Tag Archives: India

सरकार ने नेहरू मेमोरियल म्यूजियम का नाम बदल दिया ;अब इसका नया नाम पीएम म्यूजियम एंड सोसायटी रखा गया है.

कांग्रेस ने नेहरू मेमोरियल म्यूजियम का नाम बदलने पर आपत्ति जताई है

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AMN

केंद्र सरकार ने दिल्ली में स्थित नेहरू मेमोरियल म्यूजियम का नाम बदल दिया है. अब इसका नया नाम पीएम म्यूजियम एंड सोसायटी रखा गया है. कांग्रेस ने नेहरू मेमोरियल म्यूजियम का नाम बदलने पर आपत्ति जताई है

नेहरू मेमोरियल म्यूजियम एंड लाइब्रेरी सोसाइटी- (एनएमएमएल) का नाम बदलकर प्रधानमंत्री संग्रहालय और लाइब्रेरी सोसाइटी कर दिया गया है। रक्षामंत्री राजनाथ सिंह की अध्यक्षता में एनएमएमएल सोसायटी की एक बैठक के दौरान नाम बदलने का यह निर्णय लिया गया। वर्तमान में राजनाथ सिंह इस एनएमएमएल सोसाइटी के उपाध्‍यक्ष है।

अपने संबोधन में श्री सिंह ने नाम में परिवर्तन के प्रस्ताव का स्वागत किया क्योंकि अपने नए रूप में यह संस्था जवाहरलाल नेहरू से लेकर नरेंद्र मोदी तक सभी प्रधानमंत्रियों के योगदान और उनके सामने आने वाली विभिन्न चुनौतियों को प्रदर्शित करती है।

प्रधानमंत्रियों को एक संस्था के रूप में बताते हुए और विभिन्न प्रधानमंत्रियों की यात्रा की तुलना एक इंद्रधनुष के विभिन्न रंगों से करते हुए श्री सिंह ने इस बात पर जोर दिया कि एक इंद्रधनुष को सुंदर बनाने के लिए उसके सभी रंगों का आनुपातिक रूप से प्रतिनिधित्व किया जाना चाहिए। एनएमएमएल कार्यकारी परिषद के अध्यक्ष नृपेंद्र मिश्रा ने इस बात पर जोर देकर नाम में बदलाव की आवश्यकता बताई कि प्रधानमंत्री संग्रहालय लोकतंत्र के प्रति देश की गहरी प्रतिबद्धता को व्यक्त करता है।

प्रधानमंत्री नरेंद्र मोदी ने वर्ष 2016 में तीन मूर्ति परिसर, नई दिल्ली में भारत के सभी प्रधानमंत्रियों को समर्पित इस संग्रहालय को स्थापित करने का विचार रखा था। एनएमएमएल की कार्यकारी परिषद ने तीन मूर्ति एस्टेट में संग्रहालय के निर्माण को मंजूरी दी थी।

Hockey gets big boost in Jammu and Kashmir with the installation of three new Astro Turfs 


Harpal Singh Bedi

New Delhi, 2nd May :   To give a big boost to Hockey in the Union Territory , Jammu & Kashmir Sports Council has installed three new Astro Turfs in the valley and three more are under construction and will be made operational in a couple of months.

 Hockey is no longer confined to the urban centers but is becoming popular in whole of the Union Territory asserted Hockey Jammu and Kashmir general secretary Supinder Deep Singh Bakshi,  “First of all, we are focusing on the development of hockey infrastructure.  Nowadays, it is played on Astroturf instead of natural turf (grass) and given the fact that there was only one Astroturf in Jammu and Kashmir, hockey in the UT suffered a great deal. However, last year the Sports Council decided to set up more AstroTurf’s in different districts ,” . 

“Recently, three new AstroTurf’s were laid down – one in Pulwama and two in Srinagar and youngsters have already started practising on them. Moreover, 2-3 AstroTurf’s are under construction and will be made operational in a couple of months,” he informed  

In the recent past, Hockey J&K has successfully conducted numerous tournaments across age categories in different districts despite facing challenges like extreme weather conditions and high-security situations in the UT.  

 Senior and Junior Tournaments (men) were held in Jammu in March and April respectively “Notably, these local tournaments align with Hockey India’s visionary program – ‘Hockey India ka Abhiyan Har Ghar Ho Hockey Ki Pehchan’ which was unveiled recently to promote the sport in regions where the sport is not so popular. The initiative also focuses on scouting and nurturing young talents. 

“It’s a great initiative by Hockey India and to serve the purpose of the same, we have decided to provide hockey coaches to schools and other institutions that are located in remote areas of J&K to impart training and skills to students and revive the sport at such places.”  Bakshi said

Further talking about developing hockey at the grass root level every level , Bakshi said, “We recently conducted some good tournaments across age groups . They witnessed the participation of around 150-200 players. Moreover, training camps are being held regularly in Jammu, while in Kashmir, tournaments and training camps will commence shortly with summer fast approaching in the region.” 

“We also organise hockey events in other districts like Kathua, Poonch, etc. We have so far witnessed participation of 600-700 players across tournaments and training camps which took place in various districts . We are also actively looking for sponsors who can help us cover the remaining districts where hockey is yet to take off.” 

