Ut on sale, a betrayal?

J&K Land Laws
Good, bad or ugly, is a question that needs debate after the Centre amended and notified land laws for Jammu & Kashmir. The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, of mainstream political parties, firmly sees it as “J&K has been put up for sale”, “fear of demographic changes and alteration to character of this place”, “a huge betrayal”, “massive assault on people’s rights”, “grossly unconstitutional.” However, industrialists’ bodies like Jammu-based Bari Brahmana Industries Association have welcomed it saying there’s “a ray of hope of industrialisation by prospective entrepreneurs from outside.” This should please L-G Manoj Sinha who has sought to dispel fears and stated: “rest assured, land will not be given to anybody. But if someone wants to set up an industry they will have to be given land…through industrial parks.” Convincing? Remember, after revocation of Article 370, the promised Business Summit simply failed to take off. The Centre’s notification on Monday last is a lot more: it opens up urban or non-agricultural land for purchase by outsiders, permits contract farming on agricultural lands, insulates zones identified for development from various laws’ application which earlier ensured ownership remained with ‘permanent residents’, etc. Fear is Kashmir—the paradise on earth will not be same the again. While time will tell, at least it has kick started political activity.

Bihar Poll Puzzle
The Opposition in Bihar is definitely giving Chief Minister Nitish Kumar a run for his money. Election issues are clearly local such as jobs and Nitish babu is having a tough time this time and is asking the electorate to vote for Modi as that’s how development will get to the State! The voter turnout for 71 seats in the first phase of polling on Wednesday last was impressive — 52.24% as compared to 53.54 per cent in non-Corona times in 2015. Looks like the outcome here shall reverberate beyond and could impact course of national politics. Bihar is first to go to polls since COVID-19 and should give an inkling of how unplanned lockdown and sagging economy has gone down with the people. This could impact NDA equations for as it is the JD(U), BJP and LJP failed to put together a viable jugalbandi. The RJD’s Tejaswi is getting huge crowds and so is Chirag Paswan, sending out hopes for younger generation, However, if the ruling combine wins the polls, it will reaffirm Modi’s popularity and BJP’s ability to overcome incumbency.

Free Country
Three cheers to the Supreme Court for coming to rescue of ordinary citizens. On Wednesday last, it stayed Calcutta High Court’s order of September 29 asking a Delhi woman to appear before the State police. The case pertains to Kolkata police having summoned her for questioning following an ‘objectionable’ Facebook post she shared about a crowded Raja Bazaar area scene, ‘inferred’ as questioning government’s sincerity in enforcing lockdown! Finding the post too innocuous to be converted into an FIR, the bench said “If some person writes something against the Government in some country, are you (state) going to make him appear, say in Kolkata or Chandigarh or Manipur and tell him that now we will teach you a lesson. This is a dangerous proposition. Let this remain a free country.” It also said ‘We have to be here to ensure ordinary citizens are not harassed like this…We have strong reservations against people being called from one state to another just because they have criticised the government.” It asked the lady to cooperate with the investigation, which could be through video conferencing or if the police came to Delhi. Some protection to fundamental right of free speech?

Uttarakhand Bewilderment
Bizarre, to say the least is what Uttarakhand High Court order is. Fortunately, the State BJP can heave a sigh of relief as its Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat in the hill State gets relief from Supreme Court. On Thursday last, it stayed the High Court’s order of October 27 for a CBI probe into allegations of corruption levelled by a journalist against Rawat in a Facebook video. While the rival Congress has been accused of hatching a conspiracy to destabilise the government, the 3-judge bench is bewildered how the High Court had passed such a drastic order and exercised suo moto powers under Article 226, when “the CM was not even a party”! It emerges the HC ordered CBI probe while deciding writ petitions filed by two journalists – Umesh Kunar Sharma and Shiv Prasad Semwal – who had sought quashing of an FIR lodged in July this year by Dehradun police following a complaint by a retired professor against a video uploaded by Sharma on Facebook levelling corruption charges against Rawat. The High Court, said Attorney General, had mixed up all grounds and its order ‘was contrary to SC rulings against destabilising governments.’ He urged the apex court to look at consequence and “surely HC knows what will happen thereafter. HC is not competent to do this.” Not a truly happy ending, as there seems more than meets the eye. More unravelling required.

Rivalry Back In UP
It’s back to square one for Uttar Pradesh’s foes-turned-friends — BSP and SP. Within 24 hours after seven BSP MLAs rebelled against the party’s candidate for Rajya Sabha poll and met the SP leadership, BSP supremo Mayawati lashed out at father and son, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh. Regretting the 2019 alliance with them and withdrawing the June 2, 1995 guest house case, an alleged attempt on her life, as “a big mistake”, she warned much in advance: It’s going to be “a tit-for-tat response and BSP MLAs will vote for BJP or any other Opposition party to defeat SP’s second MLC candidate.” Besides, on Thursday last she suspended all 7 MLAs from party membership and will seek cancellation of their Assembly membership under the anti-defection law ‘if and when they join another party.’ The SP has hit back saying her statement is “a confession of siding with the BJP” and that there was ‘prior understanding’ with the saffron brigade! What happens ahead is anybody’s guess but for the time being BJP and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will be having the last laugh.

Assam Women & Alcohol
It’s an odd distinction which Assam wouldn’t be pleased with. Its women consume much more alcohol than their counterparts across the country! Not a conjecture but a finding of a recent survey released by Union Ministry for Health and Family Welfare. As per 2019-20 data, 26.3% women in Assam, in age group of 15-49 years, consume alcohol—the highest among all States and UTs, i.e. 1.2%. The figures include those of National Family Health Survey-4, conducted in 2015-16. While NFHS-5 report (2018-19) is yet to be released, data of NFHS-3 (2005-06), revealed 7.5% women in Assam in age group of 15-49 years had reported to have consumed alcohol. At that time, 5 States were ahead of it — Arunachal Pradesh (33.6%), Sikkim (19.1%), Chhattisgarh (11.4%), Jharkhand (9.9%) and Tripura (9.6%). Interestingly, while corresponding figure for Assam jumped from 7.5% in NFHS-3 to 26.3% in NFHS-4, there was a slump in these other States— AP to 3.3%, Sikkim (0.3%), Chhattisgarh (0.2%), Jharkhand (0.3%) and Tripura (0.8%). The only saving grace for Assam perhaps is that while 44.8% of its women consume alcohol around once a week, as compared to national figure of 35%, they are behind their menfolk –51.9%. Happy, did one hear?— INFA