August 25, 2019



This sign was prominently displayed in the window of a business person

*City Center Srinagar, Kashmir*

You are probably outraged at the thought of such an inflammatory statement.

However, we are a society which holds Freedom of Speech as perhaps our greatest liberty.

*After all, it is ONLY A SIGN.*

You may say, “What kind of business would dare to post such a sign?”




August 24, 2019

WorldSkills Kazan 2019; Indian Team wins hearts with culture and talent display

Spectacular opening to WorldSkills Kazan 2019; Indian Team wins hearts with culture and talent display

Posted On: 24 AUG 2019 1:18PM by PIB Delhi

Mahendra Nath Pandey, Hon’ble Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship inaugurated the India Pavilion at the competitionTeam India was familiarised with Russian culture during the One School-One Country program; also aims at encouraging children to join skill programs‘Future Skills’ category introduced at the Competition to focus on digital economy

The world’s biggest international vocational skills competition, WorldSkills Kazan 2019got underway with a grand ceremony at Kazan, Russia. The 48-member Indian team, resplendent in colourful attire, wowed spectators as they walked through the parade along with 62 other participating countries.

More than 2.5 lakh people attended the opening ceremony at Kazan Arena, where youth from 63 nations gave a variety display of various cultures. The 48-member Indian team — the sixth largest contingent at the WorldSkills — stole hearts with a performance that brought alive the rich diversity and beauty of the vast country. Mr. Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister, Russian Federation opened the six-day event that will see more than 1,300 competitors from around the globe competing across 56 skills and trades.

Contestants from India who are representing the country at the global stage have made it at WorldSkills Kaza 2019 after a gruelling selection procedure where went through a series of skill competitions conducted at different levels in India. An initiative of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) under the aegis of Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), WorldSkills India is integral to the vision of building a Skilled India, exposing young talent to the best-in-class technology, techniques and skills amongst different trades.

Dr. Mahendra Nath Pandey, Hon’ble Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurshipwho is leading the Indian contingent, also inaugurated the India Pavilion at the Kazan Expo competition area. The Pavilion adorns myriad hues of India’s culture, traditions, diversity and skills. Dr. Pandey’s is at Kazan to motivate the participants and is aimed at building G2G and B2B relationships. During his visit, Dr. Pandey will address delegates from Industry on the subject ‘Skilling for future with Scale, Speed and Standards: India Experience’. He is also scheduled to meet representatives of key industry players such as DMG MORI, CISCO, Siemens, Lincoln Electric to name a few, to explore ways of knowledge exchange and global mobility of Indian workforce with multinational corporations.

As the competition begins on August 23, the Indian Team will participate in 44 skills namely mobile robotics, prototype modelling, hairdressing, baking, confectionary & patisserie, welding, brick laying, car painting, floristry, etc. Forty-four skill experts and 14 interpreters for various Indian languages have also accompanied the participants in Kazan to support them at the event.

Inaugurating the India Pavilion at WorldSkills,Dr. Mahendra Nath Pandey, Honb’le Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, said, “Watching Team India showcase the unique Indian culture in a foreign country is heart-warming. These youngsters are not merely competitors at an international event of such scale, they are also ambassadors of the Indian culture and it has been a pleasure to have seen this beautiful performance. My best wishes are with the team and I hope they win many awards in the skills they represent. They are the future of India and their vocational skills will open many doors for them.

With the Government taking a number of initiatives to boost technical training and vocational skills, India has climbed the skills ladder, and this year we have a 48-member team up from 28 the last time. I am confident of a good show from the team. In the future, we will also bid for hosting the WorldSkills. The Ministry of Skill Development and other government departments are directing all their efforts at tap the talent of India’s youth by empowering them to become job-givers and not job-seekers alone. We have provided training support 12.6 lakh people and we aim to double this number in the near future with support from other ministries.”

One School One Country

Before the opening ceremony, the competing teams came together to present their national cultures under the One School-One Country initiative. The initiative aims to promote cultural exchange between the participating countries and to raise the profile of skills and different career pathways. Participants visited a Russian School, Gynasium # 96, where they interacted with Russian school students and also participated in cultural programs.

Future Skills Introduced at WorldSkills International Competitions

An international conference, WorldSkills Conference 2019, will also be held alongside the skills competitions, for government representatives, experts and thought-leaders to interact on an array of topics on future of skills to maximize economic and social impact. Two new initiatives — WorldSkills Juniors and ‘Future Skills — are also being introduced in this edition. WorldSkills Junior aims at inspiring schoolchildren aged 14-16 years to join vocational and skill training and participate alongside the national teams. The focus of ‘Future Skills’ is to lay emphasis on relevant fields of activity in the era of high-tech production and digital economy.


