Supreme Court

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.

 

 

Lavasa’s rant and the facts readers must know

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Facts are facts. They are the referee, the guiding principle, in a dispute. When both sides are represented, it’s called ethical journalism. When only selective facts are published, that is yellow journalism.

Once it became clear that BJP-NDA would romp home in 2019 General Elections, Indian Express has made much of dissent of one of the three Election Commissioners, Ashok Lavasa.  On a few occasions when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was examined if he had violated the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), Lavasa was the dissenting voice in the house which cleared Modi of such charges.

After keeping Lavasa’s dissent alive on its front pages, Indian Express has published a long interview with Lavasa today. The lame headline: “Sought prompt action after Supreme Court frowned on delays: Lavasa” was a giveaway on spun charges – a kind of propping up a dead man behind wheels. The story just doesn’t move.

Lavasa laments that his dissents haven’t been recorded. But then Election Commission never does it.  A majority takes a call which in this case decided in favour of Modi. So what’s this fuss about?

Lavasa thus decided to stay away from the last MCC meeting (Lavasa/Express projection is as if he recused himself midway) . By May 16, 2019 General Elections were more or less over. If he had felt stifled, he should’ve done so much before. Even now Lavasa can resign and ignite a serious debate in public and help an Election Commission which he could be heading in 2021.

If he stays put in Election Commission, Lavasa must respond to public scrutiny as he expects his own institution to be. A few facts are in public domain and are grossly unsavoury.  People have a piece on him which Lavasa needs to respond as quickly as he could. It says that his wife, Novel Singhal Lavasa,became a board director in 12 big companies after he became secretary in environment and finance ministry from 2015 onwards.  It questions whether he dealt with the files of these 12 companies during his tenures? The article then digs up instances which are construed as his closeness to various important ministers, including P. Chidambaram.  Now that Lavasa could be our next Chief Election Commissioner, he must submit himself to public probity and upholds the dignity of EC which he has lowered, perhaps unintentionally, in present case.

Personally, I am for recording dissenting voices. Like they do in judiciary.  But I certainly abhor when I suspect agenda. To me this looks like tainting a historic repeat for BJP in 2019 General Elections, if it comes true on May 23. When the projection is that institutions are muzzled, the next corollary is democracy is in danger.  That’s what they do with Russia, China or even Iran. All of them are straining under economic and tariff sanctions.

The game is much bigger than a mere dissent. First, drum up instances. Two, feed global network. Three, ratchet up public opinion. Four, the “custodians” of free world intervene (never mind they don’t bat an eyelid on Pakistan or Saudi Arabia).  Five, crippling economy sanctions follow.

A nation is thus destroyed like it happened in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Remember the “Arab Spring” which was unleashed in Middle East this decade? It’s no longer talked about for it has served its purpose—replace many regimes such as ones in Egypt, Tunisia etc.

I conclude by drawing the attention of readers to this piece in OpIndia. It mentions a former Election Commissioner Navin Chawla against whom once  his chief wrote to President of India, asking for his removal for allegedly taking instructions from the ruling party, in this case Congress. This is the same Chawla who was indicted for his excesses during the Emergency. Yet, the 2009 General Elections were conducted under him.

In this article instances are quoted how despite their miserable showings in 1999 and 2014 elections, parties such as SP, BSP and Left were allowed to remain “national parties” by the benevolence of Election Commission. How despite 100 plus seats, BJP was nearly banned in 2007.

It’s important readers take a call and question their newspapers. Treat it as a matter of life and death. Have complete and not just selective facts. Only responsible readers can make their newspapers accountable. Else, your own nation could be in ruins and your future generations exposed to resultant horrors.

 

Mamata and her interview: If not fixed then what else?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Mamata Banerjee has an interview in Indian Express today.  I left everything and went for it. I mean there is such a dire need for the rest of the country to know about the intimidating TMC leader.  I often think if I could write as freely if I was in Bengal of today. She has disdain for Centre; resistance to Supreme Court or Election Commission; contempt for institutions such as CBI; indifference to blood on the streets and incarceration for any individual who goes public with anything not to her liking. I mean do you remember how she stopped her vehicle, got out and confronted the crowd who were chanting “Jai Shri Ram”? We have not even come to Priyanka Sharma put in 14-day custody for sharing a photo-shopped image.

