‘OPEN JUSTICE’ EMERGED VICTORIOUS WHEN INSTITUTIONS CLASHED, BUT TO WHAT EXTENT? - The Daily Guardian
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‘OPEN JUSTICE’ EMERGED VICTORIOUS WHEN INSTITUTIONS CLASHED, BUT TO WHAT EXTENT?

Independence, impartiality and fearlessness of judges are not private rights but the rights of citizens.

Avishkar Singhvi

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In a recent decision by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice M.R. Shah in Chief Election Commissioner vs M.R. Vijayabhaskar, the clash between two hallowed constitutional bodies viz. the Election Commission and the judiciary; the Supreme Court made several far-reaching findings especially about the extent of open justice and fair reporting by the media. 

Justice Banerjee exclaimed that “Election Commission officers should be booked for murder …” and that “they are singularly responsible for the second wave” of Covid-19. The Election Commission challenged such oral observations, which were widely reported, and sought directions, qua media reporting of only findings which form part of the record and not oral courtroom exchanges. 

The jury on the conduct of the Election commission is out. The observation was in the heat of the moment and was an expression of helplessness, anguish and pain. A few startling facts emerge — since early April 2021 political rallies commenced unrestricted, garnering massive crowds running, not just in Tamil Nadu, but also in other states such as West Bengal and Kerala; despite the extenuating circumstances of exponential increase in Covid cases; the parties responsible for such large gatherings were not penalised, and further, the commission remained a mere spectator to the willful violations. Indeed, the commission does not assume the role of the executive or the law enforcement agencies, nor are they the judiciary, yet to permit such actions despite having knowledge of the imminent disaster to follow is in my view, simply outrageous and preposterous. 

Every institution has a defined role under the holy constitution but institutions such as the judiciary are more unequal than others in terms of their supervisory role in protecting the rights enshrined in the holy book. Whenever there is a threat to justice or fundamental rights, even constitutional bodies such as the Election Commission do not enjoy immunity from writ courts.

The duties of the commission under Article 324 of the constitution as elaborated/interpreted by the constitution benches in the TN Seshan and Laxmi Charan Sen and further in the Ashok Kumar, Kuldip Nayar and Gujarat Assembly cases clearly endow it with wide powers for “superintendence, direction and control” towards effectively accomplishing the task of completing elections. They are the sole institution that is in charge of “scheduling and conduct of elections”. In the current scenario, it is was therefore the bounden duty of ECI to ensure scheduling, conduct and completion of elections in such a manner that Covid protocols are not blatantly violated with penalties to follow. 

Though judicial review is extremely limited in the election process as per Ponnuswami, Mohinder Singh Gill line of judgements, Article 226 grants the court enough play in the joints to pass a wide amplitude of orders and even strictures against another constitutional body who has failed in its duty. Assuming, the Madras High Court found guilt attributable to the commission pursuant to a detailed examination of facts based on what it had before it, one wouldn’t put such a finding beyond the power of a constitutional court. 

The focus of the Supreme Court in the Judgement was however different — and pertained to the unfettered reporting of the oral observations in the context of open courts and justice and the free flow of information in the tech age, the useful purpose real-time reporting serves in creating accountability, transparency, integrity and inspiring faith of the public in the institution. The Supreme Court noted various instances such as Balgangadhar tilak’s sedition trial where he maintained his innocence and stated that “there are Higher powers that rule the destiny of men and nations” as a key event in exposing the vulnerabilities of the criminal process. Similarly, the celebrated Mirajkar case stressed on the safeguards of an open system of reporting to ensure even-handedness of justice. After noting several other notable English authorities, held that open reporting is not a cause for concern, rather a cause for “celebration of our constitutional ethos which bolsters the integrity of the institution”  taking note of the framework in several leading democracies. 

Whilst so observing and diffusing the situation deftly, it did however caution courts not to make off the cuff remarks in hearings and exercise restraint in making statements. They were termed as ‘harsh and inappropriate’  and therefore erased from judicial memory (even though they weren’t in any judgement of the Madras HC and only an oral observation). The cause of the Election Commission in approaching the Supreme Court seems to be somewhat served despite the fact that the Election Commission’s plea seeking to restrict reporting of oral observations by the media came to dismissed. The  Swapnil case was reiterated with the strong observation that unless proceedings come to be televised freely the true purport of the exchange in courts shall not be known. 

Incidentally, it has continuously been Justice Chandrachud who has time and again championed causes related to personal liberty, dissent, free expression and fair reporting. Not too long ago observing in his famous dissent, in a personal liberty case of activists that “dissent is the safety valve of a democracy”. Therefore, the line of thought seemed to broadly be in keeping with his cherished virtues of open justice and libertarianism. 

The media is undoubtedly, the fourth pillar of the constitution and it serves a great objective to the nation by reporting faithfully (more often than not) what transpired in court. It is also true that a system fraught with asymmetries of information and routine misinterpretations is not ideal. There has always been a tussle between the media and the courts regarding what was said, in what context it was said and what was the true import of the statements made by judges. 

