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NEW DELHI: It was a sarcastic, politically-loaded question in the form of a song, Bihar mein ka ba? (What’s there in Bihar?). And it elicited an equally sharp response in the form of another number. Two regional singers — Neha Rathore and Maithili Thakur — were locked in a sharp musical exchange on social media, eyes firmly set on Bihar assembly polls next month.

About two weeks ago, 23-year-old singer Neha Rathore posted her pungent track in Bhojpuri questioning the lack of development in Bihar. “Bihar mein ka ba? Corona se barbaad ba. Badh se badhaal ba (What’s there in Bihar? It’s damaged because of Corona, it’s desperate because of floods),” she sang.

On Friday, another young singer Maithili Thakur, who has over 74k followers on Twitter, released a sharp riposte to Rathore. Thakur, 20, who croons folk songs in several regional dialects — Bhojpuri, Maghi, Maithili — sang about the development in a part of the state in Maithili asking people, albeit indirectly, to refrain from posing irrelevant questions.

She spoke of the airport in Darbhanga, construction of AIIMS, improving education infrastructure, among other things. She was retweeted by some BJP and JDU Bihar politicians, including Sanjay Kumar and Nand Kishore. The verified handle of JDU and BJP Bihar also retweeted her song.

Rathore’s inspiration clearly came from the popular Bhojpuri rap song performed by actor Manoj Bajpai, Bambai mein ka ba (What’s there in Mumbai)? The song, angry and defiant, talked of migrants without mincing words and did not romanticise their suffering.

Drawing from there, Rathore, composed her own hard-hitting number. “I don’t have a problem with any party. I ask questions because it’s my constitutional right,” she told TOI on Saturday. A glance at her YouTube Channel, Dharohar, shows that she questions the establishment demanding jobs, criticising religious and caste-based discrimination and corruption. The singer has 96k subscribers on YouTube and is followed by over 45k people on Twitter.

A resident of Kaimur in west Bihar, Rathore completed her graduation from Kanpur University in 2018 after which she returned to her native place because she wanted to sing. She uploaded her first song on Facebook in 2019, and subsequently started her YouTube channel, Dharohar.

“I called it Dharohar because I see myself as one of the many protectors of the Bhojpuri language. It’s our legacy but the only Bhojpuri songs known outside are sleazy,” she added.

After Rathore’s sarcastic questions, BJP released its response through another song, “Bihar mein ee ba”, which lists the achievements of the state government and was widely promoted by BJP leaders. It talks of the changes in the state, rural electrification, housing schemes, among others.

“I am not a political person, and I don’t support any party. But I have a problem when everyone begins to only highlight the wrong traits of the state. Bihar has improved a lot under this government, but people have not acknowledged that,” Thakur told TOI.

Thakur moved to Delhi in 2011 when just 11 to focus on her music career. She is currently pursuing political science honours from Delhi university.

“I am aware of the political developments in the country. Even though I moved out of my native town, I am still attached to my state and want people to know that it’s safe for everyone,” she added.

Thakur’s song, too, elicited a response from Rathore, who tweeted, “Folk artists should not compromise on the interests of the people,” Rathore wrote.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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INDIA

EC action against BJP’s Imarti Devi over poll code violations

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NEW DELHI: The Election Commission on Saturday imposed a 24-hour campaign ban on BJP leader Imarti Devi due to poll code violations.

“BJP leader Imarti Devi has been barred from holding, anywhere in MP, public meetings, public processions, public rallies, roadshows and interviews, public utterances in media in connection with ongoing elections for one day on November 1,” the poll panel said.

Earlier this week, the election commission had issued a notice to Imarti Devi, who is contesting a bypoll in Madhya Pradesh, for allegedly describing an unnamed political rival as “insane” and making remarks against women members of his family.

Devi, who is also a minister in the Madhya Pradesh government, did not name the political rival in a video on social media.

According to the transcript of the video, Imarti Devi said after the person left the chief minister’s post in Madhya Pradesh, he became “insane” (pagal).

Devi was involved in another incident earlier when senior Congress leader Kamal Nath called her an “item” during an election rally. Following his remarks, Nath was served a notice by the EC and later removed as Congress’ “star campaigner”.

Bypolls to 28 Madhya Pradesh assembly seats will be held on November 3.

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INDIA

Covid-19: Indian students speak of depression and isolation at UK universities under lockdown, some plan to return to India

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LONDON: Indian students in Manchester have spoken of their isolation and depression at being stuck in their rooms all day since all teaching went online and the city moved into a harsh lockdown owing to rising Covid-19 cases.

