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Archives for : February2018

Open Letter to Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB) Board of Governors

We – grassroots movements, non-government organizations and civil society networks from Asian countries and the rest of the world welcome the fact that we were invited to submit our proposals and concerns during the process of drafting the Energy Sector Strategy of the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank (AIIB).  We note that a number of these proposals were taken on in the final version.

We would like to express, however, our strong disappointment and disagreement with the Energy Sector Strategy paper still allowing for the financing of COAL. While it qualifies the conditions under which coal projects can be financed by the AIIB,  the circumstances described still leaves the door wide open for coal support.

The deeply harmful impacts of coal mining and coal power plants on communities and the environment are undeniable and well-documented.  Coal power’s huge contributions to the escalation of the climate crisis is well-established and widely acknowledged.  It is in direct contradiction to AIIB’s avowed commitment to sustainable development and the Paris Agreement which expresses a goal of keeping temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The problem of energy poverty still affects hundreds of millions of people in the region. Governments have used this as justification to expand the coal power industry – referring to coal as the quickest and cheapest solution to the problem of energy access.  This is not an acceptable argument. Neither is it acceptable to present “clean coal technologies” as the alternative to old and obsolete coal technologies.  There is no longer any excuse not to directly shift to renewable energy systems, which have already become more economically and financially feasible alternatives as evidenced by experiences in many countries including China and India.

Likewise, we disagree with AIIB supporting large hydro systems. For decades communities in Asia have resisted these projects for their devastating social and environmental impacts.

The AIIB, if it is to be true to its claims as a “green bank,” must marshal its resources to support a swift and just transition to renewable and clean energy systems for people and communities of Asia, and put an end to fossil fuels and other harmful energy as soon as possible.  Our people and planet deserve no less. #

Signed:

  1. Adivasi Mulvasi Astitva Raksha manch – India

  2. AKSI – Indonesia

  3. Alliance for Tax and Fiscal Justice – Nepal

  4. All Nepal Peasant’s Federation (ANPFa) – Nepal

  5. All Nepal Peasants Federation -Nepal

  6. All Nepal Womens Association –Nepal

  7. Alyansa Tigil Mina ( ATM) – Philippines

  8. Aniban ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura(AMA)-Philippines

  9. ARENA –Asia/Regional

  10. Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) – Asia/Regional

  11. Bank Information Center (BIC) – Europe/regional

  12. Bangladesh Krishok Federation -Bangladesh

  13. Bangladesh Jatiyo Sramik Jote -Bangladesh

  14. Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino ( BMP)– Philippines

  15. Bulig Visayas – Philippines

  16. Campaign for Climate Justice Nepal

  17. Central Eastern European Bankwatch – Europe/regional

  18. Center for Energy Ecology for Development (CEED) – Philippines

  19. Center for Environmental Justice (CEJ)  – Sri Lanka

  20. CHANGE – Vietnam

  21. Climate Reality Project -Philippines

  22. Climate Watch-Thailand

  23. CLEAN Bangladesh

  24. Community Development Library – Bangladesh

  25. Conservation Action Trust -India.

  26. Debt Watch – Indonesia

  27. EarthRights International

  28. EquityBD – Bangladesh

  29. FKNJ Jepara – Indonesia

  30. Focus on the Global South – Asia/Regional

  31. Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) – Philippines

  32. Friends of the Earth (FOE) – USA

  33. GEFONT –Nepal

  34. Gitib –Philippines

  35. Green Alternative, Georgia

  36. GreenID –Vietnam

  37. Greenpeace Southeast Asia

  38. Greenpeace -Indonesia

  39. Greenpeace -Philippines

  40. Greenpeace -Thailand

  41. Himalaya Niti Abhiyan – India

  42. Human Rights Alliance – Nepal

  43. Inclusive Development International – global

  44. Indian Social Action Forum –India

  45. Institute for Essential Services and Resources –Indonesia

  46. Jagaran Nepal

  47. Jatam – Indonesia

  48. Kerala Independent Fishworkers Federation – India

  49. Koalisi Anti Utang – Indonesia

  50. KRUHA – Peoples Right to Water Coaliton – Indonesia

  51. LDC Watch – Global

  52. Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center/Friends of the Earth -Philippines