In the judgement of Chief Election Commissioner there seemed to be two problematic areas that need further deliberation and thought, firstly, the idea of televising court proceedings as a matter of policy (as propounded in the Swapnil Case and reiterated as a plea to the legislature) and secondly, the practice of restricting constitutional courts from making remarks that express anguish, pain or even compassion in given situations. 

There are just exceptions to the rule of open justice and fair reporting of cases by the media as was done by the Constitution Bench in the Sahara India Real Estate case exercising inherent powers under the contempt jurisdiction of Articles 129 and 215 of the Constitution of India. Even in other situations where rape hearings are conducted in-camera, or extremely sensitive matters relating to national security are being dealt with by courts, the system of open justice and media reporting can be dispensed with. Of late lawyers in the Supreme Court would have witnessed sealed affidavits passed across by bar as a matter of right, a concept I have found extremely disturbing. 

Recently, Justice Bobde (ex-CJI) while hearing an anticipatory bail plea in a rape case questioned the accused “will you marry her”; a statement that enraged women rights activists, many articles appeared, even in the international media such as BBC, as well as many a prime-time debate charging the CJI with insensitivity, disrespect to women and even calls for him to quit office prematurely. In a subsequent hearing, the CJI was compelled to clarify his statements for being “completely misreported” solely for the consumption of the media. Whether the same would have happened say even three decades back, the answer is most likely no because real-time reporting and widest circulation through social media (internet) of every minute exchange were unknown and judges did not feel obliged to comment or clarify their statements made during court proceedings, which were in a sense privileged.  

Without reference to the merits of the dispute, it is true that under the present regime of reporting by the media, statements are often misconstrued by persons who are blissfully unaware of the context in which remarks are made by judges. The quoting of selective remarks made by a judge by journalists is surely not the best-case scenario or the ideal structure to create a symmetric flow of information and the essence of statements is often lost in translation. The limits of an open justice system must be carefully calibrated because, in pursuit of constant reform, the Judicial system must not dilute its identity and purpose — ‘the cure not worse than the disease’. The first question that comes to mind is whether the primary duty of courts is to ensure impartial delivery/administration of justice or whether it is duty-bound to ensure that every courtroom encounter is broadcasted to the public. The two are inherently conflicting, let us see how.

Psychologists would strongly argue that judges are not always camera-friendly or ‘celebrity judges’, in fact, most aren’t, especially so while talking to strangers in a formal courtroom environment. To evoke questions from a judge is the art of advocacy that every counsel aspires to possess. In a televised scenario judges would often fall prey to the idea of image building and be compelled to play to the galleries. Knowing that every statement, remark or even reaction made by them will be recorded, analysed, deconstructed, criticised and possibly condemned even by persons who have no knowledge of law or the case at hand — can be unnerving and unsettling for someone performing a highly onerous task. There would be a compulsion to conform to an idea of what a judge should be in the eyes of the media and public and that one’s own training and years of experience may possibly fall by the wayside, not for all but definitely for some. We already see this happening, possibly even subconsciously and can ill-afford such a vice. Most advocates are anxiously concerned about whether they have been able to get their point across to the bench. This is the soul of great advocacy and the tool to further this objective is by evoking meaningful responses and questions. 

If the judge is afraid or reserved to speak his mind, for whatever reason, or is restricted to express what he feels, from making oral observations during a court proceeding, it will have a chilling effect on the quality of Judgements delivered, the legal discourse and development of the jurisprudence. While I feel that the Supreme Court has consciously followed a system of open justice, televising proceedings may be a step too far, especially in the peculiar Indian context. The other serious challenge is about giving unnecessary publicity to embarrassing factual details about litigants and giving rise to the court of public opinion qua each and every case. While such opinion is valuable, it is not advisable that it becomes the subject of violent and vengeful trolling on social media portals such as Twitter and Facebook. Leave alone litigants, the judges may face a tirade of diatribe. 

For instance, even after an accused is acquitted after being dragged through the dirt in a criminal trial, the public may choose to disbelieve his innocence by observing the hearings in trial and may continue to hold the person guilty in the court of public opinion. From the Indian experience, it is also important to note that a lot of persons enjoy gossip at the expense of others to titillate their mundane existences and spice up their lives. Many such scenarios come to mind, each decision of the supreme court will come into question by billions of viewers each having hundreds of opinions. Informed opinions and suggestions are surely welcome, but abuse, trolling, obstruction, and misuse can seriously hamper the delivery of justice. Some may feel comfortable with the idea of televised proceedings with the onset of virtual hearings which are also recorded in that sense, but court proceedings, going on television like a soap opera is an unfathomable concept at least for me. Virtual hearings are also an extraordinary step in the present circumstances, but courts must go back to their conventional majesty as quick as possible. 

Further, every citizen is not expected or inclined to part take in detailed court proceedings and read voluminous Judgements, as what are lawyers for. Citizens who are not litigants would be more than content with a snapshot summary of what transpired in courts- delivered to them by their faithful messenger. Also, it will be impossible and impractical to televise each and every courtroom in India as that would make the buildings largely redundant if the lawyers can sit on their sofas and attend hearings. 

