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February 18, 2010

Naxalism 2009-Operation Green Hunt and beyond

GONE WAS the year when naxalism or “ultras” phenomenon emerged as a major internal security threat making its presence felt in the public arena. The naxalites not only extended their area of influence beyond the Red Corridor but also shook the centres of power with their changing tactics. Things have gone to such an extent that our Prime minister openly acknowledged naxalism as a major threat the country is facing in the present times.

According to Govt. estimates rebels have made their presence felt in more than 223 districts of India’s 600 odd districts across 20 states. Following the open conflicts in West Bengal district of Lalgarh, the Central Govt. banned the naxal front organization CPI(Maoist) on June 23, 2009.On November 11, the Operation Green Hunt was initiated with the blessings of Home minister P.Chidambaram with the objective of cleansing naxalism from the Indian main land. 50,000 soldiers were deployed for a period of two years for this operation. State specific resistance has already been in force in the form of Salwa Judum(Chattisgarh),Grey Hounds(Andhra Pradesh) and COBRA(Orissa).

Many leaders like Kobad Gandhi, Chattradhar Mahato, Chandrabhushan Yadav etc. were arrested. The government has also initiated publicity campaigns in order to garner support from the general public in their efforts to crack down on the naxals. The pictures of Francis Induwar, the special branch Inspector beheaded by naxals had been widely used by the government to show the ultras in poor light, who otherwise enjoy the moral support of Indian intelligentsia and human rights groups. Allegations of naxal connection with terror out fits like Al-Queda were also made. Occasional voices were also heard about the Chinese support to the naxal movement in India.

On the other side the naxals continued to expand their influence by making use of the backwardness and exploitation in tribal regions. The number of attacks with police and paramilitary forces increased and more stories soaked in blood came out. It is estimated that about 2600 people were killed in naxal attacks during the past three years, the majority of which were policemen.

Chattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa were the worst affected. Election processes was disturbed at many places across the country. Efforts were made to hijack trains, demanding the release of the captured naxal leader. When the point of conflict shifted from Singur to Lalgarh in West Bengal, the ultras’ influence receded in Andhra under Y.S Rajashekhara Reddy. With the death of YSR and renewed demands for Telengana state it is feared that naxals are going to regain their influence in this part of India.

In many places, rebels came out as self styled protectors of peasants. In West Midnapore district of West Bengal, the incident of Maoist leader Kishenji announcing the farmers who suffered loses in agriculture not to pay back their loans is a pointer to this. The rebel leader also said that the co-operative banks and money lenders will not be allowed to charge more than 2% interest on loans. The message is clear that the ultras are ultimately in the war for a self styled system of governance in their influential areas. The old tactics of rebels staying away from public attention also seems to be changing. The naxals are increasingly turning towards the media in their efforts to get more public sympathy. The capture and release of police officer Atindranath Dutta in West Bengal reminds of Al-Queda form of media attention grabbing by the rebels.

One positive outcome of the naxal threat is the more media coverage on the dispossessed and deprived tribal population of our country. When a decade ends and another year passes by with much blood shed, nothing much positive can be expected from the Indian Government in matters of reconciliation and peace. While the naxalites are asking for an unconditional dialogue, the Home minister made it clear that no talks will be held until the ultras abjure violence.

A year that marks the end of one of the world’s deadliest rebel forces, LTTE might have encouraged our government for a military solution for the menace. But the solution for this internal disease, as we all know, lies in development and not in an elimination process brokered by the power centres.

Need judicial reforms for speedy justice

JUSTICE DELAYED is justice denied. When Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay arrived in India in 1834, he served as the first Law member of the Governor-General’s Council and worked in the Supreme Council of India between 1834 and 1838, played an important role in creating the Penal Code as a leading member of the Law Commission during later years of his life.

Later, the Indian Penal Code ie, the IPC came into existence in 1860, which was closely followed by the Criminal Procedure Code in 1872, and then the Civil Procedures Code in 1909. These laws were formulated in order to make the people of society more accountable and responsible while discharging their duties. The need for a legal framework was also felt necessary in order to keep the civil society free from criminals by suitable punishing them as per the provisions of the law.

With the passage of time several amendments were made and several new laws were also enacted in order to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Laws against terrorism and cyber crimes got inducted into our legal system and with the rise in population, the number of cases pending in the Indian courts also gone up. Despite our courts going hi-tech, the most unfortunate part of our judicial system remained its snail’s pace of delivering the justice.

The three tier judicial system which begins from the trial in the sessions court till the Supreme Court via the high court takes such a long time to dispense a case that ultimately it ends with anger, frustration and injustice even if one gets it, it doesn’t serve any purpose practically except in a few civil or criminal cases.

The recent attack on former Haryana DGP SPS Rathore by a BHU Gold Medalist, Utsav Sharma, outside the Chandigarh Court was one classic example of the level of frustration and anger going on in the minds of common people, who see that influential people like Rathore take advantage of our legal system everyday. Corruption has also made inroads into our judicial system and with the police instead of working and going by the law books, work as per the wishes of their superiors, things are only turning from bad to worse in the legal arena.

When Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984, it took almost five years for our judiciary to deliver the justice when both her assassin Satwant Singh and the conspirator Kehar Singh were hanged to death in the famous Tihar jail on January 6, 1989. Similarly, other cases keep on dragging for years and years. SPS Rathore has been able to keep the law at bay since 1993, which resulted in this incident where a youth attacked him on his face.

It is really a dangerous trend and if the people start settling down the cases outside the walls of court, it will be disastrous for the civil society. We need to bring in some time frame in which cases must be solved out with legal remedy. The fast track courts have been doing some good work but we need to make our judiciary more accountable and transparent in order to deliver justice in lesser time. It will also send some strong signals in the society to the influential people that they can’t escape punishment for long and it would also bring down the level of corruption in the judiciary up to a great extent.

Democracy or Demon-Crazy in Koraput

BARIA BUTI, aged about 45 years, S/o Baria Dulaba, village Patraput of Kumbhari Panchayat under Narayanpatna police station has been confined in Koraput Jail since November 20, 2009 after the police firing at Narayanpatna.

Baria Buti belongs to the tribal community and is blind. The police also seem equally blind to initiate cases against him of snatching arms from the police station and waging war against the government. Surprisingly, the tribal blind man can not even see arms, so the question of attempting to loot arms is practically not possible, opined Advocate Nihar Ranjan Pattnaik. The movement of Baria inside the jail requires the assistance of another man and even outside the jail too. The police have also initiated another case of attempt to murder, arson and looting. This is the kind of democracy prevailing under Narayanpatna Block in Koraput district.

A Government school teacher, Parsuram Jadingi of Narayanpatna, democratically elected as a Secretary of Narayanpatna Block teachers association, which itself is a democratic organization has been branded as undemocratic and initiated several cases including waging of war against the government. The teacher is also confined inside the Koraput District Jail.

Here’s another story of Sahadev Parida working as a Shikhya Sahayak (Government Primary School teacher working on contractual basis) was shifted by the police along with a few children from the School to Koraput district jail. Parida faces similar charges of waging war against the government, looting, arson and etc.

This is how the democracy is prevailing in Koraput district of Orissa in India. I don’t know whether it is democracy or ‘demon-crazy’ that is prevailing in Koraput. Most of the democrats, who believe that democracy is turning undemocratic fail to raise their voice. The media is also silent, mainstream politicians have become voiceless and this is the state of affairs in Koraput district.

Is it not wise on the part of the intellectuals, and so called democrats and social activists confining themselves and releasing press statements, sitting in Bhubaneswar or Delhi.

Politics of reservation

The principle of equality is one of the basic features of the Indian Constitution. It has also been enshrined as a fundamental right to all the citizens of India, irrespective of their caste, sex, colour, religion or region. India, is however, a vastly diverse country and some strata have been consistently unequal than some others. Owing to numerous factors like their regional isolation, financial deprivation, social bias, administrative apathy, they have been more backward than their fellow countrymen. For their sake, our constitution provided for certain enabling provisions for ensuring their due uplift.

Article (15) prohibits discrimination of any sort among Indian nationals, but its amended sub clause four also entitles the state to take special measures for the socially and economically backward sections. Also the directive principle under article 46 also binds the state for their special care. They may be given entitlements as reservation in jobs and education or other special benefits till they catch up with the mainstream. It implies that the provision is meant for bringing the unequal at par with others and should remain in existence till equality is attained. Unfortunately, our self seeking politicians would never let that happen. They have turned the sensitive issue into a popular political strategy. The political parties tend to appease the minorities and fill up their vote banks by including quota provision in their election manifesto. It has become an extremely handy tool in their hands to sway the gullible electorate. Hence, we still fight over SC/ST status while the world itself has become a melting pot.

The verdict in Mandal Case in 1993, sent ripples across the country and unleashed violent protests by anti-reservation sections. Presently, there is 13 per cent quota for scheduled castes, three per cent for denotified tribes, eight per cent for nomadic tribes and seven per cent for scheduled tribes, and 19 per cent for OBC in public employment, leaving just half seats for the general category. Worse, many states don’t even follow that direction of Supreme Court and reserve more than 50 per cent. A few years back, the announcement of 27 per cent OBC quota in higher educational institutions made the students come to streets in two distinct groups- forward and backward. They probably would not have been aware of such distinctions any time before. The pro and anti agitations have divided our youth to the detriment to nation's integrity.
The abusive language and sense of contempt against the reserved category is but a natural fall out, as many of the deserving candidates fail to receive their due just because they are not reserved. We, not very long back, saw Gujjars of Rajasthan lobbying for their inclusion in reserved category. This brings home the strange race of being declared backward than others because being 'backward' eventually ‘pays’ in terms of reservation. Already, there have been numerous cases of obtaining fake certificates of SC/ST identity. What does this bode for global India?

