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The curious case of Sushant Singh Rajput

Priya Sahgal



Suddenly, Sushant Singh Rajput’s “apparent” suicide is all over the news again. Partly because of his last film being released, but also because of the uncertainty surrounding his death. During an exclusive interview to NewsX, Dr Subramanian Swamy very interestingly highlighted several loopholes in the Sushant Singh suicide theory. To paraphrase him, he first highlighted the fact that Rajput’s body had been taken to the Cooper hospital for post-mortem. This, says Dr Swamy, surprised him as it is usually runof-the-mill road accidents that are taken there and not high-profile celebrity suicides. Second, he claimed that while the post-mortem report stating that this was a suicide was only a “provisional” one, the body was handed over for cremation. Dr Swamy also wondered why Sushant’s flat had not been sealed and found a couple of other loopholes in the suicide theory such as the fact that the cloth used as a rope was not strong enough to hang a body and that the distance between the bed and the ceiling was not enough to allow a body to hang. All in all, he has asked for a CBI probe.

Why CBI? Doesn’t he trust the state authorities to do a comprehensive investigation? Dr Swamy’s reply was nuanced and equally intriguing. He commented that while he had no doubt that the Maharashtra CM would agree to a CBI inquiry, he was intrigued as to why the state Home Minister (from the NCP) was opposing it.

 Dr Swamy also talks about the BollywoodDubai nexus. And adds significantly that this also includes politicians. Dr Swamy’s legal team — Ishkaran Bhandari — has also offered legal support to Kangana Ranaut. However Kangana’s case is slightly different from Dr Swamy’s, for she seems to not so much question the suicide itself as the fact as to what drove him to suicide. Her allegations of nepotism in the film industry seem to hit a chord, for suddenly this has become the debate of the day with other voices joining in. Chetan Bhagat has also tweeted about his case, as have others. Suddenly, Bollywood is divided against those who agree with Ranaut and those who don’t. Shocking tales have come out of careers being manipulated, films being delayed just to promote a rival, roles being denied… and a lot more.

Cartels and cliques do exist in almost every field, from politics, media to business. In any field the “Outsider” is looked upon with suspicion. Of course, with Bollywood being more glamorous than most other professions, this does get more headlines. Interestingly within Bollywood and with the Dubai angle being brought up, there is speculation about a larger game at play. Dr Swamy certainly seems to think so. And once he brings in the role of the politician, the headlines get all the more interesting.

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India must up its game in neighbourhood

Maneesh Pandeya



India’s growing global stature is giving sleepless nights to its neighbours, hence some occasional disturbances to rattle New Delhi’s calm is natural. After Nepal raised the map row with India, threatening New Delhi’s long-standing diplomatic ties with the Himalayan nation, now it is Pakistan’s turn to prick India. On Friday, Pakistan presented a new political map reasserting its claim to Jammu & Kashmir, minus the parts claimed by China, something which leaves no doubt that actually who’s is behind all this. From Kathmandu to Islamabad, it’s Beijing’s fast growing insecurity against New Delhi and its uneasiness at the thought of fighting a two-front war – one with India at the border and another a full-scale one with the US-led coalition in the South China Sea. Although Beijing has got into this position, where it’s fast losing its Asian giant tag and friendly nations now shifting loyalties, and is trying to play the same on India by “unsettling New Delhi’s multi-polar diplomacy dividends”. China is using its pawns — Pakistan and Nepal — to keep India “disturbed and diverted” from major issues, so much so that many in Asian media are anticipating that New Delhi “may be forced to face a two-front war”. A latest opinion piece in the South China Morning Post feared “such a situation coming for India, despite a lack of evidence that such a move is in the works”.

 India has rightly maintained the cool nerves, while it has spelt out its tough resolve against Beijing’s arbitrary expansionist agenda and hinted that it won’t budge and bow. It doesn’t need to feel disturbed as the great warriors plan the war much in advance; it’s time for New Delhi to be prepared for any eventuality, given that you are surrounded by two rogue nations — China and Pakistan.

 Islamabad’s release of the map is the latest in a series of conflicts born from cartography, which broke out in the Himalayas since May — from a deadly scuffle between Indian and Chinese soldiers in mid-June to a war of words with Kathmandu. Pakistan’s new map also comes on the first anniversary of the day India changed the status of Kashmir, much to the discomfort of Islamabad and Beijing.

These occasional rattling and raising of issues by China and Pakistan, along with smaller nations crucial to India like Nepal, will become a norm for which India must be prepared with “surgical diplomacy” to counter such threats.