India is also the land of emotional people, wherein a simple speech can stir frenzy and lead to rioting amongst the public. Actions off late by the government, be it the Farm bill or the Citizenship bill have led to fierce reactions by huge groups of the affected public; if one were to televise court proceedings in such sensational public interest matters, what could be some of the unwanted outcomes — disobedience of court orders, possible dharnas outside the apex court, that could any minute turn violent. The illustrations go as far as the imagination. 

“When it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is a phrase that would be apt in an age of too much information and too many misinformed opinions. When we bestow our faith and trust in courts and the judicial system, a place seen as a temple of justice and of last resort vindication of rights — is it unwise to make it open to unnecessary scrutiny and permanently alter its structure, its manner of functioning. These changes may end up undermining their own authority, relevance, and impact. Therefore, it is true that “sunlight is the best disinfectant’ but the Supreme Court, being the master of its own destiny, must determine how much sunlight is really necessary and what purpose would it achieve.  

As parliamentarians enjoy privilege against judicial review, judges also enjoy absolute privileges at least during courtroom hearings for the statements made by them in a court of discharging justice as held in the Bennett Coleman and Pradip Mitra cases and several others. Judges are men of high character and therefore they are deemed not to abuse the privileges they enjoy. While this true, should litigants be permitted to call into question heated exchanges and observations made like the ones made against the election commission when they don’t form part of the record? The list of times when the benches have reprimanded litigants, even in the last decade since I have been around, is unending. Such harsh reactions have mostly been aimed at ensuring compliance or expressing shock and pain in a myriad of situations, and hence in the spirit of keeping the justice system open from both sides, it is in the public interest that the free expression by judges is not curtailed. Such absolute privileges permit judges to discharge their functions fearlessly. If such absolute privileges granted as a matter of public policy are diluted by the judiciary itself, we shall see the end of a fearless institution. 

A Court is duty-bound to counter dastardly situations with an iron fist and when it fails to do so, it is strongly criticised; when it attempts to do it, it is left fearful and looking over its shoulder. This tight rope walk can be too difficult. The consequences can be sinister as briefly reflected above. The Supreme Court took a very balanced approach by stating that “Language is an important instrument of a judicial process which is sensitive to constitutional values. Judicial language is a window to a conscience sensitive to the constitutional ethos. Bereft of its understated balance, language risks losing its symbolism as a protector of human dignity”. No doubt such peremptory findings were well-intentioned, but as a precedent they are susceptible to misuse by busy-bodies rushing to the Supreme Court at every opportunity, taking objection to oral observations made by constitutional courts and further give rise to unnecessary litigation. It shall do a great disservice to the institution. 

Independence, impartiality and fearlessness of judges are not private rights but the rights of citizens. 

The writer is an advocate. The views expressed are personal. 

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POTENTIAL OF TECHNOLOGY FOR TEACHER TRAINING

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The quality of teachers has been a much-debated issue in India for decades now. The nation as a whole, as well as states independently have grappled with the quality of teacher training, trying to ensure that our teachers are learning, learning well, and are able to serve our children better.

Most states have elaborately planned training, often designed as a cascade model. This model involves top officials getting trained on teacher content, taking this learning and then training their immediate subordinates. This goes on for about 3-4 levels before reaching the teacher. While the intention exists and it solves for the vastness of this problem, the quality of content, the facilitation and the motivation to deliver gets diluted at each level of the cascade model. Now, with new approaches on curriculum coming out, the need to deliver content with minimum compromise on quality in an interesting and engaging manner, and also in a language that works best for a teacher, technology can play a very interesting role in addressing these gaps.

Before we get into what technology can do, it is also important to understand why it is important that we leverage this now more than ever. With India bringing out the NEP, there is an emphasis on making sure that teachers have access to quality capacity building and professional development that also takes into account relevant factors like continuous professional development and access to reference material, etc. Now that children need effective remediation post the pandemic, building a workforce of quality teachers who can ensure that foundational literacy and numeracy goals are met is critical. To do this at a fast pace, technology is the only enabler that can help us strengthen the existing model of training. This has been proven across various sectors and it is about time the educational sector adopted it as well.

During the pandemic, multiple surveys found that teachers catering to even the low-income communities had access to at least one internet enabled smartphone at home. This opens up opportunities to try and test integration of technology in teacher capacity building.

Below are some key advantages of integrating technology into training-

AUDIO-VISUAL RESOURCES

Online training makes it possible for teachers to access learning material in the form of videos. While content is present in the form of readings and papers, most teachers who seek learning are unable to access it in their preferred language. Videos provide this flexibility of adding voice overs in the identified language, allows replaying of content and overall require lower time commitment from teachers since they can consume knowledge in smaller bytes.

FLEXIBILITY IN TIME AND PACE

Online modules, once created, can remain accessible for an extended period of time. This provides the option for teachers to access learning content in small packets, at a time that is convenient for them and at a pace they are comfortable with.

