Women of Revolutionary Movement in British India: Kalpana Dutta

Women of Revolutionary Movement in British India: Kalpana Dutta

Kalpana Dutta was born in 1913.

She joined the Bethune College in 1929 and around the same time she also joined Chatri Sangha.

In September of 1932, she joined the group of almost 65 people which also included Pritilata Waddedar. The group torched the European Club. But Kalpana was arrested one week prior to the attack on the European Club.

While she was imprisoned she came to know about Pritilata Waddedar’s death.

Soon she was released from jail. But in the May of 1933 she was arrested again in the Chittagoan Army Raid and sentenced to life. However she was released in 1939.

In 1940, she joined the Communist Party of India and kept engaging in revolutions against the British Raj.

She married a fellow communist leader Joshi in 1943.

Post Independence

Kalpana migrated to India and retired from active politics.

She passed away in 1995.

Women of Revolutionary Movement in British India: Aruna Asaf Ali

Women of Revolutionary Movement in British India: Aruna Asaf Ali

Aruna Asaf Ali(1909-1996) was an Indian educator, political activist and publisher who actively participated in Indian Independence Movement.

She was a member of Congress Socialist Party, factions within the Congress Party for activists that had socialist-leaning.

She was jailed for actively engaging in the Salt Satyagraha and remained in jail till 1931. She was imprisoned several times over the course of her lifetime.

Aruna Asaf Ali, popularly known as the ‘Grand Old Lady’ of the Independence Movement, is known for hoisting the Indian flag at Gowalia Tank Maidan in Mumbai during the Quit India Movement.

Post Independence

She served as Delhi’s first Mayor.

Later she left the Congress Socialist Party to join the Communist Party of India(CPI).

Women of Revolutionary Movement in British India: Bina Das

Women of Revolutionary Movement in British India: Bina Das

Bina Das(1911-1986) was an Indian revolutionary and nationalist from West Bengal.

She was a member of the Chatri Sangha revolutionary society, a semi-revolutionary organization for the women in Kolkata.

After 1928 session of the Congress, Bina joined a circle of revolutionaries whose leader was Bhupal Bose.

In 1932, she marked herself into history by attempting to shoot the Governor of Bengal, Stanley Jackson, in the Convocation Hall of the University of Calcutta, where she was to receive her degree. She was caught and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment.

After her early release in 1939, Das joined the Congress party.

In 1942, she participated in the Quit India movement and was imprisoned again till 1945.

Later she became the secretary of the South Kolkata Congress Committee.

Post Independence

She won the Padma Shri award in 1960 for her Social work.

Bina wrote two autobiographical accounts in Bengali: Shrinkhal Jhankar and Pitridhan.

Women of Revolutionary Movement in British India: Usha Mehta

Women of Revolutionary Movement in British India: Usha Mehta

Usha Mehta(1920-2000) was a Gandhian and freedom fighter of India.

At the age of 8 years she became an active member of the Indian freedom struggle with her first protest being against the Simon Commission in 1928.

She became even more actively involved when her family shifted to Mumbai in 1932 by distributing clandestine bulletins, publications and carrying messages to jailed leaders.

She was known for broadcasting the Congress Radio (an underground radio station), which functioned for a few months during the Quit India Movement of 1942.

  • The radio broadcasts recorded messages from Gandhi and other prominent leaders of the freedom movement. The messages were played across India by the Congress Radio.
  • The Congress Radio played an important role in the freedom struggle by spreading uncensored news and other information banned by the colonial authorities.

The British eventually found it and all the organizers including Usha were arrested. Usha was held in solitary confinement and offered incentives to betray the movement but she chose to remain silent. For this she was sentenced to four years imprisonment at Yerwada Jail in Pune. She was released in 1946.

Post Independence

Upon India’s independence, Usha Mehta actively spread Gandhian thought and philosophy.

She was conferred the Padma Vibhushan in 1998, second-highest civilian award of India.

Women of Revolutionary Movement in British India: Rani Gaidinliu

Women of Revolutionary Movement in British India: Rani Gaidinliu

Rani Gaidinliu(1915-1993) was a Naga tribal and political leader who organized a rebellion to overthrow British from Manipur.

At the age of 13 she joined her cousin, Haipou Jadonang, who had led the Heraka Movement. This movement was for the revival of the Naga Tribal religion. She led this movement when she was 17, which resulted in her arrest. She was then sent for a fourteen year long imprisonment.

Her forces had started to engage in armed rebellion against the British in Cachar Hills(February 1932) and the Hangrum village(March 1932).

Known for the armed resistance against the British Raj, she was given the title “Rani of Nagas”.

Women of Revolutionary Movement in British India: Pritilata Waddedar

Women of Revolutionary Movement in British India: Pritilata Waddedar

Pritilata Waddedar(1911-1932) was a Bengali revolutionary nationalist who was influential in the Indian independence movement.

After completing her education in Chittagong and Dhaka, she attended Bethune College in Kolkata. She graduated in philosophy with a distinction and became a school teacher.

During the Chittagong Armory Raid of 1930, 20 year-old Waddedar, along with Surya Sen, Ganesh Ghosh, Lokenath Bal, Ambika Chakrabarty, among others in a group of at least 65 people, devised plans to raid the armory of the British forces.

She is known for leading fifteen revolutionaries in 1932 armed attack on the Pahartali European Club, during which one was killed and eleven others injured. The revolutionaries torched the club and were later caught by the police. In those circumstances, she consumed potassium cyanide to evade arrest and ended her life. Waddedar was only 21.

Women of Revolutionary Movement in British India: Nanibala Devi

Women of Revolutionary Movement in British India: Nanibala Devi

Nanibala Devi(1898-1977) a women from Bengal was an active worker of Jugantar group, an extremist organization from Bengal led by Amarendranath Chattopadhyay.

She was arrested for transporting weapons and ammunition.

She was the first and only woman to be tortured by the police under Regulation III of 1818.

Women of Revolutionary Movement in British India: Labanya Prabha Ghosh

Women of Revolutionary Movement in British India: Labanya Prabha Ghosh

Not much is known about Ghosh’s early life, but available records do state that she was born in 1987 in Purulia district, West Bengal to Nibaran Chandra Dasgupta, a freedom fighter.

District government records show that she was elected as the representative of the District Congress Committee from Manbhum district in 1926. Purulia was then a part of the Manbhum district.

When Gandhi launched the salt satyagraha in March 1930, Ghosh helped organize similar marches locally, including a flag satyagraha in 1945 in Konapara in Purulia.

She was an active member of “Shilpashram”, an important center of freedom struggle movement of Manbhum region.

Between 1941 and 1947, Ghosh was arrested several times for her revolutionary work, including for organizing protests during the Quit India movement of 1942.

Post independence

Ghosh’s revolutionary work did not stop with India’s independence. She was also prominent in the Bhasha Andolan that emerged following partition and the creation of separate states.

Between 1949 and 1956, Ghosh participated in several protests, including the Tusu Satyagraha, and led marches from Puluria to Calcutta, for which she was arrested.

The protests became impossible for the government authorities to ignore and in November 1956, Puluria was broken away from Bihar and acceded to West Bengal.

Women of Revolutionary Movement in British India: Bhikaji Cama

Women of Revolutionary Movement in British India: Bhikaji Cama

Bhikaji Cama(1861-1936) was a strong-minded lady who played an important role in India’s early years of freedom struggle.

Born on September 24, 1861 in Mumbai(then Bombay) she always had a flair for diligence and languages.

She unfurled the first Indian tricolor on foreign land i.e., Germany. This flag was a modification of the ‘Calcutta flag’ designed by Madame Cama and Shyamji Krishna Varma. This flag became one of the models out of which the present Indian National Flag was designed.

While staying in London she became acquainted with Dadabhai Naoroji and joined the Indian National Congress.

Fearing deportation, she moved from London to Paris and helped revolutionary activities from there.

She helped publish the newspaper, Bande Mataram, copies of which were smuggled back to India.

