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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Who’s really running the state?

Was in Mumbai last week and happened to read a startling news item. No it was not the little recording device which automatically started when you unfolded the newspaper and told you all about the wonders of the Volkswagon Vento. That ad was a hoot and got some paranoid Mumbaikars into such a tizzy they thought it was some kind of terrorist plot to blow up many households through the city. No; the startling news item was Peninsula Land the Piramal Group real estate company that has a joint venture holding with Delta Corp. The group has reportedly paid Rs 300 crore for an old mansion in Carmichael Road, Mumbai.

Who is Delta Corp and why should I waffle on about it? Delta Corp is the company that claims to effectively own 3 of the 6 offshore casino licenses offered by the Government of Goa to the highest bidder. They also speak of a casino management agreement operating the on-shore casino at Riviera de Goa that managed to get 5-star status cleared at state and central level.

Recently someone said that the casino operators are running the Goa government. If the Piramal group is running Delta Corp which owns half the casinos in Goa, then clearly, the Piramal group is running Goa. And if they can stroll in and reportedly pay Rs 300 crore cash on the barrel for a house in the most expensive area of Mumbai. They can buy anything and anyone.

Not only that, the Carmichael Road area is a heritage area and erecting high-rise buildings in the area is forbidden. Word has it that Peninsula Land is planning to put up a skyscraper on the property. Just goes to show where the real power is. The same power that can turn a 3 star hotel into a 5-star should not find it too difficult to build a modern skyscraper in a heritage area.

Which brings me to the casino boats clogging the once-beautiful Mandovi River ... They’re playing games at the High Court too. Now they say they are willing to withdraw their petition contesting the State Cabinet’s decision to shift them to the Aguada Bay. If they want to stay in the Mandovi River and place lives of other river users at risk, no one will be able to stop them. With that kind of purchasing power a state cabinet that is weak in Mathematics and ethics poses no problem at all.

Delta Corp owns Casino Royale, King’s Casino and Caravela. Caravela is to be replaced by a larger vessel M V Majesty. Delta plans to replace King’s Casino with a larger vessel too. Until they get a larger vessel to replace King’s Casino, they plan to move it to “the other river in Goa” since it can moor in shallow water and bring in people from South Goa or elsewhere in North Goa to gamble aboard the vessel. I’m not making this up, it’s all on the Delta Corp website: http://www.deltacorp.in/group.html Check it out for yourself.

Only the height of the Mandovi Bridges and the width between the pillars can put a spoke in their roulette wheel. If the bridges are too low for the casino boats to sail under or the width between the pillars too narrow to accommodate the width of the vessels, then the people of Ribandar and the local fishermen will not have to worry, or get their protest placards out.

A Ribandar resident said they have been requesting the government to give the village of Ribandar a football ground, Instead the Chief Minister has given the youth of Ribandar three casinos to gamble on.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Joy of Giving Week

This is the Joy of Giving Week and one’s thoughts automatically go to the Canacona flood victims with their smashed houses and lives. There are many who were so moved by the devastation caused by the flood, the cause of which everyone is still unclear about. Purses and chequebooks came out in a rush and aid in the form of money, food, clothing, building materials and physical help, poured into Canacona.

There was no joy there, not in the giving; not in the receiving. It was just something that had to be done. And the shell-shocked recipients of the help took it mutely; still unable to wrap their minds around the suddenness of the deluge and the havoc it left behind. The crazy rushing waters had swelled the river to five times its depth. It swept everything in its path carrying large uprooted trees as if they were the lightest of twigs. One chunky macho local youth shook his head with remembered horror and said, “I never want to hear the sound of that water again, but I keep hearing it in my sleep.”

Indeed people gave generously. The media got the message out clearly and immediately with lots of photo-ops for all the politicians who rushed in struck an attitude and made wild promises to bring everything back to normal. NSS student volunteers did wonderful work and slowly tattered lives were put together.

Those who contributed generously to the Canacona Relief Fund should be doubly joyful, because they did not just contribute to the people of Canacona. They bought donation coupons of Rs 500 each (cash) and all those coupons, no one knows how much or how many, went in a different direction from Canacona. Some say the amount was Rs 12 lakh, some say it was Rs 22 lakh, there was one news syndicate that calculated it at a whopping Rs 85 lakh.

Which bank account it went into was a mystery, the number of the bank account was a mystery. A record of the bank account is a mystery, but the money is safe we are told. It was collected by the Youth Congress and the Youth Congress dutifully gave it to the Goa Pradesh Congress Committee, completely forgetting it was supposed to go to the desperate people of Canacona.

