Modi’s “Cashless” India
The Centre’s grand plans towards a ‘cashless society’ have not only come to haunt it but become a butt of jokes. Many States this past week have had “cashless” ATMs, giving a handle to social media to mock Prime Minister Modi’s resolve, asking is this what he actually meant! Long queues outside of people trying to withdraw cash in cities in poll-bound Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Telangana, the north-east et al, have put the Union Government in a tight spot. It has no logical explanation to offer to jittery citizens or even the States leadership. On the one hand, Finance Ministry admits there is a temporary shortage of currency notes because of an unexpected spurt in demand but cannot say why. On the other hand, some Chief Ministers accuse the Opposition of hoarding cash for the Karnataka polls, or that some are deliberately indulging in it to give the Centre a bad name. Then there are others who claim there are problems of replenishing the ATMs though there is enough currency notes in the country. What does one make of this? It is time, the Centre realises that the use of cash remains undimmed and that the digital revolution in States across the country as envisioned is not happening. The cash crunch has sadly brought back the ‘terror of note ban’ again and has made the Opposition warn of “financial emergency”. Certainly no Achche din.
BJP States U-Turn
Three BJP-ruled States do a U-turn! Prodded by the Centre, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh revoked their directions to the State police to implement the Supreme Court order on the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and instead are set to file review petitions in the apex court. This obviously follows violent Dalit protests and outrage in several States with Modi government coming under fire for the apex court ‘diluting’ the Act. In fact, ‘friendly party’ in Tamil Nadu, ruling AIADMK, will too move the SC, and Kerala has already done so. While the BJP governments simply say they are affected by the judgement, the motive is obviously the Assembly polls due in all three States by year-end. Predictably, the SC order will hurt their SC/ST vote bank, and make the fight tougher as they also reckon with the anti-incumbency factor. Meanwhile, the Centre too is unwilling to take chances. It is ready with an Ordinance, if the apex court is unwilling to concede the IPC has been diluted.
Delhi’s Never-Ending Tussle
Not again! Delhi’s AAP government and the Centre are at it again, entangled in yet another tu-tu-mein-mein (bickering). This time round the tussle is over the Modi government cancelling appointments of nine advisers and consultants, whose monthly token salary is said to be Rs 1 or Rs 2.50! The Union Home Ministry has justified its order, cleared by Lt Governor Baijal on Tuesday last, saying these posts created by the Kejriwal Cabinet in 2015 are “not valid,” as these have been done by “an agency not competent under the law.” The big question is why has North Block woken up late as it quotes a 1997 circular and another in 2015, regarding requisite approval? ‘To paralyse our government work’, is the AAP government’s answer. The conspiracy, it added, is to derail education and health revolution taking place in Delhi, which the BJP is incompetent to do. Will the Government challenge the order? Recall, only last month it tasted victory after the Delhi High Court reinstated the 20 MLAs disqualified by Nirvachan Sadan. There could be a double whammy.
UP poll formula may just work in Haryana too. This perhaps would be on BSP chief Mayawati’s mind. For on Wednesday last, her party announced an alliance with the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) in Jat land. The successful victory of the BSP-SP tie-up in UP byelections could be a factor for a repeat tie-up after two decades. Recall, the two had an alliance in 1998, contesting all 10 Lok Sabha seats (INLD in 7 and won 4; BSP in three and won one). But it didn’t last long. This time round, the adage– well begun, is half done – would explain the hurry of an arrangement, given Assembly polls are a long way off– October 2019. A pleased INLD chief Chautala has termed the move ‘as an alliance of dalits, backward classes and farmers, along with ‘kameras’ (labour class) to make the State BJP-mukt”. The two will announce seat-sharing closer to the polls. However, they must remember another adage: there can be many a slip between the cup and lip.
Tamil Nadu’s Raj Bhavan has got entangled in nasty controversies. Governor Banwarilal Purohit managed to wriggle out of one by apologising, while the other refuses to ebb, with the Opposition seeking his resignation. On Tuesday last, Purohit called a press conference where he assured stern action in a case involving a woman college professor, who reportedly had advised girl students to ‘extend sexual favours to senior university officials in return for academic and financial gains.’ He also denied having to do anything with it and resigning. At the end, he patronisingly chose to pat a woman journalist’s cheek instead of answering her question. This led to an outrage in the journalist community and social media. With his explanation of his gesture stemming from “affection and appreciation” to a “granddaughter’ and an apology, the matter is over. All eyes would now be on what comes of the inquiry into the college professor. While the Opposition has demanded an CBI probe, the State police has handed it to the Crime Branch-Crime Investigation Department. Have respect for your governor.
Telangana’s Tree of Life
Telangana’s Tree of Life is crumbling. There is growing anxiety in the State forest department to save the ‘second largest banyan tree in the world’. The centuries-old tree, spread over three acres in Mahbubnagar district is now being given saline drips. Nicknamed ‘Pillalamarri’ (children’s Banyan tree), it was a major tourist attraction but the premises had to be shut down since December last year, as authorities noticed it was dying. The reasons being: the tree was infested with termites and tourists would use its branches, bent downwards, as swings. It was put on Chloropyrifos, the obvious treatment to control termites, around the root system and affected areas of trunk and branches, but it didn’t work. Then came a brain wave and the staff started injecting diluted insecticide drop by drop into the tree like a saline drip. Today, the tree has hundreds of saline bottles hung every two metres and it is working. There is hope it will survive and next two to three months should give reason to breathe a sigh of relief. —INFA