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SC refuses to quash parliamentary resolution against Markandey Katju over his remarks on Gandhi, Bose

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed the plea of former apex court judge Justice Markandey Katju seeking quashing of a resolution passed by Parliament condemning his remarks made in a blog on Mahatma Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose.

A bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur said the plea is being dismissed on merit.

The bench also comprising Justices PC Ghose and UU Lalit rejected preliminary objections that the plea was not maintainable.

Justice Lalit, who pronounced the judgement on behalf of the bench, said, “We have held that the plea is maintainable. We have dismissed the plea on merit”.

Justice Katju had on 29 June last year moved the apex court seeking quashing of resolutions passed against him by both Houses of Parliament for calling Mahatama Gandhi and Subhash C Bose as British and Japanese “agents” respectively.

File photo of Markandey Katju. PTI

File photo of Markandey Katju. PTI

The former judge, in his Facebook post, had said both Houses of Parliament condemned him for his statements “calling Gandhi a British agent, and Subhas Chandra Bose a Japanese agent” without even giving him a hearing.

A former chairperson of Press Council of India, Justice Katju had sought quashing of resolutions passed against him by Lok Sabha on 12 March and Rajya Sabha on 11 March.

He had also sought a direction to Lok Sabha Speaker and Chairman of Rajya Sabha that he be heard personally or through his duly designated lawyer(s).

His plea had alleged that both Houses of Parliament lacked “competence” to condemn him.

“Because, Parliament lacks the competence and authority to pass the impugned resolutions condemning the act of the petitioner, who is a private person.”

“They (LS and RS) are not competent to take cognizance of expressions of free speech of a private person like petitioner as power under Rule 171 of Lok Sabha Rules provides that the resolution must relate to act of Government. Thus Impugned Resolution does not fulfill the jurisdictional requirement and necessary jurisdictional facts are lacking,” it said.

The plea also referred to the reasons behind the alleged posts against Gandhi and Bose.

“That, the post in respect of Gandhiji in short made the point that by constantly using religious symbolism in politics for several decades, Gandhiji, in effect furthered the British Policy of Divide and Rule by alienating the Muslim population of the Indian sub-continent away from the national movement.”

“That, the post in respect of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, in short made the point that through his actions knowingly or unknowingly, he ended up perpetuating Japanese imperial interest in the Indian sub-continent,” the plea stated.

First Published On : Dec 15, 2016 12:53 IST

Parliament disrupted: Angry LK Advani reprimands Ananth Kumar, Sumitra Mahajan over stalemate

The impasse in Parliament over the issue of demonetisation has taken such a mammoth proportion that on Wednesday veteran BJP leader LK Advani was openly critical of Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan for failing to end the stalemate.

Led by Union Finance minister and Leader of the House Arun Jaitley in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, the BJP took an aggressive stand and dared the Opposition to participate in the debate on demonetisation. The Parliament hardly did any business since the beginning of the Winter Session which already logged into its 16th day today.

BJP patriarch LK Advani. ReutersBJP patriarch LK Advani. Reuters

BJP patriarch LK Advani. Reuters

As soon as the House started, BJP members started shouting slogans from their benches after Jaitley challenged the opposition that to “have courage” to begin discussion on demonetisation, which they have been disrupting on a daily basis leading to many premature adjournments.

Disappointed by the series of adjournments, Advani spared none to express his anguish over the state of affairs. Apart from blaming Kumar and Mahajan, the veteran BJP leader also took the Opposition to task. Kumar’s efforts to mollify Advani did not have any desired impact on the veteran leader. Advani’s angered pitch was such that it was heard by the media persons sitting in the press gallery on the first floor of the House in Lok Sabha. The issue was such that it became an instant talking point among all concerned in the corridors of Parliament and outside.

At one level Advani’s giving a vent to his ire to his own party members, especially to someone who has been close to him and responsible for floor management in the both Houses of Parliament, could be taken as a genuine reading of the situation by the eldest statesman in the House. But then at another level, any such remark in full public on the current deadlock in Parliament on an issue as sensitive as demonetisation, could be taken as yet another censure of his own party and government.

Advani would know that his remarks would make instant news. Though senior BJP leaders including Information and Broadcasting and Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu played it down saying that this should be taken in good spirit, it could be easily assessed that ruling party had been deeply embarrassed by their ‘Margdarshak’.

The problem for the BJP is that the opposition might use Advani’s statement to target the government and go to town claiming that it was actually the government which was to be blamed for the deadlock in Parliament.

For over a year Advani had been silent, not speaking on any issue within and outside of Parliament. On demonetisation, he had issued a written statement hailing Modi’s decision. But his rather tough positioning on Parliament functioning came when a raging debate is going on the mismanagement of cash flow and hardships faced by common mass. At this juncture, the party could ill-afford reprimand on floor management from its senior most leader.

It had been over a year when Advani had taken on the current dispensation in the BJP. Shortly after BJP had lost Bihar elections Advani along with Murli Manohar Joshi and Yashwant Sinha had issued a joint statement, brief but tough and loaded: Results of Bihar elections has shown that “no lessons has been learned from the fiasco in Delhi. To say that everyone is responsible for the defeat is to ensure that no one is held responsible… Principal reason for latest defeat is the way the party has been emasculated in the last year. A thorough probe must be done of the reasons of defeat as well as the way party is being forced to kowtow to a handful and how its consensual character has been destroyed.”

