Our flagship daily news show, where hosts Shashank Bhargava and Snigdha Sharma talk to in-house experts about what is going on and why you need to care about it.
First, Indian Express’ Deep Mukherjee joins host Shashank Bhargava to talk about what led to the communal clashes in Jodhpur, and the situation on the ground right now.
Next, Indian Express’ Abhinaya Harigovind tells us why landfills tend to catch fire, and what can be done to avoid this (10:30).
And in the end, Indian Express’ Mihir Vasavda talks about the upcoming Asian Games, and why they will be held under strict Covid-19 restrictions (17:20).
Shashank Bhargava: Hi, I’m Shashank Bhargava, and you’re listening to 3 Things, The Indian Express news show. In this episode, we talk about why landfills or garbage dumps catch fire and what can be done to avoid it. We also talk about the upcoming Asian Games and why they will witness strict COVID 19 restrictions. But first we talk about the city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan. So far this year, communal clashes between Hindus and Muslims have taken place in many parts of the country, including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Delhi and Rajasthan. And almost all of them had taken place during Hindu festivals. But now Rajasthan has witnessed communal clashes once again, this time during the Eid celebrations on Monday, they took place in Jodhpur, which lies in the northwest part of the state, and also happens to be the hometown of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot of the Congress Party. In the segment Indian Express’s Deep Mukherjee joins us on a call from Jodhpur to talk about it. So Deep, what do we know about how these clashes took place?
Deep Mukherjee: So what we know so far is that the clashes started at around 11:30pm on Monday night and then once again on Tuesday morning after the Eid namaaz the clashes escalated in the Jalori Gate area. So first, let me tell you a bit about Jalori Gate area, which has been the epicentre of the clash. So Jalori gate is situated in the heart of Jodhpur and it’s a busy market with many shops and what locals say is that at the time of every festival, the place is widely decorated with flags and other religious memorabilia. So there is a bust at the centre of the Jalori Gate, the bust or statue is of Balmukund Bissa, who was a renowned freedom fighter from Rajasthan, he also hailed from the Brahmin community and Jodhpur had substantial Brahmin population. So Balmukund Bissa is a some what a hero for the Brahmin community in Jodhpur So what happened is that this year Eid and Parashurama Jayanti both coincided on the same day, which was yesterday, May 3.
Shashank Bhargava: And could you remind our listeners what Parshuram Jayanti is?
Deep Mukherjee: Yeah, so Parashurama Jayanti is the day when Hindus worship Lord Parashurama a mythological figure who was a Brahmin and also a noted warrior, and he’s especially worshipped by Brahmin groups and also various groups like Brahman Sabha or those which effort the Brahmin identity. So the district administration gave permission for a Shobha Yatra for the Parshuram Jayanti. On May 1, instead of May 3, when de gente was actually scheduled. It was because of the fact that the Eid was also on the same day and it was mutually agreed between the Hindu and Muslim communities that on the first of May the Shobha Yatra would take place. So the Shobha Yatra took place on May 1 and thereafter, what locals tell us is that there were a few saffron flags in the area, including one near the statue of Balmukund Bissa and thereafter on the night of May 2nd, people from the Muslim community they started decorating the place and installing the Eid flag but at this point of time, what the Hindu community is claiming and what the opposition BJP is claiming is that the Muslim community members hoisted an Eid flag over the statue of Balmukund Bissa and BJP MLA from Soorsagar, Suryakanta Vyas, according to her the face of Balmukund Bissa’s statue was taped and a rope was tied around the statues neck and thereafter the flag was hoisted. There are also videos of the incident doing rounds of social media where one can see an Eid flag being hoisted over the statue of Balmukund Bissa.
Shashank Bhargava: So what the BJP MLAs are claiming is that the statue of a Brahmin freedom fighter was disrespected, presumably by those from the Muslim community.
Deep Mukherjee: Yes, that is what they say that the hoisting of the flag over that statue was disrespectful. And BJP is claiming that at this point of time, some people told those hoisting the flag not to hurt the flag atop the statue, but they didn’t listen, a confrontation ensued and thereafter the clashes started where it resulted in stone pelting and the police had to lathi charge lob tear gas shells to disperse the crowd and that is when like the situation went out of control.
