Indian media praise 'landmark' order on bureaucracy

Supreme Court
Image caption The Supreme Court order aims to make bureaucracy more efficient

Media in India are praising a "landmark" Supreme Court order that aims to free the country's bureaucracy from political interference.

The court on Thursday ordered the federal and state governments to set up a special board that will look after transfers, promotions and disciplinary matters involving civil servants.

Bureaucrats often come under pressure from politicians on key issues and face "victimisation" if they refuse to follow "verbal orders", reports say.

The court said all orders given to civil servants must be in writing "to protect them against wrongful and arbitrary pressure exerted by the administrative superiors, political executive, business and other vested interests", reports the DNA website.

The NDTV website says the court's order will ensure that civil servants will not have "to take verbal orders from their political bosses" and it will "insulate the bureaucracy from victimisation".

The Hindustan Times website says "bureaucrats are often transferred on the whims and fancies of politicians and the court indicated as much when it said deteriorating standards of probity and accountability in bureaucracy were due to political influence".

The Indian Express, however, cautions against the consequences of the order.

"It must remember that the public disillusionment with the system does not arise from corruption alone, but also from ineptitude. It should not end up entrenching inefficiency, by reducing the one force that impels the bureaucracy to accountability - political supervision," the paper says.

Meanwhile, newspapers are warning about a rise in illnesses due to increased pollution levels during the festival of Diwali this weekend.

Those suffering from respiratory and heart problems have been urged to be more cautious as pollution levels rise due to the excessive use of firecrackers during the festive season, reports The Pioneer.

Environmentalist Anumita Roychowdhury says "much more aggressive measures" are needed to deal with the issue of increased pollution during Diwali, reports The Times of India.

Papers also say that Diwali has lost a bit of its sparkle this year due to the struggling economy and skyrocketing prices of food and other commodities.

Traders' associations say people in Delhi are spending less this year on sweets, dry fruits and gifts, reports the Deccan Herald.

Right to reject

Moving on to politics, the Election Commission has asked Congress party vice-president Rahul Gandhi to explain his remark that the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party was indulging in divisive politics in the riot-hit town of Muzaffarnagar in northern India, reports the Hindustan Times.

Terming the remark a violation of the election code of conduct, the commission has sent Mr Gandhi a notice over his speeches in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh states and asked him to respond by 4 November, the paper adds.

Assembly polls will be held in five states, including Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, in November-December this year.

The Election Commission has also approved the design of the None of the Above (Nota) button on electronic voting machines, which is being introduced during the assembly polls in Delhi, the First Post website reports.

The symbol is "a circular depiction with black background with Nota written in white in capital letters in English", it says.

The Nota button is an option for voters who do not want to cast their ballot for any of the candidates, it says.

And finally, Congress party president Sonia Gandhi has been ranked 21st among the world's most powerful people by Forbes magazine, seven spots above Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, reports The Indian Express.

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