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SINGAPORE, WEEKEND OF FRIDAY,
MAY 24, 2019
FIRST WOMAN TO
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National Geographic to release
documentary on Indian elections
The National Geographic has
announced that a documentary on the
Indian elections will soon make its way
to TV screens.
The production was shot at 37
locations across India. Several faces of
the elections have been captured – from
booth-level officers, political leaders to
ground-level party workers, from
first-time voters to 100-year-old voters,
said a statement from the channel.
The documentary will give viewers a
behind-the-scenes look at political
party rooms and a ringside view of
political rallies, as well as examine the
role of social media and cover new
technology in wooing the voters.
India puts into orbit
radar imaging satellite RISAT-2B
The Indian Space Research
Organisation (ISRO) successfully
launched a radar imaging earth
observation satellite RISAT-2B on
Wednesday, officials said.
The satellite was launched from
Satish Dhawan Space Centre in
Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
It will send clear images which will
be used for agriculture, forestry and
disaster management support, said
ISRO, the country’s space agency.
The images captured by the satellite
will also be used for surveillance
purposes but ISRO is silent on this
Athlete Gomathi tests positive
for banned substance
Athlete Gomathi Marimuthu, winner of
the women’s 800m gold medal at the
Doha Asian Championships last month,
has tested positive for a banned
substance norandrosterone, which is an
The 30-year-old has provisionally
been suspended. If she is proven guilty,
she could be stripped of her medal and
face a four-year ban.
However, The News Minute reported
that she has denied the allegations,
saying she was yet to get any
information about the test results.
Doctor suspended for
wrong surgery on boy
Kerala Health Minister K.K. Shailaja on
Wednesday suspended a government
doctor for performing the wrong
surgery on a seven-year-old boy.
The surgeon operated on the boy for
hernia, instead of giving him nose
surgery. He admitted his mistake.
A statement issued by the minister’s
office said the doctor has been
suspended and a detailed probe
launched into the incident that took
place at the Manjeri Medical College
Hospital in the Malappuram district.
A mix-up had occurred after another
boy with a similar name to that of the
seven-year-old, had come in for hernia
Priests to receive fixed sum of
money for handling last rites
Hindu priests in Kolkata will now
receive a stipulated sum of money when
they perform the last rites for the dead.
The Kolkata mayor, Mr Firhad
Hakim, said that as many as 49 priests
working in seven burning ghats (series
of steps leading down to a body of
water) will be given Rs380 for each case
Said Mr Hakim: “There are some
Hindu priests who only conduct last
rites. They have no fixed stipend and
would depend on whatever the
deceased’s family would offer.”
IAF officer to face culpable
The officer held responsible for the
accidental shooting down of a military
helicopter at the height of
India-Pakistan tension in February will
be charged by the Indian Air Force
(IAF) for culpable homicide not
amounting to murder along with three
others, according to reports.
The IAF has yet to officially
acknowledge reasons for the Mi-17
helicopter’s crash on Feb 27, the day
Pakistan Air Force fighter jets
attempted to cross the Line of Control.
But reports suggest that it was shot
down in friendly fire by IAF’s own air
The IAF said that the investigation is
still going on but some reports indicate
that there was a lapse in following the
standard operating procedure.
The crash killed six IAF personnel
and injured one civilian.
IAF produces first combat-ready
woman fighter pilot
Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth is
the first woman fighter pilot in India
to qualify for combat missions.
The Bihar-born completed the
operational syllabus on Wednesday
on the MiG-21 Bison jet.
She has been posted to Nal airbase
on the border with Pakistan and is also
qualified for night flying operations.
Ms Kanth is among the first three
women in the Indian Air Force (IAF)
to qualify to be fighter pilots. The
other two, Ms Mohana Singh and
Ms Avani Chaturvedi, are still
Ms Kanth joined the fighter
squadron in November 2017 and flew
the first solo on a MiG-21 Bison jet in
March last year.
Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth (far left) has become India’s first woman fighter pilot.
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Marketing Team Head
Prime Minister Narendra Modi
promised to unite the country yester-
day after a huge election win, with his
party on course to increase its majority
on a mandate of pursuing business-
friendly policies and a hard line on na-
At press time, official data from the
Election Commission showed Modi’s
Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata
Party (BJP) ahead in 298 of the 542
seats available, up from the 282 it won
in 2014 and more than the 272 seats
needed for a majority in the Lok Sabha.
