Girish Chandra Murmu Is First L-G Of Jammu & Kashmir

The government of Friday appointed Girish Chandra Murmu as the first Lt Governor of Jammu and Kashmir and Radha Krishna Mathur as the first Lt Governor of Ladkah, days before the two regions formally come into existence as union territories.

Satya Pal Malik, the incumbent Governnor of Jammu and Kashmir, has been transferred to Goa.

The appointments were made by President Ram Nath Kovind.

Murmu is a 1985-batch Gujarat Cadre IAS officer and was appointed as Secretary, Department of Expenditure in March this year.

Mathur is a retired 1977-batch IAS officer of Tripura cadre and retired as Chief Information Commissioner of India (CIC) in November 2018.

Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh will formally come into existence as union territories on October 31. The parliament had passed a bill to bifurcate Jammu and Kashmir in August and adopted a resloution to repeal Article 370 (ANI)

Is It A Wake-up Call For The BJP?

The laddoo is a ubiquitous Indian confection. Made primarily of sugar, fat and flour, it is as calorific as it is celebratory. Distribution of laddoos is a common form of celebrating success or victory. Last Wednesday, a day before the assembly elections results were declared in Maharashtra, India’s second-most populous state, the state’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders were so confident of winning the elections that they ordered 5,000 laddoos that they would distribute in celebration.

That over-confidence was dashed when the results came out on Thursday. Similar smug confidence about a BJP victory in Haryana, the other state that went to the polls along with Maharashtra, was shattered as well. In both states, the incumbent governments were BJP-led (in Haryana, of the 90 seats, the BJP had won 48 in 2014; and in Maharashtra, of the 288 seats, the BJP had 122 and its ally the Shiv Sena had 63). When the results came in on Thursday, the BJP’s tally in Maharashtra shrank to 105 and the Shiv Sena’s to 56. In Haryana too, the party saw its fortunes dip and managed just 40 seats, six short of a simple majority.

In both states, there is a scramble on to garner numbers and form a government. Independent elected representatives are being wooed to strengthen numbers by both, the BJP and its opponents who have, incidentally, fared better than they did in 2014. Interestingly, most exit polls appeared to suggest that a BJP-led victory would be a no-brainer in both states. The pre-ordering of laddoos suggests supreme confidence on the part of the party as well.

The BJP’s confidence—disproportionate or otherwise—has been spurred chiefly by the party’s overwhelming victory at the national levels. Last May, Mr Narendra Modi and his government were re-elected decisively in parliamentary elections and their main Opposition party, the Congress, was decimated. Such a victory certainly boosts confidence but it can also lead to hubris.

In both states that went to the polls, voters demonstrated that they decide who to elect based on local issues and what an incumbent state government has delivered during its term. In Maharashtra and Haryana, the results indicate quite clearly that the people are not overly satisfied by their respective state government’s performance. Moreover, in both states it has also been the rise of regional parties that has eaten into the BJP’s support base. In Maharashtra, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), led by veteran politician Sharad Pawar, has scored gains in the recent elections; in Haryana, a debutant regional party, the Jannayak Janta Party has not only garnered an impressive number of seats but it now calls the shots as a possible kingmaker as the BJP and its rivals scramble to form a government.

The BJP, either on its own or together with allies, rule in 14 of India’s 29 states (16 if you assume that it will form governments in Haryana and Maharashtra). The Congress rules in just five states, while in the rest, regional parties hold sway. Ever since its surge to power at the Centre in 2014, the BJP has avowed that it will free India of Congress and spread its control over all of India. That has not happened. In southern India, the party has been largely unable to garner support in local as well as national polls; in Odisha and Bengal, regional parties have continued to rule the roost; and, as the two latest state elections show, regional parties and local issues can dominate in assembly polls. Two states will head to the polls in coming months—Jharkhand (where the BJP leads the incumbent government), and Delhi (where a feisty local party, the Aam Aadmi Party, is in power). These two elections, due in January and February, will be test cases to watch whether BJP can turn its confidence into votes at the state level. In any case, it would be wise to hold the order of laddoos. As the party’s possibly chastened leaders have realised, those sweet confections can quickly turn bitter.

That over-confidence was dashed when the results came out on Thursday. Similar smug confidence about a BJP victory in Haryana, the other state that went to the polls along with Maharashtra, was shattered as well. In both states, the incumbent governments were BJP-led (in Haryana, of the 90 seats, the BJP had won 48 in 2014; and in Maharashtra, of the 288 seats, the BJP had 142 and its ally the Shiv Sena had 75). When the results came in on Thursday, the BJP’s tally in Maharashtra shrank to 105 and the Shiv Sena’s to 56. In Haryana too, the party saw its fortunes dip and managed just 40 seats, six short of a simple majority.

