Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Snippets / Mail Today, January 11, 2010

Getting a measure of the J& K issue
LIKE MOST politicians, P. Chidambaram loves to talk, but it must be said to the home minister’s credit that he is a rare politician whose actions speak louder than his words. He speaks tough, acts even tougher and it came as no surprise that after he replaced the narcissistic Shivraj Patil in North Block in the aftermath of 26/ 11, the country saw no terror attacks on its soil for nearly 13 months.

It was he, in cahoots with defence minister A. K. Antony who began the scaling down of the army’s presence in Kashmir where almost 30,000 troops have been pulled out over the past few months and more are being gradually withdrawn to enable the state police to take over the task of manning law and order. The long tranquil spell was broken after the two- day- long fidayeen attack in Srinagar last week and the questions now being asked are: have the terrorists begun regrouping? If so, will the government continue with the withdrawal of the forces? True, the terrorists cocked a snook at the Centre’s scaling down policy with their brazen attack, but if Chidambaram’s response is any indication, troop withdrawals will go on as scheduled.
National security adviser M. K. Narayanan too appears confident that the process of troop reduction can and will continue. And Chidambaram’s statement, issued last Friday, should end all speculation about any possible policy reversal. “ The alert J& K Police… neutralised the militants without suffering any casualties and evacuated 600 citizens to safety.

It is noteworthy that the state police and the CRPF conducted the operation without calling upon the National Security Guards or the Army Special Forces”. Chidambaram seems to subscribe to the view that, bereft of the popular support they once had, the terrorists will pop up once a while just to remind everyone that they are not finished yet.

Government wants to teach old dogs some new tricks
IF THE UPA government has its way, bureaucrats across the country will be encouraged to get back to the classrooms and learn a whole lot of new skills. This is part of the prime minister’s plans to bring babudom more in tune with the government’s policies vis- a- vis the internal situation in the country as well as global trends. As a first step, cabinet secretary K. M. Chandrashekhar has invited chief secretaries of all states for a two- day conference to which all union ministers have also been invited.

A senior bureaucrat admits that in the federal set up that we have in place, state governments should be more concerned about local issues, but emphasised that in a fast changing world, it as imperative that the states also have a vision that encompasses national as well as international issues. The conference scheduled for February 1 and 2 will be a first of sorts in many respects.

Apart from the mandatory speeches by the prime minister and the Cab Sec, there will be presentations by the chiefs of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Defence Research and Development Organisation and other scientific institutions on latest trends in technology that could be of use to specific states; an address by foreign secretary Nirupama Rao on “ Emerging Global Challenges and Opportunities”, a presentation of International Trade Outlook by commerce secretary Nandan Nilekani will brief the officers on the Unique Identity Card mission and Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh will present a paper on climate change.
Given the security environment across the country where no state, big or small is left untouched by agents of terror, it is not surprising that the government believes that babus from the states should also be given lessons on key security concerns.

For the first time ever, the army, air force and naval chiefs will directly address state- level bureaucrats on the security environment and the role that the state governments must necessarily play to supplement the Centre’s efforts. Hopefully, the back- to- the basics approach will yield dividends.

DELHIITES have in recent times seen the high- tech low- floor buses periodically go up in flames in many parts of the city and chief minister Sheila Dikshit has asked the manufacturers to rectify the faults or be ready to pay heavy damages. Something similar is happening in Tamil Nadu, the difference being that the private vehicles that are turning into fireballs are all owned by politicians, belonging to the AIADMK, the Congress, the CPI and the CPM. Last week, the AIADMK’s Rajya Sabha MP V. Maitreyan lodged a police complaint after his car was found burnt long past midnight. After an inquiry that lasted exactly two days, the state police submitted a report that put the blame on a battery short circuit.

Former Union minister EVKS Elangovan and CPI state secretary Tha Pandian were two other leaders whose cars mysteriously caught fire when no one was watching. The police were swift in conducting inquiries and even swifter in reaching conclusions: battery short circuit. Opposition leaders are now planning to petition governor S. S. Barnala to hold an impartial inquiry into these incidents, but bound as the governor is by the state government’s advice, his report may not differ much from that of the state police. Maitreyan at least has the satisfaction of the Rajya Sabha chairman — the country’s Vice- President — seeking a detailed report on the torching of the car of a member of the Upper House.

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