In a shocking incident a pedestrian was shot dead by a policeman in charge of security at the Bangladesh High Commission. The policeman committed suicide after the murder. The incident caused a stir in the Park Circus in Kolkata. The incident took place in front of Bangladesh High Commission in Benia Pukur police station area of Kolkata. Three people were killed in the incident.
The security guard was working at the outpost of Bangladesh Deputy High Commission in Park Circus Seven Point area of Kolkata. Witnesses claim that the policeman fired randomly with his service rifle at noon. At that time, a woman was riding an online bike cab through the area. The middle-aged woman was shot in the back by the policeman. Witnesses said a biker was also shot. The security guard then shot himself in the neck with his rifle.
According to police sources, the security guard belonged to the 5th Battalion of the Kolkata Police Arm force. Chandu Lepcha is a resident of North East. He was on leave for several days. The policeman was reported to be depressed even before going on leave. On Friday, the security guard joined the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission outpost in the morning. The Additional Commissioner of Calcutta Police said he fired 15 rounds with his ASLR rifle. Kolkata police have started an investigation into what happened. The CCTV footage of that time and the information of the mobile phone of the deceased policeman are being examined.
Meanwhile, due to protest against Nupur Sharma’s remarks, a gathering was held at Parkcircus premises since morning. A shooting took place just 50 meters away from the Bangladesh High Commission on Friday afternoon. After the incident, unrest was spread in the area. However, police said there was no connection between the two incidents. Due to the protests on the one hand, and the unrest of the shootings on the other – the Parkcircus Seven Point crossing was blocked.
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An elite force can do well without criminal elements
Ever since the government announced the Agnipath scheme, a lot of undisciplined protestors have taken to the streets. In a democratic country, anyone is well within their rights to protest against any action of the government. However, the outright hooliganism, destruction of public property and rioting by protestors are not just condemnable but also prove a serious lack of discipline in pressing for their cause. Potential candidates for recruitment into the elite defence service are expected to protest in a civilized manner. By burning down trains and resorting to violence, these protestors are making a case against themselves on how they are unfit to don the elite uniform. The hooliganism and anarchy on display in the streets are enough to debar these protestors from the candidature. An elite force ready to make the supreme sacrifice for the sake of the nation can do well without these criminal elements destroying public property.
The Agnipath scheme is an effective initiative by the government aimed at structural reforms in the armed forces. The defence budget of India has been increased by the Modi government from 2.53 lakh crores in 2014 to 5.25 lakh crores in 2022. Unlike the earlier wars that the Indian army fought and won, the warfare of the future will be primarily a contest of technological prowess. The Modi government has displayed proactiveness in procuring the best available technology to arm the country with an effective deterrent. In a security apparatus dominated by technology, youthful dynamic foot-soldiers well-versed with the latest technology and sheer muscle power are a requisite. A proper meritocratic system where the best talents are retained for a longer-term would ensure that the army gets the best of the best foot on the ground to protect our borders. The Agnipath scheme backed by the three service chiefs would ensure an enhanced youthful profile of the force and result in the reduction of average age from 32 to 26 years over a period of time. A youthful profile for the defence forces will lead to increased dynamism, competitiveness to be retained for the long haul and optimal utilization of the defence budget. The tech-heavy jawan of the future will require multiple skillsets to guard our borders and Agniveers would be ideal for this technological revolution. The world is moving into an era where drones and robotic technology will slowly replace manual interventions. The soldiers of the future need to be dynamic and adaptable to the changes in technology. Cyber warfare is emerging as a huge threat and India has been ramping up its cyber assets toward this end. While the earlier reforms in defence were necessitated by adverse situations or wars, the Modi government has proactively optimized defence without the need for external circumstances. It is notable that the past 75 years have seen 2 reorganisation exercises apart from a few administrative revamps in the wake of Kargil and Op Parakram. The two reorganisations were around the 1960s after the debacle of the 1962 war and following the KV Krishna Rao committee of 1975. The current average age of uniformed officers can be attributed to the recruiting spree following 1962 and the increase in retirement ages. The manpower-heavy recruitment of prior decades was justifiable.
