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Unity in Crisis: AN APTITUDE TEST, By Dr S.Saraswathi, 29 April 2021 Print E-mail

Events & Issues

New Delhi, 29 April 2021

Unity in Crisis


By Dr S.Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)


The Supreme Court on 22nd April, on its own, took cognizance of the grave COVID-19  situation in the country and asked the Union government to furnish within 24 hours a national plan to “bolster supply of oxygen, medicines, treatment, and vaccines”. It is a “nationalhealth  emergency situation”  in the words of the Bench headed by the CJI. The Centre was asked to respond particularly to three issues – setting up a national body for equitable distribution of  these resources, declaring importantmedicines and medical equipment and oxygen as essential commoditiesunderESMA, andlogistics for seamless inter-State distributionof medicines and  oxygen.


All these issues are concernedwith sharing of required materials in the country among various States and UTs to control the epidemic. Distribution within the States, between districts, among hospitals and COVID centres,and among patients come next whenever and wherever there is scarcity of required goods. The problems that arise, various stand taken and attitudes shown by  concerned agencies and clients, and commentsmade and actions taken in this crisis betray the strength and weakness  of the nation’s ability and willingness to rise as one to fight a national   health disaster.COVID-19 affects the entire nation,but in different degrees in different places.   It is regrettable that the country has displayed its lowestlevel of unity and solidarity and meanness that surpasses imagination and needs judicial intervention.


True, people arenot incapable of acting together andhave acted as oneon several occasions, but we are cursed with dirty party politics, and parochial attachments like language, State, district, locality, community, etc., overtaking national feeling  and  sense of sharing.


The court asked whether the Centre had any coordinating body to consider distribution issues in  a consultative manner with States and UTs.The  second  wave ofthe pandemicis spreading   very fast and does not give time  for  deliberations. Butthatneed not prevent Statesfrom coming forward to act as one unit. 


Six  High  Courts  also  dealt  with similar cases and  had passed orders concerning distribution of  oxygen and drugs. The SC  directed Union and State/UT governments and other parties that  had approached courts to show cause why uniform orders be not passed by the SC regarding supply of  oxygen and drugs, vaccination programme,  lockdown, etc.


Obviously, panic has gripped the entire nation knockingat the doors of courts to seek judicial   remedy for thelack of unity between authorities engaged in fighting Coronavirus. This is another  addition to the burden of High Courts and Supreme Court to ease the tension building up between governments, politicalparties, andleaders.Federal setup, local bodies,  decentralisation, and delegation meant for better administration and meaningful participation are  being misused to promote narrowness in outlook. Contempt and notfriendship forms the basis of  relationships!


Delhi’s oxygen crisis has rocked the entire nation and several hospitals have approached the Delhi court. Complaints are made of blockage ofoxygen tanks in Haryana, and  failure of Delhi Government to make arrangement for tanks for supplies from other States. Delhi High Court’s observation that the efforts Delhi Government has to make cannot be trivialised, and they should not leave it entirely tothe Central Government to act in this regardwas needed to awaken  States/UTs  to realise their responsibility and act.


Union government asked the States on 23rd April to comply with Delhi High Court’s order on transport of oxygen and warned them that non-compliance would be treated as contempt of court  and would be proceeded against under the Disaster Management Act of  2005 and the IPC.  Home Ministry has also asked for details of oxygen plants in various States and to take action to reopen closed plants. Supply of oxygen for industrial purposes has been prohibited.


As oxygen shortage caused death of 24 patients in Delhi, even courts lose their patience. Delhi  High Court said that it would hang anyone who tried to obstruct oxygen supply to the city that could prove fatal for patients in  hospitals.“We are not going to spare anyone whether it is a senior officer or junior officer from Centre, State,or local authority”, said the court on the  ground that disruption of oxygen supply is a  “criminal offence”. Short supply and sudden increase in demand  cannot be a proper excuse for a State/UT  to put the blame entirely on the   Centre. 


Centre-State collaboration to find solutions is vital in the matter which is what is  lacking in this hour of crisis.Hopelessfallofnationalsentiments and human feelings!Power struggle dominates over everything.


