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Six book covers shortlisted for Oxford Bookstore ‘Book Cover Prize’

“Never judge a book by its cover is a difficult axiom to follow. Invariably we end up picking up a book because of the riveting book cover. The 7th edition of Oxford Book Cover Prize salutes the creative genius and diversity of the Indian graphic design community”.

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

The Oxford Bookstore ‘today announced the much-awaited shortlist of the seventh edition of its ‘Book Cover Prize’ at the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival which commenced in a virtual mode.

A list of six book covers has been chosen by the jury comprising Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Dr Alka Pande, Shobhaa De, Priti Paul, Kunal Basu and guest juror Emmanuel Lebrun- Damiens. The winner will be announced virtually later this year.

Announcing the shortlist, the Prize Chair of Jury, Dr Alka Pande said, “Never judge a book by its cover is a difficult axiom to follow. Invariably we end up picking up a book because of the riveting book cover. The 7th edition of Oxford Book Cover Prize salutes the creative genius and diversity of the Indian graphic design community”.

In the sixth edition of the prize, graphic designer Gunjan Ahlawat was awarded for the book “Gun Island” by Amitav Ghosh, published by Hamish Hamilton, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

This year the list of winning designers and the name of the books is as follows: Shashi Bushan Prasad for ‘Johpur Guns’, Vishak Raj for ‘Kerala Bakshanam Chrithram’, Gavin Morris for ‘Estuary’, Shreya Nayak for ‘Lotus Land’, Maithili Doshi for ‘Turmeric Nation’ and Ishan Khosla for ‘Kintsugi’.

The Oxford Bookstore Book Cover Prize is the first-of-its-kind honour for splendour in book design, and an endeavour by an iconic bookstore to perceive and empower the phenomenal work of artists, designers and distributors crosswise over India. The new prize acknowledges the significance of illustrations, especially in our undeniably visual age, and trusts that a book cover translates and interprets the resulting content in critical ways that add to its definitive achievement, read the Press statement.

Bengal govt looking for land to build new airport near Kolkata

The state government has also made it clear that the land should be big enough so that it can have a 3-km runway to accommodate larger planes like Boeing 777. The indications are clear that the state is keen to develop an airport which will be big enough with facilities equal to the present airport.

IANS | Kolkata |

Considering the huge pressure on the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport here, the West Bengal government is looking for land to develop a new airport in or around Kolkata.

The state secretariat has already asked the district administration to look for land so that an airport larger than the present one in Dum Dum can be developed.

Spread over an area of 1,641 acres, the Kolkata airport is the largest hub for air traffic in the eastern part of the country and one of two international airports operating in West Bengal, the other being Bagdogra.

The airport handled almost 20 million passengers in the financial year 2017-18, making it the fifth-busiest airport in India in terms of passenger traffic after Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.

The airport is a major centre for flights to Northeast India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Southeast Asia and Middle Eastern cities. In 2014 and 2015, the Kolkata airport won the title of Best Improved Airport in the Asia-Pacific region awarded by the Airport Council International.

It was awarded the best airport by hygiene measures in Asia-Pacific in 2020 by the Airports Council International.

“There is huge pressure on Kolkata airport, so we are trying to develop another airport close to the city that will work as a second terminal to the Kolkata airport. This will help reduce pressure and also enable the state to accommodate more domestic and international flights. This will also help develop the city into a major business destination of eastern India,” sources in the state secretariat said.

The sources also indicated that Chief Secretary Hari Krishna Dwivedi has already asked the district administrations to look for land in and around Kolkata.

“The state government has also made it clear that the land should be big enough so that it can have a 3-km runway to accommodate larger planes like Boeing 777. The indications are clear that the state is keen to develop an airport which will be big enough with facilities equal to the present airport.

“There is a possibility of getting land at Bangor in South 24 Parganas and the district administration has been asked to look into the details of the same,” a senior official said.

The state administration in its specifications has made it clear that it is keen to develop large hangars so that many planes can be accommodated.

A Trinamool Congress mouthpiece also said that the state government is keen to develop another airport at Chharra in Purulia. This will enable the state to increase connectivity with the eastern states like Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

The Bengal government is also keen to open all closed airports in the state and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in a recent administrative meeting had asked Dwivedi to look into the matter.

Accordingly, the state government is trying to make the airports at Cooch Behar, Malda and Balurghat in North Bengal operational. The state is also trying to upgrade the Andal airport soon.

Tallah bridge reopening in three months: Ghatak

The Tallah Bridge in North Kolkata had been closed to traffic for its health overhaul since February 2020 and its dismantling and revamp had been undertaken in consultation with the Railways following major cracks and infirmity discovered on the bridge.

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

A revamped Tallah Bridge, which is undergoing reconstruction after being dismantled could be thrown open to the public in three months, Moloy Ghatak, state PWD minister told newspersons today after visiting the bridge to oversee the work in progress there.

Mr Ghatak said that though the target was fixed for February this year for reopening the bridge, the timeframe has now been revised since the work got hampered due to the pandemic. “Give the progress of the work now, we are hopeful that the Bridge could now be thrown open for public use in the next three months,” he said.

The state government had earlier said that it was mulling to throw open the Bridge for public use before Poila Baishakh after completing the repair work in February- March this year. The PWD minister had stated this in the Assembly in November last year.

The Tallah Bridge in North Kolkata had been closed to traffic for its health overhaul since February 2020 and its dismantling and revamp had been undertaken in consultation with the Railways following major cracks and infirmity discovered on the bridge.

As a consequence of that a massive rejig in traffic plan was undertaken to keep city traffic moving. KMDA (Kolkata Metopolitan Development Authority) sources said, as a contingency measure to ensure the unhindered movement of North Kolkata-bound vehicles, it was decided to take up repair works on both Chitpore Bridge and RG Kar bridge on a war footing before embarking on the dismantling work on the Tallah Bridge.

“As soon as the Tallah bridge was shut to vehicular traffic the repair works on two bridges ~ the Chitpore Bridge and the RG Kar Bridge, which would bear the maximum pressure from vehicular movement, had been taken up on war footing to ensure the uninterrupted movement of vehicles,” said an official.

