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Archives for : August2017

How Solar-Powered Health Centres Could Transform Indian Healthcare

Chaitanya Mallapur,



More than 50% more patients were admitted and almost twice the number of babies were delivered in a month in solar-powered primary health centres (PHC)s in Chhattisgarh, compared to those without a solar system, said a new report, illustrating how key electricity–or the lack of it–is to healthcare.


More than 60% of all primary health centres (PHCs) in Chhattisgarh reported that childbirths, laboratory and in-patient services were “severely affected” due to a lack of electricity, according to Powering Primary Healthcare through Solar in India – Lessons from Chhattisgarh, released on August 31, 2017, by the Council On Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), a New Delhi based non-profit.


About 90% of Chattisgarh PHCs reported power cuts during peak hours, impeding public health services, such as births, vaccine storage, emergency services and clean water, said the report, which argues for alternative energy sources during power cuts, with solar being a cleaner and more cost-effective option to most.


“The lack of adequate and quality water supply compromises the ability to provide basic, routine services… and weakens the ability to prevent and control infections,” said the report.


One in every three PHCs in Chhattisgarh–a power-surplus state–and one in every two PHCs in India is either without electricity or suffers from irregular power supply, said the CEEW report.


A largely rural state, Chhattisgarh has health indicators mostly below the Indian average and its PHCs largely mirror thousands of others across India’s poor, populous northern regions.


Chhattisgarh’s struggle to provide healthcare


Fewer babies (67%) are delivered in healthcare institutions in rural Chhattisgarh than the national average (75%), according to the 2015-16 National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), the latest available data.


Chhattisgarh’s infant mortality rate  was 41 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015, among India’s bottom 10 states, according to the Sample Registration System Statistical Report 2015, the latest available data.


No more than 66% of PHCs in Chhattisgarh are regularly supplied with electricity, the CEEW report said.


Source: CEEW Analysis, 2017


To improve electricity supply to PHCs, state agencies installed off-grid solar photo-voltaic (PV) systems of 2 kW each across 570 PHCs between 2012 and 2016. CEEW studied 147 PHCs–83 solar and 64 non-solar–across 15 of 27 districts in Chhattisgarh.


The PHCs were classified into two sub-groups–(1) power-deficit PHCs with electricity for 20 hours or less a day; (2) non-power-deficit PHCs with electricity for more than 20 hours a day–to understand the relationship between electricity access and delivery of healthcare services.


90% of the PHCs reported power cuts during peak working hours


Access to electricity is crucial for public-health services, as we said.


About 7.2% of the PHCs in Chhattisgarh have no access to electricity, against the national average of 4.6%, according to Rural Health Statistics 2016, which the report quoted. CEEW’s own analysis found 9% of 147 PHCs surveyed  without electricity.


About 90% of the PHCs reported power cuts between 9 am and 4 pm, peak working hours; and nearly one-third of power-deficit and power non-deficit PHCs reported power cuts in the evening.


District-Wise Power-Deficit Primary Health Centres In Chhattisgarh

Source: CEEW Analysis, 2017


Electricity was supplied to PHCs for an average of 20.5 hours, the quality varying across districts. Voltage fluctuations were reported by 28% PHCs, and nearly 22% suffered equipment damage due to these fluctuations.


About a third or 36% of PHCs surveyed did not have enough electricity for their needs: 37% reported that water supply was affected.


About 59% of power non-deficit and 55% power-deficit PHCs have a solar system, indicating the scope for prioritisation of solar for power-deficit PHCs, the report mentions.


Solar power is reliable, clean and half as cheap as diesel  


The cost of a unit of electricity from a diesel generator is Rs 24–26 per kilowatt hour (kWp), or double the cost of a solar-powered battery, which costs Rs 12–14 kWp.


Of the PHCs surveyed, 56% were solar and 45% power-deficit PHCs. The solar PHCs in Chhattisgarh are off-grid systems–with electricity generated and consumed on-site–that provide enough electricity.


Source: CEEW Analysis, 2017


Many medical services, such as deliveries and emergencies at night, benefitted from solar units, and less equipment was damaged from power fluctuations in some solar-powered PHCs.


About 84% of solar-powered PHCs reported their electricity needs were met by a combination of the grid and solar. Nearly 79% of solar PHCs under the power-deficit category said that they were able to meet their electricity needs.


(Mallapur is an analyst with IndiaSpend.)

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American Outcastes: Dalit community faces prejudice of Indian-Americans

  • By Suman Guha Mozumder
American Outcastes: Dalit community faces prejudice of Indian-Americans

Jaspreet Mahal faced vehement opposition in her native Haryana when she decided to break a taboo: Born into a Sikh family, she married outside her community into the lowest strata in India’s rigid caste hierarchy. Her “personal struggle” on behalf of her Dalit husband challenged the wishes of her family and society. Defying social norms, she ultimately won her battle.

Or so she thought.

When the Ambala native moved from India to the U.S with her husband a couple of years ago to pursue a master’s degree at Brandeis University, a private research institution, she believed she had finally managed to escape India’s caste discrimination and the ignominy associated with being born a Dalit or being married to one. But the illusion was short-lived. She found casteism as present in America as in her native India.

“It was shocking but a hard reality,” Mahal said.

On the Brandeis campus, where she studied for a degree in sustainable international development and women and gender studies, Mahal discovered that many of her fellow upper caste Hindu students maintained caste prejudice, carrying the baggage of “Brahminical superiority,” whether they were international students from countries like India or Nepal, or from the United States. That realization manifested in ways that at times appeared innocuous — both on and off campus, she said.

Dalits, who have traditionally been considered untouchables in India’s caste-ridden society, account for about 16.6 percent of India’s population, according to the 2011 Census figures. Data about their socio-economic condition show they struggle with a life deprived of resources and opportunities. Their control over resources is less than 5 percent, and close to half of the population lives under the poverty line. Sixty-two percent are illiterate. Among the Dalits, most of those engaged in agricultural work are landless or nearly landless agricultural laborers.

A telling example of the state of affairs in India was the case of Rohith Vemula, 26, a promising PhD student at the Hyderabad Central University. A member of the Dalit community, he committed suicide last year. His suicide note said: “The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of star dust. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living.”

