Hafta letters: Countering hate, teacher-student relationships, space exploration

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

WrittenBy:NL Team
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Hello NL, 

I see Subramanian Swamy is going off against Modi. I think he is really brave to do so in this climate. NL should interview him about the 2024 elections, if possible. 

Mahendra

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In any civilised democracy, the majority community (that is dominant socially, politically and economically) needs to treat the minority communities sensitively.

Our minority communities have neither initiated or instigated communal violence. They don’t have social and political patronage.

Can you please articulate the above message to your subscribers, if you’re in agreement?

Shashank Narendran

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Listening to the podcast on the app isn’t a pleasing experience at all. Would be great if you could enable the RSS link for all the subscribers.

Anonymous

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Hi there,

I have been a subscriber since 2017 (please remember this fact). 

So a couple of Haftas earlier – someone said cement plants consuming more water is the reason for Himachal devastation. Fine. Now, there are construction materials (especially, construction waste) which are alternatives. 

This week, Saudi Arabia, who cares. Why not find out what they are doing. Aramco made profits of $165 billion (5.6 percent of India’s GDP). Read what Saudi Arabia’s PIF is doing. Yes, the same PIF responsible for Ronaldo and Neymer going to SA.

A ChatGPT prompt/Google search would do and make you more informed. Is doing this so hard? 

Udemy, Coursera and others provide cheap courses to make you understand fundamentals. Is it so difficult for editors to just do these cheap courses to have an informed view? My rant is more towards two topics - climate and sustainability, and finance. 

I am tired of hearing, “We are not experts.” (Refer to the first line.)  

In fact, Manisha can do world news better than Palki. 

Best Regards,

Dhiraj 

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Hafta 446: Thank you for inviting Tushar Gandhi for the discussion. Being a Maharashtrian, I can confirm the views presented by him about Gandhiji among Maharashtrians.

From my personal experience: I too have grown up hearing the “stories” about how Gandhiji delayed our independence by putting off the Quit India movement due to the Chauri Chaura incident? How is he responsible for Bhagat Singh and Netaji’s death? But I failed to understand till now, why “they” have to put Bapuji in a bad light? Is it to defend his killers and their ideology?

Anonymous 

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Hi,

I agree with Abhinandan that there cannot be a dogmatic view on space exploration and the only reason being cost. Seeing the rover on the moon's surface almost brought tears to my eyes but that was one part of me. The other part asked what if the money was spent to make necessities more accessible to the people of the country. I think I will be content the day the people enjoy a decent standard of living and together we cheer the next space mission/s.

An example of how political influence works against science can be seen in this Tweet by science writer Dr Robin George Andrews. 

Keep up the good work.

Vaibhav Vernekar

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One aspect to consider in Chandrayaan-3 mission’s cost benefit analysis is whether the money we avoid allocating to this mission will actually go to the people who need it. There is no clear either or choice present here. Most likely it will buy a few more ads for the government. 

Keep up the good work.

Harsimran Singh

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Re: Hafta 448: Corporal punishment, physical violence is never OK under any circumstance, in school or anywhere. I have been subjected to beatings at school, once for sitting a bit crooked at my desk. Beating up young kids on the pretext of discipline is barbaric in my opinion. Children in their impressionable ages seeing violence as the answer to anything will be influenced by it in their later life. School discipline in India seems to be based on humiliation. That will only engender resentment and bad behaviour. Western schools seem to get away without using violence to instil good behaviour. In fact, any physical violence against children is a criminal offence there.

There is all prevailing violence in Indian society already, on TV, in the streets and in our criminal justice system. Thank goodness India doesn’t have a gun problem. We would have killed each other by now if we did!

Venu 

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Abhinandan often speaks of countering hate and bigotry on WhatsApp groups. However, there are many YouTube channels like String/Jaipur Dialogues/AKTK/Sham sharma etc which are currently spewing absolutely vile stuff. There are others like Chavda, SaiDeepak etc who even lend it intellectual heft, which the other guys don’t have. Just as you countered BeerBiceps, why don’t you do a show on each of the most popular hate mongers. One of the reasons this bigotry has seeped in so easily is the readily accessible content (which right-wing sock puppets provide), which could be easily forwarded. The sensible people thought people would be sensible. Obviously, people were happy forwarding filth than being sensible. In order to counter it, there needs to be forwardable content. Please create it. Just doing what Ravish calls WhatsApp unkills will no longer cut it. 

Kumar

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I enjoyed last week’s discussion on teacher-student relationships. I agree heavily with the views expressed by Manisha and Anand. What teachers do to students, particularly primary school, pre-teen children is unconscionable. I take Abhinandan’s point about the importance of discipline, but a 6-10 year old boy who is already too terrified of the metal wielding woman who is much larger than him does not really need more discipline.

