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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 9, New Delhi, February 13, 2021

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Feb 13, 2021

Friday 12 February 2021

The big news on the China India Ladakh Border is of possible military disengagement by the two armies after months of a heavy standoff with the deployment of tens of thousands of troops and heavy armour. News is still trickling in and any sober assessment of the causes, the backstory and the implications will take time.

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Another man-made disaster struck the Chamoli district in Uttarakhand Hills on February 7, 2021, this time wiping out the trace of two hydroelectric dams being built on the Alaknanda river basin, leaving some 37 people dead and sweeping away 200 people. It brought back memories of the 2013 Kedarnath deluge that had killed hundreds. The latest disaster has certainly been caused by repeated blasting for building the hydropower projects and the Char-Dham all-weather highways (the widening of some 900 km of roads is leading to the felling of 56000 trees on the fragile mountain slopes). The locus of the disaster happens to be the cradle of the Chipko movement of the 1970s that spread environmental awareness to protect the mountain habitat. All calls for putting on hold the unchecked construction on the river bed and in the mountains have gone unheeded and the powers that be continue on their path of destruction of the mountains. The Supreme-Court constituted Chopra Committee had so clearly warned the authorities against deforestation, tunnelling, reservoir formation, in the sensitive higher Himalayan region.

The authorities will probably set up commissions and new committees and their recommendations too will soon be forgotten, some politicians and officials will be bribed and the builder’s lobby will resume their business as usual.

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Reckless bureaucrats of the Home Ministry are set to launch a new pilot programme in two locations i.e. in Kashmir and Tripura where citizen volunteers will be asked police online content. Untrained volunteers are to sit on judgement over fellow citizens and flag and report child sexual abuse, rape, terrorism, and anti-national activities. Doing this in a country where already thousands of online trolls have spelt havoc in our society by denouncing perfectly legitimate works of art, or songs, plays, films and cartoons as being anti-national is totally ridiculous. A comedian has recently been released on bail after spending a month in prison for jokes he did not make but he was still arrested on claims made by the son of a politician. Wrongdoing is already happening on a large scale and people are being wrongfully accused when the supposedly trained police is in charge, so now outsourcing this to citizen volunteers sounds totally irresponsible. George Orwell’s ‘1984’ is here many times over.

Tributes:

Akhtar Ali the great Indian tennis player who was part of the Indian Davis Cup team from 1958 to 1964 and later coached well-known players like Ramesh Krishnan, Vijay Amritraj, Anand Amritraj and Leander Paes, passed away in Calcutta on February 7, 2021. He had also been India’s National Squash champion in 1968.

Chick Corea, the American jazz pianist, passed away on February 9, 2021

We pay our tributes to the above figures

February 13, 2021 - The Editors

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