August 23, 2019

How Technology Platforms Should Deal with Hostile State-Owned Propaganda Outlets


How Technology Platforms Should Deal with Hostile State-Owned Propaganda Outlets

A statement from Adrian Shahbaz, Research Director for Technology and Democracy

Social media and the internet have opened up new ways for hostile powers to directly abuse and influence individuals in democratic societies.False news, information operations, and online propaganda pose significant but distinct threats to the functioning of a democracy.Responses to these threats have the potential to infringe on fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression, access to information, privacy, and press freedom.Any response must be carefully evaluated to ensure that it is strictly necessary to achieve a legitimate aim (protecting democracy) and carried out in a manner that limits unintended consequences and collateral damage. The cure should not be more harmful than the disease.

Our recommended response:

Remove content that is deliberately and unequivocally false under policies designed to combat spam or unauthorized use of the platform.
 Label or eliminate automated “bot” accounts. Recognizing that bots can be used for both helpful and harmful purposes, and acknowledging their role in spreading disinformation, companies should strive to provide clear labeling for suspected bot accounts. Those that remain harmful even if labeled should be eliminated from the platform.
 Do not remove state-owned media that function as propaganda outlets for hostile powers, unless they violate the platform’s terms of service through actions such as those cited above.Most articles published by the state-owned propaganda outlets of hostile powers would be difficult to classify as deliberately and unequivocally “false.”From our current perspective, banning these outlets would constitute a disproportionate response to the problem and could harm press freedom.We recommend tackling the issue through a more effective, transparent, and uniform application of platforms’ existing policies. Options to consider include down-ranking posts made by these outlets in news feeds, combating the artificial amplification of posts through the use of bots and fake accounts, and restricting the outlets’ ability to buy advertising on the platforms.We also encourage technology companies to prioritize well-established, credible, and local news sites over state-owned outlets from countries that do not receive a “Free” rating in Freedom House’s Freedom in the World report, such as RussiaChinaTurkeyIranSaudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
 Ensure fair and transparent content moderation practices. In order to fairly and transparently moderate public posts on their platforms and services, private companies should do the following:Clearly and concretely define what speech is not permissible in their guidelines and terms of service.If certain speech needs to be curbed, consider less invasive actions before restricting it outright, for example warning users that they are violating terms of service and adjusting algorithms that might unintentionally promote disinformation or incitement to violence.Ensure that content removal requests from governments are in compliance with international human rights standards.Publish detailed transparency reports on content takedowns—both for those initiated by governments and for those undertaken by the companies themselves.Provide an efficient avenue for appeal for users who believe that their speech was unduly restricted.Engage in continuous dialogue with local civil society organizations.Companies should seek out local expertise on the political and cultural context in markets where they have a presence or where their products are widely used. These consultations with civil society groups should inform the companies’ approach to content moderation, government requests, and countering disinformation, among other things.We appreciate companies’ understanding that tackling the issue of disinformation and false news requires working with media companies and subject-matter experts. Efforts like the Facebook Journalism Project and the News Integrity Initiative provide crucial support for improving individuals’ digital media literacy. That endeavor will take time, but we believe that education is ultimately better than censorship as a tactic for dealing with disinformation, false news, and propaganda.

Twitter recently announced that it would no longer accept advertising from state-owned news sources. The statement above lays out additional steps that technology platforms should take.

August 22, 2019

Is Abrogation of Reservation on the Cards?

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, speaking to a group of diplomats, said that he had “good contact” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and had “independent discussions” on a range of issues. Credit: Twitter/India Foundation


Through the Modi government, the RSS has successfully implemented many of aspects of its long term agenda.

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd

Though the RSS has been an anti-reservation organisation, it plays a game of hide and seek with those in power at the Centre. While top leaders of the RSS issue statements opposing reservation, a smaller leader in the BJP or the National Democratic Alliance says that the government supports reservations.

Mohan Bhagwat has repeated his opposition to reservations several times. The latest statement, on August 19, said that the question of reservation must be debated. The RSS chief said “that there should be open-hearted debate pertaining to reservation given to SC/ST/OBCs”.

Through the Narendra Modi government, the RSS is implementing its long term agendas. By forcing the state governments to make cow protection laws, it has destabilised the economy of the Shudra farmers who graze the cattle and the food economy of the Dalits/Adivasis and Muslims.

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Also Read: Why Reservations Have to be About Social and Not Just Economic Disadvantage

The law to criminalise Triple Talaq and the reading down of Article 370 are also part of the RSS’s agenda. The other major issues of its long term agenda are building a Ram temple in Ayodhya and the abrogation of reservation. The RSS will take steps toward that in the near future.

