Leaving India

As we prepare to leave Bangalore, after nearly three challenging years of living here , I was reflecting on the good, bad and the ugly of Bangalore. I’ve prepared a list of likes and dislikes, in no particular order. I’m sure I’ve missed off things in both lists but this is it for now.

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Likes

  1. Cheap cinema tickets, gold class, recliner seats and waiter service. The UK could learn a lot here about experience at the cinema.
  2. Cheap spa and salon services. Pedicures, manicures and massages have never been so cheap.
  3. The generally warm weather. The summer in April and May isn’t much fun as it is too hot but the rest of the year ain’t too bad.
  4. Fabulous friends. I have made friends here that will last a lifetime. Friends who have been there and supported me through the lowest of lows, laughed with me at the incredible India moments and celebrated with me at the highs. They kept me sane in this sometimes insane world.
  5. The opportunity to volunteer and make a real difference to lives with a relatively small amount of cash and a bit of kindness. It goes a long way here.
  6. The opportunity to go to Bible College and study for a Theology Diploma (harder work than I first imagined!).
  7. Being nearer Indian friends of the family who live in Hyderabad and Goa and spend at least sometime with them.
  8. Being able to travel across Asia. We have had holidays of a lifetime from India. The Maldives was idyllic, Sri Lanka beautiful and Thailand marvellous. Indian holidays have been great too. Still not seen a wild tiger or leopard though. I have a new love of elephants.
  9. Subsidised books. They’re about half the price of the UK which has meant that Zahra hasn’t bankrupted us yet with her avid reading. (Yes, she does have a Kindle too).
  10. Thankful for the friends and colleagues who have sent precious parcels and brought in food contraband from the UK in suitcases. We appreciated every single item sent to us.
  11. Amazon India has been my lifesaver. The service here is phenomenal. When they started stocking proper toilet roll (Selpak) I think every expat in Bangalore started placing orders. Yes it is sad that I got excited about being able to get hold of decent toilet roll!
  12. Yoga. Everyone does yoga here and it’s great exercise. I never would have tried it in the UK.
  13. Cheap dining out. Really cheap.
  14. The opportunity to buy things ‘made in India’ before they are shipped to the west and have the prices hiked accordingly. Cheap leather handbags and purses, luxury scarves and designer clothes can all be bought at a fair price, if you know where to shop.

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Dislikes

  1. Restrictions because I am a woman. I don’t exist here in the system except at the FRRO (the Foreigners Regional Registrations Office). I am not allowed a bank account on my own and it took two whole days (yes really) at HSBC Bank to open a joint account. Even then Rez receives a text EVERY SINGLE TIME I use the debit card so men can track where and when women are spending ‘their’ money. Being ignored as a women in anything official. I can’t have a phone in my own name – it’s in Rez’s. Everything official has to be in the husband or father’s name. It is stifling. Women are discriminated against and abused at every opportunity and men here don’t stand up to it or call it out. I could go on…
  2. Men urinating at the side of the road. Everywhere. They just stand there and pee for all to see. It’s foul. It’s disgusting and adds to the pollution and sanitation problems here. Clearly exposing genitals to pee is fine if you’re a man…I’m quite sure a woman would be arrested for public indecency.
  3. Having to stand silently and listen to the national anthem before every film is shown at the cinema (arrest-able offence if you don’t) and the unnecessary interval half way through any and every film.
  4. The necessity of having to scrub feet every evening with a pumice stone due to having to remove sandals pretty much everywhere and it’s filthy here. There is rubbish strewn everywhere. Combine that with faeces and urine- it really is disgusting. My feet will take months to recover.
  5. The terrible roads and traffic. I imagine inspiration was taken from Wacky Races. Travel distance is a unit of time here. Nobody says it’s 5km away – they say it’s an hour away.
  6. The smell. Oh the vile, Sewerage, rotting rubbish smell that greets you everywhere. Cardboard is ingrained with the smell. It’s grim.
  7. Power cuts. Daily power cuts.
  8. The necessity of having Gas cyclinders. So dangerous. Storing in high temps too. What could possibly go wrong?!
  9. The water. Polluted rivers and lakes. Lack of proper drainage and sewerage system. The lack of drinking water and having to purchase 20l cans and a dispenser. Brushing teeth with bottled water. Making tea with bottled water. I am looking forward to being able to drink water out of the tap.
  10. A nation of people who will discriminate against each other whenever and wherever they can. The caste system is hateful. Forced and child marriages too. Huge discrimination against women. (Obviously there are notable exceptions, usually well travelled, intelligent people.)
  11. Bangalore Belly. The absolute bane of my life for the first year in India.
  12. Lack of any decent public toilets. Even the ones in the shopping malls leave a lot to be desired and they are the “high end”ones. I look forward to using toilet roll and soap in a public loo that doesn’t stink to high heaven of the sewers. A smell amplified by the heat. The toilets themselves too…the design means splash back at every visit. Unpleasant.
  13. The dust. Dust everywhere, everyday. Everywhere. I will not miss the dust.
  14. Fake friends. Being an expat throws you into a mix of people who are sharing the same experience but with whom you would probably never spend time with ‘back home’. I have met some people out here that have been unkind, mean and downright despicable. It has been an unpleasant learning curve.
  15. The crap supply chain. Items randomly going out of stock for 6 months or more for no apparent reason. The lack of delicatessen items here too and the random items that you need but can’t get hold of anywhere.
  16. Alcohol is so incredibly expensive here (unless you buy the ‘juice box whiskey’ which is alcohol with a flavouring added and likely to make you blind!) and the local wine is nasty. Be thankful for the £15 bottles of Champers from M&S folks – it costs between £100-£150 a bottle here!
  17. The neighbours next door. She is a domestic abuser. The shouting, screaming and crockery smashing could go on for literally hours and usually morning or late evening / nighttime. They know we can hear it as I have interrupted them on more than one occasion. They must buy crockery at a rate of knots. They’re generally inconsiderate too with loud horn blowing and puja music regularly. He is on the Malachite Complex Managing Committee. What a wonderful example of community living. (That’s sarcasm by the way.)
  18. Mosquitoes. They’re just little flying bastards.
  19. The barking dogs. Constantly barking in packs late at night and 5am every morning.
  20. The person learning to play the violin opposite. The sound of the tortured cat (violin) screeches through the air daily at 6:30am and again in the evening. (Everyone learning something new needs to practice – just not at 6:30am!)
  21. The call to prayer every morning and evening from the local mosque. 5am.
  22. The owner of the car opposite that needs to be revved heavily for 2-5mins when they start it every morning and evening around 6am and 5pm. Seriously dude, get it fixed. The noise and actual pollution is killing us.
  23. The time it takes to do anything here. Everything and everyone works at a snail’s pace. There is absolutely no sense of efficiency or urgency. The pace of walking is a Sunday stroll, meandering. In shops it takes longer to pay than to choose your items. It is incredible. The supply of labour outstrips demand so much there is literally a person to do everything so they will not and do not multitask and the wages are very low. For example, one assistant may scan your items, another will take the card payment and yet another will fold and bag your items. None of them will help each other as it’s not their job to do so. They all work extremely slowly, as there is no incentive or indeed example of working at a faster pace.
  24. Common sense and thinking for themselves is a rare quality. I believe this is a result of the school system we’re they are fed information to learn by rote and do not question or think about it. This leads to people accepting anything told to them and to not questioning it. Some of the rumours, hoaxes and fake news spread by seemingly intelligent people is frustrating. A simple Google check will tell you if it’s true or not most of the time- yet people merrily forward absolute garbage as though it’s the gospel truth.
  25. The train. Or more specifically the train horn at 5am every morning.
  26. People forward any old crap on WhatsApp without checking or thinking about whether it is a hoax or fake. Common sense is never applied. Messages inviting one and all to apply for two free tickets to airlines are merrily forwarded across multiple groups without actually sitting and thinking about whether that would be financially viable for an airline to do for example. No common sense. People believe any old crap and merrily forward that crap on.

