A park for Rs 685 crore, Junglistan outraged
It's five in the evening and a full house at Ittooppu's tea shop. Office-goers, daily wage labourers, artisans, smalltime traders, all had gathered at the goat's eatery. That's where animals of Junglistan catch up with the latest gossip - all kinds of it: politics, movies, sports.
"Motta Dosa," demanded Duba Duba, the crocodile.
Motta dosa or egg dosa, is a new item that has entered Ittooppu's menu. Result of months of painstaking research by Ittooppu's wife on how to use dosas that go unsold. Chop onions, fry them, add green chillies and eggs, and scramble them with small pieces of dosas that are at least a day old. Motta dosa ready. The new item had been a huge hit -- a chartbuster - prompting Ittooppu to try out many variants of the same. Motta Idli, Motta Vada, Motta Puttu, Motta Banana Fry...
"They are showing Chhayawati's park on TV," cried out Chinnu, the cricket.
'Chhayawati's Rs 685 crore dream'. The text on the television kept in one corner of Ittooppu's shop was too big to miss the crowd.
"Utter waste of money," Parappanangadi Pappan said. The local leader of the Junglistan National Congress was confident of a big bang comeback for his party in Uttar Pradesh.
"Building own statue for posterity, sounds so cheap, doesn't it?" asked Thathamma, the parrot.
"Yuck. She should have got one built by someone else," said Kuyilamma, "Like Mumtaz got herself the Taj from her husband."
"Who will build one for her?"
"People are dying of all kinds of diseases in that state," said Shambhu, the elephant, "And she wastes crores on a park."
"UP has higher infant mortality than the national average, you know," Pappan said looking at Tortoise Kunhiraman, "Sixty-three. Horrible."
"Terrible," Naanappan joined in. "It has a literacy rate of just 69 per cent," added the deer, reading from a newspaper.
"Why are you silent, comrade," Pappan turned to Kunhiraman.
The Tortoise, a former CM of Junglistan, was not responding for a reason. Chhayawati was their ally in the last election, they had even promised her the PM's job if they got the numbers. He didn't take Pappan's bait, this was one debate he was bound to lose.
"Sometimes, I wonder if these census figures are true. Sixty-nine per cent literacy sounds too good to believe," Pappan said, "Female literacy there is 20 per cent less than the male literacy rate."
"And she wastes crores on a park."
"The literacy rate went up nearly 10 points from the last census." All eyes turned to the dissenting voice. Ramu, a buffalo who had come all the way from Uttar Pradesh, looking for a job. "Dalits feel empowered like never before. More of them have televisions, cycles, jobs," he continued, "This is what a famous columnist wrote in The Times of Junglistan, quoting a survey."
"The survey must have been a paid job," Pappan retorted, "We have done more to empower Dalits than anyone in this country. We could even make a Dalit the Prime Minister. See what one of our leaders said in his tweet today."
"What do you call it? Affirmative action?" Kunhiraman said, "We had one as president, the poor guy got a stoop shouldering the burden of gratitude to the Famliy."
"Heard the vacancy is opening soon. The finance minister and the home minister are fighting for it. Is it true," asked Kovalan, a Gandhian monkey.
Pappan didn't reply. His local chief had booked a ticket to the capital just in case. 'Now may be he should get a caste certificate ready. You never know.'
Ittooppu served another round of tea with parippu vada. He relished these debates, they meant good business for him.
"Hundreds are dying and Chhayawati wastes crores on a park." Shambhu said again, shaking his head.
"Hundreds were dying and thousands starving yet Commonwealth Games were held. I didn't see this anger then." Ramu couldn't take it any longer.
"Yes, and what about the 2G scam? Over a lakh crores lost," Chinnu chipped in.
"Let us not talk about 2G," Pappan argued, "The country did not lose a single paisa in those deals. The loss is notional just like spectrum. I have never seen this stuff, spectrum I mean. What does it look like?"
"You know what the former telecom minister said then. 2G is for aam aadmi, so it was sold cheap, and 3G for the connoisseur, so it was auctioned," explained Chinnamma, the mosquito.
"If your govt is so worried about the aam aadmi, why don't you sell rice at 2001 prices," Kudiyan Paramu chipped.
"And onions and dal, petrol and LPG," Kunhiraman was in familiar territory now.
"Subsidising spectrum was a policy decision," Pappan said, "Policy decisions can't be audited or argued in court. I would say not even in a tea shop."
"Why don't you subsidise alcohol?" Kudiyan Paramu asked, "The government can do anything in the name of policy, isn't that so?"
"Is Pappan maashu here?"
The leader met the youngsters who had come looking for him outside, away from the din at Ittooppu's shop.
"Maashe, we are setting up a library and arts club in our area, could you get us some funds from the MP?"
"See this year's funds are already used up," Pappan appeared to be thoughtful. The area the youngsters came from was a Left stronghold, a good opportunity to score some points and win some votes. The practical politician that he was, it didn't take him long to find a solution.
"It will be tough, but I can get the funds arranged. Name the club Rajiv Gandhi Arts and Sports Club or something like that. It will be easier that way."
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