• stumble
  • youtube
  • linkedin

Archives for : September2017

Rajya Sabha MP Subhash Chandra’s Foul Play With Shell Companies


Rajya Sabha MP and chairman of Essel Group (parent company of Zee Media Ltd) Subhash Chandra is facing serious allegations of defrauding banks of crores of rupees through shell companies.

The Managing Director of Playschool chain ‘Tree House Education’, Rajesh Bhatia has filed an FIR against Subhash Chandra and four others at Mumbai’s Khar Police Station. Bhatia alleges that Subhash Chandra and his associates, using shell companies, took bank loans and transferred the public money to foster Chandra’s personal businesses.

News World India has accessed a copy of the FIR. The FIR alleges that Subhash Chandra’s company ZEE Learn has committed fraud with the government and the share markets to acquire the playschool chain Tree House.

According to Rajesh Bhatia’s legal counsel Rizwan Merchant, Zee Learn expressed interest in buying 40,000 shares in Tree House and offered to conduct business together. At the same time they illegally used 5 shell companies and tried to take control of the company.

Merchant alleges that Subhash Chandra and his associates have registered several shell companies in Kolkata with fake people as directors. These companies trend circulars in the share market and take large amount of bank loans by showing high turnovers. These companies then transfer the taxpayer’s money granted from banks into other arms of Zee group.


It is alleged in the FIR that Subhash Chandra’s company Zee Limited committed a well-thought-out conspiracy against the Playschool chain Tree House. Zee group officials allegedly registered several shell companies and enlisted them into share market. These shell companies, in order to acquire Tree House Limited, bought their shares on high prices and sold them to others on lower prices. They continued this process over and over to eventually drop the company’s high price shares in the market. After successfully dropping the share price of Tree House in the market, Zee Learn Limited demanded a fresh deal based on new share value and refused to go with the pre decided business deal.

According to the lawyer, Zee Learn had initially showed interest in buying the shares for Rs 84 crores, but used shell companies to devaluate the share price of Tree House. When Tree House MD Rajesh Bhatia objected to these wrongdoings, he was allegedly kidnapped and taken to Marathon Building in Mumbai’s Lower Parel, where he was thrashed by goons.

When Rajesh Bhatia went to complaint against the fraud committed with him, the police allegedly denied registering his case. Rajesh then went to the Magistrate and after the Magistrate’s order a case was registered against Subhash Chandra and 4 of his associated under section 156/3 of Indian Penal Code.

According to Rajesh Bhatia’s legal counsel, the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) is also probing the case and several shell companies connected to Subhash Chandra have been identified. Merchant says that Subhash Chandra’s Zee Group is using around 200 shell companies to turn their black money into white.

Subhash Chandra had recently filed a petition in Bombay High Court to annul Rajesh Bhatia’s FIR. Rizwan Merchant claims that this petition is a ploy to hide Subhash Chandra’s real game. He even claims that SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) has all the information on Chandra’s wrongdoings but is not taking any action given his position in the upper house of the Parliament.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is running a nation-wide campaign against black money and corruption. Numerous shell companies turning black money into white are on the Finance Ministry’s radar. Merchant claims that the government has identified over 80,000 shell companies, which also includes some of Subhash Chandra’s companies.

Disclaimer –

As a responsible news media organisation, News World India, has sought response from Rajya Sabha MP Subhash Chandra and Zee Learn on Rajesh Bhatia’s allegations but have not received any response as of now. The responses shall be incorporated if and when they are received.

Related posts

What was the real purpose of the Army action inside PoK?

Strikes as odd

Pravin Sawhney

Strikes as odd
The Gamble: There was concern that the strikes may evoke massive retaliation.

Pravin Sawhney

ON September 29 last year, following the unprecedented admission by India that its Special Forces (SF) had conducted “surgical strikes” inside PoK, I had three immediate observations on the operation. One, it was extraordinary to admit operations by the SF and to announce that there “were no plans for further continuation”.


These operations — which are meant to influence the political and war-fighting levels — are never admitted, leaving the enemy guessing about more. Two, SF action is rarely done at tactical level because influencing a battle does not alter war. And three, if the action had indeed been done, retaliation, perhaps a massive one whose escalation could not be controlled, was inevitable.


Given that the Indian military, especially the Army, was not prepared for war, the political leadership appeared to have gambled.When Pakistan denied India’s surgical strikes, I was befuddled. This was completely out of sync with its tit-for-tat strategy to maintain military balance with India.


