Times of India | 2 months ago | 11-06-2022 | 06:01 am
NAVSARI: Taking a swipe at the Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said that those who were in power for the longest time since Independence never gave priority to the development of tribal and far-flung areas as it required hard work. Launching projects worth Rs 3,050 crore for tribal districts of south Gujarat in Khudvel village of Navsari, Modi categorically rejected the narrative that development projects are launched only with an eye on votes ahead of elections and said welfare of poor has been the sole priority of his government for the last eight years. "I have been in public life for over two decades. I challenge them to dig out a single week when I did not launch a developmental project," he said. Without naming any political party, the PM added, "Those who ruled the country for a long time after Independence, never gave priority to tribal areas where development works were direly needed, because it needed hard work. Modi dedicated the Rs 586 crore Astol regional water supply scheme, an engineering marvel, which will end water woes of 174 villages of Dharampur and Kaprada talukas of tribal-dominated Valsad, by lifting water from Madhuban Dam to a height of over ,1800 feet (equivalent to a 200-storey building). The network of pipelines has been constructed criss-crossing the hills in this difficult terrain. The project was announced by Modi during his visit to Navsari in 2018. "In 2018 when I announced this project, critics had claimed that we were doing it with an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Now, they have been proved wrong. We lifted water and took it to the top of the hill. Who would do such hard work for only 200-300 votes? We undertook this project to ease people's problems and not due to elections," he said. The tribal outreach by BJP here witnessed the participation of nearly five lakh people, which Modi said was a moment for pride for him as he had not seen such a rousing reception in the region even when he was the chief minister. Modi said there were a large number of students in this tribal region who excelled in academics but there was not a single science stream schools or colleges which could have nurtured their dreams of becoming doctors and engineers. "We have completely changed his scenario and there not just medical and engineering colleges but universities too now in tribal areas," he said.
FOR SEVERAL MINUTES late on Monday evening, Bilkis Bano could not believe that the 11 convicts had walked free — she first broke into tears and then went silent, her husband Yakub Rasool told The Indian Express.A day later, when contacted by The Indian Express, Bilkis said: “Please leave me alone… I have offered duas (prayers) for the soul of my daughter Saleha”.“We have been left numb, shocked and shaken,” said Rasool after a Gujarat panel granted remission of sentence to the 11 convicts who were jailed for life in 2008 for gangraping Bilkis and killing 14 of her family members, including her three-year-old daughter, during the 2002 riots.“The battle we fought for so many years has been wrapped up in one moment. A sentence of life imprisonment given by the court has been curtailed in such a manner… We had never even heard of the word ‘remission’. We didn’t even know that such a process exists,” Rasool told The Indian Express over phone from their home at Devgadh Baria in Dahod.After the convicts were welcomed with garlands and sweets following their release, Rasool said that Bilkis, now 41, was “distressed and melancholic”, unable to talk to anyone.“We have not even had the time to process this news and we know that they (the convicts) have already reached their homes…It is not that they never took parole; they did several times. But we did not expect that they would be released in such a manner,” he said.“What happened (in 2002) was so horrific that one can imagine what must be going through her mind… She was brutalised but witnessed the murder of her own daughter… She was violated not just as a woman but also as a mother and a human being — what can be worse than that?” Rasool said.“Now we only want to be left alone, and settle down for our five children. We do fear for our safety but we have not had the time to contemplate the next move,” he said.Sujal Mayatra, District Magistrate and Collector of Panchmahal, who chaired the Jail Advisory Committee (JAC) that recommended the remission, told The Indian Express that “it was a unanimous decision”.“The convicts had completed over 14 years of their life sentence. Their application had come about three months ago… Like in the case of any application for remission or premature release, this case was also considered on the basis of the behaviour of the convicts in prison as well as the tenure and other merits of the case. The recommendation was sent to the state government, and yesterday (Monday), we received the orders for their release,” Mayatra said.According to norms, the JAC has eight members including the District Magistrate (or Chief Metropolitan Magistrate) as chairman, jail superintendent, member secretary, District Sessions Judge, Superintendent of Police (or City Commissioner), District Social Welfare officer, and two local (elected) members.In this case, the elected members were Godhra BJP MLA C K Raulji