SC PEEVED OVER WB PANEL
West Bengal stretches it too far or is it an oversight? Going by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s style of functioning in all likelihood it would appear to be the former, but the Supreme Court chose to give benefit of the doubt. On Friday last, a bench headed by Chief Justice Ramana was displeased over the inquiry into Pegasus scandal being conducted by West Bengal commission. This, when in an order of October 27, it had constituted a three-member committee to probe the Pegasus surveillance of journalists, politicians and social activists among others. “What is this? Last time you (West Bengal government) had given an undertaking, which we wanted to record, that the commission will not proceed. You had said that it was not necessary to record in the order. Again you started inquiring,” the bench noted. The State counsel explained it had conveyed the message of restraint to the Lokur Commission, which did not proceed till delivery of October 27 order. However, he added “I had said that I don’t control the Commission but would convey the restraint. I conveyed the restraint and it was up to the time till the court decides the matter…Simply call the counsel of the commission and pass the orders and I cannot as the state government give instructions…” The apex court understood the “State’s predicament” and ordered it would issue notice to all concerned respondents and “for the time being we stay all the proceedings.” Didi should thank her stars for getting away lightly and must oblige.
‘Labour consulates’ and sports harnessing the youth, are initiatives Jharkhand government has taken up to improve the State’s image. It has launched two schemes — ‘Safe and Responsible Migration Initiative’ to enable systemic registration of migrant workers for monitoring/analysis in the source and destination districts and ‘Sports Action toward Harnessing Aspiration of Youth’ to curb LWE and reach out to youngsters, nurture sporting talents in districts, 19 of 24 affected. Youth in 14-19 age group from villages to ward level will be registered and given opportunities to display their skills in basketball, volleyball, hockey and athletics; incentives of cash prize and money for kits will be offered; a Sports Nursery will be set up. For migrants two help desks, ‘labour consulates’ are for starters set up in Ladakh and Kerala and while administration says it’s not against migrations, the pandemic gave a different side, which needs correction. Ending exploitative means, predicting distress migration, increase social security and welfare coverage will be the focus, as between March 27, 2020-October 31, 2021, 9.66 lakh workers returned to Jharkhand. Hemant Soren seeks to create an environment where his ‘people can prosper’. Time will tell.
Rumblings within the ruling combine in Bihar, JD(U)-BJP seem to be growing louder. Will there be a parting of ways, is a question doing the rounds. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s reiteration of the demand for special category status for the State evoked anger in the saffron camp. His deputy, BJP Renu Devi described it as “meaningless”, which drew Nitish to say she had “no detailed information” on the claim as none other than NITI Aayog had placed Bihar among those at the bottom of development indices in its latest report. No full stop. A BJP minister claimed the State was getting more Central assistance than others, which again got a rebuttal. Another JD(U) minister hit back saying it was so only as Finance Commission formula and that BJP must back its claim with data! The bickering also resonated in Lok Sabha with a BJP MP and Union Panchayati Raj Minister Giriraj Singh slamming Nitish government over the slow pace of rural road projects under PMGSY: Rs 949-odd crore funds were “unutilised”. Are these signs of BJP no longer wanting to be the B-team? In 2020 elections though it got 74 seats, it chose to let Nitish retain the hot seat, despite JD(U) winning only 43. While both sides claim there is no rift, guess both realise that it’s the formidable RJD-led alliance which is actually keeping the marriage going. Signs of its weakening may see the cracks leading to a crumble.
Kerala’s Big Tussle
Kerala’s tussle between Governor Arif Mohammed Khan and CPM-led government is getting murkier. Political interference in appointments in universities has become a hot potato with the UDF Opposition demanding resignation of Higher Education Minister Bindu. Letters written by her to Khan over re-appointment of Prof Gopinath Ravindran as V-C of Kannur University for a second term have become public, and worse the latter has threatened to resign as Chancellor of universities, which is being seen as put ‘under pressure’ to violate laid down procedures in appointments. The scandal refuses to ebb, given that Khan has alleged that as Chancellor, he was forced to act against his conscience on the re-appointment of Ravindran. The Minister clearly refuses to budge. In one letter she informs Khan that steps have been taken to withdraw the notification inviting applications for a new V-C and she has ‘privilege to propose’ Ravindran’s name. In another, she wrote that Ravindran may be allowed to continue for another term and asked Khan to cancel notification issued for appointment of a search-cum-selection committee to identify the next V-C! The Opposition sees the minister’s moves as “crossing the boundaries of power and violating the oath of office.” It proposes to launch a state-wide stir plus approach the Lokayukta seeking Bindu’s resignation. Will it change anything?
Karnataka’s Distasteful Banter
Distasteful repartee in Karnataka Assembly caught the Congress on the wrong foot. Surprisingly, it was quick to get into damage control and ‘disapproved’ the “exchange of highly objectionable and insensitive banter” between its senior leader Ramesh Kumar and Speaker Hegde Kageri. Kumar had told Kageri, “There’s a saying… when rape is inevitable, lie down and enjoy it. That’s exactly the position into which you are.” Kageri merely laughed in response! A red faced Congress tweeted: “Speaker as custodian and senior legislators are expected to be role models & should desist from such unacceptable behaviour.” Chairperson of National Commission for Women has too reacted: “It’s extremely sad and unfortunate that we still have public representatives who are misogynists and have horrible mindset towards women….It’s really disgusting. If they sit in assemblies and speak like this how they must be behaving with women in their lives? (sic).” In Lok Sabha Union Minister Smriti Irani said: “If you (not naming the party) truly believe in women’s cause, stand here and denounce that legislator…Those men who stand in this Well today, go back to your political organisation and first bring to justice such a man, then we will see who speaks for women and children in this country.” Back home, Congress MLAs demanded an apology to ‘entire womanhood’ as ‘this is just NOT ok’. Kumar yielded in the House: “I will not defend myself. I tender my sincere apology…” The Speaker accepted it but “appealed to members, especially women MLAs, not to drag the matter further and make it (a) big (issue).” No Sir, it’s a big issue– mindsets must change!
Maha Bullock Cart Racing
Maharashtra is relieved rather happy as the Supreme Court has waved the green flag to hold the traditional bullock cart racing. On Thursday last, a two-judge bench noted: “One country, one race, we need to have uniformity and there has to be one rule. If the races are going on in other states, why should it not be allowed by Maharashtra,” while dealing with the state government’s plea seeking permission to conduct the race, as Bombay High Court had put a hold on it. The court added: ‘It’s a traditional sport going on for several years. Judgment came and it was stopped. Then amendment came and allowed in a regulated manner. If it is a traditional sport and going on all across the country except Maharashtra, it does not appeal to common sense.’ Recall in 2014, the apex court had given a verdict wherein it banned Jallikattu, stating it amounted to cruelty to bulls under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. However, it noted that Tamil Nadu and Karnataka had amended the Act since 2014 to enable Jallikattu and bullock cart races, and though these were challenged no order was passed, instead referred to a Constitution bench. So the same yardstick must apply to Maharashtra, which too amended the Act in 2017. Guess, the race shall go on till the apex court shows the red flag, if and when.