NEW DELHI: Delhi University teacher G.N. Saibaba has been sentenced to life imprisonment for his links with Maoists. With due respects to the court, I beg to differ with the punishment.
Maoists are ultra-left and most people in India do not like their philosophy. Some who follow them can be criticized, but cannot be imprisoned for their views and that too for life.
It appears that the courts are also getting influenced by the party in power. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) believes in Hindu rashtra. Conceded that it is not doing anything in the form of a bill or any order to impose Hindutva, but the very fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi supports the cause does carry weight.
The Maoists should be fought on an ideological ground. The BJP should present its case that the Hindu philosophy would bring more prosperity than that of the leftists’ which promises an egalitarian society. In fact, the Left itself has to sell what it believes in and how the people, by adhering to their thesis, would benefit.
India is not alone in facing the challenge. All over the world, especially after the election of Donald Trump in America, people feel insecure in pursuing their right to espouse views. As Hillary Clinton said, they would adhere to what the constitution of America says on individual rights. The US President should know that the popular movement against the Soviet system which brooked no other voice was brought down by the people themselves.
Even Soviet leader Stalin had to go because the people’s voice became louder and louder. Although he had suppressed all dissent, not just that of a particular community but also of others, the popular sentiment was that expression of views should be free and without fear.
Germany also proved this point. It had the best of constitution which guaranteed free speech in every way, but a person like Adolf Hitler used the same constitution to found the worst of rules. It took a full-fledged war to oust him and his philosophy.
Even now Germany takes different stringent steps to see that the ghost of Nazism does not surface. Nazis’ swastika has been found scribbled on the walls of Berlin. It seems that some Germans are still dreaming about ruling the entire Europe. Economically, the country does dominate but politically it has not yet learnt to take its turn.
It is surprising that Maoism has very little following although it is the same kind of philosophy which does not entertain another point of view.
Nationalism in Germany is so deep that it does not allow any other thinking which may be embracing other parts of Europe. The country has allowed some immigrants who have become a great burden on Greece. Berlin is now vigilant. It is not now possible to migrate to Germany even on human grounds.
New Delhi is unnecessarily worried. The idea of India counts so much with the people that there is no room for any other thought to germinate. It is probably this Indian-ness which binds people from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. The Maoists cannot penetrate.
Democracy is more than a faith with the people. It was seen how the popular leader, Mrs Indira Gandhi, was swept off her feet soon after lifting of the emergency in 1977. She too was defeated at the polls. The voters did not like the authoritarian rule and revolted against it when they got the opportunity.
The ruling BJP, which was then Jan Sangh, also suffered and its followers were put behind bars. Even then Delhi Mayor Hansraj Gupta was not spared. Members of the Jan Sangh and the Gandhites shared the same cell.
The Janata Party was born in the jail itself. The credit, however, goes to Raj Narain, a socialist, who challenged Mrs Gandhi for her poll malpractices. The Allahabad High Court debarred her from occupying from any elected post for six years. She, however, imposed the emergency but that is a different story.
The DU teacher and four others who were sentenced for life did not commit any heinous crime to deserve the punishment for having mere links with the Maoists. Even otherwise, I believe that the Maoists should have a say and express their viewpoint as citizens of this country. It should be left to them to choose or reject their philosophy but the criterion should be that they would not incite violence.
The experience has been that once you make leeway in one case the demand would be that the same attitude should be exhibited in other cases. The precedent will be quoted and the court would have to decide whether the case was similar or any different. Fortunately, the victims would most likely appeal in higher courts and it all will depend on what the verdict of the higher judiciary is going to be.
Ultimately, it would come to what Maoism means. In a country where the constitution guarantees free speech and expression, the views of a particular philosophy cannot be banned. But there should no exhortation to violence. The manner in which the killings have taken place in Bastar indicates that the Maoists have no respect for life and would use any method to ensure that their idea is not opposed.
The court should not be influenced by what the Maoists preach or not because I find that verdicts are becoming dependent on the philosophy that the ruling party espouses.
It is healthy to see that appointment of judges is now by the collegium of senior Supreme Court judges. Yet my experience says that the chief justice’s do come to be influenced by those in power. This was not the case till recently. The judges were appointed by the government and they delivered some of the best of verdicts.
It is no use recalling history but taking necessary steps to create the same atmosphere of independence returns to the court.
13 of our brothers have been given ‘life sentences’ – including 12 Maruti Suzuki Workers Union body members – on the baseless charge of ‘murder’ on 18 March afternoon by the Gurgaon Additional Sessions Court. 4 workers given 5 year sentences. 14 workers given 3 years, but have already spent 4 years in prison, so released. Of the earlier acquitted 117 workers who spent over 4 years in Jail, we do not yet know as to who will return the lost years. 148 already spent 4 years in Jail without bail since 2012 without bail and 2500 workers were earlier illegally terminated and then faced continual State repression.
We reject the falsehood that this is an ‘objective judgement’. The Prosecution Case and Judicial Sentence is based on no evidences, false-witnesses and pure class hatred. See here for details of the arguments. Workers had no involvement in the unfortunate death of the pro-worker manager who helped in registering the Union, Mr Avanish Kumar Dev – this is conclusively proved in the legal case from the Defence. The conflict on the day of 18 July 2012 started with a supervisor attacking a Dalit worker Jiyalal – who was later made into ‘prime accused’ in the case – with caste-based abuse, and the worker’s suspension. The entire case is part of management conspiracy to finish off the Union, an attack on the Right to Union Formation itself, and the demands–particularly of abolition of Contract Worker System–it was raising and symbol it became for workers struggle.
