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Justice Through Conciliation:Towards Fast Track Rural Courts, by Radhakrishna Rao Print E-mail

Events And Issues

New Delhi, 22 January 2007

Justice Through Conciliation

Towards Fast Track Rural Courts

By Radhakrishna Rao

The draft Bill on Nyaya Panchayat aimed at setting up fast track, people-oriented, easily accessible and highly affordable rural courts is under scanner, as a prelude to its introduction in Parliament. 

Describing the activities of Caste Panchayats and communal justice dispensation system as “illegal and unconstitutional”, the Union Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, has stated that Nyaya Panchayat which would bring justice to the rural populace through “conciliation and compromise” rather than through “arguments and adjudication.” It would go down well with the psyche of the Indian rural community because it is not imposed from “outside and above”.

Indeed, the acceptance of Nyaya Panchayat by the rural community is based on the fact that they existed from time immemorial and formed an integral part of the India’s ageless cultural ethos. As pointed out by Avadesh Kaushal, Chairperson of the Dehra Dun-based Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK), Nyaya Panchayat which embodies the rich heritage and tradition of moral values running into thousands of years is ideally suited to meet the aspirations or rural India. 

Indeed, Kaushal drives homes the point that dispensation of justice by local self-government functionaries is not new to the Indian genius.  For there is a long and old tradition in India of the encouragement of dispute resolution outside the formal legal system. Disputes are quite obviously settled by the intervention of elders or assemblies of learned men and other such bodies. Nyaya Panchayats at the grass root level were there even before the advent of British administration, observes Kaushal.

Kaushal, who has made original and significant contribution to the draft Bill on Nyaya Panchayat is clear in his perception that Nyaya Panchayat alone could provide speedy, transparent and cost effective justice to the rural communities in India. Indeed, way back in 1970s, the well-documented Bhagwati Committee report had made a strong pitch for invigorating Nyaya Panchayat.  But the lack of political commitment implied poor support for the recommendations of Bhagwati Committee.

Prior to that, in 1954, a report on Village Panchayat had this to say on Nyaya Panchayat: “Sitting on the Panchayat, the elders of the villages used to solve disputes, arising between the members of the village community. These elders used to live in the villages themselves and by virtue of their residence well-acquainted with local conditions and knew the habits, customs and practices of the people.  Almost all individuals of the villages were known.  In view of all these factors, they easily came to know reasons behind the dispute that arose.”

On his part, Kaushal points out that down the centuries, the system of Nyaya Panchayat has been nourishing the legal administration at the grassroot level in a highly democratic fashion by involving the community at all stages of decision making.

Says Kaushal: “With the prevailing system of judicial administration becoming cumbersome, costly and complex, a large section of our population has started shunning the courts of law for seeking legal redressal to their grievances. As such, Nyaya Panchayat which can easily be accessed by an ordinary rural citizen in a highly affordable manner, has become the crying need of the hour”.

The current system of administration of justice has failed to achieve its objectives. Indeed, a common perception amongst the rural masses is that access to justice is both complex and difficult and as a result they avoid seeking redress to their grievances through courts.

The reason for this attitude appears to be physical inaccessibility, inordinate delay in dispensing justice, expenditure involved, technicalities and rigid rules of procedures of the present legal system. The biggest crisis facing the conventional judicial system is the burden of a massive backlog, which, in recent years, has assumed insurmountable proportions, making access to justice to the people at large far delayed and long drawn out process.

More than 30 million cases are known to be pending before various courts spread across the country. During one of his moments of soul searching, the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had expressed his concern over the functioning of the judicial system with the statement that “if the justice is delayed, we cannot really claim that is justice is being delivered.  We have to look ahead and see how we can clean up these roadblocks, how we can expedite justice without diluting justice, without reducing it in its value.  We have to see how our people can get justice.  It is not a question of time. It is also a question of affording it. We have taken steps and we have shown that it can be done cheaply.  It is also a question of physical access”.

Obviously, over the years the legal ambit in its entirety has widened to encompass innovations in the legal process, for instance, cyber crimes, intellectual property rights violations and bio-terrorism etc..The instance of legal remedy sought by a grand father being passed on to his grandson are aplenty. In distinct contrast to the conventional judicial delivery system, a rural court will be less formal, simple and well equipped to deliver speedy and inexpensive justice to the rural masses of the country.

