Arya Rajendran: Who is India’s youngest mayor? 

Arya Rajendran: Who is India’s youngest mayor? 

Arya Rajendran: Who is India’s youngest mayor? 

Arya Rajendran
Alisha Lynch

10th June 2021


Arya Rajendran, 22, was voted in as Mayor of the Thiruvananthapuram City Corporation, the largest urban body in Kerala, after receiving 54 votes in the 100-member Council election, held on the morning of December 28 last year. She holds the record for being the country’s youngest mayor to date. This begs the question: who is Arya Rajendran, and what does she hope to achieve during her term?   


Arya Rajendran, a BSc Maths student at All Saints College in Thiruvananthapuram, won the local body election representing the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or, CPI(M), in the Mudavanmughal ward of the city corporation. The CPI(M) had swept the local body polls in Kerala earlier in the month and approved the decision to pick her as their mayor candidate. Arya is now the third woman to head the local government in the capital city of Kerala. This election was the first time the 21-year-old was of legal voting age.   


Arya, who has been an active member of the CPI(M) since she was a teenager, is now the state president of the Balasangham, the CPI(M)’s children’s wing. The state unit of Balasangham is considered the world’s largest children’s organisation. Under her leadership, the Balasangham has focused on solving student mental health problems by involving them in services that are specifically designed for them to seek help. The CPI(M) has been supporting the continuation of students’ education online throughout the pandemic and has been researching and completing surveys to assess its impact on students.  


Arya believes that it is her duty to assist students who are having difficulty advancing into public life without biased treatment due to caste or religion.She is also an activist of the Students Federation of India. This is India’s biggest student federation, with the aim of uniting the entire Indian student population behind its cause of a universal and free public education system that guarantees everybody has equal access to quality education.   


The young mayor comes from a family of CPI(M) supporters: her mother, Sreelatha, an insurance agent, her father, K Rajendran, an electrician, and her older brother are all members of the party. She previously mentioned in an interview with T21 Official that:


“I am the proud daughter of a proud worker. That is why I became part of this movement of the workers, peasants & other common people.” 

She now intends to continue her studies while serving as mayor and attending to local matters. In a recent interview, Arya said that her college professors and friends were very supportive of her political career.   


Prior to being elected Mayor, Arya Rajendran claimed that she would happily accept the position given to her by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and that she hoped that her education and political work would be cohesive. Her highest priority as mayor will be to address the city’s waste management problems. While she is still new to the position, everyone has high hopes that due to her background, she will be able to empathise better with the youth of the region, the working class and will work hard to uplift the poor. Lastly, there are many expectations resting on Rajendran’s shoulders as she takes up her position as mayor, but many are hopeful that she will bring about lasting structural change and provide a clearer path for those trapped in poverty.





Featured photo by Ram Sanodiya on Twitter

This article was supported by: Programme Assistant Rachel


Root causes of the Israel-Palestine conflict

Root causes of the Israel-Palestine conflict

Root causes of the Israel-Palestine conflict

free Palestine protesters
Emily Murphy

25th May 2021


The Israel-Palestine conflict is one that has dominated global news for decades. The tensions between both sides run deep and the world is divided in its support. However the situation is not as clear-cut as most people believe, and the timeline is much greater than many realize. To understand the conflict it is important to look at the entire picture. 


The area where violence is occurring is better known to many in the west as Judea, the historic and biblical homeland of the Jewish people. The name Palestine is a variation of the name ‘Syria Palaestina’, given to the region by Roman Emperor Hadrian as an act of colonization after the ‘Bar Kolchba’ revolt (132-136 CE). This event, more commonly referred to as ‘The Third Jewish-Roman War’, was a result of the Roman occupation of Judea, and the eradication of Jewish laws, rights, and religious freedoms. Emperor Hadrian massacred many Jews and banned them from Jerusalem. The diaspora was further dispersed by religious persecution and ethnic cleansings throughout the following centuries. However, the Jewish people have never forgotten their bond with the promised land. 


The Arabization of the region occurred with the expansion of the Arab Empire in the first millennium. This was most significant in the 7th century during the Muslim conquest of the Levant. Until the 11th century both Muslims and Christians lived together in the region, however, the population gradually converted to Islam. The population remained relatively small with approximately 250,000 inhabitants at any given time, until the 19th century when rapid population growth occurred. 


