Big Brother

Unbeknownst to many, a primary school teacher recently filed a petition for “one nation, one education board” to, apparently, end disparity in knowledge dissemination during the formative years of a child. According to the senior advocates representing her, “the current education system under multiple boards did not provide equal opportunity to all, as enshrined under Article 21A of the Constitution. Otherwise, the chasm between rich and poor, reign of terror, events of looting and crimes against women that have taken the form of open threats will continue.”

By drawing a lucid, coherent, logical denouement in the form of the last sentence above, which, as is clear to everyone reading this, arises because of  multiple education boards, these senior advocates have presented an open and shut case to the judiciary.

In 2011, a bench of the Supreme Court had apparently ruled that a common syllabus between the ages of 6 and 14 would help achieve a code of common culture. “Code of common culture”, a transparent and lucid phrase that everyone knows the meaning of. Separate education facilities and syllabi, it is to be understood, are the root cause of inequality in the world.

This petition has galvanised the moribund fight for equality being waged by a few crusaders in a world where people are making choices. Even, horror of horrors, choosing schools and education boards.

Supporters of the petition have encouraged the petitioner to expand its scope and include the provision of equal marks in all subjects for all children. It is a matter of shame that more than seventy years after independence, children continue to get marked on the basis of performance. “Is this the equality that our founding fathers lived and died for?”, has been the rallying cry for supporters of equality.

When a good thing gets rolling, under the weight of its goodness it acquires a momentum that becomes impossible to stop. Committed people, often unsung, will not stop till the job is fully done.  Another group of educators has petitioned that in order that there is no discrimination after passing out from school, all children will get direct entry into college, whether they want it or not.

Different colleges, different courses, different universities, different professors, different teaching and marking styles. Is this equal opportunity? “Is this the equality that our founding fathers lived and died for?”, more people have asked. A petition has been moved to abolish the University Grants Commission (UGC), the apex body responsible for governing institutions of higher learning. All universities will become one university and one college teaching one course in order to eliminate discrimination between students studying in different colleges and universities and promote equal opportunity. Who gave universities and colleges the right to decide their curriculum and agenda? Is it equality? Such antiquated notions. Embarrassing to even read about them now.

And that is not all. Only one teacher will be appointed for teaching. Different teachers could vitiate the environment of equality by giving their students learning based on their own capability and knowledge and commitment. And, of course, everyone will get the same score on every subject they have taken, which, of course, will be the same for everyone.

Of course, no pun intended, the other issue of quality of education will automatically get resolved. With the desirable goal of equality for all, with a single course in a single institution taught by a single teacher, it will obviously be the best programme with none other coming even close. Or even existing. Educational nirvana! It will cease to matter what course they are studying. Or whether they are studying anything as long as everyone is studying nothing in the same way at the same school by the same teacher.

But life does not end with education and learning. Our petitioners know that. They have expeienced life. That is how they have become petitioners. Some may even say that life begins after education.

In order that we abide by the principles of equality for all, it has been petitioned that all bright students who have completed their college education with great results (which means all students) will be employed by the same organisation for the same job. All companies will have the same name and same business and will be allowed to make or lose the same amount of money. No longer will graduates need to strive for better jobs and more money. No longer will some go without jobs. No longer the tyranny of soul-searching to identify their passion and interest for them. Should I become a doctor or an engineer? Should I join the Navy or the Air Force? Should I pursue my passion in music or painting? Over. Finito!

And they will get exactly the same pay. For doing exactly the same thing. Or exactly the same nothing. And they will all wake up at the same time. And dress in the same way. And go to work in the same manner. And eat the same food. And get the same entertainment. And the same vacation. And the same bed and mattress to sleep on. And the same kind of dwelling. And the same transportation machinery.

In order that different genes don’t start acting up and interfering with equal opportunity, a petition has been moved to ban the natural cycles of procreation. In order to promote equality, one set of parents will procreate for the entire population. Again and again and again. Children will then be distributed to all. However, as differences in upbringing could vitiate the environment of equality, these children will not be given but brought up in a common facility.

And since so many children will need people to manage them, and since each person managing them might have a personality that could rub off on the children, they will be replaced by robots. 