Frankly, I was extremely disturbed when CBI officials were held “hostage” in a police station for descending on Kolkata police commissioner Rajiv Kumar’s residence. That central forces were brought out to ensure the families of CBI officials were not put to harm. That Mamata Banerjee was physically present as the sordid drama rolled out. She then sitting on a dharna, serving bureaucrats and police officials taking their seats alongside her, in complete violation of service rules. Supreme Court later finding the allegations against Kolkata police chief as “very, very serious.”

There was dismay when Durga idols were vandalized in Hooghly; that despite High Court ruling, she restricted Durga visarjan on Muharram day; that threat of Islamic jihadists is so real that Islamic State (IS) has announced it has an “emir” in West Bengal. And should we also talk about the alleged scams which probably is genesis for her angst against Modi and BJP?

When the issue of India’s unity is at stake; whether Bengal could break away one day, whether it could harbour terrorists who would unleash their fury on the rest of the mainland – aren’t these grave enough questions on Indians’ mind? That EC was compelled to spread elections in Bengal to all seven phases; remove a few police officers from election duties; send an observer and finally asked central armed forces to be present in almost the entire Bengal which still hasn’t been able to stop violence and killings, doesn’t it tell you of a state sitting on a time-bomb? That even media is facing the brunt of violence?

But what do we get in the Indian Express interview? How you walk so much? How you eat so little? How she would take up the role of a Prime Minister after the elections (not once but thrice in the interview)? The interview began promisingly enough with questions on Muslim appeasement. But Mamata never replied to it and the question was never pressed again. When political violence is mentioned, Mamata says scattered incidents and the interviewer lets it pass. All we get is how Hindu she is in her beliefs (sic). None of the questions I have mentioned above were even remotely thrown at her. Is this how you define “Journalism of Courage?”

Only if our media wasn’t pliant enough, if it had trained its lens on Mamata Banerjee and the complete anarchy in the state of West Bengal, things wouldn’t have come to this pass. Even as I write this piece, the news has come that BJP president Amit Shah has been denied permission to hold his rally in Jadavpur. State administration has also denied Shah from landing his helicopter in the constituency. Nine remaining constituencies go to poll on Sunday. How do you think Supreme Court or Election Commission is reacting to this “murder of democracy?”

Why do you think our media and edit-writers are not even pointing fingers at Mamata Banerjee on all the issues they profess to champion about? What do we make out of Shekhar Gupta (“She is meeting fire with fire”) and Rajdeep Sardesai (“What’s the secret of your energy?”), the chasm between their stature and their ethics? Is the media afraid of “Didi” (the very word which affection and respect now has acquired a completely sinister meaning)? And if yes, why? What do we attribute this to? Fear, greed, hatred for Modi or all of it? And who speaks for an individual who dissents?

 

Citizenship row: A nightmare still awaits Rahul Gandhi

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

 

Please don’t move on only because theSupreme Court has dismissed a “fake” petition stating that Rahul Gandhi has been a British citizen in the past. The matter is hot as coal.

Why do I call it a “fake petition”? Use your brains. The Supreme Court order states “we cannot rely on a paper note to call Rahul a British citizen.” Why would anyone go to court with just a few lines scribbled on a “paper note”? I mean no backgrounder, no facts, no arguments put forth? Petitioners Jai Bhagwan Goyal and CP Tyagi might have been driven by nationalist spirit but like poor surgeons picked up cucumber instead of a scalpel to dissect their object.

But let’s not waste our energy on this sideshow. Let’s look at the ground reality and why I say it’s hot as coal. Congress President Rahul Gandhi has to reply to a letter of Ministry of Human Affairs (MHA) by next week (May 16) on his alleged British citizenship in the past. The MHA is acting on the basis of a letter by Dr. Subramanian Swamy in this regard. Dr. Swamy, the bete noire of  Gandhi dynasts, has done more than just scrawl a letter—he has a petition pending in the Supreme Court on the matter.

So what should Rahul Gandhi say in his reply to MHA?

Assuming he says YES, he indeed was a British citizen in the past. It would open up a can of worms. How could he then have been an Indian citizen, a Member of Parliament and at a cruder level, does it imply that he was staying in India without a valid visa? And does for violations of visa regulations, a jail-term looms?

Assuming he says NO in reply, did he seek FCRA (Foreign Contributions Regulations Act, 2010) clearance from the relevant authorities? If not, isn’t it a misrepresentation/hiding facts in his election affidavit? Can’t it be termed as money-laundering done through a foreign company?

No wonder Dr. Swamy chuckles at the prospects of Rahul Gandhi’s impending reply. He has tweeted: “Buddhu is in a classic Catch 22 situation and between a rock and a hard place.”

