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IAMC News Roundup

IAMC Weekly News Roundup – January 16th, 2012

by newsdigest on January 16, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Gujarat CM, HM culpable in 2002 riots: Ex-DGP (Jan 12, 2012, DNA India)

Former Gujarat DGP RB Sreekumar today filed his ninth affidavit before the Nanavati Commission, in which he claimed that Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the then Minister of State for Home Gordhan Zadafia among others were culpable under IPC section 166 in relation with the 2002 riots. Indian Penal Code (IPC) section 166 is applicable for offence by public servant in disobeying law with intent to cause injury to any person.

In his affidavit, Sreekumar, who was ADGP (intelligence) in 2002 has further asked the Commission to take necessary action with regard to his new affidavit. “Manipulation of the criminal justice system as delineated in my reports to the government was intimated to the chief minister. Home department officials and DGP were also aware of this despicable ground situation. Still no remedial action suggested in my report dated April 24, 2002 was taken,” he claimed.

“The government did not question information in my reports and my supervisory officers also did not ask me to furnish any clarification or explanation on inputs in my reports. This had established that the government had accepted my intelligence assessment reports,” he added. “The above facts categorically establish that DGP, Home department officials, MOS home and chief minister were culpable for offence under section 166 IPC,” Sreekumar said.

http://www.dnaindia.com/print710.php?cid=1636894

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Amid bouts of amnesia, Zadaphia puts Modi in dock (Jan 14, 2012, Indian Express)

Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the then law minister late Ashok Bhatt had taken the decision to send the bodies of victims of the 2002 Godhra train carnage to Ahmedabad, the then Minister of State (Home) Gordhan Zadaphia told the Justice Nanavati-Mehta Commission on Friday. While claiming loss of memory or ignorance on most other issues related to the subsequent riots, he belied the claim of the then BJP MLA and minister I K Jadeja that he was asked by Zadaphia to remain present at the DGP’s office on February 28, 2002. “Not at all,” he said, adding that he had not asked Jadeja to go anywhere on that day.

After recording his in-camera deposition, the Commission allowed different parties to cross-examine Zadaphia. He was questioned by advocate Mukul Sinha on behalf of Jan Sangharsh Manch and advocate Hiralal Gupta on behalf of Congress. The former minister said he had gone to Godhra on February 27, 2002 when the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was attacked, killing 59 kar sevaks by a mob. He said Modi and Ashok Bhatt were also there and that they decided to send the bodies to Ahmedabad. Replying specifically to a question, he said the bodies’ identification was not done.

Apart from these, Zadaphia chose not to answer most questions posed to him while claiming loss of memory or ignorance on those questions. He did so on questions like whom did the police and intelligence bureau report on issues of internal security, if he received or dialed calls from/to VHP office in Ahmedabad or from some of the accused in the riots cases and the nature of conversations, if he was aware of the meetings held by the CM on February 27 & 28, when did VHP give the bandh call for February 28, if BJP had supported the call and if the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajapayee had visited Shah-e-Alam Relief Camp in Ahmedabad after the riots.

Zadaphia also denied to have received any letter from IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt on February 28 with reference to either Gulberg Society or Naroda massacres. He said he was not aware of the massacres when it actually happened. He expressed opinion that he does not think the riots broke out in Ahmedabad on February 28 because the bodies were brought to the city first and given to their relatives. Meanwhile, the Commission did not allow a question by Gupta who asked Zadaphia if the CM was responsible for all that happened at Godhra and the subsequent riots since he took all the decisions related to the same.

When Gupta said he was asking Zadaphia’s opinion on the same, Commission chairman Justice G T Nanavati said, “He (Zadaphia) has not been asked to give opinion. If he gives opinion then what is left for the Commission to find out?” Justice Nanavati also stated that he can cancel the permission to cross-examine Zadaphia because it is not to assist the Commission but for some other reason.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/899643/

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CBI grills Amit Shah for 8 hrs in Tulsi case (Jan 11, 2012, DNA India)

The CBI team investigating the Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter case questioned former Gujarat minister of state for home Amit Shah for several hours on Tuesday. He was questioned by DySP in the CBI, Binay Kumar, at the agency’s office in Delhi.

“He was questioned for about eight hours in connection with the Tulsiram Prajapati encounter. If required, he will be called for questioning again. However, his arrest is unlikely at this point of time,'” said a senior CBI official on the condition of anonymity.

Prajapati, a close aide of the slain gangster, Sohrabuddin Sheikh and a witness to his killing in a fake encounter, was shot dead in another fake encounter near Chapri village of Banaskantha district in December 2006.

During the interrogation on Tuesday, the CBI confronted Shah with telephone records allegedly showing him in touch with the accused police officers during the encounter. The police officers he was allegedly in touch with include the then DIG, border range, DG Vanzara, who is currently in jail as an accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.

http://www.dnaindia.com/print710.php?cid=1636162

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Justice eludes victims falsely arrested in Mecca Masjid blast case (Jan 9, 2012, IBN)

They are the worst victims of physical and mental torture by police in the Mecca Masjid blast case. But like justice, compensation too seems to elude them till date. A few hours before Mohammed Raeesuddin was to receive a cheque of Rs 300,000 along with 15 others, his name was deleted from the list. Syed Imran Khan and his uncle Shoaib Jagirdar, who were among the first to be arrested on false charges for the May 18, 2007, blast, did not find a place in the list. There are others who were subjected to police harassment, but are yet to receive the compensation on the ground that there are some cases pending against them. Out of 84 suspects rounded up by police after the blast, the government identified 70 for compensation and paid them Rs 70 lakh. More than 15 of them were denied compensation in last minute changes to the list.

The victims say it is a deliberate attempt by police to deny them the compensation on the pretext of other false cases. Take the case of Mohammed Raeesuddin. He was picked up by police and tortured because he was a witness in another case in which the Gujarat police had shot dead a youth, Mujahid Saleem, in Hyderabad in 2004. “I am a witness in the case. He was my friend and I want the Gujarat police officers who killed him to be punished,” Raeesuddin told IANS. “They lifted me from the road. I was kept in a farmhouse for eight days where I was stripped, thrashed and given electric shocks. The police wanted me to withdraw as witness in the Mujahid case. They threatened to implicate me in the Mecca Masjid case if I did not withdraw,” recalls Raeesuddin, who was working in a jewellery shop when he was picked up by police and kept in illegal detention.

Raees feels more than compensation, a character certificate would help him in getting a job. “People don’t give me a job as they still view me with suspicion because of the stories cooked up by police,” he said. He complains that police harassment is still continuing. “The police come to my house or call us to police stations on dates like ‘Bonalu’, ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’ and Dec 6. They do all the harassment in the name of maintaining peace and law and order in the city.” Syed Imran was an executive in a leading private bank and was about to join a multi-national bank when police picked him and his uncle, Shoaib, in connection with the Mecca Masjid blast case. They were accused of involvement in bringing RDX into the city. Though acquitted, Imran, who spent 18 months in jail, says it is not possible to again lead a normal life. He is now working in a small private firm.

The youngster and his uncle have not been paid the compensation as they are accused in a case of making an illegal passport. The case was booked a few months before they were arrested for the Mecca Masjid blast. “The police accused us of making illegal passports, but the fact is that not even an application for a passport was filed,” says Shoaib, a kerosene dealer in Jalna, Maharashtra. “I don’t want money. All I want from them is a character certificate so that I can continue with my job,” said Imran, a resident of Bowenpally in Secunderabad.

The son of a retired central government employee, Imran says he will never get a job in a multinational company. “I am still carrying the terrorist tag and facing social stigma. We were once behind bars. we have come out, but we feel that mentally we are still in jail,” he said. There are others who were booked in various cases during their detention in the blast case. “One of them was booked for using a mobile phone in the jail. Such cases are because the police implicated them in the Mecca Masjid case,” said Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) legislator, Akbaruddin Owaisi, who wants the government to withdraw all cases against them and pay them the compensation.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/justice-eludes-victims-falsely-arrested-for-blast/219279-3.html

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Batla House encounter returns to haunt Congress (Jan 11, 2012, DNA India)

Rahul Gandhi, who has been calling upon the youth to participate in the country’s politics, had to face the ire of students and youngsters in Azamgarh on Wednesday. The youth were raising slogans against the Congress Party and demanding an inquiry into the Batla House encounter. They also burnt an effigy of the Congress leader, while Rahul had to virtually flee the site without taking out the proposed rally.

Meanwhile, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh has shocked many in the party by raising a finger at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram over the encounter. The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the BJP also took the opportunity to trade guns Congress Party.

“The Batla House encounter was a fake encounter. I had demanded a judicial inquiry into the matter,” Digvijay Singh told the media in Azamgarh on Wednesday. “However, the Prime Minister and the Home Minister thought that it was a genuine encounter. That is why we did not persist our demand (for an inquiry),” he added, virtually putting Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram in the dock.

The Delhi Police had carried out an encounter in Delhi’s Batla House area on September 19, 2008 and shot dead two youngsters alleged to be terrorists. A Delhi Police inspector MK Sharma was also killed in the shootout. Both the boys belonged to Azamgarh. The Delhi Police later raided Sanjarpur in Azamgarh several times in search of other alleged terrorists. Digvijay Singh had visited Azamgarh soon afterwards to assuage the minorities’ feelings.

Earlier in the day on Wednesday, students of the famous Shibli College of Azamgarh burnt an effigy of Rahul Gandhi while chanting slogans “Batla House ki jaanch karao” (conduct an inquiry into the Batla House encounter). Rahul was supposed to address the students in the college premises followed by a rally. …

http://www.dnaindia.com/print710.php?cid=1636309

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Surya Namaskar part of agenda to saffronise educatn: Ajay (Jan 11, 2012, Deccan Herald)

Leader of Opposition in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly, Ajay Singh, today strongly criticised BJP government in the state for organising a mass Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) exercise tomorrow, terming it a part of “saffron agenda”. “Instead of focusing on improving quality of education and educational infrastructure, the government is wasting resources on organising exercises like Surya Namaskar as a part of its saffron agenda,” Ajay said here.

Introduction of Bhagwad Gita in the curriculum was a similar, earlier attempt to saffronise the education, he said. The state government’s decision to organise mass Surya Namaskars tomorrow, wherein thousands of students are expected to take part, so as to set a world record, has not gone down well with the Muslim community in the state, leading to a ‘fatwa’ against it.

However, defending the decision, School Education Minister Archana Chitnis had said earlier that Surya Namaskar was a Yogic exercise aimed at improving the health, and tomorrow’s programme was not mandatory. “The Sun is neither saffron nor green,” she had added.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/218389/surya-namaskar-part-agenda-saffronise.html

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Gadkari, Modi, and the BJP’s gymnastics on corruption (Jan 9, 2012, Rediff)

By inducting Babu Singh Kushwaha, a main suspect along with Mayawati’s brother Anand Kumar in the Central Bureau of Investigation’s serious inquiry into loot of people’s money in the National Rural Health Mission, Bharatiya Janata Party President Nitin Gadkari has proved that his party’s support to Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement was political fraud. Kushwaha’s induction notwithstanding, it is also evident that Gadkari is focusing on 2013 when his term ends as BJP president – and he is ready to cross lines in pursuit of his future plans.

In his September 30, 2011 speech at the BJP’s national executive in New Delhi, Gadkari had told his party: ‘Like the UPA at the Centre, the Bahujan Samaj Party has established a thoroughly corrupt regime in Uttar Pradesh. This state provides us an example of how unchecked corruption damages the fundamentals of governance severely. The National Rural Health Mission illustrates as to how the Congress and the BSP are hand in glove. The UPA sends crores of funds, refuses to conduct any audit, thereby allowing daylight robbery of the public exchequer. In return, the BSP goes soft at the corrupt UPA in the Centre.”

“Uttar Pradesh is the symbol of coalition of the corrupt. Mayawati represents bad governance, corruption and destruction of democratic governance. The SP (Samajwadi Party), BSP and Congress are trying to fool the people. Whenever the UPA requires support at the Centre, the BSP and SP willingly offer it. When they offer support, the CBI says the cases against Mulayam (Singh Yadav) and Mayawati are not worth pursuing. We have to fight with all three,” he said. Now, the SP, the BSP and the Congress will be relieved – because the BJP cannot take a moral high ground on the issue of corruption anymore.

http://www.rediff.com/news/slide-show/slide-show-1-gadkari-modi-and-the-bjp-gymnastic-on-corruption/20120109.htm

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Rushdie offended Muslims, cancel his visa, demands Deoband (Jan 9, 2012, Rediff)

Opposing controversial author Salman Rushdie’s visit to India [ Images ], Islamic Seminary Darul Uloom Deoband on Monday said the government should cancel his visa as he had hurt religious sentiments of Muslims in the past. 65-year-old Rushdie, who had earned the wrath of Muslims worldwide due to his novel ‘The Satanic Verses’, is set to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival this month end. “Indian government should cancel his visa as Rushdie had annoyed the religious sentiments of Muslims in the past,” Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani, the vice chancellor of Darul uloom, said in a release.

