Touria Prayag's Blog

L’express Weekly 24 February 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on February 28, 2012

Presidential antics

Those who coined the expression “ You can’t have your cake and eat it” have probably never been in Mauritius. That’s exactly what we do and the State House these days is a perfect illustration of it. Since the breakup of the government coalition, the State House has lost even the little veneer of neutrality it had. First we had the various sessions of koze kozé between the leader of the opposition ostensibly to discuss electoral reform, something which both must have since regretted as it backfired, what with the Best Loser System on the one hand and Proportional Representation on the other which would have wiped out some parties. We brushed the koze kozé under the carpet as something the president is allowed to do. After all, there is nothing in the constitution to prevent a president from meeting the leader of the opposition. Except that we knew what they were in really talking about.

Then we started having union leaders going straight to the State House to discuss union issues. Fair enough – though the president should not be involved in policy making, he is not just a ribbon cutter either. Then we had the various instances where the president came out in the open, criticizing the lack of security in the country; something which coincided with his son leaving office. Then the comments about the ICAC, again strangely coinciding with the son’s arrest. Still alright.

After all, decorum is not something you can impose on anyone.

Today, however, we are in a different situation. We are not talking about rumour any more. We are talking about serious matters. We are talking about a political party holding a secret ballot to decide whether to opt for a remake of an MMM- MSM alliance with the current president as future prime minister! In such a case scenario, there are only two possibilities: either the leader of the opposition is taking all his followers and the nation at large for a ride by getting his members to vote on a proposal involving two parties, one of whom – the president- is unaware of the whole business. Or the president has agreed to the proposal while enjoying all the trimmings of the State House and supposedly enhancing our democracy by being above party politics.

I can’t decide which one of these is a worse blow to our democracy.

More than the lack of decorum, which we have by now got used to, what with the president’s frequent tantrums and the instances of sap lor kal, which we have become complacent about, it is the arrogance of the presidency which is intolerable. It is tantamount to saying, “ I do what I like and do about it what you like.” This state of affairs is harming the reputation of the country both at home and abroad and eating into whatever institutional decency we had left after the long sequence of corruption and disgraceful public spectacles that we have witnessed lately. More than that, it is sending a very dangerous signal to all other institutions further down the hierarchy that respecting our constitution is farcical and at best a cold virtue . Either SAJ is in the political arena and therefore he has to resign or he is the president he is paid to be and he should give urgent proof that he is above party politics. If he can have his cake and eat it, let’s stop talking about democracy. And please spare us your talk about reform, the greater good of the nation and what not. We are frankly not impressed.

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L’express Weekly 17 February 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on February 28, 2012

People power

We should, I guess, never forget to thank God for his little mercies. Thank you for the cyclone. Not because of the rain as it made little difference to the disastrous situation of our reservoirs. But it made talk about the weather, the rainfall and the price of vegetables urgent. And in the process, it has allowed us to move away from our pet obsession: the Best Loser System and the electoral reforms that seem never to be.

Now we have to come face to face with a stark reality and ask ourselves the question: why is it that despite such heavy rain, which this time, did not miss Mare- aux- Vacoas, the reservoir is still so short on water. Part of the answer comes in the dossier we have devoted to this issue in today’s edition: according to Bhishek Narain of the CWA, who bases himself on several studies carried out, we find that at one time out of 200 consumers, a staggering 109 – more than half – were engaged in water theft! And we are not talking about poor people stealing a few thousand cubic metres to attend to their basic necessities. We are talking about large- scale larceny which cuts across all social classes and includes factories, restaurants and agricultural planters.

In any other country, the discovery that more than half one’s citizens are engaged in daylight robbery would sufficiently shock it into taking some action and being generous in dishing out punishment to deter anybody thinking of doing the same. Our apathy however is so generalized that we seem to take it in our stride.

It makes us oblivious to the actual power that we, as consumers, wield. Think about it. We choose which businesses to give our hard- earned rupees to, and buy products from, everyday.

Let’s take one example: a few years ago, a well- known restaurant was found to be involved in a large scale theft of … electricity.