This time around Advani’s message is not as direct and not as embarrassing but it has hit hard and made many talk about floor management and attitude of the government. The party stalwart may face further marginalisation but he apparently is not bothered for he would think that his was only true nature of a given situation.

There are some other people in the ruling party who feel that the issue could have been resolved if the government had shown slight flexibility. According to those believing in this line of thought, the prime minister should have been present in both Houses of Parliament when the Opposition had asked for initially and should have agreed to a discussion under a provision which requires voting.

“The party had taken a position that this was a fight against corruption and one has to be either for it or against it. Even if voting had been done, people would have taken note of who was with the government in the war against corruption, black money, fake currency and terror funding and those who were opposed to it,” said a government functionary.

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 19:27 IST

Demonetisation: BJP says Congress, TMC stalling Parliament on manufactured anger

New Delhi: BJP on Wednesday accused the Congress and Trinamool Congress (TMC) of stalling parliament on “manufactured anger” over the demonetisation and asserted that people have stood like a rock behind Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his decision against black money.

Passing a resolution at its parliamentary party meeting which was attended by Modi and other senior leaders, BJP also hailed the masses for their support despite facing inconvenience and claimed that the situation has now considerably eased out.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Hitting out at Congress and TMC, the saffron party in the resolution said that the opposition parties are not sure what they want and holding up the proceedings of the House by engaging in competitive disruption.

“By their poor arguments, they risked, if anything, being on the side of the black money holders, the Congress kept shifting the goal-post, to justify their obstruction of the House,” BJP said.

The party further said it agreed to opposition’s demand for intervention by Prime Minister during the debate on monetisation and said Modi came to both Houses.

Stating that government is willing for debate, BJP said Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Lok Sabha and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Rajya Sabha have assured both Houses that Prime Minister will participate and intervene in the debate.

The Congress party is confused on demonetisation issue and does not know what it stands for. It has even contradicted itself, the BJP said.

Almost daily, the Congress and the Trinamool look the other way even as their members engage in boisterous sloganeering in the well of                                                                                                            the House. Parliament suffers as result, the resolution added.

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 19:06 IST

Indo-Pak relations sluggish but no impact on bilateral agreements: V K Singh

New Delhi: The government on Wednesday told the Lok Sabha that the India-Pakistan relationship has become “sluggish” but added that there has been no impact on bilateral arrangements, including on exchange of fishermen and prisoners caught on either side.

Responding to a question related to Indian fishermen being arrested by Pakistan, Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh said, “The relationship between the two countries (India and Pakistan) has become sluggish. But that has had no impact on such bilateral agreements.”

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The minister added that mechanisms have been put in place to ensure release of fishermen caught by either side.

In addition, an India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners, consisting of retired judges from the higher judiciary of both countries, was constituted in 2008 to look into humanitarian aspects of the matter.

The committee was also to recommend measures to ensure humane treatment and expeditious release of fishermen and prisoners, who have completed their prison term.

“The last visit of the Committee to India was in 2013. It is now Pakistan’s turn to organise the next visit of the Committee and the government awaits further steps by Pakistan in this regard,” he said.

Singh said there are 516 Indians languishing in Pakistani jails, which includes 55 fishermen while, as of July 2016, there are 270 Pakistani civil prisoners and 37 Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails.

“During 2013, 2014 and 2015, three Indian civil prisoners and eight Indian fishermen have died in the custody of Pakistani authorities. In addition, one Indian civil prisoner and two Indian fishermen have died in 2016 so far,” Singh added.

First Published On : Dec 7, 2016 14:53 IST

CBI chief Anil Sinha retires but govt doesn’t name new head: Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana to take over

New Delhi: CBI director Anil Sinha on Friday retired from the post handing over the baton to his second-in-command, Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Rakesh Asthana, as the government did not name any full-time chief.

Asthana, a Gujarat-cadre officer of 1984-batch, got elevated as the second-in-command in CBI two days ago when Special Director R K Dutta, who was among the frontrunners for the top post, was shifted to the Home Ministry as a Special Secretary. The post of second special secretary was created for the first time in the ministry.

It is the first time in last 10 years, that no new CBI chief has been named to succeed an incumbent. Sinha completed his two-year tenure on Friday.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“The competent authority has approved assignment of additional charge of the post of Director, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), to Rakesh Asthana, IPS (GJ: 1984), Additional Director, CBI with effect from the date of relinquishment of charge by Anil Kumar Sinha, IPS (BH:1979) on completion of his tenure with immediate effect and until further orders,” an order issued by the Department of Personnel and Training said.

The CBI chief is selected through a collegium comprising the prime minister, the Leader of Opposition or largest party in Opposition in Lok Sabha and the Chief Justice of India. The collegium has not been able to meet. 60-year-old Sinha took charge of the agency when it was earning sobriquet of “caged parrot” and “closure bureau of investigation” and he managed to steady the ship by keeping away from media and ensuring a low profile with limited social circle.