It is an undeniable fact that certain weak communities do require special protection and entitlements for their advancement. But this needs to be achieved by a rational policy. There are several considerations to be taken care of for striking a balance between equality and positive discrimination. Firstly, there has to be adequate criteria for identifying the backward. It has to be an individual status rather than group identity to decide whether one deserves extra support or not. A scheduled caste boy of a rich bureaucrat, as per my opinion, needs no reservation but surely a meritorious child of a poor general category farmer does need it. Today, there is another controversy of extending reservation benefits of SC/ST to the backward groups of other minorities as well. Here pitches in religious distinction and there seems to be no end to fragmenting the single identity-Indian. Secondly, any reservation policy should be a time bound initiative. One needs to ask the pro elements that why the backward people are still backward despite the quotas being prevalent for almost six decades. There have been some successful men who could flourish just because of the protective discrimination, but that is a very small number. Therefore, we do need to revisit our reservation provisions as they have failed to deliver much per se. The affirmative action, perhaps, is a promising way out that would enable the deprived get access to good schools, relevant books, skill development etc at the state's expense without jeopardising the interests of general community and also would protect the meritorious. Also, the special benefits should be one time affair ie, if one is identified as special case at education level, he should compete without crutches for securing job and if one could not attain relevant education for his group identity or financial incapacity, he should be duly supported for his livelihood. Lastly, we need to change the social mindset of people at large and for that purpose we need social awareness more than legal provisions.

To conclude, here I quote Dr Ambedkar, "It is wrong for majority to deny the existence of minorities. It is equally wrong for the minorities to perpetuate themselves. A solution must be found which will serve a double purpose. It must recognise the existence of the minorities to start with. It will also be such that it will enable majorities and minorities to merge some day into one." Therefore, let us not perpetuate the caste and further alienate the alienated, but ensure all their respective due share in the best terms.

Really shocking news on judicial appointments

IT REFERS to shocking media-reports that elevation of retired Chief Justice of Delhi Justice AP Shah could be stalled by just one member of Supreme Court collegiums. What happens if the concerned senior collegium-member stalling elevation of AP Shah to Supreme Court happens to be Chief Justice of India by virtue of seniority-system at Supreme Court? Will it be fair that a person being unjust even to a widely-acknowledged distinguished Chief Justice of a state may be given charge as head of Indian judicial system that too at a time when even the advice of present Chief Justice of India and Prime Minister are said to have been vetoed by the particular collegium-member?

It is indeed unfortunate that judicial-administration-system in the country has touched so low when personal equations and not merit matter in appointment of judges at the Apex Court. Name of collegiums-member having vetoed elevation of Justice AP Shah should be made public. At a time when Justice AP shah has declined to accept any post-retirement posting, propriety demands that the concerned collegium-member should also resign to settle personal scores without himself being at high post in Indian judiciary.

February 13, 2010

Irony of slow justice

THE IRONY of delayed justice took 33 years to pronounce Uday Raj with an imprisonment of three months with a fine of Rs 5000. What was his mistake? He was found preparing for a dacoity along with 10 other accomplices. Some more interesting facts are yet to come.

The judgment is pronounced by a fast track court, how fast let’s not discuss. Another jolt, one of the co-accused is still awaiting a final disposal of his trial. Uday Raj is still found to be lucky for having admitted his crime otherwise, it could have taken some more years in the case coming to a decision.

Uday Raj on being pronounced with the judgment appealed to the court for leniency as he is already 65 years old.

The case started on April 18, 1977, when 11 persons were arrested by the police while they were planning for a dacoity. The trial continued for almost 33 years. Uday Raj himself didn't attend court proceedings on three to four occasions and was ultimately issued a non-bailable warrant (NBW).

Lastly, he absconded and was arrested on October 12 this year. Since then, he has been in jail. On November 11, the accused filed an application in the court confessing his guilt.

The above case once again has popped up the question of the mockery of the justice in the country. Is there any relevance of the judgment pronounced after 33 years of committing the crime? Will it make any difference to the person who has been facing trial for the last more than 30 years for the crime he didn’t commit?

Even if he has not attended the trials or has absconded is it worth to waste the precious time of the court and the hard earned money of the tax payers in feeding such criminals in jails only due to slow procedures of our legal system? Even after so much of discussions and explanations, the legal system is going to its worst shapes instead of being improved with the help of latest techniques. With the talk of trials on web conferencing when we think of the cases like Uday Raj, can we think of the advancing the legal systems?

Where courts are busy in attending the appeals of their lower ones, pronouncing the decisions on homosexuality and other such issues far away from the scope of the courts, humanity somewhere is left buried below the bunch of files which no one dares to uncover or we can say do anyone wants to extract these files out unless some political issue is attached to it.

Check needed on media-savvy lawyers

IT REFERS to concern of Delhi High Court bench headed by Chief Justice AP Shah on lawyers discussing in media on pending cases in courts.

