In Focus by The Hindu

By The Hindu

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 Dec 4, 2022
Very detailed interviews by very knowledgeable people


A podcast from The Hindu that delves deep into current developments with subject experts, and brings in context, history, perspective and analysis.

Episode Date
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? 
Dec 09, 2022
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.
Dec 06, 2022
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.  
Dec 05, 2022
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. 
Dec 03, 2022
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?
Dec 02, 2022
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? 
Dec 01, 2022
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? 
Nov 30, 2022
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? 
Nov 29, 2022
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. 
Nov 28, 2022
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. 
Nov 25, 2022
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? 
Nov 23, 2022
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. 
Nov 22, 2022
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?
Nov 21, 2022
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? 
Nov 19, 2022
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? 
Nov 18, 2022
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? 
Nov 17, 2022
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. 
Nov 16, 2022
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.
Nov 15, 2022
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? 
Nov 14, 2022
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?
Nov 11, 2022
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? 
Nov 10, 2022
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.
Nov 09, 2022
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?
Nov 08, 2022
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. 
Nov 07, 2022
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?
Nov 04, 2022
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. 
Nov 03, 2022
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
Nov 02, 2022
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?
Nov 01, 2022
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? 
Oct 31, 2022
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? 
Oct 28, 2022
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. 
Oct 27, 2022
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? 
Oct 26, 2022
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?
Oct 25, 2022
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? 
Oct 22, 2022
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? 
Oct 21, 2022
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.
Oct 20, 2022
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? 
Oct 19, 2022
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?
Oct 19, 2022
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? 
Oct 17, 2022
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. 
Oct 14, 2022
Mid-day meal scheme: what's really being served? | In Focus podcast Bonus Episode
 The mid-day meal scheme is considered to be one of the government's most successful initiatives. For thousands of children across the nation, this scheme guarantees that they get at least one meal a day. While this has led to increased school attendance, data and social audits reveal that the food being served is sometimes unhygienic, cold, contaminated, or nutritionally inadequate. Consequently, issues like food poisoning, are seeing a spike.  In this episode, The Hindu speaks with experts on the benefits of the mid-day meals scheme, what they've seen on the ground and how to effectively implement feedback mechanisms. 
Oct 13, 2022
Why is the Chinese Communist Party Congress important for Xi Jinping and the rest of the world? | In Focus podcast
Chinese President and general secretary of China’s Communist Party, Xi Jinping, is all set to shred the two-term rule for the country’s top leader in the post Deng Xiaoping era. Xi will be the first leader in decades who is expected to hang for an unprecedented third term at the upcoming 20th Congress of the Communist Party.   So, what does this mean for China and its internal and external policies? Will we see a harder Chinese approach towards its own people and to the rest of the world? And, how has the continuing zero COVID policy changed China? 
Oct 12, 2022
India's abstention on the China human rights vote | In Focus podcast
On October 6, India abstained from voting on a draft decision at the United National Human Rights Council that called for a debate on the “situation of human rights in the Xinjiang Uyghur Region” in China. By a narrow majority of 19 to 17, China and its allies ensured the defeat of a Western bloc of nations that were seeking a debate on the state of the Uyghur Muslim minority in China.  The very next day, the spokesman of the External Affairs Ministry in New Delhi hoped that the “relevant party” would address the situation in Xinjiang “objectively and properly.”  So, should India have voted for the draft decision on the situation in Xinjiang, especially since China has resisted efforts to sanction terrorists responsible for anti-India operations in the 1267 sanctions committee at the U.N., rather than abstaining? 
Oct 11, 2022
What is the current global economic situation? | In Focus podcast
If the Covid-19 pandemic turned our world upside down, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has added to the global economic gloom. We thought it apt to now take a quick snapshot of major economies undergoing stress and of places where policy action is going against the grain. We also wanted to take a peek into nations that are doing rather well, when the rest of the world is surrounded by uncertainty. We chose to review the US’s interest actions, the UK’s fiscal and currency woes, Turkey’s unbridled inflation and counterintuitive interest rate moves, the blossoming of Vietnam’s economy in a world full of economic stagnation, with Indonesia close on its heels and insistence by Japan’s central bank that it won’t raise rates given that it has the lowest inflation rate among major economies. Rohit Azad, who teaches economics at JNU, shares his views with us on these global trends.
Oct 10, 2022
Is C-Dot’s 5G technology compatible with global providers? | In Focus podcast
Fifth generation telecom technology, or 5G, has been in the news lately. Spectrum that was recently auctioned to telecom firms for providing 5G services fetched the government about Rs. 1.5 lakh crore. Airtel has already unveiled services in 8 cities. Jio promises to follow suit by Deepavali this year, even as it targets pan India availability by December 2023.  Meanwhile, C-DoT or the Centre for Development of Telematics has developed India’s own 5G core. What does this mean to the local industry? Is it compatible with other global equipment providers? Will it help save on foreign exchange outgo? 
Oct 07, 2022
What global factors influence India's forex reserve levels? | In Focus podcast
 India’s foreign exchange reserves are lower by about $100 bn from a year ago. The rupee has also depreciated; it has seen a decline of more than 7% since the start of the financial year in April. Though the Reserve Bank has dipped into the reserves to help stem volatility in the rupee, that is not the only reason that the observed value of reserves has declined. Changes in valuation, given the dollar strengthening brutally against other currencies too have also contributed. How does this work? And what implications do all these changes have for the Reserve Bank’s action path going forward?
Oct 06, 2022
What explains China’s actions at the Line of Actual Control? | In Focus podcast
On September 13, 2022, India and China disengaged from a fifth friction point in Eastern Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Both sides have now established five buffer zones since tensions began in April 2020, but the LAC crisis is far from over. In this episode, Manoj Joshi, Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Reservation Foundation and author of “Understanding the India China Border”, explains where things stand on the border, where both countries go from here as they look to rebuild shattered trust, and what may have driven China’s recent actions on the LAC that have upended decades of peace.
Oct 05, 2022
How much should India prop up the Rupee? | In Focus podcast Bonus Episode
The rupee weakened past 81 against the dollar for the first time ever last week. The RBI’s intervention in the forex market to help stem the volatility by selling dollars has meant that our forex reserves have fallen about $94 billion over the course of about 12 months to about $545 billion in mid September. How much lower can we afford to let our reserves go? Is there a ‘correct’ level for the rupee? Where does the interest rate as a policy tool figure in all of this? 
Oct 03, 2022
The Gehlot twist in the Congress saga | In Focus podcast
Nothing seems to be going easy for the Congress. Even selecting and electing a non-Gandhi family member as the Congress president has proved to be a tall order.  Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot claimed that he didn’t know anything about a pro-incumbent revolt in the state legislature party even as Sachin Pilot waits in the wings to become Chief Minister.  After an apology to party president Sonia Gandhi, Mr. Gehlot opted out of the Congress president’s race. The contest is now between Malikarjun Kharge and Shashi Tharoor. 
Oct 01, 2022
Did Hans Niemann cheat in his victory over world champion Magnus Carlsen? | In Focus podcast
There is a minor storm in the chess world over alleged cheating. It all began on September 4 when a 19-year-old grandmaster named Hans Niemann defeated world champion Magnus Carlsen in an over-the-board game in a tournament in the US. Following this shocking loss to a player rated much lower, Carlsen withdrew from the tournament - something that almost never happens in a top event. He offered no explanations except to insinuate that Niemann had cheated. Niemann has said that he has cheated in online chess in the past but is clean now. But was quick to ban him. When Carlsen and Niemann met again in an online event on September 19, Carlsen resigned after just one move, and has said he will not play against Niemann. Meanwhile, the chess world’s top anti-cheating expert Ken Regan has analysed not only Niemann’s win over Carlsen but also all his games from 2020, and found no evidence of cheating. Is Carlsen justified in making these insinuations without any evidence? Does the FIDE have adequate safeguards in place to ensure players don’t throw random allegations around? And how easy, or difficult, is it to cheat in chess today?
Sep 29, 2022
Can Putin’s ‘partial mobilisation’ of reservists change the course of the Ukraine war? | In Focus podcast
Following setbacks in his invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced a partial mobilisation of ‘reservists’ to bolster the war effort. He launched his so-called special military operation with 150,000 troops, but now he plans to raise an additional 300,000 troops. Simultaneously, he also announced that referendums will be held in four Russia-held regions of Ukraine. If they vote yes, these Ukrainian territories will come under Russian sovereignty. Both these developments have serious implications, in Ukraine and in Russia. The move toward partial mobilisation has triggered fierce protests in Russia. There have been dozens of anti-mobilisation rallies, enlistment centres have been set on fire, and there have been lengthy queues of cars – some as long as 18 km – at Russia’s border crossings, with people wanting to flee. Will this partial mobilisation enable Russia to reach its military goals? Or will it backfire? What do the referendums mean in terms of the possibilities of military escalation?
Sep 28, 2022
Why Iranian women have hit the streets in protest | In Focus podcast
Zar. Zendegi. Azadi. Women. Life. Freedom. That’s the slogan given by Iranian women protesters after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died after being allegedly beaten in police custody for wearing her hijab improperly.  The other popular slogan is “death to the dictator”.  Over 40 persons have been killed in the protests in about 50 cities across Iran since Mahsa Amini’s death. The protests continue in the face of a massive crackdown by the hardline Islamic regime even as internet bans continue. WhatsApp, Instagram and Skype have been shut down by the government.  One of the fundamental demands of the protesting women is that wearing a hijab should not be mandatory. In some other societies, it would be looked upon as a basic right. But not in Iran. 
Sep 27, 2022
The changes to the rules governing adoption in India | In Focus podcast
Adoption in India is known to be a rather long, tedious and painful process. Now, in an ostensible attempt to speed up the adoption process, the government has introduced some changes. It has notified the ‘Model Amendment Rules’ under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act, 2021 and so, from September 1, instead of the courts, it is the District Magistrates who would have the power to issue adoption orders. But this change, instead of being welcomed, has parents and adoption agencies worried. What are they worried about? What ails the adoption process in India, and what is the way forward to make it a rewarding process for children and parents?
Sep 23, 2022
The changes to the BCCI's constitution explained | In Focus podcast
On September 14, a two-judge bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Hima Kohli assented to several significant amendments to the BCCI Constitution. These amendments had been unanimously approved by the BCCI at its annual general body meeting in December 2019. But the BCCI needed the Supreme Court’s approval for its amendments to take effect, and now the approval has come. One of the most talked about amendments has to do with the cooling off period for office-bearers and the other is to do with disqualification of those holding public office. So, what exactly did the BCCI constitution say on these matters, what do the amendments seek to do, and how do these changes sit with the reforms initiated by the Justice R.M. Lodha committee?
Sep 22, 2022
Is quiet quitting a new concern in the industry? | In Focus podcast
Quiet Quitting has recently captured the imagination of employers and employees alike. Is it a new concept or is it a new name for something that is as old as industry itself?  Quiet Quitters are described as those who continue to be employed in a company but just do their job and no more. They are not seen as going above and beyond. Some experts argue that that is all right. Others say, the level of engagement is to be seen distinctly from working only the average 40 hours a week and that Quiet Quitters could actually be contributing by working only 8-9 hours a day.  Today, we are joined by Barnik Maitra, Managing Partner for India and South Asia at Arthur D. Little, which is said to be the oldest management consulting company. 
Sep 21, 2022
Meetings in troubled times – an SCO session in Samarkand | In Focus podcast
Bilateral meetings hogged the limelight at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation – the ones that happened and even the ones that didn’t. The presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his bilateral meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were watched closely. Especially the bits where Mr. Putin said that he understood Chinese and Indian concerns about the war in Ukraine.  From India’s standpoint, a non-meeting with the Chinese President indicated that the recent pullback in the disputed border areas between the two countries were not enough to warrant a bilateral engagement at the highest level. With Pakistan, no meeting was expected with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and none happened. 
Sep 20, 2022
Is it the beginning of the ‘Alcaraz era’ in men’s tennis? | In Focus podcast
Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz, who won the US Open last week, has become the youngest male player to be ranked world number 1. There’s been plenty of buzz over the 19-year-old for some time now, and while many felt he would win a Grand Slam sooner or later, few expected him to claim both a Grand Slam title and the number 1 ranking this year itself. But former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero, who has been coaching Alcaraz since he was 15, has said that his rapid rise may be a surprise to everyone else but not to him, because “Since the moment that I started with him, I saw some things that were different than the other guys at his age. I am still seeing it on the court.” So what are these things that set Alcaraz apart? With Roger Federer announcing his retirement, are we at a moment that marks the end of the Big Three era and the start of the ‘Alcaraz era’?
Sep 19, 2022
The curious case of Masood Azhar and his whereabouts | In Focus podcast
Taliban authorities in Kabul have denied that wanted terrorist kingpin Masood Azhar of the Jaish-e-Muhammad was in Afghanistan. The denial came in the wake of a report in the Pakistani newspaper, The News, which claimed that Azhar was in Afghanistan. Masood Azhar, it may be recalled, was released by India following the hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft to Kandahar in 1999. He was designated an international terrorist by the United Nations in 2019.  Azhar’s name surfaced soon after the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has, once again, killed Pakistani soldiers and the ceasefire brokered between the TTP and the Pakistani State is coming apart. It also comes at a time when the Financial Action Task Force, or FATF, is supposed to let Pakistan off the grey list. 
Sep 16, 2022
Is Russia's economic resilience realigning the global economic order | In Focus podcast
Western sanctions had initially threatened to derail the Russian economy ever since the country invaded Ukraine. However, Russia has shown a resilience that has surprised observers, and which has the potential to realign the global economic order. In a recent article for Business Line, Biswajit Dhar, Professor of Economics at the JNU, points out how observers’ projections for Russia’s GDP contraction and the rouble’s sharp fall have had to be revised as the year progressed. He points out that in its April forecast, the IMF had predicted Russia’s economy would contract by 8.5% in 2022, an improvement over what was anticipated when the sanctions were imposed. The update in July indicated that the economy would shrink by a lower 6%. The market has been more optimistic; JP Morgan predicted in July that the country’s GDP would contract only 3.5%. The rouble too, after falling from 76 to 120 versus the dollar, has now stabilised at 60. What has driven this recovery? 
Sep 15, 2022
Do Ukraine’s recent gains mean a shift in the war? | In Focus podcast
The Ukraine war has been raging for nearly seven months, and the dominant pattern so far has been Russia making slow and incremental gains in territory. But this pattern was abruptly broken over the past week as Ukraine made rapid gains in the north and north-east. Russian troops have been driven out of cities like Kupyansk and Izyum, which are critical from the perspective of military logistics and supply lines. How would the loss of these logistical hubs affect Russia’s military campaign? What enabled Ukraine to make these rapid gains, and do they signify a turning point in the war? How will these losses impact President Vladimir Putin politically back in Russia?
Sep 14, 2022
What does the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022 mean for ordinary consumers and farmers – Part 2 | In Focus podcast
The Union Power Ministry introduced the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022 in Lok Sabha on August 8. The Power Minister said at the stage of introduction that the Bill could be moved to the Energy Standing Committee of Parliament for broader consultations. But the Opposition has questioned the introduction of the Bill, saying that the Centre has broken the promise made to the farmers that this Bill will not be brought to Parliament. Opposition MPs have also said that the Bill is not only anti-farmer, but also anti-constitutional, and against the spirit of federalism. There are also concerns that the Bill may lead to the end of subsidies for farmers and poor consumers. In the second part of this two-part Deep Dive podcast, we take a closer look at why state-owned power distribution companies (DISCOMs) are forever making losses– is it purely because they are inefficient, or have they been set up for failure, thanks to an irrational regulatory framework and unrealistic expectations? What would a sustainable and fair model of privatisation that doesn’t encroach on state governments’ sovereignty look like?
Sep 13, 2022
What does the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022 mean for ordinary consumers and farmers – Part 1 | In Focus podcast
The Union Power Ministry introduced the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022 in Lok Sabha on August 8. The Power Minister said at the stage of introduction that the Bill could be moved to the Energy Standing Committee of Parliament for broader consultations. But the Opposition has questioned the introduction of the Bill, saying that the Centre has broken the promise made to the farmers that this Bill will not be brought to Parliament. Opposition MPs have also said that the Bill is not only anti-farmer, but also anti-constitutional, and against the spirit of federalism. There are also concerns that the Bill may lead to the end of subsidies for farmers and poor consumers. In the first part of this two-part Deep Dive series, we take a detailed look at the history of the Electricity Bill and power sector reforms going back to the 1990s, and decode the implications of the key provisions of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022.
Sep 12, 2022
The takeaways from Sheikh Hasina’s visit | In Focus podcast
Managing a difficult relationship has brought dividends to both India and Bangladesh. By all accounts, Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina have transcended many barriers and rapids to take their relationship in a direction that benefits both countries.  Mr. Modi appears to have put some distance between his Home Minister Amit Shah’s use of the term “termite” when referring to Bangladeshi immigrants and the potential of bilateral ties.  Sheikh Hasina’s visit shows that with due preparation even an agreement to share the river waters of the Kushiyara is possible even as an accord on the Teesta proves elusive. There’s little doubt that Hasina’s statement that “as long as Prime Minister Modi is here, Bangladesh and India will resolve” problems between them is significant. 
Sep 09, 2022
The astounding legacy of the Williams sisters | In Focus
This year’s U.S. Open is being viewed as a ‘farewell tour’ – more or less – of the Williams sisters as the curtains come down on what has been described as “the greatest sibling act in sports history”. With both Serena and Venus Williams exiting the U.S. Open early, the two sisters, who between them account for 30 singles Grand Slam titles, 14 doubles Grand Slams titles, and eight Olympic gold medals, are easing out of the pro tour, leaving behind a unique legacy that transcends tennis. In this episode, we take a look at their impact on the sport: how they changed women’s tennis, what their success did for the African-American community, their impact on how women’s tennis is treated by the entertainment industry, and other aspects. Guest: The Hindu’s Ziya Us Salam, a passionate tennis aficionado who has closely followed the career of the Williams sisters right from the 1990s. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Sep 08, 2022
What next for Liz Truss after UK PM race win?
Liz Truss has become Britain’s third woman Prime Minister. She defeated Rishi Sunak to become leader of the Tory party – the fourth leader in six years. Truss becomes Prime Minister with fewer than half of eligible voters in the party’s electoral college voting for her. She replaces the very flamboyant Boris Johnson. Truss is faced with multiple issues, especially a looming energy crisis as gas prices hit the roof in the country. Some observers are even warning of potential blackouts this winter. So, what sort of leader will Liz Truss turn out to be? Is she up to the challenge? Guest: Andrew Whitehead, former editor of the BBC’s Word Service. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu.
Sep 07, 2022
Mikhail Gorbachev and his legacy | In Focus podcast
Mikhail Gorbachev, general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991, died in Moscow on August 30 after a long illness. He was 91. Gorbachev not only tried to introduce reforms and change in the erstwhile Soviet Union, he presided over its demise in 1991.  Loved by the West, Gorbachev made two Russian words – glasnost or openness and perestroika or restructuring – popular in the rest of the world. Multiple obituaries have been written on him – evaluating his position as a leader central to ending the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union.  So, what was Gorbachev? A reformer who didn’t know how to wield power? A leader who lost control of his own party? A man who was ahead of his times? A statesman who ended up altering the balance of forces in the world to the advantage of the West?  To discuss Gorbachev’s legacy, I am joined by P.S. Raghavan, who was India’s Ambassador to Russia. He is currently Chairman of the National Security Advisory Board.
Sep 06, 2022
What was Delhi’s now-scrapped excise policy trying to do? | In Focus podcast
In November 2021, the Delhi government rolled out a new excise policy. The new policy effectively took the government out of the liquor retailing business and handed it over to private players. But within a few months, it came under CBI scrutiny following allegations of favouritism and corruption. The Delhi government withdrew the policy and announced that from September 1, the state would revert to the old regime for a period of six months until a fresh policy is in place. The whole saga has thrown up interesting questions concerning public policy, regulatory principles, and public finance. For instance, what exactly was the logic of Delhi’s old liquor policy? What was the new one trying to do? And what ought to be the primary outcomes of a sustainable liquor policy that is fair to all the stakeholders? 
Sep 05, 2022
What happened with the Adani and NDTV transaction? | In Focus podcast
Late last month, the Adani Group acquired Vishvapradhan Commercial Pvt. Ltd. (VCPL) which held warrants convertible to 29.18% stake in NDTV. As per SEBI rules, the Adani Group – having exercised the option to convert the warrants into equity stake – made an open offer to acquire 26% shares from public shareholders, offering Rs. 294 per share. On the date of the announcement, the shares were trading on the BSE at about Rs. 370. It is unlikely any shareholder would tender their shares at a discount to the market price. So, if there is no visibility to gaining majority control over the media firm, why did the Adani Group move to acquire the 29% stake? 
Sep 01, 2022
The challenges of the Congress party presidential elections | In Focus podcast
The words Congress and crisis go together. Since losing power in 2014, the party has lurched from one crisis to the other, sending warning signals of its imminent demise. Yet, it remains in power in a few states and, perhaps, the only non-BJP party with a national footprint. In the politically significant state of Uttar Pradesh, the party has stuck to its non-player status.  The Congress has remained without a president after Rahul Gandhi quit the top post. After a long delay, the party has announced that it will elect a president on October 17, but Mr. Gandhi has so far said he will not run again. The Gandhi family is said to favour Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. There are reports that Congress leader Shashi Tharoor may also contest.  To discuss all these issues, we are joined by Sandeep Phukan, who covers the Congress party for The Hindu.
Aug 31, 2022
The diplomatic kerfuffle over a Chinese vessel in Hambantota port | In Focus podcast
On August 26, China’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong published an article in a Sri Lankan newspaper in which he drew parallels between American leader Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, and India’s objections to Chinese tracking tracking vessel Yuan Wang-5 docking at Sri Lanka’s strategically significant Hambantota port. In the article, without naming India, he effectively accused India of bullying Sri Lanka, and interfering with its sovereignty by trying to pressurise it over its decision to allow the docking of the Chinese vessel. He concluded his piece by saying that China and Sri Lanka should join hands to protect their respective sovereignties from countries such as the US and India. India’s response was uncharacteristically sharp. In a series of tweets, the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka charged the Chinese Ambassador with “violating basic diplomatic etiquette”. Is the entire episode, involving India, Sri Lanka and China an outlier, or are we likely to see more such confrontations as the geopolitical competition in the Indian Ocean heats up? What are Sri Lanka’s options in this scenario?
Aug 30, 2022
Slavery in the modern world, and who is most vulnerable to it | In Focus podcast
The United Nations recently released a new report by Tomoya Obokata, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences. The report will be part of the agenda at the next session of the Human Rights Council in September. It focuses on one particular aspect of contemporary slavery -- how minorities are especially vulnerable to it, and what can be done to protect them from falling prey to slavery. To better understand the implications and recommendations of this report, and why slavery continues to persist, we speak with Dr Prabha Kotiswaran, Professor of Law and Social Justice at Kings College, London.
Aug 29, 2022
How to grow cricket in the OTT age: Australia’s strategic plan | In Focus podcast
Earlier this month, Cricket Australia launched a five-year strategic plan for growing and managing the sport in the country.  The plan, titled ‘Where the Game Grows’ lays down a roadmap for Australian cricket for the period 2022-2027. It has many ambitious targets, including doubling the number of cricket-playing kids aged 5 to 12 years to 210,000 in five years, and quadrupling the number of girls taking up cricket to 60,000. Among other things, the plan also aims to enhance community participation, increase cultural diversity, and offer outstanding digital and live experiences for cricket fans – all with an eye on making cricket an Olympic sport by the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.  India, as we all know, is a cricket-crazy country, but the fans aren’t a part of the process when the Board draws up its long-term plans, unlike Australia. So there is a lot of curiosity about Cricket Australia’s approach to managing the sport. How did Cricket Australia come up with this plan, what went into it and what are the challenges they foresee? 
Aug 26, 2022
A solution to the woes of State power distribution companies? | In Focus podcast
The central government had recently barred State-owned power distribution companies from buying or selling power on the spot exchanges without paying their current dues to power producing firms. Many States have since paid up and have been able to participate in the trades. This is an opportune moment to evaluate whether the legacy problems of State discoms, that have been perennially burdened with inefficiencies and huge debt, are on a path to resolution. To help us with perspectives, we have with us Ms. Vibhuti Garg, Energy Economist, Lead India at Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). 
Aug 25, 2022
Did the Gujarat govt err in releasing the Bilkis Bano case convicts? | In Focus podcast
The premature release of these prisoners, responsible for heinous crimes, has taken place behind closed doors. It has led to some public outrage and the matter may well go before the Supreme Court for its opinion on whether the State Government operated in a judicious manner.  To discuss the issues surrounding the release, I am joined by Senior Advocate Rebecca John, who is a well-known criminal lawyer. 
Aug 24, 2022
The implications of the Personal Data Protection Bill's withdrawal | In Focus podcast
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology withdrew the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019(PDP Bill). It didn’t give clear reasons for the move, except to cite the detailed recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Committee’s report. It has also not given a definitive timeline for when a refurbished Bill will be ready.  The move to withdraw the PDP Bill has evoked a range of reactions – ranging from puzzlement to disappointment. If the Bill was deeply flawed, was it then not a good move to withdraw it and redraft it again? Or would it have been better to let the draft go through the whole process of Parliamentary debate and amendments, and later, if need be, judicial challenge? Or is this a matter of the government simply buying more time?
Aug 22, 2022
Is China facing growth challenges? | In Focus podcast
On Monday, China said its industrial output expanded 3.8% in July compared with a year earlier, a tad slower than June’s 3.9% growth. Retail sales too rose a slower 2.7% compared with the 3.1% growth in June. Media reports quote analysts as saying that loan demand from the real economy remained weak. The country’s central bank cut rates with an aim to spur growth. Like the rest of the world, India’s northern neighbour faces challenges in terms of quickening inflation, growth challenges and the threat of flight of capital. To help us understand China’s imperatives, we have with us today,  Santosh Pai, Honorary Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS), New Delhi.
Aug 19, 2022
Where did India's football administration go wrong? | In Focus podcast
On August 16, FIFA, world football’s governing body, suspended India citing “undue influence from third parties” in the functioning of the All India Football Federation. This ban, if not lifted soon, could mean that India wouldn’t be allowed to host the Under-17 Women’s World Cup, which is scheduled for October this year. FIFA’s statement also laid down two conditions for the lifting of the suspension: one, repeal of the Supreme Court’s order mandating the setting up of the Committee of Administrators, or CoA, that is currently supervising AIFF’s functioning, and two, the AIFF must regain full control of its daily affairs.  The government of India immediately requested the Supreme Court for an early hearing, and on August 17, the Court passed an order directing the government to work proactively with FIFA and ensure that the AIFF suspension is lifted and the Under-17 Women’s World Cup takes place as scheduled.  What sparked this suspension by FIFA? Why did the Supreme Court want a CoA to be set up to oversee reform of the AIFF? Does the current crisis represent an opportunity for India to fix football governance in the country?
Aug 18, 2022
Should courts decide on freebies? | In Focus podcast
It's a debate that refuses to go away. After Prime Minister Narendra Modi lit into the culture of government "freebies" or Revdi as he called it in Hindi, the matter has now gone to the Supreme Court. What is the difference between freebies and welfare? In a poor country like India, isn't State intervention for, say, scholarships for students not in the public interest? Who decides what is a freebie and what is welfare? Can a court of law do it or should it be in the domain of individual governments and local bodies?
Aug 17, 2022
Shruti Kapila on violence, fraternity, and sovereignty in Indian political thought | In Focus podcast bonus episode
As the title, Violent Fraternity: Indian Political Thought in the Global Age, suggests, Shruti Kapila’s latest book deals with fraternity, violence and sovereignty. Her core argument is that violence has not been as distant from India’s politics as we have been told. In this episode, Kapila talks about the role of violence in the making of the Indian republic. Zeroing in on the ‘power of ideas’ in instituting the political foundations of modern India, Kapila also looks at the role of Buddhism.