But Mahal said that unlike in India, caste prejudice in the U.S. is not overt and it is often missed by non-Indians or those unfamiliar with the hierarchy.

“Sometimes the upper caste intolerance and prejudice manifest in subtle ways that are not easily perceptible by non-Indians,” said Mahal, who lives in Waltham, Massachusetts and finished graduate school last year. “I have had conversations with fellow Indian students in informal settings like in a cafeteria or off campus during which [he or she] would drop enough hints about their identity as a Brahmin or a Kshatriya, often irrelevant to the subject on the table.”

She said often upper castes show no interest in even exploring caste issues. The Center for Global Development at Brandeis South Asia Center organizes an annual seminar on caste and social justice, she said, and it was very hard for her and her Dalit colleagues to get South Asian professors and non-Dalit students to participate. Mahal has become involved with various community organizations in Massachusetts now and is hoping to help in the fight against caste prejudice.

Suthamalli Ganga, a Dalit who has lived in the U.S. for more than 17 years, shares Mahal’s experience.

“When I first arrived in America, I expected to have finally had a chance to be free from the shackles of caste,” he said. He said, however, he has since seen countless instances in which upper caste Indian-Americans have distanced themselves from Dalits once their identities were revealed.

Many observers have said overturning this kind of prejudice is a challenge because of vested interests and apparent apathy of political parties to find a lasting solution.

Critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party allege that recent violence against Dalits follows the rise of radical Hindu supremacist elements within the party, which is said to be tied to the Sangha Parivar. But some Dalit-history experts in the U.S. argue that the exploitation and oppression of Dalits predates the BJP government’s 2014 rise to power.

For years, most American Dalits have refrained from taking part in the traditional celebration of India’s Independence Day on Aug. 15. People like Sita Ram, an undergraduate in science from Punjab University, now living in Connecticut, says the Dalit community does not feel that they have anything to celebrate.

“What India celebrates is the country’s independence from the British Rule, but not the freedom or independence of its hundreds and thousands of people who belong to the Dalit community who are yet to be liberated from the shackles of poverty and exploitation and oppression by the upper caste,” Ram told India Abroad.

Many Hindu organizations, however, deny that casteism exists in India at all. The Hindu American Foundation’s 2016 report “Hinduism: Not Cast in Caste,” noted that caste-based discrimination has never been intrinsic to the essential teachings of Hinduism.

“Hindu history is replete with revered saints who were born into castes considered ‘backward’ or ‘lower’ and whose contributions are significant. Hinduism also has a history of inspiring numerous religious movements through the millennia where saints have shown the way in rejecting caste-based discrimination and emphasizing the eternal teachings of Hinduism about the true nature of mankind,” the HAF report said.

Despite such claims, people like Ashmita Pankaj of Houston, Texas, believe casteism endures — and can even begin on a playground among youngsters.

“When my child was in second grade, she used to have play dates with an upper caste Hindu kid. Once the kid’s mother had come over to our house and in the course of conversation came to know that we follow Buddhism, which is largely considered to be the religion of Dalits in India, that was the last time that the family ever interacted with us,” Pankaj told the Dalit American Foundation.

“As word that my family belongs to Dalit community spread, it led to the seclusion of my child from all other caste Hindu children. It angered me and broke my heart that my child had to face the feeling of being outcaste in the 21st century in the United States too.”

Stories of verbal slurs against Dalits by fellow Indo-Canadians have been reported in the media. Last year, Post Media News, one of the oldest national news agencies of Canada, published an article noting that the barbs are often subtle. An estimated 25,000 Dalits live in British Columbia’s lower mainland.

The report quoted a Dalit woman, Kamlesh Ahir, who told the newspaper: “We are zero. We are a dog, less than a dog,” said Ahir, who was born into the chamar caste whose members traditionally worked as tanners in India. “They think we are nothing. It doesn’t matter if we are a doctor, teacher, because we belong to the lower castes,” she told the newspaper.

Angana Chatterji, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, told India Abroad she has come across instances of casteism in the U.S. despite Hindu groups’ claims to the contrary. “The horror and wretchedness of casteism is alive in the diaspora. The university is no exception. Dalit students, community members, and leaders I have met in the U.S. over the past two decades powerfully articulate their struggle with casteism and racism,” said Chatterji, co-chair, Project on Political Conflict, Gender and People’s Rights at Berkeley.

Dr. Muni Subramani, an Indian-American neuroscientist and clinical neurophysiologist who spent several years in research at University of Connecticut and Yale, said while there is no doubt that aggressive campaigns by the likes of the RSS and VHP about “Hindu superiority” have fanned anti-Dalit sentiment, there are more fundamental reasons for such traditional bias.

“I think over centuries, generations after generations of upper caste Hindus have been taught to look down upon Dalits as inferior human beings, whose touch will spoil the lives of a Brahmin, or an upper caste person. Thus, it is difficult for them to treat a Dalit as a normal, regular person,” Subramani told India Abroad.

Such bias, he said, is deeply ingrained in their beliefs and attitudes. “From a medical-scientific perspective, the problems lie in the minds and brains of people who have these anti-Dalit beliefs inculcated in them by generations of upper caste Hindus, and reinforced and passed on from father-to-son for centuries. I think both heredity and social environment are to be blamed,” Subramani said.

His view is validated by the experience of Mahal, who described her experience of living initially with the family of a classmate from India when she first came to the U.S. to study. She said people often discover if a person is Dalit by asking harmless questions — asking one’s last name or the village one was born in — and afterward, a person’s behavior towards a Dalit changes. “When I first came to the U.S. and stayed for a few days with the family of an upper caste friend, whose mother was from Lucknow, I experienced this attitude. My friend, who is generally liberal and does not have much hang-ups about someone being Dalit or married to a Dalit, seemed to be struggling between trying to keep her upper caste demeanor while at the same time trying to be liberal and broadminded. I have noticed this dichotomy,” she said.

