A good report card


A good report card

The Prime Minister addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Wednesday, the last Independence Day before he returns to the people for a fresh mandate, devoted most of his time listing what all the Government had done in last four-plus years. It was a dhobi list of big and small things meant to ameliorate the condition of the underprivileged and to set the economy on the path to robust recovery. He reiterated his commitment to sabka saath, sabka viaks, citing the tremendous work done in taking the benefits of development to the poor.

Housing, power, clean water, cooking gas, connectivity, sanitation, etc, were all meant to restore ‘dignity of the poor which was as important as economic growth’. Modi hammered home the theme of development, and said that his government had single-mindedly devoted itself to this task and achieved far more in the last four years than previous governments had done in decades. “I have experienced since 2014 that people had not just come forward to form a government but for nation-building. We are proud of what we have achieved and at the same time, we also have to look at where we have come from. That is when we will realise the remarkable strides the nation has made.” As if to drive him the point, he said that at the pace toilets were made in 2013, the last year of the UPA, it would take us decades more to complete them. In a similar vein, he compared and contrasted the speed at which the villages were electrified by the previous governments or the subsidised LPG cylinders were given to the poor households, especially in the rural areas. Aware of the Opposition propaganda, the PM said the recent monsoon session of Parliament was devoted to the empowerment of Dalits and other backward castes, mentioning the constitutional status given to the backward castes commission.

As if to nail the lie that he had not spoken against the vigilante violence, the PM emphasised that the rule of law alone was supreme and nobody had any right to take the law into his own hands. Given the recent failure of the Government to pass the Bill against the practice of triple talaq, an issue that feeds well into the BJP’s electoral narrative, Modi noted how certain elements were bent on defending this anti-women practice, but he committed himself to end the injustice to Muslim women. On the incidents of rape, the PM backed the death penalty for the crime and noted how a rapist in Madhya Pradesh was recently hanged by a fast-track court. Probably the biggest announcement concerned about the launch of the Ayushman Bharat health scheme, which is to be inaugurated on 25th September which happens to be the birth anniversary of the BJP’s mascot Deen Dayal Upadhyay. This scheme could be a game-changer should it take off ahead of the parliamentary poll next year. Providing a modicum of health insurance through a country-wide network of basic dispensaries might be an arduous task, involving a huge infrastructure of medical centres for a cluster of villages, rising up to district and state level facilities, and entails a huge outlay of funds, but the objective is laudable  and, given ample time, even attainable.


 
Since it was his fifth and last I-Day address from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort, it was okay for him to quote from the recent reports of the IMF and the World Bank to reassure the people that the economy was on the right track. It was set to grow the fastest in the world in the next three decades. Such confidence was possible because his government was capable of taking bold decisions and undertake reforms such as the GST, the insolvency law, the benami property law, etc. He had freed the government from the baneful effect of crony capitalists and in a telling sentence claimed that the ‘streets of Delhi are free from powerbrokers  and middlemen’. He reiterated the resolve to punish the corrupt and to attack the black money in the system. He also touched upon Kashmir and the North-East in his 85-mintue report-card to the nation, exuding confidence that the economy, the sixth largest in the world, would attain a higher position if it continued on the right track. All in all, an encouraging performance report.




BJP scores with clever strategy


BJP scores with clever strategy

It is becoming increasingly clear that with Rahul Gandhi at the helm of the Congress with his poor organising ability and equally weak strategising, the BJP would be able to get past the winning post in next year’s general elections even if it fails to win a clear public mandate. Two milestone wins in the just-concluded session of Parliament have strengthened this feeling — the first is the no-confidence motion that the NDA was able to defeat comprehensively and the second the failure of the Opposition to defeat the NDA nominee in the election to the post of deputy leader of the Rajya Sabha despite the benefit of better numerical strength on paper. Nothing illustrates Rahul’s arrogance better than the fact that in the Rajya Sabha battle, he could not even get the Aam Aadmi Party on board with its three members by fulfilling its demand that Rahul must call up Arvind Kejriwal to seek his party’s support.

