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proloybagchi
Trees are not dispensable
2018.07.25 13:28:02

When things reach an edge Delhi’s civil society comes together to rally and protest for public causes. In 2011 the rampant corruption in the Manmohan Singh government threw up a Gandhian Anna Hazare who was agitating in Maharashtra for years against local corruption and then came to Delhi with support of various civil society leaders. He evoked tremendous response in his protracted agitation, including a prolonged fast, supported by unorganized members of public, forced the government to assure that his main demand of creation of a Lok Pal would soon be met by suitable legislative action. That, however, turned out to be ruse as a Lok Pal is yet to be appointed. The movement, however, gave birth to Aam Aadmi Party which has been ruling in Delhi with a rather scratchy performance for around four years.

Again in December 2012 when “Nirbhaya”, a young girl, a physiotherapy intern, was brutally raped and physically abused by the staff of a commuter bus which eventually led to her untimely death the civil society of Delhi again rallied round for greater safety of women on Delhi streets. It forced the government to enact a series of stringent anti-rape laws. The laws may not have reduced the incidence of rapes but the civil society’s rallies and demands in unison sensitized the administrations of the entire country against such horrendous crimes against women. On account of that unrelenting movement the accused in the Nirbhaya case have since been awarded death penalty.

Now once more, as the wellbeing of people of Delhi has been threatened by the proposal to cut down as many as 14000 trees for the so-called re-development of quite a few South Delhi residential colonies, including Sarojini Nagar, Netaji Nagar and Nauroji Nagar, they came out in strength to strongly protest against the decision of the government. The protests were so strong, especially because of the rising pollution and temperature in Delhi that the government had to back off. The court and the National Green Tribunal, where the matter had been taken, imposed a stay on further cutting down of trees. The Minister for Housing and Urban Affairs ordered that no tree would be cut and asked for redesign of re-development plans of the long-established colonies. Such is the power of the civil society when it chooses to rise in protest. One wonders what kind of planners have been engaged who seem to have been oblivious of the current extremely high level of pollution in the city and have suggested felling of as many as 14000 trees existing in these colonies for decades. This after the Delhi Forest Department indiscriminately allowed massive tree-felling in Delhi.

Something obviously is wrong with the Forest Department of Delhi Administration. Reports indicate that in the last seven years it has given permission to fell more than 44000 trees and now it had again permitted felling of as many as 14000 trees for the so-called redevelopment of South Delhi colonies. The officers of the Department seem to have lost all sense of proportion. Whenever proposals are sent to it for felling of large number of trees they impose only token cuts allowing large-scale felling. They have displayed utter apathy towards the health and wellbeing of the citizens of Delhi and their environment. One imagines their mechanical way of functioning, unless checked, will convert Delhi into a desert in not too distant future. Besides, the City is already highly polluted with PM-10 and PM 2.5 levels way beyond normal. Such massive tree-felling operations will greatly enhance atmospheric pollution. The City’s citizens are already choking and with so many trees gone they would be exposed to untold health hazards.

It seems, none ever pays attention to the welfare of the citizens – neither the government environmental conservation agencies nor the bureaucrats or city planners. They are only interested in building concrete jungles replacing all greenery. Their argument that compensatory plantation will be carried out has proven to be only a ruse. Besides, saplings cannot be substituted for full grown decades-old tall trees with widely spread–out canopies. It is only the canopies which intercept the particulates and also provide shade to the commuters walking on the hot asphalt in summers.

In accordance with rules, for every tree cut down ten need to be planted. Often so much of land is not available in and around the site of the cut-down tree. The compensatory plantation is thus carried out wherever land is available which is generally in the outskirts of the city. This does not help in any way the localities where mass-scale tree-felling is undertaken. Besides, authorities often do not plant native trees; they go in for decorative or ornamental trees which are of little help in conserving the environment. Compensatory plantation is actually perpetration of a fraud on the people. A rate of survival of 30% of planted trees is considered good but generally only 10% survive. Pradip Krishen, author of Trees of Delhi, a strenuous study conducted by him, says “the concept of compensatory plantation is fundamentally flawed. The land has poor quality soil – the reason why it is vacant in the first place. And the agencies are interested only in meeting targets.” The forest departments’ business is to protect forests and trees. They do not pursue compensatory plantation with due diligence and yet they indulge in large-scale felling of trees.

