You are a startup and have a fantastic tech team, ably supported by a creative content team and publicized by a fantastic squad of new age social media whizkids. What can go wrong? As you launch your first game, it is a hit with millions of downloads and hundreds of thousands of active users per day. You are looking for Series A funding, the sky is blue and the grass green.
Now starts the process of due diligence, where apart from the financials and tech, legal issues come centerstage. Here, hard questions are to be answered. Are you ready for them?
And if this is not enough, brace for GDPR and PDPR (India, in the near future) compliance, taxation (including GST) and miscellaneous other laws including the Prize Money Act, the Gambling Act, FEMA and the like.
But wait, the intention for telling you all this is not to scare you, but to make you aware of the larger regulatory and legal frameworks which operate in your line of business. This article introduces you to some of the legal aspects of the gaming business and helps you traverse the maze. We pick up some important issues and try to create a roadmap which can help simplify the seemingly complex legal configuration.
SKILL VS CHANCE
The differential treatment accorded to games of skill and games of chance, with the former permitted and the latter prohibited, has been a historic feature of Indian law.
Chance is defined as the act of risking something of value for a chance to win a prize. Chance, mutual consideration and prize are essential for an activity to be considered gambling. The absence of any one of these elements may mean that the activity is not of a gambling nature.
Whereas, a “game of skill” is one where success depends principally upon the superior knowledge, training, attention, experience, adroitness, personal attributes and capabilities of the player. It is a game in which, while the element of chance cannot be entirely ruled out, it is the element of skill on the part of the participants that plays a dominant role in determining the outcome of the game.
With the entire world adopting data protection regulation and introduction of GDPR, the concept of data protection by design and by default has been signed into law. ‘Privacy by design’ is a value sensitive design approach that focuses specifically on privacy. This approach provides for high-level guidelines in the form of principles for designing privacy-preserving systems. These principles have at their core that data protection needs to be viewed in proactive rather than reactive terms, thus making privacy by design preventive and simply remedial. It is essential for entities to adopt the Seven Foundational Principles of Privacy by Design while developing an application or product:
1. Proactive not reactive; preventative not remedial
2. Privacy as the default setting
3. Privacy embedded into design
4. Full functionality – positive-sum, not zero-sum
5. End-to-end security – full lifecycle protection
6. Visibility and transparency – keep it open
7. Respect for user privacy – keep it user-centric
WHAT RULES GOVERN ADVERTISING ON THE INTERNET?
Under the Indian legal regime, the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1955 (“Act”), the Press Council of India Act, 1978 (“PCIA”), and Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2006 (“Rules”), among others, are the principal legislations which control the content of advertisements to ensure that they should not offend morality, decency and religious susceptibilities of the consumers. The Cable Television Rules, 1994 prohibits the advertisement of gambling activities, however, exempts the advertisement of games of skill such as horse racing, rummy and bridge.
USING THIRD-PARTY AND OPEN-SOURCE PRODUCTS
One should carefully read the licence that comes with the open-source or third-party software or component intended to be used. The terms of licensing will clearly define what can or can’t be done in a commercial context or what one is required to do.
If you don‘t understand the terms of the licence, consult a lawyer who can simplify and explain, and also help you protect your interests and IP at the stage of commercialization.
Primarily, there are some common sense approaches one needs to bear in mind while making commercial use of open-source software. Do not plagiarise, be ethical and moral in your conduct, and the rest will be fine.
1. If your ‘new’ software is simply modifications and changes to existing open-source code, it may count as a “derived work”. Here what can be done will vary a lot by particular licence (GPL/MIT), etc. You need to check the licence conditions about derived works. Usually you cannot make it closed source and it’s not permissible to try to release your software under a different licence from the original one.
2. If it is intended to use an open-source component as a library, in compiled form (.dll or .so), it is incumbent to mention in the ‘about box’ and in the LICENSES.txt for the software you’re using. You are also supposed to include a copy of its original licence in description.
3. If a static compiled-in library is used, it is a slightly grey area, but generally it’s permissible, as long as you clearly mention what you’re using and include a copy of its original unmodified licence.
GAME CONTENT REGULATION – PEGI/ESRB
As of today there is no video game content rating regime or regulation in India. However, if one intends to make a game for the international audience, one needs to be familiar with game content rating systems used in different geographies worldwide.
The international video game industry has seen attempts ranging from credible self-regulation to governmental attempts at the effective regulation of content in the games. The International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) 2013 is an initiative aimed at streamlining acquisition of content ratings for video games, from authorities of different countries. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), established in 1994, is an American self-regulatory organization that assigns age and content ratings to consumer video games. The Australian Classification Board (ACB or CB), established in 1970, is an Australian government statutory body responsible for the classification and censorship of films, video games and publications for exhibition, sale or hire in Australia. The Game Rating and Administration Committee (Geimmul Gwalli-Wiwonhoe; GRAC) is the South Korean video game content rating board. A governmental organization, the GRAC rates video games to inform customers of the nature of the game contents. These regulatory attempts have brought much needed sanity to the video game space. But in the absence of regulations, the arena remains open to wide interpretation in India.
For securing companies from cyber attacks and avoiding punishments, fines and penalties under data protection norms and reasonable cybersecurity requirements, it is prudent for companies to demonstrate that they have a lawful basis for processing, that they are following data processing principles, and implementing appropriate technical and organisational measures to keep personal data protected.
Recently, Tel Aviv-based threat intelligence firm Kela decided to investigate the top 25 gaming companies. It was discovered that 500,000 breached employee credentials and a million compromised internal accounts were available on the dark web. It is thus advisable that gaming companies invest in ongoing monitoring of their digital assets across the dark web, as well as enhanced staff training on things like password management and the deployment of multi-factor authentication and set processes for handling post-breach scenarios, keeping in mind the requirement as per the jurisdictional law and regulations.
The gaming industry, especially mobile gaming, is geared up for a boom in India. With unique advantages in terms of tech as well as creative aspects, it presents a multi-billion dollar opportunity for startups and veterans alike.
