Actor, producer and entrepreneur, Suniel Shetty, who is also co-founder of Ferit Cricket Bash, India’s first league for amateur cricketers and is captain of the Mumbai Heroes team in the Celebrity Cricket League, speaks to The Daily Guardian on life in the time of lockdown, among other things.
Q: How has the lockdown been treating you? Novel situation for everybody.
A: Tough for everybody. Keeping each one’s hope alive. Staying home, staying safe. Trying to spread that message. Somewhere reassuring ourselves and the rest of the people connected with us to stay positive. All of us are going through this. We lost one of the finest actors in the industry. Condolences to the family. Irrfan Bhai cannot be replaced. May he rest in peace. The only thing I’d like to talk about, it is tough time for the family.
Q: It’s extremely sad and morbid. He leaves a rich legacy behind in Bollywood and Hollywood. We’ll talk about the current situation world is dealing with. Maharashtra has been most impacted being the epicentre of Covid-19. How do you think Mumbai has tackled it?
A: Our Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister have been extremely active. The Thackerays have done good work. A lot of slums…the numbers are huge. It’s been handled beautifully. Tried to explain to slum people. The virus is not the problem, hunger is. we need to support each other.
Q: What does this virus mean for us? Will life be different after this pandemic is over?
A: It is about to change. Personally, we have realised we have been greedy—amassing wealth, property. Realised how environment has been affected. Treated my staff well and gave their salaries on time. The rich have got the disease and the poor are suffering. We are comfortably sitting at home. The pay scale needs to improve. The politicians need to stop being greedy. They need to stop the spread of slums. Cannot allow slums to mushroom. The underworld-politician nexus keeps the poor suffering. We need to give the poor what they deserve. Convert slums into gardens. Provide homes to people. Can’t control it. That’s why Mumbai has been hit. The way pandemic has hit other countries makes them look like third world. We are far better than the West. A lot of things I realised about our country and our people. Need to make a lot of changes to my life now.
Q: Bollywood has come to a stop. OTT platforms will have a larger bearing in entertainment. What’s the future we are looking at in terms of entertainment?
A: It’s going to remain impacted for six months. Masses will continue going to big screen. But things will be produced digitally more. There is a controlled supply of entertainment right now. A few platforms are consuming this content.
Q: There’s an opportunity to think out of the box. What is FTC Talent?
A: It started year and a half ago. When the Me To movement started. We wanted to remove the stigma, so if anyone had the talent they can pursue it from home. Job seekers will come. We have given a break to 1,000 kids through this platform. Aspirants are financially harassed, then mentally and then physically (in the industry). The scars we have left on people as an industry will be carried. We need to change the way auditions and casting were looked at. We have over 50 brands involved. Empowering people at home. Stay at home and use your talent. This is user generated content. The ideas these kids have are unbelievable.
Q: What is your message to actors and artistes going through the lockdown gloom?
A: We are all part of the same storm. Stay positive. Nature will benefit from this. We will benefit from our nature’s benefit. We’ll talk about quality time, meditation. Hundred such platforms will come forward. People will get a lot of jobs. I will put up any jobs for the kids willing to do it. The power of digital platforms is helping kids with what they like. More and more kids are getting opportunities. Podcasting is going to be huge. We have thousands of kids who have vocal talents. We can give them jobs.
Q: Spanish flu happened a hundred years ago and world population was lost as a result of this pandemic. We are better off today, perhaps because of technology. How dependent are we going to become on technology after this ends? Is it a good thing or no according to you?
A: No option. Because of social distancing we need to do it. It is a positive change. Giving kids in Kashmir, Dhulia, Jammu work. I want to give an opportunity to their energy and ideas. Have asked my producers to change my pending shoot locations from abroad to India. I can give India all the business there is. Right now the world is looking at us. We have financial brains, IT, industry, farming, we have everything. Kids will use technology in farming. Want the last mile consumer to benefit from this. Whenever there is a pandemic, people in the last link of chain gain and hoard a lot and make profit. We need money and food as essentials to stay home and stay safe.
Q: How is a sports buff like you coping with quarantine? What about cricket fans?