The SC has also agreed to hear the plea on reopening the Sterlite Copper Plant in Tamil Nadu    which was closed  in 2018 due to pollution problem to produce thousand tonnes of oxygen and  supply it free of cost to COVID patients. The objection of the Government of Tamil Nadu was sternly set aside by the SC highlighting the health crisis in the country and rejecting the attempts “to put spokes in the solution”. Some politicalpartiesandNGOs also opposed the reopening of   the plant despite urgent need for oxygen for saving lives.


The CJI seemed extremely angry at the stand assumed by the State that there was no need to  produce oxygen in the State. “You can’t say you are in surplus, so you need not produce oxygen.  The country is  in bad need of oxygen. It should not be that every State produces and uses up its own oxygen…Oxygen must be produced from a place capable of producing it…The Constitution demands that material resources should be equally distributed all over the country”, the court had  to remind the States  which sounds like an elementary lesson on cooperative federalism not learnt by power holders/seekers.Tamil Nadu has now agreed to open the plant  for four months.


It is a clear case of lack of will to tackle the national crisis and find a solution ensuring compliance with environmental concerns and refusal and/or incapacity to see beyond one’s nose. Within couple of days, Tamil Nadu has urged PM to cancel the order to send 80 tonnes of  oxygen to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in view of rising cases in TN which will increase demand for oxygen.


That no State is self-sufficient is  sadly ignored. In the same way, no nation is self-sufficient, but rarely realised. Germany, France, Italy, and five more EU countries which agreed to coordinate vaccination campaigns and share data and fight online misinformation are somewhat different.


When sentiments are so narrow in the country, there is little justification to nurse grievance against US administration’sVax Policy “Americans First”, and stockpiling of vaccines for future use and ban on export of raw materials to produce vaccines to other countries. It has taken many days for US to modify its policy under the pressure of global crisis.


The pandemic haslaid bare the true colours of many actors in various places.It is not just a health crisis. It is  an aptitude testfor quality of Indian politics and national spirit. Bestand  worst facesof crisisbehaviour are exposed.---INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Gender Gap: DISTINCT ALTERATION CRUCIAL, By Dr. Oishee Mukherjee, 26 April 2021 Print E-mail


New Delhi, 26 April 2021  

Gender Gap


By Dr. Oishee Mukherjee


Bridging the gender gap is sadly not a top priority of the political class in India. While there is no denying the journey of women empowerment in the country has undergone change over decades, a lot more needs to be done. It is worth taking note of the latest World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, wherein India’s position slipped 28 places to rank 140th among 156 countries. It is the third-worst performer among South Asian countries, with Pakistan and Afghanistan trailing and Bangladesh being at the top.


Most of the decline has occurred on the Political Empowerment sub-index, where India has regressed 13.5 percentage points to reach a level of gap closed to date of just 27.6%. The main change that took place this year is the significant decline in the share of women among ministers, which halved, from 23.1% in 2019 to 9.1% in 2021. In addition, the share of women in Parliament remains stagnant at 14.4% and the share of the last 50 years in which a woman has been head of State is 15.5%.


Parliament records show that though women’s representation is at an all time high of 78 MPs (14 per cent) in the current Lok Sabha, women’s representation is far from impressive. Way back in 1998, the Inter-Parliamentary Union ranked India 95th globally in terms of women’s representation but this ranking slipped to the 148th position in January 2021. The situation in State Assemblies is not promising either. As per ADR report based on data compiled by the Election Commission of India, just 9% of a total 4120 legislators are women. The question arises why women’s representation is so dismal? The under representation of women, should undoubtedly be a serious concern for the world’s largest democracy.


Decline also took place on the Economic Participation and Opportunity sub-index, albeit to a lesser extent, notes the WEF report. India’s gender gap widened by 3% this year, leading to a 32.6% gap closed to date. Among the drivers of this decline is a decrease in women’s labour force participation rate, which fell from 24.8% to 22.3%. In addition, the share of women in professional and technical roles declined further to 29.2%. The share of women in senior and managerial positions also remains low: only 14.6% of these positions are held by women and there are only 8.9% of firms with female top managers.


