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Those at helm in Congress must listen to voices of concern: Kapil Sibal

On exit of Scindia, Sibal said, “I would never bargain for anything after being in politics for 30 years. But it’s an individual issue.”

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Kapil Sibal IANS

New Delhi, March 18 : After the exit of Jyotiradiya Scindia and many Congress leaders airing their views about the party affairs regarding course correction and who should lead the party, former Union Minister Kapil Sibal has said, “I think those public statements should be heard and should be listened to”.

In an interview to IANS, Kapil Sibal said, “I am one of those who has never made a public statement on these issues but I think these are party affairs but there are some of my colleagues who have made public comments and I think those public statements should be heard and should be listened to and obviously political parties like any other organisation needs rejuvenation, I think the party needs rejuvenation, move forward and correct errors if any.”

The Congress leader asserted that those at the helm should listen to the voices of concern. “I think those who are concerned and made public statements and those who are at the helm of the party affairs, both should listen to each other and I think the party should get together and move forward in a constructive manner to get back into the minds of the people of India as Congress was in their minds for many years.”

On exit of Scindia, Sibal said, “I would never bargain for anything after being in politics for 30 years. But it’s an individual issue.”

The Congress leader said that the ratings of the present government is degrading fast in the minds of the people and it’s the duty of the party to give alternative to the people if we can give it, “paasa palat jayega”, he said.

While many leaders including Manish Tewari, Ashwani Kumar and Sandeep Dikshit have raised the issue of leadership in the party with Dikshit saying “extraordinary situation demands extraordinary solutions”. The Congress Working Committee and senior leaders of the party should talk to Rahul Gandhi, he said.

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“If not, then a new president should be elected and the uncertainty in the party should end soon,” Dikshit said in an interview to IANS.

Recalling that a few months back, Gandhi had said that he will not become the president again and it is time that the new party chief should be from outside the Gandhi family, Sibal said, “Rahul Gandhi has himself suggested that the president could be elected from outside the family. The Working Committee could not find a new president. This has created a despair in the party. But if the senior leaders want Sonia Gandhi as president, then she should be made full time President… why is there uncertainty? We should talk amongst us in an organised way and at least start a discussion and if at all, you need Rahul Gandhi, then all the senior leaders should go to him.”

“Overwhelming consensus in the Congress is that we need Sonia Gandhi as the president for the foreseeable future,” Manish Tewari said and added, we should look for another president only after sorting out ideological issues, which might take more than a year.

While many like Ajay Maken and others are batting for Rahul Gandhi, former Union Minister Manish Tewari had plumped for Sonia and Anil Shastri suggesting Priyanka Gandhi – with all leaders contending that a non-Gandhi will not be accepted as the party leader.

Sonia Gandhi was appointed Interim President in August by the Congress Working Committee after Rahul Gandhi quit following the party’s debacle in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls – the second successive rout, and resisted all requests to reconsider.

“I believe a revived @INCIndia is indispensable to provide a national alternative to the divisive policies of the BJP. This is why the current perception of drift must be ended,” tweeted Shashi Tharoor.

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Corona Karma: The Mythology of Illness

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Coronavirus

A few years ago, my mother had a severe case of shingles, a disease that causes the patient’s nerve endings to become sore from a pathogen that is moderately contagious. Its source is the vestigial presence of the varicella-zoster virus lying dormant in the subject’s body, invariably from a childhood case of chickenpox. I had, of course, researched the illness before I visited my mother, but no sooner had I entered the gated community of apartments where my parents lived then, than I was informed of my mother’s diagnosis. “Mata ka prakop,” the neighbors called it, shaking their heads disapprovingly, from side to side. My mother had invited the wrath of the Goddess.

Every culture has gone through the many stages of making meaning of dreaded diseases. Often the deities devise ways of conveying their displeasure to the people inflicted with an inexplicable phenomenon. This is true not just of “primitive” societies, but of scientifically “advanced” cultures as well. Remember the argument of the 1980s and 90s about AIDS in America, and how it was God’s way of punishing homosexual men for their ungodly ways. It seems every new disease has a karmic connection!

So when we conjecture about how some people may have gotten infected with the Corona virus thus: “kyapata, unke karma honge,” (“who knows, this might be a result of their karma) I am reminded of the “wrath of the Goddess,” meted out to my mother.

