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The Murkier, Curiouser World Of Tamil Nadu Politics

Like Alice In Wonderland, the Tamil Nadu politics seems to be getting curiouser and curiouser. It all started with Superstar Rajnikant throwing in the towel thereby dashing BJP’s hopes of making significant impact in the upcoming Assembly polls. For MK Stalin of DMK, this announcement was music to ears. But the news of VK Sasikala or ‘Chinamma’, confidante of the late J Jayalalithaa, former Chief Minister, saw both the ruling party AIADMK and the DMK pull a long face. She came out of Bangalore jail after serving four-year term, and entered the fray .So much so, Chinamma was prevented by the very people who prostrated before her from going anywhere near Jayalalithaa’s Samadhi at Marina Beach. At the same time, to keep her in good humour mediators have been holding talks with her nephew TTV Dinakaran to work out a possible merger of his party AMMK with the AIADMK so that they can fight the common enemy DMK. But in a new political twist, Chinamma dropped a bomb, announcing to stay away from politics. The DMK and the Congress spokespersons on the TV channels are saying she must have been pressurized by the BJP! Apparently, local BJP leaders have welcomed the move. In the fast changing political contours, is it advantage AIADMK? Does DMK stand a better chance minus Chinamma?  And where does Kamal Hasaan’s party Makkal Needhi Maiam figure?
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Revisiting Private Placement Scam

In the mid-eighties and early nineties, the Indian promoters literally made hay in the absence of a market regulator, according to the Mumbai-based brokerage firm Altina Securities. The modus operandi was simple: raise money via private placement. To illustrate, if Company X had a post-issue capital of Rs 100 lakh, the break-up was: promoters Rs 40 lakh and public Rs 60 lakh. Many promoters – just before the IPO – privately placed nearly 75% of their holdings. Thus, Post IPO, the Rs 100 lakh equity base would be: Promoters Rs10 lakh, Private Placement Rs 30 lakh & Public Rs 60 lakh. There have been instances where the fly-by-night promoters received kickbacks for the project. This effectively reduced their skin in the game.  Little wonder many companies which resorted to this route have vanished, leaving the small investors high and dry. Some of the vanishing companies are: Bonanza Pharma, Atash Industries, Amrut Industries, UCL Plastics, Rasik Plast, Indiana Diary. Senthur Shoes, Printed Circuit Board, Alsa Marine and Premier Housing.
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Sushant Singh Rajput: Keeps Trending On Twitter

It appears that no death — be it that of Mahatma Gandhi, John F Kennedy, John Lennon or Lady Diana — has been as hysterically covered that too non-stop for over 100 days by the Indian media as that of Bollywood star Sushant Singh Rajput who died under mysterious circumstance on June 14, 2020. The CBI has been on the job but their findings are yet to be made public. The glimmer of hope came in December 2020 when the CBI, in response to a letter written by the BJP’s Rajya Sabha member Dr Subramanian Swamy to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “The CBI is conducting investigation in a thorough and professional manner using latest scientific techniques. During investigation, all aspects are being looked at and no aspect has been ruled out as on date,” Dr Swamy was informed. Meanwhile, the diehard fans of Sushant are keeping the issue alive by posting relentlessly on Twitter: it was trending at #7 with 129,000 tweets on 3 March 2021.
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“Murgers” Is Back On The Media Beat

Popularly known as “Murgers”, the Dubai-based Brian Murgatroyd has been with the touring England side from the second Test in Chennai.  The 53-year-old British national has been with cricket boards of Australia and England as media officer of their respective teams. He has also served the International Cricket Council for a number of years.  “This is my second stint with the England cricket team. I think the final Test of the India-England series in Ahmedabad is the 199th I have attended in a working capacity in 31 years,” said  Murgatroyd who, when in Mumbai, likes to have  a good fill of Sitafal ice cream (Custard Apple) at Rustomji’s on Veer Nariman Road, Churchgate.  Murgatroyd has been a broadcaster, writer and media manager of England and also Australia in the era of Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting. He has also written six books.  “It’s been a wonderful experience, making friends in the sport that have endured and given me memories that will last for the rest of my life.”  For the BCCI and Indian cricket teams, the media work is being carried out efficiently by Moulin Parikh and Anand Subramanian.
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Vajpayee Years: An Insider’s Account

Post retirement there is a tendency among most bureaucrats to pen a book of their years in the government job. The latest to join the writers’ hall of fame is Shakti Sinha, an IAS officer who served as private secretary to the late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. His book Vajpayee: The Years That Changed India provides an insider’s account of Vajpayee days as prime minister.  He says whenever there were any crisis or controversies, Vajpayee never blamed the Opposition. People do not know how difficult it was for him to form a government in 1998 and run it. Vajpayee held the post of the prime minister for three non-consecutive terms in 1996, 1998-99, and from 1999-2004. Despite numerous political difficulties, he took important decisions like going nuclear and, paradoxically, extending a hand of friendship to Pakistan. The book highlights how resolutely Vajpayee defended India when the Kargil war broke out. And yet how his government was denied a second term.

A Shot In The Arm For Achhe Din?

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi receiving his first dose of vaccine, not only the inoculation drive against Covid-19 — but also the nation’s recovery prospects got a fresh shot in the arm. The investors now foresee acceleration in the drive to subdue the virus – which should free up all critical sectors. Moody’s has revised India’s GDP projections for FY22 upwards to 13.7% (from 10.8% estimated earlier) while the IMF has projected 11.5% (up from 8.8%). Despite Covid-19 stress, the GST collections for past five consecutive months have exceeded over Rs 1 lakh crore – including Rs 1.13 lakh crore in Feb 2021, up 7% versus Feb 2020. The state-wise GST growth is led by big states – Gujarat (up 14%), Tamil Nadu 9%, Maharashtra 2%, and Karnataka 2%. The recovery is attributed to a resilient farm economy as well as an impressive manufacturing performance with the Purchasing Managers’ Index hitting 57.5% in Feb. With vaccination drive in full swing, the services sector and the MSMEs should also bounce back. Meanwhile, the Central and the state governments should focus on reforms and relief on four fronts: 1) Employment generation; 2) an empowered antitrust watchdog to track corporate dominance in key businesses, including farming; 3) better industrial relations amid Kolar violence (at Apple iPhone plant); and 4) better outcomes from the Bad Bank (with the creditors identifying corporate loans of over Rs 1.45 lakh crore).

