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Society

The Ideal Age To Marry? Reflections Of A 20-Something Indian Woman

India is raising the minimum age for women to marry. What does that mean on the individual level (with your parents whispering in your ear)?

-Essay-

NEW DELHI — A few days ago, I got a call from my parents, who wanted to talk about the "ideal age to marry." This came after news about India raising the minimum age for women to marry to 21, to match the age for men. It's a laudable move, sure, but I even wonder if 21-year-olds will be able to fathom the expectations, responsibilities and limitations that come with such a socially-constrained institution.

I am not ready at 26, and won’t be even at 30.

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The Digital Tracking Of India's Sanitation Workers Is An Extra Dirty Deal

Lower-caste cleaners must wear GPS-enabled smartwatches, raising questions about their privacy and data protection.

Munesh sits by the roadside near a crowded market in Chandigarh, a city in India’s north, on a January day. She is flanked by several other women, all of them sweepers hired by the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation. She shows the smartwatch she is wearing and says, “See, I didn't even touch it, but the camera has turned on."

Munesh, who estimates she is in her 40s and, like many Indians, goes by just one name, is one of around 4,000 such sanitation workers. The corporation makes it mandatory for them to wear smartwatches — called Human Efficiency Tracking Systems — fitted with GPS trackers. Each one has a microphone, a SIM embedded for calling workers, and a camera, so that the workers can send photos to their supervisors as proof of attendance.

In Chandigarh, this project is run by Imtac India, an IT services company, at a cost of an estimated $278,000 per year. Meanwhile, sanitation workers say that the government has not invested in personal protective gear throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and that they have long worked without medical care and other vital social services.

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From India To Canada, Tracking The Killer Wave Of Global Warming

Because of climate change induced heat waves, India is increasingly — and alarmingly — resembling Kim Stanley Robinson's climate-fiction book The Ministry of the Future, but nothing seems to be done to change its dramatic ending.

-Essay-

Kim Stanley Robinson’s book The Ministry of the Future begins quite dramatically. In the year 2025, an American aid worker experiences a horrific heatwave in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India. The chapter ends with many of the people in his town sitting in a lake trying desperately to stay cool; the term "dead in the water" takes on a new significance. Ultimately, some 20 million die in that heatwave.

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Will Putin Declare War On May 9? Or Peace?

The annual May 9 commemoration of the defeat of Nazi Germany has extra significance this year with Russia in the full throes of the invasion of Ukraine. There are conflicting reports about how President Vladimir Putin may use the occasion.

There’s no doubt that next Monday, May 9, all eyes will be on Russian President Vladimir Putin. The annual commemoration of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, known in Moscow as “Victory Day,” has extra significance this year with Russia in the full throes of the invasion of Ukraine, which may indeed be the riskiest war since 1945.

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Of course, two months since the invasion, Putin hasn’t even acknowledged that Russia is at war, calling it a “special operation.” And some sources believe that he will use the May 9 occasion to officially declare war — again, against “Nazis,” as the Kremlin refers to the government in Kyiv.

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Society
Tarushi Aswani

How A Newspaper Is Helping Save India's Endangered Languages

After a bill by Indian parliament sidelined local languages in India, one digital newspaper took up the task of helping preserve them.

NEW DELHI — Tucked in a corner of a house in the Chenab valley in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the north of the country is the office of The Chenab Times, a multimedia news website that aims to produce news in two main local languages of Jammu’s Doda region – Bhaderwahi and Sarazi.

The team uploads videos on YouTube that wrap up daily news, first in Urdu and then in Bhaderwahi and Sarazi. The news portal also gives space to writers from across the country to write for their op-ed section.

In Jan. 2017, 23-year-old Anzer Ayoob, the editor-in-chief of the news website, started this portal that would run news in Urdu and English. However, after the parliament passed the Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill – that made Hindi, Kashmiri and Dogri the official languages of the Union Territory – in September 2020, locals in the valley felt side-lined and ignored.

Many expressed dismay over the exclusion of Gojri, Pahadi and Punjabi and how the Bill coerced speakers to align with Hindi in a region where it is barely spoken. This also led to apprehensions over the marginalization of Urdu, which is the lingua franca in Pakistan. Language and politics are delicate subjects in the area. Both China and Pakistan lay claim to parts of Kashmir.

