ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Articles by A MSubscribe to A M

A Dacca Diary

January 20, 1973 ONE almost wishes Sheikh Mujibur Hahman had more than one face. Wherever you meander in this half- composed, semi-arranged city, you cannot avoid the face: it stares down at you from all sundry walls: the wall of the hotel lobby, the wall of the senior civil servant's drawing-room, the wall of the corridor of the cinema hall, the wobbly wall of the rest-room of the steam boat you take to visit your ancestral place, across the river, twenty miles away from Dacca. The face, with the slightly benign, slightly vacuous smile frozen on the lips, infests the electric poles, the street-corner hoardings, the ramparts of the football stadium. Then; is hardly a change that you will be allowed to forget, even for a single moment, that yon have entered the land of the Patriarch. The rest of the universe, one is reluctantly led to conclude, is altogether irrelevant.

Calcutta Diary

To every age its personalised sermon: protecting the little fellow, uplifting him, deploying the total weight of the administrative and judicial process so that the scales of justice could be always differentially tilted towards him, is the approved version of applied philosophy today. But does that at all disturb the placidity of real things and actual events? The story of Indra Lohar, a petty share-cropper, would suggest that it does not.

Calcutta Diary

The Ruling Party Romesh Thapar WITH the Soviet Union importing 30 million tons of foodgrains from the USA in the fiftieth anniversary of tin; founding of the Socialist Republic, and Mao's China bidding for five million tons, India's Communists, leftists, radicals, gingerists and what have you are in a state of ideological trauma. The whispered admission is heard : 'Maybe, a mixed economy is not all that absurd'. So far, it's only a whisper

Calcutta Diary

Something Cooking? Romesh Thapar THE other day, a frequent visitor to India remarked that he had been startled by the steady decline in the importance given to Parliament or, better still, its ritualisation. The Chambers are almost empty. The debate lacks lustre. And the Prime Minister is seldom present. Someone laboriously explained that India was making an imperceptible transition to a kind of presidential system, that it will take some time before this impacts Parliament and moulds it for a new role. Well...

Calcutta Diary

The Prevailing Mood Romesh Thapar I HAVE never known the Capital's elite to be in such a state of near exhaustion. I say 'elite', because the people seem to be having the time of their life at Asia 72. The Doomsday boys, for want of a more appropriate description, have taken over at elite level. Hardly a word of cheer or optimism is heard outside governmental circles. And all visitors from other parts of the subcontinent subscribe to the depression, confirming that it is not localised. Indeed, even the AICC, with Chief Ministers attending, begins a speculation 'in depth' on the prevailing mood with its underlay of violence.

Calcutta Diary

Restoring Perspectives Romesh Thapar THE Capital is buzzing with many things. There is a surge of renewed interest in the impending secretarial changes, particularly around the office of the Prime Minister, following the announcement of P N Haksar's retirement. Speculation has started afresh about reshuffles of the Council of Ministers, about new initiatives to clean up the administrative mess, and about corrections in internal and external policies. It is still to be seen whether there is a basis for all this titillation or whether we are indulging in the old and familiar habit of wishful thinking.

Calcutta Diary

IT was a meeting, called by assorted political organisations, to press a charter of demands in support of the unemployed. The charter included a demand for a dole for all those who are out of work for no fault of their own, but on account of, allegedly, 'the imperfections of the economic and social system', The details of how this dole is to be organised were not spelled out in the resolution passed at the meeting. Perhaps the resolution and the charter of demands were merely a peg. As prices keep rising, discontent, under cover for the last few months, is beginning to bestir itself. Alongside with this, the left parties, which had been in near-hiding because of Indira Gandhi's furious onslaughts, are also slowly re-discovering their innate militancy. But more than the declamations at the meeting, what was interesting was to watch its morphology. A meeting is not a meeting without an assembly of people. And to this parti- cular one, impressive numbers had in fact (locked. It is no longer possible for activists from the mofussil towns and villages simply to get into a train and arrive in Calcutta for attending a left rally. To travel without a ticket is of course totally to be ruled out, but instances are not lacking where even those possessing tickets have been pushed out of the train at intermediate stations in case it was obvious that they were on their way to join a leftist gathering. Trucks too are allowed to carry people into the city only if they are of the right sort, namely, if they are proceeding to a meeting to be addressed by the Prime Minister or some oilier Congress stalwart For other parties, trucks and lorries are prohibited. There is also the question of finance. For the left parties, the days of dazzle and glory are for the present over. They have to count each penny and make it travel the utmost possible length. The kind of quasi-pomp one witnessed at similar rallies in the past is now a mere matter of memory. These problems notwithstanding, thousands still did come to this particular meeting. It was an extraordinary compilation of events and emotions, of glistening enthusiasm on the part of some tempered by a quiet casualness displayed by others, a carnival spirit lighting up some faces next to deep furrows of worries lining some others.

Calcutta Diary

November 18, 1972 mouths before his death. A settlement of the Kashmir question would remove the only argument that the Hawks of Pakistan have been using to prevent normalisation of relations between the two countries. It will strengthen the hands of President Bhutto

Calcutta Diary

A M lS the charisma experiencing a sudden death? The happenings in Darjeeling, the by-elections in Mysore and Gujarat, Indira Gandhi's somewhat irresponsible- sounding lashings-out at the opposition parties, her even more incongruous harpings on the CIA theme: all of this seem to be converging into a pattern. It is no longer roses all the way: the magic is not working any more. After the almost uninterrupted spell of successes and triumphs for more than three years, a different kind of season, it appears, is now setting in for the Prime Minister.

Calcutta Diary

A M THERE was no avalanche of flowers. The Bengalis were busy celebrating their Durga Puja. Quite early one morning during the Pujas, Nirmal Kumar Bose passed away

A Far-Eastern Diary

A Far-Eastern Diary A M ONE comes across, at the Hong Kong airport, a professor of sociology from Australia. You can judge the current state of the economy of any of these countries, the professor chimes along, by the rate quoted by the prostitutes. In Bangkok, in one quick year, the hourly rate for a call girl has tumbled from twenty to ten dollars; the massage parlours, like the banquet halls of yore, are all deserted; the occupancy rate in the hotels is down to 30 per cent; work in progress on several new hotels has been stopped; those who piled money during the great Vietnam boom of the late 1960s are sustaining a construction programme, but once this has been phased out things would be much, much worse; to compound everything else, the export price of rice has fallen steeply.

Calcutta Diary

Agricultural wages would improve as a result of the improvement of the status and bargaining power of the labourer. The average earnings of the small farmer will furnish him a benchmark in his bargaining with the employer and he will have in the event of unemployment, some land of his own to back upon.

Pages

Back to Top