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In the first year of the new decade, we’ll mark the 75 years of our Independence and 72 years of India as a Republic, but there are many questions, which assail the common Indian.
75 years after Independence and 72 years after India became a Republic, instead of feeling ecstatic and consolidating our achievements we are forced to ponder the question, whether our freedom fighters, leaders and constitution framers dreamt of India in its present form?
At present we are standing at a crossroads, where a vast multitude of Indian citizens are wondering about their legal standing and the future, besides feeling concerned about the continued secular and inclusive character of the Indian society. The largest majority of the country along with millions of illiterate, landless, backwards and a mass of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes have been forced to ponder over the question of their legal identity in the country, whose constitution’s preamble read: We, the people of India… Secular, Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens…
The largest minority community in the country has been thrown many challenges in the last two years. Though confused and floundering, it was trying hard to come to terms with the harsh reality of being part of an India, which is being governed by the forces, which have always been considered inimical to it.
A large number of Indians believe this to be the doing of the right-wing government. But the moot question is, how did it happen and who allowed it to happen? Leading us to a more sensitive and ponderous question, whether India ever was a truly secular republic at all?
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No one can deny the intricate human and social ties between the Indian citizens. Their sharing and caring for each other in times of need, standing together with each other in times of adversity. Coexisting and surviving for centuries as brethren, before the colonial masters altered and fostered the narrative based on two distinct communities.
Though it was presumed that independent India would provide a level playing field to all its citizens, irrespective of their caste and creed, the reality itself is vastly different. Writing in Young India, Gandhi longed for a Swaraj, which would be the rule of all based on justice, ‘…. to me Hind Swaraj is the rule of all people, is the rule of justice.’ — Young India — 16.4.1931.
Instead of fostering a spirit of tolerance and coexistence, our leaders trumpeted ‘secular’ identity of India, though in fact, it was pseudo-secular not secular. All communities were not provided a level playing field. Though a lot of crocodile tears were shed on the plight of the largest minority of the country, yet no affirmative action was taken ever, to set things right, by any political party.
Secular forces in India
Broadly, what is happening now shouldn’t worry any one, as it is happening due to the complicity or lackadaisical attitude of a large percentage of educated Indians. When the so-called secular parties were in power, they never tried to reign-in the hardline Hindutva elements, in reality they mollified and pampered them under the veneer of equal rights to every religion. Or within their hearts they too wanted India to be a Hindu Rashtra.
No one has any issue on the question of India being declared a Hindu Rashtra, but it should be the one, which is tolerant and coexistent of communities. It should not be the one, which pushes one community to the margins and gloats over it. In fact, the Hindu Rashtra could be the true dharma ‘rakshak’, it could be a beacon of light to the western world, which has always fumbled to implement the true spirit and principles of coexistence and tolerance amongst different communities, as per the western concepts of democracy and liberalism.
In addition, a large number of highly educated Indians exercised their franchise in favour of the BJP, in the last two general elections. This sympathy and support might have been there to prove oneself as a true Hindu Indian. Though within their heart they knew what they were doing was not due to the love for their country but it was to pamper the soft spot within their heart for the Hindutva.
Though their percentage might be an insignificant part of the 33 per cent, yet they were quite significant in influencing the others. And yes, howsoever they profess to be seen as educated, secular, forward looking, liberal people, within their hearts most proved to be pro-Hindutva and least concerned about the minorities or backward classes of the country, except to have drawing room conversations about their plight.
The secular parties also pampered and kowtowed to the fixated Muslim elements, clerics who claimed to be Muslim leaders or representatives. This attitude helped the Hindutva forces to bemoan the appeasement of the minorities at the cost of the majority, and in turn reaped benefits for themselves at the hustings.
Muslims in India
The Muslim community apart from educational backwardness also faced economic decline from 1947 onwards. However, it got a shot in the arm with the middle-east boom of the 70s. Though till 1980s, its economic spine was tried to be broken by frequent riots in cities where the community had proved its mettle as skilful entrepreneurs. And most of these riots happened when the so-called secular parties were in power both at the Centre and state level.
From the mid-70s onwards, the community consolidated its economic gains and moved forward on the road to educational and social prosperity. From the 90s onwards, economic liberalisation further helped the community in a big manner, as now scores of its young technocrats found meaningful jobs at various MNCs, as there unlike the government sector the playing field was set level for all.
