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Barrel of oil no more…

My Op-Ed: Illuminem

With much of tokenism relating to #IWD to be soon behind us, securing energy for millions of women and girls particularly in the developing countries cannot be lost sight of.

Ukrainian scientist Svitlana Krakovska, at the final sign off of the recent #IPCC report said: “Let me assure you that this human-induced climate change and war against Ukraine have direct connections and the same roots. They are fossil fuels and humanity’s dependence on them”.

This battle is also about renewable versus non-renewable sources of energy. However, as the unfortunate drama escalates, #fossilfuel pricing keeps scaling new highs. Some optimists believe this is a tipping point for the #renewables.

In the meantime, as the #extractive industry merrily continues to destroy the green cover, how do we sensitise the billions about #biodiversity and #ecologicalservices that we take for granted? I cite the works of celebrated author Amitav Ghosh and renowned ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin.

Between a declining delta and a rising omicron: “Engagement with customers on Climate Risks, not exclusion, the best way forward!”

It was a pleasure addressing Team Assurex (Europe and APAC), earlier today!

Thanks to a friendly intervention and this invitation, I had an opportunity to revisit the ‘Climate Change Exclusion’ clause and read it between the lines. Happy to note that anthropogenic gets attributed directly or indirectly to human activity. Having said that, there is a problem with our siloed thinking. Even though issued for the liability teams, the fiduciary responsibility could very well make this omni applicable to any other class/es of business.

If an insurer or a reinsurer were not to hold a subject matter covered (redline) against Climate Change – should it be investing (as an investor) in any such business? If it still does, would it not be oxymoronic? And if it stops doing so, that would be a truly benign influence of this clause!

Key messages

As Climate Change nudges insurers out of their comfort zone; Institute of Public Policy Research warns us of new emerging risks; Financial Protection Forum (World Bank Group) reminds of assessing financial risks from physical climate shocks; ESMA classifies Climate Risk as a new distinct risk category; Patrick Flynn of Salesforce shows the way forward as climate pledges crumble under scrutiny; there are many a slip between the cup and the lip – whilst dealing with Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi)!

Strategy is no longer bounded by shareholder value, reinforces Alison Taylor. And insurers must quickly change too. Textile consumption, for instance, has the fourth biggest impact on the environment and climate change – after food, housing and mobility! Ah, the magic of marketing. Insurers – watchout for greenwashing! Embedding sustainability is work in progress. But we do not have time.

“Engagement with customers on Climate Risks, not exclusion, the best way forward!”

– Zaneta Sedilekova, Climate Change Lawyer

Transition to low carbon economy has its opportunities and threats. Can the insurance industry support this critical transition? There is a price to be paid for fundamental changes in the business models. Insurers must assert as stewards. How can we forget pricing nature in insurance? Remember both TCFD and TNFD will hold insurer boards responsible for aiding and abetting biodiversity loss.

Carbon removal remains unproven, thus net-zero could be a mirage. Fossil fuel must go. Without action, WHO and The Lancet tell us, both excess morbidity and mortality can be expected. Climate litigation is here and insurers are bound to get enmeshed. Australia has shown how tort is good enough pending ecocide codification. Reputation and existential risks as a quid pro quo for procrastinating? A rather heavy price…

Writing on the Wall!

OpEd in Illuminem: February 17,2002

Climate Change is nudging insurers out of their comfort zone. As a handmaiden of the industry, insurers have been ensconced at the point of sale for too long. It is time for an urgent course correction and willingly head towards the moment of truth. What can be a bigger truth than the climate emergency – an outcome of anthropocentric activity hastened by the industrial revolution. Whether it calls for mitigation, adaptation or resilience would depend on how quickly the reality dawns upon them. The signals are writ large and a lip service, as it turns out today, would be catastrophic not only to USD 6 trillion-plus global insurance business but can cause a far bigger damage arising from the investments of its float. Here I pick signals from the Geneva Association, Institute of Public Policy Research, Swiss Re and The Guardian.

“There are a lot of funds out there that have some ESG label or indicator on it, but the asset manager will have a hard time showing “what’s ESG” about the fund”.