Besides, the Biju Janata Dal, despite the fact that it sees the BJP as its principal rival in the Assembly polls, could not be weaned away by the Congress. By shrewdly putting up a JD (U) nominee instead of its own, the BJP checkmated the Opposition by firmly drawing that party away from the Opposition. The YSR Congress has had a channel of communication open with the BJP but has been publicly opposing it. Both during the no-trust vote and the Rajya Sabha vote, Jagan Mohan Reddy’s party abstained, yielding an advantage to the NDA. That the NDA has cemented ties with all these parties to prepare itself for the eventuality of falling short of a majority in the Lok Sabha polls is a measure of its superior strategising. The Congress, on the other hand, is still groping despite enjoying the support of many Opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha. It is a case of serving power to the BJP virtually on a platter through poor strategising.




Triple Talaq Bill stalled in Rajya Sabha a setback to Narendra Modi government


Triple Talaq Bill stalled in Rajya Sabha a setback to Narendra Modi government

The stalling of the ‘Triple Talaq Bill’ officially called the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, in the Rajya Sabha on Friday after it was passed by the Lok Sabha last January is a setback to the Narendra Modi government which had been vociferously fighting for it to end the pernicious practice among Muslims which amounts to instant divorce. Since the NDA does not command a majority in the Upper House, it needed a consensus to emerge which eluded it in the face of the Congress’ bid to thwart the bill covertly by using the pretext of lack of time to study it. The bill, which is slated to give relief to oppressed Muslim women was being seen by them as light at the end of a tunnel. Now, these women will need to wait until the winter session for the law to be taken up in the Rajya Sabha and there is no knowing what stratagem the Opposition parties, principally the Congress, would resort to when it comes up again.

While the government can be faulted for having waited until the last day of the monsoon session to introduce the Bill, leaving very little time for debating it, it needs to be acknowledged that it did make last-minute efforts to accommodate the key concerns of the objectors. While the Opposition bid to scuttle the reform has to do with vote bank politics, the BJP hopes it would win over Muslim women to appreciate its stand. In the modified version now okayed by the government, the complaint can be filed only by the woman or her family. The woman can also drop charges if her husband is open to a compromise. The possibility of bail has been brought in; a judge can decide whether to grant bail after hearing the wife. As Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad acknowledged, earlier even neighbours could file complaints and the couple had no chance to compromise. The proposed law also addresses “nikah halala”, which requires the divorced woman to marry someone else and consummate the marriage if she wants to remarry her husband. These are doubtlessly progressive steps which should have got support from all sections in the House.




First Muslim woman Rashida Tlaib to enter US Congress


First Muslim woman Rashida Tlaib to enter US Congress

New York: A 42-year-old Muslim woman has won the Democratic nomination to run unopposed for a House seat in Michigan, bringing her closer to becoming the first female from the minority community to be elected to the US Congress, according to a media report.

Rashida Tlaib, a former state Representative, has won a crowded battle to replace former US Representative John Conyers Jr in the Michigan’s 13th Congressional District Democratic primary, The Detroit News reported.

No Republican is running for the seat in the Democratic-leaning district, meaning Palestinian-origin Tlaib is virtually guaranteed to win the seat in election scheduled for November. Tlaib had pulled in 33.2 per cent of the vote over Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, who has 29.2 per cent, with 96 per cent of precincts reporting, it said.


 
 She has boasted a grassroots campaign and came out on top in fundraising, topping $1 million. She said her day had been filled with emotion and described it as “happy chaos”, the report said. “Especially meeting voters and talking to them, they are inspired,” she said.

“One resident said she’s happy for me and it’s already written. It’s been amazing to interact with families at polling locations. I feel very much supported.”

Tlaib had served in the Michigan House from 2009 until 2014.

The 89-year-old Conyers was first elected to the House in 1964. He stepped down in December citing health reasons, though several former female staffers had accused him of sexual harassment.




