Famous In India

Archive for October 2008

If politics is all about perception and setting the agenda, Maharashtra Navanirman Sena (MNS) chief Swararaj aka Raj Thackeray has managed to master this skill.

After the 1,900-odd Jet Airways employees were sacked recently, they could only think of Raj as their saviour, which tells the story about the growing clout of this breakaway scion of the Thackeray clan in Mumbai.

Raj is now eyeing the position made famous by his estranged uncle and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray who enjoyed the dubious distinction of being a politician who could bring Mumbai to a halt by raising a finger.

Raj has modelled himself on his uncle. Arguably not as talented a cartoonist as his uncle but a cartoonist nevertheless, Raj has the other quality Balasaheb had: He plays by his instinct. His cousin Uddhav, named heir to the Sena political fortune by Balasaheb which was reinforced at the Vijaya Dashami rally of the Shiv Sena this year, likes to plan his moves in advance.

Raj is a hate object of Left liberals, Hindu nationalists and north Indian leaders like Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh. But the more they attack him, the more Maharashtrian support rallies behind him. The Maharashtrian middle class and lower middle class may not agree with his methods but they feel issues raised by Raj are valid.

Thackeray was arrested and put behind bars and tied up in a series of offences all over the state. But politicians from the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) realise they cannot be seen to be acting against the interests of Maharashtra or the Maharashtrian cause. Heavyweights like Sharad Pawar and Revenue Minister Narayan Rane, therefore, vary of being openly critical of Raj’s political position.

In fact, Pawar went so far as to reject Railway Minister and his Cabinet colleague Lalu Prasad’s call to ban the MNS. His suggestion instead was that the posts of class III and IV employees, not just in Indian Railways but other state-run entities, be filled from among the local workforce. Rane came out in open support of Raj asserting that there was nothing wrong with the issues raised by the MNS chief, it was his methods that could be wrong.

In this entire “north Indians go back” episode, it is ironic that the Shiv Sena, the original champion of the ‘sons of the soil’ cause, has been feeling sidelined. Sena leaders complain in private that Raj is nothing but a creation of the 24×7 electronic media and the go-soft directive to the police machinery from the Congress-NCP leadership. They could be right.

Raj had been reduced to the margins of political circle in Maharashtra after last year’s municipal elections. The MNS’s political activity was restricted to promoting Maharashtrian culture through culinary shows, book exhibitions and poetry reciting sessions.

Sena leaders may not like to admit but unwittingly they provided an issue for the MNS to revive itself. With an eye on next year’s Assembly polls, Sena was trying to be cosy with the large north Indian vote bank in the city using the Holi festival as a pretext.

Then Raj Thackeray’s anti-north Indian remarks at a culinary show, the smashing of a few taxis and television cameras gave a new lease of life to the MNS.

The Congress-NCP government, which is fighting nine years of anti-incumbency and has taken a beating on issues like power crisis, farmer suicides and the crumbling urban infrastructure, is against the ropes. Initially, the alliance felt Raj would be a good weapon to cut into the Sena’s vote bank in Mumbai and other urban areas.

However, the Shiv Sena’s clout in the rural areas is increasing as it has aggressively campaigned on issues like farmer suicides, loan waiver and 12 hour-power cuts in rural Maharashtra.

But now the genie refuses to go back into the bottle. In the late 1960s and 1970s, it was the Sena that the Congress used as a weapon to combat Communist and Socialist-led unions in Mumbai. Transgressions of the Sena during that period were ignored and this nurtured it to become a political force. Raj Thackeray and the MNS are the 1960s and 1970s revisited.

source : http://www.business-standard.com/


India rounded up a comprehensive show of cricketing prowess against Australia with a thumping 320 runs victory in the second Test match at Mohali. Spinner Amit Mishra sealed the historic win that saw Aussies slumping to their seventh largest defeat and the biggest in over seventeen years in terms of runs.

The last two men to go were Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson. The former was the lone warrior in the Australian reply as he notched up a fighting half-century but the odds were too big for him to overcome. The latter fell prey to the guile of the debutant tweaker Mishra.

Before the feat was conceived, pace spearhead Zaheer Khan had sent tremors down the Australian camp early on in the morning session as he claimed three quick wickets in just four deliveries. The last one of his victims was Brett Lee as he succumbed to a beautifully angled delivery that clean bowled the batsman for naught. Just before this, a brilliant collection by MS Dhoni off a tearing Zaheer special saw the newcomer Cameron White walking back to the pavilion.

India had started the final day of the second Test match against Australia with a big thump as speedster Zaheer Khan sent wicket-keeper Brad Haddin’s wicket cart wheeling out of the ground. The batsman was done in by a length delivery that uprooted the off-stump and sent him back to the pavilion after scoring 37.

# It was India`s biggest ever Test win by runs, bettering their 280-run success over South Africa in Kanpur in 1996.

# Harbhajan Singh took five wickets in the match to leave himself one short of becoming the third Indian bowler to claim 300 Test wickets.

# Sachin Tendulkar claimed the world record for most Test runs and Sourav Ganguly struck 102 in his farewell series to help India amass 469 in their first innings.

