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Terror Strikes Again:HYDERABAD RENEWED TARGET, by Insaf,30 August 2007 Print E-mail


New Delhi, 30 August 2007

Terror Strikes Again


By Insaf

Terror revisited cyber city Hyderabad gift wrapped in a black school bag on Saturday last.  Two explosions, barely minutes and five km of each other, left 35 people dead and nearly 60 injured. The bombs ripped through the famous amusement park Lumbini and a popular chaat joint in the old city. This attack comes just three months after blasts in the city’s Mecca Masjid in May in which 10 persons were killed and 40 injured. According to police officials the explosives used in the twin blasts were similar to the one used by terrorists in the Masjid blast. Fingers are being pointed to the involvement of the Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islami. Preliminary police investigations have revealed that the blasts might have been caused by improvised explosive devices loaded with RDX.

Meanwhile, the Union Home Minister, Shivraj Patil, who visited Hyderabad after the blasts, has welcomed the Opposition suggestion for a federal crime agency. He was replying to an NDA-backed adjournment motion on the Government’s failure to contain terrorism in the Lok Sabha. Further, such an agency would be set up only in the event of a Centre-States consensus and with the full concurrence of Parliament. However, he ruled-out re-enactment of a POTA type law, strongly demanded by the leader of the Opposition, L.K. Advani, on the ground that it had failed to prevent Parliament from being attacked. Importantly, the Hyderabad blasts have once again brought to the fore the lacunae in handling terror. India has many agencies, but little intelligence. Clearly, New Delhi has to work harder and rise above partisan political considerations to win its war against mounting terror.

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Violence Grips Agra & Gohana

If terror stalked Hyderabad, the spector of communal and caste conflict came back to haunt the Hindi heartland --- Agra in Uttar Pradesh and Gohana in Sonepat, Haryana. Both bore the brunt of mob fury, leaving one dead and 50 injured in Agra and a Dalit youth killed and scores injured in Gohana. Trouble started in Agra, home of India’s most famous monument of love, the Taj Mahal, when four Muslim youths on their way to participate in the Shab-e-Baraat procession, were crushed by a truck. Blinded by fury, the Muslim community pelted stones, burnt 17 trucks, several police vans and looted shops owned by the Hindus. Leading to pitched battles between the Hindus and the Muslims --- and clamping of prohibitory orders in the city and curfew in six sensitive districts. Schools and colleges were shut for three days.

In Gohana, the killing of a Dalit youth has revived traditional hostilities between the Jats and the Dalits. The Dalit perceived this as a revenge killing of a Jat boy two years ago. The Dalit retaliation was followed by a day-long spectacle of the two communities fighting each other. The Dalits, now seething with vengeance, have accused the Bhupinder Singh Hooda Government of doing nothing to protect them. The present clash and tension between the Valmikis and Jats in Haryana is part of the regional make-up. The Dalits have clashed with the “dominant oppressor class” across the region --- recently in the Fatehgarh Sahib district where the rape of Dalit girls by Jat landlords snowballed in to a major political issue. Clearly, the Dalit protest spells trouble for the Congress and its Chief Minister, Hooda.

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JD-BJP Stand-Off In Karnataka

If the Centre is plagued by the acrimony between the Congress and the Left, Karnataka is weighed down by the widening rift between the ruling coalition partners in Karnataka --- the Janata Dal (Secular) and the BJP. The friction came to the fore when the Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy cancelled a crucial coordination committee meeting with the BJP on Saturday last. That too for the second time in a row. Interestingly, the meeting had been called to iron out the differences between the partners following the BJP’s boycott of a Cabinet meeting chaired by Kumaraswamy earlier in the week. The BJP is upset over what it calls “step-motherly treatment” being meted out to the Party. What is more it suspects that the JD(S) is having second thoughts about handing over power to it on 3 October.

