April 21, 2019
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Inside a mess: All’s kosher with army rations and BSF cooks?

in Delhi/India/Politics by

Hard locations along the Line of Control, such as the one at which constable Tej Bahadur Yadav served, come under the operational command of the Indian Army. This means that rations are supplied by the Army and cooked by BSF’s jawans assigned the duties of a mess commander and mess 2IC (in-charge).
According to BSF sources, jawans get a monthly food allowance of `2,905 each and the cost of their breakfast, lunch, dinner with tea and dessert comes to about `95 per day.

Non-vegetarian jawans get chicken four times a week: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Vegetarians get paneer curry four times a week. Since paneer and chicken are considered slightly heavier on the tummy, they are served only for lunch. For dinner, they get dal, one curry, roti, rice and salad. Dessert is a kheer. Jawans are served tea every morning and parantha and pickle or curds and egg for breakfast. In winter, tea is served four times a day. In summers, it is lime juice.

The BSF has internal mechanisms to keep food tasty. At roll-call every evening, jawans assemble before the company commander to discuss various issues, including food, family problems, personal issues, duties, etc., a company commander in BSF told The New Indian Express.

The jawans get to select their own mess commander. “All jawans are called and an oral voting takes place to select the mess commander and mess 2IC. This exercise takes place every month (around the 24th or 25th of the month). This way, if a mess commander is not up to the mark, he is out the next month,” a BSF jawan said.

Sources said there are other internal mechanisms. “For complaints against their company commander, the commandant can be approached. If there are issues with the commandant or any higher-up, any BSF personnel can bring the issues concerned through the grievances portal of the BSF which can even reach the director general. Besides this, jawans can also write letters to anyone. 

“I am surprised that leaving aside all these options, Tej Bahadur Yadav uploaded the videos online,’’ said a BSF official, posted along the LoC in Jammu region.

Budget, cycle, hate… Election Commission has hands full

in Delhi/India/Politics by

Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi | PTI

 NEW DELHI: Come elections, the Nirvachan Sadan acquires a voice that can be heard above the din of campaign and the frenzied who-will-the-next-CM speculations. But this time round in the five state polls, the Election Commission has an even bigger role. 

To start with, the Election Commission will be the adjudicator on whether the Union budget can be presented on February 1, just three days before the first phase of polling. It will also decide whether the ruling Samajwadi Party will be cycling for votes in UP and whether the likes of Unnao MP  Sakshi Maharaj can get away with their usual divisive loose talk after the Supreme Course ban on appeals to the voter based on caste, creed and communal agendas.

Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha on Tuesday replied to Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi’s letter seeking clarification on why the budget presentation was advanced to Feb 1.

He is also said to have pointed out that the Union Cabinet took the call on advancing the budget way back in November. And the commission should have factored in the budget dates while scheduling the polls.  The full three-member commission is expected to give a ruling.

The government will not be able to make any budget announcement which has a direct bearing on the states going to polls. On the Samajwadi Party symbol issue, the Election Commission issued notices on Tuesday to both Mulayam Singh Yadav and his chief minister son Akhilesh Yadav to come for a hearing on January 13. This despite the now-on, now-off truce attempt between the two Samajwadi Party factions, led by the father and the son. Like its ruling on the budget, the poll panel decision on the symbol will have a far-reaching impact on the polls.

In the midst of these two heavy-duty decisions, the election watchdog has to also take a call on whether to let off BJP’s Unnao MP Sakshi Maharaj with a warning. In view of the apex court judgement banning all forms of “divisive” solicitations, the Election Commission may crack the whip and give a decisive ruling. 

The complaint against Maharaj was filed by the Congress. In its showcause notice, the panel has also cited the FIR that had been lodged against Maharaj, who gave his family planning proposals a communal twist. All eyes therefore are on the panel. 

Dalits solidly behind BSP in Uttar Pradesh

in Delhi/India/Politics by

Dalits constitute 20.7 per cent of UP’s population and their vote is intensely sought after group by political parties each with its own strategy. The BJP has deployed borrowed weapons like Ram Das Athawale, Ram Vilas Paswan and Udit Raj and non-Jatav Dalit leaders.

