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May 2019


Can the World’s Largest Democracy Endure Another Five Years of a Modi Government?


Of the great democracies to fall to populism, India was the first.

In 2014, Narendra Modi, then the longtime chief minister of the western state of Gujarat and leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was elected to power by the greatest mandate the country had seen in 30 years. India until then had been ruled primarily by one party–the Congress, the party of Indira Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru–for 54 of the 67 years that the country had been free.

Now, India is voting to determine if Modi and the BJP will continue to control its destiny. It is a massive seven-phase exercise spread over 5½ weeks in which the largest electorate on earth–some 900 million–goes to the polls. To understand the deeper promptings of this enormous expression of franchise–not just the politics, but the underlying cultural fissures–we need to go back to the first season of the Modi story. It is only then that we can see why the advent of Modi is at once an inevitability and a calamity for India. The country offers a unique glimpse into both the validity and the fantasy of populism. It forces us to reckon with how in India, as well as in societies as far apart as Turkey and Brazil, Britain and the U.S., populism has given voice to a sense of grievance among majorities that is too widespread to be ignored, while at the same time bringing into being a world that is neither more just, nor more appealing.

Illustration by Nigel Buchanan for TIME

The story starts at independence. In 1947, British India was split in two. Pakistan was founded as a homeland for Indian Muslims. But India, under the leadership of its Cambridge-educated Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, chose not to be symmetrically Hindu. The country had a substantial Muslim population (then around 35 million, now more than 172 million), and the ideology Nehru bequeathed to the newly independent nation was secularism. This secularism was more than merely a separation between religion and state; in India, it means the equal treatment of all religions by the state, although to many of its critics, that could translate into Orwell’s maxim of some being more equal than others. Indian Muslims were allowed to keep Shari’a-based family law, while Hindus were subject to the law of the land. Arcane practices–such as the man’s right to divorce a woman by repudiating her three times and paying a minuscule compensation–were allowed for Indian Muslims, while Hindus were bound by reformed family law and often found their places of worship taken over by the Indian state. (Modi made the so-called Triple Talaq instant divorce a punishable offense through an executive order in 2018.)

Nehru’s political heirs, who ruled India for the great majority of those post-independence years, established a feudal dynasty, while outwardly proclaiming democratic norms and principles. India, under their rule, was clubbish, anglicized and fearful of the rabble at the gates. In May 2014 those gates were breached when the BJP, under Modi, won 282 of the 543 available seats in Parliament, reducing the Congress to 44 seats, a number so small that India’s oldest party no longer even had the right to lead the opposition.

Populists come in two stripes: those who are of the people they represent (Erdogan in Turkey, Bolsonaro in Brazil), and those who are merely exploiting the passions of those they are not actually part of (the champagne neo-fascists: the Brexiteers, Donald Trump, Imran Khan in Pakistan). Narendra Modi belongs very firmly to the first camp. He is the son of a tea seller, and his election was nothing short of a class revolt at the ballot box. It exposed what American historian Anne Applebaum has described as “unresolvable divisions between people who had previously not known that they disagreed with one another.” There had, of course, been political differences before, but what Modi’s election revealed was a cultural chasm. It was no longer about left, or right, but something more fundamental.

The nation’s most basic norms, such as the character of the Indian state, its founding fathers, the place of minorities and its institutions, from universities to corporate houses to the media, were shown to be severely distrusted. The cherished achievements of independent India–secularism, liberalism, a free press–came to be seen in the eyes of many as part of a grand conspiracy in which a deracinated Hindu elite, in cahoots with minorities from the monotheistic faiths, such as Christianity and Islam, maintained its dominion over India’s Hindu majority.

Modi’s victory was an expression of that distrust. He attacked once unassailable founding fathers, such as Nehru, then sacred state ideologies, such as Nehruvian secularism and socialism; he spoke of a “Congress-free” India; he demonstrated no desire to foster brotherly feeling between Hindus and Muslims. Most of all, his ascension showed that beneath the surface of what the elite had believed was a liberal syncretic culture, India was indeed a cauldron of religious nationalism, anti-Muslim sentiment and deep-seated caste bigotry. The country had a long history of politically instigated sectarian riots, most notably the killing of at least 2,733 Sikhs in the streets of Delhi after the 1984 assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. The Congress leadership, though hardly blameless, was able, even through the selective profession of secular ideals, to separate itself from the actions of the mob. Modi, by his deafening silences after more recent atrocities, such as the killing of more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, in his home state of Gujarat in 2002, proved himself a friend of the mob. He made one yearn for the hypocrisies of the past, for, as Aldous Huxley writes, at least “the political hypocrite admits the existence of values higher than those of immediate national, party or economic interest.” Modi, without offering an alternative moral compass, rubbished the standards India had, and made all moral judgment seem subject to conditions of class and culture warfare. The high ideals of the past have come under his reign to seem like nothing but the hollow affectations of an entrenched power elite. When, in 2019, Modi tweets, “You know what is my crime for them? That a person born to a poor family is challenging their Sultunate [sic],” he is trying to resurrect the spirit of 2014, which was the spirit of revolution. Them is India’s English-speaking elite, as represented by the Congress party; sultanate is a dog whistle to suggest that all the heirs of foreign rule in India–the country had centuries of Muslim rule before the British took over in 1858–are working in tandem to prevent the rise of a proud Hindu nation.

An Ikea customer in Hyderabad

An Ikea customer in Hyderabad Atul Loke—The New York Times/Redux

In 2014, Modi converted cultural anger into economic promise. He spoke of jobs and development. Taking a swipe at the socialist state, he famously said, “Government has no business being in business.” That election, though it is hard to believe now, was an election of hope. When the Delhi press tried to bait the Modi voter with questions about building a temple in Ayodhya, a place where Hindu nationalist mobs in 1992 had destroyed a 16th century mosque, said to stand at the birthplace of the Hindu epic hero Ram, they stoutly responded with: “Why are you talking to us of temples, when we are telling you that we’re voting for him because we want development.” Sabka saath, sabka vikas–“Together with all, development for all”–was Modi’s slogan in 2014.

