Misplaced priorities

Delhi on Tenterhooks

By Insaf
National capital, Delhi, has lot on its plate it can handle. The health department has projected the Covid count could cross 1 lakh by June-end and shall breach the 5 lakh-mark by July 31. Amidst this frightening scenario, Chief Minister Kejriwal’s pronouncement that Delhi hospitals are for Delhiites alone has been over ruled by Lt-Governor Baijal. Plus, he has to deal with the NHRC over mismanagement of COVID-19 cases. On Wednesday last, Baijal directed hospitals to treat patients from across the country, scrapping CM’s order. Refraining from his usual open backlash, Kejriwal agreed to it in “letter and spirit”, as ‘it wasn’t the time for bickering’. But sadly between him and his Deputy Sisodia, preparations look afoot to eventually pass the buck to BJP, as they claim it ‘had forced L-G’s hands,’ to overrule the CM. And so first comes the warning: Delhi would now require 1.5 lakh hospital beds by July-end as people from ‘other States’ accounted for 50% plus occupancy and then the blame: the BJP ‘would be responsible’ for Corona deaths in the city. Other than the AAP-BJP politics, the Congress steps in too. It has filed a complaint with NHRC accusing both North Block and AAP over negligence, including insufficient testing, non-availability of beds, rising deaths and delay in last rites! Surely, the political drama in the midst of the epidemic is the least that the people expect from an elected government. Shocking misplaced priorities!

Thumbs Up For HCs
The Supreme Court has now come to the aid of High Courts. In the ongoing hearings on migrants’ distress, the court was not in tune with Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s criticism of HCs “running a parallel government.” Instead, it reaffirmed these “being constitutional courts are well within their jurisdiction to take cognisance of violation of fundamental rights of migrant workers….” On Tuesday last, it further spelt out steps that both Centre and State governments need to take: complete process of sending migrants back to their home States within 15 days; consider withdrawing cases against them for walking to their homes ‘by force of circumstances’ flouting lockdown rules; Railways adhere to demand of 170-odd Shramik trains between June 3 and 16 and “next stage of attending (to their) needs” be worked out. These include, set up counselling centres to maintain record of all migrant workers who had returned, their details, nature of skill, place of earlier employment, plus share information regarding schemes and other avenues of employment. Bottom line being: benefits announced “must reach those for whom they are meant”, and law enforcing agencies must deal with them in a “humane manner”. A clear reflection on the system! Need more be said?

Rajasthan Poaching?
Not again! Congress-ruled Rajasthan is now nervous about BJP poaching on its MLAs. On Wednesday last, its chief whip Mahesh Joshi lodged a complaint with Director General, Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), alleging “…like Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, attempts are being made to destabilise the government in Rajasthan.” Guess given the idiom once bitten, twice shy, its 107 MLAs, including independents, in a House of 200, have been transported to a luxury resort in Jaipur before the June 19 Rajya Sabha poll. As of now Chief Minister Gehlot and AICC in-charge Surjewala are confident of winning two of the three seats, with one going to BJP. However, the BJP has put up two candidates, raising eyebrows rather a frown as only recently 3 of its MLAs in Gujarat had crossed over to the saffron side, denting its prospects. The Grand old party can ill-afford a repeat. Fingers are crossed its flock stays tight till D-day.

TN’s Unreported Deaths
Tamil Nadu may turn out to be a pointer to what could be happening across the country. The AIADMK government has ordered a Covid death audit in capital Chennai after it emerged that “not less than” 200 deaths suspected to be linked to the infection, weren’t part of the State’s official toll. The estimate, it’s reported is based on a “preliminary assessment” of its corporation’s records. Till Wednesday last, the death toll was 326, including 260 in Chennai alone. Denying accusations of fudging of numbers, the government has set up a nine-member reconciliation committee to streamline data, as it claims there’s a “mismatch” on a “procedural lapse,” as before the epidemic, there was no system of reporting deaths on a daily basis to the government and certainly not from all hospitals or medical colleges. Unreported cases were either seen as home deaths or which occurred at private clinics, etc. But with anti-corruption initiative, Arappor Iyakkam, questioning 3 Covid deaths in government medical college and over 20 others at a Railway hospital not included in the data, the government has had to get its act together. Will similar initiatives in other States open a Pandora’s box?

J&K Media Gag
Jammu and Kashmir’s woes seem never-ending. The latest assault is the new media policy. It gives the administration powers to decide what is “fake”, “unethical” or “anti-national” news and take legal action against journalists or media organisations concerned, including stopping government ads and sharing information with security agencies. Preposterous! Rightly political parties have spoken out and demanded a rollback. The National Conference has warned ‘such anti-democratic gags will obstruct dissemination of free and fair press. Worse, it’s ‘an infringement of people’s right to information and shall choke the already constrained space for free working of press’. It’s a step towards ‘absolute censorship’, reacted the PDP, adding this ‘character certificate’ business for journalism is another instrument to stifle the voice of J&K’. The People’s Conference said it’s a “new low” and will “herald the darkest era of curbing press freedom”. Indeed, in new India, this will be the new normal for the people, already denied of 4G connection, unlike the rest of the country. The media fraternity needs to stand up against it for as said there will be “no prizes for guessing, anything remotely true or critical of the government will be categorised as fake or anti-national news!”

No More Freebies
No more freebies, says Uttarakhand High Court. On Tuesday last, a two-member bench declared null and void key provisions of the Uttarakhand Former Chief Ministers Facility (Residential and other facilities) Act 2019, which granted bungalow at cheap rent, vehicle, driver and other perks for free to them. Interestingly, the government had brought in this Act after the High Court in May last year ordered eviction of government residences and recovery of house rent at market rate from former CMs, following a PIL. The Act granted protection to ex-CMs, who had been given these facilities till 31 March 2019, after which no one could avail these. According to PIL, since the State was created in 2000, it has had seven CMs, of which two —Nityanand Swami and ND Tiwari have died since, Harish Rawat hasn’t availed the facilities, money ‘needs to be recovered’ from Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari and BC Khanduri and Vijay Bahuguna. The big question is will the State exchequer get its dues? A lot depends on whether and if the BJP government acts. ——INFA