Further, these rural courts, guided as they are by local tradition, culture and behavioural pattern of the village community have the potential to instill confidence in the people towards the administration of justice.  A envisaged, the make up and composition of the rural courts would be quite simple. It would staffed by a professional judge and supported by two other judges who would be selected/nominated by a panel of district and sessions judges.  It will hold sessions in the full view of the local community and try to resolves disputes through persuasion and conciliation.

It is not for nothing that not long ago, the Indian Law Commission had observed inter alia, that the rural courts could lead to a transparency in the justice delivery system, with a stress on promoting justice on the basis of equal opportunity and without any type of discrimination.---INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

India-US N-Deal:UPA GOVERNMENT’S TRUST-US APPEAL, by T.D. Jagadesan, 8 January 2007 Print E-mail

Events And Issues

New Delhi, 8 January 2007

India-US N-Deal


By T.D. Jagadesan

The new norm for governance? If there is no threat to our survival, it doesn’t matter what the people think about our Government. It was nowhere more apparent than in the two Houses of Parliament during the recent winter session, where member after member got up to voice his or her serious reservations about the India-US civilian nuclear deal. But instead of answering the specific issues, the Government merely turned around and said that it was going ahead with the deal, that Parliament should now wait to judge it over the bilateral 123 Agreement as and when it was ready after the negotiations that officially have still to begin, but unofficially are in an advanced stage.

It was clear to the Government even before the debate that the CPI (M) was not going to press the issue, and was quite willing to give the Government as much time as it required to complete the bilateral negotiations, even though the Hyde Act had violated every single assurance given by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Parliament. The fact that there was no threat of an anti-vote in Parliament, brought out the belligerence in the Government that could barely defend the US legislation but, sought to buy approval by underlining its concerns for India.

A section of the media that always supports money spinning policy decisions and opposes pro-people measures like reservations, came out in full support, carrying editorials trashing the nuclear scientists, their new bogemen and defending the deal that carries a cash reward of US$100 billion from India. To give effect to cause, Prime Minister Singh has now had a happy conversation with the US President ostensibly to convey Indian concerns about the nuclear deal, but in reality to shake hands over the telephone and congratulate each other for a job well done.

New Delhi and Washington started to tango under the NDA Government, but have perfected the steps under the Government watched over by the Left parties.  For, everyone in Washington knows, as does Prime Minister Singh, that the nuclear deal is more than a contract for nuclear civilian energy. The agreement of July 18 that every one here is happy about, and even the Left has decided to accept for some strange reasons, carries the details.

It is part of a larger strategic goal that the conferences of the US Congress have pointed towards in their accompanying note to the Hyde Act.  It is not just a deal but a strategic deal that redefines US-India relations, with New Delhi clearly the junior partner in a larger policy initiative that makes a mockery of non-alignment.

What happened in Parliament? The Government said: Trust us, we are good guys, we will not let India down. Most of the others, even milder members like Jaya Bachchan and Rahul Bajaj, voiced apprehensions about the deal, and by the end of two days it was clear for those who were honest enough to see and hear, that the majority of members in Parliament were apprehensive about the deal and did not want the Government to proceed. But that they were not in a position to stop it, and for reasons best known to them, were not willing to force a vote at this state.

Everybody bought the “trust us” appeal, and now India will wait for the 123 Agreement that will be sold to the country as a “done deal.”  Everyone in Washington knows that everyone in Delhi appears to be denying the wording of the bilateral agreement is going to be mild and definitely not offensive, but the US part of the deal will be governed by the intrusive Hyde Act. A CPM MP pointed this out in Parliament but then went on to say that he was prepared to wait for the 123 Agreement. One really could not understand why.

There are moments in history when action is required to save the country from harm. One such moment has passed with the Opposition to the nuclear deal, with all its strategic implications for India, now only destined to get weaker and less effective.  Prime Minister Singh and the US are working together to get this agreement through, with the opposition and the media being handled with amazing expertise.

The carrot is the preferred option, although at time the whip too has paid some dividends. The only ones to withstand the tremendous pressure from this highly formidable establishment are the nuclear scientists, good men with a level of integrity that makes them impervious to both the carrot and the whip, with the result that they are being targeted by the unscrupulous supporters of the deal.

