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Showing posts from May, 2016

Nothing Gandhian about prohibition in Gujarat; it’s a British legacy

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Rajiv Shah I lived in Moscow for seven long years from 1986 to 1993 as Patriot correspondent, and travelled almost all corners of the ex-Soviet Union – from its Far-Eastern cities to its northern most port Arkhangelsk, many of the Central Asian towns which were later ravaged by internecine ethnic clashes and, of course, the cultural capital, St Petersburg. Yet, what surprises many of my acquaintances and friends is, how couldn’t I “learn” to give up my essentially teetotal characteristic?
Even the doyen of Indian diplomats, TN Kaul, couldn’t change me during his ambassadorship in Moscow. At embassy parties, not once, but several times over he would approach me, saying, “This is bad, Rajiv! You must at least hold a glass of wine!” I would obey, hold the glass till the toast was over, and abandon it immediately thereafter.
Not that I haven’t ever sipped alcohol. During informal gatherings in Moscow, I did indeed taste home-made wine, as also Georgian and Moldavian wine, rated pretty high.…

“Wasted” waters of two re-profiled rivers — Narmada and Sabarmati

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By Rajiv Shah
I have in my hand a new book, “Business Interests and the Environmental Crisis”, edited by two scholar-activists whom I have known for a little while for their insightful reports on ground-level environmental issues and their implications – Kanchi Kohli and Manju Menon.
While I found most of the papers published in the book (published by Sage) too theoretical, hence would possibly require expert reaction, two of them interesting me. The first one is a paper by Shripad Dharmadhikary, a passionate expert on river systems, once associated with the Narmada Bachao Andolan. What interested me in Dharmadhikary’s paper is his strong, perhaps unique, argument on how the Narmada project was conceived to put into practice the “flawed” notion that water should not be allowed to go waste into the sea, and how this concept has ruined ecological systems.
The second paper that interested me is by Himanshu Burte, faculty at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. Burte deals with …

Modi’s educational qualifications — An unnecessary controversy

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By Rajiv Shah
Ever since the controversy – if can be called that – broke out last year about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BA and MA degrees, I had been informally telling some of those involved in questioning his educational qualifications, including Ahmedabad-based political activist Roshan Shah and a few scribes, that, what I know for sure is, he was an MA student in Gujarat University. I am naming Roshan – whom I have found to be a fine person with good insights into local Gujarat issues, and a keen campaigner against Modi and Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel on social media (something Modi’s opponents utterly lack) – because he was a kingpin in raising this and similar such controversies, citing RTI pleas and complaints.
Not that doubts about Modi’s educational qualifications did not exist earlier. They did exist even in my mind after he became Gujarat chief minister. Yet, these doubts seemed to have got cleared, when during an informal gathering, I asked Dinesh Shukla, a …