The government should take into account the feelings of Muslims against Rushdie, he stressed. Rushdie’s novel ‘The Satanic Verses’, which was banned by India, had sparked outrage in the Muslim world, including a fatwa against him by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, on February 14, 1989.

The Indian-origin Rushdie had earlier visited the literary extravaganza in the pink city in 2007. On January 21, Rushdie along with authors Rita Kothari and Tarun Tejpal is slated to discuss the nuances of English with noted writer Ira Pande on the topic ‘Inglish, Amlish, Hinglish: The chutnification of English’.

http://www.rediff.com/news/report/rushdie-offended-muslims-cancel-his-visa-demands-deoband/20120109.htm

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‘Police tortured me, I couldn’t recognise myself’ (Jan 12, 2012, Hindustan Times)

Labelling himself as a “political prisoner”, Arun Ferreira said just because he believed in the Leftist ideology he was branded as a ‘naxal’ and put in prison. Speaking at a press conference at the Press Club on Wednesday, Ferreira said the state government had become intolerant and was out to curb any movement it did not approve of. “Be it the movement against the Jaitapur nuclear plant, the one against POSCO, or Anna Hazare’s movement, the government immediately says there are naxals or maoist involved,” he said.

Recalling his days in the Nagpur jail, Ferreira claimed that because of the torture he underwent in the police custody, he could not recognise his own photograph published in the newspapers, “Nowadays the police have perfected the techniques of torture to ensure that no marks are left behind,” he alleged. He added, “One can find a good place to sleep [in jail] if he has money or else he has to sleep near the toilet. The prison manuals are outdated. The rules of British days are still applicable, which means the jail authorities run the place the way they want to.”

Coming down on the police, Ferreira said he was not the first one to be re-arrested after being acquitted by courts. He termed the tactics of the police as their “modus operandi”. “Even the principal district judge at Gadchiroli has come down on these methods of the police,” he said, adding that his family and friends in Mumbai had managed to put pressure on the government and the police for his release.

Ferreira, along with naxal leader Arun Satya Reddy alias Murli, was arrested in 2007 for an alleged attempt to hold a secret meeting at Dikshabhoomi in Nagpur. Though released in September last year, he was re-arrested by the police on charge of involvement in the Jafargarh police-naxal encounter case in Gadchiroli.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/795914.aspx

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Dalit woman paraded naked in Chavan’s hometown (Jan 11, 2012, The Hindu)

A 42-year-old Dalit woman was beaten, stripped and paraded naked by five persons belonging to an upper caste at Mulgaon village in Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s hometown of Karad. The incident occurred on Monday afternoon. Five persons have been arrested so far.

An upper caste girl had eloped with the victim’s son over a month ago. Upset at this, the girl’s parents and relatives assaulted the woman publicly in the village in Karad taluka of Satara district, police said. The victim said the police refused to entertain her complaint when she approached them on Monday. “They told me that such incidents keep happening in our community, and that they cannot do anything about it,” she told a television news channel.

Narrating the incident, she said: “The women pushed me to the ground, took off my sari and started beating me up with chappals and a stick. They pulled my hair. This continued for almost two hours.” With the help of Dalit activists, she was admitted to a hospital at Karad on Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday, five persons of the family which assaulted the Dalit woman, including the girl’s parents, were arrested. Patan Deputy Superintendent of Police F.M. Naikwadi told The Hindu that the accused were booked under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Speaking to reporters at Chandrapur, Home Minister R.R. Patil called for a strict investigation. “All the offenders will be brought to book.”

http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/other-states/article2793323.ece

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Opinions and Editorials

‘Why Is Narendra Modi Afraid Of Sanjiv Bhatt?’ – By Priyanka Borpujari (Jan 6, 2012, Countercurrents)

[Sanjiv and Shweta Bhatt are caring hosts to their guests. … Shweta Bhatt narrates to me her feelings and thoughts about the Gujarat that was once safe, her brave husband, and the sea of humanity that keeps her family afloat in these rough times. On the other hand, the suspended IPS officer who is in no hurry to get back to his office, always has a fixed answer with a smile: “Life is good.” The answer and the smile: neither of them are false. Here are Shweta’s words, as she urges me to “tell the world the truth about Narendra Modi…”] … There is something special about the police uniform, or any other uniform for that manner. A man who wears even the driver’s uniform transforms his behaviour. The uniform commands some respect. Similarly, any police officer would stand up to greet the lady-wife, even if she is the wife of one’s junior officer. But none of that respect for the uniform or the senior officer or for the lady-wife was to be seen, when 35 policemen barged into our house, without any prior intimation or without any search warrant. We realised that this was dictated and threatened to them, on the lines of “Go and abuse your senior officer.”

Sanjiv would discuss everything with me, so I knew what needed to be spoken or asked at the right time. When he decided to speak aloud, we knew that there would be repercussions. But we never dreamt that the police force could stoop to such low levels. When they came to my house, they began to dig through every item. Few of them would apologise for what they were doing, stating that they were under compulsion to conduct such a behaviour. I said nothing to them, because I knew that this was Modi’s ways of harassing us, to break our morale. I never resisted what they were doing either. I told filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, “I thought it was only in Hindi films that cops barge into people’s homes and throw up clothes and everything around in their search operations. But we saw this happening with our own eyes, in our own home, by the same police force that Sanjiv loves.” I look down at the Force with disdain now. The IPS Officers’ Association was lying defunct for several years, but then I heard that they had a meeting after many years, when Sanjiv was arrested. Some of Sanjiv’s peers would call me up on my landline phone and ask me in whispers, “Can we do anything for you Shweta?” I would reply to them, “At least begin to talk a bit louder so that I can hear you clearly!” This is the level of fear among the officers. Only one who lives in Gujarat can correctly define the word ‘subversion’. Men from the IB (Intelligence Bureau) had begun to jot the phone numbers and car numbers of every visitor discreetly. I finally asked one of those constables to stop behaving like a thief in copying the car number plate. Now, they just thoroughly question the visitor.

We learnt that Special Public Prosecutor SV Raju was being paid Rs 1.5 crore to ‘manage’ the court proceedings, and on Fridays, he was being paid some more so that the remand would drag onto the next week. But it was heartening to see the media come to the courts daily, to watch the proceedings. When he was finally granted bail, everyone cheered aloud ‘Singham’! This sudden fame and hero worship has been overwhelming, yet assuring us about what Sanjiv had done. I am sure many more policemen would have much to talk about to, but not all have the courage to do so. They are bound by other restrictions. But then again, we have been fortunate to have found the support and strength from so many different directions. So far it has been believed that anyone who speaks against Modi is the enemy. But something changed this year. On Dusshera day, at several places across Gujarat, Modi was portrayed as the Raavan and Sanjiv was portrayed as Singham! The protection that the Home Ministry is offering us is so weak – just three men, and only one of them with a gun. We do fear for our lives. One of the constables comes with us wherever we go. But now Sanjiv has to travel to Jamnagar for his cases, or even Delhi. He is also being invited at various fora across the country, wanting him to speak to eager audiences. He cannot say refuse such invitations because now it is our time to stand with them. He is the hope for many people today. They stood by us in what was our dark hour when Sanjiv was arrested. But all this travel means he is being watched all the time. The phones are tapped; his official phone number has been cancelled. These are Modi’s ways of harassing anyone standing against him.

Sanjiv kept on insisting the SIT that he should be summoned to give his statements. But they ignored him because they knew that Modi’s secrets would be out. Why is Modi afraid of Sanjiv? Because Sanjiv has everything to say which Modi wants to hide. What Modi did in 2002 was nothing short of a systematic and well-funded killing of Gujarat, which was once a truly prosperous and harmonious state. We never had a communal flare-up before Modi reign. BJP has changed that picture of Gujarat. There are flyovers being made in Kanpur; there are flyovers being made in Allahabad; there are flyovers being made in Ahmedabad. So why are just flyovers being deemed as development? There is no development in Gujarat; on the contrary, we are moving backwards. Many have asked skeptically, why is Sanjiv speaking out now? Has he done it for Congress? My answer is this: there is something beyond politics, and that is one’s one soul and conscience. Sanjiv is doing what he is doing for himself, and in doing so, to prevent any such communal flare-up ever again. For all those 18 days when Sanjiv was in jail, my 75-year-old father, despite his ailing knees, would arrive here at 9 am each day, to be with me. People whom I had never known would just come home – they were people from different human rights groups, students from colleges, and others who had no group or organisation as their affiliation. I was buying up to 45 packets of milk everyday, for a constant supply of tea or nimboo paani to the visitors. That strength they offered was unbelievable. They knew that Sanjiv was doing the right thing. Many many many people stood with candles every evening when Sanjiv was in jail. They would come and say, “We are with you.” We were at the mall the other day, and at least 12 people walked to our table and said to Sanjiv, “You are a brave man. We are proud of what you have done. We are with you.” Saniv and I wonder what it is that they mean by “We are with you.” We wonder if the people uttering those words would also know what they mean by that sentence. But we are happy to hear those words and are assured to know that people can see between right and wrong.

http://www.countercurrents.org/borpujari060112.htm

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BJP: Hypocrisy on Political Chessboard – By Ram Puniyani (Jan 10, 2012, Northern Voices Online)

This year 2011 was very eventful as far as the political arena is concerned. This year also exposed the duel attitudes of BJP on most of the issues yet again. The various issues, Anna Hazare’s movement, Government trying to bring in FDI in retail, bill for rationalization of fuel price and the deletion of Ramanujam’s essay in the University text, showed its real colors. In many of the bills related to FDI etc., which were brought up for discussion in Parliament, BJP most of the times vehemently opposed what it had been so far championing. In case of Ramayana it did back up its associates, the progeny of RSS, to get this brilliant essay removed from the University text. The guiding compulsions in this case were not that the essay was not factual, but that many version of Ramayana as outlined in the essay go against BJP theory that Lord Ram was born precisely at the spot where Babri Masjid was located. With so many versions of Lord Ram story, how can one claim their own version is the correct one, and go on to demolish a masjid! How come a party which stood for the FDI when it was ruling as the head of NDA opposed it so blatantly now? Logically such policies should have gladdened the hearts of BJP as these are what it had been propounding when in power as head of NDA.

The shrewdest move on BJP’s part was to give the full hearted support to Anna Hazare movement on the streets but when in parliament it is took a cautious path. It is taking full advantage of Anna’s anti Congress stance while hiding its own corruption and underplaying its reservations to Anna’s bill. This hypocritical, forked tongue attitude of BJP is part of its character. As such BJP is supposed to work in the electoral arena on behalf of RSS. It has to come to power by all means, fair and foul, to pave the path for RSS agenda of Hindu nation. Its core agenda is totally opposed to the concept of Democratic norms prevalent in the country. Inherently BJP had been totally opposed to the state intervention in the economic matters, despite the fact that initially the public sector was the basic essentiality for India, as the private capital was not substantial in quantum at that time to lay the foundation of economic growth. BJP and its predecessor Bharatiya Jan Sangh had been sounding loud and clear, opposing states’ role in these matters most of the times. Now since UPA is also following many a policies which BJP wants to be implemented, the same BJP turns around and changes its stance. It does smack of a pure opportunism and it seems that what dictates its public stand most of the times are the electoral contingencies of the time.

If it supports Government on these issues it will sound to be toeing the government line and will lose the electoral advantage in the elections to come. Apart from the turnaround in the economic policies, its shrewd managers have taken a very ambivalent stand on Anna draft after a façade of totally upholding Anna movement, and his bill as the desirable one. As such BJP has a long tradition in these matters of opportunism. It exploded the bomb in 1998, and tilted the foreign policy grossly towards the US. But when in opposition it again turned around and took contrary positions. If we go back slightly we see the same ‘clever’ stance in the matters of Mandal commission implementation. It did not have the courage to speak against the Mandal commission, to which it was deeply opposed, as that would have alienated it from a large section of voters. So to skirt around the issue, it went in for Rath Yatra, bypassed the Mandal issue and tried to give confusing signals to the electorate. As a culmination of the Rath Yatra, Ramjanmbhoomi movement, it went on to undertake the criminal act of demolition of the Babri Masjid. It asserted that Babri Masjid is a blot on the Hindu India. Let’s note that while taking the oath of office it swears by Indian Constitution, secular India, while operating on political chess-board it keeps Hindu India as the reference point. This demolition brought it to the seat of power in the Centre. After grabbing the power, being in the government it did not build the temple for which it had demolished the masjid and had unleashed the violence.

