She made her debut in cinema as a child artist in Hindi films before she became a number one heroine in Tamil cinema ruling the 1990s. In fact, Khushbu Sundar became so popular in south cinema that fans even built her a temple in Tamil Nadu. The actor moved into the political arena in 2010 when she joined the DMK and later the Congress in 2014. The Congress national spokesperson is someone who has always stood up for women’s rights and doesn’t mince her words when it comes to politics either. Here are excerpts from the interview with The Daily Guardian:
Q: In Chennai, there’s a lot of anger against the government as they haven’t been able to contain the spread of coronavirus.
A: To be honest, if there was a complete failure on the part of the government, we’d have seen a huge spike across Tamil Nadu and not only just Chennai. They’re able to sustain the spread of Covid-19 in other districts and this gives a lot to think about. When I step out today, I see people having a lethargic attitude, not wearing masks and not maintaining social distancing. So, tell me, how much can the government do if people aren’t aware? Now, there’s a stigma and fear of death attached to being Covid-19 positive so they don’t want to get tested or quarantined. People need to look at the positive side — the rate of recovery here is 65% and death about 1%.
Q: There has been extensive criticism to the Centre’s handling of Covid-19 and the migrant issue. In fact, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has offered 1,000 buses in UP to send migrants home. But the BJP accused Rahul Gandhi of playing “politics with misery” and not helping migrants in states they were in power.
A: This is not the time to play politics. It’s there for the world to see how the Central government has failed completely in working on the basics of implementing the lockdown. This was about millions of migrant workers who needed to get back home — with no transport, how will they get back home? When Rahul Gandhi spoke about the seriousness of coronavirus in early February, he was told that he must not talk about it because it was not a national threat. But here we are, sitting at seventh position in the world in terms of highest number of Covid-19 patients. If we had taken it more seriously back then and planned it better with regard to the migrant workers, the businesses, the poors, etc, we wouldn’t be in this situation. Parliament continued till 23 March because they wanted to bring down the government in Madhya Pradesh. When the WHO said this would be a pandemic and when Tablighi Jamaat happened, they should have shut it down. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was trying to send buses and the UP CM tried to stop this. And the blame game started. Even an actor like Sonu Sood could send so many migrants back home in a week’s time! It took the Central government more than 70 days and yet they have not got it right. The Shramik special trains have started running but there are no facilities, water or food; more than 80 people have died and it’s so painful.
Q: The IANS-C Voter State of the Nation 2020 Survey shows that Rahul Gandhi’s national approval rating is lower than the CMs in Congress-ruled or alliance-led states.
A: People should stop being obsessed with Rahul Gandhi; he is just an MP from Wayanad now. I don’t understand why these surveys, the media or the BJP are obsessed with Rahul Gandhi. You don’t want to give him chance, yet you continue to say he is not of any hope. Let him live his life and you live your life. The minute you keep talking about him, plant trolls and memes and keep defaming him, shows very well — irrespective of what the surveys say — how obsessed people are with Rahul Gandhi. We should be concentrating on Moody’s India’s credit rating which has been downgraded in the six years of BJP rule.
Q: With the 2021 elections approaching in Tamil Nadu, is the Congress alliance with the DMK still going strong? How prepared is the Congress for this tough fight with the AIADMK?
A: I wouldn’t be able to answer that. I am a national spokesperson, so I leave it to the senior leaders and the TNCC president to speak about this. Now, the elections are not about J. Jayalalithaa but an individual called Edappadi Palaniswami and how well he has done as the CM. We will know only at the time of elections since we don’t have the two stalwarts, Amma Jayalalithaa of the AIADMK and Dr Kalaignar of the DMK. It’s going to a different election altogether in Tamil Nadu. For the first time, we are going to see an election where both parties have two new leaders.
Q: Interestingly, two of your colleagues and friends from the film industry, Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, are now both in the political sphere. If Rajinikanth, who doesn’t want to be Chief Minister, steps into politics, how do you think it’ll impact the political scenario in Tamil Nadu?
