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Gujarat Govt on ‘Thin Ice’ for Selectively Releasing Bilkis Bano’s Rapists; Parliament Devalued and Manipur MPs’ Rights Violated by their Muzzling
Kuki MLAs seek exact refugee figures, Ladakh BJP expels VP whose son eloped with Buddhist, Nivedita Bhide ejected from meet, savage caste crime in TN, Rs 1,400 crore Chinese betting scam in Gujarat
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Snapshot of the day
August 18, 2023
In the case challenging the early release of Bilkis Bano’s rapists, the Supreme Court says that the Gujarat government is on “thin ice” for applying the remission policy selectively.
The Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister has said that its Chairman Bibek Debroy’s column urging a new constitution is his own brainchild and has nothing to do with the council or the government.
In Rajasthan, the BJP has announced two key poll panels and Vasundhara Raje is on neither. Other chief ministerial aspirants are not among their members, either.
In highly polarised Manipur, what happened to the inter-community couples, one of whom had to be on the wrong side of the divide? The News Minute went in search of them, and found that members of the warring communities have taken it upon themselves to keep them safe in relief camps.
Ten Kuki MLAs have written to Home Minister Amit Shah, who blamed the violence in Manipur on the influx of Kuki refugees from Myanmar, seeking exact figures of immigration and refugee influx.
And in a fresh instance of violence, three Kuki village watchmen were killed by unknown armed people in the relatively peaceful Naga-dominated Ukhrul district.
Newsweek reports on the ethnic conflict in Manipur, the closest thing to a civil war that India has seen.
A savage caste crime committed by savarna schoolchildren on Dalit schoolmates has shaken Tamil Nadu, the state where the Self-Respect Movement redefined politics. Chidambaram MP Thol Thirumavalavan has urged MK Stalin’s government to form an intelligence unit to specifically address crimes related to caste and religion. Noting the violence of the attack, PUCL has urged the authorities to treat the juvenile perpetrators as adult criminals.
The BJP has thrown out its Ladakh vice president Nazir Ahmed (74) because his son eloped with a Buddhist woman. His boss says that all communities regard this as unacceptable. He says that he is being unjustly punished for the sins of the son.
El Niño has brought India its driest August in over a century, with monsoon deficits of up to 40% in the south, west and centre of the country. More food inflation may be expected.
Though Digital India has not played well with MGNREGA and the insistence on mobile-based attendance has cost beneficiaries work and wages, the government will increase on-site digital surveillance by deploying drones to monitor the progress of work and the quality of assets built.
The e-learning platform Unacademy has fired a teacher for a social media post in which he urged people not to vote for politicians who are illiterate and know nothing except how to change the names of things. He named no names, but the VHP understood the reference immediately.
Indian Coast Guard personnel have evacuated a Chinese national who needed urgent medical attention from a vessel 200 km offshore in the Arabian Sea, en route from China to the UAE.
Article 14 looks at migrant workers from Odisha in the brick kilns of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, who work in conditions of modern slavery. The third in a four-part series.
A Hindu vendors’ union in Karnataka doesn’t want Muslims to set up stalls during fairs and festivals.
A side effect of community apps like MyGate is the consentless surveillance of the movements of domestic help. Gated communities are designed to be enclaves of exclusivity, cut off from the messy world outside, and these apps accentuate discrimination by manning the gates, says Rest Of World.
Nepal is signing hydropower deals with India, sacrificing its ecology and neglecting domestic priorities to build economic ties, writes Ramesh Bhushal in The Third Pole.
An Indian Sikh man has been charged with two stabbings during Indian Independence Day celebrations in Southall, United Kingdom. Violence erupted between Indian-origin people waving the Indian national flag and a handful of Khalistanis.
Five years after the event, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has quashed the prosecution of Canada-based Tamil student Lois Sophia, who had raised slogans against the BJP, calling its Union government “fascist”, on a flight graced by the presence of the Tamil Nadu BJP president. The court has said that there is no case and the matter is trivial. In March, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) ordered the Tamil Nadu government to pay a compensation of Rs 2 lakh for her arrest.
