Manmohan Singh recently commented on the results of a national survey by the Naandi Foundation that found that 42% of the children in this country are malnourished; he called it a national shame (that amounts to one out of every three malnourished children in the world). We’ve also recently learnt that the average Indian schoolkid fares slightly better than a Kyrgyz schoolkid at maths, science and reading. If this is news to you, it turns out you’ve just not been paying attention. The 2001 National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau report says pretty much the same thing. This was a decade ago. Yes, it’s good we’ve finally noticed, but that doesn’t make it news. The NNMB report also says that 37% of the adult population has a body-mass index (BMI) of below 18.5 – the clinical definition of chronic malnourishment. Moreover, the WHO’s definition of famine is that 40% of the population of a region be severely malnourished – Binayak Sen calls us a country living through a state of stable famine.
The above list, while shameful and depressing, isn’t even an exhaustive list of food-security related problems facing this country.
So what do you suppose the people running this country are most up in arms about? If you guessed cow-slaughter and how best to punish people who eat beef, you’re right. You may now award yourself a shameful bow. the people of Madhya Pradesh have given themselves a law banning all sale and possession of beef, with punishment that this country otherwise reserves only for its rapists and murderers. This in addition to Karnataka’s bill banning cow-slaughter which is now sure to also get the President’s assent (with presidents like these…). These laws allow police officers to raid and search premises on the suspicion that an offence may take place:
The Centre felt that raiding premises merely on the assumption that an offence is “likely” could be misused and recommended that such power be limited to cases when an offence had taken place or was taking place. The amended legislation has disregarded the recommendation.
The blatant disregard for minority opinion, civil liberty, and any trace of sense apart, this law affects the poor disproportionately – beef is the cheaper than almost any other meat. Calling this communal legislation is stating the obvious. Calling it legislating taste (a la Bill Maher) is more insightful, although it does nothing to help somebody being harassed by the local police officer for the suspicion of possession of beef.
Beef is now more contraband than a kilogram of ganja or 100 grams of hashish (punishment for possession of < 1kg ganja or < 100gms of hashish : Rs. 10,000 fine or 6 months in prison). Stash your beef away safely.
Aravind Adiga expresses shock about what has been happening of late in Karnataka’s state assembly. Which is understandable – the government is being run by proxy, votes in the assembly are openly sold (45 crore rupees is the going rate for a vote, one hears), and behaviour that would shame chimpanzees is on display in the state’s legislature.
The rest of the page-long essay from Sunday’s Times of India is a mess from an Orwellian nightmare where words have no meanings; or if they do, they mean different things to different people. The essay says for instance:
“Your Delhiwallah might associate virtues like modesty, thrift, and hard work with the Madrasi, but in the south we have always thought of Karnataka as the ultimate locus of these values.”
‘Delhiwallah’? ‘Madrasi’? Do these words mean people from Delhi and Madras? Or do they mean people from North and South India? And Karnataka, which is apparently not indicated when a North-Indian says ‘Madrasi‘, has also always been considered the locus of something or the other. I’m sorry, I must have missed that memo.
Here’s another gem: “Bangalore did not become India’s information technology centre by accident. Companies like Infosys could only have been founded in a place like Karnataka, where culture and education are valued so highly.”
‘Information, Culture, Education’… This juxtaposition of words seems to me to be either unwitting or disingenuous. Yes, Kannada has a distinguished history of scholarship, and is considered one of India’s ‘classic’ languages. What, however, that has to do with Infosys – where the average employee is a glorified typist – the author neglects to mention. I’ve heard that among the questions people are asked in campus-interviews where Infosys and TCS hire by the truckload are whether they can sing or dance. Maybe that is what Adiga means.
Here’s one last string of words that at first glance seems to mean something: “Culture, in the south of India, has always been a bulwark against money.” Compare that to ‘Infosys – the corporation that sells software products – could only have been founded in Karnataka’, and you’ll see what I mean when I say the entire essay is dubious.
Having decoupled words from meaning, Adiga proposes a solution to Karnataka’s woes of corruption in politics: Insist as a matter of principle, on talking in Kannada to people who talk to you in Hindi. And pontificate about this in your article for an English newspaper.
But there’s more.
You see, Tamilians and Malayalis, because their loyalties are divided, care about Tamil Nadu and Kerala , and therefore Kannadigas must become more active by joining NGOs – of which there are many and one suitable to you can be found at the click of a button. Oh, and North Indians who migrate to Karnataka should teach their children ‘Kannada culture’, and develop some sense of ‘ownership and belonging’ in Karnataka (I assume owning property doesn’t count). By exclusion, Tamilians and Malayalis don’t have to do this, I guess.
And if ‘Kannadigas’ don’t do all this (once somebody figures out what the heck any of it means), Karnataka will turn into Bihar – where, incidentally, people talk in their language and no other. Not surprisingly, this solution is as devoid of meaning as the rest of the essay.
Aravind Adiga, the Booker prize-winning author, closes by professing to being a Kannadiga. I’m not sure even he knows what on Earth that means.[hr]
The test I created is still open. I want enough votes for a statistically significant result. Do take the test!
[End. Fini. Kaputski. Adiga]
…that’s what legislators in Karnataka, and consequently, the sycophants of the police department, are worried about, it turns out. I read about this in the newspaper this morning. They’ve found, on a pavement at the entrance to the secretariat,
…[f]resh meat, eggs (some broken), blood stains, a lemon with a number of nails pierced on it, vermilion and a few bones, all wrapped in a leaf […]
And that’s been enough to make the duffers that run the Karnataka government scamper for cover. The Chief Minister, apparently has had this sort of thing directed at him previously, too. And because he’s the consummate mouse (or rat, more appropriately), he’s even gone on a purification spree.
when Yeddyurappa visited his home town Shikaripur in Shimoga district two days after he took over as Chief Minister, similar articles were found near the helipad, where the chopper carrying the new chief minister was to have landed. Police removed the articles but Yeddyurappa decided to get rid of the “evil effect’’ by visiting a few temples immediately after.
I have utter contempt for the moron of a chief minister of Karnataka. And I stabbed a tub of butter at breakfast this morning. I’m sure that means Yeddy will scurry on to the nearest temple (taking with him the two dozen SUVs, four cars, and two ambulances that seem to be required to accompany the chief minister everywhere).
Sunil ‘Pogo’ Manohar pointed me to this news report from the Times of India. An imminent cabinet reshuffle in Karnataka’s State government has been in the news for the past few days. I hadn’t read this particular one, though.
Apparently, ministers in the current cabinet who’re likely to be dropped are resorting to threatening the Chief Minister with mass-resignation, massive protest, and so on. While that is silly enough – it is entirely the CM’s prerogative who he chooses to look after what portfolio – that isn’t the worst part of this.
…sports minister Goolihatti D Shekar stunned the party with his threat to commit suicide if he’s dropped. An independent legislator, he was among five independents, who propped up the minority BJP to form the government. ”If I’m dropped, I would have no other go but to commit suicide. Let the BJP hoist its flag on my dead body,” Shekar said.
That’s right, the minister for sports has just threatened to kill himself if he isn’t allowed to continue to look after sports in Karnataka. He’s that attached to sports in Karnataka. Or something. After yesterday’s low of cheapness, this is a new low in begging.
Like I said, with leaders like these…