STUMPED: Shiv Sena dug up the pitch in the Wankhede Stadium to stop the Indo-Pakistan cricket match
By Rajan Narayan
And a few stray thoughts and a few observations for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the Shiv Sena tiger came hunting to Goa. For a Saturday following the week when defence minister Manohar Parrikar back tracked and admitted he should not have used the word ‘surgical strike’. For a Saturday following the week when the Laxmikant Parsekar-led government suffered a major setback with the High Court ruling that the Investment Promotion Board (IPB) has no authority to waive statutory permissions from the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) authority. For a Saturday following the week when we discovered that the Universal Health Insurance Scheme started by the Parsekar government is a scam. For a Saturday following the week when former chief minister Digambar Kamat got into trouble with the Crime Branch over charges in the Louis Berger scam. For a Saturday following the week when the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) revealed that Reliance Jio 4G speeds were much less than its rivals Airtel and Vodafone.
TIGER ON THE PROWL
AND a few stray thoughts on the Shiv Sena tiger entering an alliance with the Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM) for the 2017 Assembly elections. Uddhav Thackeray, son of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, is much worse than his cousin Raj Thackeray. Admittedly it was Raj, who heads the splinter Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), who forced Bollywood producer Karan Johar to pay `5 crore to the Army Welfare Fund to allow the release Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM).
It is another matter that the army and ex-servicemen have rejected the offer. They have made it clear that they do not want the bitter fruits of extortion. Raj also has forced him to include a slide at the beginning of the film paying homage to jawans and give an undertaking that Bollywood will never hire actors from Pakistan.
When Bal Thackeray – formerly a cartoonist in Bombay’s Free Press journal – was alive, the Sena had banned the Pakistani cricket team from playing in Mumbai. Shiv Sena goons had dug up the cricket pitch at the city’s Wankhede stadium. It was on Bal Thackeray’s insistence that the name of Bombay was changed to Mumbai. At least Raj allowed the release of Johar’s film after extracting money. Uddhav may not have allowed its release at all. The cousins have been engaged in competition to dramatise who is the bigger goon.
It is a matter of concern to Goa and Goans that the BBSM has invited the Shiv Sena to be its partner in the 2017 elections. Wanting to sound tougher than his cousin, Uddhav told the media in Goa that we should go on striking Pakistan until it becomes Hindustan. Our fear is that Uddhav, a Marathi fanatic like former RSS Goa chief Subhash Velingkar, may suspend grants to all English-medium schools run by the church. He might also demand that Marathi replace Konkani as Goa’s official language.
THE RSS has already passed a resolution demanding that the mother tongue should be the medium of instruction up to Class 12. The RSS’ educational wing has called for the total elimination of English from the educational system. It may even demand that Hindi or Marathi be medium of instruction in engineering and medical colleges. The Madhya Pradesh government run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has started an engineering college in Hindi with very few students and even fewer teachers.
The greater fear is that the Shiv Sena may start targeting Portuguese culture, or whatever is left of it. The RSS has been demanding for a long time that streets named after Portuguese governors be changed. The original name of 18 June road was 30 June road which marked the death of Portuguese soldiers when Dadra and Nagar Haveli were liberated by the Azad Gomantak Dal.
THERE are many roads and buildings in Goa which still bear Portuguese names including the Panjim Municipal Garden (Garcia de Orta). The Shiv Sena-RSS combine might demand that Dr Jack de Sequeira Road be re-named Guru Golwalkar Road after the first RSS chief or perhaps even Bal Thackeray Road. It may be recalled that in Delhi, the BJP changed Aurangazeb Road to Abdul Kalam Road after the late Indian president and space scientist.
And a few stray thoughts on Manohar Parrikar back tracking and admitting that he should not have used the word ‘surgical strike’ for the army counter attack on Pakistan for the death of 19 soldiers in Uri. The Narendra Modi government has been forced to admit that it was not a surgical like the one by the US marines to eliminate Osama Bin Laden in Karachi.
There were no planes or helicopters in the counter strike against Pakistan to avenge Uri. Indian Army commandos crossed the Line Of Control and went deep into Pakistani territory to eliminate terrorists preparing to cross the border into India. Foreign Secretary Jayshankar gave the game away when he told the Parliamentary committee on defence that India had carried out a strategic strike, not a surgical strike. He also admitted similar strikes had been carried out during the Congress rule, the difference being that Modi openly acknowledged the LOC crossing.
THE BJP made it worse by trying to take credit for the army’s action. It may be recalled that Parrikar even boasted that the army had discovered its own strength like Hanuman thanks to the BJP. Parrikar also gave the RSS credit for inspiring the strike. The most absurd part of the very legitimate counter strike was TV anchors joining the war against Pakistan. TV journalists, including Times Now enfant terrible Arnab Goswami, have even said that anyone asking for proof of the surgical strike was anti-national.
NDTV was forced to cancel an interview with former home minister P Chidambaram who had raised serious questions over the misuse of army action for BJP’s political benefit. Indian television channels have invited ridicule over the manner in which they have been waging war against Pakistan.