Harald Walkate is a well-known figure in ESG, as an author of a number of influential papers on ESG, impact investing and climate change. The former Head of ESG at Natixis Investment Managers, he is currently an independent advisor on ESG and sustainable finance and founder of the firm Finding Ways Ahead. He is also a Senior Fellow with the University of Zurich Center for Sustainable Finance and Private Wealth (CSP) and a board member with Global AIF, a thinktank. A former corporate attorney, Harald also has significant experience in international business development and M&A and holds a law degree (Leiden University) and an MBA (University of Chicago Booth). Harald is active as a jazz pianist and has performed with some of the Netherlands’ best professional musicians.

Praveen Gupta: What constitutes a genuine Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) fund and why is it not so easy to identify one?

Harald Walkate: People don’t agree on what they expect from ESG funds, so it’s also unlikely we will end up agreeing on the definition of a ‘genuine ESG fund’. To me, an ESG fund is genuine when the investment team has some sort of investment conviction that is related to ESG, and they can clearly articulate this conviction, but also explain what that means for the investment process and for expected outcomes. I call this the “Conviction & Narrative” approach. But other people believe, for example, that oil is “not ESG”, so any fund that invests in oil companies can not be genuine, even if the point of the investment team is to work with that oil company to reduce emissions or develop renewable technologies. Genuineness is in the eye of the beholder.

PG: What are the key ESG considerations that ought to be incorporated in an investment strategy? How easy or difficult is this process?

HW: I think investors should focus on ESG considerations that are ‘material’; i.e. considerations that influence your investment decision: you would make the investment decision differently if you did not have access to this information. But that means that it depends what kind of investing you’re doing and which sector or businesses you’re investing in, which ESG considerations you look at. One of the things we’ve learned after about 15 years of doing ESG integration is that materiality is ‘situational’. And I think people are making this out to be much more difficult than it actually is; in my experience in working with portfolio managers and analysts it is relatively straightforward to work out which issues are material.

PG: How crucial is the role of an ESG team and what should ideally be the most critical skillsets?

HW: Here also, it depends. I’ve worked with asset management firms who have no ESG team, or a very small one, and who are better at understanding ESG issues than many asset managers with very large teams. I think the critical skillset is: (1) have true expertise in certain ESG issues, recognizing that today almost everyone calls themselves an “ESG expert”. ESG is also very broad so you can’t be an expert in all of these things. (2) understand financial markets and investments. ESG is a wonderful thing but you have to recognize that you work in an investment organization. If you don’t know what that entails, or understand who you’re investing for and what preferences and restrictions that comes with, you will not be very effective. (3) be a teamplayer. You need to be able to work with investment, research, compliance, legal, communications people, and perhaps also with other experts in other organizations. If you’re not a self-starter or reach out to people easily then you’ll likely not have much impact.

I’ve argued that we should take a much more qualitative approach to attribution. Also, when talking about impact investment, we have to recognize that most outcomes cannot be attributed directly to any one specific company, project, or investor.

PG: What is attribution assessment? How important is it?

HW: It is assessing, or measuring, what the outcomes are of your ESG approach. It is quite important, because you want to know if your approach is working, if your theory of change is correct. At the same time, attribution is usually very hard to measure precisely – i.e. quantitatively – and I’ve argued that we should take a much more qualitative approach to attribution. Also, when talking about impact investment, we have to recognize that most outcomes cannot be attributed directly to any one specific company, project, or investor.

PG: Regulatory guidance could vary from a regulator to regulator.  Do you see emergence of a common standard?

HW: Not really. Roughly speaking you see regulators who expect a lot from disclosure, with the idea that once we have transparency on ESG things that companies and investors will do something about them –  something I’m rather skeptical about. And then there are regulators who try to directly change, incentivize or ban specific activities, which makes more sense to me. There does appear to be a common standard emerging in how regulators are looking at ESG funds, in many countries (eg. UK, Switzerland, Denmark, US) guidance has been issued that – boiled down to the bare essence – tells investors to “say what you do, and do what you say”. This is very similar to my Conviction & Narrative approach.

PG: What is the significance of a fund label? Can it trigger greenwashing? Constituents of ESG fund sometime look no different from any other fund?

