Yes, the UPA-II government does have a super-speciality ~ blaming others. There is no need to be detained by Kapil Sibal&’s outburst that the government does not sell onions, it only reflects personal arrogance and his government&’s contempt for the citizen. Rather there is cause to condemn the food minister&’s contention that prices are being manipulated. For that is essentially a sinister bid to duck responsibility and charge the state governments ~ New Delhi&’s pet whipping boys ~ with not checking hoarding, profiteering etc. Sure KV Thomas’ department followed up his expression of frustration by a “directive”, but this is a mere gesture that fails to compensate for previous laxity. Or was it, as some suggest, politically-flavoured complicity? But living as it does in a state of denial over its own ineptitude, having surrendered to exploitative “market forces”, this government points accusing fingers everywhere ~ Rashtrapati Bhawan included. Twisting the truth, but only to create a noose for itself.
The crisis did not develop overnight. “Natural” conditions may have triggered the problem, but indications of a crop shortfall ought to have alerted the government. A shortage of onions at this time of the year is not unexpected, so advance action was required: be it in terms of export controls, arranging imports, and monitoring the trade.
Little was done, false promises were made about new crops, and now the sarkar talks of shipments arriving shortly ~ a flashback to the days of PL-480 when India lived from one shipload of wheat to another? The “superstar” economy-managers simply cannot fathom the impact on the common man (who, incidentally, pays his own way) of a debilitating situation that was first felt way back in July. To talk of prices “peaking” is nonsense: they have sustained themselves at Himalayan heights for three months and more. The curious part is that while a simple demand and supply problem is projected, onions have never really disappeared from the market: not only is connivance with the trade confirmed since little punitive or deterrent action is evident, even token efforts to sell at moderate rates in some places ~ Delhi among them, Kapil Sibal please note ~ were not sustained.
Technically New Delhi does not directly check hoarding etc, yet it is required to play a supervisory role. Not necessarily by “threats”; persuasion and inspiration work just as well. That the root of the problem lies in states where the Congress is in power confirms that the writ of Manmohan Singh & Co hardly trickles down to the base of Raisina Hill. It is self-ridiculing for a government to claim to have launched the most ambitious food security programme in the world when it cannot provide an onion to help a poor man&’s roti go down.
Police & vandals
A week after the death of Oindrila Das, a Class 5 student of Bengal&’s Christ Church Girls’ High School, the tragic circumstances have been overshadowed by putrid politicking and police ineptitude, once again in the face of campus vandalism. The muted response of the brass, pre-eminently the DGP, the Additional DGP (law and order) and the Commissioner of Barrackpore police, does not camouflage the fact that the vandalism was tacitly condoned by the police.
It took the law-enforcement authority as long as 72 hours to identify and arrest the culprits, who included guardians and local hoodlums, even a butcher. The alacrity that marked the arrest and resignation under duress of the Principal was not matched with even a semblance of professionalism to rein in those who vandalised the 131-year school. Far from containing the explosive situation, the police reportedly buckled under mob pressure to demand the resignation and effect the arrest of the Principal. That dominant impression was reinforced on Wednesday with Principal Helen Sircar&’s statement that she “was arrested and subsequently resigned following pressure from police and an unruly mob. The police arrived late and pandered to the demands of the mob.” Small wonder that the Barrackpore commissionerate has been rapped over the knuckles by the magistrate for handling the case with a “confused mind”. The charge of abetment to suicide was rejected at the threshold as was the allegation of extortion against the Principal.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that there was little or no application of mind in framing the chargesheet. It is either perfunctory as in the Kumdini case or there is a tendency to jump the gun. From Barasat to Barrackpore, the magistracy has exposed the politically-influenced inadequacies of an investigation and chargesheet. Monday&’s decision to focus the investigation on Oindrila&’s death ~ six days after the tragedy ~ confirms the rather intriguing sluggishness.
Into this murky scenario steps in Trinamul&’s Mukul Roy with a sniper attack at the CPI-M for the crisis. Surely, Oindrila and the school deserve better than this putrid political slugfest and police incompetence. There can be no greater tribute to her memory and the cause of learning than to reopen the school with urgent despatch. The resumption of normal activity will be facilitated with the re-entry of Ms Sircar, whose resignation ~ at the behest of the police ~ has been rejected by the Church of North India (CNI). Christ Church Girls’ High School must function; education ought not to be in suspended animation.