Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad on Thursday accused the BJP-led Narendra Modi government at the Centre of being “anti-farmer.” “What’s happening in Madhya Pradesh? The Narendra Modi government is anti-farmer. Prime Minister Modi is deaf to their demands. The Opposition parties are uniting against the BJP and their anti-farmer policies”, said Mr. Lalu Prasad, before leaving for Ranchi to appear in a special CBI court on Friday in connection with a multi-crore fodder scam case. Rahul’s detentionIn a veiled reference to the detention of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on his way to Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh to meet the bereaved families of farmers killed in the police firing, the RJD chief said that “even the Opposition leaders are being arrested and not being allowed to visit the spot.”“But, his [PM Modi] Agriculture Minister is doing yoga in Motihari [Bihar] when farmers are being killed in Madhya Pradesh. This BJP-led NDA government owes answers,” Mr. Prasad said. In his home town, Motihari, Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh is attending a three-day yoga camp organised by Baba Ramdev. “The BJP government has betrayed the farmers of the country,” Mr. Prasad said.
The Banaras Hindu University on Sunday suspended its academic session and advanced its mid-semester break for Dussehra hours after police forces lathi charged protesters, most of them women students sitting on a dharna against the alleged inaction and victim-blaming of a fine arts student who was molested on the campus on Thursday. Several students, journalists covering the protest and policemen were injured in the incident.Later on Sunday, social activists and students demanded action against the policemen and the culprits in the molestation case.The varsity now closes for the break on September 25, three days earlier than the scheduled date of September 28, even as the campus remainstense with heavy deployment of police.The students narrated the sequence of events on Saturday night when policemen ran towards those on dharna with batons and chased them from the main gate of the BHU, the protest site. Several students were injured in the police action, which the victims described as brutal and unprovoked.Aparna Chaubey, a third-year undergraduate student of English literature, received injuries on her back. Ms Chaubey said the police attacked the protestors without any warning, adding that the students were lathi-charged twice.First, a delegation of students who had gathered outside the residence of vice-chancellor G.C. Tripathi were pushed out forcefully by the police, following which the forces attacked the main body of protesters.Ms. Chaubey was among those who had gone to the VC to seek an audience, which had been the main demand of the protesters. “But then he told us he would not meet us as he was hurt that the statue of [BHU founder Madan Mohan] Malviyaji had been smeared with blank paint,” Ms. Chaubey said.The varsity, in an official statement, also mentioned the attempted defacing of the statue, saying it was executed by “anti-national forces”. Students, however, said no such act happened and the rumour was spread by the administration to disrupt the protest. Mineshi Mishra, a psychology undergrad student, says the police chased the women and men students into the women’s hostels, beating them indiscriminately. “There was not a single female constable among them even though the protest was by women. We condemn the police violence. We were sitting on a peaceful dharna, demanding security for female students and better lighting facilities on campus,” Ms. Mishra said.Shivangi Chaubey, another student, said the police was so brutal that when a female student fell outside the gate of the women’s hostel, the police beat her with lathis till she got up on her own and ran inside.BHU chief proctor O.N. Singh denied the lathicharge, saying the police acted in self-defence after the group of protesters, which he claimed was full of outsiders and “anti-social elements pelted stones at the security forces and tried to break into the hostels and the lodge of the VC”.“There was no lathicharge. The protesting crowd had a large number of anti-social and miscreant elements in it and they broke the Triveni Gate and tried to enter forcefully. They pelted stones at the police, who acted in their defence. Some policemen also received injuries,” Mr. Singh said.The central varsity alleged the protest by the girl students was “part of a conspiracy” by “totally politically motivated” social and political activists who were using students as “pawns” to defame the institution,”BHU vice-chancellor Girish Chandra Tripathi told The Hindu that the protest was “staged” to stain the Varanasi trip of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He said the administration was willing to address the “genuine problems” of the students despite the large size of the campus which was open to public use as well but argued that staging a dharna on the street was “not the right way” to communicate.Meanwhile, an FIR was lodged at the Lanka police station against policemen for allegedly assaulting and looting journalists covering the protest and preventing them from visiting the hospital. A case was lodged under Sections 323, 325, 352 and 393 of the Indian Penal Code.A delegation of the UP State accredited correspondents committee apprised Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath of the incident after which he instructed the Varanasi divisional commissioner to probe the case. Hemant Tiwari, the president of the UPSACC, visited the four injured Hindi journalists in Varanasi, identified as Alok Pandey, Kaushalendra, Amitesh Srivastava and Arshad Khan.Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav condemned the incident and demanded action against those involved. “The government should use discussion and not force to solve the issue,” he said.Ramayan Patel, convenor of the Joint Action Committee of the BHU students, said the agitation was to demand better security and illuminating all the dark zones in the campus and continuous roundup of guards and installation of CCTV cameras. He also said the students demanded a relaxation of curfew timings for hostels for women, which is at present 8 p.m., and gender sensitisation of administrative staff. Cases of eve-teasing and molestation were common, students said.Meanwhile, a delegations of teachers also took out a candle march in the campus pledging that they would not allow anti-social elements to function in the campus or tolerate any insult to Malviya.U.P. Congress president Raj Babbar and other party leaders were detained by police while they were on the way to BHU.
