[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Experts divided on whether Andhra, Bengal move to keep agency out a political ploy, but agree on need for reform
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee have barred the CBI from exercising its authority in their respective states. In 1989, the then-ruling Left Front West Bengal government had granted the CBI consent to investigate matters in the state.
As it happens, maintaining law and order is a state responsibility as ‘police’ is a State subject, and the jurisdiction to investigate crime lies with the state police exclusively. But the CBI, being a Union subject, may investigate offences against central government employees, or concerning affairs of the central government and employees of central public-sector undertakings and public-sector banks, cases involving the financial interests of the central government, breaches of central laws enforceable by the Government of India, major fraud or embezzlement, multi-state organised crime and multi-agency or international cases.
Additionally, the high courts and the Supreme Court have the powers to order a CBI investigation into an offence alleged to have been committed in a state without the state’s consent, as declared by a five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court in 2010.
Notably, at present, the agency has the general consent of only 10 states to investigate matters therein; in all other matters, it has to seek consent from the governments on a case-to-case basis.
Saturday’s edition of Mudda took up this development, asking if it was merely a political stunt or whether there was any merit to their positions. Akshay Singh Gaur led a discussion among BJP leader Dr Vijay Khera, Congress spokesperson Saif Khan, former CBI joint director Shantonu Sen, former Mumbai inspector general Sudhakar Surankar and senior journalist Govind Pant Raju.
The lively debate began with Khan holding that Naidu and Banerjee had taken a very necessary step, and that the CBI was indeed a compromised agency as seen from its appointment of Rakesh Asthana as acting director solely on the basis of his performance in the politically sensitive fodder scam, Godhra carnage and Hardik Patel sedition cases. “The department of personnel and training had shortlisted 40 persons, why were they not called for interview? Alok Verma’s appointment, too, is a political one,” he said.
Should India then proceed to dissolve CBI, asked Gaur. This made Sen launch into a spirited defence of the agency. “The aam aadmi is not saying this. It is not the people’s mandate. Banerjee’s and Naidu’s stances are just a political stunt. It is true that since 2000, there has been a lot of abuse of the CBI at the hands of various central governments. Still, no one has ever withdrawn a case from the CBI. The CBI made its name in the Blue Star Operation, Bombay blasts, Sukh Ram and Dayanidhi Maran cases. Even in the early years, it was due to the pressure exerted by the result of its investigations that Finance Minister TT Krishnamachari and Finance Secretary HM Patel had to resign,” he said. He proposed a CBI Act as a solution to prevent its abuse at the hands of the political powers to replace the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act. There should be a layer of offences created known as federal offences that will be probed by the CBI, he proposed, though he did not elaborate as to how it would make a difference to the present arrangement.
Dr Khera said that it would be a hasty call to close an entire department on the basis of “a turf war between two officials”. He also pointed out that the “caged parrot” controversy in 2013 happened during UPA’s tenure and the appointment of Justice AN Ray skipping Justices Jaishanker Manilal Shelat, AN Grover and KS Hegde was also the handiwork of the Congress government.
Trinamool spokesperson Prof. Manojit Mandal then came on the telephone line to say that the 2am intimation to Verma asking him to go on leave was quite scandalous. He, too, agreed that only a CBI Act could save the day.
To the disappointment of Khan, Raju, however, felt that Banerjee’s announcement was arbitrary and high-handed. “Tomorrow she will secede from the nation on the plea that she has no faith in Prime Minister Modi. Earlier, too, she had challenged deployment of the Army and the Seema Suraksha Bal in the state in separate instances but on the same ground. This is petty territorialism. Also, Chandrababu Naidu should answer on what his exact relationship with Sathish Sana is as there are records that Sana bribed him to have his party’s Rajya Sabha member get Alok Verma off his back in a graft investigation case. Even the West Bengal government blocked the CBI investigation into the Saradha case,” he said.
Surankar felt that the two chief ministerial announcements sent out a wrong message as, in matters that have interstate and international ramifications, the CBI is the only agency capable of conducting a fair and thorough investigation. He went on to say that it is the police which is a compromised force and that is the reason behind the agency being in demand even when it comes to probing difficult murders and complicated frauds.
