SCIENTISTS PREPARE BLUEPRINT FOR BIODIVERSITY LOSS REVERSAL

RESEARCH SHOWS HOW NATURAL LANDS CAN BE PROTECTED AND LINKED TOGETHER TO SUPPORT A GLOBAL RECOVERY THAT BENEFITS BOTH BIODIVERSITY AND HUMAN WELFARE 

A group of scientists and experts produced the first comprehensive global-scale analysis of terrestrial areas essential for biodiversity and climate resilience, totaling 50.4% of the Earth’s land. The report was published in Science Advances entitled “A ‘Global Safety Net’ to reverse biodiversity loss and stabilize the Earth’s climate,” and highlights the importance of protecting and restoring the natural world to address three converging crises – climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and the emergence of novel viruses such as COVID-19. 

The research team was led by the research organization RESOLVE in collaboration with the University of Minnesota, Arizona State University, Globaïa, and others with support from One Earth. The data compiled for the Global Safety Net (GSN1) is available through an interactive web application developed by One Earth in partnership with Google Earth Engine. Users can click on a country, state, or eco-region to see configurations of biologically important land for each region. 

The two-year research effort builds upon multiple global-scale data sets to identify areas that require conservation beyond the 15.1% of land area currently protected. These are compiled into five main layers at a 1 km resolution: Species Rarity Sites, High Biodiversity Areas, Large Mammal Landscapes, Intact Wilderness, and Climate Stabilization Areas. 

The report concludes that an additional 35.3% of land is needed to conserve sites of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services. Fifty eco-regions and twenty countries contribute disproportionately to the total. One immediate priority identified is the protection of 2.3% of land area, which provides critical habitat for the world’s most endangered species. 

The paper presents for the first time a “common but differentiated” approach for area-based targets under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, which will be held next year in Kunming, China. Each of the world’s 846 eco-regions has a unique combination of layers, offering recommended area-based conservation targets for each country. 

The analysis includes estimates of carbon storage by layer, making the same map relevant for government commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement (UNFCCC). It also highlights the vital role of indigenous lands in protecting biodiversity and reversing climate change, which cover 37% of the Global Safety Net area.

A complementary global-scale connectivity analysis was performed by the research organization Globaïa, demonstrating that a relatively modest land area – approximately 350 million hectares – could connect isolated fragments of nature together, increasing the resilience of ecosystems and our biosphere as a whole.

VIEW THE REPORT: https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/36/eabb2824 

The report, “A Global Safety Net,” published in Science Advances, highlights the importance of protecting and restoring the natural world to address three converging crises — climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and the emergence of novel viruses such as COVID-19.

The data compiled for the Global Safety Net (GSN1) is available through an interactive web application developed by One Earth in partnership with Google Earth Engine. You can click on a country, state, or ecoregion to see configurations of biologically important land for each region. 

CHECK OUT THE INTERACTIVE TOOL: https://www.globalsafetynet.app/ 

KNOW ABOUT THE NGOs BEHIND THE PROGRAM

RESOLVE is a Washington, DC-based non-profit research organization that forges sustainable solutions to critical environmental, social, and health challenges by creating innovative partnerships where they are most needed. The Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions Program tackles the most pressing conservation problems of our time – the extinction of endangered wildlife and threats to habitats – through technological innovation, ambitious global agreements, and targeted land conservation.

ONE EARTH is a philanthropic organization working to accelerate collective action to stay below 1.5°C through three pillars of action – renewable energy transition, nature conservation, and regenerative agriculture. One Earth’s mission is to inspire greater ambition and collaboration in the philanthropic sector, and to drive urgently needed resources where they’re needed most – to frontline leaders and organizations working to build a just, vibrant future for all. GLOBAÏA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of planetary stewardship through the advancement of science-based, transdisciplinary approaches to understanding the major socioecological issues of our time. Merging art and science, Globaïa produces cutting-edge research and media to help visualize our interconnected world and the ever-evolving relationship between human societies, living environments, and planet Earth

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

  1. Eric Dinerstein
  2. Carly Vynne-Baker
  3. Anup Joshi
  4. Greg Asner
  5. Manno França
  6. Tanya Birch
  7. Karl Burkart

HISTORIAN SEE KAIRON’S ROLE IN PUSHING PUNJAB FORWARD

PARTAP SINGH KAIRON AND HIS TIMES

History helps us understand where we stand, it also helps us understand how we got there. In the tempestuous history of India and the even more tumultuous history of Punjab, Sardar Partap Singh Kairon played a major role in pushing Punjab forward. His vision was to rebuild Punjab and India with the same energy and verve as Europe was rebuilding itself after the destructiveness of the World War. As chief minister, he would frequently assert that Punjab would soon outpace Germany in development.

Sardar Partap Singh Kairon entered public life at a time when India was still wondering about the nature of representative government. !e popular mind had been captured by the direct and drastic actions of young men like Bhagat Singh. Young Partap Singh kept in touch with the radicals and revolutionaries in America. His own brother was a Communist. However, his natural tendencies were such that he gravitated towards the Akali Dal, which at that time was identi”ed as a ‘cultural’ and ‘social’ body. Here he witnessed the intense communal interplay that happened over the control of gurdwaras and gurdwara property. As the time for the elections of 1936–37 approached, he decided to contest as an Akali candidate against one of the most senior Congress leaders. The contest was spiced up by Jawaharlal Nehru personally campaigning multiple times in favour of the Congress candidate, Gurdit Singh Komagata Maru.

Yet, it was Partap Singh, the young Akali, who won. Having won the elections, the Akalis joined hands with the Congress to provide a united opposition to the new government that was led by the Unionist Party. He soon made a name for himself as a leader of the masses when he led the Akali–Congress movement against the four agrarian bills that the Unionist Party brought in with the objective of privileging the big landowners. !e Second World War provided yet another opportunity for political action against the government. 

In 1941, when Mahatma Gandhi initiated the individual satyagraha movement, the Congress in Punjab sheepishly reported to the national leadership of the Congress that they were unable to obtain much visible support from the common people. The public apparently was unmoved by the practice of many Congress leaders, especially the senior leaders of the Congress in Punjab, to court arrest in the name of a nominal ‘satyagraha’ and then quickly apply for bail. Partap Singh, now a general secretary of the Pradesh Congress, however, took the idea of satyagraha seriously, organized protests against the state and went to jail. The Quit India movement that followed was a time for making serious choices. The Akali Dal, helmed by Master Tara Singh, chose to support the war effort and keep away from the Quit India movement in the hope of communal aggrandisement. Kairon chose to cease his membership of the Akali Dal, become a member of the Congress, oppose communalism and participate in the Quit India movement. For his opposition to the government he would be incarcerated right up till Independence. From this point onwards, Sardar Partap Singh would condemn communalism constantly and deal harshly with anyone promoting a communal agenda. 

PARTAP SINGH TOOK ACTIVE PART IN THE GOVERNMENT

After Independence, we see a greying Partap Singh take an active part in the government. The resettlement of refugees in Punjab after Partition could be achieved quickly and in a constructive manner to a significant degree because of his initiatives and constant goading. It was at his suggestion that university classes were started in the evening for the refugees and others who needed to work during the day to earn a livelihood. !e refugees were provided with new skills in order to facilitate their rehabilitation. Special efforts were made to provide loans and equipment to refugees to help them regain a healthy economic status.

Under the circumstances, when Sardar Partap Singh noticed that senior Congress leaders in Punjab were dabbling in communalism, he minced no words in condemning them. This eventually led to the unceremonious ouster of Bhim Sen Sachar as chief minister. Kairon took over the reins of government from Sachar.

As chief minister, he insisted on simplicity of life and convinced his ministers to tour extensively to remain in touch with the people. He refused to shift to the palatial palace of the chief minister in which Sachar had stayed, instead choosing to stay in a smaller house where the furnishings were simple and sparse. Nowadays, that palatial building near the Sukhna Lake is the residence of the governor of Haryana. Kairon and his ministers toured for almost “fteen days every month and ensured that any trip made for private purposes was not billed to the government. He did not hesitate to raise a special cess for the construction of houses for the scheduled castes. Confident in the merit of the cause, Kairon ensured that the cess was duly approved by the President of India. It did not matter to him that an upset governor resigned—or at least made a show of resigning—to demonstrate his opposition to the cess for Harijans.

ROLE IN SUPPRESSING COMMUNALISM, IMPROVING THE ECONOMY OF PUNJAB

Image credit: https://www.hindustantimes.com/

As chief minister, he squarely faced the twin task of suppressing communalism and improving the economic condition of Punjab. Both required taking multiple initiatives, many of which were relatively unfamiliar to the people of Punjab. !e extensive tour schedules of Kairon and his ministers ensured that people were made aware of the new schemes of growth that the government had initiated. Such frequent contact with people seemed to recharge Kairon’s internal energies and give him heart to always forcefully combat those pushing a communal agenda. He was visibly and openly harsh to those whose political programmes were based on exciting communal animosity. He dealt with those agitating in the name of Hindi quite roughly. !ose agitating in the name of promoting Punjabi and/or the Punjabi Suba were given the same treatment. 

Kairon was of the firm opinion that the greatest strength of Punjab was its large size and tremendous geographical and cultural diversity, with the Punjabi language and culture providing a unifying template. With the towering Himalayas on one side, deserts on the other and extremely fertile agricultural plains in between, he saw a tremendous potential in Punjab. All that was needed was to nurture the land and harvest nature’s bounty that was available in the form of fast mowing perennial rivers. Punjab had the potential to provide electricity and foodgrains to the entire nation. Its boys were already dominating the military. Even the civil population of Punjab had shown a great penchant to protect India’s borders. Punjabis were spread all over the country and had set up strong roots in different parts of the world. Even so, they retained strong connections with Punjab. These energies merely needed to be directed into positive directions and those professing narrow-minded communal interests had to be kept in check. 

KAIRON’S LOVE FOR PUNJABI

Kairon was a leader who primarily worked in the Punjabi language. He ensured that Punjabi became the primary language of government in Punjab, including the courts. His love for the nation was unmatched. This meant that he would not tolerate anyone promoting communal hatred in the name of the national language or in the name of the regional identity. Due to him, Punjab became one of the “first states in India to remove from official lists the column that identified a person’s religion. He also removed religious holidays from the calendar. Either everyone would enjoy a holiday, or no one would. !ere was no place in a secular India for holidays to be given to people on the basis of their religion, he would insist.

At the same time, when the Communists successfully mobilized thousands of people in the countryside to oppose the betterment levy, Kairon and his entire cabinet made efforts to reach out to the people to explain to them the logic underlying the betterment levy and its fairness. That effectively ended one of the largest peasant mass movements in twentieth-century Punjab. A large number of Communist workers and supporters thereafter drifted to the Congress, abandoning the Communist Party. Subsequently, Kairon went out of his way to negotiate with the centre to reduce the charges that had been the reason for the betterment levy, thereby removing the root cause of the farmers’ distress. After all, he reasoned with the authorities at the centre, if Punjab’s agriculture produces more and its waters generate electricity, the whole nation benefits, so there is no point in taxing the farmers of Punjab who ensure that the nation grows rich and strong. The centre was convinced and agreed to renegotiate the terms of the levy, easing o# an unnecessary burden on Punjab farmers.

