It’s misplaced, but it exists. We have this inordinate cynicism about the removal of corruption. With the central government’s demonetisation drive about to complete its second anniversary next month, the army of doom and gloom is increasing its numbers.
We hear people saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot eliminate corruption, and how his whole exercise is not worth a spit in the wind, because the crooks and the charlatans, the hundis and the hawalas, the gangsters and the hoarders will all be back collecting bribes in a couple of months, just wait and see.
The “wait and see” is said with a certain ill-concealed glee, as if we would be disappointed in case the fruits from the poisoned tree were actually squashed.
I am not pro-Modi or anti-Modi, but I have just been thinking, what the heck, why are so many of us detracting from the herculean effort? No one else ever did it.
Though there are many hiccups and flaws, and we can point to all of them and exult in the mess, the fact is that the man has gone out on a limb and done something. Look at it this way: World War II lasted five years; many a battle was lost before the Allies pushed the Axis powers into a corner; many strategies were changed mid-way, campaigns reworked, troops repositioned. Nothing happened according to some preordained master plan.
Often they bumbled along, hoping for a break. England was one night away from considering surrender after the brutal Battle of Britain, Rommel thought his Afrika Korps would singlehandedly destroy the Allies, Japan blasted Pearl Harbor and let the US into a war it did not want to enter.
Modi too is at war. In a way, all of us are the troops. It is a massive undertaking and he needn’t have done it at all. But he has set the ball rolling and it is gathering speed.
That his PR machinery is weak and rickety and totally eclipsed by the mainstream media is a tragedy. Large sections of this mainstream media has found comfort in projecting Modi’s mission as having failed. If the prime minister has failed at anything, it’s in his inability to share the message effectively with the public. When you do something so drastic, you don’t put timelines on it. That was the one big mistake, because it was easily exploitable. Every time a correction has been made or a deadline reworked, we have screamed foul and mocked this as evidence of the BJP frontline groping in the dark.
“They do not know what they are doing, they have changed the deadline again!” This is now a mantra.
No one second guessed when the Vietnam War would end. Nobody in 1971 said we will have Pakistan surrender in the East by 16 December.
But we are doing the death dance over the 31 December deadline and getting all pointy fingered again.
Be fair. Public suffering and long queues have reduced; the discomfort is abating. Even at the worst of times, Indian resilience kicked in and the poor whose suffering has been sculpted into a sledgehammer hung in there. The anger that we, the media, showcase is only triggered by our highlighting scuffles. If things were indeed that bad, there would have been riots across the board.
The public took it on the chin; they are nowhere near being stirred into a rebellion, so lets not exaggerate their rage.
Point two: Millions of jobs have been lost. Really? Greedy bosses may have closed down their small scale and cottage industries and not paid their labour force by shrugging and claiming no cash, but they are going to open doors again and the slack will be pulled in because now that the cash flow has commenced, there is no cause to shut the companies. So, millions of jobs are not lost, just temporarily frozen.
Finally, point three: The filthy rich are happy bunnies. They have escaped the net. Not true. They may not confess it or even show it, but the underground is hurt, mortally hurt. The rich have been slapped in the fiscal face. This money did not fall from the skies, it belonged to someone who had concealed it. Hidden wealth has been discovered, so let’s not make it less than it is.
Oh, these guys are so smart they will make it again? Fine, let them start from zero, and if you want the truth, they can get going if you and I let them get going. If we become customers to the corrupt, what price on Modi or anyone else winning the war?
He will lose. Thanks to us.
Like I said, why are so many of us so confident that corruption is in our DNA and why do we speak of it with such misplaced pride.
First Published On : Dec 28, 2016 17:54 IST
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said advancing the date of budget presentation would help getting funds authorised for different sectors at the start of the financial year.
Addressing economists at Niti Aayog’s meeting on ‘Economic Policy – The Road Ahead’, he said that a change in the budget cycle would have an impact on the real economy.
“The date of budget presentation is being advanced so that expenditure is authorised by the time the new financial year begins,” the Prime Minister said.
The government is proposing to present the budget for 2017-18 on 1 February instead of the regular date of February 28. Also, there will be no separate railway budget for the next fiscal as the government has decided to merge it with the general budget.
Modi said under the existing budget calendar, the authorisation of expenditure comes with the onset of the monsoon which results in government programmes remaining relatively inactive in the productive pre-monsoon months.