Worse, women’s estimated earned income is only one-fifth of men’s, which puts India among the bottom 10 globally. Discrimination against women is also reflected in Health and Survival sub-index statistics. With 93.7% of this gap closed to date, India ranks among the bottom five countries in this sub-index. Wide sex ratio at birth gaps is due to high incidence of gender-based sex-selective practices. In addition, over one in four women has faced intimate violence in her lifetime. Conversely, 96.2% of the Educational Attainment sub-index gender gap has been closed, with parity achieved in primary, secondary and tertiary education. Yet, gender gaps persist in terms of literacy: one third of women are illiterate (34.2%) compared to 17.6% of men.


Clearly, the report needs sustained focus amongst the country’s policy planners, even though they can claim some improvement. The country’s position in the gender gap index of WEF fell in 2017 had fallen by as much as 21 points, putting us behind Bangladesh and China. This was primarily because of a worsening of the poor performance in the key areas of women in the economy and low wages given to them. The highly inadequate representation of women in apex decision making bodies like legislatures, senior management positions, bureaucracy and professional and technical sectors has seen some improvement in the last past to three years but much below the required levels. In fact, WEF said that in our country 66% of women’s work is unpaid compared to only 12% for men. This is indeed a pitiable scenario that needs to change.


Neglect of women has been discussed and debated for long and though the situation is changing it required a lot more time and effort to come out of our patriarchal mindset. Come to think of it, in our country where Durga is worshipped as the saviour goddess, riding a lion with 10 arms, each carrying a weapon to defeat the designs of evil and ensure the victory of good, women still lag far behind. Sociologists point out that Durga today is still a prisoner of a primeval, medieval, patriarchal mindset that sees no contradiction in worshipping a goddess but opposing the species that best represents the remarkable powers she is endowed with.


If Hindus accorded to the opposite sex, as a consequence of the pinnacle on which they place the goddess, at least a fraction of the reverence they reserve for her, there would have been a perceptible change in social behaviour and outlook.  However, with increase in education and awareness, one can reasonably believe that change in women’s status and position in society will change, though may not be at a fast pace.


In South Asia, which includes India, crimes against woman are high. From casual sexism to downright harassment, to not letting women exercise their right to choose, we live in a world where many women are now coming forth asking for their rights in the face of extreme patriarchy. When police personnel of large cities tell woman not to step out of the houses after a certain hour, it sends out a message that women are on their own if a crime is committed against them at odd hours.


And even though the strength of women personnel in State and UT police forces registered a significant 18% jump last year, with their share rising to 10.3% as on January 21 from 8.9% on January 2019, cumulative women officials are far less than required. The improvement may be welcome, but the percentage and numbers reflect male domination of police forces. Likewise, while women have lately started taking up jobs hitherto reserved for men, such as drivers of commercial vehicles like trucks, buses and ambulances and priestesses performing pujas, marriage etc, the overall employment position of women is rather dismal.


Feminists have highlighted the sexual division of ‘reproductive labour’ where women disproportionately bear the load of domestic chores, care and nurturing responsibilities, which eases male participation in ‘productive labour’ and allows the productive economy to continue running smoothly. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that women’s unpaid reproductive labour is the biggest social safety net that allows the wheels of the paid economy to continue moving. To start with household work needs to be shared while also ensuring that those who manage domestic chores have to be reimbursed some expenses.


Indeed, a genuine effort to bring about a perceptible transformation in the position and status of women is imperative. A lot more efforts are required, the initiative of which would have to be taken by women leaders, civil society organisations, judiciary, among others. An observation by Shirley Chisholm, first women African-American Congress member would be worth keeping in mind: “The emotional, sexual and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, ‘It’s a girl’! ---INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)




Haryana Job Law: REGRESSIVE FOR INDUSTRIAL BENEFIT, By Moin Qazi, 19 April 2021 Print E-mail


New Delhi, 19 April 2021 

Haryana Job Law


By Moin Qazi


There have been recurrent agendas in the political discourse arguing for reservations for locals in jobs. The idea has enjoyed a popular resurgence particularly in regional electoral politics. More often the logic is grounded in populism and is meant to burnish the credentials of politicians with the voters. Such quotas make for both poor economics and poor politics. Regional political leaders will normally do what is politically expedient, securing a larger share of a small number of new jobs for their own residents. After all, these individuals are part of their voting pool, not out-of-state workers who are registered as voters in their home States. 


