LEft’S WALL of WoMEn to countER congRESS, BJP

TheLDF gov­ern­ment has de­cided to bring one mil­lion women on to the streets of Ker­ala on 1 Jan­uary, from Kasaragod to state cap­i­tal.

The Sunday Guardian - - Nation -

Even two months af­ter the his­toric Supreme Court ver­dict al­low­ing young women’s en­try into the Lord Ayyappa tem­ple at Sabarimala, the pil­grim­age cen­tre con­tin­ues to dom­i­nate Ker­ala pol­i­tics, though the core is­sue has been pushed to the back­ground. The lat­est is a state gov­ern­mentspon­sored plan to form a “Wall of Women” to pro­tect the “sec­u­lar val­ues” of the state. While a host of pe­ti­tions chal­leng­ing its rul­ing are pend­ing with the Supreme Court and a few in the Ker­ala High Court, po­lit­i­cal par­ties are work­ing over­time to keep the is­sue alive as long as pos­si­ble. It is now a mat­ter of life and death for many of its lead­ers than shield­ing Lord Ayyappa from young women. And so far, no woman in the age group of 10 to 50 has set her toe on the foot of the 18 steps lead­ing to the shrine. The Left Front gov­ern­ment, which was seem­ingly in a hurry ini­tially to make young women’s en­try pos­si­ble there, now says it was never in any haste to do so. Af­ter the re­cent rul­ing of the Ker­ala High Court ban­ning any kind of protests in and around the Sabarimala tem­ple dur­ing the on­go­ing pil­grim­age sea­son, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which was spear­head­ing the ag­i­ta­tion there, has now shifted its ac­tion to the state sec­re­tariat in Thiru­vanan­tha­pu­ram. The party has launched a re­lay fast, but so far has not spelt out what its de­mands are other than say­ing that the com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment was out to de­stroy Lord Ayyappa. The party seems to be di­vided over the is­sue, with its lone MLA call­ing for a di­alogue with the gov­ern­ment, while the hard­lin­ers want the party to in­ten­sify its ag­i­ta­tion. Now that the party’s mil­i­tant face, state gen­eral sec­re­tary K. Suren­dran, be­hind bars for the past three weeks, has been granted bail, the BJP may re­draw its strat­egy. But since the court has barred Suren­dran from en­ter­ing Pathanamthitta district, where the Sabarimala tem­ple is si­t­u­ated, it is to be seen how the party plans its next phase of ag­i­ta­tion.

The op­po­si­tion Con­gressled United Demo­cratic Front still main­tains its old stated stand that the party was with the be­liev­ers and has taken its ag­i­ta­tion into the state Assem­bly, which is cur­rently in ses­sion. While its mem­bers have been stalling the pro­ceed­ings in­side the House, three of its MLAs are on an in­def­i­nite satya­graha out­side the Assem­bly hall since 3 De­cem­ber, de­mand­ing with­drawal of pro­hibitory or­ders in and around Sabarimala. Ac­c­cord­ing to the Leader of the Op­po­si­tion, Ramesh Chen­nithala, UDF would con­tinue its ag­i­ta­tion till such time the gov­ern­ment lifts curbs and re­duces po­lice de­ploy­ment at the shrine. How­ever, the Ker­ala High Court had said the con­tin­u­ing po­lice re­stric­tions and pro­hibitory or­ders in Sabarimala were not af­fect­ing devo­tees. In fact it has set up a three-man com­mit­tee of two for­mer judges and an IPS of­fi­cer to over­see se­cu­rity and other ar­range­ments at the shrine. The com­mit­tee mem­bers have been go­ing around the tem­ple and more or less ap­proved of the gov­ern­ment ac­tion there. How­ever, the state gov­ern­ment has now ap­proached the Supreme Court, say­ing the High Court order amounted to “in­ter­fer­ence with the ex­ec­u­tive func­tion of the state”. Mean­while, peace pre­vails in Sabarimala, with the num­ber of pil­grims show­ing an in­crease af­ter the ini­tial hes­i­tancy due to con- tin­u­ing ten­sion in the area. But com­plaints re­gard­ing in­ad­e­quate fa­cil­i­ties such as toi­lets and rest rooms con­tinue to dog the ad­min­is­tra­tion. That the gov­ern­ment had not done any ground work re­gard­ing such fa­cil­i­ties in the af­ter­math of the floods is for all to see.