Seeking views of the economists for the forthcoming budget on areas such job creation, agriculture, skill development and education, Modi underlined the need for engaging the youth for speeding up economic development.
During the meeting with the Prime Minister, economists shared their views on various themes such as agriculture, job creation, taxation, education, digital technology, housing, tourism, banking, governance reform, data driven policy and future steps for growth.
Farm sector experts suggested incentivising states to undertake market reforms, create corpus fund for promoting farm mechanisation and micro irrigation, and provide interest subvention for term loans, among others, to double farm income by 2022.
The meeting was attended by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya, and senior officers from the Union Government, among others.
The economists and experts who were present included Pravin Krishna, Sukhpal Singh, Vijay Paul Sharma, Neelkanth Mishra, Surjit Bhalla, Pulak Ghosh, Govinda Rao, Madhav Chavan, N K Singh, Vivek Dehejia, Pramath Sinha, Sumit Bose and TN Ninan.
First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 20:36 IST
With the BJP and Shiv Sena busy bickering over who was “hijacking” the grand Shivaji Memorial for reaping “political gains”, Raj Thackeray, leader of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), had something pertinent to say.
Barely two days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi performed the ‘jal-pooja’ for the proposed memorial in the Arabian Sea — a Rs 3,600-crore worth of grand affair — Thackeray questioned how the state government planned to finance it. “Where is the money going to come from? Do they have the money for the project? In the past, they have made many similar announcements, but the funds never came,” he said
Alleging that the state government keeps making such announcements, without planning the resources, he suggested that the money should be utilised for the development and maintenance of the scores of forts and palaces in Maharashtra, many built during the reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Incidentally, this had been a long-standing demand of the MNS.
As the state government is busy basking in the glory of another multi-billion project to claim the legacy of the the 17th century warrior king, the 3oo forts that the Maratha war hero built and captured during some of Indian history’s most iconic wars are languishing in a state of neglect.
Here’s a look at Maharashtra’s most prominent edifices that are the legacy of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj — an integral part of the Maratha pride.
The 14th century majestic edifice, built atop a hill near Pune, was the capital of the Maratha king and one of the most notable hill forts in the country. However, today, it remains callously ignored and is in dire need of fortified security measure as reports of thefts of historical artifacts from the fort have surfaced. According to a report in Pune Mirror on 12 December, a piece of Shivaji’s sword disappeared that was a part of a well-known statue called Raj Sadar Sinhasan (the grand throne), at the fort. The report further states that the Maharashtra government has no paperwork to document the exact number and location of these artifacts, which makes it difficult for such thefts to be reported and documented.
From a tourism point of view also, the development of these forts remains far from satisfactory. Another report in The Times of India states that poor sanitation facilities at the fort and lack of a proper motorable road to the hill top are an impediment in harnessing the true tourism potential of the fort. The government, according to the report, is pushing for the historical site to be included among the World Heritage Sites maintained by the Unesco, but with shoddy upkeep, the Maratha heritage is unlikely to be restored to its past glory.
The Maharashtra Tourism website boasts of the strategic fort’s grandeur in these words, “As one of the top military outposts during the reign of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the fort of Sinhagad not only offers a fascinating peek into the history of the Maratha Empire but is also a perennial favourite… While taking in the panoramic view of the landscape below, you cannot help but wonder at the vision of those who built such imposing structures at such great heights.”
However, the structure sadly is in a dilapidated state and not much of it’s original structure has remained intact with time. According to The Times of India, parts of the structure are crumbling down due to lack of repair and restoration. The report also states that unmanouverable road, lack of security at the fort and garbage strewn across the place have further reduced its former glory. Vandalistaion is another problem, as visitors, in the absence of proper security carve out names and paint graffiti on the historical structure.
Noted for its serene coastal beauty, the Sindhudurg Fort was built by Shivaji in 1664 AD off the Malvan coast. According to the Maharashtra Tourism website, it is believed that Shivaji personally chose the site for the construction of the fort, and it also has a temple dedicated to the warrior king, built by his son Rajaram.
However, this oceanic fort is also in a poor state, as the administration chooses to look the other way. As per The Times of India, the lashing waves from all sides have weakened the structure and its once impregnable boundary wall is crumbling in places. It’s well camouflaged and the sturdy gate has developed creaks because of which it cannot be closed anymore.