The latest example onboard this bandwagon is Haryana. Its local job quota may do more harm than good, especially in Gurugram, one of the biggest startup hubs in the country. It is the epicentre for myriad industries including outsourcing, IT services, consumer goods, automobiles and electronics. With Manesar, it is home to offices of Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Google, Reckitt Benckiser Hindustan Unilever, American Express, Samsung and others, as well as factories of Maruti Suzuki and Hero MotoCorp.


The New Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act, 2020, in the footsteps of States such as Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, proposes to reserve at least 75% of jobs in private sector for locals, with a monthly remuneration of up to Rs 50,000. The quota will be applicable for a period of 10 years after it is notified by the government. A person who is domiciled in Haryana will be eligible to get benefit of job reservation. The law stipulates that companies can hire from outside the State if suitable local candidates cannot be found but the government has to be informed.


Gurugram is the world’s Business Promotion Management capital, employing about 5% of global BPM workforce and 13% of total Indian BPM workforce. The IT and IT-enabled services sector contributes about 10% to Haryana’s GDP and makes up for over 50% of the State’s exports. It is India’s largest auto hub and produces 50% of the country's passenger vehicles, 60% of motorcycles and 11% of the tractors. Of the total 250 original equipment manufacturers, 50% are present in Haryana, which has a strong base of 120,000 small and medium enterprises, which provide a network of auto ancillary companies. The automotive industry accounts for over 25% of its GDP, employs over 1 million, and has investments to the tune of Rs 40,000 crore.


Haryana is facing immense competition from other States that have now started attracting industrial investment and are offering liberal policies and employment-incentive schemes. The new local job law could severely reduce new investments in Haryana. Investors and entrepreneurs need to source the best resources to be competitive and successful. If companies are forced in such a regressive straightjacket and compelled to hire local candidates alone, irrespective of their skills, talent, or suitability for the job, they are likely to look beyond the State and avoid operating (or significantly reduce their business activities) in such locations. This move goes against the basic principle of meritocracy that acts as the foundation for businesses to grow and remain competitive.



However, such laws violate Article 19(1)(d), (e), and (g) of the Constitution which promises all citizens the fundamental right to move freely throughout India, reside or settle in any part of India, and to practice any profession, occupation, trade or business. Article 16(2) clearly prohibits discrimination based on place of birth. The only enabling provision to make special avenues or opportunities in public employment for any class of citizens is provided under Article 16(3), which empowers Parliament alone to undertake such an exercise and not the State legislatures.


The Supreme Court has largely been against local reservations. In the case of Pradeep Jain Vs Union of India, the Court had found policies of reserving jobs for sons of the soil as violative of the Constitution. However, the Court did not provide an express rule against it because the issues of the case were based on a different question on the right to equality. Prima facie, the apex court observed, that this would seem to be constitutionally impermissible though it chose not to express any definite opinion.


In 1995, in case of Sunanda Reddy Vs state of Andhra Pradesh, it upheld the decision in Pradeep Jain and struck down the policy that allowed an extra 5% weightage in marks for candidates with Telugu as a medium of their instruction. In this judgment, the Court quoted from the Pradeep Jain Judgement: Now if India is one nation and there is only one citizenship, namely, citizenship of India, and every citizen has a right to move freely throughout the territory of India and to reside and settle in any part of India…. it is difficult to see how a citizen having his permanent home in Tamil Nadu or speaking Tamil language can be regarded as an outsider in Uttar Pradesh….To regard him as an outsider would be to deny him his constitutional rights and to derecognise the essential unity and integrity of the country by treating it as if it were a mere conglomeration of independent States”.