Mamata to address virtually all TMC MPs on 27 January

The states going to poll are UP, Punjab,Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur. Trinamul Rajya Sabha MP and party’s national general spokesperson Derek O’Brien said that this government at the Centre has scant regard for Parliament and has total disregard for the Election Commission.

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

Before the budget session of Parliament, Trinamul Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee will hold a virtual meeting with both her Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs on 27 January.

The meeting will take place around 4 p.m. and she will conduct the meeting from her Kalighat office. It is learnt that she would take up the issues like rejection of the state’s tableau showcasing Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on his 125 birth anniversary. It is learnt that she would ask her MPs to raise this issue in the Parliament. She will also ask her party MPs to protest against the decision to hold budget session just before Assembly polls in five states.

The states going to poll are UP, Punjab,Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur. Trinamul Rajya Sabha MP and party’s national general spokesperson DerekO’Brien said that this government at the Centre has scant regard for Parliament and has total disregard for the Election Commission. Once election is declared Model Code of Conduct(MCC) comes into effect. He said Modi government should take a cue from UPA government where in 2012, the budget was shifted to May after election results were declared.

It is learnt that Trinamul Congress chairperson Mamata Banerjee will also ask her MPs to be vocal in both houses of Parliament regarding the Centre’s total disregard for the federal structure as provided in the Constitution. She will reportedly ask her MPs to protest vehemently against the Centre’s move to empower itself to transfer IAS and IPS officers through central deputation, doing away with the requirement of taking the states’ approval.

KMC moves to mop up due property taxes

For all vacant and unassessed properties whose owners are untraceable, the KMC will take over the plot and install a signboard declaring it now belongs to the civic body. The owner of such properties can reclaim their plots by first getting their properties assessed and then paying the tax for it.

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

In a bid to go digital in this pandemic age to reduce physical contact, and to mop up the large amount of property tax due from defaulters, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation is starting a WhatsApp ChatBot facility that allows citizens to deposit property taxes via the mobile app while KMC will take over any vacant and unassessed property till its owner reclaims it by getting it assessed and paying the due taxes for it.

The civic body has held a meeting with officials of its tax assessment department where it discussed strategies to reclaim the substantial amount of due property taxes, amounting to crores. Mr Firhad Hakim, after taking oath as the KMC mayor, had promised citizens that KMC will work towards providing several of its services online. As part of this, a WhatsApp number is being activated where a ChatBot facility, much like one that was started for registering for vaccines at KMC clinics, will now provide information relating to tax dues, license registration, collection of birth/death certificates etc.

Mr Sandipan Saha, member, mayor-in-council, said that the citizens can now contact KMC for the available services at 8335999111. Here, one can scroll through various topics relating to KMC services e.g for inquiry of property tax dues, one will just need to share their assessee number and get the details. “We will send the citizens a link for payment using which one can clear their dues or make the timely payment of property taxes.” The civic body will also start services like E-Wallet to make payments easier for taxpayers.

The mayor Firhad Hakim said that a strong computer network is being developed which will handle all the online services. “We have already floated a tender to set up the facility.”

Further, it was decided that the KMC will now make completion certificates redundant for getting one’s newly bought property assessed and subsequently paying the taxes. A KMC official said that it was observed during tax collection that residents who had bought a newly constructed home/flat are not able to get their properties assessed for tax payment because the promoter has not handed over the completion certificate which till now was mandatory in getting a new property assessed.

The mayor said, “Taxpayers can now use a self-declaration to get their newly bought properties assessed. This can also help them in getting mutation done for their property.” It is learnt that for properties on lands of the Housing department or that of KMDA, the allotment letter is required to be submitted along with a self-declaration. In the case of private properties, a possession letter with self-declaration will suffice. Meanwhile, for all vacant and unassessed properties whose owners are untraceable, the KMC will take over the plot and install a signboard declaring it now belongs to the civic body. The owner of such properties can reclaim their plots by first getting their properties assessed and then paying the tax for it.

A KMC official, requesting anonymity, said such measures had to be taken since the KMC treasury is in dire need for revenues for rendering services to the citizens. The huge amount of property tax dues is adversely affecting KMC in taking up new projects which are necessary.

Cartographic adventures prolong disputes

The Mahendramala Generation of Nepalis, born after the putsch of 1960 and the call of King Birendra that his realm be declared a ‘Zone of Peace’, consumed the propaganda of the Cold War era as a part of its education. This cohort continues to wallow in the puddle of the political cant that sovereignty, jingoism, chauvinism and xenophobia are somehow higher values than the humanitarian agenda of advancing equality, fraternity, liberty and secularity in society

C K LAL | New Delhi |

In the title of one of his most memorable poems, Bhupi Sherchan (1936-1989) bemoans— “Galat lagchha malai mero deshko itihas” (I think my country’s history is a lie). Considering that history is often little more than the idealised version of the past, lamentations of the tormented poet are understandable. Were Bhupi alive today, he would probably say something similar about Nepal’s geography.

At least four generations of Nepalis have begun to discover that the maps they learnt to draw in school were all wrong. All textbooks and official maps since geography began to be taught in the schools of Nepal in the 1950s lacked a knife-like protrusion stabbing into the Kumaon-Garhwal mountains.

Born in 1946, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba can be categorised as one of the last politicos of the Veterans’ Generation that grew up after the overthrow of Ranas in 1951 and benefitted from the expansion of school education. He probably learnt to draw the map of Nepal from Indian publications back in Dadeldhura.

Premier Deuba must have then travelled to Kathmandu through Indian territory for further studies. He definitely knows more about the ground reality of Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura than all self-styled experts put together. His silence on the border issue is more eloquent than the cacophony being played in the public sphere.

KP Sharma Oli is much more than merely the Opposition leader in the Pratinidhi Sabha. In addition to being the ethnonational chieftain of Khas-Arya across party lines, Supremo Sharma Oli is the representative figure of the Lost Generation born after the overthrow of Ranas but was brought up in the high noon of the authoritarian Shah regime.

Supremo Sharma Oli spent his formative years in Jhapa at the easternmost frontiers of the country. Just across the Mechi River is Naxalbari, the hotbed of left-wing extremism in the early-1970s in West Bengal. He caught the bug of Maoism from across the border early on and got involved in beheading ‘class-enemies’ campaigns.

