DISAPPEARING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Memories of an ordinary Indian :: 6


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Right at the junction and in front of our house there used to be lamp which would be manually lit in the evenings and put out in the morning.  It was a gas lamp and a man, in the gathering dusk, would trudge slowly down the lane carrying on his shoulder a ladder that was just long or tall enough for him to be able to reach up to the lamp to light it. There were, if I remember, three such lamps down the north-south length of the road and he would go to them one by one to light them. He would observe the same routine in the mornings but only to extinguish the flames by merely capping them for a while. This must have been very early in my life, maybe in the late 1930s or even early in the 1940s. Some evenings the man wouldn’t appear at all and the lanes would remain dark and forbidding. Nonetheless, what occurs to me now that the town, obviously, had gas lamps in some areas, if not all, and had to have pipes to take the gas to them. That a feudal administration had thought of providing such an amenity in those early years of 20th Century takes it a few notches higher in my estimation. Eventually, of course, the gas lamps were replaced by electric lights but that was much later – around mid-1940s.
                                                            ***
At least once a year we would have farmers as close neighbours. They would come after the harvest in their bullock carts loaded with their produce and also with the essentials for their sustenance for a stay of a week or two. They would line up their carts along the high wall in front of our house. The carts used to be fully covered with hessian to protect the crop that they brought for sale. The bullocks would be freed as soon as they parked the carts and would be provided the feed which too was brought along with their own rations. They would be all stocked up and cook near the carts their daal and chapattis. Daal would be cooked in a brass vessel over a chulha made of sheer clay and cow-dung using firewood to raise a fire. The aroma of the freshly-made daal and freshly-baked chapattis would drift up to us in the gentle breeze forcing us children to get out on to the veranda to get more of it. Those days there was no chemical farming; it was only organic and the fragrance of the daal and baked atta was, quite frankly, out of this world and so must have been the taste.

5th December 2017
*Photo from internet


Monday, December 4, 2017

Our Life , Our Times :: 11 :: Cricket in heavily polluted Delhi


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Sri Lankan players durin a disrupted session
I think it was surely the first time ever that a cricket test match was being played anywhere in the world in very poor light and poor quality of air. The test match was being played in Delhi between Sri Lankan and Indian cricket teams. It is the third and final Test that was being played in heavily polluted air of the Capital. 
Quite a few Sri Lankans came out to field on the second morning wearing facemasks. Later there were interruptions because some of the substitute Lankan fielders refused to come out and field in the polluted environment. Perhaps they were right because the Central Pollution Control Board described the air quality in the area as “very poor”. Prolonged exposure to such air could lead to respiratory ailments. The most dominant harmful pollutants were deadly PM 2.5 and PM 10 which were at very elevated levels from the safe levels of 60 and 100, respectively.

With Lankans taking a serious view of the poor air quality one wondered whether the play would continue on the third day and thereafter with no expectations of the smog lifting up anytime soon. And yet the play commenced on the third day in heavy smog with poor visibility. The paying audience of the game got a raw deal with even the telecast of the match showed how poor the visibility was.

The media cried blue murder blaming Sri Lankans for depriving Kohli of a score of 300 or more. Also, the media story was that Kohli, having been exasperated by the interruptions lost his rhythm and was soon given out lbw. It was also speculated that Kohli declared the innings even as discussions were being held for continuance of the play only to show that Indians would readily field in the same environmental conditions which the Sri Lankans found unplayable.

With the smog prevailing over Delhi for weeks now, perhaps, it was not a good idea for the BCCI to have scheduled a test match in Delhi during this period. While the expectation was that the smog would lift by the end of November and this kind of overbearing pollution would not be sustained for long, the things panned out differently with the smog persisting.

 The stubble burning in the neighbouring agricultural fields is the main reason for the heavy pollution of the Delhi air. The Delhi-ites have had so far the worst of two winters. Making the international players play in such heavily  polluted air would amount to playing with their health and wellbeing as also their cricketing careers. Even the Australian Cricket Team had issues with this kind of air in and around the Stadium a few years ago.

