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Archives for : April2017

Open letter to President of India – Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti of Dongria Kondh adivasis are not linked to Maoists

Dear Shri Pranab Mukherjee,

We are writing to express our concern and anguish at the recently released Annual Report 2016-17 of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which has linked the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS) with ‘Maoist’ organizations. The report states that Maoists ‘guide’ the activities of the NSS.

The Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti is a collective of the Dongria Kondh adivasi people and other local communities who have been organizing themselves for more than a decade against bauxite mining in Niyamgiri hills (Odisha), which is their only home. The continued targeting of the Dongria Kondh community (with a population of less than ten thousand people) in reports like these, and in continued state actions on the ground, raises serious doubts: is this being purposely done to break their continued resolve to oppose the mining of the Niyamgiri hills?

The resistance of the Dongria Kondh to the mining proposal is based on several grounds: Niyamgiri is their traditional and ancestral home, it is a sacred landscape, it is the source of their livelihood and culture, they have special rights guaranteed in the Constitution, and they have full rights to it under the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act and the Forest Rights Act, both laws passed by the Indian Parliament. In fact under the Forest Rights Act, the community has the right and is empowered to protect their habitat, and natural ecosystems in it, which is precisely what they are doing in resisting the mining. All this was recognized by the NC Saxena Committee set up by the Government of India in 2010, which strongly recommended against mining in the hills.1 Subsequently the Supreme Court too recognized these aspects.

However, since the Supreme Court ordered that the Dongria Kondh need to be consulted about mining in the region in April 2013, and the subsequent unanimous rejection by the Dongria Kondh gram sabhas of the mining proposal, we have observed with great perturbation the repeated attempts by the state government to reintroduce the proposal and to start mining in the region. Recently, the Odisha Mining Corporation filed a petition in the Supreme Court to reopen the mining. The Supreme Court refused to admit the petition.

Apart from these attempts, there has been constant intimidation and violence on the community by security forces. In the last 2-3 years, several Dongria Kondh youth and elders have been arrested, harassed, and killed, and one has committed suicide after repeated harassment and alleged torture by security forces. In none of these cases, have the forces been able to produce evidence linking them to so-called Maoists.

The Ministry of Home Affairs appears to have ignored the overwhelming response of the Dongria Kondh, when Maoist organisations told them to oppose or boycott the gram sabha meetings organised by the state at the behest of the Supreme Court order of April 2013. Hundreds of Dongria Kondh had flocked from village to village to take part in the meetings, openly defying this call.2

The Government should also pay heed to the wisdom of the Supreme Court expressed in the case of Nandini Sundar and Ors vs The State of Chhattisgarh (WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 250 OF 2007), also referred to as the Salwa Judum Judgement. In this it reiterated that the current social order which treats any person speaking for human rights and questioning the current paradigm of the State, as a ‘Maoist’ or a ‘Maoist’ sympathizer, has become a serious problem affecting our nation. It noted that any peaceful dissent or dissatisfaction which is a positive feature of democracy, is often not recognized by the authorities and is met with severe repression.

The MHA appears to be questioning the credibility of the Supreme Court’s orders and observations in the above matters; and additionally of the Indian Parliament by ignoring the Dongria Kondh’s rights under PESA and FRA.

Actions such as what the state is doing in the Niyamgiri hills, and language such as that used in the MHA report, only serve to undermine democracy. Apart from the suffering and injustice that the state’s repressive actions cause, they also push people who are peacefully exercising their freedom of speech to turn to violence, which helps no one.

We therefore urge you to use your responsibility of upholding the Constitution, and in particular the safeguards for adivasis contained in it, noting also that the Dongria Kondh are a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group with special safeguards. We urge you to direct the MHA to retract the statements made about the NSS in its report, to stop the intimidation of the adivasis and attempts to restart the mining, and to allow the Dongria Kondh and other communities of the Niyamgiri hills to live a dignified life of self-determination for their present and future.

We reiterate our support for the struggle of the Dongria Kondh, and of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, in safeguarding their habitat, livelihoods, identity, and dignity.

(Meenal Tatpati / Ashish Kothari, Kalpavriksh)

[email protected]

on behalf of the undersigned organisations and individuals

Copy to:

Prime Minister’s Office

Ministry of Tribal Affairs

Ministry of Home Affairs

Governor of Odisha

CM of Odisha

Commissioner of STs

Endorsing organisations

Samir Mehta, River Basin Friends, and International Rivers South Asia, Mumbai

Tultul Biswas, Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch, Bhopal

Sudha Bharadwaj, General Secretary, Chhattisgarh People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)

Binayak Sen and Kavita Srivastava, PUCL

Nitin Rai, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bangalore

Ananya Mehta, Karnataka Alliance for Safe Food, and Buffalo Back Collective

Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune

Viren Lobo, Convenor, Community Control of Natural Resources and Indian Community

Activists Network

Sangram Mallik, Ambedkar Lohia Bichar Manch, Bhubaneswar

Seema Kulkarni, Mahila Kisan Adhikar Manch (MAKAAM) and Society for Promoting

Participatory Ecosystem Management (SOPPECOM), Pune


Soma KP and Rukmini Rao, MAKAAM

Teesta Setalvad, Citizens for Justice and Peace, Mumbai

Bittu Karthik, Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression

Prashant Paikray, Spokesperson, Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), Odisha

