By Rajan Narayan

And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Narendra Modi has stopped talking about crossing the 400 mark in the ongoing parliamentary elections. For a Saturday following the week when how the godi media promotes the BJP and blocks out Opposition leaders like Arvind Kejriwal. For a Saturday following the week when on 98% students clearing the 10th standard exam. In the case of the CBSE schools the percentage is higher at 99%. For a Saturday following the week when the effect of climate change. For a Saturday following the week when on the Sensex which is a barometer of the Stock Exchange losing confidence in the return of Modi. For a Saturday following the week when on the population decline not only in India but throughout the Western world.
AND a few stray thoughts on when Narendra Modi has stopped talking about crossing the 400 mark in the ongoing parliamentary elections. This was in the context of the low polling percentage in the first of the four phases of the ongoing parliamentary elections. The turnout has been five to 10 percent lower than in the 2019 parliamentary elections.
This, despite the fear-mongering engaged in by Narendra Modi. However, neither the Ram Mandir nor Modi’s huge road show at Ayodhya has lured the voters to come out in the huge numbers that he expected. The RSS and BJP karyakarta have not been able to get the committed BJP voters to the polling booth. There are persistence reports that Modi has become panicky.
Modi has stopped playing the temple card. But he continues to do minority bashing. He keeps repeating the charge that Rahul Gandhji is threatening to take away the “streedhan” and
mangalsutra from Hindu women and give it to the Muslims. The canard is that if the BJP does not come to power the INDIA Opposition will introduce a quota for Muslims. Now even Hindus are disgusted with the baiting of Muslims.
Muslims in India are not the fundamentalist type. They are all converts from Hinduism. They’re as much Indians as the Hindu majority. In any case Hindus constitute 80% of the population of the country. Muslims have played a major role in the economy of the country. Even in Benaras or Varanasi, the silk weavers are from the Muslim community and so are those who sell bangles and other crafts in the holy Hindu towns.
Modi tried to scare voters by highlighting a minor attack on the Air Force convoy in Kashmir. It was feared that a desperate Modi would play the war drum and even start a conflict with Pakistan, but Defense Minister Raj Nath Singh quickly clarified that India has no intention of taking back Pakistan-occupied Kashmir by force.
Though officially exit polls are not permitted the informal ones suggest that the NDA together will not cross 300 seats in this election. The BJP on its own will according to projection be limited to a maximum of 250 seats. It requires at 280 seats or even a simple majority in parliament.

AND a few stray thoughts on how the godi media promotes the BJP and blocks out Opposition leaders like Arvind Kejriwal. Since he was released on interim bail Kejriwal has held a major road show in Delhi. Both the print and electronic media blacked it out. In contrast throughout Sunday and Monday the electronic media has been full of Modi’s roadshow in Varanasi. The Varanasi roadshow was a saffron show of strength. Modi himself was dressed entirely in saffron. There was more sadhu than BJP karyakarta at the roadshow. We can understand focusing on the roadshow for an hour or even two hours but during prime time on Monday there was only Modi’s Varanasi road show. This came on the eve of Modi filing his nomination from Varanasi constituency. There has been little or no coverage for Arvind Kejariwal, his road show or his press conference in Delhi.
The only statement of Arvind Kejriwal that has been reported in the national print and electronic media is his observation that Narendra Modi will have to step down in 2025 when he turns 75 years. Kejriwal warns that Amit Shah will take over. This was a clever attempt at creating discord between Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. A paranoid Modi may well strike out against Amit Shah. But Amit Shah was quick to clarify that Modi would complete his full term and he was not a candidate for the prime minister post any time soon. The reaction of Amit Shah to Arvind Kejriwal getting bail shows how jittery the BJP is. When the media went to him for a comment on Kejriwal, Amit Shah barked that it was only interim bail and Kejriwal would have to surrender on June 2 after the elections are over. Kejriwal retorts that if BJP is defeated he would not have to go back to jail.