Importantly, the cancellation of the crucial meet is viewed by the BJP as an indication of the JD(S)’s change of mind in regard to the power sharing deal between the two parties in January 2006. “Our leaders were ready for the meeting but the JD(S) was reluctant. They seem to be afraid of facing us,” stated BJP President D.V. Sadananda Gowda. Notwithstanding, Kumaraswamy’s explanation that he was forced to cancel the meeting on account of an “official tour” and his promises to hold the cancelled meet next week. More. The BJP’s litany of complaints include: marginalisation of its ministers by Kumaraswamy and appointment by the Chief Minister of a member to the State Public Service Commission, a post that belonged to the BJP’s quota. Equally objectionable for the BJP is the JD(S) assertion that its image had got dented by its alignment with the saffron party.

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Madhya Pradesh Scores A First

Madhya Pradesh has scored a first in an otherwise minor expansion of its State Cabinet. For the first time, a victim of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Harendrajit Singh ‘Babbu’, was sworn-in as a Minister in the country. (His father was burnt alive by a mob in his village a day after the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was shot dead) He was among the six new faces, three of them in the Cabinet rank and three Ministers of State, inducted into the Council of Ministers. Two Ministers of State were also promoted to the Cabinet rank. Another surprise was the re-induction by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan of his bete noire, suspended MLA and Uma Bharti loyalist, Dr. Shejwar. Needless to say, with this induction Chauhan can now breathe easy. He has another ace up his sleeve: three more ministerial vacancies to fill within the Constitutional quota.

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New Threat In J&K

If terror came to Hyderabad gift-wrapped, a new ‘trigger’ threat looms large over Jammu and Kashmir. Militants there are changing their tactics and now using mobile phone-triggered devices to set off explosives. All it takes to set off this Improvised Explosive Device (IED) is to dial the number or set the phone on alarm mode. This kills two birds with one stone: minimum risk for the militant group and the device is cheap to assemble. The J&K stumbled on this latest device when they discovered the IED packed with five kg deadly explosives, a detonator and mobile phone in Rajouri district last week. So far five blasts have been detected from different regions this summer. Even as the State Government is contemplating ways to combat this new threat, the people at large are worried. Will it deprive them the use of their cell phones, permitted only since August 2003?

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Nitish’s Bihar Sets Trend

Bihar under Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has done what has been long needed in free India: set a trend for office-wear for the Government Babus and enforce it. No flashy or casual clothes any more, according to the dress code issued by the Chief Secretary to IAS officers and other civil servants. All have been asked to dress in sober colours—men in dhoti-kurta or in shirts and trousers and women in saris or salwar kameez. For ceremonial occasions, a sherwani or bandgala is to be allowed.  No other exceptions are to be tolerated. The order follows Patna High Court’s decision to fine two officers for appearing before it in gaudy and non-formal clothes. While senior babus maintain there is nothing new about the code, first prescribed in 1954, it remains to be seen whether they will fall in line or continue to be trendy and fashionable!---INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


Snap Poll Alert:CONGRESS CHURNING IN STATES, by Insaf,22 August 2007 Print E-mail

Round The States

New Delhi, 22 August 2007

Snap Poll Alert


By Insaf

With the possibility of the country being pushed into a mid-term poll, the Congress has suddenly become conscious about getting its act together. Party units are now on the alert as the Congress High Command starts turning its attention towards revamping its  organizations in the States. Accordingly, some Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) Chiefs may be replaced in the reshuffle and PCCs reconstituted or constituted where they are non-existent. Prominent among the States likely to witness changes include Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. In Madhya Pradesh, the PCC chief Subhash Yadav, whose stint has been marked by infighting, is likely to be replaced, and a PCC constituted. Incredibly enough, the State has been without a PCC for more than two years.

Those vying for the post are Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly Jamuna Devi, Gwalior scion and MP Jyotiraditya Scindia and Union Minister Suresh Pachauri as former Chief Minister Digvijay Singh, presently AICC General Secretary, is not interested in going back to the State. In UP, where the Congress had to bite dust in the Assembly poll, PCC Chief Salman Khursheed is likely to shift to Delhi. In Rajasthan, notwithstanding former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s keenness to become PCC Chief, chances are that a fresh face may replace BD Kalla as PCC Chief. In the reckoning are former Chief Minister Jaganath Pahadia, PCC spokesperson Param Navdeep Singh and Harinder Mirdha. Ultimately, caste equations would be the deciding factor.

