Letters to the Editor: Aquaculture farm to raise 3,000 tones of octopus
Sir — A recently proposed aquaculture farm in the Canary Islands would raise 3,000 tonnes of octopus in a year, which means almost 2,75,000 individual animals will be killed annually. Familiar farmed animals in the West, such as Angus cows and Chocktaw hogs, have been domesticated and are now entirely different from the animals they evolved from. Many of them cannot survive without human care. Octopuses are sentient and can feel pain. Starting an octopus farm is a commitment to creating a new kind of animal that relies on humans for its existence. It is not an idea to be taken lightly.
Dipannita Sarkar, Calcutta
Sir — Once again, the vice-president, Jagdeep Dhankhar, has stoked controversy with his statements. He seems intent on continuing with the way he behaved when he was the governor of West Bengal. This is unbecoming of someone holding his august office. This time, Dhankhar has said that “In a democratic society, ‘the basic’ of any ‘basic structure’ has to be the supremacy of mandate of people. Thus, the primacy and sovereignty of Parliament and legislature is inviolable.” He further questioned, “Can the power of the Parliament to amend the constitution be dependent on any other institution. Can any organisation or institution say that this needs our stamp?” These are barbs aimed at the Supreme Court.
He clearly does not understand how the three arms of a parliamentary democracy work. The judiciary is meant to do exactly what he claims nobody has the right to do — be the final arbiter of the Constitution, irrespective of who makes the laws.
Sushen Das, Calcutta
Sir — It is fairly wellknown that parliamentary legislation is subject to two limitations under the Constitution of India. One is that of judicial review, or the power of constitutional courts to review legislation for possible violation of any fundamental right. Another is that no amendment to the Constitution should have the effect of destroying any of its basic features.
Jagdeep Dhankhar seems to have a problem with any sort of limitation on Parliament’s jurisdiction to amend the Constitution. Surely, he could not have forgotten that the basic structure doctrine had helped save the Constitution from being undermined through the misuse of parliamentary majority.
C. Subramaniam, Mumbai
Sir — Parliamentary majority is transient. Essential features of the Constitution, such as the rule of law, parliamentary form of government, separation of powers, the idea of equality, and free and fair elections ought to be perennially protected from legislative excess. Jagdeep Dhankhar should understand this.
Kamal Basu, Calcutta
Spot the fake
Sir — The lack of proper regulations creates avenues for individuals, firms and non-State actors to misuse Artificial Intelligence. Legal ambiguity, coupled with a lack of accountability and oversight, is a potent mix for a disaster. Policy vacuums on deepfakes are a perfect example of this situation. Deepfakes leverage powerful techniques from machine learning and AI to manipulate or generate visual and audio content with a high potential to deceive. Since they are compelling, deepfake videos can be used to spread misinformation and propaganda. They seriously compromise the public’s ability to distinguish between fact and fiction.
Deepfakes can be used to influence elections. Recently, Taiwan’s cabinet approved amendments to election laws to punish the sharing of deepfake videos or images. Taiwan is becoming increasingly concerned that China is spreading false information to influence public opinion and manipulate election outcomes. This concern has led to the amendments. A similar situation could arise in India’s upcoming general elections too. Further, deepfakes could be used to produce inflammatory material, such as videos purporting to show the armed forces or the police committing ‘crimes’ in areas of conflict. These deepfakes could be used to radicalise populations, recruit terrorists or incite violence.
Kunal Kanti Konar, Calcutta
Sir — The 2017-18 National Non-communicable Disease Monitoring Survey reported that 98% of Indians do not take adequate fruits and vegetables and only 59% of adults do adequate physical activity. But are people entirely to blame for this? Surveys have shown that unhealthier choices are available more easily, priced lower and displayed more prominently in grocery stores to promote their buying.
There are two main reasons why most of us do not eat sufficient fruits and vegetables — culturally, our diet is cereal and pulse-based owing to the historical need to address undernutrition. More important, most people cannot afford to buy fruits and vegetables, especially as climate change stresses our agricultural outputs. Our food environment is configured in a way that promotes unhealthy options and discourages healthy choices.
Shailaja Krishnan, Chennai