Five joined a protest outside the university offices holding placards saying “Are we paying £22k for this?” and “Was it worth me flying from India to attend an online class?”. The students want greater offline social activities, blended teaching, mental health support and a reduction in fees.

“I have not experienced 5% of university life this year. It was our last year to have fun and live university life. Now everything is ruined,” said Danish Hussain (21) of Ajmer, in the final year of his £15k-a-year undergraduate degree in tourism management at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). He returned to India in the spring, when Covid cases were rising, and returned in September expecting teaching to be blended.

But on October 7, the University of Manchester (UoM) and MMU moved all teaching online after young people accounted for 55% of Covid-19 cases. On October 23 the city went into a Tier 3 lockdown.

“I don’t know why they can’t divide us into groups and do face-to-face learning with social distancing. The teachers come on video chat but I’m not getting to interact with classmates. We don’t have anywhere to go. You can’t meet new people. Everyone is stressed,” he said. “There used to be so many house parties in Manchester, now it is dead.”

He is staying alone in a house-share as less students have come because of Brexit and Covid-19, he said.

MMU told TOI it had increased investment in its counselling services and from November 2 it will offer up to three hours of on-campus activity each week.

“The isolation is the worst part. It makes you feel so demotivated. The main struggle is not money, it is mental health,” said Shubhi Verma, 25, from Bhopal, who is doing an intellectual property masters at the UoM costing £19,500 a year. “I could have done this in India and saved a lot of money. There are no contact hours with the professor. How can you create a relationship online? Online teaching is on Zoom but there is a lack of interaction. We have to stay in a bubble and can only interact with people we live with. We want more pastoral support. The societies have become WhatsApp groups. We are sat in our rooms and it is depressing,” Verma said.

“I think if you meet people in person you feel more pressured to do your work. Now no one feels bothered. People are not doing their work properly. I am just watching Netflix, eating and sleeping,” she said.

The UoM said online teaching would be reviewed on November 11, that the campus remained open, and insisted there were lots of activities.

“Many Indian students want to go back to India at Christmas and stay until the spring. They don’t see the point of being here as their courses are all online, student bars are closing and a lot of events are online. Already 50% didn’t come back in September,” Indian National Students Association UK president Amit Tiwari said.

Ahaan Gupta, 20, a third year undergraduate student of PPE at LSE, is doing just that. He went back in March and has not returned.

“I am at home with my parents and there is less chance of catching it here whereas in the UK there are so many possible interactions in a student halls of residence. The quality of teaching at LSE is really good online. It is the same as offline,” he said. Ahaan is paying £19,000 a year but doing the course from his parents’ home in Delhi.

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After slamming NHAI officials for ‘inefficiency’, Gadkari says his remarks meant for just a few

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NEW DELHI: Barely days after hitting out at NHAI and terming a section of its senior officials as “inefficient” and slamming them for adopting delaying tactics, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari on Saturday said his remarks were aimed at only a few officials.

The minister said he was pained at the inordinate delay in completing construction work for a new NHAI office building.

Addressing an event of industry lobby ASSOCHAM on “Advanced Digital Technology & Policy for Infrastructure with special focus on Tunnel Engineering” on Saturday, Gadkari said a few days back he had pulled up NHAI officials while inaugurating the new NHAI building as its construction took eight years while it should have been done in two years.

“I was deeply hurt due to the inordinate delay. There are good people in NHAI, my ministry and NHIDCL including the NHAI chairman, secretary in the ministry and managing director of NHIDCL. There are hundreds of good engineers. My unhappiness was against only a few people,” he said.

The minister said while the NHAI was accelerating to complete the Rs 1 lakh crore Delhi-Mumbai Expressway project in three years, it was a bad show to complete such a small building project in eight years.

The minister’s comment had left several NHAI officials disheartened. “There was a lot of misconception as the minister’s speech went viral on social media. The highway construction has increased in recent years, which is the main parameter to assess performance. NHAI is not a building construction agency. Ideally, this project should have been assigned to a agency which is into construction of buildings,” said a senior NHAI official.

NHAI had recorded highest ever highway construction in 2019-20 at 3,979 km and the highways ministry as a whole had recorded maximum ever highway construction at 10,855 in 2018-19. Last year, it reduced marginally to 10,237 km.

During his address at the ASSOCHAM event, Gadkari said private contractors, after getting works, should not adopt tactics to “delay works, escalate costs and then go for arbitration to extract more money” from the government. He urged them to bag more work and earn profit by completing the projects in time.

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