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Strong opposition is needed, but who will lead the front?

Political compulsions of building a strong and effective Opposition warrant that Congress, TMC and AAP should merge. If this materializes into reality, only time will tell.

Surendra Kumar

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One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that for a strong, stable, and healthy democracy, a country needs a strong opposition. Nevertheless, the opposition is needed, but not to oppose the government of the day for the sake of opposing by disrupting the House, storming the well of the House, interrupting nonstop the Ministers explaining the policies, or creating unruly scenes that eventually lead to frequent adjournment of the House and, many a time, a total washout of the entire Parliament session. To be fair, all the blame can’t be put on the Opposition alone. Most of the time, governments enjoying a comfortable majority tend to take the Opposition for granted, seldom seek their inputs for the formulation of the policies which affect millions of people, show reluctance to refer issues to the standing committees of the parliament where they could be analysed and discussed threadbare and resort to issuing ordinances even when the parliament is about to be convened.

The opposition can play a constructive role of a responsible and effective Opposition by doing its homework, studying issues closely with facts and figures, and quizzing the government with sharp and searching questions so that the Govt doesn’t try to ride roughshod. In brief, the Opposition is supposed to be the watchdog of democracy which keeps the government on the toes and prevents it from transgressing established norms and conventions and stay the course on larger national interest including security interests and people’s needs, expectations and aspirations.

But no opposition party, on its own, or as a group can act as an effective watchdog if it doesn’t have the numbers. To be able to stand up and get counted and not brushed aside, the opposition should have sufficient numbers of MPs to put pressure on the Govt. So, it’s all about the numbers!

And the number of the winners in the recently held elections in UP, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa leaves none in any doubt that the BJP continues to be on the winning streak despite strong critique about rising inflation, sluggish exports, high unemployment, and the devastation caused by Covid-19. Yogi Adityanath created history by getting a second inning to serve as the CM; Uttarakhand CM also beat the incumbency blues and both Manipur and Goa returned the BJP with the majority. While the record card the CMs did play a significant role, BJP’s Brahmashtra remains Narendra Modi! BJP’s resounding victory in four states is an unmistakable vindication of people’s massive support to and approval of Modi’s inspiring leadership, grand and energizing vision, hundreds of people-friendly policies, and his tireless efforts to make India strong, confident, prosperous, developed capable of defending her borders and prepared to address the challenges of 21st century and securing India’s rightful place among the comity of nations.

Many observers believe that these election results have already settled the outcome of the Parliamentary elections in 2024. In his op-ed in the Times of India on 12th March former Vice Chairman of Niti Aayog, Prof Arvind Pangariya of Columbia University wrote, “It is now all but certain that PM Modi will remain in office till at least 2029 with a clear majority in the Parliament.” But veteran political analysts feel, it’s premature to make such predictions at this stage.

Voters’ verdict in UP State elections has aggravated the condition of 137-year-old INC which has been in the ICU for quite some time and is now slowly slipping into coma. In the state which has given four Prime Ministers belonging to it, the Congress party, somehow, squeezed two seats. With vote share plummeting to 2.3% and 97% of its candidates having lost security, this is Congress’s most humiliating defeat. What about, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s vigorous campaigning, TV interviews, and interaction with women and the youth, and the much-hyped announcement of giving 40% tickets to women? She also raised persistently the issues of unemployment, education, health, poverty, and alleged misgovernance. but of no avail. Why? Either her message didn’t resonate with the people or she couldn’t connect with people hence had no clue about what they wanted. As in the past, the CWC did go through the ritual of introspection and post-mortem but its autopsy report didn’t hit the bull’s eye.

Even a vegetable vendor or a paanwala at the nukkad knows what’s wrong with the Congress party; their cryptic remark sums up the malaise: Inke neta kisi kaam ke nahi hein! Unko kuchh bhi idea nahi ki janata kya chahati hai! (Their leaders are no good. They have no clue of what the public really wants!). Suffering from the ostrich syndrome, its leaders don’t realize the Leadership crises at the top for years. But who will bell the cat? Does the Congress party have the courage to emulate what the BJP did on the eve of the 2014 parliamentary elections? It unceremoniously dumped LK Advani dashing his lifetime ambition to be the PM!