Modern management also espouses diversity in workforce in order to promote a healthy industrial climate. Experience of the past suggests that preference to locals by companies has led to intractable industrial problems. Local monopolies in staff profiles have given rise to trade unions, which have been patronised by local politicians and have severely affected productivity and jeopardised working of these organizations. In fact, complex labour regulations have already retarded formal job creation and discouraged promotion of labour-intensive production techniques.


This approach is aimed more at garnering political support of the local youth and has little to do with the State’s long term economic development. While it may fetch immediate political gains it can have serious long term economic consequences. Modern business has become extremely competitive, and in the absence of monopolistic controls, the most efficient and competitive businesses alone can survive and prosper. We are seeing how the public sector is slowly collapsing on account of misguided political agendas. There is need to see beyond purely myopic horizons and focus on long term implications for the economy.


India’s industrial growth has been driven by its comparative advantage in areas such as information technology and high-end manufacturing that do not create enough new jobs, given India’s youthful demographic profile and its fast-growing workforce. Industrial laws are a major reason for this phenomenon. The government must encourage free flow of manpower; it can improve social harmony and curb local chauvinism. The cross cultural exchange can also lead to cross-pollination of ideas and improve not just social harmony but enrich learning and innovation. It could also promote a healthier work ethic, something India woefully lacks.


An industry requires skilled workforce to produce high quality products that are globally competitive. Hiring has to be done on the basis of merit and talent rather than candidate’s domicile. The reason for the industry to employ candidates from outside the State is due to the shortage of adequately skilled and locally available manpower. Mandating private industry to provide jobs based on a domicile criterion will severely affect efficiency of these organisations as it will be forced to compromise on job specific skillset, experience and competitiveness. A rethink is necessary--practical rather than political. ---INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Bodies In Ganges: NOT JUST BIHAR’S CONCERN, By Insaf, 15 May 2021 Print E-mail

Round The States

New Delhi, 15 May 2021

Bodies In Ganges


By Insaf

 No dignity in death, an expression that too shall illustrate India’s second wave of the pandemic. This week, the depressing pictures of dead bodies of Covid patients lined up at crematoria or burial grounds got a worse addition. Bodies floating on Ganges banks in Bihar’s Buxar district came as a horrendous shock to authorities and residents. At least 71 bodies were fished out here and some bodies have been found floating near the Gulabi Ghat in Patna.The total count is anybody’s guess. The present should make authorities realizethat it’s not just a system failure to tackle the pandemic and save lives, but to ensure the dead are not deprived of last rites. More importantly, this is not the time of a blame game, which has erupted with its neighbourUttar Pradesh.Bihar has accused the latter of dumping bodies, saying one, these have floated down from Varanasi, Allahabad, etc and two, the State’s tradition is to burn a body and not consign it to water. UP has refuted the accusation. However, it finds human corpses floating now in the holy river in Ballia, Ghazipur districts, 50-odd bodies at Bharauli, Ujiyar, and Kulhadia ghats in Narahi area. The two States should instead add another item on its Must Do list: Offer affordable cremation facilities. A wooden pyre is said to cost Rs 8000-odd in normal course, which now is doubled. Can the poor be faulted to use the Ganges as an option? States along the Ganga being advised by Centre to have ‘strict vigilance’ and prevent people from dumping bodies in the water, is not enough.

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Goa Covid Deaths

Famed tourist destination, Goa, no longer can continue to bask in this glory. It must change priorities —from fancy beach resorts and restaurants to building medical infrastructure. Shockingly, this week alone, 75 Covid patients died in government-run Goa Medical College,  due to oxygen supply: “logistical issues involved in maneuvering the tractor which carries the trolleys of oxygen and in connecting the cylinders to the manifold (group of large gas cylinders).” Did the BJP-ruled State and its bureaucracy not see the writing on the wall? Have the deaths, 26 on Tuesday and another 21 on Wednesday, 15 on Thursday and 13 on Friday last shaken off its complacency? Opposition Congress it’s not just leadership failure but a one-upmanship tussle between Chief Minister Sawant and Health Minister Rane. Sawant set up a 3-member panel last month to supervise Covid-19 cases in government hospitals, without involving Rane. Though CM assured the public ‘State had 100% oxygen’, why couldn’t his team ensure patients got cylinders on time? Hearing PILs on GMC tragedy, the Bombay HC, told the administration “to find out ways and means to overcome these logistical issues so that precious life is not lost on account of any deficiencies in the matter of supply of oxygen to patients.” Sooner than later.

