Category Archive : News

Overcome Rancor After The End Of Legal Feuds?

IT is a fact of criminal psychology that whether the crime is detected or not, punished or not, the criminal carries the burden of the crime, which is far heavier, like in the case of the sailor who killed an albatross and carried it forever around his neck. It is possible to believe that the two court verdicts — that of the Supreme Court last November and of the CBI special court in Lucknow recently — have ended the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid matter, technically speaking, in favor of the Hindus, and based on these two legal verdicts, there was no wrongdoing of any kind on the part of Hindu groups.

But there are two clear acts of crime committed by Hindu groups. The first was trespass on the inter- vening night of December 23-24, 1949, when the idols of Ram Lalla were stealthily placed inside the mosque, and the second was the day- time demolition of the mosque on December 6, 1992. The Supreme Court verdict declaring the site as belonging to the Hindu groups does not absolve them of the crime of tres- pass, nor does it clear them of the criminal act of demolition. The sec- ond verdict has only declared ‘lack of evidence’ against the 32 accused,

including former Union ministers LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti. This does not imply that there was no wrongdoing, or that there were no criminals who brought down the mosque.

The crimes remain as clear as day- light. And they remain a shameful aspect of the Ram temple agitation. Ironically, the BJP, which was at the head of the agitation and had gath- ered a crowd which its leaders could not control in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, had the temerity and dishon- esty to move a no-confidence motion against the demolition. Using his rhetorical flourish, Vajpayee said on December 17, 1992: “I am ready to go one step ahead and ask those kar sevaks who were small in number to come forward and openly confess that they have demolished the struc- ture and for that they are prepared to face the music.” But by the time he ended his speech, Vajpayee almost justified the demolition. But not even his cunning rhetoric could wipe away the crime.

The CBI special court, which had conducted the trial regarding the demolition of Babri Masjid, ‘freed’ the 32 accused, including Advani, Joshi, and Uma Bharti, for ‘lack of evidence’. The prosecution pressed the charge of a meticulously planned crime amounting to a conspiracy. There were inherent weaknesses in a conspiracy charge because it requires to be proved that there was a clear chain of events that led from hatching the plan to executing it. Given the events preceding the gathering of around 200,000 people in Ayodhya and to the demolition that followed, it

would have been difficult to estab- lish the trail of the crime. But dem- olition remains a crime.

So, the sarcastic comments of critics that ‘no one demolished Babri Masjid’ and that it fell on its own show more anger and frustration, which is understandable, but which do not qualify to be a reasoned view. The unfolding of events on December 6 shows that the demolition was plausible given the overwhelming crowd which turned into a frenzied mob. The CBI special court did not condone the demolition because it had to fix the responsibility of who did it. This does not also mean that no one did it because the 32 accused

were acquitted.
Where legality ends, the moral and

the psychological burden of the criminals and conspirators begins. Should Advani, Joshi, Bharti, and the rest of the BJP and Vishwa Hin- du Parishad leadership own moral responsibility for the demolition? Should they apologize to the Muslim community that it was a moral wrong and a legal crime to have demolished a place of worship, whatever the dispute at stake? They should for their own sake and for the sake of communal amity in the country. Winning legal battles is not the end of the story. There is a need for gestures of goodwill to end the rancor that hangs in the air at the

end of legal feuds.
Of course, we recall Advani’s

statement at the end of the day on December 6: “This is the saddest day of my life.” Advani had clearly maintained that it was not the intention of the organizers of the karseva on December 6, 1992, to bring down the mosque. There are enough arguments, and one can even admit plausible ones, that Advani was just being hypocritical, that he was happy the mosque was destroyed. The critics of the then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao also claim that Rao, too, was happy in the cynical sense that the demolition had simplified the dispute. But beyond Machiavellian, or if you

prefer Chanakyan, calculations, there is a need for reconciliation between the contending communi- ties of Hindus and Muslims. The triumphalism of the Hindus must be reined in, and the resentment and despair of the Muslims should be addressed and removed.

