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Archives for : October2017

Meet the First Transgender Judge in India

Her eyes are lined with kohl. Long gold earrings dangling on the ears and the intricate gold necklace around the neck match the striking black and golden sari she wears. After years of hiding her identity, 29-year-old Joyita Mondal is no longer afraid to stand out in a crowd. This is not just because she was recently appointed a judge to a government deemed civil court in West Bengal, India, but more so because she became the country’s first transgender to achieve this feat.“It gives me great satisfaction to know I have broken gender stereotypes. It is also gratifying to see those who once taunted me about my gender, stand before me with folded hands waiting for a judgment on their case,” Mondol says.

A Lok Adalat, to which Mondal was appointed on July 8, 2017, is deemed a civil court under Section 25 of the Legal Services Authority Act, 1987 and, its proceedings are deemed judicial. Mondal is placed in the category of ‘learned judges’, by the office of the sub-divisional legal services committee of Islampur, Uttar Dinajpur district in West Bengal.

Her feat is really incredible considering discrimination and ignorance still threaten the survival and livelihoods of the community, despite a 2014 Supreme Court ruling in favor of a ‘third gender,’ recognizing and granting them political and economic rights. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, which seeks to prohibit discrimination against them in education, employment, and healthcare, is still hanging in the balance.

Amendments have been suggested following objections on various clauses in the Bill by the community and activists. Whether or not these are accepted will be known when the Bill comes up for discussion hopefully in the winter session of Parliament in December.

India’s population includes approximately five million transgender people according to the 2011 national census. While this mapping, conducted for the first time in the country for this community, was viewed as recognition of the third gender, LGBT activists assert that fear of harassment and stigma prevented many from revealing their gender identity, since they did not conform to the norms traditionally associated with the sex assigned to them at birth.

For Mondal, too, the journey hasn’t been easy. Born biologically male to a traditional Hindu family in Kolkata, West Bengal, Joyita faced discrimination, opposition and even rejection when she decided she could no longer live her life as a man. She only recently began the sex reassignment surgery to become a woman in July 2017, eight years after she first came out. “I loved dressing like a girl and playing with dolls. But I was a boy and boys don’t do this, especially when they are 10-years-old. As I grew older, I would dress as a girl when I went outside the house and change before I returned,” Mondal revealed.

But this secret life was not what she wanted. When one special school friend in the all-boys school she attended shifted out of Kolkata after grade 10, she decided to drop out of school in 2009. “I didn’t tell my family that I was unable to take the verbal bullying by other boys in my school. I just told my mother I had gotten a job in Dinajpur, a neighboring district in the state, and wanted to go there. I told her that I would come back in two months if things didn’t work out, and she consented,” she said.

But Mondal never went back. Here, she began dressing like a woman openly. Still, even while practicing her profession as a hijra (ennuch) and attending weddings or visiting the house of a newborn child offering services like singing and dancing to ward-off bad luck, she had started working for the welfare of the transgender community.

Realizing that she needed to know more about government programs in order to raise awareness outside the community, Modal resumed her studies through distance correspondence education, completing a law course as well. In 2010, a year after the national Election Commission added the category of ‘other’ in addition to male and female as gender identification to encourage transgenders to register for voter cards, Mondal became the first transgender in Dinajpur to get a voter card under this category. She also founded her own organization –Dinajpur Notun Alo Society– to reach out to other marginalized communities like sex workers, beggars and victims of trafficking.

In 2011, however, Mondal realized more had to be done to change mindsets about the transgender community after she had to spend a traumatic night at a bus stand after being turned away by all hotels because of her gender identity. “I started counseling sessions in hopes of reducing stigma by inviting relatives and family members of transgender persons. We showed films on the problems faced by the community. Further, sensitization of teachers and students in government and private schools and colleges started, and street plays at bus stands and other popular spaces were performed,” Mondal says.

Today, she views her appointment as a judge a huge step for the trans community, as well as a huge opportunity to reiterate that they are equal citizens of the country, and therefore deserve the same respect, dignity and acceptance as anyone else.

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Maharashtra: 20 farmers in Yavatmal die due to pesticide poisoning, more than 700 in hospital



A farmer leader alleged that more than 700 farmers have been hospitalised while 25 have lost vision due to infection caused by spraying poisonous pesticides in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra.

At least 20 farmers have died in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra after inhaling poisonous pesticide.
At least 20 farmers have died in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra after inhaling poisonous pesticide. Photo for representation: PTI.

At least 20 farmers in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district, which falls under drought-prone Vidarbha region, have died allegedly after inhaling poisonous pesticides.