The nature of the legal case was informed from the outset by the vitriolic repressive manner in which thousands of workers were continually hounded after 18 July 2012 by the nexus of the management and government, including the Police, administration and labour departments. This Judgement – made in between turning Gurgaon and Manesar into Police camps – is directly anti-worker and heavily influenced by the interests of the Company management, to ‘set an example’, to sow fear and terror among all industrial workers in the country, particularly the belt of Gurgaon to Neemrana in Haryana and Rajasthan. The Prosecution in its final arguments – much similar to the Chandigarh HC order of May 2013 rejecting bail for workers – arguing for ‘death penalty’ for workers, talked of the need of restoring ‘confidence’ of capital, and the Prime Minister’s initiative of inviting global investors for ‘Make in India’. The confidence of these foreign and national capitalists depend on one thing: a cheap and compliant labour force, so no Unions or any raising of demands.
By specifically targeting the entire Union body, this Company Raj wants to tell us that the workers movement, the Right to Union Formation and other Trade Union rights as well as Human Rights of workers in the country will be simply (with illegal and legal means) crushed by capitalists and the State. The attack on our Union body members is been simply because they have been the leadership of the struggle against the management practices of exploitation of labour in the factory and waged a legitimate long struggle for trade union rights and dignity since 2011 with the unity of permanent and contract workers, demanding the abolition of the contract worker system, dignity in the workplace, and an end to exploitative practices by the management. And finally registered our Union on 1 March 2012. This workers assertion was not acceptable to the management and they wanted to crush our Union, especially after submission of the Charter of Demands in April 2012 which argued for abolition of contract worker system. So they conspired and escalated the conflict on 18 July 2012.
The struggle full of vitality and hope gave positive energies for other workers to fight similar exploitation in the industrial region and beyond from Honda to Rico to Asti to Shriram Pistons to Daikin AC to Bellsonica name a few. This collective workers assertion needed to be crushed and ‘taught a lesson’ in the interests of the company managements. Similar conflicts and cases of repression on workers movements have happened from Graziano Transmissions Noida, Regent Ceramics Puducherry, Pricol in Chennai and so on. This Judgement comes in the trail of these repression, increasing its tempo. And so, the industrial areas are being turned into Police Camps.
Maruti Suzuki CEO RC Bhargava has said this is a ‘class war’. And what the government is doing is to turn workers disputes with management into a ‘Law & Order problem’, to criminalize workers fighting for their Rights of Union formation and against the Contract System. We condemn this criminalization of workers.
We are not afraid, nor tired with so much continuous repression. IT is only by increasing the tempo of the unity of workers beyond the divisions of permanent and contract, and independent class assertion against the continuous attacks of the current Company-State regime of exploitation-repression, that we can take the struggle forward. Lakhs of workers in industrial areas are already doing solidarity actions since 9 March, and on 16 March, over a lakh workers in Haryana, Rajasthan, UP, Tamil Nadu did hunger strikes. On 18thimmediately after the Judgement, 30000 workers in 5 Maruti Suzuki factories did an hour of ‘tool down’ solidarity strike even though the management tried to crush it as always by pressure to work and notice of 8 days pay cut. Since 16th March, there have been protests by various workers, students, human rights and other democratic organizations in over 20 cities, and deputations and solidarity positions and actions in 21 countries.
On 23rd March – the day of martyrdom of Shaheed Bhagat Singh – the Maruti Suzuki Mazdoor Sangh (MSMS), the joint platform of all 6 Maruti Suzuki factories have given the call of ‘Chalo Manesar’, for thousands of workers to gather and do a Protest rally in Manesar. We call upon all pro-worker forces to participate in this Protest. We also feel the need for a National Day of Protest, tentatively on 4th April. In this decisive and crucial hour, we appeal to all workers and pro-worker forces to stand with the demand to free the convicted workers, and wage a protracted struggle to ensure justice and workers rights, and show solidarity in whatever ways possible.
23 March ko Chalo Manesar!
Free the Maruti Workers!
End the Regime of Exploitation-Repression in the Industrial belts.
Chuck Berry, who with his indelible guitar licks, brash self-confidence and memorable songs about cars, girls and wild dance parties did as much as anyone to define rock ’n’ roll’s potential and attitude in its early years, died on Saturday. He was 90.
The St. Charles County Police Department in Missouri confirmed his death on its Facebook page. Mr. Berry died at his home near Wentzville, Mo., about 45 miles west of St. Louis. The department said it responded to a medical emergency and he was declared dead after lifesaving measures were unsuccessful.
While Elvis Presley was rock’s first pop star and teenage heartthrob, Mr. Berry was its master theorist and conceptual genius, the songwriter who understood what the kids wanted before they knew themselves. With songs like “Johnny B. Goode” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” he gave his listeners more than they knew they were getting from jukebox entertainment.
His guitar lines wired the lean twang of country and the bite of the blues into phrases with both a streamlined trajectory and a long memory. And tucked into the lighthearted, telegraphic narratives that he sang with such clear enunciation was a sly defiance, upending convention to claim the pleasures of the moment.
In “Sweet Little Sixteen,” “You Can’t Catch Me” and other songs, Mr. Berry invented rock as a music of teenage wishes fulfilled and good times (even with cops in pursuit). In “Promised Land,” “Too Much Monkey Business” and “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” he celebrated and satirized America’s opportunities and class tensions. His rock ’n’ roll was a music of joyful lusts, laughed-off tensions and gleefully shattered icons.
Mr. Berry was already well past his teens when he wrote mid-1950s manifestoes like “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Rock and Roll Music” and “School Day.” Born Charles Edward Anderson Berry on Oct. 18, 1926, in St. Louis, he grew up in a segregated, middle-class neighborhood there, soaking up gospel, blues, and rhythm and blues, along with some country music.
He spent three years in reform school after a spree of car thefts and armed robbery. He received a degree in hairdressing and cosmetology and worked for a time as a beautician; he married Themetta Suggs in 1948 and started a family. She survives him, as do four children: Ingrid Berry, Melody Eskridge, Aloha Isa Leigh Berry and Charles Berry Jr.
