Ritabrata may face the axe

CPI(M) may further shrink in Parliament as the party is mulling disciplinary actions, including expulsion, against Rajya Sabha MP Ritabrata Banerjee for his latest remarks against a section of party leadership.

The West Bengal party Secretariat is meeting on Wednesday to take a “call” on Banerjee’s remarks in a TV interview that included the description of a committee led by Polit Bureau member Mohd Salim to look into allegations against him as a “kangaroo commission”.

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Following complaints of a series of misconduct, including his lifestyle, Banerjee, a 38-year-old MP, was put under three month suspension from June 2 pending enquiry. A Commission led by Salim had recommended his demotion to district committee from state committee pending approval from the central leadership.

If party decides to expel Banerjee, its numbers could come down to seven in Rajya Sabha as he can remain in the House as an unattached member. Even if he resigns, the CPI(M) does not have the strength in West Bengal Assembly get its own member elected to the Upper House.

Last month, the party was reduced to eight in the Upper House after General Secretary Sitaram Yechury term ended and was denied a third term though Congress offered support to get him re-elected.

When contacted, a defiant Banerjee told DH that party is not the fiefdom of anyone. Asked if CPI(M) takes any action against him, he said, “I will remain as a Left voicing the demands of the Left. Red, till I die.”

Banerjee has angered the party with his interview to a Bengali channel in which he said he had been victim of jealousy in the party since he was vocal and very active in Parliament.

“I cannot forget the judgement of the kangaroo court which found me guilty. The commission was set up three months after my suspension by the party. I was punished before the judgement. It was nothing but revenge against me, as on occasions I spoke the truth,” he was quoted as saying.

On speculation about him hobnobbing with BJP and Trinamool Congress leaders, he said, “Time will tell about my future plan.”

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Sep 13, 2017)

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Local police should be trained in disaster management: study

Local police personnel are the first to reach any disaster site but there is no clarity about their role in such a scenario, a government-sponsored study has said.

Citing the example of Karnataka where there is no official document that indicate a specific role given to the police, it has suggested that local police should be given specialised training in disaster management.

The study ‘Role of Police in Disaster Management’ also suggested that the Disaster Management Acts and policies, Police Acts and police manuals should be amended to include disaster management as “one of the core function of police” like the way Bihar and Kerala has done.

“Police organisation has to see itself as a major player in disaster management. It will continue to have the first responder role given its proximity to the incident site and relationship with the people. Therefore it has to bring about change in its approach. It has to adopt disaster management function as a one of its primary functions,” the study authored by Additional Director General of Police (Railway) in Bihar Paras Nath Rai said.

The study is primarily based on Bihar but also covers Karnataka, Odisha and Assam, which are known to have well established structures and practices.

However, the states have no policy document on involving police. Assam police has not started training its police forces while there is little training of police.

“More or less similar situation existed in this state too…Discussions with the officials, including the secretary (Revenue who responsible for disaster management) showed that there is no document which can indicate specific role given to the police. Moreover, police is not being given any kind of specialised training for response in natural disasters,” the study said on Karnataka.

State and district level authorities cannot afford to wait for response specialized forces such as NDRF all the time and on many occasions, it might not be advisable or feasible to deploy armed forces and NDRF.

“Hence state police must be prepared as response force. The local police must be trained, equipped and supported with legislation and logistics so that they find themselves capable to support the victim in the golden ‘hour’,” it said.

(Appeared in Deccan Herald website on Sep 13, 2013)

Overtime, irregular eating all adds upto police’s stress

Almost half of the personnel in Bengaluru City Police suffer from moderate to severe stress owing to a variety of reasons from prolonged working hours to irregular food habits, a government-sponsored study has said.

The study ‘Stress Levels and Associated Diseases in Bangalore City Police Personnel’ also said male personnel were at a higher risk for increase in cholesterol levels, obesity, gastritis, heart diseases as such as the early onset of cardio-vascular diseases (CVD) in comparison to women personnel.

