‘Citizens’ in Assam are in a tizzy. The deadline of July 31 for finalisation of the National Register of Citizens remains as the Supreme Court is firm it shall not extend it “even by a day.” To ensure the controversial process is completed, on Wednesday last, it gave Assam NRC coordinator Prateek Hajela a “free hand to exercise his wise discretion” while dealing with claims and objections of persons against exclusion or inclusion of the citizens in the draft NRC. Recall, the draft published on July 30, 2018 included 2.89 crore of the 3.29 crore people. The names of 40,70,707 people did not figure and of these 37,59,630 were rejected and remaining 2,48,077 on hold. Dealing with Hajela’s major problem of persons not pursuing their objections against inclusion of certain individuals in the draft, the court advised he must proceed ‘as per law’, plus gave him the liberty to approach the Registrar (judicial) during summer vacation for any urgent orders required. But he must minimise the ‘inconvenience’ to those who have been left out and filed claims, which is a tall order. The court has fixed 10 July for next hearing and a big question mark hangs whether the State would be able to do justice about the nagging issue of illegal Bangladeshi migrants.
Odisha On Modi Radar
Cyclone Fani in Odisha and West Bengal gives New Delhi an opportunity to play the usual politics, as in the past. But the timing here is important, closer to the Lok Sabha polls coming to an end. With Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik evacuating a record 1.2 million people in 24 hours before the cyclone, Modi gave him not only a thumbs up for his ‘good planning’ but offered support for initiatives to be carried forward. On the other hand, he hit out at bête noire Mamata Banerjee calling her a “Speedbreaker Didi.” He claimed to have tried getting in touch “but her arrogance is such that she refused to talk to me,” he said at a rally. So what does one make of the opposite reactions? Clearly, given uncertainty of final count in Lok Sabha polls, Modi wants to be on the right side of Naveen. After all his BJD was once an NDA partner and may come handy if the tally in the numbers game goes below the halfway mark. As for Mamata, it’s obvious there is no such chance. She has termed Modi as “Expiry PM,” rubbished his help offer saying “When the next PM comes, I will tell him”. Time, not far away, will tell.
Tripura’s Re-Polling Fraud
Unfair, cry both Congress and CPM in Tripura over the Election Commission’s decision to hold re-polls in only 168 polling stations. The Parliamentary constituency is West Tripura, where both opposition parties claim that “most voters couldn’t exercise their adult franchise rights due to rigging, violence and poll irregularities by BJP cadres.” Worse, they add that none other than the West Tripura Returning Officer submitted a report where it was said polling was vitiated in “433 polling stations.” The obvious question is why and how Nirvachan Sadan overruled the RO’s report and settled for repoll in only 168 polling stations! And while the CPM claimed it had petitioned the Supreme Court seeking a fresh poll, the Congress said it would follow. Polling will now take place on May 12. Will the number of polling stations increase, following the disappointment of the parties and the knock of SC doors, or will the complaint as an excuse if their candidates are unable to make it to victory margin.
Gujarat Farmers’ Victory
Gujarat farmers heave a sigh of relief. With the help of the State government and social media, they forced multi-national’s PepsiCo India to withdraw lawsuits to the tune of Rs 1 crore in Ahmedabad court against potato farmers for infringing its patents. Apparently, in April there was a dispute over farming a patented potato variety, ‘FC5’, and the MNC, maker of Lays chips, asked the nine local farmers to desist from growing the potato variety. But they refused, as they managed to get support of various farmer organisations, activists and even a campaign on social media asking for boycott of Lays chips. Other than their victory, the battle say the farmers have ensured seed freedoms and that their harassment will not get repeated. However, the battle is half won as a long-term solution needs to be found on issues around seed protection, admit both the Government and PepsiCo. Sooner the better, as farmers’ plight seems never-ending thanks to stale promises, which are aplenty.
Maharashtra is on high alert. With at least 24,000 villages across the State affected by drought, and Marathwada, parts of Vidarbha, northern and western Maharashtra worst hit, Chief Minister Fadnavis is worried there would be a migration to neighbouring towns and cities. He has thus directed district collectors to step up enrolment under MNREGA, especially in rural areas, to ensure each and every individual earns minimum daily wages and that people are not adversely affected by drought. Not only do the authorities have to comply with the orders, but the State government has also relaxed existing guidelines and expanded their scope to other projects such as water conservation. It has dawned on the government has been impacted by the four-phase poll and that between March and April the enrolment was at a low. The machinery, be it the revenue ministry, or ministries of water conservation, agriculture, water resources and finance, now need to work on a war-footing and expand their outreach. Before it is too late.
Two Years & Rs 35 Refund
Patience is the key to success, even if it involves a long battle of two years for a refund of mere Rs 35. So proves a case in Rajasthan. A Kota-based engineer had been fighting with the Indian Railways for two years to get the said amount as refund of his cancelled ticket! He had booked a ticket of Golden Temple Mail from Kota to New Delhi in April, 2017, for a journey on July 2. As the ticket—Rs 765 was wait listed, he cancelled it, received Rs 665 refund, with Rs 100 deducted instead of Rs 65 against cancellation of a WL ticket. He pursued the matter of remaining Rs 35, but the Railways said he was charged service tax. However, as this was prior to GST implementation, he demanded a return. He filed a case in Lok Adalat in 2018, but it said it was beyond its jurisdiction. He then filed an RTI, which was transferred 10 times from one dept to another. Finally, on May 1 he received Rs 33 in his bank account, as the Railways decided that on tickets booked before July 1, 2017, and cancelled, the service tax charged would be refunded. But the engineer is proposes to fight again for Rs 2 pending. If only citizens showed such perseverance with politicians’ promises, it would be a different world. — INFA