For example, Pakistan did its nuclear tests to demonstrate “strategic balance” with India; it test-fired its ballistic missiles in the 1990s each time India tested its own; it brought tactical nuclear weapons in the war narrative to counter the Indian Army’s Cold Start doctrine, and so on.My unease about Pakistan’s unexplained reticence was quieted soon. Speaking with the Parliament Committee on External Affairs within weeks of the strikes, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said the strikes were “target specific, limited calibre, counter-terrorist operations across the LoC which the Army had done in the past too, but this is the first time the government has gone public about it”.

Clearly, in connivance with the Army leadership, the Modi government had taken the nation for a ride. It had deliberately confused SF action with counter-terror operations. The two are as different as day and night. While SF action is always done against legitimate military targets (in this case, the Pakistan army) to minimise collateral damages; counter-terror operations are meant to kill the terrorists, who are faceless, nameless, dispensable, and do not influence Pakistan army’s strategy to continue the proxy war.If anything, the counter-terror action — where India undermined its SF by employing them in a specialised commando role — reinforced the General Headquarters, Rawalpindi’s resolve to continue with gusto. This is borne out by government statistics: While 36 Army personnel were killed between January and September last year (this includes the 19 charred in the Uri attack), 69 have died so far since the surgical strikes.This besides, a bigger damage has been done by the Indian Army to itself. In a recently published book (the foreword has been written by Gen Bipin Rawat), the Army has confirmed what ideally should have been the best-kept secret.


According to a chapter in the book, India’s entire leadership was deeply involved in what were a series of tactical operations meant to be executed without fanfare by local brigade commanders with the 15 Corps Commander in Srinagar being in the loop. This included the Prime Minister, Defence Minister, National Security Adviser, the Army Chief and the Vice-Chief. Clearly, the low-level operation was only meant to showcase PM Modi as the macho man.What’s more, according to the book, “a total of 38-40 terrorists and two Pakistan army personnel were killed at the four targets. The three separate teams (each with 19 men) had simultaneously struck four launch pads (temporary camps where terrorists are given final instructions before infiltration) across the LoC.” These details contradict Lt Gen Ranbir Singh’s media briefing of September 29, 2016, that “at least seven launch pads were targeted… And significant casualties have been caused to the terrorists and those who are trying to support them.” Now, killing two Pakistan army personnel cannot be “significant casualties” for the 13-lakh strong Indian Army pitted against the six-lakh Pakistan army!This is not all.

The book tells us why Lt Gen Ranbir Singh betrayed extreme anxiousness at his media briefing by saying that he had informed his Pakistani counterpart (within hours of the operations) about the details of the operations. The worry clearly was about Pakistan army’s scale and scope of retaliation and India’s inability to cope with it should it enlarge into the nightmarish two-front war in whatever fashion.So, the book unintentionally reveals what the Army intended to hide. Instead, it conceals the details of the Indian SF team’s action inside PoK. The Indian Army is chary about dishing out this information without realising that, post-event, the Pakistan army knows it. What it does not know, and always seeks to find out is the state of morale and preparedness of India’s military. The book, by mentioning how the entire Army leadership was nervous about escalation, gives away its level of preparedness.Were any lessons learnt by the Indian Army? None, if the then Northern Army Commander, Lt Gen DS Hooda’s (retd) recent interaction with the media is anything to go by. The surgical strikes, according to him have, “in some ways, shattered the glass ceiling.

The Special Forces have gained tremendous confidence in their ability to execute a complex operation in very hostile territory.” To recall, in the 90s, well before the Indian Army erected the Maginot Line (which represents defensive mindset) in the form of the fence on the LoC in July 2004, regular Army commandos rather than Special Forces, used to regularly breach the so-called glass ceiling. Raids on Pakistani posts, killing of its personnel and vice-versa by surprise attacks and artillery fire were so commonplace that long silence by one side was reason for the other to worry. 


The lessons that we should learn are that only war preparedness and disallowing the political leadership to use military for its own partisan, rather than national objectives, will deter Pakistan and boost the morale of our soldiers.

Related posts

Why handling of BHU violence is evocative of Nazi Germany

Sophie Scholl, her brother, Hans, and another close friend of theirs from Munich university were executed for resisting the atrocities


On February 22, 1943, a young petite girl, found her neck on the guillotine in Nazi Germany. All of 21 years of age, Sophie Scholl, her brother, Hans Scholl, and another close friend of theirs from Munich university were executed for resisting the atrocities of the Nazi regime.