For BJP coming to power is a mere path for giving more social, political cultural space to its associates, the children of RSS. The aim is to impose in Hindu nation, under the supervision of RSS. The dilemma of BJP is that it is a political party operating in the electoral arena, in the democratic space, but at the same time to work for abolition of democratic space when in power. So far, it could not come to power without the non-Hindutva allies, so it has used the opportunity of being in power to communalize the education and state apparatus, to give more opportunities for the RSS progeny (VHP, Bajrang Dal, ABVP, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram to infiltrate into state apparatus. The duplicity of BJP has a deeper agenda. It is not just a party of right wing. It is a party of ‘religious right wing’. The right wing parties aim at the status quo in the society. The religious right wing parties not only aim to maintain status quo but go further to reverse the process of social change which has taken place due to the liberal space. The right wing parties may be principled, however wrong those principles be, while the religious right wing groups are totally bereft of any qualms about principles as they are out to use the democratic space for the bringing in of the fundamentalist regime over a period of time.

The attitude of BJP towards Anna movement is very interesting. BJP knows that Anna movement is the way to polarize the society along the lines of hierarchy of various hues. A particular section of society is more for this type of movement. While those looking for deeper changes in society, are not the target support groups of BJP. So its affiliates plunge fully to provide the driving force for Anna movement. Anna movement also acts as a recruitment center for the religious right wing, so BJP overtly supports it through and through. In parliament it sees that Anna movement is out to undermine the powers of parliament, so the cautious and guarded responses in parliament. Double standards are strewn all through in the practice of BJP on the electoral arena. This was well summed up its own leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee, when he stated in Staten Island, US, that first he is the swayamsevak of RSS and than anything else. This is what explains BJPs duel attitude to the same issue at different times.

http://nvonews.com/2012/01/10/bjp-hypocrisy-on-political-chessboard/

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Farce of Lokpal – By A.G. Noorani (Jan 14, 2012, Frontline)

They use the snaffle and the bit all right / But where is the bloody horse? Where indeed is that bloody horse? As Roy Campbell rightly asked. The Indian political class and the bogus and rude elements who claim to represent India’s “civil society” have been debating for months the dimensions of the stable, the qualifications of the syces and regular supply of food, but they have not given the slightest of thought to the heart of the matter – the stable simply cannot hold any horse. For months on end we have heard arguments on the process for the appointment of the Lokpal, the ambit of its jurisdiction over public servants from the Prime Minister downwards, its control over the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and so on. But what exactly is its main function? That is set out in an obscure definition in clause 2 (e) of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, 2011, as passed by the Lok Sabha on December 27, 2011. There was no discord on this fateful provision. It reads thus: “Complain” means a compliant, made in such form as may be prescribed, alleging that a public servant has committed an offence punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.” But that Act itself prescribes a procedure for the investigation and punishment of offences under it. Where, then, is the need to set up a parallel machinery in respect of these very offences at enormous expense of public time and money, not to forget the bitter debate on this wasteful course when issues of great moment await debate and legislation. Chapter II of the Act of 1988 provides for the appointment of special judges to try the offences. The Bill of 2011 provides in Chapter IX for the establishment of special courts to hear cases under the Act of 1988 or the act to be passed.

The Lokpal will need the services of the police for investigating allegations. The Lokpal will have an inquiry wing (Chapter III) and a prosecution wing (Chapter IV). Remember that this pooh-bah of an institution will comprise a Chairman plus up to eight members. Clause 23 exposes the flaw: “23(1) No sanction or approval of any authority shall be required by the Lokpal for conducting a preliminary inquiry or an investigation on the direction of the Lokpal, under Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, or Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment [DSPE] Act, 1946, or Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, as the case may be, for the purpose of making preliminary inquiry by the inquiry wing or any agency (including the Delhi Special Police Establishment) or investigation by any agency (including the Delhi Special Police Establishment) into any complaint against any public servant or for filing of any charge sheet or closure report on completion of investigation in respect thereof before the Special Court under this Act. 2) A Special Court may, notwithstanding anything contained in Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, or Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, on filing of a charge sheet in accordance with the provision of sub-section (7) of Section 20, take cognisance of offence committed by any public servant.” If the sanction provision under Section 197 of the CrPC and Section 19 of the 1988 Act can be rendered irrelevant in this case, why not discard them completely. It is a fundamental principle of English criminal law that except in special cases, any person can set in motion the machinery of criminal law. A.P Herbert did it to enforce liquor laws on the premises of Parliament. … Surely, if the sole purpose of the institution of the Lokpal is to ensure the integrity of police investigation and prosecution – both free from executive influence – the sensible course is, first to repeal the sanction provision (Section 197 of CrPC and Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act) and to repeal also Section 6A of the DSPE Act. The office of a Director of Prosecutions protected from political and police influence must be set up and the police force given the protection of the law for which it has been pining all these years. This is done easily by implementing the recommendations of the National Police Commission. …

True, corruption in India has reached monumental proportions, and effective measures should be devised to eradicate the vice. It is, however, equally a folly of monumental proportions to imagine that the sole purpose of the Lokpal is to probe cases of corruption. That indeed is very much its duty. But there is much else besides which ombudsmen are supposed to check. It is maladministration which results in harassment and injustice even if there is no corruption. Give it a thought. What kind of person will collect the evidence and marshal the facts to move the Lokpal? Not the villager, or the hapless clerk or the small businessmen, or the widow who does not receive the pension in time. In a poor country like ours these functions are as important as probes into corruption. They are studiously omitted in the Bill. This Bill is a disgraceful perversion of the “Interim Report of the Administrative Reforms Commission on Problems of Redress of Citizens Grievances”. Submitted to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by its chairman Morarji Desai on October 20, 1966, nearly half a century ago, it was signed by Harish Chandra Mathur, H.V. Kamath, V. Shankar and V.V. Chari. The report recommended a constitutional status for the Lokpal (para 37). Appended to it was a draft Bill. Clause 7 of the Bill empowered the Lokpal to investigate complaints of two distinct kinds: “Injustice in consequence of maladministration and (2) favouritism or accrual of personal benefit or gain to the Minister or to the Secretary.” It was also empowered to act suo motu in both these cases. As pointed out earlier by this writer (“History of deception”, Frontline, May 20, 2011), this format was followed in all the Lokpal Bills from 1968 to 1985 when it was restricted to corruption. That restriction was blindly followed in all subsequent Bills of V.P Singh, H.D. Deve Gowda, Inder Kumar Gujral and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and now this Bill. One has only to mention the Law Minister who introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha on August 26, 1985, A.K. Sen, for people familiar with his record in public life to realise that he was up to no good. He was inherently incapable of anything but the cynical – whether on the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (TADA) Bill or the Muslim Women’s Bill, 1986. The Lokpal Bill was withdrawn on November 15, 1988; its vice proved contagious. Indira Gandhi’s Bills of 1968 and 1971 covered both “allegation” of corruption and “maladministration”, defined widely to include “action”, “procedure” or “practice” which is “unreasonable, unjust, offensive or improperly discriminatory”. These are the very kinds of behaviour that affect the poor hapless citizen. Bills from 1985 to 2011 omit them.

The BJP regime headed by Vajpayee moved two Lokpal Bills, 90 of 1998 and 73 of 2003. Arun Jaitley waxes eloquent in denunciation of the procedure for the appointment of the Lokpal in the Bill of 2011 (Clause 4). Its selection committee consists of the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India and “one eminent jurist nominated by the President”. This, to his mind, stacks the cards in favour of the government (three-two); given the practices of the BJP in power, the jurist must necessarily be a stooge of the regime. Now consult the two BJP Bills on this point. The selection committee would consist of the Vice-President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker, the Home Minister, the leader of the House other than the one in which the Prime Minister is a member and the Leaders of the Opposition in both Houses of Parliament – a solid phalanx of five to two. Clause 4 of the 1998 Bill set up such a body; Clause 4 of the 2001 Bill replicated it. Meanwhile, the States have forged ahead. In 1962, the Government of Rajasthan took the lead and set up a committee under the chairmanship of H.C Mathur to suggest administrative reforms. Its report, presented in September 1963, recommended the establishment of the ombudsman. Rajasthan amended its law to make it more liberal as Justice S.P. Kotwal noted in his first report as Maharashtra’s Lokayukta (1973). His second annual report (1974) contains the poignant remark: “Our experience of the past two years has brought to light a large number of cases where extraordinary delays have taken place in the payment of pensions and retirement benefits and sometimes even arrears of pay in case of several government servants. The position is not improved when we notice that these delays invariably take place in the case of the very poorest class of employees in government service such as the peons and other Fourth class servants, and the schoolteacher in the mofussil, whose pay is notoriously low and whose economic condition borders upon starvation.”

Of what use to such people are the Bills of 2011, whether by the government or by the so-called Team Anna? One of its members is Santosh Hegde, who was Advocate-General of Karnataka when the Ramakrishna Hegde government got enacted the Karnataka Lokayukta Act 4 of 1985. Its definition clauses 2(2) and 2(10) are relevant. The Lokayukta was empowered to probe both cases (Section 7). … On retirement as judge of the Supreme Court, Santosh Hegde served as Lokayukta in Karnataka, one of the best ever, and later joined “Team Anna”. One must not ask whether he brought his State’s Act to its notice. Nor must one question the quality of the homework put in by that team or for that matter by Ministers of the government. Omission of maladministration is deliberate. Where was the much-vaunted, loudly professed concern for the poor? By the bogus team or by the Ministers? Is such a restrictive law to be recommended to the States? Folly has its own momentum. Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev, film actors, sundry others rushed into the fray. Panicked, so did the Ministers. In this mad scramble to take the bull by the horns all that both sides accomplished was to grab the cow by its udder end.

http://www.flonnet.com/fl2901/stories/20120127290101700.htm

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Inaction as policy – By Bhaskar Ghose (Jan 14, 2012, Frontline)

One had pleaded in an earlier article for the awareness, in the year to unfold, of the events of the last year so that we could steer clear of the perils in which we found ourselves in that span of sad time. Perhaps, it is fitting that we try to look ahead, now; not knowing the future, one can only peer at signs and discernible actions and words, and also look over our shoulders at what happened before. Right now we are a country that is clearly slowing down. According to recent reports, industrial growth is almost non-existent; it can be said to be an engine that is just about ticking over. There is little to be excited about as far as infrastructure growth is concerned; nuclear power stations are still entangled in protests, which seem suspiciously rehearsed, with village women speaking in angry terms of “Fukushima” and “fissile material”. Roads show no dramatic growth in terms of mileage, and their quality is reverting, inevitably, to the levels we are so used to – pot-holes appearing after a small shower, crazy, erratic levelling, which makes vehicles bounce and careen over seemingly even stretches, and lanes becoming narrower and narrower. There has been little additional capacity to our shipyards; officials will point enthusiastically to one completed berth in one port, which is nice, except that we need about a hundred more. Schools in villages do not, as they have not had for decades, teachers, and if they do, many of the teachers are barely literate and intelligent. All this is not because the government does not want to improve the infrastructure. It says it wants to and there is not any good reason for it not to be telling the truth. But the plain truth is that it is not happening. Young men and women are not getting enough employment and the heady years of burgeoning call centres seem to have faded away; in the realm of small individual enterprises, there is nothing that provides any secure employment, or returns to the entrepreneurs.

To make more money, many small entrepreneurs find it easy enough to turn out shoddy products, be they electric plugs, screwdrivers and other tools, joints and cables. The services they provide are equally shoddy; repair jobs are never durable and cannot be depended on. There is no pride in workmanship, in what is made or in the service given. This, on a macro level, pulls down the development possible in this area, adding to the slowing down of overall development. It is not as if the state is not aware of all this. It certainly is, having scores of committees of experts in the Planning Commission and in other bodies who have studied these trends and reported on them. But nothing seems to happen. Nothing happens because the prime mover, that is, the policymaking structure right at the top, is unable to function as it is caught up in the coils of coalition politics. Dishonesty and thievery at high levels in some coalition members, and irrational, mindless stubbornness on the other and the dishonesty of some prominent members of the main coalition partner have made it virtually impossible for the ruling UPA-II (United Progressive Alliance) to develop and execute a clear-cut policy with any degree of determination.

Surely, it is time for the political executive to take stock of where they are: what they have been able to achieve in the years they have been in office. Surely they, of all people, are not deceived by the glossy brochures they pay huge amounts to advertising agencies to bring out extolling the virtues that they claim to possess and all the goodies they claim to have given to the smiling farmer and shyly smiling women in the touched-up photographs. It is time to take stock; if social activist Anna Hazare did nothing else, he served as a catalyst for the widespread middle-class anger against the corruption every person has to contend with almost every day, and the arrival of overloaded trains from the rural hinterlands to the already overcrowded metropolitan cities speaks eloquently of the state of affairs in rural India. Has the state done anything really major to alter this, except for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme? One, just one, scheme in all these years? Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and even Congress president Sonia Gandhi have spoken of the “compulsions” they face in running a coalition government. In place of “compulsions” read “compromise”. And then let them ask themselves just how long they intend to continue to compromise just to stay in power, when the initial, promising growth of the country has now faltered and has virtually failed. Hard facts need to be faced in these first few weeks of the new year; not just what has not been achieved but what will never be achieved given the composition of UPA-II.