At multiple points during the past several centuries, many notable leaders have attempted to establish a nation for Jews in the promised land, including Napoleon in 1799. The most successful attempt began during the First World War. The British government issued the ‘Balfour Declaration’, which supported the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people”, within the then Ottoman region. Five years later, in 1922, the League of Nations approved the mandate. Between 1929 and 1946 numerous uprisings occurred in Palestine protesting the immigration of Jews into the region. In 1947 the United Nations passed Resolution 181, calling for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states.


“When the State of Israel was formed in May 1948, conflict erupted once again in the region, as 110,000 immigrants arrived. Since then conflict has continued sporadically in the middle-east, however, the Israeli state has formed peace agreements with many of its neighbours, including Jordan, Syria, and Egypt.”

On 7th May 2021, in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound/Temple Mount, a site sacred to Muslims and Jews, clashes began between Muslim worshipers and Jews celebrating an Israeli holiday. Afterward, Hamas the Palestinian militant group (classified as terrorists by the EU, US, and others) that control the Gaza strip issued an ultimatum to Isreal: withdraw its forces from the compound, or face attacks. On 10th May, as the deadline passed, Hamas fired seven rockets at Jerusalem. Israel responded with airstrikes on Gaza. Between 11th and 18th May airstrikes and protests on both sides continue. More than 232 people in Gaza have been killed however thanks to Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ missile defense system and air-raid bunkers only 12 Israelis have died. After 11 days of conflict, Israel and Palestinian armed groups, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad agreed to a ceasefire. Two delegations of Egyptian security have been sent to Tel Aviv and Palestinian territories to “monitor implementation and procedures to maintain stable conditions permanently”. While this is welcome news, the question remains, is there a permanent peace solution in sight? 


In 1974 Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation began moving towards a two-state solution, an idea that has been pushed by successive Israeli prime ministers. Although Arafat was unsuccessful at the time, he did aid in the establishment of a Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza. Since 1974, Israel has offered this two-state solution to Palestinian leaders on five separate occasions, each has been refused due to disputes over land distribution. It is the goal of Hamas to achieve a one-state solution. They want the 400,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank to leave, voluntarily or forcibly. This is incredibly unlikely. Residents on both sides of the border have, in many cases, lived in the region their entire lives, many can trace their ancestry back several generations. Despite the regular conflict and clashes, this section of the middle-east is the home of thousands of people, Muslims, and Jews. The future is uncertain but the global powers continue to push for a two-state solution and the world hopes that this time peace is long-lasting.





Featured photo by Aveedibya Dey on Unsplash

This article was supported by: STAND Programme Assistant Rachel


Bidenomics and the border: Overriding themes of the first 100 days

Bidenomics and the border: Overriding themes of the first 100 days

Bidenomics and the border: Overriding themes of the first 100 days 

Joe Biden speaking
Sean Creagh

24th May 2021


November 19th 2019: US President Donald Trump is venting at a rally in Louisiana about his recent investigations surrounding Ukraine. Trump had allegedly tried to coerce Ukrainian public officials into digging up dirt on his most likely political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden. “Like, we need help to beat sleepy Joe Biden”, Trump reassured the crowd of their inevitable victory. “I don’t think so.” 


Fast forward just a year and a bit later: Biden is now in charge of Washington, and he has proven himself to be anything but “sleepy”. In fact, the largely assumed safe, moderate choice of the 2020 Democratic candidates has ironically emerged as one of the most progressive US Presidents in modern history. His first 100 days in office have been marked by a flurry of executive orders and the ground-breaking passage of a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus package, all of which has taken aback his opponents. The assumptions that the Biden White House would resemble that of a third-term Obama were just plain wrong. But how does he stack up against his predecessors so far? 


In short, quite well. The Biden administration has been much more active than any of the previous administrations in terms of the number of executive orders, memos and substantive proclamations signed. Interestingly, of the 42 executive orders signed so far, 50% of them are revocations of previous orders, and almost all of them are related to former President Trump.  


