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Archives for : July2017

IIT graduate accused of hacking #Aadhaar data built app on his own

Abhinav Srivastava, a software security expert who now works with Ola, has been accused by the Unique Identification Development Authority of India (UIDAI) of illegally accessing the Aadhaar data repository.

Written by Johnson T A | Bengaluru |

Aadhaar, Aadhaar Act, Right to Privacy, SC Aadhaar

Abhinav, who describes himself as a hacker in some online profiles, has in the past worked as a security researcher at Iviz Security and has experience in exploring vulnerabilities in Internet Payment Gateways, according to some online profiles he has provided. (Representational)

AN IIT-KHARAGPUR graduate accused of accessing the central identities data repository of Aadhaar scheme without authorisation through an online app — eKYC Verification — had developed it in his independent capacity as a software developer, according to people associated with the firm he had founded, his present employer, and those close to the alleged hacker. The app is not a property of either taxi hailing firm Ola (ANI Technologies Ltd), where he is now employed, or his own start-up Qarth Technologies, which Ola had acquired in March 2016, they said.

Abhinav Srivastava, a software security expert who now works with Ola, has been accused by the Unique Identification Development Authority of India (UIDAI) of illegally accessing the Aadhaar data repository. According to the complaint, he had developed the app and placed it on Google Play Store. Prerit Srivastava, Abhinav’s co-founder at Qarth Technologies and from the same 2009 batch of IIT-Kharagpur, who also currently works with Ola, said, “I am sorry, I was not involved with it.”

The app, which delivered demographic data such as names, addresses, phone numbers of individuals from the central identities data depository of Aadhaar to authenticate unique identity numbers, was developed by a unit called myGov — linked to the IIT-Kharagpur start-up Qarth Technologies Pvt Ltd. Archival online data suggest the app was on Google Play Store until at least June this year. The UIDAI has accused Abhinav and an accomplice of illegally accessing Aadhaar data between January and July 26 this year.

A source associated with the techie said, “The app was developed in his personal capacity and placed on the Google store – a lot of developers do this kind development. It has now been disabled. There was no wrong intent in developing the app. There are other similar apps.” In a statement issued in response to queries regarding the controversial app being a part of the portfolio of apps developed by Qarth Technologies Pvt Ltd, Ola, said, “Ola has neither commissioned nor is involved in any such activity’’.

It also said, “No such complaint has been brought to our notice’’. Ola bought Qarth Technologies last year primarily for the mobile wallet app called X-Pay, which was developed with Prerit as the company CEO and Abhinav as its CTO. According to start-up industry experts, X-Pay is the “fastest way to make person-to-person payment in India, with transaction time as close to 10 seconds”.

Abhinav, who describes himself as a hacker in some online profiles, has in the past worked as a security researcher at Iviz Security and has experience in exploring vulnerabilities in Internet Payment Gateways, according to some online profiles he has provided. One of his profiles says he has “built tools for exploring Flash Vulnerability’’, which apparently received the appreciation of world-renowned hacker Jeremiah Grossman, the founder of web security firm WhiteHat Securities.

Based on UIDAI’s complaint against Abhinav and other unidentified people, Bengaluru Police have filed a case for offence under Section 37 and 38 of The Aadhaar (Targeted delivery of financial and other subsidies benefits and services) Act, 2016. It holds them guilty of illegal use of Aadhaar data and gaining access without authority to the central identities data repository.

They have also been booked under Sections 65 and 66 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 for tampering with computer source documents and computer-related offences. In addition, Indian Penal Code sections for criminal conspiracy and forgery have been invoked.

“We do not know the number of people whose unique identity was verified using this app. It is a highly technical investigation and it has only begun,’’ a senior officer of Bengaluru Police had earlier told The Sunday Express.

IIT graduate accused of hacking Aadhaar data built app on his own

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Chhattisgarh to start ambulance service for cows, announces CM Raman Singh #WTFnews

Chhattisgarh will join other BJP-ruled states, such as Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, to offer such a service

Ritesh Mishra
Hindustan Times, Raipur
The state also has tough rules against consumption of beef and slaughter of cows.
The state also has tough rules against consumption of beef and slaughter of cows.(HT file photo)

 The Chhattisgarh government will begin an ambulance service for cows, chief minister Raman Singh said, joining a number of BJP-ruled states to put a stronger focus on protection of the animal that is considered sacred by Hindus.

The service will be started in ten districts in the next few months, Singh said, addressing a programme organised by the state’s commission for protection of cows at Pandit Ravi Shankar University on Sunday.

Protecting cows and promoting products derived from them has been in focus since the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party with the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi three years ago, at times being seen as a factor that has emboldened vigilante ‘gau rakshaks’ who have killed and attacked people.

The Uttar Pradesh government announced a similar service, as did a particular district in Madhya Pradesh over the last year.

Raman Singh did not elaborate on how much the scheme will cost.