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Kerala Adds to Congress’s Problems 

The UPA’s tie-up with the Left is causing more trouble than it had anticipated. Grappling with the CPMs threat over the nuclear deal at the Centre, the Union Government is now forced to cope with a turnaround by the CPM-led Government in Kerala. The latter has refused to go along with the toll-based Build Operate Transfer model for the construction of the national highway in the State and has asked the Union Transport & Highways Ministry to foot the bill for the 70-km stretch. With the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s talks with Chief Minister Achutanandan making no headway, the Centre is being left with no choice but to cough up Rs 400 crore! Consequently, all remaining road projects in the State have been put on hold till the issue is resolved. 

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Naga Encroachment In Assam

Assam’s cup of woes seems to be over-flowing. On the one hand, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s Congress Government is busy grappling with the violence unleashed by the outlawed ULFA to rid the State of Bihari labourers. On the other hand, Assam’s border dispute with neigbouring Nagaland has assumed sinister proportions. So far, armed Naga depredations were limited to creating havoc in Assam’s border villages. But now they have the tacit support of their State Government in surreptiously encroaching on Assamese land through the rebels in “well coordinated and planned moves.” Not only that. Schools, churches and police stations have allegedly been set-up in Assam’s territory by the Government in Kohima.

Recall, Nagaland has been making calculated and persistent attempts to acquire Assamese territory in pursuance of its grand design of greater Nagalim --- comprising major chunks of Assam and Manipur’s territory. The Nagas continue to be goaded by the belief that Nagaland got a raw deal when it was carved out of the then undivided Assam. Kohima even cites ‘historical facts’ to buttress its claim. Forgetting that the areas demanded by it were earlier hubs of the Ahom kingdom of which the Nagas were never the inhabitants. Sadly, the laxity by successive Assam governments has resulted in Nagaland now controlling a sizeable area of Assam as part of its territory.

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Punjab’s New Deal For Farmers

The Punjab Chief Minister, Prakash Singh Badal, has unveiled a new deal for the State’s poor. Whereby low-priced atta and daal will be provided to over 14 lakh families, including eight lakh Scheduled Castes households, with an annual income of less than Rs 30,000. The scheme aims to provide wheat at Rs 4 a kilo and daal at Rs 20 through fair-price shops. Even as the Opposition dismissed this measure as a “stunt” and “unsustainable”, given Punjab’s precarious fiscal health, an unstoppable Chief Minister went a step further. He has also relaxed the Rs 7,200 per year national criterion to define families living below the poverty line. It remains to be seen whether these measure will decrease the indebtedness of 65 per cent farmers in the State.

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Army To Blame For J&K Ammo Fire?

Is the Army to blame for the biggest-ever fire at the ammunition depot in J&K? Has the military’s callousness also cost the country 23 precious lives --- of 18 Army personnel and 13 firemen? It may well be so. Given the complaints by a fireman and a few others. The fire at the 21 Field Ammunition Depot at Khundroo, in Kashmir on 11 August last, has made Harjeet Singh, brother of one of the personnel killed, recall his letters written in October 2005. Addressed to the Chief of Army Staff, he had warned that inappropriate enrolment of civilians at the depot was resulting in militants drafting their own men. Shockingly, no action was taken. Had it been taken, the army may not have lost its men and property and Singh his brother.

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Tata Brews Another Storm In TN

On the heels of the ruckus it created in Singrur West Bengal, the Tatas have brewed up another storm in sleepy Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. Teams from various political parties are crisscrossing Tirunelveli, venue of the Tata titanium dioxide project, eliciting views from the public following a furore over the company’s proposal to acquire 12,000 acres for its project. Worried about its fallout on his Government, Chief Minister Karunanidhi has put the project on hold, after giving his blessing to the Rs 2,500 crore venture. The Tata’s are keeping their fingers crossed amidst the war of words between Karunanidhi and his bete noire Jayalalitha. Both are accusing the other of ‘selling the farmers interest’, as mute farmers watch the unseemly spectacle.