With the Agnipath initiative, the Modi Government in a single stroke recruits dynamism and youthfulness into our armed forces while also calibrating the defence structure in line with new theatres of war. The misinformation regarding this move has fuelled a spate of protests across the country as if Agnipath isn’t in the interest of the country. Whether the vandalism on the streets is by candidates or are the vested interests trying to take advantage by creating a crisis situation, needs to be investigated. The Modi government with the Agnipath scheme has continued to live up to its reputation of biting the bullet on vital reforms. Whether it’s section 370 of J&K or GST or Defence reforms, the Modi government is making good use of its majority, which the Indian citizens handed to the BJP. India always needed a strong decision-maker and reformer and India has got one.
The author is BJP spokesperson, advisor to former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, and executive director of Maharashtra Village Social Transformation Foundation, a Section 8 Company of the Maharashtra government.
THE TRAGEDY OF SANJAY GANDHI
On the occasion of his 42nd death anniversary, we peep into the life of one of the most controversial political characters of our time.
Sanjay Gandhi was the second son of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was widely believed to be the next heir to her mother’s chair, just like his mother had occupied her father Jawahar Lal Nehru’s chair after his death. There were unconfirmed stories floating around that Mrs Gandhi was grooming her younger son, Sanjay, who was keen to join politics, for the PM’s chair after her. Rajiv, the elder brother and a pilot with Indian Airlines, preferred to lead a quiet domestic life away from the limelight.
Sanjay started his career as Managing Director of a company called Maruti Motors Limited, founded by the Government of India to produce a people’s car in 1971. The 25-year-old Sanjay becoming the Managing Director of a newly formed motor company, having no prior experience to his credit, attracted several accusations of nepotism and corruption from the political class as well the general public. The 1971 victory of Bangladesh liberation that year silenced all the noise against corruption. Significantly, the company under Sanjay Gandhi produced no vehicle till 1975.
After the imposition of the emergency in the country on 26 June 1975, without having any elected official position, Sanjay Gandhi had become the de-facto power centre in the Prime Minister’s office as his mother Indira Gandhi’s adviser, usurping all the draconian powers of the Emergency, as basic fundamental rights of the citizens were suspended. It was rumoured that the government was run by Sanjay and his friends, called the ‘coterie’, who ran the PMO, from the PM’s house, instead of from the PMO authorized officials of bureaucracy. Sanjay declared a five-point programme, which included the abolition of dowry and family planning. Sanjay and his cronies were dreaded names who had terrorized the whole country.
Sanjay was sent to the best schools in India and abroad, but he didn’t enter a university. Instead, he decided to learn automotive engineering, spending three years at the Rolls-Royce automaker in England, as he was very much interested in sports cars. His other interest was in aircraft acrobatics, for which he had obtained his pilot’s license in 1976. He often used to take off from the Safdarjung flying club for his acrobatics practices. On the morning of 23 June 1980, Sanjay Gandhi took off for his acrobatic practice in a new Pitts S-2A aircraft from the Safdarjung airports’ flying club, accompanied by his instructor, Subhash Saxena.
Minutes later his plane crashed over Chanakyapuri while attempting a dangerous acrobatic maneuver, killing Sanjay and his instructor instantly. Their mutilated bodies were taken to RML Hospital for stitching before handing over to their respective families.
Sanjay was the first one of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s family to meet a violent death. Four years later, Sanjay’s mother was next to meet a violent death, on 31 October 1984, when she was killed by the bullets of her security guards after Operation Blue Star in June of the same year. About seven years later, Rajiv Gandhi, the last surviving member of Indira’s family and himself a former Prime Minister, was the last one to die a violent death, in a bomb attack by an LTTE woman while campaigning for elections for a Lok Sabha seat near Chennai on the night of 21 May 1991. Within a span of 11 years, all members of Mrs Indira Gandhi’s family were wiped out in violent deaths. Mrs Gandhi used to get advised by tantrics, astrologers and swamis, but no one had ever predicted that her whole family would be wiped out in such violent deaths in such a short period.
THE SECOND DECADE: THE ‘IFS’ AND ‘BUTS’ OF NUTRITION
One of the systematic reviews, which looks at 25 different research studies from different countries in the world, found that most adolescents have inadequate fruit and vegetable intake.
