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Courageous of Modi to talk of toilets from Red Fort

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By Saeed Naqvi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s courageous elaboration in his maiden Independence Day speech, on the nation’s need to build toilets had in it a touch of Acharya Vinoba Bhave. It also brought back a Devi Lal story.

During a visit to China, Devi Lal, then India’s agricultural minister, made a great impression on the Chinese leadership by his knowledge of things agricultural. Even though he had been invited to study Chinese agriculture, his hosts found his observations and queries so insightful that they took him to more and more places so that they too could learn from his asides.

On one field trip, Devi Lal, the tallest Jat from Haryana, towering above his Chinese counterpart in every sense of the term, stood on a piece of high ground, put his hands on his hips, and began to survey a mega farm. The Chinese waited for his pearls of wisdom. Devi Lal leaned over and whispered something in the Indian ambassador’s ear that made the emissary, an expert Mandarin speaker, turn pale, then white as a sheet.

Devi Lal had whispered a simple question. “Kisaan tatti kahan kartay hain?” (Where do the peasants shit?) The Chinese, prolific spitters off the main highways, do, nevertheless, have a sense of delicacy about the theme Devi Lal had touched upon.

In the dictionary of his mind, the ambassador translated “shit” into “nitrogenous waste matter” for which expression he found a suitably ornate word in Mandarin. When he communicated the query to the Chinese agriculture minister, he froze and blinked and blinked and shook his head like a sage who had seen light. Devi Lal had spotted the biggest gap in Chinese agriculture: want of adequate toilet arrangements for peasants.

I have embellished this Devi Lal yarn with a purpose. Middle class squeamishness sometimes obviates scrutiny of basic issues. It was courageous of Narendra Modi to have dwelt on the absence of toilets in the countryside and on the shame of our unclean cities. He touched on numerous other themes. When even our Gods and Goddesses are manufactured in China, it is time someone spoke of reviving Indian manufacture. That is an idea whose revival will take time.

Toilets for rural households and cleanliness in cities is a revolution the Modi government can start tomorrow.

Let us not talk about Gujarat which is probably much better off in this regard than Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Let him begin with the National Capital Region where, by Modi’s own definition, he is still an outsider. Before staleness sets in, let him appoint an official in his own office with a strict mandate: in six months to a year, the official must have in his hand a comprehensive blueprint for toilets for Delhi’s villages and the hundreds of thousands of pavement dwellers. Nobody knows where they go for their ablutions. Also, there must be a plan for the removal of garbage dumps.

Let this official be a regular member of the Indian Administrative Service. Try giving him a suitable job description, say, Secretary Toilets. My guess is that he will bolt the service, go back to his village and arrange a hundred havans to get this Rahu out of Ketu in the quickest possible time. If he happens to be a Muslim, Deoband will launch an agitation.

Alright, for national tranquility, let us call him Officer on Special Duty. Let this OSD begin his inquiries by visiting important hotels, hospitals, major multistoreyed blocks and seek out the managements to show him the toilets on the premises. He will discover that those manning these facilities are six inches shorter and a few shades darker than other management cadre on the premises. They are not even on the rolls of these outfits. They cannot be. How can a toilet cleaner be promoted as a lobby manager, for example. How can he even dream to ever become a Food and Beverages manager?

Garbage dumps, thousands of them around the city, cannot be removed for similar reasons. Rag pickers employed to load the garbage trucks have found a market, heaven knows where, for the scrap they pick from the garbage bins parked in these dumps. A chain of interests has developed around each one of these. They have become sources of livelihood.

Outside of India I have seen men and women find privacy behind the sand dunes in, for example, the Sahara desert. The picture cannot be very different in the sandier part of the Thar Desert. Within an hour of daybreak, every particle evaporates in the sharp “shams” or sun.

