Conflict, COVID and Climate Crisis: Major Risks of our Time
‘If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles but microbes……’ words spoken by Bill Gates in 2015 at Ted Talks proved true, especially in the wake of the COVID pandemic that brought the world to a stand-still. Killing millions of people within two years with tons of collateral damage in areas of health, economy, national security, etc. has shaken the world to its core. But is it just the microbes over missiles that are going to cause mayhem, or a combined effort of both, catalyzed with cyber-catastrophe? The current Russia-Ukraine conflict, Taliban take-over in Afghanistan, the Worst Emergency crisis in Sri Lanka, and the never-ending Israel-Palestine war – these all point towards intensified armed-conflict chaos around the world. On the other hand, the worsening climate crisis is further aching the world manifold. The Australian Wildfires in 2020, East Africa droughts in 2011, 2017 and 2019, regular cloud bursts, and the melting of icebergs in Antarctica are a few of many natural disasters that beg for climate action. But the newest addition to the list of challenges for survival is cyber-warfare. During COVID lockdown, even large-scale businesses and industries moved online for their survival. This transition was never expected to be as sudden as it did during these troubled times. As a result, the move was made out of fear and fright rather than undergoing due diligence which is the general practice when shoring a business from stores to wires. Hence, the threats of cyber-attacks and other associated risks have further escalated. The increased threats required improved IT security thereby leading to a substantial number of corporate entities signing up for consultancies that offer digital dependency in business processes. This even led to a sharp increase of $20 Billion in the cyber-insurance sector between 2020-2025, which is almost triple to what it was. The market is anticipated to grow even more strongly with the additional momentum gained from digitalization. Munich Re, an insurance company that provides coverage for cyber risks has experienced meteoric growth in this sector gaining a share of 10% of the total market, making it one of the world’s leading insurers.
The Doomsday clock is stuck at 100 seconds to midnight. The world seems to be inching towards a civilization-ending apocalypse. Rising conflict, worsening climate change, and never-ending microbe attacks have the world hanging by a very thin thread of hope, perseverance, of resilience. While a larger section of the world wants to live in a world free of war, the power concentration sadly is inversely proportional to the mammoth population. Even a minimalistic endeavor of having a healthy family, working just enough to put food on the table and have access to quality education for children, seems bleak. But is it really the end or is it just a prolonged halt looking forward to an update?
The World Economic Forum has stressed ongoing and upcoming challenges created by cyber fraudsters, climate change, and space technology. As per the Global Risks Report, 2022 released on January 11, cyber security and space technology were listed as the most emerging risk sectors for the global economy followed by the existing pandemic. Cyberthreats are in no way a particular-sector-centric threat. It has the potential to affect entire civilizations as we live in a time where there is absolutely no connection-deficit. Everyone is connected with everything and vice-versa. And hence, cyber threats are growing faster than society’s ability to effectively prevent and manage them. The rise of cryptocurrencies has given birth to a new breed of online dacoits, resulting in an increased number of malware and ransomware attacks.
What can be done?
It is a race. A race between what trumps what. Ever since the lockdown around the world has been lifted, inter-state wars and conflicts have dominated the attention of decision-makers. Needless to say, the pandemic is by no means over. Similarly, the climate-associated risks are piling up and it remains the largest and most complex existential challenge of our time that warrants unparalleled action. Evidently, vaccination is on roll and has proved to be effective against the invisible enemy, and hence one needs to understand the gravity of 7 million deaths where air pollution has been a major contributor. A heating world, in general, is detrimental to human health and thus, significant obstruction to a thriving society. While a total of 110 countries are now monitoring the quality of air their population breathes, it’s simply not enough. The deterrent theory of removing factories and industries and adapting the primitive way of living is also impossible, especially in the urbanized world. Hence preserving nature and also concentrating on all-around economic development seems oxymoronic and ironical.
