The Ganga’s message: On microplastics pollution

The Ganga might have stood witness to many stages of India’s civilisation, as Mahatma Gandhi once noted, but in recent decades it has become a conduit for sewage, solid waste, industrial effluents and other pollutants. It is depressing, though not surprising, therefore, that a new study by an NGO has found evidence of a modern-day scourge, microplastics, in the river, with the highest concentrations in Varanasi and Kanpur, followed by Haridwar. What the data show is the alarming presence of plastic filaments, fibres, fragments, and in two places, microbeads, with their composition pointing to both industrial and secondary broken-down plastics from articles of everyday use. These range from tyres, clothing, food packaging, bags, cosmetics with microbeads, garland covers and other municipal waste. The finding of significant levels of microscopic particles invisible to the naked eye at below 300 micrometres to 5 millimetres in the country’s holiest river calls into question the progress

Return to troubles: On Brexit and the Good Friday agreement

The British government’s demand to renegotiate parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Brexit agreement with the EU has set the stage for another round of clashes between London and Brussels. Just seven months after the agreement came into force, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government now says the Protocol, which was accepted by both sides to avoid physical and economic barriers between Northern Ireland, a part of the U.K., and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, hampers trade inside the U.K. When the Brexit agreement was signed in 2020, Mr. Johnson agreed to set up checks at the British side for goods entering Northern Ireland. This meant, in order to avoid an economic barrier between the two Irelands, Britain effectively set up one between the British mainland and the Island of Ireland. The decision had economic and political repercussions, affecting British traders every time they move goods across the Irish Sea. Within Northern Ireland, the Irish nationalists who

Limits of cooperation: On reforms in cooperative sector

The cooperative movement certainly needs reform and revitalisation. Beset by political interference, many cooperative societies do not hold elections regularly, while some are superseded frequently. The 97th Constitution Amendment, which came into effect in 2012, was a major step towards infusing autonomy, democratic functioning and professional management. The recent Supreme Court verdict holding the amendment unconstitutional to the extent it applied to cooperative societies under the control of the States is a reminder that even well-intentioned efforts towards reforms cannot be at the cost of the quasi-federal principles underlying the Constitution. The amendment added Part IXB to the Constitution, concerning cooperative societies. Part IXB delineated the contours of what State legislation on cooperative societies ought to contain, including provisions on the maximum number of directors in each society, reservation for seats for SCs, or STs, and women, besides the duration of the


In search of gold: On Tokyo Olympics

A medal can lose its lustre but the athlete’s sporting immortality is set in stone, such is the enduring allure of triumphs at the Olympics. Even a participant without any titles, is referred to as an Olympian and it is an eternal stamp that sportspersons obsess about. The quadrennial congregation of the world’s finest athletes is set to begin, after a year’s delay imposed by the pandemic’s shadow. ‘Tokyo 2020’, as the Olympics is branded for the latest edition, will commence at Japan’s capital on Friday while COVID-19 protocols are in place. Tokyo and Fukushima will conduct events without spectators while a limited number may be allowed at stadiums in the Miyagi and Shizuoka regions. Local approval ratings for the Games now stand at the half-way mark, a considerable improvement especially after an 83% opposition as recent as May. Having previously hosted the Olympics in 1964, Tokyo’s second dalliance with the premier championship has been extremely tough. Even two days ago, there were


Dealing with denial: On playing down the COVID-19 tragedy

A touchy topic for the Centre and States has been the counting of the dead from COVID-19. In 2020, as the pandemic ravaged Europe and the U.S., Health Ministry officials would incessantly argue that India had better managed the pandemic because its deaths per million of population were comparatively lower. While factually true, it was always apparent that the argument was specious given the size, demographic difference and India’s per capita access to quality health care. But the ferocious second wave, in April and May, characterised by the very visible scenario of hospitals being overrun, and the sick gasping for a very basic necessity of medical oxygen, revealed a spike in excess deaths, compared to the normal death rate in previous years. Even though independent databases, such as the CRS and State records, show large spikes in deaths, with no other explicable cause other than COVID-19, the Centre continues to be in denial of the mortal scale of the pandemic. Tuesday’s statement by

Water as woe: On Mumbai’s annual mayhem

Spy in hand: On Pegasus spyware issue

Sharing during scarcity: On Krishna and Godavari River Management boards

Leaving the past behind: On Afghanistan

Sensitive and precise: On anti-trafficking bill

Overdue review: On the sedition law

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