The Indian Express | 1 day ago | 25-11-2022 | 02:50 pm
Jio on Friday announced that it is extending 5G support in each of the 33 district headquarters of Gujarat, making the state the first to gain 100 per cent 5G support in all of its district headquarters. The telecom company likes to call its 5G services ‘True 5G’ because it’s the only operator in India currently offering 5G on a standalone network. This means that its equipment has “zero dependencies on its 4G network.”The teleco will launch a series of 5G-powered initiatives across Education, Healthcare, Agriculture, Industry 4.0, and IoT sectors in Gujarat, followed by an expansion into the rest of the country.One of these is the ‘Education-For-All’ initiative in which Reliance Foundation and Jio are joining hands to initially digitise 100 schools in Gujarat. The digitisation package will include Jio True 5G connectivity, an Advanced Content Platform, a Teacher & Student Collaboration Platform, and a School Management Platform.“5G cannot remain an exclusive service available to the privileged few or those in our largest cities. It must be available to every citizen, every home, and every business across India. Only then can we dramatically increase productivity, earnings, and living standards across our entire economy, thereby creating a prosperous and inclusive society in our country. This is our constant belief, inspired by our We Care philosophy,” said Akash M Ambani, Chairman, Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited in a press statement.
AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat State Legal Services Authority (GSLSA) has launched a programme of building a cadre of high school children to spread awareness across the state about the provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (Pocso) and the rights of child victims. The GSLSA has named it Nirbhaya Brigade and nearly 300 children from high schools across districts have been selected. On Saturday, they will learn about important provisions of Pocso Act, sexual offences against children and punishment for these offences. The programme has been organized by the authority under the guidance of the Gujarat high court judges.
AHMEDABAD: The directorate of primary education, which held transfer camps for primary teachers, will issue transfer orders only after the formation of the next government, said sources. To address transfer-related issues of teachers and assistant teachers in government primary schools, the department had organized statewide camps. Sources said that teachers who have been waiting for years to get transferred to their preferred locations will have to wait a little more. The authority had organized camps at district education offices and district primary education offices from October 20 to 29. Later, the district-wise internal transfer camps were planned in two phases. The first phase was held from November 2 to 20 and the second phase, which started on November 23, will end on December 2. The teachers have been demanding quick decisions on transfer applications for years and a few teachers even moved court. The first phase of the poll will be held on December 1 and the second on December 5. The Election Commission will declare poll results on December 8. Sources said that transfer orders of many teachers are ready but as the model code of conduct is in place, they will be issued only after the poll.
Union home minister Amit Shah, who has been campaigning extensively in Gujarat, is confident that the performance of successive BJP governments in the state and the growing affection for Prime Minister Narendra Modi will help BJP score an easy win there. In an exclusive conversation with TOI’s Diwakar and Akhilesh Singh on the campaign trail, he dismissed AAP’s challenge as exaggerated, insisting that Congress continues to be the main challenger but is headed for yet another defeat. Excerpts:What is your assessment on the Gujarat elections?■ The BJP is on a very strong wicket. We shall break all our past records – be it the number of seats or vote percentage – and come to office once again with a thumping majority. You recorded your highest tally – 127 – and highest vote share – 49. 85% – in 2002, the first election fought under Narendra Modi as CM. You hope to surpass that after having been in office for 27 long years?■ Yes. BJP had expressed similar confidence the last time but things did not turn out that way. Congress gave you a real scare and your tally dropped to 99…■ The last polls were an aberration. They were held in the shadow of three intense caste-based movements backed by Congress, which had, working through NGOs it funded, stealthily prepared the background for two years for the campaigns to create divisions among castes. The trick worked in the immediate run and had an impact on elections. But the antagonism that was manufactured and introduced in Gujarat was alien to Gujarat’s ethos. People quickly saw through the divide-and-win game plan. As a result, we won all the 26 Lok Sabha seats just two years later. BJP has since won most of the elections in the state. We hold 90% of seats in local body polls. Today, the party is in office in all districts and all municipal corporations. This clearly shows that the impact of the divisive politics that Congress introduced has worn off. What happened in 2017 was an exception, it could never be the norm in Gujarat. What else has changed since 2017 to make you so confident?