NATIONAL POLITICS: Whiff of Jaswant return in BJP invite – Narendra Modi, Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitly still ‘fuming and plotting’ over the “conscience of India” election debacle and Hindutva issue – just apologise, kiss-and-make-up … BJP ‘One Pariwar’ stupido’s ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY RADHIKA RAMASESHAN
New Delhi, June 10: Jaswant Singh appears set to return to the BJP less than a year after he was expelled.
Party president Nitin Gadkari called on Singh last night at the Darjeeling MP’s residence and invited him to this weekend’s BJP national executive in Patna. The party had wanted to flaunt the comeback at its public meeting on June 13.
But sources close to Singh said he had told Gadkari that “some distance still needed to be covered” and until the modalities and outstanding issues were sorted out, he would not wish to return.
BJP sources said leaders were fine-tuning a “credible” statement to explain Singh’s comeback. But Gadkari’s overture indicated the RSS had endorsed the move.
The process of bringing back Singh was started by L.K. Advani. Sources said Advani could not live with the charge that he had acquiesced to his expulsion by keeping mum at the meeting last August that decided Singh was unwanted in the BJP.
Advani, sources claimed, was “dead opposed” to the move but had gone along with the dominant mood at the Shimla chintan baithak (introspection sitting) where there was a clamour for throwing out Singh.
Never a favourite with hardcore BJP members of RSS origin, Singh was expelled after the rounded view he took of Mohammed Ali Jinnah in Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence. The book was released just before the chintan baithak.
Narendra Modi, Vinay Katiyar and Ananth Kumar were furious with not just Singh’s “lenient” treatment of Jinnah but also with his critical references to Sardar Vallabhai Patel. Modi, who was facing local elections in Gujarat at the time, was reported to have said he would lose if Singh was allowed to go scot-free.
Advani, who was similarly forced to step down as party president because of his praise of Jinnah on a visit to Karachi in 2005, was said too have wondered if Singh’s expulsion would hurt the “liberal” image he was trying to create for himself. But the veteran still did nothing. Modi went on to ban Singh’s book in Gujarat.
Jaswant on course for BJP return – anything strange or improper and will India ultimately benefit to have an “opposition with a conscience” ?!!
From India Today
By Poornima Joshi
New Delhi, June 11, 2010: The BJP has rolled the red carpet for Jaswant Singh 10 months after he was unceremoniously expelled from the party.
Party president Nitin Gadkari met the veteran leader at his residence in New Delhi’s leafy Teen Murti lane on Wednesday.
This led to speculation in the political circles about the possibility of Singh making an appearance in the BJP’s two-day national executive meeting in Patna on June 12 and 13.
However, sources close to the former foreign minister said he was, in all probability, not going to Patna. “There is still some ground to cover (before he joins the BJP again),” said a source.
Whether or not he goes to Patna, the fact that the BJP president had himself gone to meet the senior leader was viewed as a sure signal that he was coming back to the party.
Singh was summarily expelled by the BJP on August 19, 2009 for writing a book on Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
Singh accused the party leaders of viewing his book as a hagiographic account of Jinnah without even reading it. “They are not in the habit of reading. And the book has just come out. So I don’t know why I am being treated in such a fashion. They have used the term ‘expelled’ like I was a schoolboy,” Singh had said.
Though the then BJP president, Rajnath Singh, was personally not in favour of sacking Singh, he was pushed by a bunch of leaders led by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
The latter was the chief mobiliser in the campaign to oust Singh because of the less-than-positive references to Sardar Patel in the book. Modi even claimed the book would affect the party’s prospects in the panchayat polls in Gujarat.
Even L. K. Advani, who was initially said to have been disinclined to expel Singh, did not oppose the decision in the party’s parliamentary board that met on August 19. After the expulsion took place, Advani had publicly said while the decision was unfortunate, it was “inevitable”.
Singh was extremely hurt by what he perceived as Advani’s betrayal at the time. In subsequent interviews, Singh said while he defended Advani when the latter was being cornered over his remarks on Jinnah, the favour was not returned. “When Advani ji was targeted for his statement on Jinnah, I was the lone person in the BJP who stood by his side,” Singh said at the time.
