Below the line

| Updated on November 14, 2021

Sparring over protest site

The Telangana Chief Minister and Founder-President of Telangana Rashtra Samithi K Chandrashekar Rao’s call for protests against the Union Government has attracted sharp criticism from the Opposition and intellectuals.

They are not opposed to the protest per se. They are criticising him for deciding to hold it at Dharna Chowk. The reason being that as soon as the TRS government took the reins in 2014, it banned protests from being held at Dharna Chowk.

“Now that he is feeling the heat, he realised the importance of holding a protest at Dharna Chowk,” an intellectual said.

The day-long protests are aimed at putting pressure on the Union Government to purchase parboiled rice from the State.

Pricey spirits

Liquor makers, distributors and sellers in Bengal are an unhappy lot with the State government reportedly mulling a new ‘fee structure’. Apparently, the government, in a bid to boost revenues and fund its multiple ‘cash dole schemes’, has decided to levy an additional fee ranging between ₹5 and ₹400 over and above the marked price of bottles.

The additional fee or levy may come into effect on all bottled liquor — whether made in India, bottled in India or imported. Sellers say the move is expected to substantially push up the prices of popular brands across categories like whiskey, beer, brandy, and so on.

A matter of questions

Ministers in Bengal — particularly junior ranked ones — do not like to be counter questioned. Most of the facile questions are met with a response beginning, “As the CM had said a few days back....” While unpleasant queries from journalists are generally met with silence or the standard ‘sorry I did not hear what you just said’.

Then there are ministers who will tell journalists (if they have asked an unpleasant query or a counter question) how to turn around the question into a ‘pleasant, please-all query’.

Optical collusion

Eyebrows are being raised over former ICICI Bank Chairman KV Kamath’s recent appointment as senior advisor of global private equity major KKR. Only recently, Kamath — a well-known and respected banker — had landed himself a plum position as the chairperson of the newly-constituted National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development (NABFID).

The ₹20,000-crore NABFID has been set up under an enactment of Parliament to fund new infrastructure and development projects.

Some bankers and finance industry experts point out a direct conflict of interest, as Kamath will play an advisory role for KKR in the infrastructure financing space. KKR Asia Pacific Infrastructure Fund is looking to ramp up its infrastructure assets portfolio in India. Certainly, on the face of it, this is not good optics at a time when a former SBI Chairman has got arrested for an alleged conflict of interest.

Parking on flyovers

Flyovers need not be just for driving. They can also be a good place to park the cars in case of emergency. That’s what residents of Chennai living in low- lying areas like Velachery did during the recent rains that marooned the locality.

Having burnt their fingers in 2015 floods, when their vehicles were under the water, the residents quickly parked their vehicles as water surrounded their places in the newly inaugurated Velachery flyover, and thereby saved their vehicles. Nature is a good teacher, and people are quickly learners.

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Published on November 14, 2021

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