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Literacy and Pandemic

by:Viraaj

International Literacy Day occurs on September 8th, founded by the proclamation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization or UNESCO in 1996 “to remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights.” UNESCO continues to play a leading role in improving global literacy and promoting International Literacy Day with governments, communities, etc.

The day brings ownership of the challenges of illiteracy in the local community and the globe, starting with one person at a time, and is celebrated to promote human attention towards literacy and know their rights for social and human development. As food is important to be alive and success the same literacy is also important. 

It is a necessary tool to eradicate poverty, lowering child mortality, controlling population growth, attaining gender equality, etc. It is correctly said that literacy could raise the family status. Therefore, this day is celebrated to encourage the people towards getting continuous education and understand their responsibility for the family, society, and the country.

Through themes and several programs, it aims to highlight the role of literacy and skills development in the context of a changing world. For this year, the theme for International Literacy Day is “Literacy for a human-centered recovery: Narrowing the digital divide”.

International Literacy Day (ILD) 2021 will explore how literacy can contribute to building a solid foundation for a human-centered recovery, with a special focus on the interplay of literacy and digital skills required by non-literate youth and adults. It will also explore what makes technology-enabled literacy learning inclusive and meaningful to leave no one behind. By doing so, ILD2021 will be an opportunity to reimagine future literacy teaching and learning, within and beyond the context of the pandemic.

We’ve talked a lot about International Literacy Day, but what exactly is literacy?

Well, the Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines literacy as the quality or state of being literate, educated, and being able to read.” But this ability is often taken for granted because we’ve been reading and writing most of our life. Being literate makes it that much easier for us to navigate the world, do tasks like reading a restaurant menu, a road sign, an exam, or even a novel without it being a blockade for us.

Literacy goals are a key part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The SDG agenda contains 17 goals and 169 targets, adopted in 2015 to build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were adopted in 2000. The SDGs are meant to be achieved by 2030, and the UN Resolution of which they are a part is called “The 2030 Agenda”.

These SDGs include ending poverty of all forms, ending world hunger, achieving food security for all, and improving nutrition for the people, promoting sustainable agriculture and its practices, and ensuring that everyone gets an inclusive, equitable, and quality education among others set by the United Nations.

Every International Literacy Day, organizations and individuals take charge and use their literacy to encourage and assist those who are facing difficulties on how to read and write. Students and employed people alike, volunteer to tutor children in the community, donating their books to libraries, and a student’s tuition and learning are sponsored to launch their life-long success. 

Literacy in the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the learning of children, young people, and adults alike,  magnifying the pre-existing inequalities in access to meaningful literacy and learning opportunities, disproportionally affecting almost 800 million non-literate young people and adults. Youth and adult literacy were absent in many initial national response plans, while numerous literacy programs have been forced to halt their usual modes of operation.

Even with the pandemic negatively affecting the world, efforts have been made to find alternative ways to ensure the continuity of learning, including distance and online learning, is used in combination with in-person learning.  Access to literacy learning opportunities, however, has not been evenly distributed. 

The rapid shift to distance learning also highlighted the persistent digital divide in terms of connectivity, infrastructure, and the ability to engage with technology, as well as disparities in other services such as access to electricity, which has limited learning options.   

However, the pandemic has shown us the importance of literacy. Beyond its intrinsic importance as part of the right to education, literacy empowers individuals and improves their lives by expanding their capabilities to choose a kind of life they can value. 

ILD 2021 explores the contribution of literacy to building a solid foundation for a human-centered recovery, with a special focus on combining literacy and digital skills that are required by non-literate youth and adults. It explores what makes technology-enabled literacy learning inclusive and meaningful to leave no one behind. In doing so, this year is an opportunity to reimagine future literacy teaching and learning, within and beyond the context of the pandemic.

