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India requires serious increments in budget allocations for education

India requires serious increments in budget allocations for education

Concerns with low budget outlays for the education sector have been resonant for quite some time, even though an increase of 10 per cent was provided for in the last budget.

Ambrish Rai, national convener for the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, called the existing budget for schools “too low” because of which, lakhs of teacher posts remain vacant across the country.

“The education budget for schools is far lower than required. Overall, it was recommended to be six per cent of the GDP in 1966 in Kothari commission. Currently it is 3.4 per cent of the GDP. This is very low. School education is heavily underfunded. 9 lakh teacher posts are vacant in elementary scools, and 1.1 lakh in secondary schools. If adequate number of teachers isn’t recruited, quality education can never be provided,” he told The Telegraph Online.

“Due to this low budgeting, the RTE compliance after 10 years of enactment of the Act is only 12.7 per cent across nation. Out of 1.5 lakh schools only 12.7 per cent schools are RTE compliant,” Rai informed.

He also expressed concern with a provision proposed in the National Education Policy (NEP) of bringing children aged between 3 and 18 under the purview of the Act, which, he said, is only going to make matters worse considering the inadequacy of teachers and schools.

“Now they have introduced a provision to bring children between age group of 3 and 18 under the RTE, currently it is applicable for children aged 6 to 14. How can this policy get implemented without basic infrastructure? One would require way more funding then,” he said.

Economist and former chairman of the Zakir Hussain Centre for Educational Studies at JNU, Saumen Chattopadhyay expects the government to increase the education expenditure from 10 per cent of the total to 11 per cent, as proposed in the NEP.

“The NEP has talked about increasing the budget for higher education by one per cent every year for the next 10 years. So if your ambition is to improve higher education radically, you will have to increase the budget substantially. This is crucial for generating employment and a creating market for the private sector. This way you will allocate funds in a productive manner,” he said.

On being asked if he would advocate for the Kothari Commission recommendation of allocating 6 per cent of the GDP towards education, Chattopadhyay said that if the government provides what it has promised, it will still be effective.

“My only fear is that if you allocate most funds for Institutions of Excellence (IOE) as promised by the government under the scheme, it would mean taking away from institutions which are not in that category. This is dangerous because then you are creating division between the higher education sector. You have to provide adequate funds to the other institutes and universities, apart from IOEs.”

Talking about the government method of funding higher education institutions through the creation of the Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA), which extends interest free loans to the institutes after raising money from the market, Chattopadhyay said, “Even though it is interest free, the money has to be paid and it can only be through self-financing means like raising tuition fees. Some of the premier institutions may afford to do that, but it may not work for the others.”

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14-day isolation for arrivals from China

14-day isolation for arrivals from China

India has set up two quarantine camps to house for 14 days several hundred nationals expected to fly in from China amid concerns that “carriers” — infected but asymptomatic people — might spread the novel coronavirus.

The army has created a 300-bed facility near Manesar (Haryana) and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have set up a 600-bed facility at their Chawla camp in west Delhi where the arriving people will be monitored daily for two weeks.

The health ministry has dispatched a medical team on an Air India flight that is expected to evacuate 366 Indian citizens from Wuhan. All the men will be housed at the Manesar camp while the women and children will be at the Chawla camp.

Anyone with symptoms of the novel coronavirus will be shifted to either the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital or the Safdarjung Hospital.

“Strict quarantine is important and needs to be well-enforced. They are coming from Wuhan and some of them could be infected with the coronavirus,” said G. Arunkumar, a senior virologist at the Manipal Institute of Virology in Karnataka.

Since its emergence in Wuhan, the novel coronavirus had killed 170 people and caused illness in over 8,000 people in China till Thursday. Of the 82 cases detected in 18 other countries till Thursday, 7 had been detected while they were in the asymptomatic stage, the WHO said.

India’s health ministry has said a student in Kerala who recently returned from China has tested positive for the novel coronavirus and that the test results of others are expected. The National Institute of Virology, Pune, has received four to 10 test requests daily this week.

Experts have cautioned that India’s best chance of containing the spread of any imported case of the novel coronavirus would lie in snaring the carriers at entry or through quarantine.

Those at the two quarantine camps will be allowed to go home if they show no symptoms after 14 days. Their details and addresses will be sent to local district surveillance units for continued follow-up, if required.