Rajesh Sampath, a professor of the Philosophy of Justice, Rights and Social Change at Brandeis University, said that in the U.S., caste discrimination and humiliation of Dalits is more subtle and nuanced than in India. “Typically in higher education, the Hindu majority is composed of the upper caste that could be students, second or third generation Indian-Americans or new Indian immigrants who get to shape the discourse about caste to the western audience. They talk as if there is not a problem in India, not like in the old days, and they get to perpetuate this notion that caste is not a problem,” Sampath said.

The persistence of casteism was brought to the front burner of American public attention a few years ago when descendants of prominent African-American families who led the civil rights movement presented a “Declaration of Empathy” to the Congress in 2014 in Washington, D.C.

“African-Americans and fellow Americans should oppose the modern-day enslavement of the Dalits [of India], and declare empathy with their plight,” said the declaration, which was signed on Martin Luther King’s birthday.

A recently published personal account of discrimination, “Ants Among Elephants, An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India” by Sujatha Gidla has created some buzz among Americans. Major publications like The New York Times reviewed the book by Gidla, who came to the U.S. at 26, and commented on its “insightful” understanding.

Chatterji told India abroad that Dalits continue to speak of being disparaged while their achievements as students and professionals are denigrated.

“Dalit resistance and organizing to combat this is often misconstrued as aggression,” Chatterji said. “Dalit students have routinely lacked political spaces in which their experiences may be heard, acknowledged and addressed. In this context, the emergence of Dalit Studies is intimately connected with Dalit political concerns and social movements.”

She called the emerging discipline vital.

“Dalit Studies as a decolonial project is critical to reframing dominant, Hinduized historiography and knowledge. It offers invaluable and interdisciplinary space that foregrounds the study of Dalit oppressions, discriminations and marginalizations, and Dalit struggles for dignity, justice, rights and equality through history and in the diaspora.”

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Landmark UN-Backed Treaty on Mercury Takes Effect

16 Aug 2017 – A ground-breaking global convention on mercury today goes into effect, the United Nations environment wing said, protecting millions of children and infants from possible neurological and health damage.

“Governments that are party to the Convention are now legally bound to take a range of measures to protect human health and the environment by addressing mercury throughout its lifecycle,” the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a statement.

The Minamata Convention commits Governments to specific measures, which include banning new mercury mines, phasing-out existing ones, regulating artisanal and small-scale gold mining, and reducing emissions and mercury use. Since the element is indestructible, the Convention also stipulates conditions for interim storage and disposal of mercury waste.

The Convention – the first new global convention related to the environment and health in close to a decade – entered force today, 90 days after the fiftieth party ratified it on 18 May. There are now 74 parties to the Convention and 128 countries have signed it.

“The Minamata Convention shows that our global work to protect our planet and its people can continue to bring nations together. We did it for the Ozone layer and now we’re doing it for mercury, just as we need to do it for climate change – a cause that the Minamata Convention will also serve. Together, we can clean up our act,” said Erik Solheim, head of UNEP.

Artisanal small scale mining is responsible for up to 35% of global emission of mercury into the environment.
Photo: Global Environment Facility

The Convention takes its name from the most severe mercury poisoning disaster in history. In 1956, local villages suffered convulsions, psychosis, loss of consciousness and coma from eating the fish in Minamata Bay, Japan, in which industrial wastewaters had been dumped since the 1930s. Thousands of people were certified as having directly suffered from mercury poisoning, now known as Minamata disease.

According to UNEP, up to 8,900 metric tonnes of mercury are emitted each year. It can be released naturally through the weathering of mercury-containing rocks, forest fires and volcanic eruptions, but significant emissions also come from human processes, particularly coal burning and artisanal and small-scale gold mining. Mining alone exposes up to 15 million workers in 70 different countries to mercury poisoning, including child labourers.

Other man-made sources of mercury pollution include the production of chlorine and some plastics, waste incineration and use of mercury in laboratories, pharmaceuticals, preservatives, paints and jewelry.

“There is no safe level of exposure to mercury nor are there cures for mercury poisoning, which at high levels causes irreversible neurological and health damage,” UNEP said, particularly among unborn children and infants.

The first meeting of the parties to the Convention will be held 24 to 29 September in Geneva.

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The #RightToPrivacy Judgement and it Implications for #Aadhaar


The verdict has altered unrecognisably the idea of state power. It is against this altered standard that the court will test the privacy violations of the UID project. By USHA RAMANATHAN

THE NINE-JUDGE BENCH OF THE SUPREME Court has propelled the privacy right to a place that is far higher than it was before this decision. In 2012, when the Justice A.P. Shah Committee (of which I was a member) was considering the contours of the right, it was a right that had been developing incrementally, case by case, and slowly acquiring an identity in fundamental rights jurisprudence. Some even considered it a “weak” right. That is now a thing of the past. While the detailing of the right will continue to happen as situations emerge where the right is asserted, the status of the right has been definitively pronounced by the nine-judge bench. The right to privacy is now a part of the rights and freedoms that are in the “Fundamental Rights” Chapter of the Constitution. It is closely allied to dignity. It is now “an intrinsic part of the right to life and liberty”.

This happened because of the doubts that the Attorney General cast on the very existence of the right.

Since 2012 and 2013, several petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Unique Identification Authority of India’s (UIDAI) Aadhaar project on a range of grounds. It was a project that had been started without a feasibility report, with no law, no clarity on what it was and how it would be used, and what it meant for citizens’ rights and for state power over people. Biometrics were untested and UIDAI documents testified to this. There were fears that the poor would get excluded from services to which they were entitled: an apprehension that has come to pass and which academics, activists and journalists have documented.

The centralisation of data as also the involvement of foreign companies with close links to the United StatesCentral Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Homeland Security and the French government were serious concerns. There were concerns about the potential for surveillance that this project was creating, about the convergence of data, and the breaking down of silos of information, profiling, tracking, and identity fraud. These, then, were matters of individual privacy, personal security, national security and exclusion.

Since September 2013, the court had repeatedly tried to halt the coercive way in which the project was being carried out, even as the cases were pending determination in the court. In March 2014, the government argued before the Supreme Court that the UIDAI should not be asked to share biometric information that was held in the database with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) because it had to protect the privacy interests of those who had enrolled in their database. On March 16, 2015, a bench of three judges tasked with hearing and deciding on the challenges to the UID project fixed a date in July for the hearings. It was when these hearings got under way, that is, in August 2015, that the Attorney General surprised the court, and everyone else too, with his claim that the people of this country did not have a right to privacy.

