Gujarat print media now find high readership demand for Modi bashing articles and cartoons

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Blatant and vitriolic criticism of Narendra Modi seems to have become the norm for Gujarati dailies of late. Gone are the days when the Gujarati print media, with an average issue readership of more than 1 crore (according to IRS 2011-Q2), mostly adored the chief minister. It supported, or at least was non confrontational about his publicity blitzkrieg and his self-projection as a tough, non-corrupt, pro-development, ‘No. 1’ leader with a subtle and not-so-subtle communal slant.
 
As is evident from events of the last few months, Modi has been constantly at the receiving end in many issues — be it the arrest of Sanjeev Bhatt or his three-day Sadbhavana Fast. The prominence and the column space allotted to arrest and release of IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt in the Gujarati media would have been unthinkable a couple of years back.
 
While English dailies reported the whole episode with restraint, news and images of Sanjeev Bhatt were being highlighted on first and last pages of Gujarati dailies. Bhatt was made out to be a ‘singham’ — a hero.  The pro-Sanjeev Bhatt coverage was not just about appreciating the uprightness of the officer but was fuelled, to a large extent, by the anti-Modi ‘line’. Gujarati dailies had a field day when the late Haren Pandya’s wife vaguely pointed her finger towards the CM in her husband’s murder.
 
Recent rhetoric against the Modi government, which was, in effect, against Modi himself, took off from very unusual point: the issue of cow slaughter. The issue was hardly discussed in the public forum. But suddenly the failure of the Modi government in protecting cows became the war cry in two major Gujarati newspapers.
 
The purpose of the intensive news campaign that ran for days was to prove that Modi was un-Hindu, if not anti-Hindu. It was to falsify his deeply entrenched claim of being ‘the saviour of the Hindus’.
 
Even the usual non-political Modi-baiters were baffled by the anti-cow slaughter campaign which gathered momentum so suddenly. The stage was set, and then came the burning issue of the appointment of the Lokayukta.
 
Gujarati dailies grabbed the issue with both the hands, one daily even lowering its masthead with the news of the appointment of the Lokayukta by the Governor and the government’s legal challenge to it.
 
When the Supreme Court referred the Gulbarg Society case back to the lower court and declined to monitor it further, Modi famously tweeted ‘God is Great’ and projected the SC’s decision as a ‘clean chit’. Many news channels echoed his view, but Gujarati dailies were more cautious and less jubilant.
 
His three-day ‘Sadbhavana Fast’ was treated with scepticism and a pinch of sarcasm, due to the pomp and politics involved. There was criticism about the expenditure incurred during the fast and even the memory of Mahatma Gandhi was invoked for an uncharitable comparison.
 
 Gujarati dailies have been vocal in making allegations of corruption and in giving considerable weightage to the statements of Congress leaders in Gujarat recently. A Gujarati daily recently devoted a full page to CAG’s criticism of various departments of the Gujarat government. A clean image no longer remains Narendra Modi’s USP, at least for the Gujarati dailies.
 
Mostly unfavourable and critical of Modi, for the reasons best known to them, Gujarati dailies have been conscious not to indulge in anything that may be perceived as ‘secular’ by a majority of their readership. During the Sadbhavna Fast, Modi’s advances towards the Muslim community were met with veiled criticism. One Gujarati daily even frowned at his attempted pro-Muslim approach in a eight column banner head line: ‘Allah-o-Akbar: Modi begins his fast’.
 
The real irony is, Gujarati dailies with their massive reach have been successful in reflecting general sentiment but their capacity to generate or shape public opinion has diminished considerably — more so in the case of Modi’s criticism. Yet, there is a strange equilibrium between the anti-establishment stance adopted by the Gujarati dailies and Modi’s wide-spread popularity.

