Back to the cauldron

After nearly seven weeks in the Caucasus and Central Asia, I have returned home to little in the way of good news beyond England's astounding efforts at the football World Cup and good news from Thailand where the young footballers have been rescued from the cave. The England manager, Gareth Southgate, who was derided initially, has proved that he knows more about team building than most of our politicians. We have to be thankful for small mercies that do something for national morale when the sterling is in the doldrums and there is a sense that the United Kingdom really is coming apart at the seams. A glimmer of light in the darkness with the news of the resignation of the Brexit secretary, David Davis, had lifted the pound slightly, but the backlash against the prime minister's 'persuasion' of her cabinet into a currently rather vague and woolly, softer Brexit plan is far from over.
Anabel Loyd — Westminster Gleanings Jul 19, 2018 00:00 IST

Universities and autonomy

We live in strange times. While most academics claim that their institutions are under attack and their academic autonomy is being undermined, bureaucrats and their political bosses say that they wish to ensure academic autonomy ( à la the new Indian Institutes of Management bill) and promote universities and institutes of 'eminence'.
Sushil Khanna Jul 19, 2018 00:00 IST

Mobs on trial

Once again, the government did not do what it was expected to do. Not just the Central government, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, but also state governments, among which the BJP heads or is part of the coalition in 19. The Supreme Court's comments on the new normal of "mobocracy" inundating law and order culminated in a direction to the Centre to formulate a separate law against lynching. 
Jul 19, 2018 00:00 IST

Pecking order

The department of industrial policy and promotion of the ministry of commerce and industry has released a ranking of states and Union territories on the ease of doing business. This ranking is based on a set of 372 action points that determine the ease of doing business. These points include the regulations guiding, and the speed of obtaining, construction permits, land, environmental clearances as well as access to information, water and electricity connections.
Jul 19, 2018 00:00 IST

Treasure trove; Proud moment; Different view; Parting shot

Treasure trove

• Sir - Upon seeing a good library in my locality in Malaysia, I wondered w... | Read»

Proud moment

• Sir - Hima Das, an 18-year old girl from a village in Nagaon, Assam, crea... | Read»

Different view

• Sir - Shah Faesal, the civil servant from Kashmir, must be lauded for exp... | Read»

Parting shot

People who have visited the park should raise their voice against this illo... | Read»

Jul 19, 2018 00:00 IST

Peripheral presence

We are about to witness a major change in India. Academics are going to be marginalized in decision-making relating to academic matters. An implicit marginalization has been going on for some time anyway, but now it will get the imprimatur of parliamentary legislation. A new act drafted by the ministry of human resource development seeks to abolish the University Grants Commission altogether. Its fund-distributing role will be taken over by the ministry itself, while its supervisory role will be implemented by a newly created Higher Education Commission of India.
Prabhat Patnaik Jul 18, 2018 00:00 IST

Climate change made simpler

The banquet hall was full of well-meaning employees of a child rights organization. The point of discussion was climate change and its impacts on children and communities. They not only wished that every child survives, but also adapts and is 'climate smart'. This is welcome, but also worrisome because these resourceful people seemed to not comprehend well either climate change or the issues thereof. They were planning to respond nevertheless. Outcomes of their effort are likely to be suboptimal. People like Doug Ford would rejoice. They do not find it rational to incur expenditure either on climate mitigation or adaptation. Although evidence to the contrary is available, and lack of well-planned investment lays at risk the gains already made.
Anamitra Anurag Danda Jul 18, 2018 00:00 IST

Woolly Concept

The Narendra Modi government has taken its first stab at framing net neutrality rules that will in theory ensure that all Indians have unfettered access to the internet. The telecom commission, the highest decision-making body in the telecom ministry, accepted all the recommendations that the telecom regulator had made in a report submitted in November 2017. The move caps three years of contentious debate on a somewhat slippery concept on which no two people can ever agree on an acceptable definition. In May 2015, a committee established by the department of telecommunications had drafted a report on the subject which suggested that there was no need to 'hard code' the definition of net neutrality but, instead, embrace its core principle that all internet traffic should be treated equally. In essence, it means that internet service providers should not be permitted to either throttle or prioritize the flow of data. The ball was then lobbed to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, which came out with its recommendations that effectively prohibited internet access service licensees from entering into any arrangement that would promote discriminatory treatment of content. On the face of it, it now looks all hunky-dory. The new net neutrality rules will ban data throttling, blocking and zero-rating like Facebook's Free Basics. However, the ban will not cover some critical services like remote-controlled robotic surgery.
Jul 18, 2018 00:00 IST

Make or Break

Patience is a virtue. But it can also run thin, as it justifiably has for the Supreme Court of India. This was made clear when the court told the Centre, the Uttar Pradesh government and other agencies in no uncertain terms that they must either restore the Taj Mahal or demolish it. It is no small matter that the highest court of the land suggested the 'demolition' of the iconic marble monument. It reflects its disgust at the Centre's continued apathy towards the maintenance of the Taj Mahal - among other things, its marble has been yellowing on account of environmental degradation - and at the impunity with which judicial orders for protection and restoration work are disobeyed. The government's flagrant (and foolish) disregard for the apex court is, indeed, alarming; it suggests that the Centre fears no retribution for its prolonged defiance. Not only was the court's ban on the industrial expansion in the Taj trapezium zone - an area of 10,400 square kilometres around the mausoleum - contravened, but its repeated instructions to the Centre and the state government, both of which are led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, to produce a vision document for the preservation of the monument were also ignored. In this is evident not just the government's unwillingness to protect architectural heritage but also its ability to hinder agencies such as the Archaeological Survey of India - known for its good work at the Angkor Wat temples in Cambodia - from doing their job.
Jul 18, 2018 00:00 IST

Right decision; New thought; Parting shot

Right decision

• Sir - Tea garden workers are at great risk of death and injury owing to s... | Read»

New thought

• Sir - In the recent hearing of petitions challenging Section 377 of the I... | Read»

Parting shot

• Sir - It must be asked why the plan to assign mobile medical units to cou... | Read»

Jul 18, 2018 00:00 IST

Tall promises

The government has abolished University Grants Commission. The education ministry proposes to give grants to universities directly. But then the minister had doubts - on what basis would he hand out money? Can he give out Rs 50 crore and Rs 100 crore to party favourites as the finance minister does in his budget? Should he not place some conditions on how universities should use the money? And universities are not generally friendly to the ruling party; should the universities that go out of favour be allowed to run out of money? When a minister is in doubt, he appoints a committee. So he created a higher education commission. It is not known whether it comprises any human beings. But in its name, the minister of education has invited comments and suggestions. They should have reached him by five pm on July 7. These comments will not, which is all right, since they are unlikely to change his mind.
Writing On The Wall
Ashok V. Desai
Jul 17, 2018 00:00 IST


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