this news has died

you know, of course, the man waving in the first picture is dr.y.s.rajashekhar reddy, chief minister of andhra pradesh. he's also in the second picture, shaking hands with a top oracle executive. but who's the man with the grey, tousled mop of hair who appears in both the pictures? doesn't he seem a little out of place? he seems too old to be a security guard, too small-built, non-athletic. he seems too much like r.k.laxman's common man, right? and in such august company, what's he doing there?

until a few months ago, most news-consuming people in andhra pradesh didn't know who he was - he seemed to accompany the chief minister everywhere, you saw him on television and in pictures, a little behind the chief minister, never more than a few feet, five feet or so to be precise, from him. and then he emerged from the shadows and became a news story himself.

he's been identified as a key figure in a scam involving the siphoning away of government funds to the tune of rs.150 crores. a major portion of the funds were meant for the sarva shiksha abhiyan/dpep programme. no, he's not been arrested - some associates 'voluntarily' gave themselves up. an investigation is on - which will no doubt try to establish that those who gave themselves up are guilty- and no one else is.

yes, scams bore me too - but this one still manages to disgust me. money meant to provide basic literacy skills to children, who already are victims several times over, has been stolen.

it tells me: the poor count for nothing in this country (which is not news) and therefore, their children count for less than nothing. which, sadly, isn't news either. so what is it about this piece of non-news that has me all churned up inside? well, it's not those kind souls in yojana bhavan or wherever who knew, beforehand, when they were drawing up this programme, that this'd happen. or the experts from academia or the think tanks who helped in both the conception and the development of the idea. or the activists who drummed it into the slow heads of politicians over the years. or the politicians who bided their time, sexied it up and introduced it at the right poll opportunity with a bang.

it is this: that rajashekhar reddy should submit to his inherited obligation to distribute largesse among his inherited constituency. to consider that, as a pedda ( the equivalent term in hindi is bada) reddy (as reddies of certain sub-castes or those owning large landholdings are considered in rayalaseema) it is his duty to look after the well-being of those who serve him. and condone their mideeds and actively try to protect them and deflect any criticism directed against them. this inherited duty superseded the duty to serve those who elected him. as it does so often in india.

it is this: that the chief actor in this drama should also submit to to his inherited obligation as a lower ranking clansman to follow and serve his inherited betters- that is how you get to fulfill your own needs. you could see he was following the historic script faithfully when you occasionally saw him on television actually serving food, to the leader as he is talking to the '24-hours-with-so-and-so' interviewer. you saw his role in the relationship, and that of his master- the chief minister had appointed him his 'personal assistant' after assuming office, but that didn't mean his role had changed. or his master. he still remained someone who held the leader's bags, his files and looked after his personal needs..a man friday, saturday, sunday...everyday. everywhere.

it is also this: that the media should also look at this from their inherited positions - as mouthpieces of dominant competing communities or of aiming-to-regain-or-gain-a-vantage-position communities. that the political parties, also representing competing, communal interests, should seek to not look beyond, or let you look beyond, the bare, titillating details of who and how much - at how easy it is to steal from poor children... and how unimportant that is to everyone.

note: i'd started this post on may 22nd, a few months after the news of the scam actually made it to the media. i'd expected, and i guess most of the players involved did too, that it'd die in a few months and it has.

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