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Archives for : August2017

Ultra-Left activist Varavara Rao: ‘What kind of democracy is India today?’


All the people’s movements over the last 50 years have borne the shadow of the upsurge triggered at Naxalbari village in West Bengal in 1967. Things have changed, but the soul of Naxalism lives on in different forms at different places.

This was underlined by renowned communist activist, poet, writer and Naxal sympathiser Varavara Rao in Chandigarh, as he spoke at an event marking the death anniversary of legendary Punjabi Marxist Baba Boojha Singh, who was gunned down in a ‘fake’ police encounter in 1970 at the age of 82.


In the course of his lecture, Rao kept delving into Indian as well as global history, the geopolitics at work and the present scenario in the country. He also posed some hard questions about the parliamentary democracy in India.



According to him, parliamentary or presidential democracy have never really existed in the world. “Where is the equality after the French revolution? Where is the rule of law in Ireland? The US has functioned like a terrorist state from the Bush era to the Trump era, where there is no security for Muslims and Blacks. Is it a presidential democracy?”

Mincing no words as he came to India, he said that both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah, whose names figured in cases related to the Gujarat riots that were marked by ‘genocide’ of Muslims, but were let off by courts and eventually won elections.

“What kind of democracy is this? Today, these people are eulogised, while Muslims and Adivasis live in insecurity. Can those who call themselves ‘secular democrats’ give an answer to this?”

He took up the issue of RSS affiliate Dinanath Batra calling for the removal of the works of Rabindranath Tagore and globally acclaimed Punjabi poet Avtar Singh Pash from textbooks. Referring to Pash’s famous poem ‘Sabse khatarnak hota hai hamare sapnon ka mar jaana‘ (The most dangerous thing to happen is for our dreams to die), Rao said: “They are killing those dreams. A revolutionary has to keep dreaming. There is no debate, no discussion. ‘You have to agree to what I say, and you have to purchase what I sell’.”

He later elaborated: “First, they decided that there was a Ram Temple where the Babri Masjid stood. Tomorrow, they might as well say that there was a temple under Parliament. If not Modi, maybe Yogi (Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister) can say this. They themselves do not believe in parliamentary democracy, and the pity is that we have to tell them what parliamentary democracy means.”

He drew parallels between the existing scenario in India, where minorities stand terrified, with that of Europe in the 1930s, when fascism was peaking.


Rao’s contention was that the seeds of what is happening today were sown way back at the time of independence in 1947.

“The Indian Army was sent to Kashmir and Hyderabad and elsewhere, when the country neither had a Constitution nor a Parliament. This means that these acts neither had constitutional nor parliamentary sanctity, and that is why people in Kashmir, the Northeast, and elsewhere, are fighting for their rights,” he said, while also underlining that the people’s struggle in India had started with the first war of independence in 1857. He also highlighted how thousands of Muslims were killed in Hyderabad under the pretext of targeting Razakars, the Nizam’s private militia.


Going on to draw the parallels between the persecution of Muslims across the world and tribals and aboriginals, Rao underlined: “Muslims have been targeted because they have been the custodians of oil reserves, which countries like the US have always wanted to usurp. Similarly, in India, as well as other places, it is the tribals who have been the custodians of natural wealth, which the governments want to give away to the corporates.”

Claiming that the tribals in the Maoist-dominated zone of ‘Dandakaranya’ have successfully come up with a self-reliant and self-sufficient model, he underlined that successive governments have been trying to target them through acts like Operations Green Hunt, All Out and Samadhan. According to him, the Naxalbari uprising gave a philosophy to the aboriginal movements across the world.

Pointing to the spread of the Naxal movement in India, Rao said that except for the plains of Punjab, the movement mainly spread in the tribal corridor from east to west India. “In Punjab, probably, it was because of armed uprising against ‘wrongs’ being a part of tradition, advocated right from the time of the Sikh Gurus,” he said.


Questioning the role of the State with regards to thousands of unnatural deaths and an extremely high number of farmer suicides, Rao asked: “How do we understand this structural violence that is going on? People are being killed in the name of Gau Raksha, and not singing Vande Matram, while there is no debate on rising unemployment, and providing basic services to the masses.”

The lecture also saw him explaining in detail how the Indian State slowly gave up the concept of being a welfare state, while following the policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World bank. “You can be transparent. You get to govern. You can impose GST and demonetisation. You can send the army to Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast, and suppress the people. The fight now is for giving land to the tillers, and to prevent eviction and relocation of the masses. In the last 50 years, land continues to be taken away by the corporates. Hence the concept of ‘All power to the people’,” Rao said.

He advocated that a new democracy has to be brought in, for which a ‘protracted people’s war’ is needed.

In the discourse, he kept on referring to the ‘historic eight documents’ by Naxal leader Charu Majumdar, while underlining their continuing relevance.

Rao’s lecture was a part of an event by a local organisation, Lokayat. The event also saw Punjabi activist and writer Baru Satwarg, who wrote the famous book ‘Panna Ik Itihas Da‘ (A Page of History), dwelling at length on the life of Baba Boojha Singh, and the latter’s contribution to the Left movement in Punjab and India during the freedom struggle and the post-independence era.

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India’s Non Farm-loan Debts Could Settle All Distressed Farm Loans

Alison Saldanha,



Indian companies and individuals owed Rs 4.1 lakh crore to public sector banks in overdue loans in the “non-priority sector”–mainly corporate lending, car loans, personal finance, credit card dues and home loans–as of March 2016. These non-performing assets (NPAs), if fully recovered, would suffice to pay off distressed farm loans across eight states, with a-third (32%) still left over, an IndiaSpend analysis of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data shows.


In the decade to 2016, non-priority sector bad loans rose more than 22-fold (2166%) from when they were valued at Rs 18,300 crore in 2006. During the same period, the sector’s share in public sector banks’ NPAs rose from 44.2% to 76.7%. This growth was particularly pronounced after 2011–12-fold (1110%) in five years.


Public sector banks’ bad loans in the priority sector–which includes loans for agriculture, micro and small enterprises (MSMEs), small-scale industries, education, affordable housing and renewable energy–also grew during the same period, but slower. These grew five times (465.8%) from Rs 22,200 crore in 2006 to Rs 1.25 lakh crore in 2016, although their share in the total NPAs of public sector banks shrank by more than 55% (thanks to the growth of non-priority sector NPAs).


Source: Reserve Bank of India


Agriculture-related bad loans, valued at Rs 48,467 crore, comprise the third largest NPAs, after corporate NPAs (Rs 3.16 lakh crore) and MSME NPAs (Rs 74,051 crore), according to this 2016 Lok Sabha reply.


“For non-priority loans, NPAs result when business models go wrong. They are normally linked to sectors rather than individuals–which is the case of farm loans, where the monsoon plays an important role,” Madan Sabnavis, chief economist of Credit Analysis & Research Ltd, a ratings agency, told IndiaSpend. “An economic downturn increases chances of NPAs as companies cannot service their debt. When there is no malafide intent or managerial incompetence, it is mainly such external conditions that lead to corporate NPAs. For farm loans it is more straight-forward and linked to monsoon,” Sabnavis said.


RBI officials refused to comment for this story.


576% jump in write-offs as NPAs eat into banks’ lending capacity


Source: Reserve Bank of India


As of March 2016, 7.5% of all lending in India–by public, private and foreign banks, to both priority and non-priority sectors–amounting to Rs 6.1 lakh crore had become non-performing assets. This is more than twice the union budget for defense at Rs 2.6 lakh crore in 2017-18, which received the highest allocation among all central ministries this year.


This is the highest recorded gross NPA ratio in the last 10 years, RBI data show. Prior to 2014, the ratio typically remained below 4%.


Such high NPA ratios limit banks’ ability to lend money to productive sectors.


An asset quality review introduced in April 2015, through which the RBI forced banks to finally recognize their stressed assets as NPAs and record them as such on their balance sheets, was the key reason why NPA ratios apparently rose from 2014-15 onwards.


The review unearthed numerous cases of loan “restructuring”–giving the borrower some concessions to avoid a default–and dressing up of account books. Over a decade, NPA write-offs jumped 576% from Rs 8,799 crore in 2006 to Rs 59,547 crore in 2016, according to this 2016 Lok Sabha reply.


