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Showing posts from 2019

Krishna Kumar's Gandhian tips on education in Ahmedabad, a communally divided city

By Rajiv Shah/   A few days back, when I met Prof Krishna Kumar in Ahmedabad, a prominent scholar on education, whom I have considered over the last two decades more as the main brain behind Prof Yash Pal’s well-known report "Learning without Burden" (1993), I just couldn’t resist recalling my interactions with him as a BA (honours) English student in Kirori Mal College in Delhi. Prof Kumar was in Ahmedabad to deliver a lecture on why our education system was failing to succeed. It was an Umashakar Joshi memorial lecture.

Ex-World Bank chief economist doubts spurt in India's ease of doing business rank

By Rajiv Shah/ This is in continuation of my previous  blog  where I had quoted from a commentary which top economist Prof Kaushik Basu had written in the New York Times (NYT) a little less than a month ago, on November 6, to be exact. He recalled this article through a tweet on November 29, soon after it was made known that India's growth rate had slumped (officially!) to 4.5%.

India enters quagmire of 'mistrust economy', as GDP growth officially slips to 4.5%

Subramanian Swamy with Modi Rajiv Shah/ I have had a special liking for GDP, and it isn’t new, either. During my Times of India days in Gandhinagar (1997-2012), I remember, how as chief minister, Narendra Modi, post-2002 Gujarat riots, kept harping on the state’s double digit rate of growth rate continuously for three or four years, but got a little puzzled when, during a press conference, I asked him how was it that an official document talked of just 5.1% growth rate.

As fear 'grips' right liberals, Arvind Panagariya, too, would be declared anti-national?

Mahesh Vyas By Rajiv Shah/   It is surely well-known by now that India's top people in the power-that-be have been castigating all those who disagree with them as "anti-nationals". Nothing unusual. If till yesterday only "secular liberals", and "left-liberals" were declared anti-national, facts, however, appear to have begun surfacing that, now, guns are being trained against those who could be qualified as right liberals, too. Let me be specific.

What's behind rise and rise of Girish Chandra Murmu, Gujarat cadre IAS official

By Rajiv Shah/   Girish Chandra Murmu. The very name amuses me. A 1985 batch Gujarat cadre IAS bureaucrat retiring next month, I still remember, during my interaction with him as the Times of India (TOI) man in Gandhinagar, his rather huge laughter (a loud “ha ha ha”) after he would frankly tell me what all was going on in the government. Now, the very same Murmu, 59, has been appointed the first Lieutenant-Governor of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

India’s cyclical slowdown severe, downturn sharp: Now World Bank contradicts itself

By Rajiv Shah/   For the powers-that be, surely, it is but natural to consider this a proud moment: That the World Bank’s new “Ease of Doing Business” report has shown India jumping 14 points; and that India is one of the two countries across the globe out of 190 economies analysed among the 10 top “improvers” which have shown climbed so sharply – the other country being the tiny Djibouti in the huge African continent.

World Bank wants you to believe: Delhi, Mumbai doing so well in border trade!

By Rajiv Shah/   Today, after I took my morning stroll as part of my daily routine, my search for online news led me a tweet by friend and colleague, whom I have for long considered an honest and sincere journalist, Abhishek Kapoor, currently executive editor, Republic TV. Formerly with Indian Express and Times Now, he loudly, perhaps proudly, proclaimed that India has jumped 14 points in the Ease of Doing Business (EDB) in a World Bank ranking.

Jignesh Mevani: Cadre building amidst atmosphere of fear; in search of alliances

By Rajiv Shah/   A few days back, I met independent MLA Jignesh Mevani, one of those who has been regarded in some circles as an iconic Dalit leader of Gujarat. He had come for a meeting in Gujarat Vidyapeeth, organized to remember a truly iconic Gujarat High Court advocate, late Girish Patel, known to be the founder of public interest litigations (PILs) in India, and one who firmly stood by the underprivileged. After listening to several speeches, including that of Mevani, I came out of the hall along with a journalist colleague, Darshan Desai.

Three years on, mystery surrounds as to who advised Modi on demonetization

By Rajiv Shah/   Recently it was reported that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has stopped printing Rs 2,000 notes. The report said that the “slowdown” in printing the notes – which were widely proclaimed (for unknown reasons, and from unknown sources) as high security because it was claimed they contained a hidden chip which would help the powers-that-be to trace their whereabouts – began about two years ago. Fewer and fewer notes were being printed, and now the printing has just stopped.

Why can't welfare NGOs think beyond doles, learn to empower vulnerable sections?

By Rajiv Shah/   This is what happened near Ahmedabad the other day. I am deliberately not revealing the name of the person or the spot where the incident took place. This gentleman, a seasoned trader having unassuming aura, also runs a “welfare” NGO. Driving a large-sized car with two of his team members sitting next to him, he was stopped by traffic cops, who saw his license, and wanted to know what exactly he was carrying in the car.

What was wrong with Rahul Gandhi's Chowkidar chor hai campaign?