Equal marks to all, a common university with identical programmes and one single teacher for everyone, providing the same job with equal pay for all, procreating for all; who can do all this?

Who else but Big Brother?

We cannot trust parents to bring up their children. We cannot trust teachers to teach. We cannot trust education boards to provide education. We cannot trust businesses to provide employment. We cannot trust ourselves to take decisions for ourselves. Who can we trust?

Who else but Big Brother?  

In fact, as we have seen done in the past in some societies, the word “choice”, and its many variants like “want”, “desire”, etc., which have been found responsible for many of the ills plaguing society, will be removed from the vocabulary of all languages known in the country. Nip the problem in the bud for a just and fair, and equal, society, they say. Long live this tribe of petitioners.

Unfortunately, a 3-judge bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, has rained on the petitioner parade and dismissed the petition and nipped in the bud the move towards equality.

 

 

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Thank You For The Music

Dear Mr. Khattar,

(For the uninitiated, Mr. Manohar Lal Khattar is the Chief Minister of Haryana, the state where Gurgaon, where I live, lies)

Thank you for the music on the night of Friday, 18th August, extending into the wee hours of Saturday, 19th August. Yes last night.

Music that I neither asked for nor wanted.

Music that I understand is supposed to stop at 10 PM.

I realise the pains you have to go through to provide these little pleasures to your residents. Pleasures that residents of few leading cities in the world get to savour. Of free, unasked for music at unearthly hours. Not for nothing is Gurgaon known as the millennium city. After the destruction of overground vegetation and underground water reservoirs, this is perhaps a logical way forward for a modern, progressive city.

My last faint memory of the night is of purple lights blinking inside my head to the thumping of loud, remixed music. This must have been around 12.50 PM at night. But I could be mistaken. The only certain marker of time I have from last night is of the last call I received from the Sector 29 Police Station informing me that they will arrange for a Police Control Room (PCR) van to go to the establishment spreading the joy and ask them to switch off the music. That was around 12.40 AM.

My wife had initially called to complain (silly woman – complaining about a civic nuisance!) at about 11.25 PM. She had called the Sector 40 Police Station under whose jurisdiction our housing society falls.

Of course, till 12.30 AM nothing had been done. In fact, the music had grown louder and was belting out some foot-tapping scores.

Reluctantly I called the same Police Station again. After failing to connect with the PCR on “100”. The person answering the call expressed surprise that the music had not stopped despite him having done nothing about it. I offered that the music might be coming from across the road, from the eatery attached to the shiny new liquor vend that has come up near our building.

Though he might have expected the music to have stopped on its own, on hearing this he immediately said that that area is under the jurisdiction of the Sector 29 Police Station. The Doklam standoff between China and India may have nothing on this border dispute between the Police Stations of Sector 29 and Sector 40.

Notwithstanding the border dispute, he was kind enough to give me another number for reaching the PCR which, unfortunately, connected. The PCR might have conveyed the message to the Sector 29 Police Station which is perhaps why they called me.

I must stop here and apologise for my rudeness to the person who called. I asked him if they at the Police Station could not hear the music and why did they have to wait for a complaint. I also had the temerity to ask him about the punitive action that would be taken against the establishment. What was I thinking? If he gave a response I did not hear it. If you get a chance, please convey my sincere apologies to the person for asking inappropriate questions.

I am also extremely sorry I was not able to participate in the festivities longer than 12.50 AM. I have made a mental note to sleep through the day tomorrow so that I can enjoy the late night festivities you and your administration have arranged for unsuspecting and ungrateful residents like me.

I will also try to communicate the same to children who need to get up early for school and seniors living in our building to ensure that they also sleep through the day so that we can all enjoy this unexpected treat from the authorities together. It will hopefully bring us all together cutting across lines of age, gender, religion, occupation, etc. We cannot thank you enough.

Of course I understand. If we cannot stop rapes, molestations and murders in the city, what right do we have to expect such trifles to be prevented? How can the police be expected to know that an establishment in their vicinity is playing loud music beyond permitted hours and censure them? They can only know if a resident complains. Isn’t it?

