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The Subcontinental Menu

From a businessman filing police complaint for his missing chappal to Rajasthan Police repurposing lines from Deepika Padukone's movie to encourage people to vote, read this and much more in The Subcontinental Menu.

The Subcontinental Menu
Illustration by Saahil
The Subcontinental Menu
outlookindia.com
2018-11-30T10:32:21+0530

Ground Control to Major Tam

Manipur to Somalia, as the falcon flies, is some 5,700 km. A long, nerve-wracking marathon during which many dangers must be braved—and with an audience biting their nails as they follow the progress in real time, to boot. Tamenglong, a female Amur falcon named after the place in Manipur, was equipped with a GPS-fitted transmitter by forest officials and released to complete her annual pilgrimage on November 5. She arrived 19 days later, but her male companion, named Manipur, was less lucky; he was shot down by tribal hunters on day one, according to T. Shyamkumar, forest minister of the state. Hunters would bring down hundreds of migrating Amur falcons each day in Tamenglong district until recent awareness campaigns and opposition from local elders. The minister reportedly plans to ban the air guns used to fell birds.


The Social Neta

“Moshi-moshi” is how you answer the telephone in Japanese, but Moshy, an Indo-Japanese politician, can be reached through Facebook and other social media platforms. Moshy, 58, was born in Japan to a Japanese father and an Indian mother, later moved to India, got involved in politics at the age of 16 and served as an MLA before stepping down to found an organisation dedicated to training politicians. But now, he’s plunging back into the swamp by standing in next year’s general election—if the Election Commission approves his candidature. A letter has been sent to the EC, but no reply has been rec­­­eived; they don’t seem enthused by the prospect of a fictional MP. Yes, Moshy is a character created by political cartoonist Ashish Maan, to reach out to young people and “add­ress their issues, which are often ignored.”


Chappal Probe Department

Rajesh Gupta, originally from Rajasthan, runs a hardware store in Chennai. He had bought chappals for his family, and the uxorious gentleman was attached to his own pair, worth Rs 800, because his wife had selected them. But, the next day, he left them outside a laboratory before a blood test—and found them missing later. Incensed, Gupta approached the police.  When the police went to the lab, they were told the CCTV camera was malfunctioning. The lab was ready to pay Rs 800 to avoid fuss, but the police were unable to get in touch with Gupta. When a newspaper contacted him, he was “fur­ious”, saying, “Don’t mock me for making a complaint.”


Illspectors Of Police

An apple a day won’t get you a plum posting. Health issues are de rigeur in the Karnataka State Res­erve Police (KSRP), especially when applying for transfers to lucrative billets such as Bangalore’s Central Business District—senior officers were reportedly alarmed on realising that 70 per cent of transfer requests in recent months had cited reasons such as diabetes, back pain, sinus problems and blood pressure. Bhaskar Rao, additional director general of police, KSRP, opted for a withering response, proffering the prospect of compulsory retirement for personnel requesting transfers without a valid reason, with the comment that “backaches are something most of us suffer from...such transfer requests are considered...after he can show how the new posting would help address his problem.” This was perhaps the panacea the force needed: officers noted a cavalcade of requests to withdraw transfer applications after the circular.


Time’s Up For Watches

Are fancy wristwatches ever a good idea? Fear of Bluetooth-enabled watches that can be linked to mobile phones and have in-built storage units—there are dedicated ‘cheat watches’ that can be bought online for around Rs 7,000—has driven the Karnataka secondary education authorities to impose a ban on watches in the SSLC exams in March. High technology isn’t the sole cause of worry; these watches are big enough to physically conceal a traditional mainstay of cheating: the chit. The move has been criticised as excessive, with some saying that only analogue watches should be permitted.


A Poll-Ywood Ploy

Deepika Padukone is busy getting out the vote for Rajasthan’s assembly elections on December 7. One of her well-known lines from her debut film Om Shanti Om has been repurposed and deployed by the state police’s Twitter account to encourage people to come out and vote. The tweet, appreciated by the twitteratti, quotes the ek chutki sindoor line, saying that the character Ramesh Babu may not know the value of a pinch of sindoor, but voters should surely know the value of a single vote. It adds that voting forms the basis of a democr­acy, and every voter has the right to vote.


The People’s War On Weed

A marauding horde has taken advantage of Kerala’s post-flood state to invade, living off the land—a host of invasive plants threatening native biodiversity.  Species such as Nila grass (Mimosa dip­lo­­tricha—wasn’t Mimosa that cocktail of champagne and citrus juice?) and Siam weed (Chromolaena odorata) are among the aggressors. These can use up soil resources and turn wetlands into dry land, with some being tough mountain men who can survive in the transformed geography resulting from landslips, while native species can’t.  The citizenry may be cal­­led upon to resist the inc­ur­sion: “Invasive plants’ spr­­ead can be tackled with the public’s par­ticipation,” says T.K. Hrideek, a scientist.


Ballots, Not Bullets

As Pakistan seems keen to restart the stalled dialogue with India and peacefully resolve the Kashmir dispute, voices within the country are asking the government to do the same in violence-torn Balochistan, where an insurge­ncy has been on for years.

The Chinese consulate attack in Karachi last week that killed seven people brought back the focus on Balochistan. The outlawed Baloch Liberation Army claimed it was against the imperialistic expansion on its soil. The reference was to the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan-Economic Corridor (CPEC) which passes through Balochistan.

Some Pakistani analysts are critical of the way the government plans to deal with the situation following the attack. “The language in the FIR registered by the Sindh Police makes clear the prism through which the state views the problems in Balochistan: hostile external powers are exploiting vulnerable elements within the Baloch population with the aim of undermining the success of CPEC,” says a Dawn editorial.

Calling for wisdom, a Dawn piece noted how violence in Balochistan can unsettle the state, scare investors and derail the CPEC.

Though there is a strong possibility of foreign involvement, the security-centric perspective on Balochistan has failed to deliver peace in over a decade-and-a-half. A fundamental rethink on Balochistan is required, though where pressure for positive change can come from is unclear. Certainly, the intelligence and security apparatus must continue to do their essential work, and where militant attacks can be thwarted or prevented, necessary and proportionate action should be taken. But there is a need for the state to turn its attention once again to the political dimensions of the violence in Balochistan.

The CPEC is envisioned as a network of roads and railways connecting trading hubs and SEZs, which must necessarily be open to the public in order to be successful. “Every kilometre cannot realistically be protected, and excessive security would smother the economic potential of the trading hubs,” the Dawn piece argued. It added that militants can strike in other regions of Pakistan to bring attention to the insurge­ncy in Balochistan. Furthermore, it said a relatively small level of violence put the state on the def­ensive, draw international attention and unsettling foreign investors mean a low-level insurgency could continue indefinitely.

According to the paper, the only reasonable, long-term solution to the violence is to politically engage the disaffec­ted Baloch population, restart a dialogue and bring separatists into the political mainstream. But is Islamabad listening?


Illustrations by Saahil

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