This is the world today

Paris climate talks: Through the smog, coal-hungry India sees ‘carbon imperialism’ in the West

As Delhi rushes to boost its coal generation to satisfy rocketing energy demands, John Kerry’s decision to single out India as a “challenge” provokes fury



It’s rush hour in the world’s most polluted city, and just visible through the dense blanket of smog is an electronic billboard informing motorists that the air quality has dropped from “very poor” to “severe”.

If this were Beijing an emergency would be declared, with schools closed for the day and production at factories halted. But here in Delhi, judging by…continue reading

‘What is this Constitution Day, Sir?’


Image result for sitaram yechury

On November 26, this Constitution was signed by the President of the Constituent Assembly. It was voted upon and the draft was adopted. In the draft you have said explicitly that on January 26, 1950 India shall be a Republic when this draft will turn into a Constitution and we shall enact. Can this government answer? I want our esteemed lawyer, the Leader of the House, to tell us what law governed India from November 26, 1949 to January 26, 1950? Was it this Constitution? Is it known, Sir? The law that governed India during those two months after you adopted this Constitution was the India Independence Act 1947 moved by British Prime Minister [Clement] Attlee in the House of Commons in London… Now, what is this new thing that you are finding now 65 years later on Constitution Foundation Day?… Yes, that day the Constituent Assembly…continue reading

Russia-Turkey tension: How Putin acts in a crisis

BBC | Stephen Ennis | NOVEMBER 27 2015

He is not usually so quick to react to attacks on Russia and its people.

In the wake of bombings that claimed more than 30 lives in the southern city of Volgograd in December 2013, he waited two days before breaking his silence to vow that the “terrorists will be destroyed”.

Icy stare

There was a similar delayed reaction to the downing of the Russian Metrojet…continue reading

Who is a patriot?


Pratap Bhanu Mehta

Aamir Khan soberly articulated an angst that many citizens feel. It is easy for many of us to identify with that angst. It would be helpful if those who attacked him bothered to read what he actually said. The worries he expressed about growing intolerance and, more specifically, the helplessness that the lack of a proper political response from those in highest positions of authority produces, are spot on. Even the homely conversation gesturing at the question of whether our children will live in an environment where they feel secure, protected by liberal values, has a familiar ring.

But it would be presumptuous to say that Aamir’s angst is my angst. He is a celebrity. In this age, one twisted act of retribution is to teach celebrities a lesson to put them in their place. There are many disturbing aspects to the response to Aamir Khan. One is the idea that because he is a celebrity, he deserves even more odium: To the sin of political transgression we can add the charge of ungratefulness. How can he, we intone, be so ungrateful to the country that made him a star? Once you…continue reading


Telescope: Aamir and Chinese whispers

Shailaja Bajpai / Picture from INDIAN EXPRESS


Events and people make the news, but Twitter and TV make their own news. Last Thursday, Peter Mukerjea was arrested in the Sheena Bora murder case. All day Friday, there were tweets for and against him — more against than for — some dutifully reported by TV, with reactions becoming “Breaking News”.

News channels gratefully sunk their teeth into Mukerjea and chewed him to the bone: They regurgitated the entire murder case, interviews at the time with Mukerjea, what Rahul (his son, not Gandhi) said — by the way, Smriti Irani claims Rahul G copies her style of speaking, NDTV 24×7) — what Mekhail said then and says now, and repeated all available footage of Peter and Indrani. Oh yes, every…continue reading


Thank You, Aamir and Shah Rukh


Why does the BJP think it is necessary to lecture its critics about India being “a tolerant nation?” Is it because they don’t get what’s being said, or is it because in their arrogance, they equate criticism of the Hindutva brigade as criticism of India, and thus any concern about the growing intolerance in India becomes an accusation of being anti-national.

When citizens express concerns about the environment of growing intolerance, it is not to criticize India, but to protect India from the forces who are straining every nerve to transform India into an intolerant authoritarian theocratic State.

There is a wide chasm between what the idea of India is and what some people want India to be. The idea of India is a tolerant nation with pluralist cultures, shared histories, diverse languages, ways of life, multiple cuisines, ways of dress, customs. These are objective realities which provide the material basis for a robust, secular and equality-based polity. Whether that idea will ever get translated in its totality is yet to be seen, but it was this idea that the Prime Minister laid claim to when he addressed the British Parliament and earlier…continue reading

Turkey ‘downs Russian warplane on Syria border’

A feared incident – Jonathan Marcus, BBC defence correspondent

Map of Syria showing approximate location of Russian Su-24 crash site
Map of Syria showing approximate location of Russian Su-24 crash site / Graphic from BBC

This is exactly the kind of incident that many have feared since Russia launched its air operations in Syria. The dangers of operating near to the Turkish border have been all too apparent. Turkish planes have already shot down at least one Syrian air force jet and possibly a helicopter as well.

Russia insists that its warplane did not violate Turkish air space. So, was the Russian pilot’s navigation wrong? Questions will also be asked about the readiness of the Turks to open fire.

It suggests that the much discussed arrangements to…continue reading

Horror in Paris


With at least 127 people dead by Saturday evening and many more wounded, Paris will keep counting its dead for a while. It may take longer yet to come to grips with the scale of the tragedy that took so many lives on Friday night, people out in the City of Lights for a concert, a meal, a football game, a stroll even. The terrorists had chosen their targets with chilling care, picking sites where strangers share an unspoken camaraderie. The aim was to do more than take innocent lives — it was to provoke an us-versus-them retaliation, to make its people and visitors fearful of going about their everyday routines and enjoyment. Paris has the strength of spirit to carry on as the great city it is. Just as India saw Mumbai bounce back, even as it mourned the toll of 26/11. Great cities and ordinary people do that — they dig deep into reserves of shared humanity. So, as…continue reading

Nestlé Reports on Abuses in Thailand’s Seafood Industry


Most of Thailand’s seafood workers are migrants who are brought into Thailand illegally by traffickers. Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times
Most of Thailand’s seafood workers are migrants who are brought into Thailand illegally by traffickers. Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times / PICTURE FROM NEW YORK TIIMES

The seafood industry in Thailand suffers from widespread labor and human rights abuses, exposing virtually all American and European companies that buy seafood from there to the “endemic risk” of having these problems as part of their supply chain, according to a report released on Monday by the food giant Nestlé.

The report cataloged deceptive recruitment practices, hazardous working conditions and violence on fishing boats and in processing factories. It also faulted the industry for taking insufficient steps to ensure that workers were not underage…continue reading

Enough PhD’s, thank you



When Freeman Dyson suggested we have lunch together at the Princeton University cafeteria on my next visit, I almost fell off my chair. To be invited by this legendary physicist, now 90-plus but sharp as ever, meant more than a banquet especially arranged for me by the Queen of England. Countless kings, queens, and generals have come and gone but only a tiny number of visionaries, Dyson included, actually make history.

Overwhelmed, I was about to blurt “thank you, Dr Dyson” but stopped in time. Else this would have violated an unstated protocol. We theoretical physicists address colleagues by their first name. And so I simply thanked…continue reading

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