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Showing posts from February 6, 2017

Return to a dangerous normal (Hiindu)

The hurry to declare the clean-up operation complete raises questions that go beyond just the specifics of the oil spill on the Chennai coast

On January 14, 2017, Ennore fisherfolk and the Save Ennore Creek campaign released a song called “Chennai Poromboke Paadal” spotlighting Ennore as an environmental crime scene (disclosure: this writer was involved in the production of the song). Poromboke is an ancient Tamil revenue term describing areas reserved for communal use such as the seashore, grazing grounds, and the margins of wetlands. Sung by Carnatic vocalist T.M. Krishna, the song decries the degradation of the word and the devaluation of the geographies it denotes. It uses the pollution and encroachment of the Ennore Creek to make the case for reclaiming the word and healing the creek.

Barely a fortnight later, two ships collided off Kamarajar Port Limited’s (KPL) harbour in Ennore. The consequent oil spill, the disaster that is unfolding in the name of containment and remediatio…

Ancient sport, new age protests (Hindu.)

Almost everybody appeared to miss the siren song of ‘unsynchronised awakenings’ of an ‘under class’ in the jallikattu protests. It is these segments that are leading the global revolt against the so-called ‘elite’

The final months of 2016 witnessed high drama in Tamil Nadu, with millions across the State overcome by grief following the prolonged hospitalisation and subsequent demise of Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa. The first few weeks of 2017 have since seen protests over the issue of jallikattu convulse the State. To “outsiders”, viz. those not belonging to Tamil Nadu, it may appear extraordinary that so much frenzy should be on display over an issue that, elsewhere, would be merely equated with the sport of bullfighting. However, those guilty of simplistic assumptions of this kind would be unable to see the wood for the trees.

Steeped in hoary tradition, dating back to the fabled Sangam era, jallikattu holds a special place in the hearts and minds of ordinary Tamil folk. The deci…

Targeting old scourges (Hindu.)

The reference in the Union Budget to new elimination targets for some major communicable diseases barely hints at the enormous burden carried by millions in India with tuberculosis, kala-azar (leishmaniasis), filariasis, leprosy and measles. It would appear incongruous that an emerging economy with no timetable for universal health coverage and a lack of political will to loosen its purse strings for higher government expenditure has set ambitious deadlines to rid itself of deadly scourges. Last year it was revealed that India has a higher burden of new patients with TB than estimated earlier — 2.8 million in 2015 compared to 2.2 million in the previous year, a quarter of the world’s cases. Having set concrete goals, the Centre must now demonstrate its seriousness by moving away from the flawed policies of the past. The promise of a well-funded five-year scheme to meet the TB challenge beginning in 2017 is welcome, although steady progress towards the new elimination deadline of 2025…

Road to the Élysée Palace (Hindu.)

The presidential race in France may be gaining momentum, but clarity it is not. Centre-right Les Républicains candidate François Fillon, until recently seen to be the most likely to win the race, is engulfed by allegations of payments made to his wife, Penelope Fillon, and their children for official work they may not have done. What looked like a passing storm now looks like a weather pattern that could linger. In a rival camp to the left, Benoit Hamon’s recent victory in the French Socialist Party’s presidential primaries indicates voters are disenchanted with the ideological drift and absence of acuity in the ruling party’s policies. His comfortable victory over the centre-left rival, former Prime Minister Manuel Valls, represents a shift leftward for the Socialists, back to their ideological roots, stemming a drift towards the centre seen not just in their party but also in the Republicans. With the business-friendly Mr. Valls out of the race, Mr. Hamon faces the prospect of losi…