A farmer leader alleged that more than 700 farmers have been hospitalised while 25 have lost vision due to infection caused by spraying pesticides. “Farmers are getting no relief, instead they are losing their lives like this. We will drag this matter to the court,” said Devanand Pawar, a farmer leader.

Chairman of Maharashtra government-run Vasantrao Nail Sheti Swavlamban Mission (VNSSM) Kishor Tiwari said an investigation will be carried out into the reports of pesticide poisoning and if chemicals are found to be toxic beyond the permissible limit, their use can be banned.

“Farmers are not taking necessary precautions. They should cover their faces and avoid spraying when there is intense heat,” said the VNSSM chief. VNSSM, a task force on agriculture, proposes to provide new crop loans to all farmers in 14 farmer suicide-prone districts of Vidarbha and Marathwada regions in the state.

  1. On Friday, Maharashtra agriculture minister Pandurang Fundkar admitted failure on part of the district administration for not informing the state government about the alarming situation of pesticide poisoning in Yavatmal, which falls under the drought-prone Vidarbha region.
  2. “I learnt about the incident from media reports. I have instructed all the concerned officers to act immediately. There was failure on part of the district administration to inform the state government,” Fundkar said after visiting Manoli village where a farmer died of pesticide poisoning on September 23.
  3. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the families of the farmers who died due to alleged pesticide poisoning.
  4. Calling the deaths unfortunate, the agriculture minister said that a probe has been ordered under additional chief secretary (home) to look into the matter and submit the report to the government within 15 days.
  5. “We will cancel the licenses of guilty companies which marketed the unauthorised pesticides in the market,” the minister said and added that a complaint would be filed against them if found guilty.
  6. The minister said that protective kits are being provided to farmers and officials have been asked to ensure such kits are being used by farmers.
  7. The Bombay High Court has issued a notice to senior officials of the Maharashtra government on a petition seeking an end to sale of harmful pesticides which allegedly resulted in the death of farmers in Yavatmal.
  8. The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court asked chief secretary, secretary of the agriculture department, Commissioner of Agriculture (Pune) and district collector of Yavatmal to reply by October 13 on the petition by Anand Narayan Jammu, a social worker.
  9. The petition mentioned that 19 farmers and farm labourers took ill and died after being exposed to pesticides during spraying on cotton crop in the past one month and sought a compensation of Rs 20 lakh for families of the deceased and Rs 10 lakh for those affected by pesticide poisoning.
  10. The Opposition attacked the Devendra Fadnavis government for its “insensitive attitude”. Leader of opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said, “The state government and the bureaucrats should be squarely held responsible for the large-scale homicide and FIR should be filed against the guilty”.

Yavatmal Pesticide Fumes and Farmer Deaths: Families of victims struggle to cope
After 19 farmers died due to inhaling of poisonous fumes during spraying of pesticides in Yavatmal, Mirror visits families of 3 victims who are trying to cope with the loss

In Yavatmal, an inadvertent casualty of the use of pesticides is the farmer.The area, which had acquired notoriety for suicides of cotton farmers, is now back in focus after the death of 19 farmers due to inhaling of poisonous fumes during spraying of pesticides in fields.

The government responded in the expected fashion — state banned unregulated sale of the chemicals such as plant growth regulators (PGR), flower bloomers and `stickers’ (added to a mixture of insecticides, PGRs and flower bloomers to ensure it clings on to the plants), which were used by the farmers on the advice of krishi seva kendras (KSK), and further announced compensations of Rs 2 lakh for the dead. Meanwhile, the question on everyone’s lips is, was the tragedy avoidable?

“The agriculture department is supposed to have village level krishi sahayaks (agricultural assistants), whose duty is to advise farmers on the of use fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides and other agriculture inputs in safe and correct manner. But in many villages, they are either absent from duty or their posts are lying vacant,” said farm right activist Kishore Tiwari.

Of the 19 people who have died so far, 10 are daily wage labourers with no other source of income.

Mumbai Mirror met few of the families who either lost their earning members or have relatives still battling for life at Yavatmal’s Vasantrao Naik Government Medical College.

`Was told compensation only for land owners’ Devidas Madvi, 52 Survived by: Wife, 2 children

Will money bring back my husband?
-Wife of Gajanan Phulmali

In August, Devidas Madvi,52, a daily wage labourer from Kalam village, became the first reported death due to insecticide poisoning.”My father used to earn around Rs 250 to Rs 300 per day as daily wage worker and for pesticide sprinkling, he was even given Rs 350 per day. He did this work constantly for 15 days or so before he started showing signs of trouble,” said Sandeep, 25, who works as a painter. On August 7, Madvi was admitted to a primary health care centre in Kalamb when he complained of vomiting, loose motion and fever. Though he was shifted to Yavatmal’s medical college the next day as his condition became worse, he died 12 days later. A post-mortem report called the cause of death as “insecticide poisoning” but Sandip said the doctors did not tell them exactly which pesticide caused his father’s death.