The Triumvirate— Sonia, Rahul, and Priyanka— are, understandably, keen to carry forward the legacy of the Congress but their actions do just the opposite. They may have an all-embracing vision of a plural, secular, inclusive, tolerant India striving to achieve economic development with social justice, working for the poor and the disadvantaged, securing India’s borders, and ensuring India’s rightful place in the comity of nations. But to translate their ideas into concrete actions, they must be in the driving seat. But they can’t occupy that seat unless they win elections.

In this regard, shouldn’t they ask a simple question: if their vision and narrative are so convincing why do people not vote for them? Conversely, if everything is as wrong with Modi and his government as alleged by Gandhis, why would voters give him such a strong mandate? Congress must solve this riddle or it can’t hope to win again.

When a team loses match after match and feels disheartened, the first thing the management does is to change the Captain and introduce fresh blood. Congress is no exception. Alas! The second generation of young and capable leaders who could offer leadership has left the INC in frustration. Leftovers are sycophants and hanger-ons; they are left with no fire in the belly to take the fight to enemy’s camp. Besides, top leaders have become shame-proof; successive electoral losses don’t embarrass them anymore. They seem to be asking: who can stop us from destroying our party?

While the 137-year-old INC is facing the existential crises, the ten-year-old AAP is writing history by achieving a massive majority and defeating some of the tallest leaders in Punjab including three Chief Ministers, though It doesn’t have a nationwide presence and infrastructure like the Congress, and nor the dedicated support of an organization like the RSS. If Arvind Kejriwal can beat the Modi-Shah duo in Delhi twice and now in Punjab, isn’t there a message for Congress? Last year, Mamata Banerjee also trounced the BJP and its strident rhetoric. Even if the Gandhi family agrees to step down, is there a leader who could keep the party united & revamp it?

Political compulsions of building a strong and effective Opposition warrant that Congress, the TMC and the AAP should merge. Sonia Gandhi being the Senior most and representing the oldest party should invite Mamata and Kejriwal, without any preconditions, to brainstorm this idea. Both of them, unlike the Congress, have vanquished the BJP in their backyard and have the momentum in their favour. So, Congress should forsake her leadership claim and act as a constructive partner.

Won’t Mamata as the President and both Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi as the Vice Presidents be a formidable Troika to face the BJP in 2024?

Sonia Gandhi being the senior most leader and representing the oldest party should invite Mamata and Kejriwal, without any preconditions, to brainstorm the idea of building a united opposition front. Both, Mamata and Kejriwal, unlike the Congress, have vanquished the BJP in their backyard and have the momentum in their favour. This is possibly the only way that leaders can rally ahead of 2024 polls to form a strong opposition.

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Workforce diversity: A key to improve productivity

A diverse workforce helps an organization bring more creativity and innovations. Diversity practice is not only a leveller. It is also an immense possibility for an organization’s growth

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“Diversity” is about embracing the full range of differences that make each unique. Much of the discussion in the public sphere often revolves around gender diversity but as you can see from the graphic below, it is about so much more than that. Beyond the physical, it is also about embracing cognitive, occupational, values, relational and societal aspects of humans as individual beings. It’s pointless to have a diverse workforce without fully including and maximising such diversity. Here are some ways diversity will make your business a better one. 

1. PERSPECTIVE

Teams of mixed gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, physical abilities, and work styles are more representative of the customers that companies serve. They offer a variety of viewpoints, they have a wider range of experiences and they produce more innovation. Simply put: A diverse workplace can capture a greater share of the consumer market.

2. PERFORMANCE

In an increasingly global economy, where the best companies hire only the best people, it makes logical business sense to hire from the widest pool of talent. Access to the largest and most diverse set of candidates eventually makes for a truly qualified workforce — talent is borderless, color, and gender-blind!

3. PROFITABILITY

Be aware that your customers are watching and acting with their wallets. With social media and an active citizenry, businesses are being held accountable for their every action. To be a responsible business, actions speak far louder than words. 

4. EMPLOYER BRANDING

Having a diverse and inclusive workforce is a key talent attraction and retention strategy. In today’s intense battle for talent, having a strong employer branding proposition is key to business success. Not only does it make your company more attractive to work for, but a diverse and inclusive workforce can also help reduce costly employee turnovers. 

