Smaller parties to be kingmakers in Akola, Amravati

first_imgNagpur: The decision of all four major political parties in Akola and Amravati districts — the Bhartiya Janata Party, the Congress, the Shiv Sena, and the Nationalist Congress Party — to contest the civic polls on their own, has opened doors of opportunities for smaller parties to become “kingmakers”.Prakash Ambedkar’s Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh in Akola; Independent MLA from Badnera, Ravi Rana’s Yuwa Swabhiman Sanghatana; and independent MLA Bachchu Kadu’s Prahar in Amravati, have put up candidates at selected seats as opposed to the major political parties, who are contesting on almost all seats in both the districts.Similarly, smaller parties like the BSP, the AIMIM, and the Samajwadi party have also fielded candidates at selected seats.Changes in AmravatiThe political equations in Amravati district have seen surprising changes in last five years.Sunil Deshmukh, once a popular Congress leader and Minister from Amravati, is now a BJP MLA, and Sanjay Khodke, once NCP’s face in the district, is with the Congress now.The only leader, who has not crossed over to other party and was actively involved in election management of his party was Anand Rao Adsul, Shiv Sena Lok Sabha MP from Amravati.The Congress is contesting on 81 out of 87 seats in the Amravati Municipal Corporation. The party has given six seats to the Republican Party of India’s Gavai faction. The BJP is contesting on 76 seats, and the Shiv Sena has fielded 69 candidates. The AIMIM has carefully selected 18 wards to contest, while Raj Thakare’s MNS is also contesting on 18 seats.The civic body was ruled by the Congress-NCP combine in the last term.Star campaignersApart from Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, no other party sent its star campaigner for campaigning in Amravati.However, the Sena looks in good shape with one rally of the party spokesperson Sanjay Raut and focused work by Mr. Adsul.The Congress’s leader of opposition in the State Assembly, Radha Krishna Vikhe-Patil, also addressed one rally in the district. With the induction of Mr. Khodke and his supporters, the Congress is likely to put up a stiff resistance to an emerging BJP.A political observer said, “The Shiv Sena is likely to perform better but no party is likely to get a clear majority in Amravati Municipal Corporation. Ravi Rana’s organization has the potential to win many seats. He, along with other smaller players, will decide on who will rule this body for next five years.” He added that the BJP’s stress on “religious sentiments” in the last four days of campaigning could swing votes towards it.KingmakersIn Akola Municipal Corporation, the performance of Prakash Ambedkar’s Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh and the impact of open infighting in the BJP could decide the results.Rajendra Patode of the BBM, said, “We are contesting on 63 out of 80 seats this year. We hope to double our number from seven to 14. No party is likely to get a clear majority this election because of the confusion caused by four-member electoral panel per ward. We will be the Kingmakers again.”The inclusion of some rural parts within the limit of the Akola Municipal Corporation could also help the BBM. The “corner meetings” held by Mr. Ambedkar in every ward could also help the party. The AIMIM has focused on ten wards and has fielded 16 candidates in the district.The open infighting between the Minister of State in Mr. Fadnavis’ cabinet, Ranjeet Patil, and Akola MP Sanjay Dhotre, could cause disadvantage to the BJP.A Congress leader from Akola said, “But the BJP is likely to increase its tally than the last elections this time, as it is the ruling party at the State and at the Center. Also, no other party has the resources which the BJP has and it is likely to help them. No party is in a position to get a clear mandate.”last_img read more

Odisha boy punches his way to Guinness record

first_imgOdisha’s Satyapira Pradhan on Tuesday claimed to have registered his name in Guinness World Records for delivering most number of punches with one hand in one minute.The record was previously held by Pakistan’s Muhammad Rashid, who had displayed his prowess in Karachi on October 22 last year.Confirmation awaitedMr. Satyapira, a physiotherapy student at a city-based medical college, punched 393 times with one hand in a minute surpassing 377 full punches struck by Pakistani martial arts student. The Odisha boy is now waiting for confirmation from Guinness World Records.“I came across this typical record six months ago. Subsequently, I had applied to challenge the record. I got approval from Guinness World Records authorities to make attempts on June 5. After getting approval, I organised the event on Tuesday,” said Satyapira, who hails from Bhawanipatna in Kalahandi district.As per the guidelines, two eyewitnesses, two time keepers and one punch pad keeper are required to be present at the event. The one minute video is to be submitted to the Guinness World Records.“A one-minute video was recorded while I kept punching with my right hand. Three separate attempts were made by me. Video of the last attempt was run in slow motion. We counted 398 punches. However, in five punches, we were not sure if I had delivered full-contact punch strikes. So we did not take those five punches into account,” he said.last_img read more