Of Delayed Infra Projects, Non-Performing Babus & An Exasperated Minister

Road Transport & Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari does not hide his frustration with obstructionist bureaucrats. He is vocal and open about it.  From time to time, he has been using various fora to drive home his point. He is furious at the slow pace with which the files move from the desk of a director-level officer to a joint secretary, additional secretary and secretary.  He has warned the bureaucrats that “dead assets in government, who neither take decisions nor allow others to work, would be shown the door.” But, bureaucrats on their part seem indifferent to his threat and insult. Result, Gadkari seems to have given up on them.  At a web-based event, he threw his hands up and said: “After my six years’ experience I have found that in this system people won’t change. I am coming to the conclusion that it is very difficult to change them. I have given up on these people.”  And now, a few months back while speaking at the inauguration of the eight-floor NHAI building, Gadkari said: “The project was decided in 2008. Twelve years, two governments and eight NHAI chairmen came and went before this building could be completed. I am ashamed.” So how do we bring accountability and responsibility among bureaucrats? If a minister cannot fix this problem who can? Can the judiciary (saddled with lakhs of pending cases) play a role here? There are more questions than answers.
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Mumbai Tourists Get A Different Khushboo Of Gujarat

The Khushboo Gujarat Ki campaign run by the Gujarat Tourism since 2010 has been very effective, giving a massive boost to the number of in-bound tourists. But our Short Post Team discovered a shocking case of tourist alienation – with two Mumbai-based businessmen confiding in about a horrendous experience. It was a different khushboo when they drove down to Jaisalmer in Rajasthan from Mumbai. On return, their car bearing Maharashtra number plate was stopped by the Gujarat police at four different checkpoints. And from the word go it was mindless harassment and heaps of insult. At the first check-post, they were questioned whether they carried drugs, guns or alcohol and then asked to turn their bags upside down. At the second check-post they were asked why they did not cover the top portion of the headlights with yellow scotch tape? At the third check-post, they were fined for not wearing their mask properly inside their car. But, their real nightmare began at the fourth check-post. The cops once again rummaged through their bag and separated an empty liquor bottle. Immediately, they shouted with glee “Milee Gayo”, “Milee Gayo” (got it). Their reactions shocked these two businessmen. The cops forced one of them to sit in the driver’s seat and clicked pictures with an empty bottle on his lap. Then, they were told that now an FIR would be filed; and that they would have to pay a fine of Rs 1 lakh or else they would be jailed.  Physically and mentally exhausted because of this senseless extortion the businessmen decided to loosen their purse strings and after which they were allowed to go.
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-- photo inset- Sashadhar Mukherjee

Sashadhar Mukherji: The Man Who Told Shammi Kapoor ‘Shave Off Your Moustache’

The doyen of the Indian film industry, Sashadhar Mukerji, who initially joined Bombay Talkies and went on to create Filmistan and Filmalaya Studios, was considered the man with the Midas touch. He not only launched several new faces who have become a runaway success stories but his entire family right from his sons (Joy, Deb, and Shomu), grandson (Ayan), grand-daughter (Kajol), relatives (Ashok, Kishore, and Anup Kumar) are part of the film fraternity. It is a huge extended family. Actually, he was the brain behind the concept of formula films. A legend in his own lifetime, Mukherji was approached by Shammi Kapoor constantly for a big break. “Sir, you have made so many stars, when are you going to do something for me?” This persistence by Shammi went on for some time till one day Mukherji said: “Shave off your moustache and see me tomorrow.” Without wasting time, Shammi landed at his office the next day sans moustache and producer Mukherji signed him for Tum Sa Nahi Dekha which was directed by Nasir Hussain. Interestingly, this film became a launch pad for heroine Ameeta, director Hussain and catapulted a struggling Shammi Kapoor into the big league. Shammi told the undersigned: “I had a Hillman car those days. Even before the release of the film, I sold it and went on a holiday to the Far East. I knew when I return, I shall be a star!”
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Azim Premji: Billionaire With A Heart

Sometime in the mid-nineties Wipro’s Azim Premji – the 10th richest Indian with a net worth of $7.2 bn — won the prestigious Business India’s Businessman Of The Year Award. After the award function, he was chatting with Business India’s editorial team and narrating a story about his son Rishad’s persistent demand for a car. “After much persuasion by my son, I finally agreed to let him have a car,” shared Premji. Knowing Premji’s net worth, the editorial staff of the Business India assumed it would be a Merc or Ferrari. Yet, their curiosity got the better of them and one scribe asked, so which car was it. “I sanctioned him an Indica,” said Premji nonchalantly. There was a pin drop silence. But that’s the stuff Premji is made of: Simple Living, High Thinking. The man who has donated over $16 bn for charitable causes is not looking for headlines. He shuns the Press. In fact, his wife Yasmeen who worked for Business India’s sister publication Inside Outside is very much like him – low profile and not-ostentatious. So the new book by two journalists Sundeep Khanna and Varun Sood Azim Premji: The Man Beyond Billions should make for an interesting read. The book brings out his simplicity. He loves chocolates, travels economy class and prefers to take the subway while in New York.  All these qualities indeed make him a cut above the rest.
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Sajjan Jindal: The Art Of Managing Business & Politics

JSW Group Chairman Sajjan Jindal is hogging the limelight for his announcement to invest Rs 22,000 crore for the expansion of Dolvi plant in the coastal Raigad district in Maharashtra with an annual production capacity of 14 million tonnes. Already, the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation has notified 750 acre of the total 1,600 acre land. Jindal’s investment decision has raised eyebrows especially among those in the ruling Shiv Sena. Many in the Sena know about the proximity Jindal enjoys with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Sajjan Jindal group was also associated with the redevelopment of Kedarnath and Badrinath when the holy cities were severely devastated by floods and landslides in June 2013.  It is believed that Jindal had organised the PM’s meeting with Pakistan’s former PM Nawaz Sharif. Against this backdrop, some of the Sena leaders are wondering why Jindal agreed for big investments in Maharashtra which is now ruled by their party, in alliance with the Congress and the NCP, instead of any of the BJP-ruled States. Clearly, all businessmen know the consequences of putting all eggs in one basket. There are lessons galore of businessmen who forget this simple principle.
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Fotocorp.com -- L To R: Uddhav Thackeray, Nitin Gadkari, Sharad Pawar

Thackeray Pulling Out All The Stops To Woo Airbus

Political parties in Maharashtra are known for not practicing untouchability in politics. But when it comes to the issue of protecting the State’s interest and maintaining Maharashtra’s pre-eminence as the most favoured investment destination then all political parties sink their difference and put up a show of unity. This unity is important as Maharashtra faces tough competition from other States like Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka to bag big projects. A case in point is that of luring Airbus SE, a European multinational aerospace corporation, for its proposed investment of over Rs15,000 crore to manufacture 56 aircraft and helicopters in Maharashtra. Knowing the importance of Airbus’ entry into the state, the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi government has swung into action. Chief Minister and Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray has written to NCP Supremo Sharad Pawar and Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari for taking up Maharashtra’s cause with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The government has cited a site in the MIHAN project at Nagpur for Airbus’ proposed investment. Airbus is expected to join hands with the Tata Group for the proposed venture. Incidentally, Nagpur is the home city of Gadkari.
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How Kareena & Anushka Cashed On Baby Bumps

Unlike yesteryear’s stars who hid their married status and pregnancy, today’s stars are going to town on both the counts. Both Kareena Kapoor Khan and Anushka Sharma have smartly cashed on their pregnancy by endorsing advertisements showing their baby bumps. Result: both made money hands over fist. Kareena, according to industry sources, earned about Rs 12 crore from brand endorsements. Interestingly even brands are keen for such endorsements by celebrities. It was a hush-hush affair when Sridevi was pregnant with Janhvi while shooting for Judaai, produced by her husband Boney Kapoor. Though one did get a glimpse of it in one of the songs in the movie. Similarly, Aamir Khan’s marriage was kept a secret although the audience saw the glimpse of his wife Reena Dutta in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was probably the first Bollywood actress who had the courage to show her baby bumps. She was spotted at fashion shows when she was pregnant with Aaradhya. She walked the ramp and did invite snide remarks, but she was unfazed. Today, pregnancies have become just a minor bump in a female actor’s career. Rani Mukherjee made a successful comeback; so did Kareena after her first baby. Even Neha Dhupia is back in the business with her talk show besides making guest appearances on TV shows and Page 3 events. Come to think of it, today’s stars are having the best of both the worlds – motherhood and career.
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-- L To R: Axar, Amrish & Sanjay

Aapdo Axar Is Talk Of The Town!

