Friday, June 28, 2019

Video clip of the day

And this time it’s a happy one. In Istanbul, a 2-year-old Syrian child fell out of a window, and was miraculously saved by a 17-year-old Algerian boy. The BBC video report has the details of the story, but the extended clip is a must-watch to fully appreciate this amazing event. Happy Friday!

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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A new reservation quota for the privileged

The Bombay High Court upheld the Maharashtra government’s plan to create a new quota for Marathas. It reveals how absurd the reservation system has now become. 


What’s this about? The Maharashtra government proposed to create a 16% quota for Marathas. The court reduced the percentage to 12% in education and 13% in government jobs, but ruled that the plan was constitutional. 


What’s the problem with this? The Maratha quota was challenged by public interest groups who argued that one, Marathas are hardly backward; two, it will breach the Supreme Court ruling which says that all reservations—for various groups—should not exceed 50%. 


Wait, who are the Marathas now? They are not even a caste, as such. They include those traditionally considered Kshatriyas and others who were farmers. As with any community, there are tiers of privilege. The topmost control sugar cooperatives, banks, educational institutions—and several state CMs have been Marathas. Others are landowners, transporters, contractors, and small farmers. Many are as affluent as so-called ‘forward castes’.


So how did they qualify for a quota? Ah, the Court’s argument is that the power of more privileged Marathas “does not make the entire community forward or advanced.” 


And what about that 50% limit? That’s the most significant part of this ruling. If this becomes law, 64-65%  of all educational seats and government jobs will be reserved under various categories. But the Court insisted, “However, in exceptional circumstances and extraordinary situations, this limit can be crossed.” The 50% ceiling was already breached when the Modi government created a 10% quota for the poor last year. Now, Maharashtra’s success may open a pandora’s box of “exceptional circumstances” across the country.


What’s next? There will undoubtedly be a Supreme Court appeal. If the highest court upholds the judgement, the cap on India’s reservation system will become a thing of the past.


The bottomline: The High Court ruling comes at an excellent time for the Maharashtra government—months before the state elections. That’s hardly a coincidence. Reservation quotas—created to help the historically underprivileged—have become political laddus doled out by parties to appease powerful and angry votebanks. See: Jats in Haryana and Patels in Gujarat. As one petitioner put it, “The judgment… in simple words, amounts to reverse discrimination now.”


Learn more: The Telegraph offers a more detailed explainer. Indian Express summarises the High Court’s reasoning. Mint has an excellent analysis of the actual socioeconomic data on Marathas, Jats and Patels. This Hindustan Times editorial explains why this quota is a terrible idea.

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finding new reasons to never fly Air India

The G-20 summit is on! The Group of 20 nations meet today in Osaka to discuss a variety of pressing issues, from climate change to oil production. No one expects dramatic outcomes, and most of the action will be on the sidelines. Modi had a tête-à-tête with Trump who set the stage by tweeting rude things about Indian tariffs in advance. Then again, they look quite cosy in these photos. Our fave G-20 story: An aide of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was caught with 39 kg of cocaine. Yup, 39 kilos!


Air India drama in the UK: A Mumbai-Newark flight made a “precautionary landing” in Stansted Airport after an emailed bomb threat. Nothing happened but the plane was escorted to safety by Typhoon jets, and their sonic boom became a big thing.


These football stars are pissing Trump off: The US women’s team is currently kicking ass in the World Cup in France. Its outspoken co-captain, Megan Rapinoe, is also kicking ass off the field thanks to an interview clip which went viral this week. Asked if she’s excited about going to the White House (winning US teams usually do), she responded, “I’m not going to the f***ing White House.” And that pissed off Trump who warned her not to “disrespect our country, the White House or our flag.” Rapinoe didn’t respond, but her teammate tweeted, “In regards to the 'President’s' tweet today, I know women who you cannot control or grope anger you, but I stand by @mPinoe & will sit this one out as well.” Ouch! (New York Times)


Aditya Pancholi is charged with rape: A Bollywood actress—who can no longer be named as this is now an official rape case—filed a detailed complaint where she alleges: “Mr. Pancholi had intercourse with her against her wishes by giving her intoxicants and that he took pictures of the act without her knowledge, which he later used to blackmail her into submission and extort Rs 50 lakh from her.” (The Hindu)


Music divas get seriously gory: Two new videos from Cardi B and Madonna contain highly explicit violence—which until now was the preserve of male rap stars. According to The Guardian, Madonna’s ‘God Control’ is an anti-gun violence anthem which depicts a “disturbing and bloody” mass shooting at a nightclub (video is here). According to Variety, Cardi B’s “wildly NSFW” video for ‘Press’ “features violence, nudity, multiple murders and, wow, lots more.” (video is here) No, we didn’t watch either of them. 