My problem with using myths to give meaning, stems from the fact thatevenlong after we have found a vaccine and a cure, the mythicdimensions of the pathogen will remain lodged in our collective unconscious. And when in the future stray instances of the illness flare up, whenwe, as a society, are under stress, vested interests will be able to generate panic and fear among the people by just tapping into our unconscious. Religiosity is a crude instrument of ideology.

In 1978 Susan Sontag, an important cultural critic gave a talk, “Illness as Metaphor,” in which she contrasted tuberculosis and cancer by citing countless examples of the representation of these illnesses in literary, operatic, theatrical, and poetic texts. Tuberculosis, Sontag argued, was the disease of the 19th century, of poverty, poor labour conditions, or a life wasted in leisure or unrealized genius. Cancer by contrast, was the disease of the 20th century, a moral contagion, a hostile takeover bid, that required a militaristic response. Extending this analogy, I want to argue that the Corona virus is shaping up to be the disease of this present century, already saturated with metaphors of geo-politics on the world stage. Here in India, it is a campaign to corralan out of control, leaking, irrepressible pollutant, that must be plugged.

President Donald Trump’s effort at branding the pathogen as the Wuhan or the Chinese virus is being played out as a protracted chess gamebetween two superpowers, with the WHO cast as the adversarial Queen by both sides.

In India, the Corona virus pandemic is being “treated” (no pun intended) as a more virulent and mutated strain of both tuberculosis and cancer. It is an insidious, surreptitious malware that is being countered with predictable software patches deployed in emergencies, but with no long-term strategy for the containment, management, or prospective cure for the patient. People suspected of carrying the virus, are being exiled rather than given refuge in a sanatorium. Economically vulnerable migrant workers are being treated as though they were children playing truant or escaped convicts. Police forces in virtually all the states where these workers are travelling have used tactics of mob control more than the benevolent practices of relief agencies.

I cannot help but wonder if this is not a perverse response to the political agitations that were gaining strength earlier this year. The virus has become a metaphor for out of control people: citizens determined to define citizenship in progressive rather than punitive determinants; and workers of the informal sector responding to a sputtering economy. When markets cannot regulate the demand/supply and price of onions, even the person on the street knows how to read the signs. As in other authoritarian regimes, the lockdown appears designed to function more as a gag order than a prophylactic measure against a pandemic.

When the metaphor of karma is used loosely to explain the apparently random patterns in which the disease is spreading, in a society where cleanliness and uncleanliness are indelible markers of caste, we run the risk of creating a new caste of Corona untouchables. Already the (conspiracy) theory that the virus came to India through the Tablighi Jamaat convention attendees in Nizamuddin, New Delhi, has tinged the virus with a communal hue.

Let us return to the origins to the Corona virus’s journey from bats to humans. How can a virus found in bats find its way into the human eco-system? It is because habitat and biodiversity loss have diminished the spatial distance between humans and wildlife. The Coronus virus is conjectured to have come from people eating “bush meat”. What is bush meat and why do people eat it? It is the meat of small, semi-wild animals that live in the shadows of the urban sprawl and are relatively easy to catch. This meat is less expensive than farm raised poultry and meat. It is also not regulated for hygiene, freshness, and disease. I would never know what the Civet Cat on my plate, ate, where it lived, or how it died. Actually, we don’t even know whether it is cat!

The extraction of natural resources through mining the earth and logging the forests, without any thought to replenishing them, has left vast stretches of the earth barren. The planting of monocultural crops has caused an imbalance in the natural eco-systems that kept a natural balance between harmless and beneficial viruses and other microorganisms. Further, the unchecked growth of urban sprawl and the attendant pollution has compromised the repair work that trees were meant to do.

Is it any wonder that the rage of Mother Earth has been unleashed upon us? “Mata ka prakop,” is punishment for our collective karma.

By: Poonam Arora

Ph.D., has until recently been a professor in the Humanities, focusing on the liberal arts. She is now a Delhi based writer. She can be reached at [email protected] (The views expressed are personal of the author, who retains the copyright)

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Stranded in India and want to fly out? Here’s all you need to know

The stranded individuals making the cut will be flown in the same non-scheduled flights which will be used to bring back stranded Indians from various countries.