By the early 1950s, he was playing guitar and singing blues, pop standards and an occasional country tune with local combos. Shortly after joining Sir John’s Trio, led by the pianist Johnnie Johnson, he reshaped the group’s music and took it over.
From the Texas guitarist T-Bone Walker, Mr. Berry picked up a technique of bending two strings at once that he would rough up and turn into a rock ’n’ roll talisman, the Chuck Berry lick, which would in turn be emulated by the Rolling Stones and countless others. He also recognized the popularity of country music and added some hillbilly twang to his guitar lines. Mr. Berry’s hybrid music, along with his charisma and showmanship, drew white as well as black listeners to the Cosmopolitan Club in St. Louis.
In 1955, Mr. Berry ventured to Chicago and asked one of his idols, the bluesman Muddy Waters, about making records. Waters directed him to the label he recorded for, Chess Records, where one of the owners, Leonard Chess, heard potential in Mr. Berry’s song “Ida Red.”
A variant of an old country song by the same name, “Ida Red” had a 2/4 backbeat with a hillbilly oompah, while Mr. Berry’s lyrics sketched a car chase, the narrator “motorvatin’” after an elusive girl. Mr. Chess renamed the song “Maybellene,” and in a long session on May 21, 1955, Mr. Chess and the bassist Willie Dixon got the band to punch up the rhythm.
“The big beat, cars and young love,” Mr. Chess outlined. “It was a trend, and we jumped on it.”
The music was bright and clear, a hard-swinging amalgam of country and blues. More than 60 years later, it still sounds reckless and audacious.
Mr. Berry articulated every word, with precise diction and no noticeable accent, leading some listeners and concert promoters, used to a different kind of rhythm-and-blues singer, to initially think that he was white. Teenagers didn’t care; they heard a rocker who was ready to take on the world.
The song was sent to the disc jockey Alan Freed. Mr. Freed and another man, Russ Fratto, were added to the credits as songwriters and got a share of the publishing royalties. Played regularly on Mr. Freed’s show and others, “Maybellene” reached No. 5 on the Billboard pop chart and was a No. 1 R&B hit.
In Mr. Berry’s groundbreaking early songs, his guitar twangs his famous two-stringed lick. It also punches like a horn section and sasses back at his own voice. The drummer eagerly socks the backbeat, and the pianist — usually either Mr. Johnson or Lafayette Leake — hurls fistfuls of tinkling anarchy all around him.
From 1955 to 1958, Mr. Berry knocked out classic after classic. Although he was in his late 20s and early 30s, he came up with high school chronicles and plugs for the newfangled music called rock ’n’ roll.
No matter how calculated songs like “School Day” or “Rock and Roll Music” may have been, they reached the Top 10, caught the early rock ’n’ roll spirit and detailed its mythology. “Johnny B. Goode,” a Top 10 hit in 1958, told the archetypal story of a rocker who could “play the guitar just like ringin’ a bell.”
Mr. Berry toured with rock revues and performed in three movies with Mr. Freed: “Rock, Rock, Rock,” “Mr. Rock and Roll” and “Go, Johnny, Go.” On film and in concert, he dazzled audiences with his duck walk, a guitar-thrusting strut that involved kicking one leg forward and hopping on the other.
Through the 1950s, Mr. Berry had pop hits with his songs about rock ’n’ roll and R&B hits with less teenage-oriented material. He spun surreal tall tales that Bob Dylan and John Lennon would learn from, like “Thirty Days” and “Jo Jo Gunne.” In “Brown Eyed Handsome Man,” from 1956, he offered a barely veiled racial pride. His pithiness and humor rarely failed him.
In 1957, Mr. Berry bought 30 acres in Wentzville, where he built a short-lived amusement park, Berry Park, and a restaurant, the Southern Air. In 1958, he opened Club Bandstand in the theater district of St. Louis.
In the early 1960s, Mr. Berry’s songs inspired both California rock and the British Invasion. The Beach Boys reworked his “Sweet Little Sixteen” into “Surfin’ U.S.A.” (Mr. Berry sued them and won a songwriting credit.) The Rolling Stones released a string of Berry songs, including their first single, “Come On,” and the Beatles remade “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Rock and Roll Music.”
But by the time his music started reaching a new audience, Mr. Berry was in jail.
He had been arrested in 1959 and charged with transporting a teenage girl — who briefly worked as a hatcheck girl at Club Bandstand — across state lines for immoral purposes. He was tried twice and found guilty both times; the first verdict was overturned because of racist remarks by the judge. When he emerged from 20 months in prison in 1964, his wife had left him (they later reconciled) and his songwriting spark had diminished.
He had not totally lost his touch, though, as demonstrated by the handful of hits he had in 1964 and 1965, notably “Nadine,” “No Particular Place to Go,” “You Never Can Tell” and “Promised Land.” He appeared in the celebrated all-star 1964 concert film “The TAMI Show,” along with James Brown, the Rolling Stones, Marvin Gaye, the Beach Boys and the Supremes.
While he toured steadily through the 1960s, headlining or sharing bills with bands that grew up on his songs, his recording career stalled after he moved from Chess to Mercury Records in 1966. He remade some of his old hits and tried to reach the new hippie audience, recording “Live at the Fillmore Auditorium” with the Steve Miller Band, billed as the Steve Miller Blues Band at the time. When he returned to Chess in 1970, he recorded new songs, like “Tulane” and “Have Mercy Judge,” that flashed his old wit but failed to reach the Top 40.
In 1972, Mr. Berry had the biggest hit of his career with “My Ding-a-Ling,” a double-entendre novelty song that was included on the album “The London Chuck Berry Sessions” (even though he recorded the song not in London but at a concert in Coventry, England). The New Orleans songwriter Dave Bartholomew wrote and recorded it in 1952; Mr. Berry recorded a similar song, “My Tambourine,” in 1968, and is credited on recordings as the sole songwriter of the 1972 “My Ding-a-Ling.”