PROVIDES IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK

Teachers require feedback to be able to self-correct which takes effort and time. Organising assessment for teachers to test their own learning is an ordeal in terms of finding a venue, communicating dates, managing travel etc. Integration of technology for this can make it possible for teachers to test their knowledge at any point from the comfort of their homes.

HELPS IN GROWTH AND LEARNING

Tech can be created to track the learning content teachers are accessing and the progress they are making. This can help the teacher see their own growth, and in turn, be more motivated to improve their classroom practices.

PROVIDES PROOF OF COMPLETION

Providing certificates to teachers has a number of logistical challenges which include tracking attendance, assessments, printing and delivering. Online modules available these days are able to automate and provide digital copies of certificates to teachers which they can access easily at any given time as long as they have internet enabled.

ENABLES PEER LEARNING

Tech can make it possible for teachers to connect with peers across districts and states and expand their perspectives on teaching practices. Online discussion forums, webinars and chats can allow for cross learning and a greater sense of community.

These features, if leveraged, can make capacity building of teachers less intensive on the trainers within the cascade, and can be scaled to provide access to remote areas easily. While the above solutions may not solve for enabling effective reflection, motivation and practice, they would definitely add value to the existing model of training by making trainers and officials more equipped to support teachers better in the classrooms. A hybrid model needs to be explored in order to make capacity building for teachers complete.

The author is Co-Founder and CEO, Key Education Foundation

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THE PARADOXES AT DAVOS 2022

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It has been interesting being in Davos this year. And, yes, it did feel different after a two-year pandemic-induced hibernation. Attendance understandably was down; but thankfully the temperature, it being May and not January, was up!! The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting returned with an appropriately weighty theme — ‘History at a Turning Point: Government Policies and Business Strategies’.

History indeed is at a turning point. Climate change, followed by the Covid pandemic, followed by global supply chain disruptions, then the ongoing war in Ukraine, followed by levels of inflation that the world has not seen for decades, has meant considerable panic and uncertainty. No one is even pretending any longer to know the answers. In this context, it was good to hear so many varied views at the WEF. However, it would have been even better to hear from those who were missing. Attendance from China, Japan and Korea was sparse this year and of course we heard nothing from Russia or much from Ukraine attendees. In fact, it was a rather one-sided WEF gathering.

And, frankly, this one-sidedness is a cause for concern. It reflects, perhaps, a growing close-mindedness that became a characteristic of the global response to the pandemic, as countries withdrew behind their borders. The response to the pandemic, around the world, has been a strange mix of ingenuity and global cooperation on the one hand and blatant selfishness on the other. Take, for instance, the speed with which vaccines were developed by scientists collaborating across borders (including in India) and contrast it with the deep mistrust, suspicion, prejudice, and greed inherent in the vaccine rollout, their availability and their pricing, leading to several layers of fracturing within nations and across nations.

The same pattern of response is evident in the turmoil over energy. Developed nations that were setting targets and giving stern lectures about climate change to the rest of the world now appear to be less censorious as their own energy security is threatened and prices spiral. Very few are willing to admit that there had been an overswing on the side of green solutions and technologies that were still in their nascent stage and that this fragility has been totally exposed by the crisis in Ukraine. Perhaps better sense will now prevail about what pragmatic energy transitions might look like as opposed to green transitions based on little more than magical thinking. It would have been worthwhile to have had more of this debate at the WEF, to have heard more about how we might realistically come together to enable a global green transition based on collaboration and mutual understanding rather than finger-wagging and scolding.

More than climate change, though, the topic several of the delegates I met at Davos ended up discussing was defence. Clearly, the world has been shaken by the war in Ukraine, as well as the pulling out of troops from Central Asia and the Middle East. When you overlay these concerns with resentment over the uneven distribution of Covid vaccines and the uncertainty around energy supply, it is understandable that nations (even those that are in NATO) are beginning to see sense in augmenting their border security. Almost every leader I spoke to acknowledged, and some even explicitly stated, that a new and more sophisticated arms race may now be coming on. Alliances will form and re-form around defence agreements and many countries may prioritize defence manufacture and procurement as a non-negotiable aspect of self-reliance.

This state of global affairs has forced us to confront the resulting realpolitik directly rather than hide behind a façade of global cooperation. On one side we are too connected now, bound together by trade and the brute logic of the supply chain. But on the other, a combination of the pandemic, followed by the war in Ukraine and the effort to limit climate change, has exposed the limits of global cooperation.

International alliances and pacts are mutable, built on slippery foundations of self-interest. Indeed, many of the most economically developed nations on the planet are scrambling to find alternatives to a world they have largely brought about, recognizing belatedly that in the quest for hyper efficiencies they have become too reliant on some nations to meet manufacturing needs and too reliant on others to meet energy needs. A flat world, we now know, was largely a fantasy. We must learn to navigate the bumps and the curves rather than assume a flattening of our world is possible or perhaps even desirable.

