The News Editorial Analysis 17th November 2021

The News Editorial Analysis 17th November 2021

The News Editorial Analysis 17th November 2021

NRC: only 1,032 doubtful cases referred for review

19 lakh persons were excluded from the final list for Assam

Only a little over a thousand doubtful cases in the final draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC), Assam, have been referred to the District Commissioners concerned for action, the State Coordinator of the NRC has said in an RTI reply.

More than 19 lakh of the 3.29 crore applicants in Assam were excluded from the final draft register published on August 31, 2019, which cost ₹1,220 crore.

The Registrar-General of India under the Home Ministry on March 23 this year told the Assam Government that issuance of “rejection slips” to those excluded from the final draft shall be completed in a “mission mode.” The State Coordinator is a Secretary rank officer of the Assam Government who assists the RGI as citizenship is a Union subject.

In response to an RTI application filed by The Hindu, the Office of State Coordinator of NRC, Assam, said, “1,032 number of cases of DV/DF/PFT/DVD/DFD/ PFTD categories have been referred to the concerned Deputy Commissioner to take necessary action as per Clause 4(3) & 4(6) of the Schedule 4(A) 4 of Rules of the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards) Rules 2003.”

The BJP government in Assam has rejected the NRC in its current form and demanded re-verification of at least 30% names in areas bordering Bangladesh and 10% in the rest of the State. The NRC Coordinator had approached the Supreme Court in May seeking re-verification of the list.

TDRs make property acquisition easy

So far, GHMC has issued 864 transferable development rights, equivalent to 350 acres in terms of area

The News Editorial Analysis 17th November 2021

Transferable development rights (TDRs) issued in lieu of compensation for property acquisition have been gaining traction in the city gradually.

The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) has issued a total of 864 TDRs so far, which, in area terms, translate into 16,95,449 square yards or about 350 acres.

The State government, with a view to avoid payment of increased compensation for land acquisition as per the new Land Acquisition legislation, has enhanced the TDR extent to four times the original area forgone for public utility projects.

The rights may be exercised by the property owners at the same place or elsewhere, by construction of additional floors in relaxation of the norms pertaining to set back spaces.

Instead, they can sell the rights to others who need to construct additional floors. An online TDR bank has been created by GHMC for trading in the TDRs.

So far, a total of 553 TDRs have been issued for road widening, 128 for Strategic Road Development Plan (SRDP) works, 49 for link roads, 41 for nala widening works, 77 for beautification of tanks, and three for other works, a statement from GHMC informed.

The statement also said, during the past five years, 89 roads have been taken up for widening, of which 55 roads have been completed and 1,805 properties acquired.

Under SRDP, a total of 1,100 properties have been acquired, while the same for link and slip roads stands at 192. For general road widening, a total of 511 properties have been acquired.

Major projects for which property acquisition has been completed include the Biodiversity junction flyover, Shilparamam Road Under Bridge, Rajiv Gandhi Flyover at JNTU, Cable Stayed Bridge at Durgam Cheruvu, flyover at Road No. 45, Road Under Bridge at Hitech City, Chintalkunta underpass, LB Nagar flyover and underpass, flyover near Kamineni junction, Nagole Flyover, elevated corridor at Uppal, Amberpet flyover, Bahadurpura flyover, Kandikal Gate flyover, Uppuguda flyover, flyover at Owaisi Junction, road between Balapur junction to DRDL via Hafeez Baba Nagar, Shaikpet flyover, Khajaguda flyover, link road from Bapu Ghat to Attapur Bridge, link roads between Road No.70 and Road No. 78, Jubilee Hills, between Old Bombay Highway and Road No. 45, Jubilee Hills, slip road from Old Bombay Highway and Delhi Public School via ESCI, link road between Novotel and RTA office, Kondapur, link road between Nizampet Road to Bombay Highway, and between Zohra Bi Dargah to Rakshapuram.

Property acquisition is under way for the elevated corridor on Chanchalguda and IS Sadan Road, Shastripuram road and Aramghar to Zoo Park.

GHMC’s Town Planning wing is involved with preparation of road development plans, identification of properties, preparation of individual sketches, issue of notices, negotiations with property owners, and acquisition of properties.

Government has designated GHMC Commissioner as Special Collector-Land Acquisition for the city, which expedited the process of land acquisition, the note said.

Heritage dhow to shine on beautiful game

Kozhikode craftsmen hard at work to ready exhibit at FIFA World Cup in Qatar

Taking pride of place among the exhibits at Qatar during the FIFA World Cup next year will be a special dhow built far away in a village in Kerala.

Recreating the vessels used by Arab traders about 800 years ago when they sailed to Kerala, the dhow being made at Chaliyam in Kozhikode will not have a single nail or metal piece. Instead, traditional coir ropes will hold together the teak pieces.

On the special dhow nearing completion at the Pattermadu dhow-making unit, hundreds of metres of coir ropes are used.

