Educational Institutions in the Times of COVID-19 Crisis

Educational Institutions in the Times of COVID-19 Crisis

Educational Institutions in the Times of COVID-19 Crisis


Education in its fundamental form is a process of socialisation. Whenever the form of society has changed, there has been talk of changes in the form of education. Today, in the times of COVID-19 crisis, policy framers are aggressively pushing for a change in the form of education through online education. In such a context, it is important to look at the changes in the structure and goals of the society which is leading to the claims of these changes in education as absolute necessities.

Is it the case that the post-Independence nationalist universal model of education based on liberty, fraternity and brotherhood has lost all its relevance today? Have the ideals of social-economic-political equality been realised? What kind of socialisation is being envisaged through online education and the New Education Policy which is being pushed along with it? Online education is not merely a ‘technology’, it is a new process of socialisation through which the policy and motives of the government and policy makers can be understood; and it must be seen from this perspective.

The use of technology for education while maintaining physical distancing is one thing. Anyway technological advances have always been incorporated in education from time to time and this is necessary as well. The move from blackboard to smart board was made to strengthen classroom teaching, to make it interesting. Digitalisation of libraries is a part of the same process. Recording of lectures and making them available online is also a part of the incorporation of technological advances in the teaching-learning process. These technological advances have been used from time to time to expand the process of socialisation through education. The New Education Policy and online education which is being touted today is not related in any way to this process. It is related to the model of privatisation of education, the roots of which can be traced to the Birla-Ambani Committee Report. In such a context, it is difficult to understand this without going into the historicity of the processes.

It is in itself very interesting that the tradition of framing of education policy by educationists, which had been in place since Radhakrishnan’s time, was broken by the government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee when the task of framing education policy was handed over to a committee headed by capitalists like Birla and Ambani. It is obvious that this would change the approach towards education, and this is what really happened as well. For the first time, the education sector was seen as a multibillion dollar global market. It was suggested that this field be opened up for profit. The process of privatisation in education was already in place; now the push was towards commercialisation.

Also read: Draft National Education Policy – Seductive Sophistry in Service of the RSS

There was a constant global pressure to bring education into the commercial ambit as per the World Trade Organisation- General Agreement on Trade in Services (WTO-GATS) agreements. The clear meaning of all this was end to all forms of government subsidies and grants. It is for this reason that today the UGC is being sought to be dismantled through the New Education Policy. The setting up of the UGC was based on the understanding of creating a mechanism of granting funds for development of education at the national level and that of regulation of higher education institutions. When subsidies are to stop, then the UGC can evidently be dispensed with. The manner in which an autonomous allocatory body like the Planning Commission was previously dismantled is sought to be repeated with the UGC, an autonomous body that deals with allocations in higher education.

Apart from allocation, UGC also looks after the regulation of higher education across the country. It defines the service conditions of staff, researchers and teachers of the higher educational institutions. Education was a state subject that was brought under the concurrent list during Emergency and today it is being centralised through the New Education Policy. The role of state governments in the process of policy framing has been reduced to a minimum. The centralised body which was being envisaged was to be headed by the Prime Minister but now this has been slightly modified and will be headed by the education minister. The role of educationists in this body has been reduced to mere symbolism. The role of commercial entities and political powers has undoubtedly been increased manifolds in this new structure.

Apart from policy framing, all kind of regulations and service conditions of employees is to be decided by the Board of Governor of the higher education institutions. The New Education Policy proposes autonomy for all institutions. The meaning of this autonomy is that the institutions will no longer receive any grants and the board of governors or the management of the institution will have complete autonomy. The institutions will now be run like the private businesses of these governors. These managers will now be the policy framers of education and will frame all the rules. They will decide the aims of educational institutions. Service conditions of the teachers and non-teaching staff, too, will be formulated by them. They will decide everything, from promotion to suspension. They will decide everyone’s fate. One can clearly see that the UGC, a national autonomous institution, which was formed with the objective of nation building and was given the responsibility to formulate rules and service conditions in order to advance this objective, is today being dismantled. Instead, the slogan of nationalism will usher in a company raj. A company that wants profits at all costs. It is in this context that we must understand online education. It should not be seen merely as an immediate response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The New Education Policy has changed the very definition of students and teachers. Modern India ended the medieval guru-shishya tradition of Eklavya and put in place a new definition of the teacher and student. This was related to the universal form of education. The definition of University was based on the values emanating out of the worldview based on universal knowledge. The very meaning of education was centred on nation building, based on these values. Education was to create a citizen based on the universal values of liberty, equality and fraternity. The relationship of student-teacher, too, was a part and parcel of such a perspective. In the vision of the Company Raj today, the teacher will be reduced to the role of a “facilitator” and student to that of a “consumer”. All this is being done in the garb of opposing Macaulay’s education system. It is obvious that only those with money or the means to avail loans can become consumers. Only time will tell how those who see reservation as an ‘attack on merit’ will see all this; but it is clear that the mechanism to exclude merit present on the fringes of society has already been put in place. Preparations have been made to not merely cut Eklavya’s thumb, but to kill him in the womb itself.