and Kalol BJP MLA Suman Chauhan. Both were not available for comment tuesday.Another committee member, who did not wish to be identified, said the remission applications also cited medical grounds. “The oldest of the convicts was 70 years old and had health issues. Another convict, nearing 60 years of age, had also cited medical conditions as well as a medical emergency at home as his wife is battling a critical illness,” the member said.Gujarat Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Raj Kumar told The Indian Express that a total of 26 prisoners were released across the state on Monday.Bilkis was gangraped and 14 members of her family, including Saleha, were killed by a mob on March 3, 2002, in Limkheda taluka of Dahod district — the bodies of six were never found. The Supreme Court had ordered a CBI investigation in the case after Bilkis approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).In 2004, the Supreme Court directed the trial to be transferred from Gujarat to Maharashtra after Bilkis alleged death threats from the accused. And on January 21, 2008, a CBI special court in Mumbai convicted 13 accused, sentencing 11 to life imprisonment on charges of gangrape and murder. Three years later, the conviction was upheld by the Bombay High Court.In 2019, the Supreme Court awarded compensation of Rs 50 lakh to Bilkis, and asked the Gujarat government to provide her with a government job and accommodation.According to Rasool, the state government awarded the compensation and offered Bilkis the post of a peon in Devgadh Baria but she turned down the offer and sought employment for her husband instead. “The government is yet to consider the application. We are also yet to hear from the administration about the accommodation,” he said.Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inboxAccording to Rasool, the compensation amount of Rs 50 lakh has been placed in a fixed deposit and will be used for the higher education of their children. “Our eldest daughter is 19 and pursuing a B.Com degree. Bilkis wanted her to be a lawyer and help other people seek justice but due to Covid we could not enroll her in the law college as it is outside Devgadh Baria. We have decided that she will graduate in Commerce and pursue LL.B,” he said.The second daughter, aged 16, is also attending college while their 15-year-old son is a Class 10 student in a private school.In the Lok Sabha polls of 2019, Bilkis had stepped out for the first time to cast her vote. “She was beginning to live her life again because justice had lessened our pain but this (remission) has come as a bolt from the blue… we are exhausted,” Rasool said.
Heavy rains lashed parts of north and south Gujarat on Tuesday with the Tapi, Banaskantha and Valsad districts receiving over 100 mm of rainfall in 12 hours since morning, officials said. A downpour in Ahmedabad city in the evening caused waterlogging, slowing down the traffic.Heavy rainfall in the catchment areas of Sardar Sarovar dam in Narmada district caused its level to rise to 134.65 metres around 8 pm, below the full reservoir level of 138.68 metres, officials said.It also received heavy inflow of water from Omkareshwar and Indira Dams in Madhya Pradesh. As of 8 pm, it had received 2.30 lakh cusec water, with 23 gates opened to 2.90 metres to release 4.50 lakh cusec water in riverbed powerhouse and turbines, officials said. More than 30 tehsils received over 50 mm of rainfall during the day, mainly in the districts of Tapi, Banaskantha, Valsad, Chhota Udepur, Navsari, Mehsana, Dang, Aravalli, Surat, Mahisagar and Patan, said a release issued by the State Emergency Operation Center (SEOC).The India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast widespread light to moderate rainfall in most parts of Gujarat in the next 24 hours with 'heavy to heavy rainfall' in isolated areas and `extremely heavy' rainfall in some districts of south and north Gujarat regions, Saurashtra and Kutch till Thursday morning.Shamlaji in Aravalli district reported a landslide which affected the traffic on a national highway connecting Gujarat to Rajasthan.Rainfall also caused swelling of rivers in several districts.Read the Latest News and Breaking News here
The Union Home Ministry has held discussions with representatives of Gujarat and Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu on the transfer of a piece of land and four villages to the Union Territory from the state but no decision has been taken yet, officials said. According to the proposal, four villages of South Gujarat’s Valsad district — Meghval, Nagar, Raymal and Madhuban — and a part of Ghoghala village of Saurashtra will be merged with the Union Territory.While the four villages are more accessible from Diu, the piece of land in Saurashtra is to be given in lieu of land given to Gujarat in 1989. The discussions were held with the representatives of the Gujarat government and the administration of the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu recently but no decision could be arrived at, an official privy to the development said.While Nagar, Raymal and Madhuban villages are located between the Madhuban dam reservoir and the Union Territory, Meghval village is surrounded by the Union Territory. No decision could be taken as the Gujarat government is yet to give its full