There’s a lot happening in our country, much of which is making us cower and quiver. Here’s a glimpse of what makes us way s(l)icker than we really are
I have been writing these columns for a while, picking topics relevant and burning, offering views and debating on the same, week after week. This week found me in a fix, though, for this has been a busy week. There were many happenings, all relevant, some even bizarre and unnerving. All of them impact our daily lives. So here's a change. This week, I will try and talk about a few critical issues that have affected all of us personally.
China's insatiable lust
This particular craze was started by Alexander, Genghis Khan, and finally Adolf Hitler. And now, it is being emulated by China. I don't know what it is about land-grab that warps sensibilities and depraves us to naught, but it is not a new phenomenon, deplorable as it may be. In today's day and age, we find ourselves battling a pandemic, disease and fecal death, but there's one nation that marches on nonchalantly, grabbing land that belongs to others, even tracts that do not exist, those that were never created by humankind. This wanderlust for square feet mystifies. This land-craze has distanced China from the rest of the world, despite some great achievements by this country, and its megalomania and craze for yet more land continues. Mystifying?
Last week, China was officially exposed by the US Pentagon for the construction of a village across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in India's Arunachal Pradesh, housing hundreds of people. While Indian officials scampered and stayed as usual tongue-tied, China jumped into the fray rather brazenly, saying it has "never recognized Arunachal Pradesh and that land belongs to China". "Our activities are beyond reproach as we never recognized (that land) Arunachal," China shouted, even as our own ministries admitted that they were aware of the construction along the LAC.
So be it. Then let's shift to what the global media has to say about China's excursion into Indian territory. "China has captured 60 sq km of Indian-patrolled territory between May and June 2020," many wrote. Thus it is that betwixt India and China, there is an acidic dialogue happening, especially after the Galwan Valley incident in Ladakh last year, which saw many army personnel killed. The debate now moves to the next level, even as incursions by Chinese forces into India continue. Our authorities ostensibly know about each act, but never accede to this knowledge. Understand this, please. China shares borders, land and maritime, with 14 countries. And today, it is engaged in land-grab disputes with 14 nations and internationally disclaimed for creating defense bases in the South China Sea. Its grab-and-run (and land-creation) feast apparently continues.
Our economy and jobs
"Sab changa si" (everything is fine), our authorities claimed recently when they spoke of our economy and Corporates. A reality check deems otherwise. According to the Center for the Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE), India is in a terrible state. In October alone, around 54.6 lakh Indians working in the formal and informal sectors lost their jobs. While sections of the jobs market are opening up, as per the CMIE, the larger scenario continues to languish. Ironically, it is the Information Technology, Retail Trade and Education sectors that have upturned the job-cart. Mark you, these were the earlier mainstays of our economy. They always have been rock-stars.
Monthly employment data (CMIE) reveals that the number of people employed in October 2021 was 40.07 crore, down from 40.62 crore in September. Both the labor force participation rate (LFPR) and employment rate dropped month-on-month in October, compared to September. While the LFPR was 40.66 per cent in September, it eroded to 40.41 per cent in October. The LFPR in August was 40.52 per cent, implying that the marginal gains made in September were put paid to barely within a month. CMIE further pegged the national unemployment rate at 7.75 per cent in October, against 6.86 per cent in September.
For years now, especially since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, job losses have been a prickly issue. The cause for concern is that it is now rural India that extrapolates the bad job news headlines, especially as MNREGA resources for the year come close to being extinguished. The sole good news is that the 'employed people universe' expanded by 712,000 in urban India in October (over the previous month) as economic activities flared. However, rural India faced a significant fall of more than 60 lakh workers in formal and informal job.
Pollution and the media
This one is magic, tragic and laughable. Fortunately or else, I live in South Delhi, the prima donna of Delhi. But the view outside each morning, noon and night is anything but pristine. On Friday last week, the missus and I spent the afternoon on our sizeable terrace in a prime residential location with our wonderful cats and dogs. Result; the dogs are whining. The cats are grumpy, even creepy. Us humans are wheezing and coughing, our throats having been subjected to Delhi's annual guillotine of seasonal pollution.
Stupid us, I agree. We should have stayed indoors, but I wanted to spend just one afternoon nursing a gin, looking at a beautifully-ageing better half, playing with my dogs and purring cats, enjoying my retired fifties. I was wrong. The only thing that brought mirth to me in such depressing times is when social media news anchors vented their spleen, chastising the idiots that man our city and cited their temerity as to the truth about Delhi's air quality index.
They reported about it and posted it on the social media online. And through the night, they paid a terrible price. One friend told me that after he posted one single news report of 'Delhi-NCR bursting firecrackers despite the Supreme Court's diktat', he was trolled 4,500 times on our most-loved Twitter. A few called him hedonistic; and they were nice; for paradoxically, most called him "anti-Hindu, anti-Rama, anti-national (deshdrohi)". My childish friend was even asked for his address so he could be 'punished appropriately'.
Nice times we live in.
Jhansi Ki Raani
A leading Bollywood heroine, now mountain-clad and festered, recently received the Padma Shri Award. Rather than respect the honor with dignity, she voiced opinions that quite literally disgraced the country. That's not surprising, since she is known to have a mouth that runs unstoppably at the most devious of times. But here, her tonsils ran north, so much so that even the ruling party's leaders demanded that the Padma Award withdrawn and she be charged with sedition. Today a hero(ine), tomorrow a curse; typical of these times. The controversy over her comment snowballed, as she vehemently claimed that India won true independence only in 2014, and that what was garnered in 1947 was just 'bheekh' (alms).
The arbiter in focus now finds herself in the eye of a storm and is being scrutinized. Even ruling leaders now say that "nobody has a right to pass a negative remark on (India's) the freedom movement". Wrong timing by her, indeed? Being provocative has its limits, whoever mountain you are on, or in. Even without the proverbial COVID-19 mask. But who wears a mask now anyway, except those that always did?
Our cricket emotions
I didn't want to talk about this, but I will, even though I am no sports writer. Can cricket ever be far from Indians? Nope. So here we go. India lost to Pakistan in a World Cup in the match on October 24 this year (the first time, ever). Pakistan deserved to win. Babar Azam, the new Afridi (Shaheen) and the team played wonderfully well and brought India down to its knees, winning by 10 wickets. They played brilliantly for the next four matches as well, mentally bolstered by their historic win against India. And despite the trolls, we have to regale Ravi Shastri, India's Chief Coach for years now. He led India to two splendid Test Series wins against the Australians in Australia, which has never been done before. And Kapil Dev, who's 'Kap's Devils' led us to our first ODI World Cup win in 1983.
If we are half-awake still, reading this variegated column, this is a wake-up call, especially for India and Pakistan. But will we wake up? For together, cricket and else, we could be monumental. And thus ends the summary of this week's conquests, as my neighbor and I continue to labor and belabor.
The writer is a communications consultant and a clinical analyst. firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed are personal