Hailing from a rural background himself, Kairon had a sharp understanding of the problems of the people, their limitations and aspirations. As he pushed the farmers of Punjab towards modernizing, he found ways and means through which everyone could make use of the capital-intensive machines and tools needed for modern agriculture. He constantly urged groups of farmers to set up cooperatives and provided the utmost help in this regard. His push for research in the basic sciences, medicine, agriculture and veterinary sciences resulted in some of the leading research institutions of India being based in Punjab. Out of these, the PGI at Chandigarh honoured Kairon’s name by naming its Administrative Block after him. 

KAIRON BROUGHT STABILITY TO FACTION-RIDDEN POLITY

The Congress in Punjab was said to be the most faction-ridden party in British India. This factionalism only intensified after Independence to such an extent that Punjab became the first state in India where the MLAs found it impossible to agree on a chief minister. This resulted in almost a year-long President’s Rule in 1951–52 and a quick turnover of chief ministers. By the way, this was the first time President’s Rule was invoked in any of the states of India. Kairon brought stability to this faction-ridden polity. He addressed the grievances of different factions, co-opted them in governance and ensured that probity was maintained. Senior ministers and political leaders were sidelined when it was found that they had indulged in corruption. The central leadership of the Congress, and particularly Jawaharlal Nehru, held him in extremely high esteem as a result. Pratap Singh Kairon had created a vision for Punjab, implemented it to make Punjab one of the most prosperous states of India, ensured the use of Punjabi as the official language of the state, and put in place sturdy secularism that drew upon the indigenous culture of Punjab. At a time when India is dealing with often irreconcilable political differences and the matter of strengthening the integrity of India, it would do us well to remember how Kairon effectively thwarted separatism of any kind, convinced the people of Punjab that the best future for everyone was to have an undivided state and work for the strengthening of India.

KERALA – A GREEN CULTURAL PARADISE

IT’S GOD’S OWN LAND

Kerala, popularly known as God’s Own Country is one of the most popular tourist destinations in our country. Flanked by the Arabian Sea in the West, the Western Ghats in the East, sandwiched by green paddy fields in the plains and networked by 44 interconnected rivers, Kerala is blessed with a unique set of geographical features that have made it one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the world. Kerala is blessed with a long shoreline with serene beaches, tranquil stretches of emerald backwaters, lush hill stations with panoramic tea gardens, exotic wildlife with rare flora and fauna, innumerable festivals with caparisoned elephants, accompanied by a musical ensemble with traditional musical instruments, colourful array of folk, temple and classical dance forms are just a few of the wonders that await you once you crossover to the other side.

The Malabar Coast, the northern part of Kerala is very popular in ancient times throughout the world as a land of spices and Black Gold. Many traders from the Arabian and Persian peninsula along with Portuguese, Dutch, finicians, and Englishmen landed in this great coast to explore the spice treasure of the world. This land has fired the imaginations of intrepid travelers and explorers like Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Marco Polo, Fa Hien, et al among others.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, A “MUST-SEE” DESTINATION

Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala has been chosen as a “must-see” destination by National Geographic Traveler. Mahatma Gandhi described Thiruvananthapuram city as the “Evergreen city of India”, due to its vast greenery and architectural beauty of the building situated in every part of the city. The famous Padmanabhaswamy temple, one of the richest temple in the world is located in Thiruvananthapuram.

Kerala has more than 100 beautiful destinations from south to north, includes Kovalam, one of the most beach destination in India; Kollam, the cashew town of India; Alappuzha or Alleppey, the Venice of the east; Kumarakom, one of the iconic tourist destination of our country; Kochi, the queen of the Arabian sea; Munnar, the Scotland of India; Thekkady, the roaring wildlife paradise of India; Guruvayur, the temple town of South India; Thrissur or Trichur, the Cultural Capital of the state; Palakkad, the granary of Kerala; Kottakkal, the birthplace of Ayurveda, the ancient traditional medical system of our country; Nilambur, the famous teak town of the world; Kozhikode, the spices town of India; Wayand, the tribal paradise of western Ghats and Bekal, the village with an ancient fort and religious harmony.

Kerala & Himachal Pradesh, are the pairing states of Ek Bharat Shreshta Bharat campaign. The Prime Minister propounded that cultural diversity is a joy that ought to be celebrated through mutual interaction & reciprocity between people of different States and UTs so that a common spirit of understanding resonates throughout the country. Himachal Pradesh is already on the ‘must see’ list of many travellers from Kerala. Ek Bharat Shreshta Bharat scheme has manifested the idea of a sustained and structured cultural connection between people of different states.

Kerala has everything to be explored by tourists, except the snow-capped mountains, but the vast greenery and hospitable people of this beautiful land offer you an unmatchable holiday experience with its mouth watering dishes, with its rich heritage and cultural experiences.

SCIENTISTS UNLOCK CROPS’ POWER TO RESIST FLOODS

TWEAKING PROTEINS IN STAPLE FOODS COULD HELP FEED A WARMING WORLD 

Enzymes that control a plant’s response to lower oxygen levels could be manipulated to make vital crops resistant to the impacts of flooding triggered by climate change, new research shows.

Co-author Dr Mark White in the School of Chemistry at the University of Sydney said: “Climate change is a major global issue, not least for its impact on food security. We hope these findings can help produce flood-tolerant crops to help mitigate the devasting social and economic impact of extreme weather events on food production.”

The research, largely done at the University of Oxford, is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Climate change has increased the number and intensity of global flooding events, threatening food security through significant crop loss. Plants, including staple crops such as rice, wheat and barley, can survive temporary periods of flooding by activating energy pathways that don’t rely on air in response to the low oxygen conditions in water.

These responses are controlled by oxygen-sensing enzymes called the Plant Cysteine Oxidases (PCOs), which use oxygen to regulate the stability of proteins that control gene activity.

The research describes the molecular structures of the PCOs for the first time, identifying chemical features that are required for enzyme activity.

“The results provide a platform for future efforts to manipulate the enzyme function in an attempt to create flood-resistant crops that can mitigate the impact of extreme weather events,” Dr White said.

Dr White joined the University of Sydney last year as an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Award recipient. He was previously a postdoctoral researcher at Novo Nordisk, Denmark, and worked at the University of Oxford’s Chemistry Research Laboratory with Dr Emily Flashman, lead researcher on the Plant Cysteine Oxidases paper published.

This work was supported by the UK Biotechnology and Biological Research Council New Investigator Grant, the European Research Council and the Italian Ministry of Education University and Research.

RETAILER-WEAVER CONNECTION TO UPLIFT HANDLOOM INDUSTRY

WEAVING STORIES OF PROSPERITY

In a country of billions, what has emerged out of the recent health conundrum is the need to be “atmanirbhar”, an emotion that surpasses the human need for acquisitions. Thus, the meteoric rise of the “Made in India” sentiment has captured both the hearts and minds of conscious millennials.

Not surprising then that handlooms are the flavour of the season. After all, the sector employs almost 3.5 million people with each region paying homage to its innate culture through the fabric of freedom. The movement has been gaining popularity over many years, but a noticeable momentum began four years ago, when Minister of Textiles Smriti Irani #iwearhandloom became a sensation on the twitter, where hand spun was celebrated with pride. This renewed the pledge to support and resuscitate the industry, as the blue hand woven silk sari from Bihar, she wore, went viral.

The results were both ingenious and innovative with not just design intervention with the help of leading style gurus, but also a government grant to the textile ministry for providing financial assistance to languishing weavers.

The key is in establishing, a direct connect between retailers and weavers to eliminate the middleman, urging e-commerce giants to pitch in.

The textile industry is dominated by women as they constitute almost 72 per cent and the Textile Minister has offered various schemes like the National Handloom Development Programme to empower them.

Interestingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi besides being an avid supporter of textiles has reiterated the need for foreign investment to create employment as well as skill development. Almost 30 million farmers are part of producing 60 per cent natural fibres in India which is the need of the hour to help boost the GDP. Most importantly, sustainability is setting the new world order.

HANDLOOMS IN YOUNGSTERS’ WARDROBES

India’s population, out of which 50 per cent is below 25, and more than 65 per cent below 35, has embraced this innate message. Whether it is schools or colleges, handlooms have succeeded in marking their presence in youngster’s wardrobes. With a little help from designers who have adopted clusters for Ikkat, Chanderi, Maheshwari among others, or even the rise of Baneras as a hot spot is the sign of the popularity of going eco-friendly. It is frankly, the new cool.

What has further generated interest is the National Crafts Museum and Hastkala Academy, Pragati Maidan, which not just holds meaningful talks on handlooms along with a showcase, but also in-depth, short-term courses for the discerning few who would like to equip themselves with knowledge about handloom/craft and Indian textile traditions.

As we grasp with new realities, the education sector has made strides in incorporating this aesthetic in their curriculum by taking fashion students on trips to clusters. This has opened a plethora of opportunities for them when they enter the real world as they stitch together endearing stories of Indian crafts through their design prowess.

The Fashion Design Council of India, has taken many steps to support handlooms. They initiated on Instagram a series titled “Celebrating the Maker” last month where designers paid homage to handloom weavers that they have been associated with.

Another major thrust has been witnessed at the India Fashion Week where handlooms have been given a place of pride and for many years along with Ministry of Textiles, many programs with designers and clusters have been initiated.

The FDCI board has decided from the Covid trust fund they will allocate an amount to buying unsold stocks from weavers. The weavers will be identified by DC handlooms, under the Ministry of Textiles as well as handloom designers.

CENTRE’S ASSURANCES DOESN’T REVERSE IMPACT OF ORDINANCES

SHIROMANI AKALI DAL SHOULDN’T TAKE A POSTION ON ORDINANCES  

It’s a matter of unfathomable dismay that Sukhbir Singh Badal President of the Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) in his recent virtual press conference at Chandigarh, while advancing his arguments  in favor of  the Agri ordinances , promulgated by the president of India, was repeatedly showing with euphoric excitement a letter written to him by the Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, claiming that this letter is the final adjudicator on the Agri Ordinances, notwithstanding the negative implications of the ordinances, already notified in the Gazette of India. 

During this public narrative Sukhbir Singh Badal patently exposed his deficient intelligence quotient, in projecting the value of a letter written by a Minister to an MP in comparison to the legal inference of the Ordinances promulgated by the President of India and duly notified in the Gazette of India.

I wonder how he gives much more significance to a simple letter rather than understanding the devastating implications of the Agri Ordinances, causing unimaginable socio-economic consequences to the farming community. If things are seemingly beyond his comprehension to understand the far-reaching demeanor of Agri Ordinances for the farmers then he should better desist from taking any position on the ordinances. And if he understands the nuance then he is cleverly skirting the apparently conspicuous and operative anti-farmer orientations, reflected in the clauses of the ordinances.

STOP BEFOOLING PEOPLE

I’m really amazed at his phenomenally adroit cunningness with which he is defending the anti-farmers ordinances, so unassumingly; against which all the Kisan organizations of Punjab, are up in arm, ever since these ordinances have been promulgated on June 5, 2020. I personally feel that Sukhbir Singh Badal is not that boob, as he is pretending to be, he is probably acting as such, just to please his wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who has consciously voted in favor of all the three anti-farmers ordinances while the ordinances were being approved by the cabinet.

