NEPAL EARTHQUAKE: UPDATES SO FAR – ON APRIL 27

— The death toll in Nepal has crossed the 4000 mark. It is expected to be in many thousands. The severity of a strong earthquake is revealing itself with each passing hour. The reconnaissance efforts are now reaching to the remote areas assessing the damage.

— Roads are broken. Cracks are wide and open. Rubble and debris have taken over the roads of cities. Access to places (villages and town) are coming in bits. Maximum reports available are from Kathmandu and the valley surrounding it. Agencies involved in rescue and relief efforts are now trying to reach other locations with help of choppers and aids.

— People are staying out and need blankets. Fear is universal psychosis there and that is natural after such a massive earthquake, the one after 1934. Aid teams are working to provide them relief while rescuing the trapped ones. Taking out people trapped and bodies from rubble are tough tasks and will take time. Already, there are more than 6500 injured. UNICEF says around 1 million children are in urgent need of help and thus we can imagine the count of homeless and displaced adults by this calamity.

— Rescue and relief agencies are working with power generators, engineers, medicinal supplies, doctors, earthquake relief personnel, buses, aircrafts and helicopters, radars, equipments, food material, water, daily-usage supplies, satellite equipments, etc., to help people in distress.

— Countries are evacuating their people stranded in Nepal. The figure for India, with historical and religious ties with Nepal, has already crossed over 2000 mark. Many countries have asked India for help. India is airlifting the stranded people there as well as is working to clear the roads to transport people through road-routes in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The government of Uttar Pradesh has set up four camps at India-Nepal border for the victims.

— In India, the death toll has already reached 72 with Bihar registering maximum number – 56. Uttar Pradesh has registered 13, West Bengal 3 and Rajasthan 1. China has said that its Tibet region has 20 people dead in earthquake incidents so far.

— Kathmandu airport (or Tribhuvan International Airport) remains a scene of chaos. Many people are waiting there to be evacuated but operations are not regular. Needy people are being given preference. At the moment, though the airport is now open, there is so much aid material is at the airport that it is hampering with the flight operations.

— Earthquakes and tremors have continued in Nepal. Two major earthquakes were on day-1, Saturday. The first one at 11:56 AM local time with a magnitude 7.8 was the severest one in country’s history after the 1934 earthquake of Nepal-Bihar. The landlocked nation faced another earthquake, measuring 6.6, at 12:30 PM on Saturday. Quakes followed many aftershocks that are expected to continue for days, and if we believe the comments of the scientific experts, may continue even for months and years. There are quakes and aftershocks yesterday and today. In India, Bihar and West Bengal faced another earthquake this evening. Its epicentre was in Mirik and it was measured at 5.1.

— India, being the country with direct road connectivity to Nepal and bigger role on global stage has strategic interests in the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reignited the ties and India is at forefront of the rescue and relief operations. It is also engaged in reconnaissance mission to assess the damage. Indian Army is conducting Operation Maitri to help in the landlocked nation in this hour of help. Over two dozen aircrafts have been put in service and many are on standby. Relief material and personnel are already there and more are being sent. Still more are on standby. India is also helping other countries, along with its own people, evacuating them as the situation is permitting. So far, over 2000 Indians have been evacuated from Nepal. Foreign nationals who are placing their requests are being issued free visas to their country via India.

— Indian Prime Minister and senior ministers are monitoring the R&R efforts. They are holding meetings every day. A team of senior officials from different ministries landed in Nepal today to coordinate with rescue and relief efforts.

— Nepal is strategically important, not just for India, but for Pakistan and China as well. Yes, it is driven by the crisis of the hour, and these two countries, along with other countries from the world community, aid agencies, NGOs and the United Nations are engaged in rescue and relief efforts in Nepal.

— Countries have started issuing travel advisories. Nepal, many parts of India and the affected regions of Himalaya are expected the face the results. USA, UK and Australia have advised their citizens to avoid Nepal in the near future. Darjeeling, Sikkim and Northeast India are expected to be affected from the resulting events.

— Kathmandu is destroyed beyond recognition. Very few buildings there can withstand an earthquake of this measure. Many localities are entirely wiped out. Many heritage structures are totally lost. Most of the buildings have suffered cracks and other damages.

— Overall, according to the United Nations, 6.6 million Nepalis are affected. Reports say Gorkhadistrict is hardest hit.

— In other parts of Nepal, with passing hours, the rescue teams are reaching and the extent of damage thus is widening its ambit every hour. Entire villages, be of 200, of 500, of 100, or 1500, or so, have been destroyed in the quake. Here, the number may be variable but death is a constant word. A report said the entire villagenear Lamjung, the epicentre of 7.8 quake, is totally destroyed leaving a trail of dead bodies. When the Nepali government is not able to help people in Kathmandu, we can imagine the plight of people in remote areas and towns.

