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EDITORIALS

Focus on food security
No tangible G8 action on climate change
I
T is no accident that the G8 summit that ended in Italy on Friday failed to adequately address vexed issues like climate change and reform of the world financial system and instead sought to stay in public focus by committing a whopping $20 billion for food security to poor nations.

It wasn’t CRPF
Guilty of Shopian must be identified
E
VER since the bodies of Neelofar Jan, 22, and her sister-in-law, Asiya Jan, 17, were found in a stream in Shopian on May 30, widespread protests have rocked parts of Jammu and Kashmir alleging CRPF involvement in the rape and murder incident.

CAG’s revelation
Misuse of funds by Army
T
HE Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG) has rightly indicted the Army for misuse of funds by two army commanders in the purchase of golf carts using their special financial powers.



EARLIER STORIES

Blueprint for growth
July 12, 2009
In the dark
July 11, 2009
Zardari speaks
July 10, 2009
Riots in Urumqi
July 9, 2009
Murder of an unknown Indian
July 8, 2009
An ‘aam aadmi’ budget
July 7, 2009
Renewed offensive
July 6, 2009
Left, BJP on a slide
July 5, 2009
Mamata Express
July 4, 2009
The Judge who would cause no one any hurt
July 3, 2009


ARTICLE

Education Policy — A Tribune Debate
Beyond Class X
Other vital issues should also be tackled
by Meenakshi Gopinath
I
N the din and furore generated by HRD Minister Kapil Sibal’s pronouncements on education reforms, an important factor has been lost sight of. For the first time in decades, there is a call for a wide-ranging public debate on the infirmities of our education system. Public attention, alas, has focused too narrowly on the scrapping of the Class X board examination, and systems of evaluating what normally passes as “merit”.

MIDDLE

Ridge reverie
by Raj Chatterjee
I
T was once my happy hunting ground, though the only “shikar” I did was to take potshots with my airgun at sitting partridges or rabbits. It’s not the ‘done thing’, I know, in sporting circles, but to the teenager that I was, such niceties were foreign. As foreign as the red-faced and red-coated members of the Delhi Hunt who occasionally charged across my path chasing a terrified fox, its silver tail held aloft.

OPED

Fighting an invisible enemy
‘Frustrating and dangerous’ mission for British soldiers
by Jerome Starkey
T
HE grim toll of soldiers coming home from Afghanistan in coffins is testimony to the brutal contest being waged in the poppy fields of Helmand. For three years, British troops have been massively undermanned, underequipped and overstretched as they have tried to convince a deeply cynical population that they are safe from the Taliban.

High human load a threat to Taj safety
by Brij Khandelwal
Conservationists have expressed concern over the decision to allow free entry to the Taj Mahal for three days from July 19 when the annual Urs pilgrimage of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan starts.

Chatterati
Gay parties celebrate ruling
by Devi Cherian
A
FTER the High Court ruling on gay people, mainstream clubs in the Capital opened their doors to gays holding hands and dancing the night away. Fashion designer Rohit Bal, who has been openly gay, threw open the doors of his restaurant Cibo at Janpath for a party.





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Focus on food security
No tangible G8 action on climate change

IT is no accident that the G8 summit that ended in Italy on Friday failed to adequately address vexed issues like climate change and reform of the world financial system and instead sought to stay in public focus by committing a whopping $20 billion for food security to poor nations. World summits today evoke low expectations because of the tendency for window-dressing and grandstanding while failing to address substantive issues. Yet, it would be unfair not to welcome the commitment towards freeing humankind from hunger and poverty. The combined effect of longstanding under-investment in agriculture and food security and the world economic crisis has led to increased hunger and poverty in developing countries. The number of those suffering from these has swelled to over a billion. If this section can be effectively catered to, it would be a step forward.

On climate change, the summit had little to show. The chasm between the G8 countries and the emerging great powers or G5, including China and India, remained unbridged. It is becoming increasingly clear that to remain relevant, G8 needs to involve the emerging powers in any global initiative. It does little good for the most developed nations to agree on climate change, if China and India aren't aboard. The host, Mr Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, put it unambiguously when he said that “G8 is no longer a suitable format to show a global economic way of doing. Instead, a consolidated G14 representing 80 per cent of the world economy could create a real dialogue.” One can only hope that this reality would dawn on G8 speedily before the high level of carbon emissions lead to catastrophic consequences.

