i) Rebooting India-Nepal ties

Nepal is run by a revolving door of political leaders who have weakened the polity and economy over the years, but who did battle the odds to promulgate a new Constitution. India, meanwhile, has a Chief Minister-turned-Prime Minister who has had to learn geopolitics on the job. Prime Minister Narendra Modi would have realised the limits of optics in geopolitics, and Nepal serves as a marker of adventurism gone awry. With global geopolitics on the boil, and the Hindi-Chini relationship in free fall, it should be in India’s interest to secure its own neighbourhood, and that can only be through letting national politics and governance of the smaller neighbours evolve without interference.

Impediments, implausibilities

New Delhi must use the visit of Nepal’s newly anointed Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, on Wednesday as an opportunity to hit the reset button on Nepal-India relations. Such a rebooting requires a cold and hard look at how Nepal was handled over the past decade, exemplified by the impediments placed in the writing, adoption and implementation of the Constitution. True, India played a valued role in ending the Maoist insurgency in 2006, but the period thereafter was marked by escalating micro-meddling in Nepal’s internal affairs. In Constitution-writing, there were attempts to define the new provincial boundaries according to Indian dictates — pushing first an unwieldy and unworkable plains-only province, then a two-province formula. The presence of India’s heavy hand contributed in numerous ways to the distortion of consensual governance needed in transitional times. Kathmandu’s civil society was preoccupied with managing the fallout, and much time has been spent rallying around the flag rather than stabilising the new republican democracy, trying to end ‘bhagbanda’ share-the-spoils politics, and working to ensure that the inclusion enshrined in the Constitution is observed in practice. (The scarcity of Madhesi faces in the recent appointment of ambassadors, judges and government appointments is a case in point.) For reasons best known to South Block, India ‘noted’ rather than welcomed the Constitution. A society trying to emerge from the April 2015 Great Earthquake was slapped with the punitive Great Blockade. Even today, New Delhi seems uneasy with the recognition of Maithili, Bhojpuri and Avadhi in Nepal, and prefers the elevation of Hindi as in India. While keeping silent for years on Nepal’s post-conflict transitional justice process, in November 2015 India’s representative in Geneva cynically utilised the forum of the Human Rights Council to influence government change in Kathmandu. A year ago, Indian interlocutors pushed the Nepali Congress to renege on its promise to continue in coalition with the mainstream left Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), and engineered what is the implausible current embrace of the Congress with the Maoist party of Pushpa Kamal Dahal. At the tactical level, New Delhi’s motives behind the heavy-handedness of the recent past may have to do with electoral calculations related to the Bihar and Uttar Pradesh polls. On the Constitution, the idea of a ‘buffer’ province is thought to have been floated either to prevent third country militant infiltration or to control national-level politics in Kathmandu. Some point to an agenda to try to take Nepal back to ‘Hindu state’ constitutional status. For the long term, Indian strategists may be seeking ways to get Kathmandu to allow the construction of high dams and deep reservoirs on Nepal’s rivers — for flood control, navigation, urban use and irrigation in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. A particular federal demarcation might make Kathmandu more amenable, goes this line of thinking. In trying to push some or all of these goals, New Delhi made deep inroads into Nepal’s political class, but none did it use more than the Madhesbaadi parties. Besides the fact that this has done great injustice to the plains-based Madhesi citizens of Nepal, the Madhesbaadi leadership is presently incensed that after all its goading New Delhi now seems to be backtracking — a recent example of this ‘use and throw’ policy is seen in how the Madhesbaadi leaders were made to stand against local government elections, followed by a volte-face of the Indian Embassy urging them to join. As Mr. Deuba deplanes, indeed there are indications of a scaling back of Indian involvement. Hopefully this is a response to a growing realisation in New Delhi that a peaceful, stable Nepal that evolves of its own volition is good for India, and especially for the central Ganga plains. From the Kathmandu perspective, politically micromanaging Nepal could not have but backfired. Take the Great Blockade, which forced the Kathmandu political leadership to reach out to Beijing and sign a slew of trade, transit and infrastructural agreements with it. Few know that Nepal is today better connected by air to Chinese cities than to India.