Deep Mukherjee: Thereafter on Tuesday morning, the situation once again spiralled out of control. What happened is that the police had used force to disperse the crowd. And there are also videos on social media which are being circulated where one can see, like people removing loudspeakers and chanting Jai Sriram, which suggests that from like both sides there was aggression.
Deep Mukherjee: Thereafter after the morning remarks, according to a DCP West in Jodhpur, the members of the Muslim community, they became aggressive and once they came near the area of Jalori Gate because Eidgah where the namaz is offered and Jalori Gate are very nearby to each other. And at this point of time, they insisted that a saffron flag or like the Eid flag was taken down, and the saffron flag, which apparently was there since Parashurama Jayanti, or either it could be that it was there since Parashurama Jayanti. Or it might also be that it was put there after the clashes of Monday night. So they insisted the members of the Muslim community that that saffron flag be taken down. And that is when people got aggressive. The police once again, had to lathi charge and lob tear gas shells. And as a result of it, there was once again tension in the area just after that curfew was imposed in Jodhpur in 10. Police station areas in Jodhpur and Internet services have also been suspended.
Shashank Bhargava: Okay, so this happened on Monday night and Tuesday morning. But on wenesday morning, there was a Peace Committee meeting which had taken place to calm things down between the two communities but that did not go as expected. Could you talk about what happened there?
Deep Mukherjee: Yes so, the Peace Committee meeting did take place. There were three ministers from the Rajasthan government BD Kala who is a Brahmin himself and has been sent by the state government largely to pacify the Brahmin population who are angry over the alleged disrespect of the Bissa’s statue. Then there was Subhash Garg minister in charge of Jodhpur and also the what is important here to note is that the area where the clash took place that comes under the jurisdiction of the Sardarpura police station, and Sardarpura is the assembly constituency of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, whom district is also Jodhpur so many high ranking officials have been sent by the Rajasthan government to control the situation to come down the tension. So what happened is that in the Peace Committee meeting, they were members from both the Muslim community religious leaders along with Hindu religious leaders, and the BJP also initially took part in it, but later the BJP walked out of the meeting, saying that the government is not arresting those who disrespected the statue of Bissa and also alleging that the government has arrested innocent people, people who according to the BJP are innocent. So Soorsagar MLA Suryakarta Vyas walked out of the meeting along with other BJP leaders, thereafter, speaking to the media, the ministers and the government officials, they said that the situation is being brought under control. And the Muslim religious leader along with their Hindu counterparts also appealed that the public maintain peace and brotherhood and that the spirit of Jodhpur should be maintained and there shouldn’t be any communal clashes but the BJP walked out of the meeting, which is again, a matter of concern
Shashank Bhargava: Okay. So you mentioned that the BJP is not happy with the action that the police has taken. It has not arrested the people that they wanted arrested, but how many people have been arrested in the matter.
Deep Mukherjee: So according to the police, more than 130 people have been taken into custody under the section 151 CRPC. And also around eight people have been arrested under the 12 FIRs filed in the matter so far. So they’re saying that more people are welcome to lodge FIR and based on CCTV footage and other investigation, more people are likely to be arrested.
Shashank Bhargava: And we are recording this on Wednesday evening. What seems to be the situation there right now.
Deep Mukherjee: At present there seems to be calm prevailing because of the fact that there has been a heavy police deployment more than 1000 police personnel are right now in Jodhpur curfew has been imposed in the areas coming under the jurisdiction of 10 police stations, mobile internet services bulk SMS services MMS services has been suspended. So the administration is ensuring that with this heavy security presence no further tension escalates in the area. But it is also true that the BJP as it has been accusing the state government of allegedly appeasement, politics. So because of that, and for the fact that they walked out of the meeting, there are still discontent among certain sections, which the government and the district administration are trying to deal with.
