CAA, NPR Scrap
The war between Opposition States Versus Centre gets hotter. The call by 20 Opposition parties asking all Chief Ministers to oppose the National Register of Citizens is finding takers, but not all. Punjab has followed Kerala in passing a Resolution in its Assembly on Friday last demanding scrapping of the Citizenship Amendment Act. How many other follow needs to be watched, but as of now the Opposition parties are sending a strong message to the citizens across the country that they are with them on the protests against the CAA and NRC. Importantly, the parties have sought to hit the nail on the head by ensuring their campaign is also linked to the economic distress, which the Modi regime is trying to hide with his CAA card. The leaders thus urged the Chief Ministers, who have made known that they wouldn’t implement NRC, must also consider to suspension of the NPR exercise given it’s a prelude to NRC. While a beginning has been made, there is concern that the unity as sought is not forthcoming. Seven major parties — TMC, AAP, Shiv Sena, DMK, BSP, SP and TDP stayed away from this meeting, suggesting that fissures remain in the Opposition camp. Will these be resolved? Will the Opposition parties’ next move — to celebrate Subhash Chandra Bose birth anniversary on January 23 and mark Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary on January 30, ensure that the flock gets together in full strength? Time will tell.
NPR On Hold In WB
West Bengal has joined Kerala with a big No to undertake the exercise of National Population Register. The communication was sent to the Registrar General of India through its regional Census offices saying it was asked to put the exercise “on hold”. The reasoning given to the District Magistrates states: the NPR exercise “could be detrimental to public order and so it must be put on hold for the moment.” This has put the Union Home Ministry in a quandary as apparently there is no clarity on what the Centre can do if States don’t cooperate. More so, as the manpower for Census conduct and NPR, is to be drawn from State governments! So while the Centre has notified all States, the intent to conduct Census, the ‘houselisting phase’, may not begin here as it did in 2010 and 2015 and in fact the TMC used it to issue ration cards. Perhaps, Didi should rethink as the new survey has features — whether a household gets bottled water, toilet in premises is shared or personal, is there is LPG connection etc, which could reveal if the publicized schemes have reached the aam admi. Importantly, while the State Government has taken its position, the citizen is in a dilemma. Can he refuse to provide information? The clause imposing penalty for it has been replaced by an undertaking that information provided is correct. Guess the Centre must be more precise and not get into the haze of political one-upmanship.
Chhattisgarh Challenges NIA
Chhattisgarh has taken a cue from Kerala and used its idea to challenge the National Investigating Agency (NIA) Act in the Supreme Court, saying it’s unconstitutional. It has done so by invoking Article 131 of the Constitution (like Kerala) which gives the apex court ‘the exclusion of any other court, have original jurisdiction in any dispute between the Government of India and one or more States…” subject to provisions of the Constitution. Thus the government has claimed that the NIA Act, in its present form, “not only takes away the State’s power of conducting investigation through police but also confers unfettered discretionary and arbitrary powers on the Centre.” It argues that the Act is beyond the legislative competence of Parliament since it empowers the Centre to create an agency for “investigation” which, notwithstanding the NIA, is carried out by the State Police, a subject matter of the State. Of course, the Bhupesh Baghel government does not take into account that the National Investigation Act 2008 was brought by the UPA government. Guess, at this point of turbulent times, Opposition States would not miss out the opportunity to hit out at the Centre.
Odisha ‘Migration Season’
Odisha government is hit by the ‘migration season.’ Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has had to finally make a note and act. This after a survey revealed that 40,000-odd people had migrated to neighbouring States from just 30 gram panchayats of Bolangir, Nuapada, Kalahandi districts in “one migration season.” On Wednesday last Patnaik announced steps including: employment under MGNREG be allowed for 200 days in a year in the vulnerable blocks and labourers shall get Rs 286.30 instead of Rs 188 wages (per day); a corpus of Rs 500 crore be set up to ensure timely and uninterrupted payments under the scheme and blocks and gram panchayats be covered as ‘intensive’ under ‘Odisha Livelihoods Mission’; each family to come under self-help groups, which will be given community investment/vulnerability reduction funds. The focus will also be on skill development in these areas and one eligible youth in each household, shall be covered under placement-linked programme. Besides, eligible households are to be given ‘pucca’ houses and all-out efforts made to stop bonded labour in the underdeveloped areas. Tall order indeed, but as the saying goes if there is a will, there is a way. Patnaik is on test.
Political Funding of Parties
Political funding of State parties has had a strange response. Some got donations from electoral bonds whereas others didn’t, putting a question mark on the controversial funding instrument, as brought out by a survey of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. It found that during 2018-19, other than national parties Congress and BJP, the ruling TMC (West Bengal), BJD (Odisha), JD(S) (Bihar), TRS (Telangana) and YSRCP (Andhra Pradesh) got two-third of their funding (Rs 3696) from electoral bonds, but anonymous donations made up 55-87% of the total donations received. However, AAP (Delhi), AIADMK (Tamil Nadu) and opposition parties such as TDP, RJD, DMK, SAD, CPI, CPM, NCP, BSP and SP, didn’t receive any donation via the bonds, even though their total collection ran into crores. Whether the trend changes is worth a watch as sale of the 13th tranche of electoral bonds started Monday last and is till January 22. Hope more light is shed on criticism against bonds bringing ‘opacity’ in poll funding being justified as against the ‘transparent’ mode through corporations, individuals and electoral trusts and aids the Supreme Court where a petition challenging the scheme is pending.
All is not well in Rajasthan’s powers of corridor. The friction between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his deputy Sachin Pilot refuses to ebb. Apparently, both the top leaders have been making comments against each other, though fortunately not naming the other. Recall, that Gehlot had blamed Pilot for the rout in the Lok Sabha elections, which made the latter question his campaigning style. There are more instances, but the latest tragedy of 100 infants’ death at a Kota government hospital has put the bickering in spotlight. Pilot said his government should have been more humane in handling the crisis, referring to Gehlot’s statement that deaths do happen and these were less than in the BJP’s regime! The infighting according to the grapewine is impacting governance. The head of the party and that of government can’t be walking in opposite directions as this would affect workers, which doesn’t bode well for any party. In fact, BJP is making the best of it saying its role is easier as there is ‘opposition’ within the government. This should make Congress High Command and 10 Janpath sit up, if it hasn’t already. Or better remember a stitch in time saves nine. ——INFA