HW: The significance of labels is extremely limited. There are many labels out there, with different standards, which is confusing to the customer. Also most labels are pretty easy to get, as long as you pay. And then there are new ‘labels’ in the form of Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) classifications article 8 and 9 – those are actually free (even though you have to disclose a lot of information on those funds but that’s doable for most large asset management firms) and the requirements for when you can opt for art. 8 or 9 are relatively light. In other words, yes, there are a lot of funds out there that have some ESG label or indicator on it, but the asset manager will have a hard time showing “what’s ESG” about the fund, and indeed many of these funds will be basically undistinguishable from conventional funds.

PG: Would there be some businesses (Oil & Gas in particular) that you would not expect to see at all?

HW: No, not really. As said above, ESG means different things to different people. Some look to ESG funds for values-alignment, others for outperformance, and yet others for ‘impact’. So it depends what you want to achieve to say what should and should not be in your fund. The main challenge for us should be to educate consumers about what you can and cannot achieve to address ESG issues through investments, not so much trying to have objective rules on what should or should not be considered “green’”  or “sustainable”.

Presumably the investment industry would consider it ‘allowed’ to have ESG funds that invest in gas & nuclear. But at the same time…there would be asset managers who see a market opportunity for funds without gas and nuclear, and would call them “true sustainable” funds

PG: Wells FargoCitiMorgan Stanley received a boost in their green credentials from MSCI Inc. even after providing $74 billion to polluting companies?

HW: I’m not familiar with these cases but usually whether or not large banks provide funding to polluting companies makes extremely little difference to the problem of pollution or climate change. Instead of wasting time pointing fingers at polluting companies or their banks, people could be much more effective by trying to change the bigger system, e.g. engaging in the political process, calling for the needed taxes or subsidies, or working out ways to stimulate the development of new technologies.

PG: If Nuclear energy and Gas were to be classified as green in the European taxonomy, how would ESG funds treat them?

HW: Presumably the investment industry would consider it ‘allowed’ to have ESG funds that invest in gas & nuclear. But at the same time, presumably there would be asset managers who see a market opportunity for funds without gas and nuclear, and would call them “true sustainable” funds, or whatever. All of this is not going to make much difference at all to the problem of climate change – what’s decisive is how the EU and other governments will use industrial policy, taxes and subsidies to transform our economy and how much they will rely on nuclear and gas in these activities. Right now it doesn’t look like the Taxonomy is going to play a very big role in that decision-making.

PG: Many thanks Harald for demystifying some of the concepts relating to ESG. Looks like I still need to better my understanding as to how ESG investing can direct the money pipeline towards addressing the Climate Emergency.

“Recent market and regulatory developments indicate India’s battery storage market could boom in no time”.

Kashish Shah is an Energy Finance Analyst with the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis (IEEFA). He specialises in financing, policy, and technology matters of the Indian electricity market. He has a master’s degree in economics from the University of Sydney and an engineering degree from NMIMS University in Mumbai. Previously, Kashish has worked in the Global Analytics Division of the Royal Bank of Scotland with a focus on regulatory policies. He has research experiences in India’s public sector in his work for a member of the Indian Parliament and a University of Sydney-based research group.

Praveen Gupta: Do you see any disconnects between our coal addiction, net zero commitments, ongoing efforts to raise the coal production and the urgency in raising the share of RE?

Kashish Shah: India is the world’s third largest and one of the fastest growing electricity markets. We will continue to need additional power capacity to serve electricity demand growth of 5-6% annually for this decade.

I think we have not been able to build renewables capacity fast enough. To reach the target of 450GW by 2030, we need an annual build rate of ~35GW from the build rate of 10-15GW last 5 years. Furthermore, we would require substantial energy storage capacity for grid-balancing.

This would allow India to phase out its coal-fired power fleet and transform its electricity system to be cheaper, cleaner and more reliable.

India is the world’s third largest and one of the fastest growing electricity markets. We will continue to need additional power capacity to serve electricity demand growth of 5-6% annually for this decade.

PG: There is a big gap between the gross capacity of thermal energy and the actual capacity utilization?

KS: Yes, India’s coal-fired power fleet has been operating an unsustainably low utilisation factor of ~55% for the last several years.