This aspect apart, Union government should impose a total ban on even naming and interviewing defence-lawyers in any criminal case. It is quite common that even lawyers with little practice take up free cases of dreaded criminals like rapists, murderers, terrorists etc especially in media-highlighted cases, just to figure themselves on TV-screens and newspapers. This results in free and enormous media-publicity of such lawyers to brighten prospects of their legal shops.

Banning naming and interviewing of such lawyers will benefit towards a crime-free society because then media-crazy lawyers may not rush to take up cases of dreaded criminals voluntarily and/or free for their self-publicity.

Assets of bureaucrats put under RTI in MP

IT REFERS to Madhya Pradesh becoming the first Indian state to make details of assets and wealth of its IAS officers public at a time when state achieved notoriety for its top bureaucrats trapped in income tax raids for accumulating huge unaccounted wealth. Union government should immediately make it a uniform rule for all in judiciary, legislature and bureaucrats both at centre and in states to put details of their assets and wealth on official websites.

But even this is not enough. Details of personal one-time expenses above say rupees fifty thousand should also be made public by all those in legislature, judiciary and bureaucracy. It is a common practice that huge enormous amounts in multiples of millions are spent by persons on high posts on personal functions like marriages, birthdays and anniversaries. They should also disclose details of gifts and favours received on such celebrations as these are at times of indirect form of bribes.

Media should help shape young minds instead of corrupting them

NOW-A-days, a major part of the television programmes portray violence and brutality. The media most of the times forgets the fact that a good portion of the viewers are children and teenagers. The continuous viewing of such brutality can mar their psychological equilibrium. As far as the ethics and values are concerned, most of them have conveniently forgotten it and hence they continued airing of such grimy telecasts.

Things were in perfect harmony when we had only Doordarshan as a nationalised channel. They believed in national integration and peace. People at that time were viewing only what they were supposed to. There were no laced stories or cooked up facts. However, when the private channels popped up everywhere like mushrooms, things have started taking the toll.

Competition grew, new marketing techniques came into practice to attract more viewers. The concept of ‘exclusive news’ became an obsession in media. With the introduction of dedicated news channels, the news standards were sinking even deeper. They started making stories out of anything and everything.

The term sensitivity has been completely erased out of the news stories. The choice of stories have also become substandard. The morality of the new generation is at stake. The continuous viewing of such violence will affect them more or less. They may get the idea that violence is also a kind of heroism. It wouldn’t take much time when our younger generation will start moving into the dangerous pits of violence.

It is high time the media should realise their role in spreading the seeds of violence among the children and the youth. They have a wider reach in terms of viewership and it should be utilised positively. By airing sensible stories and programmes, media can actively participate in moulding the future generation of the nation.

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Ban or no ban, misuse of SIMs still continues by terrorists

DESPITE THE Home Affairs ministry's imposing strict conditions to lift the ban after over two months on pre-paid connections in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the terrorists active in the upper reaches of the state are still using the said facility of cellular phones by dodging the restrictions.

It is evident from the recovery of 13 SIMs of various service providers in last few days from ultras in Poonch and Kishtwar districts. Recently police had recovered eight SIM cards of two private Telecom operators and two Nokia mobile phones from the Jaish Commander who was killed in Poonch while four SIM cards were seized from the encounter site where a Lashker commander was killed in Kishtwar few days ago.

And putting the security agencies and the cellular service providers on their toes, the security forces have apprehended a higher secondary class student of a Government school in Poonch district for working as Over Ground Worker with Jaish commander. One mobile phone alongwith SIM card of private operator was recovered from his possession. The arrested person identified as Shahjahan alias Kalu s/o Mohd Latif r/o Nagalban, Tehsil Mendhar has reportedly told the police that he used to help the Jaish commader through his mobile.

For inept, the security forces and intelligence agencies are analyzing the history of the eight SIMs recovered from the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) commander Parbat Shakari alias Aziz Ali alias Tipu a resident of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), who was gunned down by security forces after a fierce gunbattle in Chungan/Chatral area in Poonch district on February 3.

Forces also are looking into the records of four SIMs that were recovered when a self-styled District Commander Nisar Ahmed Shah code Abu Maaz of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) outfit who was killed in an encounter in Merna-Kasna (Patimhalla) area in mountainous Kishtwar district.
It needs to mention that on January 22, the Union government had lifted two month long the ban on pre-paid mobile phone service in Jammu and Kashmir after the state govt took up the issue with the central govt.

Though the guidelines like proof of residence and proof of identity were specified by Home ministry yet the recovery of an Identity card of a government teacher from Parbhat Shikari alias Tipu has further put the agencies in quandary.

Tipu, a Pakistani national, who was operating in Pir Panjal range for last more than five years and for the past quite some time was in possession of an Education Department’s identity card on the name of Parvez Ahmed resident of Tope, Mendhar. The I card had signatures of Zonal Education Officer (ZEO), Mankote raising the finger of suspicion on the required verification process.