“It is going to be the pride of not only Qatar, but our tradition as well. We have been making dhows for centuries, and the impression our craftsmanship and skills made in the world was quite deep,” said P.O. Hashim, managing director of Haji PI Ahamed Koya boat builders.

Mr. Hashim’s company has made over 200 dhows. “This is a prestigious one not because of its size, but because of its uniqueness. Nowhere in the world is such a vessel being made now,” he said.

A dozen-odd craftsmen under the leadership of Gokul Edathumpadikkal have been working for over three months for the 27-ft-long coir dhow.

The six-foot deep vessel has a width of seven feet. Hundreds of holes were made on the teak wood, specially acquired from Nilambur. Using a traditional technique, coir rope is run through the holes to tie the pieces together. A special marine oil will be applied on the ropes before the dhow is launched into water.

“The marine oil will add more strength to the rope when it comes in contact with the seawater,” explained Mr. Gokul.

The dhow will set sail for Qatar in a few weeks. Mr. Hashim’s company has had a long association with Qatar and other Gulf nations. According to him, it was that association that fetched him this prestigious contract to showcase the traditional dhow.

For more than a waiver

Threat of sanctions undermines foundation of India-U.S. global strategic partnership

The announcement by Russia that supplies of the S-400 Triumf system to India have already begun has set the stage for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit in early December. It has also thrown down the gauntlet to the U.S. that threatened sanctions against India. The deal for the air defence system was signed in 2018 during Mr. Putin’s visit then. In 2017, the U.S. had passed its Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) that provided for economic and travel sanctions against countries and officials that transacted significant military and intelligence contracts with Russia, North Korea and Iran. The Modi government has, justifiably, paid little heed to U.S. warnings that the sanctions — slapped on China and NATO partner, Turkey, for buying the S-400 — could also be used against India. In contrast to its cave-in on similar U.S. threats over the purchase of Iranian oil in 2019, Government officials have asserted that the deal is an essential part of India’s defences at a time of challenges on its eastern and western frontiers. In order to protect advance payments for the S-400 from U.S. strictures, India and Russia conducted their transfers through a rupee-rouble system. With the first parts of the system now delivered, and the first squadron delivery likely to completed by December-end, the die is cast.

The U.S. has a choice not to allow the S-400 delivery to turn into a showdown with India. U.S. President Joe Biden has been authorised by the Congress to waive sanctions if the waiver is found to be in American “vital national security interests”, or, that India would reduce its future dependence on Russian weaponry. While it is unlikely India would give assurances on the latter, it is easy to argue, as many U.S. Congress representatives have done in a proposed amendment to CAATSA, that India is a prized U.S. partner — of the Quad, the Indo-Pacific and in countering China. Sanctions will cause a rift in India-U.S. ties, and could spur India towards Russia. Above all, the U.S. must recognise that its unilateral sanctions, which are not U.N. endorsed, undermine the multilateral system. The subjective and whimsical manner in which these sanctions were used, withdrawn and then reimposed against Iran, for example, do not inspire confidence in them. For India, acceding to such sanctions amounts to becoming a party to a bilateral dispute, and challenges the nation’s principles of sovereignty and strategic autonomy. Rather than trying to reason with the U.S. for an exceptional waiver to its domestic law, New Delhi must make it clear to Washington that the law should be abandoned, as it negates the very “rules-based international order” that is the foundation of the India-U.S. global strategic partnership.

Amber on economy

Policymakers must focus on inflation as high prices will put at risk the revival of demand

The latest data on inflation, both in retail and wholesale prices as well as industrial output estimates, suggest it would be prudent to adopt caution on the outlook for the economy. October’s retail inflation based on the CPI showed a slight quickening in overall year-on-year price gains to 4.48%, from the 4.35% pace in September, spurred by a persistent acceleration in the prices of certain key food items and transport fuels. Oils and fats logged 33.5% inflation, while meat and fish and pulses and products both saw a marginal easing in the pace of annual gains from September — posting 7.1% and 5.4% increases, respectively. However, the food and beverages sub-index that accounts for over half the CPI, accelerated 2.3% month-on-month, led by vegetable prices that reared up sharply by 14.2% from September’s levels. The sequential trend in the food category is particularly disconcerting as except egg and fruits, all the 10 other items of the 12-component sub-index saw prices accelerate last month. Transport and communication, which encompasses the pump prices of petrol and diesel, logged inflation of 10.9% from the October 2020 level, lending justification to the Centre’s Deepavali-eve decision to cut the excise duty on the key fuels. With the WPI also showing price pressures intensifying at the wholesale-level last month, especially for fuel and power and manufactured products — October’s headline WPI inflation accelerated to 12.5%, from 10.7% in September — the overall outlook on inflation is still far from reassuring.