There was virtually no serious thinking on reforming the world financial system. The Chinese did seek to encourage the thought that the US dollar should be replaced as the world’s reserve currency. Considering that China holds $2 trillion of US government debt and is, therefore, financing a major portion of the unorthodox American bailout of its financial system, this was no laughing matter. But a serious debate on this will have to wait for another occasion.

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It wasn’t CRPF
Guilty of Shopian must be identified

EVER since the bodies of Neelofar Jan, 22, and her sister-in-law, Asiya Jan, 17, were found in a stream in Shopian on May 30, widespread protests have rocked parts of Jammu and Kashmir alleging CRPF involvement in the rape and murder incident. But the inquiry commission headed by Justice Muzaffar Jan (retd) has not blamed the CRPF. That shows that when passions get inflamed, logic loses out tamely and rationality becomes a victim. Those who targeted the CRPF should do a bit of soul searching as to how badly this allegation would have affected the morale of the CRPF men. Something similar had happened in Baramulla also where a woman relative of an accused alleged that policemen misbehaved with her, in spite of the fact that scores of citizens were present in the police station when she visited it. Yet, all entreaties of the policemen fell on deaf ears. Just as common people should not be presumed guilty till proved, policemen too should not be branded villains the moment an accusing finger is pointed towards them.

The only firm conclusion that the Jan Commission has drawn is that the death of Neelofar and Asiya was not natural. But it has pointed the needle of suspicion at everyone from the police and security personnel to Neelofar’s estranged brother, her husband’s loose character, a rift in the family and even the victims, with the “possibility” of one of them “developing some relations with others”. The J and K Government has promptly indicted four suspended police officials, including a Superintendent of Police, for “destruction, dissipation and suppression of evidence”.

The agencies given the charge of taking follow-up action must complete the investigation at the earliest so that the real truth comes out speedily. Enough damage has already been done and the atmosphere of the state has been vitiated with half-baked allegations and insinuations flying thick and fast. It is time the controversy was set at rest and the guilty were brought to book.

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CAG’s revelation
Misuse of funds by Army

THE Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG) has rightly indicted the Army for misuse of funds by two army commanders in the purchase of golf carts using their special financial powers. In one case, the officer was evidently more bothered with the golf handicap than helping handicapped patients, for whom ostensibly the golf carts were bought. The second case is even more ludicrous, since the 22 “track alignment reconnaissance vehicles”, bought for more than Rs 1 crore, turned out to be nothing but golf carts. Special financial powers are given to the heads of various commands to meet urgent operational requirements like the deployment of strike corps and counter-insurgency operations. Their misuse is a serious breach of trust for which action must be taken against the officers concerned.

The CAG report has also highlighted other serious lapses in the procurement of equipment. The Dhruv helicopter has an altitude ceiling of 5,000 feet, which falls 1,500 feet short of the Army’s requirement, necessitated by the need to provide services to soldiers posted in remote areas at high altitudes such as the Siachen Glacier. The Army bought stretchers that lack the facility to put I.V. fluid bottles, a requirement in battle zones, among other shortcomings. While the 155mm Howitzer Bofors gun has proved its efficacy in the 1999 Kargil War and otherwise, the Krasnopol ammunition bought for it proved to be a dud—the test rounds “fired blind” and did not hit the target.

The Army is given a fair deal of autonomy in its functioning. Incidents like the ones pointed out by CAG undermine the people’s confidence in the force. Indeed, the ball is in the Army’s court to ensure that it deals with the errant officials and also ensures that its discretionary powers are not misused. It is vital that public confidence in the armed forces is not shaken.

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Thought for the Day

If you are truly serious about preparing your child for the future, don’t teach him to subtract — teach him to deduct.

— Fran Lebowitz

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Education Policy — A Tribune Debate
Beyond Class X
Other vital issues should also be tackled
by Meenakshi Gopinath

IN the din and furore generated by HRD Minister Kapil Sibal’s pronouncements on education reforms, an important factor has been lost sight of. For the first time in decades, there is a call for a wide-ranging public debate on the infirmities of our education system. Public attention, alas, has focused too narrowly on the scrapping of the Class X board examination, and systems of evaluating what normally passes as “merit”. The broader canvas of imperatives in a democratising polity has been largely ignored.