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Himachal Apple Growers Woes

There seems no end to the miseries of the Himachal apple growers. On the heels of the intemperate weather, the orchardists are faced with an acute shortage of ‘specialised’ fruit pluckers – the fleet-footed and determined Gurkhas. The apple belt is dotted with ‘Wanted Gurkhas’ signboards. It isn’t as if there is a dearth of local labour, but plucking apples requires mountaineering specialists, as orchards are located on great heights. Gurkhas have the natural ability to carry heavy loads on their backs and simultaneously maneouvre tricky hill terrain. So desperate is the situation at ground zero that orchardists are sponsoring tours to Nepal to get labour from there.  ---INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)



Assam’s Killing Fields:ULFA PLAYING BANGLADESHI GAME, by Insaf, 16 August 2007 Print E-mail

Round The States

New Delhi, 16 August 2007

Assam’s Killing Fields


By Insaf

Picturesque Assam is once again in turmoil. Its plantations and rice fields are turning more and more red with blood. The outlawed ULFA continues to play Dhaka’s diabolical game and has killed over 70 Bihari workers during the past few weeks. Thousands of Bihari labourers in the State have expectedly panicked and started moving back. This suits Dhaka and Pakistan’s ISI eminently and is, in fact, in accordance with their game plan. Exit of Bihari labourers from the plantations of Assam clears space for illegal Bangladeshi migrants to move in and change the State’s demographic landscape. The North-East Students Organisation (NESO) already feels that the continuing influx of illegal Bangladeshi migrants has become “critical” not only for Assam but for the entire North-East region.

In fact, both NESO and AAPSU (All Arunachal Pradesh Students Union) have given notice to New Delhi and Guwahati that they are “determined to throw the illegal migrants out.” They want New Delhi and Guwahati to adopt an effective mechanism to push out the illegal migrants without further delay. Additionally, they want the entire region brought within the Inner-Line Permit regime. This would oblige all outsiders to secure a permit to enter the region. AAPSU has already got some 25,000 “suspected nationals” (namely non-Indians) to leave Arunachal and move into Assam by serving “quit notices” on them. NESO is livid that Guwahati has allowed them to stay on in Assam and has threatened to launch an aggressive movement unless the Centre and the Assam Government act fast.

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Maharashtra To Set Up Special Courts

The Maharashtra Government appears all ready to reopen old wounds By setting up a special court to try “some select” 1992-93 riot cases, uncovered by the Srikrishna Commission.  The Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, under pressure from his Party high command, avowed to explore all options for the speedy implementation of the recommendations. Deshmukh may have succeeded in buying time, but the moot point is whether he will be able to assuage the feelings of the minorities, especially in the wake of judgment in the bomb blasts case. Or will he end up creating more bad blood amongst the majority community and give the saffron BJP-Shiv Sena combine a political weapon to whip up religious ferment. 

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Trouble For Modi In Gujarat 

Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, is apt for beleaguered Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Grappling with growing dissent against him, Modi received a rude Independence Day shock when the former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel for the first time publicly lambasted his successor and arch-rival’s style of functioning at an I-Day function in Surat. Patel’s outspokenness has put a spanner in the wheel of the BJP’s central leadership efforts to broker peace between Modi and Patel. Inarguably, the most powerful leader of his community, Patel’s anti-Modi tirade holds out ominous portends for the BJP’s chances of retaining power in the State which goes to polls in November.

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Mayawati Blazes New Trail

Amid a heated national debate on job reservations in the private sector, the UP Chief Minister Mayawati has conjured up a nouvelle voluntary job reservation policy. Riding on the coattails of her much acclaimed Dalit-Brahmin social engineering, the State Government has proposed offering fiscal incentives for private sector companies providing 30 per cent employment  to the downtrodden comprising the SCs, STs,OBCs and the poor among the upper caste. Some leading corporate bodies have, no doubt, rejected the sops being offered. But a good few industrialists have welcomed her proposal, describing it as “brilliant.” It now remains to be seen whether Mayawati’s maya will score when the Centre has failed in pushing quotas in higher education, following a stay by the Supreme Court. Interestingly, the Andhra Pradesh Government too is planning to follow suit.