Aapdo Axar Patel is the talk of the town. Gujaratis across the State, so much used to the cricketing exploits of the Rajkot-based Cheteshwar Pujara, and Jamnagar-based Ravindra Jadeja and Jasprit Bumrah (he is very much an Amdavadi), are rejoicing at the success of the six footer from Nadiad playing havoc in the England batting ranks. So far Axar has 18 scalps in the ongoing Test series against England. He is keen to add a many more to the kitty in the last Test at Motera.  It’s a complete Patel thing in Axar’s make-up. He may be operating under the watchful eyes of India team Head Coach, Ravi Shastri, a left arm spinner himself, but “Aapdo Axar” picked up the art of left of spin from Sanjay Patel, Amrish Patel and Swapnil Patel, all associated with Kheda Cricket Academy in Nadiad, famous for giving India its first Deputy PM, Vallabhai Patel. Sanjay and Amrish must get credit for urging Axar to give up left arm pace and become an artful dodger embracing left arm spin. “He had a faulty landing of his right foot when bowling pace, but everything was fine when he bowled spin. He agreed to become a spinner when he was a junior,” Sanjay and Amrish told this correspondent while visiting Axar’s residence in Nadiad. 

Do Politicians Make For Good Sports Administrators?

It was a hotly contested election between a corporate chieftain and a politician. In the end, SpiceJet Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Singh won. Singh was re-elected President of the Boxing Federation of India defeating senior BJP leader and former Maharashtra Sports Minister Ashish Shelar. The defeat of a prominent Maharashtra politician refreshed memories of the tussle between Jagmohan Dalmiya and Sharad Pawar for the BCCI President’s post in 2015. Dalmiya was unanimously elected BCCI President as Pawar failed to secure a nomination for the post. This begs the question: Why do politicians make beeline to join various sports bodies? Do they make for good sports administrators? As per a report, 47% of India’s sports federations are headed by politicians. Jay Kowli, Secretary-General of the Boxing Federation of India, believes having politicians as administrators have proved to be beneficial – with leaders like Sharad Pawar making a big difference to the world of cricket. Well, such encomiums must be music to the ears of politicians as the general feeling is that the politicians should keep out of the sports bodies.
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Fotocorp.com -- L To R: Aditya Puri, Ashok Sinha & Arun Nanda

Lockdown Addresses Of The Best Performing CEOs

Thanks to pandemic work from home has become a way of life. Most CEOs are operating out of their homes or farmhouses. Take for instance how Arun Nanda, chairman of Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India, managed his company’s affairs. According to informed sources, Nanda has been calling the shots from Tungi, Lonavala for most part of the year.  And his efforts saw company’s Q3FY20 net profit jump 63% to Rs 41 cr.  Likewise, superbanker Aditya Puri, former MD & CEO of HDFC Bank, worked most of the last year between Mumbai and Lonavala. Puri who has joined The Carlyle Group as a Senior Advisor, went to Sandoz House, Worli (that’s where he started his innings with the bank) for his send-off organized by the current managing director Sashidhar Jagdishan. It was an e-Event for the rest of the staff. Likewise, Ashok Sinha, former chairman of BPCL, who sits on several boards did not cross the threshold of his Peddar Road flat since lockdown was clamped down and has managed all his affairs via digital meetings. Covid has indeed put the fear of God among all. Earlier, many were sceptical about the Indian vaccines.  But, now it is learnt that all of them are fed up of operating out of their homes and are keen to take the jab so that they can travel freely
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A BCCI Accredited Scorer Ready To Chuck Bank Job!

There are hundreds of BCCI accredited scorers who look forward to every season, not just to follow their passion of keeping ball-by-ball records of matches, but also to make some extra money. The BCCI pays Rs 10,000 per day. The experienced scorers are assigned 50 days in a season. Jignesh R Bhatt, who is employed with the State Bank of India in Ahmedabad, has two years of service left, but the 58-year-old is mulling over to resign. “I have lost Rs 5 to 6 lakh in the last two years and I want to fully dedicate myself to scoring. And so I may resign from my Bank job. Even the BCCI doesn’t engage persons who have reached the age of superannuation. I must have done 350 days of scoring but I had to take privilege leave,” says Bhatt. “The Bank gives special leave to umpires, referees, players, selectors and mangers, but the circular doesn’t mention scorers and hence I have not received the benefit,” adds Bhatt, the scorer in the Press Box for the India- England Test at the Narendra Modi Stadium. This is Bhatt’s 27th year in cricket scoring; he had received Rs 60 as match fee for the India-Australia Under-19 match in 1993.
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Rakesh Tikait: Playing Farmer’s Tune?

There is nothing striking about this farmer leader who has kept the Modi government on tenterhooks. It seems like he has deliberately cultivated the image of a rustic leader with a green Kisan cap, accompanied by a green-white gumchha and an unkempt beard. The 51-year old Rakesh Tikait, who holds a Master’s degree from the Meerut University, would definitely know what style is, having served in the Delhi Police department as sub-inspector till 1992 and hailing from a high profile family. He quit police force during the farmers’ agitation at Red Fort in 1993-94 and joined the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) set up by his father Mahendra Singh Tikait, a firebrand farmer leader. Political ambitions took him to contest the assembly elections in 2007 and Lok Sabha in 2014 but he lost both. With the farmers’ agitation regaining momentum (after he broke down on the national television), he has declared the agitation would continue till October 2021. His message to Modi: “We have so far talked about Bill Wapsi (Repealing the three farm laws). What will you do if the youth call for Gaddi Wapsi (removal from power)?” There is a sense of déjà vu listening to this kind of veiled threat.
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Dia Mirza: The Actor-Activist’s Second Innings

This model turned actress-producer-social worker has never changed her narrative. She is one woman who stands up for women’s rights and children’s rights and has never cared about political correctness. Bhumi Pednekar may be called the climate warrior and Taapsee Pannu has begun speaking up on the subject now. But the original voice of dissent from Bollywood and the person who took on the mantle of activism in this generation is the 39-year old Dia Mirza.  Dia is unique in her own way – elegant, charming yet understated. She went through a painful divorce but nobody got a whiff of it. She compartmentalised her personal and professional life smartly.  There was no mudslinging and neither did she look up for any sympathy.  Even if we look at her PR, it is not about publicising her role in a movie but about the good work she does outside films. Her work on the Yamuna clean up and the Ganga documentary are well-known. That is why when she was appointed as an official Sustainable Development Goals’ advocate it made sense because we know this woman will do justice to her role. Everybody needs a second chance. Professionally, Dia is making a comeback on big screen and web series, and personally she got married for the second time. We wish her luck on both fronts.
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Why BR Chopra Renamed Talaq As Nikaah