I went to Davos to learn how the world’s leaders saw this present time, and how they might define a ‘global’ agenda. For instance, if ‘sustainability’ is the agenda and the pressing concern of the hour, then the world’s convictions should not be swayed by either war or pandemic. We must accept that there is a price to pay to make the changes we say we must make. For me, sustainability is as much about the health of society as it is about the health of the environment. We must see that equality and dignity are crucial aspects of any effort to combat climate change. The time has come for global collaboration rather than cooperation. “You must cooperate with me” cannot imply coercion. Cooperation cannot only mean cooperate with the existing world order.

Therefore, as a response to global conditions, I am convinced that our Prime Minister’s Atmanirbhar Bharat scheme is precisely the catalyst India needs to step up and strengthen self-reliance across all sectors – be it vaccinations, defence or semiconductors. It is clear, in this uncertain time, that there is little alternative to effective, confident self-reliance and that we are now onto this era of self-reliance.

As we go through this process there will be pushbacks – and we will run into controversies in other parts of the world. So be it. Many will try to stop us building semiconductor plants. Many will dissuade us from investing a larger portion of our GDP in defence. Our principles will come under criticism. What we must keep in mind is that many of those who set targets for emissions reductions for India are also those that shy away from acknowledging the disproportionate responsibility borne by a small number of developed countries for the climate crisis. In other words, it is far easier to talk than to walk the talk.

I must admit that the very large presence of India at the WEF, even in these times, was reassuring. It showed that India is no longer shy about asserting itself in the global arena. It was a sign of our growing confidence. It was a sign of our belief in the India story, and I am glad I was in Davos to experience this for myself!

India is right to focus on self-reliance, while also seeking to provide an alternative to a world in need of alternatives. If there is a rejigging of the world order, it needs to be one that is based on respectful multipolarity. The world need not be flat. Not when flatness really just means that the world has been forcefully flattened. Instead, let’s seek a more stable world order built around countries that are self-confident, self-reliant and willing to speak to each other in terms of mutual respect rather than coercion and condescension. This is the paradox we must solve!

This piece was shared by Gautam Adani, Chairperson of Adani Group, on Linkedin.

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Kapila Vatsyayan: Of dance, space and time

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It is said that dance emerged as a fully formed art by the mere wish of Lord Shiva. Dance, if not seen as a spontaneous creation can be understood as a curious mixture of several art forms such as music, drama, acting, movement projected upon its chief instrument of expression: human figure. Dance is not a simple synthesis of all arts but a heightened and intense expression of the combination. Dance is also a composition of movements that issue from various parts of the human form: shoulder, hip and knee joints being the key points. Natyashastra, the great treatise on drama and dance, categorizes human body into two parts: major limbs and minor limbs. According to this classification, head, hands, breast (chest), sides (waist), hips, and feet constitute the major limbs. Minor limbs include eyes, eyebrows, nose, lips, chin, mouth etc. Interestingly it does not analyze the role of toes of the feet, belly, knees and ankles in the dance movement and only alludes to the wrist.

The sage Bharata is assigned the authorship of Natyashastra. Its dates are in between 200 BCE or 200 CE and is lost in the mists of time. It is our good fortune that a large part of it is still available for us to learn and enjoy. As is the tradition in India, a major text is continuously worked upon by subsequent generations thus developing it continuously, making additions as the time demands and circumstances dictate. Natyashastra was also subjected to this process. One of the major contributors to this process was Kapila Vatsyayan, who by her translation and understanding illuminated and contemporized Natyashastra and its understanding. In this sense, she stood as tall as other commentators on Indian art as Abhinavagupta and Sarangadeva. Kapila Vatsyayan was born in 1928 in Delhi, pursued English literature in her undergraduate studies from Delhi University and PhD from Banaras Hindu University. At the age of ten while she was performing a dance titled, ardhanarishwara, she was identified by the great Kathak guru, Acchan Maharaj who told her “You dance beautifully but you need training”.

She kept her interest in dance away from her college life and learnt other dance forms: Bharatanatyam from Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai and Manipuri from Guru Amobi Singh. She was simultaneously involved in running a dance school and gathering teachers of dance from across the country to Delhi, which included Pt Birju Maharaj and Lalitha of Kalakshetra. She considered her mother and Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, the founder of National School of Drama, Sangeet Natak Academy as her guru.

Later she went to America, where she conducted movement analysis with the help of Laban’s tools and Hanya Holm’s movement systems. She learnt from them, how self-awareness can be achieved through the movement of the body. She said in one of her interviews, “In the west we try to know our body whereas in India we use our body to transcend it, two completely different ways of looking at the same thing”.

Kapila Vatsyayan was at home with both Indian and Western traditions of dance and was therefore able to isolate that which is different and unique in each. In her analysis of the body movement within nrtta, as opposed to nrtya and natya, she elucidated the difference that is fundamental. Indian classical dance has three categories, nrtta, nrtya and natya. Nrtta is pure dance without meaning, where movements of body do not indicate towards any mood. Nrtya is body movements performed to musical notes whereas Natya is drama. She wrote that Indian dance conceives itself as the relationship between body movement and its response to the pull of gravity. It seeks to first arrive at the perfect position of balance, at a specific point of time and space along the vertical median also called the brahma sutra. She equated it to the idea of sama-bhanga in sculpture that places equal weight on both sides of the sculpture. This position is so important that all other dance movement springs forth from this original position and returns to this. A western dancer especially in ballet, leaps and glides in space and tries to free herself from gravity, even if for a few moments. She tried to eliminate or reduce space by covering as much of it as possible, by flinging oneself away from it and freeing oneself, by reaching out into space in both horizontal and vertical direction, trying to grasp and master space at the same time.