Otherwise being Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab, twice and Member of Parliament for the second term; he should know the nuance and legal acceptance of the ordinances, notified as lawful statutes in the Gazette of India.  Consequently, a simple letter written by Union Agriculture Minister Mr. Narendra Singh Tomar  in no way  qualifies at all the legal validity and it neither has any consequential applicability nor it any way reverses the devastating far-reaching consequence  by any implication against the farmers.

Therefore, Sukhbir Singh Badal should stop befooling the farmers by using this insignificant piece of communication  which at best could be defined as a document of treacherous betrayal of the farmers interests  which justify the ‘willful deceit’ ; the so-called rubbish deserve to be consigned to the garbage assemblage.

BATTERY SWAPPING TO MAKE ELECTRONIC VEHICLES SUCCESSFUL

Battery Swapping for Electric Vehicles was proposed in India about three and half years back. The argument was simple. Battery is the primary cost in an Electric Vehicle (EV), amounting to 30% to 50% of the EV cost. Without a battery an EV costs no more than existing petrol Vehicles. But add battery, vehicle costs go up and become unaffordable. Battery is the container of energy (electricity) that powers the vehicle, just like the fuel-tank is a container for petrol. But while a fuel-tank is inexpensive, a battery is not. What if a customer does not buy a battery, but instead just picks up a charged battery when needed and returns the discharged one?

The customer pays for using a battery and not its high upfront cost. India has done this before. We subscribe to LPG gas-cylinders services for cooking but do not own and buy the cylinders. We get the filled cylinder, use it and then replace the empty cylinder with a filled one. This model has worked well, created large employment and India avoided the costlier and difficult option of attempting to get the piped-gas to every home. Now LPG gas-cylinders reach the remote villages, covering 96.9% of households. Imagine the gas-pipes reaching there!

For battery swapping to work, an EV customer would take services of an Energy Operator (EO), who would purchase the batteries, charge them and offer them to vehicle owners (VO) for swapping, at multiple convenient locations. When a customer is about to run out of battery, he/she would go to these outlets and simply exchange the discharged battery with a charged one. This would simply take 2 to 5 minutes. The VO would need to sign-up with a specific EO for the battery swapping services. To ensure that there is no misuse or theft of swapped batteries, they would be designed to be electronically locked and chargeable only by the specific EO and useable only in the vehicle to which it is assigned temporarily. The EO would make this operation a viable business by charging for swapping battery just like a petrol-pump charges for filling petrol.

SWAP-BATTERY TO COST LESS THAN THE PETROL PRICE

The charges will be based on the cost of the battery, cost of charging and the cost of running a swapping operation such that the EO becomes a profitable business. The swap-battery cost per km for a VO would be less than the petrol cost per km for a similar vehicle. The VO therefore is a big winner and would be more ready to switch from petrol vehicle to EV. Since there could be multiple EOs providing battery swapping service, the VO would have the ability to switch to an EO who provides the best value for money.

Much of this (the logistics and economics) was worked out three and half years back. But many thought the idea was too radical and other countries in the world had not yet adopted it. Arguments for India to lead and not always follow the world, or that the country needed a lower-cost approach than the West, to make EVs affordable did not cut much ice. Some auto-manufacturers also were not on-board. While some did not want electric vehicles to be supported by the Government, others did not want to unbundle batteries from the vehicle as it affects their margins.

There were however some early adopters, especially the fleet operators, who understood the proposition and started swapping batteries and using EVs at scale. They had been urging the Government to legalise the sale of EVs without batteries, and though it took time, the Government did realise that this unique approach would benefit India and its customers. It has therefore legalised this month the sale of an EV without a battery. This is a big boost to the adoption of EVs in India. India has finally decided to lead!

Of course, one still needs to tie up a few loose ends. The Government and the industry need to figure out how to pass FAMEII subsidies provided for EVs to the EO, who will now invest in EV batteries and chargers. It would help if each class of vehicle adopts a standard connector, form-factor of battery and the communication protocols between EV, swappable battery and the Charger. But these are doable tasks. The bold step taken by the Government has enabled India to get ahead with EVs. It should now quickly follow with clear mechanism of passing FAME subsidy to OEMs of EV and to the EOs to scale up battery swapping in India.

KNOW CULTURAL RESOURCES OF HIMACHAL PRADESH AND KERALA

OLD HERITAGE LEADS TO IMMERSIVE TOURISM

“Ek Bharat Shreshth Bharat” scheme has paired seemingly contrasting states and cultures of Kerala in the extreme South and Himachal Pradesh cradled in Himalayas. Both have a divine connect with Kerala being “gods own country” and Himachal being the “abode of the Gods”, aptly embodying the ‘Unity in Diversity of Incredible India.’

Both States are tourist hubs; less urbanised; highest literacy; environmentally sensitive; governance models; organic lifestyles; social harmony and deep rooted culture. Indus valley (2250 to 1750 B.C) relics are found in Himachal foothills and numerous tribes shaped its prehistoric cultural ethos. Kulu district, renowned for international Dussehra festival, is the fabled Kulanthapita, “end of the habitable world”! Its capital Manali is named after Sanatan Hindu lawgiver Manu derived from ‘Manu-Alaya’ or “abode of Manu’. Kerala, home to coconut groves swaying in sea breezes comes from ‘Kera’ meaning coconut tree and ‘Alam’ embodying land tracing its non-prehistoric cultural genesis to the 3rdc AD historical Thamizhagom region influenced by the Chera, Chola, and Pandya Tamil culture and 2000 year old Sangam Literature.

Five distinct trails categorise Himachali culture with some features mirroring Kerala

EPIC RAMAYAN AND MAHABHARAT STORY TRAIL 

It is evident in the 1553 AD Hidimba temple in Manali. Atop Jakhu, one of the seven Shimla hills, is the temple where Hanumanji rested while searching for sanjivni booti. The 8th c AD single rock cut marvel Masroor Temple in Kangra distt nicknamed “Ellora of the Hills” dates to pandavas. Kerala’s famous Kathakali dance or “story play”, derives themes from Indian Epics performed by male dancers donning elaborate masks and make up.

THE BRITISH RAJ TRAIL 

Native to Shimla which remained the British summer capital since 1864 after Murree (Pakistan). The partition of India was signed in the magnificent Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS 1888) epitomizing Scottish architecture;  Shimla Ridge has  is the second oldest christ church(1846-57) in North India seen in the Amitabh film  “Black”. The State library in mock Tudor architecture flanks it. Manor house of Rajkumari Amrit Kaur hosted Gandhiji often during his 1921-46 visits to Shimla. The gravestones of church St John In the Wilderness (1852) in Dharamsala all tell their own story! In Palayur, Kerala the ancient 52 AD St Thomas, Syro-Malabar Catholic church was established by St Thomas, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ.

HOME TO THE DALAI LAMA

Since 1959 THE BUDDHIST TRAIL in HP runs across the cold deserts of Kinnaur and Lahaul Spiti  tentatively listed on the UNESCO World Heritage sites. This imposing rugged landscape boasts of Tabo (996AD) monastery, Ajanta of the hills for preserving nine underground mandalas of paintings & stuccos. Kye (11th c AD) and Dhankar monasteries in formidable terrain are near staging points of the ancient trade Silk Route at Baralacha and Chhatru. Further south Rampur still trades local wares annually in the NovemberLavi Mela. Ritual Chham masked dance is performed by monks of Buddhist monasteries. This finds a strange parallel in the famed kathakali masked dance of Kerala.

Lari near Tabo monastery has 3500 years old Petroglyphs Spiti rock scattered over 19 sq km. Carvings depict swastika symbol and a bird now extinct. Nearby lie naturally preserved remains of a Buddhist monk called mummy of GIU buried in a 1938 landslide and discovered during road construction work. Strangely Buddhism and Jainism have co-existed and enriched Kerala culture too for nearly eight centuries.

THE TRIBAL TRAIL

Uncannily Kanam is a small place in Kottayam district of Kerala and is also a quaint monastery near Kaza in Himachal. Ancient millennial old Tibetan texts are preserved in Kaanam library.  A Hungarian monk visiting Kanam monastery in mid 19th century made it his home. Since then Hungarian tourists to Himachal make a beeline to remote Kanam.

THE PAHAARI TRAIL 

Culture changes at 10 kms as native Himachali dialects and lifestyles of baghati, hinduri, mahasuvi, kulluvi, trigarth, chhoti kashi, sirmauri resonate in the Culture department compilation of seven vanishing Pahari scriptswith beautiful  Tankri, Chandrawani, Bhatakshri, Sharda, Brahmi, Pawuchi and Pangwani calligraphy. Pawuchi and Pangwani are secret scripts used since centuries to encrypt accounts and predict futures using Sancha or laal kitaab. Practitioners would roll indigenous twin owl bone crafted dominoes called paasas(used by Shakuni in Mahabharat) to locate fortune paragraphs akin to legendary Bhrigu Samita of Hoshiarpur. To revive quaint sancha as livelihood Culture department positioned Sancha readers strategically in 2019 Shimla International Literature Festival (SILF) earning them Rs 5000/- per day.

A TALE OF SMART PHONES AND DUMB LESSONS

NO LINKAGE WITH LEARNING

Punjab government has started distribution of 1,73,823 smart phones to students of government schools who are studying in class XII. With this decision, state government is acting towards its government school children like a nouveau riche half literate doting father who pays scant attention towards a child’s demand for books and happily arranges all smart gadgets in the name of so called smart learning.

If government wants to give young students smart phone for entertainment, it is welcome, but it should not happen in the name of learning. This is a cruel joke on sincere parents. For a school student, a smart phone is one of the biggest hurdles in learning. How this hurdle began to be touted as compulsory condition for learning is only a matter of further investigation. Smart phone is more for social media connectivity and less for social connectivity. Social media runs on the principle of attention economy and it is a constant highway of trolls, prejudices, post-truth world information and many more dangers which cause a great disruption in the process of student’s learning, so smart phones are a recipe for long term damage to the learning.  

NEED FOR INFORMATION GATE-KEEPING

Image credit: https://www.hindustantimes.com/

A school is with a boundary. A class room is also with a boundary. A text book or any book has a boundary. It is these boundaries that control the traffic of world around the students. Learning requires discipline which was made possible by boundaries. Plato learnt this lesson after the death of Socrates that teaching philosophy at market square can be dangerous. Why does Punjab government want to place its students at the meeting square of information highway?

Corona is one time disruption. No disruption in the history of civilization has acted as permanent disruption. It seems that government is planning to make current temporary arrangement in to a permanent setup where students shall get connected with the world of learning only through smart phone . Information gate keeping is one of the most important task in information technology. With smart phones in the hands of teen age children, what kind of information gate keeping is possible there? Let us dismantle all brick and mortar world of learning and all regulations regarding curriculum committees, school boards, experts etc, if the smart phone has to be placed at the centre of world of learning.