Sinha proved to be a soft-spoken yet assertive leader for the agency who guided investigation in a number of important cases like the Sheena Bora murder case and Vijay Mallya loan default case. In Mallya’s case, Sinha ensured that a case is registered against the flamboyant liquor baron for his alleged default of loans extended to his now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines even though banks did not approach CBI with a complaint.

He directed his teams to explore role of media baron Peter Mukerjea in the Sheena Bora murder case after the agency was handed over the investigation.

Sinha ensured that CBI rigorously follows cases of piling of Non-performing Assets in public sector banks even though banks were reluctant to initiate a probe in these cases fearing loss of possible middle path which can be arrived at through discussions with defaulters.

Sinha, an alumnus of Jawaharlal Nehru University where he studied during the first decade of its inception, follows his interests in psychology and economics and loves to spend a quiet time with his family.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 17:55 IST

Army deployment in West Bengal echoes in Parliament: TMC alleges dictatorship; BJP says routine exercise

New Delhi: The row over army taking over road toll plazas in West Bengal on Friday echoed in Parliament with Trinamool Congress (TMC) seeing “sinister” designs behind the move and the government vehemently denying the charge, saying it was a routine exercise conducted in full knowledge of the local authorities.

The issue was raised in both Houses of Parliament with main opposition Congress too seeking clarification on the army deployment at 19 toll plazas in West Bengal. In Lok Sabha, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar termed it a “routine exercise not unique to West Bengal” and saying that similar operations to collect information on heavy vehicle movement that can be used during national emergencies had last month being conducted in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand.

Along with West Bengal, similar exercise was carried out in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, Meghlaya and Mizoram, he said while responding to TMC and Congress MPs. He also stated that originally the exercise was planned for 28-30 November but was shifted to 1 and 2 December at the request of Kolkata police as those dates were clashing with the protests against demonetisation.

“It is shocking that a chief minister is saying this. The Army’s deployment was part of routine exercise which has been going on for last 15-20 years. Even last year it was held on 19 to 21 November,” Parrikar said.

Manohar-Parrikar_PTIManohar-Parrikar_PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

The minister said Army’s Eastern Command has been carrying out the exercise in West Bengal, Assam and other North Eastern states and a similar exercise has already been carried out in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand.  “Concerned officials were informed in West Bengal. The original date was fixed for 28 to 30 November but due to Bharat Bandh the local police had advised the army to shift it to 1 and 2 December,” he said. “Due to traffic congestion, the exercise is being done with the help of local police.”

TMC leaders in both Houses alleged that neither the state government, nor local administration including police were taken into confidence on the exercise or their permission sought. Congress and BSP too wanted to know from the government how such an unprecedented move to carry out an army exercise without taking state government into confidence was done.

“It was very unfortunate that army has been dragged into an unnecessary controversy,” Parrikar said. “It was political frustration rather than projection of correct situation.”

As soon as Lok Sabha assembled this morning, TMC leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay raised the issue of army deployment at 19 places in West Bengal, claiming that the move was a challenge to the federal structure of the country and completely politically motivated.

He said army personnel were deployed at these places, including near the state secretariat, “without informing anyone in the state secretariat”. “It is a fantastic situation. Army today said that it was a routine exercise being carried out in the North Eastern states. But West Bengal does not come under the territorial jurisdiction of the Northeast,” he said.

Bandyopadhyay said the people of the country have great faith in the Army but if indeed such an exercise was scheduled, the Centre should have communicated to the state government. He said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been staging a ‘dharna’ in the Secretariat demanding withdrawal of the Army. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar asked the TMC not to drag Army into politics and added that the defence personnel have been protecting the country as well as democracy.

“Whatever the army has done was part of a routine exercise. It is completely wrong to drag army into politics,” he said. Raising the issue in Rajya Sabha, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said army is India’s pride as it has upheld its unity and integrity beside protecting the borders. It has also come to the rescue during emergency situtions like flood and riots, he said adding that army is requisitioned at the request of a state government.

But in West Bengal, the chief secretary, administration and Director General of Police had no information of army taking over toll plazas at 19 locations in the state, he said. “This is probably the first time that the chief minister of West Bengal has lodged this kind of protest where she stayed put for the night in the State Secretariat and is still there,” he said. “This is a strange thing happening. Without asking state government, chief secretary or DGP, toll plazas of state government are taken over.”

Azad said it is being said that Army was collecting information on truck movements but such an exercise is not even done in Jammu and Kashmir. All such information is available with National Highways Authority of India or road transport departments. “This is an issue of grave concern.” Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (TMC) said what happened in West Bengal has never been witnessed in the state’s history. Army seized toll plazas and started putting stickers on vehicles.

“I will not drag the army in any controversy. We are very proud of the army,” he said wanting to know under what provisions of law and Constitution was such a deployment carried out and alleging “sinister design” to “defame the leader opposing demonetisation” and creating “fear psychosis”.

Mayawati, BSP supremo and former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh said the move to deploy army without the state government’s permission was an attack on the federal structure of the country. Terming the statements as factually incorrect, Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre said such exercises have been carried out in coordination with the local police.

