UP police now feel free to misuse power to settle scores with people: NHRC

In a stinging criticism of Yogi Adityanath government over ‘encounters, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Monday said policemen in Uttar Pradesh now feel free to misuse their power to “settle scores with people” following an “undeclared endorsement” from higher-ups.

The NHRC’s strong words came after it issued a notice to UP government and police following reports about a Sub Inspector opening fire at a 25-year-old gym instructor and telling his colleague that the “encounter” would earn him an out of turn promotion. The incident that took place on Saturday night rocked Rajya Sabha on Monday leading to washing out of the morning session.

With UP witnessing over 900 encounters in which 31 were killed after Adityanath government assumed power in March last year, the NHRC has asked the UP Chief Secretary and Director General of Police to look into the “emerging scenario, personally and to take appropriate action to sensitise the police personnel not to abuse their power to harass the innocent citizens”. Six weeks time have been given them to submit the report.


While Noida Police has denied receiving any message on the encounter in the gym instructor case, the NHRC said, “it seems that police personnel in Uttar Pradesh are feeling free, misusing their power in the light of an undeclared endorsement given by the higher ups.”

“They are using their privileges to settle scores with the people. The police force is to protect the people, these kind of incidents would send a wrong message to the society. Creating an atmosphere of fear is not the correct way to deal with the crime. In this particular case, the injured man is not an offender. He was travelling with his friends when the rowdy act done by the delinquent SI has gravely violated his right to life and liberty,” it said.

It said this indicate that the policeman acted in “unruly manner having no fear or respect for the law” and this is one of the incidents in sequence of several police encounters occurred in the state.

This is not the first time the NHRC has raised questions about encounters in the state. Quoting Adityanath’s remarks that “criminals will be jailed or killed in encounters”, the NHRC had on 22 November, 2017 said even if the law and order situation is grave, the state cannot resort to such mechanism, which may result in the extra judicial killings of the alleged criminals.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Feb 6, 2018)


Rs 218.32 crore for roads on China border

Gearing up to the challenge posed by the communist neighbour, India is stepping up its infrastructure along the border with China with the latest Union Budget allocating Rs 218.32 crore for constructing around 200 km road network on the Himalayan terrain.

Officials said roads measuring 197.40 km will be built in two phases with the first phase covering 97.40 km and it would enhance the operational capability of the border guarding force, here the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), in reaching out to areas fast and take on transgressing Chinese troops.

The emphasis on infrastructure building on the Sino-India border comes as Beijing has stepped up its infrastructure activities on its side of border and after a stand-off in Doklam Plateau in western Bhutan.


In October last year, a conference of the military commanders in New Delhi has decided that the roads linking the four mountain passes – Niti, Lipulekh, Thang La 1 and Tsang Chok La – along the Line of Actual Control would be built on priority by 2020.

On the Indo-Pakistan border, Rs 119.22 crore has been allocated for fencing of 24 km while another Rs 75 crore has been allocated for constructing 659 km of roads. Floodlighting of 224 km would get Rs 25 crore, according to the Output-Outcome Framework for Schemes 2018-19.

For the Indo-Bangladesh border, Rd 269.23 crore has been allocated for 53.65 km long fencing, Rs 33.65 crore for 57.08 km long road, and Rs 67.31 crore for floodlighting of 87.71 km.


India-China: Road projects — 197.40 km — Rs 218.32 crore

Indo-Bangladesh border

Road projects — 57.08 km — Rs 33.65 crore

Barbed wire fencing — 53.65 km — Rs269.23 crore

Floodlighting — 87.71 km — Rs 67.31 crore

India-Pak border

Road projects — 659 km — Rs 75 crore

Fencing — 24 km — Rs 119.22 crore

Floodlighting — 224 km — Rs 25 crore

High tech surveillance equipment — Rs 50 crore

Border Out Posts on Indo-Pak, Indo-Bangladesh borders — 26 — Rs 235.58 crore


The border infrastructure development on India’s other borders are also getting enough attention. Road projects measuring 378.11 km along India-Nepal border has been allotted Rs 100 crore while another Rs 67 lakh has been earmarked for such projects on Indo-Bhutan border.

Two pilot projects of a high-tech surveillance unit would be deployed in Gujarat and Punjab at a cost of Rs 25 crore each. Officials said this could be spread to other areas depending on its success.

Twenty-six Border Out Posts will also come up on Indo-Pak and Indo-Bangladesh borders at a cost of Rs 235.58 crore.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Feb 4, 2018)

Pix courtesy: India Today (representational pix)

Amit Shah to debut in RS with debate on Prez motion

All eyes will be on BJP president Amit Shah on Monday afternoon when he makes his maiden speech in Rajya Sabha by moving the motion of thanks on the President’s Address with a likely focus on Triple Talaq Bill and simultaneous polls.

