Rajya Sabha Polls
Four States provided a nail-biting finish to the elections for Rajya Sabha’s 16 seats. While polling was underway at the time of writing, the States –Maharashtra, Haryana, Rajasthan and Karnataka triggered over a week of suspense of who would be the winner. The States had more candidates than the seats, unlike the 41 candidates, who were elected unopposed last week out of 57 seats in the biennial elections. Predictably, the election has been preceded by political parties indulging in resort politics, keeping their MLAs away at different destinations to prevent poaching and the role of money power can’t be ruled out. Maharashtrais seeing a close contest between MVA government of Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress and Opposition BJP for the sixth seat, as seven candidates were in the fray. The SS has lost two votes with special court rejecting pleas of Minister Nawab Malik and former minister Anil Deshmukh seeking a day’s bail to vote. It’s a close call. In Haryana, media baron Kartikeya Sharma backed by the BJP, has queered the pitch for Congress Ajay Maken for the second seat. The Congress has 31 members, just enough to help Ajay win the seat, but cross-voting could lead to an upset.
The ruling-Congress in Rajasthan, has fielded three candidates, and BJP one. In the 200-member House, Congress has 108 MLAs, BJP 71, with 20 votes of Independents and other smaller parties. With a candidate needing 41 votes to win, the Congress and BJP are set to comfortably win two and one seats, respectively. However, the BJP has decided to support another media baron,Subhash Chandra,wherein he may well queer the pitch for the Congress to win three seats. In Karnataka, the outcome of the fourth seat was in suspense, for which BJP, Congress and JD(S) are contenders, despite none having adequate number of votes to win it. A candidate needs the 45 votes to win and based on their strength in the Assembly, the BJP can win two seats and the Congress one. The question whether JD(S) candidate will get the Congress support of would it be vice versa was open. Cross-voting was very much on the cards. Sadly, it turns out to be a game of quantity and not quality for the Upper House.
J&K Package For KPs
Unable to prevent targeted killing of Kashmiri Pandits, the Jammu and Kashmir administration continues with its hit and trial methods. The Administrative Council chaired by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, on Wednesday last approved re-designation of posts for employees working under the Prime Minister’s Development package from districts to divisional level. This is in line with its plan to move Kashmiri Pandit government staff to “safer locations” within the Valley. Currently, 5,928 employees are working under the PM package and with posts being re-designated, ‘employees can be transferred anywhere within the 10 districts of Kashmir divisions.’ Apparently, the move comes amidst protests by Kashmiri Pandits against targeted killings by terrorists. These include, KP migrant employees holding a candle light protest in Vessu camp, South Kashmir demanding relocation outside the Valley; Dogra employees assembling under ‘All Jammu-based Reserved Categories Employees Association’ demanding transfer from Valley to home districts in Jammu region. Though the Development Package rolled out in 2008-09 was to aid return and rehabilitation of KPs to the Valley, through incentives such as housing, employment and transit accommodations, despair and anxiety runs large. A big question mark hangs whether this scheme will give the community the confidence to stay as the move doesn’t quell security concerns. Promotions, when life is at risk means little.
The people’s voice has been heard. The Chhattisgarh government has stopped all mining work in HasdeoAranya forests indefinitely, after Panchayat and Health Minister and local MLA T S Singh Deo visited the area and joined the protesters against the projects. The tribals have been protesting against the mining inside the area for past 97 days.The order passed on Thursday last, will affect work in three mines in the region, Parsa East KenteBasan (PEKB), Parsa, and Kente extension.Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel justified the decision saying “If Deo doesn’t want trees to be cut, not even a branch would be harmed.”This apart, on Wednesday last, the gram sabha of Ghatbarra unanimously decided not to sell their land for mining. HasdeoAranya, is a biodiversity-rich forest and also a rich source of coal. The order comes in the midst of mining in the first phase of PEKB having been completed, forest clearance been granted for its second phase and procedures for clearances for Parsa and Kente extension going on.The issue as usual had both the Congress and Opposition BJP trading charges. The latter hit out at the Baghel government saying it didn’t care about the people and though clearance for mining had been already given by Central government, it should have put its foot down then. Bhagel responded saying “If they feel so strongly about the issue, why don’t they protest in front of the central government? After all, they are the ones who allot mines.” What more, needs a close watch.
Surrendered militants in Tripura feel terribly let down. Discussions over their rehabilitation were held in October last and the government has done precious little since! The Deprived Returnees Movement Committee (DRMC), comprising 48 surrendered militant bodies, is rightly losing patience. Fortunately for the government, it has postponed its proposed indefinite blockade of National Highway 8, lifeline of the State connecting it with Assam, since June 5 to June 21,at Champaknagar, West district. This after new Chief Minister ManikSahais to hold a dialogue with them on June 14. Speaking to the media DRMC General Secretary Amrit Reangsaid that while they met Tribal Welfare Director on May 31over pending assurances of rehabilitation given at the time of surrender, the talks were inconclusive. As per the Centre’s declared rehabilitation package, the surrendered militants were supposed to get livelihood, housing etc after coming back to normal life. The DRMC had discussed their 9-point demands over several meetings with authorities, but in vain. Letters were also shot off to the President, Prime Minister and other Central government officials seeking a solution. Clearly, the ball is now in Saha’s court and he must deliver for ‘a stitch in time saves nine’.
Food Safety Awards
Tamil Nadu and Goa add a feather in their caps. The two won the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)’s 4th State Food Safety Index (SFSI) in the larger and smaller States category respectively. Gujarat and Maharashtra followed and Manipur and Sikkim accordingly, with Jammu and Kashmir beating Delhi and Chandigarh in the Union Territories category. The awards were announced by Union Health Minister Mandaviya on the occasion of World Food Safety Day on Tuesday last. The awards were started in 2018-19 with the aim of creating a ‘competitive and positive change’ in India’s food safety ecosystem, offering safe and nutritious food to citizens.The ratings are based on five parameters: Human Resources and Institutional data, Compliance, Food testing infrastructure and surveillance, Training and capacity building and Consumer empowerment.This apart, the Ministry has Eat Right India initiatives to motivate Bottom of Form smart cities to develop and execute a plan that supports a healthy, safe, and sustainable food environment. Ironically, in the midst of such initiatives and awards, India ranks at 101 position out of a total 116 countries in the Global Hunger Index! It is also among 31 countries where hunger has been identified as “serious”. Misplaced priorities? — INFA