Tag Archives: BJP

Akali Dal-BJP has let the Punjabi youth sink deeper into crisis

I found 3Es on the wish list of this section of population – education, employment and eradication of the drug menace.

Aristotle once said, “Youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope”.

The youths of Punjab believed Modi in 2014 but within less than two years they are repenting for the mistake they had done. It seems the prime minister forgot about the 3Ds – darkness, destruction and devastation – caused by drugs. They are wondering how the prime minister can conveniently close his eyes to the state’s turmoil just for political mileage.

What do the youths of Punjab want? Punjab is my home state and I have an emotional connect with Punjabi mitti. I have covered the state extensively with the sole objective of understanding the problems of the youths and their expectations.

I found 3Es on the wish list of Punjabi youths – education, employment and eradication of the drug menace. They want better infrastructure, policy implementation and corruption-free society. The quality of education has deteriorated over a period of time and students are incapable of finding a job in the highly skilled sector.

Also read: 4 reasons SAD-BJP alliance will flop in 2017 Punjab polls

The education sector has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons – irregularities, strikes by teachers, multiple scams, and so on during the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-BJP regime. About 75 lakh people are unemployed in Punjab. Almost 72 per cent job seekers in Punjab are educated, out of which 78 per cent have non-technical education and 22 per cent technical education.

The official data on employment generation has revealed that the employment rate in Punjab was just at an average of five to six percent since the time the SAD-BJP government took over in 2007. The figure is worse in case of reserved categories.

Today’s Punjab is lagging not only in terms of industrial growth but also in the agricultural sector because of stagnancy. There are no jobs, no future in farming, no industrialisation and deep-rooted corruption has left the state in shambles.

Eighty five per cent of Punjabi farmers are under heavy debt in the state. The youths of Punjab is being compelled to leave their soil for the want of job opportunities. Even contractual employment has become a distant dream for Punjabi youths. It seems the political leadership of the state is indifferent to issues like unemployment and that is precisely the reason both the organised and unorganised sectors have failed to create jobs. The youths of Punjab want quality education and decent employment avenues.

Besides education and employment, the third but the most important wish of the youths of Punjab is solution to the drug menace in the state. The number of thekas are more compared to the number of government schools in the state. The magnitude of the problem can be understood from the revelations of an AIIMS study which has found that Punjabis spend Rs 7,500 crore annually on drugs.

Also read -How Punjab’s drug addiction is fuelling a Khalistan

Up to 75 per cent of the state’s population have been exposed to drugs in one form or another. One in three college students are addicts and most of the addicts are in the age group of 15-35 years. There cannot be anything worse for a nation to lose its youths to drugs.

Punjabi youths who were once at the forefront of the police and armed forces of our country are nowhere close to the past figures. They have lost their hard work, bravery and enterprise to drugs. It is sad to see that Punjabi youths are found weak and unfit for defence jobs.

Punjab shares 553km of border with Pakistan. Besides, there is a huge illegal market of opioid drugs in Punjab. The state’s opioid dependents are four times more than the global average. Owing to drugs, an entire generation of Punjabis are at the risk of life-threatening diseases and is under the threat of being wiped out by addiction.

Have we lost the war? I am an optimist and I think the youths of Punjab, even though apprehensive and frustrated, have still faith that the situation will improve and Punjab will regain its lost glory.

Having said so, let me admit that the turnaround will be a challenging task. It is one of the most prosperous states in the country, but Punjab is now in a huge debt trap because of mismanagement of state finances. The debt burden of the Punjab government has gone up from Rs 48,344 crore in 2006-’07 to Rs 1.25 lakh crore in 2015-’16 which constitutes a massive 32 per cent of the gross state domestic product.

The Punjab government is paying only basic salary to its employees during their probation period. The youths of Punjab need a leader who they can trust, who is sincere about solving their problems and has a proven track record. They neither believe in fake propaganda nor want to experiment with uncertainty. There is still hope for the youths of Punjab. I cannot see a generation destroyed by the madness of drug addiction. Decent education, both in terms of skills and values, and availability of productive employment is one of the best routes to guide the youths of Punjab.

Referance Link: http://www.dailyo.in/politics/punjab-polls-shiromani-akali-dal-bjp-drug-addiction-narendra-modi-pakistan/story/1/10799.html

President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh – A Manufactured Crisis

The elected government of Arunachal Pradesh was martyred on the eve of the Republic Day despite having a majority. The Centre is trying to defend their move under the garb of governor’s report about the alleged deterioration of law and order situation in the State. If the governor is fearing for his life in a peace loving state like Arunachal Pradesh, I doubt what he will have to say about Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra which are table toppers in the ranking of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) crime data.

Article 355 and 356 should not be interpreted as wanton invasion by the Centre on the authority of the State government. These articles are not in the constitution to be used as tools by the central government to destabilise state governments and to further their political agenda. It was very much clear from the debates of the Constituent Assembly that the Centre will have to respect the limited autonomy of the States irrespective of whether it has been specified in the Constitution or not.

Article 356 can be imposed only when a situation arises in which the government of the State cannot be carried on as per the provisions prescribed in the constitution. In this case, the government has the majority of the House, the State is being run in a peaceful manner, yet President’s rule has been imposed. The BJP is making a desperate attempt to show its presence in the north-east and knowing their fate in Assam, the BJP made an effort to break the Congress party in Arunachal but could not form the government because of the anti-defection law. Therefore, the only political option left with them was to impose central rule.

