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Analysis

For Haryana BJP, it is ‘Beta Bachao’ in Barala’s case

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Vikas Barala

Chandigarh, Aug 7 : Every time the law is violated, there is one set of rules for the common man and another for the privileged class and their spoilt brats. The incident in which the daughter of a senior Haryana IAS officer was stalked, wrongly restrained, intimidated and almost abducted – all in 25 minutes on the streets of Chandigarh by the son of Haryana BJP President Subhash Barala and a friend – proves the point.

“Ever since it became known that the arrested youth was the son of the Haryana BJP chief, the whole effort has been towards ‘Beta Bachao’ by the high and mighty. Chandigarh Police is under pressure to dilute the matter,” a Chandigarh Police officer told IANS on the condition of anonymity.

The ‘Beta Bachao’ reference is a satire on Haryana’s ruling BJP politicians who have been gaga over the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ campaign for the girl child launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Haryana, a state with the worst sex ratio.

The fact that the incident happened just hours after BJP national President Amit Shah had told Haryana BJP leaders to conduct themselves well in public is another matter.

While the 29-year-old victim and her father lauded the initial response of the Chandigarh Police in helping her by arresting Vikas Barala, 23, and his friend Ashish Kumar, 22, the bureaucrat father must be wondering about the subsequent conduct of the Chandigarh Police.

Both accused had stalked the victim by driving their SUV along her car and trying to block her way. At one point, one of them even walked up to her car and tried to open the door and knocked at the windowpanes but the victim managed to drive away. She later told the police and wrote on her Facebook post that the “boys” wanted to abduct her.

“These boys thought they could either get into my car, or take me into theirs, just because they’re from an influential background,” the victim wrote.

The Chandigarh Police flip-flop on invoking the Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections against the VIP brat and his friend are too glaring.

While the First Information Report registered by the police clearly mentions “attempt to kidnap” and “outraging the modesty” of the victim, the relevant sections were conveniently omitted in the case made against the accused. They were booked under milder bailable sections (354D – stalking a woman; 341 – wrong restraint; and 185 of Motor Vehicles Act – drunken driving). So the accused were out on bail within hours.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Satish Kumar, after admitting that the complainant had mentioned the bid to kidnap her and outraging her modesty, diluted the matter later saying nothing of this was mentioned by the victim in her statement under Section 164 Cr.PC before a Magistrate due to which the police did not include the stiffer, non-bailable sections.

The attempt to abduct section was not included at all. Following criticism in the media, social and political circles, the Chandigarh Police is now saying they are seeking legal opinion.

That the top brass of the Chandigarh has chosen to keep mum over the matter and the investigation speaks about the pressure on them.

Chandigarh’s Member of Parliament Kirron Kher, a woman, has chosen to wash her hands off from the matter saying she has no control over Chandigarh Police.

Chandigarh, being a union territory, is directly managed by the Ministry of Home Affairs under the BJP-ruled central government. Chandigarh’s Administrator V.P. Singh Badnore, also the Punjab Governor, is a former BJP MP from Rajasthan.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, who has always harped on his transparent and fair governance claim, has been defending the state BJP President Subhash Barala saying he has nothing to do with the case involving his son.

Khattar has ruled out Barala senior’s resignation as Haryana BJP President.

While the victim and her family have decided to fight and take the case to a “logical conclusion”, the BJP and the system is working overtime to save junior Barala – ‘Beta Bachao’.

IANS

By Jaideep Sarin 

Analysis

India’s growing rich-poor divide: Richest 1% gross 73% wealth in 2017

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India’s richest, just 1 per cent of its 1.3 billion people, grossed 73 per cent of the wealth generated in 2017 while the wealth of the poorest half of Indians — some 67 crore — rose by only one per cent, according to a report by Oxfam.

The report, launched on Monday ahead of the gathering of some of the world’s richest at the World Economic Forum here, said the wealth of India’s elite went up last year by Rs 20,913 billion — an amount equivalent to the government’s total budget in 2017-18.

