33

Parliamental – Book Review

Book: Parliamental

Author: Meghnad S.

Reviewed By: Manas Mukul

Publisher: HarperCollins India (2nd July 2019)

Price: 299 INR

Pages: 220 (Paperback)

ISBN-10: 935357059X

ISBN-13: 978-9353570590

Language: English

Genre: Political Satire

My rating: 4/5

 

At 11 am every day, during a parliament session, we witness the proceedings of both the houses through their respective channels. A speaker or chairman heads the overall functioning and MPs from both the sides, in power and opposition, go at each other. For the majority of sessions, you will observe uproar or that the house is adjourned, while on some occasion regular business does take place. In all the confusing chaos that unravels the onlooker feels that given a chance they will simply behead each other.

Well a lot goes on behind the scenes too – while a bill is being introduced, while sharing meals in the canteen, while the members interact with each other outside the parliament, etc. ‘Parliamental’ by Meghnad S. is a political satire, which tries to showcase what goes behind walls and in those power galleries.

I keenly follow politics and have opinions about them; sometimes they take the form of words and end up as tweets or on my blog or like most of the times they simply remain between my ears that gets replaced by a new topic almost every morning. I would like to express my gratitude towards Blogchatter’s Book Review Program for considering me this book review, which gave me an option to explore and review a favorite genre like humor and satire.

About the Author

Meghnad is a columnist, public policy professional and podcaster. He has his own show, Consti-tution, on the Newslaundry and is an influencer on Twitter with the handle @memeghnad. He also travels all over the country to conduct civics classes under the banner Democracy IRL. His articles have appeared and gone viral on BuzzFeed and other content websites.

My Review

The cover of the book is ‘cartoonish-ly’ done and you might recognize some of the faces from a current lot of politicians. ‘Parliamental’ is a great title for the book as it is in complete sync with what goes on in the parliament as well as the satirical tone. The back cover contains the blurb along with a unique thing – some one-line reviews; they are from the characters of the book, for better understanding you will have to grab a copy.

The story mainly revolves around two characters – Raghav Marathe, a young policy analyst bustling with restless energy to bring about a change in the system and Prabhu Srikar, a first time MP whose analyst Raghav is. The story throws up some important supporting characters too – Nikita, a journalist, Helen, a YouTuber, Dushyant, a lawyer, etc.

The story begins with Srikar receiving the news of his surprise victory and how he becomes a first time MP from being a sharp businessman. Raghav, his neighbor, who helped him during his election campaign and speeches, is entrusted with a similar responsibility along with helping Srikar with policy analysis. Srikar tries to stick his neck out whenever he isn’t comfortable about a certain political situation even if it meant going against the wishes of his political party.

Back Cover with Blurb

When a new bill is introduced that threatens freedom of expression on social media, they all unite together to take on the might of the system. During all of this Raghav through his twitter alter ego, @Arnavinator tries to expose the hidden secrets and things that were not meant to see the light of the day. There is a back-story as to why he decides to choose this particular name.

Meghnad craft fully uses satire using simple words and not heavy political jargons. He shows his funny side through the footnotes that are meanings of the regional words but with a comic twist to them. You will constantly have a smile on your face throughout the book. It was smart of him to use a story as the backdrop to highlight the issues rather than putting it out as non-fiction with real names and characters. He even takes potshots at himself with lines like – ‘Raghav felt like the protagonist in a political satire novel.’

The book is crisp and unputdownable and the vocabulary helps. The editing is sharp and polished and it definitely reflects. With less than 200 story pages it is a fast read and even though the book is a fictional political satire, it goes at a thriller pace and keeps you invested till the very end.

Using his sardonic style, Meghnad touches many contemporary serious issues like social media regulation, anti-defection, corruption, etc. He has about seven years of experience of working with members of parliament and none of it goes to waste. No real-life names have been used but that can’t be said for the reference. If you read closely and look widely you will figure out who is who.

The plot is predictable and a bit clichéd and the story end up abruptly. The build-up is nice but once you reach the end you might get a feeling that it ended in a rush. I have mentioned this previously; an extra chapter would do no harm to such a fast-paced book till the time the story is perfectly spaced out.

Overall, it’s a story about how a common man gets entangled and travels through the corridors of power and tries to change or at best question and expose the system. Does he become successful in his motive, for that you need to pick a copy of the book?

Verdict

India is a country where after cricket, which is a religion, and Bollywood, which is everyone’s fascination, political discussion is like a meal. You will find people banging their heads with each other about current political events or ideologies at every tea stall, or during any train journey or while simply waiting in a queue.