But, technological advancements during the wake of COVID have hinted that if ideas are shared and transcended beyond boundaries, there is hope. A simple instance of Tesla championing the sector of electric automobiles has prompted even a developing country like India to work in the furtherance of completely replacing fossil fuels with an alternative transformative source thereby resulting in an increase in electric vehicle production. A hybrid power strategy is inadvertently the need of the hour today. But how much does a country like India which promises a good mix of bright sun and wind along its coasts, requires resources to make the shift to Net Zero. Setting up hybrid power plants is also cost efficient as the plants share common equipment, electronics, and storage, as a dedicated hybrid plant can work round-the-clock with only sporadic recourse to storage.
The aforementioned mechanism is just one facet of a multi-dimensional resolution that the world warrants. The national leaders of countries can no longer lament and find nonchalant advisory bodies to pin their blames act. Furthermore, the citizens are also to be self-monitored. Citizens cannot resort to unveiling a red carpet for a government that completely negates the existence of climate change and cyber security. Rather, the citizens are to hold the constitutional entities accountable, answerable, and liable for negligence and poor performance.
Peace underpins all that is good in our society. But with each passing day, a realization of sorts that ‘peace’ is in short supply, resurfaces itself. The horrors of Covid have shown the world, that no matter how technologically advanced, monetarily rich, and systematically sustainable it looks, it is as vulnerable as one can be. The only upside that one can perceive from the horrifying pandemic, is that the loss of millions of lives and trillion dollars have only waken up the world from its deep slumber. Digitalization and globalization may have brought the world close, but the shrunk world is failing to realize that, with great inter-connectedness comes great interdependencies. And thus, the multi-dimensional crisis is not an individual but collective responsibility.
Defense Cess – The Need or The Want of Need
With the Finance Ministry coming down heavily on the Fifteenth Financial Commission on the latter’s suggestion for creating a ‘Defense Modernization Fund’, the question pesters the general public at large as to whether a separate defense cess is really required. Seemingly, the capital needs of the Indian military do not seem to be a problematic scheme. It rather appears to envisage a separately structured funding program in furtherance of enabling the Indian military to work in a more well-ordered manner.
WHY THE FUSS?
The root of every operative that there is, is guided by the procedure laid under the Indian Constitution. Hence, a casual read of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution elucidates the responsibilities between the Union and the States. Subjects such as defense, and foreign affairs are on the Union list while responsibilities like public order, healthcare, etc. fall under the purview of the State List. The third list, i.e., the Concurrent List is a unique, centralizing feature adopted from the British Raj, that embodies the fundamentals of federalism. The list has both State and Union play a role with powers tilting towards the latter. It was due to this provision only that the government brought in the farm laws. However, while a large section of funds and resources rests with the Union in New Delhi, expenditure of those funds is at the behest of different States, the taxes of which is collected by New Delhi. Hence, the Financial Commission of today now distributes the revenue collected by the Centre to various States and therefore, supervises the financial commitments of the States and the Union.
Now, the problem with the creation of a special fund – in this case for ‘defense’- creates a special third category along with Union and State. Theoretically, the Finance Commission therefore will inadvertently split monies between Union, State, and the Defense Fund. It is interesting to note that the defense is a subject already under the Union List and therefore, the creation of a third category would only cause stress for States to give up funds for defense. Now much like the game of dominoes, if one separate fund is created, many other demands for the creation of special pockets for every governance function would surface, which would unnecessarily create disruption of the flow of funds to the subjects in either of the lists and therefore would go far beyond the provisions prescribed under the Seventh Schedule in the Constitution. Hence the downpour of the Financial Ministry on the 15th Financial Commission for the reasons that setting up a separate fund for a function that is already covered under the Union’s List is against good parliamentary practice is perfectly valid.
While the Finance Ministry may have rebuffed the request to create a different fund for Defense, it is however significant to understand how such a report was allowed to be tabled before the ministry in the first place. NK Singh, the chairman of the 15th Finance Commission, when posed with similar questions, contended that as per the legal opinion he received, the defense was a “shared responsibility of the Union and the states”. Defense is explicitly mentioned as the subject under Union List and the closest thing that resembles an iota of Defense is ‘Public Order’ which falls under the State List. In no way whatsoever, can anyone with the caliber and prudence as that of NK Singh can conclude that Defense is a shared subject. Furthermore, he also remarked that Finance Commission transcends the classification in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, which is simply an inexplicable argument. Finance Commission is in no way empowered to transcend any part of the Indian Constitution, especially something as critical as the Seventh Schedule.
