Liberal plan for First Nation child welfare came from the Conservative play

first_imgThe Canadian PressOTTAWA _ Federal funding for First Nations child welfare was determined well before the government was ordered to increase it, new documents filed with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal show.The documentation means that the government had set in stone what it would spend on child welfare regardless of what the tribunal ordered it to do, says child-rights advocate Cindy Blackstock who is involved in the tribunal case.“It signals to me a disregard for the tribunal’s (legal) orders,” Blackstock said Monday.Blackstock, the executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, has spent nine years fighting the government on the level of child welfare support provided to First Nations kids on reserve.“Canada decided for itself what it was going to do to comply with the tribunal order even before they ever saw it,” Blackstock said.“There’s no evidence in these submissions that they ever adjusted Budget 2016 after they settled on it in the fall of 2015.”See more stories on First Nations Child Welfare here: First Nations Child WelfareThe federal documents filed with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal show the level of spending on First Nations child welfare services in the last budget was determined months before the quasi-judicial body’s landmark ruling in January _ a ruling that ordered Ottawa to immediately enrich services for children on reserves.“The rationale for the five-year (fiscal) plan was developed in fall 2015 as part of the 2016 federal budget process, prior to the Jan. 26, 2016 tribunal decision,” the Indigenous Affairs department said in a submission.“As part of this annual process, departments usually prepare their proposals between September and November, after which time further deliberations are subject to cabinet confidence until the budget is announced.”The tribunal’s January ruling found the federal government has been discriminating against First Nations children in the way it delivers child welfare services on reserves. It has since issued two compliance orders, including one handed down last month.Since the release of the spring budget, Blackstock pressured the Liberal government to immediately increase the level of funding earmarked for services on the ground.She pegs the need this year alone at least $200 million, rather than the just-over $70 million contained within the fiscal blueprint released last spring.During question period on Monday, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett reiterated the government is committed to overhauling child welfare services on reserve.“There are more children in care than at the height of residential schools, and we want to fix that system,” Bennett said. “We have invested $71 million, and approximately $30 million has already flowed.”The tribunal has already made it clear the budget was not sufficient, NDP Indigenous affairs critic Charlie Angus said, noting the government documents suggest there was no intention to respond to the tribunal’s findings with additional funds.“They simply pulled out a five-year plan that was developed under Stephen Harper and passed it off as their own,” Angus said in an interview.“What is really disturbing from what we have seen from the documents and the response from the minister and the prime minister is that the reason that they’re not appealing the decision is they don’t believe they have to follow it.”At an Ottawa press conference on Sept. 21, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau conceded more needs to be done to improve the lives of young people in Indigenous communities, but he did not explicitly acknowledge the tribunal decision.last_img read more

2016 Special Chiefs Assembly

first_imgChiefs from across the country generally come together twice a year to set strategic direction based on community needs and priorities.The Chiefs Assemblies provide the venue for First Nation leaders to direct the work of the Assembly of First Nations, the National Chief and national Executive through resolution.It is just one way First Nation leaders bring forward the concerns and priorities of First Nation members.last_img

First Nation leaders from BC talk after meeting Kinder Morgan shareholders in

first_imgTwo First Nation leaders from British Columbia are holding a news conference from Houston, Tex., Wednesday.Chief Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith Indian Band, and Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust addressed Kinder Morgan shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting.news@aptn.ca@aptnnews <span data-mce-type=”bookmark” style=”display: inline-block; width: 0px; overflow: hidden; line-height: 0;” class=”mce_SELRES_start”></span>last_img