The Index of Industrial Production data from September also points to a sharp slowdown in output. While IIP growth slumped to an annual 3.1% pace, from August’s 12%, overall industrial output, of mining, manufacturing and electricity, actually shrank 2.6% on a sequential basis. While the Finance Ministry has cited monsoon rains for the slump in mining and power generation, which contracted 8.4% and 11% month-on-month, respectively, index heavyweight manufacturing too suffered a 0.5% contraction. Four of the six use-based industrial categories saw output shrink including consumer non-durables, which contracted 0.9%. The only silver lining was that consumer durables posted a healthy 6.7% jump in production from the preceding month, as white goods dealers likely stocked up ahead of the festival season. Automobile manufacturing slumped 9% from a year earlier and shrank 3.3% from August’s output levels as a global shortage of semiconductors crimped production. Automakers have reported more than 20% declines in production for October as well, as the chip scarcity coupled with high input costs abides. And given that manufacturers, who have so far sought to avoid risking the tenuous demand recovery by raising product prices, may not be able to defer increases for much longer, policymakers will have to ensure they do not drop their guard on inflation.

Kabul, Kashmir and the return of realpolitik

India could find itself in a catch-22 situation as engagement with the Taliban may lead Pakistan to up the ante in J&K

While the return of the Taliban to Kabul may have ended the internecine warfare within Afghanistan, the geopolitical contestation to own the spoils of Taliban’s victory has just begun. In a rather unfriendly neighbourhood, New Delhi’s attempts at forming a regional consensus to stabilise Afghanistan, albeit wise and timely, will only achieve limited success thanks to the China-Pakistan coalition and its interests at play in and over Afghanistan. What is worse, India’s advances to court the Taliban and attempts to evolve a regional consensus on Afghanistan might deteriorate India-Pakistan relations and pose challenges for India in Kashmir.

Post-American Afghanistan

While the recently-held Delhi Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan on November 10, 2021 was an important initiative to help Afghanistan stabilise, the sober reality is that the two countries that are key to stabilising Afghanistan — China and Pakistan — decided to stay away from it. Russia or the Central Asian states have neither the ability nor the desire to pursue a role in Afghanistan autonomous from the larger Chinese or Pakistani designs there. Iran has limited interests in Afghanistan and is unlikely to go against the Chinese plan for the region, especially in the broader context of being under United States sanctions.

While China seems to be approaching the Taliban-led Afghanistan in a cautiously slow manner, it is clearly poised to be in the driving seat of the regional, if not global, engagement with the region in the months ahead. It is a matter of time before Beijing recognises the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, and it is likely to coordinate its recognition along with that of Russia and Pakistan. China’s long-term vision for Afghanistan revolves around the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project of which Afghanistan has been a part since May 2016. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is also viewed as a key component within the larger Chinese BRI project and Afghanistan could eventually become part of CPEC if and when the Taliban regime stabilises itself in the country. For China, there is a lot riding on the Taliban.

Even as Pakistan recognises the challenge to itself from an unstable Afghanistan, its current Afghan strategy reeks of a triumphalist attitude. While it lobbies the international community to help prevent Afghanistan slide into further turmoil, it is determined to keep India as far away from Kabul as possible even though the Taliban would like India to continue the engagement and offer development assistance. For Pakistan, Afghanistan is the mother of all zero sum games.

To aid or not to aid

The international community is faced with a dilemma in Afghanistan when it comes to deciding to help the country get back on its feet. Taliban and Pakistan refer to the U.S.-led coalition as ‘colonisers’ who just vacated the Afghan territory; and in the same breath, they seek assistance from those very ‘former colonisers’. Second, if the U.S. and the West indeed send aid to Afghanistan, it may or may not reach the people. And yet, if they do not help, Afghans will suffer untold miseries. But perhaps what might bother the West the most is that if they stabilise the country, they would still be called former colonisers, and Pakistan and China will benefit out of it geopolitically, making it, in that sense, a thankless job for the West. So the question before the western leaders is how to offer structured incentives to the Taliban, and when.


India’s dilemma

India now faces a new dilemma in Afghanistan — the first one was to decide whether to engage the Taliban or not. The successive governments in Afghanistan, including the current Taliban regime, have sought relations with India which has upset Pakistan. Pakistan has always been deeply suspicious of growing India-Afghanistan relations no matter who was/is in charge in Kabul. India’s current dilemma is also along the same lines. The Taliban want India to engage and help the country stabilise, but Pakistan resents that. Not too long ago, the Pakistani National Security Adviser had lashed out against India for (India) reaching out to the Taliban delegation in Doha. And now, Pakistan refused to attend the regional security meeting on Afghanistan called by India. These instances indicate that Pakistan would not like India to either develop close relations with the Taliban or be a part of any regional set up to stabilise the country. More so, it is likely that the more India gets close to the Taliban, the more the Pakistani side will increase the heat (read ‘attacks’) in Jammu and Kashmir. By maintaining ties with the Taliban and convening the regional security meeting in New Delhi, India has indicated that this is an acceptable risk.

