Friday, 2 November 2018

Sabarimala and other issues-Complaint to the Chief Minister of Kerala

from: Ravindran P M <raviforjustice@gmail.com>
to: CHIEF MINISTER KERALA <chiefminister@kerala.gov.in>
cc: CM Office Kerala <cmoffice@kerala.gov.in>
date: Oct 26, 2018, 10:50 AM
subject: Complaint-Sabarimala and other issues

Attention: Mr Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Mnister of Kerala

1. Refer my e mail of 1/9/16, copy given at the end of this mail.

2. Needless to say my hopes lie shattered.

3. You will no doubt go down in the history of Kerala as the last and worst commie Chief Minister of the State, nay, of the country itself. Maybe for some it would make no difference whether it is notoriety or fame that follows them.

4. I have read reports of you earlier telling media persons to get out in the most uncouth manner. And even reminding the Prime Minister that we have a federal system of government. And now you and your ministers are heard telling the Thanthri of Sabarimala that they are mere employees of the Devaswam Board. Now let me tell you that it will do you a lot of good if you get the following facts correct.

5. We not only have a federal system of governance, we are a democratic country too. I hope you understand what democracy means. It is rule 'of the people, for the people, by the people' as an American President put it. And the National Commission to review the working of the Constitution has unambiguously stated that 'the highest office of the land it that of a citizen'.

6. And before I go to your failures and perfidies as the Chief Minister, responsible for all that an elected government is tasked to do, let me place it on record that you and your ministers are our employees. Have no doubt about that.

7. Coming to the Thanthri of Sabarimala, being an employee of the Dewaswam Board, it is as much a fraud as the communist party did with land reforms- took land from the then owners and distributed it to a small group of persons and now doling out tax money to these very erstwhile owners for their sustenance. In the case of Sabarimala too the situation is no different. Sabarimala and the Ayyappa temple there is older than the State, the Dewaswam Board and even your party at the world level. The Thantri's income possibly is much lesser than what he would have had, had not the management of the temple's affairs been usurped by the government in a grossly unconstitutional manner and vested with the devaswom boards. We are well aware of the misuse of the voluntary donations of devotees to the temple by the employees of the devaswom boards, starting with its President.

8. This complaint will not be complete without recounting some ( I repeat some) of your gross failures during the last couple of years of governance. In the reverse chronological order they are as follows.

9. Your visit to UAE, with your family, at tax payers' cost,  with the declared objective of motivating NRKs to contribute towards the states' reconstruction after the floods. It appears, from reports in the media, after your return, that you have admitted to having had talks with business people to invest in Kerala rather than contribute to reconstruction of the flood ravaged state. In the background of the Global Investors Meet, hosted by the Government of Kerala periodically, this trip was wholly uncalled for, futile and waste of tax payer' money.

10. The plans to send 17 of your cabinet collegues abroad along with a team of about 190 bureaucrats was nothing but preposterous and we have to thank Mr Narendra Modi led government for denying permission. I am also wondering whether you and all the 17 ministers are redundant given the fact that you could plan to leave the state with your unfulfilled responsibilites of rehabilitating the victims of the flood, many of whom are still in relief camps.

11. Even when the rehabilitation activities were at its peak, you had left for the capital of the capitalist world, acclaimedly for treatment of an undisclosed ailment. While health and the treatment of indivduals are necessarily a private matter, it has to be an exception in the matter of public servants. Like freedom of speech and organisation, though fundmental rights under the Constitution, are denied to soldiers. In any case the public have a right to know of your ailment for two reasons: one, they are funding the treatment and all associated costs and two, they have to know if you are sufficiently health to fulfill the responsibilites that go with your assignment. The fact that you had not even handed over your duties while being out of the State for treatment tend to suggest that the ailment was not serious. And that also raises the question why you had misused your office to splurge tax payers money for a treatment that should have been availed within the State, which you yourself had boasted was amoung the best in the country.

12. That the floods were man made and attributable to the ineptitude of your government is no more in doubt. The involvement of the government in the rescue and relief operations were even more condemnable. Had it not been for the prompt and daring interventions of individuals and unorganised groups even the death toll would have been many fold. Even at the peak of these operations you and some of your ministers were only seen creating controversies, including insulting the armed forces who were here on aid to civil authorities.

13. The investigations into the sex scandals involving Bishop Franco Mulaikkal, priests, Fathers Abraham Varghese and Jayes K George, MLA P K Sasi have not only been unsatisfactory but also invites comparison with the molestation case in a Malappuram cinema hall. In the latter case, the theater owner had been arrested for an alleged delay in informing the police. As per  report in the Mathrubhumi of 5/6/18, the incident happened in a theater in Edappal on 18/4/18. The theater owner while going through the cctv recordings had come to know of this and reported the matter to the police on 26/4/18. The police had not taken any action till 12/5/18 when the information, along with the vidoe clip, was shared with Mathrubhumi and the accused was arrested. Now, in the cases involving the Bishop and the priests, the matter had been reported to the Church authorities who had been sitting on it and caliming that they were investigating into it. They NEVER even reported the matter to the police. Finally teh victims had to go to the police themselves. And those who supported the bishops's victims even had to stage protest outside the High Court of Kerala before things started to move, even though at snails pace. To the best of my knowledge the offence was one which warranted arrest under non-bailable charges.

14. The case of MLA Sasi has still not been registered by the police, even though the media has covered it adequately to warrant his arrest and prosecution too. And the party is certainly entitled to make their own investigation under party rules but not under the CrPC. If the Chief Minister, who is also in charge of the Home portfolio and controls the police, doesn't know this it is time that he relinquished the job on grounds of incompetence.

15. To cut this list short, I invite your attention to the following video reports on Youtube:

https://youtu.be/cHZTz-Rl1Vc  a muslim girl to CM, Kerala

https://youtu.be/15Qws5jVPvI  an advocate on judiciary, govt and faith

https://youtu.be/zEYThhjVoGo  a christian on xtian women adventurers

16. You may also like to hear what Vivek Oberoi, a bollywood star, has to say on Sabarimala. His views are at https://www.facebook.com/100002730811315/posts/1522850971149249/
And the views of Mr K P Anil Kumar during a talk show on Mathrubhumi channelon 20 Oct 2018 on the subject  Kaval kondu kaaryamundo? Your representative Mr Mohanan was also a participant.

17. Strictly speaking when a democraticlly elected government loses the faith of the majority it is required to demit office and not cling on to it claiming that they have been elected for 5 years and taking advantage of the absence a law to recall elected representatives. If the argument is that the ayyappa devotees and their supporters do not constitute the majority then the challenge is to prove it by calling for mid term elections.

