Off the record

Gulzar’s frank observations

Veteran lyricist-cum-script writer Gulzar, contrary to the popular belief, feels that the reading habit is not facing any threat from the ever-growing IT sector. “Look at the massive crowd at the Patna Book Fair.

This is ample proof that people, notwithstanding the swelling information technology, still love books,” said the noted writer, who had flown to the state capital to attend the first-ever Patna Literature Festival (PLF).

Recipient of Padma Bhushan, Sahitya Akademi and Grammy awards, Gulzar made a strong plea for holding a festival of Indian languages. “There are at least 24 languages with rich literature,” he observed while hoping that if such an event was organised here, it would set a new benchmark.

Born as Sampoorna Singh Kalra on August 18, 1934, at Dina in undivided India (now in Pakistan), the 79-year-old writer wondered why Indian schools and colleges neglect poets of the land and persist with Milton and Shakespeare. “It’s high time we ensured that poets such as Kalidas find place in the curriculum,” Gulzar averred before select audience.

Abhay Kumar, Patna

Changing dynamics

The political weather of Delhi has started changing rapidly as the 2014 elections getting closer. The first change of its kind was heard in Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s postulation of right to development. Nitish’s clarion call “all the states with underdevelopment unite” was evidently targeted at countering Narendra Modi’s Gujarat model of development. 

 He was seemingly thrilled and happy when he came to meet the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the Parliament House. His proximity to the Congress has many ramifications. Party chief Sharad Yadav would have to face very hard time as the convener of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) as it is most unconvincing that a leader from a party close to opponents, the United Progressive Alliance should lead NDA.

Others will also be affected. Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Laloo Prasad and Lok Janshakti Party chief Ramvilas Paswan will have to search for allies as the Congress may not be available to them. Signs of such changes are also being seen elsewhere. The Samajwadi Party is singing praise for NDA regime.

“Let us wait to precipitate things. There might be more changes in store,” smiles a political observer. It is pre-mature to jump to any conclusion, he cautions.

Anil Sinha, New Delhi

Jayalalitha’s hat trick

Despite the sluggish growth in the Indian economy, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha has performed a hat trick in terms of managing the state’s finances since her return to power in May 2011. For the third year in a row, the state has posted a surplus in its “revenue Account”, which will be to the tune of Rs 664.06 crores in the fiscal year 2013-14.

This quiet achievement came as a shot in the arm for the All Inida Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam regime, as its Finance Minister O Pannerselvam presented his third Budget in the Assembly on Thursday, turning around the inherited deficit in the “revenue Account” over the last two years. He did not take the credit for it though; he told the House that it was “Amma who has given the final shape to this Budget”.

Anticipating possible early Lok Sabha polls later this year, Jayalalithaa ensured that no new taxes were imposed in this year’s Budget; nor did she tinker with the existing tax rates, which came as a big relief to the people, already reeling under high food inflation. The relative buoyancy in the State’s own tax revenues, particularly from excise duty on Indian made foreign liquor, commercial taxes and stamp duty has helped Tamil Nadu post a “revenue surplus”, according to the State Finance Secretary, K Shanmugam.

M R Venkatesh, chennai

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