Sandip has not heard about the compensation announced by the government.”I was told that only land owners were eligible for it. So I never applied,” said Sandip.

`Will money bring back my husband?’ Gajanan Phulmali, 52 Survived by: Wife, 3 children

Sangeeta, the widow of Gajanan Phulmali, 52, is worried about how to pay for the education of her three children – the eldest, Pratiksha, is doing a nursing course, the second one, Dhammaraksha, is doing her graduation, and the youngest, Rithik, is in Class XII. Hailing from Savargaon village in Kalam tehsil, the Phulmali family went through its worst nightmare when its patri arch’s health worsened.

“We own three acres of land and my husband was a cotton farmer. It was the third day of sprinkling pesticide in our field when, after coming back from work, my husband complained about vomiting, convulsions and loose motion. We rushed him to a doctor who directed us to Yavatmal’s medical college. Despite being rushed there, he died 10 days later,” said Sangeeta.

The family has heard about the compensation package but Sangeeta, for now, is grieving. “Is it going to bring back my husband? Or the loving father to my three children?” she said.

`Will have to send kids for work’ Bandu Sonule, 43 Survived by: Wife, 2 children

Geeta Sonule, 35, widow of Bandu Sonule, is fed up of the stream of high-profile visitors, who keep interrupting the family which is in mourning, at their residence in the Manavali village in Ghatanji tehsil.

“While all those who have come have assured us of help, nothing has materialised so far,” said Geeta.

She is planning to discontinue the education of his son, Sourabh, who is class XII, and daughter, Pooja, who is class IX, and send them for work, to make ends meet.

On Friday, she was visited by state’s agricultural minister Pandurang Phundkar and few days before, by leader of opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil. MLAs, MPs and other local politicians and mediapersons are seen making a beeline on a daily basis, she said.

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Adani: Thousands turn out across Australia to protest against Carmichael coal mine




A national day of action to oppose the proposed Carmichael coal mine has seen thousands of protesters turn out in locations across Australia.

Rallies in locations including Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, the Gold Coast and Port Douglas in North Queensland heard messages against Indian company Adani’s proposed mine in the Galilee Basin.

Adani has promised thousands of local jobs but opponents say the project will fuel global warming and destroy the Great Barrier Reef.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

About two thousand people rally in Melbourne against Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in Queensland.  @abcnewsMelb

The ABC’s Four Corners program on Monday revealed alleged cases of bribery, corruption and environmentally destructive behaviour by the Adani Group in India.

Adani is seeking a $900-million loan from taxpayers so it can build the railway line from the proposed mine site in the Galilee Basin to the Abbot Point coal port.

“If this mine does go ahead it drives us into a dirty future and Australia is a country that’s smarter than that,” said Simon Fosterling, a Bondi surf life saver at the Sydney protest, which attracted about 2,000 people.

“I have a two-year-old daughter and I don’t want to have a conversation with her in 10 years time and the mine’s gone ahead and she says to me, ‘dad, why didn’t you do something?'”

Protesters spelled out ‘#STOP ADANI’ by standing in formation on the sand.

Both state and federal governments have defended the approval process, with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk maintaining the project will bring much-needed jobs and the company will be held to account.

“You only have to travel to regional Queensland to understand what this project means to thousands of families out there that will be employed through this project,” she said.

Ms Palaszczuk said on Saturday that although people were entitled to protest, her Government was ensuring environmental conditions were met.

“That’s a matter for people, they’re allowed to protest, we live in a democracy,” she said.

“At the end of the day we have the toughest environmental conditions attached to that mine.”

Queensland Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Anthony Lynham said the mine would be subject to “strict monitoring” throughout the construction process.

Sydney Stop Adani campaigner Isaac Astill called the construction of the mine an international issue.

“It’s going to be the biggest coal mine in the southern hemisphere at a time when our climate is crumbling,” Mr Astill said.

It’s an international issue and that’s why we’re seeing people around the world and in Australia coming out in their thousands to say no to Adani.”

About 2,000 people rallied in Melbourne’s Princes Park carrying placards reading ‘Coal=CO2!!!’ and ‘Protect Our Future’.

Over 200 Gold Coasters voice their concerns over proposed mega coal mine in North Queensland. @abcgoldcoast 

Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said she hoped the “big day of action” would send a strong message that taxpayers did not want their money subsidising the project.