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A Tale Of Two Nights

by:Tharun

14th August 1947

Loud noises of the Gypsy Jeeps were echoing in every alleyway. Alleyways stuffed with people as far as the eye could see. While most of them were rushing to listen to The Man in White speak, a few seemed to be making their way out of the crowd, almost as if they were looking for something precious that they had just lost. Pandemonium. This was the only possible way to describe the night, right in the middle of which was a young girl. Orphaned at birth, she had never known a life of certainty. While many had tried to foster her through the years, none of them ended well. Yet again, she was back on the streets. Although this wasn’t unusual for her, she could sense something very different this time.

She looked weary of her journey. She lost count of the days for which she had been on the road in search of a home. At one point when she thought that she’d found one, she was told that they could only take her brother in. A brother whose existence she didn’t even know about till that moment, but the loss of whom felt as if she had lost a part of herself. Many miles and several horrifying visuals later, she had finally reached where she was now. She didn’t really know if she could call this place home, but she was too tired to go any further. 

The people here looked no different from what she’d seen. What was different about them was that they seemed to have a strange sense of hope. The kind which could be easily mistaken for unrest. She heard someone yell that all their troubles had come to an end. She scoffed at them. Although still a child, she knew not to fall for this illusion; she could see with her own eyes that nothing had changed. Buildings were being swallowed by flames and people were being slaughtered for fictitious reasons. What was funny was that everyone knew this, yet their desperation for hope superseded their ability to sense the horrors of reality.

Suddenly, everything went silent. People stopped right where they were and the Jeeps turned their engines off. The only thing that the girl could hear was the faint voice echoing from the loudspeakers. Someone said that The Man in White had started speaking. Everyone was listening to him as though he were instructing a new way of life. Though she had never believed in hope, the fact that everyone else did, comforted her in a way. Reassured by this, she shut her eyes with a feeling that things would change for her this time, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. 

14th August 2021 

It’s dinner time and everyone is glued to the television. With a plate in their hand, they’re listening to the interview of The Man in Blue, Olympian Neeraj Chopra talking about his historic win. As the interview finishes, everyone is forced to get off their seats by a lady, who just seventy-four years ago was a scared little girl. 

The same girl who once feared for her life now runs a proud household. She has children, friends and family whom she can confidently call her own. Truth be told, not much has changed for her. It’s just that the years have given her the strength to keep a straight face while dealing with troubles. One of her sons succumbed to Covid while gasping for breath. She listens to her friends talk about the way they are subjected to mental and physical trauma at their homes. A few years after that night of 1947, someone once told her that the brother whom she was separated from was actually two people… or something like that, she can’t recollect exactly. Every day she helplessly witnesses her children quarrel with each other for the same reasons that she had seen seventy-four years back. The only difference is that now they pin it on her honour rather than the other person’s cowardice. 

She feels the hope which people once shared is now transformed into something different. It has now changed into arrogance. The arrogance that breaks off a friendship. The arrogance that threatens others to prove its supremacy over them. What hurts her the most is when one of her own children is labeled an outsider. As someone who toiled for years to build this family from the ground up, she feels she let down that little girl who for once came close to believing in the concept of hope. 

Everyone in the household is excited for tomorrow. It’s one of the only days where all of her kids spend time at home together. She personally has mixed feelings about the day. On one hand, it reminds her of the story of a little girl who grew into a beautiful person against all odds. On the other, it reminds her of hope. The same hope which is now synonymous with unrest. She fears for the lives of her own. She wonders if the Man In White lied to the people that night. 

There is one thing that she is certain about. People are not evil, they are simply misguided and afraid. In 1947, her house didn’t have a head. Now, there are far too many, with all of them tugging about the roof in a separate direction. She knows the cost at which her freedom came. The tears, the bloodshed, the unbridled sacrifice that she had to witness to even think of a probable future, let alone a prosperous one. She only hopes that people realise the struggles of those who gave her and many others the chance to have a place to call home, rather than glorifying them mindlessly. But then again, she never fully believed in hope.

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Crack of Dawn

by:Siddaarth

National Anti-Terrorism Day is remembered on the 21st of May and gives us all a chance to stand together as one united front against the evil force of terrorism and tells us to salute every single life. It is also a day where we remember all those soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the protection of the Nation. 

