Mumbai today mirrors everything that’s rotten with the system and the country. The unfolding high drama between Kangana Ranaut, the Shiv Sena, flogged by an irresponsible media is a readymade script for the next Bollywood film. A blockbuster for sure! What started as a tragedy has turned into a game of power politics. The SSR-Rhea tragedy script is being rewritten again and again— from a ‘suicide’, to a ‘murder’, to drugs, to a Maharashtra vs Bihar spat as the latter goes to polls, to a twist from Kangana who decides to take on Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Shiv Sena, New Delhi providing her with Y-plus security, BMC going on demolition drive against Kangana’s office’ illegal encroachment, HC giving it a hard rap, SS partner NCP stepping in saying stop, Kangana dragging in another SS partner, Congress President, questioning her deafening silence etc is never ending. We citizens have by now become attuned to such tamasha. But this one is different. The BJP-SS rivalry is being played out by going piggyback on film actors, though the director doesn’t seem to be sitting in Mumbai, with signals suggesting Delhi. For the focus on the rising cases of COVID-19, border tension with China, drowning economy, millions going jobless etc needs to be diverted or else it will hurt the Centre’s image and that too hard. And what other way to do it than a punchy nonsensical drama. Did we hear Salaam Bombay?
The Chinese may impose another casualty – this time to the first election for Leh’s autonomous Hill Council. Amidst the ongoing border tension in Ladakh region, all political parties barring the ruling BJP are asking for poll postponement of the electoral exercise till the situation eases. Given that the five-year term of the Council of both districts Leh and Kargil, is ending next month, the Leh DC recently held a meeting with representatives of political parties. The Congress, Aam Admi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party opined the time ain’t right. Reasons: people may have come to Leh from border villages and there might not be enough people left to campaign in villages; holding virtual rallies was not possible due to absence of telecommunications and mobile facilities in villages; with border tension, campaigning in border villages may not be possible, which will mean lower electoral participation etc. However, BJP which is heading the Council, winning 18 of 26 seats in 2015 polls, insists polls be held as per schedule by ‘restricting political gatherings to 20-25 persons, use of EVMs and creation of sub-polling booths within polling booths to prevent spread of Covid. To top it, the party seems to have already begun its campaign with its General Secretary Ram madhav already having made two visits in past few months. It doesn’t require a guess whose word will prevail, whether the situation normalises or not.
Netas Above Law
The VIP culture in our country stinks. The Supreme Court has been submitted official data about pending cases against current and former MPs and MLAs wherein in “large number of cases even charges haven’t been framed including those punishable with imprisonment for life.” There are 4,442 cases pending against current and former “people’s representatives” across the country, of which 2,556 cases are against sitting MPs and MLAs as furnished by different High Courts. Uttar Pradesh expectedly tops the list with 1,217 pending cases (446 against sitting legislators); Bihar follows with 531 cases, (256 against sitting legislators), and Kerala with 333 cases (310 against sitting legislators). Of all cases, 413 are in respect of offences that are punishable with imprisonment for life, of which 174 involve sitting MPs/ MLAs. Shockingly, a large number of cases are pending at appearance stage and even non-bailable warrants issued by courts have not been executed! Contrast this with the aam admi where a complaint followed by an FIR lands him behind bars and worse under draconian laws such as NSA and UAPA! The big question is will the apex court fast track these cases now as pleaded in the PIL and do away with this mockery of rule of law?
Telangana Task Force
Will other States follow Telangana model or is the southern State late in cracking the whip against private hospitals making a buck during the pandemic? On Wednesday last Chief Minister K C Rao announced setting up a task force, headed by a senior IAS officer, to monitor treatment of COVID-19 patients in these hospitals, ensure affordable cost and release weekly reports. During the ongoing Assembly session, Rao told members that from day one he wanted treatment be given only in government hospitals but his hands were tied with high court allowing private hospitals to do so. “Is this the time for corporate hospitals to fleece patients for money, taking advantage of their misery?” he asked. There could be a counter though—whether government hospitals are equipped and can take the load? Anyhow, reports are now to be sent to leaders of all opposition parties to create awareness about these hospitals “cruel” ways; government will consider reimbursement of bills paid by white ration card holders at these hospitals and will place demand on Centre to release more funds to fight the pandemic. Should people see hope?
UP’s Cows & NSA
Holy cow, Uttar Pradesh is trigger-happy with draconian National Security Act (NSA) as its weapon. Over half of the cases relate to alleged cow slaughter! According to a statement by the Home department, this year, till August 19, the Police had invoked NSA against 139 people in the State, 76 of them for cow slaughter! And till August 31, the Bareilly police zone alone had accounted for 44 of the cases. In contrast, the NSA was invoked against 6 persons related to crimes against women/children, 37 for heinous crimes, 20 for other offences and 13 arrests linked to anti-CAA protests. The police justify their actions saying Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had directed that NSA be slapped in cases of crime which “affect public order so that there is a feeling of fear among criminals and a feeling of safety among the public.” But can it b accepted? Remember, under the NSA, a person can be detained without a charge for up to 12 months if the authorities feel he or she is a threat to national security or law and order. There’s obviously more than meets the eye— a sinister effort to target a particular community. And Gau mata is but an excuse!
Of Cigarette/Bidi Butts
Watch where you are going to through those cigarette and bidi butts in future, for their disposal is now a concern of the National Green Tribunal. On Thursday last, the NGT directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to lay down guidelines within 3 months for disposal of these butts in the interest of the environment. Though it’s a given that tobacco is harmful for health, it’s yet to be ascertained whether the butts fall within toxic waste category or not, as there are conflicting studies. One by Indian Institute of Toxicology Research states butts will not be toxic to humans and environment and another by Cellulose Acetate shows the degradation shall persist and toxicity stays. With ‘Doctors For You’ seeking ban on consumption of tobacco in all public places and proper disposal of related waste, the NGT had issued notices to the Ministries of Environment and Forests, Health and Family Welfare and CPBD. It is upset with the MoEF response terming cigarette butts as “biodegradable” and has sought clarification. Signals are plenty that improper disposal causes environmental problems and has health risks. Will guidelines be in place or the issue will simply go up in smoke? —INFA