Two days ahead of the Centre’s special representative Dineshwar Sharma’s visit to Kashmir to hold dialogues, JKLF chief Yasin Malik on Saturday accused New Delhi of “holding talks at gun point”. Several civil society groups have sought “disclosure of rules of engagement beforehand.”Mr. Malik, who is facing an Enforcement Directorate notice in a 2001 case, said, “India wants to use the Gabbar Singh approach. I have not received any notice yet. It was first disclosed to the media for a trial.”‘Political vendetta’He said these “farcical cases are meant to settle political vendetta, threaten political resistance and force people to join the so-called talk shows on gun point.”“This regime wants to convey to us that shun resistance or we will kill you,” he added.In a joint statement issued by Hurriyat leaders Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, they described the ED notice to Mr. Malik as “a ploy”. “Over a dozen resistance leaders and a businessman have been lodged in the Tihar jail on fictitious charges levelled by the ED and the NIA,” said Mr. Geelani and the Mirwaiz in the statement. So far, these leaders have taken a public stand not to engage Mr. Sharma.Meanwhile, several civil society groups have called for a dialogue in “in its historical perspective”. “All the three parties — India, Pakistan and separatists — have publicly stated that the final settlement of the dispute could be arrived at through meaningful, resulted-oriented and time-bound negotiations. The engagement of the nominated representative can only be meaningful if and when unconditional talks are held with Hurriyat and JKLF, besides the main parties,” they added.Mufti Nasir-ul-Islam, the deputy Grand Mufti, said the appointment of the interlocutor was “an eyewash and an attempt to befool people.”Sharma’s visit tomorrowMr. Sharma, a former Intelligence Bureau director, who is arriving in Kashmir on a four-day visit on Monday, sent formal invites to several mainstream parties except for the National Conference (NC).The parties that received invitations included Congress state chief G.A. Mir, Peoples Democratic Front chairman Hakeem Yasin, CPI(M) leader M. Y. Tarigami and Democratic Party Front chairman Ghulam Hassan Mir. “We shall discuss the matter with our party leaders and take a decision,” said Mr. Mir.Mehbooba for dialogueIn a series of tweets, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said democracy was a battle of ideas and “dialogue was the only way forward.”“Prime Minister Modi has an unprecedented mandate and can create history by changing the narrative on J&K,” she tweeted. She also called for “reviving J&K’s traditional routes to foster greater economic activity”. “Article 370 is the nation’s commitment to the people of J&K and therefore should be honoured,” she added.
An average 63.76% polling was recorded in the Alwar and Ajmer Lok Sabha constituencies in Rajasthan, where byelections were held on Monday. At Mandalgarh, 76.57% of the electorate exercised their franchise for the byelection to the Assembly seat in Bhilwara district. No major untoward incident was reported from anywhere in the State during the polling.The counting of votes will take place on February 1. The three constituencies had a total 39 lakh voters. The polling in Alwar, with 11 candidates in the race, was recorded at 62.12%. In Ajmer, 65.41% of the electorate votes for 23 candidates. The Mandalgarh Assembly bypoll saw eight contestants. Electronic voting machines were used with the voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) and the candidates’ photographs for the first time in the State. Technical failures were reported at several polling booths in Ajmer, where EVMs stopped working. Voting resumed after the snags were rectified.
With snakebites emerging as the leading cause of natural disaster deaths in Odisha, the State government has decided to ensure deployment of doctors at primary health centres in snakebite-prone areas and make ambulances available for swift transfer of patients to hospitals.As many as 1,716 people lost their lives due to snakebites during the past three years. The number of casualties due to snakebite, highest among all disasters, accounts for about 37% of the total disaster deaths (4,689) during the period.“We have asked the Health and Family Welfare Department to ensure availability of medical officers at primary health centres in snakebite-prone areas. Besides, required number of 108 ambulances will be made available in blocks for shifting snakebite patients to the nearest health institution,” said Bishnupada Sethi, Managing Director of the Odisha State Disaster Management Authority.The State government is working on a plan to bring all snakebite victims to the nearest health institution at the earliest for medical examination and administering anti-venom. Highest deaths The highest of 164 deaths has been reported from Balasore district, followed by 147 in Ganjam and 145 in both Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj during the period.
