It’s not the economics or politics. It’s the physics of it all that’s most interesting. And forget the confounding world of particle physics. Our government appears to have disproved the very basics of Newtonian mechanics—the three laws of motion that’s supposed to govern all that we see and do.

Take the First Law of Motion, also known as the Law of Inertia: a body continues to be in its state of rest or uniform motion unless acted upon by an external force. But the second United Progressive Alliance (UPA-II) is firmly at rest whatever forces are applied on it. It also cocks its snook at the Second Law, since its rate of change of momentum is totally disproportional to the force applied, and it doesn’t even necessarily take place in the same direction in which the force acts. The Third Law, of course, deals with action and reaction. One really does not need to elaborate how our government has been flouting that one for years. It does not react.

The last 10 days in the life of the nation, in which we also managed to slip in the empty rituals of an Independence Day, have been a low-rent circus. Baba Ramdev blocks central Delhi for hours, causing enormous traffic gridlocks. The police treat the whole thing with kid gloves since the last time they tried to get tough, they ended up over-reacting, and got condemned from all quarters. Hundreds of people would surely have missed their trains that afternoon when the Baba sealed several access routes to the two main railway stations of Delhi. One wonders how many of them were his devoted kapalbhati acolytes. What trade-off did they make in their minds between not being able to reach an ailing parent in Patna in time and the higher cause of getting money back from Switzerland?

The government hit back by leaking an audit report on the Baba’s various trusts, raising questions about misappropriation of funds, unregistered land deals and non-payment of taxes (OK, the Third Law flickered into life for a moment there). Ramdev’s supporters (and the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP) have termed this as “motivated". Of course it is, but if at least some of the charges are true, Ramdev isn’t really that blazing sword of Kalki, is he?

But while it was busy trying to fix the yoga guru, the government got hit by the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report on allotment of coal mines, harking back to a period when the Prime Minister was in charge of the coal ministry, after erstwhile coal minister Shibu Soren was convicted of murder (He has since been acquitted by a higher court; apparently there was some problem with the DNA sample of the victim).

Now, as we know from the 2G mess, CAG isn’t satisfied with any scam figure which is below 1 trillion (that’s 12 zeroes), so the “Coalgate" figures were impressive enough to send the opposition into apoplectic fits. Parliament has been disrupted for three consecutive days, and the Prime Minister’s resignation has been demanded.

Of course, as pointed out by economist Surjit Bhalla, if anyone looked at CAG’s calculations closely, it would be clear that that the watchdog seems to have forgotten both school math and accounting basics. The actual value of the revenue lost by the government when it gave away mining rights, instead of auctioning them, would be possibly 10% of CAG figure. Which, of course, does not make the government honest, but it does raise questions about the competence, credibility and public ambitions of CAG.

Meanwhile, there are lakhs of people crowding refugee camps in Assam, and thousands of young men and women from the North-East are heading home, scared. Pious comments have been made by all concerned, condemning this national disgrace. TV channels are running high-minded shows, which are aimed at helping us “understand" the North-East better. One fears that these programmes will only further reinforce the concept of the “other" in the minds of viewers, both from the North-East and elsewhere.

A Muslim mob ran amok in Mumbai, burning vehicles, attacking policemen; two people were killed. This was, of course, exactly what someone like Raj Thackeray was waiting for, so he got a massive crowd of supporters to stroll down from Marine Drive to Azad Maidan, bringing South Mumbai to a halt for a few hours. Reports suggest that his mob was larger than Ramdev’s. Inconvenience caused to the general public, one presumes, would have been the same as in Delhi.

As I write this, Parliament proceedings remain suspended, though coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal has made a statement that asking the Prime Minister to resign is unconstitutional. While no sane person will believe that the BJP’s sound and fury over the resignation demand signifies anything more than a pathetic attempt to stay relevant, the “unconstitutional" comment is intriguing. As intriguing as steel minister Beni Prasad Verma’s statement three days earlier that inflation was good because it benefited farmers. That one would have flummoxed everyone from Newton to Amartya Sen.

But first things first. It’s high time physicists revisited those laws of motion. Maybe the apple was a particularly hard one, and landed right on Sir Isaac’s head, addling the poor man’s mind. Or maybe, we could have an Empowered Parliamentary Committee to study those laws. That would be just right: classic Inertia, hinting at Momentum, while pretending to be a Reaction.

Sandipan Deb is a senior journalist and editor who is interested in puzzles of all forms. Comments are welcome at

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