FTL (Faster Than Light)
Fasting and Partying
You’ve 50. So Do We
When Former Foes Warm up
Think it Through
FTL (Faster Than Light)
Have you heard of a 100 meter sprint in less than five seconds? No, I’m not pulling a fast one. (You know I never do.) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ever-ready to set new records has set for his Government a formidable task: to clear 116 bills in 16 working days of the present session of Parliament in progress.
Is it possible? Well, at least three or four days are bound to be a washout over some squabble. Also consider the inevitable heckling and shouting with some Government spokesmen or the other opening his mouth and putting both his feet in it. Above all, the Government has yet to learn how to make Parliament actually work and make it accountable for the working hours its MPs are paid for.
So far the record has been dismal. According to a think tank study, only 32 bills have been passed by both Houses in 2012 and 2013 till now. In contrast, 56 bills were passed in 2005 and 65, in 2006. In 2012, only 61 per cent of available time was used for parliamentary work in the Lok Sabha and 66 per cent in the Rajya Sabha. You know how the rest of the time was used. According to some, it was to provide entertainment to voters on Lok Sabha TV channel.
But our redoubtable Prime Minister is determined to prove that nothing is impossible. He is bound to go down in the history of parliament as the first and only PM to have continued for ten years without contesting an election. (Choudhary Charan Singh’s record as the only Prime Minister who never faced the Parliament was peanuts.) And now he is set to establish anther record. This is the Government's last possible chance to turn things around before critical Assembly elections to Delhi, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. No business is likely to get transacted in the winter session as it comes too close to the 2014 polls and the budget session gets cancelled in an election year.
Once upon a time people said no one would ever go faster than sound. And they were proved wrong. Weren’t they? Now they say no one can ever go faster than light. Manmohan Singh is hell-bent on proving them wrong. Just have a heart. Give him the last chance to prove the doggerel:
There was a lady called Bright
She could travel faster than light
She set out on a relative day
And came back the previous night
Fasting and Partying
Fasting during the whole month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Arabic calendar is one of the five pillars of Islam prescribed by the Prophet. It is supposedly an act of worship (ibadah) to inculcate in man a constant mental readiness to obey the commandments of Allah. The relevant verse in the Qu’ran has it: “O believers, fasting is ordained for you, even as it was ordained for those before you that you might attain piety” (2:183). The term used to express the purpose of fasting is thaqva for which there isn’t a ready substitute. Piety – the nearest – is far too inadequate to represent thaqva. It is, the Arabic scholars tell me, a state of mind which urges man to be constantly engaged in doing virtuous deeds and to always shun vice.
Now that the holy month is over, I want to share with you my reservation about the way Iftar, the ending of the Ramadan fast, is being celebrated by our secular-minded non-Muslim leaders. How, I wonder, throwing a lavish party by the Congress leaders for their Muslim colleagues promotes piety? Isn’t this lavish display indulged in more for mention on page 3 of newspapers and its photographs for use in glossies for vote-garnering?
One endearing feature of the Mulayam Raj in UP is that it has honest straightforward spokesmen who just don’t know how to mince words. They have been tutored by their mentor himself to call a spade not just a spade, but a blo*** shovel.
UP minister Shiv Pal Yadav justified Durga Shakti’s suspension by stating ‘hum sarkar hai’, meaning we can, till we are in office, do anything. No one can stop us in our tracks – neither any moral values nor the rule of law. Hence, the display of brazen abuse of power in coercing conscientious public servants into abject submission!
Last week, I mentioned how AMU vice-chancellor, Lt General (Retired) Zameer Uddin Shah is making sure that the girl students dress properly. (Now don’t ask me what is really proper dress for girls that shows what needs showing and conceals what must remain concealed.) In a bid to promote the concept of a green campus, the General is now seen encouraging students to use only bicycles inside the campus.
Lead from the front, is the first lesson of leadership that the General imbibed when serving the Indian Army. So, before launching the drive to popularize cycling within the campus, the V-C himself was recently seen using a bicycle for commuting within the university campus. Of course cycling traditionally is the prime mode of transport within any university campus. It still is. But the progeny of our rich and affluent flaunt motorbikes and scooters inside the university premises. Partly, the purpose is to win girl friends and influence the other sex. Even the stern General cannot weed out this trait of human nature. However, the strict General has already banned motorcycles in residential boys’ hostels of the university.
That’s called leadership. Do you recall Indira Gandhi reaching Parliament House in early 1970’s in a horse-driven phaeton when the first Oil Shock struck the world? Second day onwards it was business as usual. That’s the style of Indian leadership after Gandhi. But not of Army generals – both on rolls and retired.
You’ve 50. So Do We
The Indian Union is fast heading to have at least 50 States in the Union if all the demands for new states are conceded that the Union Home Ministry has received representations for creation. These, I hear, number more than 20 states. So far, India has 28 states and seven Union Territories. Telangana will be the 29th state of the country.
Just one more demand and if we concede all of them (as we should), we can with pride tell Uncle Sam: You’ve 50: So Do We.
I’m, personally in favor of more and more states. Look at the advantages. If we have another 20 odd states, how many new Capitals will be built with scores of new contracts to be awarded and the opening of hundreds of new opportunities for new kickbacks! With more and more states, new Governors will have to be appointed. Shouldn’t we welcome the opportunities for unemployed politicians in semi-retirement for sinecure jobs and the cushy times that go with them? Won’t it be fun to watch new races for Chief Ministerships and the busy time the High Command will have deciding cases of squabbling contenders?
Above all, I have been educating myself about the dividing lines within our polity. Some new demands I heard of for the first time. For example: Kukiland in Manipur, Kongu Nadu in Tamil Nadu, Kamatapur in North Bengal, Tulu Nadu in Karnataka. Don’t tell me you knew all about them!
When Former Foes Warm Up
One lesson that stands out in the study of international relations is, to paraphrase a former British prime minister, Lord Palmerston, a nation (yes, any nation) has no “perpetual enemies”, only “eternal interests”. This hardcore premise of realpolitik underscores the blunt reality of international relations. High-minded idealists call it a cynical view of history. Cynical perhaps it is, but valid, nonetheless.
Take the example of United States of America. In the Korean War in early fifties it confronted the Chinese-backed North Korea. Sino-American relations remained very strained till early 1970’s when Henry Kissinger conjured up the idea of befriending China to control the spread of Soviet influence. And today, USA finds it difficult to combat the Chinese power.
Do you recall the Vietnam War that officially began in November 1955 and dragged on till the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975 which marked the humiliating American retreat? For nearly two decades, North Vietnam and USA were sworn enemies. And today, the United States has discovered so much in common with Vietnam. President Truong Tan Sang is a welcome American guest. Obama foreign policy is premised on using Vietnam as counterweight to an over-assertive China. A new geo-strategy is at work.
And here we are repeating parrot-like our commitment to nonalignment and Panchsheel.
Think it Through
Albert Camus, the French author who wrote that famous essay “The Rebel” and doesn’t fit easily within the literary labels of post-War Europe, wrote: “At 30 a man should know himself like the palm of his hand, know the exact number of his defects and qualities; know how far he can go, foretell his failures - be what he is. And, above all, accept these things.” Is the path of self-discovery that smooth and that easy? What’s your own experience? When did you come to know yourself like the back of your hand or, like me, still searching it?