Another court, another stand

Interestingly, though, this was not what the government was saying in other fora. In another court, down the corridor of the Supreme Court, in the same week, another bench of two judges was dealing with the question of striking down defamation as an offence in criminal law. There the government was saying that the privacy of the people was involved in the offence of defamation, that privacy was a fundamental right, and that the government was concerned about protecting that fundamental right, and so the court must not strike it down. Earlier this year, in the WhatsApp case, it was argued for the government that digital data were a reflection of individual personality and were protected by Article 21, which guarantees the right to life and personal liberty.

Why the denial of the right to privacy only in the UID cases? It could have been a tactical attempt to have the final decision in the case deferred until an indefinite date, which would have allowed the government to keep expanding the project in ways that would make it difficult to dismantle. On March 16, 2015, the apprehension was that the government was using every delay in hearing the case to fortify its fait accompli; the judges had been clear that they would not accept the fait accompli argument. Yet, every delay was, in fact, used by the government to use coercion and threat of denial of service to build up its database and have the Aadhaar numbers “seeded” in as many databases as it could think of.

Or it could have been a genuine concern that the UID project would not survive the test of privacy. There is forced biometrics capture, “seeding” of the numbers, the “e-KYC” service to private companies in which the demographic data and photograph held in the UIDAI database are transferred to private companies, convergence of data from different databases, the surveillance potential that is created, and the loss of control over one’s own biometrics. This is just an illustrative list. Recent days have been witness to leaks, where various State agencies and departments have casually displayed the numbers along with a range of information about people on public, easily accessible, websites. Private players have begun to demand the numbers. More, the government has begun to demand that the numbers be given to private agencies, such as mobile phone service providers, banks and schools, on pain of losing the service or even having their monies frozen in their accounts. Denying the existence of the right may have been the only route to save the project.

The constitution of the nine-judge bench was entirely unexpected when it happened. In January 2017, when Shyam Divan mentioned the matter before Chief Justice J.S. Khehar, who had just taken charge, he was told that the Chief Justice did not have the judges to spare. At that time it was not clear if the bench would be composed of 5 or 7 or 9 judges. On July 18, a five-judge bench began to hear the matter and then, quite without warning, the Chief Justice announced that a nine-judge bench would sit the next day and hear and decide the issue of privacy. Nine, because the 1954 decision in the M.P. Sharma case, which was one of the two decisions that the Attorney General had said had denied the right to privacy, had had 8 judges on the bench.

In a twist of fate, therefore, the government’s move to erase the right to privacy ended up producing a right much stronger than any that could have been imagined. Nine judges can do a lot. They can overrule judgments of other Constitution benches of lesser strength—as they did the infamous Emergency decision in what is called the “habeas corpus” case, which has been an embarrassing burden that the judiciary has had to bear for over 40 years. They can set right interpretations and understanding that they see as having gone wrong, as they did with the 2013 decision of the Supreme Court in the Section 377 case which criminalises homosexuality. They can authoritatively pronounce on rights and wrongs, and it cannot be lightly disturbed because it will need a larger bench to reverse a nine-judge bench order, and that does not happen every day. That is why there was anxiety about what the court would do, because it is likely to be the law for a long, long time.

This has then opened up the privacy dimensions of the challenge, with this difference: that it is a stronger right that will have to be answered than when the privacy right was claimed not to exist in August 2015.

Since the judgment, proponents of the project have said that privacy advocates have been proved wrong because the court has held that the right to privacy is not absolute, but can be restricted. This is misleading. Nobody claimed that privacy was an absolute right. No right is absolute. Even the right to life can be denied so long as it is according to procedure established by law. But it cannot be just any law. It has to be a law that is just, fair and reasonable. The state will have to establish that there is a legitimate need: merely saying that it is a need will not do. And it should be proportionate, which, as the court said, “ensures a rational nexus between the objects and the means adopted to achieve them”.

The court has illustrated what may be a legitimate state aim which may allow for some intrusion into the privacy right. National security, siphoning off public resources intended for the impoverished, data mining for ensuring that benefits reach intended beneficiaries, and prevention and investigation of crime illustrate what the court indicated could be legitimate state aims. There is little to disagree with in these broad descriptions of “legitimate state aims”.

What a strong privacy right does is to raise the threshold for the test of constitutionality of the infringement, with the incursions into the privacy right being placed under strict scrutiny. The test is much, much more stringent after this judgment. The right is now not just strong but also fundamental, and any restriction on the right is the exception, which restriction will have to meet the tests set by the court. The idea of state power, which was implicit in the denial of privacy by the state, has been altered unrecognisably. It is against this altered standard that the privacy violations of the UID project will be tested by the court that will now hear the case.

Usha Ramanathan works on the jurisprudence of law, poverty and rights.

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Swami Nithyananda Case: Will Justice Prevail? Fast Track the case

The case against Nithyananda is currently pending for trial at the Ramanagara sessions court.

Although Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was sentenced to 20 years of jail term after being convicted of raping two of his disciples, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the case was under trail for seventeen long years. Still, in India, there are a handful of such babas who are accused of rape charges with cases pending in courts. One such case is that of self-styled godman Swami Nithyananda.

Forty-year-old Nithyananda is currently facing a sexual assault case filed by Karnataka Police in 2009. The petitioner, Aarthi Rao, his own disciple, accused him of raping multiple times. The complaint says Nithyananda insisted on “seeking moksha through sexual union” with several female devotees by claiming to be incarnations of various gods. Alongside there are seven more cases against his foundation, on allegations of fraud in India and United States.

In an act of retaliation, Nithyananda Foundation members have filed 14 complaints against Aarthi Rao, all of them after charge sheet was filed against him. Also, 17 complaints were filed against whistleblower Dharmananda alias Lenin, who first came out exposing Nithyananda’s sexual crimes.

In the official press releases by, a number of slanderous arguments were made against the complainant Aarthi Rao without any ground of evidence.

“Nityananda and his secretaries have been continuously harassing me over the years. It is nothing short of witch-hunting. They have filed several retaliatory cases against me” the Newsminute quoted Aarthi Rao.