A: Since we don’t have the two stalwarts, Amma Jayalalithaa and Dr Kalaignar, there is definitely a vacuum. People can also look for the third front but we’re not sure we can form a triangle. We still don’t know what Rajinikanth’s ideas are for the state and the people, while Kamal Haasan has done well for himself in the last elections. We’ll have to wait and watch, but the elections will be different. I hope Rajinikanth starts his party early because I want people from the film industry to come into politics — it shouldn’t end with Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan — but other youngsters should come and make a difference. If you have backing of the people and they trust you, then whoever is interested in politics should take the plunge. I must also say that Rajinikanth shouldn’t be the kingmaker but he also has to be the king. Only then people are going to vote for him.
Q: With regard to women’s issues and rights, you have been one of the strongest and most powerful voices. How important is it for women to stand up for themselves? What advice do you give your daughters?
A: The only advice I give my daughters is stand up for what you feel is right. Only when you believe in yourself, you can speak with honesty, conviction and confidence. You cannot be a parrot repeating what someone else says. It pains me to see in the 21st century that despite women have moved ahead, we’re still talking about women breaking the glass ceiling. We have moved way beyond that! We have to get rid of the hierarchy and patriarchal attitudes where women need permission from a man to decide what she wants to do with her life — it’s her life and she should decide what she wants to do.
Q: More young girls are now prone to sexual harassment like the “Bois Locker Room” scandal recently. Where do you think we are going wrong as a society?
A: I’d like to answer this as a mother. Most parents don’t want their kids to trouble them so they hand over their mobiles and iPads to them. You don’t know what is going to pop up from where on these gadgets. You are so focussed on your own life that you don’t know what these kids are watching or doing. Kids don’t feel secure in their family environment; they see how women are treated in their family. Women are subjected to verbal, physical, sexual or mental abuse, and they see women keeping quiet and taking it, so they think it’s part and parcel of marital life. We might think small kids don’t understand this, but today’s kids understand matters far more than what we were in our childhood. We parents have to trust our children but keep an eye on what kind of friends they have, where they’re going, what they’re watching, etc. Any hint of change in behaviour or language, we need to probe into it and speak to them. That’s where we generally go wrong.
Q: Last year, you made a statement at an event, saying men don’t know what women want.
A: True, very true (laughs). None knows what a woman wants. There’s a mystery to a woman. My husband knows me well for the last 25 years but there’s a mystery to me which I like to keep to myself. Men definitely don’t know what women want — only we know what we want. Unless we keep some part of ourselves a mystery, then men will stop trying to read us and lose interest in women.
Q: Lastly, how do you manage to successfully handle your numerous roles as a wife, mom, politician, actor and producer?
A: Very simple formula — if there is a will, there is a way (smiles).
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WE ARE FOCUSED ON HELPING THE HELPLESS AND FEEDING THE NEEDY: ARIDAMAN RATHORE & AANJNEYA SINGH
Aridaman Singh Rathore, Founder, Act Jaipur and Aanjneya Singh, Member, Act Jaipur joined NewsX’s special series, NewsX India A-list and spoke about how social media became a valuable tool in making their aim a fortunate reality.
Covid-19 was an unprecedented disaster that wreaked havoc on the world and is still at its prime momentum. Humanity is being tested daily, and some warriors are holding up its sanctity with valour and pride. NewsX’s special series, NewsX India A-list, aims at acknowledging such warriors. Aridaman Singh Rathore, Founder, Act Jaipur and Aanjneya Singh, Member, Act Jaipur, participated in the special series for their excellence in social work.
Introducing the concept behind this initiative and how it all came together, Aridaman said, “It was nothing but friend and family coming together to do their bit.” Driven by the feeling of helplessness and witnessing the Covid-19 pandemic exploding onto our country, he added, “We are focused on helping the helpless and feeding the needy. Even people with a good job profile who got laid off are suffering, and we came to their aid as well.”
