January 10, 2007
New Delhi, January 11: In a move that can have widespread consequence, the union cabinet today abolished the death penalty in India for all crimes. All those who are in the death row at present have also been granted clemency. The courts of India awards capital punishment in the rarest of the rare cases, if found guilty. In another significant amendment to the criminal procedure code (CrPC), the most serious offenders will be asked to become farmers in Vidharbha. This sentence will be applied only in the rarest of rare cases, as prescribed by the supreme court. The convicts will be encouraged to grow Bt cotton.
The government move comes in the wake of recent controversy regarding the decision to hang Md. Afzal Guru. While the people of Kashmir led long protests against the sentence claiming the lack of fair trial, opposition BJP wanted Md. Afzal to be hung as early as possible. The decision follows long pending demands by the civil rights activists. There is also a growing consensus in the international community against its continuance. India is the 89th country in the world to have abolished capital punishment for all crimes. There are at present 22 individuals on death row languishing in various jails in India.
There was mixed reactions to the latest government initiative. PUCL spokesperson said that forcing the convicts to become farmers is equally bad, if not worse than hanging them. Farming (esp. cotton farming) is considered as one of the most hazardous job in the country with nearly 500 farmers being forced to end their lives in last one year in Vidharbha alone. Families of some of the convicted men also preferred their kin to be hung rather than asking them to be farmers.
The opposition BJP welcomed the move, and had termed it a landmark decision. Crediting themselves for the dismal state of agriculture in the country, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj reminded that it was during the NDA government that seed giants Monsanto started their India operations and banking reforms were introduced. The large scale use of Bt cotton and lack of cheap credit was instrumental in the deaths of most of the farmers. Present agriculture minister Sharad Pawar was also expressed his pleasure. He said the government should go one step further, and make the criminals grow genetically modified food, and consume their own produce as well.
There was no comments from congress and the left parties.
January 9, 2007
KOLKATA: Mr. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya dropped a bombshell today when he announced that the writer’s building will be converted into an SEZ and handed over to private companies for setting up industries.The building which currently hosts the secretariat of West Bengal government, as well as the chief minister’s office is located in BBD Bagh, Kolkata. It occupies 2.8 acres. He said that he has taken this decision to blunt the opposition offensive, who heclaimed, are misleading the public about the intentions of the state government.
A gleaming Mr. Bhattacharya, accompanied by his industries minister Mr. Nirupam Sen addressed the press on tuesday afternoon. Explaining the rationale behind the project, he said that there is an abundance of political space in West Bengal and that small sacrifices are a must for all-round development of the state. Mr. Sen said that Mr. Ratan Tata had shown interest in setting up a plant to make cheap nail-cutters in Kolkata, although nothing has been finalized as yet.
The chief minister refuted the allegations that this move amounts to a complete capitulation of the state in the interests of private players, and asked the reporter who commented thus to be thrown out of the room. He heaped praises over the marxist and patriotic credentials of Mr. Tata and claimed that the factory will employ at least 109 individuals, which is much more than 108 persons who are currently employed by the state government in the secretariat. Mr. Sen produced shared the list of all the affected families with the media. When someone pointed out that the list has names from 1850s, and was prepared by the east india company, a flummoxed Mr. Sen said that he knows better as his office is located in the writers building and cautioned the media against spreading lies. He listed out an attractive rehabilitation package for the affected families.
The chief minister said, “Everyday it breaks my heart when I use the ‘Made in Korea’ nail-cutter. I wonder, are we technologically so incompetent that we can’t make even a trivial instrument in our country? I discussed it with my good friend, Ratan, and he explained me his childhood dream of making cheap nail-cutters which are affordable to the masses. The new nail-cutters will be priced at less than Rs. 2 and will be available in the market in 2012.”
Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee was unavailable for comment.
January 9, 2007
GUWAHATI: A group of one-horned rhinoceros have taken exception to the regular arrival of migratory birds in a wildlife sanctuary in the upper districts of Assam (now, Asom). Tuesday night, they had launched fierce attack on the trees sheltering those birds, and smashed the falling birds. An estimated number of 3000 birds have been killed in the overnight raze, and many more are missing. The actual toll can be much higher. The organization of the one-horned rhinos ULFA-R (United Liberation Front of Assamese Rhinoceros) have claimed responsibility for the deaths. According to their spokesperson, the birds encroach upon their area and because of their small size and large numbers have taken an undue share of the natural resources, especially food and water and deprived the native rhinos of adequate supplies.
The migratory birds, who arrive in large numbers during winters of every year to avoid the extremely cold weather in their native regions. Many of these birds have been visiting the lakes of Kaziranga national park since past three millenia. Many of the birds have started fleeing, heading back to Siberia. Most of them are afraid of staying any longer in Assam, although the forest authorities have ensured them of safety and deployed many police personnel along the trees.
The attack was totally unprovoked came as a surprise to everyone. The chairman of
ULFA-R, Arabinda Rajkhowa has blamed the forest management for the attack. Conceding his organization’s role in the latest onslaught, Rh. Rajkhowa claimed that the management provoked his boys by calling them violent and referring to them as mindless butchers. He said that his group will continue targeting the ‘outsiders’, as he referred to the birds, until the forests of Assam has been rid of them. He blamed the outsiders for the poor health record of native rhinos, and for the fall of average weight among them.
The forest management has appealed for calm from all parties, and have invited the representatives of ULFA-R for a heart-to-heart talk, and urged them to be good. Till last reported, their calls went unheeded with ULFA-R tightening their stand and warning of more such attacks.