So please don’t be lulled into believing that the Supreme Court, in dismissing the “fake” petition, has also given a verdict on MHA and Dr. Swamy’s efforts to get to the bottom of the truth.

Typical of Lutyens Media though in drooling on the verdict in favour of their patrons. Shreya Dhoundial, an anchor with CNN News 18, pressed the buzzer in no time in declaring that SC has junked Dr Swamy’s petition on Rahul Gandhi’s nationality. But the CNN News18 anchor and her fraternity in Lutyens Media in their eagerness—most had the news on their front pages today—missed a very critical point in their coverage.

And the point is that neither Congress nor Rahul Gandhi nor for that matter his master’s voices in Randeep Surjewala and Sanjay Jha have made a single tweet in celebration of Supreme Court ruling. I mean, come on, the Congress camp had a very good opportunity of rubbing BJP’s nose on the ground. Why let go of the moment? Doesn’t their silence speak of the tremors under their feet?

Yes, Rahul Gandhi’s British citizenship issue isn’t dying any soon. You can read the entire background to his alleged association with a British company here. I am not a clairvoyant but my guess is he would miss the deadline of MHA letter or submit a blank page in response. By then, the 2019 General Elections would have only one phase (May 19) of polling left. As they say: A drowning man would clasp even at a straw.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Why India can’t ignore Mamata Banerjee’s West Bengal

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has had her way since the “rath yatra” planned by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is struck down by the Supreme Court.

Predictably there is no outrage in Lutyens’ Media which is par for course since they had similarly ignored Ms. Banerjee postponing the Vijay Dashmi celebrations after Muharram fell on the same day.

Media never devoted columns and editorials when Supreme Court had to step in even for nominations in Panchayat elections last year. There was no outrage in newspapers when 13 people were killed on the voting day itself; in all 50 lives were lost.

All too often Ms. Banerjee cites law and order problem to throw up her hands in despair and media sees no oddity in it since law and order is state subject and TMC owns West Bengal in its iron fist, having won 211 of the 295-seat assembly in 2016.

Media, which cries itself hoarse on the autonomy of Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) being under threat sees nothing wrong in Ms. Banerjee barring the central agency from operating in her state. They have no problem when Ms. Banerjee pulls out of the Ayushman Health insurance scheme only because all the credit was going to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Ms. Banerjee could raise the demons of a “civil war” (on the issue of settlers in Assam) and still be spared a critique. An FIR to arrest RSS’ Rakesh Sinha on his social media posts is nothing alarming in the prejudiced eyes of the media who swear by the freedom of speech as its gospel.

So deathly is the silence of media on affairs in West Bengal that you wouldn’t even remember Jihadi forces rained violence in Bashirat district against Hindus last year. That BJP leaders fled the state by dozens in the wake of the violence.

Media sees nothing communal when “ramdhenu” is replaced with “rongdhenu” in school text books in West Bengal; when a fatwa-issuing Islamic cleric (Maulana Nurur Barkati) against Narendra Modi is emboldened enough to use “lal-batti” atop his car even as the practice is banned; when Rs 2500 and Rs 1000 is given as monthly stipend to 56,000 imams and muezzins of the state (no such windfall to Hindu priests).

Ms Banerjee seems to provoke Hindus no end up like when she appointed Firhad Hakim — a TMC MLA who once referred to Kolkata’s Garden Reach area as “mini-Pakistan”– the chief of the famous 300-years-old Tarakeshwar Temple. One of TMC’s Rajya Sabha member (Ahmed Hussain) is a founding member of the banned outfit, Students Islamic Movement of India; There is Rs. 1.5 lakh worth of state scholarship to those Muslim students who get less than 50 per cent marks at the school level (even as other students, including Hindus, can only secure it at over 50 per cent overall marks). “Those dead during Haj are compensated with Rs 10 lakhs while the Hindu families of those killed in riots get Rs 35,000,” said Tapan Ghosh, then a leader of the Hindu Samhiti.

Even as media has criminally turned its back on these dangerous trends, Hindus seem to be getting their act together in the state. Presently there are 1500 odd RSS shakhas in the state—as against 800 in 2013. BJP is now the main opposition party in West Bengal. A true glimpse of this renaissance would be visible over next couple of weeks when BJP/RSS plan to hold multiple rallies in Bengal.

