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2016 was gloomy; 2017 may get gloomier: The new normal is bitter and disregards truth

2016 was a gloomy year.

Chaos overwhelmed order and noise trumped good sense all through. Propaganda suffocated truth and opinion rode roughshod over facts. At the end of it India appeared to have finally settled into the new normal.

Welcome to the post-truth age. And goodbye the old world obsessed with morality.

What is the defining feature of the new normal? It has to be obfuscation of and disregard for truth. It rides on the brute power of propaganda and not-so-subtle manipulation of mass opinion. Truth is no more simple black and white; it is imbued with many shades and ambiguities. Innuendos, insinuations and disinformation designed to be malicious and address the lowest common denominator play a role to cloud it.

Representational image.

Representational image.

India was angrier, bitter and more cynical than ever the whole of the year, thanks to the crudity in the air. The hate talk, the unbridled combativeness and expression of acrimony is likely to continue through the next year and beyond. The rise and rise of the emotion-driven, and sometimes irrational, Right is one reason why. The failure of those in the ideological Left and the middle to develop a convincing counter-argument to them is another. But the worst is the inability of the ordinary Indian to keep himself insulated from political developments and study the reality around dispassionately.

The new normal is characterised by low trust and the tendency of players, political and otherwise, to exploit the trust gap through calculated lies and half-truths spread among people. Lies are what remained in full play in 2016. Every allegation against every political leader in the media and elsewhere was falsehood. The choice of the word ‘lie’ is deliberate. Over the last two-and-half years we have been hearing of scandals and involvement of political biggies in them. Television channels produce irrefutable proof every other day. How come none of the accused is in jail so far? How come Robert Vadra‘s land deals make it to headlines every couple of months yet he is not even in the court once? Obviously, we were being fed untruth all along or someone wanted to keep us distracted from our many existential problems.

The worst part is, we as a people have started enjoying the lies, elevated them to some kind of mass entertainment. The spicier it is the better. Obviously, we don’t give a damn. We have made truth irrelevant to our lives and facts redundant.

In the process we have diminished ourselves morally. In the post-truth age morality, private, public and institutional has taken a dip. It was evident the way we bought propaganda peddled by politicians on both sides of the ideological divide with a conniving media with unrelenting relish and happily became part of their political wars. We forgot that the idea of India was bigger than any ideology or leader. It is unlikely to change anytime soon.

The diminishing of institutions of public trust is a dimension of the new normal. So when the judiciary passes a verdict it is no more accepted as sacrosanct; when the Army says it conducted surgical strikes there are as many doubters as believers and when the Reserve Bank of India offers facts on demonetisation, there is suspicion. The police no more inspires respect. Government, run by politicians as they are, has always been low on credibility. How does a democracy function when all its institutions lack vigour and the social capital called trust? We were too busy asserting ourselves over others to notice the damage to the institutions and with them the sense of order.

Yes, 2016 was gloomy. 2017 promises to be no better.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 18:29 IST

Rainbow Christmas: Meet these Santas from the LGBT community who are making the world merrier

Since the past many years, I have been associated with many charitable organisations. And yes, wherever I go, I carry my identity of being gay with me. Because it is not two different people, my gay identity is a part of me. I am an animal welfare crusader, a women’s rights activist, a child rights activist, also a men’s rights activist and sometimes an environmentalist. I christened the term “equal rights activist” for myself when I found it really hard to confine myself to one category especially when journalists asked me ‘what do I call you’. I am not writing this to bask in the glory of my achievements alone. Of course, I am not modest about my achievements for myself and people and animals I love. This post is not about me, it is about the secret santas with rainbow caps who little by little change the world for all.

A photo posted by Harish Iyer (@iyerharish) on Dec 23, 2016 at 10:22pm PST

Let me introduce you to some who don’t wait for Christmas to play Santa but are Santa all the way.

Santa Robin Chaurasiya:

Robin Chaurasiya is a lesbian who was a part of the US military Air Force, until she refused to stay quiet about her sexuality. I believe we bring our whole selves to work. Gay is not detachable. It is not that you can leave your gay back home while you carry your mind and body to work. She was thrown out of the military, and US’s loss is India’s gain. This indore girl, came back to India to set up Kranti, a non profit for empowerment of girls in the redlight area of Mumbai, Kamathipura.

“I don’t think there is any reason for these girls to limit their dreams. They should never stop dreaming, and they should never stop believing in their dreams. And the onus is on us, as a society, to ensure that they achieve those dreams,” says Chaurasiya.

She is someone who walks the talk. Her girls have got more stamps on their passport than many others amongst us. Some are learning psychology, some are learning drums… and all have learnt to become truer and truer to their real selves with every passing day.

Robin Chaurasiya. idhisoom.com

Robin Chaurasiya. idhisoom.com

Santa Dhruv Ambegaonkar:

A doctor by profession, Dhruv is your sassy young gay  boy from Santacruz. He is not your average Doctor. He has piercings in possibly every visible part of his body. He is trendy in his clothes and is attractive enough that people will fall ill just to go to him for an injection.

That said, there is another side to him that not many know of. He, along with his family, fosters children until they get adopted.

“My family has been fostering newborn children who have been abandoned or put up for adoption by their mothers until they are adopted by a new family. We have 2 children with us currently. A 2-month-old boy and a 6 week old girl. Both are the cutest and so funny. It is a tough job, because it’s impossible not to get attached to the kids. I still miss the kids who have left us. It’s a heartache which never goes away. Because you know they are living happily with a new family and with no idea of who you are and how much you loved them,” says Ambegaonkar.

A photo posted by Dhruv (@ambezing) on Feb 13, 2016 at 7:17am PST

Santa Anand Pendharkar:

Anand Pendharkar used to operate with an alias at one time. I still remember, we had also planned to date. Somehow, we ended up becoming good friends instead.  Anand is an environmentalist and he runs an organisation called Sprouts.

“Gender and sexuality though a personal attribute are a part and parcel of a person. There are many misconceptions that people hold about LGBT people and there is a dire need of positive role models for youth, in every sector, irrespective of the adult’s sexual orientation and identity. I have always been honest and disciplined about my nature conservation work and I mentor youth to be skilled conservation leaders. Nature is a great educator and also one with great sexual diversity. So once they learn about all the gender variations and sexual patterns of creatures, then human sexuality falls easily within that spectrum of diversity. Deep Education is the key to making the young, accepting and inclusive humans,” says Pendharkar.

Read about him here.

Anand P

Anand Pendharkar. Sprouts website

Santa Yaariyan:

Yaariyan is the youth group of the Humsafar Trust. This year, they decided to visit an old age home in Anand Niketan, Lower Parel. I chatted up with my bisexual friend Koninika Roy from Yaariyan.

“Yaariyan decided that while we do a lot of work for our community, as an influential youth group we wanted to give to a cause because we felt like giving. As responsible young adults and LGBTQ we felt the need to say that while we care about our issues, we also care about our communities. This time we felt we would spread our love by spending a day with the wonderful people at the old age home. The response was so great that we want to do this every year,” says Roy.

Yaariyan825

Team Yaariyan at Anand Niketan. Pictaram

Santa Namma Pride Bangalore and Queer Azaadi Mumbai:

This year, Queer Azaadi Mumbai, the LGBTIQ collective that organises the Queer Pride Parade of Mumbai, donated money to the Chief Minister’s drought relief fund. In Bengaluru, the Namma Pride march was organised. which took extra efforts to ensure that the pride is accessible for disabled persons. Thank you Bengaluru for leading the way. We will try and follow the good practice in Mumbai.

Namma gay. Galaxy MagazineNamma gay. Galaxy Magazine

Namma Pride Bangalore. Galaxy Magazine

Santa Gaysi Family

Gaysifamily organises the super-awesome spoken word event called Dirty Talk. Dirty talk has always highlighted other social issues. We started with child sexual abuse, then acid attack survivors, then recently a de drug addiction group.  In between, we also saw an innovative campaign called #KissOfLove where they pledged to send ½ a kilo of rice for every kiss shared to a woman rights and rehabilitation NGO called Urja. The founder, Sakshi recently donated money for the treatment of a dog.

Agreed. Such is the vibrant LGBTIQ community. We are all about our cause… but also all beyond it.

First Published On : Dec 25, 2016 20:06 IST

Snapchatters from across the world save a 20-year-old pregnant Delhi girl from committing suicide

For her, it was the end of the world as she could only foresee a dark future for herself. When this 20-year-old Delhi girl became pregnant she became so distraught that she expressed her intention on social media to kill herself to guard the family’s reputation. Shocked at her intention, folks on Snapchat took it upon themselves to prevent a tragedy, emerge the girl out of depression and show her the bright path ahead. And, they did that successfully.

She posted an image on The Artidote’s Snapchat channel– it was curating a feed of responses from around the world—and she received supportive messages in response to her post that said she was on the verge of committing suicide due to an unexpected pregnancy.

Artidote/Facebook

The other Snapchatters who saw the post quickly responded with supportive messages and encouraged her to brave the storm.

Artidote/Facebook

People from across the world raised her spirits. In addition to empathising with her, some even offered to talk her out of the situation.

They tried different ways and persuaded her to refrain from taking the drastic step.

Artidote/Facebook

new delhinew delhi

Artidote/Facebook

Messages from Delhi, Kuwait and different parts of the world poured in and helped the Delhi girl gather courage and confront her mother.

Artidote/Facebook

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Artidote/Facebook

After confronting her mother, she posted a picture that said she was going to see the gynecologist with her mother. She also replied to The Artidote and thanked everyone who instilled the courage in her, and “saved” her life.

responseresponse

Artidote/Facebook

finalefinale

Artidote/Facebook

This episode of kindness and humanity is proof that the power of Social media stands tall in the face adversities.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 20:22 IST

Tirupati temple may have to get FSSAI license to serve, make laddus

Soon, your Tirupati laddu may come with a food safety mark. A report published in The Hindu said that the Triumala Tirupati Devasthanam, which runs the renowned temple will have to obtain a license from the Food Safety Association of India (FSSAI).

Suneeti Toteja, director of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), a central body which regulates manufacturing, processing, distribution and sale of food in India, has written to the food commissioner of Andhra Pradesh, stating that the temple authority must adhere to the safety standards prescribed the Food Safety Standards Act, 2006.

Tirupati temple. AFPTirupati temple. AFP

Tirupati temple. AFP

Since laddu is a “food” under the act, the temple administration has to buy a license to distribute it, the letter continued. TTD is officially a Food Business Operator (FBO), as per the Act and is bound to follow the safety standards, the letter added.

Toteja letter had come in response to a Right To Information (RTI) application filed with the FSSAI complaining about the alleged unhygienic conditions under which the laddus are made by the TTD, the board which runs the renowned temple, The Hindu report said. Bengaluru-based T Narasimhamurthy had submitted the application.

According to food safety act, only those wearing clean clothes and not suffering from any kind of infections shall be allowed to manufacture and pack food, a Bangalore Mirror report stated. Narasimhamurthy has said that the laddus must have a expiry date, while a bill must be provided when it is purchased.

The Tirupati laddu has a 300-year history behind it, and is believed to have been invented in the 18th century. The laddu, offered to devotees as prasadam, is known for its unique taste, the tabloid added.

However, according to latest reports, the TTD has refused entry to food inspectors on the grounds that the temple kitchen is an auspicious place. The board also refused to consider the laddu as a food, since it believed devotees cannot be considered customers.

Narasimhamurthy is waiting for a reply from the food inspectors regarding the hygiene conditions in the kitchen.

First Published On : Dec 13, 2016 16:58 IST

Jayalalithaa’s death: How international media covered the demise of the late Tamil Nadu CM

There were over thousands of police personnel deployed in Chennai after the death of J Jayalalithaa, the charismatic chief minister who held sway over Tamil Nadu politics for more than three decades with a pro-poor image. Lakhs of grieving men and women bid her a tearful adieu.

Such was the impact of Jayalalithaa’s death on Tamil Nadu and the country that many international newspapers and organisations also reported about her death.

J Jayalalithaa. PTI

J Jayalalithaa. PTI

BBC in an article said that “Jayaram Jayalalitha was one of India’s most colourful and controversial politicians, adored by some and condemned by others.”

The report also said that she was “naturally charismatic” and introduced a lot of schemes for the welfare of the poor. It also, however, said that the support she got “verged on the bizarre” as her supporters were known to have professed their loyalty through acts like walking on hot coals or drawing her portrait with blood.

It also talked about the allegations of corruption against Jayalalithaa in detail, mentioning how the police, during a raid on one of her premises, had found “more than 10,000 saris and 750 pairs of shoes.”

Another article in The Washington Post titled ‘Jayaram Jayalalitha, powerful Indian politician who broke gender barriers, dies at 68‘ said that “she was known as a secretive, somewhat imperious politician who rose to power despite India’s deeply patriarchal political system and was credited with developing her state and helping the rural poor.”

The article also talked about the corruption charges and disproportionate assets case against her and said that Jayalalithaa inspired a “cultlike devotion”.

The New York Times article titled ‘Death of Tamil Nadu’s Leader Leaves Power Vacuum in Southern India‘ focused on how Jayalalithaa’s death will affect the politics in Tamil Nadu. “Her death ushers in an uncertain period for the roughly 78 million people in Tamil Nadu, in part because it is unclear who will succeed her as leader of her party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam,” the article said.

“An American diplomatic cable, written in 2009 and released by WikiLeaks, said that Ms Jayaram’s ‘ruthlessness, including her willingness to sanction violence in pursuit of her goals, eventually reversed the traditional view of gender roles, leading the public to see Jayalalithaa as the toughest person in Tamil Nadu politics,'” it added.

A CNN article called Jayalalithaa the ‘goddess’ of Indian politics. “Jayalalithaa, a popular former Tamil cinema star, embodied the blurred lines between celebrity and government that define the state’s politics,” said the article, adding that her supporters praised her like she was “a living Hindu goddess.”

The Guardian called her “Tamil Nadu’s ‘iron lady'”. “She relentlessly challenged the male-dominated, sexist politics of Tamil Nadu that worked relentlessly to block her every step of the way,” the report quoted novelist Vaasanthi Sundaram, Jayalalithaa’s biographer, as saying.

The report also said that “she pioneered alternative energy and water harvesting schemes and reduced the rate of female infanticide”.

An article in Al Jazeera also said that “In the first half of 2014, Jayalalithaa made a bid to become India’s prime minister by saying she would form a coalition in New Delhi if no party dominated elections.” But as we know now, that wasn’t meant to happen.

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 12:42 IST

Supreme Court’s National Anthem order: Is it law, asks legal expert in blog post

The Supreme Court’s Wednesday order that all cinema theatres should play the National Anthem before a movie is screened has come under immense criticism. Gautam Bhatia, who practices law in Delhi and teaches visiting courses at the National University of Juridical Sciences and champions causes related to freedom of speech and expression, in his blog post — The Illegality of the Supreme Court’s National Anthem Order — came down heavily on Supreme Court’s order and said that the observation made by the apex court is an example of “judicial censorship”. Bhatia writes:

Judicial censorship is suo motu judicial action restricting the freedom of speech, in the absence of an existing law. In my view, judicial censorship is not contemplated by the Constitution, and judicial orders that engage in this form of censorship are illegal and void.

Arguing that the freedom of speech and expression can only be restricted (cites Article Article 19(1)(a) and Article 19(2)) with an existing law and in the absence of which one cannot impede it, Bhatia questions the legality or the illegality of Supreme Court’s order.

(If) Supreme Court judgments and orders were to constitute “law” under Article 13, then every such judgment or order would be subject to a further fundamental rights challenge. Dipak Misra J’s order, for instance, could be challenged in a separate writ petition by either the cinema owners or cinema-goers as a violation of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Perhaps this might not be such a bad thing, but in Naresh Mirajkar vs State of Maharashtra, a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court categorically held that this could not be done.

In the end, Bhatia argues that the Supreme Court argument is only justified under Article 142 which authorises the Court to pass any decree or order “necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it.”

However, Article 142 also specifies that this must be done in “the exercise of its jurisdiction.” If my argument is correct, the Court does not have the jurisdiction to restrict speech in the absence of a law, simply by passing orders. And Article 142 cannot be a carte blanche to do anything that takes judicial fancy on any given day.

Read the full blog post here.

First Published On : Dec 1, 2016 12:50 IST

Demonetisation: Labourers in Agra’s shoe manufacturing units are getting coupons instead of cash

Demonetisation of high value currency notes has undoubtedly brought a lot of hardship for the common man.

And one of the examples of this hardship is how approximately 50,000 laboureres employed in Agra’s shoe manufacturing units are getting their weekly wages.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

A report in The Indian Express stated that Agra Footwear Manufacturers and Exporters Chamber (AFMEC) said that there was no cash to pay the daily labourers, because of which the shoe factory owners had tied up with supermarkets such as Vishal Mega Marts and Big Bazaar so that they could give coupons to the workers for buying daily necessities.