* The author is a Supreme Court lawyer and National Media Panellist, the Indian National Congress. The views expressed by the author are personal.

President’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh – A manufactured crisis

The elected government of Arunachal Pradesh was martyred on the eve of the Republic Day despite having a majority. The Centre is trying to defend their move under the garb of governor’s report about the alleged deterioration of law and order situation in the state. If the governor fears for his life in a peace loving state like Arunachal Pradesh, I doubt what he will have to say about Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra which are table toppers in the ranking of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) crime data.

To my utter surprise, the governor has cited the picture of a Mithun being slaughtered as evidence to support his perception that law and order situation in the State has deteriorated to the extent that President’s rule should be imposed. This shows his limited knowledge on culture and mythology of Arunachal Pradesh.

A bovine species, Mithun, is intrinsically related to the socio-economic lives of people of the state. They celebrate its birth and arrival and at the same time feel honoured to sacrifice the animal and offer its meat in community feasts. Mithuns are also given as bride price in the Adi tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. So, to link it with law and order situation of the state has no justification. The governor has definitely erred in this while recommending President’s rule in the state and at the same time, the haste in which the centre accepted the recommendation speaks of its political bias.

Coming to the constitutional provisions, the powers and position of governor in a state does not extend beyond advice of a democratically elected government and this has been established by the Supreme Court judgement.

Governor is bound to act according to the advice of the council of ministers. Now, under what provision of the constitution, did he unilaterally summon the assembly and decided the business of the House? Things should have been put on hold after the Gauhati High Court had directed for keeping the orders of the governor for advancing the assembly session in abeyance. Irrespective of his ideological affiliation, the position of governor demands the person to shed his bhakti towards his ideological patrons and uphold the principles of constitutionalism. For the sake of propriety, the occupants of constitutional positions are expected to rise above party politics and stay away from political manipulations and not to magnify them. Secondly, how can a deputy speaker overrule speaker’s decision and reinstate the suspended members? In parliamentary procedure, speakers’ decisions are treated as precedents for conducting proceedings.

The legality of such a decision is questionable and I hope Supreme Court will definitely look into this. It is the floor of the House and not the perception of the governor which should decide whether the government enjoys confidence of the majority or not. Supreme Court guidelines in the S.R.Bomai v/s Union of India case have been completely overlooked both at the time of recommending and imposing Article 356 in Arunachal Pradesh. If there was a constitutional crisis, that constitutional crisis was manufactured by the Modi government through the governor to destabilise the democratically elected government of the State which still enjoys the confidence of the House.

Arunachal Pradesh has also its strategic importance as it shares borders with China. So, by creating an artificial crisis in the State, both the Central government and the governor have put the security of India under potential threat. Now, things are out in the open and China must be observing the developments in the bordering State very closely.

Article 355 and 356 should not be interpreted as wanton invasion by the centre on the authority of the state government. These articles are not in the constitution to be used as tools by the central government to destabilise state governments and to further their political agenda. It was very much clear from the debates of the Constituent Assembly that the Centre will have to respect the limited autonomy of the States irrespective of whether it has been specified in the Constitution or not.

Article 356 can be imposed only when a situation arises in which the government of the State cannot be carried on as per the provisions prescribed in the constitution. In this case, the government has the majority of the House, the State is being run in a peaceful manner, yet President’s rule has been imposed. The BJP is making a desperate attempt to show its presence in the north-east and knowing their fate in Assam, the BJP made an effort to break the Congress party in Arunachal but could not form the government because of the anti-defection law. Therefore, the only political option left with them was to impose central rule. This is precisely why the words of caution and wisdom of the President of India were ignored to fulfil their political agenda.

The attempt of the Modi Government to rule Itanagar from Delhi is violation of the spirit of the Constitution and disrespect to the will of the people of Arunachal Pradesh. When the matter was sub-judice and the constitution bench of the Supreme Court was about to hear the matter, the centre should have waited for the final judgement before taking a call on imposition of Article 356 in the state. The spirit of cooperative federalism ingrained in the constitution and recommendations of Sarkaria Commission were thrown to the winds while dealing with Arunachal issue. Supreme Court has already observed that that President’s rule in Arunachal is a matter of grave seriousness and I hope the government in the centre will teach a lesson after the final verdict will be given by the apex court. However, the mindset of the BJP towards cooperative federalism is a wakeup call for the regional parties also because Arunachal Pradesh may not be the last stop for Modi government.

* The author is a Supreme Court lawyer and National Media Panellist, the Indian National Congress. The views expressed by the author are personal.

Source: http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/president%E2%80%99s-rule-arunachal-pradesh-%E2%80%93-manufactured-crisis-38401

Beyond Bihar verdict: A greater disaster waiting for BJP?

Thus voted the Bihari DNA. The Bihar verdict is a landmark not only for the landslide victory of the Mahagathbandhan but for the political implications this will have on the future electoral prospects. While some political pundits are of the view that the victory was because of the correct chemistry in the Nitish-Lalu-Congress alliance, the opinion on the other side is that the loss of the BJP-led alliance was because of arithmetic miscalculation. But, I see it as a consequence of both mathematics and chemistry laced with the ideological thread of socialism and secularism.

