Shib Shankar Patra is one among thousands of die-hard Argentina fans in Kolkata and there’s nothing unusual about it. But then die-hard fans at times can be weird too and the 53-year-old Mr. Patra has that weird streak in him.Next best thingTrying to garner enough savings from his modest earnings through a tea stall, Mr. Patra harboured a dream — to watch ‘The Albiceleste’ live from the stands in Russia. But when a Kolkata-based travel agent informed him that his savings — a princely amount of ₹60,000 ($900) is not enough to fund his World Cup trip (travel agent gave him a budget of ₹1.5 lakh), he decided the next best thing — paint his entire three-storeyed building in Argentina colours.“I don’t smoke or drink. I have only one addiction and that is Lionel Messi and Argentina. I don’t earn much but ensure that bulk of my earnings is kept aside for these indulgences when World Cup comes calling,” Mr. Patra, owner of a tea and snack stall in North 24 Parganas’ Nawabganj township said.You don’t need a GPS to track Patra’s house once you get down to Ichhapore Railway Station. Ask any cocky teenager or elderly uncle about “Argentina Chaayer Dokan” (Argentina Tea Stall), they will be more than happy to oblige.The street leading up to his tea stall-cum-house is dotted with Argentina flags.Every four years coinciding with the World Cup, Mr. Patra gives his building a fresh coat of light blue and white shade. Enter his three-room apartment and the craziness hits you instantly. All the walls are painted in Argentina colour, even the small prayer room. The walls of each room adorn a life-size poster of Messi.Addiction can be contagious but if its ‘Messi mania’, Mr. Patra doesn’t mind that his wife Swapna along with his children — 20 year-old daughter Neha and 10-year-old son Shubham are equally mad about the fleet-footed genius. “My kids know everything about Messi. The food he likes, the car he drives, everything,” Mr. Patra says with a glint of pride in his eyes.
Reiterating that it was his government’s aim to ensure that every family was provided with an LPG connection, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said that the Centre had fulfilled its promise of providing eight crore free gas connections to women from economically weaker sections under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) well ahead of the projected deadline. He was addressing a State-level Empowered Women’s Meet of Self Help Groups (SHG) organised by the Maharashtra State Rural Livelihood Mission (UMED) in Aurangabad.The occasion witnessed the handing over of free LPG gas connections to five women beneficiaries, thus completing the Central government’s target of eight crore free gas connections under the scheme, almost seven months before their deadline of March 2020.“The resolution that our government had taken to provide eight crore free gas connections under Ujjwala Yojna was fulfilled today, seven months ahead of the planned date,” said Mr. Modi, adding that the programme had gone a long way in empowering women from the BPL category by preserving their health and making their kitchens ‘smoke-free’.Ayesha Sheikh Rafique of Aurangabad became the eighth crore person to benefit from the scheme and was felicitated by the Prime Minister with four other women.“The first target under the Ujjwala scheme [when launched in May 2016] was to provide five crore connections. The target was later increased to eight crore connections and I am happy to say that within 100 days of the forming of our government, this has been achieved… The work was not only limited to giving gas connections. A massive infrastructure was put in place as new LPG bottling plants were installed to meet the demand,” Mr. Modi said.Commenting on the agrarian crisis and water scarcity in the State’s parched Marathwada region, the Prime Minister said that the proposed Marathwada Water Grid was a laudable project which would bring much relief to the farmers and households in the area besides help solve irrigation problems.“Women in the rural hinterland of Maharashtra and elsewhere have to face much trouble in collecting water. The great Socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia in the 1960s had said that there were two main problems facing the Indian woman: sanitation and drinking water… But despite so many governments and leaders after that, it is only our [BJP-led NDA] government that had the resolve to solve these pressing problems,” said Mr. Modi.He also said that the Centre was planning to spend ₹3.5 lakh crore in the next five years on the ambitious ‘Jal Jeevan Mission’ which aims to resolve potable water problems across the country.Stating that SHGs were not only a means of enhancing economic security, but also a tool for social transformation, Mr. Modi said that his government was determined to ensure that every woman in the country availed of SHG subsidy benefits.