The Asian Age – Abandonment whiff to Centre’s lockdown exit

India’s ruling establishment has so far come across as a bewildered lot, unsure of any path but polarising politics and dream selling

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay

Op/Ed, 14 May 2020. India’s “exit” route is turning out to be more complicated than its entry into the nationwide lockdown.

The entry required little justification but heightening fear of the unknown. But a good reason had to be given for the exit and success had to be claimed.

At the moment, the principal argument to counter the sense that the hurried and unplanned lock-down did not achieve the desired results and that the number of infections is rising steadily is two-pronged.

One is the conjectural argument that the total number of cases would have been multiple times higher if we had not shut everything down within a few hours. The second line of reasoning uses statistical data slides to demonstrate that the doubling rate is declining.

In a country where public sentiment is greatly driven by sensationalist media and corona counters ticking ominously through day and night, the decline in the doubling rate hardly comes as a solace. A part of the reason is that for most people the phrase lies, damned lies, and statistics is gospel.

The average person is always driven to his/her conclusion by the bottom line. It is clear that the pressure to get the economy up and running has finally got to the Centre.

The graded opening up after the end of Lock-down 2.0 has peculiarly coincided with the self-contradictory decision of the Centre, acceding to the request of several states led principally by Maharashtra, of running Shramik Special trains to ferry migrant labourers back home.

Two questions arise: First, if people had to be sent back, why was this not done earlier?

After all, the largest post-Partition human migration, and on foot, started immediately after train and bus services were suspended a day before the nationwide lock-down was announced.

Second, if the migrant labourers are indeed abandoning the big cities for their villages or small towns, how efficient will industrial activity/output and the infrastructure projects be?

Additionally, the unexpected decision to resume passenger train services on select routes is fraught with danger. But before the risk involved in transporting people in large numbers across states, mention must be made of the class priorities of the government.

It is fair to ask if it was necessary to start running air-conditioned trains to start with? Does this not show that the government is prioritising the hardship of the middle class?

Is not the Centre simultaneously being nonchalant about the situation of the poor migrants, who are still either walking back or waiting for their turn to board the Shramik Special trains? Or is there a quota system at play even behind this decision?

From the heightened levels of ad hocism, it is evident that there is grave risk that the doubling rate, whose decline is being showcased by the government, might again begin an upwardly movement.

Just as there was little or no plan in November 2016 when demonetisation was announced and again in March when the nationwide lockdown was imposed, there appears to be a complete absence of a comprehensive step-by-step plan to get back to a semblance of normality.

Authoritarian arbitrariness has become the new normal. State governments have left it to resident welfare associations, many of which are extremely low on their democratic quotient, and more often than not mired in court cases stemming from allegations of corruption or misuse of facilities.

Consequently, authoritarian tendencies are mushrooming across urban India with a rate that may soon match the multiplication rate of the virus. Some weeks ago, a housing society in the National Capital Region (NCR) decided to tell doctors living there to make alternative arrangements if they continued being on duty.

It rescinded the order only after the local Indian Medical Association threatened to issue an advisory to its members not to treat any patient from that society. Yet another society announced that residents could not bring guests to their homes, and if found flouting this rule, a fine of 11,000 would be imposed.

Pending payment, water and electricity supply to the apartment would be disconnected. The Noida administration has also issued strange arbitrary regulations and sealed borders, making a mockery of the Central government’s decisions like running trains if people cannot get out of the district, how can they board the trains?

As a result, the Centre is relatively less willing to take the onus for this phase of managing the situation from the Covid-19 pandemic and is passing the buck to the states.

Some days ago, a joint secretary made the disclosure that should ideally have come first from the political leadership: that we are in this for the long haul, and have to learn to live with the virus.

The precise words were ominous but were evident of those who limited their assessment within a rational framework and did not speak with a ring of victory.

He said: “We have to deal with the challenge of learning to live with the virus, for this we need to make the required prevention measures a part of our life, through a behaviour change process.” A day later, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan warned people that Indians have to be prepared for the worst.

In his latest address to the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too said that “experts and scientists have pointed out that corona will remain a part of our lives for a long time”.

He added that this reality does not mean that “that our lives will be confined only around the corona”. People argued after the draconian lockdown was imposed that the government could not be blind to the economy.

There is no data yet on the number of people either stranded, or who died while on way to their homes. The coronavirus will erase much in its wake. The fear is that it may not leave much information for historians of the future.

Political leaders by choice opt for a path where negotiating unknown challenges is essential. India’s ruling establishment has so far come across as a bewildered lot, unsure of any path but polarising politics and dream selling.

The writer is a Delhi-based journalist and author. His latest book is RSS: Icons Of The Indian Right.

The Tribune – Attacked with rod, 70-year-old man killed in Punjab, wife injured

The body has been sent to the civil hospital for a post-mortem examination

Phagwara – Panjab – India, 15 May 2020. An elderly man was killed and his wife injured when some unidentified men stormed into their home and attacked them with a rod, a police official said on Friday.

Sadar SHO Amarjit Singh identified the deceased as Kashmir Singh, 70, a resident of Guru Nanak Nagar along the Mehtan-Mehli Phagwara bypass road.

The assailants attacked the old man with a rod, hitting him on his head on Thursday night, and he died on the spot. His wife Supita, 60, suffered minor injuries, the SHO said.