 It is to be noted that China has not taken the “humiliation of Galwan valley” lightly. On the lines of the US-led Quad, Beijing reportedly hosted a first ever quadrilateral meeting with foreign ministers from Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan to step up its influence in South Asia amid unresolved border friction with India. Additionally, Beijing is also trying to leverage India cosying up to the US for future energy deals by getting close to Tehran. It is learnt that Beijing plans to pour $400 billion into infrastructure investment in Iran as part of a 25-year e c o n o m i c a n d s e c u r it y partnership. The report, which found its mention in The New York Times on 11 July, citing an 18-page leaked document on the plan, was however neither denied nor confirmed by China. But the global experts have not ruled out the possibility with strong intelligence now about China getting closer to countries that have direct links to India’s strategic affairs and diplomacy.

India is being watched globally and this is the time when it needs to open its diplomatic channels in the most productive manner. It must reach out to maximum nations worldwide, and be watchful and ready to take tough action against rogue nations.

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Manoj Sinha has a tightrope walk ahead in Kashmir

Manoj Sinha is expected to bring all political parties to a point of convergence and create an environment congenial for elections. This is going to be a tough journey requiring both time and patience.

Atir Khan



The Centre’s decision to appoint Manoj Sinha as the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu & Kashmir is being perceived as a master stroke. He has been sent as a catalyst for restoring the political process. But he has a daunting task of winning people’s hearts before he is able to achieve the Government’s objectives.

 In his new challenging role, Sinha is not just expected to mend roads in Srinagar but also to connect political highways with the political dispensation at the Centre. He has good credentials. He has good equations with both PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah as well. He is an experienced and sophisticated leader.

One of his biggest qualifications for the job is that he enjoys good relations with politicians in Kashmir including the Abdullahs. Green shoots have already started emerging with the release of almost all political detainees except Mehbooba Mufti and a few others, who continue to choose to go the primrose way and toe the separatist line.

Sinha, it is believed, is capable of preparing fertile ground for political activity. But he has to reorient the system and prepare it for the political activities to grow organically. Vice-president of NC Omar Abdullah has said that he would not contest elections until statehood is restored. Sinha’s initial task would be to test the waters for restoration of the statehood, as promised by PM Modi.

Today Kashmiris are a confused lot. Having experienced the process of Abrogation of Article 370, they will now have to decide whether to align with the government, take the middle path or go the separatist way. Immediately after taking oath as LG, Sinha’s statement was quite positive.

He said it’s time to connect Jammu & Kashmir to the mainstream. He will inspire confidence among the people and ensure there is no discrimination. And that he will be guided by Indian Constitution. He will work for the well-being and development of the region. Genuine grievances of people would be addressed and solutions will be worked out. “Hum seedha samvad karenge,”(Will interact with people directly), he said while addressing the media in Srinagar on Friday.

One of his most important tasks would include rehabilitation of Kashmiri pandits in the valley. At the moment one could only visualise their return but the actual return would depend on how soon the political process is restored.

 A political vacuum over a long span of time could be detrimental to national interests and would only benefit separatist backed by Pakistan. Inimical neighbors have been aggressively carrying out its anti -India agenda on international forums without any success though. It has to be quelled by expediting the political process.

Challenges are many, even after getting significant and unprecedented support from the people of Kashmir ground workers have been targeted by terrorists. Sajad Ahmad Khanday, a BJP leader, who was a sarpanch in Jammu & Kashmir’s Kulgam district was shot dead by terrorists a few days ago. Last month BJP Chief of Bandipore Sheikh Waseem Bari, his father and brother were killed in the district. This and a series of many other killings have spread fear among the political workers. This must be stopped if actual democracy is to prevail there.

Therefore there is some urgency that the political process should be restored at the earliest. LG Sinha is expected to bring political parties to a convergence point, which is acceptable to all. This of course will take time and will require patience if BJP were to succeed in its long cherished objectives.

 Having served as threetime Member of Parliament and as successful Union minister of telecom and railways with independent charge at the Centre, Sinha is being seen as an apt choice for building on tough efforts undertaken during last one year.

Also the choice is being perceived as appropriate due to his calm temperament and his image as a problem solver. Sinha is an engineer from Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University- so he could also be described as a technocrat.

Abrogation of Article 370 had been one of the most important highlights of BJP’s manifesto. It was implemented one year ago. A whole lot of painstaking security planning and meticulous execution of the plan was put in place. All possible fallouts were taken into account and nobody got a whiff that the Centre had actually made up its mind to implement it until it made the formal announcement. This planning and seamless execution was unprecedented in terms of its success and effectiveness in achieving the government’s initial objectives.