Meanwhile, Bakshi revealed that Hockey J&K will organise a Senior Tournament (Men) at KK Hakku Hockey Stadium in Jammu in the first week of May and it will be sponsored by J&K Sports Council. Moreover, hockey equipment including sticks, balls, and other essential items which were recently provided by Hockey India to its State Member Units, will be distributed among players on the inaugural or final day of the tournament, which will see the participation of eight teams. 

 Bakshi highlighted how the sport is helping those youngsters who come from troubled regions and are vulnerable to violence. “Hockey is playing an instrumental role in putting the youngsters of J&K on the right track. Anyone who plays hockey has his/her mind fully dedicated towards the sport and does not get distracted by irrelevant things. To date, we haven’t heard of any hockey player from the UT involved in any kind of unlawful activity,” .  

“Also, to make sure that hockey gains popularity in the maximum regions of J&K and to encourage young kids to take up the sport, we post advertisements in newspapers, social media, and put-up hoardings at various locations days before conducting any local tournament. 

” We have observed that more and more youngsters are now enrolling themselves in hockey training camps and parents are also pushing their children to take up the sport. We also meet senior officials from the J&K Government every now and again to discuss the possibility of creating departmental hockey teams of various organisations which will generate employment opportunities for players,” he added. 

Mumtaz Khan optimistic about India’s prospects after named in Women’s Hockey Core Group

Harpal Singh Bedi 

New Delhi, 19 April : Top goal scorer and third-highest overall at the Women’s Hockey Junior World Cup, Mumtaz Khan, has been selected for the  on going  senior national Coaching Camp, at SAI, Bengaluru.

The 20-year-old forward was part of the Indian team which won Silver medal in the Youth Olympics in 2018 and due to  hard work, she has risen through the ranks in recent years .Owing to her impressive performance in the tournament, Mumtaz was also named in the senior squad for Hero FIH Hockey 5s Lausanne  in which she scored five goals. 

 However, her  journey so far has been anything but easy as she has faced many hurdles in her career. Mumtaz’s list of challenges includes two ACL injuries in 2019 and 2022.

Talking about her rough phase and how she tackled it, Mumtaz said, “It was a big setback for me as I suffered an injury for the first time in my career and it turned out to be an ACL tear. I was very anxious while recovering from the injury and used to think if I’ll be able to walk again or not. If it’s the end of my career?” 

“I was very irritated and used to cry a lot during that rough period, but I still managed to complete my rehab in 6-7 months. I motivated myself to get back on the field as soon as possible and play as I used to before I got injured,” she added

She also expressed her gratitude to her team members, coaches and support staff for helping her get back on her feet when she was struggling. “I was a junior team player when I got injured. So, I didn’t have any job back then nor was I financially stable. However, Hockey India supported me in every possible way during that time and even put me in rehab with the senior team. There used to be a physio, a trainer and members of medical staff to take care of me and assure me that I will be fit again to play. Moreover, senior players used to check in on me and provide moral support during rehab. Hence, I am really grateful to Hockey India for extending a helping hand when I needed it the most,”  

Notably, Mumtaz Khan was named FIH Women’s Rising Star of the Year in 2021 and she also won Hockey India Asunta Lakra Award for Upcoming Player of the Year 2022. Speaking on the same, she said, “Given the fact that I was on the verge of giving up on hockey after getting injured, it was no less than a dream for me to win the two prestigious awards. Also, I received the FIH Women’s Rising Star of Year award “

وزیراعظم نریندر مودی اور آسٹریلیا کے وزیراعظم نے نئی دلّی میں دوطرفہ بات چیت کی

وزیراعظم نریندر مودی اور آسٹریلیا کے وزیراعظم اینتھنی ایلبانیز نے آج نئی دلّی کے حیدرآباد ہاﺅس میں دوطرفہ بات چیت کی۔ دونوں رہنماﺅں نے دونوں ملکوں کے درمیان جامع دفاعی شراکت داری کو فروغ دینے کیلئے مختلف معاملات پر بات چیت کی۔ دونوں رہنماﺅں نے تجارت، سرمایہ کاری، دفاع، تعلیم اور قابل تجدید توانائی کے معاملات پر بھی بات چیت کی۔اس سے پہلے وزیر خارجہ ڈاکٹر ایس جے شنکر نے ، آسٹریلیا کے وزیراعظم اینتھنی ایلبانیز سے ملاقات کی تھی۔ انہوں نے کہا کہ جناب ایلبانیز کا دورہ اور دونوں ملکوں کے درمیان سالانہ سربراہ میٹنگ سے ان کے درمیان تعلقات میں اضافہ ہوگا۔ بھارت اور آسٹریلیا کے درمیان تعلقات گرمجوشی اور دوستی پر مبنی ہیں۔  دونوں ملکوں کے درمیان اہم شراکت داری میں 2020 میں جامع اہم شراکت داری کی شکل میں اضافہ ہوا تھا۔ پچھلے سال دونوں ملکوں نے ”اقتصادی تعاون اور تجارتی سمجھوتہ“ نام کے ایک آزاد تجارتی معاہدے پر دستخط کئے تھے۔ دونوں ملکوں کے درمیان دو طرفہ تعلقات کی، 2021-22 میں تقریباً 27 ارب ڈالر کی مالیت تھی اور امید ہے کہ یہ 2035 تک 45 سے 50 ارب ڈالر سے زیادہ ہو جائے گی۔

We cannot end TB if we leave the older people behind

SHOBHA SHUKLA

Despite an alarming TB burden among the older people, programmatic response to address it is far from optimal, said Dr Vijay Kumar Arora, Chairperson of TB Association of India, who is also the Chairperson of Southeast Asia region of the International Union Against TB and Lung Disease (The Union).