Aakar Patel, Amnesty International, India

Ananthoo, Safe Food Alliance, Tamil Nadu

Gopi Deva, Organic Farmers Market, Chennai

Balaji Sankar, Tharcharbu Iyakkam, Sirkali

Radhika Rammohan, reStore, Chennai

Pamayan, Thalanmai Uzhavar Iyakkam

Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM)

Suhas Kolhekar, Suniti SR, and Prasad Bagwe, NAPM Maharashtra

Meera Sanghamitra, NAPM Telangana and Andhra Pradesh

Sudhir Vombatkere, Senior Activist, NAPM, Karnataka

Gabriele Dietrich, Penn Urimay Iyakkam, Madurai, Tamil Nadu

Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, and Shankar Singh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) and

National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI)

Anjali Bharadwaj, NCPRI

Prafulla Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Odisha

Sandeep Pandey, Socialist Party, Uttar Pradesh

Geetha Ramakrishnan, Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, Tamil Nadu

Arul Doss, NAPM Tamil Nadu

Arundhati Dhuru, Nandlal Master, and Manesh Gupta, NAPM Uttar Pradesh

Richa Singh, Sangathit Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, Uttar Pradesh

Vilayodi Venugopal, CR Neelakandan, and Prof. Kusumam, NAPM Kerala

Vimal Bhai, Matu Jan Sangathan, Uttarakhand

Jabar Singh, NAPM Uttarakhand

Sister Celia, Domestic Workers Union, Karnataka

Rukmini V.P., Garment Labour Union, Karnataka

Anand Mazgaonkar and Krishnakant, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Gujarat

 Ashish Ranjan, Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan, Bihar

Mahendra Yadav, Kosi Navnirman Manch, Bihar

Sister Dorothy, NAPM Bihar

Dayamani Barla, Aadivasi-Moolnivasi Astivtva Raksha Samiti, Jharkhand

Dr. Sunilam and Adv. Aradhna Bhargava, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Madhya Pradesh

Bhupender Singh Rawat, Jan Sangharsh Vahini, Delhi

Rajendra Ravi, Nanu Prasad, Madhuresh Kumar, Amit Kumar, Himnshi Singh, Uma Kapari, Zaved Mazumder, NAPM Delhi

Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmatgar and J S Walia, NAPM Haryana

Kailash Meena, NAPM Rajasthan;

Samar Bagchi, Amitava Mitra, and Avik Saha, NAPM West Bengal

P. Chennaiah, Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruttidarulua Union (APVVU), Andhra Pradesh

Ramakrishnam Raju, United Forum for RTI, Andhra Pradesh

Gautam Bandopadhyay, NAPM, Chhattisgarh

Kaladas Dahariya, Relaa Collective, Chhattisgarh

Bilal Khan, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, Mumbai

K. Sajaja, Freelance journalist and documentary film maker, Caring Citizens Collective,


Prabhat Kumar Sinha, Convenor, All India Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti

Prahlad Singh Shekhawat, Director, Alternative Development and Research Centre, Jaipur

Rajesh Yedida, Jeevan Kumar, and Jayasree Kakumani, Human Rights Forum, Telangana and

Andhra Pradesh

Vissa Kiran Kumar and Ajay Kumar, Rythu Swarajya Vedika, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh

V. Rukmini Rao, Executive Director, Gramya Resource Centre for Women

Shivani Chaudhry, Housing and Land Rights Network, Delhi

Babloo Loitongbam, Human Rights Alert, Manipur

Leo Saldanha, Environment Support Group, Bangalore

P. Shankar, Dalit Bahujana Front, Telangana

Chakri, Samalochana

Adv. MA Shakeel, Centre for Study of Constitution and Society, Hyderabad, Telangana.

S.Q. Masood, Centre for Peace Studies, Hyderabad, Telangana.

V.A. Ramesh Nathan, General Secretary, National Dalit Movement For Justice-

NDMJ (NCDHR), New Delhi

Henri Tiphagne, People’s Watch, All India Network of Individuals and NGOs working with

National and State Human Rights Institutions (AiNNI), and Human Rights

Defenders’ Alert – India (HRDA)

Indira Jaisingh, Lawyers Collective

Meenal Tatpati and Ashish Kothari, Kalpavriksh

K. Ramnarayan, Himal Prakriti, Munsiari

Malika Virdi, Maati Sangathan, Munsiari

Priya Pillai, Mahan Sangarsh Samiti , Singrauli , Madhya Pradesh

Endorsing individuals

N P Chekkutty, Chief Editor, Thejas Daily, Calicut

Rajinder Chaudhary, Former Professor, Department of Economics, M.D. University, Rohtak, Haryana

Dr. G. Vijay, Assistant Professor School of Economics, Adjunct Faculty Centre for Human Rights and Secretary, Centre for Social Concerns, University of Hyderabad

S. Durga Bhavani, Associate Professor, School of Computer and Information Sciences University of Hyderabad

Sujit Sinha, Faculty, Azim Premji University, Bangalore

Manasi Karthik, SOAS, University of London

Sanjana Kumari, MPhil Research Scholar, Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD)

Chitra Ravi, Azim Premji University, Bangalore

Rakesh Ranjan, University of Delhi

Felix Padel, Anthropologist, Activist

Miloon Kothari, former United Nations Special Rapporteur for Housing Rights, Delhi