She was finally allowed to return to India in 1935. And she died one year post returning her homeland.

Manipur – Home to number of Indian Olympians

Manipur – Home to number of Indian Olympians

A relatively small northeastern state with a population little above twenty five lakhs, Manipur has produced many renowned athletes as well Olympians. The most recent example is Mirabai Chanu, silver medalist in weightlifting at Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

There are several reasons due to which Manipur produces many Olympians. The state has a very strong sporting culture. Amarjit Singh Kiyam, captain of Indian team at FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017 said “Everyone loves sports in Manipur, be it football, hockey, boxing or wrestling”. National footballer Gurmangi Singh said “There are no malls and multiplexes, so sports remains the primary source of entertainment.” and this is the reason why around 20 thousand people came up for a friendly match at Imphal which itself resides a population of 2.5 lakhs.

The sporting culture of Manipur is supported by the community clubs. These community clubs get huge amount of support from the people. And these community clubs are run by volunteers. Dr. R.K. Nimai Singh, former Commissioner of sports and youth affairs for Manipur, says the spirit of volunteering in the people of Manipur is a result of a pre-colonial tradition known as ‘lallup’. As per this tradition of the monarchy of Manipur, every man aged between 17 to 60 had to voluntarily work for the state for a few days each year. Although this tradition was exploited during the colonial period, still the spirit of volunteering remained a part of Manipuri heritage even after independence. Journalist Dipanjan Sinha wrote “Local clubs are started, run and funded by local communities”. Sportspersons and former players also extend their support to such clubs from funding to donating equipment or subsidizing the meals.

Another factor is the body type of people from Manipur which gives them advantage in various sports including boxing, weightlifting and football. Dangmei Grace, Indian Women’s National Football team says “Our body structure is quite different from other players. Our ability and speed are very good”. The key factor of their body structure is low center of gravity. Most popular example of such structure is Lionel Messi. Low center of gravity is useful especially for weightlifting due to which women from Manipur are efficient with heavy weights. Anita Chanu, former weightlifting champion and coach says the average Manipuri has the right built for weightlifting-“short but with good muscle mass”. For example Hidilyn Diaz the recent gold medalist in weightlifting from Philippines has a height of 4 feet 11 inches and Mirabai Chanu too is of the same height. And this low center of gravity can partly explain the Chinese domination in weightlifting.

Having many advantages doesn’t make success at national and international level easy. Sponsorship is still a struggle for the sportspersons of Manipur which leads them to go for other professions for financial stability. Politics also affects the game negatively. The insurgency of Manipur highlighted in the national and international media prevents foreigners etc. from lending their support. But Dr. R.K. Niami Singh said that the sporting culture of Manipur is so strong that even insurgents won’t interfere with a player or a game. And this is the main reason of sportsperson’s successes at events like the Olympics.

Indian Education System

Indian Education System

Rukmini Banerjee, the incharge of Pratham which is an organization striving to improve the quality of education in India. Pratham publishes an annual survey for the same known as ‘Annual Status of Education Report’ popularly known as ASER. For their 2018 report ASER surveyed a total of 546,527 children across 596 districts in rural India. For this survey the ASER staff gives children reading and basic calculations as test. And if you aren’t familiar with rural India, the results may seem shocking. About 50.3 per cent children studying in 5th standard were unable to read a paragraph from 2nd standard textbook. Only 4.4 per cent of students aged between 7 to 16 years are recorded not going to school which implies that children are merely going to school and not actually learning.

The problems of the Indian education system maybe classified as

  1. Design of the system
  2. Governance

Design of the system (Low learning)

Economists Karthik Murlidharan and Abhijeet Singh conducted tests with children from government schools in Delhi and came up with results reciprocating those of ASER. For example their survey showed that only two students in 6th standard had the learning level of an average 6th standard student. Other students of the 6th standard had learning levels that of an average 5th, 4th and even that of 1st standard student. According to researchers majority of the students are lagging behind the curriculum.

Any education system shall work to fulfil two major purposes i.e., Skill development and Filtering students for higher studies. Whereas the Indian education system works more like a factory system which has set really high standards to produce students which would further perform well at various Indian competitive examinations. Our education system does not focus much on the skill development of the students. It is basically a ‘one size fits all’ kind of a system where students are supposed to pass out of school or college even when they haven’t learnt properly. This pressure leads to cheating, bribing and other such malpractices observed during the major examinations. This system isn’t limited to schools. The same situation prevails in many universities as well. This is the major reason why many surveys say majority of Indian graduates are unemployable.

Governance

A government school teacher Sangita Kashyap came to lime light in the year 2014 as she set a record of being absent for 23 years from her job. But she isn’t an exception. Survey conducted by Karthik Murlidharan shows that 23.6 per cent of teachers were absent during unannounced visits, and it is estimated to salary cost of about 1.5 billion dollars per year to the Indian government. Due to this absenteeism Delhi government installed CCTV cameras in all classrooms of government schools. But teachers aren’t the only one’s responsible, system actually makes the situation worse.

A analysis conducted by Azim Premji foundation showed that about 18 per cent of teachers were absent from classes but only 2.5 per cent were actually skipping their duty. About 9 per cent were on paid leave whereas 7 per cent were busy with official duties. According to the Right To Education (RTE) Act 220 days of study is mandatory at school but on the contrary, in 2015-16, just 42 days were spent on teaching during the academic year. This means teachers spent about 81 per cent of their time on administrative duties. Many teachers recently lost their lives to election duties in Uttar Pradesh due to the large scale negligence of Covid protocols.

Solutions

There are two major problems i.e., low learning despite going to school and further lessening of the learning potential due to administrative duties performed by teachers.

Several learning programmes in the country are working innovatively to solve the first issue. The Indian government too recognizes the issue to some extent, as a result it recently withdrawed its ‘no fail policy’ till class 8.

For the second issue, efforts should be made to reduce the admin duty time of teachers. This may be done using technology and hiring staff specifically for administrative tasks like poll duty.

Solving all such issues, one at a time, lead us to a education system that the Indian youth deserves.

Brand communities

Brand communities

The Jurni

  • This is a London based newsletter.
  • I came across this amazing newsletter about travel, culture and inspiration from my best friend who was working as a campus ambassador for this brand.
  • It served exactly what I was interested into and that made me become a regular reader of the newsletter. And they had an impressive Instagram page as well (https://www.instagram.com/thejurnimedia/) which got me into the brand’s responsive community.
  • Soon I went ahead to become a campus ambassador myself and promoted the brand using my social media handles.
  • Now that I think I realize that it’s one of the best kind of brand promotion to reach out to people who are interested into the content of your brand, offer them a role in the community and then make them promote the brand by themselves using their personal social media handles. The Campus Ambassador program of The Jurni is an excellent way of creating community leaders and expanding the community to wider stretches.
  • I believe that the community could be even better if the acknowledge the efforts of all campus ambassadors and other employees of the company on a larger scale maybe by featuring the best few over the brand’s social media handles. That would surely pump up everyone to give their best.

Curfew of a lifetime!

Curfew of a lifetime!

The pandemic pushed many governments to officially put curfews on their citizens for a specified amount of time. And this grew concerns about economy, trade, tourism and what not. But many of us live with curfews almost all the time. Especially young women are faced with taunts from warden, tons of calls from parents and a collective tension of almost the whole society when they are out late.

The fear of nighttime and the predators that lurk in the darkness is a widespread cultural preoccupation. In many societies, women were made to stay home at night, not only to protect themselves but also to ensure that they didn’t engage in morally suspect behavior. Many communities, including in India, adopted this notion that ‘respectable‘ women don’t go out at night.

This mindset isn’t a thing of the past though. Even today if a crime is committed against a women then many questions are raised against the character or the intent of the women herself. Sensationalized reporting of sexual violence against single, middle class women fuels the paranoia and thus becomes a justification for the authority figures to impose restrictions for the ‘good‘ girls.