Aanjneya Singh, who has been working in New York for six years, came to India for holidays and couldn’t go back due to the lockdown restrictions. Explaining how he came to be a part of this noble initiative, he said, “Actions speak louder than words. We had the resources and the network, so helping people in need was our responsibility.” Aanjneya also mentioned how donations from across Europe and New York, through his contacts, have been beneficial in propelling social aid.
Both the individuals spoke about how social media became a valuable tool in making their aim a fortunate reality. Aridaman connected with his cousins and friends over a WhatsApp group and started their page on Instagram. Social Media proved to be immensely helpful in propagating the idea further.
Throwing light on the reach and expansion of ‘Act’, Aridaman said, “Our initial goal was distributing 10,000 food packets. Today, we have distributed 23,791 meals, and are projecting close to 50,000 packets by mid-June.” Reiterating the importance of social media in times of the pandemic, Aridaman talked about the ease with which people with similar aim and equal drive connected with Act on Instagram. The platforms also facilitated their networking with several NGOs. One such NGO is ‘Raksha’. In collaboration with Raksha, Act Jaipur also fed stray animals and has expanded to distributing dry ration in slums.
“We wanted people to act out. We had had enough of just talking, it’s time to act now. We wanted people to realise the power of Social Media and reach out to the needy in such trying times,” said Aridaman while enlightening about the name of their initiative. He said that they want to do as much as they can in their limited capacity and are unwilling to stop until they achieve it. Aanjneya echoed Aridaman’s thought and said, “Doing something is always more beneficial than just speaking up.”
Humanity is facing a crisis, and initiatives like Act Jaipur gives people hope and a dose of positivity which is the need of the hour (after a dose of the vaccine). Ending the interview on a hopeful note, Aridaman said, “No amount is less, and no effort is lost.”
WHAT OTHER STATES CAN LEARN FROM MP IN DEALING WITH COVID-19
The worst ever pandemic, Covid-19 has affected the mankind world over, almost every country was caught unaware and unprepared. The gravity and severity of the pandemic were very much visible over time. It affected almost every aspect of human life including health, economy, development, and growth. It all came to a halt. The scientists, doctors, government, and the common man didn’t know what had hit them.
The worst situation the country ever faced after independence — the leadership and the common man didn’t know what had hit them and didn’t know how to deal with it and what to do. Everyone including scientists, doctors and researchers tried their level best to find a way out to deal with this dragon of the pandemic.
Though at the national level, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the charge of the affairs and in Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan took the bull by the horns. So what made Madhya Pradesh different from other states in dealing with this pandemic is the Chief Minister taking the charge directly to control the scenario before it could get worse by taking adequate steps. This helped to not only control the pandemic but fight it and try to finish it. The fallout was much less than the anticipated one, damage to the economy and people were within control.
It was precisely because of the leadership of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, owing to his vast experience, know-how of the state, people, flora and fauna, as well as his vision and long term measures, nipped the problem in the bud itself and stopped it from blooming.
Whether it was managing the affairs at the state level, inter-state level, or national level, he was at his best, using all his resources in dealing with the pandemic.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan saw to it that the necessary medicines were made available besides providing oxygen and medical equipment, availability of beds to the needy ones on the one side and on the other side, making a team of dedicated officers to ensure the availability of necessary medicines that are not overpriced, keep a check on black marketing, hoarding etc. Also he ensured to check the supply of genuine medicines and lifesaving drugs, all these were made available timely to the patients at reasonable prices.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s way of dealing with the situation was lauded by the Prime Minister and other states were asked to replicate the Madhya Pradesh model especially in dealing with the pandemic in rural areas.
Whether it was dealing with the problem of migrant labourers, farmers, and agriculture-related issues, and getting the right prices to the farmers for their produce, the Chief Minister excelled in everything.
In this time of distress, his government made special policies for helping street vendors. Apart from this, taking the responsibility of the orphan children whose parents have died in the traumatic situation, Shivraj Singh Chouhan set an example, which was later on replicated by the Centre and other states also.
The Chief Minister, on regular basis, tried to get community feedback from various sources. He invited suggestions from every quarter of the society before framing any policy or taking any important decision. Involving public participation was the key to his success. On important issues, he didn’t shy away from taking advice from leaders of opposition and taking their help in case of need.
