Saturday, May 31, 2008
Delhi High Court refuses to change Metro project in South Delhi
The Delhi Metro is seen as an instrument for change in Delhi. The sheer presence of the Metro on many routes has led to a reduction in the bus traffic on these routes (for example, from the Dwarka to Connaught Place route), and has led to the commercial revival of many areas (the number of visitors to places such as Connaught Place, Chawi Bazaar, Chandni Chowk, etc) have all gone up and led to these places getting a new lease of life. However, the Metro project has not been without its slate of issues, one of them being the route passing through areas where there is liable to be controversy.
One major point in the past has been the changing of the skyline of the city wherever the metro passes, because suddenly you have a large seemingly unlimited concrete bridge being part of the skyline, and it can be quite ugly. However, over a period of time, we have tended to accept this as a compromise that has been made to get a system that provides more convenience. One such issue in the past was whether the Metro could be a cultural nuisance, especially when it was passing close to the Qutab complex. Eventually, the pressure by cultural experts forced the Metro line to give in, and they changed the lone so that it did not pass so close to the Qutab anymore. However, the other issue about passing close to the homes of people remains. A metro line can be noisy when a train arrives, and the height of the rail line (especially in crowded areas) can be uncomfortably close to either the second floor / windows of houses, and people feel concerned about their privacy.
There is a solution, but it is much more expensive. Building underground is as much as 3 times more expensive that over land, and wherever the metro has found a central verge, it has built overground because of the expense issue. In the case of South Delhi, the Metro plan faced some dogged opposition, but finally this challenge seems to have been overcome, and the Metro has won the issue:
The Delhi High Court dismissed a petition seeking to scrap Metro's elevated corridor project in south Delhi on the ground that it would cause noise pollution in residential areas on Friday. A Bench headed by Justice T S Thakur, however, directed the Centre and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) to make all possible efforts to reduce the level of noise pollution which will be caused by the Metro rail running on the elevated corridor.
The petition, filed by residents of south Delhi colonies falling on the route of the project, had contended that running Metro rail on elevated corridor would create noise pollution and would interfere in their private life as it would be passing very close to their homes. The Centre had defended the elevated project, saying a huge investment would be required for building an underground Metro corridor. DMRC had also contended that contract for the project had already been awarded to the companies and it would not been possible to revert back.
So the issue has been decided for now, but the question remains of expenditure vs. convenience. For future expansion of the Metro line, such questions will again come up, so I wanted to know from readers as to what they thought of this issue.
Gujjar agitation could cause major problems
Probably a major under-statement, given the events so far over the 2 separate agitations that has taken place in 2007, and 2008. Crores worth of public property has been destroyed, the railways has lost massively both because of destruction of railways lines and equipment and due to large scale cancellation of trains. Tourism in the region will take a knock (especially with the bombs of just a few weeks back in Jaipur) with advisories already having been issued and coverage of these protests in the international media; and normal people have been put to massive hardships. But, this is not the end. As long as the politics of reservation will keep on getting patronized by various Governments, they will face such kind of issues. For example, who would have believed that the North East could see such a problem:
SHILLONG: As protests of the Gujjars, who are demanding ST status, spread to fresh areas, the community living in the North-East will also take up the cudgels and launch an agitation in support of the cause.
Representatives of the community from the entire region met in Guwahati on Friday to chalk out a programme to join the protests.
There is no good solution. If the Government bows down to these demands and grants them the ST status (it makes no logic to give the Gujjar community an ST tag, the only reason is that the Jats have been granted OBC, and hence the Gujjar community sees the ST as a way to get more benefit of reservations, and hence these pressure tactics of violence). If they do get such benefits, then other communities will also want to avail of similar benefits, and this is a very slippery slope to go down. Already, both the Central and Rajasthan government have come under fire for letting the agitations causing so much disturbance.
The courts also know this, and from time to time, they have asked the Governments about whether there is plan to take empowered communities out of the net so that only the truly backward get such benefits, but any political party will find it suicidal to remove reservations for any benefit. And yet, parties continue on this policy, well knowing that any benefit is only transient, and other parties will also try to garner the same benefit. As an example of Governments trying to provide reservations even when courts have ruled against this, here is an example of the Tamil Nadu Government providing reservations on the basis of religion:
The Tamil Nadu government on Friday issued orders to "ensure" that Muslims and Christians got 3.5% reservation each in government services to overcome some 'practical problems' faced by the two communities in availing the benefit.
The Andhra Pradesh Government attempts in this regard have been periodically rejected by courts, yet here is another State Government trying the same.
Mystery - Pakistan human rights activist Burney deported from India
Sometimes the doings of the Indian Government is very mysterious, and many times the doings just don't make sense. Take this example: The deportation of Pakistani human rights campaigner and former Human Rights minister as soon as he arrived at the Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi (back to Dubai from here he had arrived). Deportation ? You normally expect that to happen when there is a criminal involved, or if somebody arrives in the country without a visa, and you really don't want to let him inside the country. For those who do not know about the doings of Burney in recent times, here is a bit of background:
The case of Indians in Pakistani jails (and vice-versa) is an emotional issue, one that affects plenty of families on either sides, and one that both Governments deal both as a prestige issue as well as one that is supposed to be of high priority (for reference: Indian diplomats are believed to be less caring about the plight of Indian citizens in foreign jails rather than the diplomats of other countries, specially of the West). A long standing issue has been the one of Indian prisoner of wars from the 1971 war (who are supposedly still in Pakistani jails, but which every Government of Pakistan has denied, and whom Indira Gandhi did not make an all out effort to get back when she released the thousands of Pakistani prisoner of wars from the 1971 war). Another recent issue, highlighted in the media has been the cases of specific Indian prisoners in Pakistani jails, many of whom have been there for some time.
A long background, but serves to highlight the doings of Ansar Burney. He has apparently made an effort to visit jails, and taken up the case of many Indians who have been in Pakistani jails for a long time. The 2 most recent such persons in the limelight have been Kashmira Singh, and Sarabjit Singh. Burney, as the term goes, batted for both of them, and played an active role in the actual release of Kashmira Singh. He even came in for criticism when Kashmira Singh foolishly stated that he was a spy (people in Pakistani criticized him for helping in getting a spy released), but he was unfazed, and has been making statements in favor of Sarabjit Singh.