When any business creates value, there is an increased possibility of litigation due to different interpretations and understandings of the rights and obligations involved. Legal risk can be very severe as it can bring unprecedented costs and delay the company’s progress. A prudent approach is to navigate and chart this maze carefully to secure one’s intellectual property, without infringing on others’, understand nuances from content regulation to taxation and export earnings, and privacy compliances to data breach procedures. It is said, a stitch in time saves nine; here, it can save millions.
Brijesh Singh, IPS, is an author and IG Maharashtra. Khushbu Jain is an advocate practising before the Supreme Court and a founding partner of law firm Ark Legal. The views expressed are personal.
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AMARINDER MAY GO FOR RE-ALLOCATION OF PORTFOLIOS IN PUNJAB
Intense speculation over the possibility of either a major reshuffle in the Punjab Cabinet or re-allocation of portfolios to ministers has begun following the widespread meetings that Captain Amarinder Singh has been having with party MLAs.
In fact, this could be the first step to prepare the Congress for next year’s assembly polls and the exercise may be held either simultaneously or prior to the High Command’s efforts to reorganise the organizational set up. The PCC had been dissolved some time ago and no decision has yet been taken on who shall be replacing the State Chief, Sunil Jakhar, who too has been continuing in the caretaker capacity. The central leadership of the party had been keen to appoint Navjot Singh Sidhu in place of Jakhar but this appears to be most unlikely with the Captain now coming out openly against the former cricketer.
Although Amarinder has always extended all courtesies to the High Command, it appears that he may go in for the reshuffling operation to both assert his authority as well as to send a clear signal to New Delhi, that he should be given a free hand to run the affairs of the government in order to win next year’s polls. Unable to get his nominee, Manish Tewari, named as the PCC Chief, the Captain wants the High Command to also play a role in selecting the organization Head. With Harish Rawat, general secretary, in-charge of the Congress in the state still recovering from Covid-19, the Chief Minister may not settle for anyone who may be at variance with his thinking. A seasoned politician, he realizes the importance of the party president, especially during ticket distribution, and thus wants someone who is compatible with him to hold that position. On its part, the High Command would still make a last minute bid for Sidhu and by withdrawing his name at the last moment to gain leaverage, may opt for a nominee, who“ is equidistant’’ from the Captain.
Nervous MLAs have been presenting their views to Central leaders even as none of them has the courage to openly challenge the Chief Minister in Chandigarh. Their concern is largely regarding certain policy measures that have been announced recently. Punjab’s financial condition is dismal and any step that would be a burden on the diminishing finances would have to be viewed through a pragmatic prism. The announcement regarding the implementation of the pay commission would certainly, on the face of it, endear the government to its employees. However, if the money remains unpaid, the matter could boomerang.
The Congress party in the state has to also address the sacrilege issue which would be a factor in the assembly polls. Rajya Sabha MP Pratap Singh Bajwa has, in a letter to the Chief Minister, asked him, why no meeting of state MPs to discuss the burning political matter had been called. He has also appealed to him to arrange the meeting at the earliest and ensure that those connected with the probe as well as the DGP police were also present. Political activity in the state is warming up. It is now for the High Command and the Chief Minister to tread the path carefully to maintain complete harmony within the party and the government.
BENGAL VIOLENCE: WHY MAMATA IS A PUNY LEADER, UNFIT FOR NATIONAL POLITICS DESPITE THE WIN
Mamata Banerjee, prone to supporting lawlessness and tolerating corruption, is a leader of a party which does not boast of a presence anywhere outside her state. To even try to equate her to the indefatigable Narendra Modi is to do a great disservice to Indian polity.
A lot has been written about the BJP not being able to dismantle and prevent the Trinamool from romping home to victory in the recently conducted West Bengal assembly polls. First things first, going from 3 seats in 2016 to 77 seats in 2021 is a massive achievement, translating into an over 2400% rise in seat share. Don’t forget that the TMC was set up in 1998 and has no impact or presence outside Bengal whatsoever. Despite focussing only on Bengal, it took Mamata Banerjee 14 long years to dislodge an inept and corrupt CPI(M) from power in Bengal, before Trinamool struck gold in 2011. In the 2001 Bengal assembly elections, TMC won 60 seats. In 2006, that number halved to 30 seats. In 2011, the TMC won 184 seats, and in 2016, 211 seats. In 2021, the TMC’s tally was 213 seats. Jaded, hapless and largely irrelevant journalists like Pritish Nandy, for instance, who have been frothing in excitement at how Bengal managed to stave off the BJP juggernaut, fail to realise that what the BJP has achieved in just the last five years is incredible and exceptional. From a vote share of just 10.2% in 2016 to 38.1% in 2021 is not a mean achievement. The Lutyens’ cabal, driven by its visceral hatred for Narendra Modi, has always applauded Mamata Banerjee for managing to uproot Red terror from Bengal in a short span of 14 years, but is not willing to credit the Shah-Nadda duo for becoming the principal challengers to the TMC in a matter of just five years! Is that not rabid hypocrisy?
The BJP has made the Bengal electoral scenario from a four-party to a two-party affair. The BJP has also completely demolished the Congress and the Left to an embarrassing zero seats in the just concluded assembly polls. That most of the Congress-Left votes were transferred to the TMC this time is a different matter altogether that needs introspection. But to the BJP’s credit, it is the largest party in the world today, because it celebrates its victories but more importantly it learns from its defeats, dusts off the inadequacies, brainstorms, thinks hard, works harder and eventually wins the war! That Amit Shah and J.P. Nadda put in an incredible amount of effort, toiling day and night, is something that makes the BJP the disciplined, organisationally strong party that it has turned out to be, where not only is winning important, but playing by the rules is even more important.
The moot question then is: what about the “Modi factor”? The charisma, respect, ground-connect with the electorate, popularity and indomitable capacity for relentless hard work are all factors that make Prime Minister Narendra Modi a leader who is in a league of his own. PM Modi, the tallest leader in post-Independence India, has no competition. To even try and create a false equivalence between the indefatigable Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee, a fascist, rabble rouser, limited to Bengal, is doing a great disservice to even the basic understanding of Indian polity.
