(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.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
If you were to ask the majority of this country if they want “One Nation, One Poll” the answer would be an overwhelming yes.
People might not have the figures–Rs 6,000 crores on exchequer alone in recent Lok Sabha Polls and many times more by parties and candidates; Or the numbers on manpower—one assembly seat in Lucknow alone has over 300 polling booths and engages 2000 men on polling day; Or the imagination to guess how many lakhs of police, para-military forces, bureaucracy are pressed into service. Yet, they can sense a gap in their daily lives like a drawn tooth.
The erudites amongst us offer debating points we exhale in the musty air of a bar amidst gathered gentry. So Akhilesh Mishra tells us in Indian Express how it affects Rajya Sabha; how parties can make outlandish promises (Like Arvind Kejriwal on free Metro for women); how at least 15 state elections anyway fall more within a year either side of a Lok Sabha poll.
So what’s the problem?
The likes of Congress, TMC, BSP, SP, AAP, DMK, RJD, AIMIM etc sure have a problem for they stayed away from the all-party meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi called upon on Wednesday. They saw it as an attack on the Constitution, the “federal” character of our set-up; and blurring the local and national issues which could affect a voter’s judgment.
All this is humbug. Indian voters know how to choose in a state or in a Lok Sabha elections. Constitution is for people of India and any measure which is good for them, must come into force. Such Constitutional changes could be made between ad breaks on television. IT TAKES NOTHING. As for the scaremongering on President’s Rule by stealth; what-if-government-in-Centre falls, these are easily fixable issues: E.g get the no-confidence-motion out of the way at the start of a new Parliament. And if I may ask how it has helped democracy when sworn enemies—Congress and JD (S)—joined hands only to usurp Karnataka last year?
The reason likes of BSP or SP, Congress or RJD, TMC or DMK or AIMIM don’t want “One Nation, One Poll” is caste and religion. With national issues delinked, the ones of dalits vs suvarans (upper caste); Muslims vs Hindus; Tamil or Bengali asmita easily gain currency. Narrow parochial issues keep these parties relevant. The faces of Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and Asaduddin Owaisi remain in circulation. The nation loses its steam on the tracks of targeted growth.
Just recall the incidents or speeches which happen around state polls. In Delhi, it was fake attack on churches in 2015, Una incident in Gujarat, Bheema Koregaon in Maharashtra: All were intended to sharpen the caste and religious divide. “Ramzaade” vs “haraamzaade” speeches surface. Quota politics come into play. What room is there left to discuss developmental issues threadbare?
In a paper to Niti Aayog last year, Bibek Debroy and Kishore Desai offered an easy way out to the cacophony of whether state assemblies could be dramatically reduced or enlarged so as it coincides with the Lok Sabha polls. They pointed out that 15 state elections anyway fall in and around Lok Sabha dates. The remaining states could be bunched together around the mid-way mark of a Lok Sabha term. So, one Lok Sabha elections and two for state assemblies in a span of five years, is the way forward.
It’s not to say the road ahead is easy. For, there is also this matter of panchayat elections and its 30 lakh representatives. The matter of getting all political parties aboard.
But then so was the issue with GST. It’s a reality now. There are examples galore around the world where simultaneous elections are held, including in US where a voter not only chooses his President but also 20 different representatives on a single ballot. Sweden has one election and so is the case with South Africa.
The fact is, in early years of Republic of India, elections were held simultaneously in 1951, 1957, 1962 and 1967. It fell into abeyance because assemblies began getting dissolved due to Centre’s interference. The dissolution of Lok Sabha in 1970 was the final nail which broke up the elections in India.
(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
Nobody is imposing Hindi anywhere. Two Union Ministers, both of Tamil origin—Nirmala Sitharaman and Subrhmanyam Jaishankar—have clarified so in their mother tongue. No less than Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan, the force behind the draft of the New Education Policy (NEP), has rubbished such an interpretation. It’s time all the political parties in Tamil Nadu, and in Bengal, let go on the hysteria. The Hindu and Indian Express too can stop rolling in the filth.
All hell broke loose when reports came in last week that the NEP has proposed making Hindi mandatory along with English and the regional language of choice in schools across India. All parties in Tamil Nadu, including DMK, the Congress, the Left, Kamal Hasaan’s Makkal Needhi Malyyam, MDMK and AIADMK, bristled with aggression and promised to hit the streets. In Kolkata, they actually did with the Bangla Pokkho civil society group shouting slogans against the “unfair imposition of Hindi” skipping over potholes on terrible city roads. For good effect, they also burnt the pages of the NEP draft policy.
The Centre has been swift in clarifying on its no-imposition-of-Hindi stand. As NEP committee chairperson Kasturirangan—literally the horse’s mouth—says, “the policy envisages that every stage learns one language from another state.” In other words, you could be in Tamil Nadu and learn Tamil, English and any other regional language of your choice.
The reasons for a new NEP policy are sound. The last one occurred a quarter of a century ago. Much has changed in between. The social, political, economic, cultural reality is different from those times. Migration within India has increased manifold in millions. Language cannot be allowed to remain moribund. For a person living south in Chennai and seeking employment in Mumbai and Delhi, a basic understanding of Marathi or Hindi could only help. Say, he is seeking a job in advertising or film industry in Mumbai. Won’t Marathi or Hindi be a bigger help to him? Won’t it help him in his social and economic mobility? And vice-versa?