Another interesting aspect here is the branding of the ‘defense’ fund as cess. Tax and Cess are two different contributions to State welfare. While Tax is already existing in the form of GST and Income Tax, a cess is imposed as an additional tax besides the existing tax (Tax on Tax). Now while the former is kept in the Consolidated Fund of India CFI for the government to use it for any purposes it deems fit, the latter, though also kept in the CFI, can be used by the government after due appropriation from Parliament for ‘specified purpose’. Now, what rebranding of ‘general tax’ as ‘cess’ does is that it brings any revenue generated through cess under the ambit of ‘specified purpose’ resulting in states sharing any of that revenue. Statistically, cesses and surcharges that were around 10% in 2010-11 are almost doubled in the year 2021 figuring around 19.9%. This increase in cesses and surcharges is shrinking the divisive pool between State and Union, leaving States bleeding out to dry. Therefore, to have a defense cess under the ‘specified purpose’ funds would only hurt the States of the Country as the gap between State and Union’s resources would further increase.
THE NEED OR THE WANT OF NEED?
The Union in 2019, empowered the Finance Commission with additional Terms of Reference to enable it to make a suggestion on how to create the fund. Defense Ministry further stressed on the need to increase focus on national security and warranted states to share the financial burden of maintaining and upgrading the security apparatus, including buying weapons from global suppliers, etc. Defense Ministry urged that subjects like Terrorism, insurgency, and securing national borders should be recognized as a shared responsibility for the Union and States, rather than leaving it just for the Union to take care of. The demand though extremely urgent goes beyond the nexus of the Constitution. Furthermore, the 10th Finance Commission also laid down the principle that cess and surcharge should be temporary and rare.
Union has always been seen complaining about limited resources and funds and yet does not shy away from spending money on subjects concerning the State List. Cribbing about not having enough money to fund its core function of defense and catering to the electoral compulsions by spending money on state subjects – Union has only made things difficult for itself and confusing for the public at large. A demand from the Home Ministry for a seed corpus of Rs. 50,000 crores to be carved out of dues from States for Central Armed Forces deployment is simply a result of the Union being derelict in its responsibilities. The constitutional remit of defense is often sidelined during elections and therefore, it is natural for the union to have a dry state of funds to cater to its core duty. It is therefore the job of the Finance Commission to stop the political drivers in their path and prevent populist rhetoric from influencing devolution. Instead, the Commission seems to be a puppet of the Union, to say the least.
Sports beyond Cricket
A fanatic obsession with one wing of thought or expression is detrimental for other notions to find their locus-standi.
India is a Cricket-loving nation and has been once since time immemorial. The land of agriculture finally got its glorified version of gilli-danda when the British Sailors set their course towards India in the 18th century. Since then, India has never looked back and has enjoyed tremendous success both domestically and internationally. Having set up stupendous milestones in the sport, the Indian Cricket Board, BCCI, has even superseded the International Cricket Council, in terms of worth and financial play. Indian Cricket has further produced many superstars of the game, which are no less than Gods for the Indian Public. However, this unidirectional growth and unilateral development have only fuelled the pockets of agencies associated with Cricket. The over-involvement of Indians with cricket has never let other sports grow at a similar pace and scale. Even the course of Women Cricket is also a lukewarm tea for Indian watchers and hence no populous media coverage and satellite rights are awarded to Women Cricket, keeping it just sufficiently afloat.
In this time and age, where even mobile games are considered as E-sports and have their own sets of enthusiasts and fanciers, organizing and participating in virtual tournaments, Cricket cannot stay as the epicenter of Indian Sports. The management, organizing committees, students of sports, and most importantly, Indian sports watchers need to look past the Cricket-lens and open their arms for sports beyond Cricket to thrive in the Indian circuit. It is not just the investing agencies and handling committees who should be blamed for the misfortune of other sports. It is the people of India who have given Step-Motherly treatment to our national game – Hockey or forced many athletes to sell their Olympic medals and carry out menial jobs. Upliftment or improvement, be it cinema, politics or sports is a Quid-pro-Quo game. If people are not interested in watching a certain sport, then the cause of private investors and government bodies to whole-heartedly invest in the sport would simply cease and vice-versa.
