Voters should involve more in the electoral process right from the selection of candidates by political parties to make the need to use NOTA button redundant
The promise to raise health spend to 3% of gross domestic product (GDP) from the present low of 1.2%, which is a likely priority in the Congress manifesto should be welcomed. However, an offer coming from a political party that was at the helm for over 65 years, during which period, the record of steps taken to apply the Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Constitution (Articles 36 to 51), including Article 47 relating to ‘raising the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health’ will undergo credibility-test at the hustings (political campaigns).
The impact on the aam aadmi such offers will have, encouraging him to improve his awareness about his rights and government’s duties, may, itself work as a change agent. Viewed from this perspective, other political parties should follow Congress in selective highlighting of citizen’s rights and duties. After all, like Directive Principles, as of now, election promises are also ‘not enforceable by any court’.
By creating more awareness among people about expectations of the authors of Indian Constitution, from the governments, political parties will be doing a great service to themselves and the country. Such a shift in the thematic content of election campaign will make Elections 2014 different from the previous ones. Who knows, it may even pave the way for a national consensus on crucial issues making the kind of the unhappy scenes the closing ceremonies of last Lok Sabha telecast to the world viewers a thing of the past.
This discussion can be taken further. In my article How much of Indian Constitution is for ‘We, the people’? I had quoted Arvind Kejriwal saying: “There are some fundamental issues which we are committed to and are non-negotiable- secularism, equality and non-violence. All that has been written in the preamble of the Constitution that is our basic agenda.”
Time is opportune to recall this and see what thoughts should prevail upon the Indian voter before exercising his franchise in Elections 2014, even if, in certain situations he may opt for the last option, namely, pressing the none of the above (NOTA) button.
That takes us back to the pre-election propaganda and manifestos of political parties. The churning in the political scenario, partly caused by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) rise, is forcing the Indian voter think more seriously about his rights and government’s responsibilities.
True, this country’s problems, from day one, post-independence, can be sourced to centralisation of power and resources. It does not start or end with government or governance.
Our Constitution gives enough flexibility in governance and the clarity of guidance for handling almost everything coming under the broad responsibilities of legislature, executive and judiciary is perhaps unique to the Indian Constitution. Perhaps, if the political leadership in whose hands the responsibility of administering the Constitution vests revisit the Constitution with the promises made by several candidates who fought past elections and their achievements as also the possible realignment of priorities in promises needed in the context of the recent political developments, it may still be possible to bring some clarity in the minds of the bewildered voters.
The issues covered in entire chapter on Directive Principles, mutatis mutandis, are suggested for acceptance for inclusion in election speeches/manifestos.
Several areas of social justice such as gender equality, right to an adequate means of livelihood, distributive justice, healthcare, avoidance of child labour, protection for vulnerable sections of society against exploitation and abandonment, equal justice, free legal aid for the needy, organisation of village panchayats, right to work, right to education, public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, just and humane conditions of work and maternity relief, living wage and decent standard of life for workers, promotion of cottage industries, workers’ participation in management, uniform civil code for the citizens, provision for childhood care and education to children below six years, support to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and weaker sections of society, raising the level of nutrition and the standard of living of the people, improvement in public health, modernising agriculture and animal husbandry, protecting environment, protection for monuments and places and objects of national importance, separation of judiciary and executive and promotion of international peace and security are all covered under directive principles of state policy.
(Articles-39 to 51).
Preamble of the Constitution reads:
“WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
And to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation;
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION”
This has placed the responsibility of ensuring that right choices are made when the right to vote is exercised squarely on the citizen. Thus, voters should involve more in the electoral process right from the selection of candidates by political parties, making the need to use NOTA button redundant!
(MG Warrier is former general manager of Reserve Bank of India.)
Over the past 10 years, Maharashtra and Mumbai police never applied for any permission from the Speaker to prosecute any MLAs for any offence, reveals an RTI
Investigative agencies in Maharashtra have to seek permission of the Speaker if it wants to prosecute any member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) for an offence. It has come to notice now that over the past 10 years, neither Maharashtra nor Mumbai police have ever applied for permission from the Speaker to prosecute an MLA! This information has been revealed in a reply to a query filed by Right to Information (RTI) activist Anil Galgali.
As per media reports, former commissioner Dr Satyapal Singh had announced that the Mumbai Police has sought permission from the Speaker to prosecute MLA and former minister of state for home, Kripashankar Singh in a disproportionate assets case filed some time back. However, according to the RTI reply, received by Galgali, there was no such correspondence in this case.
Galgali said many times, police claims that they are waiting for a reply from the Speaker on their application and once it is received, they would proceed with prosecution of public representatives.
In his RTI application, Galgali requested the Speaker’s office to provide info about the number of cases in which the police has sought permission to prosecute a public representative.