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Hyderabad Muslims Bear Fangs

The Congress-led Andhra Pradesh Government’s much touted minority appeasement policy seems to have come unstuck. Following attacks by its ally Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen’s (MIM) MLAs on the exiled Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen. At a function where Taslima had gone to release the Telugu version of her controversial book the MIM MLAs began hurling flowers pots, books, chairs et al at her. Worse, the MIM President Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi defended his MLAs and called for the expulsion of Taslima from India. Even as Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy denounced attack as  barbaric and said the attackers would be punished, the police have registered a case against Taslima and the MLAs but nothing seems to have come out of it. India’s commitment to secularism and a liberal open society is on test.

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Goa SEZs Face Land Trouble

The Goa Chief Minister may have won a reprieve for his Government by engineering crucial defection from the Opposition ranks in the State’s political roller coaster, but his plans to develop special economic zones (SEZs), face landing trouble. His Government does not know how to acquire land for them. The tiny coastal State, which wants to emulate the success of Bangalore and Hyderabad in IT, has sought permission to establish 15 economic zones, mainly catering to IT and ITES sectors. No doubt, the Centre has given in-principle approval for seven of them, but the State has to answer the crucial question: who will acquire land for the SEZs? Against the backdrop that nearly 40 per cent of the State’s land fall under forest zones. Unwittingly, the State Government now finds itself caught in a crossfire, between the industries and locals who fear losing their livelihood.

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Anti-Hindi Stir In TN

Signs of a revival of the anti-Hindi agitation have appeared in Tamil Nadu, thanks to a job advertisement by a nationalized bank last week. According to the ad, candidates applying for the post of probationary clerks and officers in the State should have  compulsory knowledge of Hindi. This is unacceptable to the Tamils, who do not learn Hindi as a language in schools. A stir by the All India Bank Employees Association (AIBE) launched against the clause is threatening to take an ugly turn, even as the Bank has clarified that the standardized format does not strictly apply to the States like Tamil Nadu. The AIBE has been joined by the Dalit Party of India and the Chief Minister’s office for withdrawal of the “offensive” clause. Is the Finance Ministry listening?

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Red Alert Along Ganga

A red alert has been sounded all along the banks of the mighty Ganga in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Bihar. The flood situation in the three States is likely to worsen in the coming days. Uttarakhand which has been receiving incessant rains since the past four days, sounded the alarm as the river was flowing near the danger mark at the holy cities of Rishikesh and Hardwar earlier this week. According to officials, the warning has been issued for all towns and cities situated on the banks of the Ganga. In Bihar, already reeling under the onslaught of floods, all flood control centres up to Patna have been put on high alert by the Central Water Commission (CWC).---INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


Unprecedented Flood Havoc:GOVERNMENT’S CAUGHT NAPPING AGAIN, by Insaf,8 August 2007 Print E-mail

Round The States

New Delhi, 8 August 2007

Unprecedented Flood Havoc


By Insaf

Unprecedented floods are playing havoc in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Orissa and West Bengal. Worst ever in 30 years, this year’s floods across the country have already taken a toll of 1,258 lives. Three crores of people had been displaced across 20 States at the time of writing. Property worth 1.3 crore has been destroyed. More than 68,000 heads of cattle have perished.  Top leaders have been making their customary visits to the flood-hit States. The State Governments have set up shelters and have been air dropping food and medicines. However, these measures leave a great deal to be desired. They are hardly enough to meet the desperate need of the millions now suffering silently---and helplessly.

Most sadly, the annual floods are not receiving the attention they deserve from both the Central and State Governments even after 60 years of freedom. Floods across the country are an annual visitation, differing only in intensity. Yet little has been done so far either by the Centre or by the States to plan ahead proactively and not merely react to disasters year after year.  It is high time that India’s politicians and administrators start learning to live and even dance, with the floods, as once advocated by Assam’s late Chief Minister Sarat Chandra Sinha in his talk with Insaf in Guwahati years ago.  He added, “If the Europeans, Russians and others have learnt to play and dance with the snow, why can’t we with the floods?”

