Benefits of religion
Simhastha 2016 concluded at Ujjain recently. In this age of materialism, every issue finally settles down for gain or loss. No surprise then that religion is also looked from that angle. Critics of religion point fingers at those who reap political or economic benefits and create disturbance and spread violence. However, people who do not aspire any physical benefits from religion and do not fight over religious matters, definitely reap spiritual benefits whether they know it or not.
Experts call for deeper research on relations between religion and health. Earlier, researches have shown that religious people face sickness in a better way. Their recovery after sickness or operation is faster. Last days, scientists at the California University concluded that meditation, yoga and singing in praise of God, benefit Alzheimer patients.
However, there are not many researches of this type and hence we can only speculate on some matters. Perhaps, one of the reasons for the positive signal between religion and health is that faith in God gives additional strength for living a good life. A non-believer in religion assumes that his thinking and doing is limited with him alone. Whereas a believer in religion believes that his strength can be increased with God's help.
He enjoys God's characteristics of love, joy, peace, goodness, faithfullness, patience, humility and charity. He has a better understanding of God's laws and the principle of cause and effect. He knows that difficulties and setbacks are a part of life and help in development of his Godly character. He knows that the works of the flesh are anger, greed, lust, foolishness and should be avoided. He is ever vigilant, through prayers to God, to overcome the shortfalls of his human nature. Some researches point out that the religious people live an orderly, disciplined and a healthy life.
Serious criminal charges against one third of elected MLAs
The Assembly elections are over. The electorate of five states have exercised their franchise and elected leaders of their choice. An organization, Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), has gone through the affidavits submitted by these MLAs with the Election Commission and come out with an analytical report. Of the elected 812 MLAs, 36% have criminal cases pending against them. There are 176 MLAs against whom there are cases of murder or attempt to murder. Kerala leads with 62% MLAs having criminal cases against them. Similarly, in West Bengal, there are serious criminal charges against nearly percent of the elected MLAs.
Of the elected MLAs, 428 come in the range of crorepatis. Puducherry leads with 83% of MLAs and Tamil Nadu is second with 76% MLAs in this category. 186 MLAs, in their election affidavits, inform about not paying any income tax. In this Kerala leads with 60% MLAs; in West Bengal the percentage of such MLAs is 20%. 49 MLAs have not given any information about their Permanent Account Number (PAN). The average value of property of MLAs from Puducherry is around Rs 13.45 cr; this figure for TN MLAs is Rs 8.4 crore.
Of the elected 812 MLAs, nine per cent are women. West Bengal has sent 40 women MLAs out of its total 293 to the House which amounts to 14%. In Puducherry, out of 30 elected MLAs, four are women.
Considering education, 19 elected MLAs are PhD; of these 10 are from West Bengal and five from Tamil Nadu. Similarly, 480 MLAs are graduates or post-graduates; 11% MLAs are aged 40 or less and five MLAs are more than 80 years old.
Tejas opens doors for India's aviation sector
Tejas fighter aircraft, besides having indigenous features, is most modern and a fit aircraft. Being at par with other aircraft of its level, it has some more better features too. Its speciality is that from the designing stage to the flying end, the techniques have been experimented in our labs. Even though some equipment are from outside India.
Hence, designing and developing a fighting aircraft indigenously is not a small achievement. This success has further enhanced the power of India in the comity of big nations. There are several meanings associated with success of this aircraft like opening doors for India. During this period, the aircraft industry holds a great promise and India envisions a bright future in manufacture and sale of aircraft. In comparison to the European nations, the cost of manpower in India is less. India sees the African and the South-eest Asian nations as good markets for sale of its aircraft.
India ranks second among nations engaged in purchase of aircraft. China heads this list. Even then, compare to the Chinese market, the Indian market has better opportunities. Tejas would prove quite helpful in increasing the internal capacities as it would reduce our dependence on foreign aircraft to a great extent. I remember, during the 1965 and 1971 wars, the Indian Army could not make use of some aircraft as the foreign nations had refused to provide the necessary parts. Tejas being indigenous, there would be no problem of this sort. Even though the cost of manufacture of this aircraft is a bit high--Rs 200 crore. And the long time taken also goes against it.
Congress party reduces to a pygmy
The results of Assembly elections in five states have disappointed the Congress party once again. The party was in power in Assam and in Kerala but both the states have gone from its kitty. However, the party has formed its government in the Centrally ruled Union Territory of Puducherry. Here the assembly and the state govt have limited powers. However, the BJP-led NDA has all the reasons to rejoice as it managed to rout the Congress party in Assam.
After getting a drubbing in Delhi and Bihar, and inflicting a self-goal in Uttarakhand, the party strategists' prestige had suffered a blow. However, these election results have come as a healing. In Assam the BJP is going to form its Government. In Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalithaa, who has good relations with the BJP, has been sworn in as the Chief Minister for the sixth time. Similarly, in Kerala the BJP, for the first time, would have its MLA. Besides these, the party has improved its vote winning percentage, and the benefit for which may be seen in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In West Bengal elections, the Congress party has secured ten times more seats than the BJP but the difference in vote percentage is not much.
After the poll tie-up between the Left Front and the Congress, it was beginning to appear that the alliance would give a tough challenge to the TMC led by Mamata Banerjee. However, nothing of the sort happened. One of the reasons for this is that there was considerable delay in forming the alliance and there was no proper coordination between the two parties. The Left Front and the Congress have been rivals of one another in West Bengal and there was lack of political skill needed for winning the elections. The Congress party however benefited from this tie-up as the Left Front could not win much seats; this at a time when the vote percentage of Left Front is nearly double. This result proved that there is wide gap between the Trinamool Congress and other parties. In Assam, the BJP adopted the right strategy and went for a perfect tie-up to defeat the Congress party.
BJP's tie-up with the Asom Gana Parishad and declaring name of Sarvanand Sonowal as the CM candidate proved very beneficial for the party. Sonowal comes from a tribe, which is not much in number. Hence, he is not a political leader of any caste, tribe or other groups. Learning a lesson from Bihar elections, stress was given on local leaders and local issues and only PM Modi's image was not kept at stake. But, the Congress leaders made blunders which led to routing of the 15-year rule of the party.
In Kerala, the voters rejected the United Democratic Front led by Congress party due to its involvement in various scams and accusations. It is a good news for the Left Front that the party did not face a humiliating defeat here as it faced in West Bengal.
Mallya would have to be forgotten as Lalit Modi
As per the British rules, if a person enters Britain on a valid passport and if his passport is declared illegal by his country's Government, then it is not essential for the UK Govt to send that person to his country of origin. Liquor baron and the owner of failed Kingfisher airlines, Vijay Mallya has a UK resident permit from the year 1992 where he is a Non-resident Indian. The Govt may also know that it is not an easy task to bring Mallya back to India. Now, it has become even more clear that it is almost impossible to bring Mallya back to India and hence recovery of Rs 9000 cr in bad loans seems almost impossible. The UK govt, rejecting the application of India for expelling of Vijay Mallay, said that if the Indian Govt makes effort for extradition of Mallya, then the Govt may come forward to help it.
Even though the British Govt is forwarding this suggestion, but even extradition of Mallya is not that easy. The most difficult part with the Indian investigative agencies would be to prove before the UK court that Mallya has adopted illegal methods to carry out his business in India. Mallya may have a point to make that if he could not repay bank loans, then it was due to the loss-making Kingfisher Airlines. Again, it may not be easy to prove that Mallya transferred money in foreign countries illegally or misused the loan amount. Some of the banks who have lost money do not believe that Mallya was involved in wrongdoing. At the same time, the bank officials, responsible for clearing loans to Mallya, may come under inquiry as to how they continued to give big loans to Mallya, keeping the rules at bay. Even then making a case for extradition and its subsequent conviction is not very easy.
As per reports there are 131 cases of extradition under consideration of the UK Govt. As regards success of these cases, it may be pointed out that the Govt has till date not succeeded in extradition of Iqbal Mirchi and Nadeem Saifi, for their involvement in criminal cases. Hence, extradition of Vijay Mallya, who is an industrialist and has made lot of investments in UK, would not be easy. The greater apprehension is that Mallya's case too may meet the same fate as of cricket czar Lalit Modi's. Hence, the money which the banks lost due to nexus with politicians may have to be paid by the taxpayers. Mallya had good relations with many political parties whose leaders too may not like him to return to India to face court. Legal experts opine that even if Mallya comes to India, then it would be very difficult to prove him guilty. Vijay Mallya is the best example of how politicians and industrialists join hands to exploit the country in a wrong way. Now, it remains to be seen as to how the NDA govt implements its announcement to bring the liquor baron back.
Defamation, a game of the rich
Defamation is a criminal offence in India. After conviction, there is a provision of two years jail and also monetary fine. Recently, challenging the constitutionality of this rule were the Congress Vice President, Rahul Gandhi, coordinator of Aam Aadmi Party, Arvind Kejriwal and BJP leader, Subramanyam Swami. All these leaders are accused in defamation cases and hence their personal interest may have been there in challenging this law. However, before these petitions too, there have been other people raising justification of Sections 499 and 500 of this Indian Penal Code. Under these Sections, defamation has been considered as a criminal act. This law too is a gift from the British period.
The question arises as to the relevance of this rule in the present times. The Apex Court has given two reasons for its constitutionality; first is the Article 21 provides guarantee of living to any person with honour and respect. Hence, if a person's honour is hurt, then it constitutes a crime; Second, is that freedom of speech cannot go to any extent. However, these two matters could also be carried forward by assuming defamation cases as civil ones. By assuming defamation as a criminal offence, the freedom of speech, as enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution, is also hurt. The present defamation case seems to be going well for governments, powerful politicians, corrupt govt officials and corrupt industrialists, who are afraid of exposure of their ill-deeds.
This law has, unnecessarily made the life of politico-social workers, journalists, full of risks. There are examples of state governments, misusing the defamation law, to teach a lesson to their detractors. As an example, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has filed nearly 100 cases of defamation against political rivals and journalists. It is surprising that the Central Govt too advocated for retaining the defamation law as it is. The Apex Court, in its verdicts, has advised the judges of the lower courts and govt prosecutors to exercise caution while sending summons in defamation cases. Thus, this advice itself points towards misuse of the present rule. Looking to examples worldwide, experiences of reckless use of the criminal defamation law and freedom of speech, the constitutional validity of this law has been challenged. It would have been better if this issue was submitted to the Constitution bench instead of to the two-member bench. Parliament too can take initiative to rediscuss on the relevance and provisions of this law.
Concern over rising cancer cases in India
Every 13th new patient of cancer in the world is from India, says a study of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The country is also witness to fast increase in cases of breast cancer, uterine cervix and mouth cancer. NCI is a part of US Department of Health & Human Services (USDHH). Director of Max Super Speciality Hospital (Oncology services), Dr (Col) Ranga Rao Rangraju says that there are nearly 7 lakh women cancer patients out of the total of 12.5 lakh cases every year in India.The doctor adds that every year 3.5 lakh women succumb to the disease and by 2025, this figure may climb up to 4.5 lakh. Lack of sleep, lack of exercise, wrong eating habits, stress related to work, smoking and drinking alcohol disturbs the circadian clock (physical body cycle). This is one of the reasons for deaths among women due to cancer.
Our passive way of life is mainly responsible for cancer disease. Due to undue emphasis on working women, women in urban areas are getting married late and as a result children are also born at somewhat an advanced age. Some of them also go for hormone replacement therapy. This further increases the chance for contracting cancer disease. Whereas doctors advice against going for unnatural hormone replacement therapy. It is good to aspire for children but conception at right time is also important. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, maintaining weight and regular walking and exercise and avoiding free sex help in keeping cancer disease away.
According to a recent study, irregular lifestyle is the main reason for approx 7.5% rise in cancer cases in India. World Health Organization (WHO) conducted study by an international agency, Globocan, says that increase in breast cancer cases, uterine cervix are due to wrong style of living. Specialists also advise annual health check-up for women. There is also need for complete health check-up of women after attaining the age of 35.
There is also need to create awareness among women, as in cancer cases, it helps to resolve the problem in time. At many times, due to lack of awareness, and socio-economic reasons, women do not pay attention to the symptoms associated with cancer disease. This may prove very costly as in such cases more time for treatment is required and the treatment also becomes ineffective. Regular daily exercise, consuming of fresh vegetables and fruits and not allowing too much stress to rule the mind help one to keep away from cancer type diseases. The doctors also advised to keep away from contaminated and harmful junk food as these affect the normal functioning and increase the dangers of cancer disease.
Need for discussion on Constitutional bodies
Jurist and the nation's Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley is of the opinion that the judiciary, by and by, is reducing the jurisdiction of the Legislature. Not only this he believes that the Judiciary is also encroaching into the working of the Executive. Not a healthy thought indeed. Our Constitutional arrangement or our democracy is basically based on the principle of division of various powers. If the Legislature or the Executive interferes in the working of the Judiciary, then no one can justify with it; likewise, the interference of the judiciary in the working of other pillars of democracy too cannot be said to be correct.