One in four persons globally who had developed active TB disease in 2021 was over 55 years of age as per  the latest WHO Global TB Report (around 2.7 million people). But over a million of these older people were missed by TB services (or not notified to the national TB programmes if they ever received any kind of care or not).

In India, one in five people who was estimated to have active TB disease in 2021 was over 55 years of age as per the WHO Global TB Report 2022 (over 619,000 people). One third of these older persons could not get access to TB services (or were not notified to the government-run National TB Elimination Programme).

“The population of the elderly persons in India has increased exponentially from 77 million at the beginning of the last century to around 100 million now, forming 9% of the total population of the country. At the same time the number of elderly persons suffering from TB has also remained alarmingly high,” said Dr VK Arora.

TB rate in those above 55 years of age is almost double than others

“The prevalence of TB is 16% among the elderly in India. In fact, the TB rate in those above 55 years of age is 588 per 100,000 population, as compared to the national average of 316 per 100000 population of all ages. There is also a large number of elderly TB patients who remain undiagnosed. Such a high rate of TB necessitates concentrated efforts to control the condition effectively. Increased life expectancy, changes in the demographic profile and atypical presentation of the clinical features of TB pose many challenges in the management of TB in the elderly,” said Dr VK Arora.

TB diagnostic challenges among the elderly

“Elderly persons with TB form a vulnerable group showing high mortality. The diagnosis poses difficulties as they exhibit many atypical features, and symptoms are often similar to other age-related diseases. Many elderly patients present with nonspecific symptoms and the condition is missed for a long period of time, causing delay in correct diagnosis,” said Dr Surya Kant, Professor in Department of Respiratory Medicine, King George’s Medical University, who was also the Scientific Chair of 77th National Conference of Tuberculosis and Chest Diseases (NATCON) held in Agra, India.

TB treatment challenges among the elderly

The treatment of elderly patients with TB is similar to that given to younger patients. However, adverse reactions, such as hepatotoxicity, are more common in the elderly. “Drug interactions are more frequent in them. It has been seen that 63% of the elderly patients exhibit poor tolerance to anti-TB drugs, as compared to 54% in younger patients,” added Dr VK Arora, who is among the Guest Editors of a special issue of Indian Journal of Tuberculosis which is dedicated on the theme of TB and the elderly.

Financial issues often become a hindrance in continuing treatment. Many are not able to take care of themselves. This results in poor adherence to treatment and failure to complete the prescribed course. Loss to follow-up is also quite high. So the response to treatment is also less and there is an increased rate of treatment failure with advancing age.

“The susceptibility of elderly to TB is increased due to the presence of co-morbid conditions, such as type-2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, chronic kidney diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and malignancy. A strong connection has been established between diabetes and TB among the elderly,” said Dr Arora.

“Moreover, immunity declines with old age. As immunity wanes, many cases appear to have links to the reactivation of lesions that had remained dormant over many years. The susceptibility to the disease is also increased in the background of malnutrition, chronic alcoholism, pollution, unhygienic living conditions and smoking. Also, drug-resistant TB strains put great hurdles to achieve successful treatment outcomes,” he added.

Pneumonia, invasive pneumococcal disease and other lung diseases

Community acquired pneumonia in winters and invasive pneumococcal disease in un-immunised people pose a challenge. Opportunistic bacterial, fungal, viral, and parasitic infections in the elderly are not only difficult to diagnose but also difficult to treat. Further, there are many potential interactions between anti-TB drugs and other additional medications used by the elderly for the management of co-existing diseases.

According to a study, an all-inclusive management that includes geriatricians and infectious disease specialists, is required in these vulnerable patients, said Dr Arora. Health systems equipped with integrated services will have to address the challenge of an ageing population. Early screening and initiation of treatment along with nutritional management are essential to tackle TB in the elderly. Partnerships between organizations are essential for better management of cases.

Dr VK Arora said that “India is progressing towards delivering on the promise to end TB in the next 45 months (by 2025). It is evident that every person with TB needs to be reached with a full spectrum of TB services, including TB prevention, diagnostics, treatment, care and support. We cannot leave behind the elderly – or other TB vulnerable groups.”

Giving due importance to TB prevention, active case finding and adhering to treatment among the elderly will go a long way to exert positive influence for proper management of TB in the elderly to #endTB. CNS

(Shobha Shukla is the award-winning founding Managing Editor and Executive Director of CNS (Citizen News Services)

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Remdesivir drug moved from Prohibited to Restricted Category of Exports: Govt

NEWS DESK

Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers Mansukh Mandaviya has said the Remdesivir drug has been moved from Prohibited to Restricted Category of Exports on 14th June last.