The Davos event is being attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Oxfam India has urged him to ensure that the “economy works for everyone and not just the fortunate few” in line with the government’s ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’ slogan.

“It is alarming that the benefits of economic growth in India continue to concentrate in fewer hands. The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system,” said Nisha Agrawal, CEO of Oxfam India.

“Those working hard, growing food for the country, building infrastructure, working in factories are struggling to fund their child’s education, buy medicines for family members and manage two meals a day. The growing divide undermines democracy and promotes corruption and cronyism.”

The report, ‘Reward Work, Not Wealth’, has also found that India’s top 10 per cent of population have 73 per cent of the total wealth in the country.

“Indian billionaires’ wealth increased by Rs 4,891 billion – from Rs 15,778 billion to over Rs 20,676 billion,” it said, adding the amount of Rs 4,891 billion was sufficient to finance 85 per cent of the budget on health and education in all Indian states.

It said India added 17 new billionaires last year, raising the number to 101. But 37 per cent of the these billionaires inherited the wealth from their families.

It said 51 billionaires out of the total 101 were aged 65 or above.

“If we assume that in the next 20 years, at least Rs 10,544 billion will be passed on to the inheritors and on that if 30 per cent inheritance tax is imposed, the government can earn at least Rs 3,176 billion.”

This will be sufficient to finance six crucial services — medical and public health, family welfare, water and sanitation, housing, urban development and labour and labour welfare in the country.

The report said at least one in every two workers in the garment sector in India were paid below the minimum wage. By those standards, the report said, “it will take 941 years for a minimum wage worker in rural India to earn what the top paid executive at a leading Indian garment firm earns in a year”.

Oxfam called upon the government to promote “inclusive growth by ensuring that the income of the bottom 40 per cent of the population grows faster than of the top 10 per cent” to close the income gap.

“This can be done by encouraging labour-intensive sectors that will create more jobs; investing in agriculture; and effectively implementing the social protection schemes that exist.”

It said the government must also seal the leaking wealth bucket by taking stringent measures against tax evasion and avoidance.

The income gap can also be reduced by “taxing the super-rich by re-introducing inheritance tax, increasing wealth tax, reducing and eventually do away with corporate tax breaks and creating a more equal opportunity country by increasing public expenditure on health and education”, it said.

The charity said the government must also bring data transparency, produce and make available high quality data on income and wealth and regularly monitor the measures it takes to tackle the issue of rising inequality.

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Analysis

56% smart cities prone to floods: Report

More than 2,200 cities and towns in India are located in districts which have witnessed at least 11 floods in the last 18 years.

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As much as 56 per cent of smart cities are prone to floods which are responsible for 77 per cent of all disasters in India, a report said on Friday.

The report, based on disaster data between 2000 and 2017, observed that India has a mean of 11 flood events per district over the last 18 years.

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Following floods, other disaster share was cyclone (22 per cent), extreme temperature (11 per cent), landslides (seven per cent) and earthquakes (four per cent). Drought, however, was only one per cent of all disasters.

“Ninety-eight per cent of India’s 642 districts have received at least one flood event,” stated the joint report ‘Decoding the Monsoon Floods’ by NGO SEEDS and Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) based in the University of Louvain School of Public Health, Brussels.

It said that floods affect over 15 million people every year. Of 15.6 million people affected by floods in India in 2017, over 316,185 were people with disabilities.

“More than 2,200 cities and towns in India are located in districts which have witnessed at least 11 floods in the last 18 years,” the report said.

Further signifying the scale of infrastructure that needs to be secured against the future risks, the findings said that 56 per cent of India’s planned smart cities fall in districts reporting a high number of flood events.

Since 2000, India has faced 215 flooding events both from floods and cyclones. This accounts for 77 per cent of all disaster events.

