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In Focus by The Hindu Cover
In Focus by The Hindu Profile

In Focus by The Hindu

English, News media, 1 season, 860 episodes, 2 days, 3 hours, 9 minutes
A podcast from The Hindu that delves deep into current developments with subject experts, and brings in context, history, perspective and analysis.
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Will Operation Azm-i-Istehkam curb terrorism in Pakistan? | In Focus podcast

Pakistan is all set to launch yet another military operation against terrorists on its soil, whom it claims are coming across the border from Afghanistan. Political and army clearance for Operation Azm-i-Istehkam, or Resolve for Stability, came in the last week of June, but it is still in the works. Several operations have been launched since 2007 by the Pakistani military to rid the country from terror, but the country's own history in backing terrorists in Afghanistan and Kashmir has ensured that there has been no lasting solution to the problem. The country has also seen a parallel wave of fundamentalism and intolerance. So, will Azm-i-Istehkam make a difference? To answer this all-important question, I am joined by Ramanathan Kumar, former Special Secretary in the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW), who is an expert on Pakistan and Afghanistan. Guest: Ramanathan Kumar, former Special Secretary in the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW), who is an expert on Pakistan and Afghanistan. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
7/11/202430 minutes, 31 seconds
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Sri Lanka Presidential elections: Will they deliver on the political expectations of the 2022 protesters? | In Focus podcast

Two years after an economic crisis sparked mass protests and a major political upheaval, Sri Lanka is getting set for Presidential elections. While the actual date is yet to be finalised, we know that it would be between September 17th and October 16th. President Ranil Wickremesinghe has been saying that the country has gotten over the worst of the economic crisis, thanks to his able leadership, and that politics can return to normal. But is the economic crisis really over? The ‘Aragalaya’ protesters in 2022 had deemed the entire political elite unfit to govern, and wanted a different politics. Will they get that in the election to come? Among the three main contenders - Wickremesinghe of the United National Party (UNP), Anura Kumara Dissanayake of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), and Sajith Premadasa of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya, is any one likely to emerge as a clear frontrunner? Most critically, is any politician offering an economic vision for the country that does not necessarily have the fingerprints of the IMF? Guest: Meera Srinivasan, The Hindu’s correspondent in Colombo. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
7/10/202431 minutes, 18 seconds
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How will concerns over Biden’s ‘cognitive decline’ impact the US Presidential race? | In Focus podcast

There have been doubts over President Joe Biden’s mental acuity for quite some time. But his performance in the recent Presidential debate seems to have come as a shock to many, and especially to Biden’s support base. Almost the entire American liberal establishment, has called on Biden to step back and allow someone else get the Presidential ticket. Is he likely to stay the course, or will he make way for someone else? With the Democratic National Convention coming up next month, what are the options for the Democrats? Can they convince donors and voters that a President well past his cognitive prime is a good idea? And if Biden does step back, which are the names that have a good chance of winning against Donald Trump? Guest: Sanjay Ruparelia, Associate Professor of Politics and Public Administration, who holds the Jarislowsky Democracy Chair at Toronto Metropolitan University.  Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs editor, The Hindu Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
7/9/202434 minutes, 47 seconds
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Why India's millions of domestic workers have no legal protections in the country and abroad

A few weeks ago, the richest family in Britain, the Hinduja family, was convicted in a Swiss court and four of its members were given a prison sentence for exploiting their domestic workers, brought from India to a villa in Geneva. They were accused of paying the workers a pittance, making them work long hours and not allowing them to leave the premises. The family has said it will appeal the verdict, but the case throws a spotlight upon an issue that has long been neglected in India – the rampant exploitation of domestic help in the country and abroad. India has not ratified the International Labour Organisation’s Domestic Workers Convention No. 189 which advocates for their rights nor the ILO’s Forced Labour Protocol which would make it mandatory for countries to safeguard the interests of workers. India is estimated to have about 50 million domestic workers, largely women, primarily drawn from the five states of Assam, Odisha, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, with hundreds of thousands migrating within the State, to other States and abroad, but a law to protect their rights – which would cover their wages, working hours, holidays and other rights – has been pending with the Central government for some years now. So what is the legal situation of domestic workers in the country? Why is the government dragging its feet on bringing about a national legislation to protect them? Are the many recruitment agencies that have mushroomed across the country, subject to regulation? What happens when our workers go abroad? How do other countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines protect their workers? Guest: Sonia George, national vice president, of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and Asian executive member, International Domestic Workers Federation Host: Zubeda Hamid Edited by Jude Francis Weston
7/8/202437 minutes, 33 seconds
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What lies ahead for Britain under Starmer? | In Focus podcast

The Labour Party has scored an emphatic victory in the July 4 British general elections and Keir Starmer is all set to be the new Prime Minister replacing Rishi Sunak. Ending 14 years of Conservative rule, Labour look all set to win about 410 of a total of 650 seats, with Sunak's party way behind at 144, BBC reported. Nigel Farage's anti-immigration Reform Party won a paltry number of seats but picked up 14 per cent of the vote. Farage won a seat in Parliament on his 8th attempt. The Liberal Democrats are expected to win 58 seats. Labour's vote percentage only increased by about four percentage points over 2019, adding up to a little over 36 per cent of the votes cast. On their part, the Conservatives lost as much as 20 per cent of their vote from 2019. So, what lies ahead for Britain under Starmer? Guest: Andrew Whitehead, historian, lecturer and journalist. Former Editor of the BBC World Service. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
7/5/202426 minutes, 59 seconds
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Will the T20 World Cup win trigger a phase of Indian domination in world cricket? | In Focus podcast

India’s historic triumph at the T20 World Cup has laid many ghosts to rest for a generation of stalwarts, who have now passed on the baton. It has also earned Rohit Sharma a place in the pantheon of world-conquering captains, alongside the likes of Kapil Dev and M.S. Dhoni. Was there anything that set this team apart from the others in the past that came too close, only to miss, such as the one that lost the ODI World Cup final last year? What does the retirement of Kohli, Sharma and Ravindrea Jadeja from the T20 format mean for Indian cricket? What’s in store for Indian cricket fans, with the Women’s T20 World Cup scheduled for October? And will the victory in Barbados inaugurate a phase of Indian domination in world cricket, as is being suggested by many commentators? Guest: Amol Karhadkar from The Hindu’s Sports Bureau. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
7/3/202428 minutes, 53 seconds
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What does India need to do to make its railways safer? | In Focus podcast

Earlier this month a train accident in West Bengal killed 10 people and injured over 40. This comes just a year after the devastating multi-train collision that killed 275 people in Odisha last year.  Railway accidents have decreased significantly over the past decade -- only 0.03 accidents took place per million km in both 2020-21 and 2021-22. But this number loses meaning in light of the numbers of lives lost in rail accidents over the past couple of years.  After a train accident, there’s almost always several things that happen – human error or signal malfunctions are blamed, there is talk about the deployment of Kavach, India’s own automatic train protection system, and there is talk about whether the government is spending enough on safety and maintenance of the railway system, even as big ticket railway projects are unveiled.  The Indian Railways moves a staggering 24 million passengers a day. What are the safety challenges it is currently encountering? What is the status on the deployment of Kavach and why is it taking so long? Are lower-level staff disproportionately blamed for accidents while responsibility should rest elsewhere? What is India’s safety track record and what can be done to improve it?  Guest: Sudhanshu Mani is Retired General Manager/Indian Railways, Leader of Train 18/Vande Bharat project and independent rail consultant  Host: Zubeda Hamid  Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian. 
7/1/202424 minutes, 13 seconds
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Wimbledon 2024: Preview and analysis of the men’s and women’s draw | In Focus podcast

Wimbledon 2024 kicks off from July 1, promising some really exciting match-ups. This would also be the first time 22-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner will enter a Grand Slam as the world no. 1, 24-time Grand Slam champ Novak Djokovic is racing against time to get fit after a knee surgery, and with French Open champion Carlos Alcaraz, rounds out the Big Three of title contenders. Among the women, there is a lot of anticipation around the return to form of home favourite Emma Raducanu. World No 1 Iga Swiatek will once again hope for a breakthrough on grass – the one surface that she has not been able to adapt to so far. This Wimbledon will also be special for Indian fans as Sumit Nagal makes his main draw debut, and they can also cheer on Rohan Bopanna in the doubles. What does the draw look like? Who are the greats we might not see again at this venue? And how are the key contenders doing with regard to form and fitness? Guest: N Sudarshan from The Hindu’s Sports Bureau. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
6/29/202422 minutes, 29 seconds
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Can AI revolutionize the way we interact with phones? | In Focus podcast

It is safe to say that Artificial Intelligence isn't just a fantasy anymore, we are using AI more and more in our day to day life, be it on our phones or for work.  This year, every smartphone manufacturer, be it Samsung, Apple, Google to Oppo, Nothing, are placing their bets on the technology. They have announced plans to integrate generative AI in phones to provide a personalised user experience. What does this mean?  The thing is, we have been using AI in our phones for a while already. We use it in various ways, be it video stabilization, image enhancement, editing, as a personal assistant, for transcribing, in various apps etc. So, what's next?    Host: Nivedita V  Guest: Tarun Pathak, Research Director at Counterpoint Technology Market Research.  Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian. 
6/28/202426 minutes, 7 seconds
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Decoding the geopolitical implications of the Russia-North Korea security pact

President Vladimir Putin visited Pyongyang earlier this month, his first visit to North Korea in 24 years. The two countries have signed a comprehensive co-operation agreement that includes a mutual defense pact – that is, if one country is attacked, the other will come to its defense militarily. It is also expected that Russia will help North Korea with technical assistance for its military, ballistic missile and satellite programs. This meeting and the security pact, coming close on the heels of a similar summit between Xi Jinping and Putin, is not likely to go down well with others in the region, especially South Korea and Japan. US officials have also said that it could create some friction between Russia and China, as it would undermine China’s more or less exclusive leverage over North Korea. But Russia-North Korea relations haven’t been great until recently. What has sparked this revival? Is there a deep ideological convergence between the two authoritarian leaders, or is it just a transactional relationship? How would China view this pact? And what would be the impact of this agreement in South Korea and Japan? Guest: Professor Sandip Kumar Mishra from the Centre for East Asian Studies, School of International Studies, JNU, New Delhi. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Jude Francis Weston
6/27/202436 minutes, 16 seconds
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Is India equipped to deal with the rise in its elderly population?

Last week, on June 15, the world marked Elder Abuse Awareness Day. How well are senior citizens in India doing? A report that was released by the NGO HelpAge India reveals that a large majority of them are not doing very well – their study conducted across 20 cities in 10 States surveying over 5,000 elderly citizens found that nearly 65% reported that they were not financially secure. Over half of those surveyed suffered from two or more non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension and at least 7% admitted to being victims of abuse. India’s demography is changing – while senior citizens now constitute around 10% of the population – this number is expected to touch 20% by 2050. Family continues to play the role of primary caregiver, but also faces challenges, physically and financially. What happens if the family is from another city or country? While India has launched programmes such as the National Programme for the Healthcare of the Elderly and has enacted legislation like the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, implementation on the ground remains. Are the current social security nets sufficient to take care of senior citizens? Does the health infrastructure need to focus on geriatric care? How can their financial challenges be addressed? And how can the country work towards providing comprehensive care for our elderly population? Guest: Anupama Datta, Head, Policy Research and Advocacy, HelpAge India Host: Zubeda Hamid Edited by Jude Francis Weston
6/24/202435 minutes, 14 seconds
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How well can Gandhi Sagar sanctuary accommodate free-ranging cheetahs?

In September 2022, India launched an ambitious project to restart a self-sustaining, cheetah population in the country by importing African cheetahs. In all, about 20 adult cheetahs were translocated to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh. Of these 20, 13 have survived, and with another 13 cubs born, there are now 26 cheetahs at Kuno. Obviously, Kuno is not big enough to accommodate this many animals in the wild. So Gandhi Sagar wildlife sanctuary – much smaller in area than Kuno, also located in MP -- is being prepared to become the second home of the imported cheetahs. According to the government, the preparations are almost done, and plans for importing more cheetahs from Africa to Gandhi Sagar will be finalised after the monsoons. While the government has said that the Gandhi Sagar wildlife sanctuary is a perfect home for the cheetahs, there are concerns about prey density, space, and adaptability. What preparations have been made to make Gandhi Sagar a suitable home for the African cheetah? Are these preparations, including large-scale relocation of prey animals from elsewhere, sound from a conservation viewpoint? How will the authorities ensure that the cheetahs don’t stray into human habitations? Guest: Ravi Chellam, Bengaluru-based wildlife biologist and conservation scientist. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Jude Francis Weston
6/21/202426 minutes, 14 seconds
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Why is the ad industry unhappy with MIB’s self-declaration mandate?

The Supreme Court, in May this year, directed the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to ensure that advertisers and ad agencies submit self-declarations for every ad they put out. In these self-declarations, the advertisers would have to certify that their ads contain no ‘misleading’ content and are in compliance with all applicable regulations. With the Ministry complying with the apex court directive, starting from June 18, no new ad campaigns can be released without this self-declaration. This mandate seems well-intentioned – the objective is to curb misleading ads and protect consumer interest. But it has not found favour with industry bodies. It is expected that for the next three weeks, there might even be a slowdown in the launch of new ads. So, what exactly triggered this new mandate? Why is the ad industry unhappy about it? And if this is not the best way to protect consumers from fake claims, what are the alternatives that India could explore? Guest: Gowree Gokhale, lawyer with Nishith Desai and Associates, who specialises in Technology, Advertising, Media and Entertainment, and Data Protection law. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Jude Francis Weston
6/18/202429 minutes, 20 seconds
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What’s behind the calls for an independent probe into conduct of NEET 2024? | In Focus podcast

The results of the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) 2024 have sparked a major controversy. Students and experts have flagged plenty of irregularities. Petitions were filed in the Supreme Court over the award of grace marks to more than 1,563 students by the National Testing Agency (NTA), the body that conducts the exam. A concerned Supreme Court observed that the sanctity of the exam had been affected. The NTA informed the Court that the grace marks given to the 1.563 students would be cancelled and they would be given an option to take a retest, which would be held on June 23, with results declared on June 30. However, grace marks were not the only irregularity. For the first time in the history of NEET, 67 candidates topped with the maximum possible score, with eight of them from one centre, whereas there has never been a year where more than 3 students have scored maximum marks. There were also reports of question paper leaks, torn OMR sheets, and question papers in the wrong language being distributed. Even if we set aside NEET 2024as an aberration, experts have flagged systemic problems with NEET itself as a mode of selection. For instance, the Justice AK Rajan Committee, set up by The Tamil Nadu government to study the impact of NEET, had concluded in its report that NEET was anti-poor, anti-social justice and favoured students from affluent families, students from urban centres, and students who could afford to spend lakhs on coaching centres. So, what are the various problems with NEET 2024? Is an independent probe required? How do we ensure transparency and accountability in the functioning of NTA? Why are states like Tamil Nadu seeking an exemption from NEET? Guests: Professor Anita Rampal, former Dean, Faculty of Education, at Delhi University, and Dr G R Ravindranath, general secretary of the Doctor’s Association for Social quality, who also a Member of the Justice AK Rajan Committee constituted by the Tamil Nadu government to study the impact of NEET. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
6/15/202444 minutes, 47 seconds
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What’s behind the record number of ‘heat wave’ days in north India this year? | In Focus podcast

North India is enduring its hottest ever summer this year, with the number of heat wave days in May increasing by 125%. As per reports, extreme temperatures – in the range of 48-49 degrees - have caused the deaths of around 77 people across the country, including 33 who were on election duty. Not only have average temperatures been high, they have been consistently high across a vast region, and across a high number of days. How do we understand this trend? Is this primarily due to climate change? Or is this due to environmental degradation and rampant loss of green cover? What are the public health implications and what is the remedy? Guest: Raghu Murtugudde, Professor of Climate Studies at IIT, Bombay. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
6/12/202427 minutes, 4 seconds
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Does India need to be concerned about the avian flu outbreak?

Avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu is back in the news again – at least four states in India: Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala and Jharkhand have already reported outbreaks among poultry. The Centre has asked all States to be vigilant, and said all necessary measures have to be taken to prevent its spread. It’s not just in India that bird flu is in the news though – the United States has been battling this problem as the infection has now spread to cattle herds in several states in that country. The World Health Organisation recently said that A (H5N1) strain of avian influenza has become "a global zoonotic animal pandemic" with thousands of animals infected across multiple countries. While so far there is no evidence that H5N1 virus is spreading from human to human, the risk remains for people who come into contact with infected animals. Two cases were in the headlines recently – one of a child who was diagnosed with H5N1 in Australia where she had just returned after a trip to Kolkata, and another case in Mexico, where a man died of a strain of bird flu called H5N2, which had never before been found in humans. What are the ramifications of bird flu in India? Who is vulnerable to the disease and how can its transmission be curtailed? How do we ensure the safety of eggs, chicken and other animal products? And does India need reforms in its poultry and animal food sector to ensure better safety of animal and human health? Guest: Dr Subramanian Swaminathan, Director Infectious diseases gleneagles hospitals. Vice president clinical infectious diseases society of India. Host: Zubeda Hamid Edited by Jude Francis Weston
6/11/202428 minutes, 19 seconds
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Modi's third term: What can we expect from his government?

A 73-member Union Council of Ministers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi took oath on the 9th of June. A vast majority of BJP ministers have been retained even as about half a dozen Cabinet slots have been given to allied parties in the NDA government, the first since 2014 where the BJP doesn’t have a majority of its own.  So, what kind of government are we looking at? Will the BJP’s divisive plans of one nation, one election, a Uniform Civil Code or taking over mosques in Varanasi and Mathura be jettisoned? Or will the anti-Muslim speeches delivered by Prime Minister Modi during the election campaign be taken as the governing philosophy of the NDA government? Interestingly, not a single Muslim has found space in the 70-plus Council of Ministers.  Joining us to delve into these questions is author and journalist Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, an expert in BJP and Modi's politics. Guest: Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, political journalist and author.  Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu.  Edited by Jude Francis Weston
6/10/202431 minutes, 17 seconds
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What is the Biden peace plan for Gaza and will it work?

Barely a month after Israel rejected a three-phase peace plan brokered by Egypt and Qatar, President Joe Biden has announced another version of a three-phase peace plan. He has put himself on the line by publicly claiming that it is Israel that has come up with this proposal. But Israeli leaders are yet to own up to this plan, and keep repeating the old line that they will not accept any eventuality that leaves Hamas in power in Gaza. But the US has been circulating a draft resolution among the UN Security Council members asking them to support this ceasefire proposal. What prompted President Biden to publicise this plan? What does it propose? And how likely is Israel to accept it? Guest: Stanly Johny, The Hindu’s International Affairs Editor. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu.  Edited by Jude Francis Weston
6/7/202429 minutes, 43 seconds
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Mandate 2024: Blip in the BJP dominant party system, or start of a new coalition era?

A lot has already been said and written about the results of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. But a lot more remains to be unpacked. While the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has secured a majority, its biggest constituent, the BJP itself, has fallen short of the 272 mark by 32 seats. Is there a message in this mandate? Or is the outcome an effect of several factors and concerns? Also, what went wrong for the BJP, whose performance has fallen way below its own projected expectations? What went right for the INDIA alliance? And does this verdict mark the beginning of a new coalition era in Indian politics? Guest: Rahul Verma, political analyst from the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
6/6/202437 minutes, 54 seconds
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77th World Health Assembly: What’s standing in the way of a Pandemic Agreement?

The World Health Assembly (WHA) is the forum through which the 194 member-states of the World Health Organisation (WHO) discuss and decide on policy matters. Every year, the WHA meets for a week in May. This year’s session, the 77th World Health Assembly, started May 27 and will conclude on June 1. There is a lot of interest in the WHA negotiations this year as the agenda items include an ambitious Pandemic Agreement, and amendments to the International Health Regulations. What progress has been made in the negotiations this year? What role can the World Health Assembly play in democratising the policy-setting space at the WHO? And where does the WHA figure in the WHO’s evolving funding scenario where it has to juggle the pressures from Big Pharma while staying true to its core mission of health equity and social justice? Guest: Professor T Sundararaman, a public health expert, who has served as Executive Director of National Health Systems Resource Centre and as Dean and Professor at the School of Health Systems Studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu.
5/31/202435 minutes, 41 seconds
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Is the Draft Digital Competition Bill too restrictive?

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has put out a draft Digital Competition Bill to regulate anti-competitive practices in the digital space. The Bill has provisions for identifying Systemically Significant Digital Enterprises (SSDEs) – basically large digital platforms. These would then be subject to certain restrictions aimed at preventing anti-competitive conduct. For instance, they would be forbidden from practices such as self-preferencing, anti-steering, etc. While the Bill seems well-intentioned, various stakeholders have expressed concerns that it is far too invasive and could stifle innovation, undermine the interests of Indian tech companies, including MSMEs, and make consumers more vulnerable to cyber fraud. Are these concerns valid? What has been the experience with the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), on which this Bill seems modelled? And what changes are needed to allay the concerns raised so far? G. Sampath is joined by Meghna Bal, Director, Esya Centre, New Delhi.
5/30/202435 minutes, 47 seconds
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Will the ICJ ruling make a difference to the Israel-Gaza issue? | In Focus podcast

Israel has continued air strikes in and around Rafah’s humanitarian zone in Gaza killing at least 65 Palestinian civilians since the 25th of May in the face of stringent international condemnation. The air strikes came after the International Court of Justice directed Israel on the 24th of May to stop its offensive in Rafah, an area supposed to be a safe zone for those displaced by an earlier Israeli offensive. The ICJ also directed that Israel must take effective measures to enable any UN-backed commission of inquiry to enter Gaza and inquire into genocide allegations. Putting more pressure on Israel, Ireland, Spain and Norway recognised Palestine as a state, something that India did back in 1988. So, will the ICJ ruling make any difference to Israel given that it has continued attacks on civilians? Does the condemnation from countries in the region matter at all till the United States gives a free pass to Israel? Will the European Union finally adopt a more independent posture when it comes to dealing with Israeli aggression? Guest: Syed Akbaruddin, formerly India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
5/29/202426 minutes, 50 seconds
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French Open 2024 Preview: What the chances for Nagal, Nadal and Bopanna? | In Focus podcast

The French Open will kick off on Sunday in Paris. This would be the last time the tournament will host 14-time champion Rafael Nadal. The ‘King of Clay’ has been struggling with injuries, and as this is his last year on tour, he would be hoping to make a deep run in the major where he’s tasted the greatest success. But there are a lot of younger players standing in his way, including the in-form German Alexander Zverev in Round 1. Also hungry for a title is world no. 1 Novak Djokovic, who would be keen to make amends for a lacklustre year so far. On the women’s side, Iga Swiatek will start as a firm favourite, with none of the big names looking likely to cause her major trouble. There will also be, after a long gap, an Indian challenger in the main draw, in the form of Sumit Nagal. How many rounds can Nagal, and Nadal, go? Is there a chance for one last Nadal-Djokovic final this time? And what are India’s chances in the doubles, where Australian Open champion Rohan Bopanna will be in action? Guest: N. Sudarshan from The Hindu’s Sports Bureau. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
5/25/202425 minutes, 10 seconds
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What are the implications of Raisi’s death for Iran | In Focus podcast

The untimely death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash on the 19th of May has many implications not just for Iran but the region as a whole. Along with him, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian also perished in the crash. As Iran goes to the polls on the 28th of June to elect a new President, all eyes will be on the country’s Guardian Council that has the power to decide which candidates get to contest. There is also speculation in the Western press about who might replace Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei. So, what is Raisi’s legacy on the domestic and international front? How will Iran deal with the many challenges that it faces in the region especially as it claims to be a bulwark against Israeli aggressionin Gaza? Will Raisi’s tango with Russia and China as well as an opening to Saudi Arabia hold his successors in good stead? Guest: Dinkar Srivastava, former Indian Foreign Service officer, who worked as India’s Ambassador to Iran. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
5/24/202425 minutes, 8 seconds
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What does the Russia-China strategic convergence mean for India?

Chinese President Xi Jinping last week hosted a reception for Vladimir Putin at the historic Great Hall of the People in Beijing. The two-day summit was marked by a lengthy joint statement that, among other things, said that China and Russia will promote “an equal and orderly multipolar world”. The statement also outlined a vision of a new world order with “no neo-colonialism and hegemonism” of any kind. The two countries took aim at the US, criticising unilateral sanctions and what they termed ‘long-arm jurisdiction’ without basis in international law or UN Security Council authorisation. The statement also highlighted the expansion of Russia-China ties beyond “opportunistic” bilateral cooperation to one of deeper partnership. What are the implications of this growing strategic convergence between two major powers, both of whom are veto-holding Security Council members? Can China balance Western concerns about its aid to Russia, especially dual-use technology? What are the implications of this friendship for India, which views China as a geopolitical rival and military threat, but is highly dependent on Russia for defence imports? G. Sampath is joined by Jabin T Jacob, Associate Professor in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Shiv Nadar University.
5/22/202429 minutes
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What's behind the furore over the AstraZeneca vaccine | In Focus podcast

Covid-19 may not be raging any more, but a controversy over the AstraZeneca vaccine, sold as Covishield in India is. The issue first erupted when AstraZeneca, in a submission to a court in the UK, acknowledged that its vaccine could cause a rare, potentially life-threatening condition, known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome or TTS. This led to everything from outrage on social media, to political parties issuing statements and to a host of misinformation being circulated. What is significant is that this information about TTS is not new – it was established as early as in 2021, when India’s vaccination programme was underway, and it has been a known fact now for well over three years. Just a short time after the court submission made headlines, AstraZeneca also announced the worldwide withdrawal of its vaccine, citing a decline in the demand. As of this year, India has administered over 1.5 billion doses of Covishield to its eligible population.  What led to the furore over the vaccine’s rare side effect and what do we know about it? How robust is India’s system to monitor adverse events arising from vaccinations? And what happens to India’s vaccination programme if Covishield is no longer available – are there other options available for those who need them or for future immunisations?  Guest: Dr Anurag Agrawal, Dean, BioSciences and Health Research, Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University  Host: Zubeda Hamid  Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian. 
5/18/202422 minutes, 53 seconds
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Why has the ‘A’ status accreditation of NHRC been deferred for the second year in a row? | In Focus podcast

In a major embarrassment for India’s human rights image, the National Human Rights Commission has been denied ‘A’ status accreditation for a second year in a row. The Geneva-based, United Nations-linked Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) took the decision to defer it again during a meeting of the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) earlier this month. The NHRC was set up under the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, and it had enjoyed ‘A’ Status accreditation since the beginning of the accreditation process in 1999, which it retained in 2006, 2011 and in 2017 also, after a deferment. So, what are the reasons for the deferment of accreditation for India’s top human rights institution? What are the implications of not possessing this accreditation? And what does India have to do get the accreditation back? Guest: Henri Tiphagne, Executive Director, People’s Watch, a non-profit that works in the field of human rights. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
5/16/202437 minutes, 39 seconds
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What’s behind India’s ‘ghost mall’ phenomenon?

India is seeing a sharp increase in the number of ghost shopping malls, according to a new report from real estate consultancy, Knight Frank India. The report, titled ‘Think India Think Retail 2024’, found that in 2023, there was 13.3 million square feet of ‘ghost shopping infrastructure’ across 29 cities, causing a loss of $798 million. By definition, a ghost shopping mall is one where the vacancy rate of retail space is above 40%. If we counted only the eight Tier 1 cities, the pan-India vacancy rate across all categories of malls stood at 15.7%. Also, while Tier 1 cities had 271 shopping malls in 2022, the number came down to 263 (77% of total shopping centres) in 2023. So, what is the reason behind this phenomenon of ghost shopping malls and high vacancy rates? Is it because offline shopping is giving way to online shopping? Is it due to weakening consumer demand? Or are there other industry-specific dynamics at play?
5/14/202430 minutes, 57 seconds
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What are the implications of Arvind Kejriwal making interim bail? | In Focus podcast

Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been given interim bail to campaign in the elections. After many hearings, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court granted conditional bail to Kejriwal on the 10th of May. Describing the elections to the Lok Sabha as the most significant event this year, the bench, facing stiff resistance from the Centre, pointed out that Kejriwal had no criminal antecedents nor was he a threat to society. What implications does Kejriwal’s release have smack in the middle of the election campaign? Will he impact elections in the seven seats of Delhi or even beyond? Guest: Javed Ansari, senior journalist and commentator, and former political writer for The Hindu. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
5/11/202421 minutes, 29 seconds
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Why is Israel not OK with the Gaza ceasefire plan that was accepted by Hamas? | In Focus podcast

Seven months into Israel’s military assault on Gaza, more than 34,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed, more than 78,000 wounded, and northern Gaza is facing a “full-blown famine” according to the UN. Earlier this week, there was a slight whiff of optimism in Gaza when Hamas announced that it had accepted a three-phase ceasefire proposal brokered by Qatar and Egypt, and Israel, too, sent a delegation to Cairo to discuss it further. But in the interim, Israel ordered Rafah to be evacuated, launched aerial strikes on the city, and took control of the border crossing there, which was critical for sending humanitarian aid to Gaza. Meanwhile, President Biden has halted a major shipment of bombs headed for Israel, signalling that US weapons should not be used to target Palestinian civilians. What exactly was the ceasefire proposal that Hamas accepted but Israel didn’t? Will the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political future survive a ceasefire agreement at this stage of the conflict, when Israel’s self-proclaimed military objective of “destroying Hamas” hasn’t been met? Would the Biden administration’s pausing of the shipment of offensive weapons have any effect on Israel’s military plans going forward? Guest: Stanly Johny, The Hindu’s International Affairs Editor. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
5/10/202427 minutes, 27 seconds
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What explains the extraordinary delay in sharing of polling data by the Election Commission?

The delay by the Election Commission (EC) in sharing the aggregate polling data of the first and second phases of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections has evoked sharp questions from the Opposition and civil society. The EC released the final voter turnout figures for phase 1 after 11 days, and for phase 2 after four days. Moreover, it has only released turnout percentages – 66.14% in Phase 1 and 66.71% in phase 2. It is yet to release the actual numbers of voters who cast their vote. The Election Commission has also not put out the absolute number of voters in each constituency, raising disturbing questions about the possibility of manipulation at the counting stage. Another issue that has been flagged is the sizeable difference in turnout figures between the close of polling day, and the date of announcement of final voter percentages. So, what has traditionally been the EC’s practice with regard to sharing of electoral data? How much time is it supposed to take? What kinds of data does it share as a matter of course? And are the concerns about vote manipulation at the counting stage valid or misplaced? G. Sampath is joined by MG Devasahayam, a former IAS officer who is also Coordinator, Citizens Commission on Elections.
5/8/202423 minutes, 12 seconds
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Indian spices unsafe: Do food safety laws in Indian need an overhaul? | In Focus podcast

A massive controversy has erupted in the world of spices, masalas and mixes, with products of two leading Indian players, MDH and Everest in the midst of this. The Hong Kong and Singapore governments suspended the sale and withdrew certain masalas of these two brands, stating that they contained higher than permissible limits of a pesticide, ethylene oxide. Multiple governments of other countries have now announced investigations into these products from India. After this, the Spices Board and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, or FSSAI announced a slew of measures for spices as well as other foods, to test for contamination and to ensure they are up to standards.  In the meantime though, the FSSAI has been under criticism for another issue – the allowing of a ten-fold increase in maximum residue limit from 0.01 milligrams per kg to 0.1 in spices and herbs, in cases of pesticides not registered in India or in cases where the maximum limit is not defined in Indian or international regulations.  What is going on with pesticides and masalas in India? How unsafe are the foods, especially processed foods that are sold in India? What are the regulations we have in place, and how effectively are these being implemented? Do we need a more stringent system to ensure food safety and public health in India?  Guest: Dr Vandana Prasad, a community paediatrician and public health professional associated with the Public Health Resource Network  Host: Zubeda Hamid  Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian. 
5/7/202433 minutes, 23 seconds
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Decoding the claims and counterclaims in India's election campaign

Political parties are in full campaign mode in India. There are three days to go for the third phase of polling as this podcast is being recorded. Campaign themes are more than evident as June 4 – the day for results – is exactly a month away.  None other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched scathing attacks on the Congress saying that it will take away SC, ST and OBC reservation quotas and hand it over to the Muslims. No such promise has been made in the Congress manifesto.  Again, the Prime Minister in Gujarat said that if you have two buffalos, the Congress will take away one if it comes to power. Again, he said this was in the Congress manifesto. Again, such a promise is not to be found in the manifesto document.  Pakistan has also re-entered the BJP’s campaign themes while Opposition parties are attacking the ruling party at the Centre on a range of issues. Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay joins us to discuss some of these issues and their implications for Indian democracy.
5/6/202427 minutes, 22 seconds
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What will be the impact of IRDAI regulation asking health insurers to cover those above 65 years of age? | In Focus podcast

The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) has asked health insurance companies to offer their products to everyone, regardless of their age. Until now, health insurance was readily available for anyone up to the age of 65, with companies under no obligation to cover those older. But now IRDAI has said insurance firms can extend their health coverage to everyone regardless of their pre-existing medical conditions. Both these changes are part of a wider set of reforms under the long term goal of “Insurance for All by 2047”, and they have mostly been welcomed as a positive development. But there is always the fine print, and questions remain about how these measures will pan out in real life. Health coverage tends to get more expensive with age. Will senior citizens be able to afford the packages designed by private insurers? What do the norms say regarding the ‘waiting period’ for pre-existing conditions? And will these measures be enough to reduce out-of-pocket medical expenditure, which is one of the highest in the world in India? Guest: Professor T Sundararaman, a public health expert, who has served as Executive Director of National Health Systems Resource Centre and as Dean and Professor at the School of Health Systems Studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
5/3/202435 minutes, 32 seconds
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AAP-Congress alliance: What's the impact on AAP's 'anti-political' appeal?

