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Archives for : September2017

Former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan admits warning govt about unplanned demonetisation

`Warned govt about cost of DeMon’

In an exclusive interview to TOI, former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan says though the Modi government’s intent was good, demonetisation came at a substantial cost
Former Reserve Bank of India governor Raghu ram Rajan has said he had cautioned the government about the short-term costs of demonetisation outweighing the long-term benefits, and suggested “alternatives“ to achieve the goal of stamping out black money.In his new book, `I Do What I Do: On Reforms Rhetoric and Resolve’, due to be released next week, Rajan said he first gave his opinion orally in February 2016 and, subsequently, RBI submitted a note to the government outlining the steps that would be needed, and the time required, if the Centre went ahead with the move. “The RBI flagged what would happen if preparation was inadequate,“ said Rajan, who returned to University of Chicago Booth School of Business as fa culty after his term as governor ended.

In an exclusive interview to TOI, Rajan also clarified that although RBI was consulted, at no point du ring his term (which ended on September 5, 2016) was it asked to take a decision on demonetisation. The Prime Minister announced demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 8.

Data released by RBI earlier this week showed that 99% of these notes were deposited in bank accounts.The government has defended the move, arguing that several other benefits have accrued, from expanding the tax base to an increase in digital transactions.

Rajan said though the intent behind the move was good, it had come at substantial costs. “Certainly at this point, one cannot in anyway say it has been an economic success,“ he pointed out.

– ‘ I left because there was no offer on the table from the govt ‘
What strikes you most about Raghuram Rajan is not his academic brilliance, open mindedness or honesty of thought, but how he blends all of these with simplicity of expression and disarming humility. Currently Distinguished Service Professor of Finance at University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Rajan is an alumnus of IIT-D, IIM-A and MIT. Before he became the 23rd governor of the Reserve Bank of India (2013-16), he was chief economist with the International Monetary Fund and chief economic adviser with the Government of India.
In his forthcoming book `I Do What I Do: On Reforms, Rhetoric and Resolve’, Rajan reflects on his RBI stint exactly one year after the self-imposed period of silence. In an exclusive interview with TOI’s Sidhartha and Surojit Gupta, Rajan discusses key ideas in his book, what he thinks of demonetisation and why he is optimistic about the Indian economy. Excerpts:

In the book you’ve clarified your stand on demonetisation which you conveyed to the gov ernment orally. Your stand was that the economic costs would outweigh the benefits.Now that this week’s RBI report has revealed that 99% of banned notes are back in the system, what is your reaction?

In order to become a more developed country , India has to get people who owe taxes to actually pay them, and this ranges from income tax to various kinds of indirect taxes. Certainly, the government’s move to try and reduce the amount of black money in the economy through various measures is an important one.But as for demonetisation itself, there are really two or three questions. One, of course, is that we have seen the costs of demonetisation upfront, and they are substantial. Let us not mince words about it ­ GDP has suffered. The estimates I have seen range from 1 to 2 percentage points, and that’s a lot of money ­ over Rs 2 lakh crore and maybe approaching Rs 2.5 lakh crore. Then there are the other costs ­ the hassle cost of people standing in line, the printing cost that the RBI says is close to Rs 8,000 crore, the cost to the banks of withdrawing the money , and the time spent by their clerks, by their managers and by their senior offic ers doing all this, and the interest being paid on all those deposits, which earlier were effectively an interest-free loan to the RBI.

I think the people who mooted this must have thought that some of it would be compensated if money didn’t come back into the system. The fact that 99% has been deposited certainly does suggest that aim has not been met. However, the government can investigate the deposits, and some of it may turn out to be black money but it does imply that a greater effort is required and could also mean ­ and this is something a number of commentators have pointed out ­ more harassment for the general public that has honestly deposited money that was lying for one reason or the other in various accounts. So that benefit ­ if it comes ­ let us see at what cost it comes.

The other potential benefit was that electronic transactions would go up. And if you look at electronic transactions, you see that there was a blip-up when demonetisation happened but it has come back to broadly the trend growth line. One area where there has been substantial take off is transactions done on the Unified Payment Interface, and that’s a positive for the economy . The question is, would it have happened anyway because UPI was at an early stage when demonetisation happened, which just pushed the process forward? And that leaves the last aspect, has this been an important signal about the need for tax compliance? And there the jury is out.There is some data to show greater tax inflows (I think the Economic Survey says it’s about Rs 10,000 crore) but how much is because of demonetisation and how much because of natural growth is unclear at this point.

So, I think all said and done, it would be fair to say the intent was good. But certainly at this point, one still cannot in any way say it has been an economic success. But again, as I said, only time will tell.

Do you think demonetisation hit rural areas the hardest since it was done in a hurry?

Like any monetary economist, I would say that if you are taking 87% of the currency out of circulation, there will be a tremendous impact on the areas that use cash. It is probably fair to say that demonetisation has had the largest impact on the people who transact informally , of which many might be very poor. And again we see some sort of anecdotal evidence of this but we have to wait for a better measurement. Unfortunately, given the way we measure GDP, these are people who are probably not going to be counted that much. The GDP measurement will overlook the stress on these people, and we will only indirectly see this, for example, through the kind of stresses that micro-finance institutions are experiencing because they deal with many of these people.

