Events in the country last week provided us with lively entertainment, especially the controversy and debates in Parliament about Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail. Trinamool Congress member Derek O’Brien colourfully described FDI as ‘Foreign Direct Intrusion’. BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad deplored that Sushma Swaraj, leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, was subject to “sub-standard comments”, whatever that may mean. BSP supremo Mayawati displayed political talent in explaining her party’s U-turn on the issue. According to her, the reason was that if government’s FDI in retail move was defeated, the Opposition would get a chance to play politics and the government would be wary of bringing in several other important legislations in the Rajya Sabha, most notably the one on reservations for SC/STs in promotions or the one on food security. Another reason, or rather pretext, was the objectionable statement of Swaraj exhorting the SP and BSP to vote against the government with the remark that it was a case of choosing ‘FDI vs CBI’ for these parties. As a matter of fact, Mayawati’s references to Swaraj were deemed unparliamentary and have been expunged after the BJP objected. The person to whom the credit must go is the resourceful Union Minister Kamal Nath who, taking advantage of the political divide, successfully persuaded Mayawati to change course and come to the government’s rescue. Politics and high ethical principles are strangers. But are the people of India to be helplessly exposed to rank opportunism and the invincible desire to hold on to office by any means?
Darul Uloom Deoband is again entertaining us. It has recently issued a fatwa against tattoo and use of perfume with alcohol content. It has decreed that Namaz of those who have tattoo on their bodies or have sprayed perfume with alcohol in it, is not valid. One more Islamic seminary, Bareli Markaz, has backed the Deoband’s decree, saying “marking tattoo on body is against the tenets of Islam”. Earlier, Darul Uloom had issued a fatwa against appointment of Muslim women as receptionists on the ground that Muslim women are not allowed to appear before men without veil. We have had entertainment this week from diverse sources and that too without payment of entertainment tax. So let us not complain and for once be thankful.
Supreme Court to the Rescue of Yamuna: It is shocking that river Yamuna has become filthy despite thousands of crores being spent on improving its quality. Amicus Curiae Ranjit Kumar told the court that Yamuna water in Delhi was nothing but filth with 0 per cent oxygen. The Supreme Court expressed its deep anguish and appointed a committee of technical experts from the Indian Institutes of Technology to suggest clean-up measures. This is a commendable instance of judicial activism necessitated by the executive’s gross dereliction of duty. But this should not provide an alibi to the executive for failure to perform its duty.
Pat to CAG Vinod Rai: Comptroller and Auditor General of India Vinod Rai has been severely attacked by ministers and members of the ruling party. Union Minister Manish Tewari dared him to have a debate on his report on Times Now channel, forgetting that it is unbecoming for constitutional authorities to engage in public debates about the correctness or otherwise of their decisions and actions. In this context, it was heartening that to counter the Supreme Court’s perception that independence in information commissions had taken a hit as these were mostly headed by government-friendly retired bureaucrats, Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati cited the example of CAG Rai. The AG is reported to have told the court that retired bureaucrats do not function under the thumb of the government and referring to Rai stated, “We have a CAG who was a former finance secretary. Can it be said that he is loyal to the government?” Well done, AG.