The Case status:

The case against Nithyananda is currently pending for trial at the Ramanagara sessions court. He was arrested on rape charges in April 2010 and was granted bail on June 11 that year. Claiming to be an impotent person, Nithyanand approached Supreme Court demanding stay orders against the case proceedings. The apex court ordered for medical test in that regard. The medical reports exposed Nithyananda’s fake claims and confirmed him to be a normal adult. Next hearing is scheduled for September 2017.

Nithyananda claims to be the youngest living enlightened master with 10 million followers and the most watched spiritual teacher on youtube. Things sold on his website, range from cosmetic products to sermons and songs in the form of books, videos, and audios in multiple languages. There are deals for the day in books, ornaments, idols and best-selling products. The website also accepts donations and payments in the currencies – Indian rupee, US and Canadian dollars, British pound and Euro along with credit card and PayPal options.

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Raghuram Rajan Blasts Populist Nationalism, Says it’s First Step to Crony Capitalism

Rajan talked about how the financial crisis pushed the middle-class worker to the tipping point and led to the rise of populists like Donald Trump.

Raghuram Rajan Blasts Populist Nationalism, Says it's First Step to Crony Capitalism
File photo of RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan. (Reuters)

New Delhi: Former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Raghuram Rajan, has attacked identity-based politics and said that it leads to crony capitalism and ultimately a breakdown of the system.

Talking during a keynote address he gave at the University of Chicago’s Stigler Center conference on the political economy of finance, Rajan said, “Think of a town where you have a factory closing down, and now you have high school-educated workers who were earning (well) in those manufacturing jobs. What are their options? Staying: there’s nothing to do, no sources of economic activity locally, apart from low-paying ones. You can move and retrain, go upstream.”

“If you could swallow the change, you can move and retrain — but that is costly and typically means moving to more urban centers, where the cost of living is higher. You can move and downgrade—there are tons of jobs as security guards, Uber drivers, and so on, but that doesn’t pay the bills.”

“It’s very easy if you’re in London to overlook what’s happening at the northeast of England, and if you’re in Washington, to overlook what’s happening in the Midwest. Because around you things are actually quite good—there’s lots of activity, lots of economic hope,” Stigler Center’s blog, Promarket quoted the economist as saying.

Rajan talked about how the financial crisis pushed the middle-class worker to the tipping point and led to the rise of populists like Donald Trump. “The financial crisis was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Many of these people, especially white middle-class workers, are essentially very much pro-market, very much for the competitive economy. What changed this market-oriented view? I think the global financial crisis sent a message that markets are corrupt. That all these bankers took the system into a big crisis and nothing happened to the bankers—the elite looked after themselves; no banker went to jail. And to boot: they don’t know how to get us out. For eight years we haven’t had growth in a serious way. We haven’t had the jobs that we want,” he said.

“This discreditation contributed to the rise of populists, like Trump. Immediately, you get a sense of why this person would get a kick out of voting for somebody that the liberal elite hates, someone who thumbs the liberal elite in the eye and says, ‘This is for you!’ Doesn’t matter if that person does any good: ‘That person gives me respect because he or she understands me, they talk my language and they don’t talk the language that those guys want to talk. They behave in a way that these guys hate—I like that.’”

Rajan also talked about the anger against the ‘liberal elite’ as the motivating factor for right-wing populists. “The liberal elite — that means you and me — has been totally discredited, because we didn’t know to prevent the financial crisis, and once it happened we didn’t know how to pull the economy out.”

The 54-year-old further talked about the appeal of national populists to recreate nations based on patriotism. “The populist nationalist is saying ‘I am going to recreate community for you — not the broken down community, beset by drugs and divorce, but a national community based on patriotism, based on people like you. ‘People like you’ is often the majority group, the majority color, the majority origin. It is an imagined community, à la Benedict Anderson (scholar who called nations – imagined communities).”

“Exclusionary policies are the first step toward crony capitalism. If you can pick and choose who belongs amongst communities, you can also pick and choose who belongs within communities, and it leads to a breakdown of the market system. We’ve seen this happen in South Africa and Malaysia. Identity-based politics eventually go towards crony capitalism,” said Rajan to the Booth School of Business audience.

He ended his speech by urging people to not attack those who support identity politics. “The populist outcry comes from communities who have seen growth bypass them and their communities collapse. It is a cry both of anger and for help. Pointing fingers at these communities and telling them they don’t understand is not the right answer.”

“But I think if we don’t provide the answers, there is extreme danger that rather than opting for leaders who just talk the talk, (voters) will actually opt for leaders who walk the walk. And that can be much more damaging,” said the former RBI governor.

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The gap between India’s richer and poorer states is widening

Economists are baffled, arguing that the poorer states should be catching up

COUNTRIES find it easier to get rich once their neighbours already are. East Asia’s growth pattern has for decades been likened to a skein of geese, from Japan at the vanguard to laggards such as Myanmar at the rear. The same pattern can often be seen within big countries: over the past decade, for example, China’s poorer provinces have grown faster than their wealthier peers. India is different. Far from converging, its states are getting ever more unequal. A recent shake-up in the tax system might even make matters worse.

Bar a few Mumbai penthouses and Bangalore startup offices, all parts of India are relatively poor by global standards. Taken together, its 1.3bn people make up roughly the third and fourth decile of the world’s population, with an income per head (adjusted for purchasing power) of $6,600 dollars. But that average conceals a vast gap. In Kerala, a southern state, the average resident has an annual income per head of $9,300, higher than Ukraine, and not too far from the global median. With just $2,000 or so, his fellow Indian in Bihar, a landlocked state of 120m people, is closer to a citizen of Mali or Chad, in the bottom decile globally.

The gap has been widening. In 1990, point out Praveen Chakravarty and Vivek Dehejia of the IDFC Institute, a think-tank, India’s three richest large states had incomes just 50% higher than the three poorest—roughly the same divergence as in America or the EU today, and more equal than in China. Now the trio is three times richer (see chart).

It is true that in some rich parts of the world, income gaps between regions have in recent decades been widening. But India’s experience still puzzles economists. Poor countries benefit from technology developed in richer ones—from trains to mobile phones. Workers in less rich countries accept lower wages, so firms build new factories there.