On another note, I also thank you for the early practice, as the silly season begins in October when the weather turns for the better and outdoor merriment starts. It is good to get one’s ear accustomed to unauthorised late night music as HUDA Gymkhana Club and Kingdom of Dreams, both within a stone’s throw of our building, who have been the bellwethers of unauthorised late night music in our neck of the woods till last year, begin their respective acts.

Equally, it is wonderful to see that the administration, as behoves an administration in a market economy, is leaving no stone unturned to introduce greater competition in this area as well. After all, why should HUDA Gymkhana Club and Kingdom of Dreams have a free run on late night unauthorised music?

Would it be possible to publish a playlist for the night’s unauthorised music playing so that residents can be better prepared with the right accompaniments for the music being dished out? If not, can we introduce a system through which “requests” can be sent to the erring establishment so that the unauthorised music could be to the liking of the forced audience?

Even if the above requests cannot be entertained, please don’t fret. You are keeping us entertained, albeit against our wishes. Your good deeds will stand you well. Remind me again when the next elections are due.

If I sound distracted in writing this thank you note, I apologise. I am writing this at 2.30 AM, after waking from a fitful sleep with those purple lights still flashing inside my head. It seems the music has restarted. Thanks again. Apologies if my complaint caused the music to be shut down for a few minutes, or was it seconds. I realise that one should not look a gift horse in the mouth. Who knows, we may be condemned to live in a city with rule of law.

Sincerely,

An ungrateful resident.

Defanged

Eventually, the beauty of the solution lay in its simplicity and elegance.

But that is what leaders are for. To see what the common man cannot see. To do what the common man cannot do. To hear what the common man does not say. To take decisions where the common man needs none. And to dither and vacillate where the common man needs one to be taken.

Billions of rupees have gone down the drain in the search for solutions and cures. Numerous lives sacrificed. Decades lost.

Yet, year after year the scourge has kept coming back. Like the proverbial bad penny. Developing, evolving newer and hardier strains, mocking the advances made by society. Come monsoon, typically between June and September in most parts of the country, it bares its fangs once again and readies to strike.

Even a plethora of meticulously unresearched advice, blindly forwarded on WhatsApp groups, has had no impact. Like the one I received yesterday informing me that the mosquito responsible for dengue cannot fly above knee height, hence all that people need to do is take care to cover the body below the knees, and all will be well. In my 11th floor apartment, with the dreaded buzzing sound audible as soon as I step out onto the terrace, this message was like manna from heaven. It seems the little tyke can fly upto the 11th floor of a building, significantly higher than knee high to a person at ground level, but once it reaches that height, it loses the will to fly above knee height. I took my phone and read the message aloud to the creators of the buzzing sound on the terrace to tell them how they needed to behave. A follow-up session is scheduled today evening.

By now you might have guessed that I am talking about mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and dengue, which have traditionally held sway during these months. If malaria was more lethal in one year, it would be dengue in the next. Last year, chikungunya, an unknown new mosquito-borne disease, became the flavour of the season, eclipsing malaria and dengue. Like an unheralded Boris Becker, all of seventeen years of age, coming into Wimbledon in 1985 and laying established stars low. Who knows which disease will rule the roost this year. Online bookies are doing roaring business.

Cities and governments around the country have been trying to solve the problem through planned, scientific means, with dismal results. Just when it seemed all was lost and that we were consigned to being forever held to ransom by mosquito-borne diseases every monsoon, came an inspired, swift, unilateral decision by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) which has put the spring back in the steps of the common man. What is even more inspiring is that it appears that the decision is based neither on logic nor any substance.

Not for nothing has Mumbai been the commercial capital of the nation.

Public Health Department (PHD) officials of the BMC have come to the rescue of the common man from the annual mosquito menace and slapped a notice on a popular Radio Jockey (RJ) in the city whose satirical song on potholes in Mumbai’s roads and mocking the BMC has garnered over a million views on YouTube, for breeding mosquitoes in a clay bowl kept under the plant pot kept in front of the front door of her apartment.

Now who would have thought that mosquitoes would be bred by a popular RJ whose satirical song on potholes in Mumbai’s roads and mocking the BMC has garnered over a million views on YouTube. That too in a clay bowl kept under the plant pot kept in front of the front door of her apartment.