One cannot but have sympathies for Delhi-ites who are riding out over this kind of smog for days, weeks and months in Delhi. There seems to be no respite from it. It is like a gas chamber out there and respite for those who are suffering appears to be far away.

Cricket has always been a winter game in India. Only because of the professional leagues of the shortened versions of the game it is played in summers – mostly after sunset. But from the look of it, it is increasingly becoming clear that the game, especially the longer version of it, may not continue during the winters in the northern parts because of heavy smog with air pollution rising by the day. One cannot really put air purifiers on the ground to enable the game to go on.


 There are numerous towns in south, central and western India where the air quality is within the normal parameters and where adequate arrangements exist for holding a five-day test match. If these centres are not properly equipped they should be refurbished to make available alternative venues in case the traditional venues, especially in metro cities suffer from debilitating environmental sicknesses.

4th December 2017
*Photo from internet

Thursday, November 30, 2017

From my scrapbook :: 4 :: Sanjna Kapoor's distinguished geneology


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Geofrey Kendal as Shylock and Laura Liddel as Portia
A piece by Sanjna Kapoor in the Indian Express a few weeks ago took my mind 55 years back when I was doing Intermediate. In those days, there were no higher secondary classes; we were in 10+2 system – one had to do intermediate after matriculation and before graduation.

 Sanjna, as is largely well known, is the daughter of Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer Kendal, both being steeped in the tradition of theatre. Sanjna runs the Prithvi Theatres established by her grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor who would call it Prithvi “Jhonpra”, (hut). She wrote the piece eulogizing Prithviraj Kapoor and Geoffrey Kendal, grandfa- ther from her mother’s side on behalf of “Not In My Name” as a measure of protest against the current intolerance that is all too visible in Indian society.

Sanjna”s reference to her paternal grandfather reminded me of the day when Prithviraj Kapoor visited our Victoria College in Gwalior sometime in the early 1950s. Our Principal was one Prof. DN Bhalla, a Cambridge graduate, who used to know Prithviraj and had invited him to the College to speak to the students. The impressive Union hall was overflowing with boys and girls. Prithviraj arrived in his trademark white kurta-pyjama with a black shawl draped round his neck. He looked every inch a man from show-business. Tall like most Pathans, he was very well built and had a very handsome and expressive face.

His address was full of humour. Speaking in English with an educated accent, he floored everybody in the audience. The boys knew that while he was a renowned Hindi theatre artist he was also very good in enacting English plays, especially those of Shakespeare. Soon enough there was a request for him to recite the cry for revenge from Shakespeare’s play “Othello”. And he readily obliged. I still remember how the word “revenge” that was uttered twice in high pitch with the last ending up at a very high pitch. It became more effective because of Prithviraj’s booming voice.

Though those were the sunset years for the travelling theatre, he was still going strong travelling III class with fifty to sixty artists with all the props. Having migrated from Punjab in the early years of the 20th Century he joined the fledgling Indian film industry during its “Silent era”. A handsome man as he was, he was highly successful in the world of celluloid. However, by 1944 he temporarily gave up his film career and took to his first love – theatre. He produced some politically and socially relevant plays. His was a travelling theatre mainly to inspire the audiences to participate in the Indian Independence Movement.
 A play depicting Hindu-Muslim unity called “Pathan” was highly successful and was reported to have been staged more than 600 times in Bombay (now Mumbai) alone. Along with “Deewar”, 

“Ahooti” and “Gaddar” the plays constituted the “Partition Quartet” in which Prithviraj not only displayed his prescience in so far as the consequences of Partition were concerned, he also fervently pleaded for Hindu-Muslim friendship or bonhomie, whatever one might call it. At the end of every play he would deliver a speech to promote his favourite themes of Independence Movement and Hindu Muslim Unity. Later after the plays he would stand near the exit door of theatres with his black shawl spread seeking donations for the welfare of those who were uprooted from their hearths and homes as a consequence of Partition.