As the economy gets remonetised, hopefully some of them will bounce back but there are also people with very thin buffers. Some informal firms may have closed down because of the kind of stress they experienced and we will have to, over time, see how we can measure and get a full understanding of the impact of demonetisation.

I think the view of any monetary economist would be that you first print the money and then do the demonetisation, and I don’t know what the rationale for doing it when it was done is. I am not party to that decision.

Did you have any inkling that it was coming?

I was party to the conversation, as I have already said, on the costs and benefits of the case but not on the date. Separately , we were moving to a new set of notes, not related to the demonetisation exercise necessarily, but as part of a move to a set of newly designed notes. Of course, the accelerated printing of the 2,000-rupee notes did make us better prepared for an eventual demonetisation without a specific date having been fixed.

Does that mean even the RBI was not fully kept in the picture as to when demonetisation may happen?

I left the RBI in September 2016, and as I have said in the book, at no point during my term was the RBI asked to make a decision on demonetisation.

You served under two governments, the NDA and UPA, and have written in your book about the good understanding you had with the political leadership. Did you find one government more decisive than the other?

I can’t comment on specific relations with governments ­ that would be inappropriate and a betrayal of trust. I met frequently with finance ministers and regularly with the prime ministers of both governments. I had cordial relations with both governments.

You’ve talked about the fine line the RBI governor has to tread and in fact described your role as that of a national risk manager. What are the pulls and pressures from the government?

The duty of the central bank and other regulatory bodies is to work together under the overall direction of the elected representatives of the people.You cannot go off in a separate direction.There are some areas where you have a duty to warn, to persuade, to sometimes say no, and that is something I have talked about in the book. As Dr Y V Reddy talked about in his book, you may be against a certain move and you think it is improper but ultimately after making your arguments, it is the government which has to decide. You cannot be a fifth column inside government, undermining the legitimate right of the government to decide.

Is there a more effective way for the government to dig out black money without hobbling the system?

One has to start by saying that any method will have a certain amount of uncertainty associated with it. There is no perfect method. However, I think one option ­ which the government is currently trying to implement ­ is to reduce the room for black money by making it harder and harder for people to invest that black money . One way to do that is the broader use of Aadhaar in any financial investments because it gives the authorities a sense of what your entire wealth holdings might be. This is something that we don’t get today because you have bank accounts that may not be linked to the same PAN number. So by moving to an Aadhaar-based system, you can get far better compliance on the flows. Of course what is already hidden stock ­ whether it is gold or currency ­ is harder to identify through this but at least you stop the flows or make the flows harder which, in the long run, is what you need to do to tackle the black money problem.

To what do you attribute this consistent demand for lower rate of interest, now even from the current chief economic adviser?

This tension exists in every country which is why you don’t ask the finance ministry to set interest rates; you delegate it to a central bank. The whole idea of an inflation committee is really to give it a structure by saying, `Dear government please tell us what you want in terms of inflation and even go ahead and appoint three experts who you think are sensible and take appropriate decisions’.And let them join with RBI people and let the collective determine what the interest rate should be.

You’ve included a speech in which you talk about the number of bad loans made in 2007-08. Do you think it was lazy banking that led to defaulters such as Vijay Mallya?

As I mentioned in the book, it was a period of irrational exuberance in India.A lot of projects had succeeded and this made bankers willing to take on new projects with higher leverage and less promoter equity . There was also poor assessment of projects and, undoubtedly , some corruption. Now, the regulator is not a commercial banker and can potentially raise concerns about whether appropriate assessments have been done, but the regulator really comes into the act when the losses start showing. One of the issues I pointed out in one of my speeches was that credit growth by public sector banks had been slowing down since 2014, way before the strong balance sheet cleanup was initiated, and this because banks were seeing the problem on their balance sheets. To some extent, it was necessary to force the clean-up and the recapitalisation so that they could move forward. And clean-up does not mean liquidate the asset but put it back on track with the right capital structure.

Now, I do think that there has been a lot of hesitancy in various quarters, among bankers and, to some extent, in the authorities to speed up the pace of clean-up for fear that some of the people who perpetrated the mischief will go scot-free. We should separate the two issues. From a national perspective putting assets back on track and letting them be revived is extremely important.That creates jobs, it creates growth.Separately, we have to beef up the quality of investigation so that people who made away with money that didn’t belong to them are caught quickly and brought to justice. Those are two separate issues. Just because there is some fear that the promoter has misappropriated money doesn’t mean that his factory or his power plant should have a stigma. Take the power plant away, do what is necessary to put it back on track, bring in new management if necessary and deal with his shenanigans separate ly through the investigative authorities.Try and ensure that anytime the bankers make a concession in order to bring a plant back to life they don’t face the threat of an investigation.

Every finance minister says India should have large global banks. What is your view on bank consolidation?

