JOHNSONS TALC UNSAFE?

TRUST NO ONE? Johnsons & Johnsons products have been one of the few products that have been trusted by mothers or all religions, castes and classes. The recent jury verdict in Los Angeles comes as a shocking reminder that even this much trusted and loved company is in the business of making money at any cost!

By Rajan Narayan

AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the Supreme Court declared triple Talaq illegal. For a Saturday following the week when the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court ordered the owners of the Lucky Seven to remove it from the Miramar beach before the Monsoon ends. For a Saturday following the week when the High Court barred the shifting of Goa‘s green cases from Pune to New Delhi. For a Saturday following the week when the Home Minister went through the natak of cracking down on the drug trade. For a Saturday following the week when a 63-year-old lady in the United States was awarded damages of $417 million because she was not warned that one of the side effects of using Johnson & Johnson talcum powder was the risk of getting cancer.

TRIPLE TALAQ GONE

AND a few stray thoughts on the Supreme Court declaring that triple talaq is illegal and unconstitutional. What this means is that with immediate effect, migrant Goan Muslim men will not be able to divorce their wives by messaging talaq to them three times.

Goan Muslim men and women, in any case, are not permitted to divorce each other through triple talaq. This is because Goa continues to observe the Uniform Civil Code, whereby only registered civil marriages are recognised by law. Irrespective of whether you are Hindu, Muslim, or Catholic in Goa, you have to first register your intention to get married, and subsequently formally swear an oath and sign the marriage registry. Ceremonies that you may hold, like the nuptials, nikah or the sath phera, have no legal validity in Goa, whether you get married on the beach or in a Temple or Mosque or a Church.

Similarly only civil divorces granted by the Courts are recognised in Goa. Which effectively means that not only triple talaq but the annulment given reluctantly by the Church, which considers marriage to be a sacrament, has no legal standing by itself in Goa. Also, even if you are not given a talaq or the church refuses to annul a marriage, you can go to the Court and get a civil divorce and get re-married if you wish too. Similarly the Islamic practice which insists that if you want to return to your husband after he has used the triple talaq, you have to marry another person before going back to your original husband, is meaningless in Goa.

It is however not clear whether the Uniform Civil Code applies only to Goans born in Goa before 1965, or to all Goans, including migrants who are born in Goa. It is also not clear if the domicile rule applies for coming under the Uniform Civil Code. But migrants, irrespective of which religion they belong to, cannot get married or divorced according to the personal laws of the various religions, which is why most migrants choose to get married outside Goa in their place of origin, or ‘native place’ as it is called, so that they can avoid the limitations of the Uniform Civil Code. I have always wondered over the legal status of the many marriages held on the beaches of Goa. Unless the religious marriages have already been performed and the destination wedding is just a natak.

The five-member Bench of the Supreme Court, which for the first time comprised members of all the major religions in India, was not unanimous on the verdict. The Supreme Court Bench hearing the petitions calling for a ban on triple talaq was comprised of a sardar, the Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar; a Parsi, RF Narimam; a Hindu, UU Lalit; a Catholic, Joseph Kurian; and a Muslim judge, SA Nazir. While three judges declared that triple talaq was arbitrary and marriages cannot be broken capriciously and whimsically without any attempt at reconciliation, the Chief Justice and the Muslim judge ruled that triple talaq was part of Islamic personal practice.

However even the dissenting judges agreed that the practice was sinful and a law should be enacted banning triple talaq just as parliament banned Sati, dowry and the Devdasi practice. It must be made clear that though the Supreme Court has declared triple talaq illegal it is left to the government and Parliament to pass suitable legislation to end the practice. But until the law is enacted, the Supreme Court has made it clear that no Muslim men can use triple talaq to get instant divorce.