Walls of the Shivaji temple now has cracks. This temple has hosted many politicians who have wished to invoke Shivaji’s valour as a symbol of Maratha pride for making political gains.
Shramik Gojamgunde, the founder of Pune-based Sahyadri Pratishthan which is involved in spreading awareness about the conservation of forts in Maharashtra, rues at the terrible state of the over 350 forts dotted across Maharashtra. “The central government has 35 forts under their purview, while the state has 45. Who is responsible for the rest of the forts?” Gojamgunde is quoted in Mid-Day as saying. According to the report, frustrated by the lack of renovation and restoration initiatives, Gojamgunde’s organisation is taking up the work in its own hands and is involved in cleaning up a few forts. They have also installed information boards, where necessary, to inform the tourists about the glorious past of these monuments.
“The only reason we are taking on the responsibility is because the government shuns it. If we don’t do anything about these 2,000 year-old forts, they won’t exist 200 years down the line,” Mid-Day quotes him as saying. However, restoration and maintenance of historical structure should ideally be overseen by historians and the due authorities. The weathering and ageing of these structures is also an essential part which adds to their historical value. Unwarranted renovation work can damage the rustic beauty of these places. Installing newer and more lavish memorials to glorify the Indian history and heroes is a great idea but what is needed is the administration’s attention and support to protect the existing historical heritage.
With inputs from IANS
First Published On : Dec 27, 2016 19:41 IST
The dreaded Class X exams are back. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on Tuesday approved a proposal to reintroduce compulsory Class X board examination from the 2017-18 academic year. And, apart from English and Hindi, students may also have to study another Indian language, according to reports.
The decision was taken during a meeting of the CBSE governing body in New Delhi, sources said, adding that the first exam will be conducted in 2018.
Back to exams
The Class X board examination for CBSE schools was made optional by the Congress government from 2011 under the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) system mandated by the Right to Education Act. The exams were replaced with year-round tests and a grading system to reduce pressure on students. Though students preferred the CCE as school exams are considered easier than the board exams, the schools reportedly were against it as couldn’t be implemented well.
“A large group of principals, teachers and parents favour the board exam. The CCE provided a chance identify a student’s talent but that required skilled teachers which many schools could not get,” said Ameeta Mulla Watta, a school principal in New Delhi, told Hindustan Times.
According to sources, in the Class X board exams, 80 percent weightage will be given to the marks scored in the examinations while 20 per cent weightage will be given to school-based evaluation, India Today said.
Earlier, Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar had announced making the CBSE board exams compulsory from the academic session 2017-18.
Three language formulae up to Class X, eligibility tests for principals
In the meeting, the highest governing body of the CBSE also resolved to make it compulsory for all schools affiliated with the board to introduce the three-language formulae up to Class X, a source said. Currently, schools are meant to follow this up from Class VI to Class VIII.
Officials added that the board also favoured sending a recommendation to the Centre that those languages which are listed in schedule VIII of the Constitution should be taught under the ‘three language formula’, while languages which are “purely foreign” should be taught as a “fourth language as an elective subject.”
“The National Education Policy and NCERT’s National Curriculum Framework clearly suggest that the three-language formula should be implemented in secondary education and, hence, the decision is in line with that. Private schools currently offering foreign languages will have to treat it as a fourth language, but the three-language formula has to be followed strictly,” said a member of the governing body told The Indian Express.
However, according to Hindustan Times, schools aren’t very happy with the decision, stating that it’s not in line with the demands of the age of “globalisation” and that “if someone wants to take up a foreign language, that should be allowed too”.
The three language formulae was first implemented in 1968, and reiterated in the 1986 and 2005 education policy. However, most schools continued to ignore the directives. In 2014, it emerged into a major controversy when the HRD ministry-run Kendriya Vidyalayas (KV) discontinued German as a third language, and replaced it with Sanskrit. The decision was taken by the ministry under the leadership of Smriti Irani.
The governing body also introduced an eligibility test for principals of all its schools.
The decision of the governing body will be conveyed to the government for its approval. And after the proposal is cleared by the Ministry of HRD, all schools affiliated with the CBSE will have to carry out the proposals including the Class X exams.
With inputs from agencies
First Published On : Dec 21, 2016 09:39 IST
A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader was arrested in Kolkata on Tuesday with new notes worth Rs 33 lakh on his person, reports said. Sharma was allegedly trying to exchange old notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 that were demonetised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 8 November.
