Brazen vote bank politics

Assam NRC Row

[ By Insaf ]

Till yesterday not many had heard of the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Today it has raised a huge controversy with the Opposition up in arms in Parliament with Bangla Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee warning of a “bloodbath and civil war”. All over 40 lakhs people being left out of 3.29 crore applications who applied for recognition as Indian citizens in the second and final draft of Assam’s NRC. Pertinently, even as the NRC has raised political temperatures, many forget the NRC was first prepared in Assam in 1951 following immigrants from then East Pakistan. It was challenged in the Gauhati High Court in 1970 which ruled that it was not admissible as evidence of citizenship. Following the All Assam Students Union (AASU) agitation in 1985 then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi promised identification and deportation of illegal immigrants under the Assam Accord.
For over three decades the issue continued to be political fodder and finally in 2015 the Supreme Court directed the Government to update the NRC in a time-bound manner under the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules 2003. The process took off only in 2016 under the BJP Government. Undeniably, the BJP intends politically milking the issue and corner the Congress and Trinamool’s Chief by accusing them of indulging in minority appeasement. Moreover, Modi-Shah plan to extend the issue beyond these two States to send out multiple messages. One, showcase the Party as tough, led by a macho and decisive leader who is not afraid of taking difficult decisions. Two, use it to change the political discourse from the agrarian crisis, economy, unemployment and return to its communal agenda. More important, use it to show the Opposition in poor light majority Vs minority appeasement for vote-bank politics. As this stand the Supreme Court will have the last word!
OBC Status For Marathas?
Maharashtra is in the throes of a violent agitation gripe: Maratha’s want a slice in the reservation pie in educational institutions and Government jobs, primarily as they account for 33 per cent of the population. With an eye on the polls next year and not wanting to rock the boat, Chief Minister Fadnavis last month declared 16 per cent reservation for them in Government jobs but for reasons best known to him reversed the order. Livid Marathas under the banner of Maratha Kranti Morcha are now protesting for Other Backward Classes (OBC) status, not reservation as they realize a quota is difficult to implement if it exceeds 50 per cent and is invariably struck down by the courts. Once accorded OBCs status they naturally come under the reservation purview given to backward classes. Adding to Fadnavis woes not only have the protests turned violent across the State, but ally Shiv Sena along with Opposition’s Congress and Nationalist Congress Party are fanning the protest. Who will have the last quota laugh, Marathas, Fadnavis or Opposition?
Bihar’s Shame
Bihar is under siege. And rightly so, as Muzaffarpur must make the Nitish Kumar government hang its head in shame. Investigation into a shelter home for girls has shocking and distressing revelations of sexual abuse and worse the authorities turning a blind eye. Of the 34 minors, 29 inmates were over months drugged, sexually exploited and brutally beaten, even when the DM’s attention was drawn to the scandal in November last year. With the Opposition both in the State and Parliament voicing strong protest, Nitish has recommended a CBI probe, but so far not said a word. The Supreme Court has stepped in issuing notices to the State government and the Centre. The government’s assertion it has acted promptly –arrested at least 10 people, including owner and prime accused Brajesh Thakur and closed down four shelter homes, is a tragic claim. The probe must provide answers as to why the government chose to sit over the TISS report in April alleging sexual exploitation of the inmates; why none from the administration, including a minister, have been made answerable; what political clout does Thakur enjoy, etc. There can be no sheltering the guilty.
Women Rights Threatened
The Khasi women in Meghalaya are desperately knocking on the government’s door. ‘Don’t allow our rights to be taken away,’ is what they seek from the Conard Sangma government. Block a bill passed last month by the Khasi tribes governing body, which would deny them their tribal status and rights, including inheritance of land if they marry a non-Khasi. Remember, Khasis, along with two other tribes in this north-eastern State are among a few matrilineal societies in the country, wherein children take their mother’s name, and daughters inherit property from their mothers. The justification for the bill, says the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council is to protect the group’s indigenous identity by stopping mixed marriages. However, many activists frown saying the bill is a dubious way to take away more land from the women, as the Khasis since time immemorial have inter-married! Will the government pay heed and stop passage of the Bill or will patriarchy pervade?
Andhra Job Dole
Unemployed youth would make a beeline to Andhra if there was a choice. But unfortunately a major scheme is only for those without jobs in the southern State. Despite a huge fiscal deficit, the TDP government of Chandrababu Naidu on Thursday last decided to pay Rs 1,000 unemployment allowance to its youth. While many would call this chicken feed, the State exchequer would undertake an additional burden of Rs 8,000 crore. But the scheme could do wonders for Naidu as the assembly elections are due along with the Lok Sabha polls next year. The scheme is for the unemployed, who hold degree or diploma and are aged between 22 and 35 years. The allowance money will be credited to the bank account of the beneficiaries within 15 days after the registration, which should start as early as this month’s third or fourth week. To top it the allowance would be paid ‘irrespective of the number of unemployed in a family.’ So what if the Centre hasn’t kept its word of giving the State special status, at least Naidu is finally fulfilling a promise he made in his election manifesto-of 2014. He can justify it with ‘better late than never’! —INFA