Look at the situation that prevails in the country today, at the fact that food prices have fallen drastically, raising the hope that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will loosen, to some extent, its grip on money supply and reduce interest rates, which may, just may, trigger a renewal of industrial activity and that of the service sectors. Look at the relative incapacity of the government to be able to take any major decision with parties such as the Trinamool Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam for company. Take a look at the strident, near hysterical opposition, chiefly the Bharatiya Janata Party, baying for the blood of the present government, slavering over the thought that it will form the next government. Take a good look, and then take a hard, dramatic decision that will be more than a wild gamble. Ask for mid-term elections. Perhaps the UPA will come back to power. Perhaps the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) may. One way or the other, the people of India will benefit and get a chance to install a government that may take them forward with a little more resolution and a clearer direction. In their interest, if for nothing else, such a decision needs to be considered. It may not be the best decision, but it may prove to be the most practical. Democracy is, as has been famously said, the worst form of government there is, but it is all we have in our endeavour to live as free men, with dignity, and try to ensure that our fellow men do the same.

http://www.flonnet.com/fl2901/stories/20120127290108000.htm

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With Wing Clipped – By Smruti Koppikar (Jan 23, 2012, Outlook)

Arun Ferreira smiles easily. The four years and eight months of incarceration, as an alleged Naxalite/Maoist, sit lightly on the 40-year-old quintessential Bandra boy. Released on January 5 from Nagpur Central Jail – acquitted in 10 of the 11 cases and bailed in one – Ferreira is taking his time to readjust to his life with family and friends in Mumbai. He must build anew the relationship with his son, who was barely two-and-a-half years old when he was arrested on May 8, 2007. And everyday technology, like mobile phones, is no longer what he remembers it to be. “I tried texting and I was all thumbs,” he says. “There’s some adjustment to do there.” Ferreira’s wife Jennifer, a sociology lecturer, didn’t visit him in jail for months for fear of being arrested as a Maoist sympathiser too. Ferreira’s easy manner and smile belie his personal pain, and the weighty larger issue of political prisoners, individuals arrested and tortured for holding and propagating ideologies. Ferreira is a statistic in the long list of those taken into custody since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh termed Naxalism and Maoism the “gravest threat” to the country. But Ferreira’s is also the story of how law enforcement authorities make a mess of addressing the “threat”, if indeed it is one.

Ferreira was arrested in Nagpur in 2007 while he was on “social work”, along with alleged Naxal leader Arun Satya Reddy alias Murali, local leaders Dhanendra Bhurule and Naresh Bansod. Eight cases under Sections 10, 13, 18, 20 of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and one under the Arms Act were lodged against him. The Maharashtra police, at that time, stated that Ferreira was the Maharashtra chief of communication and propaganda wing of the CPI (Maoist) and was in Nagpur to carry out a conspiracy along with his comrades. Ferreira, according to the police, operated under several aliases – Sanjay Chaudhary, Shukla among them. In December 2009, Ferreira was “re-arrested” on a fresh set of charges. By September 23, 2011, Ferreira was acquitted in these cases by a court in Chandrapur. He was, legally speaking, no longer an alleged or suspected Maoist. Four days later, his aged parents waited at the Nagpur Central Jail to welcome him as a free man, but Ferreira did not walk out. Inside the jail gate, he was accosted by burly men in plain clothes, a towel thrown over his face and he was whisked away in a van ostensibly by the Gadchiroli police. He was produced the next day in court with two new charges pressed against him, cases that he had not been made aware of all the four years he spent in prison. It was plain and simple abduction, says his lawyer Surendra Gadling even if the authorities called it a “re-arrest”.

That episode galvanised Ferreira’s friends into action; online and offline petitions garnered some 6,000-plus signatures, the condemnations came fast and furious from the prestigious St Xavier’s College, from where Ferreira had graduated in mathematics in 1990; the Bombay Catholic Sabha, the Catholic Secular Forum and so on. Congress MP Priya Dutt wrote to Maharashtra chief minister Prithiviraj Chavan. The three others, arrested along with Ferreira, had all been acquitted. “This is the modus operandi,” says Ferreira. “It begins with false cases and chargesheets, opposing bail without grounds, then abducting or re-arresting those who have been acquitted or given bail by the courts. The idea seems to be: you are a so-and-so and I will keep you behind bars somehow or the other.”

Citing his case, the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) filed a writ petition before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court for infringement of fundamental rights of liberty and freedom of movement, demanded a judicial inquiry into his abduction, a compensation of ’25 lakh and apology for harassing him by implicating him in false cases. “There has been a spate of such cases in Maharashtra in the last couple of years. It’s a larger issue of political prisoners,” says Justice (retd) Hosbet Suresh. “If I work for downtrodden children or hold a particular opinion, I can be arrested. This cannot go on. In a sense, we have many Binayak Sens.” In fact, rights activists have prepared a list of nearly 30 such abduction-rearrests by Gadchiroli police between July and December 2011. Maharashtra home minister R.R. Patil declined to comment, but analysts have their knives out already. “If, as the state police said, he was ‘a prize catch’, how come he was acquitted? It means the police were not able to prove anything at all,” says a rights campaigner. Ferreira’s case shows, among other things, the high-handedness, followed by embarrassment, of the law enforcement agencies – initially desperate to show the arrests of those with uncomfortable or extreme ideologies but unable to make those charges stick.

http://outlookindia.com/article.aspx?279553

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Tracker controversy – By T.K. Rajalakshmi (Jan 14, 2012, Frontline)

One of the least discussed issues in the context of the data thrown up by Census 2011 is the worrisome decline in the child sex ratio (CSR) and the not-too-perfect implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, or PCPNDT Act. There is reason to believe that the implementation of the Act – a good piece of legislation – has not been up to the mark and that the efforts to prevent sex determination tests have not been effective. The interest of the Union Ministry concerned is perceived at best as pedantic. There is also the concern that some people involved in the implementation of the Act continue to carry the baggage of ideas that run contrary to the spirit of the Act. The resistance from vested interests and from well-meaning sections to certain measures introduced by the government has rendered the basic provisions of the Act ineffective and deflected attention from the problem at hand. Consider this. On December 2, in response to a question in the Lok Sabha on the implementation of the Act, the replies of the Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare were at best evasive. To a question on the number of meetings held by advisory committees set up in the States, the reply was that such meetings were continuous processes and that information was not maintained centrally. The last annual report prepared on the implementation of the Act was in 2006. Since then, barring the occasional question on the subject in Parliament, there is little happening in terms of seriously taking stock of the situation. New technological interventions introduced by governments, both at the Centre and in the States, have not inspired confidence among those concerned about the sharp decline in the CSR.

The number of convictions under the almost 16-year-old law has been negligible. Sting operations, too, have had negligible impact, says Varsha Deshpande, a lawyer in Maharashtra. She cited the example of Kolhapur, a district with one of the lowest CSRs in the State, and said the sex of the foetus was communicated in various novel ways, including cryptic phrases and the widely accepted greeting “Jai Mata Di”. For this reason, there is enough scepticism over the tracker, the latest technological fix being promoted by the Ministry, which has been introduced in some States. The tracker, or silent observer (SIOB), is a device attached to ultrasound machines through cables in order to capture video images of each sonography and store them in its hard disk. The idea behind the tracker, which is a product of a company that claims to be one of the leaders in mobile and e-governance, is that the images stored in a centralised server can be reviewed to track instances of foeticide. While sections within the government are convinced about the efficacy of the tracker, Dr Sabu George, who has been pushing relentlessly for the effective implementation of the Act, and Varsha Deshpande are sceptical of such efforts. “There are limitations to using technology to fight technology,” argues Sabu George, who fought hard to insert amendments to the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act to include pre-conception tests too. He says what is required is more reporting of Form F, the mandatory requirement under the PCPNDT Act. (It is a form for the maintenance of records in respect of pregnant women by genetic clinic/ultrasound clinic/imaging centres.) “It is not a crime to show the image but to communicate it is and that is still rampant. Trackers do not prevent the ultrasonologist or doctor from communicating the sex of the foetus,” said Sabu George.

In the 36 sting operations conducted in Maharashtra, he said, one revealing fact was that Form F had not been filled out by any of the institutions. Varsha Deshpande said doctors were happy with the trackers as no inspections were being conducted. She said there were more than 260 cases pending in courts and only four convictions so far. Of the 270 centres in Kohlapur, 230 had installed the device, she said. Twenty centres had refused to install it, but no action was taken against them, she added. “The image tracked is not enough evidence to tell the court that sex determination has been done. The law is wider and comprehensive; it should be implemented. For non-maintenance of records, the courts are known to impose only minor fines,” said Varsha Deshpande. The Kolhapur district administration made it mandatory for all pathologists using ultrasound machines to install the SIOB. The Maharashtra chapter of the Indian Radiological and Imaging Association (IRIA) went to court against this and argued that the device was useless and that it violated the privacy of the individual as third parties could view the images. The government argued that ever since the installation of the device was made mandatory the filling up of Form F had gone up. Two separate judgments, on the use of mobile ultrasound clinics and on the installation of the SIOB, have gone in favour of the government’s position. The IRIA’s petition in the Bombay High Court challenged a July 28, 2011, decision of the Medical Health Officer (the designated Appropriate Authority) restraining a genetic clinic from using a portable sonography machine. A Division Bench of Justices P.B. Majmudar and Mridula Bhatkar upheld on November 17 the decision of the Appropriate Authority.

It ruled: “In our view the direction issued by the Authority is in consonance with the provisions of the Act and only with a view to prevent possible misuse of such machine. It cannot be disputed that such a machine can be utilised for prenatal diagnosis even at the place where the machine is taken outside the clinic. It is required to be noted that ultrasonography is one of the prenatal diagnosis techniques as prescribed under the Act. As pointed out earlier, unfortunately there are cases where such techniques are being misused to detect sex of the foetus and termination of pregnancy of unwanted female child. In our view, even if there is only one case out of millions this court may not interfere with such a policy decision which in our view is the most scientific and in the interest of society. Considering the said aspect, it cannot be said that any fundamental right either under Article 14 or 19 is violated as the Petitioner-Association can carry out its activity within the Institute itself and at the recognised place. The restriction imposed by the concerned officer is the most reasonable and in public interest and does not violate the fundamental right of the petitioner in any manner. Ultimately the public interest at large is required to be taken into account and the decision taken by the concerned officer is in consonance with the provisions of the Act.” The order also referred to the Division Bench’s judgment on August 28, 2011, on a petition filed by the State chapter of the IRIA ( State chapter, Jalna vs Union of India and Ors) challenging a circular issued by the Collector and District Magistrate of Kolhapur on March 3, 2010, asking all radiologists and sonologists to install the SIOB in their ultrasound sonography machines. The Division Bench had upheld the circular and dismissed the petition. In the latest order, too, the court observed that the notice under challenge was consistent with the provisions and object of the Act and that the direction given by the officer concerned was in consonance with the provisions of the Act.

But radiologists believe that the measures are defective and do not address the problem in any seriousness. Tejinder Pal Singh, a consultant radiologist and ultrasonologist in Yamunanagar district of Haryana, believes that the tracker is effective mainly in telemedicine. “Junior medical professionals capture the images and send them to seniors for expert opinion and further guidance. Other uses include surveillance and supervision of the work of juniors so as to identify faults and rectify them,” he said. “The images can be misused to harass doctors and they also violate a patient’s privacy,” he added. Tejinder Pal Singh does not think the tracker is a solution for the skewed CSR. “A doctor will never use a machine with a tracker to do sex determination tests. It is like committing suicide,” he said. People like Sabu George and Varsha Deshpande believe that the tracking technology might not help the cause of the girl child in the long run. There was no evidence to show that the collection and interpretation of ultrasound images by the Appropriate Authorities had led to greater rates of conviction in foeticide cases. These are not the only issues. There is also a growing but worrisome belief that the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MPT) Act is liberal and that the proliferation of across-the-counter abortion methods, including the availability of small and portable ultrasound machines, have put the girl child at risk. … Bijayalaxmi Nanda, Professor of Political Science in the University of Delhi and a member of the State Supervisory Board, feels that a lot of systemic correction was needed, including better monitoring, regular meetings, an efficient tracking of portable ultrasound machines, less emphasis on technological “fixes” and quicker disposal of cases by courts. …

http://www.flonnet.com/fl2901/stories/20120127290109400.htm

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – January 9th, 2012

by newsdigest on January 9, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

Carrom strikes communal amity in Shahpur pockets (Jan 8, 2012, Times of India)

When the streetlights illuminated eight-odd carrom boards in Shahpur along with halogen lights, the people in the crowd who were cheering up their favourite players were not Hindus or Muslims, but lovers of the game. They were witnessing a unique event where prominent players from both the communities got together to mark a new age of friendship in communally-sensitive areas. It was a unique initiative by city police officials to bring together youngsters from both the communities. The city police organized a carrom tournament on Friday and blood donation camp on Saturday in association with local community leaders.