New National Sample Survey report points towards prevalence of poor sanitary conditions in rural Gujarat

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Rural Gujarat is known to have poor malnutrition levels. Malnutrition and sanitation are both interrelated. A new National Sample Survey Organization report has suggested that the state’s performance in providing sanitation to its rural population is not up to the mark. A counterview.org report:

In a major revelation, the new National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) report, “Key Indicators of Drinking Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Housing Condition in India”, released in December 2013, has found that Gujarat’s performance in providing sanitary and hygienic conditions to its rural population is not progressing well enough. In fact, if the data are indication, Gujarat’s performance on this score cannot be said to considered “vibrant” in any sense. The NSSO survey data suggest that Gujarat is an average performer, especially on issues related with sanitation. If the report is to be believed, a whopping 58.7 per cent of the rural households of Gujarat have no access to toilets – which means that majority of the rural population goes into the open for defecation.

If the report is any indicator, as many as 10 out of 20 major states selected for analysis have a lesser percentage of rural households without toilets. These are Kerala (2.8 per cent), Assam (13.7 per cent), Uttarakhand (19.7 per cent), Punjab (22.2 per cent), Haryana (25.4 per cent), Himachal Pradesh (25.7 per cent), West Bengal (39.7 per cent), Jammu & Kashmir (44.3 per cent), Maharashtra (54.0 per cent), and Andhra Pradesh (54.3 per cent). The all-India average of households without toilets is slightly better than Gujarat’s – 59.4 per cent. Lack of toilets, if analysts are to be believed, indicates that manual scavenging is widely prevalent in rural Gujarat, as in other parts of India.

Rural households without toilets (per 1000)

Rural households without toilets (per 1000)

Further, the survey found that 53.9 per cent of the rural households had no bathroom facility attached to the dwelling units, which again is worse suggests poor sanitary conditions in rural areas of the state. Here again, it is worse than as many as nine out of 20 major Indian states. The states with lesser percentage of households with “no bathrooms” within the dwelling units are Kerala (9.7 per cent), Haryana (14.4 per cent), Uttarakhand (20.5 per cent), Himachal Pradesh (31.7 per cent), Jammu & Kashmir (40.5 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (45.4 per cent), Assam (45.6 per cent), and Karnataka (48.1 per cent). The all-India average for no bathroom facility within rural dwelling units is 62.3 per cent.

Another indicator of poor sanitation is, according to the NSSO data, Gujarat is one of the worst performers in providing drainage facilities to its rural households. To quote NSSO, “Proper drainage arrangement meant a system of easy carrying-off waste water and liquid waste of the house without any overflow or seepage. This is an essential requirement for maintaining hygienic condition surrounding the house.” The survey, it added, tried to ascertain whether a household had any drainage system, if a household had some drainage system, whether the drainage system was underground or covered pucca or open pucca or open katcha.”

Rural households with drainage facilities (per 1000)

Rural households with drainage facilities (per 1000)

Data suggest that only 26.1 per cent of the rural households had access to drainage facility, as against the national average of 31.7 per cent of the rural households. The rural areas of the states with better drainage facilities attached to their households are Haryana (81.7 per cent), Punjab (79.3 per cent), Uttar Pradesh (49.5 per cent), Karnataka (43.3 per cent), Maharashtra (43.0 per cent), Uttarakhand (42.5 per cent), Andhra Pradesh (42.2 per cent), Kerala (41.3 per cent), Jammu & Kashmir (34.2 per cent), and Tamil Nadu (29.0 per cent). The all-India average on this score is 31.7 per cent.

The survey also finds that as many as 50.4 per cent of the rural households of Gujarat do not have any access to any garbage disposal facility. This is worse than several “progressive” states, including Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh.  The NSSO explains, “The two aspects, viz., drainage arrangement and garbage disposal system, are mainly associated with hygiene and cleanliness of the house.” Also associated with this “important aspect” of living condition and facility is “the availability of direct opening to road from the house”, the NSSO suggests, adding, “A household living in a house without any direct opening to the road appears to be deprived of one important facility for trouble-free movement. In this survey it was ascertained whether a household had any ‘direct opening to road/lane/constructed path’.”

Thus, the survey finds that in Gujarat 17.1 per cent of the rural households do not have any direct opening towards roads. While Gujarat scores worse than the all-India average, which is 14.6 per cent rural households having no direct opening to roads, the state is found to be a better perform than only six of the 20 major states of India – Uttar Pradesh (18.7 per cent),  Bihar (20.1 per cent), Jharkhand (20.6 per cent), Himachal Pradesh (27.5 per cent), Uttarakhand (27.6 per cent), and Jammu & Kashmir (36.7 per cent).