“It will affect every single living thing on Earth, that’s why people in Melbourne and Sydney and Canberra and Adelaide and Cairns all care about this mine not going ahead.” Ms O’Shanassy said.

At Miami on the Gold Coast around 200 people turned out to oppose the mine.

“We know how important this is and we know there’s a growing movement and more and more people are realising how desperately we need this to stop,” said Shane Primrose of the Stop Adani Gold Coast group.

Between 200-300 people turned out at Perth’s Cottesloe Beach and more than 250 people rallied in Hobart, where speakers included former Greens leader Bob Brown.

Adani has promised thousands of local jobs for Townsville and Rockhampton residents to work on the massive mine in the Galilee Basin, splitting its fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) workforce between the two cities, and has promised to pay each council a rebate if it hires a non-local.

The protests were organised by the Stop Adani Alliance, which is made up of 31 organisations.

Thousands of people gather at 40 locations across the country on Saturday as part of the Stop Adani Alliance

Most Australians oppose Adani mine, poll shows, amid national protests

New polling shows the majority of Australians oppose Adani’s proposed Carmichael coalmine going ahead, and an even bigger number are against Queensland allowing the company to receive a $1bn federal loan.

The polling, commissioned by the Stop Adani Alliance, was released on Saturday as thousands of people are expected to attend rallies at dozens of locations around the country, expressing their opposition to the project.

The ReachTel survey of almost 2,200 people across Australia found 55.6% of respondents opposed the mine going ahead. That was more than twice the number who supported the mine, with 18.4% of respondents saying they were “undecided”.

Question: “Indian mining company Adani wants to build a new coal mine in Queensland, which it argues will create local employment opportunities, but concerns have been raised about the company’s corporate track record and the impact of the mine on the environment. Do you support or oppose the Adani coal mine going ahead?”

When told that the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, had made an election commitment not to spend public funds on Adani’s project, 65.8% of those polled said she should use her power to veto the possible $1bn loan the federal government might give the project through the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility (Naif).

That view was unanimous across voters of all persuasions – respondents who said they voted Liberal, National, Labor, Green, One Nation, Australian Conservatives, as well as those who were undecided, were all more likely to think Palaszczuk should veto the loan.

Question: “The Queensland Premier made an election commitment that her Labor government would not spend public funds on Adani’s private rail line for their coal mine. Should the Queensland government keep its promise and use the power is has to veto the federal government loan of $1 billion to Adani for the rail line?”

Support for the mine to go ahead was extremely divided among backers of different political parties.

Australian Conservative voters were the only group with clear support for the mine, with 57% saying they backed it.

Liberal voters were almost split down the middle – 39.3% backed the mine and 34.1% opposed it, while 25.7% were undecided.

A clear majority of most other voters opposed the mine proceeding – 69% of Labor, 58% of National and 90% of Greens voters. Among the One Nation voters, more opposed the mine going ahead (44.9%) than supported it (37.7%).

The polling follows earlier surveys showing similar numbers, including one commissioned by GetUp in January, finding that three-quarters of respondents believed a loan to Adani was not a good use of public money. And polling by The Australia Institute in May found 59% of Queensland voters were opposed to any state or federal assistance for the mine.

Federal Labor has had some divisions over the question of whether to support the mine and the Greens have sought to push them to say they will review any commonwealth funding for it.

The Greens are launching their Queensland state election campaign today, which will focus on opposition to the Adani mine, and place the heat on Queensland Labor for its strong support to the mine.

Protesters wearing masks depicting Malcolm Turnbull and Gautam Adani at Sydney’s Bondi beach
 Protesters wearing masks depicting Malcolm Turnbull and Gautam Adani at Sydney’s Bondi beach. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Members of the Stop Adani Alliance – which comprises more than 30 environment groups – began to gather at 40 protests around the country on Saturday.

They plan to spell out “Stop Adani” in “human signs” at beaches and other prominent locations around the country.

“While the Queensland and federal governments remain staunch supporters of this dirty mine, new polling shows the Australian community is angry that $1bn of public money could be handed to Adani for a mine which will wreck the climate and the Reef,” said Blair Palese, chief executive of Australia.

“Voters are clear. They believe the Queensland government should stick to its promise and block the $1bn loan to billionaire Adani for his private rail line.”

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Needed: A “Men Against Gun Violence” Campaign


Well, I won’t back down/ No, I won’t back down…
I’ll stand my ground/Won’t be turned around…
I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down,

Gonna stand my ground

             Tom Petty, “I Won’t Back Down

Again. Worse than ever.  A horrifying mass murder by a lone killer. This time in Las Vegas.

