10 Days, Nine Nights
After 10 days of Ganesha, it is nine nights of Navratri. And much as the festive season cheers all of us up, the endless traffic jams and unending blaring is beginning to take the fun out. Huge pandaals for fancy garbas are making for really pretty pictures with girls decked up to the tee with flowing ghagras and elaborate jewellery. Not to forget the Ramleela celebrations and Bengali delicacies for Durga Puja. Organizers, who signed up garba celebrity Falguni Pathak, were already fined for noise pollution. Amidst all this, Shiv Sena will once again hold their Dussera rally at Shivaji Park, a silence zone. They had gone to the Bombay high Court, citing that the rally is a cultural and traditional event, and have received permission for the same for this year. This is the first Dussera rally after Balasaheb Thackeray passed away in November last year. All eyes on what Uddhav says for Sena followers even as the party gets ready for elections— general and assembly in the coming year. And all ears on noise levels too.
Third Gender First
In a rare occasion of conclave for transgenders in Maharashtra, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan made an announcement for a Welfare Board and Art Academy especially for Transgender community. Titled “Ladha Astitvacha” (fight for existence) the programme was organised jointly by the department of women and child development, Maharashtra and United Nations Development Programme. For a system that shies away from all issues “alternate and queer” it was heartening to have ministers listen to and sympathise with activists. Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, founder of Astitva and a well-known transgender person, called it a historical moment and said, “Almost all sections in our society have progressively moved ahead post-independence; transgenders may be the only exception. However, inclusion of sex workers and TGs in the state women’s policy and today’s meet – both these government commitments stand as highly significant milestones in our work to ensure dignity to transgender people.”
Not So Sweet
The relentless Medha Patkar and her team have now unearthed another fraud— this time from the sugar co-operatives. Along with activists such as Anna Hazare and Raju Shetty, Patkar has launched an attack against state government for selling off 40 ailing sugar factories. Sugar cooperative factories were set up after taking land from farmers at nominal rates but over the years they have been suffering losses. Or so we are told. And so, the state government has allegedly sold that land off. She has urged the government to reverse sales, pay some allowances to the now-jobless workers and stop the process of selling the land for 60 such sugar factories. She maintains that, if it must, all the land needs to go back to the farmers who gave it up for peanuts in the first place. However, whether this issue will attract the same amount of popularity and people as Anna’s anti-corruption movement is —unfortunately— anybody’s guess.
The Bombay High Court has allowed redevelopment of old buildings, which may come under the heritage precincts, in Shivaji Park area of Dadar, central Mumbai. Iconic for being the cultural hub for Maharashtrians and politically important for Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, the area has several old two storeyed buildings with lovely balconies overlooking the park. From the back and forth arguments between the civic body and heritage committee, it appears that those who had applied for redevelopment last year, before July 31 2012, may go ahead and raze the structures to make way for skyscrapers.
A PI was caught accepting a bribe of Rs. 30,000 but what made it far worse was an inspection of his house. The search revealed he had Rs. 30 lakh in cash, and gold valued at Rs. 10 lakh at home. All unaccounted, of course. He was caught accepting a bribe from an agent who had previously cheated several innocent people on the promise of a job abroad. After the agent was arrested and let off on bail, he allegedly went on to cheat more people. On receiving those complaints, Inspector Pradeep Patil seems to have decided to act on the complaints in his own corrupt way. Where should the naïve job seekers go now?
The Indian Express reported on a rather happy development. At IIT-Bombay’s entrepreneurship competition, this year they have received 100 plus foreign entries. Said to be a competition comparable to the one organised by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it has received applications from countries as diverse US, Japan, Australia, Ireland, UAE, Singapore, Nigeria, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The total number of applications is likely to cross 6000. Prize money is a handsome Rs. 45 lakh. Amidst brain drain worries for decades now, this surely must please the professors. Also culture and conditioning for self-employment, start-ups and innovative ventures would not hurt today’s global and Indian economy that seems to be dragging its feet, and how.
Colour Coded Tourism
Women’s safety is on everyone’s mind now. Politicians, activists, administrators, everyone. Perhaps keeping with the on-going “safe mode” the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation is now working on a new concept. They are planning to design a model wherein tourist guides, photographers and other tourism-related officials at sight-seeing spots across the state such as Gateway of India wear colour-coded uniforms. They plan to put helpline numbers at various spots and also encourage tourists to speak to officials (who will be easy to identify, of course with colour-coded uniforms) rather than interact with strangers. Moreover, they plan to train taxi drivers in how to speak to tourists and not to fleece them. Can they talk to us lesser mortals nicely too? And not fleece us also?
On a Brighter Note
Kanhoji Angre Light House, not far from Mumbai, will soon be developed as a tourist destination. It is first of the many light houses across the country that will soon become tourist spots.