AND a few stray thoughts on 98% students clearing the 10th standard exam. In the case of the CBSE schools the percentage is higher at 99%. This would suggest that nearly all the 20,000 students who appeared have passed the exam. There has been a tendency in the last decade to increase the percentage artificially. It is believed that failure at the SSC level is virtually a death sentence. Every government job even at the Class IV level requires a minimum qualification of SSC pass.
Admittedly the private sector is not obsessed with exam results at the lower levels. You don’t require an SCC for the job of a security guard or a shop assistant. We may say the most lucrative job for school dropouts could be the job of being a caretaker of sick or bed-ridden patients in hospital or home. Minimum charges quoted by caretakers or their agencies are as high as Rs30,000 per month. In addition, you may have to provide or pay extra for your caretaker’s breakfast, lunch, dinner.
But even the case of students who pass the SSC and HSC the percentage matters . Students with less than 60% are unlikely to get admission even to the higher secondary levels. The highest pass percentages are in the Vidya Vikas Academy in Madgaon and the Navy childrens school in Chicalim, Vasco da Gama port city down south Goa. The JNV in Cancona and Green Meadows in Nagoa got 100% results. The high end private schools are catching on. The Zee school produced the topper in class 10 scoring 97%.
We wish that instead of boasting about high percentage of passing efforts would be made to impart practical skills to students. All the skilled workers including electricians, plumbers, and even carpenters are migrants. There was a time when villages like Benaulim produced some of the best carved furniture. The rocking chairs from Benaulim had perfect balance. You could rock as much as you wanted without it never tumbled.
I recall being presented with two perfect rocking chairs by the then minister of sports Francisco Monte Cruz in the late 80s. Monte Cruz was upset that I was giving too much publicity to his rival Churchill Alemao. He sent his Mercedes to take me to his house in Margao for dinner. At the dinner he told me I should not spoil my reputation by praising Churchill who was a smuggler. I told him that too was considered a smuggler. Monte Cruz said he had given up smuggling.
When I admired the Goan rocking chairs at his home and expressed a desire to buy a couple, he surprised me by sending them across the next day. Monte Cruz was responsible for building the Fatorda stadium at Margao. Monte Cruz is also the reason why Churchill Alemao toppled the Rane government in the late 80s.

AND a few stray thoughts on the effect of climate change. Twice in the last one month Dubai has been flooded. The Arab states have been receiving unprecedented rainfall. Their drainage systems if they have any were never built to handle this kind of heavy rainfall in mind. The streets converted into rivers this time around. Rainwater even entered the huge malls. The gold souk (market) had to be cleared as neck deep water entered the biggest gold market in the world.
I have seen the gold souks in Dubai way back in the 80s when Air India took a group of media people from Goa on their inaugural flight to Dubai and the Emirates in the Gulf countries. Even 40 years ago Dubai was highly developed. It was a customs duty free country, so much so it attracted shoppers from around the world. Indians used to go there to buy electronic items and jewelry.
I recall buying a state of the art steam iron from Dubai. The former “Navhind Times” editor Bikram Vohra had moved out to the Gulf as editor of the “Khaleej Times.” He took us around in his air-conditioned limousine and hosted us to dinner at a floating restaurant. He boasted about the technology used by the “Khaleej Times” paper. I recall Narayan Athawale, then editor of “Gomantak” asking him if he could write against the Shaikh.
In recent years Dubai has been aggressively promoting itself as a real estate paradise. New islands are being created where you may buy an exclusive villa for between Rs.5-Rs10 crore. Several Indian and Goan industrialists including Pallavi Dempo, the south Goa parliamentary candidate, has an apartment in Dubai. So do filmstars Shahrukh Khan and Salman Khan.

AND a few stray thoughts on the Sensex which is a barometer of the Stock Exchange losing confidence in the return of Modi. The stock market has been witnessing a huge fall after the second and third phase of polling in India. The stock market has interpreted the poor turnout of voters as a vote against Modi. The stock market had gone up to unprecedented heights during the Modi regime as he was considered very business-friendly. The charge is that the only people who benefitted from Modi were the big industrialists and particularly the Adanis and Ambanis.
The foreign investors have been moving out of India to China. Many major shares including those of the adanis and Ambanis have witnessed a sharp drop. The stock market index has fallen by over a 1,000 points since the first phase of the polls. There is the fear that if the percentage of polling does not pick up all the industries favored by Modi will collapse. Already the stock exchange watchdog has served notices on the Adani Group companies.

AND a last stray thought on the population decline not only in India but throughout the Western world. Contrary to the claims of Narendra Modi that the decline of population of the Muslim minority community is sharper than that of the Hindu majority. What is of concern is the falling of fertility rates. In Goa the fertility rate is much lower than the replacement rate of two percent. This is largely due to late marriages and scarcity of suitable boys. What is curious is that while there may be a lot of sexual relationships nobody seems to want to have children. In the UK the migrant population is growing faster than the native British population, so much so that even Pope Francis has been appealing to the Italians to have more children.

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