Mani Shankar Aiyar, Rahul Gandhi By Rajiv Shah/   A few days back, I came across an interesting Facebook post by Vinod Chand, an FB friend. I always read his comments with great interest. This one was on Rahul Gandhi launching what he called “a broadside on Narendra Modi” during the initial phase of the campaign during the last Lok Sabha polls -- “Chowkidar chor hai.” However, during the later phase of the campaign the slogan appeared to have been dropped, not because it seemed derogatory, but perhaps because it was not having the “desired impact.”

Tree-felling for greenery? Gujarat govt 'accepted' proposal; awaits implementation

By Rajiv Shah/   The other day, I went to Nadiad, a town in Central Gujarat, about 55 kilometres from Ahmedabad. For a change, I took an alternate route, which falls between two toll roads – the Expressway and the National Highway. What surprised me was, I saw truckloads of wooden logs moving to and fro on this state highway soon after I left Ahmedabad.

Surprised? Communist candidate in Ahmedabad bypoll in a Hindutva bastion

By Rajiv Shah/   On October 11, 2019 morning, as I was scanning through daily news online (I don’t read papers now), I found that both BJP and Congress candidates from Ahmedabad’s Amraiwadi assembly constituency, which fell vacant following the victory of its BJP MLA in the Lok Sabha polls, have been asked to explain as to why they had cash in hand for election campaign, and why they did not deposit their money in a bank account. Fighting the bypoll, BJP’s Jagdish Patel and Congress’ Dharmendra Patel had declared they possessed Rs 1.81 lakh and Rs 1.70 lakh as cash in hand, respectively, for election expenditure.

Gujarat CM aide 'doubts' authenticity of Gandhi article published in 'Harijan'

Hitesh Pandya with Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani By Rajiv Shah/   A top aide of Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani has doubted the authenticity of the article written by Mahatma on Gandhi January 27, 1948, three days before his death. Hitesh Pandya, who was assistant public relations officer (PRO) under Narendra Modi’s chief ministership in Gujarat, and is currently serving as PRO of Rupani, has said, there is “reason to doubt”, since the article appeared on February 1, 1948, two days after Gandhi’s assassination. Hari Desai

When Gandhi said Congress can 'only die with the nation'; warned of its weedy growth

By Rajiv Shah/   I don’t recall when, why and how, but I have been under the impression for decades that Mahatma Gandhi wanted the Congress dissolved after India attained Independence. However, a few days ago, I was pleasantly surprised on seeing a Facebook post by Hari Desai, a well-known Gujarati journalist and a Sardar Patel expert, putting on record and claiming that this, indeed, was never the case.

A top Gujarat High Court lawyer who lived and worked for the underprivileged

Singing "Vaishnav jan to tene re kahiye", Gandhi's favourite, also of Girish Patel By Rajiv Shah/   When I came to Ahmedabad to join as assistant editor of the Times of India in 1993, I didn’t know Girish Patel was a senior advocate of the Gujarat High Court. Apart from assisting the then editor, Tushar Bhatt, my job was to specifically look after the editorial page, which also meant I should be selecting from among the letters to the editor that we would get, edit them appropriately, and put them in the Letters to the Editor column.

Attack on Gandhi: Where diehard Left and extreme Right appear to meet

By Rajiv Shah/   Another Gandhi Jayanti has come and gone. Several of the top comments – some which we also published in www.counterview.net – on this occasion hovered around US president Donald Trump calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi “father of India”. Perhaps things wouldn’t have taken a turn that it did had not Modi’s “diehard” followers like Union minister Jitendra Singh going so far as to say that those who “do not feel proud” of Trump’s comment that Modi is the “father of India”, do not consider themselves Indians.

Enlightened Buddha didn't want monks to get enchanted by the glance of a woman

By Rajiv Shah/   Some of my Dalit friends, including Martin Macwan, whom I respect as one of the best human rights activists I have met, have a great fascination for Buddhism. Nearly all Dalit rallies or functions I have attended carry with them Buddha’s photographs. Probably, one reason could be that Dalit icon Babasaheb Ambedkar converted to Buddhism because he believed this was the only religion of India which does not believe in casteism. Many Dalits, not without reason, get converted to Buddhism.

Nitish Kumar a 'Modi-fied' chief minister 'refusing' to hark to reason

By Rajiv Shah/   Yesterday, I came across an unusual Facebook post by my veteran journalist colleague, Law Kumar Mishra. It recalls an incident which took place when Mishra was posted in Rajkot as the Times of India correspondent during of the worst droughts in the region in late 1980s. At that time Amarsinh Chaudhury was Gujarat chief minister. Currently Patna, Mishra compares how Chaudhary handled drought with the way Nitish Kumar has been handling Bihar floods. Alongside the Facebook post, Mishra shares a picture (reproduced above) captioned: "This is a picture released by Directorate of Public Relations, Government of Bihar on Sunday. (Encircled by me).CM in serious discussion with chief secretary, principal secretary, disaster management, his secretary etc. on floods, two of them enjoying it,may be cracking jokes". A middle-sized post, I am tempted to reproduce it: "During the worst drought in 1980s in Saurashtra-Kutch, the then principal secretary to chief minis

