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September 12, 2017

Toilets first, temples later: PM

  • Paying tributes to Swami Vivekananda on the anniversary of his speech at the World Congress of Religions in Chicago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday juxtaposed it with the 9/11 terror attack in the U.S., saying the World Trade Center tragedy would not have taken place had the message of love and brotherhood of the speech been understood.The Prime Minister was speaking at a function attended by student groups in Vigyan Bhavan here to mark the anniversary of Vivekananda’s speech in Chicago in 1893.
  • “Before the 2001 attacks, there was another 9/11 made famous by a young man from this country, who, wearing saffron robes, entered Chicago. Swami Vivekananda never tired of showcasing India’s culture, talents and qualities. More than being in search of a guru, Swami Vivekananda was in search of the truth.”

Public service

  • Referring to Vivekananda’s teachings, the Prime Minister highlighted the fact that the saint was never afraid to speak his mind and prioritised public service over ritualism.
  • “ Pooja paath se Bhagwan nahin miltey, sewa karo toh prabhu prapt hotey hain [you do not come close to God by rituals and prayers, but by serving the people],” the Prime Minister said.
  • Mr. Modi spoke of his government’s sanitation drive, Swachh Bharat, as an example of ways in which public service and patriotism could be demonstrated.
  • As Vigyan Bhavan reverberated with chants of Vande Mataram , Mr. Modi said, “Do we even have the right to chant Vande Mataram today? I know my question will hurt some people, but how can we chant Vande Mataram while at the same time soiling the nation with paan [betel] spittle? Those who keep the country clean are the real sons and daughters of the nation.”“We have to build shauchalaya [toilets] before devalaya [temples],” he added.

Innovation important

  • Mr. Modi said that Vivekananda was all for innovation and experimentation, and university campuses were the best sites for these.
  • He asked colleges to hold cultural events to celebrate other States, and added in a light-hearted vein that he was not against celebrating days such as Rose Day (when members of the opposite sex expressed a liking for each other by exchanging roses, a ritual that has come under attack from right-wing groups).“There is no life without creativity. Let our creativity also strengthen our nation and fulfil the aspirations of our people,” the Prime Minister added.

Parties call for hybrid electoral system

  • Two Congress representatives, Rajya Sabha member Vivek Tankha and former Union Minister Mukul Wasnik, argued that “majority aspirations” and the “actual will of the people” is not getting reflected in election results, sources said.
  • Mr. Tankha told the committee that the first-past-the-post system had worked well in the beginning because there was one-party domination (the Congress winning a plurality of the seats by securing close to a majority of the votes).The voting percentage was also very high. But now because of a division of votes, a party with even a 20% share does not get a single seat, while a party with a 28% share an get a disproportionately large number of seats.
  • Mr. Tankha also suggested a dual system where separate votes for a candidate and a party could be considered. This system is followed by various European countries. He argued that the proportional representation can be devised in different ways.
  • From the CPI(M), Polit Bureau member S. Ramachandran Pillai suggested that recommendations of the Law Commission’s 170th and 255th report should be implemented. A mix of both first-past-the-post and proportional representation should be tried. Both the reports had suggested that 25% or 136 more seats should be added to the Lok Sabha and be filled by proportional representation.

A textbook example of ethnic cleansing: UN rights head

  • The situation in Myanmar is a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”, the United Nations rights chief said on Monday, as the number of Rohingya Muslims fleeing the country for Bangladesh topped 3,00,000.The UN warning came as it emerged the Dalai Lama had written to Aung San Suu Kyi urging her to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.
  • On Monday it emerged that the Dalai Lama had joined fellow Nobel peace laureates Malala Yousafzai and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in urging Ms. Suu Kyi to intervene.

Bitcoin: Blockchain eyes India

  • Post-demonetisation, India has become one of the fastest growing markets for digital currencies like bitcoin, according to Nicolas Cary, co-founder and president of Blockchain, the largest software provider for crypto-currencies in the world.
  • Blockchain announced a partnership with Unocoin — one of the largest crypto-currency platforms in India — to enter the Indian market. While in India, Unocoin processes transactions worth more than Rs. 600 million every month for its over four lakh customers, Blockchain’s global platform has upwards of 16.5 million users.
  • “One of the things we are seeing happening in India that we are supportive of is an industry body that has been formed, where technology companies have come together to create a dialogue with the Finance Ministry,” Mr. Cary said.
  • “It’s called the Digital Assets and Blockchain Foundation India. It’s establishing best practices for consumer protection and regulation in general,” he said.