The message of humanity and harmony must be spread widely and the Indian Government took this initiative to spread these messages across the people to emphasize the importance of combating terrorist activities. The objective of the  National Anti-Terrorism Day is to help spread the feeling of harmony, peace and unity amongst the people.

The National Anti-Terrorism Day is remembered on the 21st of May to commemorate the assassination of India’s former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi that occurred on the 21st of May 1991 at an election rally in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu. During the campaign, a lady who was a suicide bomber and was a part of the terrorist organization Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE), had approached him. The lady had explosives under her clothes and approached Rajiv Gandhi with a garland and then touched his feet. She denoted the bomb as soon as she approached him and touched his feet. Around 25 people were killed along with the youngest Prime Minister in Indian history was assassinated on this day. Ever since then, the National Anti-Terrorism Day is commemorated every year to ensure that no innocent soul would be killed from any sort of terrorist activities. 

Even after the tragic assassination of Mr Rajiv Gandhi, many terrorists have tried to attack India, its various sights and its people. But we as Indians have always shown a sense of pride, belonging and a feeling of bouncing back from any sort of difficult situation. After the 1991 assassination, India faced many such acts of terrorism on its soil like the 1993 blasts in Bombay in which 13 locations across Bombay were bombed and around 260 people were killed. The terrorist groups known as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed attacked the Indian Parliament building on the 13th of November 2001 in which many police officers and parliament workers were killed. Three other terrorist attacks have occurred after these, namely the blasts on the Mumbai suburban railways, the 26/11 attacks and the Pulwama attack. 

Even after this, India has truly bounced back from these heavy scars on our nation. Though India follows the policy of forgiving but not forgetting, though in the case of terrorism India would never forgive the perpetrators and would never forget about the wounds. To conclude, I would want to quote the Indian Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi who stated the following: 

So many nations have suffered due to terrorism. Terrorism is not a challenge to a nation, it’s a challenge to humanity.

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change culture Day ethnic Government History India Lessons social society

International Day for Multilateralism and Peace

by:Janani

“It is not enough to proclaim the virtues of multilateralism and diplomacy; we must continue to show its added value. International cooperation must adapt to changing times.

Let us strive as one to realize the founders’ vision of a healthy, equitable, peaceful and more sustainable future for all.”- Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

Throughout history, mankind has always been broiled in conflict. Numerous cultures and societies, constantly battling for a plethora of reasons. From the Romans to the Mongols, the Mughals, and the British Empire- has there ever been a moment of peace? Empires rise and fall, cities are sacked, societies are burned, people are enslaved, and there is bloodshed.

Reflecting on our history matters, because when we look into the past, we can see just how far we’ve come, and how much more we need to progress.

The times we are living in right now are globally one of the most peaceful- held up by the pillars of modern-day diplomacy and multilateralism.

Has there ever been a time where we’ve been more united, and on such an enormous scale?

April 24th is the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy, established by the United Nations in 2018.  It is meant to acknowledge the use of diplomatic and peaceful means to resolve conflicts between countries- even if it doesn’t always work.

Gone are the days where we siege nations for spices or silk- but now we fight for oil, labor, and more. The world is most certainly not perfect right now, there are so many ongoing issues- The Syrian War and the Israeli- Palestine conflict to name a few.

So how could we have a day celebrating diplomacy and multilateralism when it seems so superficial? When there is so much more to resolve?

But the purpose of the “International Day of Multilateralism and Peace” isn’t simply patting ourselves on the back for a job well done and dusting our hands of any more work.

 We may have achieved a level of peace and diplomacy of historically unprecedented levels- but that doesn’t mean all our work is over. It’s not only about recognizing how far we’ve come- but realizing how much further we have to go.

So much blood was shed to reach this point in history- where the world can unite; where we can stand together; where we can accept each other, and where we can work together.

April 24th is about celebrating a day that is a marker of progress, and a symbol of hope for the future. 