Shah, who was elected as a Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat in August last year, was to make his first speech on January 4 this year, the last working day for government business in the Winter Session, while the House considers the Goods and Service Tax (Compensation to States) Amendment Bill.

However, the plans got aborted as the GST bill could not be taken up due to opposition protests over Triple Talaq Bill and their insistence that it be sent to a Select Committee for further consideration. Shah had made elaborate preparations for speaking on the GST to clear BJP’s stand on several issues related to the taxation law.


With Shah, who started his Parliamentary innings after being an MLA and Minister in Gujarat for long, choosing to open the debate on the President’s Address, the Rajya Sabha is likely to witness fireworks from both the sides. Last year, Law Minister Ravishankar Prasad had moved the motion of thanks in the Upper House.

Shah would try to put the Opposition on the mat over the triple talaq bill over their objections to the bill while vociferously pitching for Modi’s pet project of simultaneous polls. His speech will also be keenly watched for its political positioning amid perception that middle-class is unhappy with the budget.

It is also to be seen whether the Opposition would press for voting on any amendments they would move. While a CPI(M) leader suggested moving amendments in a recent meeting of Opposition leaders called by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, many of them have not been keen on doing so.

Twelve hours have been allocated for the debate on two days and Rajya Sabha has agreed to sit till 8 PM on Monday and Tuesday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to reply to the debate on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning. The budget discussion starts on February 7 afternoon.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Feb 4, 2018)

Cow bill in RS sees passionate debate, sarcasm

Snap ties with countries that slaughter cows. Declare cow as national animal. Go in for a study whether there is any difference in milk and urine of cows and other animals.

From subtle sarcasm to efforts to delink religion from cow protection, the discussion on the private members bill moved by BJP MP Subramanian Swamy seeking imposition of death penalty on cow slaughterers in Rajya Sabha on Friday saw passionate speeches from all hues of political spectrum.

However, Swamy withdrew it at the end of the debate on an assurance from Agriculture Minister Radhamohan Singh that the government is taking steps for protection and promotion of cows.


While BJP MPs stuck to the economic benefits of cow and their support for ‘The Cow Protection Bill, 2017’, the opposition MPs constantly referred to cow vigilante groups, lynching and efforts to polarise communities.

Swamy said,”it is the British who made this cow-cutting as a part of our regular fashionable cuisine and that is how it became prevalent in our country. I would say why I am particularly keen is not the religious angle alone, that is part of it, but the fact is now modern science has shown that cow has multiple uses.”

Detailing why he wanted death penalty for cow slaughter, he said cow meat has such high export values and there is a need to have an “extraordinarily harsh, deterrent and pungent punishment”.

In a counter to Swamy, Samajwadi Party MP Javed Ali Khan said it should be declared a national animal and it should be ensured that the animal is not “misused” for realising any political aspirations.

“When the previous American (president Barack Obama) came, our Prime Minister was in an embrace for minutes. Same happened when the new American (president Donald Trump) came. When the Israeli (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) came, he was not ready to leave the hands. Issue them a warning…If you eat cow meat or indulge in meat business, you are our enemy and snap ties with those countries,” Khan said in a speech laced with sarcasm.

His speech invited immediate objections from Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, who said that such an important issue was being “made fun of”.

BJP Meghraj Jain said the issue was not related to religion but economic and called for a government-sponsored study to establish whether cow milk and urine have any special attributes compared to other animals. CPI’s D Raja said cow is now being used as a weapon of hate and of killing citizens and warned that the bill would encourage mob lynching.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Feb 3, 2018)

Pix courtesy: Youtube

Govt owns Rs 13.42 lakh crore assets

Government owns assets worth at least Rs 13.42 lakh crore in the form of land, buildings, machinery and vehicles among others, an increase of around 2.80 lakh crore in a year.

The value of assets owned by government would be much more as the budget documents have recorded only assets above the threshold value of of Rs two lakh only at the end of 2016-17. Also, it does not account for assets owned by Cabinet Secretariats, paramilitary forces, Ministry of Defence and Department of Space and Atomic Energy, the budget documents said.

The value of growth in 2016-17 is much more than what was reported in 2015-16 when the increase was only Rs 1.15 lakh crore.


The physical assets like land, building, roads and bridges are valued at Rs 4.76 lakh crore, up from Rs 2.94 lakh crore, while financial assets like shares and loans to states and foreign countries is around Rs 8.65 lakh crore, an increase from Rs 7.59 lakh crore.

The government’s biggest asset is land valued at Rs 3.52 lakh crore, which is more than double the figure in 2015-16 when it was recorded Rs 1.69 lakh crore. In 2016-17, the government had acquired land assets valued at Rs 7,248.37 crore.