Rahul Maganti, Independent Journalist, Vijayawada

Gutta Rohit, Human Rights Activist

Vimala Morthala, Independent Writer, Activist, Hyderabad

Usha Seethalaksmi, Independent Researcher

Adv. Ravi, High Court of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh

Shobha, Theatre Artist and Human Rights Activist, Bangalore

Aruna Chandrasekhar, Researcher and Independent journalist

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Feminist and Human Rights Activist, Mumbai

Divya Narain, Independent Researcher

Admiral L. Ramdas (Retd.), Former Chief of Naval Staff, Alibag , Maharashtra

Lalita Ramdas, Social Activist, Hyderabad, India

Tara Murali, Architect

Deba Ranjan, Filmmaker

Surya Dash, Filmmaker, Bhubaneshwar

Asad R. Rahmani, Conservationist, Mumbai

Mona Mishra, Social activist, Delhi

Ashim Choudhury, Communications Consultant

Usha Rai, Senior journalist, New Delhi

Achin Vanaik, Delhi

Aravinda Potluri, Hyderabad

Nikita Gandhi, Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu

Anupama Potluri, Hyderabad

Harini Nagendra, Bangalore

K.S. Manjunath, Bangalore

Ravishankar B.T., Bangalore

Prasenjit Dasgupta, Ghaziabad (Delhi NCR)

Abhilash C.A, Chikkabalapur

Adnan Khan, Bangalore

Sunita Rao, Sirsi

Ratheesh Pisharody, Bangalore

Sharada Ganesh, Bangalore

Priti Rao, Bangalore

Ranu Garg, Bangalore

Arvind Kumar, Kanpur

Ajaya Kumar Singh, Bhubaneswar

Sandeep Kumar Pattnaik, Bhubaneshwar

E. Theophilus, Munsiari

Chhaya Datar

Samhita Barooah

Arundathi Vishwanath

Uma Shankari Narendranath

Swagato Sarkar

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UP Minister, Satyadev Pachuri who insulted disabled should resign


Image result for up minister insults divyang


The National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) condemns the humiliating remarks made by U.P’s textile minister, Satyadev Pachuri, against the disabled.

The minister who was on a visit to the Dilbag area of Lucknow mocked a disabled man by using derogatory words.  The Minister not only made insulted the disabled safai karmachari but also questioned his ability to undertake the job given to him.

Apart from the fact that the worker was not being paid the minimum wage, the minister scolded those who had employed the disabled person.

Though the Prime Minister has coined patronizing terms like “divyang” his ardent followers in high positions in the Party and government not only continue to use derogatory terms against persons with disabilities but hold them in utter contempt. The NPRD had always held that mere change of terminology will not change realities on the ground. Mindsets have to change.

Mr. Pachauri needs to be reminded that Section 92 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 provides for a jail term of not less than six months for any person who “intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a person with disability in any place within public view”. He should be thankful that the Act has still not come into force.

Such a minister who makes fun of an entire community, ridicules persons with disabilities in full public view and holds them in utter contempt has no right to continue in office.



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CM Yogi’s minister caught on camera deriding ‘disabled ‘ worker #WTFnews

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In a shocking incident, UP’s Textile minister Satyadev Pachauri was caught on camera mocking a disabled man by questioning his ability to work due to his disability.

In complete contrast to the call for compassion towards people suffering from disabilities from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a recently sworn-in minister in Yogi Adityanath’s cabinet in Uttar Pradesh has been caught on camera insulting a ‘divyang’ worker – questioning his ability to discharge his responsibility due to his condition.

This comes just days after Yogi Adityanath called for showing respect towards ‘divyangs’ (physically disabled persons).

In a shocking incident, UP’s Textile minister Satyadev Pachauri was caught on camera mocking a disabled man by questioning his ability to work due to his disability.

The video was recorded on a mobile phone camera in Lucknow’s Dilbag area where Pachauri had gone for a surprise inspection.

As shown in the clip, after noticing the specially-abled man, the minister started questioning the worker about his responsibilities and salary.

“What do you do here?” the minister asked. To this, he replied, “I am a safai karamchari”.

“At what time you report for duty? Are you here on a contract basis?” the minister questions.

“7 o’clock,” the employee answered.

The minister then scolded the staff who were accompanying him for the inspection. “You have hired ‘lule-langde’ (handicapped) persons. Just look at him, how can he discharge his responsibilities? How much you are paying him?”

“Rs 4,000 sir,” an employee replied to the minister.

When the matter gained media headlines, the Minister said that his remarks were misinterpreted.

“I just said that works should be distributed on basis of ability. I told them to hire two persons and shift him to other place. It is a pre-planned conspiracy. My remarks were misunderstood,” he said.

Senior BJP leader and state Cabinet minister Srikant Sharma too sought to downplay the controversy.

He said that the ministers should choose words very cautiously and that the motive was to ensure projects are completed within the stipulated time.

“He (Pachauri) is a senior minister. The Chief Minister has already asked the ministers to choose words very cautiously. The aim of his surprise inspection was to ensure works are done on time. But ministers should choose words very carefully. I can assure from now onwards, this will not be repeated,” he said.

It is worth mentioning here that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has on many occasions insisted on using the word ‘divyang’ instead of ‘viklang’ to show respect to physically disabled persons.

