Thursday, August 6 2020

Dive In

When the abrogation was announced, the general discourse was that Kashmir would follow a Gurugram story, and land revenue would increase. The corporate class would come and settle here, and locals would become multi-millionaires overnight like landowners in Gurugram did… What has instead played out is an economic destruction that has pauperised people and pushed them against the wall.

That’s local politician Shehla Rashid on the state’s economic collapse over the past year. The local chamber of commerce estimates Kashmir has lost business worth Rs 400 billion ($5.32 billion) and around 800,000 jobs since the abrogation of Article 370. Its representative says, “If Kashmir’s economy was on the ventilator before, it is now dead.” Illustration: Parth Savla.

Big Story

A groundbreaking ceremony in Ayodhya

The TLDR: PM Modi performed the bhoomi pujan (groundbreaking ceremony) to kick off construction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya—in circumstances that the BJP or its supporters could not have foreseen. India added 56,695 new cases of Covid-19 to its surging tally of 19,61,357. Elaborate arrangements were made to follow pandemic protocols. We examine photos and videos to assess the Covid safety procedures followed both in Ayodhya and beyond.


The background

  • The initial spread of the virus in India was blamed on the Tablighi Jamaat—whose annual conference became a “superspreader event.” Of the 4,400 cases recorded in April, nearly a third were related to the gathering. 
  • Since then, religious institutions and celebrations have come under greater scrutiny—though to varying extents. 
  • Curfews were imposed around both Eid holidays to discourage gatherings in various states. 
  • But the Tirumala Tirupathi temple is open to pilgrims even though 179 employees have tested positive—including 20 priests and several temple kitchen workers.
  • More recently, the head priest of the Ram Mandir was forced to opt out of the big event because two priests tested positive—as did 16 policemen guarding the temple site.
  • The guest list for the ceremony was therefore limited to 175 people—of whom 135 were religious leaders. But the list excluded some most closely associated with the Ram Janmabhoomi campaign, such as LK Advani—allegedly because he is too old and vulnerable.
  • A day before the event, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath declared: "COVID-19 protocol will be strictly followed at the event.” And various leaders urged devotees to celebrate at home.
  • The safety measures included extensive sanitization and fumigation of not just the temple, but also nearby roads. Also: A rule requiring 8 feet of distance between attendees. 


So let’s see how the event actually panned out.



In today’s edition

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