The Congress has ceased to matter after a string of debilitating defeats, with Rahul Gandhi turning into a vacuous paper tiger on Twitter whom no one takes seriously. The Left, barring in Kerala, has been wiped out. Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav never had any national stature to start with and both their parties were almost reduced to nothingness in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls in 2017, with SP winning only 47 seats, compared to the massive 312 that the BJP won. Even in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, while the BJP secured 62 seats in UP, Congress was reduced to 1 seat, Samajwadi Party merely 5 seats and Mayawati’s BSP to 10 seats. The “Khan Market Gang” has tried to resurrect the political fortunes of many failed regional satraps in a bid to checkmate the Modi aura, but these efforts repeatedly came to nought.
The recent efforts to portray West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as a challenger to PM Modi in 2024 is therefore both laughable and ridiculous. Outside Bengal, Mamata has no impact or credibility. At the Ramlila Ground in 2014, where Anna Hazare was supposed to speak but did not turn up, Mamata Banerjee had held the fort for Hazare by filling in for him, but no one turned up to hear her. She was greeted with an empty ground with rows and rows of empty chairs. Also, to be a national-level leader, a certain amount of empathy and compassion is a must and Mamata Banerjee, unfortunately, has neither. Mamata is the same lady who had mocked the rape of Suzette Jordan in Kolkata in 2012, saying that Jordan was a disco-going, alcohol-loving, club-hopping, partygoer, who probably deserved the ignominy of rape. Yes, womenfolk have been voting for Mamata in good numbers, despite her pathetic record in stalling crimes against women in Bengal. To that, let people be reminded that Rome was not built in a day. Womenfolk voted even this time for Mamata, more out of a fear of retribution, rather than any admiration for her brand of politics. The grim truth is that in the last ten years, the track record of Mamata’s governance has been shoddy: no new industries have come up in Bengal in the last decade, Central government schemes were stalled by Didi, driven by her hubris, and Hindus have been systematically marginalised at the expense of the Rohingyas and illegal migrants who have wreaked havoc in the state in terms of festering rampant lawlessness.
There are those who ask, if lawlessness prevailed in Bengal, why did womenfolk vote for her in 2021? To that, the simple answer is, “voter inertia”. The Sainbari massacre happened in 1970, followed by the ghastly Marichjhapi massacre in 1979. The brutal murder of Ananda Margi monks at Bijon Setu near Ballygunge in 1982 was followed by the heinous Nandigram massacre in 2007. Yet, CPI(M) ruled Bengal with an iron fist for 34 long years. From being invincible in 2001 to being reduced to zero seats in 2021, the Left has been completely routed. Hence, those who use Mamata’s 2021 victory to sideline her gross incompetence as a failed leader would do well to know that the TMC’s decline has started, and rather rapidly. It will take the BJP far less time to dislodge the TMC than it took the TMC to dislodge the Left.
The Left parties and the Congress have failed to win a single seat in the 2021 Bengal polls. This will be the first time since 1962 that the Left parties will have no representation in the legislative assembly. The CPI(M) registered an all-time low vote share of 4.73%. The other major partners of the Left alliance like the All India Forward Bloc registered 0.53 % votes and the CPI 0.20% votes. The Congress registered an all-time voting percentage of 2.93% in Bengal and lost its political clout over Malda and Murshidabad districts. In effect, the Congress is not a national party of any standing anymore.
The fact that the BJP in 2021 has made huge in-roads into a non-Hindi-speaking, non-Western, non-Central Indian state like West Bengal speaks volumes about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invincibility and credibility. Don’t forget, the BJP won Tripura in 2018 after 25 years of inept, Leftist misrule. The BJP increased its vote share in Assam in the 2021 polls from 29.5% to 31.5% with a thumping majority, for the second time in a row. The BJP raised its tally from zero to four in Tamil Nadu and from zero to six in Puducherry. In Puducherry, the BJP’s vote share went up from 2.4% to 11% while the Congress saw a decline in its vote share from 50% to a measly 6.7%. While the local leadership in Assam played a pivotal role, the fact remains that it is the overarching and indefatigable “Modi factor” that should be given credit for the spate of electoral successes that the BJP/NDA has witnessed in the last seven years, over and over again.
Bengal has, over the decades, always held on to the status quo before a complete electoral shift. The CPI(M) was in power for 34 long years before Trinamool took over and the first time Trinamool tasted the scent of an impending victory, it managed only 60 seats. In sharp contrast, this time around, the BJP looking to displace the TMC did far better, with 77 seats. True, the BJP had set a target of 200 seats. But does that give out-of-work political pundits the right to mock the BJP? In the Bihar elections in 2020, the BJP upped its tally from 53 to 73 seats and got just two seats lower than the RJD. Tejashwi Yadav was stonewalled and despite a 15-year-old anti incumbency, the NDA, led by the “Modi factor”, won! Even in the DDC polls held last year in Kashmir, the BJP emerged as the single largest party with 75 seats, checkmating the combined bunch of six parties aka the “Gupkar Alliance”. In the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections, the BJP raised its tally by 1100% from 4 to 48 seats, while the TRS came hurtling down from 99 to 55 seats. In the Gujarat local body polls a few months back, after winning 483 of the 576 seats, the BJP, boasting of a success rate of 84%, trounced the Congress, which had a measly strike rate of just 9.5%. The very media which fails to give credit to the solid 77 seats won by the BJP in Bengal was pontificating at the 27 seats won by the AAP in the Surat local body polls, despite the fact that the AAP lost deposits in Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar and Ahmedabad. The BJP-led NDA, under the fantastic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has had a string of noteworthy successes, despite a highly critical media that has exacting standards for the BJP, but handles the Opposition with kid gloves. The talk of “Godi Media” is plain hogwash.