“In addition to these direct orders from the commander-in-chief, Biden’s flagship Covid-19 stimulus relief package has been particularly transformative in revitalising a stagnant US economy.”

The White House now also believes that a proposed $2.3 trillion infrastructure bill and $1.8 trillion in social programmes will further increase America’s economic buoyancy and revitalise the jobs market. However, this boundless ambition has been met by concerns from critics that Biden’s expansionist programmes will eventually overheat the economy and replicate the famous stagflation that plagued the 1970’s during an oil crisis. One must note, however, that there are several differential factors between now and then, such as the world’s diminishing reliance on oil as a trade standard. Only time will tell who is proven correct. 


Other differences onlookers may notice about the Biden White House is a sudden lack of media presence. In direct contrast to his predecessor, Biden appears to give as few interviews and press conferences as possible. In fact, Biden went the highest total number of days before giving a solo news conference of any US President ever, at just 65 days. While most will be glad to see a change from the media flurry that was his predecessor, it has again rung concerns about Biden’s cognisance amongst his most staunch critics. Incidents such as him tripping up the stairs to Air Force One, or gaffes such as when he said that he had joined the US Senate “120 years ago,” do not play well in the media. It is incidents such as these that the dreaded “senile” word once again begins to rear its ugly head. 


Biden’s approval ratings so far have also been relatively stagnant, but incredibly partisan. He typically polls about 57% on average according to Gallup, and this is likely due to the successful vaccine rollout in the US coupled with economic recovery. However, these same approval ratings indicate that Americans are more polarised now than they were during the entirety of Trump’s term, with a seismic 83-point rating gap between Democrats and Republicans who approve of the Biden presidency. This is the widest gap in approval for the past number of decades and a testament to just how divided America remains despite Bidens calls for national unity in his inaugural address. 


“Another key decision from the Biden White House has been the announcement of a full withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan by September 11th of this year; notable because it marks an entire two decades since the 9/11 attacks.”

The catastrophic event which shaped so much of America’s foreign policy over the past 20 years and resulted in two major failed wars under Bush and Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, will thankfully become a thing of the past, and the troops withdrawal will mark a distinct rejection of the ideological fallacy that was American imperialism across the world. It was Trump who originally struck the deal with the Taliban and Biden who will eventually execute the order to withdraw. 


The final prevalent theme evident throughout the first 100 days has been the border and the difficult issue of immigration reform. Over 100,000 people attempted to enter the US through Mexico in February alone, a massive 28% increase from the month previous. Almost 10,000 of these were unaccompanied children, most of whom are led to “the wall” by smugglers who drop them from the barbed wire top plate over the other side, often at enormous heights.  


The co-ordinator for the southwestern border on the National Security Council, Roberta Jacobson, outlined in clear terms that the border “is not open,” to those considering illegal entry. However, this also comes at a time when the federal agencies that deal with immigration are too often critiqued for being neglected and lacking in permanent leadership, in addition to a judicial system that is already backlogged with current asylum claims. It seems from this, that for America, some problems never change, regardless of who is in the White House. 


It seems the Biden Administration is off to a good start. It has found consensus in its fiscal policy, relief bill and wielded the direct powers of the Oval Office to sign executive orders which please Democrats. Despite all this however, it must be remembered that most of the issues awaiting Biden will not draw such unanimity and be much more partisan, e.g., taxation, immigration, and healthcare. That will be the true decider of Biden’s legacy, and whether history will determine him as really being “sleepy,” or not. Sleepy Joe!





Featured photo by The Joint Staff on Flickr

This article was supported by: STAND Business + Politics Editor Megan + Programme Assistant Rachel


The Irish Language: Need for constitutional reform?

The Irish Language: Need for constitutional reform?

The Irish Language: Need for constitutional reform?

old map of Ireland and Britain
Orla Leahy

19th May 2021


With the centenary of the Anglo-Irish Treaty later this year, it can be regarded as a fitting time to review provisions for Irish and other languages in our constitution, as the Treaty was the incentive for our first constitution of 1922. What provisions currently exist for languages and how does our constitution compare with that of other countries?