The state of Jammu & Kashmir without any major violence was bifurcated into two union territories J&K and Ladakh. Following the abrogation, the Prime Minister Modi in his address to the nation had promised that there would be a window for restoration of statehood and J&K would be run by the elected representatives.

Ever since the government’s priority was in stage 1 — to pronounce strategies aimed at empowering people through economic incentives, public and private investment and providing employment to youths. While some efforts were made in this direction despite the inertia of the state’s reluctant bureaucracy not much could be achieved.

Another reason was the security lock-down followed by Corona lock-down, which halted all developmental activities envisaged by the Centre. Corona had ensured that even the rest of the country went into lock-down like Jammu & Kashmir. But for the people of J&K it was much tougher and intense as they came to terms with the shocking changes in the political set up as well.

Long span of lockdown has set in depression in the minds of people. School children have been hardly able to go to school for days in one whole year. Businesses and livelihood have taken a major hit like never before. All developmental work has come to a halt.

While all this happened most political leaders were detained as a security requirement. Consequently people could not reach out to their leaders for resolving the issues. The new administrative set up was busy charting a way forward for implementing the ambitious schemes announced by the government and at the same time battling with a severe strain of Covid-19.

These days the political vacuum is most intense and dangerous. Some political activity started with Altaf Bukhari forming the Apni Party as an alternative to PDP, NC and Congress. It was a welcome move but due to a long lull in political activity, reluctance has set in the leaders of the newly formed party as well.

Manoj Sinha has been introduced into Stage 2- a crucial juncture-which is the advanced process of restoring the political process. Now let’s look at the rationale behind his appointment. He was one of the contenders for the post of chief minister in Uttar Pradesh so he has a big stature and good rapport with the top BJP leadership.

He has an advantage which LG G C Murmu did not enjoy. It is the advantage of his political acumen and getting things done by the bureaucracy with a certain authority. The bureaucracy has no option but to fall in line with the experienced leader.

Ever since the process of abrogation of Article 370 began, every Centre representative had played an important role. While Satya Pal Malik, who is also an experienced politician was entrusted with the responsibility of governance in the initial phase of abrogation of Article 370, G C Murmu a non-controversial bureaucrat was brought in to bring in administrative changes aimed at the development in the region. He now enjoys one of the most coveted bureaucratic appointments of the CAG.

 It is ironic that despite best of his efforts in Kashmir, circumstances were such that he could not achieve much success. The people of Srinagar were appreciative of his genuine efforts including his decision of allocation for funds for building roads. Murmu was instrumental to some extent to bring normalcy in the administration. Perhaps he could have performed better if he got more support.

Manoj Sinha, who is multifaceted and enjoys the reputation of a leader with sharp political thinking, a technocrat and a sophisticated person who can get along with everybody, has been entrusted with his own set of responsibilities. So he has all the qualities required for the position — an experienced politician, a technocrat and an able administrator.

In order to be successful in his new endeavor, Sinha will have to do a tightrope walk. His journey in Jammu and Kashmir may be fraught with the risk of creating a Jagmohan like image for himself. Jagmohan had a good first stint as J&K Governor in the eighties. His term was by and large peaceful. But Kashmiri people have bitter memories of him when he returned to the position again in the 1990s, the time when terrorists started getting support from people in a big way. His reputation as a well-meaning person and an able administrator took a dent in his second term while he was busy with the law and order compulsions.

 It is now in the interest of people of Jammu & Kashmir to cooperate with Manoj Sinha who has started on a positive note. Terrorism will not lead to anywhere. Now that the people have come to terms with the fact that abrogation of Article 370 is irrevocable they should work hand-in-hand with the new LG for a bright future.

Jammu & Kashmir has great potential for growth. The people of the region have shown it in the past with its high growth rate. Now that J&K stands on the threshold of entering the mainstream enjoying all the joys and sorrow that any other Indian citizen experiences, people of the region need to come out of the clutches of Pakistan and make a new beginning.

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What led to the eclipse of Sanskrit?




The Sanskrit Week (2-8 August) is being celebrated, though mostly online, this year. Circa 1290 AD (Saka 1212), a teenaged mystic from Maharashtra accomplished a path-breaking work. Jnanadeva (1275-1296 AD) composed Jnaneswari, an exposition of the Bhagavad Gita, in 9,000 stanzas of exquisite poetry in Marathi. He also composed Amritanubhav and Abhangs to Lord Vitthal in Marathi. He thereby brought about a revolution in the matter of languages. Jnanadeva stood on the same Advaitic (non-dualist) ground as Adi Shankaracharya, but despite being well-versed in Sanskrit, used a vernacular language to convey his sublime philosophy.