I don’t know what punishment was meted out to the owner but it could not have been more than a few pennies’ fine and a thank you note for settling it. Worse, as consumers, we rewarded the thief by going to the same restaurant as if it was alright for a guy to dip his hand in our pockets and steal something which belongs to us while charging us full price for using it. Imagine what would have happened if customers decided to boycott businesses found to be in such blatant violation of the law. What a deterrent that would be to any future businessman thinking of cutting corners to save a few rupees if he found out that he may be able to sidestep the law, but he still would suffer in terms of his profit. This way, we would not have to rely exclusively on the authorities who have thus far proven ineffectual in cleaning this Augean stable. Our everyday decisions on what and where to buy would be a small step in making the situation better. And it’s something that each and every one of us is capable of doing should we put our minds to it.

It’s time for us to realize that our real strength as consumers will only come when we stop being content to remain apathetic spectators.

L’express Weekly 10 February 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on February 28, 2012

Back from cuckoo land, please!

“ Si pa kapav pa kapav!” This aphorism, used by a prime minister about to throw in the towel, will enrich our linguistic repertoire for years to come, in the same way other expressions like moralité pa rempli ventre have. It is almost synonymous with “ You can lead the horse to the water but you can’t make it drink.” As things stand today, we have to come to terms with the harsh reality of pa kapav and end on that note before creating more rifts and scars.

One day, whenever that day comes, when we stop thinking in terms of communities and even in terms of representation. One day, when we have been able to bare our souls to heal our wounds, that day, we can perhaps have a healthier debate.

In the meantime, we should not forget how the whole issue of electoral reform started. It did not start because, as a people, we expressed the wish and readiness to amend our constitution and change our electoral system.

No, oh no, Sir. Most of us have far more important things to worry about to give two hoots about that.

The whole issue started because it was a subterfuge to koze kozé . There were far more convenient and less infl ammatory topics to hide behind but the leader of the opposition chose to get out the heavy artillery. And we all got sucked into the whirlpool so quickly that we almost lost sight of the real motivations behind it. Suddenly, all our worries have been skillfully overshadowed by reform which is neither urgent nor is it the panacea we think it is.

And while our energy, resources and best brains are diverting all their energy to electoral reform, we have succeeded in creating the illusion that we are living in a cocoon oblivious to the worsening problems of the world, the worst economic recession it has seen and the local problems we should mobilize all our resources to deal with.

The PIIGS countries ( Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) where large chunks of the population are now eating in soup kitchens seem so distant from us. The eroded purchasing power of our main markets and their impoverishment is no longer a worry to us. Our economic growth has been reviewed from the predicted 4% down to 3.7% according to the International Monetary Fund. Who cares? Headline infl ation was at 6.5% in December 2011 up from 2.9% a year earlier. Thanks for the information.

Unemployment is at 7.9%. Really? A drug problem? Yes, apparently. We saw that on the M6 channel.

We are not trying to paint a picture of doom and gloom here. We are no worse off than other countries and our FDI has by and large held up.

But other countries are using all their energy and resources to tackle their problems. We are surfi ng on a cloud and pretending that electoral reform will solve ours. We have looked away from the fi ght against corruption, nepotism, abuse of power and discrimination. Ah, and MedPoint, does anyone even remember what that was about? That it was a case grouping all these ills in one? Does anyone remember that it was while the country was up in arms insisting on having answers to its questions, impatient for the ICAC to conclude its investigations that the koze kozé about reform started? From our cloud, all this seem so distant. Let’s come down to earth, please, shall we? That’s all we are asking. First Past the Post or Proportional Representation? For the difference it makes to our lives!

L’express Weekly 3 February 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on February 28, 2012

The price of ignorance

“ Every nation has the government it deserves.” This quotation, as you know, does not come from me. Nor was it uttered yesterday. The famous aphorism was written by Joseph de Maistre as far back as 1811 and was later enriched by Alexandre Lacassagne’s statement that “ every society has the criminals it deserves and Robert Kennedy’s response “ every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.” Having followed the debate on electoral reform, more specifi cally the Best Loser System, the suggestions made and the knee- jerk reactions; having woken up to the harsh reality which, in fact, most of us were not asleep to and discovered the ugly turn the debate has taken, we cannot help but think that every society has the electoral system it deserves and that reform can move no faster than our education.

We have for years been terribly busy trying to build a perfect image to portray to the outside world: a postcard of a rainbow nation made up of different communities who get on so well with each other in spite of our differences. We pray to the same god in our different ways, we boast. We have been hugging to ourselves the idea that we respect each other when other nations only tolerate each other. And we peddled the tale long enough to start believing in it.