Why Hindu rites make me recall theatre of absurd and Backet's Waiting for Godot

As I was student of English literature for five long years (1970-75), doing my BA (Hons) and MA course from Delhi University, I (quite like my classmates) never read anything about a term towards which I was to become fascinated in late 1970s -- theatre of the absurd – apparently because it was a French concept. Coined by critic Martin Esslin in his 1960 essay "Theatre of the Absurd", at that time I had only vaguely knew that it pertained to post-World War II plays written by European playwrights. My curiosity for theatre of the absurd especially arose after I saw the Hindi adaptation of a French play by Samuel Backet, "Waiting for Godot" in a theatre in Mandi House, Delhi, where I used to see lots of plays. That was late 1970s. I was told it was one of the top plays which was considered part of the absurd genre. In this play, two characters wait for the arrival of someone named Godot, who represents the ethereal, the unknown, maybe a god. The Godot never arrives, e

Observing 'biased' cops, indifferent administration in a Saurashtra taluka

His name is Dhaval Chopada. A smiling young face, whom I used to meet at the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Ahmedabad. I believe it was several months ago, after he got married, and he "disappeared". Never bothered to find out whether he had gone to some other NGO, or got an assignment elsewhere, I saw him suddenly rushing to me the other day with, smiling as always, “How are you, Rajivbhai?” Oh! Where did you disappear?, I asked him, and he replied, he is with Arvind Khuman, a lawyer and social worker with CSJ in Amreli, Saurashtra, and is currently stationed in Rajula – “just 40 km from Una, where five Dalits of a family were lynched, an incident which shot into national fame”, he recalled. Who doesn’t know the incident? The Una movement that followed threw up Jignesh Mevani, a major Dalit leader from Gujarat. Currently, Mevani is an independent MLA, won with Congress support. So what’s going on? I asked Chopada, a lean, thin, tall guy, who wore a trendy jean. Prompt came

Privatised and modernised, what's wrong with this top Gujarat hospital?

VS Hospital. Privatised and modernised, even the word sends a negative stimulus in you. This is one of the two biggest hospitals in Ahmedabad, founded by one of the most respected philanthropists of the city, Vadilal Sarabhai, in 1931. The only time I visited it was when I visited Ahmedabad from Gandhinagar, where I was posted as the Times of India representative. I think the year was 2007. That was when I suffered a dog bite while, accompanied with children, we went in search of a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, rumoured to have been opened in the Municipal Market area on CG Road. I parked our Maruti Fronty, we looked around, couldn’t find one, and lo, when we were about to re-enter the car, the dog hit me. A journalist friend helped me go to VS to see a doctor, who immediately called me in, even as telling me he wasn’t supposed to look after patients on that day, but since he had got a phone call from “someone important” he was obliging. He ordered for the injection, and I was tak

Why should one doubt 'popular' Soviet support to Nehru was spontaneous in 1955

A lot is being written on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Howdy event in Houston. Indeed, none can can deny it was a grand success, so much so that even Opposition Congress leaders have begun praising it. One of the most commented, adversely of course, is President Donald Trump calling Modi "father of India". With this comment, it seems, Trump seemed to be making desperate attempt to gather popular support among Indian immigrants when his popularity is sharply falling, if a recent Fox New survey is to be believed. However, what has puzzled many, especially diehard opponents, is, how could Modi gather so much of support -- 50,000 people in a jam packed hall. It was a PR success by Modi lobbyists, helped by Trump's. One of the more famous comments was triggered by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who erroneously tweeted that Jawaharlal Nehru collected spontaneous crowd in USA in 1954. Others said the year was 1956. Pratik Sinha, in an article in his fact-check site, altnews.i

Gujarat Media Club foundation day: Between welfarism and 'compiling' archives

GMC awardees standing in the second row Six years is indeed a big gap. After retiring from the Times of India in January 2013, last week I attended the annual meeting of the Gujarat Media Club (GMC), which I very recently came to know is, legally speaking, a registered as a non-profit company, working for the welfare of journalists. The term welfare seems vague, but its past office office bearers would tell me it’s not a union, that’s the great difference. Be that as it may, the last meeting I attended (perhaps it was in early 2012, or what it late 2011?), was when the then GMC president, Bharat Desai, then editor, the Times of India, put forward a series of demands before the chief guest, who happened to Narendra Modi. The demands included giving land for a GMC building, where he had planned to set up a journalism school, in which, I was told, I should also be involved post-retirement. Modi nodded, and journalists were happy: Land would be allocated, cheap, subsidised. Bharat Desai d

Post-Balakot 9% increase in support to Modi; "not" BJP or Amit Shah: An Ahmedabad view

Elections were over, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had already won a landslide, yet the poll fever seemed to continue unabated among the middle classes of Ahmedabad. Ordinary citizens of Ahmedabad, called Amdavadis, are quite sparing when it comes to bets. They ensure that they do not splurge. One of the bets that I came across on the D-day, May 23, was to tell the most correct number of seats the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) would win.