There are two aspects of the verdict. One, what went wrong with the BJP-led alliance that despite rigorous large scale campaign, optimum use of money power and human resource, they were outrightly rejected by the people of Bihar and the alliance which was once labelled as a union of three idiots by the Prime Minister, was given a clear and overwhelming mandate. Should the buck stop with the campaign style and election management of the NDA leaders or the reasons are deep rooted in the non-performance of the Modi government that dissuaded the voters to trust the party and its promises? The victory of BJP in the general elections was perceived as a reflection of aspirations of the people of India and to some extent, people’s expectations were heightened by the campaign style and torrent of promises by Narendra Modi.

Sixteen months into the government, the Prime Minister is yet to fulfil even one of his election promises. Except diluting the pro-people and pro-poor policies of the UPA, he has nothing to prove before the voters. How could the politically sensitive Bihari voter be expected to trust such a personality? The Centre diluted programmes like MGNREGA which could change the lives of millions and that had a significant impact on the minds of the poor and consequently reflected on EVM buttons. Therefore, notwithstanding what the BJP leadership may say, the Bihar verdict was definitely a mandate against poor governance of Narendra Modi and his government otherwise 2/3 of the BJP candidates would not have lost from the constituencies representing the Union Ministers from Bihar. The non-performance was supplemented by the divisive tactics of its leaders, not by fringe elements by the central core leaders, and the ultimate outcome was the massive defeat of the alliance. The verdict was a clear rejection of the suit boot model of development of Narendra Modi. BJP should do a lot of soul searching why it lost 5% vote share compared to the votes it had secured in the 2014 General election. In India, leaders who win seats for their parties are hardly questioned and they are expected to exercise some sort of control in the decision making process in the party and the government, if they are in power. Similarly, the same leaders are also expected to take the responsibility for the electoral debacle of the party. This is an accepted fact and one of the cannons of morality in politics. Moreover, it was the central leadership who was fighting with the secular alliance as the local BJP leaders were marginalised. The margdarshak mandali of the party have raised certain valid points and the party leadership should accept them with humility for a better prospect in future.

The second aspect of the verdict is its consequences on the future electoral prospects and the demand for focussed governance and change in orientation of the government. With the comprehensive defeat, the opposition has successfully challenged the political hegemony of BJP and cultural hegemony of the RSS. Even if it was an Assembly election, from the NDA side, an impression was given that it was a battle between Delhi and Patna with almost all the Cabinet Ministers and BJP President camping there months before election. The Prime Minister himself had addressed 31 rallies, unprecedented in the history of more than six decades of India’s democratic process. No Prime Minister before him had campaigned so extensively and with so much of aggression in an Assembly election. Therefore, the consequence of the electoral battle is definitely a dent on the image of the Prime Minister and legitimacy of the BJP president in the organisation. On the other hand, the Mahagathbandhan model may be replicated by the anti-BJP forces in several other States where elections are due in a couple of years, the dominant party in the state leading the alliance.

Polarisation is not a substitute for development politics. This is the crux of the message of Bihar verdict and our Prime Minister and his government and party should understand this truth. Focus should now be shifted from election to governance and fulfilment of promises made to the voters. Dates have now been declared for the Winter session of Parliament and the country has a lot of expectations from the legislators. Farmers are eagerly waiting whether the government will take any sustainable measure so that they do not have to commit suicide, consumers are hoping that they will get relief from food inflation and moreover the youth of our country are impatiently waiting for the much promised employment. People who had voted for a strong, development oriented and inclusive governance will not tolerate a government that bows before RSS and furthers their divisive and intolerant agenda. The 21st century youth wants jobs in his hands and creative freedom to live his life in his own way. For him ‘D’ stands for development but he is equally sensitive to Dadri and DNA. He cannot be dictated to follow the regressive economic and cultural agenda and will certainly react if they are imposed on him. If the Bihar result could not open the inner eye of BJP as the Tipu Sultan episode in Karnataka is suggesting, then a greater disaster must be waiting for the party in future. The sooner it mends its ways, the better for them and for India.

Source:http://www.ibnlive.com/blogs/politics/jaiveer-shergill/beyond-bihar-verdict-a-greater-disaster-waiting-for-bjp-14401-1165876.html

Faultlines: Jammu and Kashmir

When the Prime Minister was in Jammu, delivering speeches on political grammar, the valley was up in flare with Pakistan flags and presence of ISIS, depicting a clear picture that either both the Centre and the State Government have lost control over the situation in Jammu and Kashmir or some sort of political engineering is taking shape in the State, in connivance with the ruling alliance, which is detrimental to our national interest and the people of the State. The incidents in Kathua and Anantnag are still fresh in our memory. The terrorist attacks in Jammu & Kashmir continue unabated.

Nothing has been learnt from the past mistakes. The Kathua attack came less than a week after India sent its foreign secretary to Islamabad to resume talks with Pakistan. Whereas the political leadership of the State feels that the attacks are handiwork of non-State actors, the paramilitary and civilians continue to suffer.

Einstein had said, ‘any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent’. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction. The situation in Jammu & Kashmir was allowed to be become complicated and violent in the winter of March when the dreaded Masarat Alam was released. His release could have been avoided. Then, the Union government had the opportunity to detain him, but they did not and, unfortunately, no satisfactory answer was given for this by the Home Minister in his statement in Parliament on 12 March.

