Bengal Cyclone Amphan
It’s a double whammy for West Bengal. Struggling to meet the challenge of coronovirus and under the Centre’s radar, the State is now battling with Cyclone Amphan. Till Thursday last the cyclone has claimed 72 lives, leaving thousands homeless, a trail of destruction in several parts and swamping low-lying areas. The State in worse hit than Odisha given that while 5 lakh-odd people were evacuated in Bengal and told to remain in shelters, over 2 lakh were evacuated in Odisha and that the situation is ‘under control and weather has moderated in the latter. However, what is of critical concern is what relief the Centre and Prime Minister will eventually provide to Bengal. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s has requested he visit the State and ‘see the situation,’ as she has seen nothing like it before. In a tweet, Modi assured all possible assistance to the two States and that top officials are working in close co-ordination with the West Bengal government. In this challenging hour, he said, the entire nation “stands in solidarity with West Bengal. Praying for the well-being of the people…Efforts are on to ensure normalcy.” Expected reaction, but it shouldn’t be mere words. Will there be a halt to nitpicking and politics put behind? New Delhi must remember the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
Maharashtra For Locals
Maharashtra makes a clarion call to its “sons of soil”. With lakhs of migrant workers going back to their States, an anxious Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has decided to set up an industrial employment bureau to meet the grave labour shortfall. Grab employment opportunities now, is the message to his people, with the commitment that the bureau will give priority to local labourers. It proposes to involve collaboration of three departments—industries, labour and skill development and will enrol workers in skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled segments, as per industry needs. The administration is obviously making the best of the opportunity in hand of taking forward its agenda of the ‘Marathi manoos’. Remember Shiv Sena from day one has been vociferously against the ‘outsiders’ who have taken away jobs from the locals. The big question is whether the call will have takers, as the surge of migrants in the State was because the locals, who were better educated, shunned working-class jobs. The slowdown cannot be wished away and time will tell whether sans the migrants the Marathi manoos will meet rebuild a new Maharashtra.
Anger In J&K
Political parties in Jammu & Kashmir are up in arms. The Union Cabinet has stirred up a hornets’ nest by giving post-facto approval to the new law modifying the ‘applicability of Domicile conditions to all level of jobs under the J&K Civil Services (Decentralisation and Recruitment) Act’ on Wednesday last. The rules, reacted the National Conference, are ‘unconstitutional’ aimed at “disempowering the people of J&K and effecting demographic change” at a time when the issue is under challenge before the Supreme Court. Regretting that even a pandemic “is no deterrent for the GoI”, the PDP warned it will be resisted. The Centre has opened the “flood gates for outsiders”, which is a “betrayal against the people, especially youth, who were promised complete protection of rights to jobs and land, even post abrogation of Article 370”, was the Congress’ response. At a time when the people are concerned with spread of coronavirus, the BJP government said the CPM “is busy in redesigning the ‘UT’! All are on the same page and trust deficit takes a further nosedive. New Delhi will need to prepare for more than just a simmering summer season in the Valley.
UP’s Revolting Politics
Stranded migrants get caught in the rot of one-upmanship politics in Uttar Pradesh. The heartrending scenes of migrant workers having to trudge miles to get back home in the sweltering heat, got Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi to engage 1000-odd buses to save them of their misery. However, she ended up withdrawing these on Wednesday last, as BJP-government under Yogi Adityanath nit-picked and wouldn’t allow hundreds of buses from Jaipur, stranded for over 24 hours, to cross the border. Its reasoning: “buses have fake numbers, or carried registration numbers of other vehicles, and some were in poor condition”. Plus, it argued that Priyanka sent Rajasthan Roadways buses “which she cannot do in her personal capacity”. Does it really matter? What should is engaging in ‘joint relief measures’ and not put unwanted hurdles. An exasperated Priyanka in a video message said it’s “no time to play politics”, and even urged Yogi “…If you want, you can paste your posters or banners on them, but kindly allow them to ply so that the migrants can be ferried in them.” It fell on deaf ears. No winners here, only losers and sadly in this case millions of the stranded poor.
The NRC exercise in Assam has hit a fresh controversy. On Monday last, Assam Public Works (APW), a Guwahati-based NGO, has filed an FIR with CBI, alleging financial misconduct in the updating process. It accused Wipro, one of prime software companies, for allegedly submitting a bill as well as being paid Rs 1.27 crore for procurement of two software systems. But as per National Institute of Smart Governance report to Accountant General (Audit) office, “no such system was installed and used for the updation.” Besides, it is alleged that Accountant General (Audit) report reveals irregularities in purchase of 3,700 generators for 2,500 NRC help centres set up across the State, for which Wipro submitted bills worth Rs 34.76 crore at rate of Rs 93,964 each. An inquiry by the AG office, however, reveals the generators were hired (not purchased) and the market price of each was Rs 35,000! The accusations cannot be taken lightly, as recall that APW was the original petitioner on whose PIL the Supreme Court in 2015 had ordered for updating of the NRC. More skeletons to tumble out of cupboard?
An FIR in Karnataka hits headlines. Will it turn out to be nuisance value or trigger a vicious Congress-BJP spat? On Thursday last, an FIR was registered against Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi at Sagar Town Police Station, Shivamoga after a ‘preliminary enquiry’, following a complaint by an advocate and a BJP activist over some tweets made from Twitter handle @INCIndia against PM-CARES. The saffronite was perturbed over the allegations made i.e. PM CARES was not used for welfare of citizens, but for his personal interests including foreign trips! The FIR is filed under sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) and 505(1)(b) (intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public) and probe is underway. The issue has reached Chief Minister Yediyrappa’s doorstep. PCC Chief Shivakumar demands withdrawal of the FIR, arguing that Sonia’s intent was merely to ‘force Modi to use the Fund for people’s welfare’ and was being misinterpreted by BJP leadership, which ‘instigated’ filing of complaint. Worse, the FIR was ‘a blatant misuse of the process of law with an intention to snub the right to healthy criticism’. What’s new? — INFA