A General Interest Monthly Magazine for South Asians in the U.S.

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Out of Control Gun Violence

Whether you had a loved one involved or not, any U.S. mass shooting incident hits you in the gut. Such was the case with the recent attack at Northern Illinois University, and whatever the toll in terms of death and casualties, the toll on the American psyche is considerably more.

Many South Asians who have immigrated here find a strange paradox in this country. Oh, we are also familiar with violence in the old country, but there is a certain randomness in these attacks in the U.S. that shock even the most jaded among us.

Many of us have certainly wondered what is it about this otherwise first-world country that prides itself on its adherence to the rule of law that leaves room for such primordial violence?

This sort of violence, remember, makes the U.S. unique in the family of developed nations. Firearms are strictly controlled in all other industrialized countries, and the level of violence is also dramatically less there. Nor can the case be made about the specific Anglo-Saxon heritage in North America. Just look at Canada. They have a strong firearm law there, and the difference in violence is also dramatically lower.

So what is the reason for the increased rate of gun violence in the U.S.? The answer is simple enough — the easy availability of guns. But that begs another question: Why are guns so easily available?

Human rights activist Partha Banerjee takes a close, hard look at this issue in our cover story, and the conclusions he draws are anything but pretty. But this is not a time to look away in horror. Civil society needs to engage and address one of the most appalling social ills in this U.S. as all other checks and balances have clearly failed.

The West never tires of giving advice to the developing countries — and if truth be told, most developing nations are obliged to listen, given the mammoth foreign debt with which they find themselves saddled.

Now, however, a new study at the University of California at Berkeley turns the table around. Led by Princeton-trained chemical engineer Thara Srinivasan, the study presents a provocative argument. It says that after doing the first-ever global accounting of the dollar costs of countries’ ecological footprints, assessing the impacts of agricultural intensification and expansion, deforestation, overfishing, loss of mangrove swamps and forests, ozone depletion and climate change during a 40-year period, from 1961 to 2000, the study shows that not only does the environmental damage caused by rich nations disproportionately impact poor nations, it costs them more than their combined foreign debt. How about that, World Bank and IMF?

Scientists of the study were meticulous about the data they collected. The calculation of the ecological footprints of the world’s low-, middle- and high-income nations drew upon more than a decade of assessments by environmental economists who have tried to attach monetary figures to environmental damage, plus data from the recent United Nations Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and World Bank reports.

Researchers limited their study to six areas of human activity. Impacts of activities that are difficult to assess, such as loss of habitat and biodiversity and the effects of industrial pollution, were ignored. So the final estimate, it turns out, is actually quite conservative.

This month’s issue carries a report on the study.

To say that South Asians obsess about their kids would be an understatement. In the many hardships of building a new life away from the old country, no sacrifice is considered too big for ensuring a good and successful future for the kids. It naturally follows that parents also tend to define their own success by how well their offspring do, hence the rat race to make sure the kids go to the best colleges and end up in medical school and law school.

By any measure, the second generation youths of South Asian descent who have been raised in this country have done their parents proud. An astonishing number fulfill their parents’ ambitious hopes and become doctors, engineers and lawyers. Others branch into more diverse fields, but most excel.

However, education is not just about getting a top degree and getting into a remunerative profession. It’s also about developing an engaging and engaged mind, a compassionate heart with a concern for one’s neighbors and fellow human beings.

Here also, there is cause for hope. Preeti Tijoriwal is one of many South Asians who have not only obtained a good education, but have fulfilled a more broader promise. Deeply compassionate and engaged, Tijoriwal volunteers to teach children in underprivileged countries. Her compassion, kindness and gentle wit shine in her letters home. We begin a series of her journals this month.


Click here to read in PDF format

Firearms in America:
A Free Market for Guns, Violence

America’s free market, primitive laws and dark-age social customs are responsible for never-ending campus tragedies, writes Partha Banerjee.

How Poor Nations Pay:
The Environmental Cost

The environmental damage caused by rich nations costs poor nations more than their combined foreign debt, according to a UC Berkeley study. A Siliconeer report.

Letters from My Motherland:
An India Journal

Despite the myriad frustrations — Delhi’s awful traffic jams, poor sanitation, constant honking and badmash auto rickshaw drivers — after a few months, India became her home, writes Preeti Tijoriwal.

EDITORIAL: Gun Violence
NEWS DIARY: February
ENVIRONMENT: Bhopal Survivors March
RECOGNITION: Outstanding Engineers
SUBCONTINENT: Indian Green Energy Giant
SUBCONTINENT: Rising Rupee & Indian IT
HEALTH: Tackling Cholesterol
TRAVEL: Wide World of Fast Food
BUSINESS: News Briefs
COMMUNITY: News in Brief
AUTO REVIEW: 2008 Buick Enclave
BOLLYWOOD: Jodhaa Akbar
RECIPE: Paneer Tikka

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