Updated: February 14, 2021 8:44:46 am
In 2018, Delhi’s Sunder Nursery garden was listed as one of the 100 greatest places in the world to visit by Time magazine. The 90-acre park run by the Aga Khan Foundation combines a Mughal garden, flower beds and manicured lawns with a natural forest. The park’s fame spread during the pandemic with people looking for open air spaces, and it did not take long for its splendour to be lost. Where once only a limited number of cars were permitted, it is now a free-for-all with limousines parked all around, sometimes trampling on shrubbery. A new cemented lane for delivery vehicles has increased the parking slots. The car invasion began once a restaurant was opened on the premises. The original instruction not to walk on the lawn has been forgotten. Picnickers are understandable, but professional event managers have been seen organising tiny tot birthday parties and flunkeys arranging seating for kitty party memsahibs. The CPWD and A K Foundation seem to be working at cross purposes, contributing to the deterioration. Recently, thick clusters of bamboos and bushes were hacked on the claim that they were babul. Why an inefficient government nursery heavily in loss, which sells stunted plants at cheap prices, be allowed to have a say in running a heritage garden is a mystery.
Prime Minister Modi once observed that “hard work is more powerful than Harvard’’, in response to Harvard professor Amartya Sen’s rubbishing the government’s demonetisation drive. Still, three of those involved in this year’s Budget preparations have impressive educational qualifications. Chief Economic Advisor Krishnamurthy Subramanian has a Phd in economics from Chicago University, with Raghuram Rajan as his doctorate supervisor. Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey has a Phd from Minnesota University and Expenditure Secretary T V Somanathan, a Phd in economics from Calcutta University. But, Secretary, Economic Affairs, Tarun Bajaj who has no Phd perhaps had the most say in drawing up the Budget. His qualification: he has worked for five years in the PMO and shaped Modi’s vision for AtmaNirbhar Bharat campaign. The assurance with which Bajaj responded to questions during Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s post-Budget press conference indicated that he enjoys the PM’s confidence.
Why would Uddhav Thackeray’s government choose to embarrass Maharashtra’s icons Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar by ordering an inquiry into their tweets in defence of the Centre’s farm policies? The object is not to target the Bharat Ratna awardees, but an attempt to prove that some persons in the BJP’s publicity wing had access to the social media accounts of the VIPs and were tweeting on their behalf. Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh asked his intelligence wing to investigate after a senior Opposition leader was informed by one of the celebrities that he was completely ignorant of the tweet made in his name. Ironically, the BJP in West Bengal has similarly accused political campaigner Prashant Kishor’s staff of tweeting on behalf of various TMC politicians after being given all their passwords.
Cynics have offered several interpretations for Modi’s tearful farewell to Ghulam Nabi Azad in Parliament. One explanation is that it ensured that the rift between the Gandhis and the G-23 rebels will grow further. But it could also have worked the other way and made the Congress conscious that it can ill- afford to lose Azad. Recently, Rahul Gandhi spent over an hour at the prayer ceremony for rebel Congressperson Anand Sharma’s late mother. Azad, Bhupinder Hooda and other G-23 signatories were present along with many Gandhi loyalists.
Insider vs Outsider
Of the 14.6 lakh population of Goa, a reported 40% are migrants. Former AAP politician Manoj Parab, sensing the antagonism of Goans towards influx of outsiders, floated the Revolutionary Goans party a year ago, and is being compared to Raj Thackeray. His target is the poorer migrant, mainly from Karnataka. Meanwhile, snooty winter visitors who have been frequenting the holiday destination for years are furious over the influx of builders’ lobby from Delhi and Gurgaon in north Goa, constructing holiday homes for a new breed of flashy tourists from the north. Newcomers have discovered during the pandemic that Goa is a congenial place to work from home throughout the year. The builders’ lobby is reportedly patronised by some of Goa’s local politicians and, unlike the rest of India, real estate prices are booming in the state.
This article first appeared in the print edition on February 14, 2021, under the title “Inside track: Car Seva vs Nature”.
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