Criminal not to recollect
BEFORE the morning&’s newspapers ~ the few whose power lines had not been disconnected, that is ~ had been delivered in New Delhi on 25 June 1975, the most sinister operation in India&’s democratic history was underway. An internal Emergency had been imposed, the nation virtually converted into a police state with a sole purpose in mind ~ to keep Indira Gandhi in office and let her wayward son, Sanjay, run amuck. Veteran leader Jayaprakash Narayan, around whose anti-corruption campaign the nation had rallied had been thrown behind bars. As was just about every Opposition leader worth the name. Only to be followed into jail by those who dared speak out against a regime that had censored the Press, used the state-run electronic media to spread shameless falsehood glorifying Indira and her 20-point programme (its single-focus to thwart any challenge to the dynasty), and other horrors. With a sycophantic cynicism that even Manish Tewari and Abhishek Mani Singhvi cannot now replicate, the Indian people were told that they were being deprived of their civil liberties and human rights so that trains ran on time and babus did not trickle into office when convenient. Such was the revulsion over what followed, that when the next election was announced Jana Sangh leaders and the Shahi Imam shared a platform on the steps of Shahjehan&’s Jama Masjid.
The reason behind that thumb-nail sketch of authoritarianism is to enlighten the post-1975 generation about how grateful they must remain to those who fought India&’s second freedom struggle: and to pay tribute to those battlers for political “space”. It is often argued that there can be recurrence of that nightmare, yet who but the blind can ignore a series of legislative and administrative actions that encroach upon the liberties of the citizen? As well as a range of intolerant political-cum-religious campaigns to drown the voice of dissent: MF Husain had to take refuge abroad, Salman Rushdie was ejected from a literary festival, a host of movies have been banned, theatres screening them torched. A pernicious sons-of-the-soil campaign is matched by religious/ caste based terror.
And there are “intellectuals” who justify how the Maoists are enforcing their own brand of authoritarianism across a vast swathe of the country. Since “JP&’s” mission was launched to fight corruption the fact that we now have reputedly the most corrupt government in history is a warning: maybe not of another edition of the Emergency, but of how India and its leaders consistently abdicate core values.
Players rise above BCCI mess
“CHARACTER” triumphed. The victory at Edgbaston is not to be trivialised as filling the one empty slot in India&’s trophy cabinet, or another “double” ~ 2011 and 2013, the first being 1983 and 1985 ~ or indeed a string of superb performances. Given the convulsions in the management of Indian cricket after the IPL spot-fixing scandal (incidentally, are the cops still on target?), and how that threw the BCCI chief and his mates into disarray, as well as a rather patchy recent track-record, a mediocre performance would not have surprised. For not for many years has the game been wallowing in such disrepute, the result of money becoming the “energiser” of the administrators whose lust was close to being satiated by the IPL and its dubious spin-off. Maybe the players had no “philosophic” game-plan but it was obvious that they were “hurting” at every action of theirs being scrutinised through a scam-stained prism; clearly they “batted” for the restoration of their honour and regaining the admiration of passionate, oft-frenzied fans. And they did so in widely deemed difficult if not downright hostile conditions ~ Fate presenting its ugly face courtesy the fickle English weather.
Was it a display of inner determination that had caused skipper M S Dhoni to appear “gagged” when addressing the media before he led his team away from home and on reaching its destination? For once the players entered the “oval” they were a transformed unit: such was the eloquence of the transformation that at the conclusion of the winning streak even the dour Duncan Fletcher was emotional. The task of re-building the side that had broken up after 2011 and Mumbai was a “mission accomplished”. It is significant that both the highest run-getter and wicket-taker of the tournament were Indians, equally significant that the Indians were unquestionably the best fielding squad, breaking South Africa&’s monopoly over that department.
Then, when the run of play was working to India&’s disadvantage in the decider, the players dug deep into their mental reserves to counter the weather gods working against them to defend a low score, as their peers had done at Lord&’s in 1983. Dhoni has, rightly, declined to go overboard, saying it is best to take one tournament/series at a time. Will the BCCI take a cue from the players and get its act together? Bringing home the Champions Trophy has answered the query why cricket and cricketers get so much more attention than other games. The answer is simple ~ winning ways.
Palatana on stream
But N-E power woes not over
WHILE inaugurating the first unit of Tripura&’s 726 MW thermal power plant at Palatana, 60 kilometres from Agartala last week, President Pranab Mukherjee ensured that Dhaka&’s gratifying contribution towards the project&’s early completion was not swept under the carpet. In 2005 when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh laid the foundation of the biggest gas-fired plant in the North- east, it was feared that work would be considerably delayed. But Bangladesh came to the rescue by allowing trans-shipment of heavy equipment and machinery though its territory. The project has aptly been termed as a hallmark of cooperation between India and Bangladesh. Besides supplying power to Bangladesh, Palatana will help ease power shortage to some extent in neighbouring states once transmission through the national grid starts. The biggest beneficiary will be Assam (240 MW) followed by Meghalaya (79 MW). In this connection, it is worth recall that early this month Bangladesh allowed an Indian barge carrying tonnes of consumer goods for Tripura, to use its river port of Ashuganj.
Since no state is interested in projects with quick-yielding results and what with growing public resistance to construction of mega dams in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, it is highly unlikely that the North-east states will get round-the-clock power supply from these projects in the next few years. Assam&’s 3×250 MW Bongoigaon thermal project at Kokrajhar (Bodo region) may provide some relief once it is commissioned. But it is already behind schedule by two years and the project authority blames this on frequent breakdown of law and order and bandhs. And this is what warrants Dispur&’s special attention.