Changes in AIS rules
As India celebrates its 73rd Republic Day, Centre-States relations take another hit. The federal structure is being subverted again, is the charge against Modi government. Opposition is mounting against New Delhi’s bid to change the All India Service Cadre Rules, wherein the Centre seeks to give itself ‘unilateral powers’ to pick and choose any AIS officer(s) working in the States to be withdrawn from their services in the State of their allotment and brought to the Centre without the concurrence either of the officer concerned or of the State Government that the officer is serving. This change, say opponents may appear to be a minor, technical one, but it ‘hits at the very core of the constitutional scheme of Indian federalism.’ On Thursday last, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee shot off a second letter to Modi saying “the Centre was taking the matter to further non-federal extremes!” Other State governments opposing the move are Maharashtra, Odisha, Jharkhand, whose CM Soren has written to Modi saying ‘bury’ the ‘draconian’ amendments as if made, would strike at the “very root” of “federal governance”; and surprisingly even NDA-ruled States such as Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Meghalaya, who find the present system fine. The Constitutional Conduct Group, of former bureaucrats, has put across a forceful argument against the Centre’s proposals, which the States could ditto. It says: in a federal structure of Union of India, the Union and States exist as distinct and separate entities, though they work in tandem to subserve common constitutional objectives. The AlS constitute the administrative framework for this unique relationship between the two levels of government and give it stability and balance. Maintaining this balance is critical to good governance and guarantees members of the AIS their independence and their ability to speak their mind. The proposed amendments fundamentally alters this relationship and makes a mockery of the delicate federal balance that the AIS are designed to maintain. For it’s possible that AIS officers may view the interests of the State as secondary and subordinate to the Centre and to the political regime in power there. Plus, AIS officers working in the State will be reluctant to take any decision or action against the wishes of the political party in power at the Centre for fear of being summarily transferred to the Centre and harassed there. This will undermine the ability of the State governments to implement their policies and stand up against any arbitrary diktats of the Centre. Need more be said. Will the Centre pay heed.
Maha Govt’s Embarrassment
The Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government is red in the face. On Friday last, the Supreme Court set aside the suspension of 12 BJP MLAs for one year, saying the decision was “arbitrary, unconstitutional and illegal.” Reinstating them, the bench said the MLAs can’t be suspended beyond the session and the resolutions ‘are malice in the eyes of law, ineffective and beyond the powers of the Assembly”. Recall, the MLAs were suspended on July 5, 2021, day one of the Monsoon session after the Uddhav Thackeray government accused them of “misbehaving in the House and using abusive language against the Speaker in the chair… and they also attempted to pull up the Speaker’s mic and mace.” The elated MLAs said the judgment ‘is a slap on the MVA government and the suspension was an act of vendetta. They wanted to keep us away from the Speaker’s election…democracy is saved.” Be that as it may, should the apex court ruling extend to New Delhi, is a big question. Last November, Rajya Sabha refused to lift the suspension of 12 MPs for the rest of the Winter Session on account of “unruly behaviour” during the Monsoon Session. The Opposition here too termed it as unconstitutional and led protests. Time the BJP see the shoe is on the other foot?
Punjab Cong CM Face?
Punjab has the Congress high command in a bind. Who should be its chief ministerial candidate—Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi or State party President Navjot Singh Sidhu? Both are keen to be declared as the CM face saying two people cannot lead but only one. And true to his style, Sidhu literally cornered Rahul Gandhi on Thursday last at the virtual rally in Jalandhar, saying he doesn’t want to be ‘showpiece’, a CM face needs to be declared. Tough call alright, as Rahul too admitted that not the grand old party’s style. The party, he said, “will go to polls with a CM face and a decision will be taken soon after consulting party workers.’ Will it and how, is the big question for differences within the party and the two aspirants appear far from over. And though both are said to have given the assurance that ‘whoever leads, the other will put all his energy behind him,’ nothing can be put past Sidhu. Remember, the high voltage drama where he eventually bowled Amarinder out. And while he would want the confusion be removed, it’s easier said than done. Despite Channi humbly saying “I don’t want any post. Make anyone CM, Channi will accept it wholeheartedly and campaign. This is Punjab’s requirement.” No, it’s Congress’ requirement. Will it ride the tide?
UP Students’ Protest
The timing couldn’t have been worse for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. The issue of unemployment finally comes into spotlight in the poll-bound State. The beating up of students by the police in Prayaraj for reportedly trying to stop a train there to protest against the Ministry of Railways recruitment process has caught the Yogi government on the wrong foot. It had to react promptly and suspended three policemen, appealed to students to be patient, as say ‘every student is our family’, as the focus on campaigning now gets shifted, with Opposition taking it up forcefully. This despite the fact that protests in UP are far less vociferous than in Bihar, where empty coaches of a stationary train in Gaya were torched, students blocked rail traffic between Gaya-Jehanabad, among other form of protests in Patna, Sasaram and Bhagalpur. But it isn’t going to the polls. Yogi and team may be wary of the protest turning into a students’ movement with focus on youth joblessness, for so far his concentration has been to pursue the Hindutava agenda. The Railways forming a committee and giving its recommendations by March 4 doesn’t give much hope either as student unions see it as a conspiracy to postpone the issue till the elections in the State. How the Opposition cashes on, is worth a watch.
Jharkhand’s World Record!
Jharkhand hasn’t done its homework right. It has the “world record of longest continuous closure of primary schools.” Economist Jean Dreze, wrote to Chief Minister Hemant Soren on Thursday last warning of the “catastrophic state of elementary education” in the State. The worst aspect of the crisis, he said “is not economic or even the health crisis, it’s the schooling crisis.” And though the economy may pick up and adults will return relatively soon to their normal lives, children “may pay the price for their entire life. A small minority of privileged children are able to continue studying online during this period, but online education doesn’t work for poor kids, most have been virtually abandoned by the schooling system for two years.” In age group of 8-12 years the 2011 census was 90%-odd and by 2020 most kids that age must have been literate. But a survey today of kids among poor Adivasi/Dalit families reveals “a majority have lost the ability to read a simple sentence.” When schools reopen, many will recover their ability to read and write, but “many will not — they will become de facto drop-outs.” Thus, he suggested: plan for a “massive literacy” campaign for primary school children in next two years, ‘to ensure no child in Jharkhand is deprived of a chance to learn to read and write.’ Plus have adequate provision in the forthcoming Budget. Will Soren heed for Jharkhand’s children?