This was a new trend that would become the hallmark of second millennium. In that millennium, knowledge of Sanskrit would still be held in high esteem across India. A small group of ‘Pundits’ working mostly on Nyaya philosophy, Smriti (Hindu law), grammar, literature would cultivate it diligently. It would even captivate the imagination of foreign scholars for its ancient gems. But the language, as the millennium progressed, would gradually cease to be a medium of new and original creations. More strikingly people well-versed in Sanskrit like Sankardev of Assam, Goswami Tulsidas, Bhadrachala Ramdas and Sant Tyagraj of Andhra Pradesh, poet Bharat Chandra of Bengal, Swami Dayanand Saraswati would themselves switch over to a modern Indian language to create a mass discourse based on Indian ideas.

The second millennium in India was marked by Muslim invasions out of Central Asia. These invasions had a cataclysmic effect on the political, social and religious fabric of India. Temples, monasteries, universities and playhouses, at least in northern India, were laid to waste. Not only was the client-patron relationship that had sustained Sanskrit was destroyed, but also the innocence of the civilisation that upheld transcendental thoughts was gone. The new Turk rulers brought in Persian, which became the standard language of governance in India under the Mughals. Thus Sanskrit, or for that matter any Indian language, was deprived of state recognition and patronage. However, even under such adverse conditions, the modern Indian languages experienced efflorescence. This was due to cultivation of the local languages, by the saint poets. Goswami Tulsidas, himself well-grounded in Sanskrit, chose to write his Ram Charitmanas in Awadhi dialect. Though Tulsidas came under fire from the “Pundits” of Varanasi, he received strong support from Acharya Madhusudan Saraswati, a senior Bengali Advaitist who was a resident of the holy city. Madhusudan Saraswati, a stalwart of Advaita philosophy, and author of Advaita Siddhi, was possibly the last great Indian to have made his mark by writing solely in Sanskrit.

However, there is the example of Chandrashekar Samanta alias Pathani Samanta (1835-1904), who chose to write his astronomical treatise Siddhanta Darpana (1899) in Sanskrit language but Odia script in the late 19th century. Whereas Samanta’s observations “with home-made instrument and without optical assistance” with astonishing accuracy drew him plaudits from a British astronomer like E. Walter Maunder, still his treatise unlike those written by his contemporary Bal Gangadhar Tilak failed to enter the discourse. Tilak, proficient in Sanskrit, and Marathi, deliberately chose to write his two treatises The Orion and The Arctic Home in the Vedas in English. Samanta’s choice of language is illustrative of the isolation of his work in the 19th century milieu. In the times of Aryabhatta I, Varahmihira, Brahmagupta and Bhaskara II, Sanskrit was the medium of astronomical work in India. However, in Samanta’s time, those who knew astronomy no longer knew Sanskrit, and those who knew Sanskrit did not know astronomy. Samanta’s work had ceased to have any practical value in astronomy when Arun Kumar Upadhyay, IPS, translated it into English exactly a century later.

This has actually been the tragedy of Sanskrit. It ceased to be a medium of knowledge production for which it was once renowned. In the first millennium all kinds of scholarship in India was pursued in Sanskrit — from astronomy to yoga, dramatics to zoology, aesthetics to political science, architecture to military knowledge. A language can only grow when there is an ecosystem of knowledge around it. The same has ceased to exist for Sanskrit long ago.

Sanskrit had to readjust its social role since the beginning of the second millennium when the regional languages began to grow. The output in those languages, however, was confined mostly to poetry and devotional texts. Knowledge production itself received a setback in India due to adverse political circumstances. Even printing press had not been set up on regular basis in India until the late 18th century. The 19th century was an interesting time when English language burst upon India. There are a couple of things which need to be noted about the implication on English visà-vis Sanskrit.

First, there was nothing in the British policy that discouraged Sanskrit. As part of Orientalism espoused by Warren Hastings the British promoted classical languages like Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian. The British actually founded Govt Sanskrit College in Varanasi in 1791 (now Sampurnananda Sanskrit Vishwavidyalaya), Hindoo College (now Deccan College) in Pune in 1821 and Sanskrit College in Kolkata in 1823. Rather it were the Indians themselves who wanted to study English for the modern, practical, global and updated knowledge available in that language. Therefore, we see Indians establishing Hindu College (now Presidency University) in Kolkata in 1817, Elphinstone College in Mumbai in 1834, and demanding the conversion of Hindoo College Pune teaching Sanskrit into Deccan College teaching English. Even when the East India Company withdrew from teaching of classical languages, in pursuance of Macaulay’s minutes on education, Sanskrit departments continued in colleges and universities maintained at government’s expense.