Naxalbari has since done an about-turn and become the epicentre of a right-wing resurgence in the region. Sharma Oli has also discarded his egalitarian dreams and become an unapologetic nationalist of the saffron variety. He probably didn’t have much interest in bourgeois education like his Naxalite counterparts and never learnt to draw the map of the country in the classroom. Like most neo-converts, he chants nationalist slogans more often and in a higher pitch than the radical rightists of the Greater Nepal campaign.

The boundary of the Gorkha Empire was extended by Prince Bahadur Shah during his regency (1785-1795) and began to unravel soon afterwards due to the maladministration of the newly acquired territory. The Treaty of Sugauli (1814- 1816) with the East India Company transformed the erstwhile empire of the Gorkhalis into a barely independent and excessively bitter country perpetually worried about its sovereignty.

After the royal-military coup of 1960, King Mahendra initiated a three-pronged disinformation campaign to justify his authoritarian takeover. Fears of the middle-class were fanned with supposed risks of ‘expansionist’ designs of India upon their identity. Apprehensions of the elite were fed with the threat of being overwhelmed by purportedly cleverer Madhesis. Proletariats were told to take pride in the glories of the past when the territory of their country spanned the entire mountain region between the Teesta River and the Fort of Kangra.

The Mahendramala Generation of Nepalis, born after the putsch of 1960 and the call of King Birendra that his realm be declared a ‘Zone of Peace’, consumed the propaganda of the Cold War era as a part of its education. This cohort continues to wallow in the puddle of the political cant that sovereignty, jingoism, chauvinism and xenophobia are somehow higher values than the humanitarian agenda of advancing equality, fraternity, liberty and secularity in society. Maverick politico Upendra Yadav and an unrepentant ‘Oliar’ Pradeep Kumar Gyawali are exemplary nationalists of the Mahendramala Generation.

Even though seeded in the 1960s to manipulate the aimlessness of the Lost Generation, the delusional rhetoric of the Shah regime gained its full force in the 1970s. The watersharing arrangement of Kosi and Gandak Treaties pulled out of the geopolitical context of the 1950s, was made the touchstone of Nepali nationalism. The sigh of Susta was falsified as the collective cry of the borderlands.

Bishwa Prakash Sharma and Gagan Kumar Thapa—popularlyelected and relatively young general secretaries of the antiquated Nepali Congress party—are children of the 1970s. They grew up in the political milieu of the Referendum in 1980 that allowed people to doubt the propaganda being served in the name of nationalism by the royalist regime. Kalapani and Mahakali were markers of jingoistic fervour for the Referendum Generation born between the 1970s and 1980s that came of age in the 1990s.

The Individualistic Generation born after the 1990s found aggressive chants of ‘Buddha was born in Nepal’ more captivating than border rows and entreaties for the revision of ‘unequal treaty’ between India and Nepal. Chauvinism holds more appeal for the ‘I, me, mine and myself’ generation than xenophobia. Bigoted politics, however, can’t survive on the strength of excessive nationalism alone; it needs to fan the fear and hatred of the ‘other’ to thrive.

Supremo Sharma Oli rediscovered the fatal charm of ‘expansionist India’ slogans of his youth in May 2020 and revised the map of the country that had remained more or less the same for many decades. Premier Deuba knows better, but his party can’t allow Jhapalis of the 1970s and the Maoists of the 1990s to monopolise the slogan of cartographic nationalism. The Indian Embassy in Kathmandu precipitated the government’s assertion that Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura and Kalapani are ‘integral parts’ of Nepal.

New coins with revised maps have been minted without melting old ones in circulation. Textbooks are being issued to include the extended territory. At least one more generation is likely to waste itself tilting at the windmills of ‘sovereignist’ fantasies.

In a long-form piece, Sam Cowan elaborated the complexities of border row at the India, China and Nepal tri-junction in 2015, but the government had more pressing issues to settle with New Delhi. Even today, people along the banks of the Mahakali River have to rely upon the goodwill of Indian security agencies for their livelihood. The road to Tinkar is still incomplete.

Territorial issues between countries are as challenging to resolve as claims over land ownership between squabbling siblings. Forceful annexation (Tibet) or expiration of occupation (Hong Kong) are natural options of the dominant power. Geopolitical manoeuvrings (Sikkim) sometimes succeed in acquiring complete control. Outstanding issues can be sorted out (Bangladesh and India) in the spirit of giving and taking. Historical evidentiality or cartographic adventures are proven ways of prolonging a dispute.

(The Kathmandu Post/ANN.)

‘EC must impose Covid guidelines’

There was a surge in West Bengal after the state assembly elections. This was apparently because public rallies were allowed and there were huge gatherings during campaigning, padyatra or roadshows.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

Dr S Y Quraishi served as the 17th Chief Election Commissioner of India – from July 2010 to June 2012. An IAS officer of the 1971 batch, Quraishi holds a doctorate in communication and social marketing. He is known for expressing his opinion freely and fearlessly. As CEC, he launched many electoral reforms, including the introduction of EVM and VVPAT mechanisms to address issues raised by various political parties.

He had also planned and supervised several state assembly elections and launched voter education drives and expenditure monitoring divisions in the Election Commission of India (ECI). As a prolific writer, he has written several books, including ‘An Undocumented Wonder – the Making of the Great Indian Election’, which describes the enormity and complexity of Indian elections. In an interview with Vijay Thakur, Quraishi talks about the ECI’s roadmap and the challenges faced by it in holding elections in the midst of the pandemic.

Q. India is passing through the third phase of Covid-19 pandemic. Do you think going for assembly elections at this juncture is a right decision or should the polls be postponed?

A: See, there is no provision to postpone elections in the Constitution except in three situations: if there is an armed rebellion, an external aggression or if the country is facing a war-like situation. Nothing of this sort is happening in the present scenario. So this is what the Constitution says. Let’s now take it on merit. It is a fact that the third wave is very contagious and spreading very fast. However, our past experience shows that it is not as serious as the first and the second wave were. In earlier waves we knew little about the virus. Today we have vaccines and drugs to fight Covid-19 and more than half of our population has been vaccinated. Besides this, the Election Commission has already laid near perfect Covid-19 guidelines. It has already successfully conducted assembly elections in big states and that too at a time when the first and second waves were going on.

