September 1, 2021
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Good morning. We all have a lot of work stress. Post-work tiredness is more about mental exhaustion than physical pain. All that we wish for is a small break to get us back on track.
Famous shoe company Nike has closed down its corporate headquarters for a week. They want their employees to take additional time off and relax. The company prioritized mental health, rest and recovery over productivity. On the flip side, the time off is not applicable for workers in Nike retail stores. Well, as we keep saying, there’s always another side to the story!
📰 FEATURE STORY
Renovated Jallianwala Bagh – Protected History or Insensitive Representation?
One of our first memories of Indian history is the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Till date, we remember how several Indians walked through the narrow lanes of the Bagh, never to be seen again. Needless to say, it is one of the darkest chapters of our history.
Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the renovated Jallianwala Bagh complex. In essence, the revamp was done to protect history and honour the martyrs. But many people think the renovation will destroy the spirit of the place and erase history.
More than a century ago, a large crowd assembled at the Bagh on April 13, 1919. They had gathered in huge numbers to peacefully protest the arrest of nationalists Saifuddin Kitchlu and Satya Pal. But little did they know that a martial rule was passed by the British which banned gatherings. When Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer came to know about the protests, he ordered his troops to surround the gardens and open fire against the unarmed crowd. Seeing many people die from the impact of bullets, others tried to jump into the well and escape. But they drowned in the well. Records say nearly 1,000 people were killed in the massacre and several others were injured.
In 1961, several years after the massacre, an official memorial was opened by the former President Dr Rajendra Prasad. The honoured central pillar was erected in the memory of all the martyrs. After the opening, many visitors reached the gates of the Bagh to witness the pain of the wounded.
As 2019 marked 100 years of the massacre, the Centre decided to renovate the memorial. They earmarked ₹20 crore for the upgradation project, which was helmed by the National Implementation Committee. While restoration of the memorial has not been disputed, many people are against the new features of the memorial.
Renovating Jallianwala Bagh is important
To protect a country’s history is the prime duty of its people. The renovation of the Jallianwala Bagh memorial will achieve this purpose. A revamped memorial will reach out to more visitors. It will also aid in teaching history effectively to the future generations. How?
Take for instance the narrow lanes of the Bagh. Earlier, it lay barren and did not translate the significance of the place to visitors. But now, there are sculptures on either side of the lane. It depicts the numerous commoners who walked into the place and died from the unexpected firing. So, whenever a visitor walks past these figures, they are made conscious of the tragedy that occured in 1919.
Remember the well we talked about earlier? It’s called the ‘Shahidi Khu’ or the Martyrs’ Well. Sometime in the 1960s, a superstructure was constructed around it. It obstructed the original view of the well. But the present renovation project has replaced it with a glass shield. Not only does the glass give a better view, it also protects the original structure of the well.
The revamp has also positioned a lotus pond around the main memorial. It has created a Salvation Ground where people can sit peacefully and pay their tributes to the martyrs. Four new museum galleries have been constructed from unused buildings in the complex. Many more facilities have been made available to honour the martyrs as well as enhance the visitor experience.
The key feature, however, is the 28 minute sound and light show. Every evening, the audio-visual technology will recollect the events of the massacre. PM Modi tweeted that the show would “instil a spirit of gratitude and reverence towards the martyrs”.
All of these modifications were suggested by a committee of historians. Right from the beginning of the project in 2019, this committee has been meeting up at each stage. They have worked carefully through the details of the implementation. Only upon their approval were these renovations made. So why are people opposing this meticulous remodelling of the memorial?
The renovation is unnecessary
Many historians are upset that the government tried to commercialize the memorial. They think the government should have ideally gone ahead with a mere restoration process. By renovating the place with new features like the sound and light show, it looks as if history is being glamorized and distorted.
People are anguished that the memorial which is known as a mourning place now has ticket counters. They think the modern structures of humans at the entrance were not necessary. The heritage value the lanes once had is lost because of these shiny sculptures. In short, critics think that the spirit of the space is heavily compromised.