There are three primary Articles concerning our official languages in Bunreacht na hÉireann 1937. These include Article 8, 25.4 and 25.5. Interestingly, the provisions concerning languages changed dramatically from the constitution of 1922. In 1922, Article 4 provided for languages and stated that both Irish and English were the official languages of Ireland, with Irish being the national language. Languages were moved down the line slightly to Article 8 in 1937, just after the national flag. France also places the national flag next to languages, as well as the French anthem and motto. Irish was placed in Article 8 as the “first-official language” with English as the “second-official language.” The Article continues on to acknowledge that special provisions may be made for exclusive use of either Irish or English by the State. 


The official languages are again referred to in Article 25.4, where it is clarified that legislation shall be published in both languages, and where it is produced in both, shall be signed by the President in both. This suggests that the national languages are on equal footing. However, 25.4.6° and 25.5.4° provide the understanding that the Irish language shall have precedence where there is conflict between firstly, two legislative texts enrolled in the Irish Statute Book and secondly, where there is conflict between the Irish and English versions of Bunreacht na hÉireann. Indeed, there have been court cases throughout our recent history where there has been a delay in producing statutes in Irish or where a conflict occurs between the two texts, either statutory or constitutionally. 


Similarly, Canada has two official languages, English and French. As well as the State’s obligation to produce legislation in both languages, like Ireland, there is the additional provision for right to trial by jury in either official language. While Ireland is currently unlike Canada in this regard, as we do not have the explicit right to trial by jury in Irish, perhaps we need to look west and adopt a similar provision to ensure the existence of Irish in the courts as well as in the legislature? To facilitate such litigation procedures through Irish, we may need to see the emergence of more bilingual judges. A recent case in 2019, Ó Cadhla v. An tAire Dlí , Cirt agus Comhionannais, [2019] IEHC 851, highlighted the lack of bilingual judges at district and circuit court level.


“Should there be the readoption of an Irish language exam, similar to our former exam upon civil service entry, as in Norway, where judges must hold a certain degree of fluency in Norwegian, to facilitate such an emergence?”

On an international scale, Ireland is the only country in which the native language takes precedence over another official language in the constitution. This is indicative of the importance of protecting and promoting Irish. The need to ensure the survival of it is still evident today from the recent Official Languages (Amendment) Bill 2019 and the new Irish Language Scheme for the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General 2021-2024 which aims to improve the provision of services in the Irish language and to introduce new sectoral language standards. 


Like Ireland, Spain recognises the need to offer certain languages special protection. In their constitution of 1978, it is recognised that Spanish (Castilian) is the national language, that everyone has the right to speak it and an obligation to know it. 


On a European Union level, there are currently 24 official languages, Irish being one of them. This means that there are teams of Irish lawyer-linguists working to produce official documents, such as judgments and opinions in Irish, alongside teams of lawyer-linguists working in the other 23 languages. On March 17th, the first ever judgment was handed down in Irish for a case taken in Irish in the Court of Justice of the European Union, Case C-64/20 UH v An tAire Talmhaíochta Bia agus Mara, Éire and An tArd-Aighne, EU:C:2021:207. Irish in the Union is going from strength to strength, should we not aspire to see improved developments for the language in our constitution also?


Language provisions in Bunreacht na hÉireann have never been revised, yet the provisions of the 1922 constitution were revised a mere 15-years later, when Bunreacht na hÉireann was being drafted. The breakdown of linguistics is not the same today as it was in 1937. The Irish language requires preservation and it is imperative that the status given to Irish in our constitution is not only upheld, but improved upon. Perhaps we ought to adopt similar provisions to other countries, such as jury trials in both official languages as in Canada?