PHD officials can clearly make out that a clay bowl kept under the plant pot kept in front of the front door of the popular RJ’s apartment, the RJ whose satirical song on potholes in Mumbai’s roads and mocking the BMC has garnered over a million views on YouTube, is being used for breeding mosquitoes, but clay bowls kept under plant pots kept in front of the front doors of other apartments in her building, whose occupants have not put out a satirical song on potholes in Mumbai’s roads and mocking the BMC that has garnered over a million views on YouTube, are not being used for breeding mosquitoes.

The world has changed. Clearly you can’t pull wool over the eyes of officials of the PHD of the BMC any more. They know.

“When the city has several agencies controlling roads, how can BMC be blamed for potholes, even though it is our responsibility?” the BMC has shot back at the RJ. “Problems with the railways and airlines are not because of us,” the BMC has added, bolstering their argument by citing examples of services they have nothing to do with. Even the RJ whose satirical song on potholes in Mumbai’s roads and mocking the BMC has garnered over a million views on YouTube, will not be able to argue with that.

As the BMC is ruled by a political party whose founder built a reputation with scathing political cartoons before turning to politics, it is only logical that scathing humour at their expense is not to be tolerated. The party has identified that since they so enjoyed and identified with it, the video was an insult to every Mumbaikar (resident of Mumbai). It was apparently a unanimous decision taken by the leader of the party alone.

In order not to get left behind, Delhi has proactively decided to retrospectively issue mosquito breeding notices to organisers of the protest march “Not In My Name” last month, despite the monsoon becoming active over Delhi only in July, as a preventive measure.

To eradicate the menace of mosquitoes from the country, it has been decided to ban all forms of creative dissent.

A simple and elegant solution, wouldn’t you agree?

Boozos

The paying public deserves better.

They (the public) paid for their lavish lifestyles. They paid for their needless overseas study junkets to Europe during the summer months. They paid for the security detail to protect them from themselves (the public). They paid for their scams. They paid for their unaccounted money stashed away in tax havens. They paid for the infrastructure that mostly did not get built.

Just when they (the public) felt they could sit back and let political leaders pay some dividend on the investment by making a fool of themselves by making needless, irrational decisions that are likely to be scoffed at by all sections of society and may soon need to be reversed, the rug has rudely been pulled from under their feet.

Throwing caution to the winds, the Supreme Court has decided to take upon itself the mantle of making needless, irrational decisions that are likely to be scoffed at by all sections of society and may soon need to be reversed.

Political leaders are running scared. Never before has there been such an open challenge to their rights. This move of the Supreme Court strikes at their belief system and the core of their existence. Most of them have beaten a hasty path back to their constituencies to convince voters that they will continue to disappoint them with their unfulfilled promises and irrational decisions. The Supreme Court decision should be seen merely as a one-off, an aberration.

In a bold decision that appears to be in response to a petition from no part of society, the Supreme Court has decided that there should be no liquor vends within 500 metres of any national highway. This, apparently, was the missing piece of the jigsaw that will bring down accidents on national highways. Conducting driving tests and antecedent verification before issuance of licences was considered as an alternative solution but, since it appeared to hold promise of solving the problem, it eventually went where such alternatives need to go; the reject pile. Existing liquor vends should be moved a minimum distance of 500 metres from the highways. Moreover, since many of the existing vends appear to have been created after taking due approvals from authorities, they will need to be shifted overnight.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going, they say.

In keeping with the “spirit” of the order, several states have moved to denotify national highways and classify them as “tiny local roads” instead. The Supreme Court has lauded the move and acknowledged that the threat of accidents owing to drivers consuming liquor from vends on roads called national highways does not exist from drivers consuming liquor from vends on roads called tiny local roads, which carry as much traffic as national highways.

Pubs and restaurants falling within the 500 metre zone have, “under the influence” of the order, also moved to shift their entrance gates to beyond the 500 metre line. It is common knowledge based upon detailed studies of human behaviour that once you have moved (or have been moved by someone) a distance of 500 metres after consumption of liquor, the inebriation vanishes and you become, strangely enough, “sober as a judge”.