The report also explained how commodities at supermarkets like Big Bazaar were substantially more expensive than goods from the local market.

Also, coupons for Rs 2,000 meant that if a person was spending that coupon, that person would necessarily have to buy goods worth Rs 2,000 because workers at the supermarket were unwilling to hand out change to them.

Labourers are not just suffering in Agra though. According to PTI, labourers and traders at Delhi’s fruits and vegetable mandis are bearing a heavy brunt of the demonetisation move, with sales in wholesale markets plunging and daily wage workers struggling to make a living.

At Azadpur Mandi, Asia’s largest wholesale market for fruits and vegetable, migrant workers can be seen sitting idle in a huddle, waiting for work or payment to arrive.

“We used to make a decent income earlier but now getting even Rs 200 or Rs 300 is getting difficult as no work is available.”

“Besides, traders are making payment either in Rs 500 or Rs 1,000 notes or asking us to wait till the end of the week to receive payment,” rues Hanuman, a labourer from Uttar Pradesh.

Pintoo, Birender and Namase from Azamgarh have a similar tale to tell, as they wait in vain at the mandi, that otherwise would be teeming with activities.

“You wouldn’t be able to stand here, it’s so much crowd on regular days, but now it’s all deserted. The demonetisation move has broken the back of the mandi,” Birender claimed.

With inputs from PTI

First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 15:10 IST

HC says son can stay with parents only at their ‘mercy’: How this millennial is dealing with it

On Tuesday, the Delhi High Court ruled that an adult son had no legal right to stay in his parents’ house and that a person can reside in his parents’ house only at their “mercy.” FP Special Forces asked the totally non-fictional Ascharya Singh (‘Ash’ to his friends) — a 28 years old millennial-filmmaker-turned-short filmmaker-turned-investment banker-turned-finding himself in his parents’ house — about how he feels about the High Court ruling. He wasn’t very pleased and was taking ‘demomeisation’ quite badly.

I mean, can you imagine the ignominy of having to queue up everyday at an ATM to withdraw enough to be able to pay his equally non-fictional friend Haze (real name Harminder) for Coldplay tickets? Tickets, it must be noted, that ‘Haze’ procured from her father, whose best friend’s second cousin was a co-sponsor of the event. So strings had to be pulled. But so what? I mean, how often can you take a selfie in BKC with Chris Martin and his cohorts in the background? I mean, bro, come on! All because ‘Ash’s’ mother wouldn’t stump up the cash herself.

Anyway, ‘Ash’, as you’ve probably guessed, relies rather heavily on his parents for… well, pretty much everything.

Here’s a typical exchange between him and his mother, who somewhat unfairly is not entirely pleased with her directionless son who is continuing to mooch off her. Bear in mind, their conversations are largely conducted on the platform of text messaging.

Ash’s things are now in a box in his mother’s garage, but his last whereabouts are unknown. But, his social media is buzzing with updates.

Ash-Singh

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First Published On : Nov 30, 2016 14:24 IST

Manohar Parrikar says he was ‘shivering’ on his first day in office as defence minister

Panaji: In a candid admission, Manohar Parrikar on Saturday said he was “shivering” on his first in office as Defence Minister, though he tried to put up a brave face.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

“When I went to Delhi, I took experience of that city. I became Defence Minister with the blessings of you all. I did not know anything,” Parrikar said, addressing a ‘Vijay Sankalp’ rally at Sanvordem constituency on Saturday.

“Let me admit, I was shivering on the first day (of taking charge). I put up a brave face banking on my experience, but in reality I didn’t even have knowledge about the rank of military officers,” he said.

Parrikar was chief minister of Goa before his induction into the Union Cabinet by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Goa’s brush with the military was during 1961 when Indian Army liberated the state from Portuguese rule. After that, we saw 1965 and 1971 wars. During the Kargil war, I have given slogans but in reality, I was unaware about what is war and what is the preparedness required for that,” he said.

The minister said he realised that “armament stores are empty and government had tied hands of the soldiers. I did nothing much for last two years but told the army that if anyone attacks, you are free to retaliate.”

“You have noticed the impact of this liberty. Whenever there was attack on us, our brave soldiers have retaliated strongly. Whether it be the surgical strike (in PoK) or firing at the line of border, Army has responded strongly, forcing the enemy to plead for peace. During the last four days, there has been no firing on the border.”

First Published On : Nov 28, 2016 08:27 IST

Security breach in Lok Sabha? Man tries to jump into Lower House from gallery; let off with warning

New Delhi: In what could have been a major security breach, Lok Sabha on Friday witnessed commotion after a man sitting in the visitor’s gallery tried to jump over the railings into the House chamber as security personnel promptly overpowered him before whisking him away.

The unprecedented incident happened soon after the proceedings were adjourned at 1120 hours amid vociferous protests by the Opposition over the demonetisation issue.

Later when the House reassembled at noon, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan identified the man as Rakesh Singh Baghel from Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh. Mentioning the incident, she said the man tried to jump into the House and that the Parliament security personnel overpowered him.

Lok Sabha  Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.

“He may be released with a warning after enquiry,” Mahajan said and hoped that the House agreed with it. In response, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said they are in agreement.

Soon after mentioning about the incident at around 1240 hours, the Speaker adjourned the Lower House for the day as Opposition parties continued their protests. Earlier, the House was adjourned for nearly 40 minutes after convening for the day.

As members started leaving, an Opposition member, who had earlier trooped into the Well, pointed out that security personnel in the visitors’ gallery were grappling with a person whose right foot was hanging from the wooden railings.

Baghel was caught and lifted up by about 4-5 alert personnel. It then transpired that he had tried to jump into the Lok Sabha chamber. He was caught and then bundled out. The other visitors were then guided out of the gallery which is right opposite the press enclosure. Had he succeeded in his attempt, he would have landed on the Treasury benches.

Delhi Police personnel in plain clothes are usually seated in the front rows of the Visitors’ Gallery to prevent such incidents.

While the Speaker had left, the Prime Minister was not in the House. Senior ministers including Arun Jaitley and leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav were in the House when the incident took place.

First Published On : Nov 25, 2016 14:47 IST

Faking News: Indian politicians praising demonetisation to be considered for acting awards

Faking News: Indian politicians praising demonetisation to be considered for acting awards

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Delhi: Next year’s National Film Awards are going to be slightly different: Along with the actors, various politicians are going to be in the running for the best actor award. All the politicians who are on record praising the decision to ban old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes will be in consideration for this award.

This was confirmed to Faking News by a source at the directorate of film festivals. Politicians from the ruling coalition will get extra credit for their acting.

“We realised that we can’t restrict ourselves to films alone, acting is acting, no matter where you do it. These politicians are in front of a camera, they are saying they are happy with this step against black money, this is top class acting. Even Leonardo diCaprio will give his Oscar to these guys if he sees this excellent performance,” an official at the directorate said.

Read the full story here

First Published On : Nov 14, 2016 12:03 IST

Orop issue, SIMI encounter, India-Pakistan ties: News stories come, collapse and never end

Indian news stories often have no ending and no one cares to ask why?

Like has anyone found the missing JNU student Najeeb Ahmed, who disappeared three weeks ago? Worse, is anyone interested in getting to the bottom of it? It is already a cold case. Like it never happened.

Eight SIMI activists were killed in an encounter in Madhya Pradesh after a ‘great’ escape from a maximum security jail in which they killed a warder. And it would seem they were shot in cold blood. All SIMI activists were housed together, which in itself is astounding. Only these eight escaped and how do you create a ladder with blankets to scale a 20 feet wall if there is no one on the other side to hold the knotted blankets down. No questions asked. And then go in a gang into a one way gully. Don’t ask.

The story is dead in the water. We should have a clear policy on terrorists. If they belong to such outfits don’t keep them locked up in a happy togetherness…it is not a club, it is a jail.

If eliminating them is the just course in self defence then let Parliament pass the bill and document it — terrorists will be killed. Read the writing on the wall and take your chances. But this escape defies comprehension.

Representational image. TV Screenshot

Representational image. TV Screenshot

A former soldier, committed suicide as a protest against One Rank One Pay (Orop). He was a village sarpanch, in good health with three hatta katta sons doing well. OROP is almost a done deal why would he get up now when the 7th pay commission is being implemented and the three chiefs are for once on the same page. Will we ever find out if there is more to it than meets the eye? Orop is no reason to kill yourself.

Rahul Gandhi, Manish Sisodia and Arvind Kejriwal should not be stopped from visiting the former veteran Ram Kishan Grewal’s house because he committed suicide. Ironic that it was Rahul’s grandmother who killed Orop. And how come none of them felt it necessary to get to visit Ramashankar Yadav’s family the warden in the Bhopal Jail – too far to stretch their affection and shock. Wears out over the miles to Bhopal. See, what I mean, the sheer breathtaking opportunistic arrogance of these people is unmatched. You really think they give a toss?

But they love being stopped so why play into their hands? Having scored brownie points, they will disappear to the next ‘mourning’ circle and do more of the same.

Wasn’t this the same Arvind Kejriwal who said the surgical strikes never happened and soldiers are fibbers. This story will collapse very soon unless someone discovers it wasn’t a suicide.

Last heard, Jayalalithaa had signed a paper with her left thumb because her right hand was inflamed. A week has gone by and there is nary a word about her condition and even the media seems to have wandered away. Seeing as how she is still technically the chief minister of Tamil Nadu doesn’t anyone want to know what’s up and who is holding the hot, little buck?

And we will let them off the hook because we do not expect better.

The country is still no wiser about the Cyrus-Ratan spat and probably never will be. A few more theories will be flung about the scandal is dying on the vine and will soon wither into history.

India is lagging 3 to 1 in the ‘off you go, diplomat’ stakes against Pakistan but even though the 48 hour deadlines expired some days back there is no story about their homecomings or what exactly happened. Pakistan upped the ante with two dismissals Wednesday so why not just throw the whole lot out and stop the pretence?

The Yadav family feud in Uttar Pradesh ran its course for a few days then like a river drying up simply dwindled into a little rivulet of non-news.

And we won the Asia Cup in hockey playing Pakistan in the finals after playing them in the round robin but where cricket is concerned the BCCI has told the ICC to ensure we are not in the same pool and what has the ICC said to this absurd demand…we don’t know.

And we don’t even have Arnab to tell us the nation wants to know…more’s the pity.

Damn ,we don’t even know where he is going.

Arnab Goswami quits: Twitter goes amok with ‘One Minute’ of noise, asks if ‘Times Now has resigned’

Arnab Goswami quits: Twitter goes amok with ‘One Minute’ of noise, asks if ‘Times Now has resigned’

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Popular news anchor and face of television news channel, Times Now, Arnab Goswami has resigned as the editor-in-chief of the channel, according to various media reports and sources in The Times Group.

The senior journalist, who has become a household name for his high-pitched debates in the show, News Hour, is also a popular target on social media. Ergo, his resignation was sure to make no less noise than his popular TV show.

From observing a one-minute noise as a tribute to the anchor, to lamenting the lack of it in the channel post his resignation, the twitterati were ready with the sharpest quips as ever when the news broke out on social media. Here are our picks:

@GabbbarSingh suspended: Tweet against Arvind Kejriwal probable cause behind act

Twitter India recently suspended the handle of a popular anonymous user’s account @GabbbarSingh. Known for his satirical take on a range of topics and funny one-liners, the handle was widely popular among Twitterati and was followed by over 4 lakh users. Whether it is about new film or country’s political situation, @GabbbarSingh always had something or the other to add. The quips are popular and are often laced with political undertones. Twitter, however, has temporarily put a stop to this.

Gabbbar Singh spoke to Firstpost and requested anonymity on his real identity adding that the company has not yet offered an official reason behind the sudden suspension of his account. “Random suspension was uncalled for and only shows Twitter’s algorithm is sloppy,” Gabbbar told Firstpost.

His best guess for the suspension though is his tweet to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, where Gabbbar pokes fun at Kejriwal.

gabbbar-snip

The tweet was a “harmless pun at the most and certainly couldn’t be considered malicious or abusive,” said Gabbbar.

One only needs to run through Twitter to find out a battery of rancid  abuses that people hurl at each other on the social media platform. Trolling, witty puns, and sarcasm is practically what keeps the show running on the micro blogging site. Besides this, people of all political dispensations have been poked fun at, tweeples barely spare anyone their barbs. This tweet, if it were indeed the reason behind suspension, was in no way any different from the Twitter traditions. However, Gabbbar blames it on the sheer number of AAP supporters on the site, who were miffed at his jibe and might have chosen to report his account.

A twitter user reproduced a snapshot of the tweet, that is supposedly behind the suspension.

On a second guess, Gabbbar thinks it could have been his tweet that showed a brief clip from the newly released film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, where fans of the Shah Rukh Khan are celebrating Diwali and bursting crackers at the Malegaon theatre. Before its release the makers were knee-deep into controversy over featuring Pakistani artist Fawad Khan. “The tweet could have been considered as infringement of copyright,” added Gabbbar.

Nonetheless, he says pulling down the whole account was uncalled for; a mere intimation to take down the single tweet would have been enough.

All this comes at a time when public criticism of Twitter’s take down process is as high as it has ever been. As argued in this article on Forbes, that internet is increasingly shifting away from a space that was considered the “flag-bearer of free speech.” The article points out how the ten-year-old “poster child of the freewheeling social media era” has consistently shifted away from its free speech policy as it comes to terms with the realities of commercialisation over the risks of brandishing free speech.

Another article in Motherboard maps the pragmatic shifts in Twitter’s policy over time. “Changes in the rules over time reflect the pragmatic reality of running a business. Twitter talked some big talk, but it has buckled under both lawsuits and media outrage, tweaking and changing the Rules around speech whenever something threatened its bottom line. For a business, free speech can only be a meaningful value if it doesn’t really cost anything,” the article reads.

Similarly another write-up in Forbes,  points out how Tweeples have no ground to even meaningfully argue what must come under the company’s globally-enforced free speech policy. If as per the policy, any content is deemed unfit, there is very little scope for an appeal.

While the real reason why @GabbbarSingh was pulled down remains unknown, Twitterati voiced their support for the satirist.

@GabbbarSingh on his part has sent an appeal to @TwitterIndia to reconsider their decision to pull down the account, and the company he says has reverted with the official response that the matter is being looked into.

He also added that he was not been given any official reason behind the suspension. “I’m assuming it will be restored soon as I had no malicious intent; my tweets were not offensive,” he said.

Hike in taxes by 20% could proportionately reduce use of sugary drinks

Government policies that increase final retail price of sugary drinks by at least 20% would lead to proportional reduction in consumption of such products, according to a new report Fiscal Policies for diet and prevention of non-communicable diseases by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“Reduced consumption of sugary drinks means lower intake of “free sugars” and calories, improved nutrition and fewer people suffering from overweight, obesity, diabetes and tooth decay,” the report said.

Free sugars refer to monosaccharides (like glucose or fructose) and disaccharides (like sucrose or table sugar) added to foods and drinks by the manufacturer, cook, or consumer.

Sugar-sweetened beverages accounted for every one in 200 deaths, caused by India’s rising tide of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, IndiaSpend reported in January 2016.

A 20% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would cut India’s excess weight and obesity prevalence 3% over a decade, and the cases of type-2 diabetes by 1.6%, at current consumption growth rates, IndiaSpend reported.

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The Indian government had increased the tax on sugar-sweetened beverages 5% in July 2014, hoping to curb consumption. While tax on sugar-sweetened beverages touched approximately 18% with the last hike, sales of aerated beverages increased 10% in 2014, according to Indian Beverage Association, a lobby group, IndiaSpend reported.

“Higher tax is definitely one of the strongest interventions to reduce consumption, but it should be accompanied with robust behavioural interventions to change social norms and perceptions,” IndiaSpend quoted Manu Raj Mathur, research scientist and assistant professor, Public Health Foundation of India, an advocacy.

Right to information: What 11 years of the RTI Act of 2005 have done for India

It was on this day 11 years back that one of the most important laws in India fully came into force. The Right to Information Act, 2005 has helped expose some of the most infamous scams in the history of India.

The RTI Act mandates timely response to a request for information from a public authority.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The history of the RTI Act goes back to the enactment of Freedom of Information Act, 2002, whose objective was to promote transparency and accountability. Because the government wanted the act to be made more effective, it was repealed and the Right to Information Bill, 2004 was passed by the Parliament in May, 2005.

This received the president’s assent on 15 June, 2005. The RTI Act was notified in the Gazette of India on 21 June, 2005 and it became fully operational on 12 October the same year.