At the basic level, build awareness and consciousness about how everyone is different and celebrate that individuality. Diversity education and bias training could be part of onboarding. The next step up would be to have action and alignment around diversity and inclusion policies. Implement formal processes, systems, and policies around diversity and inclusion and keep everyone (all ranks and levels) accountable. Simple examples include allowing flexible schedules for parents.

The author Senior Managing Director, Michael Page India & Thailand

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BATTERY SWAPPING: SOLUTION FOR EV BATTERY CHARGING PROBLEM

Battery swapping replaces depleted batteries with freshly charged ones at swap stations

Dr Irfan Khan

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Electric vehicles are becoming more prominent in today’s time, especially with the increasing use case in commercial vehicle space, Many Industry manufacturers and solution providers are working on the measures to make electric vehicles more affordable, easy to charge, and economical to operate. One such technology that gives all these benefits to fleet operators is battery swapping. A battery swapping technology, as the name suggests, is a method where a user can swap a battery to keep the vehicle running. 

A swapping station that is being installed at any particular location comprises multiple batteries getting charged constantly. An EV user can locate a swapping station, replace the depleting battery with a charged one, put the empty battery on charge, and can go to work. Battery Swapping technology has opened wide opportunities for fleet owners who want to keep their vehicles running without worrying about charging time.

Under battery swapping, EV users replace the discharged batteries with charged ones at the swap stations. It helps to solve the problem of setting up charging stations and also reduces the range anxiety of drivers. Apart from this, battery leasing can help EV consumers to save on the cost of purchasing a battery. It consumes minimum time and requires minimum infrastructure to charge at a battery station which could take hours. 

According to the research by 2030, more than 12 million tonnes of lithium-ion batteries are likely to retire. It needs raw materials such as lithium, nickel, and cobalt that have an environmental and human impact. At the end of their lives, batteries also create a lot of electronic waste. Many industry players are working on how to discard dead batteries and extract valuable metals at scale to keep materials in circulation and reduce reliance on mining. We should work on a better solution to keep the battery in use for longer in alternative sectors.

Battery cost currently constitutes about 40-70 percent of the upfront cost for an electric vehicle. If these batteries are decoupled and sold separately, it can help to shift the upfront cost to the energy operator’s network that is shifting the cost of ownership to operations. Battery swapping and interoperability can play a vital role in this as it helps to build the network of the supply chain to boost EV adoption, which in turn will impact faster transition.

Modern mobility solutions have two agendas such as technology transition and mobility as a function. We need an aggressive target with a proper roadmap for battery swapping that will help to change this ecosystem.

Use standard battery technology: Standard battery design, such as pack size, cavity, electric power control unit, and output performance per unit, will make battery switching easier. These innovations serve as catalysts for achieving economies of scale more quickly.

Recycling of EV Batteries: Battery recycling is a huge opportunity for India. Batteries that are being swapped can be built with a recycling-friendly design to enable ease of repurposing. The manufacturing and then recycling of the batteries of these EVs with recycled materials will eliminate sourcing that will positively impact the unit cost of vehicles.

 Battery-as-a-service (BaaS): Battery needs to be treated as a service segment like liquefied petroleum gas, or other functional batteries. It is necessary to extend the Incentives to battery-unit to subsidise per-kilometre operations rather than the purchase cost. The gross-cost financing models, along with the standard operating procedure for energy operators can help to explore the financially viable solutions.

The subscription model of Battery Swapping: BaaS can be available to users at a subscription model to gain the trust of the users and to boost confidence in availability.  

Building co-reliance: It is important to identify the value-chain propositionsfor users, drivers, energy operators, urban local bodies, and financing institutions in the swapping of EV batteries. Many start-ups and big EV manufacturers should also work on the inventory of previous existing modes, the infrastructure of land, Space for parking, spaces for charging infrastructure, and EO network in cities.

To deploy the intelligent transport systems technology: Using and promoting the use of digital applications that use databases to aid in the human-to-machine and machine-to-machine interface, which helps to increase EV and battery swapping station usage, traction, and ensure efficient operations, safety detection, seamless delivery, and improved convenience in the EV ecosystem.