The motive behind the killing was not known, he said.

The body has been sent to the civil hospital for a post-mortem examination.

A case under relevant IPC sections, including 302 (punishment for murder) was registered against the assailants, who numbered “three to four”, added the SHO.

Gentbrugse Meersen

Gentbrugse Meersen
27 March 2020


Pollard Willow – Knotwilg

Pollard Willow – Knotwilg


Three butterflies, one caterpillar
Vlinders en rups

Inundated meadows

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue – Faisalabad Muslims, Christians and Sikhs pray with the Pope for an end to the pandemic

People met yesterday for the Day of Prayer and Fasting. Ordinary believers joined religious leaders in invoking the Lord. For Bishop Indrias Rehmat, only through prayer, fasting and charity can humanity overcome the pandemic crisis and return to normal. God “will listen to us and save us from this pandemic,” said Muslim leader Maulana Mubashar.

Shafique Khokhar

Faisalabad (Lyallpur) – Panjab – Pakistan. 15 May 2020. Pakistani Muslims, Christians and Sikhs met yesterday at the residence of the Bishop of Faisalabad to pray and fast against the corona-virus along with Pope Francis.

The initiative is a response to an appeal from the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, supported by the pontiff.

Organised by the diocese and a network of humanitarian organisations active in Faisalabad, the meeting saw the participation of religious leaders, priests, nuns, activists, media representatives as well as ordinary believers, including teachers, students and mothers with children.

In accordance with their own creed, participants sang hymns to the Lord; religious representatives then lit candles for peace and hope.

Addressing those present, Bishop Indrias Rehmat of Faisalabad said that only through prayer, fasting and charity can humanity overcome the pandemic crisis and return to normal. He humbly called on all religions to remain united in this moment of crisis, for only this way God “may have mercy on us and rid us of this virus”.

For Father Khalid Rashid Asi, director of the Diocesan Commission for Harmony and Interfaith Dialogue, when various confessions come together to pray, every obstacle can be overcome, even a deadly disease like COVID-19

Heading the message of unity, Muslim cleric Maulana Mubashar said: “Today we vow together that we will keep on helping the poor with our acts of charity. For this noble purpose we all have to be united despite having different faiths, sects and languages.”

As God “is one” he wants us to be united and serve” those in need. “He will listen to us and save us from this pandemic.”

Dawn – Swords drawn after PML-N lawmaker likens Maryam to Ertugral

Zulqernain Tahir

Lahore – Panjab – Pakistan, 15 May 2020. Swords were drawn and the social media echoed with war cries after a PML-N provincial lawmaker on Thursday sounded the battle drums by likening her leader Maryam Nawaz Sharif to the hero of Turkish historical epic, Ertugral.

The inspiration hardly came as a surprise since a large number of Pakistanis have been following the series being telecast these days.

The drama, that has been accompanied by a call for Muslim renaissance made at the time when plays by Urdu writers such as Nasim Hijazi have been shown on national television here, has received the blessings of the highest officials here including Prime Minister Imran Khan.

As it turned out the comparison of Maryam with Ertugral was immediately countered by the PTI supporters who see the great qualities of the Turkish hero reflected in PM Imran Khan.

One man conspicuously missing from this exciting race, or at least keeping a low profile, was Maryam’a uncle Shahbaz Sharif, who is known to be a promoter of all kinds of Turkish models in his own right.

“I am watching Ertugrul nowadays and I see Maryam Nawaz has similar leadership qualities as him.

Her strong belief in God, her courage to not give up, her conviction to stand on her principles even when everyone is against her and her ability to differentiate between Right & Wrong #Ertugrul,” PML-N MPA Hina Parvez Butt said in a tweet that sparked a debate, among others, about which characters of the popular TV series had qualities similar to those of other members of the Sharif family.

Soon enough Ms Butt got the flak for “unnecessary” comparison, providing the critics of the Sharifs on social media with yet another opportunity to mock the family.

Maleeha Hashmi, a twitter user, asked Ms Butt to tell the people “which characters remind you of Captain Safdar, Hasan & Hussain Nawaz? More importantly, which ones do you think reflect well on Nawaz Sharif & Shahbaz Sharif?”

Nauman Aziz said: “Nawaz Sharif has same qualities like Ertgrul. But there is only one difference between them, Nawaz Sharif destroyed the nation through his corruption. And Ertugrul made a nation through Jihad.”

Uzma Khan, a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf supporter by all indications, tweeted that actually Prime Minister Imran Khan was Ertugul and his comparison with the historical figure shown in the play would beat the Sharifs and the PML-N.

Responding to the criticism, Ms Butt said: “Some people got unnerved over my tweet about Maryam Bibi. I can understand their pain which will increase further when Maryam Nawaz will become prime minister of Pakistan.”

The Turkish play is set to break a world record of most new subscribers in a month on YouTube. After being aired on the state-run PTV, the serial’s YouTube channel crossed one million subscribers.

Veteran actor Reema Khan also jumped in the controversy over airing Ertugrul on the PTV, and joined her former co-star Shaan in criticism of the PTI government’s decision to give preference to foreign content on the state TV.

“Shaan had voiced against airing foreign content on PTV. I second him as it is unfair to promote foreign content on the state TV, especially when our artists have no work,” Reema said in a Ramazan show she hosts on a private TV channel.