IRC First Nations meet outside Calgary to discuss buying Trans Mountain pipeline

first_imgTamara PimentelAPTN NewsAmid the on-going fight to stop the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion from being built, some Indigenous leaders are discussing a plan that would potentially make them owners of the controversial project.Members of the Indian Resource Council (IRC) are meeting at TsuuT’ina Nation, outside Calgary this week for the meeting.IRC represents over 130 First Nations across Canada that have oil and gas interests.“It’s an opportunity to find ways that some of our communities can get out of poverty,” says IRC CEO Stephen Buffalo.Last summer the federal government bought the pipeline for $4.5 billion but says it does not want to be a long-term owner.The project is now delayed after the Federal Court of Appeal stated there needs to be more consultation with Indigenous people.Now, the IRC says most of its members want to buy the pipeline and make it 100 per cent Indigenous owned and operated, bringing in more jobs and economic opportunity.“In saying that, we have to start consulting with each other,” Buffalo said, “We definitely honour and respect the three tribes on the coast with their position as they brought to attention Kinder Morgan and the federal government. But now that’s hurting our communities here.”(Chief Roy Fox)The Kainai Nation south of Calgary has been involved in the oil and gas industry for seven decades.Chief Roy Fox is also an IRC board member. In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he stated the differential-related cuts and lack of pipeline capacity and proposed restrictive legislation such as Bill C-69 will cost every family on his reserve approximately $1,400 per year.“If Bill C-69 and C-48 goes through, I don’t think you will see any pipeline,” Fox said. “If these two bills go through in their existing form, they’re deal killers.”The federal bills were also attacked by Alberta Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd.“I think Bill C-48 should just be put away until they can consult with First Nations,” she said. “C-69 … as it stands now, it’s not only insulting and ridiculous to Alberta, it just will not work, so there needs to be some changes.”But Indigenous communities interested in taking an equity stake in the pipeline are being warned they should wait until after its built to avoid risk, says Barrie Robb, a principal with Fivars Consulting Ltd. of Calgary.Taking an ownership stake in a major energy project can deliver significant rewards, said the consultant who helped broker a $545-million investment by two northern Alberta Indigenous communities in a Suncor Energy Inc. tarands storage tank farm in 2017.Industry is a more reliable partner than the government ever has been, he added.“If First Nations don’t take control of their lives, who will?” Robb said.“If the CPP Investment Board, big pension funds, the big life insurance companies, are interested in that kind of a project, why shouldn’t the First Nations be in there as well? It’s the same objectives, the same concerns and the same kinds of returns.”(Anti-Trans Mountain Pipeline rally on Parliament Hill May 22, 2018)Fox said he also wouldn’t recommend buying equity in the pipeline now because of regulatory obstacles that could stand in the way of its expansion project.“As it stands now, we would not invest. If it was a sure thing, maybe.”Trans Mountain CEO Ian Anderson said he is focused on getting the pipeline expansion built.“There is no project to invest in at this point,” he said in a speech. “I’ve got to get (regulatory) certificates, we’ve got to get to work. We’ve got to start building this national-interest project and that’s what I remain singularly focused on.”Buffalo said he is committed to using energy resource development to support prosperity on Canadian reserves despite “Facebook warriors” who have branded him a “sell-out” on social media.“You think you’re trying to do good for the people but some people, they just don’t understand this industry and they don’t understand our end game,” he said.“Our end game is not to own a pipeline, it’s Indigenous ownership (of resources).”The last day of the meeting is Thursday, January 17. The best plan will be selected and presented to Ottawa in the coming months.tpimentel@aptn.ca@tamara_aptn-with files from the Canadian Presslast_img read more

Saskatoon prepares for Saskatchewans first safe injection site

first_imgPriscilla WolfAPTN NewsSaskatchewan’s first safe injection site is just months away from opening its doors.But with the new harm reduction service for drug users in Saskatoon comes a need to be prepared.Saskatoon police and the organization behind the safe injection site are working together to ensure best practices are put in place, and that police know how to approach policing users of the facility.“We are skilled and trained with people who are suffering from mental health problems or who have issues with addictions, but to deal with a site of this nature — it’s going to take some education,” says Inspector Cameron McBride of the Saskatoon Police Service.McBride said the force is relying on the insight of police in other jurisdictions that have safe injection sites in order to prepare foe Saskatoon’s new site. He says they will be training officers before the facility opens.Jason Mercredi, the executive director for AIDS Saskatoon, which will run the service, says it’s important the site is properly opened. He and McBride are travelling to Vancouver together, home to Canada’s first safe injection site, to learn from that city’s experiences.Mercredi says the organization won’t open their doors until the city’s police are ready.He says clients and visitors to the centre will be treated with compassion.pwolf@aptn.calast_img read more

