Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lokpal mess: Trinamool puts Govt. on tenterhooks, favours autonomy for states

Didi is again out with her tantrics putting the government on tenterhooks.
A day after leaving the Congress-led UPA alliance high and dry by opposing the revised Lokpal Bill on the floor of Lok Sabha, Ms Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress today made it clear that the party will never compromise on the autonomy of the states in setting up state-level ombudsman but asserted that it will not vote against the government.
“There is no question of voting against the UPA government, it’s our government,” a senior party leader said clarifying on the party’s strategy to be adopted during the crucial debate and voting on the revised Lokpal Bill in the Rajya Sabha on Decembe 29, 2011.
Trinamool Congress’s last minute opposing the bill in the Lok Sabha yesterday had caused severe embarrassment to the government especially to the crisis management team headed by Mr Pranab Mukherjee.
Trinamool has six members in Rajya Sabha and have decided to move two amendments. The party member Mr Sukhendu Sekhar Roy is set to move the amendments seeking to “overhauling and deletion” of Part-3 of the Bill with summary deletion of clauses from 63 to 97 in the Part 3 on Lokayuktas. .
“We also want renaming of the Bill. It should be simply Lokpal Bill. States should be at liberty to frame their own anti-corruption law. The word ‘Lokayuktas’ should be dropped from the original name of the draft bill,” one party MP said. The Trinamul floor leaders in Mr Sudip Bandyopadhyaya, Mr Mukul Roy and Mr Derek O Brien also met the Finance Minister Mr Mukerjee in response to the ‘invitation’ from him to end the deadlock.
The Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal and MoS Personnel Mr V Narayanasamy were also present.
“We will not create problem for the government. That’s not our intention,” one senior Trinamul leader said after the meeting indicating that further consultations would be held both within the party and also with the government to end the deadlock.

Amid the party's clear stand that it will not allow any tampering with the federal structure as enshrined in the basic structure of the constitution, six Rajya Sabha members met at the residence of Mr Mukul Roy while the party supremo Ms Mamata Banerjee too was consulted more than once during the day.

“The provisions in Part 3 are objectionable and should be modified,” Mr Roy said earlier during the day adding the party has taken exception to the ‘mandatory clause’ as the bill was being brought under Article 253 which would leave the states with no choice but to set up the Lokayuktas toeing the central line.
Trinamul sources defending the party’s Lok Sabha MP Mr Kalyan Banerjee’s criticism of the bill in Lok Sabha asserted “it was not a belated decision”.
“Our party nominee in the standing committee Sukhendu Sekhar Roy has sounded on these lines in the Standing Committee deliberations. We did not give any dissent note, that does not mean our views should be ignored. We are all for federal structure of the constitution,” a key party leader said.
On December 27 in the Lok Sabha, the 19-member strong UPA constituent Trinamool sprang a major surprise during the historic debate in
the Lok Sabha on the Lokpal Bill when it pooh-poohed the government’s
claim of a strong draft legislation and went on to oppose the bill on
the ground that it was ‘encroaching’ on the federal structure of the
constitution.
Maintaining that the Bill would at best only create a 'super
investigating agency' in the form of Lokpal, party's chief whip in Lok
Sabha, Mr Kalyan Banerjee said, the proposed Lokpal would (have to) submit
"merely an investigation report" before a court of law, which will not
be accepted "unless it is proved before the court itself".
He said an investigating agency report has to be given to the Special
Court, and the Special Court will decide the matter in accordance
with the procedures of the Code of Criminal Procedure and "nothing
more than that".

Sharing concerns expressed by BJP leader Ms Sushma Swaraj and several
opposition members that the bill would attack
the rights of the states, he said, "If the bill is adopted then I
think it encroaches upon the federal structure of constitution”.