Let me explain this dilemma a bit more. Very crudely put, if the Taliban regime is stabilised in Kabul without India’s assistance to the country, the more it is likely to do Pakistan’s bidding vis-à-vis India. On the other hand, the more India helps the Taliban-led Afghanistan, the more Pakistan will up the ante in Kashmir. This is a catch-22 situation that India finds itself in. And yet, India has little choice but to engage the Taliban.

Pakistan’s Kashmir policy

The earlier Pakistani willingness to be conciliatory towards India on Kashmir before and in the run-up to the Taliban takeover of Kabul in August 2021 seems to have disappeared for now. This is at least partly due to the Pakistani triumphalism about the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. The bilateral backchannel conversations in late 2020 and early 2021 had reportedly discussed the reduction of violence in Kashmir in general and a political understanding with regard to Kashmir. The February ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan and the subsequent reduction in violence in Kashmir (i.e., infiltration of terrorists from the Pakistani side to Kashmir, terror attacks in Kashmir and ceasefire violations on the Line of Control) were a direct result of the backchannel understanding between the two sides. This understanding held until August when the Taliban takeover happened. Since then, violence data show that the backchannel understanding is withering away with violence in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) spiking along all three indicators albeit gradually. More so, sentiments from across the border also indicate that the earlier Pakistani stand that it would accept the Indian decision to withdraw the special status to Kashmir (in lieu of New Delhi restoring Statehood to Kashmir and allowing political activity in the State) has now changed. It now demands that India fully reverts to the pre-August 5, 2019 position on Kashmir. In other words, the Pakistani conciliatory approach on Kashmir lasted only till the Taliban takeover of Kabul. At best, this is a post-facto change in the Pakistani strategy, and at worst, Pakistan was stringing India along.

The appointment of Sardar Masood Khan, former Pakistan occupied Kashmir President, as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S. is perhaps yet another indication of the centrality of Kashmir in Pakistan’s foreign policy in the wake of the Taliban takeover of Kabul.

If this analysis is accurate, then we are likely to see more war of words and violence in the context of J&K. This will mean that any possibility of India-Pakistan cooperation in Afghanistan would be very hard to achieve. Beijing will play along; so will Iran and the Central Asian countries, for the most part. For New Delhi then, the options are to coordinate its Afghan policy with Moscow, Washington and the various western capitals while steadfastly engaging the Taliban.

Happymon Jacob teaches at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and is the founder of the Council for Strategic and Defense Research

An outreach to tribals that checks all the boxes

‘Janjatiya Gaurav Divas’ is a part of the steps being taken to secure the culture and welfare of India’s tribal communities

In the Ayodhya kanda of the Ramayana, when Lord Rama is exiled from the kingdom of Ayodhya, and reaches the northern bank of the Ganga at Sringaverapura, he is received by the king of the neighbouring kingdom of Nishadha, Guha. Rama treats the tribal leader, Guha, as his own conscience. Rama stays at Guha’s place and the Nishadha king helps Rama cross the river the next day. In the Mahabharata, Arjuna’s travels in the Northeast lead to his encounter with Ulupi, the princess of the Naga tribe, who he marries and has a son with, Iravan. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are replete with harmonious relationships between forest dwellers and the “city dwellers’’.

Recognition now

Despite a place for tribals in Indian culture and history, the enactment of the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871 by the British government, branded the very ‘descendants’ of Guha as criminals. With its racist overtones and the stereotyping of tribes as uncivilised, this Act aimed to create a sense of fear against tribal communities. Various tribes across India resisted British rule vehemently and the law was aimed at dealing with these tribes with an iron fist. From Birsa Munda and Tantia Bhil in the north and central parts, Komaram Bheem and Thalakkal Chandu in the south to the likes of Rani Gaidinliu in the northeast, tribal movements in different regions of the country waged spirited battles against the British colonial rule. A lot of their contributions today are either not known or not fully appreciated.

The aim of commemorating November 15, the birthday of Bhagwan Birsa Munda, as Janjatiya Gaurav Divas is to ensure that the freedom fighters from various tribal communities who fought for India’s Independence get their rightful recognition. It will also ensure that the heritage, culture and the values of the 705 tribal communities (Scheduled Tribes) that constitute approximately 10% of our population is protected and is made accessible across the nation.


Meaningful representation

Since Independence, there have been efforts to improve the social, political and economic conditions of the tribal populations. Ensuring political representation by reserving electoral constituencies with large tribal populations was one such vehicle. However, representation at ministerial levels was still restricted to the odd figurehead Ministry such as Tribal Affairs. The recent expansion of the Union Council of Ministers led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi saw the inclusion of eight Ministers belonging to the Scheduled Tribes representing the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and West Bengal. They represent the Gond, Santal, Miji, Munda, Tea Tribe, Kokana and Sonowal-Kachari communities. The Union Cabinet now has three Ministers who belong to various tribal communities. Contrast this with the period between 2004- 2014, when tribal community political representatives were considered mere figureheads. Under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, between 2004-2014, the Ministers from the tribal community were fewer and primarily restricted to the Tribal Affairs Ministry.