— Avalanches, consequent to earthquakes, have killed 17 so far in the Mount Everest area, the world’s peak. According to the same report, the plans of over 300 to ascent the peak have been put on hold. South side of base camps are badly hit in avalanches. The way to the peak from China, the less popular one, has also been blocked for the time-being.

Related post:
NEPAL EARTHQUAKE: SO FAR, ON APRIL 26
https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/nepal-earthquake-so-far-on-april-26/

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

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ELECTIONS, NOTA AND QUESTIONS OF AN ELEVEN YEAR OLD

I was watching coverage of Delhi election on TN news channels this morning when my 11 year old niece came to sit by me. It clearly meant I needed to be ready answering questions that she would be picking up from the content.

I have become used to and enjoy it. Sometimes, there are no answers. Sometimes, there cannot be answers. Sometimes, I don’t know the answers. But, thankfully, most of the times, I am able to answer her to her and my satisfaction.

Sometimes, she asks questions that transcend the age boundaries leaving me thinking for a long time as I know how relevant the question is and how desperately the society needs to find the answer. Today was one such day with the questions she asked. Some of the questions were:

Should anyone who doesn’t find any candidate in the fray worthy go with ‘None of the Above/ NOTA option (yes, she was aware of it thanks again to these rounds of questions and answers) or he should go with the best of the lot?

But if we don’t find anyone worthy, why should we compromise, why shouldn’t we go with NOTA?

What if more people opt for NOTA than any other candidate?

What if all the votes cast in a constituency go to NOTA?

What if all the votes except a small share, say in the range of 5% go to NOTA?

Now, we all who are politically aware have thought over and discuss the first three questions.

But, even the last two are not irrelevant, even if repetitive in tone. And the last three may sound utopian given the state of affairs of the Indian politics of the day, but certainly push us to think.

How would our prevailing electoral system handle such crisis points?

Would the moral constraints give way to the constitutional framework where NOTA gets larger or equal vote share, the second one?

What would happen of Indian politics, Indian society and India if the electoral response gets to these extreme outcomes, the last three?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

RIGHT TO REJECT TO RIGHT TO RECALL TO RIGHT TO REELECTION

Suppose a Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi gets fewer votes than the overall NOTA (None Of The Above) votes and based on the post-election outcome, becomes the prime minister of the country – wouldn’t it be ridiculous, wouldn’t it be sacrilegious, when a candidate rejected by the majority of the electorate is given the charge to run a democratic country.

Okay, it is not going to be the case with Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi of the moment, but we should not be surprised, if we get an election result with significant number of seats showing significantly higher share of NOTA votes even in the very first election implementing the ‘Right To Reject’ option. Recently, the Supreme Court made it mandatory and asked the Election Commission of India to introduce the NOTA option on EVMs (electronic voting machines) and ballot papers.

On an average, 30-40 per cent voters do not vote in elections in India we find if we carry a voter turnout analysis of different elections. Reasons vary for not participating in the elections but the major reason has been the voter’s apathy to the electoral process where he finds the political parties or the candidates in fray not worthy of being elected.

As the voter did not have any option to express his displeasure than to go to the booth, complete the formalities like getting the designated finger the ink-marked, approach the polling officer and tell him he did not want to cast his vote as he found none of the candidates were worthy. The officer then would make his entry in a prescribed form and would take his signature or thumb impression. A complex, tedious and repulsive process that didn’t promise the voter secrecy of his decision! And having no secrecy with such decisions, at local level, with a polluted Indian politics, may well have its consequences.

So, the option was there but was not practical. In fact, was illogical. Also, many would not be aware that this option (right? – Section 49-O of The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961) even exists.

But after the Supreme Court order making it easier and thus practical to exercise this right as well as ensuring the secrecy, we can expect significant jump in the voter turnout, and a significant portion of this jump would certainly be the NOTA votes, voters who don’t vote because they don’t approve the candidates.

Yes, this is going to be a long-term process, spread over elections. But an upward trend of surge in NOTA votes would inspire others, who do not cast their votes for similar reasons, to participate in the electoral process.

It is true, India is still not a mature democracy and elections are not fought on development issues but on silly considerations of caste, religion and regionalism. It is true voters do not react maturely when they select candidates on these lines, when they select tainted candidates and candidates with criminal cases against them, when the elect candidates languishing in jails.

