The Indian Express | 1 week ago | 20-01-2023 | 02:50 pm
Written by Damien CaveJacinda Ardern explained her decision to step down as New Zealand’s prime minister Thursday with a plea for understanding and rare political directness — the same attributes that helped make her a global emblem of anti-Trump liberalism, then a target of the toxic divisions amplified by the coronavirus pandemic.Ardern, 42, fought back tears as she announced at a news conference that she would resign in early February before New Zealand’s election in October.“I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice,” she said. “It is that simple.”Ardern’s sudden departure before the end of her second term came as a surprise to the country and the world. New Zealand’s youngest prime minister in 150 years, she was a leader of a small nation who reached celebrity status with the speed of a pop star.Her youth, pronounced feminism and emphasis on a “politics of kindness” made her look to many like a welcome alternative to bombastic male leaders, creating a phenomenon known as “Jacindamania.”Her time in office, however, was mostly shaped by crisis management, including the 2019 terrorist attack in Christchurch, the deadly White Island volcanic eruption a few months later and COVID-19 soon after that.The pandemic in particular seemed to play to her strengths as a clear and unifying communicator — until extended lockdowns and vaccine mandates hurt the economy, fueled conspiracy theories and spurred a backlash. In a part of the world where COVID restrictions lingered, Ardern has struggled to get beyond her association with pandemic policy.“People personally invested in her; that has always been a part of her appeal,” said Richard Shaw, a politics professor at Massey University in Palmerston North, New Zealand.“She became a totem,” he added. “She became the personification of a particular response to the pandemic, which people in the far-flung margins of the internet and the not so far-flung margins used against her.”The country’s initial goal was audacious: Ardern and a handful of prominent public health researchers who were advising the government held out hope for eliminating the virus and keeping it entirely out of New Zealand. In early 2020, she helped coax the country — “our team of 5 million,” she said — to go along with shuttered international borders and a lockdown so severe that even retrieving a lost cricket ball from a neighbor’s yard was banned.When new, more transmissible variants made that impossible, Ardern’s team pivoted but struggled to get vaccines quickly. Strict vaccination mandates then kept people from activities like work, eating out and getting haircuts.Dr. Simon Thornley, a public health researcher at the University of Auckland and a frequent and controversial critic of the government’s COVID response, said many New Zealanders were surprised by what they saw as her willingness to pit the vaccinated against the unvaccinated.“The disillusionment around the vaccine mandates was important,” Thornley said. “The creation of a two-class society and that predictions didn’t come out as they were meant to be, or as they were forecast to be in terms of elimination — that was a turning point.”Ardern became a target, internally and abroad, for those who saw vaccine mandates as a violation of individual rights. Online, conspiracy theories, misinformation and personal attacks bloomed. Threats against Ardern have increased greatly over the past few years, especially from anti-vaccination groups.The tension escalated in February. Inspired in part by protests in the United States and Canada, a crowd of protesters camped on the Parliament grounds in Wellington for more than three weeks, pitching tents and using parked cars to block traffic.The police eventually forced out the demonstrators, clashing violently with many of them, leading to more than 120 arrests.The scenes shocked a nation unaccustomed to such violence. Some blamed demonstrators, others the police and the government.“It certainly was a dark day in New Zealand history,” Thornley said.Dylan Reeve, a New Zealand author and journalist who wrote a book on the spread of misinformation in the country, said the prime minister’s international profile probably played a role in the conspiracist narratives about her.“The fact that she suddenly had such a large international profile and was widely hailed for her reaction really seemed to provide a boost for local conspiracy theorists,” he said. “They found support for the anti-Ardern ideas from like-minded individuals globally at a level that was probably out of scale with New Zealand’s typical prominence internationally.”The attacks did not cease even as the worst of the pandemic receded. This month, Roger Stone, the former Trump adviser, condemned Ardern for her COVID approach, which he described as “the jackboot of authoritarianism.”In her speech Thursday, Ardern did not mention any particular group of critics, nor did she name a replacement, but she did acknowledge that she could not help but be affected by the strain of her job and the difficult era when she governed.“I know there will be much discussion in the aftermath of this decision as to what the so-called real reason was,” she said, adding: “The only interesting angle you will find is that after going on six years of some big challenges, that I am human. Politicians are human. We give all that we can, for as long as we can, and then it’s time. And for me, it’s time.”Suze Wilson, a leadership scholar at Massey University in New Zealand, said Ardern should be taken at her word. She said that the abuse could not and should not be separated from her gender.“She’s talking about not really having anything left in the tank, and I think part of what’s probably contributed to that is just the disgusting level of sexist and misogynistic abuse to what she has been subjected,” Wilson said.In the pubs and parks of Christchurch on Thursday, New Zealanders seemed divided. In a city where Ardern was widely praised for her unifying response to the mass murder of 51 people at two mosques by a white supremacist, there were complaints about unfulfilled promises around nuts-and-bolts issues such as the cost of housing.Tony McPherson, 72, who lives near one of the mosques that was attacked nearly four years ago, described the departing prime minister as someone who had “a very good talk, but not enough walk.”He said she fell short on “housing, health care” and had “made an absolute hash on immigration,” arguing that many businesses had large staff shortages because of a delayed reopening of borders after the lockdowns.Economic issues are front and center for many voters. Polls show that Ardern’s Labour Party has been trailing the center-right National Party, led by Christopher Luxon, a former aviation executive.On the deck of Wilson’s Sports Bar, a Christchurch pub, Shelley Smith, 52, a motel manager, said she was “surprised” at the news of Ardern’s resignation. She praised her for suppressing the community spread of the coronavirus in 2020, despite the effects on the New Zealand economy. Asked how she would remember Ardern, she replied: “As a person’s person.”That appeal may have faded, but many New Zealanders do not expect Ardern to disappear for long. Helen Clark, a former prime minister who was a mentor to Ardern, followed up her time in office by focusing on international issues with many global organizations.“I don’t know she’ll be lost to the world,” Shaw said of Ardern. “She may get a bigger platform.”
