Safety deficit: On Kozhikode aircrash

The tragic crash of an Air India Express ‘Vande Bharat’ relief flight in Kozhikode, in which 18 people, including two crew members, lost their lives and many were left severely injured, is a forceful reminder that there are no acceptable risks in aviation. Although an even bigger disaster was averted by the absence of fire in the aircraft, the crash snuffed out the lives of many returning home from Dubai after a long, traumatic separation from loved ones in the pandemic. Many Indians could not quickly return home from countries where they were employed, studying or travelling, although they desperately sought flights back home since March. For those who took that long-awaited trip on August 7, it ended in disaster. There are clear pointers to the dangerous nature of flight operations at Kozhikode airport in the midst of a strong monsoon, even with the availability of an instrument landing system for the “tabletop” runway carved into undulating terrain. There are problems with

Balancing priorities: On development and environment

Forecasts of ‘good’ or ‘normal’ monsoons are often beguiling and belie the ominous. This year, the annual floods that upend the Brahmaputra Valley have been followed by intense spells along the Konkan coast and Mumbai, and now Kerala, which until the end of last month recorded a slight deficit. The landslip in Idukki, that has so far claimed 43 lives and rendered several homeless, follows from a continuing spell of heavy rains in Kerala. Most districts have received three or four times more rain than what is normal. Last year too, neighbouring Wayanad saw multiple hamlets wiped out and the year before, the devastating floods in the State forced a debate on the need for new models of development. Landslips, or landslides, in the Western Ghats have a history. Following the 2018 floods, data from the Geological Survey of India showed that Kerala had experienced 67 major landslide events and several minor ones from 1961-2013. As part of a National Landslide Susceptibility Mapping (NLSM)

Alert amid uncertainty: On RBI holding interest rates

The RBI has prudently decided to keep its powder dry for now, citing the “extreme uncertainty” that characterises the current outlook for inflation and economic activity. Observing that the “unprecedented shock” from the pandemic has left the economy stressed, the RBI said that while the monetary policy committee recognised the primacy of supporting a recovery, it was necessarily mindful of its inflation targeting mandate. The picture on prices is clouded by many uncertainties. While the provisional June CPI inflation reading of 6.1% had edged over the upper bound of the mandated medium-term goal of 4% plus/minus 2%, a spike in food prices as well as cost push pressures from higher transport fuel and raw material prices were combining to obscure the inflation outlook. Vowing to ensure that the policy stance remains ‘accommodative’ for as long as needed to revive growth, Governor Shaktikanta Das emphasised that the RBI was ready to act on rates once a durable reduction in inflation was


Consolidating control: On Sri Lanka elections

The Rajapaksas have consolidated their hold on power, garnering a near two-thirds majority in Sri Lanka’s Parliament. The victory was expected, but it is not often, under the proportional representation system, that a party reaches that milestone. The SLPP, founded four years ago by former President Mahinda Rajapaka, has won 145 seats, and with the help of minority allies, will reach the coveted 150 mark in a House of 225. The party may now have the numbers to amend the Constitution and undo the two-term limit and other curbs on presidential powers imposed by the 19th Amendment passed by a predecessor regime. The reasons behind this landslide are clear. Majoritarian nationalism, the party’s trump card, was boosted by the unprecedented disarray in the Opposition ranks. The people, yearning for development and debt relief, appear not to have forgotten the failings of the four-year rule of Maitripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe — rivals who had come together in 2015 on a promise


Groundbreaking: On Ram temple bhoomi pujan

The bhoomi pujan or the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a grand temple for Lord Sri Ram in Ayodhya on Wednesday marks an end and a beginning. What it ends and what it begins can both be interpreted in different ways; how India collectively makes meaning out of it will define the future of the country hereon. One view is that the rising Ram temple signifies the end of perceived humiliation of the Hindus and the beginning of a new phase of their political ascendancy; the other is that it denotes the end of strife that shackled India’s potential for decades and heralds a new dawn of fraternity among religious communities. The end and the beginning, therefore, are not just open to interpretation, they hold the possibilities of change. For those who yearned for a temple at the site which they believe is the exact spot of Sri Ram’s birth, the journey so far has been tumultuous and violent. A Muslim place of worship that stood there for 464 years was demolished in 1992 to make

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