The catch-up process ought to be all the faster if barriers to the movement of goods or people are lower. Regions within China have been converging rapidly, partly owing to the market, as factories move production inland, where wages are cheaper, and partly to government attempts to lift poorer regions by investing heavily in their infrastructure. Arvind Subramanian, chief economic adviser to India’s government, earlier this year wrote that its states’ divergence is “a deep puzzle”. The brief bout of liberalisation in 1991 probably played a part, by unevenly distributing the spoils of more rapid overall growth. But that burst of inequality should have self-corrected as the forces of equalisation came into play.

One theory blames this divergence on states’ isolation even in the Indian domestic market, as a result of lousy infrastructure, red tape and cultural barriers. Moving stuff from state to state can be as troublesome as exporting. Internal migration that would generate catch-up growth is stymied by cultural and linguistic barriers: poor northern states are Hindi-speaking, unlike the richer south. Cuisines differ enough for internal migrants to grumble. It is harder to have access to benefits and state subsidies outside your home state.

Mr Subramanian thinks such arguments are overdone. India may not have mass migration on the scale that transformed China, but is still sizeable, he argues, and has been rising as a share of the population even as convergence has gone into reverse. Inter-state trade is healthy, suggesting suitably porous borders.

Another theory looks at India’s development model: growth has relied more on skill-intensive sectors such as IT than on labour-intensive manufacturing. This may have stymied the forces of convergence seen elsewhere, Mr Subramanian posits. Perhaps, however low their labour costs, the poorer places lack the skills base to poach jobs from richer rivals.

A more likely explanation is that the reasons some states lagged in the first place—mainly to do with poor governance—are still largely in place. Bihar’s low wage costs make it look attractive on paper as a place to set up a factory. But many firms seem to conclude they do not compensate for its difficulties.

If that idea is correct, the introduction of a new goods-and-services tax (GST) on July 1st might have worsened the divergent trend. Lots of state-level levies have been replaced with a single tax. Although barriers to interstate trade have become markedly lower, states have also forgone some fiscal autonomy, such as offering tax breaks to lure in investors. That may make it harder for poor states to catch up, says Mr Chakravarty.

Mr Subramanian notes, however, that the forces of convergence are gaining strength. Despite falling behind on income, poorer states have been catching up on human-development measures such as infant mortality and life expectancy. Fertility rates in the northern Hindi belt are fast falling to levels already reached by, for example, Tamil Nadu, a rich southern state. India’s “demographic dividend” is largely an opportunity for its poorer states—if they can create enough jobs to grasp it.

Convergence is obviously desirable in a country where the straggling states are home to some of the world’s poorest people. But it might also help avert a political peril: that rich states start wondering if being lumped with far poorer peers is in their interests. In many states regional political parties compete with the national ones that have mostly dominated the federal government and quashed any talk of separatism. The questions over the divergent fortunes of Indian’s states are puzzling. They may yet become more serious.

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India – BJP has highest no. of MPs, MLAs with cases of crime against women #Vaw

BJP is followed by the Shiv Sena and Trinamool Congress on the list. Among the states, Maharashtra has the highest number of MPs and MLAs who have declared cases of crime against women.

BJP party flag in Pune, India, on June 18, 2016.
BJP party flag in Pune, India, on June 18, 2016.(HT File Photo)

As many as 51 MPs and MLAs have declared cases of crime against women, including of alleged rape and abduction, a study said on Wednesday.

Of the 51, 48 are Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and three are Members of Parliament (MPs), said a study by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-government organisation working for electoral reforms.

Giving party-wise details, the study stated that among various recognised parties, the BJP has the highest number of MPs and MLAs (14), followed by the Shiv Sena (7) and the All India Trinamool Congress (6) who have declared cases related to crime against women.

“There are 51 MPs and MLAs who have declared cases of crime against women such as charges related to assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty, kidnapping, abducting or inducing woman to compel her marriage, rape, husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty, buying minor for purposes of prostitution and word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman,” the ADR study said.

ADR and National Election Watch have analysed 4,852 out of 4,896 election affidavits of current MPs and MLAs. This includes 774 out of 776 affidavits of MPs and 4,078 out of 4,120 MLAs from all the states of India.

Out of the analysed 1,581 (33%) MPs and MLAs with declared criminal cases, 51 have declared cases related to crimes against women, it said.

Besides, 334 candidates analysed who had declared cases related to crime against women were given tickets by recognised political parties, ADR said in the study.

Among these candidates, 40 were given tickets by parties for Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha elections. Various recognised parties have given tickets to 294 candidates with cases related to crime against women for state assembly elections.

It added that the analysed 122 independent candidates with declared cases related to crime against women had contested for the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha and state assembly elections in the last five years.

In the last five years, 19 independent candidates with declared cases related to crime against women contested in the LS and RS elections. Similarly, 103 independent candidates with declared cases related to crime against women contested in the state assembly polls.

The study further said that among major parties, over the last five years, 48 candidates with declared cases related to crime against women were given tickets by the BJP.

The second highest number of candidates (36) who had declared cases related to crime against women were given tickets by the BSP, followed by 27 candidates from the INC which had contested for LS/RS and state assemblies elections.

Among the states, Maharashtra has the highest number of MPs and MLAs (12) who have declared cases of crime against women, followed by West Bengal (11) and Odisha (6).

Also, among the states, Maharashtra has the highest number of candidates (65) in the last five years, followed by Bihar (62) and West Bengal (52) (including independents) who were given tickets by political parties even though they declared cases related to crime against women in their affidavits, the study added.

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Delhi high court to hear plea to criminalise #MaritalRape #GoodNews


Govt’s stance on marital rape an affront to all women, say activists

There’s an exception in IPC Section 375 (offence of rape) that doesn’t recognise sex without consent, with a wife older than 15 years, as rape. The Delhi High Court is currently examining this law and considering PILs opposing marital rape filed by NGOs RIT Foundation, All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIPWA), as well as two individuals.

As of Wednesday, the Delhi HC has allowed an intervention application filed by Forum to Engage Men (FEM) – a group of men fighting for gender equality, and against marital rape. Thus, FEM is now a co-petitioner in the case

While many progressive voices fight to establish marital rape as an offence, the Indian government has taken an altogether more medieval position.