Instead of taking up steps to make the society a safer place, families and educational institutions impose curfews and other restrictions on women under the guise of protecting them. These end up restricting women’s access to extracurricular activities, libraries and even canteens. Studies conducted across India’s top universities found that most parents would not send their daughters to study in other cities if girls’ hostels didn’t have curfews. But its not just educational institutions, even professional environments reflect this fear of letting women out at night. Although women do work night shifts in sectors like BPO and hospitality, in one study 53 per cent of them reported feeling unsafe working those shifts while 86 per cent of them complained about lack of adequate transport provided by their employers. In many cases, parents try to prevent their daughters from taking up jobs which require them to be out after sunset.

But the fact is that women aren’t unsafe only at night. Women are unsafe round the clock, at home or at school, office, markets, everywhere. If we’re concerned about their safety we need to work and tackle the conditions that make it unsafe for women. Indian movements like ‘Pinjra Tod‘ and ‘Why Loiter‘ have been fighting against the sexist curfews. They are also questioning the respectability that a woman must embody to be out after dark, such as ‘dressing modestly‘ or being escorted by a male relative or having a ‘good reason’ to be out at night.

We need to start taking women’s safety seriously in a way that doesn’t limit our individual freedom, but enables our mobility. Let’s try to make nighttime, public spaces and various modes of transport safe for everyone when we move out of our respective lockdowns.


Why are we obsessed with fair skin?

Why are we obsessed with fair skin?

Our obsession for fair skin has been around for centuries. In later interpretations of the varna system, during the time of Bhrigu, skin color became a distinguishing factor of caste. Brahmins were described as white-skinned, while Shudras were known to have dark skin. Though there is no evidence of skin color based discrimination by the Mughals, they were a homogeneous group of lighter-skinned rulers. So light skin became synonymous with the superiority of the rulers, which was strengthened by other conquerors like the Portuguese and the French.

But discrimination based on skin color became prominent during British rule. So called ‘Black Indians‘ were denied entry into restaurants and educational institutions. Though this formalized discrimination is a thing of past, still fair skin continues to be perceived as the marker of one’s social status for many.

Advertisements for beauty products claim to offer “lightening, brightening and glowing skin“, as something that would have an impact on one’s job prospects, status along with one’s appearance. Fairness creams are such a necessity that each year Indians spend more on fairness creams than they spend on tea. A survey found that 70 per cent of men believe that fair skin will give them an advantage over others in securing a job, success in an interview or finding a life partner. Indian movies too reinforce this notion. Fair-skinned actors often make their skin look darker with makeup while playing a lower class character. Offscreen dark skin or ‘kaala rang‘ is often regarded as dirty, ugly or poor adding layers to the insecurity related to dark skin color. All this fuels the desire to escape from the skin color people are born with. Women had reportedly boosts in confidence level when they lightened their skin color by two shades. This adds up to the individual and cultural obsession with ‘fair‘ skin.

The fact is that no amount of fairness creams or any other cosmetic can actually lighten the original color of one’s skin. So, instead of buying into this myth and continuing to perpetuate it, let’s go beyond dropping the ‘fair‘ in a fairness cream or just boldly claiming that black is beautiful. And attack the social conditioning which tells us that colorism is a ‘natural preference‘. Let’s reject this discriminatory mindset altogether.


Economic Development of Bangladesh

Economic Development of Bangladesh

Bangladesh on World map

The poverty rate of Bangladesh fell from 38.8 per cent to 14.3 per cent over a span of forty years. And Bangladesh has been performing better than India and Pakistan recently in various social indicators like fertility rate and infant mortality rate. This has been possible with consistent efforts towards development.

Since the year 1975 Bangladesh has been classified as a ‘Least Developed’ country by the United Nations and it will likely graduate from this classification by the year 2024. But it was least expected at the time of Bangladesh’s independence. U. Alexis Johnson, Under Secretary of State of United Nations said Bangladesh was an “international basket case” while New York Times reported the country as a ‘Failure’. On the contrary Bangladesh outperformed many expectations.

Bangladesh gained independence in the year 1971 with the help of Mukti Bahini and support from India. Since the country was established in prevailing conditions of violence, even the basic needs of the citizens could be barely met by the government of Bangladesh. In addition, the country the country faced a severe drought in 1975 which killed approximately 1500000 people. Political instability also contributed to make situations worse. Around 10000000 Bangladeshis immigrated to India because of the violent situations there. Due to several such reasons the country depended majorly on foreign aids.

But the situations improved due to these reasons:

  1. Manufacturing(textile industry): Bangladesh is world’s second largest exporter of textiles. According to garment associations of Bangladesh, the textile industry constitutes almost 10 per cent of the their national GDP. Textile industries of the country employ around 4 million people directly and 10 million indirectly.
  2. Women empowerment: Around 80 per cent of employees of the textile industries of Bangladesh are women. This hasn’t just helped women of the typical conservative society to get financial independence and better lives but has actually changed the future of the nation. An economic research paper showed that in the families where women were employed at garment factories witnessed a decline in fertility rate, the age of marriage increased and there was a rapid increase in girls’ educational attainment. The possible reason behind the improvements may be to take advantage of jobs and due to increased family income. The garment industry helped improve the lives of all women of the nation as World Bank showed a decrease in female-male wage gap due to increased employment of women in garment factories.
  3. NGO’s: Many NGO’s like ‘brac’ played a significant role in national development. These NGO’s fulfilled people’s financial and medical requirements, constructed schools and also conducted several public health campaigns. Arvind Subramanian, India’s ex-Chief Economic advisor says the development of Bangladesh in collaboration with NGO’s is no less than a miracle. As in democratic countries the governments tend to avoid much dependence on non-governmental organizations for public works as this leads to defamation of the governments and the chances of corruption are also lowered. But Bangladesh overcame this to which he explains reasons like the low tax to GDP ratio of the country and the poverty and violence at the time of establishment of democracy. Due to all such reasons NGO’s voluntarily took the responsibilities and have done well.
  4. Foreign relations: Pre-independence of Bangladesh, the geopolitical conditions were complex but still in the challenging situations Bangladesh has managed to have a good foreign policy. For example USA provided Bangladesh a good amount as foreign aid even though it was against Bangladesh’s independence. The second major factor is remittances. These remittances, or the earnings sent home by those working abroad constitute around 6 per cent of the national GDP. And the foreign policies of Bangladesh helped them export garments easily to several developed countries through which they avoided ‘aid curse’, or a situation where a country’s individual economic development is crippled due to excessive dependence on foreign aids.

Challenges ahead:

  1. End of duty free access: As Bangladesh is classified as ‘Least developed country’ by the UN, it enjoys duty free access to exports in several developed countries but as it will graduate from the classification in the coming years export duties would be imposed and specifically garments exports would get badly affected.
  2. Automation: The country’s GDP is largely depended on the textile industry but automation in the textile industry in the years ahead may replace a chunk of the employees leaving a worse impact on the economy as a whole. Thus the industries must be diversified making the economy less depended on the garment industry.
  3. Lack of political freedom: There have been several cases of threatening and even murders of journalists, political activists and media workers. This kind of governmental control and censorship might allow short term development but the long term impacts and overall developments get endangered.
  4. Climate change: This is probably the biggest challenge in the face of Bangladesh. It was the seventh on the list of countries under long term climate change risks. Floods and cyclones are common in the country now and the poor rural people are amongst the worst affected.

But besides everything Bangladesh’s development is worth learning while it outperformed all the expectations.

Why Mothers are supposed to be Selfless?

Why Mothers are supposed to be Selfless?

During the high wave of covid in India, someone shared a picture of a women cooking while wearing a nebulizer attached to oxygen support. The picture triggered debates on twitter.

Our culture sings of mothers thus they possess the highest esteem a woman may ever have. Goddesses are worshipped as mothers on a huge scale. But the same culture and the people associated barely give support to mothers in the practical ways.

It took long for our government to realize their sexist policy allowed only women employees of the central government organizations to avail child care leaves. The idea of motherhood implying to adjustments and sacrifices has been reinforced generations after generations in some form or the other. While women are the birth-givers naturally, the idea of women and especially mothers being the exclusive caregivers is just a widely accepted social norm. The idea of caring and nice women is so intense that most of the girls are socially engineered to be convinced that caregiving is their highest moral duty.