Clearly, the jibe rankled.
Sources said the proposal to bring Singh back was mooted by Advani himself.
“Advani ji was personally not in favour of expelling Singh. But he did not defend him in the parliamentary board meeting during the party’s chintan baithak last August. But ever since then, Advani ji has silently worked towards Singh’s homecoming,” one of the sources said.
The proposal was discussed at various points among the top leaders in the BJP. Besides Advani who feels that all those who left the BJP, including Uma Bharati, should be taken back, even Nitin Gadkari is not averse to the idea.
Singh’s re-entry in the party will be smoother as compared to Bharati’s as there is no strong opposition to the idea from any quarter. Bharati’s return to the fold is being opposed by Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan.
So, while Singh’s presence at the BJP’s national executive was debatable, there was little doubt left about his homecoming.
THE COMEBACK SCRIPT (*?!!)
The BJP had expelled Jaswant Singh in August 19, 2009 for writing a book on Mohammed Ali Jinnah…
He is now set for a comeback, thanks to backroom efforts of L. K. Advani, who was initially opposed to the expulsion …
Party chief Nitin Gadkari is facilitating Singh’s return …
Food and harmony on Sonia’s plate – back to “basics” for a secular and progressive Indian Nation – worthy of “prestige, just standing and worldwide respect” like never before ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, June 10: Food security and communal violence will top the reborn National Advisory Council’s (NAC) agenda.
The NAC met the first time this morning after it was reconstituted on March 29 with Sonia Gandhi back at the helm as the chairperson. Like the NAC-I, the council’s second incarnation represents a mix of civil society activists, former bureaucrats, academics and an industrialist with a social conscience, Anu Agha.
Sonia and her team realised the council was in for as long a haul in pushing through its versions of the food security and communal violence (prevention, control and rehabilitation of victims) bills as it had been over NREGA, the rural job plan. Accordingly, they prioritised the two bills in their areas of social concern.
Sonia wants the food security act to guarantee a monthly quota of 35kg of cereals at Rs 3 a kg to a household and a multi-layered classification of target groups that transcends the accepted BPL definition. The aim is to ensure nutritional requirements for the most vulnerable groups such as infants, small children and the aged through mid-day meals. Also planned are state food commissioners to redress grievances.
But the UPA’s empowered group of ministers had diluted the proposals. For instance, the draft bill cleared by the ministerial panel in March delinked food security from nutritional needs and recommended an omnibus definition of BPL families, without any provision for the most vulnerable.
The communal violence bill appears to have holes, too. Activists have debunked it as a “draft in bad faith”. It was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in December 2005 and sent to the parliamentary standing committee on home affairs. The panel’s report was tabled in Parliament in 2006 without significant changes.
Campaigners like Farah Naqvi, who was drafted to work in the NAC, demanded amendments to the bill.
Naqvi proposed that as a first step, communal violence should be defined sharply — as a targeted attack against persons or groups on the basis of their religious identity that can be inferred directly or from the nature and circumstances of the assault. She also pressed for the inclusion of sexual violence during such attacks, besides rape, and for enshrining the concept of reparation as an inviolable, legally enforceable right of the victim.
Other NAC focus areas include natural resource management, poverty elimination, job generation, land rights and land reforms, health security and medical insurance.
Later, Sonia and the other members met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who lauded the previous council’s “historic” role in shaping the NREGA and the information act.
Bhopal tragedy: Justice strangled by successive governments ? – Shame, Shame all India !!! And now finally: timely, effective and balanced justice … or still a ‘sick joke’ ?!!
From NDTV Correspondent
New Delhi, Wednesday, June 09, 2010: Across the political spectrum, the verdict in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy has elicited reactions that suggest leaders are disappointed and aggrieved.
The sentence – two years in prison for eight executives of Union Carbide India (one of whom died during the course of the trial) – has been described widely as insulting for the surviving victims of the world’s worst industrial disaster, and the activists who have spent 25 years fighting for some sort of justice for them.