An ironical co-occurrence continues to persist in India, of under and over-nutrition. Globally, this is referred to as a double burden of malnutrition—the coexistence of under-nutrition along with obesity or the nutrition-related non-communicable disease. Few of the recent studies conducted among school-going adolescents from Punjab and Uttar Pradesh talk about the coexistence of the two, indicating poor eating habits and nutritional inadequacies that lead to obesity and diet-related diseases in later years.
The second decade of life is a period of rapid growth and development for adolescents’ bodies, minds and social relationships. This is also the life period during which the vast majority of boys and girls end their formal schooling, try to make a permanent or semi-permanent vocational selection and adjustment, and attempt to establish themselves as independent and self-reliant units in society, politically and socially as well as economically. Nurturing the second decade has been a longstanding appeal from the World Health Organization. But nothing comes without ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ when one talks about the adolescents of today. They are more independent and have their food choices as per their understanding and convenience. They tend to eat more meals away from home than the younger children. And last but not the least, they are heavily influenced by their peers. While there is little information about dietary patterns and current time trends in adolescents; the available data seem to show that the tendency in the adolescent population worldwide is to increase those dietary factors that are linked with obesity development. One of the systematic reviews, which looks at 25 different research studies from different countries in the world found that most adolescents have inadequate fruit and vegetable intake. One study from India estimated that 97% of girls had inadequate fruit intake and one out of 5 adolescent girls reported eating fast and convenience foods.
Lifestyle plays an important role in the overall development of adolescents. Triggered by a complex mix of marketing, social, and economic policies, nutrition transition in India is associated with a significant change in the lifestyle and dietary habits in urban India. The transition in dietary patterns among children is driven partly by demand (increased income and reduced time to prepare food) and partly by supply-side factors (increased production, promotion and marketing of processed foods and foods high in fat, salt and sugar). Proliferating multinational fast food companies have influenced both the rural and urban areas wherein traditional home-cooked meals are being replaced with easy-to-cook, ready-to-eat, and processed foods.
Nutrient requirements – including those for energy, protein, iron, calcium, and others – increase in adolescence to support adequate growth and development. Sound nutrition can play a role in the prevention of several chronic diseases, including obesity, coronary heart disease, certain types of cancer, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. The low intake of a healthy diet, particularly iron and calcium-rich foods among adolescent girls is a matter of huge concern. Iron deficiency can impair cognitive function and physical performance, and inadequate calcium intake may increase fracture risk during adolescence and the risk of developing osteoporosis in later life. The impact of nutritional status on the occurrence, morbidity and mortality patterns in infectious diseases like diarrhoea, tuberculosis (TB) and HIV has been well documented but not given enough recognition. Tuberculosis and undernutrition are both problems of considerable magnitude and importance worldwide.
One of the recent reports of UNICEF in association with NITI Aayog revealed that over 50% of Indian adolescents (about 63 million girls and 81 million boys) in the age group of 10 to 19 years are either short, thin, overweight or obese. Another shocking statement was that over 80% of adolescents suffer from ‘hidden hunger’, i.e. the deficiency of one or more micronutrients such as iron, folate, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Few of the most alarming findings are: Only 2 out of 5 adolescents take milk in their daily diet and 1 out of 5 adolescents take pulses and green leafy vegetables. Information on the economic returns of various types of investment in adolescent development is scarce. However, few countries have done a cost-benefit analysis for various interventions. For example, in the USA, it is estimated that for every kilogram less of weight at birth, an American child will achieve 15 per cent less in adult earnings over her/his lifetime. In settings with a high incidence of goitre, it is estimated that iodine deficiency disorders depress average intelligence by 13 IQ points.
It is important to understand and acknowledge that adolescence provides an opportunity to correct nutritional deficiencies that may have occurred in early life and enables catching up on the missed growth. Adoption of good dietary behaviours in adolescence goes a long way in building physiological resilience. Adolescent boys and girls can be motivated to adopt nutrition behaviours that improve their looks, school achievement and athletic performance. One of the unanswered research question is the extent to which the inclusion of adolescent boys in nutrition and healthy lifestyle programs will contribute to the improved nutrition and health of women during childbearing and for infants and young children in the critical early years of life. Addressing the double burden of malnutrition should also be seen as a stimulus for enabling policies and programs beyond health, especially regarding poverty and gender inequity.