Also read: How Online Education Deviates from Vision of Constitution

These higher education companies will seek to minimise costs so as to maximise profits. All over the world we see that wherever such a system is in place, contract teachers are being hired instead of regular teachers and the staff is forced to work in pathetic conditions. The same model is now being brought here. Introducing technology so as to minimise costs, too, is a part of this proposal. Contract appointments in place of regular ones are gradually becoming the norm, so that the costs can be reduced manifolds. Apart from this, online content too is being pushed with this very motive. It is interesting that hefty fees are being charged from students by advertising this model. You would find this in the advertisements of all private institutions. The push towards online education, which the present government is doing by taking advantage of the COVID-19 crisis, needs to be seen from this perspective.

Online education appears as an obvious alternative for educational institutions in the wake of difficulties arising out of this ongoing pandemic. It is difficult to say for how long our educational institutions will continue to be affected by the need to enforce physical distancing, lockdown and limiting gatherings. In such a context, devising mechanisms to engage with students was and is a clear need. This could have been done only through the online medium. However, calling it an alternative to quality education will be unjust for the future of the country. We all are facing technical difficulties.

The process of linking body language/facial expressions with the arguments and using relevant examples is not really possible through the online medium. If everyone switches off their mikes then it becomes a one way exercise; while if everyone switches on their mikes, then the entire class is drowned in cacophony. There are noises from the TV in someone’s house while in another house, the noises come from the kitchen. You cannot even begin to understand the situation of those girls who have no private spaces in their homes, and for whose families their education is not even a priority. How many household have the conditions to facilitate long hours of online learning with smart phones? Then this country also has Kashmir where there is no 4G connection. How can one visualise online education in those far off places where electricity and roads have not even reached so far? Is it possible to reproduce the collective atmosphere and concentration of a classroom even in those homes which do not face any of the above mentioned problems? It is completely impossible. In such a context, online education might be a necessity in the time of crisis, however, it cannot be an alternative to quality education in any way.

We are witnessing social discrimination in online education. The argument is that the underprivileged sections do not have smart phones, computers, data, etc. and hence, will remain cut off from the gains of online education. This concern is quite valid and it is an outcome of the immediate situation due to the COVID-19 crisis. If we see the difference in the required investment in online education on the one hand and classroom teaching on other, then it is clear that this very logic is being used to exclude dalits and backward sections from quality education. They are being pushed towards online education. The government is talking about providing technical facilities to the poor, dalits and underprivileged sections so that they can avail online education. This is what they are touting as affordable and quality education. The insistence on MOOCs, too, is due to this very reason.

Education institutions were built in the country after independence keeping in mind the needs of the country. The teaching of law, too, was given an emphasis along with medical and engineering education. The perspective inherent to it was the intention of developing a citizen who has liberal values like liberty, equality and fraternity, along with critical consciousness. Moral values were sought to be created through literature and social sciences. Today, this whole policy is being negated. The values of Indian-ness, sought to be inculcated in the name of attacks on ‘secularism’, are nothing but the values of communalism. Communalism is inimical to any form of critical consciousness. That is why this policy proclaims that only vocational education is the need of the country. Liberal universal values are being attacked by branding them as western values imparted by Macaulay’s education policy. The unequal Brahminical values of Indian-ness are touted as an alternative to liberal values. This is the reason that they are pushing for ‘communalism in the name of moral values’ instead of liberal universal values and vocational education instead of critical consciousness building.

Also read: ‘Food is a Priority, Not the Internet’: India’s Schools’ Rush for Online Education Runs into Digital Divide

Nationalism which arose out of liberal universalism is being negated by ‘Neo-Nationalism’. The meaning of education’s role in nation building is being reduced to professional education, whose sole purpose is to create jobs. Jobs are directly related to the economy and have nothing to do with vocational education. Today, technical education is being touted as an alternative to basic sciences and skill as an alternative to education. The fundamental motive of all this is only one – reducing education to a profit making business and removing any obstacles that may come in its way.

People who have money for quality education can go to a few institutions like Ashoka and Jio, whose fees will run into lakhs. For the rest, a system of professional education is being created through privatisation and commercialisation of various institutions. It is the government’s plan to create an affordable system of online education for the oppressed dalits, backwards, poor and women. After all, this was the form of education in the Indian tradition – education of scriptures for the Brahmins, education of weapons for the Kshatriyas and ‘Skill India’ for the rest. The Chamar’s son has to remain a Chamar, a Dhobi’s son can only be a Dhobi and a Luhar’s son a Luhar – the transmission of skills is from one generation to another. This is the goal of Skill India as well. They will be kept away from education, so that the overwhelming majority doesn’t get to inculcate critical consciousness. And we know that no consciousness of resistance can develop in this system of economic, social and political inequality.

This is the future of not only education. From agriculture to small petty trade – every sector is to meet the same fate. While on one hand they are being ravaged by big capital; on the other hand, systematic efforts are on to ensure that they are not able to organise. Labour laws are being changed. The daily hours of work are being increased, while the law guaranteeing the right to form trade union is being demolished. Students and teachers are being prevented from forming any kind of union by bringing new rules and regulations. Seventy per cent of the people have slipped below the poverty line. The rate of unemployment is continuously increasing due to the COVID-19 crisis. This crisis is a major challenge for the Indian economy which was already moving towards a slump. The buying capacity of the masses is at a low. In such a context, when the way forward should be to strengthen public health and education through increase in government spending, so that the buying capacity of people can increase and the economy can be brought back on track, the intentions of the government are diametrically opposite. It is pushing forth the capitalist policies of Birla-Ambani in the name of COVID-19. It is said a true friend is one who stands with you in times of crisis. The character of the present government, too, becomes clear in this time of crisis.