A: Go back and look at the games you like. For me Sunil Gavaskar was my God. We’ve been watching clips of old matches. This time, fortunately, I’ve been involved with Save the Children India, an NGO. We have been running for over 30-32 years, we have the data, people we have reached out to. We have seen the impact. We have supported these people. Trying to make that difference. I am happy that I get to see very little, don’t get time to watch much. Trying to learn how much ayurveda and yoga mean so much to us. If I look better, my food habits have changed. Overlooking my chefs, finding healthier substitutes for food. We need to stay fit. As head of the family I took responsibility to promote health in the family.
Q: And suggestions for fitness, tips for those who are dreading to the weighing scale?
A: People are now eating healthier home food. Need to balance diet. Doing surya namaskar itself will make immense differences to your body, thereby we’ll also be saluting nature. Skipping, walking, brisk walking, as long as you keep your heart rate monitored and do it seriously. Wear your sports gear to be mentally prepared.
Q: Any new skills you’ve picked up during the quarantine?
A: I thought cooking was something I was excelling in. But my wife and daughter put an end to it but it was taking me eight hours to cook a meal. But my recipes are good.
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FATE UNCLEAR, SOME EMBASSIES IN AFGHANISTAN BREAK CONTACTS WITH TALIBAN: REPORT
After a month has passed since the fall of the Republic of Afghanistan on August 15, the fate of Afghan embassies are unclear and some have even broken contact with the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate government.
A former official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) says some of Afghanistan’s embassies are acting independently and the nature of their revenue remains unknown, reported Pajhwok Afghan News. Similarly, the ministry says one embassy is yet to deposit its money in a bank and four others have refused to answer questions about their activities.
A former MoFA official, who wished to go unnamed, told Pajhwok Afghan News 80 per cent of the ministry staffers had left Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover. He added political departments of MoFA were responsible for maintaining relations with embassies of other countries. But currently, there are fewer officers in the departments.
At the moment, most of Afghanistan’s embassies have cut off contacts with the Kabul administration and the host countries, he revealed, reported Pajhwok Afghan News. Some embassies are still led by former minister, Hanif Atmar and then vice-president Amrullah Saleh.
Some remained neutral, while others were in contact with the new administration, the source said, without providing further details, reported Pajhwok Afghan News. The official said 80 per cent of the embassies’ expenses were met with their own revenue collected from services like issuance of passports and other facilities.
He also disclosed workers of Afghanistan’s embassies in France and Germany had sought asylum in the host countries, reported Pajhwok Afghan News.
The former MoFA official claimed the acting foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, had tried several times to organise online meetings with Afghan envoys abroad, reported Pajhwok Afghan News.
The minister reportedly planned to hold a virtual meeting with them on Wednesday, but it was cancelled because most of the ambassadors were absent, reported Pajhwok Afghan News.
According to the source, a former officer of the ministry, in a voice message, had asked Afghanistan’s embassies to continue discharging their responsibilities. However, the source explained such orders should be issued in writing. Embassies also did not know about their fate and whether or not host countries would recognise the new government, he added.
30% citizens of Punjab feel healthcare has improved ‘significantly’ during Captain’s era
With the exit of Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh and his council of ministers, there is an interesting survey that was been carried out and was just released coincidentally at the time of CM’s resignation. It says 12% residents of Punjab said the Amarinder Singh Government met or exceeded their expectations in the last 4.5 years. 33% said that cleanliness level has improved in the last 4.5 years.
Less than 9% feel that Ease of Doing Business, corruption, air quality have improved. Similarly, nearly 30% of the citizens feel that healthcare services, infrastructure, law and order and power supply have improved in the last 4.5 years. Also, less than 34% said that there has been an improvement in communal harmony and school education in Punjab.
Over 50 party MLAs from the state had sought Amarinder’s removal. Over the last 2 weeks, LocalCircles had been conducting an extensive study on the 4.5 years of Amarinder Singh-led Punjab Government. The past 1.5 years for the Punjab Government, like other states, have been full of ups and downs, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 induced pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. The Government made a few bold moves, some of which have also been highly criticised by other political parties.
Over 15,000 responses were received from over 4000 unique residents in 18 districts of Punjab. 69% of the participants were men while 31% were women.
The majority of 57% of residents said there has been “no reduction”. On the other hand, 36% said there has been “minor increase” in corruption. On an aggregate basis, only 7% of Punjab residents say there has been reduction in corruption in the state in the last 4.5 years. This question in the survey received 1,101 responses.