And then compare the treatment he has suddenly received on arriving in India:
Seemingly intrigued by the deportation of Pakistani human rights activist Ansar Burney on Saturday night, the Ministry of External Affairs has sought details about the action from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The MEA has asked the MHA to state why Burney, who has been fighting for the cause of Indian prisoners in Pakistan, was deported, sources said.
Burney, who came to New Delhi on Friday night to attend a conference on terrorism, was immediately sent back from the Indira Gandhi International Airport to Dubai from where he had arrived. MHA sources said the former Human Rights Minister of Pakistan was sent back because of a 'look-out notice' against him.
This is all the more surprising since Burney had only recently visited India, and met both the Home Minister, Shivraj Patil, and the Foreign Secretary; so such an action is very surprising. Could it because the new Pakistani Government did not like his actions and wanted to humiliate him and got the Indian Government to issue a look-out notice ?
Thursday, May 29, 2008
The Nitish Katara case - justice done
It's been some time now since this case has been in court. Imagine the case where a couple is in love, being of the age when people usually fall in love. Now think about the case where the girl is from a prominent family, politically connected, and very very arrogant in their power. They have access to brute force, along with political connections, and in the past, have shown that they are very much capable of committing violence and not being the least bit concerned that there is such a thing such as law, order and justice. Further, the brother of the girl is a known bad element, with all the arrogance of power as comes from living in a setup where the exercise of power has been the case all through.
If some of you would have seen an Abhishek Bachchan movie called 'Run', it would have reminded you of the situation similar to this one; but in real life you cannot just fight your way through, and life is not a movie. This actually happened in real life, and finally led to the cutting short of a promising life on February 16, 2002 when Nitish Katara, the young man (24 at that time) was brutally killed by a hammer by Vikas Yadav (the brother) and Vishal Yadav (the cousin of the girl). They committed the murder, hid the evidence and burned the body.
In normal cases, given the police investigation conditions and the political power of the accused, the case would have ended. Except for the pressure mounted by a desperate mother who would go to any end in order to get the murderers of her son, a media that saw in these injustices (combined with the cases of Jessica Lall, Priyadarshini Mattoo) as victimisation of the middle class by the connected, and a surge of interest in making sure that these cases do not go away. And now the end result is now visible:
NEW DELHI: The night before the verdict seemed longer than usual, though she had waited six long years for justice. The nervous wait was over in a matter of minutes, as the verdict was pronounced, taking a huge load off her shoulders. Neelam Katara stood vindicated on Wednesday, with the killers of her son Nitish finally proclaimed guilty.
Neelam lost her husband a year and a half after Nitish's death and her younger son Nitin was mostly out of town for studies and work. So for her, it was a lonely battle for justice, braving threats, financial constraints and occasional ill health. However, she laughs it off when called the "lone warrior". "I have had the support of family, friends and media all through. In fact, complete strangers have called me up and visited me, saying they were with me through all that was happening. I have never been alone," she smiles.
Of course, there is a long way to go. The case will wind its way to the High Court and the Supreme Court, with the good point being that the media will also be there to ensure that no injustice happens at these points. At the same time, this case also provides a lot of lost hope to people who may face similar crimes, but in the semi-urban or rural areas where such injustices can happen and there is no media or pressure to make sure that such cases get highlighted.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Gujjar agitation paralyses Delhi
Today, the 29th of May, 2008, was a day that a lot of people would have had a lot of worries about. Delhi and the whole NCR region has seen the effect of the Gujjar agitation when it last took place in 2007, and at that time, the lathi wielding and stone throwing members of the mob forced the major intersections of South and East Delhi to come to a standstill - traffic at major points such as the Noida Link road, Badarpur, Loni, etc was totally jammed, and demonstrators did pretty much what they liked. At that time, what was depicted in the media was that the police were essentially not taking any action and letting them burn buses and other public property.
Keeping this in mind, there was a lot of worry and concern about what the day would turn out like. The whole of Delhi and NCR region sees a lot of cross traffic with people moving on a daily basis from Delhi and other regions such as Faridabad / Gurgaon going to offices in Noida on a regular basis, and similar movement. For such people, the news of this Gujjar called bandh was a time for decision. Would you want to try this movement on this particular day and risk getting caught in violence, or stuck in a non-moving traffic jam for long periods of time. As a result, there were a large number of companies that actually declared a holiday today. Even where I worked, most people from places that were more than 10 Km away did not come, in many cases because their family persuaded them not to go.
The Government knows that this kind of demonstration will happen, and the long jams, violence and other such situations that afflict the regular commuters (as well as people who earn their living on a daily basis) are a reflection of the failure of Governance. Sample these reports from an article on Delhi shutting down:
Gujjars on Thursday had blocked road and rail traffic in the Capital and adjoining areas as part of their 'NCR rasta roko' agitation even as over 35,000 policemen fanned out across the National Capital Region to prevent any untoward incident. Earlier, all main highways leading to the Capital were blocked. There were also reports of stone pelting and effigies burning. At places the agitators broke windshields of cars and buses.
Protesters turned away vehicles from Noida and Gurgaon, home to scores of outsourcing and computer software firms. Many offices were also closed. Security personnel were deployed in strength in Gujjar strongholds like Mehrauli, Ghazipur, Patparganj, Badarpur, Khanpur, Ayanagar, Chilla village and Rampur, anticipating a strong showing by the community during the agitation.
But as reports by the media during the course of the day indicate, traffic was blocked for many hours and opened only around noon. During this time, people had to take side roads, or wait in long jams. And there is no point talking about the many hours lost, or the roadside vendors or people who are dependent on getting to their places of work for their daily earnings (who would travel by public transport, something that was directly attacked). This is something that the Government is directly responsible for, but one believes that the Government was just ensuring that the violence and disturbance does not cross a particular level. The other reaction by the Government was to cancel a number of trains running near Jaipur, Agra, and to the NCR region.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Youth lynched for stealing a Re. 1 gutka pouch
How precious is human life actually ? We read all the time about thieves getting lynched in the rural and semi-urban areas of our country; as well as hang our heads in shame when some local caste panchayat or even the actual parents or relatives actually kill their own children pretending that their children have brought dishonor to their lives.
However, in a new low, you can actually measure how low the value of a human life actually is. It is Rs.1, that one rupee shiny coin that many of us in cities do not even claim can purchase anything worthwhile. In this incident, a youth ran away with a gutkha packet from a village shop in West Bengal, and was then chased by a mob that finally caught up with him and then beat him to death. This is a horrible manifestation of the new low that have shown for the value of human life. Don't believe me ? Read this article:
A 22-year-old youth was lynched at Dakshin Duilla village under Andul police station in Howrah on Saturday for filching a Re 1 pouch of gutkha (tobacco-laced pan masala) from a shop. The shop owner and other villagers involved in the incident are absconding.