As India votes this month, the irony of those words is not lost on anyone. Not only has Modi’s economic miracle failed to materialize, he has also helped create an atmosphere of poisonous religious nationalism in India. One of his young party men, Tejasvi Surya, put it baldly in a speech in March 2019, “If you are with Modi, you are with India. If you are not with Modi, then you are strengthening anti-India forces.” India’s Muslims, who make up some 14% of the population, have been subjected to episode after violent episode, in which Hindu mobs, often with what seems to be the state’s tacit support, have carried out a series of public lynchings in the name of the holy cow, that ready symbol of Hindu piety. Hardly a month goes by without the nation watching agog on their smartphones as yet another enraged Hindu mob falls upon a defenseless Muslim. The most enduring image of Modi’s tenure is the sight of Mohammad Naeem in a blood-soaked undershirt in 2017, eyes white and enlarged, begging the mob for his life before he is beaten to death. The response of leadership in every instance is the same: virtual silence. Basic norms and civility have been so completely vitiated that Modi can no longer control the direction of the violence. Once hatred has been sanctioned, it is not always easy to isolate its target, and what the BJP has discovered to its dismay is that the same people who are willing to attack Muslims are only too willing to attack lower-caste Hindus as well. The party cannot afford to lose the lower-caste vote, but one of the ugliest incidents occurred in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, in July 2016, when upper-caste men stripped four lower-caste tanners, paraded them in the streets and beat them with iron rods for allegedly skinning a cow.

Modi’s record on women’s issues is spotty. On the one hand, he made opportunity for women and their safety a key election issue (a 2018 report ranked the country the most dangerous place on earth for women); on the other hand, his attitude and that of his party men feels paternalistic. He caused outrage in 2015 when he said Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, had a good record on terrorism, “despite being a woman”; Modi’s deputy, Amit Shah, speaks of women as having the status of deities, ever the refuge of the religious chauvinist who is only too happy to revere women into silence. Yet Modi also appointed a woman Defense Minister.

If these contradictions are part of the unevenness of a society assimilating Western freedoms, it must be said that under Modi minorities of every stripe–from liberals and lower castes to Muslims and Christians–have come under assault. Far from his promise of development for all, he has achieved a state in which Indians are increasingly obsessed with their differences. If in 2014 he was able to exploit difference in order to create a climate of hope, in 2019 he is asking people to stave off their desperation by living for their differences alone. The incumbent may win again–the opposition, led by Rahul Gandhi, an unteachable mediocrity and a descendant of Nehru, is in disarray–but Modi will never again represent the myriad dreams and aspirations of 2014. Then he was a messiah, ushering in a future too bright to behold, one part Hindu renaissance, one part South Korea’s economic program. Now he is merely a politician who has failed to deliver, seeking re-election. Whatever else might be said about the election, hope is off the menu.

I covered the 2014 election from the holy city of Varanasi, which Modi had chosen as his constituency, repurposing its power over the Hindu imagination, akin to that of Jerusalem, Rome or Mecca, to fit his politics of revival. That election split me in two: on the one hand, I knew, as someone of Muslim parentage (my father was a Pakistani Muslim) and a member of India’s English-speaking elite, that the country Modi would bring into being would have no place for me; on the other hand, I was in sympathy with Modi’s cultural diagnosis of what power looked and felt like in India. In the West, the charge that liberalism, or leftism, corresponds to the power of an entitled elite is relatively new and still contestable. In India, for decades to be left-wing or liberal was to belong to a monstrously privileged minority. Until recently, there was no equivalent group on the right, no New England Republicans, no old-fashioned Tories. It was easy to feel that being left-wing was the province of a privileged few who had gone to university abroad, where they had picked up the latest political and intellectual fashions.

Sardar Singh Jatav recovers after an attack by higher-caste Hindu men in September 2018

Sardar Singh Jatav recovers after an attack by higher-caste Hindu men in September 2018 Atul Loke—The New York Times/Redux

Modi in 2014 was able to make the cultural isolation of the Indian elite seem political–part of a foreign-led conspiracy to undermine the “real” India. He revealed that a powerful segment of the country was living in a bubble. It was an effective political tactic, but it also obscured the fact that “real” India was living in a bubble of its own. Nehru had always been clear: India was not going to become a modern country by being more authentically itself. It needed the West; it needed science and technology; it needed, above all, to embrace “the scientific temper” and to eschew the obscurantism and magic that was at the heart of its traditional life. Modi, inadvertently or deliberately, has created a bewildering mental atmosphere in which India now believes that the road to becoming South Korea runs through the glories of ancient India. In 2014 Modi suggested at a gathering of doctors and medical professionals in Mumbai that ancient Indians knew the secrets of genetic science and plastic surgery. “We worship Lord Ganesha,” he said of the Hindu deity. “There must have been some plastic surgeon at that time who got an elephant’s head on the body of a human being and began the practice of plastic surgery.”

He has in every field, from politics and economics to Indology itself, privileged authenticity over ability, leading India down the road to a profound anti-intellectualism. He appointed Swaminathan Gurumurthy, Hindu nationalist ideologue, to the board of the Reserve Bank of India–a man of whom the renowned Columbia economist Jagdish Bhagwati said, “If he’s an economist, I’m a Bharatanatyam dancer.” It was Gurumurthy who, in a quest to deal with the menace of “black money,” is thought to have advised Modi to put 86% of India’s banknotes out of commission overnight in 2016, causing huge economic havoc from which the country is yet to recover. Modi now finds himself seeking to hold power in a climate of febrile nationalism, with a platform whose themes have much more to do with national security and profiting from recent tensions between India and Pakistan than with economic growth.