Netflix sinking deeper into debt to fuel subscriber growth

first_imgSAN FRANCISCO – Netflix is sinking deeper into debt in its relentless pursuit of more viewers, leaving the company little margin for error as it tries to build the world’s biggest video subscription service.The big burden that Netflix is shouldering hasn’t been a major concern on Wall Street so far, as CEO Reed Hastings’ strategy has been paying off.The billions of dollars that Netflix has borrowed to pay for exclusive series such as “House of Cards,” ”Stranger Things,” and “The Crown” has helped its service more than triple its global audience during the past four years — leaving it with 109 million subscribers worldwide through September.That figure includes 5.3 million subscribers added during the July-September period, according to Netflix’s quarterly earnings report released Monday. The growth exceeded management forecasts and analyst projections. Netflix’s stock rose 1 per cent in extended trading, putting it on track to touch new highs Tuesday. The shares have increased by about five-fold during the past four years.If the subscribers keep coming at the current pace, Netflix may surpass its role model — HBO — within the next few years. HBO started this year with 134 million subscribers worldwide.“We are running around 100 miles an hour doing our thing around the world,” Hastings said during a review of the third-quarter results.But Netflix’s subscriber growth could slow if it can’t continue to win programming rights to hit TV series and movies, now that there are more competitors, including Apple , Amazon, Hulu and YouTube.If that happens, there will be more attention on Netflix’s huge programming bills, and “then we could see an investor backlash,” CFRA Research analyst Tuna Amobi says. “But Netflix has been delivering great subscriber growth so far.”Netflix’s long-term debt and other obligations totalled $21.9 billion as of Sept. 30, up from $16.8 billion at the same time last year. That includes $17 billion for video programming, up from $14.4 billion a year ago. Most of the programming payments are due within the next five years. Netflix expects to spend $7 billion to $8 billion on programming next year, up from $6 billion this year.The Los Gatos, California, company has to borrow to pay for most of its programming expenses because it doesn’t generate enough cash on its own. Netflix burned through another $465 million in the most recent quarter, which is known as “negative cash flow” in accounting parlance.For all of this year, Netflix has warned that its negative cash flow might be as high as $2.5 billion, a trend that management expects will continue for at least the next several years as it tries to diversify its video library to appeal to divergent tastes in about 190 countries.Nonetheless, Netflix has remained profitable, under U.S. accounting rules. The company earned $130 million on $3 billion in revenue in its latest quarter.And management appears to be trying to ease the financial drain with price increases of $1 and $2 a month for most of its 53 million subscribers in the U.S. before the end of the year. The higher prices are likely to increase Netflix’s revenue by about $650 million next year, RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney predicted.But the price increases could backfire if it provokes an unusually high number of subscribers to cancel, something Netflix faced when it raised rates in the past. Most analysts believe that’s unlikely to happen this time, and Netflix supported that thesis with its growth forecast. Management expects to add 6.3 million subscribers during the October-December period, slightly more than what analysts are anticipating, according to FactSet.Netflix has long argued its borrowing makes sense to gain a huge advantage over rivals as people increasingly watch programming on internet-connected devices. Plus, management points out that its total debt is small compared with its market value of nearly $90 billion.With such a valuable stock, Netflix theoretically could sell more shares to raise money — similar to how homeowners sometimes use the equity accrued in their houses to pay big bills.But that would be more difficult to do if Netflix’s stock price plummets amid concerns about its debt.Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter also questions the long-term value of Netflix’s programming line-up.“What is something like Season One of ‘House of Cards’ worth to you if you already have watched it? It’s probably only worth something to someone who hasn’t been subscribing to Netflix for the past five years,” Pachter says. “So that means Netflix has to keep reinventing itself virtually every year, and that costs money.”last_img read more

Cameco says Canada Revenue Agency appealing Tax Court ruling in companys favour

first_imgSASKATOON – Cameco Corp. says the Canada Revenue Agency is appealing a Tax Court decision that was in the company’s favour.The Saskatoon-based uranium miner estimates it will take about two years for the Federal Court of Appeal to hear and decide the case.Last month, Cameco says the Tax Court ruled its favour in the case which centred around its use of a subsidiary in Switzerland to sell and trade its uranium.The CRA contended it was a sham established to avoid Canadian taxes, while Cameco maintained it was for legal and sound business practices.Despite the CRA appeal, Cameco says it will be making an application to the court to recover costs incurred over the course of this case.Cameco noted that decisions of the Federal Court of Appeal may be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, if the top court agrees to hear the appeal.Companies in this story: (TSX:CCO)last_img read more

Trump right and wrong on French wine tariffs

first_imgPARIS — U.S. President Donald Trump is partly right but far from completely correct when he says that France’s “big tariffs” make it hard for American vintners to sell their wines here: Wrong because customs duties on imported wines are applied not by France but by the European Union. Right because American tariffs are “globally” less than what Europe charges, the French customs authority says.Prices aside, wine made in the U.S. is apparently appreciated in the European Union — the world’s premier importer — and in France, where the value of wine imported has risen 200 per cent between 2008 and 2017, according to the French Federation of Wines and Spirits Exporters.Trump went after France on several fronts in tweets on Tuesday, including blasting tariffs on its emblematic wine.The Associated Presslast_img read more

