Gas Chamber: Mayur Sharma saw it coming

Winter is no longer the sole season of despair in the Capital and its NCR hinterland, home to 46 million living and breathing human beings, as much as all of Spain.  Some people, however, didn’t wait to find out. Celebrity food enthusiast Mayur Sharma was one, quitting the city he was born and lived in for clean air. His story:  

 
It’s been around a year and I think this is the best decision I have ever made. We had been thinking about leaving Delhi for a long time but it was in the pollution-shock winter of 2016 that we pulled our kids from school and and lived in Goa for the three months — November, December, January — when the air was really bad. We moved to a rented house in Goa. Moving even for three months was not an easy task as we had to uproot ourselves. We took the decision that at least my wife and children are going to move out of this gas chamber, move to a cleaner environment for a period of two to three months till January when the air is really bad. We came back here after that because the kids had to finish school. However, after returning to Delhi, we came to the decision that it was time to say bye to this city. And in August 2017, we finally moved. My kids were very young – the older one in Class 3 and the younger in Class 1. They had a lot of friends in the neighbourhood and were very young – born, brought up and started schooling here and us too – though we grew up in a different Delhi. I was leaving a house I’d stayed in since 1976, which I shared with my parents. We had quite a life here but then there – in Goa – when you breathe the clean air and drive through the lush green fields, you know it is different. So yeah, I was very happy with my decision. Though, it invariably meant a lot of travelling for me. But I was anyway doing it – just added a bit more to it. A lot of our friends are already inquiring about it – four or five couples that I know have already moved. And more of them are considering it – things are slowly gaining pace in Goa. There are lot of good school options there – our focus was not that – oh, we can’t move because education might suffer but that is not a concern anymore. Delhi is my city – I was born here, I grew up here, I wish I could be there for it. I mean, the right to breathe is the most fundamental right more than food, more than water. And that right is being seriously compromised right now. I know of people who have started a whatsapp group and share concerns about the city. I know the government, the administration; the people want to do something for the city and focusing on it and making it a big deal – which it is – so I know all hope is not lost. But I don’t think I will want to come back to this city. Even if the government takes an initiative and cleans it nice some day, it will be difficult coming back. There is not just one issue – there are several. Corruption, there is no option for school, safety – they are equally important. There are multiple practical solutions and they have been debated to death in the last few years. I have seen some very sensible people talk about it but they have to be implemented. Vested interests have to be kept aside as I believe everything is possible you if you get down to doing it.
 

More from the Gas Chamber 

‘Delhi gave me lasting eye damage’

‘Delhi’s air is killing us all’


-With Lokmarg]]>

Food poisoning hits Tejas Express

And its India’s best train yet

The Tejas Express is India’s first high-speed train and runs five days between Mumbai and Goa, except for monsoon season when it runs three days. Capable of 200 kmph, the train averages 130 kmph on its eight-hour run. A showpiece of the Indian Railways, the train features 9-inch infotainment screens with every seat, vaccum bio-toilets, tea- and coffee-vending machines, secured gangways, automatic doors—features that make it a semi-luxury train. It was launched on May 22 this year, then railway minister Suresh Prabhu promising it would “redefine the travel experience in India”. The next Tejas routes are Delhi-Lucknow and Delhi-Chandigarh.
The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), responsible for catering on the Tejas, has launched an investigation. A Central Railway official, who didn’t want to be named, said: “The passengers complained of uneasiness and nausea around 12.10 p.m. after eating the breakfast served to them. The train was stopped at Chiplon railway station around 3.15 p.m. and the passengers who complained were deboarded.” The train was on its way from Goa’s Karmali to Mumbai’s Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus. “The Konkan Railway officials had arranged first aid and ambulances for the passengers. And the passengers were taken to government and private hospital,” he said. In response to the food quality complaint, the IRCTC in a series of tweets said: “Food samples have been taken for investigation. A total of 230 breakfast (117 Vegetarian + 113 Non Vegetarian) have been served.” “Director Catering services is proceeding to Mumbai to follow up the matter. Follow of action and monitoring is being done to ensure proper assistance.”

A disgusting first run 

The Tejas Express had a particularly inauspicious start when it was first flagged off on May 22. To begin with, some coaches of the train that were manufactured at Kapurthala reached Mumbai with shattered windows even before the inaugural journey. Vandalism remains on track. Then, on the first run, the train came back to Mumbai with damaged infotainment screens—mostly because passengers tried to remove them—and stolen headphones. The toilets, despite having vacuum disposal, hadn’t been flushed after use and were horribly dirty. Litter marked the length of the train.
  Meanwhile, IRCTC Chairman and Managing Director M.P. Mall said: “The food was supplied from Madgaon (Goa) base kitchen under our supervision and nothing abnormal was reported. But everything is being investigated.” He also said that the IRCTC has collected the raw material from the kitchen. Mall said that the passengers were provided breakfast along with Knorr soup. “We are investigating the entire matter,” he said, adding that he has spoken to passngers admitted in hospitals. “The passengers admitted in hospital are out of danger,” the IRCTC official added. (with IANS) // ]]>

Mother and Son

DIGVIJAY SINGH, A SCAPEGOAT ?

