C onvicted successively in the second case of the Rs 950 crore Bihar fodder scam, Rashtriya Jata Dal (RJD) supremo Laloo Prasad is back behind bars. After holding him and 15 others guilty of corruption, the special CBI court will pronounce the quantum of sentence on January 3. This case relates to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 84.5 lakh in 1994-1996 from the Deogarh treasury when Prasad was Bihar CM also holding the Fince portfolio. This verdict has come 21 years after the scandal broke. Following the Pat High Court order in 1996 to inquire into the fodder scam cases, the charge-sheet in the Deogarh treasury case was filed the very next year. The RJD has now embarked on mission whitewash, painting itself a victim of vindictive politics and “casteist” Judiciary. Pointing out the party’s 80 seats in the present Bihar assembly, RJD leaders are vowing to appeal against the verdict at Pat High Court as well as approach the “people’s court”. Prasad’s bluster remains undiminished, thundering that his fight “for social justice” and “against fascist forces” will continue; he has even compared himself to the likes of Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. Conspiracy theorists in the RJD are sniffing a BJP plot to tarnish an opposition party by using the CBI as its using tool, while alleging a secret understanding with former Bihar CM Jaganth Mishra who has been acquitted by the Special CBI court. However, the fact remains that Laloo Prasad is an accused in as many as six fodder scam cases. When the verdict in the first case was handed down by Special CBI court on 30th September 2013, the Congress-led UPA was very much in power at the Centre, with RJD as its alliance partner in the government. All 45 accused including Laloo Prasad and Jaganth Mishra were held guilty in that verdict, relating to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37 crores from Chaibasa treasury in the early 1990s. Sentenced to 5-year rigorous imprisonment for corruption, the RJD supremo spent 70 days in jail before he got bail from the Supreme Court.
Laloo Prasad was then a Member of Parliament, and what transpired in September 2013 over the question of disqualifying tainted parliamentarians made headlines around the country. The Supreme Court had ruled in July 2013 that a sitting MP, MLA or MLC — if convicted for crimes that would disqualify them from contesting elections — would be immediately disqualified as a legislator too, irrespective of whether their appeal against such verdict was pending. The UPA government had then brought out an ordince to nullify the SC ruling and thereby revert to the earlier position allowing a sitting legislator to continue while their appeal was pending. During a media briefing on September 27, 2013, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi publicly shamed his own government, asserting that the ordince was “complete nonsense” and should be “torn up and thrown away”. A deeply embarrassed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had then instructed his cabinet to allow the ordince a quiet death. Surely, this ‘moment of truth’ for Rahul Gandhi ranks equally with the moment in 1985 when his father Rajiv Gandhi did some plain-speaking — that 85 percent of every rupee spent for the welfare of the poor never reaches them! Be as it may, Laloo Prasad on October 2013 was disqualified from the Lok Sabha, which led to the RJD’s disgruntlement with the Congress then beginning to rally under Rahul Gandhi. Cut to 2017 and Rahul Gandhi as the newly anointed Congress president appears much more steeped in realpolitik, having already cut a deal with RJD in July 2015 that brought the ‘mahagatbandhan’ to power. Having profited handsomely from that grand alliance, the RJD became the largest party in the Bihar assembly. But the law seems to be catching up with Laloo Prasad now, with members of his family entangled in bemi property cases. He may talk of a political witch-hunt, but there are still four more fodder scam cases lined up against him, including the Rs 184 crore fraudulent withdrawal case from Doranda treasury. Blaming the rival political dispensations in Pat and New Delhi and casting aspersions on judges will only get him so far. But the country has a huge problem saddled with corrupt politicians — who despite being found out by investigating agencies and convicted in court — continue to enjoy unlimited access to the corridors, if not seat, of power.
T he World Health Organisation (WHO) is reportedly
set to classify computer gaming as a mental health condition in 2018. The last time it had come out with such a list was way back in 1990, and its experts have been studying for nearly a decade how chronic computer gamers spend long hours hunched over their consoles, forgoing sleep, physical activity and exposure to sunlight. Such addictive behaviour can have serious health consequences, affecting 0.2 to 20 percent of computer game players. Many of them have revealed spending between 12 and 24 hours glued to their game screens. Health experts are particularly worried that some video action games have been found to have a damaging effect on the hippocampus, a key memory centre in the brain. While the experts hasten to add that many well-adjusted individuals play video games, the problem begins when online or offline gaming ‘takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities’, causing significant impairment in persol, family, social, educatiol, occupatiol or other important areas of functioning. It is true that video games can relieve stress, improve hand-eye coordition, enhance problem solving skills and even help in treating some health problems. But like any good thing, its excess is best avoided.