In Europe, atleast upto the 18th century, ablutions were a taboo. Wolfgang Mozart and his brothers died young of ailments from lack of washing. In Andalusia, on the other hand, a culture of Hamams and libraries prevailed since the arrival of the “Moors” in the 8th century. In fact one of the charges during the Spanish Inquisition after 1492 was quite extraordinary: “He Bathes”. This history has something to do with the culture of toilet paper introduced by the British in the colonies even where, otherwise, plenty of water was available.

A tropical country needs ablutions for minimal hygiene. It required considerable self belief for Modi to dwell on the theme at such length on such an occasion.

Canadian News

Joint statement from the Greater Toronto Area & Hamilton Mayors and Chairs

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left, and Toronto Mayor John Tory
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, left, and Toronto Mayor John Tory take part in a candlelit vigil to honour the victims of a deadly shooting in Toronto on Wednesday July 25, 2018. Ten-year-old Julianna Kozis of Markham, Ont., and 18-year-old Reese Fallon of Toronto were killed in Sunday's shooting attack, and 13 other people were injured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

We are united in fighting COVID-19 – protecting our residents and saving lives.

While the measures we have taken to stop the spread of the virus have made a difference, this virus has still taken far too many lives in our communities and continues to threaten the lives of our residents.

At the same time, there is no denying the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the economy. Jobs have been lost, many businesses have closed or are at risk of closure, and many families are worried about their financial future.

We’ve been hit hard but that’s why it is so important that we keep moving forward and come back as strong as possible.

Today, the GTHA Mayors and Chairs met to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on the region and how our municipalities can work together on the economic restart and recovery.

We know the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area alone is projected to lose 355,000 jobs and 28% of GDP along with $894 million in lost wages and $3.7 billion in revenue losses for businesses. This will be felt right across the GTHA but it also threatens the provincial and national economies.

A strong recovery right here in the GTHA is crucial to healing the economic damage done by COVID-19 and helping the families and businesses all governments have been working to protect throughout this emergency.

Ontario’s economy and Canada’s economy need the GTHA to come back stronger than ever when the restart begins.

We are determined to deliver this recovery and we agreed today that the GTHA municipalities will be working together to successfully and smoothly reopen our vital regional economy when the time comes.

We also discussed how we can in a consistent way achieve significant, necessary financial support from the other governments to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and protect our ability to contribute to the recovery. A strong recovery needs strong cities and regional governments.

We have agreed we will work together to share information about our respective financial positions and explore together measures we can advocate to the other governments which will help to ensure the financial stability of local and regional governments in the GTHA.

Our child care and recreation programs help parents get back to work.

Our emergency services keep people safe.

Our transit systems get people to work and home safely.

Our major infrastructure projects – often built in conjunction with the other governments – will help kick-start the recovery and create countless jobs.

Our economic development activities attract jobs and investment.

We built a strong and vibrant GTHA and we know that we will need to come back even stronger and as quickly as we can in order to keep Canada’s economy going.

With the cooperation and support of the provincial and federal governments, we are ready to rise to this challenge.”

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Canadian News

Four People Charged in Mississauga Pedestrian Fail to Remain Fatality

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Investigators from the Major Collision Bureau have charged four people in Mississauga’s most recent fatal fail to remain collision.

On Thursday, February 15, 2018, at approximately 8:40 p.m., the victim, a 61 year-old female from Mississauga, was struck by a south bound vehicle as she was crossing Mavis Road in the area of Knotty Pine Grove in the City of Mississauga. The vehicle did not remain and the victim, having suffered major injuries, was pronounced dead at the scene.

On Saturday, February 17, 2018 shortly before 7:00 p.m., Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM, a 60 year-old male from Brampton, and the driver believed to be responsible in this incident, surrendered to police at 22 Division. Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM has since been charged with Fail to Remain Cause Death.

Hivissa SATCHITHANANTHAN, a 25 year old female from Brampton, Shajeetha SATCHITHANANTHAN a 28 year-old female from Brampton and Gowtham SATKUNARAJAH a 28 year-old male from Brampton have each been charged with Accessory After the Fact in relation to this incident.