Today, the ECI has experience of conducting elections and has prepared a robust mechanism for smooth functioning of the system. On top of it, more than 100 countries in the world have already conducted elections during the Covid-19 pandemic. By now we all have learnt to live with Covid-19. The entire world is trying to lead a normal life by following Covid-19 guidelines, they are going out to markets, hotels, traveling and doing their daily business as usual. If all this can happen, why not the elections? I personally do not see any logic in postponing the elections.

Q. From our previous elections, especially after the West Bengal assembly polls, we experienced a surge in Covid-19 cases. Don’t you think we might see a similar surge, mainly in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh?

A: There was a surge in West Bengal after the state assembly elections. This was apparently because public rallies were allowed and there were huge gatherings during campaigning, padyatra or roadshows. However, the ECI appears to have learnt from its earlier experience. Unlike West Bengal where public rallies were banned at the last hour, the ECI has banned all public rallies from the very beginning and told officials and political parties to follow stringent norms during campaigning and electioneering. I personally wish the ECI to be very strict on adherence of Covid-19 guidelines. If the ECI is strict from the very beginning, the political parties and its ground level workers would not dare to violate the guidelines. I hope what happened in West Bengal will not be repeated in the five states going to the polls.

Q. Because of Covid-19, the campaigning is mostly being done online making use of social platforms. Initial reports suggest lots of ‘money’ is flowing through this channel. How do you suggest keeping a check on ‘money power’ and also the money distributed through illegal means to woo voters?

A: The Election Commission has been stressing on ‘zero tolerance’ towards the abuse of money power, but the fact is that money power does exist and it is no secret. As regards the use of money to influence social media, people would certainly use social media to influence voters using money. But it is easier to quantify money spent on online promotion or through social media than money spent in a public rally. There are laws to prevent the use of black money in elections, but people find ways to escape.

Election Observers are on top of their jobs and must be keeping a check on paid news, or paid promotion on social media. The distribution of money, gifts or liquor to woo the voters works through a very organized channel. They start making a network to bribe voters weeks before the polling. So it is not very easy to catch the culprits. In my book, I have mentioned more than 40 modus operandi adopted by various people to bribe voters. That was almost 10 years ago, now they must have found many more ways. They keep exploring new modus operandi to dodge EC observers.

Q. What about the use of ‘muscle power’ in elections?

A: Muscle power is virtually nonexistent in India. Rather it no longer exists during polling. The kind of booth capturing we used to see in Bihar in the early 1990s no longer exists. It is one of the biggest achievements of the ECI that it managed to eradicate muscle power. Effective deployment of election observers has curtailed the misuse of power and money to a great extent. However, there is still room for improvement in every system. And the Election Commission keeps improving and innovating its strategy to deal with anti-social elements.

Johnson vs Tories

If Mr Johnson loses a confidence vote, it will lead to a contest to replace him as Conservative leader. The winner would also become Prime Minister. If Mr Johnson wins, he will be safe for a year.

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

For all his defiance in the face of calls for his resignation, Britain’s Prime Minister appears to soldier on, at any rate for now. Boris Johnson’s fairly robust performance in Parliament on Wednesday may turn out to be rather late in the day to forestall a push ~ as distinct from a shove ~ by his Conservative colleagues to remove him over a series of government parties that had flouted lockdown restrictions.

There is little doubt though that he has his back to the wall, given the fact that inhouse pressure has been ratcheted up over the past few days. One Tory legislator has defected to the opposition Labour Party, and a former Conservative minister has told him to his face, “In the name of God, go!” The demand from former Brexit Secretary David Davis came during a “combative” Prime Minister’s session of Questions in the House of Commons. During the session, Mr Johnson had defended his government’s record in running the economy, fighting crime, and above all dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

The allegation that the Prime Minister and his staff violated government restrictions have helped Labour to open up a “double-digit” opinion poll lead over the Conservatives. The nub of the matter must be that Mr Johnson doesn’t have to face the electorate until the next general election in 2024. Nonetheless, his major danger is from his own Conservative Party, which has a history of ousting leaders once they become liabilities.

The Tories are now reflecting on whether to trigger a no-confidence vote amid the public anger over the scandal called “partygate”. Altogether, the past couple of weeks bear witness to a stunning reversal of fortune for a politician who just two years ago led the Conservatives to their most spectacular election victory in 40 years. Going by party rules, a no-confidence vote in the leader can be triggered if 54 lawmakers ~ 15 per cent of the party’s total in the House of Commons ~ write to a party official demanding his ouster.

If Mr Johnson loses a confidence vote, it will lead to a contest to replace him as Conservative leader. The winner would also become Prime Minister. If Mr Johnson wins, he will be safe for a year. On Wednesday, he announced that he was withdrawing mask mandates and many other coronavirus restrictions as he tried to change the subject and airbrush questions about the controversy. He said face masks would not be legally enforced; Covid passes would not be mandatory, and the advice to “work from home” would be discontinued.

Referring to the proposed scrapping of face masks, Mr Johnson said, “We will trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalize anyone who chooses not to wear one.” While defying calls to quit, the British Prime Minister has lifted Covid curbs, thus playing to the gallery of the people

Reaching out

The thinking is that Trincomalee Port would be an excellent choice for India to store its petroleum reserves in the renovated tanks, especially as maritime security is being prioritised by New Delhi given China’s growing naval presence in the Indian Ocean.

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

India has begun the new year on a positive note in its effort to repair ties with Sri Lanka which had been fraying at the edges over the past few years. With the operationalisation of the US $100 line of credit (announced in June 2021) for the development of the island nation’s solar power sector and, earlier this month, the inking of a deal for modernisation of an oil tank farm at Trincomalee Port in which the state-owned Indian Oil Corporation too will hold a minority stake, the Indian foreign policy establishment hopes that the initiatives will incentivise Colombo to continue to be wary of China.

The credit line has been extended under the aegis of the International Solar Alliance, the founding conference of which was held in New Delhi in March 2018. This is an integral piece of South Block’s plan to develop an energy security architecture and promote the large-scale deployment of solar energy.