They were a part of the non violent and secret White Rose movement that endeavoured to embolden citizens and encourage them to find their voice to overcome fascist forces. They could kill the youngsters but they could not silence their voices that demanded freedom, liberty and peace.

All that the members of the White Rose movement did was print and distribute leaflets imploring the German youth to resist the Nazi government. They appealed to the conscience of the average citizen. The pamphlets didn’t call for citizens to take up arms against the regime and only vaguely asked the youth to stand-up to the government, without planning any concrete conspiracies to oust the Nazi government. It was largely a tiny underground movement led by a small group of idealistic youngsters. In fact, Sophie Scholl, a deeply religious girl, had previously taken part in the League of German Girls, a pseudo-Nazi organization.

And yet, the mighty Nazi government was in jitters. It concluded the trial in four days – they were caught distributing leaflets on February 18, 1943 – and sentenced them to death. The capital punishment was carried out on the same day. It is a trait of authoritarian regimes of any degree that they lack courage and are deeply insecure. It is perhaps to mask their incompetence that they resort to brutally stubbing out any dissenting voices and create a smokescreen by raking up nationalism. Any dissent is not tolerated and immediately dubbed anti-national.

While the situation in India today is nowhere near what it was in Germany, the authoritarian streak of this government cannot be missed. There have been numerous instances where it has acted without compassion. The latest case being its handling of the protests in Banaras Hindu University.

bhu690_093017050400.jpgGirls beaten up in Prime Minister’s constituency may appear feeble, but are the embodiment of Nari Shakti.

Girls, mostly the age of Sophie Scholl, only sought justice from the university authorities which they were denied. Ideally, the university should have taken cognisance of the students’ complaint, investigated the alleged case of harassment and allowed the law to take its own course. However, the authorities shockingly indulged in victim shaming. When the protests escalated, the students, mostly girls were brutally beaten by the police late in the night. Vice-chancellor GC Tripathi brazened out the flak he drew for mishandling the case and even implied that it is a conspiracy by “anti-social” elements to defame the university.

The Prime Minister, who normally is quick to tweet on tragedies across the world, and even wish global leaders when it’s not their birthday, (as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani found out in February 2016), kept mum on the issue, which has become his wont. The chief minister of the state is known to make misogynistic remarks at regular intervals. He not only opposed the women’s reservation bill earlier but also called the discussion on it a waste of time.

The irony is that all this happened during the Navaratri days, when most rightist leaders gave speeches about Nari Shakti, ad nauseam. People questioning the government over the matter were harassed on the social media with the trite allegations of being anti nationals, traitors, anti-Hindu etc. Such insensitivity and insecurity of the ruling government doesn’t augur well for our society.

It displays many traits of an authoritarian regime, where dissent is not tolerated and silenced. There is rampant sexism and a misplaced sense of nationalism. If we keep quiet for too long, the malaise will get deeper and severely cripple our progress as a society. The girls may be young and petite. But they are by no means fickle or feeble. They are the embodiment of Nari Shakti and the government will do well to address their concerns and deliver justice. If the government continues to live in denial, the simmering anger in the youth might become a cause for worry, given that the economy is in shambles due to the myopic policies of the government.

No authoritarian government has ever withstood the test of time. Somewhere in India too, there will rise a Sophie Scholl and a Hans Scholl. The words of the White Rose movement’s first leaflet are worth recalling as they hold true for today’s India too:

Nothing is so unworthy of a civilised nation as allowing itself to be governed without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct. It is certain that today every honest German is ashamed of his government. Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible of crimes – crimes that infinitely outdistance every human measure – reach the light of day?

The Indian citizenry, especially the youth will do well to remember.

Related posts

India – Digging into Adani


Digging into Adani: The dubious dealings of India‘s corporate colossus.

“Why would the crime branch want to see us?” Stephen Long, reporter

When Four Corners travelled to India to investigate the activities of the giant Adani group, they soon discovered the power of the company.

While attempting to film and gather information about Adani’s operations, the Four Corners team had their cameras shut down, their footage deleted and were questioned for hours by police.

The team were left in no doubt that their investigations into the Indian company triggered the police action.

For months, Four Corners has been digging into the business practices of the Adani Group. This is the corporate colossus that plans to build Australia‘s biggest mine site.

“I do know about Adani and that means thousands of jobs for regional Queenslanders …” Annastacia Palaszczuk, Qld Premier

The polarising debate around the proposed mine site in Queensland’s Galilee Basin is often pitted as a simplistic jobs versus greenies argument.