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Change of Guard In Assam

Assam has overcome its share of power struggle. Installing a new leadership despite BJP retaining power for the 2nd term, did raise many an eyebrow. HimantaBiswaSarma, eventually took oath on Monday last as the 15th Chief Minister, replacing SarbanandaSonowal, who had led the party and Mitrajot’ alliance of AGP and UPPL to an impressive victory. Why, is the big question? Locals opine: Sarma had cultivated national leadership, his shrewd and aggressive nature particularly gelled with Modi and Shah and ‘upper’ caste background tilted the scales against Sonowal, who though had a successful inning, was a tribal, sober and not as savvy. The State impasse of who should be top man was resolved by New Delhi. And while Sarma can be happy achieving his dream of becoming the CM finally, he needs to deliver: checking spread of Covid, revival of NRC and providing jobs. Remember, Rs 17000 crore was spent on NRC exercise. Where will he get funds for his aim for ‘re-verification’ of the published list? How will he fulfil poll promise of creating 1 crore jobs, when 1 lakh posts are lying vacant in the Secretariat since past 5 years? Wonder whether his plan to pursue “ideals and values” of Modi to take State to new heights, will work!

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Rumblings In UP

It’s a classic case of adding insult to injury. If the Allahabad High Court’s scathing rap was not enough, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has his party MLAs/MPs joining the chorus on  mishandling of the pandemic. The HC has asked the government to rethink, raise amount of compensation to polling officers who died of covid during panchayat poll duty from Rs 30 lakhs, to at least Rs 1 crore. Earlier, it observed the government, had failed to fathom the disastrous impact of these polls. Infection has reached villages and how will people be treated when urban areas have failed. The inimitable Yogi may have contested this, but his own brood of BJP legislators are raising concerns, written to him over hospital beds’ shortage as they are getting SOS calls in their constituencies, 4 MLAs have died and some lost their relatives.  Worse, authorities aren’t cooperating, forcing Yogi to pay visits to hospitals and having his ministers to exude confidence the situation is improving. Is it? Yogi will do well to remember the famous quote: You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.

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Determined Farmers

Never give up! Yes, the farmers at the Delhi borders relentlessly focus on their mission, despite the second wave of Covid having completely overshadowed their protest against the three farm laws. With many still continue to head towards Tikri and Singhu sites, the Sanyunkt Kisan Morcha leaders have set another task—prepare for Covid emergencies. While adherence to Covid protocols is being regularly announced, a makeshift hospital at Singhu border has been set up and availability of oxygen cylinders and concentrators underway. A team of doctors is at the site to attend to people falling sick, area sprayed with sanitizer etc and appeal to activists to refrain from coming for a couple of weeks, as the numbers shouldn’t go beyond 10,000. Interestingly, the next round of Assembly polls in 2022, specially in UP, is on the radar. A roadmap is under way to launch a campaign against the ruling-BJP and have leaders move there after lifting of lockdown. Guess, the Centre has underestimated the farmers, like the handling of the pandemic.   

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Buses Now Ambulances

Mini buses converted into ambulances! What an idea. It comes from Haryana’s Jhajjar district, enhancing Indian’s capacity for juggar (ingenuity). Lack of infrastructure and miserable handling of rising number of covid cases in the State has had the Bus Depot of Haryana State Transport here to convert five of its mini buses into ambulances for Covid patients. The buses, sent from Narnaul and Panipat depots, have been equipped with four beds each, stretchers, sanitisers, and PPE kits, following instructions by the State transport director. Oxygen facility is to be added soon. The initiative interestingly comes after official realised that every resource must be tapped by departments to manage the crisis. Since last year, Jhajjar’s official figures of covid cases is 13,491, of which 11,886 have recovered and 144 died. But with the second wave, situation has worsened. The bus experiment is on lines of 20 police vehicles earlier being converted into ambulances and handed by the district police to the health department. Guess, other than appreciation, the idea should hit the road in other States too. ---INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