India’s interest in the Trincomalee oil tank farm, on the other hand, is not new. Experts say this deal has been in the works ever since the 1987 India-Sri Lanka agreement but had not, till now, come to fruition. Built by the British colonial administration during World War-II, the oil tank farm fell into disuse over the next few decades. The oil tanks now need a complete overhaul to get them into working order.

The thinking is that Trincomalee Port would be an excellent choice for India to store its petroleum reserves in the renovated tanks, especially as maritime security is being prioritised by New Delhi given China’s growing naval presence in the Indian Ocean. Operationalising ~ and possibly enhancing ~ the solar power credit line is significant as Sri Lanka had last year called off a solar project with a Chinese firm due to “security concerns expressed by a third party (India)”.

It has been largely welcomed, although there is concern of a pushback on the Trincomalee Port project from the ultra-nationalist political outfit Janatha Vimukthi Perumuna (JVP) which has traditionally been critical of India because of its support for the Tamil cause in Sri Lanka. JVP plans to oppose what it perceives as India’s “expansionist’” move. China, despite recent misgivings in Colombo over the debt trap it is getting sucked into, remains a strategic competitor to reckon with.

Beijing’s development of the Colombo Port City, in which it will have a 43 per cent stake in return for an investment of US $1.4 billion, continues apace and the Hambantota port is already under its control via a 99-yearlease. Sri Lanka, which is pressing ahead with radical plans to make its entire agriculture sector organic despite the widespread distress in the countryside the move has resulted in, is realising the real dangers of a Chinese debt trap.

It is also currently fuming at Beijing’s ‘bad fertiliser’ deal in the midst of this turmoil; Colombo had to return a massive shipload of organic fertiliser manufactured by a Chinese firm because it was contaminated with bacteria. In these circumstances, India’s outreach to its southern neighbour needs to be pushed along assiduously.

Netaji and Taiwan

In 1946, Harin Shah was at Nanking, the headquarter of the KMT regime in China, heading the Free Press of India News Service launched by S Sadanand. From there, he flew to Taipei via Shanghai along with a battery of foreign correspondents and arrived on 30 August 1946. As unravelling the mystery of Netaji’s disappearance was his main objective, he talked to a cross section of people about this immediately after his arrival in Formosa

RUP NARAYAN DAS | Kolkata |

At a time when India is commemorating the 125th birth anniversary of the indomitable Netaji Subash Chandra Bose, and his disappearance and passing away is still shrouded in mystery, it is worth our while to revisit a seminal work, Verdict from Formosa: Gallant End of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, authored by Harin Shah, a veteran journalist who visited Taiwan, then called Formosa, in 1946, one year after the tragic air crash in which Netaji was believed to have died.

The book was published in 1956, and this article is based on the aforesaid book which the author claims is “the eye-witness account from the crash to cremation collected on the spot in Formosa.” Shah writes in his book that he was “the only Indian having had the good fortune to visit Formosa after the end of the war” and “the bearer of conclusive eyewitness (accounts) collected in Formosa, checked with Netaji’s co-victim in the air-crash Col. Habibur Rehman and upheld by leaders like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel” and opines that “Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose embraced heroic martyrdom at Taipei”.

Although several books have been written about the mystery surrounding the disappearance and passing away of Netaji and a number of enquiry commissions appointed by the government have submitted their reports, Shah’s book is arguably the earliest one based on interviews with informed people in Taiwan, then called Formosa.

The book shows how Netaji was held in high esteem by the Taiwanese people. The author takes the readers on a tour of the hoary era of Asian resurgence during and after World War II when the peers of Netaji like Chiang Kai-shek, Aung San and Dr Sukarno dominated the emerging Asian firmament. He makes a reference to the ‘United Front’ tactics in China when the Kuomintang Party under the leadership of Chiang kai-shek and the Communist Party of China forged an alliance to liberate China from warlords and at the same time both KMT and the Communist Party of China were competing to come to power in China. World history would have been entirely different had the KMT succeeded in preventing the Communist Party from forming the government in China.

The inept handling and misreading of the ground situation by the US also contributed to the failure of the KMT in assuming power in China. In 1946, Harin Shah was at Nanking, the headquarter of the KMT regime in China, heading the Free Press of India News Service launched by S Sadanand. From there, he flew to Taipei via Shanghai along with a battery of foreign correspondents and arrived on 30 August 1946. As unraveling the mystery of Netaji’s disappearance was his main objective, he talked to a cross section of people about this immediately after his arrival in Formosa.

He was pleasantly surprised that the first question they shot at him was about “Chand la Bose”, who they added voluntarily they knew had died in Taipei. He talked to a cross section of intelligentsia in Taipei who were knowledgeable about Netaji. He writes that enquiries about the reaction of Indian people to the heroic deeds of Netaji and his final martyrdom by Formosan newspapermen soon after he set foot on Formosan soil were disarming. He was gratified to find that some Formosan newspaper friends had genuinely undertaken to piece together available evidence about Netaji’s death in the Taipei plane-crash. He visited the Taiwan Railway Hotel, where Netaji had stayed. He also met Huang Chao-chin, the Speaker of the provincial Assembly of Formosa who gave him extremely useful guidance in reaching the links in the story.

Shah discussed the issue with as many people as possible while in Taiwan, then called Formosa. An important personality whom he met in Formosa and who threw light on Netaji’s life and times in Formosa was Prof. K S Wei of Taipei University. Culling out the noting in his diary after meeting Prof. Wei, Shah writes in his book attributing to the former, ”… he died in August 1945… News published in Formosa papers… But no photos… He came by a bomber. Bomber was taking off. Gasoline tank leaked. He died in Japanese hospital… He was very brave. I was not in Taihoku at the time of his death. Whenever any accident occurred at the airport, Japanese used to cordon off. So probably, no eyewitness except Japanese military officers… I shall ask my friends to find out more…”

Professor Wei sent across a book written in Japanese through Ms Noliko, the hotel attendant, to Shah’s room. The Professor’s covering letter, scribbled on the blank back page of the Contents in the book, said, ” … please find page 107 of this book. Mention is made of his death. That will give you some information. Yesterday, I called on a Japanese Professor of Taipei University, who was with the Japanese Military Headquarters as an interpreter when Bose’s death was made known. The exact date was August 1945, 19th at 1.30 a.m.” The name of the Japanese book was 20 years of Pacific Hurricane. It mentioned the death in an air-crash at Taipei. One more inference that Shah drew was from Dr. Lee wanchu, who was the editor of the Chinese-language newspaper Shin Sheng Jir Pao, published from Taipei. Dr Lee was also the Deputy Chairman of the Provincial Assembly of Formosa. Dr Lee personally went through the files in his office of the closed-down Japanese newspaper Taiwan Nichi Nichi Shimbun, published from Taipei and found the issue of the newspaper carrying an official press note on Netaji’s death through plane-crash at Taipei.

