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Showing posts from September, 2019

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

By Rajiv Shah
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 nev…

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

By Rajiv Shah
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.…

Model city Ahmedabad's 50% construction workers' children underweight: Oxford study

By Rajiv Shah
A recent study published in the “International Journal for Equity in Health” has found that high levels of malnutrition has found the proportion of stunting (40.5%) and wasting (22.1%) among migrant children in the “model city” Ahmedabad were “close to the national average”, but the “proportion of underweight children (50.4%) was considerably higher.”
Carried out by scholars Divya Ravindranath, Jean-Francois Trani and Lora Iannotti, titled “Nutrition among children of migrant construction workers in Ahmedabad, India”, the study is based on field work between May 2017 and January 2018 at five construction sites in Ahmedabad, involving “anthropometric measurements” of 131 under five children (male: 46%, female 53%), using “the UNICEF framework on undernutrition” to examined “the underlying causes of poor nutritional outcomes”.
Using qualitative methods such interviews, focused group discussions and participant observation at the field sites, all in Hindi or Gujarati, the s…

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

By Rajiv Shah
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, a…

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

By Rajiv Shah
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 sit…

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

By Rajiv Shah
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 didn’t remain president after …

Howdy Modi event organized amidst top survey suggesting Trump 'losing' popularity

By Rajiv Shah
A recent opinion poll by a top US media house has suggested as to why President Donald Trump badly needed Indian-American settlers’ support at the Howdy Modi event, and the reason why he ensured Modi to declare “abki baar Modi sarkar”. A Fox News survey, carried out days before Modi’s much-publicized Houston event, said that 52% of those polled are “frustrated” with the Trump administration government, while only 37% are “energized.”
The survey comes within a month of the “partnership” between Trump and Fox News, of the type one sees between Modi and Republic TV in India, falling apart, with TV channel anchor Neil Cavuto declaring: “First of all, Mr President, we don’t work for you. I don’t work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you. Just report on you – call balls and strikes on you.”
Cavuto’s response was to Trump, who had tweeted: “Just watched Fox News heavily promoting the Democrats… The New Fox News is letting millions of GREAT people down! …

Kandla Port Trust activities 'destroyed' mangroves, affecting rare camel species: NGT

By Rajiv Shah
Taking serious note of large-scale destruction of mangroves on about 750 acres in Bhachau taluka of Kutch district, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Delhi, has “directed” the Gujarat government, its forest department, and the Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority (GSZMA), to “jointly inspect the area” and fix responsibility as to who is “responsible for obstruction of the creeks” next to the Kandla Port Trust (KPT), leading to the damage to the plantations in the area.
It also “advised” KPT, renamed as Deendayal Port Trust (DPT) after late saffron leader Deendayal Upadhyay, to “stop all prohibited activities immediately in coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) area and restore the pre-conditions by removing bunds and obstruction made to stop the free flow of water”, which were found to have resulted in the destruction of the mangroves.
It asked DTP, which handles about 14% of major port traffic of India, to “cancel” all such leases for salt producers “with immediate effect”…

Modi used to 'run errands' during Emergency, his role was that much: Top JP associate

By Rajiv Shah
In a sharp exposure, well-known Gujarati critic, journalist and activist Prakash N Shah, who had been among the main contact persons of Jay Prakash Narayan (JP) in Gujarat, has recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “merely running errands” during the Emergency (1975-77) period, adding the PM’s stature has been “sought to be unnecessarily inflated”, though adding, he is not saying this to “belittle him.”
In a 160-page interview in Gujarati published in a book form “in lieu of an autobiography”, Shah, 79, who was twice sent to jail during the Indira Gandhi-imposed Emergency, answering a question whether he had met a “character called Narendra Modi” during those days, says, “I was released on parole for four or five days, as my father, who was going to the US, wanted I should spend some time with him. I met Modi for the first time when he came to see him.” At that time they lived in Maninagar, Ahmedabad.
President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Shah’s …

India's region-centric development of tribal areas 'triggered' dispossession of Adivasis

By Rajiv Shah
A new book, “India’s Scheduled Areas: Untangling Governance, Law and Politics”, published by Routledge, appears to point towards a veritable dilemma Indian policy makers have been facing vis-a-vis India’s Adivasis: Should they emphasise on the development of scheduled areas (SA), designated as such because here scheduled tribes (STs) or Adivasis live, or specifically emphasize on the welfare of their?
Edited by Varsha Bhagat-Ganguly and Sujit Kumar, containing 10 academic papers, the book, in its introduction, suggests that “moving from a tribe-centric approach to a region-centric/SA-centric approach” appears to be fast becoming a norm, even as pointing out in one of the chapters that this is particularly reflected the manner in which funds are allocated and utilized for tribal welfare.
The chapter “Issues of financial governance in Scheduled Areas”, by Bhagat-Ganguly, who has been professor as the Centre for Rural Studies, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Adminis…