Earlier the exercise was planned for 28 November but was shifted on specific request by Kolkata Police in view of the Bharat Bandh, he said, adding that the exercise was to ascertain availability of vehicles during national emergency. The annual exercise are carried out for collection of data and similar exercises were also carried out in Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, he said, adding that letters were written to the Police Commissioner as well as District Magistrates for conducting it.

At this point, slogan-shouting TMC and Congress members contested the minister’s statement and trooped into the Well. Deputy Chairman P J Kurien had a tough time controlling the situation and even had an angry spat with Congress members including Pramod Tiwari as they continued to shout even when he stood up to control the noisy scenes.

“If you don’t know the basic rule of not disturbing the Chair, you are not deserving to be a member,” he angrily remarked without naming any member. “Mr Tiwari, I will take action against you.    This is unheard of that the Chair will not be allowed to say,” he said as members piped down and returned to their places.

Kurien said if the members found any part of the statement made by the minister as misleading or incorrect, they can invoke the rule book and give notice. Roy continued to insist that the minister was misleading. “If any member or minister misleads the House, give notice, chairman will consider it,” Kurien said.

As Roy continued to insist that the minister was misleading the House by saying that the state government had been informed, treasury benches joined in to protest. At this point, an angry Kurien snapped at Bhupender Yadav (BJP) saying “shut up… you are not in the Chair.” Roy said the minister was not stating if specific permission was taken for December 1 deployment and comparing
the exercise to national emergency.

I&B Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the reference to emergency was to situations like floods or tsunami and said similar exercises are annually carried out and had happened in West Bengal previously as well. And recently, it has been carried out in Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar, and along with West Bengal it was also being carried out in North Eastern states, he said, adding “it
is a sensitive matter. Let us not politise it.”

Kurien told Roy that he can give a notice on any misleading statement being made in the House and he will consider it. Derek O’Brien raised a Point of Order under Rule 249 related to authentication of papers laid by the government on the floor of the House.

He claimed that it is “selective placing of papers” by the government and added that he will place some papers on the floor of the House to prove his point on Monday.

First Published On : Dec 2, 2016 15:13 IST

Opposition rallies against govt on demonetisation issue as Winter Session begins in Parliament

Where are the women? Political power is still a male domain in India

Gender inequality leading to deprivation of power among women continues to be a political reality in India today. Women are perpetually excluded from decision-making at every step of the ladder, starting from the household to the top layer of policy making. Although the Constitution of India attempts to remove gender inequalities by interdicting discrimination based on sex and class, and enshrining fundamental rights for all citizens, women still have only de jure rather than de facto access to these rights.

There is no denying the fact that greater participation of women in the political process would be a pre-condition for their economic and social emancipation. However, even though a significantly large number of women vote in the country, yet only a few of them assume the reins of power. Paradoxically, though women have held the posts of President and Prime Minister as well as Chief Ministers of various states in India, the country ranks 20th from the bottom in terms of representation of women in Parliament, as per the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2012.

To remedy the low participation of women electors, India in 1994 established quotas (reservations) vide the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments to reserve 33 per cent of the seats in local governments for women. The Women’s Reservation Bill (108th amendment) has also been introduced in the national Parliament to reserve 33 per cent of the Lok Sabha seats for women, but the bill is yet to be passed. It is believed that though increasing the number of women in national government may not guarantee an impact on governance, a critical mass of women in power can bring about transformation in leadership.

Table1_SohiniTable1_Sohini

A heartening outcome of the reservation bill is the subsequent rise in political participation by women, which went up from 4-5 per cent to 25-40 per cent among women, and gave millions of women the opportunity to serve as leaders in local government. A few states like Odisha established reservations even before the 73rd amendment and they had 28,069 women elected in 1992 and 28,595 women in 1997.

The robust health of India’s democracy is also reflected in the increasingly large turnouts of women voters in progressive elections at both the national and state levels in the country. In the 2012 elections to Legislative Assemblies, for instance, Uttar Pradesh reported a turnout of 58.82 to 60.29 per cent of the female voters. The states of Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Kerala, Manipur, Meghalaya, and Mizoram, and the Union Territories of Daman and Diu, and Puducherry also reported higher turnouts among women than men in the 2013 Vidhan Sabha elections (Election Commission, 2013). The turnout of women during India’s 2014 parliamentary general elections was 65.63 per cent, only marginally less than the male turnout of 67.09 per cent. In 16 out of 29 states of India, more women voted than men. This increased female participation was observed in both the rich and poor states in the country.

However, this enthusiastic participation in elections does not ostensibly translate into proportionate electoral power for women. In contrast to the encouraging figures pertaining to women voters, the statistics on women’s participation in Parliament and Legislative Assemblies, on the other hand, present a grim picture. The recent Assembly elections in four states and one Union Territory bear witness to this fact more resoundingly than even in the past. Despite the remarkable showing by the two women Chief Ministers in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu in these elections, Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalitha, respectively, there was no significant rise in the number of women MLAs in any of the five Assemblies, which now have a female strength of merely 81 out of the total number of 823 MLAs, representing less than 10 per cent of the total legislators. This includes 8 women out of 126 MLAs in Assam, 21 out of 234 in Tamil Nadu, 40 out of 293 in West Bengal, 8 out of 140 in Kerala, and 4 out of 30 in Puducherry.

