J&K Delimitation Exercise
Political parties in Kashmir valley are peeved with the Delimitation Commission, accusing it of pushing the BJP ‘political agenda’. The NC and PDP along with People’s Conference and Kashmir Apni Party have trashed the Commission’s draft recommendations—seven additional Assembly seats for Jammu and Kashmir — six in Jammu division and only one in Kashmir valley. These, say the parties are “unacceptable”, “reek of bias” and have “bypassed” their demands of people’s representation. Former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti have argued that creation of the new constituencies ‘isn’t justified by 2011 Census data, rather the Commission has allowed BJP’s political agenda to dictate its recommendations; Contrary to promised scientific approach, it’s political; apprehensions about the Commission weren’t misplaced as it seeks to pitch people against each other by ignoring population census and created to serve BJP’s political interests by dividing people along religious and regional lines; real game plan is to install a government in J&K which will legitimise the unconstitutional decisions of August 2019.’ On its part, the Commission says the proposals are to ‘balance representation for geographical areas with inadequate communication and lack of public conveniences given their excessive remoteness or inhospitable conditions on the international border.’ It has asked for views by December 31. It’s no guess what these would be, but what follows is worth a watch.
UP Land Deal Scandal
Uttar Pradesh again hits the headlines for the wrong reasons. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has been forced to order an inquiry into land parcels’ transactions in Ayodhya since Supreme Court’s clearance of construction of a Ram temple there in November 2019. An investigation of land records by a leading English daily found that ‘at least 15 buyers of land parcels, included local MLAs, close relatives of bureaucrats who have or are serving in Ayodhya, and local revenue officials whose job was to authenticate land transactions.’ Worse, one set of these raises more questions of propriety and conflict of interest given that the seller in three cases, Maharshi Ramayan Vidyapeeth Trust, is under scrutiny — for alleged irregularities in purchase of land from Dalit villagers — by the very same officials (Divisional Commissioner, Chief Revenue Officer & DIG) whose relatives bought the land! The Trust acquired 52,000 sq m from a dozen Dalit families using a Dalit person Ronghai employed by it as a conduit for just Rs 6.38 lakh, whereas its value at current circle rate varies between Rs 4.25 crore and Rs 9.58 crore. Predictably, the go ahead given by the apex court for the Ram temple led to a scramble for land near its location as it would yield huge dividends. In all the total land bought by the 5 individuals, is 70,826 sq m, about 17 acres and imagine the big bucks they would rake in. Will Yogi’s inquiry be fair is the big question, as the scandal is a hot potato for the Opposition this ensuing Assembly polls? It seeks the Supreme Court step in. Will it?
Lakshadweep’s Education department has stirred a hornets nest. It has issued an order to mark Sundays instead of Fridays as weekly holidays for school students beginning the new academic year 2021-22. This despite protests. Muslims form 96% of the population in these tiny islands and have been observing Friday as a weekly holiday in schools on religious grounds. The order is a complete departure from the past system, but the administration insists it’s doing so to ‘ensure optimum utilisation of resources’ and ‘proper engagement of learners and necessary planning of teaching learning process.’ There are no takers and in fact a resistance. Local panchayats and school PTAs weren’t consulted and NCP MP says it’s ‘unilateral’ and ‘unpopular.’ He said: “Since the inception of the education system in Lakshadweep, this (Friday being a weekly holiday) has been going on. Suddenly, the current administrator, the 36th on the Island, decided that Friday will be a working day. There was no demand from the people (to change existing system). The new decision is totally needless.” How the protests will pan out is anybody’s guess as the fear is that the administration would resort to disciplinary action which will end up affecting the students’ academics. A bigger fear is will it make any difference to a cussed administration with an agenda?
Haryana does not want to lag behind other States when it comes to its excise policy. On Wednesday last, it amended its Excise Act to reduce the legal age to consume, purchase or sell liquor and other intoxicant drugs from existing 25 to 21 years and the Amendment Bill was passed in the Assembly. Its reasoning being: At the time of framing the Excise Policy for 2021-22, the reduction in age limit was discussed ‘as many of other States have done’, including NCT of Delhi. Moreover, ‘socio-economic conditions have changed drastically’ from the time when provisions were incorporated in the Excise Act. ‘People now are more educated and participating in new endeavours and also can take rational decisions when it comes to responsible drinking.’ Perhaps, but the government did not have a convincing argument viz controversial Friday prayers in open spaces in Gurugram, objected to by Hindu groups. Chief Minister Khattar asserted no member of any community should hold religious prayers in public places—”People of all faiths hold prayers at designated religious places like temples, mosques, gurdwaras and churches, and permissions are given for all big festivals in open, but by displaying a show of strength which provokes sentiments of another community isn’t appropriate.” This after a Congress MLA raised the issue saying ‘Idgahs and mosques should be freed from illegal encroachments in Gurugram so that our community members are not forced to offer prayers in the open….protecting minorities’ rights was the CM’s responsibility”. Will Khattar oblige?
Marriages are made in heaven it is said, but in Madhya Pradesh weddings are planned in ‘scheming’ ways. It so happens that one panchayat block in Vidisha district funded 6000 weddings in two years, April 2019 to May 2021, under the Mukhyamantri Kanyadan Yojna! In all Rs 30 crore was paid to 5,976 beneficiaries under this scheme plus the Sironj municipal area spent Rs 40.8 lakh on eight weddings, while Lateri municipality spent Rs 76.5 lakh on 15 weddings. The information came in the form of reply to a question in Assembly, leading to even the Speaker raising an eyebrow. He asked the minister “How is it possible that around 6,000 weddings were held and Rs 30 crore was spent in a single block considering the Covid period?” and sought the matter be inquired. And rightly so, as a party MLA had alleged “the figure was too high” and that “fake beneficiaries” had been propped up to “usurp the benefits by corrupt employees”, following a complaint by two beneficiaries that they hadn’t received the full payment. Under the scheme Rs 51,000 is provided as financial aid to newly married couples to help economically weaker families marry off their daughters and that most of the beneficiaries are labourers, registered with the State’s Building and Other Construction Workers Board.The government has ordered a probe and the ‘wedding planner’ must be nailed and made accountable. — INFA