The author teaches at the University of Delhi. The views are personal.



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Not Urban Sprawl, Neglect Worsens India’s Covid-19 Crisis

Not Urban Sprawl, Neglect Worsens India’s Covid-19 Crisis


The spread of Covid-19 in Maharashtra provides an opportunity to study the spread of the pandemic in India’s urban clusters and the reasons for it. So far, Maharashtra has the highest incidence of Covid-19 cases in India, and within it, Govandi and Mankhurd in the M-East Ward of Mumbai are among the worst-off sub-regions. These two parts of Mumbai comprise some of the densest urban sprawls in the country. Late last month, these two zones of Mumbai also reported the highest mortality rates from the disease, at 9.7%.

What do Mumbai residents, who are watching the situation unfold, think about this? Do those who are providing relief to the worst-hit zones, and doctors, have ideas about the reasons and solutions? After all, tackling a pandemic in over-crowded zones is a challenge for governments across the country. I spoke to Fahad Ahmed, a student at the School of Social Work at TISS, Mumbai, who has been distributing ration in the slums of M East ward. He says, “It is for a reason that this area is called a gas chamber. The Deonar Landfill, Asia’s largest dumping ground is located here.”

The century-old Deonar dump is barely two kilometres from Govandi and Mankhurd and accepts a quarter of Mumbai’s total solid waste. It was supposed to stop accepting more waste after December 2019, but in January the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) filed an affidavit in the Bombay High Court seeking an extension until June 2023. It is only by then, the civic body said, that it would be able to construct a waste-to-energy plant at the site.

The problem of waste management and its connection with disease is neither new nor just Mumbai’s problem. However Covid-19 has brought the question of sanitation to the fore, along with other other equally serious issues. For instance, the Novel Coronavirus spread rapidly in the old city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, to the dismay of residents of Bapunagar, Gomtipur and Dhorwada, where most of the working class live. Dev Desai, a human rights activist and trustee of Anhad, a socio-cultural outfit, is supplying rations some of these areas. He says that the number of cases in Gujarat has been climbing due to the weak health infrastructure—and the poorer neighbourhoods in Gujarat’s cities are the worst-affected. A week ago, of the 520 positive cases reported in Gujarat on a single day, Ahmedabad accounted for 330 cases of Covid-19. A few days later, the highest number of cases reported in Gujarat on a single day touched 580 and on 22 June, 563 new cases were reported. Overall, the number of cases in Gujarat is well past 25,000.

The problems faced by residents of the crowded clusters in the state are compounded by the dismal condition of its public hospitals. “The pandemic has been with us for nearly six months, yet 65% of doctor, nurse and para-medical staff positions in government hospitals are vacant,” Desai says. “Where would the poor go for treatment? We are in an extremely challenging situation because of the unavailability of medical help,” says Desai.

Prof Hemant Shah, who teaches economics at the HK Arts College in Ahmedabad, says that the medical staff in government hospitals has stopped work four times during the pandemic because they are not getting their salaries. “The lack of medical care explains why Gujarat has such a high fatality rate even when the number of patients are low,” says Shah. This was true even in April, when the pandemic was yet to bare its fangs in India. As the Ahmedabad Mirror had reported on 3 April: “Against the total 88 corona cases in Gujarat, seven deaths were reported till Thursday [2 April], while Maharashtra which leads in the country with 335 cases, 13 death cases were reported.”

And the Capital city is rapidly catching up with Maharashtra in terms of total infections. Here too, the residents of crowded areas are bearing the brunt of the pandemic. There are 675 over-crowded and under-developed clusters in Delhi, of which Bhalswa and Jahangirpuri report very high incidence of the infection. The lack of sanitation and healthcare has an added dimension in Delhi—the shocking refusal of hospitals to accept patients of any kind.

Surekha Singh, a co-ordinator for the NGO Action India for Seemapuri, Janata Mazdoor Colony and Sanjay Colony, says, “While Covid cases in these clusters are high, a large numbers of residents also suffer from non-Covid ailments such as cancer, heart disease and epilepsy. Hospitals keep turning such patients away saying they are full—not that getting admission as a Covid patients is easy.”

Seen in this light, Indian states have responded to the Covid-19 crisis with some ameliorative interventions, but their response lacks an overall strategy. The problem is not just the crowding or lack of facilities—it is also that even in the known hot spots both sanitation and healthcare have been neglected despite the high fatalities.

For instance, to return to Mumbai, it has already tried out four containment strategies. “We have had testing, no testing, contact tracing, no contact tracing. This is hardly how to fight a pandemic,” says Rais Sheikh, a Samajwadi Party legislator who is doing relief work in M East Ward and Bhiwandi.

Aditi Anand, a volunteer and film-maker who is helping raise funds for Dharavi Diaries, an NGO engaged in relief work, says that the problem is compounded by how exhausted the BMC staff in Mumbai are getting. “The pandemic has gone on for long and they need to hire more people. This exhaustion is not a good sign, since we are still in for a long haul,” she says.