With the new blood of millennials looking for options beyond cricket even just for the sake of virality, shores for other sports have opened. Beginning with the commercialized Kabaddi league and domestic soccer leagues, the satellite viewership and even the number of stadium spectators have grown. 2016 marked a significant year with respect to non-cricket sports as it observed a sharp rise in Kabaddi sponsorship alone. But how is it that Cricket, a widely known and accessible market with domestic leagues running beyond a decade and housing international brands, is no longer a go-to option for the market to captivate the audience? Is the population’s hunger for virality in viewership sports the only reason for the growth in non-cricket sports or is there something more?
Non-Cricket Sports – A new chapter in Indian Sports
The sheer need for virality cannot be the only reason for non-cricket sports to stem up. India has always been a cricket-loving nation and that sentiment is intact at its core. But it would not be wrong to state that there has been an evident paradigm shift in viewership taste, brands and sponsorers approach, and even State recognitions. According to the data published by Broadcast Audience Research Council, BARC, in 2018, though cricket was the most watched sport in the country, football has gained popularity with a 50 percent rise in viewership. Regional channels have further facilitated the reach of non-cricket sports to a wider audience. FIFA World Cup 2018 was aired in Malayalam and Bangla, giving it a major surge in the football-loving linguistic states. Furthermore, it has also been the surge of digital games especially FIFA, that has encouraged youngsters to dwell more into the sport whilst enjoying the immersive experience.
The overdose of cricket has also tested the patience of the public. IPL which is fairly one of the most celebrated domestic cricket leagues in the world, also irked the audience when it ran for almost 3 months in its last edition. However, it is just not the audience and sports enthusiasts that were tested. Each year with the new IPL edition around the corner, the tournament challenges brands to push the envelope. Slogans are changed, the packaging is revised; the need to create an overall new identity never ends. Whilst the core of IPL always strives to give the feeling of being one with all of India with its ever-changing slogans and taglines, it’s ultimately the game and its long schedule that inadvertently becomes too much to bear.
Cricket naturally triggers a visceral attachment for Indians, and sports like kabaddi, football, and wrestling comes with a more local, rural, and community feel. Cricket being a mass sport disguisedly invites brands and sponsors to move over to localized sports to advertise their products on. For instance, a brand that sells ghee would naturally prefer a more local sport instead of a mass sport to fix its banners on. Retrospectively, it would also sit well with the viewers to have a bulked-up wrestler have a generous amount of ghee instead of a lean cricketer. Furthermore, sports like Kabaddi, an Indian-homed and nurtured sport that has conducted international world cups on Indian soil, facilitate a different kind of connection to the rural side of the country. People in rural areas may fancy a glamorous Virat Kohli hitting an absolutely scintillating cover drive, but they surely would worship a different kind of athleticism – raw, earthy, and contrastingly opposite to ‘cosmopolitan’. Rural backing to a sport and players is a significant aspect and is one of the many reasons that it catapulted, MS Dhoni, a nobody from Ranchi to superstardom as a large sect of people in India found him more relative.
Social media has further added another platform for non-cricket players to amplify their stories and incidents and give their admirers a chance to see a humane side of them beyond sports. CRED, a credit card bill payment platform, immediately captured the glory of Olympic Medal- winner Neeraj Chopra and made a popular ad that was widely well received. People got to see a more funny, humane, and relatable side of the player that aided CRED as well as the player in great reception from the public.
Non-cricket sports are still a tough nut to crack. Numerous instances depict that a sport other than cricket is only celebrated when a player wins a medal or if the country wins. Instances where Para-athletics were not provided with shabby flats and dysfunctional toilets at the 15th National Para-Athletic Championships, or numerous bronze medal players selling their laurels and working as domestic helps for their bread and butter, hurts the conscience and raise critical questions against the management. Broadcasters and brads are yet not completely ‘in it to win it’ mode. But the experimental phase of non-cricket sports is critical for the growth of India in sports in its entirety.