The author has attained her PhD in Public Health Policy with a specific reference to policies of government of India vis-a-vis the popular, reproductive health and family welfare aspects.
India’s drone power on display at Paris event
Displaying India’s drone power, Made-in-India drones flew high at the four-day Vivatech 2022 conference, which was recently held in Paris, France. Among the 65 Indian startups that were selected to display their drones, BON V Aero and Against Gravity Solution drew maximum eyeballs at the recently-concluded conference.
Satyabrat Satyapathy, CEO, Bon V Aero said, “our entire approach is on building a mobility platform that can carry a higher payload. We had innovated a drone which can carry 200 kg of payload to 40 kilometres distance.”
“We had shown a live demonstration in Vivatech 2022, carrying 50 kg to 20 kilometres. We are building this platform to use in hilly areas. During any disaster, we are the ones who can reach in minutes in difficult terrain where replenishment is not happening because of no road connectivity or where replenishment takes one or two months. By this innovation we can conserve the time to you know a couple of days and two minutes even,” added Satyapathy.
He further added, “We are an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mandi, backed venture building state of art intelligent electric aircraft which can operate in Hilly Terrains as well as in urban/rural areas for carbon-free, speedy and economic cargo transportation.” Bon V Aero has developed a drone solution for Smart Aerial Cargo Transportation.
Gavakshit Verma, Promoter, Against Gravity Solution, said, “our company has developed two drones which can work in tunnels or mines where is no GPS connectivity. Our First Person View (FPV) drone can fly at the speed of 120 KM/Hour. This has two cameras and with the Virtually Reality (VR) headset you can view feel like a fighter pilot.”
“Second drone solution can be used in tunnels or mines without GPS. This drone is very successful in monitoring mines or tunnels. This can go to inside the tunnel or mines to one Kilometre and is very useful for mines, oil companies,” Verma further said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had kicked off India’s biggest Drone festival- Bharat Drone Mahotsav earlier this year, wherein he witnessed open-air drone demonstrations and interacted with startups in the drone sector. Talking about the potential of India to emerge as a hub of drones, PM Modi said, “At a time when we are celebrating Azadi Ka Amrit Mohatsav, it is my dream that everyone in India should have a smartphone in his or her hand, every farm should have a drone and every house should have prosperity.”
PM Modi further expressed, “The enthusiasm that is being seen in India regarding drone technology is amazing. This energy is visible and is a reflection of the quantum jump in the drone service and drone-based industry in India. It shows the potential of an emerging large sector of employment generation in India.”
CM Baghel trying to transform gauthans into rural industrial parks
In a bid to transform gauthans into rural industrial parks following Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of Gram Swaraj, Chattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has started a significant initiative to establish small cottage industries in different parts of the state as part of the ‘Bhent and Mulaqat’ campaign. The initiative aims to provide alternative income-generating opportunities for the villagers.
One such rural industrial park has been set up in Kulgaon of Kanker district, which has been named Gandhi Gram. The transformation of Gauthan into a rural industrial park has been done by the district administration of Kanker along with women’s self-help groups. The infrastructure for establishing small cottage industries has been developed and the production work has started by connecting the villagers. More than 13 livelihood-related activities are being conducted in this Industrial park.
Along with this, the forest department has also started a residential training center for villagers based on the value addition process of minor forest produce.
The Forest Department had also given a loan of Rs 50 lakh to Indira Van Mitan group, Kulgaon for the establishment of Gandhi Gram, Rural Industrial Park. On the occasion of its launch, the Chief Minister further announced to waive off the loan of the group in view of the concept and nature of this rural industrial park.
CM Baghel expressed that the state can progress economically by strengthening the economy of the villages.
‘Pride Month’ is more than the marches, brand endorsements and the rainbow
Though the subject of sexuality in India still remains steeped in tradition, it is mired in bias held primarily by the majority.
Pride Month is more than the marches, brand endorsements and the rainbow. Many of us have our display images this month with the rainbow colour, in support of the LGBTQ+ cause. There is a movement creeping up silently but steadily among people to stand with each other towards humanitarian issues. But, it still remains a slow growth of acceptance among people.
One has to proudly admit that India has been making strides towards gender equality. This year, we have much to celebrate in the LGBTQ+ inclusivity. In a historic move, transgenders have been given 1% reservation for government services in Karnataka.