In a written reply in Lok Sabha today, he said this step has been taken following the low demand and increased supply.

The Minister said the demand supply position for Tocilizumab has stabilized considerably and some states are not placing orders with the company marketing Tocilizumab as per quantities allocated by the Centre.

Mr. Mandaviya said that Remdesivir is manufactured in India whereas Tocilizumab is available in India through imports only.

He said due to collective efforts of seven domestic manufacturers of Remdesivir and grant of expeditious approvals by Drug Controller General of India, the licensed manufacturing sites of Remdesivir increased from 22 in mid-April this year to 62 at present.

He said the domestic production capacity of Remdesivir increased from 38 lakh vials per month in mid- April this year to 122 lakh vials per month now.

Ruckus continues in Parliament over Pegasus snooping, farm laws

Staff Reporter

Pegasus snooping, farm laws and others continued to mar the proceedings of both the Houses of Parliament for the seventh consecutive day of the Monsoon session today.

Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha could not transact any substantial business barring passage of few Bills amid din and the discussion on COVID situation in Upper House.

Today, after facing nine adjournments, Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day, while Rajya Sabha witnessed four adjournments before it was adjourned for the day.

When Lok Sabha met after ninth adjournment at 4.30 PM, members from Congress, DMK, TMC and other Opposition parties again trooped into the well raising slogans against the Government over Pegasus snooping, farm laws and other issues. The Presiding Officer tried to run the House and repeatedly urged the protesting members to return to their seats but they did not pay heed.

This forced the adjournment of the House for the day. Earlier, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal appealed to the agitating members to allow the House to function and raise their issues in proper manner. In the morning, amid uproar, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla tried to run the Question Hour. He also repeatedly urged the agitating members to allow the House to function as several important issues are listed for discussion.

The scene was no different in Rajya Sabha. Due to the unrelenting approach of the Opposition members, the Presiding Officer adjourned the House for the day. Earlier, amid ruckus, the Marine Aids to Navigation Bill, 2021 was passed after a brief discussion.

Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi criticised the agitating members saying the kind of language being used by them against Prime Minister Narendra Modi is objectionable. He said the agitating members are also violating COVID protocols.

Amid ruckus, Deputy Chairman Harivansh tried to run Question Hour but in vain. In the morning, when the House assembled for the day, members from Congress, TMC and others tried to draw the attention of the chair towards the adjournment motions on Pegasus snooping, farm laws and other issues.

Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said the disruption of the proceedings are detrimental to the interest of Parliament and the country.The Chairman asserted that he will not act under pressure of some sections of the House and urged them to introspect on their attitude of not allowing the House to function. Mr. Naidu stressed that dictation and dramatics will not be accepted by whoever is in the Chair.

The two houses paid tributes to former President of Mauritius Anerood Jugnath and first President of Zambia Dr Kenneth Kaunda in the morning.

Harrapan City in Gujarat ‘Dholavira’ inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List

NEWS DESK

Harrapan City in Gujarat ‘Dholavira’ has been inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List. This recognition is surely an acknowledgement of India’s rich history, unique cultural & architectural heritage.

Dholavira was an important urban centre and is one of our most important linkages with our past. It is a must visit, especially for those interested in history, culture and archaeology.

This has brought the number of World Heritage sites to 40 in India. Culture Minister G Kishan Reddy has said that today is a proud day for India, especially for the people of Gujarat.

He said that since 2014, India has added 10 new World Heritage sites which is one fourth of our total sites.

Mr. Reddy said that this shows Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s steadfast commitment in promoting Indian culture, heritage and the Indian way of life.

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ISRO to have a separate space station by 2030

 

Our Correspondent / New Delhi

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has announced that it will have a separate space station by 2030. At a press conference in New Delhi, Dr K Sivan, Chairman, ISRO announced “‘it will be a smaller module, which would be mainly used to carry out microgravity experiments.”

He said, India will not join the International Space Station. Mr Sivan said, the mission will also be an extension of the Gaganyaan project implying that there will be several phases to the human space mission project.

He said, India will be launching a small module and that will be used for carrying out microgravity experiments.

The weight of the space station is likely to be 20 tonnes. Mr. Sivan said the proposal will be sent to the government for approval after the first Gaganyaan mission.

A space station is a spacecraft capable of supporting crew members, designed to remain in space for an extended period of time and for other spacecraft to dock.

Currently, there is only one fully functioning space station in Earth’s lower orbit, the International Space Station and astronauts conduct different experiments in it.

Union Minister of State for Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh today said, Chandrayaan-2 will be launched on 15th of July. He said, it will land in September and will carry a rover. It will be an extension of Chandrayaan-1.

 

Chandrayaan-2 will contain three components, Orbiter, Lander and Rover and the total composite module will weight 3.8 tonnes. Dr Singh lauded the commitment and hard work of scientific community and highlighted the benefits of usage of space technology in improving the lives of common people.