But there are influential figures in India who warn that Australians need to know much more about the Adani Group.

“You know, the Australian politicians are obviously not properly briefed by their offices.” Former senior energy official

On Monday Four Corners examines the troubled corporate history of the Adani group in India revealing the findings of government investigations into financial and environment crimes.

“The report found not accidental violations, the report found deliberate violations, wilful violations.” Former Government Minister

The program analyses the Adani Group’s opaque financial operations and investigates the ramifications for their Australian operations.

“What this tells you is that here is a business group that will not stop at anything to maximise its profits.”Economist

This investigation examines whether, in the rush to secure jobs and shore up the mining industry, Australian politicians have failed to properly scrutinise the company that’s now hoping to receive a taxpayer funded loan of up to $1 billion for its project.

“I think the Australian Government ought to do environmental due diligence, which it seems not to have done. It certainly has to do financial due diligence. Both due diligences are required, both for the financial side and from the environmental side.” Indian politician

Digging into Adani, reported by Stephen Long and presented by Sarah Ferguson, goes to air on Monday 2nd October at 8.30pm. It is replayed on Tuesday 3rd October at 1.00pm and Wednesday 4th at 11pm. It can also be seen on ABC NEWS channel on Saturday at 8.10pm AEST, ABC iview and at

Related posts

India, always risky for journalists, has suddenly turned more dangerous following a murder

India has hardly been a haven for journalists.

For years, reporters and editors have faced harassment, coercion, and threats from vested interests in the government as well as private ones. A number of them have even been killed for performing their duty or voicing an opinion. No wonder India is the third-most dangerous placeto be a journalist, behind war-torn Iraq and Syria.

But something seems to have changed this September.

Gauri Lankesh, a Bengaluru-based senior journalist and editor of the Gauri Lankesh Patrike, was gunned down outside her home on Sept. 05. What began as crass exultation over her killing among sections of social media users and even political opponents now seems to be degenerating into even more threats—some even brazenly promising copycat attacks on journalists. In fact, the jubilation was followed by a “hit list” of media people.

Here he is again : VikramAditya Rana on Facebook with a hit list. @DelhiPolice you need to check this

There wouldn’t have been reasons to take these seriously if not for even more murders since Lankesh’s death.

More killings

On Sept.20, Santanu Bhowmik, 28, a reporter with the Din Raat television channel, was killed in the northeastern state of Tripura. He was allegedly abducted by a local tribal outfit and stabbed to death. A probe is on.

Three days after Bhowmik’s death, another senior journalist, KJ Singh, along with his mother, were found killed at his residence in Mohali near Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab. Singh, who was in his late 60s, had been a former news editor with The Indian Express newspaper and also worked for The Times of India and The Tribune.

Meanwhile, four journalists based out of New Delhi and the Delhi National Capital Region have received death threats via text messages and calls. Reports say that others who have received such vile messages have not followed up. Those issuing the threats often use Lankesh’s death as a template to strike fear.

Source of threats

The probe into Lankesh’s murder hasn’t yielded any results yet. However, the police have found similarities between the incident and a few earlier gruesome ones from the last two years involving the killings of elderly rationalists, social activists, and intellectuals. The one thread connecting all these is that the victims were vehemently opposed to Hindu extremism and were vocal about it.

D N Jeevaraj, a local legislator, openly claimed that Lankesh would have been alive if she had not spoken up against the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS is a Hindu nationalist organisation and the ideological mothership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to which both Jeevaraj and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi belong.

Not surprisingly, a number of those who issue such threats and pass crass comments against journalists on social media describe themselves as Hindu nationalists and supporters of the BJP or RSS. In fact, many of them even claim to have the blessings of Modi himself. As if to validate their claim, the prime minister follows a number of their Twitter handles.

For instance, Ravish Kumar, a senior editor with the Hindi news channel NDTV India and its prime time anchor, received through a WhatsApp group a message expressing grief that he was still alive. Kumar said he was being repeatedly added to such groups that then go on to abuse him. When Alt News, a website that works at busting fake news and urban legends, tracked the numbers issuing abusive messages to Kumar, it zeroed in on one Niraj Dave.

Dave, like many others trolls, is followed by Modi.

Several appeals have been made to the prime minister to stop backing such anti-social elements. To drive home the point, a  #BlockNarendraModi campaign was set off following Lankesh’s murder.