The communal leaders on both sides have made the Babri Masjid issue a bitter dispute between the two communities. The Hindu groups can turn Ayodhya into a tourist spot, but it will never attain the sanctity of Rama’s birthplace because it was achieved through two acts of crime. There must be enough contrition on the part of Hindu groups before they can breathe easy and sleep well.

Opposition Demand With President Not To Sign Farmers Law

The two key farm bills, dubbed by the government as the biggest reform in agriculture, were passed by Rajya Sabha on Sunday with voice vote amid unprecedented unruly scenes by protesting opposition MPs.

A day after two contentious farm bills were passed by Rajya Sabha amid a bedlam, a number of non-NDA parties wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind over the manner in which the government “pushed through its agenda” and urged him not to grant his assent to the proposed legislation.

According to sources, leaders of various political parties including the Congress, the Left parties, NCP, DMK, SP, Trinamool Congress and the RJD have in a memorandum to the President sought his intervention in the matter and asked him not to sign the bills.

The bills will become a law only after the President grants his assent to them. The two key farm bills, dubbed by the government as the biggest reform in agriculture, were passed by Rajya Sabha on Sunday with voice vote amid unprecedented unruly scenes by protesting opposition MPs.

Some opposition members, ignoring the COVID-19 protocol, charged towards the podium of Deputy Chairman Harivansh, flung the rule book at him and tore official papers. They yanked his microphone and heckled him over their demand for a division of vote on their motion to refer the legislation to a select committee. Sources said the opposition parties have described the manner in which the bills were passed in Rajya Sabha on Sunday as “murder of democracy” by the ruling BJP. They have also sought time from the President for a meeting, likely on Tuesday.

The Shiromani Akali Dal leadership will meet President Ram Nath Kovind separately on Monday to urge him not to sign on the bills. Sources said the memorandum of opposition leaders has been sent to the President. Congress MP and noted lawyer Abhishek Singhvi is learnt to have framed the memorandum.

The opposition leaders wish to present their case in urging the President not to grant his assent to the bill after both the Houses of Parliament passed the two bills. They are alleging that the bills are against the interest of farmers and seek to enslave farming at the hands of corporates. These will prove to be a “death knell” for farming, the opposition leaders claim.

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 seeks to give freedom to farmers to sell their produce outside the notified APMC market yards (mandis). This, the government says, is aimed at facilitating remunerative prices through competitive alternative trading channels.

Farmers will not be charged any cess or levy for sale of their produce under this Act, according to the government.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 seeks to give farmers the right to enter into a contract with agribusiness firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters, or large retailers for the sale of future farming produce at a pre-agreed price.

It seeks to transfer the risk of market unpredictability from farmers to sponsors.

The Importance Of ‘Patna Collectorate’ Demolition

Historians, conservation architects and other heritage lovers have heaved a sigh of relief and expressed happiness over the stay by the Supreme Court on the demolition of the centuries-old Patna Collectorate, with some saying it would send a “strong message” to the society on “preserving our rich past indiscriminately”.

Spread over 12 acres on the banks of Ganga, the iconic collectorate complex includes one of the last surviving signatures of Dutch architecture, especially the Record Room and the old District Engineer’s Office.

The top court had on Friday ordered status quo in the case, two days after Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had laid the foundation stone for its new complex and a slew of other projects ahead of the Assembly polls.

Noted historian Irfan Habib said it is a “great news for all those who care for built heritage, from conservationists to common man, fighting a battle every day to save heritage from the onslaught of modernity”.

“The stay on demolition, at a time when bulldozers were almost ready to roll in to bring down the historic structures of the collectorate, will also reaffirm people’s faith in judiciary when heritage is facing a losing battle in Patna and so many other old cities,” he said.

