Tuesday, 24 May, 2022
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While manual scavengers continue to die, FM writes op-ed ode to Swachh mission

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Did you notice the sudden reappearance of news about Swachh Bharat? No prizes for guessing that it is because Gandhi Jayanti, the day it was launched in 2014, is approaching. This time around, though, the Narendra Modi government has embarked on a much grander project that involves the international community as well.

So, on 2 October, ministers from as many as 40 countries will attend a ‘Swachhata hi Seva’ conference that will be anchored by the ministry of drinking water and sanitation, and UNICEF.

Naturally, then, showcasing the “success” of one of the government’s pet schemes is in order. In Wednesday’s edition of The Economic Times, none other than finance minister Arun Jaitley has been marshaled to write a piece extolling the government’s ambitions.

Jaitley is absolutely right when he says open defecation is no easy task to address, that too in a country where the practice enjoys cultural status among some people.

His comparison between Modi’s ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign and Kennedy’s dream of putting a man on the moon may seem laughable at first, but your laughter will die in your stomach if you begin to understand India’s love for open defecation.

Some of it has to be do with the obsession of caste Hindus with purification and pollution — but we won’t go there.

Certainly, not many government of India schemes have the luxury of having a budgetary allocation to the “north of $20 billion”, as Jaitley says, somewhat wonderingly, in the piece.

But how do you reconcile this astronomical intended expenditure to the death of six sanitation workers in the national capital in a week? It gets worse.

As reported by The Indian Express, a sewage and septic tank cleaner has died every five days on average since January 2017. Shouldn’t their well-being, too, have been a part of this cleanliness narrative? Hope these foot soldiers’ stories will become a part of the success saga of this mega scheme.

Speaking of throwing money at problems that won’t go away, Modi “gifted” Varanasi, his Lok Sabha constituency, no less than Rs 500 crore to keep the dream of development alive. The investment will go towards several projects, among them the Integrated Power Development Scheme and the Atal Incubation Centre.

In classic melodrama, as reported by The Telegraph, Modi declared the people of the city his “master and high command”. The paper’s headline read: “Self-styled chowkidar returns to ‘maalik’.

The fund allocation is meant to bring Varanasi one step closer to becoming a smart city. And it is well on its way if one goes by Modi’s speech, where he said “maa Ganga” is becoming cleaner every day owing to the efforts undertaken by the Ganga mission and his government. How true are Modi’s claims? Read on here.

Business Class

Flipkart is gearing up for the upcoming festive season. It has invested Rs 3,463 crore into its main ecommerce unit days before the autumn festive season kicks in, reports The Economic Times. This is the first major capital infusion after the acquisition of Flipkart by US retail giant Walmart. Flipkart has a market share of 54 per cent in online sales, but Amazon, with a 30 per cent market share, is quickly catching up. Flipkart will reportedly be using the funds to provide mega discounts on smartphones and other electronic devices.

The proposed merger of Vijaya Bank, Dena Bank and the Bank of Baroda will entail savings to the tune of Rs 10 billion, reports Business Standard. Credit rating agency Moody’s gave the proposal a thumbs-up, saying it’ll bring “benefits of scale and governance”.

Point of View

Are we witnessing a new version of the RSS? Or is Mohan Bhagwat’s message of inclusion mere lip service? Business Standard, in an editorial, writes about the need for the RSS to bridge the gap between its words and actions.

The proposal to merge Bank of Baroda, Dena Bank and Vijaya Bank has evoked a mixed response. It is understandable. The Hindu, in an editorial, writes that the proposal to should have first been discussed in the board rooms of these banks. The shares of Dena Bank, the weakest of the three, gained value in the wake of the announcement, while the others lost share value. It also argues that the merger alone is unlikely to solve the problem of bad loans.

Prime Time

A free run for rapists?

On CNN News 18, anchor Marya Shakil questioned why those accused of the Rewari gang rape were still roaming free. It has been six days since the episode, and only one of the key accused has been arrested.

On the show as panelists, wrestler Babita Phogat and retired IPS officer Vikram Singh emphasised the need for better law enforcement.

“If there’s fear of law, I think such cases will be dealt with immediately,” Phogat added.

Said Singh, “Police should have come down like a ton of bricks and lightning on the accused.”

The panel discussion on Republic TV centred on whether the Manohar Lal Khattar government in Haryana was doing enough for women’s safety. Academic Madhu Kishwar and social activist Ranjana Kumari said the Khattar government had completely failed to secure women.

“The conduct of the Haryana government cannot be defended. Manohar Lal Khattar as the CM has been a disaster story,” Kishwar said.

Ranjana Kumari added, “The Khattar government does not want to act. Police has been complicit. They were doing VVIP duty and not (making) arrests.”

The ‘church rape’ scandal

On India Today TV, anchor Padmaja Joshi asked whether the Jalandhar bishop accused of raping a nun should step down to ensure the probe is not influenced.

Social activist Brinda Adige and Sandhya Raju, a petitioner in the case, were in favour of the bishop stepping down.

Adige said, “We have seen the nexus between the church and the state in this particular case, so the bishop should absolutely step down.”

Raju added, “The court has not found the bishop innocent yet and the investigations has clearly showed that he has committed the crime.”

News it’s kinda cool to know

Physicists at the University of Exeter in England have found that an object can be two temperatures at the same time at the quantum level. “This weird quantum paradox is the first completely new quantum uncertainty relation to be formulated in several years,” a report in Livescience added.

With inputs from Ratnadeep Choudhary.

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