The “corrective mechanisms” on offer focus on our pathological impulses for homogenisation and centralisation. These have in the past presented the biggest hurdles to innovation and reform. No one can have a quarrel with the moribund structures being done away with. But to put in their places supra-regulatory and monitoring bodies, as is envisaged for colleges and universities, threatens to consecrate the opacities of the existing structures, albeit in a new avatar. There are larger issues that must inform the debate. These have been overlooked.

Serious concerns exist about the capacity of Indian education to play its role in engendering social transformation, and resist the illiberal impulses that assert themselves from time to time. Is the education system doomed to implicate itself in a “closing of the Indian mind”? Do contemporary developments in the revision of curricula represent an attempt to reclaim “the secular”? In light of the attempt to deliver on equity and access through caste-based quotes, what alternative forms can affirmative action take?

Structures alone will not open the gates to knowledge. Processes that seek to break out of the monocultures of the mind, and that genuinely provide a context for the joy of learning beyond negotiating the received curricula or board examinations need to be explored. The emphasis on “standardisation”, in attempting to provide a uniform curriculum across states in schools, colleges and universities, is a travesty in a society that officially celebrates diversity and pluralism. Balancing local knowledge traditions with maintaining “standards” is no mean task. Yet, it is a task we can ignore only at our peril. The need is to evolve a pedagogy that is both imaginative and discerning that can blend the proximate and the universal. Hence the supreme importance of providing for teacher-reorientation and participative learning from the school level to that of the university and beyond, and to recognise, with Emerson, that the things taught in schools and colleges are not an education but a means to one.

Eminent educationist Krishna Kumar draws our attention to the fact that one of the greatest challenges to the future of education in India comes from the growing chasm between the two worlds that the school-going population inhabits: that of privilege and deprivation. The reinforcing of the attitude of arrogance at one end and the attitude of subservience at the other, and the division of the school-goers along perceptible class lines continues to have a demoralising impact on educators and learners alike. The general divide between the students of the state-run schools and those of the English-medium schools applies to all regions of India. The two groups live in two different cultural worlds with their own specific zones of knowledge and ignorance. This is a sure recipe for future social conflict.

The violence of inequality provides the most hospitable space for conflict and it is here that the intention of the National Curriculum Framework (NCF), 2005, of promoting respect for diversity while holding immense potential, also confronts its greatest challenge.

Mr Sibal has emphasised the mandatory 25 per cent reservation for economically weaker sections in all schools. The real challenge today remains to effectively reconcile the principle of equal opportunity with the policy of reservations. Given the recent tendency to equate affirmative action with reservation, it is necessary to recognise that affirmative action programmes entail a range of policies, and that reservation by itself may be a rather limited form of affirmative action which would rely more on increasing quotas and, perhaps, lowering benchmarks at all levels rather than providing access to disadvantaged sections on an equal footing.

The desired goal of social justice within the framework outlined by the Constitution has largely been held hostage to the number crunching of quota politics. Education as a social good and a pre-requisite for the exercise of democratic citizenship has receded in the debate, with both proponents and critics framing issues through metaphors of exclusion. Reservations in turn have remained delinked from other policies involving redistribution of material goods. So far affirmative action programmes have arguably been prompted by the concern for equality. Perhaps, the time has come, particularly in the Indian context, to make them applicable in promoting diversity, and lifting them out of the straitjacket of unidimensionality. A sound, clearly thought-out mechanism should provide the benefits of affirmative action to those who really need them without impinging on the existing rights.

What goes on in most institutions in the name of learning is what Paulo Friere criticised as “the banking concept of education” whereby with the teacher as narrator, education becomes an act of “depositing”. This concept of education reinforces hierarchy and negates education as a process of enquiry in which the student recognises his/her own individual experience and engenders critical self-consciousness. It also affords a safe terrain for the legitimisation of illiberal discourse. The retrieval of democratic spaces in education demands a renewed commitment to developing critical thinking. Universities and other institutions of higher learning and research have abdicated their roles as sites for the “dissenting tradition.” Globalisation has served to heighten this retreat.

Many higher education institutions in India generally seem to reflect a loss of confidence in what counts as knowledge; in what counts as democracy; and a loss of community within its ranks. This is reflected in fractious, discordant (often irrelevant) debates and a growing crisis of civility on campuses. What is clear is that curriculum transformation, in the context of totalising the tendencies of the new global order, is not simply about the insertion of some local or global content. It requires both rethinking citizenship and the identity of the learner, and also a careful understanding of the way knowledge is produced and distributed. Meaningful higher education is inextricably linked to democracy and the recreation of the vital community.

