Saturday, 8 February 2014

AAP needs to clear policy confusion

AAP needs to clear policy confusion
Running a government is a sober and serious business 

Rajindar Sachar

It is hoped that the Delhi Law Minister has understood Article 227 of the Constitution of India providing for the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary. He along with Chief Minister Kejriwal had an audience with the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court the other day so as to remove any impression of even indirect interference in the domain of the judiciary. It does not behove an AAM minister to reach late by one hour and disrupt the screening of a film at a public centre to deliver a lecture. Is this not more act of a feudal lord than that of an elected minister? The AAP government also needs to clarify its announced policy of 95 per cent of the Delhiites only being eligible for the Delhi colleges — a policy opposed by DUTA and student associations.
It is self-evident that any political party must present a defined socially relevant policy. That the country should have a corruption-free government is unexceptional and no party can possibly say to the contrary. People naturally will judge it by actual experience. But then people want to know whether the objectives laid down by our founders of the Constitution are the ones on which any government, state or Central is functioning. Some of the basic unalterable objectives of our Constitution postulate the government's active role in developing an inclusive society with special consideration for the minorities like the Muslims and the Christians and to minimise inequalities in society. In short, any political party must spell out clearly its position vis-à-vis the big corporate sector, foreign as well as Indian, and its commitment to socialism and the public sector, emphasised by Dr. Ambedkar as being the objective of the Constitution. Unfortunately, on all these policy matters there is a resounding silence by AAP.
It is not enough to say that a party is committed to the poor - that bald declaration is made by even neo-fascist groups all over the world, including India. A party has to spell out the instruments it will apply to achieve the growth of the economy. In India public sector undertakings like Oil India and NTPC are a strong bulwark of growth as against the failure of some of the biggest private sector corporations, the hands of some of them being sullied by the Coalgate and telecom scandals. With that experience for a party to cast a doubt on the public sector existence is to betray the constitutional mandate. Also a party going national must also indicate its position on the ongoing policy of the Central government in selling off the family silver (PSUs) to private predators. The AAP policy against FDI in retail is, of course, on the right direction.
The right to food is an absolute right of every citizen in the country. The PUCL has been fighting for the acceptance of the right in the Supreme Court for years - it is because of this that the governments have been obligated to pass the Right to Food Act for supplying the food at subsidised prices. But if a party has doubts about the subsidy, then it must enlighten the public how the poor are to get even the minimum food required for keeping alive.
The AAP government is obligated to clear its policy on the demand of the Socialist Party and the Pension Parishad to raise the pension for Delhi's elderly people who get a monthly minimum pension of Rs. 5,000.
An immediate response from the AAP government is called for to the danger of displacement of lakhs of people, pointed out by Medha Patkar, the NAPAM leader, due to the decision on the Delhi-Mumbai and Amritsar-Kolkata corridors being activated soon.
The self-praise by AAP that it has solved the water problem in Delhi is cynical. The supply of 700 liters free water a day means nothing to about 40 per cent of the people simply because there are no water pipes in their areas and the government is not supplying water at all. They depend on water mafia tankers available at exorbitant rates. Areas like Zakir Nagar and Sangam Vihar have the D.J.B. water pipes passing them by at a little distance but the D.J.B. refuses to connect these areas, thus leaving them at the mercy of the mafia. In fact, the experiment of privatisation of water must be discontinued. This facility must remain in the public sector as the right to water is a human right.
No doubt, corruption is an evil eating into the vitals of our society. But you do not fight it by spreading suspicion about every one's honesty excepting those belonging to the ruling party. To what dangerous proportion this is sought to be practised is clear when AAP unabashedly announces that its government is creating a service which will teach public callers how to conduct a sting operation. The government feels this will create a fear psychosis in each civil servant. This is frightening. This method reminds me of the system devised during the decadent period of the USSR regime when Russian children were indoctrinated to spy on their parents and report to the secret service and then were publicly honoured. Corruption is not eased out by such hare-brained sting operations but rather by the top of the administration being above reproach.
It is a pity that Chief Minister Kejriwal has announced with a boastful flourish that the defaulters of the electricity bills from March 2013 onwards belonging to his party will not be required to pay the arrears and instead these will be paid by the Delhi government. The justification given is that it has to be assumed that all these defaulters were part of the "andolan" launched in March by AAP. This is a dangerous view apart from being legally impermissible. The state government cannot distinguish between people who vote for or against it. As it is, a question may well be asked at this partiality by lakhs of voters who had paid their electricity bills and also voted for AAP: Are some people more equal than others? It needs to be continuously remembered that running a government is a sober business and not a public bluster or empty rhetoric.
January 18, 2014

