One of the truths about elections is that voters do the best they can. Most times the alternatives aren’t any better than the incumbents they want to get rid of. But opaque and high-handed governments must be punished, disaffection towards a leader or party must be shown. In all this, in shifting the mandate from one to another, there’s a hope that the next government will respect it. It is a hope that’s dashed frequently, though recent elections in states like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat have shown that the political class is finally getting the message—of respecting the mandate.
The Samajwadi Party, which won a big victory in Uttar Pradesh last year, didn’t get the memo though. In its 15 months in office, the party has proved its worst detractors right. Lawlessness and caste violence run rampant in the state—much of it has political sanction—and the chief minister is seen as a weakling, writes Arpit Parashar in our cover story “The cycle of crime.” The story is reported through extensive travels in the state, and interviews with dozens of party workers, activists, officials, and victims.
Our other narrative this month is a crime thriller, the story of how the Mumbai police caught the diamond thieves of Opera House, a much storied case for the cops. Among other things, the narrative shows the importance of good, old-fashioned police
work that the constabulary does, often with little appreciation for its efforts.
Man versus machine now seems an eternal question, though perhaps it has long been settled in favour of the machine. Why put a man to do a job that a machine can do better and faster? It is a question that strikes at the very heart of the rural job guarantee programme. Minimum wage fixed under the scheme is payable for a defined quantity of work done. This doesn’t work, argues Rohit Handa, in his fascinating essay “Guaranteed to fail”. He writes that the numbers don’t make sense at all, that the amount of human energy expended to do the job is far too high to justify the effort, and even payments are not sufficient to replenish calories lost in the process.
Do read the essay on the design of everyday objects, which among other things, profiles the Indian pot or the lota, a vessel of timeless design and multitude of uses. Don’t miss the photo story on kabootarbazi or pigeon racing in Old Delhi, a cultural remnant of another time which still has its faithful following.
Saurav Kumar, Editor