Patients diagnosed with the coronavirus will be discharged from hospital only after they have recovered and two successive samples are negative for the virus.

The quarantine camps have facilities for meals, television and indoor games.

A WHO panel that declared an international emergency on Thursday said it believed “it is still possible to interrupt the virus spread, provided that countries put in place strong measures to detect disease early, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts, and promote social distancing measures commensurate with the risk”.

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UP captor shot, wife ‘lynched’ during rescue

UP captor shot, wife ‘lynched’ during rescue

The murder accused who had taken children hostage in Uttar Pradesh’s Farrukhabad and his wife have died, police said after the successful rescue operation.

There were conflicting claims on the cause of the deaths of Subhash Batham, who had taken over 20 children hostage in his house on the pretext of organising a birthday party for his daughter, and his wife Ruby. According to a version, villagers beat Ruby to death.

Subhash died during “Operation Masoom” to rescue the kids at Karthiya around 1am, and Ruby breathed her last at Lohia Hospital in Mahmoodabad in the same district around five hours later.

Subhash, who was out on bail in connection with a case of murdering a relative, had locked up the hostages, including his wife and five-year-old daughter, in a room in the basement of his house.

While all the children were found safe when the police entered the house shortly after midnight, there was no clarity on what happened next.

Additional chief secretary and home secretary Awanish Kumar Awasthi said the person who had taken the children hostage was killed in the police operation and the kids had been safely evacuated.

Children with their family members after being rescued
Children with their family members after being rescued(PTI photo)

Jay Narayan Singh, the additional director-general of the Kanpur zone, said villagers attacked Subhash and Ruby when they were brought out of the house.

While Ruby was rushed to hospital, Subhash was taken back inside the house, where he “attacked” the police, Singh said. “The police killed him in retaliatory firing,” the ADG said.

Mohit Agrawal, the inspector-general of Kanpur range, said an hour after the evacuation that villagers had attacked Ruby and she couldn’t be saved.

However, the officer had said a little earlier: “Subhash fired at his wife when she was trying to escape from captivity. She was taken to hospital, where she died.”

Sarvesh Yadav, the doctor who attended to Ruby at the hospital, said: “Besides a head injury, she had three deep injuries on other parts of her body. She died at 6am.”

Some villagers said they lost patience around 12.30am, by when the hostage crisis had been continuing for over nine hours, and broke the gate of Subhash’s house with hammers. The captor didn’t react till he saw the police entering the house and opened fire, according to the villagers. The police fired at him in retaliation in which he received a gunshot wound and died at the spot, the villagers said, adding that some others beat Ruby to death.

Subhash’s intention behind the crime is still unclear. He had initially shouted from his terrace that he was taking revenge against the villagers who had handed him over to the police in 2005 after he allegedly killed his uncle.

Later, he had told the police that he would release the children if he was given a house under the Prime Minister’s housing scheme and a toilet under the Swachch Bharat Mission.

The police have handed over the deceased couple’s daughter to a villager who has expressed willingness to adopt her after following due process.

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IITian to take up IBM reins

IITian to take up IBM reins

Indian-origin technology executive Arvind Krishna has been elected chief executive officer of American IT giant IBM after a “world-class succession process”, succeeding Virginia Rometty, who described him as the “right CEO for the next era at IBM” and “well-positioned” to lead the company into the cloud and cognitive era.

The IBM board of directors elected Krishna as company CEO and member of the board effective April 6.

Krishna is currently IBM senior-vice-president for cloud and cognitive software and will succeed Rometty, 62, who will retire after almost 40 years with the company at the end of the year.

Krishna, 57, had joined IBM in 1990 and has an undergraduate degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“I am thrilled and humbled to be elected as the next chief executive officer of IBM, and appreciate the confidence that Ginni and the board have placed in me,” Krishna said in a press statement released by IBM.

Krishna said, “IBM has such talented people and technology that we can bring together to help our clients solve their toughest problems.

“I am looking forward to working with IBMers, Red Hatters and clients around the world at this unique time of fast-paced change in the IT industry. We have great opportunities ahead to help our clients advance the transformation of their business while also remaining the global leader in the trusted stewardship of technology,” Krishna said.

Krishna’s appointment as head of the global IT giant adds to the growing list of Indian-origin executives at the helm of some of the biggest multinational companies.

