President & Group Managing Director: Dr.Shelly Ahmed | Editor in Chief & Group CEO: M H Ahssan
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Himachal. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Himachal. Sort by date Show all posts

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Spotlight: 'Drowning The Wildlife In Majathal Sanctuary'

By Kajol Singh / Delhi

Project proposals submitted to the NBWL routinely make a mockery of the law, bypassing decisions to their own end. A dam, constructed on the Satluj River without any wildlife clearances, will soon destroy and submerge a large tract of the Majathal Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the last refuges of the vulnerable Cheer Pheasant.

Disregarding the law and subverting regulatory Committee decisions, projects across the country pay no heed to environmental legislations.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Why India Was Not Prepared For Uttarakhand Floods?

By Jagan Shah (Guest Writer)

The headlines three years ago were similar: ‘flash floods leave North India in deep trouble’ and ‘flood, rain, wreak havoc in North India’. Then, the worst hit districts were Almora, Chamauli, Uttarkashi and Nainital. Now, it is Rudraprayag. As we watch the escalating devastation of lives, homes, livelihoods and public utilities, we shrug about how helpless we are before the wrath of Mother Nature.

But we aren’t helpless: we’ve failed because, though we’ve done our homework on how not to fail, we haven’t actually turned these lessons into practice.

India accounts for one fifth of the deaths caused due to flooding across the world. Twenty-four out of the 35 States and Union Territories are vulnerable to disasters and over 5 percent of our landmass is vulnerable to floods. Annually, an average of about 18.6 million hectares of land area and 3.7 million hectares crop area are affected by flooding.

This has led to a great amount of concern—but not a whole load of action.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

MARRY A LOWER CASTE AND GET 75,000 IN HIMACHAL

By CJ Preity Kapoor in Shimla

While ‘khap panchayats’ (caste councils) in Haryana continue to frown on inter-caste and sub-caste marriages and punish those who do so, marrying outside one’s caste is ever so profitable in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh – it’ll get couples all of Rs 75,000.

To prompt young men and women to break the caste barrier, the cabinet headed by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has enhanced the inter-caste marriage incentive from Rs 25,000 to Rs 75,000. It’s given to couples where one of the spouses belongs to a Scheduled Caste.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Strange Case Of India's Missing Dams

A complete and accurate database of dams and rivers in the country is the first pre-requisite for analysing hydrological issues and safety, but an analysis by INN shows that the authority entrusted to maintain such records clearly has a long way to go. 

The latest NRLD seems to have been uploaded only recently, since for a number of states, it claims to have been updated till January 2013. The NRLD is certainly a useful document, the only list of large dams in India and it also gives a number of salient features of the large dams in India. The South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) has been using this document and doing some analysis of the information available in the NRLD.

As per the latest edition, India has 5187 large dams (height above 15 m in most cases, height of 10-15 m in the case of some with additional criteria). 371 of these dams are under construction and the rest have been completed. In case of 194 large dams in NRLD, we do not know the year of construction, which means most of these dams must have been built before independence.

NRLD is not an exhaustive list
NRLD follows the definition of large dams given by the International Commission on Large Dams for inclusion of dams in its records. However, it is far from what you could call an exhaustive list of large dams in India. A significant number of large dams built for hydropower projects in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, North East India, among other states, do not figure in the list, even though all of these would come under the definition of large dams as given in the NRLD.

To illustrate, in Himachal Pradesh alone, the following dams are all under construction as per the Central Electricity Authority, many of them in advanced stages, but they do not figure in NRLD: Allain Duhangan, Kashang, Sainj, Swara Kuddu, Shongtong Karcham, Sorang, Tangnu Romai, Tidong. This poses a serious threat to safety, especially since many of them are under construction by private companies.

For example, in December 2012, heavy leakage was detected in the surge shaft of the 1000 MW Karcham Wangtoo Project on Sutlej River in Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh. The project had to be shut down and the repairs are still going on. Had there been a serious mishap at the project, the impact would also be felt by the cascade of projects downstream, including the 1500 MW Nathpa Jakhri HEP (India's largest operating hydropower project), 412 MW Rampur HEP, 800 MW Kol Dam HEP and the Bhakra complex further downstream.

Incomplete records or omissions make prevention, tracking and management of such emergencies difficult.

The missing dams
Earlier in 2010 and 2011, SANDRP filed a number of applications with the CWC under the Right to Information Act to ask them how a very large number of dams that were listed in earlier NRLD records of 1990, 2002 (both printed versions) did not figure in the NRLD 2009, and many of the large dams listed in 1990 also did not figure in NRLD 2002. The CWC response in most cases was to transfer our RTI application to the relevant states, stating that it is not responsible for the accuracy or completeness of information in the NRLD, it merely compiles the information given by the respective states.

