CPI (M) and terrorists Wednesday, Dec 16 2009 

AKG CentreIt is stated policy of the CPI (M), or for that matter any of the mainstream political parties, that they would have no truck with extremist outfits and terrorists. However, in practice, this may not be so.

There is little doubt that both the UDF and LDF had hobnobbed with extremists as part vote bank politics. As a result, extremists could take deeper roots in districts such as Malappuram. The network is deeper than that had come to light so far. However, the police, under political pressure, is still reluctant to strike at those who aided the network to take deep roots.

Now with media reporting about Soofia Maudani’s alleged involvement in the Kalamassery bus burning case and unearthing of part of the terrorist network in the State, it has become difficult for political parties in the State to openly associate with Abdul Nasir Maudani’s People’s Democratic Party. However, the CPI (M) is still in two minds with party State Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and Chief Minister V. S.Achuthanandan leading the opposing camps. (What a fall for a communist party!)

It is to be remembered that the State Assembly had passed a resolution seeking the release of Maudani from Coimbatore Central Jail. Achuthanandan had gone to Chennai to meet the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and plead for Maudani. The cost that Tamil Nadu extracted was the Assembly resolution in favour of release of Neyyar waters to Tamil Nadu.

So, the promise of any politician that they would not have any truck with extremist organisations in future is to be taken with a pinch of salt. Eternal vigilance by the public would only ensure that the mainstream political parties would not stray into extremist camps.

Related post:

Terrorism: Kerala could be a sitting duck

Whither Achuthanandan? Wednesday, Nov 4 2009 


Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan

V. S. Achuthanandan appears to be playing a new game to regain his position in party and remain as Chief Minister. The Chief Minister, who had earlier refused to take the cudgels against Constitutional Authority of the Governor, has now turned against the Election Commission of India, another Constitutional authority.

His remarks, questioning the powers of the Commission to deploy Central forces on the polling day, would not please anyone standing for free and fair elections in the country. However, it would sure please some leaders in the party, especially those from Kannur.

Mr. Achuthanandan knows that party State Secretary Pinarai Vijayan may not be able to continue in office after the next party conference, if it adopts the corrective measures proposes by the Polit Bureau. Polit Bureau member Kodiyeri Balakrishnan has been weakened by the allegations surrounding the actions of his son. So, Achuthanandan could regain his position in the Polit Bureau from which he had been ousted for indiscipline, if he plays the cards well

So, ultimately the only losers would be those who stood by Achuthanandan believing that he would take principled stands.

Students to acknowledge services of government Saturday, Oct 31 2009 


His Highness Vidhyadhata

Any ruling dispensation would hope that the people should acknowledge their services. Kings made it mandatory for the subjects to acknowledge that they had everything because of the king’s grace. For example, the rulers of erstwhile State of Travancore was to be referred as Annadatavaya Ponnu Thampuran which roughly translates something like the beloved Lord, giver of our daily bread. The auto-suggestion by the people was intended to aid the perpetuation of their rule.

Those rulers also recognised the importance of inculcating such ideas from the childhood. So, children sang praises to the ruler of Vanchinad, the Vanchi bhoopathi, and celebrated his birthdays in school with much fanfare. To demonstrate the magnanimity of the prince, the children were given free food, avilum pazhavum, on the birthday.

Now, the Kerala government of the people, by the people and for the people is also endeavouring to do the same. The Education Department has issued directives to all schools that the students taking SSLC examination in March next year should be made to take a pledge before other students in the school assembly. They would pledge to win the examination and acknowledge the lover and encouragement being extended by teachers, parents, government and the people representatives (who include a range of personalities from Members of Parliament, who may not be even knowing that some of these schools existed, to the local panchayat members). The students should thank the government at least for the liberal valuation of their answer scripts.

Another tornado in Kerala Friday, Oct 2 2009 

When the Perumon Railway accident claimed 106 lives, the Railways claimed that the accident was the result of a tornado virtually lifting the bogies off the track. The Railway official, who conducted the inquiry, even distorted testimony of witnesses, to arrive at the conclusion. Though the railways was forced to order a re-investigation under public protest, the finding did not change. However, any school boy in Kerala knows that tornadoes do not occur in Kerala.