TOUGH ON LUCKY SEVEN

AND a few stray thoughts on the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court getting tough with the owners of the Lucky Seven. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had claimed that Lucky Seven was permitted to be shifted from the outer harbour of the MPT to the Mandovi River because of the rough seas which were causing damage to the vessel. It was the government, however, which overruled the Captain of Ports and possibly for the first time in the history of Goa permitted the passage of a shipping vessel across the Aguada sandbar during the monsoon. With the onset of the monsoon, a sand bar forms in the Aquada beach which prevents movement of ships into or out of Goa, which is why even mining export activities are suspended in Goa between the months of June and September. The sand bar lifts only around  September 15.

Perhaps to correct the impression that the Court was responsible for permitting the Lucky Seven to attempt to cross the sand bar, it now ruled that the Gopal Kunda owned vessel which entered the Mandovi during the Monsoon should be removed before the end of the Monsoon. The Court vehemently rejected the plea of the owners that the ship should be permitted to remain in the Mandovi river. “Casinos may come and go, but beaches will not”, the High Court commented. The Court further stressed that our beaches and rivers should always be our first priority. It has decided to monitor the implementation of its directive to the owners to remove the ship from the Miramar beach before the end of the Monsoons. The Court made it clear that it did not want a repetition of the River Princess episode where the Anil Salgaocar-owned, abandoned vessel caused havoc to the Sinquerim beach. The River Princess took 11 years to be removed and finally had to be broken up and removed by land. The salvagers, which coincidently were the same company called by the owners of the Lucky Seven to help them to shift their stranded vessel, claimed the River Princess had been removed, long before complete removal was actually done. NIO divers found that a large part of the ship was buried under the sand and could have caused injury both to tourists and fishing vessels, and this forced the government to hold off on payments until the salvage was done properly.

Perhaps because of past shenanigans like this, the River Princess salvager has been thrown out and the job has now been entrusted to our own Goenkar Anand Madgavkar who is a partner and director of the salvage firm which removed the 40 metre statue of Mahavira from the middle of the Husain Sagar Lake. According to Anand Madgavkar the ship has developed a huge hole at the bottom through which sand has entered. He believes that the leakages in the ship, which has tilted to one side, need to be repaired, so that it can be refloated and removed from the Miramar beach. He also believes that there can be no question of cutting up the ship on the site as was done in the case of the River Princess as sharp pieces of metal could remain behind on the beach and pose a threat to the thousands of tourists who visited. It has already been established by experts that a hundred metre stretch of the beach has been eroded because of the blockage of the waves by the vessel. In the meanwhile if Parrikar loses the election it will be partly because of the ‘Unlucky Seven’ which stands as a witness to the sell-out by the BJP government to the casino lobby.

GOA MOVES NORTH

AND a few stray thoughts on the shocking decision of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to bring green cases relating to Goa under the jurisdiction of the Central Bench of the National Green Tribunal in New Delhi. Until last Friday, all cases relating to environmental damage and pollution were heard and cleared by the Western region Bench of the green tribunal located at Pune. The Pune Bench of the NGT had total jurisdiction over cases in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa. Suddenly the MoEF has decided that Goa is not part of western India but part of the north.

Maybe the total solar eclipse which took place on Monday has pushed Goa from the beautiful Arabian Sea coast to land-locked Delhi. Or maybe because of the damage caused by the mine owners and industrial sharks like the Adanis, Goa has become as polluted as Delhi or any other industrial city!

Over 40 per cent of the cases pending in the Pune Bench of the NGT relate to violation of environmental laws in Goa. These include public interest litigations against the Adanis and the MPT for attempting to expand the coal handling facilities. Other cases pending before the NGT are the cases filed against the ecological clearances extended to the Mopa Airport. Cases relating to violation of the Coastal Regulation Zone rules have also being referred to the NGT.

Not only big NGOs like the Goa Foundation but even individual activists like Judith Almeida could approach the NGT in Pune as it is only an overnight bus ride away. The shifting of ecology cases relating to Goa from Pune to New Delhi would have suited only the interests of the Adanis and the other big sharks. And would have limited the ability of Goans to take on those who are destroying Goa because of the high cost of repeatedly going to Delhi to follow up on cases.

