Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Horn on The Wall

May 27, 2020, 12:39 PM IST  in The WriteClick | India | TOI
   

The tribals of the North-Eastern Indians were natural hunters. Though some tribes were known to hunt heads, some tribes restricted their hunt to animals. The pride of a tribal man who has hunted a lion, tiger, or Mithun was considered such a prestigious achievement that, the celebration would continue for days. This practice is predominantly found among the Chin-Kuki-Mizo-Zomi communities. A person with such many collections of animal heads could perform Saa-ai," which is akin to awarding knighthood; only that Saa-ai is more of an initiative from the hunter proclaiming his invincibility.

I would look into the Mithun head with hairs and horns intact, displayed on our wall, and asked my father what its worth would be. “It is our identity; it is our way of life; It is a priceless possession,” he’d told me. The erstwhile Tribal hunters whose livelihood solely depended on hunting and cutting woods are now banned from doing so. The implication of hunting endangered species and cutting trees is known to them. But the issue becomes tricky when they do not have firewood or food to cook.

Once a proud art with promising prizes and possession, hunting for the Tribals now, is an offence punishable by law. Some continue to do it but ended up in jails. While there exist thousands of decorative items we could beautify our homes that old Mithun skull is a symbol of pride for most Tribals of the NE region. The debate on the prohibition of hunting for Tribals, which have been their livelihood, without any skill development training given to them to take up alternative livelihood, is worth pondering. Hunting was their right, though it is not right to do so now.

The ICAR-National Research Centre on Mithun was established in June 1988 in the state of Nagaland under the aegis of Indian Council of Agricultural Research to provide impetus on the research work on Mithun (Bos frontalis). Interestingly, the historical and socio-economic importance of the animal is also well recorded in the British Museum, where records of other imminent significance like “thingkho-malcha” – a traditional practice of vows taken by tribes of the Kuki people before fighting the British in the Anglo-Kuki war 1917-1919 ( aka Kuki rebellion 1917-1919/) were also recorded in details. Since animal remains were once symbolic to the culture and tradition, the profession though illegal now, collections of these remains, possessed individually could be housed in one tribal museum, at least for people to know and remember their roots and history.

Most tribal houses now have, not horns but portraits of BR Ambedkar, Mahatma Gandhi, or God in their houses. The important endeavor of conveying the message to the tribals of preserving biodiversity by not hunting endangered species like tigers and lions should be supplemented with efforts to preserve the culture and traditions of the Tribals. I, myself could have considered ‘just another story’ if not for the one that hangs on our wall about the significance of & ‘Mithun’ in our culture. It won’t be a surprise if the next generation children loathe and hate the very sight of an ugly skull with horn unless of course, they know that once upon a time there lived their forefathers who have proudly ruled the jungle in their times and were kings of the king of the jungles.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Providing free and independent news is indeed an essential service!


