Vatsap? 2020 Aug 16 Newsletter

A lot of people put up a lot of fight for India to gain independence. We achieved a democratic setup – where we get to govern ourselves. External events like World War 2 did come in handy, sure, but all said and done, it’s great to be an independent country. 15th August will always be special for every Indian.

Democracies have their own issues though.

First, to rule you just need to win elections. And elections can be won by good marketing as Modi demonstrates (they can be lost too – like Vajpayee’s India Shining illustrated). Anyway, in the present times, marketing seems to be working really well. Anybody doubts that? It could have something to do with social media, where the way a political group can control the messaging is way more nuanced (and effective) than what Vajpayee could pull off from all those India Shining ads.

Moving ahead, how do we as citizens make sure that over-marketing by political parties (especially ruling government) doesn’t fool us? I don’t have an answer but may be if we keep questioning polices, it would keep up the pressure. Let me pick up something from what our PM said yesterday from the Red Fort.

National Digital Health Mission

Amongst other announcements made yesterday, NDHM is an important one.

Every Indian will be given a health ID (creating a health account just like say a bank account).

The health ID will contain information about medical data, prescriptions and diagnostic reports and summaries of previous discharge from hospitals.

-PM Modi, 15 Aug 2020 address to nation from the Red Fort

It’s obvious that the stated objective of “efficiency and transparency in healthcare services” is indeed achievable with this sort of Aadhaar Card equivalent for health records. This week, I will probably dig a bit deeper into this. But I just want to point out a big issue that needs to be resolved before any work on NDHM progresses – that of data privacy laws.

India still does not have a personal-data protection law in place.

It is high time we have that. Back in May, I had created an insightful two part analysis on whether privacy concerns are over-rated or they have legitimate need in society. Below is part 1.

And here is part 2. Talking about analysis, of course the updated weekly Covid death projection is out.

Almost 1,000 died yesterday. On two occasions this week, daily death toll crossed 1k. The avg daily death toll for this week was ~930 (compared to ~860 for the week before) – that’s more than four A320 aircrafts, fully loaded with passengers, crashing every day – killing everyone.

Cumulative death count stands at ~50k (which is almost double of what it was just a month back).

As per the existing trend, we will have 1 lakh total deaths by middle of Sep, to Sep-end.

Details you can read in the full blog. I’ve also revisited my forecast from June 1st week to see how true the projections stand today.

17 lakh comments

Remember my email from the middle of the week? The Govt. said it received 17 lakh comments on the draft EIA notification 2020! That’s insane. I wonder how they are ever going to go through all of that! Let’s just hope something good comes off it.

By the way, talking about environment, The Ken put together a really nice set of graphs yesterday (for a change, the link is not behind any paywall). Below is one of them.

If our percentage of forest cover is going up, we are doing good in terms of environment, right? I would guess so. But then we also have the below scenario.

Lesser the percentage of renewable energy source in the total mix, worse off the environment. Everything is a mixed bag really. Anyway, do check out the other graphs here – many nice trends to notice.

Videos from the week

We haven’t already forgotten Beirut, have we?

This week I discovered a video of a child being borne just when the explosions took place. It is such a humbling thing to watch. What a background story for the child.

Another Reuters video shows us how mothers in some countries are celebrating the birth of newborns, while still keeping them safe from the virus.

I didn’t really create anything worthwhile this week. But some of you may find something interesting to watch here: my top ten 3MinuteStories of all time. Are you sure you have seen them all? Pick any one to watch and let me know if you liked what you saw?

I did write one more blog this week.

Is Ramayana ultimately a patriarchy reinforcing story?

The blog is based less on research and more on discussions. If you have an open mind, you can read what I learnt from my take and the comments I invited on the take (on Facebook). In short, Ramayana may seem to be a patriarchal story (to some) but it’s not as simple as that.

From the non-democratic Ram-rajya days to the democratic society we live in, it has certainly been a long journey for us Indians. I started the newsletter with pointing out one issue with democracy (gamification of election-win by over-marketing). Let me point out one more issue as I end.

A democracy by definition is rule of majority. Majority can be of various types – that of religion, age, sexuality, literacy, occupation etc. Now while this is great in many ways, it also has severe implications. Morally wrong acts can always be made legal by legislature – impacting the minorities.

For this very reason, every democracy needs a Constitution that prevents the majority from going off-track. I hope moving ahead we always remember why we got independence – not just to live in a society governed by majority’s demands but also by moral obligations.

That will be all this week. Stay safe and keep it going, one week at a time. Again, if you blog too – let me know, would love to follow what you write. If you want to ask your friends to subscribe to my NL, here is the link. Will ping you next Sunday! Take care!

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