Meanwhile the OGWs, quizzed by police after the killing of Shikari, have disclosed that the Jaish commander had used identity card several times while travelling from one place to another. There are reports that following several measures taken by the Election Department to prevent misuse of Electoral Photo Identity Cards (EPICs) by the militants, the OGWs have now started managing identity cards of Government departments for the ultras especially the commanders.

Sources also hold the private mobile companies responsible who are competing to increase their market share in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Whether these companies remain strict to the guidelines is yet to seen

February 10, 2010

'SPS Rathore attacked outside court: Do you think it is justified to go against law?'

FORMER HARYANA DGP SPS Rathore, convicted in the Ruchika molestation case, was injured on Monday, February 8 2010, when a student of the prestigious NID posing as a journalist stabbed him thrice in the face with a pocket knife outside a local court. Such incidents can happen when cases like this which demand immediate delivery of justice are delayed.

Haryana DGP SPS Rathore molested Ruchika Girhotra in 1990 when she was fourteen years old. The girl killed herself after three years when she was expelled from the school and her brother was arrested allegedly on the cases of theft and robbery. Now after more than ten years, still the case is pending in the court of law just because the case involves powerful people. If it would have been any ordinary man in place of the DGP then the case would have been solved during that particular year itself.
Now, when there is all the necessary evidence against DGP Rathore, then why the case is still taking so much time for being solved. It is such shameful and pathetic situations when judiciary finds difficulty in taking decisions that motivate ordinary people to come up and take action. This time when 29-year old Utsav Sharma, a resident of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, who is pursuing a post-graduate diploma course in animation and film design at the National Institute of Design(NID) stabbed Rathore, he highlighted this issue in a grave manner.
The cases which involve powerful people or elites usually take several years to get solved or sometimes go unheard. In such cases, people have no choice but to come forward and take the decision themselves, whether right or wrong.

So I think it is justified to go against law in such cases. This is not a first case there are several other cases like the Jassica Lal murder case, Nitish Katara murder case etc where people have protested, campaigned and fought for justice. According to me our country’s judicial system needs to be improved. Rathore got only six months imprisonment and then appealed for bail in Supreme Court. Justice delayed is justice denied. Rathore should be awarded with life time imprisonment or the death sentence.

India awaits a two-party political system

IT WILL be fair to say that the issue at hand, though worthy of a lot of attention, has not received its due yet. However, in a house where currently 25 per cent of the ruling alliance’s MPs belong to strong regional players, the reasons for this deliberate neglect are quite obvious and cogent. I am reminded of that famous statement made by Dr Manmohan Singh in the run up to the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, wherein he said that voting for regional parties and independents in national elections is a waste of one’s ballot.

Although he could not muster anything more than a few apoplectic regional allies and an awkward position for his party, whose chances were looking rather bleak if it were not supported by puny allies, there is a very profound logic behind his discourse. Besides, it is also intriguing that such a frugal yet potent statement, in the midst of an election which saw the worst form of rhetoric in Pilibhit, could have only come from someone of the perspicacity of our politician-cum-bureaucrat prime minister.

We are called the next big thing to arrive on the international stage, but we are also a nation whose Central government is held hostage to the irrational demands of unscrupulous allies, whenever the ruling coalition is in need, or worse still, on several occasions, is on its way towards a path-breaking change. We are an unfortunate nation whose multi-party ruling coalitions are forced to allocate the desired portfolios to its allies, even if it is at the cost of meritocracy. We are a unique democracy, where on several occasions; the performance of a national party depends upon the damage that a regional party does to its nearest rival.

The happenings in the run-up to the trust vote of July 2008, when the Congress was on the mat, bearing the brunt of going ahead with the 123 Agreement, which in the least of words, can be described as congenial for India, were quite an indicator of the type of political bickering that a multi-party system enforces upon a nation. In return for his support of five MPs, Shibu Soren, who will easily top the charts if a list of the 10 most execrable Indian politicians is chalked out, was invited to be the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, a state which has been at the receiving end of the highest levels of callousness from across the political spectrum.

The audacity with which J Jayalalitha announced to align with any alliance that would have dismissed the DMK government in Tamil Nadu turned out to be yet another reminder of the cost of a multi-party system and was engraved as one of the several black spots in the run-up to the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Furthermore, the dependence of the non-performing Maharashtra Congress on the Maharastra Navnirman Sena (MNS’s) performance in both the general and the state elections was nothing more than a national shame.