There are several issues here. One is the quality of management in public sector banks needs to be raised. There are some very good public sector bankers but there are some not so good ones, and it is not necessarily at the top that the problem lies. New capabilities are also needed in the middle management. The argument for mergers may be that good banks can uplift less good banks. I feel mergers are always better done at a time when the banks are relatively clean and the management can spend time on the merger process, which is never easy, especially if banks have strong cultures.So, to bring together a bank, for example, which has largely been in north India, with one from the east will bring together cultures that will take some time to adjust to each other. What is important is to ensure that you don’t double the problem by bringing the wrong banks together. The second concern expressed at various gyan sangams is whether the banks are in fact all following the same strategy . And, unfortunately, so long as strategy is determined in North Block, it will always be the same. So one of the moves that this government has taken, which has to be taken to its logical conclusion, is to appoint boards that are more independent, which are more capable and cut the strings between the boards and the government. The joint secretary in the ministry of finance should not be able to summon a board member or a CEO.

After the departure of NITI Aayog vice chairman Arvind Panagariya, there is talk that people who come from abroad aren’t as dedicated to serving India as homegrown folks and that the government should be careful about appointing such people in important posts. Your views?

There are people who think, sometimes fairly, that those who come from abroad jump to positions that they themselves would like. They question their capabilities and say , `Oh they don’t know India, and therefore will make wrong decisions’. I think that there are circum stances where an intimate knowledge of India is necessary in order to make the right decisions, and there are certain circumstances in which you can make the right decisions only because you are not trapped in a mindset that resists change. I think anybody who is sensible and who comes from abroad will take the wealth of experience that exists in their colleagues, their subordinates, their superiors and make decisions based on that.

As I said in the book, I never actually decided things on my own. I used to ask my colleagues to contribute and invariably the decisions that came from discussions at senior management meetings were better than what I individually might have taken or hopefully what they might have taken without my inputs. I think we should take the best capabilities there are and make use of them.

Obviously we come in because it is fulfilling to do something for the country .I think national sentiment in people living outside is as much as in those living in India. Many of us want to give back which is why we are willing to leave our cushy positions in academia or elsewhere and make the adjustment which is not easy and take the criticism that always emanates in these situations while trying to do the best job we can. Let me also add that sometimes there is a notion that we are fair-weather friends, who come when times are good and leave as soon as our leave expires. I didn’t leave when my leave expired; there was absolutely no issue about extending my leave, if necessary .I left when the government and I could not agree on terms for me to stay on. In that sense, the notion that we come to India for our sabbaticals is just not an appropriate criticism. I say this because there was a column in a newspaper a few weeks ago which seemed to suggest that I went back even though the government asked me to stay because the University of Chicago was not willing to extend my leave. I think the appropriate answer to that is we never reached a point where the government made me an offer to stay on.

Did the government offer you a shorter term?

There was no offer on the table. That’s fair to say.

How do you see India’s economic performance?

I am very hopeful. I think the government has done some very important things such as the goods and services tax reforms because politically a difficult task has been done. This is one situation where the dividends will pay off in the longer run even though there might be short-term disruptions. It will also help in curbing tax evasion in addition to uniting the country as a single market and reducing transactions. This is a major reform.

The immediate concern is that private investment hasn’t picked up and, as a result, jobs haven’t been created to the extent that we need. In an emerging market the biggest source of jobs is construction. I think it is fair to say we need to do more here. We need to ensure that some of these reforms that have taken place ­ the real estate Act, GST, and so on ­ are also met with moves to enhance investment so that the country can make use of what the Economic Survey calls a sweet spot. There is a very good external environment and it is something that we should take advantage of now. Unfortunately, with private investment not picking up, so far we haven’t.I would say three big places we need to work hard on are cleaning up the banks and putting those projects that are languishing back on track to the extent possible, and then recapitalising the banks to ensure that they have the money to lend when growth picks up.Second, in the power sector, we have to be fairly careful that going forward we don’t have more distress. The reforms required by UDAY have to be accelerated, and discom losses have to be brought down faster.

The third element that is extremely important is agriculture. We need to increase productivity in agriculture and also reduce the gap between what the farmer gets and what is paid by retail buyers. This means improving the quality of markets giving farmers access to productivity tools and insurance. All these we have been working on for some time but I always said the problem in India is not that we don’t know what to do. It is that we should have done it yesterday or last week.

Will you be interested in coming to Parliament like your friend Jayant Sinha?

Actually , I am very focused on writing and research right now. And I don’t believe I have any sort of political aptitude.I am happy where I am.

The story behind Rajan’s most embarrassingly famous newspaper headline

The title of the book `I Do What I do’ reflects the serendipitous nature of public life…As one press conference was ending, I was asked whether I was dovish like Yellen or hawkish like Volcker. I understood what the reporter was asking, but I wanted to push back on the attempts to pigeonhole me into existing stereotypes.Somewhat jokingly, I started in a James Bond-ish vein, `My name is Raghuram Rajan… ‘ To my horror, mid-sentence I realised I did not know how to end in a way that did not reveal more on monetary policy than I intended. So with TV cameras trained on me, I ended lamely `…and I do what I do’. For some reason, the sentence became the financial press headline the next day, with the details of our monetary policy relegated to the inside columns. The commentary on social media even reached my usually supportive daughter, who emphasized her negative reaction to my unwitting sentence with repeated thumbs-down emojis!


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India – When home turns into hell #MaritalRape #Vaw

Why is India dragging its feet on criminalising marital rape?

A woman who is trapped in a relationship in which she is forced to have sex against her wishes is just a sex slave. Even worse: a married woman in India, who is in such a relationship, is like a slave of yore when slavery was legal because she has no escape route. Even the law is against her.