In a setback to the Opposition INDIA alliance in Delhi, which is basically the alliance between the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee President Arvinder Singh Lovely has resigned from his post, and one of the reasons he has cited is his party’s tie-up with AAP. Lovely’s resignation letter has put the spotlight on what is widely recognised as a big contradiction – an alliance between the Congress party, and a party that came into being to combat the kind of political decadence that the Congress allegedly represented. In fact, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal has spent much of the last ten years targeting the Congress more than any other party, and in turn, the Delhi state leadership of the Congress has spent much of its energies targeting AAP. Furthermore, it is the Congress that’s the original complainant in the alleged liquor scam case that has landed Kejriwal in jail. So, how does this alliance square with the founding credo of the Aam Aadmi Party? How can AAP explain this alliance to its supporters? Given that the two parties have suddenly found ‘anti-BJPism’ more attractive as a political plank than anti-corruption, does this alliance then indicate that the founders of AAP – several of whom are currently in jail on corruption charges – were fundamentally wrong in their understanding of political corruption? G. Sampath is joined by Prashant Bhushan, Supreme Court advocate and a former leader with AAP.
5/2/202421 minutes, 23 seconds
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What impact will the unrelenting heat have on India’s future health? | In Focus podcast

This March was the hottest on record globally, the 10th month in a row to hit this peak. This has led to a 1.58 degree Celsius spike in the global average temperature, compared to pre-industrial levels. This doesn’t feel surprising – most parts of India have been sweltering since last month, the India Meteorological Department or IMD hadd forecast heatwave conditions in parts of at least 10 States last week and it's only going to get worse in May. This year, the heat is even believed to have impacting voting in our crucial general election, and the Election Commission has now set up a taskforce to oversee heatwave conditions.  We’re used to scorching summers in India – but experts say that heatwaves are now arriving earlier in the year, are more frequent and are also lasting longer – which means they have a huge impact on the health of humans and animals, on our agriculture and food, on our cities, our water resources and our energy supplies.  How does the unrelenting heat affect our bodies and our long-term health into the future? Do our food crops become less nutritious as temperatures rise? Do India’s standards for heatwaves need updating? Where is our country placed, globally, when it comes to extreme climate events and can we expect more of these in the near future?    Guest: Poornima Prabhakaran, Director, Centre for Health Analytics Research and Trends (CHART), Trivedi School of Biosciences, Ashoka University  Host: Zubeda Hamid  Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian. 
4/29/202425 minutes, 23 seconds
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Has the delay in the 2021 Census sparked a data crisis in public health science?

The delay in conducting the 2021 census seems to have sparked a data crisis, with major implications for the social sector, especially public health policy. This crisis, according to public health analysts, has been worsened by the government’s reluctance to put certain types of data in the public domain, over concerns they might show it in an unflattering light. In the context of public health, the census is important because it forms the basis for national and state health surveys. So, how are the country’s policy-makers and social scientists managing with 2011 census data in 2024? What are the problems seen in the implementation of government welfare schemes such as PMJAY (Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana) due to unavailability of up-to-date data? What’s the status today with regard to transparency and professional autonomy in the collection, scrutiny and publication of data that’s central to the public health discourse? Guest: Professor T Sundararaman, a public health expert, who has served as Executive Director of National Health Systems Resource Centre and as Dean and Professor at the School of Health Systems Studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Jude Francis Weston
4/26/202435 minutes, 40 seconds
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What do Nestle's sugary baby cereals say about Indian food safety laws?

Baby foods, drinks and protein powders have all been in the news of late – are these products harming rather than helping your health? The latest controversy has centred around Nestle, a well known brand in India – an investigation recently found that all Nestle baby cereals sold in India contained almost 3g of added sugar – but the same cereals sold in European markets had no added sugar. The harmful effects of sugar are now well known – it can contribute to obesity as well as multiple health complications later in life. The Centre has now asked the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India to look into this. Other news involved the government asking e-commerce sites to stop the classification of Bournvita and other such beverages under the ‘health drinks’ category. And just before that, we were given the shocking news that many protein powders not only do not have the amount of proteins they advertise, but may also have harmful components. So what are the laws regarding baby food and processed food in our country? How are companies allowed to advertise these foods and drinks and can they be labelled healthy? Who looks into the safety of these products that are found in our supermarkets? And what does India need to do to classify which foods are healthy, and which are unhealthy, considering the huge burden of obesity, diabetes and heart disease that the country is grappling with? Zubeda Hamid speaks to Dr Arun Gupta, public health expert, central coordinator of the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India and convener of the Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest.
4/24/202431 minutes, 7 seconds
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17-year-old Challenger: How Gukesh made chess history | In Focus podcast

Gukesh Dommaraju, the 17-year-old Indian chess prodigy, has become the youngest player ever to win the Candidates tournament. As he broke a 40-year-old record in the name of Garry Kasparov, Gukesh became only the second Indian after Viswanathan Anand to win a Candidates event and earn the right to challenge the world champion for the title. But Gukesh’s journey hasn’t been easy. He almost didn’t qualify for the Candidates tournament – making the cut at the last minute, thanks to a hurriedly organised event in Chennai. And the moments before his victory were full of nail-biting drama. Guest: Rakesh Rao from The Hindu’s Sports Bureau. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
4/23/202436 minutes, 22 seconds
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What can we expect from Tesla’s entry in the Indian EV market?

Elon Musk is coming to India. He is meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and is likely to announce the entry of Tesla into the Indian market. The timing of this visit is interesting. Tesla used to be the world’s largest seller of electric vehicles or EVs – but it lost that title to China’s BYD Auto last year. Also, most of the EV markets in the West --- in North America and Europe – are in a slowdown. In China, Tesla has been losing ground to local competitors. But India, on the other hand, is looking to expand its EV density in a big way – it unveiled a new EV policy in March that is seen by many as tweaked to make the country more attractive for Tesla. What is the agenda of Musk’s visit in the context of EVs? Is the price conscious Indian market ready for the kind of expensive EVs that Musk sells? If Tesla is allowed to sell imported cars, what happens to ‘Make in India’ and technology transfer to local manufacturers? G. Sampath is joined by Randheer Singh, CEO and Founder of ForeSee Advisors, an electric mobility and battery storage consulting firm, and a former director of e-mobility at NITI Aayog.
4/19/202442 minutes, 53 seconds
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Will the new wildlife rules accelerate illegal trade of India's captive elephants | In Focus podcast

The Indian government recently brought in an amendment to the Wildlife Protection Act with regard to captive elephants. This amendment, the rules for which came in last month, regulates the transfer or transport of captive elephants, and has sparked an outcry from animal rights activists. Elephants are, according to the Wildlife Protection Act, a Schedule 1 species – offered the highest protection under the law. Captive elephants however, because of their historical role in India where they have been part of royal estates, used in timber logging and still used in temples for religious festivals, come under a special category, but there were still strict rules governing their transfer. Now however, with this new amendment, the transfer of elephants is allowed for ‘religious or any other purposes’ – this vague definition, researchers say can revive illegal commercial trade and trafficking of elephants, something the country has been trying to curb for decades. Concerns have also been raised about Vantara, Anant Ambani’s rehabilitation centre in Jamnagar, Gujarat, which has come under criticism for its housing of a large number of elephants.  Why was this amendment brought in? What does this mean for the 2,600-or so captive elephants across the country? Are wild elephants continuing to be captured and illegally sold? And what is the way forward to rehabilitate captive elephants in the country?  Guest: Alok Hisarwala, lawyer and researcher, founder of Centre for Research and Animal Rights, Goa  Host: Zubeda Hamid  Edited by Sharmada venkatasubramanian. 
4/18/202451 minutes, 33 seconds
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Will Iran’s retaliatory attack on Israel trigger a wider regional war?

It was expected that Iran would respond to the bombing of its consulate in Syria on April 1 in an Israeli strike. The retaliation came last Saturday when Iran launched a direct attack on Israel. Israel claims to have intercepted 99% of the 300-odd drones and missiles fired by Iran, but a few of the missiles did sneak through its defences and hit sensitive military targets on Israeli territory. Iran has said that it would take no further action unless Israel chooses to escalate. Israel has vowed to “exact the price from Iran” when the time is right. What are the strategic implications of Iran’s unprecedented direct strikes on Israel? How serious are the risks of a wider regional war, and where does this leave the ongoing negotiations for a ceasefire in Gaza?
4/17/202434 minutes, 7 seconds
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What do India’s anti-terror comments mean for the country’s foreign policy | In Focus podcast

It’s election time in India. The Modi government is touting India’s strength abroad as one of its achievements. Earlier in April, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at an election rally that India today kills terrorists in their own homes. Asked about a report in the Guardian newspaper that India had killed 20 alleged terrorists in recent years in Pakistan, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said Delhi would pursue and kill terrorists in Pakistan if they staged attacks in India. In 2023, Canada accused Indian agents of being responsible for the murder of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar on its territory. So, what does all this mean for India’s foreign policy and standing in the world? Is this the right approach to adopt? What are the potential dangers of such actions sparking a wider conflict with Pakistan? Or create foreign policy fissures with other countries? Guest: Nirupama Subramanian, senior journalist and former correspondent of The Hindu in Pakistan. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
4/16/202428 minutes, 42 seconds
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What is Kerala's fiscal autonomy suit all about?

Is it okay for the Union government to impose limits on how much a State government can borrow? Or does a state government have an “enforceable right” to decide its own borrowing limits? This question, raised by the Kerala government, has been referred to a Constitution Bench by the Supreme Court. The key constitutional question that the Supreme Court wants a five-judge bench to decide is: whether ‘fiscal decentralistion’ is an integral aspect of Indian federalism, and if so, are Central regulations fixing borrowing limits on States a violation of the principle of federalism. In its suit filed before the Supreme Court, Kerala has accused the Union government of imposing arbitrary borrowing limits, due to which the Kerala government is on the verge of bankruptcy – unable to pay salaries, pensions and fulfil its various financial commitments. Have the Centre’s restrictions resulted in an unfair and/or differential treatment to Kerala? Aren’t the Centre’s restrictions in conflict with the RBI’s designated role as the nation’s “public debt manager”?
4/15/202433 minutes, 28 seconds
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The IPL ‘fan wars’: Why is Mumbai Indians’ captain Hardik Pandya getting booed at every venue? | In Focus podcast

The 17th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is seeing a rather unusual controversy – Indian fans have been booing, and in some cases, abusing, a star player of the national team wherever he’s gone to play. At the receiving end is Hardik Pandya, the erstwhile captain of Gujarat Titans, who has moved to Mumbai Indians. He is now the skipper of Mumbai Indians, replacing Rohit Sharma, who led the team to the title five times in ten years. Franchises chop and change their teams and captains all the time – it is part and parcel of club sport. And yet, Pandya has faced really hostile crowds at every venue he’s played so far, to the extent that there were speculative media reports on some special security arrangements at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. What explains this hostility? Is this a phenomenon of what some commentators have described as “fan wars”? Guest: Amol Karhadkar from The Hindu’s Sports Bureau. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
4/10/202429 minutes, 12 seconds
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What can the 10,000 genome project tell us about India's health | In Focus podcast

India announced recently, that it has completed the 10,000 genome project – a reference database of whole-genome sequences, from people in India. About 20 institutions were involved in the project. India has a population of 1.3 billion with over 4,600 population groups, many of them endogamous.  This project is seen as an important step to find out about genetic variants that are unique to India, to customise drugs and gene-based therapies, give us answers about certain diseases, and to provide a deeper insight into the population’s diversity, and perhaps into genetic predispositions to disease that we may have.  What are the implications of this genome sequencing? How far does India have to go to reap its potential benefits? What are the ethical concerns around the sharing of this data? Is India well-enough equipped to ensure health data privacy of individuals?    Guest: Shambhavi Naik, PhD Head of Research and Chairperson of Advanced Biology Programme, Takshashila Institution  Host: Zubeda Hamid  Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian. 
4/9/202425 minutes, 20 seconds
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How is India faring in the battle against corruption | In Focus podcast

If the data relating to electoral bonds placed the spotlight on corporate entities buying favours from political parties, the actions of enforcement agencies point to officials taking cues from their political masters in going after opposition politicians. The Indian Express newspaper reported on April 3 that as many as 23 out of 25 prominent politicians who crossed over to the BJP since 2014 earned a reprieve from prosecution. So, how is India faring in the battle against corruption? Or is selective targeting reducing the campaign against corruption to a farce? Guest: Vipul Mudgal, Director of Common Cause, a Delhi-based NGO, and a Trustee of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramnian.
4/8/202420 minutes, 21 seconds
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Where does India stand in the Global Plastics Treaty negotiations? | In Focus podcast

Plastics pollution is a major global crisis, with deadly repercussions for human health, marine life, and climate change. In March 2022, the United Nations set the ball rolling for the conclusion of a Global Plastics Treaty by the end of 2024. Later this month, we have the penultimate session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC), where 175 countries will negotiate a legally binding treaty to combat plastic pollution. What exactly are the issues under discussion in these negotiations? What has been India’s position on these issues? And given the magnitude of the plastic pollution crisis in India, is India on the right track? Guest: Satyarupa Shekhar, a public policy advocate whose interests include urban governance, data justice, and plastics pollution. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
4/5/202435 minutes, 17 seconds
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Will ‘retrieval’ of Katchatheevu solve the problems of Tamil fishermen? | In Focus podcast

The controversy over Katchatheevu is back in the media spotlight. With just a few weeks left for the Lok Sabha elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised the issue by claiming that the Congress “gave away” Katchatheevu. He also claimed that the DMK, in contrast to its public posturing, was fully kept in the loop as the Congress “ceded” Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka. The PM’s claims were further amplified by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. The controversy revolves around two bilateral agreements, one signed in 1974, and another in 1976, pertaining to maritime boundaries and fishing rights in the Katchatheevu region. The Opposition has responded to the Prime Minister by citing the Modi government’s own reply to an RTI query in 2015 where it had said that Katchatheevu belonged to Sri Lanka. How did Katchatheevu – a tiny, uninhabited patch of land – become a contentious issue? What is its significance for the fishing rights of Indian fishermen? And are the fishing-related issues, such as the detention of Indian fishermen, really linked to the territorial claims over Katchatheevu? Guest: K Venkataramanan, Senior Associate Editor at The Hindu. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
4/4/202443 minutes, 1 second
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How to create more jobs for India’s educated youth | In Focus podcast

The India Employment Report 2024, released recently by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), paints a grim picture. The news is particularly bad on two critical counts: joblessness is particularly high among the youth, and its worse for the educated youth. According to the report, India’s youth account for 83% of the unemployed workforce, with the share of the educated youth among the total unemployed doubling - from 35.2% in 2000 to 65.7% in 2022. Among other things, the report also flags a reversal of the expected transition of the workforce from agriculture to non-farm sector, and says that India’s female labour force participation rate (LFPR) declined by 14.4 percentage points between 2000 and 2019. What does all this mean for India’s ‘demographic dividend’ that people keep talking about? Why are 82% of the workforce in the informal sector, with nearly 90% informally employed? And why is the share of manufacturing in employment stagnating at 12-14%? Guest: Professor Ravi Srivastava, Director, Centre for Employment Studies, at the Institute for Human Development, New Delhi. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
4/3/202450 minutes, 47 seconds
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Do India’s Free Trade Agreements with European nations benefit the country? | In Focus podcast

On March 10th, India signed a free trade agreement with a group of four European nations, committing to reduce tariffs. In return, India would receive $100 billion in investments over the next 15 years. The non-EU bloc, known as the European Free Trade Association, consists of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. This agreement has come on the back of protracted negotiations of 21 rounds spread over 16 years. While the balance of trade heavily favors the EFTA, with India importing about $22 billion in 2023 from the bloc, India exported only about $3 billion to the bloc. While India hopes to attract investments in railways, the financial sector and automobiles, it is expecting a growth in exports of pharma products, garments, chemicals and machinery to the EFTA.  This pact comes just two years after India signed similar agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Australia, but such free trade deals have not largely helped India's export growth. In fact, it has generally been more beneficial to the other nations or blocks who have signed such deals with India. For instance, India's 2011 comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with Japan enabled Japan to double its exports to more than $16 billion in 2023 from $8 billion in 2011. On the other hand, India's exports to Japan remained static at $5.46 billion in 2023, a tad up from $5.09 billion in 2011. This mirrors other trade pacts like the one signed with the 10-member Southeast Asian block, the ASEAN in 2010. In 2022-23, India exported goods worth about $44 billion to the region, while its imports were valued at $87 billion. The trade deficit in 2022-23 was $43 billion compared with $7.5 billion in 2010.  Why is India then entering into more such agreements? How different is the EFTA from those signed with other nations and blocs? And are such deals a substitute to larger WTO led trade frameworks, where India tends to have a larger say because of the backing of other developing nations.  Guest: Professor Dinesh Abrol, retired professor at the Institute for Studies in industrial development.  Host: Kunal Shankar, Deputy Business Editor, The Hindu.  Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian. 
4/2/202441 minutes, 55 seconds
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What the recent UNSC resolution means for Palestinians in Gaza | In Focus podcast

After several failed efforts, the United Nations Security Council managed to pass a resolution on March 25 calling for an immediate ceasefire in Palestine. Resolution 2728 passed because unlike in three previous occasions the United States chose not to use its veto power but abstained. The resolution passed 14-0. In a related development, the International Court of Justice warned on March 28 that the prolonged and widespread deprivation of food by Israel to the Palestinians meant that famine was setting in in Gaza. Also, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights Francesca Albanese said on March 26 there were reasonable grounds to believe that Israel was committing genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza. Since October last year, Israel has killed at least 32,000 Palestinians and injured another 71,000 following the Hamas attack in which 1,200 Israelis were killed. So what does the UNSC resolution and ICJ order mean? Guest: Syed Akbaruddin, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, from 2016 to 2020. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
4/1/202432 minutes, 58 seconds
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How do Ozempic and other weight-loss drugs work? | In Focus podcast

Weight-loss drugs including Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro have been making headlines across the world for weight loss – celebrities including Oprah Winfrey and Elon Musk have spoken about using them to quickly and drastically lose weight. First approved for diabetes treatment, these drugs, which consist of semaglutide – are available in tablet and injectable form. While the tablet form was approved for use in India last year, recent media reports indicate that at least one injectable semaglutide drug – Mounjaro – is undergoing a regulatory review in India currently and may be available by next year.  So what do these drugs consist of and how do they work? What are the side effects you could have by taking them? Will they be a game-changer for India that has 10.13 crore people with diabetes and with nearly 50% of the population battling abdominal obesity? What are the prices of the drugs like? And what happens when you stop taking them?  Guest: Dr V Mohan, chairman of Dr. Mohan's Diabetes Specialities Centre and Madras Diabetes Research Foundation  Host: Zubeda Hamid  Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian. 
3/29/202426 minutes, 23 seconds
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Moscow terror attack: Why did ISIS target Russia?

A deadly terrorist attack in Moscow on March 22 left more than 130 people dead and nearly 200 injured. This was the deadliest mass shooting incident in Russia since the 2004 Beslan school siege. The Islamic State—Khorasan Province (IS-KP) has claimed responsibility for the attack. President Vladimir Putin has said that radical Islamists were behind the attack, and hinted at Ukraine’s involvement. So, why are radical Islamists, and the Islamic State in particular, targeting Russia, and why now? G. Sampath is joined by MK Bhadrakumar, a strategic analyst and former diplomat who has served in West Asia.
3/28/202435 minutes, 17 seconds
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What can microplastics do to the human body?

It’s hard to imagine a world without plastic now – plastic exists in almost every sphere of our life. Microplastics, the tiny toxic particles that plastics shed and that are scattered across the environment have been found everywhere – from clouds, to the bottom of the ocean, in Antarctica and even in our bodies – we swallow them and we breathe them in. In a recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine however, researchers found microplastics and nanoplastics – which are even smaller particles – inside our innermost organ -- in the fatty deposits or plaques that can accumulate in the blood vessels of the heart. They also found that those with these plastics in their blood vessels had a greater risk of experiencing heart attacks, strokes or death. However, they have cautioned this was only a link and not proof that plastics led to bad health – much more research is needed to establish how plastics really affect our health. The study comes at a time when the world and India is attempting to ban plastic and encourage people towards sustainable, plastic-free options – but this is happening very slowly, as we can see all around us, in daily life and in the massive landfills in our city. What can micro and nanoplastics do to the human body? What is the direction research into this must take? And how can we minimise our exposure to plastic pollution? Guest: Dr Sanjay Rajagopalan, one of the authors of the study and Chief, Cardiovascular Medicine and Chief Academic and Scientific Officer at University Hospitals, Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute, Ohio, United States Host: Zubeda Hamid
3/26/202429 minutes, 2 seconds
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Do the electoral bonds disclosures merit a full-fledged probe? | In Focus podcast

After repeated prodding from the Supreme Court, the State Bank of India has finally disclosed the full details of the electoral bonds bought and redeemed. The Election Commission has made the data public. This comes in the wake of the electoral bond being established as patently unconstitutional, a mode of political funding susceptible to corrupt practices. Now that the details of who gave how much to which party is in the public domain, what do the numbers reveal? Were the fears of ‘quid pro quo’ between donors and recipients justified? Are there sufficient grounds to call for a full-fledged anti-corruption investigation? Guest: Vignesh Radhakrishnan from The Hindu’s data team. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editors, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
3/22/202443 minutes, 6 seconds
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What lies ahead for Pakistan-Taliban relations

Pre-dawn air strikes by Pakistan on Afghan territory targeting Tehreek-e-Taliban, or TTP, militants on the 19th of March mark a new low in relations between Kabul and Islamabad. Pakistan claims that it retaliated against TTP strongholds in Afghanistan following a terror strike in North Waziristan on the 16th of March in which 7 Pakistani security personnel were killed.  The Taliban claim that eight women and children were killed in the Pakistani air raids. A spokesman for the group warned of dire consequences even as Taliban border forces attacked Pakistani positions.  What do these events spell for Pakistan-Taliban relations? Has the wheel come full circle for Rawalpindi which was responsible for the creation of the Taliban and was vociferous in welcoming the return of the group to Kabul in 2021? What can we expect in the weeks and months ahead?
3/21/202426 minutes, 59 seconds
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Why does the Election Commission need seven phases to conduct general elections?

The 2024 Lok Sabha polls will be held from April 19 in seven phases across the country. In Bihar, West Bengal, and Uttar Pradesh, voting will take place in all the seven phases. Assembly elections will also be held simultaneously in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh. The last phase of voting will be on June 1 and counting will take place on June 4. This parliamentary election will be the second longest polling exercise in India’s electoral history. The longest one was the country’s first general election, which was held over a five-month period from September 1951 to February 1952. But the 2004 Lok Sabha polls, for instance, were held in four phases – between April 20 and May 10 – they were over in 20 days. The 1998 elections took place in just three phases – on February 16, 22nd and 28th – over two weeks. So what has changed between 1998 or 2004, and 2024 -- that we seem to have become so much slower? Why does India need seven phases and one-and-a-half months to hold general elections? How do other big democracies like Indonesia manage it in one day? And what are the pros and cons of having a multi-phase election? To discuss, we are joined by MG Devasahayam, a former IAS officer who is also Coordinator, Citizens Commission on Elections. 
3/19/202422 minutes, 57 seconds
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Is there a mental health crisis among students in India? | In Focus podcast

It’s that time of the year again, when exams are looming, and students are stressed. Most students in India write a number of exams -- from the final boards at schools to the multiple competitive tests that are attempted to try and get a seat at coveted medical or engineering colleges. The process is so difficult – lakhs of students competing for a few thousand seats that coaching them for these exams has become a massive business at several cities across the country. Kota in Rajasthan, one of these hubs has been in the news recently over student suicides – 26 students died by suicide last year, and this year there have already been six deaths.   How can the mental health of students be protected at a challenging time in their lives? What should the role of parents, teachers and other stakeholders be? What can be done to bring down the number of deaths by suicide? And what happened to the National Suicide Prevention Strategy that the Indian government announced in 2022?  Guest: Dr Soumitra Pathare, director, Centre for Mental Health, Law & Policy  Host: Zubeda Hamid   Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian. 
3/18/202437 minutes, 54 seconds
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Has poverty really dropped to 5% in India? | In Focus podcast Bonus episode

NITI Aayog B.V.R. Subrahmanyam recently claimed that less than 5% of Indians now live below the poverty line. He made the claim based on the findings of the Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES), 2022-23. Mr. Subrahmanyam argued that the average consumption expenditure in the bottom 5% of India’s population, as estimated by the survey, is about the same as the poverty line in India, suggesting that the poverty rate in India is somewhere in the range of 0 to 5%. Has poverty really dropped to 5% in India? Here we discuss the question.
3/15/202433 minutes, 59 seconds
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What the resignation of an Election Commissioner ahead of general elections implies | In Focus podcast

The resignation of Arun Goel as Election Commissioner just ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections has created ripples in Indian politics. For the first time since 1993, a single-member Election Commission is currently supervising poll preparations in the world’s largest democracy. There is no word on why Mr. Goel, who was handpicked by the BJP government, quit but some media reports point to differences with the Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar. So, what does Mr. Goel’s resignation spell? Will the Government rush to appoint two Election Commissioners under the new law that gives the political executive a majority in the selection process? Do Election Commissioners grow a spine after taking office? Guest: Nilanjan Mukhopadyay is a senior journalist and author, whose latest book is The Demolition and the Verdict: Ayodhya and the Project to Reconfigure India (2021). He has also authored The RSS: Icons of the Indian Right (2019) and Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times (2013). Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
3/14/202422 minutes, 4 seconds
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How can Bengaluru achieve water resilience?

With peak summer approaching, Bengaluru is already facing a water crisis. The city, which is dependent on the Cauvery river and groundwater for its freshwater needs, remains vulnerable to drought in the dry seasons and flooding in the monsoon months. With its bore wells having to contend with receding water tables, and tankers having to travel increasingly longer distances to fetch water, there is a big question mark over the city’s water security. This was not always the case -- India’s IT capital used to have a system of tanks and parks that gave it water resilience. What happened to this infrastructure? How much water does the city need? What is the shortfall? And how can the shortfall be bridged in a sustainable way?
3/13/202436 minutes, 51 seconds
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What the developing countries were fighting for at WTO's Abu Dhabi session | In Focus podcast

The 164 member world trade organisation holds what it calls a Ministerial Conference – a once in two years meeting of all its member countries to discuss, negotiate and address global trade rules. WTO’s thirteenth ministerial conference, or MC13 – took place in Abu Dhabi in late February this year, but it failed to make headway on key agenda items. Such failures in negotiations have come to plague the WTO lately. Yet, despite this, failed outcomes are often touted as major victories by member counties. Like in India’s case, where Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal claimed a win for the country’s farmers, when India’s position on demanding sovereignty over public stock holding of food, and providing largely artesanal fishing nations, subsidies for fisheries failed to reach consensus. Two more demands of developing countries – the first – lifting the moratorium on levying customs duty on e-commerce, and second, a reconstitution of the WTO’s dispute settlement appellate body, remained unresolved as well. And yet, why are these key wins for developing nations? Guest: Ranja Sengupta from the global non-profit – Third World Network Host: Kunal Shankar, The Hindu’s Deputy Business Editor Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
3/12/202448 minutes, 4 seconds
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What lies ahead for Pakistan’s new PM and his Cabinet

Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has his task cut out for him. From steering the economy out of choppy waters to dealing with a belligerent opposition that continues to contest the results of February’s general elections, Mr. Sharif has to show that he is up to the job.   As Cabinet formation and election of a new President await Pakistan, Mr. Sharif will also be watched for his ability to deal with the country’s permanent establishment – the Army.  Will the fact that he has more patience than his brother Nawaz Sharif allow for political stability in governance? To discuss these issues, I am joined from Karachi by Shahzeb Jillani, co-host of Dawn TV’s current affairs show, Zara Hut Kay.
3/11/202422 minutes, 52 seconds
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The end of immunity for MPs and MLAs over bribery

Earlier this week, a seven-judge Bench of the Supreme Court ruled that MPs and MLAs are not immune to criminal prosecution on bribery charges related to their votes or speech in Parliament or state assemblies. This judgement overturns an earlier ruling of the Supreme Court in the 1998 Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) case. In this case, the majority opinion had held that MPs and MLAs enjoyed immunity from prosecution with regard to how they vote or speak in the House. Article 105 (2) of the Constitution confers on MPs immunity from prosecution in respect of their speech or voting in Parliament. Article 194 (2) grants the same protection to MLAs. So what prompted the Supreme Court to strip MPs and MLAs of this immunity? What was the original case that set off the chain of events culminating in this judgement? And what are the implications of this verdict? Tune in to find out.
3/8/202427 minutes, 19 seconds
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How will the change in surrogacy rules impact prospective parents?

The Surrogacy (Regulation) Act was passed in 2021, but over two years later, it continues to be mired in some amount of confusion and on-going cases in the Supreme Court. Brought in to ban commercial surrogacy, it allows only for altruistic surrogacy under certain conditions, and aims to regulate surrogacy clinics, part of the huge infertility health sector in the country. Last month, the Central government brought in a modification to the surrogacy rules – it allowed married couples to use donor eggs or donor sperm to avail of surrogacy. This overturned the government’s own rules that had earlier banned the use of donor gametes. The rules now state that if one person of the intending couple has a medical complication that does not allow them to use their own gametes, then a donor gamete can be used for the surrogate baby. However, a genetic link is still a must – the other partner must provide the egg or sperm as the case may be. This means that divorced and widowed women, who are allowed to avail of surrogacy, have to use their own eggs. The law also bars single unmarried women, those in live-in relationships and those in queer relationships from its ambit – a provision being currently challenged in court by an unmarried woman. How will the new amendment change things for prospective parents? How can donor gametes be obtained when their sale is banned and the donation is strictly regulated? Has the Act met its goal of regulating surrogacy clinics and protecting surrogate rights?
3/7/202427 minutes, 7 seconds
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Why hasn't England's 'Bazball' delivered in India?

Ever since the English cricket team arrived in India, ‘Bazball’ is on the lips of every cricket buff. It is a unique style of play that paid rich dividends for the English team --until the India tour. England is trailing the five-match Test series 1-3, and there is a lot of debate around whether ‘Bazball’ has been overhyped, and if England has failed to adapt it to Indian conditions. What are the elements of Bazball? How did it develop? Has India finally exposed its limitations?
3/6/202425 minutes, 18 seconds
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Cross-voting and defections in Indian politics | In Focus podcast

Engineered cross-voting to win extra seats in the Rajya Sabha and organized defection to bring down duly-elected State Governments appear to have been normalized in Indian politics. The additional two seats that accrued to the BJP in Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh recently is a case in point. Though six cross-voting MLAs have been disqualified in Himachal Pradesh, the defeat of senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Sanghvi points to the dangers that lie ahead for the Congress government in the state. Previously, the Congress lost three state governments in Goa, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, to organized defections. So, is this a phenomenon that we will have to live with in Indian politics? Guest: Radhika Ramaseshan, political analyst and columnist. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
3/5/202424 minutes, 26 seconds
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What drives the illegal organ trade in India?

From time to time, stories of the commercial dealings in organs, or cash for kidney scams, surface in the media. In December, one such possible organ racket was in the news, involving people from Myanmar, who had come to a private hospital in Delhi for transplant procedures. Organ transplants have been taking place in India since the 1970s, and after multiple instances of the commercial sale of organs, India brought in the Transplantation of Human Organ and Tissues Act, 1994. This law banned the sale of organs and only allowed organs to be given between close family members, or for altruistic reasons, with no money exchanging hands. Over the last decade or so, some cities in India have increasingly become major hubs for life-saving transplant surgeries of several organs including the kidneys, heart, liver, lungs and pancreas. The deceased donor programme, where organs are harvested from brain-dead donors, has also taken off in some parts of the country. As of 2022, India performed just over 13,300 living transplants and about 2,700 deceased donor transplants. And still, the country has over 3 lakh patients on the waiting list for organs and 20 people dying each day for want of an organ. How do the transplant laws work, and do they have loopholes that need to be plugged? What are the laws in place for foreigners? How can donor rights be protected more stringently to weed out exploitation? And can the transplant programme be scaled up to meet the country’s needs?
3/4/202430 minutes, 39 seconds
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Two years of the Ukraine War: What’s in store next? | In Focus podcast

It’s now exactly two years since Russia invaded Ukraine. According to President Volodymyr Zelensky, so far 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have perished in the war. Millions of Ukrainians have been displaced. The population in territories under Kyiv’s control has shrunk from 52 million to 30 million while the country’s economy has been devastated. As for Russia, after initial setbacks – likely caused by an underestimation of Ukraine’s capacity for resistance – it has modified its tactics and settled into a long-term war of attrition. Its economy is doing well, despite Western sanctions. In the meantime, there are question marks over the West’s will to continue its military aid to Ukraine with the same intensity. With no signs of the conflict ending any time soon, we look back at the past two years to understand what have been the gains and losses for all the sides in involved. What does the third year of this war have in store? Will it see one of the sides gaining a decisive advantage? And what needs to happen before either side decides that enough is enough? Guest: Stanly Johny, The Hindu’s International Affairs Editor. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
3/1/202434 minutes, 17 seconds
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Why are house prices so high in India?

