LETTER TO EDITOR ISSUE DATED 23RD JUNE 2018

BJP CHARACTER?

WHY is BJP involved in filing false and fabricated cases on others, blackmailing, encouraging a lynching culture, rape, extortion, drug marketing, murdering, etcetera? Because they have no conscience and are evil. They even file false cases on opponent MLAs, blackmail them and get them to support BJP by hook or by crook!
— Kenneth Silveira, Vasco da Gama

EARLY DAYS
IT was the summer of 1990. As Indian Railway (Traffic) Service probationers, my friend and I travelled by train from Lucknow to Delhi. Two MPs were also travelling in the same bogie. That was fine, but the behaviour of some 12 people who were travelling with them without reservation was terrifying. They forced us to vacate our reserved berths and sit on the luggage and passed obscene and abusive comments. We cowered in fright squirming with rage. It was a harrowing night in the company of an unruly battalion, we were on edge, on the thin line between honour and dishonour, all other passengers seemed to have vanished along with the travelling ticket examiner.
We reached Delhi the next morning without being physically harmed by the goons, though we were emotionally wrecked. My friend was so traumatised she decided to skip the next phase of training in Ahmedabad and stayed back in Delhi. I decided to carry on since another batch mate was joining me (she is Utpalparna Hazarika, now executive director of Railway Board). We boarded an overnight train going to Gujarat’s capital, this time without reservations as there wasn’t enough time to arrange for them. We had been waitlisted.
We met the TTE of the first class bogie, and told him how we had to get to Ahmedabad. The train was heavily booked, but he politely led us to a coupe to sit as he tried to help us. I looked at the two potential co-travelers, politicians as could be discerned from their white khadi attire, and panicked. “They’re decent people, regular travellers on this routé, nothing to worry,” the TTE assured us.
One of them was in his mid-40s with a normal affectionate face and the other in his late-30s with a warm but somewhat impervious expression. They readily made space for us by almost squeezing themselves to one corner. They introduced themselves. They were two BJP leaders from Gujarat. The names were told but quickly forgotten as names of co-passengers were inconsequential at that moment. We also introduced ourselves as Railway Service probationers from Assam.
The conversation turned to different topics, particularly in the areas of history and polilty. My friend, a post- graduate in history from Delhi University and very intelligent, took part. I too chipped in the discussion which veered around the formation of the Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim League. The senior person was an enthusiastic participant. The younger one mostly remained quiet, but his body language conveyed his total mental involvement in what was being discussed, though he hardly contributed. Then I mentioned Shyama Prasad Mookerjee’s death, why it was still considered a mystery by many.
He suddenly asked, “How do you know about Shyama Prasad Mookerjee?” I had to tell him that when my father was a post-graduate student in Calcutta University, as its vice chancellor Mookerjee had arranged a scholarship for the young man from Assam. My father often reminisced about that and regretted his untimely death in June 1953 at the age of 51.
The young man then almost looked away and spoke in a hushed tone almost to himself,“It’s good they know so many things…” Suddenly the senior man proposed, “Why don’t you join our party in guests?” We both laughed it off, saying we were not from Gujarat. The younger man then forcefully interjected, “So what? We don’t have any problem on that. We welcome talent in our state.” I could see a sudden spark in his calm demeanour.
The food arrived, four vegetarian thalis. We ate in silence. When the pantry car manager came to take the payment, the younger man paid for all of us. I muttered a feeble, “thank you” but he almost dismissed that as something utterly trivial. I observed at that moment that he had a different kind of flow in his eyes, which one could hardly miss. He rarely spoke, mostly listened.
The TTE then came and informed us the train was packed and he couldn’t arrange berths for us. Both men immediately stood up and said, “It’s okay, we’ll manage.” They swiftly spread a cloth on the floor and went to sleep, while we occupied the berths. What a contrast! A previous night we had felt insecure travelling with a bunch of politicians and here we were travelling with two politicians in a coupe with no fear.
The next morning when the train neared Ahmedabad both of them asked us about our lodging arrangements in the city. The senior one told us that in case of any problems the doors of his house were open for us. There was some kind of genuine concern in his voice and facial contours of the otherwise apparently inscrutable younger man who told us, “I don’t have a proper home to invite you but you can accept his offer of safe shelter in this new place….”
We thank them for that invitation and assured them that accommodation was not going to be a problem for us. Before the rain came to a stop I pulled out my diary and asked them for their names again. I didn’t want to forget the names of two large hearted fellow passengers who almost forced me to revise my opinion about politicians in general. I scribbled down the names quickly as the train was about to stop: Shankersinh Vaghela and Narendra Modi.
I wrote on this episode in an Assamese newspaper in 1995. It was a tribute to two unknown politicians from Gujarat for giving up their comfort ungrudgingly for the sake of two “bens” from Assam. When I wrote that, I didn’t have the faintest idea that the two men were going to become so prominent, or that I would hear more about them later. When Mr Vaghela became Chief Minister of Gujarat in 1996, I was glad. When Mr Modi took office as chief minister in 2001 I felt elated (a few months later another Assamese daily reproduced my 1995 piece).
And now he is the Prime Minister of India. Every time I see him on TV I remember that warm meal, that gentle courtesy, caring and sense of security, that we got that night far from home in a train, and bow my head.
-— Shared by Leena Sarma, GM of the Centre for Railway Information System, Indian Railways, New Delhi

NESTLE’S CSR
NESTLE’S undertook a wonderful CSR initiative of training street vendors in hygiene. Their next initiative training of Drishti lifeguards in interpersonal skills, etc, is questionable. Drishti is not a public entity/NGO: It is a profit-making company that itself must undertake CSR initiatives by virtue of its turnover, never mind it is a dubious one of taking care of heritage monuments!
The reason behind CSR is to ensure companies give back to people where the companies have set up business. One of Nestle’s reason for setting up their units in Goa, as claimed by them, was the availability of water. Will Nestle’s tell us how much water they use per annum, where do they source the same and how much do they pay for it?
The media has already highlighted the harm tourists do the environment and how locals suffer. And now Goa Tourism and Nestle’s want to bring tourists to our backyards? Goans long for the monsoon rains to take a break from unruly tourists and let the rains wash away the filth of air, earth and water, and litter left behind by tourism.
Should not Nestle’s CSR be restricted to its neighbouring factory areas and that too through NGO’s? It appears Nestle is misusing CSR funds to indirectly promote their sales by linking the take-a-Kit Kat-break in Goa tin pack! We would like to know how much ground water Nestle uses and what percentage is that of the total used by their neighbouring inhabitants? Is it not 100%?
They would do better to enhance the skills of the farmers in Usgao and Bicholim to set up a continuous and more attractive revenue model based on supporting organic farming. There is potential to get farmers to get year-long crops using ground water and solar pumps, including doing floriculture. All this may be exported. Nestle’s organization and
QA Planning experience can really make a difference for the better through appropriate CSR!
— R Fernandes, Margao

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