States checkmate Modi
Reports from across States showcase Modi’s ‘notebandi’ being checkmated by the Indian ‘jugaad’. Sadly, while the common man stands in long queues to get his hands on his own hard-earned cash, Income Tax and Enforcement authorities are having a field day recovering unaccounted money and worse crores of the precious new Rs 2000 notes. To top the charts is Karnataka, which has left other States far behind since demonetization came into play. Of the Rs 3,000 crore unaccounted money recovered by the IT department across the country, 20 per cent has been seized from this southern State; of 48 cases referred to the ED for further probe, a fraction less than half— 23 are here. While Rs 20.22 crore worth of precious new 2000 notes have been seized so far from here, Maharashtra has coughed up 1.04 crore, Assam 1.5 crore, Delhi, 2.60 crore, Gujarat 76 lakhs, Andhra and Telangana 75 lakhs, Madhya Pradesh 43 lakhs, West Bengal, Kerala et al. These figures are of course those randomly given out by various agencies after conducting raids on tip-off, with no concrete data coming from the Finance Ministry or the Central Bank. The Prime Minister had asked the common man to ‘bear pain for 50 days and then punish me’. Time is ticking. Will the real picture come out and more importantly will the scheme be able to beat the Indian creativity? Unlikely.
Arunachal Aides Opposition?
Will Arunachal Pradesh provide the Opposition the elusive handle to nail Modi on his promise “na khayoonga aur no khane doonga” (wouldn’t take bribes, not allow it)? Mired in various scams, the Congress in particular is gunning for MoS Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju for “misuse of official position”. Apparently, his name along with his ‘contractor cousin’ figured in the Chief Vigilance Officer of the N-E Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO) report alleging corruption to the tune of Rs 450 crores in the construction of two dams for the Kameng Hydro Electric Project, falling in his constituency, West Kameng. Rijiju, however, has hit back saying the charges are baseless and alleged conspiracy between Congress and its “friend”, reference to CVO Satish Verma. But the Congress, AAP and BSP have demanded Rijiju’s resignation and a fair probe into the telephonic conservation between Rijiju’s cousin and the CVO with the latter seeking clearance of pending payment. The Congress has in fact linked the episode to toppling of the State government earlier this year. The BJP refutes this saying the project was in place in 2005 when Congress was in power at the Centre and the State. Will the tit-for-tat die out as soon as Parliament winter session, which in any case is a washout, is over?
UP Pre-Poll Sops
Come elections, it’s the season of freebies. The first of the mark pre-State Assembly polls in five States is Uttar Pradesh wherein the ruling Samajwadi Government has accepted the Seventh Pay Commissions’ recommendations to benefit 27 lakh employees and pensioners. Also, the largesse included upping the Chief Secretary salary from Rs. 1.82 lakh to Rs.2.24 lakh. It’s another matter that this is with retrospective effect from January 2016. Moreover, it would cost the State exchequer Rs.17958 crores. This is not all. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s Cabinet approved a second list of supplementary demands of grants and a vote on account for the first four months of 2016-17. Predictably, the Opposition BJP has accused the Chief Minister of trying to derive advantage in the forthcoming polls. All parties seem to be pulling out all the stops, as who sits on UP’s rajgaddi could be a forerunner for the 2019 General elections.
Haryana Digital Diktat
When it comes to proving loyalty to Modi, Haryana takes the cake. Chief Minister Manahor Lal Khattar has pushed an order asking government staff to make at least one digital transaction from their mobile phones within the next week. Not enough, they must submit proof—”certificates” of compliance. The diktat says the government is giving “thrust to promote usage of less-cash/digital economy and encourage people as well as Government officials to use bank apps like SBI Buddy, USSD and Unified Payment Interface system.” Plus, all “officers/incharges will personally download the app on their mobile phones” and show the transaction. However, as staff ain’t smart phone savvy, officers have been asked to enrol, train and assist their household helps and personal staff in the office to download the apps. Camps are too being held, with bank staff help. But, the going is not easy. The State employees associations have trashed the order saying they (2.3 lakh employees) cannot be forced to make online payments. If the Government is looking for success, it should have taken them into confidence. Worse, all staff is not privileged with smart phones and many may not have internet connections. Will Khattar be able to please his boss Modi?
J&K Shocking Compensation
The Mehbooba Mufti Government in Jammu & Kashmir has stumped not only ally BJP but New Delhi too. In its list of giving an ex-gratia payment for the next of kin of 17 people killed in militancy-related incidents in the Valley, the name of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani’s brother Khalid Muzaffar Wani figures! Preposterous, to say the least as after the killing of Burhan by security forces in Kokernag this July, the Valley witnessed unprecedented unrest which left 86 people dead and thousands injured. Khalid, who the Army claims was an underground worker of the HM had too died in an encounter with the security forces in Tral, April last year. However, locals claim that he had no links with militancy and was pursuing a master’s degree in Political Science from IGNOU. The BJP sees red and said there is no provision for grant of ex-gratia or compensation to family of a slain terrorist and it shall be opposed. Rattled, with even the media highlighting the case, the Mufti government has an exit route. It said a week’s time was given for filing of objections before formal orders are issued for releasing the ex-gratia. Well-thought escape route.
Judges Prestigious Issue
High Court judges across the country should be miffed. The 1,000-odd shouldn’t be seen as special but ordinary mortals! Frown is the best they can do, following a ruling by none other than the Supreme Court. On Wednesday last, it directed the Centre and airport authorities to remove these judges from the list of those exempted from frisking. Security checks before boarding flights, it added should not become an “issue of prestige” or “status.” The Court had set aside an order of the Rajasthan High Court 11 years ago, wherein it had directed the Centre and Bureau of Civil Aviation Security to exempt HC judges from pre-embarkation security checks. Its argument: frisking these judges indicates the government has failed to maintain the status of judges, as well as acknowledging their constitutional position. But the SC ticked off the HC saying it shouldn’t have entered into the matter as those exempted from security checks must be under “24X7” government security coverage, which would preclude the possibility of any prohibited or dangerous items being introduced on board an aircraft through his or her baggage. The downgrade undoubtedly should hurt. —INFA