03:07 pm By Sanjeev Pal New Delhi: On the eve of the World Cup semi-final clash between India and New Zealand, the betting bazaars in Delhi have gone crazy: the police estimates that the bids in the illegal satta (betting) market could have crossed the Rs 150-crore mark in the National Capital Region (NCR). Punters, mostly from the trading class, and bookies linked to underworld syndicates are known to have wider network in Delhi's adjoining towns of Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Noida and Gurugram. Delhi Police have put their electronic surveillance in top gear. "We are taking all measures to monitor the satta operators in the wake of the crucial India-New Zealand semi-final match on Tuesday," Deputy Commissioner of Police Madhur Verma told IANS. "We are keeping a tab on five star hotels and guest houses, particularly in Karol Bagh and Old Delhi area that are hired by big-time punters. These operators have strong networks, which are often difficult to crack, but we are on the job. "On previous occasions, the police arrested top bookies from north Delhi, who had a sophisticated internet software of betting linked with mobile phones." Police sources said odds were placed on New Zealand as India seem the favourites in Tuesday's tie. The bids are not only placed on who wins, but also over-to-over and ball-to-ball. Individual bids are placed on who will take maximum wickets or who will hit the most sixes. The betting starts right at the toss. "Most punters place their bids on which team will win the toss. Besides, after winning the toss, bids are placed on the decision of the captain, whether he would decide to bat or field. This time the base betting rate on Team India is Rs 4.35 and Rs 49 on New Zealand," a punter from West Delhi told IANS. The punters in the capital's satta market -- in Khari Baoli, Karol Bagh, Old Delhi and South Delhi's guest houses and big hotels -- are siding with Team India. But they have not handed them a clean sweep, like in the 2011 World Cup as New Zealand is also a strong competitor this time. "Like every year during IPL matches, in this World Cup, most college-going youth, businessmen, hoteliers, cricket lovers, traders, corporate women and hawala operators are betting with us. Over 60 per cent bidders are in favour of India's victory. That means thumbs-up for skipper Virat Kohli and his team," a punter told IANS. Bets are also being placed on the margin of victory in terms of runs and wickets and also on whether runs scored by India and New Zealand could be 400-plus or below 400. An interesting bet is on who will take more than three wickets from both sides -- whether it would be spinners or pace bowlers. Also, will it be India's Jaspirt Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal or New Zealand's Trent Boult or Lockie Ferguson? The base betting rate of Indian players, for example, in case of Bumrah, it is Rs 20, while for Boult, it is Rs 7, said a source. The other bets are on star batsmen -- Indian skipper Virat Kohli, his deputy Rohit Sharma, New Zealand captain Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill -- whether they would score half-century or century. Gurugram Police PRO, Subhash Bokan said: "We are already keeping tight vigil to crack the betting racket on the ongoing World Cup. We have arrested over a dozen of gamblers in the city in the last few weeks. A circular was issued to guest houses and hotel owners to avoid bidding in their premises," The satta bazaar operators are closely monitoring the tweets of the players, captains and coaches to know the status of the players who will be in or out. They are also keeping a tab on weather reports and newspaper clippings. Police sources said that this time, punters have sent some of their middlemen to the UK to keep tabs on all updates, the weather included.
