Off the record

Populism goes jogging

The debacle in the recent panchayat elections in Kerala seems to have forced the LDF government to go for desperate measures to extract popularity till the assembly elections next year.

While populism which benefits the general public is welcome, state public works minister M Vijayakumar went a step further and decided to earn the goodwill of the health conscious public.

Last week, he got the authorities to block a busy section of a major arterial road in Thiruvananthapuram to traffic between 5 am and 7 am for the benefit of morning walkers.

The minister thought that this reform would take the pressure off the Museum and Kanakakkunnu palace premises which are frequented by armies of morning walkers. The minister also promised to replicate this in other areas if all went well for three months.

Apparently ill-advised, little did he realise that the pressure the measure would put on the travelling public will be immense.

The ‘reform’ did not go down well with vehicles bound for hospitals, schools and other institutions which began early. Worse, the traffic restriction also threatened to upset the programmes of an early morning strike planned by pro-left organisations. No wonder that the minister had to withdraw the order in just under three days.

R Gopakumar, Thiru’puram

Buying anti-bugs

They are certainly worried about telephone tapping by government agencies which had mounted surrpetitious interception of some lines when Raja was at the helm of the telecom ministry.

After a news and current affairs magazine published verbatim the transcripts of the tapped conversations between Raja and a lobbyist, the grapevine has it that parliamentarians and members of the fourth estate are out shopping for devices that would block their phones from being intercepted.

All this at a time when the ministries of home affairs and telecom recently received approval from the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs to purchase very sophisticated telephone tapping gadgets.

While the Centre’s aim is to use these devices to intercept the chatter of ‘anti-nationals’, political circles in Delhi are agog with rumours that they may be used to target them.

Ajith Athrady, New Delhi

Aall izz well

Guess how US Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer greeted Aamir Khan when they met at the private dinner hosted by prime minister Manmohan Singh in honour of American President Barack Obama during his visit to New Delhi earlier this month.

Roemer, himself, revealed recently: “I touched my heart and told him: Aall izz well.”
As both burst into laughter; other US officials in Obama’s entourage wanted to know what was funny about it.

Before getting busy to ensure Obama-Singh meet over dinner too goes well; Roemer told them about Aamir’s blockbuster ‘3 Idiots’, with an advice to see the film to know what the famous catch-line meant.

“I enjoyed ‘3 Idiots’. It was really a great film, thoroughly enjoyable,” the US envoy told journalist at an event to announce the schedule of Maximum India — a festival of arts and culture of India in Washington DC.

Aamir was indeed a star in that private dinner in 7 Race Course Road on November 7. Obama himself told the celebrity actor that he had heard about his films and works.

And the First Lady Michelle Obama told Aamir that she had danced to the title number of his another hit: ‘Rang De Basanti’.

Anirban Bhaumik, New Delhi

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