On Sunday, Singh urged people to use panchagavya — a concoction prepared by mixing constituents derived directly and indirectly from cows such as dung, urine, milk, curd and ghee — and help promote the cow-based economy.

“Organic farming and biogas can help promote a cow-based economy,” Singh said.

Singh had in April said that anyone found killing cows in Chhattisgarh will be hanged, suggesting a radical shift in plans to protect the bovine.

Under the Chhattisgarh Pashu Krurata Adhiniyam, cow slaughter and transporting beef is banned. Anyone found guilty faces up to seven years in jail and a fine of Rs 50,000 or both.

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Quasi-magisterial Power of ‘Madams’: An Insight into the Noida Case

 By – Maya John

The “Noida case” in Delhi, whereindomestic workers protesting the torture of one of their ranks were booked by the police for rioting, showcases the exploitation at different levels that these workers and their families suffer. Not only do their employers virtually treat them like slaves but the police and lawyers also take advantage of their helplessness and ignorance to foist false charges and fleece them of their hard-earned money. In this particular incident, a union minister who is also the local MP gave the entire incident a communal colour by insinuating that hard-pressed employers were forced to employ “Bangladeshis” in their homes.

Cities across India have seen a continuous growth in the number of impoverished women and children seeking employment as domestic workers. Till the early 1990s, domestic workers consisted largely of local labour. However, in the post-liberalisation era, the domestic workers are mostly migrant labourers. Absorbed initially as construction workers in the cities, many of them subsequently turn to domestic work. Slums that come up near posh housing societies in big cities are now overflowing with predominantly interstate migrant labour. In the Delhi–National Capital Region, a large number of such domestic workers are from impoverished sections of Bengal, Assam and Jharkhand.

In mid-July, this otherwise docile workforce showed remarkable collective zeal against their wealthy employers in Noida. The ugly underbelly of rampant exploitation of domestic workers, and the huge cleavage between their interests and those of their employers was laid bare for all to see when domestic workers began an agitation outside a high-rise residential complex, the Mahagun Moderne, in Noida’s Sector 78. The incident that occurred on 12 July also revealed the sickening nexus between the police, employers, and right-wing politicians who extended support to the employers without batting an eyelid. Within hours, the struggle against a gender crime and a pertinent labour issue was given a communal colour, with the accused employers and their sympathisers identifying the protesting workers as “Bangladeshis.”

Shockingly, on 16 July, the Union Minister of Culture and Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament (MP), Mahesh Sharma, met the residents of Mahagun Moderne and made references to the domestic workers as “Bangladeshis”. A resident of Noida Sector 15, the minister went to the extent of questioning the police verification process in place, and claimed that household needs compelled middle-class homes to employ “Bangladeshis”! In a threatening, belligerent tone the MP went on to say that the jailed slum dwellers “would not get bail for years.” He also threatened activists supporting the workers with dire consequences. Following closely on the heels of the minister’s visit, on 17 July, shanty shops opposite Mahagun Moderne, on which the slum dwellers were dependent for their daily provisions, were razed to the ground.

Needless to say, while the Noida police and politicians organise confidence-building sessions with the Mahagun residents, they have simultaneously unleashed a reign of terror on domestic workers and their families living in the neighbouring slums.

Unresponsive State

The incident has clearly become a serious litmus test for the law’s functioning on the ground. Yet again, it exposes the crisis nurtured by the Indian state’s unwillingness to ratify the Inernational Labour Organization’s Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, and thereby, to modify landmark labour laws so as to bring domestic work under the purview of state regulation. All major labour laws, such as the Minimum Wages Act, 1948; Maternity Benefit Act, 1961; Workman’s Compensation Act, 1923; Interstate Migrant Workmen Act, 1979; Payment of Wages Act, 1936; Employee’s State Insurance Act, 1948; Employees; Provident Funds and MiscellaneousProvisions Act, 1952 are inapplicable to domestic workers, given the existing definition of “worker”, “employer” and “workplace” in these laws.

The Noida case, as well as other similar incidents of agitated workers resorting to “rioting” in order to bargain for their rights demand close examination. Such outbursts are a consequence of highly unregulated employer–employee relations, and the crisis bred by an administration unresponsive to workers’ complaints. The lack of state regulation of domestic services is embodied in the low, stagnant wage rates that prevail. The female domestic worker typically works in several houses, or as a full-time domestic worker for a single family. Wage rates for domestic work vary across cities, and even within a single city. The wages are very low, especially in the case of Bengali and Adivasi workers. This compels the women to seek employment in more than one household, and to push their teenage daughters into doing the same work. Apart from low wages, the release of payment varies according to the whims and fancies of the employer/madam. Delayed payment, sometimes amounting to two to three months, is a constant source of friction between domestic workers and their employers. Another exploitative practice is the arbitrary reduction in wages, based solely on the employer’s discretion of the days worked and time clocked. Connected with this practice is the predominant tendency of employers to extract a larger quantum of work without increasing the wage rate fixed at the commencement of employment.

