May 26, 2020
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The Subcontinental Menu

The Subcontinental Menu
Illustration by Saahil
The Subcontinental Menu

The Gujarat Connection Surfaces

Over seven months have passed since the Centre was forced to relieve controversial 1984-batch IPS officer Rakesh Asthana from the post of special director in the CBI. He had a running feud with his then boss Alok Verma. Asthana was appointed head of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, and the CBI, under its new director R.K. Shukla, had seen a slew of transfers of officers perceived to be close to Verma. However, the government did not appoint anyone as the agency’s special director. Rumour has it that Asthana’s replacement could be A.K. Singh, a 1985-batch Gujarat cadre IPS officer who enjoys the blessings of the country’s two most powerful politicians. He is currently the Ahmedabad commissioner of police.

Computer Baba, Pushpaka Vimana

When mere mortals were playing Minesweeper on Windows 98, Namdeo Das Tyagi had already been anointed as Computer Baba because of his alleged passion for technology and gadgets. Over the past couple of years, the baba has repeatedly pressed Alt+Shift+Tab to jump between different political parties. His latest stint is with the Congress—the Madhya Pradesh government has appointed him as chairman of the Narmada River Trust. The first thing he did was ask for a helicopter. For joyrides over the Vindhyas? Nope, to keep an eye on illegal sand mining from the high heavens. The government refused, so he made a modest demand for a drone and a room in the secretariat, claiming he needs “modern astra-shastra (weapons)” to save the river.

Cattle-Class Credit Card

Gausewa (service of cows) “washes away all bad deeds” and is the “easiest and best way of purifying good or bad money”, according to Suresh Foods, an online retailer of dairy products. If that hasn’t convinced you to buy a cow, know that owning one can have unexpected benefits. In Haryana, it can help you score a credit card. Under the upcoming Pashu Kisan Credit Card scheme, the government will extend credit of Rs 70,825 for an indigenous cow, Rs 76,400 per Murrah buf­­falo and Rs 92,800 for a bra­ckish shrimp farm. We’re curious if the scheme will make farmers moo all the way to the bank.

The Hottest Grenade

Lathi charges, water cannons and tear gas are passe. The latest weapon against protesting crowds and marauding mobs is the bhot jolokia grenade. Once deemed as the hottest chilli on the planet by the Guiness Book of World Records, bhot jolokia is the latest addition to Assam Police’s arsenal. Its seeds are ground and packed into grenades that on explosion release a spicy dust. They even tested it on hum­ans and found that the ‘non-toxic, non-lethal’ substance blinded them for hours and left them with breathing problems. “The effect is so pungent that it would literally choke them,” a DRDO scientist affirmed. It seems protesters are not the only on whom the heat will be turned up. The chilli powder will also be “a tool for women to keep away anti-socials” and “a major repellent against wild elephants” at army barracks.

Love That Smells Of Smoke

A 200-year-old love poem has riled up the education ministry of Myanmar. But it’s not the depiction of romance that’s bothersome; it’s the allusions to smoking. Present of a Cheroot, a poem in the Class-8 curriculum, is about a woman making cheroots for her faraway lover. The government feared that the passion-sufffused verses would encourage impressionable children to smoke.Tobacco use leads to an estimated 65,000 deaths a year. Regardless, the decision caused an uproar. A startled government rel­­ented and added the poem to the Class-10 curri­culum instead.

A Thickening Media Quarantine

The first term of the Modi government was about systematic media isolation. The second promises to be no different. The signs emerge from the finance ministry of Nirmala Sitharaman. Journalists were informed politely that the customary two-month quarantine clamped on North Block preceding the presentation of the Budget has not been vacated yet. Prior appointment is mandatory even for journalists accredited by the Press Information Bureau. Speculation swirled that other ministries are expected to replicate the media quarantine. This surprises many journalists, because a fawning media toeing the government line has been a mark of our times.

The Railways’ Sex-y Dilemma

A letter from a 32-year-old woman has put the Indian Railways in a fix. She asked for family pension after the death of her father, a retired official, in 2017. The pro­blem? She underwent a sex-change operation years ago. While sons over of 25 are not eligible for pension, unmarried or divorced dependent daughters are after the death of the emp­loyee’s wife. The woman said she was “living the life of a woman” even before her father passed away and was an unmarried dependent daughter. The request has no precedent; not quite sure how to respond to, has passed on the letter to the central government.

An Old European Malady

Muslims had been the target of attack from sections in Europe since 2015. As large numbers of refugees from North Africa and West Asia arrived in the continent,  there had been a related rise in  Islamophobia. But a new EU report now reveals that Jews have also been at the receiving end of a wave of anti-semitism in recent years.

Anti-semitism has been an inherent part of European hist­ory; in the 20th century it led to the Holocaust and death of around six million innocent Jews. But as the European nations rose from the ashes of World War II, it seemed that Europeans had been able to successfully bury their past.

However, the adverse effect of globalisation that led to a socio-economic crisis in many countries in the West had also opened up new fissures, bringing anti-semitism to the fore.

According to a new report issued by the European Union, nearly half of young Jewish Europeans have considered moving away from their home countries out of fear for their safety amid a rise in anti-semitic incidents on the continent.

According to a EU report, half of young Jewish Europeans are thinking of emigrating amidst an alarming rise in anti-semitic incidents.

The report found that 80 per cent of the people surveyed consider anti-semitism to be a problem in their countries and almost half had experienced at least one incident in the preceding year.

The report, compiled by the Institute for Jewish Policy Res­earch, was based on a survey of more than 2,700 Jewish Europeans between the ages of 16 and 34 living in 12 European Union member states.

 The report said young Jewish Europeans perceive the frequency of these incidents to be increasing.

“Many see anti-semitism in the media, in political life and on the street, and almost all see it online and on social media—it is in these contexts that most consider it to be an existing and growing problem,” the report reads.

The Washington Post says western Europe in particular has grappled with a number of high-profile incidents of anti-semitism recently. Vandals painted swastikas on nearly 100 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in France in February. British police launched a probe into anti-semitic speech among some members of the Labour Party in May. And a government minister in Germany warned Jewish men not to wear the traditional kippah cap in public amid a spike in hate crimes. Around one million Jewish people live in Europe.

Michael O’Flaherty, director of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, says: “These findings make for grim reading. We must fight anti-semitism more effectively by tackling it at its roots, no matter how difficult that is.”

Illustrations by Saahil; Test Curated by Puneet Nicholas Yadav and Alka Gupta

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