Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A creeping emergency - The Gujarat brand of established fear no

Jawhar Sircar

As a defining moment, the twenty fifth of June of 1975 has more than secured its position on the timeline of Indian history. While the Congress prays hard to just forget the ignominy of Emergency, the prime beneficiaries of this tragic phase, namely the Yadav-led socialist parties, are burping after feasting on power for several decades. As the most fearless and uncompromising opposition to India's Emergency, the Akali Dal earned lucrative political rewards, but the most interesting contender is the ruling party. It is hell-bent on appropriating all credit for everything remarkable, whether in the past or at present. It uses its proven skills in creative engineering of collective memory to craft an alternative narrative with selective use of historical facts. True, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh did fill jails with its swayamsevaks during the Emergency and also took good care of their families as none else could, but we need to clear the air on the oft-repeated charge that the sangh's supremo, Balasaheb Deoras, had tried desperately to meet Indira for a deal. The records that the Intelligence Bureau chief, T.V. Rajeswar, and others have referred to need to come out.

India is the only third-world nation in that vast swathe from Morocco to the Philippines that has successfully kept its army within barracks. But one really wonders how long we can, with the unprecedented idolizing of the military's heightened role in Kashmir where the crisis gets aggravated with each passing day. And, the undeclared war with Pakistan keeps up the desired jingoism to foment fierce nationalism. The whole of the free world, except die-hard sangh supporters, seriously feels that the genie of authoritarianism may have escaped from the bottle that we sealed in 1977. The mindset is so eerily similar although the strategy is now more 'mature'. On November 8 last year, the prime minister did not require to formally invoke any 'financial emergency' under Article 360 when he declared unilaterally that 86 per cent of our currency was worthless. Crores of Indians lost billions of productive hours in queuing before ATMs and banks and the after-effects are still visible, as cash-strapped farmers are shot dead in Madhya Pradesh. Even after the elections in UP were won on this self-righteous crusade against black money, no one really knows how much of the ill-gotten wealth was really unearthed, to justify the death of a hundred hapless citizens during the demonetization exercise. It established the new rules of the game that desired results can still be obtained without going through formal legal declarations that invite unnecessary furore from a pampered democracy. In fact, the ongoing methodical leash on civil liberties and free thought is less messy than Sanjay Gandhi's tantrums.

The holy cow was a master-stroke that ignites passions and justifies the systematic and repetitive lynching of members of the minority community, thereby bludgeoning the 67-year-old established practice of plurality. Once this principle of outsourcing violence without retribution made its gash on the body polity, the next logical step of murder-at-will followed, as young Junaid learnt through his tragic death on a Delhi-Mathura train. It is no more safe to look like like a 'typical' member of the minority community or to profess the hated creed of secularism. The narrative of the times screams that since the nation has reposed its faith in the 'great leader' and successive elections have reinforced his mandate, any doubts on the absolute infallibility of his reign are either anti-national or evidence of other grievous inadequacies. Even though no sensible person can condone proven subversion if any, the fact is that JNU's genetic restlessness became a red rag to the storm-troopers of ultra-nationalism. Those who hardly participated in the freedom struggle and are reported to have had severe reservations about our tricolour in 1947-1948 now ensure that every Indian proves his nationalist credentials in public or faces their wrath. The boss of a trusted national media is amazed at the 'debate over freedom of expression' and declared it is the "schizophrenia" of the unseated elite within the national capital city.