However, there is more to the exploitative employer–employee relationship than the low wage rates, irregular payment, etc. Typically, the work relation in domestic service is characterised by a high degree of privatisation of regulation, which allows the employer to exercise quasi-magisterial powers over the domestic worker. This is a trend which resembles the penal work regimes of the early colonial period, wherein employers predefined the terms of contract and penalised attempts by the worker to leave or renegotiate the contract.

Penal Work Regimes

Similarly, placement agencies that have mushroomed with the burgeoning need of middle-class homes for cheap domestic labour have come to resemble jobbers, who thrived in earlier work regimes as middlemen. Jobbers would bring workers to employers and then charge both sides for the same. As a consequence, jobbers tied down the workers to contracts that were difficult to renegotiate. Today, a similar practice repeats itself through placement agencies that actually traffic large numbers of hapless women and children from the country’s poorest states, proceed to sign contracts with the “madams,” and then push the vulnerable workers into a back-breaking work regime. In this light, the mere registration of placement agencies under the Shops and Establishments Act, as has been done in Delhi, is an inadequate attempt to regulate the malpractices of agencies. Such piecemeal measures have basically provided a way out for the state to refrain from active intervention in the concrete work conditions and the process by which domestic workers are brought to the cities and put to work.

The privatisation of regulation in the domestic labour industry lies at the very core of the work relation between the domestic worker and the madam. Case after case shows that when domestic workers express an unwillingness to continue working, or demand pending wages or a leave/rest, they are simply refused. In many cases, they are verbally and physically assaulted by their employers. The assault, as in the Noida case, is easily concealed under the garb of manufactured accusations of theft that the madam levels, post-factum, on the domestic worker. The crime committed by the employer—be it denial of wages, denial of leave, forced overtime, or verbal/physical assault—are easily overturned once the madam claims that she caught the “maid” in a criminal act. Hardly is the madam questioned as to why she took the law into her own hands and proceeded to punish the “maid”.

Given just how unregulated domestic work is, and the tacit logic which accompanies unregulated work relations it is never realised that the individual employer is not simply the employer but a quasi-magisterial power in the work relation. The extent of this absolute authority enjoyed by the employer in the domestic work industry is evident not just in the recurrent assaults on and intimidation of domestic workers, but also in the unjust manner in which madams debar domestic workers from entering the building complex to settle wage-related disputes, etc. Neither is it uncommon for them to get together and blacklist a worker who has asserted her rights. After all, it is easiest to hide behind the concrete walls, air-conditioned lobbies, shades, and fancy glass windows, and simply instruct private security guards manning the housing society’s gate to prevent a worker from entering and obtain what is owed to her.

Unfortunately, whenever the domain of this highly authoritarian work relation is exposed to public intervention, the police end up intervening in favour of employers. Given the vulnerability of domestic workers, the police tend toignore complaints received on behalf of workers. Consequently, cases of assault, rape and murder of domestic workers by their employers hardly reach the courtroom as local police stations build weak cases against employers. Shamelessly prolonged police investigations further ensure that assaulted domestic workers are continuously denied justice. In the case of Ranjeetha Brahma, a 17-year-old Assamese domestic worker who was found dead in the building complex of her employer on 10 March, the Gurgaon police took three months to get theaccused employer to “join” the ongoing investigation. In spite of the employer’s evasiveness, the police refused to make the arrest and prevent tampering with evidence. The compromised nature of investigation is evident in the routine functioning of the special investigation team (SIT) formed in Ranjeetha’s case after much agitation by domestic workers. The SIT till today makes principal eyewitnesses and the accused employer sit in the same room during interrogation! Similarly, in the Noida incident, the same complicit, pro-employer role has been evident in the Noida police’s investigation.

The crowd that began agitating outside the posh residential complex, Mahagun Moderne in Noida Sector 78, was in response to police inaction on a complaint registered by family members of a domestic worker, Zohra Bibi. Zohra Bibi had been missing after she entered the Mahagun complex for work on 11 July. Family members made a call to the police’s emergency number and even tried to file a missing person complaint at the Sector 49 police station on the night of 11 July. Constables who subsequently visited the apartment of the accused employer on the night of 11 July made no concerted efforts to search the apartment or building. By the early morning of 12 July, as other workers began showing up for work, Zohra Bibi’s family members appealed to their conscience and asked them not to work till Zohra Bibi was brought out. The crowd swelled, and when a highly traumatised and visibly assaulted Zohra Bibi was finally brought out of the complex, the crowd grew even more agitated. The pushing and shoving by private security guards soon led to chaos and mayhem.