Policemen keep watch during a protest rally organised by various trade unions in Mumbai

Using responses from 605 personnel in 12 divisions of the city police, the study said both operational and organisational issues are contributing to the stress levels of personnel.

According to the study conducted by Dr B G Sudarshan, Associate Professor and Medical Officer of Bengaluru-based R V College of Engineering, overtime demands and irregular food habits are causing operational stresses while prolonged working hours, inadequate pay scales and promotional policies are causing heartburns on organisational front.

Stress Level of Bengaluru City Police personnel

Stress Level %

% of Bengaluru City Personnel

Age Group 35-45 years

<38

30.1

30.89

38.1-44

23.1

18.17

44.1-50

15.5

15.80

50-62.5

21.8

22.91

>62.5

9.4

12.84

“More than 47% of the respondents suffered from stress levels of more than 44%, suggesting that close to 50% of the personnel are under the influence of moderate to severe stress. This calls for a serious mitigation process to overcome the same,” the study conducted for the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) said.

While 15.5% of the respondents had a stress level of 44-50%, which is considered moderate, 31.2% had a score of more than 50% indicating that they suffer from severe stress.

Inadequate pay scales, problems related to coping with superiors and prolonged working hours are of “greater concern” in male personnel police compared to their female counterparts. “As these are the stressors for organisational stresses, it calls for behavioural corrections,” the study conducted over a period of three years recommended.

Stress related to operational issues were lower in female personnel than that in male, which is mainly because of less overtime demands from the women.

“Comparative picture of organisation stresses between male and female police suggest that while promotional policies equally caused stresses in both, inadequate pay scales, problems related to coping with superiors and prolonged working hours are of greater concern in men police than that in women police,” the study said. 

On the health front, the study noted that women personnel are more prone to CVD when heart rate variability was considered as an independent risk factor for CVD. “Around 57% of unarmed police were found to be at high risk for CVD as compared to 6.8% in armed police,” it added.

Incidence of OPERATIONAL Stresses based on the stressors in %

Division Irregular Shift Overtime Demands Irregular Food Habits Mean
Bengaluru South

40

75

82.5

65.83

Bengaluru Noorth

60.65

73.7

78.7

71.01

Bengaluru East

57.14

85

100

81.3

Bengaluru West

42

81

91.3

71

North East

70

79

97

80

South East

40

70

95

68

Central

65

83

87

78

Traffic East

25

48

76

50

Traffic West

52

60

83

65

CAR HQ

44

53

73

57

CAR South

57

77

77

70

CAR North

31

52

64

49

Incidence of ORGANISATIONAL Stresses based on the stressors in %

Division Promotional Policy Inadequate Pay scales Coping with Superiors Prolonged working hours Mean
Bengaluru South

78

63

55

90

72

Bengaluru North

64

57

43

90

64

Bengaluru East

86

93

64

93

84

Bengaluru West

57

39

48

88

58

North East

65

53

65

85

67

South East

73

49

51

92

66

Central

74

57

65

91

72

Traffic East

55

38

42

63

50

Traffic West

42

42

33

65

46

CAR HQ

51

45

32

64

48

CAR South

44

45

31

53

43

CAR North

57

38

36

77

52

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Sep 12, 2017)

Ignoring FAC, Jairam decisions land Jayanthi in trouble?

Ignoring the advice of a top official and overlooking the rejection of a proposal by Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) despite Prime Minister’s Office forwarding it appears to have put former Union Jayanthi Natarajan in trouble.

Natarajan is facing a CBI investigation in a case of abuse of official position and indulging in corruption by permitting the diversion of 55.79 hectares in Saranda Forest in Jharkhand’s Singhbhum for mining by Electosteel Casting Ltd.

The former Minister could not be contacted for her comments, even as CBI conducted searches at her premises in Chennai as well as that of other accused on Saturday.