While the media has been writing reams and reams about the BJP’s performance in the Ayodhya and Varanasi panchayat polls, there has been stoic silence about the fact that the BJP won the hitherto impregnable Pandharpur seat, Rajsamand in Rajasthan and Belagavi in Karnataka in the recent bypolls. Last year, the BJP audaciously snatched away the Dubbaka seat in Telangana, an erstwhile TRS bastion. And it is precisely this audacity of ambition that pushes the BJP to do the unthinkable and achieve the unimaginable. As they say, if you aim for the summit, you get halfway there. Next time, the BJP would be well on its way to scaling the summit and winning Bengal, with no ifs and buts whatsoever.
Some allege that Mamata’s vast and regular cash transfers to the Dalits and OBCs swung the votes in her favour, while others say that the turncoats who entered the BJP from the TMC played spoilsport for the BJP. Yet there are others who believe that the insider versus outsider narrative propped up by Mamata worked to her advantage. With the Muslim percentage in West Bengal more than double the national average, the Muslim vote was always going to be a huge advantage for the Trinamool if the community consolidated behind it. And by corollary, this would be a huge disadvantage for the BJP.
In 2021, the Trinamool painted itself as a nativist force,saying the BJP was a party of bohiragotos (outsiders). “Joy Bangla” overtaking “Jai Shri Ram”, “Bengali Nationalism” superseding “Hindu Nationalism” and Hindu votes getting splintered were the other reasons advanced by political pundits for Mamata’s victory. The elections are done and dusted. The key question now that begs a response is, is Mamata Banerjee worthy of taking on a larger national role? Is Didi capable of becoming a fulcrum around which the disparate Opposition unites for 2024? The answer to both these questions is a vehement “No”!
Mamata Banerjee is absolutely unfit and unworthy of a larger national-level role. She has peaked out. 2021 was her best performance ever, which she will not be able to repeat. Her loss in Nandigram to BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari signifies the many chinks in her armour. Even in 2016, Mamata’s victory margin in Bhawanipore had come down from over 60,000 votes to barely 25,000 votes. Mamata’s personal credibility amidst charges of massive corruption against her nephew have dented her immeasurably and going forward, the TMC could even split into two. While turncoats who came into the BJP may not have won this time, the exodus from the TMC shows that all is not well within the party and, for all her false bravado, Mamata has been unable to contain internal fissures.
Also, Mamata has a wildly maverick, fascist side to her. Rather than accepting her Nandigram defeat gracefully, she trained her guns on the Election Commission (EC), blaming it for the debacle. How can a leader who has scant regard for the EC, the apex court, the judiciary and the armed forces, be entrusted with a responsible role beyond Bengal? So consumed was Didi by her desire to win that she did not even spare the CRPF and CISF, who were repeatedly targeted by TMC goons. What a pity that those who talk about FoE and lecture Prime Minister Modi on the sanctity of democratic institutions have not once blamed Mamata Banerjee for the untold misery and mayhem that she has been a mute spectator to, even as TMC vandals unleashed a macabre chain of arson, loot, gangrapes, political killings and brutalisation of BJP karyakartas and supporters, largely Hindus, post the TMC victory. A large-scale exodus of Hindus (over 80,000) from Arambagh, Durgapur, Sitalkuchi, Karimpur, Bishnupur, Bolpur, Hooghly and Midnapore to Assam is a deliberate and mala fide attempt by Mamata and her goons to delegitimise the 2.28 crore voters, also largely Hindus, who voted for the BJP.
The national media which raised a stink over Hathras has completely avoided coverage of the horrific Hindu exodus from Bengal, which started with the exodus of Hindus from Raniganj in 2018 during the Asansol riots. How can Mamata Banerjee, who refuses to take action against large-scale communal violence, be even considered by the so-called secularati for a serious national role? Mamata Banerjee is a puny leader and her barbaric justification of political killings of those from the right wing ideology do her no good. Even as Bengal burnt, Mamata and her party, the TMC, rather than assuaging the victims of the Bengal violence, kept suggesting that the gruesome mayhem was a figment of the BJP’s imagination. The likes of a forgotten for good and irrelevant Yashwant Sinha and the out-of-work clubhouse chatterati played along with Didi. Yes, Mamata won the Bengal elections, but she lost her credibility, just as she lost that wheelchair magically the moment election results were announced!
She launched a personal attack at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah after a CBI team questioned her nephew’s wife in connection with a coal pilferage case. At a rally at Hooghly’s Dunlop Ground, Mamata took potshots at the duo without naming them.
“I don’t want to malign the post of the Prime Minister. But two men from Delhi are visiting Bengal and spreading misleading words. One is hodol-kutkut and the other is kimbhut-kimakar,” said Didi. “Two persons are running the country. One is Ravan and another is a danav (monster),” she added. Those who accuse Prime Minister Modi of leading a misogynist campaign against Mamata have completely missed the point. “Didi o Didi” is neither an abuse nor a catcall. ‘Didi’ is merely a colloquial term for fondly and respectfully addressing someone as “sister”.
I am a woman myself and I say this with complete responsibility that, if anything, it is Mamata Banerjee who needs to be castigated for repeatedly abusing the office of the Prime Minister in the most unworthy language and then having the nerve to play the victim. Modi has been viciously abused by Mamata and her goons but national and international media has conveniently chosen to be quiet. Why? Does being a woman give Mamata Banerjee the carte blanche to abuse the Prime Minister and the Home Minister of the largest democracy in the world repeatedly and then pretend to be sanctimonious under the garb of gender neutrality?
Last but not the least, the BJP has 77 MLAs and 18 MPs in West Bengal today, from virtually nothing a few years back. The growth trajectory of the BJP, thanks to the “Modi factor”, has been phenomenal and will only get better going forward. For Mamata Banerjee, the writing on the wall is clear. It is time for her to get her act together and behave like a Chief Minister and not a rabble rouser who gives in to bouts of bogey victimhood and criminal lethargy when dealing with lawlessness. And for all those who say that Mamata did not act against arsonists and marauders during the Bengal exodus due to the prevalence of the Model Code of Conduct need to know that the EC only oversees conduct of free and fair elections. The law and order and administrative machinery continue to be with the incumbent/outgoing CM till the new CM takes over. Since both the outgoing and incoming CM was Mamata in this case, she needs to take complete ownership of over 80,000 Hindus who were forced to flee Bengal in a gruesome reminder of why she can never aspire for a significant national role. The Bengal exodus will prove to be Mamata’s final nemesis politically, and rightfully so.
