Xi Jinping in TN: Hindi-Chini bhai Bhai?
Tamil Nadu comes under world glare. Prime Minister Modi has ensured it rolls out much more than just the red carpet for Chinese President Xi Jinping. It is not just to show case South India, but more to create the right atmosphere for the second informal Summit in Mamallapuram, when ties are under strain. Indeed, preparations and cultural extravaganza were unprecedented on the first day right from Air China touching down at the Chennai airport tarmac yesterday. Performance by hundreds of folk and traditional dancers, musicians, school children lined up en route, fluttering banners and flags et al all under plan. Encroachments and tea stalls all removed and Mamallpuram given a face lift wherever the Xi travels. Modi and Xi are to spend some five-odd hours together witnessing rich cultural heritage, temples etc but what is of importance is whether it will help Modi ease the strain in ties post clampdown in J&K. More importantly, whether they would discuss trade ties, which have hit the Indian market drastically and turn out to be on the same page is the big question. It is no secret that right now China and India are not in sync. Of course the southern State should take pride and encash on the spotlight it has got through Xi’s visit and later take stock whether it did one better than Gujarat, where the first informal summit took place. At the end there may be a score board, but for New Delhi what must count is whether the two can emerge as Hindi-Chini bhai bhai?
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Uttarakhand has sprung a big surprise, rather a shocker. There is a rebellion in the BJP-ruled State and for the first time the saffron party has to yield the stick against a large number of its flock. So far, it has had to expel at least 96 party leaders over the past 10 days on disciplinary grounds after reports emerged that they are contesting in the ongoing panchayat polls against the party-supported candidates. This apart, the BJP issued a show-cause notice to its Raipur MLA following an audio clip doing the rounds on social media, in which he is reportedly heard asking someone to vote against his party-backed candidate! The 96-odd party leaders include ‘presidents, VPs, general secretary, secretary, executive committee members in district, mandal and booth units of the party and other wings of the organisation,’ and disciplinary action has been taken as “they were told to withdraw nominations but didn’t and now as the date of withdrawal had passed, they stand removed from the party.” Clearly, the BJP is sending out a terse message that it will be ‘intolerant’ when it comes to party discipline and has scheduled a meeting next week in Dehradun to discuss the matter. The question whether the axe shall fall on more or how many shall eventually fall in line, is worth a watch.
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Not again! That would be a reaction of many a Delhiite with a fresh tussle between AAP and Centre. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was expected to speak at the ensuing C-40 Summit at Copenhagen on his government’s initiatives in lowering 25% air pollution the city and was awaiting clearance by New Delhi. But it was a no-go with reasoning that CM’s participation at the panel discussion was “not commensurate with the level of participation from other countries.” On Wednesday last, AAP slammed the decision saying it’s a “very lame excuse” as “former Delhi CM late Sheila Dikshit had attended the same meet earlier.” Worse, clearance has been given to a West Bengal minister to the “mayor-level’ Summit, rubbing salt on injury and blurring MEA reasoning: “a considered decision on political clearance is based on multiple inputs and takes into account the nature of the event, the level of participation by other countries, type of invitation extended, etc… The CM of one of the largest and populous cities in the world, which also is the capital of India, was therefore advised not to attend the event.” Be that as it may, Kejriwal will get his audience through video conferencing and AAP the last laugh!
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Sedition Turns Sour
Bihar hit headlines for wrong reason, ended up eating crow and sent a terse message even to New Delhi. A sedition case against 49 prominent artists, intellectual and activists last week for writing a letter to Prime Minister Modi protesting mob lynching, led to an outrage in both cultural and political circles in the country. The unusual urgency shown by the court and the police to file an FIR raised many an eyebrow, prompting another open letter signed by over 1000 eminent persons endorsing the earlier one was released in multiple languages. Plus, the SFI and Democratic Youth Federation in Kerala sent at least 1.5 lakh copies of the original letter to Modi stating “All of us, as members of the Indian cultural community, as citizens of conscience, condemn such harassment…” All of this did wonders. On Wednesday last, the police closed the case and instead said it would register a case against petitioner Sudhir Ojha. And while in its defense it said it had no option but to file the FIR as per order of the CJM of Muzzaffarpur, it admitted the allegations leveled against the accused were out of “mischief” and “lacked substance.” Indeed, if it only paid heed to the adage better safe than sorry, the ruling establishment would have been saved the embarrassment.
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Telangana ‘governance’ literally hits a roadblock. The Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) staff has struck work since Saturday last demanding a merger with the State government, pay hike, better working conditions and more recruitment, causing hardship to commuters. Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao has refused to budge and instead 48,000 are to lose jobs if they don’t report to work by deadline set, already past. Terming the strike illegal he has directed 2500 private busses be hired, new employees be appointed, recruits give an undertaking they won’t join any trade union and that 50% of buses run by TSRTC would be private buses so that RTC becomes profitable! KCR justifies his stance saying TSRTC was incurring Rs 1200-odd losses, was under Rs 5,000 crore debt plus questioned have RTCs been merged with government in Kerala, Bengal or any BJP-ruled States? The Opposition disagrees and shall announce a state-wide bandh on Thursday in solidarity with the transport workers. Plus, they said they will fight the KCR order of sacking in court. The CM, however, sees his action as a “permanent end to blackmail tactics, indiscipline and actions that often create headaches”. Barriers to good governance?
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Six States ‘Unhealthy’
Performance on health outcomes should make at least six State governments put their house in order. These are set to lose 20% of National Health Mission funds. According to ‘Health Systems Strengthening-Conditionality Report of States for 2018-19’, released by Health Ministry West Bengal, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and J&K have fared poorly. In particular these failed to carry out 75% full immunisation coverage for children, criteria to be eligible to claim the incentive. On the other hand, Haryana, Kerala, Punjab, Assam and Dadar & Nagar Haveli were top five performers, viz operationalisation of health and wellness centres, providing mental health services in districts, screening of 30 plus population for non-communicable diseases and grading of primary health centres (both urban and rural). The Centre has set aside Rs 3265 crore of NHM funds for both performance based incentives or penalty of 10-20% from the budget. In the ranking by NITI Aayog, 20 of the 36 States and UTs have shown progress, whereas 16 States or UTs have shown a decline in their performance. The message is clear. Performance will be monitored — good will gain and the bad shall lose. Alas, no more freebies!