Although such horrendous cases are not new to the Indian system, India, today, finds itself in the middle of a situation, where it needs political stability as a predetermined assumption to soar on the international stage. A situation where allies within the ruling coalition continue nudging and elbowing the largest party in the Lok Sabha will do no good, but unfortunately, Indian politics is still not adept and mature to evade such situations. And that is where the need for a two-party system emerges. Cynics might argue that with India’s vast population, multiple cultures, traditions and communities, two central parties can never be successful in understanding the needs of 1.2 billion people and I sincerely concede the fact. According to my limited knowledge of governance and politics, states may well continue to run with regional parties and a central agency consisting of members of elected representatives from all the parties of all states must regularly co-ordinate with the Central government. Although this solution may sound quite rudimentary and may be slammed by many to be na├»ve, I am sure that the mandarins in Delhi can come up with better methods to tame the issue.

Further, it will be quite imbecile on my part not to underscore the fact that such a huge metamorphosis may take years, for mustering political consensus on such a humongous issue is a Gordian knot to cut, but that is where the catch lies. For the nation to rise, personal interests will have to be sacrificed. If we are to be the biggest and not the next big thing on the international stage, this is the price that our politicians will have to pay. A supreme nation bereft of unscrupulous and unwanted politicians and politics might not be a bad place to live in. As far as the intelligentsia in the regional parties is concerned, it will find many takers even in a two-party system. The idea may sound way too romantic, but in this need of hour, it seems to be the ultimate panacea.

February 05, 2010

President's secretariat needs to follow transparency

THE PRESIDENT'S Secretariat has been continuously resisting an RTI petition seeking a copy of the letter written by the then Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswamy to the President about propriety of the then Election Commissioner Navin Chawla (now Chief Election Commissioner) for being Election Commissioner. But interestingly media-reports (TOI 04.02.2010) indicate that copy of the same letter was provided by Union Law Ministry under RTI Act much earlier in May 2009 to Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley. Is RTI Act also different for different categories of petitioners or for different public-authorities?

Suppressing of information is rather injurious for those interested in hiding the information, as it creates more doubts and suspicion in minds of general public. If everything is clear and genuine, then public-authorities should be bold enough to be transparent in their own interest. President secretariat should now provide the copy of the referred letter as sought in CIC petition-number CIC/WB/A/2009/00770 without any further delay and resistance.

Down with divisive politics!

THE RECENT attack by Shiv Sena on Shah Rukh Khan is one more instance of its bigotry and anti-national politics. Not only does the attack smack of intolerance of others’ views, it also shows the issuers’ indifference to the rift it could cause between the communities. Sena may say that it is not against Muslims.

But then why does it tauntingly suggest that Khan should go to Pakistan for expressing a view that not giving Pakistani players a chance to play in IPL matches in India was a mistake? Aren’t they emboldened to say so just because he is a Muslim? Shah Rukh is a much loved citizen of this country. He is, besides, a brand ambassador for India abroad. Sena may take umbrage at his views, but why must they ask him to go to Pakistan? Are they not suggesting that his sympathies lie with Pakistan because he is a Muslim? Would Hindus in this country not have liked to see Pakistani players participating in IPL matches?

The Union Home Minister himself regretted the fact that Pakistani players would not be seen in action. Should he also go to Pakistan for expressing his views? Sena would not say so, neither dare, because his name is not Khan! The disservice to the nation, on the part of Sena, arises from their all too obvious belief that Muslims in this country must establish their Indian ness all the time. It creates a legitimate ire amongst the Muslims.

It gives opportunity to equally unthinking people in Muslim community to question the oneness of India. This is the kind of narrow minded insensitive politics that needs to be put down with a heavy hand. If the State should hesitate, misguided by vote bank politics, the Centre should step in and curb such insidious attacks on our unity. If people’s comments, as voiced by News Channels are any indication, the rest of India and even most of Maharashtra fortunately decries and condemns Sena’s stance.

The state governments have the responsibility to put down such disastrous postures as the Sena has adopted. And if perchance they dither, the Centre should invoke its powers to give a clear directive to the state concerned to take action or else give way for the Central intervention to take place. In the wake of how the Babri Masjid story unfolded, including the part played by Courts, it is necessary that an All-India consensus should be urgently evolved as to how to pre-empt such cases in time before they blow up out of proportion and threaten our nation’s unity.

Please stop it now Thackeray

SHIV SENA chief Bal Thackeray has again made his way into the news. And obviously it is not the first time he is there. His divisive politics has a long history.

He claims himself to be a true well wisher of India, especially Maharashtra and its citizens. He considers himself to be the king of Maharashtra and feels that Marathis are superior to everyone else.

He is also highly anti-Muslim. He once made a statement that Muslims in India are like a fast growing cancer and should be treated like as such. Not only Muslims, he has a problem with Biharis too and calls them a ‘beemari’. When Sachin Tendulkar, the pride of India calls himself a proud Indian first and then a proud Maharashtrian, Thackeray has a problem there also. Karan Johar calls Mumbai as Bombay and he is made to apologize to Thackeray so that his movie is allowed to be screened in Maharashtra.

Now-a-days he is after Shahrukh Khan, who said that Pak players should have been picked up at the IPL auction. He won’t allow Khan to promote his movie ‘My name is Khan’ in Maharashtra. Why does Thackeray forget that we live in a democracy and have the right to free speech and expression? More important, why is allowed to forget?