Satchithanantha VAITHILINGAM will answer to his charge on March 12, 2018. Hivissa SATCHITHANANTHAN, Shajeetha SATCHITHANANTHAN andGowtham SATKUNARAJAH will answer to their charges on Monday March 26, 2018 at the Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton

Anyone who may have witnessed the collision, have dashboard video footage of the incident or who may have any information regarding this incident is asked to contact investigators with the Major Collision Bureau at (905) 453-2121, ext. 3710. Information may also be left anonymously by calling Peel Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or by visiting www.peelcrimestoppers.ca or by sending a text message to CRIMES (274637) with the word ‘PEEL’ and then your tip.

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Canadian News

Justin Trudeau in India: Hug missing! Mounting pressure?

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The much publicized and anticipated visit of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to India was marred with questions. The questions were centered on the kind of welcome he would be given in the Sikh dominated state of Punjab. Also the famous hug by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was being anticipated. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finally made his much-touted visit to India. He landed on the Indira Gandhi Airport, New Delhi only to be received by Gajendra Singh Shekhawat not even a Cabinet Minister in Narendra Modi’s government.

He is presently the second rank Minister of State for Agriculture.  That comes in complete contrast to the warmth that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his NDA government has generally displayed towards the visiting dignitaries.  Only a couple of weeks ago, when the heads of the 10 ASEAN states arrived in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t receive Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the airport, as he has previously done with many leaders including Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, Shinzo Abe, and Benjamin Netanyahu.

The fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t join him is all surprising even when Prime Minister Trudeau visited Gujarat. This is unusual because the Indian Prime Minister has set a trend that he always accompanies head of the state when they visit his home state.

Even Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath did not show up, let alone accompany Prime Minister Trudeau to the Taj. However, during Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s 15 January visit to the Taj Mahal at Agra, Yogi Adityanath had received Netanyahu and his wife and shown them around as well as hosted a lunch for them. For first three days, none from the executive or the elected representative held any meeting with the delegation.

Media in India is trying to spread a message that the cold treatment given by Prime Minister could be because two of the four Sikh members of Trudeau’s cabinet – Harjit Sajjan and Amarjeet Sohi – support the Khalistan movement. However, had that been the case his visit to Punjab would have got a similar response.  However, the Punjab Government led by Captain Amarinder Singh rolled out a red carpet during his stay at Amritsar and even the two leaders held some fruitful discussions.

Thus putting an end to those criticisms that that Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit was devoid of any warmth.  Chief Minister of Punjab Amarinder Singh, for instance who met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau setting aside his earlier prejudice that he exhibited during the visit of Defence Minister Harjeet Singh Sajjan.

In recent months, Gurudwaras (Sikh temples) in Canada, the United States and Australia have banned Indian officials from visiting gurudwaras and the moment started with Gurudwaras here in Toronto. Could that be the reason for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to not accord one of the warmest welcomes that he is known to provide?  Or the use by Canada’s parliament of the term genocide to describe mass killings of Sikhs in India in 1984 has left the Indian Prime Minister disturbed?  However, more than Prime Minister Modi, this could have left the Congress party in troubled waters, but that was also not the case as Amarinder Singh hails from the same party.

The lukewarm welcome to Prime Minister Trudeau can have its political ramifications too. Will it hamper the significant 2015 deal, in which Canada agreed to supply 3,000 metric tons of Uranium to power India’s atomic reactors?

Somewhere Prime Minister Modi has not taken the issue of non allowing entry of Indian officials to Gurudwaras and the statement on Genocide too lightly. Prime Minister Modi however has failed to understand that Canada cannot curtail the right of freedom of speech and expression of its citizen.

Two nations perhaps failed to resolve the matter before Prime Minister boarded the flight from Canada and not welcoming Prime Minister Trudeau could be a tactical decision to put pressure on him. With Prime Minister Modi preferring to meet him at the far end of the tour has conveyed a lot about the myopic approach of Prime Minister Modi.

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