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Since 1st March, 1999
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Mind over matter

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh may give the impression of being a PT class for the elderly, but that’s just one of the many myths about the organization. RSS men (and women, lest we forget) are anything but old, if you can excuse their grey hair and/or baldness and think instead of their remarkable lathi-wielding, toe-touching fitness. It is only fitting that inside such supple bodies, there should reside equally agile minds. Many such alert minds were in attendance when RSS’s joint general-secretary, Mohanrao Bhagwat, addressed an interactive session of members in New Delhi. The Best Question of the Day Award went to a grand young man who had proudly worn the sangh badge when the country was cleaved. After spending some time on the uselessness of the lathi in this day and age, he asked secretaryji, without a hint of hesitation, “Why don’t you impart training to our youths in the use of AK-47s and improvised explosive devices?” Bhagwat explained as calmly as he could that “in a self-governed nation-state combating the menace of terrorists”, following the old faithful’s suggestion wouldn’t be such a good idea. It is nonetheless important to note the questioner’s emphasis on “youth”. Surely he was referring to people like himself!

Who’s jumping the queue?

Guess who’s invoking the Right to Information Act the most? Serving and retired public servants far more than the ordinary citizen, it seems (And you thought only those who wanted to see answer-scripts of board exams could take the help of RTI?) No matter who is using it more, the RTI has done a world of good by putting an end to several common corrupt practises in government offices — such as customs and income tax departments freely using liaison men from corporate houses to bribe ministry officials and acquiring government accommodation by jumping queue. The fear of RTI among ministry officials has only to be seen to be believed. Allowing favoured officers to jump the long queue to get government houses is one of the august traditions of Indian officialdom. While scores of Class III and IV officials do not have official accommodation owing to scarcity of quarters, even Class I IAS and IPS officers have to wait for months to get official housing. But life after RTI is different. Recently, an IAS officer was on the verge of jumping queue and getting accommodation, when the ministry learnt that an IPS officer ahead in the list had exercised his right to information. And then, there was no option but to follow the rulebook. It is not known whether name-plates had been ordered, and if so, who footed the bill.

Missing link

A strange and sublime enthusiasm has taken hold of the babudom in UP ever since word came out that the next pay commission might increase the babu’s retirement age by two years. With this new lease imminent, a senior IAS officer from the UP cadre has started fancying himself as the next Union home secretary. When he shared his secret ambition with a colleague, he was pointed towards a grievous lack in his CV — of not being a magistrate in any of the three districts of Amethi, Raebarelli or Sultanpur. The logic goes that with the Congress at the Centre, an association with one or more of these districts is the password to going places for anyone hailing from UP. Last heard, our ambitious babu was consulting astrologers.

And the seat goes to...

Who after Vajpayee? No, the answer is not LK Advani. The party unit in UP is tearing its hair trying to find a successor to Vajpayee for the Lucknow parliamentary constituency, which Atal B has been representing since 1991. Advani has his stronghold in Gandhinagar in Gujarat. Besides, every place that is vacated by Vajpayee cannot be filled by Advani (have some mercy on the man, please, he is not exactly young). So, maybe the ex-state BJP chief, Kalraj Mishra, though his pauses aren’t as pregnant as Atalji’s.

Grain of truth

If you thought that Basmati is simply a variety of rice with a great fragrance and flavour, think again. According to the ministry of agriculture, it is much more complicated than that. Union commerce secretary GK Pillai had put the simple question — “What is Basmati?” — to his counterpart in the agriculture ministry. Confused ministry officials first “sought time” and then forwarded the query to the Indian Agriculture Research Council. The IARC took up the matter on a war footing, deputing dozens of scientists to investigate various matters — Basmati’s varieties, its hybrid forms, DNA markers, related patent battles, list of exporters refused by the Food and Drug Administration, and so on. All this has left commerce ministry officials chewing their nails. Evidently, it is going to take months before a suitable answer is found.

Stumped by a dumper

The Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, has run into heavy weather, all because he and his wife, Sadhna, have reportedly bought a large number of dumpers (heavy vehicles). The large consignment has raised eyebrows and now there are allegations of disproportionate income against the CM. Matters have reached the courts and even the state vigilance commission is keeping an eye on developments. Although Chauhan is trying his best to douse the flames, it seems that the dumpers would not let go of him. As luck would have it, the printed edition of a government calendar featured the picture of a dumper for the month of December. Most of the departments have dumped the page in haste, lest it made Chauhan see red and put their job on the line.

Poor Chauhan! He cannot even blame the man who included the picture in the first place. How could the man possibly know that a harmless dumper would raise such a storm?

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