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India has been an incredible experience, a steep learning curve and brought people together from many nations across the globe as we all try and survive together. I have made friends here that I know will last a lifetime and will understand when we talk about the challenge of living in a developing country. It has been character building.

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The Singapore Serials -another new blog

As we prepare to depart Bangalore and India and start a new chapter in our lives, I have started a new blog documenting our journey.

Head on over to Singaporeserials.wordpress.com

There will be more posts on this site, so keep following our journey. I have been keeping a diary of some of the political and other issues whilst living in Bangalore which I will publish later. (They are very long articles now and need some editing.)

Enjoy!

Karnataka State Assembly Elections 2018

When was the election?

12th May 2018

What was it for?

To elect members to the Karnataka state assembly. There are 30 Districts and 224 constituencies.

Why was it important?

The Assembly election outcome will shape the future of Karnataka. The state has historically had a government which is in opposition to the national government and as a consequence tensions can run high during the election campaign.

Bangalore has 28 seats available in the state elections. This is more than 10% of the total seats available so makes it politically important. In 2013 the seats were 13 for Congress, 12 for BJP (the party of PM Modi) and 3 for JD(S) (a regional party with negligible urban presence).

What were the key issues?

  • Drinking water and the supply of water generally
  • Sewerage and waste management infrastructure
  • Lakes (dying) and water bodies
  • Traffic congestion and management
  • Infrastructure projects, especially roadside
  • Crime

Election Observations

A few observations for those who live outside Bangalore.

Politicians here wear all white clothing. Nearly every photo of politicians and Chief Ministers will see them wearing white. Historically this was to indicate that they don’t do manual work; they are clean and so can wear white and can keep it clean. Other retired men who no longer work, drink coffee and chat also wear white clothing. It’s like a uniform to indicate wealth and politics.

Voting is done using electronic voting machines, with at least one in every polling station. A lot of the campaigning focuses on asking the electorate to press the button of the party’s symbol e.g. “Give your vote to the Lotus Symbol” for the BJP. This is a necessity due to the sheer volume of illiterate population here.

Everyone is given paid holiday to go and vote, and they are all talking about needing to vote and don’t know which part of the day they will get free. This leads me to believe that there will be long queues at polling stations and people stood (in the heat) for hours to vote. (It takes less than 5 mins in the UK and there is rarely a queue!).

Diary

This is a diary of the election campaign.

Tuesday 3rd April

The Election Commission has sprung into action at the start of the official campaign period. The Chief Electoral Officer has stated that a total of 16 FIRs (First Information Reports required by the police before an investigation can commence into an alleged offence) have been registered in the last two days for “inducement and gratification to voters” in the state (i.e. buying votes). In the first two days alone they have seized ₹1.21 crore (£132,420) in cash, 139 litres of liquor, over 2kg of gold worth ₹49 lakh (£53,625), 160 laptops, as well as sarees and cookers. It’s so blatant!

In addition, in order to maintain law and order, 31,982 arms have been deposited, 239 people bonded over and 269 non bailable warrants executed.

The Election Commission’s teams have also removed banners, wall writings and posters from public and private places.

What a start.

Wednesday 4th April

Central Karnataka consists of 7 districts and the BJP and JD(S) are making efforts to end the ruling Congress party’s dominance in the region. The main issues in this area are drinking water and the failure to implement the Yettinahole project; problems of coconut, acrecanut and sericulture farmers; the Upper Bhadra Project.

Thursday 5th April

Three mobile apps were launched exclusively for Bengalureans to help create better awareness among voters about polling. The apps were all created in 3 days by the District Election Officer and Bruhut Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) commissioners. (BBMP is effectively the state civil service).

Friday 6th April

Students of the Malleshwaram Ladies Association College demonstrated and held placards stating “Your vote matters get out and vote”, urging people to vote in the 12th May elections.

Saturday 7th April

The state government vehicle drivers federation has filed a complaint against the Chief Election Officer, Sanjeev Kumar, alleging harassment for forcing drivers to work without any intimation.

The BBMP is renaming 112/8278 polling stations and moving 393/8278 polling stations. (So that’s a late decision and bound to confuse people and probably mean that some people won’t vote as they don’t know where to go. )

The police have assigned one patrol car for every 15 polling stations and in addition set up 20 checkpoints along the city border.

