New Glory 


Bihar’s senior BJP leader, Sushil Kumar Modi is the new political science teacher around these days. He bounced back to his old position as the Deputy Chief Minister after the recent high voltage political drama. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar “divorced” his ally RJD over corruption charges against Lalu Prasad’s family—which were made public by Sushil Modi—and once again returned to the NDA fold.  Basking in new glory, Sushil Modi is giving frequent answers to justify the ghar wapsi of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “sewa bhakt”, Nitish Kumar. When told that it was the same Nitish Babu who had made serious personal comments against BJP in the past, he says: “In politics old criticisms have no place, no value because the context has changed and the context is totally different now. Nitish Kumar was not with the BJP, when he had made those comments. So, what anyone says when he is not with the party does not matter…this does not count.” Patna’s Modi goes further to explain his political science theory. “When Yashwant Sinha was in Parliament with PM Chandra Shekhar, he had criticised Ayodhya’s Ram Janmabhoomi movement. But once Yashwant Babu joined the BJP, he began defending Ram Lalla. Lalu Prasad had once asked Yashwant Sinha about this and he had replied that ‘wherever I am, I stay loyal’.”

It is now believed that “Operation Bihar” had started rolling soon after the BJP’s massive defeat in the state Assembly elections. The BJP leadership was upset, angry and hurt, as at the same time the saffron party had also lost badly in the Delhi Assembly polls; out of 70 seats, the BJP could get only three. The Aam Admi Party government led by Arvind Kejriwal was subjected to “carpet bombing” in the shape of allegations about scams involving ministers and some influential MLAs. Now that the BJP has secured Patna, Lutyens’ circles are agog with speculation that the Delhi government’s fall is imminent in near future. The next targets are West Bengal and Odisha, according to them.

Mystery attacker


Soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941, able Americans had started going to Europe to fight the Nazis. Women had joined factories to assemble arms and ammunition. In a small town of Pascagoula in Mississippi, they found a peculiar prowler in their midst. The locals called him the “Phantom Barber”. Pretty blondes suddenly found their hair being chopped off. The police suspected that a miscreant had been using a chloroform soaked rag to make women lose consciousness in order to go about his dastardly deed. After a hectic manhunt, a German chemist was arrested and sentenced to 10 years, though he denied his involvement. As similar incidents are being reported from the National Capital Region of Delhi and nearby areas, one wonders whether the “Ghost of the Phantom of Mississippi” is here on a visit. For the past one month, many young girls and married women have been complaining that their braids have been chopped off in mysterious circumstances. People are convinced that it is the handiwork of ghosts. The police are clueless; they think it is “mere superstition”. Babas and maulvis  are offering special tabiz—price ranging between Rs 500 and Rs 1,000—to ward off the braid cutter. The women’s stories are similar. They say they were out in the jungle to cut grass or fetch water or were offering namaz when they suddenly fell unconscious. When they woke up, they found their chopped off braids lying nearby. The police suspect that in some cases a mischief maker, using a chloroform handkerchief, might be involved. The other cases could be of “cooked-up stories”—women cutting their own braids believing that by doing so they can have a son or an early marriage.

Great Distress


“All governments have treated farmers as second class citizens despite the fact that they feed the nation,” charge Chaudhary Pushpendra Singh, who is among the new crop of leaders emerging from the farmers’ agitation for waiving of farm loans. Though several states have waived off loans of small and marginal farmers, the sons of the soil are not fully happy. Suicides by debt-ridden farmers are continuing. “Just think of a worst scenario; if upset farmers go on strike, even for one year, and stop growing grain and rice (except for their own consumption), what will happen?” asks Pushpendra while talking to The Sunday Guardian and answers himself that “people in the urban jungles will be crying and dying. Then only they will realise how much farmers sweat to feed their stomach”.

“Shouldn’t the economists worry more about the 60% agriculture dependent population of this country, who earn a meagre Rs 3,081 on an average every month from agriculture per farm household?” asks Puspendra, pointing out that in contrast the Seventh Pay Commission has recommended a minimum basic pay of Rs 18,000 per month for the lowest paid government employee. According to the Economic Survey 2016-17, an average farm household income is a paltry Rs 1,666 per month in 17 most backward states.

Coming from a cultivator’s family in village Bilsuri, district Bulandshahr, western Uttar Pradesh, Pushpendra is apolitical. A product of the Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA) in Gujarat, Pushpendra is in great demand these days in television channels’ debates on farmers’ issues. He had earlier worked with a fertilizer firm. As the president of his organisation, Kisan Shakti Sangh, he has become the most vocal advocate of cultivators.

On UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s recent announcement of a Rs 36,359 crore farm loan waiver to fulfil a poll promise, Pushpendra says that “it is only one step on the long road, but such loan waivers are not helping all the farmers, as a majority of them borrow money on high interest from local moneylenders.”

He demands that the government should implement the Swaminathan Commission report that has recommended land reforms, credit, and insurance and that the minimum support price for the crops should be, at least, 50% more than the weighted average cost of production. Flashing a yellow chart, Pushpendra argues that the banks’ non-performing assets are valued at around Rs 9 lakh crore, which are regularly written off; the income tax outstanding demand is also around Rs 9 lakh crore, which is admittedly difficult to recover; the government gives various tax incentives to various industries in an annual budget amounting to around Rs 9 lakh crore.

“The farm loan is also around Rs 8.77 lakh crore as per NABARD’s 2015-16 report. When huge waivers, write-offs and incentives could be given to the corporate world, why can’t the government waive off farmers’ loans as they are reeling under great distress, forcing many of them to commit suicides?”

Akal Takht


In Amritsar, Akal Takht’s five high priests have said “No” to the Italian-made “Siri Sahib” (kirpans) as these do not conform to the Sikh code of conduct. Wearing a kirpan on person is a religious tradition among “GurSikhs”. Many western countries have refused permission citing it as a security risk.

The Akal Takht Jathedar, Giani Gurbachan Singh and other high priests, have concluded that they “don’t approve such replica of kirpans as they have a bendable blade”.
A delegation from Italy, including an Italian Sikh activist Sukhdev Singh Kang, had submitted these “modified kirpans” to the Akal Takht, two months ago, for approval. Two members of the Italian delegation, El Lorenjo and Rozy Roberto told the high priests that the original kirpan carried by Sikhs “appeared more like a weapon” and the Italian authorities had suggested “modified kirpans”. The Akal Takht Jathedar, Giani Gurbachan Singh and other high priests have concluded that they “don’t approve such replica of kirpans as they have a bendable blade”.

In May, the Italian Supreme Court had ruled against a Sikh who wanted to carry a kirpan in public and said that migrants in the western world must conform to the values of the society they have chosen to settle in. The Sikh had appealed against a lower court’s order asking him to pay 2,000 euros in fine “because he had been caught leaving his home armed with a knife measuring 20 cm”.

Invisible Members


A number of Rajya Sabha members are upset about the habitual “absentee”, nominated, MPs, who, they say, come to the House from the “backdoor” but are hardly interested in the serious business of Parliament. The other day, Samajwadi Party MP, Naresh Agarwal asked in the House: “Where are our eminent members of the House like actors and cricketers? They should resign if they are not interested.”

On Tuesday, Agarwal asked cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar to resign from the nominated seat as the cricketer had a “miserable score” in the House. His other target was actress Rekha, also a nominated member. Talking to The Sunday Guardian, Agarwal said, “Is it not a pity that absentee Tendulkar is a Bharat Ratna? I admire Rekha as an actress, but Rajya Sabha’s proceedings are a serious business.”

Agarwal had raised this issue in March also, asking, “What is the point of having ‘star members’ in the Parliament when they are not to be seen?” The issue of continuing absence of nominated members has started finding resonance among many regular members. Many are in favour of cancelling the membership of such habitual absentees by amending the law. There are 12 distinguished nominated members in the RS. Besides Tendulkar and Rekha, others are Roopa Ganguly (actress), M.C. Mary Kom (boxer), Anu Aga, Sambhaji Chhatrapati, Swapan Dasgupta, Narendra Jadhav, K. Parasaran, Gopi Suresh, Subramanian Swamy and K.T.S. Tulsi.

“Tendulkar and Rekha are the worst performers in attendance among the nominated members,” said Agarwal, adding that the government had honoured them “but they don’t care.” Tendulkar and Rekha were nominated by the UPA government in 2012. Their attendance is far below the average of 78%. Both are higher secondary pass. Till date, Rekha has not asked a single question. Tendulkar’s attendance “score” is 22.

When Agarwal was raising this issue in the House, Tendulkar was busy at the launch of his personal app called “100 MB”. Coolly, he refused to react and said that “it is not the right platform to talk about it”. A BJP MP says that Tendulkar knows Parliament is not his “field” and he can make tonnes of money—by staying away from Parliament—from his cricket activities and modelling for TV commercials.

Man Mohan can be contacted at





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