The figures at the national level are equally dismal. Table 1 depicts an overview of participation of women in the Lok Sabha (lower house) and in the Rajya Sabha (upper house). The participation of women in the Lok Sabha has, in fact, never exceeded 12 per cent since Independence. The proportion of women Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Lok Sabha has increased by only 6 percentage points over the past six decades. In the Rajya Sabha, it has been almost constant at 7 percent of the total seats, with the exception of the 1991 election where it rose to 15.5 per cent. In the 2009 election, only 59 women MPs were elected for a total of 543 seats, and this figure went up by merely 2 to touch 61 in the 2014 elections.

Table2_SohiniTable2_Sohini

Comparisons at the international level reiterate the abysmally low levels of women’s participation in political decision-making in India (see Table 2). Rwanda, which exhibits the highest participation by women in the latest elections to its lower house, was the first nation to cross the halfway mark for women in Parliament, 7 percentage points ahead of Cuba, which occupies the second position. Alarmingly, women’s representation in Parliament in India is lower than even that of much smaller nations like Nepal and Afghanistan.

Paradoxically, political representation does not have any direct correlation with literacy or other related parameters. This is indicated by a comparison of female political participation in Kerala and Rajasthan, which lie at two opposite ends of the literacy bandwagon, with the female literacy rates being 92 per cent and 53 per cent in Kerala and Rajasthan, respectively, as per the 2011 Census. Although the women in Kerala enjoy greater freedom of movement along with cultural and educational advantages, this has not been converted into political participation. Even the proportion of women in the state assembly is only marginally higher at 11 percent in the present Assembly in Kerala as compared to 7 per cent in Rajasthan.

One of the key challenges faced by women is lack of education which hinders their political involvement. We recommend bridging this gap by providing quality education to women in the country. Awareness about their rights and privileges as mentioned in the Constitution can only be ensured once women are appropriately educated. The issue of gender-based violence and provision of safety and security of women should also be addressed on a priority basis to promote gender equality in the social and political arenas. Although the Government of India has initiated the National Mission of Empowerment of Women in 2014 with the broad objective of gender empowerment, the progress of this project is not up to the mark. It is thus imperative to strengthen its functioning and implementation. In addition, there is need for capacity building of prospective women leaders by imparting leadership training to the female members of political parties.

Lok Sabha passes Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill; paves way for special allocations

New Delhi: Lok Sabha has passed the much talked about Compensatory Afforestation Fund bill, 2015 that seeks to establish setting up of a National Compensatory Afforestation Fund and also a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund.

Thanking the members for their cooperation in passing the bill, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Tuesday evening said it will be a historical legislation and will go a long way in ensuring countrywide afforestation programme.

Members cutting across party lines supported the bill.

The bill paves the way for unlocking of nearly Rs.41,000 crore earmarked for forest land which is lying unspent, Javadekar said.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The salient features of the afforestation programme will be people’s participation, social audit and there will not be any displacement, the minister said while replying to specific queries from Asaduddin Owaisi of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).

“Besides the exotic plants, emphasis will be on native species,” Javadekar said.

The bill also ensures that the funds encourage compensatory afforestation. The national fund will receive 10 percent of it, and the states will receive the remaining 90 percent of the fund.

“These funds will be primarily spent on afforestation to compensate for loss of forest cover, regeneration of forest ecosystem, wildlife protection and infrastructure development,” he said.

However, Javadekar said the funds under the new law under the provisions of the Compensatory Afforestation Fund bill should not be the only forest budget for the states.

“The states must give their regular budget to forest (department). But this will be only an additional funding,” he said.

Stressing the importance of people’s participation in the afforestation programme, he said: “Wherever people’s participation is there, and wherever people’s livelihood is connected to the forest, they just don’t allow illegal destruction of forest.”

Among others, Pinaki Mishra of Biju Janata Dal also lauded the bill.

“Odisha is already doing very good in afforestation programme under the personal supervision of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. This bill only gives the efforts further boost,” Mishra said.

The bill was passed by voice vote and at the end of the process even the Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan appreciated the draft legislation passed unanimously with members from different parties making their positive contribution by way of suggestions to improve the system.

Ensure 85 percent warning on tobacco products: BJD MP

New Delhi: BJD MP BJ Panda on Tuesday insisted that the government should ensure implementation of 85 percent pictorial warning on tobacco products.

“Apart from notifying pictorial warning, the government has to stand up to ensure the rule is implemented,” Panda said in the Lok Sabha.

Representational image. Getty images.Representational image. Getty images.

Representational image. Getty images.

He said tobacco companies were trying to pressurize the government over the issue.

“I urge the government to ensure that this notification is not withdrawn under any pressure. It must be implemented with a larger pictorial warning.”

Earlier, the senior BJD member said that consumption of tobacco killed one million Indians every year.

The new warning, he said, “is very very good. It has already been delayed by one year and should not be delayed further”.

Tobacco growers and retailers across India are protesting against the recent notification on implementation of pictorial warnings covering 85 percent of the packets of all tobacco products.

According to the Tobacco Institute of India, 45.7 million people were dependent on the industry.

The 85 percent surface pictorial warning came into effect from 1 April despite a parliamentary committee recommendation that this be brought down to 50 percent of the package surface area.

