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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – April 2nd, 2012

by newsdigest on April 2, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Announcements

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Announcements

Indian American Group strongly condemns Bihar government’s stand on Forbesganj firing, reiterates demand for justice for victims

Wednesday April 4, 2012

Indian American Muslim Council (http://www.iamc.com) an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos today condemned Bihar government’s characterization of Forbesganj police firings as a “minor incident” that did not merit CBI inquiry. The Bihar Government made this deeply insensitive assertion in its affidavit filed in the Supreme Court in response to the notice seeking the state’s response for a CBI inquiry into the last year’s Forbesganj police firing incident.

On June 3rd, 2011, four civilians including a pregnant lady and 10-month old child were killed, and nine more were seriously injured when police opened fire on unarmed and peaceful demonstrators at Forbesganj. The demonstrators were protesting against the acquisition of village land by a factory owned by local BJP politician. “Despite clear evidence of police atrocities, the Bihar government has failed to prosecute the guilty police officers and ignored calls for justice and compensation to the victims,” noted Mr. Ahsan Khan, Vice President of IAMC. “By terming the Forbesganj firing as a minor incident, the Bihar government has brazenly marginalized the murder of its citizens,” Mr. Khan added.

Eye-witness accounts and videos taken at the firing site revealed gruesome police atrocities including a police constable repeatedly stomping on an injured protestor hit by a police bullet, and police chasing protestors into their homes before opening fire on them. The incident occurred in the presence of senior police and administrative officers, including the Superintendent of Police who gave the firing orders. No action has been taken to date against the offending police and administrative officers present at the incident.

IAMC calls upon the Bihar Government to immediately accept the demands for a CBI inquiry into the Forbesganj firings, and to take all necessary steps to provide just compensation to the victims.

Indian American Muslim Council is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 10 chapters across the nation.

For more information please visit our new website at www.iamc.com.

RELATED LINKS:

Forbesganj killings minor incident: Bihar Govt. tells Supreme Court
http://twocircles.net/2012apr02/forbesganj_killings_%E2%80%98minor_incident%E2%80%99_bihar_govt_tells_supreme_court.html

Forbesganj firing Supreme Court issues notice to Bihar Govt
http://twocircles.net/2011oct10/forbesganj_firing_supreme_court_issues_notice_bihar_govt.html

ANHAD Report on the police firing in Forbesganj
http://twocircles.net/2011jun11/anhad_report_police_firing_forbesganj.html

Forbesganj firing: Bihar rejects NCM suggestions
http://www.indianexpress.com/news/forbesganj-firing-bihar-rejects-ncm-suggestions/896320/0

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Communal Harmony

Punjab Intellectuals Call For Communal Harmony (Apr 1, 2012, Countercurrents)

We, the pro-people intellectual & social activists of Punjab strongly oppose the attempts by all types of communal fascist forces in Punjab, to sow the seeds of hatred and create communal disharmony amongst different sections of society, on the issue of commuting the death sentence awarded to Balwant Singh Rajoana by a Chandigarh court in the murder case of Beant Singh Ex-CM Punjab & his body guards.

After the death sentence of co-accused Jagtar Singh Hawara in this case was commuted to life imprisonment by Punjab & Haryana High Court, on his appeal, and a large number of democratic and justice loving people called for similar treatment to Balwant Singh Rajoana, there was no legal hitch in deferring the execution of his death sentence by the Central Govt till the decision of mercy petitions filed on his behalf by the President of India. By doing so the painful violent events of 28th March, when a state-wide Bandh was held in Punjab, would have been avoided. But unfortunately it was not done. As a result, the people of Punjab have been thrust in a dangerous situation.

We call upon the people of Punjab, to maintain communal harmony & social cohesion in this trying situation. There are black forces, who are bent upon frustrating the struggles of the people for their lives and livelihood; struggles against social and economic inequalities; struggles against indiscriminate exploitation & expropriation of India’s natural resources and labor power by Indian & foreign capitalists; struggles against thrusting the vast majority of Indian people in extreme poverty, disease, hunger, unemployment, illiteracy and sever state repression. These black forces want to break the unity of the people and entangle them in fratricide. Such anti-people forces must be shunned and defeated. Avoiding all types of provocations, let us move towards strengthening the bonds of mutual love, commonness, harmony and fraternity.

http://countercurrents.org/cc010412.htm

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US City Council passes resolution condemning 2002 Gujarat riots (Mar 29, 2012, Times of India)

A US City Council has passed a resolution condemning the 2002 post-Godhra riots in Gujarat and expressed concern over the “denial” of justice for the victims. The resolution, passed this week by the City Council of Harvey, Illinois, expressed solidarity with the victims, including those who died in the Godhra train fire on February 27, 2002.

“The Harvey City Council condemns the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 as a gross violation of human rights and a failure of the law and order machinery in the state of Gujarat,” the resolution stated, expressing concern over “denial of justice” to the surviving victims “despite worldwide condemnation”.

The resolution also said there have been very few arrests and even fewer convictions arising out of the cases registered during and after the “mass killings”. City Mayor Eric Kellogg presided over the meeting, which was attended by four other voting council members, and members of the public.

“There are times when events in far-flung parts of the world not only move our hearts, but strengthen our resolve to always stand up for truth and justice. The horrific massacres that took place in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002 is one such event,” Kellogg said. He said the fact that such an incident took place in the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi, was “especially shameful”.

Kellogg hailed the Indian-American community in Harvey for their contributions in the field of relief, charity and social services, and resolved to raise funds for the victims of the Gujarat riots. The passage of the resolution has been welcomed by the Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC). With a population of over 30,000, Harvey is considered as a suburb of Chicago.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/12454275.cms

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Both Nanavati sons are govt lawyers! (Mar 30, 2012, Times of India)

It is all in the family for the Nanavatis. The two sons of Justice G T Nanavati – Maulik and Dhaval – fight cases for the Gujarat government and Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), respectively, in the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), Gujarat high court and Supreme Court.

The legal fees that both get from Gujarat taxpapers’ money have been cited as a conflict of interest for Justice Nanavati, who heads the Nanavati-Mehta Inquiry Commission probing the 2002 Gujarat riots and has been given an extension for the 18th time. The latest extension granted on Thursday more or less ensures that the likely submission of the report happens only after the Gujarat assembly elections due in December 2012. Maulik was appointed as additional public prosecutor (APP) in 2005, three years after his father started the riots inquiry.

Another three years later, the AMC empanelled Dhaval as the lawyer-on-record for several cases in the Gujarat HC. Earlier, he was empanelled as a Central government lawyer when Justice Nanavati was probing the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. Senior lawyer Girish Patel is firm that this was a clear case of conflict of interest.

“On one side is a judge who has to decide on the involvement of the chief minister in the Godhra riots, on the other are his two sons who get paid handsome legal fees by the government Modi heads. There is reasonable apprehension of bias as this goes against constitutional morality, judicial propriety and professional integrity.” Law minister Dilip Sanghani denied conflict of interest in the matter. In any case, he said, their appointments were made before he became law minister.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/12462858.cms

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Now Modi govt gets it from CAG for Rs 16,707 cr scam (Mar 30, 2012, Rediff)

The Narendra Modi government in Gujarat came under the scanner of the Comptroller and Auditor General, which slammed it while detecting massive financial irregularities crossing over Rs 16,706.99 crore (Rs 167.07 billion) in its latest report which the Modi administration deliberately tried to dodge and ultimately tabled it on Friday in the House – the last day of the assembly session.

When the report was tabled in the House, the entire Opposition was suspended from the proceedings in order to avoid discussion on the irregularities for which the statutory auditor has indicted the administration.

“Nowhere in the history of Gujarat has the CAG ever made such strong observations thereby establishing that the Modi government was indulging in unfair and corrupt means. As per the norm, the CAG report is supposed to be tabled at the beginning of the Budget session,” said state Leader of Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil.

http://www.rediff.com/news/slide-show/slide-show-1-cag-slams-modi-govt-for-huge-financial-irregularities/20120330.htm

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Gujarat govt targeting me and my brother: suspended IAS officer (Mar 27, 2012, The Hindu)

In a veiled attack on Chief Minister Narendra Modi, suspended IAS officer Pradeep Sharma said on Tuesday that in Gujarat power lies with only one man and claimed that he and his brother, an IPS officer, were being “targeted” by the state government. “In Gujarat, power lies in hands of one person only. There is no decentralised power, which is very dangerous,” Mr. Sharma, brother of IPS officer Kuldeep Sharma who has openly spoken against the chief minister and the state government over various issues, said without naming Mr. Modi.

