Darwin’s Theory of Evolution Removed from Textbook; BJP Draws a Blank After Nine Year Probe Into Robert Vadra Land Deals
Pak fears ‘all-out war’ with India, slick bunkers for Srinagar, India’s ‘distressing retreat from democracy’, blackout of environment policy info, must India celebrate overtaking China in population?
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Snapshot of the day
April 21, 2023
It’s not only the Mughals and Islamic influence in India that Hindutva hates. It seems to abhor Darwin, too. A chapter titled “Heredity and Evolution” in a Class X textbook has been replaced with “Heredity”. The chapter included topics on Charles Darwin, Origin of Life on Earth, Molecular Phylogeny, Evolution, Evolution and Classification, Tracing Evolutionary Relationships, Evolution by Stages and Human Evolution, all of which have been dropped in the “rationalisation” process. The new textbook hasn’t gone as far as Modi’s former education minister – who in 2018 questioned how humans could have descended from monkeys. But we may still get there.
The latest deletion has alarmed the scientific community, which feels “students will remain seriously handicapped in their thought processes if deprived of exposure to this fundamental discovery of science”. A statement signed by 1,800 scientists and teachers, and released on Thursday, says: “Evolutionary biology is an area of science with a huge impact on how we choose to deal with an array of problems we face as societies and nations. … It also addresses our understanding of humans and their place in the tapestry of life.”
Robert Vadra’s questionable land dealings with real estate firm DLF sullied the reputation of the Congress and of the Manmohan Singh government in the run up to the 2014 general election. The BJP promptly filed a criminal case after it came to power at the Centre and in Haryana that year. But nine years on, the authorities have submitted a tame affidavit to the trial court noting that their investigation had found no irregularities or loss to the exchequer. But the BJP is not done yet. A new investigation has been launched by the Haryana Police.
Khaps and farmers groupp in Haryana are mobilising themselves to support Satya Pal Malik, the former governor of Jammu and Kashmir, who has roiled national politics with his recent allegations against Narendra Modi on Pulwama and other issue. The groups are planning an event in Delhi to thank him for what he said.
Five years after the Supreme Court held the use of Aadhaar details by private entities “unconstitutional”, the Modi government has proposed allowing private entities and state governments to carry out Aadhaar authentication for a number of services, expanding the ambit of the use of the digital identity beyond its ministries and departments. The Indian Express quoted a senior government official as saying that the push is to make Aadhaar “one of the world’s biggest online identity authentication platforms”. The official claimed that the proposal does not violate the landmark judgement. So has the hard legal battle fought by civil society and activists been futile?
Even as Pakistan’s foreign minister, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, is to travel to India to attend a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation foreign ministers’ meeting in Goa on May 4–5, his government has told the Pakistani Supreme Court that the threat of an “all-out war” with India is among the hurdles preventing it from holding provincial elections in Punjab now. A report, submitted to the court by the Pakistani defence ministry, noted that elections in the politically crucial Punjab province would fuel fault lines in the country and might encourage India to take advantage of ethnic issues, water disputes, and other issues, PTI reported, quoting the Dawn. On his ppart, Bilawal has emphasised the ‘multilateral’ nature of his visit, noting there was no bilateral component on the agenda.
Before the working group meeting of tourist representatives from G-20 countries from May 22–24, Srinagar will have slick bunkers and smart police in place. The Srinagar Smart City Ltd. (SSCL) has been given the assignment to "facelift and renovate" the current bunkers on the major roadways in Srinagar's southern and eastern areas. According to an official, the makeover would cost 44.44 lakh rupees, and the SSCL will cover all expenses. Officials say that the bunkers will be realigned, painted and subtly placed so as not to become an eyesore during the meeting. Many security barriers will be removed from the roadside, they added.
To resolve a 51-year-old interstate boundary dispute, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Thursday in New Delhi. The MoU was signed by Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his Arunachal Pradesh counterpart Pema Khandu in the presence of Union home minister Amit Shah and Union law minister Kiren Rijiju, who represents Arunachal Pradesh in Lok Sabha. “There was a dispute related to 123 border villages which were spread across almost the entire length of the 800km boundary. The agreement will lead to permanent peace... Arunachal Pradesh government had some land in Assam’s Jorhat town. At our request, they have agreed to give it to us,” Sarma said.