Sanjna’s maternal grandfather and grandmother, too, were distinguished theatre artists. Her grandfather Geoffrey Kendall was a member of travelling theatres in England before his troupe was asked to entertain the British troops in various corners of South-East Asia during the World War II. Travelling through various countries, he along with his troupe that included his wife Laura Liddel and daughters, Jennifer and Felicity landed up in India during the 1940s.

He came and fell in love with the country – a case almost of love at first sight. He organized a few artists who were British as well as Indians and created the theatrical outfit called “Shakespareana”. He along with his family and fellow artists travelled the entire country staging plays of Shakespeare. With his perfect stage sets, props and innovative lighting the plays were effective in evoking the times of Shakespeare’s plays.

During his travels he hit Gwalior in 1952 or 1953 and staged plays in our college, the local girls’ college, Scindia School and even the local club associated with the Scindias. We would see the party arrive in tongas with boxes full of equipment – dresses, drapes, period furniture etc. They made quite a stir among the College boys as none of us had ever seen so many white people all at the same time and at the same place. If I recall, Shashi Kapoor had not joined the outfit till then. The plays were ticketed and my parents had no reservations about parting with the necessary money.

I was lucky to have seen two plays – Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice” and “Arms and the Man” of George Bernard Shaw. Both of them were being taught to us as parts of our English courses. Geoffrey Kendall played the role of Shylock the Jew and most of us were taken in by his enactment of the role I still remember his scream of “oh my daughter, oh my ducats” when he realized that his daughter Jessica had eloped and gone away. He brought to Gwalior for the first time new ways of preparing realistic sets and effective lighting. I still remember how cleverly moonlight outside a window was created by using blue light in “Arms and the Man”.

Having seen such emancipated men like her two eminent grandfathers Sanjna has every reason to bemoan the prevailing radicalism in the society which has only engendered pervasive reign of fear extinguishing the light of freedom of expression and speech. Sanjana is right; in a mere half a century we have fallen steeply from lofty heights only to become puny, narrow-minded men straddling this once-noble country.


30th November 2017

*Photo from internet

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Bhopal Notes :: 58 :: Mayor's "dinner plate" is still missing

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One of the bad roads of Bhopal
Though I am not given to give away good wishes to a politician on his birthday yet I think I need to convey to Alok Sharma, Mayor of Bhopal, my heartiest greetings wishing him  numerous returns of this day. At the same time I would want to remind him of his promise to convert the decrepit Ridge Road into a “dinner plate” which the residents of the neighbourhood could dine off. Three years have gone by when this promise was made but the road has not been touched by his minions. It has become much worse – a bone breaker, even a car wrecker.

One knows that politicians are very good at making promises which generally are on the wild side. They have a mouth which they like to shoot. This they do more so while campaigning for elections but doing this after being elected and not honouring the promises made verges on incompetence, insincerity, in fact, dishonesty and amounts to taking the constituents for a long, long ride.

Having visited the Road post-elections he had himself seen its condition and perhaps that was the reason for his spontaneous reaction to give the residents a decent road. But, having all the wherewithal and all the official paraphernalia, not honouring for around three years what had come out of his mouth spontaneously would seem to be duplicitous.

Bhopal roads are so bad that its pot holes have been named after the “netas”. Its inner roads are even worse - notorious for their rotten condition. Obviously all the politicians of the local body are like the Mayor. The press has been highlighting the condition of the roads on which accidents are routine which, on many occasions, are fatal. But the municipality and its elected representatives are impervious to all the criticisms and seldom respond to people’s needs. Nothing affects the councillors – no criticism or condemnation. They are busy in pocketing their pickings and build up their own assets. There are a number of “rags-to-riches” stories circulating in the town.

 Getting elected as a councillor is a kind of initiation into electoral politics, the future of which is paved with gold. No wonder majority of those who contest state elections are billionaires and prospective multi-billionaires. For them people and their needs hardly matter, who could as well go and eat grass. It is their assets that need tending. After all, that is what gives them power and influence.