While caring and sacrificing for another makes us human and this needs to be cultivated but not when they are expected exclusively from one gender in service of the other. Also childcare and domestic duties which are often seen as ‘women’s duties’ should never be carried out at the cost of their own aspirations and freedom. The traits of being nice and caring are not a part of the female DNA but they are developed knowingly and unknowingly by the society. The society requires all girls and women to be feminine. But neither all females are feminine nor all feminine are females. Women are praised to be feminine so that they can be feminine. Every mother might not be convinced to be the only caregiver for her child. A women may not like to take care of the family’s domestic chores. And these ideas need to be normalized.

Women and Indian Politics

Women and Indian Politics

The age old social norms suggest women of the elite class society to take care of the domestic chores in the most efficient manner while the men actively participate in the politics.

Many women have set examples by breaking these norms while indirectly and sometimes directly participating in politics in the history. Draupadi actively participated in the discussions regarding whether to go for war or not. In ancient Tamil Snagam poetry gives evidences of women ambassadors, advisors, bodyguards and even throne guards in the under the Chola rule. Centuries apart in Mughal India wives and mothers of the Nawabs played significant roles in the political sphere. Queen of Jhansi played a very significant role in the 1857 revolt against British rule in India. In the nineteenth century when British annexed the kingdom of Awadh, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah fled to Calcutta to seek help while his wife Begum Hazrat Mahal stayed there and challenged the British.

Although women played indirect roles in policy making and diplomacy they had few opportunities in official active politics. This changed around the time of independence of India. From 1929 onwards women were granted the right to vote under British rule but this was enjoyed by very few of them often from the elite classes. The nationalist movement enabled nationalist feminists like Sarojini Naidu, Herabai Tata and Mithan Lam to raise their voice for greater participation of women in politics including their right to vote. It was only after the independence that all women of the country enjoyed the right to vote. Female leaders also participated actively in the discussions regarding policy making for independent India and many issues like age of consent, child marriage etc.

The right to vote includes women into politics but does not ensure their active participation in leadership roles. Even today women make up only 13 per cent of the Indian parliament while the global average ranges around 20 to 25 per cent. Its been 25 years since the bill for 33 per cent reservation for women in the parliament was introduced but it is yet to be passed. Most regional and national political parties give only 20 per cent MP and MLA tickets to women. The current situation is the result of an age old belief and mindsets based on the belief that only men are capable of being great leaders. This way of thinking is being passed on since generations as it is reinforced from a very young age. Research has shown that in low income households, while young boys are pushed into school, sports and debates etc. in order to help them develop the necessary leadership skills young girls are often made to drop school and help in the domestic chores. In colleges and universities the union and presidential roles are often filled up by men while women choose to stay away from politics having focus on study. The notion of politibs being a ‘dirty’ domain makes most families keep their girls away from it. Women politicians are far more prone to derogatory public remarks about their appearances, merit, ways of expression etc. than other female celebrities. A large scale study shows that every one in five tweets for female politicians is abusive.

Studies have shown that more involvement of women in politics actually enhances the governance in numerous ways including emphasis on long term development by focusing on primary healthcare and education, better cooperation amongst political parties and increasing responsiveness towards citizens’ needs. Maybe its time we challenge the patriarchal mindset and let every potential leader to have equal opportunity.

Tallest trees on Earth

Tallest trees on Earth

The general idea says forests are ecosystems comprising of trees. But it was Stephen Sillett who discovered the forest in the trees.

Stephen was an explorer since childhood. He grew up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania with his brother Scott. When they visited their grandparents near Gettysburg their grandmother Helen Poe Sillett took them to the nearby forest and mountains to birdwatch. She taught them to identify various songbirds, plants, lichens and several other creatures.

Both Scott and Stephen developed their interests around these learnings and experiences. Scott became a research scientist specializing in migratory birds whereas Stephen was more interested in trees. By the time he was in college, Stephen’s curiosity pulled him to the tallest trees on earth: the ancient coast redwoods of North California. Redwoods have a lifespan of around 2000 years within which they can grow up to 380 feet tall having 20 feet wide trunks.

In 1987, Stephen along with his brother Scott and friend Marwood went to Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Northern California. They went deep inside the forest to find the tallest tree. The lowest branch of their target tree was 100 feet tall thus far beyond their reach. There was another shorter tree growing next to the target tree. Stephen used this tree to reach his target tree and jumped through the gap without any ropes or safety gear. He reached the branches of his target tree and Marwood followed him up. Both of them free climbed to the redwood’s crown. Stephen came across lichens, he noticed the higher he went, the thicker the branches were. He also found moist beds of soil many inches thick, made from needles, bark, fallen dust and other debris on the top of the thick branches. There were huckleberry growing at the pinnacle of the tree. Stephen continued his expeditions with safety gears afterwards and measured the architecture of the branches and tree trunks.

Stephen became an expert in the ecology of the tallest trees on Earth and rich diversity of life in their crowns. He discovered the life that no one had imagined. There are ferns, fungi and trees normally found at ground level at the high branches of these natural skyscrapers. Ants, bumblebees, mites, beetles, earthworms and aquatic crustacean copepods make their homes alongside flowering plants like Rhododendron, Currant and Elderberry bushes. Birds like Ospreys, spotted owls and jays search for food. A Pacific seabird Marbled Murrelet migrates to build its nest there. Squirrels and Voles and the Wandering Salamander also live on the tallest trees.

Stephen Sillett’s research has changed the way we view the tallest of trees. They are not just individual organisms but serve as habitats to several species and as ecosystems in themselves. Thus the research is of importance and enforces the ideas of forest conservation.

How food affects our Brain?

How food affects our Brain?

Relationship of food with human brain and body

Other than water, our brain consists of fats or lipids, proteins, amino acids, micronutrients and glucose. Each of these components has a distinct impact on the functioning and development of the brain, our mood and energy.

Out of the fats in our brain, the most essential are omega 3 and omega 6. These fatty acids have been linked to preventing degenerative brain conditions and must come from our diets. Omega rich food like nuts, seeds and fatty fish are also crucial for development of cell membranes. While omegas are good fats for the brain overconsumption of other fats like trans fats and saturated fats may compromise mental health.

Proteins and amino acids are the building block nutrients of growth and development. They can affect the way we feel. Amino acids contain precursors of neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that carry signals between neurons, affecting things like mood, sleep, attentiveness and weight.

The complex combinations of compounds in food can stimulate brain cells to release mood altering chemicals like dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. A diet with a range of foods help maintain a balanced combination of brain messengers, and helps keep our mood getting skewed in one direction or the other.

Like other organs of the human body, our brain also benefits from a steady consumption of micronutrients. Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables provide the necessary strength to our brain to fight the free radicals which destroy brain cells and enable it to work better for a longer period of time. Powerful micronutrients like vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid help prevent brain disease and mental decline. Trace amounts of minerals like iron, copper, zinc and sodium are fundamental to brain health and early cognitive development.

Our brain needs a lot of fuel to synthesize these nutrients. While the human brain makes up about 2 per cent of our body weight, it uses up to 20 per cent of our resources. Most of the energy comes from carbohydrates consumed as food that our body digests into glucose. A change in mental function may be the first signal of glucose deficiency in the body as the frontal lobes are sensitive to drops in glucose.

Carbohydrates enter the body in three forms i.e., starch, sugar and glucose. The ratio of sugar and fiber affect how the brain and body respond. High glycemic food like white bread may shoot up the blood sugar levels suddenly and then with the consecutive dip our attention and mood also lowers down whereas oats, grains and legumes have slower glucose release which enables a steady level of attentiveness.

Whatever we eat has a direct and often long lasting effect on our brain. Thus its important to choose a diet rich in varied nutrients for sustained brain power.

Too many Clothes!

Too many Clothes!