The Finance Minister's comment is related with a GST issue. Jaitley is in favour of resolution of any dispute concerning GST through the medium of an independent judge. If this logic is accepted, it would mean that the process of tax determination going out of the hands of the Executive which is in fact its working field. The tribunal, for resolution of a GST dispute, need not have a judge as its head. Judicial activism is welcomed by a certain class of our population but at the same time there are other people who see judiciary as a threat to our democratic system.
Some subjects always keep relations with the Executive or the Legislature and the Judiciary. If somebody's fundamental right is being encroached upon or there is need for explanation of a law, then it is natural to approach the court and abide by its hearings. But, if there is pressure by the judiciary in the matters of policy making or in the administrative arena, then it may prove wrong. What is the need for a court to deal in matters like fixing parking charges, removal of garbage, controlling the traffic and ragging in colleges? River linking scheme is a policy matter but the Apex Court, had summoned the Union Govt officials, in matters related with its implementation.
The most disputable example of judicial activism is the Collegium system which has no hypothesis in our Constitution. But, the Supreme Court has affirmed it through its own order. In the Constitution, the right to appoint judges has been given to the President of India on the advice of the Chief Justices. This method has been followed for many decades. According to the Collegium system, judges appoint judges. A number of questions have been raised over this method. There are some matters where the Constitution is silent or they are being overlooked. Hence, a national debate is called for to bring reforms in the Constitution, which would help to preserve its current form..
Uttarakhand: Court clears confusion on Constitutional provisions
The state govt-led by ex-Congress Chief Minister Harish Rawat, has been restored. As per initial indications and reports, one MLA from BJP voted for the Congress party and similarly one Congress MLA had voted for the BJP. Besides, these two, all voted as per the whip and nine Congress MLAs were turned out. Thus, the issue came to an end with the money having played its role. Neither the BSP did not repay to the BJP for its support in the local body polls nor Satpal Maharaj could create a new dissent in the Congress party. The Independent candidate too did not bulge.
When the advocates of BJP had readily agreed for floor test, then many political pundits were assuming that the BJP had garnered majority support. However, when the BJP MLAs came out of the Assembly after voting, then they had given indication of win of Harish Rawat. Thus, a break has come in the politics of Uttarakhand, we should hope for a break too in the nation's politics.
Prominent BJP leaders, giving call for a Congress-free India, wanted a change of Govt at Uttarakhand and elsewhere after their bid in Arunachal Pradesh. The floor test brought to an end all misgivings. Relations between the Centre and states are mentioned in Sections 355 and 356. Other unclear points were also cleared by Sarkaria Commission's report. All the confusion on centre-state relations have been cleared by the court verdicts. What are the powers of the Centre and the Governor and how far the State Govt can go? What are the limits of the Speaker? How to arrive at majority-minority decision? It should be hoped that now such incidents will not recur.
The framers of our Constitution had realized the shortcomings of Articles 355-356. However, they assumed that the people's representatives, and others holding constitutional posts, would not fiddle with common rules. But, our MLAs have done whatever they wanted to do and representatives of all parties are to be equally blamed for the sorry state of affairs.
Foreign policy: Where is the Govt weak ?
The foreign policy of Modi Govt is under discussion. Despite of the Prime Minister's visit to nearly 130 countries and his participation in regional and international conferences, why the results are not as desired? Where has been the miss? The reasons are clear.
The first reason is shortage of ambassadors. Despite of the Modi govt having increased the number of envoys recently, and re-assigning the posts of some of the officials, yet the number of Ambassadors, among the 20 economically powerful or G-20 nations, is the smallest. Not only this, even in the BRICKS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) grouping, our team of envoys is the smallest. The second reason is linked with coordination among different agencies. Today, a country's foreign policy has to be multifaceted. Hence, for it to become effective, the role of different inter-agencies working in this field becomes important.
On comparing with nations we are trying to improve our relations with, we find that it is almost missing with us. The third reason is finance; India is the 10th most economic powerful nation of the world. It is continuously on the way to become a rich nation. Despite of this, the tax-payers of the nation are quite less in number. As per the Income-Tax department recent disclosure, only one per cent of the 1.5 billion population are paying tax. In comparison to the G-20 and BRICKS nations, this figure is very less. This scenario affects the capability for an active New Delhi foreign policy. Hence, India gets mostly limited to only discussions. Whereas China, with its huge trade surplus, is continuously investing in several important countries.
Hence, along with removing the shortcomings in these processes, a political initiative is also needed for an effective foreign policy. By working on these issues only we cannot play an important role on world platforms. The need is also for promoting the foreign policy in a strategic way.
Why are bride deaths increasing ?
As per Govt figures, there has been a considerable rise in dowry deaths during the years 2007 to 2011. According to the data released by National Crime Records Bureau, in the year 2012, 2833 cases relating to dowry had come forward. In the year 2011, 2618 dowry-related killings of women had come to light; meaning, on an average, one woman was killed for dowry every hour. In the year 2013, 10,709 cases related to Dowry Eradication Act were registered. Probably in the dowry system, there may have been the thinking that girls should be provided the same facilities at her new husband's home which she was getting at her own home. But, this logic is funny. In India, traditional marriages are held among people of equal status.
Burning of brides over small things is reflection of cruelty. Many a time a bride is tortured and killed for not bringing dowry in scooter, or money. There is only one social reason for killing of the female foetus to dowry murder- the girl's father would have to give dowry; she would prove a burden on her father and mother economically. Thus, people dread birth of a girl child and many make arrangements to kill her in womb itself. Those girls who survive fall prey to dowry demands.
It is clear from figures for the year 2013 that there has been a steady rise in dowry-related deaths. Taking woman as a commodity, the bridegroom party demands dowry in return. In some states, dowry amount is fixed according to the job of the bridegroom. In matters related to dowry, the situation is same in both North and South India. There is not much difference in states ahead or behind in matters of literacy. Both Andhra Pradesh and Bihar are almost at level in matters of dowry killing. Despite having the highest literacy rate, dowry cases keep piling up here too.
Despite the rising trend in dowry deaths, this issue has not found place in the manifesto of any political party. At the same time, the parties get involved in distribution of mangal sutras, sarees during community marriage functions. This only further fans the killer tradition.
43 crore people in grip of drought
Almost ten states of the country are in the grip of serious drought. The people affected in these states number nearly 43 crore. If those areas are also included which have not been notified as drought hit officially, but are facing such conditions, then the affected people may touch the figure 54 to 55 crore. It means nearly 40% of the population is affected by drought conditions. Despite of this grave situation, no relief effort worth the name has been initiated by the central or the state governments.
Both the Central and the state governments are trying to avoid the responsibility by putting the blame on each other. Total lack of seriousness is reflected in one incident concerning Bundelkhand in UP. Looking to the gravity of the situation in Bundelkhand (UP), the Central Govt directed for supply of water through railway tankers. The UP Govt of Akhilesh Yadav in the beginning did not accept the help but when persuaded, he relented. But, it came to light that the tankers supplied were without water.
Last year, no sooner the monsoon season ended, it had been predicted that there would be drought situation. Still, the state governments took it lightly and delayed in declaring the affected districts as drought hit. The Central Govt too followed suit and only after it was reprimanded by the Apex Court did it release the balance amount of MNREGA of last year worth Rs 12 thousand crore. This is the situation of the Govt which speaks loftily about `from Gram Uday to `Bharat Uday'.
A number of BJP MPs had called for river linking scheme to solve the water problem. This is not a new point as this plan had been spoken of many times in the past. During the reign of Atal Behari Vajpayee as PM, this plan was given up citing it as impractical, involving displacement of huge number of people, and very expensive. In fact, to deal with the drought situation, we would have to find out the real reasons for the same. After a gap of some years, the recurrence of drought is not a new thing. It has happened in the past.
But, due to two main reasons, this problem is becoming very grave; one due to agriculture not remaining a good source of livelihood; even in the year when the monsoon is normal, the farmers remain in trouble due to inadequate return for their produce; when there is drought, then they are definitely in greater trouble. The second reason is that due to reckless use of ground water, the water problem is becoming grave by the day. Hence, the only permanent solution to this problem is to make agriculture a profitable venture and to find and implement ways for optimum use of water from ground and other sources.
Rising cost of pulses and Govt policy
Once again the prices of pulses have started rising. There does not seem any respite from rising prices at least for the next two-three months. Annual pulses consumption in the country is nearly 2.5 crore tonnes; of these around two crore tonnes are produced in India and the rest 50 lakh tonnes is imported. In case of bad rains or any other reason if the pulse crop is damaged, then the gap between demand and supply widens and the prices start rising.
One of the solutions to this problem is creating buffer stock of the pulses so that if there is shortage, then the stock can be released in the market and prices kept under control. According to knowledgeable sources, at least 10% of pulses production that is 20 lakh tonnes needs to be kept in stock to control sudden rise in prices of the commodity. However, at present the Govt has only stocks of five lakh tonnes which it is planning to increase to 10 lakh tonnes. Whereas even this stock is not sufficient to control prices.
On the one hand, the problems facing import of any commodity is that in the international market we do not have any control over the prices and on the other hand when the stock of pulses goes down, the pressure on import increases with the demand and the prices start rising sky high. Even in the international market, the prices of pulses have gone up compared to our domestic prices. The fundamental point is that India, being a big consumer of pulses, cannot remain dependent on imports. Hence, the only solution to this problem is to become self-sufficient or face the same problem year after year.
In our country, food security is being provided to only wheat and rice whereas the need is to expand this to other foodgrains too. Besides increasing the sowing acerage of pulses, the country needs to improve the methods of production too as the per acre production in India is the least as compared to other countries of the world. Even though the Govt has shown its concerns in this sector, yet the need is for more seriousness and quick action.
Every third MP a farmer, still farming in disarray
Drought and floods cause damage to a large part of crops every year. The farmer gets tied up in loans and is being forced to end his life. It should be a matter of concern that in the year 2012, 13,754 farmers and others related with farmwork ended life. In 2013 and 2014 this figure was 11,772 and 12,360 respectively. These are Govt figures, the reality is said to be fearful. Unfortunately, these desperate people fail to get help at the proper time. It is said that in Chhattisgarh, 309 farmers ended their lives during the last three years but only 3 got Govt help ! There are umpteens of such Chhattisgarhs in India. This is the condition of a nation where every third Member of Parliament claims himself to be a farmer.
Due to the indifference of officers and other Govt staff, a better implementation of schemes for farmers welfare is questionable. Only 23% farmers are being covered under the current insurance plans. In this situation, it's a challenge to create awareness among farmers over this small premium welfare scheme. In our country, nearly 23% of farming is being done on allotment basis and hence it is difficult to provide the benefit of insurance scheme to the people engaged in agriculture. The State govts have to frame rules in this regard. Despite of allegations of political benefits, this scheme aims to benefit the farmers.
A question arises as to why it took six decades for allotting Rs 8,800 crore in this plan in Rs 18 lakh crore annual agriculture budget? Though there has been a delay, yet the step is in the right direction. Along with the human angle, there is also need for proper management of water supply for agriculture. Almost 70 to 80% of ground water in our country is being used for agriculture.
This is at a time when only 45% of land is getting benefits of irrigation, the rest are depending on the rain god. Imagine the situation if the parties promise to fulfil water demand of farmers at every election time in the current situation. From where are they going to bring water? It is natural, that we need major changes. For sugarcane crop, the water requirement is five times more than that for wheat crop. Hence, where there is water scarcity, the farmers should be encouraged to take up farming of crops which require less water.
Call for reforms in judicial system
The common man has great hopes from the judiciary. But, due to massive shortage of manpower, the judicial system itself is getting pressed down under its own weight. India ranks at top with more than three crore cases pending in the courts. A Judge from Andhra Pradesh has said that it would take nearly 320 years to clear all the backlog; similarly another judge commented that even if the judges employ their time during eating-drinking and sleeping and clear 2400 cases every day, it would still take 35 years to clear all the backlog. Some time back, a former chief justice of the Delhi High Court had also commented that in Delhi HC there are 66,452 cases pending of which 2300 are criminal cases and it would take nearly 466 years to clear them.
In order to resolve such a massive backlog of cases, there is need for appointment of judges in a big way. What is the ratio of judge-people in India? In the US it is quite high--107 and in Canada it is 75. In India, in the year 1987, this ratio was 10 judges for a population of ten lakh. At that time there were 7675 judges. The Law Commission had recommended an increase of 40,000 judges. At present the ratio of judge to people is 17 judges for a population of 10,000 people.
In this disappointing scenario, there are many vacancies in the High Courts. In some HCs, the judges account for less than 50% of their total workforce. Similarly, in the lower courts, 4580 posts of judges remain vacant. The Chief Justice of India, TS Thakur, could not restrain his grief at a recent conference and commented that they had sent names of 170 judges for appointment in High Courts but there was no response from the Govt.
This is also true that only increasing the number of judges in courts would not resolve the problem. The country needs free, fair, honest and capable judges. Recently it came to light that a judge of the Supreme Court had given decisions in only 7 cases during the period of three years. In fact, we do not have a yardstick to see the performance of our judges. Disposal and delay in cases have always been the subject of discussion. During the last six decades a number of strategies were spelt out by the judiciary, the justice ministry, noted thinkers and judges to resolve this imbroglio. For some time there is also talk of court management.