In 2017, after winning state elections in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, which happens also to have its largest Muslim population, the BJP appointed a hate-mongering priest in robes of saffron, the color of Hindu nationalism, to run that state. Yogi Adityanath had not been the face of the campaign. If he was known at all, it was for vile rhetoric, here imploring crowds to kill a hundred Muslims for every Hindu killed, there sharing the stage with a man who wanted to dig up the bodies of Muslim women and rape them. Modi has presided over a continuous assault on the grove of academe, where the unqualified and semiliterate have been encouraged to build their shanties. Academia in India was dogmatically left-wing, but rather than change its politics, Modi attacked the idea of qualification itself. From the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), which produced a roll call of politicians and intellectuals, India’s places of learning have been hollowed out, the administration and professors chosen for their political ideology rather than basic levels of proficiency.

Modi is right to criticize an India in which modernity came to be synonymous with Westernization, so that all those ideas and principles that might have had universal valence became the preserve of those who were exposed to European and American culture. What Modi cannot–or will not–do is tell India the hard truth that if she wishes to be a great power, and not a Hindu theocracy, the medieval Indian past, mired in superstition and magic, must go under. It is not enough to be more truly oneself. “In India, as in Europe,” wrote the great Sri Lankan historian A.K. Coomaraswamy, “the vestiges of ancient civilization must be renounced: we are called from the past and must make our home in the future. But to understand, to endorse with passionate conviction, and to love what we have left behind us is the only possible foundation for power.” The desperation that underlies Modi’s India is that of people clinging to the past, ill-equipped for the modern world, people in whom the zealous love of country stands in for real confidence.

Cows are sacred to Hindus. Cow-protection mobs have killed at least 46 people since 2015. Most targets were Muslim

Cows are sacred to Hindus. Cow-protection mobs have killed at least 46 people since 2015. Most targets were Muslim Atul Loke—Panos/Redux

The question of what is hers, and what has come from the outside, is a constant source of anxiety in India. The same process that made the Indian elite “foreigners in their own land”–in Mahatma Gandhi’s phrasing–is repeating, albeit unevenly, throughout the country across classes and groups never exposed to Western norms and culture in the past. “Our culture is being decimated,” one young member of the ABVP–the most powerful Hindu nationalist youth organization in the country–told me in Varanasi. “Many in my family have received degrees in commerce; but I chose to be nearer my culture. A great civilization, like ours, cannot be subdued without the complicity of men on the inside, working against us. Someone–I cannot say who–is controlling us, and there is but the difference of a syllable between vikas [development] and vinasha [ruin].”

This young Hindu nationalist is part of a new generation of Indians, untouched by colonization, but not spared globalization. They live with a profound sense of being trifled with. They feel their culture and religion has been demeaned; they entertain fantasies of “Hinduphobia” and speak with contempt of “sickluars,” “libtards” and the “New Yuck Times.” One has the feeling they are converting their sense of cultural loss into a political ideology. It produces in them a rage for the Other–Muslims, lower castes, the Indian elite–“the men on the inside,” who have more generations of Westernization behind them. Last month, Amit Shah compared Muslim immigrants to “termites,” and the BJP’s official Twitter handle no longer bothers with dog whistles: “We will remove every single infiltrator from the country, except Buddha [sic], Hindus and Sikhs.” If this wasn’t bad enough, the BJP’s candidate for the central Indian city of Bhopal, with its rich Muslim history and a Muslim population of over 25%, is a saffron-clad female saint, who stands accused of masterminding a terrorist attack in which six people were killed near a mosque. Currently out on bail, Sadhvi Pragya Thakur’s candidacy marks that all-too-familiar turn when the specter of extreme nationalism and criminality become inseparable.

Modi’s India feels like a place where the existing order of things has passed away, without any credible new order having come into being. Modi has won–and may yet win again–but to what end? His brand of populism has certainly served as a convincing critique of Indian society, of which there could be no better symbol than the Congress Party. They have little to offer other than the dynastic principle, yet another member of the Nehru-Gandhi family. India’s oldest party has no more political imagination than to send Priyanka Gandhi–Rahul’s sister–to join her brother’s side. It would be the equivalent of the Democrat’s fielding Hillary Clinton again in 2020, with the added enticement of Chelsea as VP.

Modi is lucky to be blessed with so weak an opposition–a ragtag coalition of parties, led by the Congress, with no agenda other than to defeat him. Even so, doubts assail him, for he must know he has not delivered on the promise of 2014. It is why he has resorted to looking for enemies within. Like other populists, he sits in his white house tweeting out his resentment against the sultanate of “them.” And, as India gets ready to give this willful provincial, so emblematic of her own limitations, a second term, one cannot help but tremble at what he might yet do to punish the world for his own failures.

Taseer, a novelist and journalist, is the author, most recently, of The Twice-Born: Life and Death on the Ganges

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This appears in the May 20, 2019 issue of TIME.

Indigenous no-state people

Manipur: ICAR sounds alert over invasive ‘fallarmy worm’ pest

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Imphal has sounded alert over the detection of invasive pest “fall armyworm” in the state.

The ICAR in an official statement informed that the pest, which is native to the Americas, was detected in Lamphel and Langol Research farm of council, Manipur Centre.

It further informed that Chandonpokpi village in Chandel district is now under severe threat by this pest.

In India, the pest was detected for the first time in Karnataka in 2018 and rapidly spread to other parts of the country.

By January 2019, Chattisgarh was the last state to report the pest. In May 2019 it was reported from northeastern states such as Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura and was also detected in Manipur.

“Its rapid spread is due to the female moth being a strong flier capable of flying 100 km in a night and being an exotic insect, the absence of natural enemies that could keep them under check. Another factor is, its natural environment is the tropical and sub-tropical parts of America that is similar to the environmental conditions in India”, said the ICAR statement.

Stating that Manipur is a biodiversity hotspot with many rare and threatened flora, the state  is more vulnerable, ICAR appealed the farmers to take precautionary measures.