Usage and adoption of electric vehicles have been growing at a rapid pace globally. According to the industry standards, an EV is costlier than its ICE counterpart and at least half the cost is from the battery pack. Many manufacturers are offering batteries separately from a vehicle, reducing the cost. In that case, a fleet owner can buy vehicles without batteries and utilize battery swapping to power their vehicles, reducing the initial cost.

One of the major reasons that create a hindrance to buying EVs is the range anxiety and the fear of the battery getting empty without finding a charging station. Compared to petrol or diesel vehicles, EV charging facilities are hard to come by, which raises range anxiety even more, especially when travelling long distances. One or two charging stations are available; the charging process is similar to charging mobile batteries. The best and fastest charger will replenish 80 percent of the battery in almost an hour, that’s quite long considering fuel pumps can fill up a tank in 5 min. In the case of a swapping station, one can simply locate a station and go and replace the empty battery with a new one.

Our government is also attempting to address this issue by finalising the incentives under the battery switching program. The policy mainly targets the battery swap services for three-wheeled auto-rickshaws and two-wheelers such as electric scooters and motorcycles. Under the policy, EV consumers will get incentives of up to 20 percent on the subscription or lease cost of the battery. Technologies that are being used for battery swapping have not yet been popular in India and charging is preferred. Swapping of batteries is a very good alternative to fuelling automobiles in the post-transition phase. 

Swappable batteries can not only be compact but eliminate anxiety about range and availability. But it will also mirror the existing network of fuelling stations to facilitate seamless operations. The investment from many private sectors can be leveraged for operations of the supply chain networks and sustenance of energy operators. The battery swapping and network of energy operators becomes a service segment. The availability and connectivity to this energy infrastructure are critical to the operation of these exchanging stations. So, it is most important to establish sustainable business models that can be leveraged to shift this upfront cost to the cost of operating an EV.

The author is Founder & CEO of eBikeGo, India’s largest smart electric two-wheeler mobility platform.

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‘MORE FOR FOOD CAMPAIGN WILL HELP INDIA EXPLORE FOOD FROM EU COUNTRIES’

Murtaza Ali Khan

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Chef Ajay Chopra is the face of European Union’s ‘More Than Food’ campaign in India. The ‘More Than Food’ campaign is aimed at increasing awareness in India about the food and beverages from the 27 EU Member States through a series of social media, B2B activities, and promotions by highlighting their safety, quality, authenticity, sustainability, and diversity.

In this interview he talks about the vision behind the ‘More Than Food’ campaign in India, authenticity and safety of European Union food ingredients, and the need to take European food to the common Indian household, among other things.

Chef Ajay Chopra

Excerpts

Q. What’s the vision behind the ‘More Than Food’ campaign in India? Also tell us about your association with the European Union as well as the campaign.

A. I am extremely honoured and delighted to be a part of European Union’s More Than Food campaign in India, as their campaign ambassador. Through this campaign, the European Union and I want to help the Indian audience explore the diverse and rich nature of ingredients and agricultural products from its 27 Member States. It aims to create a range of culinary experiences, bringing alive applications of European food and beverages in Indian cuisine. Every product reflects the commitment of European agricultural producers to offer authentic, safe, quality and sustainable products, from farm to fork. All of this is done in accordance with the EU’s high standards of production, processing, and packaging, following robust regulations with utmost transparency, ensuring that each agricultural product is fully traceable, and its origin can be identified at any stage of production or distribution.

Q. As the ambassador for ‘More Than Food› campaign in India, how do you look at the prospects of bringing the culinary experiences to India with this campaign?

A. The idea of this campaign is to create a range of culinary experiences and bring alive applications of European food and beverages in Indian cuisine. The Indian palette is used to a myriad of tastes and with this campaign, we want to bring to the audience a collection of flavours, full of character and history and will give the audience a chance to explore these rich ingredients.

Q. In a country as diverse as India the Food habits vary greatly from place to place. How authentic, safe, and sustainable European Union food ingredients are for Indian consumption?

A. Agricultural products from the European Union are a lot more than just food and drinks. They are a collection of flavours that are bursting with characters, tracing back to its origin. Each ingredient has a unique story to share, which is a heritage that has been passed down through generations. The products are built around quality and tradition, with an emphasis on genuine and unique ingredients that are subject to rigorous regulations at every stage of their production, processing and packaging.

