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Abdullah Deewana

Abdullah Deewana

It’s amusing to see the BJP trying to appropriate anything and anybody. The way some of its leaders talk about Sardar Patel, B R Ambedkar or Bhagat Singh, may have many to mistake that they emanated from the RSS shakhas. The BJP has tried to appropriate almost all national heroes of prominence, even though their beliefs were diametrically opposite to what the RSS professed.

Appropriation is a convenient tool to propagate nationalism because there are no known heroes from RSS. The BJP also takes credit for others’ achievements and shifts blame to predecessor governments. I guess it realises that its government has very little to showcase after three years of rhetoric.

The Supreme Court’s majority verdict in the instant talaq case is the result of a tough battle a few Muslim women fought in courts. Every progressive section of society had argued against the regressive practice. Whether the change should be ushered in by the Muslim community leaders or by the government was the only contention on the issue.

The BJP’s idea, meanwhile, has been to whip up the issue to polarise voters. It’s a good thing that people have started talking about reforming personal laws. Each community has to actively pursue suggestions for reforms and in cases necessary seek state legislation to ensure justice and fairness to every member of the community. Religious elders in every community should take the initiative to prevent political hawks from hijacking the reforms because they only want to create strife in society.

Privacy Matters

A few weeks ago, I had argued that those who believe they don’t need privacy are unaware how much they make use of the right to privacy in everyday life. On August 24, a 9-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court ruled that Right to Privacy is “intrinsic to Right to Life granted under Article 21 of the Constitution.”

Since the verdict came two days after the same court’s verdict against the practice of instant divorce in the Muslim community, those who complimented the court on the first issue have been left clueless on what to do now, as even opportunists require a little time to make a turn around. What’s made things worse is the fact that the Constitution Bench in this case was larger and unanimous in its decision, unlike the 3:2 majority verdict on instant talaq.

However, Aadhaar critics turned votaries need not panic yet. The judgement need not necessarily hit the idea of super-imposing Aadhaar for every second activity undertaken by Indian citizens. The nine judges have only overturned two previous verdicts which said privacy was not a Fundamental Right.

Everyone would admit even Fundamental Rights have limits and exceptions. Those will be taken into account by a 5-judge Constitution Bench when it continues to hear the government’s and opposing parties’ arguments on whether mandatory Aadhaar implementation violated the basic tenets of the Fundamental Right or whether it can be an honourable exception, if not ‘necessary evil’. So, my advice to Modi bhakts is not to jump the gun and troll the verdict. The Government could still win the Aadhaar battle in the Supreme Court.

While agreeing to the contention of the Centre that the Aadhaar scheme can reduce corruption and help it to reach out to the poorest sections of society, one also needs to admit that the data has not been stored properly. We have had several cases of data theft already, which have publicised private details of several ordinary citizens and celebrities alike. However, if someone thinks that ‘Big Brother’ will not snoop just because Aadhaar is not made mandatory, one is living in a fool’s paradise. Edward Snowden will vouch for that.

Hype Vs Performance

Many of us are still waiting for the bullet train to take us places. Three years after the Modi Government assumed charge, even diehard fans are losing hope about all the dreams marketed in the election season of 2013-14.

Suresh Prabhu was marketed to us as the man who would transform the Indian Railways to give us international quality service. A random search on the internet will throw up umpteen numbers of courtiers who have written several pieces praising Prabhu’s ‘revolutionary actions’.

How I wish that these writings could have held up the tracks that give away so easily. After a train of accidents, Prabhu has apparently asked his ‘Prabhu’ to relieve him of the job. I guess in the Modi Government people can’t even quit voluntary. Modi would decide whether Prabhu will be redeployed, we are told.

Is the Modi Government seriously looking for choices? I have someone who doesn’t fit Modi’s 75-year rule. In fact the man is 85. But he has ushered in a silent revolution for commuters in Delhi. If you want to see how the railways should be run, do not send teams to Europe. Send them to the nearest metro station in Delhi.

E Sreedharan, of course, had the advantage of building an organisation from scratch and introduce work ethics alien to most public and private workplaces in South Asia. The Indian Railways is a corrupt behemoth that is literally falling apart. It needs major restructuring. But since it caters to so many crores of people, one cannot do it overnight. It may take more than a decade. But if one is sincere, and not looking for shortcut show pieces, it is doable. For a start, we need clean, air-conditioned, uncrowded trains running on time. The bullet train can wait, unless diamond traders are more equal in the Government’s scheme of things.

Right Choice

Age may not be the only reason why Sreedharan will not be a choice for the Modi Government as the next railway minister. He is someone who will not agree to overseeing nor encourage unsolicited advice from politicians.

But even for relatively unimportant posts such as the Central Board of Film Certification, the government is three years late in making the right pick.

Pahlaj Nihalani made news by uttering nonsense on what the role of the Certification Board was. He led the censoring of feature films and documentaries from the front and gave ridiculous excuses about ‘Indian culture’. They should have at least sent him to Khajuraho before appointing him CBFC chief, so that he did not mistake Talibanism for Indian culture.

Parsoon Joshi as CBFC chief is a good choice as Smriti Irani for Information and Broadcasting. A woman who was associated with film industry before she stepped into politics is likely to understand problems of the artistic community better. Wonder why the Government took more than three years to find horses for courses.

( abey.kay@timesgroup.com)

(Published on 28th August 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 35)