Day 78 of Modi Sarkar

Myanmar’s assurance to India on north-east militants

Myanmar’s President U Thein Sein assured External Affairs Minister Ms. Sushma Swaraj that the country would not foster the growth of any elements inimical to India’s interests. The assurance emerged over the course of Ms. Swaraj’s telephonic conversation with President Thein Sein. She had called him to discuss concerns over North Eastern militant outfits taking refuge in Myanmar. An External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said, “The President categorically said that Myanmar will never allow its territory to be used for anything that is inimical to India’s interests”.

Right from the outset, the NaMo government has been keen on improving relations with India’s neighbouring countries and SAARC nations. In the past decade, the focus on neighbourly ties and strengthening India’s position in the subcontinent had somehow gone lukewarm. President Thein Sein’s heartening reassurances is a positive indicator for the foreign policies of the NaMo administration. It is time India start to shine the spotlight on operationalizing the memorandum of cooperation signed by India and Myanmar in March 2014 as well. The treaty is an agreement to work on sharing security and intelligence partnerships. The President and Ms. Swaraj are believed to have discussed the possibility of a Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) to look at newer avenues of cooperation between the two nations.

HRD Minister’s statement about her qualification causes outrage

Union Human Resources Development Minister, Ms. Smriti Irani has shown a record propensity to attract controversy. Her educational qualifications have once more been at the centre of an outrage in the media and in social networking sites. When questioned, for the umpteenth time, perhaps, at the India Today Woman Summit 2014 about her educational degrees, Ms. Irani responded, “In that kitty of mine where people call me anpadh (illiterate) I do have a degree from Yale University as well which I can bring out and show how Yale celebrated my leadership capacities. Extraneous circumstances are being created so that I deviate my concentration from what my goals are.”  While the minister might simply have meant that she is to be judged on her governance rather than her formal qualifications, the idea of Ms. Irani claiming to have a Yale degree became the cause for much criticism and humor on social media.

Turns out, Ms. Irani was part of a group of 11 Indian MPs who completed a six-day leadership programme at the Yale University’s New Haven campus, Connecticut in 2013. Her poll affidavits of 2004 and 2014 carry very different educational qualifications – a constant source of criticism. Ms. Irani’s tweet, “Unfortunate that the statement regarding my participation in a leadership programme and certificate thereafter was misconstrued”, has done nothing to mitigate the situation.

660 crisis response centres to be set up for women

The Ministry for Women and Child Development announced the launch of 660 crises and response centres for women affected by violence in different locations across the country. In an official statement, the ministry said, “The centres are expected to facilitate medical aid and police assistance, provide legal counselling/court case management, psycho-social counselling and temporary shelter, if required”. The centres, named Nirbhaya Centres after the December 2012 gang-rape victim from the Capital city, are likely to be set up in all the districts in the country. These crisis response centres are envisioned to be one-stop centres for women who are victims of domestic violence, molestation or rape. The victims approaching these centres will be provided shelter, legal and medical aid, and psychological counselling.

Women’s safety had featured high on the BJP’s agenda ahead of the Lok Sabha polls 2014. The NaMo government seems to be well on its way to fulfilling its promises in this field. The Women and Child Development Ministry, headed by Mrs. Maneka Gandhi, is implementing the project that is likely to cost INR 477 crore.

Modi prepares for second visit to J & K

The power sector of Jammu and Kashmir is set for a major boost as the Prime Minister embarks on his visit to Leh and Kargil – his second visit to the State after having assumed office. Apart from meeting defence personnel from the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force, the PM will be flagging off two hydro-power projects in the State. He is also slotted to lay the foundation stone for a transmission line that run about 350 km from Leh to Srinagar.

BJP’s popularity in the State received a major boost when the party candidate Thupstan Chhewang bagged the Ladakh parliamentary constituency albeit by a sleek margin of 36 votes. ‘Union Territory status for Ladakh’ ranked high on Chhewang’s election promises and now it remains to be seen if he can successfully deliver his commitments. Any developmental projects set up in the State will be part of a much needed focus and a renewed attempt to woo the people of the State. The PM is also scheduled to address two large public meetings in Kargil and Leh.

Judges appointment Bill tabled despite opposition

The NaMo government tabled a legislation to alter the system of appointing Supreme Court and High Courts judges. The Bill has received strong criticism from various quarters including the Chief Justice of India who defended, rather staunchly, the collegium system of judges selecting judges. It looks likely that the government shall pass the Bill in the Lok Sabha within the next three days. The Bill is likely to face much resistance in the Rajya Sabha, though. The attempt to amend the Constitution – the aim of the Judicial Appointment Commission Bill – shall require a two-thirds majority assent by both Houses. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has solicited the support of 26 parties and a number of them are ready to back it. It remains to be seen, however, how major parties such as the INC react to the Bill and how much criticism or support it draws from the public. At any rate, it looks like the judicial appointment process requires a thorough rethink.

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