The historian underlined that old buildings, especially of such significance as the Patna Collectorate, “lend character to a city” and the Bihar capital, being a historic city, these landmarks give a “sense of continuity to multiple generations”.

“Erasing these landmarks will not only erase an important piece of history of Patna, it will erase the identity of the city of Patna,” he said. “The government should preserve and restore these buildings indiscriminately and not look at them through a colonial prism.” Patna-based author Surendra Gopal who has been advocating preservation of the collectorate and other unprotected landmarks, hoped “a brighter future awaits” the neglected built heritage of his city.

The case, which began with two PILs filed in the Patna High Court by Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) in August 2019, had rallied heritage lovers from Patna to the US, with domain experts and common people alike appealing to the authorities to spare the demolition and instead connect it to the tourism circuit.

On September 1 this year, the high court disposed the case and allowed the government to take “necessary consequential action” after the newly-formed Bihar Urban Arts and Heritage Commission — consisting only of government officials — recommended demolition, claiming the structure had not much “architectural, cultural or aesthetic values”.

The Bihar government, which proposed the demolition in 2016, has been claiming that since the Dutch building of the collectorate was used as a warehouse to store opium and saltpetre a few centuries ago, it was “not a heritage structure”, drawing sharp reaction from historians, scholars and experts.

Architect and conservationist Yashaswini Sharma, who has been associated with the battle to save the iconic Asiatic Building in Bengaluru, was thrilled to know about the apex court stay after the INTACH filed a plea mid-September challenging the high court order.

“A building’s heritage value is not lessened just because it was an opium warehouse at some point in history,” Sharma said. “It is the unique architecture, material heritage, the skills used in making the building that matters. And these were built by our labourers, making it even a more significant piece of heritage.” The author of ‘Bangalore: The Early City’ said to dismiss a building as “not a heritage” just because it stored opium once, was “myopic and smacks of ignorance and coloured view of the policy makers”. The high court should have weighed in the matter with deeper understanding of history and architectural heritage, which it seems it did not, so the INTACH appealed in the Supreme Court,” she added.

In 2016, the then Dutch ambassador, Alphonsus Stoelinga, had written to the chief minister, appealing to preserve this “shared heritage” of the two countries and had it listed under the Archaeology Department.

The British-era structures in its complex include the DM Office Building and District Board Patna Building.

In 2016, a public movement named ‘Save Historic Patna Collectorate’, led by citizens from various walks of life, was launched to save the historic landmark from demolition.

Mumbai-based conservationist Kamalika Bose said the apex court relief was “much-needed and it would send a very strong message to both the government and the society at large to “preserve our past indiscriminately for the current and future generations”. “Bihar government has not been listening to people’s voices, and I hope now they will and save this landmark. The new collectorate can be built anywhere else on a fresh piece of land without harming heritage,” she said.

The Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde, has sought response from the Bihar government within two weeks on the plea filed by the INTACH.

High court lawyer and heritage activist Kumar Shanu alleged that “in the name of opium warehouse, the government has attempted to delegitimise the historical value of the collectorate”.

“The Hon’ble High Court of Patna has not acknowledged or even heeded to the complete facts of the case and principles developed by previous landmark cases on such a subject,” he argued, adding: “I am happy the apex court has given a relief for the time being”.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text)

Where To Invest In India?

1. Why investments?

Investments are important because in today’s world, just earning money is not enough. You work hard for the money you earn. But that may not be adequate for you to lead a comfortable lifestyle or fulfill your dreams and goals. To do that, you need to make your money work hard for you as well. This is why you invest. Money lying idle in your bank account is an opportunity lost. You should invest that money smartly to get good returns out of it.

2. Types of Investments in India

The Indian investor has a number of investment options to choose from. Some are traditional investments that have been used across generations, while some are relatively newer options that have become popular in recent years. Here are some popular investment options available in India.