The trend is significant, a former senior RBI official told IndiaSpend. “All provisions against write-offs eat into the capital of the bank, reducing its capacity to lend. The sharp slowdown in credit growth over the past couple of years is significantly attributable to banks’ unwillingness to take on any further risk of write-offs, which would reduce their capital even further,” the official wrote in an email, requesting not to be named. From a policy perspective, he explained, to sustain nominal GDP growth of 12-13 per cent, credit should grow at least at that rate, if not faster. (Nominal GDP is estimated at current prices, not taking inflation into account, while real GDP is estimated at constant prices after accounting for inflation.)


This is evident from the waning stream of credit advances to both priority and non-priority sectors in recent years. While the volume of credit has risen in absolute terms, its year-on-year growth has slowed, RBI data show. Growth of lending in both sectors slowed by more than 35% — from 19.3% in 2013 to 12.4% in 2016 in the priority sector, and 11.2% in 2013 to 7% in 2016 in the non-priority sector.


Growth Rate Of Gross Advances In Scheduled Commercial Banks From 2013 To 2016

Source: Reserve Bank of India


“If [bank] capital is being eroded by loan losses, infusions are needed, either from the government or from the market. Neither is looking feasible at the moment. So, sooner or later, slow credit growth will impede GDP growth,” the former RBI official said.


Commercial banks’ aggressive long-term lending caused the NPA problem


Most of the experts IndiaSpend spoke to for this story agreed that much of the NPA problem arose when commercial banks lent aggressively, for long durations, to the non-priority sector in the early 2000s, when the economy reached a growth rate of over 9% in 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08.


“About half the NPAs in the system are in the infrastructure sectors. A substantial portion of the remaining are in sectors such as steel, which have been subject to various business shocks. These are mostly loans for capital expenditure and are long term,” the former RBI official told IndiaSpend. “Priority sector loans, on the other hand–crop loans, for example–are more often short-term loans for working capital purposes,” he explained.


The global economic slowdown of 2008 ushered in a prolonged period of uncertainty in India as elsewhere. Exports fell, some mining projects faced regulatory bans, sectors such as power and iron and steel faced difficulty getting permits, raw material prices fluctuated and infrastructure projects faced power shortages. All these factors, coming on top of aggressive past lending by banks, caused NPAs to swell, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told the Lok Sabha in 2016.


During the early 2000s, when banking reforms were gathering pace, development finance institutions (DFIs) such as IDBI, ICICI and IFCI began to lose ground. DFIs had been created to provide medium- to long-term credit for industrial projects, and supplement commercial banks’ offering of short-term credit for working capital.


Initially, the government made low-cost capital available for DFIs, but withdrew subsidized funding in the early 1990s, leaving DFIs to rely on capital markets to raise funds. Further, a significant chunk of their loans to projects in the steel, textiles and basic chemicals sectors, among others, began to experience delays and cost escalations, turning loans into NPAs, as this Hindu Business Line report from January 2002 explains.


When DFIs consequently hiked their lending rates, they became uncompetitive against commercial banks that were now rapidly increasing their long-term portfolios as post-liberalization reforms had opened up the banking sector to private and foreign players.


“Since 2002 commercial banks started lending more long-term loans compared to earlier when the bulk of their lending was short-term–working capital and trade credits,” Pronab Sen, country director for the India programme of the International Growth Centre, a New Delhi-based think-tank, told IndiaSpend. “In 2002, short-term credit accounted for 73% of bank loans–this is down to 45% now.”


As of March 2016, medium- and long-term loans had touched almost 50% of total loan portfolio, according to this Hindu Business Line report from April 2017.


Share of corporate bad loans rose 67% after 2010-11


The share of non-priority NPAs in public banks rose from less than half in 2011 (45.9%) to greater than 3/4th (76.7%) of total NPAs in 2016. Meanwhile, the share of priority sector NPAs shrank by more than 55% (thanks to the growth of non-priority sector NPAs) from 53.8% in 2011 to 23.3% in 2016.


Source: Reserve Bank of India


Infrastructure lending is also implicated as a major culprit in this Economic & Political Weekly (EPW) report from March 2017, which says banks tried to push these loans in an attempt to stymie the effects of the 2008 global economic crisis.


As the regulator, the RBI relaxed income-recognition norms and allowed banks to restructure firms’ loans instead of allowing these to turn into NPAs. “This made it easier for already over-leveraged [or financially over-burdened] companies to borrow more,” the EPW report said. Between 2010 and 2012, the borrowing capacity of these companies further grew while their underlying financial situation worsened. By 2011, the Indian economy officially entered into a recession as demand started to slow down.


“From the dramatic growth years of the 2003-08 period, real GDP growth rate during 2011-13 slowed down to 6%. New projects failed to take off due to the lack of government approvals and projects that had received credit during the credit boom period got stalled owing to the general slowing down of the economy. The problem was especially acute in the infrastructure sector. This led to a fresh wave of NPAs, especially in sectors such as infrastructure, steel, metals, textiles, etc,” the EPW report said.


In 2016, fraud NPAs accounted for 7.15% of all NPAs


Commercial banks had enhanced lending for long-gestation projects even as they had little expertise or experience in assessing such projects’ creditworthiness.


As a result, data showed that 7.15% of total gross NPAs as on March 2016 constituted fraud, as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley admitted in a reply to the Lok Sabha in 2016.


“This is even an greater worry [than the growth of NPAs or write-offs] because it directly reflects that risk assessment is not strong and it’s not the external environment but lacunae in the systems that has led to this,” Sabnavis of the credit rating agency said.


Since 2013, recovery of bad loans has dropped 53%


While NPAs and write-offs have leaped ahead unchecked, bad loan recovery has failed to keep pace. Since 2013, NPA recoveries have halved from 22% in 2013 to 10.3% in 2016, RBI data show. Recovery dropped from 18.4% in 2014 to 12.4% in 2016.


The government has advised banks to act against guarantors of defaulting borrowers under relevant sections of the Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (SARFAESI) Act, 2002, and other laws such as the Indian Contract Act, 1872,and Recovery of Debts due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993, etc., Jaitley said in his 2016 Lok Sabha response.


Of the 4.6 million cases referred to various recovery channels, RBI data show, 95.7% were referred to the alternative dispute resolution forums of Lok Adalats; 3.7% for prosecution under the SARFAESI Act, 2002, which allows banks and other financial institutions to auction properties to recover loans; and 0.5% to Debt Recovery Tribunals (DRTs), which work expressly to recover banks’ and other financial institutions’ debts.


While the number of cases referred to these channels has risen over four-fold since 2013, actual recovery has dropped by nearly half (44%) since 2015, data show.


Gross NPAs Recovered Through Various Channels
Year Recovery Channel Lok Adalats DRTs SARFAESI Act Total
2012-13 No. of cases referred 840,691 13,408 190,537 1,044,636
Amount involved 66 310 681 1,057
Amount recovered* 4 44 185 233
Amount recovered (In %) 6.1 14.2 27.2 22
2013-14 No. of cases referred 1,636,957 28,258 194,707 1,859,922
Amount involved 232 553 953 1,738
Amount recovered* 14 53 253 320
Amount recovered (In %) 6 9.6 26.6 18.4
2014-15 No. of cases referred 2,958,313 22,004 175,355 3,155,672
Amount involved 310 604 1,568 2,482
Amount recovered* 10 42 256 308
Amount recovered (In %) 3.2 7 16.3 12.4
2015-16 No. of cases referred 4,456,634 24,537 173,582 4,654,753
Amount involved 720 693 801 2,214
Amount recovered* 32 64 132 228
Amount recovered (In %) 4.4 9.2 16.5 10.3

Source: Reserve Bank of India


Bad loan recovery under the SARFAESI Act–which accounted for the most money recovered–witnessed the biggest decline, of 40% between 2015 and 2016. Though loan recovery through Lok Adalats and DRTs picked up in 2016, the loans recovered in 2016 are still lower in value than the recovery in 2013.


In 2015-16, banks recovered Rs 22,800 crore of NPAs, lower than the amount recovered in 2013-14 (Rs 23,300), RBI data show.


Corporate NPAs v. farm loans waivers


Besides recovering NPAs through these channels, Jaitley also said the government and the RBI have undertaken measures such as setting up a joint lenders’ forum, a strategic debt restructuring scheme and a scheme for strategic structuring of stressed assets to resolve bad loans.


However, these measures appear to undo the work of the RBI’s asset quality review undertaken in 2015. Debt restructuring merely helps banks brush NPAs under the carpet, experts told IndiaSpend.


“Treating them [non-priority NPAs] as restructured assets where you increase the repayment periods and lower the interest rates delayed the inevitable. They should’ve been recognized earlier itself,” said Sabnavis. “‘This evergreening’ of stressed assets–giving a new loan to pay off the earlier loan–is common practice. The RBI is trying to prevent this from happening,” Sen from the India programme of the International Growth Centre told IndiaSpend.