Around 3.5 million customers ordered clothes from Myntra within four days of a sale. No doubt we’re all obsessed with new outfits, but is it a necessity?

Shopping was never as easier as now. Few clicks on our devices and order arrives at our doorstep within a few days. We love shopping for clothes, especially at sales. Branded outfits have also started to fit in most of our budgets and this often gets us to buy what isn’t even needed. But why are clothes so affordable now? A common reason is cheap labor in developing countries. But another significant reason is the fabric.

The fabric which accounts for almost 60 per cent of fast fashion textiles manufactured every year is no other than polyester. It is strong, flexible, water resistant and its cheap which makes it a nearly perfect fabric for affordable clothing.

Polyester might seem best for textiles but it is a form of plastic. The lint released by polyester clothes eventually finds its way to our oceans. And the lint obtained from this fabric is nothing but micro-plastic. This plastic, once in ocean enters the food chain through phytoplankton, plankton, fishes and thus to human beings. It has been estimated that around the mid-twenty-first century there would be more plastic in oceans than fishes.

Textile industry generates more pollutants than aviation and shipping industries combined. The main reason behind this is the low cost of clothes which leads to companies to generate demand for more and more clothes by several methods. Fashion trends keep changing constantly, influencers are used to promote certain brands, advertisements make an impact on the minds of the costumers and thus the demand for more clothes continues.

So what could be a solution to the environmental degradation polyester textiles are causing? Cotton and other natural fabrics might help. But a single sweatshirt made of cotton consumes approximately 2700 liters of water and that undoes the benefits. The seemingly possible solution of this crisis is to go for new clothes only when we need them and not just wish to have a better wardrobe.

Why Dowry is popular in India

Why Dowry is popular in India

Around eight thousand dowry related deaths are reported in India every year and the real number could be even higher as many cases are not reported at all.

Practice of dowry may bring severe consequences including violence, sex-selective abortion and female infanticide. Research shows that in 1980s when international gold prices inflated mortality of females also increased in India. Often the financial decisions of households depend upon dowry as research has shown that the estimated value of dowry is equal to the annual income of the family. This leads to families with daughters saving up their resources for dowry which otherwise could have been invested elsewhere.

But the idea and practice of dowry is not limited only in India. This practice was common in Europe in the medieval period. The current financial capital of India, then known as Bombay was gifted to the British Crown by the Portuguese as a part of dowry of Queen Catherine of Braganza in 1661.

The practice of dowry decreased in Europe along with the economic development but on the contrary it hiked up in India. Data shows that almost 40 per cent of marriages were reported with dowry in 1940 which increased to 90 per cent by the year 2000.

There are several theories about the origin of dowry. One of such theory says daughters were given away to the in-laws along with money as women didn’t had any legal rights on their family’s property. Hence dowry served as a compensation given to the woman. But with time the concept evolved and the current practice of dowry can be equated to the practice of groom price where the value of dowry is determined by the market value of the groom. This so-called value of groom is determined by factors like education, job type, salary, caste etc. This concept of groom price is contrary to the bride price practice which was common in parts of south India and is still existent in northeast India where the groom’s family pays a certain amount to the bride’s family as a compensation for her work. Research shows that the practice of bride price hasn’t changed much over the years but dowry has seen a significant increase inspite of many activists like Satya Rani Chadha protesting against this malpractice since years.

There are several theories explaining the increase in the dowry practice. The most significant of them are the theory of Sanskritisation proposed by famous sociologist M. N. Srinivas which says that dowry was prevalent only in upper castes but as several lower castes started to adopt practices of upper castes in order to increase their status, dowry became a common practice. Another such theory by Siwan Anderson indicates economic development leading to cross-caste competetion as the main reason of increase in dowry. Theory by Gaurav Chiplunkar says relative groom quality has increased over the years as mostly men got educated and pursued better jobs hence families are forced to give dowry. And the cycle can break when potential brides are educated and financially independent.

Considering the developments in India over the recent years women are still a small proportion of workforce despite women outperforming men in many cases during education. NSS report of 2014 shows that about 60 per cent of women said they had to do all the domestic work(unpaid) due to the reason ‘no other member to carry out the domestic duties’.

Such problems often require creative solutions. There have been laws against dowry since decades and little did they affect the practice in reality. Women need to be educated and provided with economic opportunities to counter the relative hike in groom quality. Surveys have shown that promoting rural manufacturing and improving transport infrastructure tend to increase women’s participation in the workforce in rural parts of the country. Punishments to all families practicing dowry isn’t the perfect solution, change in the mindset of the society is the real way to do away with this age old malpractice.

India’s Vaccine Shortage

India’s Vaccine Shortage

India’s Prime Minister announced ‘Teeka Utsav’ to promote covid-vaccination as well as to counter the second wave of infection. But on the contrary vaccinations have been declining afterwards.

Experts believe that herd immunity stage needs to be achieved to counter the spread of any infection i.e., more than 70 per cent of the population needs to be vaccinated. According to some studies, it can take almost 16 months to vaccinate 70 per cent of India’s population with first dose and almost 9 years to vaccinate them with both first and second doses.

A popular science journal and the Indian Medical Association itself has criticized India’s vaccination program. India, popular as ‘Vaccine factory of the world’ has been running short of vaccine supply which ultimately led to a situation where many Indian states are unable to achieve their vaccination targets. Odisha had to shut 60 per cent of it’s vaccination centers due to shortage of vaccines in the month of May.

As people are unable to find vaccines at their nearest centers, they are going to other cities to get vaccinated. For example some people residing at Gurgaon had to go to Manesar whereas some Delhites are going to Rohtak and residents of Rohtak are visiting villages to get vaccinated. Thus villagers have complained of not having enough vaccines left for the residents.


Causes

The first reason of the shortage is the insufficient capacity of the manufacturers. According to the targets of the central government of India, almost 10 crore doses of vaccines need to be manufactured every month but the current capacity of the manufacturing companies combined together lies at 7.5 crores which would increase to 11 crores by July. Another fact to be kept in mind is Serum Institute manufactured vaccines are not solely for the Indian population. SII needs to supply 40 per cent of its vaccines to Covax which is an initiative of several organizations including WHO to supply vaccines to more than 90 economically backward countries.

Sputnik V, the Russian vaccine approved by India can’t really help either as the manufacturer’s capacity lies at 500k only. However the initiative to manufacture Sputnik V in India might prove helpful.

Another reason is the lack of orders by the Indian government to the manufacturers. Under Operation Warp Speed the USA placed advanced orders with many vaccine companies even before their vaccines were approved and even though some vaccines didn’t get approved still USA had guaranteed supplies of vaccines for its population. Whereas the Indian government did not place any such advanced orders. Reasons behind this might be the lack of funds to place advanced orders. Poonawala from SII said in an interview that they couldn’t improve their capacities as there were no orders from the government of India. The statement was justified afterwards but if there lies truth in such statement, its the failure of the government of India. Another reason of not placing advanced orders might be the assumption that the infection was over at the end of the first wave of infection.

Under ‘Vaccine Maitri’ program India exported large quantities of vaccines to other countries. From January to April 2021 more vaccine doses were exported than vaccinated Indian residents.

First order placed for vaccines by the Indian government was 1.65 crore doses in the month of January 2021 and 1.5 crore doses in February. The government of India placed the first huge order of 12 crore doses in March 2021 when the country was already struck by the second wave of infection.

Adar Poonawala of SII said the vaccine shortage may go on till July 2021. Several experts have also warned about third and fourth wave of infection in the country as the infection continues to spread within the population alongside the slow vaccination.

The situation got even more complicated when the central government ordered states to arrange vaccine supplies for themselves. Many states released global tenders. Many companies whereas were not ready to deal only with central governments of countries. The chaos was ended with the central government of India announcing vaccinations free of cost for all its adult population and supplies being sent to states by the center after Supreme Court intervened the matter.


