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Portrait of a Muslim home in shadow of rising BJP colossus
It was a spectacular celebration. The beating of drums, sprinkling of colours, group songs, dancing continued well after dusk. As I watched from my window, a thought crossed my mind: Why had we not been invited? Ours is the only Muslim home in the colony, but a pride of place has always been accorded to us in all celebrations, including Holi. We have inherited this knack of integration from our elders. The Mahant of Shiv Sharan Das temple in Lucknow always made special bhang-free thandai for my father on Holi. I called up the President of the Residents Welfare Association - to register my pr ... read more

Myth of Modi-RSS rift: They remain very much on same page
The emphatic victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party - in the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand assembly polls has brought the partys relationship with its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh -, back in focus. One key question for which an answer has been sought ever since Narendra Modi led the BJP to power in 2014 is whether it is Modi who dominates the RSS or vice-versa? Some political observers have been predicting that Modi will now dominate the RSS. Others feel that with the Prime Minister and his protégé Amit Shah being in full command of the BJP and leading it to one victo ... read more

Protests, ink attacks and trolls have become lethal weapons against writers, intellectuals
New Delhi, March 15 - A day after the BJPs thumping victory in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday, a little-known progressive Kannada writer became the victim of an ink attack in Davangere town by a group of suspected right-wing activists. In gross defiance of the law and freedom of expression, his face was smeared with black ink in broad daylight. An isolated incident or the new order? Yogesh Master, who is said to have hurt the sentiments of Hindus by depicting Lord Ganesha in poor light in his novel Dhundi, is only the latest addition to a long list of writers -- Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasrin, Ta ... read more

Giving girls their due: A sarpanch shows the way
It was during one of my recent visits to a village in East Delhi that I realised how a Sarpanch can help bring about changes in the mindset of the residents -- even with regard to the deep-seated bias against girl children in India. My work in a medical camp took me to the village. As serene as the hamlet was, the market place was buzzing with activity. A make-shift arrangement was done for the public to assemble for their medical check-up. And I saw a beeline of women standing in the queue waiting for their turn. Diagonally opposite to our camp was a water tank where I sighted several wome ... read more

Don't give rooftop solar units the short shrift
Riding on the wave of the record low solar tariff, of Rs 2.97/kWh, in the 750 MW Rewa Solar Park project in Madhya Pradesh, the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs approved increasing the number of such parks to 50 -, which will take the installed capacity from 20 GW to 40 GW by 2020. An additional Rs 8,100 crore - has been earmarked for this. It is perfectly logical for the government to hand large, ground-based solar parks a boost considering that the Madhya Pradesh bids showed that solar can compete financially with fossil fuels. However, the possibility of the government reducing the r ... read more

Carnage at Qalandar: The Shia, Sunni, Sufi triangle
Audiences in their hundreds of thousands across the subcontinent will remember Reshma with her flashing eyes and haunting, gypsy voice singing Dama dum mast qalandar. Well, that's the Dhamaal signature tune. It was the punchline of this song which had become controversial when President Zia ul Haq set Pakistani Islam on a course of Arabisation in the 1980s in order to wrench it away from the syncretic Islam which hundreds of Sufi schools had established in India since the 13th century. If Iran imbibes Indian culture, it will still remain Iran, but if Pakistan retains Indian traditions, it wi ... read more

Preventing many diseases via olive oil
People in India these days want greater control over the food they consume. There is also increased attention to choosing the ingredients. Preferred are food items with enriching and nourishing features and properties which prevent diseases and empower the body to gain immunity. There are a few food items which Indians consume on a daily basis like salt, sugar, milk and oil. Oil is the first element and base for almost all Indian recipes. It is the major component which contributes to the body's fat requirements. So, the oil we choose decides the fats we consume. Described as liquid gold by ... read more

Construction industry needs to do its bit to cut pollution
It is estimated that nearly 70 per cent of the buildings that will exist in Indian cities by 2030 are yet to be built. Which means that India is unlikely to lose its infamous badge of country with the deadliest polluted air any time soon -- unless it takes some quick counter-measures. The challenge lies in maintaining the construction momentum while following time-tested practices. Surely, construction projects like the Metro, roads and residential homes need to be undertaken on high priority. For this, sand, gravel, stones, bricks and more will inevitably travel in open trucks criss-crossin ... read more