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Bura Na Mano, Holi Hai!

by:Viraaj

Holi – the festival where people rejoice and celebrate forgetting their biases/ grudges and come together as one with bright shimmering colours all over them, loaded with pichkaris and water balloons, sweet/ savories, and not to be missed – bhaang – the favorite drink of Lord Shiva. It is a festival that aims at teaching each other equality as people apply colour to each other’s faces regardless of their caste, gender, and religion. 

Being celebrated all over India, the festival goes by many names, Rang Panchmi in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, Phakuwah in Assam, Basant Utsav in West Bengal, Manjal Kuli in Kerala to name a few.  It is also celebrated in Mauritius, Fiji, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Pakistan, and the Philippines.

Holi is celebrated in the month of Phalgun, which generally falls around February or March. The festival starts the night before Holi, marked by Holika Dahan, where a bonfire or Holika is lit around dusk and everyone gathers around it, eating or talking with their friends. 

Holika Dahan is followed by Holi, which marks the triumph of good over evil and truth over ignorance. There are many stories that talk about the origin of Holi, one such story shows the origins of Lord Krishna’s blue skin complexion. On being poisoned by the Putana’s breast milk, Lord Krishna’s skin turned blue in colour making him doubt if the fair-skinned Radha would like him. His mother suggested smearing colour on Radha’s face and changing her complexion. He did as he was told and Radha accepted him despite his skin colour. As a result, Holi is also celebrated as the festival of divine love of Radha and Krishna. 

Today, not one year goes by without articles on how harmful synthetic colours are and how polluting it is, but Holi was never a polluting festival. The colours used in ancient times were all extracted from different natural sources, such as flower petals and spices. These also had medicinal properties and benefited the skin. 

As industries grew, the production of synthetic colours became cheaper and their sale became profitable, this resulted in the popularisation of these synthetic colours and the decline of organic colours. However, with the rising concerns of the negative impacts of synthetic colours, organic colours have become more common during Holi celebrations.

Every colour used in Holi has a significance:-

Blue represents Lord Krishna’s blue skin complexion, 

Red symbolizes love and matrimony, 

Green symbolizes new beginnings., 

Yellow signifies health and happiness and 

Orange, though not traditionally used in Holi, can be seen being used frequently today, it symbolizes the sun which represents a new day.

This year, we are in the middle of a pandemic, and celebrating Holi as we did a few years ago may not be possible. This doesn’t mean we stop celebrating the festival, this year, we can celebrate the festival by spending time with our loved ones, forgiving the grudges we bear against each other, and accept people regardless of their caste, religion, or gender. This year let’s ensure that we are able to overcome the pandemic, following the rules set by the government, staying true to the heart of Holi, and overcoming the evil of COVID-19.

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Pride, Prejudice and Ami Tomake Bhalobashi

by:Adrita

Let me be completely honest with you, reader. As I begin writing this, I have no idea what to write or how it will turn out to be. Excuse me for rambling in places, or for politically incorrect gibberish. When I signed up to write a piece on “International Mother Language Day”, I had not expected to be quite so confused. I thought it would be easy. I would write something about our Mother Tongue being our identity, and how education in regional languages should be supported and yadda yadda.  I don’t have an opinion on those things (Actually, I do but that’s for another day).

21st February of every year is when International Mother Language Day is observed worldwide. To me, it is that day every year when my father tries to wake me up at 6 am, like all days, and yells “TODAY IS MAATRIBHASHA DIBOSH!” about five times before I grunt from underneath my blanket.

Forgive me for being so selfish, reader, but since I am at my wit’s end about how to write a generally relatable piece on this, I won’t be trying to. This piece is going to be hella specific and personal, it’s going to be about me and my connection to my Mother Tongue, Bengali. I am a Bengali who was brought up in Gujarat. I am going to say the word “Bengali” a lot of times throughout this piece. It’s fine, you can bleep out the word “Bengali” if you feel like it comes up too much and it’s annoying. You know what? Start right now.

International Mother Language Day is supposed to be about your pride in your Mother Tongue, but so far, I have written nothing that suggests that. I do not comprehend the concept of pride in something that you had no merit in achieving. This is not the first time I am arriving at this conclusion, but maybe I am not the best person to write this piece. 