TECHNOLOGY INDUCED DUMBNESS

International studies have made it clear that Google affects memory (recall and retention) and it is called of Googling of memory. It is also found that AI driven predictive spelling affects one’s writing skills. Screen reading is a long term damage to cognition process. It will affect their concentration. Smart phone may have some use for a mature person. But teen age students passing through the most sensitive phase of physical changes and psychological challenges are certainly not fit candidates for smart phones. All these things apart, government knows better. History of colonialism makes it amply clear that government acts according to what it thinks best. Like our previous colonial masters, it has  every right to show contemptuous disregard for voices from below.

TREATMENT OF AORTIC STENOSIS WITHOUT SURGERY

During these corona times let’s not ignore cardiac ailments. Many elderlies in India suffer from Aortic Stenosis. This is a heart condition in which aortic valve of heart that pumps blood to whole body gets severely narrowed.

Aortic valve is a tri-leaflet like structure situated just at the origin of aorta from left ventricle of heart, which controls blood supply to whole of the body. Aortic valve stenosis is basically thickening and narrowing of aortic valve with advancing age.

When it reaches the stage of critical narrowing, heart is unable to pump blood to whole body resulting in easy fatigability, breathlessness, chest pain and sometimes syncope (transient loss of consciousness). It progresses through the stages when there are no symptoms in spite of severe narrowing to a stage when symptoms in form of chest pain, breathlessness and syncope start occurring.

For decades, the treatment for this type of condition was open heart surgical aortic valve replacement. It was a natural choice as no other option was available. For elderly patients and those who are not suitable or are at higher risk for surgery the only option left was medical management and wait for death. In about one third of patients suffering from this disease, the strain of surgical operation made the procedure out of question. This surgery is not suitable for many elderly patients and in those who have other co-morbidities. This was an unsatisfactory situation of not being able to offer any effective therapy to these patients.

The reason for narrowing of aortic valve is mainly age-related degeneration. Other reasons can be some abnormalities in structure of valve which are present since birth, there is mild narrowing which gradually progresses with advancing age. This condition is called bicuspid aortic valve, when there are only two cusps in place of usual three. Other causes can be some infective process involving the valve leading to thickening and narrowing of valve.

In stage of severe narrowing, but with no symptoms 80% patients remain alive after 1 year and 55% are alive after 5 years, risk of sudden death is about 1.5% per year. When even mild symptoms start to appear only 35% will remain alive after 5 years.

THERAPEUTIC OPTION TO INOPERABLE AND HIGH RISK FOR SURGERY PATIENTS

Trans catheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) or Trans catheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) has offered a solution to this dilemma by providing an effective therapeutic option to inoperable and high risk for surgery patients. The first ever successful TAVI in human being was done in 2002 by Prof Alain Cribier. Since then this procedure has made remarkable progress, and reached a level of offering a suitable alternative to surgery in select group of patients.

In the beginning TAVI got approval only for high risk and inoperable patients. In 2016 it got approval for intermediate risk and now it has proven its worth in terms of efficacy even in lower risk for surgery patients. It means that TAVI has become treatment of choice in inoperable, high risk and intermediate risk patients and a suitable alternative in low risk patients.

TAVI usually involves going through one of the arteries in groin as in angiography done earlier. Now most of angiography and angioplasty procedures are done through radial artery from wrist. The introducer sheath used in TAVI procedure is quite large bore as one has to take valve through it. It started with a much bigger sheath size in beginning but with gradual advancements in valve it has been gradually brought to much smaller size.
After the procedure hole in groin artery is closed with internal suture devices only, earlier it had to be cut open through surgery. Patients are usually discharged on 3rd day of the procedure.

Aortic stenosis is the most common form of valve problem in elderly and if left untreated is often fatal. Timely intervention to replace valve can improve symptoms and prolong life. With advancements in medical technologies and introduction of TAVI the non-surgical technique for aortic valve replacement, there is definite ray of hope for inoperable, elderly and debilitated patients and a suitable non-surgical alternative in other patients who are being planned for surgical aortic valve replacement.

KNOW WHY PUNJAB’S OWN THERMAL PLANTS ARE FACING CLOSURE

THERMAL POWER GENERATION PLANT IN BATHINDA ALREADY SHUT, OTHER TWO ALSO ON VERGE

Close on the heels of the permanent closure of the Guru Nanak Dev Thermal Plant at Bathinda, Punjab’s other two thermal plants at Ropar and LehraMohabbat are also on the verge of closure. The combined plant load factor (PLF) of these plants, whichis a measure of how much the plants have remained in operation is  only12.73 percent for FY 19-20 compared to national average of 50.24 percent. The same was 22.37 percent for FY 18-19.Other states are performing much better than Punjab in this aspect. As per the data of Central Electricity Authority (CEA), the PLF of state thermal plants for UP is 57.98%, Rajasthan 53.16%, Haryana 29.42%, Gujarat 39.80%, Andhra Pradesh 55.90% and for Maharashtra it is 51.44%. Not surprisingly, the state sector of Punjab could produce only 1967 million units (MU) of electricity last year compared to 31178MU in Rajasthan,27852MU in U.P, 7030MU in Haryana, 24598MU in Andhra Pradesh and 48239MU in Maharashtra.

The situation has become so alarming that the share of state sector thermal generation to the total energy of the state is a meagre three percent against national average of 24.74 percent. The operating four units at Ropar have outlived their useful life of 25 years and as per the guidelines of CEA, these could be phased out anytime now. Ironically though, the first unit of the Guru Nanak Dev thermal Plant was commissioned in the year 1974, a year before the National Thermal Power Corporation of Govt. of India was established in the year 1975. Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant at Ropar achieved PLF of 91.11 percent in the year 2009-10 and Guru Har Gobind Thermal Plant at LehraMohabbat achieved PLF of 94.31 percent for the year 2011-12.

REASONS FOR LOW PLANT LOAD FACTOR

Things started to change dramatically from FY 14-15 onwards, after the two private thermal plants at Rajpura and Talwandi Sabo started producing cheaper electricity due to their lower fuel cost. The state thermal plants operating on sub critical technology could not match the efficiency of the super critical plants of the private sector. Another factor which comes into play is the typical load profile of Punjab which varies between 5000-6000 MW in winter to 12000-13000 MW during the summer. The plants are strictly operated on the merit order dispatch principle i.e. the plants with lower fuel costs are operated on priority over the plants having higher fuel costs.The per unit fuel cost of the Rajpura and Talwandi Sabo plant is Re. 3.08 and Re. 3.52 respectively, which is lower compared to Re. 3.92 and Re. 4.53 for the Ropar and Lehra plants. Owing to their higher fuel costs, the utilization of the state plants remains low.

COSTLIER ELECTRICITY

Purchase of electricity now constitutes almost eighty percent of the energy requirement of the state. It was was around forty seven percent up to FY 13-14 and is increasing with each passing year. PSPCL purchased electricity worth Rs. 10771 cr. from the private thermal plants of the state this year but the worrying factor is that, there has been an unprecedented rise of 27.69 percent in the cost per unit from Rs. 4.76 during FY 18-19 to Rs. 6.08 during FY 19-20.At the same time, PLF of own plants is going down every year which is causing electricity produced from these plants costlier. The cost of generation from the Lehra and Ropar plant for FY 19-20 is Rs. 9.97 and 8.66 per unit respectively.The higher cost is because of fixed cost to the tune of 700 cr. incurred for power not produced at own plants.

Steep hike in cost of power purchase from the private plants coupled with the financial impact due to the extremely low PLF of state plants are contributing towards making electricity costlier in the state and consumers have to bear this extra burden.

Another factor which has also contributed to the rising cost of electricity is that the extraction of cheap and good quality coal from own mine at Pachhwara has been stopped altogether from March,2015 onwards.

Image credit:- https://swapdial.com/

GENESIS OF THE PROBLEM

In total disregard to the advice of the experts, the then political leadership awarded both the plants to the private sector during the period 2007-2009 and this is the prime reason for the present state of affairs. Had a more balanced approach been adopted then and one of these thermal plants executed under the state sector, things would now have been better for the state. Unlike other states of the country, Punjab ignored its state sector completely and went in for total privatization of the capacity addition in generation of electricity.

WAY FORWARD

Revival of the state sector generation holds the key to the solution of the problem. However, capacity addition by installing anynew coal based units seem to be impossible considering the fact that future belongs to the renewable sources of energy. Therefore, the only option available for the state is to explore the possibility of acquiring and taking over the private sector plants operating in the state.This shall help in saving of fixed charges to the private plants which have more than doubled from  Rs. 686 cr. in FY 18-19 to Rs. 1445 cr. in FY 19-20.The extraction of coal from own mine allocated exclusively for use at state sector plants  should be restarted without any further delay. The mine has an annual mining capacity of extraction of 7 million tonnes of coal, which if used could save Rs. 600 every yearannually  towardscheaper cost of generation of electricity.

Govt. of Punjab has given relief to PSPCL by taking over debt of Rs. 15628 cr. under the UDAY scheme and resultantly, the outstanding loan of PSPCL now stands at 17214 cr. ending March,20 compared to Rs. 31614 cr. last year. Gains shall also accrue to the utility from the sale proceeds of the land and machinery of the Bathinda plant. This allows extra elbow room to the utility, if it decides to undertake investments in acquiring new generation assets.

Utilisation of idle but trained manpower available at the state plants, use of cheaper coal from own mine, technological upgradation of the state sector by acquiring supercritical plant and optimum utilization of the finances could be the game changer in the power sector of the state.

CONCLUSION: NEED TO REVIVE STATE OWN GENERATION

If the state sector generation is not revived, the state shall permanently loose skill to construct and operate thermal units. More importantly,the state may also loose ownership of the Pachhwaracoal  mine which is a rich source of cheap and good quality coal for generating cheaper electricity. Electricity is the driving force for the economy of the state. Therefore, all the available options for making it cheaper should be fully harnessed.

TAKEAWAYS FOR PUNJAB IN NEW EDUCATION POLICY

New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is a radical document. The challenge is how to implement it, and how the Punjab government can implement it while following an independent line in the best interest of people of state.
Committee for Implementation
Punjab government must constitute a committee to suggest effective implementation of NEP 2020. NEP offers many good things in principle but devil lies in details.
Higher education commission of India (HECI) and Need for Education Federalism UGC and AICTE shall become thing of past. HECI shall be single regulator for all kind of universities and colleges. Only BCI (for Law) and MCI (for Medical) shall remain relevant in respective field.
Currently UGC’s position on final term exams and states opposition fore-grounded one fact that states have little say in education
federalism. Now when HECI comes into power, states must ensure that they have some permanent say in HECI. It should be remembered that HECI shall be more powerful body than UGC.
End of discipline based Apartheid
NEP recommends bulldozing the walls between disciplines and demolishing all hierarchies among academic, vocational and extra-curricular. In a way, it announces the end of educational varna asharam which treated students of science, commerce and arts differently and treated vocational as inferior to academic, which treated curricular as superior to extra curricular.NEP is going to be a great leveler, if implemented with care and planning.
From Static to Mobile, From Rigid to Flexible
Flexibility in attaining higher education is the key focus of NEP. Punjab specially needs this flexibility because youth here do not believe in spending long continuous years at campus after 10+2. Multiple entry and exit points (certificate after one year, diploma after two, degree after three, hons. after four)and Academic Bank of Credits shall make it possible to leave and join campus at will and earn one’s degree in more flexible way. Now the challenge before Punjab shall be to implement it because here academic bureaucracy is highly rigid in its approach.