Housing is a basic requirement for dignity of life. But affordable decent housing remains a distant dream for most Indians, especially in urban India. Close to 17% of all households in urban India live in slums, with this percentage shooting up to 41% in a city like Mumbai and 29% in Chennai. Over the years, the government has taken many initiatives to address this problem, with schemes such as Indira Awas Yojana, and the ongoing Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY), an interest subsidy scheme for lower and middle-income groups. But these subsidy schemes hardly seem to make a dent on the housing crisis. The gap between people’s incomes and price points of housing stock, especially for the aspirational classes, remains wide. Why is housing in India so expensive? Why do the prices never seem to come within reach for most? A recent research paper, titled ‘House prices in India: How high and how long?’ co-authored by three analysts from the Centre for Social and Economic Progress (CSEP), Shishir Gupta, Nandini Agnihotri and Annie George, offers some insights on these questions.
2/29/202455 minutes, 20 seconds
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Why plastic recycling is not a solution

Most of us are familiar with the plastic waste crisis and public awareness campaigns on the need to recycle plastic. Now a new report by the Centre for Climate Integrity, an international non-profit, says that plastic producers have been lying to the public for more than 30 years – it says that they knew all along that plastic recycling was not a viable solution, either technically or economically, and yet kept they promoting it to protect their interests. How serious is the plastic waste problem? Why is plastic recycling not viable? And if recycling is not the answer, how do we address the mounting crisis of plastic waste? Tune in to find out.
2/28/202439 minutes, 50 seconds
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What can India learn from the recent shifts in geoeconomics? | In Focus podcast

The headline in a recent article was arresting – India fears losing out to China in smartphone exports race. Another broke the news that Mexico had overtaken China for the first time in 20 years as the largest exporter to the US. One more said – loud and clear at t that – that India should realise that Vietnam, and not China, was the major competitor.   There are a few dots we can connect to see a common thread in all these that should interest us – The world wants to move away from China but that cannot be done in entirety overnight because of the scale that the country has built. But there are some parts of the global supply chain that are indeed moving. Is India poised to benefit from this? What lessons does the China model hold for India? And what is it that countries such as Vietnam are doing right to bolster foreign investments that are in turn spurring those countries’ exports?  Guest: Biswajit Dhar, Distinguished Professor, Centre for Social Development.  Host: K. Bharat Kumar Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
2/27/202429 minutes, 39 seconds
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Where is the farmers' protest heading?

Farmers are back at the barricades, this time they have been stopped by the Haryana police at the Punjab-Haryana border. Twenty-two-year-old Shubhkaran Singh has died in the protests. Farmer leaders have suspended their protest till February 29 when they will announce their next course of action. The agitating farmers are firm that there should be a legal guarantee for MSP purchases but the Centre has, instead, come up with a five-year contract to purchase pulses, maize and cotton from farmers. So, where does the agitation go from here? To discuss these issues, Amit Baruah is joined by agricultural expert and analyst, Devinder Sharma.
2/26/202425 minutes, 44 seconds
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How does a chip in your brain work?

Controlling a computer with just your thoughts seems to be something straight out of a science fiction movie, but that’s exactly what scientific experiments are now doing. This week Elon Musk, founder of the startup Neuralink which implanted a brain chip, called Telepathy, into a human being last month, said that the patient’s progress has been good, and the patient is now able to move a mouse on a screen by just thinking. Exciting? Yes. A little scary too? Perhaps. The tech, at least for now, is aimed at treating paralysis and complex neurological conditions. Putting electrodes into the brain is not new – scientists have been experimenting with this for years now, but refining and potentially commercialising this tech takes a lot of doing. The brain is a complex organ that works by sending electrical impulses from one neuron to another every time we think, and we have 86 billion neurons. The brain-computer interface technology attempts to capture some of this activity through a chip that acts as a bridge between the brain and a digital device. So what does brain-computer interface technology involve, and how does it work? How many of our brain signals can be read? What is its potential in medical applications to treat health conditions? And importantly, what are the ethical issues involved here?
2/21/202425 minutes, 1 second
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Lok Sabha elections 2024: What can we expect | In Focus podcast

The Lok Sabha elections of 2024 are round the corner. The season of defections is also upon us. Party hopping has commenced in earnest. An India Today poll suggested earlier in February that the NDA would win 335 seats in 2024 down from 353 in 2019. The Congress tally was put at 71. A YouGov-Mint-CPR survey, also published in February, said that 51 per cent believed that construction of the Ram Mandir, on the site where the Babri Masjid once stood, was a rectification of historical wrongs while 49 per cent felt that it was an electorally motivated move to win Hindu votes. So, with just about two months to go for Lok Sabha 2024, how does the political chess board look in India? Guest: Gilles Verniers, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, and Visiting Fellow at Amherst College in the United States. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
2/19/202425 minutes, 24 seconds
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What the Electoral Bonds verdict of the Supreme Court implies | In Focus podcast

A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously struck down the Centre’s electoral bond scheme. Electoral bonds enabled anonymous political donations, which the apex court has termed as “unconstitutional”. It stated categorically that the scheme violates the right to information under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. What was the reasoning behind for this verdict, and what are its implications for Indian democracy going forward? Guest: Jagdeep S Chhokar from the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a nonprofit that works in the field of electoral and political reforms. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
2/16/202433 minutes, 12 seconds
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What are the issues with Uttarakhand’s Uniform Civil Code?

The Uttarakhand assembly passed the State’s Uniform Civil Code last week. Titled ‘The Uniform Civil Code of Uttarakhand, 2024’, the Bill was one of the BJP’s poll promises during the 2022 Assembly election campaign. Although its applicability is supposed to be uniform, the law exempts tribal populations, and also the Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) from its purview. What’s the legal history and background of this legislation? How does this law affect minority communities? And what’s controversy around its provisions concerning live-in relationships?
2/14/202445 minutes, 4 seconds
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What the Centre's White Paper on Indian Economy says, and doesn't say | In Focus podcast

The Union Finance Ministry has come out with a ‘White Paper’ on the changes in the Indian economy in the past 20 years. In the 58-page document, which it presented in Parliament, the government compares the 10 years of UPA-rule from 2004 to 2014 with 10 years of NDA rule from 2014 to 2024. It claims that the NDA government in 2014 inherited a “deeply damaged economy” marked by “governance, economic and fiscal crises”. It further claims that the in the past 10 years, the NDA government has “turned around” the economy and “rebuilt” it from the foundations for long-term growth. Incidentally, this is the second such major paper from the government making significant claims in the economic domain. Earlier, the Niti Aayog had released a paper claiming that multidimensional poverty declined in India during the NDA years. We did a podcast on that paper as well, and you can check it out here (hyper link here). What are the various claims made in the White Paper, and how do they stand up to scrutiny? Guest: economist Professor Arun Kumar. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian. Listen to the episode on the Niti Aayog report here.
2/13/202438 minutes, 50 seconds
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What next in Pakistan, after parliamentary elections 2024?

The people of Pakistan have spoken. They have reposed their faith in democracy and cast their vote against the establishment’s efforts to decimate the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf of jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan. Independents backed by his party, PTI as it’s known, have won 93 seats in a House of 264, with the Muslim League Nawaz notching up 75. The Pakistan People’s Party has won 54 seats. It looks likely that a coalition government will take power in the country. Talks have begun between the Nawaz League and the PPP to form a coalition government even as the mandate appears to be for the PTI. So, what lies ahead for Pakistan? What does the mandate of February 8 mean? Will Imran Khan be out of jail like Nawaz Sharif for a fresh lease of life in politics? Or is it too early?
2/12/202426 minutes, 32 seconds
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How will the new hit and run law affect drivers in India? | In Focus podcast

For anyone who drives a vehicle in this country, the nightmare scenario is the same: an accident involving another person. India has one of the worst road accident rates in the world – in 2022, the country reported over 4,60,000 road accidents, with over half taking place on national and State highways. Clearly, road safety is an area of huge concern. Recently, new provisions related to hit-and-run accident cases were brought in under the new penal code, the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita or BNS. These provisions however evoked massive protests from truck drivers across the country at the beginning of this year – truckers said the penalties were unfair, imposed very heavy fines and jail sentences and did not take into account the many issues on Indian roads – the bad conditions of the road, lighting and visibility factors, mob violence in some cases where accidents take place and the behaviour of other motorists and pedestrians on the road itself. The protests only ended after the Union Home Secretary said these provisions would only be implemented after consultations with transport bodies. So what are the new provisions for hit and run accident cases in the law? What constitutes rash and negligient driving and what are the penalties for it? Do the laws need to take into account contributing factors to accidents, and does there need to be a graded system for penalties? Guest: Prof GS Bajpai Vice Chancellor, National Law University Delhi. Host: Zubeda Hamid Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramnian.
2/9/202423 minutes, 50 seconds
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Decoding the factors with a bearing on India-Iran relations

India and Iran have deep cultural and historical connections. But relations between the two nations have atrophied in recent times. US sanctions on Iran have been a big factor, leading to India largely curtailing its engagements with the country. But recent developments – visa-free travel for Indians, and Iran’s entry into BRICS -- seem to provide reason for cautious optimism. What are the key concerns and objectives for Iran and for India when it comes to bilateral engagement? To what extent does American, Israeli and Arab concerns influence India’s approach to Iran, notwithstanding its proclaimed doctrine of ‘strategic autonomy’? And what outcomes should India be aiming for through its engagements with Iran? Tune in to find out.
2/8/202455 minutes, 14 seconds
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Why did the RBI clamp down on Paytm? | In Focus podcast

The RBI has imposed major restrictions on the operations of Paytm Payments Bank Ltd (PPBL). It has directed Paytm Payments Bank to stop accepting deposits or top-ups in customer accounts, wallets, FASTags, and other instruments after February 29. An RBI circular stated that this action follows an audit report and a compliance validation report by external auditors, which revealed “persistent non-compliances and continued material supervisory concerns in the bank, warranting further supervisory action”. The Paytm founders have written to the RBI governor and the finance minister asking them to reconsider the regulatory action against them. What exactly are the allegations against Paytm? What does the RBI action mean – for Paytm, for the fintech sector, and for ordinary users? What are the issues with the regulatory framework for the digital payments ecosystem? Guest: Srikanth Lakshmanan of Cashless Consumer, a consumer collective that works on fintech. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
2/7/202436 minutes, 58 seconds
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Are cough syrups effective for children?

If you or your child has a bad cough, the first thing you’ll probably do is reach for a cough syrup. It’s easy, it's available over the counter and there’s no fuss about taking it. But does it work? Is it at all effective to help your cough go away? Last year, a panel of the US Food and Drug Administration came to the agreement that phenylephrine, a common ingredient used in a number of cough and cold medicines is completely ineffective. Health bodies across the world emphasise that over-the-counter cough and cold medication should not be given to very young children – but this continues to be a common practice in India, despite the fact that research has pointed out that it may not even work for them. Two months ago, the Indian government too issued an order with regard to this – it said that a cold medicine combination that contained two ingredients, chlorpheniramine maleate and phenylephrine, should not be used for children under the age of four and these drugs should be labelled accordingly. So should over-the-counter cough/cold medications be stopped for young children? Are they safe for older children to take? If they are ineffective, why are they being prescribed and sold? What can adults use instead? Tune in to find out.
2/6/202426 minutes, 26 seconds
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What can we expect from Pakistan’s parliamentary elections 2024? | In Focus podcast

Pakistan goes to the polls on the 8th of February to elect members of what will be its 16th lower House or National Assembly. The polls come just as former Prime Minister Imran Khan has been convicted in two successive cases and stands debarred from contesting elections. His party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, or PTI as it is known, is fighting with its back to the wall. Pakistan Muslim League leader Nawaz Sharif fancies his chances of becoming Prime Minister for an unprecedented fourth term. Many analysts believe that he has the blessings of the Army establishment on this occasion. The Pakistan People’s Party of Bilawal Bhutto and Asif Zardari is also in the electoral fray, with Bilawal Bhutto training his guns on Nawaz Sharif. A far-right Islamist Party, the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, could cut votes of mainstream parties. It is a party to be watched.
2/2/202428 minutes, 10 seconds
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What are the issues with the Digi Yatra app? | In Focus podcast

In the past few weeks, there has been a surge of complaints from passengers about Digiyatra. Their main complaint is about security personnel and airport staff collecting their biometrics for the app, using coercion and deception. According to travellers, CISF personnel at the entry gates were asking them to scan their boarding pass and capturing their photos, and then enrolling them in the Digi Yatra app without even informing them. The element of coercion is especially startling as the Ministry of Civil Aviation, when it unveiled the Digi Yaytra policy in 2018, had made it clear that it would be entirely voluntary. Digital rights experts have highlighted several other concerns about the Digi Yatra app, related to privacy, surveillance, exclusion, lack of transparency and accountability, and violation of the passenger’s dignity and autonomy. The Ministry, on its part, has said that the only objective of the Digi Yatra’s biometrics-enabled, digital processing of passengers is to usher in “paper-less and seamless movement through various checkpoints” at airports. Is the Digi Yatra app safe? Is it reliable? How do airports in other countries process passengers? And is Digi Yatra really worth it or should it be withdrawn?
2/1/202447 minutes, 52 seconds
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Bonus Episode - Has the economy improved in the NDA’s second term?

This is a crossover episode On February 1, the BJP-led government will place its Interim Budget in Parliament, seeking a vote on account. Has the NDA government’s economic performance in its second term fared better than its first? Here we discuss the question.
1/31/20241 hour, 7 minutes, 52 seconds
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Australian Open 2024: A ‘Happy Slam’ for India, thanks to Nagal, Bopanna | In Focus podcast

The Australian Open likes to call itself ‘the Happy Slam’ and this year’s edition sure turned out to be a happy one for India. Rohan Bopanna became a Men’s Doubles Grand Slam champion for the first time and claimed the World No. 1 ranking at the age of 43. In Men’s Singles, Sumit Nagal made it to the main draw after coming through three qualifying rounds and scored an upset victory over 31st seed Alexander Bublik in the first round – the first time in nearly 40 years that an Indian has beaten a seeded player at a major. The first slam of the year also produced a new Grand Slam champion in Jannik Sinner, while Aryna Sabalenbka mounted a successful defense of the title she won last year. With the Australian Open setting the tone for the rest of the season, some intriguing questions arise. Will 2024 be the year that Gen X finally takes over from the Big Three? How can Sumit Nagal build on his Australian Open exploits to move further up the rankings? And who are the exciting new names to watch out for in the months to come? 
1/30/202425 minutes, 29 seconds
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Can smartphone savvy be used to help India's teens fill in education gaps?

This year’s Annual Status of Education Report or ASER, ‘Beyond Basics’, surveyed over 34,000 young people aged between 14 and 18, in 28 districts across the country, to get an inkling into: what are the young people of India currently doing? What are their basic maths and reading abilities like? And how do they navigate the digital world through smartphone use? The results were perhaps not very surprising given that ASER, which is brought out by the NGO Pratham, has been flagging concerns about reading and numeracy levels among primary school children. It showed that about 25% of these teens could not read a second standard text fluently in their regional language and over 50% struggled with a fourth standard-level division problem. It also showed however, that over 85% of these teenagers were enrolled in an educational institution, and that digital awareness skills are high – nearly 90% had access to a smartphone and knew how to use it. What do these results indicate about the education system in India? How is the country doing with regards to the Nipun Bharat Mission which aims towards foundational literacy and numeracy? Will the gaps in education hurt the employment prospects of young people and how can they be fixed? Can their ease with digital devices be harnessed towards bettering their education? Tune in to find out.
1/29/202427 minutes, 20 seconds
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Why is artificial rice being distributed through India’s public distribution system? | In Focus podcast

India’s public distribution system – its ration shops – through which subsidised food grains are distributed to the poor is the largest such welfare programme in the world. It is a lifeline that saves millions from hunger. But for the past few years, the Union government has been running pilot projects where fortified rice --- rice enhanced with iron and vitamins – is being distributed instead of natural grains. The reason given by the government for this switch is that it will reduce anaemia in the population. But a great number of the poor – especially the adivasi communities – do not like it, calling it ‘plastic rice’. Public health experts have also advised caution on giving this rice to people with sickle cell anaemia and thalassemia – and there is a high incidence both among the beneficiaries of the PDS in India. Despite problems at the pilot stage, and reports about lack of adequate quality control and testing infrastructure, the government has a target of scaling up fortified rice universally from March 2024. Is there scientific evidence that fortified rice is the best solution for anaemia? Does a poor person who cannot consume fortified rice for medical reasons have an alternative? And what exactly is driving the mega-push towards fortified rice in a country where local grain varieties with higher iron content are available?
1/26/202452 minutes, 47 seconds
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Decoding the widening conflict in West Asia

What began on October 7 as a conflict between Israel and Hamas seems to be spreading across the entire region. Even after 100 days of a conflict that has already claimed the lives of more than 25,000 people, Israel’s military assault on Gaza continues. But this war has sprouted many secondary plot-lines: Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shia group backed by Iran, has been exchanging fire with the Israeli military. Shia groups that serve as Iran’s proxies have been attacking US and Israeli assets in Syria and Iraq. Israel itself has been carrying out assassinations of senior Iranian generals and intelligence officers. And Iran has done strikes on what it claims were Mossad assets in Syria and Iraqi Kurdistan. It also carried out missile and drone attacks on Pakistani territory, sparking a retaliatory strike on its own territory from Pakistan. Amid all this, the Houthis of Yemen have kept up attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea, and in response, the US has been bombing Houthi positions in Yemen. So, how does one make sense of all that’s going on? Is the West Asia security architecture unravelling? And how are these confrontations likely to develop in the weeks to come? Tune in to find out.
1/22/202433 minutes, 54 seconds
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Multidimensional poverty in India: decoding the Niti Aayog report | In Focus podcast

A new paper released by the NITI Aayog has claimed that multidimensional poverty (MDI) has declined from 29.17% in 2013-14 to 11.28% in 2022-23, and that 24.82 crore people “escaped” from multidimensional poverty during this 9-year period. Titled ‘Multidimensional Poverty in India since 2005-06: A Discussion Paper’, the NITI Aayog report claims that India is well on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 1.2) of “halving multidimensional poverty” by 2030. The report also claims that various government initiatives such as Poshan Abhiyan, Anaemia Mukt Bharat and Ujjwala Yojana have played a major role in mitigating different forms of deprivation. On the face of it, India managing to reduce its poverty head count is a great achievement. But at the same time, development economists have been complaining about the increasing paucity in relevant data. Are Niti Aayog’s claims based on hard data or are they projections? Does a reduction in multidimensional poverty headcount actually mean a reduction in poverty? And how do these claims square with India’s worsening rank in the Global Hunger Index, for instance?
1/19/202427 minutes, 3 seconds
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What do we know about India's new ICU guidelines

Having a loved one in intensive care at a hospital is an experience many of us have gone through, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s a stressful time, what with the strain of a relative being ill, the decisions you may have to take, and the costs you have to tackle. What should ICU care look like in India? The Union Health Ministry recently released a list of guidelines that list out criteria for ICU admissions and discharges, the role of intensivists or critical care specialists in the ICU and the patient as well as the family’s right to refuse admission. What do these guidelines say? How do doctors usually deal with consent in ICU settings? What happens if there is a difference of opinion between patients and doctors when it comes to ICU care? Tune in to find out!
1/18/202427 minutes, 25 seconds
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What are the implications of Maldives’ March 15 deadline to India for withdrawing troops?

Relations between India and Maldives seem to have hit a rough patch. First came some controversial remarks from Maldivian politicians on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lakshadweep visit, prompting a ‘boycott Maldives’ campaign on Indian social media. Then came a joint press communiqué with China, which committed to “elevating strategic cooperation” between Maldives and China. This was followed by remarks from Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu, on his return from China, that although Maldives was a small country, it “won’t be bullied”, that the “Indian Ocean does not belong to any one country”, and that Maldives “is not in anyone’s backyard”. But for India, the most troubling development is Maldives setting a March 15 deadline – effectively an ultimatum -- to withdraw all its troops from the island nation. What exactly does all this mean for India? Is it purely an effect of Maldives’ domestic politics, with general elections due in March? Or should New Delhi be concerned about a more enduring shift in Maldivian foreign policy? Tune in to know more!
1/17/202424 minutes, 48 seconds
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Does the Telecommunications Act, 2023 bolster the government’s digital regulation powers? | In Focus podcast

The Telecommunications Act, 2023 was passed by Parliament in the Winter Session of Parliament last year. The Act consolidates much of the telecom laws that existed beforehand, and repeals colonial-era laws that have been updated over the course of over 137 years.  While the Act is short in length at just over 45 pages, much of its implementation will be done through notifications and orders that will be passed directly by the government, with no prior approval necessary from Parliament.  What does this Act do differently from the colonial-era laws? Is it a revamp of telecom laws or just a consolidation of the status quo? What are the concerns around surveillance and regulation of messaging apps? 
1/4/202417 minutes, 58 seconds
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What we know about the new Covid variant JN.1

For at least a year and a half now, most of us have relegated Covid-19 to the back of our minds. Cases of the virus had drastically reduced, it was not mentioned in headlines any more, and life seemed to have got somewhat back to normal as we learnt to live with Covid. It’s difficult however to ignore the news of yet another coronavirus mutation – this latest sub-variant, JN.1, a descendent of the Omicron variant, has been classified by the World Health Organisation as a ‘variant of interest’ because it has led to a rapid rise in cases across countries. But the WHO has said that the risk to public health is low, and this has been echoed by the Union Health Ministry in India which has said that JN.1 is not a cause of immediate concern. India has seen a surge in cases over the past few days – as of December 27, a total of 109 cases of JN.1 have been detected in the country. Active Covid-19 cases now stand at over 4,000 and several deaths have been reported over the past few days. With winter having set in across north India, pollution levels on the rise and respiratory infections doing the rounds, do we need to be worried about JN.1? Is this sub-variant more infectious than previous variants? Does it have higher vaccine escape properties? Would a booster shot of the vaccine help? And do we need to mask up again? Tune in to find out.
12/28/202327 minutes, 3 seconds
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How can gene editing help cure diseases? | In Focus podcast

This month, there’s been a lot of excitement in the medical world over the approval given to treatments for diseases that based on genome editing. What’s this all about? In 2020, the Nobel Prize for Chemistry was given to two women scientists, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna for their discovery of what is essentially a genetic scissors, a tool that allows scientists to cut specific sites of a human being’s DNA, or to edit it, by making minor changes. This tool, known as the CRISPR/Cas9 system, opened up opportunities to treat certain genetic or inherited disorders. Two of these are blood disorders, beta thalassemia and sickle cell disease, up until now could only be cured through bone marrow transplants. Now, they can potentially be cured by editing the patient’s own genes. In the Union Budget this year, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced a sickle cell anaemia mission - to eliminate the condition by 2047. India is the second-worst affected country in terms of predicted births with sickle cell anaemia. As exciting as these new developments sound, they will likely be extremely expensive and therefore, probably unaffordable to many. Also, the clinical trials, have at present, only evaluated a small number of patients for relatively short durations and there is a need to constantly monitor the safety and efficacy of these therapies. So what exactly does genome editing involve? Can its potential be expanded to treat far more diseases, and what lies ahead in this field? What are the concerns surrouding this - could there be unintended consequences to genetic modifications?
12/22/202328 minutes, 6 seconds
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What does excessive screen time do to your brain?

This has been a question that has triggered a lot of research, a lot of debate and a lot of questions. A recent meta-analysis of 34 studies looked at excessive screen use and its links to your cognitive functioning. The results of the analysis, conducted by researchers in Australia, says that there is a clear link between disordered screen behaviour – or persisting with screen use even when it’s harmful for you, and your cognitive performance, specifically your attention and executive functioning. They found that sustained attention, the ability to maintain your focus for an extended period was affected – and this is something many of us may have felt as devices have increasingly taken over our lives, whether it’s for work, learning or recreation. In India, smartphone use and internet subscribers grew during the Covid-19 pandemic period, particularly as schools went online with digital learning. So what does all of this device time do to our brains, our functioning, our interactions with others and our productivity? How does addictive device use affect your mental health, and how much of a problem is it in India? And crucially, how much screen time is good for you? Tune in to find out.
12/21/202326 minutes, 33 seconds
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Is Biden’s Israel policy compromising the US’s strategic interests?

As Israel continues its indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza, causing thousands of civilian deaths, it has continued to enjoy unconditional military and political backing from the United States. Last week, as the US vetoed yet another resolution at the UN calling for a ceasefire, it found itself almost completely isolated on the world stage. A few days ago, President Joe Biden said that Israel risks losing international support if it continued to bomb Gaza indiscriminately. Does this suggest the US is thinking of recalibrating its support? What has been the nature of the US’s historical backing of Israel? Is the Biden administration’s Middle-East policy venturing into uncharted territory? With the US launching a ten-nation force to counter attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in the Red Sea, is it at risk of getting dragged into a wider regional war?
12/20/202335 minutes, 51 seconds
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Decoding the three new criminal law Bills | In Focus podcast

In August this year, the Union government introduced three Bills to overhaul the country’s criminal justice system. The were – the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), 2023 to replace the Indian Penal Code, 1860; Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS), 2023 to replace the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973; and the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023 to replace the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Last week, the government withdrew these three bills and reintroduced newer versions of them. It has said claimed the recommendations of a Parliamentary Standing Committee have been incorporated in the newer versions. There has been little public debate or consultations on such a large scale legislative move to alter the base of the criminal justice system. What are the major changes envisaged in these bills? Do they enhance or curtail civil liberties? Is there merit in the fears that they seek to weaponise the police by expanding their powers? 
12/19/202350 minutes, 9 seconds
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Decoding the Constitution Bench’s judgement on Article 370 abrogation | In Focus podcast

A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has upheld the abrogation of Article 370 and the subsequent reorganisation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories. While the judgement has been hailed as a historic one, it has also raised concerns regarding the federal system, which is understood to be part of the basic structure of the Constitution. So, what exactly was the judicial reasoning behind the Supreme Court judgement, and what are its larger implications, especially for other Indian states, and the federal structure? 
12/18/202356 minutes, 41 seconds
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A COP-28 post-mortem: How will the ‘Dubai consensus’ help? | In Focus podcast

This year’s edition of the United Nations climate summit, COP-28, concluded in Dubai earlier this week. It began with a lot of expectations – especially on the key issue of phasing out fossil fuels. In the end, a deal seems to have been worked out – to transition away from fossil fuels. What exactly does the ‘Dubai Consensus’ entail? What are the other major takeaways from the summit? What progress, if any, has been made on climate justice? And given the slow and limited progress in CoP meetings, are there alternative modes of collective decision-making on climate action? Guest: Kanchi Kohli, Researcher (Environment, Law and Governance) and co-author of the book ‘Development of Environmental Laws in India’. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian.
12/14/202330 minutes, 5 seconds
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What is dollarisation and why would a country go for it? | In Focus podcast

Argentina’s president-elect Javier Milei, a self-described ‘anarcho-capitalist’, has threatened to disband his country’s currency, the peso, and adopt the US dollar in its place. Argentina has been grappling with hyperinflation for a long time – it was above in November 2023. Milei has argued that dollarisation of the Argentine economy will bring inflation down, and usher in a stable climate favourable for investment. How exactly does dollarisation work? What are the risks it entails? And what has been the experience of countries such as Ecuador which have already tried it? 
12/6/202331 minutes, 40 seconds
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Should India be worried by the new spike in respiratory illnesses in China?

Reports of a spike in respiratory illnesses in China have recently caused some amount of panic. Perhaps this is not surprising considering that next month will mark four years since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out and changed the world as we knew it. The current surge of illnesses however, have been reported primarily among children.  On November 22, the World Health Organisation requested information from China about these infections. Subsequently, Chinese authorities have said that the outbreak is due to a number of pathogens – all of them known, none of them new. On November 26, the Indian government asked State Governments to ensure that the influenza-like illnesses (ILI) and severe acute respiratory illnesses (SARI) be closely monitored, particularly in children and adolescents. Several State governments have since then, stepped up their surveillance measures, especially as winter sets in, in many parts of India while parts of the south are experiencing heavy rains. We have since heard about RSV, adenoviruses and mycloplasma that have been the causes behind many of these infections. So what are these pathogens that have caused the Chinese outbreak? Why are they affecting children? Does India have cause for concern? And what measures can we take to safeguard ourselves? We discuss these and more in this episode. Tune in!
12/5/202317 minutes, 32 seconds
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Decoding the key factors behind the 2023 Assembly election outcomes

The BJP has won the elections in three of the four states whose results were declared on Sunday. It has won in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, while the Congress bagged Telengana. In Mizoram, the Zoram People’s Movement is headed for a majority. The BJP has stamped its dominance in the Hindi heartland. The results, however, seem to have taken many by surprise – especially the margins of victory. What went wrong for the Congress, especially in Chhattisgarh, where it was expected to win? What were the deciding factors in MP and Rajasthan? What lessons can Congress draw from its win in Telangana? And what do the Congress’s losses mean for the INDIA alliance, in the context of the 2024 general elections?
12/4/202339 minutes, 51 seconds
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What does Geert Wilders’s victory in Dutch elections mean for immigrant minorities? | In Focus podcast

A politician known as the ‘Dutch Donald Trump’ has won the general elections in the Netherlands. Geert Wilders, the leader of the far-right Party for Freedom, or PVV as it is known, is a frontrunner to be the next Dutch Prime Minister after his party won 37 seats, ahead of the outgoing PM Mark Rutte’s VVD, which got only 24. Wilders is both anti-Islam and anti-immigration. He is also anti-EU and is opposed to sending weapons to Ukraine. His victory in a country known for its tolerance and multiculturalism has come as a surprise. How did he end up winning? What are the chances of him heading the next government? What are the implications of his victory for the immigrant minorities, and the Muslims in particular, who comprise 5% of the Dutch population?
12/1/202322 minutes, 15 seconds
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COP 28 Preview: What progress can we expect toward climate goals? | In Focus podcast

The 28th UN climate conference, or COP28, is starting today in Dubai, and will go on till December 12th. Delegates from almost 200 countries, as well as climate scientists, business leaders, and other stakeholders will take part in the meeting. It is clear the world is not on course to meet the target set in the Paris Agreement – which is to keep the global rise in temperatures within the 1.5-degree Celsius limit. There are indications that if we continue with our current climate policies, the earth would be warmer by 3 degree Celsius by 2100 – which would make severe climate events a regular occurrence. What is top of the agenda at COP28? Will there be progress in funding the ‘loss and damage fund’ established at COP27? Is there a developing consensus on what climate accountability might look like?
11/30/202335 minutes
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Analysing the World Cup final: What went wrong for India?

After winning ten matches on the trot, India could not win one more and bring home the World Cup. It started the final as favourites, but things did not go according to the expectations that fans had built up over one month of pure magic. So, what went wrong for India? Was the match lost with the toss itself? Was Australia too good on the day? Or did India make mistakes? If it did, what were they, and what are the positives we can take away from this tournament?
11/21/202328 minutes, 7 seconds
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Decoding global semiconductor geopolitics and India’s strategic options | In Focus podcast

Most of us would remember the sudden shortage of semiconductor chips during the pandemic – how it affected automobile manufacturing, delaying deliveries, and in many cases, even caused manufacturers to deliver cars without some features. But semiconductors form an integral component of not just cars but almost any high tech device we use today – from smartphones and laptops to televisions, satellites and, of course, all kinds of advanced military hardware. As nations jockey for geopolitical dominance, in addition to traditional factors such as military capabilities and economic power, technological prowess has become another, and perhaps most critical factor. Control over the manufacture and availability of the most advanced semiconductors is a key element of geopolitical security and strategic autonomy. And yet, geopolitics and semiconductor supply chains have mostly figured in separate debates. A new book, titled ‘When the Chips are Down’, by Pranay Lotasthane and Abhiram Manchi brings the two parallel discourses together, and also presents a framework for understanding where India fits into the picture. We speak with the authors Pranay Kotasthane and Abhiram Manchi. 
11/20/202349 minutes, 42 seconds
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How safe is the online space for children in India?

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) released a set of guidelines last month for the Central and State governments to tackle the problem of Child Sexual Abuse Material or CSAM on the internet. Over the past few years, there has been a colossal increase in the availability of CSAM online. In its 2023 report, WeProtect Global Alliance, which consists of governments, companies and charities working together for digital safety, said there was an 87% increase in such cases since 2019. What is the situation like in India? The NHRC says, that according to the Cyber Tipline 2022 statistics, of the 32 million reports received about child sexual abuse material, 5.6 million reports were uploaded by perpetrators based in India. Recently, the United Kingdom passed a stringent online safety bill that introduces a number of obligations on how large tech firms must design, operate and moderate their platforms. Other countries too are contemplating or have already put in place such measures. What are the vulnerabilities children in our country face, when they go online with their devices? How does child sexual abuse material online lead to offline consequences? Where does India stand when it comes to regulating and making the digital space safe for children?
11/17/202330 minutes, 37 seconds
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How are governments approaching AI regulation?

As we keep hearing everyday, artificial Intelligence is on the verge of fundamentally changing the way human beings live and work. There are also many fears about the dangers posed by AI – which range from mass disinformation and privacy risks, to extinction of the human race itself. Amid this debate over how to regulate AI so that we are able to benefit from it while keeping it safe, governments around the world have been coming up with proposals for AI governance. The latest is the Biden administration’s Executive Order on the Safe, Secure and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence. What are the concerns shaping these preliminary moves toward AI regulation? Are there any fundamental principles that an AI regulatory regime needs to address? What are the potential conflicts – say, between the interests of AI researchers and ordinary citizens --- when framing such laws?
11/16/202339 minutes, 38 seconds
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How safe is our personal, health data with the Indian government? | In Focus podcast

Just about a month ago, Rescurity, an American cyber security firm, said that personal information of 815 million Indians was being sold on the dark web. This included details such as Aadhar numbers and passport details. The persons selling this information claimed that it was from the Indian Council of Medical Research or ICMR, the country’s premier scientific research body. This is not the first time ICMR has been subject a cyber attack – 6,000 such attempts were reported just last year. The All India Institute of Medical Sciences – AIIMS in Delhi has also been hit by cyber attacks – in one ransomware case, the hackers took over the servers, encrypted the data, and made it impossible for the hospital to access its own systems. Health data consists of sensitive, personal information and once stolen, can increase the risk of digital identity theft, online banking thefts, tax frauds and other financial crimes. India was ranked fourth across the world in all malware detection in the first of 2023, as per a survey from Resucurity. Even as this is going on, the Central government launched an ambitious Ayushman Bharat Digital Initiative in 2021. During the Covid-19 pandemic, our Aadhar and other details were used for both testing and vaccination services. So how safe is our health data with the government or private health organisations? How well does the Data Protection Act, that came into force this year protect this sensitive information? Is our right to privacy over our personal information being adequately safeguarded in India?
11/14/202333 minutes, 50 seconds
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Can air pollution in India increase the risk of type 2 diabetes?