“I sing in Bengali; I sing the song of Bengal.” [1]

I grew up listening to Rabindra Sangeet and Nazrul Geeti. I was so fascinated by Bengali Literature that I would translate some works (albeit badly) so that my friends would understand. They listened to me patiently, with a smile, but I could tell they couldn’t figure out what the big deal was and what I was so excited about. One even admitted to feeling slightly lost and “not liking Tagore”. And that is when I felt my Bengali pride kick in. I said nothing, but I was filled with rage, and in hindsight, it was unreasonable and I am ashamed of it. You can’t expect someone who has only heard my horrible translations to appreciate Tagore. It was a knee-jerk reaction, and as ashamed of it as I am, it is still hard to control. This is what I am afraid will happen if I indulge in Bengali pride so much. Unwarranted Bengali Pride at that.

“I speak in Bengali; I speak of Bengal.” [1]

I have been stuck for a very long time. I remember asking a friend who is also a Bengali who grew up in Gujarat, what we really were. We can’t be considered Bengalis. Very often, my relatives have laughed at me for speaking like a “non-Bengali”. We can’t be considered Gujaratis, because we eat, speak and live differently. Our names don’t do us any favors. So where do we belong? Or do we belong nowhere? He… sort of, stared at a wall, opened and closed his mouth multiple times, and said nothing for a while. I think I broke him.
Adults confuse me too. They go from “Are you not a Bengali?” to “As if you are a Bengali” faster than you can say Heejibeejbeej.
Here’s a letter that fourteen-year-old Adrita wrote to her parents long, long ago. Of course, I made it up, but that doesn’t matter, because it says what I felt at that time.

Dear Mom and Dad,
I won’t have lunch today. Today was a disaster. They noticed I was a Bengali. They knew I was a Bengali because of my surname, but then something struck them, and then…then (heavy weeping) they looked at me with disgust and asked me if I eat non-vegetarian food.
And now, they avoid me for a whole new reason. Please do not draw more attention to the fact that we are Bengali when my friends come over. I do not like being shunned.
Yours sincerely,
<Insert embarrassing nickname that my parents call me but I know better than to put up on a public platform>

Of course, that did not happen. Not in quick succession at least. And they would not avoid me or shun me, but they would be less willing to accept anything that I offered them to eat anymore, which had never been a problem until the fact that I was a Bengali preceded any other characteristic of mine in their heads. Was I hard-done-by because of that? No. It was kind of nice. I would buy a cake from the school canteen, and they would think that the cake now has egg because I touched it. There were times when it was not so nice, like when we were looking for a new place to live, and we had a lot of trouble because of who we were and what we ate. I did spend most of my teen years thinking it was shameful to be the way I am. When we finally got a place, we had to lie about how we were “not like other Bengalis”. And as much as I tried to be more than just my ethnicity, it always lurked in the corner like a shadow. Frequently, it was at the forefront, when others introduced me, “That’s ABC, she dances well. That’s XYZ, she sings well. That’s Adrita, and she is…a Bengali.” Well, thank you, anonymous person who introduces everyone, now no one will know that I am good at making paper boats and setting them afloat in water and making them damp and tearing them to shreds. The world just missed out on so much talent and you are the reason.

“I love in Bengali; I love the land of Bengal.” [1]

When people hear that I am a Bengali they try to utter multiple hilariously incorrect variations of “Ami Tomake Bhalobaashi” i.e. I love you. I used to correct them, but now I just throw back my head and laugh. It is easier that way. Yeah, it’s annoying, but kudos for trying y’all. I love you too. And I am trying very hard to ignore the fact that the only time anyone has ever said that they love me is when they are trying to prove they can speak Bengali. I’ll be right back; I have to go cry over the zero gifts I received for Valentine’s Day.

Did I manage to convince you that you should be proud of your Mother Tongue? No?! Because I could not convince myself either LOL. To sum up, I was ashamed of my Mother Tongue because I feared that I would be othered. I was also reluctant to be proud of it because I feared I would be the one doing the othering. I think I wanted to write this piece for myself. To clear my own confusion. And I have not been very successful, so yeah stop booing at me, no one had fun…
But it’s not over yet, ladies, gentlemen, and others. When I say I have trouble being concise I mean it. What’s the deal with 21st February, though? Why do we celebrate International Mother Language Day on 21st February?