While the Punjab State Election Commission on Thursday ordered re-polling for the Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samitis in 53 polling booths of eight districts across the State, the Shiromani Akali Dal termed the elections as “murder of democracy”, alleging that the government machinery functioned as extension counters of the ruling Congress party during the entire poll process.‘Murder of democracy’Veteran Akali leader and former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said that the way the Zila Parishad and Panchayat polls held on September 19 were rigged in Punjab, it was “a daylight murder of democracy”.“September 19, 2018 will be remembered as one of the darkest days for democracy in Punjab when the state machinery functioned as extension counters of the Congress party during the entire poll process,” alleged Mr. Badal.According to the spokesperson of the State Election Commission, re-polling has been ordered in 36 polling booths of Muktsar Sahib, 8 polling booths in Amritsar, one booth each in Moga, Fazilka and Faridkot districts and two booths each in Patiala and Bathinda and Ludhiana districts. Repolling todayVoters can recast their votes on September 21 in these polling stations from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.Shiromani Akali Dal leaders Bikram Singh Majithia and Daljeet Cheema alleged that the State government had decided to register a case against party president Sukhbir Badal as part of the political vendetta drive unleashed by it against political opponents.“Mr. Sukhbir Badal would not file for anticipatory bail in the political vendetta case registered against him. We, on our part, will not be cowed down by such tactics and will continue to fight for peace and communal harmony in Punjab,” said Mr. Majithia.The police had registered a case against Mr. Sukhbir Badal and few party workers on Wednesday for allegedly thrashing a Congress worker at Killianwali village in Muktsar district during the Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti polls. A case under Sections 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) under the IPC was registered.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday alleged that the Congress praised controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, “whose words have triggered blasts in Sri Lanka killing 300 people”, and its leaders were baying for his blood in their dream.Addressing an election rally here in Madhya Pradesh, he said the Rahul Gandhi-led party has nothing but hatred for him, but he has support of the entire country.“Zakir Naik’s words have caused blasts in Sri Lanka, leaving 300 people dead. His TV channel was banned two or three days ago,” Mr. Modi said.“Who is Zakir Naik? He is the one whom (Congress veteran) Digvijaya Singh used to glorify unabashedly. You will be shocked to learn that Zakir Naik addressed Indian police officers, that too on terrorism, under the (previous) Congress dispensation,” he said.“Shame on Congress… and its vote bank politics. They are glorifying Zakir Naik and calling him an apostle of peace,” he added.Naik, a Mumbai-based televangelist accused of inciting youth for terror activities and giving inflammatory speeches, is said to be currently residing in Malaysia.Apparently referring to a reported statement of Congress leader and former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu, the Prime Minister said, “I heard that a Congress motormouth leader came here and said hit Modi for such a six that he lands out of the boundary dead. This was the statement of a Congress leader. Think. They have so much hatred for your Modi, so much hatred that they have started dreaming of killing Modi.”‘India batting for Modi’ “But they are forgetting that from Modi’s side, not just the people of Madhya Pradesh but of entire India are batting,” Mr. Modi said.The PM said the Congress has to now clarify its position on terrorism. “The Congress people should reveal whether they are playing for India or Pakistan,” he said.
Researchers and health professionals should fast-track extraordinary efforts to give people unproven treatments and vaccines in locales hard hit by Ebola, more than 200 experts attending a World Health Organization (WHO) forum recommended today.“We have to change the sense that there is no hope in this situation to a realistic hope,” said WHO Assistant Director-General Marie-Paule Kieny, who spoke at a press conference with two other attendees of the consultation. More people have become sick and died from Ebola in the last few months than in the 4 decades since the virus was discovered, she noted.No treatments or vaccines exist that have proved their worth against Ebola, and when the outbreak in West Africa first started to receive attention 2 months ago, many dismissed the idea that biomedical interventions could help. As the outbreak has grown into what some are calling a full-blown epidemic—despite containment efforts that have proved effective in the past—the idea of rolling out experimental treatments and vaccines has moved to center stage.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) The 2-day WHO consultation, which mixed researchers with ethicists, legal and regulatory authorities, and health officials from affected countries—reached consensus that blood from people who had survived an Ebola infection, as a “matter of priority,” could be used to treat infected people. “There was a consensus that this has a good chance to work and also this is something that can be produced now from the affected countries now,” Kieny said. “There are many people now who are convalescent, who survived and doing well.”The hope is that whole blood or purified plasma will contain Ebola antibodies and possibly other immune warriors that can combat the virus. Kieny stressed that the international community urgently must help affected countries do blood removal, purification, and reinjection safely. Some locales have already started using convalescent serum, she said. The treatment has never been formally tested, but whole blood was used in eight people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the 1995 outbreak in Kikwit; just one died. As early as November, researchers may have enough data from small human studies of two Ebola vaccines to warrant offering them to health care workers and other frontline staff caring for Ebola patients, Kieny said. “This will allow their utilization in the infected countries immediately,” Kieny said. “This is real. This is going into the field. This is not staying in the laboratory.”Traditionally, regulatory agencies tightly regulate trials of vaccines as they move from small, phase I studies that assess safety and immune responses to phase II studies that essentially ask the same question in larger numbers of people. Phase III efficacy studies test whether products work, usually with a placebo control group.In this current emergency scenario, however, the vaccines may move directly from phase I into loosely organized phase II/III studies—with little regulatory oversight—that have no placebo control but try to gather data that allows comparisons of vaccinated and unvaccinated recipients who have similar health risks.“It’s absolutely unprecedented, there is no doubt,” Kieny said. “Everybody has to move as quickly as possible and this includes the regulators.” She said that while regulators and ethics committees are trying “to preserve, as much as possible, safety,” the goal will be to allow development to move very quickly.Only about 10,000 doses of the vaccines will be available by the end of the year, so there is no possibility of their wide distribution. Kieny explained that this is something of a mixed blessing, as vaccines in the past have proved safe and effective in small studies but caused harm when widely used. “We must be cautious about that and rollout must happen as quickly as possible but step by step.”Press conference participant Oyewale Tomori, a virologist at Redeemer’s University in Redemption City, Nigeria, urged that attention to the consultation not detract from the fact that we know how to stop Ebola transmission. “If we’d done proper infection control in those other countries where it occurred we wouldn’t be having the same problem we’re having now,” said Tomori, whose own country has had trouble containing spread, in part because infected people dodge the health care system.Samba Sow, director general of the center for vaccine development in Bamako, noted at the press conference that the experimental vaccines could indirectly help control the epidemic by calming fears of health care workers. “Health care workers now are scared to come to the health center and take care of patients,” said Sow, whose center will soon begin phase I tests of an Ebola vaccine. He spoke of his own risk from taking the blood of 18 patients with suspected infections, including four he had to autopsy. (Mali, which shares a border with heavily affected Guinea, has yet to have anyone test positive.) “If there’s a potential vaccine coming in I have to be first to get this,” he said. “Plus it will show transparency, it will show confidence, it will show respect to the rest of the community.”*The Ebola Files: Given the current Ebola outbreak, unprecedented in terms of number of people killed and rapid geographic spread, Science and Science Translational Medicine have made a collection of research and news articles on the viral disease freely available to researchers and the general public.*Update, 6 September,11:48 a.m.: This article was updated to includes links and clarify testing practices.