■ A lot of issues that BJP consistently raised since its Jana Sangh days in the 1950s, and which resonated with large sections in Gujarat, have been resolved by Narendra Modi’s government. The end of the special status for J&K, removal of Section 35A, construction of Ram Mandir, ban on triple talaq, and beginning of the process to enact a Uniform Civil Code by setting up a committee and initiatingtalks: all this has found huge traction with the voter here. There is also appreciation of the Modi government’s effective management of Covid-19. Administering 230 crore doses of vaccines is no small feat and this is acknowledged by the people. Then, we have also ensured food security for 80 crore people who had lost their jobs and means of livelihood during the two years of the pandemic. All this has positively impacted the voter in Gujarat. I have personally sensed this on the ground. Our economy is stronger today and we have jumped from 11th to 5th spot in the ranking of global economies. This has also created a favourable impact for the BJP in a state like Gujarat where commerce and industry matters a lot and which is home to a large number of MSMEs. Few will dispute your success in turning Gujarat into a laboratory of your ideology. PM Modi’s popularity is obviously a big factor, while BJP’s organisation here is a well-oiled machine. Your advantages are evident. But what about the fatigue factor and the inevitable yearning for change? It felled the once-powerful CPM government in West Bengal.■ Yes, change is inevitable. It is the way of life and nobody can stop it from happening. But a party can also evolve to accommodate the desire for change. BJP consistently innovates and adapts to accommodate the yearning for change. In fact, the party has very often been the trigger for change. We keep carrying out changes. This gives people the confidence that the party is alive to their aspirations. Why would they seek to change a government which keeps improvising and innovating to satisfy their changing needs? So, you claim the BJP, despite being in power for close to three decades, is still seen as a change agent?■ Yes. BJP is a living organism, it keeps changing. That is what every party needs to do in order to be relevant, in order to survive. Our foundational beliefs never change, but our manner of working keeps changing according to the needs of the people. Our governments also keep innovating and have carried out multi-dimensional and dynamic changes in order to be more effective. Did you drop Vijay Rupani for the same reason?■ No. After Narendrabhai, we have had three chief ministers in Gujarat. First was Anandiben. We have a rule in our party that a member can be a part of electoral politics until the age of 75. And, accordingly, Anandiben was relieved from her post when she was 74 years and 10 months old. She has now been tasked with a different responsibility. … Vijaybhai also completed his five years. Then came Bhupendrabhai. We are fighting elections under his leadership and he will continue as the CM after the polls. We don’t dump people. There is always uncertainty on whether BJP will continue with the incumbent after the polls. In some cases, you did not declare your choice before the polls while faces were projected in other instances. What has Bhupendra Patel, a first-term MLA, done in such a short time that BJP has decided to retain him in the job and the Narendra-Bhupendra combo is being projected as the double engine of growth?■ In the one to one-and-ahalf years that he has been in office, Bhupendrabhai has followed all the norms that Narendrabhai had set. He has speeded up Gujarat’s development while upholding the party’s ideology. The results of his work can already be seen; even at the grassroots level. Gujarat’s share in overall exports has risen to 30%. Among the states, it has the largest share of MSMEs and startups registered in the past one year. It has successfully implemented the ‘One nation, one ration card’ scheme. The soft-spoken CM has also displayed firmness in dealing with illegal encroachments. And, there has been no controversy about him. Would you agree that playing the challenger is easier? When you are the incumbent, you are forced to play defence.