  53. Leave it in the Ground Initiative (LINGO) – Europe

  54. Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) – Asia/Regional

  55. Mines, minerals and People (mmP) – India

  56. Monitoring Sustainability of Globalisation – Malaysia

  57. Nadi Gati Morcha – India

  58. National Federation of Hawkers -Bangladesh

  59. National Federation of Hawkers – India

  60. National Federation of Women Hawkers- India

  61. National Women Peasants Association, Nepal

  62. Nepal Youth Peasants Association –Nepal

  63. NGO Forum on ADB – global

  64. Our Rivers Our Life – Philippines

  65. Paguyuban UKPWR Batang -Indonesia

  66. Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum- Pakistan

  67. Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee – Pakistan

  68. Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) –Philippines

  69. RE:Common – Italy

  70. River Basin Friends – India

  71. Rural Reconstruction Nepal

  72. Sanlakas Philippines

  73. Sawit Watch – Indonesia

  74. SEAFISH for Justice

  75. Solidaritas Perempuan (Women) – Indonesia

  76. South Asian Alliance for Povery Eradication (SAAPE)

  77. South Asia Food Sovereignty Network

  78. South Asia Peasants Coalition

  79. SUPRO (Campaign for Good Governance) – Bangladesh

  80. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) -Philippines

  81. Trade Union Policy Institute(TUPI) -Nepal

  82. Unnayan Onneshan –Bangladesh

  83. Urgewald – Germany

  84. VOICE – Bangladesh

  85. Vietnam Sustainable Energy Alliance (VSEA) -Vietnam

  86. WALHI/Friends of the Earth -Indonesia

  87. Youth for Climate Justice ( Y4CJ) – Philippines

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India- Inadequate Allocation for Health Care Coupled with Following American Path of Promoting Health Insurance Business

Dr Anant Pahdke
To achieve the public health care expenditure objectives of the National Health Policy, there is a need for an annual 40% rise in govt health expenditure. But this budget shows an increase of only 12%. The NRHM budget has been reduced by 5%.
Instead of focussing on strengthening of the govt hospitals for secondary and tertiary care, this budget gives a health care expenditure coverage for poor people and tax benefit for health care insurance for middle class people. This is continuation of  the trend of promoting health insurance which will benefit the intermediary health insurance industry and the private sector; a path which is  contrary to the recommendation of the government’s High Level Expert Group (HLEG) on Universal Health Coverage. Patients will be the least beneficiaries.
The new National Health Protection Scheme to cover 50 crore poor people has an allocation of Rs. 2000 crores. This is Rs. A tokenish Rs. 40 per capita compared to around Rs. 4000 per capita required for Universal Health Care!!
New medical colleges attached to district hospitals is a welcome step but there should not be any PPP with the private sector for opening these new medical colleges as is being planned by the Maharashtra government. Nutritional support to TB patients is a welcome addition based on recent research.
 The eulogising of the Janaushadhee yojana recently in Manakee Baat of the PM turned out to be empty as no increase is seen in the miserly, tokenish allocation for it even in the 4th year of this government’s budget compared to the plan made by the Manmohan Sing govt.

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Malyalam Actor Sanusha sexually harassed on train,not many came to help #Vaw

Sanusha said the man tried to feel her lips when she was sleeping and when she realised it, she twisted his hand and raised an alarm.

Malayalam actor Sanusha was allegedly harassed on a moving train from Kannur to Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday night, marking yet another case of brazen sexual harassment of an actor in the state. The actor also stated that none of her co-passengers save for two men, reacted to the incident or supported her.

Sanusha was traveling to the state capital in the Maveli Express which starts from Mangalapuram when the accused, 40-year-old Anto Bose from Villukuri in Tamil Nadu allegedly attempted to molest her.

“I was sleeping. Suddenly I felt something touch my lip. When I woke up I saw this guy lying on the upper berth opposite me trying to feel my lips. I immediately twisted his hand and switched on the light,” Sanusha told Asianet.

The actor also stated that it was heartbreaking to see that nobody reacted or supported her during this awful experience

“When I told everyone, nobody seemed to mind. Only two people, writer Unni R and Ranjith, a man from Kozhikode, helped me out. I think people’s protest and outrage begin and end on Facebook. But when you’re confronted with a real life situation, nobody cares or reacts,” she added.

Stating that she may have received overwhelming support had she posted about the incident on Facebook, Sanusha said, “Probably if I had put up a status on Facebook, there would have been many more people showing support, saying “I’m with Sanusha” and changing their display pictures. However, as a woman I want members of the community to stand up for me at times when such incidents happen, not just later on social media. It is really disheartening and I have lost faith in the society.”

When asked if she would feel hassled by the number of court cases and procedures this incident would entail, she said, “Not really. I was determined that I would resolve the issue only after the police were involved. Thankfully I have my family with me for support. But even if I had to fight this alone, I would go with it because if this inspired a few girls or even one girl in the future to identify harassment and react to it, I would have done some good.”

The actor also insisted that everyone must react to such situations when they see or experience it.

“Before any other education is imparted, little girls must be taught to react to bad touch, harassment or any other unpleasant thing in schools and houses,” she told Asianet News.

The Thrissur railway police arrested the accused following the complaint filed by the actor.

“An FIR was filed under IPC section 354 and the accused has been produced at the court for further proceedings,” Thrissur Railway SI told TNM.

