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Reading Between The Stripes: India Edition

Reading Between The Stripes: India Edition

Over the past two years, a wild tigress has stalked and killed more than a dozen people near a village in central India. The New York Times has a superb story about it, which you can (and should) read here: it’s got gruesome maulings, orphaned cubs, altruistic suicide-seekers, and heavily armed elephant rides. But it’s also a subtle portrait of many of the political and social challenges that India faces today. Here’s a brief look behind some of the story’s best lines.


India’s Hindu nationalist governing party, the B.J.P., has cracked down... on the slaughter of cows, an animal Hindus revere. This has created enormous herds of mangy, unproductive, unwanted cattle that herders don’t dare to kill, either because of specific cow protection laws that vary state by state or because they are terrified of being lynched by Hindu extremists.”

The BJP, led by current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, swept to power in 2014 on an assertively Hindu nationalist platform. As it happens, the powerful traditionalist organizations that support the BJP demand better protection of cows – which enjoy nearly god-like status among devout Hindus. As a result, the BJP – which controls more than half of India’s states in additional to the national government – has sought to expand cow protection laws significantly over the past several years. At the same time, Hindu “cow vigilantes,” some of which reportedly have links to the BJP, have killed dozens of (mostly Muslim) cattle herders, and extorted many more.

The result is: lots more cows around, which milk farmers can’t support but are scared to kill. From the tigers’ perspective this is a massive enticement to come out of the forest for a bite – and into closer contact with humans. The problem reflects the larger story of escalating sectarian tensions as the world’s largest democracy heads for national elections in 2019. Modi wants to keep the traditionalists on side, and the cow issue is a winner with that base.

“Many tigers are now running out of space… all across India, islands of forest are shrinking”

This is also a story about India’s growing urbanization and dwindling natural space. While conservation efforts have caused the tiger population to rebound over the past decade, their natural habitats – several dozen tiger reserves and related forest corridors – have either failed to grow apace or have actually been reduced by massive new infrastructure and construction projects. Since coming to power, the BJP has sought to loosen some of India’s extensive environmental regulations in order to boost investment and growth, while also giving the green light to several infrastructure projects that directly threaten tiger habitats. The government says economic growth is the priority, as you might expect in a country that needs to create a million new jobs every month just to keep pace with a swelling population.

If I die, will you give my family the money?’”

The government has offered up to $14,000 to the families of the victims of tiger attacks. For perspective on just what that means, that’s about seven times per-capita GDP. Over 20 percent of Indians still live on less than $1.90 a day. Rural wages have actually declined over the last two years. So while India has made extraordinary strides in poverty reduction in recent decades, with more than 270 million poor (most of them in rural areas), there is still a reason that the elderly man quoted above was found milling about a tiger bait station, hoping to get mauled.

Meet Alessandra Cominetti, a recipient of MIT Technology Review Magazine's Innovators Under 35 award. As a lab technician at Eni's Research Centre for Renewable Energy in Novara, Alessandra has devoted her career to finding new solutions and materials to optimize solar energy. Much like the serendipitous encounter that resulted in her employment, her eagerness and willingness to try new things allowed her to stumble upon a material for the creation of portable solar panels.

Watch her remarkable story on the latest episode of Faces of Eni.

"If [the election] is very close and it ends up in the courts, that kind of protracted situation I think will lead many Americans to believe that it was an unfair election." Rick Hasen, election law expert and author of Election Meltdown, lays out some of the worst-case scenarios for Election Day, ranging from unprecedented voter suppression to dirty tricks by foreign actors. The conversation was part of the latest episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. The episode begins airing nationally in the US on public television this Friday, October 30. Check local listings.

Joe Biden has vowed to radically change the US' approach to foreign policy and international diplomacy should he win next week's election.

But a lot has happened in four years under Donald Trump that could impede Biden's ability to simply return to the status quo ante. How different would US foreign policy really be under a Biden presidency? What will the two-term former vice president likely be able to change, and what's bound to remain the same, at least for now?

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On Wednesday, November 4 at 11a EST, we're gathering a panel to discuss "What Just Happened" with the US election. GZERO Media's Ian Bremmer, Tony Maciulis and Alex Kliment will be joined by The Washington Post's Karen Attiah and Eurasia Group's Jon Lieber. Watch live at: gzeromedia.com/gzerolive.

Decision 2020: What Just Happened? Wednesday, November 4, 11a EST/8a PST

Panelists:

Bookmark this link to watch live: gzeromedia.com/gzerolive

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director for the United States at the Eurasia Group, shares his perspective on a special US election edition of US Politics In 60 Seconds:

So, we're about five days out from the election right now.

And the story of this week has been the remarkably steady polling lead for Joe Biden that he's had for months now. The other big story is the turnout, massive amounts of turnout. 100% of the 2016 vote already cast in Texas. 60% nationwide votes already cast. We are headed for record shattering turnout, could be around 155 million Americans voting.

On election night, what are we watching for?

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