Morning blues

Sweet and Sour


I get six papers every morning. I go through their contents, absorb a few items — which I think are important — and dump their supplements in the waste-paper basket without opening them. Nothing in papers riles me more than the number of government ads, all of which, if they are from Congress-ruled states carry pictures of chief ministers, ministers along with those of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh with claims of achievements in agriculture, industry, education, etc. We know that these claims are vastly exaggerated.

States ruled by opposition parties do not lag behind in self-aggrandisement and pictures of their chief ministers, ministers, deputy ministers, etc. Only Sonia and Manmohan are missing. Their claims of having made advances in every field are no more credit-worthy than those ruled by the Congress. Since every page ad in any of our national dailies costs Rs one lakh or more, the total amount spent on government self-publicity runs into crores of rupees every day — enough to set up dozens of schools and clinics. Who pays for this extravagant waste of money? The taxpayer ie you and I, because all governmental public relations departments are integral parts of our bureaucracy maintained by tax-payers’ money.

Newspapers are not in any position to object to this practice as their sustenance comes from advertising and the government is the single-largest advertiser in the country. But surely something has to be done by somebody to rectify this sorry state of affairs. The only thing that occurs to me is setting up a regulatory body, which will define limits beyond which government departments cannot go to advertise themselves and check their claims of achievements before they are published. The Indian Standards Institute (ISI) does this in the case of products put in the market and verifies their claims before it issues them a permit. A body like the ISI could be instituted with similar powers regarding government advertisements.

Come to think of it, talking about oneself is regarded as bad manners; praising oneself as an extreme form of vulgarity. Mayawati erecting her own statues at public expenses has been castigated by everyone and been made into a laughing stock. Why spare ‘netas’ who impose their pictures on us everyday and make us pay for them?

Humbug abounding

Pranab Mukherjee’s advice to Foreign Minister S M Krishna and his deputy Shashi Tharoor to get out of five-star hotels and occupy bungalows allotted to them shows all concerned to be a bunch of humbugs. The two were paying for their board and lodging out of their own pockets and not out of the public exchequer.

If taken to its logical conclusion, no minister of government should be eating at a five-star hotel or restaurant because that also appears to be a vulgar display of opulence. Neither Pranab ‘da’ nor any of his ministerial colleagues are known to refuse being lavishly entertained. A gourmet meal with drinks costs upwards of Rs 5,000 per head. No one cares if somebody else is paying for it. However, both the ministers looked very shame-faced when they quit their hotels.

They have a few awkward questions to answer. Why did they not move into the bungalows allotted to them? All the tale of their being renovated to their needs is humbug. They are well maintained by the PWD and habitable. If they wanted some changes, they could have been made while they were in residence. Unless of course their vaastu experts advised them to change entrances, doors and directions of their toilet seats. We can assume that neither minister is a believer in vaastu.

And who has the right to tell another how he or she should be spending their money? Most certainly not media persons. Journalists are the biggest free-loaders in our society today. Have you ever seen the editor of a national daily pay for his meal in a five-star hotel? Not even the self-righteous editor of ‘The Indian Express’ which carried the ‘news’ of Krishna staying at the Maurya Sheraton and Tharoor at the Taj Man Singh as if the two had been caught red-handed committing a crime. Baby-faced Tharoor looked suitably guilty as if his mom had nabbed him stealing a carton of ice-cream from the family fridge.

Will meet in Haridwar

Few years ago my sister’s son Tanuj Leekha married to Abhilasha at New Delhi. I saw her only once during marriage festivity, but was charmed by her looks and looked forward to seeing her again.

Few days ago, she died in New York and her parents, husband and father-in-law brought her ashes to be immersed in the holy Ganga. While we were taking her ashes to Haridwar, I read a couplet on the rear of a truck:

“Zindgi rahi to baar baar milengey
Nahin to Haridwar milengey”.

(Contributed by Jagjit Pur, Panchkula)

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