TRAVELLING ALONE

We cannot compare the benefits of travelling solo and in group, especially with friends. They have their own inclinations to get along with you, and at times, you love both. Generally, as we know, it has be interplay of both, external as well as internal factors.

But, ultimately, if we go by our inner call, then any such decision is a mix of factors acting in coordination that finally decide with which way we will go.

The first factor is the weaving of your thought process.

If you are a person who enjoys your own company, you would love to go for a solo trip where you can croon, dance, sit and talk, all coming from and going inside you.

The best thing about having such intense one-on-one with you that you easily follow your own path even if you are in a group of friends. Yes, the nature of your interaction with self changes accordingly.

Trips that are exploratory in nature have their best chances when they find someone like this on the journey. They find their ways, be among people or walking alone. They are the truth-seekers. They are the knowledge-seekers. They are the wisdom-seekers. And journeys seek them.

The second factor is your mood.

Irrespective of the proclivity of your conscious (and subconscious mind), it is your mood that first decides whether you would go a for trip at all and if it says yes, then what contours it will take – whether your mood is pushing for you to take a solitary break away from the world around you to look for some moments in your own company – or it is seeking to share what is inside you with your friends and a group trip along the highway or in the valleys or on the hills or anywhere you like is the perfect occasion for it.

The third factor is obviously the occasion.

It is again interplay of different factors. If you are a party goer, you will seek to turn every group occasion into a good party time. You, will, in fact, go to every extent possible to have those evenings or nights or days again and again.

If you are a normal guy or girl next door, you will go where the party goes. And even if you are a reluctant, self-contained soul, you will not hesitate to become part of the show because you know it is going to be just those hours.

Mind you folks, these are about normal existences. We are not taking about exceptions and exclusivities here. We are talking about life journeys here.

©SantoshChaubey

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AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT

SHORT NOTES

Though the Abolition Movement of the 19th Century had emancipated African Americans, lifting them from the shackles of slavery, they were still denied the basic civil rights. Discrimination based on colour and racial segregation was common in America, especially in its southern states, the traditional slave states of America before slavery was abolished by US President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

Years of struggle by African Americans to secure federal protection for their basic rights and to end the humiliating practice of segregation based on race led to the non-violent American Civil Rights Mass Movement in 1950s and 60s.

The long years of the movement saw series of non-violent protests, civil disobedience and boycotts and its culmination is seen in Martin Luther King’s ‘March on Washington’ on August 28, 1963 when he delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech demanding justice and equality for African Americans.

As a result of the American Civil Rights Movement, the US government passed a series of legislation during 1960s, i.e., Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act), which effectively ended the discriminatory practises based on colour and the racial segregation of public facilities in the years ahead.

©SantoshChaubey

EXISTENTIALISM

SHORT NOTES

The crux of Existentialism is Human Freedom, the freedom of the living human individual. The movement that was both literary and philosophical saw an individual as the basic entity of society who was in command of the world around him and acted freely and responsibly to find his place in society.

For an existentialist, individual and not organized society or religion was the centre of the whole existence. For him, the authenticity in life meant living individually, an existence that didn’t owe to society or religion.

Existentialism worked on the concept of ‘me Vs them’ or ‘individual Vs the society’ and firmly believed in an individual’s supremacy rejecting the established philosophical notions as too abstract and detached and thus showed disorientation and tension an individual had with existing norms revolving around with themes like life and death, freedom, existence and bondage, anxiety and authenticity, angst and despair and so on.

Basically called a 20th Century philosophy and used by French philosopher and legend Jean-Paul Sartre to describe himself, though he once famously said “Existentialism? I don’t know what that is”, it had its roots in the works of 19th Century philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard.

Existentialism gave rise to a cultural movement in 1940s and 50s Europe in the post World War II period and Martin Buber, Karl Jaspers, Martin Heidegger, Jean Wahl, Gabriel Marce, José Ortega y Gasset, Miguel de Unamuno, Nikolai Berdyaev and Lev Shestov were the major Existentialists the movement produced.

