Times of India | 5 days ago | 24-11-2022 | 09:01 am
BATHINDA: Five days after starting an indefinite fast, farmer unionist Jagjit Singh Dallewal of the BKU (Ekta Sidhupur) has declined to hold further meetings with the Punjab chief minister until he implements the accepted demands. When the government functionaries approached him to set up a meeting with the CM, he said three meetings had happened since October 6 and now was the time for implementation. The team of doctors monitoring his health has reported his sugar level and weight to have declined. The state authorities continue to implore him to end the hunger strike or at least take medicine, but he keeps saying no. Punjab assembly speaker Kultar Singh Sandhwan on Monday night, inspector general of police Jaskaran Singh and Faridkot senior superintendent of police Rajpal Singh on Tuesday, and state agriculture minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal on Wednesday have all visited Dallewal and requested him to end his fast. Concerned by the road blockades Dallewal’s farmer union has engineered, CM Bhagwant Mann has said without naming it had become custom with some organisations to hold protests for funds. Dallewal started fasting on November 19 at Faridkot. He said that in their October 6 meeting, the Punjab government had agreed to fulfil all the demands of the farmer unions but had not taken any step in that direction. On the eighth day of protesting at Amritsar, Faridkot, Mansa, Patiala, Talwandi Sabo, and Mukerian, his activists burnt effigies of the state government to ask for land ownership rights to long-term tillers, compensation for crop damage and lumpy skin disease, restarting sugar mills, jobs to the families who lost farmers in the Delhi agitation, and withdrawal of cases and fines imposed for burning crop residue. Meanwhile, after Balbir Singh Rajewal, another farmer unionist in Ruldu Singh Mansa has accused Dallewal of acting at the BJP’s behest for its benefit in the Gujarat elections. He has claimed that Dallewal wants to prolong his protest in Punjab to show its ruling party in a bad light until Gujarat has voted. Two days ago, Dallewal had called Ruldu Singh Mansa “not a farmer unionist but a brick-kiln owner”. The Aam Aadmi Party is a contestant in Gujarat and any adverse impression from Punjab will benefit the BJP in those elections. Ruldu hinted about it when he called Dallewal “an agent of the BJP and the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh)”. Dallewal leads farmer union BKU (Ekta Sidhupur), while Ruldu heads the Punjab Kisan Union. Rajewal had laid similar allegations against Dallewal. The problems between them started after Ruldu’s union blocked roads and Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann had to speak out against the trend of disrupting traffic for protest. A week ago, Ruldu had said that farmer unions should protest without causing inconvenience to the general public. Reacting to it, Dallewal said: “Don’t talk to me about Ruldu Singh, who is not a farmer unionist but a brick-kiln owner.” On Wednesday, Ruldu hit back by alleging that Dallewal was fasting to help the BJP in the Gujarat elections and going a separate way from the SKM (Sanyukt Kisan Morcha) by continuing the blockades.” On the other allegation, he said: “Yes, my grandson is a 50% partner in a brick kiln, but I am fully devoted to the cause of farmers.”