Hindus, pushed against the wall, might strike back against the present dispensation in Bengal. They are 70 per cent in numbers to 27 per cent Muslims. However, an entitled Muslim population—also bloated by illegal Bangladeshi Muslims in the sate—won’t concede the acquired ground readily. Bengal is sitting on a volcano about to burst even as media wouldn’t let you know.

 

How Lutyens’ Medi shielded Rahul Gandhi on his lies

You must have read in English mainstream media on Thursday morning that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Parliament called out Congress President Rahul Gandhi for “speaking five lies in a day.” But I bet you wouldn’t have read the instances Jaitley cited in support. Be it your Indian Express, Hindustan Times, The Hindu or The Times of India—all the Lutyens’ Media have edited out the “instances”.

It’s not the first time—the Lutyens’ Media never nails down Rahul Gandhi on his lies. Mr Gandhi knows he can lie with impunity and the English MSM would gush and swoon. There was never a word against his mother Sonia Gandhi for over two decades. NOT ONE WORD. There is none against Rahul Gandhi in the last five years. You can watch this video of Jaitley’s speech of Wednesday and judge for yourself how your newspaper cheats you every single day. And firewalls Rahul Gandhi as if it’s lives depended on it.

Maybe it does depend after all.

I bet you haven’t read what Jaitley said about Rahul Gandhi’s lies on offset partners and the supposed favour to Anil Ambani’s Reliance. “They keep citing Rs. 1.30 lakh crores (the amount of favour). Now it was UPA which decided in 2005 that offset partners in India must get 30-50 percent of total work. Since the total deal is Rs 58,000 crores, it would amount to Rs. 29,000 crores. Dassault has said the business (to Reliance) comes to only 3-4 percent, or only around Rs 800 crores over 10 years. How the figure of Rs 1.30 lakh is cited when the entire deal is only Rs 58,000 crores?” Did you find it in your newspaper?

Jaitley then tore into Rahul Gandhi for somehow linking PM Modi to Rafale deal. “(He said) The procedure was wrong. No negotiating committee, no defence acquisition council, no cabinet committee on security—just one man (Mr Modi). But the panels (put together) had 74 meetings…the details of which were submitted to the Supreme Court. SC said it was satisfied with the process.” Did you find it in your newspaper?

Jaitley then shed light on why Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was not chosen as an offset partner. “UPA itself had refused the contract to HAL.” HAL quoted “2.7 higher man-hours”required for the job—so not only price would’ve escalated but Pakistan and China would’ve gone stronger too.” Did you find it in your newspaper?

“The press statement which was issued (after the deal) said it was an inter-governmental agreement. That it would be cheaper than the price which UPA had negotiated.” Did you find it in your newspaper?

Jaitley then chided Congress leader Shashi Tharoor over Rafale pricing and said at least the latter was expected to have read the Supreme Court judgment. “SC asked for price, we gave them the sealed envelope, they opened it and then SC gave the judgment that it was satisfied with the judicial review of the pricing.”

Jaitley mentioned that UPA contract provided for 11 years for the delivery of first batch of Rafale jets. “And they are asking us why no jet has been delivered in 2018 when the contract was signed in 2016.”

Jaitley dismissed the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe outright. “JPC is on matters of policy” and not on “investigations.” Besides, Jaitley said the JPC is on “partisan party lines.” He cited the instance of Bofors where a hand-picked JPC had termed the bribes given not as “kickback” but as “winding up charges.”

Jaitley struck hard at lies which the Congress president and his party have spread over the years. “He (Rahul Gandhi) said the French president (Macron) had himself said (about Reliance as offset partner) to him. The French government later denied it.” He also cited the case of forging of papers by Congress to show (former PM) VP Singh’s son had a foreign bank account at St. Kitts. Yes readers, you must’ve missed this bit too.

Jaitley took a broadside against the Congress and its leaders. “The Economist” wrote about a “prime minster who is in office but not in power” on Manmohan Singh. “This man (Rahul Gandhi) lies repeatedly. He lies five times a day.”

So disgraceful were Congress during the Parliament session that speaker Sumitra Mahajan spat out in disgust: “If you don’t want to listen, you shouldn’t have asked for it.”

Yes, Rahul Gandhi had asked for it. But you wouldn’t have known thanks to the cover-up which English MSM does as a matter of editorial policy.

Deepawali defiance has a grave message

We all know Supreme Court was mocked disdainfully by the citizens on Deepawali as firecrackers dinned in our ears till wee hours next day. There was no adherence to time slots; no indulgence by stealth; a few selfies in social media of individuals standing over the bomb-scraps as a hunter would over a sprawled killed tiger.