Texas hospital system accused of holding patients illegally

first_imgFORT WORTH, Texas — A Texas corporation that runs behavioural health hospitals is accused of illegally holding four patients.The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that SAS Healthcare Inc. was indicted Wednesday on nine counts of violating the Texas Mental Health Code.The indictment alleges the corporation known as Sundance Behavioral Healthcare System detained two patients involuntarily at its Arlington facility longer than the 48 hours allowed without a court order. It also accuses the company of not allowing two voluntary patients to leave.Prosecutors on Thursday said filed a notice saying they will introduce extraneous offences, including allegations the corporation didn’t conduct welfare checks on a patient who died by suicide in the facility’s care.A law firm for SAS Healthcare said the “unprecedented” criminal prosecution “ignores legislatively enacted blanket immunity” that gives medical professionals discretion in treatment.The Associated Presslast_img read more

Israel fighter jet sale to Croatia fails after US objections

first_imgZAGREB, Croatia — Croatia’s defence minister says Israel has failed to overcome U.S. objections to a plan to sell 12 used fighter jets to Croatia and the $500 million deal will likely be cancelled.Damir Krsticevic spoke after a meeting with Israeli defence officials in Zagreb on Thursday.Israel reached a tentative deal to sell the upgraded F-16 Barak fighters to Croatia in March pending U.S. approval that would allow the American-made technology to be purchased by a third party.The deal ran into trouble after Washington said that Israel needs to strip off the upgrades that were added to the aircraft after Israel took delivery from the U.S. some 30 years ago.Israel upgraded the jets with sophisticated electronics, which was crucial in Croatia’s decision to buy the planes from Israel rather than from the U.S.The Associated Presslast_img read more

Oilpatch CEO says Trudeau needs to give real pipeline support not just

first_imgBut Broen says Trudeau should sit down with officials from Kinder Morgan Canada, the company building the much-delayed Trans Mountain project, to find out what obstacles it is facing and then take action to remove those barriers.In a speech to investors at his company’s annual general meeting in Calgary, Broen said the government shouldn’t have launched a revamp of the National Energy Board, adding he doesn’t understand what was wrong with the regulator as it was.He says he disagrees with the prime minister that Alberta’s adoption of a carbon tax last year makes it easier to push through pipeline construction, pointing out no new pipeline capacity has resulted as yet.“I would tell him (Trudeau) he has to show leadership on the pipeline file. And it’s not just words,” said Broen. “He needs to back up Kinder Morgan, the pipeline he’s approved, and he needs to see it through to construction and make sure we can put shovels in the ground and get it built for the benefit of all Canadians.” CALGARY, A.B. — An oil company CEO is harshly criticizing Justin Trudeau as the prime minister tours the oilsands region of northeastern Alberta today.Athabasca Oil CEO Rob Broen says if he met Trudeau, he would tell him the industry needs real leadership on oil export pipelines, “not just words.”Trudeau has been telling audiences in B.C. and Alberta that he supports both the environment and pipeline projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion from Edmonton to the Vancouver area.last_img read more

Supreme Court will not hear drug testing appeal involving oilsands workers

first_imgOTTAWA, O.N. – The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear a union’s appeal of a key ruling about random drug testing at Suncor Energy’s oilsands operations in northeast Alberta.Suncor began testing staff in safety-sensitive jobs six years ago, prompting Unifor – which represents some 3,000 workers at the site – to file a grievance claiming the tests infringe privacy.An arbitration tribunal allowed the union’s grievance, concluding the testing policy was an unreasonable exercise of management rights. However, an Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench ruling quashed that decision, sending the matter to a fresh arbitration panel.Unifor appealed, but the Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed the union’s challenge, and Unifor took its case to the Supreme Court.As usual, the high court gave no reason for refusing to hear the case.last_img read more