As the Congress and BJP con­tinue their par­al­lel ag­i­ta­tions against the gov­ern­ment in the name of Sabarimala, the state gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to bring one mil­lion women on to the streets of Ker­ala on 1 Jan­uary has sparked yet an­other con­tro­versy. The de­ci­sion to form a women’s wall from the north­ern district of Kasaragod to state cap­i­tal Thiru­vanan­tha­pu­ram to “counter di­vi­sive forces” (read Sangh Pari­var) was taken at a meet­ing of 170 so­cial and cul­tural or­gan­i­sa­tions be­long­ing to var­i­ous Hindu com­mu­ni­ties con­vened by the Chief Min­is­ter Pi­narayi Vi­jayan last week. Or­gan­i­sa­tions rep­re­sent­ing Mus­lim and Chris­tian com­mu­ni­ties were con­spic­u­ously ab­sent from the meet­ing. It was later learnt that they were not in­vited. Iron­i­cally, a large num­ber of devo­tees from these com­mu­ni­ties visit Sabarimala ev­ery year. Though the ob­jec­tive of the wall is sup­pos­edly to “pro- tect the val­ues of re­nais­sance and gen­der equal­ity”, both Congress and BJP see it as a gov­ern­ment ploy to im­ple­ment the Supreme Court order al­low­ing women of all ages to en­ter Sabarimala. Hence, they have de­cided to thwart the gov­ern­ment move. They have got a shot in the arm with the Nair Ser­vice So­ci­ety, which has been in the fore­front of all past re­nais­sance move­ments in the state, de­cid­ing to dis­so­ci­ate it­self from the wall. A few Hindu or­gan­i­sa­tions that had taken part in the meet­ing too have sub­se­quently with­drawn from the gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tive. In­ter­est­ingly, ob­servers see it as a clever po­lit­i­cal move by the CPM to de­feat both BJP and Congress ag­i­ta­tions against the gov­ern­ment. CPM is a past mas­ter in or­gan­is­ing hu­man chain protests even for the cause of Pales­tinian strug­gle against Is­rael. But in this case, it is the gov­ern­ment and not the party which is us­ing its machin­ery to make po­lit­i­cal gains in the name of re­nais­sance. More than a “stunt”, as is termed by the Op­po­si­tion, many fear the ef­fort by the gov­ern­ment will only wi­den the di­vide al­ready formed in Ker­ala so­ci­ety fol­low­ing the Supreme Court order on Sabarimala. A Delhi-based firm is set­ting up a plant which will con­vert used cook­ing oil (UCO) into bio-diesel, which will help the coun­try save for­eign ex­change and re­duce pol­lu­tion as it is eco-friendly. The plant, com­ing up at Bawal in Haryana, with the ca­pac­ity of pro­duc­ing 100-tonne of biodiesel per day, will be op­er­a­tional from Jan­uary.

BioD En­ergy In­dia will use UCO, a waste, along with an­i­mal fat and crude palm oil, which con­tain free fatty acids, to make bio-diesel. This will be the big­gest plant in North In­dia which uses the lat­est tech­nol­ogy to pro­duce bio-diesel, which is a zero pol­lut­ing fuel. Bio-diesel is used ex­ten­sively by trans­port op­er­a­tors, ru­ral pump sets and diesel gen­er­a­tors as it is cheaper than diesel and also eco-friendly.

Speak­ing to The Sun­day Guardian, the com­pany’s CEO, Shiva Vig said the pro­duc­tion of bio-diesel will not only re­duce de­pen­dence on im­ported crude oil, but also fight pol­lu­tion, man­ag­ing il­le­gal dis­charge of UCO into the drainage sys­tem, which con­tam­i­nates wa­ter and clogs the drainage sys­tem. At the same time, he said, it will also check adul­ter­ation of ed­i­ble oil to a great ex­tent.

The com­pany, which uses Chi­nese tech­nol­ogy to pro­duce bio-diesel, is set­ting up an­other plant of sim­i­lar ca­pac­ity in Dubai for ex­port- ing bio-diesel from there to Europe, where the fuel is in high de­mand. FSSAI has au­tho­rised the com­pany to col­lect UCO from Delhi-NCR, Haryana and Pun­jab.

Ear­lier, there was a price ceil­ing on the sale of bio-diesel. Also, there was re­stric­tion on selling bio-diesel to state-run oil man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies. How­ever, the Naren­dra Modi gov­ern­ment abol­ished the ceil­ing and made the mar­ket free, thereby al­low­ing the com­pa­nies to sell the prod­uct di­rectly to con­sumers.

“At present, used cook­ing oil of ho­tels and restau­rants are pur­chased lo­cally and sold to street ven­dors, who use the same oil for cook­ing ed­i­ble items like samosa, pakoda, etc, which is haz­ardous to health. How­ever, for us, UCO is the best raw ma­te­rial to make bio-diesel. There­fore, it will re­duce health- re­lated is­sues too. Thus, a waste prod­uct will be con­verted into re­new­able en­ergy, which will also re­duce bur­den on the im­port of bio-diesel,” said Vig.

Use of cook­ing oil is ex­tremely harm­ful to health. Med­i­cal stud­ies have shown that con­sump­tion of used cook­ing oil leads to life-

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