There is an urgent need for the creation of traditions of democratic dialogue within educational processes. Post-colonial educational practices in India had placed a premium on the “debate” as a highly valued aspect of intellectual reasoning. Even today, the winning of trophies and awards for the activity of “debating” is accorded pride of place in most schools, colleges and universities. The traditional communicative goshti (coming together to discuss) has been replaced by the more assertive vad-vivad (debate) emphasising oratorical mastery.

Any meaningful dialogue involves, above all, engaging the “rejectionists” rather than merely including the already converted. The community of teachers in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society like India needs training in active listening and dialogic methods of pedagogy to be active transmitters of the value of civic education. This could go a long way in breaking stereotypes, mental straitjackets, and engendering innovation and inclusivity.

In India, where the mastery of the techniques of taking examinations is conflated with knowledge acquisition, such dialogue will need a paradigm shift that engages with possibilities rather than limits. This would involve moving out of the mentality of scarcity to consciously cultivate abundance, and the capacity for endless awakenings in a universe of endless surprises. Education must shake us out of the complacency and arrogance of certitudes based on received opinion, custom and convention.

Mr. Sibal’s pronouncement should then be treated by all those committed to education of value and quality as an invitation to dialogue. It is an invitation we can ill afford to turn down at this critical juncture.

The writer is a noted educationist and Principal, Lady Shri Ram College for Women, New Delhi.

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Ridge reverie
by Raj Chatterjee

IT was once my happy hunting ground, though the only “shikar” I did was to take potshots with my airgun at sitting partridges or rabbits.

It’s not the ‘done thing’, I know, in sporting circles, but to the teenager that I was, such niceties were foreign. As foreign as the red-faced and red-coated members of the Delhi Hunt who occasionally charged across my path chasing a terrified fox, its silver tail held aloft.

On most Sunday mornings, the hunt was led by the Master, that old bon viviant, Sir Edward Buck of Reuters, one-time owner of Wildflower Hall, Mashobra, near Simla.

My family lived close to the north Delhi Ridge for 55 years and, when I retired 44 years ago, that is where I came home to roost. In the days of my youth it was a haven of peace and quiet, the quiet being broken by the call of the partridge at dawn and at sunset, the raucous screech of the peacock, the chatter of the red-bottomed monkeys and, late at night, the eerie sounds produced by jackals and hyenas.

That was long before the idea of a university campus took root in the mind of Sir Maurice Gwyer, Chief Justice of the Federal Court.

As the university grew with its scattered faculty buildings and more and more of the city’s colleges moved in with their hostels and staff quarters, what went for a six was the calm ambience of the old Rajpur cantonment that had served as a military base of the British from 1830 to the late 1920s.

The ridge itself has changed very little. Nor will it ever change unless someone bulldozed the stone relics of a past going back 600 years. Walking up from the Khyber Pass end one passes, to the right, an enclosure of rough-hewn stone that encompasses the graves of four young British officers who were killed while fighting to regain the walled city. Their tombstones, alas, were destroyed by vandals a long time ago.

A few steps forward and one goes round the Flagstaff Tower where women and children of the British garrison took refuge in May, 1875. And then the slip back from the 19th to the 14th century when Feroze Shah performed an engineering feat by bringing from Meerut the 2000-year-old Asoka pillar, implanting it on the spur of the Ridge, close to his hunting lodge and a mosque, the Chauburji masjid, still in an excellent state of repair.

Continue in the same direction, ignoring the slope down to Rajpur Road, and you will come to the house of Hindu Rao on whose ramparts the British had positioned their heavy guns, lobbying shells over the civil lines to the city wall behind which were entrenched the “freedom fighters” carrying the banner of Bahadur Shah Zafar.

Then go down the slope to the old Sabzi Mandi and on your left you will see another tower, a slim one, with steps leading up to it from all sides. Called “Jit Garh”, it was erected by the British to commemorate their victory in the first war of Indian Independence which, in the history books I read in school, was described as the “Sepoy Mutiny”.