It is shocking to know that, in 21st century India, our law makers still consider women to be chattels. The world’s largest democracy — which has passed so many gender-sensitive laws — has not taken cognisance of the basic fact that, when a woman’s home turns into her hell, the law needs to be her strongest support.

For over half a century now, the rest of the world has understood this and criminalised marital rape. Poland passed legislation on this as early as 1932, Czechoslovakia followed suit in 1950 and the Soviet Union in 1960. Today, most countries around the world including religiously conservative ones like Ireland and Israel have passed laws criminalising marital rape. And so have many countries in Africa where it was “traditionally” considered acceptable for a man to have forced sex with his partner.

So why do our legislators still drag their feet, ducking under excuses of marriage being sacrosanct? How can a responsible member of the Rajya Sabha declare “it is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors — e.g. level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of society to treat marriage as a sacrament…”

Could he have even thought about it before making such a statement? Do poor illiterate women not have a right over their own bodies? In fact they are the ones who need the support of law because they do not have the strength or social support to resist acts of domestic violence. What kind of social values and customs permit forced sex within a marriage? And if they do, should they not be discarded along with the outdated “traditional” patriarchal practices like sati, streedhanam and female infanticide? Yes, for those who don’t know, there was a “traditional” routine even to kill infant girls.

When we could pass laws to end those anti-women traditions, why can’t we address this obvious one? Is it because our male-dominated legislature and judiciary cannot understand that a wife is a partner and not a possession?

The problem, I think, is within us. Many in our society still believe that a daughter is a burden because she is vulnerable to sexual abuse. In fact many parents even use that as an excuse for choosing not to have daughters. When they do have daughters, they want to “shed the responsibility” by getting her married off at the earliest to a man who they assume will be her “protector”.

But how many of these women actually find protection in their marital homes? One visit to a burns ward at a hospital or an NGO that shelters victims of domestic violence will reveal how brutal many of these marriages are. How ironic it is, then, to say that in such cases sexual abuse is not rape.

Our legal vocabulary also retains that archaic term “restoration of conjugal rights”, which almost seems to give legal sanction to spousal rape. How can the court order a spouse to submit to conjugal acts? Our movies and serials too often unthinkingly endorse marital rape. A woman who is raped has to be married off to her rapist. A sadist husband has to be “reformed” by his relatives and friends… he can never be dumped. In real life, women who are running away from brutal marriages are often advised by friends, family and even the police to go back and “co-operate” with their husbands and “all will be well.”

The flip side to this debate is that it has opened up the “traditionally” taboo subject of sex within a marriage. Something that we pretend doesn’t exist because women are supposed to be asexual beings with no agency over their own bodies. What recourse does a woman have if she is married off to a person whom she finds physically repulsive or if she has been coerced into marriage that involves a physical relationship she cannot tolerate? A man’s ultimate weapon is often sexual coercion. If he begins using this to punish his wife or subjugate her because she does not desire to have sex with him, she has no one to turn to.

One of the arguments being used is that women can misuse such a law if it came into force and they would file false cases of rape against their husbands. Yes, possibly. Because, like marriages, women are not “sacrosanct”. They too come with failings and virtues.

The point is any law can be misused. That doesn’t mean it should not exist. It is for the judiciary to carefully examine each case and also make proper suggestions so that loopholes can be plugged.

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‘Destructive wealth and arrogance’: Bob Brown hits out at Adani group

Bob Brown and a lobbyist

Veteran conservationist compares situation to a nationwide action he led against the Franklin Dam in Tasmania in the 1980s

Veteran conservationist Bob Brown has criticised the “destructive wealth and arrogance” of Indian mining group Adani at a Sydney protest against the Galilee Basin mine.

The Adani chairman, Gautam Adani, announced this week that the company would break ground on it’s $16.5bn coal mine in Queensland in October.

Brown has joined calls for the federal government to rule out helping fund the “devastating mega project” through a loan from the Northern Australian Infrastructure Fund.

He says Adani, in a “heightened arrogance”, has been signalling that the $1bn loan was already secured despite no confirmation from the Turnbull government.

“A message back to Mr Adani – you’re welcome to this country,” Brown told a summit in Sydney on Saturday.

“But you’re not welcome to bring your destructive wealth and arrogance to ride over the majority opinion of Australian people who don’t want you to have that loan and won’t let you get away with that mine.”

Brown predicted a revolt against the Turnbull government if the loan and mine went ahead and said protesters were willing to physically sit in the way of machinery.

“If push gets to shove … people want to take action against this monstrous Adani mine,” he said. “This is a big vote-changer.”

The former Greens leader compared the current controversy to a nationwide action he led against the Franklin Dam in Tasmania in the 1980s – a battle eventually won by conservationists.

“This is the biggest environmental, heritage, Indigenous and lifestyle issue I have seen come along in decades in Australia,” he said. “It’s galvanising people everywhere.”

The Stop Adani group will hold a national day of action against the project on 7 October.

The company decided to move forward on the project after the federal court dismissed two legal bids – from traditional owners and environmental groups – to stop it from going ahead –

The Environmental Defenders Office has said it will continue to examine the lawfulness of the mine.