“The 21st of February, spattered with the blood of my brothers.
How can I ever forget the 21st of February?
The 21st of February, damp with the tears of a hundred childless mothers
How can I ever forget the 21st of February.” [2]

In 1948, the Government of the Dominion of Pakistan appointed Urdu as the only national language. Back then, East Bengal (present-day Bangladesh), which was contained in the Dominion of Pakistan, saw widespread protests since the majority there spoke Bengali. The Government banned public meetings and rallies because that is the logical thing to do (yes, sarcasm). However, in an act of defiance, the students of the University of Dhaka organized a protest on the 21st of February, 1952. The police opened fire and killed and injured many student activists. In 1956, the central government granted official status to the Bengali language. 21st February is therefore proclaimed to be the International Mother Language Day the world over, in honor of the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the sake of their Mother Tongue, 

You can afford to be cynical of ethnic pride when your identity isn’t under attack. In true human fashion, one only realizes what something is worth when someone else threatens to snatch it away from them, and until then, they are free to utter as much intellectualized jargon as they can to take it for granted. When I say I am proud of my Mother Tongue, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be proud of yours. I am proud of it because I understand it and relate to it and I am sure I would be fascinated by yours if I could understand and relate to yours in the same way.
I can’t convince you to be proud of your Mother Tongue. It is beyond me. But I can tell you this. I spent most of my sentient years ashamed of the language I speak at home and I also spent those years wallowing in a puddle of self-loathing. The best reason I can give you as to why you should love your Mother Tongue is the same people give you as to why you should love yourself. Your contempt for your Mother Tongue is in many ways an extension of how you feel about yourself. So, if people who are overly proud of their language and their ethnicity are arrogant bigots who have achieved nothing worth being proud of in life, you are not much better, sweetie, you hate yourself and that is not better.

Did I offend you? Because I kind of did offend myself. If there’s a petition to get back at me for what I wrote, please send it to me, I would like to sign it too. 

In conclusion, I would like to say, love your Mother Tongue because it is part of you. Rather reductive. I really hoped I could have gone on a “Michael” Madhusudan Datta-esque journey in this and discovered that I am proud of my roots and what not but this probably just turned out to be a teenage girl being pretentious. Speaking of pretentious here’s another letter nineteen-year-old Adrita wrote to her parents today.

Dear Maa and Baba,
Thank you for keeping me in touch with my roots. I know it’s very random, but there’s this thing I was writing. I know you are mad at me; I’ll go have lunch.
Yours sincerely,
<Nope, still not proud of that name>
[1] Translated lyrics from the song ‘Ami Banglay Gaan Gaai’ by Pratul Mukhopadhyay.
[2] Translated lyrics from the song ‘Ekushe February’ by Abdul Gaffar Choudhury.

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Government India News Republic Day social

Current Political Scenario of India

This isn’t a political opinion but a commentary on the current scenario of India. So it should be treated as an account of my observation and not opinion. 

It is no revelation that agriculture is the largest contributor to the Indian economy. Since its inception, the Indian government used to guarantee MSP for certain crops, hence, providing financial security to the farmers. While the new laws claim to give them more freedom to buy and sell directly indicating the privatisation of the whole economy, they are contentious and might leave farmers worse off conversely. So, essentially, a major portion of the vote bank of India is on roads, protesting against these laws since November. Needless to say, protests are never absolutely peaceful amidst the irony of a “democratic” set-up. Negotiations haven’t led the situation anywhere but a deadlock. In fact, the mediation committee formed by the Supreme Court has also faced disappointment and rejection by the unions and parties. On top of that, around 18 parties have boycotted the President’s address to express solidarity with the protesting farmers.

