Is journalism worth a soldier’s life?

In a tragic turn of events a soldier committed suicide when he became a target of a “string operation” carried out by a The Quint journalist.

Army jawan/sahayak Lance-Naik Roy Mathew was secretly videotaped by a The Quint journalist named Poonam Agarwal, talking about the menial jobs the “sahayaks” have to perform for the officers they’re assigned to. These jobs may including walking dogs, dropping kids to school, taking care of the garden and running errands that are not an official part of their duties.

Assigning sahayaks to higher ranked army officers is a British-era practice the army has carried on despite attracting criticism.

According to the phone calls made by Mathew to his wife, he was afraid that he might lose his job and there might even be a court martial on him for criticizing his seniors. He first disappeared and then later was found hanging from a ceiling of a room.

In the video, which is no longer available, Lance-Naik Mathew, though his face is blurred, could be heard answering to various questions posed by Poonam Agarwal, and while answering to questions he admitted that work that is not part of their jobs is done by the sahayaks (buddies). He wasn’t complaining, he was just starting it as a fact. The objective was to show how these soldiers are exploited by their superiors simply because there is no way to refuse.

The problem with the video was that Mathew was easily recognizable to people who knew him. He could be recognized by his voice, and even by his clothes. No special attempt was made to hide his identity. They just followed a simple procedure that would make his face unrecognizable to people who wouldn’t know him, but people who knew him would immediately recognize him.

Ever since the tragic incident came to light the way such sting operations are carried out is being questioned. Mathew was not a criminal. He was simply having a conversation as the journalist had befriended him without telling him for what purpose he was being talked to. This is fraud, especially when the person being featured in the video is an innocent citizen and hasn’t been informed what’s going on. Journalist Shiv Aroor has rightly termed this as near murder.

It’s public knowledge that soldiers of lower ranks are often expected to perform domestic duties for their superiors. This aspect of the army needs to be investigated.

If 70% of Indians are still paying bribes, the entire blame doesn’t lie on Modi

It’s obvious that when you promise certain things during your election campaigns and then somehow if these promises are not fulfilled, or if somehow it can be proven that they haven’t been fulfilled, your opponents are bound to bring them up at every opportunity.

This Quartz article, for example, talks about a Transparency International report that has found that nearly 7 in 10 Indians have to pay a bribe to get even basic jobs such as admission in government-run schools and availing hospital services done.

Of course the article compares the findings of the report with Modi’s claims that he is fighting corruption with all his might.

First, Transparency International isn’t an unbiased organisation. Second, even if this number is correct, we must remember what a system Modi has inherited. The supernova of corruption that had been created in the past 70 years cannot be controlled within a couple of years. Every system, every institution has been corrupted, including bureaucracy and judiciary.

Even the BJP itself is a part of this corrupt ecosystem.

This is the reason Modi isn’t attacking the corrupt directly. It will be of no use. He is trying to create a system where it may become difficult to follow corrupt practices. He is digitizing as many government procedures as possible. He is encouraging the poor to open bank accounts so that financial help can be sent to them directly. He is encouraging people to own mobile phones to stay informed. He is computerizing the attendance system so that babus are forced to come everyday and stay in the office. He is eliminating the paper work.

Establishing systems that thwart corruption are much better than attacking individuals.

The post Is journalism worth a soldier’s life? appeared first on Writing Cave.

find the cost of your paper

Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

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