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HuffPost and India -- It's a Great Match

07/12/2014 5:32 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
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An elderly Indian Muslim and an Indian paramilitary officer have a chat outside the Jama Masjid in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014. The Jama Masjid is one of India's biggest mosques situated on a busy street in the old part of Delhi. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

You can think of many adjectives to describe The Huffington Post and it almost always will be accurate for India as well -- vibrant, diverse, feisty, inclusive, wise and fun.

HuffPost and India -- it's a great match.

And so it is with much excitement and ambition that we are launching HuffPost India today, thanks to a partnership between The Huffington Post and The Times of India Group.

Starting in 2005, The Huffington Post practically invented the syntax of serving news and opinion online. Numerous iterations and experiments have followed, and what we see now is a highly refined blend of art and science that makes for a universally acclaimed content experience. As more and more Indians embrace the Internet and connected mobile devices to consume news and express themselves, we will be hard at work to make sure they find HuffPost India compelling, and that they use our blog platform to tell their own stories, as millions of readers do every day in 14 countries in 9 languages. I welcome Indians everywhere to join us -- read, share, blog, and yell at us when you think we are slacking.

HuffPost India will be a destination for breaking news, but it will just as much be a place for coverage of our communities and festivals; our health and well being; our capacity for courage, perseverance and innovation; and a place that will unhesitatingly call out the silver-tongued spin masters who mislead and deceive, particularly in public life.

As I drove to work this morning, teams of bleary-eyed policemen had spread out across Delhi, peering into vehicles that passed their metal barricades. They were on the lookout for the absconding taxi driver who on Friday night had allegedly raped a young woman who had believed she was availing the safest possible option to go home when she used the Uber app on her smartphone to hail a cab.

I can't count the number of times I have encouraged women friends to take a cab home after a dinner or a party, instead of an auto rickshaw or a bus or the metro, believing it to be the safest option. Now what?

I'm certainly not alone in feeling the nauseating sense of déjà vu wash over me as I see the policemen and their metal barricades and the familiar drill. It takes us back to the dark days of the December of 2012, when there wasn't a soul that didn't feel angry, helpless and violated at the savagery to which Nirbhaya lost her life. Chillingly, the Uber driver this weekend threatened the young woman he allegedly raped that if she resisted or called for help, she would meet with the same fate as Nirbhaya.

The safety and equal rights of women, the rights of minorities, be it religious, sexual or linguistic, the abuse and trafficking of children, the deterioration of the air we breathe and the war against poverty -- these can't be seasonal concerns.

Reading the business papers these days also tends to trigger a sense of déjà vu. The stock markets are soaring, a competitive upward revision of GDP growth estimates seem to be currently underway and FDI inflows, in particular to this fantastic new generation of tech entrepreneurs whose products are being embraced at home, are yet again on the rise. Goldman Sachs just said India could outpace China's growth by 2016.

This is a good place to be and we have been here before -- in the heady early years of UPA 1 and of double-digit growth. That government and its second avatar spectacularly blew the opportunity and it ended very badly for the country and indeed for the Congress party.

The UPA governments chose one way of frittering away the opportunity. But that is by no means the only way to do it. And let's not forget that just as UPA's follies were exacerbated by an unfavourable world economy, the Narendra Modi government's early months have benefitted from a reviving global economy and low oil prices.

Far too many people in power and in office have concerned themselves in recent weeks with determining who India's legitimate children are, which modern invention had first been meticulously explained in India's ancient texts and the judicial merits of the Khap panchayats. If these were minor sideshows to an invigorating political theatre with important reforms and swift execution, nobody really would have paid much attention.

But that isn't the case. The author and former disinvestment minister Arun Shourie has memorably quoted the Urdu poet Akbar Allahabadi to convey this sentiment: "Plateon ke aane ki awaaz toh aa rahi hai, khaana nahin aa raha" (the rattling of plates can be heard, surely, but the food alas, is not coming).

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