The Samajvadi Party government has tried to reconfigure the Dalit vote by recommending the inclusion of 17 non-Yadav OBC castes in the Dalit fold to unsettle the political calculations of the BJP and BSP. Mayawati’s party BSP invokes the memory of her previous rule.

However, the Dalit response was unambiguously clear when we heard their electoral articulations on the ground. Our field work in the election-bound state revealed an unprecedented consolidation of Dalits across sub-castes behind the BSP, so much so that presuppositions of a divergence between Jatavs and non-Jatavs doesn’t hold the ground in the coming election.

There are 66 Dalit sub-castes in UP. Six of them, namely Jatav-Chamar, Pasi, Dhobi, Kori, Valmiki and Khatik, constitute 87 per cent of the community’s population. The remaining 60 Dalit sub-castes like Musahar, Sapera, Basor and Tantwa, in the words of social scientist Badri Narayan, are numerically meagre, spatially scattered and internally fragmented, making them electorally insignificant vis a vis the six predominant castes.

Contrary to the argument that non-Jatav Dalits like Pasis, Valmikis, Khatiks and others are swayed by the Hindutva discourse and that this can have a significant bearing on the elections, we found that while Dalits shared some of Hindutva’s anti-Muslim outlook in riot affected districts like Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Mau and Gorakhpur, politically it didn’t translate into a positive vote for the BJP.

In fact, the same set of non-Jatav Dalits like Valmikis in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli and Pasis and Khatiks in Mau and Gorakhpur expressed a strong preference for the BSP while admitting that they voted for non-BSP parties in previous elections. This indicates that the gap between their socio-cultural and political outlooks may get narrower in some contexts or further widen in others.

While Jatav consolidation behind the BSP has been a dominant trend in UP on account of both Kanshi Ram and Mayawati belonging to that caste and their conscious policy to place them in leadership positions within the party, the consolidation of non-Jatav Dalit castes like Pasis, Valmikis, Dhobis, Koris and Khatiks behind the party is primarily the result of rampant anti-Dalit hostilities during the Samajvadi Party’s tenure. It also is the result of their successive disenchantments with the Congress and BJP to which parties they shifted their support in significant numbers in the 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections respectively.

The pro-BSP sentiment of non-Jatav Dalits was artculated by a Kori Dalit at Ayodhya: “SP ke raaj me hum logon ki police me sunvayi nahi hai” (police were non-responsive to us Dalits during SP rule). Similarly, a group of Pasi respondents living in makeshift accommodations by the road near Jhansi falling in Bundelkhand region of the state pointed to the abandoned apartments in Kanshiram Awasiya Colony nearby.

The housing project was built during Mayawati’s tenure for Dalits and other poor sections. However, within six months of the SP coming to power in 2012, water and electricity supply to the colony got discontinued, thereby forcing the Dalit inhabitants to abandon the place and shift to makeshift accommodations. In another instance, a Valmiki youth at Shahjahanpur mentioned the discrimination in selecting villages under the Adarsh Lohiya Gram project of the SP government wherein the selected villages are given funds for infrastructural development.

In contrast to the BSP’s policy of Ambedkar Gram wherein the selected villages used to have a significant Dalit population, the Lohiya Villages are primarily composed of villages with lesser Dalit population. Besides this policy of pitting the memory of Lohia against Ambedkar during SP rule, the Dalits are also taking into cognizance the increasing instances of impunity in relation to violence and crime against them in the last five years.

Further, there is a massive non-Jatav Dalit disenchantment against the BJP which got 45 per cent of their vote in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. The BJP government at the Centre is considered a non-starter by a majority of the non-Jatav Dalits. To compound their disillusionment, everyday hardships on account of demonetization and a complete lack of tangible benefits in sight have further pulled them towards the BSP.

