Differences in non-BJP camp family quarrel; enough time for Mamata to change mind: Margaret Alva

The Indian Express | 3 weeks ago | 23-07-2022 | 10:50 pm

Differences in non-BJP camp family quarrel; enough time for Mamata to change mind: Margaret Alva

The Opposition’s vice presidential candidate Margaret Alva Saturday described the prevailing situation in the non-BJP camp as a “family quarrel”, but asserted they are clear they don’t want a one-party rule and were working to “sink the differences” and unite for the 2024 challenge.The 80-year-old Alva, who faces an uphill task in the August 6 vice presidential poll, also said the Opposition was clear in its intention that the Constitution has to be defended and democratic institutions protected.In an interview to PTI, the former governor said, “The tragedy of today’s democratic system is that the mandate of people does not prevail and muscle and money power, and threats change the composition of the elected framework.” On frequent disruptions seen in Parliament, the multi-term parliamentarian said these interruptions were happening because the Chair was “unable to work out compromises” and consider the Opposition’s viewpoint.“How can a democracy function with the government slogan seemingly being ‘my way or no way’.” Alva has been fielded by the Opposition for the vice presidential poll contest against the ruling NDA’s Jagdeep Dhankhar, but the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress has announced it will abstain from the election. Alva admitted she was “aghast at the announcement” the TMC would abstain.“Mamata has been leading the entire movement to unite the opposition,” Alva said. “She has been my friend for many years and I believe that there is enough time for her to change her mind.” On Saturday, Alva met Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal to seek his support for her vice presidential bid.On dynastic politics, which has been frequently been deprecated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a threat to democracy, Alva said there is nothing wrong in children of politicians coming in. “But they have to win elections and the confidence of people and be accepted.” Alva, a former Congress general secretary, had questioned the denial of a party ticket to her son in the 2008 Karnataka elections when wards of leaders in other states had been accommodated.On her rival Dhankhar’s tenure as West Bengal governor, she said there is a ‘Lakshman Rekha’ a Raj Bhawan occupant needs to respect. “It is unethical and unconstitutional to function as a party representative when holding the constitutional office.”Downplaying the apparent cracks in the Opposition betrayed by the cross-voting in the presidential poll on July 18, Alva said, “Opposition parties are making efforts to sink their differences and work together before the general elections. I think they feel the need and the urgency of finding a common platform to face the challenge of 2024. There might be ups and downs, differences but the intention is clear, they are concerned and they want to make a point. The Constitution has to be defended and democratic institutions have to be protected. We do not want a one-party rule.” The veteran Congress leader, who has spent nearly 50 years in politics, said the differences in the Opposition bloc were “like a family quarrel” which would be resolved.“We will sit and sort it out,” she said, adding “She (Mamata) is very much part of us and her basic ideology is that of the Congress. I always consider her one of us. I believe we can sit and sort out any differences that have arisen. She has been fighting the BJP all along. There is no way she can help the BJP win.” The Congress veteran, who has served as governor of Goa, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand, also favoured consensus on the posts of president and vice president, saying the government should take the initiative and engage various parties and forge a common ground.On the status of democracy in the country, she said “it is not the mandate of the people that prevails” these days.“In various states, the mandate of the people is ignored and muscle power, money power and threats change the composition of the elected framework,” Alva said, citing the examples of Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh.She added, “Today, it is frightening when I look around. It’s a different world altogether. You cannot eat what you want, you cannot wear what you want, you cannot say what you want, you cannot even meet people what you want. What is this time?” She said parliamentary disruptions are unfortunate.“The point is why are there disruptions?” she asked. “It is because the Chair is unable to work out compromises and work out a way by which the point of view of the opposition and their demands for discussion and debate can be worked into the agenda of the house.” “You can’t just pass 22 bills in 12 minutes, without debate, without discussion, the opposition candidate said. “How can a democracy function like this? The government’s slogan seems to be either my way or no way. You don’t allow a discussion and you don’t want to hear a point of view which is different from yours. It is the people suffering outside — common people, the voter, the taxpayer.”Noting that she has been a governor and a lawyer — her vice presidential poll rival Dhankhar has also served as governor and lawyer — she said, “He (Dhankhar) has been fighting a woman in the state (West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee) and now he is fighting another woman in the election. Something in his stars…” Alva said Dhankhar is “being rewarded” for the hard political stance he took as West Bengal governor.“I have also been a governor and you are supposed to be non-partisan. You are supposed to help your government function. There is a Lakshman Rekha, which you have to keep in mind once you are in the Raj Bhawan. You can’t sit there and function as the representative of your party. I think it is unethical and unconstitutional.” Speaking about her own journey, Alva said Indira Gandhi was her political mentor.“Indira ji handpicked me for Parliament, but my in-laws helped me grow.” The numbers in the electoral college are heavily against Alva, but she said in democracy it was important to accept the challenge, notwithstanding the considerations of victory or loss. “Because the numbers are stacked against us, should we not fight the election?” “I think in a democratic system, win or loss, you have to accept the challenge and place your point of view before your MPs who are now the electoral college. We have a different point of view from the government and the need is for those who are on a common platform to accept the challenge,” Alva said.The veteran leader also pointed to her struggles saying she has come up the ladder of politics — from block level to being MP, minister and governor – all by the virtue of “hard work, commitment and clean politics”.“This is another chapter,” said Alva, who had returned to Bengaluru to settle, but returned when called upon by the Opposition to fight the August 6 election.