PG: Are the discoms favourably inclined towards aligning with RE sources?

KS: The discoms continue to be in bad financial shape. However, government-owned entities such as Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) and NTPC are playing a key role in underwriting renewable energy contracts and reducing the counterparty risk.

PG: Do you see challenges coming from the land supply, water shortages, disposal of solar panel wastes as a spoilsport?

KS: Solar power operations use a fraction of water compared to thermal power plants. Now developers are employing water-free technology for cleaning the panels.

PG: Where are we on the battery supply side? How soon can that front be ramped up?

KS: In our view, recent market and regulatory developments indicate India’s battery storage market could boom in no time. Continuing a decade-long deflation in costs, solar plus batteries are cost competitive with new coal-fired plants in markets such as the U.S. and Australia, where battery storage development is burgeoning.

In India, there is a similar prospect for a surge in uptake of battery storage as the learning-by-doing experience deepens as new projects, backed by tenders from government-owned entities such as NTPC and Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), are executed.

ReNew Power, one of the biggest renewable energy developers in India, and Fluence Energy, a leading battery technology provider, have announced a joint venture to develop a 150MWh storage facility in Karnataka. ReNew Power has won numerous RE plus storage tenders and the battery project will play a key role in delivering firmed RE capacity.

The cost of batteries could reduce further with local manufacture.

The Government of India is striving to support the localisation of batteries’ value-chain with a Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme worth Rs18,100 crore (US$2.47Bn) for 50GWh of battery storage for electric vehicles (EVs) and stationary battery storage. The tender has been oversubscribed 2.6 times with bids received for 130GWh of battery manufacturing capacity. The interested parties are Reliance New Energy Solar, Hyundai Global Motors, Ola Electric Mobility, Lucas-TVS, Mahindra & Mahindra, Amara Raja Batteries, Exide Industries, Rajesh Exports, Larsen & Toubro, and India Power Corporation.

They have a track record of delivering dramatic cost reduction in the sectors it has ventured into and it would not be a surprise if they manage to do the same in the clean energy space.

Reliance’s entry into the market could change the landscape dramatically. Reliance is looking to acquire world-leading technology and to further scale it up in the Indian market. They have a track record of delivering dramatic cost reduction in the sectors it has ventured into and it would not be a surprise if they manage to do the same in the clean energy space.

PG: How do you see dealing with rare minerals like lithium and its unique sensitive supply chain issues?

KS: Yes, that is going to be a challenge. The recent supply shortages in lithium have put a halt to the decade long deflation in lithium-ion battery storage. This is where diversification of storage technology will come into the picture. There are other battery technology alternatives such as storage, Sodium Sulphur, zinc-air, liquid metal and storage systems based on gravity and compressed air. The recent global supply shortage in lithium is mainly induced due to the pandemic driven supply-chain bottlenecks. This would probably ease out as the pandemic subsides.

PG: How do you see the equation change as private operators play an increasingly larger role in the overall pie?

KS: In my opinion, the transition should be market-driven for it to be sustainable.

PG: What is the rationale for gas?

KS: Gas has never been viable for India in the absence of local availability of the fuel. We should look to leapfrog to green hydrogen. That is the future!

PG: Do you expect any budgetary sops to further boost solar and wind generation?

KS: Rationalisation of GST on solar equipment will provide a much-needed clarity for the industry. I think we could expect that in this year’s budget. Additionally, I hope to see some budgetary allocation for the research and development of the green hydrogen industry. For example in Australia, Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has funded roughly 10-12 test projects for green hydrogen development.

PG: Many thanks for these quick & succinct insights, Kashish. I appreciate your general sense of optimism.

Taking the Wheel on Climate Change

Illuminem: January 24, 2022

“The US is the world’s largest historic greenhouse gas emitter. Now, standing on the verge of running out of carbon budget, US insurers need to abandon their fossil-fuel fixation.”

In today’s article, Praveen Gupta explains why climate change is driving major changes to insurance supervision and regulation in the US.