Although the government appears eager to give non-priority sector corporate borrowers some leeway in repayment, it is quite likely to give into loan waiver demands, as IndiaSpend reported on June 15, 2017.


While corporates have assets to use as collateral for more borrowings, farmers–85% of whom are small and marginal–are too poor to qualify for more loans. Further, experts reason, the central government bears the responsibility for NPA resolution and state governments for loan waivers.


“Farm loans do have special features such as a six-month servicing period compared to three months for other sectors and in the case of natural disasters the loans are rolled over for a period of upto three years,” Sen told IndiaSpend.


But these are not blanket provisions, he explains in this report published in Mint on June 23, 2017. The measures are only applicable to farmers of officially designated ‘affected districts.’ The provision was already invoked in 2014 and 2015 in Maharashtra when the region witnessed drought, alleviating distress somewhat.


“The year 2016-17 is different. There was no drought or any other natural calamity. The farmers’ problems are almost entirely the outcome of demonetization… practically all farmers have suffered, and there has been no rolling over of their loans. As a consequence, farmers across the country have to either agitate or face the prospect of default,” Sen wrote. “While waivers absolve the farmer of all liability, defaults entail serious consequences such as loss of collateral, if any, and loss of access to future bank loans.”


Last week, after reporting a spike in its own NPAs “due to farm loan waivers,” HDFC Bank warned that lenders may discontinue fresh loans to the agriculture sector, The Economic Times reported on July 28, 2017.


“Banks are likely to see increase in NPAs in the agriculture sector and a general worsening of credit culture… Loan waivers are likely to also impact the supply of credit as fresh lending to the agriculture sector could dry up,” the bank’s economists said in a note.


To be sure, waivers come with the imminent possibility of ‘errors of inclusion’–even those farmers who do not need a waiver get it–making it an expensive prospect for the state exchequer, as the HDFC economists pointed out in their note.


However, defaulting on farm loans exposes the sector that employs 56% of India’s workforce to a heavy penalty. It may force the most distressed and the most vulnerable out of access to formal credit and possibly out of farming as well, Sen told IndiaSpend.


So should lenders waive farm loans? Or should they “restructure” non-priority sector NPAs? “The main consideration here is [that] a lot of the non-priority NPAs are large and valued customers of the banks, who also have considerable political clout,” Sen told IndiaSpend.


Non-performing asset or bad loan: An asset, including a leased asset, that ceases to generate income for the lender

Restructuring: When a lender grants concessions to the borrower to avoid a default. Restructuring can involve alteration of repayment period or amount, change of the amount or number of installments, and lowering of the rate of interest.


Correction: An earlier version of the story said that the banks’ write-offs of non-performing assets jumped 85% between 2006 and 2016. The correct datum is that the write-offs jumped 576.7% from Rs 8,799 crore in 2006 to Rs 59,547 crore in 2016. We regret the error.


(Saldanha is an assistant editor with IndiaSpend.)

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“I’m 60 Years Old But I Wasn’t Spared Either”: Jewar Rape Survivor

On 25 May, eight members of a family were waylaid while they were on their way to Bulandshahr in UP. One man was killed and four women of the family were raped.
On 25 May, eight members of a family were waylaid while they were on their way to Bulandshahr in UP. One man was killed and four women of the family were raped(Photo: The Quint)

Cameraperson: Shiv Kumar Maurya
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam

On 25 May, eight members of a family were waylaid while they were on their way to Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh. One man was killed, and four women of the family were raped. The brutality of the violence stunned the nation.

Months after the incident, the family says the memory of that horrific night won’t let them live in peace. They say they are terrified that the accused will hunt them down and kill them.

I am 60 years old and they didn’t even spare me. People won’t let me step out of the home. They keep asking about it, can you imagine the shame?

 Rape Survivor

The Fateful Night of 25 May

The women cringed as they recalled the attack. Eight members of the family – four men and four women – were travelling from Jewar to Bulandshahr for a medical emergency on 25 May. It was around midnight when they stopped to fix a flat tyre. Before they knew it, a group of six armed men of the Bawariya gang surrounded the car.

They put guns to our heads. My brother had money on him, he was robbed and beaten up. Then they took us into the farms to rape us.

Rape Survivor 1

The abductors ripped the dupattas off the women and used it to tie the hands of the men. They then raped the women, one after the other.

When one of the men tried to stop them, the accused shot him. He later succumbed to his injuries. His wife, a rape survivor, has been in mourning ever since the incident. As is tradition in her community, widows refrain from meeting males other than their children, during the four-month mourning period that she is now in.

She broke down as she told The Quint that she did not know how to care for her seven children.

My husband asked the men, ‘Don’t you have sisters and daughters in your families?’ He didn’t say anything else. They shot him for that. They took away all his money. They took everything away from us.

 Rape Survivor 2

The UP government gave the family Rs 5 lakh as compensation. The state has also promised free education for children – a promise that has not yet been fulfilled.

One of the survivors says that the amount means nothing for a family that has lost its sole breadwinner.

I have 7 children. I have lost my husband. I have no house to live in. How do I even get food for my children? I don’t have money to even feed them milk. I give them tea instead.

 Rape Survivor 2

“What If They Attack Us Again?”

Four men of the Bawariya gang have been arrested in connection with the crime. Two of the accused, however, are still on the run. The family says they are worried that the other members of the gang may hunt them down.

We are scared. We are unable to sleep, day or night. We don’t know when those gangsters might attack us again.

 Rape Survivor 2

The family no longer steps out of their home. And when they do, they do so only in groups. The children do not go to school. It has been two months since they’ve left the house.

One of the women said that the family also tried to commit suicide.

We poured oil on ourselves to try and end it. When we go out, people point and say that we’re the ones who got raped. It’s been two months and two days, and we haven’t stepped out of our house out of shame.

 Rape Survivor 3

Life will never be the same for the family. One brother was killed in an accident a few years ago, while another breathed his last on the night of 25 May when he was shot. The sole surviving brother is old, and unable to carry on the family’s scrap-dealing business.

Together, the family has 20 children who need to be cared for. But the third brother, whose wife was raped, says he is too afraid to leave home.

Ever since this happened, we have been unable to work. We could be targeted again.

Rape Survivor’s Husband

When asked about why he thought his family would be targeted again, he said that he feared for their lives because they were witnesses to the crime.

The family blames the UP police for failing to come to their aid. None of this would have happened if the police had responded on time, they allege. “My brother would have been alive had the police reached on time,” one of the rape survivors said.

Police reached two and a half hours late. Had they been on time, we wouldn’t have been raped and my brother would have been alive.

 Rape Survivor 1

The family has moved the court seeking gun licences for personal safety. “We want to kill those rapists, we want to punish them with our own hands,” one of the rape survivors said, as she broke down.

The family is now fighting a two-pronged battle. One, in the courts as they fight for justice. The other, a fight for survival.

(We all love to express ourselves, but how often do we do it in our mother tongue? Here’s your chance! This Independence Day, khul ke bol with BOL – Love your Bhasha. Sing, write, perform, spew poetry – whatever you like – in your mother tongue. Send us your BOL at [email protected] or WhatsApp it to 9910181818.)

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Dalit’s struggle for social justice

Image result for Dalit’s struggle for social justice

Ram Puniyani


This July (2017) a large procession of dalits was arrested while they were taking out the Azadi Kooch under the banner of Rashtriya dalit Adhikar Manch (National Forum for Dalit Rights). The march was to commemorate one year of Una flogging on the issue of Holy Cow. Since then young leader Jignesh Mevani with others has been trying to organize the oppressed people under Dalit Atyachar Ladhat Samiti (Committee to fight against atrocities against Dalits), with the slogan “Give us land-you keep Cow’s Tale”. They had first refused to dispose of dead cattle. Many a carcass was put in front of collector’s offices. The demand emerged from the movement that they want land for their dignified survival.

As such this movement comes as a big landmark of the depressed castes for their dignified survival. While the condition of dalits had been partly improving after independence, the betterment has been taking place at the snail’s pace. There are various obstacles to this process of transition, the failure of dalit leadership being the major one. During last few years we have seen the rise of atrocities against dalits, with the Government in power that aims at Hindu nation. At places, upper caste has become more assertive as seen in the Saharanpur violence. Here the upper caste Thakurs stopped the installation of Ambedkar statue, leading to oppression of this group, who in turn said that they will convert to Buddhism.