The silver lining is that Dharavi in Mumbai has reportedly turned a corner. This urban sprawl had earlier recorded a fatality rate of 4.1% compared to the 8.2% average fatality rate of Mumbai. The death rate in Dharavi had zoomed, but now it is said to have declined to 1.02%. Dharavi has a population density of 2,27,316 persons per square kilometre, and has reported over 2,000 positive cases. However, some 5 lakh Dharavi residents were screened, fever clinics were set up, and the infected moved to Covid-care centres.

But this model is obviously not being replicated across the city, forget the country. “Not enough sanitisation work is being done. Hospitals have become overcrowded and it is very difficult for Covid patients to find a bed,” says Sheikh about Bhiwandi. Testing in some of the densely-populated clusters of Mumbai has virtually reached an impasse. This is the exact opposite of the strategy adopted in Dharavi early on, which seems to have paid off despite setbacks such as the migrant worker’s crisis.

“[The problem is that] we are only reporting those cases where hospitalisation is required. Community tracing has been completely stopped. Everyone here is upset with the loss of livelihood. People want industries to start so that they can get back their livelihoods,” Sheikh says.

But Dharavi also tends to capture attention in a way that other slums, whether in Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad or elsewhere do not. More than making examples of a chosen few hot spots, India’s cities need a strong overarching narrative and effective local leadership to tackle this crisis.

“We need strong local leadership at the community level [too] so that the poorer can access resources that are allocated for them,” says Akhila Sivadas, who heads C-FAR, an NGO that has helped six lakh families access their ration entitlements during the pandemic. Sivadas believes that the central government must shed its adversarial attitude towards NGOs. “We [NGOs] cannot match the resources of the government. For instance, Bengaluru has 200 wards while we are present in five of them. But we can offer on-ground knowledge since our workers belong to these communities,” she says.

Doctors, too, believe that states must implement “bullet proof containment” strategies. Dr Monik Mehta, a cardiologist with Columbia Asia Hospital in Gurgaon, Haryana, close to the national capital, is a votary of the Bhilwara model for all containment zones. “Easier said than done, given the large number of containment zones we have. Delhi alone has over 240,” she says.

Bhilwara in Rajasthan is one of the earliest hot spots of Covid-19, but is known to have controlled the pandemic by ensuring people were provided basic needs such as healthcare and access to food. It also credits a better communication strategy for getting people to support some containment strategies that entailed hardship.

But easier said than done indeed, for just this week, it was reported that Hyderabad in Telangana has 1,100 containment zones and that the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) has all but thrown up its hands in despair. The reason being cited is the lack of coordination between the municipal authorities and the state government’s health department as cases zoom. On 23 June, Telangana reported 872 new cases on a single day, of which 713 were in Hyderabad. “The Director of Public health said that 3,189 samples were tested in the 24-hour-period between 5pm on Sunday evening and Monday evening. Of the samples collected, 2,317 came negative while 872 tested positive,” another report says. Coordination and communication is said to be a critical part of the Bhilwara model, and yet, months later, cities are struggling to get it right.

India has a total 4,41,924 Covid-19 cases and the death toll has crossed 14,000. At least 60% of the positive cases have been reported in just seven metros, where 40% of India lives. Since the strike rate is much higher in them, they need better facilities, especially clean water, face masks and sanitisers. There is an immediate need for relief on these counts, or Unlock-1 will only lead to more viral infections, perhaps making the fear of yet another round of lockdown come true.

The author is a freelance journalist. The views are personal.



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Maharashtra Govt Will Have to Overcome COVID-19 Crisis to

Maharashtra Govt Will Have to Overcome COVID-19 Crisis to


Mumbai: On the occasion of the 54th foundation day of Shiv Sena, the party chief and Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray assured the party workers that his government would win the battle against COVID-19. He asked them not to worry and stand firm with the government in this difficult time. He also hinted at his party’s ambitions for the topmost post in the country, saying that he would be happy to see a Shiv Sainik as Prime Minister.

“A Shivsainik (party worker) is not scared of anything. He stands tall against any kind of storm. These are tough times, but we are doing everything possible,” said Thackeray while addressing the first online foundation day rally on June 19.

When Thackeray took oath on November 28, 2019 to head the three-party coalition government in the state, experts believed that the toughest challenge in front of him would be to keep the coalition intact. The awaiting massive health crisis was not a part of anyone’s wildest imagination.

Maharashtra reported its first case of COVID-19 on March 9. The CM had garnered praise for swinging into action quickly, communicating with the people on a regular basis through social media and declaring a lockdown even before the Centre’s announcement of a nationwide lockdown. Former J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had tweeted on April 4, “#UddhavThackeray has been a revelation.” As opposed to the ‘one-man show’ being run at the national level, Thackeray was regularly seen sharing the platform with state Health Minister Rajesh Tope while addressing people.

However, by April third week, the number of patients began to soar quickly, especially in Mumbai.

The state government chalked out a strategy to control the spread of the coronavirus with the help of the Directorate of Medical Education and Research Department as well as Epidemiology experts in Mumbai and Pune.

