All Are Equal But…
All Play No Work
A Sharif Too Many
Think it Through
All Are Equal But…
Remember George Orwell’s allegorical and dystopian novel, Animal Farm. There is a famous proclamation therein by the pigs who control the government – actually governments are controlled everywhere by pigs – that “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. Supposedly, it is a comment on the hypocrisy of governments that proclaim the absolute equality of their citizens but give power and privileges to small elites.
Take, for instance, the under-trials in our country. Most of them languish in police lock-ups – and later in jails – for weeks and months and even years. The treatment meted out to most of them is mostly shabby and very inhuman at times. They are denied the most elementary facilities that a human being is entitled to.
However, if by chance a VIP, lands up in police lock-up – and sometimes they do as most undeservedly Tarun Tejpal has – is he not entitled to a treatment befitting his stature and status? As founder of the prestigious Tehelka magazine, his lock-up should have been at least air-conditioned. Didn’t the British rulers treat Gandhi and Nehru as very special prisoners living fairly comfortably in very, very special jails while ordinary folks fighting for freedom languished in over-crowded dingy cells.
And look at the State of Goa ruled by reactionary communal forces. Cannot it do its bit for a VVIP under-trial? And at the top of it, a Goa court this week rejected an application filed by Tejpal seeking permission to get a fan installed in the police lock-up where he is being kept. After all, his is a minor offence of making indiscreet advances to a pretty creature misconstrued as a sexual assault case by vested interests.
All Play No Work
Our parliamentarians think that they’re not elected to put in a day’s work. That’s for common folk like you and me. Our VVIP’s belong to a very special species, more specially our MPs.
In the good old 1950’s and 60’s, Parliament used to meet, on an average, for about 135 odd days a year. Now the number of working sessions has become almost half of that. Even when it does meet most of the time is lost in the all-too-familiar tu tu mein mein and raising points of order and other such parliamentary trivialities. There is something called a predictable parliamentary calendar elsewhere in the democratic world, but not in our country. That ensures knowing in advance what would be discussed and when.
In the current Lok Sabha, for instance, a full session was washed out dealing with the contentious issue of constituting a JPC regarding spectrum allocations. Another two more sessions faced the same fate. There’s no dearth of issues – shall we say excuses? Lokpal and coal block were handy excuses.
What will be fate of the session that has just commenced? If the BJP does well in the recently held elections – and the results available so far indicate it will – the Opposition will have a legitimate excuse to roar and thunder. Everyone seems to be waiting for the 2014 poll. Meanwhile, let’s remind our parliamentarians the old doggerel:
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,
All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy.
A Sharif Too Many
The word sharif in Urdu means a suave and well-mannered person. The only other language that has a similar omnibus term for such a person is Bengali. It has an all-purpose term for such people: bhadralok
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is by all standards a gentleman. He isn’t at least known for double-speak. For example, he strongly believes Kashmir should be a part of Pakistan and misses no chance to reiterate it. And very unambiguously.
Now he has gone out of his way to select another Sharif to head the Pakistan Army, theoretically under the civilian Government which, on its part, knows too well that it continues in office as long as it leaves the levers of real power in the hands of the Army commander.
Nawaz Sahrif hand-picked General Raheel Sharif because he is supposed to be a “moderate” and “professional” soldier, with “no interest in politics.” However, in a country which has the unique history of having been, during half of its existence, under military rule this is a euphemism for saying General Sharif is unlikely to bring about a military coup. How the Pakistani Prime Minister determined that the new Army chief isn’t inclined to political involvement, is intriguing indeed. Once bitten twice shy, says the old adage. Has Nawaz Sharif forgotten how in 1999, General Pervez Musharraf, whom he had personally handpicked to head the Army, took over after a bloodless coup? Pakistani Army, luckily, is no believer in bloodshed whenever it takes over reins of power.
The term of Asif Ali Zardari has indeed been a milestone in the history of Pakistan. For the first time – hopefully, not the last – an elected civilian government completed a full five year term in office and, more importantly, made an orderly transfer of power to its successor. During these five years, however, there wasn’t a day without speculation that poor Zardani won’t survive just as his wife Benazir Bhutto didn’t. It looks likely now that Sharif – whose party enjoys a large majority in Parliament – should be able to complete another full term of his own. That augurs well for the future of democracy in Pakistan. If that happens, the door to further military coups, which has been very slowly closing, might even be firmly shut to everybody’s relief.
What role was personally played by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in bringing the present encouraging scenario into being? Future historians looking back on this period will decide. When Kayani was appointed Army chief in 2007, military historians described him as “a soldier’s soldier”. What exactly does that mean? No one could confidently say he had no political ambition. But his tenure did mark decisive break with the past. However, while he didn’t shorten Zardari’s term he unabashedly extended his own as Army chief. During his long tenure, he also carved out for himself – and I’m sure for the future Army chiefs – an effective role to control foreign policy, national security, and certain sectors of the economy. Kayani made discreet but decisive interventions to determine political decisions which future historian will dissect. He must also be given the credit for shutting down the Inter-Services Intelligence agency’s political cell, and withdraw uniformed officers from their posts inside the government. He will always be remembered for restoring the Army’s public image which the Musharraf years had very badly bruised.
Personally, I’m intrigued why Kayani resisted the temptation to bail out his ex-boss from the imbroglio he landed himself in by returning to jump into the cesspool of Pakistani politics.
One of the grandmother prescriptions used to be a couple of cloves of garlic every day for everyone at dinner. How we resisted the sane though smelly advice as children.
The garlic plant is set to play an important role in protecting babies. The report of a new study has revealed that garlic compounds are effective in killing contaminants present in baby food formulations. Researchers at the University of British Columbia recently discovered that diallyl sulphide and ajoene, two compounds found in garlic, eradicates the food-borne pathogens which can, possibly, lead to life-threatening conditions.
Smelly or not, a couple of raw cloves every day can keep the doctor away.
Delhi’s Vehicular Pollution
Delhi is a veritable hell in winters where vehicles are the biggest air polluters. What else do you expect in a town with an estimated 75 lakh vehicles already on the road – merrily polluting the town – while 1,400 vehicles are added on the roads each day? No wonder vehicular traffic contributes more than 70% of the town air pollution.
Only twenty cities in India follow the outdated Euro4 emission standards for new vehicles. The rest of the country is still content with Euro3. Euro4 itself is seven years behind the current European standards and Euro3 is behind by 12 years. Are you shocked to know that in Delhi one death takes place every hour due to air pollution?
What else do you expect in a town adding every minute of the day carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and, above all, particulate matter in the air we breathe? The miracle is that we still survive to breathe the poison for another day.
Elsewhere in the world they are debating: are today’s efficient car engines less polluting than the cars of yesteryear? You might be surprised to hear that reports on researches reveal that new-generation gas engines of cars emit more particles, including carcinogens than traditional gas-powered engines. Till something spectacular happens, we’ll have no respite from the harmful levels of particle pollution.
Think it Through
Here’s a new definition of relativity
In bed, it is 6 am
You close your eyes
In five minutes it’s 7.45
At work, it’s 1.30
Close your eyes
For five minutes, it’s 1.31