First they were dismissed as insignificant, when this did not work then attempts were made by the men at the top to win them over, and now the attack has started again when the scientists refused to compromise and insisted on having their honest say. The other day, a former diplomat attacked them on a television channel asking whether policy was now expected to be made by nuclear scientists. Who else then should influence policy dealing with India’s nuclear programme retired diplomats and compromised journalists?

This is for two reasons. One, Government today is highly insecure and avoids transparency. Two, in this case the nuclear agreement is a ‘done deal’ insofar as the two signatories are concerned, and the process now can be roughly described as “going through the motions” and managing the opposition.  The only real challenge remains at the level of the Nuclear Suppliers Group where there can be a level of unpredictability at the end of the day despite the US and Indian efforts to control all the members with assurances.

The rest is taken care of, and just has to be unfolded in a manner where Parliament restricts its intervention to nothing more than a debate and the Left continues to be persuaded that the Government is secular and democratic.  If it is true, as all the recent actions taken by the Government and its policy initiatives indicate, that there is a decided shift towards the United States, then is it not time that the Ministry of External Affairs and the Prime Minister’s office comes out with a declaration against India’s new foreign policy?.

Instead of allowing senior officials in Government to inform select journalists that non-alignments as a concept is dead, will it not be more honest for this Government to come out and say that it does not believe in an independent foreign policy?  And that it actually believes, as its officials keep saying off the record that alignment with the US is the preferred and only acceptable option now?

Let the Government, if it believes so avidly in the line it is pursing, stop the pathetic personal attacks and the media propaganda, but place a policy paper on the table justifying its stand.  Put it to debate in bold print, and then let the better argument win. This mean, snide manner of functioning where journalists are being manipulated with carrots and incomplete information.

In fact, it erodes and corrodes the foundation of democracy that had been built so painstakingly on political integrity, transparency and accountability. Prime Minister Singh and President Bush with their handful of advisers might have succeeded in pushing through a terrible legislation that had addressed to the US interests, but in the process India has lost as held by a school of thought.---INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)



Modi’s Solemn Promise:GOOD GOVERNANCE & DEVELOPMENT, by Insaf, 27 December 2007 Print E-mail

Round The States

New Delhi, 27 December 2007

Modi’s Solemn Promise


By Insaf

All eyes continue to be on Narendra Modi and his Gujarat. True, he singlehandedly took on the Congress, its supremo, Sonia Gandhi and all the rebels and critics --- and created history by winning hands down with a final tally of 117 seats in a 182-member Assembly. The Congress had to be content with barely 62 seats even though 11 up from its 51 in 2002. But that was yesterday. Today, Modi is being watched closely as he begins his third term as the Chief Minister. And Modi has not disappointed so far. He has made all the right gestures and the correct noises. Displaying magnanimity, he has reached out to all his detractors, including Keshubhai Patel, within the BJP and the Congress. More importantly, he has declared that development and giving Gujarat good governance are paramount. As he put it: “The people have not just given us power. They have also handed over a responsibility”.

Modi’s message for his third term is loud and clear. He has promised a sustained growth of 12.5 per cent and vowed to turn former President Kalam’s 2020 vision of India into reality much before that. Importantly, he has challenged all those who continue to accuse him of having pursued his communal agenda during the poll campaign. He has offered to step down if his critics can show him even one instance of having made a communal pitch. Even as Modi embarks on his Gujarati dream, it remains to be seen whether the Congress will carry out a truly Gandhian introspection and learn its Gujarat lesson. It has to face facts. Neither Sonia Gandhi nor Rahul carried any great conviction with the voters. True, they attracted big crowds. But as the late Congress President, Kamraj, once stated, most people come for tamasha. Every public meeting by a top leader is a mela for them.  Ultimately, the people vote on the basis of their own judgment and fancy!

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Rajasthan Cabinet Expands

Emboldened by her Party’s historic triumph in Gujarat, Rajasthan’s Chief Minister, Vasundhara Raje, sprung a surprise on her Party earlier this week by expanding her Cabinet. She inducted four new Cabinet Ministers and one Minister of State while dropping two Ministers and accepting the resignation of another. Even as Raje asserted that her expansion was to ‘bring efficiency’ to her Administration, the induction of new Meena and a Gujjar faces is perceived as an attempt to mollify the agitated Gujjar community, which has threatened to launch a major agitation after being denied Scheduled Tribe status in the State. Moreover, coming on the heels of Modi’s landslide victory in Gujarat, the ministerial induction is a sharp rap on the knuckles of the RSS-backed dissidents in the State. With Assembly elections slated for December 2008 the message to the dissidents is clear: Fall in line or quit.