This was a serious matter. The vaporous, poisonous air of the Capital was unlikely to get better. The long arm of law loomed big. Spending the Festival of Lights behind a cold, bleak and dark lock-up isn’t quite one’s idea of an adventure. Yet here were citizens thumbing their nose in disdain; preferring faith over law.

Police, it would appear, had given up on enforcement long before it was breached by millions. How do you patrol lanes and streets; verandahs or terraces? Only when fellow residents complained about violating neighbours, did the cops reluctantly hauled themselves up for action. Ignoring a breach was tantamount to risking their own jobs.

The citizens apparently have drawn a line in the sand. They risked legal censure, incarceration, a possible blot on their careers. But let nobody, not even the supreme judicial whip of the land, come between them and their faith.

Even Lutyens’ media couldn’t ignore the masses’ contumacy. Hindustan Times made it a lead story of their edition aptly headlining “Ban Goes Up In Smoke…”. The Times of India too made it the day’s biggest headline, “Most Flout…” The Hindu noted in headline: “Supreme Court restrictions on crackers violated.”

Indian Express was another matter. It chose the story of stray arrests over people’s defiance.  Not a line in their front-page story mentioned of grave violation of Supreme Court order by the masses. All they did was to report how many were booked for violation of the ban across the country.  As if to warn its readers that they would be literally playing with fire next year; as if to engulf them by a sense of fear.   What ought to have been a moment of reflection for them, or judiciary for violating people’s faith, was lost in the enthusiasm to show the punitive arm of the state.

Indian Express ought to have paid heed to their former editor Shekhar Gupta who slammed the judiciary for coming between the people and their faith. In trying to enforce what is un-enforceable. “Do you really see police in our various states entering households, arresting and prosecuting people,” wrote Gupta, admittedly in the wake of Sabrimala, no different from Deepawali in legal crosshair.

So complex, traditional and long-held are the beliefs of millions that Supreme Court is best adviced to leave citizens alone on the matter of religion. Upholding the Constitution on gender equality and grave societal matters is one thing; wading into centuries-long faith is quite another. One shouldn’t come at the cost of the other. And as we know from last year, banning firecrackers didn’t help the Capital’s poisonous air. The known reasons—stubble burning, construction, sand-debris bearing trucks, car emissions—remain unattended. That sends the wrong message of being selective in fight against pollution. More so when the ban, barring a small window of two hours, was not for Delhi NCR alone but covered the entire country.

All this does is to undermine the authority of the judiciary. Judiciary against citizens has only one winner. More so when whispers start gaining volume that Hindus are under a sustained attack on their faith and practices in their own land.

Deepawali, a joyous festival, is second to none in a Hindu calendar, carrying an ethical lesson on good lording over the evil in the form of their supreme deity, Ram. Tragically, the news in newspapers is about seizing of firecrackers, violations and arrests, with the same sense of foreboding as bomb-attacks in our cities, seizures of cache of rifles, machine guns or handcuffed terrorists. It’s a classic case of solutions being worse than the malady.

 

Aadhaar Act: SC may have to take another call

The Aadhaar issue is far from settled despite Supreme Court ruling on its validity and necessity under the Constitutional norms on Wednesday.

The ruling Modi government would go at breakneck speed in firewalling the data protection so it could approach Supreme Court again on removing the ban on private companies from accessing the users’ data. The opposition Congress, through its protagonist P. Chidambaram, in all probability would challenge the Aadhaar Bill being introduced in SC as a Money Bill in order to bypass the Rajya Sabha.

On Wednesday, Supreme Court has cleared the Aadhaar Act but barred private companies, such as banks and telecoms, from accessing the users’ data as was enabled by Section 57 of the bill. Supreme Court had also ruled that decision of (Lok Sabha) Speaker to certify Aadhaar Bill as Money Bill is open to judicial review.

Supreme Court clamping down on Section 57 wouldn’t please the ruling NDA government. The Supreme Court ought to have asked for a stronger privacy and data protection measures rather than bar private companies from mining Aadhaar. All the world’s technology giants, be it Facebook or Google, Alibaba or Tencent, have been empowered by their governments to control global businesses. India’s only chance is with Aadhaar: after all it enabled a newcomer like Reliance Jio to build a 200-million users’ base for its telecom operations. India’s UPI, RuPay and Bhim platforms are today earning world’s respect only because of users’ Aadhaar being available to them. Supreme Court ruling makes Aadhaar cost-effective but not profit-enabled.