The angry mob caught up with Rahiz near a bamboo grove, some half a kilometre away from the shop and beat him up with whatever they could lay their hands on, including bamboo poles and farm implements. Samanta and the others fled after the youth collapsed. Passers-by saw the youth and informed police. By the time police arrived, Rahiz was dead.
These incidents keep on repeating from time to time, and we also read about them and ignore them as no impact to our own life. That may actually be true, they may not have any direct impact on our life, but are a sign of the breakdown of law and order in the countryside. A mob can dispense instant justice, and the people forming the mob are sure that they will not suffer anything because of their action.
BJP the winner in Karnataka
In an election result that has the potential to have an effect on the fortunes of 2 of the largest political parties in India, the hard fought Karnataka elections has seen the coming of the BJP to the cusp of power in a South Indian state. Till now the BJP has always been castigated as the party of North India, and that South India would always be out of its grasp. However, ever since the last election when the BJP became the largest political party (until the Congress merged some breakaway legislators), the BJP has always been seeing this dream as around the corner. First it agreed to support the JD(S) for half the term, and then when its turn came, it was betrayed by the same party (not something knew to the party since Mayawati has done the same to the party earlier).
There are many points that the BJP can claim with this victory:
- The claim of finally having broken into the states of South India
- Being able to beat back infighting and cashing in on a sympathy wave (so even though the BJP was part of the previous Government, it did not get tainted with any anti-incumbency wave
- Continuing in a string of victories after the morale enhancing Gujarat victory; something that is likely to keep the morale of the cadres high
- The emergence of another strong BJP leader in the form of B S Yeddyurappa who fought off all intra-party dissidence (for the time being at least)
The Congress will have to face some questions after this defeat:
- The Congress can claim that their vote share remained intact, but the fact is that all the vote shift was in favor of the BJP and the Congress was not able to capitalize on being in power in the state for the last 6 months during President's rule
- Their much vaunted winning claim of the Gandhi family took another knock, but since nobody will say this inside the party, you can be sure that all other scapegoats will be found in the form of inability of the Central Government to control inflation as well as appearing weak on the internal security angle
- Any hope that they had of trying to cross the Left party on some reforms as well as the nuclear deal will be further out of the window
The JD(S) has had a massive reduction in its seats, and corresponding credibility on the political scene.
However, not everything is rosy for the BJP. They will be ruling with a razor thin majority, and any strong dissidence is bound to cause problems. In addition, the BJP over-promised in terms of free power, easier loans, lower price food, etc, and will have to arrange for funds to pay for all this. It also needs to show a better mode of governance.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Indian Govt refuses to to request secret bank data
In the 80's and 90's, a lot of films had the concept of a secret Swiss account held by a politician or a corrupt government official, and the mission always was to either get the corrupt minister in some way or to get details of the secret account. Typically, Swiss banks (as well as banks in many other regions that are known as tax havens and where ill-gotten wealth is hidden) will not reveal data until it can be conclusively proved that there is something illegal involved in all this.
Another haven where such a banking setup exists is the small country of Liechtenstein, a small landlocked country between Austria and Switzerland. It also has a banking setup which is seen as a haven for people seeking to store their money, and hence a target for people wanting to investigate corruption. Now imagine, that the Indian Government can freely obtain such information about bank records; won't any Government jump at the chance to obtain such information and unmask people who have salted away their money.
Well, apparently not the Congress Government. It seems so surprising that the Government is not making any move to request such information that a person could easily suspect that senior Congressmen or people at the very top also find a name in such a list, and hence are hoping that this blows over and they are not unmasked. It is yet another blow to the credibility of this now discredited Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, that a newspaper can openly question as to why the Government is not pursing this information ?
Investigators in India might have their best chance yet to trace those Indians who have stashed away millions in the tiny tax haven of Liechtenstein, a small landlocked country between Austria and Switzerland, provided the Manmohan Singh government asks for the information on offer. The dope on hundreds of rich Indians who have black money parked in Liechtenstein could be made available to the authorities here as the German government, which has obtained a list of account holders at Liechtenstein’s LTG Bank, is willing to part with the names.
Several countries including the US, the UK, Canada, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Ireland have already used the opportunity to zero in on their citizens who have evaded taxes and smuggled their wealth to the principality, the sixth-smallest country in the world. But Transparency International says India has maintained 'a stoic silence over the issue and has not approached the German government for this data'. Suspecting that the government's chariness could stem from fears that influential politicians and industrialists might be compromised by the Liechenstein data, TI has, in a statement, said: "It is alleged that this money belongs to rich and powerful politicians, industrialists and stock brokers and that is why the reluctance on the part of government of India (to get details from Germany)."
This refusal by the Government is very surprising and it is actually causing a great deal of suspicion about the reasons for the Government to not try and get this information. It is very much possible that Congress and allies, not particularly known for their honesty, have hidden wealth over there, and the Government could face a lot of problems if this information is revealed.
What exactly is the policy regarding Bangladeshis ?
India has always had a problem regarding Bangladeshi immigrants, including about deciding what to do with them. In the states neighboring Bangladesh, particularly Assam, this has caused major problems including a long agitation against their presence. The increasing influx of these immigrants has also caused changes to the demography of many districts in these states. Even if they are immigrating for the purpose of economic betterment, no country can accept an unprecedented influx of outsiders, and for a long time, the security agencies have been claiming that they are a security problem as well. Bangladesh has active terrorist bases inside it, and many of recent blasts in India have been blamed on these groups by the police and intelligence agencies.
In addition, the intelligence agencies believe that these migrants are susceptible to being picked up the terrorist groups and made active members who will connive at planning for blasts, being members of active terrorist cells as well as providing support as sleepers. Over a period of time, various courts (including the Supreme Court) and even the Central Government appointed Governors have asked for a policy to urgently identify these immigrants and deport them back to Bangladesh.
The only problem in all this mixture is the Congress which is actively playing with the security of the country; it believes that these immigrants are a natural support base and hence the Congress does all it can to prevent them from being deported, and actually local leaders will help in getting them Government papers such as rations cards, voter identity cards and so on.