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Nagaland Government To Stay

The controversy over the Nagaland Government’s longevity has blown over. The Centre has wisely decided against dismissing the NPF-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland, as the State is slated to go to the polls within the next three months. Notwithstanding, the persistent demand raised by the Congress MLAs that they had won the no-confidence motion against the Neiphiu Rio Government by 31-23 votes and had the requisite majority to form the Government. In doing so, New Delhi has overlooked a “constitutional impropriety” committed by the Speaker in ruling that the NPF-led Government had survived the no-confidence motion last week. Astonishingly, the Speaker barred three Independent MLAs from voting on the ground that they had earlier supported the NPF Government. Moreover, he declared the vote of nine dissident MLAs against the Government invalid for having defied the Party whip. Raising a moot point: the Government may have survived, but was the Speaker’s unprecedented ruling justified?

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Mayawati Breaks Fresh Ground

Queen Bee of social engineering, Mayawati has unveiled a nouvelle Economic Policy. At its core is the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model wherein the quota system would be introduced, albeit voluntarily, in the areas and projects to be developed under this model. The reservation policy would be similar to the on-going policy in the Government service and envisages 10 per cent reservation for the Scheduled Castes, 10 per cent for the OBCs and religious minorities and another 10 per cent for the economically poor among the Upper Castes. Unfolding her Middle Path holistic policy, the UP Chief Minister vowed   that the benefits would accrue to the deprived and downtrodden sections of the poor. Conveniently, brushing under the carpet the ugly reality of rising unemployment, increasing crime graph and pathetic infrastructure. All cannot be waved off merely with her “sarv samaj” wand! Development is a hard task master.

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Delhi’s Scandalous Record!

Delhi now has the dubious distinction of having shortest Assembly sessions. Shockingly, the Assembly met only for 18 sittings this year. The established norm is around 60 sittings, as decided at a meeting of the Speakers of all Assemblies convened by Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee recently. Pertinently, the three-day winter session from 26 to 29 December has a litany of over 224 questions admitted for reply, besides five bills and three private members resolutions. Ironically, a BJP MLA’s resolution demands that the Assembly should have a minimum of 50 sittings in a year and each session should be at least of two weeks. No matter that the Delhi Assembly Speaker, Prem Singh, summarily dismissed the issue earlier this week by asserting that it was the Delhi Government’s prerogative to decide on the sittings. Questionably, is this fair to the system and the tax payer?

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Power For Arunachal Villages

Arunachal Pradesh has reason to feel ‘alight’. Gone before very long will be days when sunset was synonymous with darkness for hundreds of villages in the border areas of the State and the twinkling Chinese lights from across the border cast an envious glow. Happily, the State Government has decided to end the India-China “divide” by preparing the “Border Villages Illumination Programme” to develop infrastructure in 842 villages. The 61-crore project envisages setting up of plants of a capacity ranging from 10 KV to 200 KV to bring minimum domestic lighting facility to these villages. Even the remote 170 villages which are not connected by motorable roads will be aglow with independent hydel power! However, a lot more will still remain to be done. Almost 45 per cent of the villages in the State, home to over 31,000 households, would continue to grope in darkness, thanks to funds constraint. Time for the Centre to be generous!

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Bird Watching MP’s Latest Fad

Madhya Pradesh has earned a ‘bird’ feather for its cap. Bird watching has become the flavour of the winter season in the State with more and more people, including children, joining various bird camps in Bhopal. The movement for birds and nature started in the State two years ago in 2005 and has come a long way. It has not only led to the creation of an NGO, “Bhopal Birds,” devoted to the cause of nature conservation but the State Forest Department, the Academy of Administration, the State Tourism Development Corporation and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature have joined hands to conduct various bird camps in Bhopal, specially in the Upper Lake, home to many bird species from Europe and Central Asia. Happily, resulting in the formation of a “Green Brigade” (Environmentally Aware Citizens) in support of environmental conservation. This should indeed, be music to India’s bird watchers led by legendry Salim Ali. ---- INFA

(Copyright India News & Feature Alliance)



All Eyes On Gujarat:SATTA GIVES MODI THUMBS UP, by Insaf,19 December 2007 Print E-mail