Importantly, Zohra Bibi’s first information report (FIR) was the first to be filed. Subsequently, three FIRs were filed by the accused employer and residents of Mahagun Moderne. Expectedly, in the FIR filed by the employer, Zohra Bibi has been accused of stealing and fleeing. This is a post-factum accusation since it was made for the first time in an FIR lodged much after Zohra Bibi’s complaint. This point was not raised when Zohra Bibi’s husband visited the employer’s apartment twice on the night of 11 July. Moreover, three separate FIRs have been consciously filed to enable the police to construct a convenient sequence of events and build a case against the domestic worker, her family and the protesters. Expectedly, the Noida police have proceeded to focus their investigation entirely on the “riot” that ensued at the building’s gate, rather than on the complaint filed by Zohra Bibi; namely, that she was assaulted by her employer when she demanded her wages, and was subsequently confined when she tried to flee.

Eliding the FIR lodged by Zohra Bibi and the whole issue of illegal confinement, the Noida police proceeded to unleash a reign of terror on the neighbouring slums. On the night of 12 July, police teams forcefully barged into the slums and randomly picked up 58 male slum dwellers, including children. The next day the police officially arrested 13 male workers under the charges of rioting, destruction of property, and attempt to murder. Despite no person being injured from among the Mahagun residents and private security guards, the Noida police added the attempt to murder charge so as to make the bail application process tedious, as well as to spread fear among the larger section of domestic workers. Mahagun residents and right-wing groups, meanwhile, continue to poison the realm of social media with virulent posts that accuse the domestic workers of being “illegal immigrants,” “Bangladeshis,” “jihadis,” etc. This has seriously compromised the safety of hundreds of poor slum dwellers; a part of whom are Bengali Muslims.

Uphill Fight for Justice

With 13 workers jailed, the fight for justice has become an uphill climb. Across the board, workers’ experiences with theIndian courts and lawyers have been bitter. Getting bail is a distant dream and workers can spend months, even years as undertrials. It is disturbing to watch how desperate relatives of incarcerated workers, especially unorganised workers, fall easy prey to money-minting lawyers flocking the corridors of local courts. Pouncing on the distraught relatives of the jailed workers, local lawyers at the Noida District and Sessions Court extracted at least ₹500 each from the assembled family members. Ironically, in the Noida case two different lawyers filed bail applications for the workers without having access to the three FIRs against them! They had charged the hapless relatives of the workers for a one-minute appearance, and confidently proceeded to instruct the families to arrange for more resources so as to file bail applications in the sessions court. The union of domestic workers that reached the Noida court after all this had transpired had to pay almost ₹1,000 as a bribe to get one of local lawyers, who had appeared on behalf of the workers, to extract the three FIRs from the police. From then on, the union and a team of human rights lawyers have been managing the legalities of the case. The legal quagmire is such that the three separate FIRs against the workers has required each incarcerated worker to produce two bailees with respect to each of the three FIRs. Thus, if granted bail each worker has to produce six bailees; amounting to 78 bailees totally for release of the 13 workers.

The inaccessibility of the law and the continuous crackdown on individual and collective labour’s resistance has been facilitated by the steady withdrawal of state regulation from a larger corpus of work relations. The dilution of the labour inspectorate’s powers in recent times, and continuous amendments which reduce the protective ambit of key labour laws to larger workplaces and higher-paid segments of the workforce, have made it harder to negotiate for the rights of unorganised, informal sector workers. In a context where a growing number of workers are being denied minimum wages, the right to unionise and other labour rights, domestic workers’ struggle for decent wages and living conditions need to escalate, as well as chalk out new strategies.

([email protected]) works with the Gharelu Kamgar Union, a Delhi–NCR based union of domestic workers.

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RTI cannot be used for commercial gains: CIC

Rumu Banerjee| TNN |

NEW DELHI: The Central Information Commission (CIC) has ruled that RTI cannot be used as a tool to exert pressure for commercial gains.

The order came on a complaint filed by the editor of a magazine against the Dargah Khwaja Sahib Ajmer, which he complained had denied him information under the RTI Act.

The appellant had complained against the public information officer of the dargah, who he said had denied him information under the RTI Act.

The appellant had sought information on complaints filed against employees of the dargah and the status report of the inquiry conducted by the dargah.

In his order, information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu, while directing the dargah to furnish the information to the appellant, observed that RTI Act could not be used “to build pressure” for personal gains.

The observation came after the public information officer of the dargah said the RTI applications were filed after the dargah stopped giving advertisements in the magazine edited by the appellant. The appellant, in a counter argument, had said that he had a “right” to the advertisements.

In the order, Acharyulu said, “As a journalist, appellant has every right to criticise the functioning of public authority. As a citizen, he can also file RTI application. But he has no right to demand advertisements for his magazine building pressure of RTI applications.”

Acharyulu also cited the Press Council of India Act, which allows a public authority to file a complaint against a journalist for unethical conduct, if any.

The reminder came after the appellant said he had also filed a complaint to the Press Council of India against the dargah for not giving advertisement.

The order assumes importance in the backdrop of complaints from several quarters about the misuse of the RTI Act.

While the Act enables citizens to get information from government bodies on a host of issues, complaints of the misuse of the Act as a means of intimidation have also been doing the rounds.

