EC disqualifies 20 AAP MLAs for holding office of profit, huge setback for Arvind Kejriwal

In a huge setback to the Arvind Kejriwal and his party, the Election Commission (EC) disqualified 20 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs today for holding ‘office of profit’. The recommendation has been sent to the President by the poll commission. If President clears the recommendation, then it means that AAP’s strength in Delhi Assembly will diminish to 46 from the existing 66.

The controversy over the “office of profit” took place following a 30-year-old lawyer Prashant Patel filed an application in 2015 to the President’s office, pointing out the appointment of AAP MLAs as parliamentary secretaries. The Congress party had also filed a petition in Election Commission in 2016 to seek disqualification of 21 AAP legislators positioned on this application. Later, the proceedings were released against on MLA Jarnail Singh following he resigned as the Rajouri Garden MLA to fight the Punjab Assembly polls in February 2017. In March 2015, Arvind Kejriwal had appointed an MLA and his government passed an amendment to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997, in June 2015 to immune the post of parliamentary secretary from the description of office of profit with reviewing effect.

The Kejriwal’s party had argued that this post did not qualify as an office of profit as there is no financial benefit being involved in it. The party’s efforts got a setback when President Pranab Mukherjee declined support to the proposed Amendment in June 2016 and the Delhi High Court set sidewise the order appointing MLAs as parliamentary secretaries. Commenting on the matter, the opposition parties Congress and BJP have demanded the direct resignation of Arvind Kejriwal as CM of Delhi on moral ground. “This must be the first ever recommendation in EC history where a recommendation has been sent without even hearing the main matter on merits,” the AAP said.

Looks like a team of good bowlers and one great batsman, says Srikkanth

The former Indian captain Kris Srikkanth considers that the Indian cricket team’s united batting failure in both innings of the second test in Centurion, which helped South Africa win the series with a match to go, could have been evaded with better performance. Srikkanth described India’s mild batting at Centurion in his column for TOI.

“To say the defeat in the second Test was an embarrassment is an understatement. The manner in which the batsmen surrendered in the second innings proved beyond doubt they lacked the stomach for a battle,” said Srikkanth. The 58-year-old former cricketer wrote that “I am not going to get into the manner in which the Indian batsmen lost their wickets, all I can say is the South African bowling was not as menacing as it was made out to be and it was lack of application that cost the game. A target of 287 was not easy at the same time it was not impossible”.

The first century from India’s side came from Kohli, who made 153 in their first innings of 307. In the same innings, the next highest score following Kohli was made by opener Murali Vijay’s 46 followed by 38 from R Ashwin. The other team players disappointed as many players weren’t even able to touch the 20 runs mark. “My heart goes out to Virat Kohli the batsman. The manner in which he handled the bowling in the first innings made us believe he was playing on a different wicket against a different attack. He deserved support from his top order colleagues. Barring M Vijay and later R Ashwin, there was little else for Kohli to fall back on,” Srikkanth wrote.

“To score half the team’s score and do that effortlessly shows the class of Kohli. It was a pity that his early fall in the second innings shut the match as a contest. I did expect the batsmen to come out with a better show during the chase. At the end of the day this team looks like a team of good bowlers and one great batsman,” the 58-year-old added. However, the former captain added that he was happy to witness India’s pace bowlers and Ashwin do well across both Tests in South Africa. “The Indian bowlers, on the other hand, have done a terrific job. Barring the first innings at Cape Town where they leaked 40 runs more that they should have. They did makeup in the second innings by bowling the hosts cheaply. Honestly, the team management could not have expected anything better from their bowlers,” the 52-year-old wrote.

The third and final test will start from January 24 at the Wanderers in Johannesburg.

Two civilians killed, six injured as Pakistani Rangers opened heavy fire on Jammu villages

In an early-morning ceasefire violation along the border in Jammu and Samba districts, the officials said two people including a woman were killed on Friday and at least six injured when Pakistani troops targeted Indian villages with artillery and mortar. The matter took place amidst an eruption along the highly militarized border between the two neighbors, who often accuse each other of violating a 2003 ceasefire.