This attitude of Thackeray’s has been tolerated long enough and its time that people and the government together teach him a lesson. He cannot discriminate against people on the basis of the state to which they belong and call them a ‘beemari’. He should understand that we are one nation, India. He is playing dirty politics and should definitely be punished so that he gets a lesson to learn and others too get to learn something from this. Everyone should understand that we are one nation and should think and work for the welfare of our country first and then for our respective states.

The forthcoming budget 2010-11

THE BUDGETS in India only addresses the short-run marginal issues relating to income and expenditure accounts and the expansion and liberalisation of the private sector in the context of globalisation. They don’t focus on basic long-run issues with seriousness. In fact, it is not only a question of fiscal and monetary matters, but also a question of the whole gamut of economic issues facing the country.

In order to be effective, the forthcoming budget, apart from other aspects, has to be an important link between the past and the future and must, therefore, address, apart from income and expenditure accounts and related marginal issues, the long-run objectives and issues of economic and social importance for the country as a whole. Neglect of the long-run issues will increasingly show up in disappointments even in the short-run. Long-run ‘demand-side’ issues like high inflation or unsustainable current account or fiscal deficits and imbalances in the balance of payments work against macro economic stability, which, in fact, is a highly serious matter for the whole economy, especially in recent times when the whole world is hit by recession and works against the whole ethos of growth and development in a serious way.

Likewise, long-run ‘supply-side’ issues linked with trade and capital flows, financial sectors, industrial deregulation, and disinvestments of public sector enterprises are also important in various ways. In fact, the long-run focus of the budget has to be both on domestic and external liberalisation, because the former consists of relaxing restrictions on production, investment, prices, and, thereby, it attempts in assigning a bigger role to the market system for performing the various functions of the economic system, including resource allocation; and the latter consists of relaxing restrictions on international trade flows of goods and services, technology, and capital. In fact, these two kinds of liberalisation are inter-linked with each other.

Prior to making any comments on what we expect from the forthcoming budget for the Fiscal Year 2009-2010, it is important to note the following:

The issue of deficits in all its connotations

Unlike many other industrialised countries, budgets in India are not confined to the current account. We in fact, go for a consolidated budget, which has both a current account and a capital account. The fiscal deficit is the sum of the deficits on both the current and capital accounts. Such budgeting practice has a distinct advantage of concealing a large current account deficit by showing a sizable inflow on the capital account say by taking a loan.

When there is a current account deficit, it implies that expenditure is more than receipts. In other words, there is a revenue deficit, which, in fact, measures the deficit in the current account in terms of: (a) primary deficit (excess of what the government spends on purchases over its revenues), and (b) interest on past debts, which is also an expense and is paid to banks that buy government securities. All this leads to the conclusion that whereas the primary deficit directly converts the public savings into consumption and lowers the aggregate saving rate in the economy, the payment of interest on the existing debt does not do so. The primary deficit, therefore, is also understood as an excess of the portion of the government expenditure that enters into consumption stream of the economy over revenues.

It is heartening to see that over the years the primary deficit is gradually disappearing and is being replaced by a (small) surplus. Because of this the government does not have to crowd out private investors with its borrowing. All this has added tremendously to the big wave of private investment, which is building up in the economy. There is, therefore, a sharp movement towards higher value–added goods in the production basket and this is the real economy that underlies the rising share market prices.

The disappearance of the primary deficit and its replacement even by a small surplus has a highly favourable effect on the quantum of the fiscal deficit. This is the brightest silver lining of the annual budgets in recent years.

The industrial front

On the industrial front, there has been a good progress in terms of delicensing, ease of entry of foreign investors and trade liberalisation. Many restrictions are now gone and the positive results are becoming visible. During the second phase of reforms, the supply-side difficulties in the industry have been removed to a large extent, but there are still demand-side constraints, especially in the manufacturing sector. But despite this, it is heartening to note that, as compared to earlier years, the growth in industry has been satisfactory to a large extent, and its share in gross domestic product has been showing an upward trend. Whether the double-digit growth in industry would be sustained will depend basically on the demand for industrial goods.

Presently, about 88 per cent of the demand comes from domestic markets and the remaining about 12 per cent from international markets. There are positive indicators that such demand would be maintained and industry would sustain a double-digit growth in the coming months.

Child labour in orissa rising

KORAPUT IS a district with Maoist infestation and many other problems; which surrounds the un-divided Koraput throughout the year. One of the most serious problems is child labour in this backward region. Though the Orissa state government had decided to eradicate child labour till 2014, and had also stepped in various programmes regarding the same. But the state is witness to a large number of poor tribal children working in various hotels, road sides and market places.

Till date there is no proper record of how many child labourers are there in the state. The child labour brings a negative picture towards the visitors. In a democratic state, it is shameful that this problem is increasing day by day and growing to become a vast problem.