Read the full article on illuminem:

“Any idea that our current technologies can substitute for nature… and mitigate climate change and biodiversity loss on their own is absurd”…

Jérôme Tagger explores the intersection of financial markets and society. He joined Preventable Surprises as CEO in 2020 after 15 years of field building in responsible finance.  He was a Director at the Global Impact Investing Network, the founding COO of the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), Head of Research at Eurosif and Chief Revenue Officer at ImpactAlpha. He most recently advised UNEP FI’s Positive Impact Initiative and the World Benchmarking Alliance. 

Praveen Gupta: Do businesses fully realise that climate is both a systemic and existential risk? Why are they trying to game it rather than address the bubble? What do you think they ought to be doing?

Jerome Tagger: A growing number are coming to realize that the climate crisis could have existential consequences. At the same time, the status quo appears comfortable, cognitive dissonance is strong, the unknowns (e.g., tipping points) are confusing (as well as an excuse for inaction) and the perceived trade-offs are too high. Executives are rarely incentivized in terms of reward, to drive this sort of transformation, few seem to have the courage needed to stand out and lead, and economic systems (from investors to consumers) pressure in a different direction.

This type of societal transformation is chaotic and anarchic – there is no one at the helm, so no one will dictate transformation. What leaders should do: set their organizations on a path to rapid transformation, advocate tirelessly with their constituents, support level setting legislation (e.g., carbon pricing), strengthen rather than weaken governance and political institutions, and constantly raise the bar of their ambitions. What civil society should do: exert constant pressure for them to do so and call out insufficiencies.

PG: Suddenly everything about capitalism seems fragile? Unlike other forms of ‘isms’, can this be capitalism’s ‘antifragile’ moment?

JT: It’s too early to tell. What is capitalism anyway? Seen from Berlin, Beijing, New York or Lagos, you might come to different conclusions. Is it shareholder primacy? That’s likely to stay strong in countries with large liquid markets and matching ideologies like the US. Is it just in time global supply chains? Covid is showing the limits of that, and companies are to some degree reacting, but there are limitations, for example with natural resources where supply diversification is a challenge. Is it the increasingly concentrated economies, with 4-5 companies controlling key global sectors?

One of our advisors estimates the risk of Severe Global Disruption this century at 25% (corresponding to roughly a 25% loss in global output). Who is prepared for that? Who is doing proper risk management?

One of our advisors estimates the risk of Severe Global Disruption this century at 25% (corresponding to roughly a 25% loss in global output). Who is prepared for that? Who is doing proper risk management? You tell me. It’s relatively new that societies actually have the ability to make this sort of macro long term projection thanks to a boom in science, so it should be no surprise that we all are learning what to make with that information. What we learn from this exercise, and how humans and societies withstand and react to the pressures of the current disruption will tell how history looks back on turn of the century capitalism. I suspect it will not be kind, but then we rarely look back with kindness on humanities past moral failures. Ultimately, it’s the here and now that matters and where we have some agency.

My worry in all these conversations about the end of capitalism is that they are highly ideological and polarized. Thinking of the world as either capitalist or socialist is inaccurate and unhelpful. More pragmatism, backed by strong ethics and the leadership of courageous individuals, would be welcome, especially as we face significant global environmental, social and technological disruption.

PG: What surprises is Preventable Surprises striving to prevent?

JT: The sort of repeated financial market shocks that could be prevented by stronger governance and a focus on anticipation and mitigation rather than la-la-la-oh-no!

Not sure whether it’s Stormy or Misty. This one was all over as Jerome and I spoke!

PG: ESG much maligned? Shouldn’t businesses be working towards a triple bottom line?

JT: I think that investor responsibility will be important so long as there are financial markets. In that sense, the idea that we have a conduit for widespread responsibility is good (although I’m sceptical about the extent to which it can be codified as current legislators would have it). Does ESG meet the challenges we discussed in the earlier questions? In aggregate, no. Mostly, ESG practitioners push weak levers, although some will argue that there is a limited availability of strong levers. Is there a ton of greenwashing? Absolutely. Do I believe in ESG professionals as agents of transformation? Yes.