Talking about the initiative, Ajay Tomar, joint commissioner of police, Sector I, told TOI that carrom is an extremely popular night-time game for the residents of Shahpur and thus police decided to use the game as an instrument in the peace process. “Many youths and carrom players entered the local tournaments and we got 16 top-notch players from both the communities who clashed in a high-voltage meet on Friday night. Large crowds have gathered on Friday but this time, police were not monitoring them, but were enjoying the game mingling with them,” said Tomar.

He added that the tournament brought together people from both the communities. “We found quality of the game to be very high. They have potential to go to state and national level tournaments. We have assured them of all help if they make a mark in such events or want to participate and doesn’t have resources,” said Tomar.

The next day saw a blood donation camp being organized at various places notorious for bloodshed. “Why shed blood when you can donate it? – was the motto of the camp organized by city police officials where along with local residents, police personnel also donated their blood. More than 150 persons attended the event. Local leaders were very supportive and asked for more such activities in the future that can bring together the communities which, otherwise are at loggerheads,” said a Shahpur police official.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/11408176.cms

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Ensure ‘noticeably fair’ probe into Zakia’s complaint: Bhatt to Raghavan (Jan 7, 2012, Indian Express)

Suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt has written another letter to R K Raghavan, who heads the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team for the 2002 riots, requesting him to carry out a “noticeably fair and impartial” probe against Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 62 others. This comes a day after former Chief Minister Suresh Mehta wrote to Raghavan to similar effect.

In the letter, Bhatt says, “It seems that the SIT, for some inexplicable reason, is continuing to intentionally disregard very important aspects of the investigation into the complaint of Zakia Nasim Ahesan Jafri, dated June 8, 2006. Nothing illustrates this better than the deliberate reluctance of the SIT to examine witnesses who would be able to provide very vital information about the meeting held at the residence of the Chief Minister Mr Narendra Modi on the late night of February 27, 2002.”

Referring to the evidence which the SIT should probe into in connection with Jafri’s complaint, he writes, “…you are requested to effectively shield your officers from all possible allurements or pressures being mounted by the high and mighty criminals who are firmly ensconced in the Government of Gujarat, and ensure that the SIT carries out a noticeably fair and impartial probe into the complaint…”

“This, to my mind, is the barest minimum that you should be doing even at this stage, by way of an honest and sincere attempt to redeem and justify the tremendous faith reposed in you by the Honourable Supreme Court of India,” Bhatt adds.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/896901/

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‘Modi govt orchestrated Akshardham attack, riots’ (Jan 5, 2012, Indian Express)

Congress stalwart Shankersinh Vaghela today accused the Narendra Modi government of orchestrating the terrorist attack on Akshardham Temple in Gandhinagar and communal events in the recent history of Gujarat, including the Godhara train carnage.

“Hamna na communal ghatno ni pachal koi nahi pan haal na saatdhisho no haath che. Aa ghatnao jem ke Godhra ane Akhardham tenma emnu je karelo che mato ni rajneeti mate (Communal events of recent past have been orchestrated by those in power at present. Events like Godhara carnage and Akshardham attack (in 2002) were orchestrated by them for vote-bank politics,” Vaghela said at the start of the party’s Sardar Sandesh Yatra at Veraval in Junagadh district.

Many other senior Congress leaders, including Leader of Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil, state party unit president Arjun Modhwadia and Narhari Amin, also took a dig at the BJP and Modi for allegedly playing politics in the name of religion.

“Somnath temple, which was destroyed by invader Ghazni, was restored by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, a Congress man. Now Modi and former CM Keshubhai Patel have come on board to play politics. It is difficult to understand how come they call themselves Chote Sardar,” said Gohil, who empahsised, “Sardar Patel, who had nothing to do with politics of vote, cannot be in any manner linked to the BJP.”

He also accused the government of befooling locals like fishermen. “Projects and compensations of several crores have been announced by the government for this community. But they are waiting for compensation till date,” said Gohil.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/896022/

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CBI questions Amit Shah in Tulsiram Prajapati case (Jan 3, 2012, Times of India)

Gujarat’s former junior home minister Amit Shah has been questioned by CBI in the Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter case. Shah was earlier arrested by the probe agency on charges of masterminding the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter. The questioning was carried out under a veil of secrecy at Delhi last week. After being arrested in the Sohrabuddin case, Shah has been directed by the Supreme Court not to enter Gujarat. CBI officials met him in Delhi.

Shah, said CBI sources, was questioned on his numerous telephonic conversations with two IPS officers linked to the Tulsiram shooting in December 2006. Shah’s mobile phone records show that he was in constant touch with deputy inspector general (DIG) of police, D G Vanzara and superintendent of police, Rajkumar Pandian. Both have already been arrested in Sohrabuddin case. Shah has denied all the charges and has told the CBI that he had spoken to the two IPS officers in connection with absconding robber Kirit Dhoom. Pandian, who was back then posted in the ATS, was supervising interception of Kirit’s calls. Shah denied that he had any knowledge about the Tulsiram encounter prior to the incident.

CBI also questioned Shah why he had transferred Vanzara just 13 days before the Tulsiram encounter. Vanzara was then transferred from ATS to the post of DIG (border range) in Kutch. Tulsiram was gunned in the fake encounter in Banaskantha which falls under the Border Range DIG’s jurisdiction. Shah has claimed that the transfer was an administrative move and was in no way connected to the Tulsiram encounter. The CBI team probing this case will reach Gandhingar on Tuesday. “Some more people will be summoned after this for questioning. Some other cops, who are already behind bars, will be questioned in jail,” said CBI sources.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/11345223.cms

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SIT nails Gujarat government’s lie on Ishrat ‘encounter’ (Jan 4, 2012, India Today)

Contradicting every claim made in the Ahmedabad crime branch’s first FIR, which was filed immediately after the Ishrat Jahan encounter in 2004, a 22-page report by the special investigation team (SIT) revealed that Ishrat and her three companions were not only gunned down in a fake encounter, but the killing was a “wellplanned, brutally executed murder”. On December 1, 2011, the Gujarat High Court declared that the SIT had discovered that the murder of the Mumbai teenager and her companions – Javed Shaikh, Zeeshan Johan and Amjad Ali – was executed in a “not genuine” encounter by the notorious Ahmedabad crime branch, with the defamed D. G. Vanzara at the helm of affairs.

The division bench, comprising justices Abhilasha Kumari, also declared that the fake encounter would be probed by the CBI. The SIT was assigned to hand over the probe within two weeks to the central probe agency. Additional DGP and SIT chairman R. R. Verma on December 15 handed over the 22- page FIR to the CBI, following which the agency filed a fresh FIR in Mumbai against 20 Gujarat Police officers. The SIT report clearly revealed how the crime branch officers killed Ishrat and her friends and then carried out a coverup operation through a concocted story.

The state police had noted that Ishrat, Javed, Amjad and Zeeshan had arrived in Ahmedabad early on June 15, 2004, to assassinate chief minister Narendra police claimed they had been killed in “retaliatory fire”. But the SIT concluded that police inspector N. K. Amin ordered the firing without provocation. The blue Indica carrying Ishrat and her friends could have been stopped merely by blocking the road, it added.

According to the crime branch FIR, Amin followed the car for almost 21 km before ordering a constable to open fire. When the car’s occupants started indiscriminate firing, retaliatory fire by the crime branch officers killed all the four passengers. But the SIT found many loopholes in this version – from the constable succeeding in hitting the target the first time to the bullet holes on the car being inconsistent with the crime branch story. The police had claimed to have acted upon intelligence inputs that some LeT operatives were planning Modi’s assassination but the SIT’s investigations found no substance in these claims.

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/ishrat-jahan-fake-encounter-sit-report-gujarat-government/1/167164.html

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Malegaon blast: NIA opposes Sadhvi Pragya’s bail (Jan 7, 2012, IBN)

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has opposed the bail plea of Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, saying she has a direct role in the 2008 Malegaon Blasts.

Her motorcycle was allegedly used to plant the bomb. The agency also says there is strong incriminating evidence against her. The case will now be heard on January 21.

Sadhvi Pragya is the main accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast that killed 6 people and injured 100 others. In October 2011, the Supreme Court had rejected her bail application.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/malegaon-blast-nia-opposes-sadhvi-pragyas-bail/218733-3.html

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Khaki terror compensation: Saga of mistakes ends on error (Jan 6, 2012, Twocircles.net)

The Andhra Pradesh government’s program to provide compensation to the Muslim youths ended in a photo-op session. Despite protests from several acquitted youths whose names were not in the government list, the state government went ahead and concluded the program in such a hurry, that looks like that compensation issue must have been a huge liability on them. In response to the huge cry from many Muslim organizations to review the list and include some more names, district collector of Hyderabad Mr. Natrajan Gulzar released a new review list but in this list no additional name was included, rather one more Muslim youth was excluded from the list. Mohd Rayeesuddin’s name was there in the earlier list, but now it was excluded and the reason given is he has a case pending against him. TCN spoke to Rayeesuddin about it. He said, “Govt has played a dirty joke against me and my family, first my name was included, now it is being excluded in the new list made by the collector. The reason given is my name is there in the charge sheet of the case of DGP office encounter, in which N.K. Ameen, a Gujarat police officer gunned down a Hyderabadi youth in front of the DGP office. My name is also included in the charge sheet under sec 307, and Narender Ameen is booked under sec 302, but Ameen is in Gujarat prison for the Shorabuddin fake encounter case, so until he is not prosecuted my case won’t start, so till the case won’t end I am not eligible for compensation”.

But amidst all these controversies, the government went ahead with the programme at 4 p.m today. The program was convened by Mohd Ilyas Razvi, managing director of APMFC, and it was presided by Mohd Ali Rafat, head of minority welfare department while minister for minority affairs Mohd Ahmedullah was the chief guest. But what is interesting is that the invitation which was given to the press included the names of 5 ministers from the state as the chief guests, but no minister except the minority affairs turned up for the program. However, many MLAs of MIM were also present on the occasion. The program started by the presidential address of Mohd Ali Rafat. He said today’s program is the acknowledgement of the mistakes done by the police. He said the amount provided by the government can’t compensate their grievances properly but still it will give them the lost status in the society. He further said the A.P police are not going to exactly providing the character certificate, but it will be a proof that the respectable youths were not involved in any criminal cases.

Then Akbaruddin Owaisi, Opposition Leader (of MIM) in Andhra Assembly spoke. He said that government have accepted their wrong, now the wrong doers must be punished. He welcomed chief minister’s initiative for providing compensation, but criticized the Govt for not providing compensation to all the acquitted youths. He demanded that case which is still open of acquitted youths should be closed down immediately. He said pending cases against some youths in different issues should not become a hindrance to provide compensation to the youths who have suffered a lot. To the acquitted youths, he said this compensation can’t undo the wrong done with you, but it is a proof that you were innocent. Lastly while ending his speech he gave all the credit of this initiative of the government to his party MIM. Mohd Ahmedullah, minister for minority affairs was the last speaker. He spoke for just few minutes because of his limited and broken Urdu (his mother tongue is Telugu). He said A.P congress government is the first government in the whole country to take such kind of noble initiative. He said blasts have happened in many places and innocent Muslims were arrested in different cases but no government till now has repent and acknowledged there mistakes like the A.P government has done.

Next the cheque giving ceremony started. Only fifteen youths were provided cheques by the hand of Akbaruddin Owaisi and Mohd Ahmedullah. The rest were to get their cheques separately by the minority ministry officials. When some of the youths while receiving compensation cheque tried to tell their grievances to the minister, that their charge sheets are still open and those guilty police officers are threatening them not to speak, they were silenced by the minister saying that they will discuss this later. The character certificate which was promised to be given at the program was not given. Rather it was announced that interested youths can collect it tomorrow from MWD office. Shoaib Jagirdar and Syed Imraan Khan are both uncle and nephew. While Shoaib belongs to Maharashtra and Imraan belongs to Hyderabad. They were the first to get detained by the government in this case, both have spent nearly two years in jail, both were acquitted by the court later. But their names were not in list of acquitted persons to get the compensation and character certificate. They both were present at the venue. They put their grievances before Akbaruddin Owaisi who in turn said, he can’t do anything till the cases are pending against them, and asked them to meet him after two days, so he can see what he can do.