The 13th Pay Commission has allotted some funds for improvement in the justice system. Some other measures include increase in timing of courts, improving the skills of public prosecutors, judicial officers through training programmes, establishment of a judicial academy in every state and their strengthening so that the judiciary gets required help in discharge of its administrative duties.
Do not burn fallen leaves
May, 8: Recently, there was news of forest cover catching fire in Uttarakhand. All efforts to douse the fire seemed to fail as the fire continued for over a week. However, the end of the fire brought great relief to the district administration and the local people. Small incidents of burning the leftovers in farms after harvest and the leaves in autumn, could prove very dangerous. Harvesting of crops by machines, in place of man, and burning the leftovers, has led to such forest fires. Hence, the option for the same would have to come out from the scientist who invented the harvester. Likewise, the damage caused to the environment, on burning of leaves in the autumn season, is no less. Burning of leaves results in emission of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and many a time chemicals made of sulphur. This affects the moistness and oxygen in atmosphere. Suffocating gases including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, sulphur di oxide make the atmospheric air poisonous. Leaves of trees including arjun, neem, peepal, imli, jamun, dhak, amaltas, gulmohar and sheesham keep falling in the summer months. A big part of these leaves are burned.
Chlorophyll, a green pigment present in all green plants, divides the water-particles or humidity into hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen combines with poisonous carbondioxide gas to provide the necessary feed for the leaves. whereas oxygen is the lifeline. When the chlorophyll in plants is over, the green pigment in the leaves goes and it turns yellow or brown and is not fit for making food for the plants. However, it retains the stock of nitrogen, protein, vitamin, starch etc. These leaves are set on fire which cause pollution. According to one estimate, in the NCR region of Delhi, during the three months of autumn, the poison released in the air due to burning of leaves, is equivalent to the poisonous gases released by around 50,000 vehicles. Hence, howsomuch the odd-even formula is adopted, during the two months of autumn, the air for one year is getting polluted. Burning of leaves emit suffocating gases including sulphur di oxide, carbon monodioxide etc. The left over ash too increases the carbon content in the air and affects the fertility potential of the soil. If these leaves are turned into fertilizer then they would provide a new life to the soil.
Questions arising from fresh demands for reservation
May, 7: Will the cry of hunger for reservation end with the mid-path followed by the governments of Gujarat and Haryana? It is necessary to ponder deeply over the issue. Whether it be the Patel community of Gujarat or the Jat community in Haryana, we know that this issue won't go far. As per the prevailing provisions, 49% jobs are being given to the reserved class and there is not much scope for increasing this percentage of reservation. As per the Apex Court order, more than 50% reservation cannot be given to any community. Hence, this issue is going to be raised in the court and the court may order stay in any hasty decision taken by any Govt.
The new provisions on reservation demand may also meet the same fate as done for Gurjars by the Rajasthan govt. But, it seems the thinking of the Gujarat govt is different. It is facing 2017 state elections. The BJP would not like to go to polls by annoying the Patel community. The Patel community, with 15% population, is powerful in the rural regions. At present the govt wants to keep the people calm and by the time the court decision comes, the state 2017 elections may be over.
For last some years, communities who had earlier opposed their inclusion in the backward class, have been raising the demand for reservation. One of the reasons for this is lack of opportunity for jobs. According to a recently released report, during 22 years, nearly 30 crore youth had reached the state of employment. But, of these only 14 crore could get employed. Similarly, Jat and Patel community, responsible for the Green Revolution, their turning towards reservation is telling upon the sorry state of affairs of agriculture. Due to less income from agriculture activities, the youth of these communities want govt jobs through reservation. Hence, this problem has only two real solutions: one to make agriculture a profitable venture and the other to create hundreds of jobs by setting up industries. Proper employment to youth will do away with the needs of reservation.
Good research in the field of education needed
May, 6: No efforts worth the name are being made to improve the education system. We need real good research in this field. In general, research in this field is of two kinds--one of them searches for solutions to questions within the sector itself namely from the students, teachers and the views of the community. The second one is carried out by the economists, political pundits, sociologists and those with the intelligence background. In India, at present there is lack of research in the second field in education.
To improve education policy, we would have to pay adequate attention to the first kind of research. For this there is need to give thought to two important points--one of which is the teacher. In our country, most of the teachers take up the challenges put forth by groups of two or four students. One traditional picture is of a teacher taking different classes of six to ten years age students. This means the teacher is teaching students from first to fifth class in one go.
According to a report, the language of students is completely different from the language of schools. For several school students the only balanced diet they get is from the mid-day meals. Many students find themselves engaged in daily chores prior to going and after leaving from their schools. How should a teacher understand this condition and adjust with the student. How can the teacher become effective to leave a mark on the student? How should he deal with children speaking in different languages? What type of help he is expecting and how can the administration supply it? Only after knowing the truth from the teachers and the students, would we be able to bring improvement in the education sector. Even though this is also true that we do not have a ready solution for this problem.
At the same time we need to understand the education system in context to the complex social behaviours. Looking to the truths in society and shortcomings in the education field and the diversity, how can we increase the strength of our current force of 85 lakh teachers? How can the schools participation with the society become effective? How can the schools carry out their constitutional duties? How to overcome the rot and stench having entered in the process of grooming good and capable teachers? Independent teachers and institutes which faced these questions have developed a deep understanding. Even though such a research is very less in India. The focus of research in education should be on reality and major problems facing the people and the country. If a litterateur takes up responsibility for such a research, then it would be a silent revolution for education and educational researches.
Woes of dental education
May, 5: The recommendation for opening of dental colleges in India is given by the Dental Council of India. This Council is also a statutory body formed under the Constitution. Leaving aside the Govt sector, the Council has shown maximum interest in opening of dental colleges all over India. At one time, dental science was one of the subjects in medical science but then it has become a full subject of study. WHO yardstick is one dentitst for 1000 persons, however, this yardstick seems unlikely to be achieved for quite some years in India.
Throughout India there are only 20 government dental colleges. States which have two colleges as well as those which have one, do not have the facility of post-graduate studies.
Govt dentists exert lot of energy and money in carrying out their practice after the routine duty hours. As a result, lethargy has creeped in them and they do not take the desired interest for teaching the students. The doctors feel shy of going to villages.
The situation in private dental colleges is also not rosy. Many a time, In absence of patients, there is problem for students in practical learning. Now, the Apex Court has stepped in and disallowed holding of entrance exams by private dental colleges.
Let not the youth power become a burden on the country
May, 4: Recently, the Industries Association body, ASSOCHAM, released a report on the deplorable situation of institutes churning out Management students. According to the report, barring IIM and a few other noted institutes of Management, most of the students coming out from the Management institutes are not finding themselves fit for their jobs. There are nearly 5,500 institutes, having 5,20,000 seats for imparting management education. There are also other management institutes which are not recognized by the concerned govt department. According to ASSOCHAM, apart from IIM and some noted institutes, only 7% of students from other management institutes are able to get suitable jobs. By investing lakhs of rupees, these students have to remain content with salaries ranging between Rs 8000 and 10,000 only.
A similar situation is being witnessed in the engineering sector. Every year nearly 15 lakh students obtain Engineering degrees from different colleges of the country. Of these 15 to 20% fail to receive any jobs and they have to join employment of lower ranks. One of the reasons for this situation is that only the Information Technology sector is growing. The growth in other streams of engineering is less or static. One other reason cited is the poor standard of education in the engineering colleges. This has also been stated by an I-T major Infosys founder, Narayan Murthy. As a result many engineering colleges have closed down. It is time for the policy makers at Centre to act. Though we agree that the Indian youth is the nation's asset, but this asset may be lost if our youth, after obtaining degrees, fail to be suitably employed. A number of international modern industries want India to become their centre, but in absence of technical, scientific and knowledge-based work skills in the youth, they are not moving forward.
For the last several years the Union Govt has not taken any initiative to increase investment in the education sector. This has led to reckless privatization of the education sector and minting of money from the guardians and the students. Govt agencies like UGC, AICTE and MCI, delegated with the responsibility to maintain standards of education in temples of learning, are themselves beset with corruption.
Streamlining medical-dental admissions in the country
May, 3: On the orders of the Apex Court, National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) is being organized throughout the country for admissions in medical and dental courses. This has become necessary due to rampant corruption prevailing in the temples of learning.Though the Medical Council of India is a statutory body yet its working needs to be improved. The owners of private colleges have eyes on people willing to give donations for admissions in their colleges. Will tell you later how the medical colleges get opened!
Attorney General, speaking on this examination, had said that the Supreme Court has given permission for holding NEET in two phases. However, some practical problems have arisen which need immediate resolution. Those students who could not appear in May 1 NEET have the option of appearing in the second test to be held on July 24.
The court removed all the hurdles in the way of holding NEET. Nearly 6.5 lakh students are appearing for this test which will cover govt colleges, deemed universities, and private medical colleges. No separate examinations would be allowed. In this respect DMAT being conducted by private medical and dental colleges of MP stand cancelled.
The Supreme Court has tried to streamline entrance examinations for medical colleges. The Govt too is interested in opening medical colleges but it has already announced that no new dental colleges would be opened now.
Health - poverty and sickness
May, 2:According to a fresh survey of National Sample Survey Organization, 86% of rural population and 82% of urban population bears hospital expenditure from its own pockets. The rural folks are compelled to spend their hard earned savings on emergency healthcare and similarly a large section of the urban population spends its retirement funds and EPF amount on healthchcare. This is due to lack of health insurance Govt or private on a large section of the population.
On one side the fear of worldwide flu and zika virus is looming large and on the other, the Govt has also resorted to limiting its role in treatment matters. Though there are announcements for opening new AIIMS like hospitals, the Govt is focusing on PPP mode for opening most modern hospitals instead of helping the poor people in their treatment of various diseases. Due to this the people have to shell out money from their own pockets. Treatment in private hospitals has become very costly. To provide relief to the poor class, the Govt speaks about subsidy and medical insurance but due to lack of awareness, the beneficiaries fail to take benefit of the relief. This huge medical expenditure further pushes nearly six and a half crore of people in poverty line which is very sad.
Last year, the draft of national health policy had commented on the huge expenses being incurred by people on medical treatments. The effect of exra expenditure on healthcare is telling upon the monthly income of the families and also taking away the enefits of various govt schemes for the poor people. During 2011-12, an average 6.9% income of a rural family was spent on health care; this percentage in urban areas was 5.5. Compared to years 2004-05, there is a rise of 3 per cent in this expense. This issue is bogged down in a vicious cycle wherein the first aspecct is that the poor are falling prey to various diseases.
Need to resolve the banks' NPA issue
May, 1: Indian banks are sinking. By 31 Dec, 2015, the total NPA of 24 listed public sector banks had gone up to Rs 3,93,035 crore. If risky loans are added to this figure, then it will climb up to more than Rs 8 lakh crore. The Reserve Bank of India has directed all the public sector banks to set right its balance sheets by March 2017. This has increased pressure on these banks. Looking to the seriousness of the problem, the Apex Court has asked the Central Bank to provide it with details of Rs 500 cr and above defaulters. Something needs to be done to rescue the banks from this crisis.
First of all there is need to reframe the code of bankruptcy. This is important for development and strengthening the credit market. This would help in reining in NPA. According to the World Bank, it takes nearly twice the time to shut down a sick company in India as compared with the same in China. Besides this, the bad loans of the banks are also increasing. (According to 29 public sector banks, during 2013-15, Rs 1.14 lakh cr worth of loans were locked up as failed loans). Also, there are challenges facing corporate debt-restructuring (CDR), rules framed for sick industries and Company Act-2013. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2015 needs to be passed at the earliest.
Along with the above, there is need to discourage the disbursement of loans on the basis of political compulsions. Due to poor estimation of the repayment of loan instalments, the NPA of banks is rising. Hence, it is important to strengthen the loan evaluation and risk management system. There should also be a system for monitoring the loans. There needs to be a firm policy for recovery of NPA. For this strict monetary punishments are called for. Specially, the willful defaulters should be taken to task so that others fear to repeat their mistakes.
As far as technology is concerned the public sector banks are way behind the private sector banks. Due to this not only their capacity is declining but also their share. Hence, the public sector banks need to be modernised to meet growing competition from the private sector banks.
Probe falters in Hasan Ali case
Apr, 29:Oh Yes! the same Hasan Ali who has deep relations with all the political parties.The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal has termed tax demand of Rs 10 crore on Khan as correct. Earlier, the I-T Dept was investigating tax evasion to the tune of Rs one lakh 25,000 cr on Ali, however, in absence of proof and witnesses, the Appellate has termed this demand as without any base.
Now, the question arises when on Jan 5, 2007, the Income Tax department had conducted raids on Ali's Mumbai and Pune houses, then money to the tune of thousands of crores and a network of Swiss bank accounts had come to the fore. The department, on Jan 6, 2007, had also entrusted Enforcement Directorate officials to carry out investigation in Ali's illegal wealth.
