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Absurdity of national borders: How LBA will challenge the concept of national identity

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By Prachi Mishra

Recently Bangladesh and India sealed a historic land pact, ending the boundary dispute through exchange of territories. This agreement will allow people living in border enclaves to choose whether they want to live in India or in Bangladesh, with the option of being granted citizenship in the newly designated territories.

This land swap agreement deal has brought into focus the significance of national borders and their role in forming national identity of a citizen. It has raised several questions like how with a stroke of pen, a new territory is created, granting a new national identity to the citizens and how rigid are the identities thus formed.

National identity can be termed as one’s sense of belonging to a particular nation. It is something which differentiates a set of people belonging to one nation from the people of other nations.

However, this concept again raises a variety of questions – How is this sense of belonging created? Is national identity determined by the spatial demarcations? How stable are such identities? Does birth in a country determines one’s national identity? And most importantly do the individuals themselves have a role in the construction of their national identity?

In order to determine what forms a national identity, it’s necessary to talk about the concept of nation and what constitutes it. A nation can be referred to as a definite social space demarcated and bounded by territory. These definite boundaries create a sense of belonging to a particular space. However, these spaces are not that definite as we have seen in the historic partition of India or in the recent land swap deal.

When a nation is partitioned, borders are drawn between the two nation-states, separating one from the other. The border lines thus drawn, contribute only to problematize the situations and relations of a large number of people across it.

After the partition the refugees’ identities undergo a significant transformation, dictated by the changing landscape. A new national identity which is based on geographical grounds is imposed upon them.

Then, another factor which seems to be essential to create a sense of belonging is the law or the legal institutions of a nation. The people have some common legal institutions and a single code of rights and laws for all the members of the community. However one might question that the people, whose national identity is determined by these laws, are they involved in the making of such laws?

Other than the legal system, another factor which evokes a sense of belonging is the common civic culture. The common culture and religious practices are used to create a sense of belonging to a unified nation. Ethnicity is said to be one of the major influence in determining the national identity.

While talking about the concept of national identity one also needs to consider the effect of globalization in identity formation. In the modern world people migrate from one nation to territory, but do their national identity also changes?

One might question that when a new territorial boundary is etched, forming a new space, do the ethnicity and the adherence to specific set code of rights and laws also undergo a transformation? Can cultures be contained within boundaries demarcated by maps?

The geographical boundaries determine a demarcated territory of a state. However, these boundaries are dynamic and unstable; they change, shift and rearrange themselves as a result of multiple factors like politics, religion and language. So it won’t be erroneous to say that concepts like ‘nation’ and ‘national identity’ based on the geographical borders seem to be in flux rather than fixed.

 

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)