WHO’s first summit on traditional medicine, co-hosted by the Indian government in Gandhinagar, ends today. Last year, WHO set up a Global Centre for Traditional Medicine in Jamnagar with US$250 million in funding from India, and in 2019 included some traditional medicines in its International Classification of Diseases-11.
China 1,400, Gujarat 0
The Gujarat police have uncovered a massive digital scam involving Chinese national Woo Uyanbe and his partners in Gujarat. They developed a football betting app that allegedly defrauded 1,200 individuals of Rs 1,400 crore in just nine days. Operating from Patan and Banaskantha in Gujarat in 2020-2022, Woo enticed locals with promises of wealth through the ‘Dani Data’ app. The CID revealed that shell companies were used to divert the funds. Woo is reportedly continuing his fraudulent activities from Shenzhen, assisted by associates in Hong Kong and Singapore.
Nivedita Bhide out of conference for Islamophobia
The Parliament of the World’s Religions has discreetly removed Hindu religious leader Nivedita Bhide from its roster of speakers for their upcoming conference in Chicago. Bhide’s ties to Hindu nationalism, her Islamophobic misinformation and incendiary communications online triggered the backlash. Bhide, Vice President of Vivekananda Kendra, was scheduled to speak at a plenary session on August 16. Known for endorsing right-wing rhetoric and participating in events associated with the RSS, Bhide is at odds with the Parliament’s aim to promote harmony and justice among diverse spiritual traditions.
Odisha withdraws ‘deemed forests’ order
The Odisha government has withdrawn an order which stated that under the new forests law, unrecorded ‘deemed forests’ had ceased to exist. It was criticised because these forests are nevertheless ecologically important. All forest land diverted for non-forest purposes before December 12, 1996, would not attract the provisions of the Forest Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2023, the order had said, and that survey or exploration projects would also not be treated as non-forestry activities. This would have harmed ecologically important deemed forests in Odisha. Some forests in Niyamgiri hills, home to the Dongria Kondh tribe, are also in this category. The case of Niyamgiri is significant because a Supreme Court order in 2013 asked the forest dwellers to decide if mining in the hills would affect their religious and cultural rights.
CAG finds irregularities in UP
A recent performance audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has revealed inefficiencies in major canal irrigation projects in Uttar Pradesh. Despite substantial government funding, only 17% of the state’s net irrigated area is canal-fed. The audit examined the Bansagar Canal Project and the Chaudhary Charan Singh Lahchura Dam Project, both plagued by deficient planning and execution. They are delayed by over 14 years and six years. Issues included insufficient storage capacity in dams, inadequate water supply in canals and deficiencies in project scopes. The report also flagged irregularities such as unjustified payments, ineligible contractors, and improper quality control.
The Long Cable
Parliament devalued and Manipur MPs’ rights violated by their muzzling
The people’s mandate for an elected representative to represent a constituency is badly devalued when she/he is advised by the powers that be not to speak on behalf of those constituents on the floor of the legislature. Therefore, the right of an MP to represent his or her constituency in Parliament and the right of the electorate to be so represented in the apex legislature is considered sacrosanct. So when legislators are disqualified as MLAs or MPs after they are convicted and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, the judiciary has often stayed the conviction and the sentence so that their right to represent people and the right of the electorate to be represented in the legislature is restored.
The recent example of the Supreme Court staying the conviction of Rahul Gandhi in a criminal defamation case is very instructive. The right of an MP to represent his constituency and the right of the electorate to be represented in Parliament should mean, among other things, to speak in Parliament regarding the problems of constituents and urge the government to find remedies.
Two Manipur MPs asked not to speak on no-confidence motion
It is tragic that two MPs of Manipur, of the BJP and the Naga People’s Front supporting the Modi government at the Centre, were informally advised by the BJP leadership to refrain from speaking on the Manipur violence during the debate on the no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha.
