Chief Justice Hima Kohli, Telangana High Court
Chief Justice Hima Kohli, Telangana High Court

In the absence of any proactive measures from the elected government amidst the dangerous surge of Covid pandemic, the judiciary seems to be stepping in, to rescue helpless citizens in the country and both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh states are no exception to this.

The Telangana State Election Commission (SEC) came under fire from the Telangana State High Court for the former's decision to go ahead with the municipal polls. The TS HC bench, headed by Chief Justice Hima Kohli and Justice B Vijayasen Reddy has gone to the extent of saying that the decision to hold elections is tantamount to a walk into the jaws of death. It came down heavily on the SEC for continuing the election process in the municipal corporations of Greater Warangal and Khammam, as also five municipalities. The bench asked the SEC whether the skies would have fallen had the elections been postponed?

Rush to hold polls

The bench did not mince its words. “If you are so bent on clinging to your tasks, wasn't there any delay in conducting elections on time? We all witnessed that the post of the mayor of the state capital post was not filled for more than a year-and-a-half without conducting GHMC elections even when there was no corona or a calamity. But, at the time of the serious surge in Covid-19 cases in the state, you rushed to conduct elections as if the sky will otherwise fall down. This was not a calibrated decision, whatever the reasons be,” the bench told SEC Secretary Ashok Kumar.

This alone amply proves that the political parties in power, whether at the Centre or state, have become insensitive to people’s suffering. They are not simply bothered about a catastrophe of this magnitude that is wreaking havoc on human life. The seriousness and the deep concern of the court on the issue can be gauged from the fact that Chief Justice Hima Kohli compared the situation with the one that depicted in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, 'Charge of the Light Brigade'. ‘‘Cannons to the right of them, Cannons to the left of them, Cannons in front of them, Volleyed and thundered; Stormed at with shot and shell, Boldly they rode and well, Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of hell,” she quoted.

Severe reprimand

The Chief Justice did not stop there, she said, “The entire world, not only the country or the state, knows of the war-like conditions going on since February 2021. Does the SEC not belong to this planet? Are you living on Mars? You gave the notification on April 16. Some of the municipalities’ terms have not been completed by March and mid-April. You have four months' time to conduct elections. Is there such an urgency or statutory compulsion to hold a meeting of newly elected municipal councilors, as of a meeting of the Council of Ministers?’’

The AP HC also took the state government to task for going ahead with the intermediate examinations, putting three lakh students, several thousand teachers and others at risk. The Madras and Delhi High Courts have also been proactive in their scathing observations against the state and Central governments. Yet, the elected governments have refused to learn any lesson. Absolute power seems to have absolutely corrupted them.

VSP helps a gasping nation

Meanwhile, something unbelievable happened at the Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd (RINL), the public sector corporate entity of the Vizag Steel Plant (VSP). The plant turned out to be a saviour, supplying liquid medical oxygen (LMO) in this time of utter trauma and helplessness the nation is going through. When it came to the nation, the privatisation move was pushed to the backseat. Setting aside their own struggle for justice, the employees worked round-the-clock on a war-footing, just to breathe life into their fellow countrymen.

The privatisation move in February has triggered a public outcry in Andhra Pradesh. But the Narendra Modi government, with the relevant bills passed in Parliament, went ahead and finalised the privatisation of RINL. But even now, the VSP stands tall among the ruins in its fight against the pandemic, supplying more than 9,000 tonnes of LMO.

Quick to act

Besieged with the logistics crisis of supplying medical oxygen to far-flung places and the government's immediate decision to supply oxygen to Maharashtra, the VSP, with the help of Indian Railways, soon sprang into action to make this dream come true. Taking the urgency into consideration, the assessment department of the roads and rail logistics, completed the new rail track and the site for roll on-roll off (RORO) facility inside the plant on April 18.

Soon a ramp facilitating the RORO service was constructed, within a record 60 hours. Soon after, Oxygen Expresses transporting cryogenic tankers, with a total carrying capacity of more than 100 tonnes of LMO, had reached various destinations in the country. PK Rath, CMD, RINL, and C K Shrivastava, DRM, East Coast Railway, along with the directors of RINL and senior officials of East Coast Railways, visited the site to take stock and safely expedite the process.

This is called real 'Sthitha Pragyata'. Well done, VSP!

Tailpiece: Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao ordered a vigilance probe against his own Cabinet Minister E Rajender on alleged land encroachments. The ruling party and its pro-media are calling Rajender a land-grabber and the opposition parties say it's a conspiracy! This could only happen in our country!

The writer is a senior journalist based in Hyderabad

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