In 1997, a teenage boy got kicked in the chest during a fight. The blow to his heart cut off blood supply to his brain, and after he had spent 3 weeks in a coma, doctors proclaimed him to be in a vegetative state—though his eyes were sometimes open, he appeared to be completely unaware of himself or his surroundings. But years later, with the help of a suspenseful TV clip directed by Alfred Hitchcock, researchers say they’ve detected glimmers of consciousness in the now–35-year-old man.Few reliable tools exist for detecting neural signals of awareness in people who appear unresponsive, says Lorina Naci, a neuroscientist at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, and lead author of the new study. Over the past decade, her Western University colleague Adrian Owen has demonstrated that it is occasionally possible to detect awareness in unresponsive individuals by asking them to follow commands, such as to imagine playing tennis, while measuring their brain activity in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. Still, such methods are limited by the “notorious” difficulty that brain-damaged people have following instructions and paying attention, Naci says.So she and Owen decided to try screening for consciousness with an activity that doesn’t require much effort: watching television. To ensure that it would be easy for patients to pay attention, they chose an episode of the TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents called “Bang! You’re Dead.” The abridged, 8-minute episode has a simple, suspenseful plot, Naci says: A young boy with a toy gun finds his uncle’s loaded revolver and plays at shooting people, not understanding that the gun is real. For viewers, who know that some of the gun’s chambers contain bullets, “there are very tense moments” when the boy points the gun at his mother and a little girl in the supermarket, she says.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)First, the researchers needed to determine how a healthy brain would respond to the episode, so they recruited 12 volunteers to watch the clip inside an fMRI scanner. During the moments of greatest suspense, activity in the frontal parietal brain regions, which are devoted to orchestrating attention, flared up in healthy participants and became increasingly intense until the end of the film, when the boy nearly hits the family maid with a real bullet. The volunteers’ subjective feelings closely tracked with their brain activity, implying a common neural experience of anxiety and dread, Naci says.Next, after obtaining permission from their caregivers, the team put two brain-damaged patients into the scanner—a 20-year-old female patient who fell into a coma in 2007 after suffering brain damage of unknown origins, and the 35-year-old man. Despite having her eyes open throughout, the young woman showed no brain activity in response to the film, Naci says. In contrast, the man displayed peaks and valleys of brain activity that closely matched those of the healthy volunteers, suggesting that he might have been following the plot, the team reports online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The new study “opens the door to a whole new way” of searching for signs of awareness in people who have been misdiagnosed as being in a vegetative state, Naci says. Compared with following instructions or focusing on a contrived scenario, simply watching a film could provide an “effortless” way for patients who are unable to communicate to show that they are tuned into their surroundings, she says. It’s too early to say whether the method will be useful for most apparently unaware and unresponsive brain injury patients, however, says Nicholas Schiff, a neurologist at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City who wasn’t involved in the research. Although the technique was able to distinguish a high-functioning patient from one with much lower levels of brain activity, the vast majority of people with such injuries fall somewhere in between those two extremes, he says. In these patients, researchers are likely to see a highly variable mix of responses, and “it’s not clear” whether the TV clip technique will be able to detect consciousness in more ambiguous cases, he says.Using film to trigger detectable signs of consciousness has another major limitation: Many brain-damaged patients can’t keep their eyes open and looking forward, or simply can’t see, says neurologist Andrew Goldfine of the Stony Brook Neurosciences Institute in New York, who wasn’t involved with the new study. Nor is it clear whether the similar patterns of brain activity between the healthy participants and the brain-damaged patient mean that the man is having the same “conscious” experience of the film, Naci notes.Still, the study has provided some comfort to the patient’s family, she says. For many years after his injury, his father took him to see a film once a week, based on the conviction that he enjoyed it, she says. Eventually he stopped, but “we now do believe that this individual is enjoying being taken to the movies,” and that “we should provide more enriching environments” for such patients, she says.
