An open letter to open letter-writers

Dear everybody:

The “open letter” — which is nothing but an opinion piece by another name — is so yesterday.

Please stop writing them. For one thing, I don’t think you quite get it. For another, each time you do you end up embarrassing yourself.

Thank you.

PS: The above is prompted by this latest entry in the open stupidity stakes, from Bhupendra Chaubey. I read it through thrice, and I still can’t figure out what the heck he is trying to say.

All that remains with me is this line:

A few months back, we went into a huddle on how we could reimagine ourselves. Imagine, the onerous task of doing something day in and day out. Then choosing to move forward in another direction.

Yeah, imagine!

Imagine the “onerous task of doing something day in and day out” — otherwise known as going to work.

Imagine , further, that moment of epiphany when you realise what you have been onerously doing day in and day out is all wrong, all out of step with the times.

Imagine the pain of realising that you actually should be doing something else — which is, err, to change your name?


The Center to the rescue

Just how insane is this?

A post yesterday spoke of how public sector banks, alarmed over the misuse of loans to the Punjab government, has put a stopper on further loans. Inter alia, I’d pointed at the Rs 10,000 crore scam, spread over three states, that has to do with food procurement.

So what does the Central government do? It will give the Punjab government a Rs 20,000 crore line of credit to perpetuate the scam. Because see, Punjab is doing what it is doing “in the national interest”.

Who was it who said we get the government we deserve?



Hello, Sir Humphrey

And to that end, I recommend that we set up an interdepartmental committee with fairly broad terms of reference so that at the end of the day we’ll be in the position to think through the various implications and arrive at a decision based on long-term considerations rather than rush prematurely into precipitate and possibly ill-conceived action which might well have unforeseen repercussions.

Remember that classic stall by Sir Humphrey Appleby, from the ‘Doing the Honours’ episode of Yes Minister? Now read the one below: (Emphasis added):

It is also gathered that efforts will now be made to prepare a draft action plan examining all possibilities of bringing back the famed diamond back to India from the UK museum.

That’s from a news story about the government’s ‘determination’ to bring back the Kohinoor. All that is missing is the laugh track.

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Death of a thousand cuts

Public sector banks will stop lending money to the Punjab government, says this report.

More than 30 bankers, led by State Bank of India, also decided to ask the central government to make good any losses the lenders may suffer because of the mismatch between the value of foodgrain in Punjab granaries and the loans provided to buy them.

This action relates to the uncovering of a rice procurement scam involving Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat, that ET had reported earlier.
To my considerable surprise — yeah, colour me naive — there wasn’t a yip out of the mainstream press when this story first appeared; not even those sections of the press that gets its kicks out of ranting about corruption. Nor has there been any response — not even the mandatory sound bytes — from the government, either at the Center or in the concerned states.
When I made a tangential mention of this scam in a post a few days ago, a friend who leans right wrote in to say that my ‘insinuation’ was unfair. Turned out that what he had taken away from this post was my “sly finger-pointing” at the prime minister. “Can you reasonably expect that the PM is responsible for every scam in every state?”, he chastised me then.

I am damned if I can make out how he deduced that from my post. The thing is, like large sections of the country, I too had momentarily yielded to hope. The hope that “na khaoonga, na khaane doonga” was more than an empty slogan. That a government elected by a populace fed up with the corruption of the previous regime would move heaven and earth to root it out, wherever it was found. That after UPA 2, we had finally gotten a government that would take responsibility, rather than pass the buck.

Like I said, naivete is my besetting sin.

The only official response thus far has been Sir Humphrey Appleby-level obfuscation from MoS for Finance Jayant Sinha. I defy you to parse this sentence and tell me what it means:

“That is precisely why we need a systemic solution to ensure whatever needs to be resolved across the various agencies can be done in a structured and systemic way.”

Meanwhile, the ET report says that the banks’ move could throw Punjab’s economy into a spin. And that, therefore, the chief minister met the prime minister to “discuss the issue”.

Which issue would that be? The issue of his own large-scale corruption, and that of his cohorts? Or the issue that banks, aware of the corruption, are now refusing to play ball and allow the malfeasance to continue?

The French have a way of putting these things perfectly.

In passing, and since the subject came up, find the time to go through this in-depth series by M Rajshekhar for Scroll — excellent feet on the ground reportage.

Drought, redux

To my surprise, an earlier post on the pointless symbolism of shifting the IPL out of Maharashtra resulted in emails (and messages) from several friends. The consensus was this: While they agree that shifting cricket out of a drought-hit state does not solve the problem, symbolic gestures are not to be sneered at either — they are, I am told, a way of increasing general awareness of a problem.

Okay, if you say so. Now consider a few recent instances of “raising awareness”:

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PSA: A million images now

The British Library has just released over a million images onto Flickr Commons, free to download, use, repurpose. The details, here.

And for those looking for stock photos to burnish their writing, here you go: 20 sites that provide free photos.

Writings on drought versus cricket

THE Bombay High Court activism in re the IPL has become the gift that goes on giving. But as with most gifts, some of the writing that is emerging from the mess makes you wish you could exchange it for something else, something better.

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