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A hollow symbolism

BJP projects itself as pro-Dalit by making Ram Nath Kovind its presidential candidate. It won’t work

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Ram Nath Kovind

Symbols are, or may become, representations of statements and mindsets when used in politics. They can both energise and enervate. In commerce, they represent a brand which may stand for different attributes. Unlike in politics, since the objective is commercial gain, they cater to some attribute of excellence in terms of quality and durability. For those to whom price matters, the two attributes which determine choice are: Quality and affordability. The poor have little space to make choices. They have to make do with what is offered.

When a party proposes a candidate for the highest office in our republic, what are the attributes that we should be looking for? The person nominated must, at the outset, represent the ethos that underlies what our nation stands for: A liberal, inclusive, tolerant India; not a divisive, intolerant, exclusive India. In addition, the face of the republic must have the gravitas to attract attention beyond our territorial contours. The republic must command respect in every quarter.

Tokenism breeds cynicism. Had Ambedkar been in our midst today, he would have been an ideal candidate, not because he was a Dalit, but because he opposed caste and bigotry, as being contrary to the constitutional values we wish to nurture. His conversion to Buddhism was a revolt against a caste-ridden hierarchical structure that bred inequality and intolerance. He himself was the victim of such intolerance and was deeply moved by its constant manifestations within our culture.

I am worried that the candidature of Ram Nath Kovind will be projected as if it represents the empowerment of Dalits. The BJP, which has historically been anti-Dalit, will now use the caste of their nominee to seduce Dalits into believing that the party is pro-Dalit because of this symbolic gesture. Not that Dalits will be taken in. The image of Amit Shah breaking bread in a Dalit home in Naxalbari and earlier in a village in Varanasi, are all indications of tokenism in which symbolism is all that matters. The Opposition should take this opportunity to expose the BJP.

It should highlight recent events in which Dalits have been targets of violence. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are the main culprits in crimes against Dalits. Data from Gujarat shows that such atrocities make up 163 per cent of all crimes in the state. It is also reported that in Gujarat 95 out of 100 suspects for crimes against Dalits are acquitted. Besides, 52 to 65 per cent of all crimes in Rajasthan have a Dalit as victim. Please ask what is the track record of the Governor of Bihar vis a vis the rise of such incidents in Bihar.

The other two states where the BJP is in power have hardly come off with flying colours. The inhuman thrashing of Dalits by gau rakshaks at Una, and the silence of the prime minister hardly match the BJP’s symbolic concern for Dalits. What is the response of the BJP to the 50 families in Sehore in Madhya Pradesh seeking permission for euthanasia from Shivraj Singh Chouhan after their land was occupied by musclemen? The killing of two children in Faridabad in 2015, despite the deployment of police in the area, shocked everyone.

Please seek Rajasthan’s response to the incident in May 2016 when three Dalits were crushed under a tractor in district Nagaur. The tragedy surrounding Rohith Vemula’s suicide (January 2016) who said “My birth is my fatal accident” is evidence of the wanton infiltration of casteist politics in universities. His crime was that, as a member of Ambedkar Students’ Association, he opposed the death penalty to Yakub Memon, and condemned the ABVP for objecting to the screening of the documentary Muzaffarnagar baaqi hai in Delhi University.

The ABVP allegedly roughed him up and complained about him to Minister Bandaru Dattatreya for his “anti-national” activities. The then HRD minister, to whom the complaint was forwarded, obliged, resulting in the vice chancellor of Hyderabad Central University suspending him and depriving him of seven months of fellowship. The recent show of strength of the Bhim Sena at Jantar Mantar, protesting against atrocities committed in Uttar Pradesh at the hands of Thakurs, is evidence of Dalits continuing to be victims of intolerance and violence. All this sits rather uneasily with the symbolism of anointing a Dalit as president.
Voicing objections to the recommendations of the Ranganath Commission that both Muslim and Christian Dalits be included in the Scheduled Caste categories, Ram Nath Kovind, in 2010, is reported to have said “Islam and Christianity are alien to the nation”. If he made that statement, he needs to assure the minorities that, when and if elected, he will stoutly defend the values of the republic. If he made no such statement, he must issue a clarification forthwith. Otherwise, it will make the minorities feel very uneasy. The real aliens are those who promote the culture of violence, contrary to our constitutional values.

Given the fact that every 18 minutes a crime is committed against Dalits in India and the conviction rate in prosecutions is less than 6 per cent, the office of the president will be under constant pressure, now that a Dalit will be occupying it. This is particularly so when every morning we are informed of yet another gory attack against Dalits. It is well-nigh impossible to overnight bring about a social transformation, eliminating practices and transforming mindsets embedded in a caste-ridden society. I hope this government is aware of the danger that lies ahead. This is a great opportunity for the prime minister, if he genuinely cares for Dalits, to rein in the elements who believe that they can target Dalits with impunity. The gau rakshaks will have to be swiftly dealt with.

