Yogi’s edict face changer?
Changing the face of “lawless” Uttar Pradesh is asking for the moon, but for Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath perhaps not. His Cabinet gave the green signal to a new law against organised crime. Obviously, in the hope that it gives the people confidence that the BJP government’s priority is to establish the rule of law, and make the State “free from injustice, crime and fear”. Thus, this winter session of Assembly, the government proposes to introduce the UP Control of Organised Crime Act, 2017 (UPCOCA). Apparently, it has been drafted on lines of the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). The mandate is to ‘rein in and check organised crime and mafia, including land grabs, illegal mining, sale of illegal medicine and illicit liquor, wildlife smuggling, extortion, abduction syndicates, white-collared criminals, et al.’ The State would be empowered to seize not only the property of those implicated by the law during investigation but also those properties acquired by people through illegal activities and organised crime. Odd as it sounds, State security would be taken away from persons booked under this law and to ensure that ‘criminals don’t roam free for too long’, special courts would be set up. Recall, a similar law was passed by the Mayawati government in 2007-08 but failed to get President’s assent. In all probability this wouldn’t bother Yogi, but what should is that this special law doesn’t end like the others—help only cover up the State’s miserable failure in implementing existing laws honestly!
Gujarat Sad Fall-Out
Thank God the curtain has finally come down on the political stage of dirty election campaigning in Gujarat. The tu-tu-mein-mein between BJP and Congress would put any democratic system to shame. Worse, in the no holds barred battle a Constitutional authority wasn’t spared either. Sadly, on Thursday last, the Congress chose to train its guns on Nirvachan Sadan. It openly accused the Election Commission of being a “puppet and frontal organisation” of the BJP. It claimed that while the EC issued a show cause notice to its President-elect Rahul Gandhi for ‘pima facie’ violating the model code of conduct by giving interviews to Gujarati TV channels, it didn’t act against Prime Minister Modi who had violated the code by holding a “roadshow” after voting in the last phase of voting. “Rules are different for Congress and newspapers, TV channels airing Gandhi’s interviews, which were not code violation, but no action is being taken against Modi,” the Congress said and added the “CEC was acting like the Prime Minister’s PS.” Ironically, just the other day Congress’ Manmohan Singh gave a sermon to Modi on Constitutional propriety. Little did he realise his party too would cross the laxman rekha unabashedly!
Rajasthan Unhealthy Order
Doctors in Rajasthan are both intrigued and wary of a recent Government order seeking details of Muslim staff at health centres across the State. Will they be targeted because of their religion, is a question heavily weighing on their mind. This after, the State’s Jt Director (Administration) issued a letter on November 30, asking chief medical and health officers of all districts to provide details of Muslim staff at sub-centres, primary and community health centres. But, the Raje Government insists there is nothing unusual about it, as it is the Centre which wants the data for “implementation of Sachar Committee recommendations for welfare of the minority communities” and the exercise is undertaken periodically. Recall, the Sachar panel was set up by the UPA government in 2005 to study economic, social and educational status of Muslims in the country. However, the reasoning finds few takers. An angry All Rajasthan In-service Doctors Association doubts the explanation offered pointing that government already has information about its staff, so “Why does it want to know their religion now?”
Delhi School Fees
Ad hoc fees hike in Delhi’s private schools may soon be passé. On Wednesday last, the Kejriwal government notified the setting up of ‘fee anomaly committees’, to examine and scrutinise individual complaints. This should ease the agony of many parents, whose only recourse till now has been to knock on the courts’ doors, against indiscriminate fees hike. Parents, however, would need to pay Rs 100 to lodge their complaint. And, once that happens, the school’s financials will be audited, by the committees, to be headed by the Deputy Director of Education of the district, deputy education officer of the zone as member and a CA nominated by the Directorate of Education. In all 1,700-odd private schools in 13 districts will fall under the scheme. The setting up of committees is a fall out of Delhi High Court’s direction to the AAP government in a recent case, wherein the school had hiked its fees in the garb of implementation of the 7th Pay Commission. How soon will the slate be clean, is the big question.
State Open Prisons
States must set up open prisons. This is a directive from the Supreme Court to the Centre, which must hold requisite meetings with prison officials across States and UTs in the first week of February. As of now, the country has a maximum number of central jails, sub jails, which are controlled jails, as against only 63 open jails in 17 States. The insistence to have more is because open prisons have less stringent rules, security is minimum and these function on self-discipline of the inmates. There are, however, eligibility criteria, such as an inmate has to be a convict, good conduct in prison and minimum five years spent in a controlled jail. Importantly, most open prisons are without walls, bars and locks and their inmates are free to step out of jail after a first roll call and need to return before the second. Importantly, the jail doesn’t confine them completely but requires them to earn their living to support their families, living with them inside the prison. How soon will the States oblige, needs to be watched.
NGT Kashmir Rethink
The National Green Tribunal has spared Kashmir getting caught in a fresh controversy by what could be second thoughts. On Wednesday last, it had declared the Amarnath cave shrine, in South Kashmir Himalayas, as a “silence zone” and prohibited religious offerings beyond the entry point as it would be helpful in preventing avalanches and maintaining its pristine nature. However, 24 hours later it issued a clarification saying it neither intended nor declared the entire area as “silence zone” and hadn’t imposed any restrictions, including on chanting of mantras and singing of bhajans inside the shrine. The only restraint was any devotee or any individual should maintain silence while standing in front of “Amarnath Ji Maha Shivling” and other practices of the Board be adhered to. Considered as a major holy shrine by the Hindus, the initial order had the Vishwa Hindu Parishad up in arms. Terming the order as “Tughlaki fatwa”, it urged the Centre to ‘stop hurting the Hindu religious sentiments all the time, for one or another reason’ and get the NGT to withdraw its directive. God only knows whether NGT obliged or made prompt corrections to its initial faux pas.—INFA