The investigations into the boat tragedy at Thekkady also seems to be taking similar course. The Chief Inspector of Boats have come up with the strange conclusion that one of the possible reasons for the tilting of the boat could be wind. Well Thekkady is not known for tornadoes or hurricanes. What sort of boat it would have been, if it would roll over if a strong wind hits it? We have to wait to seen whether the Collector, who has received the report, will accept this finding and what sort of story the Crime Branch would come up with. Then only will we know whether the official are “preparing the ground” for the judicial enquiry.

Anyway, something seems to be amiss about the whole affair. Five Ministers rushed to the spot on hearing about the accident. (This was indeed not an exercise to curry favour with voters, for they knew most of the victims were from outside the State and that the Keralites would forget the accident before the next elections.) Of them, the Water Resources Minister was equipped with the information that the boat had the clearance of the Inspector of Boats. The very same authority is now saying that the boat could have met with the accident because of winds.

Now, see this report which says that the boat neither had a fitness certificate or insurance.



Unprepared for disasters Tuesday, Jul 21 2009 

Kerala is becoming increasingly prone to disasters. Unsteady monsoons and unwise land use have made the State prone to floods and land slips. The deterioration of environment is also leading to disasters on the health front also. However, the State is ill-prepared to meet such eventualities.

It is several years now after the State began preparing district disaster management plan. However, these are not yet ready. The State level management plan is at the draft level. Things has not progressed  much with regard to turning the Institute of Land Management into an Institute for Disaster Management. It lacks a proper faculty and other facilities.

Though the Disaster Management Authority with the Chief Minister as chairman was formed two years ago, it met only a few times. The Chief Minister even appears to be unaware of the failure of the Authority to put in place any plans for prevention and management of disasters.

The Dam Safety Authority is also in a limbo though at least a few dams in the State needs its attention. Safety plans including dam break analysis and inundation studies are wanting in the case of major dams.

On the health front, diseases are spreading as the fundamental causes remain unaddressed despite improvement in health facilities especially in the private sector.

Feel good Budget for Kerala Friday, Feb 20 2009 


Kerala Finance Minister Dr. T. M. Thomas Isaac has presented a feel good Budget (2009-10) to the Assembly. Whether the pleasantness would remain depends on his ability to carry out the proposals. The Minister, who has failed to carry out almost half of current year’s Budget proposals, has admitted that the “proof of the pudding is in eating”.

It is indeed an election year (Lok Sabha) Budget. But the Minister has made an honest attempt to address the problems arising from world-wide recession which is arriving in Kerala. His stimulus packages would take time to implement. To some extent, they are repacks of schemes that get announced every year.

The Minister has achieved a 23 per cent increase in tax revenues which is remarkable in a year marked with economic slow down. The introduction of value added tax system and the anti-corruption drive and measures to prevent tax evasion helped.

However, the buoyancy in tax receipts may not be easy to keep in the coming year. So, the Minister has resorted to a sleight of hand to keep down expenditure. He has advanced retirement dates of government employees to the end of year. This means that all gratuity, commutation and other benefits, payable on retirement, could be delayed by one year. Around half of the government employees would get their service life extended by, on average, six months. Employees should be feeling happy in an election year.

Not to antagonise the youth, the Minister has said that appointments to vacancies arising from retirement would be filled in advance. This does not mean much as recruitment process always gets delayed. The Minister is not surely going to entertain a surplus of employees.

One of the really notable measures taken by the Minister is the decision to increase rent on Government land leased to plantations. This was a measure that was hanging fire for 28 years. Previous finance ministers including Oommen Chandy had shied away from increasing the rent. There were also allegations of corruption as plantations continued to pay only a pittance for leased land.

Dr. Isaac is also making a big plunge for energy efficiency by promoting CFL lamps and reducing tax on light emitting diode (LED) lamps. This was something that the Electricity Ministers from the time of Pinarai Vijayan had failed to do so though the advantages of energy efficiency over adding capacity was well known for more than a decade.

Budget highlights

Mumbai terrorist attack: Politicians at the receiving end Sunday, Nov 30 2008 

Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi visiting a victim of the terrorist attack in Mumbai

Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi visiting a victim of the terrorist attack in Mumbai

The politicians are at the receiving end following the terrorist attack in Mumbai— quite justifiably.