Mr. Sharma is presently out on bail after being arrested in as many as eight cases of corruption against him during his tenure as Kutch collector. All cases are being probed by state CID. “I and my brother are being targeted by the state government,” he alleged after coming out of court which rejected an application by state CID seeking his custody for interrogation in one of these cases. The CID’s plea was turned down the sessions judge N T Acharya saying that the agency cannot seek custody after more than a year of registering an FIR.

“We will break but never bow down to such diktat,” the suspended IAS officer, who had recently got bail after being in police custody for over one year, said. Mr. Sharma said that he had done nothing wrong, as being alleged by the state government. “What I have done is for development. My 31-year career has been spotless and all of a sudden there are as many as eight cases of corruption against me. This clearly shows the bias against me by the government,” he said.

Mr. Sharma has been accused of allotting land meant for 2001 earthquake affected at throw away prices to businessmen. He has also been accused of taking favours from industries which got set up in Kutch district after the quake in 2001.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article3250971.ece

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Sohrabuddin encounter accused still a member of Guj assembly (Mar 28, 2012, DNA India)

Former Gujarat minister of state for home, Amit Shah, who is an accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, will continue to be a member of Gujarat assembly despite his long absence from the house. It was widely believed that Shah, who has stayed outside Gujarat after the Supreme Court barred him from entering the state, would cease to be a member of the assembly because of his long absence. According to constitutional norms, any MLA who remains absent for 60 consecutive days from the assembly, ceases to be a member and is, thereafter, considered suspended.

Shah was arrested on July 25, 2010 in connection with the Sohrabbuddin case, one day after he resigned as minister of state for home. Since then, he has not attended the assembly during the last four sessions of the house, including the current budget session. However, fortunately for him, the number of continuous days that he has been absent from the house adds up to only 56 which saves him by a whisker. Clearing the air, assembly secretary DM Patel said that as per constitutional provisions, an MLA cannot be absent for 60 consecutive days.

“The rules say ‘days’, not ‘sittings’ of the assembly. There have been around 62-63 sittings during the last four sessions of the assembly but Shah has been absent for only 56 days. Hence, he would not be suspended in the current session. The house doesn’t function on Saturdays and Sundays during assembly sessions,” Patel said.

http://www.dnaindia.com/print710.php?cid=1668486

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Did Hindu radicals hire Muslims for Malegaon blast? (Mar 25, 2012, Times of India)

A fresh twist appears likely in the 2006 Malegaon blast investigations as the NIA (National Investigation Agency), now investigating the case, is beginning to suspect that Hindu fundamentalists might have used Muslim hands to execute the blast. While a claim to the effect that Hindutva radicals behind the terrorist attack may have used Muslim hirelings was made by Swami Aseemand, inputs gathered by investigators appears to have led the agency to wonder whether what appeared to be an outlandish theory has some basis. Four bombs exploded on September 8, 2006 in the powerloom township of Malegaon in Maharashtra’s Nashik district. The blasts claimed 37 lives and injured over a 100 people.

The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), which investigated the case arrested nine Muslim men with alleged SIMI links, and had filed a 2,200 page chargesheet against them on December 22, 2006. The case was later transferred to the CBI which subsequently more or less replicated the chargesheet of the state police, holding the jailed persons responsible for the alleged blast. The arrests of Hindutva radicals in other terror cases where Muslims were the target upended the version of ATS, especially after Aseemanand “confessed” to his NIA interrogators that the attack was carried out by Abhivan Bharat as part of their plot to avenge the series of jehadi terror attacks aimed against Hindus. In November 2011, the accused were released on bail, with the government veering around to the view that they were innocent and victims of inept investigation. Prosecution did not oppose bail petitions.

The Centre transferred the Malegaon blast case to the NIA last year in the wake of Aseemanand’s confession. Although the accused, a Hindutva extremist engaged in opposing missionaries in Gujarat and elsewhere, has since retracted his “confession”, inputs gathered by the investigators suggest that Swami’s claim could not be just a red herring. “Aseemanand had confessed before a magistrate not once but twice that the group had been using Muslim hands for attacks. We are actively pursuing this line of investigation,” said a senior official.

Importantly, ATS stands by its chargesheet, later endorsed by the CBI, against the accused who are now on bail. It had based its charge on the forensic evidence against Shabbir Batterywala. The ATS charge sheet mentions that the traces of RDX found at the blast spot had matched the traces of explosives found in the soil samples from Batterywala’s godown in Malegaon. Although NIA is not similarly sure about the “Muslim hand” theory, it believes that the demography of Muslim dominated Malegaon town would have made it difficult for a Hindu, that too one from outside, to plant a bomb near a mosque. “It is also a communally sensitive town. It is possible that Muslim mercenaries may have been used to plant the bomb to avoid suspicion,” another NIA official said.

Aseemanand had made a mention of Muslim hands being used in the blasts while talking about Ajmer blast. He said: “Sunil (Joshi) told me that the blast in Ajmer (Ajmer Sharif dargah) had been conducted by his men. He told me that he was also there. I asked him who all were there with him. He told me there were two Muslim boys with him. When I asked him where he got Muslim boys from, he said they were sent to him by (RSS leader) Indresh Kumar.” The 2006 Malegaon case has had many twists and turns. A day before Maharashtra ATS filed its chargesheet in the case the state government transferred the case to CBI. The agency in its charge sheet seconded the findings of the ATS. However, after Aseemanand’s confession, the case was reopened by CBI. In a matter of months, the case was again sent to NIA.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-03-25/india/31236159_1_malegaon-blast-ajmer-blast-aseemanand

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Stop harassment of innocent Muslim youths: Muslim leaders to Govt. (Apr 1, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Coming out bold and united perhaps first time on the issue, top Muslim leaders on Saturday asked the governments, police and intelligence agencies to stop harassment, illegal detention and torture of innocent Muslim youths in the name of fighting terrorism. They also demanded prosecution and punishment of all police and intelligence officials who have been involved in falsely implicating Muslim youths in terror cases. The community leaders passed unanimous resolution on the aforesaid demands and other related issues at the National Convention on Muslim Youth Protection on 31st March 2012 at Mavalankar Hall, New Delhi. The convention was inaugurated by Justice Rajendar Sachar. The convention was attended by eminent dignitaries from different walks of life, including legal experts and human rights activists and representatives from organizations and institutions of minorities.

The convention was organised by All India Milli Council and supported by all major Muslim organisations including All India Muslim Majlis Mushawarat, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind, Welfare Party of India, Coordination Committee for Indian Muslims and Markazi Jamiat Ulema. At the convention were discussed various related issues like draconian law such UAPA, ban on SIMI and compensation to the youths acquitted of terror charges. Terming UAPA a blot bigger than TADA and POTA on the country’s reputation, Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam, General Secretary, All India Milli Council, demanded its repeal. Addressing the convention, former MP and diplomat Syed Shahabuddin stressed on a structure to fight against such atrocities. “We need an all-India set-up to fight against such kind of atrocities,” he said and demanded compensation for victims. “We will have to demand ransom not only compensation for those youths who have been acquitted from the court of law.” Defending against state atrocities is a question of humanity not for Muslim only, he added.