consent to the proposal of the complete merger of Nagar, Raymal and Madhuban with the Union Territory even though it has given its in-principle nod to the handing over of Meghval village.The Union Territory has been asking for handing over the piece of land in Ghoghala along the Saurashtra coast in return for land given by Diu to Gujarat in 1989 for developing a fishing port. The administrator of the Union Territory had also sent a letter to the Gujarat Chief Minister requesting it to give the piece of land in Ghoghala to the Union Territory.If the land and the four villages are handed over to the Union Territory, tourism is expected to get a boost since liquor will be available there after coming under the Union Territory’s jurisdiction as Gujarat is a dry state, the official said.Read the Latest News and Breaking News here
Chief ministers of different states unfurled the national flag on the occassion of 76th Independence Day and made announced new schemes. A look at what some of them said:Uttar PradeshYogi Adityanath, in his speech, said “service, security and good governance” are his government’s priorities. He said the UP administration is working on a plan to develop Ayodhya along the lines of “divine Kashi Vishwanath Dham”. Work is also going on for overall development of other religious places such as Braj Bhumi and Naimisharanya.MaharashtraEknath Shinde said the state has begun its journey to becoming a leader of the country and his government has not stayed any public welfare scheme. After hoisting the national flag, Shinde said his government is committed to providing reservation benefits to OBC, Maratha, and Dhangar communities.BiharThe focus of Nitish Kumar’s speech at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan was on jobs. Nitish promised that the new government will create up to 20 lakh jobs within and outside the government. Nitish referred to his deputy, Tejashwi Yadav, who had promised 10 lakh jobs during the 2020 poll campaign. Tejashwi called it a “historic announcement”.West BengalMamata Banerjee, in a series of tweets, said she wants to build a nation where no one goes hungry, no woman feels unsafe and where no oppressive forces divide people. She said Indians must uphold dignity of democratic values.GujaratBhupendra Patel announced an increase in eligibility criteria of beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act from Rs 10,000 per month income to Rs 15,000. He also said 1 kg chana (gram) will be provided to each NFSA card holder at concessional rates. Patel made the announcements at an event at Modasa in Aravalli.Tamil NaduChief Minister M K Stalin said the freedom struggle did not begin in 1857 but much earlier. “For some, the freedom struggle began only with the sepoy mutiny in 1857, but Tamils had started it long before that.” He announced a museum in Chennai that will document Tamil Nadu’s 260-year contribution to India’s freedom struggle as well as an increase in the government’s pension for freedom fighters to Rs 20,000.AssamHimanta Biswa Sarma said “exuberant celebrations and display of love for the Tiranga” were a response to militant groups’ call to “boycott” Independence Day celebrations. The CM said the government had decided to withdraw 1 lakh minor cases, including those related to social media posts, registered before midnight of August 14 to lessen the “burden on the lower judiciary”.Madhya PradeshShivraj Singh Chouhan announced that a memorial of RSS founder K B Hedgewar will be built in Balaghat district’s Rampayli for his contribution to “awakening the spirit of swaraj and the freedom struggle”. Another memorial — “Veer Bharat Smarak” — will be built in Bhopal to showcase the lifestyle of freedom fighters and revolutionaries from MP, he said.KarnatakaBasavaraj Bommai announced a new scheme to provide employment to one family member of soldiers killed in line of duty. Among other new initiatives, the CM said Rs 250 crore will be allocated for a clean and hygienic environment in government schools and colleges for increasing toilet coverage, and a loan subsidy of Rs 50,000 to backward class and SC artisans.KeralaPinarayi Vijayan said “we can realise freedom fighters’ dream as a country that incorporates its rich diversity” only by retaining federal principles. Vijayan said his government is going ahead with programmes to bridge the digital divide, eradicate extreme poverty, and address homelessness.PunjabBhagwant Mann expressed concern about the state’s youth immigrating abroad due to unemployment. Urging the youth to remain in Punjab, he assured that his government would “open new medical colleges, schools and stadiums in Punjab so that your children get all the opportunities here”.From ENS Lucknow, Mumbai, Patna, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Guwahati, Bhopal, Thiruvananthapuram, Bengaluru, Chandigarh