Why are most participants at Gandhi seminars anti-technology?
I was recently invited to attend a seminar entitled Gandhi Returns -- Back to Basics at Gujarat Vidyapith, Ahmedabad. Gujarat Vidyapith was founded by Mahatma Gandhi in the 1920s and mostly deals with Gandhian subjects. Three themes were discussed and deliberated upon in the seminar: Education, Non-violence and Constructive Sustainable Development. About 200 participants took part in the conclave for two days. I took part mostly in the session on Value-based decentralised production systems and constructive work, though for a short time also sat on the education panel. However, in both these ... read more

Message from MP: Solar power is here to stay
The solar revolution in India marches on, with renewed momentum, if the recently concluded reverse bidding auction for a 750 MW Solar Park in Madhya Pradesh is any indication. While the rest of the world watched in disbelief, Mahindra Renewables Pvt. Ltd., Acme Solar Holdings Pvt. Ltd. and Sweden's Solenergi Power Pvt. Ltd. successfully bid Rs 2.979/kWh, Rs 2.97/kWh and Rs 2.974/kWh to build 250MW plants each. These bids are the lowest in the history of solar tariffs in India. The previous lowest bid was Rs 4.34/ kWh for a 70 MW unit in Rajasthan. A variety of reasons led to this unprecedent ... read more

Building tranquil homes in crowded cities
Development brings better facilities, improved lifestyles and economic growth. It also brings us crowding cities, noise and pollution. Villages turn into towns and towns into cities and cities can't stop expanding. The demand for built-up spaces increases many fold. This adds to the load on roads and increases pollution to the extent that even metropolitan cities like New Delhi are considered not suitable to live in. Recent announcements by Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu allowing the registration of new vehicles only after showing proof of adequate parking space and transfor ... read more

If Kejriwal wins Punjab, it will alter course of politics
The emerging consensus that there is a wave in favour of the Aam Aadmi Party - in Punjab is terrible news for the Bharatiya Janata Party - and the Congress, not because they will have lost the election but because the road ahead will become that much more difficult. The image of Narendra Modi, after reversals in this round of election, will have lost sheen irretrievably. The euphoria his victory in the May 2014 general election had generated should have begun to evaporate after two successive AAP victories in Delhi in December 2013 and February 2015, the Rashtriya Janata Dal-Janata Dal-Unite ... read more

Disruption of TV signals, mobiles may help predict earthquakes
A moderate 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit Uttarakhand on the night of February 6. As usual, there was the news rush -- breaking news, specialists' comments and the like. But the earthquake news was somewhat eclipsed by the current charged election environment. An earthquake's effects are all-pervasive and every sector needs to account for it. Earthquake mitigation efforts during the post-seismic period require large amounts of financial aid. However, in most of the states, the disaster management offices are normally headed by the Revenue Secretary. India has two types of disaster management o ... read more

Whither defence research? Navy's rejection of Tejas is a lesson
The peremptory rejection of the shipborne variant of the Tejas light combat aircraft - by the Indian Navy seems to have surprised most navy-watching analysts. Their confusion has been compounded by the near-simultaneous issuance of a global request for information - for procurement of 57 multirole fighters for its aircraft carriers by Naval HQ. One can deduce two compelling reasons for this, seemingly, radical volte face by the only service which has shown unswerving commitment to indigenisation - for the past six decades. Firstly, by exercising a foreclosure option, the navy has administere ... read more

India's defence budget: Trapped in a straitjacket
The annual budget was presented on February 1 and the allocation for the Defence Ministry offers some instructive insights about how India plans to nurture its military -- that is, the three armed forces: the army, navy and air force. The total allocation for the financial year - 2017-18 is a reasonable Rs 3,59,854 crore - and the increase over the last three years has been steady. In FY 2015-16, the total defence allocation was Rs 2,94,320 crores and while this increase of Rs 65,534 crore is seemingly large -- almost 23 per cent over a three-year period -- the larger fiscal context provides ... read more