The officials of Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax visited Switzerland a number of times to know about Hasan Ali's bank accounts there. It came to light that Hasan had an account in the Swiss branch at Singapore. The introducer for this account was Adnan Kasogi, a major dealer in arms. It also came to light that the accounts from which Ali wanted to withdraw money were opened a long time back. However, the account shows dealings of Rs 68 crore effected by Hasan. After investigation, the ED and IT officials made a tax demand of Rs one lakh 25,000 cr from Hasan.
It is probably the first case in the country's history when such a huge tax demand has been made from a single person. However, when it came to light that Ali does not have so much assets, then the investigation also has come to a halt. When the Income Tax dept and other investigating agencies had unveiled illegal dealings of Hasan from Swiss bank account, then why no further measures were taken. Why other people including Kashinath Toporia were not probed effectively?
Raising of voices against smart city plan
Apr, 28:With the announcement of plans for smart city project, voices against it are being heard. The centre of the smart city is 359 acre part of Shivaji Nagar and further its centre is Kalyani Hostel and the popular 101 row of houses. There are also some houses, built by the Bhopal Development Authority, and given on lease to its owners coming under the smart city plan. Its owners are fearing their displacement. Kalyani hostel is being run by Mahila Chetna Manch whose president is former Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh, Nirmala Buch. Under her guidance, discussions are taking place over the smart city plan. Though most of the owners of 101 row houses may have built a house elsewhere, still everyone has his sentimental connection with Shivraji Nagar. There is also a Saraswati Shishu Mandir which believes that the smart city plan is a welfare step. There are some shops adjacent to the temples and there is the Brethren assembly.
The main questions arising are-- should the smart city plan go ahead and where? Without making it a prestige issue, the state govt needs to realize that the owners of these houses planted trees due to which the Char Imli residents are breathing oxygen freely. The logic that we can plant trees later on also is very deceptive. During the last 30 years, under social forestry and other schemes, , trees were planted at Tulsi Nagar and Shivaji Nagar but only those trees grew which were planted at homes and taken care of.
The smart city plan is a brainchild of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But, in the state capital Bhopal, where should it be built is being determined by the state govt and the Bhopal Municipal Corporation. Both the district administration and the city govt never gave a thought to the idea that the smart city should be built in other areas including Kolar, Bairagarh, Berasia or on Hoshangabad road where more than the houses, the people need facilities. The seat of govt's power, Vallabh Bhawan, too has forgotten its own official, late MN Buch who had contributed in the planning of capital city Bhopal for the next 75 years.
Smart city in Bhopal needs to be built on open govt land like at Raipur. Also, it is better for the district administration to make the people aware about construction or buying of houses. Smart city should have houses where even residents of 101 row houses find a peaceful shelter.
Why China has objections now?
Apr, 27: China has raised objections over issue of visa to a Uyghur Chinese dissident leader. India also has made it clear in no uncertain terms that no difference could be made among terrorists. All terrorists are the same and they should be dealt with one principle. This policy is not good. China should have seen its way of working prior to raising objections. China had created hurdles in India's move to impose international ban on Masood Azhar, the chief of Jaish-e-Mohammad. There is no need to describe in detail why this issue is important for India.
It has come to the notice of the Govt that there was the hand of Masood Azhar in terrorist attack at Pathankot Airforce base. It may be recalled that China had vetoed the move of the Indian Govt to impose international ban on terrorist Azhar. A committee of the United Nations Security Council deliberates on proposals related to ban on terrorists. The committee has fifteen members including China. When the issue of imposition of ban on Masood came, then China was the only nation which opposed the move. The proposal of India fell as it is to be passed by consent of all members states.
The permanent Indian envoy to the United Nations, Akbaruddin, had also raised this issue in the General Assembly and asked for a rethinking on rules of the Ban Committee for not revealing the reasons of decisions taken to the General Assembly in a formal way. If the reasons of decisions are not revealed, then how can the General Assembly come to know the reasons for acceptance or refusal of a proposal? Recently, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj too had raised the issue of Masood Azhar with her Chinese counterpart and now the Indian Defence Minister, Manohar Parikkar has apprised the Chinese officials regarding India's concerns over the matter. China has repeated its commitment against terrorism during bilateral talks and at international fora. Then why did it adopt an uncooperative attitude towards proposal for international ban on terrorist Masood? Is it due to its non-interference in the internal matters of India and Pakistan? But, is Masood an authorised representative of Pakistan?
First go for smart village, then smart cities
Apr, 18: There are a lot of challenges for integrated development of smart cities looking to the limited infrastructure facilities and increasing trend of city-centric migration. Ever diminishing natural resources, constant rise in urban poor, increasing urbanization, changing geography of cities, adverse effects on environment due to change in land use of cities, changing landscape of public places, climate change and dangers facing bio-diversity are the challenges coming before us. Proper discharge of water and solid waste management are also big challenges as it may take a dangerous shape due to excess supply of water and increasing use of toilets.
The above facility increases use of water. It increases the consumption of water per person. As a result there is condition of water pollution. A number of obstacles are coming in the way of development of smart cities like inequality in use of used water; fear on health, lack of cleanliness in slum colonies, birth of children with low weight in slum colonies in Mumbai due to lack of nutritious food to pregnant women. To get solutions for all these problems, the Govt is following a strategy of encouragement. This policy could be made a reality by developing smart villages.
Good schemes can go a long way in culturally developing smart villages and cities. Like in other nations and in major cities of India, libraries can be developed in small villages and cities. This would help to disseminate knowlege on physical, environmental and cultural aspects. With good schemes, improved efforts may be made in the direction of social relations, equality and diversity. These libraries can become platforms for presenting different cultures, lifestyles at one place. Hence, such aspects should be given priority in smart city concept. With the help of agriculture and herbal plantation, criteria for food security and health could be met. Durable and spontaneous development could change the face of urban areas, thereby maintaining the environment of the cities.
Political wrangle- hurting democracy
Apr, 17: Nainital High Court has pulled up Attorney General of Central Govt for shaking the roots of democracy. The annoyance of the court is understandable. One fails to understand the announcement of President's rule in Uttarakhand when the very next day, the Assembly was to go through a trust vote. The Central Govt had only one logic--that after the rebellion of nine Congress MLAs, the Congress Govt had been reduced to a minority. It may be also noted that the rebel Congress MLAs, along with 35 others, had asked for a division of vote in an Appropriation Bill which the Speaker had point blank refused. Main point is why the Centre did not follow the directions of the Apex Court?
In a related Bommai case, the Supreme Court had said that the trust vote should be held in the Assembly only. The decision may have come based on constitutional factors and reckless use of Section 356 in the past. Though the Congress party may be presenting itself as the aggrieved one in the Uttarakhand matter, but it needs mention that during its long stint at the Centre, it had also dismissed the state govts ruled by the Opposition parties a number of times. There are also other examples of misuse of Section 356 by other Govts which ruled at the Centre. When in opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party would always remain alert regarding rights of states and in favour of the federal structure. At that time it saw Congress using the President's rule as a tool but now the party itself is going the same path!
The BJP, in the Uttarakhand case, has underscored the directions given by the Apex Court as also the suggestions given by Sarkaria Commission on Centre-state relations, which clearly mentions reasons for imposition of President's rule. If the issue pertained to the internal matter of the Congress party, then why a chance was not given for trust vote? The High Court has also pulled up the Governor for giving more than the required time for proving majority by the Congress party. Another plea of the Centre for President's rule was that there were reports of horse-trading and hence it was necessary for conducting a floor test as soon as possible. Then, why did the Governor take more than required time to hold trust vote? Truth is that this wrangling is affecting our democratic way of life.
Concern over depleting water reservoirs
Apr, 16: A fresh report of the Central Water Commission is enough to open our eyes. Country's reservoirs have only 23 per cent of their water capacity left. This is not even one third of the average 77 per cent of water in the reservoirs for the last ten years. Despite dry weather conditions last year, the water in these reservoirs was approx 67 per cent. Almost two and a half months are left for the summer season to end and in this situation the problem of shortage of water is bound to be felt in potable water supply, for irrigation purpose and for production of electricity.
Water level in about 91 large reservoirs has come down to dangerous levels. According to the Central Water Commission, the situation is more alarming in south and western Madhya Pradesh. Water availability in 31 reservoirs of southern region is 15% and in western region 18%. There is not a drop of water in three reservoirs in Maharashtra and one each reservoir in Andhra Pradesh and Telengana. The situation is somewhat better in West Bengal, Tripura and Madhya Pradesh. Looking to the gravity of the situation, the Maharashtra Govt has enforced Section 144 in some districts and at all reservoirs. Marathwada region is facing the worst drought in hundred years.
In the state of Gujarat too, the State Govt has deployed armed guards to prevent looting of water from canals carrying Narmada water. Due to the unprecedented water crisis, patients in many hospitals and also convicts are being shifted to other locations. Water is being supplied through tankers in 1,150 villages and 50 towns in Gujarat. The situation is equally grave in Rajasthan where there is no water from a long period in 19 districts, 89 towns and 14,487 villages. Telengana, where 140 divisions are in grip of drought, is also facing worst water crisis in 17 years
As the percentage of rainfall last year was less than average 14 per cent, the state governments of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telengana, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhdra Pradesh had already declared a big portion of their states as drought affected. The drought hit states have sought Rs 38,667 crore from the Centre; but till now only Rs 11,938 cr have been released. Looking to severe heat wave conditions, the amount being provided under MGNREM had been increased from 100 to 150 days. However, due to lack of funds, the workers got payment for only 47.8 mandays of work.
According to the Rural Development Ministry, the scheme which commenced in the year 2006, provided 49.9 mandays employment in 2012-13, it was 47.9 mandays in 2013-14 and 41.4 mandays employment in 2014-15, whereas the monsoon during this period was normal. Therefore, it is time to take relief measures on a war footing. There is no need to become very happy over the news of a good monsoon. Rather, we need to give thought on how to reap benefits of a good monsoon.
Speed & speedbreakers both are dangerous
Apr, 15: Worldwide, speed along with speed breakers are being blamed for the rise in road accidents. The Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry has directed the state governments and agencies involved in maintenance of highways to dismantle all the speedbreakers immediately. These are said to increase the danger of accidents and also reduce the speed of the vehicles.
Annually, road accidents in India claim nearly one lakh lives. This figure for India is highest in the world. One of the main reasons for this state of affairs is the carelessness of the vehicle drivers. But, experts also blame this situation on road designs and shortfall in their construction. In our country it is taken for granted that whoever would drive on the road is well versed in driving and would avoid carelessness. But, in truth, such a model driver is an impossibility. Hence, while designing the roads, it needs to be kept in mind that if a carelessness happens with a driver, then there should be minimum loss. While constructing speedbreakers, it is never given to thought that what would happen if the driver forgets to notice the speedbreaker and moves over it with speed. At many places, the speedbreakers are not marked with yellow stripes and at others there are no sign boards warning of their presence. After accidents on roads, speedbreakers are made immediately but seldom any thought is given to their regular repair and effective use.
The intention of the Road Transport Ministry is good but it needs to be seen how well the orders are implemented. The reason for this is that the agencies, involved in constructing the speedbreakers, are municipalities or gram panchayats and to get the order implemented from them is not an easy task. The purpose for constructing speedbreakers in villages and towns is that the speed of the vehicles reduces or the people are able to cross the roads safely. Looking to the increasing number of vehicles, the roads need to be designed so and also their construction should be scientific and modern. No person should face danger of an accident or face big consequences for a small mistake.
Kashmir: Questions arise from the Govt
Apr, 14: The present situation of the Kashmir govt endorses the fact that amidst controversies the Govt is not able to function properly. It was also being hoped from the coalition Govt that it would play a historic role in bridging the gap between Jammu and Kashmir. There was also hope from the Central govt for sufficient help. Nobody knows why these changes are not taking place.
First, there was the issue of National Institute of Technology (NIT). And now the killing of four persons in security forces firing in Handwara, leading to tension in the whole of the Valley. The NIT controversy has only increased the mental divide between Jammu and the Valley. Similarly, Handwara incident only goes to increase the unhappiness of the people with the Centre. It is a very unfortunate condition wherein the state Govt cannot shirk its responsibility and the Centre too cannot escape by saying that law and order is the problem of the state govt. After all, all the four persons had been killed in security forces firing. It is also right that the firing was carried out to disperse a violent mob. It seems more than the required force was used. Even Lt Gen DS Hudda of the Northern Command has called the incident most unfortunate.
At the same time, J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti felt it right to meet the Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar and convey her displeasure over the incident. According to Mehbooba, Parrikar assured her of an early probe and to punish the guilty. The series of events began with accusation of a soldier misbehaving with a girl. The people assembled and the crowd became uncontrollable. Now, the security forces have released a video in which the said girl has clarified that no soldier had misbehaved with her. Rather, the controversy was planned by two youths. According to the forces, the accusation of a solider misbehaving with a girl was done purposely to tarnish the Army's image. A number of human rights organizations have raised questions over revealing the name of the aggrieved girl. It is essential to know if any controversy was hatched to create disturbance in the Valley and who are the real culprits?