Dr Lee gave Shah a copy of the original Japanese newspaper carrying the news. It said, “A press-note issued at 2 p.m. on 22nd inst. (August 1945) by the Intelligence Bureau of the Japanese Garrison Commander, Taihoku (Taipeh), states that Chandra Bose, Leader of the Provisional Government of Free India set out on a plane from Singapore on 16th August en-route Tokyo. He was proceeding to Tokyo to discuss with the Imperial Government. At 14 hours on 18th, the plane met with an accident in the vicinity of Taihoku airfield and Chandra Bose was heavily wounded.”

The report added, “Although he was given treatment at the Tunti (Chinese word meaning ‘South Gate’ Military Hospital), it proved of no avail, and he passed away on 19th August at zero hour.” Shah visited the South Gate Military Hospital which was under Japanese control at the time of air-crash. With the cooperation of the Chinese Head of the Hospital, Col.Wu Kuo Hsing, Shah met sister Tsan Pi Sha who was working with the military hospital from Japanese times. She dropped a bombshell, to quote the author, when she said, “He (Netaji) died here. I was by his side”. She told Shah that Netaji had received injuries from burning. He was burnt as a result of the air crash which took place at the Taioku airport just before he was brought to the hospital. It was about noon time on August 18th that he was brought to the hospital. He was very severely burnt. He died the same night at about 11, she added.

Shah also met Japanese people and ascertained vital facts. One such person whom Shah interviewed was Dr Kunio Kawaishi, the then Professor of Surgery at the University Hospital in Taipei. When Netaji arrived on his last trip to Formosa, Dr. Kunio was the Director of the University Hospital. Dr Kunio believed that Netaji probably died at the airport itself; so serious was the burning injury. The book has so many startling revelations which only an authentic and objective investigation can confirm or contradict.

(The writer is a retired Joint Secretary of the Lok Sabha Secretariat and a Senior Fellow, Indian Council of Social Science Research)

Army, security forces Core Group reviews security situation in Kashmir ahead of Republic Day

The meeting was co-chaired by the General Officer Commanding, Chinar Corps, Lt General DP Pandey and Director General of Police Dilbag Singh.

Statesman News Service | Jammu |

Ahead of the Republic Day, the Core Group consisting of top brass of civil administration, intelligence agencies and security forces met on Friday at Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar to review the security situation in Kashmir.

The meeting was co-chaired by the General Officer Commanding, Chinar Corps, Lt General DP Pandey and Director General of Police Dilbag Singh.

The core group discussed fresh strategies of the terrorist organizations and their handlers including use of Hybrid terrorists and targeting of soft targets.

15 terrorists killed in 2021 were fresh names not on the security forces radar.

The setting up of SIA and the increased booking by NIA is showing impact of focused intelligence and investigation efforts. These efforts have been effective in targeting drug, hawala and the OGWs networks. Legal action on those willfully harbouring terrorists is being increased as the harbourers have direct involvement in terror activities.

The core group reviewed the intelligence inputs and security parameters of 2021. Year 2021 witnessed a reduction in terrorist infiltration, reduced terrorist incidents, reduced terror recruitment, increased operations based on HUMINT, reduced collateral damage, no civil casualties in law and order situation, reduced security forces casualties, increased arrest of terrorists and booking of OGWs; all pointing to effective conduct of joint operations and activities by intelligence and security agencies.

There has been increased neutralization of Pakistani terrorists, in last few weeks. The effort of the frontline soldiers and operatives of all agencies were acknowledged by all present.

The officials stated that the ceasefire has improved the security situation along the border, however, intelligence inputs of terrorist launch pads and terrorist training activities in Pakistan indicate the need to be alert along the Line of Control.

On the Line of Control, late snow has kept the infiltration routes open for longer time, however effective domination has ensured decrease in overall infiltration including those from South of Pir Panjal. The vigil on the Line of Control, against infiltration of men, drugs and weapons is continuing.

The officials shared the challenge of propaganda of the nexus through internet and social media. Sadly, these efforts include propaganda to legitimize killing of Kashmiri civilians by the terrorists.

The use of social media to spread disinformation is widespread and needs to be countered proactively by a joint effort.

Efforts at synergy in exposing fake news, booking of radicals trying to foment unrest and proactive sharing of information by state agencies are being upgraded.

The DGP and the Corps Commander commended the officials present on improved security indicators. They appreciated that post the abrogation of Article 370, certain benchmarks were set, which have been achieved successfully for the restoration of peace and prosperity in the region.

The DGP stated that reduction in local terrorist recruitment is one parameter that all must approach with continued focus. A special mention was made on the measures taken to minimize the collateral damage in operations despite risk to own soldiers. He recommended continued efforts to give chance of surrenders to local terrorists to give them a second chance at living a fruitful life.

The Corps Commander cautioned the trend of the terrorists to use urban areas with thick built up area for operations as they provide more avenues to hide or escape and puts higher onus in security forces to exercise restraint to avoid collateral damage.

He expressed satisfaction at low SF casualties in 2021 by better intelligence-based operations and improved tactical drills. He called for continued efforts along with the civil society to counter the separatist propaganda and break the cycle of violence for long term peace in Kashmir.

Fresh cases of Covid-19 decline to 10,756 in Delhi

The count of deaths due to Covid-19 was 38 whereas this figure on Thursday was 43.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

Fresh cases of Covid-19 recorded in the national capital on Friday dipped to 10,756 from 12,306 on Thursday following 59,629 tests conducted in the city, according to the Delhi government’s daily health bulletin.

