Archives  >  2019  >  October  >  21st

India, Voting

1. What’s the story?

Maharashtra and Haryana go to vote on Monday. The single-phase assembly elections in both these states are set to be a tense affair, with BJP taking on the Congress-led Opposition to retain power. More than 4000 candidates across the two states will be testing their electoral mettle this time.
Tell me more.

In Maharashtra, the main contest seems to be between the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance “Maha-Yuti”, which is being challenged by the Congress-NCP alliance of “Maha-Aghadi”. In a year that left parts of the state devastated by droughts and floods, economic slowdown and unemployment remain two of the main issues over which constituents are expected to vote.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is betting big to retain his BJP-led coalition in the state. Notably, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackarey’s son Aaditya Thackarey is contesting from the Worli constituency this time, making him the first member of the Thackarey family to contest elections.

However, “in the run-up to the election, many key opposition leaders have defected to the BJP and the Shiv Sena. Defections have happened in almost every constituency. However, this has also left the cadre upset in many areas. This is likely to have a major impact on the outcome in many seats.”

Similarly, in Haryana, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar is hoping to retain his BJP-led coalition in this election. In the meantime, a fractured Congress is being led from the front by former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. However, Congress’ very public infighting (leading to former state unit chief Ashok Tanwar leaving the party) is not helping matters. The Jat votebank forms a cornerstone of Haryana’s electoral politics, and this time around, BJP is wooing them in full force. For a state facing employment slowdown and an agrarian crisis, caste still remains a major force behind election results.
So, what now?

Counting in both these states will take place on the 24th of this month. Since these are the first state elections after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s resounding victory in the Lok Sabha elections this year, the results will be closely followed by many.

Watch this space. We’ll keep you updated.

2. Where else should I keep my eyes at?

India’s fake markets, that’s where. According to latest reports, India’s fake products (including unpacked spices, edible oil, and grey powder passed off as cement) are part of a 1 trillion-rupee parallel economy.

“Up a narrow street in one of the shanty colonies in East Delhi, we are on the top floor of an unassuming, three-storey building. It’s a decent-sized hall, about 700 sq feet, the size of a compact 2BHK. Two people, both in their 30s, are stacking empty packets in neat piles on a large table. Nescafe 500 gm, one of the top coffee buys in the world. You still can’t smell the coffee…it’s empty, remember?

So what exactly is happening here? Well, this is a superbazaar of another kind, and we’re at a point high up on its invisible production chain. With a 10-colour rotogravure printing ­machine, these men are printing the packaging materials of over 100 top brands: processed food, dairy products, auto spare parts, what have you. It’s off the radar and totally illegal, of course. But you don’t even realise it when these labels quietly come out of the dark and join the well-lit racks of the real superbazaar.

Paradoxically, as India’s formal market matured in recent decades, counterfeiting too has increased manifold. And grown in sophistication. “If some product requires a particular tag, hologram or label, a separate set of people are engaged to produce that,” … Different places act as hubs for different products. Tank Road in Delhi has earned the infamy of figuring among the world’s top 25 physical markets for counterfeiting in the Office of the US Trade Representative’s report, ‘2018 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets’. It’s a den that churns out, along with the textile hub of Ludhiana in Punjab, fakes of top apparel brands like Adidas, Nike, PUMA, just to name a few.”

3. What more?

As 6 Things had covered here, it has been reported that the Chinese Government is systematically persecuting the Uighurs – ethnic Muslim minorities in the country. And according to certain experts, “Muslims in Kashmir may find themselves in a Xinjiang-style dystopia thanks to Chinese technology” and the ruling Government’s nationalist bent.

“In July 2009, days after violent riots in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang and homeland of the mostly Muslim Uighurs, Chinese authorities took the drastic move of shutting down the Internet and all other communications. For 10 months, the entire region—larger than Texas and home to more than 20 million residents—was cut off from the world.

A decade later, just across the border, Indian authorities cut Internet, mobile, and even postal communication in Muslim-majority Kashmir as they stripped the state of its special autonomy. Despite their allowing, on October 14, a limited number of mobile phones to function, Kashmir for the most part remains isolated to this day, and no one knows when communication will be restored.

“The current Kashmir shutdown, and in particular the turning off of the Internet and communications, is awfully similar to the one in Xinjiang post-2009 riots,” James Millward, a professor at Georgetown University and an expert in Central Asian history, said. “One wonders if [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi is taking a page from the Chinese book there.”

4. Anything else?

A 9-year-old skateboarding protégé in Tamil Nadu is taking the world by storm. Kamali, who is from Mahabalipuram, and is “as tall as her skateboard” seems to be destined to achieve greatness.

“When Kamali Moorthy was first gifted a skateboard by a friend of her uncle’s at the age of 4, she would simply sit on the board and let it roll down the sloping road that runs by the front of her house to the beach in Mahabalipuram where fishing boats sit silently on the sands. Five years later, things are a little different. A Bangalore-based skating collective, Holystoked, has since built a mini-skate park in the space adjoining the community centre across from her house. When I went to see her, Kamali flew across the ramp with speed and panache, turning deftly and looping round and round, till she casually leapt off the skateboard just as it careened out of control. I asked her if she was scared, but she just laughed, picked up her board and went for another go.

When Kamali first started skateboarding, people warned Suganthi that the sport would affect her marriage prospects. “They kept asking me, what will happen if she falls down and gets hurt? This was their biggest concern then. Who will marry her? Even today, someone asked me this,” she said. “Does getting married mean that her life will be fine?”

It isn’t an idle question. A few years ago, Suganthi left an abusive marriage but not before being pushed to the brink of suicide. Her life has been far from easy and Suganthi wants something more for her daughter and her son, Harish. Perhaps the risk of falling off a skateboard isn’t such a strange way to achieve that.”

5. Is that all?

Chile’s capital Santiago has descended into chaos and violence over the past few days, as protests against a fare hike “devolved into looting and arson on Friday and Saturday.”

“After a chaotic two days of violent protests and looting in Chile’s capital, the president suspended a subway fare hike that had set off an intense wave of unrest. Shortly afterward, a curfew was announced from 10 p.m. Saturday to 7 a.m. Sunday in Santiago, the capital.

What had begun as a protest by high school students quickly devolved on Friday into looting and arson in Santiago, prompting the president to declare a state of emergency in the city. Three people were killed in a supermarket fire in Santiago, officials said on Sunday.

On Saturday, as tanks watched over its landmark Plaza Baquedano, protests spread to a dozen other cities. In the capital, at least five subway stations and buses were set ablaze, while violent demonstrators looted supermarkets and pharmacies.

With several groups calling for a national strike on Monday, people feared much worse to come.”

6. Before you leave…

Take a look at NASA’s historic, first-ever, all-woman spacewalk.

“On Oct 18, NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch performed the first all-woman spacewalk. Koch & Meir replaced a faulty battery charge/discharge unit that failed to activate after a previous spacewalk. This was the fourth spacewalk for Christina Koch and the first for Jessica Meir.”

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