Can breathing in polluted air, day after day, increase your risk of diabetes? A study conducted in India and published in the BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care journal last month, says, yes. Researchers studied over 12,000 adults in Chennai and in Delhi over a period of seven years from 2010 to 2017. Their blood sugar levels were measured periodically. A satellite-based hybrid exposure model was used to check for pollution levels – this assessed the daily average ambient PM 2.5 concentrations in Delhi and Chennai for each day of the study period. PM 2.5 refers to particles that are really tiny – 2.5 microns or less in diameter. These can enter the bloodstream and cause a number of respiratory and heart diseases. Considering that India was ranked the 8th most polluted country in the world as per the 2022 World Air Quality Report, and with Delhi currently choking on a toxic smog and the air quality remaining poor, this is of special concern in our country. Added to this, latest estimates indicate that 10.13 crore people in our country of 140 crore could potentially be diabetic. So how does pollution increase your risk of type 2 diabetes? Are those growing up in India now at a significantly higher risk of getting diabetes younger? Do we need to add polluted air to the list of risk factors such as unhealthy diets and sedentary lifestyles? And what steps can the government and the public take to help decrease this risk and work towards clean air for all? 
11/13/202323 minutes, 25 seconds
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India’s diplomatic challenge with eight Navy veterans on death row in Qatar | In Focus podcast

A court in Qatar has handed death sentences to eight Indian citizens, all of them former personnel of the Indian navy. The ex-navymen were convicted on espionage charges. India has termed the sentencing ‘deeply shocking’ and has said it is exploring all legal options. The Indians were all employees of a defunct company, Doha-based Dahra Global, and had been arrested in August 2022. How did these Indian nationals end up in this situation? What are the chances that their lives can be saved? And what can New Delhi do to bring them safely back to India?
11/8/202334 minutes, 56 seconds
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How do the findings by Nobel laureate Claudia Goldin apply to working women in India?

This year’s Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to Prof Claudia Goldin for having advanced our understanding of women’s labour market outcomes. Prof Goldin’s work has looked at women’s participation in the labour force, changes across decades and the gender gap in earnings that continues to exist even today. In fact, the 2023 Global Gender Gap report pegged the gap score at 68.4%, and said it would take 131 years to equalise earnings between men and women at the current rate of progress.  But how does India fare in all of this? A State of Working India 2023 report, brought out by the Azim Premji University reveals that some of Prof Goldin’s findings about women in the workforce may apply in India as well. The double burden of household work and a job continues to affect women, gender norms play a significant role and the Covid-19 pandemic had a massive impact.
11/6/202338 minutes, 8 seconds
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Will the new President alter Maldives’ ‘India first’ foreign policy?

Maldives has elected a new President, Mohamed Muizzu from the Progressive Party of Maldives. In the elections that concluded in September, he defeated the incumbent, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of the Maldivian Democratic Party. The elections were also viewed by many as a referendum on the country’s foreign policy. While Solih was perceived as pro-India, Muizzu is seen as pro-China. One of the main election promises made by Muizzu was to end any Indian military presence on Maldivian territory. Muizzu is set to formally take office on November 17. What prompted Muizzu to build his poll campaign around opposition to Indian military presence in Maldives? Will Maldives foreign policy now take a pro-China tilt? And for India, what are the strategic implications of Solih’s exit from power?
11/3/202325 minutes, 34 seconds
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Assembly elections preview: Who has the edge in which state?

Five states go to the polls this month – Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, and Mizoram. Political analysts have taken to describing them as the ‘semi-finals’ before the finals, the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Part of the reason for this characterisation is that in three of the states – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh – the elections will see a direct face-off between the BJP and the Congress. How do the contesting parties stack up in different states, and what is the significance, if any, of these elections at the national level?
11/2/202333 minutes, 12 seconds
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What would it mean for India to host the 2036 Olympics? | In Focus podcast

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said earlier this month that India will leave no stone unturned in its bid to host the 2036 Olympics. While India has hosted major multi-nation, multi-discipline sports events --- the Commonwealth Games of 2010 and the Asian Games of 1982 come to mind – the Olympics is of an altogether different order of magnitude. Several questions pop up as India aspires to host the Olympics. How does the bidding process work? What are the costs likely to be? Can India afford it? And what is the scale of infrastructure that India would have to create in order to be able to pull it off? 
10/27/202335 minutes, 58 seconds
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Does India need to decriminalise abortion? | In Focus podcast

Earlier this month, a married woman, who was 26 weeks pregnant, approached the Supreme Court, asking to be allowed to terminate her pregnancy. This was the woman’s third pregnancy, and she told the Court that she did not want to have the baby. She also said she was suffering from post-partum depression and other health issues. She did not know of her pregnancy until quite late, as she was breastfeeding, which can temporarily prevent pregnancies. The Court first agreed to allow her to terminate. But subsequently, following a hospital report that said the foetus was viable and had a heartbeat, and a medical board report that said the pregnancy was not causing an immediate danger to the woman or foetus’s life, the Court rejected her plea to abort the foetus. The case has sparked a pro-life vs pro-choice debate. Only last year, in a landmark ruling in a case known as X vs NCT the Supreme Court had said it is the woman alone who has the right over her body and was the ultimate decision-maker. But this apart, the case has also thrown into spotlight the laws surrounding abortion in India . So what do the laws, including the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act say? Why do women need to approach the Courts for a termination? Why is it that women across the country still find it hard to access safe and legal abortion services?
10/26/202334 minutes, 15 seconds
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History of the Israel-Palestine conflict - Part 3

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at the origins of this conflict, which began with the steady influx of Jewish settlers in Palestinian territories and culminated in the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. In the second part, we explored the key developments of the conflict from 1948 to the present – the wars that took place in 1948, 1956, 1962, 1982, the First Intifada, the Second Intifada, the Oslo process, the rise of Hamas, and so on. In this final episode of the three part series, we will explore the key factors driving the current explosion of conflict in the region and its potential fallout over the medium term.
10/25/202338 minutes, 58 seconds
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History of the Israel-Palestine conflict – Part 2 (Wars from 1948 to the present) | In Focus podcast

In the first part of this series, we looked at the origins of this conflict, which began with the steady influx of Jewish settlers in Palestinian territories and culminated in the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. In this episode, we explore key developments from 1948 to the present – the wars that took place in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, the Camp David agreement, the First Intifada, the Oslo process and reasons for its collapse, the Second Intifada, the rise of Hamas, and other aspects of the conflict.
10/24/202349 minutes, 27 seconds
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What can we do to get MNCs and billionaires to pay their fair share in taxes?

When it comes to taxes, there is one definitive trend in all countries: the wealthiest entities, be it billionaires, or multinational corporations, enjoy the lowest effective rates of taxation. And this is in a context where governments around the world are cutting down on welfare programmes because they ostensibly can’t afford the resources to sustain them. To reduce inequality, fair and effective taxation is absolutely critical, and yet, largely missing. The European Union Tax Observatory (EU Tax Observatory) has come out with a report on this subject, titled ‘Global Tax Evasion Report’. It summarises the work of more than 100 researchers worldwide and quantifies the magnitude and dynamics of tax evasion. We discuss this report and its findings.
10/23/202333 minutes, 5 seconds
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History of the Israel-Palestine conflict – Part 1 (Origins) | In Focus podcast

The Israel-Palestine conflict has turned into a giant humanitarian crisis over the past week, with thousands of civilians, including women children being killed. Many of them were killed when hospitals were bombed. The UN Security Council’s attempt to pass a resolution calling for a humanitarian pause in the bombing campaign by Israel was blocked by the US and its allies. International public opinion has become sharply polarised into two camps – those defending Israel’s right to do whatever it wants to wipe out Hamas, and those calling for an immediate ceasefire, humanitarian aid to Gaza, and a peace process premised on ending the Israeli occupation of Gaza and West Bank. While this conflict dates back to the 19th century, if not earlier, a lot of the background and nuances are often lost in the polemics of the present. This episode is the first in a three-part series on the Israel-Palestine conflict where we seek to detail the history, context, and developments around this conflict from the beginning till the present. In this episode, we trace the origins of this conflict: What was the nature of historical Palestine? What was the Balfour declaration? And how exactly did Palestine become the chosen homeland for Jews from around the world? 
10/20/202334 minutes, 12 seconds
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Decoding the Supreme Court's judgement against same sex marriage legalisation

The Supreme Court, in a judgement this week refused to give legal recognition to same sex marriages. The court had heard a series of petitions asking for same-sex marriage to be allowed under the Special Marriage Act of 1954 which provides a civil form of marriage for couples who cannot marry under their personal, religious laws. The question before the Court was this: is there a right to marry under the Indian Constitution and is preventing same sex/queer couples from marrying, discriminatory? A five-judge Bench of the Court held that that the SMA was not unconstitutional and could not be read down. The petitioners had also questioned the Central Adoption Regulatory Authority, or CARA’s regulations that prevented persons in live-in relationships from adopting a child. Here again, the majority three judges, refused to strike down these regulations. The Central government, had stiffly opposed any judicial recognition of same sex marriages and had said that this was an issue that needed to be resolved by the legislature and not the judiciary. The Court has now shifted the burden to the government, and has directed that a committee be set up to examine the concerns of same sex/queer couples and to see whether the existing legal framework can be amended. In effect, the Court has accepted that the issue needs to be dealt with by the government. What are the key takeaways from the judgement? How did the Court rule on marriages of transgender persons? Given this setback, what are the next steps that can be taken?
10/19/202328 minutes, 57 seconds
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What’s life like for the elephant that leads the Dussehra procession? | In Focus podcast

The Dussehra festivities are here, and so are Dussehra processions. In Mysore, like every year, this time too, the elephant Abhimanyu will carry the 750-kg Golden Howdah and lead the procession. Abhimanyu is 59 years old and this could be one of the last times he performs his annual duty. While people love temple elephants and pachyderms like Abhimanyu are an integral part of religious rituals, it is, nonetheless, a fact that elephants are wild animals, and their transition to life in captivity is rarely without distress. In this episode of InFocus, we look at the life trajectory of Abhimanyu, and the larger issues around human-elephant conflict in the context of captive elephants. 
10/18/202328 minutes, 14 seconds
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How much of an impact will the Women’s Reservation Bill have?

It has taken the country over 25 years to pass the Bill, after it was first introduced in the Lok Sabha in 1996, by the then Deve Gowda-led United Front government. At that time, it was heatedly opposed, and subsequently, despite being reintroduced several times, the Bill was not passed, until this year. In 1993 however, then prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao brought in Bills which reserved one third (33%) of all seats and chairperson posts for women in rural and urban local bodies. These Bills were passed and became laws. Today, the country has nearly 15 lakh elected women representatives in panchayats and other local bodies. The representation of women in our Parliament however, is dismal – just about 15%, lower even than Pakistan and Kenya. Why is women’s reservation in Parliament and State Legislatures important? What has been the experience of elected women’s representatives in local bodies and what are the changes they have managed to bring about? What are the barriers to women entering the political sphere? And how will this Bill, which is not going to be implemented in the immediate future, pan out? Tune in.
10/16/202325 minutes, 47 seconds
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Does the Bihar Caste Survey point to a need for a national caste census? | In Focus podcast

Earlier this month, the Bihar government published the ‘Bihar Caste-based Survey 2022’. The survey data showed that extremely backward classes (EBCs) and other backward classes (OBCs) together made up nearly 63% of the 13-crore population, making them the largest caste group in the State. The Congress has made a demand for a caste survey a core element of its poll campaign in the forthcoming assembly elections, and the INDIA alliance is likely to do the same in the 2024 general elections as well. So, what does the data of the Bihar caste survey reveal? Is the caste survey only about removing the existing caps on reservations? Is it likely that a Mandal 2.0 moment will emerge in opposition to ‘Kamandal’ politics? 
10/13/202336 minutes, 18 seconds
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Decoding the geo-political ramifications of the Israel-Hamas war

More than 3,000 people -- Israelis and Palestinians -- have been killed following a surprise attack on southern Israel by the militant Palestinian group Hamas. The military operation, named ‘Toofan Al-Aqsa’ by Hamas, has brought back into the spotlight the most critical element of sustainable peace in West Asia – Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territories. Israel has declared war on Hamas and laid siege to Gaza. It has launched a bombing campaign over Gaza, and cut off supplies of all essentials, including water, electricity and food. In the days to come, Palestinian civilian casualties are likely to surpass the civilian casualties caused by Hamas’ attack. Why did Hamas launch this attack? What does this war mean for the recent geopolitical realignments in the region? And how did Mossad, considered by many to be the world’s most capable intelligence agency, fail to detect a full blown military invasion?
10/11/202348 minutes, 51 seconds
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How does confrontation with India fit in with Canada's Indo-Pacific ‘pivot’?

Diplomatic relations between India and Canada have never been this strained. The current spat between the two countries began when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in Parliament that there were credible allegations of the Indian government’s involvement in the murder of Khalistani separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Now India, in the latest salvo, has asked Canada to remove 41 of its 62 diplomats from the country. India has long wanted Canada to crack down on the activities of Khalistani separatists on its soil – something Canada has not been keen to do. What are the factors driving the Canadian government on this issue, given that Khalistani separatism has been an irritant in bilateral relations for a long time now? And how does a diplomatic confrontation with India gel with Canada’s foreign policy that seeks an Indo-Pacific pivot with an objective of ‘containing’ China?
10/10/202344 minutes
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What happens under the proposed new law if you break a promise to marry?

The proposed Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita or BNS, may soon replace the Indian Penal Code or IPC, a piece of legislation that has dealt with crimes and their punishments since 1860. One of the clauses under the BNS, clause 69, has recently sparked off a debate. Clause 69 says that if a man promises to marry a woman, but does not actually intend to marry her, and still has consensual sex with her, this will amount to a criminal offence. Sex under deceitful means or false promises to marry, may be punished with a prison term that can extend up to 10 years. With this a separate section has been carved out, differentiating these cases from rape cases. Criminalising sex based on a false promise to marry is not new: the courts in India have interpreted such cases as rape for years, relying on sections 375 and 90 of the existing IPC. With the proposed clause 69 though, consensual sex can be framed as rape, if a man does not carry out his promise to marry the woman. There’s another element to this: Indian courts so far have distinguished between cases where the promise to marry was false from the beginning, and a breach of promise where the man intended to marry the woman, but could not do so for “legitimate reasons”. These reasons, as per judgements can be parental opposition, or, if the parties are from different castes, the courts have indicated that the woman should have known marriage would not have been possible. But how can the intent to marry be established? What happens when the first instance of sex was forced, and subsequently, a promise is made to marry, but is then not carried out? Should criminal law play a part at all in intimate relationships? And do such provisions undermine the sexual autonomy of women or are they the only way women can claim for damages when they have been harmed in a relationship?
10/9/202339 minutes, 10 seconds
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Cannabis in India: Does the law need to catch up with reality?

Think of Himachal Pradesh, and you’ll most likely think of apples growing there. Soon though, this apple-growing State may legalise a new crop: cannabis. Last month, a five-member panel constituted by the government submitted a report that said the legalisation of cannabis would be a game-changer for the state, enabling it to generate revenue and create employment.  Himachal Pradesh is not the first state to consider this: in 2018, Uttarakhand became the first State in India to legalise the cultivation of cannabis for industrial and scientific purposes. Controlled cultivation has also been allowed in parts of other States including UP and Madhya Pradesh. Cannabis, marijuana or ganja as it is commonly known, has a centuries-old history in India. It has grown wild abundantly, has been cultivated, consumed and parts of this versatile plant have been used for various purposes. In 1985 however, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act or the NDPS Act banned the use of the resin, flowering and fruit tops of the plant.  Cannabis is made up of more than 120 components. Researchers now know a lot about two of them, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is a psychoactive substance, while CBD is not. Over the years, countries across the world have begun relaxing their stance on the use of cannabis, for recreation, and exploring the many uses that its extracts can have in both the industrial and significantly, in the medical field. Research has shown that cannabidiol or CBD can help treat childhood epilepsy syndromes that don’t respond to anti-seizure medicine, and may also help with anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain. In India too, there is now a growing industry for hemp products and cannabidiol or CBD: in just 3 years at least 50 new startups are reported to have come up in the country. So how does Indian law regulate cannabis? Do the laws need to be eased for medical and industrial uses? Should the recreational use of cannabis be allowed or will legalisation increase the drug abuse burden in India?
10/6/202328 minutes, 33 seconds
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Decoding the historic decline in financial savings of Indian households | In Focus podcast

The net financial savings of households in India has fallen to a five-decade low of just 5.1% of the GDP in FY 2023. It was 7.2% in FY 2022. This is a worrying development, because a high savings rate has traditionally correlated with a healthy growth rate. Data released by the RBI also shows that at the same time that household savings have fallen, financial liabilities of households have risen sharply – from 3.8% of GDP in FY 2022 to 5.8% in FY 2023. This is not good news, when viewed alongside the high inflation and high interest rates that we have right now. So, what are the reasons for the historic decline in savings rate? What does this mean for India’s growth and investment targets? And what does the government need to do to reverse this trend of falling savings rate? 
10/5/202333 minutes, 37 seconds
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Preview of ICC World Cup 2023: What to expect over the next 45 days

International cricket’s biggest event is starting tomorrow in Ahmedabad. The 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup will go on till November 19, featuring 48 matches spread across ten cities. Ten teams will vie for the coveted trophy. While defending champions England will be strong contenders, India, as the host nation, will be under tremendous pressure to bring home the Cup. How do the teams stack up? How easy has it been for fans to get tickets? And what does recent form say about who the favourites are?
10/4/202330 minutes, 32 seconds
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NEP 2020: What are the objections to the Multiple Entry Multiple Exit system?

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education has flagged its concerns over a key element of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 – the multiple exit and entry system for students in higher education. The Committee’s report, titled “Implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020 in Higher Education,” says that a policy of multiple entry/exit for undergraduate students may not work well in the Indian context. It took this view following strong objections from students and teachers. Already, some states, including Kerala, have refused to implement the multiple entry/exit system. So, what is the rationale behind the government’s introduction of this feature in college education? How is it meant to work? And why are students and teachers opposed to it?
9/29/202335 minutes, 2 seconds
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Decoding the govt’s Bill on appointment of Election Commissioners | In Focus podcast

The government introduced a new Bill in the Rajya Sabha in August – the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023. It repeals the Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991. This Bill was initially listed for discussion in the special session of Parliament this month, before being held back. But it has sparked a big debate about the implications of this Bill, especially the provisions that removed the Supreme Court Chief Justice from the selection panel, and altered the status of the Election Commissioner – from being equivalent to a Supreme Court judge, to that of a Cabinet Secretary. 
9/28/202319 minutes, 9 seconds
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India-Canada tensions: Fallout of the Canadian PM’s allegations | Bonus Episode

Overnight- ties between India and Canada, already quite tense, took a turn for the worse- within days of returning from Delhi where he attended the G20 summit, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a startling announcement in parliament.  In this episode of Worldview, we look at the diplomatic war that has broken out between India and Canada, as Canadian PM Justin Trudeau accused the Indian government of masterminding the killing of a Khalistani separatist leader. 
9/27/202318 minutes, 11 seconds
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Why Ultra Processed Foods are deadly and how you can avoid them | In Focus podcast

A new study from Nutrition Advocacy for Public Interest (NAPI), titled The Junk Push: Rising UItra Processed Food Consumption In India: Policy, Politics and Reality, paints a grim picture of misleading marketing, rising consumption of Ultra Processed Foods (UPFs) in India, and the role of UPFs in triggering an epidemic non-communicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension, among others, with children being particularly vulnerable. To find out how to identify harmful UPFs and why they are a public health concern, we speak with Dr Arun Gupta, Convener of NAPI and former member of PM’s Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges. 
9/22/202334 minutes, 40 seconds
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Are corruption cases driven by political rivalry? | In Focus podcast Bonus episode

Recently, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) national president N. Chandrababu Naidu was arrested by the Crime Investigation Department for his alleged complicity in the ₹371-crore A.P. Skill Development Corporation ‘scam’, which reportedly took place during his term as Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister between 2014 and 2019. The TDP termed the arrest a “political vendetta” against Mr. Naidu by the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) government. The ruling party argued that there is “clinching evidence” in the case. Here we discuss whether corruption cases against politicians are driven by political rivalries.
9/20/202323 minutes, 45 seconds
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G-20 Summit: The big wins and the takeaways | Bonus episode

In this bonus episode, Suhasini Haider looks at all that the G20 Summit in India was able to achieve- the big wins, the spotlight, the shade and the seven big takeaways.
9/18/202315 minutes, 31 seconds
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What lies behind the Nipah virus outbreak in India?

The Nipah virus is back in the news. For the fourth time in five years, Kerala is battling an outbreak of Nipah. The virus, first documented in Malaysia in 1998, is zoonotic, which means it is transmitted to people from animals, in this case the animals are believed to be the fruit bats of the Pteropus species. As of September 15, six people have tested positive for Nipah virus, and two have died. A Central government team is in Kerala at present and a mobile testing lab has been set up. In infected people, the World Health Organisation says, the virus can cause a range of illnesses from asymptomatic (subclinical) infections to acute respiratory illnesses and fatal encephalitis.  But despite our many brushes with Nipah, there still remains a lot that is unknown – we still need to know more for instance, about how the virus spills over from bats to humans, and why this is happening. There’s also the growing concern of the surge in zoonotic infections across the country – scrub typhus and leptospirosis for instance, and why this is happening.
9/15/202324 minutes, 32 seconds
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Decoding the new RBI guidelines on floating rate EMIs | In Focus podcast

The RBI has issued a new circular on how banks should go about resetting interest rates on floating rate loans. Interest rates have been rising throughout this year, and customers haven’t been too happy with the way banks impose changes on their loans. But the new RBI guidelines promise to increase transparency and clarity. For one, borrowers will now be given the option to shift from a floating to a fixed rate of interest. Secondly, banks have to offer them the choice of whether they want to raise the EMI or extend the loan tenure, or do a combination of both. What prompted the RBI to come up with these new rules? How will they benefit borrowers? And will it enable more equitable information-sharing between lenders and borrowers? 
9/14/202325 minutes, 56 seconds
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What difference will the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor make?

The G20 Summit under India’s presidency last week announced the launch of the India-Middle East-Europe economic corridor. It aims to enhance connectivity and trade throughout this corridor, connecting India to Saudi Arabia and then onto Europe.  The other signatories to this proposal are the UAE, France, the EU, the US and Germany. In some quarters, this is also seen as a sort of a challenge to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. That Italy has signalled to China its keenness to exit the Asian nation’s infrastructure initiative adds to the intrigue. 
9/13/202326 minutes, 43 seconds
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US Open 2023: Predictable winners yet full of surprises

After two weeks of high octane tennis, the US Open has produced two new champions in men’s and women’s singles. Novak Djokovic has claimed a record 24th Grand Slam. And Coco Gauff has finally fulfilled her promise with a victory over the new world number 1, Aryna Sabalenka. Some of the match-ups were intriguing, and so were their outcomes – Medvedev versus Alcaraz, for instance, and also Karolina Muchova versus Coco Gauff. The tournament has also produced two new world number 1s – Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka. But how long are they likely to hold on to their perch?
9/12/202323 minutes, 29 seconds
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Is India ready for Controlled Human Infection Studies?

How do we understand how an infection affects the human body? And how do we go about the process of finding safe and effective drugs and vaccines for the many diseases that abound? One way scientists do this is through Controlled Human Infection Studies or CHIS, also known as human challenge studies. This involves deliberately exposing a volunteer to a disease-causing germ, in a controlled environment. This is done to understand the various facets of the infection and disease, and also to speed up the process of finding a cure. India has so far stayed away from such studies, because of the many ethical issues involved: the deliberate harm caused and the potential risk of exploitation since volunteers are paid for their participation, though they have been carried out in other countries. Last month however, the country’s premier medical research body, the Indian Council of Medical Research, released a consensus policy document, arguing the case to bring in human infection studies into our country. What exactly will these studies involve? Do they have any benefits over regular clinical trials? After the world saw the sudden explosion of Covid-19, is there a need for deeper, faster studies of infectious diseases especially with resistance to many drugs increasing? Does India have a robust-enough regulatory system to oversee such trials and to ensure transparency and accountability?
9/11/202337 minutes, 46 seconds
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One Nation, One Election: How feasible is it and what would be its impact? | In Focus podcast

The Union government has set up a committee headed by President Ramnath Kovind to look at various aspects of implementing the ‘one nation, one election’ plan. The broad idea is to synchronise the timing of Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections across all States. The proposal for simultaneous elections has raised many concerns. Foremost among them is the impact it will have on federalism. Then there is the question of feasibility – what happens if a state government falls, for instance? Then there are the legal aspects – what are the various constitutional amendments that would be needed, and would the states have to ratify it as well?
9/8/202332 minutes, 8 seconds
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Why did Xi Jinping decide to skip the G-20 summit?

President Xi Jinping will not be attending the G-20 summit in Delhi. Instead, Premier Li Qiang with lead the Chinese delegation. This is the first time that Xi will be missing the G-20 summit, and China has offered no explanation for why he won’t be attending. So, what is the significance of Xi skipping such a high profile international event that will also see the likes of US President Joe Biden attending? Is China trying to send a message to India? By staying away from G-20, isn’t Xi missing an opportunity to be front and centre of an important diplomatic forum?
9/7/202324 minutes, 6 seconds
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Why has attendance in Bihar government schools dipped post-pandemic? | In Focus podcast

The pandemic wasn’t kind to school children. Two years of lockdown has meant a huge setback in terms of learning outcomes. While children from privileged backgrounds could do online classes, poorer children could not. It has been reported that, post-pandemic, children from marginalised communities have even forgotten what they had learned two years earlier. Now a new research study titled ‘Where are the Kids? The Curious Case of Government Schools in Bihar’ documents the state of schooling and school children in North Bihar. The report was conducted by Jan Jagriti Shati Sangathan and is based on a survey of 81 schools in two districts. It offers revealing glimpses into the state of education in rural India. 
9/4/202331 minutes, 51 seconds
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Does the Forest Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2023 dilute protections for forests? | In Focus podcast

The Parliament has passed the Forest Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2023. This law amends the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. While the government claims that the aim of this law is to help fight climate change by promoting afforestation, conservationists have panned the Act. They say it is actually promoting deforestation. Why are environmentalists so worried about this Bill? Does it really take away existing protections afforded to forests? And why are people in the north-eastern states so concerned about this law? 
8/30/202328 minutes, 42 seconds
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Can India's One Health Mission help tackle the rising number of infectious diseases? | In Focus podcast

Over the past few years, we’ve heard the names of a lot of new diseases – we had the Zika virus, the Nipah virus and even an Ebola scare, while the coronavirus pandemic rocked the country. Scientists estimate that about 60% of all known infectious diseases are zoonotic, meaning they spread from animals to people. India has a huge population, with large numbers of livestock reared and the additional issue of climate change events such as heatwaves and floods affecting the country, make us particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases. Which is why, the concept of ‘One Health’ is now being talked about: this is an approach that recognises that the health of humans, animals, plants and their environment is interconnected, and needs a unified approach, across multiple sectors to tackle public health challenges. India’s National One Health Mission, being led by the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor, is part of its G20 health priorities. But while a holistic approach of this sort does seem to make sense, some concerns have been raised: when developing countries share material with developed countries, will they legally be able to benefit from these collaborations? How exactly will the One Health framework work out in these contexts?
8/29/202332 minutes, 13 seconds
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Decoding Praggnanandhaa’s world-beating run to the Chess World Cup final | In Focus podcast

18-year-old chess prodigy R Praggnanandhaa has finished as runner-up in the FIDE Chess World Cup held at Baku, Azerbaijan. He held world No 1 Magnus Carlsen to two consecutive draws in classical chess. The match then went to a tie-break, where Carlsen won 1.5-0.5. This is the first time since V Anand that an Indian has reached the final of the Chess World Cup, and Praggnanandhaa is the third youngest player to achieve this feat. What does this achievement mean for India? How do we rate his performance in this tournament? What is it that separates Carlsen from the rest of the field?
8/25/202328 minutes, 50 seconds
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What's behind the rising rates of childhood obesity in India? | In Focus podcast

India is staring at a strange problem: malnutrition among children has not gone away, but at the same time, there is an increasing burden of childhood obesity. Simply put, obesity happens when children eat and drink more calories than they burn off. The latest National Family Health Survey reported that 33 States and Union Territories in the country registered a spike in the number of overweight children. Changing lifestyles including diets, easy access to unhealthy food, a decrease in physical activity and perhaps and increase in screentime, may all be contributing factors to this. The problem is, doctors have said, that obesity in childhood can have long-term consequences on physical and mental health. What is obesity challenge in India? What are the health problems it can cause long-term? How much does our diet play a role? And what can parents and communities do to reverse this trend?
8/22/202327 minutes, 24 seconds
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How will the Jan Vishwas Bill impact makers of substandard drugs?

The Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill was passed in Parliament earlier this month. The government says the law will help improve ‘ease of doing business’. It will amend 183 provisions in 42 different laws. These amendments aim to eliminate imprisonment or excessive fines for minor offences. While this sounds good, the Bill has drawn criticism for the amendments it makes to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. One of the amendments is to Section 27 (d) of the Act. This change will allow for compounding of an offence by a drug manufacturer -- they can pay a fine instead of undergoing criminal proceedings. Critics say this would allow manufacturers of substandard drugs to get away lightly. They claim that this is dangerous as a drug that is not of standard quality (NSQ) could prove to be potentially lethal or lead to antibiotic resistance. Is this criticism valid? Or is this amendment a reasonable move that will aid ease of doing business in the pharma sector?
8/18/202322 minutes, 13 seconds
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Sri Lanka’s economy and the impact of the IMF bailout

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) had granted a bailout of $3 billion to Sri Lanka in March this year. The IMF had imposed nine conditions for agreeing to the bailout. Next month, the global lender will conduct its first review -- before the next tranche of funds under the bailout are released. What are the conditions that Sri Lanka has to fulfil? What has been the public response to the austerity measures that the government has had to initiate? And what success has Sri Lanka had in restructuring its bilateral debt, especially with lenders such as China?
8/17/202327 minutes, 24 seconds
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Does NEET favour wealthy, urban and CBSE board students? | Bonus episode

Doctors and MBBS students, in various fields of specialisation, across various age-groups, from diverse geographies, say they believe that while common entrance examination for medical seats is a necessity, the coaching industry skewed it in favour of urban and richer students. Unaffordability of quality coaching classes and the luxury that richer students have to drop a year to prepare for the exam, make it increasingly difficult for students from poorer and more rural backgrounds to get a seat, they said. In this episode of Vital Signs, The Hindu Data Team speaks to various stakeholders in the medical field to understand the issues plaguing India’s medical education, over the years. 
8/16/202354 minutes, 21 seconds
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How will the import restrictions on laptops and tablets affect India?