Since then, the RTI Act has been used to fight corruption and has exposed deep-rooted graft in India. For example, the RTI applications filed by activists Yogacharya Anandji and Simpreet Singh in 2008 exposed the infamous Adarsh Housing society scam, which eventually led to the resignation of the then Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan.

That RTI application revealed that flats in the Adarsh Housing Society, a 31-storey building, which was originally meant to provide residence for war widows and veterans, were used to house politicians, bureaucrats and their relatives.

In the 2G scam, in which the then Telecom Minister A Raja undercharged mobile phone companies for frequency allocation licenses and caused a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the Indian government, an RTI application by Subhash Chandra Agrawal revealed that Raja had a “15-minute-long” meeting with then solicitor-general Goolam E Vahanvati in December 2007 after which a “brief note was prepared and handed over to the minister”, but the minutes of the meeting were not recorded, stated this report in The Huffington Post.

The RTI Act was also used to expose corruption after the Commonwealth Games scam, in which the corrupt deals by politician Suresh Kalmadi embarrassed the nation. The report said that an RTI application filed by non-profit Housing and Land Rights Network showed that the then Delhi government had diverted Rs 744 crore from social welfare projects for Dalits to the Commonwealth Games from 2005-06 to 2010-11.

In 2007, the RTI request filed by Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, an NGO, revealed irregularities in the distribution of food meant for people living below the poverty line by the public distribution system in Assam, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. In 2008, an RTI application by a Punjab-based NGO revealed that heads of the local branches of the Indian Red Cross Society had used money intended for the victims of the Kargil war and natural disasters to buy cars, air-conditioners and pay for hotel bills.

A PTI report published in July 2016 said that an RTI query showed that only 12 members of the Maharashtra Cabinet have declared their assets and liabilities details as per Central governments code of conduct for ministers. Another one filed by social activist Anil Galgali showed that as many as 118 complaints of sexual harassment were filed at the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) between 2013 and July this year.

An RTI query filed by Child Rights and You (CRY) revealed in May this year that twenty-two children go missing in the national capital everyday with most of them being boys aged upto 12 years.

Needless to say, the importance of the RTI Act can never be overstated.

There are, however, some problems with the RTI Act, the most important one being that the huge number of RTI queries filed makes it difficult for public authorities to respond to them in a timely manner. A 2014 study conducted by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) revealed that over 1.75 crore RTI applications have been filed from 2005 to July 2014.

According to this report in The New Indian Express, there has also been a ten-fold increase in the number of RTI applications to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) between 2006-07 and 2014-15, said the CHRI study. The number of RTI applications per day to the PMO increased from 3 in 2006-07 to 35 in 2014-15.

Add to this the fact that a lot of the RTI queries filed are frivolous and we have a real problem.

For example, after the PMO website released a list of RTI queries about PM Modi, it was revealed that one of the RTI queries was the following: “What is the speed of internet of Wi-Fi in the PMO?”

Another one went like this: “Has the Principal Secretary to PM, Shri Nripendra Misra, ever taken his subordinates, in the Prime Minister’s office, on a picnic?”

And if you thought you had seen the most ridiculous RTI queries, consider this one: “Enclose all the proper records and documents which show that the present Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi is The Prime Servant of India and not the Prime Minister.”

The RTI Act is one of the most crucial tools that we have as citizens. We should not misuse this freedom for petty jokes.

With inputs from agencies

Surgical strikes and ceasefire violations: What India and Pakistan taught us this week

First things, first.

It’s slightly late in the day, but from one type of Special Forces to another:

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And since we’re on the topic of things we learned, one of the most striking is how closely footballer and hat-tipper extraordinaire Mesut Özil resembles yesteryear actor/director/producer/writer Buster Keaton.

via GIPHY

See the resemblance?

Uncanny, right?

Good. Now that that’s out of the way — because that’s neither here not there — let’s reflect on the week gone by. This week — as indeed the tail-end of the last one — has been all about the surgical strikes carried out by the Indian Army’s Special Forces across the LoC in the early hours of 29 September.

According to some, such a strike had never been conducted before. According to others, this sort of thing has been happening for years now. Here, at FP Special Forces, we simply don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong — if such a binary can, in fact, be used in this context.

What we do know, however, is that within a week the role of the media changed drastically. A former high-ranking officer of the FP Special Forces had once said that the role of the news media would only ever be to inform, interpret and elaborate, but not to educate. How wrong he was. This week, all of that changed and the media cleared the cobwebs from our understanding and truly educated us. Let’s go through some of these teachings imparted through the tireless efforts of numerous news anchors, graphic designers and talking heads:

Surgical Strikes

With a show of hands, how many of you even knew what ‘surgical strikes’ were, before DGMO Lieutenant-General Ranbir Singh, flanked by the strong and silent Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup (for moral support, we imagine), used the phrase at that fairly famous press conference? Or did you think it was what happened when a bunch of surgeons, protesting low-pay, poor work conditions or violence perpetrated by the relatives of patients, decided to down tools, pick up placards and go on strike? Be honest!

On the off-chance that you did know what they were, your definition was probably closer to the traditional one — the one that refers to a swift and focussed attack on a specific target that causes minimal collateral damage. Right?

To quote Donald Trump, “WRONG!”

As we learned this week, a surgical strike can be anything you want it to be. For example, one interpretation refers to an incredibly daring Rambo-esque operation — in which political leaders transform into eminent personalities from Indian mythology — that leaves the victors setting off fireworks and the losers crying in shame. Or something like that. Another interpretation alludes to standing at one’s post and firing away across the border in the hopes of hitting someone, preferably an enemy combatant.

A third interpretation is the one that sees the ‘striker’ do something that appears as though it never happened. And what’s so surgical about that? Well, we’re glad you asked. Think of the way a good surgeon conducts a surgery. She makes the incision, does what is required and she’s out leaving the patient unscarred. Almost like there’s no evidence of said surgery having ever taken place. “Look ma! No scars,” like the Pakistan Army told foreign journalists when they were taken on a tour of the LoC.

Why?

strike

That’s why!

Let’s move on.

Ceasefire violations

Nearly every TV news channel explodes with angry red, blue or white (any resemblance to the US flag or the Dutch, Australian, British, Russian, French ones or any of the seemingly hundreds of others that use this colour combination is purely coincidental) tickers.

What ceasefire? According to some reports, there’ve been 20 ceasefire violations in the past week. And we’re not even going to try to calculate the total number of such violations this year. Is there even a reason to continue considering there to be a ceasefire in place if it’s going to be violated all the time? Apparently there is. And that’s what we learned.

All things covert

We also learned a new definition for the word ‘covert’. Put away your flights of fancy about ‘plausible deniability’ and ‘clandestine’ stuff. No, covert in today’s world — as we’ve been taught this week — apparently means something to brag about and something for which video evidence can be demanded. We’re sure the Indian Army’s Special Forces did a collective facepalm just as we, at FP Special Forces did, when we received this learning.

Manohar Parrikar

Nothing to add, suffice for this:

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GSAT-18, India’s latest communication satellite, successfully launched from Kourou

Bengaluru: India’s latest communication satellite GSAT-18 was on Thursday successfully launched by a heavy duty rocket of Arianespace from the spaceport of Kourou in French Guiana.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The launch was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but deferred by 24 hours owing to unfavourable weather conditions at Kourou, a French territory located in northeastern coast of South America.

GSAT-18, built by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro), aims at providing telecommunications services for the country by strengthening Isro’s current fleet of 14 operational telecommunication satellites.

With the weather being clear on Thursday, the European launcher Ariane-5 VA-231 blasted off at around 2 am (IST) and injected GSAT-18 shortly after orbiting co-passenger Sky Muster II satellite for Australian operator NBN (National Broadband Network) in a flawless flight lasting about 32 minutes.

GSAT-18 that aims at providing telecommunications services for the country by strengthening Isro’s current fleet of 14 operational telecom satellites was launched into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) about 32 minutes after the lift-off.

“GSAT-18 successfully launched by Ariane-5 VA-231 from Kourou, French Guiana,” Bengaluru-headquartered ISRO announced after the mission. GSAT-18 is the 20th satellite from ISRO to be launched by the European space agency and the mission is the 280th for Arianespace launcher family.

ISRO, which has been dependent on Ariane-5 rocket for carrying its heavier satellites, is developing GSLV Mk III for this purpose.

Weighing 3,404 kg at lift-off, GSAT-18 carries 48 communication transponders to provide services in Normal C-band, Upper Extended C-band and Ku-bands of the frequency spectrum.

Announcing the successful launch of the satellite, Arianespace CEO Stephane Israel tweeted: “We take great pride in our strong relationship w/ @ISRO! Tonight marks 20 sats. launched for India’s space agency & more to come. Congrats!”

ISRO Chairman AS Kiran Kumar, who watched the launch from the mission control centre, left shortly after lift-off, and his message was read out later by one of his senior colleagues.

“I am really delighted this evening having witnessed another glorious and flawless lift-off of Ariane-5 VA-231 flight that carried GSAT-18 and Sky Muster II successfully. Like on all previous occasions, Arianespace has again provided us a magnificient textbook launch,” Kumar said.

Designed to provide continuity of services on operational satellites in these bands, GSAT-18 with a mission life of about 15 years, carries Ku-band beacon as well to help in accurately pointing ground antennas towards the satellite.

With GSAT-18’s injection into GTO, Isro’s Master Control Facility (MCF) at Hassan in Karnataka takes control of the satellite and will perform the initial orbit raising manoeuvres using the Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) of the satellite, placing it in a circular Geostationary Orbit.

Following this, the deployment of appendages such as the solar panels and antennas as well as three axis stabilisation of the satellite will be performed, and GSAT-18 will be positioned at 74 deg East longitude and co-located with other operational satellites, ISRO said.

GSAT-18s co-passenger Sky Muster II, built by SSL (Space Systems Loral) in Palo Alto, California, is aimed at bridging the digital divide, especially in the rural and isolated regions of Australia.

Kumar said the next step after the successful launch of GSAT-18 was to carry out a series of manoeuvres before positioning it in its orbital location.

“The necessary preparations have been made and our team back in India is working on mission operations at Master Control Facility, Hassan,” he said.

“GSAT 18 is an important satellite for us that will enable the continuity of the vital communication services in our country by replacing the currently ageing satellites,” the ISRO chief said.

Television, telecommunication, VSAT and digital satellite news gathering were a few of the services that GSAT 18 will support in coming days, he added.

Pointing out that two more satellites GSAT 17 and GSAT 11 were getting ready for the launch by Arianespace during early next year, Kumar said “realisation of both these satellites is in advanced stage”.

“While GSAT 17 is an important satellite for replacing our satellites, GSAT 11 will be the first generation of high-throughput satellite of ISRO. Both of these upcoming launches are crucial for the Indian Space Programme,” he added.

Bengaluru’s Walter White? Three arrested for cooking amphetamine at home; 231 kg seized

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) on Monday seized 231 kg of the banned narcotic drug amphetamine, worth about Rs 45 crore, from Hyderabad and Bengaluru and arrested three persons including a research scientist and his wife.

Representative image. AFP

Representative image. AFP

A joint team of NCB Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai officials conducted the operation, reported Deccan Chronicle.

Venkat Rama Rao, a research scientist working in a reputed private chemical firm of Bengaluru, had come to Hyderabad to collect the contraband from Ravi Shankar Rao, NCB said.

After Venkat and Ravi Shankar were arrested, 30 grams of amphetamine and Rs 1.23 crore in cash were seized from a house rented by Venkat near Electronic City in Bengaluru, and his wife was also arrested.

NCB first seized 221 kg of amphetamine from two persons at Miyapur area on 30 September.

Further, 10 kg of amphetamine was seized from a manufacturing lab in Bollaurm area on 1 October.

Amphetamine, a psychotropic substance which works as a powerful stimulant, is banned in India under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, reported The Times of India.

More members of this network were under the scanner.

“They were part of a gang that was illegally manufacturing amphetamine at a lab called Trident Lab near Miyapur. We have raided the premises and will be making more arrests in the coming days,” an official involved in the operation told Bangalore Mirror.

With inputs from PTI.

Ebay’s new ‘Things don’t judge’ ad challenges LGBT, age, gender stereotypes and how

Ebay’s new ‘Things don’t judge’ ad challenges LGBT, age, gender stereotypes and how

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India is a land of isms and the advertising world knows it no better. With the clichéd log kya kahenge getting thrown no matter what one does, brands often tend to play it safe and stick to the comfortably marketable stereotypes in society. Which is why the new eBay ad comes as a breath of fresh air.

The advertisement, titled ‘Things Don’t Judge’, highlights the variety of products that eBay has to offer while also turning materialism on its head. The caption for the ad sums up the idea behind the advert. It states that “Don’t let the voices hold you back. eBay has products that don’t judge you for who you are or what you believe in. They say just one thing – Live and let live!”

It embodies the live and let live phrase by showing a montage of stereotype-shattering clips. In one scene, a man is gracefully dancing with ghungroos and in the very next scene a bindi-toting woman clad in a salwar kameez riding away on a motorbike. The video even has a same-sex couple depicted in a proposal, daring to show the relationship despite Section 377 still prevailing in India.

Perhaps the Indian society has something to learn from this ad because the 10 crore products being marketed seem to be more open minded than the one billion people they are being marketed to.

Watch the full ad here:

A letter Narendra Modi DID NOT write to a Pakistani terrorist still dreaming of Jannat

Dear Pakistan-based, Pakistan-trained, India-bound terrorist apprentice,

I trust things aren’t really going well at your end! I would have tweeted but, you know, I’m a busy man. Actually governing a country — as opposed to appearing to govern a country — is a time-consuming exercise. But enough digs at you, because by now, I hope you and your senior colleagues have learned a lesson.

If you get the chance to read this letter in this life or the afterlife (which is what you will experience should you attempt another adventure on the LoC), know how stupendously your late senior colleagues — who lost their lives at the hands of the Indian Army on Wednesday night — proved that they did not have minds of their own. All they had were minds filled by your political leaders with anti-India hatred and filled with an eternal false dream by your handlers: The proverbial Jannat and the 72 virgins waiting there.

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

After the Uri attack on 18 September, when the forces on both sides of LoC were on high alert — India expecting further infiltration/terror attempts and Pakistan gearing for an Indian retaliation any moment, I do not understand why your late colleagues committed the blunder of exposing themselves to the obvious danger. They moved closer to the LoC to face an alert, aggressive and provoked Indian Army. So, by planning your infiltration expedition across the border a month after the Uri attack, your colleagues have proven that they weren’t really thinking straight.

And for what? You and your late friends don’t even exist in the records kept by your government, but are willing to dance to the whims of its army and ISI, all while singing the glory of the Islamic State. I strongly recommend that you cut short your apprenticeship at this very moment and seek some other — preferably, gainful — employment, if you have some thoughts of your own in that well-indoctrinated mind of yours.

Only my government, the Indian Special Forces and your former colleagues know the exact nature of what really happened on Wednesday night — whether it was a first-of-its-kind surgical strike that is rumoured to have killed around 40 of your lot or one of the many such surgical attacks the army has been conducting periodically to neutralise terrorists at the LoC. But no one will dare to ask questions on specifics. Not, when emotions are flying so high and every Indian is revelling in a sense of having achieved vengeance.

I don’t expect you to understand the compulsions of politics — whether for me or for my one-time friend Nawaz Sharif. We have to speak and act according to the will of the people of our respective countries. I am someone, who unlike my predecessor, happens to have a 56-inch chest and, logically, the burden to show that it isn’t a myth. I had to prove that all that talk about a tough stance on terrorism wasn’t just meant to be on paper. Now I can say that we have broken the past of the depressing ‘self-restraint’ approach to your kind and we have done what was needed.

A measure of payback for Uri has been achieved.

I’m sure you and your handlers were living in a fool’s world listening to my Kozhikode speech, where I said I would only wage war with you on poverty, unemployment and human rights violations. Your people failed to read my lips. I did talk to Pakistani people directly from Kozhikode to make them understand what was in store. I had warned you that Uri would be avenged, and in a befitting manner.

And yet, what was it you were all fixated on? Kashmir?

You should know that your handlers know fully well that Kashmir is not the issue your country should be fighting for. Pakistan is shattered — both economically and politically. Your leaders must be joking when they say there are ready for a war with India. Pakistan is already is fighting a crisis with its near-empty coffers. Already, 77 percent of Pakistan’s budget is meant for debt-servicing. A $6.6 billion loan your prime minister took from the International Monetary Fund in 2013 — which pushed up Pakistan’s external debt by 79 percent — is up for repayment by the end of this year. How do you expect to wage a war against us? Armed with a handful of IOUs?

