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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 46, November 5, 2011

One Piece of Encouraging News

Editorial

Tuesday 8 November 2011, by SC

As we go to press the government has today given the oil companies a free run to hike petrol prices by Rs 1.82 per litre that would further fuel inflation which has already recorded a massive rise of late to reach the double digit as food prices are causing unbearable strain on the common man.

And today itself the special judge of the trial court on the 2G scam has rejected the bail pleas of DMK MP Kanimozhi and four others involved in the scam despite the CBI having made it abundantly clear that it would not oppose the bail pleas of the five accused. The special judge, O.P. Saini, has in strong words pointed out that the accused being high-profile personalities bail could not be granted to them.

The latest turn of events has come as a big blow to not only Kanimozhi but also her father, DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi, and the entire leadership of the erstwhile ruling party in Tamil Nadu. That is why the High Court is being moved in a bid to ensure Kanimozhi’s expeditious release on bail. This rejection of Kanimozhi’s bail plea by the trial court has the potentiality to negatively impact on the DMK’s ties with the Congress at the Centre and thus affect the ruling coalition in New Delhi.

Meanwhile it has now come out in the public domain that the controversial Finance Ministry note on the 2G scam—that raised a political storm by maintaining that the then Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram, could have prevented the scam by insisting on auction for allocation of the spectrum—was issued on the PMO’s “insistence” even as the “DEA (Development of Economic Affairs in the Finance Ministry) was not in favour of sending” it; and the paragraph relating to Chidambaram was drafted by the Cabinet Secretary. These are learnt to have been conveyed by the present Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, in a letter to the PM as a matter of record on September 26, a day after his meeting and discussions with Dr Manmohan Singh at New York. This has been also highlighted at a press conference by the Chairman of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, Murli Manohar Joshi, to conclude that all players from the PM to the then Finance Minister (Chidambaram) were somehow involved in the entire episode.

All these have imparted a new dimension to the 2G spectrum scam.

Alongside these developments the Election Commission has accepted a major demand of the Anna Hazare team: the “right to reject” as an option in the elections. Accordingly the EC is understood to be writing to the Union Law Ministry asking for the introduction of the “right to reject” option in the forthcoming Assembly elections in five States next year.

In the meantime the news from West Bengal has been shocking and most distressing: 42 children having died in pitiable condition in different hospitals of the State within a brief span of time—a sad commentary indeed on the state of healthcare in the province. While the Left Front Government which enjoyed power for 34 long years at a stretch in West Bengal cannot possibly escape responsibility for such a situation (stemming from the lack of health infrastructure especially in the rural areas), the present government of the Trinamul-Congress combine headed by Mamata Banerjee cannot be indifferent to this calamity. And that is precisely why the logical demand that Mamata should appoint a wholetime Health Minister for the State is gaining momentum with every passing day.

The call for scrapping the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act too has again come to the fore with the J&K CM’s proposed move to withdraw it from select areas of the State. With the national media once more projecting Irom Sharmila’s courageous and prolonged fast (exceeding ten years) in Manipur for the repeal of the Act, the issue has acquired renewed prominence.

Against this backdrop one piece of encouraging news has come from the India-Pakistan front: the Pakistan Cabinet unanimously agreeing on November 2 to grant India the most favoured nation (MFN) status, a move that would go a long way towards reinforcing trade and bilateral relations between the two while giving a new impetus to the peace process. The words of Pakistan’s Information Minister Firdaus Ashiq Awan in Islamabad were most reassuring: “This was a decision taken in the national interest and all stakeholders, including our military and defence institutions, were on board.” At the other end Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma hinted in New Delhi that India was planning to allow freer imports by pruning the “negative list” of sensitive products under the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA); this step will benefit Pakistan most among all our neighbours.

Is this indictive of winds of change blowing from Pakistan to India and vice-versa after so many years of friction and hostility between the two estranged neighbours? Only the future can give a definite answer to this query but what is undeniable is that as of now both states are in the process of scaling down tensions while expanding productive ties for mutual benefit. That in itself is of phenomenal significance at the present juncture and a tribute to all those in both the countries (like the founder of this journal whose birth anniversary we observe today) who contributed to strengthening peace, amity and stability in this region.

November 3 S.C.

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