House on fire?
Last month, there was a fire in the Parliament House reception area due to a short-circuit in the AC duct. This was a matter of concern since the 100-year-old monument is a major fire hazard. A former secretary general of Lok Sabha, TK Viswanathan, has written to both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee that the Delhi Fire Service had refused to give a fire safety clearance to the building. One reason was that some exits were blocked by party offices, which had encroached into the passage space. Viswanathan has also cited an IIT-Roorkee study on the seismic vulnerability of the building, which was built without beams, concrete and cement. The foundation is so weak that it is estimated that an earthquake of 5.2 on the Richter scale could reduce the structure to rubble.
Son, not dad, to wed
Digvijaya Singh’s son Jaivardhan Singh is to wed Sreejamya Shahi, who belongs to the Dumaria royal family, in May. However, there is no sign of wedding bells for 68-year-old Digvijaya Singh himself, though he had claimed last year that he would be formalising his relationship with Amrita Rai, a TV anchor. In fact, some members of royal families in Madhya Pradesh had been expecting wedding invitations last year and were even debating whether they should attend or boycott the wedding given that the bride was not a royal or even from the biradiri. One reason their expectations had been aroused was that they had received queries from Singh’s office asking for their current addresses. However, the invitations had not materialised.
The new Chief Justice of India, HL Dattu, often makes rounds of the Supreme Court building and has proved receptive to petitions concerning administrative problems. In an eco-friendly move, he has ordered hard copies of the daily causelist to be kept to a bare minimum, with lawyers expected to look up the day’s matters on the Internet. Similarly, very few paper copies of voluminous judgments are now available; you are expected to go online. Medical facilities for lawyers, litigants and the media are now available on the court compound. The CJI has promised to introduce Wi-Fi on the premises next. After woman constables complained to Justice Dattu that there was no suitable place for them to change into uniforms, he ordered that a small dressing room be reserved for them.
Ashok Vajpeyi has often been dogged by controversies in his long career as an administrator of cultural bodies. Now questions have been raised as to how the trust established by Dogri writer and translator Shivanath is to be incorporated into the Vajpeyi-controlled Raza Foundation. Shivanath’s trust was meant for the spread of literary pursuits and for facilitating translation and studies of Dogri literature, while the Raza Foundation, founded by artist SH Raza, concerns itself with the fine arts. The original trustees, including the managing trustee, are also confused as to how Vajpeyi claims to be a trustee at all. It appears that Vajpeyi got Shivanath’s widow, the 89-year old Hindi writer Krishna Sobti, to back him.
The wife of a member of the NITI Aayog noticed the bare walls of his office and suggested that he hang some paintings to brighten up the room. The member requested the establishment officer for some. He was informed that a member of the former Planning Commission had walked away with several wall hangings purchased at considerable cost. Incidentally, NITI Aayog members are being very austere in their habits compared to some of their predecessors, who lunched at five-star hotels and billed the government.
Peek into package
Last week, urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu presented an elaborately packed gift to Swedish minister for infrastructure Anna Johansson. Naidu realised that if Johansson opened the gift to see what was inside, she would have a tough time repacking the parcel. So he thoughtfully presented her with a photograph of his gift. It was a green elephant from Mysore.
Mixing with masses
Environment minister Prakash Javadekar carries his walking shoes whenever he goes out of Delhi. This is because he has started the practice of morning walk, in whichever city he happens to be, whether Hyderabad, Pune or Bangalore. In Delhi, his morning exercise is on the Rashtrapati Bhavan grounds or in a gym. He often takes the Metro, which has a station next to his office, when he wants to travel. All to “keep in touch with the common man”.