Consequence, the period of calm is over, a shudder runs again through the valley. With temperature rising in the valley, snow is melting, so also the peace. If we are shocked by the anti-India and pro-Pakistan activities of Alam on our soil, we should not be because you cannot expect serenity and tranquillity from an agent provocateur. But, the role of the BJP-PDP government in the state and the BJP government at the Centre and the manner in which the entire episode was mishandled needs scrutiny not only to dissect what went wrong but to plan how to correct in future.

When opportunism prevails over conscience, such consequences are bound to happen. In fact, the silent areas of the common minimum programme are the fault lines of governance in Jammu and Kashmir. Unfortunately, the state, which has been an example of secularism for the rest of the country, has been somewhat polarized. The tone and tenor of Masarat Alam and Geelani’s speech is a clear indication that the Indian flag is under cloud in the valley. Even as tension continues to loom over the State and normal life has come to a halt in the valley, there no single senior Minister present in state capital to coordinate with civil and police administration to bring back normalcy in the State. The arrest of Masarat Alam and Geelani on 17 March was not a preventive action but a late reaction taken in pressure to continue the power sharing formula in Srinagar.

The declaration by the Central government that it will construct a composite township for rehabilitation of Kashmir Pandits did not help to improve the prospects of peace in the valley either. Kashmir Pandits are an integral part of economy, culture and political set up of Jammu and Kashmir. There is no doubt that they should return to the valley but will it serve any purpose if they physically move and remain culturally cut off from their roots? In fact, what the governments, both in Centre and at the state, plan to do is to establish separate colonies for Kashmir Pandits knowing very well that colonies by nature are homogeneous and the idea of composite character does not fit it at all.

Kasmiriyat does not allow creation of separate habitations for Muslims and Pandits. Even this is not acceptable to the Pandits and neither the Centre and nor the State Government has discussed any such proposal with the community. They want safety, security, livelihood guarantee and confidence building measures and not separate colonies to return. Rather this flawed political declaration, understood to be made after taking the Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed into confidence, is a step towards isolating the Pandits further and has made their return difficult.

For BJP, it is a moment of introspection. A party that grabs power even at the cost of compromising its fundamental ideology is beset with intransigence highly detrimental to national interests. The need of the hour is protection of lives and livelihood of people in Jammu and Kashmir. Arrest of Masarat Alam and Geelani should not be end in itself but system must be geared up to ensure speedy trial and toughest of punishment for the sedition that will set a deterrence for author hate mongers in the valley.

Let a strong message go across the border also that India will not allow any anti-national activity on its soil, either supported and instigated by external forces or perpetrated by their agents here. Also important is that the political leadership in the Centre and the state should not play into the trap of the separatists who are hell bent to create political and civil unrest in the state.

Our foreign policy should be based on pragmatic considerations to protect interests of India as sovereign nation-state rather than guided by internal political considerations. The admission of Hafiz Saeed that government of Pakistan, its army, in collusion with militants like Saeed, are actively operating to destabilize Jammu and Kashmir, even though is not a new innovation, should be seriously taken by the political establishment and security forces in Delhi and Srinagar, for the danger it poses to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Release of Lakhvi in Pakistan, anti-India propaganda by elements like Hafiz Saeed, Masarat Alam and Geelani and increasing violence in J&K should not be viewed as events in isolation. This is the opportune time to address problem in a comprehensive manner with utmost urgency. Any government that fails to protect lives of its subjects has no moral right to govern.

For the central forces operating from the state, situation is very dicey and challenging. A single mistake by them has the potential to turn the already volatile valley into a cauldron. New Delhi and Srinagar must be alert to deal with deal with such pressure situations and the more and more preventive measures are taken, the better for the people of paradise on earth.

Source-“http://www.ibnlive.com/blogs/politics/jaiveer-shergill/faultlines-jammu-and-kashmir-14401-1022187.html”

PERFORMANCE AUDIT-MODI 1st YEAR

Modi’s moto during his election campaign was minimum government and maximum governance. He won the election promising good times (acchhe din) which meant freedom from poverty, corruption, jobs for all and a good standard of living for all Indians. He made a number of promises, more than the number of countries he has visited so far.

If I can recall correctly, his most important five promises were recovery of back money from abroad, complete eradication of corruption, jobs and houses for all, absolute control on prices and tax rationalisation. In the past one year, the economic policies of Modi Government have been directionless so far. As rightly said by Arun Shourie, Government is more concerned about managing headlines than putting policies in place.

Thanks to the confusion over retrospective taxation, the foreign institutional investors are shying away from India. Key manufacturing and infrastructure sectors are showing signs of stress. Against 4.2% growth rate in infrastructure sector in 2013-14, the figure has been 3.5% in 2014-15. This is seriously affecting job prospects.

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The Government has, in fact, fared worst in job creation. Once the leverage of oil price gone, the market realities are out in the open. The Modi Government has no control over prices. On the black money issue, the Government has been embarrassed much thanks to their rhetoric not matching with their competency.

On improving the ease of doing business in India, the Government has been caught in a trap, some structural and some of its own making. GST which was brought by the UPA, has been the only tax reform measure of recent time. Noncommittal towards implementation of the Direct Tax Code shows the lack of willingness of this Government to bring a transparent tax reform system in place. On the external front, foreign policy of Modi Government is limited to foreign visit of Prime Minister. Much hype, no substance.