—Compiled by Sucheta Dasgupta
“Too much politics happening over corona in Delhi”
The Delhi chief minister’s decision was irresponsible, so it was overturned by the Lt Governor. Delhi belongs to everyone and such discrimination as Kejriwal proposed will not work. People know Kejriwal more for his wrong decisions than for any good work done by him
Even as Covid-19 cases in the country have crossed over 2.5 lakh, a petty spat has erupted over the issue of hospital beds. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriewal said non-Delhi residents will not be able to access Delhi government healthcare for Covid-19, and Lt Governor Anil Baijal overruled the decision and ordered Delhi government hospitals to treat all patients. APN’s popular debate Mudda discussed the issue with BJP’s Anand Sahu, Congress’s Ajay Arora, AAP’s Vanshraj Dubey, political expert Niranjan Poddar and APN Editor Ajay Kaul.
Sahu said: “The Delhi chief minister’s decision was irresponsible, so it was overturned by the Lt Governor. Delhi belongs to everyone and such discrimination as Kejriwal proposed will not work. People know Kejriwal more for his wrong decisions than for any good work done by him.”
Vanshraj Dubey: “It was an expert team that had advised the Delhi CM in view of the likelihood of cases rising in the capital. Kejriwal has not taken any decision against the Centre’s orders.”
Arora said: “We are fighting a pandemic, the biggest battle-ever. These people are not bothered about Covid, they are looking at their vote-banks. They only want to enjoy power. BJP and AAP have turned Delhi into a football match, and the common man is getting ignored.”
Poddar said: “People get to see everything, and this petty politics has upset the people. All people want is safety and that their livelihoods and health should remain protected. Covid is spreading more in urban areas and not so much in rural areas. Delhi has around 2 crore people and therefore the number of Covid positive patients are rising. I don’t see anything wrong in Kejriwal’s decision to protect facilities for the people of Delhi. Politics is happening over Covid.”
Kaul said: “Discrimination of any kind is not good at all. Will a patient get his Aadhaar card, or should he look for relief when he comes to hospital?”
Dubey said: “Healthcare is free for the people of Delhi. In case there’s a serious case, the CM had already said he/she will not be denied government healthcare. Private hospitals are getting into black marketing of hospital beds.”
Kaul said: “Then Kejriwal should have made it all clear.”
Dubey said: “See if Delhi people do not get healthcare in Delhi, will they run to Ghaziabad? And will the UP government take such patients?”
Sahu said: “People will drive out AAP from Delhi.”
Arora said: “I agree with Kaul that the issue is why should people get discriminated for treatment. What if the child is a Delhi resident and parents are from Bihar? How will such a child get treatment for his patents in Delhi? Too much politics is happening over corona in Delhi.”
Dubey said: “See if patients want to take treatment in Delhi, there is nothing wrong in that. We have not challenged the Lt Governor’s decision. Problems arise when beds are scarce. Delhi will have its own budget, just like Haryana and UP also have.”
Poddar said: “Delhi has Delhi government hospitals, private hospitals and central government hospitals. Right now, inter-state traffic is limited. There are central government hospitals also where people can reach for healthcare. I am of the opinion there is nothing wrong in Delhi saving its facilities for its own people. Ambulances know where to take people.”
“Economy should be opened only gradually”
Economy will repair itself in time. But once lives are lost, they will not come back. Labour has gone back, so what good will we achieve by unlocking?”
On the one hand, coronavirus cases are rising and on the other, the country is now on unclock mode. After 75 days, temples, restaurants and malls have opened at various places. APN’s popular debate Mudda discussed the issue with medical experts Dr Rahul Bharadwaj, Dr Yash Gulati, Dr AK Shukla and Dr Ankit Kumar Sinha, economist Dr Ashok Kaithal and APN Editor, Ajay Kaul.
Bharadwaj said: “Every day, corona cases are rising. We shall soon overtake the US. We need to ensure strict discipline at containment zones. What’s the rationale behind opening of temples and gurudwaras? Economy will repair itself in time. But once lives are lost, they will not come back. Labour has gone back, so what good will we achieve by unlocking?”
Dr Kaithal said: “We have not seen the desired result of the lockdown. Once lives are saved, economy will be saved. World economy is in bad shape, and can be opened only gradually, and slowly. Economy will be revived only after the manufacturing sector is opened.”
Dr Sinha said: “We have unlocked when the cases are rising. Over 50 to 70 percent patients are unable to access healthcare. We cannot stop corona. The government is more concerned about concealing the correct picture.”