This was a far from satisfactory response from India's premier technical water resources organisation. Was CWC acting only as a post box on such a serious issue as listing of large dams? It was not applying its mind to the information supplied by the states, not raising any questions, nor clarifying the contradictions and gaps with respect to the earlier editions of NRLD? Needless to add, this reflects very poorly on the CWC.

Here, it is notable that the CWC is also responsible for the monitoring policies and practices related to the safety of dams in India as also a number of other aspects. What kind of diligence then can we expect from CWC under these circumstances? Our analysis also showed that many dams that should have figured in the earlier versions (considering the date of completion stated in the subsequent editions of NRLD) were not there. Again, our applications for clarification in such cases were transferred to respective states.

We did get some response from the Central Water Commission and Maharashtra, which was once again hardly acceptable. In case of over a hundred dams, the CWC Director, Design and Research Coordination Directorate accepted the errors in NRLD and promised that 'Data entry errors/ omissions as indicated above will be rectified' without any satisfactory explanations.

Where are our dams located?
A quick review of the latest NRLD raises some fresh questions. In one of its exercises, SANDRP wanted to check how many dams there were in the different river basins/sub basins. This is an important question from a number of perspectives including cumulative impacts, optimisation of dam operations, hydrological carrying capacity and cumulative dam safety issues, to name a few. Ostensibly, this should have been a simple enough exercise.

However, when we started looking at the 5187 large dams of India listed in the NRLD, we found that in most cases, there is no name for the river on which the dam is constructed. When counted, we were shocked that in case of 2687 or 51.8% of large dams of India, the NRLD does not mention the name of the river! In most cases they just write 'local river' or 'local Nallah,' or the box under river is left blank. Under the circumstances, it is not possible to get a clear picture of any river basin, or use the list to identify cumulative impacts or safety aspects or possibility of optimisation of the dams in any one river basin. The absence of such basic information reflects very poorly on the quality of the NRLD, and on the CWC and respective states.

The worst performers
India's largest dam builder state, namely Maharashtra, also has the largest number for which it does not know the name or location of the rivers or tributaries. Out of 1845 large dams in Maharashtra, for 1243 cases, Maharashtra does not know the name of the rivers on which these are constructed! That means in case of 67.37% of its dams, the state has not specified the names of the rivers. It is not just for the old dams, but even for 81 of the dams completed after 2000, that this holds true - for example, the relatively larger 61.19 m high Berdewadi dam (completed in 2001) and the 48 m high Tarandale dam (completed in 2007).

In percentage terms, Madhya Pradesh fares even worse than Maharashtra, as it does not know the names of the rivers for 90.17% of its dams (817 dams out of total of 906). Chhattisgarh is the worst in this aspect, as it does not know names of the rivers for 227 of its 259 large dams. These three states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh collectively do not know the names of the rivers for 2287 of all dams listed in NRLD. Some of the other states that should also share the 'honours' here are Gujarat (138 dams out of 666 for which names of rivers are not known), Andhra Pradesh (124 out of total of 337) and Rajasthan (71 out of 211 large dams).

It is a disturbing situation that the agencies that are responsible for our large dams do not even know the names of the rivers on which they are located. Every river in India has a name, so if someone were to argue that these rivers do not have names, it wouldn't be an acceptable excuse. Without the names of the rivers and locations of the various dams on specific rivers, we cannot even start looking at crucial issues such as dam safety, cumulative social and environmental impacts, and hydrological carrying capacity and optimum utilisation of the storage created behind the dams. We clearly have far to go to even start knowing our dams and rivers. 

Monday, August 03, 2015

Why HP Forest Cops Hacking At Fruit-Laden Apple Trees?

In peak apple season, many orchards in Himachal have unexpected visitors. They are forest officials armed with a High Court order to crack down on encroachments on forest land.

In peak apple season, many orchards in Himachal Pradesh have unexpected visitors. They aren’t traders or bulk buyers — but forest officials armed with a High Court order to crack down on encroachments on forest land. The fruit cannot be harvested, and owners are in panic. What is the crisis in the Rs 2,500 crore apple business in the state? 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Why Kerala Is like Kuwait & Madhya Pradesh Is Like Haiti?

For its level of income, India, as well as many of its states, could do a much better job in taking care of their most vulnerable people.

American poet Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”—“Do I contradict myself/ Very well then I contradict myself/I am large, I contain multitudes”—seems tailor-made for India. Which country can India be compared to, in economic terms? Is India’s level of economic development more or less like Vietnam’s, because their per capita incomes, in international dollars and in purchasing power parity terms, are almost the same?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Will This Election See Higher Turnout After 'Poll Tamasha'?