Hotel Management schools across the country have introduced a new course on teaching students the metric measurement system. Especially for the purpose of measuring a distance of 500 metres. The humble metric measure is enjoying a revival amongst bar owners who have only known the inches to be poured down a glass. Catering students are being taught the difference between national highways and tiny local roads and how to identify each.

The sagacity of the decision can be judged from the fact that India remains one of the most densely populated large nations in the world with, among nations with 100 million plus populations, neighbouring Bangladesh being the only one more densely packed, leaving enough space to move anything upto 500 mm (millimetres; 1 metre = 1000 millimetres) in any direction. Hence, moving a vend 500 metres away can be considered a wise and reasonable decisions, taking liquor vends only closer to  schools, homes, religious places, etc. And we know our children and people not barrelling down national highways are mature enough to resist the lure of the drink. In fact, liquor vends can be setup at a distance of 100 metres from schools. QED.

In a strange coincidence, the day this order was announced, a small outlet started coming up close to our building, at a point visible from our terrace. Yesterday the signboards have been put-up. And, lo and behold, we now have a liquor vend right next to our building! But I exaggerate. It is not right next to our building. It is about 100 metres away. From the place in the compound where youngsters play football, a good kick could land the ball, and some chasing youngsters, into the vend. But so what? Are they grown-ups travelling down national highways who will be lured by liquor and cause damage to themselves and others?

It is mainly drivers of vehicles on the national highways that we worry about. Drivers who we have chosen to give licences to drive motorised vehicles ranging from two-wheelers to twenty ton trucks. How can we trust them to resist the lure of liquor.

The Supreme Court means business. It has also banned signboards which started mushrooming along remaining national highways (the ones not converted to tiny local roads), pointing to the nearest liquor vend 501 metres away. It is expected that demonstrating foresight and wisdom borrowed from political leaders, they will issue a pre-emptive order for banning signboards which point the way to the nearest signboard which points the way to the nearest liquor vend.

But the paying public is not happy. They have paid so much money to see politicians make of fool of themselves. They cannot countenance the Supreme Court denying them their fundamental rights.

The Supreme Court, cut to the quick by the spontaneous censure from all over the country, is trying to limit the damage.

They have clarified that liquor is good because it generates a huge amount of revenue for the government. Our fight is not against liquor. Do you not see the rapid expansion of liquor vends near schools, houses and religious places, at least in modern cities like Gurgaon? If we have our way, no citizen of the country will need to travel more than 100 metres in any direction to reach a liquor vend. 

But liquor drinking is bad. Our fight is only against drinking liquor. That too by mature adults who have been adjudged fit to be issued driving licences. That is why liquor advertising is banned on all media. We will soon issue orders to ensure that the government introduces a tax to uniformly collect liquor revenue from each citizen so that the state can continue to finance its charitable activities and development agenda, without anyone ever needing to consume it.

National Anthem

Taking its role of acting as executive, that has not been granted to it by the Constitution, that needs to issue unilateral and unprovoked orders, normally the sacred duty of the elected government as per the Constitution, and not merely being the arbiter of disputes, its duty as enshrined in the Constitution, with an earnestness  unseen in bureaucratic circles of the country,  the Supreme Court has ordered that “all cinema halls in India shall play the national anthem before the feature film starts and all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the national anthem” as a part of their “sacred obligation”.

As is expected of democratic institution in a republic, they have provided a logical explanation for their action, “And this is how it is because we say so.”

The bench added that doors of the halls will remain shut during the anthem so that no disturbance is caused and so that patriotism, and love and affection for the country, can be voluntarily and spontaneously displayed by people. It further decreed that natural calamities like fire and earthquakes be prohibited from striking during the time the doors are shut because of the national anthem being played.

In issuing a statement that cannot be fathomed by anyone, the bench has displayed enviable command over the language, “Time has come for people to realise that the national anthem is a symbol of constitutional patriotism…people must feel they live in a nation and this wallowing individually perceived notion of freedom must go…people must feel this is my country, my motherland. The directions are issued, for love and respect for the motherland is reflected when one shows respect to the National Anthem as well as to the National Flag. That apart, it would instil the feeling within one, a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism.”

“And if you don’t feel, we will make you feel”, the bench has clarified.