A scathing editorial from the Washington Post reads:
“Not long ago, a 12th-grade political science textbook in India informed students about the 2002 Gujarat riots. Triggered by the death of Hindu pilgrims in a train fire, a violent rampage killed nearly a thousand Muslims. The chief minister of the province was Narendra Modi. The school textbook noted that the government was criticized for failing to control the violence, and told students that the events “alert us to the dangers involved in using religious sentiments for political purposes. This poses a threat to democratic politics. But future classes will not read this passage. Mr. Modi, now prime minister of India, is attempting to impose a Hindu-led majoritarianism upon the country, including on its school curriculums and textbooks. Two pages about the Gujarat events were slashed, and other events in the long history of India’s 200 million Muslims deleted. India’s schoolchildren and its democracy are the worse for it.”
However, the BJP does not need to rewrite history as it can easily rely on the Indian judiciary to be of help. Yesterday, after 21 years, all the 68 accused in the gruesome massacre of 11 people at Naroda Gam in Gujarat during the 2002 riots were acquitted in the case.
To connect 1.4 billion people, India has invented a novel way for online infrastructure. However, there are issues with data protection and privacy. The Big Read from the Financial Times looks into governments and companies that are collecting unprecedented quantities of data without a data protection law – creating ample opportunities for surveillance and abuse in a nation where the state has been accused of snooping on citizens.
The TeLEOS-2 satellite from Singapore will serve as the primary satellite for the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C55 (PSLV-C55) mission, which is scheduled to launch on April 22. Lumelite-4 will serve as the secondary satellite. ISRO will conduct in-orbit scientific experiments using the spent PS4 (fourth and final stage of PSLV) as an orbital platform. The PSLV Orbital Experimental Module (POEM) is part of the PSLV-C55 mission, and it uses the discarded PS4 of the launch vehicle as an orbital platform for non-separating payloads to conduct scientific experiments. The PS4 will be employed as a platform for experiments for the third time following satellite separation.
On Thursday, April 20, 2023, the Supreme Court issued an order directing States and Union Territories to provide ration cards to the approximately eight crore migrant labourers enrolled on the eShram portal but not covered by the National Food Security Act. There are 28.6 crore registrations on the platform. 20.63 crore of them are associated with ration card data.
PM Modi chaired a meeting on Friday to take stock of the problem of stranded Indians in Sudan. Official reports say he gave ‘three instructions’: “remain vigilant, closely monitor the developments and continuously evaluate the safety of the Indian nationals in Sudan while extending all possible assistance to them” including working out a ‘contingency evacuation plan’. If the external affairs ministry needs Modi to provide such basic inputs, one wonders what the minister and his top officials are doing.
A Karnataka BJP leader has responded to the Congress leader Siddaramaiah’s expressions of concern about stranded Indians in Sudan by tweeting, “Sir, we don’t need lessons on rescuing stranded Indians from the Congress. Modi Govt has rescued lakhs of stranded Indians during Vande Bharat Mission, students during Ukraine war, nurses from Yemen and more. All Kannadigas will return safe!” An Indian reporter who was a witness to those efforts begs to differ:
“Indian students stuck in Ukraine reached out to authorities in Romania- Poland to help them cross the border. I know this because I put them in touch with the said authorities. How was it a rescue if they had to cross the border on their own? And pay for the overpriced tickets?”
Seen as frail and frustrated through a TV screen in court, the trial for Kashmiri journalist Fahad Shah draws attention to India’s far-reaching anti-terror law. “The message it sent to journalists was to self-censor,” said one local journalist to the Christian Science Monitor. “Fahad’s case, unfortunately, ensured that the message was well received. No one reports critical stories anymore.”
Five soldiers killed in Kashmir
Five army soldiers were killed on Thursday in Poonch district of J&K when their vehicle was fired upon by “unidentified terrorists” who “took advantage of heavy rain and low visibility in the area”, officials told PTI. The five deceased personnel belonged to the Rashtriya Rifles unit deployed for counterterrorism operations in the area..
The Northern Command headquarters said in a statement that the “vehicle caught fire, due to likely use of grenades by terrorists,” leading to casualties. The attack comes amid discussions between the military leadership and the government on a proposal to withdraw the Rashtriya Rifles from the valley and let the CRPF fill in the gap. Exactly a week ago, Union home minister Amit Shah had reviewed the security situation in J&K.
Official TV monitoring unit becomes a BJP tool
A TV content monitoring team, called the Electronic Media Monitoring Centre, was set up in 2008 by the UPA government to monitor TV channels across genres to make sure they comply with standards. Under BJP rule, the EMMC has become a tool to meet political ends and make sure the prime minister and the BJP government look good, the Morning Context reports.
