Monday December 11, 2017
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Quotas: RSS got it right – for once

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The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief, Mohan Bhagwat, deserves a mild round of applause for calling for a relook at the reservations policy.

RSSFollowing his suggestion, at least three Congress leaders have gathered enough courage to say that a review should consider making economic status rather than caste the basis of quotas.

Before last year’s general election, a senior Congress leader, Janardhan Dwivedi, had made a similar statement.

It is unlikely, however, that their bosses in the party, the mother-and-son duo of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, will back them considering that the Congress president had forced a reluctant Manmohan Singh to renew the inclusion of caste data in the census operations of 2011 after a gap of eight decades.

Her objective was no different from that of the Hindi belt leaders who use the bait of providing education and employment in government institutions to specific caste groups to build up their support bases.

It is this unabashed partisan purpose which has seemingly persuaded the RSS chief to seek an assessment of the quota system for those sections which “require reservation and for how long”.

However, the timing of Bhagwat’s suggestion was disadvantageous for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for it enabled its opponents in the forthcoming Bihar elections to accuse the BJP of an upper caste bias which seeks to block the upward mobility of the lower castes by ending the quota system.

The BJP-led Rajasthan government’s decision to allot quotas to the economically weaker sections of the “forward” castes has also provided grist to the party’s opponents. A similar initiative has also been taken in BJP-ruled Gujarat.

Notwithstanding these steps, the BJP is trying to distance itself from its mentor’s counsel and the RSS, too, is now hemming and hawing about the issue because it has belatedly realised that it had wandered into an area where angels fear to tread.

It will be a mistake, however, to believe that Bhagwat’s observations have anything to do with the visions of Jawaharlal Nehru and other stalwarts of the freedom movement who wanted the caste system to wither away in an independent India with the growth of a meritocracy because of the spread of quality education and the cultivation of a scientific temper.

Instead, the RSS chief’s concerns cannot be unrelated to the angst of the Patel community in Gujarat, which has been disheartened by the lack of education and employment opportunities because of the inroads made into these fields by groups which flaunt their reservation rights even if they may be less qualified than those who are outside the ambit of the quota system.

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Hence, the demand of the gun-toting and sword-wielding young leader of the generally well-off Patels or Patidars, as they are also known, Hardik Patel, that his community be included in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category.

Considering that he has called for either an inclusion in the quota system, or for dispensing with the reservations altogether, there is little doubt that he has touched a chord in the hearts of not only the upper castes, who have always been against the reservations, but also those who believe that this form of affirmative action has fostered vested interests who deliberately ignore the original idea of the quotas being offered for a limited period and that, too, for only the two most deprived groups – the Dalits and Adivasis.

Instead, the quotas have been extended to communities like the politically influential Yadavs even if they still experience some of the social stigma because of their ‘backwardness’.

What is more, the Supreme Court’s directive about denying what is called the ‘creamy layers’, or those who have benefitted from the reservations, any further access to quotas has been studiously circumvented by successive governments of various hues.

However, as is evident from the suggestions that the quota system be reoriented towards the poorer sections of all castes, the present virtual travesty of the original intent of the reservations is becoming increasingly obvious.

Yet, the political class is too focused on making immediate gains by playing the caste card to see how the unavoidable fallout of the denial of opportunity to the meritorious can breed social tension, as the agitation of the Patels show.

At present, only Narendra Modi has made an attempt to turn the spotlight on development even if his party, and especially its allies, are not averse to playing the caste game in Bihar.

Otherwise, all the other parties, including the supposedly progressive Left, have made no attempt to mobilise public opinion against quotas while the Aam Admi Party is too busy making space for itself in politics to spend much time on a contentious subject.

The murmurs in the Congress about a new approach show that the ingrained sycophancy of its members towards the Nehru-Gandhis hasn’t yet made the party totally brain dead. But, unfortunately, neither Sonia nor Rahul has the intellectual prowess to consider the matter with all its implications and chart a new course.

The Bihar elections are important in this context because there will be a direct contest between a pro-development and a pro-casteist outlook. Last year, the development model had received a thumbs-up signal from the voters. The results on November 8 will show their present mindset.