Yogi Adityanath must be advised to go to Dalit homes without sending them soap and shampoo in advance and without ensuring for himself a comfortable environment before he meets them. The government will have to change its policy and support their adequate representation in the civil services and the demand for reservations in promotions. Will Modi have the courage to do this? Tokenism and genuine concern for a caste cannot go hand in hand. In commerce, a brand which cannot deliver will lose value. We can ill afford to have the office of the president be exposed to such a possibility.

The writer is a senior Congress leader and former Union minister.

(Credit: This Aricle is published on Indian Express Dated 1/07/2017)

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US equipping forces to counter Russia and China

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US equipping forces

United States perceive Russia’s and China’s growing clout as grave threat who seek to create a world consistent with their authoritarian models, pursuing veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic and security decisions.

The forces’ of five major powers are constantly changing their postures for the major looming war with new capabilities of their acquiring weapons in space and cyberspace, nuclear deterrent forces, missile defense, advanced autonomous systems, and resilient and agile logistics to equip their high-quality troops to win the new types of conflicts.

Keeping in view the current scenario in Afghanistan, resurgent Russia and the aim to provide 360-degree European, the NATO Military Committee meeting was held in Brussels.

NATO faces changes in Afghanistan and in Iraq, to the east as the alliance deploys troops to deter a resurgent Russia, and to the south, where NATO is working with partner nations to build stability and military capabilities in North Africa and the Middle East.

The NATO leaders addressed issues of security and stability in Europe’s southern neighborhood. “This is one of the greatest transnational security challenges that we face, and one which impacts every nation around the globe,” Committee Chairman Gen. Petr Pavel of the Czech army said.

“NATO’s network of partners, complemented with international organizations such as the European Union and the United Nations, allows us to work more effectively and in a comprehensive manner.

Defence Secretary James N Mattis stated, “North Korea and Iran persist in taking outlaw actions that threaten regional and even global stability. Oppressing their own people and shredding their own people’s dignity and human rights, they push their warped views outward.”

On the other hand the there is a tough competition among global terror groups of ISIS, AlQaeda etc.With the defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the terrorists of Islamic State of Iraq and Levant are facing prestige issue and are switching their loyalties to Al Qaeda in North Africa and Yemen.

And despite the defeat of ISIS’ physical caliphate, violent extremist organizations like ISIS or Lebanese Hezbollah or al Qaida continue to sow hatred and continue threatening the world.

Concerning the Global Coalition against ISIS and NATO’s involvement in Iraq, the Chiefs of Defence recommended enhanced coordination with the European Union and other international partners as well as the possible adaptation of the NATO Training and Capacity Building activity in Iraq (NTCB-I) to better respond to the needs of the Iraqi authorities in the area of defence sector reform.Meetings with Ukraine and Georgia allowed the respective Partner CHoDs to provide briefings on their challenging regional security situations and progress reports on their national defence force development.

The CHoDs recognized the ongoing transformation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in 2017 and stressed their continued commitment to Ukraine through the Comprehensive Assistance Package. On Georgia, the Allied Chiefs recognized its significant and enduring contribution to NATO’s Operations and Missions, especially to Resolute Support. The CHoDs commitment to supporting the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package was restressed and they noted the opportunity for further NATO-Georgia interoperability.

After assuming power, Trump questioned the value and purpose of NATO, calling the Alliance “obsolete” and as costing us [the United States] a fortune.” But since then US Secretary of Defense James Mattis has made numerous visits to European countries, holding several bilateral meetings and assured that the U.S. would strengthen its traditional alliances while building new partnerships and listening more to other nations’ ideas.

Moreover, the recently-released US National Defense Strategy reaffirms the US commitment to NATO by explicitly focusing on “fortifying” the transatlantic alliance and referring to the US’ alliances and partnerships as“ the backbone of global security”.

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Medical tourism in India on rise

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doctor png-min

India Tourism has been seeing a year on year growth; there has been an increase in domestic travellers as well as foreigners travelling to India. India also attracts patients from several countries for Medical treatments.

Medical tourism or health and wellness tourism refers to the industry where people from across the world travel to other countries to get medical, dental or surgical care and at the same time visit local attractions of that country.

Out of the total Medical tourism across globe approximately 63% is shared between Singapore, Thailand and India with Singapore and Thailand being the leaders in the field.

India has seen a regular growth in Medical tourism traveller’s and from 2013 -2016, the medical visas issued annually has grown from 1.22 lacs to 1.78 lacs.