Hate crime: 71-year-old US Sikh assaulted, second in week


Hate crime: 71-year-old US Sikh assaulted, second in week

New York : A 71-year-old Sikh man was brutally assaulted and spit at by two unidentified men in California, the second attack on a community member in about a week that has raised concerns over increasing incidents of hate crimes in the country.

Disturbing footage from a surveillance camera shows Sahib Singh Natt walking alone on the side of a road early morning on August 6 in Manteca, California when two men, wearing hoodies, walking from the opposite direction approach him.

Natt stops on seeing the men and the two men are seen talking to him. Singh then walks past them but they continue to follow and talk with him. 

After a brief argument, one of the men, who is wearing a black hoodie, suddenly kicks Natt in the stomach and the elderly man falls down on the road, with his turban coming off.

He tries to get up and defend himself but the man again kicks him in the stomach. Natt falls on the road as the man who attacked him comes close to him and appears to touch his face and spit on him. They then walk away as Natt is lying on the road.

A few seconds later the man in the black hoodie runs back and viciously kicks Natt three times near his head as he lay on the street. He then starts leaving again, pauses, turns around, and then spits at Natt.

This is the second attack on a Sikh man in about a week in California. On July 31, 50-year old Surjit Malhi was attacked while putting up campaign signs in support of incumbent Republican Congressman Jeff Denham and other local Republican candidates.




Bombay HC rejects 1993 blast convict Abu Salem’s plea seeking 45-day parole to get married


Bombay HC rejects 1993 blast convict Abu Salem’s plea seeking 45-day parole to get married

Mumbai: Bombay High Court on Tuesday rejected 1993 serial blasts convict Abu Salem’s plea, where he sought a 45-day parole to get married. On April 21, Navi Mumbai Commissioner rejected Salem’s parole application, which he applied for his marriage. Salem had sought parole for 45 days to get married for the second time.

The gangster is serving a life sentence in jail after being convicted in the 1993 Mumbai blasts that had killed 257 and injured 713 people. He has also been sentenced to seven years rigorous imprisonment in 2002 extortion case by Delhi Court.




ABP – Almost banned Press Freedom


ABP – Almost banned Press Freedom


At a time when the declining Freedom of Press is high on discussion and the entire nation is scared of the aftertaste, Press Freedom got punched in the face again after the two eminent journalists from ABP News Network — Managing Editor Milind Khandekar and anchor Punya Prasun Bajpai — resigned reportedly due to pressure that moved up after airing a story on the show named Master Stroke — a story that criticised the central government and exposed its lies.


At a time when the declining Freedom of Press is high on discussion and the entire nation is scared of the aftertaste, Press Freedom got punched in the face again after the two eminent journalists from ABP News Network — Managing Editor Milind Khandekar and anchor Punya Prasun Bajpai — resigned reportedly due to pressure that moved up after airing a story on the show named Master Stroke — a story that criticised the central government and exposed its lies.

Narendra Wable, President of Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh said, “Both the resignation can’t be a coincidence and there must be a pressure from the government after the interview of lady farmer Chandramani Kaushik in ‘Master Stroke’. It is dangerous for our federal democracy and unfortunate for journalism. It happened in the previous government’s reign too but never came into light. It is sad to see most of the media houses being pro-government. News Media should be unbiased and fearless.”

‘Master Stroke’, the flagship show which is currently taken off by the channel management, used to be anchored by Punya Prasun Bajpai where the burning issues of countrymen are presented. One of its episodes came up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s video conversation with beneficiaries of various government programmes held on June 20.

During the Mann Ki Baat interaction, lady farmer Chandramani from Chhattisgarh, one of the participants, told the PM that her income has doubled after she switched from paddy cultivation to growing custard apples. However, the show reported that the woman was ‘tortured’ and ‘tutored by Delhi officials to make false statements about her agricultural income and the news was viral in no time — this attracted the wrath of BJP leaders including a few Union ministers — Rajyavardhan Rathore, the Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman — who slammed the show with #UnfortunateJournalism for its ‘agenda of deriding PM’s efforts’.

