TOPIC OF THE DAY- A) Lokpal, at last
“The establishment of the anti-graft body is a welcome development”
The selection of Justice P.C. Ghose as the first Lokpal has come after an unjustified delay of five years. Nevertheless, it ought to be welcomed as a milestone in the cause of fighting corruption in high places. The concept of an institutional mechanism, or an anti-corruption ombudsman, has been around for over 50 years. It was finally enacted as a law in 2013, and came into effect on January 16, 2014. Some of the credit for driving this legislation must be given to Anna Hazare’s movement against what many saw as unreasonable levels of corruption under the previous UPA regime. However, since then, barring a report by the Standing Committee of Parliament and a couple of amendments passed in 2016 on the declaration of assets by public servants, there has been very little progress. At one point, the government’s lack of political will to establish a Lokpal became obvious, leading to the Supreme Court repeatedly asking it to show progress in its efforts. Ultimately, it was the court’s stern ultimatum to appoint a Lokpal within a timeframe that worked. The appointment system is quite long, a two-stage process. A search committee has to be formed. It recommends a panel of names to the high-power selection committee, which comprises the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chief Justice of India (or his nominee) and an eminent jurist. The selection panel has to choose from a short-list consisting of names for the posts of Lokpal chairperson, and judicial and non-judicial members. The government had initially taken the position that it was awaiting the passage of amendments based on the parliamentary committee report. One amendment pertained to including the leader of the largest party in the Opposition in the selection committee, in the absence of a recognised Leader of the Opposition. In a verdict in April 2017, the Supreme Court rejected the excuse and said there was no legal bar on the selection committee moving ahead even if there was a vacancy. It is not clear why this simple amendment, carried out in respect of selection committees for the posts of CBI Director and Chief Information Commissioner, was not made in the Lokpal Act. The Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, did not want to attend selection committee meetings as a ‘special invitee’ and wanted full membership. Now that the Lokpal has been chosen, victims of corruption have a viable avenue of redress. The Lokpal will take over the work of sanctioning prosecution, besides exercising its power to order preliminary inquiries and full-fledged investigations by any agency, including the CBI. It may be unrealistic to expect any dramatic impact on the lives of the common people, but the Lokpal and other members have a historic responsibility to live up to popular expectations.
B) Papering over: tough balancing act for BJP in the Northeast
“The BJP’s alliances in the Northeast are underpinned by political contradictions”
The BJP is acutely aware that its presence has been patchy across regions and social groups, historically. Its storied victory in 2014, with 282 seats in the Lok Sabha, came primarily from the States in the north and the west. Barring Karnataka, the BJP has yet to have any notable presence in the southern States. However, in 2014 the BJP did make inroads into Assam by winning seven of its 14 seats, and it sensed an opportunity to expand its foothold in the State and further into the Northeast. The party has been roping in regional partners and expanding its individual strength in the region with remarkable aggression since then. It led an alliance to victory in 2016 in Assam, and in 2018 in Tripura it defeated the Left Front, which had been in power for five terms. As of today, four of the eight Chief Ministers in the region are from the BJP and it is a partner in ruling coalitions in three. The BJP has labelled its partnerships in the Northeast as a distinct entity, the North East Democratic Alliance, under the NDA umbrella. Last week, the BJP managed to woo back the Asom Gana Parishad that had quit the alliance in January over differences on the Citizenship Amendment Bill. Besides reviving ties with the AGP, the BJP sealed agreements for the Lok Sabha elections with the Bodoland People’s Front, Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura, National People’s Party, Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party and Sikkim Krantikari Morcha. These cover Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Sikkim, respectively. The BJP says it aims to win 22 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the region. The Hindutva party’s foray into the Northeast in the past often involved legal sophistry and manoeuvring. With its strength saturated in its strongholds, the BJP has compulsions to look for fresh terrains to grow but its efforts in the Northeast are significant for more long-term reasons. The region has remained on the periphery of India’s geographical and cultural imagination. The BJP is considered, for good reason, a party of Hindu-Hindi nationalism with scant regard for the aspirations of people and issues of the region. In its efforts to woo the Northeast, here the party has soft-pedalled its strident cow protection agenda that has a sharp anti-minority edge. On amending the law to make the route to Indian citizenship easier for non-Muslims from neighbouring countries — a deeply divisive issue in the Northeast — the party has agreed to not talk about it during the election campaign. That does not mean the BJP is softening its stand on the issue. The fundamental contradiction between the ethnicity-oriented politics of the region and the BJP’s religion-inspired politics is visible in the debate on the Bill. But these alliances can also be the vehicle for negotiation and accommodation. Either way, it will be a tough balancing act.
MEANINGS AND WORDS
Meaning : make (a bill or other proposal) law(v).
Synonyms : execute
Antonyms : hinder
Example : “legislation was enacted to attract international companies”
Meaning : except for; if not for.
Synonyms : excepting
Example : “barring accidents, we should win”
Meaning : (of a positive quality) present to a notable degree.
Synonyms : esteemed
Antonyms : inferior
Example : “the book’s scholarship and eminent readability”
Meaning : (of an event or circumstance) be in store for (someone).
Synonyms : pending
Antonyms : doubt
Example : “many dangers await them”
Meaning : be appropriate, related, or applicable to(v).
Synonyms : relate
Antonyms : disconnect
Example : “matters pertaining to the organization of government”
Meaning : a decision on an issue of fact in a civil or criminal case or an inquest.
Synonyms : decree
Antonyms : accusation
Example : “the jury returned a verdict of not guilty”
Meaning : capable of working successfully; feasible.
Synonyms : feasible
Antonyms : impossible
Example : “the proposed investment was economically viable”
Meaning : in addition; as well.
Synonyms : beyond
Antonyms : better
Example : “I’m capable of doing the work, and a lot more besides”
Meaning : the action of one object coming forcibly into contact with another.
Synonyms : brunt
Antonyms : avoidance
Example : “there was the sound of a third impact”
Meaning : feelings of anger or antipathy resulting in hostile or violent behaviour; readiness to attack or confront.
Synonyms : assault
Antonyms : protection
Example : “his chin was jutting with aggression”
Meaning : restore to life or consciousness.
Synonyms : invigorate
Antonyms : depress
Example : “both men collapsed, but were revived”
Meaning : originating or occurring naturally in a particular place; native.
Synonyms : endemic
Antonyms : alien
Example : “the indigenous peoples of Siberia”
Meaning : difficult to understand; complicated.
Synonyms : confusing
Antonyms : simple
Example : “a long, involved conversation”
Meaning : a stretch of land, especially with regard to its physical features.
Synonyms : contour
Antonyms : seas
Example : “they were delayed by rough terrain”
Meaning : consider or think of in a specified way.
Synonyms : heed
Antonyms : disinterest
Example : “she regarded London as her base”
Meaning : (of a sound) loud and harsh; grating.
Synonyms : blatant
Antonyms : quiet
Example : “his voice had become increasingly strident”
Meaning : a combination of statements, ideas, or features which are opposed to one another.
Synonyms : conflict
Antonyms : accord
Example : “the proposed new system suffers from a set of internal contradictions”
Meaning : argue about (a subject), especially in a formal manner.
Synonyms : contest
Antonyms : agreement
Example : “MPs debated the issue in the Commons”
Meaning : improve the texture or fertility of (soil).
Synonyms : alter
Antonyms : break
Example : “amend your soil with peat moss or compost”
Meaning : the fact or state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition.
Synonyms : identity
Example : “the interrelationship between gender, ethnicity, and class”