In the latest such indication, the practically useless and ineffective home minister, Shivraj Patil, is getting into blatant lying, claiming something that official letters sent by his ministry say otherwise:
While Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil on Monday termed Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s revelation about the Centre’s controversial suggestion to states to set up detention centres for illegal Bangladeshi immigrants as “not true”, official records obtained by The Indian Express contradict his claims.
Minutes of the meetings of the Nodal Authority, under the chairmanship of Union Home Secretary on January 24, 2007 and April 25, 2007, to review the progress of detection and deportation of illegal Bangladeshi migrants, clearly show that the Centre wanted the states to set up detention centers for illegal immigrants.
In the April 25 meeting that year, the Union Home Secretary had even told the participants that the “primary objectives” of the deportation exercise was to effectively control illegal immigration “by instilling a sense of fear and insecurity” in their minds. Raje said today: “It is very clear from the communication sent by the Ministry of Home Affairs in February, March and May 2007 that there was a conscious decision of the Union Home Ministry that state governments are required to set up detention centers for illegally staying foreigners pending their deportation.”
Right now, the Congress wants to distance itself from any such communication that it actually asked for deportation of Bangladeshi migrants, since this could have an impact on its vote base; while the priority should be to do whatever it needs to enhance the security of the country; the Prime Minister, as the head of this Government, is literally responsible for playing with the security of the country for electoral gains.
Mamta wins panchayat polls in Nandigram
Nandigram has been the epicenter of trouble for the Communist West Bengal Government (along with Singur). The Government had proposed to acquire land in the region for the purpose of setting up industry, and this had landed the whole region in problem. Whatever be the purpose of the Government to increase the level of industrialization (and I had looked upon this move with favor, since industrialization and proper compensation for acquiring land does benefit farmers), the next reaction of the CPM regime was shocking.
The Government faced opposition from a collection of different parties and groups, and yet their objective should have been to maintain law and order. However, the Government and Left parties instead treated this as a person affront against them (and the involvement of the Mamta Banerjee led Trinamool Congress only caused more problems for them). There was a massive confrontation between the armed cadres of the CPM (along with the full support of the state police) against the villagers and their support, and eventually it reached such a stage that there was a wave of condemnation against the tactics of the CPM.
Well, it seems like all those tactics have rebounded on the CPM, since the Trinamool has gained control over a zilla parishad, maybe a watershed in the politics of West Bengal:
In a jolt to the CPI(M)-led Left Front, Trinamool Congress defeated its candidates in trouble-torn Nandigram in the three-tier panchayat elections in West Bengal. The Front also faced rout in three zilla parishad seats in Singur to Trinamool Congress candidates.
Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress wrested control of zilla parishad in East Midnapur where trouble-torn Nandigram is located. It won 32 of the 53 seats, results of which were declared so far. It is the first time that Trinamool Congress gained control over a zilla parishad, the main decision-making body in the district.
I don't believe that there is an inherent opposition to the policies of industrialization that the West Bengal government is following, but the Government seems to believe that it is in China, where any policy can be ruthlessly enforced and any opposition suppressed.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Supreme Court gets stricter of use of force by banks
India's legal system can work very slowly, what with the massive backlog of cases that it has. Due to this backlog and the time it could take to get a case heard, people resort to their own form of justice or get frustrated waiting for a resolution to the cases. In the case of a bank that has given a loan to a person and the person is delinquent about repaying the loan, the proper procedure is to institute a complaint and follows the proper legal procedure for recovering the loan. This would take a lot of time, and hence banks use the services of goons, loan recovery agents who use force, etc.
This is the position taken by banks when trying to do a half-hearted justification of their willingness to use illegal means to recover their loans, or to get their money back by seizing the asset for which the loan was taken. However, this approach has several problems.
- It is patently illegal. A bank works as part of society, and other members of society have to obey the same rules; a bank cannot claim that it is special.
- There are so many cases where a person lands in a bad financial situation, and is willing to come to an agreement, but the bank hands over the debt to a recovery agent who has a single point agenda about getting the money back
- There could be a dispute between the 2 sides, something that can happen very easily, and instead of trying to resolve the discussion, the bank could hand it over to a recovery agent
Once this debt is handed over to a loan recovery agent, these are in most cases people who use the method of either harassment or the threat of force to do the recovery of the asset. It leads to further complications when the bank may dispose of the asset. Now, from time to time, both consumer forums and the court system have rules against this, but the incidents do happen from time to time. Now, the Supreme Court has repeated this injunction:
The Supreme Court in a landmark judgment on Thursday reiterated its earlier stand that banks cannot deploy musclemen for recovery of loans from defaulters thus forcing them to end their lives.
The court while dismissing the ICICI Bank's plea refused to delete the Delhi High Court's remarks that held the bank and its musclemen responsible for abetting a youth to commit suicide by humiliating him and taking away his motorcycle financed by the largest private sector bank. The court also directed the concerned Deputy Commissioner of Police to submit the investigation report in the Delhi High Court.
This may seem like a tough call to banks, but this is the cost of doing business and banks cannot claim a special right to use force. The SC is actually now threatening banks with de-recognition if they do use force.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
High Court raps Govt on Sachar report
It is a known fact of life that there are many communities in India that are backward; many of them get benefits on the basis of caste such as reservations in jobs and education. There is some debate on a policy of reservation, but the prime justification is that these castes have been suppressed as part of social and religious practices; there is also a whole host of politics involved in this whole affair.
It is this problem of politics that causes most problems; for some time now, the Congress has realized that it has been losing the support of Muslims, and this is not something that the Congress can easily accept. In order to regain power in the states and center, it needs to bring together a coalition of many parts of society such as the Dalits (except in Uttar Pradesh where Mayawati has got their support), forward castes such as the Brahmins, and the Muslims. Hence, a concerted plan to take measures that would be seen as benefiting the Muslim community; it is these that are now causing it problems.
The Government asked to get numbers of Muslims in the armed forces (something that was vigorously opposed); it wanted to get banks to apportion a certain amount of loans for the minorities (something even banks were unsure of in terms of implementation); the Andhra Pradesh Government tried to bring in reservation for Muslims (in spite of the Court rejecting it more than once). These policies, especially ones dealing with promising reservation to the backward section in the Muslim community have even come under fire from Muslim leaders. Islam as a religion has strict policies against any form of discrimination, and proclaim the equality of all before Allah, and to say that there are caste like discriminations in the community goes against the very concept.