Yours truly,

P M Ravindran
raviforjustice@gmail.com
26 Oct 2018

from: Ravindran P M <raviforjustice@gmail.com>
to: CHIEF MINISTER KERALA <chiefminister@kerala.gov.in>
date: Thu, Sep 1, 2016 at 9:58 AM
subject: 100 days of governance!

Coming events cast their shadows before them!

These 100 days have been disappointing.

The reduction in the number of personal staff, though notional, was welcome. One cannot understand why ministers should have more than 3 assistants as personal staff.

The decision to do away with police escort doesn't seem to have been implemented.

The attitude towards citizens' right to know what their government is doing is totally unacceptable.

The Kerala State Information Commission is defunct. Not that it needs additional information commissioners to be appointed urgently. What is needed is to ensure that the available information commissioner does his job in the letter and spirit of the law. In fact the loss to the exchequer due to information commissioners not imposing the mandatory penalty can be more than the 2G, Coalgate and Vadragate put together. While the defaulting information commissioners are liable to be prosecuted under Sec 219 of the IPC no such action has been ever taken by the concerned authorities. Or should we take it that the role of all public servants is only to cheat and loot the public?

To cut the story short, the only hope I had when you took over the reins of government was that the onus was on you to provide meaningful and purposeful governance if your party has to retain the toe hold it has in this nation. It seems you are not yet alive to this responsibility.

Hoping for better days!

NERO FIDDLED WHILE ROME BURNT…

Remembering the above quip in the context of the events that have unfolded in Kerala during the last week, post the Sabarimala verdict of the apex court on 28 Sep 2018, is not just coincidental.

It was a 4:1 judgment of a bench headed by the then Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, himself. The majority opted to rule in favour of a cosmetic notion, touted as gender equality. Cosmetic, because the restriction in Sabarimala is not a matter of gender discrimination as girls below 10 years of age and women above 50 years of age are permitted and they have been visiting the temple since ages. And, more importantly, there are more fundamental issues which are required to be viewed from the point of gender discrimination.

In our country women have been demanding 33 percent (I wonder why only 33 and not 50 percent) reservation in Parliament and state legislatures for many, many years now. And, shouldn’t such reservation be there in the judiciary too? 

In fact the very composition of the Constitution bench needs to be challenged on this ground of gender discrimination.

The only woman member of the bench had given a dissenting judgment which is acclaimed by even many former judges and legal luminaries as a more balanced and acceptable one in a plural society like ours.

Various reports in the media, sharing views by legal experts tend to suggest that there is an apparent conflict between Article 25(2) (b) and Article 26 of the Constitution.

Article 25(2)(b) mandates the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus. But Article 26 provides the right to every religious denomination: (a) to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes; (b) to manage its own affairs in matters of religion; (c) to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and (d) to administer such property in accordance with law.

The conflict is apparently in identifying Hindu religious institutions of a public character and religious denomination.

Just because public are allowed to visit a temple it doesn’t mean that it is a public place, like, say a park or a theatre. (In fact couldn’t the Chamber of the CJI be considered to be a public place being funded by the tax payers’ money? Well, I can almost hear some legal pundit shouting blasphemous!)   


Coming to denomination, here are a few definitions of the term from various dictionaries/thesauruses.
*(Theology) a group having a distinctive interpretation of a religious faith and usually its own organization- Collins English Dictionary
*A class of persons or things distinguished by a specific name-Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary
*A set of the same persons, called by the same name and therefore of the same views.-Dictionary of Collective Nouns and Group Terms
*Religious group, belief, sect, persuasion, creed, school-Collins Thesaurus of the English Language
*A religious group that has slightly different beliefs from other groups that share the same religion- Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus

I am sure that we need not leave it to the judiciary to give any new meaning to this term. (Remember how the judges did that to the term ‘consultation’ used in Article 124(2) and usurped the powers of the President to appoint judges?)

By no stretch of imagination can the temple of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala be considered a public place nor can the rights of the denomination of Ayyappa devotees to manage its own affairs in matters of religion be abrogated.

While on these two articles of the Constitution, one glaring inequality, nay, blatant discrimination, needs to be highlighted.

While the rights under Article 26 is provided to every religious denomination, the mandate of Article 25(2) (b) is to throw open Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus only.

Now even hard core rationalists cannot deny that if any change has to be made it is to be made for Article 25(2)(b) by making it non-religion specific.

Coming to matters of equality, the apex court itself needs to answer some simple questions with respect to its own functioning.

One, forgetting the lack of equality in the number of women judges in our courts, do the courts treat the litigants themselves as equal? Here, let us not forget that it is the litigants who are the raison d'etre of the judiciary.

Two, what have the judges been doing to reduce the massive back log of cases which have reduced justice to a farce in our courts?

Three, given that the judiciary is only another organ created by the Constitution, why is it that the judiciary has long vacations that are not available to the other organs?

An article dated 23 May 2014 in Live Law had the title: Justice Delivery System Working 365 Days; Pressing Needs of the Indian Judiciary. And this was not the author’s imagination taking wings. It was a need articulated by the then CJI while addressing the legal fraternity during the foundation stone laying ceremony of the building for Rajasthan Bar Council at Jodhpur. But the only requirement projected by him to enable this was to improve the judge to population ratio by increasing the number of judges to at least 3 to 4 times the present strength.

I will hold anybody who talks of judge to population ratio instead of the judge to case/docket ratio as incompetent to be a judge at all. I have with me a Power Point Presentation, authored by Adv KTS Tulsi, on the subject ‘Justice Delayed in India’ for a program of the Supreme Court Bar Association on 24 Aug 2004. Here are some statistics presented by him:
Cases filed in one year (1999): India - 13.6 Million (13,668,073); USA- 93.81 Million
Docket’s per judge: India - 987; USA- 3235
He had quoted these figures to demolish the judge to population ratio quoted by Malimath in his report.

The judiciary is also known to propagate another preposterous theory- that even if the judgment is wrong it has to be complied with. Is there any wonder, that the crime rate is increasing the way it is and people are taking law into their own hands? Even advocates, quite often, seem to prefer to take to the streets rather that pursue the judicial process.