CHENNAI: A group of Madras University students on Friday screened a BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. They were protesting against the Union government blocking the online links to the documentary.The members of Students Federation of India (SFI) in Madras University had sought the university's permission to screen the documentary in the university's auditorium. However, the university authorities did not give permission. So, a group of students gathered outside the auditorium and tried to screen the movie. University staff tried to prevent the screening. Students argued that it was not banned in the country and went ahead screening it on a laptop."The BBC documentary exposes how the riots against the minorities were supported by the then Gujarat government headed by Modi in 2002. The SFI had called for screening of the documentary on every campus in the country to expose Modi’s role in the riots," said SFI Chennai central district president V Arunkumar.Mirudhula, another student, said the protest was organised to save democracy. "The Union government is misusing its power by blocking the documentary. They are spreading hatred against Muslims and minorities," she said."The preamble of the Constitution says it is a democratic, secular republic. However, the government is blocking access to the BBC documentary to prevent students from knowing the truth about the Gujarat riots," said SFI state secretary Niruban Chakaravarthy.When contacted, Madras University officials told TOI that the auditorium was not available on Friday and some students from outside the university screened the documentary. However, students said they were postgraduate students studying social sciences in the university.
New Delhi: Delhi University's Arts Faculty campus saw police action as students sought to screen a BBC documentary on PM Narendra Modi even as the government has imposed restrictions. Here is the story as it unfolded, in 10 key factsStudents at Delhi University were dragged away by police from the campus on Friday evening as they sought to publicly screen a controversial BBC documentary series about PM Narendra Modi and the BJP's alleged communal politics. This came just two days after similar scenes were witnessed at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi. Student activists said the police acted violently even though the intention was for students to peacefully watch the documentary. They also alleged that "Sanghi goons" — reference to members of the BJP's mentor body RSS and its wings — attacked those gathered for the event too. Are police in-charge Sagar Singh Kalsi said 24 students were detained and the situation is now "back to normal".University officials said no permission was sought for a public screening and there were also orders issued by the district administration against any mass gathering. DU Chief Proctor Rajni Abbi, who called the cops, saw justification in the police action. "Yes, students have been detained. Have they taken permission? When police have imposed Section 144, why have they collected?" she said. She alleged that the students were "not even interested" in showing the documentary. "They just want disruptive things."The two-part series, which references the 2002 Gujarat riots and recent incidents of communal violence, has been termed by the central government as false and motivated propaganda. The government has used emergency powers to force social media outlets such as YouTube and Twitter to take it down.Ahead of screening that was planned for 5.30 pm, large number of students — led by those belonging to Left parties and other Opposition parties — gathered at DU Arts Faculty area and protested imposition of Section 144 in the area to stop the screening.Clashes erupted as right-wing student groups allegedly came to protest against the event. Those wanting the screening raised slogans of "Delhi police, go back", and the police began detaining some people who were allegedly "not students, but anti-social elements"."We were about to start the screening when Sanghi goons attacked us and started dragging those gathered for it. Police closed the gates and did not allow people to enter for the event," said a student who had come for the screening from the DU-affiliated Hindu College.The DU official said holding a mass screening was the point of contention. "They can watch it at their homes; who's stopping them?" said Chief Proctor Rajni Abbi, adding that she suspected they were outsiders. About police violently dragging students, she said, "Why are they here, first of all? [The screening] is not allowed here."The screening attempt was at the latest of such protests events held across the country, including in Delhi, Chandigarh, Kolkata and Thiruvananthapuram. Opposition parties have slammed the BJP for trying to ban the documentary altogether. Student groups have led the protests.The BBC has defended the series as a “rigorously researched” piece of journalism that wants to highlight important issues.Post a comment
A 1,262-page charge-sheet names Jaysukh Patel as the main accused and an "absconder".Nearly three months after a British-era bridge crashed in Gujarat's Morbi, killing 135 people, Jaysukh Patel, the top boss of the company hired for the maintenance and repair of the bridge, has been named the prime accused in a charge-sheet.Jaysukh Patel, the promoter of Oreva Group and managing director of Ajanta Manufacturing Limited, has been missing since the incident in October. A warrant was put out for his arrest last week. To evade arrest, he filed a request for bail on January 16.A 1,262-page charge-sheet names him as the main accused and an "absconder"."All steps are being taken to arrest him as soon as possible. He is untraceable right now," said senior police officer Ashok Yadav.Oreva Group, a company known for making wall clocks under the Ajanta brand, was inexplicably given the contract for the renovation, operation, and maintenance of the 100-year-old suspension bridge over the Machchhu River. The bridge collapsed on October 30, four days after it reopened.A Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by the state government cited several lapses by the Oreva Group, like shoddy maintenance, the failure to limit the number of people on the bridge and the unrestricted sale of tickets.The police say around 300 people were on the bridge and it collapsed when the cables snapped.Patel is listed as the 10th accused alongside the nine arrested earlier, including the subcontractors, daily wage labourers who worked as ticket clerks, and security guards. But the opposition has alleged that the "big fish" are roaming free.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comThe BJP government in Gujarat faced accusations of shielding the politically influential industrialist ahead of the assembly elections, which the party swept.The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) report on the incident revealed that rusty cables, broken anchor pins, and loose bolts were not addressed during the renovation of the bridge. The report also stated that Oreva Group did not hire any expert agency to assess the load-bearing capacity of the bridge before opening it to the public.