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Power, a reality check
The Indian Express | 25 minutes ago | 17-08-2022 | 05:50 am
The Indian Express
25 minutes ago | 17-08-2022 | 05:50 am

The Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme (RDSS), along with planned changes to the law, are the latest in a series of attempts by the central government to tackle the challenges of the power sector. Power sector reforms are overdue not just for their own sake but also because they are critical to rescuing state government finances.Excellent recent reports by the RBI and PRS Legislative Research provide lucid analyses of the fiscal situation of the states. Intended probably as a wake-up call, the RBI’s report reassured more than it alarmed. To be sure, a few states such as Punjab and Rajasthan had deficits and debt that exceeded the indicative targets set by the Fifteenth Finance Commission (FFC). But overall most states either met both or one of these targets.These reports highlight the challenges faced by states, owing to the dysfunctionality of the power sector discoms. But failing to fully integrate discom operations in the analysis of state government finances obscures the true picture. When this is done — as we do below — the reality is alarming.India has made impressive strides in increasing access to the quantity and quality of electricity and in expanding renewable capacity, for which the government deserves credit. But the financial health of the power sector is rapidly deteriorating and flirting with catastrophe.Figure 1 plots three measures of the estimated losses of the discoms in increasing order of “truth”: Headline losses, losses without subsidies and grants, and losses without subsidies and grants and including the arrears of the discoms.Our estimates suggest that for the fiscal year 2020-21, combined losses of the discoms are Rs 2.1 lakh crore without subsidies and grants which mount to Rs 3.0 lakh crore when arrears are included. These exceed by a factor of 2.7-3.8, respectively, the headline loss of 78,000 crore.But even these numbers might underestimate the problem. The loss numbers only exclude grants under the UDAY scheme even though there are several other grants. And the numbers only include discom arrears to the power generating companies (GENCOs) but not to others, resulting in overall payables of about Rs 2.4 lakh crore. The true arrears situation will therefore depend on the magnitude, certainty and timing of the discoms getting paid for their receivables, much of which is owed by government actors. The true loss estimate could therefore be greater.State governments could be staring at losses of 1.5 per cent of GDP just from this one sector. Moreover, as Figure 1 shows, apart from a brief period when headline losses were stabilised in the mid-2010s, true losses have been steadily increasing for over a decade.The truth is that the whole discom operation — with very few exceptions, notably in Gujarat and in a few urban metropolises — is a giant Ponzi scheme, both perpetrated and back-stopped by state governments.For over 50 years, costs have never really been covered by revenues, and losses in perpetuity have become a feature, not a bug. Few state government leaders, if any, have even pretended to achieve full cost recovery. The imitative populism that has gripped the states recently makes chronic under-recovery a reality going forward too.But this Ponzi scheme never sees — is never allowed to see — its disastrous denouement. Some government actor — typically state governments but also public sector banks or the central government — has always come to the rescue, averting a full-blown crisis. De facto, some public sector balance sheet back-stops the discoms and ultimately prevents the Ponzi fallout. Accepting this reality has one implication for accounting transparency. Public sector discom operations are traditionally thought to create contingent liabilities. Contingency seems a euphemism because with unfailing regularity they become actual liabilities. Put starkly, discom operations are state government operations.If that is true, and in the spirit of what the UDAY scheme attempted, discom losses (including arrears) operations must be included in state government finances both on the flow and stock side. Discom losses must be added to state government deficits, with logic and arithmetic consistency demanding that discom debt be included in state government debt (of course, this principle should apply to other “contingent” liabilities of state governments).For fiscal 2020-21, Figure 2 depicts state government finances to exclude (Panel A) and include (Panel B) discom losses (and arrears) for both flows and stocks. The contrast between the two is striking. Ignoring discom losses suggests that six states ran afoul of both fiscal targets set by the FFC and another six were consistent with both.When the accounting is done properly, 11 states run afoul of the fiscal targets set by the FFC. There is a general shift to the right (higher deficits) and upwards (higher debt). In FY21, “true” deficits, incorporating discom losses, increase state government deficits as a whole from 4.7 per cent to 5.5 per cent of state GSDP, putting state governments above fiscal responsibility limits. And their “true” aggregate debt increases from 31.0 per cent to 34.5 per cent. And there are some truly alarming cases: Not just Punjab and Rajasthan but also Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and to a lesser extent Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It is almost certainly the case that with true deficits and debts being greater, state governments’ fiscal sustainability will look much more precarious.Who then is financing or enabling this Ponzi scheme? Figure 3 provides the surprising answer. Increasingly, the power sector is being financed not by the PSBs but by the two non-bank financial companies, Power Finance Corporation (PFC) and Rural Electrification Corporation (REC), which have recently been merged. From 2014 onwards, PFC/REC have lent more to the power sector than PSBs. As of 2021-22, the latter have lent about Rs 6 lakh crore (stagnant since 2014), whereas PFC/REC have lent Rs 7.6 lakh crore, more than doubling within four years from 2017. Moreover, more than one-third of PFC/REC lending is to the discoms. In other words, the next vulnerability in the financial system related to the power sector is PFC/REC.In sum, the facts presented above illustrate three new realities: The financial problem of discoms is considerably worse than headline numbers indicate; consequently, state government finances are considerably more precarious than even the recent RBI analysis suggests; and the vulnerabilities stemming from the financing of unsustainable discom operations have extended to a new institution, namely PFC/REC.What are the consequences and possible solutions? We take these up in our next article.Anand and Sharma are consultants in the private sector. Subramanian is with Brown University and the Center for Global Development

Power, a reality check
A workforce less diverse
The Indian Express | 25 minutes ago | 17-08-2022 | 05:50 am
The Indian Express
25 minutes ago | 17-08-2022 | 05:50 am