Coming back to Sabarimala, while there is no room for doubt that the present situation is the creation of the apex court, the role of Pinarayi Vijayan led government in Kerala in handling the events have been no less abominable. In the name of enforcing the judicial order the police, driven by the government, has been almost on a murderous spree. Devotees protesting peacefully on the routes to the temple have been brutally assaulted and photographs of them being lathi charged, bleeding profusely and dragged through roads have flooded social media. The rampaging police, in riot gear, and some doubted to be even hired or party hooligans in uniform, can be seen wantonly kicking and hitting with lathis, parked vehicles and causing them unwarranted damage. A few hundred cases, some even non bailable, have also been registered against protestors. Rahul Easwar, a strong defender of the faith and the rituals and a peaceful protestor, was arrested and allegedly taken to the police station wrapped in a tarpaulin. He was apparently given third degree treatment by the police and is currently admitted in the Medical College Hospital at Thiruvananthapuram with a slip disc in the spine.

Interestingly there were no devotees from the newly permitted age group who visited Sabarimala during the five days from 17 to 22 Oct 2018 when the temple had opened for the monthly rituals. The intelligence agencies had warned the state government of terror outfits and naxalites exploiting the opportunity for nefarious reasons. But, as it turned out, it was the state government that arranged for a posse of about 250 police personnel led by an IG of Police to escort two women- Rehana Fathima, an activist notorious for her involvement in Kiss of Love protests that had rocked the State more than a year back, and Kavitha Jakkal, a Christian reporter based at Hydrabad- to the temple. Even while emotions ran high amoung the helpless devotees the police managed to take them up to 200 meters short of the temple. It was then that the employees of the temple also joined the protestors. Finally, the activists and their escorts had to retreat when the trustees of the temple and the thanthri, the ultimate authority on religious matters and the rituals of the temple, threatened to close the temple. There were a few other women too, mostly in the role of activists, who tried to use the opportunity provided by the apex court to visit the temple, but were dissuaded by the protesting devotees.

I cannot say if the apex court judgment in the hands of Pinarayi led Government can be compared to a bouquet of flowers in the hands of a monkey or a murderous weapon in the hands of a serial murderer. The fact remains that the fear of their rights related to their faith being violated was writ large and there were reports of protests from devotees even in far away Australia, Canada and the US of A.

In any case it is fact on record now that the Government did not do anything to avert the untoward events. The option to file a review petition was rejected in spite of the persistent demand from devotees ever since the judgment was out. It was almost as if Pinarayi Vijayan was taking it out on the innocent devotees his rabid hatred for Modi. The fact that he had been exposed in a 700 crore non promised aid from UAE and that the Union Government had denied permission to 17 of his ministers to visit foreign countries to seek help from non-resident Keralites for ‘reconstructing the flood ravaged state’ had also added to the grouse of the CM and consequent misery of the devotees determined to protect their faith and traditions.

If anybody thinks that Team Pinarayi cannot be faulted for their decision to enforce a court verdict there is a need to recapitulate how they had treated many a court verdict in the past.

When the apex court ordered closing of all liquor vends within 500 meters of the highways, the government downgraded many of them to enable their Beverages Corporation outlets to do business as usual. (Incidentally this also provided an occasion to expose how shoddy the record keeping of the public authorities were because the existing status of most roads were not even available.)

There was an order banning admission for medical courses in two colleges and the government went to the extent of issuing an ordinance to enable them to circumvent the court order.

There is an order directing handing over a church at Piravom from one faction to another. It has also not been implemented for more than year now.

The order on minimum wages for nurses in private hospitals and nursing homes also remains to be implemented.

Not only has the government led by Pinarayi Vijayan slept over these orders their reaction to the order banning triple talaq was that it was a challenge to the minorities.

And when there was an order to regulate the slaughtering of animals, the party cadres spread the canard that it was a ban on beef and went to the extent of conducting beef festivals even in colleges owned by the Dewaswam Boards.

Pinarayi Vijayan is leading the only Marxist party led government in the country. Apparently he and his ministers are themselves convinced that they will be the last communist ministers of this country.  That could be the only reason why they have taken their prime duty, of governance, out of their agenda.  More than two months after the floods there were reportedly 66 relief camps still in operation with 1848 persons in them. Even the meager compensation of Rs 10,000/- has not been distributed fully.

It was during the peak of relief operations that one of his ministers caused a controversy with a visit to Germany to participate in a social event. This was followed by the visit of the Chief Minister himself to the US of A for 21 days for treatment of an undisclosed ailment. Since reports of ministers being ill disposed are often reported by the media, speculation is ripe amoung the public about the nature of ailment which had taken the hard core Marxist, Pinarayi Vijayan, to the epicenter of capitalism in the world. The Lavlin scam, of the times when he had been the Electricity Minister more than a decade back, is still making the rounds of the courts.

And more recently, it was reported that the CM and 17 of the remaining 20 ministers were going abroad with paraphernalia of 190 public servants, to beg for aid from NRKs for the reconstruction of the flood ravaged state. One wonders that if during crisis the ministers can go on foreign jaunts, under whatever pretext, do the state need these ministers at all. It was thanks to the firm stand of the Union Government that only the CM could go (to the UAE). And he did it with his family at the cost to the already broke public exchequer.

The temple at Sabarimala has closed today after the monthly rituals. The peak pilgrimage season is just another month away. It remains to be seen how the lack of basic amenities and the controversies are going to affect the flow of devotees visiting the shrine from mid November to mid January. But the campaign not to offer any money or buy prasadams at Dewaswam controlled temples has already started making an impact. Hundis are getting filled with chits inscribed with ‘Swaminye saranam’ (the chant of Ayyappa devotees) instead of money. For those who are ignorant about culture and its values, it may not matter. But there is also a campaign to boycott lotteries, which, apart from its liquor vends, is the biggest source of income for the government.  Ultimately, citizens are learning where to hit and hurt.

Swami Saranam!


22 Oct 2018

Saturday, 20 October 2018

AN RTI CHALLENGE TO THE PRESIDENT-141018

Mr President,

I am writing this letter to you to share a shock! I have gone through your address at the 13th Annual Convention of the Central Information Commission. You have made three points: one, there is no such thing as too much information; two, there is a need to look at declassification protocols for government and archival documents and three, the CIC is doing a good job in upholding the basic charter of RTI. I must inform you that you are right on the first score, partly right on the second and totally wrong on the third. I hold the information commissioners responsible for subverting the law lock, stock and barrel.

It is true that today, thanks to technology (and not to any grace from anybody in government in the country) there is a flood of information available to those who need it, at the mere click of a mouse. Unfortunately, this does not apply to information about what our public servants are doing though the Right to Information Act was passed with much fan fare, 13 years ago, with the avowed objective of ensuring transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed. The seeds of self destruction of the sunshine act are contained in the Act itself. Precisely, in sections 13(5), 16(5) and 28 read with 2(e).