Unfortunately, he scored a self-goal when he declared that it is "fed by social media and some media outlets". It is tragic to see how unsuspecting millions are fed with unending streams of anti-minority hate-news and venomous post-truth lies on WhatsApp each day and the alacrity with which internet 'troll' devils have forcefully evicted liberals from Twitter with intolerable abuses. Swati Chaturvedi laid bare the nexus between the ruling party's social-media wing and troll brigades that 'manufacture followers' in lakhs. From a recent shuddering experience on Twitter, one deciphers even traces of linkages with professional intelligence agencies, as items that are not in the public domain are also fed to trolls. Never before has India seen such steamrollering of free opinion through layers of systematic terror.
The next strategy tamed the same free press that tore down the earlier regime through every event, from Anna Hazare to Nirbhaya. So dramatic has been the domestication of Indian journalism that we can count the fearless few on our fingers. Three tactics must have worked: the adroit management of barons, the silent takeover of media houses by friendly capitalists and, of course, crude storm-troopers who symbolize the totally-intolerant right-wing from the dreadful 1930s. Sadly, the so-called 'reasonable rightist' journalists have also become miserly with facts, after they were loaded with favours. There is now no need for the faltering constitutionalism of Rajiv Gandhi, who had sought to control mails and 'defamation' through laws that were then drowned under protests. One can get better results at present without even touching the law-book.

Even Indira Gandhi's paranoid FCRA of 1975 has come home to roost as thousands of non-governmental organizations are debarred from seeking foreign contributions to survive and their domestic supporters are terrorized by bullies. Thus, while the organizations of relentless crusaders like Indira Jaising and Teesta Setalvad are starved, big donations from rich overseas supporters of Hindutva to the obvious party are fully legitimized. Like Indira Gandhi, personal loyalty matters most and Narendra Modi confabulates endlessly with hand-picked, but squirming, bureaucrats, who are terrified of his hire and fire rule, while his ministers shiver in their darkness. The Prime Minister's Office has gained more control than it ever had during the Emergency era, proving thereby that similar mindsets require similar hegemonic structures. The sad victim, however, is the Constitution's cabinet system, and the old demand for a 'presidential system' is voiced periodically: the last being from Modi's trusted bureaucrat-factotum. Indira Gandhi created fear in instalments, while Modi just replicated his successful Gujarat brand of established fear smoothly over the entire nation.
Such fear and the 'one leader' syndrome do not augur well in a democracy. One can tolerate the hogging of all credit for completing projects of the earlier government, like the Kochi Metro or the longest road tunnel in Kashmir, but the mind-boggling populism and orchestrated hero-worship are quite scary. He is certainly not the first prime minister who appears petty, but liberals feel that some of those bear hugs with which he embarrasses every foreign dignitary could do better in India. We need an assurance, for all democracies die without dissent.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Minority ministry junk cry


New Delhi, June 26: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has demanded scrapping of the minority affairs ministry and the National Commission for Minorities, terming them an "atrocity" on Hindus and minority groups like the Buddhists and the Sikhs.

The central governing council of the VHP - a Sangh affiliate - passed a resolution at a two-day meeting that ended yesterday in Vadtal, Gujarat, saying the very idea of such a ministry and commission "leads to a separatist mindset".

"The minority commission builds such an atmosphere as if Christians and Muslims in India are suffering. This is not only an atrocity on the Hindus but also on other minorities like the Buddhists and the Sikhs. This gives rise to a separatist mindset," the resolution said. It added that all citizens should be treated equally and the national human rights commission was enough to address the grievances of all.

The VHP also criticised protests over last week's beef-related lynching of a Muslim teenager on a train near Delhi. Sunil Jain, VHP joint general secretary and a veteran RSS pracharak, lashed out at those offering Id prayers with black bands today and the statement of Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind chief Mahmood Madani against the lynching. "Offering namaz with black bands and Madani threatening action by Muslim youths will not be tolerated anymore. These separatists forces should be dealt with strongly," Jain said.
He also slammed a special minority commission helpline for Muslims. "This (helpline) makes one feel the atrocities against Muslims have reached extreme proportions. This is not correct."

The VHP resolution described gau rakshaks (cow protectors) "worthy of respect", claiming they were stepping in as states could not protect the "sacred" animal, and alleged a "conspiracy" to malign them with false cases.