* Remove weeds around the crop field

* Manual destruction of egg masses and caterpillar

* Set up pheromone traps @ 4/ha for monitoring and 10/ha for mass trapping of adult insect

* Spray any of the insecticide

* Green Racer (Beauveria bassiana) @ 3-5ml/litre of water. After 5-7 days of application spray Green Pacer (Metarhizium anisoplae) @ 3-5 ml/ litre of wate

* Spray Dimethoate 30% EC @ 1ml/litre of wate

* Spray ATIRA/CROPDON/TEGATA/ALIKA (Thiamethoxam 12.6% + Lambda cyhalothri  9.5%ZC) @ 2.5ml/10 litres of wate

* Do not use spray mixtures or tank mixture (mixing of two or more than two different chemica insecticides).

Written by Jimmy Leivon, Imphal 

Indigenous no-state people

UN report: Humans accelerating extinction of species


People are putting nature in more trouble now than at any other time in human history, with extinction looming over 1 million species of plants and animals, scientists said Monday.

But it’s not too late to fix the problem, according to the United Nations’ first comprehensive report on biodiversity.

“We have reconfigured dramatically life on the planet,” report co-chairman Eduardo Brondizio of Indiana University said at a press conference.

Species loss is accelerating to a rate tens or hundreds of times faster than in the past, the report said. More than half a million species on land “have insufficient habitat for long-term survival” and are likely to go extinct, many within decades, unless their habitats are restored. The oceans are not any better off.

“Humanity unwittingly is attempting to throttle the living planet and humanity’s own future,” said George Mason University biologist Thomas Lovejoy, who has been called the godfather of biodiversity for his research. He was not part of the report.

“The biological diversity of this planet has been really hammered, and this is really our last chance to address all of that,” Lovejoy said.

Conservation scientists convened in Paris to issue the report, which exceeded 1,000 pages. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) included more than 450 researchers who used 15,000 scientific and government reports. The report’s summary had to be approved by representatives of all 109 nations.

Some nations hit harder by the losses, like small island countries, wanted more in the report. Others, such as the United States, were cautious in the language they sought, but they agreed “we’re in trouble,” said Rebecca Shaw, chief scientist for the World Wildlife Fund, who observed the final negotiations.

“This is the strongest call we’ve seen for reversing the trends on the loss of nature,” Shaw said.

The findings are not just about saving plants and animals, but about preserving a world that’s becoming harder for humans to live in, said Robert Watson, a former top NASA and British scientist who headed the report.

“We are indeed threatening the potential food security, water security, human health and social fabric” of humanity, Watson told The Associated Press.

It’s also an economic and security issue as countries fight over scarcer resources. Watson said the poor in less developed countries bear the greatest burden.

A fisherman unloads his catch in the port of Suao, north eastern Taiwan on June 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

The report’s 39-page summary highlighted five ways people are reducing biodiversity:

— Turning forests, grasslands and other areas into farms, cities and other developments. The habitat loss leaves plants and animals homeless. About three-quarters of Earth’s land, two-thirds of its oceans and 85% of crucial wetlands have been severely altered or lost, making it harder for species to survive, the report said.

— Overfishing the world’s oceans. A third of the world’s fish stocks are overfished.

— Permitting climate change from the burning of fossil fuels to make it too hot, wet or dry for some species to survive. Almost half of the world’s land mammals — not including bats — and nearly a quarter of the birds have already had their habitats hit hard by global warming.

— Polluting land and water. Every year, 300 to 400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents and toxic sludge are dumped into the world’s waters.

— Allowing invasive species to crowd out native plants and animals. The number of invasive alien species per country has risen 70% since 1970, with one species of bacteria threatening nearly 400 amphibian species.

“The key to remember is, it’s not a terminal diagnosis,” said report co-author Andrew Purvis of the Natural History Museum in London.

Fighting climate change and saving species are equally important, the report said, and working on both environmental problems should go hand in hand. Both problems exacerbate each other because a warmer world means fewer species, and a less biodiverse world means fewer trees and plants to remove heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the air, Lovejoy said.

A couple walks through a forest with the Frankfurt skyline in background near Frankfurt, Germany on Oct. 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

The world’s coral reefs are a perfect example of where climate change and species loss intersect. If the world warms another 0.9 degrees (0.5 degrees Celsius), which other reports say is likely, coral reefs will probably dwindle by 70% to 90%, the report said. At 1.8 degrees (1 degree Celsius), the report said, 99% of the world’s coral will be in trouble.

“Business as usual is a disaster,” Watson said.

At least 680 species with backbones have already gone extinct since 1600. The report said 559 domesticated breeds of mammals used for food have disappeared. More than 40% of the world’s amphibian species, more than one-third of the marine mammals and nearly one-third of sharks and fish are threatened with extinction.

The report relies heavily on research by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, which is composed of biologists who maintain a list of threatened species.

The IUCN calculated in March that 27,159 species are threatened, endangered or extinct in the wild out of nearly 100,000 species biologists examined in depth. That includes 1,223 mammal species, 1,492 bird species and 2,341 fish species. Nearly half the threatened species are plants.

Scientists have only examined a small fraction of the estimated 8 million species on Earth.

The report comes up with 1 million species in trouble by extrapolating the IUCN’s 25% threatened rate to the rest of the world’s species and using a lower rate for the estimated 5.5 million species of insects, Watson said.

Outside scientists, such as Lovejoy and others, said that’s a reasonable assessment.

The report gives only a generic “within decades” time frame for species loss because it is dependent on many variables, including taking the problem seriously, which can reduce the severity of the projections, Watson said.

“We’re in the middle of the sixth great extinction crisis, but it’s happening in slow motion,” said Conservation International and University of California Santa Barbara ecologist Lee Hannah, who was not part of the report.

A lemur looks through the forest at Andasibe-Mantadia National Park in Andasibe, Madagascar on Dec. 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Jason Straziuso)

Five times in the past, Earth has undergone mass extinctions where much of life on Earth blinked out, like the one that killed the dinosaurs. Watson said the report was careful not to call what’s going on now as a sixth big die-off because current levels don’t come close to the 75% level in past mass extinctions.

