Posts Tagged ‘ Leading Articles Today ’

NaMo’s Lok Pal

Finally the Indian Parliament has passed the Lok Pal Bill and we saw a lot of grand standing and credit posturing by all the political leaders of the Congress and the BJP.

Something surreal and sublime was happening in the country. For we Indians, used to seeing all political parties dispatching newly elected MLAs and MPs to some impregnable forts, blatant horse trading to cobble together majority, and parliament/ state assemblies being stalled for the silliest of reasons, this was a welcome change. The only time we saw our parliamentarians display unity was when it comes to their pay cheque.

Suddenly our leaders became goody two shoes. Post the Delhi elections we saw the victor and the vanquished, begging, prodding, and cajoling their biggest opponent Aam Aadmi Party to form the government. Parliament was ‘debating’, yes you read it right, debating on the need for an ombudsman organization, state funding of elections, electoral reforms, food security, price rise etc. Leaders were making ‘astounding discoveries regarding engaging people’. Basic principles of participative democracy is presented as ‘a bold new idea’. Our political class was displaying a new sense of exalted virtue and political morality. And India sure looked close to becoming a ‘paradise’.

Suddenly the leaders from Congress and BJP were graciously congratulating Anna Hazare for his contribution to ‘enact the Lok Pal Bill’. This was the same leaders who shooed away Anna and his India Against Corruption Movement, the last time around, ie., 2011, saying they were duty bound ‘to protect against outsiders trespassing into the law-making prerogatives of an elected Parliament’.

This time around, Anna, on his part, graciously accepted the ‘compromise Lok Pal’ offered by the government and called off his fast at Ralegan Siddhi. But, the most curious part was that all the leaders who spoke, conveniently forgot the contribution made by Arvind Kejriwal. But lost in the din was yet another important news – ‘Gujarat got its Lokayuktha’. And that brings me to the reason for writing this article.

ModiBut before we start I would like to take the legal meaning of ‘Ombudsman’ from which the concept of Lok Pal was born. In Government/Politics and Diplomacy, ‘ombudsman’ is a commissioner who acts as independent referee between individual citizens and their government or its administration.

Gujarat passed Gujarat Lokayukta Act in 1986, but almost from the time Mr. Narendra Damodardas Modi became the Chief Minister of Gujarat, the Gujarat Lokayukta, has not been functional.

In 2001, when Modi came to power in Gujarat, Justice RM Soni’s was the Lokayukta. Justice Soni was appointed during Keshubhai Patel’s rule in 1998 and his term expired in December 2003 and the post has been lying vacant since then. From then on Modi scuttled every move to appoint a Lokayukta and make the Gujarat Lokayukta, functional.

Finally on 25 August 2011, the Gujarat Governor, Dr. Kamla Beniwal, appointed Justice R. A. Mehta to the post of Lokayukta of Gujarat. Justice Mehta was recommended for the post by the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court S.J. Mukhopadhaya in June 2011.  A miffed Modi accused the Governor of running a parallel government in the state supported by the Congress and demanded that she be recalled.

The Gujarat government then challenged the appointment in the Gujarat High Court, arguing that the Governor could not make the appointment without the State government’s advice. On 10 October 2011, the two-member High Court bench gave a split verdict and in January 2012, a third member upheld Beniwal’s decision. This was a major blow to Modi.

The Gujarat government then approached the Supreme Court, however lost the case. The SC upheld the Gujarat High Court’s verdict that though the decision on Lokayukta appointment was made without consultation with or approval from Modi, it was as per the letter and spirit of the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986.

The Gujarat government appealed against the SC verdict twice, but lost. Even after the SC upheld his appointment, Justice Mehta however desisted from charge of the office, citing 23 reasons. The controversy over his appointment, he said, had ‘denigrated the office of the Lokayukta and it had lost all the grace and dignity.’ (Read full text of his resignation letter here)

This was Modi’s chance. As is the norm in Gujarat, Modi wanted to appoint his man-friday for the role of Lokayukta, but he knew that this would not stand the scrutiny of law. So he now framed a new bill – Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill, 2013.