Economic well-being

Apart from political representation, it is also important to ensure that tribal communities see economic progress and better human development indicators. This received renewed impetus in 1999, when former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee set up a separate Ministry for Tribal Affairs. Now, under Mr. Modi, imbalances in budgetary provisions are being addressed in mission mode. For the year 2021-2022, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs saw a budgetary allocation of ₹7,524.87 crore. This is nearly double the budgetary allocation made in the last UPA Budget of 2013-2014.

After close to 90 years, the Indian Forest Act of 1927 was amended in 2017 (The Indian Forest (Amendment) Act, 2017; so that bamboo is no longer classified as a tree. This has allowed for the economic value of bamboo to be leveraged to its fullest potential and also brought the Act in consonance with the Forest Rights Act of 2006. The biggest beneficiaries of this are the forest dwelling tribal communities who are now able to use such forest produce to make value-added utility products. The role of tribal marketing development corporations in building market linkages is further increasing incomes of tribal communities.

Sustainable development also needs to ensure that human development indicators (HDIs) in nutrition, health and education are being improved. The National Education Policy (NEP) acknowledges the additional focus required for tribal communities to address issues such as higher dropout rates.

The NEP, by ensuring that the medium of instruction until at least Class 5, will be the mother tongue or local language of the child has ensured that tribal languages are protected and are treated on a par with languages mentioned in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. The expansion of the Eklavya Model Residential Schools, from 90 new schools sanctioned in the UPA years to 472 new schools sanctioned since 2014, will ensure that tribal children will see better education outcomes. This coupled with health interventions in the form of primary health and wellness centres and nutrition programmes will see improved HDIs among tribal communities in the long run.

Bhagwan Birsa Munda was only 25 when he died in prison (1900). He fought bravely against the exploitative system of the British Raj and spearheaded a movement against the British colonial oppressive system. It is unfortunate that the contributions of several other tribal freedom fighters including those of tribal women freedom fighters such as Rani Gaidinlu, Jhano Murmu, Helen Lepcha and others have nearly been forgotten.

Tribal museums

There are records of over 200 tribal freedom fighters across India who participated in about 85 instances of revolts and uprisings against colonial rule. To recognise this, 10 tribal freedom fighter museums are being set up in the States of Andhra Pradesh (Lambasingi), Chhattisgarh (Raipur), Goa (Ponda), Gujarat (Rajpipla), Jharkhand (Ranchi), Kerala (Kozhikode), Madhya Pradesh (Chhindwara), Manipur (Taminglong), Mizoram (Kelsey) and Telangana (Hyderabad) will showcase the contribution of tribal freedom fighters and are at different stages of construction and completion.

Commemorating November 15 every year will integrate various stakeholders and allow for a discussion on the achievements and contributions of tribal communities, their cultural heritage, and practices and traditions among the younger generation of Indians. As India celebrates its 75th year of Independence with ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahostav’, this would be a thoughtful gift for our tribal community and a recall to Ram Rajya — where the likes of Guha are given due respect, their cultural diversity is respected, and their contributions celebrated.

  1. Kishan Reddy is the Union Minister for Tourism, Culture and Development of Northeastern Region (DONER)

Longer term, better impact

The recent ordinance that allows the Centre to extend the tenure of the Director of the CBI is timely and merited

The Central government’s decision to give a five-year tenure to heads of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has drawn a lot of flak. The Opposition smells a rat in the ordinances issued a few days ago. This is unsurprising. Any governmental move to strengthen a powerful law enforcement agency is bound to invite questions and raise suspicion. And the CBI’s track record for objectivity and neutrality is anything but straightforward.

It is, however, preposterous to probe the intentions of this major move. How can we suspect the bonafides of the government until we have evidence to prove that the decision was motivated by dishonest intentions? No government is a saint, but to question the intentions behind an administrative decision right after it is made seems unfair. If one perceives politics here, let us remember that only 5-10% of the cases registered by the CBI involve politicians.

Capricious decisions

When I assumed charge of the position 20 years ago, I was the first beneficiary of the apex court’s directive giving a mandatory two-year tenure to the Director of the CBI. This was a fallout of the Hawala scandal. I had an extra four months because my retirement age automatically gave me this benefit.

Prior to my appointment, the government was arbitrary and capricious in choosing the Director. It was not rare to see temporary appointments given to favour some individuals. Seniority was often ignored in appointments and Directors were removed frequently. In 1987, C.M. Radhakrishnan Nair was appointed as the Director. This decision was rescinded within days to give an extension to the man holding the post, Mohan Katre. Could there be anything more demoralising to the officer concerned and to the elite organisation?

The recent ordinances are timely and merited. A two-year tenure for a CBI head is too short for any officer to make an impact on the organisation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation chief in the U.S. gets a 10-year term. This provides them the much-needed continuity that a Director needs in an outfit charged with the task of conducting highly sensitive investigations, which sometimes impinge on the longevity and stability of a democratically elected government.

