President’s Rule

Delhi voters cruel lesson: Freebies are not governance

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

The unfolding Corona pandemic disaster in India’s capital Delhi is a reminder to voters that freebies aren’t the yardstick to elect a government.

Just before the assembly elections this year, Arvind Kejriwal had announced free bus rides, free metro travels and multiple other sops to its citizens. He had gloated on his mohalla clinics; declared his medical infrastructure as unprecedented. After winning the elections by a mile, he had preened in front of national media that his government had still made profits in each of his five years of first term.

Both apparently were a lie. If he had made profits for five years, his coffers wouldn’t have run out in just two months of lockdown. If freebies were just a matter of “Rs 150 crores,” as he said to a TV channel the other day, Delhi wouldn’t be struggling for beds at this grave hour.

Let’s look at it in real figures. Delhi presently has a shortfall in thousands of beds where symptomatic patients could be quarantined. If we go even by Kejriwal’s own estimate that only Rs 150 crores of freebies were spared, just imagine the boost it could have given to Delhi’s Corona battle—hotels could have been turned into quarantine centres, paying guest houses likewise and Delhi would’ve done one thing which is now a worldwide truism: quarantine, quarantine and quarantine.

Now hospitals are burdened with unmanageable mix, dead bodies are in corridors and horrific images are being flashed in our living rooms. Paramedical staff is being persecuted to the extent that even the Supreme Court has asked Kejri government to spare the “warriors” in this raging “war.” The lashing by India’s apex court is a scathing indictment of his government.

Delhi health minister Satyendra Jain estimates at least 50,000 Corona patients in the Capital by June-end. The experts put the figure to 100,000. Even if we go by the fatality rate of 3 per cent, it means 16,000 people would be Corona’s fatal victims in the Capital. That’s damning. Death would literally be dancing on Delhi’s streets.

All along, Kejri and his men have flipped and flopped in their measures. Some days the lockdown is lax, on other days suffocating. Some days Delhi’s medical help wasn’t for outsiders, later it was withdrawn. Wine shops had an early reprieve. Tablighi Jamaat fiasco was met with a manufactured response. Kejri and his odd-even methods had a play too. Then there was this migrant fiasco where thousands marched on to Delhi’s Anand Vihar bus terminus only to be told no-go. He is further not in best of terms with his neighbouring states. Clearly, this man is at his wit’s ends.

It’s important that Delhi recovers. Delhi is the engine which drives at least the north India economy. It’s hugely dense mega city with a sizeable lower-class population. Social distancing or home quarantines aren’t an option with them. How do you quarantine a mildly infected young kid when his grand parents share the space with him?

The only option is to seek quarantine facilities outside the box. It’s still not too late to look at hotels and paying guesthouse for those extra few thousand beds. Corona is shattering Delhi to pieces. If it’s beyond Kejriwal and his government, he must ask Centre to take over and impose President’s Rule. You just can’t be a bystander and leave everything “ram-bharose” when the stakes are this high.

 

 

 

President’s Rule: What’s stoking this buzz in Maharashtra

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

India is worried on count of Maharashtra. The Western state appears to be losing the battle against Corona Virus. There are three matters which suggest we haven’t seen the worst yet.

One is a measure by the Mumbai Police. While imposing Section 144 till June 8, it prohibits any attempt on social media to incite mistrust against the government officials. It’s a loosely worded order which empowers the state machinery to take punitive measure on what it doesn’t like and considers as creating “mistrust” in public against it. It’s censorship otherly-worded.

Second is Rahul Gandhi going public in distancing himself from the Maharashtra government of which his party Congress is a part. In a video message, Gandhi said his party doesn’t have a say in key matters in running of the state.

Third is an Indian Express report which claims that there is “resentment in the cabinet” over Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s reliance on the bureaucracy who virtually are running the state’s Corona strategy and are “keeping ministers in the dark.”