I strongly recommend that you cut short your apprenticeship at this very moment and seek some other — preferably, gainful — employment, if you have some thoughts of your own in that well-indoctrinated mind of yours

Don’t worry about this so-called war, but remember that the surgical strikes aren’t the end of this matter.

Next, we are going to put an end to whatever little trade we have with your country by withdrawing the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status and ostracising you from Saarc. That’ll also mark the beginning of a new regional equation that sees India working with like-minded South Asian friends. Perhaps, your political bosses should rethink ordering your lot to cross the border in the name of Kashmir yet again.

Unfortunately for you, this isn’t the India you know — the one that only responds with appeals, tears and candlelight marches every time you and your pals enter our country and take innocent lives. The ever-tolerant India that perpetually lives in passivity, treats terrorists with kid gloves and lives in the hope that your political leaders actually see terrorism as a bad thing was left behind in 2014. We know that.

Here’s hoping you also know that.

Yours sincerely,

Narendra Modi

Rajasthan: Two thieves feared drowned as stolen buffalo swims to safety

Rajasthan: Two thieves feared drowned as stolen buffalo swims to safety

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Jaipur: Two persons fleeing with a stolen buffalo from Dholpur district are suspected to have drowned while crossing the Chambal river at Dihali area, police said on Tuesday.

While the buffalo was found on Monday from Kothala village of Madhya Pradesh, the two suspected thieves accompanying the animal while crossing the river, have been missing, Shiv Shankar Tyagi, ASI, Dihauli said.

Dihauli is the border between Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

A polyethene bag containing two mobile phones, pairs of clothes and shoes tied to the horns of the buffalo have been recovered, he said.

“The buffalo was found stolen from its owner in Dholpur’s Dihauli area on 23 September and a case was registered in connection with the theft, the ASI said, adding, the animal has been handed over to the owner.

A hunt is on to trace the two.

Olympian Lalita Babar joins Maratha Morcha, says caste doesn’t matter in crimes against women

Olympian Lalita Babar participated in the Maratha Kranti Muk Morcha held in Pune on Sunday to protest against the Kopardi gangrape and murder.

After holding protests in various districts of Maharashtra, members of the Maratha community held a silent march to press for their demands. “I came here as a normal girl who believes that such a crime should never happen again. As an international athlete, I’ve gotten out of that rural environment, though my parents still work in the farm. But that killing meant girls in villages across the country will think twice before stepping out of the house. I find it unbelievable that women should be made to feel so unsafe,” The Indian Express quoted Babar, who is from the Maratha community, as saying.

Babar had finished 10th in the steeplechase in the Rio Olympics and is the first woman athlete from India to qualify in the Olympics final in 33 years.

Lalita Babar. GettyImages

Lalita Babar. GettyImages

“The atrocities on women should be taken seriously. It hardly matters, which caste she represents. Her progress is her right and it should be respected,” another report in The Times of India had quoted her as saying.

Lakhs of people, including men and women, students, working professionals, lawyers and doctors from the community, participated in the Pune march.

The agitation continued for three hours as protesters marched from Deccan Gymkhana to Council Hall, where six girls submitted a memorandum and charter of demands to Pune District Collector Saurabh Rao.

The community has been holding marches in different districts to press for their demands, including punishment of culprits in Kopardi rape and murder case, quota in education and government jobs, Amendment in SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act) to stop its misuse, loan waiver to farmers to curb suicides, and guaranteed rate for agricultural produce.

“After the brutal rape and murder of a girl in Kopardi, there is anger in the community, and with the huge silent marches being organised sans political leaders state-wide, the government must take cognisance of the demands of the community,” the memorandum said.

Although organisers claimed that Sunday’s march had a record footfall of 30 lakh, police said eight to 10 lakh people, mainly from rural areas, participated in the march.

“The march was executed by the organisers in a disciplined manner and it ended within two to three hours with no untoward incident,” a senior police official said.

With inputs from PTI

Modi wave continues: PM still enjoys support of majority of Indians, says survey

The Narendra Modi wave still seems to be going strong.

Despite the constant criticism and protests by Opposition parties and questions as to whether the Prime Minister of India is still popular among Indians after allegations of intolerance and issues like the JNU crisis, Modi continues to enjoy popularity in India.

PM Narendra Modi still enjoys support of the people. PTI

PM Narendra Modi still enjoys support of the people. PTI

According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre, 81 percent of Indians have a “favourable view of Narendra Modi“, 80 percent think that the “current state of economy is good” and 65 percent are “satisfied with direction of country”.

The survey was conducted among 2,464 Indians from 7 April to 24 May, 2016. It is worth noting here that major protests like the Kashmir unrest, the Dalit agitation in Gujarat and now the Uri terror attack took place long after this survey was conducted.

Whether the Modi government continues to enjoy such popularity after these incidents and protests is a question that remains to be answered.

The survery also concluded that even though Modi is still immensely popular, his popularity has decreased slightly because in 2015, 87 percent of Indians had a favourable view of him. The intensity of support which Modi enjoys has also gone down. The number of Indians who have a very favourable view of Modi has gone down by 11 percentage points.

There is also a growing divide over the Modi government’s performance on several domestic issues, according to the survey.

At the same time, the people’s satisfaction with the direction of the country has increased 36 percentage points since 2013 and views on the economy have imporved by 23 percentage points. In fact, the survery concluded that Modi was so popular that 61 percent of supporters of the Congress have a positive view of Modi and BJP.

The survey also said that the prime minister enjoys support among both men and women of all ages, educational backgrounds, income levels and regions.

Over half the people approve of Modi’s handling of domestic problems like unemployment, terrorism and corruption. And roughly half or more approve of his style of leadership.

68 percent of the people also believe that India plays a more relevant role in the world than ten years ago and 52 percent believe that India’s involvement in the global economy is good.

The overall popularity of the Modi government’s foreign policy has decreased. The survey concluded that despite having made 51 visits to 42 countries since he became prime minister, Modi’s image — when it comes to handling ties with other countries — has gone down.

Public approval of Modi’s handling of ties with the US has decreased by 12 percentage points since 2015. It is still, however, at 54 percent. 43 percent approve of India’s current ties with Russia. The support for Modi’s dealings with Russia has gone up by 6 percentage points.

Only 38 percent support Modi’s handling of ties with China while an even lower 22 percent approve his handling of ties with Pakistan. But a noteworthy point is that most Indians do not hold a favourable view of China itself. Only 31 percent of the people have a favourable view of China, according to the survey.

What about other party leaders?

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi‘s popularity has actually risen since 2013. He is viewed favourably by 63 percent of the people, up from 50 percent in 2013. Congress president Sonia Gandhi enjoys popularity of 65 percent of the people, up from 58 percent in 2015 and 49 percent in 2013.

67 percent of people support Congress, up from 61 percent in 2015.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal‘s popularity has taken a hit. He is viewed favourably by 50 percent of the people, down from 60 percent in 2015. AAP’s popularity has also taken a hit. Forty-seven percent of people support the party, down from 58 percent in 2015.

However, 57 percent of the people in Delhi still support AAP. Its support is also the highest in northern states like Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

Perumal Murugan in first interview after Madras HC ruling: ‘I am thinking of slowly writing again’

Acclaimed writer Perumal Murugan has said that the Madras High Court order that quashed criminal proceedings against him, for allegedly hurting the sentiments of the people of Tiruchengode with his novel Madhorubagan (One Part Woman), was like a “personal note” to him.

Perumal Murugan. Image courtesy FacebookPerumal Murugan. Image courtesy Facebook

Perumal Murugan. Image courtesy Facebook

The order, passed by Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Pushpa Sathyanaraya on 6 July, said a ban against Murugan’s 2010 novel was unconstitutional.

The judgment was summarised with the words:

“The author, Prof Perumal Murugan, should not be under fear. He should be able to write and advance the canvass of his writings. His writings would be a literary contribution, even if there were others who may differ with the material and style of his expression… Time is a great healer and we are sure, that would hold true for Perumal Murugan as well as his opponents; both would have learnt to get along with their lives, we hope by now, in their own fields, and bury this issue in the hatchet as citizens of an advancing and vibrant democracy. We hope our judgment gives a quietus to the issue with introspection on all sides… Time also teaches us to forget and forgive and see beyond the damage. If we give time its space to work itself out, it would take us to beautiful avenues. We conclude by observing this – ‘Let the author be resurrected to what he is best at. Write’.”

Read: Madras High Court ruling in Perumal Murugan case deserves to be read. Here’s why

Murugan said that the it was this conclusion that spoke to him [“let the author be resurrected to do what he is best at — write”]:

“As an author, it made me feel more responsible, that I should write again. Let the public discuss this court order and the value of justice in it. As an individual, I am still recovering from what I experienced. I am thinking of slowly writing again,” Murugan told The Indian Express in his first interview after the judgment was announced.

Murugan had famously proclaimed his “death” as a writer when controversy around Madhorubagan erupted in 2015 (this was after its English translation was published). The novel tells the story of a childless couple in Tiruchengode, and described a 100-year-old temple festival on the night of which, men and women were allowed to copulate free of any qualms. It was this depiction that caused trouble with several groups, which demanded that the “offensive portions” be removed from the novel, and that Murugan issue a public apology.

While his supporters wanted Murugan to protest against these demands, the writer chose instead to withdraw from the literary scene, and figuratively put down his pen. He, however, continued to write poems occasionally.

However, the judgment in July revived his intention to write.

“The judgement gives me much happiness. It comforts a heart that had shrunk (and) wilted. I am trying to prop myself up holding on to the light of the last lines of the judgement,” Murugan had said in a statement at the time.

“I will get up. It is just that my mind wishes to spend a little time in the joy of this moment. My thanks to friends who stood by me. My thanks also to friends who stood against me,” he had added, sharing a short verse to mark the occasion:

A flower blooms/ after the big bang/ Sharp fragrance/ Sweet countenance/ Shining Splendour/ The flower would/ take up and establish/ everything.

In the interview with The Indian Express, Murugan touched on why he didn’t feel protesting against the demands to ban his work was the right course of action. He said:

“Many expected me to fight back with statements and protests — in that typical manner… But I didn’t want to handle things in that manner as I didn’t know who my enemy was. I didn’t know whom to testify against.”

The writer also admitted that he wasn’t given to making speeches or living in the public eye — even a paper presentation, he said, took him “two months to prepare”.

Asked to describe the hurt he felt when the people of Namakkal, his homeland, turned against him, Murugan said simply:

“I am neither an orator nor a loud thinker to describe my plight. All I have to tell, you may find in my poems.”

Also on Firstpost — A haunting tale of dangerous inter-caste love: Read Perumal Murugan’s ‘Pyre’

Arvind Kejriwal does a Taher Shah: Twitter can’t stop talking about Delhi CM’s floral headgear

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who is on a 13-day visit to cities such as Goa, Punjab and Gujarat to prepare the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for polls scheduled in these states next year, on Tuesday had an interaction with the family members of fishermen community in Panaji (Goa). What was so amusing?

This.

Kejritroll_850

Goans, known for their bohemian way of life, welcomed Kejriwal with this flowery crown, which the Delhi chief minister seemed to enjoy. As we know by now that the Twitter community leaves no stone unturned when it comes to trolling anyone, we compiled these hilarious tweets for you. Although, sporting this floral headgear was a nice gesture on Kejriwal’s part, there is no harm in having a good laugh, is there?

Techie’s murder in Chennai has shattered the city’s ‘safe’ narrative

Over the last couple of days, at least once every day, I have had a conversation with someone — family, acquaintance, friends — about the recent murders in Chennai. In particular, the murder of a young woman in a central part of the city, inside a railway station, has made almost all of us uncomfortably aware of just how vulnerable we are. This was not a murder involving gangs, caste fanaticism, or honour — none of those would have shocked us because they happen routinely in Tamil Nadu.

This was a young woman working in IT just waiting for the train.

Safety is a relative word

Women who regularly use public transport in Chennai will tell you that some form of ‘discomfort’, for lack of a better word, is natural to feel in buses and trains, and generally while we walk on the streets. I started using public transport in Chennai when I was in class four. From school to college, and later, for work, the one story of solidarity I have with friends who identify as women, is the various experiences of harassment, and that feeling of being exposed and vulnerable, while on the streets.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Crime, especially in public spaces, transcends class. Representational image. Reuters

We must come to terms with the fact that ‘safety’ is simply relative in our city. My husband feels safer than me. I feel safer than the girl who goes on a train or bus, on the days I drive. And so on and so forth.

Often, when I talk about the experience of feeling ‘unsafe’ on the streets, I have been shut down by people who think, perhaps because of their own class bias, that I am being classist. I would like to reiterate that some of the worst things I have seen in buses over the years were perpetrated by men dressed in ‘formals’. (The least gruesome of them is this: one guy in formals flashed tiny girls in uniforms and tried to rub up against them in a not-so-crowded bus.)

Crime, especially in public spaces, transcends class.

Women who use public transport will tell you that you are being naive if you think a man wearing a shirt, trousers and a backpack does not look like a criminal. (This is what the video released in the news shows; that the man who is wanted in this case wearing).

When fear transcends gender

Safety in public transport has been a matter of concern for mostly women and the vulnerable (sexual minorities, children) until now, because of the nature of the crimes (except for maybe pickpockets). But this time, it’s not harassment. It’s not eve teasing. It’s not flashing. It’s not cat calls. It’s not frotteurism. It’s not pickpocketing. It’s a gruesome murder — in the presence of others who were mute spectators. This time a human life has been taken away. This has made us all painfully aware of the flaw in the ‘safe’ narrative of the city.

When a murder like this happens, it is a reminder that our safety is not absolute. This murder has scared us all a little. That when it wants to, this city can let someone bleed to death is unsettling.

Recently, a few lawyers (all men) were murdered by ‘gangs’ in the streets of Chennai on various days. Dalit men being murdered for marrying Hindu women of different castes in public spaces are routine occurrences in Tamil Nadu.

We all need better policing and safer public spaces. And that young woman, who should not have lost her life, deserves justice. We need an alert civic society that demands all of this.

The author is a Chennai-based writer and founder-editor of The Madras Mag.

Isro clears 48-hour countdown for the launch of 20 satellites using PSLV-C34 on Wednesday

Bengaluru: Indian Space Research Organisation on Sunday night said it has cleared the 48-hour countdown, starting Monday morning, for the launch of record 20 satellites in a single mission on 22 June from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh’s Sriharikota.

Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV-C34 will be used to carry the satellites, including India’s earth observation spacecraft Cartosat-2, from the second launch pad of the space centre at 9.26 am on 22 June.

“Mission Readiness Review committee and Launch Authorisation Board have cleared the 48-hour countdown starting at 09.26 hr IST on Monday, June 20, 2016 and the launch of PSLV-C34/Cartosat-2 Series Satellite Mission for Wednesday, June 22, 2016 at 09.26hr IST,” a senior ISRO official told PTI.

The space agency had earlier sent 10 satellites into orbit in a single mission in 2008.

PSLV-C34 will launch 19 co-passenger satellites together weighing about 560 kg at lift-off into a 505 km polar Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO).

ISRO said the total weight of all the 20 satellites carried on board PSLV-C34 is about 1,288 kg.

The co-passengers include satellites from the US, Canada, Germany and Indonesia as well as two satellites from Indian Universities.

The mission would carry LAPAN A3 of Indonesia, BIROS of Germany, SKYSAT GEN 2-1 of US, MVV of Germany among the micro satellites, ISRO sources had earlier said.

Smriti Irani, what can we Indians call thee, ‘dear’ saas jo kabhi bahu thi?

What do we Indians call thee,
Our Twitter-happy Mantri ji?
Dear makes her ears red,
Mata ji is cruelly inept,
For aunty, her hair isn’t gray,
See, already not many in fray.

What do we Indians call thee,
Our anger-on-nose Queen Bee?
Bengal has a patent over Didi,
UP says there’s just one Behenji,
Punjabis would object to Bibi,
That’s just Jagir Kaur, unfortunately.

So, what do we call thee,
The one with a Yale degree?
Smriti would not make you happy,
And Irani could just be geography.
No first name, no surname,
Oh, what a terrible linguistic shame!

What do we Indians call thee,
Dear saas that kabhi bahu thi?
You deserve, nee, demand a salutation,
That won’t lead to a silly situation,
Where, imagine our sorry plight,
You perceive a non-existent slight.

Since we tried all options in Hindi,
From history, across Geography,
Amma, Bibi, Behenji and Didi,
Saas, bahu.. everything that could Be,
Let’s see if we can find for thee,
Something suitable in Queen’s Angrezi.

Would you mind, Her Excellency,
If, out of bewildered awe and fear,
Instead of epistolary niceties like Dear,
We called you just Her Petulancy?
For, since you joined Modi’s Cabinet,
We have seen you regularly fulminate.