Tatyarao Lahane, Director of MERD, told NewsClick that the state government’s guidelines have been based on directions from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) as well as the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“We focused on three things mainly. First, aggressive testing in areas where there are more patients. So be it Mumbai, Thane, Malegaon, Pune or Solapur, we did aggressive testing,” said Dr Lahane. The number of testing labs across the state was also rapidly increased. “When the first patient was found in Pune, there were only two labs – in Pune and in Mumbai. But now, there are 98 labs all over Maharashtra,” he added.

Maharashtra government also focused on upgrading the quarantine facilities by increasing the availability of beds. In Mumbai alone, the state government is working on making one lakh beds for COVID-19 positive patients and 3,000 ICU beds available by June end.

However, sources in the state’s Health Department point to one serious lacuna in management. “There is a lack of coordination in cities like Mumbai and Pune. We keep reading stories of how patients are not getting beds. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and state government have arranged beds at multiple locations including Bombay Exhibition Centre Mahalakshmi Race Course. Still, we keep reading such news reports. Because beds are full in the regular hospitals and there is no one to tell the new patients about where to go and which hospital or Covid-19 centre they should visit,” they said.

The state government has now come up with toll-free COVID-19 helpline numbers for every city, aimed at providing correct information on the availability of beds.

Observers see two key issues with the handling of the ongoing health crisis by the state government: an overdependence on bureaucracy for decision-making and lack of political unity.

Some Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress leaders had earlier covertly suggested that the CM relies more on the bureaucrats than the political leadership. This was in reference to the extension of tenure granted to Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta and also cancellation of some transfers of IAS officers including Principal Secretary Kishor Raje Nimbalkar.

Nimbalkar was supposed to replace Manoj Saunik as Principal Secretary in the Public Works Department (PWD) headed by Ashok Chavan, a Congress leader. But, his transfer was cancelled at the last minute. This was suspected to be a reason for the tussle between Congress and Shiv Sena. However, Congress has clarified that their issues with the functioning of the government have nothing to do with transfers of any officer.

Some bureaucrats have also been accused of “providing information” to former CM and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis. Congress’s chief spokesperson, Sachin Sawant, had recently tweeted: “Some officers are providing information to Devendra Fadnavis ji and we are aware about it.”.

In this context, senior journalist Padmabhushan Deshpande said, “It is finally the responsibility of the political leadership. If your entire political establishment starts talking in one voice, bureaucrats will fall in line immediately. MVA [Maha Vikas Aghadi] government should put its house in order first before blaming officers.”

Pointing to the number of COVID-19 infections in the state—highest for any state in the country—BJP has repeatedly claimed that the MVA government has “failed the battle”.

During a recent press conference, Opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis had alleged, “Maharashtra government is not following the guidelines of ICMR. The number of tests has reduced in the state and the government is trying to hide behind false data.”

However, senior Journalist Jatin Desai told NewsClick that the MVA government has been performing well on the pandemic front. “I think the state government and BMC are doing reasonably well as far as COVID-19 is concerned. The state is visible and so is the CM and the health minister. Sharad Pawar has been a strength and he is inspiring confidence. But, politically, MVA is not seen as a collective force,” said Desai.

The BJP has also been targeting the government for the “dire” situation in the state capital, while posting videos depicting the same on social media. BJP’s former Mumbai Chief Ashish Shelar said, “BMC should have done preparations well in advance. There are so many cases of mismanagement. Inadequate beds, ICU wards and even provision of oxygen cylinders are major reasons for so many deaths in the city. The blame goes to Shiv Sena and the state government for this gross failure.”

Shiv Sena leadership, however, has refuted these charges. Rajya Sabha MP Anil Desai believes that the charges are politically motivated. “Mumbai’s comparison must be done with the situation in similar cities around the world. Look at New York or London. Then you will realise that Mumbai has done a better job…,” said Desai.

“There was a serious challenge in April and till mid-May. But, right now, it looks like the city is in a better position and the speed of the number of new cases is also slowing down. Now, the city has to build more and more resources like ICU beds and ventilators to bring down death rates. That is the task,” said Professor Niraj Hatekar.



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“Basu Chatterjee Wasn’t Somebody To Be Bogged Down By Crisis”: Byomkesh Bakshi Actor Rajit Kapur


Rajit Kapur played the titular role on Byomkesh Bakshi. (Image courtesy: DDNational )

Highlights

  • “He had a great sense of humour,” said Rajit Kapur
  • “He had an extremely simple approach with no frills attached,” Rajit said
  • “Simplicity as an approach was part of his creative work,” he added

New Delhi:

Actor Rajit Kapur describes the first narration for the hit detective series Byomkesh Bakshi by Basu Chatterjee as “brief” but the experience of working with the director on the show left him with an everlasting lesson: to always retain simplicity. Basu Chatterjee, known for his relatable, light-hearted brand of cinema with films such as Rajnigandha and Chitchor, died on Thursday following age related health issues. He was 93. Rajit Kapur played the titular role on the 1993 Doordarshan series Byomkesh Bakshi, directed by Basu Chatterjee. Calling Basu Chatterjee a “sharp mind,” the actor told news agency PTI: “The man had a great sense of humour. He was not somebody to be bogged down by crisis or problems. He was extremely practical and always knew he’d find a solution.”

“Never grudgingly but with a smile. When you’re shooting, there are problems everyday but he’d say ”if not A, let’s look at B, if not that, then C,” added Mr Kapur.