AAP has tied itself in knots The Congress too is playing a devious game

Rajindar Sachar 
A political debate can be, and should be, sharp, divisive and even personal. But none should deliberately try to vilify the personal character of the opponent unless the facts are unimpeachable. Most of the newspapers, including some of the reputedly sober ones, recently flashed the news about a list circulated by Arvind Kejriwal describing Central ministers and other leaders of the Congress and the BJP as “corrupt”.
No, I am not against publicising acts of corruption. But I would have expected some small factual details of the corruption charges just as those made public about the coal and telecom scams. AAP’s naming of certain leaders as corrupt and criminal who are playing dynastic politics is an act of provocation. Notwithstanding the slander, the Congress has continued to give outside support to the AAP government.
Kejriwal took the rash step in the hope that, stung by this, the Congress would withdraw its support. As a result, the AAP government would resign and go to the people as a wronged party, conveniently trying to cover up AAP members' misbehaviour with African and other women which had led certain women's organisations and others to criticise AAP for its insensitivity in these delicate matters.
On top of this came the “enlightened” Kejriwal’s statement that Khap Panchayats are only cultural organizations. At the same time he said, rather with tongue in cheek, that if they did something illegal, action would be taken. What a convoluted explanation by the Chief Minister of Delhi! Surely, he is aware that Khap Panchayats in Haryana and Rajasthan have been responsible for harassing young couples by questioning their marriage. Khap Panchayats have exiled such couples from villages — and even ordered their killings. The Punjab and Haryana High Court and the Supreme Court have in many cases directed the prosecution of members of Khap Panchayats and many of them have even been convicted.
One of the founding members of AAP, Madhu Bhaduri, has resigned, saying publicly that “she has nothing to do with a party which humiliates women……and that she wanted to distance herself from AAP”. Maybe the compulsion of Kejriwal is that his next target of election is Haryana. If AAP, which calls itself a different kind of political party, courts organizations like Khap Panchayats which violate every human right, how can youth, especially young women, trust it with their vote?
Such being the compulsions of Kejriwal, he is looking for an excuse to quit the government and give a make-believe impression to the public that the dishonest Congress was afraid of his steps against corruption and, therefore, has withdrawn the support. When the Congress did not swallow the bait of withdrawing support even after its leaders were called corrupt, AAP in order to further provoke the Congress publicly included the name of Sonia Gandhi in the list of corrupt leaders. The Congress seems to have seen through his strategy and has not reacted. AAP is now cornered into fulfilling its commitment to supply water and electricity as promised in better ways than the previous government did. Thus the reality is that AAP has tied itself in knots of its own making. So we have a game of chess being played between the Congress and AAP. People of Delhi are suffering, in the meanwhile. The public wants concrete action and not an exchange of allegations between politicians.
AAP should also realise that running a government is a serious business. It had announced before elections that it would pass the Lokayukta Bill at the Ramlila Ground. But the venue is being abandoned because of the cost of over Rs 2 crore estimated by the police, apart from security reasons. A switchover to Indira Gandhi Stadium looks easy because being a Delhi Government property, it will only require certain book entries and no cash payment. A more serious question has to be answered. Legislation in a democracy is not passed at rallies. There has to be a serious deliberation on each part of the legislation. If the AAP members' plea of involvement of the public is so genuine, what stops them from holding even corner meetings or bigger public meetings where Kejriwal and his Cabinet colleagues can easily mingle with people and have a discussion on each aspect of the Lokpal Bill? And thereafter the mater can be taken up in the legislative assembly hall, debated and finally passed. That would be both democratic and people-friendly. As for watching debates, TV channels can cover each angle of the debate. AAP can even install big TV screens throughout Delhi during the debate and passing of the legislation and thus satisfy the test of involving people in legislation. But if AAP is interested only in cheap gimmicks, then this latest action of holding a public meeting in I.G. Stadium is on a par with that of the Roman Empire, which used to hold gladiators' fights and killings in public. But that is not how democracies function.
Of course, the Congress is also playing its devious game. I am referring to NTPC, a Central undertaking, putting pressure on the Delhi electric supply companies to pay up their arrears or the supply would be stopped. NTPC is under the Central government and it is hard to believe that the threat could have been given without having cleared it first with the Central government, more so when a CAG audit is going to be held to look into the allegation made by Kejriwal that there is a big tax evasion by the local power companies.
Unfortunately, this devious game between AAP and the Congress can only bring misery to the average person in Delhi. The political scene is not encouraging. I feel that the movements by people who wish to bring about social change and fight gross inequalities in our country should combine and play an effective role in parliamentary elections. 

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