Does the Government have no respect for livelihood of millions of farmers?

The Modi Government has shown its anti-poor and anti-farmer face by severely diluting the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 that ensured not only compensation and rehabilitation of the affected families but was an effective prevention against forcible acquisition of land.

Farmers-Rights

By the means of this Act, the UPA Government had bestowed the rights on the farmers to decide whether they want to sell their land or not. To be honest, BJP was very much a party to this landmark legislation. Now, with this amendment ordinance, that right has been snatched from the hands of the farmers and they have been left at the mercy of the industrial houses. The Act required the consent of 80% of the affected families if land is to be acquired  for private use and 70% in the case of public private partnership (PPP) projects.

It also required the mandatory social impact assessment (SIA) before acquisition of farming land. By diluting the consent clause and the social impact assessment clause including the application of the Food Security Act, which were the crux of the law, the NDA Government has made the Act toothless and completely ineffective. The NDA Government is clearing the path for corporate houses for forcibly acquiring land from poor farmers irrespective of their socio-economic and livelihood implications.

The Government has made it clear that the consent of poor to forgo their livelihood has no meaning on the face of interests of the industrialists. What was the need to change the provision to acquire multi cropped irrigated land for industry purposes? Is it the only way to move forward on reform?

Does the Government have become so arrogant that it has no respect for lives and livelihood of millions of farmers and their rights over their land? What was the necessity to give irreversible rights to the industrialists over the acquired land even if the same are not used after five years of acquisition? Why this clause was also removed? Who will answer these questions?

False perceptions and unanswered questions: Why Modi should let the Planning Commission be

http://www.dailymail.co.uk Ever since the new Government came to power, the future of the Planning Commission, a body that symbolizes the economic structure of our country, has become a subject of intense speculation. With the BJP in power, Nehru’s economic legacy is being dismantled.

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One of the first acts of Prime Minister Modi was to announce the unceremonious shutting down of the Planning Commission—that venerated pillar of old nation-building – and then to announce the proposal to set up a “Niti Ayoga”.

Maladies

A recent circular directed all major ministries and departments to furnish their plan budget estimates for 2015-16 directly to the finance ministry, marking the formal shift of responsibility of determining annual plan expenditure from the Planning Commission to the ministry. Every institution has its own inherent mechanism that allows it to evolve over time. Since the Planning Commission has been constituted, it has also evolved according to the requirements of time. The Commission had been holding discussions with stakeholders on PPP projects on power and infrastructural sector to name but a few. It also held discussions for skill building in schools with stakeholders at various fora. Therefore, to assume that Planning Commission has been immune to changing needs is not correct.

It is not that the Commission has not realised its maladies. It has started taking corrective measures by introducing greater stakeholder participation, and identifying critical intervention areas, such as improving business regulatory environment and human asset environment for enhancing manufacturing. Yes, there is ample scope for improvement and those areas need to be identified and strengthened to make it an effective mechanism in the process of good governance. The Commission should be allowed to evolve with the needs of the economy, and its actions must be open to public scrutiny. If need be, it can be made answerable and accountable to Parliament and modalities in this regard can be worked out. Of course, a detailed examination is required examining the pros and cons of bringing the Commission under Parliamentary control.

The Planning Commission has been perceived by many as an instrument of centralisation against the spirit of federalism. This perception that the Commission has one framework for all the states or stake-holders, is wrong. In fact, it is the ministries who have such a mindset. The Commission, in its right, has insisted that you must have an objective method of allocating funds. Like, for education, it is the extent of deprivation of education in a state that should drive the allocation of funds. All this straight-jacketing emanates from the ministries. It doesn’t come from the Planning Commission. Rather, financial planning by the Ministry of Finance (MoF) will violate the spirit of an independent view on allocation of funds in light of competing demands between ministries (and states), need for planning body to assess appropriate schemes and to have an integrated view of the economy.

Development

 The Planning Commission was set up by a Resolution of the Government of India in March 1950 in pursuance of prime objectives of the Government to promote better standards of living. India as a state has not matured enough to move away from economic and investment planning and to completely shed the welfare character of the State. Fruits of development are yet to reach millions. The Prime Minister is pushing hard for the new body but there is no clarity when the new body will take shape.

Retainment

 There are many unanswered questions regarding this new body. Will it mean the end of the planning process itself? If not, who will formulate and monitor the five year plans as the Planning Commission was doing? What will happen to the 12th plan document? How will plan fund flow from Centre to the States? Who will answer? As Modi is discovering, the fate of the Indian economy and the country’s planning shall depend on the charity of the private sector.

The Planning Commission is not only a fund allocator and target setter but also facilitates, within an institutional framework, the dialogue process, cutting across party lines, to set a national goal. There is no doubt that, if reformed effectively, the Commission can meet the requirements of the 21st century. Even in a market-oriented economy of today, a body such as the Planning Commission can have a useful role to play.

The NDA Government can, and should, work closely with a strengthened Planning Commission. The tools and functions of the Commission can be restructured, and the idea of abolishing it should immediately be dropped. When nearly half of the States in the country are opposed to the idea, the Centre should not press it further, as the essence of federalism lies in consensus and not in coercion. Doing away with the Planning Commission means diluting the spirit of federalism and cutting the bridge that connects the Centre with the periphery.