Possible Solutions

  1. Government may help the manufacturers with funds and supplies to increase their capacity. Other new manufacturers may also be looked forward to maximize the vaccine production.
  2. We should also start preparing for upcoming challenges of the pandemic. In the current situation the problem may lie with vaccine supplies but soon when the supplies would be sufficient the awareness about vaccines would prove to be the main issue.

For example many rural residents of Tamil Nadu are reluctant to vaccines after a famous actor Vivek died following inoculation. And if such problems prevail for longer, herd immunity stage would be harder to achieve.

3. As epidemiologist Giridhara Babu said the authorities should go for detailed district plans and social mobilization strategies to reach vulnerable communities.

What makes movies Dangerous?

What makes movies Dangerous?

Ashwani Kashyap popularly known as ‘Johnny Dada’ and ‘Tiktok villian’ attempted three murders within four days. Investigators believe that he loved a girl since his childhood who was then working as an air hostess in Dubai. Rejection from the girl is believed to be the root cause behind the killings. This wasn’t really surprising because he regularly posted extreme messages over various social media platforms. One of those messages “jo mera nhi ho sakta mai usse kisi aur ka mauka nhi dunga” which is a dialogue from the movie ‘Kabir Singh’.

So can movies really motivate someone for criminal activities, and if so should such movies be banned?

‘Kabir Singh’ is the Hindi remake of a Telegu movie ‘Arjun Reddy’. The movie fell into a controversy due to the way the main character of the movie was being glorified. The main character of the movie played by Shahid Kapoor attempts sexual violence several times in the movie and all such activities were being justified because the character was a brilliant doctor. Critics believe that the problem wasn’t that sexual harassment scenes were shown but that such behavior was never condemned. The movie did well at box office earning about three hundred crores.

But ‘Kabir Singh’ wasn’t the only movie stuck in controversies. ‘Joker’ has also been a box office hit. On one hand it received standing ovation at major film festivals such as Venice Premiere while on the other hand people wanted it to be banned. The main character in this movie is an average looking person who’s publicly humiliated, misbehaved by his co-workers, loses his job and as a consequence his mental health. The only instant when the character receives support and attention is when he attempts a murder on live television and thereafter he’s treated like a hero in the movie. In the past years US faced a huge number of mass shootings and this was the reason people were afraid that the movie could motivate other such mentally unstable people who wish to gain attention through violence for mass shootings. Especially when in many scenes, the film-makers attempt to ask viewers to sympathize with the Joker. And this fear is not surprising, given America’s history of mass shooting.


Defending the movies

  1. Movies only depict real life and don’t influence the behavior.
  2. What about other movies?

These are the most common arguments presented by the makers to defend their movies.

Makers of ‘Joker’ asked why there were no such controversies about movies like ‘John Wick 3’ which showed much more of murders and violent scenes. While Shahid Kapoor asked why there were no controversies about movies like ‘Baazigar’ where the character played by Shahrukh Khan murders the main female character of the movie, or the scene from the movie ‘Sanju’ where the main character Sanju puts a toilet seat round the neck of Ruby.

One reason could be because other movies like ‘Baazigar’ and ‘Sanju’ did not show as many anti-women scenes as there were in ‘Kabir Singh’. But the comparison of ‘John Wick 3’ did seem valid to some extent. The answer could be that more people can identify themselves with the main character of ‘Joker’ while it’s not the case with other movies like ‘John Wick 3’ or ‘Fast and Furious’. The stunts, weapons, looks etc. of characters of other action movies are not much relatable to the mass while the looks, problems, life and world of Joker is relatable for the ordinary people.

Research studies on whether movies and media has impact on human behavior have mixed conclusions. It isn’t clear which movies impact behavior in what ways but media does have some impact on daily life and thus behavior hence makers can’t say confidently that their work doesn’t influence behavior at all. Research studies broadly suggest that violence in movies doesn’t have much impact on real life while sexual violence in movies does have some influence. One possible reason of such conclusion might be that violence is attempted against the villian and for each story the villian keeps changing whereas in case of sexual violence, almost always women are the victim.


Solutions

Banning such controversial media is not a solution as this violates the freedom of expression.

Certification also helps but not to a great extent.

One such solution being discussed is if a message is shown in the beginning or at the end of such movies where the directors or actors convey clearly that such behavior is not being promoted and should not be justified may have a good impact.

It is hard to tell if people like Ashwani Kashyap would have dropped their plans of murder due to such a warning but there’s no harm to at least try such solutions.


Migraine

Migraine

Severe headaches are the most common experiences of migraine but migraines are not all about headaches. They involve a wide spectrum of experiences and some don’t even involve a headache.

They are as common as they are diverse. About 33 per cent of women and 13 per cent of men are affected by various types of migraines during their lifetimes.

Migraine is a neurological disorder affecting multiple parts of the brain-the brainstem, cerebral hemispheres and nerves but it is less known of what triggers it. There are a lot of questions still unanswered about migraines like why some people experience them while others don’t, why more women face migraines than men and many such other questions.

Another such question is why migraine patterns change for a person during their lifetime?

Hormonal fluctuations may be playing a role in the answers to this question. Some women have less experiences of migraine after menopause as the sex hormone related fluctuations get lowered. While just before menopause some women experience worsening experiences of migraine as the fluctuations are at their peak.

People with migraines are more likely to suffer from depression, panic disorder, sleep disorder and strokes. Migraines may change the degree with which these diseases affect us and vice versa.

Genetics also play some role with migraines. While there is no single gene which migraines but there are a set of genes that control the way neurons of the brain react to external environmental stimuli. It is a possibility that the brain neurons of people experiencing migraines are more sensitive to external environment than others who don’t experience them. Thus external environment may act as a trigger to this neurological disorder.

While it’s not that simple to explain migraines and many questions still remain unanswered, one thing is for sure that migraines are much more than just headaches.

Benefits of Bilingual brain

Benefits of Bilingual brain

Having good knowledge of more than one specific language, or being multilingual, can make travel easier or help us watch movies without subtitles but it also helps our brain work better than monolinguals, or the people who know only a single language.

Language ability is of two types, active and passive. The active part refers to the abilities of speaking and writing while the passive part refers to the abilities of listening and reading. And a balanced bilingual possesses nearly equal of all four abilities in both languages. Most bilinguals know and use their languages in varying proportions.

Depending upon situations and the means of acquiring language, bilinguals or multilinguals may be classified into three general types:

1. Compound bilinguals: Those who develop two or more linguistic codes simultaneously with a single set of concepts. This is generally the case with children beginning to learn to speak.

2. Coordinate bilinguals: Those who learn a new language while using another language in day-to-day life. This is the case with school students who study away from their home-region.

3. Subordinate bilinguals: Those who learn a new language by filtering it through their primary language. This is generally the case with professionals who work abroad.

With time and practice all people can learn and be proficient in new languages and thus for a casual observer it can be hard to differentiate amongst monolinguals and bilinguals. But the development in brain imaging technology has helped neurolinguists to observe how different aspects of learning a language affect the bilingual brain.

The critical period hypothesis implies that children learn new languages more easily because the plasticity of their developing brains helps them use both left and right hemispheres of their brains for language acquisition, while in most adults, language is limited to only one hemisphere which is generally the left hemisphere.

Regardless of when and how we acquire a new language, being multilingual gives our brain some remarkable advantages such as higher density of grey matter, more activity in certain regions of the brain while engaging in another language and the increased exercise of a bilingual brain can help delay the onset of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia by upto five years.

Having a multilingual mind may not make us smarter but it does help make our brains healthier, complex and actively engaged and its always better to know more.


Millennials and Astrology

Millennials and Astrology

Consider it to be an art or a science, Indians are obsessed with astrology and often follow it religiously. But its even more surprising that youngsters, known to have scientific or rational approach, are inclining towards astrology. Twenty three year old Anish Choudhary said in a interview to The Indian Express that one day his horoscope predicted that he would be having work pressure soon and the same day he had to stay late at his office due to a client crisis. Besides reading his horoscope Anish also follows a historical astrology show on Aaj Tak.