Any globetrotting tourist will tell you that all cities are unique. The challenge is to figure out what they have in common. Fortunately, there’s at least one thing that is nakedly apparent for every single city: the contours of its streets as seen from outer space. A team of researchers has now taken those street maps and analyzed them as mathematical networks. It turns out that all cities can be boiled down to just four different types based on the “fingerprint” of their street networks, the team reports online today in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface: a grid of medium-sized blocks that are mostly square or regular rectangles, a dominant fraction of small blocks with a diverse array of shapes, mostly medium-sized blocks with diverse shapes, or a mosaic of patches of mostly small squares or rectangles. For example, those who say that American and European cities tend to be “laid out differently” now have mathematical evidence. Boston’s famously confusing street map—which produces small and diversely shaped city blocks—is more like a European city’s than that of the typical gridlike U.S. city. And some of the largest cities are revealed to be a hodgepodge of different parts. The five boroughs of New York City (above) are closer matches to different cities around the world than they are to each other. Manhattan has the gridlike street layout of Brazilian cities like Campo Grande and Curitiba, while the Bronx’s streets look like those of Porto, Portugal. Brooklyn is strikingly similar to Detroit, Michigan, at least in layout. And Staten Island? It’s like walking the streets of As-Suwayda, Syria.
There are more species of beetle than of any other type of animal—so many, in fact, that one evolutionary biologist famously claimed that God has an inordinate fondness for them. Scientists have named more than 380,000 different species so far. Yet a new study of the fossil record may have researchers wondering not why beetles are so diverse today, but how they’ve been so doggedly persistent through time. The team considered more than 5500 fossils of beetles collected at more than 200 sites worldwide (including the 45-million-year-old fossil of a weevil unearthed in Colorado, shown). It grouped those beetles into families (the biological classification just above genera, which are groups of species) and then sorted them into bins of time that each lasted 25 million years. During the past 300 million years, there have been 214 families of beetles, but only 35 of those have completely died out, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Of the 179 families that remain, about 69% have at least one representative in the fossil record. The biggest surprise, the researchers note, is that some families of beetles, once they appeared, have never gone away—even surviving mass extinctions such as those that claimed the dinosaurs and many other species 66 million years ago. At first glance, the researchers say, the persistence of beetles can likely be ascribed to their wide range of dietary habits, their ability to move to find ecologically suitable habitat when necessary, and their adaptability in case environmental conditions have dramatically changed.*Correction, 18 March, 10:27 a.m.: The image that originally accompanied this article (a mislabeled stock photo of a bug, not a beetle) has been replaced.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)
China remains India’s primary security challenge because of its assertiveness on the border dispute, a report by a think-tank in the UK said today. Related Items
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Rupankit Saha considers himself to be among the lucky ones. He was able to get a job at a multinational company in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 2017, after completing an undergrad degree in accounting and finance at the University of Exeter in the UK. The transition from an international student on a tier-IV visa to a tier-II visa was smooth only because his employer sponsored him for the work visa even before he graduated. Read it at Economic Times Related Items
Friendship and pageantry often go hand in hand innational destinies. The grand mela that was this year’s Republic Day parade on January 26 at Rajpath in New Delhi saw the “friendship” between United States of America and India warm by several degrees, with President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi acting out the optics of diplomacy to near perfection. That President Obama is the first and only US president to be invited to be the guest of honor at this annual, state-orchestrated carnival in the Indian national capital, a commemoration of the declaration of India as a democratic republic and the unveiling of its Constitution in 1950, is, in itself, a milestone that informed every aspect of this pageantry, which neither began nor stopped with the parade itself. From a pinstriped suit with Modi’s name embossed in gold thread that became the eye of a major sartorial storm, to Obama’s careful but emphatic proclamation that secularism is integral to the idea and reality of India, to the supposed clearing out of the nuclear logjam, the three-day Indo-US bilateral meet on the sidelines of the Republic Day celebrations generated enough strategic meat and circuit gossip to titillate, perplex and inspire us in the coming years.Becoming partners in policy and play, the leaders of the world’s largest and oldest democracies displayed a rare chemistry, taking to first name and first lady diplomacy like fish to water. Scores of agreements, memoranda of understanding, deals, trade treaties were signed as Obama and Modi, Michelle and Indian president Pranab Mukherjee ate and walked together, sharing an odd joke now and then, bonding over Indian food and cheerily braving the January rain that gave little respite. The warmth they felt seemed genuine, even though at times, Modi, in his well-known penchant for the theatrics of power, went a trifle overboard in returning the hospitality he was offered at the White House in September last year. But that didn’t distract from the fact that President Obama became the first US president to visit India twice during his tenure, a matter that was constantly highlighted by the Indian media.Of symbolism and ironyPerhaps India’s changing relation with the wider world is reflected in the guest list of the R-Day invitees. The presidential guest of honor has usually been a representative of the Global South, leaders of countries in South and West Asia, Africa, Latin America, occasionally someone from the