On August 3, the Indian government brought in import restrictions for laptops, tablets and servers. The import of these products would be allowed against a valid licence for restricted imports. Following some strong reactions from industry, it has deferred the effective date to Nov 1.  But to begin with, what did the government aim to achieve with these curbs? Shore up national security by having tight controls over whom we import from? Or nudge local manufacturing and thus spur job creation?
8/14/202325 minutes, 37 seconds
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The worms that came alive after 46,000 years

It sounds like a science fiction movie, but it’s all real: scientists managed to revive a pair of roundworms that had been buried deep in the Siberian permafrost 46,000 years ago. The roundworms, called nematodes, were thawed in a lab and came alive again, reproduced several generations, and then died. These nematodes first existed when the woolly mammoths did, managed to survive in the harshest of frozen conditions, and then, from a state of suspended animation, that scientists call cryptobiosis, began life again, crawling about in a lab. A paper on this was published recently in the scientific journal PLOS Genetics. Does this mean, that technically, life can be paused for thousands of years and then restarted? That organisms can exist in a state between life and death indefinitely? If the roundworms came alive again, can other microorganisms and pathogens do that too, especially since the Siberian permafrost is melting, and can these microbes cause new diseases?
8/11/202324 minutes, 11 seconds
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Decoding the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023

The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2023 has been passed in both houses of the Parliament. The Bill has gone through many versions. Despite this, the version that has been passed has left most independent data privacy experts disappointed. It has come in for even more criticism from Right to Information (RTI) activists, who have charged that the Bill amends the RTI Act, 2005 and weakens it. So, how well does the Bill really fare on the basic metric of protecting a user’s personal data? And where does it fall short? Is there a danger of democratic backsliding with this Bill, like many are saying, or is that an overblown criticism?
8/10/202348 minutes, 34 seconds
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What would it take for D Gukesh to crack the 2800 barrier in chess? | In Focus podcast

Seventeen-year-old grandmaster D Gukesh has become the highest-rated Indian player in FIDE rankings. He shot past his idol Viswanathan Anand when he defeated Azerbaijan’s Misratdin Iskandarov in the ongoing World Cup in Baku. With this victory, Gukesh’s live rating went up to 2755.9, higher than Anand’s 2754. As Gukesh climbed up to become world No. 9, Anand slipped to the 10th spot. This is a big departure as Anand has been India’s top-ranked player since 1987 – a period of 36 years. Now Gukesh has set his sights on getting his Elo rating past the 2800 mark – a feat achieved by only 14 players in the history of the sport. To find out more about the rise of Gukesh and what it means for Indian chess, we speak with Rakesh Rao, Deputy Editor (Sports) at The Hindu. 
8/9/202328 minutes, 31 seconds
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Bonus Episode - How Shinzo Abe changed Japan and its relations with India

In this episode, we are discussing the new book “The Importance of Shinzo Abe: India, Japan and the Indo-Pacific”, a collection of essays, edited by Sanjaya Baru, examining the legacy of the former Japanese leader who was the country’s longest serving Prime Minister in history. Abe stepped down in 2020 citing health reasons, and his shock assassination in 2022 stunned the world. In this podcast, we discuss Abe’s impact on Japan, its relations with India and the world. How did Abe transform Japan’s security profile? What role did he play in the region embracing an Indo-Pacific strategy? Beyond his undeniable global role, what were some of the darker aspects of his legacy at home?
8/8/202330 minutes, 1 second
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How will age-based certification for movies brought in by the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023 work? | In Focus podcast

The Rajya Sabha on July 27 passed the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023. This bill, among other things, brings in age-based certification for films and stringent penalties for piracy. It also provides for separate certification for the exhibition of films on TV and ‘other media’ So, what was the need for these changes to the Cinematograph Act, 1952? How will the age-based certification work and would it be in consonance with the age-based ratings in other countries? And how significant are the new provisions against piracy? 
8/4/202326 minutes, 30 seconds
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The problem of substandard drugs in India

Last month, the Lok Sabha passed a Bill that was aimed at improving the ease of doing business in India. This Jan Vishwas Bill, passed by the Rajya Sabha, this month brought in amendments to 42 different laws, including amendments to two sections of The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. These drug law changes have sparked a controversy: health activists have said that it essentially decriminalises the manufacture of drugs that are not of standard quality, allowing manufacturers to get away with a fine, with no imprisonment. The quality of drugs in India, has already been under scrutiny, with the recent deaths of dozens of children in at least two countries, Gambia and Uzbekistan, being linked to contaminated cough syrups manufactured in India. But while such cases of adulterated drugs can attract penal provisions, the bigger problem of substandard drugs that may not work effectively on a patient, potentially making the patient worse, are not dealt with stringently. This is a huge problem, say experts as the Indian pharmaceutical industry, estimated to be worth about USD 41 billion, is one of the largest in the world and provides drugs to a number of developing countries.  How will this recent amendment affect drug laws and pharmacies in India? How do drugs that are not of standard quality affect the human body? What is the problem with the drug regulatory mechanism in our country? 
8/3/202328 minutes, 41 seconds
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Decoding the new Israeli law that limits the Supreme Court’s power

On July 24, Israel’s coalition government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu passed a key part of its proposed judicial reforms. The reforms, which essentially aim to give the executive control over the judiciary, had sparked massive protests both inside and outside the Knesset. The Opposition staged a walkout when the Bill came up for vote, and it was passed with 64 votes in favour and zero against, in the 124-member assembly. So, what does the Bill that was passed mean for Israel’s judiciary? What other proposals are under consideration in the judicial reform package? Is Israeli democracy under threat, as critics of judicial reform say?
8/2/202336 minutes, 8 seconds
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Decoding Rajasthan’s Right to Minimum Guaranteed Income Bill, 2023

The Rajasthan government on July 21 passed the Right to Minimum Guaranteed Income Bill, 2023, a legislation that has been hailed as a ‘historic’ step towards the fulfilment of a state’s social security obligations towards citizens. The Bill has three key elements: a right to guaranteed employment, right to a minimum guaranteed income – which is not to be confused with a minimum income guarantee, or what is known as Universal Basic Income or UBI – and a right to guaranteed minimum social security pension. Rajasthan already has a MGNREGA-based employment scheme and other welfare schemes going. So what was the need for a law like this? Is this an example of what Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to as ‘revdi’? And how will the Rajasthan government raise the resources for what is evidently a rights-based welfare measure?
7/28/202328 minutes, 46 seconds
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Behind the rapid rise and mysterious disappearance of China’s Foreign Minister | In Focus podcast

President Xi Jinping has dismissed Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang after just seven months in office. Qin has been replaced by former Foreign Minister Wang Yi. This development comes a month after Qin disappeared mysteriously from public view, sparking feverish speculations about his fate. A career diplomat, Qin rose rapidly through the ranks, and was seen as close to President Xi Jinping. In March this year, he was made a State Councillor, a very senior post, and one that he stills holds. Then what explains his sudden disappearance, and now, his sacking? 
7/27/202323 minutes, 34 seconds
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Manipur conflict: What would it take to restore normalcy?

There has been extreme civil strife in Manipur for nearly three months. Two major ethnic groups – the Valley-dwelling Meiteis and the hill-dwelling Kukis – seem to have completely lost even the bare minimum of mutual trust essential to co-exist peacefully. The barbaric sexual assault of Kuki-Zomi women on May 4, a viral video of which emerged recently, brought to national consciousness the depth, scale and toxicity of the violence in Manipur. While the state government has failed to ensure basic law and order, the larger question remains: is the problem purely one of law and order any longer? Can peace be restored without addressing the underlying ethnic tensions? Is the internet ban – slightly loosened -- helping or making things worse? What has been the fallout of this ethnic conflict in neighbouring states?
7/26/202326 minutes, 10 seconds
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Drinking in moderation is good for the health: myth or fact? | In Focus podcast

It’s World Hepatitis Day this week, on July 28, and perhaps an apt time to look at conditions associated with the liver. One of the first things that comes to mind is alcohol and the liver. Across the world, people have believed for decades now that a moderate amount of alcohol consumption may be good for you – that it could potentially protect you against heart disease. A study published earlier this year, however, by Canadian researchers, disputes this. The analysis, of more than 100 studies covering about 4.8 million people pointed out that all the older studies, which linked moderate alcohol use with better health, had failed to take into consideration, the fact that moderate drinkers had other healthy habits – they were more likely to exercise and had better diets. Once this was corrected for, the researchers said the health benefits of drinking, dramatically decrease. The finding ties in with the World Health Organisation’s warning early this year that when it comes to alcohol consumption, there is no safe amount that does not affect health. What does the latest research into alcohol conclusively point to? How does India fare when it comes to alcohol and liver disease? Can any amount of drinking be considered safe?
7/25/202327 minutes, 28 seconds
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How legal are live-in relationships in India?

While still frowned upon in most parts of the country, live-in relationships are becoming increasingly common. Couples can choose not to get married for a number of reasons and still stay together, share a household and possibly children. So how legal are these relationships in India?  In a recent judgement, the Allahabad High Court refused to grant protection to an inter-faith couple in a live-in relationship and even stressed upon the need to create awareness about the emotional and societal pressures and legal hassles that may be created through such relationships. The Supreme Court however, over the years, has recognised the personal liberty of individuals involved, and, in a number of judgements conferred certain rights – for instance, live-in relationships can be covered under the protection from domestic violence law. But what happens in the case of separations, alimony and children? Are these protections available to same sex and queer couples? With the increasing harassment faced by inter-caste and inter-religious couples in the country, where even getting married has become challenging, do live-in relationships require more legal security?
7/24/202322 minutes, 1 second
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Why did the US take a U-turn on cluster munitions and offer them to Ukraine? | In Focus podcast

The Biden administration has taken a decision to provide Ukraine with cluster munitions as part of military aid for its ongoing war with Russia. This has evoked concern among human rights watchdogs, as cluster munitions are known to be a deadly cause of civilian casualties. More than 120 countries have signed a treaty that bans the production, use, stockpiling or transfer of cluster munitions. As it turns out, neither the US, nor Ukraine nor Russia are signatories of this convention. The US, however, does have a domestic law that bans the use, production or transfer of cluster munitions with a ‘dud rate’ above 1%. The dud rate of the cluster munitions being given to Ukraine, according to the State Department, is 2.35%, which is still above the 1% cap. So, what exactly are cluster munitions? What has prompted the US to offer them to Ukraine? And can they help Ukraine gain a decisive breakthrough in the war? 
7/21/202328 minutes, 23 seconds
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Why are state governments complaining about denial of food grains under OMSS? | In Focus podcast

Last month, the Union government stopped the sale of rice and wheat from the Central pool under the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS). This has provoked sharp reactions from state governments led by Opposition parties, especially Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, who have accused the Centre of “playing politics” and of being “anti-poor”. State such as Tamil Nadu, which have a universal Public Distribution System (PDS), have utilised the OMSS route to procure additional food grains over and above what they get from the Centre under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). Now, the Congress government in Karnataka, which had promised additional 5 kg of food grains under its Anna Bhagya scheme, has said that because of the Centre’s refusal to provide food grains under OMSS, it will provide cash transfers equivalent to the price of those food grains. So, why exactly has the Union government put an end to state governments sourcing grains under the OMSS? Is it to curb inflation, as it claims? And is there a case for OMSS to be made available once again for state governments? 
7/19/202330 minutes, 47 seconds
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Is the food price rise making our diets unhealthy? | In Focus podcast

Every headline over the past few weeks has been of the staggering rise in prices of not just tomatoes, but also of potatoes, onions, rice, wheat, tur dal and milk. The steep hike in prices is affecting residents across the country, changing the amount of food we can afford to buy, what we cook and what we put on our plates and finally eat. Nutritionists and doctors have long called for healthy diets: combining an adequate amount of carbohydrates, fats, proteins to keep our bodies fit and healthy, to ward away diseases and to prevent non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. The cost of fruits, meats and fish, sources of fibre, protein and other nutrients have always been high in our country, but when the price of basic vegetables also shoots up, what happens to our diets? How does an increase in food prices affect how healthy are diets are? Do we eat more unhealthily when foods are more expensive? Why are healthy foods so expensive? And do our food policies need an urgent rethinking to make them more affordable?
7/14/202330 minutes, 17 seconds
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World Snake Day: Why is India still the snake bite capital of the world?

July 16 is World Snake Day. When you have a day dedicated to something, it typically denotes a call to care for, or draw attention to, the welfare of the entity to which the day is dedicated. That’s how it is with Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and so on. But with World Snake Day, things get a little complicated, as the first thing that comes to mind when you mention ‘snakes’ is the fear of snake bites, and the fact that India is the snake-bite capital of the world. So we tend to forget that snakes are also part of wildlife, and discussions about the importance conserving snake species tends to take a backseat. It is estimated that out of the 78,000-100,000 snake bites that occur every year globally, the vast majority – about 64,000 – happen in India. The snake bite is a public health issue in India. At the same time, it is a marker of high human-snake conflict. In this episode, on the eve of World Snake Day, we take a closer look at the human-snake conflict, what has India been doing to bring down snake-bite fatalities, what role snakes play in India’s bio-diversity and why they need to be protected. We speak with Sumanth Bindumadhav, Director of the Wildlife Department at Humane Society International, India.
7/13/202326 minutes, 9 seconds
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How will the government’s Green Credit Programme work? | In Focus podcast

The Union environment ministry has notified draft rules for implementation of a Green Credit Programme (GCP). The programme aims to create a market-based mechanism for incentivising “voluntary environmental actions” by individuals, urban local bodies, communities and the private sector. The draft is now in the public domain for suggestions and objections, for a period of 60 days, after which it will be finalised. Under this programme, certain activities will earn green credits, which can also be traded – that is, bought and sold – on a trading platform. So, how will this Green Credit Programme actually work? What activities qualify for green credits? And will the institutionalisation of green credits result in forests being viewed as fungible assets - just like any money or any commercial paper, when they actually are not?
7/11/202326 minutes, 16 seconds
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Out of the 2023 World Cup: What’s behind the decline of the Calypso Kings?

For the first time in the 48-year history of ODI world cups, the West Indies will be missing from the tournament. The champions of the first two editions, in 1975 and 1979, and the 1983 runner-ups, have failed to qualify for the 13th edition of the World Cup set to take place in India later this year. In the World Cup qualifiers, they lost to Scotland in the Super Six stage of the tournament, which put them out of the reckoning. While the West Indies’ cricketing decline has been evident for some time, this failure to make it to the World Cup, a tournament they once dominated, marks a new low. What are the factors behind this decline? Is it due to mismanagement of the sport, or is it that the country has stopped producing good talent? Is there any chance of this downward spiral getting reversed?
7/10/202324 minutes, 4 seconds
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What lies ahead for GST in India? | In Focus podcast

July 1 this year marked the 6th year since the Goods and Services Tax was implemented. The average monthly collection in the first year was sub-₹1 lakh crore. Now, the government expects ₹1.5 lakh crore to be the norm, with its eye ₹2 lakh crore for the near future. At the start, there were several changes that naysayers felt made compliance difficult. Others said these were necessary prerequisites for a smooth run later. Pratik Jain, Partner and National Leader for Indirect Tax in PwC India joins us today to share his perspectives on how the 6-year run has been and what the road ahead looks like.
7/7/202323 minutes, 11 seconds
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Is ‘highway hypnosis’ a cause for concern on Indian roads? | In Focus podcast

The recent bus accident on the Nagpur-Mumbai Samruddhi Expressway that left 25 people dead after the bus hit an iron pole and caught fire, has once again thrown the spotlight on road accidents in India. Our country has one of the highest numbers of road crash deaths and injuries in the world. In 2021, India saw over 4 lakh road accidents that killed over 1.5 lakh people. What is tragic, is that the majority of these deaths and injuries occur in young persons, generally those in the 18 to 45 age group. Highways of course do not account for all road accidents, but they do account for a major proportion of deaths. One media report states on the Samruddhi Expressway alone, 616 accidents have occurred since it was opened just six-odd months ago, killing 88 people and leaving over 600 injured. Why are our highways so unsafe? Is 'highway hypnosis' a phenomenon that affects drivers a cause for concern on Indian roads? How do road design and engineering, the speeds at which vehicles are driven and driver education play into safety on our roads? With even more highways and expressways being built, how can the country improve its road safety track record?
7/6/202323 minutes
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2023 Wimbledon Preview: Who are the contenders capable of stopping Djokovic? | In Focus podcast

Can Novak Djokovic win a record 24th Grand Slam title? This question is one of the central themes of the 2023 Wimbledon championship. If the Serb manages to do it, not only will be equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slams – the highest across both genders – he will also equal Roger Federer’s men’s record of eight Wimbledon titles. And with Nadal out of the picture for the rest of the year, he will be on track for a calendar Grand Slam and perhaps put to rest the GOAT debate once and for all. But how much of a favourite is Djokovic this year? What are the chances of the new world number 1 Carlos Alcaraz? And who are the favourites in the women’s draw?
7/5/202325 minutes, 35 seconds
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How Chinese investments are returning to India | In Focus podcast

In this podcast, we look at the state of play three years after India put in place sweeping curbs on inflows of Chinese investments into India. Official data shows investments from China are slowly returning through new avenues and ventures, with New Delhi welcoming investments in some sectors such as manufacturing but remaining wary about others where data and security concerns are involved. How are Chinese companies working around the curbs on investment? Have the curbs on Chinese investment ended up making investments more opaque with a rise in investments through third countries? What are the implications for regulation and security?
7/4/202321 minutes, 40 seconds
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Has the Bhadralok intellectual culture in Bengal faded? | In Focus podcast Bonus Episode

The intellectual class of West Bengal, euphemistically termed the Bhadralok, has long held a pivotal role in shaping culture, politics and policy in the State. From producing timeless cinema to dominating political power to setting policies on welfare, reforms and state interventions, this segment of Bengali society performed an outsized role. But all indications are that its influence is fading quickly in the State and beyond. Surajit Chandra Mukhopadhyay and Sandip Roy ponder the relevance of the Bhadralok in a discussion moderated by Shiv Sahay Singh
6/30/202334 minutes, 31 seconds
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How does extreme heat affect our body? | In Focus podcast

India has faced record-breaking temperatures this summer. The punishing heatwave across large parts of our country has killed dozens of people already, and while exact numbers remain controversial, the fact remains that heatwaves are becoming far more frequent, lasting for longer, and, as a consequence affecting more people. A large section of our population works out of doors for most of the year, and is exposed to high temperatures; this is combined with the fact that many people in our country cannot afford cooling mechanisms such as fans and air-conditioners, leaving them vulnerable to the searing heat. While we know that climate change is responsible for the increasing number of heatwaves, and the increased number of hot days per year what exactly does extreme heat do to our body? What are the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke? What can individuals do to protect themselves?
6/29/202323 minutes, 17 seconds
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The meaning of the Wagner Group's march | The Hindu In Focus Podcast

On June 24, the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war took a surprising turn as Russia’s Wagner Private Military Company, a paramilitary organisation, rebelled against the Russian establishment led by Vladimir Putin. The rebellion led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Wagner, claimed control over Russia’s Southern Military District headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, a city near the Ukrainian border and then began a march towards Moscow. Mr. Prigozhin claimed it was a march for justice, alleging mistreatment by Russia's military establishment. The Wagner Group is a mercenary organisation that was involved in Russia’s annexation of Crimea and has operations in Africa and West Asia. The attempted coup, however, melted away after negotiations that involved Belarus. In this episode we try to understand the import of these events, what it means to the Russia-Ukraine war and to Putin himself.
6/27/202325 minutes, 10 seconds
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Why does India have such high diabetes numbers? | In Focus podcast

An India-wide study on the prevalence of diabetes and pre-diabetes, results of which were released recently, threw up some startling results: 10.13 crore people in our country of 140 crore could be diabetic, and another 13.6 crore are estimated to be at the pre-diabetic stage. The study was conducted by the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the Union Health Ministry. Apart from diabetes, the study also revealed that 35.5% of Indians suffer from hypertension, while nearly 40% of the population has abdominal obesity. Uttar Pradesh had the lowest prevalence of diabetes at 4% while Goa had the highest at 26.4%, closely followed by Puducherry and Kerala. What does the rural-urban divide in the diabetes numbers tell us? How can these high numbers in diabetes be tackled by States? How much of a role does our diet play and what can individuals do?
6/15/202338 minutes, 12 seconds
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Will the govt’s new anti-tobacco messaging mandate ruin your OTT experience? | In Focus podcast

On May 31st, the Union Health Ministry issued a notification making it mandatory for over-the-top (OTT) streaming platforms to display anti-tobacco warnings as seen in movies screened in theatres and on TV. The notification amended the rules under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2004. The OTT industry is quite upset with this move for various reasons, not the least of them being that it was not consulted. Critics have said that this move could disrupt the audience’s viewing experience, throttle creativity, and is an act of overkill that infringes on the right to freedom of expression. So, what prompted this move? Does the inclusion of anti-tobacco messages in the middle of OTT content really make a difference? Is it practically feasible for OTT platforms and producers to incorporate anti-tobacco messages before a movie, in the middle of one, and every time a shot of tobacco consumption comes up?
6/14/202325 minutes, 41 seconds
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What does the Ariha Shah case tell us about child care laws in India and abroad? | In Focus podcast

Over the past few weeks, there have been news headlines about Ariha Shah, a child of Indian parents, who was taken away by child care authorities in Germany after she had been hospitalised for an accidental injury. Despite no charges being filed against the parents, the baby was not returned to them. A diplomatic spat has now broken out between New Delhi and Berlin, and 59 Parliamentarians from 19 political parties have now written to the German Ambassador in India, asking for the child to be brought back to India. The case has echoes of the 2011 Sagarika Chakraborty case in Norway, recently made into the Rani Mukherjee-starring movie, Mrs. Chatterjee vs Norway. It also throws up questions about whether child protection services in Europe differ from those in India in their mechanisms.
6/13/202332 minutes, 25 seconds
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What does RBI’s current monetary policy mean for India’s economy? | In Focus podcast

The RBI's Monetary Policy Committee decided to continue to retain the benchmark interest rate at 6.5%. Its estimate for inflation in FY24 is at 5.1% which is lower than the upper tolerance limit of 6% but still higher than the desired midpoint level of 4%.  Given the RBI's, and other central banks', hawkish view on rates, where does India's economy stand? Would the impetus for economic growth have to come from an accommodative fiscal policy?
6/12/202324 minutes, 53 seconds
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Cheetah Translocation Project: Why did three of the four cheetah cubs die? | In Focus podcast

India’s ambitious cheetah relocation project got a shot in the arm when one of the translocated females gave birth to four cubs in March. These were the first cheetah cubs to be born in India since the species went extinct in the country 70 years ago. But in an unfortunate turn of events, three out of the four cubs have died, and the fourth one, also reported to be very weak, is under close medical monitoring. The Environment Ministry in a press release has claimed that the survival rate of cheetah cubs is only 10%. Does that mean that the deaths of the three cheetah cubs were along expected lines? Shouldn’t the survival rate be higher in the absence of predators? What are the various factors that could have a bearing on the survival of cheetah cubs? 
6/9/202328 minutes, 13 seconds
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What does the GDP growth rate of 7.2% mean in terms of health of the economy? | In Focus podcast

The government of India has always claimed that India is the fastest growing economy in the world. The latest GDP numbers would seem to buttress that claim. On the back of a fourth quarter growth of 6.1%, the GDP growth for the financial year 2022-23 has been recorded at 7.2%, which is much higher than the earlier RBI projection of 6.8%. On the one hand, this is good news, and of course, good optics. On the other hand, critics have expressed scepticism about the methodology used to arrive at the estimate of 7.2%. They also point out that if we take an average of the three years from the last pre-pandemic year, the economy has only grown at an average of 3.2%, the infamous ‘Hindu rate of growth’. So, what do we really make of the GDP numbers in terms of the health of the economy? What are the concerns about the methodology followed in its calculation? How do they tally with other indicators such as growth in employment and manufacturing output?
6/8/202331 minutes, 40 seconds
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Is there a clear north-south divide in Indian politics? | In Focus podcast Bonus Episode

After its loss in the recent Assembly elections in Karnataka, the Bharatiya Janata Party is left with no State government in south India. It is part of an alliance in the Union Territory of Puducherry. The governments of the five States of the south are led by different parties — the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kerala, the YSR Congress Party in Andhra Pradesh, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi in Telangana, and the Congress in Karnataka. This is not a new trend; the south has rarely followed the electoral trend set by the north. In the 1977 Lok Sabha elections, while the Congress was wiped out in the Hindi heartland, it continued to hold onto its seats in the south. Similarly, in the last nine years, even at the peak of its popularity the BJP has been unable to breach the southern fortress as convincingly as it would like to. Is there a north-south divide in politics? Here we discuss the question.
6/7/202332 minutes, 7 seconds
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Account aggregator framework and concerns around privacy of personal financial data: Part 2 | In Focus podcast

Of late there has been a lot of buzz around what’s known as the Account Aggregator ecosystem or framework. It’s a form of ‘open banking’ that has emerged with the blessings of the RBI and, according to analysts, could transform the financial services industry by making it easy for consumers to give their consent to sharing their personal financial data with different service providers. Although it’s still early days, there are about ten Account Aggregators in operation, with an estimated 7.7 million citizen accounts linked with the various account aggregators. In Part 1 of this podcast, we looked at what Account Aggregators are, what led to their emergence, and how they work. In the second part of this two-part podcast, we look at how the account aggregator framework will deal with data privacy aspects such as purpose limitation and duration of consent validity, potential for exclusion due to algorithmic credit allocation, regulatory mechanisms for grievance redressal.
6/5/202331 minutes, 20 seconds
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Account aggregator framework and how can it help you: Part 1 | In Focus podcast

Of late there has been a lot of buzz around what’s known as the Account Aggregator ecosystem or framework. It’s a form of ‘open banking’ that has emerged with the blessings of the RBI and, according to analysts, could transform the financial services industry by making it easy for consumers to give their consent to sharing their personal financial data with different service providers. Although it’s still early days, there are about ten Account Aggregators in operation, with an estimated 7.7 million citizen accounts linked with the various account aggregators. So how do account aggregators work? Who will benefit the most from this new ecosystem? What are the concerns about privacy and fraud? We explore all these aspects in a two-part podcast with two experts. In this episode, we look at what Account Aggregators are, what led to their emergence, and how they work.
6/2/202325 minutes, 47 seconds
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What are OTT aggregators and what can they do for you? | In Focus podcast

The rise of OTT platforms have transformed the entertainment market the world over. At present, there are 50 to 60 OTT streaming platforms operating in India, presenting the consumer with a bewildering array of entertainment options to choose from. In this scenario, a new breed of players is emerging in India: the OTT aggregator. Platforms such as OTTPlay, YuppTV Scope, and Tata Play Binge are bundling multiple OTT offerings in a single place, promising ease of selection and cost savings for the end user. But how reliable are these OTT aggregators? How robust is their value proposition? And are there any scams going on in this space that consumers need to be wary of? 
5/30/202326 minutes, 19 seconds
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What lies behind India’s missing wombs problem? | In Focus podcast

Last month, the Supreme Court directed all States and Union Territories in the country to follow guidelines formulated by the Union Health Ministry to monitor “unnecessary” hysterectomies being performed. A hysterectomy is a surgical procedure to remove a woman’s uterus, and sometimes, the surrounding organs and tissues.  The PIL petition that the Supreme Court acted on, was filed in 2013 by Dr Narendra Gupta, a public health activist, who, found during his work in Rajasthan, that many women, primarily those from Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Other Backward Communities, who were still in their twenties and thirties, had undergone hysterectomies after being told that this was the only option they had to deal with the gynaecological problem they had come in with. Reports from multiple parts of India have indicated that is a widespread problem. Economically disadvantaged women sometimes feel coerced into getting their uterus removed so that they continue to work through the month without the problem of menstrual bleeding and pain, lack of hygiene and sanitation contributes to gynaecological problems and money for the surgery often leads to debt. On the other side, are some hospitals that perform a large number of these surgeries. What do the Supreme Court’s guidelines now mandate? Is women’s health not given enough priority in India? How can the issue of missing wombs be comprehensively dealt with?
5/29/202337 minutes, 7 seconds
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Should states revert to the Old Pension Scheme? | In Focus podcast Bonus Episode

The National Pension Scheme (NPS) was launched in 2004. While the older pension scheme offered defined benefits to all government employees without any contribution on their part, the NPS requires employees to contribute a sum throughout their working years. Almost two decades after the NPS came into effect, several States are switching back to the Old Pension Scheme (OPS). Earlier this year, the Central government set up a committee under the leadership of the Finance Secretary to review the working of the NPS and evolve an approach that addresses the needs of government employees while maintaining fiscal prudence. Here we discuss whether States should return to the OPS.
5/26/202333 minutes, 39 seconds
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What will be the impact of Russia’s capture of Bakhmut? | In Focus podcast

On May 20th, Russian forces managed to take control over the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. The ‘battle of aBakhmut’, which has been raging for nine months, has seen some of the bloodiest fighting in Europe since World War 2. With Ukraine investing a lot of its resources in defending the city, the fight for it took on a symbolic significance. In his speech to the U.S. Congress last year, President Volodymyr Zelensky even compared it to the decisive battle of Saratoga in the American war of independence. But now, thanks primarily to the Wagner Group, Bakhmut is in Russian hands. What are the strategic implications of the ‘fall’, so to speak, of Bakhmut? Is it a pyrrhic victory for the Russians, as Ukraine and western observers seem to suggest? Whose forces have been degraded more by this long-drawn battle of attrition?
5/25/202330 minutes, 18 seconds
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Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023: Does it aim for climate mitigation at the expense of biodiversity, forest rights? | In Focus podcast

The Central government introduced the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill, 2023 in the Lok Sabha on March 29th this year. Generally speaking, the Bill exempts certain types of forest land from the protection afforded by the Act. It also expands the list of activities that can be carried out on forest land. Both these aspects have drawn an outcry from conservationists and environmentalists, who are saying that the amendment opens the doors for commercial exploitation of lands that were hitherto protected under this Act. The government has also not inspired much confidence regarding its intentions by sending the Bill to a Select committee of Parliament instead of referring it to the Standing committee on science, technology, environment, and forest for scrutiny. With the Parliamentary committee now accepting submissions on the Bill, there is renewed debate on its provisions and what they mean for India’s forests. Will this Bill safeguard India’s already depleted forests or does it dilute the protections? 
5/24/202334 minutes, 9 seconds
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French Open 2023 Preview: Who will make the most of Nadal’s absence? | In Focus podcast

This year’s French Open, which is starting on May 28th, will take place in the looming shadow of 14-time champion Rafael Nadal’s absence. It is also expected that this year could finally mark the long overdue transition in men’s tennis – from the domination of the Big Three of Nadal, Federer and Djokovic, to the next generation of players led by the likes of Carlos Alcaraz, Holger Rune and Jannik Sinner. On the women’s side, defending champion Iga Swiatek is under an injury cloud – though its reportedly not serious -- and it’s a typically open field, defined by a growing rivalry between this year’s Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka and Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina. It is also possible that we could see a completely new women’s Grand Slam champion at Roland Garros this time. Who are favourites? Who are the dark horses? And can Djokovic take advantage of Nadal’s absence to notch up a record 23rd Grand Slam? 
5/23/202321 minutes, 40 seconds
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All you need to know about Long Covid in India | In Focus podcast

Even before the World Health Organisation announced this month that the Covid-19 pandemic no longer constituted a global emergency, the pandemic had begun to slowly fade from public memory. For some people however, health issues from the viral infection remain even months since they first contracted the infection: long Covid continues to haunt hundreds of people in the country. Long Covid has a wide variety of symptoms, often not easy to diagnose, potentially leaving many not even realising they have it or not knowing whom to seek help from.  What is long Covid? How, and in whom, does it manifest? Now that the pandemic is no longer an emergency, what can be done to better understand and treat people with it in India?
5/22/202326 minutes, 55 seconds
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What to expect from the Turkey Presidential run-off on May 28 | In Focus podcast

Turkey’s high-stakes presidential elections are headed for a run-off. None of the candidates could cross the 50% mark needed to win the presidency in the first round, which took place on May 14. Now the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) will face each other once again on May 28. In the elections held last Sunday, Erdogan confounded pollsters – who had given the edge to Kilicdaroglu – by winning 49.51% of the vote, while Kilicdaroglu finished with 44.89%. The third candidate, Sinan Ogan of the right-wing nationalist ATA Alliance, secured 5.17% of the vote. He could play kingmaker ahead of the run-off. Meanwhile, in the Parliamentary polls, which also happened simultaneously, Erdogan’s party, the AKP secured a majority for its alliance with 266 seats, while the CHP managed 166 seats in the 600-member House. Who is the favourite as the country heads for the run-off? Who is the kingmaker Ogan likely to back? And how did Erdogan, despite public anger over his regime’s inept response to the February earthquake and a worsening cost-of-living crisis, manage to do so well? 
5/18/202330 minutes, 3 seconds
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Decoding the Karnataka election results | In Focus podcast

The Congress has returned to power in Karnataka with an emphatic victory. It has won 135 seats – more than double the BJP’s tally – and has increased its vote share by 5% from the last Assembly poll. While the BJP held on to its vote share, its seat share fell by one-third. All the high decibel campaigning by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah proved to be inadequate. How did the Congress manage to secure this victory? What were the main issues that decided the elections? And what does this poll result mean for the big Assembly elections that are due later this year, and of course the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
5/16/202339 minutes, 37 seconds
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Rajeev Bhargava on how the Constitution of India represents the distilled wisdom of the founders of the nation | In Focus podcast Bonus Episode

We are living through an era of immense political and social turmoil. People have thought the same in many past eras too. But still, the enormity of the present is something that we cannot overlook. Assumptions about our collective self that evolved over decades have been challenged, and we seem to be in the search for alternative organizing principles. This is true for India, as is for the whole world. Professor Bhargava’s writings in the recent years, seek to address some fundamental questions about how we see ourselves and relate to one another. For Professor Bhargava, the Constitution of India represents the distilled wisdom of the founders of the nation. And it offers a moral compass as well as the institutional framework to create what we call Unity in diversity.  In this episode, we are joined by Rajeev Bhargava who is one of the finest thinkers and political philosophers of our time. He is familiar to the readers of the Hindu, as a regular writer in our op-ed pages.  We discuss with Professor Bhargava his faith in the Constitution, which he considers sacred and why he remains optimistic, regardless of the sectarianism that surrounds us all. 
5/15/20231 hour, 9 minutes, 24 seconds
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What WHO's announcement on COVID-19 no longer being a public health concern means | In Focus podcast

The recent announcement from the World Health Organization that COVID-19 would no longer be considered a public health emergency of international concern sort of threw a spanner in the works.  Was this a message of hope? Is it true that COVID is really over? What about vaccination or masking? The questions were aplenty. Today we have with us Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, former chief scientist of the WHO and present chairperson of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation in Chennai, to bring some clarity to the issue.
5/12/202332 minutes, 34 seconds
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Delhi’s G-20 Demolitions: Are the state authorities following established law and procedures? | In Focus podcast

Delhi has been witnessing a series of demolition drives of working class neighbourhoods. These demolitions are being carried out as part of a ‘beautification’ drive ahead of the G-20 Summit in Delhi in September this year. Places where citizens’ homes were reduced to rubble included neighbourhoods in Mehrauli and Ghosiya Colony, Tughlaqabad, Kashmere Gate, and Moolchand Basti at Rajghat. Residents whose homes were destroyed have alleged that demolitions were carried out in complete violation of laws and rules that regulate demolitions and evictions. Many have said that eviction notices were only served as the bull dozers were rolling into their street. What are the laws that govern demolitions and evictions in Delhi? Did the municipal authorities follow them? How did the evictions affect livelihoods and the lives of children? 
5/11/202326 minutes, 33 seconds
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What is behind the eruption of communal violence in Manipur? | In Focus podcast

