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I read this sentence in The Hindu:

We have not seen national will on a similar scale since. This when we urgently need an agricultural initiative comparable in its transformative capacity today.

What does "this when" mean? And what does the whole sentence imply?

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    Please give the name of that newspaper you read? – user76322 Aug 24 '18 at 10:26
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    Considering the typo in 'comparable', 'is' could be lost from 'This is when' as well. – Alex_ander Aug 24 '18 at 10:34
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    The Hindu of August 22. – Vishal Ghulati Aug 24 '18 at 10:47
  • Actually it was me who misspelt comparable. – Vishal Ghulati Aug 24 '18 at 10:49
  • Not any single dictionary describes such usage of this when. However you can consider reading this sentence: "do this, when the lights go out." There is comma between this and when in the sentence. Link: weather.com/storms/severe/video/do-this-when-the-lights-go-out – user76322 Aug 24 '18 at 10:52
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The sentence is correct but it's unusual to see this phrasing in a newspaper. You can interpret "This when..." as meaning "This thing that I have just mentioned is occurring when..." It emphasizes that the thing is occurring even though the next thing is true.

For example,

Soundings taken by the British gunboats in their ascent in 1900 gave 63 1/2 fathoms of water in two places, and this when the water at Ichang was rather less than 6 feet above zero mark!

means "...and the soundings taken by the British gunboats did this when..."

Or

...when taking a journey, he arms himself, and seeks to go well accompanied; when going to sleep, he locks his doors; when even in his house he locks his chests; and this when he knows there be laws and public officers...

means "...and he does all these things when he knows (etc.)"

So in the newspaper article, the two sentences

We have not seen national will on a similar scale since. This when we urgently need an agricultural initiative comparable in its transformative capacity today.

can be interpreted as

We have not seen national will on a similar scale since, and this is a fact even though we urgently need an agricultural initiative comparable in its transformative capacity today

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