Krishna joins the club that includes Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, PepsiCo’s former CEO Indra Nooyi and Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen.

Rometty, who had been IBM’s chairman, president and CEO, will continue as executive chairman of the board and serve through the end of the year, when she will retire.

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Kid gloves for shooter, a pattern emerges

Kid gloves for shooter, a pattern emerges

The indulgent focus on the age of the gunman who describes himself as “Rambhakt Gopal” and the overdrive to mask his identity and face citing juvenile justice rules are overshadowing grave questions thrown up by the shooting near Jamia Millia Islamia on Thursday.

⚫ Who funded “Rambhakt Gopal” so that the purported juvenile could pay Rs 10,000 (far more than the so-called market price) to get hold of a country-made gun in Noida, which falls in Uttar Pradesh but is a part of Delhi for all practical purposes?

⚫ The Class XII student who hails from Uttar Pradesh apparently has no means of income and his parents have apparently said they did not give him the money. Who gave him the money then?

⚫ The youth apparently bought the gun from the grey market near the capital city. Is it literally child’s play to get hold of a gun so near the most guarded city in the country and stroll around undetected carrying such a firearm? If so, what does it say of law and order under Union home minister Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister who specialises on crushing protests but cannot keep arms away from “children”?

⚫ “Rambhakt Gopal” has allegedly told police he attended “awareness programmes” (euphemism for indoctrination and brain-washing sessions) by a sword arm of the Hindutva brigade. The organisation has promptly denied any association with the “Rambhakt”.

⚫ The inordinate stress on the age of the shooter cloaks another detail. His purported mark sheet and Aadhaar card — both of which were miraculously accessed on short notice by the police who had stood as spectators when he was taking aim at the students protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) — show his date of birth as April 8, 2002.

That means he was a little over two months — or 69 days -— short of the adulthood age of 18 when the crime took place. An ossification test will now be conducted to determine if the shooter is a juvenile.

For heinous crimes, though, a suspect aged above 16 can be treated as an adult.

If the offence carries the punishment of at least seven years in prison (the shooter’s crime does), the Juvenile Justice Board will consider three criteria to determine whether the act falls in the heinous category: whether the accused has the mental and physical capacity to commit such an offence; whether the accused has the ability to understand its consequences; and the circumstances in which the offence was committed. A designated children’s court will take the final decision.

⚫ The police have so far charged the shooter with only attempted murder. But several anti-CAA protesters have been charged with sedition merely for making speeches or leading marches.

The champions of nationalism have not called the shooter a “terrorist” yet -– a label affixed blindly when suspects from the minority community are picked up.

*A pattern –– and an ominous turn — appears to be emerging: induct someone old enough to handle lethal weapons but young enough to remain under the juvenile ceiling, brainwash him, bankroll him and set him loose with a heinous objective; cite juvenile laws to protect his identity, condemn his act and issue a disclaimer.

The gunman has told investigators that he procured the country-made pistol from Noida two days before the crime, Delhi police sources said.

“During questioning, he claimed that he bought the firearm for Rs 10,000 from a gang operating in Noida but he refused to disclose from where he got the money. It is still not clear why he paid Rs 10,000 for such a pistol, which is usually priced between Rs 2,500 and Rs 4,000 in the grey market in Uttar Pradesh and the National Capital Region (NCR),” said an officer.

“We spoke to his family members and they said they did not pay him any money,” the officer added.

The shooter has apparently told the police that he actually planned to target Shaheen Bagh, the epicentre of the protests. “As he was new to the area, he could not locate the protest site. By coincidence, he saw a large number of students marching in the area, pulled out his gun and fired,” the officer said.

He told investigators that he had become a member of the Bajrang Dal a year and a half ago. “He used to listen to speeches online and shared offensive posts. In November 2019, he had also participated in several awareness programmes in Jewar organised by the Bajrang Dal,” said the officer.

The Bajrang Dal denied any link. “The boy is neither a primary member of the Bajrang Dal nor was he entrusted with any responsibility by the organisation. Violence, committed by anyone, is not correct. We condemn his act and it was an unfortunate incident,” Praveen Bhati, co-convener of the Bajrang Dal’s western Uttar Pradesh unit, said.

The gunman has told the police that no one incited him to go and fire at the protesters.