Govt favours quota in promotions, but we need to create the right atmosphere: Gehlot

New Delhi: Expressing its commitment for reservation for SC, ST and OBC in promotion, on Monday the government sought the cooperation of the Congress in creating the right atmosphere before a law could be enacted to give the proposal the statutory backing.

Admitting that there were sections in the NDA as well as in the Congress who were opposed to reservation in promotions, Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot said “the government favours reservation in promotion…(but) we need to create the right atmosphere.”

The Minister was responding to the demand for reservation in promotion raised by Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge during a debate on demands of grants for the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The demands were later passed by the Lok Sabha after rejecting opposition-sponsored cut motions by voice vote.

“If Congress can give in writing that it favoured reservation in promotion (for members of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Other Backward Caste), the government will push forward the proposal,” Gehlot said.

Representational image. PTIRepresentational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Earlier during the UPA regime, a bill to ensure reservation in promotion was approved by the Rajya Sabha but could not go through in the Lok Sabha because of differences among political parties.

Seeking to put the ball in the BJP’s court, Kharge said at present, the NDA government has the majority and it should try to push the proposal so that members of the SC, ST and OBC may get the benefit of reservation in promotion.

The NDA members, Kharge said, should convince Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the need for reservation in promotion.

Several members also raised the issue that members of SC and ST communities were not adequately represented in higher judiciary and the corporate sector.

Gehlot said if the corporate sector willingly decide to provide reservation to SC, ST and OBC, the government will not have any problem.

“If the corporates willingly create an atmosphere for giving reservation, we will have no problem,” the Minister said.

Industry will not be hurt by periodic review of SEZ policy: Nirmala Sitharaman

New Delhi: The periodic review of implementation of the special economic zone policy will not hurt the industry, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on May 2.

Responding to supplementaries during Question Hour in Lok Sabha, she said the review is aimed to make the policy more effective but it is not going to “hurt” the industry in any way.

In her written response, the minister said the ongoing review and reform, as necessary, of government policy and procedure is inherent to public policy.

File photo. AFPFile photo. AFP

File photo. AFP

“The government, on the basis of inputs and suggestions received from stakeholders on the policy and operational framework of SEZ scheme periodically reviews the policy and the operational framework of SEZs and take necessary measures so as to facilitate speedy and effective implementation of SEZ policy,” Sitharaman said.

Responding to another supplementary, she said under the SEZ law, lands are acquired by the state governments. The land is either barren or infertile and no fertile land is acquired for SEZ project.

She said single crop land can be acquired to some extent.

Despite quality training, India has lost 41 soldiers to Siachen Glacier since 2013

New Delhi: Forty-one soldiers have lost their lives in Siachen Glacier since 2013, the government said on Friday.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in a written reply in Lok Sabha said 10 soldiers were killed in 2013, eight and nine in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

“Till 31 March, 14 soldiers have died this year,” Parrikar said.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Troops being posted in high altitude areas are trained in ‘Basic and Advance’ skills in mountains and snow-bound areas, he said, adding medical equipment exist in all posts to cater for emergencies.

Best quality of winter clothing and equipment is procured to prevent weather-related casualties.

Modern means of conveyance like snow scooters are utilised to ensure timely reaction to any eventuality and reduce fatigue.

A number of specialised equipment have also been deployed in avalanche- prone areas, he said.

Dude, where’s the cleanliness? Swacch mission fails to meet urban trash targets

By Prachi Salve

No more than 17.6 percent of urban solid-waste (garbage) was processed as of March 2016, against a target of 30 percent, set last year under the Swacch Bharat (Clean India) Mission launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Mission’s second target, door-to-door trash collection, did better: 42.3 percent of urban India’s garbage was being collected from homes as of March 2016, against a target of 50 percent.

The government reported progress to Parliament in this answer.

The Swacch Bharat Mission (urban) aims to not just provide sanitation to India’s towns and cities—which, as we reported in the first part of this series, has also failed its March 2016 target—but also reduce trash and process it for disposal.

  Source: Lok Sabha Chandigarh processes all its waste, followed by Meghalaya, which processes 58 percent, and Delhi, 52 percent. In Chandigarh, waste is collected from every household, and roadside waste is swept up, which means slums are also covered. The collected garbage is then taken to a facility to be separated.

Source: Lok Sabha

None of the five states at the bottom of the waste-processing ladder process urban waste, implying it is dumped. For instance, little appears to have changed in Patna, described in 2008 as the “City of Garbage” by the Patna High Court. The city’s waste–when it is collected, much of it is not–is dumped at several sites, and, despite a high-court order, there is no solid-waste management plan.

Chandigarh, Goa collect all household waste from doorsteps

Chandigarh and Goa collect all household waste from homes. After them is much larger Andhra Pradesh, where 90 percent of urban garbage is collected from doorsteps.

Source: Lok Sabha

The government is monitoring progress of cities and issuing cleanliness rankings. Mysuru leads those rankings currently, as IndiaSpend reported last month, followed by Chandigarh. In most of the bottom five states, in wards where there is no garbage collection, trash often ends up on the streets or festers in randomly chosen dumps.