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Eunice De Souza, the Cult Guru Who Rocked #RIP

Eunice De Souza lived her life in an uncompromising way and inspired generations of her students.

Teacher and poet Eunice De Souza reading her poem. Credit: YouTube

Words are insufficient to describe Eunice de Souza, poet, teacher, quiet crusader and fierce critic of all things hypocritical, including the church establishment, patriarchy and social mores. She passed away peacefully in her sleep just a few days short of her birthday. On August 1, Eunice would have been 77.

For those who loved her as a teacher, she continued to reach them through her Thursday columns in the Mumbai Mirror. She wrote like she taught, with that cutting edge. There would not be a single student who would not be moved by her in a unique way. She could be harsh with the goody-goodies and would suffer no fools, while making everyone think beyond their safe horizons.

I studied under Eunice in the late-1970s, in the post-Emergency period when the air smelt of hope and protests. She opened our eyes to the horrors of war through anti-war poets like Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, the heart stopping magnificence of the romantic poets Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron and John Keats, the captivating magic of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and majesty of Lord Tennyson. Her love for the poets she taught was total and infectious. With ease she would link the poetry she taught with pulling down many shibboleths in the minds of most about their own lives.

She lived life without compromises. Those who live that way often live troubled lives. Not Eunice. At the same time, she had no qualms about talking about her battle with depression while offering you her favourite vodka and cigarettes, which just added to the aura around her.

Her love for the animals around her was legendary. The two  dogs who strayed into her house and stayed there, and her parrot Mr De Souza, will be bereft without her. She had stopped travelling outside the city because they would not be able to take it. She found absolute unconditional love in all the street dogs around her and so she would feed them and nurse them during their injuries and illnesses, much to the chagrin of the members of her middle-class housing society. It is those who lived in the slums around her colony who understood her the most, she would say.

She was magnificent even past 75 at the book launch of her last published book of poems, Learn from the Almond Leaf, in October last year at Kitab Khana. There she was with a walking stick in one hand, reading her poems to a full audience listening in rapt attention. Listening to her then, and reading those poems later, she was preparing everyone for her going away. Even there, she wrote in her inimical style.

Tell me, Mr Death
Date, Time, Place.
I have to look for my
Life-of-sin panties,
Make an appointment
For a pedicure.

And on a more melancholic note:

The moon is feeling her age.
All this waxing and waning
A long haul
to no purpose
Even the dogs howl.

The last email exchange that we had was over her Mumbai Mirror column titled Rambling Through History on July 20. She wrote,”Today’s column is a bit of a ramble. It starts clearly enough but I’m not sure how it will end, or rather, if the kind of events described will ever end.” She went on to describe the plight of millions of Irish who perished while fleeing the famine which was a creation of the civilising mission of the English. The way Eunice wrote immediately brought to mind the plight of thousands of Middle East refugees fleeing the wars created by the West to Europe’s shores.

When I wrote a mail to her remarking that the description of the Irish famine through the writers quoted by her in her column would make the reader think of what is going on around us even today, she replied, “Susan, you are the ideal reader. I like to write obliquely and not point the moral, and of course I had India in mind.”

In reply to my query on whether the sparkling humour expressed in her columns was a reflection of her good spirits and improved health, she said, I am better thanks, but have to give up on some vices altogether if I want to be well.” And signed off with her signature “Love e”.

Eunice, you were and will remain a cult guru who rocked!

Susan Abraham is a Mumbai-based lawyer and activist.

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Protesters block Taslima Nasreen’s entry into Aurangabad #WTFnews

Mohammed Akhef|


  • Police stopped Taslima from stepping out of the airport and advised her to abandon her Aurangabad holiday plan
  • Hundreds of protesters also reached the star hotel where Taslim had booked a double occupancy room in the name of her friend

Taslima Nasreen

Protesters block Taslima Nasreen’s entry into Aurangabad

AURANGABAD: Controversial Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen had to board a Mumbai-bound flight soon after landing in the city from Delhi on Saturday as a huge crowd gathered outside the airport shouting “Taslima Go Back” slogans.

Police stopped Taslima from stepping out of the airport and advised her to abandon her Aurangabad holiday plan, citing security reasons.

Imtiyaz Jaleel, MLA from AIMIM, who represents Aurangabad central constituency, was at the forefront of the protest.

Hundreds of protesters also reached the star hotel where Taslim had booked a double occupancy room in the name of her friend.

The exiled author, who had planned a three-day stay in Aurangabad, landed in the city in an Air India flight around 7.30 pm from Delhi. She soon boarded the same aircraft for Mumbai about an hour later.

City police commissioner Yashasvi Yadav told TOI that the writer did not intimate police in advance about her visit. “Citing security reasons, we asked her to board the next flight and she agreed.”

The incident took place within a week of her visa being extended by the Union home ministry for a year with effect from July 23, 2017.

A source said that Taslima was planning to visit the world heritage sites of Ajanta and Ellora besides other spots in Aurangabad.