Second, Sanskrit unlike other modern Indian languages failed to take advantage of its commerce with the English language. Sanskrit did get the advantage of standardisation of texts, and advantage of printing technology. However, it could not produce anything new even in the field of literature, let alone comprehensive knowledge production for which it was once known. Why Sanskrit failed to produce a Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Munsi Premchand, Subramania Bharati or N.C. Kelkar — all of whom brought honours to their mother tongues under the same British rule? Sanskrit since then has failed to develop modern literature, journalism, music industry, and film industry. It has become a curriculumcentric language.

Today, the best thing Sanskrit scholars hope for is better patronisation of Sanskrit by the government. This would lead to opening of more educational institutions for Sanskrit, thereby creating more jobs for Sanskrit scholars. Sanskrit scholars today are often scarred lot because job opportunities in the field are extremely limited.

 The new National Education Policy, 2020 envisages linking Sanskrit to different disciplines. This could mean a person studying for MBBS should know something of Ayurveda, a person pursuing B.Arch should know basics of Shilp Shastra, someone studying theatre should know about Bharat Natyashastra, or a student of B.Tech (Metallurgy) know something about ancient Indian achievements in that field. In the modern times we have seen Sanskrit itself becoming a temple and museum, rather than a language and laboratory. This has harmed the cause of Sanskrit, rather than helping it. It is time we had a fresh look on Sanskrit.

The writer is an author and independent researcher based in New Delhi. The views expressed herein are his personal.

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PM Modi sets the narrative for 2024

Priya Sahgal



5 August was not just the date of the Ram Janambhoomi temple’s bhoomi pujan but it also marked the first anniversary of the abrogation of Article 370. Ever since then, some commentators and BJP leaders have been remarking that this also marks an anniversary of “New India”, one which ticks all the items on the BJP’s manifesto. All that is left really is the Uniform Civil Code and some would say with the abolition of Triple Talaq the first steps towards that have already been taken. It’s only a matter of time.

And of course the New India has its poster boy in Prime Minister Narendra Modi who ascended the stage with a bold splash of saffron in his scarf, chanting the scriptures in an authoritative but sombre tone with his flowing locks forming a majestic halo around his head. While his PR machinery may have strived for the Bhishma Pitamah look, others compared him to King Dasharatha. But all in all, it was an impressive performance as befits the gravity of the moment. On a more pragmatic note, it also overshadowed all the other headlines of the week, from China to Covid to the economy. With Yogi Adityanath by his side, the PM also sounded the bugle for the UP elections due in 2022.

And as for those who pointed out the absence of any Opposition leader on the dais, they were told that this was a BJP event. When BJP supporters commented on the absence of L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti who spearheaded the Rath Yatra that led to this day, they were told that it was in deference to their age that they were not asked to share the stage with the PM for after all this was Covid time. Yet, the 78-year-old Governor of Uttar Pradesh Anandiben Patel was on the dais. Again, those who argued (merely to score a debating point) as to why the President of India was left out, they were told that since this was a BJP event, those who held constitutional office were not invited — and yet the Governor of UP was. In the end, it was the troika of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, UP CM Yogi Adityanath and Prime Minister Modi that hogged all the limelight. And this clearly is the face of the BJP that the PM is going to market, first to Uttar Pradesh in 2022 and then to the general elections.

Hardline Hindutva is back on the agenda, more so in the times of Covid when there is little else to market — definitely not the economy, and post-Galwan the national security plank has taken a dent though an attempt was made to revive consumer sentiments with the over-thetop coverage of the Rafale delivery. As for Covid, the PMO has successfully passed the blame for any glitches to state chief ministers, leaving for PM Modi the credit for having implemented the world’s biggest lockdown. Passing the blame is what any smart politician does, getting stuck with it is the folly of a hapless Opposition. Whether it was the mishandling of the migrant workers exodus, the floundering economy or the ill-timed lockdown, these are issues where the Central government was found lacking and where the Opposition should have stepped in. That it failed to do so is a self-goal from which it may not recover in time for the 2024 general elections; and definitely not in time for the next round of polls due in Bihar where the ruling JD-U and BJP still have the advantage, despite the fact that a huge chunk of daily workers stranded in the metros come from this state.