The positivity rate also fell to 18.04 per cent from 21.48 per cent yesterday.

The count of deaths due to Covid-19 was 38 whereas this figure on Thursday was 43. The cumulative number of such fatalities in Delhi now stands at 25,541.

The bulletin showed that there were a total of 48,356 patients who were getting medication as home isolation cases and the number of active cases was 61,954.

A total of 2,656 patients remained admitted to hospitals and 855 of them were in ICUs. The patients getting oxygen support were counted to be 925 and those on the ventilator numbered 156.

The dedicated Covid hospitals had 12,901 beds vacant for allotment to needy coronavirus patients.

The city’s 91,869 people were administered vaccines and 45,386 of them were those who got their first vaccine dose. So far, 1,67,62,535 persons were given their first vaccine dose and the cumulative number of those having got their both vaccine doses was 1,20,75,083.

The number of containment zones in Delhi stood at 42,239.

Enhance your beauty with this surprising product

Apple cider vinegar is a very good toning lotion for the skin. It tightens your pores, balances the pH of your skin, removes dirt and oil while its astringent properties increase blood flow to your face.

SNS | New Delhi |

The heat of the sun becomes very harsh on our skin and results in many skin-related issues like sunburn, suntan, acne, pimples, spots, and other skin infection. It becomes very difficult for us to protect our skin from these problems. So here we are with an ingredient that you can easily find in your kitchens, which can do wonders for your skin. Apple cider vinegar is an ingredient, which has many health as well as skin benefits.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is made by fermenting the juice of apples first with bacteria and yeast till it turns into alcohol and then fermenting it again with acetic acid-forming bacteria so that it turns into vinegar. Apple cider vinegar has been used over centuries as a folk remedy and in alternative medicine for its many benefits. With only 3 calories per tablespoon, ACV is very low in calories and a weight watcher’s delight.

It is rich in acetic, citric, malic, and amino acid and also contains vitamins, enzymes, and mineral salts, which is beneficial for your skin.

Apple cider vinegar is not just great for your health it should be an essential part of your beauty arsenal as well for the many beauty benefits that it offers.

So, here are some of the benefits of apple cider in enhancing our beauty:

Acne fighter

Apple cider vinegar deals with acne on various levels. For starters, apple cider vinegar has components like acetic acid, lactic acid, succinic acid, and citric acid, which stop the proliferation and growth of the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria that causes acne. Some of these components of apple cider vinegar like lactic acid may help reduce scarring. A Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology study showed acne scars treated with lactic acid over three months led to a reduction of pigmentation and scarring. It led to better skin texture as well.

Another reason why apple cider vinegar works are because our skin is naturally acidic and it helps in replenishing the acidic layer that wards off germs, and pollution. It also kills bacteria and removes the grease and dirt.

How to apply: Mix equal parts raw and unfiltered apple cider vinegar with water. Dip a cotton ball in the solution and apply onion to the affected areas. Leave for 10 minutes and wash off. Repeat this a few times throughout the day and over a few days for the best results.

Heals sunburn

Overdid the sunbathing in Goa? Well, then it’s time to soothe your burnt and inflamed skin with apple cider vinegar.

How to apply: You could try either of these remedies. Mix half a cup of apple cider vinegar with 4 cups of water and apply the solution onto the sunburned skin. Or mix a cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup coconut oil, and lavender essential oil into your bath water to soothe your skin.

Skin toner

Apple cider vinegar is a very good toning lotion for the skin. It tightens your pores, balances the pH of your skin, removes dirt and oil while its astringent properties increase blood flow to your face.

How to apply: Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and water and dab the solution on your face with cotton balls.

Study reveals babies can tell who has close relationships based on saliva

“We actually know the results would have been similar if it hadn’t been for the pandemic.”

ANI | New Delhi |

In a new study, researchers have shown that babies expected people who share saliva, to come to one another’s aid when one person is in distress.

The findings suggested that babies determined whether two people have a strong relationship and a tendency to help, based on whether those two people kiss, share food, or have other interactions that involve sharing saliva.

MIT postdoc Ashley Thomas is the lead author of the study, which was published in the journal ‘Science’. Brandon Woo, a Harvard University graduate student; Daniel Nettle, a professor of behavioral science at Newcastle University; and Elizabeth Spelke, a professor of psychology at Harvard, are also authors of the paper.

“Babies don’t know in advance which relationships are the close and morally obligating ones, so they have to have some way of learning this by looking at what happens around them,” said Rebecca Saxe, the John W. Jarve Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and the senior author of the new study.

In human societies, people typically distinguished between “thick” and “thin” relationships. Thick relationships, usually found between family members, featured strong levels of attachment, obligation, and mutual responsiveness. Anthropologists have also observed that people in thick relationships were more willing to share bodily fluids such as saliva.

“That inspired both the question of whether infants distinguish between those types of relationships, and whether saliva sharing might be a really good cue they could use to recognize them,” Thomas said.

To study those questions, the researchers observed toddlers (16.5 to 18.5 months) and babies (8.5 to 10 months) as they watched interactions between human actors and puppets. In the first set of experiments, a puppet shared an orange with one actor, then tossed a ball back and forth with a different actor.

After the children watched these initial interactions, the researchers observed the children’s reactions when the puppet showed distress while sitting between the two actors. Based on an earlier study of nonhuman primates, the researchers hypothesized that babies would look first at the person whom they expected to help. That study showed that when baby monkeys cried, other members of the troop would look to the baby’s parents as if expecting them to step in.

The MIT team found that the children were more likely to look toward the actor who had shared food with the puppet, not the one who had shared a toy when the puppet was in distress.

In the second set of experiments, designed to focus more specifically on saliva, the actor either placed her finger in her mouth and then into the mouth of the puppet, or placed her finger on her forehead and then onto the forehead of the puppet. Later, when the actor expressed distress while standing between the two puppets, children watching the video were more likely to look toward the puppet with whom she had shared saliva.

The findings suggested that saliva sharing was likely an important cue that helped infants to learn about their own social relationships and those of people around them, the researchers say.