The actor described Basu Chatterjee as someone who kept crossing hurdles one after the other, never stopping, and rarely sad. “That attitude kept him going. He’d look for solutions and I’ve learnt that kind of practical approach from him. That’s the approach he applied to his work.”

Though Byomkesh Bakshi, based on the character created by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay, saw many versions, including a Bollywood film by Dibakar Banerjee, the TV series is often credited as one of the best adaptations of the character on screen.

The reason behind the popularity of the series, Mr Kapur explained, was that even though the show was about a detective, it had the trademark simplicity one would associate with a Basu Chatterjee film.

“He had an extremely simple, basic approach with no frills attached. He’d straight get to the point, which was reflective to the kind of person he was: honest. If something wasn’t working, he’d tell. He was a very no nonsense person. That simplicity is seen in his work, be it Rajnigandha, Chhoti Si Baat or even a detective series like Byomkesh,” he told PTI.

The actor said his colleagues from the series Yugantar suggested his name to the filmmaker for the titular role. When a meeting was fixed with Basu Chatterjee, the Raazi actor recalled that the filmmaker offered him the part instantly.

“We met and within 10 minutes he told me, ‘I want you to play this.’ We shot the series as a film, we went location wise and focused on the first 20 episodes. In those, we shot all Byomkesh‘s scene of his house in Versova, then we went to another important location. That’s how he had planned it,” he said.

Rajit Kapur said what always remained true for the filmmaker was his ability to “go beyond” in chronicling stories. “Simplicity as an approach was part of his creative work. He would always look for the core. Many filmmakers today ignore that and talk about the periphery, the frills. But he never let it go. The simplicity, the core always remained,” he added.

Basu Chatterjee also had shows such as Priya Tendulkar-starrer Rajani, political satire Kakaji Kahin, based on well-known author Manohar Shyam Joshi novel Netaji Kahin and starring Om Puri, and TV film Ek Ruka Hua Faisla, a courtroom drama which was a remake of the Henry Fonda-starrer 12 Angry Men.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)





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#CoronaImpact: Hyderabadi Haleem goes off the market this Ramzan – Times of India


Looks like it will be a Ramzan sans haleem this season. In the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak and a nationwide lockdown, the Haleem Makers’ Association, a consortium of 400 eateries and restaurants that serve haleem in the city, have decided to shut shop this year.

“We decided that people’s safety is the most important thing. A dish like haleem takes a lot of time to prepare and is produced following a painstaking process. It involves a lot of human labour. Given the current situation, we must all follow social distancing norms and hence, haleem will not be available in Hyderabad and Secunderabad this year,” says MA Majeed, President, Haleem Makers’ Association.

Cooked on a low flame of firewood for about 8-12 hours in a bhatti (cauldron covered with a brick and mud kilns), the Hyderabadi haleem generates lucrative revenues for scores of outlets that crop up in every gully of the city. But the haleem makers have decided to put safety first. “Taking this decision wasn’t easy. People wait the entire year just for this one month so that they can relish haleem. It is a means of employment for thousands of people. But in the current situation, we cannot let the virus spread and we cannot put our staff or customers at risk. Let us overcome this crisis first and in the meantime, we should try to help those in need,” Majeed adds.

With the lockdown extended in Telangana till May 7, it is unlikely that haleem will be made available after the lockdown lifts. “Even if the lockdown is lifted on May 7, we must continue to take precautions and maintain social distancing. It will not be prudent to suddenly start making and selling haleem after the lockdown lifts. This is a crisis period and we must do all that we can to support the underprivileged,” adds Ali Hemati, owner, Paradise.

Haleem makers to face losses worth `300 crore

The decision to stop the sale of haleem across Telangana will cost the industry revenue worth approximately `300 crore, according to the Haleem Makers’ Association. “The losses will be staggering. However, we must focus on fighting this pandemic together and make sacrifices if we are to come overcome this crisis,” says MA Majeed, President, Haleem Makers’ Association

“At the end of the day, safety of the people is the most important thing. We took a unanimous decision to stop the sale of haleem this Ramzan” – Mirza Ali, owner, Sarvi

“Even if the lockdown is lifted on May 7, we must continue to take precautions. It will not be prudent to immediately start sale of haleem post lockdown”

– Ali Hemati, owner, Paradise



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कोरोना संकट से निपटने के लिए AIIMS की इस डॉक्टर ने पुरस्कार के दो लाख रुपये दान किए


डॉ उमा कुमार ने राष्ट्रपति रामनाथ कोविंद से पुरस्कार ग्रहण किया था (फाइल फोटो).

नई दिल्ली:

कोरोना वायरस (Coronavirus) संक्रमण को रोकने के लिए सरकारी और गैर सरकारी संस्थाओं के अलावा लोग आगे बढ़कर सरकार की मदद कर रहे हैं. नई दिल्ली में स्थित आल इंडिया इंस्टीट्यूट आफ मेडिकल साइंस (एम्स) की डॉक्टर उमा कुमार ने राष्ट्रीय पुरस्कार के साथ मिली दो लाख रुपये की धन राशि प्रधानमंत्री कोष में दे दी.