The RTI Act is a simple law which is clear and unambiguous. The procedure for its implementation is even simpler. And that makes the job of an information commissioner much, much simpler than that of a munsif in our courts, considering the variety and range of subjects and the battle of wits of the parties/advocates involved in the courts. Thus the status, pay and perks provided to information commissioners, including the Chief IC, is disproportional to the job description. It has not only burdened the exchequer with avoidable expenses, but also enabled bureaucrats, retiring from government service, to corner these jobs when, logically, they should have been strictly barred on grounds of their vested interests. In fact sections 13(5), 16(5) tend to make one believe that they were intentionally provided to subvert the law itself. In any case the law has been subverted to such an extent that it is as good as murdered by the information commissioners.

The definition of competent authorities and the powers granted to them to make rules to implement the law has also proved to be a bane. Shockingly it is the chief justices of the courts who have used these powers to introduce exorbitant fees (Rs 500/- against Rs 10/- of Central and state governments, along with the application) and even a fee with the first appeal which is not there in the case of other public authorities. Worse, these judges have even excluded the judicial side of their functions from the purview of the RTI Act, to the extent that even copies of orders issued by them (in open courts!) are denied.

That the President of India or the Governors in the states have not used the powers given to them under Sec 14(3)(d) and 17(3)(d) respectively to weed out information commissioners who are found unfit to continue in office by reason of infirmity of mind, as evidenced by their decisions, is also a matter of serious concern for the citizens demanding transparency and accountability in the functions of public servants. I had personally invoked these sections to demand removing Wajahat Habibullah, the first Chief Information Commissioner of the Central Information Commission and Palat Mohandas, the first Chief Information Commissioner of Kerala State Information Commission but had not even got an acknowledgement from the respective offices. The complaints are posted as blogs at http://raviforjustice.blogspot.com/2012/01/rti-old-application-to-president-to.html and http://blogs.rediff.com/pmravindran/2007/11/27/sack-the-chief-information-commissioner/ respectively. Subsequent inquiries through RTI Act had revealed that they had been forwarded to the concerned public authorities for disposal at their end! Interestingly, there is one case of a state CIC having been removed, in UP during the tenure of Ms Mayavati as the CM. And this CIC had been a judge of a high court too. It had also been reported that within about a year of his having been removed, he had committed suicide. In contrast, there is the case of a former DIG of Police who had been appointed as an information commissioner in Kerala. He was alleged to have tried to influence an investigation in a land allotment case but was just kept suspended for the rest of his tenure of almost 3 years, enjoying the pay and status without doing a penny worth of job!

It is understood that a proposal is on to review the pay and status of information commissioners. It remains to be seen if the citizen empowered political decision maker can make any meaningful change after overcoming the manipulations of the unaccountable and self seeking babus. Also, the DoPT had put out a draft proposal for new RTI Rules, seeking suggestions from the public. It was an unabashed effort to blatantly subvert the law. Though there was no point issuing a point by point argument against it the effort was made and these suggestions are available at https://www.slideshare.net/raviforjustice/rti-rules-2017draftdopt-circular1-52016ir31032017critique.  However, for simplicity sake, a totally new set of rules were suggested which is posted as a blog at https://www.slideshare.net/raviforjustice/rti-rules-2017redrafted-by-rti-activist.

As far as declassifying documents are concerned this is what Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, one of the most illustrious Presidents we have had till date, had said: It is my experience that computerization of a large organization or mission is successful only if the process themselves are re-engineered for realizing the full benefits of automation. I must add that the processors also should be people of competence and of unquestionable integrity.

To conclude, here is a challenge you may take on: just check your website for compliance with Sec 4(1)(b) of the RTI Act and get at least one order from each information commission which is correct in decision and the procedure followed. In this context you may like to go through the blog at  https://www.slideshare.net/raviforjustice/rtiexposingthetraitorsamoungpublicservantspt2glitches.


14 Oct 2018   

COURTING CONTROVERSIES-021018

If anybody asked me which is the most covetable job in my country I can say without even batting an eyelid- a judge! And the next best? An advocate, for sure! Let me explain.

In any case before a judge there are always two parties- the complainant/prosecutor and the respondent/defendant. Both the parties will of course present some facts and quote some laws including some case laws too. It is then left to the judge to take the final call on who should get the favorable judgment. And I dare say that he can do it by just tossing a coin. Thereafter all that he has to do is pick up the appropriate lines from the arguments of the concerned party and add his decision. The procedure too is so weird and antithetic to the very concept of transparency, accountability and ultimately to the very concept of justice itself. To illustrate, just consider the case of adjournments and the delays is announcing decisions even after arguments are closed. Tariq pe tariq is such a hall mark of our judicial system that it should not need elaboration but probably not so well known is the delays in passing orders even after the final arguments are over. For the sake of the uninitiated I shall use an example from a complaint taken up with the Palakkad District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum. In OP 282/99 (OP No 85/95 transferred from Malappuram), the opposite party had produced interim stay order from the Kerala High Court on 28/10/99 and the stay was vacated only  on 8/6/2005 but throughout this period the case was listed 58 times and adjourned! It was finally posted for orders on 6/7/07 but was opened for re-hearing suo moto on 15/2/08 and went on an adjournment spree from 3/3/08 to 31/5/2010. During this spree it was adjourned 17 times, including 5 times for want of members/President and 10 times for orders only! It was dismissed when an application was submitted under the RTI Act to find out the status! Now, if this is the state of affairs in a consumer ‘court’, constituted under the Consumer Protection Act, in the form of a jury (and the implied high cost to the exchequer) to dispose of routine consumer related complaints fast and free (it was free to begin with but later a fee was introduced to even file the complaints) one can well imagine the affairs of regular courts.

The National Commission to review the working of the Constitution, headed by a non-tainted former Chief Justice of India, M N Venkatachaliah and whose 5 of the 10 other members were from the judiciary had reported 'Judicial system has not been able to meet even the modest expectations of the society.  Its delays and costs are frustrating, its processes slow and uncertain.  People are pushed to seek recourse to extra-legal methods for relief.  Trial system both on the civil and criminal side has utterly broken down.'

That nobody can have the cake and eat it too is a common refrain. If there is any exception it has to be our judges. They can always blame the shoddy investigation and shoddy prosecution for miscarriage of justice. What about the competence and motivation of the judges? To even question them would invite prosecution under the Contempt of Court Act where the prosecutor, jury and hangman are all combined in one man- the same judge whose credentials are being questioned.
The second most covetable is that of an advocate, if only because his is a job that does not need to produce any guaranteed results. And the fees? Incredible! Didn’t Ram Jethmalani claim that his fees for just a conference is Rs 1 Crore? And now the apex court itself is possessed of the exorbitant fees charged, upto Rs 50 lakhs per hearing, by senior advocates. Imagine, even a cardiologist who does beating heart surgeries is paid only a fraction, almost negligible fraction, of such amounts.