The Indian dance tradition looks at space, gravity and time differently. Here the preoccupation is with time. The striving is always for the perfect pose that conveys timelessness. The nrtta technique therefore depends on making intricate movements with body parts by manipulating time also called tala and achieve a series of poses with the perfect pose being a moment of arrested time.

Kapila Vatsyayan experienced in the sculptures of Khajuraho, the primal sources of Indian dance. To understand this experience, she began her doctoral studies at Banaras Hindu University, and analysed related manuscripts, photographs, artifacts, and sculptures. She thus began her journey of understanding human body as it moves in dance forms and composed her doctoral thesis as ‘Classical Indian Dance in Literature’ which she soon consigned to flames, realizing the audacity of her ambition reflected in the topic.

The author is Associate Professor and Director, Staff Training and Development, Anant National University

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A MUSSOURIE-LANDOUR DIARY

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THE NAME IS BOND, RUSKIN BOND

At the foot of the climb from Landour Bazaar to Char Dukan, the unpretentious residence of author Ruskin Bond sits atop a popular restaurant. Until a few years back, it also existed anonymously. Not so, now.

The octogenarian Bond’s lifetime of quiet dedication to his craft has exploded into a celebration of his existence. At any time of the day, his fans can be seen on the road outside his home, hoping for a glimpse of Mr Bond through the window he has made famous via his writing. Some are clicking selfies at various levels of the painted red staircase that leads to his apartment. Others throng the lone bench under a tree at the nearby entrance to the restaurant. They wait, hoping to see their favourite author climbing down the stairway. Prior to the pandemic, Mr Bond did so often.

St Paul’s Church, Landour

A street in LandourThe staircase to Ruskin Bond’s flatView from Ruskin Bond’s window

Both the restaurant at Rokeby Manor in Landour and the bar at The Savoy in Mussourie had arrangements for his fans to drink and dine with the writer, albeit for a fee. On Saturday mornings, he graced the Cambridge Book Stall on the Mall in Mussourie. Here, he would autograph his books and graciously chat with his readers. This chance to interact has alas, all but evaporated since COVID 19 struck.

Perhaps it is this that has led people to besiege his residence in the manner they do. Yet while they stare at his window, none looks in the direction of where the fenestration opens to. Nor, as they tip toe up his stairway, do they venture too far to where the steps lead to outside. The view from Ruskin Bond’s window is as magnanimous as is his writing and the passage beyond the stairs leads into the lush forests of Mussourie-Landour where his intrepid explorations have inspired much of his work.

Ruskin Bond has unquestionably lent life to his surroundings and long after he is gone, the locale shall be enlivened by the imagination and descriptions of Mussourie’s most famous resident. Like him, visitors will be rewarded by widening the scope of their sightseeing and seeking out unique and less well-known aspects of this popular hill station.

DEMOLITION OF HOUSES

The quaint town of Landour, perched just above Mussourie and nostalgically named after a Welsh village by a colonial administrator is largely within a cantonment precinct. Most of the cottages that line the ‘chakkar’ here retain their original British names fondly harking back on a bygone era. Ownership though has since mostly shifted to well-heeled north Indians.

This was amply evident in the recent demolitions that shook the placid hill-town.

The popular Indian subscription to build what you want, where you want and when you want wasn’t acceptable to the Cantonment Board that governs the town and sits amidst the high-security Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) campus. It is the DRDO that occupies much of what is present-day Landour.

Evidently, money could not buy a ‘blind-eye’ and consequently, four or five properties that had violated the building regulations in varying degrees were subjected to demolition. The most visibly affected were the opulent residences of a banker and a hospitality tycoon.

This brings into the spotlight rampant construction in the entire belt. The haphazard manner in which the same is being affected has assumed disturbing proportions. The entire route from Dehradun to Mussourie is pockmarked by eateries that have sprung up at virtually every bend. Within the towns rampant construction, often of monstrous proportions, is indicative a lack of ecologically sensitive planning.

Given this scenario, the oasis that is Landour reminds us of how colonial planning and architecture of hill stations was different from that in the plains. The sensitivity and sense of aesthetics at work when Dehradun and Mussourie were planned and built are, alas, a lost consideration now.

AND AT THE END ARE THE CLOUDS …..

The cynical would shake off present-day Mussourie as a hill-top Chandni Chowk.

Crowded, chaotic and cumbersome.

While this assessment may wholesomely apply to parts of the city, there is redemption at hand when one veers off further from Landour Bazaar and the Mall towards the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Charleville. Here one enters a comparatively unhurried vicinity where a number of princely palaces are located. In their day, some Maharajas and Nawabs preferred Mussorie to Simla as absence of the Viceregal firmament here meant they weren’t subjected to a stringent colonial hierarchy.

