QBullet: NIT Row, Drought Issue in SC, IPL Link in Panama Papers

The top news and views from across all publications today.

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A women walks through Khomnal Village pond at Mangalwheda taluk, Solapur district in Maharashtra. (Photo Courtesy: Subrata Biswas/Greenpeace)

1. SC Reads Out Drought Act, Slams States for Not Releasing MNREGA Funds

The battle against the ongoing drought situation in 10 states and the resulting agrarian crises led to the apex court pulling up the Centre over unpaid wages under rural job scheme MNREGA, reports Hindustan Times.

It’s meaningless to have welfare schemes if affected persons do not receive assured benefits on time. Thousands of crores is announced from the PM Relief Fund but the money reaches after three years.
Justice MB Lokur

The bench added,

We are worried about the drought situation and want to help people. The temperature has reached 46 degrees. People don’t have potable water and in such a situation sending relief after six to eight months will be meaningless. 

The year has just begun, but farmer suicides in Maharashtra are already high. Around 89 farmers ended their lives in Maharashtra’s Marathwada region, in the month of January alone.

Read The Quint’s report on how a lethal combination of drought, El Nino and weak monsoons is likely to make this year worse for farmers in India.

Also Read: Bombay HC: IPL Should Be Moved out of Maharashtra Due to Drought

2. NIT Row: HRD Team in Srinagar; Smriti Irani Speaks to Mehbooba Mufti

With tensions gripping NIT Srinagar, a two-member team from the HRD ministry on Wednesday held consultations with officials of the engineering institute, even as outstation students put forth five demands, including action against staff involved in “anti-national” activities.

Smriti Irani also spoke with the newly sworn-in chief minister of the state, Mehbooba Mufti on the incident. She has assured that the two-member HRD team will remain in Srinagar until 11 April and that all students will be provided safety and security against any events that could take place.

3. Almost on Cue, an IPL Link in the Panama Papers

A mysterious offshore firm was part of a 10-member consortium that made an unsuccessful bid in 2010 for IPL’s Pune team, according to an Indian Express report in their ‘Panama Papers’ series. The consortium reportedly used the services of the Panama law firm at the centre of attention – Mossack Fonseca.

Mossack Fonseca, the firm named in the Panama paper leaks has denied association with most of the names mentioned in the papers.&nbsp;(Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
Mossack Fonseca, the firm named in the Panama paper leaks has denied association with most of the names mentioned in the papers. (Photo: The Quint)
…the largest stake of 33 percent in the consortium was held by the Chordia family who control the Pune-based realty major Panchshil Group through Atul Chordia (9 percent), his wife Varsha Chordia (9 percent) and the family-run Courtyard Properties Private Limited (15 percent). Film stars Karisma and Kareena Kapoor held 4.5 percent each and Kareena’s husband Saif Ali Khan Pataudi 9 percent. Mumbai resident Manoj S Jain had 9 percent. Venugopal Dhoot’s Videocon held 25 percent through Videocon Industries Ltd (24.5 percent) and Videocon International Electronics Ltd (0.5 percent).

Read the full report here.

4. India Takes up Issue of China’s Veto on Jaish Chief Maulana Masood Azhar

Stung by China’s veto against attempts to bring JeM Chief Maulana Masood Azhar under international pressure via the UN, India confirmed that it had taken up the issue with Beijing, reports Mint.

PM Modi and Chinese Premiere Xi in Chian last year (left), Masood Azhar. (Photo PIB/Reuters)
PM Modi and Chinese Premiere Xi in Chian last year (left), Masood Azhar. (Photo PIB/Reuters)
We have taken up (the Masood Azhar issue) with the Chinese. We have taken it up at a fairly high level and we will continue to pursue this with the Chinese. This is an issue to be pursued in a UN context. So I wouldn’t like to give the impression that somehow this is going to overflow into other areas. We have to wait and see where it goes.
S Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary

Fourteen of the 15 countries on the UN Security Council last week were willing to designate Azhar a terrorist, but China used its veto power to block the move justifying its action by saying it did not have all the facts.

5. Is India for Hindus Only, Bombay HC Asks BJP-led Nagpur Civic Body

Expressing anguish over the move to recite “Hanuman chalisa” at an AIDS awareness programme, the Bombay High Court has asked the BJP-ruled Nagpur Municipal Corporation if, according to it, “India is for Hindus only”.

The Nagpur bench of the court was hearing a PIL on Wednesday, when it made the following observation.