Republicans call for improved mental health screenings. Democrats revive demands for tighter gun control. Sure, fine; have at it.

Meanwhile a clue stares us right in the face, a key to preventing this madness and mayhem: The race and gender of the shooter. White and male. Again.

Okay, guys, white guys—all guys—this is our moment to say, “Enough!” This is the moment to start a national “Men Against Gun Violence” campaign. Right after Newtown, women launched “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense” the day after the murder of 20 six and seven year-olds, and six staff at Sandy Hook elementary schoolThe day after!

What are we waiting for, guys? You want to show courage? You want to act tough and strong? You want to stand tall for your family, your country? Then, let’s do it! NOW.

Let’s organize legions of men to question our gender privilege and challenge men to chart a new course in the gun violence debate. And, in the process, accelerate the transformation of our ideas about masculinity and manhood—including, especially, how we raise boys.

Men in their sixties, for instance—age mates of the 64 year-old shooter, Stephen Paddock—could be among the organizers of the campaign, demanding we recast US gun culture. Like me, a lot are grandfathers; many have time on their hands, as well as money and access.  They could, for instance, start a project to convince 58 senators—one for each of the murder victims—to vote not only for gun control, but also for funding the CDC to study how boys are socialized. Then, since there were 520 people wounded, they could call for all 435 members of the House of Representatives to vote for sane gun legislation. Add the governors of all 50 states, plus the mayors of the 35 largest cities in the country and it totals 520. See, in a campaign like this we are limited only by our imaginations.

Fathers, single men, gay men, men of color, indigenous men, white men, male coaches, clergymen, mailmen—the list of potential men to join the campaign is long.  Let’s not forget athletes and coaches in the NFL, and MLB, the NBA, the NHL. Even team owners could link arms in such an effort.

Musicians could play a part, too. Caleb Keeter, lead guitarist for the Josh Abbott Band, which performed just hours before the hail of bullets rained down on the Las Vegas music festival, could be recruited. “I’ve been a proponent of the [second] amendment my entire life,” Keeter posted on Twitter the day after the murders. “Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was.”

Guys, we’re problem solvers, so let’s figure this out. The National Rifle Associationconsiders most men tacit supporters. Part of our speaking out must include calling out the NRA. If we stay silent, they have us right where they want us.

The common denominator in all the mass shootings—ColumbineVirginia Tech, Sandy Hook, AuroraOrlando, the list goes on and on—is that all the shooters were men. Let’s not shy away from that sad truth.

A lot of white men today feel the diversity train has left them in the station. Instead of playing the victim, these men have a lot to offer a society undergoing a major social transformation. This is not just an invitation; it’s a call to action for men to use the power and privilege we hold to start a “Men Against Gun Violence” campaign in every state and territory—and to include boys and young men each step along the way. Too many men have been the shooters; it’s time for some to be the peacemakers. What are we waiting for?

Viva Las Vegas.

Needed: A “Men Against Gun Violence” Campaign

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SC- Dave alleges attempt by Amit Shah, Centre to vitiate peaceful atmospherein Kerala #Hadiya


The hearing in the Hadiya case before the Supreme Court today witnessed some high voltage arguments, as Senior AdvocateDushyant Dave alleged that the Central government was trying to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere in Kerala.

Dave’s statement led to a war of words with Additional Solicitor GeneralManinder Singh, prompting the Court to adjourn the matter for October 30.

Appearing before a Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkarand DY Chandrachud, Dave commenced his submissions by referring to PresidentRam Nath Kovind’s statements. He said,

“There is great sensitivity in the matter. President Ram Nath Kovind had spoken about the atmosphere prevalent in Kerala and the mutual respect between religions. There is an effort to undermine that mutual respect. I am concerned with the safety of my wife. There is an attempt to broaden this matter.”

He also referred to the two Habeas Corpus petitions, one of which was disposed of by the Kerala High Court.

“In the second petition, High Court took an adverse view only because she married me. Can a court do that? She has married out of free will.”

ASG Maninder Singh then rose to make his submissions. He spoke about how the High Court had relied on five other decisions before arrving at its conclusion.

At this point, CJI Dipak Misra asked,

“When a person has consented for marriage, can High Court annul it, unless the person is not in a position to consent?”

Maninder Singh then responded,

“Yes your lordships. And the people behind this have indoctrinated the girl”, hinting that the consent is vitiated by the same.

Dave took strong objection to it and raised his voice.

“They have abused Your Lordships’ order. Your Lordships ordered NIA to investigate under the supervision of Justice RaveendranRaveendran declined, yet they have gone ahead and investigated.