Hints of new world order must await Tillerson-Lavrov meeting
Pundits in Washington are beginning to hope for continuity in US foreign policy under Donald Trump. For their optimism, they are falling back on hints from the new administration. Look, they say, Israel is being warned to curb settlement construction; Russians must withdraw from Crimea; Iran is on notice: no more missile tests. If this, indeed, were true then the skirmishes between the intelligence community and the Trump campaign which continued well into the President's inauguration would appear to have been settled in favour of the agencies, the Deep State, with the media in tow. If the W ... read more

Ideological fissures keep PDP-BJP alliance on edge
Srinagar, Feb 2 - Running a coalition government with an ideologically opposed ally is an art, running it successfully would entail magic. As things stand today, it is seems Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is no magician. The adjournment sine die of both houses of the state's bicameral legislature six days ahead of schedule was prompted by an unprecedented bedlam created by the opposition, but its root cause is the ideological difference between Mehbooba's Valley-centric Peoples Democratic Party - and its ally, the Jammu-centric Bharatiya Janata Party -. Delivering a well-dra ... read more

Budget aimed at fulfilling heightened expectations post-demonetisation
The Union Budget for 2017-18 was easily the most anticipated one in recent times. The public was seeking the government's policy stance after its bold attack on black money with demonetisation. On a related note, the market was also looking forward to the government's response to the demonetisation-induced slowdown. The Economic Survey had also raised expectations of a radical move like Universal Basic Income -. With a wide range of expectations tied to the Budget on a year when growth expectations were low, it was bound to have a few hits and misses. Coming to the positive aspects, the Budg ... read more

Budget will prove transformational for real estate, housing
Living up to the expectations of industry and the intent and commitment of Prime Minister Narendra Modi government towards ongoing reforms, the national Budget 2017-18, targeted at the poor and middle class is well meaning, investor-friendly and stimulating, especially for the realty sector. The budget provides a big booster dose to the real estate and housing sector, otherwise bogged down by severe fund crunch holding up projects, together with slump in housing sales. It boosts up the confidence of both the consumers and the investors. The budget can be seen in the backdrop of government's ... read more

Can Trump make the whole earth green again?
In the barrage of criticism against US President Donald Trump for his utterances on refugees and Muslims, what has been missed is that he has an open mind on environmental issues. He should now again see with an open heart the image of the whole Earth taken by the Apollo 17 mission commanded by Eugene Andrew Cernan -. That may trigger action to make not only America, but the entire Earth, great again. It would be worth retracing the Apollo 17 mission, the last US manned space mission during which Cernan became the last man, till now, to walk on the moon. It was the winter of 1972; December 7 ... read more

For pro-poor thrust, budget focus on housing, infrastructure must
Considering that the welfare of the poor and middle class is the priority area of the government and the assembly elections manifestos of all the major political parties centre around housing and urban development, this year's budget is expected to give a major thrust on real estate housing & infrastructure. The 2017-18 budget should be seen in the backdrop of a tough year for real estate and housing, with the problem of weak sales and high unsold inventory getting further precipitated by demonetisation. It's a matter of concern that the sale of housing units declined by 10 percent in th ... read more

Astana talks: Peace in Syria elusive unless political solution found
The talks held on January 23-24, in Kazakhstan's capital Astana, should be seen against the grim toll of the turmoil in Syria that began in February/March of 2011: More than half-a- million Syrians dead, half the 22.5 million population displaced -- with over five million outside the country -- and unfortunately no end in sight for the inexorably unfolding tragedy. The participants were seven: Russia, Turkey, Iran, the Syrian regime, the UN represented by its mediator Staffan di Mistura, the armed rebels led by Mohammed Alloush - and the US as an observer. The initiative for the talks came f ... read more

