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Showing posts from October, 2012

A raw GIFT, handle with care

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By Rajiv Shah
Finally, after considerable endeavour in Gandhinagar Sachivalaya, I was able to lay my hands on what is being regarded as "feasibility study" of chief minister Narendra Modi's dream project, Gujarat International Finance Tec-city. It's called "Building a World-class Finance Centre in India: GIFT". It was handed over to me by a senior state bureaucrat, who told me it is a "rare document, not meant for circulation", hence I should return it after going through it.
Prepared by topnotch international consultants, McKinsey & Company, I tried to get it from several sources, including bureaucrats in the state urban development department, which is supposed to be responsible for the project. All of them promised that they would give me a copy, even directed those handling the special purpose vehicle, GIFT Company Ltd, set up for building the finance city, to "do the needful". I got a few phone calls from GIFT Company Ltd execut…

The Salman Khurshid legacy

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By Rajiv Shah Tipu. That’s how we used to call Salman Khurshid, currently in the midst of storm for the alleged misappropriation of funds of an NGO in the name of his illustrious grandfather, Dr Zakir Hussain, a Gandhian educationist who later became President of India. Tipu then lived just about 100 yards away in a sprawling bungalow from the place I lived. It was situated next to the huge campus of what was then called Teachers’ Training College of Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi. Back from school, quite often, about 10 of us – apart from Tipu and me, we were Munna, Shobhi, Pappu, Gudda, Aslam and Gajinder – would play cricket on the huge college ground. I didn’t know much of cricket, hence Tipu would either ask me to bowl or field, which I would sheepishly do, as I was afraid of the cricket ball hitting me. My turn to bat would be the shortest, as I would be out in no time. At that time I studied in Sardar Patel Vidyalaya and Tipu was in Delhi Public School. Most of us looked upon Tipu…

Gujarat tourism: Riding the Bachchan bandwagon?

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By Rajiv Shah
I got an SMS from a senior IAS bureaucrat of Gujarat government a few days back, frantically wanting me to publicize the invitation he had received for Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s 70th birthday on October 10. The SMS read, “I happen to be the only person from the state to be invited for Bachchan’s biggest birthday bash…” I received another SMS from a PR consultant a day later which said about the same thing. This wasn’t the first time this bureaucrat had tried to show off his “closeness” to Bachchan. During informal talks, he would tell me rather quite often how Bachchan, during his visit to Gujarat for tourism advertisements, would invariably dine with his family at his residence in Ahmedabad, and how when controversy broke out about Bachchan’s involvement with chief minister Narendra Modi over tourism ads, he saved the situation. “Amitabh had almost walked out. But, through my Bollywood connections, I brought him back”, he told me. The names he dropped inclu…

Mahatma and the ritualistic ism

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By Rajiv Shah This is what happened one-and-a-half decades ago. I was asked to perform tervi in the memory of my paternal uncle, who had just passed away after living a quiet life in Porbandar. The pujari, who was asked to perform the ceremony for me, was an old man. He asked me pointblank, which took me by complete surprise: “Mahatma Gandhi never believed in these rituals. Why are you performing this ritual?” The pujari told me that his great grandfather used to perform puja for the Gandhi family in Porbandar. He was called in because my aunt, Vinuben, who had passed away a few years earlier, belonged to Porbandar’s Gandhi family.
My aunt was younger sister of Manuben Gandhi, who was with Mahatma Gandhi on January 30, 1948, when the Mahatma was shot by a Hindu terrorist. Grand niece of Mahatma Gandhi, my aunt was in charge of the Kirti Mandir till she passed away. Thereafter, my uncle, who always clad khadi and Gandhi topi as a ritual, was forced to move out of Kirti Mandir. He wante…