Double, double, toil and trouble…

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble

2018 is likely to be one long round of electioneering — besides the north-eastern states, assembly elections are due in Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan where the BJP is incumbent, and in Karnataka that the BJP is trying to wrest from the ruling Congress party. And it is all shaping up into the sort of witches’ brew that Shakespeare provided the recipe for.

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WTF Just Happened: December 1

#1. After six straight lows, India’s quarterly GDP growth finally trended upwards to 6.3% in the quarter ending September 2017 — a significant uptick from the 5.7% the economy had registered in the previous quarter. The real silver lining is not so much the GDP number itself, but the fact that manufacturing growth accelerated as warehouses restocked after the twin disruptions of demonetization and GST implementation.

Arun Jaitley is hopeful that the impact of those two structural reforms is now “behind us and hopefully, we can look for an upward trajectory in the third and the fourth quarter.” A pragmatic, unexceptional statement from the FM, that contrasts with the chest-thumping of the BJP-leaning sections of the media, led by the usual suspect:

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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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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: November 10

#1. Pune University just announced that gold medals will be given only to those students who are completely vegetarian. How do you even comment? What do you say?

#2. In Kerala, an RSS worker inadvertently blew up the roof of his home — one of those innocent accidents that happen when you are trying to make bombs, presumably for purely peaceful purposes. Remember this post?

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Odds and ends. Mostly odds.

The “objectives of demonetization” — an ongoing game of hunt-the-slipper being played with the economy — received its newest and shiniest entry courtesy IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who informs us that prostitution has declined as a result of the note-ban. It is reassuring when ministers pay such close attention to such niche businesses — it tells you that they are thoroughly on top of things.

The minister also displayed his capacity for empathy when he said that only those people who could not enhance their skill sets had lost their jobs in the wake of demonetization. With that one blanket statement, the minister brushed off the estimated 1.5 million people who lost their jobs just between January and April this year as a bunch of losers. If it was a reflection on his own ministry, which back in January this year was busy signing MoUs to upskill people, the low-profile minister modestly allowed that fact to pass unsaid.

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WTFJH: Links

#1. In a four-day span starting October 7, 69 children have died in BRD Hospital, Gorakhpur — the scene of the headline-making tragedy of last month. Adityanath’s political hubris is what immediately springs to mind but frankly, that is not where the focus should be. The hospital was a disaster zone a month ago. Sometimes things fall through the cracks; disasters happen. The question is, does no one learn? Surely, when you are confronted with tragedy on such a scale, your priority would be to work flat out to ensure against an encore? If it was caused by a systemic breakdown (bills not cleared in time, oxygen supplies therefore interrupted), that is easily fixed by streamlining processes and by prioritizing. If encephalitis is rampant and the existing staff are unable to check it, surely a sensitive, empathetic government would bring in experts from AIIMS and elsewhere to review existing procedures, train the doctors in a proper response? Surely that is what governance is all about — attending to the details?

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