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An Austrian village also pained at India’s defeat!

Cricket is not just a game, it’s like a soul...
‘Sorry Mr Darda, India lost!’
The Austrian village where I am currently staying has a population of just 1,900. The population of this beautiful country of Central Europe is way too small. The population might be around 88 lakh. Well, on the day that India and New Zealand were facing each other in the semi-final of the World Cup, like all the Indians in the world, I had kept an eye on this important match too. India’s defeat obviously made me sad, moreso because there was no apprehension about this defeat.
The next day England defeated Australia and reached the finals. Shortly after this match, I met a woman in this village. She said, “Sorry Mr Darda, India lost!” I was a little surprised that the Austrian people follow the Indian game. I asked her: “Do you follow cricket?” She nodded and said she was British and felt bad that India suffered defeat in the World Cup Cricket semi-finals. I asked her: “Why you are feeling bad. Your country has reached the finals after 27 years. You should be happy!”
She said the excitement of playing with Team India would have been quite different! (England won the World Cup in a Super Over nail-biting final defeating New Zealand.)
She said the sportsmanship of Indians is very unique. This is not the case in any other country’s team. Your Dhoni is so cute, how wonderful he is, how effective he is and she started laughing. I really enjoyed listening to the praise of India. I asked if she was also interested in India’s politics. She shook her head and said, “I am neither interested in my country’s politics nor in your country’s politics!
I think this sport is not just a game. When India and Pakistan were playing, Indians from all over the world were watching the match with a bated breath. Cricket becomes our spiritual power in such matches.
So, when there is such an attachment and the Indian team is playing so well, no one anticipated that India would lose to New Zealand. But unfortunately this happened. Had our selectors found a strong batsman for batting at number four, we would not have been forced to see this day today. In almost every team of the world, their superb players bat at number four but in our country only experiment continues. That is why when the first four wickets fell cheaply, a defeat was looming large! If any player comments on this, it is natural but if Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Lata Mangeshkar make a comment, it is obvious that it was not just a match.
I believe the excitement for the semi-final match in our country was far more than the one witnessed after the NDA won 350 seats in the Lok Sabha elections.
The defeat in this match has obviously broken hearts. Nonetheless, sportsmanship is essential in every sphere of life. Building a country, creating a society, running a household, sportsmanship is needed everywhere. Growth is not possible in any field without playing the game. I remember that on the day England and India had a match, Pakistan was also praying for India’s win. This sportsmanship is amazing. It seems that sportsman spirit is the only thing that can unite all the nations. When India lost to New Zealand, I received a call from a Pakistani friend and he too expressed pain over India’s defeat.
Now a little bit about this little village where facilities are so many that you will be surprised.
There are playgrounds, there is a track to run, a fantastic gym, gymnastics and hiking facilities. Everything exemplifies talent and quality fit for professional players who can also play there. There is a big lake. The water is so clear that you can see through into it. People swim in extremely cold water. Simply put, all are playing. The village has the best music centre. So large that 50 people can sing together. There are excellent schools, excellent hospitals, good gardens and a nice church in the village. The whole village is decorated with flowers. The parking facility is wonderful. Everything is done in a planned way. I asked who builds it all! People said there is a management committee of the village and a local government, and they make and maintain it.
I am constantly thinking whether our village will ever be able to attain this enviable position.
The behaviour of the people here impressed me greatly. I asked a person as to how come they treat people with such warmth? He said with great ease: “Had our behaviour not been good, how you would have come here?” The man was originally German-speaking, but learnt English so that he can communicate easily with the people coming here from outside.
I encountered a young man who wraps bandage on the hands of boxers. Boxing gloves are worn only after this bandage is wrapped. He bandages world class players and treats them too. He told me: “I’ve visited India. India is poor but is very cultured. I went to places like Banaras, Rishikesh and Agra. You have a great culture.” It felt great listening to him. And yes, I’d like to share another piece of information that there is no bottled drinking water here. People said the water comes here straight from the Alps mountain range. Absolutely pure and full of minerals.
Vijay Darda
Lokmat Media

Rahul Gandhi may show the right way!