It was a million-seller and Mr. Berry’s first and only No. 1 pop single. It was also his last hit. His 1973 follow-up album, “Bio,” was poorly received; “Rockit,” released by Atlantic in 1979, did not sell. But he stayed active: He appeared as himself in a 1979 movie about 1950s rock, “American Hot Wax,” and he continued to tour constantly.
In July 1979, he performed for President Jimmy Carter at the White House. Three days later, he was sentenced to 120 days in federal prison and four years’ probation for income tax evasion.
He had further legal troubles in 1990 when the police raided his home and found 62 grams of marijuana and videotapes from a camera in the women’s room of his restaurant. In a plea bargain, he agreed to a misdemeanor count of marijuana possession, with a suspended jail sentence and two years’ probation.
By the 1980s, Mr. Berry was recognized as a rock pioneer. He never won a Grammy Award in his prime, but the Recording Academy gave him a lifetime achievement award in 1984. He was in the first group of musicians inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
Around his 60th birthday that year, he allowed the director Taylor Hackford to film him at his home in Wentzville for the documentary “Hail! Hail! Rock ’n’ Roll,” which also included performances by Mr. Berry with a band led by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones and special guests. “Chuck Berry: The Autobiography” was published in 1988.
Mr. Berry continued performing well into his 80s. He usually played with local pickup bands, as he had done for most of his career, but sometimes he played with fellow rock stars. When the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum opened in Cleveland in 1995, Mr. Berry performed at an inaugural concert, backed by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
In 2012, he headlined a Cleveland concert in his honor with a genre-spanning bill that included Darryl McDaniels of Run-D.M.C. and Merle Haggard. Although he told reporters before the show, “My singing days have passed,” he performed “Johnny B. Goode” and “Reelin’ and Rockin’” and joined the other musicians for the closing number, “Rock and Roll Music.”
A group of young men jump to attention as Vishnukanth Thapar nonchalantly sweeps past to open the front door of the Career Wings travel agency. Seconds after stepping into a shabby, ground-floor office he stops at a wooden shrine adorned with Hindu deities, bowing his head and joining his hands to pay obeisance before the day’s work begins. There is a lot to be thankful for.
The men are summoned, gathering around a large wooden desk as they provide verbal CVs and contact details. Today’s offering includes eight bricklayers, three metal workers, six HGV drivers and a dozen labourers. As he busily scribbles notes, a bell rings on Thapar’s mobile, announcing the arrival of an email, which he flicks open with his finger. After reading it, he looks up to proclaim: “I need drivers and labourers. Who wants to go?” They all hold up their hands.
Behind the benign name and a misleading advertising hoarding offering services such as Tourist PR (sic) and luxury holidays, accompanied by eye-catching photographs of London and Sydney, Career Wings specialises in an altogether different form of foreign travel. And business has never been so brisk, driven by Qatar’s preparations for the 2022 World Cup, which has led to a construction boom and an unprecedented demand for labour in the Gulf state.
There are an estimated 1.8 million migrant workers already in Qatar, with 600,000 Indians and 500,000 Nepalese making up the largest number, followed by those from other south Asian countries. The gas-rich nation is spending about £400m a week on infrastructure projects, directly or indirectly related to football’s most prestigious tournament, and the demand for labour is expected to increase over the coming year as work intensifies.
It all represents rich pickings for the likes of Thapar, whose business forms part of a flourishing, pernicious chain that begins in remote villages in India and other south Asian countries and ends on the bustling hi-tech construction sites of Qatar. Human rights activists describe it as a form of “modern-day slavery”.
Located in Nawanshahr, in the north Indian state of Punjab, Career Wings is one of 150 unregistered recruitment agencies dominating the streets of the provincial town of almost 50,000 people. Middlemen often bring in potential workers from surrounding villages. Once recruiters like Thapar have taken their details, they are referred to registered agents in the city of Jalandhar nearby, who make the final arrangements and award the jobs.
Thapar demands £100 from each worker who secures a job through the agency he deals with in Jalandhar, which provides him with daily updates on the types of workers it requires. Village recruiters usually charge about £50. The main agencies demand between £400 and £800. The result is that workers can end up paying up to £1,000 or more in illegal commissions.
“I don’t care what happens to them once they get to Qatar,” Thapar says dismissively. “I just send them to the big agents in Jalandhar. I just feed the monster.”
The treatment of migrant World Cup workers in Qatar returns to the spotlight this week when the International Labour Organisation debates proposals at its annual meeting in Geneva to force the country to implement labour reforms or face a commission of inquiry. This is the highest sanction of the UN agency, which is made up of trade unions, employers’ groups and government representatives from 187 member states, including Qatar, India and other south Asia nations. Central to the demands for the inquiry is the recruitment process.
Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, whose members sit on the ILO, said: “It is highly exploitative. Laws are not being enforced and nobody is policing the system. Those involved are making a fortune at the expense of the workers. We demand an inquiry because we believe that Qatar is not serious about addressing how migrant workers are treated in recruitment and other key areas.”
Indian law states that only registered agents can recruit workers for jobs abroad and the maximum commission they can charge is £250 or the equivalent of 45 days’ salary (whichever is less).
They are also not allowed to use unlicensed sub-agents, such as Thapar. All workers have to be provided with contracts before departure and agents also have to ensure that employers adhere to the stipulated pay and conditions.
For those hoping to go to Qatar, there is little awareness of their rights or knowledge about the 2022 World Cup. They are motivated by a golden opportunity to improve their lives by significantly increasing their pay.
In the village of Langroya, 10 minutes away from Nawanshahr, Arvinder Kumar, 25, is one of scores of young men eager to go to Qatar. He now earns £50 a month as a plumber and has been offered work by a recruitment agency promising him more than £350 a month. In return, it is demanding £500 commission.
Kumar is well aware of the pitfalls. His cousin Jaswinder recently returned after two years in Qatar. A qualified electrician, his contract said he would be paid £400 a month but he received just over half that. He stayed because he had a loan to pay off and because his salary was still six times more than what he earned in India.