Aug 15, 2022
Is a Chinese vessel's 'visit' to Sri Lanka a threat to India? | In focus podcast
A possible berthing call by a Chinese surveillance vessel, the Yuan Wang 5, at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port, has led to Beijing protesting loudly about New Delhi’s suggestion to Colombo that the tracking ship be denied entry. Colombo has said that it had asked Beijing to defer the call by the Yuan Wang 5 at a time when the country faces a dire economic crisis. After Indian concerns, the Chinese in a harsh statement asked New Delhi not to disrupt “normal exchanges” between Colombo and Beijing. The Chinese ambassador to Sri Lanka also had a meeting with President Ranil Wickremesinghe about the issue. Can India ensure that the Yuan Wang 5 does not come calling to Hambantota? Haven’t Chinese submarines and a warship come to Sri Lankan ports earlier? Don’t American ships come to Trincomalee? 
Aug 12, 2022
Understanding the trajectory of interest rates | In Focus podcast
Earlier this month, the RBI’s Monetary Policy Committee raised the benchmark interest rate by another 50 basis points in its ongoing efforts to rein in inflation that has persistently stayed above the central bank’s upper tolerance band of 6% for six months running. The interest rate increase takes the policy repo rate to 5.4%, and, more significantly, to a level last seen in the pre-pandemic second quarter of fiscal 2019-20.  Guest: Abheek Barua, Chief Economist at HDFC Bank  Host: K. Bharat Kumar Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Aug 11, 2022
Why has Nitish Kumar parted ways with the BJP again? | In Focus podcast
Nitish Kumar has done it again. He probably holds a record for the number of times he has ditched his allies, only to ally with them again, in India’s politics. There is, clearly, nothing ideological about his choice of partners – Nitish Kumar’s decisions seem governed by one goal alone – how to keep his seat of power warm. As he becomes chief minister for the eighth time in 22 years, Nitish Kumar has clearly dominated the politics of Bihar – with or without the BJP – and with or without the Rashtriya Janata Dal. Will the new alliance with the RJD and Congress hold? Does this new bonding hold anything for India’s politics beyond Bihar? Can Nitish Kumar become the face of the Opposition in Lok Sabha 2024? 
Aug 10, 2022
Analysing India's performance at the 2022 Commonwealth Games? | In Focus podcast
The last day of the 2022 Commonwealth Games proved to be a good one for India, as a flurry of medals pushed India’s tally to 22 golds medals and a fourth place in the medals table, behind Australia, England and Canada. The difference between Canada and India was four gold medals. In 2018, when India finished third, it had seven golds from shooting alone, and it’s clear that if shooting hadn’t been dropped this time, India would again have finished third. But that was not to be, and despite that, the Indian contingent did produce enough moments of joy and brilliance for its millions of supporters back home. In this podcast, we take a closer look at India’s performance at CWG 2022 in different disciplines and what it bodes for the future. 
Aug 09, 2022
What are the implications of the Supreme Court’s PMLA judgement? | In Focus podcast
On July 27, the Supreme Court pronounced its verdict on a batch of around 200 petitions that had challenged various provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. The judgment, titled Vijay Madanlal Choudhury & Ors vs Union of India & Ors, has led to grave concerns about further erosion of constitutional protections for personal and civil liberties. The Opposition has said that it will move a review petition on the verdict and that all the amendments made to the Act in 2010 through the money Bill route should be nullified. What are the problematic provisions of the PMLA? What has been the apex court’s reasoning in upholding those provisions? How will it impact constitutional safeguards for liberty going forward? 
Aug 08, 2022
Decoding the strategic implications of Pelosi’s visit for the U.S., China and Taiwan | In Focus podcast
Taiwan has for long been a flashpoint in US-China relations. The visit to Taiwan by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi once again ratcheted up tensions between the two big powers. Despite China making its displeasure clear in the strongest terms – or perhaps because of it – Pelosi went ahead with her visit. China condemned her visit as “extremely dangerous”. It has also launched aggressive military drills that encroach on Taiwan’s territorial waters. The Chinese Communist Party has made no secret of its intention to integrate Taiwan with the People’s Republic of China. The U.S., while formally claiming to respect the ‘One China’ policy, has indicated it may respond with force if China undertook any military action against Taiwan. But with China aspiring to achieve – if not surpass – military parity with the US, how long can the current equilibrium hold? Has Pelosi’s visit raised the stakes in Taiwan for both China and the U.S.? What are the likely long-term consequences of China’s unprecedented military drills that effectively encircled Taiwan? Guest: Ananth Krishnan, The Hindu’s China correspondent. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Aug 05, 2022
The importance of Ayman al-Zawahiri’s assassination | In Focus podcast
The targeted killing of al-Qaeda chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri, by an American missile in Kabul on July 31 has raised many questions about the possible impact of this assassination. It comes nearly 11 years after the U.S. took out al-Zawahiri’s boss, Osama bin Laden, in a ground operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A point of interest in both killings is that bin Laden and al-Zawahiri were hiding in plain sight in cities – one Pakistani and the other Afghan. Will this lead to a weakened al-Qaeda, unable to engage in terrorist actions abroad? Will the killing give a boost to al-Qaeda offshoots like the Islamic State? Was the Taliban giving shelter to al-Zawahiri in Kabul or did they tip the Americans off about his presence? Will the Taliban now get further isolated? Guest: R. Kumar, who retired as Special Secretary from India’s external intelligence agency, the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW), and spent long years working on counter-terrorism and Pakistan-related issues. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Aug 04, 2022
Inside the 5G spectrum auction | In Focus podcast
The 5G spectrum auctions ended on Monday, Aug 1 and have helped the government garner Rs. 1.5 lakh crore compared with the reserve price of Rs. 4.3 lakh crore. While the government says the bid value has exceeded expectation, could it have earned more if the reserve prices had been more benign? Because reserve prices were high for some bands and hence ignored by telecom operators, would the quality of service to subscribers be impacted?  Let’s hear what Dr. V. Sridhar has to say about the use and sale of spectrum as a national resource.  Dr Sridhar is Professor, Centre for IT and Public Policy at the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore. He is also the author of 'Data Centric Living: Algorithms, Digitization and Regulations’ that was published recently. 
Aug 03, 2022
What's next in Pakistan's crisis? | In Focus podcast
Too much seems to be happening in Pakistan on the political, judicial and army fronts. After the comprehensive victory of Imran Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, or PTI, in the recent byelections to the Punjab Assembly, an intervention by the country’s Supreme Court allowed PTI’s alliance partner, Pervaiz Elahi, to take oath as Chief Minister of Punjab on July 27. A damning report in London’s Financial Times newspaper accused former Prime Minister Imran Khan of accepting funds for his party from a UK-based charity, something prohibited under Pakistani law. Very public differences have surfaced over the past few days among top judges of Pakistan’s Supreme Court over the appointment of judges to the apex court. Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa took the unusual step of speaking to an American State Department official seeking IMF funds for Pakistan, setting off a fresh round of criticism against the very civilian role of the Army in Pakistan. Will Shehbaz Sharif be able to hang on as Prime Minister till the next elections in 2023? Or will elections have to be advanced? Is it advantage Imran Khan? Who will be the new Army chief when Bajwa finally retires in November this year?  Guest: Rana Banerji, retired Special Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, and former IAS officer. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu.
Aug 02, 2022
Why India's top sports federations are in trouble | In Focus podcast
India’s top sports bodies are in trouble. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is facing suspension by the International Olympic Committee if it doesn’t hold elections very soon. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) could get banned by FIFA if it doesn’t get its governance-related issues sorted. Hockey India, too, is in trouble – the International Hockey Federation has threatened to strip India of its hosting rights for the 2023 hockey World Cup. All this comes close on the heels of match-fixing allegations against the Table Tennis Federation of India. What is going on with India’s sports bodies? What happens to Indian athletes if these suspensions come to pass? Where does the buck stop when it comes to holding our sports administrators accountable? 
Aug 01, 2022
Afghanistan under the Taliban regime | In Focus podcast
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, has spoken of the “advancing erasure” of women from public life under a new look Taliban regime. Twenty-three out of Afghanistan’s 40 million people are in need of food assistance, he said in a recent statement. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, or UNAMA as it is known, pointed out in a July report that seven hundred people have been killed and a little over 1400 wounded in the country since the Taliban takeover in August last year. At least 160 instances of extra-judicial killings have been reported of former government and security officials and more than 120 media workers have faced arbitrary arrest or detention. Eighty per cent of all women journalists have been fired from their jobs. All secondary schools remain closed for girls. 
Jul 29, 2022
What are India’s prospects in the 2022 Commonwealth Games? | In Focus podcast
The 22nd edition of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) is taking place in Birmingham from July 28 to August 8th. After the Tokyo Olympics, where India returned with its best ever medals tally, expectations from the Indian contingent are high. In the 2018 Commonwealth Games, India finished third in the medals tally, behind Australia and England, with 66 medals. Our best performance ever was in the 2010 Games held in Delhi, where we won over 100 medals. What are India’s prospects in Birmingham? Who are our most bankable contenders? And with shooting out of the CWG this year, can India finish in the top 5 in the medal standings? 
Jul 28, 2022
Are Western sanctions on Russia having a boomerang effect?
By undertaking only his second visit abroad since the February invasion of Ukraine, to Iran, Russian President Vladimir Putin has underlined the importance of Teheran in Moscow’s strategic calculus. Is there a budding alliance between the world’s two most sanctioned countries? Will they also be able to complete the Astara-Rasht-Qazvin railway line linking the two countries through Azerbaijan? Do Russia and Iran have Chinese backing as they deal with sanctions and the fallout of the Ukraine war? Guest: D.B. Venkatesh Varma, former Indian Ambassador to Russia. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Jul 27, 2022
What’s behind Europe’s hellish summer? | In Focus podcast
Europe is reeling under a severe heat wave, with temperatures soaring past the 40-degree mark in many parts of the continent. One major side-effect has been a sharp spike in incidents of wildfires. Countries such as France, Spain, Portugal and Greece have reported hundreds of fires. Thousands of hectares of lush forest lands have been destroyed, and a great many have had to be evacuated. With rainfall receding, some regions in countries such as Italy and Germany are also witnessing drought conditions. Are all these problems due to climate change? What is the relationship between heat waves and forest fires? Could the wildfires have been prevented? How is Europe’s drought situation related to global warming? 
Jul 26, 2022
Do the new Forest Conservation Rules favour private developers? | In Focus podcast
On June 28, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFC) notified an updated version of Forest Conservation Rules, under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. The changes have prompted criticism that the rules will now empower private developers to divert forest land for commercial purposes without first taking the consent of forest dwellers, as required by the Forest Rights Act, 2006. What exactly are the changes brought about by the Forest Conservation Rules, 2022? Do they really a pose a threat to the rights of forest-dwelling Adivasi communities? How will they change the approval procedures under the Forest Conservation Act? 
Jul 25, 2022
Is India's external debt a problem?
India’s external debt coming up for closure in the coming months has caused consternation in some quarters. And with the global environment being what it is, the multiple challenges - of monetary conditions tightening worldwide, investment outflows from India and consequent rupee depreciation - are exacerbating the external debt situation for our country. Is India truly teetering on the edge or does it have the strength to withstand these challenges? Guest: Tanvee Gupta Jain, UBS India Economist Host: K. Bharat Kumar Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Jul 22, 2022
What does Ranil Wickremesinghe's election as President mean for Sri Lanka? | In Focus
Since the executive presidency came into play in Sri Lanka, no President has ever resigned his office till Gotabaya Rajapaksa was forced to do so by the people on the 13th of July. A week later, on the 20th of July, the Acting President and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected the President. He will serve out the remainder of Gotabaya’s term – that is till 2024.  Given the mood of the people, will Mr. Wickremesinghe be able to steer Sri Lanka out of its current economic mess? It’s evident that he enjoys the support of the Rajapaksa clan and their political outfit. He also has years of administrative experience as Prime Minister. Can he deliver? Guest: Ambika Satkunanathan, human rights practitioner and Chairperson of the Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust.  Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor and former Sri Lanka Correspondent, The Hindu  Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Jul 21, 2022
Did Joe Biden get what he wanted from his West Asia visit? | In Focus podcast
Joe Biden has just concluded his first visit to the Middle East as American President. His four-day visit included stops in Israel, the West Bank, and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia where he held talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and attended a meeting with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states. What exactly was the purpose and agenda of Biden’s tour? Is it about further normalising relations between Israel and the Arab States with an eye on Iran? Is it about mending relations with Saudi Arabia? Or is it about getting Saudi Arabia to increase its oil production? 
Jul 20, 2022
Will the new 'unparliamentary' words affect freedom of expression in Parliament? | In Focus podcast
A list of words deemed to be unparliamentary has created a storm as the monsoon session of India’s parliament commenced. Words like baloney, betrayal, bloody, chamcha, cheat, chhokra, corruption and even sexual harassment have been included in a compilation of unparliamentary words by the Lok Sabha Secretariat.   Is this a routine exercise? If that’s the case, why are Opposition members of Parliament up in arms? Who decides what words get to be used by MPs and MLAs in our democratic system? Should there be wider consultation before such a list is circulated? 
Jul 19, 2022
Why has Twitter gone to court against the Indian government? | In Focus podcast
Twitter has moved the Karnataka High Court challenging multiple content-blocking orders from the government of India. Twitter’s petition has sought the quashing of as many as 39 blocking orders, issued under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act (IT Act). It wants them overturned on the grounds that they are both “procedurally and substantially” non-compliant with relevant legislation - Section 69A of the IT Act. The petition also argues that the blocking orders are unconstitutional, and violate the principles of online speech and intermediary liability. What has prompted Twitter to go to the court? Do the blocking orders satisfy the parameters of natural justice? Is there any problem with the government’s interpretation of the law, or with the itself? We with speak Alok Prasanna from the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.
Jul 18, 2022
Will climate change affect India's solar and wind energy production? | In Focus podcast
A recent study by scientists at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Pune, and Center for Prototype Climate Modeling, New York University, Abu Dhabi showed that climate change will likely impact efficiencies of solar and wind energy production – that is, the very tools we might depend on to combat climate change, may be affected by climate change in the interim!   The study came to the conclusion that some parts of India, especially the West and Northwest where large pools of wind energy farms are currently located, may see diminishing wind speeds. Also, solar radiation, which aids solar energy output, may diminish across almost all of India, save for some pockets. This means that the industry has to look at increasing efficiencies of wind and solar power technologies for better energy capture. Fortunately, we do have time on hand, for, the study has looked at data models for the next 50 years. If we do not act, though, our promise to the world of going net zero emissions by 2070 may be under threat. 
Jul 14, 2022
What are the changes being proposed to environmental protection laws? | In Focus podcast
A few weeks ago, in the In Focus podcast, we discussed the controversy over India being ranked 180th out of 180 countries in the Environment Protection Index. Now, soon after being ranked worst in the world for environmental protection, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has proposed changes to the four key laws that govern environmental protection and pollution – the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, and the Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991. The changes, according to the government, are an attempt to “decriminalize” minor infringements of environmental regulations. So, what exactly are these changes? Will they help the cause of Environmental protection? Or will they embolden violators to adopt a pollute-and-pay approach, as some critics seem to fear? 
Jul 13, 2022
What’s next for Sri Lanka? | In Focus podcast
On July 9, the people of Sri Lanka took democracy into their own hands and ensured the departure of the last of the Rajapaksa brothers – President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who had to flee his Colombo residence as tens of thousands of people gathered outside. The private residence of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was torched. Both leaders have now promised to resign formally. But the question remains – are Sri Lanka’s political parties and political leaders up to the task of steering the country out of its economic crisis that has crippled the lives of ordinary people? To answer these questions, joining from Colombo is Amal Jayasinghe, veteran Colombo-based journalist and Bureau Chief of the French news agency, AFP. 
Jul 12, 2022
Why are DU’s English teachers fearful of losing their job? | In Focus podcast
Delhi University’s English teachers are up in arms. They are upset that under the National Education Policy-compliant-Undergraduate Curriculum Framework (UGCF), their work load is set to be drastically curtailed - by as much as one-third. In other words, many of these teachers, who are ad hoc employees, could be made redundant. Delhi is a city teeming with mom-and-pop establishments promising to improve your ‘English communication skills’ in 30 days or less – a clear indication of a market for the teaching of English. How do we then explain, that in such a state, hundreds of highly qualified English teachers are staring at mass unemployment? How will the removal of English from Ability Enhancement Courses (AEC) impact students from the North-east and foreign students? What are the implications of this move in terms of language politics and the political economy of public-funded higher education? 
Jul 11, 2022
Why did Boris Johnson finally resign as Britain’s Prime Minister? | In Focus podcast
Finally, finally, Boris Johnson had to resign as British Prime Minister. He clung onto power for as long as he could, quitting after a long procession of Ministers and MPs resigned their jobs. While resigning, Johnson expressed no regrets for his conduct, describing the behavior of his colleagues as “eccentric” and blamed their actions on herd mentality. So, why did Johnson finally go? And who is likely to succeed him? In this episode, we are joined from London by Andrew Whitehead, journalist and commentator, to discuss these issues.
Jul 08, 2022
Decoding the implications of Turkey’s deal with Finland and Sweden on NATO membership | In Focus
Last week, on the eve of the NATO summit in Madrid, Turkey, which had threatened to veto Finland and Sweden’s bid to join NATO, signed a tripartite agreement with the two countries. Under the agreement, Turkey has agreed to reverse its stand and endorse Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership application, in exchange for the two Nordic countries agreeing to stop supporting what Turkey calls Kurdish “terrorists”, who are apparently enjoying safe haven in Finland and Sweden. But three days later after signing this deal, Turkey again warned that it could still block the two countries’ NATO membership if it sees they do not meet Turkey’s expectations. What exactly does Turkey want from Sweden and Finland? What is the substance of the tripartite agreement? And what are these Kurdish ‘terrorist groups’ that Finland and Sweden have supposedly given safe harbor to? Guest: Stanly Johny, International Affairs Editor, The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Sharmada Venkatasubramanian
Jul 07, 2022
Has the new RBI circular impacted the fintech industry negatively? | In Focus podcast
Late last month, the RBI came out with a circular that effectively barred non-bank issuers of prepaid payment instruments (PPI) from loading these instruments with credit. If you have a digital wallet, for example, you could only load it using the balance in your bank account or credit card. Non-bank providers will not be allowed to add funds that function as loans to you. This has created a flutter in the fintech industry whose captains feel the regulation may stifle financial reach and innovation. To help us with some perspectives today, we have with us Mr. G. Padmanabhan, former Executive Director at the Reserve Bank of India. In his capacity as Executive Director, he was in charge of the Departments of Information and Technology, Payment and Settlement Systems and Foreign Exchange. He was also later chairman at Bank of India. 
Jul 06, 2022
Can Pakistan and India pick up the threads of dialogue? | In Focus podcast
A new government headed by Shehbaz Sharif has taken power in Pakistan and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has called for re-opening dialogue with India. The bilateral dialogue has hit many potholes since India and Pakistan agreed to use this route to settle their differences in Simla 50 years ago – in July 1972. Differences between the two countries after India altered the status of Jammu & Kashmir in August 2019 have meant that the bilateral relationship, including trade, is at a standstill. Contacts at the level of national security advisors have, however, taken place. Can Pakistan and India pick up the threads of a formal dialogue again? 
Jul 05, 2022
Will an IMF package ease the pain for ordinary Lankans or make it worse? | In Focus podcast
As Sri Lanka faces endures its worst ever economic crisis, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has just concluded a 10-day visit to island nation. The purpose of the visit was to study the situation and hold talks with Lankan government officials regarding some kind of a relief package. But help from the IMF comes with conditions attached, and they are not always what the recipient likes. What kind of help is Sri Lanka likely to get from the IMF? What is life like for ordinary people right now? How are the Rajapaksas still in power, despite the widespread misery, and in the face of fierce and sustained protests?
Jul 04, 2022
What are the strategic implications of the fall of Severodonetsk | In Focus podcast
On June 25, after weeks of intense fighting, Russia managed to take control of Severodonetsk, the last major city in the Luhansk region that was in Ukrainian hands. While Russia has claimed that this is a major strategic victory, Ukraine has said that they have tactically withdrawn to protect their fighters and regroup in the neighbouring city of Lysychansk, which has now become the next big battleground. What are the actual implications of the fall of Severodonetsk? Has Russia already expended too much manpower and resources in these victories to be able to make much progress in its military campaign in the long run? Can Ukraine resist the capture of the whole of the Donbas region? We speak with Stanly Johny, The Hindu’s International Affairs Editor. 
Jun 29, 2022
Environment Performance Index 2022: Can it trigger positive changes in environmental-decision making?
The 2022 Environment Performance Index (EPI), which evaluates countries on their track record in mitigating climate change, improving environmental health, and protecting ecosystem vitality, has ranked India last – at 180th out of 180 countries. The government of India has rejected the Index, claiming that it is based on “biased metrics”. The report, produced by researchers from Yale and Columbia Universities, has ranked Denmark at the top with a score of 77.90, while India is at the bottom with a score of 18.90. So, what is the EPI all about? How valid are the government’s claims that its metrics are biased and unfair to India? Can it reshape environmental policy, or change the way countries take decisions that impact the environment? Guest: Kanchi Kohli from the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), New Delhi Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Jun 28, 2022
Wimbledon 2022 Preview: No ranking points but not lacking in excitement
This year’s Wimbledon has been overshadowed by controversy, and is going to be a little different from other editions of the event in recent years. It has banned players from Russia and Belarus, and in retaliation, the ATP has withdrawn ranking points from the event. This means Wimbledon this year will be as good as an exhibition event, with both the men’s and women’s draw weakened by the absence of several top players. However, there will be no impact on the prize money, or the prestige value attached to the event. The spotlight will continue to be on the rivalry between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Will Nadal manage to add to this tally of 22 Grand Slams and stay on course for a calendar Slam? Can Djokovic defend his title? Or will one of the NextGen players steal the thunder? We speak with N Sudarshan from The Hindu’s Sports Bureau. 
Jun 27, 2022
Will compromise prevail in France as Emmanuel Macaron loses parliamentary majority? | In Focus
Less than two months after being re-elected as the President of France, Emmanuel Macaron finds himself missing a parliamentary majority, one that will require him to seek political allies to govern. Both the Left and the far Right find themselves strengthened as President Macaron’s supporters managed only 245 seats in Parliament, well short of the 289 required for a majority.   Ironically, Mr. Macaron is the first French President to be re-elected since 2002 but now finds himself under attack from both the Left and the far Right. As he looks either for more allies, or to run a minority government, Mr. Macaron also faces an uncertain international climate with the invasion of Ukraine looming large over Europe and the rest of the world.  Guest: Kanwal Sibal, former Foreign Secretary and Indian ambassador to France.  Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu.  Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Jun 24, 2022
How will the Agnipath military recruitment scheme play out?
New recruitment rules for the Army, Navy and Air Force have met with fierce protests by potential recruits to the services and resistance from respected commentators from the military’s retired ranks. Trains have been burnt and public property destroyed across several Northern states and in Telangana. So, what exactly is agitating these young people who wanted to make a career out of the armed forces. Is it the contractual nature of their four-year employment? Will they miss the pension and perks available to jawans currently serving in the services? Is Agnipath, as the scheme is called, basically a cost-cutting measure from the Government? Guest: Ajai Shukla, writer and commentator on defence and strategic issues. He retired as a Colonel in the Indian Army. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Jun 22, 2022
Media rights sale: Is the IPL now bigger than cricket as we knew it?
The IPL auction for media rights began on June 12 and went on for three days. The auction was for TV broadcasting and digital streaming rights for the next five year cycle – from 2023 to 2027. The BCCI has made a mind-boggling ₹ 48,390 crore from this auction. BCCI President Jay Shah has claimed that this makes IPL the second most lucrative media property in the world, after the US’s National Football League, and ahead of the English Premier League. How is IPL able to generate such a huge valuation? And how will this massive injection of liquidity impact the sport going forward? Guest: Vijay Lokapally, Editorial consultant with Sportstar magazine Host: G. Sampath, G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Jun 16, 2022
What does the rupee depreciation mean beyond export and import bills?
The Indian rupee has been battling downward pressure from multiple forces –Foreign Portfolio Investors pulling out, the rising cost of international crude oil prices and a strong dollar. The currency has been frequently hitting historical lows and has breached the 78-marks What does this mean beyond export and import bills? Guest: Ananth Narayan, Associate Professor, Finance at SPJIMR Host: K. Bharat Kumar Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Jun 15, 2022
Does Boris Johnson have a future as Britain’s Prime Minister?
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, under fire for partying during Covid-19 restrictions in his country, managed to defeat the no-confidence vote against his leadership on June 6. The margin – 211 votes in his favour to 148 against. While Mr. Johnson has survived a leadership challenge, nearly 40 per cent of Conservative Party MPs have no confidence in him. What does this mean for Mr. Johnson’s future? Is “partygate” the only issue that is bothering Tory MPs and the electorate? What happens next? Guest: Andrew Whitehad, former Editor of the BBC’s World Service, currently a freelance journalist and lecturer. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Jun 14, 2022
Beating adversity once again: How does Nadal do it? | In Focus
Rafael Nadal, who in January became the first man ever to win 21 Grand Slam titles, has added one more to his kitty by winning the French Open, his 14th title at Roland Garros. However, not too long ago, things were looking rather grim for him, as he missed both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year due to injury, and many were wondering if he was going to retire. Until this January, among the Big Three of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, it was Djokovic who was expected to reach 21 titles first. But against all expectations, and against the odds, it is Nadal who has raced ahead to 22, and looks set to add even more. In this edition of In Focus, we discuss how Nadal manages to do what he does, despite his chronic injury troubles, and his prospects in the coming months, especially at Wimbledon. Guest: Preethi Ramamoorthy, who has written on tennis and covered the U.S. Open in 2017 and 2018 for The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Jun 13, 2022
How does ethanol blending in fuels aid India’s energy transition? | In Focus
Last week, the government announced that India had met the target of 10% ethanol blending with motor fuel ahead of time. The target for 20% blending had earlier been brought forward to 2025 from 2030. But is this the path that India should choose? Are there better alternatives to ethanol? What is the downside to the use of ethanol? Guest: Dr. Charles Worringham, an Australia-based former academic and now independent researcher and a guest contributor for Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, the IEEFA, with a special interest in India’s energy transition Host: K. Bharat Kumar Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Jun 10, 2022
Decoding CUET: Will it level the playing field or worsen exclusion?
From this year onwards, admissions to undergraduate courses in 45 central universities will happen through a Common University Entrance Test, or CUET, as it’s come to be known. The test is scheduled to take place in July. About 1.3 crore students are expected to take the test for around 5.4 lakh seats that are at stake. The test will be administered by the National Testing Agency (NTA) in 13 languages, and consist of objective-type, multiple-choice questions (MCQ). Why has the UGC come up with CUET? Will it make the schools redundant, by giving a bigger role to coaching centres? Will it further undermine a student’s capacity for original thinking in favour of rote-learning? Will it make higher education even more out of reach for the underprivileged? Guest: Dr Maya John, Professor, Jesus and Mary College, Delhi University Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Jun 08, 2022
Why are Kashmiri Hindus quitting the Valley? | In Focus
Kashmiri Pandits, many of whom were given government jobs and brought to the Valley a decade ago, have started to flee following targeted killings of their colleagues by terrorists. Not just Kashmiri Pandits, but other Hindus have also been killed. As have Muslims. In August 2019, when Article 370 was reduced to a shell, and the state of Jammu & Kashmir whittled down to a Union Territory, the Central government promised to turn it into the most developed state in the country within five years. Long a part of the BJP’s ideological agenda, Home Minister Amit Shah said on the floor of Parliament at the time that Article 370 was the biggest hurdle in the path of normalcy in Kashmir. Where do things stand now as minorities flee and terrorist killings continue? Guest: Air Vice-Marshal Kapil Kak (retd.) is part of a group of concerned citizens regarding Jammu and Kashmir Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Jun 07, 2022
How have attrition cycles in the IT industry changed over time?
