Guj: Sharad faction to fight six-seven seats with auto as symbol

The Sharad Yadav-led faction of JD(U) will contest six-to-seven seats with the symbol ‘autorickshaw’, as they concluded the discussions on seat sharing with Congress.

While an announcement about the seat sharing arrangement is likely to made by Congress soon, sources said their nominees will contest mainly in tribal dominated constituencies where sitting MLA and Yadav faction president Chotubhai Vasava has considerable clout.

The Nitish Kumar-led party, which the Election Commission on Friday recognised as “real” JD(U) following a petition by Yadav faction, is contesting around 12 seats in the state and will fight against BJP, its alliance partner in Bihar.

It will be a show of strength by both factions as JD(U) has fielded candidates in tribal areas where Vasava, who voted in favour of Congress’ Ahmed Patel in Rajya Sabha elections ignoring Kumar’s directions, has a following. Kumar and Yadav had parted ways over the former’s decision to join hands with BJP in July.

While Yadav faction does not see any impact of Kumar’s candidates in the fray, it could lead to splitting of votes in the socialist bloc.

Sources said Congress has also reached an understanding with Sharad Pawar-led NCP and they would get a couple of seats. Congress is still upset with NCP over its MLA voting against Patel and may not accede to all its demands.

Senior Congress leaders and Vasava were holding discussions for the past several days. “Auto-rickshaw is our symbol. We will not fight on Congress symbol…We had our talks with Congress. Congress will now announce the seat sharing arrangements,” Yadav told reporters.

Yadav said the BJP will bite the dust in Gujarat and the party is trying to mislead people using reports by credit agencies like Moody’s which does not understand the pains of people.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 19, 2017)

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Jignesh Mevani on Gujarat polls

Gujarat is going through interesting times, politically. An Assembly election is days away. The ruling BJP is facing a tough challenge from the opposition ranks. Three youths — Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore and Jignesh Mevani — have stirred the political pot and caught the imagination of people. Will BJP bite the dust in Gujarat where it is ruling for an uninterrupted 22 years? Can opposition get its act together? The trio believe so. Mevani, a Dalit leader who rose to limelight after the incident of flogging of Dalits in Una last year, was in Delhi on Nov 16, 2017 and spoke to a group of journalists about BJP, Gujarat and the upcoming Assembly polls. Excerpts:

Why is Gujarat Assembly elections so bitterly fought this time?

Gujarat is witnessing a historic poll. The progressive, pro-poor forces have come together. If Indian Constitution and democracy have to survive, we have to stop the BJP-RSS fascist forces from winning in 201. If you have to stop them in 2019, it is important to defeat BJP in the Gujarat polls. We are in that project and doing whatever needed to achieve that objective.

In what the BJP calls a ‘Vibrant Gujarat’, 14 lakh more people have fallen below poverty line between 2000 and 2014. Malnutrition is rampant in state. Gujarat has fallen in several human development index. Gujarat model is a farce. It is not an inclusive model. If Gujarat model was a success, youths, farmers, labourers and others would not have hit the streets protesting. There is widespread dissatisfaction in Gujarat.

The BJP is shaken and desparate. We can see it when they are talking about the sex life of a 24-year-old Hardik Patel. They cannot beat us and speak about development. That is why they have raised this sex CDs and Ram v/s HAJ (Hardik, Alpesh, Jignesh) in a bid to communalise the polls. They should counter us on development and ideology.

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You three youths represent different sections of the society and are together against BJP. But the communities you three represent have interests which are contradictory to each other. How will you address these contradictions?

One has to understand that there are 97-98 types of untouchability between OBCs and Dalits. Within Dalit sub-castes, there are 99 types of untouchability, according to an earlier study. Despite all this, when flogging of Dalits happened in Una, all sub-castes stood together. I agree there are internal contradictions between Patels and Dalits, other OBCs and Dalits and so on. But we have identified that our principle contradiction is with BJP and not with others. We have identified our common enemy and it has become a unifying point.

At a later stage, I agree, these contradictions within our groups have to emerge. But now farmers, landless people, youth and many other sections are against BJP. There is an unprecedented dissatisfaction in Gujarat. Post Una, there is a substantial consolidation of anti-BJP forces. In rural areas, we are well ahead. I don’t have a concrete answer for urban areas. But BJP which won 55 of the 58 seats in urban areas last time, will have to settle with 35-40 seats this time. My prediction is that BJP will not get more than 80 (out of total 182 seats).