They are playing into the hands of the government. Your Amit Shah went to Kerala…(unclear). Why should NIA justify Kerala High Court’s judgment?”, thundered Dave.

Singh did not hold back in his response.

“I am disturbed that you are trying to browbeat the other side by such obnoxious statements. They have been using intimidation (tactics) continuously.”

“At least we only do it in court. Not outside court like your government” retorted Dave.

The Bench took exception to the arguments by Dave. CJI Dipak Misra told Dave that such submissions are unwelcome.

“Your tone and manner of submissions are…(unclear). You have actually bulldozed your case”, said Misra J.

Dave, however, refused to back down.

“I take strong exception to that. If Your Lordships don’t want to hear me, please don’t. But don’t put it (the blame) in my mouth”, he said.

The Bench also repeatedly observed that a woman has the right to take decisions for herself and that the father cannot interfere in the same.

“Basic principle is when a person who is mentally sound takes a decision, then it has to be respected. The father cannot say ‘I must have her in my custody because she is my daughter.’

But we don’t want to hear submissions unrelated to the case. Please restrict your arguments to the lis in question”, remarked  Misra J.

The Court then proceeded to adjourn the case for October 30. It also refused the appellant’s plea to stay the judgment of the High Court

Later, in a fresh twist in Kerala’s so-called Love Jihad controversy, the girl, who converted to Islam, had said that she wanted to die as a Muslim.

In the video posted by activist Rahul Easwar, the girl, Akhila Hadiya, had expressed her frustration over being kept in solitary confinement adding that ‘Is keeping me like this enough? Is this all my life going to be?’

Easwar had visited the family to speak to them, where he recorded the conversation of Hadiya and her mother, Ponamma. NDTV quoted him as saying that Hadiya wanted to die as a Muslim.

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#Aadhaar made compulsory for Ex-Servicemen’s Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) its illegal-What can you do ?


The Managing Director

Ex-Servicemen’s Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS)

Delhi Cantonment

New Delhi-110010

By E-mail to: <[email protected]>;

Subject: Mandatoriness of Aadhaar for ECHS and Contempt of Rule of Law and the orders of the Supreme Court of India


1. I am a member of the ECHS, with Membership Reg No.HY0000271, w.e.f 17/09/2004.

2. I have learned from the Officer -in-Charge ECHS Polyclinic, Mysuru, that Veteran ECHS members need to provide their Aadhaar number for their referral to empanelled hospitals / clinics or military hospitals, and that the software for the referral process cannot proceed without insertion of the Aadhaar number. Naturally, this requirement has been incorporated after due orders / circulars / directions from ECHS HQ.

3. I would like to bring to your kind attention that the ECHS system based upon this order denies a Veteran ECHS member of necessary, even perhaps vital, medical attention if he/she does not possess an Aadhaar number. You may kindly appreciate that a simple medical problem can snowball into a life-threatening situation or even death, because of denial of timely medical attention in an appropriate medical facility, for the sole reason that the Veteran ECHS member does not have an Aadhaar number.

4. I am bringing this matter to your very urgent and special notice because the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has, in its Order dated 23.09.2013, stated that “… no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card inspite of the fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory.

5. Further, a five-member bench headed by the then Chief Justice of India in its Order dated 15.10.2015, had reiterated all its previous orders. In particular I would draw your kind attention to the fact that the Court stated:

(a) “After hearing the learned Attorney General for India and other learned senior counsels, we are of the view that in paragraph 3 of the Order dated 11.08.2015, if we add, apart from the other two Schemes, namely, P.D.S. Scheme and the L.P.G. Distribution Scheme, the Schemes like The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), National Social Assistance Programme (Old Age Pensions, Widow Pensions, Disability Pensions) Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) and Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) for the present, it would not dilute the earlier order passed by this Court. Therefore, we now include the aforesaid Schemes apart from the other two Schemes that this Court has permitted in its earlier order dated 11.08.2015”.

(b) “We impress upon the Union of India that it shall strictly follow all the earlier orders passed by this Court commencing from23.09.2013”.

(c) “We will also make it clear that the Aadhaar card Scheme is purely voluntary and it cannot be made mandatory till the matter is finally decided by this Court one way or the other”.

6. You may kindly note that if a Veteran ECHS Member suffers deterioration of his health, even perhaps death, due to lack of timely and appropriate medical attention for the sole reason that he/she does not have an Aadhaar number, it will not only bring a bad name to the ECHS but may also attract criminal legal action against the official who issued the order, since it would be in contempt and violation of the orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India concerning Aadhaar enrolment being voluntary and not mandatory.