But Anish isn’t the only young adult to believe in astrology. A survey reveals that 75 per cent of young adults in the US believe in astrology and 65 per cent regularly check their horoscope.

Astrology’s popularity has transformed it into a huge online business. Many investors are eager to invest in astrology relate websites and applications.

Causes of rise in Astrology

  1. Stress

According to American Psychological Association survey data, Millennials have been the most stressed generation. An Indian survey revealed that one in every 5 young adults in the country is suffering from depression, anxiety or stress. The excessive pressure of education, job and relationships has made suicide the most common reason of death amongst youngsters in India. Hence people look for solutions in astrology.

2. Uncertainty

Psychology says that human beings have had a desire to know about their future since centuries. As astrology tells us about future people get inclined towards it. Specially young adults get attracted toward it because according to a survey of International Labor Organization 38 per cent of this generation is uncertain about their future due to the covid-19 crisis.

3. Internet

Internet and social media have changed astrology to make it more accessible than it was ever before. Apple store contains more than two hundred astrology apps and users of such apps have increased significantly during the lockdown period.


How does it help?

  1. Removes uncertainty

We are not aware of our future and thus a uncertainty always prevails. Astrology helps remove this uncertainty to an extent.

2. Get something to blame

Suppose one’s facing a rough situation. When such a person visits an astrologer and gets to know something like a certain celestial phenomenon causing a rough time, they get something to blame for their problem. And studies have shown that while facing a difficult situation, if we get something or someone to blame for our miseries, that actually makes us feel better about ourselves.

3. Gives confidence

Many a times, astrology serves as our friend who keeps telling us that even if the situation is not well presently, there is something positive coming soon. And this provides us the confidence to face our problems which is also known as the placebo effect.

An experimental study was conducted where half of the students were told a positive horoscope and the other students were shown a negative horoscope before a certain maths test. And surprisingly a majority of the students who were shown positive horoscope scored better than those students who were shown negative horoscope. This was an example of how placebo effect works.


Negative consequences

  1. Obsession

Clinical psychologist Dr Andrew said that people may get obsessed to such an extent that they check their horoscope 5 to 6 times every day and may even get depressed if faced with a negative horoscope.

2. External locus of control

This implies that people suddenly start to believe that their life is controlled only by external factors and they themselves have no responsibility towards it. And this idea is dangerous in the long run thus should be avoided.


Solutions

  1. Accept uncertainty of the future.
  2. Consider professional services to tackle stress and other psychological issues.
  3. Maintain good work-life balance.

Although our beliefs are all our choices but it should be kept in mind that we can always create belief and disbelief regarding anything and thus should never be dependent on our beliefs. That’s the only way we can draw out positives from our beliefs.

A Typing Mistake worth $18.5 million ?

A Typing Mistake worth $18.5 million ?

We are all well known to the seven letter word ‘mistake’. All human beings commit mistakes quite naturally. But what if a single mistake costs 80 million dollars to a country?

History’s most expensive mistake

At Kennedy Space Center in America everyone was in a hurry-scurry because it was a special day. It was 27 August 1962 and NASA’s most ambitious interplanetary spacecraft Mariner-1 was all set for launch. Everything was double checked and at 1721 hours Mariner-1 was launched successfully.

But exactly after 3 minutes and 32 seconds of launch scientists at the space station got some crucial information. After almost 5 minutes Mariner-1 blasts off in air.

There was no issue either with the rocket or with calculations. The fault was a minute mistake in the code.

Whenever a spacecraft is launched into the outer space a code is used to preprogramme it with the path trajectory. Due to any unspecified reason, in the code of Mariner-1, a bar was missed that was needed to be put above R which is the radial velocity. When spacecrafts travel on their trajectory they keep moving and changing their trajectory due to various unavoidable reasons. Thus they are preprogrammed to ignore minute changes until and consider the mean trajectory. As the bar was missed in the code of Mariner-1, as soon as it was launched it started to overcorrect the minute changes in its trajectory which led it to spin randomly. Hence, Mariner-1 was destructed to prevent damage to inhabited areas on Earth.


Thus a single typing mistake was worth almost 18.5 million dollars, the cost of the spacecraft.

How Sikkim merged with INDIA

How Sikkim merged with INDIA

In 1975, famous filmmaker Satyajit Ray made this documentary which tells us about the landscape, culture and monuments of Sikkim. Nothing appears to be controversial with this as most states use such documentaries to promote tourism. But on the contrary this documentary was banned for almost forty years.

Another such example is a book written by Sunanda K Datta Ray, ‘Smash & Grab’ about the annexation of Sikkim. Unlike the documentary, the book wasn’t completely banned but a defamation case was filed against it and its publication was suppressed.


The story of Sikkim

Sikkim has remained a Buddhist dominated region since centuries. It was formed in the year 1642 when Chogyal Phuntsog Namgyal was made Sikkim’s ruler by the three great lamas. The state remained independent for almost five hundred years.

Britishers came to Sikkim in the eighteenth century and were in good terms. As a consequence of events Sikkim signed a treaty with Britishers in 1817 according to which Sikkim accepted British superiority with some independence and protection. With this Darjeeling, which was a part of the Sikkim kingdom was taken up by British.


After Independence

Till 1947 the relationship between British and Sikkim remained unchanged. Thus when India got independence the relationship of Sikkim with India wasn’t clear. The monarch of Sikkim denied to become a part of the Indian union and thus India gave it a special status under the India and Sikkim treaty of 1950. This treaty was opposed by major leaders like BN Rao and Sardar Patel. Under this treaty Sikkim entertained much independence but India was responsible for its security and India had the right to station its armed forces in Sikkim.

After the 1962 India-China war and the 1965 India-Pakistan war, the monarch of Sikkim started to demand more internal and external autonomy. The reason was the increased Indian-military presence in Sikkim post both the wars which made the monarch nervous. These demands further increased when the crown prince Palden Thondup Namgyal became the Chogyal(king) and the monarch started to demand autonomy in trade and defence.

But the chances of these demands being fulfilled declined when Indira Gandhi was elected as the Prime Minister of India. She believed in respecting the wishes of the majority population of Sikkim who wanted merger with India.

Sikkim was resided by Lepchas, Bhutias and Limbus originally. But as a result of population shift in the British era Nepalis migrated to Sikkim became the majority towards the early twentieth century. The majority Nepalese population were labors whereas the monarch made decisions in favor of the elites hence while the monarch wished to keep Sikkim independent, the majority population led by the opposition leader Tashi Tshering and other like minded political parties wanted to abolish the monarch, introduce land reforms and instill democracy by merging with India.


Execution of the Plan

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi showed concerns about the increasing demands of Chogyal and called Rameshwar Nath Kao for a solution. He is the same person who set up RAW.

Another reason that made India upset with the monarch of Sikkim was Chogyal’s second wife Hope Cook. Her American passport gave her attention in the international media. And the monarch used this media to secure complete independence.

R N Kao along with two other diplomats GBS Sidhu and PN Banerjee made and executed a plan to merge Sikkim with India while maintaining that it was a natural consequence of people’s desire. The plan was such that protests for democracy by the opposition political parties would lead the Chogyal to seek help from India to instill law and order in the state and this would be a perfect chance for Sikkim’s merger with India. And this plan succeeded.

On 4 April 1973 protesters gathered outside the Chogyal palace and the protest suddenly got violent. The same year an agreement was signed by the Indian government, Chogyal and the political parties of Sikkim, and next year Kaazi Doorji was elected as the first chief minister of Sikkim. But Chogyal was still sovereign until 7 April 1975 when the Indian government put them under house arrest. Thirty-sixth amendment was introduced in the Indian constitution to facilitate merger with Sikkim and also conducted a referendum where the majority voted in favor to merge with India. And finally on 16 May 1975, Sikkim formally became the twenty-second state of India with the position of Chogyal being abolished.


Afterwards the royal family of Sikkim stayed away from active politics. The people of Sikkim have largely accepted Indian sovereignty. Tourism helped Sikkim’s economy to flourish and other social problems of the state such as discrimination against women are being dealt with under democratic rule.