The civil society groups have expressed severe concerns over the Union government’s decision to digitize materials of Kashmiri language in Devnagri script, more associated with Hindi, instead of the Nastaliq script, pointing to serious apprehensions about the devaluation of the Persian script.

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Geopolitics
Ahmad Ra'fat

A New Cold War Calculus: Ukraine's Domino Effects Around The World

The war in Ukraine has set off the dynamics of a new Cold War: a standoff between democracy and authoritarianism, whatever the ideological stripe. Faraway parts of the world will be affected by what happens on the ground in Ukraine.

-Editorial-

LONDON — Two months into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the heroic resistance of the Ukrainians and their leaders' political skills have created responsibilities for the West and the democratic world. The first day of the invasion was a wake-up call for the West and its allies. The world is returning to bipolarity and a new Cold War.

If the last Cold War was between Soviet communism and Western capitalism, this one is between a front of liberal democracies and their authoritarian rivals. Younger people might call it Cold War 2.0.

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So what will be the characteristics of this next-generation Cold War? That will depend on how the war in Ukraine ends.

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In The News
Lila Paulou, Lisa Berdet, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

Europe Gas Crisis, India Heat Wave, First Black Woman On ISS

👋 こんにちは*

Welcome to Thursday, where Europe braces for a gas crisis as Russia starts halting supplies, India is hit by a record heat wave, and Jessica Watkins makes space history. Meanwhile, Spanish independent magazine La Marea meets with Ukrainians who keep their anti-war stance to themselves, for fear of being called a traitor.

[*Konnichiwa - Japanese]

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Society
Rahul Goel, Avinash Chanchal and Vinit Gupta*

How Cycling Could Revolutionize Gender Equality In India

India is one of the most gender unequal countries in the world. But the humble bicycle is helping women reclaim space in cities, opening up job prospects, and even encouraging their education opportunities.

“I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world,” said American Civil Rights leader Susan B. Anthony, about 125 years ago.

Mobility across the world is often gendered and men and women have different travel patterns. This is partly because women often have greater household and childcare responsibilities than men. Their travel needs are often dominated by accompanying children to school or going to the market for household needs. Women also tend to use different modes of transport than men. What’s more, these gender differences are relatively greater in India than in other countries in the world.

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Economy
Radha Kumar*

India's Deal For Cheap Russian Oil Is Strategically Dubious And Morally Bankrupt

While the strategic issues are still being debated, the Indian government has dismissed the moral issue by concluding a cheap oil agreement with Russia. But are Indian consumers prepared to accept the true cost of discount Russian oil?

-OpEd-

NEW DELHI — The Indian government’s decision to buy discounted crude oil from Russia, when the Vladimir Putin administration is bombing civilians in Ukraine, is questionable on many counts. Contrary to the Narendra Modi administration’s plea that the issue should not be politicized, the decision in the existing situation is as much political as it is economic, however much we may wish it were not.

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The U.S., European countries, Japan and Australia have made no secret of their desire that India join them in condemning Putin’s war, as the 141 country governments that voted in favor of the UN General Assembly resolution did. Russia has offered discounted oil to show that India is among the "many" countries — actually a dozen at best — that resist the Atlantic alliance’s attempt to isolate and punish Putin.

Xi’s China has suddenly discovered that Modi’s India is worth talking to: it will provide cover for the Xi administration to not only deflect attention from its own support for Russia, but to position itself as more willing to engage with the Atlantic alliance than India.

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Society
*Rachel Dwyer

Bollywood Is Finally Showing The True Colors Of India's Holi Festival

Holi is much more than just throwing petals and colored powders. In addition to being a celebration of life, family and fertility, its songs and dances can also be a vehicle to warn against life’s dangers, or depict intimate moments where the saris are wet and the bodies can touch. And the Bollywood film industry too is progressively moving away from a sanitized depiction.

My first Holi in India was not an enjoyable one.

Amritsar. 1990. I’d missed the train to Pakistan — seriously... — so I took a three-wheeler to the border at Wagah. Although the driver was somewhat anxious, the fare was too good for him to turn down.

Ignored by lurking terrorists (were there really any?), we did astonish several jawans soldiers crouched behind their sandbagged posts, but were soon hit, inevitably, by a carrier bag of cold water, the rest of the journey being bumpy, chilly and soggy.

