The Big Story: Pain & gain?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on all political parties to “work together to change the negative perception of people about politicians,” at an all-party meeting on Tuesday. The pronouncement can easily be seen as an ordinary platitude, with the prime minister simply urging other parties not to disrupt his government’s business in the upcoming Parliament session. But the fine print, based on the release from the Press Information Bureau, suggests something equally interesting.
“Prime Minister, Shri Modi said that it was time the issues of state funding of elections and holding simultaneous elections in the country were discussed,” the release said. That includes two points of discussion that suggest there is more to Modi’s “change the negative perception” remark than simply urging the rest of the political class not to wash out this session in protests.
Whether Modi’s bold demonetisation move, withdrawing all Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes from the system in an effort to crack down on black money, is successful will be hard for us to gauge until the government tells us what its expectations were and we see what actually happens.
But there’s no doubt it is a gutsy move, if only because it endangers the performance of the Indian economy and directly hits small traders, a base that Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party considers their core voters. The flip side of this is that it has suggested the prime minister is willing to look beyond immediate gains and take decisions that are risky for him and his party.
Cleaning up political funding would be the same. Data examined by the Association for Democratic Reforms suggests up to 80% of income of political parties is unaccounted for. And research has suggested that India’s regulatory environment almost encourages the use of black money in the political system, by including limits and systems that do not reflect ground realities.
Yet, few believe that any party – including the BJP, which has as much unaccounted money as any other – would be willing to take up this issue, only because it involves upending how they currently operate and potentially endangering political success by embracing a new, more transparent model. Demonetisation has proven that Modi is willing to risk his own party’s core interests for the sake of a larger goal. Even if that turns out to be a mirage, could he be willing to take an even bigger risk and actually clean up political funding?
The Big Scroll: Scroll.in on the day’s biggest story
- Ajaz Ashraf explains how the demonetisation move will affect political parties in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
- A BJP panel on the move has raised alarm bells saying demonetisation could boomerang if liquidity doesn’t return to normal soon, writes Dhirendra Jha.
- Sruthisagar Yamunan speaks to Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, who asks whether such a big decision should be taken without taking the states into confidence.
- Read all of Scroll’s coverage of the demonetisation move here.
- Demonetisation is what real reforms feels like, writes Neelkanth Mishra in the Indian Express. “They involve risk, and some disorder.”
- Whether this will be a game-changer for corruption remains to be seen but it could reset public cynicism about the impossibility of curing the cancer, writes Ajit Ranade in Mint.
- Geetika Dang and Vani S Kulkarni in the Hindu look at crimes against women in the National Crime Records Bureau database and conclude that women’s vulnerability (incidents coupled with low conviction rates) increased over 2001-’15, despite better sex ratios.
- Swapan Dasgupta in the Times of India writes that the demonetisation move is hard to comprehend for some, simply because it reflects a leader who is willing to offend his base and possibly even his own party’s interests.
Priyanka Vora’s first report in a series covering the outbreak of Japanese encephalitis in Odisha which killed nearly 100 children even though it may have been preventable.
“Some experts say Malkangiri should have been placed on the vaccination programme years ago. In addition to 2014, the district had seen an encephalitis outbreak in 2012. Mishra remembers spending nights in the district hospital that year, treating children with symptoms similar to Madkami’s. As many as 38 children died of what he suspected was encephalitis caused by the Japanese encephalitis virus.
Mishra’s suspicions were confirmed by a team of scientists from the Regional Medical Research Centre in Bhubaneswar. Dwibedi led the team which visited several villages in Malkangiri and collected blood samples of 55 children who had the symptoms of encephalitis. The laboratory tests found antibodies against the Japanese encephalitis virus in 11 blood samples. The team also isolated the virus from cerebrospinal fluid – the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord – of children who Mishra had clinically classified as “classical cases of Japanese encephalitis”.