Tuesday December 19, 2017
Home India Netaji files:...

Netaji files: It’s time to frame declassification policy

0
216

New Delhi: Many questions regarding the disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in 1945 may finally be put to rest starting January 23, 2016.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday posted a series of tweets, in which he revealed that his government will start the declassification of files related to Netaji on 23th January, 2016 on the occasion of his birth anniversary. The Modi government will further request various foreign governments to declassify files related to Netaji. The announcement came shortly after Modi’s meeting with the extended family of Netaji Bose.

Modi tweeted:

The issue of Netaji’s disappearance has been hanging since 7 decades and successive governments had maintained that Netaji had died in the air-crash in 1945. The present decision will earn the government enormous goodwill and respect from thousands of people across the country who were eagerly waiting for this declassification to happen.

By this announcement, Modi has not only shown his respect for National heroes, but also his commitment to bring forward the records of Indian history into the public domain. Contrary to the attitudes of presiding governments that has continued to keep important documents classified even after many decades, Modi government has demonstrated its commitment to come clean on history.

The government must now build upon this and should begin declassification of other important files. This is very important not only for setting the records of history straight, but also to set an example for future governments to follow.

Whitewashing of history has already done enough damage to the nation.

As Modi notes in his tweet: “There is no need to strangle history,” it is time for the government to take bold decision to declassify other classified files dealing with important but controversial issues.

One issue that has been hanging for many decades is the death of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri. Shastri had gone to Tashkent, USSR in January 1966 to sign the peace agreement with Pakistani President Muhammad Ayub Khan that would officially bring an end to the India-Pakistan war.

Just after a day he signed the Tashkent Declaration, he was reported dead at 2 AM on January 11, 1966. The death has been reported to have been due to heart attack. But, no proper account of the incident has been made public. It has been often alleged that Shastri was poisoned and his body had turned blue. It is further pointed that no post mortem of his body was done either in Russia or in India.

The similarities between the death of Shastri and disappearance of Bose are many. First, they both were very popular Indian leaders. Secondly, in both cases, the government has re-iterated its version of events without giving any details or releasing any documents related to it. Thirdly, in both cases, repeated attempts at finding information about the deaths have been rejected.

Anuj Dhar, who has relentlessly strived for finding out information about Netaji and whose efforts have finally begun bearing fruits with the Modi government declaring that it would declassify the files, had also filed an RTI query in 2009 regarding Shastri. The RTI had sought the correspondences between India and Moscow as well as those between the Indian embassy in Moscow and the external affairs ministry after Shastri’s death. But the Prime Minister’s Office had turned down the RTI request by saying that the information will affect ‘security, integrity, and sovereignty of the country.’

Another incidence that adds to the claims of the conspiracy was the death of Shastri’s doctor RN Chugh and memory loss of Ram Nath, Shastri’s personal servant. Both of them met with an accident when they were on their way to depose before parliamentary body in 1977 about the death of Shastri.

Shastri’s family has repeatedly made appeals for declassification of the related documents. Just last month, Anil Shastri, the son of former prime minister appealed to Modi government to declassify. Modi government should listen to those appeals as well and initiate declassification of those files as well.

Another leader who died under mysterious circumstances was Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, who died as a detenu in Kashmir in 1953. Recently, the family members of Bhagat Singh had also appealed to the Center to declassify files related to him.

Then, there is the Vohra report on the criminalization of politics that was submitted in 1993, the Henderson-Brooks Report that analyzes India’s debacle in 1962 India-China War, and many classified files related to Naval Mutiny of 1946 and other aspects of freedom movement, that are yet to see the light.

Calling for declassification of all such files, Indian academic and writer, Madhu Kishwar tweeted yesterday:

Modi government should form a committee that includes members from intelligence, legal fraternity, historians, and experts from other concerned areas to review all these old files and declassify them in a phased manner. The government should further bring out a declassification policy similar to those in the US or UK so that the declassification of files does not become an issue in future.

UK declassifies its files after 20 years. US follows 10 years declassification. It further has a 25-year review that reviews and declassifies those files that were not declassified at 10 years. In Australia, federal documents are declassified at 20 years and cabinet notes at 30 years. India should formulate its own policy on similar lines.

Modi government has taken a welcome step in deciding to declassify Netaji files. But, this declassification should not be its last. The government should genuinely pursue the issue of declassification and legislate laws for automatic declassification after a fixed number of years. Only this would make India a truly information-rich country, wherein its people can easily access documents related to its recent history.

Next Story

PM Narendra Modi: Government bringing Stringent Consumer Protection Law

0
48
Prime Minister Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a speech. IANS

New Delhi, October 26: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said the government was in the process of enacting stringent legislation aimed at protecting consumers along with setting up a Consumer Protection Authority (CPA).

