J&K Panchayat Polls
As the nation mourns the passing away of its last statesman Atal Bihari Vajpayee, will his vision for
Jammu & Kashmir be consigned to history? The path he envisioned –“insaniyat (humanity), jamhooriyat (democracy) and Kashmiriyat (inclusive Kashmiri culture), is spoken of no doubt, as did Prime Minister Modi on Independence Day, but deeds haven’t matched words. Normalcy has played truant, ruling BJP’s alliance with PDP failed and worse panchayat polls not been held for past seven years, since 2011! Governor Vohra proposes to take his chances this tenure and make amends. He has announced elections –to municipalities in September-October and panchayat polls in October-December and wants people to see reason. The ‘prolonged delay in establishing democratically-elected self-governing bodies’, he says has led to ‘loss of considerable funds, which would have been available if elections had been held.’ Further, he has reached out to all political parties to support his administration to improve ‘efficiency and accountability’ and in building an environment for ‘a positive outcome.’ While both NC and Congress are apprehensive of conditions not being conducive for polls, the PDP is on board, as of now. Predictably, the separatists will give a boycott call. But there is time. Will autumn in the troubled State see jamhooriyat be given a chance?
Talking of panchayat polls, West Bengal politics stumps even the Supreme Court. The violence-marred panchayat elections in May saw ‘thousands’ of seats remaining uncontested, making the court observe ‘grass root-level democracy was not working.’ Of the 58,692 posts for gram panchayat village, zilla parishad and panchayat samiti, 20,159 had no contest. Provide us exact statistics it directed the State Election Commission (SEC), as what was further puzzling was that of 48,650 panchayat seats 16,000 posts faced similar situation. Obviously the SEC was a hard rap and reminded it was “the guardian of law.” The fact there were litigations only means that everyone was aware of the fact that something was missing. But, the apex court was stumped with the response of all three-the government, the ruling TMC and SEC that “if candidates do not contest, what can we do!” To buttress its case the TMC government reeled out statistics from other States and said: In Sikkim over 60% of seats saw no contest, in UP 57.6%, in Uttarakhand 22 % and in Haryana 51 % and in UP 57.6 %. Pity, they all forget that two wrongs don’t make a right.
Rain God’s Fury in Kerala
God’s Own Country is ravaged. The rain god has played havoc in Kerala, with 100 lives lost so far in the worst floods in State’s history and over 150,000 people shifted to relief camps. Villages and cities are submerged by flood waters and road, rail and air traffic crippled. Chief Minister Vijayan has appealed to people to shift to safer places and not worry about belongings as ‘life is supreme’. Fortunately, the message goes beyond to the Centre. New Delhi is heeding to every request of the Left government, be it men and material –Army, NDRF & Army Engineering Corps, boats, rescue material etc and Vijayan has no complaints. However, neighbouring State, Tamil Nadu is being cussed. It chose not to oblige to the request to draw more water from Mullaperiyar dam and bring levels down. So Supreme Court had to order it. This is no time to play politics, and least of all in the midst of a tragedy.
Odisha Beats Centre
Odisha’s Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik does one better than Prime Minister Modi! Not only has he said a ‘no thank you’ to Centre’s Ayushman Bharat (National health protection mission) as it will short change his people (nine lakh less would be covered) but believes in an early start. While Modi announced from ramparts of Red Fort the scheme will start from 25 September, Naveen has already started posting letters to 70 lakh intended beneficiaries of his scheme. It reads: “In 2014, I promised that no poor family in Odisha will be denied medical treatment because of financial constraints. To them, I dedicate Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana”, which covers insurance up to Rs 5 lakh per eligible family and an additional Rs 2 lakh to women members. Besides other schemes like Niramaya for free medicines, Nidan for free diagnostics, and Sahay, which equips all districts with dialysis, chemotherapy services are enlisted. Collectors have been told to set up and chair committees in districts to review letter distribution. Being true to his word, may perhaps be another message to Modi.
TN’s Leadership Rumbling
The succession row in the DMK erupts even before the dust settles down. Within days of patriarch Karunanidhi passing away, the brothers’ bitter rivalry is out in the open. Expected, but so soon? Obviously, the younger of the siblings, Stalin, who was anointed ‘working President’ by his father is keen to waste no time to take over the reins. Older brother Alagiri has predictably questioned his leadership, claimed old DMK loyalists are with him and worse accused the party of misusing funds. The row is bound to get murky as Karunanidhi did keep the succession rather vague. However, Stalin is confident of having an edge given that Alagiri was expelled from the party. But it will be no smooth sailing as his adversaries will seek their pound of flesh. Politics as is known is a game of uncertainties and it’s too early to predict an outcome. What is certain is that with Karunanidhi’s death and earlier of AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa there will remain a vacuum in Tamil politics. New entrants are eyeing the space.
Cows Legal Guardian
Imagine being a legal guardian of cows. Absurd to say the least, but in today’s Uttarakhand it is not so. On Monday last, the High Court pronounced itself as the legal guardian of gau mata and other stray cattle in the hilly State. By invoking the Latin doctrine of ‘parens patriae’ it has now total authority to issue ‘mandatory’ directions for cow welfare/protection. ‘Parens patriae’, translated means “parent of his or her country” and is power which can be invoked by a State, regarded as a sovereign, to “provide protection to those who are unable to take care of themselves.” Cows thus have a new entity. Instructions to safeguard them include: all Circle Officers must patrol rural areas once in 24 hours to ensure no cow is slaughtered, as it is banned; owners be prosecuted if their cattle is found on streets, roads, public places; State functionaries must show utmost compassion and no unnecessary pain and suffering is inflicted on the cattle; ban on sale of beef, its products across the State, guashalas be constructed, et al. Holy Cow! —INFA