May 8, 2020, 12:17 PM IST  in The WriteClick | India | TOI
   

As the Nation set foot into lockdown 3.0, a few relaxations of the Lockdown norms have been implemented but the majority of services are still put on hold. Providing News, being an essential service remained exempted from the restriction. All these while, Global press Freedom index has ranked India at 142, a further drop of two ranks from last year’s. The information and Broadcasting Minister Mr. Prakash Javdekar, however, disagreed with the ranking and has tweeted, “Media has the power to inform and enlighten people. Media in India enjoy absolute freedom. We will expose, sooner than later, those surveys that tend to portray a bad picture about ‘Freedom of Press’ in India.”
In today’s internet world, any incident can be reported instantly by social media users, even faster than media-houses. In that thought, Tweeter, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, etc. are all giant media houses with millions of reporters. The need for news from an established media-house outside social media though is still felt by many. One reason is to disseminate information correctly and second is for media house to be a watchdog- donning the all-important role of the fourth pillar in a democracy
As far as dissemination of correct information is concerned, the earlier pointed out benefits of the presence of millions of reporters in social media necessitated the arduous task of fact-checking through a third party ( mostly reporters/correspondents of media house) so that facts and fakes could be differentiated. While it is the duty of law enforcement agencies to check fake news and rumours menace, the media has played a key role by selectively broadcasting news feeds based on its authenticity, not to mention the busting of fake news by some media-house. Therefore people still turn to news reports of established media-house though the internet is filled with news updates every second.
If it is just dissemination of information that media houses are anticipated to do, the same could be handled by DD or a channel of the Government instead of allowing hundreds of media houses to operate. But it is because of the solemn duty that news agencies are expected to execute by raising issues and concerns of not just viewers to reach the Government but also exposed the faults and lacuna of Govt. policies to the public to ensure that there are checks and balances between the public and the Government and most importantly to form a public opinion, which will eventually decide the fate of the Government in the next ensuing elections, that necessitated the existence of independent media. Media houses are envisaged to not only exposed faulty policies of the state for the public to debate upon but also highlight issues that need urgent attention by the state and vice versa.
Media thus has a key role in ensuring the smooth governance of a nation. Unfortunate incidents like paid media and fake news to propagate certain ideologies which have surfaced in recent times have indeed led to huge misgivings on the otherwise noble profession. Of late, most media houses tend to forget their prime duty of being a watchdog, by toeing into the lines of the power at helms. Independent media is now a threatened species and the fault is not just the environment of fear for media houses who have raised voices against the state but also because of some of the media person themselves falling prey to the highly irresistible temptation of being on the same ride with the state, where the role of being a watchdog- a true characteristic of the fourth pillar is instead directed towards their fellow media in an attempt to please the powers that be.
The Indian press is surely better off than their counterparts in China. Even so, being the largest democracy, the comparison when made to some countries like the US, it left us in awe of the responsibility shouldered by the fourth estate there. Of course, ugly altercations between the state and the media exists but there are no criminal charges leveled against anyone who spoke against the state; President Donald Trump and a few media house openly arguing and disagreeing, how ugly though it looks, exemplifies what democracy and free speech truly is.  India, especially its rulers, could learn a lot from the US on the tolerance of voice of dissents.  Having said that, one cannot fully disagree with the I&B Minister’s concerns of the methodology for the abysmal ranking accorded to the freedom of Indian Press. The fact that State’s action could still be questioned shows that there is some important element of freedom overlooked by the people who ranked Global press freedom.
While improving the ranking of Press Freedom could be a concern for some, more important is the prevalence of free press environment; the rankings will eventually take care itself. There will be no dearth of news as long as the world exists and the relevance of media/news agencies in the future is only expected to grow. What and how it is presented could be a challenge and the viewers/readers have a huge impetus; at the least, we can learn to value the importance of the difference between paid news and independent news. Members of the fourth estate need to be torchbearers of unbiased truth and a voice for the voiceless. As for the state and democracy to survive, it will need all of its pillars to be strong, independent, and straight. The leaning of the fourth pillar, left or right, whether by choice or by power will be a sign that the house is in danger of a collapse.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Unlocking Our Spiritual Side This Lockdown


May 4, 2020, 4:10 PM IST  in The WriteClick | Lifestyle | TOI
   

The stories are not just real but near; the virus is not just contagious but deadly. The news is no longer new; the same old story of the addition of thousands of affected people daily. The wait for Vaccination feels like watching, “Mission impossible-based on a true incident.” Depression and anxiety seem to get the better of many people. Still, there is something that promises, not just a hope for better days but beyond. In the past couple of months, we have seen tremendous growth in the number of people proclaiming their trust and hope in GOD. Social media feeds without religious songs, talks, notes, or quotes are rare.  Few are skeptical though of the newfound love.

