Brahumdagh Bugti: Spearheading the Baloch movement

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation from the Red Fort on Independence Day, a new word caught the attention of mainstream India. While Pakistan has been criticizing India for spurring the Balochistan movement, no Indian Prime Minister has retaliated in any kind but refusing the claim, until Modi. He spoke of the human right violations, mass killings and disappearances in the western province of Balochistan. The troubled province, then found a voice in the world’s largest democracy.

Following the assertion by Modi, India  raised the issue of the Balochistan movement, for the first time ever in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). With a packed international calendar, and Sushma Swaraj addressing the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in a couple of days, India’s new-found voice is expected to create some repercussions in its relationship with the neighboring Pakistan.

Leading Balochistan’s freedom movement is Brahumdagh Bugti, the President of Baloch Republican Party and the grandson of Akbar Bugti, the Baloch nationalist leader who fought for the separation of the Balochistan state.  He took over from the senior Bugti, and went into exile in Afghanistan and has reportedly survived two assassination attempts by Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and has been under the constant surveillance of the intelligence agency of Pakistan.

He made the headlines this week for formally approaching India seeking asylum not only for himself but for the people of Balochistan as well. In an exclusive interview to a digital news website, Bagti said, “myself, my family and other people from Balochistan for whom we are requesting that Indian open its doors.”

While he is currently located in Switzerland, he has previously formally requested for political asylum in both 2011 and 2016. He has said that he feels like he has been put in an “golden cage” where his security has been assured but he has not been able to meet leaders from Europe due to lack of travel documents.

He also remarked that while a few other Balochistan leaders have been granted asylum in countries like France and Geneva, he has not been able to secure asylum and is dependent on India to do justice to his cause. Some media reports suggest that he has applied for an Indian passport in 2015, while a few others claim that he already held an Indian passport by 2010.

While Modi’s open support has helped the Balochistan movement and Bugti in particular by showing the world that they have the support of the world’s largest democracy, the bigger question is if this blantant show of support will come to bite India.

 

Sources: The News Minute, Times of India

Cauvery Issue: Understanding why Bengaluru was burnt

The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal was formed twenty-six years ago to settle the water dispute tussle between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Seventeen years after its formation, in 2007, the Tribunal came out with its final verdict. It pronounced that Tamil Nadu would be entitled to 12 km³ of water from the Cauvery river, while Karnataka should legally receive 7.6 km³ of water from the river. At that point in time, Karnataka was releasing only 5.6 km³ of water to the feuding neighbor.

Protests erupted in the state of Karnataka, with a state-wise bandh called by the Kannada Rakshana Vedike, a self-confessed pro-Kannadiga group, supported by 30-odd powerful trade unions. The bandh steeped into sectarian violence, with every social entity,  from corner kiosks to million-dollar information technology enterprises, being shut down. Air and train services were disrupted, buses were burnt, bringing the state to a standstill. While the political games continued, monsoon came to the rescue of Tamil Nadu, putting an interim break to public agitation over the issue.

Nine years have passed and the stalemate continues, with both the states refusing to budge or give in. After reassuming power for the second consecutive time, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa filed a petition on behalf of the state in August this year with the Supreme Court, urging Karnataka to release water as per mandate. The Supreme Court (SC) in response to the petition ordered that Karnataka release water and said that the Karnataka government should “live and let live.” Karnataka, though dissatisfied, complied with the order and started releasing water, but on the other hand, pressure from the political circles and the public mounted.

The Karnataka Chief Minister Siddharamaiah filed a petition with the SC to stay the order. While the SC refused to stay the order, it reduced water to be released from 15,000 cusecs to 12,000 cusecs. This leads to a repeat of 2007.

Mobs attacked businesses with Tamil Names in Bengaluru. Over 30 busses of the private bus operator KPN were burnt down. Violence also erupted on the Bengaluru-Mysuru Highway.

“The first incident of arson was reported from NICE road, Electronics City around 11.30am when miscreants set a goods truck of Tamil Nadu registraion on fire. Four more trucks, all from Tamil Nadu, were set ablaze in Nayandanahalli Junction and a mob attacked policemen who tried to stop them,” read a Times of India report. In retaliation, the police opened fire, and two people have reportedly lost their lives in the violence that ensued.

The Central government sent around 1,000 anti-riot personnel and around 10 companies of Border Security Force and Indo-Tibetian border police to both the states. While Siddharamaiah and his counterpart J.Jayalalithaa wrote angry letters to each other, Section 144 was imposed in Bengaluru city, Mandya, Mysuru, Srirangapatna and near four dams in the Cauvery basin.