The election facts and figures:

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah is projecting himself as leader of the Ahinda (the Kannada acronym for minorities ‘backward classes’ and Dalits). This is traditionally the ground of the Congress party.

Sunday 8th April

We received the first election pamphlet with the newspaper this morning.

The BJP’s Central Election Committee announced its first list of 72 candidates for the 12th May Assembly elections in Karnataka. The meeting was was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Congress party organised and held a massive rally at the Palace Grounds in Bangalore in the late afternoon. We got corralled down back streets and lanes to avoid the main road and side roads blocked off by buses parking. The traffic jam heading in from the north backed up from the Palace Grounds past Hebbal flyover, effectively bringing the entrance to the city to a standstill.

The noise was incredible. I managed to take some video footage (but it is poor quality and won’t upload to WordPress!) of the sheer volume of chanting going on by the thousands inside.

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At the rally Congress President Rahul Gandhi attacked PM Modi for not helping Bengaluru which he hailed as a symbol of India.

Monday 9th April

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Monday led his party in a nationwide daylong fast against caste violence, communalism and the non-functioning of Parliament, for which the UPA major blames the ruling BJP.

Congress workers are observing a daylong fast in all state and district headquarters to voice their protest against the BJP government and to promote communal harmony and peace across the country.

JD(S) state president H D Kumaraswamy appealed to the Muslim community on Sunday not to believe the Congress, whose leaders were saying that voting for the JD(S) was akin to supportlng the Congress. He said the latter was not capable of preventing BJP from coming to power.

He criticised the two national parties as two faces of the same coin and said they were creating a gulf between Hindus and Muslims, in the coastal region especially, for electoral gains.

Kumaraswamy said the Siddaramaiah government had taken loans amounting to lakhs of crores of rupees, but had nothing to show for development.

The JD(S) leader said the government claims to have spent Rs 58,000 crore for irrigation, but water had not flowed to the farmers’ fields.

Tuesday 10th April

There is a “None of the above” (‘NOTA’) option on Assembly ballot papers; also known as ‘against all’ or ‘scratch’ option. This would be absolute genius in the UK and I believe more people would vote if it was available. It allows voters to indicate disapproval of all candidates in the election. The winning candidate (the person with the most votes) will still stand even if the NOTA votes exceed their total. It is an indication of disapproval. It was introduced in 2017 and over 15 lakh people exercised this option!

Other countries have NOTA votes including Columbia, Ukraine,Brazil,Bangladesh, Finland, Spain, Sweden, Chile, France, Belgium and Greece.

Wednesday 11th April

We drove past a police and military checkpoint on the way back from the school run today. They had automatic rifles. They are stopping vehicles at random to check for unaccountable large amounts of cash and seize it. This is to stop the literal buying of votes in the election.

The chief electoral officer is reviewing a report on the alleged violation of the code of conduct by BJP President Amit Shah by giving INR 5 lakh to the family of a deceased party worker.

The chief electoral officer has now seized INR 4.7 crore in cash and INR 1.2 crore in materials since 27th March.

The JD(S) Party is losing Muslim leaders which is damaging its polling prospects. The Muslim community has been the strong support base for the JD(S). Chief Minister Siddaramaiah (Congress Party) has been consolidating Muslim support through various programs of assistance over the last few years. It appears this shrewd action is winning him votes.

Friday 13th April

The congress party leadership have decided against allowing the Congress party’s president G Parameshwara and Chief Minister Siddaramaiah from contesting two seats in the elections.

Both Congress and BJP parties are going to micromanage polls in Karnataka with a mass contact program in order to win votes. The BJP has appointed ‘Vistaaraks’ (doorstep party faithful), ‘Page Pramukhs’ (people in chagprge of a page of the voter list) and ‘Shakti Kendra Karyakartas’ (people managing a set of booths and responsible for chasing 30 voters). Congress in the meantime has organised ‘Mane Manage Congress’ which is a door to door campaign across all 224 Assembly constituencies. They have assigned booth management to all party members under the banner ‘Namma Kshetra, Namma Hone’ (our constituency, our responsibility).

Saturday 14th April

The Congress Party had to defer the central election committee meeting yesterday to finalise candidates for election following a bitter row between Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, the Lok Sabha leader, Congress Party president and the former chief minister about selection of candidates. The meeting is to reconvene this morning.

Monday 16th April

Congress released a list of 218 names of candidates for the election. The party has re nominated 107/122 sitting Members of the Legislative Assembly (‘MLAS’). This does beg the question as to why the remaining 15 MLAs have not been selected as candidates. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah will contest only from Chamundeshwari rather then from two seats as he had hoped. Of the candidates announced, 15 are women, 15 are Muslim and 2 are Christians.

The BJP has strategically waited to announce the names of about the remaining 100 candidates after studying the list of Congress candidates.

Tuesday 17th April

This cartoon from the Times of India really does say it all. Filing of nominations begins today. The CM Siddaramaiah has been told he cannot stand for election in two constituencies by the Congress leadership.

Wednesday 18th April

There’s been a lot of mentions of the Reddy family in the newspapers. Janadharna Reddy was a Minister in the BSY Government between 2008 and 20011. He was found guilty of illegal mining, under invoicing iron ore exports and the use of tax havens through their company. He is out on bail. Karunakara Reddy is a former MP and ex minister in the BSY government between 2008 and 2011. He is a part owner in the company. Somashekara Reddy is a former MLA and also part owner of the company. The BJP have fielded Somashekara Reddy as a candidate in Bellari City and is considering Karunakara too.

The police were out again at the school junction checking vehicles for hoards of unexplainable cash that could be used for election bribes or buying votes.

A leaked casts census conducted by the state government was published in the Times of India. 19% of the state population is made up of Dalits and 60 of the 224 seats can be influenced by Dalits. 36 of the 224 seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes (‘SCs’).

Thursday 19th April

In a move that will surprise no one, three of the sitting Congress MLAs who have not been selected as candidates to contest their seats again have resigned from the party and quit. Two have crossed over the floor to join the BJP and JD(S) in opposition. One of the MLAs who has resigned (Inamdar) has won the seat for Congress 5 times, so the thought process around deselecting him is baffling; unless of course the election officials are being persuaded by something that’s not in the public domain.

