The U-turn sarkar

May 25, 2014: The then Delhi BJP chief Harsh Vardhan says that the first issue he will take up with the prime minister, if his party won the Lok Sabha polls, was the cause of granting full statehood to the capital city. The move, he said, would solve the problem of multiple authorities; he said the NDA had earlier tabled a relevant bill in Parliament but the successor UPA government had not followed up.

Harsh Vardhan’s predecessor Madan Lal Khurana had made a similar demand in 2003, coincidentally, again, just ahead of assembly elections. “The BJP leadership at the Centre says it is drafting a new Delhi Statehood Bill,” the article points out. “This is something it had done in 1998 as well, a few months before the assembly elections in November that year.”

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Liars, Inc?

What was I saying just earlier today about the Somnath Temple and rabbitholes? Now, this:

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WTF Just Happened: November 29

#1. To live where I please, to do as I wish, to believe as I wish, to love as I like — these are my fundamental rights as a free citizen of a free country. The rights to equality, to freedom of thought and expression, to freedom of religion — these are guaranteed by the state. It says so, right here.

And yet, lo these many years after the state was formed and the constitution was formalized, we have the ongoing spectacle of a young woman, an adult, having to go all the way to the Supreme Court to get these rights for herself. ‘I want my freedom,’ she tells the court — and it is telling that she actually has to go to court to ask for it. We have, too, the spectacle of the Supreme Court doling out these rights to her piecemeal, a little bit at a time — while the state, which (constitutionally) guarantees her inalienable rights, is busy opposing, in the apex court, her right to live and to love as she pleases. What country, what century, are we living in, again?

Meanwhile, we have the National Intelligence Agency — which has been systematically weaponized by the ruling party — saying that it has proof Hadiya’s husband is a recruiter for the ISIS.

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Amusing ourselves to death

For the two weeks that I have been away, I lived a pre-internet life. I consumed “news”, such as it is, through the morning papers and ignored the internet; I avoided calls except for a couple of absolutely urgent ones; I left messages unresponded to; I refrained from obsessively checking my mailbox, and limited mail time to 15 minutes at the end of each day.

 

In this time I went for long walks; I met a couple of friends for long conversations over breakfast/lunch; I caught up with my wife who, too, had put her phone away for the duration; I learned to breathe again.
Then, yesterday, I reverted to type. I scrolled through the main Twitter timeline and my curated news links; paged through the few dozen news websites I’ve bookmarked in my ‘dailies’ file; checked messages and DMs as they came in, and I realized just how much the internet shrinks the time and the mind-space available for everything else.

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Blog on a break

So here I go again. Some urgent travel just came up, which puts me out of town, and mostly out of connectivity, for the entire week. Will likely be back Sunday. Be well, people, and if you see stories that deserve comment/thought/questions, please post to comments and I’ll get back to you after I am back online.

Beggars, losers

The image above is about a story dated October 2009. It could have been done today, about this story.

As Ivanka Trump’s visit to India nears, the south Indian city of Hyderabad is getting ready to dazzle its foreign guests — by locking its homeless and destitute people out of sight in prison rehabilitation centers.

I wrote this in October 2009. It could be written today.

That’s more thought and effort — and money — going into hiding poverty than ever went into alleviating it. While on which, I really really loved the ‘bushes’ idea. Take a leaf from Macbeth, do — get the slum dwellers and beggars to squat in front of the unsightly huts; Delhi turned Dunsinane. Solves two problems in one shot, by hiding the slums and their unsightly inhabitants in one shot.

The story of our life — governments come and go, but the sores on our social fabric continue to fester. Our poor are not human beings, they are merely an optics problem; their homes are to hidden from the august gaze, as happened earlier this year when Modi took Shinzo Abe to Ahmedabad for a road show, the poor themselves are to be locked out of sight when august personages come visiting, only to be freed and left to their own devices once the photo-op is over.

We live in a world where “looking poor” is a crime. These are the things that should shame us as a society. These are also the things we never speak of as a society.

 

Ab ki baar, afterthought sarkar

The GST is working perfectly fine. The citizens are happy. The money is pouring into the treasury. A New India is dawning. Except, this from just now:

The GST Council today decided to keep only 50 items, mostly demerit, sin and luxury goods in top 28 per cent tax bracket. “Lower 18 per cent GST will be levied on chewing gums, chocolates, after shave, deodorant, washing power, detergent, marble,” Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi said. The all-powerful council pruned the list of items attracting the top 28 per cent tax rate to just 50 from 227 previously, Modi told reporters here. In effect, the council cut rates on 177 goods.

Why does the “well thought out” GST law require revisions at almost the rate of one per day? And while we are on questions, how does this change the financial projects of the ministry?

Now waiting for the official spin, about how this is a sign of a “responsive government” that listens to its people.