By M H Ahssan | INNLIVE

ANALYSIS While an increased turnout in Assembly elections is not an indicator of the same in Lok Sabha elections, aggressive campaigning points toward a higher turnout in this poll.

If the pattern of turnout in the Assembly elections held over the last couple of years are of any indication, the turnout in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections should significantly increase. Almost all the Assembly elections held in different States between 2012-13 witnessed a higher turnout compared to those held in previous years. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

'This Is Our First Expereince Of Viewing Films In Theatre'

By Swati Reddy | Hyderabad

Wearing colourful caps and excited smiles, four children stood out amid the crowd of eager kids who came to watch films at the Prasad’s Imax theatre in Hyderabad, the main venue for the 18th International Children’s Film Festival. The wonder in their eyes was evident, because unlike most other children, the foursome from Himachal Pradesh was watching cinema on the big screen for the first time. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Spiti Valley In Himachal: It's Still A World Within A World

By Hari Singh / Shimla

A century ago Rudyard Kipling in his novel "Kim" described Spiti as "a world within a world" and a "place where the god lives". Things have hardly changed there.

A part of the remote but picturesque Lahaul-Spiti district in Himachal Pradesh, the Spiti Valley, a cold desert dotted by tiny helmets spread over the Himalayan peaks, adjoining Tibet, takes you to a land of Buddhism and virgin nature.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

'ARUNACHAL' TOPS IN HANDLING 'CHILD NUTRITION'

By M H Ahssan / New Delhi

The problem is likely to be less severe than UN statistics indicate, given faulty yardsticks. If asked to name the state with the lowest incidence of child malnutrition in India, readers will overwhelmingly pick one of Kerala, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Punjab or West Bengal. But they will all be wrong by a wide margin: none of these states appears among even the top five performers. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

'Met Madness' on Blog Culture

Whether it is Delhi’s winter rain or a TN cyclone, India’s growing tribe of weather bloggers is keeping a keen eye on the climate.

Last Sunday, when Delhi was basking in pleasantly warm winter sunshine, Mumbaibased weather blogger Rajesh Kapadia predicted rain and thundershowers for the next week. On Thursday night, sheets of rain pounded Delhi and hail lashed the city the next day. “The weather is quite unpredictable so it feels good when you get things right,’’ says Kapadia, who runs the popular blog and Facebook page, Vagaries of the Weather. 
    
The British obsession with weather is well-known. In fact, a study found that conversation turns to the climate at least once every six hours. And this, even though their weather is gloomily uniform. With Indian weather so excitingly unpredictable, it’s no surprise that some folks have made it their passion. 
    
These are the country’s small but tightly-knit community of weather bloggers who use data from the internet, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) and their own automated weather stations to post constant updates and tell friends, family and followers about the movement of weather systems that have resulted in snow in Himachal Pradesh, rain in Punjab, and a near-dry monsoon in Tamil Nadu. 
    
Most of them have been tracking the weather since they were children, fascinated by what made it rain, why clouds took different forms, and how the wind changed. They’re mostly self-taught — picking up their expertise from books, newspaper satellite pictures, and long hours of staring at the sky. 
    
“In the 1960s, there was no access to information, so I just watched the sky. People often teased me about it,” says Kapadia, a 59-yearold retired engineer. His parents bought him a thermometer when he was 13. “I held it up and took the temperature. Since then, the weather has been my passion,” he says. For 25 years, he had a complete weather station in his factory in Aurangabad. “In Mumbai, it’s on my terrace but with so many high rises around, I don’t get accurate readings so I interpret data available online,” says Kapadia, as he describes how systems across the world are tracked. 
    
In Chennai, K Ehsan Ahmed, R Pradeep John and a host of weather enthusiasts have been updating keaweather.com since 2008. They’re currently running a poll for their 500-odd members to predict the first rains of 2013. “Rain gives me such joy,” says John, who has been an amateur meteorologist since he watched a cyclone near Muttukadu in Tamil Nadu in 1994.
    
Storms and extreme weather conditions send these enthusiasts into a tizzy. When Cyclone Nilam hit Tamil Nadu in October 2012, Chennai bloggers were up all night tracking its progress every half an hour. “We started chasing the system when it entered the Malay sea as an area of low pressure two weeks before it hit,” says John, who is deputy manager, projects at Tamil Nadu Urban Infrastructure Financial Services. He admits that he skips work on 'heavy weather days' to track the weather. 
    
Ahmed has a weather station on his roof and feeds the readings to the rest. Chartered accountancy student Karthik Raghavan, 18, says he’s happy to have found “other freaks” like himself around the country. “About 15 of us blog on keaweather.com regularly,” he says. Until he began blogging in 2009, he got information out of his geography textbook and by watching the skies. “I’ve begun to understand the terminology better because of this group,” he says. 
    