Rose Valley: ED attaches assets worth ₹ 293 crores

first_imgThe ED on Friday attached assets worth ₹ 293 crore in connection with the Rose Valley chit fund scam case in which thousands of people were allegedly cheated in West Bengal and Odisha, officials said.The central probe agency’s regional office here issued a provisional attachment order under sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and with this fresh action, the total attachment in this case stands at ₹ 1,950 crore (market value).“The latest attachment order is on assets worth ₹ 293 crore (market value),” senior officials in the agency said.The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had registered a criminal FIR against the firm, its Chairman Gautam Kundu and others in 2014 under the PMLA.Kundu was arrested by the agency from here in 2015 and he is currently in judicial custody.Multiple charge sheets have been filed in the courts in Kolkata and Bhubaneswar by the ED in this case.The group had allegedly floated a total of 27 companies for running the alleged chit fund operations out of which only half-a-dozen were active.It is alleged that the firm had floated the scheme by promising inflated returns on investments between 8 and 27 per cent to gullible investors in various states.The company had allegedly promised astronomical returns to depositors on land properties and assets and bookings done in the real estate sector. It is alleged that the company had made “cross investments” in its various sister firms to suppress its liabilities towards investors.The SEBI had probed the company before the ED and the CBI registered cases against the group.The ED has pegged the total volume of the alleged irregularities at ₹15,000 crore.An attachment order under PMLA laws is aimed to deprive the accused from getting benefits of their ill-gotten wealth and it gets confirmed after an order by the Adjudicating Authority of the said Act.last_img read more

10 Maoists surrender in Bastar

first_imgNAGPUR: Ten members of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), who worked in the Darbha division of Bastar, Chhattisgarh, surrendered to the police on Friday.The Bastar police said that the surrenders, in the presence of Dantewada range Deputy Inspector General of Police P. Sudarraj, were a result of the community policing campaign Amcho Bastar Amcho Police (Our Bastar, Our Police). “They were also attracted by the surrender and rehabilitation policy of the State government. They were working for the CPI (Maoist) since 2014,” the Bastar police said in a statement. They included seven Jan Militia members, two Janatana Sarkar members, and one member of the Chetna Natya Mandali.last_img

‘PM Modi should take over Railways’

first_imgGoa Congress president Shantaram Naik said on Friday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should stop making empty boasts about his efficacy and take over the Railways portfolio if he wanted to prove his capability as an administrator.In a statement issued soon after 23 people were killed in a stampede at Mumbai’s Elphinstone Road station, the former Goa Rajya Sabha MP questioned the need to spend crores of rupees on the bullet train project when existing rail infrastructure in India was poor. Mr. Naik said, “If Modi takes over the Railways, he will have to judge himself on merit and resign as Prime Minister if a tragedy takes place.” Mr. Naik added, “The Prime Minister who thinks of taking loans worth crores of rupees to start a bullet train has no right to be in office when railway infrastructure is crying for improvement and thousands of citizens sleep on railway platforms and footpaths.”last_img read more

Stipend for girls, sops for farmers in Assam budget

first_imgAssam government on Sunday announced an annual stipend for girls in the State to purchase sanitary napkins and scholarships for those belonging to minority communities, besides a zero-interest crop loan for farmers and debt relief for those unable to replay loans.Presenting the State’s first e-budget available on Google App, Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said suggestions from citizens via official portals had helped the government prioritise the needs of people and to allocate funds.The Rs 2,149-crore deficit budget presented in the State Assembly was heavy on schemes for girls and farmers besides allocations and incentives for making the State corruption and foreigners-free.The budget proposed an annual stipend of Rs 600 to be transferred to bank accounts of 500,000 girls aged 12-20 years and belonging to families with annual income of less than Rs 5-lakh. The block development offices would register the girls for the scheme linked to their date of birth so that it stoped automatically when they reached the age of 20.“I have earmarked Rs 30-crore for this scheme for ease of access to disposable sanitary napkins and ensuring better hygiene,” Mr Sarma said.The budget had proposed four slabs of annual scholarship of up to Rs 10,000 for ensuring girls belonging to minority communities pursue education beyond class 10. Eligible girls would need to self-certify that they were unmarried and pursing their education to avail the scholarship that would peg the government back by Rs 250-crore.The government had also budgeted Rs 25-crore for providing two-wheelers to the top 5,000 girls who passed this year’s higher secondary examination. Rules had been tweaked for allowing unmarried daughters of pensioners, who did not have other sources of income, to continue receiving pension in the event of her parent’s death. A monthly pension of Rs 250 for “each and every senior citizen of the State irrespective of whether they are above or below the poverty line” was also proposed.Farm debt reliefAssam’s budget had proposed schemes to offset a farm crisis as experienced elsewhere the country. “The contribution of farmers to the nation’s economy is unparalleled. The needs of the farming community must be given top priority,” Mr Sarma said.The government had thus proposed measures such as zero-interest crop loans to farmers and financial incentives for farmers using Kisan Credit Cards. Farmers who renewed the card would get one-time cash incentive of Rs 3,000.The government would also give banks 25% of outstanding dues, subject to a maximum limit of Rs 25,000, in each loan account. Mr Sarma said adding that Rs 500-crore had been allocated for this scheme expected to provide debt relief to farmers.“We will continue to reward the prompt repaying farmers by extending 4% interest subsidy, so that they get all short-term interest-free crop loans up to Rs 1-lakh,” he said.Other schemes include Rs 5,000 as financial assistance per farmer for encouraging farm mechanisation.For tea plantation workers, whom the government said had been “trapped in weekly cash cycle”, the Chah Bagicha Dhan Puraskar Mela was announced. This entailed transferring Rs 2,500 to the bank accounts of 721,485 tea garden workers across 752 estates in 26 districts. The first tranche of Rs 2,500 had been paid in the current fiscal.The scheme was to insensitivise the digitisation of payment to tea plantation workers who have been receiving wages in cash by the week, Mr Sarma said.The State Government would also be paying Rs 342 annually for life and accident insurance of the each tea plantation worker. The sum assured was Rs 2 lakh.GI tag for local liquorThe budget also promised efforts for obtaining geographical indication (GI) tag for “indigenous items that have seldom got their due recognition”.These included laopani and saaj, two varieties of local liquor made from fermented rice and a variety of exotic rice such as komal saul, joha saul and bora saul.Komal saul, once proposed for the armed forces, was a kind of soft rice that needed no boiling. It could be consumed after a few minutes of soaking in water. While joha was an aromatic rice, bora was a sticky rice.Among other items for which GI tag was being pursued were kopou (local orchid), fulaam jaapi (decorative headgear) and endi silk.The government, Mr Sarma said, had also proposed to develop a world class botanical garden at Kaziranga National Park with an initial budget of Rs 8-crore.last_img read more