Woe betide the one who asks a question,
Seeks a clarification or asks for action.
For everything you have just one formula,
Treat them all like poor Rohith Vemula.
Deny, discard, humiliate, grind them to dust,
In the end, accept defeat they all must.

For everything you have just a steely glare,
Bellicose words with which you declare:
“Will chop off my head, if I am wrong,”
This war cry has been your standard song.
That’s why, Her Excellency of HRD,
Her Petulancy we’d love to call Thee.

One beer is one beer too many: India needs culpability when it comes to drunk driving

If you live in a system where zero tolerance means that even one beer and then being involved in a fender bender means a crime, it is very difficult to understand the Indian urban mindset and its easygoing approach to drinking and driving.

What the Delhi court referred to as a ‘live suicide bomb’ is absolutely correct. The part that is beyond the realm of understanding is the equation between driving under the influence and the sense of power and macho pomposity that goes with it. I never cease to be amazed on visits to Delhi when friends think nothing of decanting themselves into their cars after a drink and dinner party. It is accepted social conduct. They then blithely invite you into the vehicle, mocking your cowardice for refusing to sit with them.

File photo of Hyderabad police. AP.File photo of Hyderabad police. AP.

Representational image. AP.

You stand steadfast because if I was to drink and drive where I live I would not just lose my license, I would be jailed, my company would sack me, my children would have to leave school, my career would collapse, nobody with contacts would come to my rescue and the odds on being deported for good would be very high.

Getting a second jon with that record would be slim at best.

Ask the next of kin of those who die under the wheels of vehicles if this is excessive punishment for killing someone who was not party to your decision to drink and drive, who hardly registered the missile coming at him.

There is no point in listing the various string of dismal incidents, the latest being Ankit Jamwal the youngster who just recently killed two and wounded one in Delhi’s Janakpuri and then had the temerity to advise the cops to call daddy for compensation.

Corruption, the use of influence, the arrogance of wealth, a false sense of entitlement and the ‘sahib’ syndrome all play a role. The media makes it worse by giving those driving bigger and foreign made cars a certain bizarre flair, as if it was less heinous to be driving a Maruti Suzuki than a BMW. There is no such thing as a lesser crime because of the car you are driving.

Ergo, many equally horrific deaths (7 a day in Delhi alone) are downplayed because the elitist element is missing and it doesn’t make for a sensational story. But hit someone with a Merc and all the elements of a big story appear. Far too often the culprit is admonished, Mummy and Daddy come to the rescue and the ‘notty boy’ is repackaged home.

Indian judges labour under the misapprehension that stiffer fines will act as deterrents. So long as parents collude in the cruel conspiracy the fines cut no ice with the perpetrators. Big deal. It’s only money.

The discomfort level has to be intensified to a point where drunken driving just isn’t worth the payback.

If your son or daughter are below age and you gave them the keys to the car the parents should be equally guilty.

If your progeny are drinking under the legal age the parents should be equally guilty.

If high profile celebrities who engage in road kill are seen manipulating the system and keeping the case on for years it sends out the message that except for a little discomfort that’s it. Drunken driving citations should be instant.

For legal reasons the blood should be drawn from the consumer of alcohol on the spot not five hours later.

Depending on adrenalin flow, fear, shock, injury and metabolism alcohol can be absorbed as swiftly as 30 ml per hour of delay and even more swiftly. So three drinks down could literally go into the ether by the time a driver is carted to the station and equipment made available.

Pedestrians drinking and stumbling along should be treated like drunken drivers because they can ruin a sober driver’s life.

Restaurants that serve alcohol on false IDs or to underage patrons should be given punitive sentences and closed down.

I don’t even want to go into the impact of drugs and alcohol and the deadly bullet they make to target some poor
innocent sod.

But unless there is across the board culpability on this issue and you are not filtered into being a sport or a ‘masth’ guy or girl for taking the dare and climbing into a car with a drunk there are pretty good chances that your life is about to go smash.

Believe me there is no such thing as one beer only.

Brief:

I had two vodkas and it was a late night weekend binge so we all went to a friend’s place for an after party.

Around four I was pretty tanked and we called a safe driver which is two people on a bike who drive you home for a price and are a service from heaven.

Around ten, with a pounding headache I drove to the supermarket to get some groceries. The sun was up and it was hot. A car from the parking lot while coming out whacked my bonnet and we had to call the police. Both of us were given instant tests and my showed a high blood alcohol the next morning. I was arrested for driving under the influence and taken to jail.

I was suspended from my workplace. I lost my seniority. I stayed a week in the lock up and was then told I could not drive for a year. My career nosedived, I became a mental wreck and finally left the country to settle elsewhere.

I had everything going for me. I did everything right and even my car was not moving but I didn’t think the alcohol content would have still been there.

All I did was go to the supermarket to get some bread and eggs.

And I just became toast.

Only in India: Himachal government posts ad inviting tenders to buy cloth for turbans

If you have been tired of watching faux pas after faux pas of recent political appointees in the media, here is a worthy submission by the much frowned upon Indian bureaucracy. How could they be left behind?

In a comical, almost surreal chain of events, the General Administration Department (GAD) of the Himachal Pradesh government posted an ad inviting tenders for the procurement of two turbans, each 3.5 metres in length.

Representational image. AFP.Representational image. AFP.

Representational image. AFP.

Apparently, the costly acquisitions — Rs 350 a piece — were also allotted a deadline, surpassing which, any ‘samples’ sent to the office would be rejected.

Might we consider the expertise required to approve or reject a fabric — the tender for which has not been published, at least not until now? The undersigned, Additional Secretary of GAD, Dr Ashwani Kumar Sharma, explained to the Hindustan Times that the ad was a mistake.

In Himachal, similar to Punjab, where there is a culture of wearing turbans at weddings, one can only imagine the difficulty in procuring a couple. And if it is only the highest quality that the office seeks, which the department can be lauded for, for being considerate, some amount of that money could be saved from initiatives such as these.

The ad, however, does read like a brilliant bargain as you stand to make a 300-400 percent profit. The deadline is of 13 June, which gives ample time to cash in on the opportunity still.

Merin Joseph isn’t alone: What the media always gets wrong about women in power

On Sunday morning Merin Joseph, Assistant Superintendent of Police of Munnar, Kerala, woke up to a fine article — 10 most beautiful female IPS and IAS officers in India. Yes, sounds like one of those ‘comprehensive’ pieces on the 10 best places to eat this weekend or 10 beautiful places to visit. Joseph was not (rightly so) pleased. She took to social media to express her disgust about the the existence of such sexist material on the internet. She blew off her steam on Facebook and pointed out how such articles propagate patriarchal structures.

We have to appreciate the amount of effort that the research team of (bhaskar.com) must have put in to dig out the most beautiful IAS and IPS officers. What did that exercise involve? We wonder. Joseph pointed out how publications have never gone to such great lengths to hunt out the top 10 handsome male IAS and IPS officers. She wrote, “Have you ever wondered why we never see a list of the most handsome males in the IAS and IPS?” That really would have been a mammoth task since there are three women IAS officers to every 20 male IAS officers.

The bold IPS officer also pointed out that there is a lot that is wrong with Indian media, especially, the “vernacular” press and wrote that a “shameless objectification of women” propagates patriarchal structures and reduces “a lady’s worth to her face value.”

Putting the brave female officers of the country on the same pedestal as her male counter parts, she mentioned, “These are bold and brave officers working in the complex bureaucratic system in India, negotiating their way through the good, bad and ugly of our body politic — and here we have a list of officers whom people can ogle at. It’s seriously disgusting, constricting and very very demeaning to our identities as smart, intelligent self made women.”

A file photo of IPS officer Merin Joseph. Photo credit : Facebook, Merin JosephA file photo of IPS officer Merin Joseph. Photo credit : Facebook, Merin Joseph

A file photo of IPS officer Merin Joseph. Photo credit : Facebook, Merin Joseph

Social media came out in support of Joseph, the post gained traction. Some comments on her post read, “Really shameful…but this is what Indian media is all about…they forget that whoever has reached that position has done so on their individual merit and if IAS IPS were interested in exposing themselves they would have selected modelling and not this reputed profession..woman’s beauty is her intellect not face value..”

One of the commentators was quick to point out that he knew of her only through such articles, “Madam, i didn’t want to tell u this but i came to know about u from similar kind of article…Your pics had been viral on social networks..” One must appreciate his honesty. The website soon took the piece down, and we are glad!

But this is not the first incident of objectification of women (in power) that has taken place this week. Many media websites took to introducing Assam’s latest female MLA Angoorlata Deka with sensational headlines like Meet the BJP MLA Who Is Famous For Her Beauty or BJP Ki is Mahila Vidhyaka Ke Khoobsurti Ke Charche or A new beauty sensation in politics. Some even cited appointing her as Modi’s greatest achievement — not because she was excellent at what she did, but because she was excellent at being beautiful.

The ever helpful twitterati couldn’t help ogling at her. Photos comparing Angoorlata’s look in her films and during her modelling day were positioned next to those of her as a BJP MLA, presumably to drive home the point about her beauty. Director Ram Gopal Varma, known for his action-packed thrillers like Ice-cream, also confessed his fascination for the MLA by pointing out, “If MLA can look like this, Achche din aagaye hai..Thank you Angoorlataji,Thank you Modiji..1st time I love politics.” Varma should probably get a room, or at least a pair of socks.

Joseph put the media frenzy to shame and stated, “People may have gone to Mars but their mindsets haven’t changed…I wanted to use my celebrity status to serve the people and contribute to the development of the society. Such comments are uncalled for. People need to grow intellectually. Henceforth, I will not react to such comments.”

Maybe they are beautiful, and maybe their beauty does deserve a sonnet or two. But maybe not judge them just through that? Shall we say its time to put their career first?

Tamil Nadu quiz: Amma, Captain or Kalaignar? Find your fit this election season

Tamil Nadu Assembly election is around the corner and the major players in the fray are DMK in alliance with the Congress, AIADMK, PMK, DMDK-PWF-TMC combine and the BJP. Amid the cacophony of opinion and noise, it gets difficult to choose the party most suited to your ideals. So we have made things slightly easier for you. We have studied the manifestos of various parties and culled out the qualities you would admire in your leader and who you would want as the next Chief Minister of the southern state.

Firstpost brings you a quiz that will help you figure which party is most in sync with your ideology. At the end of this quiz you will know whether your heart lies with Amma or you want the return of the Kalaignar or you are the one who likes variety and want Captain Vijayakanth to be your next CM. But enough talking, go ahead and take the quiz!

Happy birthday Sri Sri: Will his sixties include a Nobel Peace Prize (that he’ll decline)?

Rejoice, ladies and gentlemen. Because today is the birthday of the environment-loving, always smiling and the future Nobel laureate Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

That’s right. Today, the great spiritual leader, who showed us all how magnanimous he really is by sending a ‘peace message’ to Islamic State (with disastrous results) and blowing all our minds by showing us why teenager activist Malala Yousafzai did not deserve the Nobel Prize, turns 60.

And just in case you’ve been living in a cave (on Mars with your hands cupped over your ears and your eyes shut tight) for the past few months, here’s a recap:

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar will get a Nobel Prize, whether he likes it or not (Although we suspect that he will like it). Reuters

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar will get a Nobel Prize, whether he likes it or not (Although we suspect that he will like it). Reuters

“Nowadays, there is no value to the Nobel Prize. When you award it to a 16-year-old girl who hasn’t done anything, what value is left? It has become a political prize,” Hindustan Times had quoted the great leader as saying when he was asked about Malala getting the Nobel Peace Prize.

Uss ladki ne kuch bhi nahin kiya (That girl did nothing),” ANI had quoted Sri Sri as saying.

Of course, standing up for education for women and girls in the region of Swat Valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan (a region infamous for being controlled by local Taliban where girls had been banned at times from attending school) amounts to “nothing”.

Malala Yousafzai clearly did not do anything to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. Thanks, Sri Sri.

So, what does a person need to do to win a Nobel Prize? The answer is simple: Pollute, silly!

Even though the great Sri Sri had made it very clear that he had rejected the Nobel Prize offered to him earlier, we really think he will unwillingly accept one which will obviously be offered to him for getting two contempt notices for violating the orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), with regard to the World Culture Festival (WCF) he organised on the banks of the Yamuna in March 2016.

Sri Sri might also be just a bit worried that his chance to win a Nobel is running out. But there have been a lot of people (Kailash Satyarthi, Woodrow Wilson, Kofi Annan) who were 60 or above when they got a Nobel Peace Prize.

Moreover, because his 50s were full of amazing achievements like making petty remarks against a teenager or fighting allegations of polluting the environment, we’re pretty sure that his 60s will also be full of such greatness.

For example, maybe Sri Sri will now say that Sunny Leone did nothing to share her birthday with a man as great as him. “Uss ladki ne kuch bhi nahin kiya” could be a remark used against Sunny Leone now. After all, for a person so great that his ‘achievements’ are better than standing up for women’s education, one should also have certain qualifications to share a birthday with him.

Considering his love for sending ‘peace messages’, Sri Sri might also send one to Donald Trump, asking him to get rid of his racist and communal thoughts. We’re not sure how Trump would respond though. He might just propose banning Sri Sri from entering the United States too.

Or maybe the World Culture Festival will actually live up to its name now and go global. Maybe Sri Sri will decide that facing allegations of polluting the environment next to the Yamuna was not enough and that this needs to happen globally. After all, as we earlier said, nothing gets you a Nobel Prize faster than pollution.

So don’t worry, Sri Sri. There are still enough opportunities for you to win — or maybe continuously reject — the Nobel Peace Prize.

Tribal rights activist offloaded from Air India flight, airline distances itself from controversy

New Delhi: Tribal rights activist Gladson Dungdung was offloaded from a London-bound Air India flight on Monday morning even as the national carrier sought to distance itself from the incident saying he was offloaded by “government authority”.

In a Facebook post, Dungdung said he was offloaded by Air India from Delhi-London flight AI 115.

“The reason told to me is that my passport had been impounded in 2013, therefore, they will send it back to RTO, Ranchi for verification. The fact is that my passport was impounded in 2013 and returned to me after proper verification in 2014,” he said.

Image courtesy: Twitter/@GladsonDungDungImage courtesy: Twitter/@GladsonDungDung

Image courtesy: Twitter/@GladsonDungDung

Thereafter, he said he had attended a couple of international conferences in Denmark and London in 2014 and 2015 subsequently but there was no issue at all.

In a statement, Air India said it dissociates itself from the issue as “Dungdung was offloaded by Immigration/Government Authority”.

Last year too, a major controversy had erupted when Priya Pillai, a Greenpeace activist, was offloaded from a flight to the UK.

According to Dungdung’s post, he was going to attend the Workshop on Environmental History and Politics of South Asia to be held in the University of Sussex, UK on 10 May.

“I am sure that this is a clear impact of my book ‘Mission Saranda: A War for Natural Resources in India’.

Defaulters of millions of INR like Vijay Malaya can’t be offloaded but activists like me are bound to be offloaded,” Dungdung said in the post.

“My fight for the Adivasis’ ownership rights over the natural resources, adivasi identity, human rights, ecology and against unjust development processes will continue till they take away my right to life forever,” he wrote.

Uttarakhand forest fire: Timber mafia, climate change behind the blaze, say reports

The forest fire in Uttarakhand has killed seven persons and destroyed 2,269 hectares of forested land.

Even as latest satellite imagery of Uttarakhand has reported that the forest fire has gone out in over 70 percent of the affected areas, there is still a lot of debate over how the fire began in the first place.

A section of people on social media have alleged that the land and timber mafias are responsible for the forest fire. In a post on the Facebook page ‘Uttarakhand Burning Silently‘, it was alleged that minors are used by the mafia to light these fires because they cannot be punished.

He further said that the land and timber mafia gain the most by burning forests because it becomes easier to get environment clearance for a project on an area which has lost its flora and fauna due to fire.

Moreover, the trees burnt in the process “fetch crores in revenue”.

On the other hand, another Facebook user said that the worsening climate conditions in Uttarakhand only added to the man-made damage caused to the forest. It suggested that the Uttarakhand forest fire was caused by deforestation, rising temperatures, lack of water and reduced snowfall in Uttarakhand.

There was also another post allegedly showing children being sent to set fire to the forests.

A report in The Wire said that it was the combined effect of both man-made and natural causes which had led to the forest fire. While the report also talked about the timber mafia illegally setting fire in the Himalayan foothills to fell trees, it said that another major reason for the large scale of the disaster was that rising heat, this year’s dry winter and lack of rainfall made it “impossible” to contain the fire.

The report also said that the people diverting water sources for tourism was causing more dryness in the soil. Pine trees, which are highly flammable, were also being planted in large numbers in the state.