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Women in India Nearly 40 Times More Likely to Die After Assault as Their US Peers #Vaw

Code of silence makes death more likely for Indian assault victims

Women who are assaulted in India are 40 times more likely to die from their injuries than their US counterparts, with social factors mostly to blame for the gaping disparity, says the study
The researchers compared survival rates for women post-assault and women who were injured accidentally, and the figures suggested something more sinister was at play. Photo: AFP

The researchers compared survival rates for women post-assault and women who were injured accidentally, and the figures suggested something more sinister was at play. Photo: AFP

London: Women who are assaulted in India are 40 times more likely to die from their injuries than their US counterparts, with social factors mostly to blame for the gaping disparity, according to research released on Thursday.

The researchers at the University Of Washington said they compared survival rates for women post-assault and women who were injured accidentally, and the figures suggested something more sinister was at play.

“We looked and I don’t believe the women (assaulted) in India were worse injured — the clinical injury scores were not that high. That led me to hypothesise about social factors,” Mohini Dasari, a surgeon and researcher at University of Washington, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The research compared more than 25,000 trauma cases and was published in the British Medical Journal’s prestigious BMJ Global Health.

It found that women in the United States had more than five times better odds of surviving a simple fall or road accident than their counterparts in India — largely due to better medical care.

But the gap in survival rates jumped to 40 when it came to intentional attacks, prompting suspicions that neglect and a code of silence around domestic violence in India was to blame.

Women in India are nearly 40 times more likely to die after being assaulted than are their female peers in the US, finds a comparative analysis of trauma data from both countries, published in the online journal BMJ Global Health.

The researchers drew on information submitted to Indian (11,670 cases) and US (14,155 cases) trauma databases for 2013 to 2015 for the top three causes of injury: falls; road traffic accidents; and assaults.

The Indian database comprised patients at four hospitals in Kolkata, Mumbai, and Delhi–‘megacities’ with more than 10 million inhabitants. The US database included patients treated at three level 1 trauma centres in the medium sized city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

After rail transport and burn injuries had been excluded, and the cases matched for trauma type/severity, age, and gender, the final analysis included 7505 Indian and 9448 US cases.

Comparative analysis showed that Indian men were more likely to die after sustaining any one of the three categories of injury than either Indian women or US men and women.

And US men were three times as likely to die after sustaining a fall than were US women.

But the greatest disparity in risk of death emerged for Indian and US women who had been assaulted–a difference the researchers describe as “unparallelled.”

Women in India who had been assaulted were nearly 40 times as likely to die of their injuries as were their US counterparts.

Both men and women in the US had between five and seven times lower odds of dying after a fall or a road traffic accident than did their counterparts in India.

In a bid to explain the findings, the researchers point to previous studies showing that men tend to be more badly affected than women after sustaining trauma, but it’s not clear whether this is due to differences in injury type or in recovery.

As to the wide discrepancy in death risk following assault among women, the researchers suggest that women in India who have been assaulted may not seek medical attention promptly.

They point to reliable evidence suggesting that only one in four female victims of assault in India actively seek care after experiencing intimate partner violence.

Pre-hospital care services are also not likely to be as well developed as they are in the US, added to which women from low income households may not be able to afford the treatment they need, they suggest.

The researchers accept that the two sets of data were not standardised, and that some of the trauma cases might have been miscoded as falls or road traffic accidents when they were in fact assault, both of which would have affected the findings.

“The higher odds of death for Indian females compared with US females suggest that there are other injury and systemic factors that contribute to this discrepancy in mortality odds,” they write.

Code of silence

Violence by partners makes up a significant percentage of assaults on women in both countries, said the researchers.

But previous studies that show only one in four Indian women who are assaulted seek health care after an attack led the researchers to ask how social barriers might prevent Indian women reaching hospitals quickly.

“I’m imagining a woman whose significant other has assaulted her, and they’re not necessarily going to let them call for help. We know violence is sometimes condoned by in-laws and the woman might not be able to go and ask for help,” said Dasari.

“There is clearly something that leads to that high odds of death,” she added.

The study analysed patients at four hospitals in Kolkata, Mumbai and Delhi, and compared them to three trauma centres in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Juan Carlos Puyana, Professor of Surgery at University of Pittsburgh, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that researchers will struggle to make definite conclusions until the records of trauma better document the causes of injuries.

Even in this study, some assaults may have been mis-registered as falls or road traffic accidents, which could have affected their findings, said Puyana.

“Not every woman is going to go to a hospital to say: ‘I have just been beaten’ or ‘I have just been assaulted’. Probably the real level is actually higher than we’ve seen in these results,” he added. Reuters

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EXPOSED – Aadhaar seeding scam in Jharkhand, UIDAI still parroting safety alaap #WTFnews

A.S.R.P. Mukesh

Ranchi, Sept. 1: An engineering student in Jharkhand, with the help of a banking agent, linked his Aadhaar number with the savings account of a college to embezzle more than Rs 11 lakh in 30 days, exposing a serious threat to the unique ID seeding that the Narendra Modi government at the Centre is so aggressively promoting.