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Interestingly, floods have been playing havoc among our neighbours too. In Bangladesh, nearly 9 million people have either been displaced or marooned in 39 out of 64 affected districts. Over 3,00,000 flood-hit victims have so far taken shelter in 1412 flood centres and 156 lives were lost until August 6. In Nepal, death toll due to floods and landslides since June stands at 93. Floods have affected 33 districts and damaged property worth 12.5 million.  China, too, has been hit hard by the worst rains of the year. Ironically, however, the country is also facing widespread and prolonged drought in its northern North-Eastern and Southern region of the country.  By the last weekend it had left 7.5 million people and 5 million head of cattle short of drinking water. Sustained drought has affected 11 million hectares of arable land, 1.7 million more than the same period, last year.

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Freedom of Religion in Gujarat & MP? 

Freedom of religion has become a major issue in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. The BJP governments’ bid to curb fraudulent religious conversions in their States has run into rough weather. While Gujarat Governor N K Sharma declined has declined to give his consent to the Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill 2006, his counterpart in MP, Balram Jakhar has sent a similar Bill to the President for consideration, after returning it to the State government. The two Congress veterans have justified their actions on ground that the amendments are unconstitutional.  In particular, Sharma has found classifying of Jains and Buddhists with Hindus objectionable, and Jhakhar considers provisions such as submitting prior notice for conversion as draconian. While President Pratibha Patil is to decide the fate of the MP Bill, Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, is trying to take forward his hindutva agenda through the backdoor. He proposes to revive a four-year-old law, with a similar aim, passed by the Assembly and approved by the then BJP Governor, S.S. Bhandari, but not implemented! Remember, he goes to the Assembly poll later this year.

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Bizarre Wooing In South

Kerala and Tamil Nadu are witnessing something at once incredible and bizarre. Chief Ministers of both the States, V.S. Achuthanandan of the Left and DMK’s Karunanidhi respectively are busy wooing the new poster boy of appeasement, Abdul Naseer Mahdani, leader of the Peoples Democratic Party. This follows the radical cleric’s release from prison following his acquittal in the sensational Coimbatore blast case in 1998 allegedly aimed at senior BJP leader L.K. Advani. Recall, Mahdani, a fiery orator, who founded the banned Islamic Sevak Sangh, reportedly played a decisive role in the minority vote calculus to garner Muslim votes in the 2001 and 2006 Assembly elections in Kerala and the 2004 polls in Tamil Nadu.  State leaders believe that Mahdani, still wanted in 22 other cases, can conjure up minority magic in the next poll for them.

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Jharkhand Honeymoon Over

Jharkhand, which was once touted as jewel in the crown of small States, has today earned the ignominious distinction of a land of rising crime, nervous officers, a paralysed State Government and an absentee Chief Minister. Over 700 people are estimated to have been murdered this year; 547 in just the first four months. More. The DGP has been given the marching orders and replaced by a new DGP. Making matter worse, SPs in 22 districts of the State are reportedly corrupt.  Not only that. Instead of a sanctioned strength of 143 officers, there are only 98 officers assigned to the State. Increasing political interference is now forcing a lot of officers to opt out the State. It is alleged that no file moves in a Government office without money changing hands.

Clearly, the honeymoon is over, leaving the State in a suspended limbo.

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Bangladeshi Infiltrators

Assam’s travail over the influx of migrants from Bangladesh continues. Two years after Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi promised to update the National Register of Citizens (NRC) 1951, and weed out suspected infiltrators from across the border, it has still to become a reality. Recall, in 2005 the Supreme Court had struck down the controversial Illegal Migrants (Determination Act by Tribunals) Act and directed that every person whose citizenship was under a cloud should be brought under the purview of the Foreigners Act, 1946. Gogoi set up a Cabinet sub-committee to study the issue in its entirety quite some time back. But nothing concrete has come out so far. Thus, providing fresh ammunition to the Opposition parties both in the State and at the Centre. An embattled Gogoi has given a new twist to the foreigners’ imbroglio. He accused neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland of having expelled 3000 “Indians”!