They were told that since Union Home Minister Amit Shah was speaking on the issue at length, they should keep away from the discussion. In other words, the right to represent people and speak on their behalf, considered to be sacrosanct, could not be exercised by them when the parliamentary device of no-confidence motion was employed by the Opposition against the Modi Regime to ensure, among other things, that the PM, who had been silent on Manipur, should come to the Lok Sabha and speak on violence and bloodshed in the State for more than three months.
Naga People’s Front MP Lorho S Pfoze, who supports the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre, told The Hindu that BJP leaders advised him not to speak on the ethnic violence in Manipur during the debate on the no-confidence motion.
Pfoze represents the Outer Manipur constituency, which was badly hit by the violence. Speaking with Barkha Dutt and MojoStory, he said that a few BJP leaders had asked him not to speak. He added, “Government should have first asked me to speak even if I didn’t make a formal request. I wanted to speak on behalf of my people.”
Peace in Manipur would be elusive if its MPs are not allowed to speak in Parliament
When Dutt asked if he felt angry and dejected because as an MP from Manipur and ally of the BJP, he was not allowed to speak in the debate about his own people, he stated that the government should have asked him to speak because he is an alliance partner and represents Kukis, Meiteis and Nagas of his constituency, all victims of the havoc wrought on Manipur. He asserted that the deprivation of that opportunity to express himself in the Lok Sabha on behalf of his constituents made him dejected, sad and angry. However, out of respect for the government, he did not put forth his request to speak. He also asked if the plea of the government for peace to be restored would sound convincing if he is not allowed to speak and appeal for calm and peace in his state.
Earlier, he told The Hindu that his constituents, Kukis, Meiteis and Nagas, were very gravely impacted by the terrible violence. He was keen to participate in the discussion on the no-confidence motion. He would have flagged the point that the violence, largely targeting the Kuki-Zo community, should have been stopped. The nation could have appreciated the magnitude of the unprecedented problem they confronted.
He further added that because MPs of Manipur represent the people of the state in Parliament, they should have been asked to speak. “That would have built confidence in my people because elections are coming and it is needful for our people to know that the government is serious about dealing with the issues confronting Manipur’s people.”
Pfoze also told The Hindu that the only other Lok Sabha MP from Manipur, BJP’s RK Ranjan Singh, who is Minister of State for External Affairs, was also informally advised not to speak during the debate on the no-trust motion. He did not request the Speaker of Lok Sabha for permission to speak on the issue as he was sure that it would be rejected.
Manipur MP’s questions on violence in the state were not picked up in Parliament
It is quite shocking to learn, from his interactions with Dutt, that fifty of his questions on Manipur were not picked up in any of the discussions, except one on education. It is a serious matter because the parliamentary device of asking questions is very critical. It holds the Government to account on the floor of the legislature.
Manipur MP’s remarks expunged in Rajya Sabha
Even in the Rajya Sabha, when Mizoram MP K Vanlavena contradicted Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement that tribal people in Manipur came from Myanmar, Rajya Sabha chair Jagdeep Dhankar ordered it to be expunged. Vanlalvena, the only Rajya Sabha MP from the Mizo National Front, is part of the BJP-led NDA and his remarks came in response to Amit Shah’s observations in the Lok Sabha.
Devaluation of Parliament
The right of a Member to speak about his/her constituents was violated when they were advised not to speak on the Manipur violence, which has been described in many circles as an ethnic conflict and a civil war. While moving the no-confidence motion, Saurabh Gogoi of the Congress had charged that even the BJP MPs representing Manipur were not allowed to speak on the sufferings inflicted on their constituents.
Parliament Must be Used to Erase Communal Distemper
When the Constituent Assembly of India started functioning in December 1946, terrible communal violence and massive loss of life following Partition had raised serious concerns regarding its unity and integrity. Mahatma Gandhi had famously stated that the Assembly would provide solutions to the communal distemper. It did this by framing a Constitution and providing a secular frame of governance and establishing a Republic neutral to all faiths. Now, when the country is witnessing a replay of pre-Partition communal discord, our MPs representing the mandate of their constituents must be allowed to speak for the restoration of peace, unity and sanity, so that the idea of India as a union of states is defended. Depriving the right of an MP to speak amounts to devaluation of Parliament itself. We need to arrest the trend so that the Parliament can provide solutions to the communal distemper which is badly tarnishing the image of India and endangering our unity and integrity.