Chhotubhai Vasava is contesting from Jhagadia (File)Jhagadia: The residence of seven-time MLA and Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) founder Chhotubhai Vasava in Vasna village of Gujarat's Bharuch district is unusually calm with very little activity, quite odd for someone contesting Assembly polls that are less than a week away.This time, Chhotubhai Vasava is contesting as an independent from his traditional Jhagadia seat in the district, from where he has won seven times in a row.The candidates of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), however, are slugging it out, hitting the ground, meeting voters, and seeking to wrest the seat held tightly by the septuagenarian leader for the last 32 years."I don't need to go out now. I don't have to buy votes. My workers are campaigning for me, visiting villages. I know people in every village and their issues," the 78-year-old leader told PTI.In the past three decades, Congress as well as the BJP have ended up as runners-up in the battle against Vasava. The Congress won this seat, reserved for the tribal community, in 1985 - nearly four decades.Be it any party's wave, Vasava held on to his bastion firmly, contesting either as an independent or a candidate of Janata Dal, Janta Dal (United) or BTP.But this time things are different, say his rivals.They look determined to snatch the seat from the ageing patriarch who holds sway in the tribal belt of Gujarat and Rajasthan.Two chief ministers - Bhagwant Mann (Punjab) and Yogi Adityanath (Uttar Pradesh), belonging to the AAP and BJP, respectively - have already campaigned for their candidates, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi also canvassing for the ruling party in this constituency speaks of the importance attached to the seat.But in the run-up to the next month's polls, there was a twist in the tale. Vasava's son and BTP president Mahesh Vasava entered the fray from Jhagadia as the party's official candidate. Soon later, his father jumped into the poll arena as an independent, revealing the fissures in the family.Finally, Mahesh, the sitting MLA from the Dediapada constituency, withdrew from the contest to avoid making it a father versus son fight. So now, the seat does not have any official candidate from the BTP.This time, the BTP initially tied up with the AAP only to walk out of the alliance."I was never willing to ally with the AAP," Chhotubhai Vasava said.The BJP has fielded Ritesh Vasava (46), a former associate of Chhotubhai.The saffron party is also going all out to win this seat. UP CM Adityanath was among the star campaigners for the party that canvassed for him."PM Narendra Modi will address a rally in Netrang tehsil (which is part of the Jhagadia seat) on November 27," Ritesh said.He said education, health and roads will be at the top of his agenda if he is elected."I have worked with him (Chhotubhai) for 20 years, so I know how he works. The BJP has won the panchayat samitis in Jhagadia, Valia and Netrang (all three tehsils in the constituency), and it will also win this seat this time," he said.The Congress has fielded Fatehsinhbhai Vasava, while the AAP's Bharuch district president Urmila Bhagat is in the fray.Bhagat is seeking votes on the assurances of 300 units of free electricity, Rs 3,000 unemployment allowance and Rs 1,000 allowance to women above the age of 18 years. Plus, the development in the areas of health and education, Bhagat added.But Chhotubhai Vasava looks unperturbed."My support (among the tribals) has not receded," he said.Jhagadia goes to polling on December 1, in the first phase of the two-phased Assembly elections. With 2,58,955 voters, the economic activity of this area is largely around the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC).As one enters Vasna village, the roads are smooth. There are posters of BTP candidate Mahesh Vasava (who withdrew from the race later) in some houses.Barely 100 meters from his residence lives Suresh Vasava, a 27-year-old agricultural labourer and father of three (one son and two daughters). Suresh said there is no water in his locality despite a tap that was recently provided.Suresh said he makes Rs 200 a day by working in the fields of others. He received money to build toilets under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, but it is too small and water is an issue, so he goes out to relieve himself.Near him is 21-year-old Vishal Vasava, who will cast his vote for the first time in an assembly poll. Vishal could not clear his matriculation and works as an electrician in a company in the nearby GIDC and earns Rs 5,000. His main issue is there is no mobile network in his area which becomes a problem in an emergency.They did not specify their voting preference.In Selod village, two friends - Bhavesh Vasava (a daily wage labourer) and Malik Salman (who runs a small eatery in the GIDC), both 28 - do not complain of any major lack of amenities.Bhavesh said he will vote for Chhotubhai, as always.Salman did not specify his voting preference but said the contest is tough as Chhotubhai has been an MLA for the last seven terms and there is a lot of anti-incumbency.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comBack in the main town of Jhagadia, a man, a BJP supporter, who runs an eatery said the saffron party candidate will trounce Chhotubhai, citing anti-incumbency. Featured Video Of The Day"Both Are Assets": Rahul Gandhi Amid Ashok Gehlot vs Sachin Pilot