A bright young man of the neighbourhood had told me a few weeks ago that the work for the Road had been approved and would be taken up after the monsoons. Even the tendering process had been completed. But it is now two month since the monsoon was officially stated to have withdrawn but there is no sign of the Ridge Road being worked on. There is no tell-tale sign of a parked diesel roller along with the mixers and ballast and other material. Perhaps the money for the work has been diverted to areas where the work will be politically more beneficial or productive. One really does not know, the municipality is very circumspect in communicating with the people.

The Mayor had once said that his ambition was to make Bhopal a Smart, a Digital and a Global city. That is all very well; but one feels that he should first try and make it a Happy City where people are happy and contented with the municipal services that they get. If he cannot give a good and decent road to the citizens one wonders whether he would really be able to give them a Smart, Digital and Global City.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Memories of an ordinary Indian :: 5


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(Continud)

Illuminated Mela gate
Abdullah used to often ferry the entire family in his tonga to the now-famous Gwalior Mela (Fair) which used to be one of the most important and perhaps most exciting events of the year in the somewhat sleepy town. As the family would cramp into the tonga I, being the youngest and a mere child, would often jog along on the lap of Abdullah. In the December cold his warmth was reassuring. I would mostly be engrossed looking at the black shiny and muscular croup of the horse and the occasional swish of its tail. I would also keenly watch its ears which would be sticking up and out and would constantly twirl from left to right and right to left –to catch various sounds.

Held in the winter months of December and January every family would try and visit the mela at least once. The hype for it would gradually build up and children and their families would plan visits and shopping in advance. The mela grounds, currently spread over around 100 acres, were ahead of the Race Course which was around 7 or 8 kilometres from our house. The grounds were created in 1905 by that far-sighted Maharaja, Madhav Rao Scindia who ruled over the State in the early years of the last Century.

 Apart from built-up structures for shops there were open grounds for tented temporary selling points. All amenities and services would be provided by the State. No wonder, businessmen and traders from far flung areas of the then undivided country would travel all the way to the fair to display and market their wares.  It was also considered by far the biggest cattle mela in the country where all kinds of animals from camels to goats would be bought and sold. The inevitable food section would have north Indian cuisine served from numerous shops – especially chaat from Haridwar and Lucknow and pethas and pedas from Agra and Mathura, respectively. I do not remember having ever come across south Indian stuff as it was not then as popular in our parts as it is today. 

During the mela fortnight all roads would seem to be leading to it. Young men would cycle down, others would take the scarce city buses then run by the Gwalior Central India Transport or a tonga. Some even took the Gwalior Light Railway (GLR), the narrow gauge train that would run from Kampoo. Near the Gwalior Potteries, to Gola ka Mandir – a little ahead of the mela grounds. The fare couldn’t have been more than an anna or so (1/16th of a rupee). On occasions, father took us to the mela by the train which we would catch from the Elgin Club station situated on what was known as the Private Road, close to Victoria College where father used to teach. It was a tiny little elegant looking station with a small foyer and a room for the station master with a window facing the Private Road for sale of tickets. The journey of half an hour or so to the mela at a speed of a cyclist pedalling leisurely was most interesting. As the toy-like carriages swayed along on the tracks, the train would take us through the Jiwaji (Maharaja’s) Club where we could see people playing tennis. It would then puff along, hugging the Palace walls for a kilometre or two to reach its main station which used to be different from the broad gauge station.

 As the train took off from the main station after collecting more passengers there would be excitement all round as it would soon pass through an underpass created below the broad-gauge lines for the trains of the privately owned Great Indian Peninsular Railways (GIP) that ran from north to south of the country. As the train went into the underpass there would be a roar of excitement in the carriage. Soon it would halt at the Race Course where the famous, now more than 70 years old, Scindia Gold Cup Hockey tournament used to be held during the same season. Even polo matches used to be held around the same time. The train would then reach the Mela station and halt in front of the main gate and one had only to cross the road to get into it. The Race Course and the Polo Grounds were much later given away for opening the College of Physical Education.