Every now and then, we come face to face with the reality we try to systematically brush under the carpet. And we are not talking here about the collective confl icts in our history like the Kaya episode, the Azaan saga, the methadone distribution heavy- handedness… We are talking about the individual incidents in our lives when we are faced with the choices our siblings make for their lives, the few and repeated ‘ slips of the tongue’ we are guilty of, the tribal reactions we have, the attitude of superiority we adopt vis- à- vis other communities and other parts of our society. These make us see into ourselves and we realize that we are a society which has not evolved historically; a society where people still think they are superior or more deserving by their mere birth.

When looked at rationally, the Best Loser System, as everybody knows by now, favours no community and safeguards the interests of none. Those who are campaigning for maintaining it are intelligent enough to look at the statistics and the historical facts surrounding it. The reason that we are having such heated debate about such a trivial issue is proof enough that, once you scratch the veneer, the so- called rainbow nation is made up of people who are not united under the same fl ag but rather under the same “ noubanism” . And we are ALL guilty! The fears and apprehensions on the one hand and the outrage and incomprehension on the other are all proof of that.

What does it take to make us a nation? A bit more education in the real sense of the term. The kind which racism and communalism cannot obliterate. And hope. Hope that our children grow up with minds which are more open than ours. Right now, we are hammering on a cold iron. We should perhaps come to terms with the fact that we are probably not ready for electoral reform yet.

“ If you think education is expensive, try ignorance,” Derek Bok, said.

That’s what we are paying for today. Our birth complexes are due to our ignorance.

L’express Weekly 27 January 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on February 28, 2012

Much ado about nothing

The much anticipated M6 television programme on Mauritius was the highlight of the week for a rather bored nation greatly concerned about the picture we portray to the outside world.

We swayed between anticipation and dread at the promised revelations. In the end, what an anti- climax! In fact, we owe a thank you note to M6 for the wonderful free advertisement.

The image of a paradise destination was well conveyed. Better perhaps than through some of our exorbitant and hollow slogans. The princely suites the programme walks us into have to be the best in the world. What tourist would not dream of making our island their next destination? The beaches were superb, the range of water sports on offer were highlighted through a French kid who, by the way, has never had time to get out of the sea to discover our cinemas. And the Franco- Mauritian community came across as hard working, innovative and risk- taking and, barring an embarrassing moment when the Guimbeaus had to justify why out of all the employees on their payroll, the ones sitting in on the decision making were all white, they had nothing to apologize for.

The programme was one step ahead of our promotion campaign in that it has introduced the ‘ duty- free’ concept to the French public. Our ‘ branded’ clothes at a fraction of the real price rival the quality you get in Europe and can be delivered promptly thanks to the overtime of foreign workers. Yes, they are paid the meagre sum of Rs 40 an hour but then tourists don’t really care, do they? The drug chapter is no revelation either. The French know that we are big consumers of Subutex because they provide us with a regular supply of it and campaigned for the death peddler, Caterino, to be left alone to enjoy the fruits of his loot. As for us, the fact that we are the biggest users in Africa comes up in every report and is received with virtual indifference. The only embarrassing moment for us perhaps was the sight of two amateurs from the police force taking a leisurely walk in a supposedly very dangerous, drug- infested area and climbing up a slippery wall to peep inside a house of a supposed drug traffi cker! No gunshots, no reinforcement, no radio communication, no nothing; an embarrassment which has the silver lining of showing the French audience that even our supposedly dangerous areas are not as dangerous as all that. Thank you, M6! The promised revelation was perhaps the discovery of our homegrown shoe queen as she readily walked us into her shoe closet. Some might be tempted to compare her to Mrs. Marcos except that the latter had only 360 pairs of shoes. Our Lise Coindreau has 700 pairs, give or take 100. Wallowing in a euphoria only those who are not ironists can share, the shoe queen talked about how “ they”, whoever they are, are jealous of her because she is “ a woman, black and successful.” Somehow, when I think of “ black” successful women in this country, and there are thousands, Mrs. Shoequeen is not the fi rst to jump to mind.

Well, there was nothing more sinister than this. M6 did not talk about our taxi drivers and how some rip off the tourists or about some drunkard who raced on our public beaches threatening the safety of tourists and locals alike. For all that and more, thank you M6. Please come again.

