Friday, November 12 2021

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I don't know what is soft Hindutva. I want to unite 130 crore people of this country, unite one human being with another. This is Hindutva...Hindutva unites, Hindutva doesn't break.

That’s Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal making his politics crystal clear--when asked if he is playing the ‘soft Hindutva’ card in the run up to the state elections in four states. He also clarified: “Whatever is going on in the name of Hindutva today is not Hindutva. These people hurl dirty abuses on people on media, threaten people, engineer riots, this is not Hindutva.”

Big Story

The sorry tale of a foaming Yamuna

The TLDR: Over recent weeks, images and videos of the Yamuna covered with toxic foam have sparked outrage, despair and, inevitably, political blame-mongering. We look at why our great river is in such dire shape.


First: What’s happening now

In what has become an annual ritual around Diwali, images and videos of people dunking themselves in a foam-covered Yamuna to mark Chhath puja went viral. AAP-governed Delhi blamed BJP-led Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for the sad state of affairs. The BJP in turn pointed its finger at the Delhi government—accusing it of banning puja celebrations to hide the extent of pollution. 


The Delhi government made frantic efforts to dissipate the froth—to allow worshippers to take a foam-free dip—as opposed to taking steps to actually cleaning the river. For example, by spraying fresh water on the surface, putting up barricades and finally, deploying 15 speedboats with ropes to skim off the foam.


Foolish and dangerous: All these efforts at ‘image management’ disguise the fact that bathing in the Yamuna is a great health hazard. A July report showed that the level of fecal coliform—microbes from human and animal excreta—in the river was as high as 1,40,000 microbes per 100 ml of water. That’s 280 times the recommended level of 500 per 100 ml or less. Strange data point to note: Back in 2011, the fecal coliform levels were 1.1 billion per 100 ml—and the river certainly isn’t any cleaner today. 


In any case, as a leading expert makes it clear: “Almost no stretch of the Yamuna in Delhi is safe for bathing. Water with such high levels of fecal coliform can lead to skin infection on external contact and water borne diseases if ingested.”


Big point to note: The Yamuna in Delhi is an “ecologically dead river.” It is so dirty there haven’t been any fish or freshwater birds for years. 


Why is the Yamuna filthy?

Headlines that matter

The crowning of Xi Jinping

Senior party officials in a closed-door meeting in Beijing approved a decision that elevates the current Chinese president to the stature of Mao Zedong, the founder of the country’s Communist rule, and Deng Xiaoping, the chief architect of its economic takeoff. The move also seals the possibility of a third five-year term for Xi—who may even stick around for life since the parliament has scrapped presidential term limits. Washington Post and  New York Times have more details.

Two big social media moves

One: YouTube is going to stop displaying the number of ‘dislikes’ received by videos on its platform. The ‘dislike’ button will still be available—but only creators can see how many people hated on their clips. The reason for the change: The increasing number of ‘dislike’ attacks that are used to bully people on the platform. (Tech Crunch)


Two: Instagram is testing a ‘Take a Break’ feature that “encourages you to take a break from Instagram after you spend a certain amount of time on the app; 10, 20, or 30 minutes.” You have to opt-in for it to work—though teenage users will be nudged to do so. (The Verge)

A new Indian saint

Devasahayam Pillai was a Hindu who converted to Christianity in the 18th century. He will become the first Indian layman—a non-ordained member of the Church—to be conferred sainthood by the Pope next year. The Vatican said:


“While preaching, he particularly insisted on the equality of all people, despite caste differences. This aroused the hatred of the higher classes, and he was arrested in 1749. After enduring increasing hardships, he received the crown of martyrdom when he was shot on January 14, 1752.”


In today’s edition

Sanity Break

  • The winners of the Environmental Photographer of the Year


Weekend Advisory

  • Good stuff to watch this weekend
  • A list of good reads

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