Cool Breeze: A powerful punch

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A powerful punch

The India News conclave held last week saw an enviable list of ministers, the BJP and opposition leaders. From the Union Cabinet there were Anurag Thakur, Nitin Gadkari, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Piyush Goyal, Gajendra Shekhawat, Purshottam Rupala, Pralhad Patel and Jitendra Singh. From the opposition there were Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Tewari Asaduddin Owaisi, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Vivek Tankha, Priyanka Chaturvedi, Sushmita Dev, Raghav Chaddha and Rakesh Tikait, who may not be a full-fledged politician but must to be counted among the opposition. In fact, as their sessions overlapped, Gadkari met Tikait and told him that he had a flight to catch but that he would meet soon. “Jab aapkahe “ was the answer. Anurag Thakur called this the age of “infopedia” and asked the public not to believe in the future of WhatsApp but to go to the real source. There was a standoff between Owaisi and Sudhanshu Trivedi. This was followed by a more nuanced one between Manish Tewari and China’s Ram Madhav at the Constitution, going beyond the subject matter at hand, but since both are so intelligent and articulate, the duo moved past the questions. “Out of program” with color flight. Rajeev defended the government’s handling of Covid and when his assurances sparked some skepticism he joked, “It is the fundamental right of every journalist to be wrong.” (How much is it the fundamental duty of every government to keep their word?) Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal focused on Punjab politics, saying that while the AAP confronts the BJP and Congress, this the latter is busy fighting among himself. From his speech it was clear that his main opposition in the Punjab is Congress and he didn’t mince words when he faced the incumbent WC. And the government may not realize it, but by suspending opposition MPs it has given them a platform on which to unite, as TMC’s Sushmita Dev and Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi have stole the panel on the suspension of MPs by confronting the government. In fact, Congress lost two eloquent supporters when these two left the party. Another who left Congress was Scindia, and normally none of those leaders who left the party shoot the Gandhis, but in the conclave Scindia attacked them indirectly, stating that “the country knows who is Kaamdaar and who is naamdaar ”. Overall, it was an energetic day.

The list of selfies

Those who were harassed the most for the selfies were Arvind Kejriwal, Anurag Thakur, Asaduddin Owaisi, Ram Madhav and Gautam Gambhir.

If the cause is right

Launch of a book on the livelihoods of beedi workers.

Last week, nearly 30 MPs gathered for an unusual cause: supporting the livelihoods of female beedi workers. The government is considering an amendment to the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COPTA) that will put in place strict conditions making the beedi industry unviable. The launch of a book on the livelihoods of female beedi workers had a very strong participation, with Union Minister Rameswar Teli on stage with Praful Patel, Sushil Modi, Dola Sen, as well as the Cuban Ambassador, Ashwani Mahajan (Swadeshi Jagran Manch) and B. Surendran, organizing secretary Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh, as well as 25 deputies in attendance. As Praful pointed out, “If Cuba can be known for cigars, why can’t we have the same ecosystem for beedis?” The theme of the evening was to advocate against laws that would kill a “Made In India” brand that provides jobs for more than a crore of women, 80% of whom are in rural areas. “Most of them are from Naxal regions,” Ashwani Mahajan pointed out. He added: “Unemployment already exists in India, but if it is made worse by government policy, then it is unforgivable.” Surendran pointed out that there is a difference in the health impact of cigarettes, gutka and beedis, so not all should be clubbed under the same laws. Cuba’s Ambassador Alejandro Simancas explained how his government has supported the cigar industry, making it a source of income and a tourist attraction. Waving an unlit cigar on stage, he joked, each of them is a masterpiece, made to be burnt. Sushil Modi said the reason the government sometimes overlooks such concerns is that beedi voices are weak and lawmakers do not have all the information. However, the surprise of the evening was Union Labor Minister Rameswar Teli who listened intently to all the speeches, promising to discuss them with his Prime Minister, even graciously asking one of the women parliamentarians (Dola Sen) of the audience to come and speak since the subject was related to the employment of women. Later, when he picked up the mic, he joked that he had smoked a beedi in his youth and said it must have been one of Praful’s brands. In fact, even during the lighting of the ceremony of the lamp as he searched for a matchbox, one of the guests on the platform joked that someone in this audience would definitely have one.


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