After a series of electoral setbacks, with the honourable exception in Punjab, the Congress has at last set about bringing back its house in order to prepare for future challenges. The churning process has incidentally started after the glimmer of hope in the Delhi municipal elections where the party finished third but substantially increased its vote share.

As it prepares to save its government in Karnataka next year, the only big state ruled by it besides Punjab, it has sent out strong signals that the party leaders who had been guiding the party strategy but have failed, would face the axe. Thus the powerful general secretary of the party, Digvijay Singh, who was considered close to the Gandhi family, has been shown the door for failing to install a Congress government in Goa despite it emerging as the single largest party in the state during the recent elections.

He has not only been removed from the charge of the party in Goa but, more importantly, as general secretary in charge of Karnataka as well. The elections to the Karnataka Assembly next year would be the final test before the general elections due in 2019 and Congress can’t afford to lose the state if it is serious about a fight in the general elections.

Digvijay Singh, at one time considered invincible in the party due to his proximity to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, is known to have taken the formation of government in Goa lightly and was outplayed by former defence minister Manohar Parrikar who is now heading a BJP led government in the state.

The Congress had won 17 seats in the 40-member Assembly in the February 4 state assembly elections and had emerged as the single largest party, while the BJP had won only 13 seats. The BJP, however, managed to form a coalition government with support from Independent legislators and regional parties even as the Congress continued to dither even on announcing its chief ministerial candidate. It did not even approach other smaller parties to gain support of just four legislators to form the government.

Digvijay Singh, facing flak for his handling of the Goa polls, later claimed that his proposal for a pre-poll alliance with Goa Forward was “sabotaged” by his own party leaders. In a series of tweets he claimed that he had also proposed a pre-poll alliance with another smaller party but ‘other’ party leaders did not favour it. “Still Digvijaya guilty? I leave it to you to judge,” he said in his tweets.

As the Congress faced the ignominy of letting the BJP pull the carpet from beneath its feet, Digvijay continued to shift the blame. Subsequently Parrikar ‘thanked’ him in Rajya Sabha for providing the BJP a government on a platter. “My special thanks to honourable member Digvijay Singh, who happened to be in Goa but did nothing so that I could form the government,” he said.

The senior Congress leader again took to the Twitter to react to his removal as the in charge of Goa and Karnataka. Stating that he was “happy” that Rahul Gandhi had picked up a new team, he reiterated his loyalty to the Gandhi family. “I am loyal to the party and Nehru-Gandhi family and owe my position to the party and to them”.

While Digvijay Singh’s removal is a decisive move by Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi after a long time, they appear to be now open to make more changes in the party’s structure. In another significant move, former Rajasthan chief minister, Ashok Gehlot, considered a sharp strategist, has been appointed general secretary in charge of Gujarat where Assembly elections are due later this year. Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh’s son, Amit Deshmukh has been appointed secretary for Goa.

In yet another significant development, a former Rahul Gandhi favourite, Madhusudan Mistry, was dropped as general secretary and made a Member of the Central Election Authority for the organisational elections that are to be completed by October.

These changes were long overdue and are still not good enough. Even though the party could form the government only in Punjab after the recent elections in five states, the fact is that it had emerged as the single largest party in three of the five states. It also lost the initiative in Manipur and let the BJP walk all over it.

But perhaps the biggest boost it has got, and which has helped it regain some confidence, is due to the poor show by the Aam Aadmi Party which was projecting itself as the main challenger to the BJP in the next general elections. The setback it faced in Punjab, which it had considered an ‘easy’ catch, and the humiliation in Goa where all but one of its candidates lost security deposits, has grounded the party. The poor performance even in its backyard, where it trailed far behind the BJP in the Delhi Municipal elections, is a body blow from which it would be difficult for it to recover.

The Congress, evidently, is sensing an opportunity to at least lead the challenge, with the help of regional and left parties, and it is high time it started a self-cleansing process. Some of the changes made in the organisational structure are part of its strategy to empower a new team but the party needs a major shakeup starting from the very top. It is unlikely that the party is capable of making drastic changes and, therefore, it shall have to remain content with minor consolation prizes till that is done.

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