Stocks

Stocks, also known as company shares, are probably the most famous investment vehicle in India. When you buy a company’s stock, you buy ownership in that company that allows you to participate in the company’s growth. Stocks are offered by companies that are publicly listed on stock exchanges and can be bought by any investor. Stocks are ideal long-term investments. But investing in stocks should not be equated to trading in the stock market, which is a speculative activity. 

Mutual Funds

Mutual funds have been around for the past few decades but they have gained popularity only in the last few years. These are investment vehicles that pool the money of many investors and invest it in a way to earn optimum returns. Different types of mutual funds invest in different securities. Equity mutual funds invest primarily in stocks and equity-related instruments, while debt mutual funds invest in bonds and papers. There are also hybrid mutual funds that invest in equity as well as debt. Mutual funds are flexible investment vehicles, in which you can begin and stop investing as per your convenience. Apart from tax-saving mutual funds, you can redeem investments from mutual funds any time as well. 

Fixed Deposits

Fixed deposits are investment vehicles that are for a specific, pre-defined time period. They offer complete capital protection as well as guaranteed returns. They are ideal for conservative investors who stay away from risks. Fixed deposits are offered by banks and for different time periods. Fixed deposit interest rates change as per economic conditions and are decided by the banks themselves. Fixed deposits are typically locked-in investments, but investors are often allowed to avail loans or overdraft facilities against them. There is also a tax-saving variant of fixed deposit, which comes with a lock-in of 5 years.

Recurring Deposits

A recurring deposit (RD) is another fixed tenure investment that allows investors to put in a specific amount every month for a pre-defined period of time. RDs are offered by banks and post offices. The interest rates are defined by the institution offering it. An RD allows the investor to invest a small amount every month to build a corpus over a defined time period. RDs offer capital protection as well as guaranteed returns. 

Public Provident Fund

The Public Provident Fund (PPF) is a long-term tax-saving investment vehicle that comes with a lock-in period of 15 years. Investments made in PPF can be used to earn a tax break. The PPF rate is decided by the Government of India every quarter. The corpus withdrawn at the end of the 15-year period is completely tax-free in the hands of the investor. PPF also allows loans and partial withdrawals after certain conditions have been met. 

Employee Provident Fund

The Employee Provident Fund (EPF) is another retirement-oriented investment vehicle that earns a tax break under Section 80C. EPF deductions are typically a part of an earner’s monthly salary and the same amount is matched by the employer as well. Upon maturity, the withdrawn corpus from EPF is also entirely tax-free. EPF rates are also decided by the Government of India every quarter. 

National Pension System

The National Pension System (NPS) is a relatively new tax-saving investment option. Investors in the NPS stay locked-in till retirement and can earn higher returns than PPF or EPF since the NPS offers plan options that invest in equities as well. The maturity corpus from the NPS is not entirely tax-free and a part of it has to be used to purchase an annuity that will give the investor a regular pension. 

3. Where should you invest your money?

Since there are so many types of investment vehicles, it is normal for an investor to get overwhelmed. Someone new to investing would not where to invest their money. Making the wrong investment choice can lead to financial losses, which is something that no one wants. This is why you should use the following factors to decide where to invest your money.

Age

Typically, younger investors have fewer responsibilities and a longer time horizon. When you have a long working life in front of you, you can invest in vehicles with a long-term view and also keep increasing your investment amount with an increase in your income. This is why equity-oriented investments like equity mutual funds would be a better option for young investors, as compared to something like fixed deposits. But on the other hand, older investors can opt for safer avenues like FDs. 

Goal

Investment goals can be either short-term or long-term. For a short-term goal, you should opt for a safer investment and use the return-generating potential of equities for long-term goals. Goals can also be negotiable and non-negotiable. For non-negotiable goals like children’s education or down payment for a house, guaranteed-return investments would be a good choice. But if the goal is negotiable, which means that it can be pushed back by a few months, then investing in equity mutual funds or stocks can be beneficial. Plus, if these investments do really well, then you can even meet the goal before time. 