Pending matters

Once Nepal and India get past the era of interventionism as but a bad memory, the two can concentrate on the numerous matters that need concentration and resolution. An important issue is the open border itself, which is a unique joint heritage of the two countries. While it is Nepal’s Left that has traditionally demanded restrictions on the border, the call now rises from the Indian security establishment. As we speak, the Nepal plains are suffering from massive floods that have also affected downstream areas across the border. Besides the spread of settlements, a prime cause for the severity is that the Chure (Shivalik) hills have been gouged of rocks to build elevated roads and levees just south of the border, leading to inundation in Nepal. A permanent bilateral mechanism is required to save the plains population of Nepal from suffering, which is on-going as this is written. The Kosi Barrage and attendant embankments have the possibility of wreaking havoc because siltation of six decades has raised the riverbed within the levees far above the outlying tracts. The easy answer for the Indian politician is to demand a high dam in the hills of Nepal even as alternatives are not studied, such as redistribution of waters into various older channels of the Kosi in Bihar. There are many other matters pending between Nepal and India, much of it due to neglect by the Kathmandu intelligentsia, such as regarding the impact of demonetisation and the application of Goods and Services Tax on Nepal’s economy and citizenry. Similarly, Kathmandu prefers not to discuss the fact that the Nepali rupee is pegged to the Indian rupee and what it means for the long run. The rights of migrant Indian labour in Nepal and Nepali labour in India is a topic that rarely comes up. There are border disputes pending between the two countries — at Susta, Kalapani and the ‘tri-junction’ of Lipulekh — but Kathmandu has been timid in raising these matters. Nepal has since long planned to sell electricity to India once it has a hydropower surplus, and the completion of the much-delayed Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur transmission line was supposed to facilitate that. But along comes an Indian government directive that it will not allow import of electricity other than from power companies with more than 51% Indian equity. The arbitrary blockages and go-slow at Indian Customs at border points, the selective use of quarantine for the export of Nepali agricultural produce, the increasing high-handedness of the Sashastra Seema Bal (India’s frontier force in this sector) in dealing with Nepalis crossing over — these are only some of the other challenges on the bilateral plane. Due to domestic political instability more than anything else, over the years Kathmandu lost its confidence in dealing with the Dilli Durbar. With the self-assurance that comes from Nepal moving towards normalcy under its new Constitution, and with India seemingly changing gears on its Nepal policy, one hopes for a threshold of maturity in relations between South Asia’s oldest nation-state and its largest democracy.

ii) Prison and privilege

It is not uncommon for some influential prisoners to get concessions or privileges from obliging officials. The privileges and favourable exemptions that V.K. Sasikala seems to enjoy in the Parappana Agrahara Central Prison in Bengaluru appear to confirm what one hears only in corruption folklore. Initially, it was rumoured she had a makeshift kitchen and been provided with an inmate as a cook; it was said she had a special visitors’ room with enough chairs for political confabulations. Now, dramatic footage has emerged showing her and her relative and fellow convict, J. Ilavarasi, entering by the prison’s main door, suggesting that she may be returning from a trip outside the prison’s precincts. It appears, in the video, that she has been exempted from wearing a convict’s uniform. These are not fanciful charges emerging from unreliable quarters. These are part of purported evidence submitted to investigators by former Deputy Inspector General (Prisons) D. Roopa, who blew the whistle on Sasikala’s special privileges weeks ago. Ms. Roopa has submitted the footage, presumably taken from a surveillance camera focussed on the prison’s entry point, to the Anti-Corruption Bureau, which wanted proof of her earlier charges about rampant corruption among prison officials. Ms. Roopa had been transferred out from the post after she made the sensational allegation that the Director General (Prisons) and other top officials had taken a Rs. 2-crore bribe to extend these privileges to Sasikala. The former DG (Prisons), H.N. Satyanarayana Rao, who rejected the charges as baseless, has since retired.

