It’s just not cricket—or in this case, football. The ongoing Jangalmahal Cup, a popular football tournament organised by the West Bengal police to combat the appeal of left-wing extremism, is embroiled in an ugly dispute over partisanship of another kind. Several participants in last year’s cup—including the winners and runners-up—have not been invited to take part this year, allegedly because they are from BJP-controlled gram panchayats, or places where the BJP did well in the panchayat elections in Paschim Medinipur district. BJP district president Samit Das said, “This is not Jangalmahal Cup. It is Trinamool Cup. The ruling party decides everything.” His Trinamool opponent neatly sidestepped the issue, saying that new clubs had got the chance to participate and “that is what matters.” Smooth!
It’s not another dog story—only hypothetical hounds are involved this time. In Chennai, when 40-year-old Imthiyas Aboobacker arrived home one day, she found the door broken down and Rs 16 lakh worth of jewellery missing. She reported the theft, but when the police arrived, they found that members of the family living there—a big joint family—were uncooperative. So the cops tried a little trick, saying that they suspected one of the family and that they would be back with sniffer dogs to confirm. Before they returned, the missing jewellery was found in a bag left outside the house. “The burglars were probably scared,” said an officer. Scared of the police dogs’ fearsome reputation!
Scrutinising legislation is an involving task—especially if you can’t read. A recent report by the Free and Fair Election Network, a civil society organisation in Pakistan, found that two members of the 371-seat Punjab assembly were illiterate, while 19 hadn’t passed their matriculation (10th standard) and 25 had only just scraped through it. Overall, of the incoming class of Pakistani provincial legislators following the elections in July, 27 haven’t passed their matriculation and 51 have just completed it, while these figures are two and 24 respectively for the National Assembly. And a healthy 68 provincial lawmakers have court cases pending against them. It’s a long way from the 12th National Assembly, elected in 2002, in which legislators were required to be university graduates—a condition later removed. And it’s perhaps even further from the gerontocracy known as the US Senate, where some 55 out of a hundred senators hold law degrees (a postgraduate qualification in the US). Whither democracy, between unlettered Scylla and Charybdis the oligarch?
Bad Lads On Tour
For many a parched soul in parts of northwestern Karnataka, a jaunt across the border to Goa, with its low excise rates, is just the thing to lift their spirits. But what of the the local residents? In Surla, a small Goan village just across the border, a series of complaints about drunken tourists harassing women and being seen semi-naked, relieving themselves in public, have caused a stir among the locals. Village activists have obtained a temporary ban on the village’s eight bars, which will be closed until later this month, but they want this to be made permanent. The police, however, say that they haven’t received any official complaint about such activities, though they have stepped up patrols in the area. And one bar owner was quoted as saying, “We have frankly never seen a customer misbehave,”—there’s a first for everything!
Seeds Of Sexism
The Punjab government is planning to import sexed semen from US and British companies. This is used in cattle breeding to ensure that calves are of the desired sex—in this case, female. “The move will result in production of female calves only...bulls are traffic hazards,” animal husbandry minister Balbir Singh Sidhu told reporters in Fatehgarh Sahib. Presumably, semen of the ordinary sort is unsexed. Sidhu also announced a move to introduce registration of cattle in the name of their owners to prevent abandonment, amid other agricultural largesse—like giving subsidised equipment to farmers to control stubble burning.
My Fair Pujari
One shatrusamhara puja, if you please. Why, of course, my dear fellow. Will that be all? Such exchanges may soon become reality, as Varanasi is set to get its first batch of English-speaking priests to cater to the needs of non-Hindi-speaking pilgrims. Currently, (and historically, one presumes) they are at the mercy of local interpreters, but the 13 priests who will graduate from Sampurnanand Sanskrit University’s Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Kaushal Kendra next year will mark the beginning of change. The course trains both priests and astrologers. Toodle pip!
A very Grave Mystery
Skeletons. Almost 100 skeletons, including eight children, dumped in a pit. A mass grave has been found in Mannar in Sri Lanka’s Tamil-majority Northern Province—the battlegound of clashes between LTTE and government forces during the civil war. Excavation began in May after construction workers came across skeletal remains at the site. Many forced disappearances have occurred in Mannar, and locals think the grave could be linked to them. Officials say that analysis and carbon dating must be done before any conclusion. This is no fresh hell—mass graves from the conflict have been found before, including one with the remains of 150 people in Matale in Central Province.
Go West, Officers
The power of the army establishment in Pakistan is well-known. What goes unnoticed often is the power Pakistani civil servants wield by successfully manipulating their political masters. On this score, they may not be very different from their counterparts across the border in India. However, while the Indian bureaucracy’s role in perpetuating the existing Indian administrative system is no secret, those in Pakistan rarely come in focus.
But they may soon be in the limelight if Imran Khan’s new policy is implemented in earnest. In what is being widely seen as the new prime minister’s first major test, Imran seeks to implement a system of rotating the country’s bureaucrats. This means that civil servants holding key positions in big cities would soon find them being posted in least developed and remote areas. The policy to rotate bureaucrats from cities to remote parts is not new. Many governments in Pakistan have tried it for providing people with better administration. But, so far, such brave words have remained mere announcements. The smart civil servant has always managed to get the better of their political masters by staying on in cities of their choice.
The transfer of civil servants, held back for so long, can improve administration in remote areas and help in national cohesion.
In India, members of the IAS and IPS, also have the option of choosing their preferred states. But, more often than not, their early days are spent in far-flung, under-developed districts. The machinations to stay on in cities comes later, as they climb up the administrative ladder.
According to news reports, for almost the past three decades, successive governments have been formulating their respective rotation policies, formally known as inter-provincial transfer policy, for the Pakistani Administrative Service and Police Service of Pakistan. But none, including former dictator General Pervez Musharraf, could implement this policy during their tenure.
“This policy, in particular, will help smaller provinces to benefit from the skills of officers, most of whom are now concentrated in Punjab,” an official was quoted in the news reports as saying. “It will also allow officers from the smaller provinces to get the exposure of working in Punjab and at the Centre,” added the official.
The inter-provincial transfer policy, which remained dormant for the past few decades, is considered critical for national cohesion, experts say.
In the past two weeks, Imran Khan has announced a number of austerity measures to change Pakistan. But this may well be one of his first major challenges.
Illustrations by Sajith Kumar