While most are quite obsessive about temperature and pressure, there is the rare weather lover who looks beyond the numbers. Former IMD director general R R Kelkar’s blog ‘Cloud and Sunshine’ is about everyday life. “The weather affects everything under the sun. My blog reflects that,” says the 69-year old who lives in Pune and began blogging in 2007. His posts range from analyses of Kalidasa’s ‘Meghdoot’, the weather in the Bible, new forecasting s y s t e m s a n d h i s t o r y o f meteorology to the 10 Bollywood songs that best evoke the mood of rain, recipes for crispy kebabs in winter and reviews of books that use the weather as metaphors. 
    
Ken Smith, who blogs exclusively about the weather in McLeod Ganj in Himachal Pradesh, says most weather bloggers are geeks. “Many of us are purists about data. I like to write and educate my readers about the atmosphere so I simplify things,” says the 48-year-old former weather journalist who does volunteer work. His blog’s following includes the revolving door population of foreigners who come to McLeod Ganj to teach, volunteer, work, holiday and ‘find’ themselves. 
    
Kelkar says his blog keeps him in touch with young people who want help with projects on the weather or just understand the meaning of terms. “There is a genuine interest in the weather now and I enjoy answering questions,” he points out.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Cricketers pad up for poll innings

By M H Ahssan

It is easier to face bouncers on the pitch than handle the googlies bowled by political rivals, former international cricketers say. But that seldom stops them from batting for political parties. Those in the fray this election are Chetan Chauhan, Navjot Sidhu, Kirti Azad, Chetan Sharma and Ranjib Biswal. Former India captain Mohammed Azharuddin, too, tried to get a Congress ticket from either Medak or Secunderabad but the result was a duck. But there is a chance he might be fielded from Rajasthan.

Former Test opener Chetan Chauhan, a two-time BJP MP from Amroha, wanted a change of scene. Gavaskar’s most reliable opening partner had finished a dismal fourth in the 2004 elections after successful stints in 1991 and 1998. His vote share too had fallen from 42.54% (1991) to 14.75% (2004). He is not admitting that though.
“I have been living in East Delhi for the past 10 years. That’s why I am contesting from there this time,” he says.

Chauhan feels that politics is more difficult than cricket. “In cricket you face only one ball delivered by one bowler. But in politics, you never know who will bowl a beamer and from where,” he says. Like Chauhan, Azad too wanted a change of constituency. The son of former Bihar chief minister Bhagwat Jha Azad wanted to be the BJP candidate in the new Delhi North-East parliamentary seat. In 1999, he had won from Bihar’s Darbhanga constituency but lost in 2004. Since Delhi’s North-East constituency has a huge percentage of voters from Bihar and UP, Azad felt the situation could work to his advantage. But he has had to settle for the Darbhanga ticket again. “Both politics and cricket are games of glorious uncertainties,” he says. Former India paceman Sharma, who claimed a hattrick during the 1987 ODI World Cup but is remembered more for the heartbreaking six he conceded against Javed Miandad in a Sharjah final, is contesting the Faridabad seat on a BSP ticket.

BJP’s Sidhu hopes to retain his Amritsar seat while Orissa’s Biswal, a former under-19 international, is Congress candidate from Kendrapara. Biswal’s original constituency, Jagatsinghpur, has been declared reserved after delimitation. That apart, Madan Lal, a key member of the 1983 World Cup winning squad like Azad, is in the reckoning for the prestigious Hamirpur seat in Himachal Pradesh. His BJP rival is Anurag Thakur, the son of Himachal CM PK Dhumal. Cricketers and politics go back a long way. Sacked captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi joined politics after being replaced by Ajit Wadekar in 1971. Pataudi contested Lok Sabha polls from Gurgaon. His party was the VHP (not Vishwa Hindu Parishad but Vishal Haryana Party). The former India captain lost heavily.

In the book, ‘Indian Cricket: The Vital Phase’, Raju Bharatan tried to explain why. Politician Bansi Lal outfoxed the cricketer with his shrewd Haryanvi rustic logic.

He is said to have told Gurgaon voters: “What good will it do you if Pataudi wins this election. To meet him you’ll have to get into the stadium first. And you know how difficult it is to get into a cricket stadium in the country. Granting you get in, what will he give you. At most, a bat and ball.” Twenty years later, Pataudi contested from Bhopal on a Congress ticket. The result was similar.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

SHIMLA - BEYOND TOURIST PLACE

By Sagarika Mittal

The Queen of Hills is grappling with an acute shortage of basic infrastructure

The 200-year-old capital of Himachal Pradesh is still struggling with its urban makeover. The summer capital of the Britishers, Shimla is known as the ‘queen of hills’. The city attracts a huge number of domestic as well as international tourists every year. But its existing infrastructure such as roads, parking space and water supply is vividly inadequate to meet their demand. Shimla is the most-preferred tourist destination in the North.