FOUR YEAR UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAM

Introduction of four year degree program as suggested by NEP shall be especially helpful to Punjabi youth who wish to study abroad. International system does not recognize three year degree in a favourable manner.
Multi-discipline and end of the labels
NEP encourages specialized universities (agriculture, technical, sports, law) to adopt multidisciplinary approach and offer subjects other than their core areas. Universities confined to STEM should go STEAM way. This will be a challenge in Punjab because specialized universities have been living in a cocooned culture. It will be a great service to the students as we see that students studying engineering are making great achievements in art, literature, journalism, startups etc. The challenge shall be to make sure that students do not become victim to the apathy, authorities usually display towards any change.
Punjab and the Challenge of Gross Enrolment Ratio
NEP plans to increase GER in higher education up to 50% in next 15 years. It will be a challenge for Punjab due to IELTS culture. At the same time, Punjab needs to seriously address the issue of less number of graduates in rural population and especially among Dalit sections. Punjab with its 3.02% graduates in rural population (18-23 years) is far behind:
Uttrakhand (5.84)
Himachal (5.21)
Haryana (4.14)
Jammu and Kashmir (3.24)
(Source: Socio-economic census 2015)
Gender Inclusion Fund
NEP announces GIF. Punjab can use this fund to encourage enrolment of girls, especially rural Dalit farm workers and small peasant, landless farmers and other economic marginal sections.
Death Knell for Affiliating Colleges
NEP announces that affiliating colleges are going to be a thing of past in next 15 years. There will be either constituent colleges, or degree granting autonomous colleges. Right now we have autonomous colleges in Punjab( Khalsa College ASR etc.) but these are not degree granting colleges. How Punjab dismantles its affiliating college system in the next 15 years,  is the main challenge. Majority of aided colleges and self financed colleges shall not be able to stay in business after 2035. Punjab shall face a double challenge. Unviable colleges shall closes down and at the same time there will be need to increase GER upto 50%.
Vocational Education no more an inferior choice
NEP announces that vocational education shall be integral part of mainstream education. In this case, Polytechnics and ITIs  can become
more relevant service providers to students of degree colleges and secondary schools.
Indian Knowledge System
NEP announces special focus on Indian knowledge system. Students of science must learn Indian languages so that they can make use of old manuscripts describing the knowledge of medicine, veterinary science, agriculture, architecture, chemistry etc. Dr. Leitner’s book A history
of Indigenous Education in Punjab (Education under Maharaja Ranjit Singh) is much discussed document in Pakistan but policy makers in
India are totally silent on this work.  Patiala state archives and other manuscript collections should not be left at the mercy of few historians. These archives have a treasure trove for traditional knowledge systems. Punjab government must form a separate committee to explore how Indian knowledge system available in Gurmukhi can be utilized in this case.
End of Bureaucratic/ academic Self isolation in Education
In the end, this policy announces that the days of water tight compartmentalization are over. Teachers must leave their comfort zone
of teaching one or two papers for the life time. Bureaucracy must also stop acting like a feudal lord acting in one’s fief. There is no coordination between Punjab school education department and Punjab higher education department. While Captain Amarinder Singh wrote a letter to  the PM that Punjab can not  conduct online exam for few thousand final semester students due to digital divide, secretary, school education was conducting online bi-monthly exams for one million  school students. In a way, secretary school education was dismissing CM’s argument with his practice. In Punjab, the hand handling higher education does not know, what the hand handling school education is doing and vice versa is also true. NEP requires greater coordination across compartments. This will be a key challenge for Punjab.
Centre has made the policy. Cabinet has passed it. Now Punjab government must start brain storming over its implementation. History will remember how Punjab responded to such historical changes.

UGC AND SHRINKING SPACE FOR FEDERALISM IN EDUCATION

After the University Grants Commission (UGC) issued revised guidelines on final year exams on July 6, 2020, the state governments of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Odisha, Delhi and Punjab became more vocal about the interest of students.UGC recommended online, offline, blended line exams and these states dismissed feasibility of all lines at all.

Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh wrote a letter to the prime minister Narendra Modi and students started #SayNoToUGCGuidelines and #StudentLivesMatter.

Captain Amarinder Singh’s letter to the prime minister was candid enough to admit that online examinations are not an easy option for students of Punjab, majority of whom are at the end of digital divide. He also demanded that “UGC may be asked to reiterate its earlier issued guidelines of April 29, 2020, wherein it had been clearly mentioned that the guidelines were advisory in nature and each state/university would chart out its own plan of action taking in to consideration the issues pertaining to Covid-19 pandemic.”

CM Punjab was not alone to voice such concerns. Governor West Bengal also decided to talk to UGC and MHRD. Shrillest voices came from Maharashtra.

But, MHRD and UGC declared that they are not going to change stated stance on final year/semester examinations. The ministry and the regulatory body believed that no degree is valid without final exams. Exams bring credibility, uniformity and scholarships. Their officials stated that the UGC guidelines are mandatory for states. They said that no degree is valid without the approval of UGC. The only response UGC has shown towards states’ concern is that it has allowed them a more flexible schedule and choice of examination mode but again made it clear that no degree can be awarded without final year exams.

States, on the other hand are concerned about the health of their students. They don’t afford to expose their youth to health risk while conducting exams.

MHRD and UGC are more concerned about the sanctity of final year exams, to be conducted before or after September 30.

States say that things don’t seem to improve by September 30. Online exams are not an option for the states, offline exams shall pose health risk. The universities must be allowed to devise their own ways of assessing their students without exams, before awarding them degrees. Paying heed to the concerns of states and stakeholders, MHRD has decided to meet state education secretaries and health authorities to discuss the matter.

DEGREES WITHOUT EXAMS ARE NOT DOLES

UGC and MHRD believe that awarding degrees to final year/semester students is like give them doles. They will get what they have not earned. It is not true. Final year students have earned marks/credits in all previous semesters. This is how they became part of final semester. Final semester was taught only for two and half months at campuses. There are number of ways for assessing their performance for this unfortunately truncated semester. The unending confusion that final year exams will happen or will not happen has exposed them to enough mental stress and now they are sitting with crossed fingers and staring at the challenges post COVID life is going to pose. Only a few state governments are voicing their concerns.

UGC AND EDUCATION FEDERALISM

Do the states have any say, when the question of following or not following UGC guidelines arises? Is there any mechanism at UGC which gives voice to the states? Do we have a mechanism to negotiate the changing character of education federalism, like we have for fiscal federalism? In a way, UGC stance that its guidelines are binding upon the states, has fore-grounded the need for greater stakes of states in the process of decision making by UGC. UGC must be responsive to different needs of different states. Are states left with some kind of decision making powers in higher education or not, is another pertinent question. The answer lies in the manner, how MHRD and UGC shall address concerns raised by states regarding final exams.

Mukesh Ambani is set to be the World’s Second Richest Person

The stage is set for India’s business tycoon Mukesh Ambani to be world’s second richest person. And Ambani’s wealth has taken an upward flight to topple none other than social media giant Mark Zukerberg. As per the billionaire index of Bloomberg Zukerberg’s wealth is USD 85 billion and Ambani is is short of USD 4 billion to taken on the face book chief executive officer.

Ambani is chairman and managing director (CMD), Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) is expected to become world’s second wealthiest person by December 2021. Ambani is currently world’s 5th richest person with a fortune of USD 81 billion, is surpassing Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Bernard Arnault, chairman of France-based LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the world’s largest maker of luxury goods at a fast pace. It’s matter of month when Ambani will be number two richest person in the world.

Two weeks ago on July back, when reliance industries annual general meeting was held on July 15, Ambani was ranked eighth in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The index gives daily ranking of the world’s richest people. Within 12 days, Mukesh’s ranking improved by three notches to fifth position. Following his announcement of making RIL a debt free company, ahead of his earlier commitment of financial year 2021 by disposing off 33 per cent in Jio shares, it has led to an upward surge. The RIL share was trading at Rs 1,950 level, gaining 10.25 per cent in 8 trading sessions.

Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index, says that Arnault’s worth is USD113 billion and that of Zuckerberg’s is USD85 billion while. In the year 2020 (January to December) market-cap of Reliance Industries surged 49.8%, (Rs 4.77 lakh-crore, from Rs 9.59 lakh-crore on December 31, 2019). In December of 2014, RIL accounted for 2.9 per cent of the total BSE listed companies market-cap of Rs 98.36 trillion.

Since then, the company’s market-cap jumped nearly five-fold from Rs 2.88 trillion. Despite its recent run, analysts at BNP Paribas believe RIL still has multiple catalysts in place in terms of a stake sale in its retail venture and a potential sale in oil-to-chemicals (O2C) business segment even at a lower valuation.

Amit Pramod Shah, an analyst tracking the company at BNP Paribas in a July 24 wrote, “We believe financial year 2022 will see a rebound in refining and chemical margins which will aid earnings as global growth stabilises. We expect refining margins of $USD9.5 per barrel for fiscal 2022 and increasing for financial year 2023 as – after a transitionary FY22 – growth should return for both gasoline / jet fuel. Chemical business should be more stable going into financial year 2022 and as global economies revive should once again see improving spreads”.

According to market observers, the sustained gains in RIL share are expected to continue following the easy money conditions, high amount of liquidity in the market and possible listing of RIL’s Jio platforms in the US markets. This development will help Mukesh Ambani to easily overtake his nearest rivals Bernard Arnault (currently at third position with $112 billion) and Bill Gates of Microsoft (currently at second position with $113 billion) and reach the number two position sometime next year. However, he has a long stretch to reach world’s richest Jeff Bezos of Amazon at $179 Billion.

This week the market capitalisation by reliance industries limited touched Rs 14.38 lakh crore and was 9.8 per cent of the total market-cap of BSE listed companies of Rs 147.23 Lakh crore. This is a characteristic of large conglomerate who dominates the market not only in the trading volume but also the market turnover and more and more investors are forcefully gets attracted towards it.

IN THE WAIT OF COVID19 TEST REPORT HE DIED UNATTENDED

WIDOW NARRATES STORY OF SYSTEM’S APATHY, HER HUSBAND WAS PUSHED TO DEATH SHOWN AS A CORONA SUSPECT

The post is a bit lengthy and it took me about two and half hours to write it. The students and people who are posting condolence messages on facebook, if you really want to pay tribute to Dr. Parvinder Kamboj, then please spare 15 minutes to read my post thoroughly and properly and circulate it so much that it reaches the right authorities and my late husband gets the justice he deserves.