In both states, there is a scramble on to garner numbers and form a government. Independent elected representatives are being wooed to strengthen numbers by both, the BJP and its opponents who have, incidentally, fared better than they did in 2014. Interestingly, most exit polls appeared to suggest that a BJP-led victory would be a no-brainer in both states. The pre-ordering of laddoos suggests supreme confidence on the part of the party as well.

The BJP’s confidence—disproportionate or otherwise—has been spurred chiefly by the party’s overwhelming victory at the national levels. Last May, Mr Narendra Modi and his government were re-elected decisively in parliamentary elections and their main Opposition party, the Congress, was decimated. Such a victory certainly boosts confidence but it can also lead to hubris.

In both states that went to the polls, voters demonstrated that they decide who to elect based on local issues and what an incumbent state government has delivered during its term. In Maharashtra and Haryana, the results indicate quite clearly that the people are not overly satisfied by their respective state government’s performance. Moreover, in both states it has also been the rise of regional parties that has eaten into the BJP’s support base. In Maharashtra, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), led by veteran politician Sharad Pawar, has scored gains in the recent elections; in Haryana, a debutant regional party, the Jannayak Janta Party has not only garnered an impressive number of seats but it now calls the shots as a possible kingmaker as the BJP and its rivals scramble to form a government.

The BJP, either on its own or together with allies, rule in 14 of India’s 29 states (16 if you assume that it will form governments in Haryana and Maharashtra). The Congress rules in just five states, while in the rest, regional parties  hold sway. Ever since its surge to power at the Centre in 2014, the BJP has avowed that it will free India of Congress and spread its control over all of India. That has not happened. In southern India, the party has been largely unable to garner support in local as well as national polls; in Odisha and Bengal, regional parties have continued to rule the roost; and, as the two latest state elections show, regional parties and local issues can dominate in assembly polls. Two states will head to the polls in coming months—Jharkhand (where the BJP leads the incumbent government), and Delhi (where a feisty local party, the Aam Aadmi Party, is in power). These two elections, due in January and February, will be test cases to watch whether BJP can turn its confidence into votes at the state level. In any case, it would be wise to hold the order of laddoos. As the party’s possibly chastened leaders have realised, those sweet confections can quickly turn bitter.

NDA To Form Govt In Maharashtra, Hung House In Haryana

The ruling BJP-Shiv Sena appeared poised to retain power in Maharashtra by bagging 161 seats, way above the required winning mark of 145, even though in Haryana despite emerging as the largest party, the saffron party with 40 seats to its kitty is still short of halfway mark in the 90-member state assembly.

In Maharashtra, the BJP is set to retain its position as the single largest party followed by its ally Shiv Sena.

The NCP has replaced its ally Congress in the third position thanks to its strong performance in western Maharashtra. The NCP is also leading in the prestigious bypoll to Satara Lok Sabha seat, where its candidate Shriniwas Patil is ahead of BJP’s Udayanraje Bhosale, a descendant of Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji. Bhosale had left the NCP and joined BJP last month.

In the assembly bypolls on 51 seats across 17 states and a Union Territory, the ruling parties were performing strongly in most states.

However, the BJP and the Congress were locked at three-three in Gujarat. In Uttar Pradesh, where assembly by-election was held on 11 seats, the ruling BJP was leading on six, Samajwadi Party on two, Congress, BSP and Apna Dal (Soneylal) on one each.

In Haryana, according to last reports, BJP had won 30 seats and was leading on 10, while Congress had pocketed 24 and was leading on 7 seats.On the other hand, the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) has won 10 seats. With this, Dushyant Chautala led JJP is expected to play the role of kingmaker.

The Independents have won 6 seats and are leading on one, while the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) has won one seat — Ellanabad from where its leader Abhay Singh Chautala got elected. (ANI)

‘Third Dark Diwali In A Row For Firecracker Traders’

Harjeet Chawala, 40, a trader at Sadar Bazaar market in Delhi, says his business nosedived since the ban on crackers. 

Since childhood, Diwali for me has meant a host of festivities.  Firecrackers were an integral part of it, as our family has been selling them for years. Our business has largely been dependant on only one day -Diwali. We have had buyers for Chhat Puja and New Year’s Eve, but that was just a tiny fraction of our business. With the Supreme Court banning firecrackers and allowing only green crackers in the market, our business has gone for a toss. 

People in Delhi-NCR used to splurge on firecrackers, but now there is no enthusiasm in the market for Diwali. Delhiites have come a long way from competing with each other for bursting more crackers. I understand the environmental concerns. But I do not understand why the honourable Supreme Court has banned the sale of crackers and not their manufacturing. 

Green crackers, which the court has allowed are not available anywhere. Some merchants are selling them online, but they are not available anywhere in the wholesale market. People in the firecracker business have no idea about how they can be procured. We do not know how we can get a license for dealing in them. Whom do we approach for buying them in buk? 

