Friday, June 14, 2024

Three cheers to Goa


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Gov In RTI Ambit

By Insaf

Round The States

Three cheers to Goa. It has shown the way in establishing a system of transparency. A directive of the State Information Commission which had asked the Governor to furnish information on an application under the RTI Act has been upheld by the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court. In its order last week, the bench observed: “The Governor or Public Information Officer (PIO) in his office cannot claim immunity from disclosure of any information under RTI Act.” This comes in the wake of a case wherein BJP’s Manohar Parrikar, the then leader of Opposition in the Goa Assembly had asked the PIO to disclose a report sent by the Governor to Union Home Ministry on the political situation in the State in 2007. While he turned it down, the SIC insisted the Raj Bhavan comply. The PIO then appealed before the Goa bench. Its judgement, which sadly didn’t get the attention it deserves, has made the Centre sit up as it could have wide repercussions. Importantly, a Governor’s report forms the basis of important decisions by the Centre, particularly in respect to bringing a State under President’s rule (Article 356 of the Constitution. With the bench ruling that a Governor’s report to the President could not be held secret, the Centre will need to think twice before playing mischief with States and imposing Central rule.

J&K Govt On Offensive

The J&K government is getting offensive on two fronts– its coalition partner, the Congress and street protests. On Wednesday last, the inimitable National Conference chief and Union Minister Farooq Abdullah made public the tension between the two allies over the AFSPA controversy and accused some coalition leaders (read Congress State President Saifuddin Soz) of trying to topple his son, Omar’s Government. Addressing party workers, Abdullah sent a strong message to New Delhi that there was no question of rotating the CMs post and that Omar will remain in the kursi for the full six-year term. Having made the point to the Centre, the State has also trained its guns to tackle the perennial problem of street protests. Last week, the pastor of All Saints church was arrested for reportedly trying to convert 15 Muslim boys and girls (as viewed on Youtube), following protests by students and separatists. While Fr Khanna and the church denied the charges, he was booked for “deliberately hurting the religious sentiments of people to disturb peace,” notwithstanding that the State has no law against religious conversions through allurement.

Kerala-TN Dam Row

The perennial water sharing feud between Kerala and Tamil Nadu is making headlines again, with the former seeking the Centre’s mediation. Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy with 10 Cabinet ministers in tow camped in New Delhi to impress upon the UPA Government to help push projects, with the Mullaperiyar dam topping its list. While Kerala insists there are cracks in the 116 year-old dam and is prepared to build a new one at its own cost, TN refuses to yield.The Centre has assured the CM that it will try to convene a bilateral meeting, but it seems unlikely, as the mood in Tamil Nadu is belligerent. There is a demand in Chennai to ban the movie Dam 999 as it shows the destructive aftermath of a catastrophe following a dam burst. More trouble all right, but Oomen is keeping fingers crossed that the Delhi visit should yield some result such as the Centre agreeing to its demand for an elevated high speed rail corridor to connect the capital Thiruvanant-hapuram to Mangalore. Something at least to show back home!

Maharashtra Local Governance

Maharashtra could well become a trend-setter for good local governance. Of course, only if the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s honestly practices what it preaches. With civic elections due in some cities next year, MNS chief Raj Thackeray has put a condition for aspirants seeking a ticket: they would need to score well in a written test followed by screening interviews! His assertion to party workers that they no longer can be sure of getting tickets or that seniority wouldn’t help, sadly confirms that merit hasn’t so far counted. This is further compounded with his observation that the present corporators “did not have the basic knowledge” about the local bodies’ functioning, whereas they are expected to solve people’s everyday problems. While many would view his fiat to keep the non-favourites out of the fray, Thackeray insists it’s to empower them. The same drill is to be undertaken for the Assembly polls and that if he contests he too would take the test! Is the dictat “something new” the MNS wants to achieve or just another election stunt? Time will tell.

Modi’s Woes

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s woes seem never ending. In the latest setback, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) has claimed that the 2004 encounter in which four youth, including 19-year-old Ishrat Jahan were killed, was “staged”. Following this startling revelation by the SIT before a division bench of the Gujarat High Court on Monday last, the latter is contemplating filing of a fresh FIR against 21 policemen, including four IPS officers. Recall that on June 15, 2004 the four were killed in an encounter on grounds that they were Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives who had planned to target Modi. While the family of Ishrat is much relieved with the victory as it has “washed away the terror blot police had stamped on us”. Modi has reason to worry. More skeletons could tumble out of the cupboard as the Court seeks suggestions from petitioners and his Government on whether to entrust the job to the CBI or the National Investigating Agency.

Punjab Can Show Off

Punjab has reason to show off. The SAD-BJP Government has made the State’s mandis (fruit and vegetable markets) high-tech. It has set up 145 state-of-the art mandis equipped with modern marketing facilities and upgraded the old ones at a cost of Rs 670 crore. The markets now have electronic machines such as weighing scales, public conveniences, health facilities, regular power supply etc. This apart the Agriculture Ministry has set up: 19 cotton markets worth Rs 57 crores by laying internal roads, installing fire hydrants to protect crops, grading laboratories and weigh-bridges; 12 pack houses at a cost of Rs 167 crore in a dozen districts to keep vegetables and fruits fresh; 19 cold rooms, 2,600 electronic weighing machines in 57 grain markets; motorised sweeper cleaners in 47 mandis; computer networking in 145 interconnected markets and display screens in 52 mandis et all. With its farmers well-equipped, Punjab


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