Gujarat Under Anna Effect
War of words has taken a serious turn in the context of Anna Hazare’s fast as Gujarat Opposition Leader Shaktisinh Gohil said that instead of trying to encash Anna Hazare’s campaign against corruption, Narendra Modi should first appoint a Lokpal in Gujarat. Gujarat government imidiately reacted to Gohil’s statement by describing it as ‘false propaganda by Congress about appointment of Lokayukta, Gujarat State.’
As per the provisions contained in the Gujarat Lokayukta Act, 1986, the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court and Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly are required to be consulted for appointment of Lokayukta. In view of this provision, Chief Minister first consults the Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly and then consults the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court; thereafter the name for which the consultation process has been undertaken is placed before the Council of Ministers for approval and after such approval, the proposal is submitted to the Governor for appointment of that person as Lokayukta.
As a part of process of appointment of Lokayukta, Gujarat State, Chief Minister had called a meeting in August, 2006 for consultation with the Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly. Although the Leader of Opposition didn’t have any objection to the name suggested by the Chief Minister, he suggested that the other names might also be taken into consideration. (Later on the same person, as was suggested by the Chief Minister for appointment as Lokayukta, Gujarat State, was appointed in the Maharashtra Human Rights Commission by the Congress-ruled Maharashtra Government which shows that the opposition to the name suggested by the Chief Minister for appointment as Lokayukta, Gujarat State, by the Leader of Opposition was absolutely uncalled for.) After this consultation meeting, Government undertook the process of consultation with the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court and thereafter the file was put up to the Governor for approval in August, 2006.
It is important to note that the Governor did not take any decision on the file from August, 2006 to February, 2009. In February, 2009, the file was returned to the Government with the note that the person whose name had been recommended for appointment as Lokayukta, Gujarat State, could not be appointed as such for certain technical / legal reasons and, therefore, the State Government should make a fresh proposal in this regard.
Government resubmitted the file to the Governor in July, 2009 wherein it was clarified with the detailed reasons as to how the person whose name had been recommended by the Government could be appointed as Lokayukta, Gujarat State. In September, 2009, the file was returned by the Governor with the observation that the Government should make a fresh proposal with a new name.
STATEMENT OF GOHIL
Instead of trying to politically encash Anna Hazare’s campaign against corruption, Gujarat Chief Minister should appoint Lokayaukta in Gujarat. Lashing out against Chief Minister, Leader of Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil said that it was irony of the situation that the Chief Minister, who was talking about the campaign for Lokayukta, himself had not appointed Lokayukta in Gujarat. He said that this was despite the fact that Gujarat had a system of Lokayukta, no Lokayukta had been appointed after Modi had taken over as Chief Minister.
Gohil said that this was because Lokayukta could investigate the rampant corruption of Chief Minister and his ministers. Giving details of the appointment of new Lokayukta, he said that as per the provisions of the Lokayukta Act Chief Justice of Gujarat had already recommended to Governor the name of the Lokayukta and the Governor had also approved it. In such a situation Gujarat government had just to announce the appointment. He pointed out that as per the law, Chief Minister could not make any change in the names. He had ulterior motive in not announcing the name, Gohil said.
He alleged that in the 50 years of Gujarat no chief minister had given away precious land at a throw-away price, but the present Chief Minister had given billions of sq. metres of land to industrialists on a platter. With the blessings of the Chief Minister, gochar land and flour for the poor worth a huge amount were also siphoned off. Asserting that for this reason alone Lokayukta was not appointed in Gujarat, Gohil made a strong demand for the appointment of Lokayukta.
Gohil said that Chief Minister was indulging in rampant corruption and he was sheltering corrupt people. Stating that Chief Minister was not interested in checking corruption in his government machinery, he said that the time was ripe in Gujarat for a leader like Anna Hazare to launch campaign against corruption in Gujarat. Chief Minister remained silent when the corruption of Karnataka Chief Minister came to light. He said the CM was a mute spectator to the corruption by his ministers and his favourites in Gujarat. He added the poor did not get free plots for residence nor landless got land for cultivation. But industrialists got free land by shady deals with the Chief Minister. He alleged the CM was minting money while making a show of curbing corruption in small cases and for this reason he was not appointing Lokayukta in Gujarat.
WHY SKEWED SEX RATIO IN ODISHA?