Many of these palaces speak of neglect over time. Others have been effectively converted into heritage hospitality ventures catering to an ever-burgeoning domestic tourist circuit. A new relevance has crept in through past decades. Once beyond the colonial edifices, private forests round off the further edge of Mussourie here. The most visible of them is Lyndale Estate that curves along the Hathipaon Road and sinks all the way to the valley beneath. Enveloping an abandoned beer factory that sits perched on the edge of a hill outcrop, this property spread over hundreds of acres belongs to the owners of DLF, India’s largest real estate company.

Further along the same road is Cloud End, another expansive private forest. Unlike the other estates, this one is accessible to public. For a fee, one can walk through parts of the estate although this only allows a limited sojourn and hardly does justice to the captivating landscape.

If you are willing to make the effort a more rewarding experience is to walk along the road leading to Cloud End which offers stupendous views through gaps in the foliage and a distant peek at the cottage of the famed geographer Sir George Everest. This building has since been converted into a museum.

A TRAIN TO MUSSOURIE

Numerous schools dot the Mussourie-Landour landscape. The Doon valley and it’s surrounding hills are a cottage industry in education.

Some of the older institutions are Woodstock, which is possibly the largest land-owner in Landour, St George’s College, Oak Grove and Wynberg Allen.

All of these schools trace their inception to the nineteenth century. Oak Grove School in Jharipani, run by the Indian Railways, was founded in 1888. Apart from claiming an alumni as distinguished as that of the others, it is a part of a curious tale that lies buried in the forested hills below it, for over a century.

In 1920 the British Government made a second attempt to build a railroad from Dehradun to Mussourie. A site within the Oak Grove School was ear-marked for the penultimate station with the Himalayan Club as the last station on the route. The precise location considered for the station, a rare patch of levelled ground, now serves as a sports field.

The rail line had progressed in parts when an accident occurred during the construction of a tunnel between the town of Rajpur and Mussourie. There were casualties and the project was abandoned.

What may have also been a factor of discouragement to recommence work was a vehement agitation against the rail line by the traders in Dehradun. These merchants were apprehensive of losing the business of the well-heeled and ruling classes who flocked to Mussourie every summer. The railway track would have diminished if not eliminated their usual stop-over at Dehradun.

A walk to one edge of Oak Grove School near the building housing the middle classes treats one to a panoramic view of Dehradun. Below a sheer drop are the extensive forested undulations of Jharipani. Approachable from Rajpur, amidst this forest lie the rail tracks abandoned since a century and now obscured by foliage.

Upon exiting the sylvan ambience of a hill station school and driving into the chaotic traffic of Mussourie, one would ask oneself why a railway line here wasn’t a possibility today if it was a consideration over one hundred years back.

Contrarily, given the environmental damage inflicted by the daily movement of hundreds of petrol and diesel vehicles, an electrically operated train service would be a godsend in this fragile ecology.

Residents of Mussourie, riled by daily traffic jams along the approach to and within the city have taken to questioning the intentions of their government. The fact that recently a train service has been provided along a stretch to Srinagar in Kashmir makes a rail track to Mussourie seem eminently feasible, to their minds.

In absence of a state response, the rail tracks hidden in the forests of Jharipani shall serve to remind of braver and more adventurous times.

Rajesh Luthra is an architect in independent practice. Having graduated from Columbia University in New York City, he designs, writes and teaches in New Delhi.

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Bihar, UNICEF learn Delhi model to boost child protection

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The Government of Bihar is committed to strengthening its child protection mechanisms and towards this; it is open to learning the good practices in other states. A delegation of nine child protection functionaries that include members of the Child Welfare Committee, District Child Protection Unit, State Child Protection Society, Social Welfare Department, and Child Protection Officer from UNICEF Bihar visited Delhi over 3 days (18-21 May 2022). The learning visit was facilitated by Delhi-based NGO, Udayan Care which runs Udayan Ghars, a unique model of child and youth care with aftercare being integrated into its design and implementation.

During the visit, the delegates were given exposure to the Udayan Ghar unique model, they also visited the aftercare homes for boys and girls, being managed by the Govt of Delhi and had an interaction with the officers of the Delhi government’s State Child Protection Society. The delegates also met the key officials at institutes such as Aurobindo Ashram and GMR, which provides skilling and employability opportunities to the youth.

Aftercare is a critical yet unaddressed area of child protection in India. This is evident from the findings of the “Beyond 18” research study that was conducted by Udayan Care in 2019. There is enough evidence globally and nationally that children growing up in care institutions are not adequately prepared to leave care and are not ready for independent living. Their transition planning and training, during their last years in the Child Care Institutions (CCIs), are often lacking due to the lack of knowledge of the provisions in the existing juvenile laws as well as skills in addressing transition requirements of youth leaving care among child protection functionaries. Often children have turned away on turning 18 without guidance and support or continue to extend their stay in such institutions without any rehabilitation plan. Children nearing adulthood have expressed their feelings by saying, “I felt like a plant being uprooted” to “it’s my life but for social workers, it’s just their job”.