It says: “Under the current government, the agency seems to have become a tool for excessive surveillance of TV channels, especially news channels, to track reportage and opinion that are critical of the ruling party.” The report points out that it was the EMMC that had flagged the Malayalam news channel MediaOne during the 2020 communal violence in Delhi. The channel was taken off the air and in February 2022, the home ministry cancelled its broadcast licence. The Supreme Court quashed the cancellation this month.
Stuck in Sudan, Hakki Pikki adivasis were selling herbal oils
More than 180 members of the Hakki Pikki community from Karnataka are stuck in violence-hit Sudan even as the government is making efforts to bring them back. Hakki Pikki is a semi-nomadic tribe that lives in several states in west and south India, especially near forest areas. In Kannada, “hakki” means bird and “pikki” means catchers. Hakki Pikkis have traditionally been bird catchers and hunters. A large number of the tribe’s members have adopted a new profession. They travel to Africa and other far-off places selling herbal oils and other ayurvedic products.
According to the 2011 census, the Hakki Pikki population in Karnataka is 11,892, and they live mainly in Davangere, Mysuru, Kolar, Hassan and Shivmogga districts. MR Gangadhar, vice chancellor of Chamarajanagar University and an anthropologist who has conducted a study on the tribe, told the Indian Express: “The Hakki Pikki move in groups from place to place in search of livelihood. They are divided into four clans, called Gujaratia, Panwar, Kaliwala and Mewaras. These clans can be equated with castes in the traditional Hindu society. … The forest is the main natural resource of the Hakki Pikki.”
Govt blacks out one more source of information
Last September, the environment ministry decided, without any public announcement, that its Parivesh website will no longer provide details on the environmental impact of projects. The site stopped showing information on environment, forest, wildlife and coastal regulation zone clearances. In order to protect the interest of project developers and confidentiality of the information, such sensitive information will be provided only when sought under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, the Hindustan Times says it was told when it asked the ministry why the website had not been updated for months.
This decision comes at a time when the ministry is under fire for a number of controversial projects, like the ₹72,000 crore Holistic Development of Great Nicobar Island at Andaman & Nicobar Islands project, which will involve loss of 130.75 sq km of rain forests and de-notification of certain tribal reserves, and several mining projects that will involve diversion of primary forests in central India.
The Long Cable
Does India overtaking China in population call for a party?
There were mixed feelings when news came that India had gone past China’s population of 1,425 million. Of late, there has been creeping self-doubt, even in official policy circles, whether the much-vaunted “demographic dividend” would play out the way one had imagined.
In an ideal scenario, a growing young and educated working population should be a big advantage for any economy. A growing middle class consuming market also becomes attractive for the rest of the world in terms of trade and investment interaction. After all, two-thirds of India's population is under 35 years of age. And this advantage for India should continue for at least a decade after China’s population starts shrinking.
But this advantage can be leveraged only if certain conditions are fulfilled. One unfulfilled condition, which policymakers unanimously lament, is the grossly inadequate education and healthcare infrastructure to help create a workforce which reaps the so-called demographic dividend. There is enough literature analysing threadbare why India has not been able to fix its education and healthcare infrastructure, especially in the populous Hindi heartland states, which are decades behind even their south Indian counterparts – not to talk of any other country – in providing quality healthcare and education.
Remember, much of the so-called “demographic dividend” is supposed to accrue from these populous Hindi-speaking north and central Indian states. The southern states have begun mirroring the developed world in demographics, according to World Bank studies.
So the notion of demographic dividend is rather complex in the Indian situation and presents huge challenges. In this context, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin echoed what many Indian policymakers have been saying for some time – an educated workforce is the key. Speaking about China, Wang said: “When assessing a country’s demographic dividend, we need to look at not just its size but also its quality. Size matters, but what matters more is talent resources. Nearly 900 million of the 1.4 billion Chinese are of working age and on average have received 10.9 years of education.”
China has managed to create a much larger – more than three times – educated and healthy workforce than India. This clearly reflects in the sheer size of the consuming middle class in China compared with India.
The US-based Pew Survey puts the Chinese middle and upper middle income population living on $10 to $50 a day at nearly 800 million in 2021. China achieved this in 40 years after the Deng Xiaoping reforms began.
In sharp contrast, Pew puts India’s middle and upper middle income population at merely 121 million. So, China's middle and upper middle consuming class is over seven times that of India's. This ratio is directly reflected in the number of passenger cars sold in China and India in 2022. India sold 3.7 million passenger cars and China 26 million in the same year – over seven times. China’s GDP at nearly $18 trillion is six times that of India’s.
China’s economically empowered middle class is way bigger than India’s. India, too, has experienced rapid growth over 30 years of economic reforms, launched in 1991, but remains at the bottom 25% of economies in terms of per capita income.