The resolution "congratulated" the people of Bengal for participating in large numbers in marches brought out by RSS-aligned outfits on Ramnavami this April after "decades of suppression under the jihadis, Leftists and Trinamul". Some state BJP leaders were booked after many marchers were seen brandishing swords and other sharp weapons.
The VHP resolution criticised a move to charge GST on the prasad of Tirupati and other big temples and demanded its rollback.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Modi 'refuses' to come out of his car until cameramen arrives in Portugal

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday hailed the contributions of the more than 65,000 Indians in Portugal, saying they were India’s “real ambassadors” and have enriched the culture of the country they have made their home.


“Indians have carried their cultural heritage with them and have always been proud of them,” Modi said addressing the diaspora Indians in Lisbon.
After Modi arrived in Lisbon, he also visited The Champalimaud Foundation, which is a leading cancer research and treatment centre in Portugal.
However, in a bizarre twist of event, the Indian prime minister ‘refused’ to alight his car for a prolonged duration until two cameramen, understandably travelling with him, had arrived and taken their positions.
In the video, two officials are seen attempting to open the door of the car Modi is sat in, but they quickly change their minds for mysterious reasons.
Soon one official is seen looking at his left in desperation. Moments later two cameramen appear from the same direction hurriedly seen taking their positions. The official in question again peeps into the car for a conversation with Modi following which the prime minister finally emerges out of his official vehicle.
Modi’s fascination for the camera has often been a butt of social media jokes. One of Modi’s most famous videos displaying his penchant for camera was when he had visited the Facebook headquarter in the US.
In the viral video, he was seen pushing the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg away because he had come in between the camera and himself.
In January last year, the prime minister pushing a member of his staff because he had come in between him and the camera was fervently shared on twitter, Facebook and instant messaging platform WhatsApp.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Your Brain Has a Delete Button - Here is how to use it

There’s an old saying in neuroscience: neurons that fire together wire together. This means the more you run a neuro-circuit in your brain, the stronger that circuit becomes. This is why, to quote another old saw, practice makes perfect. The more you practice piano, or speaking a language, or juggling, the stronger those circuits get.
For years this has been the focus for learning new things. But as it turns out, the ability to learn is about more than building and strengthening neural connections. Even more important is our ability to break down the old ones. It’s called “synaptic pruning.” Here’s how it works.
Your Brain’s Delete Button And How to Use It

YOUR BRAIN IS LIKE A GARDEN

Imagine your brain is a garden, except instead of growing flowers, fruits, and vegetables, you grow synaptic connections between neurons. These are the connections that neurotransmitters like dopamine, seratonin, and others travel across.
“Glial cells” are the gardeners of your brain–they act to speed up signals between certain neurons. But other glial cells are the waste removers, pulling up weeds, killing pests, raking up dead leaves. Your brain’s pruning gardeners are called “microglial cells.” They prune your synaptic connections. The question is, how do they know which ones to prune?
Researchers are just starting to unravel this mystery, but what they do know is the synaptic connections that get used less get marked by a protein, C1q (as well as others). When the microglial cells detect that mark, they bond to the protein and destroy–or prune–the synapse.
This is how your brain makes the physical space for you to build new and stronger connections so you can learn more.

WHY SLEEP MATTERS

Have you ever felt like your brain is full? Maybe when starting a new job, or deep in a project. You’re not sleeping enough, even though you’re constantly taking in new information. Well, in a way, your brain actually is full.
When you learn lots of new things, your brain builds connections, but they’re inefficient, ad hoc connections. Your brain needs to prune a lot of those connections away and build more streamlined, efficient pathways. It does that when we sleep.
Your brain cleans itself out when you sleep–your brain cells shrinking by up to 60% to create space for your glial gardeners to come in take away the waste and prune the synapses.
Have you ever woken up from a good night’s rest and been able to think clearly and quickly? That’s because all the pruning and pathway-efficiency that took place overnight has left you with lots of room to take in and synthesize new information–in other words, to learn.
This is the same reason naps are so beneficial to your cognitive abilities. A 10- or 20-minute nap gives your microglial gardeners the chance to come in, clear away some unused connections, and leave space to grow new ones.
Thinking with a sleep-deprived brain is like hacking your way through a dense jungle with a machete. It’s overgrown, slow-going, exhausting. The paths overlap, and light can’t get through. Thinking on a well-rested brain is like wandering happily through Central Park; the paths are clear and connect to one another at distinct spots, the trees are in place, you can see far ahead of you. It’s invigorating.