Following are some of the reasons why people choose India for their treatment:

– World Class facilities and services available in India
– Good qualified doctors
– Cost (Some of the major surgeries in India cost 10-20% of the cost incurred in Western Countries)
– No waiting period for treatments

Some challenges which need to be addressed for patients choosing India as preferred Medical tourism hub

– Improve perception on hygiene and service across the globe
– Ensure quality and service
– Step down facilities for Post Surgical care for recovery. India lacks in centers that can take care of recovery needs post treatments and the patient has to spend more days at a hospital.
– Medical Visa – Procedure to obtain medical visa needs simplification as it can get quite cumbersome as per current regulations

Based on statistics released by the government, Delhi, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are the top destinations for visitors travelling for Medical tourism. Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi have the large number of quality hospitals and take the maximum share of the pie as of today. These cities have a several hospitals to choose from and offer good connectivity across the globe.

Medical tourism or health and wellness tourism can be divided in to 2 different types:

Curative: This is where the traveller’s come in for specific treatments, a few of the preferred treatments are listed below:

Cardiac Surgeries including bypass surgeries

Knee / Hip Replacement surgeries

Orthopedic surgeries

Cosmetic surgeries

Ophthalmology

Rejuvenation: Traveller’s want to explore the ancient treatments and traditional medicines offered in India and hence they come to India, a few are listed below

Ayurveda
Yoga
Siddha
Yunani
Naturopathy

Considering that we can excel in various parameters catering to medical tourism, our country has tremendous potential to increase our share in the Medical Tourism segment.

Jay Kantawala, Founder of WIYO Travel says, “Medical tourism in India has been seeing a year on year growth in the past decade and is expected to grow 2 ½ times in the coming 8-10 years and become a US$ 1.6 Billion market in coming decade. This industry will get a boost if Visa process is simplified and simple cross border payments. In addition to this we are seeing Health care institutions opting for certifications for NABH (National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers) and JCI (Joint Commission International) accreditations, which help in building trust amongst travelers”.

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Analysis

56% smart cities prone to floods: Report

More than 2,200 cities and towns in India are located in districts which have witnessed at least 11 floods in the last 18 years.

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Hudhud Storm

As much as 56 per cent of smart cities are prone to floods which are responsible for 77 per cent of all disasters in India, a report said on Friday.

The report, based on disaster data between 2000 and 2017, observed that India has a mean of 11 flood events per district over the last 18 years.

Image result for smart cities floods prone

Following floods, other disaster share was cyclone (22 per cent), extreme temperature (11 per cent), landslides (seven per cent) and earthquakes (four per cent). Drought, however, was only one per cent of all disasters.

“Ninety-eight per cent of India’s 642 districts have received at least one flood event,” stated the joint report ‘Decoding the Monsoon Floods’ by NGO SEEDS and Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) based in the University of Louvain School of Public Health, Brussels.

It said that floods affect over 15 million people every year. Of 15.6 million people affected by floods in India in 2017, over 316,185 were people with disabilities.

“More than 2,200 cities and towns in India are located in districts which have witnessed at least 11 floods in the last 18 years,” the report said.

Further signifying the scale of infrastructure that needs to be secured against the future risks, the findings said that 56 per cent of India’s planned smart cities fall in districts reporting a high number of flood events.

Since 2000, India has faced 215 flooding events both from floods and cyclones. This accounts for 77 per cent of all disaster events.

“Assam is the most flood-prone state, with areas like Lakhimpur reporting over 30 flood events within this period. Even known drought-prone areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan have witnessed more floods than the country’s average in the last 18 years,” said Anshu Sharma, Co-founder and Mentor, SEEDS.

“Unpredictability, urbanisation and invisibility of flood risk are major concerns that need to be addressed urgently,” Sharma added.

Citing the 2015 Chennai floods in Tamil Nadu, the report pointed out how the natural sinks like wetlands, that act as a sponge against floods, had shrunk due to rapid urbanisation, leading to catastrophic results.

“Estimates put the remaining original wetlands of Chennai at just 10 per cent.”

“Concrete encroachment on Cooum River, Adyar River and Buckingham Canal which serve as the main rainwater drains, poorly designed drainage systems and ageing civil infrastructure added to the problem,” the report said.

Debarati Guha-Sapir, Director, CRED, said: “We are witnessing a disturbing trend of a large number of climate induced disasters… The launch of this regional report is a huge step towards better understanding of local nuances of disaster events.”

Suggesting preparations for the 2018 monsoon and cyclone seasons at policy and community levels, the report said that with a scale this huge, informal nature of the losses and limited resources, coping practices at the community level are very beneficial.

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