Meanwhile a truck hit the convoy of the Union Minister Hedge in Haveri which is being investigated as an attempt by ‘jihadi’ elements to kill him (rather than being treated as a road traffic accident).

BJP President Amit Shah visited Hosakote town in Bengaluru Rural district as part of his election roadshow.

Friday 20th April

Candidates began to file their nominations across the state today. The BJP announced its third list of candidates. The Janata Dal (Secular) released its second list of candidates. (One has to wonder how a candidate feels being on a second of third list from a party and not on the first list published.) The JD(S) list has candidates who have crossed the floor to join them…so that will make interesting races in their constituencies.

Interestingly the candidates have to list their assets and liabilities when filing their nomination papers. (That’s something we could introduce in the UK to see how representative of the people they are and how much MPs profit from their positions.) Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s assets total Rs 11.2 crore (about £1.2 million) and liabilities total Rs 2.6 crore (£280,433) (making his net worth Rs 8.6 crore or £927, 587).

JD(S) and Congress supporters clashed at Mysore Palace as the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his rival candidate of the JD(S) ran into each other while filing their nominations.

Saturday 21st April

The Deccan Herald reported that on Thursday, the Static Surveillance Teams from the election law enforcement squads, seized Rs 74.8 lakh in cash, vehicles and other items. Together, it confiscated Rs 30.65 crore cash, 7.5 kg gold worth Rs 1.76 crore, silver valued at Rs 11.47 lakh, besides 4.5 litres of liquor and vehicles and other items Rs 1.8 crore.

“Flying squad” teams confiscatoed Rs 3.15 lakh in cash and 11 litres of 140 bottles of Indian Made Foreign Liquor worth Rs 3,600. They also seized 35.750 kg marijuana worth Rs 7 lakh, other items including a pistol and a double barrel gun!

In total, the squads seized Rs 1.8 crore in cash, 812.6 litres of liquor, and other items worth Rs 13.13 crore along with 83 vehicles worth Rs 1.92 crore.

Police also confiscated Rs 7 lakh in cash, 10 sarees, 160 laptops and 509.2 litres of liquor. 386 FIRs were registered on Thursday with around 22 of these for cases related to cash seizure and other model code of conduct violations.

The excise department on seized 9,981 litres of IMFL and other liquor worth Rs 50.8 lakh. It also registered 48 “heinous cases”, 66 cases for breach of license conditions and 127 cases under section 15(a) of Karnataka Excise Act. Overall, the department captured around 1.9 lakh litres of IML and other liquor worth Rs 8.9 crore and registered 1,000 heinous cases, 1463 cases for breach of licence conditions, 2 NDPS cases and 2,221 cases under section 15(a) of the Karnataka Excise Act.

Around 422 different types of vehicles, too, have been seized. It is absolutely incredible the amount of attempted corruption that is going on and one has to wonder what the percentage of the overall undetected corruption this is.

The Times of India is reporting that all the candidate lists are reinforcing the number of “controversial” candidates. Some candidates have been charged with criminal offences (yet unproved), there’s an actor, wealthy businessmen and children of sitting MLAs (nepotism).

Sunday 22nd April

Consumer protection activists from different parts of Karnataka have brought out a ‘Consumer Manifesto’, demanding the strengthening of the consumer protection policy.

Tuesday 24th April

Last day for filing of nominations.

Wednesday 25th April

Videos are circulating on WhatsApp criticising Congress’s record 8n Office with the aim of encouraging support for the BJP. They’re between 3-6 minutes long and demand answers from. Ingress ministers about what they have done in their constituencies.

Congress political ads are being posted on YouTube, appearing between music videos etc.

Scrutiny of nominations takes place today.

Thursday 26th April

5 data entry clerks were arrested for creating over 1000 fake voters in the electoral rolls. 2 of the 5 worked for the BBMP. The police confirmed that 10 such cases had been registered across the city and 7000 fake voters had been added to the register.

The BJP are pinning their hopes on a final two week push by PM Modi when he hits the campaign trail following a rather lacklustre campaign to date.

3,374 candidates have registered to date. Only 259 are women. 482 are over 60 years old with 5 of those aged between 81-90 years old. Only 242 candidates are aged between 25-30 years old.

Friday 27th April

The Times of India is reporting that poll officials are transferring bribes online paying voters INR 1000 before the vote on 12th May and another INR 1000 after if the candidate wins. As the average person earns about INR 500 a day that’s a very tempting offer. The funds are transferred from accounts of trusted workers or businessmen and as the amounts are so low they fall under the radar of the tax department.

Between 27th March and 25th April Election officials have seized cash and freebies worth INR 9.1 crore from 28 constituencies in Bangalore. Two FIRs have been filed against BJP and Congress for the illegal distribution of goods.

The polls are predicting a hung Assembly in Karnataka with Congress in the majority with BJP second.

Today is the last date to withdraw nominations.

Tuesday 1st May

Its a holiday for a lot of people today so the political parties are out advertising and rallying. PM Modi is in Karnataka state holding three separate rallies today.

Advertising on the front page of the Times of India.

Saturday 5th May

Full front page adverts appear in newspapers with the BJP’s policies.

Congress had provided a full manifesto separately in newspapers last week. Their advert:

There are rumours circulating in WhatsApp that Google are predicting a BJP win which is causing consternation amongst the locals I know.

So the BJP are promising a lot in their manifesto called “Namma Karnatakakakke Namma Vachana” (“Our promise for our Karnataka”) including a ban on cow slaughter. The party’s Hindu agenda is also reflected in other policies including the re establishment of a ‘Cow Protection Commission’.

It promises to make Bangalore a world class city with a modern infrastructure, including making it a “zero garbage” city (absolutely no chance of doing that without a culture change).

Obvious financial incentives to vote BJP include offering INR 25,000 and 3 grams of gold for brides in the BPL category, giving college students laptops, opening 300 canteens to provide low cost high quality food, waiver of crop loans and to provide direct income support to small and marginal farmers.

One of the BJP candidates for the Assembly has had a fatal heart attack. The election in the Jayanagar constituency has been postponed as a result.