The book is a welcome fodder for all those political analysts. I am going with four stars for ‘Parliamental’ by Meghnad S. – three and a half for the satire and the extra half for the amazingly humorous and creative footnotes. This page-turner is a must-read.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This review was done as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program. Please sign up if you are a bibliophile.

My side of the bargain – an honest review – Find the Book here on Goodreads and Amazon.

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16

B – Banking

B – Banking #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z

Banking is the institution that has taken the biggest toll with respect to its credibility during the last five years. With the government dumping most of the reports that are produced by either the government agencies themselves or come out as a part of PILs / RTIs, the integrity becomes questionable.

The only time when during the tenure of five years, the RBI has become so weak losing two governors in the process. But a common man cannot ask questions to the government.

Some positives:

The thing that goes in the favor of the government is the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code introduced in 2016, was passed in parliament to address the issue of NPAs. The code allows either the creditor or the borrower to approach the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to initiate insolvency proceedings

The other big plus is the much-publicized Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna (PMJDY) which was a renaming of the ‘Basic Savings Bank Deposit Accounts (BSBDA) scheme of the previous UPA government. In 2012, the ‘no-frills account’ was renamed as ‘Basic Savings Bank Deposit Accounts (BSBDA).

Let’s get straight to some facts and data.

The present government has been very vocal in listing out that they have inherited most of the NPAs from the previous regime and they are the ones who have kept a check on it.

As per an Economic Times report, Gross non-performing assets on public sector banks surged to Rs 7.8 lakh crore as of December 2018 from Rs 2.4 lakh crore in June 2014. Private sector banks have too witnessed a substantial increase in bad loans in the last four years. I don’t need to say much on this, it is for everyone to decide.

Moving on to the other issue of bank accounts. An astonishing amount of about 32 crore bank accounts were opened in the PMJDY. At least 18 crore accounts were opened in rural and semi-urban centers while more than 13 crore accounts opened in urban metro centers.

The opening of bank accounts is one thing but their actual contribution to the inclusion of unprivileged in the mainstream is another.

The accounts opened under the PMJDY are zero balance account, that means banks cannot levy any charges for not maintaining the MAB. The other benefits include insurance cover of Rs. 30000 and overdraft facilities and many individuals who already have bank accounts may have had accounts created for them, lured by these facilities.

“Our preliminary estimation shows that around 25 percent of accounts are a repeat or multiple accounts opened by people already holding accounts in different banks,” said G S Sandhu, secretary for financial services in the ministry of finance.

According to a paper published in May 2017 by Manuela Kristin Günther from the Overseas Development Institute, 90% of Indian households have at least one bank account as opposed to the government’s claim of over 99%. Of these, the paper pointed out that 79% of the households with Jan Dhan accounts also have a regular bank account.

On top of this, even a statement from the current finance minister says that about 22-25% of these are lying empty.

On average a bank account costs Rs. 125 to the bank to maintain that account. Apart from charges related to non-maintenance of MAB, SBI had an annual maintenance fee of Rs 125-300 for debit cards depending on the category of the card.

Nobody questions how much it is costing the government to maintain these accounts and whether these accounts are actually serving the purpose they were supposed to.

In the past four years, 25 banks – including public and private sector banks have collectively collected 11500 cr for not maintaining MAB, which is more than the total money owed by Vijaya Mallya.

To be honest, it usually the poor and the lower middle class who is unable to maintain the minimum account balance. When you want to encourage people to use more of mainstream banking then you should incentivize it rather than penalizing. What happened to the ‘cashless economy’ after demonetization? As per RBI, the cash in circulation is even more than what it was pre-demo. PMJDY is heading in the same direction

A single account opened in United Bank of India, under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY), or the ‘no frills’ or Basic Savings Bank Deposit Account (BSBDA) had a whopping Rs 93.82 crore deposited.

These accounts have become an easy place to launder money and without proper checks and the government shelving reports after reports the NPAs and Black Money is not going anywhere.

 

For all those who are fed up with the policies,

For all those who hate fines,

For all those who hate NPAs,

And

For all those who are in Banking…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This is the second post for the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z. My theme in Politics Category is ‘IPL – Indian Parliamentary League’, where I would be covering some relevant issues with the General Elections 2019 through the course of 26 posts.

‘B – Banking’

Read the previous post here

A – Anti-National

Please do visit tomorrow for the next post with letter ‘C’

I am also taking part in the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z using another theme – ‘Dubai – City of Gold‘. If you love travel head over to the Travel Theme and share your feedback.