Translocation of trees, a practice that is being bandied about, is also not very successful. The success ratio has been poor in trans-locating fully grown trees with their entire ecosystems of parasites, insects and animals mainly because of lack of adaptability in many accompanying organisms and unfamiliar as well as strange, sometimes even hostile, ecosystems of the new surroundings. Besides, removal of a fully grown tree from its moorings inflicts a severe shock on it which alone sometimes is cause of its end.

Though already a few thousand trees have been felled in some of the ear-marked colonies yet Delhi’s environment has been saved for the time being. Now that the Minister concerned himself has taken matters in his own hands the redevelopment projects are likely to get drastically modified. Credit has to be given to the civil society of the city which did not take the decisions of the authorities lying down. They rose up in protest and forced the authorities to re-examine their decision.

Numerous other cities are not as lucky as their civil societies seldom rise against local decisions that hurt their interests. But in places like Bhopal severe protests by civil society forced the government to trash the builder-oriented City Development Plan 2005. Likewise, in 2015 widespread protests forced the government to change the site of the smart city as thousands o trees were to be felled destroying green ambiance of the city. Nonetheless, urban areas need to draw a lesson from Delhi and ensure that their health and wellbeing is given priority over the dreaded word “vikas” and hence whenever there is a confrontation between the two they have to stand for their own interests. There can be no trade-off between development and environment.

 



Tags: felling | trees

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proloybagchi
Need to abandon Hate
2018.04.26 16:00:32

The ongoing debate that is raging basically on the progressive extinction of the, “Idea of India” in the Indian Express’s the “Ideas Page” is fascinating. The debate in the newspaper was provoked by Harsh Mander to which a rather aggressive response came from Ram Chandra Guha, the noted historian and columnist. The field then somehow widened up and numerous, according to Guha’s count around 14, independent thinkers ventilated their own thoughts.

In his latest piece Harsh Mander has expressed his anguish on the wrong direction the debate was shepherded by Ram Chandra Guha. He picked up as a thread the mention by Mander of the injunction of a Dalit leader meant for Muslims not to wear burkas or skull caps if and when they happened to attend his political rallies. Mander’s anguish was born out of a general absence of appreciation of the fact of Muslim marginalization. He was appreciative of the coverage by Rahul Gandhi, the newly--crowned president of the Indian National Congress, of the country’s socio-economic condition. He, according to Mander, ably talked of everything from economics to politics in his first address to his party men at the Talkatora Stadium. But what hurt Mander was the conspicuous absence in his address of the rising tide of violence against Muslims under the current regimes at the Centre and numerous provinces.

Rahul Gandhi’s failure to mention the Muslim marginalization or attacks on them by the Hindu vigilantism could have a well-considered reason behind it, Although it is difficult to fathom the mind of a politician, howsoever green his horns might be, yet in case of Rahul Gandhi it could be conjectured that his new-found strategy of shaking off of the pro-Muslim tag attached to the Congress might be one of the reasons, or even the only reason. For too long has the country seen the Congress attempting to woo the Muslim vote by playing the card of secularism as opposed to the Hindu Fundamentalism of the BJP which the Congress always branded as communal. Come elections one would find Congress biggies trooping to mosques or for addressing the Muslim conclaves. Even in 2014 I remember Ms. Sonia Gandhi visiting the Delhi Jama Masjid on announcement of the polls.

Visiting Jama Masjid before the elections, by itself, cannot be held against Ms. Gandhi or the Congress Party. But the Congress over the years had displayed a tilt towards the Muslims while calling itself secular, whatever that meant. So, it was secularism with a tilt towards Muslims and this had come down to the Congress from the days of Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru seemed to have everything against Hindu bigotry and obscurantism but none against the Islamic varieties. His tilt was so pronounced that some political critics of his attributed ulterior motives to his resistance to the idea of exchange of population at the time of partition as, they said, he wanted Muslims in India as the vote bank of the Congress. That may or may not be true; any sensitive person would find the idea of exchange of population nothing but abhorrent – as well as impossible.