TCN spoke to both of them. Imraan said before implicating him in Mecca Masjid bomb blast case police put one more false case on both of them of making a fake passport. He said that case is still pending so they can’t receive the compensation. Shoaib said in his whole life he has not applied for the passport, like the other cases put by the police this is also fake, but police have not even submitted its charge sheet in the court to make it more delay for us and we can’t get eligible for compensation and good character certificate. Program ended with chaos in the hall when the left out youths started telling their grievances to the government officials and the politicians, but no one paid heave to them as soon as the photo-op session was finished politicians and the Govt officials left the venue. One can judge the seriousness of this program by this fact that even the banner put by the government officials on the stage, carried wrong spelling of Mecca Masjid, a reminder that the saga of mistakes and errors ended on another mistake.

http://twocircles.net/2012jan06/khaki_terror_compensation_saga_mistakes_ends_error.html

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6 Sri Ram Sene members held for hoisting Pak flag (Jan 5, 2012, Rediff)

The Karnataka police have arrested six members of the youth wing of the Sri Ram Sene in connection with the hoisting of a Pakistani flag at the Sindgi town in Bijapur. It was alleged that some miscreants had hoisted a Pakistan flag over the Tahsildar’s office. As a result of this incident, there was violence in this area on January 1.

There was large scale damage as a result of the violence that erupted. A bandh call too was given by the Sri Ram Sene and also the Bajrang Dal. Superintendent of Police D C Rajappa has confirmed that all the arrested were the members of the student wing of Sri Ram Sene.

The accused have been identified as Rajesh Siddaramaiah Matha, Arun Vagmore, Parashu Rama Vagmore, Sunil Madivalappa Agasar, Eshwar Navi and Mallana Gowda Vijaya Kumar Patil. It is alleged that the incident was a conspiracy of Sri Ram Sene, which wanted to create communal tension in the town.

http://www.rediff.com/news/report/karnataka-6-sri-ram-sene-members-held-for-hoisting-pak-flag/20120105.htm

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‘MP cow slaughter law may be misused’ (Jan 5, 2012, Indian Express)

Madhya Pradesh’s amended legislation that allows raiding of any premises on the assumption that cow slaughter is likely to take place, or beef is likely to be stored or transported, could be misused, feel jurists, minorities and political parties. Besides increasing the maximum jail term for offences under the MP Govansh Vadh Pratishedh Vidhayak to seven years, the new law allows a head constable or senior police officials, or anyone authorised by a competent authority “to enter and inspect any premises within the local limits of his jurisdiction, where he has reasons to believe that an offence has been, is being or is likely to be committed and shall take necessary action (search and seizure).”

Former Supreme Court judge Justice Faizanuddin said, “Mere suspicion can’t be a basis for action, there has to be some material evidence.” He said the provision is not in contravention with the existing law, but there has to be checks and balances. “Minorities will be targeted just the way any anti-terror law is used to point fingers at Muslims,” he added. However, former SC judge Justice Ripusudan Dayal said that every law can be misused, but only the affected can challenge the provision. “You can’t strike down a law for merely having such a provision,” Dayal said.

Congress MLA Arif Aqueel, the dissenting voice when the law was being passed in the Assembly, said it would be used to target Muslims. “They should have brought a legislation to deal with proper disposal of skin and meat,” he said. Former Congress Home Minister Satyadev Katare said the power to inspect and act should not have been given to lower constabulary who are likely to misuse it at the ruling party’s instance. While spokesperson of MP Catholic Church Fr Anand Muttungal said the law would be misused just like the anti-conversion law, CPM state general secretary Badal Saroj termed it as fascist.

“The state does not have a laboratory that can tell the difference between cow meat and buffalo meat,” Saroj said, alleging that police officials and bureaucracy are already communal and the new legislation will give them unbridled powers to target the Muslims. Calling the BJP ‘hypocrites’, he said the party supported the 1992 presidential bid of G G Swell, former deputy speaker of the Lok Sabha and an MP from Shillong, who was vocal about his beef eating habits.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/895789/

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NRHM irregularities: CBI registers 5 new cases (Jan 4, 2012, The Hindu)

The Central Bureau of Investigation has registered five new cases, including one against the former Family Welfare Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Babu Singh Kushwaha, pertaining to alleged irregularities in the implementation of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) funds, leading to a loss of Rs.28 crore to the exchequer. The investigating agency seized valuables, cash and documents during the searches conducted at 60 places in Delhi, U.P, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh. Pursuant to the Allahabad High Court directions, the CBI, on November 19 last year, registered five preliminary enquiries in connection with alleged irregularities in utilising NRHM funds to the tune of Rs.10,000 crore allocated to the State government since 2005-06. Two of these enquiries have now culminated in registration of five cases.

Mr. Kushwaha, who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday, has been named an accused in the first case related to upgrade of 134 district hospitals for Rs.13.4 crore by the Construction & Design Services (C&DS), a unit of the U.P. Jal Nigam. Some papers that were part of the 1,500-page document submitted to the CBI on December 30 by BJP national secretary Kirit Somaiya have also been included in the case. According to the CBI, investigations so far revealed that the work was given to a company named Surgicoin on forged documents and the materials installed at the hospitals were found to be of an inferior quality. The former Director-General (Family Welfare), S.P. Ram, and C&DS general manager P.K. Jain have also been named in the case.

“Searches were conducted at the residential and official premises of the accused, including two places belonging to Mr. Kushwaha and one of his associates in Gwalior. Three kg of gold and Rs.1.1 crore in cash were found in the bank locker of P.K. Jain. A 300-member team conducted searches on the Ghaziabad premises of Surgicoin,” said a spokesperson. Four other cases were registered in connection with alleged irregularities in awarding contracts for procurement of medicine and medicinal equipment and expenses on publicity material by the former Director-General (Family Welfare). The procurements were done through State-owned public sector units at “exorbitant rates,” four to five times more than the prevailing market rates.

In one such case, the agency found that the contract for purchasing medical equipment worth Rs.4.42 crore was awarded to Guru Kripa (Moradabad) and Kapil Medical Agency (Moradabad) in a “pre-decided” manner. The CBI claimed that it led to a loss of Rs.1.5 crore to the exchequer. In another case, tenders for procurement of publicity material were awarded at “exorbitant prices” to Sidhi Traders (Moradabad) for Rs.13.7 crore, causing a loss of Rs.8 crore to the exchequer. In the fourth case, a contract for purchase of medical kits was awarded at exorbitant rates to Surgicoin (Ghaziabad) for Rs.31.59 crore. “It led to a loss of Rs.10 crore,” said a CBI official. In the fifth case pertaining to purchase of computers by the State Health Society through Shreeton India Limited, the PSU had allegedly paid advance money to one Radhey Shyam Enterprises and Axis Marketing even before tender was invited by them. It purportedly caused a loss of Rs.2.93 crore.

While the five cases were registered on January 2, the three other preliminary enquiries are still under way. The CBI has been directed to complete the enquiries in four months. The CBI had quizzed Mr. Kushwaha and the former Health Minister, Anant Kumar Mishra, in connection with the mysterious death of Deputy Chief Medical Officer Y.S. Sachan – an accused in the murder of CMO’s Vinod Arya in October 2010 and his successor B. P. Singh in April last year – inside a Lucknow jail, soon after he was arrested by the police in connection with the NRHM scam. According to the CBI, Dr. Sachan apparently committed suicide.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2773923.ece

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ED summons Ramdev aide Balkrishna for foriegn exchange violation (Jan 3, 2012, Indian Express)

Widening its probe into the finances of yoga guru Ramdev, the Enforcement Directorate has summoned his aide Balkrishna in connection with a foreign exchange violation case registered against their trusts. The agency, according to sources, has asked Balkrishna or an authorised representative on his behalf to be present before agency officials here on January 10. The representative also has been asked to bring along documents and letters related to the firms run by Ramdev’s trusts.

The Directorate had registered a case on the basis of a report from the RBI for “export outstanding” of a few crores by the trusts run by Ramdev and inputs by some banks which were instrumental in channelising transactions of these firms. Also under the scanner of the agency is the Little Cumbrae Island, off the fishing town of Largs in Scotland, which serves as Ramdev’s base overseas and also as a wellness centre.

The agency is ascertaining the status of transactions that were done by these trusts while exporting consignments of Ayurvedic medicines to foreign countries. According to sources, the ED is probing receipt of payments with regard to sale of these consignments and ascertaining if these were in consonance with forex rules laid down by RBI.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/895276/

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Opinions and Editorials

SIT – Fair or Unfair – By Sayema Sahar (Jan 7, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Any clean chit to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in 2002 riot cases would be a “big worry” for democracy and criminal justice system of the country, former CM Suresh Mehta said on Thursday, in a letter to R K Raghavan, Chairman of the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing some of the post-Godhra riot cases. He also said a clean chit to the BJP stalwart will also be a critical reflection on the agency. Further to Mehta’s letter, Gujarat IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, on 6th January 2012, has also written to the SIT chief alleging that the agency is not conducting a fair investigation.

Mr. Bhatt had earlier on Dec 9, 2011, written a letter to the SIT chief R K Raghavan urging him to record his testimony before a magistrate under Section 164 of the CrPC since he feared “distortion” of his earlier recorded statements on the riots. This request and as many as 5 other letters of Bhatt to SIT went unanswered. Not just this, officer Bhatt went ahead alleging certain SIT officials of twisting his statement and leaking it to the media. Is SIT really proceeding with fair investigation? The Honorable Supreme Court while appointing the SIT, had observed, “Communal harmony is the hallmark of democracy… If in the name of religion people are killed, that is a slur and blot on democracy.”

The very inception of SIT at the Supreme Court, therefore was to conduct an independent and fair investigation, for which it was assigned extraordinary powers. SIT was enabled to provide full protection to witnesses and to monitor the trials, ensuring that the conduct of the courts was judicious. SIT, however, has miserably failed to protect the witnesses of the carnage from threats and intimidation. The utterly brazen manner in which the SIT chief ignored the repeated request and plea of one of the key witnesses Sanjiv Bhatt to beef up his security, speaks volumes about the attitude of the agency. A major faction of aware society is of the opinion that SIT has entirely failed in its responsibility to the apex court. It has failed in its duty to oversee a professional and non-partisan investigation in Gujarat. Right from the start there was marked hostility towards those eyewitnesses and survivors whose petition in the apex court had led to the constitution of the SIT in the first place.

The approach of the investigating officers, deputed by SIT, was more like a defense counsel, towards the witnesses while recording their statements and least like an impartial investigating agency. Representatives from the civil society had urged the SIT chief, to record statements of key witnesses, before a judicial magistrate, to reduce the chances of a witness turning hostile. The SIT chief however saw no merit in the suggestion. Witnesses have also complained against the senior officers who are spearheading the entire investigation, that they were never available to hear their complaints. This is not all as far the credibility and fairness of SIT goes. SIT saw no merit in the affidavits of eyewitnesses and survivors, which was admitted in the apex court.

These affidavits and testimonies were completely ignored by the ‘impartial investigating agency’ obviously these affidavits could not find a mention in the charge sheet filed by SIT. Further ahead SIT’s deliberate reluctance to investigate the documentary evidence, including phone call records, mobile van records, control room registers and fire brigade registers only goes on to say that they are NOT BEING FAIR TO THE TRUST OF THE APEX COURT in the team. The Supreme Court of India had ordered the SIT “to take steps as required in Law”. The question whether the team is living up or would live up to the order of the Highest Court of the land, however remains unanswered. The victims of the ‘blood bath’ of 2002 however are losing their trust in this so called impartial investigating agency.

http://twocircles.net/2012jan07/sit_%E2%80%93_fair_or_unfair.html

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End Of The Marquee – By Anuradha Raman (Jan 16, 2012, Outlook)

Suddenly, there is a lot of New Year cheer in the air. The corporates don’t want to sound gloomy. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has urged Indians to eschew negativity. And with elections in the air, members of Parliament across the board are wary of striking the wrong note. Which is why they have moved on after putting off the agonising decision on the Lokpal bill for another day. In this climate, where do Anna Hazare and his band of generals stand? Will the movement survive the overwhelming mood of hope? The Delhi chill seemed to have found its way into the reception of Anna’s announcement of a three-day fast. Only a few thousands turned out in support at Mumbai’s MMRDA grounds on December 27, while the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi, thronged by lakhs just four months ago, wore an equally desolate look. Uneasiness with the Lokpal bill, evident both within the Congress and its allies, played itself out in a dramatic midnight twist in the Rajya Sabha. The Trinamool Congress had given a hint of its commitment to the bill when the standing committee deliberated the issue. “We have to see whether the provisions of the Lokpal bill are constitutionally feasible,” one of its MPs had said. There was an encore performance at the all-party meeting called by the prime minister on December 14, when almost all political parties advised caution. Of course, all of them, with the sole exception of the Shiv Sena, wanted a strong Lokpal bill.