Langroya and other villages across Punjab, a state that provides some of the largest numbers of migrant workers to the Gulf region, are awash with similar stories of workers being exploited by agents at home and employers in Qatar and its neighbouring countries.
“We all know that we are going to be cheated. First in India and then when we go abroad, so it doesn’t matter what the law states because it won’t make any difference. I don’t know anything about the World Cup or football, I just know that there is work in Qatar,” said Kumar. “But we are promised one thing and then get something completely different. Ultimately, it’s just a question of fate and luck.”
Paramjit Kaur Minhas has an equally resigned approach in her quest to contact the agent who sent her husband Saroop to Qatar last year and establish why he has not been paid for two months. He was charged £800 commission for a job as a lorry driver ferrying construction material which was supposed to earn him £425 a month, but this was reduced after he was involved in an accident and his employer docked part of his wages. In India he was earning £60 a month as a bus driver.
Minhas, 36, who lives in the village of Dahumunda with their children Gursharanpreet, 15, and Gurjot, five, said: “My husband had no choice but to go to Qatar because we have a family to raise and bills to pay and we couldn’t survive on what he was earning here.
“Each time I ring the agent to ask why Saroop hasn’t been paid, he just hangs up the phone or tells me he will look into the matter. My husband is too afraid to complain to his boss because he might lose his job. People are desperate in these parts, that’s why they go abroad for work but it’s disgraceful the way they are treated.
“The world needs to know what’s going on but nobody is interested in helping us.”
In neighbouring Nepal, the situation is equally perilous. Amnesty International is to publish a report on the recruitment of workers going to Qatar later this year and estimates that there are up to 80,000 unregistered agents, charging commissions as exorbitant as those in India. Under local law, these are meant to be capped at £76 and all workers are supposed to be issued with a free ticket and visa.
Angela Sherwood, Amnesty’s migrants rights researcher, who spent several months travelling around Nepal to compile the report, said: “There are rules in place to regulate labour recruitment but governments are not putting any resources into implementing them. There is a need for better monitoring and we want the authorities in south Asia and Qatar to take action to reduce the vulnerability of migrant workers.”
Campaigners claim that one of the main reasons why south Asian governments are reluctant to enforce existing laws or complain about how their citizens are treated in Qatar is because they are desperate for them to find work due to high unemployment. Migrant workers also play a crucial role in the economy. According to World Bank figures, last year Indians sent home almost £55bn, the bulk from the Gulf region, while foreign remittances account for almost 30% of Nepal’s gross domestic product.
The recruitment process is only one of a number of criticisms levelled against Qatar over the World Cup. Others include workers being underpaid, poor living and working conditions and the kafala sponsorship system, which prevents them from changing jobs or leaving the country without the employer’s permission.
The ITUC claimed in December 2015 that as many as 7,000 migrant workers will die on World Cup-related projects by the time the tournament kicks off, which was denied by the Qatari government. A report by Amnesty International last March, which focused on migrant workers building the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, which is expected to host World Cup matches all the way up to the semi-finals, found they were living in squalid accommodation, with the majority not being paid for several months and employers confiscating their passports and not issuing them with exit permits to return home.
In response to mounting pressure, Qatar announced a number of reforms last December heralding that it had ended the kafala system. The government said at the time that it was committed “to the development of a labour system that is fair to employers and employees alike. These legislative changes, combined with ongoing enforcement and a commitment to systemic reform, not just in Qatar but also in countries of origin, will ensure workers’ rights are respected across the entire labour pathway.”
Critics protest that the reforms have been little more than window dressing and that considerable loopholes remain, meaning the kafala system and other repressive labour laws exist under different names. Trade unions remain banned, while employers are still able to stop workers from changing jobs for up to five years. Passport confiscation, officially outlawed, is also permissible under certain circumstances.
Trade unionists also claim that no action has been taken to address the recruitment process, which they want to be managed by credible international agencies operating to the highest corporate standards. As the wealthy, influential player in the labour chain, they insist that Qatar is best placed to enforce change.
Kasi Ram (not his real name), a trade union organiser working secretly in Qatar, said: “It is Qatar that needs the workers and is in the best position to ensure that they are treated properly and fairly because, compared to India and Nepal, it is far richer and more powerful. But these are reforms in name only, the reality is that nothing has changed on the ground. The workers are exploited every step of the way, from the moment they step into a recruiting agent’s office right up to living and working in Qatar.”
The Indian government maintains that it is implementing a number of measures to clamp down on rogue labour recruiters, such as instructing state-level police to take action and doubling agent registration fees to £60,000. However, its own figures show that only 24 prosecutions took place over the past three years, despite almost 700 complaints.
Qatar, meanwhile, has been vociferously lobbying ILO members in the run-up to this week’s debate to persuade them to drop demands for an inquiry, arguing that its reforms will take time to “bed in”. It also continues to push ahead with its nine new state-of-the-art, temperature-controlled stadiums, an entire city outside of Doha, shopping malls, transport links, several roads, a new central sewage system and 20 skyscrapers.
With an estimated final cost of £160bn, the 2022 World Cup is expected to be the most expensive in the tournament’s history, but those being recruited to transform Qatar’s football dream into reality are already paying a high price.
QATAR IN NUMBERS
1.8 million. Total number of migrant workers estimated to be involved in World Cup projects, directly or indirectly.
2.1 million. Total number of migrant workers in Qatar.
2.67 million. Overall population of Qatar, an increase of 64% since 2010 when the country was awarded the 2022 World Cup, mainly due to an influx of migrant workers.
60% of Qatar’s population live in labour camps, the overwhelming majority single men from south Asia.
9 new World Cup stadiums being constructed and three existing stadiums being renovated in addition to other major developments.
£400 million per week being spent by the Qataris on World Cup infrastructure projects.