Going by the trend that has come to the fore with the release of latest Census data 2011, Odiya youths may find it difficult to get bride for them 20 years from now. It does not bring good tidings for the girl child in Odisha. Instead, a dangerous situation is unfolding as there has been a significant drop in the number of girls from the last census. Their ratio till the age of six vis-à-vis boys has declined from 953 in 2001 to 934 in 2011 (as against 1,000 boys), the provisional population data of the Census 2011 has revealed. Against the backdrop of an upward trend in the overall sex ratio in the state, the fall in the child sex (between 0 and 6 years) ratio could be a major cause of concern in long-term considerations. While the overall sex ratio in the state has gone up to 978 in 2011 from 972 in 2001, the gap between genders below the age of six has begun widening considerably. The provisional data has revealed the 2011 ratio at 934, 19 down from 953 in 2001. In 1991, the child sex ratio in Odisha was 967. Male—female sex ratio, on the other hand, has posted a slight increase to 978. The male—female sex ratio is, in fact, the highest in three decades as it was 972 in 2001 and 971 in 1991.
The state has been witnessing a steady decline in the sex ratio in the same age group since 1971. From 1,168 in 1971, it decreased to 995 in 1981 and 967 in 1991. But the 1971 figure was an improvement over 1961’s 1,035. Among eastern states, Odisha cuts the poorest figure projecting a count of 934 girls in comparison to 1,000 boys. Contrast this with neighbouring Chhattisgarh (964), Jharkhand (943), Andhra Pradesh (943) and West Bengal (950). It can, however, draw some comfort from the fact that its girl child population is better than many north Indian states (Punjab, Haryana and Delhi). Compared to the all India child sex ratio of 914, it is slightly better here in Odisha but the rate of decline was faster (1.9 per cent) compared to the national average (1.4 per cent) in the decade 2001-2011.
The state appears to be moving in the opposite direction as the counterparts, most infamous like Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh have begun to show improvement. The increase is substantial in Punjab which improved 57 points from 789 to 846. Haryana posted an increase from 819 to 830 and Himachal Pradesh from 896 to 910. The Union Territory of Chandigarh also showed marked increase from 845 to 867. Mizoram has the highest child sex ratio (0-6 years) of 971 followed by Meghalaya with 970. Haryana is at the bottom with a ratio of 830 followed by Punjab with 846. According to provisional figure of Census 2011, total population of children in the age group of 0 to 6 is 50, 35, 650. Of this 26,03,208 are boys and 24,32,442 are girls. The total child population is 12 per cent of the state’s total population. In 2001, the total child population in Odisha was 53,58,810 with composition of 27,44,552 boys and 26,14,258 girls. There has been a fall of 3,23,000 children in the age group of 0 to 6 in 2011 compared to 2001. However, the difference between number of boys and girls in 2011 has widened to 1,70,766 in comparison to 1,30,294 in 2001. The state has 11th lowest child population among different states.
Odisha may experience a scenario like Haryana where brides are bought because of a shortage of girls of marriageable age. If the decline persists, we could have a similar situation in Odisha in the years to come. The declining sex ratio points to the fact that the male child is preferred. The sex ratio is more adverse in urban and semi-urban areas than in rural areas. The sex ratio has been declined primarily due to sex selective abortions which are dictated by social, medical and technological factors.
The downslide is a definite indication of the fact that female foeticide continues unabated in the state despite claims of stringent enforcement of the Pre Conception Pre Natal Diagnostic Test (PC PNDT) Act by the Odisha government. The drop in child sex ratio is a very disturbing trend. Gravity of the issue lies in the fact that male-female ratio is going out of balance in India since last decades. The sex ratio in the Indian population has been falling consistently. From 972 women per 1,000 men in 1901, the sex ratio fell to 933 women per 1,000 men in 2001. Rampant practice of female foeticide violating the existing Act proves the insufficiency in the Act or its inefficient execution by the officials. The major factor would be the irresponsible attitude of the medical officers and doctors who are motivated by money more than their duties and responsibilities. As some doctors working with the government are involved in such heinous practices, it’s foolish to expect a proper implementation of PNDT (Pre-conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques) Act. Now the integrity of the doctors is questioned by people. No social responsibility, no duty, what drives them is only money?
According to experts, the social malaise has become deeply entrenched in the population, which has come to consider girls as a burden on them. Sons are considered breadwinners while girls are burden for having to be got married off with huge dowry as well as less productive for the family. As a result, sex selective abortions are on the rise. Director, Family Welfare and member of the State Appropriate authority and Advisory Committee on PC PNDT Act, Dr Rajkumar Ghosh says the situation has been wrought on by a two-fold factor. Female foeticide continues to thrive in aid of unscrupulous elements spurred by the demand from insensitive parents. Then, there could also be the problem of less care for girl children in the neonatal and infancy stages that could be impacting their mortality. Development in sex selection technology has a direct relation with the declining child sex ratio in the state. Though, the district-level committees have been formed to check the proper implementation of PC and PNDT Act, but these committees are not effective in checking violation of PNDT Act. The monitoring is very week and the medical staffs are the major violators of the act.
