Thursday’s crash that killed 19 bus passengers on a national highway, at Tiruppur, Tamil Nadu.
A preliminary inquiry points to human error involving the container lorry driver who is suspected to have fallenasleep at the wheel.
Every day, thousands board government-run and private buses for inter-city travel, placing their lives in the hands of transport operators and the authorities whose duty it is to guarantee road safety.
In 2018, that toll was a staggering 1,51,417lives.
Bring down road fatalities by at least half during the current decade.
In fact, India is committed to achieving such a reduction under the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and the promise was reiterated by Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari recently, at the Third Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, at Stockholm.
World Bank it will take an additional $109-billion of investment in 10 years to achieve a 50% reduction in road deaths.
In spite of amendments made to the Motor Vehicles Act, and new engineering standards enforced for vehicle safety, the risk on the roads is on the rise.
State governments responsible for enforcement remain apathetic and their derelict bureaucracies ignore safety laws in cities and highways.
The cost of such indifference is borne by families of victims in the form of bereavement, loss of income and enduring trauma.
The amended MV Act makes all this possible, but many State governments have baulked at enforcing it.
It is imperative that the Centre forms an empowered Road Safety Board at the national level to advise States on all related concerns as envisaged under the MV Act, and makes State enforcement agencies accountable for safety.
Terror in Germany
Hanau town near Frankfurt: home to the largest number of immigrants from the recent refugee crisis.
Investigators say all the shisha bar victims were of immigrant origin.
The incident, coming just days after 12 men were arrested for plotting attacks on mosques, is a chilling reminder of the threats to peace and stability in a European powerhouse.
Authorities have established the gunman’s extreme xenophobicbeliefs using online evidence, where the 43-year-oldattacker had advocated the elimination of people across continents.
Crucial to investigators is the similarity of the lethal weapon wielded on Wednesday to that used in the 2016 Munich mall shootings.
The comparison has brought into focus the role of Germany’s intelligence agencies.
In the document he wrote that people from more than 20 countries including Turkey and Israel should be "destroyed", AFP reported.
Litmus test for a judicial clean-up order
Last week’s Supreme Court judgment, on February 13, 2020, by Justices R.F. Nariman and S. Ravindra Bhat, marks an important and possibly far-reaching step towards reining in the political establishment as far as fielding candidates with criminal antecedents is concerned.
This judgment goes well beyond the Court’s earlier orders of 2002 and 2003 that made it obligatory for all candidates to provide self-sworn affidavits of criminal cases pending against them in any court of law.
By virtue of this order, the Court has also shifted part of the onus on political parties, ruling that they must do much more to publicise the criminal antecedents of candidates that they have selected to contest both parliamentary and State Assembly elections.
The order asks parties contesting elections to henceforth explain why persons without criminal blemish could not have been chosen instead.
The present Lok Sabha has an all-time high of 43% of its members having one or more criminal cases against them.
While the judgments of 2002 and 2003 were important, and emanated after a prolonged struggle by the Association for Democratic Reforms, they did not have the desired impact on either the political establishment or indeed on voter choices.
It surely cannot augur well for us that criminality within Parliament grew from 24% in 2004 to 30% in 2009, to 34% in 2014 and 43%in 2019.
Almost half these cases were/are for alleged heinous offences such as murder, attempt to murder, rape and kidnapping.
Voter behaviour is most often conditioned by their own immediate needs.
The distribution of “freebies”, for instance, was often a one-way street, of candidates “offering” money and goodies.
Voter behaviour has since begun to change.
With our criminal justice system clogged with cases and lawyers fees often far beyond what many can afford, the local “don” standing for elections, who promises delivery of rough and ready justice, is often seen as the messiah on hand.
All too often these cases involve bread and butter issues, from land and irrigationdispute resolution, to matters involving family honour.
In such cases this “Robin Hood’ contestant is actually a preferred choice, which helps to explain that where muscle and money get combined in the rural landscape, they often win by large margins.