COUNTING CHINA’S LOSSES
We have been witness to some shocking turns of events in our lifetime which I doubt any generations near us would have ever seen. We have now also seen havoc unleashed by an unseen, possibly man-made virus, and the wheels of the economy coming to a halt by circuit breakers, which we also refer to as a lockdown. A vaccine was a way out and all like-minded people and countries trying to survive the storm got together, but some rogue regimes thought this as an opportunity for territorial expansionism.
Things get complex when you have a rogue duo to handle in the middle of a pandemic. We have seen heightened tensions on the LAC and a super hot LoC with 4,646 ceasefire violations from Pakistan, the highest so far in the history of the two nations, precisely 11 times more than last year. Meanwhile, Galwan has permanently changed the history and paradigm of relations between India and China. We salute our fallen brothers who defended every inch of our motherland fearlessly and made the rouge expansionist hide its tail between its legs and run away, of course with 135 of their army dead, as per inputs from intelligence agencies. It had been a well-planned attack in deceit and treachery and back-stabbing, and, if I may say, done without any reluctance. But the outcome was a shattering of the myth of the Great Wall, the sinking of the unsinkable Titanic, the invincible falling apart like a house of cards, along with its hard-cultivated perception, which is their most potent weapon.
The stand-off continues and war formations change. The dimensions now pertain to perception, information and psychological warfare. Military-wise, they have lost the count of their dead and live with a compulsion to hide the number of dead soldiers like the number of deaths caused by the virus. Perceptions are weakening further as the world starts to rally behind India. The US is moving its armada to the South China Sea which is their Achilles’ heel. It runs 3.5 trillion of their trade and 90% of energy supplies are routed through the Straits of Malacca. A naval blockade would mean no oxygen to an already suffocating Chinese economy which is looming under 45 trillion dollars of debt, the highest in the world and a whopping 320 percent of their GDP and approximately 60% of the global GDP. Let’s also remember the US’s stern message sent to Beijing by setting sail on the Straits of Taiwan, challenging its might and will to act.
President Trump had already chocked China’s cash flows, and rightly so. With a $600 billion trade deficit, this was another blow. Their 5G dreams started turning sour too when the world called out their bluff. PM Modi in his vision and intellect delivered the body blow by banning Chinese apps, which means revenue lost, valuations lost, lots of big VC from PRC in survival crises and losing access to the jackpot–all the metadata those apps were generating which could have been used to weaponize AI and propagate the CCP’s agenda. This also means that the PRC can never ever be an AI superpower. With 5G out of the door, they can now kiss goodbye to the IoT business as well. Incidentally, IoT-based businesses are going to control 25 percent of the global GDP in the next 20 years, as per reports from leading consulting companies around the world. Hence, the Chinese dream of becoming a technology superpower is now history.
Rising unemployment and ghost cities also mean lost currency and goodwill. With no takers for Chinese vaccines, General Secretary Xi Jinping has nothing to take home.
Meanwhile, India in a daring attempt takes care of the Kailash Range which dominates the Penso Lake, making the Chinese’s aggression as a badly conceived idea.
The Himalayan ranges are being dominated by India, Taiwan has been secured and the South China Sea chocked, coupled with a non-functional Gwadar Port with a lot of resistance and armed attacks by locals and Imran Khan Niazi on his toes because of a failing economy and complicated political issues. All this has put China in a “chakravyuh” with no economic targets announced for 2021, which has never happened since 1990. 85% of small businesses are on the risk of being shut down in the next three years. The PCAOB implemented by Trump also knocked down hundreds of Chinese companies from the US Stock Exchange for good.
It seems like China has been dealt with a trail of blows and hits from all sides, from military perception, information warfare, trust and goodwill, energy, exports, debts and technology acceptance, to, last but never the least, the economy overall.
This answers the question why the Chinese had to retreat 8 km on the LAC for the first time after 1999 and why the vessel state of Pakistan requested for a ceasefire along the LoC.
War is an expensive business and as there is nothing hidden. With a billion dollars in reserve, a country should better save it to feed hungry children and secure vaccines rather than use it for bullets and mortars. Geopolitics is never straightforward, as I always say, and macroeconomics always impacts global politics.
THE QUINTESSENCE OF TAGORE’S EDUCATIONAL VISION
Rabindranath Tagore’s educational philosophy focused on holistic learning—equal development of the artistic and affective senses as well as cognitive abilities, deeply rooting students in their immediate surroundings while exposing them to global cultures, and inculcating a love for nature along with fellow human beings.
A genius of unequalled fertility was born with a silver spoon in his mouth on the 7th of May 1861 in the city of Calcutta. He was the youngest of a family of fourteen siblings. He, who was called Rabi in his childhood, came to be known to the world as Rabindranath Tagore and later on Gurudev, a term of respect accorded to him by none other than Rashtrapita Mahatma Gandhi. And, interestingly, it was Gurudev who bestowed the epithet of Mahatma upon the Father of the Nation. For the first time in a long while, today we shall be celebrating his 161st birth anniversary indoors, without any public or private addresses due to one of the worst outbreaks of the coronavirus that has ravaged the whole world with heart-wrenching cruelty.
When we celebrate the birthday of an enlightened statesman like Gurudev, whose works have come down to us in the form of knowledge, wisdom, truth and beauty, it is entirely in the fitness of things to reflect on his thoughts on education and their relevance in the present context.