In the end, PM Modi was right when he ascended the stage in Ayodhya with a triumphant Jai Shri Ram. It’s a cry that will reverberate in his favour for a long time, because all that the Opposition could do in return, is merely echo his words.

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Hiroshima and Nagasaki: From the nuclear ashes

On the anniversaries of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, it is important to learn from history and realise that the abuse of science for the benefit of modern warfare leaves behind no winners.

Amita Singh



Two of the most vibrant Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were bombed by American Air Force on the 6 and 9 August 1945, respectively. An average youngster now may not believe this as the two countries share an unmitigated friendship today. These bombings killed more than 166,000 and 226,000 people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively, yet a large number of intellectuals and scientists including the pacifist Bertrand Russell, who had vehemently opposed war as an evil, justified it in one such extreme situation as a lesser of multiple evils. Thousands of innocent Japanese civilians, Korean slaves and PoW of Allied forces suffered an extremely harrowing and excruciatingly diseased future for years to come. The 10 seconds of a fireball over Hiroshima killed millions across many generations for many decades that followed. The heartrending stories coming from the atom bomb survivors, who are called ‘Hibakusha’ (bomb-affected people) in Japanese, have unfolded before us the wisdom which could be considered by muscle-flexing, warmongering nations in global politics today.

 World War II was taking its fiercest toll over Allied armies in 1944 and the Battle of Bulge brought the last of Germany’s bloodiest counter offensive which caught them unaware. Hitler’s last war plan of defeating the Allied forces was designed to work in the densely forested terrain of Ardennes region of eastern Belgium, France and Luxembourg during bad weather where the formidable American Air Force would be inoperable. However, the combined counteroffensive by Allied forces turned the tables forcing Hitler to withdraw in his bunker and the Germans for an unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945. This however, did not deter the Japanese from their unrelenting attacks over Allied forces, till on 8th August the Soviet Union declared war on Japan, and the very next day USA dropped the second but much more powerful 15,000 TNT Plutonium bomb code named ‘Fat Man’ over Nagasaki. Finally Emperor Hirohito announced Japanese surrender on 15 August 1945 through his recorded address called the ‘Jewel Voice Broadcast’ and his survival through a targeted coup d’etat against him. It would be interesting for many of us to be reminded that the isolated Japanese units and individual soldiers scattered across the Asian region did not accept surrender and continued with their belligerence till as late as 1970. Such was the suicidal impact of a ferociously nationalist government upon the minds of its citizens.

Can the present generation ever think of a morning when a war plane fitted with a nuclear bomb glides and hovers over their city’s skyline as it happened to be over the vibrant city of Hiroshima? Ironically the bomb was titled ‘Little Boy’ even though its impact was devastatingly too big for humans to hold. The ground temperature reached 4,000°C and radioactive rain lashed the bodies. Besides the huge immediate casualty, no one could provide medical relief as 90 percent of the doctors and nurses in the city were killed, half of the hospitals collapsed and no one was left to drive ambulances. Those who tried coming from other cities with medical supplies also got burns and collapsed due to high radiation impact. In one Hibakusha story a survivor shared that the carnage that was so high that even the whole world’s dedicated burn beds could not have sufficed their need. The 10-minute incident also started a trail of intractable leukaemia and other varieties of thyroid, lung, kidney and skin cancers for decades to come.

Most people born after World War II in an independent world of liberal constitutional governments do ask two question: first, if the science went wrong or the scientists? Second, why were these cities selected for a targeted nuclear attack?

The answer to the first question is that science once delivered to the state becomes a weapon in the form of technology. The answer to the second comes out of this truth. Einstein and Oppenheimer were not aware of the use of their scientific findings. Once it became part of the Manhattan Project’s Target Committee the issue left to be discussed was choosing a Japanese city. Should it be a high population city or a highly industrial city? Where could it inflict the greatest damage? The city of Kyoto was spared off the list as the US Secretary of State convinced President Truman of the city’s great archival, aesthetic and cultural value. Interestingly Nagasaki was not even the selected city for the bombing but as the US Air Force planes flew over the Kokura city, which was a second target to be bombed, a thick wall of clouds engulfed the city and planes had to divert towards Nagasaki. The fuel was depleting and time was running out as even Nagasaki was covered with clouds but suddenly a streak opened up and using the Radar system the city was bombed and generations were devastated.