Maulana Kalbe Sadique, Vice President, All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said: “The government must know that Allah never forgives oppression and cruelty and doesn’t like the oppressors.” He appealed to Indian Muslims to get united on the name of oneness of God. Mohammad Amir Khan, the person who was recently acquitted after 14 years in jail in various terror cases, moved the audience when he narrated his heart-rending story. “It is good sign that the people are discussing on this topic now, but when I was arrested 14 years ago then no one was ready to listen to anything. Everyone had boycotted me and my family,” he said. Amir strongly condemned the lethargic attitude of Muslim leaders and organizations on the issue. “After my arrest my late father had visited several Muslim leaders but nobody helped us. My father has died 10 years ago and I couldn’t see his face last time,” he said. Narrating his sad tale, Amir said: “I was kidnapped and the cases, more than my age in number, were fabricated against me. They made me naked, poured petrol in my private parts, gave electric shocks, removed my nails and did a lot more shameful and painful acts which I can’t narrate here.”

“Why our Muslim organizations didn’t fulfill their duty? Why they believed police versions and media reports? If it is hard to reach me then they could have reached to my parents. This is not only my question but it is question of hundreds of people who have been falsely implicated in such cases and still living behind bars. There are people in jail who even can’t afford a soap of Rs 10. Nobody is here to look after their family,” Amir said. He also lambasted Muslim groups for not coming up to offer any financial help to such victims. “We are demanding compensation from the government. It is okay but the question is, what is our duty? Why aren’t Muslim organizations constituting a cell to compensate those people who are suffering?” He announced he is going to write a book on his life.

Dr. SQR Ilyas, General Secretary, Welfare Party of India, raised the issue of ban on SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India) and said if the community had stood then against the ban in 2001, the situation would not have reached to such state. “We are facing state terrorism. The government has initiated a war against its own people. This style has been started after 9/11 when the SIMI was banned by the NDA government. The ban is still continuing. When the SIMI was first time banned then Muslim organizations were silent. The practice of false implication of Muslim youths will continue until the ban on SIMI is lifted. The government must lift ban from SIMI immediately,” demanded Ilyas.

http://twocircles.net/2012apr01/stop_harassment_innocent_muslim_youths_muslim_leaders_govt.html

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Sangareddy: Police repeated their dubious role during riots (Mar 31, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Sangareddy town of Andhra Pradesh on Thursday evening witnessed what other parts of the country have been witnessing during communal riots since Independence: The Police didn’t stop the riots who remained on rampaging spree for several hours. Friday morning saw properties worth several crores of rupees of a particular community looted and destroyed. It is said that Muslims lost properties worth nearly 1.34 crore rupees in Sangareddy town of Medak district – 58 shops, 34 vehicles were burned down during the riots. And even a mosque Masjid-e-Noumani was damaged by the miscreants. The riots broke out on Thursday night when Muslims were protesting against a BJP leader who had uploaded vulgar image of holy Kaba on his facebook page.

The town remained peaceful on Friday after the curfew was imposed, but there were several restrictions faced by Muslims during Friday prayers. Curfew has been extended in view of the Ram Navami celebrations on Sunday. Police have registered 8 cases but haven’t yet arrested any rioters. Muslims in the town alleged that police showed biased attitude in dealing with rioters. Ghulam Haqqani, an auto repair garage owner in the Sangareddy town told TCN, “In the evening on Thursday news about BJP leader disrespecting Kaba Shariff started spreading, some Muslim youths assembled at a police station near old bus stop and protested demanding arrest of BJP leader. Some BJP activists after getting to know about the protest assembled at the old bus stop road and clashes broke out between the two groups. Police concentrated in stopping the Muslim youth and turned a blind eye to the right wing Hindu groups who torched Muslim businesses and vehicles.”

About difficulties people are facing due to curfew, Haqqani said “We are confined to our houses; we can’t open our business. Even we had problem in performing Friday prayers yesterday. Police should lift curfew now, as everything is peaceful and normal here now.” He even said that, “Amount of loss showed by the government is disputable as the amount of actual loss is many folds higher than 1.34 crore.” The inefficiency of the police to stop the rioters can be easily observed as the riots which started in the late evening continued till 1 am in the night. On Friday deputy chief minister Damodar Raj Narsimha, Home Minister Sabita Indra Reddy, heavy industries minister Geeta Reddy, local MLA T.J. Prakash Reddy, district collector Suresh Kumar, and SP B.J. Victor, visited the town and assured the riot victims of compensation and strict punishment for the people involved in destructing their property.

The locals complained to the home minister about the bias and inefficiency shown by the police. They reiterated to the Deputy chief Minster that if police had taken tough action against the miscreants, the riots would have not spread and looting could have been stopped. Meanwhile, Hyderabad has remained peaceful on Friday. Police had done an extensive security arrangement in the old city area during the Friday prayers. The situation in Hyderabad became sensitive in the night time when a local Muslim organization protested near Charminar police station alleging Sanjay Thakur, a Bajrang Dal activist has uploaded offensive images of holy city of Mecca, but police later dispersed the mob and controlled the situation. Additional security has been called in all the communal sensitive towns and districts specially in Telangana region keeping in mind Ram Navami celebration and rallies planned by BJP in all the major towns and cities specially in Hyderabad.

http://twocircles.net/2012mar31/sangareddy_police_repeated_their_dubious_role_during_riots.html

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‘Gujarat cops guilty in hooch tragedy’ (Mar 31, 2012, DNA India)

‘It is never the activity of a single rascal that destroys society; it is always the inactivity on a part of us that destroys a system.’ Citing these words, the Hooch Commission Report-2009 has raised doubts about the integrity of the police department and has stated, ‘Unless there is passive consent or connivance of the police, the illegal and nefarious activities of bootleggers cannot flourish.’ The commission has pointed out that the city police have failed to pin-point the police officials responsible for the 2009 hooch tragedy, who are hand-in-glove with the bootleggers, and is not ready to believe that only two cops were involved in the tragedy, both of whom are in police custody.

The special investigation team of the detection of crime branch has found that the two junior most cops of Kagdapith, Baldev Rabari and Ranjitsinh Dabhi, have a nexus with the bootleggers and they were arrested. Reacting to the revelation of only two names, the commission has also said that only the criminal involvement of these two cops and no ranking officerabove them, is not acceptable to a man of ordinary discretion. The commission also holds higher level officers responsible for the tragedy.

It has clearly mentioned that bootlegging activities in the city are carried out with the support of the police department. The nexus between the cops and bootleggers has been identified as a ‘solid chain’ by the commission. The commission has mentioned that it is obvious that the police personnel in all probability would have facilitated bootleggers to carry out their antisocial activities of bootlegging in return for a hefty hafta (handsome bribe). The commission has found that unless stern action is taken against the errant policemen and officers, the whole system will collapse. ‘Strong signals and a clarion call must reach out to the minds of police personnel that no one can save them if their nexus with the bootleggers is exposed or if they are found negligent in their duties,’ the report said.

http://www.dnaindia.com/print710.php?cid=1669799

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Woman alleges rape by cop inside Police station (Apr 1, 2012, Times of India)

A middle-aged housewife has been allegedly raped by a policeman inside a police station compound in Jhansi district. The incident took place on Tuesday and the victim reached the Garaotha police station the next day to file a complaint but to no avail. It was only after the victim approached Jhansi SSP Satish Ganesh that an FIR was lodged in the case. In the backdrop of the alleged rape is a case of burglary that took place at the government accommodation of the accused cop two months ago. Investigations into the burglary case had led the cops to the house of the rape victim from where the cop’s stolen clothes and some other household goods were recovered. Later, the rape victim reportedly repaid Rs 18,000 that was also stolen in the incident.

In the police records, the rape victim’s son was named as the accused but he could not be arrested as he has been untraceable since. It was on the pretext of helping the housewife get her son out of the burglary case that the accused cop met her on March 24, 2012, and invited her to his residential quarter. The victim reached the house of the accused on March 27 when the accused allegedly raped her. The rape victim had reportedly told police that she had visited the accused cop a few times before as well. About the sequence of events before and after the alleged rape, the victim told the police that she had gone to offer prayers at Anjani Mata Temple in Garaotha area on March 24. While she was on her way back, the accused cop, Ram Pratap Misra, asked the victim to come over to his quarter situated within the compound of the Garaotha police station.

The rape victim said she called up the cop on his cellphone on Tuesday evening to find out if he was there and reached his quarter around 10pm where she was raped. The victim allegedly reached the police station immediately to lodge an FIR but was shown the door. Ganesh told TOI a case had been registered on the basis of the complaint. “Action will follow if the constable is found guilty. As a precautionary measure, the constable has been removed from his post and attached to the police lines. The case is being investigated by a DySP rank officer to ensure that the objectivity of the investigation is maintained properly,” the SSP said.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-04-01/lucknow/31269941_1_burglary-case-police-station-cop

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Opinions and Editorials

Telangana movements turn towards Hindutva – By Kaneez Fathima (Mar 27, 2012, Twocircles.net)

After 1969 Telangana Movement, second phase of Telangana movement started in the last days of the year 2009. This movement was basically dominated by the students with real aspirations and willingness; there was no political aim. The only aim was to achieve separate Telangana state. Though Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) was formed for the sole purpose of achieving separate Telangana state and the chief architect of which is Prof. Jayashankar. Seeing students spreading the movement solely without any support from any political party, K Chandrasekhar Rao became active in this movement by sitting on a fast-unto-death. With this common people also started participating in the movement from all kinds of background irrespective of caste, class and religion. In the initial stages itself Prof. Jayashankar had said that, “unless and until I am alive, I will not allow any injustice to the Muslim community in Telangana state. Telangana movement is incomplete without Muslims; separate Telangana cannot be formed without the contribution of Muslim community.”

Though almost all the parties had orally declared that they will support the Telangana bill if presented in the assembly, but at this point of time all the parties took back their position including TDP and Congress. Moreover, congress government at the centre initially issued a statement in favour of separate Telangana, but immediately withdrew its statement. The regional opposition party TDP also took anti-Telangana stand. Due to these reasons, BJP & RSS took the advantage of the prevailing conditions and entered into this movement. Then onwards this movement slowly moved towards Hindutva. People pressurized the political parties and their candidates who were in favour of Telangana to resign from their positions and build pressure on the central government to form separate Telangana state. Thus, all the MLAs of TRS, candidates of other parties resigned from their positions. In the year 2010, by-elections were held for all those vacant positions. That time BJP candidate contested from Nizamabad constituency. But the fact is that without the Muslim votes, BJP would not have won the seat. Even though Muslim community underwent the pain of Gujarat genocide because of BJP, still they not only campaigned but whole heartedly voted for BJP candidate only for a single aim of achieving separate Telangana state. That itself proved that Muslims are the real secularists by nature.

But by the time by-elections came up in 2012, the conditions of whole Telangana movement changed drastically. From the time of BJP entry into the movement, RSS started propagating Hindutva ideology and spread hatred among the non-Muslim community in the Telangana region especially in Hyderabad. The major example is the Hyderabad riots in the year 2010 on the eve of and on the name of Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti leave alone several small incidents of hatred. The spread of Hindutva ideology and hatred against Muslim community reached its peak level during the by-elections in A.P. especially in the Telangana region. When the name for Mahboobnagar constituency was decided, Kodandram Reddy suggested withdrawing Ibrahim’s name because he wanted to field Srinivas Goud as he is closely associated with Reddy. This was to gain benefits politically. However, KCR thought of larger political gain. He wanted to target two aims with a single arrow. So, on one side he wanted to show sympathy towards Muslims to gain their votes for all the seats and on the other side he wanted to show congress that TRS is not with BJP. For this reason he neglected Mahboobnagar campaign. Thus, he fielded a Muslim candidate for namesake to appease Muslims and challenged BJP that it cannot win the particular seat. In clear terms we can say that KCR offered Mahboobnagar seat to BJP.

As chairman of Telangana political JAC, the role of Kodandram Reddy was to give a call of support to TRS candidate. But as said earlier, he wanted to field his own candidate and on the other side as BJP candidate was a REDDY, he declared that he is taking a unilateral position by saying that this is the fight for Telangana so vote for whoever you want. So, a person who claims to be secular and rights activist has gone to such a biased and communal position. Telangana NGOs JAC openly declared support and campaigned for BJP candidate, because Srinivas Goud belongss to TNGOs JAC and he was denied Mahboobnagar seat by TRS. BJP during its campaign had declared that Mahboobnagar election is Indo-Pak cricket match and we should defeat Razakars, such statements were not condemned by anyone. This alone proves that TRS party, T-JAC, its members, various other JACs, Forums and all the so-called secularists and democrats have soft corner towards Hindutva. Not only this, during the MLC elections, another Muslim candidate from Hyderabad, Mahmood Ali, Minority wing President who is a sincere and senior member of TRS lost MLC seat just by three votes and these three people who did not give their vote to him were from the TRS itself. Even that time, KCR did not take any action against those three persons. The sad affair of Indian society is that Muslims have to prove their secularism again and again at different times. Is this the responsibility of only Muslims? If Muslims have to prove their secularism, they also expect non-Muslims to be secular towards them. Instead larger section of non-Muslims can remain communal and spread the same; there is no one to question them! Blame is always on Muslims.

When Muslims can vote a BJP candidate, then why can’t non-Muslims vote a Muslim candidate? Is this their secularism? Where are the so-called democrats and secularists? Would these so called secularists and democrats have spared Muslims, if they had not voted BJP in Nizamabad? Would they have not labeled Muslims as anti-telanganites? Why is such double standard maintained by the politicians, secularists, democrats, civil society etc towards Muslim community? Now, it is high time for Muslims to think over Telangana movement. Because it is no more a democratic and sincere movement. Everyone is in the race of personal benefits in the name of Telangana. The so-called democrats and secularists’ double standard faces have been exposed and the real faces are in front of us. Now, it is time to recognize these faces and choose our own way. Even after such black mailing and back stabbing Muslims, neither KCR nor Kodandram Reddy feel ashamed. Instead, they are celebrating this defeat and Hindutva victory as people’s victory. In one sentence we can say that Telangana movement failed in the LITMUS test of secularism and democracy and turned completely into Hindutva fascism. Muslims confidence has been shaken. Now it is time for KCR to take the responsibility of Mahboobnagar election defeat. Not only this, KCR should resign from the Presidentship of TRS and Kodandram Reddy should resign from Chairmanship of Telangana Political JAC. Then only the movement will move ahead otherwise, people especially Muslim community will give them the right answer.

http://twocircles.net/2012mar27/telangana_movements_turn_towards_hindutva.html

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UID/Aadhar: A Threat To Indian Democracy – By Taha Mehmood (Apr 1, 2012, Countercurrents)

UIDAI is lying to a billion Indians. And the plain truth is that people running the show at UIDAI are aware of the humongous scale of social catastrophe, which a project like UID could unleash in India. Behind the mask of a cool and confident exterior, some UIDAI officials seems to be constantly grappling with feelings of immense insecurity and uncertainty. We can get a sense of their feelings by closely reading the draft National Identification Authority of India Bill 2010 . In the coming years India will see hundreds of thousands of cases related to its citizens impersonating other citizens of the country to get a portion of ten trillion rupees direct-cash-transfer subsidy scheme. Cases of Indian citizens intentionally appropriating identities of persons dead or alive, real or imaginary could become common just as during license quota-permit raj it was common to forge a license, produce a company out of thin air. Just as during every election tens of thousands of Indian citizens discover to their utter dismay either they do not exist on the voter list or someone impersonating them has cast their votes. On any given day tens of hundreds of unauthorized people could possibly be roaming around India knocking on doors of unsuspecting citizens collecting personal biometric information on behalf of UIDAI. After all in a vast country like India how can a citizen prove whether a person who claims to work for UIDAI is actually working for that organization? Remember UIDAI has subcontracted its entire enrolment process to private companies unlike other data gathering exercises like the census, which usually works with a government or government-affiliated workforce. By the year three of its data collection exercise UIDAI wants to hire fifteen thousand enrollment stations all across India. So how can one ascertain the identity of a group of persons if five men donning some grave uniform, carrying some official looking documents start banging the doors of a plush housing society at Malabar Hill claiming that a UID updating camp is on in the area and you need to submit all your personal and private details once again.

Hundreds of private agents acting as enrollers, data-collectors, data-transporters will have a potential to make a quick buck by selling UID data to market players. These enrollers could intentionally disclose, transmit, copy or disseminate private biometric data in electronic form very easily. The ease of translation of digital data is a fantastic gift of our modern age. The Central Identities Data Repository (CIDF) the main memory of UIDAI is going to be the site for much contestation between operators belonging to private players. CIDF does not even exist now but plans are underway to create its infrastructure. Ernst and Young, the global accounting firm that has been cautioned in many countries around the world for fudging confidential data is currently giving advice to UIDAI to procure the best available technology for the cheapest price. CIDF operators will have a mix of highly dedicated private and public sector employees, but who can prevent these people to access or secure an access or download, copy or extract data and store it in any device before releasing it in the market. Current information about biometric details, bank account numbers, telephone number of potential customers has a huge market demand. Registrars working at enrollment stations are supposed to courier data loaded on memory sticks to CIDF from all across India. UIDAI will give 50 rupees per enrollment but who can insure that data will not be lost or downloaded, copied or destroyed during the transfer process? There is of course no provision to account for loss of data during transfer via memory sticks. The culture of sub-contracted work introduced by UIDAI will unleash breakneck competition in the market and empanelled firms will use any trick in the book to downplay each other for lucrative UID contracts. We already saw the evidence of fierce corporate battles in the run up to initial disbursement of contracts. After all UIDAI will certainly reward those firms with more responsibility who have done efficient work. Firms, which do not perform will be eased out. But how can UIDAI prevent an anonymous sub-contracted employee of a firm to introduce a virus in a system, which features database collected by a rival firm, to create more value for its original employer.

In such a situation sub-contracted workers could possibly damage data, disrupt or cause disruption of the access or deny access or provide some assistance in accessing data stored at CIDF or could potentially destroy or delete or alter some crucial, sensitive, biometric information related of a group of citizens belonging to a certain place. The potential to creatively contaminate digital data will increase stupendously. Furthermore citizens of India could have to deal with new forms of postmodern anxieties as one day some of them may realize that they do not exist in UIDAI database. All or some of biometric details of Indians could be modified. A UID operator will certainly not trust anybody else except the data, which he sees on his screen. The dataset appearing on the screen of UID operators all across India will introduce a new frame of interpreting reality. The UIDAI on its part cannot punish anybody but can only take those people who have been caught to a court of law. That legal system in India is inefficient needs not to be told. It could possibly take years before the guilty could be punished. Additionally during the process of getting an Aadhar number through the much-touted Know Your Resident process how can UIDAI know that an introducer is not collaborating with someone, who is not a genuine citizen for an inducement of some money by giving biometric information that does not belong to that person. In case a company is found liable of offences UIDAI proposes to severely punish those found guilty. This is certainly laudable. But Indian law treats company as a legal person ( I still cannot understand this absurd fundamental legal fiction how can anyone treat a firm as a legal person). But for the sake of argument how can UIDAI prevent a legal person to change its identity, in other words, say for instance, a company x is found guilty of improper practices and is debarred from carrying business with UIDAI, what prompts individuals who run that company to dissolve that firm legally therefore dissolving the legal identity of that firm and create a new firm, a new legal identity in the name of their close family members and apply for empanelment for UIDAI. The UIDAI has provisions to punish the director, manager, secretary or any officers of a company if such a company violates any provision of the law. However, there’s a small but significant rider here, the punishment will only take place if and only if, it could be proved in a court of law that the offence committed by an employee of the company is in consent or connivance of the top management. In other words under the NIDAI law if the state can prove the members of a firm conspires to cheat UIDAI they can be punished. By the time the guilty are brought to book the private confidential biometric information belonging to millions of Indian could be circulating in the market. The NIDAI bill has no provision for punishing, apprehending, or debarring those people who buy, sell, trade, barter, exchange biometric information. Even if there were such provisions I wonder what effect could have in India. The Indian state does not allow over the counter purchase of arms and armaments. On paper at least one needs to be a license holder to trade in arms but does it prevent anyone to deal in arms or to use arms for killing or coercion purposes. Of course none of the scenarios, which I have listed above exist. Therefore these are at best figments of my paranoid imagination. And of course my version of what could happen in India is an extrapolation of clauses of punishments and offences listed under the proposed National Identification Bill of India 2010.

But I wonder why would the legal team of UIDAI put such provisions had they not anticipated the ways in which private confidential biometric data of Indian citizens could be tampered with. And if they do not anticipate any such crime to take place, why would they put provisions of severe punishment ranging up to three years of imprisonment. Why do Indians want to appear stupid by not having any debate on consequences of a project like UID in India . The parliamentary committee on finance, on grounds that it was contradictory and ambiguous, summarily rejected the NIDAI bill. Now perhaps the UIDAI legal team is working hard to prepare an even more thorough bill. The lack of a legal cover however does not prevent the UIDAI to pursue its illegal agenda. Currently an illegal exercise of biometric data collection is on in India. But not everyone is taking part in it. A friend recently told me a anecdote about what happened when one day some UIDAI officials went to the house of a retired Supreme Court judge of India in Delhi. I record below my impressions of the anecdote. (Retd) Supreme Court judge: Who are you? UIDAI official: Sir I have come from UIDAI. (Retd) Supreme Court judge: What do you want? UIDAI official: Sir I want your biometric data. (Retd) Supreme Court judge: Why? UIDAI official: Sir we are collecting data to give UID numbers. (Retd) Supreme Court judge: Okay. What do you want me to do? UIDAI official: Sir we want your fingerprints for this exercise. (Retd) Supreme Court judge: WHAT!!! (he is furious) What utter nonsense!! Fingerprints are for under-trials and convicts. UIDAI official: But Sir! UIDAI is a Government of India exercise. It is as per rules. (Retd) Supreme Court judge: What rules! Show me the damned rules. UIDAI official: Sir you might not remember but ever since you retired they have appended the Citizenship act. Now all of us have to give our fingerprints. (Retd) Supreme Court judge: Really!! Show me the rules and take my fingerprints. UIDAI official: Okay sir. (The UIDAI official goes to get the rule book but never returns because no such rule exists in constitution of India which says that one has to give ones fingerprint to a UIDAI official) If the draft NIDAI bill partially represents the collective fears UIDAI handlers, the UIDAI’s Communication and Awareness report represents their hopeless dreams. In February 2010 the UIDAI got together a team of corporate propaganda managers, also known as ‘communications experts’ in trade jargon to sell the idea of UIDAI to India. …

The Indian state’s view is that it wants financial inclusion for all. Yet it wants to enroll only 600 million Indians, possibly leaving out 400 million because they are ones with weakest trail of documentary history. The state does not know who are the poor people of India therefore it has created UIDAI to ensure that everyone especially the poor are correctly identified. The fact of the matter is that no technology exists in the world, which can correctly identify a person as he claims to be and work at the scale of a large population. It is true small populations could be identified correctly, for instance patients of a hospital, or a small prison population. But currently no state has a technology to correctly identify all its citizens. In most countries citizenship itself is highly contested socio-legal category. The system, which UIDAI is currently putting in place, is beset with faulty technology. Such a system, as UIDAI documents show, has a potential to either falsely accept a fake claimant as genuine or genuinely reject an original claimant as false. The percentages, it is true, for such a thing to happen are small. But when we translate even a small percentage figure like 4 to Indian population, it means 40 million people could face unwanted problems related to UIDAI on a daily basis. If this is going to be an everyday scenario the percentages cease to be small. Forty million people getting affected from systemic faults on a daily basis is not a small problem in any state, anywhere in the world. The second and highly disturbing aspect of giving a UID number to 600 million Indians is the process itself. The current process stupidly allows itself to become vulnerable to injuries caused by the ease with biometric data traveling in memory sticks could be copied, downloaded, tampered with and destroyed. And finally the floating liquid biometric data can potentially act as a huge asset for communal forces in India in planning, profiling, detailing and executing pogroms and genocides or minor communal conflicts for immediate electoral, political or economic gain. The deafening silence of the far right, which is usually extremely critical of federal programs, about UIDAI scheme is perhaps a good pointer to start thinking about consequences of ignoring UIDAI in India.

http://countercurrents.org/mehmood010412.htm

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Is Media “Safe” In India? – By Adil Akhzer (Apr 1, 2012, Countercurrents)

The recent arrest (February 14) of one of the eminent Indian journalists Syed Kazmi and also a midnight police raid (March 11) of Frontline magazine Delhi Bureau chief, John Cherian, which police later framed as a “case of misunderstanding” has forced many within the journalist fraternity to ponder as to whether they are safe in a democratic country like India? No one can deny the fact that media in India is working under a free sky, and unlike China and other countries where there are restrictions on what media can report, Indian media has never come under any kind of pressure. However, the latest incident where Kazmi, an accredited journalist, a father of three, and formerly a public television broadcaster, who was arrested for his alleged role in the “Sticky bomb” case on the Israeli diplomatic car and for which the Delhi Police has failed to provide any authentic proof of his involvement- is clearly an indication that media is not free anymore and now any time, any journalist can be picked up and framed with any charge by the police, depending upon the situation.

The arrest of Kazmi, which is still shrouded in mystery, has not helped the investigating agencies to crack the car blast case. It is interesting to look the circumstances under which Kazmi was arrested, which in itself looks like a scene out of a Bollywood potboiler. According to reports, Kazmi was picked up from the India Islamic Cultural Centre in New Delhi at about 11.30 am on February 14, subsequently he was taken to the office of the Special Cell of the Delhi police. However, officially his arrest has been shown in the records as 8.30 pm. Later in the night, officers of the Special Cell raided Kazmi’s house and seized his laptop, Press Information Bureau card, passport, driving license and some other documents. The police also seized his Alto car that and the two-wheeler that they claim was used for the reccee of the Israeli target. Citing this arbitrariness, Kazmi’s son revealed an even more important thing. He said, “I was forced to sign on the arrest memo at 2.30 am. We asked them to wait till morning, but they threatened us”. So is it not right to say that Kazmi has been a victim at the hands of Delhi Police. If the police can arrest, an established and prominent journalist in the capital, can’t they arrest an ordinary scribe at any time, if they want and put fictitious charges on him?

It has already been reported that after Kazmi’s arrest, so far Delhi police has not been able to produce any kind of substantial evidence linking him to the aiding and abetting of the “sticky bomb” conspiracy. More interestingly, it is curious to know that the police are tight lipped on the matter on the real culprits behind the attack. One can guess the things by this simple situation: if you are a journalist and you would call Delhi Police PRO who is in charge of the media, he will not be able to say or utter anything related to this case. It is indeed a matter of alarm that the repeated protests by the various media organisations at national and international level against Kazmi’s arrest have not yielded any result. “Investigations can continue but he should be released on bail since he is cooperating with the investigations. We do not want the police to indulge in a media trial. If there is any need for information to be given, it should only be through an official press note,” a statement issued by the largest journalist body in the country, the Delhi Union of Journalists. The union’s statement also hinted at foul play in Kazmi’s arrest when it said, “Possibly Kazmi’s close association with the Iranian media outlets is being used by the police to implicate him”. Though the statement was issued keeping Kazmi in mind, the bigger concern on the journalist fraternity’s mind is that Kazmi’s arrest can have repercussions on other scribes too. A journalist would definitely now think twice whether he/she should work for any international outlet or not, because the message from the Indian authorities is clear – that you can be used by the government like a puppet and no one would really care about you.

It is not easy to forget the case of Ifthikar Geelani back in 2001 when he was arrested under the Official Secrets Act, and though he was set free, it indicated one thing clearly and categorically- if the government wants, it can arrest anybody at any time and can slap you with any fictitious charge within days and you will be thrown behind the bars. India is a democratic country where media is treated as the fourth pillar of democracy and it has already exposed involvement of many senior bureaucrats and ministers in various scams and corruption cases, forcing the government to act against the tainted minters, but it is not wrong to say that now the situation and times have changed. Now if you are a journalist, no matter for which agency you are working local, national or international, there is a possibility that a “case” can be framed against you and then he/she can be attacked, tortured, harassed and finally be set free. Pertinently, Kazmi’s arrest is also giving sleeping nights to another category of researchers and journalists- the ones who had recently visited Syria to cover the referendum on a new constitution. They feel that now the government is constantly monitoring their activities. They are wondering as to whether the Indian government is acting under any kind of international pressure? If the answer is yes, then the time has come for the government to act against those forces, because if they don’t act now, it would ultimately create a dissent in our democracy.

http://countercurrents.org/akhzer010412.htm

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To fix BPL, nix CPL – By P. Sainath (Mar 26, 2012, The Hindu)

One Tendulkar makes the big scores. The other wrecks the averages. The Planning Commission clearly prefers Suresh to Sachin. Using Professor Tendulkar’s methodology, it declares that there’s been another massive fall in poverty. Yes, another (“more dramatic in the rural areas”). “Record Fall in Poverty” reads one headline. The record is in how many times you’ve seen the same headline over the years. And how many times poverty has collapsed, only to bounce back when the math is done differently. And so, a mere 29.9 per cent of India’s population is now below the official poverty line (BPL). The figure was 37.2 per cent in 2004-05. The “line” is another story in itself, of course. But on the surface, rural poverty has declined by eight percentage points to log in at 33.8 per cent. That’s down from 41.8 per cent in 2004-05. And urban poverty fell by 4.8 percentage points from 25.7 to 20.9 per cent in the same period. Millions have been dragged above the poverty line, without knowing it. Media amnesia fogs the “lowest-ever” figures, though. These are not the “lowest-ever.” “Kill me, I say,” said Prof. Madhu Dandavate in 1996, chuckling. “I just doubled poverty in your country today.” What that fine old gentleman had really done, as deputy chairperson of the Planning Commission, was to jettison the bogus methodology peddled by that body before he came to head it the same year. Even minor changes in methodology or poverty line can produce dramatically differing estimates.

The fraud he undid was “an exercise” bringing poverty down to 19 per cent in 1993-94. And that, from 25.5 per cent in 1987-88. These were the “preliminary results of a Planning Commission exercise based on National Sample Survey data” (Economic & Political Weekly, January 27, 1996). Now if these figures were true, then poverty has risen ever since. And remember, highlighting that historic fall was an honest Finance Minister. The never-tell-a-lie Dr. Manmohan Singh. One business daily ran a hilarious “exclusive” on this at the time. Poverty falls to record low of 19 per cent, “government officials say.” This was the best news since Independence. But the modest officials remained anonymous, knowing how stupid they’d look. In the present era, they hold press conferences to flaunt their fraud. The “lowest ever at 19 per cent” fraud was buried in the ruins of the April 1996 polls. So was the government of the day. The “estimate” was not heard of again. Now we have the 29.9 per cent avatar. Surely that’s a rise of 10.9 percentage points in 16 years? Or just another methodological fiddle. However, the new Planning Commission numbers have achieved one thing. They’ve united most of Parliament on the issue. Members from all parties have blasted the “estimates” and called for explanations.

There’s also the Tendulkar report’s own fiddles. As Dr. Madhura Swaminathan points out, the committee dumped the calorie norms of “2,100 kcal per day for urban areas and 2,400 kcal for rural areas.” It switched to “a single norm of 1,800 kcal per day.” And did so citing an “FAO norm.” As Dr. Swaminathan observed: “the standards set by the Food and Agriculture Organisation for energy requirements are for “minimum dietary energy requirements” or MDER. That is, “the amount of energy needed for light or sedentary activity.” And she cites an FAO example of such activity. “…a male office worker in urban areas who only occasionally engages in physically demanding activities during or outside working hours.” As Dr. Swaminathan asks: “Can we assume that a head load worker who carries heavy sacks through the day is engaged in light activity?” – The Hindu, February 5, 2010. The media rarely mention that there are other methodologies for measuring poverty on offer. Also set in motion by this same government. The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) saw BPL Indians as making up 77 per cent of the population. The N.C. Saxena-headed BPL Expert group placed it at around 50 per cent. Like the Tendulkar Committee, these two were also set up by government. While differing wildly, all three pegged rural poverty at a higher level than government did. Meanwhile, we will have many more committees on the same issue until one of them gives this government the report it wants. The one it can get away with. (The many inquiries on farm suicides exemplify this.)