Not long ago, on the occasion of Republic Day, protesters broke barriers, clashed with the police and entered into Delhi. Thousands of tractors driven by protesters thrashed their way into the parade. A group of protesters then marched towards the Red Fort and hoisted a religious flag a few hours after the ceremony. Some unions have been accused of conspiring this whole menace. Handful of leaders have taken responsibility while the others have either accused the other leaders of sabotaging the agitation or have distanced themselves. Tear gas, flashbangs, sticks and fatalities were seen on both sides of the protest. The count of injuries and lawsuits is astonishing. 

Now, the image of the Nishaan Sahib flag fluttering higher than the Tiranga was sacrilege to every Indian irrespective of their economic inclination or political affiliations. I can’t deny that the detour could have been planned and conspired in order to discredit the “peaceful” protest guaranteed by the leaders but the consequences were disastrous. Nonetheless, the protest received a massive blow and lost the citizenry’s support to a great extent. 

My question is- Was it required? And what did it prove? Except insulting the national holiday. 

Sighs

Drastically low in magnitude as compared to the Republic Day incident, still terrible, another controversy has surfaced recently. 

Among the ongoing media uproar, when some “celebrities” decided to step in and give their two cents on the issue, they took Twitter by a storm. The most prominent personality to bear the brunt of constant bashing was pop star icon Rihanna who tweeted about internet shutdowns in Delhi post the riots on 26th January. Well, Human rights violation is incomprehensible except in the Indian context, of course. 

Swedish child environmentalist Greta Thunberg followed the suit by tweeting about the protests and uploading a ‘toolkit’ about how people can join the protests. The document had several resources to mobilise people against farm laws. It also contained a detailed plan about hashtags like #askindiawhy, #farmersprotest, and #worldiswatching with specific dates where they trended and would trend. A lot of people are being seen ridiculing Delhi Police for filing a case against Greta Thunberg which is simply not true. The Police have clarified that they’ve registered a case against the makers of the document and not Greta. While she deleted the tweet later, she responded to the Twitter bashing by saying that she is “still” supporting the farmers and “no amount of threats” will change that. This, however, begs the question as to why Greta deleted the previous tweet at all. Both sides are so strong (weak rather) that one verdict just doesn’t seem plausible enough.

Even the former adult film star Mia Khalifa tweeted about the protests, questioning internet shutdowns. As this war continued to rage, The Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement saying, “the temptation of sensationalist social media hashtags and comments, especially when resorted to by celebrities and others, is neither accurate nor responsible”, which makes absolute sense. I wonder if these international celebrities know the ground reality or even the exact reason behind the protests. I am pretty sure that they have no idea about 11 rounds of talks that the government has held with the leaders of the farmers’ unions, along with its decision to suspend the farm laws for 18 months and hold talks with farmers to tweak the laws as per their convenience. But I also wonder as to who gave the authority to the propagandists to question their opinions. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions.

It is surprising how the largest democracy in the world is being desecrated by illusionists and anti-social elements fueling controversies instead of solutions. I do not condone the mindlessness and misinformed opinions on sensitive issues such as this. It seems only logical that people must ascertain the facts properly and try to understand the issue at hand before rushing to make comments.

People have taken “ignorance is bliss” too seriously. The need of the hour is research, negotiation, and settlement, and not publicity stunts. 

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India Republic Day Thoughts

Patriotism

Author: Aaditya

“We, the People of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic…”

Note: This is an entitled rant from a teenage boy who is probably not in the best headspace. Proceed with caution 🙂

Despite all the jokes and, dare I say, stereotypes that are spread about NRIs (non-resident Indians), especially involving those who stay in the Gulf (Gelf, to be politically correct), the experiences of Indians who grow up outside India are not very unlike those of the ‘proper’ Indians. We eat the same kind of food, consume the same kind of media content, mingle with the same kind of people — you get the point. 

There are obviously some differences. There is one particular stark difference that I would like to point out — Patriotism. As weird and paradoxical as it may sound, people who’ve lived and grown up outside the country are in general more patriotic — not nationalistic, not jingoistic, but patriotic. Perhaps, a sense of being away from the ‘homeland’ strengthens the values associated with patriotism. Or, these values are instilled by people (parents, relatives in India, the government) as some sort of a retention scheme for NRIs. Another possibility is that because one meets people from different parts of India as well as the world, it helps understand and appreciate India’s culture and heritage better. 