What about your talks with Congress? How many seats you have demanded? Will your supporters contest on Congress symbol?

This is election time and I am a face of the protest. I have met Rahul Gandhi. Media has made our meeting a high profile event. I had then said that we will maintain our exclusive, independent space. I do not extend support to any party. We will continue to ask them to make clear their stand on our demands. Why should we extend support to somebody or go with some party. We have not asked for any seats. If at all we fight elections, it will be as independents and not on anyone’s symbol.

Will you contest?

I am not contesting. Why should I confine myself when I can play a bigger role.

You said you will not announce support to any party. Without naming whom to vote for, will it end up in splitting anti-BJP votes?

Don’t try to make me name a party. My gut feeling is that people won’t make that mistake again (of splitting anti-BJP votes). People have made up their mind. Nothing is going in BJP’s favour. We are not asking for a third option now. Message has gone to the people that BJP has to be defeated. There is no confusion in my stand as people in Gujarat understands who is to be defeated. People of Gujarat knows whom to vote for to defeat BJP. We are contributing to that mood of the people.

The BJP argument is that once Prime Minister Narendra Modi hits the campaign trail, the narrative will change. Do you think so?

Modi has been visiting Gujarat at least thrice a month in the recent times. But nothing has clicked for the saffron party. They had started this Ram v/s HAJ to communalise the campaign. Then they came up with the CD. Out of desperation they are reaching bedrooms of opponents. But nothing has clicked so far. So they will rake up communal issues. We will counter them. If they are going to raise issues like Ram temple or Pakistan, we will keep asking questions on price of petrol, why ‘dal’ is being sold at Rs 120? If they raise love jihad, we will ask why not inter-caste marriages and we will say ‘Pyaar, Ishq Mohabbat Zindabad’. We will ask the Prime Minister about his promise of generating two crore employment per year. I challenge Modi, Amit Shah and Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani for a public debate with me, Hardik and Alpesh on development. Time and place, it is their choice. 

(Nov 17, 2017)

Screened at int’l fests, YouTube takes ‘Penile Code’ down

A short film ‘Penile Code’, set against the backdrop of re-criminalisation of gay sex in India and screened at several international festivals , has now been taken down from Youtube citing violation of its nudity or sexual content.

Filmmaker Sharat Chandra Bose (29) is now approaching the Youtube seeking restoration of his debut film on the platform. Bose is now working on his second shortfilm ‘Mundan’ (Tonsure) that looks into the lives of a North Indian couple vacationing in Kerala.

Short film Penile Code

Made in 2014, Penile Code has been streaming on the Youtube for almost two years. It was viewed more than four lakh times before it was taken down. Its removal from a platform like Youtube is quite understandable in today’s time and age. But it is a blatant violation of freedom of cinematic expression,” Bose told DH.

Bose said he came to known about the removal while searching for the link on Youtube for a purpose related to ‘Dialogues: Calcutta International LGBT Film and Video Festival to be held from November 23 to 27. The shortfilm has been selected to this festival.

Shot in surrealistic method, the short film explores the troubles of a young lesbian couple in an Indian city where gay sex is banned, violence in their relationship and their struggle with society. Bose explains that Penile Code tries tries to look into the dynamics of the relationship during the time in India when religious lumpiness is on the rise.

While his first film is tries to explore relationship in the present political times through a homosexual couple, the second one is trying to interpret it through a hetro-sexual couple.

Short Film Penile Code 1

The 14-minute short film Penile Code was premiered at the Kinofest International Digital Film Festival-2014 in Romania. Besides being selected to the Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner and International Festival of Cinema in Italy’s Campania, it also won Innovative Film Award at the YOUKI International Youth Media Festival-2014 in Austria.

“According to me any kind of censorship is not acceptable. Censorship is real threat for those who are aiming at public exhibitions like theatre release and govt controlled film festivals etc. It is the outcome of the fear and ignorance of the state mechanism,” Bose said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 13, 2017)

Also read: https://sheminjoy.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/penile-code-selected-selected-to-cannes-short-film-corner/

AAP’s Rajya Sabha troubles

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) can win all the three Rajya Sabha seats falling vacant in January but intense factionalism appears to be tying its hands to nominate partymen and force the leadership to look for outsiders.

Speculation is rife that AAP may approach former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan with an offer to send him to the Upper House as sources said an informal decision has been taken to deny tickets to any of its leaders.