The revamp is also seen as erasing the traces of history. The government has been accused of turning the memorial into a beautiful garden for tourists. The massacre was a fateful incident. So, making it look celebratory has hurt the sentiments of many.
Historian Kim A. Wagner who authored a book on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre said that the memorial has undergone ‘Disneyfication’. He said the revamp does not look like preserving the past. It only disregards the memories of the massacre victims.
Heritage conservationists think that the focus should not have been on building new structures. Instead, other ways of narrating history like documentation and an interpretation centre should have been considered.
Meanwhile, outraged people are saying that the renovated structure does not honour the martyrs but insults them. Modifying the memorial to take in more visitors disrespects the victims. While tourism is important, people question if the place had to be drastically remodelled to increase tourists.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
A modern secular India has no place for religious education
For the Left:
Modi’s green growth focus isn’t just about the climate, it’s also about the economy
🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
Weighty matter (Andaman and Nicobar Islands) – When Satyendra Garg took up the chief police position in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, he was more than happy to see lower crime rates. But there was something else that left him worried. The police unit in the Union Territory had some of the heaviest policemen in the country. Two of them weighed 146 kg and 104 kg, respectively. This obesity trend and related health issues in the police unit here left him perplexed. Taking matters into his hands, the chief initiated regular medical check-ups, weight-loss programmes, health awareness and fitness regimes for the policemen. Even counselling is being provided. This rigorous routine has now fetched better results. Along with several others, the two policemen have lost a lot of weight. This weighty plan has also inspired the people of the UT to shed some kilos.
Reviving lost tradition (Jammu and Kashmir) – Handwoven Pashmina shawls of J&K is world-famous. If you haven’t heard about it recently, it is probably because its production has significantly reduced. Most women engaged with the hand-spinning of such yarns have stopped doing it. Because over the years, the sales became dull and they made less money. No worries. In a very rare initiative, these women are now offered double the wages and year-round orders. Under this initiative, enrollment will begin from September 1. The first bulk of the wool will also be given for free. This means women who want to re-start weaving do not have to invest in raw materials. The government is also taking measures to incentivise and promote these women. These initiatives are indeed weaving past glory.
Free for students (Tamil Nadu) – The situation is slowly returning to normal. With schools being reopened for classes IX-XII in Tamil Nadu, proper measures are being taken to support the students. In its latest initiative, the government has announced free bus travel for students. They can now commute in government buses for free after showing their school identity card. This will for sure ease their daily travel. The government also recommended safety sanitation methods for schools and students to follow. So, one more reason for the students to not forget their identity cards.
Water ration (Gujarat) – Drinking water crisis is on the rise in many states. Gujarat is no exception to it. So, the government for the first time in many years has turned towards rationing of water. The different reservoirs have been categorized and will be tapped for drinking water in a phased manner. This way, drinking water will be made available until next March. This strategizing of drinking water draw is expected to help the tight water trouble in the state. To reduce this crisis, let’s try and use water wisely and prudently.
Rapid desertification (Northeast) – Have you heard of the term ‘Desertification’? It is defined as the persistent degradation of a relatively dry region, which then becomes increasingly parched. The region slowly loses its water bodies, vegetation and wildlife. Both climate variations and human activities can cause this change. Recent data revealed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has flagged the top 10 states with high desertification between 2003 and 2018. Shockingly, 6 northeastern states – Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya were among them. These states are rapidly desertifying and it is said that deforestation and loss of green cover are the main reasons. Other states in the top 10 list were Punjab, Delhi, J&K and Uttarakhand. This is today’s reality. It’s high time we do something about it, lest our states will slowly dry.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
102 – The number of Vande Bharat Trains that are to be fully operational by March 2024. Tenders for the same have already been floated. Know what? The components for these will be procured only from Indian suppliers.