Shashank Bhargava: And next we’ll talk about landfills. The huge dumping grounds where the garbage of an entire city or a town is piled up. Last week in the National Capital, one of its biggest landfills caught fire, and continue to burn for nearly a week. Fires like these end up releasing toxic fumes into the air and make living conditions horrible for those who live around it. And because of how much garbage gets dumped into landfills, these fires have become much more frequent. In this segment, we speak to Indian Express’s Abhinaya Harigovind, who recently wrote about this problem in the paper. So Abhinaya, Delhi seems to have three big landfills. And these are pretty big in size. For those who are not in Delhi, could you give a sense to them about how big these landfills are.
Abhinaya Harigovind: So the landfills are pretty big. The largest of them is the one Ghazipur which is in East Delhi it’s about 56 metres tall, which if you compare it would be taller than the India Gate. The India Gate is about 42 metres tall. The second tallest landfill in Delhi is the one in Bhalswa, which is in North Delhi, that’s just slightly smaller than the one in Ghazipur, which is about 52 metres high. And again, taller than the India Gate, both together, each of them that is would be about three fourths of the height of the Qutub Minar, which is about 72 metres tall. The smallest landfill in Delhi is also pretty tall. It’s the one at Okhla, which is in South Delhi. And that’s about 40 metres high, which is just about two metres smaller than the India Gate.
Shashank Bhargava: And how is it that these landfills these garbage dumps have gotten so big that we are comparing them to national monuments?
Abhinaya Harigovind: They have gotten so big because we have been dumping waste at them for a few decades now. So the youngest landfill here is the one at Okhla, which is about 26 years old. And the oldest is the one at Ghazipur is about I think 38-39 years old because we started dumping waste in 1984. So the problem is we don’t have too many facilities to process waste. So what happens is that about 50% of the total waste that we generate in the city is ending up at these landfills. So when we say 50% of the total waste, that would be about 50% of about 11,000 tonnes per day, which is landing at these landfills, which is why they have gotten so big over the past few decades.
Shashank Bhargava: Yeah, and the other issue with these landfills is that they are prone to catching fire. Every year, each of them end up catching multiple fires. For example, recently, the Bhalswa landfill caught fire and it took days to put it out. So what are the reasons that these landfills catch fire?
Abhinaya Harigovind: So landfills catch fire? Because we dump organic waste at them. Organic waste is not supposed to be at a landfill. Organic waste is either supposed to be composted, or it is to be turned into biogas.
Shashank Bhargava: And by organic waste, do you mean wet waste?
Abhinaya Harigovind: Yes that’s biodegradable waste, basically things that come from the kitchen mostly. So when that sort of waste ends up at the landfill. What happens is that it decomposes there, anaerobically uses in the absence of oxygen. So when that happens, that process of decomposition generates meeting and the process of generation Methane is a lot faster in the summer. So because the temperatures are a lot higher, the decomposition happens faster, which means that a lot more methane is generated in the summer when a lot more methane is generated. So there is a certain quantity of methane that is necessary for it to catch fire.
Shashank Bhargava: Yeah. And I think it’s called the flammability limit, right?
Abhinaya Harigovind: Yes, so when you have a very high quantity of methane catches fire very quickly, which is what happens in the summer. And that’s why the landfills catch fire, because basically, because there’s organic waste there. And why are these so difficult to put out, because they’re not just on the surface of the landfill. They’re also inside the landfill. So they’re basically coming from within because there are pockets of methane in the several layers of garbage that are dumped. And they are also difficult to put out because firefighters find it difficult to access these landfills since they’re not scientifically planned. So since they’re not scientifically planned, there are no proper pathways within the landfill separating the garbage mounds and there are no proper parties that lead to the landfill so that you know fire trucks can actually get to them and put the fire out.
Shashank Bhargava: Yeah, in fact, in your story, you mentioned one of the officials telling you that the dump sites in Delhi and in other cities are like time bombs because To generate explosive gases like methane. Now, the other thing is that when these dumping grounds catch fire, they also release toxic fumes. Could you talk about how that affects the people who live near these areas.
Abhinaya Harigovind: So the burning of waste to generate carbon dioxide and particulate matter, and inhalation of particulate matter can lead to respiratory issues. So while Bhalswa landfill burned for six days, a lot of people in that area were complaining about itchy throats, respiratory issues, finding it difficult to breathe, that sort of thing. So that basically comes from the air in that area being very polluted, because the landfill was just smouldering for many, many days.