The writer is a Supreme Court Lawyer

Paradigm shift and Institutions

A functional democracy requires functional and effective institutions. Institutions being the nerves of a democratic order, their growth and autonomy are vital for smooth functioning of democracy – political, economic and social.

History has witnessed how institutions have evolved over a period of time and contributes to the nation building process. History has also witnessed how key institutions have been weakened deliberately by forces not conducive to democratic affairs, consequently threatening the decline of democratic values in the society.

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The Indian National Congress (INC), since it was constituted in 1885, has espoused nation building through institutionalization of democratic values. The history of the Indian National Congress is the history of institution building. After winning Independence, the Congress Party in India was faced with the task of carving out a modern, democratic State from a traditional society.

The party started with a clear definition of the aims and purposes of the new State —Sovereignty of the People, Constitutional Democracy and Fundamental Rights. An inherited stable governmental machinery and administrative structure, the adoption of parliamentary and federal government and the setting up of the Planning Commission provided the formal apparatus with which these purposes could be realised.

What was needed was organisation and drive to give content to the constitutional forms by building up an institutional continuum that world lay the basis of a modern, democratic State. The Congress party attempted to strengthen national unity, to modernise the country, and to operate political and governmental institutions in order to lay the basis for democracy in India and remained successful in this endeavour.

Ever since, staunch secularism and socialist economics are the Congress’s “core beliefs. The Congress is committed to the four pillars of Nehruvianism — democratic institution -building, staunch secularism, socialist economics and a foreign policy of non-alignment — that were integral to a vision of Indianness.

It is in the interest of the country that these institutions be nurtured and allowed to evolve to meet the newer challenges. Divisive elements should not be allowed to work towards weakening the forces that make for national unity by strengthening parochial identities by the means of their traditional and conservative politics obstructing the process of modernisation and democratisation.

The conflict between the Congress Party and political parties like the BJP is the conflict of ideas i.e. between the politics of modernisation and the politics of power in a traditional society. The process of institution building begins with the government. As the new government has taken charge, it becomes important, in the public interest, to discuss and deliberate on institution building in India in the light of shift in political power.

To begin with, the highest institution of a democratic set up is the Parliament. Opposition parties and their constructive role improve the efficacy of Parliament as a legislating authority. The role played by the BJP as an Opposition in the 15th Lok Sabha is a glaring example how the national party had sullied the institution of Parliament, the sacred forum, by not allowing it to function effectively.

Parliament was prevented from discussing issues of public importance and to legislate on matters of public welfare. The 15th Lok Sabha was not allowed to utilize even 40 percent of its allotted time on legislation / discussion. 60 percent time of Question Hour was lost due to disruption by the BJP led opposition, only 10 percent of the starred questions could be answered orally. Now, they have moved to the other side of the House and hopefully will allow the Parliament to function.

Despite the slogan of Modiji that the new Government will not do badle ki rajniti but will do badlab ki rajniti, the Congress party and the UPA (which fought the general elections as a pre-poll coalition) is being denied the post of Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

Over time and by virtue of Supreme Court orders and legislative rule making and also in consideration of the role played in appointment to high positions like the Lokpal, CVC, CIC, CBI Director, NHRC Chairman and Secretary – General, Lok Sabha, the post of Leader of Opposition has assumed a central role in Parliamentary functions.

Therefore, instead of focusing on petty politics, the NDA Government should institutionalize the LoP post and allow the single largest party in the House of the People to have the leader appointed as the Leader of Opposition in the House.

Another institution which was dishonored by the then Opposition was the position of Prime Minister. Dr. Manmohan Singh, a leader honest to the marrow, was described as ineffective and remote controlled. It was forgotten that when the entire world was going through recession, it was Dr. Singh who protected Indian economy from that recession with his knowledge and acumen. Congress party is a democratic party which gives ample freedom to its leaders and moreover, there is separation of power between the Party and the Government. Internal democracy is evident in the structure and functioning of the Congress party. It is not like other party which is remote controlled from neither Nagpur nor its policies and leaders are imposed on the party by a super authority.

It is of highest importance in a democratic set up that the independence of Judiciary, the balancing institution between the Legislature and the Executive, be uphold and the institution may be kept over and above political considerations and political victimization. The recent tug of war between the executive and the judiciary on the Gopal Subramanian case is a dangerous trend.

It was highly improper on the part of the NDA government to bring the judiciary into controversy by politically victimizing Shri Subramanian. The matter went to the extent that the Chief Justice of India had to express his displeasure on the course of action taken by the government on this issue. This was not the first time that the judiciary has been brought into controversy by the self-proclaimed party with a difference.

Taking exception to the Supreme Court verdict charging yoga guru Baba Ramdev of ‘contributory neglect’ that led to the midnight police crackdown at the Ramlila Maidan, the Bharatiya Janata Party had said that by the same logic Mahatama Gandhi contributed to the crackdown by the British raj on his protests. Such an unscrupulous comparison reflects its mindset. A judicial decision or executive order needs to be tolerated whether or not it facilitates the political agenda of a party.