Though some leaders are claiming that such a move to nominate eminent people would enhance party’s image at the national level, sources said intense lobbying for the posts is one reason why the party leadership is looking at such an option.

Kumar Vishwas, who has positioned himself against Delhi Chief Minister and party chief Arvind Kejriwal, has already indirectly staked claim for a seat while his detractors are in no mood to give him a free hand. Senior leaders Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh and Dileep Pandey, whom Vishwas claim are against him, are among the other possible faces.

However, sources said selecting three from the senior leaders would be a difficult task and it could expose the faultlines in the party once again. The party had just re-grouped after the electoral reverses in Assembly elections and Delhi civic body elections.

AAP, with 65 seats in a 70-member Assembly, can get all the three candidates into Rajya Sabha.

Sources said choosing any top leader could also send a wrong message to the cadre as it be projected as cornering plum posts by a coterie around Kejriwal. Vishwas has been amplifying this aspect that a coterie is trying to fix him while a section has already approached Kejriwal against any move to promote the poet-turned-politician.

After his rebellion earlier this year, Vishwas was made in-charge of Rajasthan but he is yet to get back his clout in the central leadership. At the National Council meet here earlier this month, he was not given a slot to speak.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 9, 2017)

At least 50% believe #DeMo did not change much

Half of the people who participated in a survey by a group of NGOs felt that demonetisation had not much impact on wiping out blackmoney or tackling terrorism.

While a little over one-third of the 3,647 respondents spread across 21 states believed that it would only benefit the corporate, close to two-third respondents felt it would be difficult for the marginalised and poor to go cash-less.

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The results of the survey, which were part of a report ‘Demonetisation: Exorcising the Demon’ that has an “incomplete list” of 90 people who died due to the exercise, were released on Tuesday on the eve of first anniversary of the announcement to de-legitimise then existing Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

According to the survey by Delhi-based Anhad and 32 other NGOs, 55.4% disagreed with the argument that demonetisation wiped out blackmoney. Only 26.6% felt that it had an effect on blackmoney while around 17.5% did not answer the question.

It is interesting to note that Drivers (83.3%) and rickshaw pullers (69.2%) rejected the preposition that demonetisation will wipe out blackmoney in large numbers, the survey said.

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Most affected
Common man — 64.8
Politician — 14.8
Rich people — 15.4
Don’t know — 4.7

Know someone who lost job
Yes — 50
No — 49.4

Workers, rickshaw pullers, vegetable vendors can operate without currency
Correct — 22.8
Incorrect — 68.5
Don’t know — 8.1

Will be free from corruption
Correct — 39.3
Incorrect — 46.9
Don’t know — 13.4

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Youths appeared to be more receptive to the government claim that the exercise would have an impact on its fight against blackmoney.

Among the youth, the survey said, 35.2% felt that the announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8 last year had an effect on blackmoney but as the age of the respondents increased, the percentage dropped consistently. In the age group of 46 to 55 years, these were as low as 15.5%.

Around 48.2% of the respondents did not believe that it would have any impact on terror attacks while 25% remained non-committal. The survey showed that 45.4% did not believe that demonetisation has stopped infiltration from Pakistan and that it continues unabated. However, 32% felt that it has stopped cross-border infiltration.

To a question whether ‘farmers, labourers, household workers, rickshaw pullers and vegetable hawkers would be able to manage without cash’, only 23% responded positively while 68% thought that it would not work.

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To eradicate black money forever
Correct — 26.6
Incorrect — 55.4
Don’t know — 17.5

Will wipe out terrorism
Correct — 26.3
Incorrect — 48.2
Don’t know — 25.3

Stopped Pakistani infiltration.
Correct — 32.2
Incorrect — 45.4
Don’t know — 22

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The survey also said close to 50% of the respondents said they knew of people who lost jobs and marriages postponed. More than 60% felt that demonetisation had any impact on farmers while 44% were sceptical and did not think that demonetisation would lead to betterment of villages.

“The survey conducted post demonetisation to gauge its impact on a cross section of the people (not a representative sample though) supports the contention that the poor are adversely impacted. Yet, the elections conducted after this move was announced have shown that the base of the ruling party has not been affected. The political impact has not followed the economic impact and this disjuncture needs to be understood,” Prof Arun Kumar, an expert on blackmoney, said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 8, 2017)

Agitated Indians taking to streets more often

Indians appear to be more on agitation mode in the past couple of years with official statistics showing a steep rise in protests compared to the beginning of this decade.