As for the Money Bill part of the Aadhaar ruling, Congress would be encouraged by the dissenting note of Justice Y. Chandrachud who declared it a Constitutional fraud and illegality. (If one could ask, what’s so Constitutionally upright about Collegium System where judges choose judges?). Chidambaram and his ilks are unlikely to let go the opportunity of Aadhaar as Money Bill being open to “judicial review.”

Readers must also remember the dichotomy of Congress/Opposition position vis-à-vis Aadhaar. It was alright for them—and the Lutyens’ Media—to allow Right To Information (RTI) where the privacy of a petitioner is compromised. The privacy and dignity of an individual doesn’t matter to them on RTI. But they have used it as a handle to obstruct the march of Aadhaar.

And if one could ask, what about the private data of millions which UPA collected without committing themselves to Aadhaar in pre-Modi era? Wasn’t it foul, fraud and illegal given that it hadn’t obtained a judicial consent?

The fact is that because of Aadhaar, no longer the beneficiary receives only 15 paisa of the Rs 1 allocated to him. The Modi government has already saved upwards of Rs 90,000 crores from leakages and frauds in the benefit schemes. As per a World Bank report, Aadhaar could save upwards of Rs 11 billion in exchequer’s outflow of funds to the really poor—and not fill the coffers of ghost and duplicate entities. Today, the dole-outs are auditable. Fake ration cards and MGNREGS job cards are no longer working, saving the tax-payers’ hard-earned money. If Chidambaram could explain, how could benefits be paid without identifying the beneficiary?

As for Justice Y. Chandrachud’s critique, just a mere suspicion of constitutional and legal impropriety is not enough to overturn or jeopardize countless schemes and billions invested in enabling technology. If other Judges had gone along with Justice Y. Chandrachud, it would have caused chaos and havoc, not to mention billions of taxpayers’ money going down the drain. Judiciary needs to uphold laws and Constitution but not when its’ at odds with the larger interest of poor and society. Laws are for the citizens; not the other way around.

 

Assam’s NRC: All you need to know and which media doesn’t tell you

It’s possible looking at wall-to-wall coverage of Assam’s National Register for Citizens (NRC) final draft in our newspapers that you believe a Hindu nationalist party in the Centre is rendering lakhs of unfortunate Muslims homeless.

It’s also possible that you believe in the blood-curdling call of Mamata Banerjee and fear that a civil war would reach our doorsteps.

It’s quite possible tears are welling up in your eyes at the graphic coverage of Indian Express about unfortunate victims rendered illegal in one stroke.

It’s possible you are breaking out in a sweat over the prospects of another “Partition” as snakes-in-the-sleeve come out writhing in the mud.

It’s quite possible your respect for Congress has gone a millimeter up after they gave adjournment notice in the Lok Sabha over the matter.

My advisory to you is to shove this all in the nearest bin or spare your toilet roll. You need to know that this exercise has been mandated by the Supreme Court (and not Modi government); that it’s just a draft; that no NRC exercise has been taken up after 1951 (sic); that Congress had itself promised so in the Assam Accord of 1985; and that Mamata Banerjee back in 2005 had herself wanted the illegal Bangladesh immigrants identified. In case you want to know everything there is to know about illegal migrants in Assam over the centuries and the present, just to make sure this nonsense doesn’t waste an extra second of yours from now, read this piece and no further.

If nothing, please pay heed to Home Minister Rajnath Singh who has stressed “it’s just a draft” and nobody is going to a “detention centre.”

You could also bear this basic question in mind in case your office-colleagues are thumping your desk down: All the regional leaders who are shedding copious tears on “poor” illegal migrants of Assam– “refugee in own country,” as per Mamata — whether their own people in state would welcome these 40 lakh illegals in their fold.

All things point to nothing materially changing for illegal migrants post release of second draft of NRC. One, India doesn’t have an agreement with Bangladesh in place (our eastern neighbours don’t even acknowledge influx of illegal migrants from its stable); Two, a porous border allows an extradited illegal migrant to return without hassle; Three, many lakhs of illegal immigrants are already spread all over the country, especially in metropolis such as Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. Who keeps tab on them?

Sooner than later though, illegal migrants must be taken off the election rolls; ways must be found to give refuge to millions of fleeing Hindus (and other Indic minority sects) from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh with full citizenship status (without worrying about Rohingyas or Human Right Activists—for Hindus have only India to turn to while Muslims and Christians have dozens of own doors to knock around the world); and illegal migrants legally committed not to indulge in political or religious subversive acts.