Babri demolition an act of “absolute” deceit: Pranab

Demolition of Babri Masjid was an act of “absolute” deceit, and a “senseless, wanton destruction of a religious structure, purely to serve political ends”, President Pranab Mukherjee says.

He also found fault with then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi for opening of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple site in Ayodhya on February 1, 1986 and describes it as “perhaps another error of judgement” that people felt “could have been avoided”.

In ‘Turbulent Years: 1980-1996’, second volume of his autobiography, he writes, “the demolition of the Babri Masjid was an act of absolute perfidy, which should make all Indians hang their heads in shame. It was the senseless, wanton destruction of a religious structure, purely to serve political ends. It deeply wounded the sentiments of the Muslim community in India and abroad.”

Pranab

Mukherjee felt that it destroyed India’s image as a tolerant, pluralistic nation where all religions have coexisted in peace and harmony. He also recalls an interaction with a Foreign Minister of an “important Islamic country” pointing out to him “such damage had not been inflicted on a mosque even in Jerusalem, which has seen religious conflicts for centuries”.

The President’s remarks came at a time Sangh Parivar has raised the pitch for building Ram temple in Ayodhya. Six months ago, VHP had announced a nationwide drive to collect stones for the temple construction and first lot had reached the site last month.

Mukherjee believes that the inability to prevent the demolition of the Babri Masjid was “one of PV’s (then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao) biggest failures”.

He also recalls a meeting with Rao when he “did not mince words”, as he burst out, “was there no one who advised you (Rao) of the dangers? Did you not understand the global repercussions of any damage to the Babri Masjid?”

“PV looked at me as I said this, and in his characteristic style did not let any emotion cross his face…I could feel his sadness and disappointment,” he says.

“I have often wondered later if it was this outburst of mine which finally led to the call I received from him on January 17, 1993, inviting me to join the Cabinet,” Mukherjee, who was first appointed Planning Commission Deputy Chairman by Rao, writes.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 29, 2016)

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I didn’t aspire to be PM: Pranab

President Pranab Mukherjee did not aspire to become interim Prime Minister after Indira Gandhi’s assassination but such “false and spiteful” stories created misgivings in Rajiv Gandhi’s mind that soured their relationship, his autobiography says.

Mukherjee appears to hold a group around Rajiv, which include Arun Nehru and Arun Singh and Vijay Dhar among others, for forcing him out of Union Cabinet and later from Congress in 1986.

“Many stories have been circulated that I aspired to be the interim Prime Minister, that I had staked claim and had to be persuaded otherwise. And that this created misgivings in Rajiv Gandhi’s mind. These stories are completely false and spiteful,” Mukherjee writes in ‘The Turbulent Years: 1980-1996’.

What the President can now say about it was that Rajiv “made mistakes and so did I”. Rajiv “let others influence him and listened to their calumnies against me. I let my frustration overtake my patience,” he remembers.

Recalling the flight back to Delhi from Kolkata along with Rajiv Gandhi after hearing the news of Indira’s assassination, Mukherjee writes that Balram Jakhar, Ghani Khan Choudhury, Shyamlal Yadav, Uma Shankar Dikshit and Sheila Dikshit discussed the future course of action amongst themselves.

Mukherjee cited precedents that Gulzari Lal Nanda, the senior-most minister, became interim prime minister when Jawaharlal Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri died but pointed out that those were natural deaths.

However, he writes, “This was an extraordinary situation when an incumbent Prime Minister had been assassinated. Apart from a political void, a lot of uncertainties, too, had been created.” It was decided on the flight decided that Mukherjee should request Rajiv to take over as Prime Minister to “meet the challenge posed by this extraordinary” situation.

“I took Rajiv to the rear of the aircraft and requested him to take over as Prime Minister. His immediate question to me was, ‘Do you think I can manage?’ Yes, I told him, we are all there to help you. You will have everyone’s support,”

When they landed in Delhi, Cabinet Secretary Krishnaswamy Rao told Mukherjee that he would have to take over, as Nanda had done in the past, but he told the officer about their decision.

Mukherjee also objected to a demand by section including Arun Nehru that Rajiv should be sworn in by Vice President R Venkitaraman even before President Gyani Zail Singh reaches Delhi, fearing that he may put obstacles to their plan. He felt it was unconstitutional and would have sent a wrong political message.

Mukherjee says his newspaper interview on continuation of economic policies of Indira government under Rajiv was portrayed as “presumptuous and unmindful” while not accompanying him during campaign was seen as “ignoring” the Prime Minister.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 29, 2016)

Art 356 and Pranab

As the central rule in Arunachal Pradesh triggered a fresh debate on Article 356, President Pranab Mukherjee feels that procedural changes over the years have “somewhat reduced possibility” of misuse of the provision.

Delving on the issue in the second volume of his autobiography ‘Turbulent Years: 1980-1996’, he says there have been times when this provision has been severely criticised due to an alleged misuse of authority by the party in power at the centre.