In a another case of sexual harassment, actor Amala Paul alleged that she was sexually harassed at her workplace and registered a complaint at the T Nagar police station in Chennai on Wednesday.

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Modi might be the only world leader whose Twitter use is more problematic than Trump’s

When Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh was fatally gunned down by unknown assailants on the doorstep of her Bangalore home one night last September, the nation was appalled.

The killing, which Lankesh’s supporters believe could only have been politically motivated, silenced one of India’s most fearless critics of a rising tide of right-wing Hindu extremism. The 55-year-old was buried with full official honors in her home state of Karnataka, with the state’s Chief Minister Siddaramaiah condemning her killing as an “assassination on democracy.” The hashtag #GauriLankeshMurder became a top trending topic on Twitter, and people throughout India paid tribute to her life.

But there was another, darker side of Indian politics on full display that day.

“A bitch died a dog’s death and now all the puppies are wailing in the same tune,” tweeted Nikhil Dadhich, a textile trader from the city of Surat, in Hindi. Though Dadhich’s abusive tweet was hardly unique — it was one of a flood of hateful comments posted by trolls on Twitter that day — it stood out in one important respect: Dadhich happens to be one of the 1,859 Twitter users followed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The episode shone a spotlight the cozy relationship between Modi’s nationalist government and the hordes of right-wing trolls that have come to dominate the Indian internet in recent years, creating a climate of growing intolerance and abuse, and a unified outrage army for the controversial leader.

The rise of this “troll army” — some of whose members are followed by the prime minister’s official Twitter account, and which some journalists allege is coordinated by his party’s social media team — has created what Amnesty International India’s program director Asmita Basu calls “a culture of excessive online trolling and abuse.”

Their attacks on minorities, women, journalists, and anyone who opposes the government’s right-wing nationalist agenda have unleashed a wave of hatred that is coarsening India’s politics and testing the country’s traditions of tolerance, observers say.

“It’s being used to create a divide in the social fabric of this country, and that’s extremely dangerous,” Pratik Sinha, founder of the Indian “fake news”–busting website Alt News, told VICE News.

“A NATURAL FIT”

Twitter is a natural fit for Modi, a leader who favors one-way communication, says Indian journalist Swati Chaturvedi, who has closely followed the social media operations of Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People’s Party, or BJP).

Besides his active Twitter feed and Facebook account, Modi also communicates with voters through his radio show Mann Ki Baat (Mind’s Voice), an app that gives updates on his life, and the occasional interview with government-friendly media outlets.

But he never holds press conferences, a characteristic that distinguishes Modi from his American counterpart. “Trump also values Twitter a lot — but even Trump holds press conferences,” Chaturvedi said.

The one-way appeal may explain, in part, why despite the criticism he has received for following trolls, Modi has made no effort to renounce or even unfollow abusive supporters. When Modi’s habit of following trolls became an issue in the wake of Lankesh’s killing, the BJP’s IT head Amit Malviya issued a statement framing it as freedom of expression, and a reflection of Modi’s status as a leader with the common touch.

A supporter holds up a cut-out of a lotus, the election symbol of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), with an image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a campaign meeting addressed by Modi ahead of Gujarat state assembly election in Kalol on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, December 8, 2017. (REUTERS/Amit Dave)

“He follows normal people and frequently interacts with them on various issues,” Malviya said. “He is a rare leader who truly believes in freedom of speech and has never blocked or unfollowed anyone on Twitter.”

But to Sinha, and many others, the BJP’s response missed the point. “It doesn’t make sense, because if you unfollow somebody, you’re not taking away their freedom of expression,” he told VICE News. “They can continue doing what they’re doing online, depending on Twitter policies. But there’s no reason why a prime minister should validate these people.”

“ENTHUSIASTIC ADOPTERS”

Modi — who has nearly 40 million Twitter followers — and the BJP have been enthusiastic adopters of social media. They surged into office in 2014 on the back of an unprecedented social media mobilization campaign, becoming the first Indian political party to harness the power of the technology to bypass mainstream press and connect directly with a new generation of supporters. In the three years since, those supporters have become some of the BJP’s most valuable assets, experts said, aggressively pushing the party’s messaging online and attacking anyone who opposes their platform.

”Anyone who doesn’t agree with them is given special attention, sent death threats, rape threats, sexually harassed.”

Today, alongside politicians, business leaders, and journalists followed by Modi are many right-wing trolls, for whom a co-sign from the 67-year-old leader represents an important, if implicit, endorsement of their racist and sexist abuse.

“They write in their Twitter profile: ‘Blessed to be followed by PM Modi’,” Chaturvedi says.

And this support hasn’t been reserved to the digital sphere. Modi even rolled out the red carpet for some of them when he hosted 150 of his most important online supporters at a reception at his official residence in July 2015, shaking hands with trolls who had tweeted insults like “u r product of a rape” against people online.