Sunday 6th May

PM Modi is in Karnataka campaigning again. Yesterday he alleged that Congress had struck a deal with the JD(S) regarding the state assembly elections but did not say what exactly. PM Modi predicted a win for the BJP with Congress second and the JD(S) third.

The amount of money and goods seized by police and the flying squads has increased again. This is seized to prevent misuse during the election campaign. Up until Friday, cash goods and valuables worth INR 152.78 crore had been confiscated.

Lots more BJP adverts appearing in newspapers. The election commission has set up ‘Sakai’ or pink polling booths for women and ethnic polling booths for tribal people across the state. (Pink polling booths for women. I honestly don’t know where to start with the sexist stereotyping of women here.)

Yesterday Rahul Gandhi demanded answers from PM Modiregarding the BJP candidate selection for the election. Some candidates are allegedly involved in corruption, putting out a video on his twitter account titled ‘Karnataka’s Most Wanted’.

The 203 voters in Vyasanakere village in Hosapete talk have to travel 6km to vote at their nearest polling booth. The roads in the village are mud so people have to walk the 6km in the heat to vote.

Monday 7th May

The BJP have alleged that Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had met ‘declared absconder’ Vijay Eswaran and accepted an “expensive gift” of a Hublot Watch. I had to look up Hublot watches as I have never heard of them but prices seem to start around ₹500000 (£6k).

The Election Commission has ordered that all political adverts to be published on 11th and 12th May have to be approved from the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee.

The BJP and Congress parties have now published their manifestos but with only days to go before the poll the J.D.(S) have yet to publish theirs.

This is an interesting chart produced by the Deccan Herald on the candidates standing for election:

Whilst the number of candidates with serious criminal cases is alarming the fact that some of them are facing murder and attempted murder charges it’s staggering they are even being allowed to stand for election. 50 of the candidates are illiterate so how on Earth are they going to create and analyse laws they cannot read?

Tuesday 8th May

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has issued a legal notice to PM Modi for “civil and criminal defamation” and has claimed damages of Rs 100 crore he PM Modi failed to tender an “unconditional public apology”.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has accused PM Modi of polarising people in the Karnataka state and said it was “language unbecoming of the PM”. (I think this chap needs to have a quiet word with Donald Trump as well and do the whole world a favour!)

Another poll survey published yesterday (by ABP-CSDS) indicated that Karnataka was heading for a hung Assembly with the ruling Congress party with the most seats and BJP second. They predict that JD(S) and BSP combined will be the kingmakers.

The Election Commission is commandeering 5000 buses for election use on Saturday and Sunday, removing buses from routes with low demand (“where the demand is very less”). The daily rent for buses has been increased from Rs 86000 to Rs 100000 on these days by the enterprising companies hoping to rake in some cash.

The Election Commission released updated figures on cash and goods seized to Monday 7th May. Rs 43.52 crore in cash and 49 kilos of gold valued at Rs 15.26 crore. The Excise department also seized cash of Rs 54.46 and 5.15l of IML worth Rs 23.90 crore. In addition the police have registered 924 FIRs, booked 2,244 heinous cases and 2,357 cases for breach of licence. One of the expats here was stopped by the armed police yesterday and had her car searched. She asked to see the search warrant and they just looked at her blankly and proceeded to search the car and not find anything.

Commemorative stamps have been released to commemorate the 15th Karnataka Assembly Elections. The stamps represent Karnataka cultural heritage and the importance of voting.

The JD (S) finally published their manifesto yesterday promising to waive crop loans to the value of Rs 53,000 crore within 24 hours of coming into power. They have also promised free education to all girls. There is also promised financial assistance to those living BPL.

I got caught up in a BJP election convoy near where I was volunteering at a slum summer school. I was pawed at and grabbed by men wanting to talk to me and tell me about BJP and Congress. The children were polite and asked me questions and shook my hand. The grown men could learn a lot from them. It was quite intimidating and an example of how volatile Bangalore is – the atmosphere can change in an instant.

Wednesday 9th May

9,746 original voter ID cards have been seized by the Election Commission after a raid on an apartment in the Rajarajeswarinagar constituency yesterday, together with the equipment to make the voter ID cards. Both the BJP and JD(S) parties have requested that the election be countermanded in that constituency blaming the Congress candidate.

5,000 to 6,000 PSU bank officials and 1,700 staff from SBI and Canara banks have been assigned poll duty on 12th May, which is a bank holiday. The Sunday is also a bank holiday due to the election. They are expecting ATMs to run out of cash by Sunday.

PM Modi’s visit to south Bengaluru in the evening caused traffic chaos all afternoon. At the election rally PM Modi accuses the Congress leaders of not stopping at anything to defame Bengaluru. (Now, even I as a expat citizen of Bangalore, find that difficult to believe.)

The leaders of the other parties were criss crossing the state campaigning and across Bengaluru too.

Proper mud slinging political ad from the BJP. I had to look up ‘Goondaism’!

The Election Commission has issued the government mandate (“which cannot be violated”) stating that all private industries and organisations have to give paid leave to all employees on 12th May, polling day. The mandate starts at 6am in 12th May to 6am on 13th May.

Thursday 10th May

Today is the last day of election campaigning before the vote on Saturday. Purdah begins at 5pm this evening and the state goes dry too. Candidates can conduct door to door campaigns The ‘liqor’ store was busy when I visited to stock up on kingfisher beers at lunchtime. Paid campaigners are dressed up and out in force and I have only seen BJP so far.

All parties have been visiting home owners to encourage them to vote for them. My helper had told me that the owner of her flat has received Rs3000 from each of the BJP and Congress and JD(S) to vote for them. I suppose if bribes are being offered they may as well play the politicians at their own game and take the cash from all of them; Rs 9,000 is a months salary here.

The Election Commission is providing ambulances near polling booths on Saturday (for the first time) to cater for any medical emergencies.

The church sent out a message to everyone encouraging them to vote on Saturday.

I simply can’t imagine that happening in the UK.

Friday11th May

Campaigning is now complete. The BJP have concentrated on Modi’s record in Office at the Union Government and the Congress Party have concentrated on what they have achieved in Karnataka over the last 5 years in Office. The JD(S) campaign was a more straight forward plea to give a local party a chance.