GIFT City occupies 886 acres between Gandhinagar and AhmedabadIndia's newest financial hub is rising from scrubland near the banks of the Sabarmati river once dominated by marsh birds and grazing buffalo.In Gujarat, just a few glass-fronted towers greet the 20,000 employees of companies such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. and HSBC Holdings Plc who commute in each weekday. Its full name is Gujarat International Finance Tec-City, but it's more commonly known as GIFT City. It occupies 886 acres between Gujarat's capital, Gandhinagar, and Ahmedabad, its biggest city. As of October, bankers managed a combined $33 billion here.What's drawing these companies? An exemption from the many rules and taxes that hamper business and trading in the rest of India. GIFT City is an experiment in free markets nestled inside a $3 trillion economy - one of the world's fastest-growing - that's long been reluctant to let its national currency, the rupee, become a plaything of international investors. The goal is to create a welcoming place where India-centric trading that's moved to Dubai, Mauritius or Singapore can return home.At first, Gujarat seems an unlikely location. On the west coast, it's the ninth-most populous state-and, as a mark of respect for Mahatma Gandhi, who was born in Gujarat, it bans the sale of alcohol, that lubricant for many a financial deal. Narendra Modi started planning GIFT City in 2008, when he was still the Chief Minister, and his ascension to Prime Minister in 2014 allowed him to give the project more policy help and a higher profile. In a July speech to bankers, regulators and executives from India and overseas, he proclaimed that "the vision of India's future is associated with GIFT City."Prime Minister Modi's government has offered an array of incentives, including a 100% tax holiday for a decade to businesses that set up within the hub's International Financial Services Center, or IFSC. Rules are being tweaked to encourage Indian companies to lease ships and aircraft through GIFT City rather than on foreign shores. Foreign universities will eventually be allowed to bypass regulations to open local campuses, and companies can use an international arbitration centre to avoid India's notoriously poor contract enforcement mechanisms.A key concern that the financial centre seeks to address is India's lack of full convertibility of its currency. Converting money into foreign currencies requires cumbersome documentation, and that's pushed trading in rupees and rupee-denominated financial assets to offshore centres that Indian regulators can't monitor. But within GIFT City most of these rules don't apply, enabling onshore trading in key currency derivatives contracts, which can counteract some of the effects that offshore trades have on the rupee exchange rate.Another product has migrated to the financial centre: a popular derivative based on a benchmark gauge of Indian stocks that was traded on the Singapore Stock Exchange. In 2022 the National Stock Exchange opened a cross-border trading link with Singapore - similar to the Hong Kong-Shanghai connect - to allow global investors to trade stock derivatives listed on the Indian market without needing to set up shop in India.Trading volumes have increased since a single regulator, the IFSC Authority, was created by the government in 2020 to streamline approvals and oversight in the special economic zone. In October, average daily turnover on the two stock exchanges in the financial center climbed to $14.6 billion, from $3.4 billion two years before, cumulative derivative transactions by banks jumped to $466 billion, from $22 billion, and cumulative banking transactions rose to $303 billion, from $45 billion."Beyond the shores of India, in some of those centres where India-centric business developed, they are able to notice that something is happening, and things may not be the same in the future," says Injeti Srinivas, the IFSC Authority's chairman. "Business is gravitating toward IFSC."A new international bullion exchange will let qualified jewellers directly import gold through GIFT City, a change from current rules permitting only some banks and nominated agencies approved by the central bank to do so. That loosening of restrictions is set to widen the importer base in India, the world's second-biggest consumer. An aircraft leasing and financing business