Separatists, political leaders condemn killing of Chennai tourist in J&K

first_imgThe killing of a Chennai tourist in a stone-pelting incident in Kashmir Valley has earned widespread condemnation from the civil society and the political class across the spectrum, including separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.While Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti personally apologised to the family for the incident, National Conference (NC), Congress and CPI(M) also condemned the protesters’ action. R. Thirumani, a tourist from Chennai succumbed to injuries when the vehicle he was travelling was attacked by stone-pelters at Narbal on Sunday when the State was observing a shutdown against the killing of five civilians in Shopian.Hooliganism, say separatistsFacing public criticism, senior separatist leaders, Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, described the act of these stone-throwers as “hooliganism and tragic”.“We as a nation feel not only sorry but ashamed as well. People of Kashmir are worst sufferers (of the ongoing conflict) but it should not encourage us to be cruel and heartless ourselves,” said Mr. Geelani.Terming the attack as “an act of hooliganism and rowdiness”, the Mirwaiz said, “I am deeply saddened. I condemn such hooliganism. It’s totally against our ethos of treating tourists as respected guests and brings a bad name to the peoples’ movement.”Blot on the cultural value system of Kashmir, says Mufti“I have no words strong enough to condemn the tragic incident or even condole with the family. The killing of R. Thirumani is a blot on the cultural value system of Kashmir and an attempt to bulldoze the economy of the place,” said Ms. Mufti.Director General of Police S.P Vaid asked the civil society “to identity such people and hand them over”. The incident took place on the Srinagar-Gulmarg road on Monday morning.“I don’t support these goons, their methods or their ideology I’m deeply, deeply sorry that this happened at all and that too in an area I’ve been proud to represent since 2014,” said NC working president Omar Abdullah.CPI (M) leader M.Y. Tarigami asked, “Whose cause is fulfilled by such brutal killings?”Civil society aghastTop traders’ body, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries KCCI,asked Ms. Mufti to “identify and punish the perpetrators of this gory crime, which has brought a bad name to J&K”.It also demanded “restrain from the troops and cessation of hostile operations”.“The conflict is essentially political and cannot be resolved by military might,” it added.Several state tourism players also held a joint press conference in Srinagar and described the attackers of the tourist vehicles as “not well wishers of Kashmir”.last_img read more

