QBullet: Assam, Bengal Vote En Masse, Ban on Crackers in Temples
Voters  wait in a queue to cast votes at a polling station during the state assembly elections in Kharagpur, West Bengal. (Photo: PTI)
Voters wait in a queue to cast votes at a polling station during the state assembly elections in Kharagpur, West Bengal. (Photo: PTI)

QBullet: Assam, Bengal Vote En Masse, Ban on Crackers in Temples

1. Impressive Voter Turnout in Assam and West Bengal Polls

Assam and West Bengal, two of the five states going to polls this year, recorded impressive voter turnouts of 82.21 percent and 79.51 percent respectively. However, all was not smooth-sailing and the polls were marked by sporadic clashes.

Voters stand  in queue to cast votes at a polling booth during the second phase of state assembly elections in Baska, Assam on Monday. (Photo: PTI)
Voters stand in queue to cast votes at a polling booth during the second phase of state assembly elections in Baska, Assam on Monday. (Photo: PTI)
In Assam, where balloting was held in 61 constituencies in the second and final phase, an 80-year-old voter died in a scuffle between CRPF personnel and the locals over forming a queue at a polling station in Sorbhog seat in Barpeta district, officials said. Three others, including a CRPF Assistant Commandant and a constable were also injured in the incident.
Report in The Economic Times

An FIR was registered against Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi for holding a press conference during the poll.

2. RSS-Affiliated Journals: ‘Heinous Attempts to Combine Ambedkar with Marx’

Just ahead of the 125th birth anniversary celebrations of Dr BR Ambedkar, RSS-affiliated journals Panchjanya and Organiser have dedicated their latest issue to the champion of Dalit rights, stressing on the “need to implement the spirit of reservation more vigorously,” reports The Indian Express.

The Organiser editorial noted that while reservation was based on “caste also”, Ambedkar’s “main goal was to avoid the feeling of alienation and separation on the basis of caste”. “There is a need to implement the spirit of reservation more vigorously and genuinely, beyond short-term political considerations, so that we can attain the social equality and fraternity expected by Babasaheb as early as possible.”

The party didn’t forgo an opportunity to attack the Congress, and the Organiser article said:

A more sinister attempt is being made by the people who were responsible for the partition of this motherland, to forge an alliance with some Ambedkarite groups.
Organiser

3. Kerala Judge Wants Firecracker Ban at Temples, HC to Discuss on Tuesday

A high court judge in Kerala suggested on Monday that the use of high-decibel firecrackers be banned in all temples in the state, according to a Hindustan Times report.

In a letter to the registrar general of the high court, Justice V Chitambaresh said: “The time is more than ripe for immediate judicial intervention to stop such man-made tragedies by banning the use of high-decibel explosive firecrackers.”
Competitive Fireworks are a part of annual celebration of Hindu New Year. This year they turned tragic. (Photo: ANI screengrab) 
Competitive Fireworks are a part of annual celebration of Hindu New Year. This year they turned tragic. (Photo: ANI screengrab) 

A bench that deals in temple-related cases will take up the letter for discussion on Tuesday afternoon, treating it as a public interest litigation.

The right to profess, practice and propagate the religion of one’s choice under Article 25 of the Constitution of India does not take in the freedom to use dangerous crackers. Only low decibel Chinese-type crackers can be permitted for display.
Justice V Chitambaresh

4. Worship by Women in Shani Temple Will Increase Rapes: Swaroopanan

The country’s influential elite has the ability to put their foot in their mouth constantly. So much so that statements like Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati’s statements are entirely unsurprising. He triggered fresh controversy by saying that allowing women to pray in the Shani temple would result in increased rapes.

Women entered Shani temple’s inner sanctum. The women are worshipping Shani in the temple. By doing so, Shani’s eyes would fall on women and this would result in increase of rape incidents.
Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati

In related news, the Sabarimala temple authority’s decision to continue to ban women between the ages of 10 and 50 from entering the temple has been met with displeasure from the Supreme Court, reports the Economic Times.

Also Read:
Women Enter Inner Sanctum of Shani Temple: Move That Was Long Due
QRant: Gatekeepers of the Divine, Shed Your Gender Biases

5. ‘We Feel Suffocated’: 1,000 Non-Kashmiri NIT Students Leave Campus

After days of tension between local and outstation students, more than 1,000 non-Kashmiri students have left the National Institute of Technology in Srinagar. The Hindustan Times reported that around 600 students left campus on Monday, and another 500 plan to leave on Tuesday.

Exams were scheduled for Monday but HRD minister Smriti Irani has assured students that they can take the tests after the holidays, possibly by the third week of April.

We feel suffocated here as we are not allowed to go outside or talk to media. We want to get out of campus and do not want to risk our lives to continue with studies.
Srikant Rajwar, third-year electronics student, NIT Srinagar

6. Who Waived Loans of Defaulters?

Between the financial years 2013 and 2015, 28 state-owned banks wrote off a total of Rs 1.14 lakh crore bad debts. Who approves such write-offs? The Indian Express filed RTI applications with 28 public sector banks, asking who it was that had the final say in writing off loans to the tune of Rs 100 crore or more as non-performing assets.

One of the most intriguing replies came from the State Bank of India (SBI), the largest bank in the country, which said that the approval is granted “as per the discretionary power of respective committee”. The SBI did not elaborate what it meant by “discretionary power”, whether the committees are permanent or are formed to deal with individual cases.

Read the full report here.

7. Queen is Boss, Our Role Model: Prince William

As part of their ongoing visit to India and Myanmar, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton attended a reception hosted to mark the birthday celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II, in which the Prince heaped lavish praise on his grandmother, according to an Asian Age report.

Prince William at a charity cricket match in Mumbai. (Photo: AP)
Prince William at a charity cricket match in Mumbai. (Photo: AP)
She has entrusted another generation of her family towards strengthening of ties between the United Kingdom and India which is the largest country in the Commonwealth. She might be the grandmother but she is the boss.
Prince William

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be hosting a lunch for the royal couple on Tuesday afternoon, after which they will leave for Assam to visit the Kaziranga National Park.

8. When Populism Trumps Public Safety

The Kollam temple fire raises several questions with regard to public safety management and the role of the district administration in ensuring safety during occasions such as major religious festivals, writes RK Raghavan in The Hindu. The chief issue is whether the Kollam administration — mainly the police — was incompetent or merely negligent because of external pressure.

A gargantuan Kumbh Mela that attracts several millions passes off without incident. But a Kollam festival that draws just a few thousands ends in a colossal mishap. How do you explain the contradiction? Is it that the Uttar Pradesh civil set-up is more sensitive and efficient than its Kerala counterpart? Or is it a case of government reluctance to be tough on the eve of Assembly elections?
RK Raghavan

9. Panama Papers: What Next?

Writing for the Mint, D Ravi Kanth offers an explanation as to what may happen next. An expert on tax havens will not agree to inject cash into secret Swiss bank accounts as easily as he had done before, given the Swiss banks’ decision to whittle away confidentiality-cum-secrecy practices.

In normal course the advisor’s task would have been easy. But, given the extraordinary changes in Swiss banks after the whittling away of confidentiality-cum-secrecy practices, the banking expert refused.The Paris-based OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), the club of rich countries, and the US have forced large-scale changes in the Alpine banks, including making them share information.
D Ravi Kanth

Also Read:
Can Indians Named in the Panama Leaks be Hung to Dry?

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