# Sourav Ganguly became the fourth Indian batsman to score more than 7000 runs in Test cricket.

The first Test in Bangalore ended in a draw. The third Test starts in New Delhi on October 29.

source : http://cricket.zeenews.com/

Trouble just seems to be following the Tata’s prestigious Nano project. After protesting farmers led by the Trinamool Congress drove the project out of West Bengal, now in its new home in Gujarat, it is almost like a repeat all over again.

The state Congress is up in arms along with the farmers saying the compensation given for their land is not enough.

The farmers in Sanand are almost echoing the anti-Nano protestors in Bengal. The Congress in Gujarat says they want an RTI into the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Tata Motors and state government.

They claim the government should have compensated the farmers for the land before giving it over to a corporate house.

“This land worth of Rs 1000 crore has been given at almost no cost to the Tatas for their project of only Rs 1500 crore. This is just not only state exchequer lost its income but also the poor farmers have been deprived of their legitimate demands of compensation for their own land,” said Arjun Modhvadia, leader of opposition.

The government has argued that this is government land and the farmers have no claim over it. But egged on by the Congress, the farmers in Sanand the site of the plant have intensified their protests.
The farmers claim they are historic owners of the land and that the dispute is already in court. They have brought a new legal notice against the government for not compensating them.

“How government can hand over our land to someone else without even consulting us. Government is not giving the land free to Tatas as government itself has claimed that Tatas bought land in existing market rate,” said Mukesh Vaghela, farmer, Chharodi.

But many say that this is political posturing by the Congress, which unlike Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, cannot afford to escalate its anti-Nano protests.

Congress leaders say that they welcome the Nano project as it benefits Gujarat. They are only asking for compensation for the farmers.

Also, many of the Congress leaders are leading industrialists and have more than just a political stake in Gujarat’s economic growth.

source : http://www.ndtv.com/

Tiger population in 30 Tiger reserves in the country have dwindled to 1,411 at present from the 1,800 in 1972, according to statistics.

The country had 40,000 tigers in 1900, statistics released by CPR Environmental Education Centre (CPREEC), which is organising an exhibition titled “Tiger Tiger”, on Sunday said.

“The habitats have been lost due to severe deforestation, contributing to the dwindling tiger numbers,” it said.

Non-forestry activities, fragmentation of forest patches were the major causes for the dwindling tiger population, it said. The exhibition sought to raise awareness about the need to save the tiger.

“This would also provide a complete overview of the National animal — its evolution, behaviour, social structure, cultural role, ecological significance, human impact upon it and what should be done to conserve it,” it said.

The CPREEC is a Centre of Excellence of the Ministry of Environment and Forests established jointly by the Ministry and CP Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation.

source : http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/

India imposed a new ban on smoking in public places Thursday, four years after a largely ignored earlier prohibition saw people continue to puff away in restaurants, clubs and bars.

One in three Indians smokes some form of tobacco, officials say, and a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February this year said one in every 10 deaths in India from 2010 would be smoking-related.

The government has made smoking a top issue, with Bollywood stars urged by the health minister to stub out their cigarettes, on-screen smoking forbidden and health workers telephoning residents in the capital offering help to quit.

But the drive against smoking in public foundered.

“The problem was public spaces are a huge sphere, but there was no onus on the person in charge of the public place to implement the law,” said Braj Kishore Prasad, the health official in charge of India’s anti-smoking drive.

Prasad said the new ban had increased the areas included in the prohibition, roping in educational institutions, bars and discos, hospitals, offices and libraries.

It also directs establishments to appoint anti-smoking officers who will be liable if people smoke.

The fine amount remains the same, at 200 rupees (about four dollars), and people may still smoke at home, in their cars, in parks and on streets.

India’s cigarette giant, the Indian Tobacco Company, and the country’s hotel lobby fought for a stay but the plea was rejected by the Supreme Court Monday.

That cleared the way for the new ban to take effect on Thursday, the birthday of ascetic peace icon Mahatma Gandhi, who did not smoke, drink alcohol or eat meat.

Restaurant and bar managers said they would comply with the law.

“We are very clear on this aspect. We will not let anybody smoke,” said Shahzad Rashid, who manages Mist restaurant, located in the five-star Park Hotel in the city’s centre.

But he admitted it might take a toll on the hotel’s popular Agni disco, which like many bars and restaurants here sells cigarettes.

“Out of 100 patrons, 90 who drink probably also smoke,” he said. “People also drink more when they have a smoke.”

Smokers, particularly young ones, have expressed dismay about the new ban.

Call centre workers have said they are worried they will not make it through long nights of answering international customer service calls without cigarettes.

But Indian officials said they were hopeful everyone would come around.

“A lot of awareness has been created in the country,” said Prasad, who hopes to eventually broaden the ban.

“This is very, very necessary for public health.”

At least some in the capital were hopeful the new law would not be the last word on smoking, though.

“Maybe there will be a change in the law after some time. They keep changing the laws, sometimes this way, sometimes that way,” said Q’BA restaurant-bar manager Sunil Tickoo, who hopes the ban will be eased for venues with liquor licences.

Tickoo also wondered how tight enforcement would be this time.

“The first one or two weeks there will be a lot of checking. It will be like a red-hot pepper has burst, but after that the fire will die down,” he said.

“But of course we will remain non-smoking as long as the government maintains the ban.”

source: http://afp.google.com/article/

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