October 5, 2021
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Good morning. If you’re a meat eater, have you wondered why meat tastes like, well, meat? Can it be replicated?
Indian scientists in cellular agriculture are trying to create meat that tastes and smells like the real thing. It’s a fascinating and complex scientific endeavour that isn’t entirely new. For India, the cultured meat industry is still very much in its infancy. Like with any other experiment, obstacles are aplenty. The biggest one is getting the flavour and texture right. Time will tell if the meat you eat was just made in a lab.
📰 FEATURE STORY
MHA Report on J&K: Fair Assessment or Fabrication?
The scrapping of Article 370 for Jammu & Kashmir was certainly controversial. Not only was the decision the topic of much debate and discussion, but the government’s decisions in the months that followed also garnered international attention and scrutiny. Recently, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) released a 38-page report on its success, and how it helped the region and people. As the government hailed the move as a win, some have pointed out that the ground realities are quite different.
On August 5, 2019, the central government undertook one of its most controversial policy moves – it withdrew J&K’s special status under Article 370. It resulted in the state being bifurcated into two Union Territories, J&K, and Ladakh. What did Article 370 do? It gave the state its own constitution, a flag, and freedom to make laws. It meant policies related to residency, property, and fundamental rights were formulated by the state.
Let’s briefly trace the timeline of this often-troubled state in the context of Article 370. As the Indian constitution came into force in 1950, Article 1 defined J&K as a state of India, and Article 370 gave it special status. Special status essentially meant J&K had a greater degree of autonomy than other Indian states. In 1956, J&K adopted its constitution and defined itself as a part of India, and the first legislative elections were held in 1957.
Over the decades, the region has seen severe unrest and wars, with China and Pakistan. Separatist insurgencies have also been a constant. The BJP-led government at the Centre decided to take action in August 2019. In the lead-up to the announcement, the feeling was something was afoot. Thousands of additional troops were deployed, educational institutions were closed, tourists asked to leave, and internet services were suspended. Even several political leaders were placed under house arrest.
One nation, one law, one symbol
The main thrust of the BJP’s argument to remove the special status was that it was acting as a barrier to development. So, it was a promise fulfilled. The BJP finally scrapped provisions of Article 370 for J&K to achieve the dream of “one nation, one law, one symbol.” So, whose dream was it? Interestingly, it was the dream of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (now BJP). He resigned from Jawahar Lal Nehru’s cabinet over differences in the 1950 Liaquat-Nehru Pact. Nehru, after all, played a key role in J&K’s accession.
Another reason the government took this decision was for security purposes. It’s no secret the security situation in the state and region is fragile and has been for decades. Over the past three years, 134 separatists have been taken into custody. The report cited that security to Hurriyat leaders would no longer be on the government’s dime.
The report cited other successes post-Article 370. On the issue of education, it said 48 of the 50 newly sanctioned colleges were made operational. IIT Jammu got its campus, and work has begun on AIIMS, Jammu. The government certainly has several ambitious infrastructure plans as well. A 467-metre bridge over the Chenab river will be opened this year, along with the 8.45 km long Jammu semi ring road, and the Banihal tunnel. The government isn’t skimping on the costs either. Under The Jammu and Kashmir Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation, 2375 projects costing ₹7110.78 crores have been approved.
One interesting example of success is the ‘Pencil Wala Gaon’. The report said Oukhoo village is meeting 90% of India’s pencil requirement. It credits the central government’s initiative for the village earning ₹107 crores in revenue in the past year. With it having 17 units and 4000 employees, the business will get a boost through government subsidies, which had not happened before.
Ground reality not reflected
Following the report’s release, it was swiftly dismissed by several regional parties, collectively known as The Gupkar Alliance. They deemed it a collection of “concocted and fabricated stories.” What’s stunning is the report does not address the various decisions that the government took in the aftermath that disrupted everyday life. It’s clearly meant to gloss over what actually happened on the ground to paint a false narrative in hopes that people will believe it.
Cutting mobile and internet services was just one decision that drew widespread criticism. Needless to say, doing so caused enormous disruptions for many. The government dragged its feet on this, citing security concerns despite the judiciary questioning the decision. Reporting from the valley became a challenge. Compounding this was a concerted attack on the press by the state police. They got support from former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, in her letter to the Press Council of India (PCI).
On the security front, the report claimed reduced violence and the region gaining freedom from terror. However, it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Official data states that since the decision to scrap Article 370 came into effect, 524 people have died due to violence. Among them, 70 civilians and 80 government personnel.
So, what about those ambitious infrastructure projects that the government had approved? Well, most of them were sanctioned by the previous government. As the Gupkar Alliance pointed out, the BJP government saw nothing wrong in taking credit for these projects despite no involvement. The state’s economy has been on a downward trend since 2019. What’s ailing it? Unemployment, sluggish consumer demand, and losses by businesses. The pandemic hasn’t helped matters. In summary, overall economic stress is underlined by political failure.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Mid-day meal scheme – ‘PM Poshan’ Is Old School Meal on New Plate
For the Left:
Why India’s millennials support PM Narendra Modi
🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
Brain Bank (Odisha) – Neuroscience research in India just got a boost. The All India Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Bhubaneswar will set up a brain bank on its premises. It will be the first of its kind in the region. So, what’s a brain bank? It’s where the brain tissue of those who have donated their brains after death will be kept in a repository. The research done here has the potential to save lives in the future.
Overpriced Medicines (Kashmir) – There’s a dangerous trend brewing in Kashmir, and it’s going largely unchecked – the sale of medicines at a premium price and ones that have expired. The Legal Metrology Department (LMD), which checks items sold by chemists, has registered cases against pharmaceutical shops for tampering with price tags and expiration dates. For example, 10 tablets of Denzo-12 cost ₹195 in Jammu while they cost ₹350 in Kashmir. Irfana Shayiq, the Deputy Drug Controller, said action will be taken.
Reluctant Parents (Karnataka) – As states continue to ease restrictions, many education experts have called for in-person classes to begin. The state has allowed primary and high schools to operate in full capacity in districts with less than 1% positivity rate. However, some parents aren’t in a hurry. Online learning seems to be the continued preference for many. The worry is sending kids to school when they aren’t fully vaccinated. It’s a tricky situation. Not everyone has internet access, and conducting online classes has proved a challenge for some. It looks to be an evolving situation.
Tourism Revival (Rajasthan) – Given the easing of restrictions by many states, tourism across the country is slowly picking back up. That’s certainly the case in Rajasthan, with room tariffs in some resorts on the outskirts of Jaipur higher than pre-pandemic levels. While international tourists are still absent, domestic tourism has more than compensated. It’s welcome news given how much the hospitality industry suffered due to the pandemic-induced lockdowns and restrictions.
Hilsa Fish Arrival (Tripura) – Tripura was handed an important gift ahead of the festival season. After a gap of 10 years, the Bangladesh government lifted the ban on the export of hilsa fish. The first consignment of 2000 kg arrived in Tripura. The move, welcomed by Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu Dev Varma, is important for fish merchants in the state. They had earlier planned to import hilsa but now won’t have to. It will also benefit the common man as the prices will now be affordable.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
₹3050 crores – The amount the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has asked telecom operators like Vodafone and Bharti Airtel to pay within three weeks. It’s based on a 2016 recommendation by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). It further adds to the woes of the embattled companies in the sector.