Anytime.

L’express Weekly 20 January 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on February 28, 2012

The morality brigade marches on

It is difficult to understand the fuss around the Best Loser System ( BLS).

We fail to see which section of the Mauritian nation is reassured by a Michael Sik Yuen representing the interests of the population générale.

As to arguing that we owe our social and political stability to this archaic system, it is simply preposterous and demeaning. The outcome of doing away with it should not be overestimated either. Those who think it will change our mindsets just need to take a walk into one of our tertiary education institutions and rub shoulders with the intelligentsia of this country to realize that we will continue to soak in the murk of racism and communalism for generations to come. The latest eruption following Konrad Morgan’s resignation has brought all the reactionary, racist vermin out of the woodwork. And the Proportional Representation suggested to replace the BLS will do little to change this state of affairs: ethnic calculators will be working full blast when it comes to the selection of candidates on each party list. If you thought that competence would override other considerations, think again.

The symbolism of doing away with the BLS is, however, important as it will put an end to institutionalized communalism. Why the MMM is clinging to this system as if its life depended on it is not hard to understand. Pandering to a conservative reactionary electorate seems to have become its main business.

If you look at some of the knee- jerk reactions adopted throughout last year, you cannot help but think that it has been playing the role of the morality brigade on most of the social issues raised.

When government proposed to bring amendments to the domestic laws which discriminate against homosexuals, the reaction of the leader of the opposition was rather intriguing: “ Given the sensitivity of this issue, I think any future policy should be determined after extensive and wide consultations have been held.” In other words, never.

The MMM’s inclination to maintain the existing traditional order carried on with the same blitzkrieg when a proposal came up to throw off some of the social restrictions of the Victorian era by decriminalizing abortion. Harking back to the Middle Ages, the party has adopted a stand which betrays an ideology denoting a preference for practices which have evolved historically.

And the moral brigading has continued with the repeated parliamentary questions on massage parlours and sites like molamour. mu with a petulance which would suggest to the unwary observer that these are the biggest problems our society is facing.

We have reached a point in history where we need sweeping changes and there’s no half- way house. The abolition of the BLS is a tiny symbolic step towards that change. The role of the opposition is to take the lead. It should write out our dreams for the future for us and prevent us from limiting ourselves to what seems easy and comfortable or even possible. It should help our youth to articulate what they want from society and listen to their voices. By pandering to a few votes of the old dying generation, the MMM is missing out on opportunities to respond to the aspirations of the youth by celebrating and embracing change. Conservatism is corralling and gelding its policy. The virulence with which it is defending the BLS is proof that it is not ready to strike out of that trap and start looking forward. The “ remake” of 2000 is not going to get us there either.

L’express Weekly 13 January 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on February 28, 2012

The matchboxes we can afford

Father Jean Maurice Labour brought the housing polemic to the forefront again by publicly deploring the housing units being built to relocate the homeless. He qualifies these as matchboxes which are totally inadequate for the families they will be offered to.

Whether Jean Maurice Labour is right in looking a gift horse in the mouth or not is not the question here. We have far too much respect for him and what he stands for ( and he knows it) to engage in a polemic with him. The point rather is to draw a parallel with some other countries which are economically much better off than we are.

If you or I were living in Tokyo, for example, the best we could arguably hope for is a long thin, shoe- box shaped apartment, with a kitchen area and, with a bit of luck, a bathroom and a living space which would also serve as a bedroom. If we were very lucky, we would have a tiny balcony which we could jump off if we decided to join the 30 000 Japanese who commit suicide every year. Some of us would not even have the luxury of a bathroom and absolutely no privacy. Some of us would queue up at a public place to have a shower and rent a hotel room whenever we could afford a few hours of intimacy with the people we are legitimately married to. Not a bad thing, come to think of it, in countries where abortion is still a crime.

The point is that, as Architect Henry Loo says, “ By the end of the day, lodgings are merely a place to sleep. It is the organisation of social life which has to be taken into account.” We can talk about norms until the cows come home but, at the end of the day, the only norms are the norms that you and I, as taxpayers, can afford and what our priorities are. Is our priority getting people off the streets, away from the insalubrious squatters’ quarters and tea factories or to build a few big lodgings with a garden and one bedroom per child and leave the majority of the homeless in the tea factories until further notice? That is where the debate should start.