The pleasant summers and snowy winters make Shimla a round-the-year tourist destination. The building structures styled in neo-gothic architecture, reminiscent of the British era, dots various hill slopes. These heritage buildings include Viceregal lodge that houses the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Gordon castle, and State Museum. On the periphery of the city are tourist spots like golfers delight Naldehra, Skiing famed Kufri, magnificent resorts of Chile and Mashobra and jungle trails of Charabara.

The city is still connected by a narrow-gauge railway line, which enjoys the heritage status conferred by UNESCO, built in 1906 during the colonial era and a national highway that is 71-mile-long from Chandigarh. The Kalka-Shimla rail route is still considered an engineering feat whose 806 bridges and 103 tunnels make it the ‘British Jewel of the Orient’.

The city is named after the goddess Shyamala, an incarnation of the Goddess Kali. The administrative responsibilities are taken care by the Shimla Municipal Corporaion established in 1851. Being a state capital, the city houses many Central and state government offices which account for almost half of the working population. The city is essentially a cosmopolitan and home to followers of different religions. The heart of the city is Ridge that ends into St. Michael’s Catholic Church built in 1850.

The market place and famous hangout, the mall road is part of the main city. Lakkar Bazaar, close to ridge is famous for woodcraft bought as souvenirs. Below the wood market is Asia’s only natural ice skating rink where winter arrivals are held. Hot sulphur springs of tatta pani are not far away from the city. The exodus of people from other regions to the city and the subsequent rampant construction activities in the last two decades have pushed the city infrastructure to the brink. The fact that Shimla is a round-the-year tourist destination adds to this crisis. Around six lakh people reside in the peripheral areas , which are now part of the main city.

Hospitality is the major industry that include premier hotels like Oberoi resort at Wildflower Hall situated at 8,350 feet, Radisson, Oberoi Cecil and Oberoi’s Clarks hotel within the city. Himachal Pradesh State Tourism Department also runs two hotels namely HHH and Peterhoff within the city. An airport at Jubbar Hati provides another option to reach out to the state capital.

Alarmingly, the creepy forests that had inspired Ruskin Bond, Indian author of the Brithish descent, to write ghost tales six-decades ago have given way to new buildings. To tackle the deterioration of the infrastructure, Shimla was selected as one of the 63 cities under the Jawahar Lal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). As the part of the upgradation plan, four traffic tunnels are being constructed within the city. As a special concession, the Centre has allowed 50% concession to Shimla under the JNNURM on levy of user charges and land acquisition cost.

A dream house in the hills is a dream of any visitor though the land tenancy laws allow only natives to buy land in the state. But the property seekers have bought houses in peripheral areas around the city by tying up with local landowners.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Spat within EC: Was it really bias?

By Jayanti Natarajan

The Election Commission has been, until very recently, one of the heroes of Indian democracy. From the mountains of Himachal to the Kashmir Valley, from the Northeast to the Andamans, our elections have been somewhat of a miracle in modern democratic history. They have been by and large free and fair. Although in the subcontinent, democracy has often been challenged, India has always prided itself on its robust democratic traditions. This is why the present controversy, which has arisen over the letter sent by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) N. Gopalaswami to the President of India, is particularly unfortunate.

By throwing the EC into a bitter and unpleasant debate, the CEC has virtually delivered a body blow to the credibility and authority of the EC. That he should have chosen to do this barely two months before his own retirement, and just before general elections, has complicated the issue, which may well have adverse constitutional implications. Regardless of what apologists for the CEC may say, his action, its legal implications and his timing, are indefensible.

Article 324 lies at the crux of the matter and the issue is whether the CEC has the constitutional power to recommend suo motu the removal of an election commissioner or a regional commissioner. And if the CEC does make such a recommendation, will it be binding upon the President? Two major cases where the Supreme Court has had occasion to deal with similar, although not identical issues, were in S.S. Dhanoa’s case and in T.N. Seshan’s case.

The constitutional position is clear. The CEC cannot be removed from office except by impeachment, but the election commissioners do not enjoy identical protection. However, it has been settled by the Supreme Court that in order to insulate the EC from political interference, any decision to remove them can only be done after the recommendation of the CEC. To quote Kapil Sibal, this provision is, therefore, meant to be a shield to protect the election commissioners and by no means a sword in the hands of the CEC to be used at whim to “oppress” his fellow election commissioners. (The word oppression in this context was used by the Supreme Court in Mr Seshan’s case while referring to the possibility of misuse of his recommendatory powers by a CEC.)