Dubious Donation Causes Controversy: Prince Charles’ Charity under Scrutiny
According to The Sunday Times, the patriarch of the vast and prosperous Saudi family, Bakr bin Laden, and his brother Shafiq donated money to the Prince of Wales’ Charitable Fund in 2013. They are both half-brothers of the deceased US special forces agent who served as the al-Qaida head and planner of the September 11 attacks on the US and was murdered in Pakistan in 2011. According to the newspaper, Charles and Bakr met in 2013 in London and decided that Charles should receive the present. It said that advisors had advised the heir to the throne not to accept the donation, citing unknown sources.
The gift was given to the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund (PWCF), which distributes funds to non-profit organisations with UK registrations to carry out projects within the UK, the Commonwealth, and beyond. PWCF had convinced Clarence House that “thorough due diligence” had been done, and the trustees were in charge of deciding whether or not to accept the funds, according to Clarence House. Any attempt to portray it differently is untrue, it reportedly informed the BBC. Additionally, Clarence House stated that it disagreed with some statements made in the newspaper report.
Nothing has been illegal or against the law. The donation was approved after all necessary checks were made and even the Foreign Office was consulted.
Then why is this a Global Headline?
The family of Bin Laden disowned him in 1994, and there is no evidence that his half-brothers were involved in his actions. According to a source from the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund, Osama Bin Laden’s “sins of the father” should not prevent other members of the family from making a donation. which is reasonable.
The name of Bin Laden is completely benign to millions of Saudis. It will always be linked to the 9/11 terror attacks of 2001 in the West and a large portion of the rest of the world. However, in Saudi Arabia, it is synonymous with the Jeddah-based building company that, by royal mandate, used newly discovered oil revenue to create mosques, palaces, and other structures. The family was not originally from Saudi Arabia; rather, they were from the Hadhramaut region of southern Yemen, which has given rise to many of Jeddah’s most prosperous and successful entrepreneurial families.
Osama, one of the founders of the company’s numerous sons, was long regarded as the “black sheep of the family” and immigrated from Yemen in the early 20th century. He fought alongside the CIA and Pakistan during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s since he spent a significant portion of that decade there assisting the mujahideen. However, by the 1990s, he had turned into a militant Islamic fundamentalist, and in 1994, his family disowned him. Then Osama Bin Laden initially relocated to Sudan and then shortly thereafter to Afghanistan. What followed is history.
However, did Prince Charles or anyone in his inner circle truly believe that accepting money from the Bin Ladens was a wise idea? Or did they believe it was acceptable as long as it remained private? Because it was always going to look terrible once it was made public, regardless of how many checks were made and procedures were followed.
Prince Charles’ charity and his gifts have previously been the subject of scrutiny. Allegations of criminal activity connected to past gifts from other wealthy businessmen have shaken non-profit organisations founded by the heir to the UK throne.
As part of three monetary donations totalling over £2.5 million, it was revealed last month that Prince Charles got a suitcase containing one million euros in cash from a former Qatari prime minister. At the time, Clarence House claimed that all legal procedures had been followed and that the sheikh’s donations had been immediately forwarded to one of the prince’s organisations. Later, the Charity Commission made the decision not to look into the donation.
The Metropolitan Police launched a probe after allegations that the charity gave a Saudi national honours assistance in February. The prince “had no knowledge of the claimed promise of honours or British citizenship on the basis of donation to his charity,” according to Clarence House.
Voters ultimately decide who becomes a minister or a member of the British Parliament. The Royal Family draws its status and power from a different source—from the public’s general belief that, on the whole, they are a credit to the nation. Does a gift from the Bin Laden family fit into this type of royalty, even how far removed it may be from their son’s heinous deeds?
China’s President Xi Jinping looks secure for another Term in the Office
China’s President Xi Jinping looks secure for another Term in the Office
No one seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.