Shashank Bhargava: So considering that landfills only seem to be getting bigger, and the fact that they often catch fire, what solutions do experts recommend to stop this from happening?
Abhinaya Harigovind: So the most basic thing to do would be to increase the waste processing capacity in the city, since we’re only processing about 50%. Now, it could mean that people have to increase it either, experts say by decentralised means we’re just to set up smaller composting plants to prevent or at the community level to prevent organic waste from using the landfill. That’s one way of doing it. The other way is to segregate the ways that we’re already dumping there to make sure that organic waste does not end up at the landfill. So segregation is crucial. And so is ramping up the infrastructure to deal with processing of the waste that we have.
Shashank Bhargava: Right. and segregation is something that people are supposed to do in Delhi, there is even a fine if you don’t do it. But that’s all on paper, we know that in many areas, segregation just doesn’t happen. And that’s the case with most places in the country. So what are the challenges that people and the government face in doing it and implementing it?
Abhinaya Harigovind: So one issue could be of not knowing what to do with the organic waste if you don’t have community composting system? Or if you don’t have a composting system at home, then what do you do with the organic waste? That is one, if you do segregate the waste and hand it over to somebody who comes to collect it, there could be chances of it ending up unsegregated at the landfill. In any case, that is also an issue. And the third issue could be that not many people might know what problems this could lead to. I mean, it’s like an out of sight, out of mind sort of thing. So as long as you’re giving the garbage away, you don’t really know what’s happening with it. And you don’t know what problems it could lead to when it ends up at a landfill.
Shashank Bhargava: And in the end, we talk about international sporting events. This year, Indian athletes are sheduled to take part in different world championships, World Cups, Commonwealth Games, and the Asian Games. Now with COVID-19 cases going down, the restrictions in most of these tournaments won’t be so strict. For example, nothing like what we saw at the Olympics last year. But out of all these tournaments, the Asian Games sheduled for September is the exception. This event which happens every four years, we’ll be placing some very strict COVID 19 restrictions on athletes. And this is because the event will be held in China, which is currently witnessing a record number of daily cases in Shanghai. In this segment me Mihir Vasavada, the host of the Express sports podcast, joins us to talk about what athletes can expect. So Mihir tell us why will the Asian Games see such strict restrictions?
Mihir Vasavda: So the Asian Games they take place almost immediately after the Commonwealth Games they take place on September 10th to 25 they’re taking place in the city called Hangzhou, which is basically the e-commerce hub of China. And the problem is there are two pronged so hangs out itself right now, just last week, they have started mass COVID testing, so it has around 10 million residents and everyone over there is being tested for COVID 19 every 48 hours that is basically to prevent the outbreak of Omicron they just want to keep it in check and residents who do not get a test then every 48 hours they aren’t allowed to enter public transport they are allowed to go to any common area so that’s Hangzhou. The other bigger problem is what’s happening in Shanghai now Shanghai is to hangs out what Bombay is to Pune or otherwise or vice versa, you know, so it’s barely 200 kilometres if you take a bullet train it’s like half an hour or 45 minutes train journey to our road journey. It’s that close. So all the Asian Games participants who will be travelling to Hangzhou most likely they will be entering the country through Shanghai has we know Shanghai right now is in middle of its worst outbreak. It’s been under a very strict lockdown for more than a month now. So this also has added to the anxiety and all these factors combined together led to speculations that the Asian Games could be postponed although a final decision has not been taken yet. The Olympic Council of Asia which kind of governs all the Asian Federation’s they have assured that the games will take place as sheduled. And now we are learning that the games will be conducted in this very strict bubble, a stricter even than Tokyo Olympics, and the Chinese call it a closed loop management.
Shashank Bhargava: Yes, we’ll talk about this closed loop management, what kind of restrictions are athletes likely to see under it.