Remember Salma Agha the honey-eyed husky voiced lady who came here from Pakistan to make it big as a singer-actor-star in Bollywood — a la Noorjahan, Suraiyya! That was the time when the legendary film maker BR Chopra (who always made films on social issues – Ek Hi Raasta, Naya Daur, Mazoor) was planning to make a film on triple Talaq- based on a short story given to him by a Hindi freelance journalist Achala Nagar.  She had forgotten about it. Chopra not only read the story but also asked to search for the writer. He decide to make this film with an entirely fresh cast and crew. Salma got a break with this film along with Hasan Kamaal as its lyricist. The film was made under the title Talaq Talaq Talaq and that precisely attracted the ire of muslim groups. They said even if we mention the title of the film in front of our wives we would be pronouncing “Talaq!” One important muslim poet/journalist told Chopra “Muslims make 70% of cinema going audiences, if we issue a Fatwa to not to see the film, the film would flop.” Heeding his advice the title of the film Talaq Talaq Talaq was changed to Nikaah.  
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Thackeray Mulls A 2-Shift Plan, Staggered Timings For Businesses

If Uddhav Thackeray’s instructions to the top officials to work out a plan to have the Mantralaya function in two shifts, and his earlier appeal to the private sector to stagger their office timings come to fruition, the face of transportation, work dynamics, and work-life balance across Mumbai metro region would change. Months ago the BMC, and the Western and Central Railways had offered to rework their schedules during the lockdown itself and asked the State Government to initiate theirs. Apparently after discovering nine infections in the Revenue Department and also seeing the entire entourage of Chhagan Bhujbal hit by the virus, Thackeray set the wheels moving. But the private sector is yet to respond. Thackeray had also told the NITI Ayog about staggered work hours because it may not be within his remit to ask the Central Government offices to stagger their timings. If this does happen, overcrowding on public transport, congestion of Mumbai region’s roads would ease to an extent. But it is a complex task – ministries function in a synergy not perceived by outsiders. Also, the home to station to workplace bus connectivity has to be worked out. Else the solution could be worse than the problem. If only all this had been thought of during the lockdown! A classic case of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted.
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Confessions Of A CBI Director

Former CBI Director RK Raghavan, who was the chairman of the Special Investigative Team constituted to probe the 2002 Gujarat Riots, revealed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, kept his cool right through the marathon session of questioning and never parried questions. In his autobiography A Road Well Travelled, Raghavan said: “The SIT’s unequivocal stand on the chief minister’s role was unpalatable to his adversaries in the State and in Delhi. They engineered petitions against me, accusing me of favouring the chief minister. The grapevine had it that they misused central agencies to monitor my telephonic conversations. They were, however, disappointed not to find anything incriminating.” Raghavan’s book sheds light on the gruelling interrogation that Modi was subjected to. “At one point of time, SIT had to question Modi on the various allegations made against the state administration. We had it conveyed to his staff that he had to come in person to the SIT office for this purpose, and that meeting him elsewhere would be misconstrued as a favour. He readily agreed to come to the SIT office within the government complex in Gandhinagar. Modi’s questioning lasted nine hours and he kept his cool right through the marathon session which ended late at night. He never parried questions. Nor did he give the impression of padding up his responses,” the book points out.

Has Covid Vaccination Drive Slowed Down?

With the rise in Covid cases, especially in two States — Kerala and Maharashtra, the question everybody is asking: Has the vaccination drive slowed down? Is it because of a glitch in CoWin App? The cynics were asking whether the vaccination drive was kept on hold to deliver it in the poll-bound States. Till date, 1,14,24,094 vaccine doses have been administered to 75,40,602 healthcare workers and 38,83,492 frontline workers through 2,44,071 sessions. The government which was silently working on the issue gave its answer saying that that vaccines for senior citizens above 60 years and those above 45 years with co-morbidities will be vaccinated across 30,000 centres across the country from 1st March. Effectively government is targeting to touch nearly 1 million people per day.  It is working on the supply side too. Currently, the Serum Institute Of India’s Covishield, and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin are being administered. Dr Reddy’s Laboratories have sought emergency use authorization of Sputnik V developed by Russia. And the fourth vaccine, which everybody is eagerly awaiting is ZyCov-D developed by the Ahmedabad-based Zydus Cadila. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited this plant sometimes back. According to newspaper reports, Zydus is currently conducting phase 3 clinical trials and will make public its finding.
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Are Some Politicians Violating Covid Norms In Maharashtra?

Nitin Raut, Maharashtra’s power minister, had come to invite Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to attend a wedding reception to be held by his family. When the subject of the quick spreading Covid surfaced in the conversation, the minister announced that he was cancelling the reception. Uddhav had cited it as cooperation in fighting the virus and asked the public to fall in line. But it’s a fact that the CM’s warning that only the mask-less public defying Covid protocols would force another lockdown in Maharashtra hasn’t found immediate traction. Other leaders seem to be entirely on another page. Thousands thronged the streets as the convoy of Minister Of State  For Forest Sanjay Rathod reached Pohradevi temple in Washim district on 23rd February. BJP leader, Dhananjay Mahadik’s son’s wedding in Pune on 22nd February not only had 1,000 guests (prescribed limit being 100) but was also graced by two men of eminence in politics — Sharad Pawar and Devendra Fadnavis. To be generous, these two worthies may not have known that the protocols were being ignored. And it was a day prior to Pawar’s tweet that informed that he was cancelling all public events. Reportedly, the Pune city police has booked Mahadik and two others for violation of Covid norms. In a related development, the State’s Food & Civil Supplies Minister Chhagan Bhujbul who attended wedding of NCP MLA Saron Ahire along with Pawar has tested positive.
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Sardar Patel Gets A Makeover! Now it is Narendra Modi Stadium

The cricket media was taken around the swanky Sardar Patel Stadium at Motera on Tuesday (Feb 23) with Anil Patel, a former Ranji Trophy player of Gujarat, and currently Jt. Secretary of the Gujarat Cricket Association, showing the salient features of the new facility including the media lounge and the Press Box positioned in the line of fine leg or long off to a right hander. A former manager of the Indian team, Patel gave all credit to BCCI Secretary and former GCA Joint Secretary Jay Shah for the development of the new stadium. “He paid attention to the nitty-gritty. He had seen many cricket grounds and its facilities and formed his own idea of the facilities that would come up at the 63 acre area. Even his father and the Union Home Minister Amit Shah has taken a lot of interest. He spent five hours here on Sunday (Feb 21). He voted in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation election’s and came to Motera. Whenever he was in Ahmedabad, he would make it a point to spend time at the stadium and see the progress of its development,” said Patel.  The GCA will soon develop two more grounds at the campus. “We will develop these two so that the BCCI tournaments can be played there. The Gujarat State Tourism is going to make the Sardar Patel Stadium a tourist attraction,” said Patel.
PETROL PUMP

Politics Over Petrol Price Dharmasankat!