“Consumers’ protection is this government’s priority. We are in the process to bring a new law on consumer protection keeping in mind the need of the country and business practices here,” Modi said at an International Conference on Consumer Protection for East, South and South-East Asian Countries.

“We are in the process of forming a Consumer Protection Authority, which will have executive powers, for immediate redressal.”

The rules were being streamlined to solve consumer problems in less time and at less cost, he added.

“The stress is being given on consumer empowerment. Strict provisions are being contemplated against misleading advertisements,” Modi said.

He said India was among the few countries which had enacted a law a year after the UN adopted guidelines on consumer protection in 1986.

The Prime Minister also said the prices of commodities were set to go down and consumer protection for their interest effects due to the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Due to the GST, the competition among companies was going to increase. So prices will go down. It will help consumers from lower middle class and poor sections,” Modi said.

“Earlier, transportation by trucks would take five days but it has come down to just three three days now as checkposts on borders have vanished after the GST. It means transportation cost has gone down. This is going to be transferred to consumers,”

Taking a dig at those opposed to the GST, he said: “Some people may be taking advantage of the lack of awareness. However, the benefits will be transferred (to consumers) in days to come.”

Talking about the conference, Modi said: “It shows how seriously we take the needs of our citizens and how we strive hard to solve their problems”.

“It is the first conference in the region, where everyone is trying in their own ways to save the interest of consumers. However, we have to keep in mind that the world is going towards a single market,” Modi said.(IANS)

Next Story

Tillerson’s Visit to India Highlights Strong Emerging Alliance

0
31
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their meeting at the Prime Minister's residence in New Delhi. VOA

The United States pledged its commitment to deepening strategic ties with India as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders in New Delhi during a visit that highlighted their strong emerging alliance.

Combating terrorism and expanding India’s role in helping Afghanistan’s development were key issues discussed by Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Tillerson, who arrived in the capital city after stops in Kabul and Islamabad.

At a news conference after the talks, Tillerson extended an assurance that “in the fight against terrorism, the United States will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with India. Terrorist safe havens will not be tolerated.”

The top U.S. diplomat visited the region after the Trump administration unveiled a new South Asia strategy calling on India to play a larger role in Afghanistan’s economic stabilization and on Pakistan to take more action against militant groups based in the country.

Indian foreign minister Swaraj said President Donald Trump’s new strategy for the region “can only be successful if Pakistan acts decisively against all terror groups without any discrimination.” New Delhi has long blamed Islamabad for supporting insurgent groups that carry out terror acts in India.

Tillerson, who last week said that he sees India as a key partner in the face of what he considers negative Chinese influence in Asia, reiterated that India could play a wider role in the region. Analysts say Washington’s overtures for closer ties with India are prompted by the need to counter China’s rise.

Tillerson told reporters “the United States supports India’s emergence as a leading power and will continue to contribute to Indian capabilities to provide security throughout the region.” He said Washington was willing to provide New Delhi with advanced technologies for its military modernization.

“We also look forward to further cooperation in the broader Indo Pacific region as we both promote a rules-based approach to commerce and a transparent and sustainable approach to economic development,” he said.(VOA)

Next Story

BJP to Celebrate November 8 as ‘Anti-Black Money Day’

0
23
Anti black money day, Demontisation
Demontisation ousted one thousand rupee notes in India last november. Pixabay free

New Delhi, October 25: In a bid to counter the opposition campaign, the BJP will celebrate November 8, the day high-value currencies were demonetized last year, as “Anti-Black Money Day” across the country.

Announcing the party’s decision to counter the opposition plans for observing the day as “Black Day”, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said all prominent leaders, union ministers, state ministers and office bearers will participate in programmes across the country.

On November 8, the party will organize programmes highlighting all the steps the government has taken against black money. He said since the government was formed in 2014, from day one it had taken steps against black money.

“There was a parallel black money economy in the country. When the NDA government came to power (May 2014), Prime Minister Narendra Modi took steps to minimise and end it. On November 8, the BJP will celebrate ‘Anti-Black Money Day’ and mobilize people in favor of the steps taken against black money,” Jaitley told reporters here.

The special investigation team (SIT) to go into black money, which was directed by the Supreme Court in 2011 and was not acted upon by the previous UPA government, was formed by the NDA, the Finance Minister said.

Jaitley also hit out at the Congress over its plans to observe the day because the demonetization decision was “ill-conceived”.

Apparently referring to the opposition criticism, Jaitley said it was normal for political parties which had a number of opportunities to be in power earlier not recognize that the squeeze on black money and the other steps cannot be achieved through baby steps.

The Finance Minister said the BJP would carry forward the debate by the opposition to polarize people against black money through its own campaign.(IANS)