The court order, in order to ensure complete transparency in implementation and resolution of disputes, does not entail any penalty or punishment for not standing when the national anthem is played and hence everyone will know exactly what is to be done in cases of non-compliance.

During the hearing, the bench observed: “Universalism is alright but little still Bharat is the epitome of culture, knowledge… gyaan and vigyaan…people must feel this is my country…who are you? You are an Indian first. In other countries, you respect their restrictions. In India, why can you not have restrictions in larger good.”

“Moreover, our university education in law and subsequent practice as advocates and judges uniquely positions us to issue unilateral and random directions and decide who is showing love and respect for the motherland and who is not. Besides, it also gives us the right to make a judgment about other countries without any responsibility for its veracity.”

The Opposition is up in arms and has contended that this move is for the benefit of one individual, the popular movie producer Karan Johar, whose latest offering, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM) barely managed to hold the audience for 15 seconds. By introducing the national anthem, the audience will stay in the hall for at least a minute.

The Delhi Chief Minister has asked for evidence from the judges of them having sung the national anthem when they were in school.

Taking a cue from the Supreme Court order, a district court in Maharashtra has decreed that the Supreme Court ruling will apply not only to in-cinema screenings but to any movie being watched anywhere by an Indian. Hence, as an example, all airlines carrying Indian passengers must ensure that the Indian national anthem is played each time a passenger starts an in-flight movie. Moreover, the “seat belt” sign should not be switched on so that people can stand when the national anthem is playing. After all, one cannot allow them to stop being Indian wherever they are. This court, like the Supreme Court, has issued these directions out of love and respect for the motherland.

In another court in Allahabad, the honourable judges have mutually decided that the time has come to screen the footage of the final of the 1983 ICC Cricket World Cup before every movie, to instil a deeper sense of pride and patriotism. Moreover, all present for the movie would be obliged to stand during the 7-hour footage to show their patriotism.

Patriots who do not watch movies are up in arms.

A letter written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi echoes the sentiments of many similarly disenfranchised:

“Dear Sir, I am thoroughly disheartened by the judgment of the Supreme Court. I do not watch movies. How will I display my love and affection for my country? I have faithfully been urinating on the roadside, jumping queues especially where seniors and children were in line, and using vulgar language in public places. Clearly, in the new world order, that does not cut mustard anymore. I need to do more. I don’t watch movies. Please restore my right to display my patriotism.”

Being a responsive government that works for the common man, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called a meeting of the senior cabinet ministers that included Home Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Narendra Modi, at his house late at night to address the situation.

In a remarkable display of having their ear close to the ground, the high-powered team issued a note late at night that requires all banks to play the national anthem in a perpetual “loop”.

Home Minister Narendra Modi, in response to a media query, has clarified, “We have decided this in the interest of the nation. After all, from 9th November, the entire nation has been standing in a line outside banks, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. What better place to promote patriotism than at banks?”

To ensure that no individual is left behind in patriotism, the legislative council of the state of Madhya Pradesh has decided that henceforth the national anthem will be played each time a shopper enters a grocery store. “If you are not standing in a bank queue, you perhaps already have money some of which will surely be spent at a grocery store”, they have rightfully surmised.

A body blow has been dealt to the terrorism industry with the Supreme Court mandating the singing of the National Anthem before every movie. In the latest episode of Mann Ki Baat, the PM has shared, “It is widely known that Hindi movies are popular with terrorists. Not being patriots, they will not stand up when the national anthem is being played and can easily be nabbed. He asked patriots to not share this plan with non-patriots.”

Jan, Gan, Man…

ODDities and EVENtualities

No prizes for guessing what this is about. The title pretty much gives it away.

In a bid to reduce atmospheric pollution and improve the ambient air quality, that, thanks to the joint efforts of the common man and successive governments over several decades, has snowballed out of control, the Delhi government has decided that, beginning 1st January, only cars with even numbered plates will be allowed to run on even days and odd numbered ones on, you guessed it, odd days.