Pump price for petrol includes excise duty levied by the Centre – with the States adding VAT to it, which varies from state to state. Higher the VAT, higher the fuel prices in that state. So, why are the Opposition parties throwing a fit on petrol breaching the Rs100-a-litre mark? It may be recalled that after years of deliberations, the current market-led pricing mechanism got stabilized since its implementation in June 2017. Hit hard by Covid-19, neither the Centre nor the States are in a position to reduce levies, which constitute 60% of the retail selling price of petrol, and more than 54% of diesel. Domestic prices should cool down hopefully in line with the projected international trends. If the government is forced to tweak taxes to moderate fuel prices, it will have to dismantle the whole reform process aimed at fixing market-determined prices. The economic reforms implemented after extensive deliberations and consensus over a long period must be kept out of opportunist politics. FM Nirmala Sitharaman is right in calling petrol price increase a ‘Dharmasankat.’ Clearly, both the Centre and the States have to abide by the ‘Raj Dharm’ to find solution to this sankat together.
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Is Bollywood A Favourite Hunting Ground For Politicians?

When Bollywood stars tweeted against international pop star Rihanna they were targeted by the Maharashtra government. Now Big B and Akshay Kumar are being targeted by the Congress in Maharashtra for not tweeting against rising petrol prices. Guess one meeting or a phone call to Sharad Pawar might just solve Big B’s problem. Recently, Sonu Sood bought peace from Sena after talking to NCP supremo Sharad Pawar. Earlier Sunil Dutt sought blessings of Balasaheb Thackeray after Sanjay Dutt was arrested in the Mumbai bomb blast case. Also, Manisha Koirala went to complain about Shashilal Nair who had used her body double in a controversial scene without taking her consent. Karan Johar had to frequently meet politicians — once for My Name Is Khan, the second time for Ae Dil Hai Mushkil when the film got into trouble for featuring Fawad Khan, a Pakistani national. Even Dev Anand had to call on Balasaheb Thackeray as he had a Pakistani actor Anita Ayub in his film. Of course, one cannot forget that Mani Ratnam had to screen his film Bombay for Balasaheb Thackeray and Sharad Pawar. Looks like politicians have always been a different kind of censor board for films even after approval from the CBFC.

BJP Adding Heft & Gravitas

Eagles don’t flock you have to find them one at a time, said Ross Perot, the American billionaire who also ran for the Presidency. And BJP, it seems, is following Perot’s strategy to T. From time to time they have been wooing heavyweight politicians, bureaucrats, film stars and sports personalities into the party fold. The latest news from the BJP HQ: Metro Man E-Sreedharan is likely to join the party and contest elections in the poll-bound Kerala. The BJP has often boasted about its pantheon of crowd pullers and super achievers with clean image. In Tamil Nadu, they had almost succeeded with Superstar Rajnikant but at the eleventh hour he backed out on health grounds. In West Bengal, they are trying to woo yesteryear Superstar Mithun Chakraborty who was nominated to the Rajya Sabha on Trinamool Congress ticket in 2014. But, two years later he stepped down. With elections round the corner, the BJP is not only looking for winning candidates to form the government but also a local hero who will take over as the chief minister. That’s the promise Amit Shah has made to the Bengalis. The guessing game is on as to who will wear the crown.
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Will Ishant Sharma Deliver At His 100th Test?

There are people in the cricket fraternity who feel that the strapping 1.93 metre tall fast bowler Ishant Sharma did not keep up his early promise and deliver the goods right through his career that began on May 25, 2007 against Bangladesh in Mirpur. But the talented seamer had really worked hard, upping his game to become a top gun from 2018. One of the eight cricketers with surname Sharma to play Test cricket, he is now looking forward to notch his 100th Test match in Test cricket – a rare feat that only another home grown speedster Kapil Dev Nikhanj has achieved. The third Test against England at Motera from February 24 will be his 100th Test. The 32-year old, Sharma – described uncharitably by Sanjay Manjrekar as support bowler to Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami — missed the tour of Australia due to an abdominal muscle tear he sustained in the early part of the IPL13 in the UAE. He was playing for the Parth Jindal-owned Delhi Capitals. He missed the four-Test series in Australia that India won 2-1. Sharma’s career figures are: 99 Tests, 3,070 overs, 18,420 balls, 9,731 runs conceded, 302 wickets at 32.22 and from calendar year 2018 onwards his figures are: 20 Tests, 539 overs, 1,470 runs conceded, 7,666 wickets at 19.34. Superb!
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Is Congress Going The Sena Way?

Once, the Congress was ideologically different from the Shiv Sena. It disapproved of the Sena’s aggressive style of politics — though it couldn’t exactly stop the saffron party. The Congress would often complain about the alleged street violence of the Shiv Sena and the MNS – and their penchant for public warnings. After partnering with the adversary to form the Maharashtra coalition government, the Congress seems to have soaked in Sena’s methods. Its newly appointed chief Nana Patole has announced that if the two actors — the Big B and Akshay Kumar — do not tweet against high petrol price (as both had tweeted against price rise during UPA-2 regime), they would not be “allowed” to shoot the films they act in nor will their films be screened. Exactly the methods of the Sena in the past and a practice which the MNS continues to follow. The Congress, hurting at the status of being a junior partner in Maha Vikas Aghadi where the third party is the assertive NCP, wants to be seen as being muscular and has learnt how to: by being like the Sena. Interestingly, Patole, as Speaker of the Assembly, was in a constitutional position and ensured the Assembly functioned under Democratic rules. What a transformation by Patole overnight!
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The Rise & Fall Of Rana Kapoor

The meteoric rise and dramatic fall of Rana Kapoor could make for an interesting TV serial on the OTT platform.  Two books have already been written on the man who co-founded Yes Bank with his co-brother-in-law Ashok Kapur. (Ashok was killed in Mumbai terror attack). Pavan C Lall, has penned Yes Man: The Untold Story Of Rana Kapoor. Tamal Bandyopadhyay in his book Pandemonium: The Great Indian Banking Tragedy, rips the façade off the smartly constructed corporate image of Yes Bank, exposing promoter Kapoor’s questionable deals. The author goes on to say that the RBI saw through the game played by Kapoor. Alarmed at the speed with which the NPAs were getting resolved, the regulator started monitoring Yes Bank closely. Finally, it was an anonymous letter sent to then RBI Governor Urijit Patel in September 2018 about the hanky-panky deals at the bank that got the central bank into action. But soon they discovered that Kapoor had many moles around. Every move contemplated by the RBI was relayed to him in real time. It took a while for the RBI to identify the suspects and isolate them from the investigative process. When Kapoor was told in one of the meetings by the RBI that he had to go, he broke down, calling Yes Bank his son, his only son — beside his three biological daughters. But such histrionics with eyes brimming over with tears didn’t move anybody. Presently, he is cooling his heels at Taloja jail on the outskirts of Mumbai.
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Governors & CMs: In A Ding Dong Battle

A fierce ding dong battle is playing out in West Bengal and Maharashtra. In WB, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee have been at loggerheads from Day One. During the Lockdown, the Governor wrote to Didi why she was deliberately breaking all the curfew protocols recommended by the Centre. A few days later she asked the Governor to refrain from summoning senior officials without her knowledge. Recently, when BJP President JP Nadda’s convoy was attacked, the Governor told Mamata “Don’t play with fire.” This verbal duel continues unabated. Hopefully, things should cool down after the state elections in April-May this year. In another battle, Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari — who administered the oath of office to the Devendra Fadnavis-Ajit Pawar government which lasted for three days — is taking on Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and NCP Supremo Sharad Pawar. Pawar took pot-shot at the Governor for having time to meet film star Kangana Ranaut but not the farmers. Also, the recent controversy around the Maharashtra governor being denied permission to use state plane has added to the bitterness. Now an editorial in Sena’s mouthpiece Samna says the Governor is acting like the BJP puppet and should be called back by the President. This tug-of-war battle brings to fore the old debate whether the Governor’s Office should be abolished.
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Lottery For Chris Morris

