Friday, June 14, 2019

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The doctors' strike spreading across the country 

A brutal assault on a medical intern in Kolkata has snowballed into a medical crisis. Doctors across the country are going on strike in support of their colleagues and their demand for workplace safety.

The trigger: On Monday, 75-year-old Mohammad Sayeed, passed away at NRS Medical College and Hospital. That night, an enraged 200-strong mob assaulted the staff alleging negligence. Two junior doctors suffered head injuries, likely from bricks thrown at them.

The strike: Since then, junior doctors across Kolkata have been on strike, refusing to work until their demands are met. Most outpatient departments have shut down. There are reports of renewed violence due to scuffles between the protesting doctors and angry crowds. The strike has now spread across the nation to Delhi and Maharashtra where many doctors plan to shut down outpatient services today in a show of support. It will affect both government hospitals like AIIMS and private ones like Fortis. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has also called for an ‘All India Protest Day’ today.

The demands: The Kolkata doctors have asked for the following: the personal intervention of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, action against the police for not protecting them, and added steps to ensure the safety of doctors in hospitals.

The government’s initial response: was clumsy and ineffective. The first response came not from Mamata but her nephew, Trinamool youth leader Abhishek Banerjee. He condemned the attack but seemed flustered. Then the state health secretary ordered the striking doctors “to immediately withdraw the agitation and get back to their duty”—which was taken as a threat.

Mamata’s belated response: When the CM finally took action, she visited not NRS Medical—the site of the assault—but another Kolkata hospital where she issued a threat and a deadline: “This cannot be tolerated. They will have to get back to work and provide service. Many policemen die on duty but do they go on strike? I give them four hours to join duty or action will be taken against them. I ask police to see that outsiders are not allowed in hostels. We will withdraw government support (stipend) to interns if they do not join work.” Needless to say, that deadline was ignored.

The BJP twist: The state BJP leaders were quick to communalise the crisis with its leader Mukul Roy telling reporters, “Ekta bishesh sampradayer lokjon hamla chaliyechhe. Tara Trinamul korey… ei hamlay Trinamul jorito.” (People of a particular community carried out the attack. They belong to Trinamul, which is involved in this attack.)

So what now? The striking doctors are unlikely to back down, especially now that they have nationwide support. So the crisis won’t end until Mamata stops making ineffectual threats and takes concrete action to address their demands.

The bottomline: is best summed up by the IMA official who said, "The demands (of the doctors) are very small and legitimate demands. Asking for safety in the workplace is not a big deal. It is not." If it has become a big deal, then Mamata has no one to blame but herself.

Learn more: Indian Express offers the most detailed overview. Times of India details today’s strikes outside Bengal. The Telegraph offers an incisive breakdown of Mamata’s many blunders. The BMJ medical journal has an excellent op-ed on the larger trend of violence against doctors in India.

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pondering Canada’s appalling taste in cocktails

Thank you for the internet, Mr Ambani: According to this year’s Mary Meeker report, India has the second largest internet user base in the world, accounting for 12% of those online. This is all thanks to Jio whose cheap plans have also helped double data usage in a year. But China is still way ahead at 21% while the US comes in third at 8%. (Mint)


Police closes the case against Nana Patekar: saying there is “no prima facie case” against him, i.e. they did not find enough evidence to prosecute him. Actor Tanushree Dutta had accused Patekar of sexual harassing her on a movie set. She says the police failed to interview many witnesses, and many others have been intimidated into silence. Her lawyer plans to challenge the closure of the case in court. (The Wire)


Facebook India has a hate speech problem: According to a new report by a South Asian NGO, 93% of all hate speech posts which it reported to Facebook were not pulled down. Also: 37% of the reported posts were anti-Muslim, followed by fake news (16%), casteism (13%) and gender/sexuality hate speech (13%). Most worryingly: “43% of the hate speech Facebook initially removed was restored within 90 days, and 100% of these restored posts were Islamophobic in nature.” (Vice)