The Karnataka government has ordered an inquiry headed by Vinay Kumar, a retired bureaucrat, into irregularities in the prison, while the Anti-Corruption Bureau is examining the corruption charges. These investigations should not be mere formalities as prison corruption poses a great danger to society. It is not only influential politicians but also offenders jailed for serious charges, such as Abdul Karim Telgi, the kingpin of the stamp paper racket that rocked the country over a decade ago, who are the beneficiaries of a suborned system. Overcrowding, ill-treatment, lack of infrastructure and inadequate facilities are some of the problems that the country’s prison system has been facing for years. In recent years, newer vices have been added to the list of problems: availability of drugs, for instance, and access to mobile phones to prisoners to beat the communication protocol. Any inquiry into Ms. Roopa’s charges cannot be limited to the facilities that one or two prisoners may enjoy, but should comprehensively address all these issues. Failure to curb the illegal facilities allowed to some prisoners will ultimately lead to the loss of whatever deterrent value a jail term has. To paraphrase Shakespeare, one must not make “a scarecrow of the law” that is set up to scare away birds, but let’s “custom make it their perch and not their terror”.



1) Promulgate

Meaning: Put (a law or decree) into effect by official proclamation.

Example: In January 1852 the new Constitution was promulgated.

Synonyms: Enact, Implement

2) Interference

Meaning: The action of interfering or the process of being interfered with.

Example: Concerns about government interference in church life.

Synonyms: Intrusion, Intervention

3) Impediments

Meaning: A hindrance or obstruction in doing something.

Example: A serious impediment to scientific progress

Synonyms: Hindrance, Obstructions

Antonyms: Benefit

4) Implausibilities

Meaning: (of an argument or statement) not seeming reasonable or probable; failing to convince.

Example: This is a blatantly implausible claim.

Synonyms: Unlikely, Improbable

Antonyms: Plausible, Convincing

5) Anointed

Meaning: Nominate or choose (someone) as successor to or leading candidate for a position.

Example: His officially anointed heir.

6) Exemplified

Meaning: Illustrate or clarify by giving an example.

Example: He exemplified his point with an anecdote.

Synonyms: Illustrate

7) Insurgency

Meaning: An active revolt or uprising.

Example: Rebels are waging an armed insurgency to topple the monarchy.

8) Escalating

Meaning: Make or become more intense or serious.

Example: The disturbance escalated into a full-scale riot.

Synonyms: Grow, Develop

Antonyms: Shrink

9) Distortion

Meaning: The action of giving a misleading account or impression.

Example: We’re fed up with the media’s continuing distortion of our issues

Synonyms: Misinterpretation, Perversion

10) Enshrined

Meaning: Preserve (a right, tradition, or idea) in a form that ensures it will be protected and respected.

Example: The right of all workers to strike was enshrined in the new constitution

Synonyms: Set down, Express

11) Punitive

Meaning: Inflicting or intended as punishment.

Example: He called for punitive measures against the Eastern bloc

Synonyms: Penal, Disciplinary

12) Post-conflict

Meaning: Post Conflict is a conflict situation in which open warfare has come to an end.

13) Transitional

Meaning: Relating to or characteristic of a process or period of transition.

Example: A transitional government was appointed.

Synonyms: Intermediate, Middle

Antonyms: Initial, Final

14) Interlocutors

Meaning: A person who takes part in a dialogue or conversation.

15) Renege

Meaning: Go back on a promise, undertaking, or contract.

Example: The government had reneged on its election promises

Synonyms: Fail to honour, Go back on

Antonyms: Keep, Honour

16) Coalition

Meaning: A temporary alliance for combined action, especially of political parties forming a government.

Example: A coalition between Liberals and Conservatives

Synonyms: Alliance, Union

17) Embrace

Meaning: Include or contain (something) as a constituent part.

Example: His career embraces a number of activities—composing, playing, and acting.

Synonyms: Include, Cover

Antonyms: Exclude

18) Demarcation

Meaning: The action of fixing the boundary or limits of something.

Example: The demarcation of the maritime border.

Synonyms: Separation, Distinction

19) Amenable

Meaning: Open and responsive to suggestion; easily persuaded or controlled.

Example: Parents who have amenable children.

Synonyms: Compliant, Acquiescent

Antonyms: Uncooperative

20) Inroads

Meaning: An instance of something being encroached on or reduced by something else.

Example: The firm is beginning to make inroads into the UK market

21) Incensed

Meaning: Make very angry.