It has been mentioned earlier that the judge can always blame it on shoddy investigations and prosecution for miscarriages of justice. But isn’t it just half truth? What was the role of the investigators and prosecutors in the infamous case under the Right to Information Act where the then Chief Justice of India, K G Balakrishnan, himself claimed that his office was out of purview of the law enacted to contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed?

Less than a year back the nation witnessed a sitting high court judge being sent to six months in prison, under the contempt of court laws for making some categorical allegations about some brother judges. Even before he was out from jail we also saw the same judges who convicted him making some vague allegations against the Chief Justice himself and specifically questioning his integrity itself. But then the contempt laws seems to have vanished into thin air.

A couple of years back Times Now, a visual news channel, telecast for a few seconds the picture of a retired Supreme Court judge inadvertently while reporting a scam in which another judge with a similar name was alleged to be involved. The media promptly tendered apologies but the judge felt that it was not sincere. He claimed for defamation and was awarded Rs 100 crores as compensation. Appeals to the high court and apex court was not even heard but dismissed with the remarks to first deposit Rs 20 Crores and issue ban guarantee for Rs 80 Crores. In contrast, more than 25 years back a top scientist from ISRO was framed in a sleazy scandal. The conspirators were many and with different motives. He and a couple of his colleagues, working on a project of national importance, were arrested, tortured, imprisoned and had to live through horror for many years. He was finally acquitted by the apex court four years later. And since then he had been a litigant demanding prosecution of the conspirators and perpetrators as well as for compensation of a mere Rs 1 Crore. While the latter case is still pending in the Kerala High Court the former has been decided in his favour with the constitution of a one judge committee to investigate the allegations and an award of Rs 50 lakhs as compensation. If this doesn’t remind one of Animal Farm where all animals are equal but some are more equal than the others, then it is futile to continue to claim this to a democracy having rule of law where be you ever so high, the law is above you. In fact our judges are not just above law but a law unto themselves. The trashing of the National Judicial Appointment Commission Act also proves this, if ever proof was needed.

The recent spate of judgments by the outgoing CJI, Dipak Mishra, has also given reason to question the competence, motives and prudence of our judges. The judgments in the matter of Adhaar, entry of women in Sabarimala and adultery have raised more questions than those addressed by the judges in the respective cases.
In the matter of Adhaar, the lead petition was filed in 2012, by a former judge of a high court. During the six years the court sat on it, the executive had had a free run making it compulsory for almost every activity in the life of a citizen, from getting admission for children in schools, to reservations in railways to even pension. And now the court has circumscribed its use and ‘permitted’ citizens to demand removing the linking of Adhaar to many facilities that it has been already linked with. And there is also a ban on private parties demanding Adhaar validation when Reliance Jio has provided its services to almost 300 million customers based only on Adhaar validation.

In the matter of entry of women in Sabarimala the majority has over ruled the sane voice of its only woman member in the bench. There is quip: he who can smile when things go wrong has already thought of someone he can blame it on. Sabarimala is a seasonal pilgrim destination and the crowd has been swelling every year and become unmanageable in recent years. Even the police, deployed on security duties, have been asking for limiting the number of pilgrims visiting the shrine and extending the virtual queue management (through web booking) to 100 percent pilgrims. And now even the communist government of the State, which had supported women’s entry, is praying that the number of women will not swell during the forthcoming season in a few months. We don’t have to wait for too long to learn what a disaster bomb has fallen into hands of the state government which is already facing criticism from all quarters for its disastrous management of the recent disaster in the form of floods.

Apart from the logistics involved in Sabarimala, there is also the question how is it that the judiciary which is so active in interfering adversely with all matters affecting hindus and their faith and rituals (Jallikattu, dahi handi, fireworks etc) is pretending to be blind to questionable faith and rituals of the minority communities. Cyber space is rife with information that of the 25 lakh temples in India there are only 6 that do not allow men and 5 that do not allow women but there are over 3 lakh mosques where women are not allowed entry at all or not allowed to pray with the men. Even a former Supreme Court judge, K T Thomas, has written that in the pulpit area of the church no women are allowed even now.

The judgment on adultery is even more shocking. But the redeeming factor is it is not restricted to any particular denomination. And without going into an analysis of its sociological implications let me recollect two instances narrated in the Bible. The first is of course the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve were living a life of bliss. And then came the devil in the form of snake and temptation. The rest as they say they say is history. The second one is of Jesus addressing a mob about to stone Mary of Magdalene to death for prostitution. Jesus told them ‘let the one who has not sinned throw the first stone’ and everybody dropped their stones. Though these instances raise their own questions in the present context, the one that I would ask, to conclude this article, is: will only the judges who have not sinned sit in judgment in our courts?



02 Oct 2018

Monday, 8 October 2018

AN OPEN LETTER TO FORMER CJI DIPAK MISRA

The other day when I brought home some stuff from the street corner shop I noticed an interesting report- of you claiming that you are proud to be called a champion of gender equality. It reminded me of the king who believed that he was wearing a cloak which only the wise could see until a boy innocently asked why is the king naked. And the rest you know is what moral stories are made of.

The verdict on Sabarimala by the bench headed by you just reminds me of another scenario- of a person who has covered himself with hornet repellants throwing stones at a hornet’s nest in a crowded place.  For now, I will only assert that the Contempt of Court Act is a totally anti democratic law and is the basic, if not the only, reason for the abysmal failure of our judiciary in performing its assigned task of delivering justice.

This is what the National Commission to review the working of the Constitution- a judiciary headed (the Chairman was a former CJI, Mr M N Venkatachaliah), judiciary heavy (six of the 11 members were from the judiciary)-had stated about our judiciary in their report that was submitted in 2002:

'Judicial system has not been able to meet even the modest expectations of the society.  Its delays and costs are frustrating, its processes slow and uncertain.  People are pushed to seek recourse to extra-legal methods for relief.  Trial system both on the civil and criminal side has utterly broken down.' Also, 'Thus we have arrived at a situation in the judicial administration where courts are deemed to exist for judges and lawyers and not for the public seeking justice'.

The Commission’s approach to the judiciary itself has been exposed by Dr Subhas Kashyap, a bureaucrat member (former Secretary General of Lok Sabha) through his notes. The relevant extract is:

'While no comments are being made on what went wrong in the procedure, priorities and perspective, it may be put on record that several of the recommendations now forming part of the report go directly counter to the clear decisions of the Commission on which the unanimously adopted draft report of the Drafting and Editorial Committee was based'.