She spent a large part of her life in the uplift of Siddi tribal women and for the education of children.Junagadh: A Siddi tribe woman from Jambur village of Junagadh, Hirbai Ibrahim Lobi, has been honoured with the Padma Shri award, the fourth-highest civilian award by the government of India.A list of Padma Shri recipients was issued on Wednesday evening on the occasion of the 74th Republic Day.Hirbai hails from the African-origin Siddi tribe that resides in Jambur village near Gir forest in Gujarat, which is also the home of the pride of India, the Asian lion.In an exclusive interview with ANI, Hirbai shared her experience of working for the uplift and development of the Siddi tribal community.Hirabai Lobi has expressed special gratitude to the government of India, President Droupadi Murmu and especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi for honouring her with the Padma Award.She spent a large part of her life in the uplift of Siddi tribal women and for the education of children. Till now she has changed the lives of more than 700 women and innumerable children.Surrounded by Babbar lions, the livelihood of the women of the Siddi community depended on wood cutting, Hirbai told ANI. Being a radio enthusiast, she took it upon herself to support the women of her community.Since childhood, Hirbai used to get information about women's development schemes in Siddi through the radio.She first joined with Agakhan Foundation and then launched a campaign to make women self-reliant by associating with BAIF, a farmer's organization. So far, she has taught more than 700 women to open bank accounts and save money.She has played an important role in bringing women forward and also taught them farming. She provided employment to women with the help of social organizations through radio. Hirabai while speaking to ANI said, "I have not grown trees in the forest, but I have saved the forest from being cut."Hirabai lost her parents in childhood and was brought up by her grandmother. She has established several kindergartens with spirit of providing basic education to the children of the Siddi community.Apart from this, she established the Mahila Vikas Foundation in the year 2004 and has worked tirelessly to make Siddi women self-reliant. Due to these efforts of Hirbai, the women of Jambur helped their families by working in the grocery shops and tailoring.Till now she has been honoured with various accolades, but when she got the first prize of $500, she put all the money into the development of the village.PromotedListen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.comSo far she has received Real Award from Reliance, Janaki Devi Prasad Bajaj Award and the Green Award.(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)Featured Video Of The DayJai Jawan: Sonu Sood's Tug-Of-War With Soldiers
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: MP Shashi Tharoor disowned Anil Antony’s, senior Congress leader AK Antony’s son, claims that the BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Gujarat riots will affect the sovereignty and national security of the country.“Our national security is not so fragile that a documentary made by the BBC would affect our security or sovereignty. Hence the argument that it would affect India’s sovereignty was not convincing,” said Tharoor, while reacting to the statement made by Anil Antony on the screening of the BBC documentary.On Antony resigning from the posts he held in Congress, Tharoor said that he hadn’t spoken to Antony. “I think he can speak for himself,” said Tharoor.Pointing out that all controversies over the BBC documentary was unnecessary, Tharoor said, “Had the government not gone over the top in condemning the documentary, thereby drawing attention to something that wasn’t otherwise available in India, there wouldn’t have been all these noises.”He flayed the Centre’s attempts to remove all links from social media platforms. “By not allowing the people to watch what they want goes against the tenets of democracy. Freedom of expression is a right guaranteed by the Constitution of this country. However, when a foreign organization talks about the Prime Minister or the country, it can be construed differently,” he added.“It is not proper for a government to ban the documentary. We cannot stand with that decision. Censorship is not part of our democracy and our Constitution. What the British diplomats reported about the violence that happened in Gujarat in 2002 has now been made as a documentary. It has to be remembered that our diplomats have also reported about the violence that had happened in Britain,” said Tharoor.“The Gujarat riots happened two decades ago, and it is a matter the Supreme Court has ruled on. The tragedy is something that all Indians, including Muslims, feel that we should now put behind us,” said Tharoor.