03:07 pm New Delhi: If one is wondering why the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has chosen water as its new hobby horse, then there is a valid reason for it. Ostensibly, there is an all-pervasive water crisis in the country with reservoirs and water bodies parched due to a delayed monsoon owing to the alarming presence of El Nino once again. However, long before the advent of the monsoon, as early as April this year when the BJP manifesto for the Lok Sabha polls 2019 was unveiled, the underlying credo was water. In fact, after the promise of 24x7 electricity to all, BJP zeroed in on providing water to all. It emphasised on 'Sujal' (drinking water) for every citizen of the country. It even went on to add that a new ministry would be created to address water management issues. With the idea of water management at its core, Modi through the 'Sankalp Patra' argued about the challenges of the past as well as the party's collective vision for the future. Since then we have seen the Prime Minister reiterate his position on water during his recent 'Mann Ki Baat' conversation with the people of India and the Union Budget also mirroring this new agenda. The impetus comes from its ideological arm -- Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) -- which as early as March 10 gave the clarion call in Gwalior. Sarkaryavah Bhaiyaji Joshi understanding the import of what could degenerate into an acute water crisis in the impending summer months addressing a presser on the third and final day of the powerful Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha outlined the Sangh's vision. The RSS was obviously prescient and provided the directional inputs to its political platform the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Bhaiyaji Joshi clearly articulated that the RSS had taken up a spanking new initiative in the field of environmental protection with a focus on Samajik Samrasta. Among the key drivers, he said, would be water conservation, water management, planting trees among others. Moreover, the newly christened Jal Shakti Ministry was allocated Rs 28,261 crore in the Union Budget, and while it was trimmed due to financial constraints by 9.4 per cent, the "har ghar jal" call was in earnest. The government has identified 1,592 blocks, which are critical and overexploited, spread across 256 districts for Jal Shakti Abhiyan. On key metrics within the budget outlay, there are hikes for National Rural Drinking Water mission. Pertinently, the Centre has stated that it wishes to complete 10 lakh projects linked to water conservation through MGNREGA in the first 100 days, with the budget outlay for MGNREGA going up by nine per cent to Rs 60,000 crore. This means that instrumentality of MGNREGA, a flagship scheme with a huge budget will be optimally utilised, to push water projects -- a sensible move, given that capital for public spending is deficient. Subsequently, the BJP manifesto zeroed in on drinking water as part of Gram Swaraj (rural empowerment). The BJP said it will ensure that people residing in villages will have access to resources. The saffron party said this would be the perfect tribute to mark the 75th year of India's Independence in 2022 and 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. To materialise Sujal (Drinking water) project, the BJP had said that it would launch ‘Jal Jivan Mission' under which the new government, if elected after Lok Sabha elections 2019, would introduce a special program, ‘Nal se Jal' to ensure piped water connection to every household by 2024. Saying that Jal Shakti is an integral part of ‘Foundation for New India', the BJP government also said that if elected, it would focus on water supply through conservation of rural water bodies and ground water recharge. BJP said water was a critical resource and the new Ministry will take forward the ambitious programme of linking rivers to ensure a solution to the issues of drinking water and irrigation. This was conceptualised by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Apart from this, BJP had said if it formed the new government, it would ensure sustainability of water supply through special focus on conservation of rural water bodies and ground water recharge.
03:07 pm By Aarteeshymal Joshi Aurangabad (Maharashtra): As if fear of erratic rains and crop failure wasn't bad enough for farmers, their profession has made it that much harder for them to find a life-partner. With low income and debt trap becoming synonymous with farming, no family wants to marry off their daughter to a farmer. Ghatnandra village in Marathwada region's Aurangabad district is dotted with houses of unwed young men. Almost every second home has a young bachelor. Be it Ghatnandra or Amthana village in Aurangabad, parents of most unmarried men refuse to speak on the subject of their marriage altogether. In Ghatnandra, Revannath Wagh reminisces how the situation was completely different when his eldest son got married 22 years ago. Wagh is a priest and owns some land. He has three sons and two daughters. He says even in 2007, he didn't face any difficulty finding a bride for his second son. He began feeling a shift in the scenario when they started finding a bride