While manual scavenging persists, condition of workers involved in cleaning continues to stagnate or worsen, the Swatchta Abhiyan (Cleanliness Campaign) comes more as a photo op opportunity rather than the real effort to address deeper causes of lack of cleanliness, for which apart from poverty, the caste culture, where a section of community is supposed to take care of cleaning, is the major factor. With the present Government coming to power the suppression of dalit aspirations is hitting the roof. The incidents of banning Periyar Study Circle in IIT Madras and the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula are just the reflections of the state response to the efforts of dalits for enhancement of their social and economic conditions.

It is in this backdrop that the issue of cow-beef has been whipped up to create social divisions for consolidation of the sectarian politics. While the Muslims are the overt and obvious victims of this campaign, dalits and large section of poor farmers have also suffered a lot. The incident of Una may be a tip of the iceberg. It is this incident which brought to fore the latent discontent of dalits to an overt and strong fashion. As such after Rohith Vemula’s death, the discontent started building up overtly. The traditional dalit leadership did not have time to take up the issue. It was around Rohith Vemula issue that raising the issues of caste oppression was labeled as ‘anti national’. Now the newer and young leadership has come forward and is asserting to build and lead this campaign into a higher level of resistance against the age old caste system.

Jotirao Phule and Ambedkar were the pioneers of the movement which strove for equality at social and political level. Equality got enshrined into Indian Constitution. The reservations did give a lift for these communities, but that has not been a panacea. With the rise of Indian state, public education system and public sector enterprises, dalits benefitted a lot and did come to a level where the march towards equal society found its base. From the decade of 1980s the efforts are on to undermine this process by bringing to fore the issues related to identity, like Ram Temple, Holy Cow, Ghar Wapasi, love Jihad and so on. The implementation of Mandal Commission was also seen as a big challenge to caste structure and in response the Ram Temple movement was brought up with bigger intensity. In the din of such issues the core issues of social transformation have been shifted to the margins of society.

The efforts of Hindu nationalist politics have boosted the identity politics. They have also co-opted the likes of Udit Raj, Ram Vilas Paswan and Ramdas Athwaley. Those who were looked up to lead got lured to the power and have cultivated convenient arguments to cozy up Hindu Nationalism. To add to this tribe of dalit leadership, now Ramnath Kovind, a RSS trained dalit has been made the President of India! Due to the clever process of social engineering; a large section of dalits have been mobilized to become the part of rightwing campaigns, to the extent of being the foot soldiers of Hindu nationalism. At the same time the dalit icons have been manipulated to give them a right wing tilt.

At social level organizations like Samajik Samrasta Manch have played the role of promoting liaison between castes. Here the explanation of caste is manipulated to show that caste inequality is due to Muslim invaders. This type of understanding totally negates Ambedkar’s ideology. As per Ambedkar the caste system is due to the Hindu scriptures, which have been here much before the Muslims came in. In Ambedkar’s scheme of things caste annihilation is the core around which dalits politics should revolve. So today on one side Ambedkar’s annihilation of caste, goal of Samta (Equality) is being sidetracked by the Hindutva ideology’s Samrasta (Social Liaison). This has been the trajectory of dalit movement, where the quest of dalits politics for equality has been cleverly bypassed.

The newer campaigns and movements, post murder of Rohith Vemula and post Una hold a big promise for bringing back dalit politics on the rails, these movements are picking up the threads of Phule-Ambedkar scheme of things to work towards annihilation of caste. In this newer mode of campaign, the movement is not just aspiring for identity issues and age old Reservations but is trying to articulate the material aspiration of dalits in the form of land rights and related issues, something which has been forgotten for last quite some time.

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Aadhaar Crime Bomb

Aadhaar Crime Bomb

Above: Access to basic services like health and education will also be determined by biometric scans.

The government’s decision to link these vital numbers to bank accounts could trigger a wave of economic offences. It is time this decision that threatens the banking system is reviewed

~By Ajith Pillai

Is India sitting on an Aadhaar crime bomb that will soon begin ticking? Imagine a scenario where money is transferred from your account into another or vice versa by an unknown entity without your knowledge; when your fingerprint is placed at a scene of a serious crime to implicate you; when criminals track virtually all your activities and plot their next move; when foreign funds are transferred into your bank with devious intent and you find your account blocked pending investigations into your mysterious source of foreign monies…. All this and much more is very much in the realm of possibility thanks to your 12-digit Aadhaar number.

And to speed us on the risk-prone biometric highway is the June 1, 2017 notification (No2/F. No P. 12011/11/2016-Es Cell-DOR) of the Department of Revenue under the Finance Ministry which makes it compulsory for account holders to link their accounts with their PAN and Aadhaar numbers before December 31. 2017. Companies too will have to submit the same identification numbers to the banks, of their board members or those who have been authorised to transact business on their behalf.

Many cyber security experts are of the view that the Unique Identification (UID) programme, launched in 2010, has evolved dangerously and will become a veritable password for those indulging in a range of cyber-related crimes. At the receiving end will be ordinary Indians who now have to furnish the number for virtually every activity of their daily life—from buying a cellphone to opening a bank account.

Illustration: Anthony Lawrence
Illustration: Anthony Lawrence

To them, and to a sizeable section in the police, cyber-crime is an alien concept and the government’s reluctance to accept glitches in the UID programme has not helped. But despite all the apprehensions and a clutch of pending petitions in the Supreme Court relating to the validity of the scheme and privacy concerns, the government has been doggedly pushing ahead with ushering in a biometric revolution of the kind the world has hitherto not seen.

Initially meant to provide an identity for the poor and to ensure that there are no leakages in money transfers under various welfare schemes, the Aadhaar net has been widened to encompass virtually every aspect of life. School admissions, mid-day meal schemes, driving licences, pensions, income tax payments, rail and air tickets and soon, opening a bank account or maintaining one, will require the person’s Aadhaar number.

And each time one shares a number with a new agency/service platform, the number of points from which personal data can be accessed by undesirable elements multiplies. And once the data thief gains access to the data, which includes facial image, image of the iris and fingerprints, he can access the respective bank account because it will be linked to the Aadhaar card.

A copy of a fingerprint is all that will be required to effect transfers or payments into another account using the Bhim app or a point of sale (POS) machine which requires only a fingerprint as proof and bypasses the need to swipe a debit or credit card. The Bhim app, introduced to facilitate cashless transfers by the unlettered, necessitated the need to link UID numbers and data to banks. Now the government has mandated that all accounts holders must also be linked through Aadhaar.

Then PM Manmohan Singh and Congress leader Sonia Gandhi launching the Aadhaar number in Nandurbar, Maharashtra, in 2010. Photo: PIB
Then PM Manmohan Singh and Congress leader Sonia Gandhi launching the Aadhaar number in Nandurbar, Maharashtra, in 2010. Photo: PIB

This gives a different dimension to data theft as it can facilitate serious financial fraud. It is no longer just about big corporations mining data to size up your credit rating or spending patterns to focus and target their marketing efforts. Neither is it about the CIA keeping a tab on India’s demographics. What we are talking about is an invasion of privacy which may come with a huge criminal quotient and could impact every citizen.

The dividends from data mining are so huge and the implications so varied that this has already begun. It will not be long before the crimes start. Here are some pointers which also reveal how data is not secure with the government:

  • On February15, 2017, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) which is mandated to implement the Aadhaar scheme reportedly filed cases against employees of Axis Bank, Suvidha Infoserve and e-Mudhra for attempting unauthorised authentication and impersonation by illegally storing Aadhaar biometrics. The security breach came to light after 397 fake biometric transactions were carried out in five days of February.
  • On February 18, the Hindi news daily Dainik Bhaskarreported the arrest of six salespersons of telecommunications service provider Reliance Jio in Madhya Pradesh for selling SIM cards at inflated prices by using the Aadhaar data and fingerprint scans of other customers.
  • In April this year, the Aadhaar details of one lakh pensioners in Jharkhand who had seeded their UID numbers to bank accounts was freely available on the website of the Jharkhand Directorate of Social Security. A few days later, a leading national daily found that “secured” data was available on the websites of a scholarship database in UP; the PDS website of the Chandigarh administration; a pensioners’ listing in Kerala and the Swachh Bharat Mission.
  • A report released in May 2017 by the Centre for Internet and Society, a Bangalore-based organisation looking at multi-disciplinary research and advocacy in internet use, reveals that in the past few months, data of 13.6 lakh citizens was leaked from four major government data bases, including the portals of NREGA and National Social Assistance Programme.
  • A note generated on March 25 by an official of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology accessed by the New Indian Express, confirmed that biometric data was not secure. “There have been instances wherein personal identity or information of residents, including Aadhaar number and demographic information and other sensitive personal data such as bank account details etc. collected by various Ministries/Departments… has been reportedly published online and is accessible through an easy online search,” said the note displayed on the front page of the newspaper. The same ministry on March 5 had issued a statement that the Aadhaar data was absolutely secure.