Pulses prices to go sky high this year
Apr, 13: Prices of pulses are feared to skyrocket this year. This is no astrologer's prediction but the assessment of the market, taking into account the production scenario. Urad dal is selling at Rs 250 a kg and the tuar dal is expected to hover between Rs 200 and Rs 250 a kg. Like last year this year too the common man may have to pay Rs 200 per kg price for pulses. Due to shortage of stock with the traders, the prices of pulses may see a jump of 20 to 25 per cent. The production has not registered rise as desired. Due to fear of big fines and facing jail, the importers have also not gone for big imports this year.
India produces nearly 185 lakh tonnes of pulses; the domestic consumption is around 220 lakh tonnes. Thus, every year India has to import around 35 to 37 lakh tonnes of pulses. As per the wholesale pulses dealers, there is a trend of increase in prices of pulses. Arhar wholesale rate is pegged at Rs 145-150 per kg. Similarly, urad dal rate is Rs 175 per kg, masoor dal Rs 80 per kg and chana at Rs 57 per kg. It's a record price for chana dal. The retail price of urad dal is expected to reach Rs 250 a kg.
The Govt had recommended the farmers for sowing of pulses crops but the weather spoiled the dreams of the Govt. The traders do not have enought stock and there is no clear import policy for pulses with the Govt. In this situation, the biggest sufferer would be the common man.
Reservation: There are other issues for discussion too !
Apr, 12: BiharChief Minister Nitish Kumar has suggested to increase the present limit of reservation to 50 per cent as also to implement 50 per cent reservation in the private sector. The problem with any discussion on the issue of reservation is that it divides the people into two classes--one class feels, reservation is not required and the other that through it only the dalit-backward class of society can improve their standard of living. This leaves out discussion on important matters on the main subject.
The fear of reservation supporters is understandable. The criticism of reservation becomes a pretence for support to the higher castes. After independence, we have not brought forth any effective method for the upliftment of dalits, adivasis and backward sections of the society. In the Indian society, the credit for helping the disadvantaged people goes to the issue of reservation. There are umpteen disorders in the system of reservation and they have given rise to many problems. However, it is also true that we do not have any other effective means than reservation to lessen and eradicate caste-based injustice. But, if even today a demand is being raised to increase the limits of reservation, then the reason could be reaping political benefits as also the prevalence of a divided society with inequality. Reservation is not proving more beneficial after a certain level.
Jaat, Gurjar and Patel agitations on reservation have shown the limits of reservation and how dangerous its political use could be. At the same time, a situation of status quo has been created on this issue. The Apex Court has fixed the reservation limits to 50 per cent. There are so many for and against political groups on this issue that no political system dares to bring a change on this subject. The question is why should not the backward classes of people get an opportunity to improve themselves? One of the reasons, in keeping this section of people out of reservation, is that in the Christian and Muslim religions there is no difference in castes. Whereas in India the ground reality is totally different. If the deprived sections of Muslims and Christians are not provided the benefits of reservation, then how can we claim the improvement of all the classes and sections of our society.
Any attempt for change in the system of reservation would lead to politico-socio upheaval. The points raised by Nitish Kumar have to be addressed openly which would search other ways. The need of the hour is to open many fronts against inequality.
Pak speaking lies to save itself
Apr, 11: A section of the Indian population, ignoring the comments being made by the Pakistani media over Lahore incident, does not want to accept the media report so far as it does not come from an authorised govt source. However, when the Pakistani ambassador in India, Abdul Basit has himself said that the National Investigation Agency of India will not go to Pakistan, then there is no harm in accepting the news of the Pakistani media. The clarification made by the ambassador Abdul Basit is indeed strange.
According to Basit, this is not a matter of exchange but of coordination. Now, the question is where did the exchange go or what is the real meaning of coordination. Does turning away from what we had agreed amounts to coordination? India has clearly said that both the two nations would help each other. It was decided that after the return of JIT, NIA would visit Pakistan. But, if Pak has rejected this then where is coordination. If NIA does not go to Pak, then this would not remain just an incident; Further, this move would not restrict itself to providing punishment to perpetrators of Pathankot attack but also push back the peace process with India, which has just begun. Abdul Basit said even said that there is no proposal to hold India -Pak talks and for the present the peace process is suspended.
There are no plans of talks by the Foreign Secretary in the coming days. Why? The answer is they feel India is not willing to take forward the peace process. According to him, India did not cooperate with the IJIT team. Basit is not speaking all these on his own. The meaning of Basit's statement is that the Pak govt has given a green signal to him to speak thus. No Indian would welcome the statement of Abdul Basit.
Effective discussions, policy needed to curb atrocities on dalits
Apr, 10: Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be paying tributes to Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, the framer of the Indian Constitution and the messiah of dalits, at his birthplace at Mhow in Madhya Pradesh. Last days the PM launched `stand-up India' programme for uplifting the dalit women by encouraging them to set up small manufacturing units. On this occasion, 5,000 e-rickshaws were distributed. PM Modi also promised to sit at tea with them to discuss issues. Whereas all the estimates went wrong as the people had thought that the PM, in his speech, would oppose and criticize the atrocities being committed on dalits in different parts of the country.The people had also hoped that the PM would take up adequate measures to provide justice to the aggrieved dalits.
Delta Meghwal was a 16-year-old talented girl from a poor dalit family. She had come to a college at Bikaner from Barmer to receive teacher's training. Some years back, Rajasthan Chief Minister had also given an award to her. Delta may have dreamt of becoming a good teacher and thereby help her parents to live a better life. On festival of colours- Holi, she was in her hostel room with four other colleagues. On March 27, a male teacher asked her to clean his room. The next day her dead body was found in a well in the college premises. The body was put in a garbage truck and taken to the hospital for post-mortem. No report or any inquiry was conducted by the college over her death. The administration woke up when protests were launched throughout the country. However, the battle for justice is yet to begin.
On the day Delta died, the doctors in Tamil Nadu had declared Kaushalya out of danger. A day before Kaushalya had gone with her husband to buy a gift on the occasion of her 20th birthday. Both were happy and sure of their dreams of living together coming true. Kaushalya had married her dalit colleague Shankar. To save themselves from the family members who had opposed their marriage they were living in hiding. Kaushalya had left studies and was doing a job. Meanwhile, Shankar too completed his studies and was to get a job. Kaushalya desired to resume her studies once again. One day, all of a sudden, in a busy market Kaushalya's father and his relatives attacked the couple with sharp-edged weapons. Shankar died on the spot. An injured Kaushalya was taken to the hospital. Though she has survived but her dreams could not be fulfilled. Both the Govt and the administration are mute over the incident. Only a red flag employees union of LIC has given assurance to Kaushalya of taking care of expenses to be incurred in her studies. There are many others like Rohit, Delta and Kaushalya whose dreams have got shattered and there are no discussions over how to contain such atrocities.
Such incidents also throw light on where the society is heading. Definitely not in the direction which has been given in the Indian Constitution framed by Dr Ambedkar. A number of questions are before the nation over this issue but there is no initiative to search for the solutions. Even PM Modi is fulfilling his formality by tweeting on the subject. A complete discussion and effective policy is needed on this subject, only tweeting will not result in a solution.
West Bengal: An uncomfortable Left Front
Apr, 9: As in earlier years, this year too, the Left parties in West Bengal are feeling insecure. In the politics of entering into tie-ups they are not very comfortable, but are forced to opt for the same. In the year 1967, for the first time, the Communist Party of India, had entered into an alliance sans Congress party. At that time, the first reaction was from the CPM which accused it of forsaking its principles. At that time, an interesting and decisive incident took place. The CPI gave support to the Joint Parliamentary party. And this is also true that the break-up in the alliance in the Hindi heartland was due to its ideological leanings. Two years later, the CPM too adopted the politics of alliance. CPM has a political tact. It consumes the very basis of the support of its alliance partners and questions their reliability.
This time they have entered into an alliance with the Bengal Congress and want to take on the Trinamool Congress. Only equations and circumstances have changed, the nature of politics continues to be the same. At that time, Ajay Mukherjee had become the CM and the Deputy CM's post was given to CPM leader, Jyoti Basu. It was an alliance of 14 parties. The first work of the CPM was to propagate to demoralise and to prove both the parties to be anti-people. The Govt encouraged strikes and violence so much that, on Dec 1, 1969, its very CM Ajay Mukherjee had gone on a fast for 72 hours against violence. Meanwhile, Jyoti Basu accused CM Mukherjee for violating the principles of the Constitution. Ajay Mukherjee, in reply, gave the example of German leader Hitler who, before every attack, would call the aggrieved nation to be warring. Hitler would declare himself to be a follower of peace. In the end the Govt fell.
The fundamental character of Left parties is the same. They criticise the right wing parties, calling them 'Bourgeois'. In truth, their root and branch, their nurturing is no different from the right wingers. They give priority to power instead of struggle on the streets, instead of fighting for the working class, they pretend to fight communalism, their thinking and organizational laziness is indicator of their destruction.
It is for this reason that the Left parties are swinging like a pendulum, by trying to remain in existence, by seeking support of any type of party. West Bengal is the best example for this.
Holding of IPL matches amidst drought woes
Apr, 8: The state of Maharashtra is among other states passing through severe heatwave and drought conditions. Hearing a petition to shift the holding of Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket matches from Maharashtra to some other state, not reeling under drought, the Bombay High Court pulled up the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), for its being indifferent towards saving water. This situation reveals the attitude of the well-to-do class towards the poor citizens of the state. Though we may speak high about the nation, but we seldom come forward to help the people not getting even their basic requirements. Hence, the strong comments passed by the Bombay High Court need to be welcome.
The petition in this regard had pointed out that nearly 60 lakh litres of water would be required during holding of IPL matches. Though the IPL match venues may not be reeling under severe drought like conditions, but Marathwada, near Mumbai and Pune are going through a harrowing time due to shortage of water. Hence, reaching excess water from Mumbai and Pune to Marathwada is the need of the hour and in this age of transport and communication it is not an impossible task. The main issue pertains to the interests of the state govt, BCCI, cricket associations of Mumbai and Maharashtra. But, in case of any part of state, passing through severe water shortage and drought, the first priority should be to bring relief to the aggrieved people. Instead what is being observed is the CM of the state and other leaders trading in allegations and not giving thought to solving the problems of villages facing drought.
No doubt Maharashtra has social workers active to bring relief to the people suffering from water shortage. But, when their efforts would be supplemented by other mighty organizations, including the sports bodies, the relief efforts would certainly get a boost.
This year, nearly nine states are facing drought. Irregular rains, during the last two seasons, has compounded the problem. There are other areas where rains have not been sufficient for the last three years. The Apex Court has sought information from the Centre about tackling the drought situation.
Bihar: Liquor ban after failure in selling it
Apr, 7: What is the real reason behind imposing total ban on sale of alcohol in Bihar? Is the decision in favour of the people of Bihar? The decision was taken in the Cabinet meeting chaired by CM Nitish Kumar. The second decision on total prohibition came just after three days of imposition of ban on sale of country made liquor. It is known generally that the parties constituting the Grand Alliance were unanimous in effecting ban on sale of liquor in a phased manner. Then, on this basis, the Bihar Production Bill 2016 (Amendment) was passed in both the Houses of Bihar. Implementing its decision, the Govt imposed total ban on sale and consumption of country made liquor but at the same time, it started opening of shops for sale of Indian Made Foreign Liquor from its end.
In this issue, the role played by senior IAS officer, KK Pathak is significant. The official is looking after the departments of production, revenue, management and prohibition. Christened `whimsical' in the corridors of powers of Bihar, the well-known Pathak has been chosen by Nitish Kumar to meet his ends. However, the CM forgot that the working of the Govt machinery is different. The process of starting Govt shops to sell Foreign liquor began. In the beginning, the administration decided to provide benefits of the same to the unemployed youth. Advertisements came out in the papers and the unemployed youth applied for the offers. But, they refused to become liquor sellers. The administration was faced with a major problem. In a hurry, the Govt official Pathak advised Nitish to appoint retired Govt personnel for this work. The CM agreed but this formula too failed. Even otherwise, the Govt personnel who may have cheated the state exchequer all their lives, would not accept this offer to sell alcohol. Hence, when there was talk of opening of shops at the Govt level, the people opposed the move. At the same time, looking to the huge rush, it was not easy for new sellers to sell the IMFL. There were also incidents of violence. Thus, the results for Bihar residents have been positive as they have taken a firm decision to introduce total prohibition in the state.
Above all these facts is the political one. People conversant with Bihar politics know that deep inside Nitish heart dwells desire to become great. The leader also does not want to share credit of his achievements with anyone. Proof of this is the advertisements coming by production, revenue and prohibition dept of the Govt. All advertisements carry photograph of CM Nitish Kumar. Now, his colleagues are exerting pressure for sale of taadi.
Tanzil's killing--Challenge to NIA
Apr 6: Brutal killing of Tanzeel Ahmed, a National Investigation Team (NIA) officer, probing the Pathankot attack by militants, calls for further sprucing up the intelligence network. Tanzeel was an able and a brave officer who was involved in a number of campaigns against terrorism. The officer was included in cases of Indian Mujahideen in the year 2009. For the last one year Tanzeel Ahmed was involved in gathering information about the sources of income of the militant organizations. He was well versed in Urdu and Pharsi and hence could gather information at the ground level. It is but natural that his work of probing militants and their activities would have made his enemies and his killing by a militant body cannot be ruled out.
