Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes news, perhaps even when he is not trying to. Or his “supporters” ensure that none of his visits anywhere (and they are plenty) go unnoticed. His visit to Nagpur to lay the foundation stone for Nagpur Metro, was discussed elaborately in the media because the state Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan gave it a miss. After two incidents of booing of Congress chief ministers at Prime Minister’s functions, at Haryana and Jharkhand, the others are wary of attending such functions. After debating the protocol issues, the CM publicly announced that he would not be attending the function. BJP’s senior leader Venkaiah Naidu, mentioned the CM at the event and said the centre would like to work with the state. He repeated this statement at a press conference in Mumbai and in his inimitable style laced with subtle humour and south Indian accented Hindi, he also said that it is unfortunate that the CMs got booed and that he doesn’t support it. In the same vein he also added people should show their anger by voting them out. He then explained that he went and met the CM even though he did not attend the function and hoped that they would work on developing the state together. He also announced that the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission ( JNNURM) had run its course and will be replaced soon. The good points will be retained, he assured, refusing to comment on whether the name is one of those things that will be changed or retained.
Although all the poll pundits predict victory for BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, the incumbent government is putting up a brave front and a poll plan too. Narayan Rane, Congress campaign chief, who was recently in news for resigning and being cajoled back, announced the campaign plan for the upcoming assembly elections, which would start on September 1 from Hutatma Chowk with lighting of the flame for martyrs of Samyukta Maharashtra movement. While he was on the subject of Samyukta Maharashtra, media persons asked him about his stand on the recent Kannada-Marathi clashes. On the one hand, he said, that he believed that Vidarbha should be part of Maharashtra. But then, on the other hand, Rane also claimed that the party supports the demand for a separate Vidarbha. When asked if it was self-contradictory he said no and moved on to other things such as explaining his son’s declaration and withdrawal of wanting to contest as an independent, how the BJP has changed its stand on FDI before and after elections and so on. He also insisted that if the party can convince the public of all the “development work” the government has done, people would vote for them. Voters would probably remember both: some good, more bad— the infrastructure projects and the irrigation scams, the infighting and Ajitdada Pawar’s comment on how to fill up empty reservoirs.
Last week was traumatic for relatives of 28 women patients at Kurla Bhabha Hospital and 10 women patients at Rajawadi Hospital, as the patients developed severe allergic reactions to a concoction of two antibiotics that were administered. Saira Shaikh, one of the 28, died of complications. It was later found that she was also suffering from Dengue (underlying condition that may have worsened after medicines were administered). However, reports say that she had nearly recovered from the fever and died within 24 hours after the allergic reaction. Ceftriaxone and Cefotaxime are the two drugs that are suspected to have caused this and the authorities have put a hold on their usage for now. The Food and Drug Administration officials suspect that the drugs were not stored properly. The patients developed severe ADR (Adverse Drug Reaction) and showed similar symptoms such as chills, convulsions, acute body pain, vomiting and breathlessness. The patients had mostly been admitted for fever related illnesses. Whatever the investigations reveal, it is indeed a sad comment on the state of public health system in the city. The incident may help the authorities understand why even the poorest end up going to private nursing homes, spending a lot more money and yet with little reassurance of recovery.
Last week President Pranab Mukherjee rejected mercy petitions of Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit, two women accused of kidnapping children, using them to steal and killing them at times (including one of those who was brutally killed by banging his head against a pole). The prosecution charges them with having killed 11 children in the 1990s. If executed, they will become first women convicts to be executed in independent India. Despite the death sentence being confirmed by the Supreme Court and the mercy petition rejected by the President, their lawyer has yet again appealed to the Bombay High Court. They will not be executed until the High Court disposes this application. The lawyer has appealed that the capital punishment be remitted to life imprisonment due to excessive delay. The half-sisters themselves have a murky past with their mother inducting them into robbery and kidnapping children. Anjana Gavit, their mother, died in 1998 after being arrested in 1996. Even those activists who are against capital punishment are unsure if the half-sisters would get any relief from the High Court.
In another filmy development, the CEO of the Censor Board of Film Certification, Rakesh Kumar, was arrested last week by the CBI on charges of bribery. According to primary allegations, he used to take money and gifts, such as expensive gadgets, to clear films. One agent and a panel member too were arrested prior to this arrest. The CBI has got his custody for further investigation till August 28 and are probing into how he acquired all the property and gold that was seized from his house. However, now that the— alleged— rot is out in the open, several eminent board members are speaking about it as an opportunity in disguise. “It gives the government and people to really look into how the censor board is politicised and corrupted. It has given a chance to clean up and ensure that honest and capable people run the show,” said one.
A five-year-old girl was sexually abused and mutilated so badly that she continues to be serious at the Nair Hospital in Mumbai. The accused is yet to be arrested and the girl, who lives on a pavement with her mother and brother, is in no position to give any statement. Her vagina, intestines and renal tract are all damaged and will require several surgeries. She is currently being fed intravenously and her internal organs will have to be reconstructed.
Another developing case in crime against women is that of a judge. A Sessions Court judge was suspended last week after a complaint of sexual harassment was registered against him. A departmental enquiry has also been initiated against judge M.T. Gaikwad. All we know is that the preliminary enquiries said there was substance in the complaint of inappropriate behaviour. Will it go to its logical end? Is there a logical end?
It is that time of the year again. After Dahi Handi, Mumbaikars and their super-efficient civic body is gearing up for the mother of all festivals— Ganesh Chaturthi, that starts this Friday. And before we bid adieu to Lord Ganesha, the Mount Mary fair or the Bandra fair would be attracting thousands at the church in Bandra. The BMC is desperately trying to fill as many potholes before the favourite elephant god arrives in hordes and with ear-drums-shattering band baaja. Colourful, huge but not intimidating idols have started appearing on every nook and corner and there is festive joy in the air. Of course, only until you spend hours in traffic that only gets worse because of pandals in the middle of the road or processions that happen on first, second, fifth, seventh and tenth day of the festival. Will Bappa give Buddhi to all of us to keep it short and sweet?
In the meanwhile, ever-alert Bandra residents have once again brought up the contentious issue of the ramp built by Shah Rukh Khan adjoining his Bandstand bungalow Mannat. The ramp encroaches upon a cement road beside his bungalow that leads to the Mount Mary Church in Bandra. Last year, devotees could not use the road which the actor had barricaded. This time one hopes the matter is sorted before the fair begins on the first Sunday of September.
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
(1) It is true that during the next few months when Assembly election in Maharashtra is due, BJP leaders will try to push for supremacy in the state and claim the post of chief minister. Here let us not forget that the alliance of Shiv Sena and BJP is an opportunistic alliance as is the case with the other alliance, of Congress and Nationalist Congress Party. In case of the latter somehow it has survived, as the two political parties have been able to retain power in Maharashtra for 15 years. (2) The toughest test for Shiv Sena-BJP alliance will be smooth seat sharing for the Assembly election. Although tough bargaining is on cards when seat sharing talks begin between Shiv Sena, BJP and other alliance parties, leaders of two major parties are expected to adopt a practical approach. But if they fail to do so, alliance may even be broken in extreme situations. In that case Shiv Sena will suffer more than BJP. (3) Of course, it is another matter that even if Shiv Sena-BJP government is formed in Maharashtra in 2014, not much will change as regards level of corruption, waste of public resources on populist programmes, schemes, etc and above all quality of governance.(4) My fear is that the coterie of politicians and bureaucrats quite similar to the one which exists today will continue to be in control of the State administration and its finances, even after a new government of Shiv Sena –BJP comes to power. That will be a great tragedy for the people of a region called Maha-Rashtra.
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