“He told us how he was seething with anger after reading so many posts and listening to speeches in favour of the CAA on social media for the past few weeks. He said the protesters at Shaheen Bagh were against India as they were protesting against the Indian law and that’s why he decided to teach the deshdrohis (anti-national people) a lesson. So far he has not revealed any name who could have incited him to fire at the protesters,” an officer said.

Over the past few years, Hindutva outfits have been organising awareness programmes regularly in several parts of Uttar Pradesh and have launched an “Akhand Bharat” drive to motivate youths.

“The idea behind such a drive is to motivate youths and educate them about the erstwhile undivided India and ensure that there is no further division on any ground,” said an organiser of one such programme in Uttar Pradesh.

During these awareness programmes, the youths are usually taught about the rich history of India and administered an oath to protect the country from further division, he said.

The police said the gunman was being treated as a “juvenile” now. He was produced before the Juvenile Justice Board, which remanded him in protective custody for 14 days.

“We have sought permission from the board to subject him to an ossification test to verify his age,” an officer said.

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You live by roti alone, not CAA

You live by roti alone, not CAA

Students should know which side their roti is buttered and avoid questioning the government, an international university established by the Saarc countries in New Delhi seemed to suggest this week.

A group of students from the South Asian University have told The Telegraph that the institution’s acting president, A.V.S. Ramesh Chandra, tried to dissuade them from holding a discussion on the new citizenship regime, saying it would be unfair because “India gives you rotis”.

New Delhi bears not just the entire capital expenditure for the international university, started by the eight Saarc nations in 2010, but also half its operational costs.

According to the students, Chandra warned that the university would be closed if the discussion was held, and the campus authorities swiftly tightened the regulations relating to student events.

However, the students went ahead with the event on Friday in an uncovered area although the lone guest — an academic from outside the university — stayed away after being told that permission had been denied for the programme.

Till late night, the university had not acted against the organisers or participants.

An email this newspaper had sent to Chandra and the university’s public relations officer, Aheibam Prahlad, on Friday afternoon had evoked no reply till night although the PRO acknowledged its receipt.

An informal students’ forum, the SAU Research Association, had planned a discussion on the “Dark side of democracy: Explaining CAA NRC/NPR” on the canteen premises on Friday but was refused permission to use the venue early this week.

When association representatives met Chandra to sort the matter out, he made the “roti” remark, several students told this newspaper.

They said Chandra told them the Indian government had been generous in providing funding for the university.

SAU, which has about 600 students from across the Saarc countries, functions from its Akbar Bhavan campus in Chanakyapuri, offering master’s and research programmes. The other seven nations together bear just half the operational cost.

On Wednesday, Chandra allegedly called a meeting of all the students and warned that the university would be shut down if the students went ahead with the event.

On Thursday, the university issued new rules requiring the students to seek permission before holding any event, even discussions on socio-political issues. Earlier the students had to seek permission only for the venue, and only if it was a closed space instead of a garden or lawn.

Under the new rules, requests relating to any event must be submitted to the dean of students by the 15th of the previous month. The faculty advisory committee will review the proposal and notify the decision within seven days. The university need not cite any reason for rejecting a request.

Nearly 150 students have written a protest letter to Chandra against the latest rules.

Several students told this newspaper that the rule empowering the university to reject the students’ requests without citing any reason was “wrong”.

They said this ran counter to the objectives with which the university was founded, one of them being “to foster in the students sound civic sense and to train them to become useful citizens of democratic societies”.

A foreign student said the university had never before prevented any discussion on any issue.

“Students discussed the Nepal blockade in 2015, the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh and India…. No permission was needed,” a student said.

Independent academics described the new rules as “un-academic”.

“A university is supposed to encourage debate, questioning and dissent. Any move to curtail the space for critical analysis would defeat the idea of the university,” a Delhi University teacher said.

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Election-year growth wart

Election-year growth wart

The first revised estimates of the national income in 2018-19 show that the real GDP growth a year ago had crumbled to 6.1 per cent, piling more misery on finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman who will present her second budget on Saturday.

In May last year, the National Statistical Office (NSO) had placed GDP growth in 2018-19 at 6.8 per cent in its provisional estimate. The latest revision, announced by the NSO on Friday, was attributed to a deceleration in the mining, manufacturing and farm sectors. There will be two more rounds of revised estimates.