Somehow Gurudev did not like formal schooling since he found it mediocre and uninspiring. He developed such an aversion to formal schooling that after spending sometime in a couple of schools, he refused to go to school. He was once even enrolled at a public school in England, but when he evinced the least interest in formal schooling, he was called back from there. He began to develop his literary and artistic skills at a very early age. Even though he had very little formal education, he was a self-taught thinker and artist and a voracious reader with varied intellectual interests. He had great interest in studying Sanskrit, history, astronomy, modern science, literature and biographies. He was a scholar of incredible talent with no certificates and degrees. The only degrees he ever received were honorary ones bestowed later in life.
As an artistic genius, Gurudev composed his first poem at the age of eight, and by the end of his life he had written over 25 volumes of poetry, 15 plays, 90 short stories, 11 novels, 13 volumes of essays, started and edited many journals, written numerous Bengali text books, and composed over 2,000 songs. It is believed that after the age of 70, he created more than 2,000 pictures and sketches. His compositions were chosen by two nations as their national anthems—India’s “Jana Gana Mana” and Bangladesh’s “Amar Shonar Bangla”.
Gurudev was a Bengali polymath who reformed Bengali literature and music as well as Indian art during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1913, Gurudev became the first non-European to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. As the author of Gitanjali and its profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verses, Gurudev came to be known for his poetry which is viewed as spiritual and having qualities of eloquence and ingenuity. His legacy endures in Visva-Bharati, Shantiniketan, the institution that he founded in 1921. He dedicated the rest of his life to this institution, which became a fountainhead of Gurudev’s philosophy on education.
The establishment of Visva-Bharati and Sriniketan by Gurudev led to groundbreaking efforts in many ways, including unique models for Indian education, rural reconstruction, mass education as well as pan-Asian and global cultural exchange. In creating the eco-friendly campus of this institution, Gurudev sowed the seeds of environmental awareness with an all-encompassing altruistic, humanitarian, educational philosophy for the world, firmly rooted in the philosophy of naturalism, of which he was an ardent advocate.
Since Gurudev did not write a central educational treatise, his thoughts must be gleaned from his various writings and educational experiments that he had carried out at Shantiniketan. His vision for education was very pragmatic. He believed that education on the one hand must be deeply rooted in one’s immediate surroundings but on the other hand also be connected to the culture and ethos of the wider world.
According to him, the highest education is that which does not merely give us information but keeps our life in harmony with all existence. In Gurudev’s philosophy of education, artistic and affective development of the senses was as important as its cognitive development. It was for this reason that he attached equal significance to the development of the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains. This was evident from his love and passion for music, literature, art, dance and drama, as according to him, these are very essential to enrich the soul.
Gurudev’s educational model has a unique sensitivity and aptness for education within multi-racial, multilingual and multicultural situations. He was a staunch supporter of the unity of the East and West. He believed in inner peace, awareness of natural ecology and a better sense of human togetherness. He was an ardent supporter of natural growth in a natural environment, a total disbeliever in book-centered education, an advocate of the freedom of heart, freedom of intellect and freedom of will. He had a very progressive outlook and that is what he wanted to be inculcated through education across the globe. He believed that spiritualism embraces a vast array of highly diversified philosophical views and therefore the outlook of different thinkers, regardless of their backgrounds, should be acknowledged and taken in the right spirit.
According to Gurudev, self-realization is an important aim of education. Manifestation of the personality depends upon self-realization and spiritual knowledge of the individual, as Gurudev believed that spiritualism is the quintessence of humanism. His concept of intellectual development meant open-mindedness, freethinking, inquisitiveness, originality, novelty and alertness of the mind. He believed that the child should be free to adopt his/her own way of learning which alone would lead to all-round development of his/her personality. He gave importance to a sound and healthy physique. Gurudev held that the entire universe is one family and education has the potential to teach people to realize the oneness of the globe.
Gurudev realized it well that education was the only means for the empowerment of the rural masses and the reconstruction of villages. He recognized the power of education as a vehicle for appreciating the finest aspects of different cultures while maintaining one’s own cultural specificity. His first experiments in adult education were born out of his awareness and understanding of acute material and cultural poverty that permeated across uneducated masses. In order to uplift the downtrodden and rural masses, he involved students and teachers with literacy training and social work and the promotion of cooperative schemes.
In keeping with his theory of subconscious learning, Gurudev rarely wrote down anything for the students but rather involved them in whatever he was composing. He has written about how well the students were able to enter into the spirit of the drama and perform their roles, which required subtle understanding and sympathy without special training. Without music and fine arts, Gurudev believed that a nation lacks its highest means of self-expression and consequently the people remain inarticulate. In his curriculum, Gurudev promoted a different approach. Instead of teaching cultural dominance and about wars won, he advocated a system wherein emphasis should be laid on the analysis of history, culture, economy and social progress that have been made against all odds.
Gurudev’s vision of culture was not static. He believed in the process of acculturation which facilitates newcomers and minorities to acculturate into the dominant culture and maintain all aspects of their minority culture, and similarly the dominant culture also allows the fusion of minority culture into itself. He wanted the world to be a place where multiple voices could be encouraged to interact with each other and to reconcile their differences with an overriding commitment to peace and harmony. He tried to establish this kind of an institutional ethos at Visva-Bharati where conflicting interests were minimized and individuals worked together in a common pursuit of truth.
It is pertinent to recognize that Gurudev, by his efforts and achievements, got into the league of pioneering educators such as Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Froebel, Montessori and Dewey – and in the contemporary context, Malcolm Shepherd Knowles – who have striven to create non-authoritarian learning systems that promote learners’ engagement happily with their social milieu as well as the outside world side by side.
Gurudev’s vision of Shantiniketan, in the true sense, may be difficult to replicate as that was nurtured by the soul of a great artist, humanist and philosopher. But the inclusion of Gurudev’s thoughts into the current curriculum of school education followed by his basic philosophy of learning in the domain of higher education are worth a try. The philosophy of education enunciated by Gurudev has great potential for the transformation of the education process in our national rejuvenation. Although something is being practised, a lot still needs to be incorporated from the principles of education propounded by him especially the ones like naturalism, cultural assimilation, a harmonious balance of mind, body and spirit, and peaceful coexistence. There is a crying need for that to happen.