So far whatever significant electoral reforms have taken place have emanated from the Supreme Court.
For critics of this present order, I would remind them of None of the Above (NOTA) and the July 10, 2013 Order in the Lily Thomas vs Union of India case, wherein a parliamentarian or legislator convicted of an offence that leads to a sentence of two years and more will be debarred from contesting an election for six years after his or her prison term ends.
It is therefore prudent to await the next important Assembly elections on the anvil — in Bihar and West Bengal.
Forging a new India-U.S. modus vivendi
From a fairer trade regime; to accessing cutting-edgetechnology; to the fight against terrorism; to stabilising our region, New Delhi stands to benefit from constructive ties on all issues, given a more sensitive United States.
Asymmetricalpartnerships, as we know from history, are rarely easy.
Indo-Pacific has arrived at an ‘Iron Curtain’ moment in its history.
Without the United States, the region could become willy-nillypart of a new Chinese tributary system; with a fully engaged United States, the region has at least the chance of creating a more organic rules-based order.
In New Delhi’s case, the history of, what diplomat Dennis Kux described as, “estrangement” with the United States, during the Cold War, has had consequences for vital national interests that continue to cast their shadow on the present. Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), nuclear non-proliferation, the festering of the Pakistan “problem”, the Chinese humiliation of 1962, are just a few examples.
Both within India and in the U.S., the consensus across the mainstream of political opinion favours stronger relations between the two countries.
Accomplishments India-U.S. ties have made over the years, including
A foundational military agreement that allows for the sharing of encrypted communications and equipment
A change in U.S. export control laws that places India in a privileged category of NATO and non-NATO U.S. allies
A new ‘2+2’ foreign and defense ministers dialogue; an exponential increase in U.S. oil exports to India
The inauguration of the first India-U.S. tri-service military exercise and an expansion of existing military exercises
The signing of an Industrial Security Annex that will allow for greater collaboration among the two countries’ private defense industries
The inclusion of India and South Asia in a U.S. Maritime Security Initiative
SC must ensure our security if road is opened: protesters
Shaheen Bagh protesters told the Supreme Court-appointed interlocutors on Friday that if the road parallel to the protest site was opened, the apex court should pass an order ensuring their security.
Pakistan retained on ‘grey list’ of anti-terror financing watchdog
Pakistan has been retained on the ‘grey list’ of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for another four months, with a stern warning from the global watchdog that met in Paris (February 19-21) to complete the 27-point action plan it has been given by June 2020 or face being put on the ‘black list’.
“All deadlines in the action plan have expired. While noting recent and notable improvements, the FATF again expresses concern, given Pakistan’s failure to complete its action plan in line with the agreed timelines and in light of the terror financing risks emanating from the jurisdiction,” said a statement issued by the FATF’s plenary session on Friday.
Ahmedabad Mayor chairs panel holding ‘Namaste Trump’ event
Ahmedabad Mayor Bijal Patel is the chairperson and two parliamentarians, the president of the Gujarat Chambers of Commerce and Industry and other eminent citizens and Padma recipients are the members of a newly formed Donald Trump Nagarik Abhivadan Samiti, which is holding the ‘Namaste Trump’ event at Motera stadium here on February 24.
Baahubali’s Kiliki language evolves online
Remember Kiliki, the language of the Kaalakeya tribe in Rajamouli’s superhit film Baahubali? Now, an effort is on to popularise it.
Marking International Mother Language Day on February 21, the filmmaker and Madhan Karky, the man behind the language, launched a website to help anyone learn the “world’s easiest language”. The website (www.kiliki.in) has a 3,000-word English-Kiliki-English dictionary, a tool to convert names, videos and vocabulary games.
30 squats for a free platform ticket at this railway station
Kiosk set up at Anand Vihar railway station to promote ‘Fit India’ campaign
Clampdown on Kashmir social media users, 2 held
India, Maldives agree to take on terrorism, radicalisation