The report goes beyond species. Of the 18 measured ways nature helps humans, the report said 14 are declining, with food and energy production noticeable exceptions. The report found downward trends in nature’s ability to provide clean air and water, good soil and other essentials.

Habitat loss is one of the biggest threats, and it’s happening worldwide, Watson said. The report projects 15.5 million miles (25 million kilometers) of new roads will be paved over nature between now and 2050, most in the developing world.

Many of the worst effects can be prevented by changing the way we grow food, produce energy, deal with climate change and dispose of waste, the report said. That involves concerted action by governments, companies and people.

Individuals can help with simple changes to the way they eat and use energy, said the co-chairman of the report, ecological scientist Josef Settele of the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research in Germany. That doesn’t mean becoming a vegetarian or vegan, but balancing meat, vegetables and fruit, and walking and biking more, Watson said.

“We can actually feed all the coming billions of people without destroying another inch of nature,” Lovejoy said. Much of that can be done by eliminating food waste and being more efficient, he said.


Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter: @borenbears


India to get another ‘eye in the sky’ on May 22

The Indian Space Research Organisation plans to release the lander once it is in the Moon orbit and make a soft landing near the South Pole of the moon on September 6.

India is set to get another ‘eye in the sky’ as Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) will launch its latest radar imaging satellite (Risat-2BR1) from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on May 22. 

Risat-2BR1 is much more advanced than the previous Risat-series satellite. “Its launch is due on May 22. Though the new satellite looks same as the old one from outside, its configuration is different from the earlier one launched. The new satellite, therefore, has enhanced surveillance and imaging capabilities,” a source in Isro told TOI. Risat’s X-band synethic aperture radar (SAR) possesses day-night as well as all-weather monitoring capability. The radar can even penetrate clouds and zoom up to a resolution of 1 metre (means it can distinguish between two objects separated by 1 m distance).

“The Risat satellite can take images of a building or an object on the earth at least 2 to 3 times a day,” the source said. Therefore, it can help keep an eye on the activities of jihadi terror camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and infiltrators at terror launchpads along the LoC.

The new imaging satellite will boost all-weather surveillance capabilities of Indian security forces and will help detect any potential threat around the Indian borders. As the satellite can also track hostile ships at sea, it can be used to keep a hawk-eye on Chinese naval vessels in the Indian Ocean and Pakistani warships in the Arabian Sea. The images from old Risat-series satellites were earlier used to plan the surgical strike in 2016 and the air strike on a Jaish camp in Pakistan’s Balakot this year. Risat also enhanced Isro’s capability for disaster management applications.

After the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008, Risat-2 satellite programme took priority over Risat-1 because of the advanced radar system, manufactured in Israel, and was launched in April 20, 2009 to boost surveillance capabilities of security forces. From 536km altitude, the satellite monitors Indian borders 24×7 and helps security agencies keep an eye on infiltrators.

The synethic aperture radar uses the motion of the radar antenna over a target region to provide finer spatial resolution than conventional beam-scanning radars. The distance the SAR satellite travels over a target in the time taken for the radar pulses to return to the antenna creates the large synthetic antenna aperture. Typically, the larger the aperture, the higher the image resolution will be, regardless of whether the aperture is physical (a large antenna) or synthetic (a moving antenna) – this allows SAR to create high-resolution images with comparatively small physical antennas. 

by Surendra Singh | TNN

India’s Second Visit To Moon Likely To Begin In July, Says Space Agency

The space agency has announced that India’s second visit to the Moon under the Chandrayaan-2 mission will most likely be launched between July 9-16 this year.

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) second mission to the Moon entails an orbiter, a lander and moon rover. The expected soft landing on the moon is likely to take place on September 6, 2019. India’s moon rover has been named “Pragyan” or “Knowledge”, since India hopes to understand the geology of Earth’s closest celestial neighbour through a series of unique experiments.

The Rs. 800-crore mission will be launched using the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III (GSLV Mk III) from Sriharikota.

According to a statement by ISRO, Chandrayaan-2 has three modules — Orbiter, Lander (Vikram) and Rover (Pragyan). The Orbiter and Lander modules will be interfaced mechanically and stacked together as an integrated module and accommodated inside the GSLV MK-III launch vehicle.

The Rover is housed inside the Lander. After a launch into the earth-bound orbit by GSLV MK-III, the integrated module will reach the Moon’s orbit using Orbiter propulsion module. The Lander will then separate from the Orbiter and soft land at the predetermined site close to lunar South Pole. After this, the Rover will roll out to carry out scientific experiments.


The second mission to the Moon entails an orbiter, a lander and moon rover.

Instruments have also also mounted on the Lander and Orbiter for scientific experiments.

India’s maiden mission to the Moon took place in 2008 under the Chandryaan-1 mission which also involved hard landing the Moon Impact Probe (MIP) on the lunar surface on November 14, 2008.

Chandrayaan-1 gave the first ever signatures of the presence of water molecules on the lunar surface.

The second mission was first delayed because a joint collaboration between India and Russia on the lander unit failed to take off after the Russian lander developed problems. India then had to develop the entire lander module on its own which it named the “Vikram” — after Vikram A Sarabhai, also known as the father of the Indian space programme.

Later, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk-II saw two failures in 2010. The ISRO then found out that the re-configured lander “Vikram” had become too heavy to be lofted using the GSLV Mk-II. When the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk-III, also known as the “Bahubaali” became available, the agency decided to use the India’s heaviest launcher for the Chandrayaan-2 mission.

The space agency plans to release the lander once it is in the Moon orbit and make a soft landing near the South Pole of the Moon. No other nation has landed on the near side of the South Pole of the Moon yet.

If India succeeds to make a soft landing on the Moon, it will become the forth country after Russia, USA and China to have achieved this feat.