BJP-JD (U) alliance in Bihar is intact, says Amit Shah

first_imgBharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah on Thursday denied reports of a disagreement with the Janata Dal (United) over seat sharing for the coming Lok Sabha poll.“All speculation about differences with Nitish Kumar are unfounded… You can continue to speculate, but we’ll contest together and win all 40 seats in Bihar,” Mr. Shah told a large congregation of party workers at Patna’s Gyan Bhavan. “We know how to honour and keep our alliance partners together… if Chandrababu Naidu has parted ways with us, then Nitish Kumar has joined us… every day media keeps writing about differences between us, but the alliance between Nitish Kumar and the BJP will win all 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar,” he asserted.He urged the party cadres to reach out to voters and “make Narendra Modi Prime Minister once again”.Mr. Shah spoke about the political journey of the BJP since 1950. “Several leaders and workers have sacrificed their lives for the sake of our party… BJP started with just 10 members and now it has 11 crore members. The party rules in about 70% of the country and in 2019 too, it will come to power under NDA alliance with Narendra Modi as Prime Minister.”Targets RahulMounting an attack on the Congress and its president Rahul Gandhi, Mr. Shah demanded to know what the party had done for the country during its rule of four generations. “Rahul Baba often asks what PM Modi has done, but the people of the country want to know what four generations of his family, who ruled the country for 55 years, have done…,” Mr Shah said.“When the Congress was in power for 10 years it had given ₹1.93 lakh crore to Bihar, but the Narendra Modi-led NDA government gave ₹4.35 lakh crore in the last four years”, said Mr. Shah. “Our mission is that every citizen of this country gets a house by 2022… every house gets electricity and toilet. But Rahul Baba, what have your four generations done in the last 55 years?”Earlier, Mr. Shah was accorded a grand welcome by BJP leaders and workers in Patna, where he met Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and other senior BJP leaders at the State guest house over breakfast. Later, he addressed party workers, booth-level in-charge. He also met party leaders in the evening to discuss the upcoming poll strategy.Later in the evening, he reached the official residence of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar 1, Anne Marg and had meetings with several leaders over dinner.This was Mr. Shah’s first visit to the State since the JD(U) formed the government in Bihar with the BJP in July 2017.A large number of hoardings, posters and billboards with pictures of Mr. Shah and State BJP leaders dotted the State capital to welcome him.Meanwhile, party sources told The Hindu that both the leaders had reached an electoral agreement “based on some mutually agreed arithmetic” and the meeting between the two was held in a congenial atmosphere.However, Opposition RJD leader and party spokesperson Bhai Birendra said, “let them conclude their meeting in congenial atmosphere, but their defeat is certain in people’s court of election”.last_img read more

Despite Open Defecation Free status, rural Gujarat still needs lakhs of toilets

first_imgMonths after being declared as ‘Open Defecation Free’ (ODF), Gujarat still has requirement of lakhs of toilets in rural households, according to a reply to an RTI query.In Dahod, as of May-June this year, 1.40 lakh families are yet to get toilets under the ‘Swachh Bharat Mission- Gramin’ scheme, the district administration said in reply to the application filed by RTI activist Hitesh Chavda.Besides, 17,874 families in Vadodara, 26,687 in Chhota Udepur, 14,878 in Kutch, 34,607 in Sabarkantha, 27,180 in Patan, 19,526 in Mahisagar and 21,320 in Amreli districts do not have toilets at their homes.Officials say that such requirements are expected to come up every year because of the branching out of families into separate units.The Gujarat government spent ₹ 2,893 crore on construction of over 32 lakh toilets since 2014, after the Union government’s scheme was launched. Of this, ₹ 1,778.96 crore was sanctioned by the Centre, the State rural development department said in the reply.Toilets will have to be constructed for many more years before every rural household gets its own facility, the department’s commissioner and secretary, Mona Khandhar, told PTI.“As new families get formed, adult daughters, sons get married, brothers get separated, and they have separate homes.So, this kind of requirement is expected,” she said.The government expects that every year there will be new requirements for 3 to 5 per cent of total rural households, which will be about two lakh or so, she said.“Over a period of time it may reduce to one lakh, but we are expecting this requirement and have also made arrangements for the additional requirement,” Ms. Khandhar said.The Gujarat government has already sanctioned the construction of one lakh additional toilets in rural areas this year after the State was declared ODF, she said.Ms. Khandhar said her department along with the World Bank and the Quality Council of India will monitor implementation of the government’s project to ensure there are no lapses.The Union government had informed the Lok Sabha in February this year that 11 States, including Gujarat, have been declared as ODF under the Swachh Bharat Mission.However, in a survey conducted in eight districts of Gujarat, nearly 30 per cent of houses were found to have no toilets, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said in a report tabled in the state Assembly last Wednesday.last_img read more

