Border states ‘be vigilant’
The Centre’s anxiety over the influx of Rohingyas is growing. Its focus on five eastern States has become sharper, and it prods them to be ‘extra vigilant’. More so, as the Supreme Court directive in October that no such refugee should be deported till its next hearing, will now stretch till January 31, as the case listed on Tuesday last was deferred. At a meeting of Chief Ministers and Home Ministers of West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura — States which share a border with Bangladesh—Home Minister Rajnath Singh flagged the Centre’s priority to check ‘illegal immigration.’ While asking them to be alert, he also spelt out the Ministry’s plan for border protection grid on lines of Unified Command set up in insurgency-hit States. But, more importantly his emphasis was on ‘joint cooperation’ between the governments. This, because it’s no longer of a question of 40,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees in the country, but that as per latest estimates, about 9-10 lakh Rohingyas are said to have migrated to Bangladesh from Myanmar and the possibility of a spill over across these borders can’t be ruled out. Predictably, the Centre’s task of balancing national security with protecting human rights, as per the apex court’s advice has become all the more difficult.
It’s now Maharashtra’s turn to insist on usage of its official language, Marathi. Taking umbrage to Central government departments not adhering to its directive, the Devendra Fadnavis government on Wednesday last issued another one reiterating that the use of Marathi, along with English and Hindi was compulsory. It did so after its attention was drawn by the Marathi Language Department that departments such as those providing banking, postal services, telephone, gas, petroleum, rail and insurance to the people of the State, were still not following the orders. Quoting the Maharashtra Official languages Act, 1964 and Amendment Act, 2015, Fadnavis also reminded New Delhi that as per Tri-language formula of the Union government it has been mandatory to use the regional language, along with English/Hindi in all offices and establishments of the Centre in the State. What Fadnavis did not spell out was Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s recent threat to launch a protest against banks in the State if these failed to use Marathi in their daily dealings. The Centre will do well to follow the directive and be safe rather than sorry.
Boost For Inter-Caste Marriages
The Centre has taken a cue from States to give a push to its scheme of encouraging inter-caste marriages. In a recent order, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment has removed the ceiling of Rs 5 lakh per annum on newly-wedded couples, where either the bride or the bridegroom is a Dalit, and directed all States that now on there will “no income limit for incentive under the scheme. Recall, the ‘Dr Ambedkar scheme for social integration through inter-caste marriages’, started in 2013 sought to provide monetary incentives of Rs 2.5 lakh to at least 500 such inter-caste couples per year. But the scheme has fared miserably—just five were given the sum in 2014-15, 72 in 2015-16, 45 in 2016-17 and 74 of 409 proposals cleared so far this year. The reason: couples don’t meet all pre-conditions such as marriages must be registered only under Hindu Marriage Act and not Special Marriages Act; getting recommendation by an MP, MLA or DC and also low awareness across country. Statistics reveal in J&K, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya and Tamil Nadu 95% were found to have married within their own caste and the situation was only a wee-bit better in Punjab, Kerala, Sikkim and Goa with 80%. Will the new directive help? Time will tell.
Yogi Charm Wearing Off?
The recent civic elections in Uttar Pradesh should have Chief Minister Yogi Adiyanath frowning. An analysis shows that far from having a landslide victory as claimed, the ruling BJP had to eat crow in a large number of seats. Apparently, the number of seats it won i.e. 2,366 was significantly less that the number of seats it lost its deposit in i.e. 3,656. A whopping 45% of candidates simply couldn’t secure their deposit! Though the BJP had a lot more candidates than other parties—8038 of the 12,644 seats—its vote share across was a mere 30.8%, and only 11.1% in nagar panchayats, where 1462 candidates lost their deposit against only 664 of its candidates tasting victory. However, trust Yogi to take solace in the fact that rival parties had to eat a bigger humble pie: 54% of SP candidates lost their deposits, 66% of BSP and 75% of Congress. And, even taking a dig at BSP supremo Mayawati after her party fared badly where paper ballots and not EVMs were used. He may well be putting up a brave front, but missing the woods for the trees won’t help in the longer run.
Punjab, Haryana Thrammed
Punjab and Haryana governments must be breathing fire. The two got a mouthful from the National Green Tribunal Thursday last for not applying their mind to combat air pollution. Hearing the governments’ plan, an exasperated bench directed them to refer to its previous judgements and was constrained to observe: “There is nothing great about the action plan which you have prepared. It is your basic function which you have to do all the time…Why don’t you apply your own brains?…” Obviously, it wasn’t impressed by the their plans including ‘stopping construction work, burning waste, shutting schools and monitoring of industries causing emissions will be taken whenever pollution is beyond prescribed limits continuously for 48 hours.’ The bench demanded a workable solution and has summoned Environment Secretaries of the two States, Delhi, UP and Rajasthan. File a detailed document to tackle the pollution, was a firm instruction. Will they oblige or be hazy as ever?
The hill State of Uttarakhand is becoming the nation’s ‘protest capital.’ Union Home Ministry’s Bureau of Police Research & Development statistics, which examine aspects of crime/policing, reveal that of the 1,15,837 agitations across the country last year, Uttarakhand witnessed the highest, 21,966, beating front-runner Tamil Nadu, which saw 17,043 protests, (20,450 in 2015). Punjab followed with 11,876 protests but less compared to a year earlier, whereas Delhi had only 7,904 agitations. Among different types of protests — communal, labour, student-related, political parties etc, anger against governments by its own employees is in the forefront. While Uttarakhand recorded 5,838 such protests, Punjab saw 5,751 and Tamil Nadu 3,225. Political leadership wasn’t far behind, with Tamil Nadu taking the lead in political protests—5996, Gujarat comes second with 3,372 agitations by political parties, while Madhya Pradesh recorded much less, 2990 cases. Uttarakhand also has had high number of students’ agitation, 1384, but behind Telangana which had 1,440 protests. It goes without saying that the hill State, carved out two decades ago continues to feel cheated. Time the statistics opens the eyes of the ruling BJP in both the State and the Centre.—INFA