SC on migrant workers: Applies balm, will it heal?
The Supreme Court finally applies the balm. Noticing “several lapses” in dealing with the migrant workers crisis, the court did yield the stick and put a structure for Centre to follow. In no uncertain terms, it ordered: No fare either by train or bus shall be charged from the migrant labourers (it should be shared by States); the originating State should provide meal and water at the station, while Railways will provide the same during the journey; those who are stranded should be provided food by States concerned at places, which shall be publicized/notified for the period they are waiting their turn; those found walking on roads, immediately be taken to shelters and provided food and all facilities; the State shall oversee their registration and ensure they are made to board train/bus at an early date; Railways needs to provide trains as and when State governments put in a request and when a migrant worker wishes to go to a State, no State can say that we will not take you. The specifics from a three-judge bench came after taking suo moto notice of ‘unfortunate and miserable conditions of migrant labourers’ walking on foot and cycles from long distances,” as reported in media. A welcome change for two weeks ago, the apex court had observed hearing a PIL that it couldn’t be expected to stop migrants from taking the hard, life-threatening option of trekking thousands of miles to their villages amid the lockdown! The big question is will orders be followed? Should there be hope for India’s unfortunate?
High Alert In Ladakh
Ladakh has put both North and South Block on high alert. Chinese incursions on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh have been on the rise. In fact, while its normal to witness continued incidents of ceasefire violations and infiltration attempts on Line of Control with Pakistan, this summer the LAC has been unusually active. Both Indian and Chinese troops are said to have come to blows on the banks of Pangong Tso on May 5-6 with matters coming to a head when Chinese incursions were detected at three locations along the LAC on Wednesday last. The Chinese have a huge build up that includes upcoming military-style bunkers, new upcoming permanent structures, military trucks, road-building equipment and even a warehouse! Army Chief General Naravane has given an operational review of the situation on the ground on Wednesday last, and has deployed reinforcements at the four standoff points without halting work on the border infrastructure work. The Ministry of External Affairs is firm “India will defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty.” And while the Chinese flex their muscles, New Delhi is confident of taming the dragon, even if it means a long haul.
‘Locust warning alert’ has been sounded off in five States–Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Active swarms of desert locusts have already wreaked havoc in Rajasthan and MP, forcing the Centre to step in. “89 fire brigades for pesticide spray; 120 survey vehicles; 47 control vehicles with spray equipment and 810 tractor-mounted sprayers have been deployed, says the Union Agriculture Ministry. While 11 districts in Vidarbha and four in north Maharashtra are gearing up for bigger assault, Odisha government has issued guidelines for a possible attack asking farmers to take preventive steps. As is known, locust swarms can devastate crops and cause major agricultural damage, which can lead to famine and starvation. However, a lot depends on which way the winds blow. This time though these are in different directions. In the past, most of the locust attacks, since 1993 had been localised to Rajasthan alone. Obviously, fear is mounting. Already plagued by an economic slowdown and Covid-19 lockdown, the country can ill-afford an agrarian crisis. Fingers must be kept crossed.
Himachal Pradesh may well open a can of worms. Rather, it may turn out there could be many more cans if only anti-corruption bureaus across the country get cracking during the pandemic. Wednesday last, the ruling-BJP was left red faced as its State party chief Rajeev Bindal put in his papers following investigation into procurement of medical supplies by the government for Covid-19 since February. Bindal is alleged to be part of an audio clip, under probe by the vigilance and anti-corruption bureau, in which two men are purportedly heard discussing handover of Rs 5 lakh “bribe.” One of them, Director, health services Dr A K Gupta was arrested last week, giving the Opposition ammunition to target the government by claiming the person heard “offering the bribe” is a “ruling party leader”. Bindal denies any link, but resigned on “high moral grounds”, so the probe is “not influenced in any way”. Be that as it may, the incident should put State governments and vigilance departments on alert to stem the rot that has seeped in, even in the times of corona.
TN Sound Advice
Governments can learn a lesson or two from Madras High Court’s judgement. Dealing with an ordinance by ruling AIADMK to take temporary possession of Veda Nilayam, former Chief Minister Late Jayalalithaa’s Poes Garden residence in Chennai, to establish the Puratchi Thalaivi Dr J Jayalalithaa Memorial Foundation, a division bench expressed strong reservations. “When there are so many essential amenities which are yet to be provided by the welfare state, public money cannot be wasted for purpose of constructing memorials. The real tribute to any leader should be paid by following his/her principles and working for people’s benefit and development of society,” it said on Wednesday last. Further, it declared Jayalalithaa’s niece and nephew as Class II legal heirs of her property, and that the government can’t acquire the property without their consent. The two could be administrators for utilising half-acre property, worth over Rs 100 crore, as Chief Minister’s official residence and convert a portion into a memorial. This way, the two won’t have to be compensated for acquiring land and government could use the amount for ‘developmental purposes such as building infrastructure, providing potable drinking water, cleaning of water bodies etc…” Sound advice indeed.
Sparks are flying over naming of a flyover in Karnataka’s capital Bengaluru. On Thursday last, the civic body cancelled the inauguration by Chief Minister Yediyurappa of “Veer Savarkar” flyover, named after Hindutva ideologue/freedom fighter, on his birthday, citing the lockdown. Not really true. Both Congress and JD(S) have vociferously opposed the name saying: it’s an “insult to freedom fighters from Karnataka’s soil… the hasty decision is proof the administration isn’t run by elected government but by those behind the scene.” Ruling-BJP has hit back: “Naming circles, buildings, infrastructure after Nehru and fake Gandhis are the ‘naamdar’ party’s honour to freedom fighters.” In this tu-tu-mein-mein there’s another voice — pro-Kannada activists, who have questioned all parties about “contributions during their rules”. Thus, Twitter users have started social media movement #DontWantSavarkarName. Their justification: National parties name projects after their political leaders to get High Command’s attention! They are hopeful of a victory as in 2009 movement– the airport was eventually named Kempegowda (Bengaluru’s founder) International Airport. Who said what’s in a name?