15 million reasons to stay

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Every week, lucky men and women in this country wake up to a jackpot offered to them by their friends and relatives in government and paid for by our hard-earned money. 

But thank God for our short memory! Every week, we show our indignation in front of our computers, we display our shock and then we relegate everything to memory. And those benefiting from the favours of their friends and relatives in government have learnt to bide their time, wait for us to forget and go back to the situation we had revolted against. 

This week, those who visited the duty-free shops at our airport must have been happily surprised to see the Hanoomanjee’s Esko biscuits bought at Rs12 a packet and sold at €17 a tin – through a magic recipe that we have not discovered yet – back on the shelves. Remember the controversy that arose when the biscuits first made their appearance in the duty-free shops and on the tables of some municipalities and ministries. Remember that, to avoid any further controversy about the speaker’s official house where these biscuits were packed and how the daughter managed to have a contract to deliver to the airport, the biscuits suddenly disappeared from the shelves. Well, now that we’ve forgotten, the biscuits are back and everyone is quiet and everyone is happy! A good ending to a fairy tale! 

But the Hanoomanjees are not the only happy souls this week. Former Minister of Environment Raj Dayal has just walked away with Rs15 million! Fifteen million in one fell swoop! He owes this gift – thank you taxpayers, really appreciated! – to a settlement that – rumour has it – coincided with his threatening to leave the National Assembly and trigger a much dreaded by-election in his rural constituency after having been ejected from his ministerial seat. 

Why Rs15 million? On whose advice? Last time Dayal approached the government for a settlement at the beginning of 2014, the Solicitor General, according to our sources, had sent a letter to the PMO where he advised not to pay more than Rs5 million and only “on humanitarian grounds”. He even added that Rs5 million was too high a price to pay. Was he consulted this time around? Did the State Law officers who appeared in the case before the Supreme Court take the view that the state would lose the case? That looks highly unlikely. As far as we know, there was a good defence in the case and the state has denied any responsibility or negligence. More importantly, the state has also argued that the case had been lodged out of its time limit, well after the two-year period allowed to lodge a case, as Dayal’s dismissal occurred in 2000 and the court case was lodged only in 2011! Would the court have entertained his case? An equally important question is: Even if Dayal had won his case, how much would he have been awarded to justify an out-of-court settlement to the tune of Rs15 million? 

Many questions we will never get any answers to. Many foolish but calculated decisions we will pay for. But we will soon forget as we always do! Thanks God for that sieve we have as memory!

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