The nation holds Gurudev in the highest respect and affection. In difficult times such as these, when the coronavirus has imprisoned all of us, depriving us of any public meetings to pay tribute to Gurudev for the magnificent qualities of his head and heart, we need to remind ourselves of the great message of his poemL “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; where knowledge is free….. into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake”. The poem not only reflects Gurudev’s inspiring soul and great vision for the country of his dreams but is also an exhortation to attain that vision, which can be realized only by revamping education as envisioned by him.
The author is former Chairman, UGC.
LET THE STATES DECIDE THE RESTRICTIONS THEY WANT TO TACKLE COVID
There is a sudden clamour for a national lockdown, with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi being very vocal about it. He is following in the footsteps of Dr Anthony Fauci, who thinks that India should go for a stringent lockdown for at least two-three weeks, as else apparently the coronavirus transmission chain cannot be broken. But then such views are not exactly supported by many Indian scientists, who have a better idea of the ground reality in India than any American, however illustrious, may possibly have. The problem is, there is no study that can say with certainty that a lockdown will actually break the chain of transmission and will bring down the infection level. Last year’s lockdown helped delay the spread of the infection and gave some time to the authorities to prepare the system to cope with the surge that followed once the restrictions started being removed. However, when the first wave happened, it was not as infectious as the current one, which the scientists believe was because of the natural immunity that Indians have. The reason why they are hardier than their western counterparts. Some scientists also believe that the virus could not cope with the average Indian’s immunity system and cases tapered off naturally after peaking to the level of a little over a lakh a day. Now that a far infectious variant has arrived, more people are getting infected, because of which the total caseload is going up, with that the number of deaths too. However, many scientists and virologists are of the opinion that this is not the time to go for a lockdown because it will not help contain the wave; instead, it’s time to ramp up the vaccination drive, not only to contain the spread of the virus, but also to counter likely future waves. There is enough evidence to prove that vaccination is saving lives and hence the stress should be on covering as many people as possible within a short span of time.
Scientists and experts also say that of the total number of cases, 85%-90% are very mild, in fact even asymptomatic, which will eventually push the country towards herd immunity—but that may or may not be some time coming. However, any movement towards herd immunity also means that the infection is far more widespread than it is believed to be, and more the tests conducted, higher the number of cases, although mostly asymptomatic. The slight dip in cases that Maharashtra is witnessing need not necessarily be because of the lockdown, but may be because the wave has already peaked there, say some scientists. And India as a whole is possibly reaching the peak of the second wave sooner than later. Opinions are divided on whether or not the peak can be arrived at artificially by what is known as “breaking the chain” through lockdowns. Instead, what is verifiable is that a lockdown has a huge economic cost, which the country may not be able to bear as it struggles out of the pit that it has fallen into since last year.
Also questions exist about a blanket country-wide lockdown. The infection is not evenly spread, some states are worse affected than others, and even in the worst affected states, the cases are not evenly spread. In fact, it is not just vaccination, what is needed is the ramping up of the healthcare system, so that we are better prepared to tackle any likely future wave. It also needs to be checked if medical practitioners are following the latest guidelines from Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Covid treatment. If not, there has to be strict implementation. The treatment is evolving but there have been complaints that doctors are still prescribing “old” ways of treating the virus. What is also needed is masking up and following social distancing norms. Indians have to learn to behave responsibly.
Several states have already imposed severe restrictions, including lockdowns. Last year when the Centre imposed a countrywide lockdown, some states were unhappy as they felt that the countrywide lockdown did not take into account local factors. In fact, the Central government faced heavy criticism both nationally and internationally for imposing the lockdown. And now that the Centre has left it to the states to decide how they go about imposing the restrictions, suddenly there is a hue and cry on the need for a nationwide lockdown. Interestingly, when Rahul Gandhi is furiously asking the Prime Minister to impose a national lockdown, his own party Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh of Punjab is categorical that there will not be a lockdown in his state, but restrictions. Let the states do what they think is best for them instead of India going for a national lockdown.
COVID CRISIS IN INDIA: POST-ELECTIONS INTROSPECTION
Despite forewarnings, India found itself completely unprepared to tackle the lethal second wave of Covid-19 thanks to delayed decision-making and uncoordinated efforts by the administration. To prevent such a disaster from recurring, the system needs to enable decentralised institutions and smooth information flow for quicker decisions and early warnings against impending catastrophes.
As the dust settles in five election-bound states and the cows return home, it’s time for somber introspection. Cows never care for any pandemics or wars, burials or cremations, doctors or deaths. They only follow their master and spend time on the ranch. That’s what makes some lives so different during election time. Those who travelled to rallies fell over each other’s shoulders to have a glimpse of majestic leaders from the country’s capital coming to speak to them. Their sloganeering broke the sound barriers as inebriated party workers in a ravenous craving for victory turned legitimate ‘super spreaders’. The coronavirus didn’t have to wait long for its scintillating performance as these rallies, led by the very team that was supposed to control such a viral disaster in our country, made its task easier. The Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority and the Minister of Home Affairs, the offices which coordinated and led the fight against the coronavirus by issuing office memorandums and notifications to update information and resources were commanding the blitzkrieg. Sensing such liberty in the air, people threw away their masks and state governments started winding up their revamped response infrastructure laid out during the first wave. People took warnings from concerned citizens simply as doomsday prophecies. Corona season was over and the election season lighted a new spring of hope.
The Election Commission behind this colossal gaffe went to the Supreme Court for the erasure of the Madras High Court’s ‘murder charge’ against it, which many think is an understatement. It was then told by a worried Court to accept bitter questions raised in the process of judicial scrutiny on matters of public interest such as its oversight of the pandemic’s ruinous spread. In fact, a two-judge bench of the Delhi High Court has been holding almost daily video conferences to hear petitions from hospitals invoking the constitutional right to life and it remains overloaded with petitions from concerned citizens and distressed relatives of Covid patients, unprecedented and unparalleled in the country’s courtroom history. This is being attended by officials from the state as well as the Centre. While doctors are breaking down in hospitals on seeing avoidable deaths due to shortage of oxygen, medicines and ventilators, judges are also losing their cool at the mismanagement and allegation-brawls between officials in e-courtrooms. India has lost some of her top minds, leading professionals and committed doctors to the lethal second wave of Covid which most people believe was avoidable if the government had been better prepared.