We will have to wait for a few years to gauge the impact of the change in tenure rules. Any blatantly dishonest interference in the working of the organisation is bound to raise the hackles of those who believe in and carry out straightforward investigations. The government will therefore have to show enormous restraint in its interactions with the head of the CBI.

Of course, as a measure of accountability, the Director will have to keep the government informed of all major administrative decisions. He or she should inform the executive but not take orders from it.

The only problem with the latest ordinance is that, at the end of the mandatory two-year tenure, the government will have to issue orders granting one-year extensions at a time. It would have better if there was a straight five-year term for the Director. The rule about three annual extensions can be misused by a tendentious government. It may be construed as a reward for ‘good behaviour’, which is a euphemism for an obliging Director.

Dependence on State governments

Successive chiefs have suggested the drafting of a CBI Act to ensure that the organisation is not dependent on the State governments, many of which have withdrawn consent for the CBI to function in that State. The Supreme Court has recently made caustic references to this objectionable development. Eight States — West Bengal, Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Mizoram — have withdrawn the general consent. The Court termed this a “serious issue”. The CBI should be made to derive its authority for launching investigations from its own statute instead of depending on the Criminal Procedure Code, which makes the CBI a police organisation. Apt analogies are the Income Tax Act and the Customs Act, which enable the officers of the two mighty departments to act on their own, without being at the mercy of State governments.

R.K. Raghavan is a former CBI Director who is currently Professor of Criminal Justice at the Jindal Global University, Haryana

Back to square one

Controversy over the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam has erupted yet again

The Mullaperiyar dam, which has been a cause of bickering between Tamil Nadu and Kerala for decades, is again in the limelight with two developments kicking up a storm. One is the circumstances under which the release of excess water through two spillway gates began on October 29 and the second is the Kerala government’s decision to retract the permission it had earlier granted to Tamil Nadu to fell 15 trees.


The 126-year-old Mullaperiyar dam, in the Idukki district of Kerala, is an outcome of the 1886 lease agreement between the then Travancore princely state and the British government. It diverts the west-flowing rivers to the east through a tunnel in order to irrigate about 58,650 hectares in the dry southern districts of Tamil Nadu, which owns, operates and maintains the dam.

Concerns over the safety of the dam were first raised in 1979, leading to the Centre’s intervention. In November that year, the dam’s water level was lowered to 136 feet from its full level of 152 ft. Since the mid-1990s, Tamil Nadu has been demanding the restoration of the water level on the ground that it had completed most of the strengthening work. The Supreme Court, in February 2006, allowed water to be stored up to 142 ft and asked Tamil Nadu to carry out the balance work. When Kerala enacted a law in March 2006 against raising the water level beyond 136 ft, the matter again went to the Supreme Court, which, in May 2014, reiterated its previous ruling and held the Kerala law unconstitutional. This time, the Court relied on a number of studies undertaken by different agencies such as the Central Water and Power Research Station and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.

Between July 2014 and March 2018, the Centre, in response to the Court’s orders, formed two committees: a Supervisory Committee for inspecting the dam periodically, keeping a close watch on its safety and recommending measures; and a sub-committee under the National Disaster Management Authority for monitoring the measures to ensure high level of preparedness to face any disaster in relation to the dam.

Recent developments

But the controversies did not die down. A month ago, during the torrential rains and landslides in Kerala, the safety of the dam again became a matter of concern. It was under these circumstances that the excess water was released from the dam through the spillway gates. The presence of Kerala Ministers Roshy Augustine and K. Rajan during the water release inauguration was viewed by the AIADMK and sections of farmers of the Vaigai basin as unacceptable.

Even as the AIADMK planned to hold demonstrations on November 9 and Water Resources Minister Durai Murugan fiercely refuted the AIADMK coordinator O. Panneerselvam’s criticism of the DMK regime’s approach came the news that Kerala’s chief wildlife warden Bennichan Thomas had given his nod for cutting 15 trees as a prerequisite to take up the remaining work. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin swiftly thanked his Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan for the clearance. But this was short-lived relief for Tamil Nadu as the Kerala government on November 7 decided to freeze the clearance. Kerala’s Forest Minister A.K. Saseendran later told the Assembly that the development had caught the government unawares. Mr. Thomas has since been placed under suspension.

On November 13, when the Supreme Court heard the case, Tamil Nadu, in its written reply to issues raised by Kerala, informed the Court of the developments. There is a talk in certain quarters that the Chief Ministers of the two States may meet soon. It remains to be seen whether the leaders will come up with any solution to the dispute over the water level in the dam.

Courts cannot interfere with day-to-day temple rituals, says Supreme Court

PIL plea questioned puja-darshan procedures at Tirumala temple

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said constitutional courts could not interfere with the day-to-day rituals and ‘sevas’ performed in temples on the basis of “public interest” petitions.