So, the Government has now come under some severe questioning from the High Court:
The Central government came in for some searing criticism by Delhi HC on Monday with respect to implementation of Sachar Committee recommendations for welfare of Muslims. "You are trying to please one community. Poverty is the common enemy. You should fight against poverty rather than saying that you would fight against poverty for one community only," the bench observed during the hearing.
The bench wondered why the government's benevolence was targeted at one community alone, "You are saying that more money be spent for one minority community. Should it not cut across caste and religion? Does the Sachar committee say that facilities are available to other communities?" the HC demanded.
It is further likely as the election comes closer, the Government will move closer to trying to provide for pleasing the Muslim community, and will keep on facing both political opposition and in the Courts. In addition, the Constitution of India forbids any sort of religious discrimination. What the Government needs to do is to take less political pleasing but more effective steps such as increase education facilities, promote role models, try and increase integration, and stop treating them as a vote base to be milked.
Arjun SIngh faces problems - his comments backfire
In what was shocking news, there was an article in the newspaper about how Arjun Singh made some comments during the launch of a book in which bemoaned the lack of freedom in the party and how comments were not appreciated. Now, we all know this is shocking, not because this is not true, but because nobody in the Congress who wants to be a somebody would say something like this (the very lack of freedom in the Congress contributed to the quick downfall of anybody who made statements like these).
But Arjun Singh did not stop there, he continued in the same line, uttering things that could be easily refuted (such as having advised against the emergency, while most people would have known that he was such a careful person politically that he would not have opposed either Sanjay Gandhi or Indira Gandhi). In fact, he even failed to mention the name of Sonia or Rahul on this occasion, something that is a cardinal sin in the Congress.
And now that he has faced a backlash - even Congressmen who were somewhat close to him ran to make a distance between him and them; and at a function, Sonia Gandhi ignored him and praised the Prime Minister for an achievement that belonged to Arjun Singh's ministry. And this was an expected reaction, so it is a bit difficult to understand his outburst; it is not possible that he did not know the kind of reaction that it would achieve.
Now, he is trying to get back into the good books, by claiming that in fact, he had pledged loyalty to the family as far back as in 1960, but one wonders as to what his future is like. If he was angling to get in a better position at the time of the next election, then one can be pretty sure that this was not a goo way to do this.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Buddhadeb criticizes Governance by Prime Minister
The Congress is used to a sense of getting scolded from the Left parties on a regular note on a frequent basis; after all, the Congress does not want to give up power and is willing to face as many words of threats and scoldings as necessary as long as the Left continues to support them. The Congress has rolled back so many initiatives in the past, that people no longer expect much reform from the Congress anymore - pension reforms, labour reforms, SEZ (to some extent), the strategically important nuclear bill, and so on. And the Congress does not only pander to the wishes of the Left, even an insignificant party such as the PMK can make the PM face censure, and yet is unable to say anything. Hence, even when the AIIMS bill (pushed through by the PMK and passed by the Union Cabinet) is thrown by the Supreme Court, the Health Minister (of the PMK) will face no shame since this was after all a bill of the Government; and it is the Prime Minister who faces censure by the media of bad governance and unable to even control misadvances by his allies.
But even with all this, the criticism by a Left Chief Minister who was once seen as the blue-eyed boy of the Prime Minister must have pinched; and especially when he blames the Government for the inflation levels.
The Government has constantly blamed global factors for the high inflation levels, and it is true that commodity problems are there in the whole world. However, once you start breaking down the various elements of these commodities, then you realize that so many of the problems are due to Government oversight or inability to take decisions:
- Food prices are seen to be a problem worldwide, and India is seen to be getting affected. However, this is contingent on accepting that India cannot grow all the food that it required. This is a statement that should not be accepted. Instead, it must be accepted that this Government has really not taken any concrete steps to increase foodgrain production, instead there has been almost stagnation. The Government has a responsible Minister Sharad Pawar who has a vested interest in the whole subject, and who shows more interest in being the President of a cash-rich cricket board. Hence, the Government, instead of trying to curtail the massive losses of foodgrains from production to the consumption path through trying to ensure more cold storage, a better distribution system, and letting the efficiency of private sector contacts with the farming industry, has instead dashed from one short term solution to another, blaming almost everyone for this current state.
- Oil is seen as a major problem because of high oil prices. India launched great plans to encourage production, but recent reports have indicated that ONGC has failed to make the strikes of oil and natural gas in the areas that they were allocated, and then there was a lot of skirmish between the then Minister and the oil chief, resulting in a decrease in the efficiency in this area. Further, the Government has really not tried to make alternative plans, with almost no focus on incentives for industries to reduce their energy consumption. As to promoting alternate energy policies, there is almost no movement in this regard. Piblic transport, that can reduce oil usage in the transport sector in the cities, is mostly a shame (except for some exception such as the Metro, and the locals in Mumbai).
- Mining. India has immense mining resources, as the states of Jharkand, Orissa and Chhatisgarh have discovered; however, there has been a inordinate amount of discussion and debate (most of it unproductive) about mining policies, and as a result, there has been an inefficient use of these precious resources
One could go and on, but the net result is that the Government has setup committees for most issues as a way to put off the discussions, and as a result, things keep on hanging on and on, and now we see the way that the Government has not been able to plan for eventualities.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Government starts to face heat on Women's reservation Bill
In a move that indicates that the Government has apparently not done its homework on getting its allies on board on the move to introduce the Women's Reservation Bill, the Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD) (whose head Laloo Prasad Yadav and other leaders are part of the Government) has opposed the move by the Government and accused it of taking the action without consulting its allies. The Mandal parties want the women's quota to have sub-quotas for OBC's and Muslims, something that the other parties and many sections of the Congress support base will oppose:
The Rashtriya Janata Dal on Wednesday upped its opposition to the women's reservation Bill threatening to withdraw support to the UPA government if the legislation was not amended to provide sub-quotas for OBCs and Muslims within the generic gender quota in legislatures.
In a development which undercut the PM's effort to dispel the perception of a split in the UPA over the women's quota, the RJD accused the Congress leadership of rushing through the Bill without hammering out a consensus. RJD's aggressive posture was yet another instance of how OBC resentment over the "present form" of women's quota had strained ties between allies. Early on, RJD leadership fielded party MP Devendra Yadav to warn the Congress leadership not to mistake its protest to be just pyrotechnics. Yadav said his party would go to any extent to thwart the passage of the already-delayed legislation.