Overmedicated and overworked: Women workers in Tamil Nadu’s garment factories are illegally plied with medication to suppress menstrual pain. The reason: to make sure they keep working and meet their targets. The routine overdosing leads to multiple side-effects: “The visible symptoms are nausea and vomiting. The invisible symptoms are erratic menstrual cycles, depression and in many cases difficulty in conceiving.” Everyone involved is now claiming ignorance—including garment worker associations and government officials. Everyone except the women themselves, of course. (Scroll)


The dining habits of Indians: A new restaurant industry survey says that Indians eat out 6.6 times a month. The biggest winner is North Indian food which is the most popular cuisine. The biggest loser: South Indian fare which loses out even in namma Bengaluru. The other big loser: spouses who rank a distant third as a preferred dining companion. (Times of India)


How not to photoshop women: A high-flying Italian designer assembled a summit with some of the biggest names in tech, including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman. There were only two women in the mix—and for some reason, they weren’t in the de rigeur group photo shoot. So the PR folks just photoshopped them into the image. One was shoved right in the back while the other was slapped onto one end. Ah, so this is what tokenism literally looks like. (Daily Mail)


You are stressing your dog out: A recent study found that dogs mirror the cortisol levels of their guardians—i.e. stressed out owners make for equally stressed out dogs. Something to keep in mind when you’re busting a blood vessel during the India-Pakistan match on Sunday. (Indian Express)


Relief for Kerala’s elephants: The over 500 captive elephants are often tortured and abused by their owners and mahouts while the government turns a blind eye. Authorities now plan to take custody of these abused animals, and transfer them to a rehabilitation centre in Thiruvananthapuram -- which will also receive a Rs108 crore ($15.6 million) upgrade. (Quartz)


Your feel-good Friday round-up: is a pop quiz for no apparent reason:


  • Can US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speak Hindi? Yes if declaring ‘Moh-di hai toe mooomkin hai’ counts

  • Can baby skunks be cute and cuddly? The answer, surprisingly, is yes.

  • Can ballet dancers be large and astonishingly graceful? Absolutely so, as this clip demonstrates.

  • Can a lovebird turn itself into a peacock? Well, this one is doing its best.

  • Would someone drink this Canadian cocktail? Sure, if they enjoy a mummified human toe in their whiskey shot.

  • Is Uber Qute? Bengaluru will soon find out when it launches an eco-friendly fleet of these Bajaj mini-cars.

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Stuff we buy, use or love.

An Excellent List of Documentaries
Ever since ‘Making of the Murderer’ made a splash, docu-series have become the hottest thing in streaming content. But all the attention usually goes to a handful of usual suspects. Here are three which are not.
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When you are in the mood for ‘inspiring’...

Check out ‘With This Ring’ which tells the story of three Indian women boxers. What makes this documentary exceptional is that the filmmakers started shooting in 2006—long before women’s boxing was an Olympic sport. They picked three young and unknown women to follow: Mary Kom, her close friend and later bitter rival Sarita Devi and the Haryanvi boxer Choto Loura. The film traces their very different life journeys, Kom to fame and the others to obscurity. Is this brilliant filmmaking? Not really. But their stories are so real and moving, it doesn’t need to be.

Watch: With This Ring | YouTube

The informer 2

When you’re in the mood for 'action'...

Watch the gripping, edge-of-your-seat ‘Virunga’. Wildlife conservation brings up the image of ponderous experts with appropriate scenic shots of endangered species. Well, buckle up for a big surprise because this film captures the nail-biting fight to protect Virunga—one of the world’s greatest wildlife sanctuaries in Congo—from rebel forces, poachers and greedy oil companies. As its subtitle makes clear, ‘conservation is war’. (Read rave reviews from Variety and the New York Times)

Watch: Virunga | Netflix

The informer 3

When you’re in the mood for ‘funny’... 

Ready yourself for some light time-pass with ‘Meet the Patels’. One reason many of us don’t watch more docs is because they are often about grim subjects. Not so with this one which features Ravi Patel, an Indian American actor, and his matchmaking parents intent on arranging his shaadi. This is a funny real-life story of love, family, and generation gaps with all the attendant drama that comes with desi matrimonial hunts. (Read the reviews over at IndieWire, Washington Post and

Watch: Meet the Patels | Netflix

Note: These are all personally picked by the editors. We do not receive any revenue from the products or services recommended.

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