Office buildings recorded a decline in value in 2016-17 at Rs 32215.27 crore from Rs 33,025 crore in the previous year. Residential buildings saw a rise in value from Rs 17,252.35 crore to Rs 17982.91 crore.

Bridges across the country owned by the central government are valued at 12258.29 crore, with new bridges valued at Rs 24.48 crore coming up in the last fiscal. Vehicles were valued at Rs 1996.58 crore, down from Rs 2,124.96 crore.

The value of shares owned by the government is Rs 2.21 lakh crore, up from Rs 1.88 lakh crore. It has also given loans to the tune of Rs 13501.10 crore to foreign countries. Among its assets is also investment of Rs 3.01 lakh crore, up from Rs 2.67 lakh crore lakh crore, in the Railways.

Feb 1, 2018

(Pix courtesy: Rediff)

Govt extends fixed-term jobs to all sectors, trade unions unhappy

Government on Thursday announced extending fixed-term contract jobs to all sectors in the union budget only to attract strong criticism from Sangh-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, which said permanent jobs are going to be extinct soon.

The BMS announced a nationwide protest on Friday against the “total neglect” of labourers as “none of our demands were met” by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

Emphasising that creating job opportunities and facilitating generation of employment has been at the core of policy-making, Jaitley said, “the facility of fixed term employment will be extended to all sectors.” So far, fixed term employment was allowed in apparel and footwear sectors and the Ministry of Labour on January 8 issued a draft regulation seeking opinion from stakeholders on the issue.

The government feels that this would help in employment generation and help in Ease of Doing business as it would enable companies hire workers for short-term assignments and terminate their services when projects are completed.

What’s in budget?

** Extending fixed-term employment to all sectors

** More take-home salary for women in first 3 years as their PF contribution reduced

** a model aspirational skill centre in every district of the country under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendra Programme.

** Govt to contribute 12% of wages of new employees in PF for all sectors for next 3 years

BMS objections on labour “unfriendly” budget

** No relief for anganwadi, ASHA workers

** Fixed-term employment to devour permanent jobs

** No provision for sick PSU revival

In other news on labour front, Jaitley said the government will contribute 12% of the wages of the new employees in the EPF for all the sectors for next three years.

Jaitley said they also want to bring more women into formal sector and enable them have higher take-home wages. For this, government will amend Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 to reduce women employees’ contribution to 8% for first three years of their employment against existing rate of 12% or 10% with no change in employers’ contribution.

However, the BMS found these proposals anti-labourer. Its National President Saji Naryanan told DH, “we have objections to this kind of new contract system. Slowly, this will lead to disappearance of permanent jobs. There is no protection for labourers in this. Government has announced it without consultation with stakeholders. A consultation process is already on and it should have waited for it to conclude.”

He also found fault with proposal on 8% contribution by women employees in the first three years, saying it would adversely affect their savings. The government should have ideally subsidised that.

The BMS is also apprehensive of the merger of insurance companies saying that would lead to more job loss and their dislocation.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Feb 2, 2018)

No Triple Talaq Bill in first leg of Budget Session

The controversial Triple Talaq Bill is unlikely to come up before Rajya Sabha during the first leg of Budget session due to “paucity of time” for government business in the Upper House.

Opposition leaders feel that there is no window for any discussion on the contentious Bill as the four working days — from Monday to Thursday — next week would witness debate on Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address and a general discussion on Budget.

The last day of the session on February 9 being Friday, the House is likely to adjourn in the morning session. Also, usually Fridays are dedicated to Private Member’s business. The House will reconvene on March 5.

Though government has insisted on starting the debate on President’s address on Friday itself after Private Member’s Bill, the opposition has opposed it and it is likely to be taken up on Monday only. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will reply to the debate in the Upper House on Tuesday. The general discussion on budget is likely to start on Wednesday and continue till Thursday.

Describing the Triple Talaq bill as historic, Modi has appealed to all parties to help the government pass the legislation. Lok Sabha has passed the bill in the Winter Session but it got stuck in Rajya Sabha where opposition parties insist on sending it to a Select Committee to “correct” anomalies in the proposed law.

Opposition leaders said the government may try to sneak in Bills, including the one on criminalising triple talaq, but they would oppose any such move as such legislations should not be passed in a hurry. “There is no time for triple talaq bill. There is the debate on Motion of Thanks. Then there is general discussion on budget,” a senior Opposition leader said.

Sources said opposition leaders made it clear at a meeting of Rajya Sabha’s Business Advisory Committee (BAC) last Monday that they felt the government approach towards the session was faulted. However, they have agreed to sit for extra hours, if needed, to clear the President’s speech and debate on budget.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Feb 1, 2018)

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