©SantoshChaubey

LEGAL CASE FOR LT COL PUROHIT’S BAIL BY SUPREME COURT

The main reason that convinced the Supreme Court in granting bail to Lt Col Prasad Srikant Purohit in the 2008 Malegaon blast case was the investigation itself – material contradictions as the SC bench puts it in the two charge-sheets filed by two investigating agencies in the case, the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) which investigated the case till 2011 and the National Investigating Agency (NIA) which took over the case probe in 2011.

Interestingly, the supplementary charge-sheet filed by the NIA in May 2016 literally overturned the findings of the ATS charge-sheet that were the base of building a terror case around the accused in the case. After the NIA submitted that the stringent anti-terror Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) was wrongly slapped in the case and many witnesses and accused retracted their statements, Sadhvi Pragya got bail in the case in April 2017 and Lt Col Purohit was next in line to claim it.

Every subsequent round of the bail application of an accused requires fresh grounds on which the bail is being sought. In Lt Col Purohit’s case, the SC was convinced that there were fresh grounds which finally paved the way for a bail to him. The SC bench observed, “That the appellant has refuted the claim of conspiracy on the ground of Intelligence inputs which he informed to his superior officers as well and the alleged role of ATS officials in the planting of RDX at the residence of A-11 clearly indicate the fresh grounds which persuade the appellant herein to take a view different from the one taken in the earlier applications.”

The 25-page long verdict of the Supreme Court delivered by Justices RK Agrawal and Abhay Manohar Sapre on August 21 granting bail to Lt Col Purohit is a comprehensive document that puts light on the anomalies in the investigation of the two agencies while making it amply clear that the judgement delivered here has nothing to do with merits of the case which will be decided by the trial court. The arguments qualified for a bail verdict only and the apex court didn’t go into larger merits and demerits of the case as happens in bail applications.

THE DISCUSSION PART OF THE SC VERDICT

CASE AGAINST LT COL PUROHIT OPPOSING HIS BAIL:

  • In order to prove the prima facie case against the appellant, the prosecution has relied upon the transcription of the conversations of the meetings obtained from the laptop of Swami Amrutanand (A-10), statement of prosecution witnesses recorded under Sections 161 and 164(5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (in short ‘the Code’), intercepted telephonic conversations between the appellant herein and co-accused persons and lastly the finding of traces of RDX in the house of co-accused Sudhakar Chaturvedi (A-11).

PUROHIT’S COUNTER ARGUMENT:

  • With regard to the transcription of the conversations of the meetings, it was urged from the side of the appellant that there was no such conspiracy hatched between the persons present in the meeting to commit bomb blasts at Malegaon and the persons present have expressed their general opinion about the then prevailing political and social situation.

SC’S OBSERVATION:

  • In this backdrop, it is relevant to note that the appellant herein was a serving Army Officer and was associated with Military Intelligence and Interior Terrorism (Insurgency Activities).
  • In the statement of PW-21, it has been revealed that immediately after the alleged conspiracy meeting, he found the appellant herein disclosing the details of the said meeting to his superior officers in Military Intelligence.

PUROHIT’S COUNTER ARGUMENT:

  • Even the appellant herein also informed that it was a ‘covert operation’ of Military Intelligence and he attended the said meetings to create the counterintelligence and no conspirator will ever divulge the details of the conspiracy to the superior officers in Military Intelligence.

SC’S OBSERVATION:

  • Besides this, the documents filed by the Ministry of Defence and the papers of the Court of Inquiry also substantiate the claim of the appellant herein.

NIA VS ATS:

