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By Amulya Ganguli
The clumsily designated Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill has been the victim of clumsiness in forms other than its name.
To start with, these relate to the absence of an uncluttered vision among politicians about the best way to achieve the objective of protecting farmers’ interests while advancing the cause of industrialization.
In a hasty manoeuvre to negate the provisions of the 1894 land acquisition law, the politicians seemingly lost a sense of balance and tilted rather too heavily in favour of the cultivators.
Among those who noted the imbalance was the commerce minister in the Manmohan Singh government, Anand Sharma, who said that “insistence on the consent of 80 percent of affected families will seriously delay land acquisition and in many cases halt essential infrastructure projects”.
As Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has pointed out, this objection echoes the Narendra Modi government’s views. But the Congress has chosen to ignore what Sharma said two years ago because it runs counter to the party’s objective of throwing a spanner in Modi’s “Make in India” industrial endeavours.
The Congress is well aware that if the process of industrialization takes off, then the party can say goodbye to any immediate chance of returning to power. Hence, the aggressiveness with which the party’s vice president, Rahul Gandhi, has been opposing the proposed amendments to dilute the provisions on securing the consent of farmers, and declaring that he will not allow an inch of land to be acquired by the government or the industrialists.
The Congress’ crown prince does not seem to care that stalling industrialization will hurt the country in the long run since it will stop a large number of peasants to move from farms to factories and also be detrimental to overall development by scuppering infrastructural projects.
But it will not do to blame the cynicism of the Congress alone. As Modi once pointed out, when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs supported the land bill in 2013, they desisted from taking a long-term view of industrial growth presumably because such a stance would have enabled the BJP’s opponents to accuse it of being pro-corporate, as Rahul Gandhi is doing today by alleging that the Modi government is “suit-boot ki sarkar”.
This one-sidedness has long been a feature of Indian politics – and also of the popular culture reflected in fiction and films – which propagates that the rich are evil while the poor are the repositories of all that is good in human beings.
In this respect, B.R. Ambedkar was in a league of his own when he described villages as “a den of ignorance, narrow mindedness and communalism”, echoing Karl Marx’s condemnation of the “idiocy of rural life”.
If the BJP is now taking a stand which is diametrically opposite to what it did in 2013, the reason is that the responsibility of governance has made it realize that employment generation via industrialization and economic reforms is the best way to lift millions out of poverty.
The Manmohan Singh government, too, had pursued this path, thereby leading to poverty reduction between 2005-06 and 2011-12 at the fastest ever rate in the country’s history because of “fast GDP growth”, as Arvind Subramanian, the present government’s chief economic adviser, said.
But any progress on these lines does not suit the opportunism of Rahul Gandhi and the Congress, including Anand Sharma. Hence, their opposition to reducing the percentage of farmers who have to agree to relinquish control over their lands from 80 percent at present.
This outlook is not only a major hindrance to the acquisition of land by the industrialists, but also condemns the cultivators to remain confined to their increasingly unproductive and sub-divided plots as the land is parcelled out among the succeeding generations.
Although the charges about being anti-industry have recently persuaded Rahul Gandhi to say that he is not anti-big business, the no-longer-young heir apparent has never said a word about his economic vision.
On the other hand, the BJP’s attempt to wriggle out of the logjam created by the opponents of the proposed amendments by calling upon the states to frame their own laws offers no solution.
Since land is in the concurrent list of the constitution, the states will be unable to draft a law which goes against the central legislation. For instance, the 80 percent stipulation cannot be tampered with, nor the directive about assessing the social impact of the acquisition.
The BJP’s hope, therefore, that the need to attract investors will persuade the states to prepare industry-friendly laws is unlikely to be fulfilled. Besides, some states like West Bengal will rather shoot themselves in the foot by shunning investment rather than be seen cosying up to the corporate sector.
However, even as parties like the Congress, which is leading the charge against the land law, continue to pose as champions of the underprivileged, they may ponder over why they were defeated in last year’s general election despite enacting supposedly pro-poor laws like the one on land and the other on providing subsidized foodgrain.
The US researchers have discovered a class of immune cells that plays a role in miscarriage, which affects about a quarter of pregnancies.
Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that the recently discovered subset of cells known as extrathymic Aire-expressing cells in the immune system may prevent the mother's immune system from attacking the placenta and fetus.
The researchers showed that pregnant mice who did not have this subset of cells were twice as likely to miscarry, and in many of these pregnancies fetal growth was severely restricted.
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"When you're pregnant, the immune system is seeing the placenta for the first time in decades -- not since the mother made a placenta when she herself was a fetus," said Eva Gillis-Buck, from UCSF.
"Our research suggests that this subset of immune cells is carrying out a sort of 'secondary education' -- sometimes many years after the better-known population of the educator cells have carried out the primary education in the thymus -- teaching T cells not to attack the fetus, the placenta and other tissues involved in pregnancy," she added. The findings are published in the journal Science Immunology.
The immune system has to be educated not to attack one's own tissues and organs to prevent autoimmune disease. But pregnancy presents a unique challenge since the fetus expresses proteins found in the placenta as well as proteins whose genetics are distinct from the mother.
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"It was a conceptual leap to link Aire-expressing cells, which are critical for preventing autoimmune disease, to pregnancy," said Tippi Mackenzie, Professor of Surgery at UCSF's Center for Maternal Foetal Precision Medicine.
In the thymus, Aire-expressing cells begin interacting with other immune cells very early in life to teach them what not to attack. The thymus begins to shrink and is nearly gone by adulthood, by which time most immune cells have been educated. But as the thymus shrinks, the population of eTACs in lymph nodes and the spleen expands, the researchers explained.
The study suggests a healthy pregnancy may depend on having these cells around, they added. (IANS/KB)
The tiny emojis being shared on billions of devices worldwide can play a major role in digital communication, with most people saying that emoji compels them to feel more empathy towards others, according to an Adobe report.
Adobe's global emoji study found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
"We were surprised and delighted by the discoveries made in the survey, most notably how enthusiastic respondents were for emoji as a means to express themselves," the company said in a statement.
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Emojis sometimes get criticized for being overly saccharine, but this sweetness is key when it comes to diffusing some of the heaviness of online communication.
"Many of the emoji are focused on positive emotions, so it's easy to insert them into our conversations and lighten the mood," the Adobe study said.
It's not surprising that over half of those surveyed feel more comfortable using emojis than talking on the phone or in person.
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This applies to less intense situations too. Dating, for example, can be tricky — especially when it's online or via digital apps, as it often is now.
The study also found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
In celebration of World Emoji Day on Saturday, Adobe's '2021 Global Emoji Trend Report' surveyed 7,000 people in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, and South Korea. (IANS/KB)
Following the grand Richard Branson show where he carried Andhra Pradesh-born Sirisha Bandla and fellow space travelers on his shoulders after successfully flying to the edge of space, it is time for Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos to applaud Sanjal Gavande, one of the key engineers who designed the New Shephard rocket set to take Bezos and the crew to space on July 20.
Billionaire Bezos is set to fly to the edge of space aboard what is touted as the world's first unpiloted suborbital flight. Born in Kalyan, Maharashtra, Gavande is a systems engineer at Blue Origin who always dreamt of designing aerospace rockets.
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After completing Bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Mumbai, she flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University. She also applied for an engineering job at the US space agency NASA but finally landed her dream job at Blue Origin
Sirisha flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University.IANS
Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Mary Wallace 'Wally' Funk, and other passengers are set to liftoff from west Texas and travel just beyond the edge of space on July 20. Blue Origin announced this week that Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old high school graduate from the Netherlands, would join the crew.
Oliver is the son of millionaire Joe Daemen, Founder, and CEO of the Dutch investment company Somerset Capital Partners. Blue Origin, however, did not reveal how much Daemen paid for his son's trip to space. Bezos chose July 20 as the launch date to honor the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
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The launch site for Blue Origin's first human flight will be in a remote location north of Van Horn, Texas, from where the firm had launched New Shepard for previous flights. Blue Origin has received final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry humans on the New Shepard rocket into space.
On July 12, Bandla touched the edge of space with three others, including Virgin Galactic's billionaire CEO Richard Branson. Bandla vaulted into space onboard VSS Unity 22. After the successful spaceflight, Branson carried the Indian-American on his shoulders while celebrating their flight to space, at Spaceport America in New Mexico. (IANS/KB)