Further, the Indian Express claims that the three partners in coalition—NCP, Congress, Shiv Sena—differ over lockdown. While Thackeray prefers an extension of lockdown, Pawar (NCP) “is keen on granting some relaxations.”

In plain terms, Corona is like a mad dog on the leash which is taking its master, the Maharashtra government, all over the place.  There is no firm hand to keep the canine on its trajectory. The Maha Aghadi (The Great Development Front) is a grumpy house where a key partner has distanced itself, the cabinet is sore over the bureaucracy and there is bickering on the lockdown strategy.

A few side issues haven’t won Maharashtra government many friends. The harassment of media personality Arnab Goswami is viewed prejudiced. The Palghar Lynchings of Sadhus is hanging fire. Then we had a few barons in the Yes Bank scandal, sought by state agencies, moving without intervention in their caravans amidst the lockdown. We now have reports where Shiv Sainiks (Shiv Sena cadre) have vandalized shops of individuals who allegedly didn’t have complimentary words for Thackeray. A FIR against the owners, two individuals, has added insult to injury.

Predictably, BJP has mounted pressure. The Railways minister Piyush Goyal has run hourly tweets on how Maharashtra government is doing nothing to avail Shramik Trains for stranded migrants. Now there are reports that a few BJP functionaries have met the governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari raising speculation over the President’s Rule. Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, on his part, has stated that they don’t need to win over any sitting MLAs as “they (Maha Aghadi) would collapse under its own weight.”

Meanwhile Loksatta, a Marathi news outlet, ran a twitter poll on whether the state should have President’s Rule. Within five hours, the voters leaned in favour of dissolution of assembly. Though the regional newspaper promptly dropped the poll, the twitteratis went to town on the mood of the people in Maharashtra.

Politics and power is small price compared to the catastrophe which is unfolding in the state. Cynics would say that it perhaps is the reason why Corona is spiralling out of control. So far up to 40 per cent of India’s numbers and deaths to the pandemic are accounted by the state of Maharashtra. The prized city of Mumbai has been gripped by the curse. The commercial capital of the country is bleeding and no end is in sight. It’s not good for state, definitely not for India. Besides, there is this question: How long could you keep the people locked out. How long would they watch the rest of india limp back to life while they are sealed between their four walls?

The alliance of convenience in Maharashtra must show itself as an alliance of saviours. Or give way to those who could get the job done.

 

Ignoring Bengal now would be promoting secession

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

This is an appeal to all Indians to leave aside their political, ideological or religious affiliations and look closely at ALL THE ACTORS in the ongoing West Bengal saga with hands on their hearts. Anything less could be an approval to anarchy, civil war and even partition of the land we call India.

Actor No. 1:

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee says that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officers descended on controversial state police chief Rajeev Kumar’s residence without a search warrant in Kolkata. It contradicts the CBI claim that they had the necessary papers. Even Kolkata police says that the CBI officers had documents and they were taken to police station for its’ verification. Paper or no paper, Section 165 of the Code of Criminal Procedure permits CBI to go for a search without warrant. CBI also doesn’t need permission from the police in case of serving summons. Further section 41 of the CRPC empowers CBI to make arrests even without warrant.

CBI has made claims before the Supreme Court that the West Bengal government “arrested our officers and kept (them) in alleged custody.” They also claim the CBI officers were manhandled (above picture, courtesy Times of India, appears a proof). The CBI offices at Salt Lake and Nizam Palace, as well as residence of joint director Pankaj Srivastava was surrounded is also a fact.

Mamata Banerjee may have decided that CBI wouldn’t be allowed in West Bengal three months ago but in case of ongoing investigations, CBI can’t be stopped. On the face of it, its’ stopping a government official from discharging his duty. Detaining and arresting them, if anything, is far more grave matter.

Mamata Banerjee would be hard put to explain (a) why the CBI officers were stopped and detained; (b) why she herself had to descend on the police chief’s residence in the middle of the drama; (c) What has Modi government to do with the orders of the SC to CBI to investigate the scams; (d) why her police chief Rajeev Kumar wasn’t responding to CBI’s more than one summons in recent past; (e) why her actions it is which is damaging the “Constitution and institutions such as CBI and Judiciary” and not the other way around.