This article analyses the underrepresentation of Muslims in the public and private sector, state-wise and over more than 10 years. We use the 66th and 68th rounds of the National Sample Survey, called ‘Employment and Unemployment,’ whose data was collected from July 2009 to June 2010 and July 2011 to June 2012. We also use the Periodic Labour Force Surveys (PLFS) of July 2018-June 2019 and July 2019-2020. In each case, the samples are very large — in 2009-10, 122,359 people, in 2011-12, 125,931, in 2018-19, 99,988 and in 2019-20, 100,991.These surveys examine the composition of the public and private sectors, religion-wise. For the private sector, the category “proprietors” refers to the fact that the persons enumerated are not part of the salaried milieu but “self-employed” (a formula we keep) because if few of them are CEOs, most of them do work that pays less — shopkeepers and artisans for instance.To make the interpretation more robust, some weightage has been applied. Weight is basically a survey design variable that says approximately how many households in the population a surveyed household represents. The weightage associated with one household defines the number of households it represents in the population.The first two series, the 2009-10 and 2011-12 surveys, have only one public sector variable, while the 2018-19 and 2019-20 surveys account for the bureaucracy and state-owned enterprises. For the sake of comparison between the first two rounds and the later ones, we have bracketed together “bureaucracy” and “state-owned enterprises” and compared these data with the “public sector” category.There are significant variations between the first two rounds and the last two, even if we see more variations in frequency counts graphs than in weighted graphs — this is because frequency counts represent sample population and weighted data represent total populations. But to minimise the variations, we have calculated average figures for the first two rounds on the one hand and for the second two rounds on the other. As a result, two datasets have been generated by combining four data sets.The results are telling. While Muslims form 14.2 per cent of the Indian population, their proportion of the public sector employment has stagnated at below 7 per cent (from 6.75 to 6.87 per cent) between 2009-12 and 2018-2020. In contrast, Hindus who constitute 80.2 per cent of India’s population comprise about 86 per cent of the public sector. On the other hand, Muslims are over-represented among the self-employed — 16.5 per cent in 2009-12 and 15.5 per cent in 2018-20 per cent, an erosion we see in most states.In India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, where Muslims represent 19.26 per cent of the population, their percentage in the public sector had gone up from 5 per cent in 2010 to 11.5 per cent in 2012, when the Samajwadi Party was in office. But it has dropped to 7 per cent in 2019 and 6.5 per cent in 2020. Muslims are over-represented among the self-employed, simply because they have no other choice but to be on their own. Between 2010 and 2020, their percentage among the “self-employed” remained around 24 per cent. This pattern repeats in Madhya Pradesh as well, where Muslims (6.6 per cent of the population) represented 3 per cent of the public sector’s employees in 2009-12 and 4.5 per cent in 2018-20. They represented 10.7 per cent of the self-employed in 2009-12 and 11.7 of this category in 2018-20.In Rajasthan, Muslims, about 9 per cent of the population as per the 2011 Census, constituted 4.1 to 4.3 per cent of the employees in the public sector. They were over-represented among the self-employed despite some erosion in the later years — 13 per cent in 2009-12 to 10.2 per cent in 2018-20. In Delhi, the trends are the same: Muslims, 12.9 per cent of the population, represented only 4 to 5 per cent of the government employees but 14.5 per cent of the self-employed in 2009-2012 and 13.41 per cent of this category in 2018-20. They are over-represented among the self-employed but experienced some erosion. In Maharashtra too, the percentage of Muslims in the public sector, 4.8 per cent in 2009-12 and 5.2 in 2018-20 was much below their share of the state’s population —11.5 per cent. They remained over-represented among the self-employed –16.9 per cent in 2009-12 and 16.4 per cent in 2018-20. Similar trends are found in Karnataka, where Muslims constitute about 12.9 per cent of the state but only 6.2 per cent of public sector employees in 2009/12 and 5.2 per cent of the public sector in 2009-12/2018-20. They were also over-represented among the self-employed, despite some erosion — 20.3 per cent in 2009-12 and 19.1 per cent in 2018-20.In some states, the erosion of the share of Muslims among the self-employed is even more pronounced. As a result, they are under-represented not only in the public sector but also among the self-employed. In Gujarat, where Muslims are 10 per cent of the society, their share in public sector employment has come down from 7 per cent to a minuscule 1.5 per cent. Amongst entrepreneurs, their share has dropped from 12.5 per cent in 2010 to 9 per cent in 2020.In Assam, where Muslims account for 34.2 per cent of the population as per the 2011 Census, they have always been significantly under-represented — 17.4 employees in the public sector and 19.32 per cent in 2018-20. They were around 30 per cent of the self-employed in the period under review.The declining representation of Muslims, not only in the public sector but also among the “self-employed” suggests that they are now increasingly overrepresented among the unemployed. The share of Muslims deemed as jobless in the NSS surveys under review jumped from 2.62 per cent in 2009-10 to 7.16 per cent in 2018-19.Jaffrelot is senior research fellow at CERI-Sciences Po/CNRS, Paris, professor of Indian Politics and Sociology at King’s India Institute, London, and non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Saini is a Data Analyst & Researcher on Indian politics

A workforce less diverse
Explained: The Bilkis case remissions
The Indian Express | 2 hours ago | 17-08-2022 | 03:50 am
The Indian Express
2 hours ago | 17-08-2022 | 03:50 am

