Archive for ‘lawmakers’

18/05/2019

Lawbreakers to lawmakers? The ‘criminal candidates’ standing in India’s election

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has one unwanted lead in this month’s general election race – according to data from an electoral watchdog it is fielding the most candidates among the major parties who are facing criminal charges. Its main rival, Congress, is just a step behind.

Election laws allow such candidates to run so long as they have not been convicted, on grounds both of fairness and because India’s criminal justice system moves so slowly that trials can take years, or even decades, to be resolved.

Still, the number of such candidates accused of offences ranging from murder to rioting has been rising with each election.

Analysts say political parties turn to them because they often have the deepest pockets in steadily costlier elections, and that some local strongmen are seen as having the best chance of winning.

Nearly one-in-five candidates running for parliament in the current election has an outstanding criminal case against them, inching up from 17% in the previous election and 15% in 2009, according to the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-profit organisation that analysed candidates’ declarations.

The data shows that 40% candidates from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP face criminal charges, including crimes against women and murder, followed by the Congress party at 39%.

Among the smaller parties, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has an even higher proportion, with 58 percent of its candidates embroiled in criminal cases.

Polls have suggested that the BJP and its allies lead the race to win the mammoth, staggered election that began last month and ends on Sunday. Votes will be counted on Thursday.

“Parties only think about winnability and they know that money power and muscle power of such candidates ensures that win,” said Anil Verma, head of the ADR.

With 240 cases against him, K Surendran of the BJP tops the list of candidates with the most outstanding criminal complaints that include rioting, criminal trespass and attempted murder.

He said most of the cases stem from his involvement in the BJP campaign to oppose the entry of women and girls of menstruating age into the Sabarimala temple in his home state of Kerala.

“I understand that an outsider might feel that I am a grave offender but, in reality, I am completely innocent of these charges,” he said. “It was all politically motivated.”

Dean Kuriakose from the Congress party has 204 criminal cases against him, the second highest, the data showed. Most of the cases were related to a political agitation against the ruling Communist Party in Kerala, which turned violent.

He was not available for comment. But a party spokesman said Kuriakose was innocent. “He was falsely charged by the police under influence from Kerala government,” the spokesman said.

Political analysts say that often people vote for candidates who face criminal charges because they are seen as best placed to deliver results. In some parts of India local strongmen mediate in disputes and dispense justice.

“Powerful people, even if criminals, offer a kind of parallel system of redressal,” said K.C. Suri, a professor of political science at the University of Hyderabad.

A separate ADR survey of more than 250,000 voters last year found 98% felt candidates with criminal backgrounds should not be in parliament, though 35% said they were willing to vote for such a candidate on caste grounds or if the candidate had done “good work” in the past.

Source: Reuters

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15/03/2019

Profile: Farmer lawmaker’s fight for rural prosperity

BEIJING, March 14 (Xinhua) — Farmer Zhao Huijie, spiced with humor when speaking at panel discussions at the second session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s national legislature, has a clearer vision for the development of her village.

The 48-year-old woman from north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region has fought for fortune for her fellow villagers after she became the village Party chief in 2009, and now for the interest of more people in rural China now that she is a deputy to the NPC.

At the ongoing second session of the 13th NPC, Zhao submitted a suggestion on pollution control in animal husbandry and farming in rural areas.

“Random disposal of livestock waste has not only damaged the rural environment, but also polluted groundwater,” she said, advising the government to fund major livestock farms in harmless waste treatment.

She also suggested the government to subsidize farmers to use degradable plastic films to protect the environment.

Unlike legislators in the West who make a career of politics, NPC deputies are from all walks of life and work part-time. Of the nearly 3,000 national lawmakers, more than 15 percent are workers and farmers.

Zhao, an ethnic Manchu, is also one of the 400-plus ethnic minority deputies.

URBAN WOMAN’S RURAL LIFE

Born into a worker’s family, Zhao worked at a gold mine in the city of Chifeng, Inner Mongolia, where she got married in 1991.

“He was four years older than me. I think it was a perfect match considering I am talkative, while he is quiet,” Zhao said of her husband.

Their daughter was born in 1992. In the same year, the gold mine went bankrupt, forcing the couple back to her husband’s home in Xiaomiaozi Village.

Located between two mountains with a river traversing through, Xiaomiaozi was known for its poverty back then. Shabby houses, bumpy roads and barren farmland formed the major landscape, and the only crop villagers grew was corn.

To make ends meet, Zhao’s husband found a job in town, and she rented a small plot of farmland at home.

She had to learn how to farm from scratch, including driving a horse to plow in the field. When she was farming, she had to place her baby on the field ridge.

“I didn’t want to depend on my parents after getting married. If the other villagers could get used to the country life here, how could I not?” she said.