Contesting the HRD Minister Mr Kapil Sibal’s contentions, he argued
that Section 81(7)(b) of the Bill directly encroaches upon the “domain
of the state legislative assembly”.
Seeking the attention of the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, who was
present in the House, he said there should not be any misconception
that just because Lokpal Bill has not come for decades “it means that all
the previous Prime Ministers or the Ministers were in favour of
corruption.”
“If this type of Bill has not still come in the states, then this does
not mean that the state Legislatures or the State Chief Ministers are
in favour of corruption,”
Mr Banerjee said rather eloquently.
He said, the government should not “undermine the State Legislatures
nor undermine the Ministers of the States” and stay away from entering
into the arena of the states and added that such a move would be “a
dangerous proposition.”
Also sounding much critical the manner the government had tried to
bring in the legislation under pressure from
Anna Hazare’s anti-graft agitation, the Trinamul member said,
everybody is against corruption.
"It is not that only one person is fighting against corruption," he
said adding, it is not that the persons who are holding demonstrations
and dharnas are the only persons who are fighting against corruption.
"We have also been elected by people because people know that we are
honest".
Mr Banerjee also opposed the provisions under which the Speaker of the
Lok Sabha would be required to
report to the proposed Lokpal on actions taken by the Speaker on any
chargesheet filed against elected member of the House.
Moreover, he was also critical of the selection panel as proposed by
the government saying, "Lokpal will be selected by the Prime Minister,
and the Leader of Opposition. Both of them are under the Lokpal.
Therefore, both of them will decide who would be the Judge who might
be required to look into the matter in case they commit any fault in
future".

Ends

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lok Sabha makes history: Lokpal Bill introduced

The Lok Sabha had a date with history today, December 22 of circa 2011 as it took up in greater details the matters concerning much talked about
anti-corruption Lokpal Bill, which was introduced in lower house
of parliament amid strong protests by a sizeable section
of members.

Te National Food Security Bill, which seeks to give legal right on cheaper foodgrains to 63.5 per cent of the country's population.

However, the proceedings were marred by repeated bedlam and
adjournment first till 2 pm and later for about one-and-half hour
again till 3.30 pm.

The first round of chaos was sparked off by the RJD floor leader and
party chief Lalu Prasad, who supported strongly by Samajwadi Party
members created ruckus over alleged motivated strategy to keep
minorities and weaker sections out of the proposed Lokpal Bill.
He claimed that the government has ensured that the proposed Lokpal
Bill draft does not reach all members.
Angry exchange of words and uproar led to noisy scenes and chaos for
nearly ten to 15 minutes.
Even as the Speaker Meira Kumar had allowed discussion on the
Constitution Amendment Bill on bringing transparency in Cooperative
societies, a din was raised by the RJD leader while he sought
permission to speak.
BJP member Arjun Meghawal was disrupted more than
once while participating in the constitution amendment bill
as the RJD leader was seen from moving members to members including
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and CPI-M floor leader Basudeb Acharia.
The Speaker Meira Kumar tried to bring order in the house and appealed
to the members to restrain from creating commotion. But the agitating
members had rushed to the well of the House and standing close to the
Speaker's chair and raised slogans protesting the alleged
non-inclusion of minorities from the Lokpal Bill.

Lalu Prasad said the 'removal' of Muslims, Scheduled Castes and
Scheduled Tribes was done by the Government at the behest of the RSS
and the BJP which he claimed were 'anti-minorities'.

Lalu Prasad said the issue was a serious issue and the House needed to
be made aware of this 'dangerous thing' as a contrary decision was
taken in the all-party meeting.

The Speaker made repeated attempts to pacify the RJD leader and others
saying she would give time to them during Zero Hour, but there was no
respite.

Raising slogans of "Musalmano ko kyon hatay, jawab do", the RJD leader
rushed to the well of the House, with Samajwadi Party members tailing
him leading to noisy scenes.

In the midst of din only, various papers and reports were laid by
members and the ministers.

Later, the BSP members led by Dara Singh Chauhan were also seen
supporting the move.

Amidst all this commotion, Minister for State for Food and Consumer
Affairs K V Thomas introduced the National Food Security Bill 2011.

The proposed legislation that would provide 7 kg of rice, wheat and
coarse grains per person per month to priority households at Rs 3, Rs
2 and Rs 1 per kg,
respectively, is being seen as the second flagship scheme of the UPA
government after Mahatma Gandhi-NREGA that was introduced during
UPA-1.

Amid the chaos, the Speaker adjourned the House till 2 pm.

There was no respite even when the House re-assembled after 2 pm.

Several members were again on their feet trying to raise the issue of
Lokpal Bill and how the minorities and other weaker sections have been
ignored.
Among others, Sharad Yadav (JD-U) floor leader also supported the
contentions of the agitating members that minorities were ignored in
setting up of the Lokpal. Among others, Dara Singh Chauhan (BSP) and
Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M) also spoke on the issue.
The BSP leader said the government has ensured that the proposed
Lokpal Bill draft reach only select few members. The government is
trying to mislead people especially the minorities, he alleged.