The Gujarat government on Monday released 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano murder and gangrape case of 2002 under its remission and premature release policy after one of the convicts, Radheshyam Shah, moved the Supreme Court. Shah, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment by a CBI court in Mumbai in 2008, had completed 15 years and 4 months in jail.The law on remissionsUnder Articles 72 and 161 of the Constitution, the President and Governors have the power to pardon, and to suspend, remit, or commute a sentence passed by the courts. Also, since prisons is a state subject, state governments have powers under Section 432 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to remit sentences.However, Section 433A of the CrPC puts certain restrictions on these powers of remission: “Where a sentence of imprisonment for life is imposed on conviction of a person for an offence for which death is one of the punishments provided by law, or where a sentence of death imposed on a person has been commuted under Section 433 into one of imprisonment for life, such person shall not be released from prison unless he had served at least fourteen years of imprisonment.”Prisoners are often released on the birth and death anniversaries of prominent leaders and other important occasions. For example, to mark the 76th Independence Day, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs issued guidelines to states to grant special remission for prisoners who have completed at least half their sentence — women and transgender prisoners above the age of 50, male convicts above the age of 60, and terminally ill convicts, among others.Grounds for remissionStates set up a Sentence Review Board to exercise the powers under Section 432 of the CrPC. The Supreme Court has held that states cannot exercise the power of remission arbitrarily, and must follow due process. While the policy varies from state to state, broadly the grounds for remission considered by the Board are the same.Seriousness of the crime, the status of the co-accused and conduct in jail are the factors considered for granting remission. In Laxman Naskar v. Union of India (2000) the SC laid down five grounds on which remission is considered:(a) Whether the offence is an individual act of crime that does not affect the society;(b) Whether there is a chance of the crime being repeated in future;(c) Whether the convict has lost the potentiality to commit crime;(d) Whether any purpose is being served in keeping the convict in prison; and(e) Socio-economic conditions of the convict’s family.Jail manuals contain rules that allow certain days of remission in every month for good behaviour of convicts. For those serving fixed sentences, the remission days are accounted for while releasing the convict. However, convicts serving life sentences are entitled to seek remission only after serving a minimum of 14 years. This rule has often led to uncertainty on whether a “life sentence” means 14 years or a sentence unto death, prompting courts in recent times to clarify that “life means the remainder of one’s life”.Data from Prison Statistics, 2020 show that 61% of convicts in jail are serving life sentences.The Bilkis case convictBilkis case convict Radheshyam Shah moved the Supreme Court this year after he had completed 15 years and four months of his life term awarded in 2008 by a CBI court in Mumbai.In an order dated May 13, 2022, a Bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and Vikram Nath asked the Gujarat government to consider Shah’s application for premature release “within a period of two months”, as per the applicable remission policy.Gujarat was the “appropriate government” to decide on questions like remission or premature release because it was there that “the crime was committed and