The financial misuse of data has not been lost on experts. Sunil Abraham, executive director of CIS, has been quoted as saying: “Biometrics is an inappropriate technology for financial services. Linking Aadhaar, which has your biometric data, with bank accounts makes you a lot more vulnerable to financial frauds than before. Your fingerprint can easily be collected at a restaurant or any other public place and can be used to steal your identity and commit frauds. The government needs to rethink its use for Aadhaar as it will impact over a billion people.”

The Foreign Hand

In 2010-2012, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) awarded contracts for biometric profiling to three US-based Biometric Solution Providers (BSPs). These were—L-1 Identity Solutions, Morpho-Safran, and Accenture Services Pvt. Ltd. All three reportedly have business contracts with US, British and French intelligence agencies. There are also reports in the international media of former intelligence operatives in the employment of these companies and their subsidiaries.

The companies, as per the contract, were given Rs 20 crore each by UIDAI for their services. The charges paid per card was Rs 2.75.

This money went to foreign companies. The UID programme was not an indigenous effort as claimed by Nandan Nilekani, chairman of the UIDAI, when it was launched and the contracts with the foreign companies were signed.

The UIDAI has often made statements that the data collected is encrypted and inaccessible to the BSPs. But the contract with the three companies, accessed by an RTI activist, shows that they had access to unencrypted biometric data. As part of their contract, these BSPs had to weed out duplicate applications. This involved comparing the biometric data of all applicants which necessitated access to it.

It is not known whether the mass of biometric data was copied and stored abroad or sold. But given the demand for data, the possibility of this having happened cannot be ruled out. Also, one cannot say with certainty that it will not be put to use in future by intelligence agencies or exploited by corporates.

Clause 4.1.1 of Annexure ‘E’ of the contract admits that demographic data is inaccurate. Despite RTI requests, UIDAI has refused to provide Annexures ‘I’, ‘J’ and ‘K’ of its contracts with Biometric Solution Providers. It has even refused to comply with the orders to do so by the Chief Information Commissioner, citing security reasons. These annexures give the technical bids of the contractors which would specify the limitations.

Prashant Pandey, who knows a thing or two about cyber security and was the whistle-blower in the Vyapam scam, fears that the linking of Aadhaar cards to bank accounts could lead to serious frauds. He told India Legal: “Just imagine a trickster operating from outside India with leaked Aadhaar database and hundreds of POS machines with the biometric payment system, Bhim. He can pull money out from bank accounts to an anonymous destination abroad. The possibilities are immense unless security is tightened and data secured.”

Professor Anupam Saraph, an expert in governance of complex systems, describes the linking of Aadhaar to bank accounts as a move which will “enable benami bank accounts and scale benami transactions to destroy the Indian economy along with the Indian banking system”.

“The Aadhaar number is for all residents in India. It cannot hence, serve as ID for Indian citizens. It is not an ID card, but a number in a database. Every time people have to be identified, identification is needed by scanning biometrics from the UIDAI database, which is impractical.”

—Colonel Thomas Mathew, anti-Aadhaar campaigner

In his blog, Saraph lists several reasons why he feels the Aadhaar-bank account linking is dangerous. Innocent account holders, he notes, will find their UID numbers being used as “mules for money laundering”. Or their payments under government schemes easily compromised by tricksters. Worse, they can be “framed for economic offences” if someone deliberately transfers illegal money into their accounts. This, in turn, would lead to harassment and accounts being frozen pending investigation.

But how can fingerprints be copied and misused? Pandey pointed to the example of the Vyapam entrance examination scam for MBBS in Madhya Pradesh. Here, qualified persons fronted for the real candidates and wrote the exam on their behalf despite fingerprint scanners being used before allowing access into the examination hall. How were the scanners fooled? “The fake candidates merely copied the fingerprints of the real candidates on a silicon film and wore it on their thumb. This happened in not one or two cases but in several hundreds of them. What happened in Vyapam is proof of how unreliable fingerprint identification is,” he said.

Inforgraphic: Amitava Sen

Fingerprints from the Aadhaar database, once accessed, can easily be copied and used to implicate someone in a crime. Pandey believes it is a real possibility. “Your fingerprint can be placed at the scene of a crime by vested interests who can frame you with the help of the police. The prospect of misuse is frightening,” he said. Pandey hopes to demonstrate how Aadhaar data can be misused before the apex court.

Noted human rights activist and senior Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaising said that privacy concerns are not to be taken lightly. She told India Legal: “As a citizen, why should I surrender all my personal details to the government so that it can be misused against me? Why should people know which hospital I go to or which school my child attends? Why should they know where I am travelling to or on which airline I have booked my tickets? Once all my activities can be mapped, the information can be used to perpetrate a crime against me. Why should I allow that?”

However, those who endorse the UID scheme brush aside privacy concerns by saying that such apprehensions reside only in the minds of those who are involved in illegal activity or have unaccounted wealth and would not like their bank transactions to be monitored. However, what is missed out is that there are already enough ways to keep tabs and there is no need to store personal data which can easily be stolen. “As for Aadhaar providing biometric proof of identity, the less said the better,” said Colonel Thomas Mathew, a Bangalore resident and one of the first to file a civil suit in the apex court against Aadhaar.

“The UID/Aadhaar number is for all residents in India (who could also be outsiders on an extended visa). It cannot hence, serve as an ID for Indian citizens. It is not an ID card, but a number in a database. The UID scheme envisages that people would be identified every time identification is needed, by scanning biometrics and querying the UIDAI database. This is impractical. UIDAI itself admits that demographic data is inaccurate. If demographic data is unreliable, UID cannot be proof of ID,” Mathew told India Legal.

As for the fallibility of biometric data, he quotes the 2010 study titled “Biometric Recognition—Challenges and Opportunities” by four US national academies—the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council.

The first principal finding of the research was that “biometric recognition is inherently probabilistic and hence, inherently fallible”. According to estimates, under field conditions, the false matches are 1 in 16.

Added Mathew: “The actual number of false matches is even more—1 in 10. This fact is known from an ignorant, inadvertent admission of UIDAI in its counter-affidavit to my writ petition in which it stated that 80 million fake/ duplicate enrolments were detected (at a time when about 800 million enrolments were done). So, mathematical prediction is proved by ground reality data.”

Even in the Madrid train bombings case of 2004, fingerprints taken at the scene of the crime matched those of 20 people in the FBI database. When even the limited data bank of criminals with the FBI is fallible, imagine the probability of error when the entire population of a country as vast as India is involved.

Ahead of the 2014 general elections, the BJP had opposed the UID programme. In fact, Mathew was invited to make a presentation against Aadhaar before a BJP Parliamentary Party presided by LK Advani. The unanimous view then was that Aadhaar was a security risk and must be vehemently opposed. But things changed after the BJP came to power. Notes Mathew: “The party has done a complete ‘U’ turn without giving any reasons.”

In the final analysis, before the nation heads towards a total Aadhaar regime, it is perhaps time for the government to reassess the entire UID programme to plug the inherent security lapses. Also, it must not promote its use as proof of identity. It was only last month that the Union home ministry issued a communiqué: “Aadhaar (UID) card is not an acceptable travel document for travel to Nepal/Bhutan.” A valid national passport or election ID card issued by the Election Commission would however serve as proof.

Therein lies the harsh reality and identity crisis…

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India’s Nuclear Graveyard- Jadugoda

Haunting images show the devastating

effects of uranium mining in Jadugoda

For years, the local population has suffered from the extensive environmental degradation caused by mining operations, responsible for the high frequency of radiation related sicknesses and developmental disorders found in the area. Increases in miscarriages, impotency, infant mortality, Down’s syndrome, skeletal deformities, thalassemia have been reported. With raw radioactive ‘yellow-cake’ production to increase and more than 100,000 tons of radio-active waste stored at Jadugoda the threat to the local tribal communities is set to continue.

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The Ten Avatars of Indian Corruption

Image result for The Ten Avatars of Indian Corruption

NEW DELHI: It is an emotionally loaded term like ‘faith’, ‘nationalism’ and ‘family’, that is often used by the middle-classes to provoke strong feelings of anger and disgust against politicians. And yet on closer scrutiny the phrase ‘corruption’ turns out to be a fuzzy concept, that fails to capture how power and injustice really operate in human societies.

