Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury

RTI Amendment Bill 2019 & the fake charade of Tharoor

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Andimuthu Raja of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) calls it “a dark day for democracy.” Shashi Tharoor of the Congress sees  it a bid to remove “the two greatest armours of institutional independence” and Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, views it as an attack on “our democratic right to information.”

Serious isn’t it. Who doesn’t know Raja or Tharoor or Chowdhury.  I mean we all have heard of 2G licenses,  Sunanda Pushkar and “gandi naali (drainage)” slur. They are our much-in-news parliamentarians who today have hogged our newspapers for faking their concern on the amendments to the Right To Information (RTI) Act 2019.

On Monday, Lok Sabha trembled to their din on the amendment to the RTI Act, 2005. As per the amendment, the Information Commissioners (ICs) will have terms and salaries decided by the Centre, instead of being on par with those of Election Commissioners. Tharoor bristled with rage: “Are you bringing this amendment because an IC asked the PMO to reveal the PM’s educational details?” Chowdhary found it an attempt to “keep tab on the Commission and kill its freedom.” NK Premachandran of Revolutionary Socialist Party (never mind if you haven’t heard of him) is convinced the amendment is an attempt to benefit the Central government.

All this for defining the terms and salaries of Information Commissioners?

So, here are the facts. The RTI Amendment Bill 2019 in no way compromises the autonomy or independence of RTI Act 2005. The amendment leaves Section 12(4) of the Act, which ensures autonomy and independence of the Act, untouched.  The appointment of Information Commissioners (Section 12.3) is also not tampered with.

Now to the terms and salaries of Information Commissioners.  The present amendment bill seeks to amend section 27 of RTI Act 2005 which DOESN’T define the tenure and terms of conditions for the ICs in its present form!!! Does clearing “ambiguity” on RTI Act sound like a “dark day for Indian democracy” to you?

As per the RTI Act 2005, chief information commissioner is equal to Chief Election Commissioner and there by equal to a Supreme Court judge. Similarly, the state Chief Commissioner is equal to election commissioner and thereby equal to Supreme Court judge.

This itself is an anomaly, considering the fact that Election Commission is a statuary body while Supreme Court and Election Commission are constitutional bodies.

The other contradiction is that CIC and state information commissioners enjoy the status of Supreme Court judge but the verdict passed is liable to be challenged in the High Court.  The present bill seeks to correct this anomaly.  Besides this amendment hasn’t originated from the government alone but also held by several sections of society and judiciary.

For example, the Rajiv Garg vs UOI Supreme Court judgment of 2013 directed that decision be taken on uniformity of service condition of various tribunals. Similarly, the Second Reform Commission in its 13th report of April 2009 also recommended that there is need for greater uniformity in service conditions. The recent judgment of high court of Kerala states that the Chairman and member of the CAT do no occupy the exalted position of the judge of high court merely because they are given the same benefits.

The present amendment merely is enabling legislation which will authorize the government to frame the rules by amending Section 27 and to deliberate upon the tenures and terms of Central and State Information Commission through Section 13 and Section 16 of the RTI Act 2005. The amendment would further streamline and institutionalize the RTI Act and further facilitate its delivery.

BJP sources say that the commitment of Modi government to strengthen the RTI Act is manifest in the fact that it has introduced the 24-hour portal and a mobile App for convenience of filing RTI anytime, 24 hours, 365 days in a year.

The present government has also implemented Section 4 of RTI Act whereby suo motto (on its own) information is now available on all the government websites even without having to file an RTI to seek information.

The leader of the largest opposition party (read Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of Congress) is also a member of the selection committee when there is no recognized member of opposition in Lok Sabha.

And for all this good, Shashi Tharoor calls it a RTI Elimination Bill.

Said a BJP source: “Those who have vested interest in using RTI as a tool of blackmail are making motivated allegations against the RTI Amendment Bill 2019 which are totally unfounded and unsubstantiated.”