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Modi Govt cancels FCRA licence of top public health NGO

The RSS-backed Swadeshi Jagran Manch had recently alleged a nexus between the Gates Foundation and big pharma and its “influence” on health policymaking.

by Rahul Tripathi |

fcra licence, Public Health Foundation of India, PHFI, PHFI foreign funding, phfi foreign funding, ngo foreign funding, india news, indian express news, latest newsAfter the NDA government came to power in May 2014, FCRA licenses of around 20,000 NGOs have been cancelled by the Home Ministry. (Representational)THE Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), a Delhi-based NGO that aims to strengthen training, research and policy development in public health, has been barred from receiving foreign funds including from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). The Union Home Ministry has cancelled PHFI’s registration under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, alleging violations of the law. PHFI’s licence was renewed for five years in August 2016, said officials.

Headed by noted public health expert K Srinath Reddy, PHFI — it was launched by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2006 — provides technical assistance to Central and State Governments in several areas ranging from HIV prevention, access to drugs, tobacco control and immunization to environmental health, universal health coverage, public health cadre development and capacity building of primary care physicians.

The RSS-backed Swadeshi Jagran Manch had recently alleged a nexus between the Gates Foundation and big pharma and its “influence” on health policymaking. Speaking to The Indian Express, co-convenor Ashwini Mahajan said: “We have met the Union Health Minister and raised the matter regarding funding of PHFI by BMGF.” According to the Home Ministry, the PHFI license has been cancelled for alleged FCRA violations. These include alleged lobbying with parliamentarians and media for the anti-tobacco lobby. It was further alleged that PHFI had opened bank accounts which were not disclosed to the ministry and had “misreported” foreign donations received over the past three years. Officials claimed the NGO had transferred significant sums outside India without alerting the Home Ministry.

In an e-mail response to The Indian Express, the PHFI spokesperson said, “PHFI has received notification from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) — FCRA Wing regarding the renewal of its FCRA Registration. Certain observations have been made by the Ministry on utilisation of funds related to PHFI’s projects on tobacco, HIV/AIDS and its financial reports. PHFI has submitted the requisite information and documents to the MHA on the observations raised in the notification and provided the needed clarifications…PHFI is seeking an early resolution of the issue and continuation of the FCRA registration, based on the clarifications provided.”

Reddy was quoted by PTI as saying: “We have submitted all relevant documents and information to the ministry and are now waiting for a response.” According to the PHFI’s website, the chairman of the executive committee of its governing body is Infosys founder N R Narayana Murthy and members include former deputy chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Health Secretary C K Mishra. The website claims that several Central departments and state governments of Gujarat, Telangana, Odisha, Meghalaya, Karnataka and Delhi as collaborators along with a range of academic institutions in India and overseas including WHO, World Bank, All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health and the National Human Rights Commission.

After the NDA government came to power in May 2014, FCRA licenses of around 20,000 NGOs have been cancelled by the Home Ministry. Of these, the FCRA licenses of over 9,500 NGOs were cancelled in 2015. Among them were senior advocate and former Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Indira Jaising’s NGO, Lawyers Collective (LC), Greenpeace, and Teesta Setalvad-run Sabrang trust.

The Home Ministry also toughened its stand in the case of Compassion International (CI), the Colorado-based child rights donor agency and despite US pressure refused to remove it from the prior permission category. Last year, three US NGOs George Soros-run Open Society Foundation; World Movement for Democracy and National Endowment for Democracy (NED) were put under prior permission category.

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1984 sikh riots an organised chaos and massacre, says Canada Defence Minister

Harjit Singh Sajjan speaks to Indian Express on how he intends to foster IndiaCanada ties.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | P

harjit sajjan, amarinder singh, canadian defense minister, world sikh organisation canada, boycott harjit sajjan, india visit harjit sajjan, capt amarider singh, punjab chief minister, Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan, india news, indian express newsREUTERS/Chris WattieAs a teenager growing up in Canada, when you saw the 1984 riots, what was your reaction?

What happened in India in 1984 was of great concern to Canadians of the Sikh community. When I was a teenager, trying to interpret what was happening… the organised chaos and massacre that occurred that time touched a lot of people, Canadians. That’s one of the things that reminds us of how fortunate we were to be living in Canada, and how important human rights are in Canada.

When many senior leaders, who were allegedly involved, were acquitted, how did you react?

As a teenager, it is difficult to follow through the developments. I am very happy to see the current government has spoken of this, shows the progress that has been made.

The Punjab CM alleged that you have pro-Khalistan leanings. How do you respond? Were you hurt?

Personally, as someone who has served the country wearing the uniform, it does… But I have been trained, I have a role to play. I am the Minister for Defence, and Cabinet Minister in the Trudeau government, and my job is to build, foster relations with India. That’s what I am here for. I wanted to pay my respects to Amarinder sahab, visit the village where I was born. I was also raised to be courteous, especially here in India… So that’s the reason I reached out to the Chief Minister for a meeting, and he chose not to. But I am not going to get sucked into political conversations.

What did you want to discuss with Amarinder Singh?

Unfortunately, in Punjab, we don’t have a defence component. But there are a lot of Canadians who have strong roots in Punjab. I wanted to listen and update myself on how things have progressed in Punjab.

Punjab is battling the drug menace. You handled the issue as a cop in Vancouver. Any ideas on how to tackle the menace?

I don’t know the details of Punjab, but I have heard about it. Every nation has challenges when it comes to drug use. In Canada, we are looking at a more holistic approach. Not just fighting and arresting criminals but also educating the youth… For Punjab, the CM will have to figure out what works here.

