Friday, August 05, 2016

Medical Exam Leak, Court Verdicts Are Hurting Telangana CM's Image


It has been a rough fortnight for KCR government.

It does not do any good to the pride of the chief minister's office if it finds two of its orders struck down within a week by the judiciary. That is precisely the ignominy that Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao has had to suffer at the hands of the Hyderabad High Court.

If last week, the appointment of eight vice-chancellors by the Telangana government was given the thumbs down by the court, this week, the Government Order (GO) 123 of July 2015 issued for quick land acquisition was quashed.
Though in both cases, the government will appeal in the Supreme Court, the legal setbacks have shown up the arrogance of the executive and exposed its lack of application of mind to do the right thing.

Add to that the ignominy over the leak of the medical entrance exam paper. A CID probe has established that nearly 200 students were taken out of Telangana to other cities to prepare them with the leaked question paper three days before the exam.

The brazenness with which the leakage took place portrays the examination system in an extremely poor light, besides raising serious questions about the complicity of those involved in conducting the exam.

And yet, apart from deciding to conduct the exam again in September, causing annoyance to the honest students, KCR has done precious little to clean up his stables.

In fact, to cock a snook at the high court, KCR called a meeting of the eight VCs he had appointed, a day after the adverse court verdict, and went about discussing the problems plaguing higher education, as if nothing had happened.
The Telangana government will be loath to admit this but the Mallanna Sagar agitation over the land that was sought to be acquired for an irrigation project, with a fair bit of arm-twisting, is the first serious people's opposition to the KCR dispensation.

There is no election on the horizon, so it will be difficult to quantify it in measurable terms. But much before the opposition parties trooped in to hijack the protest and attack the government, the farmers, especially the women, had been sustaining the agitation.

Instead of being honest with the farmers, many of whom had taken part in the Telangana agitation with TRS leaders, the government tried to break them.
Farmers from specific villages were taken in batches to Hyderabad, 60km away, to nudge them into signing away their land.

The court ruling, however, has clearly conveyed that state-sponsored willingness is seen as a bullying tactic, and therefore, the court stands on behalf of the people, who were the petitioners in the case.

The Mallanna Sagar agitation, and now the court verdict making it clear that KCR cannot bypass the right to fair compensation and transparency in the Land Acquisition Act of 2013, has dented the government's credibility.

The KCR government was all along trying to market the GO 123 as a better offer, without getting into the terms and conditions.

Apart from no provision for rehabilitation, including jobs for displaced farmers, KCR's GO 123 also states that if the project does not take off, farmers won't get back their land and it can be used by the government for any other purpose.

The Union government's 2013 Act is more farmer-friendly as it states that the land acquired for a project should be used for the project alone, and if not started within five years, farmers can ask for their land back.

The lathicharge and police firing on protesting farmers in July only made matters worse.

Senior police officers who examined the video footage of the incident admitted that the cops on ground were an overzealous lot who did not know how to control a provocative situation.

The arrogance of the government questioning the right of the farmers, reluctant to give up their fertile land for a song and the use of muscle power, has been a bad advertisement for "farmer" KCR.

The question is: What will happen as a result of what has been a bad fortnight for the powers that be in Telangana?

Most likely, nothing. Because the buck stops at KCR's table and it will be difficult for him to find any scapegoats for the legal mishaps his government has suffered.

There has been talk of a Cabinet and bureaucratic reshuffle to weed out the inefficient ministers and get the better-performing babus in critical posts.
At this point, the government is seen as having only two performing ministers - KCR's son KT Rama Rao and nephew Harish Rao.

While industry minister KTR has been lauded for attracting investors to Hyderabad, irrigation minister Harish Rao has been at the forefront of getting two of the government's flagship schemes - Mission Kakatiya and Mission Bhagareetha - up and running.

The rest of the mantris keep themselves busy planting saplings as part of Green Telangana drive.

But can KCR wash his hands off?

The medical entrance exam paper leak has exposed the inefficient public administration and intelligence gathering.

The perception is that the KCR government is more obsessed with planning to bring down the present Secretariat which KCR sees as bringing bad luck to Telangana and build a new structure in its place.

Outside Telangana, he is remembered more for his five-day long yagna at his farmhouse.

Much was expected of KCR when he took over as the first chief minister of Telangana.

While he remains politically unchallenged, the politician in him will realise that popular mandates are not a static phenomenon. Asymmetry of power between the state and the people, often leads to major upheavals.

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