In the reply to the query, Umesh Shinde, desk officer at the Maharashtra Legislative Secretariat informed that – “Nil - Permissions were sought.” Galgali also sought to know what kind of proposals for sanctions to prosecute are needed to be sent to the Speaker, and which cases do not require permission of Speaker to prosecute any MLA. In the reply to this query also was given as “Nil.”
This is contrary to claims often made by police about prosecuting MLAs.
Anil Galgali had sought information on the same subject from Mumbai and Maharashtra Police also. In reply to the query, ACP (Coordination), Mumbai Police said that they have transferred and referred the query to Maharashtra Legislative Secretariat. On behalf of Maharashtra Police, its Public Information Officer DD Phadke replied that they have no records of the information sought. It is significant to note here that as per a survey by an NGO almost 146 MLA's & 26 MP's have criminal records in Maharashtra.
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Why Indian carriers are indulging in price wars, instead of considering the options of reductions in flight or even cancelling those that are loss making sectors?
Once again, domestic airlines in India have gone into a price war on offering economic and attractive prices to air travellers. According to information available, the Director General of Civil Aviation confirms that the air traffic grew by a 4.43% in 2012-13 and the scheduled airlines carried 61.42 million passengers, compared to 58.81 million in 2011-12, though during 2010-11 they carried 60.66 million.
Moneylife carried a detailed story on the fare price war that all the domestic carriers offered last month, during which time, Air Costa quietly began to work in and out of Vijayawada, reaching other nearby two-tier cities. It must be noted that these airlines suffered both rising fuel prices and sharp depreciation of the rupee.
When the price war broke out on domestic fares, it was SpiceJet, which set the rules, and all others followed. While full details of the offer have not been made public, in terms of sales thus obtained through slashed prices, it may be safely presumed that the response was overwhelming.
So much so, that, once again, SpiceJet and Indigo have offered low fares based on 30, 60 and 90 days advance purchase, also known as "apex fares".
This has been done to ensure that they have 100% passenger load during the peak summer season, covering April to September, with varying discounts between 10% and 35% from the normal fare. It must be borne in mind that when such low fares are offered, these are always conditional. SpiceJet calls their offer as Super Holi Sale, which started on 12th and will close on 16th March! Readers of Moneylife, who are interested in these special deals, would do well to contact their travel agent, so as not to miss this opportunity.
It may be recalled that the domestic airlines through their Federation have petitioned to the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) that Air Asia should not be given the licence to operate as this will cause immense harm to the existing industry in the country, leading to further losses. Public hearing and various "objections" on this issue have also been dealt with by the DGCA. In fact, it is now reported that, Aviation Secretary, Ashok Lavasa in the ministry is reported to have stated that they would not any airline from starting operations in the country based on objections from existing airlines!
In other words, they would rather go by the book on well laid policy guidelines on these matters!
In a separate development, SpiceJet is reported to have finalized their new set of orders to buy 42 Boeing B 737 Max planes at an estimated cost of $4.4 billion and deliveries are expected to commence from 2018 onwards. According to S Narayanan, chief financial officer, this deal includes swapping of existing orders for 12 Boeing 737 planes, and they expect to fund this acquisition by selling and leasing backing the planes. It is also reported that these Max planes have the potential to save the airline at least 14% in fuel costs.
Sanjiv Kapoor, chief operating officer of SpiceJet appears to have stated, according to the media, that a fresh route plan, starting from 30th March is expected to be announced, resulting in an estimated 20% increase in productivity.
All these are encouraging to note, while, what is depressing to read is the reported record loss of about Rs1,186 crore in 2013-14, which is equal to the combined loss incurred between 2007 and 2013, according to the consulting firm Capa, which again has been reported in the media. One, therefore, wonders why, in such a case, indulge in price wars, instead of considering the options of reductions in flight or even cancelling those that are loss making sectors?
In the next few weeks, chances are Air Asia will begin to operate, whether other domestic carriers like it or not!
So, when the issue of "objections" by other domestic airlines was brought to the notice of Tony Fernandez, group CEO of Air Asia, he is reported to have stated that "the only way to win is to beat me in better produce and price; not through protection and courts. Let the consumers decide".
The only suggestion that the writer can make to Air Asia is to beat all the domestic airline operators by offering one additional service and that of pick up and delivery of passengers by Air Asia coaches! A study of taxi fares to and from airports would reveal that this charge is almost 30% to 40% of the airline ticket! In the past, passengers could use the domestic bus service to and from airport, at nominal rates, and that was run by retired ex-service men. Why and when they stopped is not known, but, today, cab fares are exorbitant and sometimes unsafe. For a few dollars more, Air Asia can take care of this need!
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)