erstwhile Soviet Union, or a European power like United Kingdom, France, Ireland, which with India has a shared past rooted in the colonial encounter. United States and India, until the early 2000s, were separated by worldviews so far apart that perhaps it was almost unthinkable to have the US president at a parade meant to showcase the (rather puny in comparison) military strength that was mostly acquired via Soviet largesse. Even though India was officially non-aligned, the Cold War had ensured that New Delhi would pick Moscow over Washington, given the latter’s support for Islamabad always being one of the many significant thorns in the diplomatic throat.Though clean break is not possible, nor perhaps desired, in a multipolar world, the largest democracies have over the last decade come closer for an ensemble of reasons. India is eager to move ahead of the postcolonial coven as the world grapples with new and present dangers impacting the first and third worlds equally. United States, on the other hand, has recognized that without holding the hand of the most prominent democratic republic in South Asia, with its cultural sway and soft power over an enormous region in West and South Asia, it will neither go very far in stabilising the conflicts that have been festering for years, some because of its own miscalculations, nor will it be able to engineer fresh and important commercial collaboration that is the hallmark of the globalized world. As President Obama and PM Modi explained in their joint statements and speeches, it’s now more obvious than ever that a slightly less arrogant Washington and an increasingly self-assertive New Delhi are “natural partners” who must work together as prominent democracies, carefully negotiating the erstwhile differences with the promises of future cooperation.But what is a pageant if it’s not rich in both symbolism as well as irony? President Obama’s acceptance of the R-Day invitation was a diplomatic coup whose seeds were sown in the ramparts of the White House itself, during the presidential dinner that the duo enjoyed, or when PM Modi addressed corporate figureheads of the US business council four months earlier during his US visit.The R-Day invitation was a return gift, as it were. A reciprocal gesture from a confident, high-octane Modi, elected leader of world’s largest democracy, toward the president of the world’s oldest democracy, a leader in his second term, handling his stint as the most powerful man in the world with a philosophical aloofness that can only be read as the pinnacle of his educated sobriety. Therein lies the irony. What Obama had in common with former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — a detachment from the trappings of power — is exactly what sets him apart from Modi. On the other hand, both Modi and Obama are outsiders to entrenched power structures in their respective countries; both led long and successful political campaigns, egged on by clever manipulation of the social media, to reach climactic popularity and resounding election victories. Modi had turned parliamentary elections into a sort of presidential contest of personalities, and even now, the Americanization of Indian politics marches on. Parade and CharadeIndia’s Republic Day parade is a state-held puppetry of borrowed military might, mostly a Soviet-style grand march past lasting over two hours, happening at a venue that’s a throwback to the Anglo-Indian colonial past (New Delhi’s Rashtrapati Bhavan is the former Viceregal Lodge), and a carnival celebrating the longstanding motto “unity and diversity,” with tableaux from different states (called jhankis in Hindi) presenting the distinctive flavor of that region, as well as its most recent achievement, real or imagined.The military parade has been largely about displaying armaments, such heavy Russian-made tanks and artilleries, missiles and fighter aircraft, as well as various regiments, infantries, security and paramilitary forces, all marching past, in slightly forced unison. Perhaps to the US President, commander-in-chief of the most powerful and sophisticated military in the world, this show of outdated weaponry might have looked straight out of a 1970s James Bond film. The few Indian-made multi-barrel rocket launchers looked gaudy, and Soviet-era tanks seemed too unwieldy for any successful utilization in modern warfare.But, the R-Day parade is less about the chinks in the armory and more about symbolism. Allowing US-made warplanes in this controlled orgy of militarism is therefore a happy crest, meant to both please the guest of honor, as well as indicate the shifting of tides, the incoming “sophistication” of Indian defense imports as well as a nod that the Indian defense market, one of the biggest in the world, is wide open for the Americans to export state-of-the-art artillery and war machinery.Sitting next to PM Modi, who wore a colorful pagri to underscore his distinctive Indianness, the quiet and contemplative President Obama was a lesson in difference. With fewer than two years left in office, he was a trifle disinterested in participating in this power pageantry meant wholly to catapult PM Modi’s domestic and international stature. However, he did receive a series of complimentary gestures from Modi – such as being welcomed by the Prime Minister himself (in a break from protocol) at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi when he descended, along with wife Michelle, from the fabulous Air Force One; being addressed as “Barack” by Modi several times, a gesture which went unreciprocated; being gifted a reproduction of the first telegram sent from the US to the Indian Constituent Assembly in 1946; being escorted by the PM personally, at all times, even being the object of the now famous “bear hug” from Modi — a sign of warmth and personal chemistry despite the customary impositions. Politics of bonhomie and mythologyThere was, of course, also an element of mutual instrumentality behind all the shenanigans of the three-day visit, the centerpiece of which was the Republic Day parade at Rajpath. Underlying the candid camaraderie between Modi and Obama is also the weight of the past and the present. Barack Obama is the culmination of the American dream, via an Ivy League education, overcoming stupendous barriers of race and general entitlement of the super rich, who control and sponsor US politics. Narendra Modi, a former pracharak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the kernel of Hindutva ideology that is eating India from within, is a rags-to-riches story himself, a