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Clean Land Deals A Pipedream

Clean realty deals continue to be a pipedream in Maharashtra. The Vilas Rao Deshmukh Congress Government continues to drag its feet on adopting the Housing Policy and repealing the Urban Land Ceiling (Regulation) Act (ULCRA) --- both crucial for making affordable housing a reality in the State. In India’s commercial capital Mumbai, where 60 per cent of the population lives in slums, the people will now have to wait a while before their dreams turn into realty. Also the grand plan to decongest Mumbai by turning the focus on satellite townships seems to have been put in cold storage. It is a moot point of how the State Government’s goal of providing affordable housing is met without boosting the supply of land or increasing the space index and making Mumbai slum free.

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Haryana’s New First

Haryana has a new first to its credit. It has launched a mobile court-- bringing the judiciary to the people’s doorstep. The court, set up in a bus, was inaugurated on Sunday last in the most backward district of the State, Mewat, having an abysmal literacy rate. Staffed like a regular court, it would move from one location to another as per a well-prepared schedule-- sit on four days a week at different centres and function as a regular court for the remaining next two days. Interestingly, the concept was the brainchild of former President APJ Kalam, who wanted to take civil and criminal justice closer to the people living in remote areas without their having to incur expenses of traveling. Pleased with the privilege extended to Haryana, Chief Minister Bhupinder Hooda hoped there would be more such advancements in the judiciary to take India forward. To Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan the mobile court was a “revolutionary occasion for the judiciary” and hoped that other States would too follow. ---INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

Vote of Confidence in Goa:A FRAUD ON THE CONSTITUTION, by Insaf,2 July 2007 Print E-mail

Round The States

New Delhi, 2 July 2007

Vote of Confidence in Goa


By Insaf

Last week’s vote of confidence in the 40-member Goa Assembly was indeed a blatant and scandalous fraud on the Constitution. The Speaker is supposed to represent the dignity of the House and uphold democracy. Yet he made a mockery of the system and the well-established rule that a Government must enjoy the confidence of the House. Speaker Pratapsinh Rane bailed out the shaky Congress-led Government of Digambar Kamat by brazenly disallowing three MLAs to vote, before the floor test. Of these, two belonging to the Maharshtrawadi Gomantak Party were well within their rights to withdraw support to the Government. Worse, Rane went a step further and cast his vote in favour of the Government even though the motion had already been passed by a voice vote in the absence of the Opposition, which had walked out.   

That is not all. The Speaker, obviously under heavy pressure from his Congress bosses in New Delhi, also went against the clear directions of the Governor, S C Jamir. The Governor had informed the Goa Democratic Front, led by leader of the Opposition, Manohar Parrikar that he had asked the Speaker to ensure that the floor test was conducted before any other business. He had also appointed observers to oversee the voting. Yet Speaker Rane went his own way, leading the Opposition to demand that Jamir should undo the constitutional mess and dismiss the Kamat Government. The matter has now gone before the Supreme Court which is due to take it up early next week. Clearly, the future of India’s young democracy is at stake!      

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First Time In Nagaland

There is fresh hope for durable peace in Nagaland. The latest round of talks between the Centre and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (IM) earlier this week has taken a positive turn. For the first time in its history of ten years of parleys, the two sides met across the table in Nagaland. Initially, the NSCN leaders insisted on talks only on foreign soil – Amsterdam or Bangkok. Last year, they agreed to meet in New Delhi. The visit this time to Dimapur by the NSCN (IM) leaders, headed by Isak Chishi Swu and Muivah, has not only given peace a new thrust, but more importantly provided the leaders and the local people an opportunity to interact and understand each others feelings and outlook. Importantly, the ceasefire has been extended “indefinitely.”

