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.
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.
At 8 PM on the 8th of November 2016, the curtain rose on the greatest magic act of all time.
That evening, one man stepped onstage in front of the largest captive audience ever assembled for a performance and, in a speech spanning 2423 words that took 25:04 minutes to deliver, converted most of the currency of one of the largest economies in the world into so much worthless paper.
It was intended, he said, to usher in a Swachch economic Bharat. It was audacious in concept and ambitious in scale, even as it flew in the face of received wisdom that you cannot fool all the people all the time.
The ace mentalist Nakul Shenoy told me that a magician can, and often does, stumble during a performance. Modi’s stumble came four days into his essay in mass hypnotism when, in a November 12 speech to the NRI community in Kobe, Japan, he laughed at the hapless victims of his newest trick. “Ghar pe shaadi hai,” he smirked at one point, “lekin paisa nahin hai.” (There’s a wedding at home, but there’s no money.)