Their hand has been forced. They have had to resort to take this step because other, more reasonable, permanent measures, that would permit the common man the luxury of choice, have never been tried, and hence can be classified as totally ineffective. Like charging a substantially higher price for gas-guzzling vehicles. Like a road-pricing system that deters driving and parking in the city. Like an enforcement of simple traffic rules such as parking to ease needless jams. Like closing down illegal factories. Like regulating construction activities in the city. What is the government to do?

A similar mandate had once been issued in the capital of a big country, to the North and East of ours, with an even larger population. My fellow common men and women had marvelled at how quickly they had been able to take decisive steps, without bothering about process and consensus, in the interest of the nation, and how we have been mired in bureaucracy while attempting to take similar steps.

As soon as Delhi Chief Minister (CM) announced that cars with odd and even numbered plates will be allowed on odd and even dates, without bothering too much about process and consensus, my fellow common men and women have broken out in criticism, of the CM taking unilateral decisions without respecting the democratic fabric of our society and the impact of such decisions on the common man.

That the decision has been well thought through and all possible angles examined is evident from the fact that the government has promised to repeal this arrangement by the 15th of January, if the common man is inconvenienced, pollution be damned.

For the convenience of the common man, emergency vehicles, ambulance, fire, hospital, prison, hearse, enforcement vehicles, vehicles of paramilitary forces, Ministry of Defence, pilot and escort, vehicles of SPG protectees and vehicles bearing diplomatic corps registration numbers would be exempted from this rule. As will be the vehicles of the President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Speaker of Lok Sabha, Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha, Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha, Governors of states/ Lt Governor, Chief Justice of India, Union Ministers, Leaders of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, Chief Ministers of states except Delhi, judges of Supreme Court and High Court and Lokayukta.

As, indeed, will be vehicles of persons with disability, two-wheelers, buses, CNG vehicles, women drivers with women co-passengers and children upto 12 years of age and vehicles of persons in a medical emergency carrying proof; like a body, perhaps.

The remaining vehicles, if any, will be managed by a posse of cops withdrawn from other unimportant duties around the capital where they are deployed despite not being required so that they can be withdrawn on a whim, as well as an army of volunteers, drawn from their various important tasks of doing nothing.

In order that the arrangement gets a “trial by fire” in real-life conditions, schools in Delhi have been ordered shut till 15th January in order to decongest roads.

The Delhi government hopes to launch an App for car-pooling and giving lifts to strangers. In a display of responsible governance, it has appealed to people to avoid giving lifts to strangers for security reasons.

Meanwhile, capacity created on roads, if any, will be quickly absorbed by making new, bigger buildings, with even more grossly inadequate parking spaces, and narrowing down passageways with the help of unauthorised parking. As was so effectively done when the Delhi metro came into being and took away, we are told, some load from the roads. While absorption of road space has been planned for, it is not yet clear how the reduced pollution, if any, will be replaced, so that another hurried decision, to reduce it and save the lives of common men and women, can be taken in the future. The CM has appealed to the common man to play his part if he desires to be saved again in the future.

Vilified they may be for taking this decision, one has to grant, even if grudgingly, that the Delhi government has taken a bold step. And, in doing so, they have opened up a gloriously simple and effective path for solving many of the internecine problems plaguing the world, so that we can live together and happily, if not ever after, at least longer.

Crimes against women, committed by men, as they almost always are, will soon be history. The state government is about to issue a decree to permit men and women out on the streets on odd and even days. Only persons with disability, women with other women and children upto 12 years of age, persons in a medical emergency carrying proof, paramilitary forces, SPG protectees, diplomatic corps, the President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Speaker of Lok Sabha, Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha, Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha, Governors of states/ Lt Governor, Chief Justice of India, Union Ministers, Leaders of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, Chief Ministers of states except Delhi, judges of Supreme Court and High Court and Lokayukta, will be exempt.

We can look forward to a future of rock-solid fixed-line quality connections on our mobile phones. Only even numbered phones will be allowed to function on even days, and odd numbered ones on odd days.

Death caused by irresponsible use of private fire-arms will be reduced to half by permitting only arms with an even-number registration to fire irresponsibly of even days, and, you guessed it again, odd-numbered ones on odd days.

This could change the world.

