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on 27 August 2014, a five-member Bench of India’s Supreme Court felt that corrupt politicians should not be a part of the Cabinet of ministers, but left responsibility of deciding it on the Prime Minister. The landmark ruling states that the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers of the states should not include people with criminal antecedents in their cabinet. Constitutional morality has to be followed, and those in conflict with law and involved in offences of moral turpitude and corruption should not be allowed to discharge duty as ministers. All five judges strongly insisted that if a person with dubious integrity is barred from civil services, leaders of criminal background should also be barred. Thirteen union cabinet ministers are facing charges including rape, attempted murder and criminal intimidation. 13 of the 45 union ministers have been charged with criminal offences, with eight facing serious charges, according to their own election affidavits. India bans people convicted of serious crimes from holding office, but not those facing charges. Some charges against politicians could have been filed due to political vendettas. Until July 2013, convicted Indian MPs could continue in office simply by filing endless appeals in the country’s slow and inefficient court system. The Indian Supreme Court then ruled that any MP sentenced to more than three years in prison should be disqualified from office, regardless of any pending appeals.
Kipling and Mumbai
Revered as the birth place of Rudyard Kipling, a house in Mumbai, is close to collapse because of a quarrel about whether a museum proposed for the site should honour him, or Indian cultural figures. The historic colonial bungalow within a college premises is unoccupied, decaying with mould and disintegrating in heavy monsoons rains. Caught up in red tape, an earlier plan to develop the bungalow into a museum to honour Kipling and funded by the charity Jindal Foundation, was shelved years ago. The 150th birth anniversary of Kipling is celebrated in 2015. In spite of the vast popularity of Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’, Kipling remains a controversial figure in India, and looked upon as an imperialist. The site has international tourist value, as Kipling was a very gifted writer. J J School of Art, which controls the site, is keen to use the bungalow to display its collection of paintings. The bungalow is on extensive grounds, and is surrounded by lush greenery. If the bungalow structure collapsed, it could be sold to developers. High land prices in South Mumbai indicate that the site is extremely valuable.
Huge levels of corruption and waste have increased the cost of reconstruction of Afghanistan beyond the total money spent under the Marshal Plan, which put Europe back on its feet after the Second World War. US tax payers have provided 61.5 billion Pound since 2002 and Britain about 890 million Pound, for hundreds of development projects. Military operations have cost USA an additional 296 billion Pound, and Britain 22 billion Pound. The Marshal Plan cost the equivalent of 61 billion Pound, at today’s prices. Poor planning, shoddy construction and mechanical failures have undermined most of the projects financed by USA. Nearly thirteen years after the Taliban were over-thrown, the US and other donors continue to fund 60% of the Afghan national budget. They are pledged to underwrite a further ‘decades of transformation’ in Afghanistan. By year end, the western mission will switch from a military operation to a relatively small ‘advise and assist’ programme. There are concerns that the Taliban insurgents will sabotage continuing efforts to redevelop the country. Large areas of the country will soon be off limits to US personnel due to base closures and troop withdrawals. About 80% of Afghanistan is already beyond the reach of US government monitors.
USA and Britain have trained a 350,000 strong Afghan National Security Force. The number of children attending school has increased from one million in 2001, to about six million since March 2012. Afghan army has lost about 3200 men in fighting with Taliban forces, that have begun to reoccupy outlying areas in some provinces, such as Helmand, Kapisa and Nangarhar. Despite $7.6 million spent on counter narcotics operations, opium production has increased to record levels. 54,000 policemen are non-existent but being paid each month, despite USA and the EU spending more than $3 billion on building up the Afghan police. Sixteen Italian-built C 27 transport planes, worth $486 million are left idle, next to the runway at Kabul airport. 43% of the US supplied 747,000 firearms to Afghan Security Forces, worth $ 626 million, have disappeared from official stock lists. Following Pakistani military operations and air strikes in North Wazirstan, aimed at clearing long time Taliban sanctuaries, about 500,000 people have been displaced. There are more than 100,000 refugees from Pakistan in Afghanistan’s Khost province alone.
Vol. 47, No. 17, Nov 2 - 8, 2014