Profile

Another thing to think about when choosing an investment option is your own profile. Factors like how much you are earning and how many financial dependants you have are also critical. A young investor with a lot of time on hand may not be able to take equity-related risks if he also has the responsibility to take care of his family. Similarly, someone older with no dependents and a steady source of income can choose to invest in equities to earn higher returns.

This is why it is said that when it comes to investments, one size doesn’t fit all. Investments not only have to be chosen carefully but also planned properly to get the most out of them.

4. How should I plan my investments?

The first step in planning your investments is to figure out the right investment that fits your profile and needs. Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your investments:

  • Choose investments carefully after doing adequate research
  • Don’t fall for quick-buck schemes that promise high returns in a short time
  • Review your stock and mutual fund investments periodically
  • Consider the tax implications on returns you earn from your investments
  • Keep things simple and avoid complicated investments that you don’t understand

In this article, we have learned a lot about investments and the various types of investments. Now, it’s your time to be smart and to generate wealth. #innlive

Indian Railways To Run 80 New Trains From September 12

These new trains are being introduced keeping in mind the migrant workers who are now travelling back to their workplaces as unlocking has entered the fourth phase in September.

The Indian Railways will run 80 (40 pairs) new trains starting from September 12, tickets of which went live on Thursday at the Indian Railways website. These trains will be in addition to the 230 special trains already in operation — introduced at various stages of lockdown and unlocking in the last six months. The tickets are also available from station counters.

All regular passenger trains were suspended on March 25 owing to the nationwide lockdown. From May, the railways resumed operations in a staggered manner — first it ran Shramik Special trains to ferry migrants workers, then it introduced special trains, which are not regular passenger trains tailor-made according to demand. These new 80 trains, which will connect Delhi-Indore, Yesvantpur-Gorakhpur, Puri-Ahmedabad, Delhi- Bengaluru among other routes, will also be special trains.

Here’s all you need to know about the 80 new trains

1. Several trains connecting small cities to Delhi are being introduced in this phase. Varanasi-New Delhi vande Bharat Express will run from September 12. Here is the list of all 80 trains:

2. All these trains will be reserved.

3. To book tickets, log on to www.irctc.co.in. Or, download the IRCTC app

4. After logging in, you can look for the availability of these special trains and accordingly book tickets through e-payment. You will receive an SMS.

5. The stoppages of these trains will be regulated after consulting with the state governments concerned.

6. At present, the railways is running 30 Rajdhani-type special trains, which started from May 12. From June 1, the railways has been running 200 special Mail Express trains. 

7. As several national-level examinations are going on, the railways is planning to run more special trains as and when the demand rises.

8. If waiting lists are long for any particular trains, the railways will run clone train to accommodate the waitlisted passengers, it has said.

9. The 80 new trains are being introduced keeping in mind the migrant workers who are now traveling back to their workplaces as unlocking has entered the fourth phase in September.

10. Owing to its limited service, the Indian Railways has estimated a loss of around Rs 40,000 crore in the current financial year. #innlive

IAF Inducted Rafale Jets: How ‘Game-Changer’ Boost India’s Air Power

The first five Rafale fighters, dubbed “game-changers”, were formally inducted into the Indian Air Force on Thursday at a glittering ceremony in the Ambala airbase. Defense minister Rajnath Singh, his French counterpart Florence Parly, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, and Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria were among the dignitaries who attended the ceremony.

A traditional ‘Sarva dharma puja’, a ceremonial ‘water cannon salute’ to the Rafale jets and an aerial display featuring various breathtaking maneuvers by the aircraft marked their induction into the 17 Squadron of the IAF.

Here is how these Rafales are set to give a major boost to India’s air power capability.