British daily The Guardian has pointed out that Indian TV anchors were behaving like generals of armies rather than as objective media persons. It is obvious that it is not enough to be a patriot in Modi’s India. Everyone has to prove so and anyone critical of Modi or the defence minister is anti-national.
And a few stray thoughts on the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court clipping the wings of the IPB set up by chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar. The IPB became a super power within the government which could grant permissions to anyone wanting to set up an industry. The bill, under which the IPB was set up, stipulated that it could override all other regulatory bodies including the Town & Country Planning department, the Pollution Control Board and the Coastal Regulatory Zone authority.
The IPB has been abused by Parsekar. The most notorious instance was changing the definition of the coconut tree to a grass to permit the cutting of an entire orchard for a distillery in which BJP leaders had an interest.
The IPB has been as big a scam as the Special Economic Zone (SEZ). Just like SEZ planning during Congress rule, large chunks of agricultural and forest land have been allotted to industries claiming they would create jobs. In the process all rules are being violated. No thought is being given to whether Goa has the infrastructure to support so many projects. None of these projects approved by the IPB have been able to take off as the power minister claims he has no electricity to provide them. Or perhaps he is simply awaiting his cut.
WHATEVER the case, Parrikar and Parsekar’s dreams to attract investments of `50,000 crores to generate 25,000 jobs has been stalled by the high court. It made things very clear that the in principle, approval given by the IPB cannot be the basis for grant of statutory permission from the CRZ authority and other local bodies.
The court even labelled the units approved by the IPB as illegal constructions. It has directed the government not to regularise projects undertaken without the permission of the CRZ and Town & Country Planning departments. This is a setback to Parsekar who has been boasting about the number of industrial projects he has cleared as IPB chairman.
For a Saturday following the week when we discovered that the BJP government was fooling Goans with its claim of providing universal health through the Deen Dayal Swasthya Seva Yojana (DDSSY) scheme. It has been claiming that health cards have been issued for almost the whole population of Goa. Under the scheme, anyone residing in Goa for more than five years is entitled to cashless medical treatment in government hospitals and 25 private hospitals.
ONLY UNTIL MARCH
THE scheme was implemented in collaboration with a public sector insurance company. Families with less than three members had to pay a premium of `200 while those with more than three members were required to pay `300 for an insurance cover of `2.5 and `4 lakhs respectively.
You can fool some of the people some of the time, and all the people some of the time, but not all the people all the time. Those excited over the cashless insurance scheme are discovering that their cards are valid only until March 31, 2017. After this, the scheme may stop altogether because the BJP may not be elected to power. As in the case of the BJP’s other schemes, the new government will have to bear the burden of this scheme.
The scheme is not universal and is being implemented very selectively by private hospitals, which are notorious for increasing their rates if they know you have insurance even in normal cases, even though insurance from public and private insurance companies can be very expensive. Moreover, insurance companies do not cover senior citizens or charge them very high premiums.
Even some public sector banks offering health insurance charge `6,000-10,000 a year for cover of `5 lakhs for family of four. With the DDSSY, residents of Goa had to pay only `400, with the rest of the premium paid by the government. When a senior citizen with a cardiac problem from the chief minister’s constituency of Mandrem went to Manipal hospital for a check up, he was told that the card can been used only for surgery. The government has still not clarified which private hospital will conduct the 451 procedures covered under the scheme.
And a few stray thoughts on former chief minister Digambar Kamat facing major problems in the Louis Berger scam. He now faces a charge sheet by the Crime Branch. Kamat and Churchill Alemao were accused of taking bribes to award contracts under the Japanese India Co-operation Agreement (JICA) for water supply projects in the state. The American consultant (Louis Berger) subcontracted the deal to a company called Holistic Urban for `4.3 crores, who in turn sub-contracted it to another company called Gangadeep. This company is alleged to have paid `1 crore to Kamat and `65 lakhs to Alemao.
WHILE Alemao was arrested and questioned by Crime Branch, Kamat has managed to avoid arrest. His appeal against his arrest is pending before the Supreme Court. To his luck, the hearing has been repeatedly postponed. But with the Crime Branch ready with a charge sheet, he may not be able to escape arrest for long. The only consolation is that on the political front he is doing well, with his candidate winning the by-election to the Margao Municipality.
And a last stray thought for yet another Saturday. There is good news and bad news for those who rushed to get free Reliance Jio 4G SIM cards. The bad news is that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) conducted tests and proved that Jio speed was the lowest among all telecom operators.
A table prepared by TRAI shows that Airtel has the best download speed followed by Vodafone. Jio’s excuse is that the speed is high only up to a limit of 4GB per day, beyond which it reduces to less than 10MB. Reliance also claims that the speed has dropped because 15 million people have taken free 4G SIM cards. It could get much worse when Reliance reaches its target of 100 million customers.
In an interview, Reliance head Mukesh Ambani claims that he started Jio for fast internet connectivity after his daughter who was studying in the US told him that the internet in India ‘sucks’. The bad news again is that there will be no free voice calls as promised after TRAI has struck it down. The good news is that you will continue to get free downloads up to 4GB until March 31, 2017 instead of December 31, 2016.
In the meanwhile, Vodafone has announced that there will be no roaming charges for incoming calls throughout India.