“It’s a way of telling them ‘You have my blessing,’” says Chaturvedi, who calls Modi’s implicit support of abusive trolls “crazy.” “Why would he follow handles that tweet out death threats, rape threats, incitement? There’s not a single other world leader that does it — not even Trump.”

Chaturvedi, who has written a book on the subject — “I Am a Troll: Inside the Secret Digital Army of the BJP” — argues that the trolls are in fact an integral part of the BJP’s political apparatus. She has spoken to dozens of BJP volunteers who told her the troll army’s attacks on political opponents are coordinated and directed by the party’s powerful social media team, using WhatsApp groups to orchestrate the trolls’ messaging.

“They have hit lists of people they want targeted — including political opponents, journalists with a different viewpoint. Anyone who doesn’t agree with them is given special attention, sent death threats, rape threats, sexually harassed,” she said.

The BJP and the Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story. But the former head of the party’s social media unit, Arvind Gupta, has previously denied Chaturvedi’s allegations, saying that the party never encouraged trolling, and had published social media guidelines on its website.

A DEADLY CULTURE WAR

While Chaturvedi says she fears the tensions stoked by the trolls could soon provoke deadly riots, human rights groups warn that the right-wingers are already succeeding in another central part of their culture war: silencing opponents.

“That’s when I started realizing, ‘Wow, my country’s changing for the worse.’”

“With Hindu nationalists trying to purge all manifestations of ‘anti-national’ thought from the national debate, self-censorship is growing in the mainstream media,” says the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders in its latest report on India. And Amnesty International’s Basu says the abuse is deterring women and minorities from voicing their political opinions.

“The abuse targets women’s sexuality and reduces women to sexual objects, reinforces gender stereotypes, and perpetuates intolerance based on their membership of specific marginalized groups,” she told VICE News.

Chaturvedi’s book includes the account of one such former BJP supporter, 38-year-old market researcher and brand consultant Sadhavi Khosla, who volunteered her time on the BJP’s campaign ahead of the 2014 election. Khosla told VICE News that after more than a year acting as a vocal online cheerleader for Modi, who she thought would bring positive change for India, she gradually became disillusioned with the constant attacks on the party’s targets.

“I never thought of these Bollywood superstars from my childhood as Muslims. Suddenly the BJP’s right-wing supporters were targeting them as terrorists —– they’re Muslims, so they’re terrorists,” she said. “That’s when I started realizing, ‘Wow, my country’s changing for the worse.’”

Cover image: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he speaks during the Opening Plenary during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 23, 2018. (REUTERS/Denis Balibouse)

 https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/zmqaq3/modi-might-be-the-only-world-leader-whose-twitter-use-is-more-problematic-than-trumps?utm_source=vicenewstwitter

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SC Aadhaar Hearing-Aadhaar represents a complete breakdown of trust as it presumes if you don’t have it, then you are a crook” –Shyam Divan