Yes! The lodgings offered are small. Yes, some large families may be cramped in them. Yes, families may not have all the privacy they want.

Neither do middle- class people in many parts of the world who pay for their lodgings. What Father Labour should fight for is the organisation of common areas around the housing estates: community centres where children have room to do their homework supervised by volunteers who really want to help them out of poverty; common playing grounds which would help children stay out of harm’s way; meeting places where women can get away from their houses, meet other people and learn a trade or a hobby… And Father Labour should also understand that large families, who are generally shackled with unwanted children, will always have insurmountable problems of promiscuity, lack of resources and lack of proper care for children. No government can afford to give an eleven- bedroom house to a large poor family. So, next time the debate on abortion crops up, maybe he should lie low and let other voices be heard. For the problem is much more complex than what it appears to be at face- value. This may not sound politically correct but giving families the dignity they deserve begins by empowering them to decide how many children they can afford to have.

L’express Weekly 6 January 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on February 28, 2012

One billion to win or lose

Last year ended with a forceful request from the public service unions to the government to grant civil servants an extra holiday on January 3 rd . This year could have begun with the prime minister enhancing his speech to the nation by officially acquiescing as a sop to the unions. He chose not to. Good on him. Good on the country. That could have put an end to an unhealthy tradition. Except that some officious guys in some ministries decided to grant a half day off to some employees. The issue will, therefore, crop up again with the same virulence and with threats ranging from the benign to the fashionable.

The tendency to regard holidays as a gift which the government can give is widespread. And rather disconcerting. The arguments vary.

This year, we didn’t find a better argument than the fact that one of the two public holidays was a Sunday and, since many private companies decided as usual to close during that period, an extra holiday on Monday was in order.

First, let’s get rid of the fallacy that the workers in the private sector get a better deal than those of the civil service. To begin with, the comparison itself is incongruous. Anyone who wants to claim the entitlements of the private sector should get off their hammocks and experience the nightmare of the lack of job security the private sector lives with, the performance evaluation, working on Saturdays and at odd hours and delivering the goods. But even without going into that, when a firm closes for New Year, for any length of time, the employees are using their own holidays. What this means, in fact, is a loss of holiday choice.

But more important perhaps is the alacrity with which such requests are made: asking the government to grant an extra public holiday is suggesting that they have the right and the legitimacy to do so. It is almost suggesting that the implications of an extra holiday are irrelevant. Now if you consider that the Annual GDP is around Rs350 billion and that there are 324 working days in a year, the cost of one single working day is about Rs1 billion! Can anyone seriously put a cogent case for allowing such waste? Quite how we’re going to work off the national debt at this rate, I’ve no idea.

This is not to say that we are anti- holiday. What we are saying is that government does not make the calendar. It does not decide on which day a public holiday falls. In fact, we would like to suggest that government should have no business even telling us when to take our holidays. In a country where there are so many religions and different cultures, public holidays are sometimes needed to express our national identity but they should be scaled back and citizens given more choice as to when they would like to take their holidays. Some may choose to take them for Easter, some for Eid ul Adha or other festivals meaningful to them. And those who have not recovered from their hangover by January 3 rd or have a tradition of visiting relatives can always take a holiday from the pool they have. There is no such thing as a free dinner.

Someone has to pay either through loss of choice or, worse, through footing the bill. And that someone is consistently the tax- payer.

L’express Weekly 25 December 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on February 28, 2012

Crucial decisions

We were promised a Christmas gift and a Christmas gift we got. The wrapping was pretty, the delivery of the gift timely but was it to everyone’s liking? Let’s start off by saying that no one expected the Carcassonne proposal to be perfect. Had there been a perfect electoral system, the whole world would have adopted it. So, whatever its shortcomings may be, and we are not going to start with those, the Carcassonne report is an excellent opportunity to structure the debate on electoral reform.

The fi rst striking element about the report is that it does not seem, a priori, to give an advantage to any party, big or small. The proportional representation it recommends means just that: each party gets a number of seats proportionate to the popularity it enjoys in the country. We have seen the First- Past- the- Post system produce freak results. It at times freezes out small parties and excludes some shades of opinion leaving swathes of the population un- represented. Not so with proportional representation.