Teachers referring to the class as a fishers’ market or a zoo can be charming; punishing listless and lazy students may be useful, but some adults should simply never be allowed near children. There are also some parts of a child’s body that when touched, do not produce better results or better conduct from the student. Maybe Anand and Abhinandan are right about the entitlement in older students, but I am talking about very young children who have no protectors, nor believers. 

Thanks a lot for all of your work! You keep me informed and entertained!

Shanmukha Prasad

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Hi,

This is from a regular Hafta listener. Too many opinions without some background knowledge and research reduces any discussion into teashop chitchat. It is a malaise that afflicts Hafta occasionally. One recent example is the 45-minute long discussion on the Muzaffarnagar incident in Hafta 448. The panel rightly took up the larger point of corporal punishment in educational institutions but it was done primarily through personal experiences of panel members. It might be okay to do so for political issues that most of you are very familiar with. But if you decide to take up other topics, to make it worth listeners’ time, I would expect at least some participants to prepare beforehand by looking at the data, previous work, academic research, etc. and moderate that with their own views and experiences. Note that I am not suggesting that it should necessarily be done by an expert in the field but requesting a little more preparation in advance and not depend entirely on off-the-cuff opinions. 

See you next weekend,

Sudipt Roy

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Hi Newslaundry team,

Have been a long-time subscriber to NL. I enjoy and appreciate the work that you guys do.

I’m writing about the latest NL hafta- apologies for the long critique.

1. I thought Abhinandan was not letting Nirmala Subramaniam complete her sentences while she was speaking about the BRICS summit. He was making wisecracks about it in the middle of her sentences. While it is ok to have his own opinions, I thought it was rather rude to call Ms Subramniam to the show to talk about BRICS and not letting her say her piece. I like Abhinandhan for his frank views, but this cutting people off with a joke or hyperbole is becoming very annoying – especially in the last few Haftas. It is starting to resemble TV style debates where anchors constantly cut people off.

2. Regarding the utility of punishments in school classrooms. Personally, having studied in a catholic school which at the time had a society sanctioned corporal punishment in place for disciplining kids- I do not endorse any form of violence or humiliation as a tool to discipline. The occasional psycho teacher will just go ballistic on one unlucky kid on a bad day if less violent behavior is regularly condoned by society and schools. The teachers I remember and respect the most didn’t even need to raise their voice for the class to listen to them. They never had to indulge in hitting kids to discipline them. A teacher or a parent hitting kids to “teach them” reflects more on their own poor understanding of the subject and their incompetence at teaching something to another human being. Not beating kids in school or not humiliating them in front of their peers is not “mollycoddling” them.

3. This debate on the utility of Chandrayaan-3 or space exploration in general is a done-to-death debate. Space exploration is not a zero sum game. It has wide ranging positive externalities. It is ok not to be jingoistic or be indifferent (like Anand) about the Chandrayaan missions but to say that money could be used to alleviate poverty or invested in education is intellectually dishonest. All the armchair poverty economists don’t think twice about using their cell phones to reach their favourite fancy restaurant (taking for granted the GPS navigation system enabled by satellites in err…”space”) using expensive ingredients processed thousands of kilometres away. But sure, Rs 615 crore is going to solve the education problem in India. For your information, the education outlay by the Indian union government is Rs 37,670 crore for FY 2023-24 in what is one of the worst public education systems in the world. Also, how do we even know if the money will solve the poverty or the poor education problem? See the recent Economist article on how Vietnam does a far better job than all South Asian countries with far less investment.

Humans are explorers at their basest levels- This has enabled them to get out of the edge of Africa and colonise the entire earth. It is this curiosity that drives the human exploration of space. From Arthur C Clarke to Douglas Adams to our Mahabharata, literature is replete with imaginations of humans exploring space and inhabiting distant planets. To appreciate the first moon landings at the time of the late 1960s with mostly analogue technology, one needs a deep appreciation of science, engineering and its meaning to common people. How do you inspire a new generation of people to discover their sense of wonder about the world and universe? These “exercises in futility” provide inspiration for an entire generation and it doesn’t even have to be an Indian mission. Whether it is Yuri Gagarin in space (1961) or Neil Armstrong on the moon (1969) or the Mars rover project (1997) - they were all just as inspiring even if they weren’t Indian missions. There are so many unnecessary, wasteful expenditures by the governments in India (for instance, the Rs 3,000 crore worth Statue of Unity) but satellite and space programmes are definitely not on that list.

Thank you. 
Best,
Raghuraj

PS: Not sure if this longish spiel will be read at the NL hafta but I’m ok even if a part of it is read or it is not read at all. This is just feedback as a regular listener of NL Hafta from someone who has been an NL subscriber for several years now. 

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