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Fighting an invisible enemy
‘Frustrating and dangerous’ mission for British soldiers
by Jerome Starkey

British soldiers stand outside a house during a patrol in a Taliban-held area of Afghanistan's Helmand province during operation Panther's Claw July 11, 2009
British soldiers stand outside a house during a patrol in a Taliban-held area of Afghanistan's Helmand province during operation Panther's Claw July 11, 2009. — Reuters

THE grim toll of soldiers coming home from Afghanistan in coffins is testimony to the brutal contest being waged in the poppy fields of Helmand. For three years, British troops have been massively undermanned, underequipped and overstretched as they have tried to convince a deeply cynical population that they are safe from the Taliban.

Most of the province was beyond the reach of British forces. When the troops did come, they rarely stayed. Far from feeling safe, the people watched as the Taliban grew stronger. But the arrival of 8,000 US Marines in Barack Obama’s surge is threatening to change the balance – and the Taliban are fighting back.

Helmand is their heartland, its opium is their war chest, and they are desperate to stay in control. When I was in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand, last month many people struggled to understand why Britain and Nato, with all its might, were unable to defeat these ragtag insurgents. I met a shopkeeper selling drinks just 100 metres from the British headquarters. Afghan police had found two improvised explosive devices buried in a culvert in front of his shop.

“When the international troops first came here, they cleaned up all over Afghanistan within a month,” said Khan Mohammed. “Now I discover that there’s a mine exploding in front of my shop.”

Like many people, he had bought into the wild conspiracy theories which flourish in Lashkar Gah’s bazaars. “The British must be supporting the Taliban,” he said.

But the Taliban know different. More than 3,000 British troops are involved in an operation to clear the roads between Lashkar Gah and Gereshk, Helmand’s second largest town. It’s an operation that Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, who led Taskforce Helmand last summer, hoped to complete, but never did. Without the extra Americans it would have been impossible to succeed because too many of Britain’s fighting troops were pinned down in combat outposts dotted along the central section of the river, which runs the length of the valley. The extra US Marines are evidence of hard lessons learnt in Iraq. Senior commanders insist it will “tip the balance”. But counter-insurgency experts have already issued a warning that they may not be enough to rout the Taliban completely.

John Nagl, who was recently appointed to the Pentagon’s defence policy board, said: “We do not have enough troops to hold what we have cleared in Helmand. The additional American troops are a help, but they are insufficient.”

The Taliban have also learnt lessons. Homemade bombs have become their weapon of choice. Where they used to try to overrun British platoon houses, or out-gun them in a firefight, today they watch and wait.

They look at how the soldiers patrol and they watch how they fight. The irrigation ditches that line most of the roads have become a favourite place for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) because the Taliban know that soldiers instinctively dive there for cover when the fighting starts.

Places like Garmsir, where the Marines are deployed, and Babaji, where the British are involved in Operation Panther’s Claw, have become so-called “strongholds”. The Taliban have been all but free to manufacture IEDs, process poppies into heroin, and terrorise local people.

Students living in the districts have fled to Lashkar Gah. I met three who said the Taliban had closed their schools, the fighting had destroyed their homes, and all three had lost innocent relatives in crossfire.

For the British soldiers on the ground, it’s an impossibly frustrating and dangerous mission. They are fighting an enemy they rarely see and trying to win over a population who have suffered terribly since the foreign troops arrived.

The British and the Americans are following an old Nato doctrine of clear, hold and build, but the extra troops means this is the first time they have been able to fulfil it. Both forces have promised to stay in the areas they clear until the Afghan security forces are ready to take over. If it works, it should at least mean that British troops won’t have to die clearing these areas a second time.

— By arrangement with The Independent

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High human load a threat to Taj safety
by Brij Khandelwal

Conservationists have expressed concern over the decision to allow free entry to the Taj Mahal for three days from July 19 when the annual Urs pilgrimage of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan starts.

“The ‘carrying capacity’ of the monument, which has exercised both the experts in the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Supreme Court in the past few years, is not a laughing matter,” said Surendra Sharma, president of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.

Historian R. Nath has also expressed concern about the safety of the monument from increasing human load.

In the last 10 days, the Taj Mahal has seen tremendous overcrowding by Muslim pilgrims returning from a shrine in Ajmer. “Against a handful earlier, this Friday saw thousands entering the Taj Mahal free to offer ‘namaz’ and have a free tour of the monument,” a guide said.