Responding to a question, he said that the programme will be conceptualised over the next few years and will take at least 5-7 years. “Once the Gaganyaan in 2022 is launched successfully, work is underway. We will not tie up with international space station. It will be totally Indian and will be manned by Indians,” Sivan said.

The ISRO chairman did not share the estimated cost for the space station and did not share further details of the station project.

What is a space station?

It is a spacecraft which is capable of supporting crewmembers, and is designed to remain in space for an extended period of time which could be several months. India will join the elite club of countries when it has its own space station. So far there is only one fully functioning space station in Earth’s orbit, the International Space Station.

It is a habitable artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. It was first launched into orbit in 1998. The first residents on board the international space station arrived in November 2000. It is known to be the largest human-made body in low Earth orbit. And is visible to the naked eye from Earth.

According to him the focus of the agency presently is on the forthcoming launch of the Chandrayaan-2 on July 15 and the first human mission to space `Gaganyaan’’ in 2022 for which the government has already approved Rs 10,000 crore coinciding with country’s 75th Independence Day.

Adding that the human mission will carry three astronauts into space and their selection process which has already started is expected to be completed in next six months. This will be followed by intensive training for nearly two years at Institute of Aerospace Medicine (IAM) and the advance training may have to be done outside the country mostly in Russia.

He also announced agency’s ambitious mission to the Sun — Aditya-L1 (Liberator) in 2020 and its major aim is to study the Sun’s corona, through which it will be easier to understand more about climate change on earth.

Sivan said that “The agency wants to study its effects on climate change and we hope to launch it in the first half of next year.”

There are plans to launch a mission to Venus over the next few years which will carry 23 payloads. “Not only Sun and Moon, we hope to reach other planets, like Venus,” said Sivan.

Chandrayaan-2 weighing the 3,290-kg according to ISRO will orbit the Moon with the payloads onboard which will collect scientific information on various things including lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance and lunar exosphere.

From the time it is launched, it will take minimum 45 days to reach the moon and the landing on the moon will be closer to the South Pole on September 6 or 7 on an uncharted territory.

According to Sivan, the Lander which has been named after the father of the Indian space programme, Vikram Sarabhai, will touch down on a rugged lunar surface in the final descent. This final descent would be the “most terrifying moment” of the mission, he said.

Why Pluralism and Secularism essential for India?

By M. Hamid Ansari

V-P AnsariAn interest in political philosophy has been a lifelong pursuit. I recall John Locke’s dictum that ‘wherever law ends, tyranny begins.’ Also in my mind is John Rawl’s assertion that ‘justice is the first virtue of social institutions’ and that in ‘a just society the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled and the rights secured by justice and are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interest.’ To Rawls, the first task of political philosophy is its practical role to see, whether despite appearances on deeply disputed questions, some philosophical or moral grounds can be located to further social cooperation on a footing of mutual respect among citizens.

The Constitution of India and its Preamble is an embodiment of the ideals and principles that I hold dear.

The People of India gave themselves a Republic that is Sovereign, Socialist, Secular and Democratic and a constitutional system with its focus on Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. These have been embodied in a set of institutions and laws, conventions and practices.

Our founding fathers took cognizance of an existential reality. Ours is a plural society and a culture imbued with considerable doses of syncretism. Our population of 1.3 billion comprises of over 4,635 communities, 78 percent of whom are not only linguistic and cultural but social categories. Religious minorities constitute 19.4 percent of the total. The human diversities are both hierarchical and spatial.

It is this plurality that the Constitution endowed with a democratic polity and a secular state structure. Pluralism as a moral value seeks to ‘transpose social plurality to the level of politics, and to suggest arrangements which articulate plurality with a single political order in which all duly constituted groups and all individuals are actors on an equal footing, reflected in the uniformity of legal capacity. Pluralism in this modern sense presupposes citizenship.’

Citizenship as the basic unit is conceptualized as “national-civic rather than national-ethnic” ‘even as national identity remained a rather fragile construct, a complex and increasingly fraught ‘national-civic-plural-ethnic’ combinations.’ In the same vein, Indianness came to be defined not as a singular or exhaustive identity but as embodying the idea of layered Indianness, an accretion of identities.

‘Modern democracy offers the prospect of the most inclusive politics of human history. By the same logic, there is a thrust for exclusion that is a byproduct of the need for cohesion in democratic societies; hence the resultant need for dealing with exclusion ‘creatively’ through sharing of identity space by ‘negotiating a commonly acceptable political identity between the different personal and group identities which want to/have to live in the polity.’ Democracy ‘has to be judged not just by the institutions that formally exist but by the extent to which different voices from diverse sections of the people can actually be heard.’ Its ‘raison d’etre is the recognition of the other.’