■ As I had told TOI at the time of the UP polls, antiincumbency is relative. It does not apply to all situations and is dependent on how you have performed in office. We have seen parties winning polls because of pro-incumbency sentiments that their performance generated. And with the type of governance we have provided in Gujarat – 24-hour electricity in every house, road connectivity, business investment, FDI, and high export volume – we have no reason to fear anti-incumbency. The term anti-incumbency was coined during Congress rule for its listless performance. However, under BJP, we have seen the emergence of the concept of ‘pro-incumbency’ and that is the dominant sentiment in Gujarat. Isn’t the Morbi disaster a blot on the state’s performance?■ It was a heart-wrenching tragedy. We all – from PM Narendra Modi to the grassroots BJP worker – feel very sad for the victims. However, we shouldn’t rush to a conclusion just because an election is underway. An administrative inquiry is going on. The high court has also taken cognisance and asked Gujarat Human Rights Commission to look into the matter. The Supreme Court is also cognisant and has shifted all petitions to the HC. Let us wait for the HC’s order. I can assure you that the Gujarat government will accept whatever decision the court takes. There is something puzzling about your campaign. Congress is seen as a reluctant warrior. Its senior leaders are not even campaigning. And yet PM Modi and you keep attacking Congress…■ What you said is true of Congress across the country. Congress has been adrift. It neither has issues nor leadership or a programme. It is a confused party. Yet, the fact remains that Congress has always had a base in Gujarat. Since 1990, they have got at least 30% vote share in every election. That’s why we cannot take them lightly in Gujarat. Our fight is with them. A consistent vote share of 30% translates into one-third of the electorate. Does this not reflect on your failure to win over sections of the society?■ There was a time when the entire country wasn’t with us. Now a large section of the population believes in our vision. We hope that those who are still not supporting us would come around after seeing our work. People say the ‘Gujarat model’ is just hype, a marketing trick: it has only glitter, no substance…■ You can’t see the substance if you have blinkers on. You will be able to see if you take off your goggles of biases and prejudices. What about the criticism that there has been excessive focus on highways and the industrial base, and the social sector has not got adequate attention?■ Another baseless criticism by those blinded by bias and who don’t care to even look at the figures. Gujarat is among the top three states on all parameters. Going back to 2017, the BJP performed poorly in tribal-dominated areas. Are you expecting an improvement this time?■ I am convinced we will do better. . . In every election, we have improved our vote share from tribal areas. And this time I am convinced that we will succeed. There is appreciation in those areas of the way we managed the pandemic; how we have expanded infrastructure and welfare benefits right to the doorsteps of individuals. I am sure people will acknowledge this. The alienation of Patels was another factor. Have they come back to the fold?■ As I said, after 2017 we’ve had two elections. One Lok Sabha, where all sections voted for us and we swept. We have also won the polls forlocal bodies. This could not have been possible without the support of all sections. Everyone has understood that what Congress did in the couple of years preceding 2017 was low-level politics which resulted in the disruption of mutual harmony. Is Hardik Patel’s coming to BJP a testament to this?■ It is not about an individual. It is about the masses… That explains everything. It is said that your principal rival is AAP and you are attacking Congress because you want to shore them up so that there is a split in anti-BJP votes.■ Every party has the right to fight an election. But if you look at Gujarat’s political history, it has largely been a bipolar polity and a third party has never been successful. Be it Chimanbhai Patel, Shankarsinh Vaghela, or Keshubhai Patel, Gujarat has always seen a two-party fight. I feel that the battle is between BJP and Congress. Congress has a lot of baggage and so it is easy for you to blunt their attack. AAP is a new player in Gujarat and is free of that handicap. Besides, a new player that also casts itself as an underdog has its own appeal. Do you agree?■ This is a never-ending debate. It seems you have made up your mind. I cannot convince you if you have already reached a conclusion and are looking for statements to fit that. Let us wait for the votes to be counted, doodh ka doodh aur paani ka paani ho jayega. AAP has unleashed a bagful of freebies. This has worked for them in Delhi and Punjab. Don’t you think this can have an impact in Gujarat as well?■ They made similar promises in Uttarakhand and in Uttar Pradesh; in Maharashtra too. People are not fools. Gujarat has a budget of Rs 2. 42 lakh crore and the cost of implementing the promises that have been made would come to Rs 3. 6 lakh crore. Do you really think that people cannot see through this? They are smart, trust me. Does your confidence have to do with the ethos of Gujarat which values industry and enterprise?