Actor No. 2:

Police commissioner in question Rajeev Kumar as well as several senior police officials and bureaucrats then sat with Mamata Banerjee in dharna as a mark of protest. It is flagrant violation of All India Service rules. They can’t be seen assuming a political role. Since they are employed by the Centre, it can, and must, come down hard on this gross misconduct. It’s an open invitation to anarchy when serving officers ally themselves to political prejudices.

Action might also be deemed pertinent against the police officials, including the ordering authority, who obstructed CBI officers from discharging their duty and wrongful confinement. It’s a gross obstruction to investigation as it amounts to shielding crime or criminals.

Actor No. 3

The Supreme Court would have to give its ruling on the matter on Wednesday. Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has said: “If the CBI lays a single piece of evidence or any material to show that any authority in West Bengal or any police officer is engaged in tampering with chit fund scam, we will come down so heavily on them that they will regret it.” In my humble opinion, SC not only should rule in favour of CBI but also pass stricture against the West Bengal government for the ugly drama which unfolded in Kolkata on Sunday night. The citizens of this country would be watching closely.

Actor No. 4:

West Bengal governor Keshari Nath Tripathi has summoned chief secretary and director general of police for discussions. All the evidence suggests that the state government not only defied the SC whip and held up CBI officers from discharging their duty, obstructing investigations but have also floated a dangerous precedent where state governments, police and bureaucrats could similarly defy the Constitutional structure promoting anarchy, civil war and secessionist tendencies in India. For when did you last see Police vs Central Reserve Police Force against each other on the streets?

Tripathi would’ve to forward his report on the matter to the Centre which could include recommending the President’s Rule. If the governor does so, the Centre would’ve no option but to dismiss the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal. In all probability, Tripathi would’ve had to wait for SC’s fresh directive on the matter which is likely on Wednesday. If West Bengal still defy the diktat, it would be a fit case to recommend President’s Rule in West Bengal.

Actor No. 5:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP government would keep a close eye on the developments. As things appear, Mamata Banerjee is spoiling for a fight. May be she believes that if  her TMC government is dismissed, she could ride the sympathy wave and with opposition behind her, project herself as Prime Ministerial candidate in General Elections. She is eyeing a bigger prize. Should Modi oblige her or let her continue to rule West Bengal? The first option would be just for the integrity of the nation; the second could only be political prudence. Once Modi had said: Sarkarein aati jaati rahengein; desh bacha rehna chahiye (Governments would come and go; the nation should remain). It’s time to walk the talk. Or, every state government could hold Centre and thus India to ransom. India broken up in parts could be the outcome. That the CBI has claimed the investigations could lead to far more grave findings than just chit fund scam (Do they imply the hold of Jihadi forces?) is scary.

Actor No. 6:

Keep an eye on all the opposition leaders—barring Left and possibly Mayawati, the former looking to regain its lost turf in West Bengal and the latter, for fear of being upstaged in the race to be Prime Minister—who are throat-ing their support to Mamata Banerjee. Only yesterday they were accusing Narendra Modi for killing India’s institutions. The autonomy of CBI is not important to them now. The sanctity of the Supreme Court matters little to them. The anarchy, possible engineered riots or civil war isn’t the top concern. Bewoe the fate of the nation in case they happen to be at its helm anytime soon.

Actor No. 7:

The media. Read your newspapers closely. You won’t find retired solicitor-generals, judges, erudite columnists penning their pieces. They have no qualms in twisting the facts and make it appear a TMC vs Modi fight even when the latter had little to do with the SC directive. Read your Shekhar Gupta, Sagarika Ghose, Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt etc to know what’s their stand on the matter. Know all who you think stand for the unity of this country and the law of the land—and those who don’t. This is as good a time as ever to mark them out.