Political journalist Nilesh Khare expressed, “I don’t want to comment on a speculation as we have no confirmation about the government pressure behind the resignation. I have worked with Milind Khandekar; he is a journalist who does full justice to his duties. He won’t absorb such pressure, I believe.”

The viewers across also complained of facing difficulty in watching the programme ‘Master Stroke’ because of “disturbance and blackouts” and as per the sources, the blocking of the telecast was decided by the channel to not affront the ruling party at the Centre. However, Bajpai was seen tweeting videos from his shows during that period. And, just two days back, Bajpai was informed that he would no longer be anchoring ‘Master Stroke’ followed by his stepping down.

“You can black out the screen during Master Stroke, but we will convert it into a ‘blackboard’ and write the truth on it,” Bajpai criticised the blackout on Twitter.

When India is just a year away from the next general elections, the freedom of expression in the world’s largest democracy is feeling traumatised. On one hand, corporate ownership and government’s constant effort to shut or limit government critics and on the other, prominent media organisations hunkering down to get endearments from the ruling party! India also remains one of the most dangerous places for journalists to function as the 2017 world press freedom rankings ranked India 136 among 180 countries and that’s a slip as the nation was ranked 133 in 2016. While some journalists were killed, others are under the flame with threats to their lives.

Political Editor of an eminent newspaper on the condition of anonymity spoke to AV and revealed, “I came to know that the channel is changing its ownership. So, it can be its new policy. Government pressure on the channel is just a speculation and the truth is yet to come out.”

The instance of the I&B Ministry amending guidelines for the accreditation of journalists to punish those accused of producing fake news is just fresh in the minds. The guidelines warned journalists of suspension of their government accreditation permanently in case of third-time violation (spreading fake news), though the ministry neither defined fake news nor clarified who can file complaints and on what grounds! Though, the massive criticism pushed our PM to scrap the decision.

Senior journalist Sudhakar Kashyap stated, “Government has a total control over today’s news media. Appointment of Editor is nowadays done by the government authority. Though I am not a Congress supporter, but in the previous government, there was never such pressure on media that exists today. We had the freedom to write whatever we want in those days.”

Though ABP News Network maintained silence, the resignation of Khandekar and Bajpai has brought politicians across the nation together blaming the BJP-led central government’s efforts ‘to kill independent media’.

“Evidence is surfacing that ABP News is seeing journalists resign and benched due to their involvement in stories criticising the Central Govt. Watch how in the age of free information, India under Modiji seems to be anything but free,” Congress’ Twitter handle posted.

Dr. Deepak Pawar, Assistant Professor of Mumbai University said, “I don’t feel this is a single example of such incident and we can’t say that Congress and NCP were saints in their reign. Congress ruled the nation for a long period and they mostly tolerated criticism, though BJP is vindictive by nature.”

He went on adding, “Any person with a different opinion than the government is asked to go to Pakistan! That’s the mindset of the BJP-led central government. The pressure on the Editors of news organisations is dangerous for the press freedom.”

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal too slammed the BJP government with #FreeMediaDiedInIndia and said, “Free media is life-line of democracy. But Modi government is hell-bent to kill independent media. The resignation of two eminent TV journalists from ABP News in two days is another proof. Media should rise now; otherwise, it will be too late.”