TN, Bengal Bashing: ECI MUST PUT HOUSE IN ORDER, By Insaf, 8 May 2021 Print E-mail

Round The States

New Delhi, 8 May 2021

TN, Bengal Bashing


By Insaf


The authority and independence of Nirvachan Sadan has gone down like nine pins. This round of Assembly elections indeed has taken a huge toll on its sanctity and won’t be forgotten. Be it the Madras High Court or the unequivocal bashing by victorious TMC in West Bengal, the Election Commission, would be smarting like never before. Moreso, since Thursday last, after  Supreme Court refused to expunge Madras HCremarks, which held the poll panel ‘solely responsible’ for the surge in COVID cases in the country, observing its officials “should be put on murder charges” for “not stopping political parties from wanton abuse of the Covid-19 protocol” in poll rallies. Besides, its plea to restrain mediafrom reporting judicial observations was also not upheld. This, said the court would be “retrograde” act. Courts, it said “have to remain alive to evolving technology of media, it is not good, if it’s restrained from reporting judicial proceedings,” as these are “in the larger public interest”. The ECI had argued through its SLP that the HC’s remarks were “uncalled for, blatantly disparaging and derogatory…had made serious allegations of murder on another independent constitutional authority (ECI) without any basis, which has ultimately dented both the institutions.” The apex court was in  disagreementhere too: “We have to protect the judicial sanctity of the process…to make sure that High Court judges and Chief Justices are independent to make views.” Guess, the only option left for the ECI is to set its house in order and remember a stitch in time saves nine. It better start preparing for 2022.  


Centre-Bengal Row Kicks Off

Predictably, the Centre and West Bengal pow-wow has already begun. Before even the election dust settles in. Post-poll violence in which 16 persons died, majority as claimed by the BJP being their cadre, has the Ministry of Home Affairs breathing down Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s neck. Governor Dhankar too expectedly hasn’t held back and chose to offerher advice during her oath-taking ceremony on Wednesday last, saying contain violence. 48 hours later, a 4-member team tasked by Amit Shah to look into the reasons for violence, met Dhankar seeking a report on law and order situation. Notwithstanding, Mamata having appealed to ‘all political parties’ to ensure peace prevails in the State. There is some sporadic violence after the election, she said and “We have to control that with a strong hand. In the last two months, the administration system was run by the Election Commission. There was some inefficiency. We have to change the whole setup immediately.” Which she did—hitting where it hurts hard for the EC. Within hours of assuming office, she initiated a major reshuffle in the police and transferred 29 top police officers, mostly those shifted by EC to the polls. But she still hasn’t replied to the MHA, despite its warning “if the situation report is not received at once, it will be viewed seriously.” How serious, is the question. Surely, Modi-Amit Shah team cannot be seen to be crying over spilt milk.    


Maratha Quota Struck Down

The timing couldn’t have been worse. In the thick of battling the pandemic, Maharashtra has to grapple with Supreme Court striking down provisions of a state law which provided over 50% quota to Maratha community. On Wednesday last, a five-judge Constitutional bench said “The 50% rule…is to fulfil the objective of equality as engrafted in Article 14 of which Articles 15 and 16 are facets… To change the 50% limit is to have a society which is not founded on equality but based on caste rule.” It cautioned by saying democracy is “an essential feature of our Constitution…If reservation goes above 50% limit…it will be slippery slope, the political pressure, make it hardly to reduce the same.” It was also firm that data collected and tabled by clearly proves that Marathas are not socially/educationally backward class, rather they “are dominant forward class and in mainstream of national life”. Besides, the government hadn’t offered any ‘extra-ordinary circumstances’ to raise the quota as required! Thus, a piece of advice for Thackeray government: Providing quota is not the only means and method for improving welfare of backward class advancement. Instead, the State “ought to bring other measures including providing educational facilities to members of backward class free of cost giving concession in fee, providing opportunities for skill development to enable the candidates from the backward class to be self-reliant”. Importantly, it’s observation “when more people aspire for backwardness instead of forwardness, the country itself stagnates which situation is not in accord with constitutional objectives”, would stand good for all States, rather the entire nation. Will are political class pay heed and stop appeasement politics?