It already is changing the world. Fighting to be in the race to save the world from drowning in pollution, a village in Italy has banned the making of pizzas in wood-fired ovens, while Japan has banned smoking between 9 AM and 12 noon on weekdays. In an effort to not get left behind in the race to save the world, the Nordic countries have come together to ban walking and cycling and introduced a steep tax on all cars that are not SUVs. Found wanting in their ability to further improve the quality of their air, they hope these steps will position them well to contribute to this noble cause when the need to save the world arises the next time.

While the city celebrates, a citizen group has struck a sour note by asking the Delhi government for a refund of half of the road-tax car owners have to pay at the time of buying a car. “If you are not permitting me to use my car half the time, you can only charge 50% of the amount,” is the logic.

But the government is not letting such trifles worry them. After all, they have the power of inadequate assessment and hurried decision-making on their side.

In a Soup

Madhuri Dixit, a leading Bollywood actress of the nineties, is in a thick soup. Not an ordinary soup. A thick Maggi soup. 

It appears that a packet of Maggi, of which she is a brand ambassador, has been found to contain Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), a taste-enhancer, which is a restricted substance, without a declaration on the packing of the product. To add salt to Maggi, or insult to injury, the discovery has been made simultaneously in Barabanki and Muzaffarpur, remote towns deep in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, as well known across the nation for their rule of law and morally upright administration, as they are for the ethical, uncompromising stand on testing of food taken by the common man.

Such amateurish behaviour was not expected from an actress of her stature. It is learnt from reliable sources that she did not even rush to her private lab to check the ingredients under a microscope before signing on the dotted line. All she is reported to have done is seek confirmation from company officials regarding the quality of the product.

Such negligence deserves punishment.

The government, poor souls, have been forced to take this action against the brand ambassador, since they have no way of knowing that the product was manufactured by Nestle, one of the world’s leading packaged food manufacturers.

How can they?

Are they children who consume the product?

Or are they expected to read the printed matter on packets of the product?

Or are they expected to maintain records and governance information that could lead people to believe that they have some idea of what is going on in their jurisdiction?

Even if they did, how are they expected to know how to contact Nestle or how to serve a notice to them? So, as smart, reasonable government officials, they sent a notice to Madhuri Dixit.

The government is sending out a clear signal to the younger generation. It is just not enough to be a good, popular actor. You also need to have a private product testing lab.

Salman Khan, a popular Bollywood actor, who endorses a brand of cotton vests, is running scared. As is Aishwarya Rai, former Miss World, who is endorsing a commercial real estate development in Mumbai. With a fair and transparent government at work, there is no knowing which product MSG might surface in next.

Shopkeepers around the country who have stocked it are already under the scanner. Why did they not check the packets in their own labs before selling them, is a question baffling experts?

Sooner or later, it is bound to come back to the parents. What were they thinking? Don’t they even have labs at home where they can test the products they are feeding their children? Do they expect the government to do even that? When will they start taking responsibility?

The Information and Broadcasting Minister, having failed to detect the presence of MSG in the product, and allowed product ads to be aired on TV, in a principled stand, has resigned his position as Minister and become the governor of a state.

Realising that Madhuri Dixit started endorsing Maggi only recently, the government machinery is leaving no stone unturned to uncover the names of celebrities who have endorsed Maggi in the past so that blame can be placed where it belongs.

Following the lead given by the government, the courts are creating a precedent whereby responsibility for future indiscretions regarding a product can be clearly assigned.

If it is found that Fair and Handsome does not really make you any fairer or more handsome, who will the blame lie with? Of course Shahrukh Khan, another leading Bollywood actor, who endorses the product.

We don’t need to tell you whose responsibility it would be in case it is discovered, in Barabanki or Muzaffarpur, that Boost, the chocolate energy drink for children, does not really give any additional natural energy to children. Of course it will be Sachin Tendulkar’s responsibility. Everyone knows Sachin. And everyone should know why it is his responsibility.

The government and courts have also given a resounding endorsement of the decision-making capability of the common man. They possess such sound judgment, the government believes, that they are forced to buy all products endorsed by a celebrity, even though they have no use for them.

The product will be banned with retrospective effect, as has been so successfully done by some of our leaders.

But wait! Why should the product be banned? Is it the fault of the product? No way. It is the fault of Madhuri Dixit.