“The softening of the powers to declare President’s rule notwithstanding, critics continued to suggest a unitary bias in our federal structure. As evidence, they point to the fact that even in subjects under the State List, the Governor may hold back his assent on a bill passed by the state legislature and reserve it for the assent of the President. A counter argument to this that it is the centre which has a nationwide vision and the capacity to consider the interest of the country as a whole. The debate will continue,” he says.

His remarks come as the President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh has come under the scanner of the Supreme Court which has sought the report of Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa recommending central rule in the state.

“The fact that in the first fifty years of our republic, till March 2001, President’s rule was proclaimed on 108 occasions in different states, seems to lend some weight to this charge. Though the imposition of President’s rule under Article 356 can be liable to misuse, procedural changes over the years have somewhat reduced that possibility,” he writes. Of the 50 years he referred to, Congress was in power for about 42 years.

He said earlier, President’s rule in a state could continue for three years, subject to parliamentary approval at six-month intervals. However, after the 44th Amendment to the Constitution, President’s rule can be imposed for only one year now, subject to the approval of both Houses of Parliament within two months of its proclamation.

Mukherjee also referred to the landmark judgement in 1994, in the S R Bommai case in which the Supreme Court pronounced that the state legislative assembly cannot be dissolved till the proclamation is approved by both Houses of Parliament.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 29, 2016)

France’s Chandigarh connection

When Francois Hollande flew into the ‘City Beautiful’ on a breezy Sunday afternoon (Jan 24) to the beats of bhangra, the French President was not visiting just an Indian town but celebrating a fellow countryman’s immense contribution to Chandigarh.

This is the only city outside France Le Corbusier, the Swiss-born French architect, designed though he had visualised several buildings across the world. Chandigarh is also on of the three cities, others being Puducherry and Nagpur, that has been selected by France for collaboration in developing it as a smart city.

Hollande was received warmly at the Chandigarh Air Force airport by Punjab and Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki, as bhangra dancers gave him a traditional welcome. The city was under a thick blanket of security.

If rock garden was designed by Nek Chand, both Capitol Complex and Governmt museum were designed by Le Corbusier.

He was driven around city’s landmarks like Rock Garden, Capitol Complex and  Government museum and art gallery before holding meetings with business honchos in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi welcomed Hollande at Rock Garden.

Hollande’s touching down at Chandigarh first before his arrival in Delhi, where he will be the Chief Guest for Republic Day parade, is part of Modi’s insistence on pitching states to foreign head of states.

“France has an umbilical chord with Chandigarh,” Modi said. Hollande described the city as a cradle of humanity.

Usually, the heads of states land in Delhi before they move to other cities. In a departure of protocols earlier, Xi Jinping had landed in Ahmedabad before reaching Delhi with the images of  Modi and the Chinese President tacking a stroll in Sabarmati Ashram splashed across media.

While Ahmedabad was chosen for its connection with China through Buddhism, Chandigarh has the Corbusier connection as well as France’s business plans, including a Memorandum of Understanding on developing the architect’s “well-planned” city as a smart city. Modi government has selected Chandigarh among 100 cities to be developed as smart cities.

After the less than six-hour long stay in the city, Hollande left for Delhi in the evening while Modi left in a separate plane.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Dec 25, 2016)

Dattatreya love for writing letters!!

His letter to HRD Minister Smriti Irani has kicked up a storm with the suicide of a Dalit student in his home state but this is not the first time Union Labour Minster Bandaru Dattatreya wrote to a ministerial colleague on Hyderabad.

Before his controversial letter to Irani, Dattatreya had written to Home Minister Rajnath Singh on April 7 last year seeking an “in-depth” investigation into the activities of terror outfits in Telangana in which he has depicted Hyderabad in not so flattering terms.

While University of Hyderabad had turned into a “den of anti-national politics” for the Secunderabad MP, the city itself had become a “place known for nurturing militant activities”.

In his letter to the Home Minister, Dattatreya said Telangana is “known to be the target” over the years for nationally and internationally banned outfits, which are known to create terror to gain national and international attention.

His letter came against the backdrop of the encounter killing of two suspected SIMI activists in Nalgonda district in April last year.

Dattatreya said, through the letter, he was bringing Singh’s notice that “Hyderabad had been a place known for nurturing militant activities by the banned militant outfits and has been the shelter zone of many sympathisers of such banned outfits”. Deccan Herald had reported about the letter in April last year.

The 68-year-old minister, who was loaned to BJP by the RSS, became a Minister in Narendra Modi’s government as the BJP representative from Telangana. Dattatreya was also a minister A B Vajpayee government.

In his now controversial letter to Irani in August last year on the issues involving University of Hyderabad, he had said, “Hyderabad University, a central university located in Hyderabad has, in the recent past, become a den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics”.

The letter also mentions activities of Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) of which Rohit Vemula, a student who committed suicide earlier this week, was a member. He had also referred to ASA’s protest against the execution of Yakub Memon in July last year.

This letter has landed Dattatreya in trouble with police registering a case of abetting suicide of Rohit.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 21, 2016)

Tobacoo Kills!!!