However, all these have not just been ignored but even actively defended by the BJP’s spokespersons.

On Sept. 29, Kumar himself penned an open letter to the prime minister. He wrote:

Whatever he (Nikhil Dadhich, a troll who abused Lankesh on Twitter after her murder) said about Gauri Lankesh after her death, you may not like it and I am sure you do not sanction it, but the fact is that you still happen to follow him if my information is correct. Recently, Amit Malviya, chief of the BJP’s IT Cell, shared a distorted video of my speech designed for misrepresentation. Even after AltNews revealed the truth, Amit Malviya expressed no regret.

Abuse is normal

In the meantime, abusing journalists is almost a national pastime on social media. The tiniest of provocations unleashes the vilest of expletives.

One journalist with the Quint news website was subjected to online harassment and even rape and death threats that resulted in her story being pulled off the site. And all that her video story had done was call out the sexism and abuse in the lyrics of a song.

Dhanya Rajendran of TheNewsMinute website was subjected to offensive tweets following a casual comment of hers about a Tamil language movie. #PublicityBeepDhanya received over 30,000 tweets, mostly derogatory.

Recently, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expressed its concern over attempts silence the freedom of press in India.

“The increasing number of attacks on journalists and media in India is a serious threat to independent journalism in the country. The IFJ urges the Indian authorities to act immediately to ensure safety of journalists and media; and speedy investigation and prosecution in crimes against journalists to ensure such incidents are not repeated,” stated a release from IFJ.

India, always risky for journalists, has suddenly turned more dangerous following a murder

Related posts

Mumbai Teacher Arrested For Allegedly Thrashing Student For Not Having #Aadhaar Card #WTFnews

The government is using all kinds of tactics like linking it with everything possible to make Aadhaar card mandatory, despite the court ruling against it. But what happens if people start getting physical punishment for nat having an Aadhaar?

Police in Mumbai have arrested a teacher, for thrashing a 16-year-old student for not having an Aadhaar identification card.

Teacher stick


The incident took place at the Oxford English High School located in Mumbai’s Ghatkopar. The teacher identified as Shyam Bahadur Vishwakarma had hit the student named Suhail Ansari on the head, where he had already had an injury. Due to this, presently, the student is admitted in the nearby Sion hospital.

Aadhaar Card


After listening to the entire incident, the victim’s parents reached the school, whereas the concerned teacher denied the reports of beating up the student.


However, the CCTV footage revealed the truth. In the video, the teacher is seen beating Suhail with a stick. On the basis of parents’ complaint, a case was filed at the Ghatkopar Police Station under sections 323, 324 and 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against the teacher.

Inputs From ANI

Related posts

India- People First Citizen app users run into #Aadhaar hurdle

Id verification failure resulting in service denial

The users of the People First Citizen (PFC) mobile application launched by Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu recently are apparently facing teething problems due to the ‘Aadhaar’ linkage. At a time when linking of the unique identification number has been made mandatory for services like banking and mobile services, the State government which integrated the citizen details with the Aadhaar data has made Aadhaar-based verification, eKYC, mandatory for the users of the PFC app.

“Ensure that your mobile number and email Id are updated in the Aadhaar portal for login. In case your details are not updated, please approach the nearest Aadhaar enrollment centre or Mee Seva centre to update the details. It is important for knowing any details of government (benefit) provided to you or know your service request status,” a note on the app tells its users.

Unlike other public grievance apps like PuraSeva, the PFC, through which grievances related to all the government departments could be reported, does verification through Aadhaar at the very beginning stage and bars those without a proper UID and a valid phone number from using all services, including registration of grievances. However, availability of complete user profile and access to all certificates is the greatest advantage for the users. Some of them feel that Aadhaar eKYC could be made optional while basic verification is done through mobile number and email.

“Aadhaar is mandatory here. It is good but so many Aadhaar numbers do not have mobile numbers. Instead of Aadhaar verification, user profile with email Id is better. Later on, we can verify Aadhaar (sic),” a user Adinarayana Kosuvaripalli wrote on Google Play store. Many other users have complained of ‘Aadhaar not surveyed’ error and having lost the phone numbers registered with the Aadhaar. Delay in receiving the OTP has also largely been reported by the users.

The app, however, garnered quick response since its launch on September 20. It has been downloaded by at least 5,000 users.

Related posts

India’s economists should listen to its activists

Two children eat at a temporary shelterImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionJean Dreze is known for his influential work on hunger and gender inequality

Economist Jean Dreze’s new book makes an increasingly necessary argument that creating a morally good, progressive society is as important as improving traditional development indexes, writes Nilanjana S Roy.