Udayan Care has been working to change the way we care for our children and ensure that they receive continued support and their transition from childcare institutions to independent living is smooth and such young people, also known as care leavers, feel they have a strong ecosystem around them till they get reintegrated as contributing citizens of society. Towards this, it is being supported by UNICEF to work closely in partnership with the Government of Bihar to improve the Aftercare work in the state.

Since 2019, several child protection functionaries have been trained in transition planning and aftercare and have enhanced their skills in the rehabilitation of such youth. Individual Care Plans (ICP), assessments of disability, mapping of the competencies, skills, and interests of children and youth, and life skills workshops have been imparted in two districts, Patna and Gaya. Stitching centres have been opened in the CCIs in Patna and Gaya to provide skilling to children and they have been engaged in learning several arts and crafts that enhance their skills. Partnerships with Upendra Maharathi Anusandhan Sansthan (UMAS) institute and Lemon Tree Hotel in Patna have led to young persons being placed for jobs.

It is hoped that this interaction will be mutually beneficial for officers of both states and will reinforce their conviction to work with children and youth in more non-institutional approaches.

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WHY IMMIGRANTS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BECOME ENTREPRENEURS

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What do Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jan Koum, Sergey Brin, Arianna Huffington, and Elon Musk have in common? They all are immigrants who despite cultural differences and language barriers, succeeded and established their names in a foreign land.

Such success stories lay the foundation of the idea that you too can similarly succeed. Recent trends suggest that in the United States, immigrants are almost twice as likely to become entrepreneurs as U.S.-born citizens. Out of the total 44.9 million immigrants in the U.S., which is 13 percent of the total population, more than 12 million people are entrepreneurs. This shows that immigrants not only have higher chances of success but, essentially, are driven to take the risk.

MORE OPPORTUNITIES

In past decades, the rise in immigrant contributions to entrepreneurship in such developed nations is unprecedented. There are multiple reasons for this change. This includes the fact that their talents and skills are appreciated and recognized more in foreign countries compared to their own. Developed countries also serve as a solid platform for globalized industries and societies, acting as a meeting point for people of varied cultural backgrounds and migrant origins. The past two decades have witnessed the highest number of migrants living thousands of miles away from their homes, from 173 million in 2000 to 281 million in 2020. Furthermore, about one-fourth of all technology companies or startups established in the U.S. or Canada have at least one founder who is an immigrant.

THE GROWING CONSCIOUSNESS

Access to world-class education, ease of doing business, advanced infrastructure, global mobility, and a better quality of life has always been the key reasons behind immigration. The Covid-19 pandemic and the uncertainty brought by it have further made people realize the importance of living in a safe and economically stable country.

Countries such as the U.S., Canada, the U.K, and the EU are among the most popular destinations for immigrant entrepreneurs. A recent study by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs study showed that two-thirds of the world’s immigrant population is concentrated in 20 countries.

CHANGING IMMIGRATION LANDSCAPE

Immigrant entrepreneurs looking for a permanent residency in Canada do so through three critical pathways – Canada Startup Visa, Intra-Company Transfer (C-11) visa, and Canada Provincial Entrepreneur Visa.

The U.S. offers an E-2 visa that allows foreign nationals to invest and carry out business activities in America. Though it is important to note that Indians cannot directly apply for the E-2 visa. They first have to obtain Grenada Citizenship by doing an investment to be eligible for the route. Further, the EB-5 Program permits the applicants to apply for US Green Card via investment.

The current Biden administration considered more welcoming towards immigrants than the Trump administration, has introduced the International Entrepreneur Parole (IEP) Programme. The Program will allow DHS to exercise its parole authority and issue a temporary visa to foreign entrepreneurs coming to the United States to launch innovative startups with solid job-creation potential.

Similarly, the EU Golden Visa Programs have also been around for less than a decade and doing well in attracting foreign nationals seeking to invest in Europe. Europe Startups and Entrepreneur Visa programs are making a significant impact on foreign nationals, whether they are just looking for a business expansion or have a business idea.

Golden Visa programs also have a lower minimum investment amount than other countries.

The United Kingdom is also changing its immigration landscape by inviting more foreign entrepreneurs in the post-Brexit era. It may present more opportunities in the coming times for Indians planning to relocate to the United Kingdom.

Australia is also attracting immigrant entrepreneurs through investment programs like the Business Innovation and Investment Programme, Global Talent Programme, and Employer-Sponsored Programme.

THE BOTTOM LINE

One of the most compelling reasons for these entrepreneurs’ rise in developed nations is their Cross-Culture experience. It helps them identify better business opportunities and draft competitive business plans. Their various businesses and cultural expertise help them launch new products, be more creative, offer better services, and prioritize customer preferences. The exposure also allows them to efficiently transfer their knowledge related to customer issues. Many successful immigrant entrepreneurs show similar traits.

The author is President and Founder-Abhinav Immigration Services Private Limited

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