This is a great move in bringing them into the mainstream, where the age-old practice of transpeople blessing binary couples at their weddings, singing in affluent homes at childbirth, becoming bar dancers to titilate the fetish of the customers seeking sexual services and the meagre earnings from this will slowly but steadily reduce.
Though the subject of sexuality in India still remains steeped in tradition, it is mired in biases held primarily by the majority. Therefore, the minorities face the trauma of the majority and its misunderstanding, reluctance to accept anything outside the limited understanding of non binary individuals. Often the judgement towards them is harsh and sometimes brutal.
India gained independence 75 years back from the British rule but Britain left back its colonial hangover among the educated and the well-heeled Indians. We forgot the progressive culture we traditionally belonged to. British rule continued to carry forward the criminalisation of the transgenders and most of us unquestionably continued the atrocities passed on by the Brits.
Indian mythology is richly abundant with stories of transgenders who held senior positions in the Indian courts. This was debunked with the arrival of the missionaries in India who propagated their own faith. The aristocratic society embraced the English way of living. Therefore, with the British rule and its incessant need to colonise our way of thinking, the transgenders or the Hijras were methodically marginalised and became the moral panic of the binary aristocratic people of independent India.
The British officials had begun considering eunuchs “ungovernable”. Commentators said they evoked images of “filth, disease, contagion and contamination”. They were portrayed as people who were “addicted to sex with men”. Colonial officials said they were not only a danger to “public morals”, but also a “threat to colonial political authority”.
During the British colonial rule in India in 1864 as a legal transplant of the British 1533 Buggery Act, this section criminalised non-procreative sexualities. Historically, it was used to target the weakest of them, which was the transgender community.
With the reservation in government jobs, we do have much to cheer on towards steps to eradicate the archaic mindset and more progress towards inclusivity as a nation.
But, this battle is more long drawn and deeper than what meets the eye. Over the years, trans people are used to being treated inhumanly by the binary people who have conveniently forgotten our rich culture of acceptance and all the mythological figures.
The majority of the population find it difficult in accepting and understanding the non-binary issues of health, sexual drive, need for acceptance or their emotional well being. This trauma of unacceptability is deeply entrenched in their heart of the transgenders due to lack of opportunities, resort to sex work, alcohol and violence. Societal induced seclusion on them turns makes them suspicious and aggressive towards society at large.
Change is steadily but surely happening. We are slowly beginning to understand that gender fluidity is a reality.
However, the challenge lies at the grassroot levels where a trans person is denied medical checks up even today. In a conversation with Aryan Pasha, India’s first trans man body builder, he narrated the trauma he faced while growing up of not being able to confide in anyone about his menstrual cycles. Yes! trans men do menstruate and they live in constant panic to not be bullied or beaten up when they need to change their sanitary napkin in a male toilet that doesn’t have privacy and it’s an open space in all public urinals.
As we progress, education of inclusivity must be incorporated at a basic level.
With the job reservation for transgenders, the rest of the employees in the government offices must be also be sensitised towards the third gender. Transgenders inclusivity must begin very early on. It must begin in schools with transgender teachers for young impressionable children. This is where the foundation of non-stereotyping of gender will begin its genesis.
There is also worry about the trauma the transgender might face if they are treated with inequality by the other employees.
Will there be a law enforced on any transgression or anyone who might show resistance and hostility towards them?
Joining the mainstream life must be for a secure life for transgenders. It must be economically, emotionally and substantially different for them. There must be an environment of security as opposed to the brutality of begging at traffic signals.
It must begin with our attitude towards them. To ensure that they do not return to the life of indignity, the working environment must be kind with empathy. The government must put aside a budget for toilets where they do not feel violated or threatened by others. Many transgenders and activists are still emotionally denied love by their parents and very few have healed from their past.
Sadly, a young 17-year-old transgender committed suicide last month unable to handle the brutality she faced on traffic signals as a sex worker. If only someone could tell her to ‘hold on!’.
We are at the tip of the iceberg, that is surely and slowly shifting. All non-binary people must embrace and acknowledge that change is the only constant.
Mohua Chinappa hosts a popular podcast on gender and social issues called The Mohua Show and is the author of Nautanki Saala and Other Stories.
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