The jhola, a sturdy, often exuberantly decorated cloth sling bag, can be spotted all across India. Over time, this precursor to the backpack and the man bag became the accessory of choice for a varied set of Indians, from sadhus (holy men) to college students to clerks.

It has also become synonymous with social activists, field researchers, academics, artists and rural workers, collectively dubbed “jholawalas”.

The term, once mildly affectionate, is now often used derisively by the media and politicians as a denunciation of forms of liberal thought and activism branded as bleeding heart, communist or anti-corporate.

“Jholawala has become a term of abuse in India’s corporate-sponsored media… a disparaging reference to activists,” development economist Jean Dreze writes early in Sense and Solidarity: Jholawala Economics For Everyone, a welcome collection of his essays.

Mr Dreze reclaims and reinvents the term, though he’s quick to add that the “jholawala economist” is a mythical being.

His “jholawala economist” would be the “road scholar” researcher or progressive economist who believes that social development in countries like India must be accompanied by ethical development, and the spread of civic sense.

Creating a morally good, progressive society would be as important as improving traditional development indexes.

Mr Dreze, born in Belgium, is an Indian citizen who’s lived in, worked in and explored parts of India for almost 40 years.

He is one of the country’s best-regarded development economists, known for his influential work on hunger and gender inequality in particular.

John DrèzeImage copyrightANURADHA ROY
Image captionJohn Drèze is one of India’s best-regarded development economists

He lives in Ranchi, capital of the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand, known for its coal mines.

It’s striking that he begins his introduction to the book with a brief meditation on privilege – the gap between the world of those who work at thankless, sometimes brutally demanding jobs (such as the koilawalas or coal workers whom he sees going by in the hundreds every day in Ranchi) and those who benefit from or seek to build a new India.

What separates the two? Chance, says Mr Dreze, nothing more than that. “In India, as elsewhere, the privileged tend to nurture the illusion that they ‘deserve’ what they have.”

This illusion evaporates rapidly, he explains. Rich people might work hard, but so do coal workers, construction workers and domestic help.

This is not a popular argument at a time when the powerful and those aspiring to power prefer to either ignore the poor and disenfranchised, blame them for their own plight, or angrily persecute activists for shining a light on their circumstances.

But it is an increasingly necessary argument.

The essays in Sense and Solidarity rest on research and field surveys done between 2000 and 2017, and bring to life changes in social policy in India.

They attest to the value of his firm plea for a public policy informed by the direct experiences and evidence of those on the ground, less theoretical, more an outcome of “democratic practice”.

Economists and jholawalas, Mr Dreze suggests, could both learn much from each other.

Cover of John Drèze's bookImage copyrightSOHAIL AKBAR
Image captionEconomists and “jholawalas”, Mr Dreze suggests, could learn much from each other

In the early 2000s, the country had vast food stocks, he writes, “if all the sacks of grain in the Food Corporation of India were lined up in a row, they would stretch for a million kilometres”.

But in 2002, Mr Dreze and his partner, Bela Bhatia, visited Kusumatand in Jharkhand thrice to investigate starvation deaths.

What they found shocked them – the entire hamlet lived in a state of semi-starvation. Children did not play – they stood by “listlessly, ill-clad and under-nourished”.

Travelling in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh to a village called Chharch in 2003 was “like descending deeper and deeper into a dark well of poverty and hunger”.

This India rarely makes it to television debates, and Mr Dreze urges solutions that go beyond quick-fix schemes and “yojanas” (the Hindi word for plan, commonly used in the names of government schemes).

The second section in the book, “Poverty”, grapples with a key and lasting problem – the selection of eligible households for inclusion in social schemes, and the “bitter struggle” of those attempting to live on or below the poverty line.

The elderly, Mr Dreze discovered, were frequently the worst hit. They lived “quiet and unobtrusive lives”, rarely complaining in public, but their tales of sorrow were endless.

Time and again, he returns to the lives, and troubles, of humans to the landscape of statistics, schemes and policies.

Indian school girls eating lunchImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionIndia’s mid-day meal scheme challenges caste prejudices as children learn to eat together, writes Mr Dreze

The mid-day meal scheme, where schools provide a hopefully nutritious lunch to children, has had a positive impact on health – but also on challenging traditional caste prejudices, as children learn to eat together.