UNBC President hoping to see nursing school in Fort St John in

first_imgTalks on setting up the nursing school began back in February, just weeks before Auditor General Carol Bellringer released a report which said that Northern Health was not doing enough to recruit and retain registered nurses in the northeast part of the province. As part of her recommendations, Bellringer said that establishing a nursing school in Northeast B.C. would help to better recruit and retain nurses in this part of the province.In July, Peace River Regional District Chair Brad Sperling said that the PRRD was waiting to hear back from the Ministry of Advanced Education about the proposal.Dr. Weeks said that the Ministry has reviewed the nursing school proposal over the summer, sending it back to get some questions and clarifications about the pathway’s students would take through the program, as well as assurances about UNBC’s partnership with NLC.“We’ve done all that, it’s in front of them right now and we’re, like everyone else, just waiting to hear. But we’re cautiously optimistic and pretty encouraged about it. I have several meetings with the Ministry this fall, and we anticipate that we’ll make some progress on that.”Dr. Weeks explained that 50 percent of the program’s spaces will be set aside for NLC students, which he says will enable the programs already in place to increase the pathways that students in Northeast B.C. have.He said that if everything goes according to plan, the nursing school would, at the earliest, begin admitting its first students 18 months from now. When asked about further expanding UNBC’s medical school into Northeast B.C. after the nursing school is established, Dr. Weeks said that while those talks had not yet happened the medical program at the Prince George campus is looking at ways to be better connected with communities in Northern B.C.He added that in the meantime, UNBC has also begun expanding physiotherapy programs in Northern B.C. due to the current shortage of physiotherapists in this half of the province. FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – UNBC President Dr. Daniel Weeks, who was in Fort St. John yesterday to meet with some of the university’s alumni and attend a board meeting, says that he’s optimistic about the provincial government approving the university’s proposal to start a nursing school in Fort St. John.Dr. Weeks, who is beginning his second as the university’s president, said that UNBC’s Nursing Program currently offers courses at its main campus in Prince George, as well as online, and at satellite campuses in Quesnel and Terrace.He said that the university has partnered with Northern Lights College and local governments in Northeast B.C. on a proposal to offer Nursing Program courses at its Fort St. John campus, which is located at the college.last_img read more

Volunteers needed for the 2020 Winter Games

first_imgIn order for the games to run smoothly over the four days in February 2020, the winter games board wants to be able to match one volunteer to every one participant at the game, which includes the athletes, coaches and officials.Online registration opens September 7th, 2019 at BCWinterGames.ca which allows you to pick the area you want to work in.Winter Games gives athletes, coaches and officials the opportunity for development and preparation for higher levels of sports.The City is offering various facilities to be used in Fort St. John to support the competition including;Pomeroy Sports CentreNorth Peace ArenaSwimming PoolField HouseSchool District 60 is also being a huge contributor to the games by offering;Seven schools to be used for accommodationSix Gyms for various sportKitchens in schools for meal preparationProviding transportation and busingThe games will involve Indigenous content with an opening prayer, ceremonies and Indigenous speakers at some of the events. The Winter Games also continue to accept contributions, donations, cash and help in-kind from friends of the games to help with this endeavour.To view the FB Event page; CLICK HERE FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Registration to be a volunteer for the 2020 Winter Games opens Saturday, September 7th, 2019 to fill 1800 positions.During a presentation to Fort St. John City Council the board of the winter games shared volunteers are the heart and soul of the games. That volunteering is a good experience to be engaged and involved in a memorable experience.last_img read more

FBs Instagram enters ecommerce business with shopping button

first_imgSan Francisco: Facebook-owned Instagram on Tuesday made a move into potentially lucrative e-commerce by adding an option to buy products shown off in posts by selected brands. A new “checkout” button for instant purchasing launched in a beta version of the app in the US with a limited number of businesses, according to the popular image-centric messaging service. “We’re introducing Checkout on Instagram,” the Silicon Valley based division of Facebook said in an online post. Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscal”When you find a product you love, you can now buy it without leaving the app.” Tapping the checkout button will allow shoppers to select options such as size or color and then pay for items without leaving the Instagram app. Previously, people inspired to buy products featured in Instagram posts had to follow links to outside online shopping sites. Information entered for an initial purchase will be stored for future use, according to Instagram. Also Read – Food grain output seen at 140.57 mt in current fiscal on monsoon boostIt remained to be seen how people would feel trusting information such as credit card details to a service owned by Facebook, which has been hit with waves of criticism for its handling of personal data. Brands taking part in the checkout feature included Adidas, Burberry, Dior, H&M, Nike, Oscar de la Renta, Prada, and glasses retailer Warby Parker. Facebook makes the bulk of its money from digital advertising but has dabbled with e-commerce in the past.last_img read more