Amulya Ganguli, IANS

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Surajpal Singh Amu: A case of Fatwa by Hindus?

BJP's Surajpal Singh Amu announced a reward roughly equivalent to $1.5 million to anyone who would behead Deepika Padukone and the film director Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

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Padmavati Banner
A man signs a banner during a signature campaign as part of a protest against the release of Bollywood movie "Padmavati" in Kolkata, India, Nov. 22, 2017. VOA

A leader of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has announced that he would pay a reward roughly equivalent to $1.5 million to anyone who would behead an Indian actress and a film director.

Surajpal Singh Amu, a member of the BJP in northern Haryana state, is apparently upset about an upcoming movie, Padmavati, starring actress Deepika Padukone as the 14th-century Hindu queen Padmini.

The movie is directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

Amu alleged that the movie is misleading, not based on truth and offends Hindu sentiments in the country.

FILE - Actress Deepika Padukone and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali attend the opening of the 13th annual Marrakech International Film Festival in Marrakech, Nov. 29, 2013.
FILE – Actress Deepika Padukone and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali attend the opening of the 13th annual Marrakech International Film Festival in Marrakech, Nov. 29, 2013. VOA

“We will reward the ones beheading them, with 10 crore rupees, and also take care of their family’s needs,” Amu said in an interview with India’s Asia’s Premier News (ANI) earlier this week.

Threats against movie

Amu also vowed not to allow the release of the movie and warned movie theaters to avoid playing the movie or risk being torched.

The movie was set to be released during the first week of December.

Rights activists have reacted strongly to the threats and urged the government to take action.

“This is pretty outrageous that you announce publicly and no action takes place at a time when people are being arrested for most trivial reasons in this country,” Gotum Naulakha, an Indian-based civil liberties activist, told VOA.

A security guard walks past a poster of the upcoming Bollywood movie "Padmavati" outside a theater in Mumbai, India, Nov. 21, 2017.
A security guard walks past a poster of the upcoming Bollywood movie “Padmavati” outside a theater in Mumbai, India, Nov. 21, 2017. VOA

An official complaint has been registered against Amu, but many are criticizing the stance of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party — which controls the central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — on the matter.

“I’ve not heard any official stance from the central government or the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting,” Vinod Sharma, an Indian-based analyst, told VOA.

Anil Jain, a local BJP spokesperson, told ANI that the law applies to everyone in the state of Haryana and no one can threaten others. The central government has yet to react, however.

Bollywood actress Padukone stood her ground and said the movie would be released despite the threats.

“Where have we reached as a nation? We have regressed. The only people we are answerable to is the censor board, and I know and I believe that nothing can stop the release of this film,” Padukone told Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) last week.

Controversy

Padmavati was controversial right from the start. Opponents of the movie stormed the filming of one scene and destroyed the film sets. They were upset that the director of the movie was distorting facts by alleging romance between the Hindu queen and the Muslim invader Alauddin Khilji.

Film director Bhansali, however, denies the allegations and maintains the story is based on a Sufi and medieval-era poem written about the Hindu queen. In the poem, the Hindu queen chooses death before the Muslim conqueror could capture her.

Some experts say the poem is centuries old and there is a possibility the Hindu queen might be purely a fictional character found only in folklore.

“There’s a lot of debate in India whether Padmavati was actually a living being many, many years ago or whether she was just an imagined person in a poem,” analyst Sharma said.

Rights activists maintain that if government fails to draw clear lines around the threat made by the politician, and discourage a growing sense of impunity for some, incidents like this will only increase and threaten the freedom of expression in the world’s biggest democracy.

“By letting loose and giving [a] sense of impunity to the goons of the ruling party or people who’re connected or close to the ruling party, we’re paving the ground for much bigger and [worse] things to happen in the near future,” Naulakha told VOA.

The movie is awaiting approval from India’s Central Board of Film Certification.

Written by Madeeha Anwar of VOA.

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Delhi government’s liquor license scam exposed

AAP has turned Delhi into liquor den.