 

Statutory warnings on cigarette packets and liquor bottles may appear meaningless to those who smoke or drink but it appears to be a lethal mix for those down with ailments like tuberculosis or heart diseases.

A latest report ‘Prevalence of Smoking/Chewing, Alcohol and Vegetarian Among Various Causes of Death — 2010-13’ has shown that majority of those who died at age above 30 years due to tuberculosis, respiratory diseases, peptic ulcer and liver diseases among others used to smoke or chew tobacco.

The report is part of a study of 1.82 lakh deaths (in all age groups) occurred during 2010-13 across the country. Though the proportion of deaths under these heads is less compared to the figures of 2004-06, it still depicts the effect of smoking on the health of people.

According to the report that listed deaths related to nine causes, 66.9 per cent of men who died due to tuberculosis and 58.1 per cent who lost their lives due to respiratory diseases were smokers.

Around 45.7 per cent of men who died of stroke and 43.8 per cent who succumbed to heart diseases smoked. The figure for peptic ulcer related deaths was 58.7 per cent.

63.8 per cent of men who died due to liver diseases also smoked or chewed tobacco.

The rate of deaths of men who used to consume alcohol was also on the higher side though it did not touch the level of people who smoked. As per the report, 46.3 per cent of men who died due to tuberculosis and 42.6 per cent of those who lost their lives due to peptic ulcer consumed alcohol.

For liver diseases, it was 72.5 per cent while it was 23.4 per cent each for respiratory diseases and stroke.

Interestingly, the figures for women were comparatively less. In tuberculosis deaths, only 16.4 per cent women used to smoke while only 5.9 per cent consumed alcohol. Around 13.3 per cent deaths among women due to respiratory diseases were smokers.

The report also gave interesting insights on food habits. Among those dead due to tuberculosis, only around 23 per cent were vegetarians.

There were around 26.8 per cent vegetarians among men and 24.3 per cent among women who died due to respiratory diseases. In all the ailments cited in the report, the proportion of vegetarians never above 25 per cent except in one case.

MEN 

Cause of Death

Proportion of who smoked/chewed Proportion of who drank alcohol Proportion of who were vegetarian
 

Tuberculosis

 

66.9

 

46.3

 

22.9

 

Respiratory Disease

 

58.1

 

23.4

 

26.8

 

Stroke

 

45.7

 

23.4

 

16.0

 

Heart Disease

 

43.8

 

27.2

 

21.6

 

Liver Disease

 

63.8

 

72.5

 

16.3

 

Peptic Ulcer

 

58.7

 

42.6

 

17.5

 WOMEN

Cause of Death

Proportion of who smoked/chewed Proportion of who drank alcohol Proportion of who were vegetarian
 

Tuberculosis

 

16.4

 

5.9

 

22.4

 

Respiratory Disease

 

13.3

 

1.6

 

24.3

 

Stroke

 

10.3

 

2.4

 

18.1

 

Heart Disease

 

8.3

 

2.1

 

21.6

 

Liver Disease

 

13.6

 

13.3

 

17.4

 

Peptic Ulcer

 

18.1

 

5.3

 

16.0

 (An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 18, 2016)

Look, who all want to be Lokpal members

When it comes to fighting corruption at the highest level, it seems people do not want to leave the job just to the high and mighty.

A homemaker, workshop assistant, a debt recovery agent, BTech student and insurance agent were among around 425 applicants who felt that they are fit for a seat in the top anti-corruption body ‘Lokpal’.

They would be fighting against the likes of former Cabinet Secretary Ajith Seth, former Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar, and former Chief Information Commissioner Satyanand Misra for a space in Lokpal among others.

The names were made public by Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) following an order from the Central Information Commission (CIC) on a plea by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal.

As per the Lokpal Act, the ombudsman can have eight members other than Chairperson. Among the eight members, half of them should be judicial members.

Effectively, for four posts of non-judicial members, 380 people have applied. Though other details are not available, the list showed that homemaker Sumangali B George, workshop assistant K Jayapal and insurance agent Mata Prasad Mishra also found them fit for the job.

Similar applicants include BTech student Himanshu Prasad, farmer Kusumawati Bhimrao Jadhao and law student Keshav Nand Bharti.

According to Lokpal Act, a non-judicial member should be a person of “impeccable integrity and outstanding ability having special knowledge and expertise of not less than 25 years in the matters relating to anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance including insurance and banking, law and management”.

The applications came following an advertisement put out by government in January 2014. The applications will be considered only after a new search committee is constituted.

Sixteen people — three former Supreme Court judges, a former High Court Chief Justice, a UGC member and an Information Commissioner — applied for the post of Lokpal Chairperson, who was a Chief Justice of India or is or has been a Supreme Court judge or an eminent person.

While three former Supreme Court judges — Justices Gyan SudhaMisra, B S Chauhan and C K Prasad — were nominated by the apex court, others directly applied with recommendation letters from eminent people. Others include Retired Chief Justice of Jharkhand High Court M Karpaga Vinayagam and former Information Commissioner M M Ansari.

Another 23 had applied for the post of judicial members.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 15, 2016)

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