This economic independence also helped it to further consolidate its successes and the current generation is proof of this. A generation, which is not burdened by the baggage of partition and is socially and educationally empowered to take on its foes at an equal footing. A generation, which is equally at home wearing jeans and hijab, keeping beard and observing fasts, bringing to reality the adage that education,opens doors to emancipation. A generation, which is proud to be part of the secular framework of the country and its own religious identity, and has become adept at finding a mid-path between the two.
In the current scenario, to remain steadfast and work towards consolidating our secular democratic republic, the responsibility lies on different political parties to work towards establishing a society and polity which does not rely on petty gains but wants to make the country stronger, based on principles enshrined in its constitution and obligated to by its founding fathers.
In addition, the Muslims also have to introspect and change their outlook on major issues confronting them. They have to focus on getting educated, getting rid of un-Islamic rituals, better utilise the community funds generated through Zakat and inculcate a community psyche, where one should first aim to reform him and his family and then come forward to reform the community in a professional and committed manner without keeping an eye on becoming the community’s leader.
To deliver these goals the clerics can play a crucial role. First, by cleansing the community of its different sects, secondly, by leading the community in all spheres be they religious, economic, social or political. A large percentage of their followers follow them steadfastly, instead of the so-called political leaders. So, if they are able to draw up a feasible roadmap for the progress and empowerment of the community, then the day is not far off when the community might be able to challenge the forces inimical to them professionally and politically. (IANS)
-By Asad Mirza
(Asad Mirza is a political commentator. He can be contacted at email@example.com. The views expressed are personal)
SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook critics pounced Wednesday on a report that the social network plans to rename itself, arguing it may be seeking to distract from recent scandals and controversy.
The report from tech news website The Verge, which Facebook refused to confirm, said the embattled company was aiming to show its ambition to be more than a social media site.
But an activist group calling itself The Real Facebook Oversight Board warned that major industries like oil and tobacco had rebranded to "deflect attention" from their problems.
"Facebook thinks that a rebrand can help them change the subject," said the group's statement, adding the real issue was the need for oversight and regulation.
Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told AFP: "We don't have any comment and aren't confirming The Verge's report."
The Verge cited an unnamed source noting the name would reflect Facebook's efforts to build the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the tech giant sees as the future.
Facebook on Monday announced plans to hire 10,000 people in the European Union to build the metaverse, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg emerging as a leading promoter of the concept.
The announcement comes as Facebook grapples with the fallout of a damaging scandal, major outages of its services and rising calls for regulation to curb its vast influence.
The company has faced a storm of criticism over the past month after former employee Frances Haugen leaked internal studies showing Facebook knew its sites could be harmful to young people's mental health.
The Washington Post last month suggested that Facebook's interest in the metaverse is "part of a broader push to rehabilitate the company's reputation with policymakers and reposition Facebook to shape the regulation of next-wave internet technologies."
Silicon Valley analyst Benedict Evans argued a rebranding would ignore fundamental problems with the platform.
"If you give a broken product a new name, people will quite quickly work out that this new brand has the same problems," he tweeted.
"A better 'rebrand' approach is generally to fix the problem first and then create a new brand reflecting the new experience," he added.
Google rebranded itself as Alphabet in a corporate reconfiguration in 2015, but the online search and ad powerhouse remains its defining unit despite other operations such as Waymo self-driving cars and Verily life sciences. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Facebook, Renaming, Fallout, Verge
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Scientists temporarily attached a pig's kidney to a human body and watched it begin to work, a small step in the decades-long quest to one day use animal organs for lifesaving transplants.
Pigs have been the most recent research focus to address the organ shortage, but among the hurdles: A sugar in pig cells, foreign to the human body, causes immediate organ rejection. The kidney for this experiment came from a gene-edited animal, engineered to eliminate that sugar and avoid an immune system attack.
Surgeons attached the pig kidney to a pair of large blood vessels outside the body of a deceased recipient so they could observe it for two days. The kidney did what it was supposed to do — filter waste and produce urine — and didn't trigger rejection.
"It had absolutely normal function," said Dr. Robert Montgomery, who led the surgical team last month at NYU Langone Health in New York. "It didn't have this immediate rejection that we have worried about."
This research is "a significant step," said Dr. Andrew Adams of the University of Minnesota Medical School, who was not part of the work. It will reassure patients, researchers and regulators "that we're moving in the right direction."
