INFECTED VIP: The centre has twice rushed a team of specialists from the Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences to examine Shripad Naik, who is admitted in a private hospital for treatment of Covid-19.
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when a differently-abled 13-year-old teenager was allegedly raped by Varun Nayyar, son of one of the brothers who run the Delhi Darbar chain of restaurants. For a Saturday following the week when after a two-day break there was a fresh surge in the number of Covid-19 cases with nine more patients succumbing to the viral infection. For a Saturday following the week when there was an open revolt against the Sonia Gandhi family within the Congress. For a Saturday following the week when there is continued uncertainty about when schools and colleges in Goa may re-open.
And a few stray thoughts on the rape of a 13-year-old disabled child allegedly by Varun Nayyar of the Nayyar family. The Nayyar family runs a chain of Mughlai restaurants including Delhi Darbar, Moti Mahal and Foodland. Over the last two decades they have been operating in Goa and seem to have secured a permanent lease over a restaurant attached to GTDC’s Miramar Residency called `Food Land.’
According to reports in a section of the media the alleged culprit had repeatedly raped the teenager. His modus operandi was to take the girl in his car to a hotel where he committed the foul act. It was during a second trip when he was molesting the minor that the family caught him in the act. There is an uproar particularly in the social media over the latest case of child molestation in Goa. Though there have been a number of Facebook posts calling for the boycott of the restaurants owned by the Nayyar brothers, there likely to be little action at ground level.
We would have expected organisations like CRY and other organisation engaged in child rights to organise a protest march against the Nayyars’ properties or even demanding the closure of their restaurants. Apparently, the Nayyar family which appears to have lot of clout with the Delhi babu bureaucrats posted in Goa, is confident that they can get away with the heinous rape of a minor.
This is not an isolated incident and there have been several cases of child molestation in the State. A number of cases are pending in the Children’s Court which unfortunately meets only once a week. Covid-19 has made the situation worst with the court meeting less often. There are few regular sittings even in the District Courts. The least that the government and prosecution can do is book Varun Nayyar under the National Security Act under which there is no bail.
GOA has a historical reputation for being a hunting ground for paedophiles (molesters of children). I recall that way back in the 90s a major paedophile conspiracy was broken with the arrest of foreigner Freddie Peats who used to lure children from poor families with the offer of jobs abroad. Peat claimed to be a worker and even visited the offices of newspapers with press notes, including the office of the Herald where I was working then. The most disgusting part of the whole episode was the than Cabinet headed by Ravi Naik as chief minister, who called for the photographs seized from Peats’ house and reportedly he was taken up by them!
Children, particularly migrant children, are not safe and the police should maintain a tight watch on foreigners making friends with minors on beaches. Parents should also teach their children not to get friendly with strangers and engage in out of the way harmful activities with them. In many schools in the West children learn about what is a good and a bad touch, to make the distinction between ordinary friendly touch and sexual misconduct.
Paedophilia or sexual molestation is not limited to travelling foreigners but also common in many Indian families. It is inevitably a trusted member of the family like an elder sibling or an uncle who takes to molesting minor children. The molested children in most cases are too afraid to confide in their parents or anyone in the family.
And more over even when parents do come to know of such paedophilia incidents they do not approach the police for fear of the reputation of the family being spoiled. Sexual molestation in the early years of a child can leave a very negative physiological impact on parents too for having put family reputation over the interests of the traumatized child.
AND a few stray thoughts on Goans going back to their irresponsible ways Covid-19 after a two-day Ganesh Chaturthi festival. Goans are really ajeeb as the first prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru labelled them after Liberation. Everyone expected a huge surge in the number of cases over Chovoth weekend of Saturday and Sunday as most Goans extend hospitality to Lord Ganesh only for one-and-a-half days. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant too had urged Goans to mind that the celebration was as brief as required. Covid-19 warrior doctors however expected that Goans would not be able to resist the temptation to gather in large numbers to celebrate Goa’s most celebrated festival.
May be by the grace of Lord Ganesh or out of fear most Goans followed Covid-19 guidelines and limited the celebration to immediate nuclear family. This is in vast contrast to the historical practice of entire extended families including those residing in Goa gathering in the family’s ancestral house to celebrate Chovoth with puja and festivity. Indeed, the Mhamai Kamat house situated behind the Adil Shah Palace on an average offered lunch to more than 500 people over an 11-day Chovoth festival. The immediate family of close relatives who still stay in the Mhamai Kamat mansion is itself over 40 odd members.
In Dempobhat where we have both our rented residence and offices there was much loud music and fire crackers bursting from some of the houses where the family thought they were the custodian of Lord Ganesh festival for the extended family from far and near. But this year around because of coronavirus fears we heard little noise or gala celebration spirit with all and sundry visiting the area.
A colleague who has a very large extended family exceeding a 100 relatives spread over Goa and Mumbai dissuaded them from visiting Goa this year. Relatives in Goa were asked to drop in in small batches over the celebration and most families even preferred creating a pond of water to immersion or do visarjan of their Lord Ganesh, well within the compound of their ancestral house. The bhatji were largely absent this year and family members took turns to chant or say their prayers with the help of hi-tech apps!
Some families, perhaps inspired by the Education Department, did not buy any Lord Ganesh image but made do with a virtual image of Lord Ganesh. There were few Saravajanik or public pandal this year and the Panjum Police Station refrained from installing one of the largest idol of Lord Ganesh like they do annually. This was true not only of Goa but reportedly even of Mumbai where politicians and film-stars usually compete to gift large Lord Ganesh installations with razzmatazz lighting and attractions to attract the people into visiting in large crowds.