template of global Indian aspiration. But the ghosts of 2002 Godhra riots still haunt many conscientious Indians, who see Modi’s brand of communal politics splintering the syncretic fabric of Indian society, giving vent to the latent tendencies among majority Hindus to unite against “Muslim appeasement” by previous governments. Obama is the last person to be unaware of such a fractured reality in India and its widely spread diaspora, particularly in the United States.So, if Obama chose to play along this part-scripted, part-spontaneous theatre of bonhomie between him and Modi, there were a number of reasons. There’s certainly a side of him that sees Modi as more than a hyperventilating Hindutva bogeyman who is the blue-eyed boy of Indo-US corporate sector. On the other hand, Obama’s deep and unironic links to anticolonial struggle icons such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, mean that his unease with Modi, whose existence depends partially on hollowing out of historic figures and (mis)appropriating them for political gains, will never entirely disappear. Yet, that is a discomfiture that President Obama has chosen to keep to himself, because of pragmatics mostly, airing only occasionally a subtle opinion that sits in direct contrast with the political project of a Modi-fied India.For PM Modi, on the other hand, the highly spectacular bonhomie with Pres Obama serves a very different purpose. More than anything else, it works to further his own cult as the most powerful man in India, who’s welcome at the highest table of international diplomacy, who’s preparing the next innings at shaping histories, who’s clearing the cobwebs of postcolonial hangover from Indian political memory, who’s helping cast the nets of Indian ambition far and wide. For Modi, being seen hobnobbing with “Barack” boosts his own domestic and global mythology, as both Indians and Indian Americans feel an unaccustomed pride, the pride of politically and historically coming of age. In this panorama of Modi mythology, exuberance and euphoria triumph over cautionary criticisms, self-portraiture beats self-reflexive questioning. Only few ask at what price is the bonhomie coming to the common people of America and India, not the top ten per cent who are a mutually reversible class of global rich, who consume the same items and more or less give back the same precious nothing to the world.Strategic AlignmentsHowever, it goes without saying that Indo-US bilateral ties have been given a shot in the arm. At every point, Pres Obama — who arrived with a massive security contingent of 1,600 (including 40 sniffer dogs, some of them bearing officer ranks!), as well as a huge delegation comprising business heads, officers and representatives from various departments of the US government, prominent members of several nodal agencies, and other top-level functionaries — made his diplomatic weight felt, if not unnecessarily imposed. Besides his Air Force One, he moved around in the Beast, the presidential vehicle famous for its ultra-modern security facilities, including capacity to ward off a terrorist attack, bomb blast in addition to very obviously being 100 percent bullet proof. Naturally, the heart of India’s national capital had been suitably “cleansed” and “sanitized,” clearing it off any possible threats to the President and the First Lady of the United States, with US Secret Service laying prior claim to the entire area weeks before Obama stepped on Indian soil.But this hardly threw the pageantry-loving Indian prime minister off gear. In fact, the complete cooperation between Indian and American security establishments over Obama visit laid the cornerstone of a slew of bilateral security agreements, including real time intelligence sharing. Rounds of talks, some specifically designed to emphasize some of Modi’s pet projects — such as the joint Mann Ki Baat (a radio broadcast lasting over 30 minutes, in which the duo answer questions on the safety of the Indian girl child and sanitation drive); the Walk the Talk and the Chai Pe Charcha (during which, the duo supposedly discussed the nuclear logjam and the rise of China as a mutual problem) — covered economic, strategic and diplomatic areas of cooperation.More than 15 major agreements were subsequently signed, including those on military collaboration, defense purchases, nuclear energy, investment and trade, health and pharmaceuticals, renewable energy and climate change, easier visas for software engineers and others in the information and technology sector, as well as joint projects in space missions between the Indian Space Research Organisation ISRO) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Acknowledging role of NRIsDuring his visit to the United States in September last year, Modi had won over Indian Americans in a speech replete with rhetorical flourishes. He had called out to them to invest in India, to make his “Make in India” and “Swachh Bharat” campaigns successful. Playing on nostalgia as well as marketing India as the new global destination for business leaders, Modi had connected with the three-million strong Indian Americans like no one else before. In fact, his vision of a global India sits well with the Diaspora’s reinvention of their once imaginary homeland, now with a renewed power and hyperbole of transnational (often Hindu) patriotism.At that time, Modi gave a series of sops to the NRIs, such as merging the PIO and OCI (Persons of Indian Origin and Overseas Citizenship of India) categories and giving visa-on-arrival to US nationals. This time, as a reciprocal gesture, Obama aired assurances on India’s concerns over the H-1B visa issue, which is the fulcrum of the Indo-US software industry and a lifeline for tens of thousands of Indians working in the United States. The US agreed to address India’s longstanding demand of signing a Totalization Agreement to help Indian workers in the United States obtain refunds of almost $3 billion worth of their social security contributions.Along with the hype and hoopla, the high-voltage dramaturgy of Indo-US bilateral summit during President Obama’s three-day visit, of course, had its fair share of hullabaloos: both owing to PM Modi’s curious indulgences. One was the supposedly Rs 10 lakh specially tailored suit that Modi wore on the first day of the presidential visit that had his full name, Narendra Damodardass Modi, embossed in gold thread as pinstripes. Second was an advertisement issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, in which the Preamble to the Constitution was shown without two of