient way is to bring all indirect taxes under GST. It will enable exporters who have paid embedded taxes in the value chain ending in export to claim a routine refund. This will also avoid any possible disputes over export incentive schemes at the WTO.

The reimbursement rates under RoDTEP range from 0.3% to 4.3%. Not all exporters are happy with the reimbursement rates. Already, mobile handset makers want the government to rework the capping of the reimbursement rates on mobile phones and printed circuit board assemblies, saying the rates are lower than the rates offered under the earlier Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS).

Demands such as these will vanish if complex incentive schemes are scrapped. Value-added tax on fuel used in transportation, mandi tax and duty on electricity used during manufacturing are covered for reimbursement under the RoDTEP. There is no reason why petro products or electricity duty should be kept out of GST, given that these break the GST chain and create systemic inefficiencies. The recent pick-up in exports due to economic recovery in key western markets augurs well for exporters. It is the right time for the government to widen the GST base and insulate exports from subsidy claims.

This is broadly right. That makes it all the more mystifying why the government should have clamped down on certain segments of the commodity futures market to contain inflation.

Nirmala Sitharaman does not allow herself to be pinned down to a great many specifics in the course of an interview. But she does indicate the general direction of thinking of the government.

Her interview with this newspaper on Wednesday revealed willingness to sort out the telecom mess, in which her ministry has to bear the brunt of concessions being discussed by the telecom ministry, preparedness to work with RBI to ensure financial stability when the US Fed begins reversing its extra-accommodative monetary policy, and willingness to move forward on giving regulatory sanction for the use of blockchain technologies in the financial system.

This is welcome. On inflation, the finance minister echoed RBI’s view that the recent spurt is more likely than not to be the result of logistical disruptions in the wake of Covid containment measures in different parts of the country. This is broadly right. That makes it all the more mystifying why the government should have clamped down on certain segments of the commodity futures market to contain inflation.

These markets help contain volatility, if regulated right with regard to margin requirements and integrity of market participants. Another area where the finance minister could still present the people of India with a pleasant surprise is savings. While it is not easy to admit that the stock market is floating up on the tip of a tsunami of global liquidity, without disowning credit for sound economic management, it should still be possible to offer savers with a more stable option of saving, such as capitalprotective inflation-indexed bonds.

If such an option is available and still people want to put their money in risky stocks, the government cannot be blamed for the consequences of a sharp correction in the markets. Having announced an innovative asset monetisation programme, the government would do well to keep the public abreast of the progress made on this front. As also on realising expenditure of budgeted allocations, especially on infrastructure.