On the other side of the border, people from Karnataka were mobbed, businesses operated by people from the state vandalized. Memes and posts against Sandalwood actors went viral, and petrol bombs were hurled at a popular restaurant under the Udupi banner in Chennai.

Over the years, nature of monsoon alone has given the people from both the states a break from continuing the violence. Important questions arise from this socio-political issue that has created an “uneasy disposition” in both the states. History traces those incidents of mob violence as uncontrollable only when it has been planned by institutions of authority. Are the parties in power refusing to sit down to settle the stalemate, in a bid to gain political sympathy?

Deepa Malik: The phoenix who rose from a wheelchair

Forty-five year old Deepa Malik scripted history by becoming India’s first woman to win a Paralympics medal by hurling to a distance of 4.31m in the shot put F-35 event. But these numbers do no justice to Deepa’s attitude of embracing life and overcoming tribulations like just another routine.

Paralysed from the chest down in the year 2000, Deepa was among the rare few who anticipated the paralysis and started making preparations to adapt to the situation and not be bogged down by it. Her condition required her to undergo three major spinal cord injuries, accruing to over 153 stitches on her lower back alone. After the third such surgery, it became clear that she would be wheel-chair bound for the rest of her life.

“She was determined never to let it affect her. In the weeks leading up to the surgery, she began getting our house made wheelchair friendly,” describes Devika, Deepa’s daughter to the Indian Express, recalling her mother’s will.  Married to a Colonel in the army, the Arjuna awardee refused to take the help of her parents, after a certain period, wanting to show the world that being disabled physically should not necessarily stop one from wanting to live the life they want to.

In her growing years, Deepa was an active sports woman. She represented her home-state Rajasthan in both cricket and basketball till she was about 24. While she suffered her first stroke at the age of eight, it did not surface again till she was 26. By then, doctors had given a grim warning stating that she either undergo surgery or succumb to injuries.

Her family members, in the various interviews, describe her as a “highly driven” person who always chooses the way that might not seem the easiest way out but those that are likely to yield the best of results.  While people doubted her ability to lead a life without help, her role as a mother and a wife, there was little “deterrence in her positive attitude,” explains her daughter.

The disability, in a way, brought her focus back to sports with swimming being one of her most important daily-routine. She started her training for shot-put and javelin thrown in 2006, while simultaneously successfully running a restaurant in Mumbai.

She finished sixth in shot-put in the Commonweath Games held in Delhi. She won a bronze and graduated to silver in the Para Asian Games in 2010 and 2014 respectively. After a long struggle, she was the first Indian  to receive a license for invalid (modified) rally vehicle, with which she eventually transverse the Raid-de-Himalaya in 2009 and Desert Storm in 2010.

“I am permanently on a wheelchair and cannot even take a step. But I always find myself running with lightening pace in dreams and only because of that am I adding more and more medals at the international arena,” says Deepa, after winning the medal to Hindustan Times, with her eyes firmly set on 2017 World Para athletic championships.

 

Why this GSLV MkII launch was important for India?

As the GSLV MkII rocket-propelled into the skies, carrying the two-tonne advanced weather communication satellite INSAT -3DR carrying, nervous scientists at the Satish Dhawan Space Station at Sriharikota had to wait with bated breath for a whole of 17 minutes. The end of the long-seeming wait saw the scripting of a new chapter in the history of space research of the country.

 

Marking the seventh successful launch of the year from the Sriharikota station, the Indian Space and Research Organisation (ISRO successfully hurled the two –tonne weather communication satellite and placed it in the respective orbit, with the help of indigenously developed satellite-launcher.  The launch added much credibility to India’s claim of being a ‘reliable’ launcher, with this launch adding the first operational flight to a series of previously successful developmental flights.

 

To put it simply, the cryogenic rockets are all set to move to the fully-operational phase from the test phase and will now be able to project itself as one among the small group of elite nations that are considered to be reliable in successfully launching communication satellites. The launch is likely to reduce dependency on foreign launchers to place our indigenous satellites in the orbit, unlike many a time in the past.

 

“If you are able to build on top of what we’ve built PSLV commercialisation and make it more attractive, there is a possibility that the Indian industry can also gain in this global opportunity. We are looking at the possibility of whether that Indian industry plus ISRO whether they can launch the first vehicle in 2020,” said a senior official of ISRO to Business Standard.

 

The ISRO has invested more than two decades to reach a point where it has GSLV fleet at its disposal.

Since the dawn of the millennium, the organisation has launched ten GSLVs i n total– six with a cryogenic engine supplied by Russia and three with the indigenously developed cryogenic engine. While the first flight of GSLV made with indigenous resources, launched in in April 2010 failed, the last three launches, including the latest INSAT have all been successful flights.

