Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Bridges less trodden

It was not long ago that I drove down the much awaited sea-link in Mumbai. It was Saturday and one of the first 5 toll free days. I drove with my friends with Michael Jackson rocking the stereo and a munching a hot makka under the rained Mumbai. The link was packed and the traffic was jammed for kilometres before the link began. The rich and the poor had come to get the first glimpse of the much talked about link. Some for the first-time feel, some for the free ride. We drove silently, watching the sea, our beloved city, people in the adjacent cars, with Michael Jackson creating a mood. I saw the beautiful design the cables made as we drove below them, I saw the waves crashing on the pillars – standing tall defying the current of the sea, and the sense of celebration on the whole. I was filled with awe and admiration. Above the cables I saw the heavens pouring.

Mumbai had a new skyline and for the first time I saw how it looked with the buildings tall and short rising at the shore. I had heard a lot of criticism about the link – it has taken so long, they have used cheap material, it is not cleverly planned, there will be lots of accidents, cars will fly into the sea, etc. But I was strong in my conviction that this is indeed the conquest of man over nature and it is first of its kind in India. In a city where thousands throng in search of opportunities, the city was making space for all. With the sea-link, the time to travel between two distant ends of Mumbai was 10 mins against the 45-minutes it took earlier. And many traffic-ridden souls will reach their destinations with a little less time spent amidst exhaust fumes. I was filled with pride for our government and the strides it was planning to take. Never mind they never kept the promised date, but at least now I was driving on the sea-link which I was dreaming to do long ago. Never mind that only half of it is ready, while the other half stands abandoned on the side, like an overwhelming task ahead. Never mind the politics that followed, and the crores that will surely have gone into various pockets due to which it is still incomplete. Never mind all this, at least I have my sea-link now and I can travel faster.

Days later, my pride-for-government-bubble burst. I read in the papers that the metro bridge in Delhi collapsed, and the bridge of a Mumbai metro line caved in. There are various reasons being told – it was the rains, it was the construction, it was this or it was that. As usual the blame game began.

As a citizen I feel completely deceived. Perhaps someone will think twice before going on these nature-defying conquests of mankind. Simply because our nation is not ready to conquest nature. When our transport minister is still planning to connect various cities and towns, perhaps such awe-inspiring triumphs are perhaps too ambitious.

There is some noise over this. We will read the newspapers, perhaps march outside the ministry, the ministry will promise an inquiry perhaps, and the next day we will continue to take the path (bridge) less trodden. Until one day when some of us will dive into the space between heaven and earth and disappear into oblivion.

But we will live on. As we always have.


19th Oct 2008
DMRC opens after bridge collapses

31 March 2009
DMRC: a woman narrowly escapes as crane hits her car

14th July 2009
Second Delhi Metro mishap: crane topples

22nd July 2009
Lack of trained staff leaves one more dead

27th July 2009
Delhi Metro: Cracks develop on three metro corridors

Thursday, July 9, 2009

IDL/ Liberty News
Law to Legitimacy: Shifting perception of property

For democracy to endure, majorities cannot be allowed to degenerate into mob rule and suppress dissent. The basic feature of democratic functioning is to protect the right of the minority to engage in the debate. The gay community, just like any other minority, need to move away from their sense of collective right as gays, and not flaunt their sense of victimhood. Framing the issue as one of collective rights invariably leads to pitting one collective against the other, and in such conflict it is not easy to overturn the collective that claims to represent the majority, writes Barun Mitra of the Liberty Institute.

You may read the complete article here.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Decriminalising homosexuality: Recognition of dissent and diversity

Political front has surprised everyone with their reactions to the HC’s ruling of section 377. While laws need to stem from moral values, moral values do not necessarily become laws, writes Barun Mitra of the Liberty Institute.

The Delhi High Court’s ruling decriminalising section 377 has not only sanctioned strange bedfellows to come out in to the open, but also has brought together people who are hardly expected to share a political bed at all.

The communists, hardly the epitome of tolerance, seem to be the only one among the political class, along with many commentators in the media, to have welcomed this verdict.

On the other hand, following the judgement many leaders of different religions – Christians, Hindus, Muslims - find themselves united in expressing their disapproval. Among many others who normally prefer to wear their secular credentials on their sleeves, some seem to have suddenly discovered their affinity to tradition and culture and come out strongly against this judgment; others have discovered that ambiguity and silence is the better part of valour. They share the bed, but are not sure how to proceed, without assessing the social and political calculus of tilting one way or the other.

Amid such an anti-climax, it is clearly not easy to keep one’s head in place; yet, one must try to distinguish between the ethical values and legal implications of this judgment. While laws need to stem from moral values, moral values do not necessarily become laws. One way to look at this is that while the law provides the floor, the basic framework for individual behaviour in a society, moral values represent the high ceiling, which one should aspire to, but which is well beyond the legal norm.

In that context, the Delhi High Court's ruling to decriminalise homosexual behaviour among consenting adults is a very welcome and long awaited step forward.

However, that does not necessarily make me endorse that behaviour. Just as I will endorse the right of smokers, drinkers, drug users or prostitutes to exercise the freedom of their choices, at the same time I would not endorse many of those behaviours. While we as human beings have the right to be free to make those choices, these are what make us humans; yet, some of those choices that are not seen to be conducive to supporting life itself, should not be endorsed. One should have the right to end one’s life if one so decides, and others need to recognise that decision, but that is not the same thing as to say that one has to then endorse suicides.

As Voltaire is famously (but there is doubt about its historical authenticity!) supposed to have said, "I may not agree with what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it."