Mihir Vasavda: The final set of rules are yet to be published. But broadly, if we look at what happened at the Beijing Winter Olympics, they took place in February. And if we have to refer to those games, where they also adopted and they enforced a similar closed loop, it is going to be very tough. I mean, you of course, have all your usual bubble protocols, the athletes, officials, whoever will be travelling to China for the Asian Games prior to the departure, they will have to undergo multiple COVID-19 tests. Once they land in China from that moment till the time they’re leaving the country, they will be tested every day. And the reports of those tests will be checked at every place they enter. So from the time they step out of their rooms in the village, when they enter the bus, when they exit the bus, when they enter a venue when they exit or when you when they return to a village or hotel everywhere, that negative certificate will become their passport. So to say that, of course is one part of it, all the games participants, whoever will be going there, they will be basically kept in this fenced area. So what they’ll be trying to do, most likely in Hangzhou is to create a city within a city, so to say, where all the residents in Hangzhou will be separated from 10s of 1000s of people who will be visiting for Asian Games. Now, it’s important to bear in mind that the Asian Games are second only to Olympics in terms of size, it has more sports than the Olympics, and perhaps as many athletes just couple of 1000 lesser than the Olympics. So it’s huge in scale. And to ensure that all these visitors do not mingle with the residents, the locals there, what they did in the Winter Olympics was to just fence the entire games area. So anyone who trespassed would be liable for whatever punishment the Chinese deemed fit. And the other way around. If the residents tried to enter the closed loop, they would have to face the music. And it could be anything from getting deported if you’re a foreign decision, or having a 21 day quarantine at Chinese facility.
Shashank Bhargava: And Mihir last year, you went to Tokyo to cover the Olympics. And I remember you talking about how restricted things were there? How does this closed loop system compared to what you saw there?
Mihir Vasavda: The biggest difference Shashank is that in Tokyo after the first 14 days were passed after the incubation period was done, we could get outside the bubble, we could step outside the bubble. So we could use public transport, we could go to restaurants, we could meet local Japanese people. And that at least gave you some kind of feeling about the Olympics. He could snoop around talk to people get a sense of how they’re feeling. And that won’t be possible for the Asian Games throughout your time in Hangzhou. While you will be inside a bubble, you won’t be allowed to go anywhere. There were cases at the Beijing Winter Olympics, where I think it was a bus or a car or some sort of accident had taken place on road. And even though there were people standing a few 100 metres away from the accident site, they couldn’t come and help others because they would have violated the bubble protocols. So it’s that strict in China when it comes to the bubble. And it’s basically to enforce and keep on enforcing the zero COVID rule. But the fact that no one will be allowed to step outside the closed loop at any point that we make it all the more challenging.
Shashank Bhargava: Also Mihir, what to Asian Games mean for Indian athletes, how important is it for them to attend this event?
Mihir Vasavda: Extremely important, especially for certain sports or not so important, perhaps for a few others. But largely it is, like I said, after the Olympics, the biggest multi-discipline event, so of course, it assumes a lot of importance because of that, but it’s not just for the size or anything, you know, Shashank first of all, it’s your regional supremacy. So it’s the bragging rights you have for four years if you win a gold medal at the Asian Games, that is one second. There are some sports, say for example, hockey, or even football. In hockey, for example, if you win a gold medal, you directly qualify for the next Olympics, you have a good two years to prepare for the Olympics, rather than going through the tricky qualifying process and waiting till the very end. Then you also have all the best athletes from all around Asia competing in this. So if you had to have your half cycle report card, right and the Olympic cycle is or four years and the Asian games take place exactly in middle of that cycle. So this in a way is your report card. It gives you an idea whether you’re on right track or you need to make any amendments to the way you’re training. It just provides you a clearer picture of where you stand in terms of your training and your Olympic ambitions. So all these factors put together Asian games become very important they are of very high standard in certain sports like shooting, wrestling, badminton, all these sports are very high calibre for every Indian athlete going there they are extremely important.
Shashank Bhargava :You were listening to 3 Things by the Indian Express. Today’s show was written and produced by me Shashank Bhargava and was edited and mixed by Suresh Pawar. If you like the show, then do subscribe to us wherever you get your podcast. You can also recommend the show to someone you think will like it. Share it with a friend or someone in your family. It’s the best way for people to get to know about us. You can tweet us @expresspodcasts and write to us at podcasts@india express.com