One would remember the passionate Bertrand Russell and Einstein coming together in 1955 for signing a Manifesto leading to the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs and later towards a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Russell was later imprisoned for leading a huge campaign for “a ban on the bomb”. The scientists and social scientists had become aware of the imminent dangers to humanity with the coming of nuclear bombs and weapons and many of them such as Einstein, Oppenheimer, Joseph Rotblat and Bertrand Russell got together to establish the ‘World Academy of Art and Science’ in 1960 to push and disseminate agendas for the survival of humanity.

If anyone visits the rebuilt Hiroshima and Nagasaki today one may not find even a trace of agony what the cities have gone through. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial and the famous Atomic Bomb Museum at Nagasaki alongside the Oura Cathedral and Urikami, which are designated UNESCO Heritage sites, are reminders of perseverance, arduousness and inner strength of the Japanese. The pain has translated into traits which make a good human being with patience, respect for diversity and immensely caring to the extent that they would drop you to your destination if you just ask them for an address. Hiroshima is a large, highly populated and vibrant city in Japan today. It is difficult to assess what qualities helped its people to re-emerge from the ashes of corpses but the lesson to be learnt is that in modern warfare even the winner is the biggest loser. Let wars remain a memento of a bygone and not a lighthouse for the present.

The writer is Professor of Administrative Reforms & Emergency Governance, Member Secretary, Institutional Ethics Review Board, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

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Blockchain technology will re-invent trust

With blockchain we can envision a blast to the primitive times and bring back transparency and mitigate the need for trusted third party intermediaries.

Shikha Mehra



In this series, my goal is to question assumptions, examine perspectives, and challenge ideas. I am attempting to go back to the first principles of the concept of “trust” and what it has to do with the state of the global economy, the sense of well-being amongst the 80-90% of people that inhabit it and the promises of a distributed trust architecture.

According to Ray Dalio, the CEO of Bridgewater Associates, and Trevor Noren from 13D, the global economy can be said to pass through phases that are trend dominated. In the last 30 years the world economy has been dominated by an over extended phase of wealth consolidation and accumulation, characterised by extreme wealth, an increasing income inequality gap, widening trust deficit, the end of the L-T debt cycle, geopolitical tensions, globalisation and digitisation. Post global financial crisis (GFC) 2008, all of the above have been bringing us to an inflection point, triggering the onset of a gradual diffusion of power and distribution of wealth, aided by changing political, technical and cultural narratives. Changing technological paradigms will propel and give expression to the decentralisation of trust and power and as a result to the redistribution of wealth and value generated amongst the masses.

I found this definition of ‘trust’ to be quite simplistic and accurate. According to a paper titled ‘An integrative model of organizational trust’ by Mayer, Davis and Schoorman, trust is the willingness of a party to be vulnerable to the actions of another party based on the expectation that the other will perform a particular action important to the trustor, irrespective of the ability to monitor or control that other part. Why do we need to trust? Because when trust exists then transaction costs reduce and people are more willing and able to engage in mutually beneficial interactions.

Over the years, trust has been injected into societies via evolving, often overlapping ways; personal relationships and tribal norms governing P2P trust, or the state-sponsored sanctionbased machinery to enforce private contracts and property rights and finally intermediary based trust (TPT model) by aggregating both sides of the market, these entities are able to build marketplaces. For example, banks intermediating between depositors and borrowers or investment banks intermediating transactions in the capital markets, while e-commerce is fully dependent on the reputation of the intermediary to safely carry out transactions online. Think Amazon, Airbnb or Uber, through which strangers interact with each other in ways they never would otherwise. With blockchain technology we can envision a blast to the primitive times and bring back transparency and mitigate the need for trusted third party intermediaries i.e. blockchain will re-invent trust; hence, its reference to a no-trust technology and the emergence of distributed trust architectures.

Let me explain this phenomenon. The business of trust is so old and entrenched, that it is hardly noticed but it is huge. In ancient times important (social or economic) transactions were agreed in front of the community at large and in such a way transparency assured that none of the transacting parties defaulted on their obligations without repercussions, as its terms and conditions were witnessed by the entire crowd. Such transactions would become common knowledge in society. The trade of milk for grain or social contracts like marriages or other important traditional events like birth showers, death rituals, convocations gained legitimacy within the tribe, via common visibility and transparency. And this was important to ensure that all tribe members were aware of the transaction. These events were recorded in the memories of all the tribal members present and thus accounting was a matter of public knowledge and a coordinated activity.

As trade grew beyond local communities, and the ability of participants to directly rely on one another reduced, the transparency afforded by smaller and proximate societies was replaced by trusted record keepers managing databases i.e. in government, in layers of bureaucracy, in large corporations. It became physically and technologically impossible for every trade to be broadcasted across the population. Pseudo-transparent measures were introduced as substitutes, for example, advertisements in newspapers, public registration of private documents, Lists range from simple checklists to complex databases, but they all have one major drawback — they’re all centralised, the database managers hold the power!