New Era For DMK

Finally, he takes over the coveted seat, has stepped into his father’s shoes, but how long it will take him to create his own legacy, is a big question. On Friday last, DMK President M K Stalin was sworn in as Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister. Along with him, 33 of MLAs took oath as ministers at the Raj Bhavan. It was a mix of youth and the experienced, with many former ministers inducted. Following his father M Karunanidhi’s demise in August 2018, Stalin took over the party reins. His long political career has seen him as the party’s youth wing secretary for four decades since he was elected in 1982; was Mayor of Chennai 1996-2011 and was Deputy Chief Minister, 2009-2011. While it’s the 6thtime the top post is from DMK since 1967 and his party managed to pull through a majority on its own, it wasn’t a sweep as claimed of 200 seats, banking on the anti-incumbency factor, with rival AIADMK in power these past 10 years. He and his party should thank the AIADMK’s folly of having an alliance with the BJP, as the former’s silence on minority issues and support of its MPs for CAA in Delhi, seemed to have alienated its vote bank, a section of minorities. Not getting a landslide victory undoubtedly would be a disappointment for Stalin, but he would do well now to chart out a road for the next five years of good governance, to help him step out of the shadows of his legendary father and AIADMK’s Late Jayalalitha. A tall order indeed, but if there’s a will, there is a way


Karnataka Covid Scam

BJP-ruled Karnataka must singe with anger. It’s health care system in the Covid crisis smacks of ‘corruption’in allotment of hospital beds and crass ‘delay in oxygen supply’which claimed 23 lives. The Yediyurappa government has had to order investigation in both cases. The first, by crime branch after its party MP Tejasvi Surya and 2 MLAs alleged “bribes are being taken to allocate Covid beds.” An unholy nexus of Bengaluru municipal corporation officers, Arogya Mitras and some private agents, claimed Surya has led to “artificial shortage” of beds. And, while patients are getting discharged, many dying, the corporation website “at any point of the day, shows all beds are blocked. How does this happen?” is the big question. In the 2nd case, probe by a retired High Court judge is ordered into the tragic death of 23 persons due to alleged lack of oxygen supply in Chamarajanagar district hospital. Its DC has blamed his Mysuru counterpart saying the tragedycould have been averted if Mysuru had given oxygen on time. “This has been going on for a week to 10 days now. I had also informed the Chief Secretary and district in-charge minister and even nodal officers/team handling oxygen distribution.”His counterpart has denied all accusations. Nevertheless, the investigations must to expedited and theguilty be held accountable. That is the least, the government can do for the grief-stricken families. 


Jammu BJP Brawl

All is not well in J&K BJP. Accusations of corruption against MoS in PMO Jitender Singh by Jammu senior leader and former MLC Vikram Randhawa has got the top brass seeing red. State President has issued a show cause notice to Randhawa to prove his charges or else face disciplinary action. At a press conference, Randhawa, who is also President, Stone Crushers’ Association accused the District Mining Officer of collecting money from the mining mafia ‘on behalf of Singh and his personal staff based in Jammu’. He claimed the DMO had raided 14 of the 45-odd stone crushers, including his, and slapped penalty ranging from Rs 20-25 lakh for illegal mining, though these were registered with the UT administration. Plus, he accused Singh of patronising the mining mafia in illegal extraction of minor minerals from river Tawi and that both DC and SSP were too involved. Singh on the other hand, has denied the charges outright, served a notice demanding an unconditional apology and threatened a suit off Rs 1 crore in damages. While the party, in damage control mode awaits Randhawa’s response, the Opposition is clamouring for Singh’s resignation. Who will have the last laugh? ---INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)


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