After 16th May, 2014 when it was decided that the BJP will form the Government at the centre, discreet news items are appearing in the media that the new Government will undo the policies and the executive decisions of the previous Government. In this context, constitutional posts like State Governors and positions of policy importance like the RBI Governor have been dragged into discussion which are not symbols of healthy governance.

The Governors who act as links between the Centre and the States are being advised to resign from their positions. Such moves by the Government have been criticized by intellectuals who are well aware of the critical role played by the incumbents. Recently, former RBI Governor Shri Bimal Jalan has expressed his considered view that office of the RBI should not be politicized. It is only hoped that better sense will prevail and institutions like RBI, CVC and CAG will not be politicized.

The case of Planning Commission needs special mention. It is in the public domain that for the present government, Planning Commission is a defunct body of no relevance and it will have no impact if it is dismantled or its powers and functions are restricted by taking away its key role of allocating development funds to central ministries.

But the fact is that since its inception in 1950, the Planning Commission has played a crucial and responsible role for planning how resources would be mobilized and on what they would be spent. Despite the role played by the private sector, the planning process and the planning commission are still very much relevant to our economy.

The UPA Government, both in its first and second tenures, has enacted and implemented various historic laws institutionalizing pro-education, pro-welfare and anti-poverty measures and bringing transparency in administration. Schemes like MNREAGA and acts like the Right to Information Act and the Right to Education Act are conspicuous examples reflecting the objectives and concerns of the UPA Government.

Health was another area which has been given due importance by the Congress government, be it UPA or be it the previous Congress Governments. Steps were taken to ensure health insurance cover to all the citizens, starting with health insurance to the BPL families. If we look at how these welfare schemes were implemented in non-Congress ruled states, a comprehensive picture can be obtained about the priorities of the political parties like the BJP.

Gujarat model of development, flagged as the best development model by the BJP, has no place for development of human development index. Infant mortality, malnutrition and dropout rates in the State reflect the areas of neglect by the State Government there. A small Google search reveals that Gujarat occupies one of the top slots in the list of states where RTI activists have been killed in recent years.

A quick scan of those “killed” reveals that five out of some 23 odd killed in recent years (22 percent) were from Gujarat. Gujarat is a laggard in the implementation of the RTI Act. If it hadn’t been for a constitutional necessity to follow the laws of the land, the Gujarat Government would have done away with the RTI totally. It’s the same with the Lokayukta, Why have a Lokayukta at all? Gujarat hasn’t had one since 2003. These are key elements in the Gujarat model that Shri Narendra Modi has promised us all.

Secularism is the pillar on which the pluralistic society of India rests on. India is best described as a nation where unity is possible amidst the diversities. The history of India and the idea of India are not about domination of minority cultures by the majoritarian culture but about celebration of diverse cultural entities that exist peacefully within the constitutional framework of the country. Therefore, the Government of the day should recognize this diversity and work towards its promotion and protection instead of evoking a sense of fear among those who do not believe in the theory of cultural hegemony.

But now that the BJP has controlled the central government, the threat of subversion of the Constitution and the Parliament is very real. To conclude, as long as the extremist political forces are not ideologically weeded out from the body politic, the threat of extremism subverting Parliament will be real.

The legislature and its capacity to assert its independence flow from the executive’s accountability. This is how the makers of the Constitution conceived the parliamentary system in our country. Given the obnoxious record of the BJP, the threat is all the more serious. In democracies the world over, the functioning of the legislature is inseparably linked to the functioning of a free press reflecting truthfully the development and proceedings in Parliament. Therefore, in the coming days, vigilance has to be multi-fold to safeguard Parliament from such pernicious attempts at subversion.

* The writer is a Lawyer and the National Spokesperson of the Indian National Congress.

Institution Building Congress and BJP

A functional democracy requires functional and effective institutions. Institutions being the nerves of a democratic order, their growth and autonomy are vital for smooth functioning of democracy – political, economic and social. History has witnessed how institutions have evolved over a period of time and contributes to the nation building process. History has also witnessed how key institutions have been weakened deliberately by forces not conducive to democratic affairs, consequently threatening the decline of democratic values in the society.

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The Indian National Congress (INC), since it was constituted in 1885, has espoused nation building through institutionalization of democratic values. The history of the Indian National Congress is the history of institution building. After winning Independence, the Congress Party in India was faced with the task of carving out a modern, democratic State from a traditional society. The party started with a clear definition of the aims and purposes of the new State —Sovereignty of the People, Constitutional Democracy and Fundamental Rights. An inherited stable governmental machinery and administrative structure, the adoption of parliamentary and federal government and the setting up of the Planning Commission provided the formal apparatus with which these purposes could be realised. What was needed was organisation and drive to give content to the constitutional forms by building up an institutional continuum that world lay the basis of a modern, democratic State. The Congress party attempted to strengthen national unity, to modernise the country, and to operate political and governmental institutions in order to lay the basis for democracy in India and remained successful in this endeavour. Ever since, staunch secularism and socialist economics are the Congress’s “core beliefs. The Congress is committed to the four pillars of Nehruvianism — democratic institution -building, staunch secularism, socialist economics and a foreign policy of non-alignment — that were integral to a vision of Indianness.