  • The NIA started the investigation on the basis of the facts stated in the FIR and the evidence collected by the ATS, Mumbai.
  • During investigation, it was found that there were contradictions with regard to the evidence led in the charge sheet by the ATS.
  • On the basis of the specific points covered during the investigation conducted by the NIA, it was concluded that no offence under the MCOC Act was attracted and the confessional statements recorded under the provisions of the said Act by ATS Mumbai were not being relied upon by the NIA in the charge sheet against the accused persons.
  • In fact, on evaluation of the evidence against Pragya Singh Thakur (A-1), the evidence on record were not found sufficient by the NIA to prosecute her as all the witnesses had retracted from their statements and thus no case was made out against her.
  • A perusal of the statements of various prosecution witness recorded under Section 164 of the Code by the NIA, it was revealed that the ATS, Mumbai forced them to make the statements under the aforesaid Section by threatening them to falsely implicate them in the case.
  • In other words, witnesses retracted from their statements recorded by the ATS, Mumbai at Mumbai.
  • Even during re-examination of PW-79 recorded under Section 164 of the Code, he deposed that he did not attend any meeting of ‘Abhinav Bharat’ held at Bhopal and he had never visited Bhopal until ATS took him to Ram Mandir, Bhopal in the month of May, 2009. The very same statement was again recorded at Delhi by learned Metropolitan Magistrate, where he confirmed the same.
  • In view of the above, it would be relevant to quote the retracted statement of PW-55, mentioned in the charge sheet filed by the NIA, wherein he stated that he did not retract in front of the Magistrate while his statement was being recorded under Section 164 of the Code due to threat and pressure of the ATS.
  • However, he sent one complaint to Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission, Mumbai on 05.10.2009 stating that he was forced to give the confessional statement as dictated to him by the ATS Mumbai that too before transfer of the investigation of the case to the NIA.
  • He further alleged that the following lies were dictated to him to depose before the Magistrate by the ATS which he also incorporated in the complaint sent to State Human Rights Commission which are as under:-

(1) That Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit gave him 3 weapons and ammunition to be kept in his house for amonth sometime in 2006. The description of the weapons was also dictated to him.
(2) That he saw RDX in the house of Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit in a green sack at Devlali.
(3) That Lt. Col. Purohit confessed to him about having supplied RDX for Samjhauta Express Blast.
(4) That Lt. Col. Purohit told him in the early 2008 that something was planned to be done soon. He further told him that an action was planned in Nashik District in Oct/Nov. 2008.
(5) That he was asked to say that Lt. Col. Purohithad confessed to him about planning and executing the Malegaon blast along with his accomplices.

  • Apart from the above, during the investigation by the NIA, it was revealed that the Army authorities had conducted a Court of Inquiry (CoI) against the appellant herein.
  • During scrutiny of the proceedings of the CoI, a different story of assembling of IED in the House of Sudhakar Chaturvedi (A-11) came to light.
  • During re-examination of the witnesses by the NIA who deposed before the Court of Inquiry (CoI), it was revealed that they suspiciously found API Bagde of ATS in the house of A-11 when A-11 was not present in the house.
  • On considering the facts narrated by the witnesses, the question arises here as to why API Bagde visited the house of A-11 in his absence.
  • It is also pertinent to mention here that the ATS conducted the search of the house of A-11 on 25.11.2008 wherefrom they had taken the swab of RDX which creates a doubt on the recovery of RDX keeping in view the examination of the witnesses.
  • Even in the charge sheet filed by the ATS, it has been very specifically mentioned that the recovery itself becomes suspect on the ground that the ATS Mumbai may have planted the RDX traces to implicate him and the other accused persons in the case.

THE CONCLUSION OF THE SC VERDICT GRANTING BAIL TO LT COL PUROHIT

  • In our considered opinion, there are material contradictions in the charge sheets filed by the ATS Mumbai and the NIA which are required to be tested at the time of trial and this Court cannot pick or choose one version over the other.
  • The law in regard to grant or refusal of bail is very well settled. The court granting bail should exercise its discretion in a judicious manner and not as a matter of course.
  • Before concluding, we must note that though an accused has a right to make successive applications for grant of bail, the court entertaining such subsequent bail applications has a duty to consider the reasons and grounds on which the earlier bail applications were rejected.
  • In such cases, the court also has a duty to record the fresh grounds which persuade it to take a view different from the one taken in the earlier applications.

FRESH GROUNDS THAT MADE BAIL POSSIBLE FOR PUROHIT

  • Further, the appellant herein, who was at the relevant time was an Intelligence officer of the Indian Army has refuted the claim of conspiracy on the ground of Intelligence inputs which he informed to his superior officers as well and the alleged role of ATS officials in the planting of RDX at the residence of A-11 clearly indicate the fresh grounds which persuade the appellant herein to take a view different from the one taken in the earlier applications.
  • Keeping in view the fact that NIA has submitted the supplementary charge-sheet which is at variance with the charge-sheet filed by the ATS and that the trial is likely to take a long time and the appellant has been in prison for about 8 years and 8 months, we are of the considered view that the appellant has made out a prima facie case for release on bail and we deem it appropriate to enlarge the appellant herein on bail, subject to certain conditions.