According to the CBI FIR, the proposal was rejected twice by the FAC and once by her predecessor Jairam Ramesh. Second time, the FAC considered the matter after the PMO forwarded the application it received from the ECL asking it to consider it and take “appropriate action” when Ramesh was the Minister.

31natarajan

The first proposal for diverting 192.50 hectares for mining iron and manganese ores was sent in January 2006 following which the Ministry of Mines asked Jharkhand government to ensure that Forest Conservation Act and other rules are followed.

The FAC had first rejected the proposal seeking approval for diversion of 55.79 out of 192.50 hectares of forest land for non-forestry use in October 2008 after Jharkhand government sent a proposal to the Ministry of Environment and Forest. Its contention was that the proposed mining area was part of core zone of Singhbhum Elephant Reserve and critical to Wildlife Conservation.

The ECL again submitted a proposal in May 2009, which the FAC did not take up in its August meeting. The Jharkhand government then approached then minister Ramesh in September 2009. However in April 2010, Ramesh said there was no need for reconsideration.

Three months later in 2010, the ECL petitioned the PMO, which forwarded it to the Ministry and again the FAC rejected it. The Planning Commission also sought a report from the Ministry, which provided the facts of the rejection by the FAC twice.

In July 2011, Natarajan took over the Ministry and a month later, ECL Managing Director Umang Kejriwal met her. After receiving information from the state on the project, she gave approval though the then Director General of Forests and Special Secretary advised her to refer the proposal to FAC, the FIR said.

Natarajan, it claimed, approved the proposal “without any change in the circumstances” after it was previously “rejected earlier” by her predecessor. “Besides, this approval had been accorded without adhering to the advice of the DGF&SS and against directions of Supreme Court,” the FIR added.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Sep 11, 2017)

Challenges ahead for Piyush Goyal

Union Minister Piyush Goyal is taking over his new assignment at a time Railways is battling not just an image problem but also an uphill task to transform India’s largest public carrier.

Goyal’s entry coincides with a series of train accidents in the past weeks that cost Suresh Prabhu his portfolio and goodwill he had earned over the years.

The 53-year-old former investment banker, Goyal is entering the Rail Bhavan located near Parliament with an experience of overseeing an “allegation-free” auctions of coal blocks as Coal Minister in the Narendra Modi government.

His performance in the Ministry of Coal, which included increase in coal production and tackling domestic short supplies, acted as a force multiplier for his entry into the elite Cabinet.

However, a challenge awaits Goyal as he is taking over the Railways Ministry at a time it is facing big challenges on safety as well as its business.

The Prime Minister has made the government’s intent clear that they will leave no stone unturned on the overhaul of the Railways with the appointment of Ashok Lohani, known for turning around not-so-well organisations, as the Railway Board Chairman soon after back-to-back train accidents in the third week of August.

Goyal would get the help of Lohani, an Indian Railway Service officer who knows the Railways inside-outside, in setting the agenda for Railways.

The first priority would be take steps to increase safety and ensure that no accidents take place. On his table would be projects like electrification, high speed trains and green corridors.

One of the challenges before Goyal, who is trained in accountancy and law, to increase revenue and reduce expenditure to fight severe fund crunch. With Lok Sabha elections two years away, it could be a herculean task for Goyal to effect a sea-change without any substantial rise in ticket fare.

It is also to be seen whether Goyal would revive the clamour in some sections to privatise Railways or whether he would go in for public-private participation mode. He will also have to look at restructuring manpower in the Railways, which employs 14 lakh people.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Sep 4, 2017)

CPI finds fault with CPI(M)

The CPI has found fault with the CPI(M) for skipping the RJD rally in Patna, saying the Left parties should not shy away from the unified fight against BJP citing presence of Congress or others.

Sources said the CPI decided to go ahead with attending the rally last Sunday even after CPI(M) communicating that it would not attend the rally. Usually both parties take a common stand on issues.