  • Once the Rafales, with their `Meteor’ air-to-air missiles (120-150 km strike range), ‘Scalp’ air-to-ground cruise missiles (over 300 km) and other armaments, are fully-operational, they will certainly be a force to reckon with.
  • The Meteor missiles are arguably the best in the world for air combat duels, with “a greater no-escape zone” for hostile fighters than any comparable BVR weapon. Pakistan and China do not currently have any missiles of this class in their combat inventories.
  • With a combat range of 780-km to 1,650-km depending on the mission, the Rafales come armed with a deadly weapons package, advanced avionics, radars, and electronic warfare systems to prevent jamming by adversaries and ensure superior survivability in hostile contested airspace. Each Rafale can also carry two fire-and-forget Scalp cruise missiles to hit high-value fortified targets well over 300-km away.
  • They will be able to outgun and outrun Pakistani F-16 and JF-17 as well as the Chinese Chengdu J-20 fighters. France has till now delivered 10 Rafales to India, with the other five being kept back at Merignac to train additional IAF pilots and technicians over the next nine months.

  • “Induction of Rafale jets could not have happened at a more opportune time considering security scenario today. Rafale being based in Ambala is important as the fleet can rapidly access all areas of interest from the air base,” IAF chief RKS Bhadauria said hinting at the ongoing face-off with China at the LAC.
  • But the 13 India-Specific Enhancements (ISEs) or upgrades on the 36 Rafales will become fully operational only in 2022 after undergoing “software certification” after all the jets have arrived in India.
  • The upgrades range from radar enhancements, Israeli helmet-mounted displays and low-band jammers to towed decoy systems, 10-hour flight data recording and engine capability for “cold start” from high-altitude regions like Ladakh. #innlive

Serum Institute Of India Halts Covid-19 Vaccine Trials After Drug Controller’s Notice

SII issued a formal statement saying, “We are reviewing the situation and stopping the trials in India until astrazeneca resumes trials again.”

The Serum Institute of India (SII) has halted its trial on the Corona vaccine (COVID-19 vaccine). SII issued a formal statement on Thursday, saying, ‘We are reviewing the situation and we are stopping the trials happening in India till AstraZeneca starts the trial again. We are following the instructions of the Drug Controller General of India and will not comment further on the trial. You can talk to the Drug Controller General of India for further updates. On Wednesday, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) issued a ‘show cause notice’ to the Serum Institute of India and asked why not suspend your trial?

What more?

Earlier, the Serum Institute of India, i.e. SII, said on Wednesday that there is no problem in the testing of the vaccine (Covid-19 vaccine) being developed to protect against AstraZeneca’s COVID-19. The serum institute’s statement came yesterday at a time when AstraZeneca has stopped its testing. they took the step of halting the trial after one of the vaccine-makers fell ill during a trial in Britain. The company said in a statement on Wednesday, “As far as ongoing testing in India is concerned, it is going on and no problem has been revealed in it.” The Serum Institute has a manufacturing partnership with AstraZeneca to produce one billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This vaccine is being developed by Oxford University.

The Indian company is conducting clinical trials of a possible vaccine for AstraZeneca in India. The Drug Controller of India had last month allowed the Pune-based company to test the vaccine in India in Phase II and Phase III.The Serum Institute has said that after a person has an unknown disease, the company has postponed further testing in view of the standard review of his drug test. This will give the researchers the opportunity to check the safety data of the drug while maintaining the veracity of the test. #innlive

‘Dhol Tasha’ Shops Struggle As ‘Mumbai Ganpati’ Tones Down

As dhol tasha pathaks across Maharashtra fall silent this Ganapati season, the owner of a century-old music store in Lalbaug recounts his family’s intertwined history with the festival.

Every year, as the month of June dawns, Sagar Kerluskar starts drawing up plans for his “annual pilgrimage”. He applies for a five-day leave at the local business where he works as a manager, books his bus tickets and makes a phone call to Mumbai’s DG Tabla Merchants. After that, the 38-year-old surveys the 150-odd pieces of musical instruments lying in the community hall of the neighbourhood. Picking out the ones that lie damaged, he undertakes the overnight bus journey from Raigad to Mumbai, a friend in tow. This seemingly dull routine is one Kerluskar looks forward to the most as he sets in motion preparations ahead of the Ganapati festival for Warkari dhol tasha pathak (Marathi for troupe). “Once the instruments have been repaired and tuned, we begin practising for the festival, the 55-odd musicians, meeting every evening after work for an hour or two,” Kerluskar explains.