I, Dr. Neeta Danju, the widow of Dr. Parvinder Kamboj is not able to sleep or get peace of mind. So l am taking it to facebook in the middle of the night. My husband developed a mild fever on 16th July 2020 and a slight throat ache on 18th July and when even after four days of medication his throat ache persisted, we opted for corona test at civil hospital Abohar. He had no cough and had normal sense of taste and smell. Both of us gave our sample on 20th July 2020 (which l now realise was the biggest mistake of my life). We were told that the report usually comes within one day. So we waited till 21st but then we were told that the report hasn’t arrived yet and the samples were dispatched on 21st, instead of 20th July and that we will get the report on 22nd July. So we had to wait for another day. My husband was getting weaker and was not able to consume anything properly. I kept on giving him liquid or semi fluid diet which he could hardly swallow. By the afternoon of 22nd July I started noticing that his condition was worsening. He could not talk properly because of discomfort in throat and was walking very slowly. I enquired about the report but it was still not available. Then after realising that I will not get any medical assistance from private hospital, I took him to civil hospital for putting him on drip. There I was stopped at the entrance of emergency ward itself. After some enquiry, my husband’s temperature was checked, which was normal. His oxygen saturation level was 83%. HIS BLOOD PRESSURE WAS NOT CHECKED and without even letting me in I was told that he would be referred to medical college Faridkot, as I had no proof that he was corona negative. I told the doctor that my husband had no symptoms of corona. His temperature was normal, he had no cough and his sense of taste and smell was normal. But they did not listen as l had no report: WHOSE FAULT? I requested them to at least give him some primary treatment. So they let me in and put my husband on drip and gave him some oxygen support. HIS BP WAS STILL NOT CHECKED.

Meanwhile I requested them to enquire about the report but after a while I was told that the report wasn’t available yet. Then the doctor said that he was referring my husband to medical college Faridkot. We insisted that we will take him to some private hospital but the doctor said that no private hospital will entertain you without corona report and you will end up only disappointed. He said that he has talked to Dr. Ankit at medical college Faridkot and that he will attend us immediately. He insisted that medical college Faridkot is the best option and we will get the best treatment there. I asked him that whether he was sending my husband to emergency ward at Faridkot? To which he replied Yes. So on his compulsion, and seeing no way out I had to board my husband into ambulance. I was there in the ambulance with my husband and my relatives were following behind in their vehicles. In the way, I kept talking to my husband and he responded by saying hmm and nodding his head. When I reached there Dr Ankit asked me to bring the slip from counter meanwhile he completed some written formalities. When I brought the slip, Dr Ankit asked me about my husband’s

symptoms. I told him the symptoms and added that he was not showing any symptoms of corona. To which he said, कि mai kuch nahi kar sakta. Aapke husband ki civil hospital Abohar se aayi referral slip पर लिखा है कि he is ‘corona suspect’.

Corona Report लाओ. I told him that ki report toh faridkot mei hi taiyyar honi thi na? Please mangwa do. To which he said that he doesn’t know anything. Report लाओ, prove karo ki yeh negative है और ले जाओ. I had no other option so I requested him to give emergency treatment to my husband urgently, to which he said that he was getting the file ready and that I should go upstairs and get my husband atmitted in the meanwhile. The ambulance driver from Civil hospital abohar and another attendant from medical college Faridkot pulled the stretcher and I followed them thinking that we were being led to the emergency ward. I assured my husband that now everything will be OK. After pulling up to a certain point, the ambulance driver fled the scene. The attendant from faridkot hospital said ki madam आपका आदमी तो भाग गया अब आप ही मदद करो. So I pushed the stretcher, praying to God all the way that my husband gets all right soon. To my utter surprise, I was led to corona isolation ward. It was not the emergency ward! I started screaming that my husband is not corona positive and I wanted to take him to emergency ward. The attendant said वो सब मुझे नहीं पता madam, मैंने ppe kit pehni hai mujhe garmi lag rahi hai. अपने patient ko jaldi bed pe shift karo nahi toh mai चला. I requested him to stop. Mean while my brother-in-law arrived and we insisted on letting us go or shift us to emergency ward. The nurse came and we explained her everything. She too asked for corona report, which we did not have. She said that ‘this is normal isolation ward. There is no corona patient in the ward. The patients are kept here and given treatment till the report comes and my husband too will be given the necessary preliminary treatment there’ . We had no option but to agree as we did not want to waste any time further. So we shifted him on bed. I told my husband that now his treatment will start and he will be OK, to which he responded. I asked the nurse to start the preliminary examination and treatment. She said ki पहले नीचे से file le kar aao fir इलाज शुरू होगा. We ran for file. I had reached the hospital around 5:30 pm and after pleading and requesting, I was told that the file was getting ready. It was about 7:00 pm and losing patience, we insisted for doctors to visit. Then two young doctors came and the lady Dr. (Dr Anjali?) said की file लाओ mai treatment शुरू करती hu.I requested her to hurry up, to which she rudely replied ki aapke jaise patients तो रोज aake हम pe pressure dalte hain. Maine corona से थोड़ी marna hai. Mai pehle ppe kit pahnungi aur 15 minutes में aaungi. Meanwhile my husband was alone in the room and no one was allowed to go in . My heart was sinking, thinking about the physical and mental trauma he must be going through. Then the lady doctor came back after 30 to 40 minutes. She had no file with her. She went in, came back and asked aapka patient kon sa wala hai. I pointed towards the room

Then she said ki usko kuch samajh nahi aata kya. जो mai puch rahi hu woh properly जवाब नहीं दे रहा. इसने कोई jehar wehar khaya hai kya. I cried and said NO. Then she said ki eik patient jehar wala bhi hai. WHY WAS SHE NOT AWARE ABOUT MY HUSBAND’S CASE? WHERE WAS THE SO CALLED FILE WHICH TOOK TWO HOURS TO BE PREPARED? Then she gave some instructions to nurse and went away. I kept pleading to start the treatment. Meanwhile I also tried to get the corona report and it was my ill fate that the report was still not available. Then we were asked to bring water, glucose and thermometer. We brought everything. The nurse took time to get ready with her ppe kit and went in. There was no haste in her walk. Only my heart was hasting, I think. Then I was told that my husband’s BP was low. He was being given drip. I kept praying for my husband’s recovery and the corona report. I was told that the drip will be over by 9:30 pm. No other checking was being done, as I hoped about emergency treatment. We were not allowed to go in. And we’re made to sit in waiting lobby. Then after waiting for some time we were told that the drip has been given and a team of doctors has gone inside. They will stabilise my husband and only then they will leave. So I waited in the lobby hoping and praying. Then my brother in law went inside my husband’s room after much request and pleadings. There he saw that there was no proper light in the room, my husband was lying alone and breathing heavily. So my brother in law insisted on shifting room and proper check up. After much request and arguments my husband was put on ventilator and my brother in law was sent back. Every time he went to the doctors, they seemed confused between patients. आपके वाला patient kon sa hai? Woh मोटे वाला या दूसरे वाला? ई want to ask ki Arrey file कहाँ थी तब? Doctors को patient के बीच में confusion kyun thi? There was some doctor Param who was busy in playing game on his mobile. Is this the emergency treatment, I was assured of? I knew my husband was on ventilator. But the door to corridor was closed. So I kept lying and praying in the lobby. I had almost lost my consciousness till morning. Meanwhile, the person on duty at waiting lobby’s gate kept on listening to Bollywood songs at full volume on his mobile phone. The voice was entering my brain, pinching and tearing my head into pieces. Cant explain the mental trauma I was going through. I was sent back home by my relatives saying that the team of doctors is taking my husband to fortis hospital and he will be treated there properly, which I came to know was a lie, only after reaching home. My husband had died lying alone, unattended in the isolation ward. The doctors were not even sure about the time of his demise. So on the morning of 23rd July, my husband was just a news on social media. My world had shattered. All my life I have kept encouraging and helping students to become doctors. I had even acclaimed the corona warriors on my Facebook page a few months back. But there at faridkot, I had seen a new face of ‘corona warriors’. I have lost everything: my faith, my hope, my spirit and may be my life too, soon. And on 24th July evening, FIVE DAYS AFTER COLLECTION OF Sample, I received the report that my husband was CORONA NEGATIVE. I should now frame the report along with his photograph. Right?

WIDOW POSE QUESTIONS TO THE SYSTEM

• Is opting for corona test such a big crime that the person subjected to it is labelled as ‘corona suspect’ and every doctor then fears even from touching him?
• Don’t these government or private doctors have ppe kit to put on and then check the patient?
• Why did the report take so much time to be made available? Who is responsible?
• On what basis did the doctor from civil hospital Abohar wrote’ corona suspect’ on my husbands referral slip.
• Why is there no rapid testing system available in hospitals, both private and government to attend to emergency cases?
• Do the private hospitals treat emergency cases only after getting corona report?
• Why the doctors at government medical college hospital dont have any system to check the suspected patients immediately?
• Why was the preparation of case file so necessary, if it was not to be used?
• Why was my husband not attended immediately on emergency basis?
• Did any team of senior doctors attend my husband?
• Why was there no attendant in my husband’s room? He was an emergency case.
• Why were the doctors confused about the exact time of my husband’s demise?
• Why are people not made aware of where to go in case of emergency • Which hospital will attend such patient without corona report.
• And lastly, why is a person’s life not so important in our country?

I know that the doctors are burdened, affected, quarantined and the staff is decreasing. And if the system is facing girth of doctors, why were we referred to that hospital? And even those who were there were not performing their duties sincerely. A case of utter negligence. If any of my students is a medical professional and is reading this, please please never do so with anyone. That would be a slap and sheer disrespect of my teachings. If you cant develop the feeling of empathy and sacrifice then don’t join the medical profession. Think, what would happen if the soldiers on border too start behaving like this and run away from taking responsibilities.

No words of assurance can now heal my injured heart and shattered soul and the realisation of the discrepancies in the system is adding to the agony. Finally ending my plea with a prayer and demand that the system be improved so that no one has to face the trauma l had to.

THE SOLDIER, THE MARTYR AND THE MAN WHO HUNG HIS BOOTS

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“There’s was not to reason why,
There’s was but to do and die …”
(The Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava, Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

Sepoy Gurtej Singh, a 23 year old from Mansa in Punjab went down fighting at the Galwan river as only a Sikh soldier could, using his Kirpan to dispatch his opponents to the other world. For the family, their world came crashing down with his death. A grateful nation bade a tearful goodbye with full honours to the martyr. The state government promised financial assistance to the family. The media brought the story to our homes and then moved on to the next bit of breaking news. The village may possibly erect a memorial or a gate or name a road after him. The family will live to recount the saga of honour of their brave son/brother as the only salve to an otherwise unbearable grief.

One thing, however, is certain. In the days to come, the family of the martyr will be helped to pick up the pieces by none other than the Unit to which he belonged. The Commanding Officer will ensure that his family receives all the benefits that are due and help them tide over the trauma so that they can get on with their lives. The fallen soldier will not be forgotten by the Unit, ever. His name will be on the Roll of Honour along with his photograph in the Quarter Guard of the Unit for generations to come and for all his comrades to see.

On the icy heights of Ladakh, in the mountains and forests of Kashmir and also in the scalding heat of the desert, the soldier stands guard, protecting his country against its enemies. He is fully aware that a fate similar to Gurtej Singh might befall him someday and is proud to face it. This is what after all he had sworn to do when he wore his uniform for the first time.

What are his thoughts as he sees the crisis looming in front of him today and the happenings back home? Does he think about his family, Yes very often! Does he think about his country, Oh yes, often! Does he think about the job at hand, well, all the time! After all there is so much to be done! The weapon must be cleaned, the magazines must not jam in the middle of a fight, rounds of machine guns must be belted, tank and artillery ammunition as well as the guns cleaned, the ropes must be checked, the personal equipment and boots must fit well and be repaired if need be. On top of it there are the radio set batteries to be charged, the first aid kits to be refilled and of course emergency rations to be kept ready. Then there are the briefings, rehearsals and patrolling…. pray who has the time to even think about dying!!!