BE MINDFUL OF WHAT YOU’RE MINDFUL OF

And in fact, you actually have some control over what your brain decides to delete while you sleep. It’s the synaptic connections you don’t use that get marked for recycling. The ones you do use are the ones that get watered and oxygenated. So be mindful of what you’re thinking about.
If you spend too much time reading theories about the end of Game of Thrones and very little on your job, guess which synapses are going to get marked for recycling?
If you’re in a fight with someone at work and devote your time to thinking about how to get even with them, and not about that big project, you’re going to wind up a synaptic superstar at revenge plots but a poor innovator.
To take advantage of your brain’s natural gardening system, simply think about the things that are important to you. Your gardeners will strengthen those connections and prune the ones that you care about less. It’s how you help the garden of your brain flower.
Judah Pollack is the co-author of The Chaos Imperative, and Olivia Fox Cabane is the author of The Charisma Myth.
The above has been taken from Fast Company. The original article may be read at https://www.fastcompany.com/3059634/your-brain-has-a-delete-button-heres-how-to-use-it

AAP slams govt on clean chit to ex-AIIMS official

New Delhi: AAP on Wednesday accused the BJP-led Centre of “going to any lengths” to cover up its alleged scams. The party was reacting to a recent affidavit filed by CBI in court, declaring former AIIMS deputy director Vineet Chaudhary innocent in a Rs 7,000-crore scam.

“BJP claimed that it is the only government which had no cases of corruption. It has been harassing opposition parties by implicating them in false cases and unleashing CBI against them. But this is the same government which can go to any lengths to hide its own scams,” said party member Ashutosh.

As an example, he quoted the case of Vineet Chaudhary whose name had figured in a Rs 7,000-crore scam in AIIMS. “He was health secretary to now health minister JP Nadda when the former was health minister in Himachal. Nadda and PMO made every effort to discredict the CVO in AIIMS then, Sanjeev Chaturvedi, to ensure that he could not investigate Chaudhary,” Ashutosh alleged.

A senior official in the health minister's office said Nadda had removed himself willingly in 2015 from the issue and he also transferred the case from his ministry to DoPT for an independent probe. AAP claimed that Nadda had sent two letters to the Congress government and one when BJP was in power, to have Chaturvedi removed on fabricated technical grounds.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

New Tales of Superman

The longest road tunnel - in Kashmir, the longest river bridge - in Assam, the model metro of a future India - in Kochi, and one man to declare them open - the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi.
He strides alone, a fashionably greying superman, in photographs of the inauguration of tunnel and bridge, waving to the future between cylindrical walls vanishing into the brightly lit distance or walking the ramp between sky and water, none behind him or before him, the nonpareil in history. 

It does not matter that these were projects begun by the previous government. Superheroes must deny continuity; they are Fate's interventions in history's course. Mr Modi's superpowers were likely to have been the theme of the inauguration of the Kochi metro too. 

E. Sreedharan, the force behind the Delhi metro and the brains behind the cutting-edge Kochi metro, was at first dropped from the list of people who were to sit with the prime minister on the dais. No one who can actually be credited with an achievement should be seen anywhere close to the prime minister in a moment of triumph; the triumph must be his alone. At least that was the feeling behind the outrage that greeted the Prime Minister's Office upon the excision of Mr Sreedharan's name from the VIP list. 
The chief minister of Kerala wrote to the PMO about this, and Mr Sreedharan was put back in.