not the State where the trial stands transferred and concluded for exceptional reasons under the orders of this Court”, the SC said.The top court had transferred the trial to Maharashtra after Bilkis Bano faced death threats in Gujarat. Shah had gone in appeal against a July 17, 2019 order of the Gujarat High Court, which had ruled that Maharashtra would be the “appropriate government” to decide on his plea for remission. Before that, in August 2013, Bombay High Court had taken the opposite view in another convict’s plea for remission, and ruled that the case must be examined and decided as per the policy applicable in Gujarat.Gujarat’s remission policyThe remission policy that was notified in 1992 — and which was in force at the time of the crime and conviction — permitted prisoners to apply for remission “on the basis that life imprisonment is an arbitrary or notional figure of twenty years of imprisonment”.This policy was invalidated by the SC in November 2012. The court said: “Before actually exercising the power of remission under Section 432 of the CrPC the appropriate Government must obtain the opinion (with reasons) of the presiding judge of the convicting or confirming Court. Remission can, therefore, be given only on a case-by-case basis and not in a wholesale manner.”Following the SC order and instructions issued subsequently by the Union Home Ministry to all states and Union Territories, the Gujarat government formulated a fresh policy in 2014. This contained an annexure listing cases where remission could not be granted — among them were those in which the prisoners were convicted for a crime that was investigated by an agency under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (CBI, which was in the investigating agency in the Bilkis case), and prisoners convicted for murder with rape or gangrape.Applicability to Bilkis caseAdditional Chief Secretary (Home) Raj Kumar told The Indian Express that the 1992 policy, under which the convict (Shah) had sought remission, did not have the restrictions that were prescribed in the 2014 policy. He also said that the order of the CBI court passed in 2008 did not bar the convicts from applying for remission.“One of the convicts had moved the SC to seek remission as per the 1992 policy of the state government, which did not have the annexure excluding certain categories of convicts from applying for remission — rather than the 2014 resolution that is currently in place — as the order was delivered in 2008,” Raj Kumar said.Kumar also said: “…The process of remission is not the domain of the judiciary but of the executive, that is the government. Based on the eligibility, prisoners are granted remission after recommendation of the Jail Advisory Committee… The power has been given to the government under the CrPC Section 432 just like convicts on death row can apply for clemency before state Governors or President of India… Among the parameters considered in this case are age, nature of crime, behaviour in prison, and so on… The convicts in this particular case were also considered keeping in mind all the factors, since they had completed 14 years of the life term.”What happens nowAdvocate Shobha Gupta, who represented Bilkis Bano at the Supreme Court earlier, said that the legal remedy available to Bilkis now would be to challenge the government’s order allowing early release of the 11 convicts, either in the High Court or in the Supreme Court.Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inbox“It can be challenged like any other government order, seeking that the government order be quashed and set aside. However, it is up to her (Bilkis) on whether she wants to exercise this remedy,” Gupta told The Indian Express.The Supreme Court had ordered a compensation of Rs 50 lakh for Bilkis in 2019.(With ENS, New Delhi)

