The coincidence is quirky ~ the catastrophe caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and the UN conference on climate change in Warsaw. If Copenhagen and Cancun are reckoned as case-studies, little or nothing can be expected from the UN&’s current bout of pow-wow in the Polish capital. Ergo, the very least that the world can look forward to is a robust international effort to rescue and reconstruct the Philippines, most particularly Tacloban City. The typhoon has killed thousands and dispossessed many more; the calamity recalls the devastation wrought by the tsunami in the winter of 2004 from Pondicherry to Phuket in Thailand. President Aquino has been remarkably swift in his declaration of a “national calamity”… so very unlike the racist response of George Bush to Hurricane Katrina that struck New Orleans (2005). Scientists aver that hurricanes and typhoons are different names for the same phenomenon. Mr Aquino&’s estimate of 2000 casualties is barely one-fifth of the suspected toll. This isn’t the moment to quibble over figures. It is the enormity of the tragedy that must be addressed, and the government in Manila will, we hope, accept assistance without reservations, not least from Spain and the USA ~ once the colonial masters. A vast swathe of the country is in tatters; the looting of even such staple items as noodles is testament to the overwhelming cry to meet hunger and thirst. The 12-day conference in Warsaw ought to abjure the customary platitudes and the blame-game.
The UN is on test in its handling of Nature&’s almost wholly unpredictable fury. Whether or not a warmer planet has turned the storm into what the meeting describes as a “lethal monster” can only be of academic interest quite yet, primarily because there isn’t sufficient data to link climate change to a typhoon of so hideous a magnitude. What matters most of all is whether Warsaw will be able to mount a gigantic relief and rehabilitation exercise. And the responsibility devolves on both the developed and the developing world, as often as not engaged in a mutual blame-game over carbon emission. Resounding has been the message of Naderev Sano, Manila&’s chief representative at the conference ~ “What my country is going through is madness. We can stop this madness right here in Warsaw.” A part of the Earth is in crisis, and the agenda in Warsaw is decidedly different from the one pursued in Copenhagen and Cancun. Typhoon Haiyan is by far the strongest storm to make landfall on record. The conference ought to present a tangible blueprint rather than a discourse on whether storms become more powerful with climate change. Theoretical formulations can wait; at stake is the renewal of life in a part of the Asia-Pacific region. And towards that end, the United Nations has a profound duty to perform if its Charter is to help the world… if not Syria and Libya.
Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence” James Bond had asserted, “three times is enemy action”. V Narayansamy, admittedly, is a pathetic third after Manmohan Singh and P Chidambaram. Yet, even if that loyalist loudmouth has seldom indicated a capacity for original thinking, the fact that he is the nodal minister for the Central Bureau of Investigation accords some significance to his regurgitating the advice to the agency to lay off policing policy formulation. It confirms the theory propounded by 007. Typical of the man, he carried the argument to ridiculous extent, asking if the insistence on the auction of natural resources extended to water and air. This raises queries about the Prime Minister&’s capacity to select competent aides: or is he 10 Janpath&’s “man” in the PMO? No doubts can now be entertained that the government has mounted a reckless assault on all national institutions that serve as checks and balances on the executive. It is clearly an articulation of guilt, actually a fear that should the CBI not back off the general impression of UPA-II being “the most corrupt government ever” would influence which button on the EVM would be pressed. That apprehension appears to be amplified by the popular perception that the common folk are appreciative of Narendra Modi&’s authoritative functioning ~ hence the bid to talk tough. Will that suffice to shake off the image of policy paralysis, or is it much too late for that? The UPA is appearing increasingly desperate, and desperate action cannot be ruled out since attempts at muzzling dissent are also evident. Is the national scenario hurtling back to the midsummer nightmare 38 years ago when, as Piloo Modi put it, his sleep was disturbed as “Fascism came knocking on my door”? It would be tragic if the controversy triggered by a despicable remark by the CBI chief should divert public attention away from the government&’s sinister moves to ensure the bird remains securely caged ~ unless directed to use its beak and talons to further its political interests. That some government leaders have tried to garner brownie points by slamming Ranjit Sinha is so blatantly part of the effort to undermine the agency he heads. Is his apology sincere or adequate, does he deserve to remain the CBI head? Probably not, for his insensitive, totally unwarranted “illustration” actually illustrates a larger police mindset that trivialises sexual assaults on women despite recent uproar. It also confirms the collapse of the civil services (the defence services too some might contend) that persons of such limited calibre reach positions of high authority. Another question also requires answering. Sinha made those remarks before a presumably distinguished audience, what is to be made of there being no immediate objection?