The Home Minister Shivraj Patil had to resign and there is demand for resignation of Maharastra Chief Minister Vilas Rao Deshmukh and Deputy Chief Minister R. R. Patil. There was criticism against political visits to Mumbai by Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Opposition Leader L. K. Advani and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi while the fight was raging on.

The family of Maharastra ATS Chief Hemant Karkare, who was killed by the terrorists, rejected financial assistance promised by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Kerala Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan has been snubbed by the father of Major Sandeep Unnnikrishnan–  who died fighting the terrorists at Taj Hotel.

Mumbai police were too ill prepared to handle a terrorist attack. The situation is no different in other States of the country too. (See Kerala could be a sitting duck). The economic capital of India did not have a force that could be rushed to the spot within, say, 15 minutes. Late Karkare rushed their without proper support, protection or equipment to deal with the situation. He and his team became sitting ducks.

The politicians had failed to take precautionary steps despite many indicators that terrorists would attack India again. There were also intelligence reports. Mr. Patil saw 13 blasts during his tenure and did nothing to equip and train forces to deal with terrorism.

He has not resigned on moral grounds. Despite his best efforts to stay in office, Sonia Gandhi dropped him to save the face of her party. It could be taken as a dismissal for ineptitude.

Ms. Gandhi had to do so because of the ongoing and forthcoming elections. Well, the terrorists would have even timed the attack. It is in their interest that the Hindutva forces come to power in India, so that they would have an additional cause to brainwash people and wage war.

R. R. Patil, who commented that incidents like the terrorist attack happens occasionally in big cities (bade bade sheheron mein ek adh aisi ghatna hoti rehti hai) is yet to be shown the door. Remember that Congress leaders had reacted in a similar vein after the Bhopal tragedy and the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi. Their insolence shows that they do not care for people. (Update: R. R. Patil, who belongs to the NCP and held the Home portfolio, has since resigned.)

It is no surprise that the Karkare family declined Narendra Modi’s offer, Modi being supporter of Malegaon model of terrorism. Until the other day, Mr. Modi was being highly critical of the ATS investigation into the Malegaon blasts.

For Mr. Achuthanandan, it dawned only late that he could use late Sandeep to his advantage like the party had done with its martyrs. Sandeep’s father, who had earlier declined to take a telephone call from Defence Minister A. K. Antony,  understands politicians. They come with wreaths and solatia when somebody dies because of their fault or neglect.

Mr. Achuthanandan should have respected the sentiments of Mr. Unnikrishnan and kept away instead of sneaking in with the help of police. If he had exercised discretion, the Chief Minister of the State would not have been snubbed by the father who said: “Mr. VS, you please go. I have no respect left for you.”

But discretion does not seems to be the strong point of the Chief Minister. His remark to the media was: “Not even a dog would have cared to visit the house, if it were not the home of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan.”  (Translation from Mayalayam of the words: Athu Sandeep Unnikrishnante Veedallayirunnuvenkil, oru pattiyum thirinju nookumayirunnilla . ) The Opposition in Kerala Assembly has given notice for moving an adjournment motion in the House accusing him of insulting the family of a martyr.  (Updated on 2/12/08)

Plus 2 Admissions through Minister’s Office Thursday, Aug 28 2008 

Baby M. A., Education Minister

Baby M. A., Education Minister

The Education Minister M. A. Baby has announced that applications for admissions to Plus 2 courses could be faxed to his office (Fax No. 91 471 2518482) up to September 2.

This confirms the allegation something is seriously wrong with the system of admissions. The colleges and nodal offices are not playing their role sincerely. So, the Minister’s office has to step in. It is also possible that the software used for the single window system is not working properly. There were complaints that even students with 60 per cent marks did not get admissions when more than 40000 seats were remaining vacant.

The Minister is now making an ardent effort to fill the vacant seats to ward off criticism. Though the Minister’s intentions are good, they would not do any good in the long run. What he should do is to make the system work at the lower levels. His job is not to dispense services, but to set policy and make the administration work.

Despite all the talk about decentralisation, it is pity that the buck stops only at the Ministers’ offices in several departments.

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