Senior police officers expressed anguish over the writer reaching Aurangabad without informing them. “There is already tension and tight security in the city because of the ongoing demolition of illegal religious structures. We cannot tackle more problems at this moment,” said an officer.

Imtiyaz Jaleel said, “Her remarks and writings have hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims across the world. Whenever she comes to Aurangabad, we will protest and not allow her to enter the city.”

Deputy commissioner of police (zone-II) Rahul Shrirame said police intensified security at the airport as well as the hotel where Taslima was planning to stay as a large number of protesters were gathering at these places.

“The airline issued a ticket to Taslima for Mumbai at the last minute after realising the gravity of the situation, and she left in the Air India flight at 8.20 pm,” he said.

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Documentary film producer Divya Bharathi arrested, let off on bail

Divya Bharathi.

She was held in an 8-year-old case

Divya Bharathi, 28, producer of noted documentary film, Kakkoos, on the plight of manual cleaning of night soil, was on Tuesday arrested by Madurai police to execute an arrest warrant issued by a judicial magistrate court for her failure to appear before it for two hearings in connection with a 2009 criminal case.

The Mathichiyam police picked her up from her residence in Alangakulam and produced her before the judicial magistrate court II.

Her lawyer P. Gnanavel said that Ms. Divya was one of the seven accused booked for preventing doctors at Government Rajaji hospital from discharging their duties on December 21, 2009.

The accused — five law college students, including Ms. Divya — had protested against the death of a city college student, Ramesh, who they alleged, had died due to lack of proper medical attention at the GRH after a snake bite.

They were booked for wrongful restraint, voluntarily hurting, trespass and disobedience to an order duly promulgated by a public servant.

“Even as the hearing in the criminal case was going on in the JM II court, she failed to appear for two hearings. Hence, the magistrate issued a warrant against her. After she was produced before the court, she was granted bail,” he added.

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Tamil Nadu – Dalits have to move courts even for getting FIRs registered #WTFnews


CHENNAI: Dalits in the State have been forced to approach the courts to register even first information reports pertaining to cases linked to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
As per the Act, police have to conduct investigations and file charge sheet before a special court or an exclusive special court within 60 days, or explain the delay, if any, in writing. This is not in practice, however, as per information obtained under the Right to Information Act.

The documents obtained by activist Aju Arvind under the RTI Act revealed that the Tamil Nadu police registered 441 FIRs under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act only after judicial intervention. These figures are from 2011 to 2016; the maximum number of such cases registered in 2013  was 95.
Importantly, at a meeting with National Commission for Scheduled Castes chairman Dr PL Punia in July 2015, the State police staunchly denied that FIRs were filed only after a direction from the courts under Section 156 (3) of CrPC (which empowers a magistrate to direct the police to register FIR.)

It takes regular interventions by the courts for cases to be registered, said Arvind, who has combined all RTI responses pertaining to cases registered under the Act in a Tamil book titled ‘Othukapatavargalin Vazhakkugalum Marakkapadum Nithiyum’ (The Cases of the Marginalised People and Denial of Justice).
In 2011, courts had to issue directions to file FIRs in 43 cases; the number of such FIRs registered in 2012 was 89, in 2013 it was 95, 82 cases in 2014, 79 in 2015 and 53 in 2016.

The documents also revealed that from 2011 to 2016, the State police dropped 2,719 cases under the Act under the provision ‘mistake of fact or law’. These include four murder cases and five rape cases.
The Additional Director-General of Police, Social Justice and Human Rights, in a reply to an RTI petition, has stated that 28 out of the total of 32 districts are listed as atrocity-prone against Dalit communities. Similarly, the officer gave out information that the State has listed 278 villages as atrocity-prone.

The Act mandates that exclusive special courts should be set up in all these districts, but Tamil Nadu has only six such courts. Even these were not set up proactively.
It took a direction from the Madras High Court following a writ petition filed by social activist ‘Paadam’ A Narayanan for the State to set up two of these six.
Aju Aravind’s book detailing the ground realities will be released on Friday by former Madras High Court judge, justice Hari Paranthaman.

Story in numbers
Cases registered under Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act
Year: 2014
No of cases: 1,636
Year: 2015
No of cases: 1,822
Year: 2016
No of cases: 1,476
Total pending cases
Year: 2016
Under investigation: 740
Trial: 4,551
Conviction rate under the Act: 5.8pc
Acquittal: 94.2pc
Special courts in TN
Atrocity-prone districts: 28
Exclusive special courts: 6

Top four districts in TN with pending cases under the Act

Madurai: 761
Tirunelveli: 560
Sivaganga: 414
Virudhunagar: 331




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India do we want Public health, private players?


