QBullet: Uttarakhand HC Raps Centre, India-China Military Hotline
1. Uttarakhand High Court Pulls Up Centre: You Are Cutting at the Root of Democracy
The Uttarakhand High Court did not take kindly to the Centre’s decision to impose President’s rule in the state, a day before the scheduled floor test in the Assembly, according to a report in The Indian Express. The apex court went on to say that the “root of the matter is you (Central government) are cutting at the root of democracy” and that the Governor must be non-partisan and not an agent of the Central government.
The court also asked why the Centre was concerned about the disqualification of nine rebel MLAs.
What is passing through… our mind is that is it the look-out of the Central government as to what would have happened on 28 March (when the floor test was to be held) in view of the changed composition and in view of the nine disqualified rebel MLAs? Will it not be totally extraneous for the Central government, which is ruled by another political party, to be concerned by the changed composition?... The floor test was scheduled for 28 March... What was the hurry to impose President’s rule?Chief Justice KM Joseph and Justice VK Bist
2. India-China Military Hotline Likely
According to a report in The Hindu, India and China are close to a breakthrough in establishing a hotline between the two military headquarters. This is part of an effort to improve border management through a round of confidence building measures (CBM).
Sources confirmed to The Hindu that the Chinese side agreed to enhance CBMs to bolster border management, but were not particularly enthusiastic to clarify the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Parrikar said that India’s “in principle” agreement with the United States on the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) did not come up, though the Chinese side “indicated” its concerns on the issue.
3. Odd-Even: After Kejriwal’s Warning, Uber, Ola Suspend Surge Pricing in Delhi
Hours after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal cautioned taxi services against taking advantage of the odd-even plan, Uber and Ola announced the temporary suspension of surge pricing in the Delhi-NCR region.
Responding to criticism that Uber was charging up to five times the usual fare, Uber said it “regularly does surge pricing when demand outstrips supply”.
After an extended weekend, Delhi was back on the roads on Monday, and there was an increased demand for taxi services. The government is under pressure to ensure public transport for people struggling under the scheme.
4. Warrant Issued for Vijay Mallya’s Arrest in Money Laundering Case
A non-bailable warrant for the arrest of UB Group chairman Vijay Mallya was issued by a special court on Monday, as investigators and creditors struggle to get him to return to India. The warrant was issued in response to a petition filed by the Enforcement Directorate which alleged that Mallya had siphoned off Rs 430 crore from an IDBI Bank loan to purchase properties overseas.
ED, which investigates money-laundering cases and foreign exchange rule violations, will hand over the warrant to the ministry of external affairs, which in turn will send it to a local magistrate in the UK, said ED counsel Hiten Venegaonkar. It will take maximum 15 to 20 days to get Mallya back to India, he added.Report in the Mint
Mallya, whose grounded Kingfisher Airlines owes in excess of Rs 9,000 crore to a consortium of lenders led by State Bank of India (SBI), flew abroad on 2 March, most likely to the UK.
5. Huge Voter Turnout Worrying Trinamul Congress
Massive voter turnouts in the West Bengal Assembly polls are beginning to worry Trinamul Congress strategists. The perception that large turnouts generally do not bode well for the ruling party is making the TMC leadership jittery.
Adding to this is the uncomfortable arithmetic of the vote share percentage. The approximate vote shares of both Trinamul and the Left-Congress combination stand head to head at 40 percent. It remains to be seen which way the BJP’s 17 percent vote share will go. Though the BJP has slipped far behind, the party could open its account in Kharagpur and Asansol. In a bid to woo the considerable Tamil population in Kharagpur, a massive contingent of Tamil RSS functionaries were pressed into operation, sources said.Report in the Asian Age
Trinamul functionaries are however, confident of securing the minority vote, and are sure that the “Muslims won’t leave Didi”.
6. Maharashtra: No New Sugar Mills in Marathwada for 5 Years
The Maharashtra government is likely to enforce a five-year ban on sanctioning new sugar mills in the drought-hit Marathwada region, which is reeling under drought and a subsequent drinking water crisis.
A core committee, headed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis decided to ban new sugar mills in Marathwada, which comprises eight districts — Aurangabad, Jalna, Beed, Parbhani, Latur, Hingoli, Osmanabad and Nanded.
The government’s decision is in line with the recommendations of the Madhav Chitale committee, which was set up when the Congress-NCP government was in power. The panel had pointed out that sugarcane requires a large amount of water to cultivate. Of the 202 sugar mills in Maharashtra, 40 percent are in Marathwada region. Maharashtra accounts for 32 percent of the total sugar production in the country.Report in The Indian Express
In another decision to save water, the government has plans to make drip irrigation compulsory for all sugar mills across the state.
7. SC: Why Compel Deity to See Women?
In what must be one of the Supreme Court’s most regressive quips of late, the Supreme Court asked why women were ‘compelling’ the Sabarimala deity to grant them darshan when the deity “does not want to as per tradition.”
The question came up during a half-day hearing of a petition filed against the ban on women of a certain age from entering and worshipping in the famous Sabarimala temple in Kerala where a ‘celibate’ deity presides.
Senior advocate and amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran was arguing before a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra, V Gopala Gowda and Kurian Joseph that a ban on women worshipping a deity just because of their biology was detrimental to their dignity.Report in The Hindu
Ramachandran said it was a facile argument to say that only women of a certain age were banned entry. The ban affected women during their most active years and thus had the impact of discriminating against women as a class.
8. BJP Won’t Get a Single Seat in Kerala Polls: Oommen Chandy
Incumbent Chief Minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy, the face of the Congress in the state, is showcasing the development agenda of the Congress-led UDF to try and win a second term.
However, corruption allegations against several ministers, including Chandy himself, and a Third Front led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could effectively ruin their chances.
In an interview to the Mint, Chandy talks about the allegations during his tenure and his plan for the 16 May assembly election.
9. Something Rotten in Punjab
The Badal & Family Managing Agency in Punjab has done better than many of our industrialists in fraudulently extracting funds from our public sector undertaking (PSU) by borrowing for its food purchase scheme against non-existent stocks or by disposing off hypothecated stocks, writes Mohan Guruswamy in the Deccan Chronicle. It is learnt that about Rs 20,000 crore worth food stocks are not in stock — they were either never there or hypothecated stocks were disposed or both.
So who comes to its rescue? The friendly Central government is going to give it cash credit of 20,000 crore so that “food purchases” can go on as usual. It was only last week that the Supreme Court had to tersely order the Central government to immediately release budgeted Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme funds for famine relief work in acutely drought-hit regions like Marathwada, Maharashtra. Consequently Rs 12,000 crore was reluctantly released. Maharashtra has a Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, but unlike Punjab it doesn’t have elections soon.Mohan Guruswamy