Each EU country or region has employed ancient techniques to produce food and drinks that reflect local weather, cultures, and values. The food and drinks of the EU are produced, processed, and marketed in adherence to comprehensive standards for plant health, animal welfare and environment protection, which are among the strictest in the world.

The EU´s Farm to Fork Strategy aims to make food systems fair, healthy, and environmentally friendly. Sustainably produced EU products are the output of sustainable farming practices and leading innovations in agriculture and food science, and they help preserve the ecosystems and thus are a step forward to ensuring the planet’s health for us all.

Personally, I feel that the ingredients are a treat to work with. To share a personal experience with you, I used Blue Cheese from Denmark and created this beautiful concoction with fried garlic and stuffed them in a naan (Indian bread) and created these gorgeous naan pockets with creamy blue cheese coupled with the sharp flavour and crunch of the garlic. This was just one of the most beautiful dishes I have created.

Q. How keen are you in taking European food to the common Indian household?

A. The entire idea of the More Than Food campaign is to take European food into the Indian kitchen. As the ambassador of the campaign, I am really looking forward to educating the Indian audience of the authenticity, quality and safety of European ingredients. The options of what you can make using these ingredients are endless and over the next few months of my association with the European Union, I will keep my audience engaged and take them through a journey where they understand the different nuances of European food.

Q. What would be your recommended delicacies/preparations to someone uninitiated to European cuisine?

A. I think the best way to start and get acquainted is to prepare a cheese and charcuterie board. It’s the easiest way to get familiar with a host of products and create one platter which will have a variety of flavours. You can use different kinds of cheese, fruits and vegetables, meat and pair it up with wine or even some beer.

Q. You had hosted a Virtual Tasting Event a few months back. What was it all about?

A. The Virtual Tasting Event was hosted basically to kick-start European Union’s ‘More Than Food’ campaign in India. The idea was to get importers, distributors and members of the HORECA sector in India acquainted with the ingredients and flavours from the EU. During the session, the audience got an opportunity to understand the heritage behind each ingredient, as I took them through some interesting stories about European Food. While they loved the anecdotes, they also got a chance to try these products as we curated and sent them amazing hampers with EU products. We wanted them to understand how such high quality and flavorful products come from EU’s member states and we did just that alongside offering some tips and tricks to create a perfect cheese and charcuterie board. It has been a great experience as the Ambassador of the More Than Food campaign so far, and I am sure the journey is just going to get more and more interesting.

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INSURANCE COMPANY SHOULD NOT SEEK DOCUMENTS WHICH ARE BEYOND THE CONTROL OF INSURED TO FURNISH, SAYS SUPREME COURT WHILE SETTLING CLAIM

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The Supreme Court in the case Gurmel Singh vs Branch Manager, National Insurance Co. Ltd observed that due to circumstances which is beyond the insured control and which the insured is not in a position to produce while settling the claims, the insurance company need not be too technical and ask for documents.

While settling the claim, it is found that the insurance companies are refusing the claim on flimsy grounds and/ or technical grounds further which the insured is not in a position to produce due to circumstances beyond his control, While settling the claims, the insurance company should not be too technical and ask for the document As the insurance company ought not to have become too technical and ought not to have refused to settle the claim on non­ submission of the duplicate certified copy of certificate of registration as due to the circumstances beyond his control, the appellant could not produce on payment of huge sum by way of premium and the Truck was stolen, once there was a valid insurance. As the appellant was asked to produce the documents which are beyond the control of the appellant to produce and furnish those documents.

An amount of Rs. 12 lakhs along with interest @ 7 per cent from the date of submitting the claim, the appellant is entitled to the insurance and to pay the litigation cost of Rs. 25,000 to the appellant, the court held while allowing the appeal.

the insurance company has become too technical while settling the claim and the insurance company has acted arbitrarily, observed by the court in this case.