Only the appointing authority, namely the President, acting upon the advice of the Cabinet, has the power to remove an election commissioner after obtaining the recommendation of the CEC. It would be perverse to argue that the President will appoint an election commissioner but the CEC will have suo moto power to remove him.
The BJP is well known as an “institution destroyer”. Few would have forgotten the personal and malignant attack the BJP launched upon CEC Lyngdoh, even bringing communal colour to the attack. Whereas the Indian National Congress has always shown admirable restraint, and observed great reticence when articulating views about constitutional functionaries. This was in keeping with the policy of our leadership that institutions should be preserved at all costs.

In this particular case, the CEC has not just charged his colleague but has also claimed that he showed a distinct bias to the Congress. It would be important to point out at this time that the letter of charges against Navin Chawla, sent to the President by the CEC — although meant to be a classified document, but BJP leaders are quoting from — is mainly a litany of instances of Mr Chawla’s alleged partisanship in favour of the Congress and not any offence of moral turpitude or palpable unconstitutional action. The CEC’s charges are all his own presumptions of a perceived bias he thinks Mr Chawla has in favour of the Congress, which an unbiased bystander may well interpret to be an honest difference of opinion.
On the other hand, some others may justifiably question the actions of the CEC himself, as being in favour of the BJP, whose leader he served under as home secretary. It was, indeed, the NDA led by the BJP which also appointed Mr Gopalaswami as the CEC. There are many questions raised over how the CEC called for Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh four months before the tenure of the previous Assembly ended without so much as informing, leave alone consulting, the governor or the government.

Was it to favour the BJP? Eyebrows were raised over his haste and insistence on calling elections in Karnataka, before electoral rolls were finalised and before the delimitation exercise was carried out, as a result of which President’s Rule had to be extended. Was this too to favour the BJP? What about the infamous venomous communal CDs which were distributed during the UP Assembly elections in 2007 by the BJP? An FIR was filed against Rajnath Singh, the state president, and office bearers of the BJP, and the EC took suo moto cognizance of the distribution of objectionable CDs.

Charge sheets were filed, but the CEC closed the case thereafter. Was it bias in favour of the BJP? If so, the question which must be answered is how bias in the case of Mr Chawla becomes objective and unbiased if done by the CEC? The BJP should realise that the reticence of the Congress is due to its desire to preserve institutions and not that the questions surrounding certain acts of the CEC have gone unnoticed.

Above all, the CEC owes the country an explanation as to why he has destroyed the credibility of the EC from within. His statement that he was waiting in order to avoid the charge of bias before the Karnataka elections reinforces doubts regarding his bias in favour of the BJP, apart from being utterly unconvincing in legal and constitutional dimensions. The debate is now public, and very bitter. Once again it will be the inherent strength of our democracy and the maturity of our electorate that will find a way out of this morass.

Spat within EC: Was it really bias?

By Jayanti Natarajan

The Election Commission has been, until very recently, one of the heroes of Indian democracy. From the mountains of Himachal to the Kashmir Valley, from the Northeast to the Andamans, our elections have been somewhat of a miracle in modern democratic history. They have been by and large free and fair. Although in the subcontinent, democracy has often been challenged, India has always prided itself on its robust democratic traditions. This is why the present controversy, which has arisen over the letter sent by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) N. Gopalaswami to the President of India, is particularly unfortunate.

By throwing the EC into a bitter and unpleasant debate, the CEC has virtually delivered a body blow to the credibility and authority of the EC. That he should have chosen to do this barely two months before his own retirement, and just before general elections, has complicated the issue, which may well have adverse constitutional implications. Regardless of what apologists for the CEC may say, his action, its legal implications and his timing, are indefensible.

Article 324 lies at the crux of the matter and the issue is whether the CEC has the constitutional power to recommend suo motu the removal of an election commissioner or a regional commissioner. And if the CEC does make such a recommendation, will it be binding upon the President? Two major cases where the Supreme Court has had occasion to deal with similar, although not identical issues, were in S.S. Dhanoa’s case and in T.N. Seshan’s case.

The constitutional position is clear. The CEC cannot be removed from office except by impeachment, but the election commissioners do not enjoy identical protection. However, it has been settled by the Supreme Court that in order to insulate the EC from political interference, any decision to remove them can only be done after the recommendation of the CEC. To quote Kapil Sibal, this provision is, therefore, meant to be a shield to protect the election commissioners and by no means a sword in the hands of the CEC to be used at whim to “oppress” his fellow election commissioners. (The word oppression in this context was used by the Supreme Court in Mr Seshan’s case while referring to the possibility of misuse of his recommendatory powers by a CEC.)