It is tragic that Rahul Gandhi quit as the party president, but it is a necessary step to put the Congress back on its feet again
At last, Rahul Gandhi had his way. He declared that he is no longer the party president. With this announcement, he also wrote an open letter. Personally, it is a very painful episode for me, but I admire his courage and vision. Naturally he made this sacrifice to give new life to the Congress. He must have been hurt by the fact that the Congress suffered such a crushing defeat during his presidential tenure and currently the party has become stagnant.
I believe that Rahulji worked very hard but the Congress was not seen anywhere in that fight. In his letter, he has rightly said that there is a need for radical change in Congress.
My column of June 3, was focussed on this topic. I had done a detailed analysis of why the Congress has reached this extremely painful situation. None can deny the fact that there is nothing called organisation left in the Congress. There is neither Seva Dal, NSUI, Youth Congress, Women’s Congress nor its labour organisation, INTUC, is seen anywhere on the ground. All these organisations are just paper tigers. They exist only on papers. Their presidents and office-bearers are only for namesake, but in reality, they are not to be found anywhere. There are people in the Congress Working Committee who are not aware of the ground reality and who have nothing to do with the common man. The leaders are so busy in settling scores with each other that this time round, they destroyed the party itself!
Yes, it was definitely expected from Rahulji that he should have formed teams with new people, but the people around him were acting like a caucus.
Those whom Sonia Gandhi and Rahulji trusted were not worthy of their faith. They were busy feathering their own nests. Here the BJP has not only spoiled the image of Rahul Gandhi but also turned him into a political joke.
Many people asked me if there is no one other than the Nehru-Gandhi family in the Congress who could become the president. I tried to explain to the people that the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty not only made a major contribution but also made supreme sacrifices for the nation. But today the situation has become such that no one is ready to hear all these arguments. 65 per cent of the country’s population is young. Many of their family members were associated with Congress but the youth today has nothing to do with it.
When Rahul Gandhi was being painted as a political novice, the Congress did not protest. It failed to change the public perception. It could not mould public opinion in its favour.
Today, BJP has launched a massive disinformation campaign against the Nehru-Gandhi family. It succeeded in embedding in the minds of the people that Jawaharlal Nehru politically alienated the people of his time. My question is, why did the Congress not do anything against this propaganda system? Just blaming Narendra Modi and Amit Shah will not do. If you have to fight then you must understand your opponent. It is essential to understand who are their own and who are outsiders.
I have always apprised Rahulji of the ground situation of Congress in Maharashtra. A large organisational operation was needed but the caucus did not approve of it. There was the need to identify who is close and who is trying to be close to take advantage only. It was necessary to see all this, but it could not be done. Those who did not have a dedicated relationship with the Congress, kept on getting important party posts. Those who were supporting Congress in the adverse circumstances were sidelined. The Congress did not even think that the people it was sending to the Parliament were not of any use for the Congress. They had their own agenda. The question is, when the personal agenda of leaders dominates the party, how will the party get stronger in such a situation? Actually, no one is paying attention as to how to move the party forward. For the next elections, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has given a hint that he is coming back to power again, but there was no stir in the Congress. One wonders how Congress will fight the Assembly election.
I believe that only Rahul Gandhi’s resignation will not change the scenario. It will also have to end the caucus that has torpedoed the ship of Congress. People who have been dedicated to the core will have to be brought forward. The new commander of Congress will have to seriously consider that Congress was once an all India party. Now Congress is not in power for nearly 30 years in UP, 42 years in Bengal, 50 years in Tamil Nadu, 29 years in Bihar, 19 years in Odisha and 24 years in Gujarat. The Congress, in its present state, is contesting against the BJP which has charismatic leader like Narendra Modi and skilled strategist like Amit Shah. Congress will have to work harder to regain the lost ground.
Rahulji has made supreme sacrifice just to rejuvenate the party. His father Rajiv Gandhi also sacrificed his life for the country. I believe that Rahulji will always remain with the party, and he will not only work for the party’s ideology but also keep giving direction to the Congress party. Time will change. Rahulji will have to take the charge of the party again. Today, the need is to refurbish his image. Rahulji has great potential and he is full of enthusiasm, passion for hard work and social commitment. He carries with him the legacy of sacrifice, penance and national pride.
Vijay Darda
Lokmat Media

