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Showing posts from January 15, 2017

Haksar and the Padma Vibhushan(the hindu)

The humility with which P.N. Haksar, Indira Gandhi’s go-to man, declined the award is in stark contrast to the intense lobbying the Padmas generate nowadays

It is that time of the year again, the time when lobbying for the Padma awards is at its peak. I can testify from personal experience how sickening this can get. Perfectly normal, nice, talented and capable people from different walks of life would petition me to put in a word for a Padma Shri or a Padma Bhushan. Some with an exaggerated notion of my influence would even ask me to put in a word for a Padma Vibhushan. I would listen to all these eager aspirants and tell them about the system that is in place for deciding on these awards. But no, system or no system, I should, it was insisted, use my contacts to recommend their case.

Making history, quietly

It is in this context that the example of P.N. Haksar is worth recalling. Here was a man who was instrumental for the nationalisation of banks in July 1969 and for the abolition…

The undisclosed air pollutants (downtoearth,)

Policy can be perverse. This much we know. What we should be amazed about is how policy can be counterproductive, retrograde and deadly, but still remain undisclosed and undiscussed. But what am I ranting about, you would ask? Allow me to take you through my journey over the last few months, all to unravel a key cause of air pollution.

Some months ago, sitting in a meeting of solar energy entrepreneurs, I heard them say that concentrated solar power (CSP) plants were not viable. But why? After all, solar prices have crashed and government is keen to subsidise and incentivise this growth of clean energy. Yes, solar prices have crashed, but so have prices of oil, and today, cheap furnace oil (FO) use is growing. FO is a bottom of the barrel product—it is the last grade of oil that refineries produce; it is high in sulphur and so is highly polluting. This issue rankled me as Delhi slipped into its worst pollution episode. We choked, suffocated and could not breathe. Could FO be one of t…

Day 3 of Indian Science Congress: technologies to curb Ganga river pollution revealed (downtoearth,)

Researchers at the Indian Science Congress discussed technologies that could help the country achieve its goal of cleaning River Ganga and the Swachh Bharat mission. Technologies, which are generally used to reduce pollutants, sewage and industrial waste that enters river, are crucial for this. To this effect, the Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) in Chennai has developed some technologies that are ready for commercialisation. Dry tanning, which eliminates the use of polluting chromium and water, is one of the techniques.

Enzymes are used for dehairing and opening up of the leather fibres for further treatment. Calling it a game-changing technology, B Chandrasekaran, director of the institute, informed that it has been given to 50 tanneries in Kanpur. According to him, the industry is not only controlling pollutants, but it is also saving 20 per cent of the operational cost as they now do not have to import chromium.

To adopt the technology, the industry would need to moderni…

Tracking decades-long endosulfan tragedy in Kerala(downtoearth)

The Supreme Court, on January 10, directed the Kerala government to pay Rs 500 crores in three months as compensation to over 5,000 victims of the use of endosulfan pesticide.

The SC bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar also asked the state to consider setting up a medical facility to provide treatment to victims. The bench added that Kerala can also approach the Centre, state corporations and other entities for the compensation amount.

Kerala has earmarked over Rs 180 crores as compensation to victims, reported The Hindu. The state has paid cash compensations ranging from Rs 5-2 lakhs.

Endosulfan pesticide was used widely on crops like cashew, cotton, tea, paddy, fruits and others until 2011, when the Supreme Court banned its production and distribution. The health effects of the chemical include neurotoxicity, late sexual maturity, physical deformities, poisoning, among others. People, especially newborns, have suffered deformaties, health complications and loss of family membe…

Obama’s act of departure (the hindu )

Barack Obama’s farewell speech was an ode to democracy, a playing out of a ritual faith in the Constitution and in the people of the U.S. When a leader and the people renew their faith, democracy comes alive

U.S. President Barack Obama’s farewell address in Chicago this week was an epic event, a drama in political dialogue which people sensed as a terrific performance.

Mr. Obama’s farewell address was more than an act of departure. It was an act of renewal. Being a talented speaker, he could combine many messages and performances to create a memorable moment. Through his speech he created a magical space, an epiphany on the power of the people and people in power. In this way, an act of departure became an act of healing, of community, of solidarity, a ritual which recharged the U.S.’s faith in democracy. It was an eloquent moment enacted with a full sense of almost operatic power.

From President to citizen

In his body language, there was an ease about being in power and there was al…