What is more, each constituency gets a number of MPs proportionate to its size. And, far from the preposterous number of MPs suggested in the Sachs report, 92 paid from our hard- earned money, the electoral mechanism devised by Carcassonne and Co. actually fi nds that the number of representatives in our national assembly is high enough as it is and does not suggest increasing it.

The proposal also moves away from ethnic and sexist politics by providing a way out of the Best Loser System and encouraging representation of minorities and women. Having said that, however, the report does not deal a fi nal blow to these issues. Candidates on party lists will still have to be picked according to their ethnicity ( sorry, lifestyle) and their gender. Such limitations tend to push competence and experience way down the list.

What is worrying about the Carcassonne proposal in my view is the power it takes away from the people to place in the hands of the prime minister and a handful of senior ministers. As it is, these control the cabinet which controls the party caucus which controls parliament. According to the Carcassonne report, they will have the power to even co- opt ministers into cabinet from outside parliament. For the time being, the only person outside parliament the prime minister can nominate is the attorney general.

The leeway the Carcassonne report gives him is up to a third and even recommends that only a fraction of cabinet ministers be nominated from within parliament. The rationale behind this is clear: having people in cabinet who have the relevant competencies but not necessarily the ability or the will to canvass votes. Such people already exist and are at the service of the country: they are called civil servants. They work and advise. Policy making should, however, be left to legitimately elected people.

No one, of course, expected people to go to bat for the proposal lock, stock and barrel. Nor was it, I hope, meant for any other purpose than to generate debate. It has done just that.

Ultimately, the best system is one which refl ects the will of the people and most effectively checks the exercise of executive power. It is the people who will have to decide by the end of the day. Will they be given the opportunity to have a say in a matter which concerns them or will the proposal be shoved down their throats just because the experts think it is good for them? That is where, we think, the debate should begin.

L’express Weekly 16 December 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on February 28, 2012

Facing up

The Certificate of Primary Education ( CPE) results have grabbed all the headlines this week. And they are very similar to last year’s: over 90% pass rate in those schools where you need to forge your electricity bill for your children to get in and the verdict for the other schools is saddening. Should we rejoice at the 0.02% improvement? Ask me another! To be honest, the only ones who were sitting on the edge of their seats in anticipation for some good results this year were the parents of those pupils who took the exams. The rest of us knew that if there was an improvement, it would be so marginal and so insignifi cant as to be not worth highlighting. And unfortunately we were not disappointed. Every year, the verdict is met with denials and yawns. Every year, the results are followed by a press conference by the minister of education in place, some star school head teachers are given the opportunity to boast a little and everyone goes back to their usual activities. The evil is now so inveterate that it no longer shocks anyone.

Anyone who has been inside a school lately knows where reform should begin. Nine- year schooling has been repeated often enough as the only way to minimize the relevance of the CPE and its trauma on our kids. In spite of that, we spend so much time and energy debating more politically correct issues instead of tackling the source of the problem. We will recall how much time was devoted to issues like absenteeism in Form Six schools this year at the expense of more urgent issues such as fi nding ways of making our children literate and numerate by the time they leave primary school. It is not that we don’t know the answers. It is just that we do not have the courage to implement them.

The same reasoning and lack of courage applies to other issues like street hawkers. The same problem year in year out. December is a nightmare month and every December is the same. There are solutions. But they are too politically costly.

Indiscipline on our roads is another outrageous problem we are reluctant to fi nd a solution to. The consequences of some criminally dangerous drivers who, for some reason continue to risk their lives and those of others by ignoring the basic rules of driving, are not proportionate to the attention they are given. Anyone who stands in front of the McDonald’s in Port Louis, for example, any day of the week will not fail to see irresponsible drivers zigzagging on the road, using the wrong lane against all the internationally accepted conventions and getting away with it! The two cops planted there as décor are too busy talking to worry about trivial things like opportunistic and dangerous driving. There is not even a timid attempt to pull them off the roads. The only drivers who get sanctioned are those who exceed the ridiculously low speed limit on the motorway by one kilometre or two. Speed alone does not kill. Indiscipline does. And so does alcohol. Yet, go to any party these days and see how many people are worried about taking the wheel when they are hardly able to stand.

They know, you know and I know that the risk of them getting caught is so insignifi cant that there is nothing to worry about.

There will come a time when we will have to face our problems head on. That is when we will start making progress. Until then, let’s write the headlines for next year.