At the national level also, due to his vast experience and long stint, he was in regular touch with several Union Ministers in case of any help the state government needed be it the Union Railway Minister, for running Oxygen Express to various destinations of the state, or talking to Union Health Minister for the supply of necessary medicines, medical equipment, masks, oxygen concentrators etc. in time of need, or asking the Union Commerce and Industry Minister to open oxygen plants for various places in the state.
In case of severity, Shivraj Singh Chouhan didn’t even hitch in requesting the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for timely release of necessary funds under various schemes to cope up with the dreaded situation. He didn’t shy away in asking for help from Chief Ministers of other states for helping the migrants from Madhya Pradesh stuck in their states. Meanwhile, Shivraj Singh Chouhan also helped the migrants from other states stuck in Madhya Pradesh. He took full care of them and ensured their safe return to their native places.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan is is the real son of the soil. In the state, he decentralised the powers to the ground level and made all district magistrates act and take quick decision, and in case of fatality, were answerable also.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan held regular meetings with the health and district officials and that helped him to get the right feedback and act accordingly as per need. It was this approach that all the districts of the states are out of the red zone and the state has begun with the unlocking process from 1 June onwards. It is his confidence, grit, and zeal to work for the people of the state to move forward with confidence and courage that worked wonders for Madhya Pradesh in fighting with Covid-19 pandemic.
The writer is Joint Director (P.R.), New Delhi, Government of Madhya Pradesh.
The Greek connection of the pandemic and more
When the world is looking for politically-correct nomenclature and yearning for a medical utopia in which everyone is protected from the pandemic, ancient Greece is as good a place as any to start looking for beginnings of ideas and experiences that preoccupy us today.
One of the latest developments in the year and a half old pandemic has been nomenclatural. On 31 May 2021, the WHO rechristened Covid virus variants of interest after the first four Greek letters — alpha, beta, gamma, and delta. The Greek alphabet is the major contributor to English, but even in original, it occupies an important and euphonious place in domain-specific jargons, popping up in unlikeliest places. The Phi Beta Kappa Society, active since 1776, has 290 chapters in the US. Leaders of social groups are called alphas, betas, and omegas, in the order of dominance, based on research originally conducted on wolves in captivity. Software development goes through beta testing. We sleep wrapped up in alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and theta waves. Some unconscious patients end up in an alpha coma. Theta captures the decline in the value of a stock option over time. The Riemann Zeta function is used to study the properties of prime numbers. Lambda has come to stand for gay liberation, besides dozens of others meanings in as many disciplines. The examples can be multiplied almost without end. If Greek enrichment of jargon is diverse and wide-ranging, Greek contributions to ideas and culture are encyclopaedic.
To ancient Greeks, we also owe the idea of Polis. Poleis were nascent city-states established in ancient Greece over two millennia ago. The Covid-19 pandemic, already a year and a half old, has germinated a new aspiration among people across the world- to acquire as quickly as possible membership of a polis that might be called Immuno-polis. It is the virtual, global, and utopian community of those who have developed immunity to the SARS-CoV-2. Some have become its unwilling members by contracting the disease and developing antibodies against severe future attacks. Others are members by vaccination. The remainders, still a majority of people, await membership after getting their shots. Fears that they might be expelled from the protective borders of Immuno-polis by emerging strains have largely proved unfounded. Immunopolitans will continue to enjoy most of their privileges with the existing vaccines, with more on the way. From polis have arisen Metropolis, Cosmopolis, Necropolis, as well as the above-mentioned Immuno-polis. When herd immunity is achieved, benefits of this imaginary community would be available to all, even those who haven’t suffered from the disease or received a vaccine; we would all end up living in a Utopia.