But as the spokesperson is reported to have said, there was so much aid pouring into Canacona, they did not need any more and that the money was not actually meant for Canacona; it was meant for help in any emergency. They stopped trotting out that line when they were shown a copy of the coupon which clearly mentioned the money collected was for the Canacona relief. Not any old emergency relief. It definitely did not say it was meant for Congress relief.

Should we be angry about this turn of events? Should we say: we’ve been robbed? No. Not at all. Our donations are going to be used by the nation’s oldest political party whose name typically begins with Con. And what a con it was, you have to admire the sheer gall of these people. Their damage control is even funnier.

GPCC President Subhash Shirodkar said except for Rs 20,000 for ‘relief work’ not a paise had been spent. He said they will find out how many Canconkars need help during Ganesh, and Diwali and they will distribute the money then, to needy persons. The Youth Congress will be doing the field work of finding out how many people of Canacona need help. And if there is money left over, why it will be used for other things...!

This is a lesson that should humble us and we have to be abjectly grateful to the Youth Congress and GPCC. They have taught us Life Lesson Number 7. When you give, give for the joy of giving, don’t follow up to check where the money is being used, how much is being used and how much is going into the personal accounts of fat cats.

I have taken a valuable lesson from this contretemps too. I have learned that the only way I can experience the Joy of Giving is to give one tight slap to liars and thieves who steal from the hopeless to feed themselves.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ya, ya, it’s the papaya to the rescue

This would go down in my imaginary diary as the week my faith in pharma and doctors died. And if you are thinking this is about Dr. Oscar Rebello, you would be wrong. At the risk of sounding like something out of Harry Potter, it’s about the Papaya Leaf and the Platelet Count. Because there are those of you who say, tcha, who’s going to read this rubbish till the end, in brief it is this:

If you or anyone you know has dengue or chikungunya or any illness which drastically reduces the blood platelet count of the patient, take one papaya leaf. It does not interfere with the medication. Wash it in plain water. Discard the stem and the hard central veins in the leaf. Cut the green leafy portion into small pieces and run it through a mixer or pound it to a paste. If it is too dry add a teaspoon of water, pound to a paste, squeeze the paste through a muslin cloth or a tea strainer. You will get about 2 tablespoons of nasty tasting green liquid. Make the patient drink it. I hear having it first thing is the morning is very effective. But those who have had it in the evening too say it works like a dream. The platelet count jumps within 3 hours. That’s the short version.

Herbal medicine in India has been saving lives for thousands of years. Ayurveda is probably as old as the Indus Valley Civilization dating back to 3000 BC. All four Vedas especially the Rig Veda carry references to diseases and their cures through herbs and roots.

The ancient art of Ayurveda was systematically killed by the colonialists when they took over the country. It was suppressed by the British. The East India Company banned and shut down all Ayurvedic colleges in 1833. When Ayurveda re-emerged for almost 100 years, herbal remedies were dismissed as “the poor man’s medicine” practiced in rural areas where western medicine was too expensive or not available. The irony was the country folk were healthier than the urban class.

The Portuguese in Goa actually did shut down Ayurvedic practitioners. The Vaidyas of Hindu Pharmacy were the only Ayurvedic dispensers allowed to practice after one of them saved the life of a Viceroy’s wife.

Only now more and more patients are realising that allopathy or Western Medicine is not just expensive, but has hidden side effects that cause more problems than the original ailment itself.

When the Chikungunya outbreak happened a couple of years ago, The Times of India Mumbai edition carried an article on the effectiveness of the papaya leaf juice cure to completely eliminate the crippling joint pains that kicked in after the fever ended. My brother read the article and was so desperate to try anything to get back to his active life that he experimented with the papaya cure. It worked the same day. He had another two tablespoons the next day and was 100 percent fit.

Later I learned the papaya leaf juice worked for dengue patients too. The common factor was a drastically reduced platelet count in both diseases. Dengue involved internal haemorrhaging too.

Delhi is currently in the grip of a dengue epidemic. The 8-year old son of a friend was laid low with a continuous fever. His blood test showed his platelet count had dropped. She called me to ask about the papaya cure. She drove 25 km to find a papaya leaf. Those in the city had been used up by many who believed in the cure. She bribed her son to swallow the foul tasting juice. He did. The fever subsided the very same evening and he was up and about full of beans.

That’s the long story. The short story is three cheers for the papaya tree. Its fruit is pure heaven to eat and good for diabetics. A slice of the raw fruit gets rid of acne, pimples and scars. It also tenderizes tough meats. Its leaf is a thing of beauty. Sonia of Soto Haus Candolim, who uses plant products for decoration in her lacquered furniture, used a yellowed papaya leaf for a table-top design and covered it with her special brand of lacquer. And then you have the green leaf. What can I say… It saves lives.