Oh is it? RTI as a tool of blackmail? So next time you read screaming headlines in the Indian Express or The Hindu or Times of India or Hindustan Times or any other Indian daily curse the mugger who might have gained behind this charade of “scrutiny” for public good.

Meanwhile, the RTI Amendment Bill was passed with 218 “yes” and 79 “no” in Lok Sabha on Monday.

 

 

Hindi, Hindu or Hinduism, Congress always fluffs its lines

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury looks funny in the video. I mean buttoned sleeves of a tightly-fitted white shirt with matching trousers tucked under a jeans belt near his navel, dyed remnants of what were once hair, he looks every inch a babu (clerk) we meet in dusty government offices. Very few prefer such an appearance at 63, certainly very few politicians. He could learn from the likes of Digvijay Singh, Abhishek Sanghvi, Kamal Nath or MJ Akbar who reserve their flamboyance within private walls.

But Chowdhury is no one’s Keshto Mukherjee, the drunk-comic in yesteryears’ Bollywood. He has been of invaluable use to Congress since 1991 when he cut his teeth in politics under Rajiv Gandhi’s regime. In just one generation of Gandhi dynasty, he has risen to be the leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha. There must be something about the man who could question “Why Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi are sitting in the parliament and are not behind jail” or abuse Prime Minister Narendra Modi and still earn no rebuke from his Congress high command. All within a few hours of being asked to be the leader of his party in the Lok Sabha.

Chowdhury is in the news for he has blamed his Hindi for the abuse hurled at Modi. So did Sam PitrodaMani Shankar Aiyer or for that matter Congress president Rahul Gandhi himself who kept fiddling with his mobile while President Ram Nath Kovind addressed the Parliament recently. Gandhi’s ingenuous darbari (courtier), Anand Sharma guessed Rahul baba was looking at the English translation of Kovind’s difficult Hindi words. So be it.

I now bring Shashi Tharoor into my theme which is different from offering my shoulder to a tearful man who has been overlooked as Congress leader in Lok Sabha. If I needed to lend a helping shoulder, I would’ve gone for Manish Tewari. Both Tharoor and Tewari must be sheepish around their 10-12 or whosoever is left among lackeys. But then when has talent been rewarded in Congress? They could’ve learnt from the fate of a Sachin Pilot or Jyotiraditya Scindia who are answering to old fogeys such as Ashok Gehlot or Kamal Nath with a straight face. The drubbings in Rajasthan and MP have mattered little; they are still in the groove.

I bring Shashi Tharoor on the matter of Hindi which happens to be the one issue holding this piece together. The man under a cloud on his wife’s death once confronted Sushma Swaraj in Parliament when Hindi was being pushed to be an official language in the United Nations. There are six official languages in UN—Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. Hindi, despite being the fourth most spoken in the world, is ignored. Nations such as Fiji, Mauritius, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana who could support Hindi, are fighting shy of expenses involved (The procedure, translations of files, letters, drafts etc would cost a few hundred crores). Tharoor objected to Hindi being pushed as a national language in the UN when it’s only an official language in India. (Talk of tomfoolery!).

Tharoor would’ve none of it even as Swaraj pointed out at least two prime ministers, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi, for having addressed the UN in Hindi. That, when visiting dignitaries speak in their local language (other than English), Indian representatives too prefer speaking in Hindi. Tharoor was to argue: “Why should we put our future foreign ministers and Prime Ministers who may be from Tamil Nadu put in a (awkward) position?”

It’s only incidental that all the names who have had faux pas on Hindi are from Congress party. No, no, I am not trying to drive home the point that they have something against Hindi, Hindu and Hinduism. I am not a (Randeep) Soorjewala who would take a shot even if it is below the belt. Mine is a larger point: Why speak Hindi and later apologize if you are not good at it? Or even a Hindi translator around you would be a discredit to your “secular” pretensions?