Another report in The Times of India said that there was an alleged nexus between the timber mafia and the Forest Development Corporation, the body with the authority to sell trees which are dead or have dried up via auction.

To control the damage caused by the destructive Uttarakhand fire, a squad of over 135 personnel of this special force are deployed in Uttarakhand as part of multiple firefighting teams to combat the raging fire in the jungles of Uttarakhand.

NDRF teams have spread out in 13 affected areas of three districts of Pauri Garhwal, Almora and Chamoli with fire fighting equipment to tackle the massive blaze.

“Our teams are working in 13 sectors in coordination with the officials and personnel of the state fire and forest department. The teams have been instructed to adopt the conventional method of cutting the fire line and containing the fire.

“We are using fire-beaters and green bushes to cut the fire from spreading. About 135 personnel as part of multiple teams are working in Uttarakhand at present,” NDRF DG OP Singh had said.

With inputs from PTI

Kashmir: Security officials concerned about cricket teams being named after militants

Srinagar: Militant sympathisers in Kashmir Valley have named cricket teams participating in certain tournaments after militants, a trend security officials say should be nipped in the bud to avoid “huge problems”.

A cricket tournament was recently played in Tral area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district which had few participating teams named after militants like Aabid Khan Qalandars, Khalid Aryans and Burhan Lions.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

While Burhan has emerged as one of the most wanted commander of Hizbul Mujahideen over the past one year, Khalid was his brother who was killed in a security forces’ operation.

Burhan had shot into prominence late last year after he uploaded pictures of his and his comrades on a social networking site.

Several of 11 militants featuring in those pictures have been eliminated but Burhan remains elusive for the security forces.

Many sports events, named after slain militants and separatist leaders, have been held over the past 20 years in different parts of Kashmir.

Shaheed-e-Millat cricket tournament, organised in memory of Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq — slain father of Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has not become a regular feature of the cricketing calendar in Srinagar.

However, this time the security forces seem to be concerned over the latest move.

“If this practice is not nipped in the bud, it can create a huge problem in coming months and years. The psyche of the impressionable minds is sought to be influenced,” a security official said.

He said before the onset of militancy in the state, a football club was formed in the memory of JKLF founder Mohammad Maqbool Bhat following his hanging in Tihar Jail in 1984.

“This club would take part in tournaments within and outside Kashmir and seemingly there was nothing wrong with it. However, when militancy erupted several players joined the ranks,” the official said.

National Conference working president Omar Abdullah saw a link between the trend of naming cricket teams after militants and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti representing south Kashmir in Lok Sabha.

“Lest we forget this South Kashmir being mentioned is Mehbooba Mufti’s Lok Sabha constituency,” Omar said.

Ruling PDP leaders chose not to comment on the issue.

Rajdeep Sardesai’s desperate Twitter walkout is victory for sanskari trolls

Rajdeep Sardesai is culpable because he erred in leaving Twitter, even if temporarily, as he put it. Because, by doing so, he has given his tormentors a glimpse of his weakness. He has given the sanskari trolls what they always wanted.
Watching him give up, concede defeat and beat a retreat was always their dream. And Sardesai just made them shriek a collective howl of joy.

For those who are wondering what this is all about, here is a brief history of Rajdeep’s sudden exit from Twitter.
On Saturday, Sardesai bid goodbye to Twitter. He did this after direct messages were sent out on Twitter through his account. “Teri maa ki boo aa rahi hai,” one of them allegedly read in response to an allegation that Sardesai was a beneficiary of money spent by Finmeccanica, parents of AgustaWestland, for managing media coverage of the chopper deal and was, thus, smelling fear.

Nobody knows if Sardesai had tweeted out the abusive response. For years, the celebrated journalist and his wife have been victims of relentless social media campaign questioning their integrity, primarily because they are an anathema to followers of the BJP and fans of prime minister Narendra Modi. Sardesai had so far exhibited restraint and caution in spite of serious provocation.

Sardesai claimed the tweets were not his. He said his account was hacked and the messages were a new low for the rightwing commentariat in India. Twitter is yet to verify Rajdeep’s claim.

Does it matter?

Abusive social media trolls are digital avatars of the louts who lurk in street corners, on intersections and markets, waiting to pass nasty comments on women, the bullies who prowl in schools and campuses in search of soft targets. Nothing frustrates them more than the realisation that even their most vile, villainous antics failed to break the resolve of their quarry. Nothing encourages them more than the satisfaction of a triumph over a victim.

Rajdeep Sardesai. IBNLive

Rajdeep Sardesai. IBNLive

Even if Sardesai reacted in the way he is accused of, it is understandable, if not justifiable, in light of the continuous provocation and abuse he’s been receiving. It happens to all of us. None of us is god incarnate to control our hurt and anger for years, as Rajdeep has done since the advent of online bullying. It is natural to get upset, though not advisable to assume the language of the trolls — which in itself if a bigger victory for the trolls (if his handle was not hacked, that is).

But, by disabling his account, Sardesai gave the social media bullies a trophy victim. He gave them hope that if they continue, the voice of reason can be silenced. He let down others who are subjected to such online violence, including journalists like Barkha Dutt and his wife Sagarika Ghosh who have proferred a thicker skin despite uglier provocation.
In some other world, where there are mental health experts scanning social media behaviour, most of these abusers would have been recommended some form of therapy. Some of them would even have been dragged, kicking and screaming, to a shrink and locked up in rehab. Online trolling, as research has shown, is a mental sickness.

In a recent article, The Guardian argued that many of these trolls can benefit from cognitive behavioural therapy. “This approach is grounded in the idea that changing patterns of thought can alter our emotions and behaviour. In one form of therapy called ‘stress inoculation training’, patients begin by identifying triggers that provoke reactions of anger or aggression. They then practise self-statements to counteract their usual responses, such as ‘This isn’t important enough to get angry about’ or ‘I shouldn’t take this personally’. Some evidence suggests that CBT may be effective in reducing aggression, though whether it leads to real-world benefits for anti-social behaviour has been questioned,” the paper advised while looking at the psychology of online abusers.

Clearly, it is the online abusers — notice the word ‘patients’ used for them — who need a break. Not their victims like Sardesai.

Two days ago, when Congress leader Digvijaya Singh’s daughter died, some of the rightwing trolls broke into inhuman glee. They rejoiced at the loss of a young life, like barbarians dancing around a corpse, cracking one-liners and jokes just because the unfortunate girl’s father was their political and ideological rival. Had they been endowed by talons and claws, they would have even turned into vultures.

A global website that tracks incendiary bullying concludes trolls are people with serious sociological, psychological and deep-seated mental issues, stemming from either sexual abuse, mental illness, and problems with their sexual identity.
“Do you really think any sane person would want to go onto a discussion board, with the sole purpose of starting an argument, if they were not mentally ill? These people would not act that way in the street in front of a random stranger, so what gives them the right to do it in an online environment? ” argues anti-troll.org.

Sardesai’s exit from Twitter is the right opportunity to ponder what is acceptable online, what is a cognisable offence and what can be tolerated without ruining lives and reputations. And to ask ourselves what are the borders of online sanity, for both Sardesai and his tormentors.

Here is my suggestion: Let us ensure that all trolls come out in the open, share their real names, identities and faces. And be held liable for their claims and allegations.

Once we know who they are it would be easy to put to test Ram Prasad Bismail’s hypothesis: Dekhna hai zor kitna bazu-e-katil main hai.

After launch of seventh navigation satellite, India a step away from ‘GPS club’

Sriharikota: India on Thursday afternoon successfully put into orbit its seventh and final navigation satellite — IRNSS-1G — with its own rocket in copy-book style.

With this, India successfully completed putting into orbit all the seven navigation satellites to complete the system in the sky.

Exactly at 12.50 pm, the PSLV rocket standing 44.4 metres tall and weighing 320 tonnes tore into the afternoon skies with fierce orange flames at its tail.

At the rocket mission control room, scientists were glued to their computer screens watching the rocket escaping the earth’s gravitational pull.

Just over 20 minutes into the flight, the PSLV rocket ejected its sole passenger — IRNSS-1F — at an altitude of 488.9 km.

Soon after this, the satellite’s solar panels were deployed.

IRNSS-1G spacecraft integrated with PSLV-C33 with two halves of the heat shields. Photo courtesy: Isro

IRNSS-1G spacecraft integrated with PSLV-C33 with two halves of the heat shields. Photo courtesy: Isro

The satellite’s control was then taken over by the Mission Control Facility (MCF) at Hassan in Karnataka.

The MCF will manage the satellite’s orbit raising operations firing the on-board motors till it is placed in its slotted orbit.

Simply put, the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) is similar to the GPS (global positioning system) of the US, Glonass of Russia and Galileo of Europe as well as China’s Beidou.

While GPS and Glonass are fully functional global systems, the Chinese and the Japanese systems offer regional coverage and Europe’s Galileo is yet to be operational.

India will formally join the select group of nations owing such system once IRNSS is declared operational after checking the systems – space (satellites), ground (ground stations) and the user-end signal receivers.

Only after the system is declared operational, will user-end signal receiver makers seriously get into the manufacture of equipment for use at the retail end, industry officials told IANS.

According to Indian space agency, the applications of IRNSS are: terrestrial, aerial and marine navigation, vehicle tracking and fleet management, terrestrial navigation for hikers and travellers, disaster management, integration with mobile phones, mapping and geodetic data capture and visual and voice navigation for drivers.

In other words, IRNSS could be said to be the “Indian GPS”.

Apart from the civilian applications, the IRNSS will be used for defence purposes as well.

Immediately after the 1,425 kg IRNSS-1G satellite was ejected by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C33) rocket, scientists at the mission control centre clapped their hands happily.

“The launch was successful,” Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar said soon after. The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) will raise the satellite to its home slot over the next couple of days.

The satellite, with a life-span of 12 years, has two payloads for navigation and ranging.

The navigation payload of IRNSS-1G will transmit signals to the users on the L5-band and S-band. A highly accurate rubidium atomic clock is part of the navigation payload.

The ranging payload consists of a C-band transponder (automatic receivers and transmitters of radio signals) which facilitates accurate determination of the range of the satellite.

An Indian-owned satellite navigation system is crucial to get positional accuracy during war or a war-like situation as the country may be denied such information by countries owing similar systems during such times.

The system will provide accurate position information service to users across the country and the region, extending up to an area of 1,500 km. The full system comprises of nine satellites — seven in orbit and two on the ground as standby.

Each satellite costs about Rs 150 crore, while the PSLV-XL version rocket costs about Rs 130 crore. The seven rockets would entail an outlay of about Rs 910 crore.

The total project cost including other facilities is around Rs 1,420 crore, said Isro officials.

“The Indian system provides positional accuracy of 10 metres. For civilian usage to bloom and costs to come down, more manufacturers have to start making the navigation signal receivers. That will happen once the IRNSS is formally declared operational,” AS Ganeshan, retired programme director of Isro’s Satellite Navigation Progamme, told IANS.

Ganeshan said once the IRNSS is ready then there will be more development of application software that would be useful for different segments.

“The Indian government should mandate the use of indigenous satellite navigation systems by various government agencies and the emergency service providers so that the signal receiver makers are enthused to get into accelerated production mode,” Ganeshan added.

He said once the mandatory usage is there, more software applications could be developed, thereby widening the usage.

Agreeing with him, S Purushotham, director, Accord Software & Systems Pvt Ltd told IANS: “If there is a mandate then it will give a big fillip for the receiver makers’ Make in India efforts.”

“The IRNSS is a new system. We will wait and see how the market evolves so that we can decide on getting into manufacture of the receivers,” S Rangarajan, CEO of Chennai-based Data Patterns (India) Pvt Ltd, told IANS.

An ISRO official told IANS that it may take three to four months for the space agency to check and cross-check all the systems before IRNSS could be d eclared operational

The first satellite IRNSS-1A was launched in July 2013, the second IRNSS-1B in April 2014, the third on October 2014, the fourth in March 2015, and the fifth, sixth and seventh on 20 January, 10 March, and 28 April, 2016.

Once IRNSS passes all the tests, India need not be dependent on other platforms.

According to Isro, even with the operationalisation of six IRNSS satellites, the proof of concept of an independent regional navigation satellite system over India has been demonstrated for the targeted position accuracy of better than 20 metres over 24 hours of the day.

With the operationalisation of the full system, far better positional accuracy will be provided, Isro said.

Indian space agency officials said IRNSS system is unique as it consist only seven satellites while other systems in the world have more than 20 satellites.

However, while most other systems are global, the Indian system is regional in nature.

The IRNSS will provide two types of services — standard positioning service and restricted service. The former is provided to all users and the later is an encrypted service for authorised users.

Bihar govt orders ban on cooking, puja between 9 am and 6 pm to prevent fires

A few days after six people were killed in two separate incidents of fire in Bihar’s Lakhisarai and Darbhanga districts, the state government on Thursday issued an advisory telling people not to cook or conduct any puja, havan or any religious activity between 9 am and 6 pm in rural areas.

PTI reported that the advisory asked people “not to light fire between 9 am and 6 pm and observe ‘havan‘ and puja before nine in the morning.”

Representational image. IBNLive

Representational image. IBNLive

“Summer at its peak and accidents happen due to fire,” ANI quoted Vyasji, Principal Secretary, Disaster Management, as saying.

“The advisory has been issued for those living in rural areas not to cook food, offer puja or even burn wheat crop leftovers on agricultural fields after 9 am and before 6 pm because the intense heat wave blowing during this period stokes fire,” The Hindu quoted an official of the state’s Disaster Management Department as saying.

Reacting to this government decision, Satender Bind, who lost his hut in a fire in a village in Bihar’s Jehanabad district, told NDTV, “It sounds fine but I wonder how many people will follow it. There are practical difficulties. But yes… I did lose my home in a fire and it started from someone’s cooking.”

Over 700 houses had been gutted due to the Darbhanga fire.

Four children were charred to death after fire broke out at Pokhrawan village under Kajra police station of Lakhisarai district, Kajra police SHO Ranjit Kumar had said.

The fire was caused by an electrical spark at a villager’s home during cooking which also spread to neighbouring Ranjit Thakur’s home, the SHO had said.

The flames were so severe that all the four children including goods were reduced to ashes and that’s why the bodies could not be recovered, he added.

With inputs from PTI

Pollution-free: BJP MP cycles to Parliament, another rides a horse

New Delhi: BJP MP, Ram Prasad Sharma, arrived on horseback while another, Manoj Tiwari, rode a bicycle to parliament to mark their protest against the Delhi government’s odd-even traffic restrictions.

Sharma, who represents Tezpur constituency in Assam, rode a white horse, with a placard that read: “Pollution Free Vehicle”.

Delhi’s northeast MP Manoj Tiwari pedalled his way on a bicycle to parliament.

Former Delhi state BJP president Vijay Goel protested against the odd-even curbs by putting out posters and stickers on his SUV against the scheme.

On Monday, several BJP lawmakers, including actor-turned politician Paresh Rawal, violated the odd-even traffic curbs on four-wheelers by commuting in their even-numbered vehicles on the odd date.

Rawal later apologised to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Members of parliament are not exempted from the restrictions on four-wheeler use in the Delhi government’s odd-even scheme which came into effect for the second time on April 15. The city government has arranged for buses to ferry the MPs, but not many members are opting for these.

Disowning the diamond: Kohinoor was not stolen, Centre tells SC

The famed Kohinoor diamond was neither stolen nor forcibly taken away and India should not stake claim to it, the Central government has told the Supreme Court on Monday.

The statement was made by Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, who was appearing for the government in the court, The Times of India reported. He is reported to have told the court that the 105-karat diamond, which has become a part of popular culture, was handed over to the East India Company by Punjab’s Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

The Supreme Court on 8 April had asked the government to clarify its stand on a PIL seeking return of the Kohinoor diamond in the country.

A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur, which did not issue notice on the PIL, asked the Solicitor General to seek instructions in the matter within a week.

The Kohinoor diamond. File photo. Getty imagesThe Kohinoor diamond. File photo. Getty images

The Kohinoor diamond. File photo. Getty images

“Everybody is claiming the Kohinoor. How many countries are claiming Kohinoor? Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and even South Africa. Somebody here is also asking for the Kohinoor. Do you know about it?,” the bench asked the Solicitor General.

Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar said he was unaware about it and would need time to seek instructions and get back.

During the hearing, the bench, also comprising Justices R Banumathi and UU Lalit, said there has been a press report attributing statements to the British Prime Minister quoting him as saying, “if we were to accept such demands, British Museums would be empty”.

“Why don’t you approach the government? Hasn’t the government taken up the matter? The government has done something. They have done whatever it could,” the bench told the petitioner.