Morris said “give me Rs. 75 lakh”, but the Rajasthan Royals replied “we will pay you Rs.16.25 crore”. Out of the 70 matches he has turned out for Chennai Super Kings, Delhi Daredevils and Delhi Capitals, Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers, Bangalore in the IPL, South Africa’s Chris Morris has batted only on 44 occasions. He has remained not out 21 times to score 551 runs. He has 80 wickets under his belt, 45 of which has contributed to winning matches.  Most selection committees in cricket  would not consider these numbers a great shake, but the Royals from Jaipur  bought him at the small auction in Chennai for Rs. 16.25 crore (a little over $ 2.24 million). The Royals itself paid a low $ 60 million to win the invitation to tender and own the Jaipur team.  After a moderate performance in the league in which he made his debut in 2013, the Royals targeted Morris who is closer to his 34th birthday. In the UAE leg of the league last year he made just 34 runs in five innings and picked up 11 wickets for the Capitals at 19.09. All things considered Morris himself put his minimum worth at Rs. 75 lakh. But the Rajasthan Royals chose to pay him princely sum! As a wag said Morris may a travelled to the Cape of Good Hope on Thursday.
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Can Priyanka Chopra’s Memoir Revive #MeToo Movement?

Looks like Priyanka Chopra Jonas has started her own #MeToo movement as a marketing tool for her memoir Unfinished. There has been some leaked content from the book since the day it was published. The content points fingers at Bollywood. The PR strategy seems to be highlighting all the sections which make headlines – basically being spicy. Every section is infused with some spicy scoop. It is more like the film Sanju, where a lot was spoken but nothing really confirmed. Sensationalism sells and Priyanka is doing just that by exposing filmmakers whom she met at the early stage of her career. The actress in her memoir has written that a director-producer made her twirl around and asked her to get a boob job, fix her jaw and cushion her buttocks. Those who have worked with her and the filmmaker know who she is talking about. But she has kept the media and others guessing as she continues to make headlines. There is one review that states that Priyanka has chosen to leave out far more than she chooses to record.  Priyanka is rather honest that she could not give time to her relationships. The actress has dated some of the top actors of Bollywood but she does not name them. However, she doesn’t mind mentioning a boyfriend named Bob who she hid in her closet and was caught by her aunt. Her strategy of not naming names seems to have unnerved a whole lot of people in Bollywood and many are hoping she does not come with a sequel titled Finished.

To The Harvey Weinsteins of India: #MeToo Is Back

A very public outrage against misdemeanours by powerful men has received the much-needed judicial support. #MeToo is not some time-barred phenomenon. “The woman has the right to put her grievances at any platform and even after decades,” said Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Pandey who acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in the criminal defamation case initiated by the former Union Minister MJ Akbar. The right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of right to dignity, the Delhi court observed. It will be interesting to see if Akbar’s battery of lawyers – led by Sandeep Kapur of Karanjawala & Co – will challenge the order. But the public opinion is hardening. “Akbar must be made to pay for this,” tweeted civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan. #MeToo has still miles to go in India. Experts note how the Supreme Court had upheld Delhi High Court’s acquittal of Peepli Live director Mahmood Farooqui of rape charges on the grounds that a ‘feeble no’ from a friend may have been construed as consent (from a Columbia University researcher, who had come to India on a Fulbright exchange fellowship). The trial court had convicted Farooqui but the decision was overturned by the Delhi High Court. Earlier, #MeToo flagbearer Tanushree Dutta’s allegations against actor Nana Patekar collapsed too with the Mumbai police filing closure for want of evidence.
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The Motera Suspense; About The Pitch & Pink-Ball!

Just like intrigue surrounds a toss that sets the tone for a cricket match, the pink-ball day-night Test matches also stirs the imagination of the legion of followers of the game. That’s because the ball is supposed to wobble around the time the sun goes down and the lights are turned on. As a consequence even the most technically equipped batsmen come a cropper! All eyes — after the Indians turned the second Test match on its head in Chennai — are on the third Test at Motera, the rustic looking locality not far from the hustle and bustle of Ahmedabad city. A Test match is going to be played at the venue named after Sardar Patel, after eight years from February 24. Everyone has sung paeans about the modern ground that can seat about 1.10 lakh people and where one of the early VIP visitor was former USA President Donald Trump.  What’s of interest to the cricket aficionado and India and England would be the behaviour of the 22 yard pitch for the Test match, the result of which will pave the way for the second finalist for the ICC World Test Championship to be played in London in June. There is the pitch of red soil and black soil. The popular choice will be red.
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Of Ghulam Nabi Azad And Secular Fundamentalists

This one is interesting. Veteran Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad retired from Rajya Sabha as the Leader Of Opposition on February 15, 2021. All politicians in the house praised his outstanding contributions. In his farewell speech, Azad shocked and surprised a whole generation when he said he was among the fortunate people who never went to Pakistan. “When I read about the circumstances in Pakistan, I feel proud to be a Hindustani Muslim,” he said. His remarks on visiting Pakistan comes as a sharp contrast to the Secular Fundamentalists like Mani Shankar Aiyar who would have lost count of how many times they visited Pakistan. And Iyer’s interaction with the Pakistani media would often leave many in India stunned and embarrassed, especially when he told Pakistanis: “The first and the foremost thing is to remove Modi (Modi ko hatana hoga). Only then can the talks (between India and Pakistan) move forward.” On the other hand, Azad has always been a picture of grace and dignity, urging all to build compromises and understanding instead of reinforcing antagonism.
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Why Is Gautam Adani Betting Big On Maharashtra?

It is a well-known fact that most businessmen like Rahul Bajaj, Keshub Mahindra, Ajit Gulabchand have a very good equation with the NCP Supremo Sharad Pawar. So the news that the Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani is in the same league comes as no surprise. In fact, in 2013 Pawar had attended Adani’s son’s wedding in Goa. Now, it is reliably learnt that the Maratha strongman with a view to attract investment in Maharashtra from the Adani Group is pulling out all the stops to ensure that Adani’s thermal power project comes up in the coal-rich Vidarbha region without any hitch. Earlier, Pawar guided Adani when he took over the Anil Ambani-controlled Reliance Infrastructure, which runs the Mumbai distribution business with 30 lakh customers. Pawar’s strategy of rolling out red carpet seems to be yielding dividends. Now, the Adani Group has lined up a slew of investments in Maharashtra. They have picked up a majority stake in Mumbai International Airport from the GVK Group, securing the contract for the Rs 16,000-cr Navi Mumbai airport. Adani Transmission has bagged the contract to construct 400 kV substation at Vikhroli, for transmission of about 1,000 MW in Mumbai. The company will also construct another line between Aarey Colony and Padgha to evacuate another 1,000 mw. Clearly, Pawar knows which horse to back.
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Rohit Sharma Second Only To The Great `Don’!

