WORLD INTHAVAARAM, 2022–10

About: the world this week, 6 March to 12 March 2022, war grows, Ganga flows, Covid19 again, rains floods, elections and elections, tree driving, and a pig heart.

Everywhere

Ukraine: Fighting Back

“I am prepared to die for my country, for what I love,” said a Ukrainian in perfect English. “Putin doesn’t understand we don’t want his authority-his world. All of us here know what we want-the right to live our lives, the right to choose who leads us. That’s our right, not Moscow’s.” That sums up the steely, courageous mood against all odds, which has invaded Ukrainian minds.

It’s over two weeks since the Russian invasion and Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky is holding-on with his people in the capital Kyiv amidst the mad, relentless attack on his country. He has been on a continuous talking spree to world leaders explaining the situation, and trying to enlist their understanding and support. His speech to the United Kingdom’s (UK) House of Commons received a standing ovation. “We will fight until the end, at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost,” he said. Brave words, which will go down to the wire.

The city of Kyiv has been transformed into a fortress and from the looks of it, the people are determined to defend the city to the last man standing. Almost 40,000 volunteers joined the Territorial Defense Forces in the first two days after the invasion began. In Kyiv alone, 18000 people picked up weapons when authorities called for volunteers and reservists to do so.

Those who couldn’t join the forces are helping in other ways: making Molotov cocktails, sewing camouflage nets for barricades, distributing food, hot drinks and cigarettes to those standing guard. They are raising money for the military, building more road blocks, and even painting over traffic signs in an attempt to confuse the invaders.

Over the week, Russia bombed a Hospital in the city of Mariupol that injured 17 people, including children, women, and doctors. Three died, among them one child, a girl. Civilians are being increasingly targeted and this is a huge cause of worry, as is the precision of Russian weaponry becoming suspect.

India successfully evacuated nearly all its citizens and students in Ukraine. Many would not budge without their pet cats and dogs, which also earned space in the Operation Ganga flights. One man, an Orthopaedic Doctor chose to be different. He had a pet panther and a jaguar and refused to leave without them. Last heard he was hunting for food to feed them. Another who was shot, during the Russian shelling, was rescued and taken home in an Indian Airforce Plane.

While we talk about Ukraine, think about Afghanistan and Myanmar where its people invaded their country causing endless internal strife. And Taiwan living in constant fear of a Chinese invasion. Another rogue nation North Korea is busy firing missiles into the Ocean, what if they turn and attack South Korea? The possibilities for war is limitless. In Taliban’sAfghanistan it’s Day 175 since girls have been banned from returning to secondary school: teenage girls remain stuck at home, waiting for the Taliban to decide the future of their education. And they are busy lecturing Russia and Ukraine to talk it over and take things cool. Wow!

This week, the US further turned the screws on Russia by banning all imports of Russian Oil, Gas, and Energy. US based companies such as McDonald’s, Starbucks, KFC, Pizza Hut, Coca-Cola, temporarily closed their stores in Russia to show their solidarity with Ukraine. And in return, Russia threatened to seize all these abandoned assets. Well, that’s another front opening in this war!

I often wonder what did the Ukrainian people do to deserve this: homes destroyed, lives shattered, and tens of thousands crossing the Borders into Poland, Romania, Hungary, Poland, Moldova, and Slovakia as refugees.

A third round of talks between Ukraine and Russia was unproductive. And they are still talking. Ukrainian President Zelensky indicated he might not want to join NATO after all-as they are cold towards them. He might also give up in some eastern provinces which Russia recognised as Independent. These maybe the building blocks for further negotiations.

South Korea’s New Unfavourable President

This week, South Korea chose the opposition conservative People Power Party’s candidate, Yoon Suk-Yeol, as the country’s next President following a tightly contested Presidential Election, the closest in its history-with the final count separated by less than 1%. He takes over from the outgoing President Moon Jae-In, who held three summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in an attempt to bridge the gap between the Koreas.

Yoon, a political novice, scraped out a victory over the liberal Democratic Party’s Lee Jae-Myung, based on promises to tackle class inequality. Both presidential candidates were considered widely unpopular throughout the campaign. And voters appeared so disenchanted by the frontrunners that local media dubbed the vote as ‘election of the unfavourables’. However, polling day saw a high turn out, with 77% of eligible voters casting their vote. Yoon Suk-Yeol’s victory over his rival Lee Jae-Myung is far from decisive. The razor-thin margin being a sign of just how bitterly divided politics in the world’s tenth largest economy has become.

Except is authoritarian regimes, where we may never know until the very end, most democracies are deeply divided over many factors, with new fault lines and fissures discovered all the time.

New Zealand and The Virus

New Zealand defences against the first two waves of the Covid19 pandemic was the sturdiest, the toughest, and the tightest. Only a few viruses slipped through, which were caught at the borders and mercilessly thrashed. When the world was baffled on how New Zealand did it, the mutated virus -the Omicron fellow- heard, and taking law into its hands invaded New Zealand like never before. Daily infections climbing into Space-as high as over 20,000- which is the highest ever in the country since the pandemic began. However, deaths were insignificant with over 90% of the weakest population vaccinated against the virus. Vaccination works.

The cases are beginning to dip and I’m sure New Zealand would be wiser at the end.

The virus is indeed a great leveller. You cannot take it for granted.

Australia’s Emergency

New Zealand’s big island neighbour had a different kind of problem: unending rain, growing floods; it’s becoming harder to live in Australia. Over the past week, severe rain along the country’s eastern coast has caused some of the worst flooding in Australian history and inundated swaths of two of its largest cities, Sydney and Brisbane. The provinces of New South Wales and Queensland have been pummelled by heavy downpours that have caused floods, and Sydney was hit by widespread flash-flooding.