The BJP is hoping to increase their vote share by a few percentage points and seats accordingly. It is why this election campaign has been so hotly contested.

Rahul Gandhi (Congress President) accused the PM Modi of “indulging diversionary tactics” by raking up his Italian ancestry.

BJP National President Amit Shah promised to investigate the corruption within the Congress Party in Karnataka if voted into power.The BJP have been accusing Congress of corruption throughout the campaign.

The Police have registered an FIR against 14 people in connection with the seizure of 9,896 voter ID cards from an apartment in Jalahalli. One of those is a Congress MLA.

The BJP held motorbike rallies and held roadshows in 27 of the Assembly constituencies yesterday. The JD(S) President made an emotional appeal for votes saying he will not live long if he didn’t receive votes.

There was a reminder for people today about the difficulty of travelling now that 40% of buses have been requisitioned for poll duty. Over 9,000 buses will be on poll duty and 45,000 cabs.

There are 32 Lakh people with disabilities and differing abilities in Karnataka and only about 50% vote. This is due mainly to the lack of facilities provided such as a ramp for wheelchair users. Accessibility is a huge issue in Bangalore with little, if any at all, consideration given to access for people with differing abilities. The Chief Electoral Officer has appointed 180 election officers to assist those voters with different abilities.

As purdah comes into force the Election Commission will be monitoring all candidates and parties for political activity. No more than 5 people belonging to the same political party will be allowed to move around the city in a group. No canvassing is allowed within a 100m radius of polling stations and cell phones are banned. A gag order has been placed on media outlets regarding political adverts, opinion polls or any other analysis regarding the election. (Which is interesting as today’s papers are carrying adverts and have pages of analysis).

Yesterday the police seized 1000 litres of alcohol which was being transported illegally in a water tanker from Telangana state into Karnataka. Estimated value is Rs 6 lakh.

PM Modi launched a blistering attack on Congress over the treatment of Dalits in the state and alleged that they “betrayed” them.

Seven people were injured, some with head injuries, and a hospital ransacked damaging equipment, windows and the water supply pipeline in the Emergency Room during a clash of campaigners from the BJP and Congress. The mob was only dispersed after the police resorted to a lathi charge.

Saturday 12th May

The state votes today to elect 222 MLAs in a vote that will have ramifications nationally. As many as 5.06 crore voters are set to elect the 15th Legislative Assembly of Karnataka between 7am to 6pm. 1.40 Lakh security personal have been deployed across the state to ensure free and fair voting during the elections.

More than 100 candidates fielded by Congress, the BJP and JD(S) are children of current and former ministers and MLAs.

By Friday the Election Commission had seized Rs87.01 crore cash and 5.26lakh litres of alcohol from various parts of Karnataka. Hordes of cash were hidden in cement sacks and under bus seats as well as their ingenious ways to hide contraband.

Considering there is a ban on political adverts and campaigning I am not sure how a full page, front page advert in the newspaper for the BJP and full page 3 advert for Congress is allowable. Clearly there are nuances I don’t understand. The Karnataka Election Commission has leased with Facebook to ensure an advert appears on news feeds to remind people to vote.

As ‘everyone’ has been given paid holiday to vote, drivers were not working today so I drove myself, for the first time ever, to the local shops. It was like playing wacky races. Cars overtaking, undertaking and cars, bikes and autos coming towards me the wrong way down the road. Rez was impressed at my Indian driving skills, which basically involved not flinching and much horn honking whilst weaving in and out of traffic and people from all and every direction. It was certainly an experience.

The election campaign has been a long, noisy and quite bitter with allegations and accusations flying around across parties. This unbecoming and demeaning behaviour focussed on issues such as caste, religion and community. It is an important election nationally. Congress want to retain power in Karnataka as it is the only major state ruled by it. The BJP want to recapture the state it lost in 2013 as it wants a foothold in the south, which is is lacking at the moment. The key though is that it may be an indicator for the next Lok Sabha elections. If it is, the state of politics in India is on a slippery slope to the bottom.

Sunday 13th May

The majority of exit polls are predicting a hung Assembly with the BJP as the largest party. Voter turnout was 70% across Karnataka but only 54% (estimated) in Bengaluru, the lowest in the state. The highest was in Ramanagaram with 80% turnout.

Tuesday 15th May

In a very confusing day, with seats and majorities being stated from early morning it took me a while to ascertain that these were actually predictions of who was in the lead. The Election Commission of India website has crashed all day long.

The anticipated results were declared at 6pm (but not that I could see in any official capacity).

AnticipatedResults:

BJP 104 (up 65)

Congress 78 (down 43)

JDS 38 (down2)

Others 2 (down 20)

The JD(S) are going to form the government with the support of Congress. They approached the Governor to state their plans. The Chief Minister will be from JD(S) – Kumaraswamy. As predicted it is a hung Assembly with the BJP with the most seats.

Official results page from the Election Commission website at around 7pm.

Wednesday 23rd May

Update.

The last 10 or so days in Karnataka have been incredible. The Congress and JD(S) parties submitted a formal written letter to the Governor confirming a coalition to govern as the majority parties united together. Despite this the Governor, a BJP loyalist of Modi, invited the BJP to govern and hold the Chief Minister post and gave them 15 days to prove their support in a floor test. Congress and JD(S) took all their MLAs out of Bangalore to resort hotels so that they could not be poached or persuaded to join or support the BJP. Congress and JD(S) petitioned the Supreme Court who then gave the BJP one day to prove their support in a floor test, especially as the BJP were reluctant in court to state who their supporters would be. The next day, instead of the floor test, the BJP Chief Minister reigned, after only 55 hours in Office. The JD(S) Chief Minister Kumaraswamy was sworn in today in a ceremony with much pomp and VIPs present. Rahul and Sonia Gandhi (Congress) flew in to be there and show support. An estimated 5,000 villagers attended, all dressed in white, to show their support. BJP supporters turned out to protest wearing black armbands. Roads were shut, traffic was more chaotic than usual and the schools closed at 12:40pm (with an hours notice to collect children.) It’s certainly been an incredible time.