It would be hard to contest that their anger is entirely justified. Warren Anderson, who was the top executive of Union Carbide Corporation when the gas leak from his pesticide plant choked Bhopal, lives in an elite neighbourhood in New York after ignoring a series of court summons and charges.
An extradition request from India was flatly rejected by the US in 2003. In India, those convicted have been granted bail already, and will appeal against their sentence in a higher court. (Read: Case against Anderson not closed, says Moily)
But in some ways, the most disappointing part of this verdict and its sentence, is the surprise expressed by India’s politicians. “I’m anguished… the verdict is so unsatisfactory,” said Jairam Ramesh, the Environment Minister. “New facts have come to light,” added the BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad. (Read: Jairam ‘anguished’, says no more Bhopals)
In 1984, the Congress, with Arjun Singh as Chief Minister, was in power in Madhya Pradesh and the party also ruled at the Centre.
Anderson arrived in India to inspect the disaster site and four days later he was released on bail and was given the chief minister’s plane to leave Bhopal.
By this time, more than 3,000 people had died; Anderson himself had been formally accused of culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Like some sort of visiting dignitary, Anderson stopped in Delhi to meet with President Giani Zail Singh, then flew home.
After that, an officer who headed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into the Bhopal tragedy, says he was asked in 1994 by the government to drop the attempt to bring Anderson back to face trial.
“We received communication from MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) that we should not pursue the extradition matter of Warren Anderson,” says BR Lall.
In 2003, a US court rejected India’s request for Anderson’s extradition. Today, both the Congress and the BJP government claim that they fought that verdict zealously, but there’s little offered by either as evidence of that.
The fight for justice, for greater compensation, for acceptance of responsibility by a giant corporate was depleted irreversibly in 1989, when the Supreme Court asked Union Carbide and the government to come to a settlement on compensation of 470 million dollars from the US-based company.
That’s less than 500 dollars per victim.
Insufficient to cover even the costs of medical treatment of those who survived. The Congress governments at the Centre and the state did not ask for a review of this. The Bhopal victims challenged the settlement.
In 1996, the Supreme Court also accepted the appeal of the Carbide executives charged with culpable homicide. The charges against them were dropped to criminal negligence – which carries with it a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
The government did not ask for a review of this Supreme Court decision either, a point latched onto by Justice AM Ahmadi, who had headed that bench, when he defended his judgment on Wednesday.
“According to me the only charge that could have been applied at that time was 304A…At that time nobody protested…they could have asked for a review of the judgement, but nobody did,” he said.
Again, the government did not ask the court to reconsider this. By this time the Centre had a Third Front government with HD Deve Gowda as Prime Minister.
In recent years, governments seem to have extended their complicity in letting Union Carbide off the hook. Again, the catalogue of grievances extends across parties.
Some years after the disaster, the Congress state government led by Digvijay Singh took back the Carbide plant with tonnes of toxic waste still on it – some estimates claim the non-functioning plant had 4000 tons of hazardous waste – when the original lease clearly said that Carbide would have to return the land in the same condition that it was leased to it.
Today, Carbide is back in India as Dow Chemicals, and its battery of prominent lawyers have included the spokesperson for the Congress, Abhishek Manu Singhvi.
While he was not available for comment, Singhvi was defended by partyman and minister Salman Khursheed, who said, “People wear different professional hats.”
What has followed since the verdict on Monday is the usual passing of the buck. On Wednesday, the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan of the BJP blamed the Congress for not fighting the Supreme Court’s contentious decisions, and promised a new and ardent campaign for more appropriate action against Carbide executives.
“It doesn’t look like a serious step was taken. The gas victims feel they have been cheated. On priority basis, I have spoken to the people who understand law and I have found out that by the section 71 of the IPC (Indian Penal Code), we can book the criminals for a penalty of 2 years for each death caused by the gas… so the state government has decided to appeal to increase the punishment and to bring about justice to the victims,” Chouhan said.