This year, with the pandemic raging and the restrictions on travel and public gatherings in place, Kerluskar feels tied down. “None of us had imagined we will see a time when Maharashtra will not celebrate its biggest festival,” he adds. For Lalbaug’s DG Tabla Merchants, which has witnessed Bal Gangadhar Tilak lay the foundations of the sarvajanik Ganeshotsav in Colonial Mumbai over 125 years ago, this year’s tepid celebrations are an anomaly they are still struggling to register. “My great grandfather Govardhandas started the business nearly 150 years ago. He was employed in one of the textile mills when Tilak started the tradition of the sarvajanik Ganapati among mill workers. As a family that has traditionally been in the business of making musical instruments, we have ever since been closely associated with the festival,” says Mehul Chauhan, the fourth generation owner of the business.

An eerie calm
After the three-month nationwide lockdown caused a complete shutdown of the city’s businesses, a calm seems to have permanently replaced Mumbai’s chaos. The maidan that is home to Mumbai’s famous Lalbaugcha Raja sits empty. On its periphery, the Chivda Galli shops look forlorn, the handful of shoppers as if ripped of adrenaline. With little work, shopkeepers toy with their mobile phones, some simply watch the passing traffic.

On the street across from the maidan, Damodardas Govardhadas Tabla Merchant is witnessing activity in bouts. Patrons arrive with their damaged bongos, duffs, tabla or other musical instruments, looking to have them fixed. Others are there to buy a new piece altogether. Seated on a raised platform, amid a variety of percussion instruments, Mehul attends to most of them personally, answering their queries. In a neighbourhood that houses several such shops, his is the only with a steady stream of visitors. But Mehul is unimpressed. “Usually, these ten days of Ganapati are the busiest. People queue up for hours sometimes as they browse the various musical instruments, mostly looking at percussion drums that are used in Ganesh aarti,” he explains.

Monsoons in Maharashtra are a harbinger of business for DG Tabla Merchants, the most popular store for Indian percussion instruments in Mumbai. The 36-year-old owner, who took over the business from his father Suresh two years ago, allowing him to retire, says that most of their loyal patrons visit them between the months of June and August. “The villages and towns in the Konkan region are best connected with cities via the interstate bus network. From the month of June, people start bringing their instruments for repair. They book their tickets according to our delivery dates. A dholki typically takes four days to fix while a pakhawaj may take up to eight or 10. In the interim, they stay with their families or friends in Mumbai, marvelling at the big city life,” explains Mehul, who has watched his grandfather Damodardas and then his dad fall into this annual routine.

A family legacy
The boom in Bombay’s textile trade in the late 19th century lured thousands from across the country with the promise of a job and steady income. Among those who bought into the dream was Govardhandas Dabgar. A member of the dabgar community, traditionally involved in the making of percussion instruments, he migrated from his village near the Gujarat-Rajasthan border to settle in Mumbai’s Lalbaug sometime in the 1870s. “Perhaps it was the limited scope of trade or the discrimination he intended to escape, being from a caste that works with raw hide, my great grandfather left the life he knew to start over in this city,” says Mehul, recounting the stories he has heard from his father.

While working in the mills, Govardhandas was introduced to the Warkari sect and their rich tradition of bhakti music. Mehul believes that a companionship with the community’s musicians must have compelled his great grandfather to resume his skills at working with instruments. And about two decades later, when Lokmanya Tilak introduced the idea of sarvajanik Ganeshotsav among mill workers as a means of subverting the British Law against huge religious gatherings, Govardhandas probably found himself in demand since the processions were accompanied by musicians, who played dholkis, taal manjeeras and pakhawaj.