The Supreme Court on Thursday resumed hearing in the Aadhaar case. Here is the summary of arguments from Senior Advocate Shyam Divan, who is appearing for the petitioners in the Aadhaar case…
Mr Divan told the five judge Bench that Aadhaar is based on the assumption that we are a nation of knaves. “This represents a complete breakdown of trust, because the presumption is that if you do not have Aadhaar, then you are a crook. In a liberal democracy, routine everyday transactions cannot be made conditional on a barter of your biometric information,” he said.
How UIDAI violates every norm and SC orders
He said Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has violated multiple orders passed by the apex court saying that Aadhaar must be voluntary. “UIDAI took no responsibility for the safety of the data. UIDAI created an aura of necessity and used enrolled whose quality was dubious. UIDAI ignored the 2011 Standing Committee’s recommendations, and pressed ahead in order to create a fait accompli. UIDAI actively funded the State Resident Data Hubs (SRDH) so that datasets proliferated, without statutory backing,” Mr Divan said.
The senior counsel contended that UIDAI ignored norms laid down by the Supreme Court since 1975, which articulated the fundamental right to privacy, and which was unanimously affirmed in the privacy judgment. All these judgments said that you must have a law if you want to infringe on privacy.
Talking about rule of law, Mr Divan said, “The notification of 2009 constituting UIDAI did not mention biometrics or fingerprints. The statutory norm for collecting demographic data was the census Act. UIDAI did not follow this. The ID of Prisoners Act and the Bombay Habitual Offenders Act had established statutory norms for collection of fingerprints. However, UIDAI violated all these norms.”
Justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud enquired about use of multiple interfaces between individual and the State like tax, electricity bills and wanted to know how use of Aadhaar instead of PAN would be different in such scenario. “…your argument seems to be a problem with centralisation. Is it the centralisation that what makes it unconstitutional? Because every time I use a device with an IP, say to book an Uber, my location can be tracked. What is the specific additional problem with Aadhaar,” he asked Mr Divan.
Replying to the query, Mr Divan said, “The first problem as you have correctly pointed out is centralisation. Normally, you have information silos.”
To this, Justice Chandrachud said they are all tracking location that is common denominator.
“This is where the European Court of Human Rights-ECHR judgement in digital rights judgement comes in. They said, you cannot maintain logs. Why? Because it is one thing if a particular utility provider knows about your location. But what happens with centralisation is you have complete tracking. In the present regime, that allows tracking of IP plus ID. Look at the situation 25 years from now. If we fail in this case, 25 years from now we will be addressing “Aadhaar judges.” Because there is a full log. Right now, it is limited to schools and scholarships. They are planning for airports as well. At this point, you have multiple IDs. Take the PAN card example. You give one ID, you are identified, and avail your benefit. There is satisfaction with respect to the authority, and there is no question of surveillance.”
Elaborating further on surveillance Mr Divan said, “I want to stress that I am not saying that somebody is sitting behind the screen and watching. It is about the architecture of the program and this is why it has never been under proper scrutiny. No other free liberal society in the world has tried this because it simple would not pass the muster.”
To this, Justice Chandrachud said his bank maintains a central repository of all his transactions. He said, “We are constantly entering into a world of surrendering our identity – it may be a choice but it is still a central database. If we are willing to surrender our identity, then does the fact that the State is collecting information make a difference? Would it be satisfactory if there were norms governing collection and use?”
Mr Divan replied, “This is not a question of checks and balances, because the architecture (of Aadhaar) is that of pervasive surveillance. I am alive to the concern that you cannot go back to the pre-digital age, and that is not what I am suggesting.”
He then read out part of the Kesavananda Bharati judgment that says that social and economic revolution has to be achieved consistent with respect for civil and political rights. “Could the Preamble conceive of a State where I am standing there in flesh and blood, with alternative ways of identifying myself, but can be denied my entitlements?” he asked.
Trust between State and citizen is at the heart of the constitutional governance
Further going back to the privacy judgment on the concept of limited government, the senior counsel read out an elaboration of democracy by the Chief Justice in Manoj Narula vs Union of India case. He also quoted from President Ram Nath Kovind’s speech, where the President had talked about how trust between State and citizen is at the heart of the constitutional governance.
Mr Divan said, “An individual is entitled to develop her personality without being tracked and registered. In a liberal democracy, routine everyday transactions cannot be made conditional on a barter of your biometric information.”
Talking about element of limited government, the senior counsel said, “It is a shared enterprise between the people and the government. Another element of limited government is autonomy and the idea of space – the idea that I can do something without the State necessarily knowing. A final element of limited government is the idea of giving citizens a choice in establishing an identity in both interactions with the State and with private parties.”
“The State has advanced two justifications – giving people an identity, and savings. Both these claims are undermined by the State’s own documents. The Aadhaar enrolment system requires a pre-existing identity, and if you do not have it, then an introducer is required. According to government statistics, the number of people who used the introducer system is 0.03% (a little over 2 lakh). This does not mean that I win my case, but it is important to have the facts on record.”
“Consequently, the question is that can such small numbers justify such a vast an invasive system. We are not saying that identity is not important for the small number who did not have it, but the point is whether it is justified to resort to Aadhaar,” Mr Divan said.
Questionable Total Welfare Savings
Talking about second justification by the government for Aadhaar, Mr Divan said they said it is for welfare and savings. He said, “There are different type of malpractices. The first is that you fake your data and claim to be eligible when you are not. Second, quantity fraud. Third, identity fraud. Aadhaar can at best only deal with the third type of fraud.”
“The World Bank has estimated a saving of $11 billion per annum. Union of India has relied on this by saying that the World Bank is independent and will not indulge in puffery. In another affidavit the Union of India has used the same figure of $11 billion. Recently Paul Romer resigned from the World Bank citing no integrity in the data. This is one excellent example. There is some dispute over what exactly the pleadings were with respect to the issue of puffery.”
“The claim footnoted a 2011 article, which made no such claims. That article used the $11 billion figure to talk about transfers from five schemes, and talked only about the value of the transfers. Therefore the World Bank claim stands discredited. The figure was the total disbursement. There was no mention of savings. After this was revealed, the World Bank replaces the citation with its own footnote. Maybe the World Bank did not know, but the government official who signed the affidavit surely should have known that this figure is wrong,” Mr Divan said.
Questionable MNREGA Savings
Discarding claims made by the government of saving for the MGNREGA scheme, the senior counsel said, the claimed benefits through direct benefit transfer-DBT and Aadhaar savings are Rs11,741 crore. UIDAI records show that the 74 lakh NREGA job cards were seeded with Aadhaar, out of which out 67,000 were found to be bogus. These were all in Tripura. A Lok Sabha question was asked, where the figure given was 63,000. Aadhaar therefore eliminated 63,000. The maximum savings this would yield is Rs127 crore. This is less than 5% of the claimed saving of Rs3,000 crore. In an RTI, questions were asked about the scale of savings and the method but no specific methodology was provided. It was just said that savings are in terms of efficiency and reducing delay. Nothing about fraud. In another year 93,000 job cards were cancelled, but many far reasons other than them being fake. In an RTI reply it was found that the number of cards cancelled for being fake were 1%”
To this, Chief Justice Dipak Misra commented, “Mr Divan’s point is that the margin of exclusion is high and the margin of inclusion is low. His argument is that the larger public interest cannot be invoked to justify the extinction of individualism.”
Mr Divan agreed with the Chief Justice.
Questionable LPG Subsidy Savings
Mr Divan then talked about subsidy claims under liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and concerns raised by Comptroller and auditor general (CAG).
He said, “The LPG linking began as a pilot in 2014. The figures given in UIDAI affidavit is Rs14,000 crore of savings. However, minutes from the Cabinet Secretariat show an annual subsidy saving of Rs91 crore. Compare 14,000 with 91. What happened was that long before Aadhaar, the National Informatics Centre (NIC) came up with a scheme to weed out duplicates. The savings occurred long before Aadhaar. The CAG report is specifically with respect to the implementation of the LPG linking scheme, and the CAG has specifically said that you cannot attribute the savings to the Aadhaar linking, because the savings come from the NIC’s earlier program to weed out duplicates. In fact, the CAG specifically said that part of the savings is because of people not linking Aadhaar. This actually points to exclusion. So what really is the scale of the savings then?”
Based on live tweets of @gautambhatia88 who is representing one of the petitioners and @prasanna_s.