Secularism as a concept and as a political instrumentality has been debated extensively. A definitive pronouncement pertaining to it for a purpose of statecraft in India was made by the Supreme Court in the Bommai case and bears reiteration:

‘Secularism has both positive and negative contents. The Constitution struck a balance between temporal parts confining it to the person professing a particular religious faith or belief and allows him to practice profess and propagate his religion, subject to public order, morality and health. The positive part of secularism has been entrusted to the State to regulate by law or by an executive order. The State is prohibited to patronise any particular religion as State religion and is enjoined to observe neutrality. The State strikes a balance to ensue an atmosphere of full faith and confidence among its people to realise full growth of personality and to make him a rational being on secular lines, to improve individual excellence, regional growth, progress and national integrity… Religious tolerance and fraternity are basic features and postulates of the Constitution as a scheme for national integration and sectional or religious unity. Programmes or principles evolved by political parties based on religion amount to recognizing religion as a part of the political governance which the Constitution expressly prohibits. It violates the basic features of the Constitution. Positive secularism negates such a policy and any action in furtherance thereof would be violative of the basic features of the Constitution.’

Despite its clarity various attempts, judicial and political, have been made to dilute its import and to read new meaning into it. Credible critics have opined that the December 11, 1995 judgment of the Supreme Court Bench ‘are highly derogatory of the principle of secular democracy’ and that a larger Bench should reconsider them ‘and undo the great harm caused by them’ This remains to be done; ‘instead, a regression of consciousness (has) set in’ and ‘the slide is now sought to be accelerated and is threatening to wipe out even the gains of the national movement summed up in sarvadharma sambhav.’

It has been observed, with much justice, that ‘the relationship between identity and inequality lies at the heart of secularism and democracy in India.’ The challenge today then is to reiterate and rejuvenate secularism’s basic principles: equality, freedom of religion and tolerance, and to emphasize that equality has to be substantive, that freedom of religion be re-infused with its collectivist dimensions, and that toleration should be reflective of the realities of Indian society and lead to acceptance.

Experience of almost seven decades sheds light on the extent of our success, and of limitations, on the actualizations of these values and objectives. The optimistic narrative is of deepening; the grim narrative of decline or crisis.

Three questions thus come to mind:
How has the inherent plurality of our polity reflected itself in the functioning of Indian democracy?
How has democracy contributed to the various dimensions of Indian pluralism?
How consistent are we in adherence to secularism?

Our democratic polity is pluralist because it recognizes and endorses this plurality in (a) its federal structure, (b) linguistic and religious rights to minorities, and (c) a set of individual rights. The first has sought to contain, with varying degrees of success, regional pressures, the second has ensured space for religious and linguistic minorities, and the third protects freedom of opinion and the right to dissent.

A question is often raised about national integration. Conceptually and practically, integration is not synonymous with assimilation or homogenization. Some years back, a political scientist had amplified the nuances: ‘In the semantics of functional politics the term national integration means, and ought to mean, cohesion and not fusion, unity and not uniformity, reconciliation and not merger, accommodation and not annihilation, synthesis and not dissolution, solidarity and not regimentation of the several discrete segments of the people constituting the larger political community… Obviously, then, Integration is not a process of conversion of diversities into a uniformity but a congruence of diversities leading to a unity in which both the varieties and similarities are maintained.’

How and to what extent has this worked in the case of Indian democracy with its ground reality of exclusions arising from stratification, heterogeneity and hierarchy that often ‘operate conjointly and create intersectionality’?

Given the pervasive inequalities and social diversities, the choice of a system committed to political inclusiveness was itself ‘a leap of faith.’ The Constitution instituted universal adult suffrage and a system of representation on the First-Past-The-Post (Westminster) model. An underlying premise was the Rule of Law that is reflective of the desire of people ‘to make power accountable, governance just, and state ethical.’

Much earlier, Gandhi ji had predicted that democracy would be safeguarded if people ‘have a keen sense of independence, self respect and their oneness and should insist upon choosing as their representatives only persons as are good and true.’ This, when read alongside Ambedkar’s apprehension that absence of equality and fraternity could bring forth ‘a life of contradictions’ if the ideal of ‘one person, one vote, one value’ was not achieved, framed the challenge posed by democracy.

Any assessment of the functioning of our democracy has to be both procedural and substantive. On procedural count the system has developed roots with regularity of elections, efficacy of the electoral machinery, an ever increasing percentage of voter participation in the electoral process and the formal functioning of legislatures thus elected. The record gives cause for much satisfaction.

The score is less emphatic on the substantive aspects. Five of these bear closer scrutiny – (a) the gap between ‘equality before the law’ and ‘equal protection of the law’, (b) representativeness of the elected representative, (c) functioning of legislatures, (d) gender and diversity imbalance and (e) secularism in practice:

• Equality before the law and equal protection of the law: ‘The effort to pursue equality has been made at two levels. At one level was the constitutional effort to change the very structure of social relations: practicing caste and untouchability was made illegal, and allowing religious considerations to influence state activity was not permitted. At the second level the effort was to bring about economic equality although in this endeavour the right to property and class inequality was not seriously curbed…Thus the reference to economic equality in the Constitution, in the courts or from political platforms remained basically rhetorical.’

Representativeness of the elected representative: In the 2014 general election, 61% of the elected MPs obtained less than 50% of the votes polled. This can be attributed in some measure to the First-Past-the-Post system in a fragmented polity and multiplicity of parties and contestants. The fact nevertheless remains that representation obtained on non-majority basis does impact on the overall approach in which politics of identity prevails over common interest.