©SantoshChaubey

INSTANT TRIPLE TALAQ BAN IS A WELCOME MOVE BUT IT CANNOT HELP MUCH..

The Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, banned instant triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat terming it unconstitutional. It’s a big step given the menace the instant practice of triple talaq had become. If we see the suppoting data divorce trend in the Muslim community, we can see the overarching shadow of instant triple talaq.

Almost 80 per cent divorced among the Indian Muslims are women, i.e., four divorced Muslim women for every divorced Muslim man, IndiaSpend reports. And most of them were divorced orally – almost 66 per cent of them. 7.6 per cent were sent letters by their husbands proclaiming divorce while 3.4 per cent were given the shock of their life over phone, the data available shows. Around 1 per cent of Muslim men also used SMS and email to reveal their designs.

And 95 per cent of these arbitrarily divorced women don’t get any compensation or maintenance from their husbands, a survey by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) reveals. Though some reports have questioned contradictions in different BMMA studies, the cause of triple talaq is genuine one and we can quote BMMA reports to support arguments here.

But even if the SC decision banning instant triple talaq is historical and precedent setting, it will not help Muslim women much till their pathetic condition in the Muslim community is addressed; till triple talaq is totally abolished and like other religious communities, the Muslim divorce is also subjected mandatorily to the laws of the land; and till polygamy in the Muslim community is banned and it is placed under the Uniform Civil Code not allowing more than one marriage.

According to the Census 2011, almost 81 per cent of Muslim women are married by 21. So most of them are devoid of higher education that can ensure independent, professional career. If we split this 81 per cent further, it reveals a scenario that is even more horrible – 62.5 per cent of Muslim women are married by the age of 19 – an age-group for school goers mostly.

With 13.5 per cent Muslim girls married before 15, we are staring at a social anathema where more than 50 per cent Muslim girls are forced in under-age marriages, as if they are raised only for this exclusive purpose, i.e., get married, become a house wife and spend the whole life under the threat of a husband who can divorce you at mere his whim. The whole Muslim community is responsible for systematically killing aspirations of Muslim women through this vicious cycle.

Something, that reflects in poor representation of Muslim women in workforce. In 2001, there were just 14.1 per cent Muslim women doing some kind of job which only marginally rose to 14.8 per cent in the Census 2011.

And why it would not be so. Almost half of Muslim women are still illiterate. A study by the Indian Institute of Public Administration quoting 2007-08 NSSO data found that there were just 1.5 per cent Muslim women who possessed qualification above higher secondary while majority of them were upper primary educated (around 42 per cent). And there is not much to console even after a decade of this data.

So, they are methodically made handicapped so that they cannot make their life and career on their own and when this discrimination meets the archaic, exploitative mindset of the Patriarchal Muslim community which prides in nurturing anti women practices like triple talaq, they are finally pushed to a life of no existence.

The apex court has banned instant triple talaq but Muslim man can still say talaq, talaq, talaq spread over three months and his wife cannot go to a court against it. The prevailing Muslim law doesn’t allow her. Banning instant triple talaq may help in cases of impulsive decisions but what about decisions that reek of designs in making?

Muslim men, free from the fear of legal tentacles, will still use their arbitrary might in throwing Muslim women out of their lives if they have decided. The only solution to this is the legal dissolution of Muslim marriages with court driven legal mandates, like happens in other communities.

Polygamy in the Muslim community adds another worrying dimension to it. Suppose the community, through social interventions and pressure, reforms it to the extent that Muslim men start avoiding divorcing their wives through the triple talaq route.

But what about the inherent countermove it involves. As a Muslim man is allowed to practice polygamy, i.e., having more than one wife, he will simply ignore the wife whom he wanted to divorce through triple talaq and can very well go his other wife (wives) that will make the life of the woman even more miserable.

She cannot go to social institutions. She cannot go to courts. And as she has not been divorced yet by her husband, even if her married life has already been broken, she will find it difficult to reach out even to her immediate family.

