Keeping the Faith
Dr Narendra Dabholkar, a rationalist and a senior social activist, who led the anti-superstition movement, died in a brazen attack on Tuesday. The bill, which he had been fighting for and perhaps died for, got a boost on Wednesday when the state government hurriedly issued the ordinance — the Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Ordinance — to replace a Bill that had been approved by the cabinet but had lapsed before it could be taken up in the assembly. The Bill had been pending for eight years. The killing shocked people from all walks of life— citizens, activists, and even the politicians. The Chief Minister has likened the killing to assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and said that the act was a shameful blot on “progressive Maharashtra”. Pune observed a bandh. At least two protests were organised in Mumbai. Anyone who gives information about the killers will get cash reward of Rs 10 lakh.
It is only ironic that a girl died of jaundice in rural Maharashtra after her father took her to a babaji instead of a doctor on the same day. Not to mention the alleged rape of a minor girl by Asaram Bapu. The girl was reportedly taken to the ashram because her warden said she was possessed by witches and was cured by an Asaram mantra. As if these ghosts and witches were not enough, we have demonic humans, who did not think for a second before eliminating a powerful thought force in the state. Dr. Dabholkar’s family— father, mother, sons have all contributed to the rationalist thought and social work. Apart from spearheading Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti, he also edited Sadhana, a magazine that took his progressive thought forward.
And even before the protests across Pune, Satara, Dabholkar’s home town could settle down, the needle of suspicion seems to be pointing towards right wing Hindu religious organisation Sanatan Sanstha, that has been facing allegations of Hindu terror for the past few years. They denied the allegations vehemently and— perhaps inadvertently — said, his death was as per God’s wish.
Let us not even try to figure what that means.
Still at Sea
There has been no new update after the seventh body was recovered from the remains of submarine INS Sindhurakshak. It has been a week now and relatives of the 18 crew members who were in the submarine are said to be in Mumbai. Removed from the usual hustle bustle of the city, tucked away in protected naval areas, and away from media limelight, the general janta has no access to the relatives and after the initial shock and awe at the pictures released by those who were at Gateway of India and saw the blast, the city seems to have accepted the little information released, and moved on. The families are still waiting for DNA reports of the charred bodies.
This time it was a US national, who was attacked on a local train by a petty thief. On Sunday when the 28-year-old woman was returning from Churchgate in a women-only first class compartment, a man entered at the following station and snatched her phone. When she resisted, he slashed her wrist with a blade and got off. The police released a sketch of the suspect and have rounded up one person on Wednesday. The suburban rail network, much talked about as the lifeline of the city, is increasingly coming under fire for attacks— sexual or otherwise— on women by drunken men, thieves and so on. Not depending on cop’s presence in the compartment, women often check with each other about their destinations to ensure they have company. That is not always an option and one ends up alone— alert and nervous at the same time.
Jayant Salgaonkar, who started and ran the iconic Kalnirnay calendar (almanac), passed away after a brief illness in Mumbai. The calendar— now in nine languages, different shapes and sizes— is extremely popular with Maharashtrians. Take a sneak-peek into suitcases of those going abroad, an English Kalnirnay is neatly packed (of course along with their share of chiwda and besan laddoos) to track the moon charts and figure out numerous festivals in India and auspicious days. The calendar did not limit itself to Hindu festivals but also detailed Christian, Muslim and Parsi festivals. As if all this was not power packed enough, the informative articles, horoscope and recipes on back page of every month made it a must have for all Marathi households.
Aadhaar Needs Aadhaar?
Nandan Nilekani, chief of the Unique Identity number project, was in town on Monday to hold a workshop on how UID will enable Electronic-Know Your Customers (E-KYC) and make life simpler for banks, mobile industry and insurance companies. Officials explained how Aadhaar would be more convenient than the traditional methods of KYC, and everything was going on in a smooth, boring manner at a five star hotel’s conference room... until the organisers decided to merge the press interaction with the session. One lady made the most of the opportunity by grilling Nilekani over the project operating in a “legislative vacuum” in the absence of a bill. What followed were numerous questions about how Aadhaar has different glitches at rural and urban level, merging data with National Population Registry, UID numbers being given to Bangladeshi immigrants, why some first world countries have folded up similar projects, privacy issues and impact of the uncertain political climate on the country’s most ambitious database project.
E-KYC, what is that huh?
It has now become a tragi-comic situation. Several SMS jokes — “What will get a century first: onion price per kg, petrol per litre or rupee against dollar”, “Why are Jains the richest? Because they do not eat onions” — and images of an onion in place of a diamond in a ring are making the rounds. After new stock of onions arrived at the Vashi market, the rates have come down a little— from Rs 70-80 to Rs 60-70. However, the vegetable prices have not let up and we are not even talking about fruits— a luxury for most of the citizens. “I have not eaten a fruit in months. In fact, I cannot buy any vegetable that is more than Rs 40 a kilo, which leaves out most. It is all dal and rice but even that is expensive,” says Vaishali, a domestic help, who had just yelled at her daughter for asking for a papaya, an unreasonable demand apparently.
Rags, Riches, Riches, Rags
Recently local daily MidDay broke a story about a former editor of Grihalaxmi, Sunita Naik. Once a proud owner of two south Mumbai flats, she was found living on the streets near a Gurudwara in the western suburbs. She is said to have sold her flats few years ago and lived in a rented bungalow in Thane. However, over a period she seems to have lost more than Rs 50 lakh and ended up on the streets. All through her highs and lows, the single woman only had her Pomeranian for company. She has now been temporarily adopted by a family and is said to be eager to start afresh. For someone, who is fluent in multiple languages, was a spunky editor of a popular women’s magazine in the 1980s and 1990s, and seemed to have lived on her own terms, it may not be an impossible task.
With about two weeks to go before the arrival of the city’s favourite elephant god, the BMC Commissioner has yet again assured that potholes will disappear before September 5. Bappa arrives on September 9 and the Ganesh Mandals are still haggling with the civic body over potholes, use of public space and relaxation of noise limits during immersion days and other such practical matters. Wonder what impact recession will have on blaring loudspeakers, lavish decorations, donations at Siddhivinayak temple and unending queues of helpless and desperate devotees at Lalbaugcha Raja.