In fact, the biggest bulge shown by the Pew Survey is in India’s low-income population living on $2 to $10 a day. About 1.19 billion people live on $2 to $10 in India. This is the relatively low-income trap, mainly a result of 55% of the population remaining engaged in agriculture-related activities.
The last nine years have actually seen a backsliding as large numbers of people have moved back from urban employment to agriculture-related work, especially after the pandemic. This shows up in the permanently higher demand for the guaranteed rural employment programme. Moreover, reputed development economist Jean Dreze recently wrote in the Indian Express showing evidence gleaned from official labour surveys that rural wages have stagnated for many years. It is in this context that India crossing China’s population causes a sense of unease.
What’s up with Punjab Police’s grand tamasha over radical Sikh poster boy with dubious antecedents, Amritpal Singh? After a storm and a surfeit of CCTV pictures, there is a lull. There is now a daily titter thanks to some “activity” or the other. There was his “aide’s” arrest and now, the wife’s. Kirandeep Kaur was stopped at the airport in Amritsar by immigration officials while she was trying to board a flight to London, sources said on Thursday. She was questioned by the immigration authorities, the sources added. Amritpal Singh married Kaur, a UK-based NRI, only in February this year. Punjab Police officials refused to answer questions posed by mediapersons at the airport.
But where in Amrit Kaal is Amritpal?
Prime Number: 1
Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde on Thursday appointed a one-member committee to probe the death of 14 people at the Maharashtra Bhushan award event held in Kharghar in Navi Mumbai on April 16, where Amit Shah, the chief guest, praised people for staking it out in the harsh sun. The deaths were caused by sunstroke and other health complications as several lakh people had been brought to the sprawling International Corporate Park to watch social activist and reformer Appasaheb Dharmadhikari being given the prestigious award. Additional chief secretary (revenue) Nitin Keer is the sole member of the committee.
What Is the WTO Ruling on Tariffs on Indian Tech Products? The dispute started in 2019 when the EU dragged India to the WTO alleging that India had imposed import duties up to 20% on a range of IT products. The WTO has ruled that India has violated global trading norms.
Opeds you don’t want to miss
LIGO-India – a mega-science project integrating lasers, optics, quantum metrology and control-system technologies – will put India on the map for cutting-edge research, writes Tarun Souradeep.
Innovation lies at the core of ending tuberculosis – India can lead the way, and here is how, writes Soumya Swaminathan.
Why this covid wave is just part of the tide, writes K Srinath Reddy.
Atiq Ahmed vs Satya Pal Malik – the media frenzy for one and indifference for the other is yet again a reminder of “how deeply the independence of mainstream media in India has been dented”, writes Kalpana Sharma.
Deccan Herald editorial scolds the Gujarat government for its unwillingness to provide information and attempts to erase the rule of law and judiciary.
New Delhi’s escalating interventionism rankles Kathmandu and flies against India’s self-interest, writes Kanak Mani Dixit.
Nirupama Subramanian traces the path of China’s diplomacy in Central Asia to tell us where India stands.
What we receive these days through WhatsApp are white lies about our history. However, these false whispering campaigns had ears in RSS shakhas for many decades, remark Harshavardhan Purandare and Sandeep Pandey.
National Curriculum Framework 2023 is an attempt at micromanaging school education at every stage, writes Anita Rampal.
Is Mandal politics electorally salient again? asks Sobhana K Nair
Former first-class cricketer and chairman of Mumbai selectors Milind Rege recounts his days when players were paid ₹5 for a Ranji Trophy match.
The Song of Scorpions, which marks the late actor Irrfan Khan's final performance, will be released in theatres on April 28. Its trailer dropped this week
Over and out
The illustrious screenwriter and filmmaker Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, better known as KA Abbas, continued to write columns until he died in 1987. However, his humanity was visible way before “Shree 420” and “Awaara” in a travelogue from China.
Jatin Das, the well-known painter, muralist and sculptor, is credited with creating a mural – Mohenjo-Daro to Mahatma Gandhi – at Parliament House. In an interview, he talks about his journey, evolution of Indian art and his reservations about exhibiting his works at galleries and shows.
Indian climber Anurag Maloo went missing while descending from Nepal’s Mount Annapurna on April 17. Read a moving story from a Pakistani writer, Sehyr Mirza, on their cross-border friendship. Maloo has since been found alive.
The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics believes it's not normal to be cooperative, and talkative people are non-serious.
That’s it for today. We’ll be back with you on Monday, on a device near you. If The India Cable was forwarded to you by a friend (perhaps a common friend!) book your own copy by SUBSCRIBING HERE.