Since the administration made no arrangements for the pilgrim-tourists, the whole area around the heritage monument was littered. “If you do not provide facilities, what do you expect?” asked an emporium owner at the eastern gate of the Taj Mahal.

“The issue of carrying capacity of the Taj Mahal or just any monument has to be sorted out in the long-term interest of these buildings. On some days, the number of visitors at the Taj crosses 20,000. This obviously stresses the monument in several ways including raising the level of noxious gases,” environmentalist Ravi Singh told IANS.

“The day is not too far when the apex court will have to impose a ban or restrict entry beyond a certain number. To ease pressure, online booking and advance booking of tickets need to be started,” he added.

According to conservationist V.P. Singh, the movement of heavy traffic including thousands of buses and trucks daily between the Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal — both World Heritage monuments — needs to be restricted or banned as has been suggested time and again.

The Taj was given a holiday from tourists every Friday to provide breathing time and for maintenance work after the apex court accepted the recommendations of the high-powered S. Varadarajan Committee, but now even on Fridays the number of visitors is increasing.

Initially, residents of nearby Taj Ganj were supposed to offer namaz at the mosque within the Taj complex every Friday. But last Friday, hundreds of people from other areas also entered the Taj for prayers, according to a guide.

Till about two decades ago, there were just a few people who visited the Taj Mahal to pray on the annual Urs of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. But now not only has the number of participants gone up but the size of the ‘chadar’ that is offered by devotees has also increased to 300 feet.

Celebrations go on for three days, thanks to the competitive fervour displayed by various Urs committees. They organise qawwalis, free distribution of sweets and a procession with the ceremonial chadar.

As a precautionary measure, the celebration committee of the Urs — with representatives from the ASI, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), district bodies and various Muslim organisations — has decided this year that the banners will not have any identification marks, the procession with drums and bands will stop in the forecourt. (IANS).

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Chatterati
Gay parties celebrate ruling
by Devi Cherian

AFTER the High Court ruling on gay people, mainstream clubs in the Capital opened their doors to gays holding hands and dancing the night away. Fashion designer Rohit Bal, who has been openly gay, threw open the doors of his restaurant Cibo at Janpath for a party. Designers and models, gay and straight, dropped by at the exuberantly baroque restaurant. About 150 people came with friends, including Arjun Rampal and Mehr Jessia. Gay celebration parties in the near future will be on at F Bar and Lounge at The Ashok.

Polka Bar and Grill has been having Boyzone nights since last September. Well, it doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, if you want to party, their doors are open. The string of parties that started after the Delhi HC ruling doesn’t seem to be coming to an end anytime soon! The city has been witnessing more gay action. Out of the closet, quite literally, we say and into happening parties! The Capital was celebrating the evening after the 377 ruling.

At least three gay marriages have taken place at Mansa Devi. They are now ready to adopt children too. Wow! We really have joined the international brigade.

Appeasing the Rain God

Are politicians superstitious? Even though “The Rain God has joined the Congress party. He never failed us in the past five years,” was the observation made by Chief Minister Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy some time back. But, the delay in monsoon this year has caused a lot of anxiety to YSR, who perhaps wondered whether the rain gods had defected to the Telegu Desam camp. And YSR’s idea clicked. Within 24 hours, the monsoon became active and it has now been raining heavily everywhere.

The Andhra CM had issued orders to the Endowments Department to perform Varuna Yagnas all over the state under the auspices of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams. To be the on safe side, he directed that special prayers be conducted in churches and mosques, too.

Budget facts

The budget session is always so interesting; the common man is always curious what it holds. Well see some realities. Do you know that Morarji Desai, whose record as FM has never been broken. He was the only FM who presented 10 budgets — eight full and two interim budgets. Yaswant Sinha and Manmohan Singh each have presented five budgets in a row. With this budget, Pranab’s count is four.

Initially, budget papers were printed in Rashtrapati Bhavan. But in 1950, after the papers got leaked, the venue was shifted to security press at Minto Road. Since 1980, the budget papers are being printed in North Block. The staff at the press is kept in complete isolation in the financial ministry for one week before the budget.

Out of 17 budgets since 1991-92, on 10 occasions the stock markets plummeted in the one month following the budget. From 1924-1998 budgets were presented in the Lok Sabha at 5 pm. The timing was meant to coincide with the House of Commons — a Colonial legacy.

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