The apex court was hearing a PIL filed by All India Human Rights and Social Justice Front seeking directions to the
High Commissioner of United Kingdom for return of the diamond besides several other treasures.

The PIL has made Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Culture, High Commissioners of UK, Pakistan and Bangladesh as parties in the case.

It has also sought return of the “ring and talwar of Tipu Sultan and other treasures of Tipu Sultan, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Rani of Jhansi, Nawab Mir Ahmad Ali Banda and other rulers of India.”

With inputs from PTI

Letter to a daughter: Chanda Kochhar’s letter to her daughter is the best thing you will read today

Popularly known as one of the ‘100 Most Powerful Women in the World’ — a title bestowed by Forbes — 54-year-old Chanda Kochhar, CEO and Managing Director of ICICI Bank, has been an inspiration to millions of working women across the world. However, the Padma Bhushan awardee has recently written a letter to her daughter which gives an insight into the woman and working mother behind the super-achieving professional.

In the letter, Kochhar shares struggles and lessons that life taught her, with daughter Aarti. It is sometimes difficult to accept CEOs and leaders of giant companies in the roles of mothers and homemakers, but Kochhar highlights the need for balance between the two roles, especially for women, who are increasingly trying to juggle two responsibilities.

The letter leaves one with a simple message, one which most parents give their children, “Remember that good times and bad times will be part of your life equally, and you have to learn to handle both with equanimity. Make the most of life’s opportunities and learn from every opportunity, and challenge that life brings along.”

Read  the full-text here:

Dear Aarti,

It makes me feel so proud today to see you standing in front of me as a confident young woman right on the threshold of an exciting journey through life. I am looking forward to seeing you grow and flourish in the years ahead.

This moment has also brought back memories of my own journey, and the life lessons I learnt along the way. When I think of those times, I realize that most of these lessons were actually learnt in my childhood, mostly through examples set by my parents. The values that they instilled in my formative years gave me the foundation on which I try to live my life even today.

A file photo of Chanda Kochhar. PTIA file photo of Chanda Kochhar. PTI

A file photo of Chanda Kochhar. PTI

Our parents treated all three of us — two sisters and a brother — equally. When it came to education, or our future plans, there was no discrimination between us based on our gender. Your grandparents always had the same message for the three of us — that it was important to focus on what gave us satisfaction and to work towards it with utmost dedication. That early initiation enabled us to develop into confident individuals capable of taking decisions independently. This also helped me when I started out on my own journey of self- discovery.

I was only a young girl of 13 when my father passed away from a sudden heart attack, leaving us unprepared to take on life without him. We had been protected from life’s challenges so far. But without warning, all that changed overnight. And my mother, who had been a homemaker till then, faced the responsibility of raising three children all on her own. It was then that we realized how strong she was and how determined to do her duty in the best possible manner. Slowly, she discovered a flair for designing and textiles, found herself a job with a small firm, and quickly made herself indispensable to them. It must have been challenging for her to shoulder the responsibility of bringing up her family single- handed, but she never let us feel like it was a task for her. She worked hard till she saw all of us through college and we became independent. I never knew that my mother had such a wealth of self-assurance and belief within her.

As a parent with a full time job, one must not let work affect the way you relate to your family. Remember the time you were studying in the US and the announcement of my becoming MD and CEO of ICICI was splashed across all newspapers? I remember the mail you wrote to me a couple of days later. ‘You never made us realize that you had such a demanding, successful and stressful career. At home, you were just our mother,’ you wrote in your email. Live your life in the same way, my darling.

I also learnt from my mother that it is very important to have the ability to handle difficult situations and keep moving forward in life, no matter what. Even today I can remember the equanimity and calmness with which she handled the crisis on hand when my father passed away. You have to handle the challenges and emerge stronger from them, rather than allow them to bog you down. I remember how, in late 2008, we were faced with a situation where ICICI Bank’s survival was in jeopardy in the face of a global economic meltdown. The situation was being analysed with a hawk’s eye by major media platforms and debated widely in the public space… I got down to work, systematically communicating with all stakeholders — from the smallest depositor to the sophisticated investors, and from regulators to the government — the bank was sound and its exposure to these institutions involved a small portion of its assets. I understood their concern because so many of them feared that their hard earned savings in our bank could be at risk. I also advised staff across the bank’s various branches to lend a sympathetic ear to those depositors who turned up to withdraw their money, telling them to also offer the depositors a seat and a glass of water while they waited. And though, depositors were welcome to withdraw their money if they wanted to, our staff also took care to explain to them that it would not help them to take their money away, because there was no real crisis situation.

It was during this period that I took a couple of hours off one day to attend your brother’s squash tournament. I did not know it then, but my very presence at the tournament went a long way in reinstalling customer confidence in the bank. A few mothers at the tournament came and asked me if I was Chanda Kochhar from ICICI Bank and when I replied in the affirmative they said that if I could still find time to attend a tournament in the midst of a crisis, it meant that the bank was in safe hands and they need not worry about their money!

It was also from my mother that I learnt the importance of adapting to circumstances and not being afraid of the unknown. While working hard for my career, I looked after my family, and have been there for my mother and in-laws when they needed me around. They reciprocated in kind with their unconditional love and support for my career. Remember that relationships are important and have to be nurtured and cherished. Also keep in mind that a relationship is a two way street, so be ready to give a relationship just as you would expect the other person to be giving to you

My career would not have progressed the way it did were it not for your father who never once complained about the time I spent away from home. Your father and I nurtured our relationship despite the fact that we were both busy with our own careers, and I am confident you will do the same with your partner, when the time comes. If you had complained and whined about my extended absence from home, I would never have had the heart to make a career for myself. I am blessed with a great and supportive family and I really hope you too will be as fortunate when you set out on your own!

I remember the day your board exams were about to commence. I had taken leave from work so that I could take you to the examination hall myself. When you realized I was coming, you told me how you were used to going for your exams alone for so many years. It hurt me to hear you say that, but I also think in some ways, having a working mother made you much more independent from a very young age itself. You not only became independent, but also stepped into the nurturer’s role for your younger brother and never let him miss my presence. I learnt to have trust and faith in you and you have now grown into a wonderful, independent woman. I now use the same principle at work to make our growing population of younger talent take on larger responsibilities.

I believe in fate but I also believe that hard work and diligence plays a very important role in our lives. In a larger sense, we all write our own destiny. Take destiny in your own hands, dream of what you want to achieve, and write it in your own way. As you go ahead in life, I want you to climb the path to success one step at a time. Aim for the sky, but move slowly, enjoying every step along the way. It is all those little steps that make the journey complete.

As you go forward, you will sometimes have to take difficult decisions, decisions that others might scorn at. But you must have the courage to stand up for what you believe in. Make sure you have that conviction to do what you know is right, and once you have it, don’t let skeptics distract you from your path.
Aarti, there is no limit to what a determined mind can achieve, but in achieving your goal, don’t compromise on the values of fair play and honesty. Don’t cut corners or compromise to achieve your dreams. Remember to be sensitive to the feelings of people around you. And remember, if you don’t allow stress to overtake you, it will never become an issue in your life.

Remember that good times and bad times will be part of your life equally, and you have to learn to handle both with equanimity. Make the most of life’s opportunities and learn from every opportunity, and challenge that life brings along.

Lovingly yours,
Mumma

(Excerpted and adapted from the book Legacy by Sudha Menon)

‘His economic vision was unique’: PM Narendra Modi pays tribute to BR Ambedkar

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday paid his tributes to BR Ambedkar, the chief architect of India’s Constitution, on his 125th birth anniversary, saying “his economic vision was unique”.

The prime minister tweeted:

Born on 14 April, 1891 to Bhimabai Sakpal and Ramji in Madhya Pradesh, Ambedkar died on 6 December, 1956.

Prime Minister Modi will participate in a function to be held in Madhya Pradesh’s Mhow city in connection with Ambedkar’s 125 birth anniversary celebrations and launch the nationwide ‘Gram Uday se Bharat Uday’ campaign later in the day.

Vanishing fauna: Madhya Pradesh has lost 16 tigers in the last year due to poaching, says NGO

Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh has lost nearly 16 tigers, including seven in Pench reserve, due to poaching and others reasons in the last one year.

While an NGO blamed the state government for it, forest officials contended that most of the deaths were natural.

MP has lost 16 tigers in the last year. Reuters

MP has lost 16 tigers in the last year. Reuters

“MP, which was once tagged as tiger state, has slipped to number three slot in the country in big cats count primarily due to the state government’s failure to protect the majestic beasts,” Ajay Dubey, who runs NGO Prayatna for protecting the feline, told PTI on Friday.

“Even after eight years, the Special Tiger Protection Force has not been formed in MP,” he said.

“The conviction rate in tiger poaching is below 10 percent in MP. The intelligence gathering regarding poaching is zero. No preventive arrest in regard to tiger poaching has been made in recent memory,” he contended.

However, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) Shahbaz Ahmad said, “The state government and forest department are doing their best to protect tigers. The killing of tigers is just negligible.”

Maximum deaths of the big cats reported in the state were natural, he said.

Ahmad said a few cases of electrocution and poisoning of tigers had come to light which were being dealt with severely. In some cases, people had laid traps to kill herbivores where the striped animals walked-in, he said.

Efforts were also on to overcome man-animal conflict around the tiger reserves, he said.

On the formation of Special Tiger Protection Force, Ahmad said it is under consideration of the state government.

As per National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) official website, MP lost 16 tigers in the last 12 months.

Seven deaths were reported from Pench Tiger Reserve, where a tigress along with its two cubs were poisoned in Satosha area last month, a senior official said, adding three persons were arrested in this connection.

In September last year also, the Pench Tiger Reserve authorities arrested four poachers and recovered body parts of a big cat they had killed.

“These poachers are being prosecuted,” Pench Reserve’s Director Shubranjan Sen told PTI.

Besides, tiger deaths were also reported from Kanha Tiger Reserve, Bandhavgarh Reserve, Panna Tiger Reserve, Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary, Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve, a forest in Chhindwara district, Umaria-Shahdol district highway and Dewas, as per the NTCA website.

The details of most of the deaths was awaited by NTCA, the website said.

Dissent and noise are essential elements for an effective democracy: Fali Nariman tells President

Senior advocate Fali Nariman said on Thursday that dissent and noise were essential elements for an effective democracy.

Nariman was speaking at a book launch event in the Rashtrapati Bhavan, reported Hindustan Times. “There is an increasing impression that only if executive power is centralised on one person, from this there will be change, unity. I disagree,” HT quoted Nariman as saying.

Fali Nariman said that dissent was essential for a democracy. IBNLive

Fali Nariman said that dissent was essential for a democracy. IBNLive

He also said that any other system of governance necessarily led to “arrogance, autocracy and dictatorship”.

“Noise with resultant chaos, we have to accept in a parliamentary system of democracy, because any other system necessarily leads to arrogance of power, autocracy and dictatorship which has to be avoided at all costs,” Indian Express quoted Nariman as saying.

He also said that veiled attempts by the government to interfere with democracy by making amendments to the Constitution will be a “disaster”.

“Mr President, I believe that all of us, and you above all, must guard against this and I must express this mortal fear of mine openly to the person best positioned to receive it,” the report further quoted him as saying.

Fali Nariman’s statements come at a time when yet another series of protests have erupted at a university in India over the debate about nationalism.

Tension started brewing inside the NIT campus, located at the banks of famous Dal lake, last week after India lost to West Indies in semi-final in the T-20 cricket tournament prompting some local students to rejoice and burst crackers. This led to protest by outstation students resulting in clashes.

Since 31 March night, the situation inside the campus has been volatile and the authorities had posted personnel from Seema Suraksha Bal (SSB). The local police was manning the main gate of the institute.

The developments prompted the NIT authorities to close the campus on Saturday but it was reopened on Monday. The outstation students also tried to march out of the campus saying they wanted to return to their homes.

(With inputs from PTI)

Five minutes: That’s how long a judge in an Indian high court spends hearing a case, reveals study

A study conducted by a Bengaluru-based non-government organisation (NGO) has shown that a judge in a high court spends less than five minutes hearing a case, on an average.

Representational image. IBNLive

Representational image. IBNLive

“The most relaxed high court judges in the country have 15-16 minutes to hear a case, while the busiest have just about 2.5 minutes to hear a case and, on average, they have approximately five-six minutes to decide a case,” The Times of India quoted the study as saying.

The study was conducted by Daksh, an NGO which studies and analyses performance of the judiciary.

The report also said that judges in high courts of Kolkata, Patna, Hyderabad, Jharkhand and Rajasthan got two to three minutes on each case per day whereas judges in high courts of Allahabad, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha spent four to six minutes over each case.

According to another report by IndiaSpend, there are more than 20 million cases pending in the Indian districts courts; two-thirds are criminal cases and one in 10 have been pending for more than 10 years.

The report also said that there is one judge for every 73,000 people in India, seven times worse than in the United States.

On average, 1,350 cases are pending with each judge, who clears 43 cases per month. At the rate cases are handled at the district courts, civil cases will never get cleared, and it will take more than 30 years to clear criminal cases.

States that build a backlog will never be able to clear their pending cases at the current rate of clearance. The 10 states with the fastest-growing backlog are Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bihar, Delhi, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Meghalaya, Sikkim and Orissa.

Among the states clearing the case backlog, the southern states of Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu are the best. They will clear all pending cases within six years. UP, which has the highest number of pending cases per judge, will also clear pending cases within 10 years due to its high case-disposal rate.

Judge for yourself: Sushma asks twitterati to respond to Manish Tewari’s jibe about crucified Indian priest

New Delhi: A tweet by Congress leader Manish Tewari on Tuesday asking why the BJP government “did nothing” about the alleged crucifixion of an Indian Catholic priest by Islamic State jihadists in Yemen attracted a lot of censure on the social media platform, with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj asking twitterati to “reply” to Tewari.

Tewari tweeted: “So ISIS allegedly crucified Father Thomas Uzhunnali  BJP Govt did nothing. Why because he was a Christian? Mr PM he was also a fellow Indian.”

Sushma Swaraj, who has been active on twitter in reaching out to Indians abroad in need of help, tweeted: “Friends – I have liked some tweets. Please see them and judge for yourself. Then reply to @ManishTewari.”

A Catholic priest on Tuesday said there is no confirmation yet about the “crucifixion” of the Indian priest, Father Thomas Uzhunnallil.

However, Tewari’s tweet attracted a lot of flak.

One twitterati asked: “What has the BJP got to do with this? And if your memory still works, remember how you people let Sarabjeet (Singh) die in Pakistan.”

Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. PTIUnion External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. PTI

Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. PTI

Another reasoned: “That’s ok..He’s clutching at straws ….Very few straws left…Even he knows it’s a ridiculous thing to say.”

Another twitterati remarked sarcastically: “Please tell the entire nation what the Congress would have done to save the Father? So that India & also the world can follow your strategy.”

Social media and media houses have disseminated news on the alleged crucifixion of Uzhunnallil by IS terrorists on Good Friday, 25 March, after they abducted him from a home for the elderly in Aden, Yemen.

The Indian priest was kidnapped on March 4 after IS terrorists barged into the care home for the elderly set up by Mother Teresa in Aden in 1992, and shot dead many people, including four nuns of the Missionaries of Charity, one of them from India.

The external affairs ministry has said there is no confirmation of the news of the alleged crucifixion.

IANS

Here’s Kaziranga story that’s not about poaching: Rangers rescue 12-day-old abandoned rhino

Bokakhat: Wearing a red and grey-striped blanket, a 12-day-old baby rhinoceros is bottle-fed by keepers at a wildlife rehabilitation centre in northeast India, after being found alone in a remote forest region.

Rangers from Kaziranga National Park found the rhino calf lying in a stream and abandoned by his mother in the Bagori forest range in Assam.

Dehydrated and in distress, the calf, a greater one-horned rhino, was brought to the nearby Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC), which cares for orphaned or displaced wild animals.

Indian veterinarian Panjit Basumatary(L)examines a 12 day-old male rhino calf at The Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation facility at Kaziranga National Park in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam on March 24, 2016. Wearing a red and grey-striped blanket, a 12-day-old baby rhinoceros is bottle-fed by keepers at a wildlife rehabilitation centre in northeast India, after being found alone in a remote forest region. AFPIndian veterinarian Panjit Basumatary(L)examines a 12 day-old male rhino calf at The Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation facility at Kaziranga National Park in the north-eastern Indian state of Assam on March 24, 2016. Wearing a red and grey-striped blanket, a 12-day-old baby rhinoceros is bottle-fed by keepers at a wildlife rehabilitation centre in northeast India, after being found alone in a remote forest region. AFP

Veterinarian Panjit Basumatary examines a 12 day-old male rhino calf at The Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation facility at Kaziranga National Park, Assam. AFP

Staff have begun hand-raising the rhino, bottle-feeding him milk replacement powder and vitamin supplements and allowing him to interact with other calves to reduce stress.