1,800 The number of migrant workers who died in the three years to 2014, according to a report commissioned by the Qatari government.
7,000 The number of migrant workers who will die on World Cup-related projects by the time the 2022 tournament gets under way, according to the International Trade Union Confederation.
£101,406 Qatar’s average per capita income, according to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, making it the richest country in the world.
£475 The average monthly salary for Indian construction workers doing 60 hours a week, according to the International Labour Organisation.
£262 The average monthly salary for a Nepalese working about 70 hours a week.
A senior United Nations official has resigned, following pressure from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to withdraw the landmark report published earlier this week finding Israel guilty of apartheid.
Rima Khalaf, the head of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) which published the report, announced her resignation at a press conference in Beirut on Friday.
Reuters reports that Khalaf took the step “after what she described as pressure from the secretary-general to withdraw a report accusing Israel of imposing an ‘apartheid regime’ on Palestinians.”
“I resigned because it is my duty not to conceal a clear crime, and I stand by all the conclusions of the report,” Khalaf stated.
As of Friday, a press release announcing the report remained visible on the ESCWA website, but the link to the report itself from the press release no longer works.
A full copy of the report is available below.
It concludes that “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.”
It finds “beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crimes of apartheid” as defined in international law.
It urges national governments to “support boycott, divestment and sanctions activities and respond positively to calls for such initiatives.”
Palestinians warmly welcomed the report, but Israel angrily denounced it as akin to Nazi propaganda. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN demanded that the report be withdrawn.
That demand came just as the Trump administration announced a budget plan that includes sweeping cuts in US contributions to the UN.
Khalaf’s resignation indicates that Guterres acted obediently and swiftly to carry out the orders from the United States. In a tweet, the Anti-Defamation League, a powerful Israel lobby group in the United States, thanked Guterres for urging ESCWA to withdraw the report.
The Israeli government has long targeted Khalaf for retaliation for doing her job. In 2014, its UN ambassador demanded she be removed from her post for criticizing Israel’s policies of occupation and Jewish colonization of Palestinian territory at the expense of Muslim and Christian communities.
“The fact that a UN secretary general has bowed to threats and intimidation from the Trump administration to protect Israel from accountability, yet again, is hardly news,” the BNC said. “The real news is that this time round, Israel, with all its influence in Washington, cannot put the genie back into the bottle.”
“Palestinians are deeply grateful to ESCWA’s director, Dr. Rima Khalaf, who preferred to resign in dignity than to surrender her principles to US-Israeli bullying,” the BNC added.
Khalaf’s resignation, under pressure to suppress factual and legal findings unfavorable to Israel, will send a chilling message to other UN officials that they are better off serving those in power than in upholding any mandate to advance human rights and respect for international law.
Sometime last week I had asked the question, whether Indians were going back to using cash. And I had offered some evidence regarding the same. I had concluded by saying that “there is not enough data to say that Indians have totally gone back to cash, but the data that is available does suggest that they are moving towards it”.
In this piece, I will look at the same question by using a different set of data. On March 10, 2017, the Reserve Bank of India(RBI) released a document titled Macroeconomic Impact of Demonetisation- A Preliminary Assessment.
One of the things that the RBI document discusses is the usage of different digital modes of payment in the aftermath of demonetisation. As the RBI document points out: “After the announcement of demonetisation, digital activity levels were low in the initial weeks as people were busy depositing/exchanging SBNs (specified bank note). However, in December 2016, digital payment activity increased alongside progressive remonetisation.”
How does the data look? Let’s first take a look at Table 1, which has the total number of digital transactions for various modes of payment.
Volume (in Crore)
National Electronic Funds Transfer
Cheque Truncation System
Immediate Payment Service
Unified Payment Interface
Unstructured Supplementary Service Data
Debit and Credit Card Usage at Point of Sales
Prepaid Payment Instrument
Source: Reserve Bank of IndiaTable 1 tells us that digital payments went up in the aftermath of demonetisation and peaked in December 2016. Now take a look at Figure 1, which basically plots the total number of transactions.
What does Figure 1 tell us? It tells us that the total number of digital transactions in the aftermath of demonetisation did go up by around 50 per cent in December 2016 in comparison to November 2016, but has fallen since then. In February 2017, the number of transactions (i.e. the volume of transactions) had come down to a little over 60 crore from a peak of around 75 crore in December 2016.
Now take a look at Table 2, which basically shows the total value of transactions carried out through the different modes of digital payments.
Value (in Rs billion)
National Electronic Funds Transfer
Cheque Truncation System
Immediate Payment Service
Unified Payment Interface
Unstructured Supplementary Service Data
Debit and Credit Card at POS
Prepaid Payment Instrument
Source: Reserve Bank of IndiaThis again shows that the digital transactions rose dramatically in December 2016, in comparison to November 2016. This basically tells us that with very little currency being available in the financial system due to the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, people resorted to digital modes of payment. Having said that the use of digital mode of payment has fallen since then.
The fall in value of digital payments between December 2016 and February 2016 is 8.02 per cent. In comparison, the total number of digital transactions fell by 20 per cent from around 75 crore in December 2016 to 60 crore in February 2017.
As the RBI document quoted earlier in the piece points out: “The catalytic push from demonetisation hastened migration towards digital payments in November and December 2016. However, ease in availability of cash by progressive remonetisation impacted the pace of growth of digitalisation in February 2017.” This is basically the RBI’s way of saying in a very euphemistic way that Indians are going back to using cash.
One of the aims of demonetisation was to ensure that a greater part of the economy becomes digital i.e. people use digital modes of payments while carrying out economic transactions, instead of using cash. The initial evidence on this front is not very good. Nevertheless, as I said in my last piece on this issue, more data is needed to conclusively say that Indians have gone back to cash, though they are currently heading in that direction.
