West Bengal & EC
2019 elections must be the biggest challenge Nirvachan Sadan has had to face, what with West Bengal unrelenting. The polls in Mamata land have been marred by violence between the TMC and BJP supporters, from the very beginning. However, Tuesday turned out to be the last straw with BJP President Amit Shah’s roadside show in the State’s capital Kolkata, vandalised. Enough was enough. And thus, in an unprecedented move, it cut short the campaigning by one day for the last round of voting for nine seats in the State, inviting Mamata’s wrath. She accused the EC of being “unfair, unethical and politically biased.” Worse, the decision gave the Opposition a stick to beat the EC yet again and accusing it of ‘submitting to the ruling party.’ The question raised, not just by Mamata but her Opposition comrades, is why the poll panel waited 24 hours to impose the campaign restrictions, because it gave PM Modi time to finish his two rallies before the campaign ban kicked in?
Be that as it may, there is no denying the fact that the past six rounds of voting have seen violence and intimidation, more by the TMC cadres than rivals BJP. The EC’s decision on Wednesday last came after marathon meetings, wherein senior poll officers and observers are said to have indicted Didi’s handling of the democratic process. “There is distinct resistance and non-cooperation from district administration and district police when it comes to providing level playing field to all candidates for campaigning and in providing a fearless threat-free environment to the voters,” noted the EC. So not only did it cut short the campaign till Thursday instead of Friday, but also removed two top Bengal officers—additional DGP in-charge of CID and Principal Home Secretary. Good enough reason. But Mamata and team are not convinced. In one voice, they question the “neutrality, impartiality, and fairness of the EC”. More so, as they claim the EC hasn’t even bothered to issue a notice to Shah for the violence that erupted during his roadshow, which the TMC claims of having video evidence. The blame game is never ending. It is bound to go beyond May 23 and outlive this poll season.
Be progressive, is a firm message from Kerala to Muslim organisation across the country. The Muslim Educational Society (MES) has said a big no to IUML’s demand to withdraw its circular banning hijaab (face-covering veils) on its campuses. The Muslim league claims hijaab to be ‘part of religion’ and it’s the ‘religious scholars duty to take a decision on it’. But MES disagrees. It’s “not a religious custom. Some elements are planning to impose certain customs, which aren’t part of religion”, it says and further argues there is a “growing ‘Arabisation’ in the community” which must be checked. “Arabs wear dress according to their climate. Nobody can impose such a dress code here,” insists MES, which runs 150 institutions and educates over 100,000 students. Additionally, the Kerala High Court recently too stated it had nothing to do with religion or belief and left it to school management’s discretion to decide the uniform. Apparently, not just the fact that MES found only six cover their faces of 40,000 Muslim students, but the LDF, of which IUML is a constituent, has noted “women never cover their face when performing Haj pilgrimage.” Time to take the community ahead, not backward indeed!
Odisha Seeks Centre Help
Odisha has put the burden on the Centre to help it overcome the Fani devastation. On Wednesday last, it gave its assessment to Union Home Ministry saying it suffered damages to its properties worth Rs 11,942 crore. However, this was ‘just preliminary assessment’ and a final memorandum would be given by month-end after it undertakes a village-to-village survey. So far the damages accounted for are: Rs 1,159.8 crore by Energy department with over 1.56 lakh electric poles blown away or bent by high winds and over 2 lakh-km-long electric lines damaged plus Rs 537 crore by the forest department. But there is more to come, as losses to private properties like hotels, business establishments and lakhs of houses are yet to be ascertained. For one, the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Odisha claims the industry in Puri and Bhubaneswar suffered a loss of Rs 500 crore as scores of sea-side hotels had massive damages— glass-panelled doors, windows were shattered and rooms were filled with sand. Worse, some 6,500 schools have been completely or partially damaged by the cyclone. The entire exercise will therefore be completed only after the new government is in place. Whoever it may turn out to be, will Naveen Patnaik be able to extract his pound of flesh?
Rajasthan & History
Governments change and so do history books. And Congress government in Rajasthan follows suit. It has revised school textbooks and removed references on demonetisation among others from the current academic session. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to BJP though, for when Ashok Gehlot took over, two review committees of educationists were set up to peruse changes made by previous BJP regime. Recall, in 2017, Vasundhara Raje had introduced portion on demonetisation in Class 12 political science book, terming Modi’s decision as “historic” and an “operation to clean black money.” None of this, says the Education Minister now, as not only was demonetisation a ‘most unsuccessful experiment’, but Modi’s three objectives — it would end terrorism, corruption and bring back black money weren’t achieved. Instead the public was forced to stand in queues and it put a burden of over Rs 10,000 crore on the country.” There is no full stop though. The Ministry shall review portions in textbooks which “glorify” Veer Savarkar, musch to chagrin of BJP which feels Congress is ignoring “patriots who have been associated with Hindutva”. The big question is: whether new generations will learn history per se or a distorted version by those holding a particular political ideology? The answer is not difficult to guess.
Punjabi Passing Buck
The classic saying of the left hand not knowing what the right is doing, (read bureaucratic functioning), gets a Punjabi flavour. The case is of Chandigarh International Airport, caught amid authorities passing the buck, as noted by Punjab & Haryana High Court. On Monday last, it warned Punjab government, Zirakpur Municipal Council and Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA), it could record the government machinery “has totally failed because it is totally incompetent.” It was hearing a PIL, seeking directions for appropriate infrastructure, such as lighting system, construction of drainage system and removal of unauthorised construction etc for the airport. It emerged that Zirakpur MC and GMADA were not on the same page and took refuge in the work falling in the others jurisdiction. “You are wings of the same government. Don’t say it’s not my concern. Things cannot function like this,” the Bench said, perturbed that the drainage system, to be completed within three months as assured in February, was in limbo. The State, it observed “is the biggest hurdle. Now the problem is being created by the State and its instrumentalities. What is this habit of throwing ball in other’s court…” Before the next hearing, Amarinder Singh government better get its act together, else be prepared for “contempt proceedings for non-compliance or its officials getting fired.” Not much of a choice. —INFA