As the MPs held forth, and as it became evident that a requiem for the Lokpal bill was imminent, the organisers of the movement against corruption called off Anna’s fast after a day. Anna’s health too became a matter of concern and his rallying cry of ‘jail bharo’ too fell silent. Public enthusiasm had ebbed and the bill had been successfully scuttled. Had Team Anna’s movement come undone? The core committee will be meeting in the next few days both to introspect on what went wrong and on the course ahead. “Several factors were responsible for the thin attendance,” says Arvind Kejriwal. The choice of venue, the role of the state government in scuttling the movement are being touted as some of the reasons. Prashant Bhushan is more candid when he says, “Perhaps our preoccupation with the political parties to discuss the legal consequences of the bill led to the neglect of our volunteers. Unlike August, where we had spent considerable time mobilising people, organising referendums in key constituencies, this time around, we were not able to engage with them. We need to go back to ensure that the energy levels of our volunteers are utilised.” “We will be meeting soon,” says Kejriwal, “after Annaji recovers, and decide on our future course of action.”

Some of the proposals likely to come up at the core committee’s meeting are: Should the movement turn overtly political and ask Anna to campaign in the states that will be going to the polls? If so, should the discussion remain focussed on the Lokpal bill or include a basket of issues? There is some confusion here. Says Arvind Kejriwal: “Core committee members have expressed views ranging from staying away from the poll-bound states to keeping the issue of Jan Lokpal alive. We will take a call when Anna recovers.” Alternatively, should the team stay away from the poll-bound states? Should Anna, health permitting, address a rally in each of the poll-bound states? Or, should the task be left to Kejriwal and other members? Should a CD (showing how the UPA government betrayed the corruption cause) be circulated in the states where elections are going to be held? Also to be considered is the proposal of going to the Deoband seminary in an attempt to make the movement more inclusive and to counter the often-hurled charge of being pro-Hindutva. But in doing so, is there the risk of being alienated from the more moderate sections of society?

Each of these proposals comes with its attendant problems. As sources point out, if Team Anna goes to polls, whom will they rail against? “Each of the political parties has played its part in scuttling the bill,” says a team member. “To attack only the Congress would mean Team Anna doesn’t have issues with the BJP, SP, BSP and RJD, not to mention the TMC.” Besides, those spearheading the anti-corruption campaign are only too aware that campaigning against the Congress in states like Uttarakhand (the BJP government there has cleared a Jan Lokpal-like bill) and Punjab (where the government is supportive of it) may be pointless since the governments in power are battling anti-incumbency. Then again, in the keenly-watched Uttar Pradesh elections, campaigning against the Congress could be perilous since Team Anna will then be charged with siding with the BJP.

Says core committee member Prashant Bhushan, “We do not want to enter into a campaign, but we are being forced to do so in the light of what the Congress and the others did. Willy nilly, you have to hurt them electorally. We have to hurt them where it hurts the most, but is this (Lokpal) the only issue we should talk about? That needs to be debated by the core committee.” Anna’s absence is also telling on the committee, as it finds itself unable to move a step forward without his nod. So, is there reason for some cheer for those who spearheaded the campaign against corruption? The manner in which political parties came together to scuttle the bill in the Rajya Sabha was clearly a letdown. Even the position taken by some TV channels and newspapers is a matter of concern. Cynicism will stay and the actions of political parties and the government is likely to reinforce this in 2012.

http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?279450

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The corrupt rule the roost – By Arun Kumar (Jan 7, 2012, The Hindu)

The Lokpal Bill failed to become law in 2011. The Lok Sabha passed it after some acrimony, but the Rajya Sabha did not even vote on it. Three views emerged during the debate inside and outside Parliament. First, it is a weak Bill not worth passing in its present form. Secondly, it is better to have some sort of Lokpal even if it is not what it ought to be. Lastly, the Bill would create a monstrous institution that will undermine Indian democracy, especially as it would affect the functioning of legislators and the Prime Minister. Many parliamentarians (publicly and/or privately) understandably supported the third view, given that either they themselves or some of their party colleagues face charges of corruption. They argue that Indian democracy is one of the best in the world: so why disturb it by creating a new institution that would have powers over the people’s representatives. While this argument has some merit, perhaps their real worry relates to the possible truncation of their capacity to wheel and deal. Do they not see that the public is angry with the politicians because it believes they undermine democracy? A Chief Minister resigns over corruption charges, but installs his wife as Chief Minister. Many who are accused of corruption have become Chief Ministers or Ministers. Politicians often make public statements, only to deny them later, showing utter disregard for public opinion. The public has reacted by increasingly becoming contemptuous of them.

The middle position prevailed in the Lok Sabha but not in the Rajya Sabha. The argument is that it is better to have some kind of Lokpal than none. A middle path is favoured over extreme positions. However, can the position midway between two incorrect positions be automatically considered correct, or even that which is midway between an incorrect and a correct position be a correct one? It was argued, for instance, that even if the Central Bureau of Investigation remains under government control it may be granted more autonomy. The moot question is whether such a CBI can be effective. Some people suggest that the absence of constitutional status would weaken the Lokpal. It is true that constitutional status rather than statutory status is better. But how would that by itself make the Lokpal effective? It is argued that a government that is unhappy with a Lokpal can remove the body, as happened in the case of the Punjab and Haryana Lokayukta, or have the Bill modified through a simple majority in Parliament. However, in today’s environment this would be difficult since anti-corruption movements are stronger than earlier. The moot question is: how would constitutional status help curb corruption if the Lokpal itself is weak because of the inadequate provisions in the Bill? India has several constitutional authorities, such as the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Central Vigilance Commissioner, to check malpractices. Yet, illegality has only grown.

Is it the case that because the Election Commission is a constitutional body it is successful? Elections to five States have been announced. In this season to fight corruption, the Commission has announced steps to reduce the role of black money in elections. Income tax officers will be posted to monitor expenditure, bank accounts will have to be opened by candidates to route funds, and so on. These seem timely since much black money is used in elections, resulting in the forging of ties between politicians and the corrupt. Most candidates spend way above the election expenditure limit since they buy votes, hire workers, travel, organise meetings, and so on. The politicians accepting funds know that a quid pro quo is involved. There are also the wealthy fighting elections using their own unaccounted funds. They pay off the party leadership to get nominations. They may not be obliged to others but their motive is not selfless service, rather the furthering of their business interests. Election Commissions have tried to curb the role of black money in elections, but the politicians have proved cleverer and circumvented it all. T.N. Seshan as Chief Election Commissioner cracked the whip, but many politicians have said in private that he only succeeded in driving spending underground. There are reports of large cash movements during election-time. It is good that this would be monitored, but will that be effective? One election organiser of a candidate in the last parliamentary elections admitted that money came in sacks. Apparently, counting machines were installed in safe houses where cash was counted and distributed.

In the last two decades, no Election Commissioner has been accused of being corrupt, though there have been accusations of bias. Yet, the Commission has not been successful in checking malpractices that result in the compromised getting elected – who then claim legitimacy and propagate corruption with impunity. Instances of booth-capturing have declined, but new forms of grabbing votes have emerged. There are election expenditure limits but these are hardly kept. Parties and candidates are supposed to get their accounts audited, but how can unrecorded transactions be audited? The failure of a constitutional body like the Election Commission to check the growing scale of corrupt practices has important lessons for the reform of the existing watchdog institutions and the Lokpal. India has a multitude of watchdog institutions, constitutional and statutory. What is their experience? The CAG audits government departments to track malpractices, but those in power have found ways to get around it. Intelligence agencies (the Intelligence Bureau, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and so on) keep tabs on important people and their wheeling and dealing and hold vast amounts of information, but illegality has only grown. There are the CVC, the CBI and various police agencies. Government departments have their vigilance wings. There are agencies to protect the environment, but the powerful violate environmental laws with impunity. There are regulatory authorities (such as the Securities and Exchange Board of India and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) to check private business activity, but they could not prevent the 2G scam or insider trading in the stock markets. The Reserve Bank of India regulates financial institutions, but it has been found wanting, as in the Harshad Mehta scam, the failure of cooperative banks, and so on.

The Information Commission oversees the Right to Information. It has shown some success, but increasingly the whistle-blowers are being eliminated and its success has remained limited to the highly literate. The media have exposed innumerable cases of corruption, but now sections of them are entangled in the vice of paid news. Some media stars have been found to be hobnobbing with the powerful and the compromised. The judiciary is an independent constitutional body, yet the number of cases of alleged corruption against judges is increasing. Cases are piling up in courts, and the number of pending cases has crossed four crore. This has resulted in miscarriage of justice in many instances. … Democracy has become formalistic. Legislatures should check corruption but it would not be so if the elected are beholden to the corrupt or are themselves corrupt. The problem is political; it cannot be resolved through technical fixes or by having more laws – these are anyway being circumvented. A weak democracy presents a no-win situation: if a democracy is weak, the corrupt get elected and misuse their autonomy; if the legislators’ autonomy is curbed, democracy weakens. Only a conscious public, not rules and laws, can deliver autonomous and incorruptible legislators.That is why today there is a need for political movements that can change the national consciousness, a task being addressed by the movement against corruption and for Lokpal. So, the question is, can there be strong watchdogs in a weak democracy?

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/article2782015.ece

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Strange Notion of Communal Harmony: Madhya Pradesh’s law banning cow slaughter is discriminatory and arbitrary – Editorial (Jan 14, 2012, Economic &Political Weekly)

The Madhya Pradesh (MP) government has put forward a strange reason for amending the Gau-Vansh Vadh Pratishedh (Sanshodhan) Act or cow slaughter law to introduce far more stringent provisions than the earlier Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act 2004. It believes that this is in the interest of communal harmony in the state. The amended Act provides for harsh punishment and grants the police extremely arbitrary powers. It essentially criminalises the eating habits of millions of citizens, especially Muslims, Christians, dalits, and a large number of Hindus too. The punishment now for cow (and calf) slaughter will carry a minimum of one year and maximum seven years’ imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 5,000. Even storing or transporting beef will now be punishable with a minimum term of six months, which can be extended up to three years. The most contentious provision in the law is that a “competent authority” has been empowered to “enter and inspect any premises” where he has “reason to believe that an offence under this Act has been, is being, or is likely to be committed”, and take necessary action. More importantly, the onus is on the accused to prove his or her innocence. Given the way the police and the legal system function, such a provision is more than likely to be abused as it allows scope for wide interpretation. Add to this the fact that the present MP government has a history of targeting the state’ s religious minorities, one can see that far from helping communal harmony, the law is likely to inflame passions.

But it is not just from the point of view of minority rights that this Act seems discriminatory. Those protesting against Karnataka’s Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill, 2010 (which also has stringent provisions) have pointed out how it is anti-farmer and anti-poor. Farmers, including those who do not eat beef themselves, usually sell old cows to the butcher in order to buy new cattle stock. This not only provides meat to many families who find beef an affordable source of protein but also services the indigenous leather industry that supports a large workforce. In fact, dalit organisations in Karnataka (where there is also a BJP government) have been in the forefront of the protest against this bill becoming law. They have consistently pointed out that in the face of rising food prices, banning cow slaughter and thus beef would be akin to violating the fundamental rights of the dalits. The Karnataka Bill also goes further than the earlier law by prohibiting the slaughter of she-buffaloes, their calves, bulls and male and female buffaloes. On the other hand, the existing Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act, 1964 stipulates conditions for killing calves (including those of female buffaloes) and cows. Only buffaloes, bulls and bullocks that are 12 years old or more, or not fit for breeding or milking, are permitted to be slaughtered under the 1964 law.

In the long and ever simmering debate on cow slaughter and beef eating, the lines have always been drawn between the religious minorities, dalits and lower caste Hindus on one side and the (mostly, though not always) upper caste Hindus on the other. History has been repeatedly roped in to prove either side’s contention. Historians like R S Sharma and D N Jha have thrown the weight of their research in support of those who say that beef eating was routine in the Vedic period. It was the later and growing nod to caste consciousness that termed meat eating, particularly beef eating, as unclean.

States like Gujarat, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Himachal Pradesh already have laws against cow slaughter, while Orissa and Andhra Pradesh permit the killing of cattle other than cows if the animals are not fit for any other purpose. There are minimal restrictions in other states and none in West Bengal and Kerala. While the right wing and Hindutva parties make no bones about their assertion that a total ban on cow slaughter is their aim, the Congress too has time and again played the cow protection card especially in the north. Yet in Karnataka, the non-BJP opposition has come out strongly against the new bill on cow slaughter even though this is an issue that most political parties prefer to shy away from. Above all, what the changes in the law in BJP-ruled states like MP and Karnataka bring out is the BJP governments’ lack of concern for anyone who does not endorse the party’s set of beliefs. By criminalising people’s choice in something as personal as what they choose to eat, these governments are demonstrating their total lack of respect for diversity and their cavalier disregard of rights guaranteed to everyone, including the minorities, in a democratic system such as the one that prevails in India.

http://epw.in/epw/uploads/articles/16992.pdf

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Aadhaar: time to disown the idea – By R. Ramakumar (Dec 16, 2011, The Hindu)

“…The Committee categorically convey their unacceptability of the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010…The Committee would, thus, urge the Government to reconsider and review the UID scheme.…” This was the conclusion of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance (SCoF), which examined the Bill to convert the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) into a statutory authority. With this categorical rebuff, the SCoF dealt a body blow to the Aadhaar project, which is being implemented from September 2010 without Parliament’s approval. Technically speaking, the SCoF report asked the government to bring forth fresh legislation before Parliament. However, a careful examination of the report shows that it does not just reject the Bill, it also raises serious questions about the idea of Aadhaar itself. In fact, the report so comprehensively questions the idea that any effort to introduce fresh legislation would require, as a prerequisite, a re-look at the foundational principles on which the project was conceived. There are broadly five important arguments in the SCoF report. First, it contains scathing criticism of the government for beginning Aadhaar enrolment without Parliament’s approval for the Bill. Currently, UIDAI enjoys only executive authority, and no statutory authority. The justification that the government presented before the SCoF was as follows: the powers of the executive are co-extensive with the legislative powers of the government, and this allows the government to exercise executive powers in spheres not regulated by legislation. The government also cited the Attorney-General’s advice, which noted that “executive power operates independently” of Parliament and that “there is nothing in law that prevents the [UIDAI] from functioning under the Executive Authorisation.” The SoF rejects this position, and states that the government’s legal justification “does not satisfy the Committee.” The legal position upheld by the SCoF is that co-extensiveness of powers does not permit the executive to do what it pleases; when constitutional rights and protections are potentially violated, the powers of the executive remain circumscribed by those of the legislature.

Secondly, the SCoF raises serious questions about the enrolment process followed for Aadhaar numbers. The issue of Aadhaar numbers “is riddled with serious lacunae,” and this problem can be traced to conceptualisation “with no clarity of purpose” and implementation in “a directionless way with a lot of confusion.” For instance, the Ministry of Finance felt that there was “lack of coordination” across the six agencies collecting personal information, leading to “duplication of efforts and expenditure.” The Ministry of Home raised “serious security concerns” over the introducer model used to enrol persons without any proof of residence. The report concludes that the enrolment process “compromises the security and confidentiality of information of Aadhaar number holders,” and has “far reaching consequences for national security.” The reason: “the possibility of possession of Aadhaar numbers by illegal residents through false affidavits/introducer system.” Thirdly, the SCoF comes down heavily on the government for proceeding with the project without “enactment of a national data protection law,” which is a “pre-requisite for any law that deals with large-scale collection of information from individuals and its linkages across separate databases.”

In its submission to the SCoF, the government had taken a dismissive view of the right to privacy of individuals. It noted that “collection of information without a privacy law in place does not violate the right to privacy of the individual.” The SCoF rejects this view, and notes that in the absence of legislation for data protection, “it would be difficult to deal with the issues like access and misuse of personal information, surveillance, profiling, linking and matching of databases and securing confidentiality of information.” Fourthly, the report strongly disapproves of “the hasty manner” in which the project was cleared. It concludes that a “comprehensive feasibility study…ought to have been done before approving such an expensive scheme.” This conclusion follows the government’s admission to the SCoF that “no committee has been constituted to study the financial implications of the UID scheme,” and that “comparative costs of the Aadhaar number and various existing ID documents are also not available.” The total cost of the Aadhaar project would run into multiples of ten thousand crore of rupees. For just Phase 1 and 2, where 10 crore residents were to be enrolled, the allocation was Rs. 3,170 crore. For Phase 3, where another 10 crore residents are to be enrolled, the allocation is Rs. 8,861 crore. In a rough extrapolation, for 120 crore residents the total cost would then be over Rs. 72,000 crore. Is the Comptroller and Auditor General listening?

Fifthly, the report tears apart the faith placed on biometrics to prove the unique identity of individuals. It notes that “the scheme is full of uncertainty in technology” and is built upon “untested, unreliable technology.” It criticises the UIDAI for disregarding (a) the warnings of its Biometrics Standards Committee about high error rates in fingerprint collection; (b) the inability of Proof of Concept studies to promise low error rates when 1.2 billion persons are enrolled; and (c) the reservations within the government on “the necessity of collection of IRIS image.” The report concludes that, given the limitations of biometrics, “it is unlikely that the proposed objectives of the UID scheme could be achieved.” The SCoF report cites the experience from the United Kingdom, where a similar ID scheme was shelved. It dismisses the government’s contention that “comparison between developed countries…versus India…is not a reasonable one.” It states that “there are lessons from the global experience to be learnt,” which the government has “ignored completely.” It cites issues of cost overruns, fallacies of technology and risks to the safety of citizens, and notes: “as these findings are very much relevant and applicable to the UID scheme, they should have been seriously considered.” The SCoF report has invited sharp reactions from the business press and pro-business lobbies. One report argued that, after the Foreign Direct Investment-in-retail fiasco, it is “another Indian reform massacre;” for another, it is a “setback to the government’s attempts to revive faltering economic reforms;” and for yet another, the title was “UPA reforms agenda hit again.”

These predictable reactions only reaffirm the widely held belief that Aadhaar is an integral component of the neo-liberal reform programme of UPA-2. In fact, the SCoF deserves praise for standing up to pressure from powerful quarters, and not allowing the moment to be hijacked by vested interests. Ironically, till last week, the same SCoF had come in for profuse praise from none other than Nandan Nilekani himself. He had said in August 2011: “I have had the occasion to…make a presentation on more than one occasion to the Standing Committee…let me tell you they do an extraordinarily thorough job. I am very, very impressed with the quality of questions, the homework, the due diligence, the seriousness that they view these things with. And it is very bipartisan, you can’t make out who is from which party because they all ask on the issue. So when you have such an excellent system of law-making…Let us respect that, let us give them the opportunity to call all the experts for and against and let them come out with something. They are the appropriate people, they are our representatives.” The “representatives” have now spoken. For the government, the most dignified way ahead is to pay heed to the SCoF’s views and suspend the Aadhaar project immediately. Each conclusion in the report should be discussed threadbare in the public domain. Biometrics should be withdrawn from government projects as a proof of identity. Alternative, and cheaper, measures to provide people with valid identity proofs should be explored. However, it would be a travesty of democratic principles if the government disregards the SCoF report and pushes the project in through the backdoor.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article2717949.ece

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Quota alone cannot rid Muslims of their woes – By Aditya Menon (Jan 4, 2012, India Today)

The Mandalisation of Uttar Pradesh politics appears to have come full circle, with the Congress attempting to use quotas to undercut the original beneficiaries of reservation based politics. The introduction of sub-quotas within the 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs), particularly the inclusion of backward sections among religious minorities, appears to be the grand old party’s trump card in the forthcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. On Sunday, Sriprakash Jaiswal, Union Coal minister and three time MP from Kanpur, provided further evidence of the Congress’s attempts at beating OBC chieftains Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav at their own game. He said that the 4.5 per cent subquota that the Union Cabinet had cleared last month might be increased in accordance with the figures of the caste census, an exercise that the government reluctantly undertook in 2011 after being pressured by the two Yadav leaders. Jaiswal’s statement follows closely on the heels of the Congress rally in Saharanpur during which the two General Secretaries who are spearheading the party’s campaign in UP – Rahul Gandhi and Digvijaya Singh – promised the minorities six to eight per cent reservation in government jobs.

These could well be attempts at damage control as many Muslims considered the 4.5 per cent quota as too little, too late. The main problem here would appear to be the lack of sincerity on the part of the Congress. The party was being too clever by half by extending the paltry quota to all the religious minorities – clearly an attempt at wooing the backward sections among the Sikhs in poll-bound Punjab, in addition to Uttar Pradesh’s Muslims. This was completely unnecessary, as the lack of adequate representation in government jobs and educational institutions is a problem specific to the Muslim community and not other religious minorities like Sikhs, Christians, Jains or Parsis. The government should have ideally addressed the needs of the Muslim community through the Equal Opportunities Commission that the Sachar committee report had recommended. The report, which has become a key aspect of the political discourse in the Muslim community across the country, had recommended the setting up of such a body that would look into complaints of bias or the denial of equal opportunities to any deprived community, on the lines of the UK Race Relations Act, 1976. The consistent thrust of the committee was to suggest policies that provide redress to the Muslim community, within the framework of fighting backwardness in general. This effort at ‘mainstreaming’, however, is at odds with the dictates of vote bank politics, which naturally lead to quotas. Even if one were to accept that the government is sincere in helping Muslims, and that it would somehow prevent the 4.5 per cent seats being gobbled up by people from other religious minorities, the move will address the community’s backwardness only partially. The impact of reservation in government jobs and public-funded institutes of higher education would be limited for the simple reason that the bottleneck lies much lower.

Only 17 per cent of Muslims above the age of 17 have completed their matriculation, indicating an alarmingly high school dropout rate in the community. One in every four Muslims between six and 14 years of age has either never attended school or has dropped out – the highest percentage among all the socioreligious communities (SRCs) in the country. The Sachar report clearly states that school education is the main hurdle for Muslims. The report adds that once that is crossed, a Muslim is almost as likely as any other to complete his or her graduation. There are several other aspects to Muslim deprivation that a quota cannot address. For instance, the access to credit is substantially less when compared to other SRCs. The share of Muslims in the total outstanding amount in banks is a paltry 4.7 per cent, indicating a lesser share in the loans sanctioned. Compare this with the exceptionally high 6.5 per cent for other minorities, who are less than half of the Muslims’ share of population. If this doesn’t provide enough reason for the government to separate the Muslims from other religious minorities then it must examine the success of some of the other minority-based schemes. The Sachar report reveals that it is the non- Muslim minorities that have benefited out of the Reserve Bank of India’s efforts to extend banking and credit facilities for religious minorities in accordance with the Prime Minister’s 15 point programme, while the Muslims have been marginalised.

In Uttar Pradesh for instance, the average priority sector advances per account is about Rs.30,000 for Muslims, a little over half of the figure for other minorities. These are matters that cannot be resolved by quotas, but a body that addresses lack of opportunities for Muslims and possibly even cases of bias against them – something precisely like an equal opportunities commission. While it is important to understand that reservations are not a panacea for all the woes of a community, the reality of Indian politics is that they have been the preferred method of addressing social and economic inequalities. Therefore, the introduction of sub-quotas is justified and in fact desirable. This is particularly relevant in UP where the lion’s share of the OBC quota is grabbed by caste groups like Yadavs, Kurmis and Lodhs who are forward among the backwards. Some of the indicators of even general category Muslims are lower than that of Hindu OBCs, so there is absolutely no reason why the backward among Muslims should remain deprived of a sub-quota.

The Congress must take this process a step further by honouring its promise of a subquota for Most Backward Castes within the OBC quota, in line with the formula of former Bihar chief minister Karpoori Thakur. Like the Muslims, the MBCs are a large socio-political group in Uttar Pradesh that is yet to express open support for any one political party. The recent expulsion of MBC leader Babu Singh Kushwaha from the Bahujan Samaj Party is an indicator of the erosion of the ruling party’s MBC base. The effective use of this formula by Bihar’s present incumbent Nitish Kumar is a model worth emulating for the Congress which is seeking to turn around its fortunes in the state. Nitish has even created a Mahadalit category to isolate the relatively elite Passi Dalits from the rest. This could easily be used against the Jatavs in UP, who are the caste of chief minister Mayawati and have gained most out of the reservation for Scheduled Castes. The Karpoori formula might be an even better option as it also accounted for the poor among Upper Castes. If Mandalisation is a reality, then quotas ought to be structured in such a way that they benefit those who truly need them.

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/sub-quotas-system-uttar-pradesh-polls-congress-party/1/167096.html

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – January 2nd, 2012

January 2, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup News Headlines Summons to Modi: Hearing adjourned in riots case Sreekumar contradicting his own statements: Sanjiv Bhatt Jan 28 deadline: CBI yet to question AP cops, Shah Hindutva activists attack police commissioner office in Hyderabad Central security team tells state to focus on communal violence RSS leader late […]

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – December 26th, 2011

December 27, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup News Headlines Modi is ‘dramatis personae’ of Gujarat ‘carnage’ 2002: Sanjiv Bhatt CBI questions Chudasama, Patel in Prajapati encounter case Father of alleged IM operative sues N Ram, Praveen Swami Sangh Parivar playing pressure tactics to freeze terror cases: PFI Pass anti-communal violence Bill: minorities Slice of OBC […]

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – December 19th, 2011

December 19, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup Announcements Harvard’s decision to drop courses by Subramanian Swamy, a welcome step says Indian American group News Headlines Grill me, Modi and ex-DGP jointly: Bhatt to riot panel Riot panel brings ‘intelligence fund for bribe’ on record Ishrat encounter: CBI case against 20 policemen CBI arrests 13 in […]

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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – December 12th, 2011

December 12, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup News Headlines Need directions for affidavit on Modi’s role: Bhatt Investigator of Sohrabuddin, Prajapati killing cases now gets Ishrat encounter Jaipur serial blasts: 14 alleged SIMI activists acquitted Punish those who demolished Babri Masjid: Rajasthan Muslim Forum Pragya fails to appear in court yet again High Court notice […]

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