“The general skill of learning about social relationships is very useful,” Thomas says. “One reason why this distinction between thick and thin might be important for infants, in particular, especially human infants, who depend on adults for longer than many other species, is that it might be a good way to figure out who else can provide the support that they depend on to survive.”
The researchers did their first set of studies shortly before Covid-19 lockdowns began, with babies who came to the lab with their families. Later experiments were done over Zoom. The results that the researchers saw were similar before and after the pandemic, confirming that pandemic-related hygiene concerns did not affect the outcome.

“We actually know the results would have been similar if it hadn’t been for the pandemic,” Saxe said. “You might wonder, did kids start to think very differently about sharing saliva when suddenly everybody was talking about hygiene all the time? So, for that question, it’s very useful that we had an initial data set collected before the pandemic.”

Doing the second set of studies on Zoom also allowed the researchers to recruit a much more diverse group of children because the subjects were not limited to families who could come to the lab in Cambridge during normal working hours.

In future work, the researchers hoped to perform similar studies with infants in cultures that have different types of family structures. In adult subjects, they planned to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study what parts of the brain were involved in making saliva-based assessments about social relationships.

Sudhir Kumar, a staunch fan of Sachin, has been ‘assaulted’ in a police station in Bihar

“At that time, they treated me like a celebrity. It was extremely disheartening that the cops of the same police station which I had inaugurated not only humiliated me but also beat me up. This shows the approach of the police towards the common man.”

SNS | New Delhi |

According to reports, Sudhir Kumar Chaudhary of Muzaffarpur, Bihar, was brutally beaten up by a duty police officer at the town police station on Thursday night. Chaudhary, a prominent face in cricket circles for being a fan of Sachin Tendulkar and Indian cricket, was reportedly a die-hard fan of Sachin Tendulkar.

After hearing that his brother, Kishan Kumar, was detained by the police, Sudhir Kumar went to the police station.

“When we learnt that the police have detained my brother, I went there to enquire about the matter. When I was talking to my brother who was inside the lock-up, a duty officer came and abused me. He kicked me twice on my leg and ordered me to leave the police station. He also used abusive words against me and my brother,” Sudhir Kumar said on Friday.

As soon as he learned of the incident, the SDPO for the area, Ram Naresh Paswan, assured him that an investigation would be conducted.

Sudhir Kumar recalled being invited by the same Muzaffarpur police two years ago for the inauguration of the police station.

“At that time, they treated me like a celebrity. It was extremely disheartening that the cops of the same police station which I had inaugurated not only humiliated me but also beat me up. This shows the approach of the police towards the common man,” he said.

Kumar was arrested in connection with a land sale case. Two people were allegedly involved in a disputed land deal, according to the police.

Pankaj Sinha, IGP of Muzaffarpur range, could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts. However, the SSP of Muzaffarpur could not be reached as well.

(With inputs from IANS)

Paid subscriptions are being tested on Instagram

In the Subscriptions feature, Instagram creators will be able to add a “subscribe” button to their profile and set a monthly price.

SNS | New Delhi |

With Subscriptions, Facebook helps creators make money with the support of their communities.

According to GSM Arena, Instagram Subscriptions have been added to the company’s business model. Instagram Subscriptions will allow creators on Instagram to “develop deeper connections with their most engaged followers and grow their recurring monthly income by giving subscribers access to exclusive content and benefits,” and, once the followers get subscribed to creators, they get the benefits of Subscriber Lives, Subscriber Stories, and Subscriber Badges.

Limited numbers of American creators will have access to Instagram Subscriptions at first. Instagram, however, plans on expanding this feature to more creators in the coming months.

In the Subscriptions feature, Instagram creators will be able to add a “subscribe” button to their profile and set a monthly price. Moreover, Instagram said it won’t charge the platform’s creators for these subscriptions until 2023, citing its commitment to support creators.

The timing of the global rollout of Instagram Subscriptions is unclear, but if the testing in the US goes well, the feature is expected to arrive widely in a few months.

(With inputs from ANI)

From tricolour fruit cream to tiranga rice: Make these food varieties this republic day

You may choose carrots for orange color, steamed cauliflower, baby corn or grated radish for white and broccoli segments, cucumber slices, or steamed green beans for green.

SNS | New Delhi |

For many of us, Republic Day is a chance to watch the Indian flag being hoisted as well as to catch the grand parade on TV. But when we have kids, we also have a responsibility to involve them in these celebrations and tell them about how our nation has progressed through the years. Of course, it isn’t easy to talk to a 2 or 3-year-old about such topics!

However, you can involve them and make this a special day to celebrate, with themed foods and crafts. Check out our post on India-themed crafts for toddlers and adults too, we have some easy tricolor food varieties to make for this special day – sure to be loved by kids and adults alike!

TRICOLOR RICE

Cook rice in three different containers by adding purees for saffron and green pastes in two containers while keeping the last one plain. Flavor them with your favorite spices and then use a mold to place first green, then white, and finally saffron rice.

TRICOLOR DOSAS AND TRICOLOR IDLI

Divide your dosa batter into three equal parts. Add orange food color to one part, and green food color to another part. You may also use carrot paste and coriander paste to get color naturally. Now use these orange, white and green batters to make dosa and idli. You may also make mini idli and put them into a skewer, which is great to look at and easy to eat.

TRICOLOR VEGETABLE SALAD REPUBLIC DAY

You may choose carrots for orange color, steamed cauliflower, baby corn or grated radish for white and broccoli segments, cucumber slices, or steamed green beans for green.

TRICOLOR DHOKLA

Divide your dhokla batter into 3 separate bowls

For the saffron layer- Add carrot and tomato puree to one bowl and whisk until smooth.

For the white layer– Finely grate coconut and whisk into the second bowl of batter.

For the green layer- Make a green chutney using coriander leaves and a few spinach leaves and whisk this paste into the third bowl.

DESSERTS FOR REPUBLIC DAY

You may get a cake baked and decorated in saffron, white and green colors. You may also bake cupcakes in three different colors.

TRICOLOR ICE CREAM/ POPSICLE

Divide the ice cream mixture into 3 parts. Conor one saffron with mango puree and green with kiwi puree. Freeze orange juice, lemonade, and khus sherbet in layers to make a tricolor Popsicle.