PM, Shah to launch BJP’s Rajasthan poll campaign

first_imgWith the two-month “Gaurav Yatra” of Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje concluding in Ajmer on Saturday, the ruling BJP is set to launch its election campaign shortly, even before the announcement of the dates of the Assembly polls. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accompanied by BJP president Amit Shah, will address a meeting on the occasion.Mr. Modi will visit Rajasthan to address a series of public meetings in the run-up to the election. The BJP election management committee has proposed a schedule of rallies in seven districts, mainly covering the areas where the party is perceived to be weak.‘Historic one’ BJP State president Madan Lal Saini said the public meeting on the Kayad Vishram Sthali grounds in Ajmer would be a historic one. “The Prime Minister’s address will not only help build a favourable mood among the electorate but he will also guide the party workers for bringing victory to the BJP,” he said.Mr. Shah had flagged off Ms. Raje’s yatra from the Charbhujanath temple in Rajsamand district on August 4, in the presence of party workers and the public from the Mewar region. Ms. Raje used a modified bus as a “chariot” during the journey, covering more than 120 Assembly constituencies by spending 35 days on the road. Except Bharatpur, she covered all divisions in the State.The much-publicised yatra faced disruptions when some miscreants threw stones on the bus during Ms. Raje’s public meeting in Pipar town of Jodhpur district. Gujjars threatened to stop the march with the demand for reservation. A public interest litigation petition was filed in the Rajashan High Court alleging that public money was being spent on the yatra.The High Court directed the BJP on September 5 to stop organising government functions en route, and termed the holding of public functions during the march “abuse of power”. The issue of alleged misuse of public money was briefly raised in the Assembly.A proposed march of the protesting government employees, who have been on a strike for several days, to the Ajmer rally venue may create a difficult situation for the administration.Federation of Ministerial Staff president Manoj Saxena said the employees would stage a protest to draw Mr. Modi’s attention to their demands.last_img read more

Ahmedabad to be renamed?

first_imgThe Gujarat government on Thursday said it was considering renaming Ahmedabad as Karnavati. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani told reporters in Gandhinagar the name change could be effected before the Lok Sabha election.Mr. Rupani’s statement comes days after the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh announced renaming of Allahabad and Faizabad as Prayagraj and Ayodhya, respectively.“People have been demanding for long that Ahmedabad be renamed as Karnavati. The government is considering this demand. The consultation process has been started [to find out] if legally we can do it. After consultations we will take a concrete step,” he said.Asked when was it likely to happen, he said, “Before the [Lok Sabha] elections.” Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said the name Ahmedabad was a “symbol of slavery” and needed to be changed.“We have started the process of getting legal and other approvals like the nod of the Centre,” Mr. Patel said.“The name [Ahmedabad] is a symbol of our slavery, while the name Karnavati represents our pride, our self-respect, our culture, our autonomy,” he said.Ahmedabad Mayor Bijal Patel said she would seek “guidance” from the government before bringing in a resolution for renaming the city.last_img read more

Congress opposes demand to rename Pune as ‘Jijapur’

first_imgThe Congress has opposed the pro-Maratha Sambhaji Brigade’s demand to rename Pune as ‘Jijapur’, with former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan remarking that a name change would result in effacing the glorious history of the city. “What is the purpose of such banal propositions? Is the history of Pune so shameful that its name be changed?” he said. “The BJP, which came to power on the ‘development’ plank, is now indulging in such banal name-change games to cover-up its failures. Such moves (like renaming Allahabad as Prayagraj) are deliberately being taken before elections to cause social discord,” he said.The Sambhaji Brigade submitted a memorandum to the District Collector on Monday with a formal demand to change the city’s named in the memory of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s mother, Jijabai.History of prosperity“The forces of the Adilshah of Bijapur had ravaged Pune in the 1630s. This was a time of strife. It was the vision and courage of Jijabai that helped rehabilitate the people and make the city prosperous,” said Santosh Shinde of the Sambhaji Brigade. Jijabai’s symbolic gesture of furrowing the land with a golden plough marked the beginning of the city’s prosperity, he said. The Brigade has also expressed support for the Shiv Sena’s demand to change the names of Aurangabad and Osmanabad to Sambhaji Nagar and Dharashiv respectively.Meanwhile, Imtiaz Jaleel, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen legislator from Aurangabad has opposed these demands, calling such proposals ‘frivolous’. “It is rather unfortunate that political parties waste time on such issues instead of striving to beautify the city. What is the objective behind such proposals and what it will prove?” he said.‘Known for garbage’“Aurangabad today is identified by its garbage problems. Despite the Shiv Sena being in power in the State and civic body, it has done nothing to improve the city. And now, it wants to rename a decrepit city in memory of King Sambhaji. It is indeed a shame and a pity,” Mr. Jaleel said.last_img read more

Man held for raping British tourist in Goa

first_imgThe South Goa police arrested a 30-year-old man belonging to Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, on the charge of raping a 42-year-old British tourist and robbing her of her belongings on Thursday morning.Superintendent of Police (South Goa) Arvind Gawas told The Hindu that CCTV footage obtained from the site of the incident and the local railway station helped them track down the accused, Ram Chandrappa, the same evening.The victim was proceeding from the Canacona railway station to her guesthouse near Palolem beach after missing a train when the accused chased her into the nearby fields and raped her around 4.30 a.m. Police said he then fled with her bag, which contained ₹20,000 in cash.“We arrested him from the Margao railway station,” Mr. Gawas said.The victim has been a regular visitor to Goa for the last several years.last_img read more