The world seems to be stuck in a spiraling conflict of Civil Rights vs. Unfettered Power. While a larger chunk of the global population sides with equal distribution of civil rights and liberty, countries like China, North Korea, and Russia see themselves on the other side of the orbit. China is one of the biggest global players in the world with respect to its population, human resources, and diversified economy. However, the country has faced severe backlash ever since the COVID-19 inception in 2020. One can easily presume that the pandemic has forever solidified the global perspective against the Red Dragon, however, it would be just as defensible to put forth that, the perspective now is out of sheer guilt, frustration and looking for someone to pin the blame at. Nevertheless, China walks away with anything you throw at it. Any sector, any walk of life, any policy – China always seems to function outside the ambit of what’s permissible in the world. But is China really a ferocious fire-breathing Dragon or just a flat-track bully or is it just sheer calculated governance?
COVID is not the first time that China has faced massive uproar from the globe. The debacles at Tiananmen Square or the Genocide of minorities at Uyghurs or even the geopolitical expansionism cornering Taiwan are just to name a few. But how is it that mammoth protests have never fetched any result or progress whatsoever? It cannot be just limited to military force or armed neutralization. The prowess of counterpoising the intense protests and wide backlash lies in the hands of China’s leadership, currently President Xi Jinping. Having assumed office in 2012 as the President of the People’s Republic of China with the vision of ‘rebranding and rejuvenating the Chinese Nation’ Xi Jinping is said to be the most prominent political leader in China’s history. Xi Jinping is currently looking confident about enjoying another term in office ahead of the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, this year.
Xi Jinping’s journey 2012-Present
Following his father’s purge during the Cultural Revolution 1966-1976, Jinping joined the CCP and worked as a local party secretary. Climbing through the political ladder milestone after milestone, Xi Jinping soon rose to political fame courtesy of his efficiency and credibility as a political thinker and strategist. Jinping was made the governor of Fujian from 1999 to 2002. Later he further assumed the office as governor and Party Secretary of Zhejiang from 2002 to 2007. He subsequently joined the Politburo Standing Committee and served as the first secretary of the Central Secretariat and was vouched as the successor of Hu Jintao, the then President of China. In 2008, Xi was appointed as the Vice President of China and eventually assumed the President’s office in 2012.
Jinping envisioned making China a major power on the world stage which certainly has stood the test of time. Today, China has an economy that is on its course to surpassing the U.S,’s in the next decade or so. With the economic expansion, China, under Jinping’s leadership, also boasts of housing the third largest armed forces in the world. To exert its geopolitical dominion, China has also hugely invested in infrastructure projects around the world. However, despite enormous achievements and unparalleled scope of work, many political analysts, thinkers, and time-keepers have characterized him as a dictator or an authoritarian leader, citing an increase in censorship and mass surveillance in the state. Human Rights Watchers around the globe have always scrutinized the leader but have had no substantial effect on the latter. Instead, Xi Jinping following the traditions of Mao Zedong abolished the two-term limit for the president. Evidently, that only points in the direction of Jinping looking forward to anointing himself again as the President of PRC.
Is Jinping the ‘president for life’ of China
On his first international trip since COVID-19 to Hong Kong, Xi Jinping projected his confidence in assuming the office for another term. Furthermore, he also has the blessing of the Congress as he was unanimously chosen to delegate to the ruling party’s 20th meet in April 2022. While there have been new changes within the appointments in the administerial frame, the key changes in the constitution and inadvertent confidence in his character only points to China’s leader continuing in power. Furthermore, Xi’s proteges make up the majority of the CCP’s Standing Committee and hence inner political or ideological disturbances which naturally result in a “No-Confidence Motion’ seems quite improbable. While there have been speculations of pushback from veteran Zhu Rongji, the impact would remain limited. The only important rivals that could have risen at the same level as Jinping and his allies were the Tuanpai, who rose to prominence under the former Presidentship of Hu Jintao. But the Tuanpai stars were effectively sidelined from front-line Chinese politics during Xi’s first two terms.