Besides, at that time the Hindu-Muslim divide, as I know of it, was not so pronounced as it is today although the partition had just taken place followed by riots and mayhem. Growing up in the princely state of Gwalior we never felt the heat generated by the partition. Gwalior was typically a secular state where the Maharaja was revered by both Hindus and Muslims and he used to participate in Hindu and Muslim festivals with equal verve and passion. After stray instances of communal killings the town quietened down and we never heard of the divide, though some people known to us migrated to Pakistan and some even came back after having been to Karachi and witnessing the turmoil there.

My father, teaching in the local college, had his best friend in Professor MA Qureshy, who, incidentally, had two brothers in the ICS and lost one of them while migrating to Pakistan. Father’s Muslim students came to see him before they left for Pakistan. In our own small younger world of schools and colleges we had Muslim friends and it never occurred to us that they needed to be shunned. That was the culture that we were brought up in – a culture innocent of the divide – and secular, if that is the right word, to the core.

This environment continued for some years and as we grew up and started our own careers we slowly became aware of the changing atmosphere. And yet, I for one, can claim with some amount of pride that my attitude towards my Muslim subordinates or superiors remained the same – respect for them as fellow humans.

However, as elections became more combative and the fights became more vicious for power than for doing good to the country everything was sacrificed. In this deteriorating milieu the Indian composite culture was a notable, if not the first, casualty. Religion was used and misused to win votes and wield the state power. As corruption increased in the government and the pickings became hefty elections became more like dog-eat-dog fights and even creamiest of ideas – including the Idea of India – were sacrificed to win power and the pelf associated with it. Ideologies, if there were any, were made to rest on shelves gathering dust. The contests became free of all niceties of culture and civilized discourse.

So, if there is a Hindu- Muslim divide today, it is the so-called netas who have to take the blame for it. One dares say that Rahul Gandhi is not helping to diffuse the tensions by changing tack and visiting temples and ignoring the Muslims. He is playing with the same poison of communal politics for the sake of power. True, the British also indulged in the policy of “divide and rule” – making the two communities fight each other but the atmosphere hardly ever became as toxic as it is today. Even at the time of partition when a homeland for the Indian Muslims was created a larger number elected to remain wherever they were. In fact, the province from which shrill shrieks for “Pakistan” emanated had the largest number who decided to stay put.

In such a country how can we sustain ourselves with mutual hatred and enmity. We belong to the same stock, only our faith might be different. One’s faith cannot be be-all-and-end-all, more so when we are economically so retarded. Our efforts need to be directed towards education and enlightenment to enable us to live meaningful lives. We cannot be obsessed with hatred for each other that generally culminates in killing of innocents.

It is time to say enough is enough and cry a halt to this reprehensible politics of hate. It certainly does not behove us. For ages we have hosted people of varying persuasions and fostered among them the spirit of brotherhood and harmony. In the current enlightened age we cannot throw those priceless values out of the window. The civil society must come together to impress on the political parties to abandon the politics of hate and work together towards people’s betterment and a stronger India which, one presumes, are the goals of all political parties.

 



Tags: indian | society | needs | harmony

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proloybagchi
Parliamentary Disrptions - Time for Hammer to Fall
2018.04.02 15:41:05

The serial disruption of the Indian Parliament has caused anger and anguish all over. While some people have been condemning the Congress for its thoughtless blocking of all business in the Upper House others have been blaming even the BJP – the ruling combine- of doing the same when the UPA was at the helm. If one comes to think of it, the politicians of all shades are the same. They only have craving for power and, if they cannot corner it, they would not allow those in power to govern. BJP, quite seemingly, is getting paid back in its own coin.