Schoolgirl raped, set ablaze in U.P.

first_imgA schoolgirl died after she was allegedly raped and set ablaze by a man in a village in Dildarnagar police station area here, police said. SP Arvind Kumar Chaturvedi said the incident took place on Friday night. The girl was sleeping in her house when the man, who’s her neighbour, barged in and allegedly raped her. He later poured kerosene on her, set her on fire and fled.last_img

What A Stunner!

first_imgThe election results in India proved quite a stunner. Everyone, we mean everyone — the political parties, exit pollsters and the media, us included — was thrown for a big, wide loop.The BJP-led ruling alliance had called early elections and even had the gall to ask the electorate to return it with a mandate for a two-third constitutional majority.They fashioned an arrogant campaign around the frivolous slogan, India Shining, with the aim of calling attention to the spectacular economic growth the country has experienced in the past few years. The moribund Congress tapped into rural resentment and the failure of the ruling alliance to focus on the agrarian agenda. The Indian electorate tossed the BJP out by their ears.       Elections are not a reward for the past, but a mandate for a plan for the future.This is democracy at its most glorious. Whatever one might feel about the outcome, one cannot but feel proud about the fact that the Indian electorate spoke as resoundingly as it did and that the transfer of power occurred without a hitch.Er, almost.The Indian democratic process is by no means perfect. It is still rife with corruption, ruled by an oligarchy of traditional parties, and chaotic. Democracy is more than voting, of course, but we need to be cheerful about the fact that we do not kill by the thousands to effect regime change.The drama that followed only decorates the distinctive process of Indian democracy. It would be more appropriate to call it a “tamasha,” in the perfect Marathi tradition of accepting the scandalous in a celebratory fashion.Sonia Gandhi’s ascendancy to prime minister, her on again, off again withdrawal, the plaintive pleas for reconsideration and the final annointing of her Highness as the Kingmaker, is worthy of the best political soap opera. Should we believe these theatrics? Perhaps if we believe in the transparency of hypocrites. Already the news from India is replete with stories about how everyone is courting Sonia, nationally and internationally, to exalt her Highness as the divinity she has maneuvered so cleverly to become.It would be unwise to read a major shift in the Congress Party’s fortunes, which the tamasha has led some to assume. In fact, Congress actually received almost 2 percent fewer votes than it did in 1999. It returned to power only because it finally gave up any illusions of securing a parliamentary majority on its own and this time sought out pre-poll alliances, something it had spurned in the past.In these alliances, it turned out luckier – and luckier more than calculating would be the term – than the BJP. Indeed, the political fortunes would have been reversed had the BJP-led alliance stuck to its 1999 election partners.Even though Sonia Gandhi’s calculated and caliberated post-election theatrics have served their purpose of elevating her stature, this election continued the public erosion of her party.India is now destined for the next few decades, atleast, to be governed by parliamentary coalitions, which are frequently messy. However, given the diversity of the country and the competing tugs and pulls on public polity, that may not altogether be a bad thing.We see the rise and fall and rise again of unseemly characters. This election witnessed the drumming of Jayalalitha and the triumph of Laloo Prasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh. According to published reports, the new cabinet has at least three members with criminal cases pending against them.Really, who would you rather take?Nevertheless, this election will forever remain a cautionary reminder to the powerful against arrogance and complacency. George Bush, are you listening?  Related Itemslast_img read more

LOVE-AAJ KAL!