The GDP growth for 2017-18 was also revised downwards to 7 per cent from 7.2 per cent earlier. The revised figure for 2018-19 (the general election year) shows a steeper fall.

The NSO release came just a few hours after Sitharaman had tabled the Economic Survey for 2019-20 in the Lok Sabha, which reaffirmed that growth this year would come in at a mere 5 per cent –- the lowest in a decade.

The Economic Survey, prepared by chief economic adviser Krishnamurthy Subramanian, also forecast the GDP growth in 2020-21 in a range of 6 to 6.5 per cent -– which takes a lot of the shine off the Indian economy which was once touted as the world’s fastest-growing.

Last July, Subramanian said in his Economic Survey for 2018-19: “To achieve the objective of becoming a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25… India needs to sustain a real GDP growth rate of 8 per cent.”

The following are some of the factors that stood out in the Economic Survey:

  • The fiscal deficit target may have to be eased to revive growth.
  • A concept called “Thalinomics” (the economics of a plate of food in the country) has been mentioned, probably with an eye on grabbing headlines, to analyse food affordability.
  • The Economic Survey has also sourced some data from Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia created and edited by volunteers around the world. The site is not a usual source for official data. The survey also quotes from the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Rig Veda, Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Kautilya’s Arthashastra and Tamil saint and philosopher Thiruvalluvar’s treatise, The Thirukural, adds PTI.
  • A pitch for wealth creation. But the stress appeared to be on the rise of the indices on the stock markets, which had continued to boom -– creating notional paper wealth for investors -– while the economy stuttered with growth tumbling to its lowest level since 2009 after the global financial crisis.

The chief economic adviser has one suggestion for Sitharaman ahead of her budget: the urgent priority of the government is to revive growth in the economy and, therefore, the fiscal deficit target (set at 3.4 per cent in 2019-20) may have to be relaxed for the current year.

“In order to boost the sluggish demand and consumer sentiments, counter-cyclical fiscal policy may have to be adopted to create additional fiscal headroom,” the survey said.

The survey said the uptick in growth in the second half of 2019-20 was predicated by “10 positive factors”: the increase in the Nifty India Consumption Index for the first time this year, an upbeat secondary market, higher foreign direct investment flows, build-up of demand pressure, positive outlook for rural consumption, a rebound in industrial activity, steady improvement in manufacturing, growth in merchandise exports, higher build-up of foreign exchange reserves, and positive growth rate in GST revenue collections.

Not everyone was as upbeat as Subramanian. “The survey’s projected FY21 growth of 6-6.5 per cent may prove to be optimistic unless backed by a strong fiscal stimulus in the forthcoming budget and the meeting of investment targets specified in the National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) both by the central and state governments,” said D.K. Srivastava, chief policy adviser at EY India.

Wealth creation

Subramanian has clearly changed tack this year with wealth creation becoming the overarching theme of the latest Survey.

“The ultimate measure of wealth in a country is the GDP of the country,” says the Survey and contends that the exponential rise in India’s GDP since it embraced economic liberalisation in 1991 has coincided with wealth generation in the stock markets.

“During much of India’s economic dominance, the economy relied on the invisible hand of the market for wealth creation with the support of the hand of trust,” says the survey, which speaks virtuously about the blow-out rise in the Sensex since 1991 -– especially since 2014 when the Modi government began structural reforms.

It is during that phase, says the survey, that the “Sensex jumped from the 30,000-mark to the 40,000-mark in just two years” even as it claimed that the stock market “captures the pulse of any economy”.

The survey, however, did not attempt to explain the dichotomy between the stock market boom and the fall in economic growth.

In this two-handed game of wealth creation -– between the invisible hand of the markets and the hand of trust -– the government must play the role of referee, the survey said.

“The referee’s job is to not just report but also detect opportunistic behaviour if people are not playing by the rules. Wilful defaults, malpractices such as financial misreporting and market manipulation need to be detected early because they are termites that eat away (the) investor’s faith in financial markets, diminishes portfolio investments, and crowd out important national investments,” the survey added.

Jobs and GDP

Job creation has been a pain point for the Modi government and the Survey suggested that the government could meld two schemes -– Assemble in India for the world with the Make in India programme -– in order to create 4 crore well-paid jobs by 2025 and 8 crore by 2030. It said such a strategy would enable India to raise its export market share to about 3.5 per cent by 2025 and 6 per cent by 2030.

