Karnataka Congress, till recently in power, is seething with anger. ‘Political vendetta’ by brute BJP simply doesn’t seem to abate. The latest arrest by the ED is of its former minister and trouble shooter D K Shivakumar over alleged money laundering. Expectedly, the Congress needs to rally behind him. Not only because in the recent political crisis of losing the coalition government in the State did Shivakumar try to woo coalition dissidents and bring them back into the party fold, but the targeting comes on the heels of the ED’s arrest of its tall national leader and former Union Minister P Chidambaram. The protest in Karnataka by way of a bandh call did manage some success. Protestors went on a rampage in the leader’s Kanakapura constituency and few other parts of the State –staging dharnas, pelting stones, damaging several buses, blocking movement on Bengaluru–Mysuru highway leading to its closure etc. Schools and colleges were shut down on Wednesday last across Ramanagara district, as a precautionary step. The common refrain in the southern State and 10 Janpath being New Delhi was using government agencies to target Opposition leaders. The oft-heard charge of ‘vendetta politics” reverberates again. Will it get louder with more “revengeful” arrests? Time, no days will tell.
The word ‘normalcy’ continues to dodge Kashmir. And thus three different groups of panchayat members, representatives of J&K fruit growers and those displaced from PoK met Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday last to share their concerns. Given the nagging uncertainty, North Block did best what it does – give number of assurances. These included, restoration of mobile and internet connectivity in another 15-20 days; every panch/sarpanch (village head) vulnerable to terrorists’ threats to get police security and Rs 2 lakh insurance coverage each; their honorarium in the Valley to be raised; nobody’s land would be taken away; government land to be used for setting up industries, hospitals, educational institutions; recruitment for various government jobs to start at the earliest with at least five jobs to go to youths from each village on basis of merit; those relocated from PoK to be considered for inclusion in scheme under which displaced families registered in J&K are given financial assistance, etc. A long list alright, but with a month gone by and the Valley remaining under siege, both sides would do well to remember the idiom: if wishes were horses then beggars would ride!
Assam’s NRC Conundrum
Assam’s NRC Coordinator has ended up with more than what he bargained for. Not only is Prateek Hajela on the firing line of the BJP and Congress for keeping out many Bengali Hindus, but he now has to deal with two FIRs lodged against him. The final list leaves a whopping over 19 lakh people, which is around 6% of the State’s entire population, and come to think of it, twice of Nagaland’s population! While the left-out need to appeal before the foreigners’ tribunals, the ruling BJP plans to knock again on Supreme Court’s door for re-verification process in two districts on a pilot basis to address the blunder. Till then, the Coordinator needs to deal with the FIRs accusing him of “deliberately” excluding indigenous people. One has been filed Asom Garia-Maria Yuba Chhatra Parishad and the other by a member of the All India Legal Aid Foundation. They charge the process of being “full of anomalies” such as three members of a family in and two out or one son in and another out despite using the same legacy data, or armed forces personnel excluded, etc. Unmistakably absurd! Relief, how and when is the big question.
Arunachal Bridge Bogey?
Ruling BJP in Arunachal Pradesh should have South Block fretting. Its MP and State party President Tapir Gao insists Chinese soldiers had built a “wooden bridge nearly 75 km inside Indian territory”. The Army rubbishes it with “no such incursion.” Gao’s claim is based on a local villager, who had sighted the bridge when he went to the woods to fish/hunt and sent him a video. As the area’s representative, Gao says he can’t hide it and even spells out the location of the bridge. Incursion, he adds is a regular phenomenon” and ‘PLA troops had entered in other areas, too!” On the other hand, Army explains: the area referred to is called “Fish Tail”; there is a differing perception of LoC alignment, as in many other areas; patrolling is from either side; civilian hunters/herb collectors also frequent there during summer months; there is no permanent presence of either Chinese soldiers or civilians there and surveillance is maintained by our troops. The MP counters insisting there are no nearby villages and local villagers know who has built bridges. Whom to believe and will South Block step in to bridge the gap?
Rajasthan HRC Bizarre Order
The Rajasthan Human Rights Commission needs to get real. It advices governments to prohibit women from opting for live-in relationships! Reason: such women need protection through a law as they could be treated as “concubines”. The two-member bench order on Wednesday last, said governments’ duty is to protect women from “harms of live-in relationship,” as “keeping a woman as a concubine is against her dignity because this word is tantamount to character assassination.” Plus, “life as a concubine is not right to life and such a woman cannot protect her fundamental rights.” It suggested awareness campaigns against such relationships, and even spelt out specifics for a law for cohabiting: “eligibility of partners; how such relationships will be known to people at-large; procedure of registration; and how these relationships can be ended after a mandatory counseling,” It forgets, last year the Supreme Court approved adult couples’ right to live-in and such relationships were recognised by Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005. Will State Chief Secretary (Home) adhere to the order? It would be best to bury it under files or consider the dustbin.
Not Fine, Sir
Traffic police is having a field day across the country. With the new Motor Vehicles Act in place since September 1, hefty challans (fines) are being imposed, raising questions about the justification of the penalty. A few examples: A scooty driver fined Rs 16,000 in Haryana’s Kaithal district for having ‘no documents’ and his scooty impounded; a two-wheeler in Gurugram fined Rs 23,000 for ‘not wearing a helmet and no Registration Certificate’, an auto-rickshaw driver in Bhubaneswar fined Rs 47,500 for different violations—driving under influence of liquor, had no valid driving licence, registration certification, permit, pollution under control certificate and insurance. How would they pay up such hefty fines? The Odiya auto driver provides an answer: “I can’t pay such huge penalty, let them seize my vehicle (bought for Rs 25,000 a week ago) or send me to jail.” A re-think is critical as there is bound to be over-crowding — of impounded vehicles, in courts and even jails. It can’t be fine, even if it is to instill road discipline. Union Transport Minister Gadkari must see the signal. — INFA