7. In light of the foregoing, and now that the order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has been brought to your attention, I very urgently request you to immediately rescind the order making Aadhaar number necessary for referral of Veteran ECHS members to empanelled hospitals / clinics or military hospitals, and amend the software in the ECHS Polyclinics accordingly, lest some unfortunate Veteran is affected adversely by the order.

8. I request acknowledgement of receipt of this letter by email to me at <[email protected]>.

Yours faithfully,

Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd)

Copies by Email to:

1. The Hon’ble Chief Justice of India, ℅ Chief Justice’s Conference Secretariat, Supreme Court of India, Tilak Marg, New Delhi-110 001. Email: <[email protected]>;

2. Directorate of Indian Army Veterans, c/o AG’s Branch, IHQ of MoD (Army), New Delhi-110010. Email: <[email protected]>; <[email protected]>;

3. Adjutant General, IHQ of MoD (Army), South Block, New Delhi-110011. Email: <[email protected]>;

4. Chief of the Army Staff, South Block, New Delhi-110011. Email: <[email protected]>;

5. Chief of the Naval Staff, South Block, New Delhi-110011. Email: <[email protected]>;

6. Chief of the Air Staff, Vayu Bhavan, New Delhi-110011. Email: <[email protected]>; <[email protected]>;

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Lost in transition: Has linking #Aadhaar to government welfare schemes made it difficult for beneficiaries to avail of aid?

Aadhaar is now compulsory for 87 government welfare schemes. HT reviews how this decision is working on the ground for two of the biggest schemes of this kind

Niha Masih
Hindustan Times
(Ravi Choudhary/HT PHOTO)

What does Anita, a slum dweller in Delhi, have in common with Muniya Devi, a villager in Jharkhand? They subsist on two of the government’s biggest social welfare schemes – the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA, also known as NREGA) respectively.

But both face exclusion from these rights guaranteed under law because of Aadhaar. Not because they don’t have an Aadhaar card but due to problems stemming from linking it to welfare schemes.

Last year, after the passing of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, the government has made Aadhaar compulsory for at least 87 government welfare schemes – from pensions and scholarships to fertilizer and LPG subsidy.

The main argument is that Aadhaar provides a foolproof mechanism to check fake or ghost beneficiaries, reducing corruption and saving money.

Through ground reports, RTI responses and court documents, HT reviewed the impact of this linkage to the schemes which the Centre spends most on – the NFSA, which provides subsidised ration to poor households and NREGA, which guarantees employment to rural households for at least 100 days a year.

The Missing Link To Getting Food Security

In April 2015, Tosif Khan, a fair price shop owner selling subsidised ration under the NFSA received a sleek Point of Sale machine from the Delhi food and civil supplies department. The government was testing new Aadhaar-enabled biometric machines and Khan’s shop in Chandni Chowk had been selected amongst 42 shops for the pilot project. Through the machines, the beneficiaries would get ration after their biometrics matched with those given for Aadhaar. The government claimed it would automatically weed out ghost or fake beneficiaries.

But Khan’s machine developed a snag and stopped charging about a year later. On September 8, he sent a one-line email to the central district’s assistant commissioner of food department, saying, “Sir, device mein charging nahi ho rahi hai” (Sir, the device is not charging). The reply came the same day. The terse email read: “To hum kya karein” (So what should we do?).

After that Khan went back to using manual entries for providing ration – exactly the opposite of what the pilot project was testing.


It was reported in April that the government had deleted many ‘fake’ NREGA job cards after verifying Aadhaars. An RTI filed by economist Jean Dreze, however, revealed that only four per cent of the job cards that were deleted were fake.


He wasn’t the only one to face problems. Another shop-owner (speaking on the condition of anonymity) who runs a fair price shop near the Delhi airport told HT that lack of cellphone network was a perpetual problem in operating the machine.

In his case, when the machine developed a fault, the government directed him to the manufacturing company. The company in turn told him that their contract was over and hence they were not responsible. He too, then went back to manual entries.

The failure rate of the government pilot was more than 50 per cent – of the 42 shops where the machines were tested, only 18 remained till the end. Yet, the Delhi government is about to roll out mandatory use of machines at all fair price shops from November.

Delhi Food Commissioner, KR Meena dismissed these as standalone examples. He said there was not enough awareness within the department since the pilot was limited. “Last time, our contract with the company was only for a year, so there were maintenance issues with the machines. This time we have a five-year contract with BHEL. They will be required to provide repair work within two hours of any complaint,” he said.

But the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan says that unreliable machines point to a bigger problem – people who don’t get ration due to biometric failures or mismatch.

They estimate that in Delhi about 12 per cent of eligible beneficiaries may have been excluded in one year because of biometric failure. But the state government says they have no data on it.