“When he came he was unable to walk properly, he was very weak and suffering from hypothermia,” Dr Panjit Basumatary, a veterinarian at the CWRC, told AFP.

“Now he is almost back to normal, another week or two of care and we think he should survive,” he said.

The baby rhino will be released into the wild when he is about three years old, the vet said, as he will be less vulnerable to being attacked by tigers or other wild animals.

Kaziranga National Park is home to two-thirds of the world’s greater one-horned rhinoceros population, according to the park’s website, as well as the highest density of tigers in a protected area.

Excessive hunting has left the Indian rhinoceros, which once roamed over wide swaths of the country, now classed as vulnerable, after its habitat was reduced dramatically.

The world’s fourth-largest land animal, it can weigh up to 3,000 kilos.

AFP

PM Narendra Modi, Sania Mirza among contenders for TIME’s list of most influential people

New York: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, tennis star Sania Mirza and actor Priyanka Chopra are among the probable contenders named by TIME magazine for its annual list of the most influential people in the world.

TIME will announce its ‘TIME 100’, the annual list of the world’s 100 most influential people next month.

PM Narendra Modi (left) and Sania Mirza. Reuters

PM Narendra Modi (left) and Sania Mirza. Reuters

While its editors will determine the ultimate honorees, the publication has asked readers to vote from among 127 “world leaders, great minds in science and technology, outstanding figures in the arts and other icons of the moment” on who they think deserve recognition.

TIME said “Modi remains a powerful voice on the world stage,” and while he saw his domestic agenda “sidetracked by political squabbles” in 2015, his country still leads the world in economic growth.

Modi was named among TIME’s 100 most influential people in the world last year and President Barack Obama had written a profile for him for the magazine.

On Mirza, TIME said India’s best female tennis player secured the number one ranking in the world for women’s doubles “while helping to redefine the role of female athletes in her home country.”     

TIME said Chopra, one of the highest paid actors in Bollywood, has “caught Hollywood’s attention” for her role in the drama series ‘Quantico’ and “will continue to do so in the Baywatch remake”.

Indian-born CEOs of the world’s top technology companies Google and Microsoft are also among the list of 127 probables for the annual honour.

TIME said Google CEO Sundar Pichai, co-founder Larry Page’s “right hand”, now oversees core businesses such as Android and Youtube for the tech giant.

Under Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, the publication said, Windows 10 launched “successfully”, the cloud business is “booming” and new technologies like the Hololens have industry analysts “excited”.

Also on the list is Indian-origin actor Aziz Ansari.

The list also includes SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, singer Rihanna, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, Harry Potter author JK Rowling, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Pope Francis, reality TV star Kim Kardashian, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.

PTI

PM in Tussauds: Narendra Modi to join ranks of global dignitaries in London’s wax museum

London: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will join the ranks of prominent global leaders at Madame Tussauds in London, Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok next month, the world famous wax museum announced on Wednesday.

Describing him as a “hugely important figure in world politics”, the museum said the Indian Prime Minister had given the museum’s team of artists and experts a sitting at his residence in New Delhi earlier this year.

“Madame Tussauds has crafted figures of very distinguished dignitaries from around the world – how could I
regard myself worthy of being alongside them? But when I was informed that your decision had emanated from public opinion and public sentiment, I was comforted,” Modi said in a statement to the museum.

A file photo of Narendra Modi. PTIA file photo of Narendra Modi. PTI

A file photo of Narendra Modi. PTI

“During my sitting, I observed the team carefully and was deeply impressed by its dedication, professionalism and skill. I have visited Madame Tussauds three or four times and had the pleasure of getting myself photographed standing next to the figures of various dignitaries,” he said.

The wax figures at each of the museum’s locations around Europe and Asia will be dressed in Modi’s signature kurta in cream with a jacket and he will be featured in a traditional pose making a namaste gesture.

“Prime Minister Modi is a hugely important figure in world politics, a position supported by his place in the top
10 of Time Magazine’s Person of the Year List 2015,” said museum spokesperson Kieran Lancini.

“His massive social media presence — he is currently the second most followed politician on twitter after President
Obama — also confirms the intense interest the public have in him, a fact supported by the requests our guests have made for us to create his figure.We are delighted to be including the Prime Minister’s figure in our attractions in London, Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok,” he said.

Each figure took a team of Madame Tussauds’ artists four months and cost around 150,000 pounds to create.

“Guests will be able to stand shoulder to shoulder and measure up to one of the most powerful men in the world – and even grab a selfie when the figures arrive in their locations,” the museum said.

The launch in London and all other centres is expected around late April and it is yet to be confirmed if Modi would be personally unveiling himself in wax at any of the four locations.

A new branch of Madame Tussauds is also set to open in New Delhi as part of the India-UK Year of Culture in 2017,
announced during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the UK last November.

PTI

Are you as much of a Leftist as Kanhaiya Kumar? Take this quiz and see for yourself

The Indian Left, many allege, is in a time warp. Mentally, it remains in the mid 19th century. The world has taken may leaps forward and the society we live in has changed in significant ways but it refuses to acknowledge the reality. It produces innumerable self-serving arguments to confine itself to its cocoon. Consumed by its own pretension of intellectuality it keeps creating fresh justifications for its relevance in the present day, but the hard fact is it is dying across the country, if not as an idea but certainly as an ideology.

The Kanihaiya Kumar and JNU episodes have brought it back from oblivion. The Left, indeed, should thank the Right for allowing it back into the public discourse. The big confusion now, however, is the Right thinks the country has just too many Leftists; and the Left despite its depleting strength believes exactly the same. So how many Leftist are there in the country? Too may, one would presume. It’s better the readers answered the question for themselves.

So readers, here we go. You have nothing to lose but your inhibitions. And it’s fun.

Sadhana’s fallen jhumka to rise in Bareilly

Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi referred to Sadhana’s song Jhumka gira re when he addressed a rally in Bareilly, the city’s development authority is taking serious note of the fact that the jhumka is nowhere to be found. They are so serious about the jhumka that the Bareilly Development Authority has decided to create one of their own.

Sadhana in the song Jhumka gira re in Mera Saaya. Screengrab from YouTube

According to The Times of India, the BDA has learnt that tourists are disappointed to find that there really is no landmark in the city that corresponds with the evergreen song. So BDA officials are now inviting designers to send in designs for a huge jhumka that they plan to hang at Delapir trisection. The designers are welcome to be inspired by other things that Bareilly is famous for – kohl, zari embroidery and kite string. The deadline for applications is 18 March and the winner will get a cash prize of Rs 25,000.

For the unitiated, the song Jhumka gira re Bareilly ke bazaar mein featuring legendary actress Sadhana and sung by Asha Bhosle, was part of the movie Mera Saaya (1966). The song immortalised Bareilly for every Bollywood lover.

Even PM Modi referred to it on 28 February when he wanted to strike an instant chord with the crowd assembled at Kisan Kalyan Rally in Bareilly.

“I had never been here in the past. But I have definitely heard Jhumka gira rey,” he said amid applause.

Incidentally, this is not the only song which refers to a jhumka from Bareilly. The song Kajra mohabbatwala in the film Kismat (1968) includes the line Jhumka bareilly waala, kaanon mein aisa dala, jhumke ne le li meri jaan.

With inputs from PTI

Satyajit Ray is now an address: Kolkata names road after legendary filmmaker

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday inaugurated a revamped Bishop Lefroy Road, on which stands the legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s house and renamed it as Satyajit Ray Sarani.

The 150-m stretch of the iconic road has been beautified keeping in mind Ray’s works with the pavement been re-laid with designer blocks.

Special benches adorn both sides of the pavement along with designer street furniture installed, keeping in parity with Ray’s residence which is a grade-I heritage building.

Satyajit Ray. File photo. IBNLiveSatyajit Ray. File photo. IBNLive

Satyajit Ray. File photo. IBNLive

“As a token of our humble dedication to the memory and phenomenal contribution of legendary personality Satyajit Ray, we have decided to rename Lee Road, near Bishop Lefroy Road where his house stands, as Satyajit Ray Sarani,” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote on her Facebook wall soon after inaugurating the street.

“Kolkata Municipal Corporation has beautified the area near Satyajit Ray’s house in a unique way, which has been inaugurated today. It is only our small tribute to the iconic man who took Bengal to a distinctive place in the world in the field of cinema and more,” she further wrote.

And for touch of Ray, replica of the original posters of the Oscar-winning director’s films including ‘Pather Panchali’, ‘Joy Baba Felunath’ and ‘Goopi Gyen Bagha Byen’ have been displayed on both sides of the road.

PTI

Chris Gayle gifts autographed bat to Amitabh Bachchan, says I’m in awe of your movies

Mumbai: Megastar Amitabh Bachchan was stumped when he was presented an autographed bat by cricketer Chris Gayle. He says he is in awe of the reach of Indian cinema and that finding a fan in the West Indian cricket star came as a “revelation” to him.

The 73-year-old took to various social media platforms to express his happiness over getting the token of love from the international batting sensation.

Amitabh Bachchan and Chris GayleAmitabh Bachchan and Chris Gayle

Amitabh Bachchan and Chris Gayle

He tweeted: “Mr. Chris Gayle… What an honour… I never knew you would know me… So humbled. We are all great fans of yours! I mean Chris Gayle, a fan of Hindi movies and presents me a golden bat autographed? I mean this is revelation”.

Gayle, who plays in the Indian Premier League as well, proclaimed himself to be a big fan of the Bollywood ‘Shahenshah’, who has regaled film buffs for over four decades.

“Proud to gift my Spartan bat to a legend @srbachchan, love his movies and his style, legend. Thanks @spartancricket,” Gayle tweeted.

After Big B thanked him, Gayle posted: “See you soon in India.”

The “Paa” star also used Facebook to express his happiness. He posted: “Chris Gayle! The phenomenal cricketer from WI sent me a bat autographed… Amazing… I never knew he was such a fan of our films… humbled and so overwhelmed.”

Meanwhile, Amitabh is recovering from a mild ailment which laid him low. IANS

#JNURow hijacked by Photoshop: Kanhaiya Kumar’s photograph was NOT morphed; we’ve got proof

So, the media now tells us that Kanhaiya Kumar wasn’t actually standing in front of a map of a divided India.

Reports poured in on Friday about how the image being widely circulated — depicting the JNUSU president apparently addressing a group while standing in front of a map of a splintered India — was morphed. Yeah, right!

Doesn’t the naive, brainwashed, corrupt and paid media know a cover-up when it sees one? Besides, why would anyone have to morph an image of that awful awful anti-national man?

Luckily, Firstpost is on hand to set the record straight, after laying its hands on previously unseen photographs of Kanhaiya.

Here he is at Disneyland, saying anti-national things, no doubt:

Kanhaiya-morphed-1Kanhaiya-morphed-1

And then he went to St Petersburg, presumably to meet his commie friends and spew more seditious bile:

Kanhaiya-morphed-2Kanhaiya-morphed-2

Oh! And then he went to the Forbidden City, where he was lauded by the locals as a hero for his attacks on Bharat Mata. His proposal for JNU to be a Beijing-administered province is still under consideration:

Kanhaiya-morphed-7Kanhaiya-morphed-7

In between, there was still a bit of time to join Metallica onstage to provide guest vocals. The song? Seek and Destroy, obviously:

Kanhaiya-morphed-6

After some serious globe-trotting, Kanhaiya decided to return home to bury daggers of hate deep into India’s heart — Dadar Railway Station:

Kanhaiya-morphed-5Kanhaiya-morphed-5

And finally, he turned up at the Firstpost office. Nothing to see here.

Kanhaiya-morphed-4Kanhaiya-morphed-4

A day in the life of BS Bassi: Told entirely in memes

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High level talks: Here’s what Jaitley and his pals are really talking about

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Why so serious? DGCA needs to loosen up over the Sonu Nigam’s Jet Airways ‘concert’

Sometimes, our regulators take themselves too seriously. They need to lighten up. Jet Airways suspending its cabin crew after they allowed Bollywood singer Sonu Nigam take over the aircraft cabin PA system is a case in point.

The incident happened on 4 January, when the singer was traveling from Jodhpur to Mumbai. When co-passengers urged him to sing for them, Nigam obliged. He took over the mic of the cabin PA system and belted out a couple of hits . Thus, what would have otherwise been a boring flight was turned into an impromptu music concert that everyone enjoyed.

The videos of his performance went viral, but the stodgy blokes at the DGCA were neither amused nor entertained. According to the Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) on training and licensing of cabin crew, issued by the DGCA in 2010, “the PA (public address) system and interphone system are tools for relaying safety information.” The regulator demanded action against the erring cabin crew and Jet Airways responded on Friday by suspending all five members of the cabin crew and sending them for “re-training”.

Sonu Nigam singing on the Jet airways flight. Screengrab from YouTubeSonu Nigam singing on the Jet airways flight. Screengrab from YouTube

Sonu Nigam singing on the Jet airways flight. Screengrab from YouTube

Sonu Nigam expressed shock over the suspension and called it intolerance. He said in a statement, “I have witnessed an elaborate fashion show in an aircraft. I have heard of small concerts happening in an aircraft. I have seen pilots and crew members cracking humorous jokes to loosen up passengers in other countries, which is so cool. To suspend crew members for asking me to sing on the address system, when the seat belt signs were off, and no announcements were to be made, is nothing less than punishing someone for spreading happiness.”

He concluded, “Indians, need to loosen up. This act of lack of common sense, according to me, is real intolerance.”

Well said.

Meanwhile, social media has directed its anger towards Jet Airways, which probably had no room to wriggle in this situation. Airlines don’t take on the regulator on issues that can easily be resolved by simply giving in and seeming to take action. Still, there is hypocrisy in suspending just the flight attendants. It is well know that they could have not done this without the consent of the flight crew. So, why weren’t the pilots suspended?

There can be no argument that the safety of passengers and crew are paramount while an aircraft is in the air. But, in almost every airline, safety information is not all that the cabin PA system is used for. Once the flight takes off and the seat belt lights are switched off, cabin crew use it for a variety of announcements, ranging from meal service, beverage service, auctions, sales of duty-free items, and even soliciting for donations to feed hungry children.

Some airlines have fun with the PA system. In the US, Southwest Airlines is a joy to fly because of the way they keep kidding with the passengers . “Don’t leave anything behind, including your children, we’ll just take them home with us,” one attendant announced as we were deboarding. Over the years, Indian airlines such as East West and Kingfisher have organized onboard fashion shows. More recently, in 2015, Finnair’s cabin crew on a flight to India performed a Bollywood-style flash mob to celebrate India’s Republic Day.

It’s not as if all this is done at the expense of flight safety. In the Sonu Nigam case, we must assume that the trained cabin crew was every bit as alert and would have quickly taken over if an emergency had come up. Most airplanes have multiple microphones and if the pilot begins to use his or hers, it automatically overrides all other microphones on the plane. There was probably never any danger that Sonu Nigam using one microphone would mean that emergency announcement could not be made.

The DGCA is clearly within its rights to take action, it owns the rule book. Jet Airways has also done the right thing by taking action. We can only hope that the “re-training” of the flight crew is quickly over and they can return to work. But was this really that big an issue that punitive action was required? Come on DGCA, go out, see the world. And, as Sonu Nigam said, don’t be intolerant.

Dirt wars in Delhi? AAP leaders clean garbage piled up by protesting civic workers

New Delhi: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders, including Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, on Sunday cleared garbage piled up by protesting civic workers in various parts of the national capital.

AAP leaders clean garbage in Delhi. Image courtesy: @AamAadmiParty/Twitter

AAP leaders clean garbage in Delhi. Image courtesy: @AamAadmiParty/Twitter

Employees of three civic corporations of Delhi are on indefinite strike from 27 January, demanding immediate payment of their salaries and pending wages.

In some areas, sanitation workers have not only refused to clear garbage but have littered it on the streets.

While Sisodia cleaned up garbage in his assembly constituency Patparganj in east Delhi, Tourism Minister Kapil Mishra swept streets in the city’s Karawal Nagar.

Delhi Assembly Speaker Ram Niwas Goel also led a team in Shahdara area to clear the garbage littered on the street.

Delhi’s civic body was divided into three entities in May 2012, and all three are run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The BJP has accused the AAP-controlled Delhi government of starving the civic corporations of funds, leading to the present crisis. The Delhi government denies the allegation.

The Delhi government on Saturday formed a taskforce as part of special arrangements for removing garbage from across the national capital.

The public works department of the city government has deployed 93 vehicles to clean garbage dumps.

IANS

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