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Tibetans in exile vote to elect next PM

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Dalai Lama

Tibetan exiles across the world on Sunday voted to elect their new ‘Sikyong’ or prime minister as well as members of the parliament-in-exile based here in this northern Indian hill town.

Long queues of men and women, flashing their green coloured voter identity cards, were seen in the morning at nine polling centres in this town to elect one of the two prime ministerial contenders — incumbent Lobsang Sangay and Tibetan parliament speaker Penpa Tsering.

Polling took place in 85 places around the world.

The significance of the prime minister’s post has gone up following Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama’s retirement from active politics in 2011. The Dalai Lama is, however, not a voter.

A foreign delegation comprising members of the European Parliament was here as part of the Tibetan election observation mission, the Central Tibetan Administration’s (CTA) press officer Jamphel Shonu told the agencies.

Voters will also elect 45 members of the parliament-in-exile. A total of 94 candidates are in the fray. The results will be declared on April 27.

More than 90,000 Tibetans in exile across the world were to take part in the election. In the US and Europe, the electoral process is underway.

In India, voting took place, among other places, in Darjeeling (West Bengal), Bylakuppe (Karnataka), Bengaluru (Karnataka), Dehradun (Uttarakhand) and Delhi. It ended in India at 5 p.m.

Some of the other countries where the elections are taking place include Japan, Russia and Australia.

The 2016 general elections are the second direct elections for electing the Tibetan leadership since complete devolution of political authority by the Dalai Lama.

The five-year term of Prime Minister Sangay will expire in August. The 47-year-old Harvard-educated Sangay was the first political successor to the Dalai Lama.

Sangay’s chances to get re-elected are high as he secured 19,776 votes more against his close rival Tsering, who polled 10,732 votes in a first round of voting in October 2015. At that time, 47,105 Tibetans voted.

Both prime ministerial candidates — Sangay and Tsering — had campaigned aggressively across the Tibetan settlements. Even the social media among the Tibetan diaspora was aggressively followed to highlight their issues and agenda.

“Resuming talks with China was and will remain my top priority,” Sangay told reporters after casting his vote here.

Since assuming power in August 2011, grant of more autonomy in Tibet “within the Chinese constitution”, creation of awareness on Tibet and education of the exiled youth are among crucial issues before Sangay.

He took over the reins of the government-in-exile from monk-scholar Samdhong Rinpoche, who held the post for 10 years.

Lobsang Wangyal, director-producer of the Miss Tibet pageant and a journalist, told IANS here: “I feel that Sangay’s big degree hype (Harvard doctorate) didn’t translate into real results. The talks between the Dalai Lama’s envoys and China has been stalled since 2010, which is crucial to resolve the Tibetan issue.”

He said that because Tsering promised to put every effort to revive the dialogue with China and also to improve the situation of the settlements, so many young voters voted for him.

The 80-year-old Dalai Lama, the global face of the Tibetan exile movement, lives in exile in this northern Indian hill town along with some 140,000 Tibetans, over 100,000 of them in different parts of India. Over six million Tibetans live in Tibet.(IANS)

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A Clean Ganga Not Possible Without Continuous Flow: Green

Bandyopadhayay stressed that the future of the Ganga, as well as that of its tributaries, depends on how quickly the transformation is made

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The Holy River Ganga in Haridwar, Source: Pixabay

By Bappaditya Chatterjee

The Centre’s efforts to rejuvenate the Hindu holy river have failed to impress environmentalists, who feel a clean Ganga will remain a distant dream due to the Modi government’s failure to ensure the continuous flow of the river.

“Nothing has been done for ensuring a continuous flow of the river and also for its rejuvenation by the Narendra Modi government. Continuity is of supreme importance as the holy river has been admitted in the Intensive Care Unit for many years. But the Centre is trying to treat its teeth,” said Magsaysay awardee and a member of the erstwhile National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), Rajendra Singh.

Spending crores of rupees for beautification of ghats has been “wastage of the public exchequer” because “without ensuring a continuous flow, clean Ganga will continue to remain a distant dream”, said Rajendra Singh, who goes by the sobriquet “Waterman of India”.

 

Ganga, travel
River Ganga is one of the holiest rivers in India. Pixabay

Soon after assuming office, the Modi government rolled out its flagship “Namami Gange” mission at an estimated budget Rs 20,000 crore to clean and protect the Ganga.

 

Under Namami Gange, 254 projects worth Rs 24,672 crore have been sanctioned for various activities such as construction of sewage infrastructure, ghats, development of crematoria, river front development, river surface cleaning, institutional development, biodiversity conservation, afforestation, rural sanitation and public participation.

According to the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, 131 projects out of 254 were sanctioned for creating 3,076 MLD (million litre per day) new sewage treatment plants (STPs), rehabilitating 887 MLD of existing STPs and laying 4,942 km of sewer lines for battling pollution in the Ganga and Yamuna rivers.

 

River Ganga is one of the holiest, yet the most polluted river.
River Ganga is also the most polluted river.

Till November-end of the 2018-19 fiscal, the National Mission for Clean Ganga released Rs 1,532.59 crore to the states and the Central Public Sector Undertakings for implementing the programme and meeting establishment expenditure.

Rajendra Singh said: “Ganga wants freedom today. There is no need for any barrage or dam. We want building of dams and any constructions on the river be stopped.”

 

Echoing Singh, another member of the now dissolved NGRBA, K.J. Nath, said the flow of the river had been obstructed at many locations and its own space (flood plains) encroached upon at multiple places in the name of riverfront development.

However, Jayanta Bandyopadhayay, a former Professor of IIM-Calcutta and presently Distinguished Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, said the success or otherwise of initiatives and projects of any government in cleaning the Ganga cannot be judged in a five-year time frame.

Also Read: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Inaugurates Bogibeel Bridge Over Brahmaputra River

Managing a river like the Ganga, the lifeline of a very large number of people, is socio-technically a very complex issue and should be addressed with deep interdisciplinary knowledge, he added.

Bandyopadhayay stressed that the future of the Ganga, as well as that of its tributaries, depends on how quickly the transformation is made from the one dimensional perspective of rivers by engineers, political leaders, policymakers and others to a multidimensional and interdisciplinary one. (IANS)