SWEEP: Contrary to exit poll projections the NDA headed by the BJP retained the Bihar Legislative Assembly with 124 seats as against 111 of MGB.
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the exit polls on the outcome of the Bihar elections proved to be totally wrong. For a Saturday following the week when the election of Kamala Harris as the Vice-President proves that America is a genuine democracy. For a Saturday following the week when Pramod Sawant antagonised the business community in Goa by giving the casinos a huge waiver. For a Saturday following the week when an elaborate SOP was announced for the 10th and 12th standard classes which have been allowed to re-open.
AND a few stray thoughts on the predictions of the exit polls turning out to be totally wasteful. The majority of the exit polls predicted the victory of the maha-gadbandhan led by Tejaswi Yadav, the son of Laloo Prasad Yadav. It seems to be a case of wish-fulfilment misleading pollsters. The perception was that there was disillusionment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and that this would be reflected in the Bihar elections.
The final results were quite contrary to the exit poll predictions with the BJP-led NDA sweeping the Bihar Legislative Assembly polls. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won the election with 124 seats as against the 111 seats secured by the MGB. The only consolation for those opposing BJP is that it was the RJD headed by Tejaswi. Tejaswi which has received very good response for his election campaign for the MGB, and he was being projected as the chief ministerial candidate if the MGB won the election. As far as the NDA is concerned the BJP emerged as the largest single party with 73 seats, pushing JD(U) headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to second place.
In the current Legislative Assembly the situation was the reverse with the JD(U) having more seats than the BJP. It is being presumed that even if Nitish Kumar continues as chief minister it will be the BJP which will be doing backseat driving. Perhaps the MGB and Nitish Kumar made a mistake in blaming the BJP for the manner in which it handled the ghar wapasi exodus during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Bihar has been amongst the more backward states in the country and a very large number of Biharis work outside the state, primarily in Mumbai; during the lockdown a large number of them were forced to return to Bihar. Unfortunately, they discovered there were no jobs for them back in their home state of Bihar either and their families were not in a mood to welcome them back in their villages.
The MGB attack on Modi seems to have backfired. The credit for the victory of the BJP- led NDA has been attributed to Narendra Modi. Modi himself in his statement has insisted that “the youth of Bihar had made it clear that the new decade that will be of Bihar and for self-reliant Bihar. Voters in Bihar have made it clear that development is their only aspiration…Bihar thought the world how democracy can be strengthened.”
HARRIS FOR USA VP
AND a few stray thoughts on the selection of Kamala Harris as the vice-president of the United States, which dramatizes that the US is still perhaps the only genuine democracy around in the world. Admittedly the election of former president Barrack Obama demolished the myth that blacks or negroes cannot be president material for the USA. The blacks, as the negro population of America is referred to, constitute the largest percentage of the population next to original white migrant settlers.
But American Indians represent less than 2% of the population of the United States. It was therefore presumed that there was no chance of a person of Indian origin becoming either vice-president or president of the US! Admittedly the post of vice-president of the United States is a largely ceremonial like the post of the Indian president. With one major difference being that in case anything happens to the 78-year-old president elect Joe Biden, Kamala Harris automatically becomes president for the remaining term of Joe Biden.
Nobody of course wishes Biden any ill as he has already had more than his share of the tragedies of life. He has lost his wife and sons and other close relatives and has endured enough grief. Moreover even at 78 he looks very fit. There is something about power having a dramatic effect on the health of politicians! I recall that a group of editors including me had gone to Delhi to call on PV Narsimha Rao, the then 74-years-old home minister of the country. We had approached him to confer the status of official language on Konkani so that Goa would become a full-fledged state.
Narsimha Rao looked very sick and feeble and almost at death’s door. He did not give us any hope of Konkani becoming the official language of Goa. A few months later the twists of fortune made him prime minister and after the sudden death of Rajiv Gandhi. It may be recalled that Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by Sri Lankan militants near Chennai airport.
Later when PV Narasimha Rao came on a visit to Goa, this time when editors had an opportunity to meet him, and he looked totally transformed into a youthful, vigorous, healthy person — unlike the man we had spoken to just a few months back! Similarly, after the US elections results were clear Joe Biden looks much rejuvenated and totally fit not just to complete one but two terms as president of USA.
KAMALA Harris’ mother comes from a backward class community, born in remote village Thulasendrapuram in Tamil Nadu. It is extremely doubtful if Kamala would have become even councillor or sarpanch if her mother had stayed on in India. Her mother married a Jamaican and daughter Kamala distinguished herself more for sporting talent than her academic record.
Her mother had migrated to the United States when she was 19. Kamala’s mother is reported to have asserted that she was aware that she had two black daughters, but was determined to give them the opportunities that she did not have in India. Kamala Harris benefited by the total equality of opportunities in the United States which is a genuine meritocracy.