 

“A significant amount of R&D is going on to ensure that critical alloys and materials are taken up. If you take the PSLV we get 8 per cent of its critical materials from outside.We are continuously identifying those items and raw materials and working towards them. We are putting in place specific programmes to overcome their requirement,” said A.S.Kiran Kumar to The Hindu, adding that there is scope for improvement and that it is a continuous process.

 

 

 

 

 

The INSAT-3D satellite, which is to operate till 2021, comes attached with an atmospheric sound system. It records changes in humidity, temperature and ozone content in Earth’s atmosphere. It comes fitted with search and rescue responder, a function that is used to point at the location of distressed vessels in the sea.

 

While pricing and export conditions are to be kept in mind by ISRO, technological constraints and agreements with the governments are also to be kept in mind. Irrespective of regulations in the foreign countries, regulations within India must also be reworked upon for commercialization to reach the target that the ISRO has set.

Remembering the tenure of India’s “rock star economist”

Minutes after taking oath as the 23rd Governor of Reserve Bank of India, Raghuram Rajan did something that no other Governor in the past had done. He wrote a letter, addressed to the various stakeholders, enlisting his priorities and what he hoped to achieve during his tenure.

Taking a break from academics, while he was teaching at the Booth School of Economics in Chicago, Rajan began his tenure in September 2013, at a time when India was facing policy paralysis, and market turbulence, with the prices of even essential commodities hitting the roof. On assuming office, he listed reducing the soaring inflation, improving the foreign exchange reserves and formulating a universal and a transparent licensing for the new banks that are to be set up.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) which was which was 9.52 per cent in August 2013, dropped to 5.42 per cent in 2016, was ably aided by the RBI policies and the dip in global commodity market prices. When Rajan took over, India’s foreign exchange reserves were the lowest since 2010, with the Indian rupee rising to Rs.69 per dollar.

In order to improve the foreign reserves, Rajan offered to the banks to swap currencies at discounted rates. This encouraged commercial banks to sell their own reserves, raising the currency reserve to $34 billion. At the end of his three-year tenure, the reserves have raised from $249 billion in September 2013 to $359.76 billion as of April 1, 2016, reported The Wire.

Not only did two banks, Bandhan and IDFC attained licensed status during his tenure, licensing for “differentiated banks,” was also formulated.  Eleven new licenses were given to these “differentiated banks” which includes both custodian and wholesale banks, of which at least five will begin operations next year.

During his many interviews, talks and panel discussions, the former RBI governor spoke out, quite sternly about the big bad corporate debt, and how they are affecting the Indian economy, without paying any price for it. Cleaning up these willful defaulters, which is not entirely the duty of the RBI, is a work that began with the restructuring of debts rule but much work still remains in this particular area, reads a Livemint report. His stance on inflation and interest rates has been criticized by many. Commentators and the present government in particular has called him out for his “restrictive monetary policy.”

“In September 2015, Rajan and chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian (who were both colleagues once at the IMF) issued apparently contradictory public statements. Rajan at the time was still hesitant to cut interest rates even though retail inflation had fallen to 3.8%. Subramanian, on the other, worried that “in terms of the prices measured by national income accounts, we are closer to deflation territory,” points Anuj Srinivas, a senior business journalist in an article.

 

Apart from the monetary and the economic policies, Rajan has starred in many controversies during his three-year term. From his open criticism of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet scheme Make-in-India, to saying that “debate and openness” laid foundation of the country, referring to the mainstream intolerance narrative, Rajan has been outspoken on the issues that the country had to deal with. His vocal criticism about how India should not be a “one-eyed man” in light of how India should not be happy with its current state, given the global economic slowdown.

Never before in the history of India has there been a huge public outcry and discussion revolving around a RBI Governor. Raghuram Rajan signs off as India’s most popular RBI Governor. However, it is also the first time in twenty years that an RBI governor did not extension.

The curious stories behind Indian states and their name changes

The Legislative Assembly of West Bengal recently passed a resolution to change the name of the State to Bengal in English and Bangla in Bengali. The Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool Congress did not succeed in winning the consent of Congress, the Left Front and the Bharatiya Janata Party for the name change resolution, but managed to pass it after a vigorous debate in the assembly.

While the state legislature has passed the resolution, under Rule 169, the consent of the Parliament is required to complete the process of name change.  However, this is not the first time that the state has pushed for a name change. In 1999, when the Left government was in power, it passed a resolution to rename the state to Bangla. When Banerjee first came to power in 2011, her government passed a resolution to change the name of the state to Paschim Banga, in both Bengali and English. While both these instances saw the resolution being passed unanimously in the state legislature, it was rejected at the central level.