The state of our secular democracy

Parliamentary democracy has its own dignity and no one can be allowed to tamper with this dignity or hurt it in any way. Whatever be the direction of politics, maintaining the dignity of Parliament becomes a collective responsibility of political parties and MPs. Obviously, in the 17th Lok Sabha, the manner in which religious slogans were raised during the swearing-in ceremony of MPs is indeed a matter of serious concern for the entire country. The Parliament has already been turned into political amphitheatre; will it be turned into religious amphitheatre as well?
The moot question is why did some of the BJP MPs raise the slogan ‘Jai Shri Ram’ when the AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi and elected members of Trinamool Congress (TMC) walked to the podium to take oath? Was this a deliberate move?
Let’s assume that it was not intentional, yet it is clear that it was done to tease the elected representatives of Mamata Banerjee and Owaisi! Mamata tweeted that a religious slogan is being politically used. In response, her party representatives chanted ‘Jai Kali Maa’ while Owaisi raised the slogan ‘Allahu Akbar’! It can be said that they mounted a counter-attack. But I believe all of them have done the wrong thing. All of them seriously hurt the dignity of Parliament. Will we now get to see such a scene every now and then in Parliament? This is possible because the elections for the 17th Lok Sabha were fully based on Hindu and Muslim identity politics. The storm of polarisation was so strong that it blew up caste politics! When religion itself becomes the basis of election then it is but natural that such people will express religious manifestations in Parliament. Actually what is seen in the Parliament is the mirror reflection of the nation.
I have been a part of parliamentary politics for eighteen years and actively participated in the Parliament proceedings. In these years, I have seen that whenever any member spoke something wrong, the senior members would correct him immediately. Let me give you an example. The then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was speaking in the House. During his speech, he cited some wrong references. Pranab Mukherjee immediately stopped him and pointed out that this reference is wrong. Atalji said he will speak on this topic tomorrow. Congress members complained to Sonia Gandhi that it was a good opportunity to corner the Prime Minister.
But Soniaji praised Pranab da and said the prime minister belongs to the country, if he gives some wrong references, the country will be defamed in the world! This kind of atmosphere prevailed in the Parliament earlier!
It should be the same even now. When MPs were raising slogans, the parliamentary affairs minister should have intervened and reined them in. You may remember that when the Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached the Parliament for the first time, he had kissed the threshold of the Parliament, he had bowed his head before the august House. He is a veteran politician who is conscious of the dignity of Parliament. I am sure he must have reprimanded the errant MPs!
It is a matter of serious concern that even after this incident, nobody has apologised. Neither those raising the slogan of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ nor those who shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’! Should we assume that neither of them wants to keep Indian democracy secular?
If this is so, the Indian democracy will keep moving in dangerous direction! We are already witnessing the worst condition of theocratic countries in the world. The country does not make progress based on religion but on the basis of positive politics, scientific thinking and dedication.
All should keep in mind that the Parliament is the highest place for fulfillment of the expectations of common man. He hopes that his elected representatives will work in the Parliament to make his life better. Parliament is the platform for debate on various subjects, to do post-mortem of the policies of the ruling party so that it does not become autocratic. Parliament is actually there to give direction to the country. But unfortunately, the dignity of Parliament is constantly being lowered in the course of time. The killers and rapists are reaching the portals of Parliament. In the 17th Lok Sabha, the BJP has brought to the Parliament an accused of terrorism in Pragya Singh Thakur, who made objectionable comments about Gandhiji. Parliament should consider it too!
There is no harm in saying that all is not well in the country. All parties have to think about how to restore the dignity of Parliament and how to keep our democracy secular. Secularism is our biggest strength. Religious schism will ruin the country. It’s time to exercise utmost care!
Before I conclude:
It is a matter of extreme regret that as many as 150 children have died of the disease called ‘Encephalitis’ in two weeks for lack of better treatment facilities in the government hospital at Muzaffarpur in Bihar. This is particularly regrettable in a country which is planning to land a man on the Moon and building its own space station. These deaths are a stigma on the nation!
Vijay Darda
Lokmat Media

