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Round The States

Kanwar Yatra: WILL SC TAME YOGI’S UP?

 In election mode, Uttar Pradesh is going all out to reach to its Hindu vote bank. Be it the Kanwar yatra or the population control policy, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath appears to be adamant. The big question is whether he will be defiant of Supreme Court, which on Friday last, asked his government to reconsider its decision to allow the yatra amid the pandemic? It’s prima facie view was “that it concerns all of us and is at the heart of the fundamental right to life. The health of citizens of India and right to life is paramount, all other sentiments whether being religious is subservient to this basic fundamental right.” This after, UP had a day before held it would go ahead with the annual ritual beginning July 25, as ‘it’s a matter of faith and tradition’, its Home department is in touch with different Kanwar organisations and making all requisite arrangements. Unlike Yogi, his Uttarakhand counterpart Dhami is going with the   adage—a stitch in time saves nine. He cancelled the yatra saying ‘protection of people’s lives comes first for us’. Besides, an advisory has been issued to people not to arrive at Haridwar and warned those defying orders shall have their vehicles confiscated and invite legal action under the DMA. Though it appealed to neighbouring governments such as UP, Haryana, Delhi, Punjab and Himachal, where devotees come from, to stop them, it shall now keenly watch what big brother does. The SC has given Yogi government time till Monday to rethink or else it shall pass orders. Importantly, the Centre is in sync and said given the situation States ‘must not permit’ movement of Kanwariyas to bring Gangajal from Haridwar to Shiva temples. However, ‘in view of age-old customs and religious sentiments’, it suggested ‘make it available through tankers at designated locations.’ Will Yogi pay heed or end up cutting off nose to spite the face?

 

Population Control

Population control seems to be the buzz word amongst States, but Yogi’s UP takes the lead.  Six months before the State goes to the polls, he unveiled the UP Population (Control, Stabilisation and Welfare) Bill, 2021, which BJP-ruled Assam is similarly echoing. With a population of 220 million, the largest State aims to reduce its growth rate to 2.1% over next 10 years. The draft bill invites suggestions till 19 July, but people know Yogi shall get the bill  notified as per his thinking. By and large the motivation and clauses sound reasonable, but the basic provision– people having more than two children will be debarred from benefits of all government-sponsored welfare schemes, cannot contest local polls, shall be ineligible to apply for government jobs under the State or receiving any kind of subsidy, cannot get a promotion in a government job, has raised many an eyebrow. So also the timing of the bill. There is a nagging fear that Yogi, the new poster boy of Hindutva politics, is seeking to create a Hindu-Muslim controversy. While there is no denying all communities are in need of family planning, the challenge shall be for Muslims among whom polygamy is religiously sanctioned. Clearly, there’s more to the bill than meets the eye. Will Yogi be stopped in his tracks?

 

Blame It On States

Get your act together, is a firm message to the States from the Centre. Be it shortage of vaccine or blatant violations of Covid-19 norms, it’s the States to blame as both Union Home and Health Ministries claim they have done their homework. With Chief Ministers complaining of shortage of vaccine and media showing maddening rush at vaccination Centres, new Health Minister Mandaviya in tweets said we had informed all States mid-June how vaccines would be made available and it was for them to plan “in a better and effective manner”. Not only are there unutilised vaccines but the ‘pace is slow.’ His statistics: “On July 1 there was a cumulative supply at 32.92 crore doses, while on July 14, it was 39.59 crore, which effectively means in 2 weeks 14, 6.67 crore doses were supplied to States. At daily average of 37.63 lakh vaccinations, this implies over 1 crore doses remain unutilised with States and private hospitals!” Likewise, North Block has reminded all Chief Secretaries to ensure strict adherence to guidelines and relaxation of rules be “carefully calibrated’’, given that Covid norms being violated in several parts of the country, especially in public transport and Hill Stations. Make officers concerned personally responsible for any laxity’ in enforcement of protocol, is its advice.

 

Sedition Against Farmers

Ironic it is! On the one hand, the Supreme Court questions if the sedition law, “colonial law” is still need 75 years after independence, on Thursday last and on the other in pre-dawn raids the Haryana police arrest five among 100-odd protesting farmers slapped with sedition charges. The action was taken over a protest, which turned violent, against Haryana Assembly Deputy Speaker in Sirsa district on July 11. The five were produced before a court and sent to judicial custody. According to Sirsa SP due procedure has been followed after analysing video footage of incident – “stones were thrown on our vehicles. Had a stone hit somebody’s head, he could have died. A policeman was hit with a vehicle.” The big question is does this amount to sedition Sections 124-A? This is non-bailable provision and makes any speech or expression that “brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India” a criminal offence punishable with imprisonment up to three years to a life term and fine. Well, the FIR reads: “Harcharan Singh Panjuana, Parhlad Singh Bharukhera and 90/100 unknown anti-social elements have revolted against the government by creating obstruction in government duty, committing murderous attack on public representatives and damaging government property.” And includes charges under 307 (attempt to murder) and 120-B (conspiracy). The Samyukta Kisan Morcha has said it shall assist all farmers in contesting these charges. Perhaps, it would do well to knock on the doors of the Supreme Court and implead in the case.

Heady Liquor Policy!

A verdict on Delhi government’s liquor policy may well turn out heady! Three petitions have been filed in the Delhi High Court challenging its Excise Policy 2021-22. One, on grounds it’s been brought into force simply to create ‘a monopoly of big traders’ and that many small traders would be deprived of their livelihood. However, the Kejriwal government has debunked these as ‘fanciful’ saying it’s ‘plugging the leaks, minimising corruption, and also giving enough and fair competition.’ Two, challenging the eligibility for  L-1 licences (suppliers) wherein it was said the condition of ‘minimum 5 years’ experience has been ‘tailor made with malafide intentions and ulterior motives to give undue benefit to some entities’. Plus, the court has been petitioned against the rule relating to grant of ‘licences for home delivery’ of domestic and foreign liquor, arguing this was in complete disregard to Constitution’s Article 47, which puts a duty on the State “to improve public health by inter alia reducing consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs”. Notices have been issued to the AAP government and it will be worth a watch how well the argument is pegged! —INFA

 

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