 
MEDIA IN PUT AFTERNOON 




AMU's Prof Samdani receives ‘Legal Expert Award’


AMU's Prof Samdani receives ‘Legal Expert Award’


Aligarh, November 22, 2017: Professor Shakeel Samdani (Department of Law, Aligarh Muslim University—AMU) has been conferred with the ‘Legal Expert Award’ by a leading Urdu daily in a special function held at the Kala Mandir Auditorium in Kolkata, Bengal. He received a Shawl, a memento and a citation during the function.
Prof Samdani was honoured for his work in human rights, academics and conducting awareness programmes on the Indian Constitution.
Mr Ali Ashraf Fatimi (Former state HRD Minister) and Mr Javed Ahmad Khan (Minister, Government of Bengal) presented the award to Prof Samdani.
Prof Samdani has over 27 years of teaching experience. He has authored 'Uniform Civil Code: Problems And Prospects' and 'Maintenance of the Muslim Divorcee'. He teaches Islamic Jurisprudence, Muslim Law Relating to Status, Islamic Legal System, Public International Law, Human Rights Law, Sociology of Law and Law and Poverty. (PR from AMU)

 




End this madness in the name of cows


End this madness in the name of cows

In the normal course, the highest court in the land or, for that matter, a lower court need not have concerned itself with criminal acts, but it speaks of the apparent failure of various State Governments that the Supreme Court did feel constrained to take up the matter of periodic cases of lynching. Whether the intervention of the court was justified or not, law-abiding citizens should feel a sense of relief that thanks to it, the central government has promised to act in the matter on an urgent basis.

Six days after the apex court expressed concern at what it called ‘sweeping incidents of lynching’ and called them ‘as an affront to the rule of law’, Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced in the Lok Sabha on Monday the formation of a group of ministers under him to deliberate on the incidents of ‘mob violence’. He also constituted a separate high-level committee of senior officers to recommend separate penal provisions to deal with incidents of mob violence. The report of the committee is to be given within four weeks. The minister informed the House that the Government has always condemned such incidents of mob violence, but the police and public order being State subjects, it has from time to time issued advisories to the States and Union Territories for maintenance of law and order. Though the ministry did not maintain separate data for incidents of lynching, thus far 31 such cases had been reported from various parts of the country.

The issue came to the fore yet again following the killing of Rakbar Khan last week in Alwar, Rajasthan, when a mob assaulted him while he was taking two cows to his village in Haryana along with his friend, who mercifully escaped mob fury. The mob suspected the two of being cow smugglers and waylaid them. There is confusion about the actual details of the incident with the police feeding one version to the media and the local people another. Yet, there is no denying that a 32-year-old man became a victim of mob violence. Walking the cows to their village in the dark through a remote part of Rajasthan might have been a foolhardy thing to do in the present climate of fear over anything connected with the cow trade, yet the manner in which the local police handled the crime was shocking. It is said they seemed more concerned with the well-being of the animals than of the victim of mob violence. The police attitude may well mirror the perceived mood of the present ruling dispensation. Unless the political authorities issue a stern warning against people taking law into their own hands for the sake of cows or anything else dear to them, such madness by small mobs in rural India is unlikely to end soon unless put down with a heavy hand. It is this feeling at the ground level that the rulers would look the other way if they killed or maimed in the name of the holy cow which may have also contributed to the rising number of incidents of lynching, especially in the Hindi belt. 

Legitimate trade in cows ought to continue as before. The village economy will be hard to sustain if old animals were to become a burden on their owners. Mechanised cultivation has replaced farming earlier reliant on oxen or other such animals. Therefore, a cow is useful for its owners till it yields milk. The lack of panchayat-run gau shalas complicates the problem of old cows. Without providing workable alternatives, the huge problem of starving cows roaming the streets is bound to grow, especially when even legitimate trade is risky and can attract mob fury. In any case, it is barbarism, pure and simple, for a handful of people to lynch fellow human beings on mere suspicion. Such madness must be put down most sternly. We cannot have mobs lynching people every now and then and yet lay claim to be a law-abiding, peaceful country. Regardless of one’s political inclinations, mob killings are unacceptable. No, not even for the sake of an animal, revered or otherwise. It is a matter of great shame that in this day and age, there are killings in the name of ‘gau mata’. This must end immediately.




How Army made Nawaz Sharif redundant


How Army made Nawaz Sharif redundant

With voting in the general elections in neighbouring Pakistan being held today (July 25), there is little hope for change. Undeterred by the disqualification, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif returned home only to be promptly jailed along with his daughter Maryam. Despite his dismissal, the chances of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) being in the lead cannot be brushed aside. A matter of concern is that there is large participation of terror elements in the elections.