They can inflate corporate accounts, delete titles from land registries or add names to party rolls. To keep a check, we have come to rely on all sorts of tools, from audits to supervisory boards. Together, the owners of centralised databases and those that govern them form one of the world’s biggest and least noticed industries, the trust business.

 In present times, what essentially is a basic peer-topeer (A-to-B) transaction assumes complexity as third-party intermediaries step in to provide the required trust. Consequently, transparency was replaced by trust. With blockchain, it becomes possible to reimagine the accounting, structuring for transactions so that reliance on trusted intermediaries is once again minimised, through “virtual witnessing,” digital signatures and mathematical guarantee of cryptography combined with power of economic incentives.

Essentially the transaction facilitating and aggregating intermediary is replaced by a distributed machine, co-maintained by unknown participants who are in it purely for the money. This enables the collaborative creation of a publicly available single source of truth to anyone/ everyone authorized to view such records/information and in some cases update the records The world has been in the midst of a trust deficit crisis and blockchain tech could address it; quoting from the Economist, “Blockchain the ultimate trust machine, biggest breakthrough in business record keeping since 1494 Italian invention of double entry bookkeeping.” There are many examples of a breakdown of trust in the world.

At the World Economic Forum, 2017 in Davos, David Edelman cited his annual trust barometer report titled an “Implosion of trust” indicating that trust in institutions has radically declined; 85% of those surveyed felt that institutions aren’t working towards their best interests, and governments are distrusted in 75% of the surveyed countries. Larry Fink, the CEO of the $6 trillion-plus asset management firm BlackRock, said, “We are seeing the paradox of high returns and high anxiety.” Low wage growth, dimming retirement prospects and other financial pressures are squeezing too many across the globe. A recent Oxfam report stated that 82 percent of all wealth created in 2017 went to the global top 1 percent. Top 8 wealthiest individuals hold as much wealth as the poorest 50% of the world. And the top 10 asset managers control 34% of all assets in the world.

Our growing mistrust in institutions and centralised power has been manifesting itself in the global political scene. The Brexit movement, the Trump and Bernie Sanders campaigns, recent populist victories in places like Italy, Mexico, Brazil, and France’s growing ‘Yellow Vests’ and Occupy Wall Street movement are all examples of people frustrated by static wage growth and a lack of faith in the centralized powers who promised to do something about it. Trump and his populist followers beat out dominant cultural narratives represented by the Republican establishment, the Democratic Party, the Clinton machine, Hollywood, academia, and mainstream media.

Existing trust architecture in the digital economy has led to the centralisation of the efficiencies unleashed by the Internet protocol in the hands of very few large tech companies acting as trusted third-party intermediaries in any online transaction. 90% of revenue generated from internet transactions goes to merely 9 companies. Peer-to-peer marketplace platforms like Amazon, AirBnB, Uber, Facebook, etc, rely on proprietary software for aggregating the contributions of users as a means to generate value within their own platforms. This shift marked the advent of a new generation of dematerialized or digital organizations that do not require physical offices, assets, or even employees. The problem with this model is that the value produced by the crowd is not equally redistributed among all those who have contributed to the value production; all of the profits are captured by the large intermediaries who operate the platform and enjoy entrenched power due to network effects.

Global governments have been slow to keep pace with regulating the digital realm amounting to windfall gains for the few large data aggregators who were able to form information cartels and do so with complete impunity. This has led to wealth accumulation; Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook now account for 17.5% of the S&P 500.

Blockchain, 5G, IoT, 3D and AI are all examples of tech narratives that will diffuse power and distribute wealth. With blockchain, software applications no longer need to be deployed on a centralised server. They can be run on a peer-to-peer network that is not controlled by any single party. In this way the move is not only towards dematerialised but also decentralised organisational structures with no director or CEO, or any sort of hierarchical structure, instead they are administered, collectively, by all individuals interacting via code on the blockchain.

Primarily, the benefit will accrue to users who would qualify both as contributors and shareholders of these decentralised network economies as the value produced within these platforms will be more equally shared among those who have contributed to the value creation. So as people go from merely gaining network participation value to network ownership value and start enjoying property rights in the decentralised Internet, the global economy will move from a wealth accumulation phase to a wealth diffusion phase.

The writer is the co-founder of MainChain Research & Consulting Pvt Ltd, a certified Bitcoin professional.

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