Reducing majestic rivers to a trickle, changing their courses, and assaulting the lives and culture of people who live on the banks is a form of development (the same vikas that brought Narendra Modi to Delhi) that is being beaten out of the Himalayan landscape by the hammer of the state wielded by corporates. Uttarakhand bears its brunt, as 480 proposed and under-construction dams seek to destroy its fragile ecology, the effect of which will be felt all along the course of the Ganga. The quest for electricity powers this madness. The approach is unscientific, there are no studies carried out on river drainage systems, or social audits of projects, writes G. B. S. N. P Varma in his report “Damned by development”.
For decades now a mystery illness has been stalking parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam. It comes with the monsoon, and leaves hundreds, especially children, dead in its wake. The causes of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES), a WHO-defined umbrella term for all undiagnosed illnesses displaying certain symptoms, are difficult to pin down: there are 100 known pathogens worldwide; at least three dozen are found in India. The public health infrastructure in places of outbreaks is ill-equipped; AES has a mortality rate of 15 per cent. We are now a step closer to identifying the causes of the mystery disease thanks to new research being done by doctors from NIMHANS. Their approach is to set up field labs in outbreak zones, maintain sample integrity, and run tests to isolate more pathogens than previously attempted in India, writes Priyanka Pulla in this month’s cover story, “The Gorakhpur mystery”.
With the BJP in power—and the RSS in command—the agenda of resurrecting its icons and diminishing those of the Congress is coasting full steam ahead. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of the Bhartiya Jan Sangh, predecessor of the BJP, is one such figure. The process involves convenient amnesia about inconvenient truths, and putting down Nehru, writes Rakesh Ankit in his essay, “History, as you like it”.
I am happy to report that two of the photo stories published by Fountain Ink were finalists for the photobook grants awarded by the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts. The photo stories are: “I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing you” (June 2015) by contributing photo editor Harikrishna Katragadda, and “95 Mani Villa” (November 2013) by Zishaan Akbar Latif.