Amit Sengupta

Private providers will be able to cherry-pick the most lucrative districts where patients have a higher paying capacity

The NITI Aayog has recently unveiled a grand plan to effectively privatise district hospitals in Tier-I and Tier-II towns. It has developed what it calls a “model concessionaire agreement” for provision of healthcare services for cardiac and pulmonary (lung) diseases and cancers. It is proposed that public facilities in district hospitals would be outsourced to private providers. They would be free to charge full treatment costs from patients not covered by government schemes (such as the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana) and the providers would be reimbursed by the government for treating patients referred by the government

Red-carpet treatment

Private providers will be able to cherry-pick the most lucrative districts where patients have a higher paying capacity. The scheme also provides for an escrow account that would offset the risk to private providers posed by possible delays in reimbursement by the government. Providers would also secure access to public facilities such as ambulance services, blood banks and mortuaries. Clearly no effort has been spared to roll out the red carpet and ensure that private companies are able to freeload on public assets.

What are the implications for accessible healthcare services? First, the proposal implies that most patients would have to pay for care even in public facilities. The promise that patients covered by government health insurance schemes would access care free of cost needs to be seen in the context of recent surveys which show that just 12-13% of people are covered by public-funded insurance.

Second, the proposal is designed to further worsen inequity in access to healthcare services. Private providers will concentrate on better-off districts, leaving the poor and remote districts for the public sector to manage. This will further weaken the ability of public hospitals to attract and retain trained doctors and other health workers.

Third, the scheme will expose thousands of patients to unethical practices by private providers, compromises in quality and rationality of services and additional ‘top-up services’. A specific section in the document on ‘risk management’ is primarily concerned about risks of private providers, with very little about robust mechanisms to protect patients from unethical practices.

Abdication by the state

Fourth, outsourcing of hospital care to private providers inevitably becomes increasingly unsustainable over time as they ratchet up demands on reimbursements and fees. The proposal to hive off hospital care to the private sector is justified by the argument that public services are not financed adequately and face an acute shortage of trained human resources. The simple remedy could be to significantly enhance investment in public healthcare services, including in the training of health workers. The government’s singular resistance to follow such a path is linked to its ideological moorings, which find virtue in private enterprise and view public services as inherently inefficient. This scepticism regarding public services needs to be tempered by the experience that success stories of public health, in diverse settings such as the U.K., France, Cuba, Thailand and Sri Lanka, are all related to public systems.

The NITI Aayog’s proposal involves the handing over of public assets to for-profit companies, and represents a clear abdication of duty by the government. The NITI Aayog describes itself as a ‘think tank’, unlike the Planning Commission of yore. It is understood that the scheme will be piloted in a couple of districts, presumably in Bharatiya Janata Party-governed States. Health care is primarily a State subject and State governments must first question the legitimacy of a supposed think tank to pronounce public policy.

Amit Senguptais a trained physician and Associate Global Coordinator, in the India chapter of People’s Health Movement.


Manoj Jhalani

The government cannot remain oblivious to present needs even while building the capacity of the public health system

The issue of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in health has been highlighted by the recent draft NITI Aayog document about a PPP arrangement for certain non-communicable diseases (NCD). To infer from this that the government is forfeiting its role in public health care is totally misplaced. The National Health Policy (NHP) 2017 clearly prioritises strengthening of public health systems as a key approach. However, it also recognises a critical gap-filling through strategic purchasing to be directed “towards those areas and those services for which currently there are no providers or few providers”. It further envisages that “the order of preference for strategic purchasing would be public sector hospitals followed by not-for-profit private sector and then commercial private sector in underserved areas”.

Recent policy decisions and funding support to States to undertake universal screening and management for common NCDs, provide comprehensive primary health care through health and wellness centres, strengthen district hospitals (DH) to provide multi-speciality care, upgrade DHs to medical colleges, and ensure access to free essential drugs and diagnostics in government health facilities indicate purposive actions to strengthen public health systems. For instance, this year there is a jump from ₹445 crore to ₹3,300 crore in Central allocation for upgradation of DHs to medical colleges in districts without any medical college.

Reality check

However, we do need to acknowledge a few facts. Despite recent efforts, current capacities in public facilities to manage disease conditions in cardiology, pulmonology and oncology are practically non-existent in Tier-II and Tier-III towns in most States, even in the private sector. It leads to overcrowding in tertiary-level facilities in big cities, compromising quality of care and leading to high out-of-pocket expenditures.

The waiting time in premier public institutions like AIIMS, Delhi for certain procedures can range from several months to a few years. The disease burden on account of NCDs is increasing rapidly. A 2014 study by Harvard University for the World Economic Forum shows that India stands to incur a cost of $2.17 trillion between 2012 and 2030 due to cardiovascular diseases alone. The government cannot remain oblivious to the present need, even while building capacity of the public health system.

Expanding access

If successful, the NITI Aayog proposal, developed in broad consultation with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, will expand access to care for key NCDs to such populations that have not hitherto had access. While the proposal envisages that care will be provided free for BPL families and those covered by government insurance schemes, the rates will be negotiated at Central government health scheme/State government insurance rates for others so that even the non-poor will receive care at a rate much lower than market rates. This is a significant improvement over the status quo.