About 60 have been killed, more than 230 injured, and thousands have been displaced following inter-ethnic clashes in Manipur. According to the state government, around 1,700 houses, including religious places, were burnt. The clashes followed months of mounting tensions over successive measures by the Manipur government that the state’s tribal groups believe to be against their interests. The immediate trigger for the conflict seemed to be an order of the Manipur High Court directing the State government to submit its recommendation -- to include the state’s majority Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes list – to the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry by May 29. On May 3, as the All Tribal Students’ Union (ATSU), organised a ‘solidarity march’ to protest against this move, violence broke out, and spread to different parts of the state. So, what are the issues behind the communal clashes rocking the state? What are the moves by the state government that have proved controversial among the tribal populations? And what possible steps could lead to the restoration of peace in the state?
5/10/202335 minutes, 15 seconds
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What does the recent Supreme Court ruling mean for divorce laws in the country? | In Focus podcast

The divorce rate in India is about 1.1 per cent, one of the lowest in the world. Census 2011 figures however, show that the population that is ‘separated’ for various reasons, is almost triple the divorced number. On May 1, the Supreme Court held that it could grant divorce by mutual consent and spare couples the “misery” of having to wait usual period of six to 18 months. This was done under Article 142 of the Constitution, which gives the Supreme Court the power to use any means to render “complete justice” between parties. So what does this judgement mean for divorce laws in the country? Will it set a precedent for lower courts to do away with the mandatory period as well? Why did the Court say that would not be a matter of right but of discretion, to be exercised with care and caution?
5/9/202322 minutes, 20 seconds
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The prospects of Narendra Modi and the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections | In Focus podcast

India, it would appear, is in perpetual election mode. Every State Assembly election, analysts believe, will tell us about the mood of the people as the country moves towards the big one – the Lok Sabha elections in 2024.  Will Narendra Modi be able to grab a third term as Prime Minister? Does the Opposition have enough to see it across the finish line in 2024? Is the conviction and disqualification of Rahul Gandhi as a member of Parliament a turning point for the Opposition? Does the Congress reaching out to AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal carry political meaning? What about the noises emanating from within the NCP – will the Opposition alliance hold firm till 2024 in Maharashtra? 
5/8/202327 minutes, 4 seconds
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1,000 matches of IPL: Taking stock of the League’s global impact on cricket and beyond | In Focus podcast

The Indian Premier League (IPL) has been in action since 2008, the year after India won the inaugural T20 World Cup. When Mumbai Indians played Rajasthan Royals in Mumbai on April 30, it marked the 1,000th match of the competition since its inception. This is a historic moment in the history of the league, attesting to its extraordinary success and staying power. On this landmark occasion, we take a look at the impact IPL has had – on cricket, on cricketers, on the business of cricket, on other sports in India, and its oversized footprint in the domain of sporting entertainment and popular culture as a whole. While its success is indisputable – has its impact on other sports in India been positive? Can the IPL model work for growing a sporting culture in India that goes beyond cricket?
5/4/202336 minutes, 22 seconds
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Ding Liren: Can the new World Chess Champion become the best player in the world? | In Focus podcast

Chess has a new world champion – 30-year-old Ding Liren from China. He defeated Russia’a world no. 2 Ian Nepomniatchi to become only the 17th player in chess history to wear this crown. He is the first ever Chinese and the first Asian since Viswanathan Anand to be achieve this. This year’s world title championship match took place under the looming absence of defending champion Magnus Carlsen, who refused to defend his title citing a lack of motivation. Interestingly enough, speaking to the media after his victory, Liren remarked, “For me, it’s not so important to become world champion. I always wanted to become the best player in the world.” Will Liren, who wears the mantle of ‘world champion’, be accepted as the best player in the world? Will Carlsen ever come back to pit himself against the new world champion? And what does it mean for the chess world to have its latest world champion from Asia, and from China in particular? 
5/2/202333 minutes, 41 seconds
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The problem of space for India's translocated Cheetahs | In Focus podcast

Between September 2022 and February 2023, eight cheetahs from Namibia and 12 from South Africa were translocated to India as part of an initiative to reintroduce the species in India, where it had gone extinct in the 1950s. The animals were released in the 748 sq km Kuno National Park (KNP) in Madhya Pradesh, and seemed to be doing well until, within a span of a month, two out of the 20 cheetahs died. Furthermore, one of the cheetahs was spotted in a village outside the national park area, sparking fears of cheetah-human conflict. The Madhya Pradesh Forest Department has asked the Centre for an “alternate” site for the cheetahs, citing lack of logistical support and space. Meanwhile, scientists from the Cheetah Research Project of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, have published a letter in the journal, Conservation Science and Practice, stating that the translocation did not take into consideration the spatial ecology of cheetahs, as a result of which the animals are bound to come into conflict with people in the neighbouring villages. So, how serious is the problem of space for the cheetahs at the Kuno National Park? And what does wildlife science tell us about the spatial ecology of cheetahs? We speak with one of the scientists behind the letter on the spatial ecology of the translocated cheetahs, Dr Bettina Wachter, head of the Cheetah Research Project and a senior scientist at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), Berlin. 
4/28/202332 minutes, 16 seconds
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The Bournvita controversy and the debate over food labels | In Focus podcast

Social media was abuzz recently with a controversy over Bournvita, a product that most of us have probably had as children. This sparked a discussion around all of the processed and packaged foods that are now widely available and consumed in the country.  How healthy are these foods? With a lot of these items, it is not always easy to understand their nutritional content, going by the ingredients. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India or FSSAI is now considering introducing front of pack labelling – a regulation that will involve all brands indicating if the product is high in salt, sugar or fat, right at the front of the product. Several countries across the world have brought in such regulations, in order to make consumers more aware about what is in various products. So do our processed and packaged foods contain too much sugar, salt or fat? Are unhealthy eating habits contributing to obesity, heart disease and diabetes? How much salt or sugar should we be consuming on a daily basis, and do we, as a country, consume too much?
4/27/202327 minutes, 5 seconds
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What’s behind the latest conflict in Sudan? | In Focus podcast

Sudan is once again on the verge of a civil war. Fighting erupted on April 15 between two military factions, leading to the death of more than 400 civilians, and leaving around 3,700 injured so far. One of the factions is headed by Lt. Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the commander of the country’s military, and the other is led by Lt. Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who controls a state-sponsored paramilitary outfit known as the Rapid Support Forces or the RSF. The fighting has destroyed civilian infrastructure such as airports, hospitals and roads in a country already devastated by years of conflict. Different countries, including India, are scrambling to evacuate their citizens trapped in the country. With 3,000 Indians stuck in Sudan, the government has just started Operation Kaveri to evacuate them. So, what has caused this war to break out? What do the two Generals want? What are the implications of this conflict for Sudan’s democratic transition that was underway before this conflict erupted? 
4/25/202333 minutes, 23 seconds
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Can a visit by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to Goa change anything between India and Pakistan? | In Focus podcast

On the 22nd of April, Pakistan announced that its Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will visit India for a multilateral meeting with his Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, or SCO, counterparts. The visit by a Pakistani Foreign Minister to India comes after a long gap.  Also, on the 22nd of April, five Indian soldiers were killed close to the Line of Control, pointing out yet again the dangers of unabated terrorism in the country. The abrogation of Article 370 and reducing Jammu & Kashmir to a Union Territory in August 2019 has not helped in ending terrorism, belying the tall claims of the Modi government.  At the same time, Islamist forces and hardline Hindu groups have ensured that dialogue and contact between Pakistan and India is almost non-existent.  Can a Bilawal Bhutto visit change anything on the ground? 
4/24/202333 minutes, 22 seconds
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What does Tiger Census 2022 say about tiger conservation in India? | In Focus podcast

The Tiger Census 2022, released recently, estimates that India has 3,167 tigers at present. This is a slight increase from the figure in 2018’s report, which was 2,967. Project Tiger first began in 1973 when there was an alarming decline of the national animal. From the nine reserves the country had in 1973, there are now 53 reserves, spanning over 75,000 sq km, roughly 2.3% of India’s land area. Since 2006, a tiger census has been carried out every four years. There are, however, criticisms with regard to the methodologies adopted. What do the numbers revealed in the current census mean for tiger conservation? What are the major threats facing tigers at present? Can India support bigger tiger numbers, and if so, what can be done to achieve this?
4/21/202330 minutes, 22 seconds
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Decoding the reorientation in Saudi foreign policy engineered by MBS | In Focus podcast

There finally seems to be some movement towards a peace settlement in the Yemen civil war, which has been raging for nine years now. The Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who have been fighting the Saudi coalition forces, are now in talks with Saudi Arabia with Omani mediation. Although the negotiations are expected to take time before they yield results, there is some optimism in the air as the talks are happening in the aftermath of a China-mediated agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia to resume diplomatic relations. While war fatigue could be one trigger behind the talks, another seems to be a clear shift in Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy engineered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). In recent months, in stark contrast to the aggressive foreign policy that he started out with --- starting the war in Yemen, the failed blockade of Qatar, the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, the house arrest of Lebanon’s Prime Minister and so on – MBS seems to have made a conscious switch to a more tactical foreign policy centred on building relations with all the key powers in the region. So, what are the contours of Saudi Arabia’s new foreign policy? What prompted it? And does it signal a more peaceful West Asia in the long run?
4/20/202338 minutes, 20 seconds
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NCF 2023: Is it a good idea to make students give Board exams twice a year, in 16 subjects? | In Focus podcast

The Education Ministry has released the pre-draft of the National Curriculum Framework for school education, or NCF-2023, for public feedback and comments. The document, which was last revised in 2005, has a critical role to play in determining pedagogical approaches and how textbooks are designed. Some key recommendations of NCF-2023 that have made headlines include: board exams twice a year, a semester system for Class 12, and giving students the option of pursuing a mix of courses from science, humanities and commerce rather than splitting them into exclusive streams. What are the implications of the changes proposed by NCF 2023? Are they what the Indian school system needs? How will they get reflected in the schooling experience of students going forward?
4/19/202336 minutes, 13 seconds
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What the on-camera execution of Atiq Ahmed and his brother means | In Focus podcast

The mafia-style execution of former legislator Atiq Ahmed and his brother, Khalid Azim, by three assailants on the night of April 15 in Prayagraj, while speaking to reporters on camera has again turned the spotlight on the absence of the rule of law in Uttar Pradesh. Two days earlier, on the 13th of April, Atiq’s son, Asad Ahmed, was killed in an alleged encounter with the police in Jhansi. The killings come days after Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath told the State Assembly that he would smash the mafia in his state to the ground. In March this year, Atiq Ahmed wrote to the Supreme Court that he might be killed in a fake encounter with the U.P. police. His fears were proven correct. Both Atiq and Asad were accused in the murder of a political rival in February. Atiq, a former leader of the Samajwadi Party and the Apna Dal, had more than 100 criminal cases against him. More than 180 alleged criminals have been shot dead in so-called police encounters in the last six years that Adityanath has been the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. So, what does the sensational execution of Atiq and his brother tell us about the state of law and order in Uttar Pradesh? Can the rule of law be restored in a state where the police has been seen as aggressive and high-handed? 
4/18/202321 minutes, 48 seconds
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How is India tackling the COVID-19 resurgence? | In Focus podcast

It's back in the news and it's back everywhere. Covid-19, which seemed to be going away, has had a resurgence in India recently, with the data as of April 14, showing that over 11,000 new cases have been recorded. While this particular sub-variant, XBB.1.16, is believed to be mild and not as virulent as last 2021's Delta variant, the government is taking the surge in cases seriously, and has asked States to remain prepared, in terms of beds, oxygen and adequate testing kits. The country has so far administered over 220 crore doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, though booster dose coverage remains low at about 16%. Do we need to worry about this current surge in cases? Who needs to take the booster? Will Covid-19 continue to lie low and emerge occasionally with a spurt in cases, and what precautions should we take?
4/14/202321 minutes, 44 seconds
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How does Finland joining NATO affect Europe’s security architecture? | In Focus podcast

In May 2022, Finland, along with its Nordic neighbor Sweden, applied for NATO membership. It took less than a year for it to formally become NATO’s 31st member. With this, NATO’s border with Russia has more than doubled – from 1,200 km to 2,500 km. How does this development change the security architecture of Europe? Will it lead to a militarization of the Russia-Finland border? How big a strategic setback is this for Russian President Vladimir Putin?
4/13/202331 minutes, 55 seconds
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Is India prepared for the threat of extreme heat waves and a ‘wet bulb’ summer? | In Focus podcast

There have been some dire predictions about how hazardous the heat is going to be this summer. India this year experienced its warmest February since 1877, and in November last year, the World Bank warned that India could become one of the first places in the world where wet-bulb temperatures could increase beyond the survivability threshold of 35°C. Furthermore, last month, Peter Dynes, chief strategy officer at Mirrors for Earth's Energy Rebalancing (MEER), tweeted that India this summer is at “serious risk of wet-bulb” if global temperatures continue to rise. So, what exactly is the wet bulb phenomenon, and what does it mean when it is said that summer temperatures in India could cross the wet bulb threshold? Have heat wave conditions in India worsened due to climate change? What should we be doing to mitigate the effects of heat wave conditions and protect the most vulnerable?
4/12/202330 minutes, 37 seconds
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Lessons from the Supreme Court’s judgment on the Media One news channel | In Focus podcast

By quashing the Information & Broadcasting Ministry’s order ceasing operations of the Malayalam news channel, Media One, the Supreme Court appears to have sent a clear message to the government of the day – that the freedom of the press is a key pillar of Indian democracy. At a time when the press is under pressure to toe the Government’s line, the judgment is also a signal to members of the media – that they should do their job without fear or favour. The press, the Supreme Court held, had a duty to speak truth to power. Is the press performing this duty today? What are the larger implications of this April 6 verdict?
4/11/202327 minutes, 8 seconds
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Understanding the Status of Policing in India Report 2023 | In Focus podcast

A survey of nearly 10,000 people carried out for the Status of Policing in India Report 2023 suggests a high level of support for certain forms of government surveillance but reveals a lack of public awareness regarding critical issues such as the Pegasus spying scandal. The report, prepared by the NGO Common Cause and Lokniti, CSDS, finds that three out of four people believe CCTVs can help monitor and reduce crime. The poor, Adivasis, Dalits and Muslims are the least trusting of the police. Interestingly, 44 per cent of those surveyed across 12 states and union territories believe that the police should not have the freedom to check people’s phones without a warrant.  So, what is the bigger picture from the survey? Why choose this theme at this time? How does surveillance impact dissent? 
4/10/202325 minutes, 21 seconds
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What does the Right to Health Bill really mean for Rajasthan? | In Focus podcast

Last month, Rajasthan became the first state to enact a Right to Health Act. The legislation sparked massive protests from the medical community, with the protests finally being called off on April 4, after an agreement was reached, on the applicability of the law. The Act gives every resident of Rajasthan the right to emergency treatment care without prepayment of fees at designated health centres -- a provision that was contentious. The private healthcare sector had called the Act "draconian" and was apprehensive of the government’s interference in their functioning after the enforcement of the law. But does the private medical sector, which forms a huge segment of the healthcare sector in our country, need legislation? Should emergency care be provided to every resident in need of it at any hospital that is able to provide it? Should the Right to Life, enshrined in our Constitution, also guarantee all citizens the Right to Health in India?
4/6/202330 minutes, 53 seconds
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Why the Rajasthan HC acquitted all four persons sentenced to death in the May 2008 bomb blasts | In Focus podcast

All four persons, who had been given the death sentence by a trial court for the May 2008 Jaipur bomb blasts that killed 71 persons, were acquitted by the Rajasthan High Court on the 30th of March. Those acquitted of all charges were: Mohammed Saif, Mohammed Salman, Saifur and Mohammed Sarver Azmi. The State of Rajasthan plans to file an appeal against the acquittal in the Supreme Court.  The two-judge bench ruled that the prosecution had been unable to establish a conspiracy between the now-acquitted persons, pointing out that for a conspiracy to be established there had to be a meeting of minds.  The judges were of the view that nefarious means were used by the investigating agencies and even fabrication had been done during the course of the investigation. They directed the Rajasthan Director-General of Police to initiate an appropriate inquiry / disciplinary proceedings against erring officers. 
4/4/202331 minutes, 7 seconds
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Single parents: Does the law discriminate? | In Focus podcast

March 21, was single parents day, commemorating mothers and fathers, who parent alone. And while in India, families are still widely seen as that of two biological parents and their children, this is rapidly changing: families can come in all sorts of forms – from single parents, to parents who are not married but live together, adoptive parents, step-families, queer families and more. However, while some laws and court judgements are clearing the path towards easier access to procedures and systems for non-traditional families, there are still multiple hurdles faced by single parents and others for even basic procedures such as school admissions and banking.
4/3/202325 minutes, 1 second
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What is the significance of India’s four gold medals at the Women’s World Boxing Championships? | In Focus podcast

India’s women boxers have created history by winning four golds at the IBA World Boxing Championships that just concluded in Delhi. India topped the medals table, matching its best ever performance of 2006. The golden girls this time around were Nitu Ghangas (48 kg), Nikhat Zareen (50 kg), Lovlina Borgohain (75kg), and Saweety Boora (81kg). What is the significance of India’s performance in the context of the upcoming Hangzhou Asian Games, and the 2024 Paris Olympics? Can India replicate this outcome at the Olympics? And is India slowly turning into a global hub for women’s boxing, as is being asserted by some observers?
3/31/202330 minutes, 15 seconds
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Why are Israelis protesting against PM Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul proposals? | In Focus podcast

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposals for a judicial overhaul that would limit the powers of the Supreme Court have triggered massive protests in the country. More than 100,000 protesters gathered in front of the Israeli Parliament or the Knesset, and as the country’s most powerful trade unions called a general strike, there were flight cancellations at Tel Aviv international airport, and municipality workers, tech workers, government bureaucrats, and most significantly, even army reservists joined the pushback against the proposals. US President Joe Biden pitched in, asking Netanyahu to ‘walk away’ from the judicial overhaul, prompting Israeli Prime Minister to retort that he does not take decisions based on pressure from abroad. On Monday, however, Netanyahu announced that he was delaying the judicial changes to the next Parliamentary session, ostensibly to buy more time to build a compromise with the proposals’ political opponents. So, what exactly are the implications of the proposed judicial changes? Do they constitute a threat to Israeli democracy, as alleged by their Opposition leaders? What are the security implications of the fact that these proposals seem to be causing deep divisions in Israeli society? 
3/30/202330 minutes, 7 seconds
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What Amritpal Singh’s rise spells for Punjab | In Focus podcast

The phenomenon of Amritpal Singh has taken Punjab by storm. In a daring act, his supporters ransacked a police station in Ajnala and freed some of his associates in February. From a businessman in Dubai till September last year, Amritpal has become Punjab’s leading practitioner of separatist politics, telling Frontline magazine in a recent interview that he does not recognize the Indian Constitution as it doesn’t see Sikhism as a separate religion.  He has inherited Waris Punjab De, an organisation intended to help young people follow the tenets of Sikhism. Currently, Amritpal is on the run after the Punjab police launched efforts to arrest him on March 18. Some recent reports say CCTV cameras showed him at a Delhi market while others said he had reached Nepal.  So, who is Amritpal Singh? How has he managed to capture the spotlight in a matter of months? Whom does he represent? Is he popular? Is Amritpal filling a political vacuum in Punjab? 
3/29/202330 minutes, 41 seconds
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Are there modes of execution 'more humane' than death by hanging? | In Focus podcast

Last week the Supreme Court asked the Centre for data that could point to a more dignified, less painful, and socially acceptable method of executing prisoners other than death by hanging. A Bench of Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice P.S. Narasimha even mooted the setting up of an expert committee to relook at India’s method of carrying out the death penalty. The alternatives that were discussed included death by lethal injection, lethal gas, and firing squad, among others. The court was hearing a petition filed by advocate Rishi Malhotra challenging the constitutionality of death by hanging as a mode of execution. Section 354 (5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure mandates that a person sentenced to death shall “be hanged by the neck till he is dead”. Malhotra argued that there was a need to evolve a “humane, quick and decent alternative”. He termed hanging as “cruel and barbarous” compared to lethal injection. So, is death by hanging a “cruel and barbaric”? Are there more ‘humane’ methods of execution? Is the goal of protection of human dignity and eliminating cruelty compatible with any mode of execution – that is, with capital punishment itself? 
3/28/202325 minutes, 59 seconds
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Is Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification from the Lok Sabha in order? | In Focus podcast

Rahul Gandhi was disqualified as a member of Parliament from Wayanad constituency in Kerala on the 24th of March, a day after a Surat court convicted him on criminal defamation charges. Mr. Gandhi was sentenced to a maximum two-year jail term. The decision sent shockwaves through the country’s polity.  A two-year jail term in a criminal case means that a legislator is automatically disqualified on conviction. It would appear that the only relief available to a disqualified legislator is if a superior court not only suspends the sentence but stays the conviction.  So, what of the Surat court judgement? Can someone be convicted merely if he called all persons with the Modi surname thieves? Doesn’t defamation have to be specific to the aggrieved person? Did the Lok Sabha Secretary-General act in haste by issuing disqualification orders to Rahul Gandhi the very next day? 
3/27/202316 minutes, 49 seconds
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A slide without end in Pakistan | In Focus podcast

By postponing elections to the provincial assemblies in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa beyond a constitutionally-mandated period, the Election Commission of Pakistan has strayed into uncharted territory that could imperil democracy in the country yet again. This comes after a same-page show by the Army chief Asim Munir and the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in trying to tackle the common threat they perceive from the person of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan. The courts in Pakistan, however, haven’t been as obliging to Gen. Munir and Prime Minister Sharif and the arrest of Imran Khan hasn’t yet happened. It’s also clear that Mr. Khan continues to be popular and his party could well have won the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Assembly elections previously scheduled to have been held by the end of April. Meanwhile, Pakistan continues to face an unprecedented economic crisis with common people bearing the brunt of runaway inflation. So, what happens now? 
3/24/202325 minutes, 33 seconds
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Wagner Group: Russian mercenary outfit or a proxy for the Kremlin in different parts of the globe? | In Focus podcast

The Wagner Group has been at the forefront of Russian gains in eastern Ukraine, especially in the battle for the town of Bakhmut. It was also in the news over attempts by members of the U.S. Congress to label it as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO), but strangely enough, the Biden administration is opposed to such a labelling. In another related development, President Vladimir Putin has just signed a new law criminalising the spreading of “fake” or “discrediting” information about the Wagner units fighting in Ukraine. So, what exactly is the Wagner group? Is it a group of mercenary soldiers? Is it a Private Military Company (PMC)? What was it up to in different parts of the world over the past decade, and what has been its role so far in the Ukraine war?
3/22/202331 minutes, 46 seconds
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Vladimir Putin, the ICC warrant and the Ukraine war | In Focus podcast

By issuing a warrant for the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the International Criminal Court has upped the ante in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. It sets a bar from which retreat will be a trapeze act for the West. American President Joe Biden has hailed the ICC decision even as Chinese President Xi Jinping travelled to Moscow to meet President Putin. What impact will this have on the war in Ukraine? How does this affect international relations? And, finally, how will it affect the prospects for a negotiated peace in Ukraine. 
3/21/202325 minutes, 14 seconds
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Why the Supreme Court put in place a three-member panel to appoint Election Commissioners | In Focus podcast

A Constitution Bench judgement of the Indian Supreme Court on March 2 took the appointment of Election Commissioners out of the sole hands of the political executive and assigned it to a three-member committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice and the leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha. Appointments will take place through this panel till a law is made on this subject by Parliament. The bench headed by Justice K.M. Joseph said in its judgement that a person who is weak-kneed should not be appointed as an Election Commissioner. Neither should that person be in a state of obligation or feel indebted to the person who appointed him. The judgment also made a “fervent appeal” to the Union of India / Parliament to put in place a permanent secretariat for the Election Commission and charging its expenditure to the Consolidated Fund of India to make it truly independent.
3/20/202320 minutes, 19 seconds
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What caused the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, and is there a danger of ‘contagion’? | In Focus podcast

Last week, California-based Silicon Valley Bank, the 16th largest bank in the United States, collapsed, sending shock waves through the start-up universe. Then two more banks – the crypto-currency focussed Signature Bank and Silvergate Capital – shut down, sparking fears of wider financial contagion, similar to how the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 triggered a global crisis. The American government and the Federal Reserve acted fast to try and avoid precisely such a scenario by announcing measures aimed at boosting confidence in the banking system. The Biden administration has announced that all the depositors’ savings in the Silicon Valley Bank will be protected, including those deposits over and above the sums that are insured. The Federal Reserve, on its part, has unveiled a new lending program called the Bank Term Funding Program (BTFP), which would enable banks to borrow directly from the central bank instead of having to resort to loss-making bond sales, as the Silicon Valley Bank did. So, what caused the collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank? Could it have been prevented? Is this banking collapse something that can be contained, or is it a harbinger of more such failures in the pipeline?
3/17/202340 minutes, 20 seconds
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What legalisation of same sex marriage will mean in India | In Focus podcast

Next month, the Supreme Court of India, will listen to final hearings on the issue of legal recognition for same sex marriages in India. A number of petitions have been filed, seeking this recognition. The case follows the landmark Puttuswamy judgement of 2017, affirming the right to privacy as a fundamental right, and then the Navtej Johar judgement of 2018, which decriminalised same sex relationships. The Centre however, has opposed same sex marriages, stating that marriages in India are holy unions, this would rock societal values and also that, if there is to be a change, it should be through Parliament and not the judiciary. 
3/16/202322 minutes, 42 seconds
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Decoding the UN High Seas Treaty | In Focus podcast

For the first time, United Nations members have agreed on a unified treaty to protect biodiversity in the high seas. On March 4, a draft international agreement, called the UN High Seas Treaty, was finalised to govern the conduct of governments in ‘open seas’ – the major part of the world’s oceans – two-thirds of it – which lie beyond the jurisdiction of any one country. Once ratified by the signatory countries, the agreement will become legally binding. The treaty, dubbed the ‘Paris Agreement for the Oceans’, will also establish a conference of the parties (CoP) that will meet periodically so that member states can be held accountable for respecting the treaty. So, what exactly does the UN High Seas Treaty propose? How will ensure that biodiversity of the oceans is protected? And what does it say in terms of sharing of marine genetic resources – a key sticking point in the negotiations preceding the agreement?
3/15/202327 minutes, 11 seconds
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The meaning of China brokering a deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia | In Focus podcast

In a rare moment for Chinese diplomacy, Beijing used its good offices to broker an agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia that should see the two warring West Asian nations re-establishing diplomatic relations and re-opening their embassies within two months. China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, who is a signatory to the “joint trilateral statement”, said the agreement showed that Beijing was a “reliable mediator”. The joint trilateral statement itself said the accord was the consequence of a “noble initiative” by Chinese President Xi Jinping. The announcement, which came on March 10 after four days of talks between Chinese, Iranian and Saudi Arabian officials in Beijing, coincided with a session of China’s National People’s Congress that saw Xi being elected as President for an unprecedented third term. So, what does this agreement signal for Chinese diplomacy? A new confidence? The ability to play a game long dominated by the West? A showpiece that suggests China was now willing to play broker in other parts of the world? 
3/14/202322 minutes, 8 seconds
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How will the US Fed's decision on high interest rates impact India? | In Focus podcast

The Indian rupee has had an interesting run these past few weeks. It strengthened in response to investor inflows into the markets but started losing steam soon after the Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s testimony to the U.S. Congress in which he said controlling inflation would continue to be the focus area.  Does the RBI have a choice beyond keeping step with the Fed in raising interest rates further? What does it mean for our forex reserves? 
3/13/202324 minutes, 32 seconds
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Is the addition of Adani firms in 14 NSE indices a matter of concern? | In Focus podcast

The National Stock Exchange (NSE), one of India’s leading stock exchanges, has tweaked the constituents of its major indices such that three Adani Group companies are all set to enter key Nifty indices from March 31. The Adani stocks being included in Nifty indices include Adani Wilmar, which has been added to Nifty Next 50 and Nifty 100, Adani Total gas, which has been added to Nifty Shariah 25, and Adani Power, which has been added to ten different indices. The move has raised concerns given the continuing meltdown in Adani group stocks since January 24 when the US-based firm Hindenburg Research made several allegations about stock manipulation and fraud that the Adani group has denied. On the one hand, the exposure of actively managed mutual funds to Adani stocks is reported be less than 1%. But on the other, nearly 16% of India’s mutual fund industry’s ₹41 lakh crore is parked in index funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs) that mimic indices constructed by the NSE and BSE, and some of this investment will be steered to these Adani stocks from March 31. And earlier this week, the NSE also removed four Adani Group stocks from the Nifty Alpha 50 index. So, what exactly goes into the decision to include or exclude any given stock in an index? How justified is the inclusion of Adani stock in various NSE indices given the recent sharp fall in their prices? And what are the risks and options for ordinary investors?
3/9/202333 minutes, 13 seconds
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What you need to know about the H3N2 influenza virus currently circulating in India | In Focus podcast

COVID-19 and the fear around it may have gone away, but over the past few weeks, India has been rocked by cases of fever and intense coughs. People across States have been falling sick, and some have even had to be hospitalised. Last week, the Indian Council of Medical Research said these cases are linked to Influenza A, the H3N2 subtype virus that causes flu. The Council said surveillance data had shown a spike in these cases in India. So what is the H3N2 virus? Who is vulnerable to it and what symptoms can it cause? Is there a vaccine that can be taken?
3/8/202321 minutes, 30 seconds
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Decoding the assembly poll results of Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya | In Focus podcast

2023 is a busy year for state elections, with a total of nine state elections scheduled to take place. We are in March now, and three of those assembly polls have concluded. In all three – Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya – the incumbents have been returned to power. The BJP was voted back in Tripura, although with a reduced vote share, while in Nagaland, the alliance of the National Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) and the BJP are back in power. In Meghalaya, interestingly, in its election campaign, the BJP had branded the government of the Conrad Sangma-led National People’s Party (NPP) as the “most corrupt” state government in the country. But after the polls, it has chosen to extend support to the NPP. So what are the implications of these election results for the North-East? With barely 13 months to go for the 2024 general elections, what are the takeaways for the two main national parties – the BJP and the Congress? Were there any lessons to be drawn with regard to Opposition unity? 
3/7/202325 minutes, 20 seconds
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Can a four-day work week work in India? | In Focus podcast

A few days ago, the results of an interesting study were published. The study, conducted in the United Kingdom saw 61 companies and 2,900 employees take part in the reduction of the work-day week, from the standard five days, to four days. At the end of the six-month experiment, employees were less stressed, had better work-life balance and were absent on fewer days. Companies reported no impact on productivity, while revenues remained the same and in some cases, even increased.  But can this system work in India, a country that has one of the highest number of working hours in the world?
3/6/202323 minutes, 8 seconds
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Is ‘period leave’ the right intervention for working women? | In Focus podcast

On February 24th, the Supreme refused to entertain a PIL seeking period leave for students and working women. The three-judge Bench, headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, observed that the issue had “different” dimensions and asked the petitioner to approach the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development to frame a policy. The court also took note of a caveat filed by a law student, which said that compelling employers to grant menstrual pain leave could act as a “disincentive” for employers when it comes to hiring women. Is the question of period leave purely a matter of gender rights – in terms of acknowledging women’s biological difference and accommodating it through affirmative action? Or is it a bad idea because it will increase gender discrimination against women at the point of recruitment? What kind of a policy intervention, if any, would be appropriate in this context?
3/3/202324 minutes, 24 seconds
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What does the Q3 GDP data mean for India? | In Focus podcast

GDP data for India in the Oct-Dec 2022 quarter has given out mixed signals. Of concern are a contraction in manufacturing despite a let up in input costs as well as the slowing growth in the high-contact services sectors. Still, the government seems confident of 7% growth in FY23 despite a revised growth rate data put out for FY22 at 9.1%. What does the near future hold for India? 
3/1/202331 minutes, 20 seconds
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Making sense of Russia’s retreat from New START, Biden’s Kyiv visit and China’s ‘peace plan’ | In Focus podcast

The one-year anniversary of the ongoing war in Ukraine saw a number of related developments beyond the battle zone. First came the visit of President Joe Biden to Kyiv, where he reiterated the motto of ‘As long as it takes” for American support to the Ukrainian war effort, underlining that the US is in it for the long haul. Then President Vladimir Putin, in his state of the nation speech announced that Russia was “suspending” its participation in the New START Treaty (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), the last of the major treaties in place to curb an unfettered nuclear arms race. Next China released what has been variously described as a “peace plan” and a “position paper” on bringing an end to the Russo-Ukraine war. So what are the implications of each of these developments? Will China’s peace plan be taken seriously by the West? Will Biden’s domestic opponents allow his administration to funnel endless billions into this war? Will Russia’s ‘suspension’ of its participation in New START destabilise a fragile strategic balance?
2/28/202330 minutes, 48 seconds
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Decoding Air India’s mega aircraft deal with Boeing and Airbus | In Focus podcast

The Tata Group-owned Air India has placed two big orders with Europe’s Airbus consortium and Boeing for 470 planes – the largest ever single order placed by an airline in aviation history. As per the list price, the value of the order is around $70 billion. This order is evidently part of a strategy to rapidly expand the fleet and increase market share. It does raise some questions though: Does India have the aviation infrastructure to support such a vast expansion? What are the challenges for Air India in terms of manpower, such as pilots and trainers, and training infrastructure? How will it handle the competition from other airlines? What are the implications in terms of passenger safety, given that some of the planes are of a type that Air India pilots have never flown before, and pilot shortage may be an issue for years to come?
2/27/202335 minutes, 34 seconds
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What the EC decision on the Shiv Sena means for politics in Maharashtra | In Focus podcast