The question is what more needs to be done to keep encouraging people to move towards digital transactions. As the RBI document points out: “Further efforts are essential to enhance the use of digital payment going forward such as: (i) continued efforts to incentivise digitalisation; (ii) removing roadblocks in penetration of payment technology; (iii) handholding of new users to bring in behavioural shift; and (iv) providing an environment for development of a robust and easily scalable payment ecosystem that benefits from the advancements in technology. This will facilitate adoption of digital payments on a sustained basis and help in substantial savings for the country in terms of reduction in cost of cash in the system18; and an increase in accountability and tractability of transactions, thereby circumscribing tax avoidance.”
The unprecedented and shocking case of custodial torture of four girl students of Bengal at the hands of the State Government was taken to the National Commission of Women today by Brinda Karat and office bearers of the AIDWA S. Punyavathi and Asha Sharma.
The girls had been stripped while in custody had been groped, humiliated and subjected to sexist abuse and humiliation.
The NCW Chairperson Ms. Lalitha Kumaramangalam received the memorandum (copy enclosed) and also at the request of the delegation spoke on the telephone to one of the highly traumatized girls Madhuja Sen Roy.
The NCW Chairperson has instituted an inquiry team on the basis of the complaint which will visit Bengal. She assured the delegation that the complaint will be addressed urgently. Read the memorandum here:
Ms. Lalita Kumar Mangalam,
Dear Lalita ji,
We wish to bring to your notice an atrocious case of abuse, persecution and humiliation by the West Bengal Police of 4 young women from Students Federation of India and Democratic Youth Federation of India at Kolkata, West Bengal, on 10 March, 2017.
Madhuja Sen Roy, Ahana Ganguli, Rupsa Saha and Ananya Niyogi are student and youth activists. They were arrested by the Bengal Government and police, along with others, on March 9. They were participating in a protest march against the scam in appointments in primary schools. Many students including girls were brutally beaten by the police and a few were hospitalized. The four arrested young women were locked up in the police station and the next day were remanded to police custody until 14 March. The way the Government and police dealt with the participants and the March reflected the utter intolerance to any dissent or protest against corruption. But much worse was to follow.
The four were taken to the jail at Alipore Womens Reformatory. Instead of being treated as political activists, they were subjected to illegal custodial torture. They were taken to the searching” room. Here they were stripped and “searched” which consisted of highly objectionable groping of their bodies. One of the young women who was in her menstrual cycle at the time was made to take off her sanitary pad, forced to go down on all fours and ” searched.” All through they were subjected to the most filthy sexist abuse by women police personnel. The groping and abuse was repeated on March 14.
The women personnel responsible also made it clear that they were acting
“on orders from above.”
The Government, the police and the jail personnel are guilty of blatant violation of all standards to treat those in custody, particularly women prisoners. It becomes all the more reprehensible when the young women are idealistic student activists fighting for a just people’s cause. As you can imagine, they have been deeply traumatized by their experience. If this is the treatment students and youth receive within a jail in West Bengal, does it not fly in the face of the democratic norms of which we boast as citizens of India? Is it not a fact that even with a woman Chief Minister in the state, human right violations have been increasing by leaps and bounds?
Uttar Pradesh is going to get a new Chief Minister in form of Yogi Adityanath. Yogi Adityanath has come to be known for his hate speeches that he’s delivered on multiple occasions. Here’s one of his famous ones.
Yogi Adityanath is going to be Uttar Pradesh’s next Chief Minister. Not much needs to be written about him, he’s well known for being the blue eyed mascot of Hindutva. Here’s the story of his journey via tweets/clippings from various media outlets.
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Account of a ten year old story : Helps you understand the CM designate of UP
What happened in the eastern Uttar Pradesh town was not a conflict but violence unleashed by MP Yogi Adityanath and his henchmen
If one tries to understand the developments in Gorakhpur and its neighbouring areas of eastern Uttar Pradesh (Poorvanchal) from January 26 to 31, 2007 through the eyes of the print and electronic media, one moves further away from the truth. It is a sordid story of a highly communalised media conjuring up a riot, collaborating with BJP MP Yogi Adityanath, a Bal Thackeray clone and heir to the Gorakhnath Peeth operating from the Gorakhnath temple. Adityanath is a BJP MP for ‘technical’ reasons and cares a damn for the niceties of party discipline because he knows that the party cannot dissociate itself from him. Though he mocked the party by holding a Vishwa Hindu Maha Sammelan at the same time as the BJP’s National Council meet in Lucknow, the party did not mind. It had earlier swallowed the defeat of its candidate in the Assembly election by Adityanath’s candidate. One should know that he is a Thakur; and a Thakur heads the BJP now . The Thakur spread across party lines ensures that Adityanath is allowed to have his own way in his fiefdom, i.e. Poorvanchal. He makes it a point to give calls for a Gorakhpur bandh whenever the chief minister visits the town.
Poorvanchal mein rahan hai to Yogi-Yogi kahan hoga (You have to chant Yogi’s name if you want to live in Poorvanchal) is a slogan popularised by his gang. But how true is the claim of his hold on Gorakhpur, leave alone Poorvanchal? He has lost all local elections held recently in and around Gorakhpur, and could only manage to lure the relatively respected Samajwadi Party (SP) member and mayoral candidate Anju Chaudhary to his side.
Apparently, Chaudhary fell a victim to the myth spun around him during the last 15 years. Adityanath has been called the Yuvak Hindu Samrat, Narendra Modi of Poorvanchal, the premier of the Hindu Rashtra of Poorvanchal. He has used the wealth of the Gorakhnath Temple to sustain his army of lumpen youth. Adityanath has followed the rss methodology in creating organisations with different names that he calls cultural bodies. Among these are Hindu Yuva Vahini, Sri Ram Shakti Prakoshtha, Gorakhnath Purvanchal Vikas Manch, Hindu Mahasabha and Vishwa Hindu Mahasangh. Adityanath himself is the main functionary of these unregistered outfits. He also controls much of the functioning of the Bajrang Dal and the Hindu Jagran Manch. He holds his durbar in his temple that is attended by local police and officials.