Mahendra Vyas, 74, born a year after India attained independence in 1947, clearly remembers Parikshitlal Majumdar, president of the Gujarat Harijan Sevak Sangh, among other ashramites living in the then Harijan Ashram on the banks of the Sabarmati river.He remembers the ashram without electricity or sewage, having one toilet for all and one tap at the gate near Hriday Kunj from where they would fill drinking water.“Because of his work with Dalits under the influence of Gandhi, Majmudar’s Brahmin family ousted him for years. A man with a towering personality, he would always be seen in a khadi loin cloth, a khadi shirt and a Gandhi cap, carrying a blue khadi bag with him. He would begin his day by visiting the homes of Dalits in the Ashram,” recalls Vyas, who was among the residents of the Gandhi Ashram at Sabarmati who moved out taking a compensation of Rs 60 lakh to make way for the Rs 1,200-crore Gandhi Ashram Redevelopment Project.Vyas, an ayurveda doctor working at a hospital run by a private trust in Shahibaug area of Ahmedabad, was one of the oldest living on the ashram set up by Mahatma Gandhi in 1917.His father Natvarlal was brought to the Ashram from Shahpur area by senior Gandhian Laxmidas Ashar in 1928 to attend to the medical requirements of ashram residents. Natvarlal was operating a clinic in Shahpur area under the guidance of a doctor for a long time. Vyas and his family were living in the colony opposite the Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust (SAPMT) where Gandhi and Kasturba lived till March 1930.Till Class 5, Vyas studied at the boys school in the Ashram campus where spinning and weaving was compulsory. The school is now run by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC).Vyas rues the fact that the younger generation living in the Ashram is least interested in living the Gandhian way of life, incorporating spinning of the wheel or practice of community cleaning.“We used to sit on the floor on a mat with a ‘dhaliyu’ (a small wooden writing desk) for writing. There would be a lesson on Gandhiji on his birth anniversary and the first thing we were told was that he was son of a Diwan and got us independence,” says Vyas.Later, he studied at Gujarat Vidyapith and subsequently got his degree in Ayurveda from Akhandanand Ayurvedic College, Ahmedabad. His wedding in the Ashram also was a unique affair. All of 18, he married Indiraben from Fatehnagar (the area now near Paldi in Ahmedabad city) at the Ashram in 1966.Vyas says, “It was the month of December. Our wedding took place at night. Many of Ashram-wasis — Muslims, Dalits, Patels etc. — were part of the baraat. While I went in a car that my father got from one of his friends, the baraatis went by a public bus. A day before the wedding, we hosted all the Ashramwasis over a meal in the ashram.”The family has now moved to a flat in Gota area of the city, some eight kilometres away.“During those days, a lot of importance was given to Gandhian values of cleanliness, spinning and weaving, eradication of untouchability, communal harmony, non-violence, girl education, etc. We used to clean the toilets and Ashram streets ourselves. And the prayers in the morning (5.30 am) and evening (6.45 pm) were very important. Due to laziness, I used to skip the morning prayer on many occasions but would attend the evening prayer regularly,” said Vyas.Vyas specifically recollects the celebration of 12 days during Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary as Gandhi Parva (festival) as per the Hindu calendar. There would be cultural programmes where plays related to Gandhian values would be shown.“I remember going to various villages along with a projector to show the film, Sujata, to the villagers around Ahmedabad. The film had a message on untouchability. During those 12 days, people from the Ashram would team up and ensure that at least one spinning wheel is spun 24×7,” says Vyas who has seen noted Gandhians such as Vinoba Bhave, Laxmidas Ashar, Parikshitlal Majmudar and Dahyabhai Nayak working at the Ashram.“I remember Parikshitbhai called me ‘bako’ my pet name, and asked about my studies emphasising how without education there was no future,” says Vyas.All the action and celebrations were centred around Hriday Kunj, the quarters of Gandhi and Kasturba. But over the past 10-15 years, fewer ashramwasis are participating in events, says Vyas. “Students from primary school and PTC college and other people come to the Ashram during Independence Day or Republic Day, but not the Ashramwasis,” he adds.With changing times and uprgraded technology, the Ashram life has also undergone a lot of changes, like the task of cleaning toilets stopped with the coming of flushes.Vyas regularly spuns the charkha, his only son Ritesh, 49, can spin, too, but Rutvik (his grandson), 24, does not know spinning or weaving. “This is the situation everywhere in the Ashram; Somehow those values have not been inculcated in them. The values have been preserved, but its following has gone down a lot,” says Vyas.There have, however been some positive changes: “In the past, Ashramwasis had to make efforts to make people enrol their children, specially girls, in (primary) school and college in the Ashram. But now awareness about education has increased so much and people enrol their children in school and college on their own. The PTC college of girls at the Ashram is considered one of the best in the state and people are eager to get admission there. That is one very bright change that we have seen over the years at the Ashram,” he says.Vyas, who left the Ashram premises last year, does not regret moving out of the esteemed address. “There are loads of memories of living in the ashram. When I was leaving my home one last time, all those memories played in front of my eyes like a film.”