West Bengal’s Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee, a multi-disciplinary scholar, who has moved the motion for a name change this time around, has reasoned that the name change is pertinent to provide the state to speak right after Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, instead of voicing their opinion as the last state, according to the alphabetical list. This was allegedly pushed forward by the ruling party, after their leader Mamata Banerjee had to wait for over six hours at the recently concluded inter-state meeting. The parties in Opposition are citing that the name change would not push the state upwards in the ladder of development.

Here is a list of states whose names have been changed in the past:

Uttaranchal to Uttrakhand:

When the States Reorganisation Committee formed the state under BJP leadership in 1998, the Centre decided to name the state Uttaranchal. However, this did not sit well with the local population and activists who fought under the banner of Uttarakhand Sangharsh Samiti. It is said that the BJP, to take credit for the formation of the state, and in order to not project it as a victory of the activists. In 2006, with the Congress in power at the Centre, the resolution for the name changed was passed by the Parliament.

Orissa to Odisha:

Following the prolonged lobbying by the BJP, the once east-coastal state of Orissa was renamed to Odisha in 2009. The party based their fight for the name change on the premise of a 15th century vedic text that said, “land of the Odiya, named Odisha.” They also argued for the name change citing that one of the state’s famous poet Gajapati Kapileswaradeva referred to the rule in the state as “Odisa Rajya,” in his carvings on the walls of the infamous Jagannath temple.

Madras to Tamil Nadu:

The Sangam literature referred to the geographical area Madras, christened by the British colonialists as Tamilagam. It did not matter, given the that the state was formed right after independence as the political ideology was not yet clear, and having a foreign name suited the state just fine. But the Dravidian movement that spread across the geographical area in the early 60s, after the dismantling of the multilingual Tamil Nadu. Both the Dravidian parties – DK and DMK lead the cry for the state  to be called Tamil Nadu, translating to “Home of Tamils.”

Mysore to Karnataka:

The area that makes up today’s Karnataka were under twenty different administrative units. Princely state of Mysuru, Nizam’s Hyderabad, The Bombay Presidency, The Madras Presidency and The territory of Kodagu are a few states that constituted the state. The state was renamed Karnataka in 1976 as the geographical boundaries now included the area that weren’t under the Mysore province, and in order to create a sense of identity on the basis of language, the state was renamed Karnataka.

 

Placing ‘seals’ on hiring wombs

A BBC report estimates that the surrogacy industry in India is estimated to be $2.3billion worth, and that over 6,000 babies are born of surrogate mothers every year. Not only was it easier for the rest of the world to find willing Indian wombs, it is also the added advantage of the quality of medical treatment available in the country that makes India an attractive surrogacy destination. Without any law to bind, the surrogate mothers and the medical centers that often played the mediator between the prospective parent/parents and the surrogate, operated with no restrictions.

Foreigners and Indians who were single, homosexual, heterosexual, live-in partners, who were parents already, were all free to hire a womb, in return for monetary benefit of the surrogate, in most cases. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is aligned with the Hindu right wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS), known for its conservative ideologies has drafted a new bill to regulate the surrogacy scenario in India, by placing seals and various terms and conditions on renting an Indian womb.

Here is what you should know about the new draft bill that the cabinet cleared on 24th August.

What kind of surrogacy is legal in India?

The new draft bill legalizes only altruistic surrogacy. In a bid to curb the exploitation of surrogate mothers, through the bill the government proposes a ban on commercial surrogacy. This means that one cannot hire a womb, and should not pay in cash or kind (except the medical and insurance expenses). Also, one can only approach a close relative to be a surrogate mother. The bill allows one person to play the role of a surrogate only once.

Who are all eligible to opt for surrogacy?

Only Indian heterosexual couples who have been married for five years and are declared infertile, are allowed to opt for surrogacy in India. Foreign nationals, homosexuals, single parents are barred from opting for surrogacy as it is against ‘Indian ethos’, as said by Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj.

How is the government planning to regulate surrogacy?

A National Surrogacy Board will be established by the government at the central level, headed by the health minister, and State Surrogacy Boards will also be set-up appointing appropriate authorities in the states and union territories. A statement released by the government states that there will be ‘microscopic’ inspection of clinics that offer surrogacy services.

Why is this bill controversial?

The definition of the term ‘family’ comes into scanner, as not only are live-in and homosexual couples barred from opting for it, even single parents are not allowed to avail the service. Also, the bill mandates that prospective parents can approach only close relatives for surrogacy. The bill does not define ‘close’ in terms of relationships. While the bill has stated that it will establish regulatory boards both at national and state levels, given the Indian population, it will might need a stricter structure in place. Apart from all this, it leads to a loss of over $2.3 billion, a majority of which comes in the form of foreign currency.