In the mofussil towns and villages of India there are thousands upon thousands of men who once served in the army. Most of them retired as Sepoys, Non Commissioned Officers and Junior Commissioned Officers. All of them proudly prefix their name with only one word that is universally respected, “Fauji”. The roadside eatery on the highway run by a retired soldier will invariably be called the “Fauji Dhaba”; the driver of the truck, if he happens to be one of them, will write in bold ‘Fauji” on the windscreen.

They are the silent majority of veterans, dignified, least vocal, proud and respected in their community. They are the connection between the serving soldiers and the common man. Countless young boys throng military recruitment rallies every month with a hope of becoming one of them someday.

Among the veteran officers there are some who left the army early, others left midway while many superannuated after completing the full length of service. All of them contribute in their own way towards the society and are generally venerated by the citizens. All of them have perspectives, have better access to information and are knowledgeable as well as articulate. Some of them appear in the media and give their valuable views.

“Old soldiers never die,
Never die, never die,
Old soldiers never die,
They simply fade away”
(British army soldiers’ folklore song)

…BUT SOME PREFER TO TREAD IN POLITICS

To the common citizen, the veterans appearing in the media or postulating in gatherings as subject matter experts represent the military itself as he does not get to hear from the serving officers’ fraternity for obvious reasons. The word of the veterans therefore has immense significance for the citizens who are not so much aware of matters military and taken for what it is.

However, seeing some of them taking sides in openly politically partisan or communally charged debates is disconcerting to the public at large, to say the least and does not show the military establishment in good light. Frequent sniping to score points and vicious personal attacks on each other in full media glare must be giving a sense of dismay to those in service at the frontline. Some of them frequently trip over each other trying to prove how much more they know than the others, unwittingly revealing militarily sensitive information which should be best kept with the military and no one else.

Some very senior veterans who were highly respected while in service by their colleagues and juniors alike at times seem to lose their sense of balance in a desperate attempt to win an argument. Otherwise why on earth would someone take to abusive or derogatory language on public fora? Aren’t they the same people who once mentored ‘Gentlemen Cadets’ so that they could become “Officers and Gentlemen’?

Many have chosen politics as their second calling like so many other veterans who select varied professions after retirement from the service. The least one expects from these worthies is that they remember that the only religion of the soldier whom they once proudly led, is his Uniform and the only colour that soldier recognises is the colour of Blood. The soldier respected him for that, was proud to call him his Boss and was ready to walk to his death on his orders. Let not political or any other expediency play riot with this sacred sentiment of the soldier.

After all, “discretion should remain the better part of valour”.

The men at the helm of affairs as well as those at the front have a job to do. Let them do it. Such unseemly distractions are the last thing they need. They need all the support the country can give them.

When the storm is looming on the horizon, the wise brace for it together and stand united. Let good sense prevail.

NEW UNIVERSITIES IN PUNJAB FACE CHALLENGE OF RELEVANCE ?

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New universities are coming into existence in Punjab at a time when lots of interesting things are happening in higher education scenario.
The process of liberalization and privatization of university system is almost complete and the process of globalization has just started
with the introduction of semester system and choice based credit system at under graduate level.

The country has seen quantum jump in the number of professional colleges and also in the seats of various professional courses. But
this jump has produced new problems. While pre-liberalisation scenario was facing the problems of shortage of seats and unemployment of
graduates, current scenario is a bit different. Today engineering colleges are producing engineers whose staggering majority (more than
80%) is not fit for employment. Irony is that employment is there, but the people with engineering degree are not simply employable. The
case with Indian MBA is not different either.

Apart from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Management), courses like Education have remained among the major professional
courses in India. It is also suffering from under- enrollment and un-employability. The Punjab education colleges are producing such
B.Ed graduates whose staggering majority (estimated 92%) fails to clear TET/ CTET, rendering themselves unfit for employment even after
securing a professional degree. As a result there’s under enrollment in education colleges.

SEATS AND COURSES GOES ABEGGING IN STATE COLEGES, UNVERSITIES

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According to the Federation of Self Financed Colleges of Education, out of total 22,000 seats, 10,000 seats were lying vacant in Punjab
education colleges in October 2019.

This vast army of unemployable graduates is a recipe for social disaster. Their case is worse than the unemployed. The unemployment
brings frustration, yet hope stays, but un-employability is the death of hope. Worse thing is these unemployables have earned their degrees from post-liberalisation colleges, paying hefty fee and losing savings of their parents.

Last few years have seen rise of numerous new universities in Punjab. In this case, the problem of under enrollment and un- employability is going to stay.
Now, this is the world of higher education Laissez Faire in which all new universities of Punjab have to work.

The challenge before them is to know what they are needed for in the first place ? What is the need and relevance of a new university in
the state? What is it going to produce, something other universities are not producing? A university is more than a dispenser of degrees. A university is there to teach and train simple undergraduates/graduates for the roles, a society, state and market requires them to perform to run its business.

NEED TO EXPLORE NEW AVENUES IN EDUCATION

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What kind of roles a society and market forces want the Universities to perform to run the system, to conserve it and for its evolution?

These are many and fill a whole lot of work of world. To name a few; Water economist experts, expert of supply chain management, transport management, Food Processing and Food technology experts, National Security and defense strategists, forensic science experts , expert of international affairs, expert in gender sensitization, expert analyst of elections and voting and expert analyst of political parties.

The other roles could be expert analyst of organized crime, manager of contemporary archives, expert analyst of folk religion practices,
expert analyst of local self government systems, expert of effluent treatment system solutions, expert of planning and projection of city traffic systems, expert of planning and projection of city waste management, expert of planning of urban water supply for next 20
years, expert of VC and Angel investment systems, expert analyst of start-ups, Planner of CSR funds, writer, film maker and for banking
industry.

The new avenues could also be explored for Financial analyst, Traders and merchants, Newspaper editor, Computer programmer, software
developer, legal expert, architect, town planner, landscapist, botanist, veterinarian, expert of built environment, sports therapist,
psychiatrist, special educator, revenue record expert, knowledge management expert, builder of bridges, roads, drainage system, (the
word civil engineer is too faceless), Doctor of Plants and the list goes on ..

While talking about courses, these are always there in one or other form. The challenge is the outcome of such courses, focus is not on
the course but on the doer of the course, hence the use of word ‘expert’. The questions is not how many graduates, post graduates or
Phds a university will produce. The question is how many experts it will produce, who will produce solutions for the creation of a better society and a better state to live in.

Current UGC regulations in higher education focus more on the research output of professors and do little to assess their output in terms of students employment. A professor’s essential role must be to get employment opportunities for students, whereas they are being rewarded
for their self-development. Ideally, University exists to serve the interest of students, but in practice, its entire focus is on saving the career interest of professors.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


• Dr. Amanpreet Singh Gill teaches Political Science at SGTB Khalsa College, North Campus, Delhi University. Apart from short stories, he writes on Punjab politics and Sikh history. He has authored six books in Punjabi and English. Non-Congress Politics in Punjab (2015), 1708 Dasam Guru di Dakhan Feri (2017) and Kes History of Sikhs and other Essays (2020) are his better known works. He can be reached at: amanpreetdu@gmail.com

RUMBLE IN THE ASIA PACIFIC

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“When Barbarossa begins, the earth will hold its breath”
Adolf Hitler (as quoted by Alan Clark in ‘Barbarossa’)

And indeed, the world held its breath, as three million men were launched into what would be the largest known invasion in land warfare
– Hitler’s invasion of Soviet Russia in June 1941, codenamed Operation Barbarossa. The invasion began with thousands of guns hurling tons of TNT into the hapless Soviet positions and swarms of Stukas, Messerschmitts as well as Junker fighter aircraft raining hell from the sky.

Three Army Groups, North, Centre and South tore across the German boundary with Soviet East European territories. Army Group North,
Commanded by General Ritter Von Leeb was headed 800 miles away towards Leningrad, Army Group Centre under General Feder Von Bock set for Moscow 700 miles off and Army Group South led by General Gerd Von Rundstedt had Stalingrad as the objective, 1300 miles away. The German blitz caught the Red Army completely unprepared and they were slaughtered as the advancing forces swept across the steppes of eastern Europe.

After all Hitler had given clear directions to his commanders. “The war against Russia will be such that it cannot be conducted in a
knightly fashion. This struggle is one of ideologies and racial differences and will have to be conducted with unprecedented,
unmerciful, and unrelenting harshness. All officers will have to rid themselves of obsolete ideologies. I know that the necessity for such means of waging war is beyond the comprehension of you generals but . . . I insist absolutely that my orders be executed without
contradiction”.

ACCOUNT OF WORLD WAR II IS WELL KNOWN TO BE REPEATED

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The account of World War II is too well known to be repeated. There were ignominies galore during the War. Britain faced the humiliation
of retreating across the English Channel at Dunkirk and the French pride had been crushed by the stomping of Nazi boots on the Champs
Elysees in Paris.

On the Eastern Front town after town fell to the Germans and thousands of Red Army soldiers were slaughtered mercilessly or taken prisoner, leading the Soviet commander Zhukov to bluntly order all commanders down the line to stay put and fight where they were or be prepared to be shot in the Red Square at Moscow. On the other side of the globe, the United States could not believe its eyes at the utter devastation wrought on its Pacific fleet by the Japanese Admiral Yamamoto’s aircraft at Pearl Harbour in Oahu, Hawaii.

Once the tide turned, the fall of Berlin and Hitler’s suicide, the anonymous death of Mussolini and the dropping of atom bombs on the
Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought an end to this dance of death. What was the price of the war? Almost 80 million dead,
cities reduced to rubble, fields scorched, economies devastated and the effects of nuclear radiation festering among generations to come
in the two cities struck by the atom bombs. It was a scale of savagery and brutality the world had never seen before!

What could be the reason for the world to go into this suicidal tragedy? The seeds were sown with the idea of ‘Lebensraum’ (living space), the expansionist dreams of the megalomaniac Hitler and his cohorts who believed that German territories were not sufficient for their population and more needed to be occupied. This was encouraged indirectly in no small measure by the appeasement of this tyrant by
the European powers during the decade preceding the War.

Germany had embarked on a frantic militarization programme in the early 30s which virtually went unchallenged. By 1935 the process of
“Nazification” of Germany was complete and a totalitarian regime was firmly in place. Thereafter, Hitler occupied Rhineland in 1936 and
Austria in 1938. The British accepted this blatant expansionism after extracting a promise of “no more territorial demands in Europe” from
Hitler. This promise was thrown to the winds as quickly as it was made when Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia and Poland in quick succession in 1939. The rest is history.

Eighty years later there is a stark reminder. Another hegemonic is on the rise in the Eastern Hemisphere.

