11:28 pm - Thursday November 12, 2015

TRAI Bill passed in RS

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The Narendra Modi government on Tuesday successfully pushed through a bill to amend the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to formalise the appointment of Nripendra Misra as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister. The NDA has just 43 members in the Rajya Sabha and an effective strength of 240. Within three days of the oath-taking ceremony, the Cabinet on May 28 recommended the promulgation of an ordinance to amend the TRAI Act to facilitate the appointment of Mr. Misra. The TRAI Act bars a former chairman from taking up any government job after retirement.

Several parties had raised objections to the government taking the ordinance route particularly when Parliament was scheduled to meet in another 10 days. But, the government defended it on the ground that the Prime Minister should have the right to pick a person of his choice for such a crucial job.

The Congress had made a determined bid in the last few days to mobilise the support of all Opposition parties to scuttle the TRAI Bill. However, only the Left parties got on board while regional parties, such as the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, chose to side with the government.

The Congress suffered a blow after NCP chief Sharad Pawar announced that his party would not do anything to embarrass a government which was only a few weeks old. The Trinamool Congress had, at one stage, said it would oppose the Bill. But, when it came up for voting in the Lok Sabha on Monday, it went with the government.

Finding itself isolated, the Congress did not press for a vote in the Upper House when the Bill came up for voting. It was passed by a voice vote.


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After U.S. President Barack Obama raised the issue of religious intolerance in India, The New York Times published a very strong editorial criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi for what it calls his “dangerous silence” on a series of communal events in the country.The editorial, by the NYT editorial board, lists recent attacks on churches and reports of Ghar Vapsi or conversion and marks out the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) for its proposed conversions programme in Ayodhya in March this year, saying the group “was playing with fire.” “Mr. Modi’s continued silence before such troubling intolerance increasingly gives the impression that he either cannot or does not wish to control the fringe elements of the Hindu nationalist right,” the NYT editorial surmised.Full text of the Editorial published in the New York Times on February 6, 2015:What will it take for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak out about the mounting violence against India’s religious minorities? Attacks at Christian places of worship have prompted no response from the man elected to represent and to protect all of India’s citizens. Nor has he addressed the mass conversion to Hinduism of Christians and Muslims who have been coerced or promised money. Mr. Modi’s continued silence before such troubling intolerance increasingly gives the impression that he either cannot or does not wish to control the fringe elements of the Hindu nationalist right.Recently, a number of Christian churches in India have been burned and ransacked. Last December, St. Sebastian’s Church in East Delhi was engulfed in fire. Its pastor reported a strong smell of kerosene after the blaze was put out. On Monday, St. Alphonsa’s Church in New Delhi was vandalised. Ceremonial vessels were taken, yet collection boxes full of cash were untouched. Alarmed by the attacks, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has urged the government to uphold the secular nature of India and to assure its Christians they are “protected and secure” in their own country.There is also concern about the mass conversions. Last December, about 200 Muslims were converted to Hinduism in Agra. In January, up to 100 Christians in West Bengal “reconverted” to Hinduism. Hard-line Hindu nationalist groups, like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), make no secret of their support for a “homecoming” campaign designed to “return” non-Hindus to the fold. More than 80 per cent of Indians are Hindu, but Pravin Togadia of the VHP says his organisation’s goal is a country that is 100 per cent Hindu. The only way to achieve that is to deny religious minorities their faith.The VHP is reportedly planning a mass conversion of 3,000 Muslims in Ayodhya this month. The destruction of the Babri Mosque there in 1992 by Hindu militants touched off riots between Hindus and Muslims across India that left more than 2,000 people dead. The VHP knows it is playing with fire.Mr. Modi has promised an ambitious agenda for India’s development. But, as President Obama observed in a speech in New Delhi last month: “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith.” Mr. Modi needs to break his deafening silence on religious intolerance.

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