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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WTF Just Happened: The news in briefs


#1. Unlike Gajendra Chauhan, you cannot question Anupam Kher’s curriculum vitae and fitness to chair the FTII — which, you will remember, is where the sequence of universities in turmoil began. Whether Kher’s overt support for the ruling dispensation, as was the case with the likes of Sambit Patra, Shazia Ilmi and others, played a hand in his landing the role is a matter of conjecture. Related, a student looks back at Chauhan’s reign of error.

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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.

Number of employees in Kingfisher Airlines: two

This story:

Unbelievable as that may be, that’s the number of employees for whom Kingfisher Airlines Ltd made remittances to the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF), according to a statement issued by the labour ministry on Tuesday.

Between January 2013 and September 2015, the airline paid EPF for just two employees.