Kaul said: “Economic activity has to be resumed. By having a further lockdown, corona will vanish. Till when can we suspend economic activity? Lockdown was supposed to put infrastructure in place, like PPEs, masks, hospital beds and so on. Opening of religious places is irrelevant, as that will not impact economy. Healthcare has failed India. Private hospitals are admitting patients selectively.”
Dr Bhargava said: “Lockdown was meant to ensure that the facilities match the demand, that we had enough beds and ventilators for the patients, because in the eventuality of an outburst, we cannot match the kind of healthcare strength that is needed. Lockdown was meant to flatten the curve. Corona is a pandemic. See, cancer patients will die if we do not have sufficient beds. Why was testing stopped in private labs? Did we visualize this kind of life that we will leave our old to die? Is this what we want? Where will middle-class people go?”
Dr Gulati said: “We are a poor country, and it’s important to focus our economy now. Corona cases are bound to rise. Luckily, our mortality rate is controlled. We cannot be left to die of hunger.”
Dr Kaithal said: “Cases are going up and the situation is frightening. We should revive the economy only gradually. Social distancing should be strictly enforced. Purchasing power of people needs to go up.”
Dr Sinha said: “I agree that we need to look into the economy now, but we should also focus on testing and contact tracing.”
Kaul said: “Lockdown was meant to strengthen the infrastructure. AIIMS chief Dr Guleria had said that in June cases are expected to peak, then why were we not prepared for that?”
Dr Shukla said: “It’s a respiratory virus. All will be affected in some way or the other. Use of masks and hand hygiene is important. It’s good that the economy has been opened but we must not take the precautionary measures lightly.”
“We need to focus on survival and revival”
The government has approved the road map for implementing the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), farmer and street vendor package that was announced earlier as part of the Rs 20 lakh crore stimulus to restart the economy. APN’s popular debate Mudda discussed the issue with economic experts Mukesh Mohan Gupta and Ajay Prakash, and UP Industrial Development Minister Satish Mahana.
Gupta said: “Challenges are being faced by all sectors, the reason being the global coronavirus pandemic. The new definition of MSME has broadened its scope. Moody’s has downgraded India’s rating, but that’s the same story with many other countries. In the US, there is unprecedented rioting happening, so that;’s no better. Manufacturing has been impacted here, so the rating will go down.”
Mahana said: “The Rs 20 lakh crore package is geared to instill confidence among the labour and industry stakeholders. See, the world is in the grip of an economic crisis, but PM Modi has been taking decisive steps. Unlock 1 will help to revive economic activities, and for that the consumer has to come in the market. No one can say how long Coronavirus will last. Under MNREGA, help has been reached out to the vulnerable sections… the effort is to go in for strong handholding. We have to focus on survival and revival. You just can’t look at industry for revival, agriculture also needs to be boosted, cash inflow has to be looked into. We are mapping the skills of the labour, and helping in matchmaking skills with needs. We will not leave any stone unturned in the interest of industry and the workers. Modi has been forward-looking and transparent, there is no room for corruption. We are looking at the opportunity behind the challenge. US is in the grip of a crisis. But a dialogue has been started with other countries. “Advantage UP” is being looked into in the fields of milk production, surface water, infrastructure, etc. We are focusing on Advantage UP and UP will be preferred state for investing in the country with ease of doing business. See, we are in a strong position, but the economic crisis is being faced globally, so how can we talk about our country alone? We have to focus on how to get out of the crisis.”
Prakash said: “India has huge numbers, but with no earning, demand has been low. We have been told 80 percent units have started work, but they are on 25 percent capacity. We are unable to utilize the capacity to the fullest because labour is away.”
Gupta said: “When sick, we can’t run, so how can we expect our economy to be normal. Demand is low, rating will be down. Cases are going up.”
Prakash said: “The Five Is pointed out by the PM– Intent, Inclusion, Investment, Infrastructure and Innovation are very important. Only the top 1 percent has been getting richer, now we need to broaden the base.”
Gupta said: “We need to think of local products to remain healthy.”
Prakash said: “We have the opportunity, but we need to act fast, we need labour reforms, tax systems, satisfaction has to be provided to the foreign investor. The desire is there to attract foreign investment but we have not been as fast as we should have been. At first, we need to get labour back, and restore the supply chain and value system, and check out competitor countries like Korea and some other south east Asian countries, we need to strengthen the base.”