Explained: The Bilkis case remissions
Remission of life sentence to Bilkis Bano’s attackers is a travesty, a betrayal of PM’s promise
The Indian Express | 2 hours ago | 17-08-2022 | 03:50 am
The Indian Express
2 hours ago | 17-08-2022 | 03:50 am

In his Independence Day speech to the nation from the ramparts of Red Fort on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked: “Can we not pledge to get rid of everything in our behaviour, culture and everyday life that humiliates and demeans women?” On the same day, in a decision that violates the letter and spirit of the PM’s address that celebrated “naari shakti”, a Gujarat government panel approved a plea for remission for 11 convicts serving life sentences in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case. Besides rape, the 11 men had been convicted for the murder of Bilkis’s three-year-old child and 13 others, all Muslims, by a CBI special court in 2008. The remission in a case that lies at the heart of the continuing search for justice after the communal violence in Gujarat 2002 portends a disquieting backsliding. It is a grave setback for the tortuous legal battle to secure convictions in the horrific crimes of 2002 in the face of formidable obstacles and powerful odds.Bilkis and her extended family were attacked by a mob on March 3, 2002 while they were fleeing their village in Limkheda taluka of Dahod district. The Supreme Court intervened in the case after Bilkis approached the National Human Rights Commission. The trial was shifted out of Gujarat to Maharashtra on the SC’s direction after she received death threats. The ruling of the CBI court was upheld by the Bombay High Court in 2017 and in 2019, the SC awarded compensation of Rs 50 lakh to Bilkis. The court also indicted policemen who investigated the case. Since her attackers are from her own village, Bilkis continues to fear for her life and is unable to return home. Remission is a statutory provision; it is not unusual for prison boards to clear convicts who have spent a minimum of 14 years in jail. However, it is rare for the sentence of those convicted of heinous sexual crimes to be remitted. In this case, the concern that it could set a precedent cannot be ignored. It is disturbing and disappointing that the SC, which had stepped in to ensure that Bilkis and other victims and survivors of Gujarat 2002 received justice, allowed a remission plea by one of the convicts earlier this year in May, which led to the state government setting up the prison board that has now ordered the release of all 11 convicts.The Supreme Court needs to step in once again. To speak up once more for a woman who has stood her ground, braving all threats, in the courageous pursuit of justice. The court must direct that the remission be revoked. Two decades after the riots, as the convicts in the Bilkis Bano case walk free, activist Teesta Setalvad and police officer R B Sreekumar, who fought on the side of the petitioners, are in jail — the police took their cue from the court, its verdict became the basis for the FIRs. The apex court must ensure that the injustice to Bilkis Bano is reversed. It knows what is at stake.