©SantoshChaubey

EIGHT WARNINGS TO PAKISTAN IN EIGHT MONTHS OF TRUMP PRESIDENCY

In his latest warning to Pakistan, US President Donald Trump used the term ‘safe haven for terrorists’ for Pakistan again while delivering his much awaited Afghanistan policy review which sought to increase Indian role while slammed Pakistan for its double-dealings. Pakistan has been claiming and accepting US grants for its role in the US aid in war against terror while at the same time, it has been sheltering terror groups like the Taliban and the Haqqani Network that attack American interests in Afghanistan.

Before this, we can identify at least seven clear warning signals sent by the Trump administration to Pakistan on its duplicity on terror. These are signs of rapid deterioration of Pakistan’s credibility in the Washington.

HIZBUL MUJAHIDEEN DECLARES A FOREIGN TERRORIST ORGANIZATION: Last week, the US Department of State declared Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir based terror group Hizbul Mujahideen, that is known for fomenting terror in Jammu & Kashmir, a foreign terrorist organization aimed at scuttling its resources.

US COUNTRY REPORT ON TERRORISM TERMS PAKISTAN A SAFE HAVEN FOR TERRORISTS: Then in July, the world’s only superpower termed Pakistan a safe haven for India centric terror groups. The Country Report on Terrorism 2017 (for the year 2016) says, “The Pakistan government supported political reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban, but failed to take significant action to constrain the ability of the Afghan Taliban and HQN to operate from Pakistan-based safe havens and threaten U.S. and Afghan forces in Afghanistan.”

And it then goes on to do the course-correction that was long overdue by writing specifically against the major India centric terror groups like LeT and JeM and holding Pakistan accountable for not doing enough, “The government did not take any significant action against LeT or JeM, other than implementing an ongoing ban against media coverage of their activities. LeT and JeM continued to hold rallies, raise money, recruit, and train in Pakistan.”

SYED SALAHUDDIN DESIGNATED GLOBAL TERRORIST: In June, coinciding with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s US visit and his first Summit with US President Donald Trump, the US designated Syed Salahuddin, the Hizbul chief, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT).

MODI-TRUMP JOINT STATEMENT SAYS PAKISTAN A TERROR HAVEN: The Modi-Trump joint statement that followed the Summit was equally harsh on Pakistan. It directly called Pakistan a terror haven and asked it to ensure that “its territory isn’t used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries.”

TAJK BANNED BY PAKISTAN: On June 8, in a move that didn’t attract much attention, Pakistan was forced to ban Tehreek-e-Azadi-Jammu & Kashmir (TAJK), the new terror front of Hafiz Saeed after Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD)’s Hafiz Saeed was put under house arrest in January.

US PROPOSAL IN THE UN TO BAN MASOOD AZHAR: In its first clear signs of its pro-India bent, the Trump Administration tabled a proposal in the United Nations Security Council on February 8 to designate Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist. The proposal was finalized after discussion between India and the US and had support of the UK and France. This proposal, too, was blocked by China like its earlier moves to protect Masood Azhar at the UN.

HAFIZ SAEED UNDER HOUSE ARREST: Under increasing US pressure, Pakistan had to put Hafiz Saeed under house arrest on January 30 otherwise Hafiz Saeed was roaming freely in Pakistan spewing venom against India in spite of US bounty $10 Million over his head. The move came after the US warning that Pakistan could be added to the list of the banned countries on the US immigration list. Donald Trump had come up with his first travel ban list during those days which sought to ban immigrants from seven Muslim majority nations and Reince Priebus, then White House Chief of Staff, had said that countries like Pakistan that were ‘having problems similar to those seven nations’, could be added to the list in future.

©SantoshChaubey

PAKISTAN’S NATIONAL SECURITY COMMITTEE REJECTS TRUMP’S SOUTH ASIA STRATEGY

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Pakistan’s National Security Committee, headed by its prime minister and its president, leader of the opposition, state chief ministers and three services chiefs as other members, has outrightly rejected US President Donald Trump’s South Asia policy which criticised Pakistan heavily for not doing enough and promoting terrorism in Afghanistan in spite of taking US aid money in the name of cracking down on Afghan terror groups like the Haqqani Network and the Taliban operating from Pakistan.