Religious scholars and priests were best equipped to go into the question whether rituals in temples were being conducted in accordance with customs and traditions.

The writ jurisdiction of a constitutional court under Articles 226 and 32 was limited. Whether a particular ritual was being performed in the right way or not was a “disputed question of fact”, the court explained. At most, it could be a subject for filing a civil suit in a subordinate court. “How a coconut should be broken or a puja should be done in a temple is not for a constitutional court to look into,” Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana said.

The Bench, also comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hima Kohli, was hearing a writ petition filed by Srivari Daadaa alleging that rituals were not being performed as per traditions at the famous Lord Venkateswara Swamy temple at Tirumala. He also complained about the procedure for darshan.

Justices Bopanna and Kohli agreed the Supreme Court could not interfere with the daily conduct of rituals in a temple on the basis of a writ petition.

The court said, at the most, it could ask the temple administration to clarify in case devotees complain about discrimination or of not allowing darshan, while taking into consideration the current public health crisis.

Disposing of the case, the court directed Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams to respond to Mr. Daadaa’s grievances regarding darshan procedures and administrative issues in eight weeks.

Appointments, transfers of judges notified

The Law Ministry on Tuesday notified the appointment of three additional judges for the Calcutta High Court and transfers made to the Madras and Madhya Pradesh High Courts.

According to the notification issued by the Department of Justice, advocate Krishna Rao and judicial officers Ajoy Kumar Mukherjee and Bibhas Ranjan De were appointed Additional Judges at the Calcutta High Court.

The Supreme Court Collegium recommended their elevation in September.

The Centre also notified the transfer of Justice Satish Kumar Sharma of the Rajasthan High Court to Madhya Pradesh in accordance with the Collegium’s recommendations of October.

Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari of the Allahabad High Court has been transferred to the Madras High Court.

His transfer was notified a day after the Centre accepted the collegium’s recommendations to transfer Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee from the Madras High Court to the Meghalaya High Court.

Though both the transfers were recommended in September by the collegium, they were made public only in November.

SC gives 3 weeks to Govt. to frame policy on community kitchens

The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned the Union Government’s commitment to run community kitchens across the country to stave off hunger, saying the first job of a welfare state was to ensure that people did not starve to death.

“Every welfare state’s first responsibility is to provide food to people dying due to hunger,” Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana said.

The court was annoyed at the lack of details regarding the Government’s progress in framing a national policy to run community kitchens in consultation with the State Governments. It found that the affidavit merely stated the Government was still “extracting information”. The affidavit did not reveal much about the scheme or consultation with the States or, for that matter, the funds required, it observed.

The court gave the Government three weeks as a last opportunity to hold a meeting and frame a policy. “Come up with a comprehensive scheme, identify areas where there is an immediate need… If you want to take care of hunger, no constitution law will come in the way,” it said.

Starvation deaths

The court was hearing a petition that highlighted how starvation deaths continued to eat into the right to life and dignity of the social fabric, and a “radical” new measure like community kitchens needed to be set up across the country to feed the poor and the hungry.

The petition, filed jointly by activists Anun Dhawan, Ishann Dhawan and Kunjana Singh, and represented by advocate Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi, drew attention to how Tamil Nadu’s Amma Unavagam had become a roaring success by involving peers in self-help groups and employing the poor to serve hygienic food to eradicate the gnawing problem of hunger on the streets. The petition referred to Rajasthan’s Annapurna Rasoi, Indira Canteen in Karnataka, Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Canteen, Anna Canteen of Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand Mukhyamantri Dal Bhat in Jharkhand and Odisha’s Ahaar Centre to combat starvation.

“While there are statistics available for malnutrition deaths in children and adults in the country, there is no official data available for death of persons owing to starvation… Food and Agriculture Report 2018 stated that India houses 195.9 million of the 821 million undernourished people in the world, accounting for approximately 24% of the world’s hungry. Prevalence of undernourishment in India is 14.8%, higher than both the global and Asian average,” it noted.

The plea urged the court to direct the Chief Secretaries of the States and Union Territories to formulate a scheme for the implementation of community kitchens and to further ensure that “no person should sleep on an empty stomach”. It called for the creation of a national food grid by the Government that was beyond the scope of the Public Distribution Scheme.

Credai seeks cut in GST on building raw materials

‘Housing prices could rise by 10-15%’

Realtors’ apex body Credai on Tuesday expressed concern over an increase in the rates of cement and steel during the past one year and said housing prices could rise 10-15% if the prices of construction raw materials do not fall.

The industry body demanded that the government take measures to control the prices and suggested reduction in GST for construction raw materials. Credai pointed out that the prices of construction raw materials have been increasing consistently since January 2020.

Moreover, the association said the the delays in construction caused by lockdowns and the shortage of labour resulted in a direct increase in construction cost anywhere between 10-15% in the past 18 months.