Round The States

New Delhi, 19 December 2007

All Eyes On Gujarat


By Insaf

All eyes are riveted on the poll outcome in Gujarat tomorrow. Specially, after the bitterly-fought high decibel campaign for the 182 Assembly seats in the State. The elections in Gujarat are no ordinary routine State elections. The outcome will have a domino effect on the national polity. The result will decide the timing of the next general election as also the fate of the controversial Indo-US nuclear deal. In the event, the Congress emerges victorious then Sonia Gandhi is likely to announce general elections by mid-April next year and initial the nuclear deal. But if the obverse holds true and Modi emerges third-time victorious, the nuclear deal will be dumped and Congress-Left ties will be back to bhai-bhai once again.

While the exit polls are hedging their bets over Modi’s victory, from scraping through to a simple majority, the Gujaratis are reposing their faith in the satta market. Unlike the psephologists, who appear confounded by the abnormally high percentage (17) of those surveyed belonging to the ‘can’t say category’, the satta bazaar has given Modi a majority of 102 out of 182 seats. That the Hindu icon is a bookies favourite is evident from the lowest returns of 70 paisa on the BJP winning. In other words, if one bets Rs.1 on the Saffron Party getting 102 seats and are proved right then one takes home Rs.1.70. Already, the satta amount has surpassed Rs.800 crore and is slated to rise to Rs.1000-1500 crore. Interestingly, Gujarati NRIs too have jumped in with their mega dollars, pounds and euros.  

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Daring Jailbreak In Chhattisgarh

The Naxalites have once again cocked a snook at the Government. This time round in Chhattisgarh. In a daring jailbreak, 299 inmates out of 377, including 110 Naxal activists, escaped from the Dantewada jail in the State. Described as a “pre-meditated conspiracy,” by the State police, the undeniable fact is that the jailbreak was a major security lapse. The reason doled out for this lax is the low priority given to security in this district prison which housed only the low-level Naxalite functionaries and was highly understaffed. Shockingly, only five out of the 16-strength staff were present. Recall, following the infamous Jehanabad jailbreak in 2005 in Bihar, senior and important Naxalite leaders facing trial, were shifted from small district-level prisons to Central jails.

Significantly, the jailbreak has exposed the State-Centre disconnect on the jail security issue vis-à-vis strategy and its implementation on the ground. More so as the Dantewada incident comes a day after the Special Task Force on Naxalism discussed measures to beef up security in Naxal-hit States in Bhubaneswar. For over two years the Home Ministry has been asking the States to beef up security and surveillance as also upgrade the jail housing. But to no avail. The States have limited the upgrade to central jails and the bigger state-level prison on the facetious plea of lack of funds. The Centre has again asked the States to pull up their bootstraps and hopes they will act this time. Better late than sorry.

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BJP Suffers Twin Blows In MP

The BJP’s ‘victory’ march in Gujarat has been dampened by the twin blows it has suffered in the by-polls in Madhya Pradesh. It has had to bite dust in the Sanwar Assembly segment and the Khargaon Parliamentary constituency. In both the saffron bastions, the Congress wrested the seats from the BJP with massive margins. Interestingly, both parties viewed these by-polls as an acid test and had put their best foot forward. Buoyed by the results, the Congress has demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on the ground that the polls have exposed the peoples’ loss of confidence in the State Administration. Significantly, the BJP has lost five out of the ten by-elections held in the State in the past two years. Clearly, this holds out ominous portends for the BJP, which needs to get its act together prior to the Assembly elections ten months away.

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Sheila Completes Nine Years

Sheila Dikshit, Delhi’s popular Chief Minister, has much to rejoice. Setting a record, she has not only completed nine “extremely exciting” years as the CM, but also put her many political rivals on the back-foot. Her USP? Converting every challenge into an opportunity and meeting the same with truthfulness and veracity, as she puts it. Standing testimony to this is the fact that her duly acclaimed Bhagidari scheme has truly empowered the people. Moreover, her Government has been in the forefront of bringing the eco-friendly CNG, Metro and low-floor buses to its people. Besides, the construction of 28 flyovers has not only changed the city’s skyline but also the transport scenario. Not willing to rest her past laurels, Sheila has set the agenda for her ‘10th and most challenging’ year --- demolitions, sealings, Blueline buses and population pressure. And is rearing to go.