The notion of business purpose is fraught. I think it is possible for some companies to embrace purpose, through the values of their founders for example, or because of the products they bring. But many of the statements of purpose that are being published now feel artificial at best. And circumstances change too, so purpose has to have some flexibility. It will be interesting to see how this debate evolves and if it can go beyond statements to behaviour change. At the moment I am much more interested in personal purpose. I want accountants and oil drilling engineers with strong ethics.

The bigger question is how values and ethics can be brought into technologies that fundamentally reshape our institutions (e.g., democracy and any notion of freedom), but also now, through AI, what it means to be human. 

PG: Tech companies – the new East India company?

JT: One of the challenges of our time is that a small number of companies have too much influence and control on our daily habits, on political opinions, on personal freedoms, on capital markets, and on R&D and innovation (e.g., the future). As oligopolies tend to behave (e.g., get lazy) and with growing political interest in the damages of economic concentration, there is some hope that this might change. The bigger question is how values and ethics can be brought into technologies that fundamentally reshape our institutions (e.g., democracy and any notion of freedom), but also now, through AI, what it means to be human. 

Speaking of reshaping things, it’s also important to note that these companies are also shaping the new world order and imbalances since a majority are in the US and China.

Perhaps countries who are behind on the technology race can compete on other dimensions: creativity, diversity, resilience, nature, metaphysics, freedoms. And some solid firewalls.

PG: Tech and Nature at odds? Is it arrogance or myopia or lack of sense for history?

JT: Cleaner and more efficient technology is vital, but any idea that our current technologies can substitute for nature and suffice to mitigate current environmental catastrophes and mitigate climate change and biodiversity loss on their own is absurd. Hundred years for now, who knows.

PG: Many thanks Jerome for these brilliant insights from your crystal ball. May we be in for some pleasant surprises!

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A Bunch of Narcissus and other writings

Anyone who believes Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI), Gender Based Violence (GBV) et al are modern buzz words – must read A Bunch of Narcissus and other writings by nonagenarian Surjit Sarna. A no holds barred visceral account of growing up in Lahore, the partition and adapting to the new home. She weaves in patriarchy, feudalism, caste system, depravity, urban decadence and yes, the exploitative dynamics of environmental degradation in the countryside.

Surjit Sarna is a poet, short story writer and translator. Sarna has also contributed to a three-part play Kafle besides writing a biographical memoir. Her strengths lie in the sensitive portrayal of emotion and her ability to capture a small moment to enter into wider psychological probing. Not afraid of of emotions, she confronts them without inhibition. Her attention to historical events traces the history of India from the early forties to the present.

Here are some excerpts from the stories I wish to particularly highlight:

Court Hearing

It is Surjit’s empathy and willingness to listen and help all and sundry which makes her the magnet for the exploited and needy. ‘Perhaps Mummy is thinking of fighting elections. This has become a centre for beaten and battered wives!’ That is what her young kids thought she could be up to.

What can I say, I’m helpless; it’s in my blood. I do pretend to be tough and worldly, but I can’t keep up the sham for too long, writes Surjit. There is no servant or maid in the entire mohalla who can’t be found here some time or the other, even at odd hours.

When there is a timid, scared, soft rap at the door, I know – this is someone who has come to see me. They are afraid to even knock on the door sharply. I myself take hurried steps to open the door so that no one else can hear me.”

Pushpa, the maid and her daughters are sharing their harrowing woes with Surjit when Pushpa’s husband turns up. Mona, one of the daughters, pleads with Surjit: Keep me here; I will do all your work.

Her father turned red with rage and raised his hand as if to slap her, ‘Are you coming or not, you ill-begotten ones? Why don’t you get up…you call yourself their mother?’

‘I am their mother, no doubt about it; and you have proved your fatherliness by molesting them, haven’t you, you shameless man? You have ruined my innocent, tender girls!’

And she began to scream and wail. Now I did not tell her to hush. Such misfortunes have to be wept over. For a few moments I had not even understood what she had said. I went numb. It was as if the earth under my feet had heaved. Is he a father?!

Surjit Sarna: What can I say, I’m helpless; it’s in my blood. I do pretend to be tough and worldly, but I can’t keep up the sham for too long.

The confrontation lands them with the police.