Source: Lok Sabha

Only 3 percent of Uttar Pradesh’s urban wards–the state is India’s largest by population–have garbage-collection facilities, prompting a notice from the National Green Tribunal to the UP government for the poor waste management.

At the national level, 64.2 percent wards were found to have a dumping place for solid waste, according to the Swacchata Status report released by the national Sample Survey Organisation. This means more than 35 percent of India does not even have waste dumps, let alone processing ability.

Can India become clean, as Swacch Bharat hopes, by 2019?

Urban India, home to 377 million people, generates 62 million tonnes of garbage daily, making India the world’s third-largest garbage generator, after China and the US.

However, it’s not the amount of waste generated that’s as much of an issue as the fact that more than 45 million tonnes, or 3 million trucks worth, of garbage is untreated and disposed of by municipal authorities daily in an unhygienic manner leading to health issues and environmental degradation, IndiaSpend reported in 2014.

These 3 million trucks, laid end to end, would wind their way around India’s land borders and coastline.

With rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and an explosion in population in India, solid-waste management is a key challenge for state governments and local municipal bodies.

The Swacch Bharat Mission was launched on 2 October 2014, on Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary; its target completion date is 2019, Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary.

Series concluded. You can read the first part here.

MPs exercise fundamental rights like Justice Katju, says Supreme Court

New Delhi:  The Supreme Court said on Wednesday that the MPs who passed the resolution condemning Justice (Retd) Markandey Katju for his blog against Mahatma Gandhi and Subhas Chandra Bose enjoyed the same freedom of speech and expression as him.

“Do you mean to say that the Members of Parliament have no right to express their views? They have simply put their views in a collective manner in condemning your viewpoint,” a bench headed by Justice T S Thakur said.

It also said that prima facie the resolutions were passed to condemn the views and it was not a proceeding to “censure” Justice Katju.

Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, appearing for Justice Katju, said the MPs, like ordinary citizens, are entitled to their views on issues.

In the present case, an institution like Parliament has taken recourse to “censurial jurisdiction” without according an opportunity to Justice Katju to put forth his views before condemning his statement made in his blog.

“Leave aside the Parliament, I condemn this. Do you have a cause of action against an ordinary citizen who enjoys the fundamental right as you did,” the bench asked.

“No,” Subramanium said, adding that in the present case, the two houses of Parliament passed the resolution without hearing Katju.

A file photo Markandey Katju. PTIA file photo Markandey Katju. PTI

A file photo Markandey Katju. PTI

Senior advocate F S Nariman, who was appointed amicus curiae in the case, said Parliament did not respond to Justice Katju’s plea of being heard as it was not exercising the “censurial jurisdiction” and merely voicing the collective view of the house.

Parliament responded by issuing the resolution because the person concerned was a high constitutional functionary and it did not want the public at large to believe him that Gandhi and Bose were British and Japanese agents.

“If you want to exercise your right as a citizen, then be a citizen and don’t be a super citizen,” Nariman said, adding Parliament reacted as the person concerned was a former judge of the apex court.

The court has now asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to assist it in the matter.

Earlier, the apex court had said “prima facie” it did not find fault with Parliament passing resolutions condemning Justice Katju for his blog against Mahatma Gandhi and Bose.

Katju has moved the court seeking quashing of resolutions passed by both Houses of Parliament for calling Mahatma Gandhi and Subhash C Bose British and Japanese “agents” respectively.

In his Facebook post, the former judge had criticised Parliament for censuring him without even giving him a hearing.

The resolutions were passed against him by Lok Sabha on 12 March and Rajya Sabha on 11 March last year.

Alternatively, Katju has sought a direction to Lok Sabha Speaker and Chairman of the Upper House that he be heard personally or through a lawyer duly appointed by him.

“It is a basic principle of natural justice that no one should be condemned unheard. But paying scant regard to this principle, the Hon’ble members of both Houses of the Indian Parliament all flocked together with one voice to condemn me,
like the Queen of Hearts in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ who would say ‘Off with his head! ‘ even before she would give a hearing
to someone..,” Justice Katju, who has created controversies with several of his comments in the past, wrote in his post.

The petition claimed Parliament lacked “competence” to condemn him.

Repeal AFSPA in North East: BJD, Cong members’ demand in LS

New Delhi: A demand was made in the Lok Sabha today for repeal of the “draconian” Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the North-East, with a few members saying it was the biggest deterrent in integrating the youth of the region with India.

Participating in a discussion on the Demands for Grants of the Ministry of North East Development, members in the
House made a case for bringing in change of strategy and political will for progress of North Eastern region.

“For 50 years we have clamped AFSPA on the region. Armed forces have killed 50,000 plus civilians in North-East. AFSPA has been the biggest deterrent of integrating NE youth with India… Remove AFSPA without any conditionality,” said BJD member Tathagata Satpathy.

Tathagata Satpathy. Courtesy Lok Sabha.Tathagata Satpathy. Courtesy Lok Sabha.

Tathagata Satpathy. Courtesy Lok Sabha.

Thokchom Meinya (Cong) demanded immediate repeal of AFSPA from Manipur, saying the Act has been “draconian and black law”. He said many agencies have said AFSPA should be repealed and the Centre should immediately repeal it.

