Assam’s NRC conundrum lingers on. Both the Centre and the State government have again knocked on the Supreme Court’s door seeking extension of the deadline for publishing the final consolidated NRC by a month. The reasons cited are on two counts. One, that lakhs of people may have been wrongly included due to local factors. And, two that the devastating floods have hampered its work. But what will be worrying for a large number of people is the Centre saying that “India cannot be a refugee capital of the world” and it (read Modi government) is committed to deal strictly with illegal immigrants. Thus, the message is clearly tough — that the process under way needs to be ‘tweaked to deal with wrongful exclusions and inclusions.’ In fact, both the governments have pleaded for a 20 per cent sample re-verification in districts close to the Bangladesh border as lakhs of people ‘could have wrongly been included.’ At the same time, the Assam NRC coordinator told the court that though he will be ready to publish a supplementary list of additional inclusions and final exclusions on July 31, another month is required to publish the ‘final consolidated NRC’. Submit a copy to the Centre, is Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi’s advice as already 80 lakh-odd people are said to have already been re-verified. The matter is listed for July 23 and all eyes will be on where the NRC is finally headed.
AP Dream Dashed
Andhra Pradesh’s farmers see a ray of hope. The World Bank has put a spanner in former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s dream project of world class capital ‘Amaravati’. It has decided not to give $300 million loan, following its inspection report (submitted this January but not made public), perhaps necessitated by protests from several NGOs led by Capital Region Farmers Federation, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Human Rights Forum, etc, these past over four years. The activists were against building the capital by acquiring farmers land, development close to Krishna riverbank and accused Naidu of misrepresenting facts to secure the loan. Worse, none of the promises to farmers, who had lost land and their livelihood, were being fulfilled, fertile farmlands and forests were diverted, 20,000-odd families displaced, etc. The government, demand the NGOs must return the plots taken forcefully, a judicial inquiry into socio-economic damage, land transactions and psychological trauma of thousands of people, prosecute brokers, real estate agents and others who purchased or facilitated the purchase of the assigned lands etc. music perhaps to Chief Minister Jagmohan Reddy’s ears, as he is already on his predecessor’s case, but will the young shoulders be able to carry the burden?
3 Parties Dilemma
Nirvachan Sadan could well play spoilsport for three political parties. West Bengal’s TMC, Maharashtra’s NCP and the CPI are under the scanner of Election Commission and may no longer have the tag of ‘national’ parties. More so, as the 3-member Commission it is said is in no mood to be soft anymore and issued its show cause notices, seeking reply by August 5. It quotes the rulebook, Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, wherein ‘national status’ is conferred on a party if its candidates secure: at least 6% of the votes polled in a State in a LS election; if four of its MPs get re-elected from any State; if it wins at least 2% of seats in the LS in past General Elections; if the party is recognised as a State party in at least four States. Their dismal performance this General Election puts them in the dock. It was a similar story in 2014, but the EC then paid heed to their pleas and amended the rules to assess the status eligibility over two elections rather than one. Not anymore. They better prepare to say goodbye to a permanent election symbol across States, free campaign slots on national broadcasters during polls and their right to a party office in New Delhi. Unless there is a miracle!
Bihar & North-East Flooded
The devastating floods in the North-East and Bihar have taken a heavy toll. The number of people having died is over 110 so far and the casualties continue to rise. Bihar’s districts of Araria, Kishanganj and Sheohar have been worst hit with 4.6 million people affected and the death toll rising to 67. The numbers may be more as figures from Katihar, Saharsa and East Champaran, were not available with authorities. However, waters in the State are said to be receding, and the government will soon need to shift its focus on prevention of outbreak of diseases. In Assam, 29 districts have been deluged and over 5.57 million people have been affected by the floods. However, what is interesting is that the State has witnessed a “significant decreasing” trend in the average monsoon rainfall since 1870 even as extreme rainfall or sudden downpour days that lead to frequent flooding are on the rise. The deaths are claimed to be ‘lesser’ this year because of “government preparedness”. However, that should be no solace as the reality is that the yearly phenomenon has not made authorities any wiser. Human lives are lost, but who cares?
Does Navjot Singh Sidhu finally walk out of the ministerial pavilion, is a question doing the rounds in Punjab. The cricketer-turned politician had sent his resignation to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday last, but till now there has been no conformation whether it has been accepted, given that Amarinder has yet to see it. Recall Navjot had been stripped off key portfolios in the Cabinet reshuffle in June. A peeved Navjot had sent his resignation earlier to Congress President Rahul Gandhi, as he has been at loggerheads with his Chief since long. The first instance was his controversial visit to Pakistan for the swearing-in ceremony of prime Minister Imran Khan last year where he had hugged the Army Chief leading to a huge controversy back home. And then it was the General Elections when Sidhu and his wife accused the Chief Minister of having had a hand in the denial of ticket to her to from either Chandigarh or Amritsar. Though Amarinder says he has no issue with his wife, the resignation is learnt to be pending at the Congress headquarters in the hope of a rapprochement. Will it succeed?
Congested Mumbai, Delhi
India’s financial and political capitals should make its citizens seethe with anger. Among the 10 most congested cities in the world, Mumbai tops the chart, whereas New Delhi is not far behind with No 4 slot! The study ‘2018 Traffic-Index’ was done across 403 cities in 56 countries to understand congestion levels or the excess time it took commuters to travel from point A to B. Mumbai’s congestion levels peak at 65% with reasons for high traffic being ‘lack of road space, simultaneous infrastructure projects, low adherence to traffic rules and high population and car density’. New Delhi’s congestion level is 58%, even though its traffic saw a drop of 4% since 2017. And while during morning rush hour the congestion could be up to 73%, ‘maneuvering your way through the city’s streets during evening might prove to be unwise as traffic levels sometimes shoot up to 93%,’ says the study. The governments obviously need a road map or will the look at the other congested cities — Bogota at No 2, Lima (3), Moscow (5), Istanbul (6), Jakarta (7), Bangkok (8), Mexico City (9) and Recife (10), to find a way out? —INFA