What rubbish!

Update“We are out here cleaning India Gate. Cleaning programmes are going on across the country. The message is we have to keep India clean. Everybody and not just government officials will have to participate in this. And it has to be an everyday operation, not just once in a year and not just for the camera.”

Alphons Kannanthanam, a recent inductee into the Union Cabinet, was doing his bit for the Swach Bharat cause — pity that he first arranged for cameras and the press, and then had volunteers litter the India Gate lawns so he could “clean it up”. That he then lectured about camera-ops is merely the ironical icing on the cake.

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Name games

“It seems that Buranda is what used to be called an Underdeveloped Country. However, this term has apparently become offensive, so they were called Developing Countries. This term was apparently patronising. Then they became Less Developed Countries — or LDC, for short.

It seems that the term LDC is not yet causing offense to anyone. When it does, we are immediately ready to replace it with HRRC. This is short for Human Resource-Rich Countries. In other words, they are grossly overpopulated and begging for money.”

— From the Conflict of Interest episode in Yes Minister.

Now read this clip from an actual news report:

“Beginning this season, for instance, if India’s monsoon rainfall were to dip below 10 per cent of the normal and span between 20 and 40 per cent of the country’s area, it would be called a “deficient” year instead of an “All India Drought Year” as the IMD’s older manuals would say. A more severe instance, where the deficit exceeds 40 per cent and would have been called an “All India Severe Drought Year,” will now be a “Large Deficient Year”.

So there you go: India will have no more droughts. By administrative fiat.

(We’ve had two successive Large Deficient Years, though. And if the rains play truant this monsoon, we might have a Totally Fucked Up Year coming up).

BTW, this is not the first time a name change has solved our problems. Remember this?

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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Electrifying news

A BJP press release dated January 31, 2016 listed a string of achievements of the Federal government, and stressed the importance of data, and of educating the public to the achievements of the government. The relevant clip:

It is necessary to show the statistics because in the Congress-led UPA-1 & UPA-2 regime, many of these indicators were moving in the opposite direction. Due to economic policies and reforms implemented by Modi government, not only have many indicators improved, but they have improved by large margins.

As statements go, this is unexceptional. It is necessary to monitor progress and to disseminate the results of governmental schemes — lack of transparency was one of the big issues with UPA-II. The problem begins, however, when the line between fact and propaganda is blurred.

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Inner party democracy

I wonder how long it will be before this minister says she was misquoted? Oh well — for as long as it lasts:

On the day the Bombay High Court lifted the ban on Maggi noodles, Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal has criticised the way the issue has been handled by her own government, saying there is a fear psychosis in industry and signs of a return of ‘inspector raj’.

Speaking to NDTV, Ms Badal, when asked for her reaction to the government’s Rs. 640 crore-class action suit against Nestle, said, “This has created a fear psychosis in the industry. It’s like the Inspector raj.”

“In the name of health, industry should not be harassed,” she said, criticising the food regulator.  Ms Badal said the biggest problem is a lack of transparency in the system which had no clear set of protocols, saying it was time to harmonise systems with intentional standards.


Flip Flop on Ford Foundation

As recently as April 2015, it was deemed that the activities of the Ford Foundation were a threat to national security, fomenting communalism, and a host of other crimes. This, on the testimony of no less than the government of Gujarat: (Emphasis mine)

…the Gujarat government has trained its guns on her main funding source, the US-based NGO, Ford Foundation, for “direct interference … in the internal affairs of the country and also of abetting communal disharmony in India“.

The state home department has also accused the Ford Foundation of interfering with the judicial system, defaming the Indian military, and acting against the stated goal of promoting communal harmony. It has accused the funding agency of encouraging Setalvad’s NGOs to advocate “a religion specific and Muslim supportive criminal code and also keep the 2002 riots incident alive”.

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