The survey has devoted an entire chapter to arguing that the concerns about an overestimation of India’s GDP are unfounded.

Former chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian had argued last June that India’s GDP had been overestimated by 2.5 percentage points and claimed the Indian economy had grown at an average of 4.5 per cent between 2011-12 and 2016-17.

“Using careful statistical and econometric analysis that does justice to the importance of this issue, no evidence of mis-estimation of India’s GDP growth is found,” the survey said.

It added that the models that incorrectly overestimate GDP growth by over 2.77 per cent for India post-2011 “also mis-estimate GDP growth over the same time period for 51 other countries by anywhere between +4 per cent to -4.6 per cent”.

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A govt of Gandhi-bhakts

A govt of Gandhi-bhakts

President Ram Nath Kovind read out a government-drafted speech in Parliament on Friday saying the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which omits only Muslims, had been enacted to honour the wish of the Father of the Nation.

“In the environment prevailing in the aftermath of Partition, the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi had said: ‘Hindus and Sikhs of Pakistan, who do not wish to live there, can come to India. It is the duty of the Government of India to ensure a normal life for them’,” President Kovind read out, triggering prolonged thumping of desks by ruling MPs and protests by the Opposition.

The President was addressing a joint sitting of both Houses to mark the start of the budget session. The speech drafted by the Narendra Modi government for the President quoted Gandhi selectively. From The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, some of his views that did not find mention in the President’s speech follow:

Mahatma Gandhi, July 10, 1947, prayer meeting: “But if people do leave their houses in Sind and other places and come to India, must we drive them out? If we do that, how can we call ourselves Indians? With what face can we shout ‘Jai Hind’?

For what had Netaji fought? We are all Indians, whether living in Delhi or Gujarat. They will be our guests. We shall welcome them saying that India is their country as much as Pakistan. If nationalist Muslims also have to leave Pakistan, we shall welcome them here. As Indians we all have the same status.”

Mahatma Gandhi, July 25, 1947, prayer meeting: “There are Muslims, Parsis, Christians and other religious groups here. The assumption of the Hindus that India now has become the land of the Hindus is erroneous. India belongs to all who live here.”

(The following two quotes from Gandhi resonate at a time Muslims are feeling besieged in India.)

Mahatma Gandhi to communist leader P.C. Joshi on September 9, 1947: “It is a matter of shame for us that the Mussalmans in the Union should feel downcast.”

Mahatma Gandhi, August 25, 1947, prayer meeting: “The minorities must be made to realise that they are as much valued citizens of the State they live in, as the majority.”

Mahatma Gandhi, September 26, 1947, prayer meeting: “If we regard all the Muslims as fifth-columnists, will not the Hindus and the Sikhs in Pakistan be also considered fifth-columnists? That would not do. The Hindus and the Sikhs staying there can come here by all means if they do not wish to continue staying there. In that case, it is the first duty of the Indian government to give them jobs and make their lives comfortable. But they cannot continue to stay there and become petty spies and work for us and not for Pakistan. Such a thing cannot be done and I would not be a party to it.”

The speech read out by the President did not make any mention of the fear stalking Muslims in India but flagged the atrocities against minorities in Pakistan.

“While condemning the atrocities on the minorities in Pakistan, I urge the world community to take cognisance of it and take necessary steps in this regard,” Kovind said.

Unlike last year, the President’s speech made no mention of the National Register of Citizens.

The President’s speech said that in a democracy, the mandate of the people was sacred and that his government had the people’s mandate to build a “new India”.

“In a democracy, nothing is more sacred than the mandate given by the people. The people of the country have given this mandate to my government for the making of a new India,” Kovind said. “A new India which takes pride in the glory of our ancient culture and which enriches the 21st-century world with the power of its knowledge.”

Kovind said that “national interest” was “paramount” and that the members of both the Houses should frame the “necessary laws” keeping this in mind. This seemed to be aimed at underlining that the CAA had been enacted in the national interest.

The President’s speech sought to give more importance to “duties” than the “rights” granted by the Constitution. “In addition to protecting the rights of every citizen of our country, our Constitution makes the citizens of the country mindful of their duties,” the speech said.