CHINA AS CHALLENGER FOR US

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Over the last thirty years since the end of the Cold War, the Asia Pacific region has seen the inexorable rise of China as the primary
challenger to the United States. It has relentlessly increased its influence globally while at the same time it attempts to curb the
reach of its adversaries. Territorially, China seeks to continually extend its borders while claiming territories belonging to other
countries as its own. It started with the occupation of Tibet in 1951 and has followed it up with a long list of territorial claims on its
periphery.

Territory is indeed in the middle of China’s disputes with its neighbours. China claims the Senkaku islands of Japan in the East China Sea as its own. It is firmly opposed to Taiwan’s existence as an independent entity and propagates the “one China” policy, favouring
reunification of Taiwan with the mainland. China is against any form of autonomy to Hongkong and believes it must be completely amalgamated with the rest of the country.

China lays claim practically to the entire South China Sea including the Spratly and Paracel Islands as well as the Gulf of Tonkin. Along
its border with India, China lays claim to entire Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh. Bhutan is not spared either with China still claiming
territories along the border as its own. In all these disputes, China believes that the settlement must be on its terms and the claims of
the other countries have little or no relevance. To achieve its ends, China is ready to wait it out, browbeat or buy out its adversaries or
apply any other means at its disposal.

Significantly, China has not involved itself in any major military confrontation with its neighbours since its war with Vietnam in 1979
although it continues to pressurise its neighbours to do its bidding. China’s preferred weapon of coercion with its other neighbours is its economic might. In the present standoff with India in Ladakh however, there is a difference. China is openly flaunting the threat of use of its military power in the crisis, having amassed substantial forces in the region to back its moves along the Line of Actual Control between the two countries.

Great Powers do not hesitate to go to war as and when their vital national interests are threatened. The United States has been at war in one part of the globe or another throughout much of its existence since independence. The costs, both economic and human have no doubt been immense, but that is the price the Superpower must pay to retain its pre eminence in the world order.

Nations aspiring for Great Power status must also be ready to bite the bullet should the need arise. The Indian Prime Minister’s statement
that the age of expansionism is over could not have come at a more appropriate moment and has signaled India’s intent unambiguously.
Clearly this nibbling, creeping invasion and salami slicing by China on our borders and any other form of coercion cannot be allowed to go
on unchallenged any longer. India must stand up to the Dragon. In the century of the Asia Pacific, it is India’s defining moment.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana

About the author:

Major General Vijay Pande, VSM (Retd) was commissioned into the Indian Army in Dec 1979 and retired in March 2017. Among important
assignments he had held includes GOC 39 Mountain Division, Major General in Charge Logistics, HQ Western Command and Head of Training in the Senior Command and Staff College in Uganda. He’s M Sc, M Phil and at present pursuing a Ph D from Punjabi University Patiala on India Africa Relations.

PUNJAB WATER CRISIS IS DUE TO PADDY CULTIVATION

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Paddy is the only culprit for Punjab’s water crisis. Punjab is a highly water stressed state due to paddy cultivation. Surface water available in the state is not sufficient to meet our agricultural demands and we are forced to pump ground water for paddy cultivation which adds to the water woes due to depletion of ground water at alarming rate. Nearly 170 lakh tonnes of paddy is produced in Punjab state every year and of this about 110 lakh tonnes is procured by Government of India which is subsequently transported to other states to meet their rice requirement. The rice produced in Punjab with huge quantity of state water resources is virtually being exported to other states in the national interest.

Paddy is not a suitable crop for Punjab climate as its cultivation is recommended in the areas having annual rainfall of more than 1500 mm, whereas Punjab annual rainfall is below 550 mm. Out of total state water requirement of about 44 MAF (million acre feet) for irrigation, nearly 28 MAF (64%) is drawn from ground water to meet our needs. From this we can imagine the shortfall in available surface water necessitating over dependence on ground water. Due to this, Punjab has the highest stage of ground water extraction of 172% (means 72% more drawl than recharge) amongst all states in the country.

DIRECT SEEDING MAY LEADS TO CHANGE

Paddy sowing this year is different than that in previous years in the Punjab. For the first time Punjab State Government has successfully come up to convince the farmers to transplant Paddy by direct seeding of rice (DSR) which will save ground water and reduce labour cost. State target of sowing paddy by DSR of 20 % of the total area under Paddy cultivation in the state is appreciable. Farmers are trying it and experience of this new method of sowing may get momentum over the next years on its good results.

The high yielding variety seeds of wheat and paddy are giving high yield because of their high dependence on water and fertilisers. The area under paddy in Punjab increased from 2.27 lakh hectares in 1960-61 to about 29 lakh hectares. The emergence of paddy as a major crop in the State led to heavy dependence on ground water which increased the number of tubewells to 14 lakhs. Free power to these agricultural tubewells further aggravated the ground water woes. The conventions method of irrigation of flooding the fields and overuse of water therein has also aggravated the problem. Another major concern is the high pollution due to paddy straw burning on its harvest in Punjab and Haryana which threatens the health of many in north region.

For last many years, the central and state governments have been advising the farmers of Punjab to cultivate alternative crops without giving any incentive or compensation. The successive governments in Punjab did not give any serious thought to diversification and saving the precious ground water. Absence of MSP for alternative crops has largely been responsible for promoting the wheat-paddy crop combination in Punjab, Haryana and Western UP.

WATER DEPLETION IS DUE TO FREE POWER SUPPLY TO TUBE WELLS

On policy matter, successive state governments ignored the importance of conservation of water resources and high overexploitation of water resources started in 1997 when Government started free power to tubewell to pump ground water. State constituted Johl committees in 2002 to promote diversification and address the ground water table issue. Committee recommended that a substantial area under paddy be shifted to other crops as paddy was mainly responsible for the depleting water table.

No action on this recommendation was taken. Then, state government constituted another committee to estimate the ground water resources in 2004 that ended without any recommendations. The first ever effective policy response came in 2008 when the state government through an ordinance prohibited the farmers from sowing of paddy before June 10th (dates notified every year by State as prevailing situation). This has helped in saving of some of the precious groundwater.

It is high time that both the Central and State governments rise to the occasion and take suitable policy measures to save Punjab State from the impending desertification. Punjab provides the much-needed food security to the country. There is dire need to have comprehensive agricultural and water policies with a focus on crop diversification, saving water and adopting new techniques to increase farm income.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The writer, PS Bhogal, retired as a Chief Engineer from, Water Resources, Punjab. He holds a masters degree in hydrology from international institute of hydraulics and environmental engineering, Delft, Netherlands. Currently he’s working as member of state expert appraisal committee for environment clearance of projects in Punjab. Views expressed are his personal.

SILENCE ! GHULAM SARWAR IS SPEAKING

Image Credit : www.brecorder.com

   

BEWARE, IMRAN’S MINISTER HAS THE POWER TO GROUND ALL NATIONAL PLANES

Transparency is the core value of a democratic system. The idea of official secrecy is seen as the vestige from colonial past. The only question remains, whether transparency is an absolute value or some kind of protocol must be followed before putting information in public domain. What happens when a piece of information brings such unintended results that any amount of firefighting fails to control.

This is precisely what has happened with the Pakistan government, whose ministers never fall in trouble for telling lies, but a minister’s honest disclosure on the floor of National Assembly has all hell let loose. Pakistan’s image in the world aviation sector has become victim of domino effect and we don’t know when and how it is going to stop. It reminds us of Charandas Chor, a Rajasthan folk character immortalized by Habib Tanvir’s Chhattisgarh folk theatre. Charandas was a thief but not a liar and here was the whole twist. He suffered, not for stealing but for refusing to tell a lie.

When a minister speaks on the floor, whole world listens. This whole world’s attention proved very fatal for Pakistan civil aviation. Pakistan civil aviation minister of Imran Khan cabinet, Ghulam Sarwar Khan announced in Pakistan National Assembly that Pakistan International Airlines has 860 pilots and 262 pilots out of them have dubious flying licenses. He clarified that these pilots passed the exam with dummy candidates.

Image credit: https://business.facebook.com/pia7860/

He was presenting the report on PIA airbus A320 crash which took place on May 22, 2020. He was telling the truth in the capacity of being highest civil authority on aviation in Pakistan. He was being kind to the world of aviation that this is the level of danger emanating from large number of Pakistani pilots. Apart from PIA, 107 Pakistani pilots work with foreign airlines.

He was telling very honestly that the world is unsafe, if a Pakistani pilot driven plane passes through its airspace or even more unsafe if these planes are given landing rights in their airports. In a parliamentary democracy, a minister is the highest authority on the matters concerning his department. Had this statement come from an investigative journalist, an opposition leader, or even a party member, world would have taken it with a pinch of salt. But what can be more sacred than the words uttered by a minister on the floor of house?

World took cognizance. International media led the charge.

Vietnam and Kuwait grounded its pilots with Pakistani license. UAE asked Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority for verification of credentials of Pakistani pilots, engineers and flight operation officers working in middle-east. The biggest jolt came from European Union. It banned landing of Pakistani planes in Europe for next six months.UK also followed suit.

Pakistani pilots with dubious license are a source of worry and world has come in to action. But all is not well with the rest of the world. Russia is also not above board as far as its pilots licenses are concerned. A pilot with dubious license is threat for the world. But what do you think about a well trained and well accredited pilot who is sleep deprived? RT report makes claims that majority of Russian pilots are sleep deprived. Long hour flights and social media use leads to sleep deprivation. Our own former IAF Chief BS Dhanoa had raised this concern about social media use causing sleep deprivation among trained pilots of Indian air force.

Coming back to Ghulam Sarwar Khan’s statement, how much cost a country is ready to pay for such candid, voluntary official disclosure about its pilots? It is obvious that world gains in terms of safety and PIA and Pakistan lose in terms of both money and credibility. Apart from air safety, this case has raised another issue to consider, that is how should a minister behave on the floor. Should he act with transparency that can prove to be fatal for its core sector like civil aviation? Or some other protocol could have been followed for making sure that PIA adheres to international safety protocol? How much a minister or a member of ruling party is expected to behave like a whistle blower and when  does the act of whistle blowing begin to sound like loose cannon?

EAST PUNJAB TOO HAVE VOCAL POLITICIANS

In Punjab, Navjot Singh Sidhu has acted in this manner, speaking in the public against the policies of own government. Satpal Dang, minister of food and civil supplies did this in United Front government led by Justice Gurnam Singh in 1967.  All Congress governments in Punjab have seen many such characters. Interestingly, such persons have been lauded for their so called honesty and they are rarely reminded about the ideal of party discipline.

Parliamentary democracy works on the principle of collective responsibility.  All the eggs are good, either, or all are rotten, this is parliamentary democracy. If a minister or MLA behaves like the opposition of own government, he is displaying utter contempt towards the conventions of parliamentary democracy. When a member from treasury bench speak, his words matter. What your words can do to your country, always remember the case of Ghulam Sarwar Khan and PIA, and learn to follow some protocol. Politicians’ words matter to the world.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Amanpreet Singh Gill teaches Political Science at SGTB Khalsa College, North Campus, Delhi University. Apart from short stories, he writes on Punjab politics and Sikh history. He has authored six books in Punjabi and English. Non-Congress Politics in Punjab (2015), 1708 Dasam Guru di Dakhan Feri (2017) and Kes History of Sikhs and other Essays (2020) are his better known works. He can be reached at: amanpreetdu@gmail.com