By Rajan Narayan

AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when in the latest phase of the 2024 parliamentary election the turnout was lower at 60.3% against 62.5% in 2019. For a Saturday following the week when president of Iran and foreign minister, Ebrahim Raisi, died in a helicopter crash. For a Saturday following the week when the Indian Council for Medical Research rejected the recently published study on the long-term side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. For a Saturday following the week when a 17-year-old teenager crashed his Porsche into two software engineers in Pune. For a Saturday following the week when the State Bank of India refused to provide a copy of the standard operating procedure for the sale and redemption of electoral bonds.
AND a few stray thoughts on the latest phase of the 2024 parliamentary election with a turnout as low as 60.3% against the 62.5% in 2019. The Election Commission did not give the absolute figure of the number of people who voted in various constituencies. Again, the polling percentage was lowest in Maharashtra with only 55.7% voting in the election. In Uttar Pradesh, it was only 58.6%. The low turnout in UP and Maharashtra is not good for the BJP. The turnout was poor in Bihar also with only 57.2%. The BJP was expecting to get the majority of parliamentary seats in Bihar.
It may be recalled that the BJP successfully managed to get Chief Minister of Bihar Nitish Kumar to join the BJP on the eve of the elections. The highest voting percentage was in West Bengal which recorded over 80%. Higher polling was witnessed in Rae Bareli where Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is contesting. Not surprisingly, the turnout was lowest in south Mumbai which is the richest constituency in the country. South Mumbai has the highest number of millionaires in the country.
The one seat in Ladakh which was converted into a Union Territory by the Modi government also went to the polls in the fifth phase of the election. The perception is that the BJP will not take more than 250 seats in parliament.

AND a few stray thoughts on the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (who is also the foreign minister of Iran) in a helicopter crash. The helicopter in which they were travelling was caught in a fog over a mountainous region of Iran. The finger of blame is being pointed at Israel with which Iran has witnessed an armed conflict. There is not likely to be any change in the hard-life policies of the Iranian government.
Iran strictly observes the Sharait laws with the education of women not permitted. Iran still has the tradition of stoning women accused of adultery to death. Iran is one of the few Islamic states which has come to the support of the Palestinians mercilessly bombed by Israel’s hardliner government.
Recently, Iran launched an air attack on Israel. In retaliation, the United States enforced an embargo on the export of petroleum from Iran. Iran is the largest producer of petroleum and liquefied gas which goes into cooking cylinders. The supreme leader of Iran is the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is the religious head of the country. The sudden death of the Iranian president and foreign minister may escalate the tensions in the Middle East.
There is not likely to be any major change in the fundamentalists of Iran as the supreme leader still controls the government. Iran is one of the largest countries in the world in terms of geographical areas, which are more surplus than India. The Modi government shares good relationship with Iran and along with the rest of the country, Goa observed one day of mourning on Tuesday, May 21, 2024.

AND a few stray thoughts on the Indian Council for Medical Research rejecting the recently published study on the long-term side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. The study was carried out by the Benaras Hindu University. The study by the BHU concluded that 30% of those who had taken the COVID-19 vaccine have suffered severe side effects. The study by BHU also reported that pregnant women were affected by the vaccine.
The Serum Institute of India, a private organization owned by Dr Cyrus Poonawala, supplied the bulk of the vaccines administered in the country. While the vaccine was available in government hospitals free of charge, private hospitals like the Manipal Hospital in Goa charged as much as Rs5,000 per vaccine. The ICMR has claimed that the study was poorly designed and could not be relied on, ICMR has dis-associated itself from the findings of the BHU study.
The ICMR usually follows the directives issued by the Health Ministry. It has historically protected the manufacturers of drugs. ICMR itself has been under investigation by the government for rampant malpractices in granting recognition to private medical colleges. It would appear that ICMR is trying to protect Bharat Biotech, a government company which also supplied Covid19 vaccines. We are inclined to believe the BHU which is an independent academic body.

AND a few stray thoughts on a 17-year-old teenager Vedant Agarwal crashing his Porsche car into two software engineers in Pune. The teenager Vedant Agarwal, who is the son of the big builder Vishal Agarwal, was driving his Porsche at a breakneck speed of 160km. The teenager’s name has been disclosed by the police as the teenager did not have a driving license. He was reportedly under the influence of liquor while driving the car on a Sunday morning, May 19, when he drove the car into a bike at 2:30 am in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
The Porsche EV car had not been registered by his father. Apparently, the father must be aware that he has given his consent to the teenage son to drive the car. Both the teenage killer and his victims had come to the pub in the area. Pubs are very popular with the IT employees in Pune. All the major IT companies such as PCS, INFOSYS, and Cognizant have campuses in Pune. Since the killer teenager is not yet 18 he may get away with his crime. The teenager was released on bail by the juvenile justice board.
The police wanted to try him as an adult. The juvenile court to add insult to injury has directed the teen to study traffic rules and write a 300 word essay on the affect of road accidents. The police have filed the case for death due to rash and negligent driving, after Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnivas intervened. This is typical of the attitude of the police in high profile cases. The families of the couple who were killed in Porsche bash-up are being questioned. Anis Awadhiya and Ashwini Costa, the software engineers, aged 24, were from Jabalpur. They were celebrating the birthday party of Ashwini.
The police have reportedly been harassing the family for encouraging a relationship between the young couple. Children of the bold and the beautiful and the rich and powerful always get away with murder. Indeed, the police are protecting the identity of the teenager who murdered and his builder father.

AND a few stray thoughts on the State Bank of India refusing to provide a copy of the standard operating procedure for the sale and redemption of electoral bonds. Absurdly, the bank claimed that this involved commercial confidence and it was the internal business of the bank. The electoral bond scheme which was started by the Narendra Modi government was declared illegal by the SC. Under the electoral bond scheme, private companies would buy electoral bonds from the SBI without any limit. These could then be gifted to political parties.
Initially, the SBI refused to furnish the details of the purchases of bonds to the EC. The SBI was also unwilling to provide details on the electoral bonds redeemed by the political parties. When the details came out it was clear that the companies which gifted electoral bonds to the BJP secured major benefits.
So it was established that there is a link between changes in policies and donations to the BJP. The continued reluctance of the SBI to come clean shows that it continues to be under pressure from the Modi government.

AND a last stray thought on Samsung holding a 20% market share in the global smartphone market in the first quarter of 2024. The South Korean giant shifted 58 million units between January and March this year. Apple had a 17.3% market share and sold 50 million smartphones. Xiaomi, the Chinese company, came third with a 14% share and sold 41 million smartphones.

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