Such a catastrophe was forewarned as the WHO had already declared during September-November 2020 that a second wave will affect the Mediterranean and European regions for sure. It later expected new variants to affect Canada too. China had taken the warnings seriously and started mass testing and more effective contact tracing through regulated and limited lockdowns to avoid the killer second wave. The British variant had already reached India while the findings on Brazilian and South African variants added to fears. Despite the WHO’S repeated warnings against lowering guards and becoming complacent, the country was made to feel festive with the boisterous IPL at the Narendra Modi Stadium, the declaration of elections on 26 February, and the Kumbh Mela which saw 3.5 million people converging on its first day alone, while in the later days that number increased to more than 4.8 million.
Nature always warns humanity before a catastrophe. A new variant was detected in India in early December last year, following which the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on 25 December established a top science research group called the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG). It constituted a grouping of 10 national laboratories to carry out genomic sequencing and analysis of circulating the Covid viruses, collecting epidemiological trends with genomic variants. INSACOG found 771 variants of concerns (VOCs) in a total of 10,787 positive samples collected from 18 states across the country. As per the information shared by INSACOG on its website, 736 of the samples were found positive for the British variant, 34 samples were South African variants, and one sample of Brazilian lineage was also detected. India was already seeing a viral bomb and there was no lack in our research institutions to have a deficit of epidemiological information about what India was heading towards, whatever be the explanations later from decision making bodies. INSACOG alerted the National Centre for Disease Control of the Health Ministry on 10 March against a more contagious variant which would spread very fast and infect a large population. There was still ample time to wind up election rallies and take back Kumbh orders. Nevertheless, the government went ahead with its historically long election process in multiple phases and most cabinet ministers, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the National Disaster Management Authority preferred to keep decisions on hold till the return of top leaders to their offices from highly charged and sufficiently draining election meetings.
All this was happening in the midst of a fatal surge of Covid-19 cases. The total number of cases across the country swelled during the period of intensive election conglomerations across the country (roughly 1 March to 1 May) and specifically in election-bound states. The country-wide numbers surged from around 12,000 cases and 30 deaths to 3,71,041 cases and 3,319 deaths. In the five states where election rallies were held, a huge convergence of people in the open, mostly without masks, happened. In West Bengal, where the Prime Minister alone held more than 18 meetings with a crowd exceeding hundreds of thousands in each, Covid cases surged from 201 with 2 deaths to 17,512 and 103 deaths. The Tamil Nadu story was worse as cases increased from a mere 470 to 19,588 and deaths increased by 25 times. During the same period, Assam and Puducherry, where deaths were limited to 23 and 19 saw a deadly rise by 130 and 17 times, respectively. Kerala, despite its much superior healthcare and hospital system, also saw a surge from 3,496 to 32,805 cases and from 5 to 48 deaths. Much of the election crowd either returned to Delhi and Mumbai or passed through these two states leaving behind a trail of infections which in the face of an unresourced government brought a deadly collapse of record proportions. The country which had held its head high by exporting 66 million vaccines to 95 countries till 16 April, including necessary drugs such as paracetamol and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), was now seeking the same from other countries. India has some of the best doctors in the world and one of the largest vaccine production capacities, but nothing helped as the health system collapsed in a heartbreaking scenario of desperation, despondency and death.
What went wrong with the leadership whose slogans such as ‘Modi hai to mumkin hai’ (Possibility, thy name is Modi) and ‘Sabka saath, sabka vikas’ (participatory and inclusive development) were being relished so well? Do administrators have a constitutional responsibility to act in time without waiting for directions from their political masters? Can our country reclaim a responsible and responsive administrative system which remains less influenced by the whims of political masters? The Supreme Court in 2013 had given a clear verdict in a writ petition of TSR Subramaniam and others v. Union of India where ten retired civil servants had invoked Article 32 of the Constitution, highlighting the necessity of various reforms for the preservation of integrity, fearlessness and independence of civil servants at the Centre and state levels in the country. Justice K. S. Radhakrishnan had issued certain directions to shield administrators from political influence based on the principles recognized by Rule 3(3)(ii)(iii) of the All India Service Conduct Rules, 1968 and as implicitly recognized by the Santhanam Committee Report, 1962 (Section 6, sub-para 33[iii]). To keep the bureaucracy free from ideological sycophancy, the Parliament was directed to immediately enact a Civil Services Act, setting up an independent Civil Services Board for the Union Government under Article 309 of the Constitution. Strong Prime Ministers always reduce administrative initiatives and gradually get clogged by a non-meritorious scum of officers around them. One could go on to name a long list of institutions in this country where bureaucracy has unquestionably succumbed to the tide of a strong regime even in the past. The catastrophe which follows has taken its deadliest toll this time in the country and should act as a wakeup call to bring reforms.
Three suggestions which can prevent the recurrence of such a disaster in the future have to do with systemic reforms in governance. First, the flow of information should not be blocked at any point and individual responsibility should be fixed on officials identified for doing it. Second, every institution should be governed through an increasing decentralization of authority at the Secretary, Joint Secretary and Director levels so that points of delay are detected and addressed in time. Third, the NDMA should reclaim its independence from the Home Ministry and work as a professional body of experts which is open to quick decisions on collaborations, information sharing and issuing early warnings against impending disasters. The world is changing faster than the hold of amateur political masters and one can definitely carve a brighter future if the government incorporates the suggested changes in the system. People can be better safeguarded even if they drop hopes of Arcadian bliss!
The author is President, NDRG and former Professor of Administrative Reforms and Emergency Governance at JNU.
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