Key:

  1. Rs = Indian Rupees
  2. Lakh = 100,000. (In monetary terms about £1,100)
  3. Crore = 10 million / 100 Lakh. (In monetary terms about £110,000)
  4. Crorepati = a Hindustani word for a millionaire. A crorepati is a person who resides in a household whose net worth or wealth exceeds ten million rupees or units of another currency.
  5. FIR = First Information Report, filed by police to open an investigation
  6. IMFL = Indian Made Foreign Liquor e.g. whiskey
  7. IML = Indian Made Liquor
  8. MLAs = Members of the Legislative Assembly
  9. JD(S) = Janata Dal (Secular)
  10. BBMP = Bruhathi Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike
  11. BPL = Below Poverty Line
  12. SC = Scheduled Castes
  13. BSP = Bahujan Samajwadi Party of Mayawati with a presence only in Uttar Pradesh.
  14. Goondaism = refers to anti-social behavior of persons who generally indulge in violent and other “illegitimate means” to get things done.
  15. Congress = Indian National Congress Party
  16. BJP = Bharatiya Janata Party, a Hindu nationalist party.
  17. AAP = Aam Aadmi Party, making its debut in the state.
  18. Lathi = police baton

The Dutch Orange Party 2018: Tropical Orange

What is it?

Every year the Dutch expat community in Bangalore host an Orange Party to celebrate King’s Day. It is an invitation only event. Each year the party has a theme; this year the theme was “Tropical” Orange. It’s an opportunity to dress up in all your Orange clothing and have fun and party, eating, drinking and dancing the night away.

This year they were also raising money for the charity Odanadi. This charity addresses all forms of sexual violence against women and children with a special focus on human trafficking.

So not only do we get to dress up and have fun, we’re supporting a great charity too.

When and where was it?

The party was held in North Bangalore this year at Denny’s Bar, not far from where we live, on Saturday 5th May from 8:30pm to 1am.

Why party?

Koningsdag or King’s Day is a national holiday in the Netherlands. It is usually celebrated on 27 April (or 26 April if the 27th is a Sunday), which is the birthday of King Willem-ALEXANDER. Until 2013, the Dutch celebrated Queen’s Day on 30th April being Queen Beatrix’s birthday. She abdicated in favour of Willem-ALEXANDER in 2013.

Koningsdag is known for its nationwide vrijmarkt (“free market”), at which the Dutch sell their used items. It is also an opportunity for “orange madness” or “oranjegekte” a frenzy of Orange, the national colour.

Costume Party

The Dutch dress up spectacularly well every year and wear the same design and material. The rest of the guests get into the spirit of things and dress up in all their Orange too. It’s a great display of inventiveness and fun as the costumes appear at the party.

Photos

Some photos of the fun evening we had and the great costumes on display.

If you ever get invited to an Orange Party, accept the invite. It’s great fun.

Crazy Cricket

When was it?

Friday 13th April 2018 from 8pm until midnight.

Who was playing?

We went to see the Royal Challengers Bangalore (‘RCB’) play against the Kings XI Punjab.

Getting there and getting in

We left early to get into the city and have dinner before the match. We then walked the 15 mins to the stadium. Fighting our way through the crowds, being pushed and shoved. Having found our entrance location on the Stadium map we then dodged face painters, merchandise sellers and other pavement blockers to get to our entrance. When we got to our gate the queue was the entire length of the stadium. We demonstrated how much we had become locals by walking to the very front of the queue and joined the mini queue to get in at the front of the queue (only in India!).

The police (with long sticks) where everywhere and failing to control the crowds or anything else for that matter. Some were just sat down on the pavement together looking on (what the point on them being there was lost on me.) Eventually the police directed us to the next gate and we got inside the stadium very quickly. Through security inside the gate who were confiscating everything except phones and cash; Rez had to ditch a pen! We then proceeded up the stairs (avoiding the low roof) into another queue to get past another security gate. The crush became so strong that the airport style security gate was moved out of the way as it was being pushed so hard from the crowd. We finally got in and to our seats, only to find them occupied by some lads. We didn’t even have to ask them to move – I just looked at them and they got up and left.

A note on (the lack of ) health and safety

Health and safety was completely missing. The entrance to the stadium complex was too narrow for the crowds as the narrow door opened outwards so we had to squeeze in between the door and the barrier to get in. The complete lack of stewarding inside the stadium complex led to bottlenecks and crushes and people sat on all stairways blocking access to and from seats. Sections of the seating were caged off. There were no apparent stewards at all. If the stadium had to evacuate in an emergency there would be loads of fatalities. It was actually quite shocking that the messages and history of incidents in other parts of the world haven’t translated into legislation or better practice here in India.

The match

Cricket matches in India are crazy. None of the polite calmness and clapping that accompanies English cricket matches. No. This is a party atmosphere. Every time a wicket is taken, a ball hit for four or six everyone is out of their seats shouting, dancing and drumming, accompanied by the cheer leaders. It’s mad in a great way!

Drummers waited for their cue.

Birds of prey flew overhead in the hope of catching something tasty.

Sellers continually walked the rows selling samosas and other salmonella snacks for the brave.

RCB were fielding first. 3 wickets came early and in quick succession. It was an exciting match. The Kings XI Punjab were all out for 155 off 19.2 overs.

Time for RCB to bat. Last year the opening batsman was out for a duck on the first ball, so I was hoping that the same wouldn’t happen this year. It did. Brendan McCullum hit an easy catch. I facepalmed. This was not a great start or a good omen!

Things progressed at, what seemed like, a snails pace until the 16th over and the match was in the balance. RCB needed to start tanking the ball out of the field to get enough runs before overs ran out. Then AB de Villiers came into bat and turned the game around with two 4s and four 6s. When he was caught out there was a bit of excitement at the change of batsman and then Mandeep Singh was run out in the very next ball. All the good work seemed to be crumbling away. Then Sundar came to bat and knocked out two 4s to take the match. RCB won with four wickets. We left the stadium at midnight.

This is the final ball of the game.

