Denting dissent & democracy

Activists’ Arrest

By Insaf

The nation is in dire straits. The high profile arrests of rights’ activists and lawyers in three cities on Wednesday last puts a big question mark whether India can continue to boast of its vibrant democracy. Other than citizens, the CJI-led Supreme Court bench too is wary about the Centre’s sinister manoeuvres to instil fear through its uniformed men raiding homes of nine activists across Pune, Hyderabad and Delhi, on grounds of their having alleged Maoist links to a meeting of Elgaar Parishad in Pune on eve of violence in Bhima Koregaon on January 1. The police swoop on their homes, after eight-long months since the incident, smacks of an obvious conspiracy by the powers-that-be. Is the government jittery?
The reason, many a citizen would guess, but apex court’s inference appears apt as well as truly worrisome. After hearing the petitioners challenging the arrests, it observed: “there is concern you (government) are quelling dissent…dissent is the safety valve of democracy …if it is not allowed the pressure cooker will burst”. While there is no doubt the Government would be seen squirming, it can ill afford to be its ‘intolerant’ self, at least on this front. As it is, the police has had to undo the physical arrests and instead place the activists under house arrest as ordered till the next hearing (September 6). A sigh of relief alright, but the anger against the arrests is simmering as it is brazen attack on the citizen’s fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. Protests both in cities as well as on social media question whether this is a beginning of Modi’s Emergency?
UP Develops Cracks
Uttar Pradesh may have got the Opposition’s antenna up. Do they need to put their house in order first, before attempting to put together the ambitious anti-Modi alliance, is a question they must ask themselves. This, as the truce in the Samajwadi Party is over. On Wednesday last, rebel party leader Shivpal Singh Yadav sounded the bugle for battle 2019 and floated the Samajwadi Secular Front. He claimed he had the blessings of elder brother and patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and urged all “disgruntled and neglected” members of the party to join the front. Expectedly, SP President and nephew Akhilesh Yadav smells a rat. Admitting that with elections round the corner many such development are bound to crop up, he accused the BJP of hatching conspiracy to break parties and weaning away leaders, as it has done in the past. More importantly, he said the party would surge ahead and give the BJP a run for its money, as it had done in the recent three by-elections. There is no denying that the SP-BSP alliance did wonders, but this jolt should make him and others preparing for the elusive mahagatbandhan to be cautious. As the saying goes-once bitten twice shy!
Bengal Never Learns
Trust Bengal’s TMC not to wait for the dust to settle down over the recent panchayat elections violence and controversy. On Tuesday last, three persons were killed and 15-odd injured in clashes between TMC and rival CPM workers over the creation of panchayat boards in three areas of Amdanga, North 24 Parganas district. It was the usual crude bombs being hurled, shots being fired, torching of party offices, damaging of vehicles and ransacking of homes etc. Not to forget mentioning the perennial blame game. On the one hand, the TMC accused the CPM of instigating is workers and preparing a blueprint for violence with the help of the BJP, and on the other, the CPM charged the TMC of murdering democracy in the State and passing the blame on to others. In the bickering, grassroot representation has taken a beating. The process of forming the panchayat boards in the three areas has been suspended temporarily. For how long, is anybody’s guess!
Development Takes Back Seat
Unused funds, is a tragedy of many a State. As per a government report, it has come to light that a number of States have not been able to utilise the Local Area Development Funds of Members of Parliament (MPLADs) as of February 2018. Uttar Pradesh tops the list followed by Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar and Rajasthan. Apparently, a whopping Rs 12,000 crore of these funds have remained unutilised since 2004 i.e. the 14th Lok Sabha in MP alone. And the reason cited is that it is largely on account of district agencies and authorities not following through on these. The Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation’s report warns the situation hasn’t changed since, though UP promises it shall coordinate with the MPs for effective utilisation of fund for the “poor and needy”. Bihar is busy studying causes but feels many a project has got held up due to legal wrangles over the land, where projects are planned. Maharashtra puts the onus on MPs saying they may not have suggested work during their tenure. Then there is the issue of getting utilisation certificate, plus the fact that district authorities prefer to give priority to MLAs as they are answerable to them. Whatever may be the reasons, these need to be addressed. After all, the MPs need to look beyond their personal accounts and ensure the funds for the people don’t go amiss.
Flight of Fancy!
Odisha Raj Bhavan has raised many an eyebrow. Governor Ganeshi Lal’s travel and tour expenses make his predecessors’ look rather frugal. His solitary trip to Haryana this June hit headlines as it not only cost a whopping Rs 46 lakhs but worse exceeded the total tour expenses incurred over five years by former Governor Jamir (Rs 32-lakh odd) and is four times the Raj Bhavan’s current annual budget for the Governor’s travel of Rs 11 lakh! In fact, Governor Bhandare too spent Rs 51.21 lakhs during his entire tenure, suggesting the top incumbents chose to take ‘commercial’ airlines. Apparently, Lal doesn’t come from the same school of thought as this one single tour included a chartered plane and a helicopter. At one point, the State administration had queried Lal on the expenses, but then backtracked. Guess, having a prior approval from Rashtrapati Bhavan and Patnaik government came to his rescue. Be that as it may, tax payers must cringe at this splurge. Constitutional authorities would do well to remember the adage once bitten twice shy. —INFA