Round The States
It’s crass management catastrophe. The handling of the devastating second wave of the Covid crisis by the Centre has evoked a sense of both fear and despair among the people across the country, to say the least. The shortage of beds and oxygen has reached an alarming situation, not to mention scarcity of vaccine and testing centres. The Executive’s utter failure has had the judiciary to step in some States. Worse, the blame game doesn’t seem to ebb with Chief Ministers of Opposition States accusing the other for taking or stopping their oxygen supply, as the surge in Covid cases reached three lakh for the second consecutive day. Even Prime Minister Modi’s video conferencing on Friday morning with 10 State Chief Ministers, who have been sending SOS to the Centre, including that of Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh and Delhi ended up in bad taste. Will the Centre issuing orders under the DMA that no State can hold up supplies of oxygen to another State, help rather work, is the question for the demand oversteps the supply.People are dying gasping for breath. These past days have seen Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh accusing fingers at each other of “looting” its oxygen tanker meant for their hospitals! Does it help in any way giving the citizens’ shattered confidence that the crisis would be overcome?
The Supreme Court has stepped in and taking suo motu cognisance of the pandemic and directed the Centre to put in place a national policy on issues relating to the supply of oxygen, essential drugs and method of vaccination. Too little, too late some may say. Six High Courts, which have been hearing related petitions involving the crisis of oxygen, beds, and the anti-viral drug Remdesivir in hospitals, have clearly questioned the Centre’s handling of the situation. The Delhi High had this to say to it: “beg, borrow or steal” to ensure adequate oxygen to the capital and that it seemed “human lives are not that important…for the state.”The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court took cognisance of lack of availability of Remdesivir in the district and revived a PIL it had taken up on its own motion in 2020 on the government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis. Likewise, the Allahabad HC, had passed an order imposing a lockdown in five districts of UP, though it was overturned by the SC. Apart from these the Bombay High Court, Madras High Court and Karnataka HC are hearing cases related to the pandemic. Clearly, a sad reflection on the Executive. Surely, it cannot rather must not scoff at it as judicial overreach. Instead, it would do well to get its act together, lest the State collapses and fails miserably.
EC Wakes Up Late
Better sense has prevailed on the Election Commission. It has finally woken up to the catastrophe that Covid-19 is inflicting on the country. On Thursday last, it banned roadshows, vehicle rallies, and public meetings of over 500 people in West Bengal, with two more phases to go. However, its reasoning that it is ‘anguished’ that political parties and candidates were “still not adhering to the prescribed safety norms” during campaigning doesn’t have any any takers! The timing of its order suggests there’s more than meets the eye. One, it comes a few hours after it got a rap from the West Bengal High Court, which observed that “Issuance of circulars and holding of meetings by themselves do not discharge the onerous responsibility of the ECI…” It failed miserably in updating the court on what it has done to enforce its circulars about implementing Covid-related precautions on the ground. Two, political parties such as the BJP, CPM, Congress had already announced they wouldn’t be holding big rallies and even Prime Minister Modi, who has been criticised for concentrating on Bengal rather than the Covid crisis had cancelled his rallies. The ruling TMC has too cancelled the rallies and instead shall hold these virtually. The question NirvachanSadan should ask itself is why couldn’t it give a serious thought to the TMC request of clubbing the remaining 3 phases together given the steep rise in fresh infections. Here the saying better late than never, doesn’t really add up.
J&K ‘Draconian’ Order
Government employees in Jammu & Kashmir have every reason to see red. The administration on Wednesday last, set up a Special Task Force to initiate action against government employees suspected of activities against “security of the State”. By this order, passed under Constitution’s Article 311(2) (C), the UT administration has got powers to terminate an employee without constituting an inquiry against him/her on grounds of security of the State! The STF, which is said will “speedily scrutinise such cases in a time bound manner”, is to be headed by J&K Additional DGP, CID, and includes IGP, J&K, and a representative each of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, and the department to which the employee belongs. It shall identify and scrutinize cases and initiate the process, which includes compiling records of “employees suspected of activities requiring action under the Article.” Plus it will engage with the “Terror Monitoring Group” for identifying such other employees and take aid of other agencies and departments as required. Clearly, the order goes against natural justice and is seen as a tool for the administration to harass and intimidate its employees. Just imagine the fearit will evoke amongst lakhs of employees, who are already stressed under harsh working conditions. A challenge in the offing?
Manipur Offers Hope
Manipur offers a ray of hope to seven Myanmar nationals. On Thursday last, Manipur High Court directed State authorities to make arrangements for safe passage of the nationals, four adults and three children, taking shelter in Moreh town, bordering Tengnoupal, to capital Imphal as well ensure no coercive steps or adverse action is taken against them, either by State or Centre. The two-judge was hearing a petition seeking their safe passage to New Delhi to enable them to seek UNHCR protection. Though Addl Solicitor General chose to counter with MHA’s order asking steps be taken ‘to prevent possible illegal influx from Myanmar into Indian territory and initiate legal proceedings against illegal migrants’, the bench was firm: “This is conscious of the fact that India is not a signatory to Geneva Refugee Convention, 1951, or New York Protocol of 1967. However, it is a party to Universal Declaration of Human Rights and also International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. That apart, the protection afforded by Article 21 of Indian Constitution is not limited to citizens and can be availed by non-citizens also.” It impleaded both Home and Defence Ministries till next hearing i.e. April 26, and directed district authorities to take them to an immigration officer and obtaining biometric particularsplus provide adequate security before taking them to Imphal. Will Biren Singh government get the nod from North Block is the big question.
Burglary in Jail!
Imagine a burglary in a jail! Well, Kannur Central jail authorities in Kerala are pink in the face. On Thursday morning, jail officials realised that burglars stole ¹ 1.92 lakh from the Freedom Food Factory office inside the jail complex. Apparently, the money proceeds from the sale of jail chapattis and other dishes was kept on a table and the thieves are said to broken the two locks. Worse, the room was situated just 20 metres away from the main gate, manned by a special police team ‘Thunder Bolts.’ Thus far, it is suspected that some inmates were aware of the money kept inside that room and those linked to the jail canteen and cafeteria are to be probed. Finger print experts and forensic officials were asked to visit the spot and get to the bottom of the case. The Freedom Food Factory, in the State’s jails it turns out is very popular for its tasty cuisine such as chicken curry, biryani, Kerala porotta among others. Plus its economical and with there being a big demand for its food, authorities have even launched an online delivery service. Well the authorities would do well to view the burglary literally as food for thought to plug in the security loopholes. — INFA