The violence within

Religion is supposed to offer two things to ordinary mortals. The first is a prescription for living well in the here and now, with the general guidelines supposedly given by a supreme power beyond our ken. The second thing most religions offer is the comfort of a better future, or a new life, under the care of the supreme being. There are, of course, variations on this theme. The major Western religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam offer an interpretation of the world as it is and emphasize the importance of prayer and social rules that improve the quality of the present life. Eastern religions, on the other hand, like Hinduism, Buddhism or Confucianism only offer rules for a better individual way of living, which, if everyone followed them, could make the world a better place. No version of the good life includes violence and coercion as permissible features. If nobody wishes to be at the receiving end of violence and coercion then it cannot be acceptable as a rule. Yet we do see frequent and pervasive violence and coercion in the name of religion. That of course leads to the well-known argument that a god or the supreme being is either not all-powerful or not all-good. The purpose here is not to get into the philosophical debate about the existence of god. Rather, the purpose is to examine the roots of violence that religion breeds across the board.
Anup Sinha Jun 22, 2018 00:00 IST

Wrong Number

Hatred has the attribute of erasing some differences in order to emphasize others. It relies on this paradox to impel acts of discrimination in the most unexpected spheres. How it poisons all transactions, social and professional, was exemplified by the exchange between a telecommunications company and one of its customers, presumably a professional person from Lucknow. The customer complained about the telecom company's direct-to-home service, at which the company sent a standard message about looking into it. The name appended at the end of the message was one from the minority community, leading the customer first to express her lack of faith in the executive's "working ethics" and then to demand a "Hindu" representative. In this first stage, what is obvious is that the frank hatred permeating the country since 2014 is encouraging crude expressions of hostility at the drop of a hat. The invisible guard of propriety, the desire to appear educated and modern, the unthinking reflexes of civility have all vanished.
Jun 22, 2018 00:00 IST

Distant hope

The cure for a lot of illnesses is sometimes a simple pill. At present, the ailing healthcare system in India could use a similar prescription. According to a study conducted in three blocks in Tamil Nadu, improving the condition of health sub-centres in the country can lead to a marked reduction in medical expenses. If HSCs are properly functional, out-of-pocket expenses would fall from an average of Rs 336 to less than five rupees for each patient. This is particularly relevant for India, where such expenditure comprises almost 62 per cent of total medical costs. Moreover, the government also stands to benefit by empowering HSCs. It will save at least Rs 200 in the cost of care for every out-patient diverted from higher public medical facilities to HSCs.
Jun 22, 2018 00:00 IST

Big worry

The theme of World Environment Day, celebrated on June 5, was plastic pollution. While this is a major global environment concern, there are several other local issues that need immediate attention. In West Bengal, this is the groundwater crisis. According to the state Pollution Control Board, in more than half of the blocks of Bengal, the water level is falling by 20 centimetres a year on average. In tandem, arsenic and fluoride contamination is also increasing. In rural areas, drinking water supply is largely dependent on non-electrified tube wells. Many such tube wells have already failed, while many of them are yielding contaminated water, creating a drinking water crisis. The falling water table has also led to the drying up of many water bodies, with a serious impact on local flora, fauna and the ecology.
Nitya Nanda Jun 22, 2018 00:00 IST

Powerful amid the problems

SPLIT: A LIFE By Taslima Nasrin, Penguin, Rs 599
Chandrima S. Bhattacharya Jun 22, 2018 00:00 IST

Their own stories

DALIT VOICE: LITERATURE AND REVOLT By Sharankumar Limbale and Jaydeep Sarangi, Authorspress, Rs 1,200
Tapan Basu Jun 22, 2018 00:00 IST

My sweet home: Childhood stories from a corner of the city 

Samina Mishra, Sherna Dastur and the children of Okhla are the contributors - is an engaging attempt to portray the children's perception of the space that they inhabit.
Jun 22, 2018 00:00 IST

Snoring away from the past into the future

Failure has no place in the land of opportunities. How then does one explain the success of America's first literary hero, Rip Van Winkle? For Rip is certainly a failure from the moment he appeared on the scene 199 years ago tomorrow. He is a shiftless alcoholic who shirks all responsibilities. And it is all his failures that make it easy to lose sight of Rip's success - Rip Van Winkle might just have been literature's first time traveller. Well, if one does not take into account Sleeping Beauty, that is.
Srimoyee Bagchi Jun 22, 2018 00:00 IST

Life on the fringes

INTERROGATING MY CHANDAL LIFE: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A DALIT (Sage/Samya, Rs 550) by Manoranjan Byapari begins its exploration of identities from the title itself. The book follows Byapari's journey from the Partition that forced his family to relocate to Calcutta, through the tumults of the Naxal movement and the Bastar revolution headed by Shankar Guha Neogi - both of which Byapari was part of - to his rise as an established author. Sipra Mukherjee has done a commendable job of translating the original.

Jun 22, 2018 00:00 IST

Wilting away; Lost peace; Each drop counts; True statesman

Wilting away

• Sir - The yellow petals and stems in one version of Vincent van Gogh's Su... | Read»

Lost peace

• Sir - There is no harm in the prime minister, Narendra Modi, being health... | Read»

Each drop counts

• Sir - A recent Niti Aayog report shows that about 70 per cent of the wate... | Read»

True statesman

• Sir - The hullabaloo over the former president, Pranab Mukherjee, attendi... | Read»

Jun 22, 2018 00:00 IST

Grinning malice

Sometimes the news cycle makes you feel like you were living under a rock. I had never heard of Anthony Bourdain till he died. I felt ambushed by the avalanche of praise and lamentation that his suicide set in motion. I thought to myself, for heaven's sake, the man wrote about restaurant food. I read a blurb that claimed reading him was like reading Elizabeth David channelled by Quentin Tarantino which made me feel even more hostile because everyone knows (or should) that David on food (like Pauline Kael on film) stands alone on Everest.
Mukul Kesavan Jun 21, 2018 00:00 IST


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