It is silly, though, not to trust Mr Modi. The flip-flop over Mr Sreedharan's inclusion had nothing to do with the prime minister's insatiable love for the spotlight. Mr Sreedharan is being considered as a presidential candidate, whispered sources in the PMO; it would be improper for him to share the dais with the prime minister just before the announcement of his name. Before this convoluted reasoning had sunk in, Mr Sreedharan's name was back again. Is he no longer being considered as a candidate then? If he is, why was he dropped in the first place? Besides, said the whispers, Mr Modi likes to be distant from the person he has to push up. Obviously, he has never 'pushed up' Amit Shah. His invisible superpowers must have done that.

These powers do achieve the impossible. In 2001, a silent super-force emanating from the then Gujarat chief minister of barely two months must have impelled the president of the time, K.R. Narayanan, to inaugurate the construction at Deekshabhumi, where B.R. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism in 1956. That would be the only explanation of the claim made by the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, that Mr Modi built the memorial at Deekshabhumi. Whether it is Mr Sreedharan's exclusion from a VIP list or Ambedkar's rejection of Hinduism - his conversion, that is - all must be to the greater glory of the leader. The omnipotent, omnipresent leader is an all-too-familiar, all-too-ominous figure in the history of the world. India may boast one yet.

How to check unsolicited advice on stocks

If you own a smartphone, it would be a big surprise if you don’t receive free share tips from unknown advisors.
“Multi-bagger Buy 2,000 shares of NSE-BSE Hubtown (Code 532799) buy above 150; SL 140; short-term target ₹180-190 expected ₹280 in one month,” says one message followed by “Buy 10,000 SFLINER (BSE Code 530867) at ₹41.10, intraday target 45.5, BTST 55, SL 45.70. 75+ in week.”
Another one reads “Buy 20,000 shares of Panafic (Code 538860) buy @6.47 SL 5.85, short-term target 10-14, expected ₹20 in one month.” “Upper Circuit call buy CTL BSE: 538476 at 15 short-term 10 days target 15”; Company declared 7.5 per cent dividend, FIIs and MFs buying,” touts another message.
These kinds of messages find their way frequently into the mobile phone inbox, whether or not the number is registered under the DND (Do Not Disturb) registry with the telecom operator. Rogue brokers/tipsters somehow manage to bypass those filters.
From fake identities
What is even more disturbing is that some of these messages are from fake identities that have similar-sounding names to big-name broking houses such as Kotak Securities, Emkay, Angel Broking, HDFC Securities and Motilal Oswal. Clearly, there are pump-and-dump operators at play, who would like to bid up obscure companies with poor fundamentals and allow current holders in the stock to exit at an inflated price.
So, how should one address these unwarranted messages? At the face value, one should simply ignore such messages.
SEBI, in December 2016, had issued an advisory on the subject saying that it had come to know that many entities have been luring investors through unsolicited calls/SMSs and assuring guaranteed profits on the trading tips provided by them and that “It is observed that this activity is carried out mostly by entities based in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.”
SEBI had cautioned investors to: “Deal with only SEBI-registered intermediaries and check their registration status on the SEBI website www.sebi.gov.in before availing the services; be wary of any misleading advertisements which solicit investments in securities market assuring guaranteed profits.”
SEBI’s advice is: “Take informed investment decision without being influenced by trading tips.”
Hard to identify
But without their complete identity at hand, it is not easy for investors to go to the SEBI site and check the registration of these brokers.
Instead, SEBI or the exchanges should have a provision on their websites in the form of a platform for investors to enter the phone numbers and IDs of such unscrupulous elements so that the regulator can initiate a probe against these intermediaries/brokers and, if found guilty, punish them.
The market regulator and intermediaries could also have a WhatsApp ID or exclusive mobile number where these messages and numbers could be forwarded in order to tighten the screws on such players.
(This article was published on June 16, 2017)