And now we are sitting at the police station. The policemen are making lewd remarks and sniggering. The gaze of the inspector pierces right through the girls. And this bastard! He’s sitting like one who can’t hurt a fly! Speaking in a low, meek voice, hands folded, ‘Maibaap, these girls are immoral. They ruin themselves all day long and I try to bring them back along with their mother and they curse and abuse me, Maibaap! That is the whole matter.’

We’ll get the wickedness out of them right away, and he raises a whip towards the girls.

Their ‘father’ glares at me with fiery eyes.

‘Maibaap, these people have ruined my daughters; they are the ones who have made them work as whores.’

I spring forward again to teach him a lesson. But the inspector looks at me with suspicious eyes and says, “You people go back home. What do you have to do with it; I will straighten them out.’

My husband wants to take me back home forcibly, but I am saying, ‘Where will they get a hearing? Who will give them justice?’

Echoes from the Past

In this tragic tale about Harshi, Surjit articulates: He owned her body and soul, while she had had no existence without him and had been submerged into his shadow.

Daughter, Go Back Home

Suddenly something happened to me as if I had woken up from a coma – I don’t want to die – who is this who is trying to rob me of my right to live? Who is this, who is wreaking such cruelty on me? I tried to push his hand away and he tried to tighten his grip – I couldn’t think – I bit Tarvinder hard on his arm. And he groaned and let go my throat. And thus a daughter rescues herself from a cruel husband.

Brothers inherit mansions and estates; in my fate is exile… Why don’t our people take this song out of our folk songs and bury it somewhere – Daughter, go back home! … Can someone tell me… anyone… which home can they go to?

You May Now Sleep in Peace

Why did her husband not care about her? She never complained perhaps, she accepted it all as destiny and bowed before it. I did not know what she thought about it. But her silence and apprehension were enough for me to draw my conclusions.

Why does a woman hound another woman? She alludes to a Mother-in-law’s disgraceful exploits of the daughter-in-law (Mishri Rani) and wanting to dump the girl grandchild into a dustbin.

Life Sentence

Exploitative ways have no class barrier: He is a well-known lawyer. I only want to ask him one question: Do the innocent get punished in the court of life? Is there a law which permits shattering of dreams – and humbling the other? Is money the biggest miracle in the world? Will women always be unwanted and useless objects?

The Crook

Whither equity: She left the village and shifted to the city. In the city, she washed dirty utensils in people’s houses, but actually she was only scrubbing away the ignorance in Gurmeet’s brain. Yanking out their poverty by the roots. Cutting off their shackles. Liberating her son from a life of deprivation and a feeling of inferiority.

It is not only your stories that I have liked immensely but more than that your style has greatly impressed me. You seem to be one of the few Punjabi writers to use the language so sensitively…

Balraj Sahni, Actor & writer

The End of An Era

Preying vultures: Their own land had become barren because of no rainfall. It had been such a bad drought that the jaws of death had been opened wide. First, they had to sell their shack. When they still had not been able to make ends meet, they had mortgaged their land in the village to the merchant in the village and turned towards the city, where there was work – there was grain, suffering and exploitation at every step.

The book gives graphic insights into her courage to lead whenever she could, rather than turn a blind eye. Surjit Sarna has been championing these causes for the last seven decades. Perhaps well ahead of the West even waking up to them. Each story shakes you to the core and raises questions whose answers we continue to seek.

Climate Change nudging regulatory changes in the US!

The Journal, Chartered Insurance Institute: December 20th, 2021.

Any news, at this time of the year, on yet another financial bubble in making courtesy the insurance industry is not something to look forward to. Signs of hope for a correction ought to be bring some cheer. The protracted fossil fuel fixation of American insurers, for instance, seems to be begining to get addressed. The Biden administration, via the Treasury, is bringing desired vigour into the Federal Insurance Office (FIO). Hopefully, not only the financial risks from Climate Crisis but the reputational threats to some of the biggest brands, arising from their entanglement with oil and gas industry, will soon come under sharp scrutiny. This might very well homogenise the 50 sets of insurance regulations. Will it serve as a role model for the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS)? Perhaps nudge the global insurance industry away from its ongoing procrastination, too? Mind you, this is only the starting point. All eyes on the FIO. Merry Christmas!