As when an appellant produced the registration particulars which has been provided by the RTO and further the appellant had produced the photocopy of certificate of registration and was just being solely on the ground that the original certificate of registration i.e., which has been stolen is not produced and the non-settlement of claim can be said to be deficiency in service. Therefore, the Insurance companies are refusing the claim on flimsy grounds and/or technical grounds, the facts and circumstances of the case. Furthermore, the appellant had tried his best to get the duplicate certified copy of certificate of registration of the Truck. the insurance company must have received the copy of the certificate of registration, even at the time of taking the insurance policy and getting the insurance.

the appellant has not produced either the original certificate of registration or even the duplicate certified copy of certificate of registration issued by the RTO, mainly on the ground the insurance company has not been settled in an appeal before the Apex Court. The bench further noted that the photocopy 5 of certificate of registration and other registration particulars as provided by the RTO, was being produced by the appellant.

The bench comprising of Justice MR Shah and the justice BV Nagarathna observed and contended that, in many cases, it is found that the insurance companies are refusing the claim on flimsy grounds and/or technical grounds.

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Bengal cannot be won with good speeches: Arjun Singh

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Before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Arjun Singh left the TMC and joined the BJP. This time, as soon as the assembly elections were over, the leader from Barrackpore left the BJP and returned to TMC. After entering the old party in a new way, he became vocal against BJP. The rebel leader shared his views with The Daily Guardian Review.

BJP Lok Sabha MP Arjun Singh joins TMC in Kolkata on Sunday.

Q: You returned to TMC after three years. Why this return?

A: This decision has been made for many reasons. The biggest reason is that the Bengal BJP has not taken any decision for me in three years. It was not possible for activists like us who work at ground zero to perform. All the factories in my centre are closed. The BJP should have taken the responsibility because it is under the central government. Instead, I had to fight this battle alone. I thought I would get support from the BJP in Bengal but in vain. Second, I had to face obstacles in my work in the organization. I had told this to the central leadership many times. But there was no solution. So, I was forced to leave the party and join the TMC to bring peace to my area, to save my activists, and to continue the fight.

Q: BJP is saying that your absence will not have any effect on the party. Your comment.

A: If there is no influence in Bengal or elsewhere then it is good for a political party. However, the BJP does not know what the impact is, what the election is or what the booth is. The leaders of the party gave good speeches. However, elections in Bengal cannot be win with good speeches in politics. The BJP leader who gave the speech said that it was not a matter of winning or losing. But winning in Bengal is the main thing. I think it would be better if the BJP says that my departure will not have any effect. 

Q:  Political experts are of the opinion that you joined BJP for power. What do you have to say?

A: Lots of people before me joined BJP. Did TMC recognise anyone? The way TMC fought against me, did it against anyone? TMC recognised me. They felt that the BJP needed to lose this candidate. They used all their power against me. Why would TMC take so much power against someone like that? This proves that there is no logic in what the BJP is saying. I didn’t use BJP for power. 

Q: What’s your next plan? 

A: I will relax a little. There are seven MLAs who will work. Then I will fulfill the responsibility given to me by the TMC. I have been working alone for so long, now it is my turn to relax a little.

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I NEVER LOST HOPE, SAW THIS AS A SETBACK: AG PERARIVALAN

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The Supreme Court on May 18 ordered the release of AG Perarivalan, the convict serving life imprisonment in connection with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, while invoking its extraordinary power under Article 142 of the Constitution. Perarivalan had sought a premature release from jail based on the recommendation made by the Tamil Nadu government in September 2018. In an interaction with The Daily Guardian Review, Perarivalan shared his journey after his release.

Q: How was the 30 years legal battle?

A: The journey was painful.

Q: How did you feel getting out from four corners after 31 years?

A: I never thought I would get stuck in the case, the journey was very long in jail. My mother had supported me all times. That’s how I overcame.

Q: Did you ever feel that you’ll gain a victory in this case?

A: I never lost hope, I have seen this as a setback, I have worked hard for it.

Q: In the past 30 years, who have helped you and supported you?

A: My mother has always taken my side. A huge team both legally and politically have fought for me in this case.

Q: How do you see the world now? What’s your future plan?

A: The world has completely changed. I’m getting adopted for it and learning it, the future plans haven’t been discussed yet. I will be consulting with the family on the future plans.

Q: Why do you think your release was celebrated across TN and by several political parties in the state?

A: Several parties including AIADMK and DMK have understood my innocence in this case and they have supported me always understanding my situation.

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