The technology services industry has had a tremendous run these past couple of years. Customer’s acceptance of technology and services from remote likely spurred the trend. In tandem, as demand from customers rose, the war for talent too intensified. The industry has gone through these cycles multiple times over the years. Guest: Francisco D’Souza, co-founder and managing partner at Recognize, a growth fund. Frank was formerly vice-chairman of IT services firm Cognizant Host: K. Bharat Kumar Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Jun 06, 2022
Decoding Broadcom’s intent to acquire VMWare for $61 billion | In Focus
Last week, Broadcom announced its decision to acquire VMWare for a humongous $61 billion. VMWare is known in technology circles for its specialisation in virtualising hardware assets. It offers app modernisation, and services across cloud, networking and security technologies. Broadcom designs, develops and manufactures a range of semiconductor and infrastructure software products. What did Broadcom see in this target firm? Is there complementarity? How can VMWare help Broadcom scale its offerings and/or raise revenue potential? Guest: Naveen Mishra, Senior Director Analyst at Gartner Host: K. Bharat Kumar Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Jun 03, 2022
How does the Northeast view ‘punishment’ postings? | In Focus
A high-profile Indian Administrative Service couple – Sanjiv Khirwar and Rinku Dugga – were shunted out of Delhi to Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh a few days ago. Their transfers came soon after ‘The Indian Express’ newspaper published a photo showing the couple walking their dog in New Delhi’s Thyagaraj stadium at a time when athletes should have been using the sports facility’s tracks. The transfer orders likely flowed from an official desire to punish the couple for doing wrong. They also stirred up a hornets’ nest by pointing to both Ladakh and Arunachal as dumping grounds for erring officials. It is not for the first time that a government has resorted to a punishment posting. In this episode, we decode this issue and the emotions that go with it. Guest: Pradip Phanjoubam, Imphal-based senior journalist and editor of the Imphal Review of Arts and Politics Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Jun 01, 2022
What is the impact of fuel duty cuts on inflation? | In Focus
The Union Government last week cut excise duties on fuel sales in a bid to temper galloping inflation. Is such a move enough to tame retail inflation? Are there other factors that are spurring retail consumer prices? If so, are there levers that the government can move to arrest a further deterioration? Guest: Aditi Nayar, Chief Economist, ICRA Ratings Host: K. Bharat Kumar Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
May 28, 2022
Decoding the return of Labour to power in Australia
After almost a decade, the Labour Party is back in power in Australia. In the federal elections on May 21, the ruling Liberal-National coalition led by Scott Morrison conceded defeat and the Labour Party’s Anthony Albanese is now the new Prime Minister. So what does the return of Labour mean for Austalian domestic politics, and what changes, if any, can we expect in Australian foreign policy? Guest: Professor Amitabh Mattoo from the School of International Studies at JNU Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
May 27, 2022
Fast and furious: How can India ensure Umran Malik fulfills his potential? | In Focus
Umran Malik, the 22-year-old tearaway fast bowler from Jammu and Kashmir has been making waves in the IPL. Now he has received a much anticipated call-up to the Indian national team. He has been picked for the five-match T20 series against South Africa next month. One of the reasons there is so much excitement around Umran Malik is that for the first time India has a quickie whose speed is within touching distance of the 160 kmph-mark. Malik’s emergence also comes at an interesting time for India – despite a long tradition of spin bowling, India is now facing a scenario where there seems to be a surfeit of fast bowling talent but the cupboard is close to empty in the spin department. How do we understand this trend? And given that India has a history of young fast bowling talent that tends of fade away fast, how good really is Umran Malik? Guest: Vijay Lokapally, editorial consultant with Sportstar Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
May 26, 2022
Is China-PLUS-One Strategy a good opportunity for India ?
Trade relations between the US and China haven’t been at their best in the past few years. Add to it supply chain disruptions brought on by the pandemic, exacerbated now by the war in Ukraine... disruptions that have made global majors look beyond China for manufacturing bases or partners, in an approach strategy now named the ‘China PLUS One Strategy’. Guest: Srivats Ram, MD, Wheels India Host: K. Bharat Kumar Edited by Reenu Cyriac
May 25, 2022
Was pilot suicide the reason for the China Eastern crash?
The March 21, 2022 crash of China Eastern Airlines Flight 5735 was one of China’s worst aviation disasters, killing all 132 people on board. Investigations are on-going to determine how a Boeing 737-800 suddenly plunged into a near-vertical descent into the mountains of southern China from cruising altitude in normal weather conditions. On May 17, 2022, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing U.S. investigators, that flight data indicated someone in the cockpit intentionally crashed the plane. In this episode, Mohan Ranganathan explains how pilot suicides have caused air disasters in the past, how a pilot can bring down a plane, and the lessons for aviation going forward. Guest: Mohan Ranganathan, air safety expert, former airline pilot and instructor on Boeing 737s, former member of Civil Aviation Safety Advisory Council Host: Ananth Krishnan, China correspondent, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
May 23, 2022
Decoding the geopolitical implications of Finland and Sweden joining NATO | In Focus
One of the primary justifications given by Russian for its invasion of Ukraine was the relentless eastward expansion of NATO. But now two more countries in Russia’s neighbourhood – Sweden and Finland – have announced their decision to join NATO. Finland shares a 1,340km long border with Russia. This means that even as Russia is trying to build a buffer between Russia and a pro-NATO Ukraine in the Donbas region, Russia’s land border with NATO is set to double. How does Finland and Sweden joining NATO change the strategic dynamics of the region? And what are Russia’s options in terms of a response? Guest: Stanly Johny, International Affairs Editor, The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
May 20, 2022
Why has the Supreme Court mandated NRC not been implemented in Assam?
It looks as if the saga of the National Register of Citizens, or NRC as it is called, will not be ending anytime soon for the people of Assam. Despite a final NRC created under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court of India, BJP governments at the Centre and State continue to stonewall its implementation. At stake is the citizenship status of a little over 19 lakh persons whose names did not figure in the final NRC published under Supreme Court orders in August 2019. Nearly three years have passed, but the persons left out – both Muslims and Hindus – haven’t had the opportunity to address their citizenship status. For long, the immigrant issue has been used to play political football with the lives of the people of Assam. It appears that the ruling BJP doesn’t want to implement the final NRC as the numbers don’t suit its political orientation. Of late, Assam’s NRC coordinator, Hitesh Dev Sarma, has written to judges in the Foreigners Tribunals, saying that the NRC as published, under the express orders of the Supreme Court, not be treated as final. At least one of the judges has responded to Mr. Sarma by asking him not to interfere in the functioning of the Tribunals, which was beyond his jurisdiction. So, where does the NRC and those affected by it, go from here? To discuss these issues, I am joined from Assam by Sanjoy Barbora, who teaches at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Guwahati. Guest: Dr. Sanjoy Barbora is Professor at the Guwahati campus of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
May 19, 2022
How India’s Thomas Cup triumph was scripted | In Focus
India’s triumph at the Thomas Cup seems to have caught the nation – and many even in the badminton community – by surprise. For the longest time India has struggled to make it past the quarter-finals, but this time we achieved back-to-back victories over former champions Malaysia and Denmark to make it to the final, and in the final, against all odds, we blanked 14-time champions Indonesia 3-0. This is a historic achievement. It has already been compared to India’s 1983 triumph at the cricket world cup. So how was this success story scripted? What were the odds? And how can India build on this spectacular achievement? Guest: Rakesh Rao, Deputy Editor (Sports), The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
May 18, 2022
Can Sri Lanka emerge from its current economic and political crisis? | In Focus
Everything that can go wrong with a country is in full play in Sri Lanka. Anger and violence at food and fuel shortages, power cuts, collapsing purchase power, and above all a demand for the ruling Rajapakse clan to quit the island nation’s politics is growing. President Gotabaya Rajapakse has sacrificed his brother, Mahinda, to cling onto power as the Go, Gota Go, cries in the streets of Sri Lanka continue to be heard. In desperation, the United National Party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has been appointed Prime Minister in place of Mahinda Rajapakse. Can this six-time Prime Minister get Sri Lanka out of its current economic and political mess? Can the President continue in office? Is Mr. Wickremesinghe serious about abolishing the executive presidency in Sri Lanka, which many believe lies at the root of the country’s problems. Guest: Dr. Paikiasothy Sarvanamuttu, Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, and former Sri Lanka correspondent, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
May 17, 2022
What does Bongbong Marcos’ election mean for the Philippines? | In Focus
The still unofficial victory of Bongbong Marcos, son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, in the Philippine presidential election, is both comprehensive and complete. A family that had to flee the country is now back in power. For those familiar with the country’s politics, it doesn’t come as a surprise. Powered by Facebook and other forms of social media, the narrative around the Marcos family was carefully altered over the years. Bongbong replaces strongman President Roberto Duterte, a polarizing figure in the country’s politics. Will Bongbong be like his father or Duterte in his political practice? Or will he prove to be a surprise package? The Philippines, which has had a long-standing alliance with the United States, has to contend with an increasingly assertive China. What will be Bongbong’s foreign policy? Guest: Ravi Velloor, Singapore-based columnist and Associate Editor of .The Straits Times Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, and former Southeast Asia Correspondent, The Hindu. Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
May 14, 2022
What can one expect from Hong Kong’s new Chief Executive?
John Lee, a former security chief of Hong Kong, has been appointed as the city’s new Chief Executive. He will replace the current leader Carrie Lam on July 1. Known to be a pro-Beijing administrator, he oversaw the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2019. His appointment comes at a significant time in Hong Kong’s history --- this year marks 25 years since Hong Kong’s was handed over by the British to China, under the broad governance principle of ‘one country, two systems’. What does John Lee’s term mean for the future of civil liberties in Hong Kong? And what’s the mood like in the city in the year of the 25th handover anniversary? Guest: Ananth Krishnan, The Hindu’s China correspondent. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
May 13, 2022
Should India invest in scaling up its semiconductor ecosystem? | In Focus
The semiconductor ecosystem in India has been abuzz with energy ever since the government announced a ₹ 76,000 crore scheme to incentivise semiconductor and display system manufacturers to set up shop in India. Corporate announcements have also started trickling in. Vedanta has allied with Foxconn for its foray. The ISMC of Israel has signed an MoU wit Karnataka. In all this, there still lingers the question, should India seriously spend its funds and effort over setting up such an ecosystem? After all, semiconductor manufacturing requires consistent power supply and a significant amount of clean water. If India should, indeed, get in manufacturers, what lessons could it take away from similar efforts made in the past, which had largely fizzled out? Guest: Niju Vijayan, Partner at Avanteum Advisors. He has had long years of exposure to the ESDM (Electronic System Design & Manufacturing) industry, of which semiconductors are a part. Host: K. Bharath Kumar
May 12, 2022
Why has the Government not appointed a new Chief of Defence Staff?
Five months have passed without the Government appointing a Chief of Defence Staff. The post fell vacant after Gen. Bipin Rawat died in a tragic helicopter crash on December 9. It was speculated that the former Army Chief Gen. Manoj Mukund Naravane would be appointed the new Chief of Defence Staff but he retired from service at the end of April. Why has the Government not appointed a new Chief of Defence Staff? Can a retired chief be appointed to the job? Or will the post created with much fanfare go to either the serving Air Force or Navy chief given that Gen. Manoj Pande has just been appointed the chief of army staff? Guest: Rahul Bedi, senior Journalist and defence analyst Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
May 11, 2022
Is the Assam-Meghalaya agreement a viable template for resolving North-East border disputes?
In March this year, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his counterpart from Meghalaya Conrad Sangma signed an agreement in New Delhi to partially resolve the 50-year-old border dispute between the two states. Reports indicate that matters have been resolved in six out of the 12 border locations that had disputes. At the same time, Home Minister Amit Shah has said that 70% of the border disputes between the two states have been resolved by this agreement. Subsequently, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam decided to form district-level committees for settling their boundary disputes. There are now hopes that, following the ‘50-50’ model that Assam and Meghalaya followed, the disputes between Assam and Arunachal will also see resolution. Assam has border disputes with most of its neigbouring states. But in this edition of InFocus, we take a closer look at the causes of its disputes with Meghalaya and Arunachal, and whether the Assam-Meghalaya agreement can serve as a template for resolving all the other border disputes in the North-East. Guest: Patricia Mukhim, the editor of Shillong Times. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
May 06, 2022
Elon Musk’s Twitter acquisition: What are the implications for users? | In Focus
In the last week of April, Twitter’s Board of Directors unanimously accepted billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s buyout offer of $44 billion. The deal is currently pending regulatory approval. But as and when it goes through, it will allow Musk to take Twitter private, giving him complete control over what he has described as a “de facto public town square”. Will the SpaceX and Tesla CEO do a good job of managing a politically sensitive platform like Twitter? Musk has said that he is a ‘free speech absolutist’ but many have interpreted it to mean that Twitter may stop censoring hate speech and flagging disinformation the way it does now. As Twitter changes hands, what are the likely implications for users? Guest: Apar Gupta, advocate and Executive Director at the Internet Freedom Foundation Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
May 05, 2022
Can wheat exports affect India’s food security? | In Focus
Wheat procurement in the country by the Food Corporation of India and State government agencies is expected to be about 22 million tonnes – just half of the 44 million targets set for this season. News reports suggest that exports are causing wheat prices to rise beyond the Rs. 20 per kilo of the minimum support price fixed by the Central government. What are the challenges for wheat procurement and production and will exports impinge in any way on the country’s food security? Guest: Devinder Sharma, distinguished writer and commentator on food and agriculture Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
May 04, 2022
Are the Prashant Kishores essential to win elections in India?
Political entrepreneur, politician, election guru – there are many ways to describe Prashant Kishore – who clearly enjoys a larger than life status in the country’s politics. Is he really that important that party after party is courting him to help them win elections? Are there any others like him? Why did he decide not to join the Congress party despite a firm offer? Guest: Javed Ansari is a Delhi-based political journalist and analyst. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu. Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Apr 29, 2022
Ukraine War: What are the chances of a resolution after two months of fighting? | In Focus
It is now exactly two months since the start of the Ukraine war. What many expected to be a quick assault resulting in Russian control over Ukraine has devolved into a grinding war of attrition. While Russia has made territorial gains, it has also suffered heavy losses. The Ukrainian armed forces have been putting up a stiff fight, especially around urban centers, and the national capital of Kyiv is still free. In the meantime, the West, led by the U.S. and NATO, has been supporting the Ukrainian resistance in two ways: by keeping up a steady supply of military and economic aid, and by imposing heavy economic sanctions on Russia. Russia, on its part, has been recalibrating its military strategy. So far, diplomatic efforts – including the Istanbul talks, which raised hopes of a ceasefire — to broker peace have failed. Meanwhile, civilian casualties continue to mount. So, where do the parties to the conflict stand after two months of heavy fighting? How have their stakes changed? Have their political positions hardened or softened, compared to two months ago? Guest: Stanly Johny, International Affairs Editor, The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Apr 27, 2022
What is the RSS concept of Akhand Bharat?
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat said recently that Akhand Bharat would be a reality in the next 20 or 25 years. In his remarks, the RSS chief said nobody could stop India’s march forward. “Those trying to impede the country’s march forward will either move away or be removed from the scene,” he was quoted as saying. Mr. Bhagwat is an important man as the RSS-affiliated BJP has been in power for the last eight years. So what does the RSS chief mean? Guest: Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay 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 Reenu Cyriac
Apr 25, 2022
How does stress play out in one of the most difficult professions there is?
Early in March, a public interest litigation petition came up in the Supreme Court -- two retired CRPF personnel said that between 2007 and 2019, 148 Central Armed Police Forces personnel, deployed in Naxal-affected Bastar district, died by suicide. This is not the only statistic about defence personnel dying by suicide -- from 2014 to 2021, nearly 800 Army, Navy and Air Force personnel died by suicide. In August last year, the Rajya Sabha was informed that 680 paramilitary personnel had died by suicide over the previous six years -- this was higher than the 323 personnel who died due to encounters. This apart, between 2014 and 2021, there were 20 cases of fratricides -- where defence personnel have turned on their colleagues, killing them and in many cases, then killing themselves too. The government has said that difficulty in dealing with family problems from a distance, conflict trauma, the strain of deployment in conflict and border zones, all contribute to mental health stress among personnel. It has also pointed to a number of measures initiated -- such as psychological counselors in combat zones, better food and clothing, a ‘buddy system’ and a liberalized leave system, along with suicide prevention policies. Some retired officers however, point to other, internal issues: poor leadership and not being able to avail of leave when they need it, are some concerns raised. There is also a significant difference in the services available to those in the military forces and those who serve in the paramilitary forces. How does stress play out in arguably one of the most difficult professions there is? How much of a role does stigma play in the seeking of mental health care? And what can be done to help tackle this issue? Guest: Dr. Soumitra Pathare, consultant psychiatrist and director of the Centre for Mental Health Law & Policy at Indian Law Society in Pune Host: Zubeda Hamid Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Apr 22, 2022
Shanghai Lockdown: Is China’s ‘Zero COVID’ strategy beginning to backfire? | In Focus
At a time when most parts of the world are easing COVID restrictions and even mask mandates, Shanghai is in the middle of a brutal lockdown. There have been reports of a sharp spike in the number of cases, although reported deaths are and restricted to the very old. Shanghai’s 25 million residents seem to be increasingly fed up with the government’s ‘Zero COVID’ policy, which has caused supply chain bottle necks resulting in shortages of food and other essentials, and denial of medical care for patients with non-COVID illnesses. There have also been reports of little children getting separated from parents forcibly sent away to quarantine shelters. Until this March, there was a general sense that China had managed the pandemic way better than the West, especially when viewed in terms of the total case load and mortality numbers. So how did thing things get out of hand all of a sudden? Is it a case of the ‘Zero COVID’ strategy backfiring? Is it the Omicron variant? Given that President Xi Jinping has taken personal ownership of the ‘Zero COVID’ strategy, is China likely to make a course correction in view of the economic fallout and public disenchantment with the stringent lockdown measures? Guest: Ananth Krishnan, China Correspondent, The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Apr 21, 2022
Will TRAI’s latest recommendation benefit the industry?
Earlier this month, telecom regulator TRAI announced its recommendations to lower the reserve price for spectrum auctions. Now, overall reserve prices for the spectrum auctions would be up to 40% lower than recommended earlier. Of this, spectrum for 5G telecom services will be 35% cheaper. The question is, are these prices low enough for an industry that has been plagued by financial woes for a while now? Guest: Dr. V. Sridhar, Professor at the Centre for IT and Public Policy at the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore. Host: K. Bharat Kumar Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Apr 21, 2022
Where are India-Pakistan relations headed under Pakistan’s new Prime Minister? | In Focus
A new Prime Minister in India or Pakistan usually means new opportunities for dialogue and engagement. Congratulatory messages are exchanged, and in the days when India and Pakistan engaged in dialogue, restating your commitment to a dialogue process usually followed. India-Pakistan relations have always been topsy-turvy but the August 2019 decision by the Modi Government to denude Jammu and Kashmir’s special status drew a furious response from Pakistan. Even bilateral trade was suspended. Hardly any visitors come and go. Barring the back channel, the relationship is at a standstill. Given that the new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif heads a coalition government and Pakistan faces elections next year, we are unlikely to see a government in full flow. The Pakistan economy is a major concern and former Prime Minister Imran Khan is in full agitation mode. What could happen in India-Pakistan relations now? We discuss in this episode. Guest: Sharat Sabharwal is a former Indian High Commissioner and Deputy High Commissioner to Pakistan Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu, who has worked as the newspaper’s Pakistan correspondent Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Apr 20, 2022
UGC’s two courses facility: How will this pan out in practice? | In Focus
The University Grants Commission (UGC) announced on April 12 that students can now pursue two full-time academic courses in physical mode, simultaneously. It has also issued a set of guidelines for the same. What prompted the UGC to come up with this option – was there a demand for it from students or educational institutions? Will this option increase the competitive pressure on all students – to spend their under-graduation years slogging away on two degrees rather than one? And will the two modes of education – formal (in classroom) and informal (online/distance learning) – deliver the same quality and level of credentials? Guest: Dr. Maya John, who teacher of history at Jesus and Mary College, Delhi University Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Apr 19, 2022
French Presidential elections: Can Macron keep the far-right at bay a second time? | In Focus
The first round of the French Presidential elections got over last Sunday, and two candidates, President Emmanuel Macron, and leader of the far-right National Rally, Marine Le Pen emerged on top with the highest tally of votes. While Macron won the first round with 27.8% of the votes, Le Pen secured 23.2%, while the leftist politician Jean Luc Melenchon finished a close third with 22% of the votes. Interestingly, all the three candidates have bettered their first round performance from 2017, where Macron had received 24% of the votes, Le Pen had 21.3% and Melenchon had 19.6%. The Presidential run-off, which is scheduled for April 24, will decide whether Macron gets a second term as President or Le Pen manages to unseat him. So, as things stand today, what do the chances look like for either candidate? All those who did not vote for either Macron or Le Pen in the first round – who will they support in the second round? And what are the possible implications for Europe in case of either outcome – if Macron gets reelected, or if Le Pen manages to win? Guest: Vaiju Naravane, Professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Ashoka University, and currently a visiting faculty at Sciences Po in France Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Apr 16, 2022
Where are Indo-U.S. relations headed after Russia’s war on Ukraine? | In Focus
If there is one story that defines India’s foreign policy after the 1998 nuclear tests, it is that of New Delhi’s engagement with Washington across Prime Ministers – Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh and now Narendra Modi. The tango is yet to end and the dance masters remain committed to the relationship. Despite India’s membership of mutually antagonistic clubs like the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Quad, New Delhi found it need not make public choices till the February invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The situation today is dramatically altered – choices will have consequences. While External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar pointed to India’s oil purchases from Russia as being minimal compared to Europe, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken made a pointed reference to human rights abuses at their recent press conference in Washington. So, where is the Indo-U.S. relationship headed? We discuss in this episode. Guest: Dr. Atul Bhardwaj, independent foreign policy researcher and author of ‘India-America Relations (1942-62): Rooted in the Liberal International Order’ Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Apr 15, 2022
What are the implications of the latest IPCC report for India?
