Friday, January 28News That Matters

Opinion

Telecom reforms

Telecom reforms

Opinion
Over six years after the launch of the Digital India programme, aimed at transforming the country into a 'digitally empowered society and knowledge economy', the Union Government has approved a major relief package for the debt-burdened telecom sector. Such a bailout plan was long overdue, considering that one of the major players, Vodafone Idea, was on the brink of bankruptcy. In all, Vodafone and other telecom firms owed about Rs 92,000 crore to the Centre as licence fee and Rs 41,000 crore as spectrum usage fees. The confidence-building measures include a four-year break for companies from paying statutory dues, the scrapping of the Spectrum Usage Charge for airwaves acquired in future spectrum auctions, and 100 per cent FDI (foreign direct investment) in the sector under the automatic ...
Three Friends

Three Friends

Opinion
Translated from Arabic by Ameen Fayaz Once upon a time, there lived in a jungle three friends: a monkey, a dog and a khirteet. They knew each other since childhood and would play and enjoy together. They would share their food and would help each other in gathering and collecting food of their individual choices. The monkey would collect walnuts, the dog would collect bones, and the khirteet would collect grass and other such stuff. And then they would sit and enjoy the food of their choice together. They loved each other and would help and support each other. When, for example, the monkey would fine a piece of bone anywhere in the jungle, he would pick it and present it to the dog, his friend; when the dog would pass by a walnut tree, he would use the opportunity to collect some walnuts s...
Punjab’s water crisis

Punjab’s water crisis

Opinion
A special Vidhan Sabha committee has reaffirmed that unceasing groundwater depletion is pushing Punjab towards desertification, which could become a reality in a decade and a half. In its report, the committee has recommended agricultural zoning and metering of the groundwater supply for arresting the slide in the water table. The panel has also suggested a water credit scheme, under which farmers and the industry will be incentivised for using the precious natural resource judiciously. The figures are indeed alarming: the groundwater level is going down by 70 cm in the state annually; the volume of groundwater recharged every year is far less than what is being extracted. Punjab's groundwater crisis has been red-flagged repeatedly over the years, but successive state governments have des...
Digitising work in courts

Digitising work in courts

Opinion
The pandemic has exacerbated the problem of pendency of cases in lower courts, with work getting affected because of the shutdown. Though the backlog of cases in itself is not a new problem, the lockdown brought out the need to modernise the courts so as to be able to deal with the uncertainty and complexity of the situation. An estimated 4 crore cases are reported to be pending in the district and subordinate courts; the number was around 3 crore when Covid-19 set in. Steeped in tradition, rules and procedures, the judiciary has been slow to adapt to changes, resulting in calls for a switchover to the digital format. But the process of change is not without its share of challenges as the work of the judiciary encompasses an entire range of functions. It will involve e-filing of cases, e-...
On Propaganda and Failed Narratives: New Understanding of Afghanistan is a Must

On Propaganda and Failed Narratives: New Understanding of Afghanistan is a Must

Opinion
For twenty years, two dominant narratives have shaped our view of the illegal US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, and neither one of these narratives would readily accept the use of such terms as ‘illegal’, ‘invasion’ and ‘occupation.’ The framing of the US ‘military intervention’ in Afghanistan, starting on October 7, 2001, as the official start of what was dubbed as a global ‘war on terror’ was left almost entirely to US government strategists. Former President, George W. Bush, his Vice President, Dick Cheney, his Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld and an army of spokespersons, neoconservative ‘intellectuals’, journalists and so on, championed the military option as a way to rid Afghanistan of its terrorists, make the world a safe place and, as a bonus, bring democracy to Afgha...
The life of Zainab: A beacon for all women

The life of Zainab: A beacon for all women

Opinion
Syeda Zainab (s.a,) is a salient figure for people worldwide, the shining sun in the history of Islam and of humanity. She has given life to myriad devotional practices, but her life also offers a searing commentary on political oppression and the gendered nature of violence, which hold lessons for all. The history of Karbala is based on two pillars: the rising of Imam Hussein (a.s.) and the rising of Zainab. We have heard trials and tribulations that Sayida Zainab bint Ali had to endure after the martyrdom of her brother, Imam Hussain ibn Ali, her children, family members, and companions. But what practical lessons do we as a community take from her immense contribution to humanity? How well do we appreciate the monumental impact she made on the establishment of our faith and the implicat...
Tackling mental health

Tackling mental health

Opinion
IS there a case made out for an over-the-counter (OTC) sale of some anti-anxiety and anti-depressant drugs in the country? The number of patients afflicted with mental health disorders, as also those committing suicide is not only huge, but also, worrisomely, steadily rising, especially post Covid. Compounding the matter is the abysmal shortage of specialist psychiatrists and psychologist consultants in the country, more so in smaller towns and villages. Plus, the stigma attached to visiting a psychiatrist remains a major deterrent. Most people tend to be in the denial mode regarding the problem either out of ignorance or the taboo surrounding it. Only if extreme symptoms are exhibited, is medical help sought. And, unfortunately, given the poor health infrastructure in this field or the in...
UN in Afghanistan

UN in Afghanistan

Opinion
JUST being generous to the needs of the Afghan people won't be enough, India has prudently reminded the United Nations conference on dealing with the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan, while laying on the table the 'understandable concerns' and reservations not only in New Delhi, but also capitals around the world about providing aid directly to the Taliban. External Affairs Minister Jaishankar's call for a central role for the UN in the war-torn country underlines an unclouded policy assertion that the crisis requires united actions that only a global organisation such as the UN can carry out. The effectiveness of a multilateral platform rather than piecemeal efforts to ensure non-discriminatory distribution of assistance across all sections of Afghan society could not have bee...
To tame the raging bull that is Kabul

To tame the raging bull that is Kabul

Opinion
The Taliban’s stunning victory in Afghanistan was an immense shock to nations around the globe. In a matter of weeks, 20 years of history have been reversed at a pace nobody anticipated. This victory has left many political pandits flabbergasted and has also proved wrong a huge pile of books and research papers. Though the Taliban have fully established their rule in the war-ravaged country but the path ahead for them is a challenging one. Governing a bitterly divided land ravaged by decades of conflict is perhaps more difficult than winning a war. After getting control of Kabul, the Taliban are going to face multiple challenges on multiple fronts. Due to the presence of different approaches and mindsets in the Taliban group, perhaps the most serious challenge for them is to maintain unity...
The assassination of COVID-19 protocols

The assassination of COVID-19 protocols

Opinion
The Scarlet Plague, written by Jack London, a US writer and journalist, was one of the first examples of post-apocalyptic novel in modern literature. Set in a devastated and wild America, the story takes place in 2073, sixty years after the spread of Red Death, an uncontainable contagion that desolated and depopulated the world. The book was noted in 2020 as being very similar to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the ancient world, plagues and pandemics were frequent calamities. No medicine could arrest the spread of such infections; the only way to escape was to avoid contact with infected persons and contaminated objects. This has lessons for us: the importance of SOPs and protocols. Where medicines don’t work, safety protocols do the job. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the infection h...