And one example is:

Attention is also invited to the decision taken by the Commission at its 14th Meeting held on 14-18 December, 2001.  Para 16 of the minutes records that "There shall be a National Judicial Commission for making recommendation as to the appointment of a Judge of the Supreme Court (other than the Chief Justice of India), a Chief Justice of a High Court and a Judge of any High Court."

"The composition of the National Judicial Commission would be as under:

a) The Vice-President of India
b) The Chief Justice of India
c) Two senior-most Judges of the Supreme Court, next to the Chief Justice
d) The Union Minister for Law & Justice."

However the composition of the NJC as recommended by the Commission in its Final Report is:

The National Judicial Commission for appointment of judges of the Supreme Court shall comprise of:

(1) The Chief Justice of India                                            :Chairman
(2) Two senior most judges of the Supreme Court            : Member
(3) The Union Minister for Law and Justice                     : Member
(4) One eminent person nominated by the President
after consulting the Chief Justice of India                         : Member

And we know what happened to the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act, duly enacted by the constitutional process. This is when the appointments are the least of the problems.  It can be compared with transferring elephantiasis from one foot to the other!*1 The more important need is for a National Judicial Accountability Commission, constituted in the form of a jury, with just one member from the judiciary to guide the proceedings (like in military court martials, where a law qualified member of the Judge Advocate General’s branch act as the legal guide, but unlike them in that the members should be from the public). This r commission should have powers to try and punish delinquent judges with twice the severity of the punishment that an ordinary citizen would invite for a similar offence. In this context your attention is invited to an online petition I had hosted in 2005 and which is reproduced as a blog at https://www.slideshare.net/raviforjustice/310505-the-petition-toconstituteanationaljudicialcommission. The signatories and their comments are at https://www.slideshare.net/raviforjustice/310505thepetitiontoconstituteanationaljudicialcommissionsignatures1to429. 429 informed citizens have signed it and their comments are worth perusing by anyone interested in the rule of law and dispensation of justice.

And Ms Sumitra Kulkarni, the only woman member of the Commission and a politician, had summed up the performance of the Commission thus:

1. I believe in a Unified and truly Secular India.  However, the Commission debates seemed often to reduce the Constitution to being a platform for divisiveness and not unification.

2. The Commission did not initiate or promote sincere debate in the public with regards to the issues that it was contemplating.  The efforts was more to "evade and defer" instead of to "identify issues, table them for debate and to deal with them".

And to know that none of the judicial members of the Commission were tainted in any manner! (If it reminds you of the allegations by Chelameswar led group of judges, it is just incidental. By the way, I had hosted an online petition then too. Not that I believed them to be wrong but because after sending Karnan, whose allegations had been more substantial and specific, to prison for six months, there was no way the allegations of these judges could be condoned. It is available at https://www.change.org/p/the-president-of-india-and-the-prime-minister-judges-revolt-contempt-of-court and has been supported by 285 informed citizens so far.)

I continue to believe that the judiciary is an indispensable part of any system of governance with emphasis on rule of law. Its duties are no doubt onerous because ultimately its failure to perform can be disastrous for the society. But whether our judiciary measures up to the expectations of the people who have constituted, tasked, empowered and pays a heavy cost to sustain it, is a question that needs to be asked, firstly, by the judges themselves. To a layman in the society it remains a behemoth that is best kept away from. Wisdom through the ages say it is a blessing to pass through this life without entering a police station and a court!

09 Oct 2018


*1. There is an anecdote in Kerala about a mystical figure called Naranatthu branthan. Branthan means mad. He got that suffix to his name because he used to roll up a big boulder up a hill with great effort and then roll it down and laugh seeing it going down with great momentum on its own. It is said to have a philosophical connotation- of how difficult it is to up and easy to fall down. The story related to elephantiasis is that Narantthu branthan had elephantiasis on his left foot. One day while he was cooking his food over the fire of a pyre at midnight the goddess of the cremation ground appeared in all her ferocity. But Naranatthu was not moved. Ultimately the goddess asked him to seek any boon. He replied ‘make me immortal’. The goddess expressed helplessness. So he asked ‘make me die a second after or before I am due to die’. The goddess again expressed helplessness. Ultimately, in disdain, Naratthu asked the goddesss to transfer the elephantiasis from his left foot to the right. The goddess readily agreed and left happily.

*2. Since I do not have your contact details, this letter is being sent to you by registered post to your former official address with a request that it to be redirected to your current address. Being an open letter it is being circulated to the media also and published as a blog at https://www.slideshare.net/raviforjustice/ The URL will be available only on posting.


Sunday, 30 September 2018

KERALA FLOODS AND A DISASTER IN DISASTER MANAGEMENT

Kerala has just witnessed one of the worst disasters in its history in the form of floods, that is, apart from the even worse disaster in the form of a government. The flood had ravaged almost 50 percent of its geographical area, caused loss of about 450 lives and material loss to the tune of a few billion rupees. It can easily be said that almost two thirds of the lives lost has been due to the ineptitude of the people in government. In fact the allegations and counter allegations have been as bad as, if not worse than, the flood itself.

Ever since the Right to Information Act was enacted, interventions using the law intended to ‘contain corruption and to hold Governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed’ has helped one postulate that our governance is a system that does not do anything it is tasked to do and does everything it is not expected to do. Here are two interventions on disaster management spread over 6 years.

On 26/11/2012 there was a function in the Conference Hall of the Collectorate, Palakkad. On 02/12/2012 an application under the RTI Act was submitted to get some details like the nature of the function, participation, cost incurred, nature of incidents that came under the classification of disaster, the organization of teams, the nature and place of training, the expected response time, the equipments allotted etc. The information provided was limited to the function being a training program on the operation of the District Emergency Operation Centre, the participants were the complete employees of the Collectorate (around 230 persons) and 4 employees each from the taluks and the cost incurred was Rs 27,000/-.  No information was provided on the formation of teams, equipments and training institutions or planned response time.

Cut to post flood. Another application under the RTI Act was filed on 30/08/2018, a good 3 weeks after the flood waters had receded from the affected areas in this district, Palakkad. The information sought pertained to the water level in the various dams as on 8/8/18, the date when the dams were opened for the first time, the height to which the shutters were opened and the changes made subsequently, the authority who issued the orders, the date and time of issuing warnings, the name and designations of public servants assigned the various tasks during the rescue and relief operations and those deployed in the Disaster Management Control Room and the temporary warehouse established in the Indoor Stadium near Government Victoria College, the details of setting up and closing of relief camps, the aid material distributed to the relief camps, the cost incurred during the rescue and relief operations and the source of the funds.