Featured photo created using Canva

This article was supported by: STAND Business + Politics Editor Megan + Programme Assistant Rachel


The rise of sustainable online businesses

The rise of sustainable online businesses


The rise of sustainable online businesses

"online shop open!"
Megan Carey

11th May 2021


Sustainable online businesses have flourished amid the pandemic, as Covid-19 restrictions appear to have had a positive effect on e-commerce. Within the growth of online business, many are opting to contribute to the effort of achieving sustainable principles. There are many definitions of sustainability; a commonly referenced understanding of sustainable development was offered in the Brundtland report in 1987,Development which meets the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” 


There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations to be achieved by 2030, that are often used as indicators to measure how far we have come and how much further we must go to implement sustainable practices globally. Small sustainable businesses that have emerged during the pandemic are particularly well placed to achieve two of the SDGs, namely, Goal 8: Decent work and Economic growth and Goal: 12 Responsible consumption and production. It is understood that a thriving economy can be conducive to a better quality of life. A report by the OECD in 2007 found “there is clear evidence to show that economic growth is an essential requirement and, frequently, the main contributing factor in reducing income poverty”, but where do we draw the line between sustainable and unsustainable consumption and production? 


Sustainability has many facets in which businesses and consumers both have a part to play. The sourcing of materials, treatment of labour, packaging and the effects of mass production, are all elements of  consumption processes that have garnered media attention in recent years. Most of us are familiar with the narrative of unscrupulous multinationals underpaying employees, working in deplorable conditions, making mass-produced poor-quality garments in factories, pumping out fossil fuels and waste into the environment. Most recently, major fasion brands including H&M, Zara and Adidas have come under fire for their links to the forced labour of Uighur Muslims in camps in China , who sourced cotton and yarn produced through a vast state-sponsored system of detention and forced labour.” 


As a society, we also must inherently change our relationship with how we consume. The fashion industry currently perpetuates notions of instant trends and fast fashion, which creates an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste each year”, and the fashion industry is alone responsible for, “10% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and 20% of global waste water. 


“During the Covid-19 pandemic, some have used the extra time at home to harness their entrepreneurial skills and turn passion projects into sources of income, while pre-existing businesses have benefited from the surge in sustainabilityconscious buyers. Beautiful, unique and diversified products have emanated from this time of lockdowns and restrictions.”

Art, fashion and beauty are a few of the many areas in which people are creating and selling in this upsurgence of small and independent online businesses. The switch from high street to online purchasing is evident in every area of life and has specifically positively impacted the visibility of many small businesses who now promote themselves solely online. Apart from in-store essentials, consumers spend a good deal more time online, both shopping and on social media where creators use their platforms for marketing. A report in The Irish Times found The Covid-19 pandemic saw growth in online sales last year surge to five times the average annual growth.” 


The sustainable Irish business scene has grown exponentially since the first lockdown in 2020. I interviewed three small sustainable Irish businesses who use social media, specifically Instagram, to market themselves. All three businesses were founded and are run by young women. The first of which is Sew it Seamsrun by Mairidh, who sells handmade clothing, specialized sewn garments including fleeces and tops. The second of which is Lemon Queen Vintage, owned by Chloe, selling vintage and handmade clothing and accessories including stain glass earrings. FinallyShhillustrations ran by Sophie, who creates unique print illustrations, cards and graphics. The intent was to understand how the pandemic has impacted their businesses, their views on sustainability and how they implement sustainability practices in their business.


I firstly questioned whether the pandemic had positively affected the business and how so. Two of the three business interviewed emerged from the pandemic. Mairidh of Sew It Seams accredited the pandemic for giving her time to create her business, “suddenly I had so much free time and I decided to make myself a fleece and a sewing page to document my journey…it then started spiralling.” Mairidh now has amassed over 15 thousand followers on Instagram and has sold out various times after dropping her collection of fleeces. 


Similarly, Shhillustrations was also born “in the middle of the pandemic”, as Sophie agreed that the situation was “definitely a good time for online business” and shecontinues to get great engagement online”, withlots of people sharing, commenting and liking. Lemonqueenvintage pre-existed before the pandemic. Chloe mentioned the “conscious effort made by people to shop more local and sustainably”, and has been “super busy with custom and pre-made drops due to a high-demand for sustainable slow fashion.” 


Importantly, I queried the businesses on how they implement sustainability into their business model. Mairidh explained, “I only buy what I need, when I need it and make all my fleeces with as little waste as possible.” As for waste, “I collect all the larger scraps and either sew them together and make them into something or donate them to sewing groups and schools for projects.” Chloe believes sustainability “can be made fun.” She elaborated, “all the clothing I sell is second hand, vintage or handmade by myself”, and she has in the past had “a special earring collection with all proceeds going to two charities dedicated to helping the Black Lives Matter movementand is keen to do something similar again. Sophie tries to “go paperless as much as possible by offering digital prints”, and does not use “excess packaging or anything non-recyclable”. Shhillustrations delivers mainly in Ireland and Sophie hand delivers orders in her surrounding area. Shhillustrations are “not mass produced, they are made to order.” 