Satpathy said the government at the Centre will have to change its strategy to integrate the North Eastern people with Indian culture. “It is a change in political will that is needed. It is not the BSF and armed forces who are at fault; it is politicians who are at fault,” he said.

Flaying the attitude of successive Central governments towards North East, Satpathy said till 2008, Governors of the states in the region were retired armed forces personnel.

He demanded a Padma award for Irom Sharmila, who is fighting for the repeal of AFSPA in Manipur.

“Irom Sharmila deserves to be given Padma award for her perseverance. I admire her personally. The kind of awardees we saw this year, she deserves to be given Padma award,” Satpathy said.

He said the attitude of successive governments towards North East has been “convoluted or perverted. If Britishers had not come to India, then perhaps North East would have been put off to China”.

Don’t increase pictorial warnings on cigarette packs: Lok Sabha MPs

New Delhi: Two Lok Sabha members today opposed expanding the size of pictorial warning on tobacco products, saying it had adversely affected farmers and beedi workers and their livelihood was in danger.

Sharad Bansode (BJP) and R Dhruvanarayana (Cong) suggested that a parliamentary committee’s recommendation that the warning be restricted to 50 percent should be adhered to, prompting an intervention from Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, who noted that public opinion was growing in favour of discouraging smoking.

Raising the issue in the Zero Hour, Bansode claimed that if “you don’t minimise (the warning size), all beedi workers would be jobless”. He also urged the Prime Minister to address their concerns.

AFP

AFP

Dhruvanarayana said that the parliamentary committee recommendation was not implemented by the government, which increased the warning’s size from 40 percent to 85 percent. Some members, including Supriya Sule (NCP), were seen nodding their head in disapproval as the members spoke.

Naidu spoke about public opinion and experts’ warning against tobacco use, and said the increase in the pictorial warning size was one step in that direction. However, he said that they would have to evolve a consensus, while noting that farmers, especially in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka cultivated tobacco. Government alone cannot do it, he said.

“We have to strongly encourage farmers to grow alternative crops. We have to find some solution,” he said. Naidu added that he is willing to discuss the matter with Congress informally. “We have been discussing it but have not been able to find a meaningful solution,” he said.

Wake up call for govt? PM’s pet project Swacch Bharat lagging in urban India

Of a target of 2.5 million household toilets in urban areas by March 2016, 24% (0.6 million) have been constructed.

* Of a target of 100,000 community and public toilet seats in urban areas by March 2016, 28% (28,948) have been constructed.

*Gujarat constructed 327,880 individual toilets until December 2015, more than any other state.

India’s ambitious toilet-construction programme–part of the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) mission to make India open-defecation free by 2019–is slipping, according to government data submitted to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament.

Another part of the Swachh Bharat Mission, to process urban garbage, is also failing its targets, as the second part of this series will detail.

Even if the toilet programme, started in September 2015, is brought on track, Indian cities and towns currently process no more than a third of the sewage generated by 377 million people, IndiaSpend reported in January 2016. The rest is randomly dumped in rivers, seas, lakes and wells, polluting three-fourths of India’s water bodies.

As many as 85 million people in urban India lack adequate sanitation, more than Germany’s population.

About 1.9 million toilets in urban areas are under construction, according to the government, but progress is slow.

Four of five states constructing most toilets governed by the BJP

Four of the five states that do best in toilet construction are governed by India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

  Source: Lok Sabha Gujarat constructed the most toilets until December 2015, with 327,880, followed by Madhya Pradesh. Andhra Pradesh, the only non-BJP state in the top five, comes in third.

Source: Lok Sabha

Some areas that are constructing toilets slowly, such as Delhi and Uttarakhand, may already have a high percentage of homes with toilets.

More Indians (households) use toilets in urban areas (81%) than in rural areas (43%), according to this Lok Sabha reply. Use varies, as some cities have better toilet facilities than others, although there are no reliable data.

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As far as community toilet construction goes, Delhi tops the list, indicating a government effort to provide sanitation to slums, which is largely where such toilets are built.

  Source: Lok Sabha  

Source: Lok Sabha

Sewage systems are as important as toilet construction. India has 522 working sewage treatment plants, 62 of which are in Maharashtra, according to this Central Pollution Control Board report.

Only 36.8% wards in urban areas reported a proper liquid-waste disposal system for community and public toilets, according to the Swachhata Status report, released by the National Sample Survey Organization.

Delhi (86.8%), Gujarat (64.4%) and Tamil Nadu (62.6%) were among the states reporting a high percentage of wards with proper liquid-waste disposal systems for community and public toilets, the report said.

Maharashtra just announced it would clean its rivers by increasing investments in sewage treatment and solid-waste management. The government’s focus, thus far, has been on industrial effluents alone.

A Swachh Bharat cess, levied from November 2015, ramped up toilet construction nationwide, as IndiaSpend reported this week. Nearly 16 million toilets were constructed over two years (in rural areas), according to the government; 95 million need to be built over the next three to meet the government’s target of making India open-defecation free by 2019.

This is the first of a two-part series. Tomorrow: Swachch Bharat Mission Fails March 2016 Urban-Trash Targets

(Indiaspend.org is a data-driven, public-interest journalism non-profit.)

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