The dream of animal-to-human transplants, or xenotransplantation, dates to the 17th century with stumbling attempts to use animal blood for transfusions. By the 20th century, surgeons were attempting transplants of organs from baboons into humans, notably Baby Fae, a dying infant, who lived 21 days with a baboon heart.
With no lasting success and much public uproar, scientists turned from primates to pigs, tinkering with their genes to bridge the species gap.
Pigs have advantages over monkeys and apes. They are produced for food, so using them for organs raises fewer ethical concerns. Pigs have large litters, short gestation periods and organs comparable to those of humans.
Pig heart valves also have been used successfully for decades in humans. The blood thinner heparin is derived from pig intestines. Pig skin grafts are used on burns, and Chinese surgeons have used pig corneas to restore sight.
Kidney ready for transplantation from a live donor Image credit: wikimedia commons
In the NYU case, researchers kept a deceased woman's body on a ventilator after her family agreed to the experiment. The woman had wished to donate her organs, but they weren't suitable for traditional donation.
'Good could come from this'
The family felt "there was a possibility that some good could come from this gift," Montgomery said.
Montgomery himself received a transplant three years ago, a human heart from a donor with hepatitis C because he was willing to take any organ.
"I was one of those people lying in an ICU waiting and not knowing whether an organ was going to come in time," he said.
Several biotech companies are in the running to develop suitable pig organs for transplant to help ease the human organ shortage. More than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for kidney transplants. Every day, 12 die while waiting.
The advance is a win for Revivicor, a subsidiary of United Therapeutics, the company that engineered the pig and its cousins, a herd of 100 raised in tightly controlled conditions at a facility in Iowa.
The pigs lack a gene that produces alpha-gal, the sugar that provokes an immediate attack from the human immune system.
In December, the Food and Drug Administration approved the gene alteration in the Revivicor pigs as safe for human food consumption and medicine.
But the FDA said developers would need to submit more paperwork before pig organs could be transplanted into living humans.
"This is an important step forward in realizing the promise of xenotransplantation, which will save thousands of lives each year in the not-too-distant future," said United Therapeutics CEO Martine Rothblatt in a statement.
Experts say tests on nonhuman primates and last month's experiment with a human body pave the way for the first experimental pig kidney or heart transplants in living people in the next several years.
Raising pigs to be organ donors feels wrong to some people, but it may grow more acceptable if concerns about animal welfare can be addressed, said Karen Maschke, a research scholar at the Hastings Center, who will help develop ethics and policy recommendations for the first clinical trials under a grant from the National Institutes of Health.
"The other issue is going to be: Should we be doing this just because we can?" Maschke said. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Transplant, Pig, Human, Kidney, FDA
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Developed by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, a Decision Support System (DSS) that extends the ability of the existing air quality early warning system (AQEWS) to have decision-making capability for air quality management in Delhi-NCR was launched on Tuesday.
The website for the DSS (https://ews.tropmet.res.in/dss/) is designed to help the Commission for Air Quality Management for NCR and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) by delivering quantitative information about the contribution of emissions from Delhi and its 19 surrounding districts; the contribution of emissions from eight different sectors in Delhi; and the contribution from biomass-burning activities in the neighbouring states.
These information would assist in managing the air quality in a timely manner, a release from the Ministry of Earth Sciences said.
The need was stated by the CAQM, which was formed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, during a meeting held in January 2021.
Recently, the Commission reviewed the progress made by IITM and had in principle approved the current version of DSS for air quality management in the Delhi-NCR. The IITM has also developed a new website for DSS with the entire system made operational, the release said.
Union Minister of State for Earth Sciences, Jitendra Singh, while launching the website for AQEWS on the occasion of 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' week organised by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, said, "DSS is a significant contribution to 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' on behalf of MoES and IITM and suggestions are invited on this issue."
The website also has a feature whereby the users can create their own emission reduction scenarios (from 20 different districts, including Delhi) so as to examine the possible projected improvement in air quality in Delhi for the next five days.
"This information would explicitly highlight the most important emission sources responsible for the degradation of air quality in Delhi and suggest possible solutions to ameliorate the same. With a plethora of quantitative data, the AQEWS integrated with DSS could become a user-friendly tool for air-quality management in and around Delhi," the release said. (IANS/JB)
Keywords: Delhi, India, Pollution, IITM, Ministry of Earth Sciences