The same Modi who galvanised the OBC votes will be forced to legislate a Reservation Abrogation Act. That day is not too far. The anti-reservation intellectuals affiliated with the Congress will fully support such a law. Some like Manish Tiwari and Janardan Dwivedihave already stated their views on reservation. Many so-called secular intellectuals are also anti-reservationist in the name of “merit”.

No light weight to be dismissed

Bhagwat is not a light weight to be dismissed. He has significant influences among the BJP-RSS networks. He is like Kautilya to Chandragupta Maurya. Maurya was the son of Mura, a historical Shudra/OBC woman. Kautilya’s influence ensured that Chandragupta institutionalised the caste system.

The RSS has never asked for debate on the caste system or the anti-science and anti-human character of our institutions. It asked for a debate on Vedas, Ramayan, Mahabharat, where there are no rights for the Shudras, Dalits and Adivasis.

In his public utterances, Bhagwat never speaks about the human equality even within the Hindu religion. He has not spoken out against human untouchability or that it should be abolished within the Hindu religion. He does not raise the issue of priesthood rights to Shudras, OBCs, Dalit andAdivasis within the Hindu religion. He never makes a public statement that women should get equal rights along with men in Hinduism. He does not call for a debate on uniform school education to all children of all classes and castes in rural and urban areas. We know that English being the medium of education in private sector and regional languages in government schools is creating a huge gap in opportunities.

Also Read: In Andhra Village, Ten Generations of Dalit Priests Offer a Lesson on Social Harmony

Bhagwat is an open advocate for abrogation of certain rights people achieved through their historical struggles.

He never makes a statement about abolition of the caste system, about dismantling Brahminical hegemony, both in Hinduism and outside. He does not talk about increasing the wages of agrarian labourers, who mainly are Dalits and OBCs. But he repeatedly wants a “serious discussion” about reservation, obviously not to strengthen it, but to abrogate them.

The RSS is keen on ending reservations. Credit: Shome Basu

A silent prime minister

Whenever he issues a major statement reservations, Prime Minister Modi remains silent. His silence is nothing but the acceptance of the guru’s dictum. The SCs, STs and OBCs within the organisation work as muscle power and are conditioned not to oppose the ultimate guru’s orders. They are told that the RSS does everything in the interest of the nation. Nation’s interest is above the interests of different sections.

Dalit, OBC and Adivasis are only sections. The Brahminical meritwalas are the nation. After all, that has been the historical Hindu order and it should not be disturbed. For the SC, ST and OBCs within the Sangh, the “minority enemy” is more important than the equal rights of all castes, communities and women.

The OBC prime minister is no different; after all he is a karyakarta of the RSS. If a Bill to abrogate reservation comes up, he will have to work to get it passed. And there are enough members in the opposition parties to cross the floor and vote for it.

The Shudra, OBC and Dalit regional political formations have no energy to stop Bhagwat’s juggernaut. During the past five years, under the so-called most powerful prime minister, all Central universities, IITs and IIMs were put in the hands of people who agree with Bhagwat on reservations. The BJP has fuelled the anti-reservation sentiment among the castes that are outside the reservation.

Modi himself came from an organisational background that taught them reservations are anti-merit. There are many communists who also believe in that theory. When it comes to sustain caste inequalities, many political boundaries can be rubbed off. Bhagwat will find his real friends the day a Bill to abrogate reservation is introduced. Ambedkar, his ideals and his followers will be defeated.

Will not be a global issue

The reading down of Article 370 became a global issue because the issue is a bilateral one, and because Muslims are a global community. But international forums will not discuss reservations if they are abrogated.

The Dalits, OBCs andAdivasis, as of now, have no English educated intellectual force, even as much as the Indian Muslims, to educate the world about their status in the religion and the country. Muslims have a long history of English educated classes, from the days of Sir Syed Ahmad and the Aligarh Muslim University. But the Dalits and OBCs do not.

Also Read: It’s Time to Defang ‘Meritocracy’, an Argument That Claims Lives

The RSS is definitely preparing the ground to abrogate reservation. The core idea is, as Golwalkar argued in his book We Our Nationhood Defined, the restoration of the classical Varna dharma order. Mahatma Gandhi was also in support of restoring the Varna dharma order, as he always argued for retaining it.

If the RSS-BJP initiates a move to abrogate reservations, there will be number of so-called secular people who will also support them.

Today, the RSS/BJP has found a lot of new supporters for its decision to read down Article 370. Similarly, they will also find new supporters to abrogate reservation. We are in an age of abrogation of rights of Dalits, OBCs, Adivasi, minorities and migrants. This is a new phase of democracy.

Kancha Ilaih Shepherd is political theorist, social activist and author.