In its latest assessment report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has laid out several scenarios on the steps that ought to be taken to keep temperatures below 2°C. It warned that even temporarily exceeding the warming level of 1.5°C over the next two decades would mean additional severe impact, some irreversible. Arunabha Ghosh, founder and CEO of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) discusses the latest report by the IPCC, its implications for India and what the Expert Groups strive to achieve. Guest: Arunabha Ghosh, founder and CEO of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water Host: Jacob Koshy Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Apr 11, 2022
What can we anticipate from Pakistan’s next Prime Minister? | In Focus
The lead headline in ‘The Indian Express’ newspaper after Pakistan’s National Assembly voted out a Prime Minister for the first time ever said it all. “Imran Khan goes, kicking & screaming”, it read. Refusing to read the writing on the wall, Mr. Khan tried desperately to hang on to power even on the 9th of April, delaying a vote in the National Assembly after the country’s Supreme Court, in a unanimous verdict, had ordered that the no-confidence motion against him be taken up again. Finally, in the early hours of the 10th of April, and after a dramatic resignation by Speaker Asad Qaiser, the National Assembly voted out Mr. Khan as Prime Minister. The Pakistan Muslim League (Noon) leader Shehbaz Sharif is expected to be elected the new Prime Minister. We discuss these developments in this episode. Guest: Fahd Husain, columnist for the Pakistani newspaper, Dawn, and anchor for the Dawn News television channel. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu, who worked as the newspaper’s correspondent in Pakistan from 1997 to 2000. Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Apr 10, 2022
The impact of war on India - Russia ties
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Delhi reaffirmed India’s decision not to join the sanctions regime against Russia, despite a string of emissaries from the US, EU and other countries calling on India to shift its position in the Ukraine crisis. Guest: D.B. Venkatesh Verma, former Indian Ambassador to Moscow Host: Suhasini Haidar, Diplomatic Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Apr 07, 2022
What’s the rationale for the merger of HDFC Ltd and HDFC Bank? | In Focus
Mortgage lender HDFC Ltd is all set to merge with HDFC Bank. Under the terms of the deal, which is one of the biggest in the Indian financial sector, HDFC Bank will be 100% owned by public shareholders, while existing shareholders of HDFC Ltd will own 41% stake in HDFC Bank. The news immediately led to a sharp spike in the share prices of both the companies. So, what exactly is the financial rationale for this merger? How do either of these companies benefit from this deal? Given that this is a merger between two different kinds of companies – one is a retail bank and the other is a Non-Banking Financial Company – what are the implications for shareholders, employees and customers? Guest: Suresh Seshadri, Business Editor, The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Apr 07, 2022
Pakistan’s ongoing political crisis | In Focus
As anticipated by many, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan did not go by the book and ensured that his handpicked Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri did not put the pending vote of no-confidence against him to vote on April 3. Instead, the Prime Minister advised Pakistani President Arif Alvi to dissolve the country’s National Assembly and four provincial assemblies, which was done with lightning speed. The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Umar Ata Bandial, has taken suo motu cognizance of this development and will rule on the constitutionality of the Deputy Speaker’s actions. Opposition parties, meanwhile, have elected their own Speaker and are proceeding with their vote of no-confidence in the National Assembly. Mr. Imran Khan said that an “outside conspiracy” fueled by bags of money could not decide the fate of Pakistan while the Army clarified that it had nothing to do with the day’s developments. Guest: Murtaza Solangi, Executive Editor, Nayadaur Media, and former Director-General of Radio Pakistan. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor and former Pakistan correspondent, The Hindu. Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Apr 03, 2022
What is the potential stem cell ‘cure’ for HIV/AIDS all about? | In Focus
Up until January this year, only two people were ever reported cured of HIV/AIDS. And now, researchers have said there may be a third case -- an African American woman, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2013, and started on anti-retroviral therapy. In 2017, she was diagnosed with leukaemia and received embryonic stem cells, in the form of cord blood, from a donor who had a rare mutation that naturally blocks HIV from infecting the body’s cells. She also received adult blood stem cells from a relative. Now, doctors say, the woman shows no signs of HIV in her blood and has no detectable antibodies either, making the 60-year-old woman possibly the third case of a person who has been cured of the virus -- the other two cases, both men, received bone marrow transplants as well, from donors with the rare mutation. Unlike the other two cases, however, the woman did not develop graft vs host disease -- a condition where the donor stem cells attack the recipient. Could this be because of the use of embryonic stem cells with adult stem cells? Her doctors believe this may possibly be a factor. Stem cell therapy, exciting as it is in the field of medicine, is not accessible or possible in the case of a vast majority of persons living with HIV/AIDS in the world. Anti-retroviral therapy or ART, however, has ensured that those with access to the medicines now have long lifespans, comparable to those without HIV/AIDS. A vaccine against the virus would be an ideal solution, offering a potential cure, but close to 40 years since researchers first began to study it, the world still does not have a vaccine for this virus, though there are recent reports of a potential vaccine based on the mRNA platform. In India, as of 2019, an estimated 23.48 lakh people live with HIV/AIDS -- the prevalence among adult males is estimated at 0.24% of the population and among adult females, the prevalence is 0.20%. Worldwide, over 37 million people live with HIV/AIDS. So what is the potential stem cell ‘cure’ all about? What is the rare mutation that naturally blocks HIV from entering cells? Why is a vaccine so hard to make, and does the mRNA platform, first used for a COVID-19 vaccine, offer hope? Guest: Dr Akhil C Banerjea, emeritus professor, National Institute of Immunology and former director, Institute of Advanced Virology, Kerala Host: Zubeda Hamid Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Apr 03, 2022
Decoding the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022 | In Focus
On March 28, the government introduced a new Bill in the Lok Sabha – the Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022. The Opposition vehemently opposed it, going so far as to seek a division of votes. But it failed to defeat the introduction of the Bill, as it could muster only 58 votes against, with 120 votes in favour of the Bill. On the face of it, the Bill proposes to empower police and prison authorities to take “measurements of convicts and other persons for the purposes of identification and investigation in criminal matters”. The term “measurements” includes finger-impressions, palm-print impressions, foot-print impressions, photographs, iris and retina scan, and even biological samples. Criticism from the Opposition has broadly followed two strands. One thread argues that the Bill violates certain constitutional principles and guarantees and that it goes beyond the House’s “legislative competence”. The other set of criticisms dwell on the fact that it gives too much power to the executive, with very little accountability, raising the temptation for abuse of this law’s provisions. So, does India really need a Bill of this kind, and how does the current draft of the Bill fare when assessed against constitutional norms? Guest: Apar Gupta, Executive Director at the Internet Freedom Foundation, a Delhi-based non-profit that conducts advocacy on digital rights and liberties Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Apr 01, 2022
Decoding the ‘historic’ Arab-Israeli conference attended by U.S. Secretary of State | In Focus
Earlier this week, on March 27 and 28th, the Negev desert in Israel saw a summit of foreign ministers from six countries. Along with Israel’s foreign minister Yair Lapid and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, also in attendance were the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Morocco and Bahrain. Hailed as a ‘historic summit’ by Israel, the meeting is widely seen as an attempt to present a unified front against Iran. But why this summit now, and what are its implications in the context of the ongoing Ukraine war, and the negotiations over a possible resurrection of the Iran deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Guest: Stanly Johny, International Affairs Editor, The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Mar 30, 2022
What are the complex geopolitical questions underpinning the Russia-Ukraine crisis? | In Focus
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine crosses the one-month mark, there have been calls for cessation of hostilities from across the world even as the devastating human and physical toll of the conflict become increasingly clear. While there is a glimmer of hope in the form of potential negotiations between Presidents Volodymyr Zelensky and Vladimir Putin of Ukraine and Russia respectively, some of the complex geopolitical questions underpinning the crisis, including those relating to the role of NATO, remain unresolved. Guest: Suriya Jayanti, former U.S. diplomat and energy advisor who served as the U.S. Energy Chief at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv until 2020. She is now the co-founder of an alternative energy and decarbonization firm working in Ukraine and elsewhere. Host: Narayan Lakshman, Associate Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Mar 26, 2022
What would it take for Lakshya Sen to stay at the top in world badminton? | In Focus
For quite some time now, Indian badminton’s biggest success stories have mostly been women, with the headlines dominated by the likes of P.V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal. Titles by the men haven’t always come at the highest level or consistently. But 20-year-old Lakshya Sen has surprised everyone with consistent performances at the highest level over the past nine months. His run to the final of the All England Open Badminton Championships in Birmingham last week marks the first time in 21 years an Indian male shuttler has made it to the finals of this prestigious event. So what makes Lakshya Sen, who has now broken into the top 10, different from the rest? And given that he is only 20, does he have the potential to stay at the top for a long time? Guest: Rakesh Rao, Deputy Editor (Sports), The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Mar 24, 2022
Can Pakistan PM Imran Khan withstand the no-confidence motion against him? | In Focus
A little less than four years into his term, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan faces a make or break no-confidence motion against his government in the country’s parliament, or National Assembly on March 25. Nearly a dozen of his lawmakers, or MNAs as they are known, have announced a parting of ways with the Prime Minister. Mr. Khan’s Army backers appear to be taking a hands-off approach towards his continuing in office. Will he go or will he stay? That’s the central question in Pakistan’s national discourse currently. We discuss in this episode of In Focus podcast. Guest: Mehmal Sarfraz, a Lahore-based journalist, who has contributed articles for The Hindu in the past. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu, who worked as the newspaper’s correspondent in Pakistan from 1997 to 2000. Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Mar 23, 2022
How does Karnataka High Court’s hijab verdict deal with core constitutional principles? | In Focus
There has been a lot of debate over the Karnataka High Court’s verdict upholding a ban on the wearing of hijab in educational institutions. In a nutshell, the High Court’s judgment appears to hold that the hijab is not an essential part of Islam and therefore the right to wear it cannot be protected under the Constitutional right to freedom of religion guaranteed by Article 25. It has been recognized that this case involves a number of key constitutional rights and principles, such as the right to freedom of expression, the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, the right to privacy, the principles of equality and non-discrimination, and the principle of secularism, to name a few. The judgment delivered by the three-judge Bench does engage with these principles. But not everyone is convinced that it has applied the Constitutional provisions correctly. Has the court advanced the cause of women’s emancipation and secularism, as the verdict claims, or is it possible that it may have misconstrued certain Constitutional principles? Guest: Anup Surendranath, teacher of constitutional law at National Law University, Delhi Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Mar 21, 2022
Has Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine lost momentum? | In Focus
We are now into the fourth week of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and there is still not much clarity or consensus on whether and to what extent, Russia has been able to execute its military objectives in this time period. While there is no doubt that Ukraine has decisively won the propaganda war, with the world’s sympathy overwhelmingly in its favour, not many seem to be buying Russia’s line that Ukrainian atrocities in the Donbas region had necessitated what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation”. Nonetheless, it does appear as though Russia’s military operations are focused on securing the Donbas, and perhaps turning the two self-proclaimed republics of Luhansk and Donetsk into some kind of a buffer zone against a militarily defanged yet hostile Ukraine. So, how do we assess Russia’s military campaign? Are the Russians concerned about running out of time? And how do their military successes, or the lack of it, play into their negotiation tactics with the Ukrainians? Guest: Stanly Johny, International Affairs Editor, The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Mar 18, 2022
How will the Ukraine-Russia conflict affect crude oil prices? | In Focus
Talmiz Ahmed speaks to us on the steps that India can take to insulate itself from price shocks and what are the chances that OPEC nations will ramp up supply and stabilise global crude prices. The Russia-Ukraine conflict has begun to have a major impact on the world energy markets. Ever since the conflict started, and especially after the announcement of economic sanctions on Russia, crude prices have been steadily climbing. They have risen most sharply in Europe, which is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas. U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to ban Russian oil is further set to roil energy markets. Since oil and natural gas are key inputs for almost every industry, there are fears of worldwide inflation. India, which relies on imports for the bulk of its energy needs, is especially vulnerable to changes in global crude prices. So, what does the war and the sanctions mean for fuel prices and inflation in India? What steps can India take to insulate itself from price shocks? And what are the chances that OPEC nations will ramp up supply and stabilise global crude prices? Guest : Talmiz Ahmed, a former diplomat who holds the Ram Sathe Chair in International Studies at Symbiosis International University, Pune. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Mar 14, 2022
Decoding the Punjab verdict | In Focus
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has scored a landslide victory in the Punjab Assembly elections. Punjab is a state that has traditionally been dominated by two parties – the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Congress. But this time the AAP has blown away both these old contenders to win 92 seats in the 117-member Assembly. What were the factors behind Punjab’s embrace of AAP? What are the main expectations that the AAP is expected to fulfill? And what does this election victory mean for the future of politics in the State? Guest: Amandeep Sandhu, author of ‘Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines’ (2019) Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Mar 12, 2022
What the U.P. and Punjab results mean | In Focus podcast
The BJP’s victories in State Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand are both comprehensive and complete. Its dominance over north India’s most populous and politically significant State has been re-emphasised. The Samajwadi Party fought the good fight but it was no match for the BJP. The Bahujan Samaj Party cut a sorry figure. In Punjab, the Aam Aadmi Party, a relatively fresh face in the State’s politics, won four-fifths of the seats – making it the second state after Delhi where AAP now has a government. Whether the party is able to advance beyond these two States is a question being posed by analysts and ordinary people alike. In Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand, the BJP managed to buck anti-incumbency and return to power, cutting the Congress to size once again. We discuss the causes and effects of these results in this episode.  Guest: Gilles Verniers teaches politics at Ashoka University and is Co-Director of the Trivedi Centre for Political Data. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu
Mar 11, 2022
Russia-Ukraine war: What is Putin’s end game? | In Focus
After two years of the pandemic, just when people were hoping for a semblance of normalcy, the world has been rocked by a massive war that could have catastrophic effects way beyond the conflict zone and probably change the post-Cold War world order. One question that just doesn’t go away is: could this war have been avoided? What exactly is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s game plan – why did he not stick to the path of diplomacy, instead of launching a full scale war? How will this war affect his position within Russia? And what is the thinking and mood in Russia at the moment? Does the sanctions regime portend Russia’s decisive pivot to the East, away from Europe, with which it has a long, shared history? We look for answers to these questions in this episode of In-Focus podcast. Guest: Danil Bochkov, strategic expert with the Russia International Affairs Council (RIAC), a Moscow-based think tank Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Mar 08, 2022
Why medical education in India remains unaffordable | In Focus
Over the last 10 days, desperate students from India have been asking to be evacuated from Ukraine, as the fighting there gets increasingly worse. On Tuesday, a 21-year-old MBBS student from Karnataka was killed in the eastern Ukranian city of Kharkiv, reportedly by Russian firing, when he was waiting outside a grocery store. As of Wednesday evening, at least 2,000 Indian students are believed to still be stranded in the country that is in the midst of an invasion by Russia. Students from India, have, for many years now, gone abroad to study. But apart from the destinations one usually thinks of – such as the United States, UK, Canada and Australia, an increasing number of students are also studying in Russia, China, Ukraine, the Philippines, Kazhakastan and other countries, many for medical degrees. An estimated 18,000 Indian students were studying in Ukraine when the conflict broke out, again, a majority of them at medical universities, many from tier-2 and tier-3 cities of India. Students, parents and educational consultants say the primary driving factor is the costs – while a medical education in Ukraine is estimated to cost around Rs. 20 lakh for the entire course, in India, costs at a private medical college can range from Rs. 50 lakh to upwards of Rs. 1 crore. And how many medical aspirants get into Indian medical colleges? As per government data there are 88,120 MBBS seats available in the country, but only half of these are in the government sector, where the college fees are relatively low. Just last year, over 15 lakh candidates registered for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test or NEET, which determines admission to medical colleges – which means that a majority of those who attempt the exam will not be able to secure a seat. And the distribution of medical colleges in India too, is skewed – most are in the southern States and Maharashtra, with very few colleges in many northern parts of the country. Even when students do come back after obtaining a medical degree in Ukraine, they cannot immediately practice – they have to write the Foreign Medical Graduates Examination, the pass percentage of which, as per reports, is only around 15%. Over the last five years however, there has been a three-fold increase in the number of candidates attempting this exam. So why is it that medical education continues to remain unaffordable to thousands of our students? Prime Minister Modi, a few days ago, asked why the private sector couldn’t get into this field, and why States couldn’t allot land for medical colleges as many our students were going to small countries abroad to study. Are more private medical colleges in the country the answer or do State governments need to do more to set up government colleges? Are our regulatory frameworks too stringent in the norms required to set up medical colleges? Is capping fees at private colleges, as the National Medical Commission has proposed, for at least some seats, the answer? And can India achieve its commitment of having 1 doctor per 1,000 people as recommended by the World Health Organisation later this decade? Guest : Dr Rajib Dasgupta, Professor at the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Host: Zubeda Hamid Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Mar 05, 2022
How Russia's war on Ukraine has thrown the world order into a flux | In Focus
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has not only shocked the world but shaken the foundations of the world order. Lakhs of refugees, both Ukrainian nationals and foreigners, are trying to cross the country’s borders to safety even as Russian troops shell and bomb major cities. Russia’s end game is not clear even as it faces the full wrath of the West. Sanctions and isolation are the order of the day. What will the sanctions achieve when the West could not even bring Myanmar and Afghanistan to heel? Did Russian President Vladimir Putin believe that the U.S. and the rest of the West will acquiesce to turning Ukraine into a client state? Guest: Syed Akbaruddin, former Indian Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, and currently Dean, Kautilya School of Social Policy, Hyderabad Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Mar 03, 2022
How will the sanctions on Russia impact global trade and economy? | In Focus
Russia’s actions against Ukraine have attracted severe blowback from Western nations, especially in the form of economic sanctions. While Russia has lived with sanctions for years now, the new set of sanctions are decidedly harsher. Many Russian banks have been cut off from the SWIFT transactional system, Russia-registered flights have been banned from EU air space, and assets of the Russian central bank are being frozen, and these measures are expected to affect world trade that involves Russian goods or services. It is a truism that in the three decades following the end of the Cold War, the world has become closer, more networked and more inter-dependant – a process that’s come to be known as globalization. But now, are these sanctions about to turn the clock back? How will the West ensure that all countries – not just in Europe but also Asia, Africa and Latin America abide by the sanctions? How is this likely to impact countries that are dependant on imports from Russia or for whom Russia is a major trade partner? Guest : Arun Kumar, Malcolm S Adiseshiah Chair Professor at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Mar 02, 2022
Why have India and China refused to condemn Russia’s actions against Ukraine? | In Focus
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has led to a flurry of diplomatic activity, with every country sort of compelled to take an official position on the conflict. While the Western world has been unanimous in condemning Russia for violating Ukraine’s sovereignty, some countries have stopped short of outright condemnation. Among these nations which have tried to do a balancing act are India and China. Given that relations between India and China have been frosty in recent times, it is interesting that they seem to be on the same page on what appears to be the most dangerous geo-political conflict today. A few days ago, when the UN Security Council voted on a draft resolution condemning Russia for its actions against Ukraine, India and China, along with the UAE, were the only countries that abstained. So, what are the considerations that are driving India and China to adopt the positions that they’ve taken? With Russia getting increasingly isolated, and the sanctions getting progressively harsher, will India and China change their positions in the coming days or weeks? Guests: Suhasini Haidar, National Editor and Diplomatic Affairs Editor at The Hindu, and Ananth Krishnan, The Hindu’s China Correspondent. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Mar 01, 2022
What can we expect next of the pandemic? | In Focus
Just as the Omicron wave of the pandemic was ebbing in India and case numbers were dropping significantly, there were some concerns about an Omicron sub-variant BA.2. Earlier this week, the World Health Organisation said that it was closely monitoring BA.2, believed to be more transmissible than the BA.1 strain, but said there was no cause for alarm as this sub-variant does not seem to cause more severe disease. As of Tuesday, the country reported just over 15,000 new cases and the number of active cases has fallen below the 2 lakh mark - indicating the receding of the third wave of COVID-19 and the gradual return to normalcy. Booster or third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, which have been on many minds since the third wave began, have so far been given only to healthcare and frontline workers and vulnerable adults over the age of 60 - the NITI Aayog recently said a decision on a third dose for all other adults would only be taken based on scientific need. So is there a scientific need for booster doses in India? What happens to those patients who experience long Covid - those who develop long-term symptoms after being infected? And crucially, what next can we expect of the pandemic and will COVID-19 become endemic in the country - with the virus sticking around but not affecting large numbers? Guest: Dr. Lancelot Pinto, Consultant Respirologist & Epidemiologist, P.D. Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Mumbai Host: Zubeda Hamid Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Feb 27, 2022
Chitra Ramkrishna and the story of the ‘faceless yogi’ | In Focus
The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), in a recent order, has penalised the National Stock Exchange (NSE) and its former MD and CEO Chitra Ramkrishna for violating securities contract rules. Ramkrishna was the CEO from April 2013 to December 2016. The key violation seems to be her role in the appointment of Anand Subramanian as group operating officer and advisor to the MD. Along with Ramkrishna, her predecessor Ravi Narain has also been accused of violating the rules. Among the various findings of the SEBI investigation, the one that has garnered the maximum attention is that Ramakrishna, as the MD and CEO, had been guided in her decisions by a ‘yogi’ or spiritual guru sitting in the Himalayas. It was this same ‘yogi’ who made her appoint Subramanian on an exorbitant salary and allegedly made her keep increasing his compensation at regular intervals. While Ramakrishna and her associates are under further investigation, the whole saga has raised a lot of questions. Given that the yogi had been communicating via email, why is his identity still unknown? Did the NSE suffer material losses as a result of this breach of confidentiality rules? Apart from Subramanian, did any other entity enjoy material gain from the yogi’s apparent hold over Ramkrishna? Guest: Suresh Seshadri, Business Editor, The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Feb 23, 2022
Did detection of leprosy fall during the pandemic? | In Focus
It’s an ancient disease that has been mentioned in history across the world, but one that is now largely forgotten. Leprosy however, continues to exist in India. As per data, in 2020-21, the country saw 65, 147 new cases of leprosy, down from 1,14,451 cases in 2019-20 -- but whether this data is a reflection of ground reality is not known, as the Covid-19 pandemic hampered detection of cases, patients were unable to access healthcare services due to the lockdowns and almost all public health efforts were directed towards combating the pandemic. The disease, caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae, primarily affects the skin and the nerves under the skin. It causes lesions, and if left untreated, leads to deformities and disabilities. Despite free treatment available across the country in the government health sector, leprosy continues to be stigmatised and patients discriminated against, often in their own homes and communities. In 2005, India officially eliminated leprosy as a public health problem -- as less than 1 in 10,000 people contracted it in a year. But some States in the country continue to have higher rates -- parts of Bihar, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal and a few others make up a sizeable chunk of all cases in the country. So what happened to leprosy services in India after 2005? And what happened during the pandemic? Why does India still account for a significant proportion of the world’s leprosy cases? Guest: Dr. Joydeepa Darlong Head, Knowledge Management, The Leprosy Mission Trust India Host: Zubeda Hamid Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Feb 19, 2022
Decoding the suspension of the Table Tennis Federation of India | In Focus
The Delhi High Court, after hearing a case filed by table tennis star Manika Batra, has suspended the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI). It has appointed a three-member Committee of Administrators (CoA) to run the sport for the time being. In the absence of a regular federation to administer the sport, players face an uncertain future. The High Court order has also put the spotlight on the mismanagement that seems to plague many of our sports federations. So, why did the TTFI get suspended? And what is the likely effect of the High Court order on other sports federations? Guest: Rakesh Rao, Deputy Editor (Sports), The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Feb 17, 2022
Decoding MeITY’s proposal for ‘Federated Digital Identities’ | In Focus
With the dust yet to settle on the whole debate around the Aadhaar project, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY) has now proposed a new model of ‘Federated Digital Identities’. The idea is to link a citizen’s multiple unique IDs such as PAN, driving licence, passport and so on to one unique ID. This proposal is part of several digital governance initiatives that the government is considering under the India Digital Ecosystem Architecture or InDEA 2.0 framework. Why exactly do we need federated digital identities? What is the InDEA 2.0 framework all about? Does our digital governance architecture imbibe the constitutional principles that govern traditional governance? Are there any privacy or surveillance concerns that ordinary citizens need to worry about? We look for some answers to these questions in this episode. Guest: Srinivas Kodali, inter-disciplinary researcher with special interest in data standards, cities, cyber security, and the internet. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Feb 16, 2022
What drives the business of IPL auctions? | In Focus
Cricket’s Indian Premier League, known popularly as IPL, is valued at a staggering 50,000 crore rupees. In 2008, when the IPL was launched, not many would have thought it would not only be a mega commercial success but become a magnet for international players. Another round of player auctions has just been concluded with a top sale tag of over 15 crores for an individual cricketer. So, what makes the IPL tick and tick loudly? Guest: Joy Bhattacharjya, CEO of Prime Volleyball League and former Team Director of Kolkata Knight Riders. He is also an analyst for Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Feb 15, 2022
Why do we need a law for ‘restitution of conjugal rights’? | In Focus
In February 2019, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court, challenging Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. This section, which deals with ‘restitution of conjugal rights’, essentially forces a wife who has left her husband, to return and cohabit with him. Although it is gender neutral (applying to either spouse), it is back in focus partly owing to the growing spotlight on criminalising marital rape. The petition challenging this law, titled Ojaswa Pathak vs Union of India, was last heard on July 8, 2021 and has been pending since then, with the Supreme Court website showing no further dates. Justice Rohinton Nariman, who led the Bench which heard the case, has also retired. Meanwhile, adding another twist to the discourse around sexual autonomy of the married woman in India, the Centre has conveyed to the Delhi High Court that India should not “blindly” follow the West in criminalizing marital rape. With the petition against Section 9 pending in the Supreme Court for so many months without a hearing, there is a growing clamour for an early resumption of hearings. What exactly do the provisions of Section 9 say? What has been their impact so far, and how did we end up with such a law in the first place? Guest: Arti Raghavan, practicing advocate at the Bombay High Court Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Feb 10, 2022
Do rising levels of corruption enable authoritarianism? | In Focus
The anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) has released the 2021 Corruption Perception Index, or CPI. This Index ranks 180 countries on their perceived levels of corruption in the public sector. Countries are evaluated on a scale from 0 to 100, where 100 is very clean and 0 is very corrupt. This latest CPI has revealed that globally, corruption remains at high levels, with the average score at 43 out of 100. Out of the 180 countries, 131 have made no progress against corruption, two-thirds scored below 50, indicating that corruption is a major problem, while 27 slipped to their lowest score ever. Although India’s rank improved from 86th to 85, its score of 40 is lower than the global average of 43, which seems to indicate that corruption in India is higher than in most other countries. The report also states that rising corruption is an enabler of human rights abuse and authoritarianism. For a better understanding of CPI, global trends in corruption, and what the report has to say about India, we speak to Venkatesh Nayak. Guest: Venkatesh Nayak, development sector veteran who has worked on transparency and public audit mechanisms, and is currently with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI). Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Feb 05, 2022
What really happened to vulnerable children during the pandemic | In Focus
Last week, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights told the Supreme Court that close to 1.5 lakh children in the country are in need of care and protection after losing at least one of their parents to COVID-19 and other diseases during the pandemic period, while over 10,000 children have lost both parents. The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns not only pushed thousands of Indians into poverty, it also made services that generally safeguard children, unavailable in large parts of the country, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation. Thousands of migrant workers returned to their villages, schools have been shut for the better part of two years, and families, desperate to survive, have gotten into the clutches of money-lenders, which makes them easy prey for traffickers. In July last year, the Union Home Ministry issued guidelines for the urgent setting up of Anti Human Trafficking Units or AHTUs, and asked States to upgrade the infrastructure of existing ones. As per the National Crime Records Bureau, there are 696 functional AHTUs and 20 States/Union Territories have achieved their target of setting up AHTUs in all districts. In the meantime, children have been rescued from trains and buses, from workplaces across the country, from sexual exploitation and child marriage in the thousands by child rights organisations. Childline, a helpline for children in distress, received 1,92,000 distress calls between March and August 2020, most to do with cases of child labour. And yet NCRB's data from AHTUs recorded only 1,714 cases of human trafficking in 2020. What really happened to vulnerable children during the pandemic? How do the AHTUs work and are they effective? What happens to rescued children and how long does it take for the rehabilitation process to work? And what are the urgent gaps the government needs to fill to protect children in our country from being trafficked? Guest: Dhananjay Tingal, executive director, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, a movement for the protection of children that works with government agencies and policy-makers to strengthen the system Host: Zubeda Hamid Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Feb 03, 2022
Union Budget 2022: What does the budget offer the common man?