Thus for Jatav and non-Jatav Dalits alike, the political developments of the last five years signify a loss of power to the community, which is leading to their unprecedented consolidation behind the BSP. In fact, a Pasi Dalit respondent at Faizabad said he voted for Modi in 2014 as Mayawati was not in the race for the PM’s post; now he would vote for the BSP rather than Modi as the latter would not be the CM.

The interplay of Dalits nostalgia for BSP rule and their disillusionment with other parties is likely to make BSP the prime contestant in the coming election on account of an unprecedented consolidation of Dalits whose numerical significance would be too formidable to be matched by rival parties. It could be reasonably inferred that BSP may witness the highest ever percentage of Dalit votes in 2017.

(Sajjan Kumar, a Ph.D from the Centre for Political Studies, JNU is associated with People’s Pulse, a Hyderabad-based research organization that specializes in field work based political and electoral studies).

Suspended TMC MP Kunal Ghosh grilled by CBI for over 12 hours

in Delhi/India/Politics by

KOLKATA: Suspended Trinamool Congress MP Kunal Ghosh was today questioned by the CBI at the investigating agency’s office here in the CGO Complex for over 12 hours.

CBI sources said the MP was being questioned about more information on his alleged involvement in the Saradha chit fund scam.

Ghosh was earlier arrested for his involvement in the scam and later granted bail by a city court.

A family friend of Ghosh said the Rajya Sabha MP had informed his family members that he would be out from the CGO Complex by 3 PM, but the agency sleuths were questioning till after 11.55 PM.

“We have no idea when he will be let out,” the family friend said.

Ghosh had on last week turned down the membership of the Telephone Advisory Committee (TAC) citing personal reasons.

A letter from the Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications had reached Ghosh on January 6, offering him membership of the TAC and the status of chairman in the committee for Calcutta district.

The circular had said the nomination would be valid till November 14, 2018 or till the member remained an MP.

Around 50 dead in bombings across three Afghan cities

in Delhi/India/Politics/World by

Afghan security forces remove a damaged vehicle after two large bombings in Kabul. (Photo | AP)

KABUL:  Bombings across three Afghan cities including Kabul killed around 50 people today, in a day of carnage that shattered a relative lull in violence as Taliban insurgents escalate a deadly winter campaign.

At least nine people died when explosives hidden in a sofa detonated inside the governor’s compound in southern Kandahar during a visit by the UAE ambassador to Afghanistan, who escaped the attack with injuries.

Just hours earlier, twin Taliban blasts in Kabul tore through employees exiting a parliament annexe, which houses the offices of lawmakers, killing at least 30 people and wounding 80 others.

And today, a Taliban suicide bomber killed seven people in Lashkar Gah, the capital of volatile Helmand province, as the militants ramp up nationwide attacks despite the onset of winter, when fighting usually wanes.

The carnage underscores growing insecurity in Afghanistan, where US-backed forces are struggling to combat a resilient Taliban insurgency as well as Al-Qaeda and Islamic State militants.

Kandahar’s governor and UAE envoy Juma Mohammed Abdullah Al Kaabi were wounded by flames from the explosion, but many others were burned beyond recognition, provincial police chief Abdul Raziq told AFP.

He said around a dozen people were killed in the bombing, but local Tolo News gave a death toll of nine. No militant group has so far claimed responsibility.

But the Taliban said they were behind the Kabul blasts.

In the first explosion, a suicide bomber blew himself up next to a minibus transporting government employees. As rescuers reached the scene, a car bomb exploded.

Among the 30 dead were four policemen who were killed in the second explosion when they rushed to help the victims of the first blast.

Health ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh warned that the toll was expected to rise as many of the wounded were battling for their lives in hospital.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said they were behind the twin blasts, adding the victims were mostly Afghan intelligence agents. The insurgents are known to exaggerate battlefield claims.

“The deaths of scores of civilians in today’s Kabul bomb attacks indicates that the Taliban are pressing ahead with a gruesome campaign of violence that makes no effort to spare civilian lives,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

“An immediate, impartial and independent investigation must be carried out to secure justice for the victims and their families.”

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