The Election Commission of India recently recognised the Shiv Sena faction led by Eknath Shinde as the Shiv Sena and allotted the bow and arrow symbol to it. This order is now under challenge by the Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Sena in the Supreme Court. Using the test of majority principle, and that a majority of party MLAs in Maharashtra had sided with Mr. Shinde, the Election Commission, in its wisdom, presented the Chief Minister with the Shiv Sena. What impact will this have on the politics of Maharashtra, a state which sends as many as 48 representatives to the Lok Sabha? Could Maharashtra play a key role in deciding the results of the 2024 general elections? Does the BJP still have use for Eknath Shinde after the goal of dethroning Uddhav Thackeray has been achieved? For the moment, all eyes are on what the Supreme Court will decide on the tussle between the Sena factions. Also, a key test for the BJP, Shinde and Uddhav Thackeray will be the upcoming elections to the Mumbai municipality.
2/23/202327 minutes, 13 seconds
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Women’s Premier League: Will it be a game-changer for Indian women’s cricket? | In Focus podcast

The inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) is all set to kick off from March 4. In an auction held earlier this year, five franchises – Delhi Capitals, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Gujarat Giants, UP Warriorz, and Mumbai Indians -- were sold for a total sum of ₹4,699.99 crores. In the players’ auction that followed, India opener Smriti Mandhana went for the highest price, with the Adani-owned Gujarat Giants shelling out ₹3.40 crores for her. Viacom 18 purchased the media rights for the first years for a sum of ₹951 crores. So, is the WPL all set to change the face of Indian women’s cricket? Does India have the depth of talent to support the growth of such a league over the long term? How far does the WPL have to go before it can be compared with the world’s top T20 leagues such as the WBBL of Australia?
2/22/202328 minutes, 8 seconds
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Why does child marriage continue to be an issue in India? | In Focus podcast

Earlier this month, Assam began a massive crackdown against child marriages in the State - so far, over 4,000 cases have been registered and over 3,000 people have been arrested. Protests have broken out in the State as young girls and children have been left with no wage earners in the family. Assam has high rates of child marriage -- while the all-India figure as per the latest National Family Health Survey was 23.3%, in Assam, the figure was 31.8 percent. The Assam Chief Minister in fact said the drive against child marriage was for public health as teenage pregnancy rates were high. Concerns around child marriage and the health of young girls are valid and should be dealt with, but does using the criminal justice system help? Why does India continue to have significant numbers of child marriages? How much is this to do with access to education? And what policies have worked in other States and other parts of the world to help bring child marriage rates down?
2/21/202325 minutes, 18 seconds
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Is there a middle way between the Old Pension Scheme and the New Pension Scheme? | In Focus podcast

Five states – Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh – have informed the Centre that they would be reverting to the Old Pension Scheme. Some analysts even believe that one of the reasons for the Congress victory in Himachal was its campaign promise to revert to the Old Pension Scheme. At the same time, the Centre has warned that this move spells fiscal irresponsibility. Some economists have said it could even lead to a scenario of possible defaults on pension payments. But government employees in different states have staged protests demanding the Old Pension Scheme. So what exactly is the difference between the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) and the New Pension Scheme (NPS)? Why do employees want the OPS, while the Centre is pushing for NPS? Realistically speaking, is the OPS fiscally sustainable in the long run? Or will it bankrupt state governments? 
2/20/202326 minutes, 5 seconds
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India's disappearing wetlands: Will the new scheme announced in the Budget help? | In Focus podcast

This year’s Union Budget announced a scheme for the protection of natural resources that are fast degrading in the country: our wetlands. Amrit Dharohar, the scheme announced by the Finance Minister in the Union Budget this year, aims to protect and work towards the optimal use of wetlands. A separate scheme to protect mangroves was also announced. To mark 75 years of Independence last year, India also added 11 sites to its existing Ramsar sites, making 75 in all. Ramsar sites are wetlands that are designated to be of international importance for biodiversity. By some estimates, India has lost nearly 30 per cent of its wetlands over the last three decades: unplanned construction and pollution being major factors in this. Their loss can have massive consequences for cities – flooding and loss of water security being some. What is the status of wetlands in India now? How well are current rules for protection being implemented? How much will the new schemes help? And how can local societies get involved in conservation?
2/16/202326 minutes, 11 seconds
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The Invasion of Ukraine – one year on | In Focus podcast

It will soon be a year since Russia invaded Ukraine, or to use Moscow’s terminology, began a “special military operation” in Ukraine. A thick fog hangs over the progress of the war – information trickling in about the war continues to be unreliable. Some larger truths, however, are obvious. There are, so far, no victors in this war that has been joined in a proxy manner by NATO and the United States on behalf of Ukraine. Both Russian and Ukrainian soldiers continue to slug it out as hi-tech weapons play a role in the war. If the European goal behind oil sanctions and price controls was to grind the Russian economy to a halt, then that hasn’t happened. China and India continue to be major consumers of Russian energy as the world awaits a resolution of the war in Ukraine. One year on, what happens to Ukraine and Russia? Can peace breakout between the two countries?
2/15/202334 minutes, 52 seconds
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How will the latest RBI rate hike impact home loan EMIs, FDs rates, housing market? | In Focus podcast

Last week the Reserve Bank of India raised its key repo rate by 25 basis points to 6.50%. This is the sixth rate hike since last May, for a total hike of 250 basis points in less than a year. The latest hike, while not entirely unexpected in some quarters, came as a surprise to those who were hoping for a pause in the consecutive rate hikes, especially given that inflation pressures were seen to be moderating. But the rate hike has also sparked a debate about its effect on FD rates, home loan interest rates and EMIs, and in turn, the impact on demand in the real estate market. In this episode of InFocus, we try and decode the implications of the rate hike, especially from the consumer’s point of view. 
2/14/202327 minutes, 2 seconds
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Turkey-Syria earthquake: Why does India’s assistance matter? | In Focus podcast

On February 6, an earthquake measuring a massive 7.8 on the Richter scale hit Southern Turkey and parts of Syria, followed by a second quake of the same magnitude a few hours later. The death toll from the earthquake has risen to 17,000 but there’s a fear that many more bodies are under the rubble, the death toll could rise sharply. The scale of the devastation has been immense- the worst such in the region in nearly a century.  In Turkey, the cities of Antakya and Gazantiep are amongst the worst hit, and in Syria Alleppo and Idlib, and the destruction of buildings and roads have also cut off communication with many parts. A global rescue effort is underway for Quake hit Turkiye and Syria- where the deathtoll is in the thousands already- What are the factors that are making this rescue difficult? How is India helping? Will India’s assistance be a diplomatic gamechanger?
2/13/202318 minutes, 2 seconds
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The battle for democracy in Myanmar | In Focus podcast

It’s been a little more than two years since Myanmar’s generals staged a coup and ousted Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy from power. A bloody civil war is raging in the country, with independent estimates suggesting that the military junta had killed nearly 3,000 civilians and jailed another 18,000 since the 1st of February 2021. More than a third of Myanmar is not under the control of the military, a top junta functionary admitted recently. Martial law regulations have been extended to another 37 townships where military tribunals can try and sentence “offenders” on charges ranging from treason to spreading “false news”. International action against the junta has not stopped the country’s generals from launching air strikes against resistance forces. Russia, China and India continue to engage the junta, lending it a degree of respectability. ASEAN has little to show in trying to get its member state back to the democratic path. Later this year, the junta led by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is threatening to hold elections. Will it carry any credibility? 
2/10/202332 minutes, 49 seconds
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What are the implications of the cuts in allocation to MGNREGA in the Union Budget? | In Focus podcast

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) promises 100 days of wage-based employment every year to rural households across the country. As per independent reports, demand for work under this scheme has been increasing. But in the 2023-24 Union Budget, the government has slashed allocation for this scheme to ₹61,032.65 crore, which is 30% less than the revised estimate of ₹ 89,154.65 crore for 2022-23. This is the lowest ever allocation as a percentage of the GDP, at less than 0.2%. This is the second straight cut, as in the 2022-23 budget also the allocation was reduced by 25%. So, what are the government’s justifications for these budget cuts? How do they relate to ground realities? Is there a danger of demand suppression through insufficient budgeting, as claimed by MGNREGA advocates? 
2/9/202333 minutes, 46 seconds
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How will China respond to the U.S. shooting down its balloon? | In Focus podcast

Last Saturday the United States shot down what it described as a Chinese “spy balloon” off the coast of South Carolina, raising tensions between the two countries. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who was scheduled to leave for China on Sunday, postponed his visit. He described the incident as an “unacceptable” violation of America’s sovereignty and said that the balloon had “undermined” the purpose of his trip. China, on its part, insists that the balloon was just a civilian “airship” that had strayed into American air space “completely accidentally”. Although it expressed ‘regret’, it described the U.S.’s military response as an “obvious overreaction and a serious violation of international practice.” It also warned of “necessary” responses. So, what kind of response can we expect from China? Will we see the effects of this incident once again in the South China Sea? And was it really a spy balloon? 
2/8/202322 minutes, 28 seconds
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What is the legacy of Pervez Musharraf? | In Focus podcast

Pakistan’s last military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, has died in Dubai at the age of 79. I was in Islamabad as a correspondent for The Hindu when General Musharraf took power through a bloodless coup in October 1999. He was the presiding officer for the Kargil incursion but later turned peacemaker, signing a milestone agreement with then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in January 2004. Gen. Musharraf, like the man he ousted from office, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, had to eventually leave Pakistan for medical treatment in March 2016. He resigned as President in 2008 following a protracted civil society movement led by lawyers. As the Pakistani Government announced that Musharraf’s body would be flown to Islamabad from Dubai, what is the former General’s legacy? How is he perceived today in Pakistan? 
2/7/202326 minutes, 59 seconds
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Decoding India's population conundrum | In Focus podcast

2023 is set to be a landmark year for India's population trajectory, as the country is predicted to overtake China to become the world's most populous nation. And India will remain in that position for several more years. The advantages, experts have pointed out, is the demographic dividend - we will have a massive number of young people in the working age group, and a relatively lower number of those needing care such as the elderly and young children, at least for a couple of decades. But how well is India placed to harness this young population for us to grow economically? Do we have the polices for education, skilling and health in place? And what happens when some Southern states have populations that age faster than some northern States?
2/6/202326 minutes, 21 seconds
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The Hindenburg effect: Is it a storm that will pass or is a shake-up on the cards? | In Focus podcast

Hindenburg Research, an American ‘activist’ short-seller, known for going after companies that they believed are excessively overvalued, has unleashed a storm in the markets and regulatory circles with a report on the Adani Group of companies. In its report, Hindenburg has accused the Adanis of pulling off “the most egregious corporate fraud” in history. The allegations include stock manipulation and round-tripping of funds using shell companies. While the Adanis hit back with a 413-page rejoinder, the markets have so far sided with Hindenburg, as Adani stocks tumbled and more than $100 billion of market cap was wiped out. The Adanis then scraped through in their follow-on public offer (FPO) that closed on January 31. But the very next day, they withdrew the FPO, citing moral reasons. In the meantime, Credit Suisse has announced that it will no longer accept Adani bonds as collateral, while Dow Jones has dropped Adani Group companies from its Sustainability indices. So, what do the allegations mean for the lay investor? Will SEBI act? Where does this leave Indian banks who already have high exposure to Adani stock? 
2/4/202335 minutes, 28 seconds
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Will the entry of advanced tanks turn the war in Ukraine’s favour? | In Focus podcast

The United States, Germany and the UK have pledged to send modern main battle tanks (MBTs) to help Ukraine in the ongoing war with Russia. While the US has agreed to send 31 of its M1 Abrams tank, Germany will supply 88 Leopard 2 tanks, while the UK has pledged 14 of its Challenger 2 tanks. These are far short of the number demanded by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky—but it wasn’t an easy decision to make, especially for Germany. Battle tanks are known to work best with air support, and now Zelensky has also started demanding combat aircraft, namely F-16s. When will the tanks reach Ukraine? What impact will their entry into the war zone have on Russia’s battle tactics? Can the infusion of such heavy firepower turn the war decisively in Ukraine’s favour? 
2/3/202331 minutes, 29 seconds
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Tanvi Srivastava on tracing the life of an Indian teenager in Japan during WWII and life in Netaji’s Indian National Army | In Focus podcast bonus episode

In this episode we are joined by Tanvi Srivastava, short story and fiction writer, who explains the experience of translating Asha San’s diary from Hindi to English.  The original book, a diary, recorded the teenager’s thoughts on the impact of World War II on ordinary people, her unbound admiration for Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and her unwavering love for her motherland in the language she knew best — Japanese. The memories of Asha-san’s (as she was respectfully called in Japanese) struggles and sacrifice would have been lost in the pages of her diary if she had not herself translated it into Hindi in 1973. Half-a-century later, her grand daughter-in-law, Tanvi Srivastava, has translated the Hindi diary into English as The War Diary of Asha-san: From Tokyo to Netaji’s Indian National Army.
2/2/202330 minutes, 35 seconds
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Where does the banking sector stand today? Pre-Budget Analysis | In Focus podcast

The banking sector in India witnessed a return to relatively good health over the past few years. With more stringent norms set by regulator RBI NPAs have declined and bank balance sheets have shed much of their baggage of bad loans. Is this trend here to stay? Also as the country emerged from the pandemic and economic growth picked up, banks also saw healthy credit growth. Deposit growth, though, has not kept pace. Are these causes for concern? 
1/31/202331 minutes, 22 seconds
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Can the Supreme Court and the Centre resolve their differences over judicial appointments? | In Focus podcast

The appointment of judges to the higher judiciary continues to be mired in controversy. So much so, there have been some sharp, public comments by Law Minister Kiren Rijiju on the subject. He has written to the Chief Justice of India, D.Y. Chandrachud, suggesting that a Central government representative sit on the collegium of Supreme Court judges that makes appointments to the top court. On several occasions, the Centre has sat on appointments that, perhaps, were not to its liking, drawing the ire of the Supreme Court. Justice Chandrachud recently referred to the “basic structure” of the Constitution as the “north star”, or a guide to the judiciary. This comment followed public remarks by Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankar that questioned the “basic structure” judgment delivered by 13 judges of the Supreme Court 40 years ago. 
1/30/202329 minutes, 43 seconds
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What are the private sector investment levels in India? Pre-Budget Analysis Part 2 | In Focus podcast

Private capital expenditure has been anaemic for a few years now, a state of affairs that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Business hates ambiguity and in the last three years, ambiguity alone has ruled our personal and professional lives. As we seek leave behind the pandemic impact and head into another Budget season, it’s time to review private sector investment levels in the country and the effect of the Production-linked Incentive scheme in bringing in investments.
1/27/202331 minutes, 36 seconds
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Are remote voting machines (RVMs) the best way to enable migrants to vote? | In Focus podcast

The Election Commission, on December 28th, wrote to political parties asking them to attend a demo of a remote Electronic Voting Machine or RVM, which was held on January 16. The EC’s justification for mooting RVMs is to enable domestic migrant workers - who may be working in a state different from where they are on the voter list - to cast their ballot. It has claimed that this measure could remedy the relatively low voter turnout in recent elections. But most of the Opposition parties have expressed scepticism about this proposal, pointing out that the EC’s proposal is not backed by any research or relevant data on migrant workers and their voting behaviour. So, does India really need remote EVMs? How will they work? Is this the right step when there are still doubts being raised about the integrity of EVMs themselves? 
1/25/202333 minutes, 12 seconds
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What India needs to improve its education system post-pandemic | In Focus podcast

It was only in 2022, after the third wave of COVID-19, that schools in India finally reopened fully, after two plus years of pandemic-related disruptions. Educationists had flagged concerns both about students potentially dropping out and about learning losses. The Annual Status of Education Report 2022, brought out by the NGO Pratham last week, reveals that at least one of these concerns may not be a problem: overall enrolment figures for the 6 to 14 year age group, have increased and the number is now over 98% in 2022. Learning losses however, are steep: both reading and numeracy skills in children have taken a hit. The percentage of class 3 children who were able to read at the level of class 2, has dropped from the already low 27.3% in 2018 to 20.5% in 2022 -- a decline visible across most States, in both government and private schools. The number of children who can do arithmetic at grade level is more varied, but still not promising.  India now has National Education Policy 2020, which stresses the importance of fundamentals in education, and a scheme, the NIPUN Bharat programme, launched in 2021, aiming at achieving foundational literacy and numeracy for grade 3 children by 2026-27. But even as roadmap is laid out for lower primary schoolchildren, data from ASER from 2012 to 2022 shows that learning trajectories in upper primary, classes 5 to 8, are relatively flat.  So where is the education system stumbling? Families want their children to be educated: this is clearly evident in the rise in number of children going for private tuition classes. What can be done, post-pandemic, to help children catch up with their learning? Do we need better teacher training, bigger budgets and more resources? In our curriculum-heavy, board exam driven system, how can the country ensure no child is left behind in their school career? 
1/24/202331 minutes, 4 seconds
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What is the current state of the Indian economy? Pre-Budget Analysis Part 1 | In Focus podcast

As we begin our countdown to Budget 2023-24, India faces a tough global environment and volatile commodity prices, the latter posing upside risks to inflation. Economists see some bright spots in the economy as also some concerning metrics, especially to do with exports and recent Core Sector or IIP figures that have given no discernible trend in recent months. 
1/23/202332 minutes, 39 seconds
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What is the legal position of narcoanalysis for police investigation in India? | In Focus podcast

On New Year's Day this year, the country was rocked by the news of a horrific accident in Delhi -- 20-year-old Anjali Singh, who was on a scooter, was hit by a car, and her body dragged for several kilometres. Soon after, news reports indicated that investigating officers may consider a lie detector test for the five main accused persons in the crime. This is not the first time a lie detector test has been brought up in the course of an investigation in a high profile case: the accused in the Shraddha Walkar case, Aaftab Poonawala underwent polygraph tests; these tests have begun on three suspects in the murder of a Tamil Nadu Minister's brother and a court has now allowed narcoanalysis and polygraph tests to be conducted on an accused person in the case of Ankita Bhandari, a 19-year-old murdered in Uttarakhand, as per news reports. These are just a few of the recent cases where such "scientific" tests are being used on those accused of crimes. In 2010, a Supreme Court ruling said that the use of narcoanalysis, brain mapping and polygraph tests on the accused, suspected and witnesses to a crime, without their consent, was unconstitutional and violated their right against self-incrimination. It also said that such test results could not be admitted in evidence; however any information/material subsequently discovered with the help of tests undertaken voluntarily, could be admitted. Despite the ruling however, these tests continue to be used, to date. But how scientific are they? Several countries across the world have disbarred or significantly cut down on their use - is there any evidence to suppose that they truly work? Do such invasive procedure violate the rights of those who undergo them? And have they led to any investigative breakthroughs in India?
1/20/202335 minutes, 6 seconds
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Generative AI: What are the potential applications and ethical concerns? | In Focus podcast

The past few weeks have seen tremendous excitement around generative AI. Names like ChatGPT, Dall-E, and Stable Diffusion are buzzing around, and start-ups in the Generative AI space are being flooded with multiple rounds of funding worth millions of dollars. Apparently, all you need to do is type a textual prompt, and you can have an original news article or a whole new painting ready in a matter of seconds. So, what exactly is generative AI? What makes it different from the other kinds of artificial intelligence that we are accustomed to? What are its potential applications? And what are the ethical concerns over this technology? 
1/19/202338 minutes, 13 seconds
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Can Pakistan's current economic crisis be fixed? | In Focus podcast

Pakistan’s economic woes are not new. With dipping foreign exchange reserves and mounting debt, the country has a Himalayan climb ahead when it comes to getting its economy in order. Pakistan’s Prime Minister has just returned from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – two countries that have always been helpful to Islamabad in times of crisis. This time, too, they have promised to help out. So, what are the dimensions of Pakistan’s economic crisis and can the problem be fixed? 
1/18/202321 minutes, 59 seconds
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How will the rise of AI impact jobs? | In Focus podcast

Artificial intelligence has helped take over some of the mundane tasks done by humans across sectors, in recent years. It has helped enhance the value that humans bring to their jobs. But there is also fear that automation may replace humans, leaving us without options for livelihoods. Shop-floor automation in manufacturing is an example that has given rise to such anxieties. Where does AI go from here.  In a conversation with The Hindu, Manish Bahl, founder, Curious Insights and former head of the cenre for the Future of Work in Cognizant says there will be job impact, as also job creation. Where he sounds a warning bell is on the education sector that is likely preparing students to fight artificial intelligence instead of equipping them to complement these technologies. Where creativity and innovation flourish, artificial intelligence can but take on a secondary role.
1/17/202328 minutes, 16 seconds
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The signal from the sinking of Joshimath | In Focus podcast

The town of Joshimath in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district is sinking. More than 700 houses are known to have developed cracks and nearly 150 families have been moved to safer locations. The Uttarakhand and Central governments are scrambling to deal with a problem that is now a full-fledged crisis. Teams of scientists have been deployed to investigate reasons behind the sinking of the town. For years, friends of the Himalayas have been warning that unchecked building activity, including the construction of dams, could jeopardise the lives and livelihoods of people not just in Uttarakhand but impact those living in downstream areas. Ravi Chopra, founder director of the People’s Science Institute, is one of those who has been watching the impact of so-called development on the Himalayas for more than three decades from his perch in Dehradun. Last year, he resigned as the chair of a high-powered committee to study the impact of expanding the road network to service the many shrines in Uttarakhand. Ravi has just returned from Joshimath and he has joined us to discuss what’s happening there. 
1/16/202322 minutes
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Australian Open 2023: Preview and analysis of the men’s and women’s draw | In Focus podcast

The first Grand Slam of 2023 will get rolling from January 16 in Melbourne, Australia. Last year, the event witnessed plenty of unseemly controversy, including a courtroom drama, over the deportation of Novak Djokovic, and it also saw Rafael Nadal pick up a historic 21st Slam title. But this year Djokovic is back, and has announced his intentions by winning the Adelaide International, a preparatory event, last week. While Nadal is the defending champion, world no 1 Carlos Alcaraz has withdrawn due to a freak injury. The draw in the women’s section, as has become the norm in recent years, is wide open. Naomi Osaka will be missing, as also last year’s champion Ash Barty, who has retired from the sport, and world no 1 Iga Swiatek is under an injury cloud. The rest of the field has several contenders, from last year’s runner-up Danielle Collins, to the Czech Petra Kvitova, world No. 2 Ons Jabeur and the American Coco Gauff. So, who are the favourites, who are the dark horses, and what are the narratives that are likely to dominate this year’s Australian Open? 
1/13/202326 minutes, 50 seconds
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Should India be alarmed by China’s COVID surge? | In Focus podcasts bonus episode

With the surge in COVID-19 cases in China, after the easing of its stringent zero-COVID policy in December, there is apprehension that the pandemic could be entering a new, uncertain phase. Here we discuss the situation in China and the potential impact in India.
1/12/202334 minutes, 16 seconds
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Can Brazil’s democracy survive the attack by Bolsonaro’s supporters? | In Focus podcast

Days after Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was formally inaugurated as the President of Brazil, right-wing supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed and ransacked the offices of the President, the Supreme Court and the Congress in Brasilia on the 8th of January. The attackers, who don’t accept the results that brought Lula to power for the third time, appealed to the Army to take power. That, however, didn’t happen. Taking charge of the situation, President Lula ordered Army personnel into action, dispersed Bolsonaro’s supporters while arresting 1,500 of them, who are now going to stand trial. Not a single casualty was reported. In an obvious parallel to the storming of the U.S. Capitol in January two years ago, the attacks on democratic institutions led to massive protests in Brazil calling for Bolsonaro’s supporters to be punished. International condemnation of the incidents too was quick. 
1/11/202319 minutes, 18 seconds
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Why does India want to be a global hub for Green Hydrogen? | In Focus podcast

Last week the government announced that it has allocated ₹19,744 crore for a National Green Hydrogen Mission. The Mission will aim to make India a ‘global hub’ for producing, using and exporting green Hydrogen. India is not alone in formulating a green hydrogen strategy, or in setting aside big money for developing the country into a global hug for green hydrogen. In the last 18 months or so, several developing countries have zeroed in on green hydrogen, which is viewed by many as a silver bullet of sorts for decarbonisation. How will the National Green Hydrogen Mission be implemented? How does green hydrogen fit in with India’s energy consumption profile? Does India have the manufacturing base to develop itself into a green hydrogen hub? 
1/10/202326 minutes, 33 seconds
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How are drug prices regulated in India? | In Focus podcast

In mid-December, a government department told the Kerala High Court that Ribociclib, a drug prescribed for a type of breast cancer, did not meet the conditions necessary to issue a compulsory licence. The drug is patented and therefore cannot be made by generic manufacturers but a compulsory licence, if issued by the government would permit a drug to be manufactured and made available at an affordable price. The case involved a woman, now deceased who said that she and her husband had a joint income of ₹74,400 a month, while the drug Ribociclib cost her ₹58,140, making it unaffordable. A study by the Indian Council of Medical Research has found that breast cancer is one of the top cancers in women in India. Drug prices have evoked national interest following the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw widespread reporting of desperate patients turning to the black market for drugs and devices. In September, the Centre released the National List of Essential Medicines -- the list was released after a gap of seven years, and contains 384 drugs. Interestingly, it also has added, for the first time four drugs that are under patents. So what's in and out of the latest list? How are drug prices regulated in India, and how will the inclusion of drugs on the list help? Does India need to do more to make medicines affordable and accessible?
1/5/202332 minutes, 29 seconds
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Decoding the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework | In Focus podcast

On December 18, in Montreal, Canada, 188 governments that are parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agreed on a new framework to halt species extinction and loss of bio- diversity. Known as the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), it sets out four goals for 2050 and 23 targets for 2030 to ensure that 30% of land, inland water, marine and coastal ecosystems are protected. At present, only 17% of terrestrial and 10% of marine ecosystems are protected. So, how realistic are these goals? How will the signatories be monitored to ensure that they are on course to meet their targets? Since conservation and restoration initiatives will not come cheap, what is the total estimated cost and how will the funds be raised, especially for developing countries? 
1/4/202329 minutes, 30 seconds
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Does Israel’s new far-right government spell bad news for Palestinians? | In Focus podcast

Following his victory in the November 1 elections, and after securing a vote of confidence in Parliament, Benjamin Natanyahu has become Prime Minister of Israel for a record sixth time. He now heads what has been described as the most right-wing government in Israel’s history. The coalition government includes, apart from Netanyahu’s own right-wing Likud Party, the far-right Jewish Power party and the Jewish supremacist Religious Zionist party. Political observers, and even Israel’s own Western allies, have expressed apprehensions that the inclusion in the government of what were hitherto fringe elements, could lead to escalation of tensions with Palestinians and worsening of repressive measures in the occupied territories. There are also fears that life could become more difficult for secularists and left-wing groups in Israel. How justified are these fears? What is the likely agenda of the new government? And will Israel get more aggressive about expanding settlements? 
1/3/202328 minutes, 55 seconds
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The Taliban haven’t changed their spots | In Focus podcast

By banning women from attending universities and colleges, the Taliban have proved that their ideological motivations matter more than international opinion. In September last year, one month after taking power again, the Taliban banned girls from attending secondary schools. In November, the Taliban banned women from visiting public parks, hamams and gymnasiums. In December, the Taliban resumed the practice of public floggings and executions, putting their medieval motivations on display yet again. Many countries and the United Nations Security Council have expressed concern at the Taliban decisions banning women from public life. But what do these statements amount to? Can the UN and other influential countries influence Taliban behaviour?
1/2/202324 minutes, 22 seconds
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What the military clash in Tawang means for India | In Focus podcast

It’s the eastern front with China that has become tense after a border clash between Chinese and Indian troops in Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh on the 9th of December. India and China, listeners may recall, are still engaged in dialing down Chinese transgressions in multiple areas in eastern Ladakh through negotiations that have been slow and protracted. Four days after the incident in Tawang, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh informed both Houses of Parliament that Chinese troops unilaterally tried to alter the status quo in the Yangtse area, but were rebuffed by Indian soldiers. So, what does one make of the latest aggressive posture displayed by the Chinese in the eastern sector? To discuss this issue, we have Dr. Jabin T. Jacob, Associate Professor at the Department of International Relations and Governance Studies of the Shiv Nadar University. 
12/23/202225 minutes, 22 seconds
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FIFA 2022 World Cup wrap: What made it fifth time lucky for Lionel Messi? | In Focus podcast

Celebrations are still going on in Argentina after what many consider as possibly the greatest World Cup final played till date. Billed as a match-up between Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe, the game surpassed and confounded everyone’s expectations in its twists and turns. While the final will remain the biggest talking point of the Qatar World Cup, the tournament also threw up several others – the success of Morocco, spectacular upsets, the tactical evolution of the game, Messi’s legacy, and of course, the fact that this is the first World Cup to be hosted in the Arab world. We look back at some of these highlights as we bring the curtains down on what has been a truly memorable event. 
12/22/202235 minutes, 2 seconds
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Decoding the Multistate-Cooperative Societies (Amendment) Bill, 2022 | In Focus podcast

The Union government introduced the Multi-state Cooperative Societies (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha on December 7. The justifications for the Bill trotted out by the government include: strengthening governance, reforming the electoral process, improving the monitoring mechanisms, and ensure ease of doing business, ensure financial discipline, and making it easier to raise funds. But Opposition members have criticized sections of the Bill on the grounds that it encroaches into the jurisdictions of States, and seeks to centralize power with the Central government. There is also the question of whether the changes enhance or dilute the autonomy of the multi-state co-ops. 
12/21/202230 minutes, 42 seconds
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COVID-19 Vaccine: How well does India's adverse reaction tracking system work? | In Focus podcast

Last month, the Central government, in an affidavit to the Supreme Court, said that it cannot be held liable to pay compensation for deaths caused by adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine. The affidavit was filed in a case in response to a petition filed by the parents of two young women, who allegedly died due to adverse reactions following their taking the COVID-19 vaccine. The Centre also said that taking the COVID-19 vaccine was purely voluntary and that the government had made all the relevant information about the vaccines freely available in the public domain. AstraZeneca’s vaccine or Covishield as it is known in India, which was the vaccine largely used in the country’s immunisation drive, is reported to be linked to a rare blood clotting condition, known as TTS – the United Kingdom in fact offers alternative vaccines to healthy adults under the age of 40.  The Centre said that a total of 26 TTS cases were reported, of which 14 recovered and 12 died. Other countries offer compensations to those who are injured following a vaccination: during the COVID-19 vaccinations, the World Health Oganisation introduced a “no fault compensation programme” as part of its Covax initiative. As of last month, India has administered nearly 220 crore doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, since the vaccination drive began in January 2021. As per the Centre’s affidavit, a total 92,114 cases of adverse events following immunisation (AEFIs) have been reported in this period, which amounts to 0.0042% in terms of adverse events against the number of doses given. Of these, 89,332 have been “minor” cases while only 2,782 cases or 0.00013% are serious and severe. But how robust is India’s system of reporting adverse events following immunisation? How easy or difficult is it for patients to report an adverse event, and do most people know how to do so? How much communication was there with regard to possible effects of taking vaccines? And while vaccine injuries are rare, and vaccines are necessary for public health initiatives, what happens to families of those who fall sick or lose their lives following a vaccination? Should the government, ultimately, take responsibility?
12/20/202228 minutes, 16 seconds
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Is the Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Bill a missed opportunity? | In Focus podcast

The Rajya Sabha passed the Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2021 earlier this month. The Lok Sabha had cleared it four months ago, in August. The Bill, which amends the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, has been justified on the grounds that it was needed to implement provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), to which India is a signatory. But the Bill has raised concerns among conservationists. One worry is that it leaves the door open for commercial trade in elephants. It has also been criticised for diluting the federal framework by seeking to displace the State Boards of Wildlife, which are chaired by the Chief Minister, with a Standing Committee headed by the Union Forest Minister, evoking fears of turning a body vested with wildlife guardianship into a ‘rubber-stamping’ authority. 
12/19/202233 minutes, 42 seconds
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Why does Turkey want to launch another military offensive in Syria? | In Focus podcast

Tensions are rising in northern Syria along the border with Turkey – an area that is already facing a grave humanitarian crisis following a decade-long civil war. Now Turkey, which has already carried out four on-ground offensives in Syria since 2016, has announced that it could launch another big military operation against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF is largely made up of Kurdish People Protection Units, known as the YPG, and Turkey believes YPG to be behind a major bomb blast in Istanbul on November 13. The SDF and the YPG have denied any involvement. So, what is driving Turkey’s militaristic policy in Syria? Can Russia and the US, both of which have a military presence in Syria, stop Turkey from staging another offensive? What are the implications for the security of prisons in Syria where thousands of Islamic State fighters are locked up? 
12/15/202228 minutes, 53 seconds
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Measles outbreak: How will India deal with another infectious disease? | In focus podcast

Just when it feels like we’ve gotten over the coronavirus pandemic, another infectious disease has been making the rounds: measles. Over the past few months, several States in India, notably Maharashtra and Kerala, have seen outbreaks of hundreds of cases of measles and several deaths of children. As of December 12, Maharashtra recorded 991 confirmed cases of measles, and tragically, 19 deaths, as per a news report. States such as Gujarat, Jharkhand, Bihar and Haryana too, have recorded an uptick in cases. Measles is a highly infectious viral respiratory illness. Transmission is similar to COVID-19’s transmission: airborne and through respiratory droplets and close personal contact. In mild cases, the infected individual gets a rash and fever, but the disease can be fatal. Two doses of the vaccine, which are included in the country’s universal immunisation programme, provide a very high level of protection, making it one of the vaccine preventable diseases. But since it extremely infectious and spreads rapidly, a large section – about 95% of the population -- needs to be immunised in order to keep outbreaks at bay, experts believe. Vaccine coverage however, was hit by the pandemic in India in 2020 and 2021 when routine healthcare services were disrupted. Last month, the World Health Organisation declared measles to be an “imminent threat to every region of the world.” The WHO said, globally, a record number of nearly 40 million children had missed at least one dose of the measles vaccine in 2021. Another aspect that has raised concerns is the infection being seen in babies younger than nine months – the first dose of the vaccine is given to infants between 9 and 12 months – leading experts to consider whether the first dose should be given earlier. The Centre stepped into action last month, directing States and Union Territories to consider administering an additional dose to all children of 9 months to 5 years in vulnerable areas, identify cases and conduct outbreak response immunisation, as per news reports. So what happened to our immunisation coverage during the pandemic? How much do we have to do to catch up with our vaccinations? Is vaccine hesitancy an issue and how can it be tackled? How well is India set to eliminate measles by 2023 as per our goal?
12/14/202227 minutes, 58 seconds
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Decoding the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (Amendment) Bill, 2022 | In Focus podcast