 Skeptics’ Take

“Those seeking God only now when the world is gripped with a pandemic will see their faith soon fading away after normalcy returns,” observed a person. Another one adds.” Accepting the possibility of death by basking in the happy resolution of being prepared for the worst is an underestimation of the value of the precious life given to us by the almighty.” On the contrary, we have renowned preachers who have said that one of the few positives about the outbreak of Covid-19 is the increasing numbers of people looking for a source of hope and redemption; God.

The Evil World

If adversity brings out the worse in a person, there is no adverse situation in recent times graver than the present situation.  Men can be evil and selfish; this is evident in the sheer number of lawbreakers even after the existence of strict enforcement laws. Food scarcity, loss of employment, and the desire to stay healthy at any cost will eventually bring into being, ‘the survival of the fittest’ instincts in us. It is at this interval that believers are expected to play a pivotal role in restoring humanity otherwise even failed by established laws. While recent news of two renowned Doctors, who had dedicated their whole life for the service of people’s health, struggling to find a place for their mortal remains to be laid to rest, still is hard to be absorbed, many such instances of violence, hatred, discrimination, and enmity are reported in various places. China and the US are at diplomatic loggerheads with increasing tensions of mistrust and deceive. Will God help ease the tension? It depends on us, human.

Hope to Cope

The highly depressive news fed to us of the ever-increasing number of affected people and the deaths every day has its obvious psychological impact- fear and anxiety in most cases. The concern is now not a matter of little importance; psychologists have even prescribed different measures for people to follow to avoid mental lockdown. One fact which believers will agree is that prayer and singing/listening devotional songs have done wonders in addressing stress, not to mention the fulfillment of one’s duty towards God in doing so. Of all the remedies advised, one standout is to keep one’s hope and hang in there, which is what religions have always taught us. Faith and hope as curatives above much medicine, which many doctors too, admit, only proved that medical science alone does not constitute the art of healing. After 40 days, When the thought of just the virus itself is sickening enough, having someone to turn to and hope for is the only vaccine available now and lucky are those who have access to it.

End of World?

There are more things that we do not know about Covid-19 than what we proclaimed to have known. The latest news claimed that the Virus has mutated into 10 different types. Some people have even gone to the extent of claiming COVID-19 as the possible factor for the end of the world. While that is not only debatable, for God says only the father in heaven knows about the second coming, it can alter our hope from hoping things to improve for the better to surrendering to be saved in the eventual death facing us. While I am a firm believer that the end of one’s life is the second coming itself, I do not feel it worthwhile for any believers to speculate the end of the world. Yes, it can be the end of our world. Still, in so much as we believe in God, that thought should not worry us. Mark 13:32 32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Even if the word does end, the believers’ world will not end but rather it will begin. Our prayer and hope should instead be directed towards a better world where each of us has a responsible role. The purpose that God has for us should not and cannot be taken away by COVID-19.

 

Religious Responsibility

(1 Corinthians 13:13 13And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.) All religions speak about love, compassion, mercy and good deeds. While we attend our duties of spreading the love of God, there is no higher time than now to show with our acts the love and mercy in us to our fellow beings. Let us help the poor and the needy; let us ensure the homeless are sheltered before we build big temples- for, if God needs a home, it is in our hearts first. It is unfortunate how followers of religions can betray their God by engaging in fallacious acts detrimental to their fellow beings to the extent of causing serious disruptions in Governance, not to speak of the ultimate loss of lives. Religion should not be a reason to hate each other but to love one another befitting of the character of the followers of the Lord we worship.

                                    

Last But Not the Least

While it will be a folly to avoid all preventive norms and assign God to do everything, it will be more tragic a fate, not to have faith in the works of God. If even at the face of death, we do not turn to God, it is perceivable that we are yet to face death close enough. For those people making fun of the spiritual endeavours of people in these trying times, I wish to remind them of the story of ‘the penitent thief’. What our conducts in the past mean nothing if at present His will is not done by us. But a realisation and belief in God now will ensure that no matter what is our fate here on earth- we will rest in eternal peace. The satisfaction of knowing that we are saved and this world is not our home gives one among many other sublime feelings- the conviction to love people and respect them as one beautiful creation created in His image and not one to be left discriminated, abused, hurt, hungered and above all affected with the virus of hopelessness. Let us- find the love, be loved and spread the Love.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Your life or your money? Lockdown 3.0 for now!