Having fought on on a BJP ticket in the West Bengal assembly election this year from the Bardhaman district of West Bengal, BJP leader Manish Sharma was arrested when he was trying to exchange a large quantity of old notes, News18India reported on Tuesday.
According to the report, Sharma was arrested with six other people involved in mining business with the BJP leader, who according to the police, were trying to exchange the old notes.
Sharma was caught by a special task force from the Raniganj coal belt of West Bengal, and has been sent to police custody.
According to a report by livehindustan.com, the police also found seven fire arms, 89 round bullets from them. The police also found new notes of Rs 2,000 worth Rs 10 lakh from Sharma’s car. The police also found notes of Rs 50 and Rs 100 from the BJP leader.
Among those arrested by the police, the report said that one of the culprit was a local don Rajesh Jha, 46, who had been arrested twice in June and July in cases related to fake currency and murder.
State BJP president Dilip Ghosh told News18India that Sharma was with the BJP for a few months, and was given the responsibility to manage Raniganj. It was withdrawn after the elections. Ghosh also said that Manish’s party membership has been suspended and will be restored only after he is found innocent.
First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 11:07 IST
Ahmednagar: The police on Friday filed a chargesheet in a district court against three prime accused in the case of gang rape and murder of a school student in Kopardi village on 13 July.
Accused Pappu alias Jitendra Shinde, Santosh G Bhaval and Nitin G Bhailume were arrested within hours of the crime and charged under Sections 376 (A) and 302 of the Indian Penal Code, pertaining to rape and murder, besides other sections of relevant laws.
It marked the end of the 86-day police investigation into the rape and murder of the 15-year-old girl.
Criminal lawyer Ujjwal Nikam has been appointed the Special Public Prosecutor in the case to be tried before a fast-track court.
The chargesheet running into around 350 pages named around 70 witnesses, including family members and other villagers.
The crime, which was equated with the Nirbhaya case of Delhi in view of the grisly brutality involved, happened on 13 July evening at Kopardi village in Ahmednagar district.
The girl went missing for a few hours, after which her mutilated, blood-splattered body was found under a tree in a field.
The crime sent shock waves through social and political circles and led to a ruckus in the Maharashtra legislature for two days during its monsoon session in July.
The opposition Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party targeted the state’s Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena government both within the legislature and outside.
Hundreds of villagers put up roadblocks in Kopardi and surrounding villages and took out processions to demand justice for the victim and her family.
The state government had announced a compensation of Rs 500,000 to the victim’s family under the Manodhairya Scheme.
New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party workers on Tuesday staged a protest outside Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal‘s residence accusing him of a pro-Pakistan stance on the recently conducted surgical strikes by the Indian army. They demanded his resignation.
Hundreds of BJP supporters, led by Delhi unit chief Satish Upadhyay and Leader of Opposition in Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta, gathered outside the Civil Lines residence of the Chief Minister and raised slogans against him.
They shouted: “Jo Hafeez Saeed ka yaar hai, desh ka gaddar hai (Those who are friends with Hafeez Saeed are traitors).”
Workers of the Bharatiya Janata Youth and minority morcha also joined them.
The Delhi Police had to resort to mild force to disperse the protesters.
This came a day after Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convenor Kejriwal on Monday urged Modi to “expose the false propaganda” being spread by Islamabad.
Despite differences, Kejriwal had hailed Modi for taking strict measures against Pakistan.
In a short video message, Kejriwal had focused on Pakistan’s claims that no surgical strikes were ever conducted on terrorist launch pads across the Line of Control. He had urged Modi to fight Pakistan’s propaganda “just like we have been fighting Pakistan on ground”.
The special forces of the Indian army on 28 September night carried out surgical strikes across the Line of Control in Pakistan-administered Kashmir (PoK) and destroyed seven terror launch pads.
New Delhi: Even as the government has chosen to remain tight-lipped on the price bargain related to purchase of Rafale fighter jets from France, the BJP on Wednesday announced on its official Facebook page that the deal has been finalised at $8.8 billion.
An image posted on Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) official Facebook page said the Narendra Modi-led government “saved $3.2 billion (Rs.21,000 crore) out of the $12 billion (Rs.80,000 crore) deal”.
“The deal to buy 36 state-of-the-art Rafale aircrafts from France at $12 billion (around Rs.80,000 crore) was re-negotiated and finalised at $8.8 billion (around Rs.59,000 crore),” the post, which has an image of Prime Minister Modi on it, said.
