Will it bail out centre ?
An ill-prepared Centre now reaches out to States for better advice—to plan and help promote its concept of a “cashless” or less cash economy. With the Opposition holding up Parliament since 16 November over the demonetisation scheme causing immense hardship to the aam admi, this latest move of the Modi government is being seen as a bid to break its ranks. It has sought to rope in Chief Ministers, backing his currency ban decision and have a “Committee of Chief Ministers” to examine and encourage the use of digital payment systems across the country. Expectedly, the panel of the NITI Aayog has close ally TDP’s Chandrababu Naidu, as its convenor. Other members include Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik, who from day one has welcomed the pronouncement, BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Sikkim’s Pawan Kumar Chamling (an ally too) and Maharashtra’s Devendra Fadnavis.
Meanwhile, while the Aayog says the panel includes representatives of all political parties, it hardly seems the case. Keeping out Bihar’s JD(U) Nitish Kumar has come as a big surprise given he was among the very few Opposition leaders endorsing the scheme and was reportedly invited. Among the Congress, the panel chose to include UT Puducherry’s Chief Minister V Narayanasamy. Efforts to include Tripura’s Manik Sarkar, have however failed, as he turned down the invite. Will the panel be able to give a “boost to the adoption of digital payments systems by people at the grass root levels and small businesses”, and promote transparency as envisaged? Incidentally, the Aayog could pick up a tip or two from Dwarka temple in Gujarat. With a big dip in donations, it proposes to start e-wallets, ATMs with deposit facility and swipe machines to accept cashless donations. In fact, Chief Minister Rupani has inaugurated a digital donation system at famous Ambaji Temple, Banaskantha district which will accept donations through debit or credit card using swipe machines. In another temple, e-payment for the ‘prasad’ too is being accepted. Will the committee undertake a study tour now?
Scripting National Anthem Rules
The Centre and States have an onerous nationalist duty to carry out. They must ensure that people show respect to the national anthem and that cinema halls across the country play the anthem before movie screenings. Everyone must rise and all exits are to be shut during that time, is the task entrusted by the Supreme Court. The national anthem is symbol of constitutional patriotism and the idea of “any different notion or the perception of individual rights…is constitutionally impermissible,” it said while hearing a PIL against disrespect shown to the anthem. The ruling, however, has raised many an eyebrow. What about fire exits and emergencies like a fire? Also last year the Home Ministry had issued a directive to all States that standing would interrupt film screening and “create disorder/confusion rather than add to the dignity of the anthem.” While the Centre has promised to implement the rule in 10 days, the big question is who will monitor? Plus, after cow vigilantes will there be a new breed?
Maharashtra, Gujarat Thumbs Up
Two States, Maharashtra and Gujarat have helped Modi say a bigger boo to the Opposition criticising implementation of his demonetisation scheme. In BJP-ruled Gujarat, the party won 109 of 126 municipal and district panchayat seats in 16 districts where by-elections were held. The party gained 40 seats from the Congress, which it had surrendered last year under then Chief Minister Anandiben, beleaguered by the Patidar and Dalit stir. The win follows Maharashtra giving thumbs up to BJP also in the civic elections. It made big gains in the 1st phase bagging 851 of 3,705 seats across 147 municipal councils and 17 panchayats. Importantly, it made inroads into the traditional strongholds of Congress/NCP, who fought separately this time. Not only were the polls a litmus test for Chief Minister Fadnavis but the demonetisation was expected to spell trouble for the party, given that cooperative banks and farmers were hit hard. Do the results present the mood of the nation—of being with Modi? Time will tell.
Well known for her paranoid histrionics, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is at it again. She has kicked up a fresh row. Days after her party the Trinamool Congress alleged threat to her life following her flight being made to hover over Kolkata airport for half an hour despite the plane reportedly running out of fuel. Mamata has now accused the Centre of deploying Army in the State, which she alleged was stationed at two toll plazas on National Highway 2 by the Centre, without any information to her Government. Claiming that it was an ‘unprecedented and a serious matter’, Didi proposes to knock on President Mukherjee’s door again and drive home the oft-repeated accusation of the action being an attack on the federal structure. She recently marched to Rashtrapati Bhavan against the demonetisation scheme, despite most Opposition parties against it. Will she get any support here when she claims that “Emergency had been imposed in the country without declaration”? The answer quiet obviously will be in the negative. More so when the defence establishment has maintained there is nothing alarming about this exercise. It gives an estimate about the number of vehicles passing through a certain area which could be tapped in case of a contingency. What next Didi?
Kerala’s Anti-Graft Tool
Kerala has come out with a novel anti-corruption drive. It foresees local libraries playing a critical role in sensitising the local community against graft. The initiative ‘On-site On-line vigil visit’, of the State Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB), envisages regular readers of libraries report about corruption in their areas to it. The culture of zero tolerance to corruption is expected to be “visible and felt or experienced by everyone in the State by joining hands with local libraries”. At least ten of the libraries among 7,900-odd, which are active, would be identified in each of 14 districts. The plan: a library action group be formed to interact with VACB team; Posters, urging people to take part in the drive be displayed in libraries; members utilise ‘Arising Kerala’ or ‘Whistelenow’ mobile apps to document corruption/ anti-corruption practices they observe, hear or learn during their on-site visits; monitor progress of initiatives carried out using government fund, in their area etc. Hope the government doesn’t read too much into the scheme and abdicates its responsibility.—INFA