Congress’ MP govt ends 10-year Independence Day practice, won’t fete Emergency detainees

Milind Ghatwai
Two weeks after Chief Minister Kamal Nath took oath in December 2018, the Congress government put the pension on hold.

The Congress government in Madhya Pradesh has discontinued the decade-long practice of felicitating those detained during the Emergency, under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) and Defence of India Rules (DIR), on Independence Day.

In 2008, the then BJP government had introduced a monthly pension of Rs 6,000 for MISA and DIR detainees and started felicitating them in Bhopal and at district headquarters. It later hiked the pension twice to make it Rs 25,000, on par with the amount given to freedom fighters.

Two weeks after Chief Minister Kamal Nath took oath in December 2018, the Congress government put the pension on hold. The government also ordered physical verification of beneficiaries while claiming that many did not exist and others had availed the benefit fraudulently.

However, after months of verification, most beneficiaries have started getting the pension again.

Criticising the state government for its latest decision, the Opposition BJP has asked its district units to hold the felicitation in their offices. It s the politics of revenge. The Kamal Nath government has a problem honouring people who are very old. It does not have a problem with the Emergency or letting Article 370 continue in Kashmir, said Rakesh Singh, state BJP chief and Jabalpur Lok Sabha MP.

It s a decision taken out of vengeance. We will not go to them with a request to felicitate us. Earlier, the detainees used to get official invites from the office of the district collector. In any case, we are not interested in getting honoured by a party that is undemocratic, said Tapan Bhowmik, state chief of Loktantra Senani Sangathan, the state-level body of MISA and DRI detainees.

Congress spokesperson Shobha Oza, however, alleged most of the MISA and DIR detainees were BJP workers who did not go to jail at the time. The BJP government had started the pension and felicitation to oblige them. One can understand the felicitation of freedom fighters and their family members on August 15, she said.