In its popular interpretation, ‘corruption’ refers to the way rules are bent or power misused to gain access to resources and accumulate wealth. Typically, those targeted as ‘corrupt’ include politicians, bureaucrats, police or anyone who works for the modern state machinery, though businessmen are also recognized as the drivers of corruption. Many claim that everything will be well in a country if only ‘corruption’ were to be rooted out.

However, the version of ‘corruption’ as ‘violation of law’ has nothing to say about the many other ways in which assets are accessed or acquired disproportionately, due to the special advantages derived by some people based on their identities, professions, social/cultural background and other historical factors. In most of these cases it is the law itself that facilitates and protects the breaking of ethical and moral principles like equal opportunity, no double standards and compassion for the weak.

One simple example of this phenomenon historically, is the way colonialism operated around the world – whereby several European nations forcibly occupied and systematically looted resources from Asia, Africa and Latin America for several centuries. Since they were the ones in the seat of power they made laws that whitewashed the fact they were simply stealing other people’s goods. The poverty and misery they created not just killed millions but left the colonized countries – including India- debilitated for decades.

Since the end of colonialism around half a century ago none of the colonized countries have been compensated in any way for the theft of property, lives, resources of their citizens. Instead, what the world witnesses regularly is that sordid spectacle of former colonizers pretending to be the only ones who uphold ‘rule of law’ and the former colonies as being run by ‘lawless’, ‘corrupt’ regimes. The motto seems to be ‘No one is allowed to break the law once WE have finished OUR looting’!

It is indeed a fact that the greatest concentrations of wealth in modern times have also happened with the aid of new laws that are designed to enrich those who lobbied for them in the first place. A good example of this are the ‘intellectual property laws’ framed by Western nations and rammed down the throats of their former colonies, resulting in massive transfers of wealth away from poorer countries to the already rich ones. Microsoft and its owner Bill Gates could not have become the wealthiest entities in the world without such laws.

In the Indian context itself, there are at least ten ‘avatars’ of corruption around that hardly get any attention despite the fact they have helped make a tiny section of the country’s population very rich or make some sections of the population highly privileged. Here is the list, by no means exhaustive, but illustrating the different shapes and sizes in which ‘corruption’ happens in real, day-to-day life.

1) Caste: This is the oldest form of corruption in the Indian sub-continent and one that continues to this day- the historical hegemony of the ‘upper’ castes over the ‘lower’ ones. In traditional India laws were always discriminatory in content, prescribing as they did different kinds of punishment to people from different rungs of the caste ladder for the same crime. It is common in many parts of India for a savarna to go scot-free after murdering a Dalit, while the latter can be lynched for even skinning a dead cow. People of the same caste favour each other over members of other castes all the time in different sectors of Indian life from government and business to sports and even crime. The domination of Bollywood by the upper castes is easily evident from the simple fact that the hero of every movie is either a Singh, Sharma or a Verma and almost never an Ahir, Topno, Pramanik or Sutar. For that matter, there are very few in the English and Hindi language media too with such non-savarna surnames.

2) Class: Money power has become the biggest bender of established rules in India as the wealthy get away with almost anything and everything from evading taxes and stealing common resources to changing national policies to suit their personal or business interests. Across political parties today members of parliament have become puppets of different big Indian and even foreign corporations and act against the interests of the ordinary Indian people. Even more than the politicians, who are mostly middlemen, it is the Tatas, Ambanis, Adanis and Mittals who wield real power in India and are the ultimate ‘lawmakers’.

The distortion of priorities, principles and institutional processes due to the exercise of money power is obvious, but don’t expect most politicians to ever ever say, ‘I will not shake hands with Mukesh Ambani, because he might try to grease my palm!’

3) Race: When Arogya Bharati, a RSS-affiliated outfit in Bengal recently announced it has the secret formula to help produce babies with ‘fair complexion’ the ‘white supremacist’ mindset of the forces that are in political power in India today was amply evident. Racism of skin color and looks is deeply rooted in a lot of Indian society and is a constant source of discrimination in not just public behavior but also national policy and politics. What else, if not racism, could be the reason that every depiction of ‘Bharat Mata’ be of a fair skinned Aryan looking lady with pink lips and not one with dark skin or curly hair or non-savarna looks?

4) Gender: The ratio of women to men in the Indian population has been steadily falling in many parts of the country as a silent genocide takes place every hour with parents willfully killing off their girl children. According to the UNICEF fetal sex determination and sex selective abortion by unethical medical professionals has today grown into a Rs. 1,000 crore industry. Women get routinely discriminated against in job selection, the wages they get and the public and domestic violence they are subjected to. Denying women their equal rights is a form of corruption that not only violates the right to equality enshrined in the Indian Constitution but also basic human principles.

5) Nepotism : This is the most widespread form of corruption in the Indian context with not just politicians but film stars and cricketers promoting their kids over other more competent candidates all the time. Power, wealth, beauty, talent almost everything it seems can be ‘inherited’ without any effort and leads to the accumulation of undue influence in the same few families. The most glaring form of nepotism is practiced by family run business houses of India where, irrespective of their competence or ability, the reins of control keep passing on from father to son or daughter. If Indians want the country to be run solely on merit and transparent rules then they should insist that the CEOs of Indian companies be selected on the basis of an all India examination where everyone can compete equally. A severe taxation on inherited property as practiced in the UK and other countries will also go a long way in promoting a truly merit-based society.

6) Urban Bias: Here I am referring to the discrimination against rural Bharat by urban India of course. Despite being home to nearly 60% of India’s population agriculture and allied sector share only 17.32% of India’s GDP. Whether it be in terms of remuneration for their work and produce, investment in infrastructure, job opportunities, healthcare or education the rural Indian is far worse off than the urban one. While hundreds of thousands of farmers have committed suicide due to economic distress over the last couple of decades there has no been serious change in national policies to divert resources back to the countryside. So while the government promotes ‘Smart Cities’, the money to make them happen seems to be coming from ‘Dumb Villages’.

7) Hindi Chauvinism: Forget about the imposition of Hindi on the people of southern India, it turns out that the ‘national language’ is in fact being forced upon the so-called Hindi speaking states. Over a dozen languages like Bhojpuri, Awadhi, Maithili, Rajasthani, Bundelkhandi, Sadri, Chhattisgarhi are given short shrift by the upper caste, urban and middle-class champions of a highly Sanskritised Hindi in the northern Indian states. The lack of educational materials in their mother tongue has resulted in low literacy rates for both children and adults in these parts of India for decades, keeping them at a perpetual disadvantage. In states where the local languages are properly supported and promoted like in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, West Bengal and Gujarat there is much greater literacy and also empowerment of the people. The Indian state favouring Hindi over others is a violation of the principle of equal access to opportunities and a form of systemic corruption that has not been properly addressed as yet in the country.

8) Politics of Education: The open economic and cultural discrimination practiced against the ‘uneducated’ people of India is a form of corruption that most ‘educated’ people don’t even want to recognize because such bias obviously works in their own favour. As a result of this prejudice those with degrees – both real and fake- get paid many, many times more than those who never went through school and are confined to manual work of different kinds. Many well-meaning people think that the solution to poverty is to provide ‘education’ to the masses of India, obfuscating the fact that the ‘uneducated’ need food, clothing, shelter and dignified jobs before anything else.

9) Religious Apartheid: Horrendous as it is, the biggest religious discrimination in India is not really against Muslims, who are at least organized and vocal about their problems, but against the Adivasi populations of the country. Subsumed under the category ‘Hindu’ there is no recognition as yet of their spiritual and religious traditions that are distinct from Brahmanical Hinduism in many, many ways. Several Adivasi groups in recent years have been demanding that the Indian government categorise their faiths as a separate religion called ‘Adi-Dharm’ or ‘Sarna’, a call that has repeatedly fallen on deaf ears. Forcing indigenous people, who form over 10 percent of the Indian population, into a religious identity not of their choice is to deny them their Constitutional right to freedom of religion. Instead of imposing Hindu gods on them and seeking to ‘convert’ them to Hinduism they should be allowed to practice whatever religion they want, derived from their own historical roots.

