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Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s fascination for holding panchayats may have declined but his enthusiasm for making promises has not. He has now promised to create an atmosphere of happiness in the State and would pay Rs 10 lakh to whoever is willing to submit a project to achieve this. This is only natural that he should think of spreading happiness all around after having taken care of the problems of different segments of society. That he did by holding panchayats of those segments.

Within months of his having taken over as Chief Minister in November 2005, Chouhan held a kisan panchayat at his residence where he made as many as 35 promises aimed at redressing each and every grievance of the farmers. Chouhan is never tired of calling himself a ‘kisan-putra’ and the fact that the first panchayat he held was of the farmers shows his overwhelming concern for the agricultural community. If the farmers are still restive and agitating violently for the redress of their grievances and committing suicide almost regularly, it is only too bad.

Having taken care of the problems of farmers, Chouhan paid attention to other sections. So far he has held nearly two scores of panchayats covering almost every segment of society. The panchayat of Bais (house-maids) was the twenty-first such panchayat held at the CM’s residence. Chouhan declared at the outset that a housemaid would no more be called as Bai (as is the custom) but ‘Behen’ if she is younger and ‘Didi’ if she is older. The Bais would be issued photo identity cards and the Government would spend up to Rs 20,000 if a Bai fell ill. This facility would be extended to her husband, son, daughter, mother-in-law, father-in-law and widowed and deserted daughter also.

The other promises made by Chouhan included: free text-books to their children in addition to the monthly cash payment to the children; 45 days’ maternity leave and 15 days’ paternity leave to the husband while the Government would pay the wages of both for these periods; Rs 1000 cash payment to the Bai for nutritious diet during maternity. There were some more promises like insurance cover against death or accident and provision of pension.

He made similar promises with variations according to their specific needs to different sections such as agricultural labourers (including financial help for cremation if an agricultural labourer or his/her dependant died), kotwars (land, new cycles, new bright uniforms every year and immunity from prosecution), industrialists (international markets would be made available to the small scale sector for its products), the disabled, the poor belonging to the general category, and the women.

After solving the problems of the people segment-wise, Chouhan decided some time back to set up a Department of Happiness to spread happiness throughout the State. The Minister of Happiness, incidentally, is Lal Singh Arya against whom there is a non-bailable arrest warrant in a murder case. He waited for nearly two weeks for the police to arrest him but the police could not find him. Then he managed to get a stay order from the High Court. Now the Chief Minister has promised Rs 10 lakh to whoever can tell him how to spread happiness all around.

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Santosh Bharti, a social activist of Damoh, has, in sheer desperation, written to the National Green Tribunal (Bhopal Bench) that he would no more appear before it. That, in a way, shows how clumsily the Tribunal has been functioning. Bharti has sent copies of his letter to the Chief Justice of India and the Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court, among others.

Bharti has for several years been moving the Tribunal with matters of public interest such as forest felling and corruption. He has been regularly coming to Bhopal to appear before the Tribunal on scheduled dates with the evidence meticulously collected in support of his claims. What happened, in his own words: mostly the respondents don’t submit their counter affidavits/replies, then the Government lawyers seek adjournments on flimsy grounds and the Tribunal, barring one or two exceptions, promptly accepts their prayers for adjournments. The purpose of seeking these adjournments appears to be to exhaust me as I have to travel from Damoh, hundreds of kilometres away, to Bhopal at the age of 76 and the Tribunal becomes a party to their nefarious design. Moreover, I have been receiving threats to my life as the politician-bureaucrat-criminal nexus feels threatened with my complaints and the evidence that I possess. I escaped an attempt on my life on June 23, 2013 and one such attempt earlier also.


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Outright Perilous!

An egoist as the head of the government is bad enough. An egotist is a nuisance as his constant chant of I…, I…., I….. jars on the listeners’ years. But when he loses touch with the reality and starts believing his imaginary achievements to be his real achievements, that’s outright perilous.

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