Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee

Red Beacon

The Cabinet has decided to discontinue use of red beacon on the vehicles of ministers and dignitaries, including CM, PM and President from 1 May 2017. This decision has been taken to ‘end the VIP culture’. The decision follows a Supreme Court indictment of the system in 2013.

Red beacon has long been the symbol of VIP culture. Cars flashing red beacon flanked and accompanied by dozens of vehicles including couple of police vans with traffic on hold have long been a familiar picture of any VIP (usually minister or top bureaucrat) passing by. The NDA Government wants to change this. This is a good move and needs to be applauded.

But I have a nagging feeling: the physical red beacon can be removed; but can we remove the culture of red beacon from our minds? Can the high and mighty really go without the trappings of power or the symbols to show the power to all and sundry? Can they go without the cavalcade of dozens of vehicles? Can they go without the posse of security persons guarding them 24×7? Can they go without the royal treatment given to them wherever they go?

Let us hope, it will happen. And then only India will be a truly democratic country.

Loud Speaker

One of my students Ayaz Farooqui has commented on his facebook post: “If our religious activities disturb others and hamper their daily routines, do remember it’s not religion. Azaan/Bhajan on loudspeakers is not a religious act. Offering Namaz by blocking roads is not a religious act. Kawad Yatra, which leads to closure of roads every year, is not a religious act. ‘Religious’ processions that impact movement of traffic are not religious acts. Quran ( 30:41) says, “Mischief has appeared on land and sea as a result of people’s actions.”

I entirely agree with Ayaz as every morning I am affronted by blaring loudspeakers belching   both bhajan and azan. On certain days the bhajans continue till late night, and at times whole night. I am sure God must be mighty unhappy as it might disturb His sleep too. Less said about the quality of bhajans, especially sung at late night is better.


Khola Hawa

The inmates of Mednipore Central Jail in West Bengal have published a newspaper. The first issue was launched on 14 April, the last day of Bengali Year.
Titled ‘Khola Hawa’ (which means Open Wind) this weekly magazine has news items from the jail wards. All the three editors of the paper Subal Chandra Gadai, Sudhir Mohanty and Asutosh Khanda are serving life sentence in that jail. Interestingly besides he editors, news reporters and writers of this paper happen to be inmates of the jail.
It was the initiative and patronage of the Jail Superintendent Debasish Chakraborty, that made the inmates publish the newspaper.

Incidentally jails are called correctional homes in West Bengal. Dance, drama workshops have been held for the inmates by a well-known danseuse for the past some years and performances have been held in places outside the city. Exhibition of paintings by them had been put up in the past

This also reminds me of the famous Bengali author Jarasandha (Charu Chandra Chakraborty) who was the superintendent of the Alipore Central Jail. Perhaps his most famous novel was Louho Kapat (The Iron Door), based on the life of the inmates. Another of his novel Tamoshi was made into the film Bandini by Bimal Roy.

In recent times Ms Varika Nanda has written a book on the life of women inmates of Tihar Jail: Tinka Tinka Tihar, originally written in Hindi has been translated in English by Nupur Talwar has won crucial applause.

Tail piece: Mallya

After Vijay Mallya was arrested in London and got bail in three hours many jokes are surfacing on social media. Here is one:

Vijay Mallya goes to a Bhel Puri stall in London.

Mallya: Bhaiya ek bhel dena

Bhaiya: Sahab, 10 minute ruko

Mallya: Arre Bhaiya, thoda jaldi karo na

Bhaiya: Yeh bhel hai, bail nahin. Time lagega.

(Courtesy: Social Media)


The columnist, a journalist-turned media academician lives in Dhenkanal, a dist HQ town n Central Odisha. He can be contacted at [email protected]