Personally, I consider myself as a very patriotic person. There always is an inexplicable warm, fuzzy, yet searing feeling in my chest when I sing the national anthem. A similar yet different feeling when my flight lands in India. And, when I see something even remotely Indian on any media platform, like an Indian actor in a Hollywood movie, or someone of Indian origin in any walk of life. 

I used to be patriotic, at least. Perhaps the definition of patriotism has changed, and it now revolves around support for the government and nationalism. Or, a certain age appropriate ‘woke-ness’ and increased exposure to media and information has made me question this very sentiment. 

What am I really proud of? The deplorable state of the poorest in the country? The clear lack of freedom of speech and expression, for those whose voice needs to be heard? Caste based discrimination and violence, communal unrest, misinformation, the list goes on. From our positions of privilege, it is probably difficult to empathise, as we live fairly comfortable lives, where our voices and concerns are heard, and not every day is a struggle. But we must ask ourselves — how much are we willing to tolerate and how much are we willing to ignore? Where do we draw a line?

On this Republic Day, a day which honours the essence of our country and its democracy — the constitution, let us look back at the fulcrum of the constitution, the preamble, and along with it the rest of the longest constitution in the world, and try to uphold the values that it stands for. 

I wish you a very Happy Republic Day

Jai Hind! 

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The Connectivity

Author: Nishkarsh

What if I tell you to go from SJT to TT via the outdoor stadium? Ever wondered what an arbitrary line on the map could do to lives on the ground? This is what happened to North-Eastern India in 1947. West Garo Hills in Assam (now Meghalaya) and Hili in Bengal (now West Bengal) were just 80 kilometers apart, but today the distance between the two is more than 1500 kilometers. After the partition, India lost its railway and road infrastructure to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Most of the NE states are still not connected adequately by the railways, and some places can only be accessed by a helicopter. This makes daily life very expensive in the region. Similar to transport, network connectivity is not excellent either. This further isolates the area from the mainstream nation. But with time, things are changing, and lives are getting better in the region.

The strategic angle

The Siliguri Corridor in West Bengal connects the North East to the rest of India. The corridor is as narrow as 22 kilometers, which is a big hurdle to connectivity. It is called “the chicken neck corridor,” a strategic choke-point, and could be attacked by enemy forces to cut the rest of India and North Eastern India apart in case of escalation in the future. North-Eastern states have been fighting the Chinese sponsored insurgency for a long time now. The separatists in Nagaland, Tripura, Manipur, and Mizoram have cooled down and joined the leading stream society as things get better day by day. But some extreme elements still exist on the Chinese payroll to destabilize the region.

What now?

While there was slow development in the region for decades, the area witnessed a rapid development boost in logistic and industrial infrastructure in recent years. Indian Railways has stated that by 2023 all the North-Eastern states would be well connected by the Railway, and many more projects are underway. 

Previously, India adopted the “Look East” policy, which has now been upgraded to “Act East.” Under this, India is set to take rigorous steps to trade with ASEAN nations at a higher level. There are many big projects underway to boost development in NE. One of the most anticipated projects is the “Kaladan Multi-Modal Project.” A multi-billion dollar project to connect Kolkata and Mizoram. Under this project, India has taken Sittwe port on lease from Myanmar. From there, Mizoram is going to be joined by road and inland water transport from Sittwe. This new multi-mode project would reduce our dependency on the chicken neck corridor and open an alternate route to NE in case of war. India is heading to develop a Special Economic Corridor for Myanmar, which connects Mizoram and Manipur to Myanmar, and eventually connects them to Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.

This October, a riverine transport system was started between Tripura and Bangladesh, and a railway project connecting Tripura and West Bengal via Bangladesh is under progress. Another similar road project is proposed to enhance the connectivity between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, via Bhutan. 

Things are going to change soon. The Seven sisters will soon have a new gateway to the rest of India.