Wait! It’s just three

May 18, 2016

Oommen Chandy, the Chief Minister of the southern Indian state of Kerala

It was a good samaritan who saved the lives of Indian nurses in strife-torn Libya. Yet the BJP government feels the need to claim credit for the act.

The courts are striking down several decisions taken by the ruling dispensation. Yet the government seems to be focussing on gaining brownie points. As it enters its third year, will the Modi government finally start governing?

After 45 traumatic days in Libya, about 29 Indian nurses and their family members returned to their country. The announcement of their return, last week, was made in the southern state of Kerala at an election rally by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself.

He told the meeting that the nurses and their family members were ‘missing’ and that the government was concerned about their welfare. Finally, the government was able to ‘save them’ and that they would be returning to their country. The Prime Minister’s opening remarks were received with applause as the audience had some idea about the experience of the nurses and their families in strife-torn parts of the world.

The experience of this group of nurses was different from those who have worked in similar situations. Their trauma started on March 26 when a rocket fell into an apartment killing Sunu Sathyan and her 18 month old son. The impact of that was manifold because all the Indian nurses and their families were housed in the same building which was within the hospital complex in Al Zawiya, about 45km from Tripoli.

Their sense of insecurity was even greater because the hospital authorities had not been cooperative. The management was not signing their relieving orders and they could not withdraw or transfer their monies back home because the banks had no money.


Their appeals to the Indian Embassy, located at Malta, turned out to be waste of telecom charges in the currencyless lives they were leading. The families moved out of the hospital complex to a location about 10km away near a sea resort before returning to India.

The accommodation was small but they were far away from the bombing that was taking place near their hospital complex. And, it took them almost double the time it normally takes to reach Tripoli before taking the Istanbul- Dubai flight to reach Kochi.

The good Samaritan who provided succour to them was a Libyan male nurse by the name of Abdul Jabbar. The nurses were very firm in their opinion that they received no help from the Embassy. In fact, one of them went to the extent of saying that there was no need to have an Embassy there. Their anger and frustration was not subtle. It is obvious that the Prime Minister was either wrongly briefed by his officials or was indulging in his 2014 election mode when he had distorted figures so conveniently to his advantage. It is perfectly alright for any politician, regardless of the position s/he holds in government to take credit for the job they have done well.

Like the one his External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has taken for the evacuation of Indians from Tikrit in Iraq, Yemen and Libya. But, it is quite something else to stake claim on something for which credit should rightly go to someone else.

In fact, it is the bane of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led-government that it continues to deal with issues in a manner unbecoming of a federal government even as it enters its third year in office. Like the way it attempted to usurp power from the Congress party by imposing president’s rule in Uttarakhand. It is only when the constitutional machinery fails that a federal government recommends president’s rule.

But, it got so taken up by the dissidents within the Congress party that it decided to repeat what it attempted in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. With the best of legal brains on its side, the government had to face the ignominy of being told by the Supreme Court that its rule cannot be imposed and the Congress will continue to rule in that state. But, those are not the only decisions which have gone unquestioned.

The infamous ban on consumption of beef (buffalo meat) in the western state of Maharashtra, where the BJP heads the government, has also been thrashed by the high court. The court has not allowed slaughter but it has permitted storage and consumption of the meat on the simple ground that the state cannot decide what the citizen will eat. The relief from this does not come only to the Muslims or Christians but also to a significantly large population belonging to the underprivileged Dalit community.

The Dalits were already reeling without their affordable protein when Rohith Vemula, a member of their community, committed suicide at the Hyderabad Central University. The protest against discrimination in institutions of higher learning has led to the members of this underprivileged community to politically distance itself from the BJP. The worst part of this controversy has been the approach of the ruling party which claimed that those opposed to its definition of nationalism are anti-national.

The worrying factor about this government is that it is constantly in a confrontation mode on every issue. At least after the euphoria of the first year in office, ruling parties normally settle down to a working mode. But, this government prefers not to talk to the opposition in the Upper House, where it is in a minority, to get important legislation passed to boost the economy.

That too, at a time when there appear to be some indicators of a revival in the economy, the causes for which are yet to be analysed. Instead, the party appears to be encouraging yet another spell of religious polarisation in the most populous and northern state of Uttar Pradesh where elections are due to the assembly next year. So, the question that arises is whether the ruling party will change its approach in its third year in office. None can hazard a guess and say a firm no.

Murder mysteries

For a change, it is time to focus on journalists being bumped off. Last week, on two consecutive days the profession lost two colleagues. The exact reasons are not known as yet but the needle of suspicion appears to be again pointing at the political class.

Rajdeo Ranjan was shot dead in the eastern state of Bihar and a day prior to that newspapers have reported the death of another journalist in the neighbouring state of Jharkhand. Details of the Jharkhand case are not clear but stung by the nationwide criticism over another murder, the coalition government of the Janata Dal-United (JDU) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in Bihar appears to be working hard to fight the repeat label of the ‘rule of the jungle’.

From all the information flowing out of the investigation into the daylight murder of Ranjan, it appears that he had broken the story about a Minister going to meet up with a gang lord in his current home, the prison. Such information could be in the realm of speculation but in a state like Bihar even such inferences have to be taken rather seriously. Bihar, as is well known, is an example of the politiciancriminal nexus in the country and competes very closely with its other neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh.

The northern state has the reputation of having casteist criminal gangs as well which behave like armies out to protect their community. Ranjan’s case is not the first in recent times. There have been others, too, particularly with print journalists who cover politics and focus their attention on corruption in various fields. There have also been cases of a cartoonist being killed or a young woman producer in a television channel being killed for unknown reasons. In another case, a well known crime reporter was allegedly killed by the underworld in Mumbai.

Many such cases have remained unsolved largely due to lack of evidence, though nobody rules out the possibility of the investigation being sabotaged to protect the political bigwigs. However, given the unsolved murders of well known writers and activists like Dr M M Kalburgi or rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, the cynics among journalists could well be proved correct if the conclusion of the latest murders are also categorised as ‘motive unknown’. But, there is also the other form of murder.

The method of intimidation like the one happening in Chhattisgarh. In the name of fighting Left extremism or what is better known in India as Naxalites, a reign of terror has been let loose in the BJP-administered state. Journalists have been thrown out and others have been harassed to the point of intimidation by a repressive police force. In short, the threat to the media is for real in the name of fighting extremism.


This is an advisory for all Indians. If they find their relatives back home in a mood which ranges from not being their normal self to being irritated, please do not get upset. The subject of weather is being repeated this week again because the rain gods have not become as generous as the political parties in the southern state of Tamil Nadu who showered voters with notes.

(The state hit a record, by the way, with the Election Commission seizing over R1bn - RO5.76mn - of cash.) The latest advisory from the Indian Meteorological Department has been that the arrival of the south west monsoon will be further delayed. It was originally expected to arrive two days ahead of schedule, May 28. But, the IMD has made it known that people need not expect it until June 7. In simple words, the weather is making people sweat it out. So be ready for some more! [

The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Muscat Daily or Apex Press & Publishing]