Looking forward to eradicate child labour from Orissa, government has taken various steps. The state government has joined hands with various departments of state, such as; Women and Children Welfare Department, Revenue Department, Employment Department, etc. These departments will identify the child labours and also calculate the same. They will also work for the welfare and development of the child labour and its eradication.

Along with the above plans and programmes, the state government has also decided to take help from the Central government. It is also been decided to open at least two transit homes in district level. All these plans and programmes of the state government are welcome but how far all these will be fruitful remains a big question.

Poverty and poor standard of living is the main reason for the increased child labour in Koraput. Around 72 per cent of the population is below the poverty level in the area. To earn their day to day livelihood they put their poor children to work. Poor tribal children working in garage, workshops, shops, hotels, road side, grazing animals, collecting dry woods for fuel at home, etc can be seen every .

The government should properly plan to eradicate poverty from these areas. If only each and every family set out of poverty then only eradicating child labour till 2014 would be possible.

Safety of your cell phone: Some tips

Cell phone snatching and cell phone stealing have become something so common these days that incidents like these don’t make much of news. It just takes a minute for the cell phones stealers to get away before the person even realizes that their cell phone is gone. They are very good at their job.

Now the point is not to appreciate their sleight of hand but take steps to protect and safeguard our mobile phones from the thieves. Public transport is the most common place where instances like this take place. While getting into a bus make sure you have your mobile phone in your hand and not in your pocket or bag.

Avoid talking on your mobile phone while in a bus or on a road with either a lot of crowd or less people. Don’t get into a fight with a group of 3-4 or more people. They will deliberately get into a fight over a very petty issue with you and when you get involved they will snatch your cell phone and run away making you feel like a fool.

Keep your eyes and ears open with your head in an active mode and as soon as you feel something fishy, alarm the people around you, shout for help and check your belongings at the very moment. Don’t panic, try to keep yourself calm and if something happens don’t ever get into a physical fight with people because they might be ready to harm you and they may hurt you physically.

February 01, 2010

Welcome verdict of Delhi High Court on RTI

JUSTICE S Ravindra Bhatt of Delhi High Court should be complimented for his repeated verdict to induce transparency as desired under Right to Information (RTI) Act when he now turned down pleas of several public-funded bodies including Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, Indian Olympic Association, Sanskriti School etc against CIC-verdicts holding these bodies under purview of RTI Act.

In fact, concerned public information officers of public-bodies losing court-cases against CIC verdicts should be penalised to discourage filing such baseless cases at a time when RTI Act in itself is absolutely clear without actually needing any further endorsement from the courts. Such a move will discourage filing frivolous court-cases against CIC verdicts simply to defer providing information in otherwise required under RTI Act for a time-bound supply of information.

A division-bench at Supreme Court had once rightly observed that many-a-times petitioners seeking stay-orders at initial stage are successful to drag cases for long but ultimately losing the case! Case-number WPC 2908/2007 against CIC verdict at Delhi High Court still remains undecided because of the public-authority Department of Justice obtaining ex-party stay in April 2007, went on seeking adjournments again and again while cases filed against CIC verdicts in the year 2009 were decided in the year 2009 itself.

Adjournment-culture in courts must be curbed

Parties seeking adjournments should be made to pay some reasonable but fixed cost which should go to the exchequer rather than opposite side or its counsel. Even judges should normally not have discretionary power to deviate from such fixed cost.

JUSTICE S N Dhingra of Delhi High Court has rightly lashed out at frivolous reasons usually given to seek adjournments just to deliberately delay court-proceedings. A division-bench of Supreme Court had also opined against frequent stay-orders granted by courts that too at a time when parties obtaining stay-orders many-a-times ultimately lose the cases under stay.

Parties seeking adjournments should be made to pay some reasonable but fixed cost which should go to the exchequer rather than opposite side or its counsel. Even judges should normally not have discretionary power to deviate from such fixed cost.

Justice SN Dhingra’s strictures and dismissal of request for adjournment is in tune with the vision-document presented by Union Law Minister at New Delhi conference on October 24, 2009, with some practical solutions to check unholy adjournment-culture in courts.

But all this is not enough. Rather government-departments/ministries are amongst prominent names in seeking adjournments. Department of Justice sought such an ex-party stay-order against verdict from Central Information Commission (CIC) about three years ago, but since then the case has not moved even an inch with counsels for the public-authority seeking adjournments again and again! Even a meeting of all the information commissioners at CIC had to decide that Chief Information Commissioner would meet Chief Justice of Delhi so that cases against CIC verdicts could be decided fast to maintain spirit of Right To Information Act for providing timely information.

Since a large number of cases involve government functionaries, the court/bench handling such cases should devise a mechanism whereby fixed days are devoted for such particular government functionaries which are most involved in court-cases. For example, all cases involving Central Information Commission may be taken on a particular day of the month and likewise. It should be ensured that counsels of government functionaries may be present on priority on such suggested fixed days.