Misuse of technology is a major reason responsible for distorting child sex ratios. In order to regulate use and prohibit misuse of technology, the Pre-Conception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques (PC and PNDT) act enacted in 1994 and amended in 2003 is an important tool for addressing sex selective eliminations and in addressing the declining child sex ratios. The main purpose of the act is to prohibit and regulate the use of diagnostics techniques before and/or after conception for sex determinations leading to sex selective elimination of foetus. The provision of the act encompasses creating institutional mechanisms and providing tools to monitor the use of diagnostic techniques for prohibiting sex selection. There is provision of punishment and penalty for those who violate provisions of PC & PNDT Act, but all these remains in pen & papers only, there by resulting in down sliding in the child sex ratio in the state. It’s like Tsunami hit. Though there is no clear data, the number of girls (0-6 years), who should have survived, did not survive due to sex determination tests in the disguise of scanning. Unless and until, the PNDT Act is strengthened and implemented effectively, sex ratio would not improve.
A skewed sex ratio is dangerous for society. In the natural course the number of females to males is higher in any society. But in case of certain societies where there is a preference for son, this natural balance is disturbed. The social bias and availability of technology has led the sex ratio to decline. The Odisha government needs to tackle both the misuse of medical technology and social bias against women to ensure that the sex ratio improves. The government needs to take up an awareness drive as a sustained campaign similar to the pulse polio drive to avert a Haryana like situation in the state.
By KIshore Dash from Bhubaneswar
In February, 2010, Government obtained a fresh panel of four retired Judges from the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court. Thereafter, Chief Minister arranged a meeting on 4.3.2010 for consultation with the Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly, but the Leader of Opposition did not remain present in the meeting and instead, he raised certain objections to Chief Minister undertaking such consultation process. In fact, the process for appointment of Lokayukta has already been well-established by the precedents and, therefore, there is no constitutional propriety to raise issues about the consultation process, and yet the Leader of Opposition raised more than one technical/legal issues and avoided to remain present in the consultation meeting with the Chief Minister. Thereafter, Chief Minister arranged the consultation meetings with the Leader of Opposition on 5.3.2010 and 22.3.2010 but the Leader of Opposition did not remain present in these meetings. Thus, it can be seen that the predetermined and prejudiced approach of the Leader of Opposition is responsible in the consultation process not being completed. In the meanwhile, Chief Minister and the then MoS (Law) met the Governor on 8.3.2010 and handed over a detailed comprehensive note giving complete details of the legal and constitutional aspects relating to the subject.
Since the Leader of Opposition did not participate in the consultation process, the Government placed the name of the person proposed to be appointed as Lokayukta, Gujarat State before the Council of Ministers and obtained its approval. Thereafter, the file was put up to the Governor; but the Governor did not approve the fresh name also and returned the file on 5.5.2010 with the observation that the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court should not suggest a panel but should suggest only one name, the one name which he suggests, may be considered by the Government for appointment as Lokayukta after obtaining orders of the Governor.
The Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court sent a name on 31.12.2010 and the process of consultation between the Government and Chief Justice, Gujarat High Court, is going on with reference to this particular name. It is pertinent to note here that, in the interim, the Governor had called for the information about the position prevailing in other States in the matter of appointment of Lokayukta. The State Government obtained such information from certain States. The information revealed that in almost all the States the same procedure is being followed as in Gujarat, for appointment of Lokayukta. Such States also include the Congress-ruled States.
Thus, it can be seen from the above details that Government of Gujarat has made all the sincere efforts to fill up the vacancy of Lokayukta, Gujarat State, but because of negative approach of the Opposition Party Congress, and despite the well-established procedure, legal and constitutional provisions as well as precedents, the Congress Party has adopted a predetermined, prejudiced and rigid approach in the matter, which has resulted in the post of Lokayukta, Gujarat State remaining vacant. The Opposition Party Congress is solely and squarely responsible for this situation.
On one hand the Opposition Party Congress is creating all kinds of hurdles, adopting an absolutely intransigent approach as also making misleading representations before the Governor which not only results in the post of Lokayukta remaining unfilled but also adversely affects the public interest. On the other hand, the Congress Party is trying to create a picture that the Government is not interested in filling the vacancy of Lokayukta. The people of Gujarat and the country should take note of the dual policy of the Congress Party and should also see, in proper perspective, the hypocracy of the Congress Party.
By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani from Ahmedabad