These bonds, forged almost 150 years ago, still serve the family. Most of their old clients are members of the Warkari community that chiefly uses the dholki and pakhawaj for kirtans. Apart from their annual religious yatra, called the wari, the Warkaris also have daily kirtans during the 10-day Ganapati festival. “Wadala Ram Mandir, attached with Cottoncha Raja mandal, has been a patron of DG Tabla merchants ever since it was founded 82 years ago. They are the best at what they do. It requires skill to repair instruments that are over 50 years old and make them seem like new,” says 45-year-old Jagdish Khandagale, one of seven Cottoncha Raja trustees.

The store also attracts a large number of dhol tasha players who purchase dhols a couple of months before the festival. In Mumbai, due to lack of space, many such pathaks can be seen practising under the flyovers in the evening hours or on weekends even as peak hour traffic trudges past. “The last few years have especially witnessed a renewed interest among the youth and the number of pathaks in the city have substantially increased,” Mehul points out. Many youngsters, both women and men, attend the practice sessions after a long day at college or work in order to be part of pathaks that play for the big mandals on the final day of visarjan. “Since the performances bring the processions alive and attract bigger crowds, pathaks have become competitive,” he adds.

The store
Behind the 10×10 sq ft space that serves as the shop, a spare room with a mezzanine doubles as storage and workshop. There, 64-year-old Pramila Jadhav is hard at work applying the tuning paste or shai/syahi on a tabla. She mixes a black powder ― stone ground fine ― with natural glue and applies it in layers. As each layer dries out, she evens it out and taps the base. “The way it sounds will tell me if the instrument is ready,” says Jadhav, who has been working with DG Tabla Merchant for 45 years. Her daughter, who has accompanied Pramila to work since the age of one, is also employed with them. “Mehul and I grew up together right here, in this shop, which was also the Chauhan family’s home until a few years ago,” says 35-year-old Deepali, seated next to her mother on the floor.

When Govardhandas started the business in Mumbai, he would serve his work shift and use his spare time to repair and make the percussion instruments. It was in the 1910s, once Damodardas joined him, that they set up a shop in the Elphinstone neighbourhood. “We moved to the current location only in 1956. We managed to buy a room across the corridor and decided to set up a workshop in that space. Over the years, the family has managed to build a strong patronage, which includes tabla maestro Zakir Husain and noted pakhawaj player Pratap Patil.

Over the years, as business gained momentum, the family also purchased a store for Western musical instruments. Located right next door, it is called Om Ganesh Musicals. “Every year during Ganapati, we keep a stock of 200-300 dhols in that store, which sells out quickly. This year, with the pathaks gone silent, we have not bothered.”

The coronavirus impact
After the lockdown was announced, the family was unable to open the shop until June. By then, the leather used in making these instruments had gathered moisture. Of the usual staff of nine, only Pramila and Deepali are still in Mumbai and able to return to work. “During the season, we usually have the shop open for 15 hours whereas the workshop runs 24X7 on certain days. Since the store overlooks the Lalbaugcha Raja maidan, the whole neighbourhood is decked up and abuzz. The sights and sounds are festive and we all laugh, eat, chitchat while working. On the last day, we get together and watch the visarjan. But this year, it feels like the festival isn’t here yet. There are hardly any people or work,” rues Pramila, as she sets aside the tabla to pick up a pakhawaj.

In the backdrop, Deepali’s 10-year-old son Shubham is prancing about in the shop, helping the staff. But Mehul feels the young boy, a natural percussionist, should stop wasting his time and learn an instrument. “I will send him for classes as soon as this pandemic is over.” A lover of Maharashtrian folk and classical music, the owner feels he missed the opportunity to learn. “You can either make these instruments or play them because they both require saadhana; that’s our fate. And I chose mine too early in life. I hope Shubham and my own son do it differently.” #KhabarLive #hydnews