■ I don’t want to get into a meandering debate on this. But the fact is that we have given every home in Gujaratelectricity, toilet and gas cylinder. We have given every poor home an Ayushman Bharat card with health coverage up to Rs 5 lakh. And we have also given free rations as help during Covid-19. As against this, people make promises which are unrealistic and can never be kept. Making promises is one thing but what is crucial for winning people’s trust is whether you keep them. Our track record speaks for itself. There are reports about dissension over distribution of BJP tickets. So much so that you had to camp here to firefight.■ This is not new. But I don’t call it firefighting. Reaching out to a party colleague who is unhappy is not firefighting. It is an act of solidarity and camaraderie for someone who has been with you for years. It is my duty to hear them and assuage their feelings. It takes about 20 years to build a dedicated party worker. If a few of them are unhappy that their claim was not heeded, then it is our duty to put a hand on their shoulder and share their grief. And this is what takes BJP ahead. Many people say that the perception about BJP being the overwhelming frontrunner has its flipside too. It will lead to complacency and low turnout.■ Our booth-level presence is the strongest in Gujarat and our workers maintain constant rapport with people. The people of Gujarat have always participated in elections. I am confident that we will have a good turnout as in all elections, and BJP will score a massive win. Then why give a ticket to Payal Kukrani, whose father was convicted in the Naroda Patia violence?■ But what’s wrong about this? She’s a well-educated young woman; a doctor. She has been a hard-working member of the party. True, her father was convicted and has served his sentence. But what has that got to with the daughter? Does she not have a life of her own? You have pronounced her guilty because she is someone’s daughter. But you would never criticise AAP or NCP for not removing their ministers even when they are behind bars. Isn’t it a case of double standards? You have campaigned extensively, what is the feature of this election that has struck you the most?■ The nation has witnessed good governance under Narendrabhai’s leadership in the last eight years. Narendrabhai’s leadership has won laurels and glory for the country. Simultaneously, BJP’s ideological commitments have also been fulfilled. This has had a very positive impact on the people. Modiji was always loved by the people. But I can seethat the affection for him has grown because of the way he has stabilised the economy and strengthened national security. This is true of the entire country. But people here share a special bond with him because he is from Gujarat. His popularity is at its peak and will help BJP score a record win. What is your assessment of Himachal Pradesh?■ We are coming to office with a thumping majority. Over the years, BJP has made many promises in its manifesto. Some of them have been fulfilled, but others, like the Uniform Civil Code, remain on paper. Even CAA is in limbo because the rules have not been framed.■ You are mistaken. CAA is now the law of the land. It has to be implemented and we will do that… We just have to formulate the rules which we could not do because of the pandemic. We shall start working on this, now that the Covid situation has eased. As far as UCC is concerned, it is not just a part of our manifesto since our inception, the Constituent Assembly also directed the legislatures to enact one at the appropriate time. We are alive to our commitment and the task assigned by the framers of the Constitution. Your decision to ban the PFI has led to a backlash of sorts. We have seen serious terror plots being sought to be executed in Coimbatore and Mangalore.■ All challenges to internal security need to be strongly dealt with. We need to proceed against all such dangers, and while we need to analyse all the factors involved, the fear of risks should not deter us from taking on the threat itself. PFI, in many states, had become a danger to our unity and diversity, and our internal security. We watched them push our youth towards terrorism. I believe that the decision to ban it was correct and was taken at the right time. And if there is going to be any reaction, we have all the means and the intent to quell that. What is your assessment of the situation in J&K? When can we expect assembly polls?