Only the appointing authority, namely the President, acting upon the advice of the Cabinet, has the power to remove an election commissioner after obtaining the recommendation of the CEC. It would be perverse to argue that the President will appoint an election commissioner but the CEC will have suo moto power to remove him.
The BJP is well known as an “institution destroyer”. Few would have forgotten the personal and malignant attack the BJP launched upon CEC Lyngdoh, even bringing communal colour to the attack. Whereas the Indian National Congress has always shown admirable restraint, and observed great reticence when articulating views about constitutional functionaries. This was in keeping with the policy of our leadership that institutions should be preserved at all costs.

In this particular case, the CEC has not just charged his colleague but has also claimed that he showed a distinct bias to the Congress. It would be important to point out at this time that the letter of charges against Navin Chawla, sent to the President by the CEC — although meant to be a classified document, but BJP leaders are quoting from — is mainly a litany of instances of Mr Chawla’s alleged partisanship in favour of the Congress and not any offence of moral turpitude or palpable unconstitutional action. The CEC’s charges are all his own presumptions of a perceived bias he thinks Mr Chawla has in favour of the Congress, which an unbiased bystander may well interpret to be an honest difference of opinion.
On the other hand, some others may justifiably question the actions of the CEC himself, as being in favour of the BJP, whose leader he served under as home secretary. It was, indeed, the NDA led by the BJP which also appointed Mr Gopalaswami as the CEC. There are many questions raised over how the CEC called for Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh four months before the tenure of the previous Assembly ended without so much as informing, leave alone consulting, the governor or the government.

Was it to favour the BJP? Eyebrows were raised over his haste and insistence on calling elections in Karnataka, before electoral rolls were finalised and before the delimitation exercise was carried out, as a result of which President’s Rule had to be extended. Was this too to favour the BJP? What about the infamous venomous communal CDs which were distributed during the UP Assembly elections in 2007 by the BJP? An FIR was filed against Rajnath Singh, the state president, and office bearers of the BJP, and the EC took suo moto cognizance of the distribution of objectionable CDs.

Charge sheets were filed, but the CEC closed the case thereafter. Was it bias in favour of the BJP? If so, the question which must be answered is how bias in the case of Mr Chawla becomes objective and unbiased if done by the CEC? The BJP should realise that the reticence of the Congress is due to its desire to preserve institutions and not that the questions surrounding certain acts of the CEC have gone unnoticed.

Above all, the CEC owes the country an explanation as to why he has destroyed the credibility of the EC from within. His statement that he was waiting in order to avoid the charge of bias before the Karnataka elections reinforces doubts regarding his bias in favour of the BJP, apart from being utterly unconvincing in legal and constitutional dimensions. The debate is now public, and very bitter. Once again it will be the inherent strength of our democracy and the maturity of our electorate that will find a way out of this morass.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why The State Of India’s Primary Education Is Shocking?

Do you expect a steady migration of students from government to private schools and a rapid fall in quality of education in a country where education is a constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right?

Then, that is the story of rural India, where 70 percent of the country’s population live. Its present and future generations are in a royal mess: poor families are spending a lot of hard-to-find cash to get half-baked education for their children.

Even as the government undertakes to educate all its children under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, private schools are mushrooming in rural India and attract 10 % more students every year, compared to the previous year.

It is such a tragedy that by next year, when UPA seeks fresh mandate for all its welfare schemes, 41 percent of the primary school children will be paying for their education and there is no guarantee that what they learn is of any quality or consequence.

At this rate, sooner than later, India’s education sector will resemble its crumbling public health system in which three-fourth of the people pay for their health expenditure.

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER 2012) for rural India, released a few days ago by PRATHAM, an NGO, exposes the shocking mess that our school education is in. With longitudinal data from 2008, the report shows how the country is falling into dangerous lows both in terms of quality and the invasion of the private sector.

Let’s look at some key facts of the ASER.

First, on the quality of education:
In 2008, only about 50 percent of Standard 3 students could read a Standard 1 text, but by 2012, it declined to 30 percent – a fall of 16 percent. About 50 percent of the Std 3 kids cannot even correctly recognise digits up to 100, where as they are supposed to learn two digit subtraction. In 2008, about 70 percent of the kids could do this.

Not only that the country is unable to improve the learning skills of half its primary school children, in the last four years, it has fallen to alarming lows. Similar deterioration in standards of education was also noted among Std 5 students.

Importantly, the report notes that the decline is cumulative, which means that the “learning decline” gets accumulated because of neglect over the years. The poor quality of education from Std 1 pulls down their rate of learning progressively so that by the time they are in Std 5, their level of learning is not even comparable to that of Std 2.