for Ram, the youngest of the three brothers. They spent almost five years, searching until 2018, when Ram married a girl from Chalisgaon village in Dhulia district, who incidentally is physically challenged. Deepak Jadhav, founder-director of matrimonial firm Marathajodi.com, says delayed weddings of men are looked down upon. He reveals that out of 4,000-odd women looking for a life partner, barely three-four choose farming as the profession of their prospective partner. "Even the girls who belong to farmer families are not willing to marry a farmer," he notes. Until 2016, he used to match 75 couples a year. Now, he's able to fix barely 20-25 weddings a year. "Everything was fine till a decade ago. But the trend tremendously changed. If the girls are not ready to marry rural boys, what will the boys do! Parents need to change their mindset. Like farming, there is no guarantee of jobs in cities," he opines. Bhaskar Gawande, a farmer from Chitte Pimpalgaon village in Paithan tehsil, says when it comes to marriage, it doesn't matter how many acres of land a farmer owns. He says it's common knowledge that if a farmer has to raise money for a health emergency or children's education, he has no option but to sell his land. That is why, he says parents of young women prefer a groom with a fixed salary. "Even owners of grocery shops or wheat mills can find a girl for marriage but farmers can't," he underlines. According to him, this situation became particularly acute after the 2016 drought. In 2016, he expected a yield of 200 quintals of soyabean but got only 65 quintals. As he didn't want his son to face such hardships, he sent him to Aurangabad to pursue engineering and asked him to stay away from farming. Dr Smita Awchar, a professor in the Department of Sociology at Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University in Aurangabad, contends that imbalance in gender ratio is another reason there are too few prospective brides for one too many prospective grooms. Thus, she says, young women in the region have a choice to select their life partner. She says other reasons women are reluctant to marry a village-dweller are poor roads and patchy availability of water, electricity, cooking gas, mobile connectivity etc. She says neither women nor their parents want them getting married to a farmer. Kishore Shitole, founder-director of NGO Jaldoot (dedicated to water conservation projects in rural areas) and a governor-nominated member in Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University Senate, frequently visits the villages in the region. He seconds Dr Awchar's statement that women prefer a partner with a job over a farmer. "Cities are land of opportunities. Even if it comes to the education of their kids, there is no good facility in villages. Villages lag behind at every front," he says.
03:07 pm By K.A. Shaji Guruvayur (Kerala): During early mornings and late evenings, Edakkulam village of Thirunavaya Grama panchayat in Malappuram district of Kerala is as busy as a bee. Urgency is in the air and youngsters can be seen plucking lotus flowers, which are just beginning to bloom, by balancing on canoes. Vehicles would carry the flowers to different temples across the state and outside. Being the lone traditional lotus-growing community in the state, Chakkalaprambil Musthafa and his neighbours supplied 112 kg of lotus flowers to Kerala's famous Guruvayur Sri Krishna Temple on June 8. Ninety-one kg of it was used to perform Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Thulabharam recently. As per the custom of the ancient temple, Thulabharam is an important offering to Lord Krishna wherein a person is weighed against a commodity such as flowers, grains, fruits and similar articles and the equal value or quantity is offered as donation. In the case of Modi, the preference was the party symbol of blooming lotuses. It was at short notice; the temple-managing committee was entrusted with the task of sourcing more than a quintal of fresh and quality lotuses for the Prime Minister's Thulabharam. Like previous occasions, the temple managing committee had contacted Musthafa and his neighbours - Karakkadan Abdu, Salam Kodakkal, Kalluvalappil Moidu, CP Kunhali and P Moideen Kutty - to supply the required amount flowers in time. Like the rest of Malappuram district, Edakkulam is predominantly a Muslim village with more than 85 per cent of residents following the Islamic faith. Looking at the vast stretches of wetlands, you can notice bloomed lotuses in abundance. Lotuses from these wetlands meet the ritual related needs of almost all the major temples of Kerala including Sabarimala, Guruvayur, Kadampuzha, Paramekkavu, Vadakkumnathan, Parassinikadavu and Kottiyur. For the last two decades, even temples in Coimbatore and Bangalore are buying flowers from here. "As per belief, the devotee is submitting himself to the deity through this ritual. Conducting the ritual without making any wish to the deity is considered ideal,'' explained KB Mohandas, chairman of Guruvayur Devaswom Board-which manages the temple. According to temple priests, a Thulabharam with lotus flowers signifies long life, high performance in work, advancements related to employment and significant