Governor redeems

Finance Minsiter K. M. Mani

Kerala Finance Minister K. M. Mani presenting the Budget for 2015-16 in the Assembly on March 13, 2015 amidst vandalism by Opposition

Kerala Governor P. Sadasivam has at least nominally redeemed the prestige of Kerala legislature by warning legislators about their conduct.

A former Chief Justice of Supreme Court of India, Sadasivam will not have failed to notice the obvious break down of not only Constitutional norms but also gross violation of democratic principles by the Opposition. There is no place for vandalism in legislative bodies in a democracy. However, reaction from opinion leaders was generally muted while the ordinary people on the social media could do nothing more than lampooning the politicians.

The Governor’s remark that the happenings on the floor of the Assembly on Friday (March 13, 2015) may even justify submission of a report by the Governor to the President under Article 356 of the Constitution of India is a rebuke to both the ruling and Opposition fronts. What the Governor hints is the vandalism of the kind in the House amounts to Constitutional break down warranting dissolution of the Assembly.

The Speaker N. Sakthan could not maintain even a semblance of order in the Assembly because of his reluctance of use force. Normal practice in the House is to use the watch and ward to cordon the podium of the Speaker as soon as the Opposition starts disruption of proceedings. On Friday, the Opposition had started their protest even before the House was called into session. Speaker probably hesitated because he was new to the Chair and did not want to start with a direct confrontation with the Opposition and become a direct target of the Opposition in the coming days.

The Opposition leaders had gone to the Governor saying that the presentation of the Budget was not in order, after creating all the disorder. The Governor has indirectly rebuffed them by accepting the Speaker’s stand that the Budget was duly presented. The Speaker could not be seen as conducting the business of the House during the bedlam created by the Opposition who had also practically gheraoed the Speaker and thrown his chair off the podium in gross disregard to the prestige of the House and its privileges. (The procedures adopted in the House for presentation of the Budget could be irregular but could not be challenged in a court of law. The House is the final arbiter of its own procedures).

The Governor, who himself is part of the Assembly as head of the State, has hinted that the further proceedings on the Budget including passing of the demands for grants on account and Appropriation Bill should be done in an orderly fashion. He may not condone total absence of order and decorum.


Discriminating in favour of women

Finance Minister P. Chidambara with Budget papersFinance Minister P. Chidambaram rides the wave announcing special programmes for women. However, the announcement of a public sector bank exclusively for women is an admission that existing public sector banks does not treat women equally.

That women are discriminated against by banks and that they are not getting adequate banking services is a shame. This is when one of the premier banks like the ICICI Bank is headed by a woman. The government has been able to cater to senior citizens to some extent through regulation. (They still face problems in using schemes such as reverse mortgage.) The government is apparently not able to do this for women— that is to force all banks to treat women equally.

A separate bank for women would solve the problem only notionally. If the same logic is applied to other areas, we would soon need an exclusive bank for SC and ST, minorities and backward classes.

Another scheme is ‘Nirbhaya’ for empowerment of women. The contours of this scheme are yet to be defined. We had scores of programmes in the past for empowerment of women. Like many other government scheme, they did not achieve much. What ‘Nirbhaya’ would do is to be seen.

Following the Delhi incidents, we are in the era of positive discrimination. Women returning from abroad are allowed to bring gold worth Rs. 1 lakh while men can bring only half the quantity. (For women, financially capable of travelling abroad, this is a pittance.). Well, this proposal violates equality before law and hence would be ultra vires of the Constitution.

 Budget highlights