With elections coming up in five states, it was expected that the Union Budget for the financial year 2022-23 would focus on addressing the crisis of unemployment. One of the things that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman needed to do in this regard was to increase government spending, and she appears to have done so, increasing the capital expenditure outlay by 35.4%, But will this be enough to draw in adequate amounts of private investment and ensure job creation on a massive scale? Also, how do we understand the logic behind the cuts in subsidies, with fertilizer, food and petroleum subsidies all witnessing a marked decline? While job creation remains a primary concern, the allocation for MGNREGA – which saw a surge in demand during the pandemic – has not been increased. How do we assess the Budget on the welfare front – in the domains of health, education and farmer welfare? In this podcast, we look to unpack the numbers of the Union Budget and get to the core of what it means for the common man. Guest: Arun Kumar, economist and Malcolm S. Adiseshiah Chair Professor at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Feb 02, 2022
Domestic violence amid the pandemic | In Focus
The National Commission for Women has said it had seen a 30% rise in complaints of crimes against women in 2021, compared to 2020. Nearly 31,000 complaints of crimes against women were received by the Commission for last year, the highest since 2014. Of these, over 6,000 were related to domestic violence and over 4,000 were to do with dowry harassment. In 2020 also, the Commission had received a record high number of complaints, one quarter of them related to domestic violence -- in just April and May of that year, during the nation-wide lockdown, 47.2% of the cases it received were of domestic violence, by comparison, barely 21% of cases received between January and March were to do with this. Domestic violence has sometimes been referred to as the 'shadow pandemic' -- as the world faced an unprecedented crisis and lockdowns became the norm in several countries, not only did women find themselves locked in with their abusers at home, they also lost access to support services outside. The economic distress faced by millions exacerbated the problem. In India, organisations working with women have reported a huge spike in cases -- men and women lost their jobs, many members of a family were forced to stay together often in small quarters -- not only did women have more household work than usual, they also had little access to the outside, and their support systems dwindled. At the same time, many girls and young women who would ordinarily have been in school and college, have been confined to their homes -- potentially increasing their vulnerability to violence and also to the threat of cyber crimes. Did we have any mechanisms in place to help support survivors of violence through the pandemic? What legal and social structures do we need to have? What happens when fewer women use public places, and will this have an effect on women's safety in the future? And how well has the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 been implemented? Guest: Swarna Rajagopalan, founder of Prajnya, a non-profit that works in the area of gender equality Host: Zubeda Hamid Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Feb 01, 2022
Why a dipping population growth has China worried | In Focus
China, the world’s factory, is worried by its dipping population growth – a figure that has fallen to its lowest level in six decades despite ending its 35-year “one child policy” in 2016 and replacing the “two child policy” with the “three child policy” last year. Just under 11 million babies were born in China in 2021 while a little over 10 million deaths were reported in the year gone by. As a result, China recorded a population growth of 0.34 per thousand – the lowest since 1960. What are the implications of this obvious population crisis? Why aren’t more children being born in China? The country’s ageing population is better educated, more skilled and healthier than before. Will the country be able to cope with lesser numbers? We discuss all these issues in this episode.  Guest: Ananth Krishnan, Hong Kong-based China correspondent of The Hindu. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Jan 29, 2022
What's at stake in the Punjab Assembly polls? | In Focus
If one can rank Assembly elections in order of importance, after Uttar Pradesh it has to be Punjab in the five States going to polls. Punjab Assembly 2017 was a three-cornered contest with the Congress getting a thumping majority. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who could not believe that AAP had lost the polls. The Akali Dal-BJP alliance came third in the 2017 race. In 2022, former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has allied with the BJP, some victorious farmers who forced the BJP government to withdraw the three contentious agricultural laws have entered the fray, the Akalis are now in alliance with the BSP while the Congress and AAP remain serious contenders for power. Guest: Kanwar Sandhu, former Chandigarh-based Resident Editor of The Indian Express and Hindustan Times newspapers. Outgoing MLA in the Punjab Assembly, not seeking re-election. Suspended by AAP for alleged anti-party activities. Also, former Executive Editor of The Tribune newspaper. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associated Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Jan 28, 2022
What's at stake in the U.P. Assembly polls? | In Focus
The poll bugle has been sounded for Uttar Pradesh’s seven-phase Assembly election between February 10 and March 7. Along with Uttar Pradesh, four other states, including Punjab, are also in election mode to elect new State Assemblies. Candidates have been announced for the first few phases in Uttar Pradesh by the BJP, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress and a first round of defections has also taken place. Swami Prasad Maurya, a senior minister and OBC face of the BJP, has jumped ship to the SP. As have two other Cabinet Ministers from the Yogi Adityanath government. We discuss the stakes in this all-important election in this episode. Guest: Gilles Verniers, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Co-Director, Trivedi Centre for Political Data, Ashoka University. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Jan 27, 2022
Penetrating the Tek Fog on automated trolling | In Focus
According to the ‘Tek Fog’ expose by the news portal The Wire, the BJP has access to a secret app called ‘Tek Fog’ that can hijack social media, automate hate, and targets thousands of accounts with just a click. The report, when it came out, created a sensation. While A TMC MP has said Tek Fog “has serious ramifications and could jeopardise national security,” a parliamentary panel headed by a Congress leader has sought a response from the Home Ministry. So, what exactly is Tek Fog? How does automated trolling work, and is it really scalable? What does the Tek Fog expose mean in the context of investigative journalism that straddles the domains of technology, privacy, free speech and politics? We explore these questions in this episode. Guest: Samarth Bansal, an independent journalist who runs The Interval, a fortnightly newsletter Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Jan 20, 2022
Why did Yemen’s Houthi rebels launch an attack on Abu Dhabi? | In Focus podcast
On January 17, two Indians and a Pakistani were killed in a massive explosion in Abu Dhabi. The blast is believed to have been the result of a ‘drone attack’ by Yemen’s Houthi rebels. This attack on the capital of UAE has once again drawn the spotlight to a conflict that has been going on in the region for seven years – the war in Yemen. This war, which broke out in late 2014 during a period of political instability in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring protests, has become really complicated, with multiple warring factions –the Saudi-backed coalition, the Houthis, the Southern Transitional Council, or the STC, which is another separatist group, besides other countries such as France and the UK which have been helping the Saudi-backed coalition. All of this has triggered what is believed to be the worst ongoing humanitarian crisis in the world. What are the factors driving this conflict? What is at stake for the different players? And is there any chance of peace returning to the region any time soon?  Guest: Stanly Johny, The Hindu’s International Affairs Editor Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Jan 19, 2022
What’s behind the Kazakhstan unrest? | In Focus
Kazakhstan, the largest and richest of the Central Asian republics, is in turmoil. The country has been rocked by massive protests since the start of the New Year. The protests have also been marked by violence and looting. While the immediate trigger seems to be a hike in LPG prices, they protesters did not relent even after the government announced that it will roll back the price hike. As violence escalated, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev gave orders to shoot at the protesters without warning. He has also claimed that foreign elements are behind the protests. He turned to Russia for help in quelling the protests, and things seemed to have settled down somewhat, after 2,500 Russian troops landed in the country. What exactly are the factors driving these protests? Is there really some foreign involvement? What are the geo-political implications of Russian troop presence in Kazakhstan? We discuss all this and more in this episode. Guest: Stanly Johny, The Hindu’s International Affairs Editor Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Jan 18, 2022
Are the provisions of the FCRA loaded against civil society? | In Focus
The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, or the FCRA, has been in the news once again. India’s NGO sector had an unpleasant start to the new year as it emerged that around 6,000 of them had lost their FCRA licence. NGOs and other institutions that do charitable work have to register under the FCRA to be able to receive foreign donations. Hence, cancellation or loss of an FCRA licence could mean that they may no longer be able to continue their day-to-day work, to pay salaries, and may even be forced to shut down. This has livelihood implications for people employed in the social sector. In this edition of In Focus, we get to the fundamentals of the whole FCRA phenomenon. Why do NGOs need an FCRA licence? Do other entities that receive donations, such as political parties, for example, face the same level of regulatory scrutiny? How transparent is the process of granting or cancellation of licences? Guest: Kabir Dixit, an advocate-on-record at the Supreme Court who has been handling FCRA matters Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Jan 15, 2022
What you need to know about children's vaccines and booster doses | In Focus
On January 3, India began vaccinating a section of its teenagers, with Covaxin. About 7.4 crore children, between the ages of 15 and 18, are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. As of Saturday, over 2 crore children had received the first dose of their vaccine. Only Covaxin was approved for use in this age group, even though, last October, India's first DNA vaccine, ZyCoV-D, had been granted emergency use authorisation for use in children above the age of 12. Some experts have argued that since COVID-19 in children is, in general, not severe, the entire adult population should have been vaccinated first -- over 90% of the eligible population has received the first dose, but second dose coverage remains less than 70%. However, others have pointed out that now that adult vaccination is well underway and progressing, the programme needed to be opened to children as well.  India has also announced precautionary doses -- a third dose of the vaccine -- for healthcare and frontline workers as well as adults aged above 60 with co-morbidities. The move comes amidst a global surge in COVID-19 cases, with new variant of concern, Omicron, dominating. Unlike some other countries however, India will give beneficiaries the same dose they had for the first two -- either Covishield or Covaxin, without any mixing of the vaccines. So how did the children's vaccination programme come about, and how is it progressing? Do all adults need a booster dose or will only those at risk require it at present? How does the precautionary dose help protect vulnerable individuals? And will we see more variants in the future? Guest: Dr Srinath Reddy, President of the Public Health Foundation of India  Host: Zubeda Hamid  Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Jan 13, 2022
Can India’s best stop badminton’s new superstar Loh Kean Yew? | In Focus
The first big event of the Badminton calendar in this year is happening in New Delhi – with the 2022 India Open set to take place from January 11 to 16. There is a great deal of anticipation around the event as it could see a potential rematch of the two finalists of the World championships last month – Kidambi Srikanth and Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew. There is also a lot of excitement as India suddenly seems to have a great number of high quality male shuttlers and some excellent prospects, including the likes of Lakshya Sen. Given the abundance of talent, what are India’s prospects at the India Open and for the rest of the Badminton calendar in 2022? Can Kidambi Srikanth reverse the outcome of the World Championship final if he runs into Loh at the India Open? And how are the chances for PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal? We discuss these questions and more in this episode. Guest: Rakesh Rao, Deputy Editor (Sports) at The Hindu. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan
Jan 12, 2022
Could the Novak Djokovic visa mess have been avoided? | In Focus
The top-ranked tennis player in the world and arguably one of the all-time greats Novak Djokovic was held for four days in a detention centre in Australia, apparently because his unvaccinated status rendered his entry visa invalid. The showdown between the Australian federal agencies and Novak Djokovic was today settled in court, with a Federal Circuit Court judge ruling in Djokovic’s favour. It quashed the cancellation of Djokovic’s visa and ordered his immediate release from detention. While details of the events at the airport leading to Djokovic’s detention are still emerging, the whole episode has raised questions about vaccination, sport, and how rules are imposed, or not imposed. We don’t know, for instance, why Australia did not inform Djokovic earlier that his ‘medical exemption’ was not valid or that it was not enough to guarantee him entry into Australia. Why wait until he was already on Australian soil? And what about the effect of all this on his preparations for the Australian Open, assuming he gets to play it? We discuss all these questions in detail in this episode. Guest: Rakesh Rao, Deputy Editor (Sports) at The Hindu. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Jan 11, 2022
Will Sudan’s military allow a successful transition to democracy? | In Focus
Sudan, a country ravaged by repression and instability for a long time, is again in turmoil. Civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok announced his resignation in a televised address on January 2. Since 2019, Hamdok had been leading a transitional government in which power was shared between the military and the civilian leadership. But the military overthrew the government in a coup in October, and Hamdok was kept under house arrest. Following international pressure, the military made a deal with Hamdok, and on November 21, he returned as Prime Minister. And now, he is gone again, leaving the military fully in command of the levers of power. Why exactly did the military pull the plug on the joint civilian-military governance arrangement in October? Why did Hamdok make a deal with the military in November, only to quit a few weeks later in January? And what are the chances of Sudan making a successful transition to democracy? We explore all these questions with Stanly Johny, The Hindu’s International Affairs Editor. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Guest: Stanly Johny, International Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by: Ranjani Srinivasan
Jan 05, 2022
Digital Address Code: What is it and why do we need it? | In Focus
The Department of Posts under the Ministry of Communications has released a Draft Approach Paper for creating a Digital Address Code or DAC for each and every address in the entire country. The DAC is to do for addresses for Aadhaar has done for identity – create a unique ID, using geo-spatial coordinates. The idea of a digital address code is a very ambitious one. While it can potentially transform the available national infrastructure for business, it also has implications for conduct of the Census, National Population Register and conduct of elections. Strangely, the proposal for this massive undertaking is yet to be widely debated. Why does India need a Digital Address Code? Who are likely to be its likely beneficiaries? Will it further exacerbate privacy concerns? Will it increase the possibilities of surveillance? How have other countries approached the idea of a digital access code? We look for answers to all these questions and more in this episode. Guest: Srinivas Kodali, an inter-disciplinary researcher with a special interest in data standards, cities, cyber security, and the internet. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Edited by Reenu Cyriac
Dec 12, 2021
What next for school education? | In Focus
Schools began opening across the country in September this year, following the devastating second wave of COVID-19. By then, most of India's 24 crore students, had been out of schools for close to 18 months -- most children in kindergarten and first standard had never set foot in a classroom. The Annual Status of Education Report 2021, released last month, throws up some important facts about how students and teachers have fared over the pandemic years. Significantly, there was an increase in the proportion of children not enrolled in school, compared to pre-pandemic figures from 2018. Government schools saw a rise in enrolments, up from 64.3% in 2018 to 70.3% in 2021, while private schools recorded a dip -- from 32.4% in 2018 to 24.4% in 2021. Another important factor the survey highlighted was that online education, demonstrably, did not work for all -- while smartphone availability in homes almost doubled from 2018 to 2021, and 67.6% of students on average had a device at home, over a quarter of them had no access to it at all. But what needs to be done, going forward, in what is, arguably an unprecedented situation? A vast number of children may not be at the level that their grade and curriculum demand. What can schools and teachers do to deal with this? Do States need to frame policies and guidelines to help children get back on their feet, academically? Do we need to move away from a narrow, curriculum-driven approach that our school systems presently focus on? Guest: Dr. Rukmini Banerji, Chief Executive Officer of Pratham Education Foundation Host: Zubeda Hamid Edited by: Ranjani Srinivasan
Dec 09, 2021
The Oting killings, Naga insurgency, and AFSPA | In Focus
The ghastly killing of six innocent coalminers and another nine civilians and a soldier on December 4 in the Mon district of Nagaland has sent shockwaves through the Northeast and the rest of the country. The clamour for the withdrawal of the draconian Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act has grown, with the chief ministers of Nagaland and Meghalaya, both allied to the BJP, demanding that the Act be withdrawn. The Oting village incident also raises a question mark on the fate of the still-to-be-made-public 2015 “framework agreement” signed between Naga insurgent groups and the Centre in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Also in the spotlight is the state of the 1997 ceasefire between the Centre and the NSCN-IM, the principal Naga insurgent group. Much will depend on how the Modi government acts to prosecute the soldiers responsible for the Oting killings. A change of tack on security policies that undermine the elected government and state police will also be under the scanner. We discuss these and more in this episode. Guest: Rahul Karmakar, Guwahati-based Special Correspondent of The Hindu Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu.
Dec 07, 2021
Why has Putin amassed troops near the border with Ukraine? | In Focus
Tensions have been rising at the Ukraine-Russia border. There has been a massive troop build-up on the Russian side, within 300 km of the Donbas region in Ukraine. This is a live conflict zone where the Ukrainian government has been battling Russia-backed separatists. While the West has accused Russia of trying to intimidate Ukraine, the Kremlin has, in turn, accused the West of manufacturing ‘anti-Russia hysteria’, holding that troop mobilization within Russian borders is no one else’s business. Another dimension of the rising tensions is that last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that there had been a coup plot against his regime by a group of Russians and Ukrainians. Russia, however, has denied any role in the alleged coup attempt. So, what exactly are the points of conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and what does Putin hope to achieve through this troop build-up? We explore these questions and more in this episode. Guest: Stanly Johny, The Hindu’s International Affairs Editor. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Dec 04, 2021
What we know, and do not know, about the Omicron variant | In Focus
There is much that is still unknown about Omicron, the newest Sars-CoV-2 variant, that has been designated as a 'variant of concern' by the World Health Organisation. The variant was first reported in South Africa on November 24, and has since, spread to over 15 countries or regions, as of now. In response, several countries have begun imposing travel restrictions and closing borders, similar to what we saw happening last year, during the initial waves of the pandemic.  Omicron is a heavily mutated strain, with over 32 mutations in the spike protein of the virus, some in part of the protein required for binding to human receptor proteins for entry into cells. This has raised concerns that the variant may be more transmissable and also that it may hamper the efficacy of our current treatments for the disease. Another concern has been that the variant may have vaccine escape properties. However, scientists will require possibly several more weeks before they can determine whether any of these concerns are valid. What do we now know about the variant? Are travel restrictions and bans really effective, given that the new variant is already spreading? With India having vaccinated nearly 80% of the eligible population with the first dose and about 38% with both doses, what more needs to be done to take measures against the new variant?  Guest: Dr. Shahid Jameel, Virologist and Fellow at OCIS and Green Templeton College, University of Oxford Host: Zubeda Hamid
Dec 01, 2021
Is India particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases? | In Focus
Over the last decade, India has seen the emergence, or re-emergence, of a number of infectious diseases. Not only have seen an alarming surge in the number of dengue and chikungunya cases, we've had Zika and Nipah virus cases, and even an Ebola scare. This is in addition to existing diseases that we are still battling -- such as tuberculosis, malaria, Kala Azar and others, and all while India battled the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years. Some estimates indicate that about 60 per cent of infectious diseases and 70 per cent of emerging infections of humans are zoonotic in origin, with two-thirds originating in wildlife. India, a tropical country, that is still, in many parts, grappling with inadequate sanitation, overcrowding, and lack of adequate access to healthcare, has also, of late, been subject to extreme climate events -- all of these, and other factors such as human encroachment into wildlife terrain may also be playing a role in the emergence of infections or surge in cases. What do we know about why these infections come in spurts? Are there any vaccines for them and if not, why not? Is India particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases? And what can the government do to prepare and strengthen our already over-burdened healthcare systems? We speak about this and more in the podcast. Guest: Dr Priscilla Rupali, Professor Department of Infectious Diseases Christian Medical College, Vellore Host: Zubeda Hamid 
Nov 30, 2021
What next on agricultural reforms? | In Focus
The sudden televised withdrawal of the three contentious farm laws by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 19 was as dramatic as pushing through the three Bills by voice vote in the Rajya Sabha in September last year. Gripped by a still-to-be explained urgency, these three laws were issued as Presidential Ordinances in June 2020.  There is little doubt that Mr. Modi’s hand was forced by the relentless agitation launched by the farmers of Punjab, Western U.P. and Haryana, who have been sitting on Delhi’s borders since November last year, demanding the complete withdrawal of the three laws. The writing on the electoral wall, as many analysts have pointed out, has also been clearly read by the Prime Minister as the states of U.P. and Punjab slip into election mode.  Farmer leaders, meanwhile, are firm that minimum support price, or MSP, should be given statutory shape by the Centre even as they have deferred a decision on whether or not to withdraw their agitation to the end of November.   We discuss the future of agricultural reforms in this episode. Guest: Ajay Vir Jakhar, Chairman, Bharat Krishak Samaj  Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu 
Nov 27, 2021
Why should we care about mental health of death row prisoners? | In Focus
The welfare of convicts who have been sentenced to death is probably the last, if at all it figures, in anyone’s list of welfare priorities. Since their entire identity gets reduced to one act -- the crime they are accused of – they are generally dehumanised, and people find it difficult to understand why we should care about the mental health of someone convicted of, say, gang-rape or a brutal murder – the ‘rarest of rare’ cases where the death penalty is invoked. But there are problems in the way the criminal justice system deals with the mental health of under-trials and prisoners, and perhaps nobody is more victimised by systemic issues than prisoners on death row. A new report, titled, ‘Deathworthy: A Mental Health Perspective of the Death Penalty’ has come up with empirical data on mental illness and intellectual disability among death row prisoners in India. The study, which is the first of its kind, has found that an alarming 62% had a mental illness and 11% had intellectual disability. Given that most of these convicts are from marginalized communities with poor socio-economic and educational indicators, the report raises some hard questions about equity, justice and the responsibility of the courts, the prison system, the State and society at large towards protecting the dignity of those deemed ‘deathworthy’. We speak with the project head and lead author of this study in this episode. Guest: Dr Maitreyi Misra, Founder of Project 39A at National Law University, New Delhi Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Nov 25, 2021
What happens to your body when you breathe in polluted air | In Focus
Every year in November and December, the residents of Delhi and the National Capital Region, find it hard to breathe. Toxic air chokes the lungs, doctors advise people to avoid outdoor walks and runs, hospital outpatient services overflow with people facing respiratory problems, and there is a call for emergency measures to bring the air quality index down from severe to satisfactory. Meteorological conditions such as cold air and a drop in wind speeds combine with the year-long emanation of pollutants into the air from industries, vehicles, construction as well as stubble smoke, along with festive firecrackers -- and together they contribute to the noxious air that prevails across the Indo-Gangetic plain at this time of the year. What happens to your lungs and body when you breathe in polluted air on a daily basis? How does this impact our health long term? Where does India stand in its pollution levels compared to the rest of the world? And what urgent action can governments take to protect, and help provide cleaner air for future generations? We speak on this and more in this episode.  Guest: Vivek Chattopadhyaya, Sr Program Manager, Clean Air and Sustainable Mobility of the Centre for Science and Environment Host: Zubeda Hamid
Nov 24, 2021
How safe is India’s crypto gold rush for ordinary investors? | In Focus
These days, if you turn on the TV, there is no escaping the flood of advertisements urging you to invest in cryptocurrencies. Everyone seems to be busy getting rich from bitcoin and other cryptos. A host of crypto-exchanges have attracted funding from global investors and are promising the moon to retail investors. But these crypto-exchanges themselves are not comparable to a conventional stock exchange such as the BSE or the NSE, which bear some of the risks of a trade, whereas the crypto-exchanges don’t. However, the government has allowed this sector to mushroom in a regulatory vacuum. How real are the risks for investors putting their money into an unregulated ‘asset class’? When is a regulatory regime likely to kick in? And how likely is it that we can transition to a regulated ecosystem without some pain to retail investors? We seek to answer these questions and more in this episode. Guest: Vivek Kaul, business journalist and author who has written extensively on the recent crypto-currency boom in India Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Nov 23, 2021
Tennis star Peng Shuai’s sexual assault allegations and the Chinese Communist Party's response | In Focus
On November 2, Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai shared a post on micro-blogging site Weibo accusing a senior Communist party leader, Zhang Gaoli, of sexual assault. The post was immediately censored, and there has been no news about Peng Shuai since then. Peng, who was ranked world number 1 in doubles in 2014, is a big star in China. The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and several tennis stalwarts, from Chris Evert to Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka, have expressed concerns about Peng’s whereabouts and safety. They have also called on Chinese authorities to investigate her allegations. But in a strange twist, on Wednesday, Chinese state media shared an email purportedly written by Peng Shuai to WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon, in which she says that the allegations of attributed to her are not true and that she was just “resting at home and everything is fine.” Simon, in response, has questioned the authenticity of this email, and said that “Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source.” It is not often that senior Party members face public accusations of sexual wrongdoing. So, who is likely to face repercussions over these allegations – is it going to be Peng herself, for going public about a Party official, or will it be Zhang Gaoli, for causing embarrassment to the Party? And where does the Chinese Communist Party stand with regard to feminist politics and the #MeToo movement? We look for answers to these questions in this episode. Guest: Ananth Krishnan, The Hindu’s China correspondent. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Nov 18, 2021
Should there be a total ban on liquor? | In Focus
The issue of prohibition has always been a contentious one in India. Five years ago, the state of Bihar imposed total prohibition – a policy that reportedly got Chief Minister Nitish Kumar votes from women electors. Reports of illicit liquor deaths have been coming in regularly from Bihar since the prohibition policy was imposed. Around Diwali, as many as 40 persons died from drinking illicit liquor in the districts of Samastipur, Gopalganj and West Champaran. Should there be a total ban on liquor? Do bans help or turn people to drinking more dangerous forms of liquor? When the world is moving towards legalizing drugs like marijuana, why are Indian states banning the sale of liquor? Guest: Nikhil Dey, founder member of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan and the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu
Nov 17, 2021
The rise and rise of Xi Jinping | In Focus
The rise of China is a global reality that has upset many international calculations. To understand the growing Chinese footprint, it’s important to understand the internal dynamics of the Chinese Communist Party.  The Hindu’s China Correspondent Ananth Krishnan has been reporting on the passage of what has been called “Resolution on the Major Achievements of the Party over the Past Century” by the sixth plenum, or closed-door meeting, of the Party’s Central Committee.  The resolution elevates the country’s current president and general secretary Xi Jinping to the status of Mao Zedong and reformer Deng Xiaoping. The writing on the wall also suggests that Mr. Xi will have a third term as President and party leader unlike his immediate predecessors Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin.  We talk about what these changes mean for the functioning of the party and the country in this episode.  Guest: Ananth Krishnan, China Correspondent, The Hindu  Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu 
Nov 16, 2021
How can India keep itself relevant in Afghanistan? | In Focus
After the Taliban took over Afghanistan by force earlier this year, India, like many other countries, was forced to deal with the new realities in the country. The change was emphasized by India hosting as many as seven regional national security officials from around Afghanistan on November 10. Pakistan and China were conspicuous by their absence.  India’s influence in Afghanistan has clearly waned after the Taliban took over. Is the regional route the best route to keep itself relevant in Afghan affairs for India? Are there any other options besides engaging the Taliban? How does this sit with the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan?  We discuss these issues in this episode. Guest: T C A Raghavan, former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan and Joint Secretary who dealt with Afghanistan.  Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu 
Nov 11, 2021
Why is Ethiopia at war again? | In Focus
Ethiopia is in the middle of a civil war. In November 2020, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, ordered what seemed like a limited military operation in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region. It was expected to be a quick, low-key war. But the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), an ethno-nationalist paramilitary group-cum-political party, managed to turn the tables on federal forces. It has now taken two key cities on the highway to the national capital, and is threatening to capture the national capital, Addis Ababa. Prime Minister Ahmed has called upon all civilians to sign up for military training and join the fight against the Tigrayan rebels. In the meantime, hundreds of civilians have died, thousands injured, and there is a food and communications blockade against the Tigray region, including its capital Mekelle, which is home to half a million people. There have also been reports of massacres and rapes by security forces. What exactly triggered this conflict? How did a Nobel Peace prize-winning Prime Minister end up leading his country into war? With neither side keen on talks just yet, what is the likely roadmap to a lasting peace? We look for answers in this episode. Guest: Stanly Johny, The Hindu’s International Affairs Editor Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Nov 10, 2021
Why did India have a bad dengue season this year? | In Focus
Even as India is recovering from its battering by COVID-19, there has been a significant rise in cases of another viral disease: dengue. States across the country are seeing a spurt in cases of the disease, transmitted by the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito, and several are witnessing multiple deaths, even as hospitals fill up rapidly. As per government statistics, there have been 60,112 cases of dengue recorded in the country as of September this year, an increase from the 44,585 recorded for all of last year.  Director-general of the Indian Council of Medical Research, Dr Balram Bharagava, said last month that a majority of the deaths in parts of Uttar Pradesh were due to the D2 strain of dengue, which can cause haemorrhaging that can be fatal. On Monday, November 1, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya chaired a review meeting to take stock of the dengue situation across the country, and said expert teams were being sent to States that had seen an increase in cases. Why has India had such bad dengue season this year? Is it linked to the delayed withdrawal of the southwest monsoon and the floods that many parts of the country experienced? Are the dengue statistics accurate or is there under-reporting and how do you tell if your symptoms are of dengue or COVID-19? We discuss these and more in this episode. Guest: Dr Subramanian Swaminathan, Director, Infectious Diseases, Gleneagles Global Hospital, Chennai Host: Zubeda Hamid
Nov 09, 2021
What the Facebook papers reveal | In Focus
Facebook has had its share of problems over the years, from privacy issues to data leaks to fake news. Now, internal documents made public by former Facebook employee Francis Haugen show that these problems may have been more systematic. They suggest that Facebook may have been aware of the problems that it was causing while doing little about it. Reporting on these internal documents, the New York Times said that in India, Facebook was facing an amplified version of its problems with misinformation and hate speech but allocated very little resources to deal with it. So what are the wider issues that these papers raise? What is the answer to the problems that Facebook causes, considering the outsize influence it has? We discuss these and more in this episode. Guest: Mishi Choudhary, founder and Legal director of the Software Freedom Law Centre Host: P.J. George
Nov 06, 2021
How will a new party affect the electoral playing field in Punjab? | In Focus
With Punjab just a few months away from assembly polls, former Congressman Captain Amarinder Singh has announced that is launching launching a new party. When the Captain was unceremoniously replaced as Punjab CM by Charanjit Singh Channi in September, people expected that he would make the Congress pay. This week, he made his intentions clear with two statements: that a large number of Punjab Congressmen are set to join his party, and that he will work out a seat-sharing arrangement with the BJP. What kind of challenge would Amarinder’s party pose to the Congress, and to the other contenders – the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Akali Dal? And has the Captain’s exit resolved the internal strife within Punjab Congress? We explore these questions in this episode. Guest: Amandeep Sandhu, author of Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines (2019) Host: G Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Nov 05, 2021
India's net zero commitment at CoP 26, explained | In Focus
The 26th Conference of parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), or CoP 26 as it is popularly called was held a few days ago in Glasgow, Scotland. At the summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India will aim to attain net zero emissions by 2070. He also announced that India will draw 50% of its consumed energy from renewable sources by 2030, and cut its carbon emissions by a billion tonnes by the same year. This announcement of a net zero date by India is considered a surprise move by many. What exactly is net zero and why is it important? What has been India's stance on it so far, and what does the new announcement by PM Modi mean? We discuss these in this episode. Guest: Jacob Koshy, The Hindu's Deputy Science Editor Host: P.J. George
Nov 03, 2021
A public void between Pakistan PM and Army chief over the ISI | In Focus
After presenting a picture of being on the same page for a considerable length of time, the appointment of a new chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, Directorate, created a very public void between Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa. It appears that the appointment of a new chief was as important as the shunting out of the old one, Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, after his very public statements to the press in Kabul days after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Though Imran Khan finally approved the appointment of Lt. Gen. Anjum on October 27, many Pakistani analysts believe that there could be more to come in the ongoing saga of civil-military relations in Pakistan. We discuss this issue in this episode. Guest: Rana Banerji, former IAS officer and retired Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu
Nov 02, 2021
RBI’s new recurring payments norms and their implications | In Focus
The Reserve Bank of India’s new norms and guidelines for recurring payments came into effect this month. One of them, for instance, lays down that banks should send a pre-debit notification to credit card holders 24 hours before an actual debit is done. There are other requirements as well with regard to the nature and duration of an e-mandate for recurring payments. What all this means is that, from October 1st, standing instructions with one’s payments provider may not work without some additional steps. This has already affected certain subscription services, including media and OTT subscriptions, and unless all merchants and banks are fully equipped to meet the new requirements, the disruptions would continue. So, what exactly are these new requirements for recurring transactions? What prompted the RBI to come up with them? How will they change the subscription economy going forward? And are there any privacy implications of these new norms? We explore these questions and more in this episode. Guest: Srikanth Lakshmanan of CashlessConsumer, a consumer collective that works on digital payments Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor The Hindu
Oct 30, 2021
Why is Mercedes-Benz selling cars directly to customers in India? | In Focus
German luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz has started a new model of retail in India – what it calls ‘Retail of the Future (ROTF), under which it is now selling its cars directly to customers. Traditionally, a car-maker would sell cars to a dealer, and the dealer would then sell the car to the customer. Customers had the option of visiting different dealerships, comparing prices, and pitting one dealer against the dealer in a bid to get the best discount. But now, in this new model, they would have to purchase the cars directly from Mercedes-Benz. What is the business logic behind this new model of retail? How does it change things for the customer? How does it change the business for dealers? And most critically, is this something that will remain restricted to the luxury segment or, are we likely to see even mass market car-makers make the shift to selling the cars directly to customers? We explore all these questions in this episode. Guest: Puneet Gupta, Director of Automotive Sales Forecasting at IHS Markit Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Oct 28, 2021
Will Merck's new anti-viral drug help fight COVID-19? | In Focus
The new anti-viral drug brought out by Merck Pharmaceuticals, Molnupiravir, seems to be a promising development in the global fight against COVID-19. Early results from the phase-3 trial of the drug report that it halves the chances of hospitalisation in patients with mild to moderate COVID-19. It is also an oral medication -- it can be taken in pill form, unlike other anti-viral drugs that have to administered intravenously, usually in a hospital setting. Merck has now applied for emergency use authorisation for its drug in the United States. It has also, meanwhile, tied up with eight Indian drugmakers for the manufacture of molunupiravir. How does this drug work? Will it become a significant tool to combat COVID-19, which continues to kill people both in India and abroad? Will it accessible and easily available to those who need it? Guest:  Dr. Satyajit Rath, adjunct professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune Host: Zubeda Hamid
Oct 27, 2021
What does 'Indianisation’ of the justice system mean? | In Focus
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court N.V. Ramana recently spoke of the need to ‘Indianise’ the justice system. He said that there were a lot of practices that have been carried over from the colonial period – including language practices, and lengthy, often technical judgments – that alienate the common man from the judiciary. He stressed that the justice system needs to minimise procedural barriers so that accessing justice becomes simpler. Coming from the highest justice officer of the country, his remarks naturally made the headlines. There is no doubt that India’s justice delivery systems need improvement, and any debate on what needs to change is most welcome. However, ‘Indianisation’ is an odd way of framing the reforms needed to make justice delivery more efficient. What exactly did the CJI mean by ‘Indianisation’? How useful is it as a conceptual frame for identifying reforms? And if we were to interpret ‘Indianisation’ as a synonym for ‘people-friendly’, what kind of changes should we aim for? We explore these questions and more in this episode. Guest: Arti Raghavan, an advocate who practices at the Bombay High Court. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu.