Western Uttar Pradesh, where killing of Tanzeel Ahmed took place, is known for crime and other violent incidents. Local criminal gangs are said to be active, in a big way, in this area. There is lot of trading of arms here which comes either by smuggling from Bangladesh or Nepal or from local factories making the arms illegally. Criminals here have tie-ups with bigger gangs elsewhere. One of the reasons said to give boost to criminal gangs is the rise in land and property rates in western Uttar Pradesh. It showed them the way to become instant rich. Another reason attributed to this killing could be slack law and order. Looting of vehicles and dacoities are a common phenomena here. Killing of the NIA officer does not seem to be the work of ordinary criminals. And if this killing is the work of terror outfits, then a question mark arises over safety and security of people linked with NIA and other investigative bodies. If the terror bodies have become so bold as to think to eliminate investigation officials, then a thought need to be given for such officials' safety and security.
Last days, some members linked with terrorist organizations, who had plans to kill security officials, were arrested. Was Tanzeel's killing included in their plans, is difficult to fathom at present; however, this threat is real.
Accidents have become part of our lives !
Apr 5: Accidents are coming to the fore in our country in different forms. Of these some are physical and others are the results of politics going on in the country.
A series of such incidents have brought depression among the people. In Kolkata, the collapse of a portion of a flyover under construction, in a populated area, killed scores of people. Many families have lost their bread earners. However, such accidents do not bring much reactions from people living in other parts of the country. Accidents have fast become a part of our lives that we have become indifferent to them. One of the reasons for this state of affairs is that we are not seeing any positive solutions to our problems.
Most of the people in the country are becoming victims of one or the other accident. Of these, road and rail accidents record highest number of casualties. Incidents of people, ending their lives, are increasing. There is no end to farmers ending their lives; rather it is on rise every year. Similarly, youth between the ages of 16 and 35 are also resorting to suicides. These incidents have started repeating at such a pace, that we cannot ignore them by saying that they are only exceptional cases.
What are the reasons behind this phenomena? Why have accidents become a part of our lives? Such questions are enough to shake up any active and a vibrant society. However, our main political parties, by allegations and counter allegations, are just satisfying themselves. Neither any accountability is fixed nor any worthwhile preventive measures are forthcoming. On the contrary, we are indulging in actions which have given rise to a pseudo environment.
Incidents of deaths due to accidents, in different parts of the country, will not stir us. Also, no thought is given to preventive measures when constructions are taken up in densely populated areas. The Opposition parties are busy finding fault with the Mamta govt and the CM is also engaged in verbal spats on how to minimise the loss to her party at election time. No thought is being given to how lives were lost; but how to benefit politically from the incident is actively being sought by the parties.
Brotherliness with China and for how long ?
Apr 4: It should not be a matter of surprise to learn that the day the Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama were discussing the threats arising from terrorism, that same day Chinese officials at the UNSC vetoed a proposal, tabled by India, for ban on mastermind of terror outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Azhar Masood. Other nations who supported the proposal include America, France. This has been the way of China always--with India it talks of peace but when it comes to concrete action, it changes its direction.
It is not for the first time that China has foiled the proposal of ban on Azhar Masood. Ban was imposed on the terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad in the year 2001 but after the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai, an Indian proposal to impose ban on Azhar Masood was vetoed by China. No solid reason has been given by China over its action. But, it is clear that, in any matter involving India and Pakistan, China does not seem taking the side of India.
A ban on Azhar Masood was put Pakistan in trouble. The reason for this is said to be Masood's important relations with the Pakistani ruling administration. The leader carries out his terror activities under the protection of the Army and the Pak intelligence agency, the ISI. Azhar Masood and another terror mastermind Hafiz Sayed have established themselves strongly with the ruling organisation and the Pak society so well that, even if the Govt or the Army, wants to part away from them, they cannot. It is a scant possibility that the Pakistani joint team, to probe the Pathankot terror attack, would agree on the involvement of Azhar Masood in the said attack. On the other hand it may point out that no solid evidence were received against Azhar Masood for his involvement in the attack.
China placed on 'technical hold' India's request to name Azhar, and Abdur Rehman Makki and Azam Cheema of Lashkar on the 1267 sanctions list of the UN in 2010. It is notable that China had also blocked an effort by India questioning Pakistan at the sanction committee of the UN over Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the LeT terrorist released even after his role in 26/11 attacks.
China has mentioned that India failed to provide 'sufficient information' in support of its case. Beijing has thrice blocked India's bids to get Jamaat-ud-Dawa added to the UNSC terror list. However, the recent terror attacks may bring back the Jaish-e-Mohammed issue on UN table.
Even though such a protection of terrorists by China is against its own interests. Terrorism is also threatening China as Uyghur muslims are dissatisfied with the Chinese Govt policies. A number of terrorist incidents have taken place in China as well. However, Still China feels there is benefit in giving protection to people like Azhar Masood. History tells that those who gave protection to the terrorists have finally fell prey to them.India too needs to consider over how much brotherliness to follow with China.
Naxal killings: Govt should change strategy
Apr 2: Shaken by the recurrent killings of the police personnel by the Naxalites, the Chhattisgarh Police has now decided to take the help of the Indian Air Force. In fact, the claims being made by the Govt or the strategy being followed to curb Naxalites, is suspect. It is true that this time, the reaction after success of Naxalites, was missing. It is true that the Naxals keep changing their strategies and the Administration is failing to learn lessons. The people who get killed by Naxal strikes mainly belong to the general or the poor class and celebrations over their killings are not thought of as good. May be for this reason the Naxals are not making claims of success or celebrating their killings.
On the other side, there is police official, SRD Kalloori who seems to be running the campaign against Naxals by either putting the journalists behind bars or not allowing them to go to Bastar. Last days, this police official stopped a journalist of an English newspaper from going to Bastar and harassed him so much that the said journalist asked for transfer from his place. A local scribe, Prabhat Sinha Kalloori was put behind the bars over an alleged tweet he made. Similarly, Bela Bhatia, who started digging into the truth of more than 40 incidents of rape against Adivasi women by the police, jawans and Naxals, had to face difficulties.
We need to start discussion from this gory killing, however, it is important to see the limitations and possibilities, rising especially this time. As per the Govt claims, most of the senior Maoist leaders have been killed and their foothold from West Bengal and Odisha has considerably declined. The Mamata Govt has freed the Junglemahal of Naxalites and taken up numerous development works there. Also, when there were reports of break-up among the Naxals in Jharkhand, then how did they succeed in carrying out this latest attack. Possibly, the Jawans and officials of the new camp could not gauge the siutation correctly. Even then this is a major success for the Naxal outfit. The Govt should change its strategy.
Women continue to suffer oppression
Apr 1: Nearly 40% women in the capital of India, New Delhi, have been subject to sexual harassment. Moreover these incidents have taken place during daytime and at public places. This is the revelation of an academic journal, Criminal Justice Review. Even though such studies may not be thoroughly correct, but they do give the dangerous picture of the society we live in. It also shows that even after horrible incidents like 'Nirbhaya' having shaken the populace, still women have not got the desired security and respectable place in our society. Till now, the desired natural change for according due respect to the fair sex, has not become a part of our life. Also, most of the males do not fathom as to which behaviour of theirs may hurt the womenfolk. The fast development of cities has demolished the ancient traditional culture and the sense of good behaviour is not visible, not only towards women but in general too. Due to this reason, the public places in cities have become unsafe for women.
The issue of sexual harassment, in this study, has been seen on a wide context. According to the study, the problem of sexual harassment is worldwide. However, in countries where the economy is rapidly growing and in other South Asian nations, this problem is more prevalent. One of the reasons for this state of affairs is that womenfolk in these countries have started going to work. As a result a cultural awakening is taking place in the society. However, this change in the society is being opposed by menfolk. Migration to cities, in search of jobs, is taking place. This is disturbing the structure of the family unit. We may say that cities have become haven for people without any roots of family life. Heavy rush in public transport buses, in places like Delhi, enhances the problems of the womenfolk. In one sense, the Indian cities have become shelters for people without any goal. Also, lax attitude of the law enforcing authorities gives a free hand to the people to indulge in untoward acts towards women. Foreign culture too is influencing the people to act harsh against women. There is no fear of the law enforcing authorities. The male-dominated society believes that the right place for women is their home. They resent womenfolk coming to office. This mentality cannot be changed just by introducing rules.
Urbanization along with modernization have created new socio-cultural problems in our country. Many old problems have surfaced with even greater dread. It may be recalled that during the freedom movement and after it, a number of campaigns for socio-cultural reforms were taken up. But, this stopped later. As a result, the cultural effects of many economic-political changes have not been positive. In our cities too, respect and safety for women, points to this cultural void in our society.
Terrorism: Commendable initiative by India
Mar 31: Even prior to the Sept 9 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center of America, India had been cautioning the world, including the US, about the fearful results that terrorism would bring once it grips the whole world. However, these warnings did not carry much weight. Seeing the sufferings in the world, resulting from terror acts, including in its own country, India had been putting forward its view that certain counries were giving safe havens to terrorists to carry forward their nefarious activities and that later on the situation could go out of hand.
Now, with thousands of innocent people losing their lives, the world has realized how timely the warning from India on terrorism was. The main agenda of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, currently on a three-nation tour, is terrorism. The way, the roots of terrorism, have spread to countries including India, the Gulf countries, Africa, America and now Europe, one thing becomes clear that, now to crush terrorism entirely, selfish interests would be full of dangers. In fact, the intention of PM Modi, for the nations of the world, is to arrive at a consensus on this point. So long as the nations of the world do not come on one platform to fight terrorism with this concept, terrorist acts would continue to claim innocent lives. It is for this reason that PM Modi started his tour from Belgium in Brussels, where some days back the terrorists had claimed several lives.
Earlier, in the UN Assembly too, PM Modi, in his speech, had stressed this point, saying the problem of terrorism is causing untold damage to the concept of democracy. One of the symbolic meanings given by the Indian PM is that India stands with the aggrieved country, which has become a victim of terror acts. There was a time when the world would pay scant regard to the terrorist killings on its soil. But, now the concern of most of the nations is terrorism and how to safeguard from its attacks. During his two-day visit to America, PM Modi needs to convince US leaders about Pakistan giving safe refuge to terrorists on its soil and to force it to act against them and put them behind the bars. Even though this task is not easy, but it would definitely give a meaningful message to the comity of nations in the world.
It is gratifying to note that nations, including France and Russia, have raised the need of cooperation to tackle the menace of terror. This exercise has made it clear that terrorism not only takes away lives but also has lowered the speed of development and confused the nations about their future plans of action.
Uttarakhand: Of what type of democracy is this ?
Mar 30: The special meeting being convened in Uttarakhand Assembly tomorrow (Mar 31) will establish a new benchmark in the nation's politics. The Assembly where the Congress party and its rival the BJP are out to do anything to establish their hold, has only ten months left. After this period, the parties, anyway, had to go to the electorate and the reward or punishment could have been given by the people themselves. People have lot of patience and for them 10 months is not a long period and the electorate would have delivered their verdict. However, for the politicians ten months are too much to wait for. Hence, to turn the tables on their sides, the parties have disturbed the state's political balance. A battle which was to be fought in the court of the people, is now being fought in the court of the Central Govt, the Rajbhavan and the Rashtrapati Bhavan. There is no role of the electorate in this battle, and even the assembly members which the electorate had chosen do not play any role.
The possibilities to form a new Govt are still alive. After the ending of membership of rebel Congress MLAs, the arithmetic of the Assembly has again tilted in favour of Congress-PDF. Of the 70-member Assembly, nine Congress rebels are now no more members of the House, leaving the Assembly with 61 MLAs. In this situation, Harish Rawat has support of 33 MLAs--27 of Congress and six of PDF. The party also has the support of one nominated member. The BJP has 28 MLAs with it. Harish Rawat had met the Governor along with 27 Cong MLAs and 6 other MLAs. His claims may not be right but he may get the opportunity to prove his strength. The Cong is fighting this battle both on the Rajbhavan and court front. It was confident of verdict coming in its favour. BJP, which took advantage of infighting in the Congress, may not muster strength to become active in Govt formation again. It too fears infighting among its members. BJP has five big contenders for the CM's post. Of these are three ex-CMs viz. Bhagat Singh Koshiari, Retd Maj Gen BC Khandi and Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank. Leave aside choosing its CM, the party is not even able to select its leader of opposition. No sooner one of these contenders is chosen as CM, the break-up in the legislature party cannot be ruled out.
Now, the ball is in the court of Vidhan Sabha and high court. Counting of votes and the verdict of court would decide the future of the Govt chosen by the people. Of what type of democracy is this?
Pakistan, a synonym of terror
Mar 29: If Pakistan, today, is being considered as a synonym to terrorism, it is not for any reason. Most of the terrorist incidents having taken place in the world have their links with Pakistan. Experts have put the blame on this state of affairs to the hold of the Army on its ruling regime and the infamous Intelligence agency, the ISI. According to them, these two bodies see any major political reform or move as threatening their supremacy. To drive away the Russian forces from Afghanistan, the Pak Army and the ISI had sown the seeds of Taliban there. Now, this body has become a poisonous tree in the whole region. Pakistan has been tasting the fruits of Taliban activities now and then but still categorizing them as good and bad.