Senior CPI-M member Acharia also maintained that at the all-party
meeting inclusion of minorities and the weaker sections in the Lokpal
were suggested; but the government has simply ignored them.
The re-worked draft of the Lokpal Bill was cleared by the Union
Cabinet on Tuesday, December 20.
The proposed legislation is in public debate for last 8 months after
anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare took up the agitation demanding
it on behalf of the civil society.

The morning session today was also marked by much confusion over
voting in electronic system.
There has to be repeated voting after confusion when the House put the
Constitutional Amendment Bill on Cooperative societies to vote.
However, in quick damage control, the government made 'quick changes' in the bill and added provisions for reservation.
The opposition members led by Sushma Swaraj said the Bill is "patently
un-constitutional" as there is a proposal for reservation for religious minorities and taking the cap over 50 per cent.
This can be be struck down by the Supreme Court the moment it is
challenged because the constitution does not allow any religious-based
reservation and also have any 50 per cent quota.
Mr Pranab Mukherjee, however, said the house had the "legislative competent" power to introduce the Bill.

Members target Pretender of a Gandhi:

In the high drama that preceded the introduction of supposed historical Lokpal Bill in Lok Sabha today, the chief campaigner of the proposed Ombudsman to fight corruption menace, Anna Hazare, was subjected to severe crictism even as visibly agitated members warned the government against
giving in to his demands.
The master orator Mr Lalu Prasad said the Bill was like a "hanging
rope" for the political class.
The most emphatic observation against Anna Hazare came from veteran
parliamenterian and CPI leader Mr Gurudas Dasgupta.
The government need not be afraid of "somebody – who pretends to be
another Father of the Nation," he said without naming anyone.
"There is only one Father of the nation," Mr Dasguta waxed eloquently
Even Sonia Gandhi was seen thumping desks on his remarks.

(ends)


Nirendra Dev
Spl. Representative
The Statesman
New Delhi

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The US withdrawal from Iraq: End of an era

The United States of America is seemingly a panorama of paradoxes today. On domestic front, it is hit with a recession and diplomatically it has entered into a lasting war of wits with his longtime protégé Pakistan and last week Americans pulled down their flag and announced leaving Iraq.
Iraq is better known today as a war-ravaged country.
The end of the nearly nine-year war finally marked the departure of the US leaving just a couple of hundred soldiers at an embassy in Baghdad. Compare this with the scene when a time when there were nearly 1,70,000 troops on over 500 US bases across the country.
This is a significant development in the Arab world. Just as the US soldiers rolled out of bases jubilant and hugging each other, the country remains shattered. Importantly a question that’s looking for answer is whether Iraq would continue to remain a steadfast US ally. This is largely because, most common Iraqis blame the American military commanders and even common soldiers for everything bad that has happened since the invasion in 2003.

It’s altogether a different story that the US administration never conceded it to be an ‘invasion’.
On the contrary, the US establishment has reasons to claim that they turned Iraq into a democracy. Huge money has been invested as American army engineers worked overtime with generosity to provide clean water and a proper sewage system in many places.
The mission has cost the US nearly 4,500 American soldiers as well as more than 1 lakh Iraqi lives and 800 billion US dollars billion from the U.S. Treasury. However, at the end of all these nine years, international watchers still ask whether it was worth it all.
The Iraqis on their part acknowledge the contribution of Americans in changing the history of their country – for good or for bad.
They know pretty well it was the Americans who made it possible for the Shia majority to take over political power from the Sunni minority.

But the arbitrary and alleged autocratic style of US soldiers with the common citizens during their occupation leave permanent scar mark on people’s mind. Even harmless Iraqis driving too close to an American vehicle by accident was liable to be shot.
The democracy, as the term is understood, never came to their rescue. Therefore, it is not without good reason that Iraqis generally blame that out of a staggeringly high one lakh deaths, the vast majority were civilians.

The U.S. plans to keep a robust diplomatic presence in Iraq with an assured and lasting relationship with that country. But all that does not seem to be coming so easily.
A common refrain among several Iraqis as reported in the international media is that for the first time in many years; Iraqis are feeling a little gleam of optimism.