A most horrifying deepfake app: The $50 DeepNude app removes clothing from images of women to render realistic nude photos: “It swaps clothes for naked breasts and a vulva, and only works on images of women.” Emphasis added and underlined!! (Vice)


The reviews of ‘Article 15’ are in: NDTV calls it a “compelling, corrosive police procedural” which “punches us in the face with the force and precision of a heavyweight pugilist's fist.” Scroll says the movie is “designed to provoke” and “is in equal parts powerful and preachy.” India Today calls it “an uncomfortable and unpleasant watch” that is “rough around the edges”—but ought to be required viewing for privileged audiences. 


This shaving razor brand is celebrating pubic hair: in its latest beach-themed ad. Billie Razor’s self-declared mission is to destigmatize body hair: "A lot of women feel the pressure to remove their body hair when they're wearing a bathing suit so we felt like it was the perfect time to get out there and say 'no matter what you choose, you're already summer ready.'" Hmm, we’re not sure we want to see anyone’s pubic hair—male or female. Also: why do these women have perfectly smooth legs then? (Warning, NSFW: Bustle)


Your feel-good Friday round-up: includes the following:

  • This story of courageous captain Carola Rackete who defied the Italian government to bring 42 shipwrecked refugees to safety.

  • This very funny and slightly blue clip of rabbits getting it on.

  • Leonardo DiCaprio’s new-found status as India’s favourite rainman.

  • This astonishing clip of Trinamul MP Mahua Moitra giving Arnab the finger—which resurfaced after her fiery speech in Parliament made waves.

  • And pet snails. Yes, snails. We found this video inexplicably compelling… don’t you judge us!

  • Also, this very silly slice of Hyderabadi humour.

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Stuff we buy, use or love.

Indian Podcasts That Help
The great Indian virtue is to suffer in silence. Some of the most important aspects of our lives are considered shameful or taboo: sex, reproductive health, mental health issues. These podcasts and their genuine and relatable hosts do a wonderful job of shattering that silence.
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Because women’s health is shamefully stigmatised…

We greatly appreciate ‘She Says She's Fine’, which does a fine job of exploring some of its most intimate aspects. There are episodes on IVF, miscarriage, sex and periods—all of it covered in an everyday conversational tone. We did wonder about the decision to have a male host, gynecologist Munjaal Kapadia, but he is sensitive and smart—a true ladies man in the best sense of the word😊

Listen: She Says She’s Fine | Podtail

The informer 2

Because mental illness is a deep, dark secret in India…

We are grateful for the unflinching honesty of ‘Marbles Lost & Found’. Its hosts Zain Calcuttawala and Avanti Malhotra are upfront about their personal experience with anxiety and depression. And that helps make even difficult mental health topics—be it schizophrenia or OCD—accessible and engaging. We also enjoyed: episodes on broader issues like toxic masculinity and pop culture depictions of mental illnesses.

Listen: Marbles Lost & Found – IVM Podcast  

The informer 3

Because we’re queer (allies) and we’re here...

We enjoyed listening to ‘Keeping it Queer’. Apart from uncovering the queer experience in India, hosts Navin Noronha and Farhad Karkaria talk about everything from Straight Pride (that’s a thing, we learned) to #MeToo in LGBTQI spaces. And they talk to everybody from author Devdutt Patnaik to Ankit Dasgupta, who manages social media for Mumbai Mirror. The conversations are always lively and illuminating.

Listen: Keeping it Queer – IVM Podcast  


Note: These podcasts are personally picked by the editors. We do not receive any revenue from the podcasts recommended.

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