Example: Locals are incensed at the suggestion

Synonyms: Engage, Infuriate

Antonyms: Placate, Please

22) Goading

Meaning: Provoke or annoy (someone) so as to stimulate an action or reaction.

Example: he was trying to goad her into a fight.

Synonyms: Provoke, Spur

23) Volte-face

Meaning: A sudden change from one set of beliefs or plan of action to the opposite

Example: In 1986 he made a very public and dramatic political volte-face from Left to Right.

Synonyms: Changing your mind

24) Interventionism

Meaning: The theory or practice of intervening; specifically: governmental interference in economic affairs at home or in political affairs of another country

25) Severity

Meaning: The fact or condition of being severe.

Example: Sentences should reflect the severity of the crime.

Synonyms: Seriousness, Gravity

Antonyms: Mildness, Leniency

26) Gouged

Meaning: Make a rough hole or indentation in (a surface), especially so as to mar or disfigure it.

Example: He had wielded the blade inexpertly, gouging the grass in several places.

27) Embankments

Meaning: A wall or bank of earth or stone built to prevent a river flooding an area.

Example: A railway embankment.

28) Wreaking

Meaning: Cause (a large amount of damage or harm).

Example: Torrential rainstorms wreaked havoc yesterday.

Synonyms: Inflict, Create

29) Siltation

Meaning: Siltation is a process by which water becomes dirty as a result of fine mineral particles in the water.

30) Timid

Meaning: Showing a lack of courage or confidence; easily frightened.

Example: I was too timid to ask for what I wanted.

Synonyms: Fearful, Apprehensive

Antonyms: Bold, Forthcoming

31) High-handedness

Meaning: Having or showing no regard for the rights, concerns, or feelings of others.

32) Normalcy

Meaning: The condition of being normal; the state of being usual, typical, or expected.

Example: The office gradually returned to a semblance of normality.

Synonyms: Routine, Order

Antonyms: Insanity

33) Threshold

Meaning: A point of entry or beginning; level, rate, or amount at which something comes into effect.

Example: The inheritance tax threshold

Synonyms: Starting point, Beginning

Antonyms: End

34) Concessions

Meaning: A thing that is granted, especially in response to demands.

Example: The government was unwilling to make any further concessions.

Synonyms: Compromise, Adjustment

35) Obliging

Meaning: Do as (someone) asks or desires in order to help or please them; Make (someone) legally or morally bound to do something.

Example: Doctors are obliged by law to keep patients alive while there is a chance of recovery

Synonyms: Accommodate, Indulge

36) Folklore

Meaning: A body of popular myths or beliefs relating to a particular place, activity, or group of people.

Example: Hollywood folklore.

37) Inmate

Meaning: A person living in an institution such as a prison or hospital.

Example: Inmates of the Louisiana State Penitentiary.

Synonyms: Prisoner, Convict

38) Precincts

Meaning: The area within the walls or perceived boundaries of a particular building or place.

Example: A former MP who still works in the precincts of the House.

Synonyms: Boundaries, Limits

39) Exempted

Meaning: Free (a person or organization) from an obligation or liability imposed on others.

Example: They were exempted from paying the tax

Synonyms: Free from, Not liable to

Antonyms: Liable to

40) Purported

Meaning: Appear to be or do something, especially falsely.

Example: She is not the person she purports to be.

Synonyms: Claim, profess

41) Presumably

Meaning: Used to convey that what is asserted is very likely though not known for certain.

Example: It was not yet ten o’clock, so presumably the boys were still at the pub.

Synonyms: I assume, I expect

42) Rampant

Meaning: (especially of something unwelcome) flourishing or spreading unchecked.

Example: Political violence was rampant.

Synonyms: Uncontrolled, Unrestrained

Antonyms: Controlled

43) Kingpin

Meaning: A person or thing that is essential to the success of an organization or operation.

Example: The kingpins of the television industry.

44) Suborned

Meaning: Bribe or otherwise induce (someone) to commit an unlawful act such as perjury.

Example: He was accused of conspiring to suborn witnesses

45) Deterrent

Meaning: A thing that discourages or is intended to discourage someone from doing something.

Example: Cameras are a major deterrent to crime.

Synonyms: Disincentive, Discouragement

Antonyms: Incentive, Encouragement