(SN Sahu served as Officer on Special Duty to President of India KR Narayanan)
Just three months after the Congress party’s impressive win in Karnataka, there are significant political signals that a handful of dissenting BJP MLAs, who had previously defected from the Congress to the BJP, are now considering a return to the ruling party in Karnataka. The ghar wapsi of four to five BJP MLAs could bolster the Congress’ prospects in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Notably, these MLAs had played pivotal roles in the fall of the HD Kumaraswamy coalition government in 2019, and the subsequent formation of the BJP government. Notable among them is Yeshwanthpur MLA ST Somashekar, who is seen as a potential first defector. More shifts of allegiance are anticipated as parliamentary polls draw nearer.
Prime Number: Rs 150 crore
The Wire is bringing us the highlights of the 12 CAG reports tabled in Parliament in the monsoon session. In the first two (Part 1 and Part 2), Sravasti Dasgupta looks at the reports on the NHAI’s toll operations, UDAN, the Bharatmala Pariyojana khadi trading units, the tea board’s functioning, and more. Among the findings ― NHAI collected over Rs 150 crore from commuters in violation of toll rules, over half of UDAN air routes are not operational, the tea board has a shortfall of 91.95% in factory inspections, and the postal department incurred non- (or short-) payments in GST amounting to 42.48 crore. Road projects have huge cost overruns and the Railways have run up unsanctioned expenses.
A remarkable project in south Gujarat seeks to set up a string of libraries in villages, where young Adivasis can study for entrance exams for higher education and employment. In a deeply moving report, Scroll.in shows how a community is coming together to fund libraries in Gujarat’s Adivasi areas.
Opeds you don’t want to miss
Did the US really oust Imran Khan, asks Sadanand Dhume in the Wall Street Journal. “The evidence is laughably thin.”
There were more disasters in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand around Independence Day. Tunnelling and blasting for hydropower and road projects, and unscientifically designed buildings, are triggering the tectonic potential of the mountains, says Shailaendra Yashwant.
In most democracies, the mechanism for appointing the election commission is non-partisan, and has multiple stakeholders... a determination that there should not be executive dominance in the selection of the election commission, writes Gautam Bhatia.
The demolition of Hyderabad’s Osmania historic General Hospital would be unforgivable because the 114-year-old building stands for Hyderabad, says Anuradha S Naik.
The Army mustn’t become a glorified police force, writes Lt Gen HS Panag. It is time for it to firmly ask the government to reset its mission in Manipur.
The Meira Paibis may not be the solution, writes Bharat Bhushan. If ethnic hate is all-pervasive, they are part of the problem.
Sedition law has only got a new look, in a statute with a different name, writes Kumar Kartikeya. Section 150 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Samhita actually tightens sedition law.
Childcare is deeply gendered, and a reliable childcare infrastructure can aid, boost and sustain women’s labour force participation. Antara Rai Chowdhury and Divya Ravindranath write about the Karnataka government’s announcement of koosina mane for children of working mothers.
On the Ideas of India podcast, Shruti Rajagopalan talks with Shreyas Narla and Kadambari Shah about why many female economists/bureaucrats/technocrats are missing from the reform story, the history of hiring women under UPSC and why this matters for policy.
Acclaimed filmmaker Shyam Benegal, perhaps India’s preeminent living director, examines sensitive topics such as the Muslim question and the influence of Jawaharlal Nehru on modern India. His perspective on the BJP and RSS’ involvement in the national struggle for independence is complex, which he shares with Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.
Over and out
In 1931-33, three British district magistrates of Midnapore were killed in quick succession by young men of the Bengal Volunteers, and no ICS officer was willing to take up the posting. The Telegraph visits their derelict tombstones and finds the autographs of the killers, the only remnants of a very violent chapter in the freedom struggle.
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