CPI(M) had cited the presence of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee at the rally as well as being seen with RJD chief Lalu Prasad, a convicted politician. A section of the CPI(M) central leadership also argued that CPI(M)’s presence would mean that it was open to an electoral alliance with Congress.

However, CPI sources rubbished the CPI(M) theory saying no secular party in the country can avoid working with a “pan-India party like Congress” at a time the RSS and BJP are “aggressively” pursuing a “regressive agenda to divide the country”.

When contacted, CPI National Secretary D Raja told DH, “we are an independent party. We take our own decisions after assessing the political situation. The Left should take real initiatives to fight the fascist forces. Left can play a more effective role.”

He said the division on attending the rally would not affect unity among Left parties. CPI General Secretary S Sudhakar Reddy and Raja attended the Patna rally.

CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury defended the decision not to attend the Patna rally while attending rebel JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav’s meetings. “The ‘save composite culture’ movement has got nothing to do with electoral alliances or adjustments. Saving the composite culture is a larger issue,” Yechury said adding it cannot take part in any rally of the grand alliance with the Congress.

CPI sources said the Left should strive to build broadest possible alliance of parties to fight the BJP. “This does not mean electoral alliance. We need to have coordination on the ground. Otherwise we will lose the game,” a senior CPI leader said.

The CPI(M) has to assess the political situation and decide. They should understand the RSS-BJP are very aggressive. CPI(M) should see that and take a decision accordingly,” the leader said.

A senior CPI(M) leader also echoed these sentiments last week when he said party leadership should understand that it is not strong as it was earlier and it should be seen as relevant.

CPI(M) has a historic role to play. All parties of Left shade are looking at CPI(M) to play the leadership role. We are now held up on whether to work with Congress. What we are looking at is not electoral alliance but a unified fight against BJP,” he had told DH.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Aug 30)

AAP reverses electoral setbacks

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) returned to its winning streak in Delhi by retaining Bawana Assembly seat in a bypoll with a margin of 24,052 votes after suffering a series of electoral shocks in the past months.

BJP had a loss of face in the result as its gamble with AAP turncoat Ved Prakash, the sitting MLA who joined the saffron party and contested the bypoll, fell flat. Congress’ dreams of opening account in Delhi Assembly polls also did not fructify.

AAP’s Ram Chander polled 59,886 votes while Ved Prakash, who polled 1.09 lakh votes in the 2015 polls, managed only 35,834 votes. Congress candidate Surendra Kumar, a three-time MLA from Bawana who was fielded with the hope of regaining the seat, could muster only 31,919 votes.

The final results came after initial moments of anxiety in AAP camp as it trailed in third position till the first 12 of 28 rounds. Congress initially sprinted with the lead but AAP caught up before establishing an unassailable lead while BJP at one point seemed to be settling at third position.

The result puts a brake on BJP’s poll victories in the capital where it had won the Rajouri Garden bypoll by defeating Congress candidate and pushing AAP to third position. It had also won the elections to three municipal corporations in a convincing margin and it came after its crushing defeat in the 2015 Assembly polls where it could bag only three seats in a House of 70.

The Delhi BJP leadership would have to answer tough questions over the defeat as it would give AAP a fresh breather.

If the results left BJP with a gloomy face, the AAP’s thumping victory has come as huge relief for the party and its chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who faced rebellion in the party after the electoral reverses in Delhi as well as in the Assembly polls in Punjab and Goa earlier this year.

Soon after the civic polls loss, the AAP had plunged into a turmoil after senior leader Kumar Vishwas launched a rebellion over the ways the party was run. The leadership managed to cool his tempers but one of the MLAs Kapil Mishra, who was considered close to Vishwas, levelled allegations against Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and Health Minister Satyendar Jain.

Congress was pinning hopes on Kumar’s popularity in the area but it could not match up with the AAP.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald website on Aug 28, 2017)

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