On Monday, the central government made its understanding of marital rape known. In its affidavit to the Delhi HC, the government stated that what “may appear to be marital rape [to the wife] may not appear so to others”.

The centre further commented that a marital rape law “may destabilise the institution of marriage apart from being an easy tool for harassing the husbands”, adding, “As to what constitutes marital rape and what would constitute marital non-rape needs to be defined precisely before a view on its criminalisation is taken.”


Understandably, the government’s stance has raised the hackles of the various parties fighting for the recognition of marital rape as a criminal offence.

FEM’s application, filed by Abhijit Das, reads, “We believe that in Indian society, a wife will only bring about such a complaint [of marital rape] against her husband when there is actual non-consent and she is desperate.”

‘Even if one woman faces violence, there needs to be a law to protect her’

Catch spoke to Das, and he explained that FEM’s “basic contention is that gender equality is a joint aspiration for men and women, and not a women’s issue alone. We’ve been working with men for 10 years now.”

Refuting the argument that this law will be widely misused, Das says, “Basically we’re saying that marriage as an institution is threatened because men are frightened their wives will call ‘rape’ every time they want to have sex. So what are you treating women as?”

“What we are going to affirm is that marriage [in India] is a relationship of equality between a man and a woman, and it is predicated on mutual respect. Yes, sex is an important part of marriage, but that important part, for pleasure or procreation, is a negotiated agreement between two people,” he adds.

“Marriage is a partnership between equals. However, men have historically assumed privileges including the privilege of having sex at their instance. Most women have been conditioned to accept that. The fact that some women have been driven to complain of coerced sex and sexual violence indicates that they are going through extreme levels of violence and coercion and have been literally pushed to the wall,” FEM argued. It said that in the Indian context, “a wife will only bring about such a complaint against her husband when there is actual non-consent and she is desperate

On being asked about men’s rights activists, like the Men’s Welfare Trust, who are opposing their petition, Das says, “There are men who are threatened about their privileges, people ask us if we engage with them. We want to create a general understanding in people about gender equality, [and if] somebody is against gender equality, what can we do?

“Studies show that up to 10% women face sexual violence in marriage. And 30% face domestic violence. That’s about 100 million women in India alone. Even if one woman faces violence, there needs to be a law to protect her.”


The secretary of one of the petitioners, AIPWA, Kavita Krishnan told Catch that the government’s stand on marital rape “is an affront to all women”.

The affidavit, Krishnan says, “suggests that ‘what a wife may perceive as rape’ may not be perceived as such by others. Rape – whether within or without marriage is immaterial, is a violation of a woman’s consent.”

‘Justice Verma Committee also recommended scrapping of the marital exception’

“The Govt, instead of seeing rape as a violation of consent, suggests that patriarchal social perception must decide whether or not rape is rape! So the notion that a wife is a husband’s sexual property and her consent is immaterial, is one that a government is actually backing! I’d like to remind that the Justice Verma Committee also recommended scrapping of the marital exception,” she added.

Interestingly, a day after the Centre’s affidavit to Delhi HC was released to the media, Supreme Court lawyer and former Mizoram governor Swaraj Kaushal took to Twitter to announce that there’s no such thing as marital rape.

“There will be more husbands in the jail, than in the house,” the senior lawyer, who is married to External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, wrote.

On being questioned for his remark on Twitter, Swaraj Kaushal added, “There is nothing like marital rape. Our homes should not become police stations.”


Advocate Karuna Nundy, who is leading the arguments for the petitioners demanding a marital rape law, couldn’t comment on the matter as it is sub-judice.

However, her written submission to the court concludes with a strongly worded comment on how the State must act now to protect victims of marital rape, and provide them the fundamental right to dignity.

Lack of a law ‘delegates married women to the status of legal objects’

“By refusing to recognise and criminalise rape within marriage the State continues to violate the dignity and liberty to millions of married rape victims, guaranteed to them as a basic fundamental right under the Constitution,” it reads.

It further says that the lack of a law “delegates married women to the status of legal objects and second class citizens by nullifying their right to withhold or to give consent to sexual intercourse with the husband.”

On the issue of women being seen as property, it says, “The history of gender equality has been a move against that, towards the full recognition of women’s independent personality. The marital rape provision is the last vestige of the paterfamilias idea.”

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Mumbai – 34 Dead, At Least 47 injured as Building Collapses #BhendiBazar


8 Dead, At Least 20 Feared Trapped As Mumbai Building Collapses


Mumbai Building Collapse Live: 34 Dead, PM Modi Offers Condolences

A five-storey residential building collapsed in Mumbai’s Bhendi Bazaar area on 31 August, killing 34 people and injuring at least 47 others. Many are still feared trapped under the rubble.

The incident occurred two days after the city received torrential rains, which is suspected to have damaged the building.


Click here to collapse

  • Around 34 people have been killed after a five-storey building collapsed in South Mumbai’s JJ Marg on 31 August
  • Around 40 people were injured and rushed to JJ Hospital, while several others are feared trapped under the rubble
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences and called the incident “saddening”
  • Maha CM Devendra Fadnavis has announced Rs 5 lakh compensation to each victim’s kin

Photos: Building collapse in Bhendi Bazaar, Mumbai

Speaking to the Indian Express, MLA Amin Patel said, “A notice to vacate the building was issued to tenants. Fifty per cent had vacated the building while the rest remained,” he said. The structure was old and there were frequent complaints of leakages. Patel said six families were residing in it. The injured are being rushed to the nearby JJ hospital.

The Husaini building was located on Maulana Shaukat Ali Road, Pakmodia street opposite Husaini hall, a marriage hall of the Dawoodi Bohra community. A Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT) spokesperson confirmed the building is part of the cluster redevelopment of the entire area near Raudat Tahera. Mumbai building collapse: The top developments

Speaking to the media at the site of the incident, he said a notice to vacate the premises had already been issued and that the building had been categorised as ‘risky’.

The building had been marked for redevelopment and the builders had been given permission to demolish the structure in May 2016…Most of the families had vacated and only a few were residing here. Action will be taken in case of any negligence.