Some Opposition members wore black bands on their arms in protest against the contentious law. Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and some other senior Congress members chose to sit at the back as a mark of protest. Only former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in the front row.

The Trinamul Congress, seeking to separate itself from the Congress and the Left, protested much later, silently holding up pieces of white cloth on which were scrawled in red slogans like “No CAA”, “No NPR” and “No NRC”.

The Trinamul members were seated far from the rest of the Opposition. After displaying the slogans for a couple of minutes while the President spoke, they sat down quietly.

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SC iterates HC judge name

SC iterates HC judge name

The Supreme Court collegium has rejected the central government’s plea to reconsider the recommendation to appoint advocate Anriuddha Roy as a judge of Calcutta High Court and reiterated his name for the post.

The collegium had recommended Roy’s name for the high court justice’s post on October 24, 2018. However, the Centre is understood to have sought the reconsideration of his name.

At its meeting held on January 29, the collegium comprising Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and two senior most judges, Justices N.V. Ramana and Arun Mishra, reiterated the decision. It is now incumbent upon the Union government to appoint Roy as the high court judge.

“The Supreme Court Collegium in its meeting held on 29 th January, 2020 has resolved to reiterate its recommendation dated 24th October, 2018 for appointment of Shri Aniruddha Roy, Advocate, as Judge of the Calcutta High Court,” a terse resolution adopted by the collegium on Friday said.

The collegium further approved the appointment of advocates T.R. Ravi, Bechu Kurian Thomas and Gopinath P. as judges of Kerala High Court.

Notice to Bengal

The Supreme Court on Friday sought the Bengal government’s response to a plea seeking a review of its January 6 judgment that upheld the state’s power to appoint teachers at aided madarsas. A bench of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Justices Bhushan Gavai and Surya Kant issued the notice to the state on the petition filed by Contai Rahmania High Madrasah.

The plea challenged the two-judge bench ruling on January 6 on the issue.

Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan who appeared for the petitioner assailed the January 6 order on the ground that it had not properly interpreted the 2002 ruling by a 11-judge bench ruling in the TMA Pai case which, according to him, had said there could be no interference in the affairs of minority institutions by the State.

On January 6, the court had upheld the constitutional validity of the West Bengal Madrasah Service Commission Act, 2008, which empowered the panel to appoint/recommend teachers to aided madarsas.

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Nudge from EU, UK on citizen law

Nudge from EU, UK on citizen law

India may have dodged the bullet at the European Parliament on Wednesday with the postponement of the vote on the joint resolution on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act but New Delhi drew flak from some members for the new law and the NRC.

Although members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted in favour of postponing Thursday’s vote on the CAA, they went ahead with the debate which saw a couple of members insisting that India should be held to account for bringing in such a discriminatory law.

India was not without friends either, with some MEPs insisting that there was no clear understanding of the CAA in the European Parliament.

Now that the vote has been deferred, India is hoping to be able to work further with the MEPs over the next month-and-a-half to bring over the critics and soften the blow if any.

In the debate, a couple of the MEPs accused the European Union of capitulating to the India lobby and prioritising yet another trade summit over the European Parliament’s commitment to human rights. This was said in reference to the upcoming India-EU Summit in Brussels on March 13 that will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In seeking postponement of the vote, European People’s Party member Michael Gahler suggested the MEPs await the Indian government’s answers to the Supreme Court in the case. Also, since Indian ministers are expected to be in Brussels in February ahead of the India-EU Summit, he said it would give them a chance to explain.

There were also calls for the EU to send a clear message to India that the relationship would come under serious threat in the absence of respect for human rights.

UK ‘trust’ reminder

The UK on Thursday said it hoped the Indian government would address the concerns of the people over the CAA.

The outgoing British high commissioner to India, Dominic Asquith, also said his country was “very interested” in a visit to the Kashmir Valley.

Asked by journalists in Delhi about the protests in India over the CAA, he said: “We have noted what the government and Mr Modi say about together with all, development for all, and trust of all (a reference to ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishvas) and I believe that is the manifesto commitment of this government.”

“There is protest in every democracy.… I refer back to the ‘with all, development for all, and trust of all’ as the objective set by this government and I am sure that in that ‘trust of all’ (is) the trust that it will be addressing the concerns that have been expressed about the CAA,” Asquith said.

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