A pack of green crackers is very expensive. You can find them online priced between Rs 300 and Rs 600 for a pack of six to 12 crackers. We heard that these crackers release smoke. Is there any license required to sell them? How can the online companies like Amazon and Flipkart sell them? Do they have a license for it? Are they safe to use?

The ban has left us with a string of unanswered questions. Even the government officials are confused. They don’t know the details about green crackers as many of them have never used or seen them.  We had many clients, mostly licensed shop-owners from western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Now they are also buying crackers from the manufacturers directly as any consignment of firecrackers is not allowed in the national capital. Like previous two Diwalis, this festival too is going to be dark for us.

(Chawala did not wish to be photographed for this story)

SC To Govt: How Long Will J&K Restrictions Go On?

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the central government that how long it intends to continue with the restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370 in the region in August.

“How many days you want restrictions? It’s already two months now. You have to come clear on this and you have to find out other methods,” said a three-judge bench headed by Justice NV Ramana.

“You may impose restrictions, but you have to review your decisions. Do you?” the bench said.

The Centre said that over 90 per cent restrictions have been lifted in Jammu and Kashmir and the situation is being reviewed daily.

“About Internet restrictions, people ultimately need to have a mode of communication,” the bench said.

The top court posted the matter for hearing on November 5.

On August 5, the central government had abrogated Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution that granted special powers to Jammu and Kashmir and passed the Jammu and Kashmir (Reorganisation) Act 2019, bifurcating the former state into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir with legislature and Ladakh without one.

The new UTs will come into existence from October 31.

Meanwhile, the apex court also allowed Jammu and Kashmir High Court Chief Justice Geeta Mittal to file an additional report on the access of the judiciary by people in the region in the wake of abrogation of Article 370.

The Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court wants to file the report on access to court in the former state on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed before the apex court by eminent child rights expert Enakshi Ganguly and Professor Shanta Sinha, the first chairperson of the National Commission for Child Rights (NCPCR).

The matter will also be taken up on November 5.

A constitution bench of the apex court will hear cases on November 14 pertaining to a batch of petitions filed till 2018 for the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A along with new cases challenging the scrapping of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir.

(ANI)

India, Pak Sign Kartarpur Corridor Pilgrim Agreement

India on Thursday signed an agreement with Pakistan on the modalities for operationalising Kartarpur Sahib Corridor, paving the way for its inauguration next month ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.

The agreement was signed at Zero Line on International Border at Dera Baba Nanak in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district.

The Indian delegation was led by SCL Das, Joint Secretary (Internal Security) in the Home Ministry and the Pakistani delegation by its Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mohammed Faisal.

Officials of the two countries met for a few minutes where Das and Faisal shook hands and signed the agreement.

Representatives from the ministries of external affairs, defence and home along with representatives from Punjab government were present on the occasion.

The agreement lays a formal framework for operationalising the corridor.

“Indian pilgrims of all faiths and persons of Indian origin can use the corridor. The travel will be visa-free and pilgrims need to carry only a valid passport. Persons of Indian Origin need to carry OCI card along with the passport of their country,” the Home Ministry said.

The corridor, which connects the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Punjab’s Gurdaspur with Darbar Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan, will be open from dawn to dusk. Both countries will hold events to mark the opening of their sections of the corridor.

India and Pakistan have held a series of high-level talks for operationalising the corridor ahead of the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev.

The foundation stone for Kartarpur corridor was laid on the Indian side on November 26, 2018. Two days later, the foundation stone was laid on the Pakistani side.

The Home Ministry said in a statement that pilgrims travelling in the morning will have to return on the same day. The corridor will be operational throughout the year, except on notified days, to be informed in advance.

“Pilgrims will have a choice to visit as individuals or in groups and also to travel on foot,” it said.

India will send the list of pilgrims to Pakistan 10 days ahead of travel date. The confirmation will be sent to the pilgrims four days before the travel date.

The ministry said Pakistan has assured India that it will make sufficient provision for ‘langar’ and distribution of ‘prasad.’

India has shared its deep disappointment with Pakistan for its refusal to waive the USD 20 service fee that will be charged from pilgrims visiting the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor.

“However, in the interest of the pilgrims and timely operationalisation of the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor before the 550th Prakash Purb, India has agreed to sign the agreement on Thursday,” the Home Ministry said.

Pilgrims who wish to visit the Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan should register in advance in an online portal — prakashpurb550.mha.gov.in — which has gone live from Thursday.

“The pilgrims can exercise their choice to travel on any day and will be informed by SMS and email of the confirmation of registration, three to four days in advance of the date of travel. An Electronic Travel Authorisation will also be generated. The pilgrims need to carry the Authorisation along with their passport when they arrive at the Passenger Terminal Building,” the release said.

The corridor will also be the first visa-free connectivity between the two neighbours.

(ANI)