Nursing grievances

first_imgAfter five years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi representing Varanasi, has the constituency changed for the better? Has it become cleaner? Has it been transformed into a Kyoto as Modi had promised? Are the weavers better off? Is the air less polluted? Has the river Ganges become cleaner? Is the infrastructure better? The jury will be out on May 23 when results come. Modi filed his nomination on April 26 to represent Varanasi for the second time. He has stuck to Varanasi and the Modi frenzy was in full swing at the mega roadshow on April 25. Also Read – A special kind of bondA visit to Varanasi reveals that Modi has done a lot but it is still ‘work is in progress’, as Professor A K Shrivastava of the Benares Hindu University claims. I found that Varanasi stands divided between those who support Modi’s ambitious developmental push and those who oppose it. In 2014, he had promised a metro, a monorail, six-lane highways, flyovers, satellite towns, 24-hour electricity and water, a clean Ganges, luxury cruises on the Ganges, solid waste management and other developmental works. Modi’s supporters point out that he has not only focused on improving roads but also improved the overall infrastructure in and around Varanasi. The Multi-Modal Terminal and the Trade Facilitation Centre, heritage lights installed across Varanasi are some examples. On paper, Modi has brought about Rs 30,000 crores worth projects in these five years. Also Read – Insider threat managementThe first thing that strikes you after landing at the Lal Bahadur Shastri airport is a four-lane road to the city with three flyovers. Our cab driver Kamalesh points out that it takes just 45 minutes to reach the city as compared to three hours earlier. A clear view of the Ganga, broadened roads, flyovers and bridges welcome you as you enter Varanasi. But there are no signs of posters and elections are low key. According to Anand Chaube, a staunch Modi supporter the improvements include gas pipeline, the Ring Road, bridges over the Ganga and the Varuna. But Modi’s critics point out that roads are dug up for laying underground cables. The city is dotted with filth, bumpy roads with potholes and crumbling bridges. The Congress candidate Ajay Rai notes that sanitation has improved, but the poor drainage system is another problem. Rai is critical of a dedicated Viswanath corridor to the temple. The project involves a 50 feet wide pathway after demolishing around 250 structures, some built in 17thcentury. The Rs 600crore project will create 45,000 square metres of prime space. I found that some of the residents from whom the houses were bought are not happy. Some religious leaders have also opposed the project. They claim that the project is trampling ‘Kashi’s soul’. From the Muslim side, Mufti Maulana Abdul Batin Nomani is concerned about the security of masjid adjacent to the temple. The RSS leader Ramesh and the VHP leader Divakar claim that the pilgrims are now able to move about freely. Incidentally, a visit to the temple proves pilgrims welcome this corridor. The boatmen who take you around the 90 Ghats are great fans of Modi. Showing the installation of lights on the riverfront, our boatman Mahesh Saini is proud of the improvements in the Ghats. “Modi ji ne bahut kaam kiya” he says. There is a visible difference in Assi, Dasaawamedh and a few other Ghats. The Alaknanda, the 60-seater luxury vessel floated by Nordic Cruise Line, offers breathtaking cruises on the Ganges. But the Samajwadi candidate Shalini Yadav notes that not far away from the Assi Ghats most of Varanasi’s waste spills into the Ganga. More than 3/4th of the total sewage generated in the city is being dumped in the Ganga through Assi and other drains. Varanasi is also faced with severe pollution problem. Vishwambhar Nath Mishra, the mahant of Sankatmochan temple, is the most vocal voice on lack of sewage system, Ganga cleaning etc. Modi had announced a Rs. 21,000 crore plan to clean up the river with Rs.600 crore specially allotted for his constituency Varanasi. Haji Habibullah, a Muslim weaver points out that the famous Benarasi silk industry is almost on the verge of collapse because of the mass-produced garments and the Chinese competition. There are about six lakhs weavers in the city; most of them Muslims, and many have abandoned their profession because it was no longer profitable. Modi’s Mudra loan schemes have helped them but the number of beneficiaries is falling. They have difficulty in filling out the forms for the GST, as most weavers are illiterate. Modi has no challengers in Varanasi. The BJP and RSS workers are complacent. Ajay Rai and Shalini Yadav are weak candidates. Had Priyanka Gandhi contested, there would have been some contest. The only debate now is the margin of victory for Modi. He had won in 2014 with a margin of over 580,000 votes. Modi told his supporters after filing nomination: “Mother Ganga will take care of me.” (The views expressed are strictly personal)last_img read more