As the biggest democracy in South Asia with military and economic power on a par with China, India ought to have played the role of a big brother in the region like the US does in the West (Cover Story, January 26). But that has not happened owing to China’s greater influence and impact.
However, India can continue to play safe with its neighbours (except Pakistan) with its balancing act and strategic foreign affairs policy. India has to tread the middle path carefully to win back the friendship and confidence of its neighbours for its own good.
Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) is a concept that espouses the fair sharing of benefits to the resource conservers by the resource users, which is a key element of the Convention on Biological Diversity (“Putting profits over people”, January 26).
Traditional resources such as medicinal plants and herbs are overexploited to the brink of extinction, while the traditional knowledge of tribal communities has been pillaged by corporate leviathans in the AYUSH industry. Ayurveda products like medicines and cosmetics are million dollar businesses today, and several large companies have invested heavily in this profitable industry. However, the benefits are disproportionately distributed between the tribal communities (the resource providers) and the AYUSH industry (the resource users).
The government should amend the rules to make it mandatory for the AYUSH industry to support ABS as an incentive for the conservation efforts of the tribal people which in the long run will enable the sustainable utilisation of dwindling forest resources which would otherwise be imperilled by corporate greed.
The Biological Diversity (Amendment) Act, 2023, is an egregious example of the hurried passing of a Bill into an Act without adequately analysing the pros and cons and without incorporating the concerns of the opposition in Parliament. It works at cross purposes in all aspects and it is betrayed by lopsided views to maximise profits for unconnected individuals and firms.
Poetry with a purpose
The interviewwith the Hindi poet and public intellectual Ashok Vajpeyi reminded me of what David Hume famously said: “Errors in religion are dangerous, in philosophy only ridiculous” (“Literature has to relieve spirituality from the clutches of religion”, January 26).
Without mincing words, Vajpeyi has shown the moral courage to call a spade a spade. When he says “Literature in Hindi today can only be against Hindi society” and “There’s no other choice before a Hindi writer”, it becomes a profound reading of the political and societal zeitgeist of India today.
Saba Naqvi appears to have missed the wood for the trees in her latest column where she says: “It is being speculated that [Shivraj Singh] Chouhan’s departure was to create a precedent for other powerful or popular State leaders to submit to the will of the high command, which effectively consists of Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah” (“The year of the Supreme Leader”, January 26).
It is not only Modi the man but also his “hagiography” that shapes electoral choices as well as the contemporary political culture of India. The significant message in the BJP’s selection of three Chief Ministers in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh is that it not only balances the caste equations and reaffirms the high command’s hold but also conveys that every BJP worker can legitimately dream big provided that he is sincere, dedicated, honest, and can slog tirelessly.
All three Chief Ministers are ordinary karyakartas and do not have the privilege of family connections, pedigree, aristocracy, or political godfathers. This generational changeover poses a serious question as to whether the elites are competent at ruling the country and their deeds and words are worthy of emulation by their successors.
Jangipur, West Bengal