With the continued disruption of the two houses questions have already been asked about the relevance of the Parliament where no work is done. People have sent their representatives to this national constitutional body to legislate and work on their behalf. If that is not done where would be the rationale to constitute a parliament that is adjourned day after day on account of the uproar created by the elected representatives. In several sections of people disruptions are being reckoned as anti-democratic – harmful for democracy that has been so assiduously nursed and nurtured in the country. If the proceedings are blocked serially from one day to another and legislative work is hampered it certainly would be damaging to the faith of people in the Parliament and its legitimacy.

In a recent statement, even the Vice President, the Chairman of the Upper House has expressed his fear that people would lose faith in the Parliament if the disruptions continue. He has cited several reasons relating to the conduct of members that has given rise to misgivings in the minds of people who form the electorate. The Chairman cited, inter alia, criminal antecedents of members, dispensing favours by them for a consideration, spurt in assets after being elected, defections and electoral malpractices are what, he said, were eroding the faith of people in parliamentary democracy. This is further accentuated by indiscipline exhibited by members in the House, the daily uproar like that in a fish market that renders the Parliament ineffective to carry out its business.

“All is not well that ends up in the well (of the House)”. This is how the Chairman described the members’ indiscipline that is frequently witnessed in the two houses. Now the members have even graduated to carrying placards inside the House with slogans written on them as if it is a tussle or fight between a trade union and management. Worse is shouting of slogans inside the House. One recalls even as the Prime Minister was replying to the debate on the President’s address there were people of the Opposition constantly raising slogans right through the PM’s speech. Curiously, no cognizance was taken of this constant distraction by the leader of the Congress Party or the Speaker. If the Opposition was unhappy with the government there certainly were more decent ways of expressing them instead of trying to drown the PM’s speech in the racket and din of slogans. Causing disturbance or obstructing PM in his speech is highly reprehensible for the PM is head of the government who has been elected by a majority.  He can in no way be prevented from speaking his mind. Doing so is highly indecorous and unmannerly.

The Chairman’s own party is not quite innocent in this matter. Regardless of their all justifications, they too shouted and hollered to subdue the voices of the government when they were in Opposition. It has always been said that disruptions are what the Opposition will always attempt; it is the responsibility of the government to run the houses. That would mean while the Opposition would try its best to block proceedings the government should try and run the house. How can that be possible? If civilised debate cannot resolve the issues, should the government and the Opposition settle the matter after a physical duel? That is unthinkable in a democratic set up.

Only solution would seem to be to take strong action against those small numbers of people who choose to make avoidable and needless disturbances and keep them out of the House. That unfortunately cannot be done for the simple reason the chairpersons of the legislative houses have no such specific powers. He/she, it seems, can name a member for his undesirable behavior and on being so named such a member is expected to immediately withdraw from the House. That seldom happens in these days of falling standards of civic behavior.  Recourse to use of marshals is seldom taken.

In fact, the chairpersons have not been given any specific punitive power to maintain a semblance of a standard of behavior. At the same time they have the power to run the houses smoothly and efficiently, a wider interpretation of which perhaps, can be taken recourse to in extreme cases. The Constitution was framed in civiilised times when members were cultured and decent. It probably never occurred to the framers of the Constitution that a day might dawn on this land when the speakers of the several houses would need a whip to crack at elected representatives. The constitution makers probably never imagined that uncouth dregs and uncultured louts would be offered tickets for elections to the august bodies and, worse, they would even be elected

It is needless to emphasise that standards of behavior of the members have fallen over the years. Gone are the days of decent gentlemanly debates over matters on which the opposition had an utterly different view. Yet the members never crossed the line and maintained the dignity of the House as also their own. The first few parliaments were constituted of the finest of Indians who were highly civilized intellectual giants.

Nonetheless, in spite of the severe constraints the speakers of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu assemblies suspended practically the entire opposition for unruly behaviour and obstructing the proceedings. Although the action was criticized in the press as suspension of the entire opposition would tend to be anti-democratic. A house without an opposition cannot represent all interests of the people. But when the opposition opposes for the sake of opposition and does not allow the government to have its business conducted stern action would seemingly be necessary.