Fortunately for Goa, the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court has on its own decided that no case pending before the NGT from Goa will be shifted to Delhi before the court examines the issue. Effectively the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court has blocked the transfer of jurisdiction of environmental cases relating to Goa from the NGT Bench in Pune to New Delhi. The next hearing of the case is on September 5, at which all the NGOs in Goa who have been fighting to protect its green identity will join the protest against the shifting of the cases to Delhi.

SLAP ON THE WRIST

AND a few stray thoughts on the show of a crackdown on drug peddlers by the Home Minister Manohar Parrikar after the tragic death of the two young tourists from the south due to a drug overdose. Apparently the two young tourists had consumed large quantities of synthetic narcotics as the postmortem report has revealed.

Following the incident, the owner of the notorious Curlies shack, Edwin Nunes, and the manager of Nyex night club, Rohan Shetty, were arrested. Curlies is linked to the Scarlet Keeling murder case and reportedly enjoys the patronage of Ravi Naik’s son, Roy Naik, who had contested the Valpoi bye-election against Vishwajit Rane. Nyex night club has come up where the notorious Paradiso run by Nandan Kuchodkar used to function on illegal land for over a decade.

That the whole crack down on drugs was a natak was proved when the owner of Curlies was released on bail as he was arrested under the small quantity provision of the Narcotics Act.

The Act makes a distinction between consumers and peddlers. If a tourist or a local is found with a small quantity for personal consumption, the punishment is nominal and bail is allowed. If the culprit is caught with an amount that’s defined as a large quantity, punishment can extend to 10 years in jail and there is no provision for bail. While the owner of Curlies was released on bail, it’s interesting that only the manager of Nyex Night club was arrested and not the owner.

Most of the rave parties at which drugs are freely available in Goa are held in the Anjuna belt in shacks, restaurants and party destinations like Hill Top. Most of the restaurants and shacks that are notorious for peddling drugs are in Anjuna which is part of the Siolim Constituency. For the last 20 years Siolim has been controlled by senior BJP leader Dayanand Mandrekar who is allegedly the chief patron of the drug mafia. It is alleged that the assault on the Nigerians which took place in Porvorim was a turf war between Dayanand Mandrekar’s gang and the Russian mafia.

There are many other clubs such as Club Cubana and LPK, not to mention Sinq, owned by Sahil Adwalpalkar, that are linked with the drug trade. It has even been alleged that the Calangute MLA Michael Lobo, who has many hotels and restaurants, may also be extending protection to the drug mafia.

Former Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar was the MLA of Madrem, which is home to the Morjim and Arambol beaches, which has been taken over by the Russian mafia. The signboards and the menus in restaurants in Morjim and Arambol are in Russian.

Admittedly the police are also hand in glove with the drug mafia. A video by the Israeli drug don Atala showed police selling drugs that they had seized back to the drug mafia.

Unfortunately for Chief Minister Parrikar and the drug mafia, the Siolim seat has been won by the Goa Forward this time. It is possible that the Goa Forward MLA will make a serious attempt to end the drug cartels operating in the Siolim and Mandrem constituencies.

JOHNSONS NIGHTMARE

AND a last stray thought for yet another Saturday. All those mamas and adults who swear by Johnson baby powder please take note.

The company which is synonymous with gentle baby care products has been asked to pay $417 million to a 63-year-old woman who blamed her ovarian cancer on the company’s talcum powder.

An American jury in Los Angeles found that the parent company and its consumer product unit had failed to warn the woman about the alleged risk of the baby powder. The company is accused of ignoring studies linking its baby powder and ‘shower to shower’ talcum products to ovarian cancer and failing to put warning labels on products. The lady concerned has been using Johnson talcum powder since she was 11.

The company has claimed that it will appeal against the judgement and that it is guided by scientific tests which confirmed the safety of the powder.

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