Oct 26, 2021
Why the world's first malaria vaccine is important | In Focus
The world's first malaria vaccine is here. The World Health Organisation, earlier this month, endorsed RTS,S/AS01 or Mosquirix, developed by British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline in partnership with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative. The vaccine, which acts against P. falciparum, believed to be most deadly malaria parasite globally, took nearly 30 years to make. Malaria is an ancient disease -- it has been around for centuries, affecting populations around the world. Though many countries have been successful in eliminating the disease, which is caused by a parasite and transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, it still continues to affect some countries in Africa and Asia. In 2019, there were an estimated 229 million cases of malaria, with 94% of the burden in the African region. About 67% of the deaths were of children under the age of 5. India, according to the WHO, recorded a significant decrease in its malaria burden, with cases declining from 20 million in the year 2000 to about 5.6 million in 2019. Deaths too, have decreased. But India still accounts for over 80 percent of all malaria cases in the SE Asia region. It also bears the largest burden of Plasmodium vivax in the world at 3.5 million cases a year -- a parasite for which a vaccine has not yet been found. How will the vaccine help combat malaria globally? How effective is it? Will other malaria control measures continue to be needed? Guest: Dr Daniel Chandramohan, professor of public health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Host: Zubeda Hamid
Oct 23, 2021
Does the GHI ranking reflect India's hunger and nutrition levels? | In Focus
The Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2021, published last week by Concern Worldwide, an Irish aid agency, and Welt Hunger Hilfe, a German non-profit, has ranked India at 101 out of 116 countries, in its assessment of how successful countries have been in combating hunger. Only 15 countries – many of them marked by violent strife – have performed worse than India. The government of India has been quick to dismiss this report as “devoid of ground reality and facts”. It has also questioned the methodology used by the GHI to assess the prevalence of hunger. The GHI researchers have defended their methodology, stating that it follows international norms. What exactly does the GHI report say about India? Are we in the midst of a major hunger crisis? How have the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change impacted hunger and nutrition levels in India? We explore these questions in detail in this episode. Guest: Reetika Khera, Associate Professor of Economics at IIT, Delhi. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Oct 21, 2021
Will the Tatas be able to turn around Air India? | In Focus
On October 8, the Centre announced that the struggling State airline, Air India, was being sold to the Tata group for Rs. 2,700 crore in cash and Rs. 15,300 crore in debt. Some analysts believe that the sale of Air India provides a major fillip to India’s privatisation programme. Will the Tatas be able to turn around Air India, especially when they have invested heavily in Vistara and Air Asia India? Are the terms of the sale such where employee interests will also be protected? We try to answer these questions in this episode. Guest: Probir Chandra Sen, former Chairman Air India and former Chairman and Managing Director of Indian Airlines. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu
Oct 20, 2021
Can Sonia Gandhi galvanise a divided Congress? | In Focus
Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s assertion that she is a full-time, hands-on chief executive at the party’s working committee meeting should silence the critics of the Gandhi family for the moment. She also asked dissidents to speak to her directly and not through the media. Will these unusually assertive comments after months of silence from Sonia Gandhi galvanise the party ahead of crucial elections, including to the all-critical Uttar Pradesh state assembly? Will the party be able to present a united front or will it remain a divided house? We discuss these developments within the Congress party in this episode. Guest: Sandeep Phukan, Deputy Editor, The Hindu Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu
Oct 19, 2021
What's at stake in the Japan elections? | In Focus
Earlier this week, on Thursday, Japan’s new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida dissolved the lower house of Parliament, paving the way for general elections, which are scheduled for October 31. Japanese politics has been dominated by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) for much of its post-war history. Under Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest serving Prime Minister who stepped down in September 2020, the LDP has moved further to the right. Abe’s successor, Yoshihide Suga, lasted just a year. His growing unpopularity meant that the party did not want to go to elections under his leadership. So he stepped down last month, making way for former Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida to take over. Under Kishida, the LDP has built a sizeable lead in approval ratings, and the party is expected to win. But Kishida has some tough challenges facing him – while COVID-19 has still not gone away, the economy has been battered by the pandemic, and the rich-poor divide has grown sharper. Is it going to be an easy win for Kishida? And even if the LDP wins, will he enjoy a stable tenure? How will the new regime navigate the growing hostility between the US and China, given that China is one of Japan’s largest trading partners and a powerful neighbour as well? As the world’s third largest economy heads to the polling booth, we explore these questions in this episode. Guest: Stanly Johny, International Affairs Editor at The Hindu. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Oct 16, 2021
Is COVID-19 vaccine necessary for children? | In Focus podcast
With about 29% of India’s population fully vaccinated, the government’s Subject Expert Committee (SEC) has now recommended Bharat Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin, for Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) for children aged 2-18 years. This is the second vaccine in India to be cleared for children. Earlier, Zydus Cadilla’s vaccine got authorization for kids above 12. While the timeline for the supply of Covaxin for children is still unclear, its availability as an option has raised some critical questions: Is it really necessary to expose children to a vaccine authorised for emergency use, when it is evident that they only contract a mild infection and don’t face the threat of mortality? Secondly, is WHO clearance for Covaxin a mere formality or should it be a matter of concern that a vaccine that is yet to get WHO clearance for adults has already got approval for children in India? We explore these issues in this episode. Guest: Jacob Koshy, Deputy Science Editor at The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Oct 14, 2021
What made Virat Kohli step down from T20 captaincy? | In Focus
Virat Kohli has announced that he will step down from T20 captaincy of the Indian team after the T20 World Cup in November. He is also stepping down as captain of Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) after IPL 2021. Both the nature and the timing of these decisions have raised a lot of questions. For instance, wouldn’t it have been better to make these announcements after the T20 World Cup, or after the 2021 IPL was over? Were these decisions Kohli’s own or was he under pressure? Is this the beginning of the end of the fairly successful Kohli-Ravi Shastri partnership? What is the ‘road map’ for the future that the BCCI has been talking about in the context of Kohli’s decision? We look for answers to these and other questions in this episode. Guest: Rakesh Rao, Deputy Editor (Sports) at The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Oct 13, 2021
The current situation in Kashmir | In Focus
A Kashmiri Pandit chemist Mohan Lal Bindroo, a Sikh school principal Supinder Kaur and her Hindu colleague from Jammu have been killed in targeted attacks in Srinagar recently. A large number of Muslims too have been killed in such attacks, laid at the door of The Resistance Front, widely believed to be a front of the Lashkar-e-Taiba. Many Hindus who stayed back after the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in the 1990s are scared and have been advised by the authorities to stay inside their houses. An estimated 300 Pandits have left. This is possibly the most serious crisis in the Valley after the BJP Government at the Centre abrogated Article 370 and sliced the state of Jammu & Kashmir into two Union Territories in 2019. In this podcast, we explore the current situation and the possible reasons behind it. Guest: Mohammed Sayeed Malik, veteran journalist Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu
Oct 12, 2021
How DNA vaccines work | In Focus
As early as this month, India may see the rollout of ZyCoV-D, the world's first DNA vaccine against COVID-19. Pharmaceutical company Zydus Cadila has received Emergency Use Authorisation for this vaccine, which is also the first in the country to be approved for children above the age of 12. How do DNA vaccines work, and how are they different from the vaccines we have now -- Covishield and Covaxin? What sort of immunity will the DNA vaccine provide? Will the three-dose regimen pose a problem, logistically, in administering ZyCoV-D? Sero-surveys across the country have shown us that in the most populated of regions 70% of the population may have COVID-19 antibodies already -- what does this mean for children, and do they need to be necessarily vaccinated at this stage? Guest: Dr Gagandeep Kang, Professor of Microbiology at Christian Medical College, Vellore. Host: Zubeda Hamid
Oct 09, 2021
What happened in Lakhimpur Kheri? | In Focus
With four farmers being run over by SUVs that were part of a convoy of vehicles involving Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra on October 3 in Lakhimpur Kheri, and four others dying in the violence that followed, western Uttar Pradesh is waiting and watching to see what’s happening next. The matter has reached the Supreme Court. Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait brokered a deal that allowed for the cremation of the bodies and compensation to be paid. After detaining Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi, the Adityanath government finally allowed her and brother Rahul Gandhi to visit the families of the dead. In this podcast, we did into what exactly happened in Lakhimpur Kheri on that fateful day. Guests: Omar Rashid, The Hindu’s correspondent in Lucknow; Priscilla Jebaraj covers agriculture or The Hindu and has extensively reported on the farmers’ agitation from Delhi. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu
Oct 07, 2021
Can reforms save India's telecom sector? | In Focus
On September 15th, the Union Cabinet approved a series of reforms and relief measures for the telecom sector. The most significant of these is a four-year moratorium on payments stemming from the Supreme Court’s September 2020 judgement on Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR). Another one is the decision to remove all non-telecom revenue from AGR. The telecom sector is also now allowed to receive 100% FDI through the automatic route – up from the 49% that was permitted earlier. Taken together, these policy changes are expected to help the telecom majors overcome short-term liquidity issues, and raise capital, enabling them to keep their debts under control and invest in capacity-building. However, questions remain. What is the actual quantum of relief on offer? Will it be adequate for those players who are under a mountain of debt? And can the reforms package sustain a three-player market? We explore these questions in this episode. Guest: Ankit Jain, Assistant Vice President and Sector Head, Corporate Ratings, at ICRA Limited Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Oct 06, 2021
The impact of dams in the Himalayas | In Focus
In February this year, over 200 persons were killed and the 13.2 MW Rishiganga project was washed away. The 512 MW Tapovan-Vishnugadh hydro project was damaged. Even as Uttarakhand deals with the impact of climate change, the Environment Ministry has permitted the construction of seven hyro projects in Uttarakhand. What does this mean for the vulnerable Himalayan State? We answer these and other questions on the sustainability of hydro projects in this episode. Guest: Ravi Chopra, founder Director of the People’s Science Institute in Dehradun. A well-known environmentalist, Ravi is a graduate of IIT Bombay. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu
Oct 05, 2021
Behind Imran Khan's defence of the Taliban at the UN | In Focus
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan set the cat among the pigeons on September 25 when he said people living along the tribal belt in his country had affinity with the Taliban not because of their religious identity but because of Pashtun nationalism. He claimed that Pakistani Pashtuns had affinities and sympathy with the Afghan Taliban. Mohsin Dawar, a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly from North Waziristan, responded in a tweet. Quote: “Just shocked at how the PM of Pakistan can describe Taliban as Pashtun nationalists. The Taliban is a project of Pakistan’s generals for decimating Pashtun nationalism”. Unquote. So what’s the reality? How true are Prime Minister Imran Khan’s claims made in his recent at the United Nations General Assembly? Guest: Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa, Research Associate at the SOAS South Asia Institute in London. A former member of Pakistan’s civil service, she is the author of “Military Inc. Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu
Oct 02, 2021
The future of women's Test cricket | In Focus
The Indian women’s cricket team will be playing a pink-ball Test match starting Thursday against Australia in Queensland. This is a special occasion for the Indian women’s team as it will be their first ever Test under lights, and this is also only the second pink-ball Test in the history of women’s cricket. However, India’s women players have rarely gotten opportunities to play the long format of the game, unlike the men, who are in demand everywhere. This isn’t peculiar to India alone. Majority of cricket playing countries rarely or never organize women’s Tests. In this podcast, we explore why this is so. Guest: Karunya Keshav, independent journalist and co-author of "The Fire Burns Blue", a comprehensive history of women’s cricket in India Host: Kanishkaa Balachandiran
Sep 30, 2021
The Evergrande crisis and how Xi is remaking China's economy | In Focus
In this episode, we go deep into the crisis at Chinese real estate giant Evergrande and examine the reasons and fall-out. The property developer's debt woes have made headlines around the world, and sparked broader fears about the state of China's real estate market, which is a key driver of growth in the world's second largest economy. Will Chinese authorities be able to contain the Evergrande crisis? Are there likely wider ramifications for China's economy, as well as for countries, including India, which counts on China as its largest trading partner with a trading relationship predicated on continued Chinese appetite for commodities? What do the Evergrande crisis, as well as the moves to address the debt problem, tell us about Xi Jinping's broader goals for China's economy? We also discuss other significant recent regulatory moves by Chinese authorities taking aim at the private sector, from the investigations into the Alibaba group and Tencent, to the crackdown on the private education sector, to ask how Xi is remaking China's economy. Guest: Dexter Roberts, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council's Asia Security Initiative, author of "The Myth of Chinese Capitalism" Host: Ananth Krishnan, China correspondent, The Hindu Episode Notes The Hindu Profiles, Evergrande | The 'grey rhino' of China's property boom
Sep 29, 2021
Dealing with the mental health challenges of students | In Focus
What can schools, colleges and policy-makers do to tackle this?Even as schools and colleges begin reopening across the country, teachers and educationists are faced not just with the academic challenges of educational institutions having remained shut for over a year, but mental health challenges as well. The lack of access to friend groups, the complete digital mode of learning and the various lockdowns have affected the mental health of our young people. Competitive exams have added to pressure and anxiety -- recently, Tamil Nadu saw a number of young students who died by suicide following the medical admission exam, NEET.India has the highest rate of suicide in SouthEast Asia, and in 2019 alone, over 8,000 children between the ages of 14 and 18 died of suicide as per National Crime Records Bureau data. Guest: Dr. Lakshmi Vijayakumar, founder, Sneha, a suicide prevention organisation based in Chennai Host: Zubeda Hamid
Sep 28, 2021
An enhanced Quad and the missing 'C' word | In Focus
The Quad has met in person for the first time in Washington and Prime Minister Narendra Modi Modi has had his first bilateral meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden too. A detailed joint statement was issued after the Quad meeting that detailed cooperation on a range of issues, including tackling terrorism, Afghanistan and Myanmar, while talking of increasing cooperation with ASEAN. The “C” word – or China – was missing from the 17-para statement issued by the United States, India, Japan and China – but make no mistake it’s all about dealing with China. China has described the nascent Quad grouping as a “clique” and also hit out on the eve of the meeting at India for triggering the deadly June 2020 Galwan Valley clash. What is the direction that the Quad is taking and what is its relevance in the context of the new alliance in the Indo-Pacific that the U.S. has announced? Has the Quad cooperation been enhanced after the first in-person meetings of the national leaders? We answer these questions in this podcast. Guest: Suhasini Haidar, Diplomatic Affairs Editor and National Editor, The Hindu Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu
Sep 25, 2021
Will replacing Capt Amarinder Singh help the Congress in Punjab? | In Focus
Punjab was one of the States where the Congress was perceived to have a strong regional leader, with Capt Amarinder Singh leading the party to victory in the 2017 Assembly elections. But now he has been replaced before the end of his term. Charanjit Singh Channi, a Dalit Sikh MLA, has been sworn in as the new Chief Minister, with just a few months to go for the Assembly elections in early 2022. What prompted this vote of no-confidence, as it were, against Capt Amarinder Singh? Where does the choice of Channi leave Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was widely seen as a contender and alternative to Singh within the Congress party, in the scheme of things? And how does this change affect the party’s chances in the forthcoming elections. Guest: Amandeep Sandhu, author of Panjab: Journeys Through Fault Lines (2019), and two novels, Sepia Leaves (2008) and Roll of Honour (2012) Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Sep 23, 2021
SCO vs Quad for India | Featured episode of Worldview with Suhasini Haidar
Hello In Focus listeners, today we are featuring an episode of another podcast from The Hindu, Worldview with Suhasini Haidar. In this episode, with both the SCO and Quad summit meetings within a week, our Diplomatic Affairs Editor Suhasini Haidar deals with the question: can India walk the non-aligned tightrope or is it attempting to put its foot in two boats? If you like this episode, do not forgot to subscribe to Worldview with Suhasini Haidar. You can follow the series on: Spotify Apple Podcasts Google Podcast YouTube
Sep 22, 2021
What the AUKUS military pact means for India and the Quad | In Focus
Days ahead of this week's upcoming first in-person meeting in Washington of the leaders of the Quad -- India, Australia, Japan and the U.S. -- Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. made a surprise announcement of a new landmark trilateral security partnership. Dubbed AUKUS, the initiative will see Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines with help from the U.K. and the U.S. The announcement is already making waves, drawing a strong reaction from France, which lost its submarine deal with Australia as a result, and responded by saying it would recall its ambassadors from Australia and the U.S. In this episode, we break down what the AUKUS deal is about, the implications for India and the Quad, and what it means for the broader evolving security environment in the Indo-Pacific region. We also look ahead to this week's Quad summit in Washington. Host: Ananth Krishnan, China correspondent, The Hindu Guests: Suhasini Haidar, National Editor and Diplomatic Affairs Editor, The Hindu; Dinakar Peri, Defence Correspondent, The Hindu Episode Notes Suhasini Haidar, Five Main Issues On the Quad Agenda The Hindu editorial, Three is Company
Sep 21, 2021
Why won’t Ford ‘Make in India’ anymore? | In Focus
On September 9, American automobile major Ford announced that it was shutting down manufacturing operations in India, leading to the loss of around 4,000 jobs. Ford is only the latest in a series of automobile companies who came to India with great expectations, but decided to leave in a few years. This runs counter to our government’s Make-in-India initiative, which aims to turn India into a preferred global destination for manufacturing. What exactly is ailing India’s automobile sector? Is there a mismatch between production capacity and consumer demand? Are there regulatory issues? Or are there other constraints that compel foreign auto majors to pull the plug on India, which, incidentally, is still one of the largest car markets in the world? Guest: Puneet Gupta, Director of Automotive Sales Forecasting at IHS Markit Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Sep 18, 2021
The mystery of the 'black tigers' of Similipala | In Focus
What caused these tigers to change their stripes, and in such a short period of time? Is it the result of shrinking habitat and inbreeding? Does this make them more susceptible to extinction? We discuss these in this podcast.More than 50 years ago, when tribals in Similipal reported seeing tigers so dark, their stripes almost fused together in patches, threatening to erase parts of their orange coats, nobody believed them. Since then, there have been numerous sightings of pseudo-melanistic tigers--as they are called-- at Similipal Tiger Reserve, but we didn’t know what caused them to change their stripes. Until now.Scientists at the National Centre for Biological Studies, Bengaluru have unravelled the mystery of these ‘black tigers’ and their findings were published earlier this week in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Guests: Dr. Uma Ramakrishnan, molecular ecologist and professor at the National Centre for Biological Studies, Bengaluru; Vinay Sagar, PhD student and lead author of the paper. Host: Anjali Thomas, City Editor-Bengaluru, The Hindu
Sep 16, 2021
The Pak hand in Afghanistan | In Focus
Pakistan is a key player in the politics of Afghanistan. The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is seen as a strategic victory for Pakistan, one of the three countries that recognised the Islamic Emirate in 1997. How critical is Western recognition and aid for the survival of the Taliban and the Afghan people? Will Pakistan come under pressure from the rest of the world if the Taliban continue to exclude women and minorities from the governance structure? Will the Taliban continue its previous policy of sheltering the Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups? Or will they show a new face to the world? Guest: Shuja Nawaz, distinguished fellow at the South Asia Centre of the Washington-based Atlantic Council. Brother of former Pakistani Army Chief Asif Nawaz, and author of "Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army, and the Wars Within". Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu
Sep 15, 2021
Why does the BJP keep changing its CMs? | In Focus
The BJP has changed chief ministers four times in three states, in just the last seven months. The latest change happened this week in Gujarat, with Vijay Rupani making way for Bhupendra Patel as CM. Before this, the BJP changed the Karnataka chief minister in July, and the Uttarakhand CM was changed twice, in March and again in July. Where the person occupying the CM post is a senior leader or a veteran who is popular and wields political clout in his region, it would presumably be tough to replace him/her mid-way through a term. But when CMs are changed at will, it is generally seen as symptomatic of a ‘high command’ culture, where a party’s national leadership calls the shots. Has the BJP, known for strong CMs in the past, fully embraced the high command culture – something traditionally associated with the Congress? If so, what are the real reasons behind the replacement of the CMs in these states? Guest: Varghese K George, Resident Editor - Delhi, The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Write to us at
Sep 14, 2021
The govt is planning to fortify our rice by 2024. But what is food fortification? | In Focus
There's been a lot of talk of and concerns raised, about food fortification recently -- which is the adding of one or more nutrients to a staple food, aiming to compensate for deficiencies in large populations. In in his Independence Day speech this year, Prime Minister Modi said that all rice distributed in the government systems, including in the public distribution system and for midday meals, would be fortified by 2024. Considering the burden of anaemia in India, iron is to be one of the nutrients added to rice. The government has already launched a pilot programme in 15 districts, using fortified rice for distribution. But does all our rice need to be fortified? Is iron deficiency the only cause of anaemia? How big is our anaemia burden? And is there evidence to show that iron fortification will work, or are there other steps that policy-makers could try? Guest: Dr Anura Kurpad, professor of physiology and nutrition at St John’s Medical College, Bengaluru Host: Zubeda Hamid Write to us at
Sep 11, 2021
Why is Sri Lanka in an economic emergency? | In Focus podcast
The Sri Lankan government declared an economic emergency last week. The immediate trigger seems to have been rising food prices, with reports of shortages of essential items such as milk powder, sugar and kerosene. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has called in the army to manage the crisis by rationing the supply of essential goods, and take action against hoarders. He has also appointed a former army general as Commissioner of Essential Services, who will have the power to seize food stocks held by traders and retailers, and regulate their prices. So, how did Sri Lanka end up with a food crisis? And what exactly is ailing the Sri Lankan economy? Is it just the COVID-effect or is it something deeper? Guest: Meera Srinivasan, Sri Lanka correspondent, The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Write to us at
Sep 09, 2021
Should the government be pushing for oil palm cultivation? | In Focus
Last month, the Union government announced that it would invest ₹11,000 crores under a centrally sponsored scheme, The National Mission on Edible Oils—Oil Palm (NMEO-OP), to promote oil palm cultivation. The stated objective of this scheme is to reduce India’s dependence on edible oil imports by boosting domestic production of oil palm. Many, however, have expressed concerns over this push for oil palm cultivation, especially in bio-diversity hotspots such as the Andamans and the North-east. Critics have claimed that the monoculture of commercial oil palm plantations would destroy bio-diversity as well as the livelihood autonomy of farmers. How valid are these fears and what are the likely outcomes of the government’s ambitious plans to boost oil palm production? Guest: Sudhir Kumar Suthar, Assistant Professor at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Write to us at
Sep 08, 2021
What you need to know about the Nipah outbreak in Kerala | In Focus
After a gap of more than a year, the Nipah virus is back in Kerala. After a 12-year-old boy died of the infection in Kozhikode district, 11 more people have shown Nipah symptoms. A team from the National Centre for Disease Control has been rushed to the State to help manage the outbreak. Kerala is already caught in a tough battle against COVID-19, with the state still accounting for almost half of all new infections in the country. In this scenario, the outbreak of one more deadly viral infection has everyone worried. Also, this is the third outbreak of Nipah in Kerala, with the state having encountered the virus in 2018 and 2019. So, how serious is the current outbreak? How prepared is Kerala to handle it? Will the outbreak remain localised, or is it likely to spread further? Guest: Jacob Koshy, Deputy Science Editor at The Hindu. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Sep 07, 2021
Why does India have such low rates of women in the workforce? | In Focus
The COVID-19 pandemic caused not only a health emergency in the country, but also led to mass economic distress with the loss of jobs and livelihoods. India already one of the lowest rates of women in the workforce, and the pandemic worsened this situation -- it forced women into jobs that paid lower rates than pre-pandemic and it added significantly to their domestic work burden -- with schools remaining closed, women were forced to stay at home to care for children. In the April-June 2020 quarter, during the lockdown, the percentage of women in the labour force was only 15.5%. But this problem has persisted for years -- despite increasing educational levels among women and decreasing fertility levels, India continues to have not as many women in the workforce as even our neighbouring countries. What are some of the reasons behind this? How is a country's economy impacted when 50% of its population is left out of economic activity? How can policies be changed in order to encourage more women into the workforce? Guest: Sona Mitra, principal economist, Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy, lead, Krea University Host: Zubeda Hamid Write to us at
Sep 04, 2021
The state of para-athletics in India | In Focus
Just a few weeks ago, we were celebrating India’s best ever medals tally at the Tokyo Olympics. And now India has produced its best performance ever at this year’s Paralympics. We have already bagged 10 medals, with two gold, five silver and three bronze. This has generated a lot of curiosity, both about these successful para-athletes and about the Paralympics itself. For para-athletes, the rules and requirements of competition, as well as the challenges, are different from what they are for the able-bodied. They come under the spotlight whenever the Paralympics are held but are mostly forgotten in the intervening years. Will the Indian contingent’s superlative achievements at the Tokyo Paralympics change this pattern? Guest: Rakesh Rao, Deputy Editor (Sports), The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Write to us at
Sep 02, 2021
A new Great Game at the UN? | In Focus
The United States has literally fled Afghanistan. Other Western nations, most of them part of the G-7 had wanted an extension beyond August 31 so that repatriation flights could continue, but U.S. President Joe Biden put his foot down. What will be the international status of Afghanistan now? Who will represent the country in the U.N.? What are the options of the international body while dealing with the Taliban? How will the U.S. deal with the Taliban? Will Russia and China have a better grip on the Taliban than the western powers? Guest: Syed Akbaruddin, formerly India’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations in New York and currently Dean of the Kautilya School of Public Policy in Hyderabad. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu Write to us at
Sep 01, 2021
What you need to know about oil bonds and fuel prices | In Focus
The price of petrol is more than ₹100 per litre in several parts of the country – the highest it’s ever been. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has blamed the UPA-era oil bonds for the high fuel prices. She has claimed that the ₹1.4 lakh crores worth of oil bonds issued by the UPA government have to be serviced, and that’s why the government has had to tax fuel at high rates. Opposition parties have, of course, disputed her claims. So, what exactly is the truth about oil bonds, and how credible is the government’s claim that oil bonds are to blame for the high fuel prices? Guest: Vivek Kaul, business columnist and author of five books, including the bestselling Easy Money trilogy Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Write to us at
Aug 31, 2021
Have the Taliban changed? | In Focus
Afghanistan continues to hog the headlines. Nearly two weeks after the Taliban drove into Kabul, and former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, the world is still debating whether the Taliban have turned a new leaf. As analysts, experts and journalists try to figure out the Taliban’s intentions, wait and watch appears to be the default mode. Will the Taliban actually allow women and girls to work and study? Will music be allowed? Will there be elections? Or will there just be a soft veneer hiding the very same iron fist that we saw during the Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001? Guest: Michael Semple, Professor at The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice, Queen's University in Belfast. He has worked as deputy to the European Union Special Representative in Afghanistan. He also served as an honorary adviser to the Afghan High Peace Council. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu Write to us at
Aug 27, 2021
Malnutrition in India | In Focus
