May 30, 2020
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The Subcontinental Menu

From report cards from government for Karnataka school teachers' performance to Pakistan government's decision to convert Kapoor haveli into a museum, read this and much more in The Subcontinental Menu this week.

The Subcontinental Menu
Illustration by Saahil
The Subcontinental Menu

Graded Gurus

“Below average, sir,” quoth the dread verdict that teachers across Karnataka await with bated breath. Schoolteachers will from now on receive their own report cards from the government, based on how well their students scored in board exams. Scores will range from zero (the lowest) to 10 (the highest), further grouped into four bands: below average, average, good and very good. Reports based on the SSLC results that came out in May have already been prepared, and will soon be sent to 60,000 teachers in government and aided schools in the state. Officials intend this to be a feedback mechanism, and the reports will come with suggestions on how teachers can improve. Teachers themselves may not take such a rosy view; one told a newspaper that it was unfair to rate a teacher on the performance of students.

Spook Squats

When out of work, work out. CBI officers, with little on their plates for the time being, with both their number one (director Alok Verma) and number two (special dir­ector Rakesh Asthana) out of action due to the ongoing dispute, are keeping themselves busy by hitting the gym at their headquarters on Delhi’s Lodhi Road. “Investigations into all high-profile cases have we are hitting the office gym, partly because we have nothing much to do, and partly to stay in shape,” one officer said. The SC order on October 26, which limited interim CBI chief Nageshwar Rao’s remit to “routine tasks”, has served to limit activity further. Vijay Mallya, Laloo Prasad’s railway hotel sale, AugustaWestland, Saradha, Narada and other cases stand still, awaiting the officers (and their biceps peaks) on the other side.

A Tally Of Trunks

Perhaps more daunting than Cold War fears of a ‘missile gap’, there is an ele­phant gap between Kerala’s districts: Thrissur boasts 145 captive elephants, a veritable regiment, compared to its nea­rest competitor, Kollam, which makes do with 61, and the apparent pachyderm vacuum of Kasaragode, which has none at all. The state und­ertook its first ever captive elephant census recently, enu­merating 521 beasts across its 14 districts. There were 401 tuskers, 22 tusk-less males and 98 females (also a gender chasm, we see), with the you­ngest being 9-month-old Kannan and the eldest being 87-year-old Dakshayani, who was awarded the title of Gaja Muthassi (elephant gran­d­mo­­ther) by the Travancore Dev­­aswom Board. Other details include measurements, shelters, owners and mahouts etc.

Flab To Fab

The fitness bug is everywhere now, and even the bobby’s vaunted belly is helpless before its assault. Shankar Uthale, a cop posted in Virar, Maharashtra, realised he had health problems, and worked to shed his stomach’s crowning glory over the past six months, going from 92 kg to around 60 kg now—and recently became the first Indian constable to complete the exacting ironman race. The triathlon, which took place in Langkawi, Malaysia on November 17, consisted of an 8.8-km swim, a 180.2-km bicycle ride and a 42.2-km run. You have to complete the lot without any breaks in under 17 hours; Uthale finished in 16 hours and 15 minutes. Two IPS officers—Kri­shna Prakash, IG VIP securities, in Mumbai, and Ravindra Kumar Singhal, Nashik city commissioner—have achieved this feat before, but Uthale is the first constable to do so.

Black Monkey Business

Churchill was wont to refer to his depression as “the black dog”, but Indian astrologers beg to differ. Astrology programmes on TV are touting the act of feeding black dogs or monkeys as a source of good luck, an antidote to the baleful gaze of Shani (Saturn). The popularity of these animals has consequently shot through the roof. Black monkeys are popular only in holy places, but black dogs are in demand all over. Naturally, creative practices have crept in. One ‘entrepreneur’ says he steals puppies of other colours, dyes them black and sells them for a pretty penny. The police have not deigned to take notice.

Breaking Sex-Ed Taboos In Myanmar

South Asia has never been comfortable with sex education as a concept. The results of this tendency are, obviously, not positive, with many children growing thoroughly confused about ideas related to sex. A 35-year-old woman in Myanmar is trying hard to change this attitude in her own way in her cou­ntry. Thet Htwe has been running a sex-education campaign since 2016 under her organisation Strong Flowers. “It used to be almost all women attending my class when I started out. But there is definitely an increase in the number of men coming now,” Htwe says.

Soon, Tickets To Kapoor Haveli

Remember the Kapoor haveli by the lanes of Qissa Khwani bazaar? The one in Peshawar! Well, it’s likely that Peshawar folk and those visiting the city won’t miss it anymore. The Pakistani government has decided to convert the haveli, the ancestral home of Bollywood’s Kapoor family, into a museum on the request of actor Rishi Kapoor. “There was a call from Rishi Kapoor and he requested that his family home be converted into a museum or some sort of institution,” Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was quoted as saying. Prithviraj Kapoor’s father Bashesvarnath Kapoor had built the haveli. The Kapoor family had to leave Peshawar after Partition.

Ministering To Hope

Pakistan may be reeling from a whopping trade deficit of over $19 billion; the dollar may have shown a record rise against the Pakistani rupee and PM Imran Khan may well be knocking on various doors for a bailout package. But it will be wrong to call it an economic crisis, says finance minister Asad Umar. Rejecting the very notion, Umar spoke thus at the South Asian Eco­­nomic Summit in Islamabad: “Those spreading rumours about the economy were not doing any favour to the country.” He claimed the “financing gap for the current fiscal year has been met.”

But the minister’s remarks came, according to Dawn,  a day after stocks suffered the worst single-day decline in 16 months as the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE)-100 index tumbled 1,335.43 points (3.30 per cent) and closed at 39,160,60.

However, Umar assured delegates at the summit that ”all fundamental economic indicators are improving as a result of the present government.”

He also pointed out that exports were increasing while imports and the current account deficit showed a downward trend.

Finance minister Asad Umar painted a soothing picture: the economy was not in crisis, the rupee’s fall was arrested and SBP had a free hand.

Referring to the record rise of the US dollar against the Pakistani rupee, the finance minister said though the rupee has been witnessing depreciation since last year, the situation was improving. He also stressed that no compromise would be made on the independence of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). Interestingly, a day earlier, PM Khan admitted that he was unaware of the SBP’s move to devalue the currency against the dollar and came to know about it through the media.

“Please remember, we are trying to autonomise institutions,” Umar said. “We have made SBP autonomous, they took the decision because they deem it fit.” He said the PML-N government had left a trade deficit of $19 billion, which increased from the previous deficit of $2.5 billion.

“The PML-N government had spent $7 billion to [artificially] maintain the value of the rupee,” he said. Umar added that the SBP was compelled to depreciate the rupee in order to preserve the country’s foreign currency accounts, tied as the government was to the $19bn trade deficit.

Interestingly, though Imran tried to put up a brave front like his finance minister, he did admit that there was a crisis.”We are facing a foreign exchange crisis. Our [macroeconomic] indicators are now headed in the right direction; we will not face the issue in the future.”

Hope such encouraging words would also help lift the mood of investors about the economy.

Illustrations by Saahil

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