#Saheb’s James Bond-style surveillance

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Narendra Modi, the incorruptible, poetry-writing, good-governing, economy-expanding, tough-on-traitors nationalist I was long familiar with. The insecure and desperate figure who emerges from the Amit Shah tapes, I had not anticipated.

My heart goes out to him.

I hope, despite the panel set up to investigate this, that nothing much comes of this story and he continues his campaign. It will be a shame if he faces trouble on this count, at least for me.

If this is the issue which the Congress is hoping it will take to the election, and it seems to be, given how many of its leaders are weighing in on it, the party’s supporters would be justified in feeling that the game is over. Such things do not decide how voters feel about parties and personalities in our country, and a little abuse of the state for unofficial work is not limited to the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The other thing that I feel for him is for running a state with talent like child prodigy Amit Shah. When I was appointed editor of a Gujarati daily, Shah phoned me (hope there was no tapping). Now, I’ve met all sorts and I confess to disliking Amdavadis in general. But even I was taken aback by how crude and gruff Amitbhai was.

Both he and I refer to Modi as Saheb so I know who he’s talking about in these tapes.

One needs to listen to the taped conversations and know Gujarati to be able to properly appreciate what a half-assed operation Shah ran as deputy home minister.

The great ideas of competence and governance and the other pap that Modi’s chamchas (sycophants) spout will wither and blow away in the face of this performance from the Keystone Kops that is the Gujarat home department.

The air is full of high-end espionage, including code words (“Call me and only say: ‘The guests are inside’,” etc).

On the ground, alas, it is run with the usual competence associated with the word “government” in India. The police have little idea what the girl Shah wants tailed and kept tabs on is up to.

In one sequence the officer reports to Shah that he has one man at the gate, one at the door, one inside and one in the parking lot.

But is the girl inside? Er, that they don’t know. The girl escapes twice to shop without their notice, by rolling up her tinted windows. She is sharp enough to know they are tracking her through her mobile phone. She returns their missed calls and asks the owner of the public telephone to describe the man who made the call to her. Very little of what she is doing is ultimately known to the policemen keeping track of her round the clock.

Shah exhorts his spies to stay awake on the stake-out and large sections of his ministry are written off as incompetent: “ATS mathi manason no bharoso nahin rakhay (we can’t trust the fellows in the ATS).”

Shooed away by security guards, chasing after the wrong flight, unable to take photographs (“it’s too dark, sir”), Modi must have been tearing the remaining tufts of his hair out as the reports reached him as home minister.

Shah tells his spies that sitting in his office Modi knows more about the girl’s whereabouts and plans than they do. I think that was probably true.

Saheb gave Shah a ministry for a decade but no cabinet rank. This set of recordings shows us why with beautiful clarity. What sort of home minister allows his underhand work to be recorded by the officers he is trusting?

To those who think that Shah is an organizational genius who will deliver the world, it must be said that he is where he is for one reason alone. Not competence, but loyalty. He is the man Modi feels confident enough about to give his personal work.

To his friends, and I am not one of them, Shah has complained that Saheb led him to believe he would be chairman of the Gujarat Cricket Association. On the drive there to file the nomination, the story goes, Saheb turned to him in the car to say ‘Nahin yaar, hoonj banu to saru (I think it’s better if I do this).”

I have assumed this to be true and always held it against Modi but now I can see that it was the right thing to do.

Forget the BJP. The ordinance really wasn’t that bad….

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The BJP made a desperate attempt to distance itself from the bill to overturn the SC verdict against convicted MPs/MLAs, after having first supported it. At the same time, it continues to support the overturning the other SC verdict – that chargesheeted candidates should not be allowed to contest elections – on the grounds that the law & order machinery was in the hands of the state governments and they could misuse this provision against political opponents. Implicit in this is the assertion that we should be worried about corrupt cops, but not about corrupt judges. I beg to differ.