10) Imprisoned Nations: India, for all its ancient glory and history, is really a new nation forged together by first the Mughals and then the British empire. The latter in particular forced dozens of smaller nationalities to become part of the ‘Raj’, whose territory was inherited by the current Indian Republic. Gandhi, more than anyone else in the Indian freedom movement was sensitive to this and had in fact declared his support for the demand for independence of the Naga people. However, the reduction of the entire idea of Indian nationalism to control over territory and domination over smaller nationalities has been the biggest blot on the record of modern India in the last six decades. It has led to countless killings of innocent people and even crimes against humanity in the name of protecting the ‘integrity’ of the nation and is a corruption of every principle of non-violence and humanism that Gandhi espoused.

So, next time someone waxes eloquent about the evils of ‘corruption’, it may be good to remind them the Lord appears in our land in at least these ten different avatars.

(Satya Sagar is a journalist and public health worker)

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Monsanto ‘Executives Colluding With Corrupted EPA Officials to Manipulate Scientific Data

Just Released Docs Show

By Carey Gillam

Four months after the publication of a batch of internal Monsanto Co. documents stirred international controversy, a new trove of company records was released early Tuesday, providing fresh fuel for a heated global debate over whether or not the agricultural chemical giant suppressed information about the potential dangers of its Roundup herbicide and relied on U.S. regulators for help.

More than 75 documents, including intriguing text messages and discussions about payments to scientists, were posted for public viewing early Tuesday morning by attorneys who are suing Monsanto on behalf of people alleging Roundup caused them or their family members to become ill with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. The attorneys posted the documents, which total more than 700 pages, on the websitefor the law firm Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, one of many firms representing thousands of plaintiffs who are pursuing claims against Monsanto. More than 100 of those lawsuits have been consolidated in multidistrict litigation in federal court in San Francisco, while other similar lawsuits are pending in state courts in Missouri, Delaware, Arizona and elsewhere. The documents, which were obtained through court-ordered discovery in the litigation, are also available as part of a long list of Roundup court case documents compiled by the consumer group I work for, U.S. Right to Know.

It was important to release the documents now because they not only pertain to the ongoing litigation, but also to larger issues of public health and safety, while shedding light on corporate influence over regulatory bodies, according to Baum Hedlund attorneys Brent Wisner and Pedram Esfandiary.

“This is a look behind the curtain,” said Wisner. “These show that Monsanto has deliberately been stopping studies that look bad for them, ghostwriting literature and engaging in a whole host of corporate malfeasance. They [Monsanto] have been telling everybody that these products are safe because regulators have said they are safe, but it turns out that Monsanto has been in bed with U.S. regulators while misleading European regulators.”

Esfandiary said public dissemination of the documents is important because regulatory agencies cannot properly protect public and environmental health without having accurate, comprehensive and impartial scientific data, and the documents show that has not been the case with Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide and the active ingredient glyphosate.

When reached for comment, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers said, “This trove marks a turning point in Monsanto’s corporate life. They show Monsanto executives colluding with corrupted EPA officials to manipulate and bury scientific data to kill studies when preliminary data threatened Monsanto’s commercial ambitions, bribing scientists and ghostwriting their publications, and purchasing peer review to conceal information about Roundup’s carcinogenicity, its toxicity, its rapid absorption by the human body, and its horrendous risks to public health and the environment.”

“We can now prove that all Monsanto’s claims about glyphosate’s safety were myths concocted by amoral propaganda and lobbying teams,” Kennedy continued. “Monsanto has been spinning its lethal yarn to everybody for years and suborning various perjuries from regulators and scientists who have all been lying in concert to American farmers, landscapers and consumers. It’s shocking no matter how jaded you are! These new revelations are commensurate with the documents that brought down big tobacco.”

Several of the document discuss a lack of robust testing of formulated Roundup products. In one email, Monsanto scientist Donna Farmer writes “you cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen … we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement. The testing on the formulations are not anywhere near the level of the active ingredient.”

The release of the documents Tuesday came without the blessing of Judge Vince Chhabria, who is overseeing the multidistrict litigation moving its way through the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In March, Chhabria did agree to unseal several other discovery documents—over Monsanto’s objections—and those documents prompted a wave of outrage for what they revealed: questionable research practices by Monsanto, cozy ties to a top official within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and indications that Monsanto may have engaged in “ghostwriting,” of research studies that appeared to be independent of the company.

The revelations within those documents prompted an investigation by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General into possible Monsanto-EPA collusion, and roiled Europe where regulators now are trying to decide whether or not to reauthorize glyphosate, which is the most widely used herbicide in the world and is found in numerous products in addition to Roundup.

The lawyers said they are sending copies of the documents to European authorities, to the EPA’s OIG and to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), which has been sued by Monsanto for moving to list glyphosate as a known carcinogen

Monsanto has fought to keep most of the documents it turned over in discovery sealed, complaining to Judge Chhabria that in several court filings plaintiffs’ attorneys presented discovery materials out of context and tried to exploit the information to influence public opinion. Chhabria has both chided Monsanto for trying to improperly seal certain documents and warned plaintiffs’ attorneys against unfairly publicizing certain documents. It is unclear how Judge Chhabria will react, if at all, to the law firm’s release of these more than 75 documents.

Baum Hedlund attorneys said they notified Monsanto on June 30 of their intent to unveil the 75+ documents and gave Monsanto the legally required 30-day window to formally object. That period expired Monday, clearing the way for them to make the release early Tuesday, said Wisner.

Concerns about the safety of glyphosate and Roundup have been growing for years amid mounting research showing links to cancer or other diseases. But the lawsuits only began to accumulate after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015 classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. The plaintiffs in the lawsuits allege that the combination of glyphosate with certain surfactants used in Monsanto-branded Roundup products is even more toxic than glyphosate alone, and Monsanto has sought to cover up that information.

Monsanto has publicly denied that there are cancer connections to glyphosate or Roundup and said 40 years of research and scrutiny by regulatory agencies around the world confirm its safety.

Monsanto has made billions of dollars a year for decades from its glyphosate-based herbicides, and they are the linchpin to billions of dollars more it makes each year from the genetically engineered glyphosate-tolerant crops it markets. The company is currently moving toward a planned merger with Bayer AG.

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Statement on Sexual abuse of girls followed by refusal of abortion #Vaw



On 28 July, the case of a 10-year-old girl who became pregnant after being sexually abused by her uncle hit the news in India and around the world.  According to reports, the family approached the district court in Chandigarh for permission for the child to have an abortion in the first part of July. It took until 15 July for a medical board to examine the girl and submit a report on the feasibility of an abortion. Yet the feasibility of an abortion should never have been in question.


To make matters worse, the response of the medical board was clinically inaccurate and anti-abortion. It made doing an abortion appear to be more dangerous than if the child carried the pregnancy to term. And it led the court to refuse the abortion.


An appeal to the Supreme Court of India was filed only on 22 July and yet another medical board was tasked with examining the girl. Again, the medical advice was that termination of pregnancy was not safe either for the girl or the fetus and an abortion was refused.[1] By this time, the girl was believed to be 32 weeks pregnant. However, even at this stage of pregnancy, an abortion is safer than carrying the pregnancy to term because the fetus is 8 weeks smaller than it will be at 40 weeks, substantially smaller.


When a story like this hits the news, other similar stories also find their way into the media. This is currently happening. On 17 July, the Kerala High Court denied abortion to a 12- year- old girl child raped by her 14 –year- old brother and 28 weeks pregnant. The judgement was based on medical advice from the government medical college hospital who advised the judge that medical termination would be more hazardous than carrying the pregnancy to term.


These cases are instructive of why depending on the courts and ad hoc medical opinion can lead to clinically unjustified delay and result in gross injustice.




As many as 20% of girl children (with prevalence ranging from 4% to 37% in the few countries where research has been done) are sexually abused. In many cases the abuse may last for years.[2]

Pregnancy is a not uncommon outcome of rape and sexual abuse of adolescents and adult women, but there is only anecdotal evidence as to the prevalence in children aged 8-14 years. Due to premature development, girls as young as 8 years of age may reach menarche and become pregnant. It is well known that many children do not report existing abuse until there is a crisis. The discovery of pregnancy in a girl child is one such crisis. The child is often too young to understand that she is pregnant. She may report stomach pain and be taken to a doctor, where the pregnancy is discovered. Or an adult notices the child is putting on weight and she is then examined. By then, the pregnancy is usually advanced.


Under such circumstances, abortions are – and should be seen as – legal, because in India abortion is permitted in order to save the life of the woman (and girl child) without the need for seeking the intervention of courts or constituting medical boards for advice. This is because for a child aged 8-14 to have to carry a pregnancy to term constitutes a serious threat to her life. Without exception. Without upper time limits.