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Ending Corruption Khanduri-Style

The Uttarakhand Chief Minister, BC Khanduri, seems to have achieved an impossible feat. He has reportedly succeeded in ridding the State of corruption in Government jobs. His formula? Banning all interviews in recruitment for Government posts. Only those who score above the cut-off mark in the objective questions exam would be selected.  So far, about 6,000 people have been recruited this way. Asserts Khanduri proudly: “Even my sifarish can't get anybody a job in the State now." Khanduri has also threatened to cancel the appointments of teachers and doctors who do not report for duty. Moreover, the CM has withdrawn 250 cars with beacon lights and 350 policemen from VIP duty. Khanduri has cut his own entourage of cars from 8 to 3. All officers now travel to Delhi from Dehra Dun by train. True, all this may be a small consolation in his nine-month-long fight against bureaucratic corruption and lethargy in the hill State. But well begun is half done!

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Karunanidhi Anoints Successor

The DMK supremo Karunanidhi has virtually anointed his Crown Prince. After his daughter Kanimozhi’s rise to a Rajya Sabha MP, it is now the turn of son, Stalin, to take a bow. At a massive first-ever gathering of his Party’s youth wing on Sunday last, Karunanidhi took the first step towards the continuation of his own dynasty when he described his two sons, Stalin and Azhagiri as “two hands of a clock”. Asserting that Stalin, who is presently the Local Administration Minister had done him proud, Karunanidhi recited a couplet which inferred that Stalin would succeed him as DMK’s Chief and possibly the next Chief Minister. Even as other speakers hailed the junior Karunanidhi as Ilaya (young) Kalaignar, the elder Karunanidhi nodded his approval. Stalin on his part described the rally as a turning point in the DMK’s history --- and, indeed, that of the DMK’s first family! ---- INFA

(Copyright India News & Feature Alliance)



Chinese Claims On Arunachal:NEW DELHI NEEDS TO ACT FAST, by Insaf,6 November 2007 Print E-mail

Round The States

New Delhi, 6 November 2007

Chinese Claims On Arunachal


By Insaf

Sadly, India’s sensitive and strategic North-East is still not receiving due attention of the Central Government.  More so, against the backdrop of China’s repeated incursions and loud declarations that Arunachal Pradesh is its territory. Bringing things to such a pass that the people of this vital frontier region are worried over New Delhi’s poor response. In fact, Arunachal’s Chief Minister, Dorjee Khandu has now publicly demanded that the Government of India should firmly make it clear to Beijing that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India and that it should stop making territorial claims on it. This, he added, was necessary “to dispel all doubts and apprehensions in the minds of the Arunachalis.” Recall, only last week, the Congress MP from the State, Nabam Rebia, created a stir in the Rajya Sabha when he disclosed that the Chinese army had demolished last month a Buddha statue in the picturesque Tawang district, bordering China’s Tibet region. Notwithstanding, New Delhi’s denial.

Clearly, New Delhi can no longer wish the Arunachal problem away. Specially, as the Chinese have entrenched themselves firmly across the Sino-Indian border by building a vast network of roads, townships and various facilities. Making the Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony, on a visit to Sikkim, Nathula Pass and the Sino-Indian border to openly confess that all-round development in the region by Beijing was an “eye opener”. Needless to say, India would have to work doubly hard to dramatically improve its road network in the border areas if it has to keep pace with its neighbour’s “superior” infrastructure. However, it is to Antony’s credit that he is the first Defence Minister to visit the Line of Actual Control (LAC) since trade through the Nathu La Pass resumed in July last year, after 44 years. There is no gainsaying that New Delhi has to get its act together --- and fast if it is to keep enjoying the confidence of the Arunachalis, who generally speak Hindi and feel one with the rest of India.  

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Nandigram: People Still Scared

Fear continues to stalk Nandigram. The deep scars left by the barbaric police firing on March 14 last and all the mayhem that followed will take a long time to heal. This was the sum and substance of the impression gathered by the West Bengal Governor, Gopal Krishna Gandhi, from his welcome visit to the strife-torn district since a modicum of peace has been restored there. It is now for the local administration to erase the scare among the people and ensure a fearless environment. Importantly, the Governor did not spare the Left cadres and told them candidly that “fear has no colour…but it is harmful”. He wants those responsible for the violence to be shown the door. The Governor’s visit was all the more significant against the backdrop of his severe indictment of the State’s CPM Government’s “recapture” of Nandigram as “unlawful and unacceptable”. Happily, he visited both sides of the divide. This has helped to put at rest earlier talk of a rift between him and the Left Government.

