At a conference on cyber security and governance,while National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon provided a serious,straight view on matters of concern,Telecom and IT Minister Kapil Sibal interspersed his address on governance with his characteristic humour. Towards the end of the seminar when an awkward question was raised from the audience on why the Indian government has not banned pornography on the Internet keeping a straight face,Sibal sidestepped the issue saying it was a matter best addressed by the NSA. As his answer drew bursts of laughter,the organisers used the opportunity to conclude the session.
As usual,ministers and top bureaucrats have been exempted from the agony of the austerity drive. A fortnight after barring officials from executive class air travel,Finance Ministry has clarified that this rule would not apply to Council of Ministers,officials holding rank and status of a minister of state and bureaucrats (read secretaries) drawing Rs 90,000 monthly pay.
Following queries on foreign travel,the revised October 3 order says this strata may travel by their entitled class as per earlier entitlements on all segments.
BACK AT WORK
After almost a month in hospital,Defence Minister A K Antony joined office Monday and came to South Block in the evening to catch up with officials. While he had been running a functional office even from the hospital,he had been keen to return to work. Incidentally,the reason he spent four weeks in hospital for what is normally a simple procedure has been attributed by him to ignoring a health condition for past eight years. Though he should have gone for surgery years ago,the busy politician kept delaying the hospital visit as he had been hard pressed to find a clear two-week patch that was required for recovery. With the condition aggravating,he had no choice but to go in for surgery but took longer to recover.
While the imposition of model code of conduct has stopped political leaders from visiting the site of tragedy in Ratangarh (Madhya Pradesh),senior BJP leader Uma Bharti has found an uneven implementation of the code in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. In a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner,the former Madhya Pradesh CM has said she was stopped from visiting Ratangarh and another Dussehra function in Chhatarpur (in Madhya Pradesh) by authorities in the name of model code.
Underlining that she has abided by the authorities interpretation of the code,Uma Bharti wondered why Congress president Sonia Gandhi was allowed to participate in Dussehra celebrations in poll-bound Delhi along with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Delhi Chief Minister.
STITCH IN TIME
Apart from accurate IMD forecasts,officials at the NDMA are also attributing the efficient evacuation efforts resulting in minimal loss of lives to regular mock drills and awareness campaigns conducted in vulnerable coastal regions. Officials say most people in these areas were already familiar with the drill and knew how to react even before help reached them.
Incidentally,the NDMA had released a cyclone awareness advertisement detailing dos and donts on October 10 in local newspapers in the coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.
The advertisement had been planned a couple of months ago (much before any cyclone warning) as part of their normal awareness exercise but the timing proved to be just correct.