Tarun Tejpal, the inquisitor par excellence is now himself being pilloried in the media for his "bad lapse of judgment". This "bad lapse of judgment", however, comes with its own palliative – his literary worth, his courageous journalism, his mastery of the art form of essay, his Midas touch are narrated in the same breath. That makes me feel so inadequate because I must confess; I have not read anything by Tejpal - essays, fiction, whatever.

If we judge by the result, the terrorist strike in Patna failed to achieve its objective. The terrorists seek to disrupt normal life by injecting a deep sense of insecurity and fear, to break the even tenor of life, to disrupt the routine. It kills five and terrorizes a city of five million.

After DG Vanzara’s letter claiming mere agency for himself and scores of his colleagues cooling their heels in the jails for all the gory deeds that are being attributed to the police in Gujarat comes the allegations by the police that they were forced by the UP administration to wink at communal bloodbath.

The political parties who have now been made accountable under the RTI will not easily give up and the legal battle may be contested till the bitter end in the higher courts.

The death of the lowly police constable Tomar underlines the existentialist irony of the lives of policemen in general. Caught up in these irrational, lawless times where the temperature and virulence of public unrest has the potential to make or unmake political fortunes of parties, police lends its face to the invisible enemy in the war between those in power and those others in exile.

The acts of lawlessness by the miscreants in the funeral procession of late Brahmeshwar Mukhiyajee in Patna, last June, raised some issues which any detailed theory of police inaction needed to address: how does the concept of police function in our polity? What is the relation between the government and its police force? In a situation of conflict of interest between the people and the government where should the police position itself?

     For the last several decades ambitious political leaders have sought to create fiercely loyal battalions of bureaucratic palace guards who, if they pass the loyalty test, are exempted from every other. The idea of the neutrality of civil service has long since been jettisoned in practice and the civil servant and political masters often show the internal cohesion of predatory gangs.

We simply cannot wish away mafia. There are so many of them, active in areas which affect each one of us deeply. The resource mafia, illegally exploiting coal, timber and other forest produce wild life or, sand, depredate our environment. Or the development mafia bagging contracts for roads, bridges, railway lines and other projects takes away from us the fruits of planned growth. Or the land mafia, or the education mafia or the health mafia, the electricity mafia, or the co operative mafia. One could go on and on. And we live with them all the year round, relegating their activities to the basement of our brains.

No economy, least of all ours, where half the people lead an existence below the poverty level, can support the middle class dream of unbridled consumerism.  So it has been quick to learn the ropes of the “world of market efficiency with its corruption and dirty tricks” to fulfill its essentially unachievable dream.

Author's Note: This  story draws directly upon my experience of investigating the targeted Public Distribution programme in Bihar between 1996- 2002. The cost of lost opportunity to the poor in this grievously miscarried programme may have been to the tune of Rs. 3,500 to 4,000 crores. Midway the government divested me of the investigation and handed it over to the Vigilance. Not much has been heard of it since then. A thumbnail version of a larger project - the parable of the well paid public servant - implementation of poverty alleviation programmes in Bihar. The wise Mr Dang has a counterpart in real life as indeed any one who cares to read my post The Poor Must Prevail.