is operating in GIFT City to tap into the demand of one of the world's hottest aviation markets for new-plane orders. Ship leasing will start soon.In July, JPMorgan and Deutsche Bank AGstarted operations in GIFT City. JPMorgan will initially offer clients foreign exchange derivatives and wants to leverage its position as one of the largest suppliers of physical bullion in the country. Deutsche Bank aims to tap the rising number of companies in India that need cross-border banking services, ranging from hedging to financing. (In 2018, Bloomberg LP, the owner of Bloomberg Markets, entered into an agreement to provide capital markets expertise to GIFT City.)"We think the GIFT City policy is a calibrated approach toward internationalisation of the rupee," says Srinivasan Varadarajan, a managing director in global emerging markets at Deutsche Bank in Mumbai. "It is similar in some characteristics to what has been seen in Asia over the last decade."Jaxay Shah, founder and managing director of property developer Savvy Infrastructure Pvt., is among the people betting on this growth. His company, which built the tower that houses Bank of America Corp. offices and the IFSCA's temporary headquarters, has purchased two nearby plots to double its holdings in GIFT City. "When else in my career would I get this kind of smart city, where there is an economic vision and no red tape?" Mr Shah says.GIFT City is the first in India to offer district cooling, an energy-efficient air conditioning system, as well as central waste, water and electricity management. Although it offers beautiful streets and boulevards and pristine sports centres, plus recent additions including a school and a hospital, workers tend to disappear in the evenings, taking electric buses to homes in nearby cities that have amenities such as cinemas and fast-food restaurants.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comSome younger executives in Mumbai, Delhi and Gujarat, who asked not to be identified because they weren't authorised to comment, say they're often questioned on calls about whether alcohol will be permitted. Multiple policymakers and lawmakers told Bloomberg Markets that they expect authorities will provide yet another rule exemption-to allow licences to buy and consume alcohol. The state government realises it needs to amend its teetotaller requirements to attract residents and ensure the project's success, they say.And that, in a nutshell, is the story of GIFT City: an oasis in which companies can escape rules and bureaucracy. An attempt to lure billions of dollars back to onshore markets. A "sandbox" in which fintechs can play with new products with seamless links to global systems. Perhaps even a vision for India's future.Featured Video Of The DayTelangana Politician YS Sharmila's Car Towed Away By Cops With Her In It
Anant Patel, 45, successfully led the agitation to block the Par Tapi Narmada river-linking project announced in the Union Budget. A former sarpanch who won his first Assembly election in 2017 to become the Congress MLA from Vansda, Patel belongs to the Dodhia tribe. Contesting from the Vansda seat for the second time, Patel speaks about the Adivasi vs Vanvasi debate, how development has not reached the Adivasis, and why joining politics was important for him.PATEL: Adivasi. Rahul Gandhi also said it. When the whole world knows us as Adivasi, indigenous people, a (distinction) is being created that while adivasi means someone from adi-kaal (ancient times), vanvasi means one who lives in the forest… Like Rahul Gandhi said, Adivasis are the original owners of the land. These RSS people, BJP people don’t think like that. They feel that all the resources are in the Adivasi area – jal, jungle, zameen – and how to take these away by calling them Vanvasi.Now the Mumbai-Delhi corridor is also passing through Unai, so is the Bharatmala (road development) project. The Surat-Ahmednagar-Chennai road passes through 23 villages here. All these projects are going past the 14 districts of Adivasis.PATEL: In Kevadia, they said there is so much development and that Adivasis will get employment. But what do they mean by employment? Changing sheets of a hotel room or doing the dishes is employment? We don’t want such employment where the Adivasi has to change the sheets, wash dishes or sweep the floor. Take Saputara, all seven villages were displaced to Navagam, which has no panchayat. So they have no rights to vote for the taluka or zilla panchayat.PATEL: I am not talking about the Congress or the BJP. I am talking about Adivasis. So, do you want to continue the same thing or bring about some change? The Congress at least gave us land. They made us farmers, farm labourers. These people talk about stealing your land… No hotel owner in Saputara is an Adivasi. If you acquire so much land, at least give hotels to 25 Adivasis to run… In these 27 years, the BJP has not done anything good