Utopia, or an ideal community, is also a Greek idea, though morphed. In most intellectual histories, coinage of the word is attributed to Sir Thomas More (1474-1535) by whose work of the same name we know him best. However, he was only the efficient cause of neologism, as Aristotle might have put it. More seems to have got the word while translating the works of Greek satirist Lucian, whose True History, a compilation of events that never happened, is based in outopia, meaning ‘no place’. From this root, and ‘eutopia’, meaning a good place, More invented a pun, Utopia. Today we think of Utopia as goodness incarnate in a state. But More’s Utopia is dysfunctional, what we would now call a dystopia.
This is not merely a linguistic quibble. The idea of a flawless state, and by implication, a flawed one, was Greek before Lucian got going. Plato, and Aristotle after him, assumed an idealised political entity of which all earthly republics and entities were imperfect forms and corruptions. The thread was picked up by Polybius and Cicero in ancient Rome after the disintegration of the Greek city-states. With the spread of Christianity, Augustine of Hippo and several centuries after him, St. Thomas Aquinas developed the idea in the context of a Christianising Western Europe and Italy. Plagues that wracked the medieval world contributed to a concrete concept of the opposite of Utopia. Ideal communities and their debased variants have been imagined, written about, and romanticised and demonised at all times and in all cultures. Dystopian writers today are respected distant descendants of Old Testament writers and Dante, whose descriptions of hell were alarming enough for his native Florence to drive him to seek the protection of Verona. Perhaps the greatest 20th-century creator of dystopias, Eric Arthur Blair, aka George Orwell, was at home in the Greek language. Writing a decade before Orwell, Aldous Huxley, in his Brave New World (1932), ordered his imaginary casteist society from alpha at the top to epsilon at the bottom.
If renaming the variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus after letters of the Greek alphabet and ideal imaginary communities has ancient Greek roots, so is one of the earliest descriptions of epidemics and plagues. Hippocrates, the great physician of Greek Antiquity (460-370 BC), was perhaps the first to define endemics and epidemics. His pre-modern theory of humour continues to inform several enclaves of alternate medicine. Thucydides, the greatest among ancient historians and chronicler par excellence of The Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC), describes the Athenian plague in the second year of the war, a contagion he contracted and survived. ‘At the beginning, the doctors were quite incapable of treating the disease because of their ignorance of the right methods. Mortality among the doctors was the highest of all, since they come more frequently in contact with the sick’, he writes. He goes on: ‘Some died in neglect, some despite every possible care being taken of them, what did good in some cases did harm in others. Those with naturally strong constitutions were no better able than the weak to resist the disease’. There were crises of faith, disorganised funerals, overwhelmed public facilities, changed attitude towards wealth and leisure and much else that sounds familiar in these times. What now and what next were as pressing questions then as they are now. When the world is looking for politically correct nomenclature and yearning for a medical utopia in which everyone is protected from the pandemic, ancient Greece is as good a place as any to start looking for beginnings of ideas and experiences that preoccupy us today.
The writer is a physician and a civil servant in India.
HARYANA PREPARES POLICY FOR THE SALE OF SHOPS AND HOUSES BY MUNICIPAL BODY: ANIL VIJ
Haryana Urban Local Bodies Minister Anil Vij said that the state government has formulated a policy to give ownership rights to the occupants of the property of municipal bodies. A maximum rebate of up to 50% on the collector rate of the property concerned will be given to get the ownership of the occupied property. This policy will come into effect from 1 July. He said that the eligible occupant, who wants to take advantage of this policy, will have to apply online on the web portal to the concerned commissioner/executive officer/secretary of the concerned municipal body within a month. Vij informed that for the convenience of the occupants, a web portal is being designed which will be ready by 20 June as there is a possibility of large scale occupants to be covered under this policy.
He said that the Haryana government is working to give ownership to those occupants of the properties of the Urban Local Bodies Department, who own the property on rent, lease or license fee for over 20 years. These occupants will be given a maximum discount of 50% on the present collector rate for the deed of the property. Vij said that the occupants who have occupied such property for over 20 years but less than 25 years, they will have to pay 80% of the collector rate. Occupants who have occupied such property for over 25 years but less than 30 years, will have to pay 75% of the collector rate. Similarly, the occupants who have occupied such property for over 30 years but less than 35 years, will have to pay 70% of the collector rate and so on.