With efflux of time the standards fell and it is now plumbing the depths. The current Chairman of the Upper House has had occasion to mention that political parties have a responsibility to ensure people of proper antecedents are selected for being elected to legislative houses. If the Opposition is faulted on this score, the ruling party ought to equally be blamed. Their rough and crude quality has been revealed in several fracases in different legislative assemblies. When the objective is to wrest power at any cost quality of candidates is perhaps never in the reckoning

A day has now come when imploring a member disturbing the proceedings to sit down or keep quiet doesn’t quite work. What works is punitive action – an action that hurts a member’s image as well as his finances. It is, therefore, time now for the hammer to fall to keep and nurse the faith of people in democracy and democratic values. For too long have we been witness to the politics of the bizarre. By any stretch of imagination, disruption of the Parliament for almost three weeks is a bit too much.



Tags: indian | parliamentary | disruption

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proloybagchi
Denim catches India's fancy
2018.01.20 18:33:30

Denims today have become items of universal wear in India. These seem to have become favourites of every one – whether a billionaire or a lowly workman, urban socialite or a rustic plebian. The differences, if any, will be only in the quality of the cloth or its design and stitching - the basic material however remaining the same, the fabric.

Tags: denim | india

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proloybagchi
India's scourge -malnutrition
2018.01.20 18:26:21

“Save The Children”, an NGO is seeking donations for helping out the mal-nourished children in India. By ‘malnourished” it obviously means severely under-nourished children. It claims it has been saving children’s lives since 2008 and that last year it provided medical care and nutritional support to 1.46 lakh children.

Tags: malnutrition | india

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proloybagchi
The neighbourhood bully
2017.08.28 19:14:45

How naïve Nehru was! Soon after independence he asserted India needn’t have an army. He proclaimed there was no use for an army in India as the country had no enemies. This he stated even as the state and non-state actors from across the newly drawn borders were attacking in the North in strength to grab Kashmir.

Tags: face-off | doklam

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proloybagchi
Never knew tiger was so valuable
2017.07.30 15:41:14

People like us who are uninitiated and unversed in matters relating eco-system services rendered by tiger reserves could not have imagined that a detailed study as conducted by an Indo-Australian team would throw up such astounding results in regard to the benefits that accrue by saving tigers in their natural habitat. The Indo-Australian study team was headed by the distinguished professor Dr. Madhu Verma who is in the faculty of the renowned Indian Institute of Forest Management located in Bhopal. Perhaps the babus who work the environment or wildlife wings of various governments too would have been unaware of the facts that have come to light now as a result of the study.

Tags: value | tiger

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Joy
Zionism: timeline
2017.07.10 08:33:49

The Six-Point Star: A timeline of the creation, relationship, and co-dependency between the state of Israel and the movement of Zionism.

flag



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proloybagchi
Of Indian cars and their market
2017.07.07 19:19:25

For some time I had been thinking of changing my vehicle which I had had for more than seven years.  It was an Estillo from the Maruti Suzuki stable and had rendered me decent service. We do not dare to travel out of Bhopal on account of the reported road conditions. It, therefore, ran all through within the confines of the city. It was good and economical but was small – only of 3 cylinders and was of under 1000 cc. We wanted a slightly bigger vehicle wherein we could sit with greater comfort on the rear seats, now that both of us seldom drive.

Tags: cars | indian

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proloybagchi
Of Indian cars and their market
2017.07.07 19:19:23

For some time I had been thinking of changing my vehicle which I had had for more than seven years.  It was an Estillo from the Maruti Suzuki stable and had rendered me decent service. We do not dare to travel out of Bhopal on account of the reported road conditions. It, therefore, ran all through within the confines of the city. It was good and economical but was small – only of 3 cylinders and was of under 1000 cc. We wanted a slightly bigger vehicle wherein we could sit with greater comfort on the rear seats, now that both of us seldom drive.

Tags: cars | indian

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proloybagchi
India decides to privatise Air India
2017.07.01 14:41:29

Happy tidings have arrived from Delhi indicating the decision of the Central Cabinet to privatise Air India. A very bold decision for a vital economic reform that, perhaps, only this government could take blocking the drain that it had become on government finances.