Police, who chanced upon the fraud after United Bank of India (UBI) lodged an FIR yesterday, are hunting for Rohit Kumar Pandit (22), a native of Karma in Koderma and a BTech student of a private college in Ranchi, and Om Prakash Singh, a banking correspondent of UBI’s Jhumri Telaiya branch in Koderma, 160km from the state capital.

Although an isolated case reported so far, bankers told this newspaper that wrong Aadhaar cards being seeded with other plum bank accounts could not be ruled out. They added that given the pressure on banks from the government to achieve Aadhaar targets, such frauds could be commonplace.

UBI’s Jhumri Telaiya branch manager Abhishek Kumar said the siphoning could have been facilitated by an operational glitch, but a high-level probe had been ordered to find out how the Aadhaar number of an individual was seeded with that of a college account.

“Around Rs 11.33 lakh was withdrawn in instalments from the savings account of JJ College (in Koderma) in the past month. The college lodged a complaint with us after receiving the account statement. From our end, we lodged a named FIR after preliminary probe,” Kumar said.

According to the branch manager, banking correspondents/agents are not on the payroll of any bank, but are outsourced through agencies.

A person in a rural or semi-urban area whose Aadhaar number has been linked to his/her account can approach a banking correspondent (instead of a bank) to withdraw a maximum of Rs 10,000 using biometric scans.

“Besides a salary of around Rs 3,000-4,000, the agents get commission on withdrawals, Aadhaar seeding, opening of accounts, loans, etc. Their job is to visit remote areas where banks can’t physically go and help people,” the manager said.

The Jhumri Telaiya branch has two such banking correspondents, one of them Om Prakash.

Another UBI official said it was, however, not yet clear how Rs 11 lakh was withdrawn within a span of 30 days when the daily limit was Rs 10,000 (through banking correspondents).

Jhumri Telaiya thana in-charge Kameshwar Prasad couldn’t give details of the IPC sections under which the FIR had been lodged against Rohit and Om Prakash, but said they had launched a manhunt for the duo.

Prasad Joshi, general manager of State Level Bankers’ Committee, an apex outfit of all banks in Jharkhand, said wrong Aadhaar seeding could only happen through “human intervention” and could remain undetected for days.

“The National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI), where all the data are stored, only shows the bank account and UID numbers and no names. So, once an Aadhaar number is tagged with an account, it can be difficult to say if it is genuine or fake. It is better to update mobile phone and email details with your bank for timely withdrawal alerts,” he said.

Principal of JJ College J.K. Prasad could not be contacted from Ranchi because his phone remained switched off.

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Are Rohingyas: Jihadists ?



The Rohingyas — or at least some Rohingyas — are now being projected as terrorists, as “Jihadists” out to kill Myanmar soldiers and civilians. Myanmar leaders including Aung San SuuKyi have spoken along these lines.

This view of the Rohingyas is being propagated by the Myanmar government with greater zeal since a small armed group called the ArakanRohingya Salvation Army ( ARSA) attacked security forces on 9 October 2016. These attacks have continued in recent weeks. In this new wave of violence it is alleged that 12 security personnel were killed while the Myanmar military and border police have killed 77 Rohingya Muslims.

The way Aung San SuuKyiand her government colleagues have framed the clashes ignores the brutal massacres committed by the military over a long period of time. The oppression and persecution of the Rohingyas by the State and other forces has been thoroughly documented by the United Nations Human Rights Council and other independent human rights groups. It is well-known that as a community the Rohingyas were stripped of Myanmar citizenship in 1982, deprived of basic human rights, tortured, imprisoned, and forced to flee their home province of Rakhine. This is why there are tens of thousands of Rohingyas living in squalid conditions in Bangladesh or struggling to survive in a number of countries from Malaysia to Saudi Arabia. They have been described by the UN itself as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.  Simply put, the Rohingyas are the victims of a slow genocide, to quote Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen.

To condemn the violence of a miniscule fraction of the Rohingyas without taking into account their massive marginalisation and severe oppression is a travesty of truth and justice. It is extreme desperation and hopelessness that has forced some of them to resort to violence. Of course, violence is not the solution. It will not help to restore the rights of the Rohingyas, especially their right to citizenship.

Our concern is that the violence will escalate. The signs are already there. Given the underlying religious connotations of the conflict — though the conflict itself is not rooted in religion per se – it is not inconceivable that the violence will spread beyond Myanmar’s borders and engulf Muslim and Buddhist communities in other parts of Southeast Asia. This would be catastrophic for ASEAN, a regional grouping in which 42% of the population is Muslim and another 40% is Buddhist.

Finding workable solutions to the Myanmar – Rohingya conflict is therefore of utmost importance. It is in this regard that the ‘Final Report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State’ under the chairmanship of former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, deserves the urgent attention of all stakeholders.  The Report announced in August 2017 calls for a review of the 1982 citizenship law and notes that “Myanmar harbours the largest community of stateless people in the world.” It urges the government to abolish distinctions between different types of citizens.

Other recommendations pertain to reduction of the poverty rate in Rakhine state which is 78%, improving the socio-economic condition of the people, enhancing access to health services and education, ensuring freedom of movement and encouragingpeople’s participation and representation. Though the Report is worded with a great deal of caution and diplomacy, it does send an unambiguous message to the powers-that-be in Myanmar that the status quo cannot be allowed to persist and that change has to take place. That message is significant considering that the Commission was actually initiated by the government.