11% of Punjab residents say there has been a “significant improvement” of law and order, and another 11% say there has been “some improvement”. Breaking down the poll, 22% of residents say there has been “no improvement”, another 44% say it has “gotten worse”, and 12% say it has “gotten significantly worse”. On an aggregate basis, only 22% of Punjab residents say the Law & order in their state has improved in the last 4.5 years. This question in the survey received 1,097 responses.
The 2nd wave of the COVID-19 outbreak tested the pulse of the Punjab Government, On an aggregate basis, only 30% of Punjab residents feel that healthcare services in their district in the last 4.5 years have improved. This question in the survey received 1,090 responses.
7% of residents surveyed said the situation regarding communal harmony in the state has “significantly improved”, while 27% said there has been “some improvement”. Breaking down the poll, 32% of residents said there has been “no improvement”, 7% said it has “gotten worse”, and 20% said it has “gotten significantly worse”. 7% did not have an opinion. On an aggregate basis, only 34% of Punjab residents feel that communal harmony has improved. This question in the survey received 1,105 responses.
Only 27% citizens say power supply in their district in Punjab has improved in the last 4.5 years.
8% of Punjab residents said “excellent”.
CHHATTISGARH CM UNVEILS DEVELOPMENT WORKS WORTH RS 2,834 CRORE
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel unveiled development works worth Rs 2,834 crore in 28 districts of the state through a virtual program organized at his residence office on Sunday. On this occasion, while congratulating and wishing the people of the state, the Chief Minister said that during nearly past 3 years, the state has faced many challenges including the pandemic and lockdown. Despite this, the work of development and construction has been going on continuously in Chhattisgarh. Chief Minister inaugurated 401 works and performed Bhoomi Pujan on the occasion. In which 332 works of Public Works Department costing 2708 crores are for road, bridge-culvert and building construction.
The program, held virtually, was presided over by Public Works Minister Shri Tamradhwaj Sahu.
The Chief Minister further said that in the month of June, a total of 8188 works of various departments were inaugurated and Bhumi Pujan was performed in all the districts of the state, at a total cost of Rs.6,845 crore. In the month of June itself, 658 projects costing Rs 238 crore were laid for providing door-to-door drinking water, on which work is going on at a rapid pace. Since then, many more new works have been started continuously, and the completed works are also being dedicated continuously.
The Chief Minister said that apart from the works costing 2708 crores of Public Works Department, 69 works of other departments are also being inaugurated and foundation stone is being laid today, which cost Rs 125.65 crores. These include construction works , which have been in demand for years. He said that like the schemes of the social sector, we are also working fast on the schemes of construction and public convenience development. He said that the work of 312 roads and bridges is being done expeditiously for better transport facility in the Naxal affected areas of the state. Similarly, under Mukhyamantri Sugam Sadak Yojana, 2262 works costing 266 crores are being completed expeditiously. The Chief Minister expressed hope that this would further strengthen the road network in the state. At the same time, the development of public facilities will be accelerated.
HARYANA SPEAKER DEMANDS ‘NEW ASSEMBLY BUILDING’ FROM GOVERNMENT
CHANDIGARH: Haryana came into existence in 1966 after the separation from the Punjab and a certain share of resources was distributed between both states. Following the same, it was decided that Haryana will be given 40 per cent share in the assembly building. The state is however, still deprived of its share as Haryana assembly occupies just 27 per cent share in the building, and the fact continues to affect its working.
Giving above mentioned information in a program Salute Haryana of ITV network held here, speaker Gian Chand Gupta said that it is quite unfortunate that Haryana is not being given which was decided at the time of separation. In wake of this, he has demanded the central government for new assembly building so that the functioning of the may remain unaffected. Thus, shortage of the space continues to remain as a huge problem for the legislatures as well as the cabinet ministers. There are as many as 90 MLA’s in the state assembly and from 25 to 35 seats of the legislatures are most likely to increase in 2026 which will require additional space in the building. It is pertinent to mention that as many as 14 committees of the legislatures have been formed for the smooth functioning, but due to the shortage of the space in the assembly, the working of these committees always gets affected.