Earlier this month, the Union Education Ministry told a parliamentary panel that the plan to serve breakfast to students in government schools had to be shelved as the Finance Ministry had refused to sanction the Rs. 4,000 crore the programme needs. The refusal comes at a time when the country is facing a malnutrition crisis -- data from the latest National Family Health Survey shows an increase in stunting, in 13 of the 22 States and Union Territories that were covered. As this was 2019 data, experts believe that food insecurity during the pandemic could have worsened, especially with the immense disruption in services such as the mid-day meals, as well as due to economic distress. Where does India stand on addressing malnutrition? Have government schemes such as the flagship programme to address malnutrition, POSHAN Abhiyaan, worked? What have been the efforts made during the pandemic, and what more needs to be done to address a problem that not only affects children, but has long-lasting consequences upon the health and wellbeing of the nation? Guest: Dr. Dipa Sinha, assistant professor, School of Liberal Studies, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar University, Delhi Host: Zubeda Hamid Write to us at
Aug 26, 2021
How can India build a sporting culture? | In Focus
Since good health is both a pre-condition and an outcome of sporting activity, is there a case to be made for linking sports policy to public health? Can this be done in a way that makes commercial sense as well? And most critically, does it make sense for a nation like India, with limited means but high Olympic ambitions, to concentrate public money on elite sports and success in elite competitions? Or should it focus more on building a sporting culture as such, by boosting community participation in sports and ‘physical literacy’, as we have seen in sporting nations such as Australia, which also tend to do better in elite events such as the Olympics? Guest: Hans Westerbeek, Professor of International Sport Business and Head of the Sport Business Insights Group at Victoria University, Melbourne. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Write to us at
Aug 25, 2021
The geopolitics behind the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan | In Focus
The return of the Taliban and the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan has raised a lot of new questions. We’ve discussed some of them in different InFocus podcasts over the past week. We’ve looked at why the Afghan army almost melted away, what the Taliban’s likely course of action is going to be, what are India’s options in Afghanistan now, especially the nature of the relationship with a Taliban-controlled regime. One of the things we haven’t covered so far is the geo-political ramifications of the American withdrawal. The exit of a superpower is bound to create a power vacuum that the other big powers in the region, most notably Russia and China, and regional powers such as Iran and Pakistan, would be scrambling to fill. And each of them has their own set of priorities. It’s a rather complicated strategic scenario. We unpack the web of macro-level geo-political issues linked to the U.S.’s withdrawal from Kabul in this podcast. Guest: Stanly Johny, International Affairs Editor, The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Write to us at
Aug 24, 2021
China's game plan in Afghanistan | In Focus
In the wake of the Taliban takeover and U.S. exit, attention has focused on what role China is likely to play in Afghanistan. Beijing was among the first countries to say it "stands ready" to work with the new Taliban regime, while in late July, China hosted a Taliban delegation committing economic cooperation. What will China's game plan be? Will Beijing remain cautious or step up its presence, particularly in the economic domain? What of China's long-standing concerns of the Taliban's links to Jihadist groups, including those blamed for attacks in China's Xinjiang region, which borders Afghanistan? Will the new situation in Afghanistan see a deepening China-Pakistan nexus, and what will be the implications for India? Guest: Andrew Small, Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund and author of "The China Pakistan Axis" Host: Ananth Krishnan, China correspondent, The Hindu Write to us at
Aug 23, 2021
What you need to know about the General Insurance Amendment Bill | In Focus
The Parliament cleared the General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Amendment Bill, 2021 on August 11th. The Bill seeks to amend the General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Act, 1972, and thereby enable the privatisation of the public sector insurance companies regulated under the 1972 Act. Apart from privatization, the Bill’s stated objectives include enhancing the penetration of the insurance sector, providing social protection by securing the interests of the policyholders better, and contributing to faster economic growth. It is not quite clear how this Bill would manage to achieve all these objectives. Also, is the Bill driven purely by an impulse to generate funds through disinvestment, or does it also further consumer interest? Guest: Harsh Roongta, founder and head of Fee Only Investment Advisers, LLP, a SEBI-registered Investment Advisory firm. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Write to us at
Aug 19, 2021
Explaining the Afghan Army's disappearance, Taliban's terror links, and more | In Focus
With events moving so fast in Afghanistan, officials and analysts have all been caught napping. The Taliban took their first provincial capital on August 6 and by August 15 they had taken over Kabul. Why did the Afghan Army, which the Americans had spent billions of dollars on, disappear without a resistance in this period? The UN has said that the Taliban will have to shed its terror links. But will the Taliban do that? What is Pakistan's role now? And what should India's strategy be now? Guest: Jayant Prasad, former Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan and Nepal, and Director of the Manohar Parikkar Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu Write to us at
Aug 18, 2021
What the Taliban's return means for India | In Focus
The fall of Kabul and the Taliban's rapid takeover has plunged Afghanistan into uncertainty. In this episode, we look at the return of the Taliban and what it means for the country, for India, and for the region. How did Kabul fall so rapidly? Is Afghanistan set to return to the dark days of the late 1990s? What will the Taliban's links to jihadist groups mean for the region's security? What does the dramatically changed landscape mean for India's relations with Afghanistan and for its broader neighbourhood? Guests: Suhasini Haidar, National Editor and Diplomatic Affairs Editor, The Hindu; Stanly Johny, Foreign Editor, The Hindu Write to us at Ananth Krishnan, China correspondent, The Hindu Episode Notes Analysis | How Kabul fell by Stanly Johny Taliban takeover: 5 issues facing the Modi government by Suhasini Haidar Write to us at
Aug 17, 2021
Mixing vaccines, meeting targets, and more | In Focus
As of August 16, 8.8 % of India's population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while 30.9% has received at least one dose. Earlier this month, the country saw a huge achievement in coverage -- the 50-crore mark in vaccine doses administered was reached. But as India continues to report over 30,000 new cases a day, and concerns mount about the Delta variant in other parts of the world, how much faster does our vaccination campaign need to be? Can we meet the government's estimated deadline of covering all beneficiaries over the age of 18 by December 2021, and do we have enough supply to meet this target? Can our two main vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin be mixed for better results? And what is the latest on that tricky subject, herd immunity? Guest: Dr. K Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India Host: Zubeda Hamid Write to us at
Aug 16, 2021
OBC reservation, social justice and caste politics | In Focus
The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2021 amends the Constitution to allow states and union territories to prepare their own list of socially and educationally backward classes. The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 9, 2021 and passed unanimously by the Lower House of Parliament on August 10. It was passed with cross-party support in the Rajya Sabha on August 11. The 127th Amendment Bill restores the system prior to the Supreme Court judgment of May 2021. The "state list" will be completely taken out of the ambit of the President and will be notified by the State Assembly as per the proposed Bill. The passage of the Bill meets the demands of regional parties that have sought autonomy in determining their own list of socially and economically backward classes. In this podcast, we discuss what this means for the OBC communities across the country, and how it will affect social justice as well as caste politics. Guest: Prof Badri Narayan, Director and Professor, Govind Ballabh Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad. Host: Amit Baruah, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu Write to us at
Aug 12, 2021
How India is shaping the UN Security Council's agenda | In Focus podcast
On August 9, Prime Minister Narendra Modi marked India’s stint as a rotating president of the UN Security Council for the month of August by presiding over an open debate on enhancing maritime security. In this episode, we look at the significance and main takeaways, and India's message on maritime security. We also examine India's broader agenda at the UNSC under its Presidency, from terrorism to peacekeeping, and ask what the status of the long pending reform to expand the UNSC's permanent members is. Episode notes: PM Modi outlines five-point framework for maritime security debate at UNSC Biden administration non-committal on support for permanent UNSC seat for India Guest: Sriram Lakshman, U.S. correspondent, The Hindu Host: Ananth Krishnan, China Correspondent, The Hindu Write to us at
Aug 11, 2021
India at Tokyo Olympics: positives, near-misses, and disappointments | In Focus
The Tokyo Olympics is finally done and dusted. The Indian contingent has come back with its best ever Olympic haul – of one gold, two silver and four bronze medals. This edition of the Games has been historic for India not only for its highest ever medals tally but also for its first ever track and field gold. While these are great positives, there have also been near-misses, and some disappointments. We take a step back from the celebrations to take a dispassionate look at two aspects: Did our athletes perform to their potential? And does the performance at the Tokyo Olympics herald something new for Indian sport? Guest: Rakesh Rao, Deputy Editor, Sports at The Hindu. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Write to us at
Aug 10, 2021
What you need to know about the Tribunals Reforms Bill | In Focus
The Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021 was passed in the Lok Sabha on August 3. Once it comes becomes law, it will replace the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021. The Bill, among other things, seeks to abolish several appellate tribunals, ranging from the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal and the Airports Appellate Tribunal to the Authority for Advanced Rulings, Intellectual Property Appellate Board, and the Plant Varieties Appellate Tribunal. The Bill also introduces changes in the terms of service of the officials serving in tribunals. There was hardly any discussion in Parliament before the Bill was passed. But some key questions merit a proper debate: What was the need for this Bill? Will the abolition of tribunals increase the workload of the judiciary? How will the Bill impact our tribunals’ independence from executive influence? Guest: Prachee Mishra, Head of Research at PRS Legislative Research, a New Delhi-based independent research non-profit. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Write to us at
Aug 09, 2021
Has COVID-19 affected our other healthcare services? | In Focus
Host: Zubeda HamidSince March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic first struck India, a majority of our health resources have been allocated towards battling the virus. The country went through a first wave last year with an intense lockdown in place and faced a brutal second wave this year. But while we needed all available healthcare systems to fight COVID-19, what has happened to patients with other diseases who were in need of frequent care? Some studies from last year indicated a decrease in the number of surgeries and patient consultations at hospitals, affecting patients with cancer, those with kidney disease who require dialysis as well as those with a host of other conditions. Lack of transport options during the various lockdowns in States, fear of contracting the virus and the loss of incomes may all have contributed to fewer patients seeking care. Some children missed out on important, routine vaccinations though the government has made efforts to ensure that missed children get their doses. Since it looks as if COVID-19 may be with us for some time more, what can governments do, moving forward, in order to ensure healthcare services do not suffer? Do we need better primary health systems in our country, and what are the steps that can be taken to achieve this? Guest: Dr. Rajib Dasgupta, Professor at the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Host: Zubeda Hamid Write to us:
Aug 05, 2021
Are extreme weather events becoming more frequent? | In Focus
Flood devastation is mostly associated with developing countries in tropical zones. But over the past fortnight, some of the world’s richest and technologically most advanced countries with sophisticated flood alert systems were devastated by flash floods. Nearly 200 people have died in floods in Germany and Belgium. There have been similar reports of flood devastation from Henan province in China, from London, and Maharashtra, where it’s almost an annual feature. Do these geographically disparate natural disasters have something in common? Are they all linked to climate change? And if they are, what are the most feasible mitigation measures? Guest: G Ananthakrishnan, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu Write to us:
Aug 04, 2021
Can, and should, India reopen schools now? | In Focus
Guest: Anurag Behar, CEO, Azim Premji Foundation Earlier this month, the Indian Council of Medical Research's director general, Dr Balram Bhargava, said that once the country begins to consider re-opening schools, it would be wise to open primary schools before secondary schools, provided all school teachers and staff were vaccinated. A vast majority of schools in India have been shut for over 15 months now, since March 2020, affecting 24 crore students. Various states have opened temporarily for senior classes, sometimes only to shut again when COVID-19 cases rose. Online classes have been around as a substitute, but with less than 25 percent of Indian households having access to the internet as per the National Sample Survey 2017-18, how far can digital learning go? Have our students lost a year of learning and are they potentially going to forget what they learnt before the pandemic struck? Does India need a roadmap for the reopening of schools and how can it do so safely? Guest: Anurag Behar, CEO, Azim Premji Foundation Host: Zubeda Hamid Write to us:
Aug 03, 2021
India at Tokyo Olympics so far: what went wrong, and what we got right | In Focus
We are now past the halfway point of the Tokyo Olympics, which is a good time to pause and take stock. India started off well, with an early silver for Mirabai Chanu in weightlifting. But there were several disappointments thereafter, especially in shooting, and in boxing as well. In the run-up to the Games, many in India believed that this would be India’s best Olympics ever in terms of medal haul. Our most successful Games so far, purely in terms of the number of medals won, was the 2012 London Olympics, when we came back with six medals, two silver and four bronze. So, at the halfway mark of the Tokyo Games, how do we stand in terms of beating, or at least matching, that record? In this podcast, we get some answers as well as the reasons for the underwhelming results the past week. Guest: Rakesh Rao, Deputy Editor (Sports), The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Aug 02, 2021
Why was Yediyurappa replaced as Karnataka CM? | In Focus
Basavaraj Bommai became Karnataka’s 30th Chief Minister of Karnataka on July 28. He went from being Home Minister in the Cabinet of B.S. Yediyurappa to displacing him as the Chief Minister in a matter of 48 hours. Several reasons have been trotted out as to why BJP felt the need to replace Yediyurappa – his age, the fact that dissidence against him was on the rise within the party, and that corruption allegations had made him vulnerable. But while all these may have played a role they do not, in themselves, provide a convincing explanation as to why Yediyurappa’s departure was in the party’s best interests. So, what explains the departure of the BJP’s tallest leader in the State in the middle of his term as Chief Minister? What are the implications of the choice of Basavaraj Bommai as Yediyurappa’s successor? And will Yediyurappa fade away into retirement or continue to play a role in active politics? Guest: K.V. Aditya Bharadwaj Host G. Sampath
Jul 29, 2021
Where are India-U.S. relations headed in the Biden era? | In Focus
On Wednesday, July 28, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited India and held key meetings with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, NSA Ajit Doval, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as well as representatives of civil society organisations. In this episode, we look at the main takeaways of the visit and ask where India U.S. relations are headed as they deal with shared concerns on Afghanistan and China among other issues. We also ask how the Biden administration's strong emphasis on promoting democratic values abroad figured during the visit, and how New Delhi views its approach to democracy and the contrast from the previous Trump era. Guest: Suhasini Haidar, Diplomatic Affairs Editor, The Hindu Host: Ananth Krishnan, China correspondent, The Hindu Read more:
Jul 28, 2021
Will consensual adult sex work be criminalised by the new anti-trafficking Bill? | In Focus
There has been considerable debate over the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021, which is likely to be introduced in the ongoing monsoon session of the Parliament. The objective of the Bill is “to prevent and counter trafficking in persons, especially women and children, to provide for care, protection, and rehabilitation to the victims, while respecting their rights, and creating a supportive legal, economic and social environment for them, the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development has said. The National Investigation Agency, a counter-terrorism agency, has been made the nodal investigative agency for trafficking crimes. The Bill also states that the consent of the victim could be immaterial, leading to concerns that it would criminalise. Other concerns raised include draconian penal provisions, including death for some offences, and a heavy-handed approach that does not adequately address the root cause of trafficking -- poverty. Guest: Kaushik Gupta, an advocate practicing in Kolkata who heads a team of lawyers from West Bengal and Maharashtra, at the anti-trafficking collective Tafteesh. Host: Zubeda Hamid
Jul 27, 2021
The making of China’s ‘wolf warrior’ diplomacy | In Focus
In this episode, we are examining the rise of what's being called China's wolf warrior Diplomacy, referring to an increasingly assertive brand of fiery diplomacy from many of Beijing's diplomats and foreign envoys. What exactly is wolf warrior diplomacy? Is this new diplomacy a change in merely style, or also a change in substance? What does history tell us about how domestic political trends in China shape Beijing's external behaviour? What do these changes mean for countries like India and their relations with China? Guest: Peter Martin, journalist and author of China's Civilian Army: The Making of Wolf Warrior Diplomacy. Host: Ananth Krishnan, China Correspondent, The Hindu
Jul 26, 2021
What are India’s prospects at the Tokyo Olympics? | In Focus
With the Tokyo Olympics finally kicking off this week, one year late, there is both excitement as well as uncertainty around the event. Tokyo is still under a COVID emergency, and there are many who worry that the Olympics shouldn’t become a public health catastrophe. In Japan itself, public opinion is sharply divided. In fact, one of the biggest Olympic sponsors, Toyota, has said that they won’t be running TV ads in Japan – which is one indicator of the public mood about the Games. But despite the misgivings around the pandemic, the show is set to go on, and in India, there is already plenty of buzz about medal prospects. We try and get a sense of what’s in store in the coming weeks in Japan, both within the sporting arena and beyond. Guest: Rakesh Rao, Deputy Editor, Sports, The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Jul 22, 2021
Does India need a Ministry of Cooperation? | In Focus
During the recent Cabinet reshuffle, the government announced the creation of a Ministry of Cooperation. The Ministry’s mandate, the government says, “is to provide a separate administrative, legal and policy framework for strengthening the co-operative movement in the country”. Opposition parties have called it an attempt by the Centre to take over a a domain that comes under the State governments. Critics have also read political significance into the fact that this ministry is being headed by Home Minister Amit Shah. So, why do we need a Ministry of Cooperation, and how will it impact the vast universe of India’s co-operatives? Guest: Professor C. Shambu Prasad, Institute of Rural Management, Anand Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Jul 21, 2021
The Pegasus saga and the legality of surveillance in India | In Focus
An international group of news publications are reporting that a spyware known as Pegasus has been used to spy on politicians, journalists, and activists in at least 10 countries. Reports from the group, which includes The Wire in India, The Guardian in the U.K., and Washington Post in the U.S. among others, suggest that in India, at least 40 journalists, sitting Cabinet Ministers, and holders of Constitutional positions were possibly subjected to surveillance. The Pegasus spyware is graded as a cyberweapon and NSO states that its clients include only authorised government entities from various countries. This leads to some problematic inferences, particularly in India where the target list includes Opposition leaders, social activists from leftist organisation, journalists who have written against the government and constitutional officers who have reportedly not toed the government line. In this podcast, we discuss the constitutionality of electronic surveillance in India and whether the laws that govern them are robust enough. Guest: Apar Gupta, lawyer and Executive Director of the Internet Freedom Foundation. Host: P.J. George
Jul 20, 2021
In Punjab, what's at stake for Sidhu, Capt Amarinder, and the Congress party? | In Focus
With less than a year to go for the Assembly elections, the infighting in the Punjab unit of the Congress party has been making the headlines. The two main protagonists are Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu. Punjab, incidentally, is one of the handful of states where the Congress has done well and the BJP is on a weak wicket. Capt. Amarinder is often touted as a rare Congress success story that comes when regional leaders operate with autonomy. But Sidhu has not only openly challenged Capt Amarinder’s leadership, he also has the ear of the party’s high command in Delhi, which seems ready to go the extra mile to accommodate him. With Assembly elections due early next year, what are the options for the Congress, which needs to resolve this conflict in order for its campaign to take off? Why does the Congress high command find it important to keep Sidhu happy? Guest: Varghese George, Associate Editor, The Hindu. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Jul 19, 2021
Will measures like U.P.'s draft population control Bill work? | In Focus
Over the past few weeks, the debate on population control in India has been re-ignited. Uttar Pradesh, the most populous State in India, has introduced a draft bill that says that those with more than two children will be debarred from government-sponsored welfare schemes and from contesting in elections to local bodies, while incentives for those who adhere to the two-child norm include subsidies to buy land and build houses. Assam's Chief Minister recently advised the minority community to adopt "decent population control measures" and calls have come from Karanataka too, for the adoption of a two-child policy. Even while data shows us that India's fertility rate is declining, our population is set to grow, and to overtake China by 2027 or earlier. But do we need a two-child policy? Do such government regulations on family size work? How have other countries, especially those in Asia, explored population stabilisation measures? Guest: Poonam Muttreja, executive director, Population Foundation of India Host: Zubeda Hamid
Jul 16, 2021
The battle between big tech in China and the Communist Party | In Focus
In this episode, we are looking at the battle unfolding in China between its big tech companies and Communist Party regulators in the wake of the latest tussle in this on-going tug-of-war. On June 30, the ride-hailing app Didi, which dominates the China market, raised $4.4 billion in its much-anticipated listing on the New York Stock Exchange, the biggest Chinese listing since Alibaba. Days later, its value would crash with regulators announcing an investigation and taking the extraordinary step of banning Didi from registering users and removing its app from app stores. The Didi episode follows November's shock suspension of an IPO by Alipay, the financial payments arm of Alibaba. What is driving the tensions between the Party and Big Tech? Where is China's tech sector headed? What do the moves mean for the global ambitions of China's Internet giants? Guest: Santosh Pai, Honorary Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi Host: Ananth Krishnan, China correspondent, The Hindu
Jul 14, 2021
How expenditure on health during the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the country | In Focus
As the second-wave of the COVID-19 pandemic raged this year, reports poured in of economic distress. Not only were thousands of Indians left without livelihoods due to the lockdowns, they also had to cope with the trauma and expenditure of a loved one who had contracted COVID-19. Media reports indicated that the costs ran into lakhs for hospitalisations, compounded by the desperate search for oxygen and black maketeering of drugs. India has one of the highest rates of out-of-pocket expenditure in health in the world, at over 60 per cent, and recent data has shown a decline in household income as well as a rise in gold loans during the pandemic period. In this podcast we discuss, the enormous strain health expenses have placed on Indians, the role of the public and private sector in the pandemic, and what role insurance has played and could play in the health sector in India. Guest: Dr. Rama V. Baru, Professor, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University Host: Zubeda Hamid
Jul 13, 2021
Can Djokovic's PTPA make professional tennis more equitable for the players? | In Focus
Can tennis as a sport do better for the lower-ranked players? This question has recently become a talking point for two reasons. First is the formation of the Professional Tennis Players Association, or the PTPA, by Novak Djokovic and Canadian player Vasek Pospisil. The PTPA hopes to get some more by way of collective bargaining power for the players. The second is a report published in the New York Times suggesting that the players’ share of the revenues generated by the sport is much lower in tennis than in some of the other sports. While it is common knowledge that lower-ranked tennis players really struggle to cover their expenses, the pandemic-induced suspension of tournaments brought fresh spotlight to their precarity. Can tennis administrators be expected to do better when it comes to taking care of the players? Should tennis players unionise? Can tennis be made viable as a career option even for those ranked, say, between 150 and 400 in the world? Guest: Vijay Amritraj, former professional tennis player and popular commentator. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu You can find The Hindu’s podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and other platforms. Search for In Focus by The Hindu. Write to us with comments and feedback at
Jul 12, 2021
The need to enable domestic drone and counter-drone innovation | In Focus
In this episode of the In Focus podcast, we try to understand the threat from drones and where the country stands in terms of preparedness On June 27, explosives were dropped inside the Jammu Air Force station, injuring two IAF personnel. They are believed to have been dropped using drones, the first such attack in the country. The threat from drones has been regularly flagged in the recent past after instances of them being used by terror groups to drop drugs, arms and ammunition from across the border in Jammu, and also in Punjab. In this episode of In Focus, we try to understand this new threat and where the country stands in terms of preparedness and policy framework. Guest: Group Captain R.K. Narang (Retd), who has been researching on UAVs and has written the book “India’s quest for UAVs and challenges”. Host: Dinakar Peri
Jul 09, 2021
Afghanistan’s future and India’s options as U.S. exits Bagram | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
Nearly 20 years after invading Afghanistan to oust the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the United States military on July 3 vacated Bagram, its biggest airfield in the country. Meanwhile, fighting raged amid the U.S. exit and the Taliban’s march through northern Afghanistan has continued to gain momentum with the capture of several districts. In this episode, we look at where Afghanistan is headed and examine its uncertain future as the U.S. leaves. What are the prospects of a peace deal amid the uptick in violence? Will the Taliban return to Kabul? What are India’s stakes and how should Delhi deal with the Taliban? What will be the role of other regional powers such as China and Russia? Read Suhasini Haidar's interview with Hamid Karzai Read ‘What lies ahead for Afghanistan after U.S. exit?’ by Stanly Johny Guests: Suhasini Haidar, National Editor and Diplomatic Affairs, The Hindu; Stanly Johny, Foreign Editor, The Hindu Host: Ananth Krishnan, China correspondent, The Hindu
Jul 08, 2021
Draft E-commerce Rules: Why are online retailers concerned? | In Focus Podcast
The Consumer Affairs Ministry last month issued a set of new draft e-commerce rules that has some of the top e-commerce sites rather worried. According to the government, these rules seek to protect consumer interest, prevent unfair trade practices, and encourage fair competition. Among other things, the rules bar certain kinds of flash sales and mis-selling, and make it mandatory for them to appoint a chief compliance officer, a nodal contact person for coordination with law enforcement agencies, and a resident grievance-redressal officer. On the face of it, these rules do not seem unreasonable, especially from the consumer point of view. But e-retailers such as Amazon and the Tatas have expressed concerns. The government has now extended the deadline for public comments on the proposed amendments to July 21. So, what is likely to be the impact of these amended rules? Will they truly benefit consumers? And why are online retailers so concerned? To discuss these questions and related issues, we speak with Kazim Rizvi, founder-director of The Dialogue, a New Delhi–based research and public policy think tank. Read: Draft e-commerce policy moots conformity assessment measures for online retailers Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Jul 08, 2021
Did the judiciary fail Father Stan Swamy? | In Focus Podcast
Tribal rights activist Father Stan Swamy died in custody on July 5, 2021, aged 84 and in the middle of a long battle for medical bail. Fr. Swamy, a Jesuit priest, had worked with tribals in Jharkhand for over five decades, organising them for land, water and forest rights. The National Investigation Agency accused him of having links with the Maoists and arrested him in connection with the 2018 Bhima Koregaon case last October. He was charged under the anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Fr. Swamy was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, and had applied for bail multiple times, but his pleas were rejected. After he passed away in custody, many activists and political leaders have sought accountability from the government and the judiciary over this tragic death. What were the reasons Fr. Swamy was unable to get bail, especially given that he posed zero flight risk? K. Venkataramanan, Associate Editor at The Hindu explains some of the systemic problems with India’s bail jurisprudence in general, and the UAPA in particular, that could have had a bearing on the unfortunate case of Fr. Stan Swamy. Guest: K. Venkataramanan, Associate Editor, The Hindu Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Jul 06, 2021
Why the NFT craze is here to stay | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs as they are known, have been around since 2017. But they suddenly went mainstream this year, attracting the attention of both crypto-currency traders and general investors. The sale of a tokenised digital art work titled ‘Everydays – The First 5000 Days’ by an artist called Beeple, for $69 million, appears to have unleashed an ‘NFT bubble’, with some analysts comparing to the ‘Tulip bubble’ of the 17th century. Are NFTs primarily a digital art-related phenomenon – a way to trade digital art and other digital collectibles? Or will they have a wider impact in the offline world as well, extending to domains such as music, fintech, and real estate? We demystify NFTs in this episode of In Focus with Dr Merav Ozair. Dr Ozair is a FinTech Faculty member at Rutgers Business School. She is a data scientist, a quant strategist, and a Crypto/Blockchain expert.