The defence ministry refused to comment on the figure.
On Tuesday, Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh said most of the roadblocks in negotiations on the Rafale deal had been overcome and it is likely to go to the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) soon.
Earlier, sources said the negotiations over pricing had almost concluded, and the deal would be final soon.
The defence ministry has not officially quoted any figure for the deal for the fighter aircraft which is one of the most expensive in the world.
In January this year, both sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the purchase during the visit of French President Francois Hollande to India.
Washington: There could be “stray” incidents of people on either side of the political spectrum making irresponsible statements but this could not be generalised as prevalence of a climate of intolerance in the country, Union Minister Arun Jaitley has said.
The Finance Minister is currently on a week-long tour of the US primarily to attend the annual Spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Dubbing such incidents as “terrible”, the senior BJP leader, however, said that they are “rare” in a large country like India.
“There could be stray incidents of irresponsible statements by individuals on either side of the political spectrum, that does not mean that zamin per koi iss tarah ki activity hai (intolerance exists),” Jaitley said during a media roundtable with Indian reporters here.
“These are bad incidents. These are terrible incidents, but these are extremely rare in a large country. Historically stray incidents have taken place,” he said when his attention was drawn towards some of the specific such incidents.
Responding to a question on alleged prevalence of intolerance in the country, Jaitley described this as a creation of media.
“On the ground, my own understanding of the subject is, are there a lot of things happening that show this (intolerance)? The answer is no.
“There could be in a large country like India some incident or the other, which takes place one time, which could be considered highly improper and condemnable,” he said.
When asked if there is any introspection within the party, he said: “Actually neither in the party agenda nor on the ground there is any such activity wherein in a large country like India it (incidents of intolerance) is happening state after state.”
“A news channel can show same four people giving irresponsible statements and build a story around it. That seems to be more of what is happening.
“What gets projected is in a large body of politics there would always be three or four people who would react aggressively and disproportionally to events,” he observed.
“So loose comments, loose statements, improper statements, when the television camera confronts you, you say what you should not say, aise char, panch, chhe log hai (there are four, five, six such people), usko aap environment of intolerance kah do? (and you describe them as an environment of intolerance)?” the minister asked.
He also had the annual India US Economic and Financial Dialogue on Thursday and bilateral meetings with his counterparts from China, Luxembourg and Bangladesh.
Over the weekend, he would travel to New York to interact with the business community there and address a meeting at the United Nations.
New Delhi: With the debate on nationalism coming to the fore, the BJP on Sunday said freedom of expression does not give a right to seek the country’s destruction, as the issue found the pride of place in the political resolution adopted at its national executive meeting here.
The issue of nationalism continued to take the centre stage in the deliberations after party chief Amit Shah set the tone in his inaugural address on Saturday saying BJP will not tolerate any attack on the nation, with the dominant mood in BJP being to put the Congress in a corner on the issue.
Briefing the media on the resolution, Union Minister Arun Jaitley said, “Freedom of expression and nationalism do necessarily co-exist” and the Constitution gives full freedom for expressing dissent and disagreement, but not the country’s destruction.”
“The ideology of nationalism guides our beliefs and philosophy,” he asserted as the meeting saw the dominant mood among party leaders to put the Congress in the mat over the recent JNU-related developments.
Asked whether the Executive also discussed the row over the slogan ‘Bharat mata ki jai’, Jaitley said the party believes it is an issue over which there should be no debate.
“People have no problem with this slogan and we saw this in Kolkata on Saturday,” he said as he sought to buttress his point by referring to the spectators raising the slogan after India’s win in the cricket match with Pakistan.
The Finance Minister, a key party strategist, also targeted Congress over its political strength, saying the main opposition party has “lowered” its stature and was “content to be a tail ender of any alliance” in states like Bihar, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
Though issues of government formation in Uttarakhand, where Congress government is facing rebellion in its ranks, and Jammu and Kashmir did not come up for discussion at the meet, Jaitley said the resolution emphasised the party’s commitment to the ‘agenda of governance’ in J&K.
Talks between the BJP and the PDP for reviving their coalition government in the J&K have fallen through but the saffron party has insisted that its doors are not shut on its former partner but it will have to stop putting more conditions.
“There was a time when the country was being governed without any sense of direction. There was uncertainty and lack of purpose. Now we have a government with a determined leadership, nationalist policies and progressive governance,” Jaitley said.