Natural high: why birdsong is the best antidote to our stressful lives

Dawn chorus day is a good time to celebrate the benefits to mental and physical health of birdsong – and fight for beloved species facing extinction

Stephen Moss @stephenmoss_tv

When I hear the first willow warbler of the spring, the first cuckoo, or the first booming bittern on my local patch, I feel an enormous sense of comfort and satisfaction. As the poet Ted Hughes wrote about the annual return of swifts, “They’ve made it again, which shows that the globe’s still working…”

It’s International Dawn Chorus Day on Sunday 5 May, and this year the RSPB has released a single of birdsong (currentlyat number 11 in the charts) as part of a campaign to draw attention to the dire situation facing British birdlife. Populations of once-common species such as the house sparrow, starling and swift are falling fast, while the nightingale, turtle dove and grey partridge are rapidly sliding towards extinction in Britain.

Climate change, intensive farming and pollution are just some of the genuinely existential threats to the future of our birds. And, indeed, to us. Having been a naturalist since before I can remember – more than half a century now – I’m always astonished that so many people fail to make the connection between birds’ wellbeing and our own.

Spending time connecting with the natural world is the perfect antidote to the pressures of modern life. Getting close to nature – and especially listening to birdsong – doesn’t just bring us physical benefits – it also helps improve our mental and emotional health, happiness and wellbeing. And this isn’t just some warm, fuzzy feeling.

Scientists at the University of Surrey have been studying the “restorative benefits of birdsong”, testing whether it really does improve our mood. They discovered that, of all the natural sounds, bird songs and calls were those most often cited as helping people recover from stress, and allowing them to restore and refocus their attention.

What we hear is the males of each species saying “Keep out!” to every other male, and “Come in!” to every female

In other words, birdsong is good for you – something that will hardly come as a surprise to those who tune in to Radio 4 six mornings a week to catch its 90-second Tweet of the Day.

This spring, I’ve been taking people out to listen to birdsong near my home, on the Avalon marshes in Somerset. I’m always struck by their sense of wonder at this daily wall of sound, made by so many different species. But I’m also interested in the way they choose very human imagery to describe what they hear: words such as “performers” and “orchestra” as well as “dawn chorus”.

Sometimes I hesitate to explain what is really going on, for fear of breaking the spell. For, however much we think the birds are singing to delight us, this is of course a biological process – a life-or-death struggle between individual singers.

Willow Warbler
 A willow warbler. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Put simply, what we hear is the males of each species saying “Keep out!” to every other male in the vicinity, and “Come in!” to every female. Birdsong may sound beautiful, but it is all about the race to reproduce.

For a bird like the nightingale I heard singing in Kent last week, this is a crucial time of year. This male had just flown more than 2,500 miles from its winter quarters in west Africa, arriving back a week or so ahead of any females. As soon as it gets here, it must sing its complex, haunting song for hours on end, by day and night, to ensure that he keeps hold of its territory.

If it does, it will be one of those chosen to mate when the females return. Most songbirds live only a year or two, so if it loses out this year, it may never get the chance to breed again.

Life is tough for this nightingale, and for all our migratory songbirds. And it’s not as if we don’t care. The RSPB has more than 1.2 million members, and Springwatch is one of the most popular programmes on TV. Our love of birds is deeply rooted in our very being.

For centuries, we have celebrated them in song, prose and verse. From Chaucer to Shakespeare, Wordsworth to John Clare and Shelley to the Beatles, birdsong looms large in both our literary and popular culture.Advertisement

The other night, I attended an event hosted by singer and musician Sam Lee. His show, Singing with Nightingales: Live, is a unique blend of music, folk tales and birdsong, in which Lee and his colleagues celebrate the wonder and beauty of the nightingale’s song, complete with a live feed from a wood in West Sussex. It left the audience feeling truly humbled, while reminding me of the continuing power of birdsong to inspire and move us.

It’s vital that we preserve this birdsong. When the RSPB was founded, the biggest issue was the slaughter of birds for their feathers, which were used to adorn hats.

Nightingale adult, singing, standing on log in woodland

Today, the problems are far more serious. That’s why, earlier this week, I joined a group of actors, artists, singers, scientists, poets, conservationists and campaigners – including Lee – in signing a letter asking the UK government to heed this alarm call from nature.

If you weren’t up early enough this morning to listen to the dawn chorus, it’s not too late. The birds will still be singing tomorrow, and the next day, and hopefully next spring, too. But as we contemplate what has happened to Britain’s birdlife over the past half century, can we really be sure that they will still be singing in 50 years’ time? I’m not sure that we can.

Stephen Moss is a naturalist and author based in Somerset, and course leader of the MA in travel and nature writing at Bath Spa University

Indigenous no-state people

Japan recognises indigenous Ainu people for the first time

Japan is a country which often touts its ethnic homogeneity. That narrative, however, erases the country’s Ainu indigenous people, who have inhabited the north of the country long before the arrival of the Japanese.

For the first time ever, the government will officially recognize the Ainu people of Hokkaido as an indigenous people of Japan following the approval of a bill by the cabinet last week. The bill, which now has to go before Japan’s lawmakers, also includes provisions to make the country a more inclusive society for the Ainu, including measures to promote their culture and and extend economic support to their homeland.

According to the Hokkaido government’s “Survey on the Ainu Living Conditions” conducted in 2013, there are about 17,000 Ainu living in Japan, although the Ainu Association of Hokkaido estimates the number to be larger than that as that survey was not conducted nationwide, and the survey only counts those who self-identify as Ainu.

The origins of the Ainu people are unclear, but according to Richard Siddle, a professor at Hokkaido University who researches the indigenous group, a distinct Ainu culture emerged in northern Japan around the 13th century, as contact between the inhabitants of Hokkaido and Japan’s main island of Honshu started to increase, mostly in the form of trade. At the time, the Ainu population extended as far into present day Sakhalin in the Russian Far East.

As the ethnic Japanese of the southern islands, known as Wajingradually increased their economic influence around Hokkaido, conflict arose. The Ainu and Japanese fought a series of wars between the 15th and 18th centuries, such that by the 19th century, the northern island came under Japanese control, with its name changed formally from Ezo to Hokkaido.  Mass migration of Japanese to “settle” Hokkaido also began.