This reaction was somewhat expected, but there are unexpected movements also happening. First, the RJD is a part of the ruling coalition and is part of the Government, so the fact that it is complaining about the introduction of the legislation means that discussions about this long-delayed bill really did not move to a conclusion.
In addition, there seems to be a sudden amount of tension between the natural allies of SP and the CPM, given that they are on opposite sides of the Bill. Reservation in legislature on the basis of caste and religion are very touchy subjects and will be the first thing to be opposed in court as being unconstitutional.
Supreme Court strikes down Ramadoss law / priorities
Well, the real name of the amendment brought in by the Government at the urging of the DMK Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss was actually the AIIMS Amendment Act; it should have been called the anti-Venugopal Act since though the law fixed the upper age of retirement of the AIIMS Director to be 65, based on which the noted heart surgeon had to resign. However, since Parliament, in a new low for the Government, actually spent time in passing a law that was directed specifically at one person; it was very easily challenged in court as being discriminatory and meant only to retire him. Venugopal challenged the Act, and even during the initial discussions, the SC had some strong words to say to the Government.
The Central Government on Thursday received a major setback with the Supreme Court striking down the law that enabled premature retirement of noted cardiologist P Venugopal as the Director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) after a raging row with Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss.
The net effect of the Supreme Court action has been that the health minister has suffered a severe reversal in his battle with the AIIMS Director. And of course, questions must be asked of the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, this was after all the Bill of his Government and the Government has suffered the setback.
In other steps, the Health Minister has lead a campaign against drinking and smoking, and he is justified to that extent since these 2 are a cause of a large number of casualties. However, there are far more severe problems that the Minister and the Government don't seem too enthusiastic to tackle, since they are not glamorous. Take a look at this cover page article of TIME magazine that blows a hole in the quality of India's health services:
It's not hard to find people caught in the gap between India's dreams of greatness and the awful reality of its broken health system. Most of the country lives there. Sixty years after independence, India remains one of the unhealthiest places on earth. Millions of people still suffer from diseases and ailments that simply no longer exist almost anywhere else on the planet. Four out of five children are anemic. Almost one in four women who give birth receives no antenatal care.
The truth behind the glossy advertising is less incredible: India remains the sick man of Asia, malnourished and obese at the same time, beset by epidemics of AIDS and diabetes, and with spending levels on public health that even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has conceded "are seriously lagging behind other developing countries in Asia." The sorry state of India's medical services might not matter so much if tens of millions of Indians weren't already so sick.
I would advise people to read the whole article, it is is no way complimentary and displays a state of health that a lot of us, who now depend on the private health care system, don't know about and don't care. And in the midst of this, we have successive Governments who care about things that make political logic; trying to spend the long time and effort to overhaul a broken health care system does not matter anymore.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Supreme Court rolls back Delhi High Court additional traffic fine
People who drive in Delhi know the current bad case of Delhi's traffic obeying drivers - there is not a single rule that you can expect drivers or pedestrians to obey; whether this means stopping before the zebra crossing, no talking on the mobile when driving, no drunken driving, stopping at the red light and only crossing on the green, driving the wrong way, giving way to elderly people, and so on. All of these are meant to be broken, and are often broken down.
And why could they do this with impunity ? Well, because say for example, the fine for jumping a red light is only Rs. 100, so most people would calculate the chance of getting caught, or even of having to pay the fine, and they would be fine with doing so. After all, there is only so much that a Rs. 100 is worth nowadays; and mind you, this is only when you actually get caught.
In a classic case of why the judiciary starts to take on policy making powers, the Government dithered this way and that, and did nothing to make fines steeper so that people feel the pinch of the fine and are more careful the next time (as an example, friends who are caught speeding in the United States and have had to pay upwards of Dollars 150 as a fine are very careful from that time onwards; and trust me, in Singapore, you don't want to be caught speeding). No action at all from the side of the Government, till one fine day, the High Court added a minimum of Rs. 500 to every fine, so that even jumping a red light would charge at least Rs. 600. However, this is now a thing of the past:
Red light jumping, the most common violation for which motorists are challaned in the Capital, would cost you Rs 100 and not Rs 600 as the Supreme Court has put back the old penalty system for on-the-spot compounding of traffic offences. The Supreme Court has stayed the March 2007 judgment of the Delhi High Court directing the traffic police to slap an additional Rs 500 fine, over and above the existing penalty, on motorists violating traffic rules.
Though legal experts were unanimous in siding with the apex court's decision to stay the HC order, they also said that the present penalty system for traffic violations was very less and wanted the government to immediately take up measures to revise the amount of fine for the violations. "Otherwise, there would be a definite spurt in traffic violations, especially red light jumping which attract a penalty of Rs 100," they said.
The Supreme Court judgment was correct on legal grounds, even though it does increase the scope for traffic problems in New Delhi. The High Court does not have the power to increase fines, this is a pure policy issue that needs to be handled by the Government, and in my opinion, this is a correct judgment. Of course, the Government does not seem to have this problem of changing the fine structure to be a good deterrence. One wonders what would could move the Government to take steps in this direction.
Women's Reservation Bill: Drama or Sincere
The Women's Reservation Bill is something that has been debated on and off for over a decade now, and no Government has been able to bring in this law due to the immense controversy over this issue. The BJP was unable to do so, and this Congress / UPA Government has not been able to do so. Each time, this is because of the blocking by the various OBC groups who are suspicious of the motivations behind bringing such a bill. They believe that the splintering of the electorate along caste lines is going to be moved back by such a law if it does not also have relevant reservations for OBC's and Muslims. In addition, the belief is that upper caste women will capture a large chunk of the seats under such a Bill.
I am ambivalent of most reservations since I believe that the proper strategy of bringing about change is to make more facilities, education, etc. available rather than reserve some of them for somebody who does not have the skill set needed for the seat / job for which the reservations is sought. The only exception that I can think of is the case of politics where I have not been able to understand the type of talent required (if any is required); and hence maybe reserving electoral seats for women may be permissible - anyhow, in a lot of cases, winning or losing depends on the party rather than the individual.
But the issue in this case is that the leading lights of this coalition, Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, the left parties (including Brinda Karat), as well as the main opposition, the BJP, all support such a Bill in public. Together, they are far more than the numbers required to pass such a bill, but no one is willing to take on the caste based political parties - they can be very strident in their opposition, and can easily threaten when necessary. So, the Government played a gambit by bringing the Bill in the Rajya Sabha when the Lok Sabha had already been progued, and when it was assured that the Bill would not get anywhere closer to becoming a law, but even that has brought out the opposition:
The women's reservation bill has triggered an OBC consolidation across party lines, threatening to strain political tie-ups and raising the prospect of realignment. The protests against the introduction of the bill in the Rajya Sabha, which saw RJD members joining hands with arch-rivals JD(U) and SP, extended outside Parliament with members of the OBC dominated outfits holding a meeting to scale up the resistance.
