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Tharoor says ‘cricket and english’ were only two benefits of British rule

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Shashi Tharoor
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Jaipur: How should we view the British Empire and its legacy for its former colonies? Was it one of the world’s greatest modernizing forces, as some historians claim, or was it only a destructive bane? The latter, says Congress politician Shashi Tharoor, who maintains that the only two benefits for India were cricket and the English language.

Tharoor contested the contentions of co-panelist, British historian, author and MP Tristram Hunt, that the benefits included rule of law and an effective parliamentary system, saying he was not sure how good the latter has been for India.

“The system of governance of a small island nation was sought to be transplanted to a nation where there were not only ideological differences, but a bewildering range of diversities,” he said, at a session titled “Empire” at the Jaipur Literature Festival here on Monday.

On the idea of rule of law, Tharoor contended it was part of the normal evolution of society and India could have achieved it for itself.

“You don’t need foreigners to come and oppress you for benefit of development,” he asserted.

“(Historian) Niall Ferguson (who has termed the British Empire a great modernizing force) has not questioned for whose benefit it was done. I only accept cricket and the English language,” said Tharoor.

Hunt, who had stepped in for Ferguson, who wasn’t able to make it for the event, contended that there was renewed interest in the Empire in his country — where it had been absent for years from the school curriculum — as Britain took decisions on its place in the world.

The author of ‘Ten Cities that Made an Empire’, which seeks to chart the changing nature of the British Empire through 10 (formerly) imperial cities spread throughout the world, Hunt said the empire had had an influence on his country too — and still has.

“British politics are becoming like Indian politics. The centralized system is shifting to a more federal system… We are willing to take coalition partners,” he said.

On the question of financial compensation for the damages to the former colonies’ social and economic fabric, Tharoor, who had made headlines by making the demand at a debate in Oxford, said it should be a token amount, say a pound for every year of rule, rather than a ridiculous amount as had been calculated and would be “an exercise in absurdity and futility”, could never be paid and besides, “India couldn’t even know what to do with all that money”.

Hunt noted that such a demand was more advanced in the former Caribbean colonies, but they instead of money, had sought help in education and development.

On whether bygones should be bygones, Tharoor said he agreed. “History cannot be undone. But it haunts our past and affects the future. By all means let bygones be bygones, but never forget it… We must remember it.”

Hunt said he agreed. “We must interrogate, analyze and reinterpret the bygones,” he said, adding he was quite skeptical of official apologies for historical wrongs. (Vikas Datta, IANS)(Photo: Wikipedia)

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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)