From drought to floods: The struggle continues

Degradation of environment has been alarming worldwide and the temperature in Europe has risen to 45 degree Celsius
Recently, I am touring European countries. I feel delighted to see the crystal clear rivers and magnificent forests across Europe, but I am amazed at the rising temperature here. France’s temperature reached 45 degrees Celsius on Friday. This kind of temperature is unbearably high in Europe. In Switzerland, the government has released heat warning. Why is there so much heat? It is learnt that the main cause of the rise in temperatures in Europe is the warm winds blowing from African continent. That is, the damage to the environment anywhere will impact the whole world.
We are also seeing the result of environmental damage in our own country. Last year, drinking water in Chennai was almost non-available.
The situation became frightening. Chennai is one of the 21 cities in the country where the possibility of the end of groundwater by 2020 has already been predicted. You may remember that it is the same Chennai now longing for water which had experienced devastating floods in 2015 and which had suffered a massive loss of lives and property. Even this year, you will see that many of those areas which were earlier in the grip of drought will face flood situation. So, the losses caused by both drought and floods are different! This is the result of neglecting the environment. Earlier, rainwater used to be stopped and conserved by building bunds. The water so retained would percolate into the ground. Every village had tanks in which rain water would be collected which later percolated into the ground. There were many dense forests. Trees and plants used to help the percolation of rainwater into the ground but gradually we destroyed the forests. The lakes have dried up. In the urban areas, a network of concrete was laid in such a way that water could not percolate down the ground. In such a situation, it is but natural that the groundwater level will go down.
You will feel saddened to know that in addition to Chennai, the ground water of cities like Bengaluru, Vellore, Hyderabad, Indore, Ratlam, Gandhinagar, Ajmer, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Agra, New Delhi, Ghaziabad, Yamunanagar, Gurugram, Ludhiana, Mohali, Amritsar, Patiala and Jalandhar too will run out of water in 2020!
However, the government has framed rules to make water harvesting for every new house mandatory but this rule is observed more in breach. One is the lack of awareness among the people and the second thing is that there is no strictness on the part of the local government. It is estimated that our country receives rainfall of about 4,000 billion cubic metres every year. The bulk of it runs off into the ocean. Only 10 percent of that, 400 billion cubic metres of water, can be used. The rivers of South India receive 90 percent of water and rivers of North India receive 80 per cent water between June and September respectively. If we can store this water through the canals and small dams, then the problem of drought can certainly be solved. Water can be stopped and conserved by making small dams and lakes. The only result of environmental damage is that rivers are dying. Even the condition of the Ganga is not very happy. Rivers like Yamuna and Gandak have almost died. Narmada is becoming weak and there is no drop of water in Shipra. On one side, we have polluted the rivers and on the other side we are continuously destroying the forests that is life to them. As far as the construction of canals and dams for storing of river water is concerned, this entire process is in the grip of corruption. There are dozens of such projects that have been hanging fire for the last 15/20 years. It is not that corruption is not there in Europe but it is at the very top level. At the base level, work is quite good! These countries have done a great job and are doing particularly well in the field of water conservation.
When I was an MP, the then President Abdul Kalam had summoned the MPs and appealed to them to strive for revival of the wells, lakes and ponds in our areas. He also told us to save the forests and plants and trees in our areas. Trees and water can only save the environment. If the environment is good then the world could be saved.
It seems that the message of Abdul Kalam should be spread among the people so that we will be able to save trees and water, protect the forests on the Earth and ensure that water is conserved and it percolates into the ground.
How bad the situation is in the country can be estimated by the fact that our population was about 35 crores at the time of independence and that time 5,000 cubic metres of water was available for every person. Now, this availability is only a little over 1000 cubic metres. Our population has multiplied and the water needs have increased too but if we had saved the forests and had we not spread the concrete jungle, the condition would not have deteriorated to such an extent. Scientists believe that if we have to deal with drought and floods, at least 600 billion cubic metres of water must be conserved in lakes, ponds and other reservoirs before it could reach the rivers. Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra and Alwar in Rajasthan have shown a way of conserving water. People there built small lakes and ponds and saved rain water from going waste. In those areas, the level of ground water has increased.
It is clear that if we manage the rain water properly, we will get rid of drought and even the floods will not be able to harm us!
Vijay Darda
Lokmat Media

Government has destroyed its own schools!