Rohit Sharma holds a unique record in Test match cricket. He is the nearest to Sir Don Bradman, regarded as the greatest batsman of all time. The Australian run-machine who wielded his bat with gay abandon for two decades from 1928 to 1948 scored 6996 runs in 52 Test matches for a phenomenal average of 99.94. The great `Don’ played 37 Test matches against England, and five each against India, West Indies and South Africa. He played 33 Test matches at home, amassed 4322 runs for an average of 98.23, which is fractionally lower than his career average.  It is here that India’s Rohit Sharma comes second best for those who have played 10 Tests and more. The stylish Mumbai right hander is elegance personified when he gets going; he had an aggregate of 1343 runs at 79 and innings for home Test matches before his sneak attack against the England seamers and spinners alike in the second Test at Chepauk, Chennai. The first Test failure at the same venue hurt him; he hit back with a vengeance in the first innings of the second Test with a splendid 161; he scattered 18 hits to the fence and clobbered two over the line. This stroke filled knock took his home average to over 80. Remarkable indeed!
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What Happened To Akash2 Tablet?

It may be recalled that during the UPA regime the Union Minister for Science & Technology Kapil Sibal had flaunted a $32 tablet which would provide Internet access to the less fortunate students. Now that the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed a large section of students towards online schooling, it’s time to ask Sibal what happened to his pet project? Had it translated to a tablet in each student’s hand, there wouldn’t have been such a digital divide today. Then Sibal had announced the tablet as a cheap, simple computer. First as ‘Shaksat’, then renamed as ‘Akash’, and upgraded to ‘Akash2’.  But despite the abracadabra moment, the project failed to deliver. Today, probably an IIT student could develop easily a low-cost tablet. But at that time, it appeared to be a magical moment: parts to be sourced from China or Taiwan via a Canadian company and then assembled in India. It is surprising the vocal politician hasn’t whispered a word about it. Has the project been given a silent burial? Is this the reason why he is not expressing any views on digital divide as he fears it would bring to public glare the failure of Akash tablet in an era of whataboutery!  
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Allow Corporate Houses To Enter Banking

An RBI working group has proposed allowing corporate houses to set up banks in India. Suddenly, former RBI governors and deputy governors want to protect the country from business houses entering the banking arena. Over the last two years, IL&FS, DHFL, Yes Bank and PMC Bank have collapsed due to their weak financial position. The latest to the list of bank failures is Lakshmi Vilas Bank, which was merged with DBS Bank. What we need to do is to have a strong deterrence so that we don’t see a repeat of YES Bank. According to KV Kamath, former MD & CEO of ICICI Bank, in his interview to CNBC TV18, the way forward is heavy investment in technology by the regulator so that on a real-time basis the creditworthiness of individuals or companies is made available. Seems a doable idea.
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Atul Kulkarni: Jumping The Curve, After Happy Journey

Atul Kulkarni, 56, a top Marathi actor, a national award recipient (Chandani Bar) says one should jump off a curve’s peak to restart life from the beginning of another. That’s why he has quit a Trust engaged in promoting quality education, specifically among tribal children. Announcing this on FB, he said he had headed the NGO, Quality Education Support Trust (QUEST) for 14 years since its inception and it was time to jump off. With its action and research oriented pedagogy and training,  QUEST has reached 2.6 lakh students, 9,000 teachers, 5,600 schools and anganwadis  across Maharashtra. After these long years, the moment coincided with his peak in the Trust. It also coincides with the concept of vanaprasta and semi-retirement which meant ceasing to be in a position of authority, especially in public life but implies he wasn’t abandoning being active in life. He would be its “list of friends”.  No word about his acting career, though.

Budget Text, Pretext, Context And Subtext

The ‘Subtext’ hangs in the air long after former Finance Minister P Chidambaram decoded the Text, Pretext, Context & Subtext of the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s Budget speech 2021-22 at the Rajya Sabha. What’s the text of the speech? He explained: “The text is prosaic, bureaucratic.” What’s the pretext? “The pretext is: we have a pandemic. (Yet) we have supply side measures!” And the context? “The context is a slowing down economy, pushed into a deep recession, minus 10%, thanks to the pandemic — and thanks to incompetent economic management.” He continued: “But, more than the text, more than the pretext, more than the context, what is important is the subtext. The subtext is: this is a Budget prepared for the rich, of the rich and by the rich.” He said the Budget has nothing for: 120 mn people losing jobs; 64 mn dropping out of the labour force, including 22% women; and 35% of MSMEs shut down. Replying to the Budget discussion in Rajya Sabha, Sitharaman put the things in context: “Speaker sir, the former FM is trying to imitate you but he has been a miserable failure in the impact he created unlike you who has created good impact.” Speaker M Venkaiah Naidu is known for his quick one-liners that fill the House Of Elders with laughter.
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Who’s The Woman Behind BR Chopra Banner?

It may sound clichéd but behind every successful man there is a woman. Baldev Raj Chopra after doing MA in Literature from the University of the Punjab, Lahore joined as a journalist with film magazine Cine Herald and eventually acquired it in 1947. With right contacts, he launched a movie the same year in Lahore but the Partition genocide saw him fleeing to India. Eventually, he moved to Mumbai and made a movie Karwat in 1948. It flopped. In 1951, he directed a movie starring Ashok Kumar and it was a hit. More hits followed. Soon he was flooded with offer by producers to direct their films. A well-known producer gave him Rs 5,000 (a big sum those days) to direct his movie. Chopra was elated and happily broke the news to his wife. But his wife’s response surprised him. She told him: “You should not direct for others, you should become your own producer and director.” Heeding his wife’s advice, Chopra returned the money and floated BR Films in 1955. His first movie Ek Hi Raasta was a runaway hit. After that there was no looking behind.
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Pandemic Aftermath: Informal Cartelization Among Trade

Cartelisation among manufacturers is a known fact. OPEC is the biggest global example. Close to home the Competition Commission Of India, which came down heavily on cement companies sometimes back, has now set its sights on the domestic steel companies. It is believed that the steel companies have increased their prices in unison in the last few months. But, recent developments in the distribution trade in Mumbai – liquor and paper – are quite an eye-opener. With businesses shuttered for nearly a year, those running hotels & restaurants, printing presses, and paper distribution have been hit by severe liquidity crunch. Most of them have not been able to pay their vendors, suppliers, or staff. After the Lockdown was lifted, the restaurant owners, printers and media houses placed fresh orders with their respective distributors. But they were told to clear some of the backlog. Irked, some of these businessmen tried tapping new distributors but they were surprised to learn that the liquor and paper trade had a list of outstanding of different businesses or credit information of bad borrowers. The distributors felt if they supply today their fellow traders would lose. So they decided to unite. It is proving to be a win-win for all.
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Joe Root's tryst with GOAT rankings!