■ The entire world knows J&K is in very good shape. So far, investments worth Rs 56,000 crore – the highestever – have been committed in the state. Some 30,000 sarpanches have been elected and are working on local body polls. The roots of democracy have spread and gone deeper. People belonging to the backward classes who had been denied benefits available to their counterparts in other states have now been availing of reservations. Women have got their rights. All languages of J&K have got due recognition. And, for the first time, the public is getting a taste of what development actually means. As far as elections are concerned, the Election Commission has finished delimitation, grievances have been redressed. Now, constituencies have been delineated. Electoral rolls, which were riddled with irregularities, are being checked. The EC will announce the dates once the exercise is over. Very often, the judiciary does not seem to be in sync with what the government considers to be imperative for national security.■ There have been such instances. In our Constitution, the roles and responsibilities of the legislature and the judiciary have been very clearly defined and demarcated. We are keeping a close watch on the developments. We shall see how things move. We hope that everyone, including the judiciary, works within their remit. You have been cast as someone who is trying to impose Hindi. Regional parties have attacked you for this. However, you have also argued for regional languages to be used as a medium of education, including for higher and technical courses. What exactly is your position?■ We have championed the use of all Indian languages since the time of Jana Sangh. I am of the firm opinion that we have been able to utilise only 5% of the country’s intellect and talent as a section considers English as the only suitable medium of education and this prevents large sections from accessing quality education and training. The argument that a child will not get good education if he is not taught in English is rooted in misconception, steeped in bias and contrary to the findings of pedagogical studies. I have nothing against English as a language. But it is established that a child learns better and faster if he is taught in his mother tongue. If he is forced to switch to another language because of the hierarchy drawn by elites, his learning process is disrupted. We should be proud of our languages… We have the oldest language, the oldest grammar and the oldest literature. As I said, I am not opposed to English, but we have an excellent pool of Indian languages, which should not be wasted. It is directly linked to the country’s progress and growth.
In what appeared to be a veiled counter to the Aam Aadmi Party’s campaign focus on health, education and electricity, Prime Minister Narendra Modi invoked all three issues at his public addresses throughout the day, even stating at Dahegam that over the past 20-25 years, the BJP in Gujarat has managed to fulfill and accomplish the basic necessities of roads, electricity and water in the state.With electricity being a consistent plank taken by Modi at all four of his public addresses on Thursday, he said at Modasa that in the past 20 years, his government had worked towards ensuring round-the-clock electricity supply to farmers in villages.“Electricity is as important as water. Without electricity, development is not possible. None of you would be sitting with mobile phones here without electricity … We set up so many electricity generation units that today Gujarat is electricity-surplus … Because of consistent electricity supply, during the Covid-19 pandemic, children in villages could continue their studies on cellphones. This change has been brought about by the honest work of the BJP government … Today, we are producing electricity from wind and solar energy … We have made entire villages into electricity generation units by setting up solar panels on rooftops … Today electricity not only comes free, you even get to earn from it while sitting at home, selling the surplus electricity generated … We worked to bring this revolution to each household … You can now sell electricity the way you would sell vegetables. The era of producing cheap electricity is over, it is the era of selling surplus electricity and we are working on it.” Referring to solar energy initiatives for farmers in Gujarat, Modi also said that the BJP government has made farmers, ‘anna-data’, as well as ‘urja-data’.At Bavla, Modi added: “20 years ago, one could not even imagine electricity for 24 hours”, further pointing out that “today in villages, electricity supply is as good as in the cities” of Gujarat. At Dahegam, he said that Gujarat has already accomplished development on the issues of sadak-bijli-paani (roads, power and water) in the last 20 years. “There was a time when elections would have issues like corruption, casteism, nepotism. Then came the time when issues of sadak-bijli-paani (roads, power and water) became big. Today, because of the work done in the last 20 years, Gujarat has accomplished all that was there to be done in these areas. Gujarat has come out of the crisis. For 20-25 years, Gujarat concentrated on developing basic amenities and emerged as a leading state of the country. Today, 24 hours power is available for domestic use in Gujarat,” Modi said.At Dahegam and Bavla, Modi also exhorted BJP’s development work on the educational front, stating at Dahegam that the state government has “transformed the education sector in the region”.