That would give it the first back-to-
back majority for a single party since
“Together we will build a strong and
inclusive India,” Mr Modi said on Twit-
ter on Thursday. “India wins yet again!”
Mr Modi’s victory boosted financial
markets as investors expect his govern-
ment will continue to pursue economic
reforms. He will be under pressure to
create employment for the tens of mil-
lions of young people coming on to the
jobs market in the next few years and to
boost depressed farm incomes.
“The immediate challenges are to ad-
dress employment, the issue of agricul-
tural income and revive the banking sec-
tor,” said Mr Madan Sabnavis, chief
economist at Care Ratings in Mumbai.
But making good on his promise to
unite the country will be difficult as the
BJP campaign was often divisive,
prompting the minority Muslim commu-
nity to express fears that they were be-
ing treated as second-class citizens. His
pledge to take a strong stand against the
separatist movement in Muslim-major-
ity Kashmir has also added to tensions
with nuclear-armed rival Pakistan.
At BJP headquarters in New Delhi,
party workers set off firecrackers and be-
gan decorating the building with floral
decorations ahead of an expected vic-
“It’s a stamp of approval by voters
on the honest and decisive leadership of
Prime Minister Modi,” said Mr Nalin S.
Kohli, a BJP spokesman.
Congress leaders were sombre.
“Why despite a weak economy peo-
ple preferred the BJP is something we
have to understand,” said Mr Salman
Soz, a party spokesman.
“People have given them a second
chance. I hope they use it well.”
The NDA’s predicted margin of vic-
tory, at 348 seats to 85 for the Congress-
led United Progressive Alliance, accord-
ing to TV channel NDTV, is much larger
than surveys indicated in the run-up to
Analysts said the BJP capitalised on
the star power of Mr Modi, a frenetic
campaigner, as well as superior finan-
cial resources. It outspent Congress by
six times on Facebook and Google ad-
vertising, data showed, and by as much
as 20 times overall, sources told Reuters
The poor showing from Congress,
that was ahead in just 52 seats, will lead
to questions over the leadership of
Mr Rahul Gandhi, a scion of the Nehru-
Gandhi dynasty whose father, grand-
mother and great grandfather all served
as prime minister.
“The Congress party has not been
able to improve at all,” said Mr Rahul
Verma, a fellow at the Centre for Policy
Research in New Delhi. “One big story
is the emerging challenge for the Con-
gress to remain a national alternative to
the BJP. That now is under question.”
Modi promises inclusive India
after stunning election win
BJP supporters celebrate after learning the initial election results outside the party
headquarters in New Delhi.
May 24, 2019
Beneath the gleaming glass and steel
structures that dot downtown Singapore
lies the story of Singapore’s commercial
past, a story that began with the found-
ing of modern Singapore in 1819.
Long before Singapore was estab-
lished as a colonial port, Indian busi-
nesses had made their presence felt in
the region. Raffles, with remarkable
foresight, designated Singapore as an en-
trepot and more and more commercial
migrants were attracted to it.
The Raffles Town Plan envisioned in
1822 had designated areas for specific
purposes. Early entrepreneurial activity
centred on the river front and Indians at
this time were mostly concentrated
around Chulia Street.
Indian businessmen had a strong
presence in Market Street and Malacca
Street. Those trading in cloth domi-
nated High Street and Arab Street.
While the Serangoon Road area catered
to the daily needs of the people, a paral-
lel Little India thrived in downtown Sin-
Indian businessmen were predomi-
nantly the North Indian Sindhi, Gu-
jarati and Punjabis. They were involved
in the entrepot trade of timber, spices,
gunny sacks, tea and scrap. The Chet-
tiars from Tamil Nadu were in the busi-
ness of moneylending. There were also
the Parsis, Chulias, Moplahs and many
Indians may have been the minority
community in Singapore but their pres-
ence was not insignificant. Largely fam-
ily owned, they successfully established
themselves as international traders of re-
Much of the history of these early mi-
grants lies untapped in the memories of
It was in the year 1915 that the Jum-
abhoys from Kutch in Gujarat estab-
lished a small business office in Singa-
pore. Mr Ameerali Jumabhoy recalls
that it was purely business that brought
them here as they were already well-es-
tablished traders in India trading with
the Middle Eastern countries.