The fact is you can’t avoid Hindi and hope to rule India. One/third of the country is Hindi-speaking. Over 45 crores in a population of 1.30 billion. Most Indians, even if they are from north east, south, east or west understand Hindi. Would the same be said about Tamil, what say Mr Tharoor?

So speaking Hindi is a compulsion for politicians, even the reluctant ones of Congress. It’s another matter they speak in haste and repent at leisure. Till they get better at Hindi, expect such gaffes and the entertainment that follows.

 

 

DALALS make Governors the Fall Guys

There is a new narrative by the DALALS (Devious Left and Lutyens Scribes). It’s not about the fresh round of communal violence against Hindus in West Bengal where the Mamta government is seen overtly as pro-Muslim. It’s not even about the Facebook post which was used as a handle to beat Hindus with. It’s about the constitutional propriety of Governors who are accused of acting at the Centre’s behest.

The usual suspects such as Indian Express (their edit today, see image) and Rajdeep Sardesai  have dumbed down the reprehensible Bengal violence to a debate about how BJP-appointed Governors are causing mischief. They have dragged down the Tripura and Puducherry Governors to connect dots and conclude that India’s democracy is in peril.

This is not as much ingenuity as the brazen, brash conviction that their echo chambers would drown out any voice of reason. That nobody would question them, like how come Governor Ram Nath Kovind earned so unabashed a praise from Modi-baiter Nitish Kumar in Bihar?

Said Nitish: “Kovind has discharged his duties in an unbiased manner as the Bihar Governor. He has worked as per the Constitution and upheld the dignity of the Governor’s post.”

This from a Chief Minister of a state which handed over a humiliating defeat to Modi in 2015 Bihar assembly elections, just a year after the BJP’s euphoric triumph in 2014 General Elections.

These DALALS have also swept under the carpet the unequivocal support which West Bengal Congress state chief Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has offered to Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi.

As per Chowdhury, he had no “valid reason” to demand Tripathi’s recall and said he had found the Governor to be a “thorough gentleman and affable person.”

Yet, these inconvenient truths don’t suit the DALALS. That these voices of conscience have come from bitter Modi foes matter least to them.

A few questions, which hopefully would drill a hole through their echo chambers and if nothing else alert citizens about these devious forces at work, are thus;

(a) What’s the exact nature of this conversation between Tripathi-Mamta? And if the DALALS are not privy to this private telephonic talk, what makes them pitch for Mamta and not Tripathi?

(b) While accusing BJP Governors for undermining democratically elected state governments, what makes DALALS give clean chits to Mamta, Arvind Kejriwal or Akhilesh Yadav governments who are under scanner from investigating agencies of the land? What makes them believe these leaders are upholder of democratic traditions?

(c )  Why these DALALS have no stance at all on this communal violence in West Bengal? Why they never call Mamta by name? Why this studious stand to avoid word “Mamta” all through their writings?

(d) Why no question has yet been asked to Mamta about her silence on the “triple talaq’ issue? Come on you champions of feminist causes. Don’t show your menstrual cramps.

(d ) With the known Jihadi presence in neighbouring Bangladesh, why these DALALS have not stopped to question the threat of Jihadis turning West Bengal as their base for further attacks on India’s sovereignty? Why this studious silence?

(e) Failing this, do they want a story similar to Kashmiri Pundits be repeated in Bengal? Have they paused and dreaded the consequence of such a migration? And its devastating effect on the India we know?

Instead of addressing these grave issues and questioning Mamta’s role through all this, these DALALS have trained their guns on Tripathi, an octogenarian without a whiff of controversy during his long career in public eye. An esteemed poet and writer, Tripathi’s commentary on The Representation of People Act, 1951 is still held in high regard.

The obfuscation by DALALS could have been comic if it was not this tragic. There could be no Ramchandra Guha or Pawan Verma invited on TV debates since the matter itself has been given a quite burial.

Shame.