Read the full article here.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

What our MPs intends to do this Budget session

This Budget session of the parliament has an ambitious list of legislative business. Several important Bills which had lapsed due to the dissolution of Lok Sabha are being re-introduced. PRS Legislative Research has analysed many of the Bills that are expected to come up for consideration this session. Read below.

The Budget session of Parliament started earlier today. This session has an ambitious list of legislative business.

Here are some important Bills listed for consideration and passing in this session:
The Foreign Contribution Regulation Bill, 2006
The Right to Education Bill, 2008
The Communal Violence Bill, 2005
The Women’s Reservation Bill
The Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, 2005

Several important Bills which had lapsed due to the dissolution of Lok Sabha are being re-introduced: The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, 2009, The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2009, The Rehabilitation and Re-settlement Bill, 2009, The Micro Financial Sector (Development and Regulation) Bill, 2009, etc.

You can get full list of the proposed legislative business posted on the PRS site from here. You can also download the full pdf list.

PRS has analysed many of the Bills that are expected to come up for consideration this session. Our website www.prsindia.org contains of these documents, in addition to the copy of the Bill, committee reports, and other relevant documents.

Also, PRS has started a twitter page to help people track important legislative and other developments in Parliament. The page is www.twitter.com/prslegislative. If you would like to track the goings on in Parliament, do follow us on twitter.

CV Madhukar
PRS Legislative Research
New Delhi
Tel: 011-2410 6720 (direct)
Email: madhukar@prsindia.org

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

MP: Kamal Nath's election challenged in Chhindwara

A petition filed against Union Minister for suppressing election expenses reports Samay.

A petition has been filed in the Madhya Pradesh High Court challenging the election of Union Minister for Surface Transport Kamal Nath from Chhindwara Lok Sabha constituency for allegedly suppressing actual expenditures incurred on helicopter rides during campaign.

The petition filed by former Madhya Pradesh minister Choudhry Chandrabhan Singh alleged Nath has shown just Rs 14.99 lakh as election expenses in his return and that also included expenses incurred on helicopter rides to just Rs 3.95 lakh.
The petitioner alleged that as per the Election Commission guidelines, a one-hour helicopter ride should cost a minimum of around Rs 75,000 while the expenses shown by Nath on helicopter ride amounts to not more than a single day as per the guidelines.The petition charged that Nath is a director in the company from which the helicopter was shown to be hired.

A separate election petition was also filed against Congress MP from Dhar reserve seat Gajendra Singh Rajukhedi by the defeated BJP candidate Mukam Singh Kirade.

Read the full story here.

AP: After the slap, MP and bank manager faces criminal charges

A day after Nagarkurnool MP slapped a bank manager, criminal cases were booked against the minister for assaulting and intimidating a public servant, reports Express New Service.

A day after Nagarkurnool MP Manda Jagannadham slapped a bank manager, criminal cases were booked against him for assaulting and intimidating a public servant and bank employees’ unions are gearing up to launch an agitation.


Ravinder Reddy lodged a complaint with the Uppunuthala police on Tuesday. ‘‘Cases under Sections 353 (assault on a public servant), 323 (causing hurt) and 504 (intimidation) were registered against the MP and investigation is on,’’ Nagarkurnool Deputy Superintendent of Police Satyanarayana said. In an obvious retaliation, a case under SC/CT Atrocities (Prevention) Act was registered against Ravinder Reddy following a complaint by two ‘‘villagers’’ Vijay and Bakkaiah that the manager had abused them when they went to seek a loan.

AP Regional Rural Banks Empoloyees’ Association said it would take up the issue with the Chief Minister, Prime Minister and Lok Sabha Speaker and seek their intervention.

As a mark of protest, the staff in all the rural bank branches sported black badges and staged demonstrations in front of the district offices. ‘‘We will intesnify our agitation and boycott government schemes,’’ general secretary of the assocaition S Venkateswar Reddy said.

Read the full story here.

Andhra Pradesh: Congress MP slap bank manager

Congress MP from Nagarkurnool in Andhra Pradesh M Jagannath slaps a bank manager for not cooperating, reports Times of India.

Congress MP from Nagarkurnool in Andhra Pradesh M Jagannath on Tuesday found himself in a spot after he allegedly slapped a bank manager in Mahabubnagar district, following which the bank union threatened to step up its protests.

Jagannath allegedly slapped Ravinder Reddy, manager of a local branch of Andhra Pradesh Grameen Vikas Bank, for not releasing the loan amount to SC/ST beneficiaries for the last six months at Uppununtala in the district, official sources said.

The MP alleged that the manager gave an improper reply when he called him up during a meeting of the mandal officials and public representatives to find out the reasons for not distributing the loans to the SC/ST beneficiaries.

Dissatisfied over the manager's reply, Jagannath headed to the bank from the mandal committee meeting and in the argument that followed, Jagannath allegedly slapped Reddy.


The police filed a case against the MP under IPC Sections 353 (assault or use of criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 504 (insulting), a police official said. A counter case was filed against the bank manager under the Prevention of Atrocities Against SC/STs by one Vijay and one Bakkaiah, he said.

Meanwhile, the AP Regional Rural Banks Employees Association (APRRBEA) demanded that the MP express regret for his action and also assure that such "scenes in future" won't recur from his end. As a mark of protest, all the staff in the rural branches were wearing black badges and staged demonstrations before offices of District Collectors, a release issued by the association said. The association said it would take up the matter with Prime Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker and the chief minister.

The bank union threatened to stop disbursal of loans as a mark of protest till action was initiated against the MP.

Read the original story here.