improvement in mental strength. For other rituals, Guruvayur temple requires 400 flowers every day. Musthafa said the temple authorities are highly appreciative of their work while adding that they have never faced any discrimination from members of any other religion. "Hindus are very much appreciative of our sincerity and respect to their customs," Musthafa added. So far, none of the hardline Muslim outfits has objected to them supplying flowers to Hindu temples. Kunjali, a lotus trader for 25 years, said they supply growing high-quality lotus varieties at affordable rates to different temples. "We feel proud of our job as it is a visible example of communal harmony existing in the Muslim-majority Malappuram district, which is often misunderstood and misrepresented,'' he said. Salam, a lotus trader, said some temples in southern Kerala buy flowers from Thevala in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu at higher prices. In the open market, the average price of a flower is between Rs 7 and Rs 10. Salam claimed the prominent temples prefer to acquire high-quality flowers through them as they charge a mere Rs 2 per piece. While six rich families in the village own the wetlands, young members of 50 other Muslim families in the locality work as labourers to pluck and transport the flowers to the temples. Musthafa informed the community supplies an average of 20,000 flowers every day to various temples. Due to rising demand, they have started extending their network to places like Bengaluru, he added. Monetary returns in this line of work are moderate but regular, say the villagers. As the demand is steady, there is no market fluctuation like in the case of other farm products. The involved families get a steady income regularly. "It's God's own business, and we are proud of that," said P.K. Hamza, a driver delivering flowers to Guruvayur temple every day. He added that while the returns are low, the goodwill it has created between the two communities is enormous. No one knows when this Muslim village started supplying flowers to Hindu temples. According to popular belief, priests of the ancient Navamukunda Temple told Muslims living around to start cultivating lotus plants. Gopinath Parayil, a Kochi-based tourism specialist, said only a few devotees know that the lotus used in all major temples across the state for centuries are farmed by families belonging to the Islamic faith. "In this age of extreme mistrust and hate-mongering, the villages remains a powerful icon of harmony. You can learn many lessons of peaceful co-existence here," he said.
06:07 am London: (IANS) Pakistani diplomats in London are making all-out efforts to prevent the extradition of D-Company's top lieutenant Jabir Motiwala to the United States. Hearing the extradition plea of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Monday at the Westminster Magistrates' Court, the D-Company's defence lawyer, backed by Pakistani diplomats, said that Motiwala was suffering from acute depression and cannot be flown to the US to face money laundering, drug trafficking and underworld crime charges. Motiwala, one of the trusted aides of Dawood Ibrahim, was arrested in London in August 2018 on money laundering and drug trafficking charges, following a tip-off from the FBI. Sources close to Indian agencies informed IANS that the Pakistan High Commission in London had earlier tried to thwart the extradition move by submitting a letter on behalf of the accused's lawyer in the court, saying Motiwala was a "well-known and respected businessman in Pakistan". In fact, Pakistan fears that once Motiwala is extradited to the US, the close aide of D-Company can reveal the entire nexus between Dawood Ibrahim's underworld network (being operated from Karachi) and the don's connection with Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). The US has already declared Dawood Ibrahim a global terrorist running an international drug syndicate and sharing the gang's routes with Pakistan-based terror outfits. Sources said that Dawood's key finance aide Motiwala appeared in the magistrate's courts in London after his arrest by Scotland Yard's Extradition Unit on charges of money laundering and sharing the proceeds of narcotics money earned on behalf of the D-Company. Sources said that Barrister John Hardy, appearing on behalf of the US government, revealed to the court that Motiwala, travels extensively and conducts (underworld crimes related) meetings for his boss Dawood Ibrahim, an Indian who along with his brother Anis, are wanted for terror crimes in India. Sources said that the defence lawyer told the court that Motiwala was suffering from depression and had made several suicide attempts in the past few years. The lawyer argued that in such a situation, he cannot be extradited to the US to face trial. Sources said that contrary to the defence lawyer's claim, Motiwala has been investing D-Company's black money into various projects abroad. He is said to be involved in drug trafficking and also travels to collect money on behalf of the D-Company in Europe. Motiwala's extradition to the US, if executed would be a setback for Dawood as well as his patrons in the Pakistan establishment, the sources said.