Prime Minister vested interests are behind the “baseless” allegation that the terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commission are biased against certain States or a region. He did not name the region, but he was clearly responding to growing clamour from the southern States for a rethink on the parameters for the Commission to determine revenue-sharing between the Centre and the States. The southern States are concerned that the Commission is switching from the 1971 Census to the 2011 Census. This means States that have done relatively better to control population growth could see their allocations, as a fraction of the total resources, reduced. However, speaking in Chennai Mr. Modi said a State like Tamil Nadu would actually benefit from the Commission’s mandate as the Centre has mooted incentives for those who have done well on population control. That the Prime Minister has had to wade in to try and manage a controversy, days after had termed it as ‘needless’, signals the Centre’s concerns about the narrative turning against the BJP ahead of the Karnataka election
On the cusp of the southwest monsoon, several arid States are hoping to revive their rivers and reservoirs with bountiful rain. One of them is Gujarat, which is roiled by the long-tail effect of a deficit monsoon between August and November last year. The State government has embarked on a labour-intensive programme to desilt rivers and waterbodies ahead of the rains. Its predicament reflects the larger reality of drought in India, aggravated by heat waves and significant rain deficits in different regions. This year’s fall in reservoir storage levels to below-average levels has affected farmers who depend on the Sardar Sarovar dam, and 27 other reservoirs including those in Madhya Pradesh. A reinvigorated Congress in the opposition has turned the heat on the BJP government in Gujarat, which is hard put to defend itself against the charge that dam waters were depleted merely to fill the Sabarmati river for a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December, when he undertook a seaplane journey on the river. Its response has been to roll out a campaign to deepen waterbodies on the one hand, and arrange religious events to propitiate the gods on the other. But it has had to prioritise needs over farming, and suspend irrigation supply from the dam on March 15. This year, Delhi has been at loggerheads with Haryana over reduction of water released in the Yamuna, highlighting growing stresses over a vital resource. Urgent water management reforms must be undertaken to help citizens and avoid losses to the economy.
Quick and bold decisions are more often made during moments of crises than during periods of relative calm and quiet. After sealing a deal on a post-poll coalition in Karnataka even before the counting of votes drew to a close, the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) are unable to reach an understanding on Cabinet berths and portfolios almost a week after the coalition proved its majority on the floor of the Assembly. Other than on having H.D. Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) as the Chief Minister and G. Parameshwara of the Congress as the Deputy Chief Minister, the two parties have been unable to agree on the contours of the coalition government. The Congress, which was hurried into conceding considerable ground to the JD(S) by a fast-moving opponent in the Bharatiya Janata Party, is now driving a hard bargain on the strength of its own numbers. The reasoning is that the party, with twice as many members as the JD(S) in the Assembly, should have its choice of ministries such as finance, home, public works and energy as the bigger partner that had stepped back from the race for the chief ministership. Otherwise, this would leave the JD(S) as the recognisable face of the government, leaving little for the Congress. The JD(S) appears willing to concede more berths to the Congress, but would like to have some of the key portfolios, especially finance, for itself.
Officials in New Delhi are busy preparing to welcome representatives of the United Nations these days. People from various parts of the world will converge here on June 5 for the World Environment Day. This year’s theme is Beat Plastic Pollution. As the host, it is India’s responsibility to take a meaningful initiative on this issue. Though, plastic, in India, is only a part of the massive problem of pollution.
cological ruin is on a gallop across South Asia, with life and livelihood of nearly a quarter of the world’s population affected. Yet, our polities are able to neither fathom nor address the degradation. The distress is paramount in the northern half of the subcontinent, roping in the swathe from the Brahmaputra basin to the Indus-Ganga plain.
he spark for the week-long incidents of violence in downtown Shillong was a lie spread through WhatsApp, the ubiquitous messaging platform that has increasingly become an unfiltered medium for hate and rumour-mongering. A of the Mazhabi Sikh community, long-time settlers in the Punjabi Lane area of the city, and a Khasi youth and his associates over a local matter was amicably settled between representatives of the communities. But a fabricated story that the youth had succumbed to injuries sustained in the scuffle led to large numbers of Khasi protesters laying siege to Punjabi Lane, demanding that the Sikh residents move from the area. That the “settlers” have been in Shillong for more than a century and a half, having been originally brought there by the British colonials to work as manual scavengers, and have since integrated themselves within Shillong, has not insulated them from being described as outsiders. The administration did well to protect the dwellers of Punjabi Lane from physical harm, but mob violence persisted until and the Army put on stand-by. Spokespersons of the Khasi Students’ Union, whose members were part of the agitation, continue to insist that the Punjabi Lane residents be moved from Shillong’s commercial heart to its outskirts. Picturesque Shillong is no longer just an idyllic hill station; it is a bustling city that has grown in an unplanned manner and requires reforms such as zoning regulation. But the agitators’ demand to shift the Sikh residents is unreasonable and must be resisted. In fact, the Meghalaya High Court had stayed an order by the District Commissioner to evict the residents from Punjabi Lane (also known as Sweepers’ Colony) in 1986.
The board of ICICI Bank has finally acted on the allegations of misconduct against its CEO and managing director, . It had earlier maintained that she was on annual personal leave; now, she will stay away from the office till the completion of an inquiry into the charges levelled against her by a whistle-blower. Rather than allow the controversy to fester, the board of ICICI Bank, an institution that often sought to hold a mirror up to the inefficiencies of public sector banks, should have acted earlier. Till the inquiry is complete the bank will be steered by a new chief operating officer, Sandeep Bakhshi. The official version is that he will report to Ms. Kochhar, who herself took the decision to go on leave till the end of the inquiry — but this is at best a face-saving cover for a board that was reluctant to act since the controversy broke. Meanwhile, the tenure of M.K. Sharma, the chairman of the bank’s board, is set to end this month and there is still no clarity on his successor. This extended uncertainty in a crisis situation is unwarranted. ICICI Bank’s troubles are rooted in a 2016 complaint by an investor alleging a quid pro quo deal between Ms. Kochhar’s immediate family members and the Videocon group, which got a ₹3,250-crore loan from it. When this ‘conflict of interest’ complaint resurfaced in the public domain this year, Mr. Sharma said he had personally inquired into it two years earlier and found nothing amiss.