Functioning of legislatures, accountability and responsiveness: The primary tasks of legislators are legislation, seeking accountability of the executive, articulation of grievances and discussion of matters of public concern. The three often overlap; all require sufficient time being made available. It is the latter that is now a matter of concern. The number of sittings of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha which stood at 137 and 100 respectively in 1953 declined to 49 and 52 in 2016. The paucity of time thus created results in shrinkage of space made available to each of these with resultant impact on quality and productivity and a corresponding lessoning of executive’s accountability. According to one assessment some years back, ‘over 40 percent of the Bills were passed in Lok Sabha with less than one hour of debate. The situation is marginally better in the Rajya Sabha.’ Substantive debates on public policy issues are few and far in between. More recently, the efficacy of the Standing Committee mechanism has been dented by resort to tactics of evasion by critical witnesses. A study on ‘Indian Parliament as an Instrument of Accountability’ concluded that the institution is ‘increasingly becoming ineffective in providing surveillance of the executive branch of the government.

The picture with regard to the functioning of the Sate Assemblies is generally much worse.

Thus while public participation in the electoral exercise has noticeably improved, public satisfaction with the functioning of the elected bodies is breeding cynicism with the democratic process itself. It has also been argued that ‘the time has come to further commit ourselves to a deeper and more participatory and decentralized democracy – a democracy with greater congruence between people’s interests and public policy.’

Gender and diversity imbalance: Women MPs constituted 12.15% of the total in 2014. This compares unfavourably globally as well as within SAARC and is reflective of pervasive neo-patriarchal attitudes. The Women’s Reservation Bill of 2009 was passed by the Rajya Sabha, was not taken up in Lok Sabha, and lapsed when Parliament was dissolve before the 2014 general elections. It has not been resurrected. Much the same (for other reasons of perception and prejudice) holds for Minority representation. Muslims constitute 14.23 percent of the population of India. The total strength of the two Houses of Parliament is 790; the number of Muslim MPs stood at 49 in 1980, ranged between 30 and 35 in the 1999 to 2009 period, but declined to 23 in 2014.

An Expert Committee report to the Government some years back had urged the need for a Diversity Index to indentify ‘inequality traps’ which prevent the marginalized and work in favour of the dominant groups in society and result in unequal access to political power that in turn determines the nature and functioning of institutions and policies.

Secularism in actual practice. Experience shows that secularism has become a site for political and legal contestation. The difficulty lies in delineating, for purposes of public policy and practice, the line that separates them from religion. For this religion per se, and each individual religion figuring in the discourse, has to be defined in terms of its stated tenets. The ‘way of life’ argument, used in philosophical texts and some judicial pronouncements, does not help the process of identifying common principles of equity in a multi-religious society in which religious majority is not synonymous with totality of the citizen body. Since a wall of separation is not possible under Indian conditions, the challenge is to develop and implement a formula for equidistance and minimum involvement. For this purpose, principles of faith need to be segregated from contours of culture since a conflation of the two obfuscates the boundaries of both and creates space to equivocalness. Furthermore, such an argument could be availed of by other faiths in the land since all claim a cultural sphere and a historical justification for it.

In life as in law, terminological inexactitude has its implications. In electoral terms, ‘majority’ is numerical majority as reflected in a particular exercise (e.g. election), does not have permanence and is generally time-specific; the same holds for ‘minority’. Both find reflection in value judgments. In socio-political terminology (e.g. demographic data) ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ are terms indicative of settled situations. These too bring forth value judgments. The question then is whether in regard to ‘citizenship’ under our Constitution with its explicit injunctions on rights and duties, any value judgments should emerge from expressions like ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ and the associated adjectives like ‘majoritarian’ and ‘majorityism’ and ‘minoritarian’ and ‘minorityism’? Record shows that these have divisive implications and detract from the Preamble’s quest for ‘Fraternity’.

Within the same ambit, but distinct from it, is the constitutional principle of equality of status and opportunity, amplified through Articles 14, 15, and 16. This equality has to be substantive rather than merely formal and has to be given shape through requisite measures of affirmative action needed in each case so that the journey on the path to development has a common starting point. This would be an effective way of giving shape to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policy of Sab Ka Saath Sab Ka Vikas.

It is here that the role of the judicial arm of the state comes into play and, as an acknowledged authority on the Constitution put it, ‘unless the Court strives in every possible way to assure that the Constitution, the law, applies fairly to all citizens, the Court cannot be said to have fulfilled its custodial responsibility.’

How then do we go about creating conditions and space for a more comprehensive realization of the twin objectives of pluralism and secularism and in weaving it into the fabric of a comprehensive actualization of the democratic objectives set forth in the Constitution?

The answer would seem to lie, firstly, in the negation of impediments to the accommodation of diversity institutionally and amongst citizens and, secondly, in the rejuvenation of the institutions and practices through which pluralism and secularism cease to be sites for politico-legal contestation in the functioning of Indian democracy. The two approaches are to be parallel, not sequential. Both necessitate avoidance of sophistry in discourse or induction of personal inclinations in State practice. A more diligent promotion of fraternity, and of our composite culture, in terms of Article 51A (e) and (f) is clearly required. It needs to be done in practice by leaders and followers.