The one point reply from the Public Information Officer stated that the information has not been codified and would attract the provisons of Sec 7(9) of the RTI Act. But there was an offer to visit their office between 2 and 4.30 pm on 19/9/18! Does it look great? May be to the uninitiated in the ways of the public servants of this ‘fully literate‘ state. Instead of the one, two or three relevant files they would dump 10 irrelevant files also and help you to waste your time digging out the relevant files itself. Not to forget the cost of inspecting files! In any case the public authority is admittedly guilty under Sec 4(1)(a) of the RTI Act which mandates every public atuhority  to ‘ maintain all its records duly catalogued and indexed in a manner and the form which facilitates the right to information under this Act and ensure that all records that are appropriate to be computerised are, within a reasonable time and subject to availability of resources, computerised and connected through a network all over the country on different systems so that access to such records is facilitated‘.

Incidentally it has been reported in the media that about 89,000 tons of food grains which the Chief Minister of Kerala had sought as immediate aid from the Prime Minister and been provided promptly is yet to be collected from the godowns of the state. And those responsible cannot also be pardoned for creating an unwarranted controversy that these grains were not aid but were to be charged for. And that was not the only controversy. They came with as much ruthlessness as the flood waters themselves, whether it was requisitioning army help or a non promised aid worth Rs 700 cr from an UAE Sheik! The reports about political interference in relief and rehabilitation efforts would also put the dacoits of Chambal and the Pindaries to shame!

It is also relevant to mention here that a naturopathist, Jacob Wadakkaancherry, had been remanded by an additional sessions judge in Thiruvananthapuram on a complaint by the Director of Health (at the instanc of the Health Minister of the State!) that his campaign against use of the drug Doxycycline as a preventive medicine for rat fever was against the government’s policy. And this when the highest court of the land is still ensuring that even those accused of plotting against the Prime Minister of the country are only kept under house arrest!

Currently there are many cases filed against the government for extortion also, right from the employees of Malabar and Travancore Dewaswom Boards to the unions of government employees who have objected to the government deducting their one month pay as contribution to the Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund without their consent! Meanwhile the Chief Minister who has been away in the US of A since 01 Sep 2018 for treatment of an undisclosed ailment, has set a new bench mark for irresponsibility by not even handing over his responsibilities before leaving for so long to such a far off place. (Obviously, it shows how insignificant his ailment is, doesn’t it?) And it has been reported that the Kerala Government has not subscribed to Ayushman Bharath, the Prime Minister’s Arogya Yojana, touted as the world’s biggest public health scheme being inaugurated on 21 September 2018. This no doubt has deprived a major section of the population of the state from the health care benefits offered under the scheme. Can there be a worse example of the anti people stance of a democratically elected government?


21 Sep 2018

KERALA FLOODS- SOUND AND FURY RECOLLECTED IN TRANQUILITY

09 August 2018, Palakkad. Scene: a residential compound near a stream where three siblings had constructed their independent houses and were living with the best of both worlds, the support system of undivided Hindu family and the freedom of a nuclear family. Two of the houses, of which one was unoccupied temporarily, had only ground floor, and the third was double storied. Early in the morning, the couple living in the single storied house heard animated chatting from the other house and came out to see what was happening. And they found water in their porch. And even as they were looking at it the level was rising! They realized the danger and moved. The other family chose to move to their first floor and wait. But soon the first floor was completely under water and the inhabitants, senior citizens, could be rescued using canoes only by evening.

500 meters away, in another old house a 90 year old retired professor was bedridden. His wife noticed water on the floor and its level was rising too. And before she could understand what was happening she was waist deep in water. By the time rescue workers, all local youth,  reached them water had reached their necks and the volunteers had to line up, wrap the patient in a blanket and carry him over their heads!

Soon a relief camp was opened in the UP School in the locality. And that was the first sign of the government waking up. Volunteers were mobilizing everywhere and moving the flood affected to safer areas and relief camps. While those in the fore front of rescue operations were all youngsters, elders chipped in by providing food, water and clothes. Unfortunately most of the clothes were used ones and there were practically no takers for them. The common refrain amoung the victims was that there had been no warning.  To make matters worse the water level in the dam here had reached its maximum level and had to be released. Power also failed. But within 24 hours the water had drained off leaving the affected houses in a mess. Mess is a soft term for a house having a three inch layer of slippery slush, all furniture, beds, linen,  cushions and clothes soggy, refrigerators and washing machines toppled and dislocated. Nobody could move back in any short time.  Hours turned into days. Those who had left their homes started the cleaning process, some after actually moving back in and the others commuting from their safe havens. They were almost done when there was another alert. Though water levels rose and entered some of the houses again it was just sufficient to undo their effort of the earlier days!

But as it turned out what had happened in Palakkad was only comparable to the trailer of a horror movie. The real show opened in the hill districts and down south. Kochi, the commercial capital of Kerala, Kuttanad, the rice bowl of Kerala, Chengannur, Patthanamthitta and a few more places bore the brunt of nature’s fury in the form of unprecedented floods. While rains, which had been continuing from early May and gaining intensity by the day, added the final blow the calamity as such was man made, or more precisely government made. The reasons can be broadly classified into two heads- mismanagement of natural resources and failure to take preventive action. Worse, what seemed to dominate the media, apart from the heart wrenching scenes of the flood affected trying to escape in hordes, wading through neck deep water, some carrying the elderly on their shoulders, were the blame game and false propaganda by responsible public servants.

The mismanagement of natural resources has a long history. Starting from encroachment of the western ghats to quarrying and destruction of mountains and forests, sand mining, encroaching the flood plains and river banks everything that has been happening in God’s own country, with obvious connivance of those in government, had been anti-nature. Encroachments were periodically legalized with the government transferring the ownership of land to the encroachers in much publicized pattaya melas. (Pattayam is the legal document of ownership of land.) After getting ownership of the encroached land the same people would move to new pastures which would be legalized later! In fact these people carry so much clout with the authorities that some of them actually specialize is buying disputed lands at throw away prices and get the disputes settled in their favour! The discussion of the extent of this mismanage ment of land cannot be completed without referring to the report submitted by the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) headed by Dr Madhav Gadgil. In fact this report can also be the last argument on the subject. The mandate of WGEEP was to demarcate ecologically sensitive zones and suggest measures to conserve, protect and rejuvenate the ecology of Western Ghats region. Dr Gadgil submitted his report in 2011. However, it was literally thrown into the dustbin by self serving politicians of that time crying (falsely of course) that it was anti farmer and anti development. Even the church leaders had joined this chorus against impleme ntation of Gadgil’s recommendations. Taking into account the comments and suggestions made by different stakeholders including State Governments and Central Ministries on WGEEP Report, the Ministry of Environment and Forests constituted a High Level Working Group (HLWG) to suggest an all-round and holistic approach for sustainable and equitable development while keeping in focus the preservation and conservation of ecological systems in Western Ghats. This Group was headed by Dr Kasturirangan, a space scientist! He had watered down the WGEEP report by keeping vast stretches of Western Ghats in the category cultural landscapes, which included human settlements and the sacred groves of Kerala, which are rich in biodiversity, out of the purview of ecologically sensitive areas. It was natural that Gadgil slammed this report saying that it had replaced the pro-people and pro-nature report of the WGEEP with autocratic approach in terms of development and ecological conservation. However, the Kasturirangan report continues to provide the official yardstick for ecological activities since 2013.