You met Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and discussed Canada’s capability in high-altitude warfare.

We want to further those conversations. We have experience on winter survival training, how you look at modernising equipment in those places. And we are looking at ways to increase that relationship… And look at joint exercises.

The Defence Minister raised the issue of Ontario assembly resolution calling 1984 riots a genocide.

Ontario legislature is a provincial assembly, a private member made that resolution… It’s not the stand of the federal government. There is an election going on in that province… But we are focused on furthering our relationships, our defence industries… so that we can have those open conversations.

Since last year, there have been reports of PM Trudeau visiting India. When is he likely to visit?

The PM is looking forward to his visit. A date has not been fixed, only because of the PMs’ schedules. I look forward to briefing him about my trip, and will be working towards his visit soon.

Interview: 1984 riots an organised chaos and massacre, says Canada Defence Minister

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Supreme Court quashes complaint against MS Dhoni

Supreme Court quashes criminal complaint against MS Dhoni for allegedly depicting himself as Lord Vishnu
The complaint was filed against Mahendra Singh Dhoni for allegedly depicting himself as Lord Vishnu in a magazine cover.

New Delhi, April 20 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Thursday quashed a criminal complaint against former India cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni by an Andhra Pradesh resident following his depiction as Lord Vishnu by a business magazine.

The complaint was filed by social activist Jayakumar Hiremath who had alleged that Dhoni was seen on the cover of a business magazine as Lord Vishnu, holding several things, including a shoe in his hands.

Quashing the criminal complaint, the bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said that the ingredients of the offence alleged in the criminal complaint amounting to hurting the religious feelings of the complainant are not made out.


Another bench of the apex court had in September last year quashed an identical complaint filed by another complainant before a court in Bengaluru.

In the magazine cover that was released in 2013, Dhoni –dressed up as Lord Vishnu — was seen holding several objects in his hands, including a shoe.

A court in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh had issued a non-bailable warrant against him for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.

That had prompted Dhoni to approach the Supreme Court seeking quashing of the criminal proceedings against him.

Earlier, the court had also stayed the operation of the order of Karnataka High Court which had refused to stall the criminal proceedings against him. Dhoni had filed the Special Leave Petition challenging the Karnataka HC order

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What is hurting Indian pharma more— misinformation or price control?



The industry body is lashing out at the regulator for stifling a growing industry. But the members say the drug companies are doing just fine 


On 13 April, a day before the Easter weekend, many drug manufacturers went on their breaks feeling a little agitated but mostly helpless. It was the day, the spokesperson of the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA), representing its (invite only) members—over 20 large companies including Sun Pharma, Dr Reddy’s, Lupin and Cipla—went public with his anger. Dilip G Shah referred to the pricing policy roll‐out as “arbitrary”, and compliance to guidelines “difficult”. Shah claimed these two factors were adding to the “woes” of the drug industry. With their morning coffee, manufacturers and the drug regulator read Shah’s opinion piece. They made calls, exchanged texts and shared tweets asking each other: Was the regulatory mechanism for the price control of essential medicines hurting the industry so much? The answer was lurking in their own backyard.


The IPA’s internal report, ‘Pharmaceutical Sector Challenges and Opportunities – 2017’, was short. Just 21 pages. But it provided the answer. Price control was the least of the sector’s woes. The chatter to disband the drug pricing regulator—National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA)—under industry pressure, which began six months ago, was grave enough. The NPPA’s recent claim to fame in controlling the prices of stents by treating them as essential medicine in the prime minister’s speeches has intensified the conflict. In hushed tones, senior executives of some of the largest pharmaceutical companies say that they want to work with the regulator and abide by the law but Shah has taken the conflict very personally. He has scapegoated the regulator for unrelated ills. The public posturing of the IPA, which is in sharp contrast to its own report, shows the extent of the misinformation being floated. Instead of working out mechanisms to keep the prices affordable and the industry healthy, not mutually exclusive goals, the anti‐price control drumbeating has diverted the attention from the real challenges of the drugmakers. Even creating doubts in the minds of foreign investors.


The real culprits The piece in The Economic Times and the letter that the IPA sent earlier this month to think‐ tank NITI Aayog’s vice‐chairman Arvind Panagariya, both authored by Shah, point that the industry’s growth rate is declining. From 15% in 2015 to 11% in 2016 and further to 9% ending in February 2017. And why is that so? Because of the “‘arbitrary and unimaginative’ implementation of the drug pricing policy” by the NPPA and the policy initiatives of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), Shah argues. “The aggressive tone, arbitrary selection of words and the argument are not backed with any evidence. Price control is not one of the industry’s primary problems. It exists in one form or another globally,” said a senior executive at one of the largest pharmaceutical companies based in Mumbai, part of the IPA. “Further use of terms like nightmare, arbitrary, imaginative and trust deficit do not help pharma companies—small, medium or large—in working with the government in any way, and shift focus from the real issues plaguing the sector,” he added.

The Ken spoke with senior executives from three large Indian pharmaceutical companies that have a majority market share in some of the price‐controlled drugs and are among the members of the IPA; members of the Indian Drug Manufacturers Association (IDMA), which represents over 1000 small, medium and large companies, independent analysts and government officials.   All of whom chose to speak on the condition of anonymity.