Developers might not be able to absorb escalating costs and will pass on the burden onto homebuyers, said Harsh Vardhan Patodia, president, CREDAI National.

Colossal notes ban failure buried in silence

Having brought this economic disaster on the country, there was not a single statement of regret, introspection or even justification from the powers that be

Demonetisation will go down in Indian economic history as one of the greatest policy blunders. In the two quarters prior to the ban on high denomination rupee notes, the Indian economy had registered around 9% growth. Since then, the growth steadily decelerated and was around 3% in the quarter preceding Covid. Calculations on the back of an envelope revealed that the total national income loss, assuming sustained potential growth of 9%, would be more than Rs 13 lakh crore.

Money is to the economy what lifeblood is to our body. If the whole blood is suddenly sucked out of our body, we will be dead. Similarly, a sudden withdrawal of 86% of the value of notes in circulation would result in an economic collapse. The total mismanagement of the operation of printing, distributing and exchanging the new legal tender for the cancelled notes did not take place within the 50-day period that the prime minister had boasted about. It prolonged into months. By the time the money came back into the system, many micro, small and medium units had withered and died.

Jobless growth and poverty: The body blow to the MSME sector, apart from the adverse impact on growth, had serious implications on the creation of jobs. Employment generation had been decelerating from 2.02% in the 1980s to 1.54% in the 1990s and 1.47% in the 2000s. During 2010–18, it shrank to 0.03%. We entered an era of jobless growth primarily because of the stagnant informal sector that bore the brunt of demonetisation and later the implementation of GST.

With unemployment rising and wages stagnating, the consumption in rural areas declined in absolute terms between 2012 and 2018, something unheard of ever since the rounds of consumption surveys were initiated. Also, for the first time since the poverty count started, the poverty ratio has tended to rise. Between 2011–12 and 2019–20, it is estimated to have risen from 21.9% to 25.9%.

The above being the economic disaster and the indescribable misery that demonetisation brought to most of the population, two questions arise: Why was this stupidity done? How did the prime minister get away with it?

Windfall gain of Rs 3–5 lakh crore: I think the key decision-makers were fully convinced that the notes ban would result in unearthing of black money and a windfall gain of Rs 3–5 lakh crore. The people with unaccounted money would not dare to approach the banks for exchanging their black money and to that extent, the liabilities of the RBI would be reduced. I still remember the late Arun Jaitley explaining this ingenious scheme to some of us state finance ministers.

I was left wondering how such a horrendous misunderstanding of the nature of black money could arise. Black money is not a stock; it is a flow. It is being continuously generated through illegal activities and perfectly legal ones whose surpluses are evaded from the tax authorities. The stock of black money is not kept in a sackful of notes but invested in assets or activities in India or stashed away abroad. Black money cannot be destroyed by notes ban. This simple fact was eloquently demonstrated when 99.3% of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes came back to the banks for exchange.

Changing narratives: As the above reality dawned, a new narrative was spun. The move had a much larger objective of moving the economy to digital currency, which would enable close monitoring of economic transactions and widen the tax base. Now, five years after the notes ban, the RBI has informed us that the value of notes in circulation has increased from Rs 17.97 lakh crore in November 2016 to Rs 29.44 lakh crore in November 2021—an increase of nearly 64%.

Other sub-narratives such as destruction of fake currency and throttling of money to extremists also emerged, of which less said the better. The fake Rs 2,000 notes are back with a vengeance and the official statistics for the number of deaths in extremist action have steadily increased from 164 in 2015 to 387 in 2018.

Question of decision-making process: No economist, even the most neoliberal one, would have prescribed such stupidity. The essence of monetarism is that policymakers don’t tinker with money. Hold the money in constant proportion to the GDP and the market would take care of the rest. To see his devotees in India not just tampering with money but even abolishing it would have made Milton Friedman turn in his grave.

The whole episode is a sad commentary on the economic decision-making process under the Modi regime. Outside a very close circle, nobody, including the formal economic advisers, knew anything about what was in the making. Then who made this economic concoction for the ills of India? Not economists but some economic quacks behind the scenes. Whoever it be, it does not augur well for the country.

Getting away with it: Having brought this economic disaster on the country, there was not a single statement of regret, introspection or even justification from the powers that be. Even the victims do not seem to fault the perpetrators of the crime. The official narrative on demonetisation seems to have been accepted—it was a surgical strike against black and fake money, even if it failed. There were long queues and hardships but what is it when compared to the hardships of our brave soldiers battling the black money-financed extremists? Did not the rich also stand in queues and shed tears?

The prime minister shocked the nation with his night proclamation against black money. The same night, I held a press conference in my chamber describing it as an act of madness. But many friends and foes advised me against being hasty, lest be regarded as in favour of black money. Successful changing of narratives kept the disaster covered and the shock therapy has shifted to new scenes. The colossal failure is ignored and buried in silence.


The News Editorial Analysis 16th November 2021

Shikara Academy

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get in touch
close slider