The bigger paybacks are no less important. Language is communication and understanding only betters if two people could do it without resorting to Google translate. A communicating India is a growing India. Many classics and literary forces, as good as any produced in human history, have a limited bandwidth because one language, only a few kilometers apart from another, is Greek to its listeners. To understand the breadth of this logic remember that India has 780 languages. No less than 22 languages are listed in the eighth schedule of the Constitution.
But raising the spectre of a powerful Centre imposing Hindi suits regional chauvinists and their vote-banks. DMK in Tamil Nadu, and its allies, reaped a rich harvest on this seed in the 2019 General Elections. As many as 37 out of 38 seats went to this grouping. It’s the separate “Dravidian” identity from the “Aryans” of North which launched dozens of careers in down South; overflowing their coffers and unleashing unbridled reservations in the Southern states. In Tamil Nadu, for instance, the reservation is up to a whopping 69% in favour of backward communities. The fiat runs across all spheres be it jobs or medical studies.
Hindi must not be imposed on rest of India and it won’t be. Howsoever the case in its favour remain strong: Almost 52 crore or 44 per cent of India speaks Hindi; nearly 62 crore speakers worldwide which makes it third most spoken language behind the Mandarin and English. India is a land of hundreds of languages, customs and cultures and it is the diversity which makes it unique. A universal umbrella would be a great assault on the federal character of its republic.
So the anxiety in Tamil Nadu or in Bengal is nothing but rumour-mongering with Lutyens Media being a willing accomplice. How come no other state or its politicians have a problem with the draft of NEP? Why hide the fact that it’s just a draft and the New Education Policy would solely be guided by the feedback it gets from the rest of the country? Why speak the language of anarchy when the intent is one of unity?
(P.S: Studies though say that Tamilians who can speak Hindi are 50 per cent up in 10 years across Tamil Nadu. The current preference for CBSE, ICSE schools has led to students preferring Hindi as optional language even in Tamil Nadu. The popularity of Bollywood movies could be another reason).
Right-wing ideologue Swaminathan Gurumurthy has alleged that former Congress president Sonia Gandhi once established links with killers of her husband Rajiv Gandhi so she could gain politically.
Speaking to a website, Gurumurthy said Sonia Gandhi contacted her husband’s killer and LTTE chief V. Prabhakaran for getting the support of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) for the Congress. The Jain Commission of enquiry had suspected the DMK of having a hand in Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.
Gurumurthy is big enough for India Today magazine to rank him 30th in India’s 50 most powerful people in 2017. He burst into limelight with his expose on Dhirubhai Ambani’s Reliance Industries in the past. He is presently a part-time director of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and edits the Tamil political weekly Thuglaq. He is also the co-convenor of the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch.
“According to the information I had from a third party, the Island Newspaper in Sri Lanka, which I had substantiated from my own sources back then and which I obviously cannot reveal, said that when Sonia Gandhi wanted to enter politics, she did not want any hostility with the LTTE. She said that the killers must not be hanged and that she had forgiven them. Secondly, she wanted them to support her,” Gurumurthy said.
“She could not have sent Eduardo Faleiro to Prabhakaran and Sonia’s mother Paulo Maino could not have met LTTE interlocutor Anton Balasingham by just calling up. There must have been some very powerful interlocutors facilitating it. And there must have been some pre-existing relationship between interlocutors and LTTE. So who are they?” he added.
“If you can make a deal with the killers of your husband for politics, what is your karma? She traded her husband’s death for politics,” Gurmurthy said.
“She did not pursue the investigation into the conspiracies behind the assassination with the Multi-Disciplinary Monitoring Agency (MDMA) formed in 1998. She did not once pursue the matter during the UPA rule,” the ideologue added. “This is much worse karma.”
Above was in response to various tweets Gurumurthy made on Tuesday:
“With Sonia’s entry into politics all her commitment to get her husband’s killers to book evaporated. Afterwards she sought peace with her husband killers. She begged main conspirator LTTE’s support to get its fan DMK to shift from NDA to UPA which was crucial to win 2004 poll.
“In 1999 she told President KR Narayanan privately neither she nor her son and her daughter wanted any of the convicts sentenced to death for killing Rajiv to be hanged. Thai was revealed by Mohini Giri (ex-head NCW) (See Frontline magazine friendly to the Left Nov 5-18 2005).
“Sonia was not in politics in 1997 when she demanded action against DMK for associating with LTTE to kill Rajiv. But after locked Sitaram Kesari who had gone to toilet & sat in Congress presidential chair, she changed. The first thing she did was to befriend her husband’s killers.
“Sonia’s & her mother’s secret moves to beg LTTE’s pardon seemed to have started ahead of Dec 2003 when DMK & congress appeared to have agreed on the alliance. In Jan 2004 Sonia met Karunanidhi and firmed up the alliance. In 1997 in Amethi she had hinted DMK was a fan of LTTE,” he added, claiming, “Sonia pulled down UPF government in 1997 because she wanted DMK, accused by Jain Commission as being part of the LTTE conspiracy to kill her husband Rajiv, out. In 1997 LTTE & DMK were killers of her husband. In 2004 they became her allies.
So @RahulGandhi, what about Sonia’s karma?”
The last punchline of course is to put Rahul Gandhi in place for the latter has been terming “karma” soon for Prime Minister Narendra Modi for terming Rajiv Gandhi as “Bhrashtachari No. 1” in a recent rally.
Another firebrand BJP leader and parliamentarian Dr. Subramanian Swamy has in the past accused Sonia Gandhi, P Chidambaram, a high-profile UPA minister and V. Prabhakaran, the once dreaded chief of LTTE of being hand in glove with each other.