While the legislation has provided an impetus to normalization of ties between Yadav satraps Mulayam Singh and Lalu Prasad, it is proving to be the catalyst for the coming together of the Mandal forces more than a decade after they splintered, moving in separate ways. The resentment against the bill has the potential to introduce tension among allies such as Congress and RJD on the one hand and BJP and JD(U) on the other, besides becoming a point of discord between SP and Left.
One can be sure that neither the Left nor the Congress will move ahead with this Bill, given the vehement opposition - further, the Congress is no longer the leading party in many states, and it needs to maintain good relations with many of these parties, and it may be easier to let the Bill die a death rather than risk rupturing ties.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Delhi Government does a turnaround on the BRT design
The Delhi Traffic Police must be feeling vindicated. For the many months now in which the BRT corridor design and construction has been in progress, they have opposed the whole concept of segregating special lanes as a non-workable concept given the volume of traffic and the tendency of Delhi's drivers to ignore the needed discipline as something not applicable on them.
The Government and experts have been advocating a dedicated bus corridor as has been used in many cities around the world, but have always ignored advice about adapting the corridor to local conditions. The result has been there for all to see; the difficulty is that there needs to be encouragement for having more buses and other mass public transport on the road. So now the bus corridor conditions have been sought to be changed for the extensions:
The changed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) design, designated Pilot B, that's now being proposed between Moolchand and Delhi Gate, is in effect only a thinly veiled version of the existing pattern of traffic flow on all roads in the Capital. Under Pilot B, which will be implemented between Moolchand and Delhi Gate, it is being proposed that buses would ply on the extreme left, next to the footpath and cycle track. There will be no concrete medians segregating the bus lane from the MV lanes, which will now have three lanes for other traffic. The road space for buses will be painted.
‘‘What the government is doing is reverting back to the existing system. So how is it then a corridor for buses? Maintaining discipline on the corridor will be next to impossible, considering the fact that even on a corridor with concrete dividers, vehicles go over them to enter the bus lanes,'' said an official.
And the Government is currently proposing that the existing corridor between Moolchand and Ambedkar Nagar remains as it is, in a chaotic condition. Everything that the Government has done so far has been unable to solve the traffic problems (in fact, any reduction in traffic happens only when people start avoiding the corridor). Does this actually mean that the Delhi Government has given up the concept of a BRT kind of system ?
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Campaigns against drunk drivers
Drunk driving is a problem the world over. There are many countries that have tackled this in a very effective manner, through a combination of education and enforcement. It is a given that in countries such as Singapore, and in many parts of the Unites States, if you are detected driving drunk, then you are in for some jail time, with the possibility of your license getting affected in many countries around the world. Such practices have helped in making people more careful about driving when drunk, and reduced the levels of accidents as well.
However, in India, neither the level of education, nor of enforcement is prevalent. Drunk driving is very prevalent in our society, and a lot of that can be blamed on our belief that laws are not applicable on us individually. The other major reason driving this belief is the lax enforcement of laws and hence people would never have seen anybody convicted for drunk driving. However, in small ways, this is set to change. Mumbai has seen a major drive against drunk driving, and even Delhi police from time to time act against drunk drivers. Here is what Chennai police did:
Even before the Union government has accepted the recommendations of Parliament’s standing committee to act tough with drunken drivers, Chennai police has decided to get tougher. It is seriously thinking of producing such drivers in courts of law and get them imprisonment. The city traffic police has definitely has booked nearly 5,000 persons for drunken driving in four months. In 2007, they had booked 9,860 persons for drunken driving.
Drunken driving has been one of the major causes of road accidents. To make roads safer in the night, the traffic police has decided to keep traffic signals operational round the clock in some major points in the city. "For the first time, we are going to have round the clock traffic regulation in places like EVR Salai, Anna Salai, 100 feet road and Madhya Kailash junction. We will be monitoring the traffic here during late night hours and violators will be punished severely," Sunil Kumar said. He said drunken driving happen across the city and there were no specific points where they book more cases. "You get to book such cases everywhere in the city. The more we check, the more cases we book," he said.
In the end, education is important, but enforcement is all the more important. How many people have relatives in the US ? It would be good to ask them about drinking and driving, and you will find that people over there are terrified of doing that; there is a good chance that you will get to spend the night in jail and pushed before a judge in the morning. This applies even to important people and celebrities.
Congress still striving to see whether nuclear deal can go forward ?
That's a joke. The Congress made a decision many months ago that it cannot afford to let the Government fall, and in the face of the open threats by the left parties, after an initial show of resistance, the Government backed down. In the face of reports over the last few months, it is clear that the allies refused to consider going ahead with the deal if the Left dropped support, and the Congress leadership itself did not see the deal as something that would win it an election, and hence, for political reasons, the deal was declared dead.
The Government had also told the United States (where the President as well as the Indian American community had spent considerable effort in pushing for the deal) that the deal was off, and in the current circumstances, there is no way the deal looked set to go. With all this settled, one wonders as to why the Government is still resorting to this regular drama of the UPA-Left coordination committee:
The UPA-Left committee on the Indo-US nuclear deal would meet here on Tuesday with the Left parties, providing outside support to the Congress-led ministry, sticking to their guns and the government saying it would seek the sense of Parliament on the matter.
"We will consider what the government will report to us on its talks with the IAEA. On that basis, we will take the issue forward," a senior Left leader said when asked about the stand they would take at the upcoming meeting. Asserting that the Left opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal continued, he said the government was committed to consider the findings of this committee while taking the next step on the nuclear deal.
The last such meeting took place on March 17, more than a month and a half back, and there does not seem to be anything that would make the Left change its stand. Even though the deal has been supported by strategic observers and by nuclear observers, and most international countries consider this a sweet deal for India, both the Left and the BJP are opposed to the deal and there does not seem to be a way forward. It is better for the Government to stop this drama.