However, it realized the futility of its belief after the terrorist body carried out a murderous attack on an Army school in Peshawar which claimed the lives of 150 children. After this attack, PM Nawaz Sharif had commented that now, no difference would be made between the good Taliban and the bad one. The world is keen to see the Pak regime work out this truth but the nations continue to feel disappointed. On the day of Easter, last Sunday, after a murderous attack by a human bomb, thousands of people were sitting in front of the Pakistan parliament, demanding `martyr' status to the killer of Governor Salman Taseer. Raining 28 bullets on an unarmed official shows how deep the roots of terrorism are on the Pak soil and without rooting it out, it is not possible to eradicate it totally.
On Easter Sunday, the day celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, messenger of humanity, peace and forgiveness, a human bomb brought shame to the humanity by killing 70 innocent people. The incident also brings to fore the claim of security provided to the common man as also the failure of the Govt agencies in dealing firmly with terrorist acts. According to a faction of Taliban, the killings were a revenge for death sentence awarded to the killer of ex-Governor of Punjab province Salman Taseer. The Christian community was purposely made the target. It's a dilemma that, Pakistan created on the principles of religion, is witnessing killings in the name of religion. Be they followers of Shia, Ahmedia or Kadiyani, or belonging to the minority Hindu, Christian or any other religious community, the terrorists have made them an easy prey.
It is not hidden from the people of Pak that elements who promote fanaticism by giving inflammatory speeches, those who run training camps for terrorists for liberating Kashmir and those who resort to violence to settle blasphemy law, are being accorded a respectable status.
In spite of these horrific incidents taking place on its soil, the Pakistan Govt continues to shower econiums on these enemies of the society and the nation. At the same time, the Govt also half-heartedly denounces the violence and killings by the terrorist elements and steps being taken to contain them. The secret of this game, being played by Pak was exposed when Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was traced in Pak. Similarly, news reports have revealed that mastermind of Mumbai attack, Hafiz Mohd Sayeed and Maulana Masood Azhar, the conspirator behind the Pathankot attack, roam freely on Pak soil. Still the Pak rulers ignore their activities. To wake up the Pak administrators from slumber, the United Nations would have to come forward.
Inter-caste woes continue: Need to research to overcome the menace
Mar 28: Promoters of the caste system in Tamil Nadu made a couple, who had gone for inter-caste marriage, their prey. Shankar, hailing from dalit background, had to give up his life and his fiance, from a still backward caste, is nursing serious injuries. Such incidents keep recurring in north India towns of Haryana and Delhi and the laws made to curb them seem to be of no effect. In fact, the caste system in India is a bitter truth and the form of class system is very old. A number of times these issues have been challenged but when the question of love marriage arises, the whole system seems to support the conservative caste system.
This caste system has many secret supporters. As it is a matter of emotions, no objections are raised. With a view to keep the vote bank alive, this issue is put at the backburner. The Ramrajya concept of Mahatma Gandhi too supports the caste-based system; it is a different matter that the leader gave them the name 'harijan' and expressed his great concern for them. The question arises if all are children of one and the same God, then why this caste system and why there is no clear policy for it or against it?
The caste of people, christened lower, too searches for another caste below it, to show itself superior to it. So long as this feeling prevails, it is difficult to do away with the caste canker. Education, as a sword to root out this menace, too feels edgeless. Even the educated class, thinks twice, to get their sons or daughters married off with children from castes labeled as backward or lower. Even though the scene in cities looks otherwise, but the real situation is different. In the rural areas, this condition is fearful. An educated person, even if he or she wants to give up his caste system, cannot do it. Social obligations stop him/her from doing so. We would have to carry out a deep study on how to overcome this deeply entrenched social system.
Then, who will decide which drugs to take ?
Mar 26: The Union Health Ministry directive to impose ban on 344 drugs has forced some drug companies to take refuge of court. The court has issued an interim order in their favour. The Union Govt commented that this decision was against public interest and against the health of the patients. It shows that the pharmaceutical companies have nothing before them but their profits. It may be noted that the Health Ministry has imposed ban on drugs manufactured by 30 major companies; these include Pfizer, Glenmark, Proctor and Gamble and Cipla.
Among the drugs which face ban include Vicks Action 500 extra, cough syrup Korex, Phensydl and Benadryl. Some of these drugs were being bought from medical stores without any prescription. According to research firm, AIOCD Awacs, the loss to companies after ban on these drugs may amount to nearly Rs three thousand crore. It is also in the news that, looking to the health of the people, the Govt is mulling ban on 1200 drugs including FDC. In all 600 FDC drugs are on its radar.
As the move of the Health Ministry is going against the profits of the drug companies, they have also started raising their voices outside of the court. According to the Bengaluru Druggists Chemists Association, this move of the Govt will spoil the image of the country and the common man would be deprived of cheap medicines. The drug companies opine that inclusion of several medicines in one medicine saves the patient from buying a number of medicines, thereby reducing the overall cost of treatment. As an example, the drugs available in the market have maximum fixed dose combination (FDC) of elements atorvastatin,: rabeprazole and paracetamol.The use of atorvastatin is done to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels whereas rabeprazole aids in treating problems concerning digestion.
The view of experts on Fixed Dose Combination medicines is that, the consuming of such drugs creates resistant power against medicines. In such a situation, the required medicines fail to act when given to the patients. At times, the poisonous effect of medicines even makes the organs inoperative. Now, the matter is in the court, the judge has to decide which medicine the people have to take.
Decisive fight against terrorists must
Mar 25: The dreaded terrorist attack in Brussels, the capital of Belgium, headquarters of the European Union, may be termed as an attack on the European Union itself. The attack is being termed as a retaliation for the arrest of Paris attack mastermind, Saleh Abde Salaam. This attack has made it clear that the war against ISIS has become a war by the west. Distressed by the civil war in Syria, a large number of people in Syria have fled from their homeland to Europe. Thus, the civil war in Syria has also made its inroads into Europe. Now, it has become a compulsion for Europe either to fight this war or lose it. History shows that, in the past, Europe has, more or less remained neutral with the problems of the world; rather the other nations of the world have been influenced by changes in the European countries. The roots of the two world wars, which shook the world, in the last century were in Europe. The problem of West Asia is linked with colonialism and now Europe is going through it.
The latest terrorist attack has made it clear that the European youth are going for aggressive Wahhabi ideology and support to terrorism. Muslim youth are getting attracted by Islamic ideology. ISIS main agenda is to attract the youth from the West to its ideology. If a terror attack takes place in a poor African nation, it does not get that much news; but the same attack in a European nation or America, gives wide publicity to the terrorist organization.
Terror outfits, following ancient philosophy, see the western style of living as their biggest enemy. Making effective use of modern communication and technology medium, the ISIS is brainwashing the gullible youth around the world. These youths are ready to strike anywhere, on directions from ISIS. The only way to defeat such terror outfits is for the nations of the world to unite and declare a total war against them. The supporters of ISIS should be convinced against the organization. In another way, the ISIS has gained power in Syria and Iraq but at other places it has tasted defeat too. In this situation, it carries out such human bomb attacks to raise the morale of its supporters. Hence, the world should act in the harshest way and eliminate the terror outfit from its roots. The end to the migrant problem also rests with peace coming in Syria and Iraq, and the return of the refugees to their homeland.
Cut in small savings interest rates to benefit the biz community
Mar 23: The Union Govt has slashed interest rates in small savings schemes by 1.3 per cent. The cuts in different schemes include, in Public Provident Fund (PPF) 0.60 per cent, Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP) by 0.90 per cent, five-year National Savings Scheme (NSC) by 0.40 per cent, in one product of the Post Office by 1.30 per cent. To come into force from April 1, there would be a review of these schemes every three months. Thus, every three months a change in interest rates is likely. But, why this new development ?
The move behind this reduction in interest rates is said to bring the small schemes in line with the Govt securities. But, according to the people in the know how of things, this move aims to benefit the traders. After this decision was taken by the Govt, the traders have also started demanding to reduce interest rate on loans.
In fact, for a long time, the interest rates on small savings schemes was said to create hurdles in slashing of interest rates being taken on loans. It was opined that due to providing higher interest rates on small savings schemes, the benefits of interest rate cut on loans were not going to the traders. Under pressure from business class and the Govt, the banks were, for a long time, raising their objections over high interest rates being given to investors of small savings schemes like PPF, NSC, KVP etc. They were also raising objections over interest rates being given on Sukanya Samridhi Yojna and on schemes being run for senior citizens. After the rate cut in small savings schemes, it is being hoped that the banks would effect half per cent to one per cent interest rate cut on loans. Basis rate is the minimum interest rate below which the banks cannot give loans.
Looking to the slowdown in economy and to provide strength to the banking industry, it is necessary for the loan interest rate to be at 20 per cent. However, at present, due to increase in NPA, the banks are not coming forward to sanction loans. The banks have to make provisions on NPA head due to which the capital in banks gets reduced. To maintain the Basel Third different standards, the banks have to keep minimum 8 per cent equity capital ratio and raise the capital adequacy ratio from 9 per cent to 11.5 per cent, under which the Govt banks have to increase the jurisdiction of their capital by 25,000 to 36,000 crore rupees by the year 2019. To make the banks effect interest rate cuts, the Reserve Bank is going to introduce new basis rate from Apr 1, 2016.
BJP: Lack of communication, election and symbolism
Mar 22: Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) presence in the southern and also in North-eastern states has been very less. But, now the party is concerned for widening its base in these states. Nationalism was one of the main subjects at the recently concluded BJP executive meeting in New Delhi. The issue was raised with one voice by the party chief, Amit Shah as also Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In fact, the JNU issue had calmed down after the student leader and other accused getting bail. However, the statement of Owaisi again gave a chance to the party leaders to speak out. However, taking nationalism only as a symbol is inviting criticism from the intelligentsia of the party.
In the beginning the party may not have given heed to this issue but now it is concerned over the same. In fact, the Prime Minister and other leaders felt it necessary to state that both nationalism and democracy concept can stay together. It's only a dilemma that when the party was raising the nationalism talk, it was finding itself in an awkward situation to resolve the Punjab-Haryana row. That too, at a time, when the party is in power both at the Centre and in both the States. One of the concerns of the party is to increase its dalit base. In the Lok Sabha, this shortage has been fulfilled by Ramdas Athawale, Ramvilas Paswan and Udit Raj. Rohit Vemula's suicide has dealt a blow to BJP's efforts to widen its dalit base. BJP is making all-out efforts to overcome this loss and the indication of this is the foundation laying function of Ambedkar National Memorial by PM Modi. But, would such symbolic efforts suffice?
During Atalji's prime ministership, the party's national executive had held six meetings in the first two years. Whereas in these two years, only three meetings have been held. Does it mean there is lack of mutual communication? May or may not be but the unwanted comments and many a time objectionable statements of leaders have definitely increased. This has given a negative image of the party. The historical win in elections was due to the promises made by PM Modi. Hence the PM thought it right to repeat it--that his Govt's main agenda continues to be development and only development. He also appealed the party workers about it but in practice is it so? When some senior leaders themselves go astray then how much can we expect from the party workers?
New law to rein in errant builders
Mar 21: Finally, the Union Govt has passed the Bill against errant builders. Possibilities of getting some relief go along with a question mark. In fact, the creation of black money started along with India getting freedom from the British Raj. Today, it has found a strong home with the builders. From where does such money come from? From politicians, corrupt officials, suspicious business people and agents. To fix this money, they find no other better place than the immovable property. Rapid urbanization is giving firm shape to the middle income group. Along with metro cities, the medium level cities need cheap dwellings. Earlier, this demand was being met by development authorities formed by the Central and the state governments but it has not met with total success.
This gave birth to a new species of people, we call 'builders'. Of these some are only in mask. Their job is to fix the black money of vested politicians, corrupt officials. They framed new patterns for immoral and atrocious activities. It gave rise to disputes with builders. The builders would take out attractive advertisements, make attractive promises and prepare sample flats. The gullible consumers, in need of urgent houses, get lured by them. The people do not realize that the promises, being given, could prove hollow. There have been times when houses were constructed by the builders without getting due permission from the concerned Govt agencies. At other times, no heed was given to the legality of the land. Such people, right from the time of independence, have been swallowing up the hard-earned money of the people. People who were supposed to take criminal action against the builders, were themselves partners of the builders. This partnership has been found to include the wives, children and even domestic animals. This law seeks to provide justice to the people who have invested their hard earned money to own a house.
There have been innumerable cases involving land of the people, pond, govt land and even land belonging to the Army or Railways, going under the control of selfish people. The issue of land is very complex and there are powers working to foil this new law having come into force. Time for Govt to be beware of.