Leaving the stadium

If possible, the crush leaving the stadium was worse than the crush to get in. I was pushed, prodded and groped in the crowd by pervy Indian middle aged men. It was just incredible. Challenging them directly did not deter them. If I was not more concerned about protecting Zahra I would have punched the little git. The fact that it was so blatant indicates how men here think of women and that they will go unpunished for sexual harassment. Not one of the men I challenged looked bothered at all that I challenged them for groping me.Despite this – we had a great night. One of the fun things to do in Bangalore.

Karnataka State Elections 2018

When is the election?

12th May 2018

What is it for?

To elect members to the Karnataka state assembly. There are 30 Districts and 224 constituencies.

Why is it important?

The Assembly election outcome will shape the future of Karnataka. The state has historically had a government which is in opposition to the national government and as a consequence tensions can run high during the election campaign.

Our church commenced praying for the elections last month. The are fervent prayers from the congregation and there is anticipation of corruption and violence.

Bangalore has 28 seats available in the state elections. This is more than 10% of the total seats available so makes it politically important. In 2013 the seats were 13 for Congress, 12 for BJP (the party of PM Modi) and 3 for JD(S) (a regional party with negligible urban presence).

What are the key issues?

  • Drinking water and the supply of water generally
  • Sewerage and waste management infrastructure
  • Lakes (dying) and water bodies
  • Traffic congestion and management
  • Infrastructure projects, especially roadside
  • Crime

The indelible ink mark of Indian elections

Indian voters show their index finger marked with ink by the election officer to indicate they have voted. It stays on the finger for 3-4 days and on the nail and cuticle for over 4 weeks. Election ink is a permanent stain on the cuticle which only disappears with new growth. It is a phosphoric ink, using Silver Nitrate, that is applied during elections. The ink is used to prevent Electoral fraud such as double voting. It is effective here due to the lack of identity documents of the citizens.

One candidate, multiple constituencies contested

In India political candidates can contest seats simultaneously in more than one constituency under S33(7) of the Representation of People Act. This is a historical provision to maintain the right of any citizen to represent the people in any part of the country, allowing for freedom of movement and work.

The problem with this is if the candidate wins in both places. One of the seats had to be vacated triggering a by-election and the associated additional costs and time wasted. (It’s also a slap in the face to voters who supported them!).

The Supreme Court is hearing a private petition to strike down S33(7) stating these grounds and the Court has asked for the Central Government’s response on the issue. The election Commission has already made it clear that it is against candidates contesting multiple seats.

It unlikely to change anytime soon if politicians have their say. Multiple seats contested widen their chances of being elected. This election is already seeing discussions and arguments about which party member can contest which seats.

Progress

I will be maintaining a diary of events during the election campaign to see how it progresses. I will publish it after the election. Watch this space!

Easter Sunday

Easter Rangoli

Easter Rangoli

A bit of a delayed blog on Easter due to illness over the last couple of weeks. Better late than never though! Enjoy,

What is it?

Easter is the day Christians remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead after 3 days lying in the tomb. He defeated death and sin. He conquered evil so that all who believe in Him may go to Heaven. It is detailed in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and Paul the Apostle wrote about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians chapter 15.

When is it?

The week before Easter is called Holy Week which includes Maundy Thursday when the Last Supper (the last meal Jesus had with His disciples) took place and Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified.

Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full moon in March or April. In 2018 it was on Sunday 1st April, (which was also the same day as April Fools Day in the UK.)

What is it?

The resurrection occurred 3 days after Jesus was crucified by the Romans at Calvary and was anointed and laid to rest in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea and a large rock rolled in front of it. On the third day God raised Him from the dead. The tomb was discovered to be empty when the women visited the tomb just before sunrise on the first day of the week. Angels appeared to them and told them that Christ had risen from the dead, not to be afraid and to tell the disciples. Peter, the most beloved disciple, ran to the tomb to find the folded grave clothes and the stone rolled away.

The belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the key to Christianity. It is the plan of salvation and redemption, the sacrifice was an atonement for sin. “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”(1 John chapter 1 verse 9) “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John chapter 3 verse 16).

Jesus appeared to the disciples and many people over a period of 40 days before He ascended to Heaven to sit at the right hand of God. Jesus first appeared to a woman, Mary Magdalene, and commissioned her to tell the disciples that He had risen from the dead. Jesus week later He appeared to doubting Thomas who had to touch Jesus’ wounds before he would believe it was Jesus risen from the dead. Jesus was not instantly recognisable after His resurrection and it took some moments before people recognised Him. Jesus said “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”(John 20:24-29)

My faith

I know that because I believe that Jesus was the Son of God, that He died for me on the cross and that I have asked for forgiveness for all the wrong in my life that I will be with Him in Heaven one day. My life has a purpose. There is a reason I am here on earth and that is fulfilling God’s plan for me whilst I am here.

In the West merely using the word Jesus (in a religious rather than cursing context) makes people uncomfortable and shy away from being near you. That one word – Jesus- makes people think that you are some religious fanatic but the reality is that I am just like any other person with my successes, failings, inadequacies, skills, worries and joys and I swear (I am getting better, slowly) etc. We all have faults we try to correct and improve on throughout life. I am on a journey just like everyone else. I am the same on the outside as anybody else – what makes me different is my belief in the Son of God, that He forgives me and that gives my life a purpose.

How is it celebrated?

In the UK church services were held at sunrise to mark when Jesus was discovered to have risen from the dead. Other church services were held in the morning. There was a celebratory atmosphere with joyful singing that the Son of God has risen from the dead so that we may be with Him in Paradise.

Families gathered and have roast dinner together. I was quite jealous of some of the meals being ate by my family back in the UK; they kindly shared pictures of their feast! Chocolate Easter Eggs were exchanged and lots of chocolate eaten.

Most shops in the UK were closed on Easter Sunday. Shops in the UK are only required to close on 2 days each year – Christmas Day, when Jesus was born, and Easter Sunday, when Jesus rose from the dead.

The ‘Easter Bunny’ paid a visit in the early hours of the morning and left chocolate eggs lying around inside (or in the garden in the UK). Zahra got quite a haul. Parcels from the UK added to the fabulousness. Chocolate eggs were eaten for breakfast (as is common place on Easter Sunday).

Want to know more?

If you want to know more or, best of all, welcome Jesus into your heart take a look at http://www.crosscheck.org.uk for more information.