Chapter 26 - Despite the Best Intentions

The Prime Minister of Tawa – 26

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Vikan came up with a suggestion that Mash should distribute new clothes to the poor people living in Cornovee on the Guardian’s birthday. Mash did not think it was a great idea. There was no way of knowing if the kirees, dorees, sarongs and thulis would actually reach the poor. Anyone could queue up for the free clothes and there was no way of verifying if he or she was genuinely poor. Also, Cornovee was not the only place where poor people lived. But Nedeem and Dimanan had also supported the idea and Mash was forced to give in.

‘Maheshdas-raan, it’s the thought that counts. Implementation doesn’t matter all that much. People should feel you care for them,’  Nedeem gently told Mash.

It turned out to be a messy affair.  Mash and his ministers were to travel in a large van to three different points in Cornovee and distribute the clothes to people who would line up for them. At their first stop, they were able to distribute the clothes as planned. Police men had reached there in advance and compelled the people waiting there to form an orderly queue. A camera man from Beemava was present, as were a few journalists. Everyone looked happy. After distributing the clothes, they got back into the van and went off to the next distribution point. The police followed them in three jeeps. The queue was longer at their second stop and quite disorderly. There were more people than they had anticipated. If they were to distribute clothes to all of them, there would be none for the third and final stop. Nedeem suggested that they should distribute half the clothes they had with them and go off to the third point. Vikan was for distributing all the clothes they had at the second stop and not going to the third point at all. Mash sided with Nedeem. It would look silly if they did not turn up at the third point. Dimanan suggested that they should try to get more clothes from one of the shops close by.

‘Do you think a single shop will be open today?’ Mash shouted at Dimanan. He almost added ‘you fool,’ but did not. Not that it mattered so much. Even if he had called Dimanan a fool, there was nothing much Dimanan could do about it.

‘We can open it ourselves. I’m sure the police can force open a shop’s door for us. We’ll compensate the shopkeeper for what we take, of course.’

Mash considered the option, but decided not to. Heck, what was wrong with him? He should not be thinking on such lines.

‘Dimanan, let’s not do such things. Once we ask the police to open a shop for us without the shopkeeper’s consent, then the policemen will feel they are entitled to break the law when they are on their own.’

‘But we are not breaking the law. We are only..’

‘Oh, shut up Dimanan,’ Mash put up his hand.

They left the second point before everybody could be given a set of clothes. A few people shouted and raised slogans against Mash and the TFP as the van rolled off. By the time they got to their third stop, a very large number of people were waiting to for Mash’s van. There weren’t enough clothes for even one third of the people there. The mood turned ugly and a few people actually picked up stones to throw at Mash’s van. Thankfully, after seeing the crowds at the second stop, one of the police officers traveling with Mash had called in for reinforcements. The additional forces reached the third stop before the trouble began.  The policemen charged the unruly section of the crowd with their batons and dispersed them. The rest of the crowd became quiet. The police then formed a cordon around the rest of the waiting people to prevent the trouble makers from joining the queue. Mash was able to distribute clothes to them and leave with some dignity.

The cameraman from Beemava did not record pictures of the mob violence, but the newspaper journalists did and the next day, photographs of policemen charging poor people at Cornovee were splashed across the newspapers.

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More by :  Vinod Joseph

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