They are critical of Shah’s current aggression but still rely on him for a strong voice on all other issues—domestic and international. All these people agreed that in the last three years, price regulation has affected them only marginally, not nearly enough to reverse the growth. They all point towards the IPA’s own annual report, which states that the pharma industry has been on a roll, doubling in size over the last 6 years to reach $41 billion.

What, then is really affecting the industry? Not paying attention to research and development (R&D).

Traditionally, drug companies worldwide have been the highest spenders on research. But not in India. According to the IPA’s recent report, an industry that is worth $41 billion spends about $1.5 billion on R&D, 3.6% of the revenue. Teva, the largest generics maker, spent 7.5% of its sales on R&D in 2016.

Even the IDMA in its internal assessment, ‘Journey towards Pharma Vision 2020’, has stressed R&D as one of the key factors that will determine the industry’s growth and development. A member of the IPA noted that “while the companies are making in India, they are not innovating in India”. The government is gradually withdrawing its financial support in drug discovery and innovative formulation, which has affected the companies. The IPA’s internal report on growth The second factor that is hurting the industry is the relentless inspection from the American drug regulator, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If the industry’s prices are being monitored by the Indian regulator, its quality is under the scanner of foreign regulators.

The difference is in the approach the IPA is using against each—conciliatory for the US FDA and head‐on for the NPPA, remarked an independent pharma analyst in Delhi, who doesn’t want to be named. The IPA’s internal report on inspections by the US FDA The inspections conducted by the US FDA in 2015 and 2016 have resulted in the closure of plants over quality issues. A blow to not only the export market but also the local industry as the profits from exports are ploughed back into the local market, said a senior executive of an Ahmedabad‐based pharma company, which is also a member of the IPA. The IPA’s unpublished report, which The Ken has a copy of, resonates with the ground realities of the industry. But the irony is that the larger issues are not part of the public discourse. One wonders if they are at least being discussed with the decision‐makers. And that brings us to the much‐talked about price control, which even Shah dismisses in one graph of his 21‐page report.

The impact of controlled prices As the number of drugs under price control increased—from 348 in 2015 to 376 earlier this month—the IPA under Shah kept the public opinion focused on it. It is widely perceived that the drug companies are being squeezed on this account. However, according to the calculations of a new document prepared by the NPPA, which is not yet public, only overpriced brands face some degree of squeeze.

With the 376 drugs under some price control, until March 2017, “about 60% of the companies remain unaffected because they were already selling their products below the ceiling prices on their own, on account of market competitiveness”. For the remaining 40% brands, “the price reduction compared to highest prices brand is 10% or less which is nothing, if we see it in the context of exorbitantly high trade margins in the pharma sector,” states the document. “Margins are not being touched at all. We are slashing only the exorbitant trade margins, and this does not affect the growth of the industry,” said NPPA chairperson Bhupendra Singh. To use another set of statistics, from an independent body named Pharma Track, 15.6% of the Indian pharma market is under price control. Extent of squeeze An estimated 2‐4% of revenue shrinks due to price regulation.


The consensus is that the majority of the market is out of price control An estimated 2‐4% of revenue shrinks due to price regulation. The consensus is that the majority of the market is out of price control. But what does hurt within this is the present inefficient mechanism. For instance, if the prices of innovative dosage forms of the listed drugs are to be controlled, how much time should be granted to the manufacturers to implement the controlled prices. Also, can controlled prices be applied on a pro‐rata basis? Price control has limited impact on the revenues of the sector. But it is neither throttling the industry nor is it as arbitrary as Shah has consistently projected it to be.

Why then is Shah upset with the regulator? The real bone of contention is the motivation behind the price regulator’s overreach. It is an ideological war between pro‐industry and pro‐ consumer, which, frankly, is no war. The two parties can easily be on the same side. The Ken tried but could not ascertain if the top honchos of the 20 member companies are in sync with the stance that Shah has been taking. Ideology clashes Discontent with the price regulator has been brewing not just in the IPA, but within the government departments too, as The Ken reported in November.

On 28 March, it surfaced again at a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office. The secretaries of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion and Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) and additional secretary of health and the chief executive of NITI Aayog—who are collectively referred to as ‘pro‐market boys’ among Indian bureaucrats—took their complaints of the “over performing” drug pricing regulator to the principal secretary. But the principal secretary Nripendra Misra, like the prime minister, is tom‐tomming price control of drugs as a major public service. “After assuming office, mechanisms were put to bring down prices of medicines even if that meant pharma companies are unhappy with us,” said prime minister Modi at a hospital inauguration in Surat on 18 April. Yet, the NPPA chairperson Singh was asked to defend the role of the regulator, which he did. In a written reply, Singh has proposed a clear strategic vision balancing the twin objectives of the government—affordable drugs and a thriving pharma industry. His answer is a new ‘National Pharmaceutical Policy’.

To look into the matter, the DoP has set up a committee, whose objective is to ensure enhanced access to drugs and a streamlined price control mechanism. Unhappy earlier, angry now, Shah’s defence was that the IPA’s internal report was prepared in February. “The new data was not available on the domestic market then. The ET piece, thus, focused on the arbitrary implementation of the pricing policy leading to a drop in the growth rate, based on more recent data,” he said. (He did not specify how recent is the recent data.) A one-man army, who knows the corridors of the government and the leaders of large companies in the industry, Shah is the lone voice for the entire sector. Now, with the gossip galore, small, medium and large drugmakers are seeking clarifications on where does the actual power lie. Even the government has set up a committee focused on pricing regulation.