Devendra Fadnavis, Maharashtra CM

31 August, 2017 6:04 PM IST

Maha Govt to Probe Building Collapse

The Maharashtra government will conduct an inquiry into the Bhendi Bazaar building collapse, Minister Subhash Desai announced on 31 August.

Our priority is to pull out at the earliest those trapped under the rubble of the collapsed building. Once the rescue work gets over, the government will conduct a probe to ascertain the factors behind the building collapse. Strict action will be taken against those found guilty.

Subhash Desai, Minister

He said Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will chair a meeting to chalk out an action plan to rehabilitate those living in dilapidated buildings.

This particular building was already marked for redevelopment as it was dilapidated. A meeting will soon be held with the Chief Minister and an action plan will be prepared to rehabilitate those residing in such structures so that these incidents do not occur again, Desai said.

31 August, 2017 6:04 PM IST

Building Came Down Minutes Before Playschool Started

About 50 children had a narrow escape when the building collapsed some 20 minutes before their playschool, located in the five-storey structure, was to start for the day, said a PTI report.

The school functioned on the ground floor of the Hussaini building located at Pakmodia Street in the Bhendi Bazaar area.

The structure collapsed about 20 minutes before the playschool was to start at 9 am, the father of a two-year-old child said.

Mumbai building collapse LIVE Updates

2.20 pm: A total of 29 people have been rescued from under the debris, CFO Prabhat Rahangdale said. Fourteen of them have been injured along with four fire brigade personnel who suffered injuries during the rescue operations

2.10 pm: The Chief Fire Officer has said that rescue operation are in full swing and about 10 to 15 people are still suspected to be trapped. In all 200 fire brigade and NDRF personnel are part of the rescue operation

2.00 pm: Prakash Mehta, state housing minister, after visiting site, said: “Despite the notices being issued by MHADA, residents did not vacate the building due to lack of trust on the SBUT and the government authorities. Now, we feel that the residents of the dilapidated buildings should be vacated and moved to a transit camp by using force to prevent such incidents in future. I will also tell the chief minister about using force for vacating dilapidated buildings.”

1.50 pm: The death toll has now increased to 12 – 9 male, three female. Thirteen people are injured in the collapse, 11 of whom are in the hospital while two have been sent home after they were administered medical treatment.

1:20 pm: 23 people have been rescued from underneath the debris so far and sent to hospitals. Three fire brigade personnel were also injured during the operation.

1:15 pm: Srinath Rao is reporting from the ground that a man named Jaffer Rizvi is trapped under the debris and has been in touch with his family through WhatsApp since morning. 100 fire brigade and NDRF personnel are engaged in rescuing him. He has been told to stop using his phone to conserve battery. He is also being told to stay calm.

1 pm: 12229 buildings out of 14375 were built before 1940. Nine out of these are completely dilapidated.

12:50 pm: The total number of cessed buildings is 14,375. Nine out of these were notified by the MHADA as dangerous and unfit to live in.

10 Dead, several Injured After Building Collapses In Bhendi Bazaar, Mumbai

12:45: BIG UPDATE – Death toll rises to 10 (7 men, 3 women). 17 people rescued so far.

12:40 pm: Statement from SBUT (Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust) below

“We are extremely saddened and concerned at this unfortunate incident and our thoughts and prayers are with the affected families. All the necessary support from the trust and the disaster management teams including MCGM, Mumbai Police, BMC and MHADA is being mobilized towards ensuring the safety of all tenants in the affected area.

The residents of the 117-years-old Husaini building (CS NO. 4329) in Bhendi Bazaar collapsed at 8.30 am today. This ground+6 building housed a total of 13 tenants which included 12 residential and 1 commercial. Out of these, the trust had already shifted 7 families in 2013-14.

MHADA notices dated 28-03-2011 and 20-05-2011 declaring the building dilapidated were issued along with offer of transit accommodation to the remaining tenants and occupants. At present the area has been cordoned off to carry out the evacuation process smoothly. We very sincerely thank the locals and all the government authorities for their prompt and immediate action.”

12:35 pm: Notice to vacate building was served in 2011 

According to MHADA officials, the building was given a notice in 28/03/2011 asking to vacate the building as it was in dangerous condition. The MHADA issued a demolition notice for the building on 27/05/2016 to Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust, which is implementing Bhendi Bazaar redevelopment project. The project is one of the first cluster redevelopment projects to be taken up in the city.

12:30 pm:  Update on the rescue operation

30 to 35 persons might be trapped underneath. Search operations by fire brigade personnel from the east, west and south side in progress using search cameras, hydraulic tools and rescue gears from rescue van. 125 firemen are at the spot. NDRF is working from the south and west sides. There was a sweets manufacturing unit and food preparation shop on ground floor according to the public. One high pressure line is in operation.

Persons from adjacent buildings rescued safely and 2 to 3 adjacent buildings vacated as a safety mesure. A total of 15 persons rescued from debris and sent to the hospital. Three Fire Brigade personnel have been injured.

12:25 pm: The building that collapsed is a cessed building. Now, what are cessed buildings?

There are 19,642 cessed buildings stretching from BMC’s Ward A to G ie from Colaba to Mahim.

Cessed buildings are those, which pay a cess to the Mumbai Buildings Repairs and Reconstruction Board for upkeep and maintainance. There are 16,502 buildings which have been constructed prior to September 1940.

Buildings in Mumbai are allowed an FSI of 1.33. It means for a 1000 sq ft plot a builder can construct  1330 sq ft of space.

To tide over the problem of rehabilitating residents of the cessed buildings, the government brought in an amendment to DCR 33 (7) in 1999 to provide incentive FSI to builders for carrying out redevelopment work on cessed buildings.

12:20 pm: Our reporters on the ground are telling us that the building was 50 per cent empty after several residents vacated it. Shopkeepers around are saying that only six families remained in the building and had plans to move out.

12:10 pm: BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta has reached the site of the collapse.

See photos of the rescue operations at the site

mumbai building collapse, bhendi bazaar, mumbai building, byculla building collapse, news, latest news, mumbai newsMumbai building collapse: Three bodies have been recovered from the collapse site.


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