But suave diplomats that the Americans are, the US establishment knows it pretty. The US president Barack Obama in an interview has stopped short of calling the U.S. effort in Iraq a victory.
“I would describe our troops as having succeeded in the mission of giving to the Iraqis their country in a way that gives them a chance for a successful future,” quote unquote Obama merely said. In fact, he could hardly speak more eloquently for a decision taken by the erstwhile Goerge Bush regime to send troops to Iraq ostensibly to oust a nuclear-powered Saddam Hussein. Worst, the Saddam regime was never found with nuclear weapons and the decision has fetched much criticism at home too.
In fact, there are many factors those are weighing in Obama’s mind today. Obama met Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki recently as the two leaders tried to define the new relationship between the two countries.
The US officials are unhappy and modestly tensed as so far they have not been able to reach an agreement with the Iraqis on legal issues and troop immunity.
Finally, the world cannot ignore the fact that Obama was in tiring hurry to announce withdrawal of the forces from Iraq. The 2012 presidential race will obviously discuss and debate the US policy in Iraq.
But the internal tension in Iraq is far from over. There’s already a latent war among Shia and Sunni leaders. The Prime Minister has started making noise against a Sunni leader and the deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak. The Sunni leader’s political bloc has announced boycotting parliament. This could be just the beginning of a new chapter.

(ends)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Heart of India – Delhi: 100 Years of Glorious History

Nirendra Dev

Delhi completed 100 years of designating itself as the capital city of India on December 12, 2011. It was on December 12, 1911 that Delhi was proclaimed as the new capital of the country.
The city has emerged as one of the megapolis with the second largest population in the country. It has a long history including a history as the capital of several ancient empires. According to historians, the earliest architectural relics date back to the Maurya Period in 300 BC.
In felicitating the citizens on the occasion of 101st (one hundred and first) birthday of Delhi, the Speaker of Indian Parliament’s lower house, Meira Kumar rightly said that the city today boasts of world class infrastructures and many heritage buildings.
Delhi's high population growth rate, coupled with high economic growth rate has resulted in an ever increasing demand for housing and transport creating excessive pressure on the city's existent infrastructure. The number of vehicles in the metropolitan region, was estimated as above 11.5 millions. In 2008, there were 85 cars in Delhi for every 1,000 of its residents.

Like all modern dwelling places, Delhi city too has its problems. But the government is sensitive to the issues. It is rightly in the spirit of this realization that the lower house of parliament on December 12, 2011 passed a Bill to streamline all development related activities in the city and adjoining areas.
The government also promised to put in place a "visionary" plan keeping in mind the requirements of next 25 years.
The Urban Development Minister Mr Kamal Nath informed members that the
second phase of Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission
(JNURM) was also under preparation and it would take into
consideration the "shortcomings" encountered in phase one.
Replying to a debate on the bill during which members cutting across
party lines
had several complaints on lack of adequate attention being given to
Delhi, Mr Nath admitted that coordination among multiple civic
agencies like DDA, MCD and the Delhi government was still lacking.
He announced that DDA has been directed to solely concentrate on
making dwelling places for economically weaker sections and that about
a lakh such houses will be soon set up. He also said that attention
should be given to the demand for granting full statehood to Delhi and
the members' views on the subject
would be forwarded to the union Home Ministry.
He, however, said the proposal of constructing one lakh housing units
for Economically Weaker Sections would not be enough and these needed
to be doubled.
He said the Master Plan 2021, which is under preparation, will have
the "vision" for 25 years.
Members from various parties including from RJD (Lalu Prasad), BSP
(Vijay Bahadur Singh), Congress (Sandeep Dikshit), BJP (Shahnawaz
Hussain) and BJD (B Mahtab) voiced concerns over deteriorating civic
amenities and shortcomings in the functioning of agencies like
Municipal Corporation of Delhi and Delhi Development Authority.
Opposition members also called for full statehood for Delhi. Shahnawaz
Hussain (BJP), who initiated the discussion, said the Master Plan had
“grave errors” and alleged that Delhi authorities had acquired land at
throwaway prices from farmers and sold it at exorbitant rates to
builders and the rich. He said for the common man, housing has already
gone “out of reach” in the city.
"In its 54 years of existence, DDA has built only about 11 lakh
dwelling units. Is there pressure from private builders," the BJP
member asked.
Shailendra Kumar (Samajwadi) and A. Sampath (CPI-M) also supported the
demand for full statehood to Delhi.
The East Delhi Congress MP, Mr Sandeep Dikshit wanted to know whether
the Centre would convene a meeting to accord full statehood to Delhi,
saying neither Congress nor BJP has tried to address the issue during
the last decade.
BSP's Vijay Bahadur Singh, wondered why there was a “permanent cold
war” between the MCD and DDA. SP leader Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav
suggested for introducing a proper sewage treatment system.
Members also expressed anguish on what they alleged eviction of the
poor and slum dwellers during the Commonwealth Games.

ends