its integral words, “secular” and “socialist.”Sartorial faux pas?For many, the suit that PM Modi wore attested to his utter self-absorption, megalomania and disregard for any ideals of austerity or humility that the erstwhile khadi-sporting prime ministers of India have been known for. Against a somber and sober President Obama, who was dressed in neat black three-piece suit, Modi looked overdressed in his pink shawls, multicolored pagri or the suit with his own name. Several compared him to former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, while many rebuked that Indian domestic and foreign policy was now one massive echo chamber of Modi’s own relationship with himself. That Modi was painting the national destiny in his own image, and it was self-centered, narcissistic, devoid of humanitarian ideals and statesman-like vision. However, advocates of Modi, including few journalists like Shekhar Gupta, thought otherwise. In a lengthy castigation of what he termed the “great elitist hypocrisy” of Indians, Gupta argued that Modi’s name suit was only an extrapolation of the globe-trotting, haute couture-loving upper class Indians and Indian Americans. Gupta wondered why the ideals of austerity were expected of a prime minister when the Indian bourgeoisie hankered for a bigger house, a bigger car, expensive clothes, jewelry, gadgets and electronics. He also launched a scathing account of the Indian liberals’ thinly-veiled scorn at the parvenu in PM Modi, the political upstart with his halting, influent, heavily accented English, who was never supposed to be where he is now.He links Modi’s suit with newfound Indian self-assertion on the world stage and a demolition of the Nehruvian ideal of the austere Indian, high in morals, stoic in material possessions. This was the dream Indian and the Indian dream; in fact, a yuppy, suitably Americanized Indian dream. That the same Nehruvian waistcoat is now called the Modi jacket was further assertion of this obvious shift in sartorial politics of the globalizing India.But, another, and this time even bigger, controversy was waiting to blow up in the face of the very idea of India.Omission and Secular reminderThe reasons that the I&B Ministry offered for omitting the words “secular” and “socialist” from an advertisement issued on the Republic Day showing the (older, pre-1976) Preamble of the Indian Constitution were that, it wanted pay respects to the founding fathers of the Indian Republic, and it wanted to highlight the fact that the words were inserted later, during the height of Indira Gandhi-led Emergency, as a part of the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution. The ministry, and its many formal and informal spokespersons in the media and public sphere drew attention to the undemocratic times when the words were included in the Preamble, when dissenting leaders were jailed, or when fundamental rights, such as freedom of speech, were suspended.The incident has come to be described in global Indian media and public sphere as the latest chapter in a series of orchestrated attempts to shake up India’s secular ideals and more or less syncretic fabric of society. That the Modi government came to power riding a polarizing wave, fanning sectarian sentiments in the garb of selling the dream of development is an accepted fact. Likewise, a number of BJP/RSS-engineered programmes such as “ghar wapsi,” “love jihad,” etc., too, have been deployed to keep the flames of communal fire burning, hogging a chunk of media space and public imagination, while deflecting attention from urgent socio-economic realities, like high inflation, poverty, substandard mid-day meals at government-run schools, rampant corruption, black money, honor killings, caste battles, etc.But the Preamble row also sparked off a debate on the inherent constitutionality of the secular ideal, which espoused religious pluralism and tolerance, as well as the socialist ideal, this only in part, as an indicator of even and fair distribution of resources, and not meaning absolute state control of industry and enterprises. It also exposed how India, under the present regime, is faced with a threat of exterminating this secular ideal, something it shares with the United States of America, and something that is enshrined in the respective constitutions of both the democracies.It is in this light that the final speech by President Barack Obama, that he delivered at New Delhi’s Siri Fort auditorium, assumes importance. Before an audience of Indian dignitaries, the US president said: “India will succeed so long as it is not split along the lines of religious faith.”Obama saw a “Hindu Republic,” or at least an India that was mortally in throes of becoming one. The theocratic impulse, welded inseparably to the corporatist, anti-environment, anti-people ideal, that majoritarian sentiment which fans intolerance towards any kind of difference, whether of religion, language, sexual orientation, caste origins, is antithetical to Indian and American constitutionally-sanctioned principles. That it took an American president in Indian soil to remind India of that beautiful cherished origin is both an utter tragedy and deep irony of time. Related Items
The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC), the country’s apex body to handle any emergency, on Saturday reviewed the preparedness to deal with cyclone ‘Bulbul’ that is likely to affect coastal districts of West Bengal and Odisha.The meeting of the NCMC, headed by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba, was informed by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) that the cyclone has intensified and is likely to cross the West Bengal coast by Saturday evening.Heavy to extremely heavy rainfall, accompanied by winds reaching upto 120 kmph and tidal waves up to one to two metres high are expected. The cyclone is expected to make a landfall on the West Bengal coast at around 2000 to 2200 hours on Saturday. Chief Secretaries of West Bengal and Odisha said that teams of the State Disaster Response Force and Fire Service teams have been positioned. Fishing operations have been suspended and people in low lying areas are being evacuated to shelter homes. As many as 16 teams of the National Disaster Response Force and State Disaster Response Force have been positioned in West Bengal and additional teams are being deployed at the request of the States. Officials of the Defence Ministry said that requisite number of ships, aircraft and special teams of the Coast Guard, the Indian Navy, the Army and the Air Force are on standby.