On caste, he writes about the subtle way in which discrimination works. In a survey conducted in the north Indian city of Allahabad, they found that 75% of those who occupied positions of power and influence across a variety of public institutions were upper-caste.

He visits a Dalit village in the central state of Madhya Pradesh’s Rewa district. It has no approach roads, and is hemmed in by the fields of upper-caste farmers.

“The hamlet had the feel of an island surrounded by hostile territory,” he writes.

On demonetisation, India’s currency ban, and on Aadhaar, the universal identification scheme, Mr Dreze is swift to point out that the “disruption” caused is paid in public hardship, deaths and vulnerability to extreme surveillance, rescuing the term from the business-jargon use of “disruption” as a positive effect.

Indians queue to withdraw money from an ATMImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe only “disruption” caused by India’s currency ban, Mr Dreze writes, is public hardship

Like a growing number of intellectuals and activists, Mr Dreze too has been attacked for his plainly stated views.

He was prevented from speaking at a recent function by a minister from India’s ruling BJP who shouted him down when he argued that communalism was at its most dangerous when the state created antagonism between communities.

But the model of development that he advocates has far more hope to offer India than big dams and bullet trains.

In his final essay, he suggests that it’s time to retire the belief, widespread in mainstream economic theory, that “rational self-interest” is the prime motivation of economic agents. This is only “a kind of superstition,” Mr Dreze writes.

People act out of love, kindness, compassion, public-spiritedness, solidarity and more.

The value Mr Dreze wants to nudge thinkers on development towards is public-spiritedness, so close to the fraternity that accompanies liberty and equality.

What would “development” in India look like if it was driven by public-spiritedness, or politics (and policies) if they were truly in the public interest?

It’s a big question. Anyone who answered it might actually have a chance of building a New India – so loudly promised, and so elusive.

Related posts

Maximum city, maximum accidents. Does Mumbai ever learn?

As the Elphinstone Road station accident today demonstrated, Mumbai still has miles to go before it resolves its infrastructure woes.

Maximum city, maximum accidents. Does Mumbai ever learn?
Shishir AsthanaMoneycontrol Research

Why is it that in India people have to die to wake up the government? Irrespective of governance claims, it has always been a serious fatal accident that has resulted in this government coming into action. The same could be said for every state government in the country.

Some do lip service till the next accident exposes them again. Others do a sloppy job of it and use the accident as another money-making opportunity. Like war, accidents, too, have become a business opportunity for some.

Unfortunately, Mumbai, the so-called financial capital of the country, has had more than its share of accidents. Every monsoon the state government and the city’s municipal corporation Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) are at odds with each other over water-logging and the lunar surface which a Mumbaikar is told is a road. It’s an open joke among Mumbaikars that every year BMC, the richest municipal corporation in the country, issues tenders to maintain the potholes rather than the roads.

For Mumbai trains are supposed to be its lifeline but in reality they have taken more lives than any other form of accidents, natural catastrophe or terrorist attacks put together. Between January and August 2017 alone railways have seen over 2,000 deaths. This number tells us how heavily overburdened the Mumbai rail network is.

Over the past few years, as offices shifted from Churchgate, Nariman Point to Bandra Kurla Complex and Lower Parel–Elphinstone Road area so did the rail traffic. However, the Lower Parel and Elphinstone Road railway stations, which were rarely crowded earlier, became a nightmare as office complexes sprouted on old textile mill compounds.

Anyone who has ever travelled during the morning rush hour to Lower Parel and Elphinstone Road knows that it is an ordeal to exit the station. There are police constables at the exit to control the crowd but they are mere spectators.

Every person who has walked the foot over bridge (FOB) at these stations knew it was only a matter of time when a stampede can cause havoc. With barely enough breathing space between two people walking on the FOB a small panic was all that was needed to cause a major accident.

And one did happen today. Needless loss of over 22 lives plus more than 30 injuries brought the plight of commuters to the political masters. For politicians across party lines the tragedy was an occasion for one more photo-op.

For the general public, however, what was on display at Elphinstone Road was a complete lack of planning from everyone responsible in railways, BMC, state and central government.

It has been years since traffic started building up at Elphinstone Road and Lower Parel station, yet the railways did little to increase the number of entry or exit points, except post a policeman. Reports say that state Members of Parliament had apprised the former railway minister Suresh Prabhu of the need for a better bridge. Prabhu, however, cited lack of funds to attend to the request immediately — this was in February 2016.