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India – Prescription for the doctor

The National Medical Commission Bill 2017 proposes a revamp of the regulatory framework for medical education and practice. It needs to be fine tuned.

Medical Council of India, Medical Council of India bill, MCI, doctors protests, NITI Aayog, National Licentiate Examination, Indian express columnProfessional interest needs to be balanced with societal interest and therefore, lay people, social scientists and civil society members with credibility, must be included in the NMC. (Illustration: C R Sasikumar)In recent months, doctors have been protesting legislation proposed by the Centre and various state governments to regulate the profession. As a professional self-regulatory mechanism, the Medical Council of India (MCI) has repeatedly been found short in fulfilling its responsibilities. Doctors with poor clinical skills are being produced, medical services continue to be inaccessible or unaffordable for the rural and urban poor and instances of unethical practices abound. Distrust has replaced the high status doctors once enjoyed. Systemic changes are urgently required.

Giving the issue due priority, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare presented its 92nd report, an incisive document on the failures of the MCI and a proposed restructuring. Subsequently, the Prime Minister’s Office set up a four-member committee chaired by the vice-chair of NITI Aayog which has drafted the National Medical Commission Bill 2017.

World-wide, there is recognition that self-regulation in the medical profession has failed. Structural changes took place in several countries in the 2000s. In keeping with the trend, the NMC bill seeks to replace the elected body with a national medical commission (NMC) that separates the tasks across four independent boards, allowing for due attention to be paid to under-graduate education, post-graduate education, standards and quality of medical education institutions, ethical medical practiceand registration. But the Indian Medical Association is contesting the loss of elected representation of the profession in the proposed NMC, the increasing government control of the professional body and the proposed National Licentiate Examination (NLE) after passing the MBBS examination. The functioning of the NMC is going to be critical to overcoming the drawbacks of the MCI and, therefore, all arguments must be seriously considered.

The MCI has 102 members, 100 per cent doctors, 66 per cent elected and 34 per cent nominated by central and state governments. Three office-bearers hold the reins and sub-committees appointed by the executive provide the expertise for various tasks. This is to be replaced by a 25-member NMC and a 64-member Medical Advisory Council (MAC). The MAC will represent the views of all states and UTs and the experience of IITs, IIMs, IISc, NAAC andUGC. The NMC is constituted of 20 eminent doctors (that is 80 per cent), three experts of relevant non-medical subjects and two senior officers of the administrative service. The NMC chairperson and presidents of the boards are to be senior medical specialists, selected by a search committee headed by the cabinet secretary, with secretary MoHFW as convenor, CEO NITI Aayog and four experts as members. Thus, a large proportion of elected medical members will be replaced by the search/selection-based NMC and board heads, ex-officio heads of premier government medical and research institutions, the elected members being only five (that is 20 per cent).

With proven charges of corruption against MCI office-bearers, alleged rigging of elections to the MCI, and the fact that very few complaints against doctors have resulted in disciplinary action, little needs to be said about its structure. The NMC has a more functional structure, which adequately represents doctors. What requires scrutiny is its potential to restore the credibility of the regulatory mechanism. Instead of making it a power and turf battle, what needs to be debated is what composition of expertise, experience and representation of interests will contribute to effective performance by the NMC, its respective boards and their subcommittees.