On the other hand, the emergence of divisive elements like the Bharatiya Janta Party and its sister organizations are persistently working towards weakening the forces that make for national unity by strengthening parochial identities. Their traditional and conservative politics obstructs the process of modernisation and democratisation. In essence, the conflict between the Congress Party and political parties like the BJP is the conflict of ideas i.e. between the politics of modernisation and the politics of power in a traditional society. The process of institution building begins with the government. As the new government has taken charge, it becomes important, in the public interest, to discuss and deliberate on institution building in India vis-à-vis contributions of Congress and BJP thereto.
To begin with, the highest institution of a democratic set up is the Parliament. Opposition parties and their constructive role improve the efficacy of Parliament as a legislating authority. The role played by the BJP as an Opposition in the 15th Lok Sabha is a glaring example how the national party had sullied the institution of Parliament, the sacred forum, by not allowing it to function effectively. Parliament was prevented from discussing issues of public importance and to legislate on matters of public welfare. The 15th Lok Sabha was not allowed to utilize even 40 percent of its allotted time on legislation / discussion. 60 percent time of Question Hour was lost due to disruption by the BJP led opposition, only 10 percent of the starred questions could be answered orally. Now, they have moved to the other side of the House and hopefully will allow the Parliament to function. Another institution which was dishonored by the BJP was the position of Prime Minister. Dr. Manmohan Singh, a leader honest to the marrow, was described as ineffective and remote controlled. The BJP forgot that when the entire world was going through recession, it was Dr. Singh who protected Indian economy from that recession with his knowledge and acumen. Congress party is a democratic party which gives ample freedom to its leaders and moreover, there is separation of power between the Party and the Government. Rather, BJP is remote controlled from Nagpur. The RSS decides both policies and leaders for the BJP. The BJP has not even left the Judiciary, the balancing institution between the Legislature and the Executive, from being victimized. Taking exception to the Supreme Court verdict charging yoga guru Baba Ramdev of ‘contributory neglect’ that led to the midnight police crackdown at the Ramlila Maidan, the Bharatiya Janata Party had said that by the same logic Mahatama Gandhi contributed to the crackdown by the British raj on his protests. Such an unscrupulous comparison reflects the BJP mindset. The BJP can tolerate a judicial decision or executive order to the extent it facilitate their sinister design.

After 16th May, 2014 when it was decided that the BJP will form the Government at the centre, discreet news items are appearing in the media that the new Government will undo the policies and the executive decisions of the previous Government. In this context, constitutional posts like State Governors and positions of policy importance like the RBI Governor have been dragged into discussion which are not symbols of healthy governance. Such moves by the Government have been criticized by intellectuals who are well aware of the critical role played by the incumbents. Recently, former RBI Governor Shri Bimal Jalan has expressed his considered view that office of the RBI should not be politicized. It is only hoped that better sense will prevail and institutions like RBI, CVC and CAG will not be politicized.

The UPA Government, both in its first and second tenures, has enacted and implemented various historic laws institutionalizing pro-education, pro-welfare and anti-poverty measures and bringing transparency in administration. Schemes like MNREAGA and acts like the Right to Information Act and the Right to Education Act are conspicuous examples reflecting the objectives and concerns of the UPA Government. Health was another area which has been given due importance by the Congress government, be it UPA or be it the previous Congress Governments. Steps were taken to ensure health insurance cover to all the citizens, starting with health insurance to the BPL families. If we look at how these welfare schemes were implemented in non-Congress ruled states, a comprehensive picture can be obtained about the priorities of the political parties like the BJP. Gujarat model of development, flagged as the best development model by the BJP, has no place for development of human development index. Infant mortality, malnutrition and dropout rates in the State reflect the areas of neglect by the State Government there. A small Google search reveals that Gujarat occupies one of the top slots in the list of states where RTI activists have been killed in recent years. A quick scan of those “killed” reveals that five out of some 23 odd killed in recent years (22 percent) were from Gujarat. Gujarat is a laggard in the implementation of the RTI Act. If it hadn’t been for a constitutional necessity to follow the laws of the land, the Gujarat Government would have done away with the RTI totally. It’s the same with the Lokayukta, Why have a Lokayukta at all? Gujarat hasn’t had one since 2003. These are key elements in the Gujarat model that Shri Narendra Modi has promised us all.

Secularism is the pillar on which the pluralistic society of India rests on. India is best described as a nation where unity is possible amidst the diversities. The history of India and the idea of India are not about domination of minority cultures by the majoritarian culture but about celebration of diverse cultural entities that exist peacefully within the constitutional framework of the country. Therefore, the Government of the day should recognize this diversity and work towards its promotion and protection instead of evoking a sense of fear among those who do not believe in the theory of cultural hegemony.

But now that the BJP has come to control the central government, the threat of subversion of the Constitution and the Parliament is very real. To conclude, as long as the extremist political forces are not ideologically weeded out from the body politic, the threat of Hindutva subverting Parliament will be real. The legislature and its capacity to assert its independence flow from the executive’s accountability. This is how the makers of the Constitution conceived the parliamentary system in our country. Given the obnoxious record of the BJP and the Hindutva forces, the threat is all the more serious. In democracies the world over, the functioning of the legislature is inseparably linked to the functioning of a free press reflecting truthfully the development and proceedings in Parliament. Therefore, in the coming days, vigilance has to be multi-fold to safeguard Parliament from such pernicious attempts at subversion.

* The writer is a Lawyer and the National Spokesperson of the Indian National Congress.