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Quality of public discourse big challenge in India: Arun Jaitley

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Arun Jaitley

New Delhi, Oct 11 (IANS) A big challenge for India is to improve its understanding of issues and the quality of public discourse even as the country is gaining prominence as a major economic power, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday.

“One of the big challenges is even though we are growing as an economy compared to our counterparts in the world, we are the largest democracy with free expression, we still have to improve both our understanding of issues and the quality of public discourse,” Jaitley said here.

Addressing the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)’s conference on “Auditing and Accounting in a Digital Era”, he asked the state auditor to help improve the quality of discourse which needed to mature itself and rise above slogans and propaganda.

“I find these days the maximum comments come from people who only understand the issue on the surface without going down even to the first level,” he said.

Jaitley said the Goods and Services Tax (GST) checks tax evasion and brings in more people in the tax net, demonetisation brings money operating outside the system into the banking system and the formalisation of the economy helps all who gets into it.

“The Aadhar will be used as a platform not for snooping (as some people tried to project). But Aadhar will be used as a platform in order to ensure that subsidies don’t remain an unquantified amount, made for an unidentifiable section of people but subsidies are a specific amount and must reach targeted beneficiaries.”

Jaitley said as the world gets into the age of technology and India becomes the fastest growing economy in the world, “I think we need parallely to educate ourselves on the quality of discourse and the discourse can’t be merely limited to a one-line tweets.”

According to the Minister, the CAG can “improve the quality of discourse and help our people and policy makers understand” issues. The CAG reports should be “worded in a manner that it could be understood easily” and that there is no “loose sentence” which gets picked up to hijack the entire discourse, he said.

Further, Jaitley highlighted the fact that public sector enterprises (PSUs), which are regulated by pre-1991 legal regime during a monopoly environment, need to have a level playing field with the private players in sectors where both players are there.

“Now in sectors where there are both public and private sector players, the environment (set of regulations) for functioning for the two is entirely different,” he said citing differences like auditing of transactions, tendering and recruitment.

“Time has now come for us to use some mindspace that the pre-1991 regime of their (PSUs) functioning in a monopoly environment was entirely different from their functioning in a competitive environment.”

The Minister called for deliberations on how to provide level playing field to PSUs “if we want them to exist and survive with full financial strength”.

India

SC comes to the rescue of DU law student, gives her shot at career in law

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Delhi University

The past two years have been tumultuous for law student Ankita Meena. Amid several legal adversities, she continued to put a brave face and cleared all the hurdles in finishing her law studies at Delhi University.

In second year, she was not allowed to write her exams, as she missed classes due to the advanced stage of her pregnancy. Her miseries were quadrupled after her results for fourth, fifth and sixth semesters were also withheld. Yet she did not give up and continued the battle in the top court, which reached its finality on Friday. The Supreme Court has now directed the Delhi University to declare the fifth semester results, which would allow her to have a shot at a career in law.

On Friday, a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian said: “The IA (intervention application) and the SLP (special leave petition) are disposed of, directing the university to declare the fifth semester supplementary examination results of the petitioner and issue the provisional degree along with necessary certificates, provided she had passed the examinations, subject to the petitioner clearing the other formalities.”

Meena joined the three-year LLB course at Law Centre II, Faculty of Law, Delhi University, in August 2016. By the time she joined the course, she was already married for about five months. She completed the first three semesters without any hindrance. However, she fell short of the required attendance mark during the fourth semester, due to two difficulties: One, she gave birth to a baby in February 2018; and second, the teachers’ association went on strike in middle of March, hence classes were impacted.

In May 2018, when she was in second year, the top court declined to give her permission to write her exams as she had missed her classes due to her pregnancy. The court noted that it was “very uncomfortable” to pass an order at 1 pm on her plea to sit in the exam scheduled an hour later.

In October 2018, the top court permitted her to attend classes at her own risk on completion of the required formalities.

In February 2019, the court directed the university to permit her to attend the classes for sixth semester as per its October 2018 order. On July 5, 2019, the Supreme Court directed the university to permit her to appear in the fifth semester supplementary examination scheduled the next day.

In July 2020, the apex court directed that her results for fourth and sixth semesters be declared. Following these orders, Meena appeared for fourth, fifth and sixth semester exams.

The university had declared the results of the fourth and fifth semester examinations, but did not declare the results for the fifth semester supplementary examination. The top court noted that Meena has completed the course in entirety and the results of all the semester examinations except the fifth semester supplementary examination have already been declared.

Directing the university to declare the fifth semester results, the top court said: “This order is passed under the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case.”

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CWC meet: Senior leaders engage in verbal spat over internal elections

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Ashok Gehlot

The Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on Friday witnessed some heated exchange of words among Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, senior leader Anand Sharma and several other dissenters over internal elections, party sources said.

According to a party source, Sharma, Ghulam Nabi Azad and P. Chidambaram raised the issue of the elections for the CWC post.

Following the issue of the elections, Gehlot ticked off the dissenters without naming them and said that a few party leaders keep on demanding for the organisational elections instead of discussing how to deal with the BJP.

The source also said that the Rajasthan Chief Minister has stated that party leaders are wasting time discussing irrelevant issues like party elections.

“We should leave the matters and decisions to the party’s president,” Gehlot said.

He also questioned the party leaders: “If they don’t believe the party leadership (Sonia Gandhi) or not?”.

Gehlot was backed by senior party leader Ambika Soni, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, Tariq Anwar and former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.

Hitting back at Gehlot, Sharma said that few members of the party keep on disrespecting the senior leaders.

Following the ugly verbal spat among the senior leaders, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi intervened to placate both the groups.

However, party leaders at a press conference maintained that there was no such verbal war in the CWC, which is the highest decision making body of the party.

After the CWC meet, Congress General Secretary (Organisation) K. C. Venugopal said that the party will have an elected president by June this year at any cost.

“The CWC discussed the schedule of Congress president’s elections in May-end, proposed by its election authority. All CWC members unanimously requested Congress president that the internal elections should not interfere with the Assembly polls,” Venugopal said.

Congress national media in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala said that “don’t get misguided and don’t fall for rumours”.

“The leaders whose names have been taken are not dissenters — they are our respected leaders and they are our family members. And we all were unanimous that the party election schedule be postponed for a month,” Surjewala said at a press briefing after the meeting.

Responding to the question of senior leaders sparring over the organisational election issue, Venugopal said, “There was no big debate in the CWC. We will conduct party election as per its constitution. And the schedule will be out very soon.”

“Some change in schedule was required due to coming Assembly elections (in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam, West Bengal, and Puducherry) and that was taken into consideration; the party will announce the election schedule accordingly,” he said.https://df6bd6113aa2538c990afac925a9dc43.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

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11th round of talks breaks down, deadlock on farm laws continues

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Farmers

The eleventh round of talks between the government and representatives of the farmers Union ended on Friday without any solution in sight as Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar urged the Union leaders to rethink about rejecting the government’s proposal to suspend the new farm laws for one and half years.

No date for the next round of talks has been decided and the meeting will be held whenever farmer leaders are ready for a dialogue on the proposal given by the government in the 10th round of talks, on January 20.

After the meeting, Parminder Singh Palmajra, a Bharatiya Kisan Union leader from Punjab, said the farmers will now further intensify the agitation. The ministers present in the talks — Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Railways, Commerce and Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash — will shortly address the media about the dialogue.

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