 I recall Japanese toys on display at the Mela. We used to have three such toys that had probably been bought for elder brothers. They were all wind-up type. Among the two aeroplanes we had one was a fighter plane – somewhat like a spit-fire with a gun mounted on top in the front. It would really spit fire as it moved after being wound up. The other was smaller, a trainer kind that would go round and round. The third toy was a motor cycle. I don’t remember whether it was a miniature version of a Harley Davidson. Such Japanese toys became unavailable sometime later because of the Second World War.

 And, then of course, there used to be numerous shops of saris including the ones from Dhaka, famous for their fine weave and designs. A very fine sari from a shop from Dhaka was forced by my father on a very reluctant mother because it cost a fortune those days – all of Rs.60. This must have been around 1942 or 1942. She had it for all her life using it very seldom, only on special occasions.


 The Mela has been much enlarged today and is known as the “Pragati Maidan of Madhya Pradesh”. The government announces discounts on purchases made there and those discounts, curiously, would also be made available to those made in Bhopal and, presumably, elsewhere too. Now even cars, TVs and cell phones are also on offer as indeed a veritable cultural fest. That the legacy of a farsighted Maharaja has been found to be good enough for being continued and vastly amplified by the democratically ruled successor state is a great tribute to its feudal progenitor.

(To be continued)

Photo from internet

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Destinations :: Charleston, SC (1998)





At Myrtle Beach
It is generally said of American towns that if you have seen one, you have seen them all. The same, however, cannot be said about Charleston, South Carolina (SC). More or less  in the same league as New York, Washington, New Orleans, or San Francisco - each with a distinct character and flavour of its own – Charleston is, perhaps, a bit special, being one of the oldest and historic cities of the nation.
While visiting a young relative in North Carolina we made a foray
Once again at Myrtle Beach
into the south to see a bit of the Atlantic Coast. We drove out of Cary in North Carolina (NC) one early morning targeting Charleston. Driving through a few national and state highways, along which lay some sprawling farms offering the passers-by farm-fresh, delicious “pick-your-own” strawberries, we hit Myrtle Beach in South Carolina about two hours later.
Near the Museum
Although a smallish resort by American standards yet it is very well served by lodging establishments of varied categories. We pulled into a hotel in which we had made prior bookings on the net. It was early May and not yet quite the season; perhaps therefore and because the booking had been made pretty much in advance, we got a bargain, a suite with two king-sized beds. Myrtle Beach seemed to offer everything by way of entertainment and
Carriage hiring point
relaxation. Blessed with expansive beaches of white sands that are its main attraction it has much else besides. It is dotted with scores of mini golf courses, nightclubs and casinos to offer enough by way of recreation for a weekend. For a compulsive shopper fantastic bargains can be had from the factory outlets of the biggies of American industry, from Dockers to Samsonite, in the neighbouring mall.
Remnants of an old theatre
Next morning after a hearty breakfast rustled up in the well-equipped kitchenette we drove further south and came upon Patriots Point just a few kilometres north of Charleston. Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, one of the world’s largest naval museums, is located in the Charleston Harbour. Some of the old and historic US Navy ships are on display but the most important exhibit of them all is the USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier of World War II vintage. 