Jul 04, 2021
Canada’s residential school graves: How to hold settler states accountable for cultural genocide | In Focus
In recent weeks, Canada has been rocked by the discovery of a large number of unmarked graves of indigenous children. In the last week of May, the remains of 215 children were found on the grounds of a former residential school in British Columbia. And last week, another 751 unmarked graves were found at the site of a similar residential school in the province of Saskatchewan. They graves point to Canada’s colonial practice of having special residential schools that indigenous children were forced to attend. These schools were State-funded and operated by the Church. They have been in operation since the mid-19th century, with the last one closing only in 1996. What was the idea behind these schools? How were they allowed to operate for so on? And what does the discovery of these unmarked graves of children – which are basically undocumented deaths – mean for the rights of Canada’s indigenous people going forward? Guest: Prof. David MacDonald, Professor of Political Science at the University of Guelph. He is the author of The Sleeping Giant Awakens: Genocide, Indian Residential Schools, and the Challenge of Conciliation. Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu
Jul 01, 2021
The past and future of China's Communist Party at 100 | In Focus
On July 1, China's Communist Party turns 100. In this episode, we are looking at how the Communist Party of China got to this landmark and to where it is today, the evolution in its politics, its governing philosophy, its ideology, and increasingly, its turn to nationalism. We will look back, and forward, on this significant political anniversary for China, and examine how changing domestic priorities under Xi Jinping are increasingly impacting China's external behaviour and policies. We will look at how, as the party turns 100, its increasingly confident global posture, as China seeks a greater global role, will impact both India and the region. Guest: Rana Mitter, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China, University of Oxford, and author of China's Good War: How World War II is Shaping a New Nationalism Host: Ananth Krishnan, China correspondent, The Hindu
Jun 30, 2021
Is there a case for a separate COVID compensation fund? | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
Recently, the Supreme Court heard a plea seeking compensation to the families of those who have died from COVID-19 or post-COVID complications. The petitioners, citing Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and a 2015 notification, said that the Centre should make ex gratia payment of ₹4 lakh to each of the victims’ families. But the government has been reluctant to commit to any such compensation. It has said that given the magnitude of the COVID-19 death toll --- which is nearly 4 lakh as per official figures (and likely to go up) – this would mean paying ₹4 lakh to nearly 4 lakh families, which may not be feasible. Is the government obliged under the law to pay compensation for COVID deaths? How credible are arguments that payouts of this magnitude are not financially feasible or advisable? How realistic is the idea of setting up a dedicated COVID Compensation Fund, which has been mooted by the Opposition? For more clarity on these questions, we speak to Dr Abhay Shukla, who has been working on public and community health issues for over 35 years. A national co-convenor of the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Dr Shukla has also been a member of the National Human Rights Commission’s committee for formulating human rights responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hosted by G. Sampath 
Jun 26, 2021
Taming Nadal at Roland Garros: How did Djokovic pull it off? | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
The 2021 French Open semi-final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal is widely considered as one of the greatest contests the sport has seen. The match, pitting the world’s number one player against the greatest clay court player the game has seen, was a feast of high quality tennis. While a great deal has been written about the historic nature of Djokovic’s victory, it is still unclear what exactly he did differently to pull it off. After all, starting with Roger Federer, every top player of the past decade has thrown everything and the kitchen sink at Nadal and failed to break his supremacy at the French Open, which he has won 13 times, losing just twice in more than 15 years. We dissect Djokovic’s epic run at this year’s French Open, which actually began at the finals of the Italian Open in May, where he lost to Nadal in the final, and ended with another humdinger of a final against Stefanos Tsitsipas. We also delve into what Djokovic’s 19th Grand Slam means for the GOAT debate, which has so far been dominated by Federer and Nadal. Our guest for this episode is Sanjeev Kassal. Sanjeev is a winner of five National Tennis Championship (Seniors) titles and six International Tennis Federation (ITF) Seniors titles. He has been a commentator and interviewer at the Commonwealth Games, the 2012 London Olympics, the 2013 French Open, and many of India’s Davis Cup matches.
Jun 20, 2021
The ICC World Test Championship is a work in progress | The Hindu In Focus podcast
We are looking ahead to the final of the ICC World Test Championship, billed as the World Cup of Test cricket. Over the last two years, nine teams have played several series against other opponents, accumulating points. The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic meant that not all series could go ahead, forcing the ICC to come up with a modified points system that would allow the tournament to run its course and stage the planned final. The top two teams, India and New Zealand, will play each other in a one-off Test match at Southampton starting on Friday. This is the first such championship final of its kind in Test cricket. We discuss the evolution of the WTC, the fairness of the points system, possible changes in the format and the prospects of the two sides. Guest: Sharda Ugra, independent sports journalist
Jun 18, 2021
Can the G7 unite to deal with the China challenge? | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
In this episode we discuss the recent G7 summit, the messages and the larger themes that emerged and the key takeaways for India. We're joined by the Hindu’s national and diplomatic affairs editor Suhasini Haidar and China Correspondent Ananth Krishnan.
Jun 17, 2021
Branko Milanovic on COVID-19 and inequality in capitalist systems | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
As the world stumbles through a second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that both its catastrophic toll on human life and the severe socioeconomic dislocation it has caused matter equally. Yet it is also becoming clear that there is a growing inequality associated with governments and private citizens’ responses to the pandemic – whether in terms of access to vaccines or public policy measures to support the most vulnerable sections. In this context, the work of Professor Branko Milanovic of the Stone Center on Socio Economic Inequality at the City University of New York, and former lead economist in the World Bank’s Research Department for almost 20 years, matters ever more today, especially his study of the relationship between inequality and different forms of capitalism across the world. On this episode of the In Focus podcast, he shares his perspective on this subject, including on its relevance to India, with The Hindu's Associate Editor Narayan Lakshman.
Jun 17, 2021
What we know about COVID-19 variants and the effectiveness of vaccines against them | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
For a couple of days in a row now, India has reported less than 1 lakh COVID-19 cases in a day, with recoveries outnumbering daily cases. Our vaccine programme, however, continues to remain sluggish with only 3.4% of the population fully vaccinated, and 14.1% having received one dose. A lot has been said about the 'Delta' variant being responsible for the second wave that ravaged the country, and a lot of questions remain about the effectiveness of vaccines against virus mutations. Since December 2019, what have we learnt about our body's response to Sars-CoV-2? Is it possible for the virus to keep mutating and developing "immune escape" properties? Does a "mix and match" strategy of using two different vaccines on a person work? And could we have done better to ensure vaccine equity, especially at a time when supplies seem to be running short? To talk to us about these issues, we have with us today Dr. Satyajit Rath, adjunct professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune
Jun 15, 2021
Covid-19 Origins: How plausible really is the ‘lab leak’ hypothesis?
More than a year after COVID-19 first made the headlines, the most basic questions about the origins of SARS-COV-2 remain unanswered. We still don’t know how the first human being got infected. We don’t know if this virus naturally evolved the proteins needed to infect humans, or if those mutations were engineered in a lab. At the same time, these questions – which need scientific answers – have become heavily politicised. Until early 2021, the hypothesis that the pandemic originated in a leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology was dismissed as a crackpot theory. But now a series of in-depth media reports have given the lab leak hypothesis new respectability. How do we understand this sudden shift? What are the various interests and agendas trying to influence the origins narrative? And will we ever know for sure what exactly caused a pandemic that has dislocated modern life in so many profound ways? To better understand these fascinating questions, we speak to Thomas Abraham, adjunct associate professor at the University of Hong Kong and author of Twenty-First Century Plague: The Story of SARS.
Jun 11, 2021
Tejpal verdict: Can India move the needle on gender justice? The Hindu In Focus Podcast
Seven years after the allegations were first made, a sessions court in Goa has acquitted journalist Tarun Tejpal of rape charges. The 527-page judgment has come under close scrutiny and many legal experts, including feminists, have found the verdict problematic. Some of the purported flaws that have been pointed out include the focus on victim’s sexual history and a certain presumption about so-called “normative behaviour” of a rape victim. The Goa government has appealed against Tejpal’s acquittal in the Bombay High Court. In its appeal, it has also argued that this is a fit case for retrial. So, how do we really understand the outcome of this high-profile case, whose trial and verdict took up seven years? Has the needle on gender justice moved at all, since the Nirbhaya case, and the celebrated amendments to our rape laws? We discuss these and other questions thrown up by the Tejpal verdict with Arti Raghavan, advocate at the Bombay High Court. Hosted by: G Sampath
Jun 08, 2021
The online investigators leading the search into the COVID-19 lab leak theory | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
 When proposed a year ago, the theory suggesting lab-leak origins for the coronavirus was broadly dismissed as conspiracy. Today, it is back in the reckoning. World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General Tedros said in March, after a WHO-China joint mission to Wuhan dismissed the theory as being "extremely unlikely", that it required further investigation. His unexpected comments renewed interest, as did a statement from U.S. President Joe Biden in the last week of May ordering a probe into whether the origins were zoonotic or from a lab accident. One reason behind the renewed attention is the information dug up, although still only circumstantial, by a group of online investigators, called DRASTIC. In this episode, we are joined by The Hindu's Ramya Kannan who has been following their work, explains what they have found so far, and what we know and don't know about the origins of the pandemic. Show Notes Ramya Kannan, Online group digs deeper into coronavirus leak theory
Jun 07, 2021
Facing a new coalition to oust him, what’s next for Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
In this episode we discuss the political situation in Israel where Benjamin Netanyahu, the country's longest serving Prime Minister, may finally be on his way-out. Eight political parties, from the right wing Yamina to the Arab-majority Ra’am have come together to form a new coalition, which, if proves majority in the Israeli Parliament, could oust Mr. Netanyahu, who has been in power since 2009. So why did this coalition form? Who are its members and what options does Mr Netanyahu have before him as things move forward? We discuss these questions today with The Hindu’s International Affairs editor Stanly Johny.
Jun 06, 2021
Explaining China’s move to a three child policy and how it is being received | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
In today’s episode we turn again to China and to policy decisions on family planning and population control. On May 11 we discussed China’s population census figures and why their declining birth rates were a cause of concern. The reaction to those numbers has been swift, and just six years after abandoning the “one child policy” of 1979, China’s Communist Party has now introduced a “three child policy”. The move, according to the Politburo, is to “improve China’s population structure, actively respond to the ageing population, and preserve the country’s human resource advantages'. We will discuss this issue once again with The Hindu’s China Correspondent Ananth Krishnan. Show notes:
Jun 04, 2021
Jaishankar’s U.S. visit, and the challenges of diplomacy post the Covid-19 second wave | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
In today’s episode we’ll look at External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s visit to the U.S. last week, a trip that was largely seen as a mission to secure various agreements relating to the supply vaccines or raw materials for vaccine production. Taking off from Dr. Jaishankar’s visit, we’ll also use the second part of the podcast to discuss some of the major diplomatic challenges that India now faces post the COVID-19 second wave. I’m joined by The Hindu’s national and diplomatic affairs editor Suhasini Haidar.
Jun 02, 2021
Webinar fatigue: Are you at risk? | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown measures have meant work-from home for many. And work-from-home means plenty of Zoom meetings and webinars, which often involve both audio and video. Studies by mental health researchers suggest that web-based official meetings are far more demanding than face-to-face, offline interactions, and over a period of time, a heavy dose of webinars can cause a host of problems – ranging from anxiety and eye strain to restlessness and disturbed sleep. These and other symptoms are often tagged together as webinar fatigue. With the pandemic looking unlikely to recede very soon, web meetings will remain a staple of professional life for some time to come. This makes it all the more important that there is greater awareness about webinar fatigue, so that people can manage it better. So, what exactly causes webinar fatigue? How is it diagnosed? Are there steps that workplaces and managers can take to prevent it? To answer these questions, we speak to Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences, Bangalore. His area of specialisation includes the management of technology overuse, and the healthy use of potentially addictive technology.
Jun 01, 2021
Decoding the cryptocurrency crash and what happens next | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
Bitcoin and other leading cryptocurrencies crashed last week, with prices falling by nearly 50%. A mind-boggling $1.3 trillion of market value was wiped out. Despite such a massive crash, investors and traders on Wall Street and elsewhere continue to be bullish about cryptos such as Ethereum. And in all the mayhem, the role of tech billionaire Elon Musk remains a puzzle. And yet, diehard crypto-investors still believe that in the not-so-distant future, many banking functions will be displaced by decentralised, blockchain protocols, smart contracts, and so on, making cryptos an attractive investment option in the present. To help us decode what’s going on, and where the cryptocurrency scene is headed, we speak to Vivek Kaul. Kaul is the author of five books, including the bestselling Easy Money trilogy. His most recent book is called ‘Bad Money: Inside the NPA Mess and How it Threatens the Indian Banking System’. Host: G Sampath
May 30, 2021
Explaining the new intermediary rules for social media, the Twitter-Centre spat, and more | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
One is on the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 which came into effect on May 26. The rules apply to various categories of online content providers such as social media platforms, OTT streaming services and online news providers. Some of its key points relate to the setting up of grievance redressal systems and having local personnel to ensure compliance with rules. One requirement for large social media providers is that under certain conditions, they will have to trace the originator of a message. This is a problem for messaging apps like WhatsApp, whose key feature is end-to-end encryption. The fear is that if an option is given to break this end-to-end encryption, it will lead to mass surveillance. WhatsApp has now approached the Delhi High Court against the rules. The other set of headlines are on the back and forth between the Centre and Twitter on the 'toolkit' issue. Twitter had marked a tweet from BJP leaders Sambit Patra on an alleged 'toolkit' by the Congress party, as 'manipulated media'. This has led to the government accusing the microblogging site of defaming India and to the Delhi police visiting the company offices. The San Francisco-based company has called the police visit an intimidation tactic. Now, where do these two sets of headlines intersect? What are the nittie gritties of the new IT rules? What are the prevailing rules on privacy? We explain in this podcast. Guest: Apar Gupta, Executive Director, Internet Freedom Foundation Host: P.J. George
May 29, 2021
Mucormycosis: What it is, and why it is associated with diabetes | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
India has so far recorded close to 12,000 cases of mucormycosis, or black fungus infection as it is commonly known. The Central government has now declared it a notifiable disease. Mucormycosis was not unknown in India, but it is now, with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to rage, that the country has seen a surge in these infections. While the increased use of steroids, needed for the treatment of severely ill COVID-19 patients is being cited as one possible reason, experts have also said that a majority of cases are seen in those with poorly-controlled diabetes. Mucormycosis can affect many organs in the body, but what is being seen now, is the rhino-orbito cerebral form -- the infection affects the sinuses, nose, eyes and then brain. Doctors have reported that patients come to them a few weeks after recovering from COVID-19, with symptoms of mucormycosis. Amphotericin B is the main antifungal drug used in treatment, though stocks are running low now in the country due to high demand. The Centre recently said five new pharma companies had been approved to produce Amphotericin-B. Earlier, only six firms were manufacturing it. To speak to us about this fungal infection, its link with diabetes and what can be done to prevent it, is Dr. V. Mohan chairman, Dr. Mohan's Diabetes Specialities Centre in Chennai
May 28, 2021
The many challenges in counting India's Covid-19 death toll | The Hindu in Focus Podcast
In this episode we’re talking about the challenges of counting or estimating the death toll from COVID-19 in India. This is, of course, a complicated and polarising subject. Due to a combination of factors such as the size of India’s population, and the lack of good and accessible data in many instances, there is a difference between the officially reported figures for deaths from the pandemic and the actual death count. But to what degree is there under-reporting? This is the cause of much speculation -- the subject of many mathematical models and projections even. As we record this podcast today, the 26th of May, the New York Times has an article that projects a likely scenario in which there are 1.6 million deaths in India as against the reported figure which, as of May 24, stand at a little over 300,000. We're going to take a slightly broader approach to this issue in the podcast today and break down some of the issues with counting deaths in India, the various methodologies that are used, and the challenges of each. We are joined today by Dr. Anand Krishnan, professor at the centre for community medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). He has also written two recent columns for The Hindu on counting the COVID 19 toll in India. We go through a lot of technicalities during the conversation about the processes through which mortality, not just from COVID-19 but other causes as well, are calculated. We hope that it will give you a more comprehensive picture on this issue. Episode notes:
May 26, 2021
When Covid-19 goes to the villages: challenges of managing the pandemic rurally | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
The COVID-19 pandemic has now entered rural parts of our country, where 65% of our population lives. Data from May shows that the case load is now 65% in rural and semi-rural areas versus 35% in urban and semi-urban areas. Even as hospital in our cities are towns are overloaded and overwhelmed, our rural infrastructure is in danger of collapsing -- with inadequate testing kits, drugs and trained healthcare professionals. There are reports of village residents having to travel for hours to try and secure a hospital bed and with deaths increasing, images of bodies floating on rivers as the people of India attempt to deal with an unprecedented crisis. The Central Government has released an SOP on Covid-19 Containment and Management in Peri-urban, Rural & Tribal areas, but how much of this is feasible? Were we unprepared for the surge of the virus in rural India? What measures can now be put in place to revamp our primary health systems that have, in many parts, been consistently ignored and under-funded for decades? To speak to us about this, we have with us today, Dr SP Kalantri, Professor of Medicine at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences and Medical Superintendent of Kasturba Hospital, Sevagram Hosted by Zubeda Hamid
May 25, 2021
Steroids and COVID 19: All you need to know | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
In this episode we get deep into the use of steroids, in medicine more generally and in the treatment of Covid-19. Steroids like dexamethasone seem to have a very positive effect on people who have COVID that's been proven, but Experts have warned that irregular and overuse of steroids causes severe infections like pneumonia and mucormycosis. The latter disease has just been declared an epidemic in India as several states report cases. In this podcast we try and get to the root of the issue. Is the issue with the use of steroids itself and when? Or is it a problem of how much to give and how it should be carefully calibrated? Guest: Dr Vincent Rajkumar: Professor, Mayo Clinic and Editor, Blood Cancer Journal Hosted by Ramya Kannan
May 21, 2021
WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan on virus variants, vaccinations and the undercounting of fatalities | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
Among the key voices of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Soumya Swaminathan with her clarity of thought, articulation and deep awareness of the Indian context, has emerged as a reliable voice amid the covid 19 pandemic maelstrom. In an online interview, she provides detailed responses to a range of topics that are simmering, resolves some doubts, and advocates strategies to adopt gainfully. Investments in health care are crucial, she says, because it is now clear that there is nothing without health and without sufficient physical and mental well being, it would be impossible to take the path to recovery. Host: Ramya Kannan
May 17, 2021
The roots of the latest Israel-Palestine violence | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
We’re talking today about the big international story that’s dominated this week and that's the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Palestine. There is very little that I need to say by way of introduction, even as we record despite some truce efforts the conflict between the two sides only seems to be escalating and there's real danger now that this could be a long drawn-out affair that could spiral out of control. The number of casualties is already high. So, in this episode we’re going to look at the immediate triggers for this conflict, look at where things stand between the two sides now and as we always do on this podcast, we will pan out and look at how various geopolitical factors have brought us to this point. Guest: Stanly Johny, International Affairs Editor, The Hindu
May 13, 2021
The China border crisis one year on: What a live LAC means for India's two-front challenge | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
The border crisis with China in eastern Ladakh that began in early May 2020 is nowhere near resolution after one year of tensions, even if the stand-off along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has faded from newspaper front pages amid India's coronavirus crisis. In this episode, we look at the LAC situation one year on, and ask what it means for relations with China and the broader security challenges it poses for India. What is the state of play now at the LAC? How has the past year and the Ladakh crisis changed how the Indian Armed Forces approach guarding the frontiers and deployments along the border? What are the demands on India's resources? Is India ready to face a two-front challenge as the LAC turns "live" and a deepening China-Pakistan relationship? What options does India have as it seeks to mitigate the two-front threat? Guest: Sushant Singh, Senior Fellow, Centre For Policy Research, New Delhi
May 12, 2021
Why India’s population may overtake China’s sooner than expected | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
On this episode we discuss China’s once-in-a-decade population census, the results of which were released today (May 11). The numbers show that China has recorded a slowing population growth rate that will likely see its population peak - and be overtaken by India’s - by as early as 2025, according to experts, with the number of births falling for the fourth consecutive year. This seventh census, released on Tuesday by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in Beijing, noted 12 million babies were born last year, the lowest number since 1961, a year when China was in the midst of a four-year famine unleashed by Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward policy in 1958 that devastated the farm sector and claimed millions of lives. So there is a lot to breakdown in this episode, to understand how China got to these numbers, what is says now about the changing composition of China’s demographics and what will be its long term economic impact. There is the overarching question also of what this means for the comparison with India and the window of time in which a demographic dividend could come into play. We’re joined by the Hindu’s China correspondent Ananth Krishnan to discuss.
May 11, 2021
Understanding banking reforms in India after the Narasimham era | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
Hosted by G. Sampath The Covid-19 crisis continues to dominate our news coverage, as it rightly should, and while we’ve doing many episodes on the pandemic, a couple of deep dives into policy issues, which is a trademark of this podcast, got lost along the way. We recorded this podcast last month, just after former RBI governor M. Narasimham passed away, with the aim of understanding his legacy in the context of the current challenges facing the banking sector. Narasimham is perhaps the most influential banker of post-independent India. The reports prepared by the two Committees that he chaired – the Narasimham Committee on Financial System (1991) and the Narasimham Committee on Banking Sector Reforms (1998) – are still the foundational documents for any discussion on banking sector reforms and banking policy. He is also credited with paving the way for epochal moves such as bank mergers, the emergence of new generation private banks, and asset reconstruction companies. But more than two decades after the two Nararimham Committees gave their reports and recommendations, India’s banking sector remains plagued by a host of problems, from high NPAs to poor governance, and a disconnect from developmental priorities. So what has been the legacy of Narasimham and the two committees that he chaired? How will India’s banking history view his role and contribution to India’s banking sector? To throw light on these questions, we spoke with Amol Agrawal, an economic historian and faculty at Ahmedabad University.
May 10, 2021
What works in COVID-19 treatment and what doesn't | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic is raging in India. Hospitals are overflowing, oxygen is in short supply in some parts of the country, patients are prescribed with a number of drugs and patients' relatives are desperately looking for drugs that are also running in short in some cases. What works in the treatment for Covid-19 and what should our treating protocol be? Does plasma therapy work? Are drugs like Remdesivir useful? And what will happen if the many antibiotics taken now lead to antimicrobial resistance in the future? To speak to us about this, we have Dr. Anup Aggarwal. He is the lead author of the ICMR-led Trial on convalescent plasma (PLACID trial) and is a physician at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital Healthcare Services, Gallup, New Mexico, U.S. Hosted by Zubeda Hamid 
May 08, 2021
How good is the data the government is using to predict coronavirus trends? | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
On this news update podcast today, we discuss various aspects of the coronavirus crisis that the country is still very much in the grip of. We focus particularly on the quality of data that the government is using as it plans its way forward. The big question on everyone's minds now is when this deadly second wave will peak, and cases will see a downturn. However, there are already projections for a third wave later in the year. Our ability to navigate that depends very much on vaccinations, which are still progressing at an alarmingly slow rate. Guest: Jacob Koshy, Deputy Science Editor, The Hindu JS
May 07, 2021
What post poll numbers tell us about the elections, and how our politics is evolving | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
We recorded this episode to coincide with a series of articles that we will carry in The Hindu over the course of this week explaining the verdicts in the four States — West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam — and the Union Territory of Puducherry that went to the polls in March-April 2021. These articles are part of post poll survey done by the polling and research organisation, CSDS-Lokniti that tracks the specificities in each State that shaped the result. These post poll surveys have been a feature of our recent election coverage and allow us to reflect on the data and piece together a larger trajectory of how politics in the country is evolving. You can read more from that series, which started on May 4, here. But over the course of the conversation today we’ll go over some aspects of the voter data that we have, both from the CSDS poll as well as from the research that out data team here at the Hindu has done and we hope it’ll help you go beyond the headlines of the recently concluded elections. Guest: Srinivasan Ramani, Deputy National Editor, The Hindu
May 05, 2021
Does India have adequate fire safety regulations for public buildings? | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
In this episode we’re discussing fire safety rules in public buildings, including hospitals. Over the past few weeks there have been deadly fires in hospital buildings, including those treating COVID-19 patients, compounding what is already a severe crisis that the country is facing. The most recent incident was on May 1, when at least 18 people died after a fire broke out in a COVID hospital in Bharuch in Gujarat. A spate of recent hospital fires has also been reported from Maharashtra, at Virar, a suburb of Mumbai, and Mumbra near Thane and earlier in the year at Nagpur. Fires breaking out in buildings, big and small across India is not a new phenomenon. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) says 330 people died in commercial building fires in 2019, while fatalities for residential or dwelling buildings were much higher at 6,329. Electrical faults are cited as the leading cause of fires, but State governments are also widely criticised for being lax with building safety laws and for failing to equip public buildings with modern technology. What are the laws and regulations regarding fire safety and how much or how little various State governments comply with them? In this episode we try and answer the question of whether these incidents have been avoided with better compliance of the laws and what can be done in the future to prevent them. Guest: G Ananthakrishnan, Senior Associate Editor, The Hindu
May 01, 2021
The relevance of U.S. recognising the 1915 Armenian massacre as genocide | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
The Covid-19 crisis continues to dominate our news coverage, as it rightly should, and on this podcast and elsewhere in The Hindu we are working to get you the most relevant news and the best reporting. However, we switch focus on the podcast briefly today to look at international affairs. We’re going to be discussing something that happened in 1915 during the course of the First World War -- the mass killing of about 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman empire. Over the last weekend, U.S. President Joe Biden formally recognised this act of mass killing as a genocide. In doing so, he was fulfilling a long-standing American promise that his predecessors had failed to act on. In 2019, both Houses of the U.S. Congress passed resolutions calling the slaughter as genocide but the then President Donald Trump stopped short of a formal recognition, mainly because of Turkish opposition. Turkey, America’s NATO ally and the successor of the Ottoman empire, has never acknowledged that a genocide took place, and it sees a mention of it as an insult or a moral stain. Today, we’re going to speak about what happened to the Armenians in 1915, and why they were targeted for these killings. We’ll then talk about the timing of President Biden’s move to recognise the killings as a genocide and what it says about a changing geopolitical picture, especially when it comes to Turkey. I’m joined by The Hindu’s International Affairs Editor Stanly Johny.
Apr 29, 2021
As vaccine registration open up for all adults, will there be enough supply? | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
In our last episode we looked in detail at the foreign assistance now pouring in for India by way of critical medical supplies and whether this would help us tackle the current coronavirus crisis that we face. Today we look at how things are shaping up with the logistics of managing the crisis domestically. Shortages of medical oxygen continue to be reported from across the country and as registration opens up for all adults in the country to get a vaccine shot there is still the big question to address; will there be enough supply to get it to everyone? We discuss all that and the trend lines with the latest coronavirus numbers with The Hindu’s Deputy Science Editor Jacob Koshy.
Apr 27, 2021
Can foreign assistance help India with its coronavirus crisis? | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
Over the next couple of episodes, we turn our attention to the coronavirus emergency in the country and we look at the crucial question of medical supplies. On all fronts now the country seems to be grappling with major shortages but even as we are looking to ramp up domestic production over the weekend various countries around the world have expressed support and have pledged to send urgent medical aid. What can we expect over the next week or so and what are the critical areas that the government hopes to address? We’ll get the details in this episode from The Hindu’s National and Diplomatic Affairs Editor Suhasini Haidar.
Apr 26, 2021
The rise and fall of football's European Super League | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
In this weekend edition of In Focus we discuss sports and look at the controversial rise and rapid implosion of the European super league. Right off the bat, there are a couple of odd things about this story. The first is that it seemed to run an entire cycle in just a few days. Plans for the super league or ESL as it was dubbed, were announced last weekend. The backlash by players, fans, pundits, nearly everyone involved in football was so intense and so immediate that it became clear in just a couple of days that this was a non starter and would have to be wound up. The other unique thing about this story is that in an era of corporate control over sport this was a huge and clear victory for fans, for the intrinsically local sentiment in football prevailing over this attempt to create a closed league of superpowers. So what was the ESL, why did it fail, what has been the fallout of that failure and is the idea now dead or could it rear its head again in the future? These are the questions we’ll take up in this episode. Guest: Ashwin Achal, Sports Correspondent, The Hindu
Apr 24, 2021
Can the U.S. and Iran resolve the nuclear crisis? | The Hindu In Focus Podcast
In today’s episode we discuss the Iran nuclear deal and look at where things stand with regard to its possible revival. The Iran nuclear deal or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was an agreement struck under the Obama administration in 2015 and which the US then withdrew from in 2018 under President Donald Trump. That withdrawal had huge geopolitical co