The Indian government banned the documentary and other such decisions were taken to suppress the popularity of the monarch which shows that governments always try to control the narrative in their favor.


Why photos don’t match our faces?

Why photos don’t match our faces?

We all are living in the era of social media. Considering the pandemic situation and the stay at home notion becoming the new normal, internet remains as the sole option of interaction with people. We’re seeing the world through our screens and are being seen by our cameras. But have you ever felt like you looked better in your washroom mirror than what you look like in front of the camera?

If yes, you aren’t alone to have faced that. The internet is filled with such questions. Most obvious answer to this being, we’re all habituated looking at our faces in the mirror which is actually an inverted image. But cameras don’t invert our image. As we’re used to look at our inverted images hence we find the camera clicked images subconsciously different mostly in the worse way. But this is not the answer.

The real reason lies in camera itself. Cameras we generally use possess single lens while human beings have two eyes situated approximately two inches apart. And this causes image look different in mirrors and camera clicks.

An Experiment:

Michael Richman, Physics professor at Rochester Institute of Technology, made a video during his research to show how things look different when viewed through the human eyes than camera images. He performed a simple experiment.

A mug was placed against a background. Then a picture was clicked. This picture showed how conventional cameras take pictures.

To show how human eyes view images two pictures were clicked from right and left angles, cut from the mid and then merged together to form another image. The simple reason being that our brain views the world from merged images obtained from the left and right eyes in a similar manner.

When both the final images were kept side by side and observed, there occurred a major difference. In the second image background was more visible than the first one. Which implies that background is more persistent with human eyes than camera image. As the human brain perceives images by merging images from both right and left eyes which results in a phenomena known as depth perception. And this phenomena, specific to eyes, leads to the background being more visible or in other words, object appears smaller even when viewed from the same distance for the same set of object and background.

Conclusion being that camera image makes us look bulkier than reality.


We are controlled by our subconscious mind. When we look at ourselves in a mirror we often move our face and body without being aware about it, and this makes us look at our best profile most of the time. Which means we subconsciously keep looking at the best side of our profile. But this doesn’t work for pictures. If our best profile isn’t in front of the camera then the picture is not likely to be the desired one.

Another fact is that the front camera of most mobiles consists of a wide angle lens and this leads to distortion. And due to this selfies usually don’t match our face in the mirror.

ODISHA- 1999 and afterwards

ODISHA- 1999 and afterwards

About nine hours away from Bhubaneswar, Bhawanipatna city is situated which is the district headquarter of Kalahandi which is one of the thirty districts present in Odisha. Long ago Bhawanipatna used to be the capital of the Kalahandi kingdom and the Kalahandi palace can still be seen there. Kalahandi had been ruled by the Naga dynasty for decades but it’s known not for the Nagas but for its poverty.

Phanas Punji of Amlapali village in Kalahandi sold her two-year-old sister-in-law for Rs. 40 to save her two starving children. To which Kapil Narayan Tiwari, a former MLA, said “Here, children are sold cheaper than channas, and the government, instead of rescuing the poor from hunger, is pressurizing them to deny the sale stories.”

This incident in the year 1985 shook the nation and soon Kalahandi caught up the lime-light. Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Kalahandi with his wife Sonia Gandhi and made a remarkable statement that of every rupee spent by the government ,only 15 paise reached the intended beneficiary. These VIP visits highlighted the issues and suffering of Kalahandi but the ground reality remained somewhat unaffected. In a statement dated five months after the visit of Rajiv Gandhi Phanas Punji said “I am poorer after Rajiv Gandhi’s visit. Officials came once and gave me a sari (worth Rs.7) and 8 kg of grains, which was an insult to my poverty. The sari is still lying unused though I couldn’t keep the grains: my children were so hungry.”

But after almost twenty years when the media found Phanas Punji again, she was no longer a picture of penury and hunger. She was wearing decent clothes along with jewelry. And this improvement can also be verified with RBI data: in the year 1999, Odisha was the poorest state in India but in the year 2012 it jumped 5 positions ahead.

Odisha faced ignorance from it’s rulers in history especially in British era and even after independence which were considered to be the reason of it’s poverty. Not only poor governance but many-a-times extreme weather conditions ranging from cyclones to droughts were also considered to be reason. The famine of 1866 killed more than one million people. But many researchers believe that extreme weather conditions couldn’t be treated as the sole reason of poverty, poor governance and policies are equally responsible for the same. For example in a report of the 1866 famine stated that increased exports, hoarding and inadequate relief also contributed as immediate causes of people’s sufferings.

Till date seven Prime Ministers of independent India have visited Kalahandi to promise better policies. In-fact it is believed that Indira Gandhi got the inspiration of the slogan ‘Garibi hatao’ when she visited Kalahandi.

It should also be kept in mind that situations vary from place to place within Odisha as well. Odisha can broadly be divided into three parts i.e., North Odisha, South Odisha and Coastal Odisha. North Odisha is the area of mines whereas Coastal Odisha is full of cities and tourist attractions and South Odisha is a hilly area where most of the tribal communities reside.

Studies have shown that Coastal Odisha has almost half the poverty rate compared to other regions.

But situations began to improve in the twenty-first century. Economists showed in their studies that the average growth rate of Odisha rose to 8 per cent which immensely helped in the eradication of poverty.

The credit goes to the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who has been the CM of the state of nineteen years now. Over the past two decades ‘The man who couldn’t care’ has transformed his image to a man who’s known for his simple lifestyle and generosity. But he didn’t just change his image but also changed the future of Odisha.

The main reason of economic development in Odisha was the rapid growth and improvement in it’s tertiary sector. Within the first decade of twenty-first century the share of tertiary sector in Odisha’s economy increased from 39 per cent to 49.8 per cent. And this wasn’t exclusive to Odisha. The tertiary sector of India was helping in rapid economic growth all over the nation and Odisha used the same for it’s economy.

At the same time, not only economic but Odisha also had social development. For example the first decade of this century saw a major dip in the infant mortality rate in Odisha.

The credit for these socio-economic development goes to three social initiatives of the state government i.e., 1. Mission Shakti and similar other programs where the women are provided with skills and facilities so that they can become more independent. Not only this but the CM also made women more politically independent by giving 33 per cent reservations in state assembly elections and 50 per cent reservations in the panchayat elections. 2. Disaster management model of Odisha which has been appreciated by the United Nations as well. The system developed after the super cyclone of 1999 worked it’s best when another such severe cyclone Phailin struck the state in the year 2013, and since then the state is the best cyclone ready state in the country. 3. The public distribution centers in Odisha avail the poor section with grains and Ahaar centers distribute cooked meal for the needy all at minimal costs which has brought down starvation due to poverty in the state.

With the implementation of many such policies CM Naveen Patnaik showed that development is possible even in extreme weather conditions. But it should also be noted that within the years inequality also rose in the state as major developments were limited to Coastal Odisha only. This could be possible because the growth in the tertiary sector of the state was mostly in the coastal regions. Another reason being mining which has also increased inequality. Studies have shown that the areas where mines are present are poorer than other areas. The reason behind this could be the fact that the major benefits obtained by mining go into the pockets of a chosen few.

The prevailing problems may indicate that people and organizations may demand betterment but the state has least politically active population contrary to the neighboring state of West Bengal where political activism within the masses remains at it’s peak mostly. A local journalist Kedar believes that Odisha has been a feudal place for centuries and thus the popular mentality of the people is that their leaders should think and do for them while they are not interested in governance etc. And this feudal system is still existent behind the veil where all major authorities like media etc., are controlled by a few families who entertain all the power.

Even after years of development, poverty is still the major problem of Odisha.’ Phanas Punji bristles at any stranger bearing even the faintest resemblance of a journalist or cameraman who might approach her. “Go away. You guys take my pictures and sell them for a price while I continue to wallow in poverty.” she says.’ reported the Indian Express on 6th September 2016.

Now the people of Odisha have started to take baby steps towards being active for the betterment of the state.