The Pak NSC meeting was held in Islamabad today to discuss Trump’s revamped South Asia policy focusing on Afghanistan. After the meeting, Nafees Zakaria, spokesperson of Pakistan’s foreign ministry, in a series of tweets, said that the NSC outrightly rejected allegations against Pakistan adding that making Pakistan a scapegoat would not help in stabilizing Afghanistan.

NEW US POLICY ON AFGHANISTAN

Under his government’s Afghanistan Policy, Trump has announced several departures from his established stand to withdraw the US from the war-torn South Asian nation. The new US policy on Afghanistan pushes for increasing the number of US troops in Afghanistan and gives the forces free hand to handle insurgents instead of micro-managing them from the Washington. Also, developing a strategic partnership with India is going to be a critical part of new US’ strategy for South Asia in future as per the revamped policy.

Trump has also slammed Pakistan and has warned that the US will no longer be silent about Pakistan’s double-dealings. He has demanded that this Pakistan attitude of doublespeak has to change immediately.

Pakistan is naturally more pained at the prospect of a larger Indian role in Afghanistan which it sees inimical to its interests and the Pak NSC observed that India cannot be a net security provider in the South Asia region it has conflictual relationships with all its neighbours and is pursuing a policy of destabilizing Pakistan from the east and the west, a Radio Pakistan release on the meeting said.

PAKISTAN REPEATS ANTI-INDIA RANT

Repeating the anti-India rant, the Pak committee expressed deep concern at Indian policies inimical to peace in the region including interference in the internal affairs of neighbouring countries and using terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

Pakistan, it seems, is also pained at Trump’s charges of taking the US money while not being accountable for it. While unveiling his new South Asia Policy, Trump had said that “the US has been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that US is fighting.”

The NSC of Pakistan rejected this terming it misleading and instead projected Pakistan as a victim, “The claims of billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan are misleading to the extent that the reimbursements to Pakistan since 2001 only account for part of the cost of ground facilities and air corridors used by the United States for its operations in Afghanistan, rather than any financial aid or assistance.”

Well, that is a plain lie. According to a Reuters report, since 2011, Pakistan has received over $15 Billion in US aid including over $5 Billion in economic assistance.

Then contradicting itself, it went on to say that instead of any financial or material assistance, there should be understanding and recognition of Pakistan’s efforts, contributions and sacrifice of thousands of Pakistanis and claimed that Pakistan has suffered over 120 billion US dollars of economic losses due to terrorism.

Pakistan also refuted Trump’s allegations of Pakistan being a safe haven for terrorists and instead blamed Afghanistan for having safe terror havens and demanded effective and immediate US military efforts to eliminate sanctuaries harbouring terrorists and miscreants on the Afghan soil including those responsible for fomenting terror in Pakistan.

©SantoshChaubey

MINISTERS WITH ADDITIONAL PORTFOLIOS IN NARENDRA MODI CABINET

With vacancies in senior ministries, a cabinet reshuffle by Narendra Modi was long expected. And it has been hastened by recent political developments.

The Janata Dal (United) is set to join the BJP led National Democratic Alliance government at the centre after Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar split his alliance with RJD and Congress and joined hands with the BJP in Bihar.

This coupled with Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu’s offer to quit on moral ground after two massive train derailments in a week makes the case for cabinet reshuffle soon and according to sources it can happen anytime in the first week of September.

Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked Prabhu to wait, there are indications that his either his resignation will be accepted or his portfolio will be changed. Arun Jaitley, while reacting on Prabhu’s offer to resign, said taking accountability was a good system in government. Also, Prabhu’s previous party Shiv Sena has demanded that his resignation be accepted.

There is another speculation doing rounds that AIADMK may also join the NDA in the next round of cabinet reshuffle but it will be premature to say anything about it given the uncertainly hovering around the fate of E Palaniswami government.

After series of ups and downs, both factions of the AIADMK, headed by Palaniswami and O Panneerselvam, finally merged on August 21 but the party has been marred by Sasikala and her brother TTV Dinakaran. 19 MLAs loyal to them have revolted and they have written to the Governor demanding a trust vote, a demand echoed by Congress and the DMK.

