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The Caravan

The Caravan July 2020

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The Caravan is India’s first narrative journalism magazine. Stories are reported in a style that uses elements usually reserved for fiction—plot, characters, scenes and setting—to bring the subject to life. Like The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Granta, the context of a Caravan story is something more substantial. In India, this niche—one for the intellectually curious, the aesthetically inclined and the upwardly mobile, has remained vacant. That is, until The Caravan.

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Delhi Press Patra Prakashan Pte LTD
12 Issues

in this issue

6 min.
binary friction

Transwomen have been a part of the Indian society for centuries, but they struggle with social acceptance. During the British era, they came to be associated with crime, which is a bias that continues till today. w w Soniya Pandey was struck by surprise as she saw a WhatsApp forward one afternoon in June 2019. Someone had leaked her application asking her employer, the Indian Railways, to change her name and gender in official records, along with two photos from before and after her sex-change operation. “I pulled up a few of them who were forwarding the message,” she told me. “But how many people could I stop? It was going viral across the country, in the social-media circles of railway groups. So I let it be.” Formerly known as Rajesh Kumar…

5 min.
delivering results

On 6 April, Gandaye Potai, a 22-year-old pregnant woman from the village of Matla in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district, travelled seven kilometres to come to Benur’s early-referral centre—pre-birth waiting rooms. Her due date was four days later, but when the baby did not arrive, she stayed back at the ERC until delivery on 23 April. Pregnant women such as Gandaye have to take long journeys for healthcare facilities in remote tribal areas of the district, which has no proper means of transport or healthcare centres. A joint initiative led by UNICEF, in association with the NGO Saathi Samaj Sevi Sanstha and the district health administration, in the Narayanpur block of the district, has significantly improved the number of institutional deliveries in the region. An Adivasi-dominated district, Narayanpur lacks basic amenities and services,…

7 min.
sequel opportunity

Stephen Parshall, Andrew Lynam and William Loomis, arrested in Las Vegas on 30 May by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, allegedly dreamed of starting a bloody rebellion. According to federal prosecutors, the three men, all of whom have military backgrounds, planned to attack a local protest against police brutality in the wake of the killing, five days before, of George Floyd. By prompting police retaliation, they hoped to provoke a violent uprising that would engulf the entire United States, allowing a far-right state to emerge from the ashes. In March, Parshall commented on a Facebook post about the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic: “Start. Fomenting. Insurrection.” His profile is adorned with a swastika and a Confederate flag. Parshall, Lynam and Loomis allegedly belong to the boogaloo movement, a loose…

12 min.
race against time

In mid April, Adar Poonawala, the CEO of Serum Institute—a manufacturer of immunobiological drugs—announced that it would manufacture a vaccine against COVID-19 being developed at the Jenner Institute at Oxford University. Poonawala appeared on several news outlets and spoke of beginning production of 5 million doses a month of the vaccine by May, and scaling up to 10 million doses a month towards the end of the year. The vaccine had not yet completed clinical trials, but Poonawala said he was taking a risk and committing the company’s resources to start manufacturing the vaccine even before trials had been completed, so that if the vaccine was successful, it could be distributed immediately. In normal circumstances, this announcement would have been seen as premature, and a risky gamble for any company to…

10 min.
testing times

In 1996, Delhi saw a major outbreak of dengue haemorrhagic fever, the worst any city had seen for the disease since Calcutta in 1963. Roughly ten thousand people fell sick, and more than six hundred died. That year, the Delhi municipal corporation set up a unit called Domestic Breeding Checkers to perform important tasks needed to prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as dengue, chikungunya and malaria. Today, Delhi has 3,500 DBCs. “Our work begins in February every year when we go door-to-door to look for stagnant water in people’s houses and on terraces,” Debanand Sharma, who has been a DBC since the cadre’s inception, told me. “We make them aware of infectious diseases and the way they spread. Whenever needed, we also distribute temephos granules which helps in killing…

16 min.
fantasies of control

At the turn of the twentieth century, India experienced the worst of a global plague pandemic, recording 95 percent of the world’s mortality and eventually a loss of over 12 million lives. The years immediately preceding the plague had seen localised experiments in native self-governance. In 1896, as the outbreak peaked, the colonial administration seized the pandemic as evidence of an Indian incapacity for self-rule. It instituted the Epidemic Diseases Act—an emergency measure that further extended its already authoritarian power in the colony. Cities were put under martial rule and military patrols conducted house searches, forcibly evacuating the infected to quarantined hospitals. Driven by public-health beliefs that the disease was a product of native “filth” and “darkness”—rather than zoonotic bacterial origin—they hosed down neighbourhoods with disinfectants, confiscated possessions, and tore…