डॉक्टर उमा कुमार एम्स के रेमोटोलोजी विभाग की विभागाध्यक्ष हैं. उनके कार्य को सराहते हुए इसी वर्ष 25 फ़रवरी को राष्ट्रीय विज्ञान दिवस पर महामहिम राष्ट्रपति ने इलेक्ट्रॉनिक माध्यम में विज्ञान एवं प्रौद्योगिक संचार में उत्कृष्ट प्रयास के लिए वर्ष 2019 के राष्ट्रीय पुरस्कार से सम्मानित किया था. इसमें दो लाख रुपये की धनराशि भी दी गई थी. 

डॉ उमा कुमार ने एनडीटीवी को बताया कि जो सम्मान मुझे दिया वह मुझे शिरोधार्य है, लेकिन धन राशि की आज देश को ज़्यादा आवश्यकता है. आज जब हमारा देश कठिन परिस्थितियों से गुजर रहा है तब एक देशवासी होने के नाते हम सब का कर्त्तव्य है कि हम अपने देश और देशवासियों के साथ खड़े हों. इसलिए राष्ट्र हित में स्वेच्छा से एक छोटी सी आहुति दी. पुरस्कार के दो लाख रुपये की धनराशि मैं प्रधानमंत्री कोष में दे रही हूं. वहां आज के इस परिवेश में सही मायने में इस धनराशि का उचित उपयोग होगा. 

उनके इस कदम को डॉक्टरों के साथ आम लोगों ने भी सराहा है.

वेब
स्टोरीज़



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Sri Lanka offers to host IPL 2020 amid COVID-19 crisis

Sri Lanka offers to host IPL 2020 amid COVID-19 crisis


Sri Lanka has offered to host the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) which has now been indefinitely suspended by the BCCI due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The 2020 IPL edition was slated to start from March 29 but with the coronavirus outbreak it was first deferred till April 15 and now with the extension of nationwide lockdown in India till May 3, it has been indefinitely suspended.

The Sri Lanka cricket board has written to BCCI offering to host the IPL as its chief believes the country will be clear of coronavirus before India.

“Apparently it will cost the BCCI and its stakeholders more than $500 million to cancel the IPL,” SLC president Shammi Silva told local daily Lankadeepa.

“So perhaps they can minimise those losses by hosting the tournament in another country.

“If they play it in Sri Lanka, it’s easy for Indian audiences to watch the games on TV. There’s precedent for this because they’ve played the IPL in South Africa before. We’re waiting for the Indian board to respond to our proposal,” he added.

READ: The journey of cricket from Sachin Tendulkar to Virat Kohli

On two occasions in the past, the IPL has been shifted out of India. The 2009 edition of the IPL had been moved to South Africa due to Lok Sabha elections. In 2014, the UAE had hosted the first two weeks of IPL because of the general assembly polls.

“If the Indian board does agree to play the tournament here, we’re ready to provide facilities in line with the requirements and recommendations of medical professionals. It would be a substantial source of income for Sri Lankan cricket as well,” Silva said.

Sri Lanka has so far registered over 230 COVID-19 cases compared to India’s number of over 13,000 cases.

However, the lockdown imposed in Sri Lanka is even more severe than that in most parts of India, with a curfew having been put in place for almost four weeks. The Sri Lanka government remains optimistic about eliminating the virus from the country and if the goal is achieved, then Sri Lanka can become a viable option as an IPL venue. However, even then, the government clearance would be required to host such a big tournament.

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Sectarianism Will Not Make Lockdown Crisis Go Away

Sectarianism Will Not Make Lockdown Crisis Go Away


Democracy has been described as the “least worst” form of government. The problem with this witticism is that democracy is not a simple analytical category. Systems of government labelled democratic are so disparate that they are irreducible to an archetype. The bigger problem is that democracy is often reduced to one form: liberal democracy as it is practised within the matrices of capitalist economies and bourgeois societies. This form of government that originated in Europe and was exported as an idea to colonies, some of which adopted it after decolonisation.

The further problem is that “liberal democracy”, which is not the only form of democracy either in theory or reality, in its idealised form does not conform to practice anywhere. Extrapolated to postcolonial countries it falls far short of everything that theorists crack it up to be. The claim that it is based on equality and equal rights to which equal “citizens” have equal access is a fiction. In the cradle of its birth and the birth of capitalism, the nascent “liberal democratic” state was the instrument of the rising bourgeoisie, which it helped gain ascendancy by the use of legislative force and other forms of coercion. And the state, in its liberal democratic forms filled with fictional equalities and rights, remains the instrument of the bourgeoisie and other classes that form the ruling blocs in India and elsewhere.

There is, however, the question of legitimacy: The acceptance by people of all classes of its political and ideological values. The bourgeois hegemonic order is produced by a combination of coercion and consent. It establishes its legitimacy by successfully projecting its sectional interests—say, economic growth—as a universal good.

This is true of India as well. The caveat is that the precise combination of coercion and consent is always contextual and contingent. In critical conjunctures, the responses of regimes are crucial to the maintenance of hegemony through the continued production of consent. It is possible for a hegemonic order to break down unless regimes take evasive action. After World War II, such evasive action was taken in the developed world in the form of welfarism.

Faced with the Covid-19 pandemic, laissez-faire regimes are again taking evasive action by rolling out social welfare. The multilateral economic order has abandoned the shibboleths it treasured and woken up to the fact that unless security nets are provided, social unrest could become difficult to contain globally.

