off the record

Poll (dinner) debacle

Media savvy human resources development minister Kapil Sibal has often been teased by the beat correspondents for not throwing parties or dinners as regularly as some of his colleagues.

After a bit of prodding he gave in and invited correspondents not only covering the HRD ministry but also those who used to cover his earlier ministry of science and technology.
Invitation cards were duly sent out for the dinner slated for November 26 at his residence. And then came the Bihar Assembly poll results with a total rout for Congress and the scenario changed.

Correspondents received a message saying that the dinner had been postponed as Sibal’s mother was not well.

Should the journalists be accused of reading too much in this coincidence?

Shruba Mukherjee,
New Delhi

Telecom — a scarecrow

Telecom scam and 2G spectrum are new buzzwords in the corruption lexicon. And they act as a scarecrow for those anything to do with telecom these days.

The other day, top telecom honcho, Sunil Mittal, group chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of Bharti Airtel was confronted by nosy journos in the backdrop of the raging controversy.

After he unveiled the new logo of Airtel, Mittal was mobbed by scribes who asked him about his comment on the 2G spectrum episode.

A smiling Mittal tactfully avoided any mention of the controversy by just elaborating on his new logo. “I just want to dance to the new Airtel signature tune composed by legendary composer A R Rahman,” said a diplomatic Mittal

Aditya Raj Das,
New Delhi

Brainy cabinet

The new Cabinet of Nitish Kumar has some really well-educated persons. While Parveen Amanullah, wife of cabinet secretary Afzal Amanullah, is a product of Miranda House, Delhi, her colleague Sukhda Pandey, a doctorate, was principal of the prestigious Magadh Mahila College in Patna.

Among their male counterparts, Nitish Mishra, son of former chief minister Dr Jagannath Mishra, has done his post-graduation in global political economy from the University of Hull, UK. He has also done his MBA from Maastricht School of Management, The Netherlands. His cabinet colleague, Vijay Choudhary was probationary officer (PO) in bank before donning khadi. Yet another minister P K Shahi is a law graduate from Banaras Hindu University, while Bijendra Yadav used to practise law in the Patna High Court before joining the hurly-burly of politics.

No wonder, the captain of the team, Nitish, is himself an electrical engineer from Patna University.

Abhay Kumar,

Google ‘googly’

Trust Jairam Ramesh to do the unconventional. He does it all the time attracting liberal doses of accolades and brickbats at regular intervals. At a recent meeting of climate change scientists, the ebullient environment minister openly asked researchers to freely use maps and data available on Google rather than approaching staid government departments like survey of India and water resources ministry to get the vital maps and data.

For many years, access to maps and water data has remained a big problem for Indian researchers who are constantly cold-shouldered by their own government departments which simply refuse to part with the data citing strategic reasons. After the Jairam plain-speak, Google may find an increased utility in Indian science and policy issues.
Is anyone in the survey of India or water resource ministry listening?

Kalyan Ray,
New Delhi

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