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Future
Rozena Crossman

K-Pop To Catalonia: How The Metaverse Can Turn Local Culture Global

Glitchy online museum tours are a thing of the past. From Barcelona to Bollywood, the metaverse is bringing immersive cultural experiences right into our homes.

Between environmental costs, COVID and criticisms of digital nomads hurting local economies, the world is questioning the magic of travel — and increasing the time spent in front of screens. Although the meager form the metaverse has taken today can’t replace the smells, tastes, or exact luminescence that make discovering new corners of the world so thrilling, it may soon be dropping local adventures from far away lands into our living rooms.

While the guided tours of museums and online concerts that we all tested out during lockdowns were often glitchy and underwhelming, the beginning of 2022 has seen regional cultural initiatives from around the world flocking to the metaverse, a virtual reality world where people can interact and have experiences as they do in the real world.

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Geopolitics
Sushil Aaron

The Price Of India's UN Vote On Ukraine Will Be Paid In Washington

The Modi government chose to abstain on the UN Security Council condemnation of the Russian invasion, but it underestimates how much India will be condemned on the wrong side of history in the minds of American leaders for years to come.

-Analysis-

NEW DELHI — President Barack Obama once described India-US ties as one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century. That relationship unexpectedly got into choppy waters last week after India got a couple of reminders from the United States on its position about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and how it should vote on the draft UN Security Council resolution – which India ultimately abstained on, along with China and the UAE.

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that he had spoken to external affairs minister S. Jaishankar – and indicated the “importance of a strong collective response to Russian aggression.” Blinken effectively drafted lines that the Ministry of External Affairs was struggling to compose suggesting that “Russia’s attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is a clear violation of the rules-based international order."

President Joe Biden mentioned in a press conference that the issue of being fully in sync with India on the issue wasn’t resolved completely. Then US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said this while introducing the resolution: “vote yes if you believe in upholding the UN Charter … Vote no or abstain if you do not uphold the Charter.”

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Society
Rabia Shireen

How India's Hijab School Ban Is Destroying Muslim-Hindu Friendships

Many Muslim female students lament that several of their Hindu friends have turned their backs on them, despite the fact they have been friends for several years.

As the controversy over hijab continues to escalate in Karnataka, female Muslim students who have been disallowed from entering their schools are going through mental trauma and experiencing a sense of betrayal and discrimination from their friends and college management.

“First of all, we have lost our mental peace. Secondly, we fell out badly with many Hindu friends because of this issue,” Hazra Shifa, a student of Udupi government college, told The Wire.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Bertrand Hauger and Jane Herbelin

Libya PM Targeted, Russia-Belarus Drills, Gazpacho Tactics

👋 Bonjou!*

Welcome to Thursday, where Libya’s prime minister survives an assassination attempt, Belarus and Russia start joint military drills and a Republican congresswoman spills her gazpacho. Fasten your seatbelts, we’re also looking at the world of private jet travel, a means of transportation that soared during the pandemic.

[*Haitian Creole]

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Society
Anahita Mukherji*

From California, A Watershed In Fight Against Indian Caste Oppression

The inclusion of caste in its anti-discrimination policy by the California State Universities is as a major triumph for activists.

Saale cha*** tumhari kismat bahut tez hai, tum America pahunch gaye.

Translated, this means, "you cha*** [a slur used by "upper" caste members], you’re in luck to have made it to America."

The casual, casteist insult was one of many Neha Singh grew accustomed to on campus, as a student at California State University a decade ago, where she pursued Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.

At the time, she had no idea whom to complain to, as she wasn’t sure the American university system would understand the Indian caste system. So she held her tongue, avoided revealing she was Dalit, and dropped out of South Asian dance groups on campus after repeatedly being asked what her last name was.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Bertrand Hauger and Jane Herbelin

Macron Meets Putin, Peng Interview, Fight Club Backlash

👋 Merhaba!*

Welcome to Monday, where French President Macron is on diplomatic blitz to Moscow and Kyiv, Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai gives her first Western media interview and China’s controversial editing of Fight Club gets undone. Die Welt also looks at Africa’s first vaccine factory and its attempt to counterbalance the unfair global distribution of vaccines.

[*Turkish]

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