Modi sarkar is in news again for all the wrong reasons. Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has stoked controversy by advocating a ban on sex education in schools. While Modi has been amazingly guarded to shy away from controversies, his colleagues have been far less discrete thereby adversely impacting public perception about the government.
No talks with Naxals:
While the social media was busy dissing Harsh Vardhan, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced a revamped policy to counter the growing threat of Maoist insurgency in some parts of the country. Rajnath categorically ruled out possibility of talks with Maoists. In a meeting of chief secretaries and DGP’s of 10 Naxal infested states, Rajnath and his deputy Kiren Rijiju stressed on closer ties among all the states and centre to tackle the burning problem.
The states have been asked to empower and entitle the tribals in areas where Maoists wield significant influence. Entitlements include giving pattas(land rights) to tribals to earn their confidence. These left wing extremists often garner support of poor tribals by brainwashing them with elaborate propaganda materials. To counter that Home Minister wants states to focus on perception management where steps taken to uplift the poor and marginalised will be highlighted. Also states have been asked to raise special police forces like Greyhound in Andhra Pradesh to combat Maoist terror effectively. Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha will initially develop such forces and centre has decided to allocate extra money for that.
Decision has also been taken to build roads under direct supervision of Home ministry in remote areas. The government has also planned to allocate special funds for development purposes in districts known to have sizeable Maoist presence. Thus government’s approach is twofold. It plans to isolate the Maoist by giving importance to development and also seeks to clinically eliminate them.
Finally Delhi University has bowed down to UGC’s demand. DU VC today said that they are reverting back to the old three years undergraduate programme. Yesterday DU sent a face saving proposal to UGC for retaining the four year programme with the last year optional for research. However with most DU colleges willing to toe their line, UGC decided to crack the whip and summarily dismiss the proposal.
Running short of options, DU VC had to finally change his position. Dinesh Singh said that university has taken the decision to protect the future of students. Reacting to the development HRD Minister Smriti Irani without naming DU VC said that interest of students shouldn’t be sacrificed at the altar of personal prestige.
It is still unclear how students who were admitted last year in the four year programme will be accommodated in the revised system. There is no clear clarification about duration of B-Tech courses running in Delhi University. This ugly spat not only eroded the credibility of Delhi University but also exposed the fact that lot of work is yet to be done to truly empower our educational institutions so that they can strive for excellence.
Harsh Vardhan clarifies:
After stating that fidelity is the best way to avoid AIDS, Dr Harsh Vardhan has again landed himself in soup for a statement made in an old blogpost. As part of vision for Delhi, Harsh Vardhan who was BJP’s Chief Ministerial candidate in the last assembly elections wrote that, “So-called ‘sex education’ to be banned and Yoga to be made compulsory”.
After a national newspaper published this comment, floodgates opened in the social media where people criticized him roundly. Even Chetan Bhagat who is known to be pro-Modi called BJP regressive for harbouring such views. Under fire Harsh Vardhan who is currently out of the country tried to douse the controversy. Health Minister clarified that he is not against sex education but it shouldn’t be vulgar and graphic representation of culturally objectionable symbols should be avoided. Expectedly Congress latched on to this issue and severely ridiculed Harsh Vardhan who is ironically a doctor by profession.
Whether sex education is necessary and how it should be taught is by no means a closed debate. Congress which tried to take the high moral ground today has also banned sex education in various states like Maharashtra and Karnataka where it is in power. But perception often trumps facts in politics and public discourse. Many liberals have deep apprehension about BJP for its reputation of being right wing orthodox party. These kinds of comments only fuel their suspicion. Harsh Vardhan in his clarification gave excuse of culture to denounce the current practice of sex education. The word culture in itself is open to multiple interpretations in a diverse country like India. Perhaps brevity is the need of the hour for ministers in the Modi government.
Sushma Swaraj today completed her three day tour to Bangladesh which has been described as a success by both the countries. Sushma met former Prime Miinister Khaleda Zia todaybefore leaving Bangladesh. Zia reportedly expressed her anguish over lack of democracy in the country.
India however is unwilling to take sides in the incessant tug of war between Hasina and Zia. According to Foreign Ministry sources India wants people of Bangladesh to peacefully settle their internal issues.
Today a Japanese Parliamentary team met Narendra Modi in his residence. There have been some reports that Modi postponed his trip to Japan after demands from China. However Prime Minister tried to allay all such notions by saying that achieving good relationship with Japan is a high priority for his government. He recollected that both the countries have shared heritage and also appreciated the fact that Japan supported his “Vibrant Gujarat” summit when he was the Chief Minister of the state.
French Foreign Miinister is shortly visiting New Delhi. He is likely to discuss about Rafale arms deal among host of other issues.
Many states including several ruled by Congress have expressed their displeasure over Land Acquisition Act passed by previous government. In a meeting of state revenue ministers chaired by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, the overwhelming feeling was that the rules laid down are too restrictive for development process to start quickly. Currently consensus of 80% owners is needed for acquisition of land. Government may rework this act to make it more “development friendly”. Officially Congress maintains that they will resist any attempt to amend the act.
After facing criticism for hiking train fare government has decided to postpone increasing gas price for three months. However Modi sarkar has to bite the bullet sooner than later. Thus Arun Jaitley is looking to ensure that inevitable hike doesn’t burden the customers too much. He has proposed that gas obtained domestically should be priced in Indian currency changing the prevailing practice. Also Finance Minister wants to switch to a mechanism of fixed return on investment for producers- known as cost plus formula.
BJP’s training camp:
Budget session will commence within few days. Before that BJP is planning to train its first time MPs on the various nuances of parliamentary system. The camp will be addressed by Narendra Modi who himself is incidentally a debutant MP. Also addressing the meet will be stalwarts like Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and party patriarch Lal Krishna Advani. With 161 first time MPs, BJP floor managers will be having some anxious moments in the beginning.
Finally, a look at the key economic parameters as of today…