But this simple way to empower them with an option to reject all would certainly push them, who waste their vote by voting on silly considerations, to think otherwise, if not tomorrow, then, in the long run, when rejection of candidates would become a sustained trend election after election.

Also, another objection by the naysayers is this ‘Right To Reject’ is not rejection in real terms. Even if the NOTA votes polled are 20 per cent of the overall votes cast, it cannot disqualify a wining candidate even if he gets just 10 percent of the overall votes. True! But, for how long can this irresponsible show continue?

Obviously, there would be voices. And the demands would intensify with increasing share of NOTA votes in the overall vote-pie.

That would set in motion the fight to demand the ‘Right To Recall’ and hence subsequently, the ‘Right To Reelection’, cancelling election process in constituencies with share of NOTA votes dwarfing votes gained by all other candidates, recalling poorly performing candidates and holding the polls again to select the suitable candidates.

Once, the ‘Right To Reject’ becomes a practiced electoral process in the country with voters effectively using it, lawmakers cannot continue with their sham without its visible public consequences.

Yes, it is not going to happen soon. But the best outcome of this Supreme Court decision is it is going to open fronts for further ‘rightful’ demands in the future of Indian democracy.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

RIGHT TO REJECT – NONE OF THE ABOVE – BRAVO! CHEERS!

Right To Reject – None Of The Above – Bravo! Cheers!

It is evolutionary. It is revolutionary.

It is so soothing to the ears. It is unlike those so many competitive examinations that every Indian of this generation takes or the future generations are bound to go through where ‘none of the above’ option of the multiple choice questions are, many a time, a hard nut to crack, creating line of thoughts and thus confusion to pin-point the correct one.

Here, it is going to be the natural choice in ‘many cases (many candidates)’ – ‘none of the above’ being the correct and so the chosen answer.

It would be the beginning of such occasions, hopefully, if implemented, where we are going to have the NOTA (None Of The Above) option chosen, and chosen correctly by the majority of the Indians and there would, obviously, be no fixing allegations here.

Right to Reject in polls is a reality now after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision today. Let’s see what innovation (manipulation) is offered by the politicians of India to negate it – the way they are working overtime to shield the tainted, convicted of their lot.

Also, there will be loads of wisdom flowing on its ‘if and buts’, on its ‘theoretical and practical aspects’ and on its maintainability but it is an evolutionary decision that, if survives the fangs of political manipulation, could revolutionize the systemic change in the electoral process, as the bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, P. Sathashivam, said while delivering the judgement on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) demanding the right to negative voting, and so would be a boon to cleanse the political muck in the country.

What is remarkable about this decision is it makes things easier for the voter while maintains secrecy of his decision and so makes his right more accessible to him by introducing a much needed correction.

In fact, there is a provision in the election rules in India (49-O – The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961) on electors not deciding to vote. It says: If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form-17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decided not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark.

So, there was already an option for an elector to reject the candidates in his constituency but the process was tedious and was open to the risk of being targeted by the supporters (including the political goons) of the candidates once the name went public.

The Supreme Court decision would make it easier by introducing the ‘None Of The Above’ button in the electronic voting machine (EVM) or option on the ballot paper. The elector can easily exercise his Right To Reject without the requirement to approach the presiding officer of the poll booth putting his decision on paper and so risking being targeted later on. The Supreme Court has also ruled the secrecy of NOTA votes ‘must’ be maintained.

Though the apex court has not set any deadline for it, we can expect it to be rolled out in the upcoming assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Mizoram this November-December with a pro poll-reform guard at the Election Commission of India.

Implementation of the Right To Reject option in the electoral process cannot change the disturbing political reality of India in one go but it is potent enough to initiate a chain reaction for further demands of electoral reforms and probity in public life.

Until now, very few politically conscious people have been using this right but with increased ease and accessibility, it can be expected that there would be a ripple effect, a ‘Spiral of Silence’ pattern of outcome where a silent but increasing number of the NOTA votes would inspire others to join the voice of conscience. It would bring the voters to the polling booths who otherwise don’t vote because they don’t approve any candidate in the fray.

Okay, this individual right to reject all the contesting candidates in a constituency by voting negatively is not going to result in the rejection even if the overall NOTA votes outperform the votes received by the winning candidate. But, for how long?

Imagine the scenario where every concluded election registers an ever increasing number of constituencies opting to reject all the candidates with the NOTA votes outdoing votes received by all others.

The would be the natural ground to demand the Right To Recall the ‘wrongly’ elected candidates and the Right To Reelection to get a better people’s representative.

How long can such legitimate demands be ignored or ‘suppressed’ in the changed scenario?

Politicians! Beware!

Though rare, it’s the real democratic tango of Indian democracy!

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/