With the move by Sasikala camp MLAs, Palaniswami government has lost its majority in the assembly. Its effective strength has come down to 115 from 134 while the majority mark in the 233 member strong assembly is 117. One seat is lying vacant after J Jayalalithaa’s death.

But whenever the cabinet reshuffle happens, all eyes will be on who all are given the responsibility to handle four vacant key ministries the additional charge of which are being held by other ministers.

MINISTRY OF DEFENCE: Arun Jaitley, Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, was given the additional charge of the Ministry of Defence when Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar quit in March 2017 to take oath as Goa chief minister.

MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, FOREST AND CLIMATE CHANGE: Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, was given charge of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change after Anil Madhav Dave passed away in May 2017.

MINISTRY OF INFORMATION & BROADCASTING: The ministry fell vacant after Venkaiah Naidu resigned post his nomination as the Vice-Presidential nominee of the NDA last month and its additional charge was given to Textile Minister Smriti Irani.

MINISTRY OF URBAN DEVELOPMENT AND HOUSING AND POVERTY ALLEVIATION: This portfolio, too, was with Venkaiah Naidu and fell vacant after his resignation. Its additional charge was given to Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.

©SantoshChaubey

EVEN IF HIS RESIGNATION IS ACCEPTED, SURESH PRABHU WILL ONLY BE THIRD RAIL MINISTER TO RESIGN TAKING MORAL RESPONSIBILITY

Taking moral responsibility after two major train accidents in five days, Rail Minister Suresh Prabhu has offered to resign. His offer to resign comes after resignation of Railway Board Chairman AK Mittal.

In first accident, 13 coaches of Haridwar bound Puri-Haridwar Kalinga Utkal Express derailed in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh on August 19 killing over 20 with over 200 injured. Then this morning, in another major train derailment, 10 coaches of Delhi bound Kaifiyat Express derailed near Auraiya in Uttar Pradesh. Fortunately no one died in the accident which left over 20 injured.

Suresh Prabhu became India’s 43rd Rail Minister in November 2014 and according to the government data, over 330 people have lost their lives in 206 derailments in last three years.

If Prime Minister Narendra Modi accepts Suresh Prabhu’s resignation, it will only be the third time in the history of Indian Railways that a Rail Minister offered to resign taking moral responsibility of train accidents and his resignation was accepted.

When we chart the trajectory of Indian Railways since the first rail minister Asaf Ali, who was in-charge from September 2, 1947 to August 14, 1947, we find just two instances of rail ministers resigning on moral grounds after a major train accident.

The first one is the most quoted instance of politics of probity and integrity in public life. Then Rail Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri had resigned from his post taking moral responsibility of the Ariyalur train accident in Tamil Nadu in November 1956. About 142 people were killed in the accident.

Former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had described Shastri as a man of highest integrity after his resignation. The act had seen Shastri’s popularity surging who later on took charge of other ministerial portfolios before becoming India’s Prime Minister.

Though train accidents didn’t stop after it, it took a long gap of 43 years for a rail minister to show such a courage in the aftermath of a train disaster.

Rail Minister Nitish Kumar resigned taking moral responsibility of the Gaisal train disaster in Assam in August 1999 that had killed at least 290 people. When Nitish’s offer to resign first came on August 3, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee initially rejected it but after Nitish persisted, he finally accepted it on August 5.

There are other two known instances when Rail Ministers offered to quit owning moral responsibility of train disasters but went on to stay in the office after their resignations were rejected.

A year after Nitish’s resignation, then Rail Minister Mamata Banerjee had also offered to resign from her post taking moral responsibility after two train disasters in 2000 but after Prime Minister Atal Bihari had Vajpayee rejected her resignation, she decided to stay back.

Over a decade before it, Rajiv Gandhi’s Rail Minister Madhavrao Scindia had offered to resign after a train disaster in Kerala in July 1988. Over 100 people lost their lives when nine coaches of Trivandrum bound Island Express fell into a river near Quilon. Scindia’s resignation was rejected and he remained in the office.

©SantoshChaubey