This requires a system of checks and balances that will prevent the emergence of monopolies and keep considerations of public interest alive. Some additions and changes in the present version therefore bear consideration. For instance, the bill is silent on who will make the final selection from the panel of three names the search committee puts together. We suggest a second screening by a more democratic body, such as the PSC, that has public representatives of various political parties, including parliamentarians with medical qualifications. Its recommendation should go to the President for final selection. Further, the bill should stipulate that all NMC members declare their professional and commercial involvements as well as financial assets.

Professional interest needs to be balanced with societal interest and, therefore, lay people, social scientists and civil society members with credibility, must be included in the NMC. Medical, public health, health systems management, law, ethics, health social sciences, education and pedagogy are all expertise relevant to the NMC. Half of the UK’s GMC members are non-medical persons. In Canada, even medical students are members. Therefore, increasing non-medical members in the MAC and state services medical officers in the NMC could be considered. The second issue is about regulating the fees in private medical colleges. The NMC bill stipulates that fees for upto a maximum of 40 per cent seats may be specified, leaving 60 per cent unregulated. The bill is thereby tying the hands of the NMC and the government, allowing for bias at entry and continuing pressures for unethical practice by doctors who have to “recover their investment”.

NEET may ease the situation of aspirants having to give several admission tests and check corruption in private colleges to some extent. But it cannot improve the quality of products — that requires overcoming the basic issues of inappropriate curriculum, poor teaching, and limited hands-on experience. Nor can the NLE, which is only an evaluation method, be a corrective. How doctors perform is a function of the norms of the institutional system in which they learn and practice as much as of their intelligence and effort. Mechanisms such as NEET and NLE should be left for the respective boards and not be included in a legal instrument. Integrated/plural health care is of value but the bridge course for AYUSH practitioners does not serve that purpose and would be detrimental to each system. It must receive more serious deliberation before it is brought into legislation.

The code of ethics and its practice is the least dealt with aspect in the bill. The proposed Ethics and Medical Registration Board for the registration of doctors, receiving and processing complaints against doctors and deciding the disciplinary action, may be further bifurcated as in the UK and Canada, where a tribunal independent of the registry conducts the inquiry and decides disciplinary action.

Making scapegoats of the attending doctor when the institution or system fails a patient is easy for administrators and managers. However, it undermines public trust in the profession and the doctor’s confidence. The rigour and ethics of medical practice are a function of the institutional system in which they occur and therefore institutional ethics need to be coded and enforced as well.

The regulation of the medical profession cannot be like any other sector, since it is about personal services based on professional judgement that is trusted by the user of those services. At the same time, we have to recognise that as a profession, we have brought ourselves to the present situation by not ensuring effective regulation of any kind. Regulatory mechanisms need to address the complexity of medical practice so as not to push doctors into defensive practice, while keeping patient interests paramount. Can professional organisations that have given a reasoned critique of the bill, such as the RDA of AIIMS New Delhi, HSA of West Bengal service doctors and Maharashtra’s ARD, propose regulatory mechanisms that address societal concerns? The onus is on the members of the profession

Prescription for the doctor

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India- A totally disappointing Union Budget 2018 from the Disability perspective

The National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) has issued the following statement:

The Union Budget 2018-19 comes as a big disappointment to the disabled community in the country. It seems as though the disabled do not figure in the Finance Minister’s “fast growth economy” trajectory.

The passage of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 (RPD Act) had ushered in great hopes and expectations among the disabled community who continue to be on the margins. However, the miserly outlays for the various positive provisions contained in the Act point to the utter lack of sincerity on the part of the government to implement its provisions.

The total outlay for the department for the empowerment of persons with disabilities shows a marginal increase of 215 crores as compared to last year. The allocation towards Schemes for the Implementation of the Persons with Disabilities Act (SIPDA) is a mere Rs. 300 crores. This includes provision for the much touted “Accessible India” campaign under which the target set is for making 600 public buildings accessible, 600 official websites accessible and making transport systems accessible among others. It is another matter that the campaign excludes from its ambit the vast majority of the rural areas.

As for railways, the last few budgets have seen grand announcements being made of rail transport and stations being made accessible for all including the disabled. Given the number of unfortunate incidents reported in the media it was expected that the government would respond adequately. While there is no mention about the progress in the implementation of the announcement made last year of providing lifts and escalators in 500 railway stations, this year the Finance Minister has announced that escalators would be provided at 600 stations having a footfall of 25000 and above. Lifts which can be used by the disabled do not find mention in his speech. Also missing mention is about fulfilling the commitment made in the 2016-17 budget to provide accessible toilets at all railway stations.

