An Air Marshal, his wife, the Balakot air strikes & a school
When he was given the green signal for the Balakot air strikes on 18 February last year, eight days before the operation, Air Marshal Hari Kumar, the air officer commanding-in-chief (AOC-in-C) of the Western Air Command, was preparing for his retirement by month-end.
This meant that all the planning for the air strikes had to be undertaken amid packing and farewell parties. Such was the secrecy that everything had to look normal and no programmes could be changed — officers involved could not even take their spouses into confidence, which put Kumar in a pickle.
On 25 February, hours before the air strikes were launched, the Air Marshal and his wife attended a formal dinner hosted by then IAF chief Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa at the Air Force mess near the PM’s residence in Delhi, where 80 other senior officers were also present.
While the Air Marshal and the IAF chief had the air strikes on their mind, Kumar’s wife was worried about different things.
A dream project of hers — a special school for IAF personnel’s children — was being inaugurated the next day at Chandigarh, and she was supposed to attend the event with her husband. The fact that her husband was attending as well meant they could use the IAF plane to reach Chandigarh.
On the way back from the dinner, when his wife reminded him that they had to leave the next day, he told her he would have to stay back for a meeting. Upset, she left for Chandigarh on her own — without the IAF plane.
However, she came to know the truth soon enough, as she switched on the TV around 9 am on 26 February and saw reports about the air strikes. She immediately called up her husband, saying the strikes had happened in the sector he oversaw. To this, a relieved Air Marshal Kumar told her that that was the reason why he could not accompany her. Her anger vanished and Mrs Kumar was ecstatic to know her husband was involved in the Balakot strikes.
Why Ashok Lavasa was not picked for J&K delimitation commission
Last month, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora picked election commissioner Sushil Chandra as a member of the government’s Delimitation Commission for Jammu and Kashmir, which is now a union territory.
The CEC could have nominated any of the three commissioners to the commission, including himself, but there was much speculation over why he didn’t pick Lavasa, who is in line to succeed Arora.
Lavasa has been at odds with the government ever since he dissented with his colleagues over clean chits for PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah in the face of alleged Model Code of Conduct violations during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
However, it is learnt that there’s nothing amiss in Arora’s decision. Lavasa was not picked for the job because his daughter Avny Lavasa is a serving IAS officer in J&K.
A device around Shashi Tharoor’s neck has people talking
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor is drawing everyone’s attention, again. The reason: He has been walking around with a portable air purifier around his neck.
Tharoor, who is usually seen with his magnetic specs (that split from the middle) hanging around his neck, elicited much curiosity as Parliament’s budget session resumed this week. Fellow MPs spotted a device strung around his neck, and several questions followed — was it a power bank? A GPS device?
Tharoor, who was also spotted with the device in the first part of the session last month, told them that it was an air purifier — a device he didn’t need in his constituency, Thiruvananthapuram, but one he required in Delhi.
The purifier can be recharged and is believed to clean up air within a three-foot radius of the person wearing it, making anti-pollution masks and sanitisers redundant.
When netizens asked Tharoor about the device on Twitter, he said it neutralised PM 2.5 toxins. “But the bigger problem in Delhi is what to do with the far more toxic and harmful PM 2.0 molecules of Mr Modi’s second term,” he added.
But the portable purifier isn’t the only reason Tharoor has been in the news. Observers have noticed how he has been increasingly employing Hindi in media interactions. Congress leaders believe it’s because his candidacy for the post of opposition leader in the Lok Sabha was rejected in favour of West Bengal’s Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury as the party felt Tharoor, a native Malayalam speaker, wasn’t fluent in Hindi.