Will the real issues be addressed with the same urgency?


What is hurting Indian pharma more—misinformation or price control?

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Poetry must engage with the political

A new poetry collection by a TISS professor protests the global trend of rising intolerance and xenophobia

Dr Ashwani Kumar, a politi cal science professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, will release his second book of poetry at the Mumbai Poetry Festival this weekend. The collection, titled Banaras and The Other, is the result of two years of work and seeks to capture the truth of what he calls today’s “fractured times“. Born in what is now Jharkhand but was then part of Bihar, Kumar spoke to Mumbai Mirror about how Banaras became the theme of this collection, why poetry cannot divorce itself from the political, and the need for vernacular influences in English poetry in India.How did you come to pick Banaras as the theme for this collection?

I am an émigré, a social scientist by profession. I have lived mostly out of a suitcase while I spent time at TISS. In the last five, seven years, I went across India, and I started looking at what is called the biography of a city. In English poetry I find the one city that stands really tall is BombayMumbai.There is no other city. What I am trying to do is I am paying tribute to Bombay poets but I am also contesting the hegemonic presence of BombayMumbai in literature, especially in poetry. I tried to discover the city which could be the other, what could be the other of Mumbai? Mark Twain said Banaras is older than history but of late it has become not just a spiritual city, not just a religious city, but it is becoming a political fantasy.The book is actually about a political fiction, a political fantasy, which I was not able to construct here in Mumbai because this city has become a neo-liberal fantasy.It has become a desire economy, the commercial capital. Mumbai is not a spiritual city, it is not a religious city, though there are religious riots here. Mumbai has also become very majoritarian and if you look at Banaras, for the last four or five years it seems to be struggling against its own myth; against its own history and largely becoming a political capital rather than a religious capital and a spiritual capital of Hindus. It is also becoming a majoritarian space.That’s why most of the poems in this collection relate to Banaras.

How does your political science work influence your poetry?

At the subconscious level, I don’t think my training in political science matters, or my political activism. That space where I work out my poetry is pretty much autonomous of my political position or ideology. In the conscious world, certainly my training in politics, my political ideology, my activism, my experiences and my memories of political involvement do influence in between the lines and in the invisible spaces between poems.At that level, I must acknowledge that I am deeply political and a very committed political. So for me, and here I beg to differ with my fellow poets, I am really committed to poetry as a political project. For me writing poetry is not a spiritual experience or a romantic experience. For me writing poetry, is, as I said earlier, with regard to my first book (My Grandfather’s Imaginary Typewriter), being in politics is for me the writing project. That defines me. The day I stop being in politics or with politics, I would stop writing poetry. So it is a deeply political project.

Why be political through poetry and not through other forms of writing?

Poetry is more esoteric than prose.In fractured times, writing poetry is far more profound if you write in esoteric language. Prose is a far more dulling experience; it is prosaic. That is why, going back to Banaras, I didn’t want to capture it in a prosaic sense.I wanted to capture its truth and simultaneously capture the truths of our fractured and fissured times. The book is about rising intolerance, xenophobia, about fears and it is a conscious decision to resist and to protest. The whole tradition of English poetry, seems to have become dull and less engaged with the politics of the current times.And it has become more about being melodious, being more musical, an attempt to rearrange words in a certain craft. It has become more craft driven and less about real, passionate engagement with the politics of the times, of the truth of the times.

Aside from the politics, how do the poems reflect your experience of being an immigrant in the city?

English poetry in India is largely a Mumbaikar‘s dream. The aesthetics are of a Mumbaikar; they are trained in a particular way. Images are done in a particular way. What is happening is that English poetry does not have people originally writing in English but with vernacular flavour, with provincial worlds. These worlds have come to Mumbai more as a migrant worker sweating out, giving blood to the city, making the city richer, more prosperous, liveli er, they brought robustness to the city, but the city missed out because nobody came from these vernacular worlds writing English in original English. So as a Bihari coming to Mumbai and producing English poetry, especially in the towering and lingering shadows of Mumbai poets such as Gieve Patel and Adil Jussawala, I bring that provincial world, that vernacular flavour, to English poetry.

The Mumbai Poetry Festival will be held at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences on the 22nd and 23rd of April.Seven books of poetry will be released at the event.

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Statement of Solidarity with the Protest against Fees Hike in Panjab University

 Image result for fee hike protest panjab university

On April 11 2017, Punjab University turned into a war zone. Tear gas, water cannons, lathis, belts and police boots were unleashed on unsuspecting students, along with the choicest of casteist and misogynist abuses. Hundreds of students were mercilessly attacked by Chandigarh police (Police even entered ladies’ hostels) for having the temerity to challenge the jaw dropping fee increase announced by the University (100-1100 percent, across various streams). The protests against fee hike were called by Panjab University Students’ Joint Action Committee, which includes student organizations such as Students for Society (SFS), NSUI, PUSU, SOI, AISA, PSU (Lalkaar). The peacefully protesting students demanded the roll back of fee hike by convening a meeting of the senate at the earliest. Their demand to meet the vice chancellor was met with the ferocious brutality of Chandigarh police.