“Assam is the most flood-prone state, with areas like Lakhimpur reporting over 30 flood events within this period. Even known drought-prone areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan have witnessed more floods than the country’s average in the last 18 years,” said Anshu Sharma, Co-founder and Mentor, SEEDS.

“Unpredictability, urbanisation and invisibility of flood risk are major concerns that need to be addressed urgently,” Sharma added.

Citing the 2015 Chennai floods in Tamil Nadu, the report pointed out how the natural sinks like wetlands, that act as a sponge against floods, had shrunk due to rapid urbanisation, leading to catastrophic results.

“Estimates put the remaining original wetlands of Chennai at just 10 per cent.”

“Concrete encroachment on Cooum River, Adyar River and Buckingham Canal which serve as the main rainwater drains, poorly designed drainage systems and ageing civil infrastructure added to the problem,” the report said.

Debarati Guha-Sapir, Director, CRED, said: “We are witnessing a disturbing trend of a large number of climate induced disasters… The launch of this regional report is a huge step towards better understanding of local nuances of disaster events.”

Suggesting preparations for the 2018 monsoon and cyclone seasons at policy and community levels, the report said that with a scale this huge, informal nature of the losses and limited resources, coping practices at the community level are very beneficial.

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Analysis

Haj 2018 likely to be costlier, but not because of subsidy abolition

Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Tuesday announced the abolition of Haj subsidy from this year.

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Haj 2018

Haj 2018 is likely to be costlier than last year but not because of the abolition of subsidy that the government announced on Tuesday.

The cost is likely to go up thanks to rise in expenses incurred in Saudi Arabia during the Haj such as accommodation, transport, food and the like. Notably, the government subsidy did not cover these expenses and was limited to the airfare.

Haj Committee of India (HCI) Chairman Mehboob Ali Kaiser told IANS that it was bargaining hard with Saudi authorities to keep the cost in check but local factors may result in the rise of Haj expenses this year.

In 2017, the HCI charged Rs 200,000 for Haj with ordinary accommodation (Azizia) and Rs 234,000 for deluxe accommodation (Green), which is closer to the Haram in Mecca.

Image result for haj 2018

“Over the last year, the electricity tariff in Saudi Arabia has shot up three times. Also, the petrol prices have doubled. The accommodation cost is also going up. These factors may result in a hike in the total Haj cost this year,” Kaiser said.

At this point, it is difficult to predict the final cost to each pilgrim for Haj 2018, he added.

“It will be unfair to expect the same costs for everything in Saudi Arabia after a threefold rise in electricity prices and doubling of petrol prices. Secondly, the Saudis are cussed bargainers and we have to really haggle hard with them for every riyal.

“Nevertheless, we are trying our best and bargaining hard with them to ensure that the cost does not go up drastically,” Kaiser said.

Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Tuesday announced the abolition of Haj subsidy from this year.

Kaiser said that the HCI “knew it was coming and were sort of mentally prepared for it”.

“In any case, the withdrawal of subsidy will not affect the airfares from major cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru — but fares from smaller embarkation points such as Srinagar, Gaya may go up. But people from these states may now embark from any other place from where fares are low, such as Mumbai, Delhi or Ahmedabad,” he added.

However, in the coming years, the Haj cost is expected to come down as the Indian government is already working in the direction of reviving the sea route to Jeddah.

Naqvi said that the government has already taken active steps in this direction and once it is implemented, the fares would come down drastically.

Giving the genesis of the Haj subsidy, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said that it started in the 1980s (when Azad was a member of HCI) when the ships which were used to ferry the Haj pilgrims started ageing.

“The government was not disposed to spend money to buy new ships due to budget constraints. So, it was decided to fly the pilgrims to Jeddah. But the airfares were four times higher than the ship’s fare. So the government decided to cover some of the cost through a subsidy,” Azad said.

The sea route was discontinued in 1995.

(Mohd Asim Khan can be contacted at [email protected])

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