Remission of life sentence to Bilkis Bano’s attackers is a travesty, a betrayal of PM’s promise
Free education to all children in Gujarat: Arvind Kejriwal
The Indian Express | 5 hours ago | 17-08-2022 | 12:50 am
The Indian Express
5 hours ago | 17-08-2022 | 12:50 am

Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convenor Arvind Kejriwal Tuesday promised “free and good education” to all children in Gujarat, which is scheduled to go to polls later this year.Addressing a townhall in Bhuj, the district headquarters of Kutch district, Kejriwal said, “We guarantee free and good education to every child born in Gujarat. We won’t resort to force though. If you have money, you are free to send your children to private schools. But if parents don’t have money, the lack of money will not be allowed to stand between good education and your children. We will give the best education to your children free of cost”.The AAP chief gave five guarantees to people of Gujarat which the party will implement if it wins the Assembly elections — free education to children, overhauling government schools, conducting audit of private schools and not allow them to increase fees unreasonably, regularise contract teachers, and not assigning non-teaching duties to teachers.Kejriwal, as his second guarantee,  promised that an AAP government “will transform existing government schools into ‘shandar’ schools which will be better than private schools in respect of buildings, classrooms, desks, blackboards, teachers etc and we will open a big number of new government schools.”“Thirdly, we will conduct an audit of all private schools and will ask all those who have collected excessive fees to return it to you. If any government wants to increase its fee, it will have to take approval from the government and no school will be allowed to increase the fee unreasonably,” he added.Stating that future of 17 crore students studying in government schools, including 53 lakh in Gujarat was bleak,  the AAP chief claimed that government schools were in shambles because “the BJP and Congress governments didn’t set schools right and instead made education kabada (a business).”He said that the practice of private schools asking parents to purchase uniforms and books from the respective schools will be done away with.“Fourthly, presently, there are lots of kacche (ad hoc) teachers like contractual and vidyasahayaks. We will regularise their service and will give them respect. They will teach our students well only if we respect them, honour them and give them job security of job.”As his fifth guarantee, he said teachers won’t be assigned non-teaching duties.“We will not give non-teaching duties to any government. We have stopped this in Delhi and then in Punjab also,” he said.He appealed Vidyasahayaks (those working as probationary teachers in government primary schools for first five years after being recruited by the Gujarat government) and policemen to campaign for the AAP and assured them to fulfil their demand of regularising their services and higher grade pay respectively if voted to power.“ All Vidyasahayaks do intense campaigning for Aam Aadmi Party. I guarantee to address all your issues once we form the government after three months… Policemen are demanding (higher) grade pay here. I supported their demand last month. After that, the Gujarat government woke up but it gave lollypop… Instead of giving grade pay, it increased their allowances marginally… Do accept allowances from these people, work for Aam Aadmi Party covertly, bring an Aam Aadmi Party government and we will give you grade pay,” he added.The AAP chief further alleged that the Gujarat government is not taking action against private schools that were “looting parents by arbitrarily raising fees in the netas (politicians) own more than half of the private schools.Kejriwal said, “I am told, in Gujarat, there is a committee to regulate school fees. But instead of regulating fees, all this committee does is to give its stamp of approval to fee hikes. The private school (managements) have virtually resorted to hooliganism and the government is not taking any action against private schools because it gets money from them. More than half of private schools are run by these netas.”Reiterating his signature ‘Hamne Dilli ke sarkari schools shandar kar diye’ (we turned government schools in Delhi into excellent schools) assertion, the Delhi CM cited 99.7 per cent result of government school students in board examination in Delhi and government school students managing to get admissions to IITs and medical colleges to underscore that it was possible overhaul government schools and make quality education accessible to children of the poor also.

Free education to all children in Gujarat: Arvind Kejriwal