Gujarat Assembly polls: Congress decides to take aggressive stance
As soon as Covid-19 came under control in Gujarat, a series of political meetings started. After Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal visited Ahmedabad, BJP in-charge Bhupendra Yadav held a meeting with Ministers and MLAs. Now the Congress has also started churning. A lunch diplomacy meeting was held at the bungalow of Opposition Leader Paresh Dhanani Wednesday afternoon in which state president Amit Chavda, Shaktisinh Gohil, Hardik Patel, Arjun Modhwadia, Bharatsinh Solanki, Siddharth Patel, and other leaders were present. In the meeting, holding programs on the issue of Covid-19 and inflation as well as taking an aggressive stance towards the upcoming 2022 Assembly Elections were discussed. Apart from that, the racial equations on the election issue were also discussed.
For a long time now, there has been a heated debate in the Congress High Command over the new state president of Gujarat, the Opposition Leader in the Legislative Assembly and the Gujarat Congress in-charge. Incumbent state president Amit Chavda and Opposition Leader in the Legislative Assembly Paresh Dhanani resigned following the results of the local body elections but no new office bearers have been appointed yet. On the other hand, the death of Rajiv Satwan, in-charge of the Gujarat Congress, gave a major blow to the Congress in Gujarat. There is also talk of putting new faces in Gujarat to strengthen the party.
Gujarat Congress spokesperson Dr Manish Doshi said on Arvind Kejriwal’s allegations that the Delhi Chief Minister, who did not utter a word of consolation for the people of the country amid recession, inflation, and pandemic, was politicising the allegations against the Congress. It is the nature of the AAP to make such allegations. Thus the AAP is the B team of the BJP. He has come to Gujarat to benefit BJP. Kejriwal remained silent on the issue of farmers, education, and health. Congress has been constantly fighting the BJP. Congress does the politics of the masses.
In Rajasthan, resolving the revolt called by Sachin Pilot to accept his demand is the first priority for the Congress. In such circumstances, the High Command’s calculation to resolve the issue of Gujarat’s state in-charge, state president, and Opposition Leader in the Legislative Assembly by 11 June has turned upside down. Now political sources are expressing the possibility of a concrete solution in the next one or two weeks. Therefore, the Gujarat issue is not likely to be resolved in two days. It could still take at least a week. If the Rajasthan issue becomes more complicated, the Gujarat issue may take more time to resolve, the sources said.
Apart from Bhupendra Yadav, a meeting was held of party organisation office bearers, all MLAs, and MPs in the presence of Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, and State President C. R. Patil. The meeting will first give a glimpse of the government’s Covid and vaccination operations and the work done by the system during Cyclone.
EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS IN J&K TO REMAIN SHUT AMID LIFTING OF RESTRICTIONS
Srinagar: While the authorities have lifted some restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir in the recent past, the government has decided to extend the closure of all the educational institutions till 30 June.The government, in a fresh order, has decided to keep the schools, colleges, universities, technical education institutes, skill development institutes, and coaching centres closed for offline classes. According to the official communication to the media, “All schools, colleges, universities, technical education, skill development institutes, and coaching centers shall remain closed for in-person on-campus teaching”. “In view of safety and well-being of students due to Covid pandemic, all pending JKBOSE Examinations session 2020-21 (Regular/Private) for final exams of class XI and XII across JKUT for which examination/results are awaited, are cancelled,” the Lt. Governor’s office said. There has been a dip in the Covid positive cases in the entire Jammu and Kashmir due to the recent containment measures taken by the government that includes weekend curfew and night curfew. The government has accelerated the process of vaccination and in the past few days, a lot of vaccination camps were held even in Srinagar for the age group of 45 years and above so that the vaccination for the age group of 18 years to 45 years is also taken up at a massive level. LG Manoj Sinha recently asked his administration to get the 100% vaccination done for the age group of 45 years and above in Jammu and Kashmir by June-end.
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