The neighboring country’s border force (Pakistani Rangers) opened heavy fire and shot mortars on Indian villages and posts in RS Pura, Arnia and Ramgarh sub-sectors since 6:30 am on Friday, a senior BSF official said. The official said, “Our troops are responding appropriately.” The killed villagers identified by the official as Bacho Devi, Sai Khurd and Sahil Kumar of Korotana. The schools within a 4 km radius of the border have been closed as a precautionary measure, said Dr. Arun Kumar Manhas, additional deputy commissioner of Jammu district. The people of the affected areas are not coming out of their houses due to being frightened over the intense shelling.

The audio clips of big explosions could be heard as its being shared on various WhatsApp groups. A police officer from Samba said that Pakistani rangers targeted Indian posts at Chambliyal, Fathwal, SM Pura and Narianpur with heavy and small arms. Later, he informed that Pakistan prolonged the arc of fire and targeted seven more Indian posts – Kandral, Nanga, Majra, SP-1, SP-2, Tanver and Mallu chak. In the current series of fire, Pakistani troops have been targeting almost 40 villages and hamlets.

SC: Govt Accommodation for Ex-CMs and PMs and Presidents?

The Supreme Court today took notice of the fact while hearing a petition against the legislative order of the Akhilesh Yadav Government, which gave the luxury of government bungalows to the ex-CM.

The Supreme Court while stressing that it was going beyond the scope of the present matter, asked the Central and State governments to openly put forth their views on the matter, as there are other states and central rules to the same effect.

The basic point that comes before us, and the stakeholders in the system, is, that why do people who withdraw good salaries, and then if they are not elected again, survive on benefits, be entitled to an added expenditure on the government exchequer that too when the people  rejected their tenure through the ballot.

The question of moral integrity and financial prudence, would promote the sense of a total dissociation from the state exchequer till they are elected again.

The holding of government bungalows is a common feature with the MPs, MLAs, and not to mention those who have had cabinet ranks. The ministers develop an attachment with their status as being on the payroll of the state and the Chief Ministers, Prime Ministers, and the Presidents or Governors, do not appear to be eligible for any government bungalow once they have demitted the office.

The need rests in the status and life-long comfort at the expense of the State, and enjoying a prime property at a prime location that could not have fitted in the means of a legislator’s salary.

The government’s will come forward with arguments from all corners, while nobody will focus on the pressing need to provide them with an accommodation in a government bungalow.

The issue will have to be expanded to far limits where the parties must also disclose that why does one, who has held an august office, feel himself entitled to a government bungalow.

The government properties anyway require a very serious restructuring exercise, as there is a shortage of land for offices of the government departments, while the governments lease offices at high costs in commercial locations, the prime located government bungalow, that is being maintained out of the public money shall be put to some better use, over allotting the same to a dignitary who lost his office.

 

Haj Subsidy Farewell

The issue seems to have been simmering on the boil since a 2 judge bench of Justice Aftab Alam, in the year 2012 ordered the government of India to do away with Haj subsidies in 10 years time. Prior to this a bench of Justice Markandey Katju declared the provision of subsidies on Haj travel as very well within the meaning and scope of Article 27 of the Constitution of India.

There is a final farewell to the issue of subsidies to Haj pilgrims, while the political discourse is now being dominated with all kinds of heated debates over communalism.

The case is not one of Communalism, but is a case of stripping Air India of all kinds of emoluments it received from the State. Air India has been the only carrier to have ferried passengers from India to Mecca and Medina. The majority sources of earnings for Air India came from the fare subsidy that the government paid directly to the company, meanwhile rest of  the charges were taken by the Saudi government. Leaving no actual benefits arising to the one taking pilgrimage. The future of the discourse has been around many political parties trying to appease Muslims by attacking the subsidies given to Hindu pilgrims by the states governed by BJP, or the Jerusalem subsidy given to Christians by the Tamil Nadu government.