The private schools are “relatively unaffected” but their low standards remain low. They have also shown a “downturn” in maths beyond number recognition.

The poor quality of education and rate of decline are however not uniform across India. Some states are low in quality, but are staying where they are (Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh) while some have higher levels of education, which are neither improving nor deteriorating (Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Punjab).

It also says that the decline is more noticeable since 2010, when the RTE came into effect, indicating targets of blanket coverage compromising quality and standards.

Second, on privatisation:
The report notes that the private sector is making huge inroads into education in rural India. By 2019, when the RTE would have done a decade, it will be the majority service provider. The private sector involvement will also be strengthened by 25 percent quota of the government (under the RTE Act).

Quoting DISE (District Information System of Education) data, it says that Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Goa have more than 60% of private enrollment in primary schools. Andhra, Maharashtra and Karnataka are at 40 percent, while UP is at 50%. Ironically, the highest private sector enrollment is in Kerala, where successive governments claim commitment to welfare policies, particularly on education and health.

Besides private schools, parents also spend considerable amount of money on private tuitions, making quality education more inaccessible to people without money.

What do these findings tell us?
That the country is in a serious crisis – its quality of school education is startlingly low and is in free fall, while the private sector is exploiting this weakness even in rural India. Although the study doesn’t throw considerable light on the reasons of the decline and possible corrective steps, it does indicate a correlation between the acceleration of the deterioration and the implementation of the RTE Act.

If the correlation is correct, it is clear yet again that a populist and insincere political instrument does more harm than good. When the Act was passed, there were misgivings by many – particularly on the haste, lack of appropriate consultation with all stakeholders and also on the logic of applying a uniform principle across states with huge disparity in coverage and quality of education. In some states such as Kerala, Himachal and Punjab it was evidently superfluous.

Even after two years, it’s still not clear, how the finances are met and if the states are committed at all. The estimates in 2010 for the implementation of RTE was pegged at about Rs 210,000 crores with centre shouldering 68 percent of the burden.

Whether the RTE is being implemented or not, it’s abundantly clear that it is certainly not working. “There has been a feeling that RTE may have led to relaxation of classroom teaching since all exams and assessments are scrapped and no child is to be kept back. Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation(CCE) is now a part of the law and several states are attempting to implement some form of CCE as they understand it,” says the report.

“Does CCE catch this decline? Are teachers equipped to take corrective action as the law prescribes? Is corrective action going to be taken? Given the magnitude of the problem, it will be a good idea to focus just on basics at every standard and not treat it as a “remedial” measure. At this stage, teaching-learning of basic foundational skills should be the main agenda for primary education in India.”

As the report notes there is a national crisis in learning. The quality of education and performance of the students in both government and private schools have to improve and the government has to check the invasion of the sector by private capital.

Higher education has long since been sold out and today it is only the preserve of those with money. With or our without RTE, even the primary school education is moving in the same direction.

If markets are to run the country, why do we need governments?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Why The State Of India’s Primary Education Is Shocking?

By Dr. Shelly Ahmed (Guest Writer)

Do you expect a steady migration of students from government to private schools and a rapid fall in quality of education in a country where education is a constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right? Then, that is the story of rural India, where 70 percent of the country’s population live. Its present and future generations are in a royal mess: poor families are spending a lot of hard-to-find cash to get half-baked education for their children.

Monday, May 01, 2017

An Indian politician gifts brides laundry bats to tackle abusive husbands

This minister’s message to Indian women is simple: “If your alcoholic husband is physically abusive, thrash him.”

When one suffering woman asked Madhya Pradesh minister Gopal Bhargava if it was all right to beat up her abusive spouse with a mogri, the wooden bat traditionally used to wash clothes, he took the idea seriously. After all, Bhargava had been receiving numerous such complaints.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Indian dogs that are dying out because everyone wants a Labrado

It’s easy to identify what a German Shepherd, Labrador, and Saint Bernard have in common: they’re furry, adorable canine companions with massive fan bases all over the world. But what about the Chippiparai, Jonangi, and Kombai?

Even ardent animal lovers might stumble a bit here, but these too are dog breeds which have another thing in common—they’re all Indian. Skilled, sturdy, and well adapted to the country’s tropical climate, these dogs are great workers and excellent companions. Unfortunately, the other characteristic Indian breeds share is that they’re disappearing.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Adivasis: Cheated Of The Constitution

By MOHAN GURUSWAMY | INNLIVE

Tribal people who account for 8.2% of India’s population can be broadly classified into three groupings. The first grouping consists of populations who predate the Indo-Aryan migrations. These are termed by many anthropologists as the Austro-Asiatic-speaking Australoid people. The Central Indian Adivasis belong to this grouping.