To address the problems posed by the machines tested, the government is banking on more advanced ones. Meena says, “With the new machine, if fingerprint biometrics don’t match, there will be an iris scan mechanism. If even that doesn’t work, then a mobile-based pin system will be used where a one-time password will be sent to the beneficiary’s phone number.”

Slamming this, Anjali Bhardwaj of the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan, says reliance on untested technology to curb corruption is misplaced. “The pilot of the Delhi government showed several problems – including network connectivity, biometric failures and without explaining how these issues have been addressed they are scaling it up.”

But exclusion is not caused by machine failures alone. Thirty-year-old Anita, living in a slum in south Delhi has spent three years trying to get ration for her autistic son, Nitin. The nine-year-old child did not have an Aadhaar card when Anita applied.

She is unable to take up a job as Nitin cannot be left alone. The family depends on the erratic income of her husband who works as a labourer and monthly subsidised food grains. Anita made three trips to an Aadhaar enrolment centre before the child could give his biometrics.

“He used to get scared of the machine and run away. But after all that effort when the Aadhaar card came, I was told his name still cannot be added to the ration card as the quota was full,” says Anita as she tries to hold Nitin in her lap. She was also unable to avail disability benefits for Nitin due to lack of Aadhaar.

Several such stories came to light when the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan took the government to court in February this year against Aadhaar being made mandatory for ration.

The Delhi High Court in September directed the government to start providing ration to Anita’s children, along with 40 other affected families.

A relieved Anita asks, “Gareeb ka khana ek card ki wajah se lekar sarkar ko kya fayda hua?” (How has the government benefited by taking food from a poor person because of a card?)

(left) (Parwaz Khan/HT PHOTO)

Aadhaar: A Hurdle To Getting Employment?

Muniya Devi, 23, from Bari village, about 90 km away from Ranchi, gave birth to her third child – Lalchand, three months ago. But within a week , she was making a train journey with her husband and children to neighbouring Daltonganj to find work.

While she and her husband broke stones at a construction site for ~200 a day, her eldest son looked after the youngest.They stayed there for two months to earn enough to survive the next few. “There was no other work in the village,” she says quietly. For unlettered and landless families living in remote villages, NREGA work has often been a lifeline. But when that dries up, they must move out.

With Lalchand slung on her tiny waist, she shows me her NREGA job card. According to the manual entry on the card, she last worked in December 2012 under the scheme. But it wasn’t only the lack of work that was the problem. Muniya’s card had been struck off the NREGA list in 2014 and the reason listed was “wants to surrender card”. Muniya stares perplexedly when I tell her. She has no idea when or how that happened. “We are not educated so I don’t know all this,” she mumbles.

James Herenz, of Jharkhand NREGA Watch, alleges that large-scale deletions happened when the state started linking Aadhaar with job cards. “To complete 100 per cent seeding of job cards with Aadhaar, those who didn’t have Aadhaar were simply struck off the list citing various reasons.” Almost two dozen villagers HT met from Bari had their names struck off with no knowledge of it. Total deletions from the village stood at 417. These deletions are important as the Centre has often cited that Aadhaar seeding with NREGA has helped to weed out fake or ghost beneficiaries. But ground reality suggests that many who lost their job cards were eligible for the scheme.

In April 2017, it was reported that the government had deleted over 90 lakh ‘fake’ job cards nationally. Verification involved checking the Aadhaar numbers of beneficiaries. But when economist Jean Dreze filed an RTI with the rural development ministry, only four per cent of the deletions turned out to be fake. Reetika Khera, economics professor at IIT Delhi says, “The focus on Aadhaar-linking in NREGA is a diversionary tactic, ignoring real problems such as difficulty in getting work, delayed wages and low wages.”

For Jharkhand, the RTI numbers show a similar trend. Of the 1.08 lakh deletions, only 2,675 were fake and 13,455 were duplicate. State NREGA commissioner, Siddharth Tripathi admitted that there were problems in the initial seeding exercise. “At that time there was no verification, only collection of Aadhaar data.” To rectify the problems of the first, the state launched a second drive. “Last August, we spent two months linking both Aadhaar and bank accounts to job cards. We helped people who didn’t have them to make new ones. Then, we ran a campaign in every ward to verify these,” says Tripathi.

The new exercise has resulted in deletion of 3.5 lakh cards. However, the department was unable to provide a breakdown of how many of these were fake and how many were deleted for other reasons.

Khera thinks the problem lies elsewhere, “Aadhaar can reduce ‘identity fraud,’ but the government has failed to honestly answer whether identity fraud is the disease that ails welfare schemes. Welfare needs Aadhaar like a fish needs a bicycle.”

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