The resolution also spoke about economically and socially inclusive policies of the government, its thrust on infrastructure development and good governance, he said.
New Delhi: The sting operation in West Bengal, which allegedly showed some TMC MPs taking bribe, has led to complications for Trinamool Congress(TMC) as party leaders are now in “two minds” about taking legal course against the news portal responsible for it.
After posturing initially that the video footage in circulation showing party leaders and sitting MPs receiving currency notes as “manufactured”, a section of leaders has briefed party supremo Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata that to “prove the charges as malicious and motivated in a court of law will be a herculean task”.
“A section of party leaders are in two minds. There is a growing sentiment that the legal course can only add to the agony of the party,” a Trinamool Congress leader told IANS here requesting anonymity.
“Things may turn difficult once court takes cognizance of the charges and order either a judicial probe or an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI),” the leader added.
The legal course was earlier considered seriously by the party leadership. Former railway minister Mukul Roy, a close confidant of Mamata, had said that the video footage that went viral on TV news channels and social networking were “manufactured”.
Roy had even threatened to move court.
“But once the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress moved Calcutta High Court separately seeking a CBI probe, the party’s think tank has developed cold feet about going to court,” party sources said.
“Even the Saradha scam earlier that hit Trinamool credibility went out of control once the court ordered CBI investigation,” they added.
A number of party MPs including two former ministers have taken objection to the manner their colleague Saugata Roy reacted to the sting operation charges in the Lok Sabha.
“Protesting and questioning Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan’s ruling when she ordered a probe by the Ethics Committee was unnecessary. Saugata, himself shown receiving currency, should have either kept mum in the house or taken a high moral ground and said our party is not scared of any probe,” said another leader adding that it would have been politically more sound a decision.
Two party leaders Dinesh Trivedi and Sugata Bose have already expressed their reservation on how the party has reacted initially to the sting operation charges.
The 15-member ethics panel of Lok Sabha headed by Bharatiya Janata Party veteran L.K. Advani has been asked to conduct its “examination, investigation and report” into the issue by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.
Five Trinamool members from the Lok Sabha — Saugata Roy, Sultan Ahmad, Suvendu Adhikari, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar and Prasun Banerjee — and one from the Rajya Sabha, Mukul Roy, are shown allegedly accepting bribes in the sting operation.
Incidentally, Saugata Roy is the younger brother of a key BJP leader from West Bengal Tatagatha Roy, who is now Tripura governor.
“Saugata Roy is a senior party parliamentarian and knows the parliamentary decorum well. He should have instead supported a probe by the house panel itself. On the contrary he questioned on the first day under which rule Congress, Communist Party of India, Marxist (CPI-M) and BJP MPs were raising the issue in Lok Sabha,” the party source said.
The party leaders also remained divided on the stance taken by their Rajya Sabha floor leader Deren O’Brien when he said foreign money was pumped in from Dubai for the sting operation.
“Even in such a case, we should have preferred if not order a probe at the state government level itself,” the party source added.
New Delhi: Narmada Bachao Andolan and Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangayhan convener Medha Patkar on Tuesday condemned the ongoing attack on Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) saying it was time to take the communal forces head-on.
“I feel sad, and, on the other hand, I am glad the youth of this country, the students have taken a clear position. It is time to take communal forces head-on,” Patkar told IANS at JNU where she came to show solidarity to the agitating students.
She said the Bharatiya Janata Party was reducing space for students to debate. “The BJP is killing space for progressive students to speak,” she said, adding that the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad has grown aggressive.
Speaking on similarities between incidents at University of Hyderabad and JNU, Patkar said: “Dalit students are facing casteist attitude. A crude intervention has been started against them.
“Communal forces need to be controlled by the society. A myth is being circulated in the society by them,” she said.
Amid the blame game and confrontation between the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government and the Bharatiya Janata Party-led municipal corporations, the indefinite strike of the civic body employees entered its tenth day on Friday. Despite the Delhi High Court’s intervention and a stern warning by commissioners of North and East MCDs to employees to call off the strike and resume duties with “immediate effect or face action”, the striking doctors, paramedical staff, engineers, teachers and sanitation workers are not ready to bow down. They are demanding a “permanent solution” to their salary problem.
