Indian media: Political accountability

Political activists of the Congress Party
Image caption India's top political parties, including the ruling Congress, will now be covered by the Right to Information Act

Media are praising a landmark decision which brings Indian political parties under the Right to Information Act (RTI).

The RTI law allows Indians to access information held by the government.

But now six national parties, including the ruling Congress and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, will also come under the RTI's ambit, reports say.

"Political parties affect the lives of the citizens, directly or indirectly, in every conceivable way and are continuously engaged in performing public duty. It is, therefore, important that they become accountable to public," The Statesman quotes the Central information Commission (CIC) as saying.

The Hindustan Times says "the country's transparency watchdog (CIC) has given a landmark ruling" to make political parties "answerable to citizens".

"Lifting the cloak of secrecy from sources of funding of political parties and their expenditure, the CIC has ruled that they are public authorities who now need to respond to RTI queries within six weeks," says The Times of India.

The Hindu too calls it a "landmark judgement" and feels it will have "far-reaching implications on the functioning of political parties".

Meanwhile, the government has decided to call an all-party meeting to discuss a strategy aimed at curbing increasing violence by Maoist rebels in the central and eastern India, The New Indian Express reports.

The rebels, also known as "Naxalites", killed 24 people, including some top politicians in the central state of Chhattisgarh, on 25 May.

'Social change'

The northern state of Uttrakhand is undergoing an important social change as Dalits, once considered untouchables, are taking on a role which has been traditionally performed by upper-caste Brahmins.

Dalits are now training priests from their own community because Brahmins usually refuse to perform rituals for them, reports The Indian Express.

"These Dalit priests perform all rituals - be it those pertaining to marriage or last rites," the paper says.

Moving on to some environmental news, a survey by The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri), a leading research group, shows that air and water quality in India's major cities is worsening by the year.

"Our towns and cities, particularly the largest ones, are often populated by people who have lost their linkages with nature and are often seen to be generally opposed to any legislation or action to protect the environment," The Indian Express quotes Teri chief RK Pachauri as saying.

And finally some "soothing" news - a song written by 20th-century Kashmiri poet Mehjoor is impressing the youth in today's India.

Sahibo (Almighty) has gained in popularity after the Pune-based Sufi band Highway 61 performed it on MTV's popular show Coke Studio, reports The Tribune.

The band has also used some words written by the medieval mystic, Kabir.

"Ours is a different genre of music which leaves a calming effect on the audience," the paper quotes the band's lead singer, Muhammad Muneem, as saying.

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