The situation forced Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison to declared a national emergency this week. It was the first time that a national emergency-a legislative power created after the deadly wildfires in early 2020-had been declared.

Experts say the flooding emergency has been worsened by climate change and a ‘La Nina’ weather phenomenon. A La Nina develops when strong winds blow the warm surface waters of the Pacific away from South America and towards Indonesia. In their place, colder waters come up to the surface. In Australia, a La Nina increases the likelihood of rain, cyclones, and cooler daytime temperatures.

Whoever coined the term ‘Down Under’ probably knew what was coming!

India’s Five State Elections

Finally the last of the five States, Uttar Pradesh, that went to the polls to elect its new Legislative Assembly finished voting in the final phase on 7 March 2022. And once the voting was over that evening, Exit Pollsters started shouting out their kind of voting, and the prediction was that India’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will win in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarkhand, Manipur, and maybe Goa. While Punjab will go to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) presently governing the Union territory of Delhi.

The counting of votes was on 10 March 2022 and the results were generally on predicted lines. The BJP smashed many ceilings in winning 273 (with its allies, 255 on its own) out of 403 seats in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh where it was the incumbent governing party. The election strategy of pushing for a ‘double-engine’ (Centre and State ruled by one Party) growth seems to have worked, and it fired on all cylinders. The Grand Old Party of India, The Indian National Congress (INC) was decimated in the State winning a miserly 2 seats. Overall, it was mauled at the hustings in other States and left licking its wounds. It had bungled and messed-up big time in Punjab and ‘reaped a bare minimum support’ from the voters.

The BJP went on to record remarkable victories in all other states except Punjab where the AAP, which has the broom as its symbol swept-off every other party including the BJP with a magical, massive, first ever win — 92 out of 117. In Uttarkhand the BJP won 47 out of 70; in Manipur it won 32 out of 60; and in Goa it won 20 out of 40.

The BJP shattered a battery of records in Uttar Pradesh with its present Chief Minister(CM)Yogi Adityanath, nearing 50, becoming a tall leader in his own right. He is the first CM to retain power in 37 years; the first CM to complete a full tenure and be re-elected; the fifth CM to win a second consecutive term; first BJP CM to return to power; first MLA to become CM in 15 years and the first CM to break the Noida Jinx. According to legend, whichever CM visits the city of Noida during his tenure either loses the next election or does not complete his tenure. Many past CM’s used to deliberately avoid this city and those who dared, succumbed to the fate of the Noida Jinx.

The State of Punjab saw an incredible performance by the AAP which won a landslide of 92 seats of a total of 117. There is also a story there.

Maybe this is the year of the Comedy Actors getting their timing right, fighting it out in the world of Politics and leading the charge afterwards. Punjab’s Bhagwant Singh Mann who is the Chief Minister-elect is a comic poet, writer of political satire and competed in the popular Indian TV show, ‘The Great Indian Laughter Challenge’ in 2008. He is currently a Member of Parliament for the AAP and was chosen to lead the Punjab Elections based on a public poll in which 93% wanted him to become the Chief Minister of Punjab. That’s almost an Indian Zelensky!

One ‘handed-down’ lesson from the elections is, ‘never take the voter for granted’.

India’s Tree Scooter

India is the world’s biggest producer of areca nut, with an output of 1.2 million tonnes in the year 2020–21. Much of this is produced in the southern coastal states of Karnataka and Kerala.

The areca nut is the seed of the areca palm and is commonly referred to as betel nut. It is known to be a major ‘cancer causing nut’; as with chewing tobacco, its use is discouraged by preventive efforts. Consumption by hundreds of millions of people worldwide is described as a much neglected global public health emergency.

On the brighter and taller side, 50 years old Ganapathi Bhat farms areca nut in the coastal town of Mangaluru in India’s Karnataka State. He faced a problem: regularly scaling palm trees as tall as between 60 and 70 feet to inspect and harvest his crop. Too old to climb, and unable to find cheap labour, Bhat took it upon himself to invent a device that would make climbing areca nut trees easier.

Starting in 2014, Bhat spent around INR 4 million on research and development. After four years of climbing work, he and his engineer partner came-up with a working prototype of a ‘Tree Scooter’. It consists of a small motor; a rudimentary seat, which straps a person to the seat and to the handlebars in a kind of tree-embrace; a set of climbing wheels, foot-bars; and the handle bar of a scooter with hand-controlled accelerator and brakes, which is revved to swiftly move up and down the tree and brake to a stop where required.

Bhat has sold more than 300 of the ‘tree scooters’, which cost about INR 62,000 each.

Last seen he was effortlessly zipping up and down trees grabbing the fruits of his labour!

Pig Heart

In the United States, 57 years old David Bennett had terminal heart-disease, was confined to a bed, and was given no chance of survival — certain sudden death.

However, in a ground-breaking experiment, Doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Centre, were granted a special dispensation by the US medical regulator to carry out a heart-transplant from a genetically-modified pig. Bennet thus became the first person in the World to receive such a heart, and would otherwise have died sooner.

He underwent the surgery on 7th January, and in the weeks afterwards he spent time with his family, watched the Super Bowl, and spoke about wanting to get home to his dog, Lucky.

But his luck ran out, and his condition began to deteriorate over the past week. And he died this week on 8 March. Bennett knew the risks attached to the surgery, acknowledging, before the procedure, it was ‘a shot in the dark’.

More light stories to dispel darkness coming up in the weeks ahead. Climb with World Inthavaaram.

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Once an Engineer, now a Make-in-India Entrepreneur; Wordsmith; Blogger; maybe a Farmer!

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Kumar Govindan

Kumar Govindan

Once an Engineer, now a Make-in-India Entrepreneur; Wordsmith; Blogger; maybe a Farmer!

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