Shiv Sena MP force feeding Muslim: Political goondagardi yet again?
That the MPs, who as a class, vote privileges onto themselves and consider themselves the only one entitled to the cream of the land, consider that they can protest at anything that goes against their grain.
Little doubt is left that there are many angles to the Shiv Sena MPs conduct in their present billet in New Delhi's New Maharashtra Sadan. While the first one is their "force feeding" an employee of the caterer, the second amounts to violating his religious sentiments as the employee turned out to be a Muslim observing Ramadan fast and the third the refusal of the caterer to buckle down and telling them to go suck an egg.
The first was unseemly. It was nowhere near the pedha these people have the ceremonial habit of shoving into each other's mouths in public with cameras focused on them. It was a kind of violent protest at the poor quality of food: you want us to this food? Why not try it yourself first!
Lodging a strong protest, the caterer IRCTC made it clear that the MPs went too far in as the employee Arshad Zubair was "deeply pained and hurt" because "religious sentiments are attached". His name tag on his chest did little to stop the MPs from nearly force feeding him. By trying to stuff a roti in his mouth, it amounted to forcing him break his fast.
A video clip that first emerged on the Marathi news channel, Mi Marathi, showed Rajan Vichare, the Thane MP, trying to shove a roti into the mouth of an employee. Till then, the Sena kept denying any such incident. It certainly touched his mouth though it may not have entered it, but it is a matter of detail. Being a vegetarian, I can scarcely tolerate meat on my table.
The fourth is the quick reaction that since they were Shiv Sena MPs, with their party saffron and "communal", they must have done it on purpose. At least that is the expected reaction in Parliament and outside, especially on news channels. The TV amplified the one-dimensional view and sought out "secular" viewpoints.
Unavoidably partisan in views, the politicians are bound to raise the religious card and milk the point but that is hardly the issue. What concerns me is was whether the news outlets felt obligated to amplify it by running to the nearest non-BJP and non-Sena political party for a comment?
One must hand it to the IRCTC for immediately withdrawing their catering service because their VIP occupants did not find the food to their taste. It objected to their conduct with the catering employees, registered its protest and cleared out of the kitchen, staff and all. The message: go hungry till alternate arrangements are made.
That a government of India undertaking showed the gumption to tell the MPs just where they get off is a matter of surprise. That it happened in a state government guest house is the additional icing on the cake. That it did not worry about the MPs being the adversaries is yet another point of note.
But it is par for course, going by the manner in which television purveys news and the ease with which issues are coloured in a word of binary perceptions – black and white. Fortunately some channels kept saying in the same breath that it ought not to be given a communal colour.
Having said all this, I would like to move to what is the most significant issue in this episode. That the MPs, who as a class, vote privileges onto themselves and consider themselves the only one entitled to the cream of the land, consider that they can protest at anything that goes against their grain.
I have not come across any single instance when the MPs or even MLAs have complained about the poor services that the governance model in the country bestows on the tax-paying common man. I am sure they also travel by trains and consume the edibles and the beverages served on the trains and at stations.
The other day, television news had a brief item about the cockroach found in the food served on one of the Rajdhanis and there wasn't even a murmur from the political class, even from those to whose constituencies the complainants belonged to. It was as if these things happen so have to be borne with patience.
Unlike the MPs billeted in the New Maharashtra Sadan, who pay concessional tariff compared to what others would have to, and have the food at rates lower than what restaurants would charge, the traveller who consumes IRCTC food has to pay the full price. I suppose the train staff may have just refunded the meal cost, at best.
In this light, the video clip showing an MP trying to show the quality of the chappati served was painful. He held it up and tried to stretch and horror of horrors, stretch it did. That meant the roti was no whole wheat but had maida in it and how dare such a thing be served to the honourable law-makers?
Apparently, the IRCTC assumed that what passes for the hoi polloi of the Moghlai cuisine plus a bit of embellishments would do for the Maharashtrian MPs whose taste buds are tuned to the bhakari (millet bread and zhunka, a fare provided at Re 1 a shot at outlets across Maharashtra when Sena was at the helm between 1995 and 1999.
Rajan Vichare, no doubt, had visited the Thane railway station, the second biggest with footfalls per day at some 7.5 lakhs per day in the Mumbai’s commuter network to study and work on the amenities there, which to say the least, are abysmal. His predecessors Anand Paranjape and Sanjiv Naik used to but with little impact.
It underlines my long-held view that India is in slow motion and also the couldn't care less mode. When it comes to the public, there’s a built-in caveat: despite efforts such as there are, changes, even those sorely needed because they are long-pending, take time. However, when it comes to them as a class, it has to be here and now.
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