India’s Prime Minister Is Blazing As Usual

The Kush

Hi! Welcome to the 11th edition of The Kush, our newsletter written specifically for Mondays and Tuesdays. If you’re reading this for the first time, then welcome. The Kush is our newsletter where we trip on narratives blowing across the world today, events that seek to shape the future in more ways than one. The past weekend was when we realized that this newsletter means many different things to many different people of all thoughts, beliefs and values, united by the utter pleasure of blazing up as and when time permits. So let’s begin with the headlines that matter. 

Photo Credit: Rajeev Bhatt

India’s Prime Minister is Blazing Away as Usual. How? 

A lot has already been said about India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and we have no intention of adding anything more other than this – how does he do it? To paraphrase Mihir Sharma from his Bloomberg Opinion piece

“India’s Covid-19 cases continue to climb, even as the economy tanks. China is pressing forward on the two countries’ disputed Himalayan border, where dozens of Indian soldiers have been killed. Tax revenues have plummeted, state governments are unhappy and 21 million of India’s rare salaried jobs vanished in the last few months. And yet Prime Minister Narendra Modi — who recently posted pictures of himself feeding peacocks in his serene garden — remains as popular as ever”

“How does Modi do it?”

Even we’re in awe. What is going on? Is it because of the sometimes very-blatant supporting acts played by India’s primetime English media portals, Times Now and Republic TV, carried forward by the regional state-wise news channels? Is it because the Prime Minister will always be supported no matter what on account of the fringe, right-wing mobs who only profess religious supremacy and hyper-masculine nationalism at all times? Is it because India’s opposition parties are just unable to put together a well functioning united front? Or is it because….what is going on? Here’s Mihir Sharma again, recounting two very specific instances: 

“There’s another factor Modi exploits to the hilt. The most adept populist leaders don’t only detach the electorate’s perception from inconvenient facts, providing an alternative narrative in which they, and they alone, are the stars. To repeat that trick in the face of disasters such as a recession or a pandemic, they also need to act. They have to make the sort of big decisions around which their supporters can construct a convincing narrative: a decision that comes across as brave, or stern, or wise, or fatherly or, ideally, all of those things” 

PTI Photo by Shahbaz Khan

“When Modi, with just a few hours’ notice, withdrew 86% of India’s currency in November 2016, it was unquestionably a disaster. People lost jobs and livelihoods, economic growth was mortally injured and, given that all the money eventually returned to circulation, none of the exercise’s goals were actually met. What Modi learned from the experience, however, is that it does not matter whether the decision you make pans out or not. All that matters is that people believe that you did something big, something that only you would dare to do, and that you did it for the best reasons”

“That’s what many Indian voters thought about “demonetization”: If the gambit didn’t work, it was everybody else’s fault. At least Modi tried to stamp out corruption, supporters said, doing something no other prime minister in India’s history, no other world leader had done. (For good reason.)”

Yeah. That’s true. Even though we weren’t completely sure about demonetization’s actual impact (because literally every economic indicator said it was a disaster in reality, including India’s central bank, the RBI), we did harbour thoughts of the sheer audacity of the act. Its magnitude, so to speak. It felt big.

“When Modi shut down the Indian economy in March in response to Covid-19’s arrival on our shores, he did so relatively early. India’s was also perhaps the most draconian such shutdown globally. While people suffered, every voter in every part of the country knew that Modi alone had shut the economy down in response to the threat. By taking action early and on the grandest possible scale, he essentially inoculated his popularity against the pandemic’s political effects. If the pandemic spreads, that’s because bureaucrats, or state governments, or the people themselves failed to live up to the leader’s vision” 

We’re seeing a master at his work, someone with an innate understanding of public opinion. He would have been a Public Relations expert in another universe. 

But, enough of this now. Time to come back to reality. Because no matter how, when and what the Prime Minister thinks, India is really in a very bad shape (obviously he knows this) no matter who denies this and by how much. Reality does not change. It will come back sooner or later. 

Let’s keep blazing.  

United States Committee Passes The Medical Cannabis Research Act

For a very long time, enterprising botanists, scientists, researchers and doctors could not get their hands on good quality cannabis to perform medical research because cannabis was looked upon as a plant without any uses, other than recreational use. In a victory for medical cannabis advocates in the United States, the Congress committee passed the Medical Cannabis Research Act to address the needs of the cannabis research community so that the potential of using cannabis for making medicines is harnessed in its entirety. 

As per Prohibition partners:

The aims of the Medical Cannabis Research Act are twofold:

  • “To lower the regulatory barriers to approval for researching cannabis, including reducing approval wait times, costly security measures, and additional, unnecessary layers of protocol review”
  • “To increase the supply of medical-grade cannabis to legitimate researchers”

“An amendment made to the bill on Tuesday means that researchers would be able to use cannabis from state-approved private suppliers instead of exclusively from federally approved sources, of which there is only one currently

Indian policy makers should take a leaf out of the United States playbook and tweak it accordingly for Indian cannabis. On one hand, India’s ancient medical system, the Ayurveda (plant-based medicines) essentially lists 191 formulations for various diseases using cannabis as one of the key plant ingredients, while on the other, the National Drugs and Psychotropics Act (NDPS Act, 1985) classifies the flower (used to smoke) and resin (used to make hash/charas) as illegal and prohibited. 

India’s nationalistic minded government needs to go back to its roots and at least allow scientists and doctors to get their hands on all parts of the cannabis plant rather than just the seeds and leaves (which is legal and used to make Bhang, a cannabis infused drink). It’s not as if India lacks the growth of cannabis or something. We just need to harness the plant for all purposes, prime among them being medicine and nutrition. 

Let’s keep Blazing. 

Remembering Captain Barbossa

“It be too late to alter course now mateys! (laughs wildly), Dying is the day worth living for!”

Have a great day 🙂

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