The success of the initiative would, however, depend upon the PPP contract design and institutional capacity to monitor and manage such contracts so that public interest is safeguarded, there is value for public money and there is a reasonable return for private player.

The PPP document is still at a draft stage, to be finalised in consultation with all stakeholders including State governments. Further, States have the liberty to adopt the PPP or modify the document based on their needs and context. It is too early to speculate on whether such an arrangement will work or not. However, in the absence of viable alternatives in the existing environment, we need to be open to the potential of such partnerships to expand access.

Manoj Jhalani is Additional Secretary and Director, National Health Mission.



K. Srinath Reddy

The proposed PPP model in district hospitals will improve access but may not deliver appropriate and equitable care

The proposal to invite private sector investment in district hospitals is based on five premises: district hospitals need upgrading to provide good-quality secondary care and some elements of tertiary care to reduce dependence on and overcrowding of medical college hospitals and corporate hospitals; NCDs are affecting increasing numbers of people; most government-run district hospitals are presently unable to provide this care; incentivised private sector investment and participation in care delivery in such hospitals can fill this gap; and the proposed PPP model can function smoothly with shared facilities and a dual payment system.

The first three premises are uncontested. The fourth premise is open to debate on whether higher levels of private investment should be the preferred approach to strengthen district hospitals. PPP proponents argue that it will take time, resources and management skills to reach an acceptable level of public sector capacity and the rising tide of NCDs can brook no delay.

Is the government seeing the PPP as temporary gap-filling during the phase of public sector capacity build-up? However, if this model of ‘one hospital, two systems’ is envisaged as a permanent feature, the risks and returns of such cohabitation require serious scrutiny. Cannot the financial support provided to the private sector be directed to create public sector capacity?

In a mixed health system, it could be efficient to engage the services of the private sector to supplement the capacity of the public sector. However, cost and quality must be controlled for delivering appropriate and affordable care with accountability.

Gaps in the proposal

Listing of angioplasty as the only treatment in the cardiology segment is an open invitation to unnecessary procedures. Coupled with the conveyor belt of referrals from mass screening in primary health care, this can be a bonanza for the private sector but can deliver inappropriate care. Surprisingly, even the less expensive thrombolytic treatment for heart attacks is not listed.

It is proposed that the nested private facility will provide NCD care to two categories of patients — those referred and paid for by government schemes and self-referred patients who will pay from pocket. In the absence of a minimum number of beds reserved for the former, how can we prevent predominant capture by the latter? How will financial protection be provided to the near-poor who have to self-pay? Even if package costs for the latter are transparently displayed, who will negotiate those costs and prevent add-ons during hospitalisation?

If private sector participation were to be via empanelment of independent private facilities, the contract can be time-bound, with provision for early termination or non- renewal for poor performance. When the private sector unit is embedded within the district hospital through investment in infrastructure and equipment, and is initially contracted for 30 years, it would be difficult to dislodge a poorly performing private partner. The scope for litigation will be high in this arrangement.

Sharing of services, such as the blood bank, is efficient in concept but can be contentious in practice. Apart from complexities of administrative coordination, how will competing demands be handled?

Given the large presence of the sector, a well-defined role in the provision of NCD care is welcome but has to be accommodated within a well-designed framework of Universal Health Coverage that integrates pre-paid primary, secondary and tertiary care through a combination of tax funding and social insurance. The proposed PPP model will improve access but may not deliver appropriate and equitable care.

K. Srinath Reddy is President, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI)

The views expressed are personal.

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FIRs against 37 hospitals for reusing devices, patients to be reimbursed

Sujit Mahamulkar| TNN |

MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government has filed complaints against 37 hospitals across the state for reusing single-use medical devices and overcharging patients, said minister for consumer protection Girish Bapat. The government is also working on ways to refund patients who were unfairly charged for reused devices, he announced in the legislative council on Tuesday.

Moreover, to prevent such incidents from recurring in hospitals, the state government plans to develop a web portal that will record every medical device’s journey—right from its purchase to use and re-use.

“The web portal will keep a track of each medical device from the moment it is purchased, the medical institute it is sold to, and its use,” said Bapat, replying to a query raised by Congress MLC Satej Patil during question hour. The minister added that discussions with the Medical Council of India, the Drug Council of India and secretary of the public health department on the issue are in the final stages.

The announcement follows special investigations by the state Food and Drug Administration in May-June that showed many private hospitals charged premium charges from patients for reused cardiac catheters and guidewires; most of these devices are only meant for single use.

In April, the state FDA had found three city hospitals guilty of not only reusing medical devices meant for single use, but also charging multiple patients for the same. Fortis Hospital in Mulund, Hiranandani Hospital in Vashi, which is managed by the Fortis group, and BSES Hospital in Andheri were later issued show-cause notices for violating the Drug and Cosmetics Act.

On Tuesday, when Patil pointed out that a few hospitals have already reused implant devices and cheated patients, the minister assured him that the government would get information about such cases and refund those patients.

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