Will Trump era provide respite to destroyed countries?
The procession of breast-beating liberals doesn't seem to end, not since Donald Trump eclipsed their most shining star -- Hillary Clinton. True, Hillary would be graceful at the Inaugural Ball. Favours to none, to all/she smiles extends/Oft she rejects but/never once offends. Melania would be a novice by comparison. But here we are talking about aesthetics and class. Why then pull out John Stuart Mill to measure the order just ushered in? The argument that Hillary would have made a better President because she knew every nook and corner of Washington, White House and Foggy Bottom is precisel ... read more

Donald Trump, riven by rage and petulance, invokes despair
If innocent souls had nurtured a sliver of hope that the evolution from campaigning to governing would even marginally transform President Donald Trump, his inaugural speech would have been the unequivocal denouement. If Trump's election campaign effectively leveraged fear, suspicion and fanaticism, his first speech as President left little doubt that he had spiced that potent brew with another ingredient -- despair. Parts of his 16-minute speech were almost cinematic in the stark description of a decaying America -- rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape; an e ... read more

Realty in 2017: Buyers' market will continue
We're in the midst of interesting times, with the real estate industry in the process of a significant reboot. Regulatory interventions are going to move the industry from an unregulated, unorganised and fragmented sector to a more organised, predictable, regulated sector. Industries like banking and telecom, which saw similar interventions in the past, have witnessed enormous expansion thereafter. For the last few years, the industry has been plagued with excess supply, sluggish demand, high but flattish prices, and an unflattering performance. However, we must appreciate that, much like go ... read more

Modi/Trump, Gandhi/Clinton electoral dramas have parallel scripts
When the American Presidential election campaign got underway in 2015, it was unfolding as a 2008 Bangladesh-style poll, a battle of the begums, the dynastic war of Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia, before Zia's 2014 election boycott. It was assumed that the 2016 election similarly would be a clash of the Clinton and Bush dynasties, Hillary versus Jeb. But last week Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States. What happened? US politics entered another time warp. The 2015 certitude of a Clinton-Bush match-up got derailed and in 2016 the US ended up like India of 2014 with a war ... read more

Growing India-Vietnam strategic ties will mean a more stable Indo-Pacific
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Vietnam on September 2-3, 2016. The visit was the first by an Indian Prime Minister after 15 years. Twelve agreements were signed during the visit which included cooperation in outer space, UN peacekeeping, avoidance of double-taxation, cyber security, information technology, information on white shipping and contract for procurement of offshore patrol vessels. Further, based on the strong relations which have been vindicated during the last 44 years of diplomatic relations and nine years of strategic partnership, both the countries agreed to eleva ... read more

Making a case for Jallikattu
The tradition of Jallikattu is many thousands of years old in Tamil Nadu. The recent ban on this festive event has the entire state up in arms. What typically happens during Jallikattu is that a bull which has been caged in for a while is suddenly released among a throng of people, much like the bull run in Spain. The bull goes berserk and runs at top speed into a crowd which hurriedly disperses and gives it room. At the same time, the more daring of the enthusiasts in the crowd try and catch the bull by the hump and hang on. Only one person is allowed to hang on at one time and if he can go ... read more

Stem cell treatment could be a proven therapy for diabetes, autism
Stem cell therapy has turned out to be a ray of hope for most patients who are trying to find a cure for incurable diseases. Researchers and experts believe India has been at the top in the development of stem cell treatment followed by several other countries like China and Japan. However, due to lack of awareness, most people don't think of stem cell therapy as an option for treating most of the incurable diseases. One of the major issues that India is battling is increasing incidence of diabetes and autism. According to reports, more than 10 million children in India suffer from autism. A ... read more

Stem cell treatment could be a proven therapy for diabetes, autism
Stem cell therapy has turned out to be a ray of hope for most patients who are trying to find a cure for incurable diseases. Researchers and experts believe India has been at the top in the development of stem cell treatment followed by several other countries like China and Japan. However, due to lack of awareness, most people don't think of stem cell therapy as an option for treating most of the incurable diseases. One of the major issues that India is battling is increasing incidence of diabetes and autism. According to reports, more than 10 million children in India suffer from autism. A ... read more

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