In India, a crisis of legitimacy should rationally brew because of the responses of the current regime. To assume, however, that this crisis will necessarily be taken to its logical conclusion would be wrong. It will have to be made to transpire. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime seems to be offering a two-pronged response.

It appears that Modi and his party do not see the current conjuncture as one which could breed a challenge for the bourgeois liberal hegemonic order in general, and their actually illiberal regime in particular. The only way one can read the Union government’s steadfast refusal to execute what we could call minimally humanitarian programmes for citizens, who should theoretically be able to claim these as rights, is that it does not see a problem of legitimation and legitimacy, which is curious because Modi’s rise to power was powered by a misleading change of public image from accessory to sectarian pogrom to champion of development.

The relentless machine that powers the prime minister’s publicity campaigns carpet-bombs us with information about the initiatives that have brought “welfare” to the people, which often borders on falsehood. Given that “divider in chief” Modi wants to be known as “development guru” who gifted India with the cooked-up “Gujarat model of development”, the reluctance to commit to minimal social security is inexplicable.

The government has not even undertaken initiatives that would have barely cost anything, if that is the constraint, which it isn’t, but could have ameliorated the sufferings of millions. For instance, before clamping on the country a draconian lockdown at four hours’ notice, it could have made arrangements for migrant labourers to go home. The Uttar Pradesh government did it after the fact for a few thousand students preparing for examinations in Rajasthan and is only now considering doing the same for migrant workers.

In the meanwhile, on 20 April the government approved a proposal for the release of surplus rice in the warehouses of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) for the manufacture of ethanol, to make hand-sanitisers, instead of clearing stocks to create a countrywide, no-questions-asked food banks for those in need, not to be determined by complicated forms of means-testing. It would be better to err on the side of generosity.

Union food and consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s response, on 21 April, to criticism of the scheme was criminally complacent, and lacking in basic empathy and intelligence. After clarifying that only inedible rice would be used, which sounds like an afterthought, he said hand sanitisers would be made for distribution to the poor. Indeed. They will be given to people in slums in which the ideas of hygiene and “social distancing” are non-existent, because long-neglected infrastructural necessities for the simulacrum of a decent life just do not exist.

Clearly, this refusal to sign up to some form of welfare betokens a lack of concern about legitimation. This is because the regime’s strategy for maintaining the hegemonic order and legitimacy is being pursued by fuelling sectarian discord and persecuting Muslims as an example of setting an example.

Thus, first, the continued arrest of dissidents who had been protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, and the National Register of Citizens on trumped-up charges. Thus, too, the disproportionate arrests of Muslims in connection with the Delhi riots, while those responsible for inciting them remain free. The discredited Delhi Police operating under the diktat of a sectarian Union Home Ministry wills itself not to see that the Delhi riots were orchestrated by Hindutva bottom feeders.

These are in addition to Hindutva footsoldiers spreading incendiary content on social media encouraging people to prevent Muslims from engaging in gainful activities and even attack them physically. The government’s response has been to encourage this by inaction. Modi’s belated appeal doesn’t cut it.

Following up, the Union government has moved to muzzle the press. Over the past few days, three journalists in Kashmir have been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other “special” legislation. On 18 April, Masarat Zahra had been booked for uploading photographs on her Facebook account “which can provoke the public to disturb law and order”. The material she uploaded has already appeared in reputable publications nationally and internationally. A firestorm of protest has broken out, but will not bother the government, especially because it has suborned significant sections of the mainstream media.

Another freelance journalist, Mushtaq Ahmed, was detained and beaten by the police in Srinagar when he was out during the lockdown on professional—i.e. journalistic—work. On 18 April, again, Peerzada Ashiq, a correspondent for The Hindu, was summoned by the police to explain a report. He was booked on 20 April for spreading “fake news” despite having provided an explanation that prima facie sounds reasonable.

The messages are clear. In the first instance: Toe the line, because even in the midst of the pandemic sectarian mobilisation will be used as a trusted tool. In the second: keep shut. We have emergency powers, which we will not hesitate to use. India has recently fallen two places—from 140 to 142—on an annual press freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders. It attributed the fall to “pressure on the media to toe the Hindu nationalist government’s line”.

Worldwide, governments are taking recourse to special powers that invade individual freedoms, while regimes that describe themselves as democracies have moved to provide citizens with safety nets. Coercion and consent. Observers are speculating that the age of mounting inequalities and iniquities could be softened by a new welfarism—to save capitalism from its own hubris.

Not so in India, where even the formal freedoms of the liberal democratic order have been under threat, forgetting, for the moment, issues like the rights to nutrition, good health and the numerous other conditions under which the entitled consider life actually worth living.

The inescapable conclusion is that this regime does not believe that throwing the poor and the hungry under the bus to contain the Covid-19 pandemic will create a crisis of legitimacy, because majoritarian mobilisation will fill the deficit. This will be the sublimation of hunger into an anger that can be channelled to build a theocratic state.
Legitimate anger against the regime must be channelled for the emancipation of the people from totalitarianism and want. Come the end of the year, migrant workers, who have already voted with their feet, traversing thousands of kilometres to get home, will vote in Bihar. They will, one hopes, clear up misconceptions about hegemony and legitimacy.

The author is a researcher and freelance journalist. The views are personal.



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