Tigers at Sarthana National Park in Surat
Tigers at Sarthana National Park in Surat. | ANI
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Mainstream newspapers choose different lead stories Friday. The Indian Express makes Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale’s statement on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly its lead, while The Times of India goes with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s bid to provide loans in the festive season.

Hindustan Times and The Hindu take up different aspects of PM Modi’s speech at a campaign in Nashik, Maharashtra.

Both carry photographs of Modi in a Maratha turban at the rally. “Time to turn J&K into a paradise, says Modi” is HT’s headline; “Hug each Kashmiri, build new paradise”, writes Hindu. TOI takes a different angle with, “PM slams ‘loudmouth’ statements on mandir”.

Tiger, Tiger: The Indian  Express goes in search of tigers and finds the numbers wanting: “Tiger count up but official photos show one in seven could just be a paper tiger”. The government had announced its ‘quadrennial’ tiger survey, claiming 2,967 tigers nationwide with supporting photographic evidence. However, Express found in its “investigation’’ of over 1,000 photographs, 221 should not have been counted. This “put a question mark on the counting process’’.

Modi: PM Modi “launched” the BJP’s campaign for the Maharashtra assembly elections “by calling for the making of a new Kashmir and the creation of a ‘new paradise’ in the Valley after the effective revocation of the special status” of J&K last month, reports HT. It notes that Modi’s speech “made it clear that Kashmir will be at the top of the electoral narrative leading up to the assembly elections later this year”.

Hindu quotes Modi, “Earlier, the slogan used to be Kashmir hamara hai (Kashmir is ours). This must now change to Naya Kashmir banana hai (We must make a new Kashmir)”. It also says that Modi took “a swipe at Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar for his remarks on scrapping of Article 370”.

TOI writes that Modi “sharply criticised ‘bayaan bahadurs (motormouths)’ and ‘badboley (loudmouths)’ for making ‘irresponsible’ statements on building the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya when the Supreme Court was hearing the case”.

Loans in festive seasonBoth TOI and HT report Sitharaman’s latest announcement. HT says, “Nirmala announces loan festivals to spur demand”, TOI headlines, “In relief for MSMEs, not 1 will be declared NPA till Mar’20”.

“Public sector banks, along with select non-banking finance companies, will fan out across 400 districts to provide loans to farmers, retail borrowers and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs),” said Sitharaman, “as the government launched a strong bid to provide loans in the festival season” writes TOI.

HT says, “loans will be disbursed under a ‘shamiyana’ (tent), and both banks and NBFCs will give loans to new customers.” Express does not carry this one Page 1.

In its other lead, Express states that Foreign Secretary Gokhale said PM Modi “will not discuss the issue of Article 370 at the United Nations and will focus on development and other issues when he addresses the United Nations Assembly in New York”.

Hindu’s second lead says, “at least five political leaders” in Kashmir “have signed bonds to secure their release”. It goes on to explain that “the detentions were made under Section 107 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.PC) and the politicians who signed the bonds gave an undertaking that they would not indulge in any political activity after their release”. Hindu is the only mainstream newspaper to report this on the front page.

Opinion 

TOI: In ‘Go Greta Go’, the paper discusses young Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg who told US Congress Wednesday to “wake up” to the climate crisis after starting her campaign just a year ago. Thunderberg represents a new generation mobilised towards climate activism, having been “betrayed by baby boomers” who did little to cap “ballooning debt or climatic dangers”, writes TOI.

The newspaper calls for international cooperation in tackling climate change, which at times has “receded with a rising tide of populist nationalism”. The Amazon fires, for example, ended up being a “standoff” between Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and France President Emmanuel Macron.

In India too, nationalism has overshadowed environmental efforts, explains TOI, like “cow politics (that) has mushroomed despite enormous damage to the rural economy”. It suggests we avoid what baby boomers did — letting problems fester and leaving behind “a septic legacy for future generations”.

Hindu: The newspaper supports the Centre’s ban on e-cigarettes, vapes and e-hookahs — the production or distribution of which can amount to imprisonment or fine or both. In ‘Smoke of the vapour’, it credits the Centre for showing “intolerance of anything that impacts negatively on the health and wellness of the people of the country”. It also encourages it “go all out” in enforcing the ban, unlike “the patchy execution” of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act. It also cites WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) that states long-term e-cigarette use can increase the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and other diseases associated with smoking. It also highlights evidence that vaping, “dangled as a cool, fun, activity” actually introduces youngsters to smoking.

Prime Time

Channels were abuzz Thursday, with Times NowIndia Today reporting from Houston in the US with a big ‘Howdy’ to Modi. However, first, a warning: do not believe everything you see.

Times Now had aired a video recently of NRIs dancing and celebrating in anticipation of Modi’s event in Houston. But, fact-checking network Boomlive found that the video was actually of a pre-election rally early this year. The channel has since removed the video.

India Today: Anchor Gaurav Sawant in Houston interviewed president of US India Business Council Nisha Desai Biswal.

“The US and India have deep respect for the fact that while we have strong and convergent goals, we still have strong historical ties that both countries want to manage,” she said.

“US doesn’t expect India to be a carbon copy or a validator of its objectives or vice-versa,” she added.

On the trade impasse between the two countries, Biswal said that the “US and Indian trade negotiators were working very hard to iron out differences, “to close the gap”.

Times NowAnchor Padmaja Joshi discussed the assault on Union Minister Babul Supriyo at Jadavpur University in Kolkata.

“Jadavpur University, according to their norms and policies, does not allow politicians to enter the campus,” explained Vishweshar Rao, professor at Osmania University, Hyderabad.

He added that Supriyo “provoked’’ students. “He should’ve gotten out of the university and filed an FIR,” said Rao.

BJP spokesperson Amit Malviya was sarcastic and dismissive of the Left, which he said “is only consigned to Kerala and few islands like JNU and Jadavpur University”. “These people are a terrible liability for India and for society,” he added.

ABP NewsPM Modi targeted National Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar for making remarks that allegedly supported Pakistan. Anchor Romana Isar Khan asked, “Is BJP going to win Maharashtra election on Kashmir card?”

NCP’s Nawab Malik dismissed the allegations straight away: “If Sharad Pawar or any leader is seen passing remarks in support of Pakistan, I will leave politics”. He then walked out of the debate.

Political analyst Nishant Verma read out statements by RSS leader Dattatreya Hosbole and Mohan Bhagwat, from the past: “Dattatreya Hosbole said that like Kaurav and Pandav, Pakistan and India are brothers.”

“PM Modi knows that Pakistan is that ‘budhape ki lathi’ without which he cannot win any election,” he said.

RSS ideologue Sanjiv Uniyal refuted Verma’s claims: “Verma has picked up the statement without any context…even an illiterate person will laugh if we say that RSS has supported Pakistan ever.”

India TV: PM Modi’s promise of ‘a new Kashmir’ saw anchor Sushant Sinha ask, “If winning three upcoming assembly elections will validate BJP’s decision to abrogate Article 370”.

BJP’s Nalin Kohli said, “If you…conduct a survey in the country right now, you will find that almost everyone is happy with the decision.”

Congress’ Salman Nizami retorted, “Nobody stopped the PM from bringing development to the Valley in the past five years… if they arrest leaders like Farooq Abdullah who fought for this nation’s unity and integrity, they cannot expect any support from Kashmiris.’’

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