The new Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill, was passed by the state assembly in April, 2013, but, unfortunately, on 2 September 2013, the bill was returned by Gujarat Governor. On 1 October 2013, the state assembly passed the bill for the second time. But this time Governor Dr. Beniwal was constitutionally bound to accept the bill. Thus finally Modi had his way and succeeded in subverting the Supreme Court decision on the appointment of Lokayukta.

Unlike the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986 the new bill provided primacy to the Chief Minister, over the Gujarat High Court Chief Justice, in appointing the ‘ombudsman’. The new Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill, 2013 empowers a selection committee chaired by the Chief Minister appoints the Lokayukta. The panel comprises the Speaker of the Assembly, a Minister, the Leader of Opposition, the State Vigilance Commissioner and a High Court Judge, ‘to be nominated by the Chief Justice of the HC in consultation with the collegium of five senior judges’.

The new Bill also proposes a special provision which gives pivotal power to the state government in excluding any ‘public functionaries’ from the jurisdiction of the Lokayukta.

Then we saw Jayaram Ramesh capturing headlines saying ‘Modi talking on lokayukta is like Asaram talking on rape’. Jayaram was spot on, but then you know that these politicians only put on a public show to deride each other in varying degrees restraining themselves only to varying degrees of their innate civility or belligerence as is their habit. But they go ahead and do what they want anyway – even change a law or bring in a new one to suit their whim and fancy.

Lokayukta is an ombudsman body which is supposed to look into irregularities brought to its notice against the decisions taken by the state cabinet and the administration. Then how can the Chief Minister who is the head of the state cabinet have supremacy in deciding who should be the ombudsman?

This not only belies fundamental logic and intelligence. To me, it is a travesty of the institution of the ombudsman, but also provides an indication of authoritarian incoherence and double speaks by the Bharatiya Janata Party and Narendra Damodardas Modi.

Heads up – the politicians win. Tails up – the people lose !!!

Cartoon : Courtesy Satish Acharya

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Silencing the Brave

If today the scams are tumbling out of the closet the primary credit must go to some excellent investigative journalism, not by the big TV channels but by journalists from small time newspapers. Therfore the news of the senior journalist Chandrika Rai and his family have been murdered to silence them is shocking.

Chandrika Rai, a freelancer for dailies Navbharat and The Hitavada, was found murdered at his Jabalpur residence along with his entire family – wife Durga, son Jalaj and daughter Nisha – in Madhya Pradesh’s Umaria district on February 18th, 2012, Saturday. Rai was exposing the dirty dealings of the illegal coal mafia in MP. This is not the first time such heinous act has been committed. The murder of journalist Jyotirmoy Dey eight months ago is still green in memory.

Also the statistics that during the past one year at least one RTI activist has been killed each month is a chilling news indicating how criminals have over law into their hands and the police appear to be unable to stem the rot. It is a reflection of the inefficiency of the state administrations all over the country and with curruption ruling the roost it appears to be clear case of political-criminal nexus that is playing havoc with governance.

By February 20th, 2012, Monday the mainstream media, confused about its own role conflicted between market valuation/TRP and authentic reporting, seems to have forgotten Chandrika Rai. The spat between Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virendra Shewag took precedence over the killing of a fellow journalist, albeit from a small newspaper. As a viewer really hope that the mainstream media will abandon its misplaced priorities and redeem its credibility to some extend.

Photo : Courtesy DailyBaskar.com

Rapturous Intoxication

In the silence of the morning, I write what comes to my mind
Yet in my slumber, it started out with thoughts of you.
With or without you, your love sees me through.

In your loving arms, feel of your love surround me
Warm, secure and safe from all harm
The faith in my heart will carry us through.

Kneeling at your side, I’m asking for your hand
Beckoning me to a distant land where passion glows
To unite and experience the magic of your touch.

Your heart captivating and whispering sweet nothings
I longed to hear and everything you longed to say
All inhibitions die suddenly in your warmth

My caresses of your skin as your beauty unfurled
The desire rampant on latent whispers and the silence
In the morning, evening, and in dead of the night.

Nothing matters for I’m in your arms today
Together merged in a soul redeeming bliss
The altar, that rocks in harmony to the rhythm from within.

Soul connection or fantasy….. does it really matter?
It does not, the beauty is in the dream

Photo – Courtesy Getty Images