The relationship between the Ainu and the Japanese then followed one that is familiar to indigenous peoples all around the world. Seen as an uncivilized and primitive people who were doomed to die out, the Japanese government in the late 19th century—which was in the midst of a revolution to modernize and Westernize the country—instituted the Hokkaido Aborigine Protection Act. This was a bid to force the Ainu to assimilate, for example, by granting them small plots of land to get them to farm instead of carrying on with the fishing and hunting that they were long used to. They were also prohibited from speaking the Ainu language and had to speak Japanese instead. Over a century of discrimination of Ainu people ensured, with one recent survey for example finding the percentage of Ainu who go to university far lower than the Hokkaido average.

There has been a revival in Ainu culture in the last two decades, thanks in part to the Ainu Culture Promotion and Dissemination of Information Concerning Ainu Traditions Act passed in 1997, together with the abolishment of the 1899 law. Teruki Tsunemoto, the director of Hokkaido University’s Center for Ainu and Indigenous Studies, said the act helped bring about a change in people’s attitudes toward Ainu culture and encouraged people to proactively express their heritage, for example through language. The Ainu language—which is linguistically isolated from any other—is designated by UNESCO as an endangered tongue. Historically passed down only in oral form, the number of people who speak Ainu could be as low as a dozen, though more and more people with Ainu heritage are trying to keep the language alive.

new national museum and other facilities about the Ainu is also scheduled to open in 2020 in Hokkaido—in time for the tourist boom that is expected to accompany the Olympics in Tokyo. And local governments around Hokkaido have in recent years been trying to tap (paywall) the ballooning number of foreign visitors to Japan by promoting the island’s indigenous culture and the unspoiled environment associated with Ainu culture. Indeed, many of the names of Hokkaido’s best known tourist spots, such as ski resorts Niseko and Rusutsu, as well as the prefectural capital Sapporo, are Ainu in origin.

In addition to the Ainu, Japan has also long been home to a Korean minority, while many people of the southern Okinawan islands also consider themselves a distinct ethnic group. Meanwhile, an ethnically Japanese, social minority of outcasts known as the burakumincontinue to fight for equality (paywall), while increasing immigration into the country will continue to chip away at the myth of a homogeneous Japan.

Indigenous no-state people

Cyclone Fani Online Donation for Relief and Rescue: CM Urges People to Restore Cyclone-Hit Odisha

After Cyclone Fani, one of the severe cyclonic storm to batter the Indian subcontinent in decades, caused a havoc in Odisha after it made a landfall in Puri on Friday. In the wake of the destruction and damage caused due to the storm, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday urged people of the nation to donate online to help rebuild the state once again. “Odisha has been devastated by Cyclone Fani. Please help rebuild precious lives with your online contribution to Chief Minister Relief Fund at, Patnaik tweeted.

The Chief Minister said the houses completely damaged will be constructed under housing schemes. Loss of agricultural and horticultural crops & animal resources, fisheries will be assessed and compensated accordingly. He added saying that tree plantations will be taken up in mission mode soon after relief and restoration. Cyclone Fani: Rs 1000 Crore Relief for Fani Damage, Says PM Narendra Modi.

The death toll in Odisha caused due to Cyclone Fani jumped to 16 on Saturday. The government mounted a massive restoration work across 10,000 villages and 52 urban areas which were severely hit by the storm. The storm later weakened and entered West Bengal on Saturday night, after which it moved to coastal areas of Bangladesh. A total of nine people were killed in Bangladesh after rains lashed several parts of the nation.

Here’s How You Can Donate:

  1. Individuals wanting to make an online contribution to cyclone-hit people of Odisha need to visit Chief Minister Relief Fund –
  2. The Account numberon which individuals are required to send the money is 006101057842. The IFSC Code is ICIC0000061.
  3. Users can also make contribution via UPI: The code is “ODISHACMRF.FANI@ICICI”
  4. Users can also donate using Paytm App to assist relief and rehabilitation efforts in Odisha. Users can go to Paytm App and click on Odisha Relief icon and contribute.

The cyclone, with wind speed of up to 200 km per hour pounded the states coastal region, massively damaging property and disrupting flight operations, communication, rail and road connectivity. On Saturday, Patnaik informed that a record 1.2 million people were evacuated in 24 hours claiming to have carried out the “biggest human evacuation in history”.

He further added saying that Cyclone Fani was one of the rarest summer cyclones and was the first one in 43 years to hit Odisha and one of the three to hit in the last 150 years. “Because of this rarity, tracking and prediction were challenging. Till 24 hours of landfall of the cyclone — one was not sure about the trajectory it was going to take,” Patnaik said.

Indigenous no-state people

SC remark on ‘foreigners’ detention in Assam defies constitutional obligations: rights body

“Lakhs are in limbo and now fear that they may become “stateless” because of a process that is mired in a mix of complexity, confusion, lack of precision and prejudice,” says CHRI

A rights body, comprising a retired Supreme Court judge and a former Assam police chief, has said the apex court’s remark on the detention of ‘foreigners’ in Assam was unfortunate and “flies in the face of India’s constitutional and international obligations”.

One of the reasons, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has pointed out, is that accounts from Assam indicate “arbitrariness and not rule of law” is often used to define those who came post 1971 from Bangladesh — of whatever religious denomination — and those who are Indian nationals.

“Lakhs are in limbo and now fear that they may become “stateless” because of a process that is mired in a mix of complexity, confusion, lack of precision and prejudice,” a statement issued by the CHRI on Thursday night said.

The chairperson of CHRI is Wajahat Habibullah, India’s first Chief Information Commissioner. The members include Madan B. Lokur, former Supreme Court judge; A.P. Shah, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, Nitin Desai, former Under Secretary in the United Nations, and Jayanto N. Choudhury, former Assam Director General of Police.

“The Supreme Court needs to reaffirm India’s constitutional and international obligations to rights on complex issues of nationality, detention and deportation and not be unmindful of its own commitment to these duties,” the CHRI said.