Firstpost spoke to former Delhi Chief Secretary Shailaja Chandra and sought to know from her the origin of the present crisis. She said every year the commissioners of the corporation – during her time it was a single entity – would plead for a grant or a soft loan to clear the salaries of the employees, citing reasons why the corporation had run short of funds. Invariably, the lament from the corporation even then was that the finance and urban development departments had not taken important factors into account and omitted making provisions for supporting MCD.
“It was a regular feature and had happened during my tenure as chief secretary as well. But it used to be resolved with some give and take on both sides. The effort being to harmonise the points of view of the finance department and the municipal corporation. Politics never came into the picture. If the impasse continued, the discussions were raised at the level of the chief minister and there would invariably get resolved.
“In no case did the differences reach the media and certainly not the streets by allowing mounds of garbage to accumulate everywhere. The bottom line was very simple: a solution had to be found and citizens should not be harassed, come what may. It was an unwritten understanding and the political executive and officers from the government and the MCD understood this,” she said.
“This dispute is an annual feature and is something that can be resolved. If there are anomalies caused by trifurcation, these have to be addressed and solutions found. The answer does not lie in blaming each other and stopping salaries,” she said.
Asked how the issues used to be resolved earlier, she explained, “There was always disagreement. Either the finance secretary or the chief secretary would take a call. Or if that did not work, the corporation commissioner would raise the level by meeting the chief minister (CM) or the lieutenant governor (LG) and seek their intervention because the matter was not receiving due attention at the official level. Despite the NCT government and the central government being from different and opposing political parties, the CM or the LG always used to give a hearing and take an administrative decision.”
Why is the same not happening now?
Because unfortunately, according to the former bureaucrat, it has become a subject for political grandstanding in full public view. Also worrying is the fact that officers do not seem to be exerting themselves perhaps because their advice is not heeded. “Officers find solutions when they are asked to do it. But if they are told to stay away, why will they give any suggestion and how will anything ever get done? After all, you may have any number of advisers but if you don’t rely on precedents and the institutional memory available confusion will take over,” she added.
Moreover no one, said Chandra, is exerting themselves to raise revenue. “If some drastic improvement is promised through taxation, public will go along but first they must see a tangible benefit which will come in a time-bound manner. If such an approach is adopted, the government may also not mind doing some temporary hand-holding. But one does not find that vision in the corporations,” she said.
The former chief secretary is not convinced that funds of the order claimed have been denied by the Delhi government “because from the figures put out in the press, which have not been contradicted by anybody, it is apparent that the government has been incrementally raising the amount of money given every year. And in no way has it gone down this year”.
It means, according to Chandra, the corporations – particularly the North and the East – have failed to raise property taxes, which is very irresponsible.
When the unit area method of tax calculation was introduced, the understanding was that a Municipal Valuation Committee would be set up every two years which would recommend raising house tax proportionately. There are A to F category colonies and the number of dwelling units is known.
“In such a legislation, one can tax the colonies having more facilities at a higher rate and reduce it as one moves downwards to less affluent areas. But you cannot maintain status quo for more than 12 years, which is what they have done from 2003 (when the Act came into effect). Definitely if the scope of revenue collection is skewed in favour of South MCD (which is considered rich), it has to be set right through discussion and if that fails through legislation. But first the anomalies and the reasons for it have to be pinpointed leaving no room for claims and counter-claims as is happening now,” she said.
Of course, she said, South MCD is the newer part of the city with large organised residential colonies, expensive properties. But always saying that they are rich and we are poor is not a “tenable argument” because it is just a statement.
“Nobody so far has actually given the exact number of properties within the tax net in all the three corporations and the numbers that have been ignored either because of apathy or connivance. For any financial decision, one must have a figure on the number of dwelling units falling in categories A to H and how many dwellers are actually paying you taxes. Whole of the Walled City in North Delhi is also very congested and raising taxes there may not be easy or practical,” she said.
“Another argument is that East DMC has less income because it has too many unauthorised colonies but what proportion of their populace resides in these colonies? Are the regularised ones paying taxes? East DMC must declare the number of the taxable properties lying in its jurisdiction which are not being taxed. If they are in so much in the red, they should think of innovative measures to raise money,” she said and suggested few measures:
Why are people being permitted to park their vehicles on the roads at night? All the three civic bodies can independently or collectively frame policies to charge people heavily for using public space for private use. The same goes for cars and sentry boxes parked on pavements. As for those who display merchandise on the market pavements, they should be liable to be fined heavily or rent taken if they are being permitted to display or sell goods from public spaces.