It is well known that corruption in the lower judiciary is rampant. Here are some statements made by prominent people in just the media in the recent past:

In a story in The Telegraph dated July 11, 2011 titled “80 per cent of lower judiciary is corrupt” (http://tinyurl.com/omd77rk), Bar Council chairman,Baleshwar Prasad Sharma, says “About 80 per cent of lower judiciary and nearly 10 per cent of higher judiciary (high court) are corrupt”.

In a story in OutlookIndia.com, titled “Corruption Is Rampant In The Lower Courts” (http://tinyurl.com/ppnxhuw), former CJI, Justice VN Khare, when asked if bribes were endemic in bail cases says “There is no doubt about it. It is rampant. Corruption in the lower courts is no secret. Sometimes, in the high court as well, cases of corruption have surfaced”.

In a story in The Hindu titled “Judiciary not untouched by corruption” (http://tinyurl.com/pz4pv7a), present CJI Justice Sathasivam says “I should fairly admit that the judiciary is not untouched by corruption. When we take the oath as judge, we swear to be fair and impartial in all our judicial functions. However, on some occasions in the past, few judges have wilfully dishonoured the oath by adopting to corrupt practices”.

And of course, in their famous statements, both Prashant Bhushan (In my view, out of the last 16 to 17 Chief Justices, half have been corrupt. I can’t prove this, though we had evidence against Punchhi, Anand, and Sabharwal on the basis of which we sought their impeachment”) and father Shanti Bhushan (eight were definitely corrupt, six were definitely honest and about the remaining two, a definite opinion cannot be expressed whether they were honest or corrupt) have made the same point, but this time at the level of the apex court.

Leave the Bhushans’ bizarre assertion aside. At the lower courts however, one has to agree that corruption does exist, and whatever laws we design should keep this reality in account.

So lets re-look the provisions of the proposed ordinance. What did the ordinance really say? Did it really give convicted MPs/MLAs the “free ride” that we were made to believe first by the media and then the opportunistic BJP? Or was the ordinance actually proposing a significant improvement over the current situation, where convicted law makers were indeed getting a free ride?

Kapil Sibal is quoted in the TOI dated September 25th as making the following points:

1)    The member will lose membership of the House if his appeal is rejected. In other words, if a higher court rejects the appeal, the member will still be impeached.

2)    Even during the pendency of the appeal, a convicted MP or MLA will not be eligible to vote or draw other privileges that he is entitled to because of the conviction. In other words, its hardly business as usual. Laloo may have remained in Parliament, but he would not be able to help the Congress, as is alleged, in touch voting situations.

Taking the extensive corruption in the lower judiciary into account, why is it not possible that a state government could use it to “fix” an MP or MLA in the same way it could use the police to fix an opposition candidate? How can the BJP take the specious stand that the first is a risk that is acceptable (hence it doesn’t support the amendment/ordinance), but the second is not (hence it supports the amendment to the Act)? Is this not a case of obvious double standards?

My own view is that given the pathetic state of our police force (poor forensics capabilities, huge corruption, untrained personnel) and an almost similar situation in the lower judiciary (corruption, backlog, incompetency), it is only fair that the MPs/MLAs should not lose their seats unless at least theHigh Court convicts them. We can hope that a High Court decision will be more honest, but not the lower court’s. Relying on the wisdom (?) of the lower courts could be the equivalent of jumping from the frying pan into the fire. We will all feel smug we have done something “to purge the criminals”, but in reality, we will only be making things worse.

પ્રાથમિક શિક્ષણમાં ગુજરાત ૧૨મા સ્થાનેથી સરકી ૨૮મા ક્રમે

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નેશનલ યુનિ. ઓફ એજ્યુ. પ્લાનિંગ એન્ડ એડમિનિસ્ટ્રેશનનો રિપોર્ટ