The happening in Panjab University cannot be seen in isolation with similar events in different campuses including IITs. Last year there was a steep hike in tuition fees of Btechs in IITs, moreover, hostel fees of were also raised. These events has to be seen in the light of commercialization of higher education in India which has been the result of state cutting back its expenditure in the higher education sector. The National Education Policy (NEP), 2016 which goes in the line of WTO-GATS agreement strongly recommends financial autonomy for the state funded institutes. In the name of attaining financial autonomy they wish to transfer the burden of maintenance charges and salaries onto students. Rather than strengthening existing institutions, the UGC is pushing universities to introduce skill based courses, which is part of the overall plan to ‘vocationalise’ education. Universities are being asked to offer online courses to further reduce costs. The budget cuts are having an adverse impact on central universities and centrally funded institutions that have a wide array of courses. Now, an agency named Higher Education Finance Agency (HEFA), a recommendation of NEP 2016, has been set up by the government to help private investors to push their loans into the higher education sector. All centrally-funded institutions, including the IITs and central universities, are being encouraged to draw 10-year loans from the agency to finance their expansion instead of looking to the government for grants.

Under these circumstances, Punjab University was forced to go for a steep hike in fee as it was unable to mobilize resources to meet its administration expenditure. Punjab University is funded by both the central and state funds (60:40), under Punjab reorganisation act, 1966. UGC has frozen the central share at Rs.176 crore and since Punjab University is not categorized as a ‘central’ university, it has reneged on its decision (in 2009) to fund Punjab University as a central university. Along with the UGC, the state government has also expressed its inability to enhance its contribution and has frozen its financial commitment to Rs.20 crores for the last 15 years.

Commercialization of higher education spells disaster for millions of students from traditionally marginalized groups who depend on Public universities for gaining access to higher education. Access to education has been a way of social mobility for marginalised groups in this country. Depriving established universities of funds is the beginning of the end of public universities in India and thus effectively depriving the only feasible means of social mobility of students from socially oppressed communities and poor families. Fee hikes in Universities would radically transform the student composition in universities with economic weaker sections completely getting left out.

The Indian state is being pulled in a particular direction by the global neoliberal orthodoxy, which demands the adoption of principles of commoditization and marketization is all spheres of human life. The various concessions provided by the Indian state to the traditionally marginalized communities including OBC, SC, ST, in response to increasing political assertion by these weaker sections over the years, has resulted in significant democratic gains by these groups. The unprecedented assault by the state on progressive sections, minorities, dalits and adivasis is a backlash of the ruling classes against an increasingly democratizing polity. The ongoing effort to undermine public universities is also one of the manifestations of the backlash of the ruling classes against the political and social gains made by the marginalised over the last few decades. The fact that Punjab university students were charged with sedition for protesting a fee hike betrays the fascist face of the Indian state which has been systematically branding people’s movements for economic and social justice as “anti-national.”

COSTISA condemns the violence unleashed on Punjab University students. It stands in solidarity with the students of Punjab University in their struggle against commoditization of higher education and their effort to save a public university from becoming a profit driven enterprise which would deprive millions of first generation students from gaining access to higher education. COSTISA demands that the fee hike be rolled back immediately. It also demands that all the charges against chargesheeted students be dropped unconditionally.

In Solidarity.

The Coordination of Science and Technology Institutes’ Student Associations (COSTISA)

Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle, IIT Madras
Ambedkar-Periyar-Phule Study Circle, IIT Bombay
Students for Change, IIT BHU
Ambedkar Bhagat Singh Study Circle, IIT Kharagpur
Forum for Critical Thinking, IIT Kanpur

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Sacked BSF jawan- My fight is for soldiers, confident of getting justice

The SSFC dismissed Yadav from service for posting a video regarding substandard food being served to the jawans.

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 Bahadur was found guilty of all the charges and awarded dismissal from service. (Photo: Facebook)

Rewari (Haryana): A day after the Border Security Force (BSF) dismissed the viral video of poor food conditions for the army, Tej Bahadur Yadav on Thursday said his fight is for all the soldiers, adding that he is confident of getting justice.

“I have given proof of the food but I did not get justice. I will go to the court. I am confident of getting justice. I will fight for the soldiers till my last breath. Complaints had come earlier as well but no one paid heed to that. It was my duty to reveal it to the government,” Yadav said.

Yadav said he raised his voice so that the coming generation does not face the same situation in the army.

“The officials had kept me locked and I was not allowed to talk to my family. I was given my phone when I went to the court,” he added.

A visibly disappointed Yadav earlier in the day requested the government to support him and asserted that if he did not get the support, he would move the judiciary.

Yadav on Wednesday said that he will move the High Court over the matter and seek justice.

He received his dismissal orders yesterday and moved out of the cantonment with his belongings in a three-ton truck.

The Summary Security Force Court (SSFC) dismissed Yadav from service for posting a video regarding substandard food being served to the jawans.

Bahadur was found guilty of all the charges and awarded dismissal from service.

As per the BSF Act and Rules, he can now submit a petition or appeal against the punishment to the higher headquarters within three months.

During the proceedings, all opportunities were given to the individual for his defence.

Bhadur had earlier uploaded a video about quality of food in BSF which had gone viral on social media.

In the video that had sparked a nationwide outrage, Yadav, a BSF soldier of the 29 battalion Seema Suraksha Bal, was seen exposing the rot in the system by revealing the deeply ingrained corruption in the higher order, saying that the troops are not even getting basic three square meals.


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