Intro: What needs to be remembered is that though an entirely new Cabinet has just been formed with member Ministers new to their jobs, they seem to be functioning highly professionally at international conferences and are not awestruck by the newness of it all.
In just the last one fortnight we have had riots in Saharanpur, allegation against three former Supreme Court Chief Justices has been made by retired Supreme Court Judge Markandey Katju and in the Middle-East killings of almost a thousand Palestinians have been reported, all calling for comment which the media has been quick in making. But the trouble is, issues get dated.
The Katju accusation has drawn severe and understandable comment. According to The Times of India (July 24) Katju’s disclosures “strike a hammer blow at the strongest argument made in favour of continuing today’s clubby and opaque ‘collegium’ system for appointment of judges – that it preserves judicial independence.” As the paper put it “the government must appoint, after suitably amending the 2013 Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, a national judicial commission which will appoint judges for superior courts after a thorough vetting procedure.” Added the paper: “Alongside institutional reforms, efforts must be made to modernise and streamline the judiciary so that the lower and higher courts run efficiently and professionally.”
The Hindu (July 23) made some equally wise remarks. “The heart of the matter” it said,”is the concern that the present system of appointing judges does little to ensure that the higher judiciary is insulated from undue political influence.”
Another subject that has led to strong expression of views is on the Trade Facilitation Agreement at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The developed world has its own selfish views which it has been pressing hard for developing countries like India to accept in toto.
‘India’s Firm Stand at WTO Welcome’, noted The Asian Age (July 28). Said the paper: “The government has done India proud with its principled stand at the General Council meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Geneva by insisting that the talks on the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and other issues, including the food security programme should be taken up simultaneously as a single package.” The paper said that the “developed countries showed that their intentions were not sincere as there has been no progress in the discussions on the food security issue since December and their whole focus was on getting the TFA ratified as they are the major beneficiaries.” The paper said “India is, in fact, being more than fair in keeping the door open for the developed countries… the developed countries should remember that it is not only the obligation of India and the developing countries to save the Doha Round, its equally the responsibility of the rich countries” giving as an example of how the US feels free to stand by its own programme of subsidising its cotton farmers at grave danger to similar farmers elsewhere in the world.
Business Line (July 31) sharply focused on the Indian point that “it cannot sacrifice the food security of millions of poor (in India) at the altar of development”. Defending the Indian stand the paper said India is not, in this instance, “an isolated black sheep” considering that its stance – that any new deal must take into account the needs of the poorest countries – is supported by the G 33 Group of least developing countries (now 46 nations) as well as emerging economies like South Africa, Brazil and Argentina.
Besides, said the paper, “India has also argued that the method of ensuring food security to its population is its sovereign right to choose” and “logically and morally, this is the right stand”. And it added: “If India needs to suffer a few brickbats for doing so, so be it.” What needs to be remembered is that though an entirely new Cabinet has just been formed with member Ministers new to their jobs, they seem to be functioning highly professionally at international conferences and are not awestruck by the newness of it all.
Indeed, in this case, India’s representatives seems to have been well prepared, including the fact that there are almost 500 bilateral and multilateral trade deals already well in their place or under advanced negotiation.
(The writer is a senior journalist and former editor of Illustrated Weekly)