Thus, the ongoing scenario clearly indicates that providing it’s share to Haryana assembly is the need of the hour which also led to increase the problems . Despite the repeated demand, Punjab as elder brother of Haryana neglected the same and failed to bear its responsibility. Keeping in view the same, the Chief Minister Manohar Lal had written a letter to the Union Home Minister Amit Shah to provide the land in the Union Territory, Chandigarh for the construction of the new assembly building. In continuation to this Gupta opined that at least 10 acre land is required for new assembly building and the same should be provided near the present building. It is worth mentioning that the Chief Minister and the speaker both are likely to meet Amit Shah regarding the same. Apart from the above, the government is working towards converting the assembly into E-vidhansabha.
BABUL SUPRIYO THANKS MAMATA FOR MAKING HIM PART OF TRINAMOOL
Union Minister Babul Supriyo, who left the BJP to join Trinamool Congress, thanked West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the TMC for making him a part of the party’s ‘playing 11’.
Supriyo also thanked TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee and asserted that he will continue to work for public welfare. Addressing the reporters today in Delhi, Supriyo said, “I thank Mamata didi, Abhishek Banerjee and the TMC for giving me a chance in the ‘playing 11’. I am aware of trolling on social media. I have been engaged in politics for the last 7 years. I felt it was a good opportunity (on joining TMC) for public welfare.”
When asked how he will celebrate as he joined the TMC, he said, “I will sing no song and no post will be released. For seven years, I have fought at the grassroots level. I have nothing to prove to anyone. People have seen my work. Mamata Banerjee is an important leader of the country. Everything is fair in love and war. I have rivals, but no enemies. I am not making any history by joining the TMC. I am following an opportunity and fulfilling responsibility for the nation.”
BJP party members slammed Supriyo for joining the TMC. “The Opposition party has a place in a democracy and Mamata Banerjee is a strong face of the opposition party. You are seeing how the people of the opposition party are coming to her. The BJP will criticise us. It’s natural,” Supriyo said.
Earlier, Supriyo had announced he was leaving politics and will also resign as an MP. He had stated that he would not join any political party and neither have the parties including the Trinamool Congress, CPI(M) or Congress had called him.
Babul Supriyo had resigned in August as minister of state for Environment, Forest and Climate Change. In a Facebook post, he said that there was a difference of opinion between him and the state BJP leaders and that the difference of opinion among senior leaders was “harming the party”.
Notably, Supriyo’s security cover has been changed to Y from the Z category on Saturday. He has been given security by the central government. Supriyo has a security cover of the Central Reserve Police Force.
Govt should be transparent while dealing with the statistics of Covid-19 casualties: Activist Ghadge
Government-owned HLL Lifecare Limited had ordered Remdesivir injections from 7 different Indian pharma companies. Sadly, the distribution came late in June due to which many citizens had no option but to buy Remdesivir in the black market by paying as much as Rs 10,000 to Rs 80,000 per injection.
HLL distributed the injections in the month of June when the Covid-19 cases had come down significantly. Tamil Nadu received the highest number of injections which is 5,14,612 whereas the state of Tripura received only 720 injections, the lowest.
In the case of Maharashtra, although it was allocated the highest no of injections i.e. 5,36,284, it received only 3,29,700 due to Cipla Limited sending only 1,47,332 injections out of the allocated 3,53,916. Surprisingly Maharashtra is the only state that did not receive the allocated quantity from Cipla Limited. Uttrakhand on the other hand did not receive the allocated stocks mainly due to the landslides and lack of connectivity in the month of June.
Overall due to complete transparency with respect to declaring the number of Covid-19 patients by Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu governments, they have received the highest number of Remdesivir injections whereas states like Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat were allotted lesser quantity mainly because of poor reporting of covid patients, Gujarat received only 5,184 injections.
Besides with reference to purchasing vaccines, HLL has purchased a total of 46 crore doses of Covishield worth Rs 7,245 Cr from Serum Institute of India, as well as they have purchased 26 Cr doses worth Rs 4095 Cr from Bharat Biotech, unfortunately on the query of distribution of these vaccines HLL has not given any information.
According to Activist Jeetendra Ghadge of The Young Whistleblowers Foundation, “The governments across India should learn from their mistakes and be transparent and accountable when it’s come to declaring the Covid-19 causalities because it’s ultimately the people of that state who will pay the price if the figures are not disclosed accurately. We also need to be prepared to treat new symptoms of Covid infections that might occur in the third wave.”
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