Will vipassana cure lazy govt officials? Nitish thinks so
Cannot keep calm
The chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, announced 15 days of leave for state government officials and employees if they opt for a vipassana (a Buddhist method of meditation and self-awareness) retreat at the Buddha Smriti Park in Patna. While it spread cheer among government workers, it also rang alarm bells among the public. The general sentiment was that a majority of government employees either do not work or work half-heartedly already, and they get months of holidays every year as it is, and yet Kumar was heaping more on them. “I am just wondering how vipassana will help the senior and junior employees! Will they become honest and responsible? First they need to inculcate the qualities of non-violence, truth, and non-stealing before opting for higher yogic practices. Nitish should go for a massive crackdown on corruption in the state before offering such sops to the government servants,” said one of the people who attended the function at which the CM made the announcement.
The sangh parivar certainly has an issue with Urdu, Arabic, Persian or anything considered to do remotely with Islam. But there are exceptions. Although the Bangalore South Lok Sabha member, Tejasvi Surya, forced the desi apparel maker, Fabindia, to withdraw a Diwali advertisement with the tagline, “Jashn-E-Riwaaz” — the firm clarified later that the ad was not just for the festival of lights — BJP-ruled Karnataka has been at the forefront of luring in investments from the Arab world. The sharia-compliant, UAE-based Gulf Islamic Investments is to open an office in Bangalore and invest Rs 3,500 crore in the country. The state sent a delegation comprising industries minister Murugesh Nirani and information technology minister CN Ashwath Narayana to pitch for this contract at the Dubai Expo 2020, underway in the snazzy Gulf emirate. Money, of course, is a great leveller.
President Ram Nath Kovind expressed his desire to visit Takht Sri Harmandir Ji Sahib, popularly known as Patna Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th guru of the Sikhs. But this brought on an anxiety attack for many top secret service, security and administrative officials. A few days ago, Sikh leaders connected to the management of the pious seat in Bihar and their supporters had had a fierce clash among themselves over petty issues; they had even drawn out swords to threaten one another. The officials were apprehensive after the incident and wondered what they would do in case of a repeat of such an incident during the president’s visit. “We worried about the groups clashing in or around Patna Sahib during the dignitary’s visit. It would have projected such a bad image of us across the globe,” a senior official said. However, better sense prevailed and no untoward incident happened. Kovind came, prayed and returned peacefully.
Health is wealth
The Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana health smart cards have become a potent political weapon in the hands of the ruling Biju Janata Dal in Odisha, which is gearing up for panchayat and municipal elections early next year. The CM, Naveen Patnaik, who has been resisting the Centre’s attempts to impose the Ayushman Bharat scheme on the state, appears convinced that BSKY health cards are better and will help his party to further consolidate its position in the state where it has been in power for the last 21 years. The cards, which guarantee free treatment of up to Rs 5 lakh per family for men and Rs 10 lakh for women, are in high demand and Patnaik has made it a point to distribute them to people himself at programmes organized by the government but attended in large numbers by BJD workers and office bearers.
He recently handed out health smart cards to people at Baripada, the headquarters of the tribal-dominated Mayurbhanj district where the Bharatiya Janata Party, the principal political rival of the BJD, had done well in the last panchayat as well as assembly and Lok Sabha polls. One wonders if health will become wealth for the BJD.
There is no doubt that Basavaraj Bommai is the CM of Karnataka. But the manner in which the BJP has been relying on BS Yediyurappa to draw crowds at the campaigns for assembly bypolls raises questions about whether the party has a viable alternative for the 78-year-old Lingayat strongman. In both Hanagal and Sindagi, Yediyurappa is the fulcrum of the BJP’s campaign. Bommai only comes a distant second. The veteran is in no mood to give up; his target is the 2023 state polls for which he is embarking on a statewide tour soon. It looks like the BJP has no clue on how to contain him in a state considered the sangh parivar’s laboratory in the South.