“Should the need arise, then under the SHG subsidy benefit, women can withdraw ₹5,000 from their Jan Dhan bank accounts on zero overdraft charges. They will also receive loans upto ₹1 lakh under the Mudra Scheme,” the Prime Minister said.Addressing the audience, Mr. Modi said his government was committed to the safety and growth of women and said that society needed to change its attitude towards women.“Keeping this in mind, we passed a strict law for triple talaq for the benefit of women from the Muslim community. Now, awareness needs to be spread about this,” he said.He further said that he had full confidence that all resolutions taken by the Central government in the last five years, be they financial reforms or social schemes, would be carried out by 2022, the 75th year of Independence. read more
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With World Cup round the corner, Mail Today rates the Indians who played in the ODI series in South Africa and will most likely feature in the showpiece event beginning on February 19.Yusuf PathanYUSUF PATHANSeries performance: 3 matches, 166 runs @ 55.33 and 1 wicketVerdict: The hard-hitting all-rounder won India the Cape Town ODI and almost pulled off another blinder in the deciding match. Yusuf will be the trump card for India in the muchflatter subcontinent wickets and his nagging off-spin will be valuable tooVirat KohliVIRAT KOHLISeries performance: 5 matches, 193 runs @ 48.25Verdict: Virat raised his game by quite a few notches in South Africa. The way he handled the new ball, after the openers regularly failed, shows he has the mettle to take on the best. Has made his case for the starting XI strongerMunaf PatelMUNAF PATEL Series performance: 5 matches, 11 wickets @ 18.72Verdict: Munaf showed the value of bowling straight, ending up as the leading wicket-taker for India in the series. His fourwicket haul that sealed a 1-run win is proof of the impact he can have. India will need his frugal bowlingZaheer KhanZAHEER KHANSeries performance: 5 matches, 9 wickets @ 25.11 and 44 runsVerdict: The biggest positive for India is the fact that Zaheer has managed to play all the five matches and looked in good rhythm in most of them. His bowling in the death overs was commendable and his form & experience will be crucialHarbhajan SinghHARBHAJAN SINGHSeries performance: 5 matches, 4 wickets @ 51.25 and 42 runsVerdict: Apart from the Port Elizabeth ODI where he went for 61 from 10 overs, Harbhajan kept the South Africans on a tight leash. His batting has improved dramatically and the off-spinner will hope to make an impact at the showpiece eventadvertisementSachin TendulkarSACHIN TENDULKAR Series performance: 2 matches, 31 runs @ 15.50Verdict: The master batsman played in two matches and got injured while batting in the second. So one can’t be critical of his performance in the series. Needless to say, Tendulkar’s batting at the top will have an impact on how far India progressPiyush ChawlaPIYUSH CHAWLASeries performance: 1 match, 8 runs & 0 wickets Verdict: The leg-spinner got to play just one match but did well, giving away 32 runs in seven overs. If India decide to go with two spinners in the World Cup, he could get the nod ahead of R Ashwin and his ability with the bat would also be an assetAshish NehraASHISH NEHRA Series performance: 4 matches, 3 wickets @ 58.00Verdict: The Delhi pace bowler had a disappointing outing in South Africa, especially on wickets that should have suited him. The left-armer failed to take wickets or dry up the runs. Nehra will be fighting for a slot in the team if Praveen Kumar regains fitnessYuvraj SinghYUVRAJ SINGH Series performance: 5 matches, 91 runs and 5 wickets @ 28.80Verdict:With just one half-century under his belt, Yuvraj was neither here nor there with his batting. The Proteas found his left-arm spin difficult to negotiate. Dhoni would hope that Yuvraj fires, with bat or ballMS DhoniMS DHONISeries performance: 5 matches, 75 runs @ 15.00Verdict: The skipper was safe behind the wicket but had a poor series with the bat. He generally came in to bat with most of the top-order out cheaply. India will hope that he bats more positively. And win a few tosses tooSuresh RainaSURESH RAINASeries performance: 5 matches, 111 runs @ 22.20 and 1 wicketVerdict: The left hander was completely out of sorts on the bouncy tracks in South Africa and is not a guaranteed starter. His vulnerability against the short ball is too obvious. Teams will target it, no matter how the pitch behaves.Statistics by Manoj Kumar read more