first_imgFirst things first. It has been said that the history of cinema is also a history of exciting, adventurous and celebrated love affairs. Dead right. And for excellent reasons. The very nature of filmmaking provides the mood and milieu for amorous encounters for two people thrown together.  Jab We MetFar off Switzerland or neighboring Goa and their close and constant physical contact often leads on and off the sets to the romantic intimacies of the screenplay. Then again, the stars have an exclusive, subliminal and indefinable psychological bond. Idolized and damned in equal measures, these larger-than-life creatures turn to each other for fulfillment, leading them to believe (with some truth) that only a star can truly understand, relate and love another. But how does love surface in the first place? And what does this divine madness do to screen lovers? Does it actually help them emote better?According to many distinguished people who pass their life and times tossing educated opinions on screen love in Bollywood, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Dev Anand were the greatest. Let’s take Dilip first. In an environment brimming with hammy overacting, Dilip was perhaps the first actor in Bombay to introduce the rare, dignified and yet powerful element of restraint. And this element, naturally, crept into his love scenes. The Dilip-Madhubala, Dilip-Vyjayanti, Dilip-Meena, Dilip-Waheed love scenes were fashioned by this wonderfully refreshing trait. A quiet, intense, sensitive (often to the point of shyness) lover who very nearly doesn’t make it. The near-lover, the puzzled introvert – these are some labels that come to mind for Dilip’s love scenes. AawaraIn total contrast was the Raj-Nargis love saga. Loud, boisterous and always full of life and laughter, this team brought a daring and pizzazz to their love-scenes, which were completely Western in concept and then unknown in popular Indian cinema. The Raj-Nargis love scenes were very passionate, very beautiful and often very physical.The heady fever comes through loud n’ clear when you compare Devdas, Daag, and Paigham with Barsaat, Awara, and Shree 420. One has to think very hard indeed to match another couple that set a generation ablaze as Raj and Nargis did with their onscreen romances.If Dilip and his heroines brought intensity, sensitivity and restraint in their love-scenes, while Raj-Nargis introduced passion, boldness and undiluted physicality, then nodding head Dev Anand screamed “contemporariness.” Neither too serious, nor overtly passionate, he brought in style, chaal, ada every time he “pharmaoed” ishq.From Suraiya to Tina Munim, Dev’s love scenes (Manzil, Paying Guest, Asli Nakli, Guide, Des Pardes) have always been sprinkled with rare flamboyance. His style of talking, walking and his mannerisms turned-on not only his heroines, but millions of adoring fans over the decades. Oh, there was Guru Dutt too, who blazed with all cylinders firing and lit up the screen with lady love Waheeda Rehman in classics like Pyaasa, Kagaz ke Phool, Chaudvin ka Chand, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, but Dev Anand stood apart.  Bipasha Basu & John AbrahamAll these stalwarts of Indian cimena emoted much better (as their films reveal) when in love and deeply entrenched in their heroine’s soul. The only real inheritor of their legacy was Rajesh Khanna, who in the early seventies brought back love (in all his crinkled eyed glory) to where it belonged – center-stage! Such was the hysteria that his early romantic films (Aradhana, Kati Patang, Amarprem, Sacha Jhootha, Roti, Aaan Milo Sanjna, Apna Desh, Aap Ki Kasam, Do Raaste) generated that girls actually were known to have married his photograph and applied sindoor, sometimes in blood.These days Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol may well be voted the “most romantic couple of the day” in an opinion poll and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge the “all time favorite movie,” but somehow they are no match against romance’s glory days.Pure, raging, insane, passion – love to die for – has been replaced by love parading as a designer emotion, a fashion statement, fun n’ cool, with sensuous body language in place of inarticulated expressions of love, loss and longing. Furthermore, today, in a world where speed is the watchword and quantity the cardinal turn-on, love has become a publicity gimmick, a marketing tool, designed to psyche and hustle the turned-on mobs into storming a movie.As can be gathered, this blitz is normally machine-gunned before the release of a film. What these dumbbells don’t understand is that publicity can’t sell a lousy movie. Nor can curry-dipped rumors. At most they create a climate of excitement, which can – and often does – dangerously boomerang if the promise does not match the performance.  Dhoom 2New star-teams (Akshay-Kareena in Kambakkht Ishq; Saif-Deepika in Love, Aaj Kal) are caught in the spectacular race for box-office buzz. Are they only confirming the obvious: that the world of passion and intensity has been replaced by hype and heart-string manipulators, panting to get into the fast lane, at any cost?“I totally disagree! I don’t buy the idea the environment in earlier times, stars, movies, individuals, were more romantic than ours,” says Bollywoods new, blazing love-guru, director Imtiaz Ali (Jab We Met and Love Aaj Kal). “The passion and intensity of love, loss and longing that you speak about is still around. It could, for example, well be a man sitting in a café, sipping coffee by himself, cheerful, bullish on life, doing his crossword. Suddenly, we see tears rolling down his cheeks. There could be a zillion reasons, only the manifestations are different. These are complex times and the trappings, idiom, style and manner of expressing love, feeling and emotion has changed to keep pace with it. The real thing, however remains intact.”The inimitable Gulzar takes a more nuanced view: “I don’t think it is all true, although partially it seems so. I feel it’s a completely time and place things. The long drawn romance born of rishtas that came from different cities, defining the distance-lends-enchantment factor in todays’ life belongs to the fiction category. The tremulous meeting of eyes, accidental brushing of hand, leading to unspoken, inarticulated, romantic highs doesn’t happen any more. That was then … the fifties. In year 2009, it is a more pro-active, informal and direct interface between young men and women living in a world dominated by internet, cell phones and ATMs. It’s a generational thing, That’s the way the young people conduct romance today … and I go along with it all the way!”  Mughal-E-AzamAh well, but dear reader you might want to pause and reflect on this as well…Once upon a time, love was romance. Dilip holding his Queen of Hearts protectively in his arms, while his eyes blazed defiance at his royal father; Raj embracing his woman passionately: Dev prancing around with his lady love. All that resides in the fluffy soft focus of a distant past.Today, love appears to be less of a sublime emotion, more of a consumer perishable along the fast moving consumer goods line. To be clinical is to be in. The primacy of permissiveness has replaced love with sex, corrupting into an act, a behavior, an ingredient so artificially (and seductively) relevant that filmmakers have appointed themselves as lab-specialists. They have detailed, magnified and celebrated titillation in the mainline commercial, and in so doing, destroyed emotion, buried passion, corrupted intimacy, killed charm and de-mystified romance … forever.  Related Itemslast_img read more