“We had an office on Malacca Street.
It was a practice among the Indian busi-
nesses to employ managers and clerks
from their own regions in India and
keep a record in their native tongue. No
one spoke the local languages and in
this situation, it was the ‘kapala’ who
helped conduct the business,” Mrs Mimi
Somjee, a third-generation Jumabhoy
and daughter of Mr Ameerali, explains.
A “kapala” was a Chinese labour
contractor who employed the coolies,
weighed goods, took delivery and was
in charge of loading and unloading
They were extremely loyal to their In-
dian employers, making sure that they
were not cheated.
Initially the Jumabhoys were import
merchants and commission agents, ex-
porting among other things coffee, rat-
tan, gambier and tin.
Mr Ameerali remembers his father,
Mr Rajabali Jumabhoy, as an outstand-
ing leader who played a part in the for-
mation of the Singapore Indian Associa-
tion (1923) and Singapore Indian Cham-
ber of Commerce (1935).
He was elected to the Legislative
Council in 1955. A true pioneer and
much-respected community leader,
Mr Rajabali and his wife were invited to
attend Queen Elizabeth’s wedding in
London in November 1947. That was a
great honour in colonial Singapore.
Business continued to boom and the
Jumabhoys soon had business interests
in property development, shipping and
insurance as well.
While Mr Rajabali counted business-
man and philanthropist Govindasamy
Pillai as a close friend, it is the memory
of a young lawyer named Lee Kuan Yew
who worked at the legal firm of Laycock
& Ong across the road from their office
and frequently visited them, that brings
a smile to Mr Ameerali’s face.
This was a time when people of differ-
ent ethnicities worked together in har-
mony and accord, long before the word
interracial harmony became fashion-
In the absence of technology, busi-
nesses worked on goodwill earned
through word of mouth and good faith.
Socially too, the different races lived
in harmony. The men had business meet-
ings and struck deals over cups of tea at
the John Little Store in Commercial
Square (today’s Raffles Place).
Mrs Somjee recalls tagging along
with her grandmother to meet friends
from the Jewish, Peranakan, Arab and
Chinese communities. Home was a pala-
tial bungalow on Scotts Road.
During Deepavali, Mr Rajabali
would visit all the Hindu businesses in
the area to wish them.
Mr Ameerali recalls: “My father was
a much-respected leader of the commu-
nity and sometimes going from shop to
shop took time, but the Hindus kept
their shops open until he had visited.
The Hindus, as well as the Chinese,
would reciprocate by visiting him dur-
ing Muslim festivals.
“We socialised with every commu-
nity. As I studied in Anglo-Chinese
School, my friends were Chinese. Our
family supported the creation of the
Gandhi Centre, Gujarati school and do-
nated land to the Ramakrishna Mission.
We played cards with the Hindus during
Deepavali and sat on gunny sacks and
ate off banana leaves during Thai-
When their business suffered a set-
back during World War II, the Jumab-
hoys moved back to India temporarily,
returning only after the Japanese surren-
der. They had to leave everything be-
hind in Singapore and their properties
It was her father’s Chinese nanny
whom Mrs Somjee fondly refers to as
“Amah Tua” who not only saved many
of their belongings, but came back to
work for them without wages until the
business was reestablished.
In a 1981 Oral History interview,
Mr Rajabali observed that they were all
bound together by a common desire to
earn a living peacefully.
“Most of the firms today, I would say
80 per cent of the firms in Singapore
were established by ex-employees who
learnt the trade from their employers
and then left the firm to establish their
The Commercial Square and the ar-
eas around it thus became incubators
for many of the Indian traders.
At 93, Mr Ameerali regrets that peo-
ple are becoming more and more iso-
lated. Times have changed and one has
to make appointments to meet friends,
But he believes that one must change
with the times. His children now man-
age the family business that has diversi-
fied into property and hospitality sec-
tors, among other things.
Mr Rajabali Jumabhoy died in 1998 at the age of 101.
The Jumabhoys and
Singapore’s commercial past
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