In April, the Pakistan Supreme Court barred Sharif for life from holding any public office. This was done to make him irrelevant in the electoral equation. As elections approached and potential candidates announced their decision to contest, numerous candidates were pressured to change political parties by dumping Sharif and his party.

The elections are turning out to be a drag in the prevailing circumstances. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) supremo Imran Khan managed the almost impossible task of dislodging Sharif from power when he appeared invincible. He has, however, turned out to be a major loser as the attention of both the media and the public has shifted from the issue of corruption to the “establishment’s interference in the civilian setup”.


 
A high court judge in Islamabad charged the all powerful Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) with influencing judicial proceedings. The Military establishment called for an inquiry even as the PML (N) charged them with influencing the judiciary. The Pakistan Army has urged the Supreme Court to “initiate appropriate processes to ascertain the veracity of the allegations and take action”. Caught in a muddle, it is anybody’s guess if the people of Pakistan can change the situation by bringing the corrupt to book.

Having been prime minister three times, Sharif has managed to queer the pitch when it appeared nothing could stop Imran Khan, a former test cricketer from coming to power. He diverted attention from the issue of his wealth and corruption to unnamed “aliens” fighting him for unknown reasons. Sharif steered clear of naming those against him but it was no secret that he meant the “establishment”, or the omnipresent Military and the ISI. Though the latter two institutions are non-political, the military with a vice like grip has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its history spread a shade over seven decades.

Considering their non-political status, the military and the ISI does not respond to allegations levelled at them. However, the ISPR (Inter-Services Public Relations) acts like the ministry of Information for the “establishment” by touting its achievements.

The military’s interference in political matters is nothing new and has been happening for long. Whenever matters become sticky and uncomfortable for men in uniform or is against their thinking, the so called political masters are sent packing. There is no doubt that the military along with the superior judiciary are seeking to ensure that elections go its way. This time they are in favour of Imran Khan.

Pakistan is having its eleventh general election since 1970. Apart from the first one and the last elections in 2013, the consensus among social scientists and political analysts is that none of them have been free, fair or transparent. That they were manipulated in some form or another is not in doubt. The military has been blamed for these omissions and commissions. There are enough indications that the current elections are being rigged to ensure a result that works in the interest of the military and the institutions which back its dominance.

There are at least four Islamist parties in the fray. They are contesting both for the National Assembly as well as the four Provincial Assemblies. At the same time, Shehbaz Sharif, the younger brother of Nawaz Sharif, claimed if the PML (N) is voted to power, he will make Pakistan better than India. If he fails, then the people can change his name.

The military establishment has promoted new right wing parties like the Milli Muslim League floated by the 2001 Mumbai massacre mastermind Hafiz Saeed. There is also the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan trying to cut into PML-N’s votes in its stronghold of Punjab, the key battleground. The expectations are of a hung Parliament amid numerous candidates eager to fall in line with whoever is permitted to form the government. Keen Pakistan watchers and analysts maintain enough pre-poll rigging has already taken place to ensure that the military gets its preferred prime ministerial candidate elected.

PTI’s Imran Khan is eager and desperate to be subservient to the interests and guarantees that the powerful military demands. This assumes significance in the wake of Sharif’s ban from holding any public office. One aspect that stands out is Sharif’s calculated move to return to Pakistan close to the general elections  outwitting both the military and the judiciary at their own game.

In the last general elections, the PML (N) was way ahead of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s PPP and Imran Khan’s PTI. The PML (N) with 166 seats was only six short of a majority with 32.77 per cent of the votes followed by PPP 42 seats (15.23 per cent votes) and the PTI finishing a poor third with 35 seats (16.92 per cent votes). There are 342 seats in the National Assembly and 172 is required for a majority.

T R Ramachandran is a senior journalist and commentator.

— By T R Ramachandran




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