Basis for increase in IIT fees
Mar 20:If the recommendations of the Permanent Committee of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) are accepted, then the fees for admissions in IITs would climb up by Rs 90,000 to Rs 3 lakh--an increase of 200 per cent. The IIT management is of the view that the premier institutes should generate funds at their own level to meet their required expenditures. The new fee structure would take care of 60 per cent expenses. The committee is of the view that there would be sufficient loan arrangements for students and students from poor background would not be denied education in the premier institutes. The final decision on fees is taken by the Union Human Resources Ministry. Hence, it is likely that the Ministry would, instead of going for such a big hike, find out a middle path.
Students passing out from the IITs find placements in good companies, with high pay packages. A big percentage of these students move to foreign countries and settle there. However, this trend is now decreasing. Some three decades back, nearly 70 per cent of IIT students were moving out to foreign countries in search of jobs. This has however come down to 30 per cent. Hence, a question had always been raised as to why the common man should bear the education expenses of these institutes? Annually, the expenses on an IIT student amounts to nearly Rs five lakh; out of which only 20 per cent is taken from the students. Considering this factor, the recommended increase in fees may be justified. As the IIT pass-outs get good jobs, the banks also provide them loans without much fuss, however, at ground level it may not be so. This view, in a way, appears correct as to why the Govt should bear the expenses of students who are assured of a respectable job with high salary package.
On the other hand, the Govt should invest its money and resources for strengthening the education infrastructure at ground level. However, there is another issue linked with this; if the student invests a higher amount by taking loan, then it would be his compulsion to find a good paying job too. This commercialisation of education would halt the attitude of students to work for their own country, helping their own folks first. As an example, a student who receives medical education by investing nearly Rs 50 lakh or a crore of rupees, how can we expect him to help the poor people of the country in cheap treatment?
Hence, the priority of the Govt should be on improving the basic education. But, we cannot deny that India spends only a very few percentage of its GDP on education. India ranks at No. 143 among developed and developing nations in this list. In today's fast changing economy, nations like China, South Africa and Brazil are way ahead of India.
Adulteration in milk continues, new measures called for
Mar 19:Despite of expressing concern regularly over adulteration in milk and milk products, it is surprising to note that the Food Regulatory Authority has said that almost 68% milk being supplied in the country is not pure. Adulteration in milk has found to contain urea, caustic soda, detergent powder, oils etc. These substances convert milk to poison and are the cause of many diseases. Hence, question arises as to whether adulteration can be stopped in a vast country like India? Till now, chemical process was used to test the purity of milk and fat content. And in the end the consumers get the milk. Even after tests, if 68 per cent of milk is adulterated, then it is a matter of grave concern and effective new measures are needed to change this situation.
The Govt has asked its Members of Parliament to make available a new technique to check purity of milk, from their MPs' fund, in their respective constituencies. It has also suggested use of GPS technique to know from where the milk got adulterated. Adulteration in milk or any eatable item is due to the greed factor present in human beings. Hence, it is doubtful whether the new technique would succeed or fail as the greed factor may play even a bigger role.
There is need to create a strict monitoring system from milk production, processing, and reaching the final product to the consumers. It may be noted that India is the biggest milk producing country where milk is collected from nearly two lakh villages. The dairy industry plays an important role in strengthening rural economy. For such an important milk business, there is still lack of a proper monitoring system to check its quality. The first attempt to improve quality of food items was done in the year 2011 by the Food Security and Standards Institute wherein purity of milk was checked in 28 states and five Union Territories. Almost 70% of milk samples did not meet the standards then. The situation continued to deteriorate. We should not forget that India is a country where the majority of people are vegetarian and for this big population milk provides the best source of protein. Adulteration in milk will definitely affect the health of its vast population.
Suicides by farmers and huge income from agriculture
Mar 18: The agriculture income in the year 2011 has been shown as Rs 2000 lakh crore. This income is free from any tax. This whopping income has been earned at a time when a large number of farmers have committed suicide. Question then arises as to who are these rich farmers? Another question being raised is if the black money tax evaders are also hidden among the farmers. As per information from the Income Tax dept, in the year 2006, the income from agriculture was shown as Rs 1.6 crore. Now, in 2011 it has touched up to Rs 2000 lakh crore. The Govt has also shaken up from this revelation and investigations are on. If the farmers are at a receiving end, then who is making money from the farm sector? How has such a big scam been unnoticed by the Income Tax dept? Will the probe bring out the names of big farmers who are evading taxes due to relief being granted by the Govt? How much farm earning should be exempted from tax? This and other questions need to be discussed. Hearing of 2000 crore lakh farm income, which is more than 20 times the nation's GDP, may make one feel laugh but is this joke being done on the honest tax payers of India?On the one hand a section of the farmers is reeling under poverty and on the other, a class of farmers has become very rich but not paying any tax.
It's a common knowledge that no income tax is levied on agriculture. However, the number of people pursuing this vocation has increased suddenly. In the year 2004, only one person had shown his income whereas in the year 2008, over two lakh had shown their incomes from farming. In the year 2008, the income received from agriculture sector amounted to Rs 17,116 crore.By the year 2011, this amount had touched a whopping Rs 2000 lakh crore or 20 per cent of the GDP.
The Govt admits that black money is being converted into white through farming. It seems as if money grows on farms. The involvement of big people cannot be ruled out. The concesson being granted to genuine farmers is being misused, If the Govt takes any stringent action, it should not be seen as a revenge. CBDT is going to probe the matter. Income of 1080 farmers between the period 2010 and 2013 would be probed and during the period 2006-07 and 2014-15, 2746 people had shown income of more than Rs one crore.
One question about schools
Mar 17: Praising the standard being maintained in Govt medical colleges, the Supreme Court in Sept 2014 had questioned as to why the same high standard could not be maintained in the Government schools, being run by them. In another important judgement, the Allahabad High Court had directed the Uttar Pradesh government to make compulsory the education of children of people's representatives and Govt officials/employees only through Govt run schools. The court had also directed for punitive action in case the orders were violated. The ordinary man on the street had welcomed the move of the court but the same was not well received by the well-to-do class of people. They are of the view that the parents should be free to admit their children to any school of their liking and choice.
The direction of the High Court is being ignored by the ministers, bureaucrats and other officials. According to reports, the UP Govt has decided to move a Special Leave Petition (SLP) against the direction of the Allahabad HC, in the Apex Court. Today, vested interests are making all-out efforts for privatisation of Govt-run schools. Lobbying is going on to achieve this goal. They are putting the Govt schools in the category of white elephants, which have become corrupt and need large scale reforms. Social body, Centre for Civil Society, working in the area of corporate social responsibility, says that the Govt schools have failed in their responsibilities towards the society. The body is running a project `School selection campaign' in which it is advocating to provide funds to the students instead of schools; they have given it the name `school voucher'. According to them, children from poor background may choose schools of their choice and receive education. It is clear that they too are favouring private sector education.
One main demand of Centre for Civil Society is to adopt the Gujarat model where concession is being given in land and other important resources for private recognised schools. The recognition of schools is done on the base of learning output. In this respect, the private schools association, known as National Independent Schools Alliance had held a demonstration at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, demanding from the Prime Minister to implement the Gujarat model of education throughout the country. In fact, the Association is going for this demand as the private schools are not following the norms of Right to Education law and therefore they are facing threat of closure. In fact, our education system is not white, but akin to a sick elephant which needs serious treatment. But, the problem is everybody wants to solve the issue in his/her own way.
There should be provision to recall errant MPs
Mar 16: In the bicameral system of Government, the electorate cast ballots to choose their representatives. These representatives are chosen for the purpose of monitoring the Govt departments, for which they are also paid. The Govt forms parliamentary committees of MPs, both from the ruling and the opposition parties, for effective functioning of ministries. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has taken the absence of its 12 members from three committees seriously and removed them from the Committees. The committees include—Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC), Estimate Committee and Committee on Public Undertaking. Though the party has given reason for their removal as their absence from the committees but it may not be so. Whatever be the reason, both the ruling and the Opposition parties would have to make their members responsible and accountable in the discharge of their duties.
Maximum six members have been removed from the Estimate Committee; they include Vinod Khanna, Darshana Vikram Jadoh, Sanjay Jaiswal, Kirti Azad, Om Bidla and Ganesh Singh. Whereas SS Ahluwalia, Dushyant Singh and Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank have been removed from Public Accounts Committee. Similarly, Varun Gandhi, Nand Kumar Singh Chouhan and Pankaj Chaudhary have been removed from Committee on Public Undertaking. Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Venkaiah Naidu, has time and again, been cautioning the members about their duties. In the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting, the leader had asked them to work with dedication.
However, the MPs have their own clarifications. The action taken against members of the committees are those formed between the monsoon and the winter session of parliament. During this time, some members had got themselves involved in the Bihar Assembly elections. MPs from Rajasthan were busy with local body elections there. SS Ahluwalia was given responsibility of one more parliamentary committee and he could not attend both the meetings at the same time. One MP clarified that besides taking part in election work, he participated in several meetings of the committee. Even then he faced the axe.
The BJP regime has been advising its members on punctuality. Earlier, MPs have been reprimanded for coming late in the Parliamentary Party meetings. Even for an important bill like 'Aadhar', the absence of members had caused concern in the party. About the stringent action taken, the party says that this step was necessary for sending the right message to the MPs.
Many a time, the working of Parliament is affected due to absence of members. Bedlam in the House is a common matter, the members also desire raise in their salaries, but they are not clear on performing their duties. There should be a provision wherein the electorate is given power to recall the errant MPs.
It pays to fight on this front
Mar 15: Even after seven decades since India attained independence from the British rule, the caste system continues to hold its sway. In Tamil Nadu, a dalit youth married a girl of higher caste and met a fierce opposition, leading to his murder. The serious thing about this issue is that instead of going down, such caste violent incidents are on the rise. Tamil Brahminism has been the centre of big agitations, giving rise to major social changes. Moreso, during the rule of Kamraj as Chief Minister, a number of measures for the upliftment of dalits and backward castes were taken, including education to their wards. K Kamraj is said to be the founder of the mid-day meal programme in schools. With a view to end caste differences, Kamraj had introduced the scheme of one uniform for students of all schools, free-of-cost. Such measures led to rapid social development, and at the same time discouraging caste-based differences. However, during the decades of the seventies, casteism, once again, started raising its head when the political party leaders used castes as their vote banks. During this period a number of parties, based on castes, were formed and the atrocities on dalits had also gone up.
Meanwhile, during this period, a number of backward and very-backward castes had become quite strong. With a view to maintain their honour in the society, they resorted to violence. This caste revenge is at its zenith. Still a number of political parties do not raise their voice against this system due to their selfish political gains. The situation in some southern districts of Tamil Nadu is such that the children here come to schools, wearing different coloured bands on their wrists so that their castes could be identified. A tilak or bindi on the forehead and the colour of the banyan is also put on the basis of caste. Thus, right from the school, children of different castes develop enemy spirit among themselves. According to a recent report, this situation became so serious that the Collector of a district imposed a ban on tying of any thread or bands on the wrists by school children. However, implementing such an order is a herculean task for the administration.
About a century back, the backward castes and dalits were united against the superiority of the Sawarn but now the same dalits are becoming victims of the violence and oppression perpetrated by the backward castes. This situation prevails, almost, throughout the country, leading to the downtrodden being deprived from their rights. To provide equality to all was one of the promises made by the Indian democratic republic.
'Aadhar' becoming a reality
Mar 13: Aadhar Bill will soon take the form of an Act. However, the debate and discussion on the bill in the Upper House was not as per expectations. The Bill makes Aadhar number mandatory for availing benefits of subsidies. This would have contradictory effect on many public schemes. Though this step is a major one in reaching the benefits of subsidies to the beneficiaries, in maintaining transparency and in improving the working of the administration. Till date, nearly 98 crore people have made their Aadhar cards. Among 16.5 crore beneficiaries, 11.10 crore consumers have linked their Aadhar cards with their LPG accounts. After the Aadhar card becoming compulsory, the misuse of LPG for commercial purpose is going to stop. Now, for commercial purposes, business class people would have to buy LPG cylinders at market rates. This would boost sale of commercial gas cylinders. Similarly, there would be transparency in food items being sold through the fair price shops as there would be information of articles sold to the beneficiaries. In MGNREGA too, the number of ghost workers would diminish.
But, secrecy is a big issue facing Aadhar card. No doubt there are provisions to stop making public the biometric details, but Section 33 gives the Central Govt right to break this secrecy, under National Security. Moreover, how much safe would be the biometric information of nearly ten thousand crore people? By Feb 2015, the Govt had spent Rs 5360 crore on Aadhar and in this situation, to cancel the same, would be doing a great injustice with the hard-earned money of the citizens of the country.
Therefore, an accountability needs to be fixed over the issue of secrecy of an Aadhar card holder and the rules be strictly followed. At the same time it should be ensured that no fake Aadhar cards are made or issued and the eligible beneficiaries included in it. This is possible only with the active involvement of the local administration.
India needs to control atmospheric pollution
Mar 12: Freedom in India has taken the meaning of anarchy. Should not the Government take note of this development? If vote is the only deciding factor, then who will pay attention to other things? While talking about quality of human life, we point out the poverty prevailing in our country. The density of population alarms us. But, at this time we fail to look at our neighbour China. The population of China is more than India's; still it is a more developed country than India. The standard of life is a lot better there.