The best thing that happened during the floods was the mass mobilization of the ordinary folks from all walks of life in the rescue and relief operations. While the police and fire and rescue services personnel were the face of government in the rescue operations, the health services and the employees of the State Electricity Board also can be given credit for doing a good job during the challenging times.. District Collectors Raja Manickam, T V Anupama and Vasuki also became heroes overnight due to their personal involvement in the relief operations. Of these T V Anupama, District Collector, Thrissur even had to take a tough call to break the lock of the Bar Association’s hall to set up the relief material collection centre. Dr Bala Murali, District Collector, Palakkad could mobilize , using social media,  enough and more youth to work in the relief material collection and distribution point set up in an indoor stadium. Apart from these the involvement of the Government, particularly at the higher echelons, was totally missing. It was the timely involvement of the techies and the applications they had promptly developed for locating stranded victims and coordinating rescue operations that mitigated to a large extent the failure of the Government to requisition army aid. Even the fishermen folk moved to the flooded areas along with their boats, forgetting their own poverty and hardships, and did a commendable job in rescuing stranded people.

It may be pertinent to note here that not only had the Government of Kerala failed completely to comply with the expert panel’s recommendations but also had been fudging funds as evident in the transfer of Rs 20.29 Crores from the River Management Funds of nine districts to the Calamity Relief Funds of 5 other districts in 2006. An environmental activist, Dr P S Panikkar, had pursued this information and sought the details of expenditure from the Calamity Relief Funds of Kottayam and Kasargode districts. Having failed to get satisfactory replies he had filed 2nd appeals with the Kerala State Information Commission and had not received any decision till he passed away suddenly in 2017. An application for getting copies of the file notings leading to the transfer of funds also got stonewalled with a reply that it had been destroyed by burning.

As much worrying as the distress caused to the common folks by the floods have been the political blame game indulged, particularly by the party leading the current government  in the State.

One of the allegations made by the opposition is that there was criminal negligence on the part of the decision makers in releasing waters from dams and failing to inform the public. This is an open secret amoung the public. In this context the effort made by the Government of Kerala to blame Tamil Nadu for releasing waters from the controversial Mullapperiyar Dam and aggravating, if not causing, the flood situation can be considered to be hilarious but for the gravity of the situation. It has been well reported in the media of how the decision makers in Kerala waited for all the dams to reach the maximum water level and released waters from 25 of them almost simultaneously. Media had also carried reports, way back in July, that the abundant rains had helped the State Electricity Board to produce more electricity from its hydel projects and make some profit by selling it to other states. (However it had not stopped the Board from hiking the price for its domestic consumers recently.)

The most serious of (false) allegations is a post by the CMO on twitter that UAE had promised to contribute Rs 700 crores to the flood relief effort. This was denied by the Union Government. Bu it did not prevent the media, both social and mainstream, from going berserk with allegations that the Union Government had refused to accept the offer and even abusing the Prime Minister by name! Hoardings appeared in Malappuram thanking UAE for the generous offer. Even after the Ambassador of UAE clarified that no such amount had been offered they harped on the allegation adding that the Ambassador had been pressurized by the Central Government! Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, whose office had initially made the false claim changed tacks and claimed that he had been so informed by the business tycoon Yusuf Ali in a private conversation. The social media went wild with a distorted version that if the Government of India refused to accept the official aid, Yusuf Ali’s Lulu Group would make the complete payment. The last thing heard on this was that Yusuf Ali has threatened to sue those who had spread this false information.

Another canard that gained ground was regarding deploying army in rescue operations. While there is still doubt whether and when the Government of Kerala had actually requested for army help, the media was abuzz speculating whether handing over relief operations to army would amount to handing over the governance of the State itself to the army. The statements of both the CM and his party secretary seem to suggest that they at least believed so. A youngster in camouflage fatigues could be seen actually telling the CM, through a video that had gone viral on social media, that was shocked to realize what a dimwit the CM was. It has been reported that he has been identified and a case charged against him.

Even the armed forces, doing yeoman work in the rescue and relief operations were not spared. It was the state secretary of CPM and former Home Minister, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, who made a false allegation that the army failed to respond promptly even after the government request. Another minister, Kadakampally Surendran, went on to comment that the army could only stand by with rifles while the whole people were involved in relief operations. As things turned out he was treated like an unwelcome guest when the State Government finally gave a modest send off to the soldiers at the Headquarters of Southern Air Command at Thiruvananthapuram.
There have also been enough reports of mismanagement and pilfering of aid material from relief camps. But public servants indulging in such acts had to be dealt with severely. Social media also shared photos of CPM cadres distributing aid material in bags marked with party emblem and name. There was even a case of CPM and CPI cadres fighting it out alleging that one had collected stores meant for the other. But the most unpardonable is the case of leaving tones of aid that has reached Thiruvananthapuram airport and various railway stations (addressed to the District Collector/ District Magistrate) uncollected. This visible ineptitude notwithstanding, there is propaganda that more food grains are required and the Centre should provide them. Talking of food grains, the ruling party’s dirty tricks department has been spreading the lie that the Union Government was charging for the food grains provided as relief material. This, even after the Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan had amply clarified that it had been provided free.

At the end of the day, an independent observer of the events that have been unfolding, cannot miss the point that the decision makers in Kerala Government and their party followers have been more interested in getting political mileage out of human misery than in doing their job sincerely and honestly. The minister for coordinating relief operations in Kottayam district going to Germany on 16th August (at the peak of the disaster) for participating in the Onam celebrations of the malayalees there only exposed the attitude of the state leadership towards the people who had put them in their current offices and been pampering them like nobodyelse!


28 Aug 2018