Among them, government employees are the most agitative as their numbers are soaring while students and labourers too add up to the number of protests.

While the number of various modes of agitations rose by 14,415 for a period of four years between 2011 and 2014, the corresponding rise between 2014 and 2016 is 28,351.

Members of Patel community climb a police vehicle as they attend a protest rally in Ahmedabad

Opposition leaders attribute the rise in numbers mainly due to the policies pursued by the Narendra Modi government though a number of agitations were against respective state governments and local bodies.

“These numbers show there is a huge discontent and disillusionment among people. Government is failing to meet the expectations of people in fulfilling the poll promises. Our farmers, students, labourers and employees are on the streets. One has to think why it is so,” CPI National Secretary D Raja said.

According to the ‘Data on Police Organisations 2017’, there were 1,15,837 agitations across the country in 2016 as against 1.09 lakh in 2015.

An examination of previous ‘Data on Police Organisations’ reports by Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) showed that there were 87,486 protests in 2014 while it was 73,341 in 2011.

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AGITATIONS in 2016

2011

2014

2015

2016

Communal

3,106

5,673

8,061

6,587

Student

6,005

11,748

9,454

10,205

Labourers

6,978

8,613

13,361

12,989

Govt employees

14,218

15,816

17,628

23,074

Parties

22,708

25,283

32,339

29,400

Total (including others)

73,341

87,486

1,09,423

1,15837

Source: Data on Police Organisations2017/BPRD

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Almost all sorts of agitations, whether it is communal, students, labourers, government employees and by parties, all witnessed an almost double increase in numbers between 2011 and 2016.

While there were 23,074 agitations by government employees in 2016 as against 17,628 in the previous year, showing a sharp increase. Students’ agitation showed a marginal increase from 9,454 to 10,205. There were 6,587 communal agitations, down from 8,061. Political parties organised 29,400 agitations while 33,582 were marked in ‘others’ category.

Uttarakhand recorded the maximum agitation of 21,966 followed by Tamil Nadu 17,043 and Punjab 11,876. Surprisingly, the report shows that the politically-active Uttar Pradesh, the biggest state in the country, had only 67 protests. Karnataka witnessed 3,441 protests, including 1,457 communal agitations, in 2016 while the national capital had 7,904 protests.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 4, 2017)

Photo courtesy: Rediff

Women police: Recruitment at snail’s pace

Recruitment of women in police forces in the country is moving at snail’s pace with latest figures showing that only around 17,200 were recruited in 2016.

The latest ‘Data on Police Organisations 2017’ shows that there are 1.40 lakh women personnel in state police forces in 2016 as against 1.22 lakh in the previous year. Women account for just 7.28% and it is a rise from 7.10 reported in 2015.

Only 42,666 were women were added to police force in the five years from 2012, the report prepared by Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) said.

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The report has acknowledged that availability of adequate women in police is essential to reduce the vulnerability of women becoming victims of crime. It said overall shortage of women police is posing challenges in the form of increased crimes against women.

This underlines the need to bring more women to frontline duties, the report said while criticising, as in earlier reports too, the tendency to engage women personnel only in situations like security checks.

Unless women are assigned mainstream duties in the police stations, there would not be adequate impact on the community, the report noted.

Only 10.62% (14,892) of the total women personnel are in the rank of Assistant Sub Inspectors or above. The report said that 1.25lakh are either Constables or Head Constables.

The number of women officers in senior positions is also very low. While there are 482 officers in the rank of Director General, Special Director General and Additional Director General, only 10 are women. Of the 547 Inspectors General, only 41 are women while only 27 out of 367 Deputy Inspectors General are from the fairer sex.

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Women in Police

2012 — 97,518

2013 — 1,05,325

2014 — 1,10,872

2015 — 1,22,912

2016 — 1,40,184

Source: Data on Police Organisations2017/BPRD

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Among the states, Maharashtra has the highest representation of women at 18.70% (26,208 out of 2,25,475) followed by Tamil Nadu 11.81% (16,553 of 1,28,197). Maharashtra has improved its reprentation of women from 2015’s figure of 12.07%.

The largest state of Uttar Pradesh has just 7583 women police personnel, six down from previous years, out of 1.98 lakh-strong force, which is just 3.81%.

Karnataka has 4,895 women personnel out of a total of 91,002 personnel at 5.38%. In 2015, the state had just 6.14% (4,354 out of 70,934) women in police forces.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Nov 4, 2017)

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