The business landscape is changing vastly due to the circumstances the pandemic has put us in as a society. Small and independent businesses are benefitting from ongoing advancements in e-commerce and are also paving the way for ethical businesses to thrive in a growing community of sustainability conscious shoppers. These communities of people who are buying less, while buying goods with longer life spans and of higher quality, who are conscious of those who make their goods and how they are being treated, will reduce the carbon footprint for all and are creating a fairer landscape. Consumer interest dictates how businesses operate, so we should all make sustainable purchases and watch as the industry adapts. 




Featured photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash

This article was supported by: STAND News Programme Assistant Rachel 



Free journalism is dying in Poland

Free journalism is dying in Poland


Free journalism is dying in Poland

newspapers with 'classified' printed on one
Sarah Kennelly

1st May 2021



Poland’s turn towards the authoritarian has been making international headlines. The ruling party PiS has been taking a page out of Hungary’s book and implementing utterly anti-democratic policies. In recent months, the country has been attempting to censor liberal media outlets that openly critique the government. As a result, Poland has fallen 44 places in the world freedom of press ranking in the last 5 years. 


The activities of media outlets are being heavily interfered with by the government. Any journalist who hints at dissatisfaction with PiS is being landed with cases of defamation. Some courts are even making use of article 212 of the Polish criminal code which sentences journalists to up to one year in prison. These are undoubtedly scare tactics by the ruling party to silence any criticism which could put them in jeopardy. They overrun the media with cases so these outlets do not have sufficient time to put into their reporting. It also puts extreme economic pressure on these organisations who could be forced to close their doors.


“The newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza has been the main target of many of these attacks. In November 2018 they revealed a corruption scandal that forced the head of the Financial Supervision Authority to resign. This labelled them as a threat to the National Bank who called for the removal of all articles relating to the topic.”

The government supported this blatant censorship and continues to make efforts to silence the country’s most popular left-leaning publication. It is clear they aim to protect their reputation ahead of the 2023 general elections. By turning the public against liberal news sources, the government could consolidate its power for the next election. 


In a bid to further undermine public trust in these media outlets, PiS has been funding right-wing news sources. These newspapers are beginning to become mouthpieces for the government to push their conservative agenda. They are assigning directors to these organisations who are fiercely loyal to the party. If employees express opposition or even neutrality to the sitting government they are let go from their jobs. The most important media oversight body was also abolished. They established The National Media Council in its place whose members were appointed by the ruling party; a blatant conflict of interest.


The government is also trying to monopolise media outlets by encouraging companies they have ties with to buy up media organisations. One state energy firm controlled by PiS acquired ownership of Polska Press. This put over 20 Polish newspapers in the hands of the ruling party. This is a clear violation of the democratic ideals Poland agreed to upon entry into the EU. At this point, there is little stopping them from removing all opposition news sources.


However, this shift towards media censorship has not occurred without opposition. Although the media is under mounting pressure from PiS they are refusing to go silently. In February, many Polish newspapers blacked out their front pages in protest of the government’s suppression of the press. They continue to fight against these attacks but the state’s increasing control over the media is making this more difficult by the day. 


Poland is not the only one that is on the brink of having no free press in Europe. Many countries in Eastern Europe like Greece, Slovakia, and Hungary have come under fire for their censorship of the media. This is said to be attributed to the rise in populism across the continent. This is particularly true for Hungary which is under the leadership of populist politician Viktor Orbán. They are introducing increasingly authoritarian policies such as border closures and election postponements


Hungary’s frightening fall into authoritarianism could be the fate of Poland if the EU does not act swiftly. Should the EU fail to put a stop to the Polish government’s anti-democratic policies, the effects for its citizens could be life-changing. A free and independent media is essential to a fair society. PiS must be prevented from stripping the right to free press from its people.






Featured photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash