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Archives for : March2017

One well for 10 thousand people, that’s Bundelkhand for you

| TNN |

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Of over 10,000 residents of Gusiyari, only about 3,000 are registered voters
  • lmost 80% population is Muslim while rest comprise upper caste Hindus and dalits
  • The village has over 30 wells and 72 handpumps but all of them yield saline water

The well in Gusiyari which is the only source of water for villagers. (Photo: Priyanka Singh)The well in Gusiyari which is the only source of water for villagers. (Photo: Priyanka Singh)

LUCKNOW: People in the biggest gram panchayat of Hamirpur district in Bundelkhand -‘Gusiyari’ village, which has been surviving on only one well for the last 150 years, claim that no government has ever taken interest in providing them water. The sole well in the village has been the only source of water for over 10,000 residents.

For the past 30 years, political parties have been asking for votes on assurance of water supply to Gusiyari but no development is visible so far. A villager Sagheer Ahmad said, “Our biggest problem is just another decorative agenda on the parties’ manifesto. No one has ever understood our plight. Almost all candidates promise us water supply but once they come to power they never show up.”

Of over 10,000 residents of Gusiyari, only about 3,000 are registered voters. Almost 80% population is Muslim while rest comprise upper caste Hindus and dalits. The village has over 30 wells and 72 handpumps but all of them yield saline water, unfit for consumption. It is the only well located 4km away from Gusiyari that has potable water, as it is irrigated by the nearby rainfed Shyam River.

With just one well around, it is a struggle every time to fetch water from this source. Another villager Sakeena said, “It is common to see people fighting near the well over who would fetch first. There is so much consumption from the well that its level reduces by night, so everyone is in a rush. Girls have to visit the well 12-13 times a day to get water.”

Such has been the struggle for water in the past that villagers have formed a community-based hierarchy to decide who would fetch water first. Muslims being in more in number have been allowed to fetch water from the well anytime. Brahmins can also draw water anytime and have got two ghats (one fourth of the area) reserved for themselves. Dalits, however, are entitled to get water only during afternoon. Further, Muslims and Brahmins draw water from the well and give it to Dalits.

Kalli, a dalit woman, said, “We visit the well only in the afternoon and cannot draw water on our own. What welfare are we taking about when we get water on the basis of our religion and caste?”

However, Muslims and Brahmins in the area claim that there is no communal disharmony and the arrangement for fetching water has been made with the consent of all the communities to avoid disputes.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/one-well-for-10-thousand-people-thats-bundelkhand-for-you/articleshow/57261569.cms

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Students of Mumbai University, TISS, IIT-Bombay protest against ABVP

Representational pic

Close to a hundred people from various institutes, student unions, labour unions and a few teachers from the city gathered outside the University of Mumbai at a protest gathering against the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and brahminisation of campuses across the country.

Organised by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) Mumbai, the protest was directed against ABVP as students responded to the reported violence at Ramjas college in Delhi.

Participants gave a message of “Say No To Lathis, Stone-Pelting & Bloodshed, Stand for the freedom of debate and dissent”.

Students from several prominent institutes in the city like the University of Mumbai , Tata Institute of Social sciences(TISS) and the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay were a part of the protest.

Protestors said that with the BJP rule, ABVP is resorting to violence without being punished for the same. “It is not a coincidence that ABVP has come to the level of resorting to physical attacks on students in such a routine manner in last two years. With coming in power of fascist-minded BJP in the centre, the ABVP goons enjoy immense impunity. Every voice of protest is being dubbed as ‘anti-national’ and being suppressed. Students from Dalit, Muslim, Adivasi and OBC communities are particularly targeted. Murderers of Rohith and abductors of Najeeb are openly roaming around,” read a statement issued by JAC.

http://www.dnaindia.com/mumbai/report-students-of-mumbai-university-tiss-iit-bombay-protest-against-abvp-2342792

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Why setting up a Bad Bank is a really Bad Idea and what can be its Alternative?

bad_bank_vs_good_bank_440645

By Monish Borah

When not one but three central government ministers get involved in a controversy over an inconsequential issue like what a 20 year Old’s placard reads, it only means one thing- the government want to keep another far more important issue away from the limelight. This issue might very well be the government’s attempt to set up a “bad bank” which will have serious economic repercussions for all of us.

What is a  Bad Bank?

A bad bank is basically a bank which will buy the bad loans from different banks and try to “reconstruct” the assets to get back the money that was due.

With the main opponent to this plan- Raghuram Rajan out of office- the finance minister of India, the chief economic advisor to the Indian government  and a deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India have recently opined that a bad bank should be established as soon as possible.

  1. Why did Raghuram Rajan oppose it?

He opposed it because of the Indian banks’ debt profile. Almost all the bad loans or NPAs are in government owned public sector banks and almost all of these are a result of loans being given to privately owned corporation and business houses. The private sector will not invest in a bad bank because it is a venture which guarantees loss. So, Raghuram Rajan was worried about the government using public money in order to settle private debts which might have serious consequences for India’s debt to GDP ratio.

In other words, Raghuram Rajan implied that if most of the loans were in the private sector banks then the banks would/could have been forced to raise money from the public through securities to solve that problem. But now the government will be forced to do that if it decides to set up a bad bank which will increase government debt and force them to limit expenditure.

  1. What does it mean in simple words?

Well, we as a nation have watched in slow-motion all the bad business decisions of liquor baron Vijay Mallya, such as, buying an IPL team, buying a Formula 1 racing team, private jets, expensive cars and last but not least swimsuit calendars. If a “bad bank” is formed all of Vijay Mallya’s bad loans could be transferred to it and the government will have to use our money to right Vijay Mallya’s mistakes. I don’t know about you but I find this completely unacceptable. But, Vijay Mallya is just one example- there are hundreds of people like him, many of whom are even bigger spenders than Mallya.

  1. If this plan is so bad then who is supporting it?

Last year the former RBI governor Rajan forced all banks to disclose their Non-performing assets. This led to a lot of embarrassment for many bank officials when it emerged that they gave loans to private business concerns which should not have got any if normal banking procedures were followed. Investigative journalists also soon found out that many of these loans were given out due to pressure being exerted by government bureaucrats on the banks.

But now with a bad bank buying up all the banks’ bad loans and NPAs- the bank officials and bureaucrats can wash their hands off of their misdemeanours and pass the responsibility for an asset’s “non-performance” onto this newly founded institution.

Bankers have a second reason to support this plan. If a bad bank is set up then the responsibility of banks to lend money responsibly considerably decreases because after all if the loan becomes a Non-Performing Asset then they can simply sell it to the Bad Bank and wash their hands off from any fallout.

  1. Is there any alternative to deal with NPAs other than opening a Bad Bank?

In order to deal with bad loans the government owned banks have been engaging in “assets reconstruction” either by themselves or by employing privately owned Assets Reconstruction Companies, but this initiative has been a failure. Now with a bad bank the government is hoping to succeed by setting up a big government owned Assets Reconstruction Company to deal with NPAs. I have only one thing to say here, that is to quote Albert Einstein- Insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different outcomes.

Indian government should seriously and sincerely think of a different way to deal with these Non-performing assets. Below I have mentioned a suggestion- please have a look at it.

Possible Solution

One of the meanings of the word “democratise” is to make something available to all. Why don’t we democratise the NPAs?

Keep the NPAs with the respective banks. The banks know who their high value customers are. Banks can contact the assets reconstruction companies and not ask them to reconstruct the non-performing assets which take a lot of time without any guarantee of success but asks them which failed assets can most easily be reconstructed or re-converted into a profitable asset. This is not a difficult job to do and frankly there are many private consultancy firms in India which can do this job. The banks then should offer to sell these NPAs which have high probability of success to their high value customers. Only those customers who have impeccable credit record which can be easily determined with the help of CIBIL or Credit Information Bureau of India Limited should be made eligible to buy such an asset.

Any asset thusly sold to a private party should for a particular time period be made eligible for loans based only on the immovable assets of the business or the high value customer to whom this NPA had been solved. Moreover, loans should only be approved if the buyer of these assets agrees to implement the changes which have been proposed in a plan drawn up by the bank and the firm which assessed the non-performing asset before it is sold to the high value customer.

There are many high value individuals banking with Indian banks but most do not have any business background or entrepreneurial acumen. The pre-conditions to sell NPAs to such individuals should also be that they agree to set up an independent board of directors who can run the everyday operations of the newly acquired asset. The size of this board must vary according to the size of the asset and always be an odd number to avoid indecision.

I think this plan will work because there are many NPAs which have a lot of potential but have been run down by bad business decisions. I also think that there are sufficient number of high value individuals using the Indian banking system who would love to own a business but are hesitant to do it because they do not want to start from scratch and because they are ill-equipped to run the day to day operations of such a business. Moreover, a high value individual will most likely “adopt” a business close to where he/she resides, this will help in the welfare of local communities since NPAs and high value bank customers can be found everywhere in India.

If you like this suggestion on an alternate method to deal with NPAs, please share it online and on government portals.

(Full disclosure– There was recently a similar move to create a bad bank for Europe, but it has been shot down by EU’s biggest economy- Germany. I have been trained by and worked closely with at least 3 leading German economists and economic historians so the above article might be a result of my pre-conceived ideas.)

http://monishborah.com/2017/03/03/setting-bad-bank-really-bad-idea-can-alternative/

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Chhattisgarh – DGP Kalluri lands in WhatsApp controversy, gets show cause notices

Tough cop Kalluri lands in WhatsApp controversy, gets show cause notices

Ritesh Mishra
Hindustan Times
SRP Kalluri

The photograph, captioned ‘Three idiots clean bowled’, circulated on Whatsapp.

The Chhattisgarh director general of police (DGP) served show cause notices to former Bastar inspector general of police (IGP) SRP Kalluri on Saturday for attending a private function in Jagdalpur without intimating his superiors and subsequently circulating a WhatsApp post in this regard.

DGP AN Upadhyay has served three notices to Kalluri, and sought responses for the same in three days.

Though Kalluri was removed from Bastar a month ago and attached to the police headquarters, he attended a private function in Jagdalpur that also featured superintendents of police Indira Kalyan Elesela (of Sukma) and RN Dash (of Jagdalpur) on Thursday evening.

A controversy erupted when local newspapers on Friday quoted Elesela as saying that “manvadhikaar karkartaon ko sadak par kuchal dena chahiye… (human rights activists should be crushed on the roads).”

He also reportedly said that rights activists were “Maoist sympathisers” who should be treated like the extremists they support.

Soon afterwards, the opposition raised the matter in the legislative assembly, spurring chief minister Raman Singh to remove both Elesela and Dash from Bastar. However, the controversy refused to die down. On Friday night, Kalluri posted on Whatsapp a photograph that showed him posing with the two police officers. Its caption read: “Three idiots clean bowled!”

The photograph was widely circulated and reported in the media. Embarrassed by the development, Upadhyay sent the show cause notices to Kalluri, asking why he had attended the Jagdalpur event without intimating the police headquarters and later posted the photograph on WhatsApp.

Kalluri, a controversial figure hailed by many for his tough stand against Bastar’s armed insurgency, has also been accused of violating human rights and sponsoring vigilante groups on several occasions.http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/tough-cop-kalluri-lands-in-another-controversy-gets-show-cause-notices/story-WPF3Bg2okKH6PGoNJh0DsN.html

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Kerala’s kiss of love activists recall life after sex racket scandal, arrest

TA Ameerudheen
Grist Media
Kiss of Love campaign

Rahul Pasupala and Reshmi Nair, on bail after being arrested in connection with a sex racket, insist the case has been fabricated against them by vested interests.(Facebook Photo/ Rahul Pasupalan)

These days, no one seems to be bothered about Rahul Pasupalan and Reshmi R Nair, once the poster children for the Kiss of Love (KoL) campaign, which took off in Kerala in November 2014.

For those unfamiliar with it, KoL was a social media movement initiated by Free Thinkers, a group led by short filmmaker Rahul Pasupalan. The group invited people to come to Marine Drive in Kochi on November 2 to hug and pucker up against moral policing. Predictably, it outraged right-wing parties of all shades, as well as some women and student outfits who turned up to protest against KoL. Hundreds of KoL campaign supporters showed up, holding hands, hugging and kissing in public, braving threats of physical violence by vigilante groups, who also turned up in hundreds.

The police took over 100 KoL activists into custody for what they described as a preventive measure to maintain law and order. Unmindful of the ensuing melee, Pasupalan and his wife, Nair, continued to kiss each other in full glare of live television, even as they were carted away in the police van. And what started as a local event to make a point, briefly spread to other cities in Kerala and became a sensation across the country.

Kiss of love protest against moral policing 2014 in Kerala at Ernakulam. (Wikimedia Commons)

KoL also got a boost when actor Mohanlal weighed in for it, castigating Malayalis for being stuck in a time warp when the world moved on. KoL split conservative Kerala (it didn’t help that Nair was a mother as well as a bikini model) and politicised what was meant to be a reaction against moral policing. Kerala is still seeing several instances of moral policing by goons that have even seen a pregnant woman and married couples being assaulted.

After its 15 minutes of fame, nothing was heard about KoL, for a year, till both Pasupalan, (29) and Nair (27) were suddenly arrested in Kochi on 18th November, 2015, following a chain of raids (codenamed Operation Big Daddy by the police), under the supervision of Inspector General of Police (Crime Branch), S Sreejith.

Police claimed the two were picked up from a hotel near Nedumbassery Airport in Kochi along with Lineesh Mathew, a Bengaluru-based broker and some others. Sreejith said two underage girls were with them at the hotel (at that time), while two women fled. The couple’s six-year-old son, who was with them, was later shifted to the children’s home run by the Child Welfare Committee.

Sex, Lies and Rackets

The police levelled the sensational charge that the couple was involved in a sex racket, and were accomplices of the main accused, Abdul Khader alias Ali Akbar, a notorious gangster, and his wife Rubina. One of the two underage girls was just six, flown in from Bangalore for alleged clients. The children were also handed over to the Child Welfare Committee.

Sreejith said, police, who were apparently tipped off about the couple’s involvement in the racket, got decoys to masquerade as clients to be in touch with Khader. Subsequently, they were sent Nair’s photographs and details. “Discussions were held and lot of bargaining went on,” he says.

The police attributed the couple’s alleged double life to indebtedness after a film project flopped. (However, in an interview, the film’s producer rubbished the claim saying it was Pasupalan and Nair who had taken them for a ride.) The prosecution case is that Pasupalan and Nair had created a Facebook page called ‘Kochu Sundarikal’ (Little Beauties). The page had come under the police scanner following complaints that it carried sexually-charged posts and images of children, and investigation apparently revealed that it catered to paedophiles.

Reshmi’s photos as a bikini model were used to claim that the couple were into flesh trade. (Facebook Photo/ Rahul Pasupalan)

Sreejith described Khader as the kingpin of the online operation and that he worked closely with child trafficking rackets in Bangalore. Pasupalan and Nair were named abettors and charged with offences under Sections 366A (procuring minor girl), 370(1) (exploitation of a trafficked person), and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, and sections of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, as well as various provisions of the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act.

Victims of a Witch-Hunt?

The couple’s arrests sent shockwaves throughout Kerala and raised serious questions about the credibility of the KoL campaign. Some believed that the two were framed for leading the campaign, while others accused them of stabbing KoL in the back. The result was that fellow KoL activists distanced themselves from the two saying “no one had anointed them” as their campaign’s spokespersons.

Pasupalan and Nair remained in custody for 14 and 10 months respectively before they could go home to Pathanapuram in Kollam district after securing bail (with the help of their relatives) order from both the Kerala and Karnataka High Courts — the Kerala police had informed their Karnataka counterparts about the crime as the two girls were from Karnataka. So a case was registered there against the accused.

Though the Kerala High Court granted them bail in February 2016 — observing that the police had not filed the final report within the statutory period of 90 days even though the allegations against them were serious — Nair remained in jail till August and Pasupalan till December, until the duo got bail from the Karnataka High Court in the child trafficking case.

Meanwhile, the media had a field day digging up stories about the former techie couple’s lifestyle. Pasupalan’s father, estranged from the family and working as a labourer, also trashed the couple, saying that the lakhs he spent on his son’s education had not brought him any returns or benefits. He went so far as to paint his son as a wayward and unbalanced person and his daughter-in-law as an embarrassment who walks about in skimpy clothes.

Today, the heat generated by the high-profile case seems to have settled, with the media showing little interest in pursuing the sensational case. Now, the couple in question is trying to regain, through social media, all that lost space and friendship. The two claim to be victims of a witch-hunt by the Kerala police and right-wing political organisations and vigilante groups.

Read more | Kissing up a storm

Creating Impact, Creating Doubt

In their first-ever interview to the media after emerging from their incarceration, Pasupalan and Nair looked unperturbed while fielding hard questions, vowing to fight the case till their name was cleared.

Accusing the Kerala police of denying them justice by delaying the charge sheet, Nair says, “The police couldn’t find enough evidence against us so far. That is the reason for not filing the charge sheet even 15 months after our arrest. I think they will drag the case for another two years.”

She was more hopeful of a favourable verdict from Karnataka. “While granting bail, the Karnataka High Court had observed that we were not involved in child trafficking.”

She never imagined she would spend time in jail for a crime she “never committed”. “The arrest and the subsequent media trial shattered me. The media celebrated our arrest by providing titillating stories without considering our rights.”

She is upset that friends have abandoned them since their arrest. “Those who were part of the campaign deserted us during the hour of crisis. They could have waited for the judgment before writing us off. Our conscience is clear and we haven’t done anything wrong.”

KoL is still close to Nair’s heart as she was the one who suggested the name for the event and the Facebook page. “The event was scheduled for 2nd November at my insistence. Though others had suggested postponing, I said we should do it when incidents of moral policing were on the rise and the attack on Downtown Cafe in Kozhikode made huge headlines.”

Pasupalan believes that the campaign has brought about changes in Kerala’s conservative society which, he says, has begun now to publicly discuss issues like sexuality and menstruation. “I feel that the politics put forward by Kiss of Love is still relevant. But many denounced us, keen to prove that their moral side (sic) was strong.” While a majority couldn’t agree with the issues raised as part of the KoL campaign, “we proclaimed that we have the right to our bodies,” he says. “Those who found fault with us used Reshmi’s photos as a bikini model to claim that we were into flesh trade.”

Nair alleged that IGP Sreejith had offered to let her off the case if she deposed against her husband. “I didn’t budge. He spread another concocted story that Rahul pressured me to enter prostitution. But I never made such a statement. Media carried those stories without verifying them. These stories were generated to create rift between us.”

The IGP, however, denied the allegations. “I didn’t know her prior to the arrest. Then why should I make such offers?” he tells this correspondent.

 

Bail, A Second Birth

Pasupalan said the delay in filing the charge sheets proved that Sreejith’s claims were hollow. “The IGP had claimed that the police has evidence to prove our complicity in the crime. But I believe that lack of evidence is the reason for the delay in filing the charge sheet.”

Sreejith refuted this saying the charge sheets would be filed soon. “It is not be possible to file chargesheets in 90 days in cases that require digital evidence. The police have to analyse around 60 electronic devices, including mobile phones and SIM cards, which were confiscated during Operation Big Daddy. It is a huge task.”

He said Karnataka police were able to file the charge sheet (but the trial hasn’t begun) as they have to look into only two charges — Rahul and Reshmi were charged for rape and under Pocso.

Pasupalan accused the IGP of using media to push his publicity agenda. “Seventy-two days after my arrest, someone accessed my Facebook and posted my photo. How could I access my FB page when my mobile device was confiscated by the police? Two days after that, IG Sreejith told the media that the police would inquire into the incident.”

Sreejith responded to Pasupalan’s questions saying that it will be answered during the court trial. “We have enough evidence. He can avail [himself of] legal remedies if he has grievances. He is questioning the police through social media; we are not game for that. We are professionals and will do our job.”

Meanwhile, the case drags on. The investigation didn’t make much headway after Sreejith was transferred as IG of Ernakulam Range on 9th June, 2016. He took over as the Crime Branch IG again after the recent shakeup in the state police top brass in January this year.

Meanwhile, activists who maintain contact with the couple are fuming. “It is a travesty. I don’t understand why the police have been taking so much time to file the charge sheet. I am not ready to believe that it was because of Sreejith’s absence from the Crime Branch,” says one person who took part in KoL, on condition of anonymity.

Ajith Sasidharan, a final year B Com student in Kozhikode, says he’s thankful for the KoL campaign. “Isolated protests like KoL at least help people understand the gravity of the issue [of moral policing] and the need to raise a voice against it.” He alleges that Kerala police are siding with right-wing forces. “That is why they are constantly targeting activists Pasupalan and Nair. It is the duty of the Kerala society to ensure them justice.”

However, there remain people who believe that Pasupalan and Nair brought disrepute to KoL. “I found it difficult to convince people on the need to organise protests against moral policing after the [couple’s] arrest. People view us with suspicion. Their deeds have weakened protest movements in Kerala,” says Jojo Sebastian, an activist in Kochi.

Meanwhile, Pasupalan and Nair are resigned to a long legal battle. “We’re facing a lot of financial problems, but we will sell our last piece of land to fight our case. We have to find a job now to make a living,” Nair says, adding she would persuade her husband to pursue his passion for cinema. “He holds a diploma in filmmaking from the Adyar Film Institute. We underwent a lot of mental agony in the last 15 months. The bail has given us a kind of second birth.”

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/kiss-lies-and-sex-racket/story-CX6byFWIZVmoholVz503iN.html

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Chhattisgarh HC orders second autopsy on Bastar tribals killed in ‘fake encounter’

Maoist

Tribals of Gampur village march towards Kirandul police station to protest against the alleged fake encounters.(HT file photo)

 

 

 

The Chhattisgarh high court on Thursday asked the Bastar administration to exhume the bodies of two tribals who were killed allegedly in a fake police encounter and conduct a post-mortem again.

The court also issued a notice to the state government seeking its reply to a petition that claimed the tribals were killed in a fake encounter on January 28.

“The court has instructed the officials of Bastar, including collector Dantewada, to exhume the two bodies and conduct a second autopsy. The court further said that the autopsy should be video recorded in the presence of the officials and a detailed report of the case should be submitted to the court within a week,” said Kishore Nayaran, the victims’ counsel.

On January 28, police allegedly shot Bhima Kudati and Sukmati Hemla in the jungles of Hairauli Paurangal in Dantewada district. Police said both were Maoists and that a rifle along with other weapons was recovered from the encounter site.

Villagers accused the police of sexually assaulting Hemla before killing her and sought an independent inquiry as well as a second autopsy on her body. They also claimed that eyes of the two had been gouged out.

The family member of the dead tribals alleged that the police abducted them on January 27 when they were returning from the weekly Kirandul market and killed them saying they were Maoists.

For 20 days, villagers refused to bury the bodies and staged a protest outside Kirandul police station against the killing. They also demanded a registration of the case against the accused policemen.http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/c-garh-hc-orders-second-autopsy-on-bastar-tribals-killed-in-fake-encounter/story-JPYBXVcormR2OzdJBic5mO.html

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India – In Maoist heartland, farmers turn to organic farming, reap benefits

Katekalyan has quietly been building another identity — as the nursery of organic farming mushrooming across the district, where farmers have come together to set up a company to market their produce across the country.

Written by Dipankar Ghose | Katekalyan (dantewada)

 Chhattisgarh, Maoism, Maoist issue in Chhattisgarh, Chhattisgarh-naxals, Katekalyan, organic farming, India news, Indian expressMy produce has never been better, says Gonelu RamIN CHHATTISGARH’S Dantewada district, Katekalyan is a name that largely inspires worry. While the situation in the Maoist-hit district is slowly improving, its district headquarters mirroring a well-kept small town and Maoist influence being largely pushed into the jungles of Bijapur, Sukma and Narayanpur, senior police officers still identify Katekalyan as a problem area.

Yet, Katekalyan has quietly been building another identity — as the nursery of organic farming mushrooming across the district, where farmers have come together to set up a company to market their produce across the country.

Gonelu Ram is one such farmer. It isn’t paddy season yet, so the crop is assorted — tomatoes, peas, chana and mustard. Standing in front of his lush green fields, he beams as he reels off their names, and then adds an important note. “All this is completely organic. The fertlisers I use are what nature gives… Cow urine, neem leaves, bitter gourd leaves and besharam patta. My produce has never been better before… 90 per cent of Katekalyan has now returned to completely organic farming,” he says.

 

Till about five years ago, Ram, like most other farmers across Dantewada district, was caught in a dilemma. Organic fertilisers and indigenous seeds were part of the knowledge passed down to farmers for generations, but the administration, looking at agriculture as a way of reaching out to people in a conflict zone, was sending a different message. The crops that were pushed were homogenous “high-yielding” varieties that worked best with chemical fertilisers.

“These high-yielding seeds and the fertilisers were not suited for the microclimate. There was good yield for a while, but the soil soon became unresponsive and it killed the ecosystem around it. There were no fish in the ponds or earthworms in the ground. Now, the district administration is returning to organic methods, and wants to make Dantewada a completely organic farming district,” says Akash Badave, who was a PMRDF fellow in Dantewada and has since been working on agricultural improvement in the district.

The Indira Gandhi National Agricultural University records 22,000 different varieties of rice found in the state, most unique to it. And Dantewada is no different. Badave says that while no exhaustive study has been done so far, a 10-village sample survey revealed 35 different varieties of rice, with differences in gestation of crop ranging from 60 days to six months.

“The most important thing is that these communities have known these varieties for a generation, and each has different properties. There are many types of rice that have medicinal qualities, some that are given to lactating mothers, others for joint pain. Then there are millets such as Kosa, which are in high demand elsewhere but are unique to Bastar,” he says.

The return to traditional farming, with a few tweaks, began during the kharif crop of 2013. The district administration began the process of teaching farmers “systems of rice intensification”, which included tips like ensuring space between two stalks.

The method was used to show that despite no use of fertilisers or high-yielding seeds, productivity could still be high. “In 2013, 300 farmers adopted it, and their produce increased three to four times. Now, there are over 2,000 farmers, and 170 small groups of farmers have been formed to go around the district and tell others about the benefits of organic indigenous farming. It’s a peer review system, with these groups looking at fields and certifying whether the produce is organic or not,” says a senior government official.

Those involved in the process realised that the system wouldn’t work if there was no market to sell to. So, on August 26, 2016, the Bhumgadhi Organic Farmers Company Limited was set up to package and sell the unique Bastar produce across the country. It has since expanded to include 370 farmers. Each farmer pays Rs 1,000 to buy a share in the company, which in turn buys organic produce and uses state-aided technology to improve the seeds. In the next month or so, district officials plan to procure a processing unit with storage godowns.

“The administration is incurring some expenditure, but there will be no interest, and the money only has to be paid back in 10 years, by which time the company will have grown. The term Bhumgadhi, fittingly, means the post-harvest festival of prosperity,” says Badave, who is the CEO of the company.

Dantewada District Collector Saurabh Kumar says they are in touch with buyers from across the country. “We are in talks to sell our produce in stores all over the country, such as Udaipur, Chandigarh, and especially in South India where the demand for our produce is very high. We are attempting to fill the vacuum of an available market,” he says.

A few kilometres short of Katekalyan, on the road from the district headquarters of Dantewada, some residents of Gatam village sit and listen intently to a small team that talks about the producers’ company. Eighty-six of them belong to an extended family, and they laugh when they are asked to confirm that number. “All of us are related, one way or another, and live in one part of Madkampara village,” says one of them.

But the large family isn’t the only thing that is striking. Amid a large swathe of brown, their fields are glistening green. Three big containers are filled with organic fertilisers, made from the waste after the droppings from the mahua tree are converted into local alcohol.

Asked if they will be a part of the farmers’ company, one of them answers: “Kucch accha ho raha hai… Karenge, hum karenge (Something good is happening… we will take part).http://indianexpress.com/article/india/in-maoist-heartland-farmers-turn-to-organic-farming-reap-benefits-4554930/

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Wither Right to Education? For 310791 classrooms in Gujarat, there are just 164 science teachers #WTFnews

schoolBy Mujahid Nafees*

The crucial role of universal elementary education for strengthening the social fabric of democracy through provision of equal opportunities to all has been accepted since the inception of the Indian Republic. The Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution lay down that the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children up to the age of 14.

Over the years, there has been a significant spatial and numerical expansion of elementary schools in the country. Yet, the goal of universal elementary education continues to elude us. The number of children, particular children from disadvantaged groups and weaker sections, who drop out of school before completing elementary education, remains very large. Moreover, the quality of learning achievement is not always satisfactory even in the case of children who complete elementary education.

Article 21 A, as inserted by the Constitution (Eighty-Sixth Amendment) Act, 2002, provides for free and compulsory education to all children in the age group six to 14 as a fundamental right in such manner that the state may, by law, determine.

The Act says that every child has the right to get full-time elementary education to his or her satisfaction and of equitable quality in a formal school, which satisfies certain essential norms and standards. It makes appropriate government and local authorities, as also parents, schools and teachers, duty-bound and responsible for providing free and compulsory education, even as insisting on creating a system for protecting the right of children through a decentralized grievance redressal mechanism.

Section 6 of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, explains the duty of appropriate government and local authorities to establish schools in respective areas or limits of neighbourhood within a period of three years from the commencement of the Act.

Section 19(2) says, if a school, which is established before the commencement of the Act, does not fulfil the norms and standards specified in the schedule, the respective authorities should take necessary steps.

Gujarat scene

In reply to a Right to Information (RTI) plea, one finds that there are 3,10,791 classrooms in Gujarat’s government-run schools for upper primary standards (from the sixth to eighth standard), with 26,027 mathematics teachers, and just about 164 science teachers. Further, there are 50,417 language teachers and 2,472 teachers who teach environment. Apart from the teachers who are supposed to teach specific subjects, there are 2,62,936 teachers who are obliged to teach any subject. The respective data for Ahmedabad district is as follow:

Classrooms Math teachers Science teachers Language teachers Environment teachers Those teaching any subject
2041 75 25 407 258 1373

 

The backward Narmada district – which is predominantly tribal – does not having any science teacher, and has only two mathematics teachers. Two districts of Saurashtra region, Porbandar and Jamnagar, too, do not have any teachers for science and mathematics. The data also show that in all there is a vacancy of 48,855 teachers at the upper primary level.

As for the lower primary (up to the fifth standard), there is a vacancy of 5,075 teachers. Each classroom should have one teacher, according to the norm, but as can be seen, this is not the case:

District Classrooms Teachers
Ahmedabad 3272 2562
Amreli 319 263
Anand 1778 1556
Aravalli 1460 1378
Banaskantha 3657 3235
Bharuch 1041 784
Bhavnagar 433 379
Botad 123 105
Chotaudaipur 2257 1971
Dwarka 319 281
Dahod 2764 2894
Gandhinagar 673 604
Gir Somnath 302 255
Jamnagar 172 137
Junagarh 486 403
Kachchh 702 540
Kheda 1928 1701
Mehsana 982 854
Mahisagar 1930 1765
Morbi 201 173
Narmada 837 744
Navsari 932 711
Panchmahals 1789 1659
Patan 690 630
Porbandar 201 162
Rajkot 572 438
Sabarkantha 1502 1447
Surat 2198 1803
Surendranagar 589 575
Tapi 1371 1159
Dangs 959 820
Vadodara 2012 1618
Valsad 1623 1393
Total 40074 34999

Against this backdrop, the state should have a strong monitoring authority for child rights. However, the authority, Gujarat Commission for Protection of Child Rights (GCPCR), is without any member for the last one year. Only chairperson has been appointed. This commission does not have any clear-cut rules about delegation of power to the chairperson and members.

The RTE Act insists on the quality education for all, but if the state government does not post subject teachers, the output bound to suffer.  If we want quality education in government schools, the government must fulfil norms prescribed in the RTE Act, 2009.

*Convener, Shala Mitra Sangh, Gujarat

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Intolerance thy name is ABVP

Resorting to violence to stop a seminar is a grave crime and this takes a more sinister dimension when it is perpetuated on the campus
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When the 20-year-old Gurmehar Kaur tweeted, “I am not afraid of ”, it was clear that Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad has begun wearing its peculiar brand of nationalism up on its sleeves. She went on “to anyone questioning my courage and bravery. I’ve shown more than enough”. Her tweets following violence at ’s Ramjas College went viral and received massive support from students across various universities.

Though subsequently, she withdrew from the campaign but she had made a point that intolerance and jingoism had crept in our system. “I’m withdrawing from the campaign. I request to be left alone. I said what I had to say…”. “I have been through a lot and this is all my 20 years self could take,” the student of Delhi’s Lady Sri Ram College said. Kaur, daughter of a Kargil martyr, had kicked off a social media campaign against the after Ramjas College witnessed large-scale violence.

The incident is line with the ’s provocative attitude that was earlier witnessed in (), Hyderabad University, IIT-Chennai, and other institutions of academic repute. There is a question mark whether it was a spontaneous reaction of or there was a method in the madness. The pattern shows that it was not the act of a group of youngsters with a brazen sense of nationalism better said as jingoism. The journey from to showed a pattern with law enforcing agencies remaining a mute spectator, falling short of abetting.

In Ramjas incident, there is a question mark whether it was spontaneous reaction of or there was method in madness

The act was at a sniffing distance from gagging the free speech by the on the campus. It is apparent that the way police allowed an event to be disrupted at Ramjas College and the subsequent violence amounted to complete failure of the law enforcing force. As Delhi Police comes directly under the Union Home Ministry, the government cannot disown its responsibility.

The mayhem was just over an invite to students and Shehla Rashid to address a seminar on ‘Culture of Protests’. had to speak in a session on “Unveiling the state: Regions in conflict, the war in Adivasi areas”, based on his research on Bastar belt. It was part of a programme cleared by the college authorities. Khalid was invited by the college’s Literary Society to speak in the afternoon on a subject related to his PhD, which he is doing from . Ironically, the college management later withdrew the seminar in the aftermath of opposition by the .

The whole saga would have perhaps remained under wraps but for the courageous girl student who posted a video on Facebook with placards, one of them saying: “I am a student of . I am not afraid of . I am not alone. Every student of is with me.” She then allegedly received rape and life threats on the social media by some who called her “anti-national”. To make hay, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called on Lt. Governor Anil Baijal to demand action against the and those who issued rape threats to the student. “Threatening our daughters and sisters with rape; is this patriotism? Shame on these people,” Kejriwal said.

3Resorting to violence to stop a seminar is a grave crime and this takes a more sinister dimension when it is perpetuated on the campus and assaults the young minds. It is not only an attack on an educational temple but on our fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.

It was not mere objecting to the presence of a couple of invitees at the seminar but an attempt to silence those not falling in line with its ideology. The genesis of the whole issue is that both and Shehla Rashid had worked in tandem with early last year against attempts to criminalise dissent at the . The student leaders were booked by the Delhi Police.

The police cases of sedition filed last year in an ideological stand-off between the establishment and the left-leaning fell like pins, the hysteria generated by the has remained. The scars of the incident have remained with the students. Educational institutions enjoy a mandate to promote public discourse, political parties and other outfits have not taken kindly to the debates, seminars and free flowing ideas that emanate from educational institutions over the years.Repeat incidents at the , Hyderabad University, IIT-Chennai, and other institutions of academic repute are pointers to this growing intolerance.

Inaction on the part of law enforcing authorities would cause worry amongst student communities across campuses. There would always be a question mark over why the police dealt with the guilty with kid gloves? Was not it exactly on the lines as it had allowed activists to go on the rampage outside the Patiala House courts when was to be produced for a hearing? The failure of to take a stand in favour of its students would always hurt the psyche of students. There is a need for the authorities to ensure that Universities must remain sanctuaries where young minds can develop and be nurtured in an atmosphere that is free from violence and intimidation.

Universities are arenas for intellectual discussion where students learn the argumentative skills to defend and oppose. The father of Nation Mahatma Gandhi had aptly foreseen the present day scenario when he said that “anger and intolerance are the twin enemies of correct understanding”. It is the time all stake holders imbibe what Gandhi said and allow free and fair discussion and not attempt to gag free speech and expression.

http://www.tehelka.com/2017/03/intolerance-thy-name-is-abvp/?singlepage=1

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Dalit movement writer stabbed to death at his home in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur

A man has been apprehended, hours after noted Ambedkarite thinker Dr Krishna Kirwale was found murdered at his house in western Maharashtra’s Kolhapur city on Friday.

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Eminent thinker Dr Krishna Kirwale was found stabbed to death in his home in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, on March 3, 2017.

Eminent progressive thinker and Ambedkarite Dr Krishna Kirwale (62) was stabbed to death in his house near Shivaji Vidyapeeth in Kolhapur this evening. Police have arrested a suspect in this connection. Police suspect that the murder might be a fallout of a financial dispute.After senior police officials rushed to the spot, the suspect was tracked down and arrested within hours of the murder. He has been identified as Pritam Patil. The police said Patil is a resident of Kolhapur but refused to divulge any further details.

However, sources in Kolhapur police said suspect had worked as a carpenter at Dr Kirwale’s house a few days ago. He reportedly had a dispute with him over payment for the work done.

A large number of people gathered outside Dr Kirwale’s, suspecting the murder took place on ideological grounds. But the crowd dispersed after realising the real motive behind the murder.

The body of Dr Kirwale was found in a pool of in his Rajendra Nagar area residence near Shivaji Vidyapeeth. The body has been sent for postmortem.

Additional police force was deployed in some parts of Kolhapur as Dr Kirwale was a respected personality among the followers of Dr B R Ambedkar. Given the state’s past record and killing of a number of Dalit activists and whistleblowers, the police swung into action and nabbed a suspect hours after the incident.

Dr Kirwale’s muder come three years after the killing of another well-know Kolhapur resident, Govind Pansare, a veteran Communist leader and thinker.

Dr Kirwale had retired as Head of Department of Marathi in the Shivaji Vidyapeeth just a few months ago. Known for his progressive thoughts, Dr Kirwale was chief of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Centre for Research and Development.

Dr Kirwale had authored a special dictionary on words used by Dr Ambedkar in his writings and speeches. Popular among the students, Dr Kirwale was known for his study on progressive movements and Dalit literature in Maharashtra. He had written several books and used to write for newspapers.

Born in May 1954 in Beed district of Marathwada region, Dr Kirwale had completed his PhD from Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University in 1987.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/eminent-ambedkarite-dr-krishna-kirwale-found-stabbed-to-death-at-home-in-maharashtra-s-kolhapur/story-l4tXFIPhLag8mURWJA5pIJ.html

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