Charleston is only a 10-minute drive from Patriots Point. The town is situated where two rivers, Ashley and Cooper, join the Atlantic. It is the seat of the Charleston County. Originally named Charles Towne after King Charles II of England the town was established by the English in 1670. It soon became the colonial capital 
Charleston' period houses
and within the next hundred years acquired the reputation of being the richest town in the South. Built on slave labour, hundreds of thousands of slaves passed through this city. It had a thriving slave market. Having been the scene of the Revolutionary War, as also of the first engagement of the Civil War, it, naturally, exudes
history. The old section of the town still retains a quaint charm of the days gone by when it was a city of aristocratic planters and rich
The Market Sqaure
merchants. There are a number of stately public buildings and restored homes with gardens and period wrought-iron gateways.
Among the old public buildings are the Dock Street Theatre built in the middle of the 18th Century and the Old City Market, also built around the same time and still functioning as such. Then there is the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, a custom house before the War of Independence and later converted into a prison on being captured by the British, and then again into a government building. Today it is one of the most important historic buildings of the United States. The West Point Garden, also known as the Battery, besides being historical is remarkable for its beauty.
The presence of many historic churches has given Charleston another name – the Holy City. There are many stately homes, which
In front of the Museum
have since been converted into museums, the most important of which is the Edmonston-Alston House built in the early 19th Century. Another historic house is that of Thomas Elfe who migrated from England in the 1740s with nothing but a skill in woodwork. The house is a must-see for furniture and antiques buffs as it is the repository of some of the finest furniture of 18th and 19th Centuries.
A historic city always offers an enormous lot to see. One could go around walking or join a walking tour. The Visitors’ Centre is finely equipped to cater to the needs of tourists and hands out the bonus of a
USS York Town of World War II vintage
free trip from there to any of the tourist sites. We promptly grabbed a ride to the downtown. Getting around in beautiful antique-looking buses, more or less, like the streetcars of San Francisco, or in carriages drawn by massive horses can be fun. We took a carriage ride and were taken around old parts of the town and the Battery. In the process we saw an architectural style typical of Charleston – from the road one only sees a side of the house and not the front which, in fact, opens out along the road hidden from view protecting the privacy of the inmates the houses.
Charleston can be an ideal base for excursions for discovering its historic neighbourhood. A number of old plantation houses are located very close to Charleston. The Boone Hall Plantation with its three-quarters mile drive known as the Avenue of Oaks, bordered with trees planted in the 18th Century is the most famous one. There are formal gardens, the original slave quarters and a cotton-ginning house, etc. It displays the way of life of a bygone era when cotton was king and great plantations were the backbone of the Southern economy.
 Also in the Harbour is Fort Sumter, a national monument, where the first military engagement of the American Civil War had taken place. The Confederates attacked the Federal Garrison here in 1861. The Fort was later blockaded by the Union naval ships, eventually to fall to them in 1865.
Accommodation-wise relatively cheaper, Charleston offers varied cuisine from its several eateries. For the home-sick Indian there is the ubiquitous Indian restaurant offering a buffet of delectable Punjabi fare for just $ 6.
Well connected by rail, road and air, Charleston SC and its surroundings offer a slice of American history to its visitors through its well-preserved monuments and period houses.




Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Rapes, loots and robberies - frequent in Bhopal


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The capital of Madhya Pradesh is seething with anger and outrage at the latest incident of Nirbhaya-like gang-rape of a 19 years old civil service aspirant a few days ago. The victim was returning from her coaching classes and was to take a train to her home town 70 kms away from the local Habibganj Station when she was waylaid by a few ruffians and was raped by as many as six hoodlums late in the evening. On top of this the cops displayed utter lack of sensitivity tossing the victim’s family from one police station to another although the victim’s parents are also cop. They, for a long while, could not decide the matter of jurisdiction of the specific police station that, according to them, could entertain the complaint. In the process, several cops even took the victim’s version of her rape as a “filmy” story apart from making some pretty uncomplimentary comments against her.

Bhopal is a town where women are utterly unsafe. Reports appear in the local newspapers with unceasing regularity about rapes, molestations, stalking and sexual assaults on women. Even as the Police were investigating the latest case of gang rape another was been reported where two brothers were raping an abducted 23-year old for more than a month. And yet, the police force has made no attempts to curb the incidence of such incidents. Rapes continue to occur and they are highlighted almost every day in the newspapers. In fact, readers every morning are confronted with mostly negative news about the town. Whether it is rape or assault on women or violence against them or even robberies, loots and murders, the reports appear with uncanny regularity and yet local police seem to be unable to stem the rot. Though it is the seat of the state government, it appears to prefer to remain a mute witness of the goings-on in the state capital.