How will the education for all be successful when thousands of schools have no sitting floor nor roof!
It feels good when the government announces that every child is entitled to education. The government also runs Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Education for all) campaign for this purpose. However, when I see the plight of government schools, I am pained. The question arises in the mind as to who destroyed government schools? I and my brother Rajendra studied in a government school. Although the infrastructure was not good at that time, the teachers were fantastic. We have advanced through knowledge acquired from them. Now the infrastructure of government schools should be better because the government spends thousands of crores of rupees every year on education.
Keeping this in view, Lokmat Media Group surveyed government schools in Maharashtra and the findings were worrisome to say the least. A total of 13,228 classes of State government schools were forcibly closed as they were housed in dilapidated buildings.
It is impossible to get these classes started in this academic session. These classes were closed because schools do not have floors to sit and there is no roof over their heads. Classrooms are a total mess. There is an abysmal lack of basic amenities like toilets, let alone hygienic condition. The roofs made from tin sheets have got broken or have been blown away. As the thatched school roofs have broken tiles, the students sitting inside such classrooms are in danger. As many as 3,087 and 2,526 classes are shut down in Vidarbha and Marathwada respectively. In the rest of Maharashtra, a total of 2,506 classes in Western Maharashtra, 2,037 in North Maharashtra and 553 classes in Konkan have been shut down.
While there are no classrooms, the students are stuffed in one room. Principals and teachers are forced to teach students in temple premises, village panchayat buildings or in open grounds! Shockingly, the disaster management department of the district lacks information about which classroom of which school is in a dilapidated condition. In such a situation, if there is an accident during the rainy season, it will be difficult for the department staff to reach there in time. Last year, 622 classrooms were demanded for holding classes in Nashik, but the money was not made available even for one room throughout the year! The fresh demand is for building 747 rooms.
This pathetic condition does not relate to Maharashtra alone but the story is the same everywhere in the country.
The report of the Unified District Information System released by the National Educational Planning and Administration University says that between the years 2015-16 and 2016-17, nearly 60 lakh children left the government primary schools across the country. Last year's figure has not come yet, but the figure of children dropping out of government schools is sure to go up!
So, the moot question is: Where is the money that the government which talks about spending thousands of crores on education goes after all? My comment may sound harsh, but it is entirely true that greedy people occupying the system are depriving children of their right to education. The amount received for the construction of classrooms is gobbled up. The money for purchase of school children’s uniforms is pocketed shamelessly. Even the nutritious food meant for children is eaten up and digested without any squeak of protest from any quarters. It is ironical that crores of rupees are given by the government in the name of education, but poor children studying in the Zilla Parishad schools are left yearning for the roof over their classrooms. Under such a sorry state of affairs, it can only be said that the government has destroyed its own schools. Ironically, instead of reforming its own school system, the government is making unnecessary interference in private schools. In my opinion there should be no restrictions on private schools.
The government should pay attention to how good government schools and hospitals can be!
It is essential that the government schools provide excellent schooling because children of lower middle class and poor families study there. Having the best education is the right of these children. Education is the basis of progress. Many talented children are deprived of education. One does not know who among them would have the ability to become Nehru, Shastri, Sardar Patel, Satish Dhawan, Abdul Kalam or Narayan Murthy! I have always been saying that now the strongest way to improve government schools and hospitals is to make it mandatory for all government officials and wards of public representatives to send their children to study in government schools. If this happens then the situation will begin to improve immediately. Recently, I read the news that the district collector of Katni Pankaj Jain has admitted his daughter in a government anganwadi. Then it was reported that Masrat Khanam Ayesha, collector of Vikarabad in Telangana, has enrolled her own daughter in the fifth class of a government school. These are shining examples. Obviously, when the children of the district collectors study in government schools, the situation is bound to improve there.
Just as the Modi government has done the best in the field of cleanliness campaign, there is the need to replicate the same in government schools and hospitals too.
A time-bound programme should be started throughout the country. State and Central governments should come together and decide that the condition of schools and hospitals of the entire country will improve in the given time frame. If we could do that, it would be a great gift for the poor and the lower middle class families. Bear it in mind that it is only through education that the country will march ahead!

Vijay Darda
Lokmat Media