Gen Next, is CPM’s strategy to stay alive. At least in God’s own country, Kerala. The Pinarayi Vijayan-led LDF government’s decision, to have new faces in its 20-member Cabinet and not give a 2ndconsecutive term to sitting ministers, barring Chief Minister, has raised many an eyebrow. Particularly,when Health Minister Shailaja’s exclusion was least expected. Undeniably, she played a leading role in the battle against Covid-19 in first wave and earned both national and global recognition. Vijayan has sought to justify it saying it’s central leadership’sdecision to give the younger generation a chance and that’s why 26 MLAs, including senior ministers weren’t given tickets for these elections. Shailaja supporters may be unwilling to buy as there seemed to be a popularity race between the two. But the deed has been done. On Thursday last, Vijayan took oath along with his new team at a grand celebration as it was a historic moment for the party — return of an incumbent government after a span of four decades. The new Cabinet has 12 ministers from CPM, four CPI and one each from Kerala Congress (M), INL, DKC, NCP, JD(S). And 17 of the 20 ministers are first timers—a blend of youth and veterans. However, inclusion of Vijayan’s son-in-law hasn’t gone down too well. Be that as it may, the bigger concern will be whether the two-term CM’s gamble of fresh blood will yield dividends, for him, his party and government.
‘Political vendetta’, in all likelihood will be oft-heard from Writers Building in the next five years. Expectedly, the West Bengal-Centre showdown has begun sooner than later with gloves being off on either side. After post-poll violence, the 2016 Narada bribery case ghost has emerged with trimmings of a high-pitched drama. Two TMC ministers, one MLA and a former Mayor are arrested on Monday morning by CBI. All four are granted bail after hours of siege laid by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the agency’s office challenging their arrests. Later in the evening, Calcutta High Court denies their bail and CBI seeks transfer of trial outside Bengal. The four are placed in jail custody. It’s only on Friday, the court orders their house arrest, though the two-judge bench differs and a larger bench is to be constituted to hear the plea. Predictably, Mamata, says “whatever happened to them is wrong. It is a clear instance of deliberate political vendetta.” She may not be wrong here. Because investigations excluding two former TMC MPs at that time, Suvendu Adhikari (now leader of Opposition) and Mukul Roy, who switched over to the BJP, is unfair and unjustified. Why they haven’t been arrested given they face same allegations, is a question being raised not just in TMC headquarters. Permission for them, says the CBI is pending before Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla. Weak excuse, to say the least. For the four arrested, the CBI had got sanction for prosecution from Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, in January. Does more need to be said!
Cyclone Tauktae has not only left a trail of destruction but put sharp focus on callous handling of the warnings issued. In Gujarat over 50 people died and damages are estimated to be over Rs 3,000 crore. Prime Minister Modi Wednesday undertook an aerial survey and announced a Rs 1,000 crore relief package. But what causes more despair is the sinking in the Arabian Sea of barge P305 working for ONGC. So far 49 bodies are recovered and 29 personnel still missing. Mumbai police has registered a case of negligence against the barge’s Captain for allegedly ignoring the warnings.But it’s not enough. Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas has finally announced a high-level inquiry into “lapses and gaps” in the system. It shall probe “sequence of events leading to ONGC support vessels left stranded by the cyclone, whether warnings by MetDepartment and other statutory authorities were acted upon or not, and if SOP for securing vessels and disaster management was followed.” More so as manyONGC vessels with over 600 people on board were stranded in offshore areas during the cyclone and stranding, drifting and subsequent events led to loss of many lives.Worse, Coast guard’s two weather advisories to ONGC that all vessels in Mumbai High areas return to the shore, were ignored or taken lightly. Accountability, no doubt must be fixed. But sooner than later.
MP, UP Poll Duty Toll
A stitch in time saves nine, is a saying which the political brass chooses to ignore. Madhya Pradesh follows Uttar Pradesh’s tragedy of teachers on election duty succumbing to Covid-19.
It turns out 24-odd teachers died during by-poll duty in Damoha, whereas the administration has recognised 17 confirmed cases so far. On May 19, Damoh had 43 new cases and 1,375 active cases with a caseload of 7,465 and 130 deaths. The MP Government Teachers Association, which is demanding compensation for the families, has told authorities they should consider not only poll duty but that teachers underwent a 3-day training programme, attended by hundreds, where many contracted the virus. Similar is the story in UP. While the government says only 3 teachers died during the panchayat elections, the Teachers association says it’s 1600 plus, given entire exercise from the time when individual leaves for electoral work, undergoes training and goes home after the poll duty. The pressure is growing here and Chief Minister Adityanath has directed Chief Secretary to find ways to compensate the kin of those who died as well discuss with ECI. More so, as compensation of Rs 30,000 offered, according to Allahabad High Court is ‘too less’ and instead be Rs 1 crore. Will the governments pay a heavy price for their folly not to postpone the polls?
Chhattisgarh Tribal Protest
Chhattisgarh has more worries other than handling the pandemic. It needs to deal with a face-off between security forces and tribals in Sukma. On Wednesday last, a thousand plus villagers from tribal communities protested close to newly-established Silger security camp demanding it be removed and the six persons arrested be released. This after three persons, were killed in gunfire between ‘Maoist operatives’ and security forces, during the protest on Monday last. The security forces claim they only returned fire and 19 of their men were injured. Plus, the three killed were Bhumkal Commander from Timmapur, a DAKMS member from Chutwahi and Militia secretary from Gundem and five injured are in hospital. However, the tribals claim ‘innocent people’ were killed, one even having an adhaar card, and that they shall keep protesting till their demand is met.The Collector held a closed-door meeting with the families and handed the bodies of the deceased, but the decision to grant those arrested bail, he told them was with the executive magistrate. The larger question on the camp goes unanswered. The villagers has decided to dig in their heels. What started as a small protest has spread to other villages. Long haul?
Rajasthan’s Sensible Call
Rajasthan takes a lead for others to follow. On Wednesday last, the State police issued directions asking its personnel not to make any arrests “under any circumstances’ till July 17 where imprisonment extends up to three years and are triable by a First Class Magistrate. This on two counts, as suggested by the High Court, while hearing an anticipatory bail petition, wherein the sentence awarded after conviction may extend to 3 years. One, if a person arrested sent to jail by the Magistrate turns out to be ‘an asymptomatic carrier of Covid-19, inmates may be put at risk,’and will be ‘counter-productive.’ Two, there is a huge pendency of bail applications, five judges of Jaipur Bench are hearing these, in addition to other cases; the State has issued guidelines to restrict number of employees at workplace and the police is involved in more important task of enforcing the lockdown. The advice is till situation ‘normalises’ but at least till mid-July. Indeed, discretion is the better part of valour. — INFA