Likewise, deaths due to road accidents are so frequent that it has started ringing alarm bells. A huge number of bikers, mostly engineering students, have met their end in the highly disorganized and unmanaged traffic of the city. Year after year people are getting into accidents resulting in grievous injuries and death but no remedial measures are ever taken. The traffic police is more interested in making people wear helmets but seemingly are uninterested in regularizing and systematically controlling the unruly traffic. Traffic rules are seldom obeyed and one mostly finds that vehicles try and get across any which way ignoring the rules of the roads.

 Even the city roads, broken down and decrepit as they are, account for a number of accidents. Open manholes, unrepaired broken down roads or roads with massive pot-holes have killed numerous unwary commuters. While local newspapers are full of reports on bad city roads the chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, made a statement from Washington that the roads of his state were better than those of Washington. On being confronted, he said he had in mind the Indore Super Corridor created for transport of human organs for transplantation elsewhere. But one doesn’t know what the chief minister had in mind – the surface of the road or other amenities. The Corridor itself has no signage, transportation facilities for commuters to offices that have come up on the Corridor are scarce; even traffic management on it is absent resulting in frequent fatal accidents. In any case, 99% of the roads in the state, including in the capital, are far inferior to the Super Corridor. Surely, such is not the case in Washington. The CM forgot that he was comparing his state with the capital of the most advanced nation in the world and that his comparison would be laughable. It will take more than a lifetime for him to build roads anywhere nears the quality of those in the US.

All through his three terms the Chief Minister has paid little attention to governance. In every sphere where people’s happiness is involved there has been singular absence of governance. Whether it is healthcare, education or civic amenities, people have been made to suffer for want of facilities. The state has the highest rate of infant and post-natal maternal mortality. Yet he wears the pretensions of being a very effective chief minister and has even set up a Department of Happiness to emulate Bhutan’s experiment of spreading happiness. Bhutan’s is an entirely different story which in no way matches up with that of Madhya Pradesh which continues to be a an illiterate and largely unethical backward state. This is regardless of its proclaimed agricultural revolution that was presumably wrought by big farmers as otherwise there wouldn’t be record-breaking numbers of suicides by farmers in the state.

The lackadaisical attitude towards the environment of the capital is reflected by total inaction for conservation of its biggest asset, the Upper Lake and its catchments. While despite commissioning of various projects sewage continues to flow into the Lake, its catchments have been thrown open for construction against all environment norms. His fondness for builders has made him sit on the report of the Centre for Planning & Environmentsl Technology which was commissioned by his government to suggest ways & means for the Lake’s conservation. No wonder the quality of its waters is deteriorating by the day.

And, yet Amit Shah, the BJP General Secretary, publicly declared that he had given the chief minister of MP 100/100 marks (presumably for that D word – development). Shah seems to have glossed over the reports of alleged corruption against the chief minister. From the very first term the case of dumpers has been hounding him; then came the infamous Vyapam scandal in which he was allegedly involved. He or members of his family were allegedly involved in illegal mining of sand from River Narmada. It was also alleged that the Narmada Seva Yatra was organised largely in an attempt to cover the trails of illegal sand mining.

 Shah stayed in Bhopal for all of three days and sniffed around, talked to various people, mostly of his own party. But it was widely reported that those who were not the sycophants of the chief minister would not be allowed to meet him. Whether they were eventually able to meet their Party boss or not was, however, not reported. But, strangely what stands out is that Shah couldn’t smell the rot in MP and did not get even a whiff of the alleged cases of corruption against the chief minister. Perhaps he did not have the nose for them. A few issues of local Hindi newspapers would have revealed to him the prevailing state of affairs in the state.

Hence, looks like, people of Madhya Pradesh are condemned to suffer another five years of non-governance, lack of security, corruption and progressive regression under a government which, in all likelihood, is going to be of the same colour in 2019 as the present one.

10th November 2017

*image from internet