But railways alone is not to be blamed. Civic authorities, while giving permission for high-rises did not bother to provide infrastructure facility. Apparently, it was the same area which was badly inundated during the August 30, 2017, rains.

The biggest burden of all the ills of the city has to fall on the central and state government. Maharashtra accounts for 40 percent of the country’s direct taxes; within it Mumbai accounts for the lion’s share. Yet the city has been ignored in every year.

Each year a Mumbaikar listens to the budget in the hope that the government will help improve his lifestyle by announcing more number of trains or a better infrastructure service. Every year he has been disappointed, but still gets up every morning for what is nothing less than an adventure trip to reach his office. This compulsion or restraint has been termed by many as the ‘spirit of Mumbai’.

Every restraint has a breaking point. Mumbai is fast reaching that point if one goes by the chatter on Twitter, which has erupted by calling politicians of all parties to be made answerable. Some have pointed out, and rightly so, that politicians and senior railway managers be made to travel in the local train to feel a common person’s ordeal. Others have used choicest of expletives which only highlights the pressure building up.

The city does not need words to placate the tempers. It needs to see development. There is only a small line that separates the spirit of Mumbai to change to animal spirit.

It once again raises the question why do these accidents happen in India on a regular basis and one does not hear about it in the developed world. No, the argument is not about population, it is about the value of life. As long as ministers know that they can get away by announcing a Rs 5 lakh ex-gratia payment such accidents will keep on happening. Unless the civil authorities, the bureaucrats are held responsible and made to pay till it hurts them such accidents will keep on happening.

Related posts

Rafto Prize for Human Rights for Parveena Ahangar and Parvez Imroz

The award, which honours human rights defenders, went to the two activists for their “decades of campaigning for human rights” in Jammu and Kashmir.

Parveena Ahangar and Parvez Imroz. Credit: Facebook/YouTube

New Delhi: Parveena Ahangar, who is popularly referred to as the Iron Lady of Kashmir for her struggle to find the youth and children who go missing in the state of Jammu and Kashmir every year, and human rights activist and lawyer Parvez Imroz have won the prestigious Norway Rafto Prize 2017 for Human Rights this year.

The award, which honours human rights defenders, went to the two activists for their “decades of campaigning for human rights” in the state. The committee which announced the award said, “Parveena Ahangar and Imroz have long been at the forefront of the struggle against arbitrary abuses of power in a region of India that has borne the brunt of escalating violence, militarisation and international tension.”

The committee further said that “their long campaign to expose human rights violations, promote dialogue and seek peaceful solutions to the intractable conflict in Kashmir has inspired new generations across communities.”

Ahangar won the honour for her “protests against enforced disappearances” and for challenging the perpetrators of violence.

Founder and leader of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) which arranges peaceful protests and offers practical assistance to victims, Ahangar won the admiration of a cross section of the society for her tireless work in making numerous families know what happened to their children who went missing.

Her work also inspired well known rapper Roushan Ilahi, who raps under the name of MC Kash, to make a song about the cause. The video, titled ‘Take It In Blood’, is about the first meeting of the rapper with the activist.

Parvez is the founder of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) which works for human rights and alternatives to violence and has been described by the award committee as a “lawyer and a leading intellectual who uses the law to ensure fundamental human rights and equality before the law in Kashmir”.

Parvez has fought many a legal battles in the state, including one for the JKCCS program coordinator and rights activist Khurram Parvez, who was not allowed by the Centre to attend a United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva and later detained and arrested from Srinagar last year.

The Rafto Prize Laureates said that the two recipients “complement one another in their work, creating opportunities for different communities to participate in the human rights movement via dialogue, peaceful strategies, and protest against human rights violations in the world’s largest democracy.”

The Prize, which was announced today at the Rafto Human Rights House in Bergen, Norway, is awarded annually in the memory of Professor Thorolf Rafto.

The selection process ensures that only those actively involved in rights struggles get the coveted prize. The criteria includes that a candidate should be active in the struggle for the ideals and principles underlying the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that the candidate’s struggle for human rights should represent a non-violent perspective.

In 2016, “defender of women’s rights in war-torn Iraq” Yanar Mohammed was the recipient of the award. Winners of the Prize with Indian links in the past have been the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) activists Vincent Manoharan, Dr. Vimal Thoral and Paul Divakar.

Burmese rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi, who is now being criticised for her handling of the Rohingya crisis as the elected leader of the country, was honoured with the Prize in 1990 for “leading the struggle for democracy in Burma”.

Related posts