“As concerned citizens, we look to the Supreme Court to reaffirm India’s constitutional and international obligations to rights on sensitive issues. That is why we are disappointed by recent statements by the Chief Justice of India on a complex matter relating to illegal detention and deportation, without heeding India’s own constitutional and international obligations,” it said.

CJI’s admonition of Chief Secretary

The statement was in reference to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi’s admonition of Assam Chief Secretary Alok Kumar for proposing a methodology for the release of a handful of foreign prisoners who had been in detention beyond their term of sentence for illegal entry. The rebuke was while advocating greater detention of suspected ‘foreigners’.

“We regard these remarks as unfortunate as the case concerned the wilful violation of the human rights of hundreds of detainees who were languishing in what the court itself accepts are “inhuman conditions”, the CHRI said, referring to Article 21 that says no person in India can be deprived of her/his right to life and liberty without due process.

“There is no deportation agreement with Bangladesh. International law lays down that such deportations can take place only with the consent of the country of origin. Bangladesh has consistently refused to accept that its citizens migrate in large numbers to India. Indeed, Bangladesh regards such unilateral efforts as harmful to a bilateral relationship that is critical for the security and stability of both countries and especially of our eastern region. We cannot place ourselves in a situation where we are seen as forcing people out at gunpoint; it would be ethically unjust, wrong in law and draw international condemnation,” it said.

The rights body said its members were sensitive to the concerns in Assam and other parts of the country about the problem of illegal migration from Bangladesh, a long-standing issue that has defied official proclamations and pledges of “push back”, “deportation” and “detection”.

“Any method used must be undertaken within the rule of law frame, be just and fair and designed to minimise individual hardship and tragedy. We believe there is a need that this is a tragedy of growing intensity which is gathering momentum as a result of the current National Register of Citizens (NRC) exercise in Assam,” the CHRI said.

Many of those at risk of being marked foreigners were from the bottom of the economic pyramid, unable to sustain the complex adjudication process needed to establish their citizenship. Large numbers were already in detention camps, the CHRI pointed out.

Plea to not hurry the process

It also urged the Supreme Court to not hurry through the process of verifying the applications of 38 lakh people out the 40.07 lakh left out of the complete draft of the NRC. The court has set July 2019 as the deadline for the final list.

“The efforts need to be steady and methodical so that the charges of arbitrariness, prejudice and poor record keeping, which have plagued the NRC process, do not stick,” the CHRI said.

Indigenous no-state people

CEC celebrates glorious 25 years, produces documentary ‘The Assam Tribune – Nation Talks’

CEC enters in glorious 25th year and the premier educational institute celeberates it Silver Jublee year felicitating all of its Center Directors at the ITA Machkhowa cultural complex on 2nd May. There are more than 300 centers of CEC across North East India with a brilliant record of more than 5,00,000 successful/passed-out students, over 300,000 got jobs all over India and over 100,000 are self-employed. In fact, students of CEC are found in almost every company in the N.E. region.

The Assam Tribune–Nation Talks”, a documentary based on the journey of The Assam Tribune, premiered in the complex. The documentary, produced by CEC and directed by Jhulan Krishna Mahanta, was conceptualised by Dipankar Dutta and Arunima Dutta.

According to the director, “The Assam Tribune-Nation Talks” is a documentary that portrays the glorious journey of the newspaper.

“North East India’s most popular English daily, The Assam Tribune, has tremendous contribution in shaping the history of Assam. The documentary conveys the extraordinary story of RG Baruah and how he was able to build an organization that has won hearts of readers and critics alike across the globe. The journey of The Assam Tribune has remained an untold story so far and that is what exactly the documentary seeks to convey, given the influence it has had from its inception till present,” the director said.

“The documentary presents itself, focusing on various aspects of The Assam Tribune and how it has remained an undisputed market leader in the newspaper industry of North-east. The newspaper has witnessed India transitioning into a modern republic even as the popular English daily had its own share of challenges which it has dealt with courage and survived only due to its foresighted vision,” he added.

Dr Amarjyoti Choudhury played the role of storyteller in the documentary which showcases various exclusive interviews, visuals, memoirs of the newspaper group revealing the challenges, pitfalls and triumphs faced in this journey of 80 years.

Today, Editor of The Assam Tribune PG Baruah, director of the Assam Tribune Group Babita Rajkhowa, Dr Amarjyoti Chouhdury along with a galaxy of eminent personalities were present during the screening.

The documentary will have a public screening on May 5 at Anuradha Cineplex and will be released on online platforms too.

CEC was established with an aim to create trained and efficient manpower in the field of information technology, software and hardware courses in computer, web-page designing, fashion and textile designing, journalism and other management courses; and it has successfully carried out different courses. CEC was founded to strengthen the need of computer education in Assam. The need of the hour was for a distinct institution specializing in technical education that would be far above the few institutions which were until then responsible for imparting computer education in the city. It was also felt that the purely empirically based professional computer education provided earlier by some sub-experienced/inexperienced professionals would not meet the burgeoning needs for training modern computer professionals.

The institute was expected to cater to the needs of providing training to the students who wish to pursue a career in computers, fashion designing, textile/interior designing, journalism and other management courses. To fulfill these objectives, the institute was expected to operate as a resource, providing employment generation in the field of technical education. The institute was expected to run as a centre of excellence for studies in professional courses.

This is significant because even in the face of the mushrooming competition by several multinational IT education institutes, CEC has been able to survive and sustain itself highly successfully against all odds as a local institute. In fact, other computer education giants currently working in this field in Assam have also faced stiff competition in the face of the thriving popularity of CEC among the aspiring students.

One outstanding factor behind the success achieved within this span of 24 years is the individualized attention given to the students, thus enhancing their ability to acquire and synthesize knowledge in their chosen field of studies. The ambience at CEC enables students to attain their personal and professional goals and contribute constructively to their workplaces and communities. This is the feeling voiced by many former students of this institution