England captain Joe Root, tops the GOAT (Greatest player of all time against spin) rankings in the annals of cricket at the Old Blighty. Decorated with the Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2020, Root’s scores of 228 and 186 against Sri Lanka at Galle came against the spinners on a dry and breaking pitch. England hopped into Chennai for two Test matches that were supposed to be a  litmus test against the Indian tweakers. As it transpired in the first Test, Root (218 and 40) ruled the roost on a feathered of a pitch on which the home team deployed a seasoned campaigner Ravichandran Ashwin, and two tyros Shahbaz Nadeem and Washington Sundar. Demonstrating his consummate skill, powers of concentration and nimble footwork, Root has amassed 784 runs in his last six innings. He has turned out to be the master of all he purveyed, tallying as much as 842 runs in 14 Test innings on Indian soil at a remarkable average of 64.77. In other Asian countries Root has amassed 655 runs in 10 Test innings at 65.50 in Sri Lanka, 287 in five Test innings against Pakistan in the UAE. No wonder then that Root heads the GOAT index in English cricket!
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Regulating OTT: Is The Govt Planning A JPC

After the Tandav controversy, the Indian government is seriously looking at tightening the noose around the OTT channels. The plan is to form a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to bring in a regulation to control the content that is streamed on the OTT channels. Feelers are being sent to various film personalities to become a part of the JPC and create some kind of guidelines based on the lines of the Central Board Of Film Certification (CBFC) for feature films. Those close to the film industry have hinted that the Standing Committee on the Information & Technology Ministry are examining the functioning of the CBFC. In order to have a holistic examination of the subject, the committee has decided to seek views of individuals associated with the media and entertainment industry. While their plan is being worked out, the makers of edgy content have begun self-regulation to avoid any kind of issues with the government. Most industry people said there has to be censorship, but there are quite a few who feel that self-regulation is the best option. The government, it seems, is keen to avoid another Tandav kind of situation. So, for now it is wait-and-watch game.

Of Andolan-Jeevi, Par-Jeevi & New Age FDI

Arguably, nobody conjures up national slogans as profoundly – or coins acronyms as tellingly — as PM Narendra Modi. The Government’s pantheon of programmes – from Swachh Bharat to Make in India to Startup India and Stand Up India – all bear the signature of the master wordsmith. Many of the acronyms – from SCAM to JAM he popularised continue to endure. Some acronyms are being masterly resurrected – FDI is now ‘Foreign Destructive Ideology.’ And the patriots must now stay away from this FDI, the PM informed while replying to the motion of thanks to the President’s address in the Rajya Sabha. In 2015, the FDI meant ‘First Develop India’, a mission to support the Make in India programme. 2021 onwards, this will mean Transnational or foreign ‘tukde-tukde gang’ that promotes Rihanna tweet-busters, Meena Harris ‘book of Intimidation Monsters, or Greta Thunberg’s Tool-Kit for Dummies that transforms tractor rallies into raging rampage. Another breed of creatures that patriots must guard against are: Andolan-Jeevi (one who feasts on protests), who is actually a par-jeevi, (a parasite) for the nation. His creative masterstroke was in full, sublime display at a time the Opposition sensed they had Modi on the mat over the farmers’ agitation.
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Are Biz Tycoons Jumping Covid Vaccine Queues?

The hottest topic being discussed by business tycoons these days is not the Union Budget but the Which, When, Where (and maybe even, if) and How to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Before India rolled out its own versions, some wealthy individuals were rumoured to have rushed overseas (read: Dubai) to get their shot. Now there are whispers about certain famous people making private arrangements to get the vaccine out of turn. Because, as per the Government diktat, in the current phase, the vaccine is being made available only to the frontline healthcare workers. Such clandestine shots may give them immunity but without the all-important vaccine certificate. They are confident, however, of procuring one with some jugaad in due course. One person who won’t have to resort to any such subterfuge is Dr Swati Piramal, vice chairperson, Piramal Enterprises. The wife of billionaire Ajay Piramal, who is a qualified doctor, recently got her Covid-19 shot at the BKC jumbo vaccination center in Mumbai, along with staff of the Gopikrishna Memorial Hospital. Piramal took the Covishield vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India and promptly posted photos of the said deed on Facebook.
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Narayan Rane Finds A New Mentor In Amit Shah

Everything is fair in love and law — and loyalty is not static but flexible. None other than Narayan Rane epitomizes this saying. Thanks to the blessings of Shiv Sena Supremo Bal Thackeray – Rane grew from strength to strength. From a corporator to legislator to Chief Minister, his rise was meteoric. However, Thackeray’s decision to appoint his son Uddhav as Executive President of the Sena changed the equation, forcing Rane to quit the saffron party and join the Congress. Here, he was made a minister – but not the CM as promised. Irked by the deceit and denial, Rane floated his Swabhimani Party. The new party didn’t do too well – and he subsequently joined the BJP that has placed him in the Rajya Sabha. His new mentor is Home Minister Amit Shah, who visited the state to inaugurate the SSPM Medical College at Kudal in Sindhudurg. Shah’s visit has created ripples – with Rane predicting that the Maha Vikas Agadhi government’s days are numbered now. Interesting times for a party, which despite winning 105 seats is sitting in the Opposition bench.
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Why Jadeja Was Missed In The Chennai Test

India is in a plight in the first Test in Chennai owing to the absence of slow left arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja in its ranks. Jadeja is still recuperating from a dislocated left thumb after he took a nasty blow there in the third Test against Australia in Sydney. Jadeja in combination with off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin are the second most successful spin pair for India taking 166 wickets in 73 innings at an average of 24.41. They have taken 28 wickets in four innings at the Chepauk at 25.07.  Further more Jadeja had dismissed England captain Joe Root five times; he had outwitted Root in both innings of the 2016 Chennai Test for 88 and 6. India suffered in Jadeja’s absence and Root exhibited a masterclass innings of 218 before falling to left arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem.  Ashwin has dismissed Root three times. In all 13 Indian bowlers have dismissed Root, but clearly Jadeja was missed by Ashwin and India. They complement each other so well. In Jadeja’s absence Root had the last laugh taking heavy toll of the Indians. The England captain, playing his 100th Test, is one of the best players of spin in the world today.

TRENDS & VIEWS

Editor’s Note: Big Punch In Small Pack

It is the Third Anniversary of Short Post and as a news media startup launched during the Covid-19 pandemic it certainly feels better than good to find ourselves where we are today. Here, I must cite the unstinted support of our seasoned contributors, all senior editors in the country, who brought a great degree of maturity and sagacity to the Short Post newsroom. But for them, our tagline “Authentic Gossip”, an Oxymoron, would not have matured viably. Our user numbers may be small but our stories have created the desired impact among people who matter — decision makers and influencers. We offer a big punch in a small pack and Short Post with its 225-word stories has been punching above its weight category. Having posted close to 3,000 stories in the last 36 months, Short Post, I feel, is an idea whose time has come.
And this is vindicated by our two marquee advertisers – IDFC FIRST Bank and ICICI Lombard. Both believed in our story and have supported us from Day one. A big thank you to both.
If you look at the media landscape – print, TV and digital — it is a mixed bag. There are job losses as some outfits have closed down while a lucky few were bailed out by large corporate houses. Yes, there is a lot of action in the digital space. However, the entry of corporate houses has raised the question of independence of news media outfits. Sadly, there are just a handful of independent media outfits in the country that are highly respected for their neutrality. At Short Post, our credo is not to take sides, prejudge issues or be biased but, informing readers of behind-the-scenes happenings. In essence, Short Post strives to be a neutral editorial platform — neither anti-establishment nor pro-establishment.
As I said last year, disruptions in the media world are moving at a fast and furious pace. Technology is playing a very big role in how content is generated and consumed. But, we are neither alarmed nor perturbed as it is all a part of the evolution process. What gives us comfort is that AI is unable to create original gossipy content. And that is the news arena where we have achieved a distinction.