Disco lights illuminate Raisina Hills

In the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and some of his Cabinet colleagues, including Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Raisina Hills—the seat of power—was bathed on Wednesday with dynamic LED “disco” type lights of red, blue and green (RBG), to make it a round-the-year show, from 7 pm to 5 am. Earlier, the Central Vista used to be lit up on eight select days in a year, like the Republic and Independence Days. The Sunday Guardian was the first to report through this column’s first issue on  4 June 2017, about an ambitious plan to illuminate the Raisina Hills throughout the night like as it is done in London and Paris to attract tourists.

Initially, there was resistance from some members of the Central Vista Committee and some architects. The critics had suggested the use of traditional golden or white shades of LED lights pleading that the dynamic changing RBG lights every few second would mar the aesthetic beauty of the architecture of these buildings.

In early May, the CPWD had floated an urgent Rs 17.71 crore tender for this light system. The tender was reissued with some changes on 18 May, with the final date due on 3 June. A similar tender with an estimated cost of Rs 10 crore was floated during the UPA regime in 2009, but it was not executed due to lack of funds. Then, the requirement was the use of white shades of LED lights.

Almost every bidder said that the RGB lights would look jarring on the sandstone buildings. They had suggested yellow lights. Several manufacturers of LED lights attended a pre-bid meeting on 25 May and complained that the tender specifications had been chosen to suit imported products of a leading multinational company’s Indian subsidiary. The tender was awarded to Philips Lighting.

The bidders also asked the CPWD to re-evaluate the estimated cost as they claimed that they could do the project in less than Rs 10 crore. There were whispers in the corridors that a top CPWD official had pushed the project as he was due to retire by this year.

Uproar in Delhi-NCR over firecrackers ban

The Supreme Court’s decision to re-impose a ban on the sale of firecrackers in Delhi-NCR until 31 October, beyond Diwali, has created uproar. Some people have appealed on social media to burst crackers without any fear to kill mosquitoes. “It is a festival of lights, not a day of mourning. Bursting patakas on Diwali is a shagun. Why we are being stopped?” they are asking. A general perception is that the government has not done enough to stop the ban on firecrackers on the Hindus’ most auspicious festival.

The BJP realised this harsh reality, when soon after the ban, Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan tweeted: “Welcome decision by the SC on ban of firecrackers sales in NCR. Comes as a huge support for my #GreenDiwali initiative for our environment.” But as he was trolled on Twitter, he deleted his post.

“Diwali is celebrated on the return of Lord Rama after killing Ravana and completing his 14 years’ exile. If we are not permitted to burn firecrackers to welcome our God, I then have lost hope of seeing the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya as has been promised by the BJP for long,” says an angry school teacher. Many are saying that they are going to ignore the ban and “let them come and catch us and put us in jail”. “Hurting the religious sentiments of the majority community is highly unjustified,” says noted right to information activist, Subhash Chandra Agrawal. “No one can deny that checking rising pollution is of utmost importance, and bursting of crackers needs to be restricted,” says senior lawyer Ramakant Gaur. “It would have been better to ban crackers throughout India, even for festivals of all religions, New-Year’s Eve and other celebrations.”

An angry priest of a prominent temple wonders, “Who knows the SC, on someone’s PIL, it may ban the burning of Ravana effigies on Dussehra.” He feels that “we are drifting away from promised Ram-Rajya style Achhe Din.”

Dragon Lady disrupts Tibet show

The Tibetans settled in Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh are angry over the “unruly behavior” of a 43-year-old American woman of Chinese origin, Wen Qi Zhu. They have dubbed her as “someone who came on a mission to stop our struggle for a free Tibet”.

It happened at a Tibetan photo exhibition in Dharamshala which was arranged to commemorate the 27 September 1987 protest in Lhasa against Chinese rule. It was organised by the Gu-Chu-Sum movement of former Tibetan political prisoners in Tibet under Chinese rule. Zhu pulled down the pictures and cut them with a pair of scissors. “These are fake pictures and you are fooling the world,” she shouted. “The so-called Tibetan protests and the Chinese repression shown in some of the photos never happened.”

Lhagyari Namgyal Dolkar, president of Gu-Chu-Sum, told The Sunday Guardian, “Zhu grabbed my head and shook it.” Zhu also assaulted a Tibetan journalist filming the exhibition and a member of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. The police questioned her and said that she was a regular visitor to the area.

Back from first Miss Wheelchair World 2017

One must salute two Indian women, Priya Bhargava from Noida and Rajlakshmi S.J. from Bengaluru participated in the first Miss Wheelchair World 2017 pageant in Warsaw, Poland, on 7 October. Though they did not win, it has not dampened their spirits. The 31-year-old dentist Rajlakshmi got “the most popular” votes. A 23-year-old psychology and social pedagogy student from Belarus, Aleksandra Chichikova, was crowned the first ever Miss Wheelchair World. Lebohang Monyatsi from South Africa was runner-up ahead of Poland’s Adrianna Zawadzinska. There were 24 contestants from 19 countries.

“It was a whole new experience in Poland, which has given me more strength,” Rajlakshmi told The Sunday Guardian. She took to the wheelchair after she met with an accident 10 years ago. Instead of losing herself after the accident, she pursued her interests in psychology and fashion and eventually won the 2014 Miss Wheelchair India. Her S.J. Foundation works for the causes of the disabled.

Priya Bhargava too is upbeat about her experience. A software engineer, motivational speaker and author, Priya told The Sunday Guardian that “either nobody is disabled or everybody is”. She grew up among taunts and tears. She had an ordinary childhood. In her late teens, she realised that she had a mild skin problem. It turned out to be lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body. After two years of wrong diagnosis and shuffling from one hospital to another fighting depression, Priya decided to take charge of her life by moving out of hospital. With an unfinished physiotherapy degree, Priya started teaching at home despite her bandaged legs. She succeeded in getting a certificate. Then she completed her bachelor’s degree in computer science, followed by post-graduation. 

“I shed 15 kg of flab through diet control for the Poland show,” says Priya. A co-author of a book Holding My Tears Close, Priya says, “Now I laugh whatever may be the odds. To makes a more inclusive society, the effort should be to make the disabled visible and explore what best they can do. Disability is a state of the mind, and less of the body.” Priya wants to organize Miss Wheelchair pageant across the country.

Rahul leaves BJP worried

Ahead of the Gujarat Assembly elections, the Congress seems to be upbeat. It says that the  narrative is changing and the BJP is feeling the heat.

Those who have been following WhatsApp groups controlled by saffron parivar activists vouch that of late the BJP guns have gone silent. These groups throughout the day are busy feeding you “good morning” and live “aarti” posts from various temples and how some party’s leaders participated in Ramleelas. The BJP “detectives” are sniffing around to find out how Rahul Gandhi’s latest political avatar has come about. The saffron leadership is worried as Rahul is showing signs of some confidence and raking up the issue of the phenomenal growth of Jay, son of BJP chief Amit Shah. In the home-turf of Amit Shah, Rahul  questioned how the loss-making company of “Chhote Shah” allegedly earned Rs 80 crore, an increase of 16,000%, after the BJP came to power. “Ab aya hai unth pahad ke niche (the camel has come down the hill),” says a top Congress gun from Gujarat. When Rahul in Gujarat was enumerating “list of broken promises by PM Modi” and economic slowdown, Amit Shah, Smriti Irani and Yogi Adityanath descended on Amethi to launch a strong attack on him. Political pundits feel that this was the biggest testimony of the saffron party’s attention over the traction Rahul got in Gujarat. 

Man Mohan can be contacted at rovingeditor@gmail.com

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