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Bhajan Lal Floats New Party

Old Congress warhorse and former Haryana Chief Minister Bhajan Lal has parted ways with the Congress to form his own party, Haryana Janhit Congress. The split, however, was no surprise. The Haryana strongman has been hurting for over three years for having been denied Chief Ministership of the State following the Congress victory in the Assembly polls. Moreover, his younger son Kuldeep, an MP from the family stronghold of Bhiwani, was suspended from the Congress by its High Command a few months ago for raising the ante against Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda. No matter, that Bhajan Lal’s elder son Chander Mohan remains firmly ensconced as Deputy Chief Minister. However, Hooda is not unduly perturbed. In a chat with Insaf, he asserted that the rally was around only 70,000  strong and not in lakhs, as claimed. It comprised mainly of Bhajan Lal’s Bishnoi community, brought across from neighbouring Rajasthan.

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Karunakaran-Son Split In Kerala

Down South, in Kerala too another former old Congress warhorse K Karunakaran fell out with his son Muraleedharan last week. The raison de atre? The father’s plans to return to the Congress after having formed his own regional Party, DIC (K) three years ago. Calling it an “act of betrayal,” a livid Muraleedharan lambasted Karunakaran publicly for “ditching” his “supporters in the mid-sea”. Thus, signaling a parting of ways. Recall, the veteran Congressman had floated his regional outfit after cutting the umblical cord with the Congress. Only to merge his Party with Sharad Pawar’s National Congress Party (NCP) recently. Karunakaran’s reaction is still awaited to Muraleedharan’s assertion that he would not be a part of his father’s “political games” and would remain firmly with the NCP.” Interestingly, Muraleedharan confirmed that Karunakaran had not been invited by anyone to join the Congress, adding: “I have no faith in the central leadership of the Congress, that ditched those who stood loyally by it.”

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Gujarat Campaign Gets Bitter

Poll campaigning in Gujarat is getting vitiated by the day with both the Congress and the BJP indulging in a vicious no-holds-barred slanging match against each other. The ball was set rolling by Congress President Sonia Gandhi at her huge public rally of tribals at Jasdan, Rajkot wherein she denounced the BJP Chief Minister Narender Modi as a maut ke saudagar and promised to "throw the cheats and liars out of Gujarat." Only to earn bitter expletives from Modi, who retaliated sharply, asserting: “Italian mud will not stick on me. It is they who are hand in glove' with maut ke saudagar and the terrorists. Why is the Congress Government trying to save Afzal Guru, who masterminded the attack on Parliament in 2001”. But there is no answer. Only deafening silence. Nevertheless, the Congress seems to have improved its prospects in the past week and more. Even senior BJP MPs are now putting the odds at fifty-fifty!

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Empty Coffers & Promises

Prakash Singh Badal’s Government in Punjab has run into a major insurmountable hurdle. It came to power on a slew of populist promises. But its grandiose plans have been hit hard by the “near-empty coffers” inherited by the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP Government. It bemoans that it does not have enough funds to even pay salaries, let alone  carry out much-needed development work. (The Government owes over Rs.2,700 crores to the Punjab Electricity Board alone). Expectedly, the Congress leadership has denied the charge. Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh asserts that while he had inherited empty coffers he had ensured that his successor does not face the same problem. No one yet knows the truth about the rival claims. One thing alone is clear. The aam aadmi will not get all the exciting goodies he was solemnly promised!

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Gogoi Bashes Budha

Assam and its Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi, have every reason to be livid with West Bengal and its Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee --- and even to go for him. The reason? Buddhadeb’s tongue-in-check statement last week that “he would not allow an Assam-like situation to prevail in West Bengal.’ Appropriately, Gogoi called a Press conference and justifiably asserted that there was no comparison at all between what happened at Nandigram for months together and the incident last week at Dispur in Guwahati (involving the adivasis) that was brought under control within a few hours.” The CPI(M’s) conduct in Nandigram, he added, was in utter disregard of democracy and all it stood for. Even the media was barred from entering Nandigram. In sharp contrast, Assam did not hide anything about the incident. In fact, it is eager to get at the whole truth through a CBI probe. ---INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)






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