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Delhi government's liquor license scam exposed
Arvind Kejriwaal,Delhi CM.Flickr
 • Illegal liquor licenses granted in shopping malls
 
• Swaraj India protests against illegal vends at Cross River Mall
 
• Illegal vends have turned the mall into a liquor den
 
• Liquor license scam, a perfect example of unholy collusion between AAP & BJP
 
• Arvind Kejriwal, who came to power on the promise of making Delhi addiction free, has today become the Badal of Delhi and Manish Sisodia another Majithia.
New Delhi, Nov 5: Newly formed political party, the Swaraj India has exposed a major scandal in the distribution of liquor licenses by the Delhi government. Party’s Chief National Spokesperson and Delhi State President, Anupam, said that the Delhi government is illegally distributing L10 category liquor licenses enabling dealers to open vends in shopping malls of the city.
The Delhi government offers licenses in the L-10 category to liquor vends in shopping malls of the city. Definition of shops operating from within a mall is clearly stated in the law and the rule mandates that all shops operating from within a mall should be opening up within the building only and cannot have an entrance towards the exterior side of the mall. But Delhi government and the mall management have created these liquor shops against the approved map of the mall. Every week, the Excise officials of Delhi Government are supposed to inspect liquor vends existing in the city, but not a single objection has been raised against these vends that are blatantly violating rules every single day.
And this has resulted in around a dozen liquor vends springing up in just the ground floor of the Cross River Mall. This has turned the shopping mall into a den of liquor vends leaving people living in nearby residential areas helpless. Neither the Delhi government nor the MCD and nor the Delhi police are even taking note of this broad daylight scam. “Is this not a direct sign that all the levels of the government and administration are complicit in letting this illegal trade grow?” Anupam asked.
Everyone in Delhi is well aware of how the employees of MCD don’t lose a moment to demand their share when any construction work begins anywhere. But when illegal constructions are done at such a large scale in a big mall, the MCD doesn’t even blink an eye.
Cross River mall is located in an area from where the Councillor, the MLA as well as the MP are from the BJP. The illegal license is being granted by AAP led Delhi government. It is surprising to see such a harmonious blend between the Aam Aadmi Party and BJP. Promoting liquor trade in Delhi seems to be such a profitable business for both the BJP as well as the AAP that it has brought together the two parties that are otherwise always at loggerheads. Are the black transactions involved in such liquor business the real reason why not a single question has yet been raised by anyone or any party?
Earlier in the last, the Delhi government has eased rules for granting the license to new liquor vends by reducing the minimum carpet area required from 1000 to 500 square feet. And now, in clear dereliction of rules, even vends are being run in the shopping malls.
 On Sunday, Swaraj India’s Mahila Swaraj Morcha protested against the numerous liquor vends in Cross River Mall of Delhi and demanded that the liquor shops be closed down. And in this mall in Shahdara, around a dozen liquor shops have been opened up by granting illegal licenses of the L10 category. And outside this mall, that has been turned into a den of liquor vends, a crowd of drunkards creating an atmosphere of hooliganism has become a daily affair. There has been a continuous increase in crime in the drunken state, where eve-teasing & snatching have become a regular affair.
Sarvesh Verma, President of the party’s Mahila Morcha, said that Arvind Kejriwal who rode to power on the promise of making Delhi an addiction-free city has today become the Badal of Delhi with Sisodia as another Majithia.
Anupam said that though the Delhi government’s anti-women policies will result in the promotion of alcohol addiction but Swaraj India will not let these nefarious plans succeed. The party has earlier as well launched mass agitations against the granting of liquor licenses in residential areas of Delhi, because of which the Delhi government was compelled to announce a ban on the distribution of new licenses. If the government does not immediately order an investigation into the illegal L10 vends and stop this unholy collusion, the Mahila Swaraj Morcha of Swaraj India will take this agitation ahead for the betterment of Delhi.

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Himachal Polls: It will be do-or-die battle equally for Congress and BJP CM faces

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It will be a do-or-die battle equally for Congress and BJP CM faces (Himachal Polls) (Anonymous Poll Photo)

Shimla, Nov 2, 2017, 1:00 IST:  It’s literally a do-or-die battle for both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief ministerial faces in the upcoming Himachal Pradesh assembly polls. Both veterans — one in his eighties and the other in his seventies — are struggling for their political survival.