The Centre is planning to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. It proposes to make more than 60 amendments to this law through an amendment Bill, titled Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act (Amendment) Bill, 2022. This Bill, prepared by the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, is expected to be introduced in Parliament either in the ongoing Winter session or the Budget session. Among the proposed changes is the inclusion of bestiality as a crime, the recognition of ‘five freedoms’ for animals, and a new category of ‘gruesome cruelty’ which would carry enhanced penalties. What are the various amendments, their implications, and how effective are they? 
12/12/202228 minutes, 44 seconds
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What are the concerns around 5G services and the functioning of Altimeters | In Focus podcast

Spectrum for 5G services was auctioned out by India earlier this year. The pattern followed pretty much what was standard for the rest of the world that had preceded us. And, like in the rest of the world, our own aviation administration has also raised concerns about potential interference between 5G services and the functioning of altimeters in aircraft. Altimeters in planes help in landing of plans and use telecom spectrum for this purpose.  Is there cause for concern or are authorities only being extra cautious in suspending 5G services in and around airports for now? If a resolution is even possible, how far away is it? 
12/9/202225 minutes, 18 seconds
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Denied & delayed: Is the RTI process becoming more restrictive and less pro-people | In Focus podcast Bonus Episode

The Right to Information Act was passed in 2005, and it gives citizens access to the records of central and state governments. This act gives people the power to question the government, making it a key part of maintaining a healthy democracy.  But the act isn’t as foolproof as it seems. When it works, the act is a powerful tool, that can uncover major issues in areas that fall under the government. But with issues like vacancies in information commissions, a reluctance to be transparent and delays with appeals and complaints, the Act’s power seems to be getting weaker. In this episode, The Hindu speaks with journalists and RTI experts about these issues, and how it is affecting the law.
12/6/20221 hour, 3 minutes, 33 seconds
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What do the new e-commerce customer review norms mean? | In Focus podcast

Last month, the government’s Department of Consumer Affairs brought out norms that e-commerce websites must adhere to for customer reviews. Fake reviews that prop up products tend to lure customers into purchasing them in the belief that others have had a good experience. What other aspects do these standards cover? Are all of the norms mandatory? Anything else the government ought to have done?  To share his perspectives with us today, we have Mihir Mahajan, Adjunct Fellow at the Takshashila Institution in Bengaluru. He teaches topics in technology policy such as competition policy, intellectual property and algorithm audits. His prior work includes research on online reputation systems to understand how consumers use reviews and the economic impact of having a good online reputation.  
12/5/202232 minutes, 9 seconds
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Wildlife protection in India: A status check on the occasion of World Wildlife Conservation Day | In Focus podcast

December 4 is World Wildlife Conservation Day, and on this occasion, The Hindu brings you a special episode of InFocus aimed at raising public awareness about the importance of wildlife protection and the issues around it. More than 100 species of plants and animals in India currently figure in the ‘Red List’ of endangered species put out by the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN. Many more are vulnerable. What exactly are the threats facing wildlife in India? How do we deal with them? At a more fundamental level, do we really appreciate why we should care about wildlife? We explore the various challenges around conservation with two remarkable individuals who have in common a strong passion for wildlife. 
12/3/202249 minutes, 57 seconds
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What happened to the plan to translocate lions in India | In Focus podcast

It's World Wildlife Conservation Day this Sunday, December 4 and so, perhaps an apt time to discuss one of the first animals most people think about in the context of our country: our lions.  Speaking of big cats however, there's another one now in the picture -- the eight African cheetahs that were brought in from Namibia to the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh in September to much excitement.  Asiatic cheetahs that once roamed over large tracts of India, were declared extinct in our country in 1952 -- their capture over the centuries, hunting for sport, and their killing for bounties all contributed to their extinction. Their last surviving population is in Iran today.  Project Cheetah under which the animals from Namibia were brought to India, aims, it says, to "re-establish the ecosystem function role of the cheetah in representative areas of its former range” and to restore open forests and savannah systems.  As of the end of November, all eight cheetahs have been released from their quarantine zone into a larger enclosure within the national park, as per news reports. But while the cheetahs establish themselves in their new homes, experts have voiced concerns both over the aims and advisability of bringing the cheetahs into India, and over the larger question of what happened to the original plan of housing our lions at the Kuno National Park.  In 2013, the Supreme Court of India, in an order had stated that the protection of Asiatic lions was a top priority and that they must be provided with a second home - the lions were supposed to go to Kuno National Park where the cheetahs now are. Our lions are, at present, found only in the Gir region of Gujarat, and as such, possibly vulnerable to threats - there have been instances of disease outbreaks amongst them for example. So what happened to the lion translocation plan? How will the cheetahs help with the ecology of our country? How have conservation projects of endangered species progressed in our country?
12/2/202228 minutes, 35 seconds
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Why banks write off big loans | In Focus podcast

In the last ten years, Indian banks have written off loans worth about ₹10 lakh crore. This helped the banks reduce their NPAs by 50%. But tellingly, they were able to recover only 13% of the loans written off – a very poor rate that raises many questions, for it is generally not easy to get a loan from a bank, and banks have many options for recovering loans. Another interesting aspect of the write-offs is that the bulk of the NPAs were from big corporate borrowers, with the NPA rates among smaller borrowers such as microenterprises being much lower. So, why do banks write off big ticket loans? Why is the recovery rate so poor? And how does the combination of massive write-offs and poor recovery rate affect taxpayers? 
12/1/202227 minutes, 14 seconds
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The signals from China’s anti-COVID lockdown protests | In Focus podcast

Protests against draconian Covid restrictions have rocked several Chinese cities since the death of 10 persons in an apartment building fire in Urumqi on November 24. These protests come a month after Communist party strongman Xi Jinping took office for an unprecedented third term as the country’s president. Embarrassing as it is for the Chinese leadership, the protests appear to reflect popular anger at the party’s “zero covid” policy at a time when the rest of the world has moved on from the pandemic. So, what do these protests signal? Can we expect a massive crackdown on the protesters? Do the protests point to the failings of an increasingly centralized party leadership that doesn’t listen to the people at large? 
11/30/202220 minutes, 21 seconds
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What kind of Army Chief will Asim Munir make in Pakistan? | In Focus podcast

Asim Munir is Pakistan’s new Army Chief. He was appointed on the 24th of November, putting at rest endless speculation of who would be chief and whether Qamar Jawed Bajwa might get yet another extension. There were also doubts that Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi, an Imran Khan appointee, may not sign off on General Munir’s appointment. But, mercifully, for Pakistan, that did not happen. The President signed off on the appointment but after flying to Lahore to meet Imran Khan. So, what kind of chief will General Munir make? Will he interfere in the country’s politics? Will he try and fix the popular Imran Khan whose massive public meetings continue to signal his imminent return to power? 
11/29/202221 minutes, 59 seconds
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Fourth Draft: Decoding the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022 – Part 2 | In Focus podcast

This is the second part of a two-part Deep Dive podcast on the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022 (DPDP Bill, 2022), which is the fourth draft of the Bill. In Part 1, we discussed various aspects of the Bill from the perspective of the data principal’s privacy rights. In this episode, we take a close look at how the Bill envisages the structure and independence of the Data Protection Board of India, the role of consent managers, and protections from surveillance, among other things. 
11/28/202232 minutes, 23 seconds
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Fourth Draft: Decoding the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022 – Part 1 | In Focus podcast

In August this year, the government withdrew the draft Data Protection Bill, 2021, saying it would come up with a comprehensive legal framework in a new draft. Now the new draft, – the fourth overall, is out. Titled the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022 (DPDP Bill, 2022), the draft Bill is open for public comments and is expected to be introduced in Parliament in the Budget session of 2023. So, how different is the latest version from the earlier drafts? Does it do a better job of safeguarding the rights of users – or data principals, as they are called in legal parlance? In the first part of this two-part Deep Dive podcast, we take a detailed look at how well the Bill safeguards the rights of individual users. 
11/25/202226 minutes, 7 seconds
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Why are medical students protesting over the bond policy | In Focus podcast

This month, Haryana has been rocked by agitations and healthcare services have been disrupted, as medical students have been protesting against the State government's bond policy. Bond policies for students at government medical colleges, usually involve a mandated period of service at a State-run hospital for students after their graduation, failing which they pay a penalty amount.  In Haryana, the government's original policy said MBBS candidates had to pay an annual bond of Rs. 10 lakh minus the fee, at the start of every academic year, which the government would repay, if the candidate obtained employment with the State. The service period with the State is seven years. Following the protests, the Chief Minister had said the bond need not be paid at the time of admission, instead students would have to sign a bond-cum-loan agreement with the college and a bank. However reports indicate the students are still unhappy with the policy. Many States have this policy for medical students, with the bond amount and the period of service varying from State to State. In general, the understanding is that since students at government medical colleges get an education subsidized by the State, they must provide service in return to the state, generally in rural areas where there may be a shortage of doctors. In August 2019, the Supreme Court upheld the bond policy put in place by several States but said that some seemed to have rigid conditions, and suggested to the Centre that the country have a uniform policy regarding this. Now, there are reports that the Union Health Ministry plans to create guidelines to scrap the bond policy altogether, based on recommendations from the National Medical Commision - and perhaps incorporate mandatory rural through a non-financial mechanism. While providing healthcare rurally is crucial - 75% of our healthcare infrastructure is concentrated in urban areas - students in parts of the country have complained of no State job guarantee once their degree is complete, and in some cases, no payment of salaries.  So does the bond policy for medical students need to be relooked at? How can State governments provide healthcare where it is desperately needed, while ensuring a policy that is fair for students? How do other countries handle their rural healthcare systems? And what else can governments do to provide accessible, quality healthcare in our villages? 
11/23/202240 minutes, 52 seconds
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Is escalation built into the Russia-Ukraine war? | In Focus podcast

The killing of two persons inside Polish territory on November 15 by a missile strike had the world on edge till it became known that the likely culprit was a Ukrainian and not a Russian missile. A flurry of meetings took place and statements flew thick and fast. U.S. President Joe Biden convened an emergency meeting of like-minded Western nations on the sidelines of the G20 Bali summit. As NATO and Western statements suggested that it was a Ukrainian air defence missile that may have landed in Poland, tensions eased, but dangers lurk ahead as the Russia-Ukraine confrontation looks to go on and on. 
11/22/202226 minutes, 1 second
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Should the age criteria for consensual sex be lowered in India? | In Focus podcast

This November marks 10 years of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, or the POCSO Act as it is commonly known. POCSO has been in the news recently - with two High Courts in India, the Karnataka High Court and the Delhi High Court dealing with cases of teenagers, under the age of 18, in consensual relationships. The Karnataka High Court said the Law Commission of India may have to rethink the age criteria in law for consensual sex to address the issue mutual love affairs amongst minor girls and boys, who are aged above 16 but are below 18.  The POCSO Act defines a child as any person under the age of 18, and a child cannot consent.  This is not the first time the debate about age of consent has come up -- in fact, the POCSO Bill when it was originally introduced had a clause recognising consent of minors between the ages of 16 and 18, but this was then removed after the Bill went through a Parliamentary Standing Committee.  Studies have shown that a number of cases filed under the law are by parents, against boys who have eloped with their daughters - leading to many ramifications for the teenage couples, from girls being put into government homes, to boys being held in custody, to families having to go through the process of a case and trial, which can take months, or sometimes years.  But while there are calls to take into consideration the consent of older teenagers, there are concerns too - how can young people be safeguarded from exploitative or unsafe relationships? Will lowering the age of consent be used to justify cases of child marriage or trafficking? How can evolving consent in adolescents be assessed appropriately? Does an act as broad as POCSO need a refocused look?
11/21/202236 minutes, 10 seconds
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FIFA World Cup 2022: What to expect in Qatar? | In Focus podcast

The 22nd edition of the FIFA men’s World Cup will kick off in Qatar on November 20. The month-long tournament is one of biggest sporting events on the planet, followed by millions the world over. But this year’s event has been dogged by controversy ever since Qatar won hosting rights back in 2010. There have been allegations that Qatar bribed FIFA officials in order to win the bid. The host country has also faced criticism on its human rights track record, treatment of migrant workers, and restrictions on civil liberties. For their part, Qatari officials have termed all the criticism as unfair. So, how did a tiny Gulf nation with hardly any soccer tradition end up hosting the world cup? What’s in it for Qatar? Will the criticisms overshadow the event? And coming to the sport itself, how do the 32 teams stack up? 
11/19/202228 minutes, 29 seconds
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Decoding PARAKH: Why does India need a centralised assessment regulator? | In Focus podcast

The National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020), among other things, also envisaged what is being called ‘assessment reform’ – that is, changing the way school students are assessed. With this objective in mind, it recommended setting up a centralized, national-level assessment regulator called PARAKH – Performance Assessment, Review and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development. The government invited international consultants to bid for a contract to help set up PARAKH, and now three global nonprofits – Educational Testing Services (ETS), American Institutes for Research (AIR) and the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) – have expressed interest. So, how will having a centralized assessment regulator change the way assessments are done in India? Why do need the help of foreign consultants for setting up PARAKH -- do we lack the expertise in India? How will PARAKH help secure better educational outcomes for our students? 
11/18/202235 minutes, 52 seconds
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COP 27: Where will the funds for mitigation and adaptation come from? | In Focus podcast

The 27th summit of the Conference of Parties (COP27) in Egypt comes on the back of extreme weather events that seem like a trailer of the climate catastrophe that awaits the planet: epic floods in Pakistan, heat waves in Europe, wildfires in Australia, to name a few. One theme has figured prominently so far: climate finance for mitigation and adaptation. Developing counties need about $2 trillion annually to cut their greenhouse emissions so that the world is on track to meet its net-zero targets. But will the rich counties, who account for 1/8th of the global population but half of all emissions, fulfill their moral responsibility? What happened to their promise to commit $100 billion annually from 2020? The other big theme of COP 27 is the impact of the Ukraine war, and a turn to new fossil fuel projects in different parts of the world – apparently as a temporary measure but which, if executed, could get locked in for a longer term. How are these issues playing out in COP 27? 
11/17/202224 minutes, 10 seconds
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The significance of Xi Jinping meeting Jo Biden | In Focus podcast

Chinese President Xi Jinping and his American counterpart Jo Biden met for over three hours on November 14, ahead of the G-20 meeting in Indonesia. It was their first face-to-face meeting as heads of state. Readouts from the two sides suggest that both Xi and Biden did some tough talking, reiterating old positions and supposed red lines. Both sides agreed to keep talking and resume engagement on climate change and issues related to global economic stability even as their differences persisted. 
11/16/202219 minutes, 25 seconds
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Why has the CCI levied multiple penalties on Google | In Focus podcast

In late October, the Competition Commission of India (CCI) levied penalties exceeding Rs. 2000 crore, totally across two cases for anticompetitive practices. One was to do with what CCI called Google’s abuse of its dominant position in the mobile ecosystem. CCI said that mandatory pre-installation of the entire Google Mobile Suite, with no option to uninstall the same, and their prominent placement amounts to imposition of unfair condition on device manufacturers and thereby contravenes competition law.  In the second case, CCI said making access to the Play Store dependent on mandatory usage of Google Play Billing System for paid apps and in-app purchases was one-sided, arbitrary and devoid of any legitimate business interest.  A third complaint that the CCI is currently reviewing is against Google for allegedly denying market access to Smart TV makers who do not enter into licensing agreements with Google.  To share his views on the topic, we have with us today Rahul Singh, Associate Professor, NLSIU Bangalore, who teaches Competition Law & Policy, Regulation, WTO and Jurisprudence.
11/15/202229 minutes, 17 seconds
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Two finger test for sexual assault: What the latest ban says | In Focus podcast

On October 31 this year, the Supreme Court declared that the two-finger test - a test used on survivors of rape or sexual assault, was not only regressive and unscientific but also re-victimised and re-traumatised women. In a first, it also said that that any person who conducts this test in sexual assault cases shall be guilty of misconduct.  Activists and survivors have for years, been calling for an end to be put to this test - which involves checking the laxity of a woman's vaginal muscles with two fingers. This is not the first time the Supreme Court has said it must not be used. In fact, the Union Health Ministry's 2014 guidelines too say the test must not be conducted. Experts say however, that the guidelines do not translate into change on the ground - that there still is not enough sensitisation and training of all the personnel involved in the reporting, examination and investigation of a sexual assault case. The problem in India is huge and multi-faceted -- the country, as per National Crime Records Bureau statistics, registered 31,677 cases of rape in 2021 -- an average of 86 a day. And this too, may be an under-reported number. Challenges for survivors range from the actual reporting of a case to the police station, to getting an FIR lodged, the medical examination and then navigating the court system.  How much has changed since the Nirbhaya case shook the nation in December 2012 and led to the criminal law amendment of 2013? How much do the departments of police and health work together in cases where medical examinations and collection of evidence could be important to an investigation? How much of what is the law on paper translate into the experience of a survivor? And what can be done to make the process better and more sensitive? 
11/14/202232 minutes, 4 seconds
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Is the BJP all set to return to power once again in Gujarat? | In Focus podcast

The dates for the Gujarat assembly elections are out – polls will be held in two phases, on December 1 and 5, and the results will be declared on December 8. The BJP has been in power in Gujarat since 1995, for 27 years. But there has been little talk of anti-incumbency, with most analysts ,and an opinion poll, predicting another comfortable victory for the BJP. However, unlike in the past, this time with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the mix, many constituencies are expected to see a three-cornered contest, instead of a two-way contest between the BJP and the Congress. Which party is likely to lose ground due to the AAP factor – the Congress or the BJP? Is the splash made by AAP merely a social media phenomenon or has it made an impact on the ground as well? And what will be the significance of this election for the BJP, looking ahead to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections?
11/11/202231 minutes, 39 seconds
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What the U.S. midterm elections signal | In Focus podcast

Democrats have performed better than expected in U.S. midterm elections to the House of Representatives and the Senate. In the House, a Republican advantage looks to be slender and the Senate is still up for grabs with a couple of seats set to be the decider. Exit polls suggest that inflation and abortion were key issues in the minds of American voters. Nearly 60 per cent of voters surveyed said they were dissatisfied or angry with the U.S. Supreme Court overturning abortion rights. So, did the abortion issue allow the Democrats to perform better? Did it help in turnout at a time when President Joe Biden’s approval ratings are down? 
11/10/202224 minutes, 38 seconds
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Will Russian oil price caps be effective | In Focus podcast

Western powers, particularly the Group of Seven wealthy nations are working to fix a price cap on Russian oil. They expect major buyers in the West, Australia included, will comply and not buy Russian oil above the price cap. Their hope is that even countries that don’t formally subscribe to the cap, will use the opportunity to negotiate with Russia and buy the Urals crude at prices cheaper than even the price they now get – which is said to be at a 20-30% discount to global oil prices. The idea is to allow Russian oil to continue to flow in the global markets so that supply constraints don’t drive up prices and hence strengthen the possibility of a global recession that is already on the horizon. There's no saying if this will take off or fall apart, but the U.S. Treasury Department has been able to convince the G7 to go along with the proposal. We have with us today, David Wessel, Director, The Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy, Brookings Institution, and a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner as a journalist, to share some perspectives with us.
11/9/202220 minutes, 6 seconds
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The issues around genetically modified mustard – Part 2 | In Focus podcast

 The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the Environment Ministry on October 18 cleared the proposal for the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) mustard. The GM mustard variety, named Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH-11), has been developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants at Delhi University. While this development has been welcomed by sections of the scientific community, it is being opposed by farmers and environmentalists. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, in an interim order, has ordered “status quo” on the GEAC’s clearance, telling the government “Do not take any precipitative action”. It has posted the matter for hearing on November r10th. In the second part of this two-part Deep Dive podcast on the issues around the introduction of genetically modified mustard crop, we decode the socio-economic ramifications. For instance, given the certainty of GM crops contaminating non-GM ones, what happens to the right of farmers to not cultivate a GM crop? Can scientists take that call? What would be the impact on food security, famer livelihoods, and India’s agri-exports to GM-hostile markets such as Europe?
11/8/202226 minutes, 58 seconds
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The issues around genetically modified mustard – Part 1 | In Focus podcast

The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) of the Environment Ministry on October 18 cleared the proposal for the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) mustard. The GM mustard variety, named Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH-11), has been developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants at Delhi University. While this development has been welcomed by sections of the scientific community, it is being opposed by farmers and environmentalists. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, in an interim order, has ordered “status quo” on the GEAC’s clearance, telling the government “Do not take any precipitative action." It has posted the matter for hearing on November 10th. In the first part of this two-part Deep Dive podcast, we take a detailed look at the history of GM Mustard in India going back to 2002, the nature of the science behind the genetic manipulation involved, and examine the basis of claims that DMH-11 is higher yielding than other options available to the Indian farmer. 
11/7/202227 minutes, 4 seconds
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The attempt to kill Imran Khan and its implications for Pakistan | In Focus podcast

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was shot in the shin even as one of his party workers was killed as a gunman opened fire at a container carrying the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s senior leadership. Imran, who has been leading a long march demanding fresh elections and an end to the Army’s political role, underwent surgery in Lahore but is said to be fine. A senior PTI leader, Asad Umar, directly blamed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and a Major-General in the ISI Directorate, Faisal Naseer, for the assassination bid. So, what happens now in Pakistan? Will Sharif junior’s government survive or will Pakistan have fresh elections?
11/4/202218 minutes, 36 seconds
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Can Lula da Silva unite a divided Brazil? | In Focus podcast

After nearly 20 years, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been re-elected as Brazil’s President. Lula, who was earlier President from 2003 to 2010, defeated his right-wing rival Jair Bolsonaro by a narrow margin. But it was enough to send Lula’s supporters into the streets of Brazil in celebration. The President-elect, who served 580 days in jail before being acquitted off corruption charges, has promised to re-unite a bitterly divided country. Interestingly, Bolsonaro is yet to concede defeat. A whole procession of world leaders, ranging from Russia’s Vladimir Putin to America’s Joe Biden, have congratulated the 77-year-old Lula, who is credited with pulling millions of people out of poverty during his earlier stint as President. So, what does Lula’s election mean for Brazil? And can the new President actually unite a divided nation, something that has become a feature of many modern democracies. 
11/3/202220 minutes, 14 seconds
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Should you be feeding stray dogs in public places? | In Focus

The feeding of stray dogs has always been a highly divisive issue. While dog-lovers feel they have a right to feed these animals, others who feel intimidated by these dogs are strongly opposed to it. Plenty of petitions have been filed and heard on this issue. In the latest judicial development on this matter, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court has ruled that people interested in feeding strays should first formally adopt them and feed them in their own homes. Noting that “real charity lies in taking complete care and not just feeding and then leaving the poor creatures to fend for themselves,” the court also directed the municipality to impose a fine of ₹200 on anyone found feeding dogs in public places. What are the implications of this ruling? Is it reasonable to expect anyone who wants to feed a stray to simply adopt the dog? Will this directive solve or worsen the problem of street dogs? Guest: Meet Ashar, Manager of Cruelty Response at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), India Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian
11/2/202226 minutes, 17 seconds
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How the warming climate is affecting health in India | In Focus podcast

Ahead of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP27, which is scheduled to be held in Egypt next week, medical journal The Lancet released a report, The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: health at the mercy of Fossil Fuels. An India factsheet based on the report, reveals alarming numbers: heat-related deaths increased by 55% over the last 20-odd years, the number of months suitable for dengue transmission has been rising, reaching 5.6 months each year, and in 2020, over 330,000 people died in India due to exposure to particulate matter from fossil fuel combustion. And these are only some of the health impacts brought about by climate change.  For years now, experts have been warning of what climate events can do to disease patterns, to food security and nutrition levels, to maternal and child health and to mental health too. India is already burdened with communicable diseases, the increasing incidence of non-communicable diseases, and now faces the challenges of climate change to public health in a healthcare system that has already seen its limits stretched during the COVID-19 pandemic. So how exactly do increased warming and other climate change effects play out on our health? How is our country placed to meet these challenges? And what can be done, at a policy and personal level to help reduce the impact of climate change on our health?
11/1/202228 minutes, 3 seconds
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Is battery swapping the right model for India’s EV transition? | In Focus podcast

The government is expected to finalise its Battery Swapping Policy soon. The draft version of the policy, released for stakeholder comments in April, has evoked a mixed response, with sections of the industry welcoming it, while others had some reservations. The draft policy offers several arguments for an Electric Vehicle (EV) ecosystem, particularly for e-2-wheelers and e-3-wheelers, centered on battery swapping as opposed to battery charging – it’s more time-efficient, cost-efficient, and space-efficient. But at the same time, some have pointed out that aspects of the policy that mandate standardization in the design of battery packs to ensure interoperability could be problematic. So, what are the various challenges in implementing a battery swapping ecosystem? How will it be rolled out, given the high costs of setting up a battery swapping station? What has been the experience in other countries? 
10/31/202230 minutes, 28 seconds
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What Imran Khan’s disqualification means for Pakistan’s politics | In Focus podcast

Five days after Imran Khan personally won six out of the seven National Assembly seats he contested in Pakistan, the country’s Election Commission has disqualified him from either remaining or being chosen as a member of Parliament. Mr. Khan has called on his supporters to protest the controversial decision just as his party said they would pursue a legal challenge against the Commission’s order. Many analysts are drawing parallels between the October 21st disqualification and a similar action against then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 2017 when the country’s Supreme Court stated that Mr. Sharif could not hold office as he had been dishonest. Are there parallels between the two decisions? Is the unseen hand of Pakistan’s permanent establishment again at work? What impact will this have on the country’s politics? 
10/28/202223 minutes, 10 seconds
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The road ahead for Rishi Sunak | In Focus podcast

In a matter of less than a week, Rishi Sunak has replaced Liz Truss as Prime Minister. In the first week of September, Boris Johnson was still the British Prime Minister. Our guest in last week’s “In Focus” podcast, Andrew Whitehead, former Editor of the BBC’s World Service, had predicted that it would be Rishi Sunak. And Sunak it is. We turn again to Andrew Whitehead for what he thinks of Britain’s first Indian-origin Prime Minister and the challenges that lie ahead of him. 
10/27/202218 minutes, 38 seconds
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What a third term for Xi Jinping means for China, India and the rest of the world | In Focus podcast

In China, the winner has taken all. After obtaining an unprecedented third term, the Chinese President and Communist Party general secretary, Xi Jinping, has packed the politburo standing committee with his own nominees. Xi has emerged as king and king-maker from the just-concluded party congress in Beijing. It was expected that the Premier would stay on in the powerful standing committee but Xi has had his way – six members are of his choice – many of the new entrants have worked closely with the President in the past. The seventh member is Xi himself. Apart from achieving full control of the party and government, Xi has also packed the powerful Central Military Commission with his nominees. The President has also promoted three generals who served in the Western Theatre Command, which borders India, with key posts. So, what are the takeaways from the Party Congress? How will it impact China internally and the rest of the world? Will it mean business as usual with India or will there be any departures? 
10/26/202224 minutes, 43 seconds
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Are drugs manufactured in India safe? | In Focus podcast

Earlier this month, the World Health Organisation issued a global warning about four cough syrups that it said were substandard products and were unsafe, and their use, especially in children, could “result in serious injury or death." These four cough syrups Promethazine Oral Solution, Kofexmalin Baby Cough Syrup, Makoff Baby Cough Syrup and Magrip N Cold Syrup, were manufactured by Maiden Pharmaceuticals Ltd, based in Haryana. The medicines have been “potentially linked” with the deaths of over 60 children in The Gambia, a West African nation. The drugs, the WHO said, contained “unacceptable amounts” of two “contaminants”—diethylene glycol and ethylene glycol, which are toxic. Diethylene glycol, which is generally used in industrial products, is believed to be used in medicines as an adulterant in order to cut costs. This is not the first instance of deaths due to diethylene glycol—there have been several cases in India too, the latest being the deaths of 14 children in Jammu in December 2019. India is the largest manufacturer of generic drugs in the world, and supplies a range of drugs to 200-odd countries, meeting about half of the global vaccine demand. It supplies nearly 40% of the generic drugs demand in the United States and supplies about a quarter of all medicines in the United Kingdom. The industry is growing rapidly and will is estimated to be worth about 49 billion US dollars. The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) and the Haryana State Drugs Controller have directed a stop to all manufacting activity at Maiden Pharmaceuticals Ltd following the Gambia deaths, and an expert committee has been constituted to look into this. But where does the responsibility for drugs lie? Who enforces our laws on spurious drugs and are they enough? Do we have enough resources to check all of the drugs manufactured in India to ensure they are safe for consumers? What is the pharma industry’s role here and what is needed to ensure that no fake or substandard drug finds its way to a patient?
10/25/202229 minutes, 11 seconds
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ICC T20 World Cup Preview: Can India go all the way this time? | In Focus podcast

The eighth edition of the ICC T20 World Cup has kicked off in Australia. India hasn’t won this tournament since the inaugural edition in 2007. Last year, we got knocked out in the group stage itself. But everyone is optimistic about India’s chances this time. After all, India has the best T20 record of any cricketing nation this year, with the most number of wins in a calendar year. So realistically speaking, what are India’s chances? Who are the other favourites? Who are the most in-form match-winners that are likely to make a splash this year? 
10/22/202224 minutes, 42 seconds
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After Truss, what next in Britain? | In Focus podcast

Three prime ministers in three months. That’s the political score for England just ahead of the T20 world cup. The old and mature democracy distinctly looks a bit Third Worldish. Just after saying she wasn’t a quitter, Liz Truss had to quit as Prime Minister on Thursday. It wasn’t really a surprise after she had to sack her Finance Minister and then lost her Home Minister as well. The new Finance Minister had to turn her economic policies on its head. So, where does Britain go from here? Should there be fresh elections so that the electorate can make the choice of a new prime minister? Or should the Conservative Party get another shot at foisting a leader on the country? And who might that somebody be? 
10/21/202218 minutes, 37 seconds
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Can Mallikarjun Kharge make a difference to the Congress party’s fortunes? | In Focus podcast

The expected has happened. Mallikarjun Kharge is the new president of the Indian National Congress. His rival, diplomat turned politician Shashi Tharoor, garnered impressive thousand-odd votes against Kharge, who was considered to be the establishment candidate. The election does show that inner-party democracy in the Congress party is possible. By holding elections in a transparent way, the Congress has also shone a light on how tightly-controlled other parties, including the BJP, are.
10/20/202225 minutes, 35 seconds
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Why does South Asia have the highest levels of hunger in the world? | In Focus podcast

This year’s Global Hunger Index, a peer-reviewed annual report that tracks hunger at the “global, regional, and country levels," has shown South Asia, and India in particular, as a hunger hot spot. India has been ranked 107th out of the 121 countries that were the subject of the report. India, whose child-wasting rate of 19.3% was the highest of any country, was ranked below countries such as Pakistan, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Sudan. In the Global Hunger Index 2021, India had been ranked 101st out of 116 countries. The government of India, for the second year in a row, has rejected the report. It has claimed that the report’s methodology is flawed, and that it ignores the food security efforts of the central government during the pandemic. How was this report prepared? Are the criticisms of it justified? What are its implications for food security and public policy? 
10/19/202226 minutes, 17 seconds
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What is the state of Indian private sector investment? | In Focus podcast

The Finance Minister recently addressed the Indian industry, urging them to step up investments in the country with confidence. She also asked them why they were like Lord Hanuman, who had to be reminded of his own strength. Why did she make this appeal? What is the status of private investment in this country? The government has budgeted for higher public spending this fiscal year, but could this have come earlier, to help crowd in private investment?
10/19/202225 minutes, 6 seconds
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Is Europe a garden and most of the world a jungle? | In Focus podcast

Josep Borell, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has triggered a controversy by saying that Europe was a garden and “most of the rest of the world” was a jungle. He warned in a speech at the European Diplomatic Academy on the 13th of October, that the “jungle could invade the garden”. He continued, “The gardeners should take care of it, but they will not protect the garden by building walls. A nice small garden surrounded by high walls in order to prevent the jungle from coming in is not going to be a solution. Because the jungle has a strong growth capacity, and the wall will never be high enough in order to protect the garden. The gardeners have to go to the jungle. Europeans have to be much more engaged with the rest of the world. Otherwise, the rest of the world will invade us, by different ways and means.” So what does this speech mean for the rest of the world? Does it signal a formal end to globalisation and integration? Does it reflect the true state of the world? Are these rare candid remarks from a serving European bureaucrat? 
10/17/202224 minutes, 21 seconds
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RBI's norms on hedging against exchange rate risks | In Focus podcast

The RBI issued directions earlier this week to Indian banks on the provisions they ought to make against loans, if the entities to which they have lent funds in foreign currency have not hedged against risk of changes in the exchange rate. After all, if an Indian company had borrowed one dollar a year ago, and has to close the loan now, it would have to shell out more rupees today to close one dollar’s worth of debt, than when it received the loan.  Today, ratings agency CARE Edge Chief Economist Rajani Sinha joins us to share her views on what the trigger for the Reserve Bank's move is.