A commonplace suggestion is advocacy of tolerance. Tolerance is a virtue. It is freedom from bigotry. It is also a pragmatic formula for the functioning of society without conflict between different religions, political ideologies, nationalities, ethnic groups, or other us-versus-them divisions.

Yet tolerance alone is not a strong enough foundation for building an inclusive and pluralistic society. It must be coupled with understanding and acceptance. We must, said Swami Vivekananda, ‘not only tolerate other religions, but positively embrace them, as truth is the basis of all religions.’

Acceptance goes a step beyond tolerance. Moving from tolerance to acceptance is a journey that starts within ourselves, within our own understanding and compassion for people who are different to us and from our recognition and acceptance of the ‘other’ that is the rairon d’etre of democracy. The challenge is to look beyond the stereotypes and preconceptions that prevent us from accepting others. This makes continuous dialogue unavoidable. It has to become an essential national virtue to promote harmony transcending sectional diversities. The urgency of giving this a practical shape at national, state and local levels through various suggestions in the public domain is highlighted by enhanced apprehensions of insecurity amongst segments of our citizen body, particularly Dalits, Muslims and Christians.

The alternative, however unpalatable, also has to be visualized. There is evidence to suggest that we are a polity at war with itself in which the process of emotional integration has faltered and is in dire need of reinvigoration. On one plane is the question of our commitment to Rule of Law that seems to be under serious threat arising out of the noticeable decline in the efficacy of the institutions of the State, lapses into arbitrary decision-making and even ‘ochlocracy’ or mob rule, and the resultant public disillusionment; on another are questions of fragility and cohesion emanating from impulses that have shifted the political discourse from mere growth centric to vociferous demands for affirmative action and militant protest politics. ‘A culture of silence has yielded to protests’ The vocal distress in the farm sector in different States, the persistence of Naxalite insurgencies, the re-emergence of language related identity questions, seeming indifference to excesses pertaining to weaker sections of society, and the as yet unsettled claims of local nationalisms can no longer be ignored or brushed under the carpet. The political immobility in relation to Jammu and Kashmir is disconcerting. Alongside are questions about the functioning of what has been called our ‘asymmetrical federation’ and ‘the felt need for a wider, reinvigorated, perspective on the shape of the Union of India’ to overcome the crisis of ‘moral legitimacy’ in its different manifestations.

I have in the foregoing dwelt on two ‘isms’, two value systems, and the imperative need to invest them with greater commitment in word and deed so that the principles of the Constitution and the structure emanating from it are energized. Allow me now to refer to a third ‘ism’ that is foundational for the modern state, is not of recent origin, but much in vogue in an exaggerated manifestation. I refer here to Nationalism.

Scholars have dwelt on the evolution of the idea. The historical precondition of Indian identity was one element of it; so was regional and anti-colonial patriotism. By 1920s a form of pluralistic nationalism had answered the question of how to integrate within it the divergent aspirations of identities based on regional vernacular cultures and religious communities. A few years earlier, Rabindranath Tagore had expressed his views on the ‘idolatry of Nation’.

For many decades after independence a pluralist view of nationalism and Indianness reflective of the widest possible circle of inclusiveness and a ‘salad bowl’ approach, characterized our thinking. More recently an alternate viewpoint of ‘purifying exclusivism’ has tended to intrude into and take over the political and cultural landscape. One manifestation of it is ‘an increasingly fragile national ego’ that threatens to rule out any dissent however innocent. Hyper-nationalism and the closing of the mind is also ‘a manifestation of insecurity about one’s place in the world.’

While ensuring external and domestic security is an essential duty of the state, there seems to be a trend towards sanctification of military might overlooking George Washington’s caution to his countrymen over two centuries earlier about ‘overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty.’

Citizenship does imply national obligations. It necessitates adherence to and affection for the nation in all its rich diversity. This is what nationalism means, and should mean, in a global community of nations. The Israeli scholar Yael Tamir has dwelt on this at some length. Liberal nationalism, she opines, ‘requires a state of mind characterized by tolerance and respect of diversity for members of one’s own group and for others;’ hence it is ‘polycentric by definition’ and ‘celebrates the particularity of culture with the universality of human rights, the social and cultural embeddedness of individuals together with their personal autonomy.’ On the other hand, ‘the version of nationalism that places cultural commitments at its core is usually perceived as the most conservative and illiberal form of nationalism. It promotes intolerance and arrogant patriotism’.

What are, or could be, implications of the latter for pluralism and secularism? It is evident that both would be abridged since both require for their sustenance a climate of opinion and a state practice that eschews intolerance, distances itself from extremist and illiberal nationalism, subscribes in word and deed to the Constitution and its Preamble, and ensures that citizenship irrespective of caste, creed or ideological affiliation is the sole determinant of Indianness.

In our plural secular democracy, therefore, the ‘other’ is to be none other than the ‘self’. Any derogation from it would be detrimental to its core values.

This is excerpt from the Vice President of India, M. Hamid Ansari lecture at 25th Annual Convocation at National Law School of India University (NLSIU), in Bengaluru.

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