Information available shows that the Dimapur parleys were marked by an encouraging outcome. The NSCN(IM) appears to have more or less, agreed to the Centre’s firm stand that its demand for sovereignty is “unacceptable” and that a solution would have to be found within the framework of the Constitution. The NSCN (IM) seems agreeable to remaining a part of India but insists that this would have to be on the basis of a “special federal relationship”. This is not going to be easy for New Delhi to accept in view of the basic fact that India, according to the Constitution, is a Union of States and not a federation.  In fact, the word federation does not occur anywhere in the Constitution. Moreover, conceding a “federal relationship” would open a Pandora’s box for the Centre. More and more States are now demanding “federal powers.”  

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Falling Democratic Norms

Recent events in Andhra Pradesh too smack of falling democratic norms and standards. Time was when members of its State Assembly and the Council observed the highest standards of decorum. Both the leader of the House and the leader of the Opposition refrained from making personal allegations against each other. But this lasted only till the Telugu Desam came to power. Chandrababu Naidu as the TDP Chief Minister had spats with the present incumbent, Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, then leader of the Opposition. Last week Naidu once again found himself at the receiving end when Dr. Reddy went to the extent of saying that Naidu’s mother would be sorry for having given birth to him. Expectedly, this led to an upheaval. Fortunately, good sense prevailed on all sides. Dr. Reddy tendered an unconditional apology and Naidu accepted it -- and returned to the House. But the incident has left an appalling mark on the Vidhan Soudha.   

Land for the Landless 

Landless labourers across the States are now aggressively beginning to assert their rights. After Nandigram in West Bengal, big trouble is brewing in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. On Saturday last, eight persons were killed and six injured in police firing in Mudigonda village, in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh, during a rally called by the Left parties to “distribute land to the poor”. In Tamil Nadu, the villagers in Sattankulam town, in Tututicorin District have decided to go on a fast on August 10, to oppose the acquisition of about 11,000 acres by the Tata group for its Rs 2,500-crore titanium-dioxide project. They plan to fight it out. One common factor stands out in all these incidents: the protest is for land, not money. While politicians in the three States are using the incidents to gain political mileage, they appear to be missing the wood for the trees. A new movement demanding land for the landless is taking shape.

Labourers & Tourists Flee Kashmir?

Tourism and development have been witnessing a revival in trouble-torn Kashmir. Sadly, however both appear to be in for fresh trouble. A blast in a tourist bus in the Valley on Sunday last, is likely to see holiday goers packing their bags and leaving. A repeat of what happened last summer after a similar attack, in which 16 people were killed. Tourists from Gujarat, a major influx, and other States simply cancelled their bookings, causing losses and heartburn amongst hoteliers and houseboat owners.

Worse, Kashmir is witnessing a massive exodus of workers thanks to the “Quit Kashmir” notice to migrant labourers by the Hizbul Mujahadeen. The call that they must leave Kashmir within a week follows an incident in which a schoolgirl was allegedly raped by two migrant labourers. The threat is bound to affect construction activity in the Valley, which started picking up during the Chief Ministership of Mufti Mohd. Sayeed. This should be a cause of serious concern to the present successor Government of Ghulam Nabi Azad. With three-and-a-half lakh migrant labourers sustaining the Valley’s “construction boom” of roads, bridges and much else, the Government can ill-afford to let the Mujahadeen have their way.

Monsoon Playing Havoc

Incessant rains across the north-eastern region continue to play havoc in some States. The flood situation in Assam and Bihar is getting from bad to worse, with over 11 lakh and 28 lakh people getting affected respectively. Meghalaya and Garwhal are trying to cope with landslides. Threat of flood looms large in Uttar Pradesh, with already 25 people having died in rain-related incidents. Over 5000 pilgrims to Badrinath were stranded. Over 26,000 hectares of crop has got submerged in Assam. The Army has been put on alert in Bihar. Rivers in West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district are flowing above the danger mark. And, Kerala has suffered losses of Rs 15,000 crore. While the State Administration is working round-the-clock viz rescue operations and disaster management, the Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan has found a novel way to get relief. Last Sunday he threatened to stage a dharna outside the Prime Minister’s House at 7 Race Course Road if the Centre continued to ignore his demand for monsoon disaster aid. ---INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)



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