Which effectively means that if you have the necessary talent and aptitude you can reach the top in any field, unlike in India where caste and community considerations matter so much to do well in life. Kamala Harris is not the only person of Indian origin or even Tamilian origin who has reached the top of the ladder in the United States. Former chairperson of Pepsi, giant biggest soft aerated drinks and snacks company in the world, is Indira Nooyi.
Similarly, the chief executive officer of Microsoft, Satya Narayana Nadella, is also of Indian origin. Given the increasing role that people of Indian origin are playing in the United States there is every possibility that we could have a president of Indian origin in the USA!
Even reaching the position of vice-president is a very significant achievement. The fact that Joe Biden chose Kamala Harris as his running mate shows that unlike Trump he is a liberal and not a white supramist. Trump has a pathological hatred for the non-white citizens of the United States, particularly the Mexicans. He had repeatedly sought funds from the Congress for building a long tall wall between Mexico and the US to minimise the smuggling of drugs.
Trump had also reduced the number of work permits which were earlier granted to highly qualified Indians hired by top IT companies in the US. He barred spouses of Indian technocrats working in the US from doing jobs without work permits, even if they were qualified for work. There are already indications that Joe Biden will be a far more liberal president who will not discriminate between any sets of migrants. The whites who make up the major chunk of the American population are themselves migrants from earlier times and come from the United Kingdom.
AND a few stray thoughts on the business community in Goa being furious with Chief Minister Pramod Sawant for waiving almost Rs277 crore owed by the casino industry! The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has questioned the decision, pointing out that no such incentives have been provided to the medium and small scale industries. The worst affected by the lockdown in Covid-19 are the medium and small scale industries.
Unlike the mega industries which can find technological solutions in observing Covid-19 guidelines, the small scale units do not have the means to do so. For instance, the automobile industry can hire robots instead of humans for assembly line jobs. Medium and small scale industries which manufactured intermediate and smaller products do not have such an option.
A case in point is Zarak Moulders which makes Shakti water tanks and other moulded plastic items like wastepaper bins, they cannot substitute human manpower with technology. If they have to enforce the one meter physical distance specification they would need much more space.
Similarly, small and medium scale industries have suffered because of the sharp fall in demand post Covid-19. With large numbers of blue collared workers and even top executives losing their jobs the demand for goods and services offered by small and medium sized industries has suffered very badly. An example is the restaurant and hotel industry which continues to bleed. Even though restaurants and even bars have been allowed to reopen they can function at only 50% of their capacity. This is not viable as the overheads such as air conditioning and furniture and fixtures are the same whether a restaurants is being used to 100% capacity or 50% capacity.
Small and medium business have to incur extra expenditure to protect their employees from infection and sickness. It may be recalled that pharma company in Verna, Tulip Diagnostics, reported almost a hundred cases of covid-19 possibly because they did not take enough precautions in anticipation of Covid-19 infections.
Every industrial unit or even office has to use sanitizers not only for their employees but also the surfaces as Covid-19 is known to stick to surfaces for 72 hours. This would require a separate unit to sanitize the work place after every shift so that the infection doesn’t spread. Unlike the government which has asked its employees to come on alternative days, industries cannot afford to do so.
Also not all small and medium scale industries can exercise the option of asking their employees to work from their homes. There may be many lower middle class employees who may not have the facilities to work from home. If for instance the government asks all its employees to work from home it would have to supply them with more than 50,000 high quality computers. Even those who are used to working at home get tired after some time. There is a major difference between working from home and going to office. Particularly if you have family members or mother-in-laws who might not let them work in peace.
They decision of the Goa government to give a financial subsidy to the casino industry in the form of a wavier at the cost of the medium and small scale industry is unfair and bad in faith for the larger economic concerns of Goa.
AND a last stray thought on the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) declared by the state government for the 10th and 12th standard schools which have to re-open come November 21, 2020. The procedures seem to be complicated and in many cases impractical. Managements are required to have appropriate backup of items like face covers, masks and hand sanitizers for teachers and employees. Employees who are at higher risk who are being infected because of comorbidities should not be exposed to any front line work which would require direct contact with students.
The students have to be asked to come in shifts to ensure that there are not more than 12 students to a class. Classes can also be held in open spaces if the classrooms are small and there is space outside and weather conditions suitable. Schools are expected to make specific markings on the floor with distancing of six feet, and physical distancing has to be maintained in staff room, office areas and places like canteen and library. School managements also have to keep oxymeters on standby as it is dangerous if oxygen levels in the blood drop below 93.
The SOP also classifies that students should not be allowed to gather together during the intervals or allowed to use the playgrounds. This is difficult to enforce as the natural inclination is for students to interact with each other and play and eat together. The most objectionable of the SOP guidelines is that every visitor coming to the school including staff are expected to download Arogya Sethu App which indicates and traces any Covid-19 positive person around within a radius of a meter!