May 2, 2020, 10:36 AM IST  in The WriteClick | India | TOI
   

With only a couple of days to go before the completion of the National Lockdown 2.0, many distinguished personalities- economists, politicians, social workers, professionals, celebrities, and even common men have expressed their opinion on whether lockdown should be continued or lifted. While the ministry of Home Affairs’ latest updates have extended the lockdown to another 14 days, it is worth remembering, for naysayers, the Spanish flu of 1918. It has been said that the jubilation over the lifting of lockdown during that pandemic had resulted in the onset of another stronger wave of the pandemic which killed millions.

Concerns on the plight of daily wage labourers and migrant workers have been elaborated by many. Noted economist and policy expert Dr. Raghuram Ranjan too is a staunch supporter of the lockdown to be lifted. “It in fact means that the government has not been successful in curbing the virus. So, it could diminish its credibility. We should not target 100 per cent success and wait for zero new cases before fully opening the economy,” said the former RBI Governor. The damage the present lockdown has caused will take years to recover, observed many economists. According to them, another phase of lockdown could see deaths from hunger and poverty and not just virus infection. It is not surprising as India has many of its citizens literally living hand to mouth. Humanitarian works though are conducted on war footing scale and the Government has done its best to feed the POPs.

The real question is have we improved on our situations? The past 10 days have seen the number of people affected increased by 1000 plus every day. Our test kits which are procured from china and sent to states are recalled on account of being “faulty”. For people who have complaints about lockdown hardships, it is too well known beforehand that Lockdown will have its unprecedented consequences- it is just that we do not have a better alternative. Some inconvenience that is bound to happen cannot be comparable to the possible catastrophic loss of human lives in the event of the lockdown being not enforced. With the possibility of lockdowns being lifted, we were on the verge of an inevitable state of accepting our fate entirely dependent on the conduct of Corona Virus. The idea of ‘herd immunity’ as prescribed by many, have been dismissed as ‘utter nonsense’ by renowned epidemiologist Dr. Gideon M K who is working with chronic disease in Sydney. “All of this is simply nonsense. Herd immunity without a vaccine is by definition not a preventative measure,” the doctor wrote in his health blog.

While some states have extended the lockdown beyond May 3rd, the PM has held meetings with the CMs of several states and the Home ministry’s extension of the lockdown is expected to be the outcome of that consultation. Although it was the economic factor and the humanitarian concerns for migrant workers, that hold a huge weight for the decision to relax lockdown, it is doubtful if the migrant workers will instantly find jobs, had lockdown been lifted, since most of them will be heading home as majority of the cities they have worked are categorized under Red zones.

As for those in the Green zones, it is understandable that there will be calls for lockdown norms to be relaxed. But the safest bet to stay evergreen would be to enforce lockdown at least for another 14 to 20 days so that any spread from asymptomatic carriers are ruled out, post the Home ministry’s advisory for states to allow inter-state movement of stranded people. Relaxation of National lockdown would be suicidal until unless there is a reliable vaccine developed, which could be in September end at the earliest. While it is true that we cannot wait an eternity for the vaccine and lockdown cannot continue forever, in as much as we suffer during the lockdown, it is always better to risk our money (economy) than our life. While it will take 5 to 10 years to revive the economy, it will be impossible to revive our life, if lost. We were 20 to 30 crucial days late in declaring lockdowns. The grave mistake of deciding to lift the lockdown 20 to 30 days earlier has been averted as of now. Only time will tell, if lockdown 3.0 will suffice it as it will now take more than staying Home to be safe. Curative measures like Test and Treatment have to witness a manifold increase in terms of quality and quantity to avoid another lockdown 4.0

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