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Showing posts from January 4, 2017

Two takes on democracy ()the hindu

This week, a divided Supreme Court placed before us two visions of the public sphere, pitting the ideal of the universal citizen against citizen-electors situated within their social contexts

Do fair elections require that certain kinds of statements — such as appeals to religion, caste, and language — be taken off the campaigning table altogether? Can the state prevent adult citizens from being exposed to certain ideas before they vote? Can a court decide that only certain kinds of interests count in a democracy? Does secularism mandate the complete exclusion of religion from the public sphere? And must identities based upon religion, caste, and language always be treated as evils to be fought and eradicated? Or can they sometimes become sites of emancipation, markers around which citizens organise themselves and seek liberation through the attainment of political power?

A landmark judgment


These questions, fundamental to understanding the foundations of our republic, were answered …

Thinking in stories ()the hindu

The so-called post-truth society is not primarily the result of our inability to focus on facts; it is due to our failure to read stories deeply

Say the word ‘thinking’, and the image evoked is that of abstract ideas, facts, numbers and data. But what if I say that this is our first and most common error about the nature of thinking? As religions have always known, human thinking is conducted primarily in stories, not facts or numbers.

Human beings might be the only living animals that can think in stories. Facts and information of some sort exist for a deer and a wolf too, but fiction, and thinking in fiction?

Now, stories are celebrated for many things: as repositories of folk knowledge or accumulated wisdom, as relief from the human condition, as entertainment, as enabling some cognitivist processes, even as the best way to get yourself and your children to fall asleep! But all this misses the main point about stories: they are the most common, most pervasive, and probably the old…

The Court reigns Supreme (thehindu.)

On January 2, in an order that surprised no one except perhaps the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the Supreme Court set the record and the status of Indian cricket’s governing body straight. Widely expected yet unprecedented, the court took the BCCI and its top leadership to task, removing the president, Anurag Thakur, and the secretary, Ajay Shirke, from their respective positions. Accepting the Justice Lodha Committee’s concerns set out in the earlier status reports, the court reaffirmed its July 18, 2016 verdict, signalling the end of cricket administration as we have known it.

Price of non-compliance

Effective immediately, any BCCI and State associations’ official must be eligible as per the Lodha Committee’s eligibility criteria. The senior-most eligible vice-president will be the interim president of the BCCI, and the joint secretary will be the interim secretary for the next two weeks. The court also appointed two senior advocates to propose names for a committe…

The Chipko movement as it stands today

The idea behind the Chipko movement originated in early 1970s from Mandal, a village in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. Forty-three years later, Down To Earth travelled to Chamoli and Tehri Garhwal and spoke to the participants of this movement about its relevance today

What's ailing Namami Gange programme?(DTE)

Winters are extremely hectic for Sushma Patel, a vegetable grower in Uttar Pradesh’s Chunar town. Her farm is in the fertile plains of Ganga where people grow three crops a year. But this is the only season when she can grow vegetables. And before that, she needs to manually dig out shreds of plastic and wrappers from her one-hectare (ha) farm. “This is all because of the nullah,” she says, pointing at an open drain that runs through her field, carrying sewage from the neighbourhood to the Ganga. “Every monsoon, the drain overflows and inundates the field with a thick, black sludge and plastic debris. We cannot even go near the field as the stench of sewage fills the air,” she says. But Patel has no one to complain to as this is the way of life for most people in this ancient town.

About 70 per cent of the people in Chunar depend on toilets that have on-site sanitation, such as septic tanks and pits. In the absence of a proper disposal or management system, people simply dump the faeca…

A nudge to borrowers (Hindu )

The State Bank of India’s decision to cut its marginal cost of funds based lending rate (MCLR) by 90 basis points is a timely nudge to borrowers, especially given the sharp slowdown in credit growth in the current fiscal year. The timing of the cut is not surprising, given that the country’s largest commercial lender is awash with funds held in current and savings account (CASA) deposits following the Centre’s decision to withdraw high-value banknotes and impose withdrawal curbs on account-holders. With demand across sectors having taken a knock in the wake of the resultant cash crunch, the SBI’s decision to reduce borrowing costs is likely to spur some credit-fuelled buying including in sectors such as automobiles. Latest data from the Reserve Bank of India show that growth in bank credit decelerated to 1.2 per cent in the April 1-December 9, 2016 period, compared with the 6.2 per cent pace witnessed in the comparable period in 2015. Deposit growth, on the other hand, almost doubled …

Secularising the election(Hindu)

The Supreme Court has grappled with the question whether a provision in electoral law that makes it a corrupt practice to use religion, race, caste or language as a ground for canvassing votes in an election is a bar limited to the groups to which candidates or their rivals belong, or whether it is a general prohibition on sectarian appeals. Section 123(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, as amended in 1961, gave rise to this doubt. By a four-three majority, a seven-member Bench has ruled that it is a general prohibition on the use of religion or any other communal or sectarian value in the electoral arena. The minority favoured limiting the ambit of the sub-section to cover only candidates who sought votes on such grounds, or the rivals they wanted the voters not to back on similar grounds. That secularism is the bedrock of our democracy is undisputed. That the electoral process ought not to permit appeals to the electorate on these narrow grounds is equally beyond dou…