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Coronaviurs in China Outbreak

New Delhi, May 24 : Six days after the beginning of lockdown 4.0, the Indian government on Sunday came up with new Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) to fly out those who are stranded in India due to the lockdown.

All such individuals have to apply with the Ministry of Civil Aviation or agencies designated by it, to start with. However, the government has made it clear that only those people will be allowed who are either citizens of those countries that they are travelling to or hold a visa of that country for a duration of a year, or are green card or OCI card holders.

Meanwhile, if there is a case of a medical emergency or detain the family, Indians too can travel abroad taking advantage of this window, provided they have a visa for at least six months.

The stranded individuals making the cut will be flown in the same non-scheduled flights which will be used to bring back stranded Indians from various countries.

Meanwhile if any seafarers are keen to take up job opportunities abroad, they too can avail this facility, provided the names are cleared by the Shipping Ministry.

However, even those who qualify will not necessarily be able to be flown out. It ultimately depends on the country they are travelling to and their recent guidelines of admission of foreign passengers. Only if that box is ticked, will the Civil Aviation Ministry confirm their ticket, says the SOP.

Meanwhile, no prize for guessing that the cost of the flight will have to be paid by the passengers because it’s not an evacuation exercise. Also the passengers will be subjected to necessary medical screening before they can board the flight where only asymptomatic travellers will be allowed. While inside, baic health hygiene and precautions like wearing a mask will be compulsory.

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Outraged China asks India to refrain from supporting Taiwan

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India China Border Sikkim

New Delhi/Beijing, May 23 : Outraged by the subtle support that the ruling BJP extended to the democratically elected government of Taiwan, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime has asked India to “refrain from such acts.”

On Wednesday, in an unprecedented move, two parliamentarians of the BJP, Meenakshi Lekhi and Rahul Kaswan, ‘virtually attended’ the swearing-in ceremony of Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and sent her congratulations. Tsai was sworn in for her second term.

As most of the international travel remains suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic which originated in Wuhan city of Hubei province in China, Lekhi and Kaswan were among the 92 dignitaries, including US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, representing 41 countries, who virtually participated in the ceremony.

Though the Indian government did not officially participate in the event, the presence of two well-known BJP MPs miffed China so much that its Foreign Ministry without naming anyone on the same day objected and hoped everyone would “support the just cause of Chinese people to oppose the secessionist activities for ‘Taiwan independence’ and realise national reunification.”

Now a counsellor (parliament) of the embassy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in New Delhi, Liu Bing has registered CCP’s protest against India’s participation in the ceremony by writing to both Lekhi and Kaswan. Liu Bing shared a copy of the letter with the IANS.

In his complaint, Liu called Lekhi and Kaswan’s congratulatory message to President Tsai “utterly wrong” which needs to be “corrected”.

“The one-China principle, enshrined by the UN Charter and its relevant resolutions, is a generally recognized norm in international relations and a general consensus of the international community,” he claimed.

Liu Bing reminded the parliamentarians that “the Indian governments have pledged to adhere to one-China principle since the bilateral ties were established seventy years ago.”

“Any wrong signals” including the message of congratulation to President Tsai, Liu warned, “will encourage those separatists to go even farther on the wrong and dangerous track, which would ultimately undermine the peace and prosperity of the region.”

He strongly urged the BJP parliamentarians to “refrain from such acts and instead do good to support China’s great cause of unification.”

Describing President Tsai as “the locally elected leader in China’s Taiwan Province”, Liu said that “unfortunately, the authority led by her in Taiwan province has refused to accept the ‘1992 consensus’ that both sides of the Taiwan Straits belong to one China and will work together towards national unification.”

“On the contrary, Madam Tsai has never renounced to seek ‘Taiwan Independence’ and kept engaged in separatist activities in one way or the other,” he wrote in the letter.

Since the Communist Party of China gained control of the mainland China in 1949, pushing out the Republic of China (ROC) government to the island state of Taiwan, the political status of Taiwan has remained uncertain. The ROC was replaced by the PRC’s membership at the UN in 1971. The PRC refuses diplomatic ties with countries that recognize Taiwan as an independent state.

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