Adityanath has perfected his technique of manufacturing riots. An insignificant incident like a Hindu’s clothes getting stained accidentally by the paan spat by a Muslim is turned into an act of humiliation of Hindus. A rape in which the victim is dalit and the perpetrator Muslim is used to substantiate the allegation that “Muslims rape our women” and all hell is let loose on the Muslims. The last 11 years are witness to several such acts. No criminal case has been registered against him except once in 1999 when a case was registered against him in Maharajganj after the killing of the official gunman accompanying sp leader Talat Aziz. The police and administration have remained mute spectators with the political leadership looking the other way. All this has given him an air of invincibility. Muslims have been given to understand that neither the Bahujan Samaj Party, nor the sp is willing to rein him in. Perhaps the SP is seeking to counter Mayawati’s Brahmin card with its own Thakur card by indulging him. The Congress is nowhere and also lacks a will to take him on. All this leaves the Muslims here with no option but to resign themselves to their fate.
This time, however, his plans went awry. On the night of January 26-27, Pankaj Rai, a history-sheeter, and his gang chased a dance party performing at a marriage. They mingled with a Muharram procession and the processionists thought that they were being attacked. Suddenly a gunshot was heard, which the then administration thinks was Rai’s act. As panic set in, more people — both Hindu and Muslim — were beaten up and a young man, Raj Kumar Agrahari, was badly injured and hospitalised. The District Magistrate (DM) was informed at 1.30am and he told officials to brief Adityanath that he should not visit the site. Initially, the MP agreed. But as Agrahari died, Adityanath declared that now he would go to the spot and seek revenge for the killing of a Hindu by Muslims. He reached the spot with his lumpen who destroyed a mazhar. He declared his resolve to ensure justice for the Hindus, swords were flashed before the dm and senior police officers. Short of policemen, the administration tried to persuade the MP to vacate the place but he didn’t budge.
When the now-determined dm took the dagger away from a goon, they charged towards him and demanded the dagger back. Upon this, the dm ordered the police to disperse them by force. Suddenly the MP found himself facing a situation that was not in the script. Afraid that the lathis might find Adityanath, his well-wishers cried out for compromise. The MP demanded that curfew be imposed and withdrew. Though the dm didn’t think a curfew was required as the violence was designed to disrupt Muharram, he agreed to the MP’s demand.
Later, however, Adityanath announced a torchlight procession. The administration succeeded in preventing it from moving but it was captured on camera and a non-procession was turned into one by the willing media. Emboldened, he announced a Shraddhanjali Sabha the next day at the town’s busiest crossroad. By this time, the dm had resolved not to allow it any further as the police reinforcements were in. He issued orders that no meeting was to be allowed and that any violator was to be arrested. With unambiguous orders, the police moved. Adityanath dismissed the warning as a hollow threat but landed in an unforeseen situation. He and his ‘followers’ were taken to the police line. Soon, a police van arrived and the detained people were asked to board the jail-bound vehicle. Adityanath jumped into the bus, declaring that he cannot leave his followers. To their surprise, the bus started moving and they realised that they were in trouble. The three-km journey to the jail took more than 90 minutes as his goons pelted stones and every other means to block the van but to no avail. For the first time in his life, Adityanath is jailed under Section 151A of the crpc only to find later that he has also been booked under Sections 146, 147, 279, 506 of the Indian Penal Code for leading the attack on the mazhar. On the strength of this fir, Adityanath is remanded to 14-day judicial custody.
On January 29, his followers assembled at Gorakhnath Temple that falls in an area where more than 50 percent of the population is Muslim. They start hrowing stones and burning tyres in the direction of the Muslim locality and on the road. But there is no retaliation from the other side.
Dr Hari Om, the then dm in-charge, wishes to put it on record that not a single incident of slogan-shouting or stone-pelting was resorted to by Muslims. He wants the world to know that although much grieved by the decision to impose curfew as it hampered Muharram, the Muslims, led by the venerable Miyan saheb, assured the administration of all cooperation as peace was more important and kept their word. Meanwhile, the media kept screaming that Gorakhpur was burning, the walls of the Gorakhnath Temple were demolished. Which, of course, was a naked lie.
And all of a sudden, the dm was informed that he’s been shunted along with the superintendent of police. As he moved away, Rashid, a Muslim youth, was killed. It is a matter of discussion in Gorakhpur that it was done by a Hindu Yuva Vahini man who injured himself to use it as a cover. Newspapers flashed the pictures of the Yuva Vahini man’s bandaged leg, obliterating the killing of Rashid altogether.
So where was the riot, as imagined by the interested media, asks Hari Om. From January 27 to 29, Adityanath and his goons laid siege to Gorakhpur without any provocation from Muslims. A mazhar was gutted, masjids and shops of Muslims destroyed, government properties damaged by the gangs, stone pelting on the police by his goons: do these make a perfect riot? A riot involves some degree of involvement of two warring groups. How is it that areas with substantial Muslim population did not experience any untoward incident barring the planned attacks of Adityanath’s gangs? Why did cm Mulayam Singh Yadav remove the officers who jailed the BJP MP who was hell-bent on destroying peace? Why did the officers’ successors go straight to Adityanath for forgiveness? Why did the media fail to report the facts as facts?
Hari Om has one regret — that he had assured Muslims that by giving a reprieve of 7-8 hours in the curfew on January 29, he would ensure that the Muharram tradition was not disturbed. However, the moment he was removed, Rashid was killed to celebrate it as Adityanath’s victory and the curfew was extended. Tazias remained where they were. The Muslims kept their word, he did not. This young officer has just one question for his country: can a community feel at home where it is prevented from even mourning by all kinds of machination? Can a community celebrate its existence in a country where law-keepers look over their shoulders when it is attacked? Such is the sad story of Uttar Pradesh, the truth of one of the many riots that were not.