Tags: privatisation | india | air

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proloybagchi
Of transgender and their plight
2017.05.10 18:48:51

One has to give it to the local mayor for taking a very courageous step. He announced recently that he had decided to use the services of the transgender community for recovery of property tax from defaulters. For want of any more details, it is hoped the Mayor of Bhopal has seriously thought about the matter and bring about a change in the lives of the transgender community and people’s perception about them.

Tags: plight | transgender

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proloybagchi
Height and size of national flag has no cor-relation with patriotism
2017.03.17 18:44:48

India seems to be in the midst of a competition to hoist the biggest and the tallest national flag. As they say, some people wear their heart on their sleeves; we seem to be showing off our patriotism on our flags. The taller and the bigger it is the better it would seem to be.

Tags: size | height | flags | national | patritism

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proloybagchi
Indomitable spirit of Afghan women
2017.01.29 18:25:36

A recent report on the first Afghan women’s orchestra taking Davos (Switzerland) by storm stirred some memories. Lately, it was unthinkable that music would be something which would be allowed in Afghanistan, more so, for women to indulge in it. The reasons are not far to seek. Music is reckoned as un-Islamic by the rigorous practitioners of Islam. Under the Taliban’s ultra-Islamic rule, leave alone women, it was taboo for even men.

Tags: orchestra | women;s | afghan

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proloybagchi
Environmental take-aways from demonetisation
2017.01.26 17:24:36

Prime Minister Modi’s demonetization has been roundly criticized on various counts by politicians, economists, social organizations and general public. The abrupt ban on the two high value currency denominations of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 caught the people by surprise and many of those who had stashed away sizable hoards of them were naturally the first to raise an outcry in opposition.

Tags: environmenr | demonetisation

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shahsabg
Transgender people KPK Pakistan
2017.01.05 16:57:42

Transgender people are people who have a gender identity, or gender expression, that differs from their assigned sex. The term transsexual was introduced to English in 1949 by David Oliver Cauldwell, and popularized by Harry Benjamin in 1966, around the same time transgender was coined and began to be popularized. Since the 1990s, transsexual has generally been used to describe the subset of transgender people.



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proloybagchi
Indian demonetisation: Pakistan's sinister designs forced Modi's hands
2016.12.16 18:59:44

The e-mails had been going round and round for sometime carrying the supposed facts regarding the reasons for the sudden demonetisation but one couldn’t really believe all that was conveyed in them. True, Modi had in his election campaign assured that he would fight the menace of black money and bring back all that was stashed away in banks abroad. But, two and a half years had gone by and yet nothing was seemingly moving on that front. He was, therefore, being baited and mocked at by the Opposition inside and outside the Parliament for his extravagant unfulfilled promises.

Tags: demonetisation | indian

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proloybagchi
Our life our times :: 4 :: Air purifiers
2016.11.19 18:27:13

The national capital of India, Delhi, has been choking ever since the Diwali fireworks fouled up the air. That looked like a trigger, which in fact it was not, for the continuing spell of intense air pollution. With a blanket of smog settling down over Delhi schools have been shut, construction and demolition works have been banned, polluting power plants like the one at Badarpur have been closed for ten days.

Tags: purifiers | pollution | air

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proloybagchi
Cricketing beards have it their way
2016.11.01 15:01:01

Beards have ultimately won not one but two series against New Zealand this year. While the bearded team won all the five test matches, the one-day series was won by three matches to two. The last One Day International (ODI) at Visakahpatnam must have been very disappointing for the New Zealanders. They lost it by as many as 190 runs, a stunning defeat – all because of too many bearded men in the field?



Tags: beards | cricket

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proloybagchi
India's disappearing freedom of expression
2016.10.22 16:03:53

Ram Chandra Guha, a free-thinker, author and a historian who has authored numerous books on Indian History and random societal matters, recently enumerated eight reasons why Indians cannot speak freely. He says India is a 50-50 democracy. It is democratic only in a few respects and it is not so in many other respects. He says the country is free in respect of conduct of free and fair elections and movement within the country. It is, however, only partly democratic in other ways. “The democratic deficit” that largely occurs is in the area of freedom of expression.



Tags: freedom | expression

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