Without access to abortion, there are only two options for a pregnant child, both of which carry far more risk than abortion: 1) either a caesarean section to avoid carrying the pregnancy to term, or 2) to give birth from a small body that itself requires many more years of growth and development before being able to deliver a baby safely.


It is the lack of this knowledge or deliberate anti-abortion obfuscation that prevent an abortion taking place in a timely manner.


The result is the existence of child mothers at very young ages. Yet neither the courts nor the doctors have to take responsibility for the consequences when a child gives birth to another child and her family is left to pick up the pieces. This makes the child a victim not once but twice and for the rest of her life.


Denying an abortion is to inflict more violence on the victim of sexual abuse.[3]


Recommendations:  All survivors of sexual abuse and rape should be allowed a legal abortion, especially children


  1. The government should includeinits standards and guidelines for safe abortion permission to provide a safe abortion for everyone who has been raped or sexually abused, inrecognition that the pregnancy constitutes a serious risk to the life, health and mental health of the child and adolescent (as well as the woman), and especially in girls under the age of 18. In recognition that such cases are often reported in the second and third trimester of pregnancy, there should be no legal upper time limit on abortion in these cases. This is inkeeping with the provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013 which provide for right to treatment for sexual abuse survivors, and abortion is an essential component of such treatment.


  1. The discovery of pregnancyina child that has resulted from sexual abuse or rape constitutes a medical emergency. The courts cannot be expected to have the expertise to deliver a legal judgement as to whether an abortion would be clinically safe in an emergency situation. Indeed, the courts should not be involved at all in deciding whether a girl or woman has a legal right to an abortion in these circumstances.

This understanding of the law should be taught in medical education, understood and duly implemented by members of the medical profession responsible for abortion services when such an emergency arises, without delay or debate.


  1. It is not necessary to constitute an ad hoc medical board to examine a girl child or indeed any adolescent girl or woman, to determine whether or not an abortion would be safe. Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures when managed by a trained person and one of the most common. It is always safer than pregnancy.


Pregnancy in a girl under the age of at least 18 is never safe. The uterus is under-developed. The pelvic bones and spine are not large or developed enough to carry the weight of a pregnancy without damage. The cervix and birth canal are far too narrow, and a vaginal delivery would run a serious risk of obstructed labour, a major cause of maternal death, which has killed many young women who fell pregnant at too young an age. A caesarean section in a child also carries far more risk than an induced abortion.


  1. The kind of anti-abortion views expressedinsome of the cases reported, which stop abortions taking place, constitute personal opinions based on private beliefs. They must not be treated as bona fide medical judgment. They have no place in the courts, or in the management of the public health system or in the provision of health and medical care. While individual clinicians and judges have a right to hold their own beliefs, such beliefs should never obstruct or prevent or delay the care that every patient deserves to protect her life and health.


We demand that the 10 year old girl in the case reported and the 13 year old girl in Kerala be given immediate medical attention, with a reconsidered medical opinion that takes into account the special circumstances of pregnancy in these children and its life threatening nature, and all efforts to terminate the pregnancy safely as soon as possible be made.




Subha Sri B, +91 9840260715[email protected]


Sangeeta Rege, +91 9819531698[email protected]


Signed by:


  1. CommonHealth (Coalition for Maternal-neonatal health and safe abortion)
  2. National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights
  3. Jan Swasthya Abhiyan
  4. CEHAT, Mumbai
  5. SAMA, New Delhi
  6. Karnataka Janaarogya Chaluvali
  7. SAMYAK, Pune
  8. SAHAJ, Baroda
  9. T K Sundari Ravindran, RUWSEC, CommonHealth
  10. Subha Sri B, RUWSEC, CommonHealth
  11. Renu Khanna, SAHAJ, CommonHealth
  12. Shweta Narayan, Chennai
  13. Padmini Swaminathan, Hyderabad
  14. Dr Rakhi Ghoshal, Asst. Prof. School of Law, Auro Univ, Surat
  15. Dr. Prashanth N S, Faculty, Institute of Public Health, Bengaluru, Karnataka
  16. Dr. Tanya Seshadri, Independent community health consultant, BR Hills, Karnataka
  17. S. Srinivasan, Baroda
  18. Pallavi Gupta, Independent Public Health Professional
  19. Sunanda Ganju, Baroda
  20. Sulakshana Nandi, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Chattisgarh
  21. Prabir Chatterjee, Raipur
  22. Anu Aaron, Chennai
  23. Dr Sadanand Nadkarni, Mumbai
  24. Dr Sunil Kaul, the ant, Assam
  25. Dr.Bindhulakshmi Pattadath, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
  26. Veena Johari, Mumbai
  27. Nandini Manjrekar, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
  28. Jashodhara Dasgupta, New Delhi
  29. Priya John, CommonHealth
  30. Nilangi Sardeshpande, CommonHealth
  31. Bhuvaneswari Sunil, CommonHealth
  32. Sanjeeta Gawri, CommonHealth
  33. Pawan Kumar, CommonHealth
  34. Sunita V S Bandewar, Forum for Medical Ethics Society, Mumbai; Vidhayak Trust, Pune
  35. Rajalakshmi, Independent researcher, Chennai
  36. Amita Pitre, Mumbai
  37. Amar Jesani, Mumbai
  38. R Srivatsan, Anveshi Research Centre for Women’s Studies, Hyderabad
  39. D Suresh, SOCHARA, Chennai
  40. Ravi Duggal, Mumbai
  41. Anand Pawar, SAMYAK, CommonHealth
  42. Dr Rakhal Gaitonde, Chennai
  43. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Mumbai


[2] Prevalence of sexual violence against children and use of social services – seven countries, 2007-2013. CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, June 5, 2015 / 64(21);565-69.

[3] See Sanchita Sharma. Hindustan Times, 23 July 2017; Subha Sri Balakrishnan,, 29 July 2017; and Times of India, 30 July 2017.


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Demonetisation cat is out of the bag – it was a BLUNDER

The initiative, as per the parliamentary panel report, is a blunder, writes MY Siddiqui
demonetizationA Parliamentary Committee on Demonetisation has submitted its report, which will be tabled during the  of Parliament.

Accordingly, the report calls demonetisation a blunder. Not a single objective has been met, it reportedly says.

Findings of the Committee reveal no major black money was found. It says Finance Ministry accepts that only details of 4,172 crores of suspicious money which could be black. (Prime Minister Modi had predicted 5-7 lakh crores would have been black).

According to the Committee’s findings, demonetisation had no effect on terror funding. Neither cashless nor was less cash society formed as Finance Ministry was projecting. People have shifted back to pre-November 8, 2016, level cash transactions.

In a further revelation, the report says demonetisation killed small scale industries and major unorganised sector. Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh, a trade union affiliate of , has reported a loss of four crore jobs and shut down of over three lakh industrial units. Report has questioned decision making authority and termed all decisions were taken without planning, like size of currencies not planned according to ATMs, 2000 rupees note was brought in without any smaller denomination note to exchange, no considerable amount of currency printed for supply which led to huge rush to banks and ATMs, rules changed on daily basis proved flawed planning. Till date, ATMs remained dry in rural areas.

In a startling revelation, the report says failed demonetisation planning has led to now cut in expenditures of Government on health, education and other vital sectors. Education sector remains most affected as funds have been stopped, fees hiked, and seats decreased for research. Taxes have been increased, interest rates on PPF and other savings scheme reduced.

In view of the foregoing, who will be held responsible for all this Organised Blunder? Who will account for 30,000 plus crores incurred on distribution and all other expenses like advertisements, transportation, extra pay to manpower etc? The question arises who will be held responsible for 180 plus deaths during the whole process?
Will PM Modi account himself before the bar of the people or will Indian democracy continue to be throttled with arbitrary exercise of power by one man government, shorn of collective responsibility? Will Modi go down in the history of  as the first disrupter of its economy by getting away with the aggressive hyper nationalism and any one questioning him as anti-national?

Media euphemistically called “presstitutes” by one of the NDA Government’s Minister, have been warned not to bring the report to light.

Rightly, the former PM Dr Manmohan Singh termed it as “Organised Loot”. One may recall how Dr. Manmohan Singh in answer to a question from media in his last Press Meet as the Prime Minister on January 3, 2014 had said that Modi as Prime Minister will be a “disaster”, which has been proved now with jobless growth, negligible investments from domestic business houses, fudged data on GDP and ever rising social tensions, straining the very idea of  as postulated by its Constitution and the rule of law based democratic system of governance!

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