With little to no possible competition to stop Xi in his path to another term, Jinping is likely to optimize his plans in his next term as President. China, after facing massive domestic and international disruptions and sanctions since the pandemic, would hope to strengthen its economy. The country has already achieved an ambitious target of 5.5% of economic growth despite pandemic-related lockdowns, disruptions in manufacturing, and limited consumer spending in the first half of the year. Furthermore, the Russia-Ukraine war also added to the challenge with the price of commodities plummeting through the roof. Xi is currently working and would hope to continue to work in furtherance of mending and improving the country’s relations and trade ties with Russia, irrespective of the sanctions imposed by the US and the UK.
China’s system of governance does not have an elaborate election structure like that of India. There is no ‘dance on the tunes of Democracy’. The members hold a Congress every five years to decide their leaders and policies for the next tenure. There are promotions and elevations of political personalities to move up the ladder and participate in Congress’s idea of nation-building and that is about it. The inclusion is systemized but restrictive in nature as there is no accountability or answerability to anyone but to the superior leaders. So, along with this restrictive nature that is already in place, Jinping’s decision of removing the term limit is likely to take China back to the turbulent, 27-year, one-man rule of Mao Zedong. While Zedong’s tradition was put to a stop by former leader Deng Xiaoping who introduced a system for an orderly succession in the 1980s, Jinping’s ‘historical resolution’ has not met with a reckoning force yet. Xi is set to pass the recommended retirement age of 68 in June and will likely stay at the core, dominating Chinese politics until his dying breath.
Guns, Gangster and Gaana – A problematic Punjabi Saga
Ho dukki tikki puri thok thok rakhda
Danger te jaan leva shauk rakhda
Doori foot di bana ke mandeer khad di
Dabb vich bhar ke glauk rakhda….
I beat up and keep small gangsters in his control
My hobbies are life-threateningfe threatening
The guys group keeps a distance of foot from me
I keep a loaded gun in hand….
The above lyrics and many others of the same kind have been blasting and reverbing in all major significant clubs of Delhi and Punjab, now with more zeal and enthusiasm as the infamous Punjabi rapper-rockstar Siddhu Moosewala, was unfortunately shot dead by unidentified assailants on 29th May 2022. His songs reflected current Punjabi culture – Gaana, Gun and Gangster. However, it was not exactly him who started the culture or even stemmed a new branch in the existing one. This culture can be traced long before the prevalence of Hip-hop music or Rap-rock. Punjabi songs, for decades, have valorized physical prowess and domination. But those were pertinently countrysongs and pop-music. However, as hip-hop got assimilated into pop music, the songs which came out, especially in the past two decades, have only served as a medium to reinforce the societal norms that define the Jatt machismo.
Moose Wala’s tryst with Controversies
Moosewala, nevertheless, enjoyed a meteoric rise in his craft as a musician and enjoyed a massive fan following in his 20s. His musical career took off when he penned lyrics for the song “License” which was anchored by Ninja. The late-singer’s tryst with controversy began in 2019 when he released the song titled ‘Jatti Jeone Morh Wargi” wherein he was alleged to have showcased the 18th-century Sikh warrior Mai Bhago in bad light. The wide uproar resulted in several FIRs registered against Moose Wala for hurting the religious sentiments of the Sikh community. The singer however tendered an official apology but somewhere also enjoyed the negative publicity that the sensational lyrics garnered. As a result, the artist went onto release another hit song ‘Sanju’ in July, 2020 wherein he compared himself to the infamous actor Sanjay Dutt, as the singer along with five others, was booked under Arms Act for firing an AK-47 rifle at Badbur firing range. The instance resembled striking similarities with the arrest of Dutt in 1993. Another FIR was also registered against the singer for a video showing him flaunting and shooting his pistol at Ladda Koth firing range. The singer, although, was granted bail but it did not deter him from writing lyrics that undermined the judiciary, police, and advocates. The Punjab Additional Director General of Police Arpit Shukla commented that the said musical projects are being used as a medium to redefine ‘masculinity and manhood’. He added that Moosewala has been booked for similar offenses and even called the singer incorrigible who is shaping up to be a hardened goon.