One is veteran Congress leader and incumbent Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, who is pushing hard to get to the helm for the seventh time. The other is the BJP’s Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, who is making a strong bid to ensure the party’s victory with a record margin to silence his detractors within the party.

 For almost two decades, both the parties in the state have fought almost every assembly and parliamentary polls under their leadership.

“This time, Virbhadra Singh is fighting on two fronts — one is to establish his son Vikramaditya Singh, who is contesting his maiden assembly election, and the second is to ensure the party’s repeat as he forced the Congress to announce him as the chief ministerial candidate despite all odds,” a political observer told IANS.

For Dhumal, it’s simply the battle for “self-survival” after facing a humiliating defeat in the 2012 assembly polls. Since then, he was almost marginalised by the BJP faction led by Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda.

After thwarting foes within, Virbhadra Singh donned his battle gear much ahead of this arch rival Dhumal, whose name was cleared by the BJP as its chief ministerial candidate just days ahead of the polling for the 68-seat assembly on November 9.

“The announcement of Dhumal as the chief ministerial candidate was part of the BJP’s strategy to boost the morale of the cadres as the party for long was divided in two camps — one led by Dhumal and the other by Nadda,” a senior state BJP leader admitted.

Interestingly, both Virbhadra Singh and Dhumal are seeking re-election from new seats and that is not going to be easy for them.

The Congress leader is in the fray from Arki in Solan district, the BJP’s pocket borough that he chose himself, while Dhumal is contesting from Sujanpur, the seat he was asked to contest from.

The Sujanpur contest seems interesting as the Congress has fielded Rajinder Rana, who knows the Dhumal family well.

Virbhadra Singh knows the assembly poll will be a vote on the performance of his five-year-old government.

“We are seeking votes on the basis of development by our government, especially in the education, health and connectivity sectors,” a confident Virbhadra Singh, who first became the Chief Minister in 1983, told IANS.

The Chief Minister, who has been in active politics for over 50 years, is a regular target of the top BJP leadership, who point to his being out on bail and facing corruption charges in the Delhi High Court during the time he was the Union Steel Minister 2009-11.

But against all odds, he alone tours across the state seeking votes for the Congress. Party leaders said the Chief Minister is single-handedly campaigning and he is conducting 15 to 20 meetings in two to three constituencies every day.

He starts his campaign at 9 a.m. and continues till late into the night. He holds closed-door meetings with party workers in the evening for their feedback.

The only saving grace for the Congress is that its Vice President, Rahul Gandhi, will tour the state on November 6, a day before the campaigning comes to an end.

Contrary to this, the BJP has fielded its entire top brass — from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to his cabinet colleagues, including Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and J.P. Nadda.

Even party President Amit Shah is aggressively touring the hill state.

“The Congress has failed to handle even sensitive cases like gang-rape of a schoolgirl. Our focus on coming to power will be eliminating forest, mining, liquor and transfer mafias that are active in the state for long. This will greatly help restoring the faith of the public,” Dhumal told IANS.

Political observers say issues like development have been pushed to the background as personal attacks dominate most of the election rallies.

“Apart from mudslinging, there is no public-specific agenda with both the leaders. They are just trying to woo voters by raking up personal issues,” an observer said.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said Singh is the main “star” of the party campaign in the state.

“Virbhadra Singh is campaigning on the ground and the BJP is baffled at the response he is getting. We don’t have to be loud to impress the people, like the BJP is doing,” Surjewala told reporters in Shimla on Thursday.

Virbhadra Singh is targeting Dhumal by saying he has always worked with a political vendetta against him.

But a confident Dhumal believes there is a favourable wind prevailing for the BJP’s return as the present government has wasted much time in the ongoing corruption cases against Virbhadra Singh and his family rather than focusing on development.

The future of the arch rivals will be pronounced on December 18, the day the votes cast will be counted along with those in Gujarat.

The Congress won 36 of the 68 seats in Himachal Pradesh in 2012 with a 42.81 per cent vote share, while the BJP bagged 26 seats with a 38.47 per cent vote share.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in) –IANS