The Quran does not mandate pilgrimage to Mecca, and it expresses that only those, who have been bestowed with the necessary financial capability to undertake the Haj, while the others aren’t. The Haj subsidy dates back to 1932, which has been the oldest surviving patronization to a particular community.

Haj subsidy was often viewed as a minority appeasement tactic, and the pilgrimage subsidies being offered to other communities has been described as a backlash to the Haj subsidy.

While the media may declare openly that no benefits accrued to the one undertaking pilgrimage, the over all expenditure incurred was considerably reduced. The subsidy added a burden on limited funds at bay for the betterment of the minorities, as we see today, that instead on investing heavily on providing modern education to Muslims, the State had been busy providing them subsidies for going on Haj.

The monies thus saved from subsidies shall now be utilised for creating a better environment in the madarsas and also provide other opportunities that make the Musims of India more mainstream and secure.

The argument that the State must do away any religious subsidies is one founded on a sane logic that religion must be dissociated from the polity, but the fact that the amount spent on Hindu pilgrimages is a very small figure as compared to that of the Haj subsidy. Also. many people in the old age, who have at least half the needed funds undertake Chaar Dham Yatra.

The states have laid down stringent norms while selecting people for Hindu pilgrimages, and only the elderly are allowed. This makes the argument weak, though there must be a dissociation of religion from State, thus any kind of state support to pursue one’s spiritual inclinations is opposed.

 

 

Pakistan can live without US help, says Pakistan foreign minister

The foreign minister Khwaja Muhammad Asif said that Pakistan is making sure to maintain a balance in its relationship with the US and the government has made it clear that Islamabad can live without US’ help but will not compromise on national integrity. Speaking at the Senate Standing Committee on Finance, Asif said that relations with the US were not normal after rants by US President Donald Trump, the News International reported on Thursday.

He also stressed that Pakistan could no more host millions of Afghan refugees. The minister highlighted that Pakistan has been again and again seeking help for repatriation of Afghan refugees and to work on border management with Afghanistan. The minister Asif told the meeting that constant jibes at Pakistan were “all accusations to put the responsibility of the US failures in Afghanistan on Pakistan”. “We have to stand up to those who accuse us of harboring terrorists,” the minister said.

The meeting was kept beneath the chairmanship of Senator Nuzhat Sadiq and was attended among others by Senators Farhatullah Babar, Ayesha Raza Farooq, Karim Ahmed Khawaja, Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Daud Khan Achakzai and Haji Moin Khan Afridi among others.

Situation ‘tense’ at border, supervised troops to teach them a lesson, says BSF chief K K Sharma

Elaborating the condition along Indo-Pak border as “tense”, Director General of Border Security Forces K K Sharma said on Thursday that he directed his troops to retaliate with “full force” and “teach them a lesson”. “We can describe the situation as tense. Earlier, there had been firing along the Line of Control and now they have started firing along the international border as well,” said Sharma.

Following giving his tributes to BSF head constable A Suresh, who was killed in motiveless firing by Pakistan on Wednesday night, he said, “Martyrdom of A Suresh will not go waste”. Describing his death as “unfortunate”, Sharma said that the BSF constable was struck by a bullet that seemed to have crossed through a small gap in his bunker. “Is tarah ki yudh ki sithati mein, aap isko occupational hazards keh saktey ho (In such a war like situation, one can describe it as occupational hazards). To avoid casualties due to sniper fire, we have provisions for bulletproof helmets and jackets for the troops, but even then many parts of the body remain exposed,” Sharma said.

Sharma added that it is not the first time that Pakistani Rangers directed to unprovoked firing towards the Indian side. Indicating that the BSF never violates ceasefire but only retaliates to the violations from the other side, Sharma said that “we are a peace-loving country and we do not want to create war-like situation”. “However, we are more than prepared to meet any situation on the border, whether infiltration or ceasefire violation,” he added.