Moose Wala’s Impact
The average teenager, adolescent or even an early adult started to idolize the late singer, especially for the fearless vocalization of contemporary issues which resonated with the Punjabi audience. Even his physical appearance the – a bulked up body and extremely imposing handlebar moustache with an inherent liking for arms and guns, gelled well with the young audience. As a result, his sudden death resulted in huge crowd going berserk and manic. Many protested the state government’s decision to sack his and many others’ security, the day prior to the unfortunate incident. Being a Congress leader as well, the singer’s death sparked a political blame game, along with political representatives and spokespersons, targeting the AAP-led Punjab government calling the cabinet immature and relatively unripe.
A rebel without a cause, Sidhu Moosewala’s own idol was the late American rapper, Tupac Shakur. The last song of Moose Wala ‘The Last Ride’ which was released just 15 days ago of his sad demise and was invariably a tribute to his idol, Tupac, depicted stark similarities between the two deaths. For starters, both the artists were sitting in the driver’s seat when they were shot. While Tupac Shakur’s killing remains an unsolved mystery, an arrest however is made in Moose Wala’s case. A gangster named Lawrence Bishnoi has taken the responsibility for the killing of Moose Wala during the interrogation by Punjab Police.
America’s Influential Rap Culture and its relationship with guns
Moose Wala started his singing career in Canada after getting inspired by the likes of Tupac Shakur. While Punjab had its own league of artists promoting gun-culture through gangster rap, America was a veteran in this field. Tupac Shakur and many artists like him who have been the flag bearers of gangster-rap culture and suffered a similar fate as that of Moose Wala, show how the increased use of slurs, guns and derogatory slang in street raps has been a major contributor to the increase of gun violence in the recent past. Tupac, for instance, was heavily affiliated with a blood gang from Compton called the mob pirus. He even got a tattoo that said, ‘MOB’ acronym for ‘Members of Blood.’ The artist even shouted at them in songs and live performances. The affiliation with street hood gangsters eventually cost him, his life as he was shot out by another gang called the Southside Crips.
This is only one such instance from the bushel. America has a problem with guns, inherently. According to Politico Magazine, 140 mass-public shootings in the US since 1976. The number of mass shootings per year has increased exponentially in the last five years. The United States also is miles ahead of the country which has the second highest shooting i.e., the Philippines. Hence for a country, which is fighting hard against racism and hip-hop being a genre historically villainized by White Americans as promoting violence and celebrating crime, the rappers do need to re-evaluate their relationship with guns and by virtue, projecting it in their songs.
The Stereotype is an exception that leads to biased opinions against a certain group. For instance, Colorado police publicly blamed rap music mentioning that the current positioning of the said art form glorifies, and promotes the demeaning of women. There have been many instances, like the above, wherein the State machinery has targeted the African-American community and burdened them with prejudice and racist ideologies. A very valid argument stands tall against keeping the rap-culture as a whole genre under the microscope just because it flaunts guns and violence as the same can be seen in films made by prolific directors like Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino, etc. However, the debate revolves around the magnitude of projections of violence or even styling guns as a valued ornament of sorts, The more in-your-face, loud and crystallized form of projection is more accessible through music videos than a prolonged movie with characters having the motive to resort to the ways that they did. While movies have a story and a somewhat arc of black and white (positive and negative), music videos on the other hand are just lyrics embodying heroism and flamboyance.
The moral turpitude of associating violence with rap or vice-versa is huge. According to the CDC data from 2003-2008 from the National Violent Death Reporting System, a big part of homicides among young people is gang-related. And as rappers, historically, have been active members so gangs and therefore are more likely to project it onto their music videos.
Now, while assassination or killing of a person is not justified, a must-answer question arises that, with the growing gun and gangster culture in Punjab, do artists vehemently go out of their way to use abhorrent slang in their songs to gain publicity and fuel their overnight stardom? Moose Wala’s loud and brash conduct was no news but was significantly marketed well. With making songs on polarized subjects and flaunting guns to uphold the vigor of manliness, it fits well with the Punjabi youth that was already fighting with drugs.
America on the other hand has an ugly spat with gun violence, and more so with the authorities regulating it. Now more so, as availing of a gun license is easier than getting an abortion. Hence, one can understand, that rap or no rap, projection, and production of guns is not going to slow down if not severed from the root.
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