August 08, 2020
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The Subcontinental Menu

A list of names has appeared on the walls of a Odisha temple debarring them from offering prayers in Kalik village in Jaleswar block of Balasore.

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Barred By God’s Bouncers

Is your name on the list? If so, God doesn’t want to see you, sorry. A blacklist of names has appeared on the walls of a temple in Kalik village in Jaleswar block, Balasore, Odisha. The people included are members of five families, who reportedly refused to pay up when the village committee solicited donations for the ‘Patta Parba’ festival. The committee was demanding a “high amount” which the families decl­ined to give—and were then denied entry to the temple for their transgression.  In a complaint with the police, the families alleged that their ‘puja thalis’ were thrown out when they tried to worship, with one complainant saying that his brother and sister-in-law had been “manhandled and assaulted” when they went to the temple. The police have reportedly registered a case against two youths.


Six Inches, No Less

Tom (from Tom and Jerry), wearing a pair of envy-tinted glasses, peers suspiciously over his shoulder as he crouches on a chair, one hand holding the receiver of a telephone labelled ‘Bahria University’; the other poised to dial. In the next scene, his suspicions confirmed, Tom is dialling away. This image macro  features in one of many social media posts mocking the Islamabad-based university (with campuses in Karachi and Lahore too) for its recent directive that male and female students should keep a minimum distance of six inches from each other—or face a fine.  In addition to ridicule, it has drawn criticism from the nation’s Universities Staff Associations, but Bahria’s resolve is unshaken; its PRO says “Touching of men and women cannot be allowed openly.”


Unofficial Watchdogs

The dogs of rural Andhra Pradesh are zealous in per­forming their duty of aid to the civil power. Large police stations in the countryside and on the outskirts of cities (where policemen stay in barracks), which face threats from mobs and militants, have been encouraging stray dogs to hang around the premises to warn of intruders, especially at night. The practice was int­roduced by former DGP Swaranjit Sen after a couple of instances of such dogs thwarting extremist attacks by alerting sentries with their barking. According to one SI, “Food prepared for the policemen is also given to the dogs,” enticing them to stay around. Although this is no longer officially sanctioned, as CCTV cameras have now been installed in the stations for sec­urity purposes, many stations still swear by it, citing instan­ces where the dogs picked out intruders in pitch blackness.

The Other Kind of Parcel

As you sit at your desk, typing and probably straining your back, hope approaches in the form of a dabbawala. Has he brought your lunch, you wonder, mouth watering at the prospect.  But no, you deflate like a disappointed balloon as you realise it’s only a parcel. Such things may begin to happen soon, as Mumbai’s dabba­walas are in the late stages of talks to start a parcel delivery and courier service. “The main aim of this project is to increase members’ income. In their free time, they can opt for this and we can deliver in the shortest possible time compared to firms involved in this sector,” Mumbai Dabbawala Association spokesperson Subhash Talekar said.  The deal is to be finalised soon, after a few small iss­ues are discussed with the members.


To The Batcave!

Said the caped crusader to the boy wonder, but that’s not the story here. Bamuni hill, near Nagaon in Assam, has a cave called ‘Baduli Karang’ (bat cave)—as it contains colonies of insectivorous and fruit bats. An old site of worship, its legends include a story of an ascetic held in a kingdom of women and rescued by his disciple, whose curse turned the women into bats. The tale had died out by the 21st century, when a government servant,  Abdur Rahman, une­­arthed old records, leading locals to build a temple at the cave’s entrance.  The place now welcomes devotees on special occasions.

Millions In Memoriam

The Buddhist monk Maduluwave Sobitha Thero was a leader of the successful campaign to defeat president Mahinda Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka’s 2015 election by uniting the opp­­­osition behind Maithripala Sirisena. Now, India has donated Rs 12.7 crore to fund a housing village named after him. The 153-house pro­­ject in Elapathag­ama in Anuradhapura dis­­trict was inaugurated in a ceremony att­ended by Lankan ministers and India’s acting high commissioner. The thero, who died in 2015, was also a leader of the movement against Ind­­ian intervention in Sri Lanka in the late 1980s.

Model Of A Modern Minister

Digitalise—or perish, Nepal’s prime minister K.P. Sharma Oli has told his cabinet colleagues. He delivered the ultimatum while add­ressing the 12th general convention of the Nepal National Teachers Org­anisation in Kathmandu recently. The country’s PMO is to become paperless within six months, and members of the council of ministers will be expec­ted to use laptops during meetings.  During the first six months, befuddled politicos may turn to ass­istants for help, but, “We will bid farewell to any minister failing to operate laptops on their own after six months,” Oli said. In mitigation, this will come with a generous severance package for the departing ministers—a laptop.

Big Brother’s Example

China’s handling of the Doklam crisis seems to have left a deep impression on Pakistan.

China’s leaders did not allow the standoff with India at the Bhutanese plateau to derail bilateral ties. Instead, they allowed engagement in trade and other areas to conti­nue and successfully brought down the temperature in ­co­operation with Indian leaders.

This development has visibly impressed Islamabad, which may use it as a model in improving bilateral ties with Delhi in future.

“The Chinese examples of developing robust trade ties with India and not allowing the Doklam standoff to derail ties are instructive,” says Dawn.

“The Chinese examples of ­developing ­robust trade ties with India and not ­allowing the Doklam ­standoff to­ ­derail ties are instructive,” says Dawn.

The Pakistani English daily argued in its editorial that “the growing economic and military strength of South and West Asia and of regional countries should be seen as an opportunity for engagement for Pakistan just as China has done.”

Interestingly, when Chinese President Jiang Zemin gave similar counsel to Pakistan in the mid-1990s about putting the Kashmir issue on the backburner and allowing ties with India to improve through trade, Pakistan strongly resisted his advice.

Much of this may have stemmed from the backing Pakistan enjoyed from the United States in those days, and also from Washington’s interest in keeping the Kashmir pot boiling.

But now, things have changed drastically. Not only is Pakistan in the USA’s bad books for its failure to take meaningful action against terrorists based on its own soil, its close ally China is also growing tired of defending Pakistan on the issue of terrorism.

Thus, at a time when Pakistan is facing isolation internationally, China is its only backer. The $60 billion China–Pakistan Economic Corridor, part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, is the biggest foreign investment in Pakistan. In general, the Pakistani economy depends heavily on Chinese investment at a time when the US has drastically cut down on military and other aid. Therefore, unlike in the past, it will be hard for Pakistan to ignore Chinese advice.

With less than two months left before the crucial parliamentary elections Pakistan, observers feel that foreign policy will be an important and tricky area to handle for the new government. They feel that, whichever party comes to power, it will have to devote a lot of time to formulating a cogent foreign policy.

Illustrations by Sajith Kumar

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