In 1995, she started teaching at the village elementary school. Four years later, she was assigned to take charge of family planning and women’s work in the village.

“I was familiar with every household — newborn babies, young brides marrying into our village, and the elderly,” Zhao said.

In 2009, she was elected unanimously as the village Party chief.

As soon as she took office, Zhao was asked to attend “a meeting” in the township.

“It turned out to be a training for Party chiefs of backward villages. That was shameful,” she said, determined to change the situation.

NEW ROAD, NEW LIFE

The first thing she decided to work on was to build a concrete road, as she found corn buyers were reluctant to come due to the bumpy roads. Higher transport costs even dragged down corn prices in the village.

For more than a year, Zhao visited door to door to persuade villagers to relocate to give way to the road. She talked so much that she was diagnosed with sphagitis, and had to undergo a surgery.

“I liked singing in the past, but after the surgery, I could never hold a high note,” she said.

After the road project was completed, Zhao had a bridge built, ending the days when villagers had to trek in waters to cross the river.

In 2013, when Zhao engaged herself in the bridge project, she broke her left arm and knee in a road accident.

“After work, I was riding my motorcycle in the dark when a donkey rushed on to the road. I was thrown away along with the vehicle,” she said.

Instead of lying in bed, Zhao insisted going to the construction site on crutches, touching the villagers and drawing more and more followers.

Li Yongbo, a villager who used to work in Beijing, was persuaded home and led the farmers to grow traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) such as balloon flower root, which secures three times the income of corn.

According to Li, the sandy soil, big day-and-night temperature difference and easy access to irrigation made the village an ideal place for TCM plantation.

The village has expanded the TCM plantation areas to more than 200 hectares now, producing more than 4,000 tonnes of TCM every year. A TCM processing workshop has been established, further doubling the income from mere TCM plantation.

The per capita income of the village reached 14,000 yuan (2,087 U.S. dollars) in 2018, 10,000 yuan more than the levels of 2010.

“As villagers get rich and spend more, my tiny store now can bring me more than 100,000 yuan of profit every year,” grocery runner You Junguang said.

Last year, Zhao was elected as a deputy to the 13th NPC. She suggested utilizing private investment in rural development.

“To my delight, the Ministry of Finance replied to me, accepting my suggestion and pledging to encourage private investors to contribute to revitalizing the rural areas.”

Zhao said they had registered “Xiaomiaozi Village” as a brand, and were talking to a tourism company on cooperation to entice tourists with the village’s Manchu and Mongolian ethnic cultures, as well as its beautiful landscape.

After graduating from college, Zhao’s daughter found a teaching job in Changsha City in central China in 2014. Her son is studying in a senior high school in Chifeng City. Zhao is too busy to visit them.

“I feel guilty because I have rarely taken care of my kids. But I hope I can set an example for them by trying my best to do everything, be it vital or trivial, and making positive contribution to the society,” she said.

Source: Xinhua

28/02/2019

Lawmakers brainstorm methods to seal victory over poverty

BEIJING, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) — Chinese lawmakers have met at a bimonthly legislative session to discuss a research report on poverty relief, and brainstormed methods to seal the country’s victory against poverty.

The report was based on the investigation led by three National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee vice chairpersons into poverty alleviation efforts in 16 provinces and regions last year.

It was reviewed at the two-day committee session, which ended Wednesday.

Delivered at the session by Wu Weihua, vice chairperson of the NPC Standing Committee, the report said that “decisive progress” had been made in the anti-poverty fight but circumstances remained challenging.

Support for extremely impoverished regions should be continuously strengthened, according to Li Yuefeng, a member of the standing committee, who said that areas in abject poverty still posed the most difficult tasks in the battle against poverty, and called for consistent efforts to make sure they did not lag behind.

Fellow lawmaker Liu Yuankun believes the problems for extremely poor areas are rooted in their economy and society, and suggested poverty relief in such areas be integrated with local economic and social development.

“As soon as transportation works, everything will work,” he said, stressing the construction of infrastructure, which allows funds, talent and industries to flow into impoverished areas.

Another member Zheng Gongcheng said that only by building inner faith and hope could the endogenous power to defeat poverty be long-lasting, and suggested prioritizing efforts in education and employment to enhance the capacity of people in poverty.

In 2018, China lifted 13.86 million people in rural areas out of poverty, with the number of impoverished rural residents dropping from 98.99 million in late 2012 to 16.6 million by the end of last year.

The number is still high, however, and many of the impoverished are long suffering from illnesses, disabled, or elderly people with no family, according to the report.

“A long-term and effective mechanism to prevent people from falling back into poverty due to illness is significant,” said Li Xueyong, a member of the NPC Standing Committee, who asked for more measures to cut major illnesses at the root.

Source: Xinhua

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