That the Planning Commission thought they could slip the present bunkum by sets a new benchmark for – and marriage of – arrogance and incompetence. First, they sparked outrage with their affidavit in the Supreme Court. There they defended a BPL cut-off line of Rs.26 a day (rural) and Rs.32 (urban). Now they hope to get by with numbers of Rs.22.42 a day (rural) and Rs.28.35 a day (urban). The same year the government and planning commission shot themselves in both feet in 1996, a leading Delhi think tank joined in. It came up with the “biggest ever study” done on poverty in the country. This covered over 30,000 households and queried respondents across more than 300 parameters. So said its famous chief at a meeting in Bhopal. This stunned the journalists in the audience. Till then, they had been doing what most journalists do at most seminars. Sleeping in a peaceful, non-confrontational manner. The veteran beside me came alive, startled. “Did he mean they asked those households over 300 questions? My God! Thirty years in this line and the biggest interview I ever did had nine. That was with my boss’s best friend. And my last question was ‘may I go now’?” We did suggest to the famous economist that battered with 300 questions, his respondents were more likely to die of fatigue than of poverty. A senior aide of the think tank chief took the mike to explain why we were wrong. We sent two investigators to each household, he said. Which made sense, of course: one to hold the respondent down physically, twisting his arm, while the other asked him 300 questions.

Now to the queue of BPL, APL, IPL, et al., may I add my own modest contribution? This is the CPL, or Corporate Plunder Line. This embraces the corporate world and other very well-off or “high net worth individuals.” We have no money for a universal PDS. Or even for a shrunken food security bill. We’ve cut thousands of crores from net spending on rural employment. We lag horribly in human development indicators, hunger indexes and nutritional surveys. Food prices keep rising and decent jobs get fewer. Yet, BPL numbers keep shrinking. The CPL numbers, however, keep expanding. The CPL concept is anchored in the “Statement of Revenue Foregone” section of successive union budgets. Since 2005-06, for instance, the union government has written off close to Rs.4 lakh crore in corporate income tax. Over Rs.50,000 crore of that in the present budget. The very one in which it slashes thousands of crores from the MNREGS. Throw in concessions on customs and excise duties and the corporate karza maafi in this year’s budget sneaks up to nearly Rs.5 lakh crore. True, there are things covered in excise and customs that also affect larger sections, like fuel, for instance. But mostly, they benefit the corporate world and the very rich. In just this budget and the last one, we’ve written off Rs.1 lakh crore for diamonds, gold and jewellery in customs duties. That sort of money buys a lot of food security. But CPL trumps BPL every time. The same is true of write-offs on things like machinery. In theory, there’s a lot that should benefit everybody: like the equipment hospitals import. In practice, most Indians will never enter the five-star hospitals that cash in on these benefits. The total write-off on these three heads in eight years since 2005-06: Rs. 25.7 lakh crore. (See Table). That’s over half a trillion U.S. dollars. Not far from 15 times the size of your 2G scam. Or over twice the Coal Scam, the latest addition to the CPL. Look at the table and think about BPL estimates working on cut-offs of Rs.22.42 a day rural and Rs.28.35 urban. To fix BPL, nix CPL.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/sainath/article3223573.ece

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Lethal Mines Continue To Kill Minors – By Zafar Iqbal (Mar 30, 2012, Countercurrents)

Two brothers loved to visit the quiet pasture with their goats and sheep. However, they were unaware that this enjoyable hobby would be fatal for them. Suddenly, they slipped in the mud and were trapped by a hidden landmine which went off with a deadly bang. They were killed on the spot. The incident occurred when the world celebrated the 20 th anniversary of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. The victims were playing in a remote village across the line of control (Lo C), the disputed border dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Both countries have been accused of the mass production and excessive use of landmines. They also refuse to join the international treaty which binds states never to use, develop, produce, stockpile or transfer antipersonnel landmines. This year the international community is celebrating “Lend your leg for a mine-free world” campaign to mark its commitment to achieve a mine-free world. Campaigners are asking people to join them on the 4 th of April, a U.N. Day for Mine Action and Mine Awareness. On this day people all over the world are asked to roll up their trouser legs to show solidarity with the survivors of landmines and other explosive remnants of military conflicts.

The strife for the abolition of landmines has witnessed a significant progress in the past two decades. The most prominent example of these efforts is the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction. The resulting treaty calls each member state to destroy its stocks of anti-personnel mines within four years of membership, and to clear all active antipersonnel landmines within 10 years. Today, 159 states have joined the Ottawa Treaty, also known as the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention. This means that eighty percent of all countries have banned landmines. Most of them no longer produce them, and millions of mines have been cleared from conflict zones like Cambodia, Iraq, Egypt, Angola, Mozambique, Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Cyprus, Lebanon, Sudan and Afghanistan. After the Mine Ban Convention more than 42 million anti-personnel mines have been destroyed by the member states. Over 10,000 landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs) have been neutralised in Sri Lanka after the recent peace developments. Around a million people in Libya have been secured from the threat of deadly landmines and UXOs. Across the world, about 100,000 mines are defused annually.

However, the struggle for the existence of a world without mines is not yet over because they still threaten thousands of people in various regions. Around 37 countries have not signed the Treaty. It is unfortunate that some of the major countries still remain outside of the Treaty. These include China, Russia, the USA, as well as Somalia, Myanmar, United Arab Emirates, Cuba, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Israel and Iraq. Their lack of commitment to the Treaty jeopardises global humanitarian efforts for the eradication of fatal landmines and other related devices. Landmine accidents are one of the most appalling problems of the contemporary world. Landmine Action, a UK campaign group, estimates that every year, there are up to 20,000 casualties caused by landmines, which is around 1,500 incidents a month, or 40 a day. Other estimates say that there are 135 million landmines and UXOs spread over 70 countries. In other words, a landmine goes off every 26 minutes somewhere in the world, killing or maiming someone. The UN predicts that even if no new mines are planted from now on, it would take about 1,100 years to defuse the millions of mines planted across the globe. Demining is a very challenging and dangerous job. One the one hand, it risks the lives of experts involved in the process. For instance, only in India 797 soldiers have become victims in clearance operations since 2002. On the other hand, the financial cost of minefield clearance is mind-blowing. The estimated cost of defusing a mine is $1,300 which is considerably higher than the production cost. The UNICEF estimates the land mine manufacturing cost is $3-$10 per unit. Moreover, the number of amputees in the world has increased to 2, 50,000 people. Rehabilitation of these victims would cost $750 million.

Globally speaking, Africa is the most severely affected region where twenty-two countries face the landmine problem. Fifteen countries in Asia, 11 in Europe and 8 in the Americas are affected by the landmines. Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world with 640,000 mines laid in since 1970s. The Institute of War and War Reporting reveals that every month landmines cause 50 casualties in this war-torn country. Its neighbours Pakistan and India are considered two of the major producers of anti-personnel landmines. The excessive use of landmines and other devices has been reported in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal and other Indian states, including Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan is a large producer of landmines and exports them to Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and other countries. It also uses landmines in its Baluchistan province and Taliban dominated northern parts.