Will the government take heed? So far there is no indication that it will respond positively to the Commission’s recommendations. This is not surprising. It is the harsh authoritarianism of the government embodied in the power of the military that is primarily responsible for the targeting of the Rohingya as the “ethnic other.” This is what has resulted in the genocide that we are witnessing today.

Even if the Myanmar government does not act of its own volition, the Kofi Annan Report can be used to persuade other governments to pressurise Myanmar to act. Apart from ASEAN governments, special efforts should be made by civil society groups and the media to convince Beijing, Tokyo, New Delhi, Islamabad and Washington and London that they demand that the Myanmar government protects all its citizens without discrimination. If it fails to do so, these capitals should review their economic and/or military ties with Naypyidaw.

It is with the aim of persuading the leadership in Naypyidaw to change its behaviour that the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) is holding its concluding session in Kuala Lumpur on the treatment of the Rohingyas, Kachins and other minorities in Myanmar from the 18th to the 22nd of September 2017. As more and more voices plead for justice and compassion on behalf of the oppressed who knows they may eventually pierce the walls of Naypyidaw.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is the President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST). Malaysia.


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India – Repeal all draconian laws and Stop Operation GreenHunt

State violence against people a concern to date, say activists

Against State repression: Goutam Navlaka, a member of People’s Union for Democratic Rights, addressing the national convention at Sundaraiah Vignana Kendram in the city on Saturday.

They are in city for the national convention organised by CDRO

From Telangana where custodial deaths and encounter killings were common, to Kashmir where several incidents of rapes and murders by the Army personnel were reported, State represses most people’s struggles, opined activists from across the country, who were in the city to attend a national convention.

Speaking at the meet, Goutam Navlaka, a writer for Economic and Political Weekly and the member of People’s Union for Democratic Rights, said the media focus on Kashmir issue should be on violence committed by the Army there.

“It should not be forgotten that Kashmir has a long history of democratic movements. People took up arms as the democratic movements were suppressed by brute force. And even now, women are violated sexually and children are killed by the Army units. Under such circumstances, didn’t State violence cause repression of people?” asked Mr. Navlaka.

The meeting was organised by the Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations (CDRO), a collective of 20 civil and democratic organisations.

In the meeting, the CDRO members condemned the Indian state’s encounter killings to eliminate ‘undesirables’ ranging from criminals and petty offenders to political dissidents. A maximum number of such killings had taken place in the States, including Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, the activists said.

They said there was no difference between “real” and “fake” encounter killings as the State has not investigated into all the police or Army actions that resulted in deaths.

“Any distinction between the fake and real encounters is untenable unless all the cases of encounter killings are investigated,” said the CDRO members.

“Legitimisation of encounter allows the State to assume absolute power to kill and the right to punish by death, sidestepping the normal judicial processes of investigation and trial”. They claimed that encounter killings by definition violates law, the principles of jurisprudence and the Constitutional rights.

“The Telangana government, before the formation of the State, had promised not to shed blood of innocents. Soon after the Telangana Rashtra Samithi came to power, there were three encounter killings, including that of two young people branded as Maoists and that of Vikaruddin, who was under judicial custody,” said G. Laxman of the Civil Liberties Committee.

Another speaker at the meeting, Kranti Chaitanya, said even the Indian judiciary was acting in accordance with the State.

“The judicial system should be democratised. The State suppresses the aspirations of the people and the judiciary seems to ratify that approach. Now, it’s almost impossible to distinguish between the State and the judiciary,” Mr. Chaitanya said.

On September 3, activists Soni Sori and Bella Bhatiya are expected to attend the meeting.

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India – Naturalizing Everyday Violence In Mizoram


Co-Written by Shyamal Bikash Chakma & Asem Chanu Manimala

The construction and articulation of identity and nationalism is not a new discourse in the North-East India. This discourse has also succeeded in suppressing the voices and narratives of the margins. Recently, the state of Mizoram have been in constant news for the denial of MBBS seats to the four Chakma students, demands to sack the Chakma minister and barring of Chakma candidates from contesting state elections, by the Mizo Joint Action Committee, to the demands for justice against harassment of the non-Mizos traders, especially the Bengali speaking folks (Hindu, Muslim and others). However, such cases of injustice, discrimination and protests are not a new development in Mizoram. The Hmar tribes’ struggles for autonomy, the historical event of a 24-hourbandh by the Hmar People’s Convention (HPC), ambush of the member of legislative assembly (MLA) convoy by the Hmar People’s Convention (Democratic) [HPC (D)] and the refugeenization of more than 30,000 Brus (Reangs), are some of the examples that reflects the state of affairs of Mizoram. In the process, violence gets naturalized in everyday life of the people, in the name of identity and ethnic nationalism.