The most famous of the Ganesh pandal at least in Mumbai is the Lal Bagh Raja which enjoys the patronage of ruling party Shiv Sena, this installation also sees visits by chota mota Hindi come film stars of Bollywood. Due to the scaling down of the Ganesh celebration last weekend of Saturday and Sunday the number of new Covid-19 cases too fell to under hundred, as against the rising daily average of 300 to 500.
Unfortunately, this come down was too good to last and it appears as if Goans are back to their usual careless ways as dramatized by the fact that on Tuesday, August 25 the number of cases touched almost 400. Even more alarming was that Tuesday witnessed the highest single day casualities with nine deaths. There is virtual panic in capital city Panjim and commercial capital Margao where Covid-19 cases are now overtaking those in Vasco da Gama taluka.
VOTERS in Goa may not be very careful about whom they elect to the assembly. But the Covid-19 virus seems to disapprove of many of them. Goa probably has the largest number of MLAs infected by the deadly infection. It began with Cuncolim MLA Clafasio Dias who fortunately recovered after a 28-day stay in hospital. Soon after a number of MLAs started manifesting the infection. Covid-19 apparently does not discriminate between politicians with MLAs infected coming from across all the political parties.
The sole MGP MLA Sudhin Dhavalikar has been admitted to Manipal Hospital. Victims from the Congress party include Ponda MLA Ravi Naik and his son. The biggest shocker has been BJP’s Shripad Naik (Union minister for AYUSH as also Minister of State for Defence) in a critical condition, with oxygen level in his blood supply falling to 10%. Ideally, oxygen level in the blood should be 90 to 100%. Any fall in oxygen below 60 is a major cause for concern.
Apparently, the Centre does not trust even the private Manipal Hospital to ensure the recovery of Shripad Naik, who has reportedly also picked up a bad lung infection. So doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, considered the best hospital in the country, visited Goa twice to check on the condition of Shripad Naik. Besides the AIIMS team doctors, doctors from the army’s referral hospital in Delhi which is the largest hospital of the defence forces, also examined Shripad Naik as he is minister of state for defence too.
Interestingly, our MLAs and VIPs seem to feel safe only in Manipal Hospital where all honoured Covid-19 guests include Churchill Alemao and wife, as also Utpal Parrikar, elder son of the late chief minister of Goa Manohar Parrikar, are taken.
The AIIMS team which also visited ESI Covid-19 hospital in Margao and the GMC wards where arrangements have been made for comorbidities covid patients, is apparently not happy with the arrangements. They have committed that part of the reason for the high level of mortality is that Goans report their infection only at advanced or end stages. This was confirmed by one of the patients in the GMC who confirmed that Goans do not take symptoms seriously and have themselves checked out at a very late stage. The AIIMS team also adversely commented on the long delay in releasing the test results as apparently at present it takes eight hours to get the results of RT-PCR test.
The Goa government in its greed to make money perhaps has been ordering a huge quantity of expensive ventilators, instead of getting the oxymeters which are much cheaper and more relevant for the majority of cases. What the Goa government is unable or unwilling to do is being made up for by the Aam Adami party which has sent a large stock of oxymeters, particularly for the benefit of Goan patients who opt for self-isolation instead of going to the hospital.
So if anyone needs an oxymeter desperately they should approach Elvis Gomes, president of AAP Goa, or Valmiki Naik who contested in the last Assembly election against Manohar Parrikar.
AND a few stray thoughts on the virtual revolt against the Gandhi khandan by the rank and file of the Congress party. At the end of the meeting of the national executive several senior leaders of the Congress including Gulam Nabi Azad, leader of the Congress Parliamentary party in the Lok Sabha, demanded that somebody from outside the Gandhi family take up the presidency.
There is a growing belief among the Congress cadres that the Gandhi family, including mother Sonia Gandhi and son Rahul Gandhi, have been not able to contain the rebellions within the party. Even in Congress-ruled states like Rajasthan it will be recalled that Madhavrao Scindia revolted against the Gandhi family’s choice of chief minister. Sonia Gandhi, who reluctantly joined the Congress officially as a primary member in 1997, will continue to be the interim chief of the party. Her most glorious moment was when after the 2004 general elections she refused to accept the prime minister post and stepped aside in favour of Dr Manmohan Singh.
Rahul Gandhi is considered unfocused and irresponsible by the old guard in the Congress which is close to Sonia Gandhi. Obviously they are afraid that they will lose control if Rahul takes over as president and retires all the senior leaders in their 70s and 80s. The Gandhi camp is alleging that the revolt by senior leaders led by Ghulam Nabi Azad is a conspiracy on the part of the BJP.
However, Azad, Anand Sharma and Mukul Wasnik who are leading the group which is demanding for a new president who should not be from Gandhi family, are insistent that the party needs a younger group of leaders to challenge the BJP in the next Parliamentary elections.
AND a last stray thought on the continuing confusion on re-opening of schools and colleges. It was originally announced that schools and colleges will re-open on September 1. Many colleges have already announced the admission schedule including admission for the self-financed courses. The Goa Institute of Management, Birla Institute of Technology and VIIMSHE — the elite hotel management college promoted by Dattaraj Salgaokar, have already opened with upgraded Covide-19 safety precautions place.
Much of the confusion is because of Covid-19 and the decision of the Education Department to switch to online classes. Imagine a ten-year- old having to wear a uniform and sit in front of the TV or smart phone in her own home. The ground reality is that Goa just does not have the digital infrastructure for online education.