Bhopal gas tragedy verdict raises issue of corporate ethics – the world’s worst man made tragedy with the slightest punishment ?!!
From NDTV Correspondent
Mumbai, Tuesday, June 08, 2010: Post the Bhopal verdict, corporate accountability is now under the scanner like never before. From ordinary citizens to Bollywood, there is widespread outrage that the company responsible for the world’s worst industrial disaster got away.
Except for India Inc which has stayed largely silent. Not surprising, given the general lack of accountability when it comes to industrial disasters in the country.
Some recent examples:
- In September 2009, a chimney at the Bharat Aluminium Company Ltd’s Korba plant collapsed. Forty-five workers were killed. Three BALCO officials were held and later released.
- One month later, in a massive fire at the Indian Oil storage terminal in Jaipur, 12 people were killed and over 100 injured. An inquiry found procedural lapses but no one was punished.
Contrast this with the harsh criticism British Petroleum is facing for the massive oil spill. “I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar, we talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers – so I know whose ass to kick,” the president said.
The problem is that in India there is no law against large scale industrial disasters.
“The regulations are only meant to fulfill the existing laws. After compliance with those regulations is done, the company may indulge in an activity which is disastrous for the people or stakeholders. For such actions there are no provisions in any law, so we have to fall back on a common law practice,” said Amit Karkhanis, Advocate, Kay Legal.
The India Inc voices speaking out are few and far between.
“This was a one off accident. Obviously companies have become more careful,” said Adi Godrej, Industrialist.
“There is a need for accountability at all levels, certainly at corporate levels. We should have clear rules and that Indian and foreign companies have to follow. Rules that are applied fair and square to everyone,” said Meera Sanyal, Chairperson, Royal Bank of Scotland.
The lack of a clear law has been a blessing in disguise for companies operating in India. Something that activists are hoping will change after the Bhopal verdict.
Will move court to increase punishment: CM – too little, too late ?!!
From NDTV Correspondent
Bhopal, Wednesday, June 09, 2010: It took more than 25 years to finally pronounce a judgement in the Bhopal Gas Tragedy case. Though the case was one of the biggest industrial disasters, the verdict – what many say – a mockery of justice. It sparked off reactions of shock and anger across the political spectrum.
Now, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has said the case was never pursued seriously and has also questioned why the Congress didn’t appeal against the Supreme Court decision watering down the charges.
“It doesn’t look like a serious step was taken. The gas victims feel they have been cheated. On priority basis, I have spoken to the people who understand law and I have found out that by section 71 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), we can book the criminals for a penalty of two years for each death caused by the gas tragedy under IPC 304A and going by that, we can book the criminals for a very long time. So, the state government has decided to appeal to increase the punishment and to bring about justice to the victims,” Chouhan said.
A Bhopal court sentenced eight people convicted for the disaster to two years in prison on Tuesday. Over 20,000 people were killed in the Bhopal gas tragedy of December 2-3, 1984.
Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh had said earlier that the verdict has anguished him deeply.
“It is a matter of deep anguish for me personally. It has taken so long, and the verdict is clearly very unsatisfactory from every point of view and has caused understandable furore, particularly among the people who have been affected by the tragedy,” Ramesh said.
“New facts have come to light. What is more important is that the victims of this tragedy get proper and adequate justice,” BJP spokesperson Ravishankar Prasad said.
Chief Judicial Magistrate Mohan P Tiwari pronounced the verdict in a packed court room convicting 85-year-old Keshub Mahindra – former Union Carbide of India Chairman – and seven others in the case relating to leakage of deadly methyl isocyanate gas in December 1984.
They were held guilty under Sections 304-A (causing death by negligence), 304-II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 336, 337 and 338 (gross negligence) of the Indian Penal Code.
In the 25 long years, the case saw many twists and turns, with the latest, more damning claim from a former CBI official who said the foreign office told him not to pursue the matter.
“We received a written communication from the External Affairs Ministry that we should not pursue the extradition matter of Warren Anderson,” former CBI Official B R Lall said.