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It is election season in the world’s largest democracy and there is a deluge of controversial and polarising issues that political players across the country have been raking up, often to mind-boggling proportions, in public consciousness. There is nothing wrong in thinking – or being made to think – hard about whom to elect as your representative in the Parliament and the State Legislative Assembly. Just as there is nothing right about choosing not to exercise your right to vote during this time, especially if you appreciate living in a democratic nation. Because voting and elections are the lifeblood of democracy, something we should never take for granted.

However, there is a lot more to life than politics and elections.

You do not need to have first-hand experience of the tensions in the Middle East – whether it be from the ongoing Israel-Hamas war where so much blood has been spilled or even from the recent Israel-Iran standoff (detailed in the cover story; pgs. 8-15) that threatened to spiral into a much bigger and broader conflict in the Middle East, raising the spectre of a Third World War – to realise just how woefully vulnerable and utterly transient life can be in a world full of belligerent and nuclear-enabled entities.

India is no stranger to this phenomenon thanks to a couple of its northern neighbours, both acutely antagonistic and both possessing a substantial stockpile of nuclear warheads. Yet even wars happening in relatively distant lands such as the protracted Russia-Ukraine war or the fortunately short-lived Israel-Iran faceoff last month have had a visible impact not just on our country but across global markets and economies, as amply reflected in ever-rising crude prices and commodity rates.

It is a crying shame that religion, a system of belief and worship that is meant to take humans closer to God, has been – and continues to be – one of the main reasons behind countless battles and bloodshed in the world. But religion per se cannot be blamed for this, because no religion in its original form encourages taking lives or subjugating others. History is proof that it is always those powerful and fanatic flag bearers of religion and morales – whether they be in the form of kings, priests or political leaders – who have blood on their hands for misinterpreting sacred texts, misleading people and causing widespread destruction to serve their avarice and hubris.

That is probably why people have increasingly been making a distinction between religion and spirituality and the debate rages on over what is the right way (explored in the centrepiece story; pgs. 32-39). The importance of this subject area cannot be emphasized enough because both religion and spirituality have always played an important role in maintaining people’s mental health.

A lot of things and notions are changing with the changing times (not necessarily for the better)– but the one reality that will never change, and where there can be no debate, is the paramount importance of health. While medical science has advanced by leaps and bounds, the number of lifestyle and pollution-related diseases are also spiralling upwards. Information, awareness and proactively acting on that awareness will be key weapons to fight off challenges on the personal and public health fronts. After all, health is wealth and there is nothing more precious than that.

In its new avatar, India First will focus on things like these. Things that really matter.

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