At present, both India and Pakistan have also heavily laid mines during the 2001-2 army build up on their international borders and along the Line of Control in disputed Jammu and Kashmir. However, after the normalization, these landlines have not been cleared off and pose danger to civilians, mainly women and children. In particular, along the LoC civilians repeatedly suffer from these treacherous landmines. Hundreds of people have lost their limbs in various areas near the LoC in the past two decades in both parts of Kashmir. Civilian victims suffer from psychological and physical trauma caused by landmines. “My life has become a hell. I have lost my vital body parts and am not able to walk, eat and see,” says Aziz, a resident of a border village. Living in utter poverty, he cannot afford to purchase the artificial limbs. There are many more victims of landmines that have the same tale of grief, frustration and ordeal. These landmines related tragedies in various parts of the world call for concrete actions and coordinated efforts of the governments and civil society to eliminate deadly landmines. Today, there is a dire need to accelerate humanitarian efforts to strengthen the Mine Ban Community. Promoting risk education and using efficient technological solutions for the clearance of landmines and UXOs can save people.

http://countercurrents.org/iqbal300312.htm

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Renewables option – By Praful Bidwai (Mar 10, 2012, Frontline)

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has stooped low by alleging that the large-scale protests against the Kudankulam nuclear power station in Tamil Nadu, sustained impressively for six months, are inspired and financed by American and Scandinavian non-governmental organisations. Invoking the “foreign hand” to vilify those who question official projects means denying that Indian citizens have the ability to think for themselves. This is particularly offensive coming from a leader who wants to hitch India’s energy future to imported nuclear reactors and whose own economic policy has long borne an indelible foreign imprint. In reality, the only foreigners in Kudankulam have been the Russian engineers invited by the Nuclear Power Corporation. The people’s organisations leading the agitation are serving defamation notices upon the Ministers who levelled malicious accusations against them instead of engaging them and convincing them of the project’s safety. Equally pernicious is the Prime Minister’s allegation that “the thinking segment of our population certainly is supportive of nuclear energy”. Recent statements by some Indian intellectuals, such as the historians Romila Thapar and Mushirul Hasan, the economists Amit Bhaduri, Jean Dreze and Deepak Nayyar, the political scientist Rajeev Bhargav, the ambassador Nirupam Sen, the artists Krishan Khanna and Vivan Sundaram, and P. Balaram, Director, Indian Institute of Science, belie this claim. In fact, after Fukushima, there is a close congruence between popular perceptions and the intelligentsia’s concerns about nuclear hazards. The slander campaign against the Kudankulam activists is clearly a prelude to a crackdown to thrust the nuclear plant down their throats. But Manmohan Singh should know that this will not quell the growing, determined popular opposition to nuclear power in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and indeed Kudankulam itself.

Using brute force to impose nuclear power plants on an unwilling population has dire implications not just for India’s energy sector but for democracy, our greatest post-Independence achievement. It will usher in a police state, an authoritarian “nuclear state” that rides roughshod over people’s rights and promotes a dangerously callous technocracy, as writer Robert Jungk famously warned. India’s nuclear zealots seem to have no compunction in outlawing dissent in pursuit of their obsession. This is a frightening prospect, which should make Indian policymakers pause and think. If indeed they want to improve access to electricity, denied to two-fifths of the population, and equitably promote a low-carbon, safe and climate-friendly energy economy, then a historic opportunity now presents itself in the renewable energy revolution that is sweeping the globe. Renewable energy today accounts for one-fifth of the world’s power capacity and delivers 18 per cent of global electricity and primary energy supply, besides 24 per cent of heat supply. Grid-connected solar photovoltaics (or PV, which is the direct conversion of sunlight into electricity) have been growing annually by 53 per cent and wind power by 32 per cent. Deployment of other renewables such as solar thermal, biomass, tidal and geothermal energy is also growing rapidly. The renewables revolution seems unstoppable and developing countries are playing an important role in driving it. New investment in renewables has defied the general global investment downturn since 2008. Investment rose to $150 billion in 2009 and further jumped to $243 billion in 2010, up 134 per cent since 2007 and almost five times higher than in 2004.

By contrast, the number of nuclear reactors worldwide peaked at 444 in 2002 and is now down to under 400 (counting those shut down in Germany and Japan). Their contribution to global electricity supply, once 17 per cent, has fallen to under 13 per cent. They account for only 2 per cent of the world’s final energy consumption (less than 1 per cent in India) compared with 18 per cent for renewable energy worldwide. More than 150 nuclear reactors are set to retire in the next two decades, and only about 60 are planned to replace them. The so-called nuclear renaissance that George W. Bush wanted to instigate has not materialised. No new reactor order has matured in the United States since 1973. Western Europe has not had a single new reactor commissioned since Chernobyl (1986). Areva’s European Pressurised Reactors, or EPRs (also meant to be installed at Jaitapur in Maharashtra), under construction in Finland and France, have run into grave trouble with regulators. They are over four years behind schedule, 95 per cent over budget, and mired in legal disputes. Renewable energy is growing by leaps and bounds because it is flexible, modular, and increasingly competitive, thanks to rapidly falling costs. It takes only months, often weeks, to install a PV facility or wind turbine, in contrast to 10 to 13 years for nuclear reactors. The timeline is crucial from the climate viewpoint. World emissions must peak by 2020 if global warming is not to exceed 2 C. Not to be discounted is the abundance of renewable energy resources, enough to meet the world’s energy needs 3,000 times over. Renewable energy is amenable to decentralised and stand-alone applications as well as to grid-based systems. The first characteristic is particularly relevant to India, where tens of thousands of villages remain deprived of electricity and where home-lighting systems could transform the quality of life. Renewable energy fits in snugly with energy efficiency improvement, and the two uniquely complement each other.

In India, “new” renewable energy (wind, PV, solar thermal, small hydro, and so on) deployment, barely a decade old, is growing annually at 3,500 megawatt and already exceeds the capacity of nuclear reactors fourfold and generates twice as much energy as they do. Wind generation is in true costs already cheaper than coal-based power. The cost of PV is decreasing dramatically. At the latest 130 MW auction under the National Solar Mission, the lowest generation-cost figure quoted was Rs.7.49 a kilowatt-hour, less than half of the EPR’s power. Global costs are even lower at 12-15 U.S. cents/kWh, and falling. They are expected to halve within the next few years and become grid-competitive with fossil fuels. The opportunity this offers to sun-blessed India cannot be exaggerated. Renewable energy sources have lower life cycle carbon dioxide emissions than not just gas and coal but also nuclear power. Although nuclear fission does not directly produce greenhouse gases, the entire nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium mining to fuel fabrication and transportation, to reactor construction, and fuel reprocessing and waste storage, has a sizeable carbon footprint. The CO {-2} emissions of renewable energy sources range from as low as 3 to 7 grams a kWh (wind) to 8.5 gm to 11 gm (concentrated solar power), and 19 to 59 gm (PV, although these are expected to fall). The figure for nuclear power ranges from 68 gm to 180 gm. India has a unique opportunity to join and lead the renewables revolution. India stands at a cusp. It has not yet been locked into centralised grid-based generation and can develop a new energy system that uses decentralised applications and “smart” two-way grids, which allow consumers to sell power from PV or windmills to the grid when there is a surplus. Unlike in the West, where renewable energy must adapt to already developed centralised grids, India can build a far more flexible electric system that is appropriate to its distributed consumption pattern spread across six lakh villages, thousands of small towns and power-starved slums in cities.

Indian energy planners have persistently exaggerated power demand and underestimated the potential of renewable energy. For instance, the official estimate of onshore wind potential was until recently as low as 49,000 MW (49 gigawatts); it has just been revised to 102 GW. This is huge, more than one-half of India’s total installed power capacity (180 GW). But it ignores both the low land-footprint of wind turbines and recent technological improvements that allow wind to be harvested at heights such as 80, 100 or 120 metres instead of the assumed 50 m. More updated estimates, including one by U.S.-based Indian researchers and published by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, range from a staggering 750 GW to over 2,000 GW. Even if the lowest-cost resources were to be tapped at the most favourable wind sites, they would still yield 200 GW, probably taking India’s total installed power capacity beyond adequate levels. These are not the only renewable energy sources to be tapped. There is renewable biomass, which alone can meet all our energy needs through biodigesters and combined generation with solar thermal power. Not to be ignored is the potential held out by improved high-efficiency stoves that use different kinds of waste and reduce indoor pollution, a major killer of women and children. India can join the renewables revolution and benefit if it aggressively promotes such energy through a renewable purchase obligation on distribution companies, institutes feed-in tariffs (to offset initial fossil-renewable energy cost differentials), and encourages local manufacture while adapting programmes to the needs of the underprivileged. Equity is pivotal here. The technological superiority, economic viability and ecological sustainability of renewable energy are largely settled matters. That battle has already been won. The crucial issue is who will control renewable energy. It cannot be left to corporations alone. The poor must have the first claim to affordable renewable energy, and local communities must have a say in its development and use. That is the way forward.

http://www.flonnet.com/fl2905/stories/20120323290510600.htm

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