“Around 20-25 years ago,” Modi said, “Gujarat’s education budget was Rs 1,600 crore. Today, it has reached Rs 33,000 crore… The (entire) budget of many states isn’t as much.”He added that Gandhinagar was becoming a big centre of education in terms of higher secondary schools, engineering and diploma colleges, and other universities like a Children’s University, Forensic Sciences University, Pandit Deendayal Energy University, Maritime University, Rashtriya Raksha University, Gujarat National Law University, and the Bhaskaracharya National Institute for Space Applications and Geo-informatics (BISAG).At Bavla, Modi said, “Twenty years ago, [finding] a school at the taluka level was a stroke of fortune. Otherwise, one had to go to schools at the district-level.” He added that, “Twenty years ago, there was hopelessness when it came to education… Twenty years ago, there was only one university in Ahmedabad district. Today, there are 23 universities in the district.”Saying that historically, Gujarat had a prevalence of malnutrition, and that his government had worked in the last 20 years to ensure nutrition, Modi claimed at Modasa, “Due to efforts of the past 20 years, with the ‘Double Engine Sarkar’, BJP has taken the initiative to defeat malnutrition. It has especially benefitted our tribal women… Not only that, to ensure nutrition during pregnancy, Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana’s benefits reach over three lakh households in Gujarat.”Attributing the Chiranjeevi Yojana, introduced in Gujarat in 2006 to encourage institutional deliveries, as the reason behind fall in infant mortality rates in the state, Modi also hailed Ayushman Bharat for reducing out-of-pocket expenditures in his public addresses. Noting in both Modasa and Bavla that women often suppress their health problems even when they are in extreme pain “because if they express their pain to their children, they think the family will be drowned in debt if she gets treatment”, Modi cited the Ayushman Bharat scheme for easing such difficulties for women. He went on to mention Ayushman Bharat at three of his public addresses, at Palanpur, Modasa and Bavla.
Leaders of political parties use the phrase ‘Janta Janardhan’ while referring to the electorate. Loosely translated, it means the people are an image of the almighty. In a democracy, one way for people to assert their rights is the threat to boycott an election. As in earlier elections, declarations of poll boycott have been made from several quarters. The reasons range from unmet demands for train stoppages to poor roads; from protests against illegal mining to lack of action against bootleggers. In Dhrafa village, part of the Jamjodhpur assembly constituency in Jamnagar, residents called for a boycott, seeking separate polling booths for men and women. The village panchayat has shot off a letter to the district collector in this regard. According to villagers, separate booths for men and women havebeen set up in all elections since the Independence. Villagers say women cover their faces with a veil in front of unknown menfolk, and a common polling booth is an absolute no-no. Village sarpanch Dharmendrasinh Jadeja said, “We have two booths — one at the girls’ school where women vote, and at the primary school where men vote. This time, no such arrangements were made. ” On November 19, the villagers met and decided to boycott the poll. In Navsari district, Ancheli village plans to boycott the election if train stoppages are not increased. “Before Covid, 18 local trains used to stop here. Nowthere are only eight stops. This has affected some 15,000 commuters from 19 villages who use the trains to get to work,” said Hitesh Naik, a farmer. After villagers put up posters calling for a boycott, workers of political parties visited the village and promised to resolve the issue. At Abrama in Valsad district, residents are protesting the poor condition of roads. Residents of Sona Plot have put up banners announcing the boycott. These were subsequently removed by civic officials and police. Government officials say construction of the road has been approved but work could not begin. The 900-odd residents of Tankalpada and Modidabas villages in Dang district are upset about roads and bridges damaged during monsoon. The villagers installed banners announcing a boycott. Similarly, people at Jira village of Savarkundla taluka in Amreli district have threatened to boycott the election, as a protest against illegal mining and the free availability of country liquor. Village sarpanch Daksha Chovadiya decided this in the presence of 500 villagers at a specially convened meeting. A memorandum to this effect was submitted to local authorities. At Raiyoli village in Balasinor, where the government has set up a dinosaur park, the village panchayat met in October and resolved against voting as the government has not provided proper connectivity between other places and Raiyoli.