for the Adivasis. In February 2017, they brought in the PESA (Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act), but in a weaker form than the 1996 law.How do you say that?PATEL: All the power of the gram sabhas was taken away. They only have the power to decide on timru (used in Ayurveda products) leaves and honey harvesting. Earlier the gram sabha could clear projects that came up on village land; in any police case, what the gram sabha said was final… (Now) in 23 villages, gram sabhas have said they don’t want the Bharatmala project, yet they have finalised it… The Surat-Ahmednagar-Chennai road was to pass through Surat, but because Surat is so developed, they are diverting it via Navsari. They don’t want to disturb the cities.When Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his campaign from Kaprada, he said that for him, A is for Adivasi.PATEL: So, should we eat that to survive? What is the meaning of that? A for Adivasi, then A for Adani, and A is for Anant (Patel) too. What is the benefit to us?The PM also said that projects like the Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana give opportunities to Adivasis to become engineers, doctors, learn English…PATEL: Is there a single English-medium school in villages except Eklavya schools? They closed 6,000 schools in the name of merging, of which 58 were in Vansda. We took out rallies and did not allow even one to close. There was a secondary school in Kurelia. They have built a compound, a hostel, there is a cook, but the school has not started as there is no teacher….PATEL: Nearly 50,000 families would have got displaced. Not only that our culture, hopes and identity would go. There is a sizeable leopard population (in the area), and Asia’s largest spider species. When the Narmada dam was still to be built, bears would come to the area, but no longer… We worked hard to flatten the hilly terrain for farming, and now will we allow it to get submerged? We have demanded a white paper (on the project).It will always be the case that a water-rich region will provide for an arid area. What is the solution?PATEL: You take water for drinking, we have no problem. But not for industries… Why build Sardar Vallabhbhai statue in Kevadia, evacuate 33 villages? Why break up villages? Why build hotels to develop a place?PATEL: Isn’t Medha Patkar a citizen of the country? If I am doing an andolan (agitation), and a BJP minister comes, should I tell them to leave? This is Bharat Jodo Yatra, it is not under a banner, Rahul Gandhi is just leading it. It is not a Congress yatra.… Anybody who tries to do good for Adivasis, their image is slowly distorted. I don’t know if I will still be alive (by then), but they might call me Naxalite in a few days.After former CM Amarsinh Chaudhary, there has been no tribal leader. Why is that?PATEL: No party allows a (tribal) leader to rise, the Congress included. But so far (in my party), nobody has stopped me from doing anything. I have told them that for me, samaj (community) is first, and the party second. I will not leave the party, but samaj comes first. Were I not from the Adivasi samaj, would I have got a mandate here? I don’t fight from a general seat, that I have to follow what the party says.The Congress had won 17 of the 27 tribal seats last time (two in alliance with Bharatiya Tribal Party), but six of the MLAs defected to BJP. Were you also approached?PATEL: The problem with political parties is that those who get elected, don’t leave their seats till they die. If they leave, only then can youths get a chance. So if you want a party to come to power, this kind of churn on its own is good.PATEL: I became a leader from the party. I believe that any leader, if he wants to do something for their community, be it Hardik (Patel), Jignesh (Mevani) or Alpesh (Thakor), it is very necessary that they join a political party. If the party forms the government, they can get work done. Before I got to the Vidhan Sabha in 2017, I thought it was not necessary that a samajik leader is a (political) leader. But that is not the case. When you reach the Assembly and something wrong happens with your samaj, you can raise your voice… I said this to Jignesh, and only after that did he come to the Congress. I said this to Hardik and also Alpesh… You cannot be two-faced. If you don’t join an andolan (agitation), and demand a ticket in the name of the community and fight on reserved seats, how does that work either?PATEL: The implementation of the 1996 PESA and Schedule 5 (giving special rights), big-ticket projects that damage the environment and cause displacement, Adivasi identity, employment.PATEL: The identity of the Adivasi is the same, he still has his feet on the ground, he still grows paddy. No matter how much I tell my father to sow sugarcane, he will grow paddy, even if it is one bigha… That has not changed even if he follows Christianity. His sanskriti is the same.