The intense intra-ethnic violence in the Northeast India is grounded in the assertive self-articulated ethnic and cultural identity which fails to accommodate and excludes the Other, what Biswas and Suklabaidya (2008) refers to as the multi-ethnic, lingual, and cultural identities. In such assertion, there is a continuous process of identification and persecution, of both internal and external enemies, to fortify the promised ethnic identity and nationalism. Thus, violence is introduced as means and ways to execute the project of ethnic nationalism and identity which in the process gets naturalized in the life-world of people, like a routine  (Alfred Schultz 1973)  In the state of Mizoram in North-East India, violence became a mechanism to assert domination of the Mizo identity and nationalism. The episodic violencehas become a discourse of everyday life for the non-Mizos, imbricated in acts of denial, demands, barring and harassments. Such violence is thus taken for granted in the very nature of common sense attitude, and hence, the whole discourse of naturalizing violence in the name of identity and Mizo ethnic nationalism gets sedimented in the Everyday.

As Schultz articulates on everyday life, the affairs of Mizoram state is never questioned or problematized. Such unquestioned outlook on the part of the state has forced the margins to suffer, voicelessly. Indeed, the episodic violence in Mizoram against the non-Mizos is not even perceived as a pejorative act by the general Mizo society. The non-Mizos is defined as a public secret. Domestication of such notion becomes absolute and singular in the discourse of everydayness. The Mizo nationalism and identity project are led by the political leaders, politically ambitious non-state actors, and the state itself by playing as the guiding force in shaping, advancing and exploiting the project. The actors have successfully structured the project within the whole paradigm of defining non-Mizo as an enemy, and violence is repetitively introduced over them. It has made Everyday a site of chaos and injustice in the state of Mizoram.

The denial of medical seats to the four Chakma students, an ongoing case and also in burning of houses and schools, deleting from the electoral rolls, displacement from their villages, and physical violence in the 1990s and 2000s are the few other instances of violence. Indeed, it has also travelled from socio-political spaces to distribution of state services, whereby the margins gets excluded and discriminated. Thereby, the Mizoram state is becoming another space where the oppressed is becoming the oppressor, as Shyamal B. Chakma argues elsewhere. The rhetoric of Mizo nationalism has become a mechanism to retain and come into political helm of the state, as pointed out by Suhas Chakma. In such state of affair,violence is justified and naturalized in the name of identity and nationalism. In fact, Mizoram is one of the space where the revolutionary spirits against discrimination and injustice took birth in the North-East India. It is also known as the ‘land of peace’. The question is; has colonisation been rooted indefinitely? Or, is it the further development of the colonial discourse, with different actors?

Historical narratives show us that Mizos and Chakmas were residing in communion and have defended themselves together; such as, in 1830 in the western belt of Mizoram, the Mizos and the Chakmas fought together against their considered enemies (C. J Shakespear, 1912). Though there were myriads of inter-intra-tribal conflicts in the pre-colonial times, but such conflicts were dynamic in nature. It was only after the advent of the Britishers in the North-East India and Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh, the whole discourse of conflicts has changed. Hence, the nature of conflicts got institutionalised and the social boundaries of enmity and friendship were drawn. The case of Mizo-Chakma conflicts illustrates one of such classic case of intra-tribal conflicts. For example, the tension started when the Chakma queen Kalendi Rani started negotiating with the British, after several battles against them (Talukdar, S.P, 1988). Talukdar further narrates that the negotiations were openly revolted by leaders like Nilo Chandra Dewan and also allegedly hatched conspiracy against her. This made her to take help of the Kookies (Mizos) to crush the revolt, which led to the murderof hundreds of Chakmas at the hand of the Mizos. According to Chakraborty P and Prasad R. N (1994), during the colonial and post-colonial era, the animosity between these two communities grew even deeper on the ground of religion. The Lushai accepted Christianity and the Chakmas refused it strongly. SubirBhaumik (2009) further adds that, the introduction of Roman script also played an important role in the deepening of the ongoing conflicts. He states that the promotion of the Roman script was crucial, for the Mizo language has never been challenged by other smaller tribes in Mizoram as an official language. On the other hand, Chakmas resented the imposition of the Mizo language because they had their own language and script.

Violence in everydayness can be understood in many categories. It is not only with the eruption of conflicts or killing in the name of ethnicity, but it is also when people uses words like ‘Hughi’,‘Takkam’, ‘Foreighners’ and ‘Bangladeshi’(derogatory terms) in day-to-day interaction. The ongoing ethnic or Mizo and Non-Mizos conflicts in Mizoram revolves around ‘insider-outsider’ framework whereby the ‘we’ are the dominant Mizos and the ‘others’ are the Chakmas, Reangs, Hmars or even the Bengali migrant workers which has framed an absolute ethnic tension in everyday life. In this process of violence, clear social boundaries of exclusion and discrimination are drawn based on jignoisticMizo nationalism and identity. Hence, issues such as ‘illegal migrants’, ‘illegal immigrants or ‘foreigners, presentation of manufactured population numbers, ‘son of the soil’ are at play to profile and persecute non-Mizos in the state of Mizoram. These allegations are constantly constructed and deployed not on the basis of their falsity or genuity as what Anderson (1991) argued, but by the style in which they are imagined. However, due to the presence of violence in everydayness, people in general are tormented, both mentally and psychologically, which have larger detrimental consequences in the state of Mizoram. Therefore, the state of Mizoram instead of exploiting the project of identity and nationalism, they must build an environment where humanity thrives and uphold the identity of ‘land of peace’.

Shyamal Bikash Chakma, PhD Scholar in Development Studies at School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London

Asem Chanu Manimala, Independent Scholar on Northeast India

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