Why only recital of Hanuman Chalisa and why not from Quran, the Bible or other religious literature? What is the nexus of AIDS awareness and Hanuman Chalisa recital? Is it only Hindus who contract AIDS? Is chanting of Hanuman Chalisa the only remedy for eradication of this deadly disease?
Division bench of justices Bhushan Gavai and Swapna Joshi 

The judges also added that they were not against any religious programme, but only concerned with government agencies associating with it.

6. Apex Court to Resist Centre’s Heavy Hand

Months after quashing the contentious National Judicial Appointment Commission law, it seems like the Supreme Court is all set for another face-off with the government over the latter’s attempts towards bringing transparency in judges’ appointment.

Supreme Court of India. (Photo: Reuters)
Supreme Court of India. (Photo: Reuters)

Two Supreme Court judges have told The Telegraph “that the government’s latest suggestions are as damaging for judicial independence as the law set aside last October.”

The reports says that the following suggestions by Centre are likely to be rejected:

  • Allowing the Centre the right to reject any judge on the ground of national security (the government can now merely seek a reconsideration);
  • Giving the attorney-general and the state advocates-general a say in appointments and transfers of judges;
  • Elevating advocates directly to the top court, with three such judges in office at any given time (advocates now have to be appointed high court judges first);
  • Sharing with the government any dissent note filed within the collegium.

Read The Telegraph’s report here.

7. Opinion | Bigger Than Panama – Clean up Global Tax Havens but India’s Deeper Problems lie in Domestic Kala Dhan: Nalin Mehta

Even as India cleans up global tax havens servicing the high and mighty, it really needs an inward-focussed systemic change to deal with the structural problem of black money, writes Nalin Mehta in The Times of India.

In a country where a government-commissioned study in 2013 reportedly calculated the size of the black money economy to be as high as 70 percent of GDP, where average annual illegal black money outflows were estimated by Washington’s Global Financial Integrity to be as much as $51 billion (fourth-highest in the world after China, Russia and Mexico) and where Narendra Modi as PM candidate promised to put Rs 15 lakh in every Indian’s bank account from black money that was to be recovered from abroad, it is not surprising that the Mossack Fonseca files so far have not ignited the kind of heat in India that they have in other countries.

Im his column, Mehta tries to make sense of the over 500 Indian names on the ‘Mossack Fonseca - Panama Papers’ list suggesting “the big surprise is not who is there, but who is not. In a country teeming with so many corrupt politicians, there isn’t one major neta in the Mossack Fonseca list.”

8. Opinion | Baba Patriotism – Why Ramdev Would Do Well to Go Into Vanwaas: Swami Agnivesh

“What Ramdev has done is criminal. He is sowing seeds of horrendous violence in the minds of unsuspecting people within an ambience of faith. This is incitement of the most dangerous kind,” writes a “shocked” Swami Agnivesh in The Indian Express.

(Photo: PTI)
(Photo: PTI)

Warning the BJP that “Hinduism is in peril, he adds,

Ramdev has been in the business of converting spirituality into material profit. He has, as a result, lost the distinction between dhandha and dharma. Religion became, in the process, the means for indulging in covetousness. The mega bucks he earned became his entry into politics. If in the Ayodhya movement, politicians used babas and swamis, Ramdev is shrewd enough to use politicians to his advantage. It is a marriage of convenience for both parties. I also hold the BJP to account in this most lamentable turn of events. I want to tell them that Hinduism is truly in peril. The cocktail of politics, corporatisation and communalism concocted under the name of Hinduism today threatens its authenticity.

Read his take here.

9. Opinion | Making the Nuclear Point: Shyam Saran

The fourth nuclear security summit brought a timely focus on the link between nuclear and cyber security, writes former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran in The Indian Express.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a bilateral meeting at the Nuclear Security Summit,  in Washington.&nbsp;(Photo: PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a bilateral meeting at the Nuclear Security Summit, in Washington. (Photo: PTI)

Saran was also former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s advisor on nuclear issues.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced several contributions to nuclear security. India will participate in the informal international “contact group”, which fosters cooperation in countering nuclear smuggling. Its own Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP) will participate in the group on nuclear security training and support centres and centres of excellence. India has also announced that none of its research reactors will be using HEU henceforth. In the past, India had avoided joining such groups known as “gift baskets”, which brought together countries to cooperate on a voluntary basis on nuclear security issues. These announcements underscore India’s credentials to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group.  

Read his take here.

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