Isudan Gadhvi was a popular Gujarati news anchor before entering politics. (File)Khambhalia: The contest in Khambhalia has emerged as one to watch out for after the Aam Aadmi Party's chief ministerial candidate Isudan Gadhvi decided to contest from the seat where he is locked in a keen triangular fight with incumbent Congress MLA Vikram Madam and BJP's Mulubhai Bera.A popular Gujarati news anchor before entering politics by joining the AAP, Gadhvi enjoys a good image and has emerged as his party's main campaigner in the state but social equations in the constituency pose a challenge to him, poll watchers say. Both Madam, a seasoned politician and also a former Lok Sabha MP, and Bera, a former state government minister, come from the Ahir community, which is the largest caste in the seat where Muslim votes are also significant.Poll watchers say caste will play an important role in deciding voting preference and the AAP leader, whose community Gadhvi is numerically much less, has a disadvantage and Muslims may prefer the Congress. However, Gadhvi has projected himself as the son of a farmer who will work for everyone and not pander to community identities.AAP leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has claimed that Gadhvi will win with a record margin.Both Congress and BJP workers have claimed that the contest is between their two parties and the AAP will finish third in the fight.However, AAP members assert that the two traditionally big parties are "jolted" by their party's entry.The BJP had won the seat in 2007 and 2012 but lost to the Congress in a bypoll in 2014. The opposition party retained the seat in 2017.Khambhalia falls in Devbhoomi Dwarka district, a part of Saurashtra region which goes to the polls on December 1 in the first phase of the Gujarat polls.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comThe second phase is scheduled for December 5 and the counting of votes is due on December 8.(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)Featured Video Of The DayAttack On Aaftab Poonawala: Vigilantism Over Law?
— Mansi SinghAbout 66 per cent of schools in India lack access to the internet, with states such as Bihar and Mizoram having 92 and 90 per cent schools, respectively, in this category as per a Unified District Information System for Education plus (UDISE+) report for 2021–22.The report, which is an Education ministry initiative to collate data about school education, shows that 80 to 85 per cent of schools lack internet access in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, West Bengal, Meghalaya, Odisha, Telangana, and Tripura.Delhi and Lakshwadeep each have 100 percent schools with working computer facilities and 97.4 per cent schools with access to the internet. Delhi is also the only Union Territory (UT) to have 100 per cent of its schools with an internet connection. Other UT’s such as Chandigarh (98.7 per cent) and Puducherry (98.4 per cent) also perform well in this category.At 94.6 per cent and 92 per cent, Kerala and Gujarat are the top-performing states in this respect. Gujarat is also the only state in the country where more government schools have internet access than private. (94.2 per cent and 89. 6 per cent, respectively).However, the gap between government and private schools persists. While 59.6 per cent of the private and unaided schools and 53.1 percent of government-aided schools surveyed had internet access, only 24.2 per cent of government schools did so.The report adds that less than 50 per cent of the schools surveyed had functional computers, with accessible functional mobile phones for teaching purposes just at 20 per cent.The availability of smart classrooms is also low. Out of the 1.4 million schools in the country, only 2,22,155 have functional smart classrooms with digital or smart boards used for teaching. Out of its 3911 schools, Mizoram has only 25 schools with smart classrooms. Tamil Nadu has zero schools in this category. In what is indicative of a large gap between different regions in the country, West Bengal has 99.99 per cent schools with smart classrooms. Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, and Kerala also have more than 90% in this respect.However, the report shows an overall uptick in comparison to previous years. Although the total number of schools in India have decreased in the last four years, from 15,51,000 in 2018-’19 to 1,48,9,115 in 2021–’22, the number of schools with internet facilities have increased from 2,90,447 (18.3%) in 2018–’19.to 5,04,989 (33.9%) in 2021–’22.