It needs regulation and enforcement – but neither is being done. In all markets in the city, the pavements have completely been encroached upon. The fine is too low. Why? What steps are the Delhi government and the MCDs taking to increase income?
“I think that there may be a little truth in the fact that when it was a unified MCD, it was easier to take money from one pocket and put it into another and have some sort of equity. But it cannot become a lifetime excuse,” she added.
Asked why the Fourth Finance Commission, as demanded by the BJP, was not implemented and how legal is the Delhi government’s response that it would accept it only if the panel’s recommendation for handing over the DDA is accepted by the Centre, she replied “The recommendations of the Finance Commission could have been considered and implemented during President’s rule but perhaps being a complex and contentious matter, it was left for an elected government to take a view.”
She added: “When the government took over, it took the approach that the Finance Commission’s recommendations should be implemented fully. Along with the devolution of a percentage of the Delhi government’s resources on the MCDs, it has been stated by AAP spokesmen on TV channels that there were recommendations relating to handing over DDA to the Delhi government. But so far, no one has belled the cat. On a broader plane, if the report has indeed made recommendations relating to the DDA (I have not read the report ) but if it is correct, it is totally outside the purview of the Finance Commission. DDA deals with land, which is not constitutionally under the Delhi government. So, in a way, the AAP government is asking for a constitutional amendment while highlighting the narrow recommendation relating to the DDA. Therefore, it is not implementable and the whole matter has remained up in the clouds.”
Speaking from Bengaluru, where he is undergoing naturopathy treatment, Chief Minister Kejriwal on Wednesday announced a bailout package of Rs 693 crore in a bid to woo the agitating workers of the municipal corporations. He also said, “You cannot tell us to give the money and not give us DDA which is our due and integral to the Finance Commission’s recommendation.”
By KA Antony
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kerala is jittery as the Bharatiya Janata Party is bent on ordering a re-investigation into the top-level political conspiracy that led to the murder of CPI-M rebel and Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) leader TP Chandrasekharan of Onchiyam in 2012. In connection with the probe, the BJP state president Kummanam Rajasekharan has offered all help possible to RMP leaders, including KK Rema, Chandrasekharan’s widow. After a meeting with Rema and other RMP leaders, Rajasekharan made it clear that he would send a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to consider the RMP plea for a CBI probe.
Talking to Firstpost, Rema said she hoped things would finally turn in her favour.
“We have been demanding a CBI inquiry into the murder as only such a probe would bring out the conspiracy angle. Everybody in Kerala knows that comrade Chandrasekharan was murdered with knowledge about certain top-level leaders of the CPI-M. The state government did nothing to dig into the conspiracy angle. In fact, the government derailed the inquiry,” she said.
Rema said she has already sent a petition to Modi requesting a CBI probe. “We had also sought an appointment with the prime minister, who is coming to Kozhikode on Tuesday. But we were told that meeting here may not be possible due to his tight schedule,” she added.
The CPI-M saw red in the BJP’s move to support the RMP as its Kannur district secretary P Jayarajan has already been arraigned by the CBI for the murder of Kadirur Manoj, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) functionary, who was hacked to death on 1 September, 2014. However, CPI-M state secretary Kodiyeri Balkrishnan said his party was not afraid of a CBI probe as none of its leaders had any role in killing Chandrasekharan in May 2012.
“The BJP is trying to win the support of the RMP ahead of the upcoming Assembly election. Some of the RMP workers have already joined the BJP. As for Rema and the RMP, they have already become anti-Marxist. So there will be no surprise if they join hands with the BJP-RSS,” he said adding that the CPI-M would fight the Chandrasekharan murder case legally and politically.
A former Democratic Youth Front of India (DYFI) leader, Chandrasekaran was hacked to death on 4 May, 2012.
After parting ways with the CPI-M in 2009 over certain local issues in the party, he had floated the RMP, which became a formidable force in the Vadakara Taluk in Kozhikode district of Kerala. The CPI-M suffered setbacks in the panchayat and Lok Sabha elections soon after. As Chandrasekharan was killed after the unexpected defeat of CPI-M sitting MP, P Sathidevi from the Vadakara constituency — believed to be a formidable fortress for the party, Rema and her friends had raised suspicions about the role of Sathidevi’s brother P Jayarajan and then party state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan in planning the murder.