ગુજરાતના વિકાસ અંગે મુખ્યપ્રધાન અને ભાજપના વડાપ્રધાન પદના ઉમેદવાર નરેન્દ્ર મોદીની ગુલબાંગો વચ્ચે દેશના તાજેતરના શૈક્ષણિક વિકાસ ઇન્ડેક્સમાં ગુજરાતનો ક્રમ ઘણો પાછળ ધકેલાયો છે. પ્રાથમિક સ્તરના શિક્ષણમાં ગુજરાત ૧૨મા ક્રમેથી ગગડીને ૨૮મા ક્રમે જ્યારે ઉચ્ચતર માધ્યમિક સ્તરે ૮માથી ઘટીને ૧૪મા ક્રમે આવી ગયું છે. આ યાદી બનાવવા માટે ૩૫ રાજ્યોના (કેન્દ્રશાસિત પ્રદેશો સહિત) ૬૬૨ જિલ્લાઓમાંથી શાળાનો અભ્યાસ કરાયો હતો.
ડિસ્ટ્રીક્ટ ઇન્ફોર્મેશન સિસ્ટમ ફોર એજ્યુકેશન (ડીઆઇએસઇ)ના અહેવાલ મુજબ પ્રાથમિક સ્તરના શિક્ષણની ગુણવત્તાની દ્રષ્ટિએ દેશભરમાં ગુજરાતનો ક્રમ ૧૨ના બદલે હવે ૨૮મો થયો છે. જ્યારે ઉચ્ચતર પ્રાથમિક શાળા સ્તરના સંદર્ભે આ આંકડો ૮માંથી ઘટીને ૧૪ થયો છે. આ બન્ને આંકડાના આધારે નક્કી કરાયેલો નવો ક્રમ ૧૮મો છે જે અગાઉ નવમો હતો. યાદીમાં મહારાષ્ટ્ર આઠમા જ્યારે તામિલનાડુ ત્રીજા ક્રમે છે. ૨૦૧૨-૧૩ દરમિયાન અભ્યાસ માટે ૩૫ રાજ્યોના ૬૬૨ જિલ્લાઓની ૧૫ લાખ જેટલી શાળાઓને આવરી લેવાઈ હતી. યાદીમાં કેરળની પણ પડતી થઈ છે તે સાતમા ક્રમેથી ૧૪મા ક્રમે આવી ગયું છે. જ્યારે ઉત્તર પ્રદેશ ૩૨માંથી ૩૪મા અને પશ્ચિમ બંગાળ ૨૯માથી ૩૧મા ક્રમે ગગડયું છે.
રાજધાની નવી દિલ્હીના પણ વખાણ કરવા જેવા નથી તે છઠ્ઠા ક્રમેથી નીચે ઉતરીને ૧૧મા ક્રમે આવી ગયું છે. ડીઆઇએસઇનો અહેવાલ નેશનલ યુનિવર્સિટી ઓફ એજ્યુકેશન પ્લાનિંગ એન્ડ એડમિનિસ્ટ્રેશન (એનઇયુપીએ) દ્વારા તૈયાર કરાયો છે. આ યાદી રાજ્યોએ શિક્ષણક્ષેત્રે મેળવેલી સિદ્ધી રજુ કરે છે. ક્રમ નક્કી કરવા માટે વાર્ષિક ડ્રોપઆઉટનું પ્રમાણ અને પ્રાથમિક શિક્ષણના સ્તર સહિતની બાબતો ધ્યાને લેવાઇ છે.
અહેવાલ મુજબ પીવાના પાણી અને જાજરૃની સુવિધા ધરાવતી શાળાઓની સંખ્યા વધી છે અને સાથે ગયા વર્ષ કરતાં આ વર્ષે શાળાઓમાં પાયાની સુવિધાઓમાં પણ વધારો નોંધાયો છે. યાદીમાં લક્ષદ્વિપ ટોચના ક્રમે છે જ્યારે પુડુચેરી બીજા અને સિક્કિમ ચોથા ક્રમે આવ્યું છે. ઉત્તર-પૂર્વના અન્ય રાજ્યોની સાથે સિક્કિમે ઘણી નોંધપાત્ર પ્રગતિ સાધી છે. ગયા વર્ષે તેનો ક્રમ ૧૨મો હતો જે આ વર્ષે પ્રગતિ સાથે ચોથો થયો છે. મણિપુર ૨૪મા ક્રમેથી નવમા અને મિઝોરમ ૧૯મા ક્રમેથી ૧૦મા ક્રમે આવ્યું છે.