RTI Act facing problems vis-a-vis state assemblies
The issue of the separation of powers is becoming a more tricky issue in the Indian context. Earlier, there was a greater separation of powers of the executive, legislature, and the judiciary. It could be argued that the judiciary would keep to its limit earlier and is now encroaching on the powers of the other 2 now, but the fact that most people would admit to is that earlier, instances of corruption and malpractices were far less prevalent in the executive and legislatures, and have become more widespread now.
Whether it be in terms of policy decisions and contracts in the case of the Government/executive, or in the cases of Governments falling / wrong speaker or Governor decisions, the judiciary is being invoked by more people now, and the judiciary is not afraid to step in where it feels that the step taken by the other 2 bodies are wrong in law. This however provokes the other 2 bodies who feel that their powers are supreme in their own areas and even the court system cannot question them.
So what happens in the case of a powerful law such as the RTI Act that mandates that only essential items such as treaties, security matters and trade secrets will remain inviolable, and for everything else, the common citizen is entitled to know details if the citizen asks for it. However, such a openness seems to run foul of both the legislatures and the judiciary which believe that such laws don't apply to them. Read this article for more details:
Amid a raging national debate over the Right to Information Act, the UP assembly has triggered a new controversy by seeking to initiate contempt of the House proceedings against the State Information Commission (SIC) and petitioners who sought information.
The assembly has crossed swords with the commission for the issuance of its notices to furnish information sought by a couple of petitioners under the RTI Act. While one petitioner, Romesh Tiwari, had sought to know — (a) Whether an MLA could bid for a contract? (b) What are the provisions for this? and (c) Whether an MLA becomes liable to lose his or her membership on the basis of the profit earned through the contract? Another petitioner, Motilal had sought information about the proceedings of the Petition Committee of the 13th assembly.
These are seemingly not information that are in any nature secret or can affect state security, but what seems to have got the goat of the UP speaker is the summons issued by the State Information Commission. The House considers its actions inside the legislature body as supreme and nobody has the right to question them until the Speaker allows it, something that will prevent the RTI Act from being implemented in these areas. It is either for the central Parliament or for courts to take this issue further and set the applicable policy.
How long is justice delayed a miscarriage of justice ?
In an order delivered this week in the murder trial of Delhi businessman Krishan Sikand, former army officer Lt. Colonel. S J Chaudhary was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder, and spared the death penalty. This was a great deal of comfort to the relatives of the murdered man who had been waging the fight for justice, and who are credited with having the will and patience to carry through the struggle. The murder was because the wife of the army office separated from him and started having an affair with Mr. Sikand, and the army officer did not like this; so he sent a parcel bomb containing a grenade to Krishan Sikand who lost his life. Well, so this is a normal murder trial, what is so special about this ?
Well, get this - the incident happened in 1982, yes you read it right, the murder conviction and sentencing happens 26 years after the incident. And this was after there was an effort by the nonagenarian father of the victim and an admonition by the High Court to speed the trial up. Read this article and the excerpt for more details:
The conviction ended the agonizing wait of the victim's father for justice. H D Sikand, the owner of car showroom Sikand Motors in the capital, made rounds of courts for more than two decades, waiting for the case to conclude. On Monday, however, the 98-year-old could not make it to court due to ill health. His grandson, Sanjay, called him up seconds after the judgment. "I was sure one day justice will prevail. Now I am at peace with myself," Sanjay quoted his grandfather as saying.
Krishan’s plight was first brought to light by TOI which had reported last year how a 98-year-old man was forced to move Delhi high court to press for his right to speedy trial. The protracted trial got entangled with the day-to-day hearings of the Uphaar fire tragedy case which was also being conducted by judge Mamta Sehgal. The judge had, in fact, cited her pre-occupation with the Uphaar trial as the reason behind the delay in this case. It took a nudge from the HC, which asked the judge to ‘‘spare time before lunch’’ to finish the hearings, for the Sikand trial to conclude on Monday.
So even though the victim and his family finally got closure, one can argue as to whether this is really a legal system that works ? After 26 years of the crime having taken place, the sentence is finally delivered. And to do the same, the father of the convict has to put in a lot of effort. Such a long time would tire out the most patient of people, and in many cases, the people who are struggling like this either back out, or in many cases, actually die.
Speedy legal justice helps in preventing influential accused from perverting the system, or from getting witnesses bought off, and also assures society that criminal acts can actually be punished fairly quickly. We need a legal system that can do that; and there are many studies and commissions that have recommended measures that can do that
- Fill in judicial vacancies faster
- The Government is involved in a large number of cases, and can reduce the number of cases by settling many of them
- Use the recently activated system of plea bargaining to resolve cases
- Have more courts such as the evening courts introduced by Gujrat
Raj Thackeray at it again, threatens North Indians
In yet another rally on the 3rd of May, Raj Thackeray continued on his North Indian campaign; even though he was apparently counselled by the police and by the state Human Rights Commission, Thackeray refused to be mellowed down. Read examples of what he said:
He said north Indians wanted to take over the state and their ‘chhat pujas’ were meant to be a show of strength. "I declare here today that no other day except Maharashtra Day will be celebrated in Maharashtra," he told the cheering crowds. "Arrest me for this if you can," he dared the police. He told MNS leaders to shed their complacence and advised his supporters to "take action" whenever they felt necessary. "Don’t wait for instructions," he said.
He warned that north Indians who did not speak Marathi and did not respect Marathi culture would be driven away. Thackeray stated that so far, all Presidents of India who hailed from the south, had chosen not to deliver their public addresses in Hindi.
"They stuck to English, or their own native languages. That’s why they survived," he said.
One would consider these as idle threats, except for the fact that his party members have resorted to threats and violence against North Indians in Mumbai and surrounding regions in the past. And for all this talk, that can be compared with the Kashmiri terrorists expelling Pandits, or to a lower extent with figures such as Hitler, what has happened to him ? Has there been any action taken against him ? Has he been held culpable for violence that has happened ?
No ! The Maharashtra CM, Vilasrao Deshmukh, for reasons that are strictly political in nature, has refused to take any action against him that is of a non-verbal nature. In fact, both of them were the prime movers of a drama whereby the police arrested him, took him to a magistrate, and then he was released within an hour. And even the police did this only after many weeks had passed and violence had already been instigated in his name.
Does the Congress really think it will benefit ? The support of North Indians in many areas of Maharashtra is getting more important politically, and the Congress is sure to be facing negative feedback in the politically important states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. In the past, the parties supporting the Congress in the center have raised this issue, but have been content with verbal assurances by the Congress, even though the Congress has taken on an air of impotency on this issue.