Business Leaders Setting Up Coalition in Massachusetts to Show Immigrants’ Contribution to U.S. Economy

first_imgBusiness leaders in Massachusetts, United States, are coming together to form a new coalition, which will work to advocate easier immigration policies and highlight the role played by foreign workers in strengthening the country’s economy.  The group, called Massachusetts Business Coalition on Immigration, will be launched Oct.1, the Associated Press reported. It aims to provide business leaders a platform to raise their voice against the strict norms that are targeting immigrants and bringing harm to businesses and economy. The new coalition is being formed at a time when the Trump administration is carrying out a crackdown on immigration through stricter rules.  The launch event of the coalition will be hosted by HYM Investment Group, a real estate development company. Democrat Senater Edward Markey and the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition are going to meet with people who represent some of the state’s top business sectors.  Immigrants are very important for the economy in various industries, including technology, health care, construction and hospitality, Thomas O’Brien, managing partner of HYM Investment Group, said, according to the report. Washington is running a “xenophobic agenda” against foreign- born professionals and the new coalition is an attempt to counter that force and help Boston remain a global innovation hub, O’Brien added.   “From high tech to construction, health care to hospitality, immigrants are vital to Massachusetts’ economy,” he was quoted as saying by Boston Business Journal. “The xenophobic agenda coming out of Washington poses a direct threat to our position as a global hub of innovation and productivity. As business leaders, we cannot stand on the sidelines.”  One in five workers in Massachusetts is born in a foreign country, Eva Millona, the executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said.Over a dozen companies have contributed $15,000 in total, in addition to the $20,000 in seed money from the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, Boston Globe reported. Millona is aiming to get the support of at least 200 corporate members, the report added.The business coalition in Massachusetts follows other such groups that have been formed in other American states, such as Illinois, Florida, Colorado and Texas. The stringent changes being brought about by the Trump administration in America’s immigration policy have worried companies, with many of them saying recently that the increased denial of visas to foreign professionals is hurting businesses.  In August, 59 CEOs signed a letter that called the Trump administration’s immigration policies a threat to the country’s economic growth. The CEOs, which included big names like Apple Inc’s Tim Cook and Pepsico Inc’s Indira Nooyi, among others, added that inconsistent government action also undermines American competitiveness. Related ItemsbostonMassachusettsUnited Stateslast_img read more

Sikh Man Attacked, Racially Abused in Canada

first_imgA Sikh man in Canada was allegedly attacked by two white men on March 23, who not only robbed him, but also hurled racial slurs at him, threatened him and removed his turban, the Ottawa Police Service said in a statement.The Ottawa Police Service Robbery Unit is now investigating the incident that appears to have racial overtones. On the night of March 23, the complainant had left his place of employment near the Westgate Mall in Ottawa, and was waiting for a bus at a bus stop.The man was approached by two suspects, who asked him about his ethnicity, and about cutting his beard and hair. “The two suspects left but then returned and asked for change. The suspects started to make racial slurs, and one suspect produced a knife,” the statement added.The man ran to a nearby store, but he could not gain entry as the doors were locked. According to the police, the victim was assaulted by the two suspects, dragged on the ground, and threatened. The two white men then removed and stole the victim’s turban, as well as his phone and bus pass. He sustained minor injuries, and was treated at the scene by paramedics.The employer of the Sikh man said that he told him he would quit the job as he was “too petrified” to come back to work, Ottawa Citizen reported. The employer added that the victim is on a student visa in Ottawa and has been staying in the city for two months.The two suspects have been described by the police as being  in their twenties. A part of the investigation will ascertain if this was a hate-motivated crime.World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) president Mukhbir Singh on March 27 urged the police to investigate the incident as a hate crime and ensure that those responsible are quickly brought to justice.“We are shocked by the attack on a Sikh male in Ottawa last week.  We had feared that recent accusations of extremism and radicalism against the Sikh community would lead to a rise in intolerance against Sikhs – this incident would appear to substantiate those fears,” Singh said in a statement, adding, “The forcible removal of a Sikh’s turban is considered the greatest insult a Sikh can be subjected to and is being taken very seriously by the community.”He also said that over the past several weeks, the WSO has repeatedly expressed concern that intolerance towards Sikhs is on the rise in Canada. Related ItemsCanadahate crimeSikhismlast_img read more