Further, no new scheme has been announced or any substantial increase in allocation for existing schemes been made despite the mandate of the RPD Act. There has been no upward revision in the amount of disability pension and it remains stagnant at Rs. 300/- for the past many years.

While the Finance Minister lauded the outcomes of various insurance schemes, and also announced the launching of the National Health Protection Scheme, ironically the central government has not been releasing money for the Swavlamban Health Insurance Scheme launched in 2015 for persons with disabilities through the New India Assurance Company Limited. The insurance company has now stopped collecting premium from beneficiaries. It is also disturbing that even while talking of health care the Finance Minister maintained complete silence on Mental Health. This despite the enactment of the Mental Health Care Act in 2017.
Unfortunately, in the absence of disaggregated data on allocations across various ministries for disability a clearer picture does not emerge. This has been one of the key demands of the disability sector.

It becomes abundantly clear that the disabled continued to be abjectly neglected and excluded from the “ease of living” which the Finance Minister so pompously talked about.

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Punjab bans sale of toxic pesticides; similar action needed by the Centre

 CSE Calls for Central government to follow suit in the interest of public health


                    The pesticides banned in Punjab include, Phosphamidion, Methomyl, Phorate, Triazophos and Monocrotophos, and are still used in India along with several other class I pesticides. Credit: Agnimirg Basu/CSE
 The pesticides banned in Punjab include, Phosphamidion, Methomyl, Phorate, Triazophos and Monocrotophos, and are still used in India along with several other class I pesticides. Credit: Agnimirg Basu/CSE

The Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare of the government of Punjab yesterday issued directions to discontinue the sale of 20 pesticides (insecticides), harmful to health of humans and environment with immediate effect. It also directed not to issue any fresh licenses for these pesticides.

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has welcomed this move and urged similar necessary action by the Centre. Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of the New Delhi-based think tank said, “We are pleased to know about this much-needed step. If a state like Punjab, highly dependent on pesticides, acts in the interest of public health, it is incumbent on the Central government to take necessary steps to eliminate sale of highly toxic pesticides in the entire country.”

The pesticides banned in Punjab include, Phosphamidion, Methomyl, Phorate, Triazophos and Monocrotophos, which are considered class I pesticides by the World Health Organization, and are further categorised into extremely hazardous (class Ia) and highly hazardous (class Ib) to human health. Many of these are banned in several countries. For example, Phosphamidon is banned in 49 countries, Phorate in 37, Triazophos in 40 and Monocrotophos is banned in 60 countries.

But India still allows use of these five along with several other class I pesticides. Based on a 2015 review by the Anupam Verma committee, the agriculture ministry through an order of December 2016 planned to ban only three out of these five and that too, starting from 2021.

“We must address the issue of class I pesticides. These account for about 30 per cent of the total insecticide use in our country. The government action in this regard has been largely inadequate so far,” points out Amit Khurana, senior programme manager, Food Safety and Toxins team, CSE.

In the wake of ill-effects of pesticides and deaths related to it in our country, CSE has been advocating for a ban on class I pesticides and a pesticide management bill which fills gaps in laws and strengthens enforcement.http://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/cse-welcomes-punjab-government-s-ban-on-sale-of-toxic-pesticides-59586

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Exposing Union Budget 2018 Analysis from the perspectives of SC/ST

by-P. S. Krishnan

History of neglect and casualness in respect of SCs and STs over the last many years across different Governments continues in the Budget 2018-19.

The goal of liberating the SCs and STs from their basic vulnerabilities has not been kept in view in this Budget as in the previous Budgets of different Governments.

The goal of Equality, which is the Constitutional right of SCs and STs, i.e., enabling SCs and STs to reach the level of Equality, i.e., Equality with Socially Advanced Castes (SACs), i.e, non-SC, non-ST, non-SEdBC castes (NSCTBCs) in all parameters of development, welfare and life, has been neglected in this Budget as in the past Budgets across different Governments; though it is the Constitutionally-mandated duty of the State to promote Equality as above.

Schemes of importance for the liberation of SCs and STs from their vulnerabilities such as a massive national programme of distribution of Government and Bhoodan lands to every rural SC family and, along with them, to ST and other rural landless agricultural labour families, through a centrally-funded Task Force for every Tehsil/Taluq/Mandal of the country with Group Minor Irrigation for all lands of the SCs and STs, have not found place in this Budget also, despite its centrality for SCs and STs and despite its manifold and far-reaching cascading beneficial effects for the country’s economy and society which I have repeatedly pointed out to successive Governments including the present Government, and despite the President of India’s solemn commitment to the nation in his Address to the joint session of the Parliament in 2004.

The provision of Ekalavya school in every Block where tribals constitute majority population and which have not less than 20,000 tribal residents is welcome for the educational advancement of STs – the outlay for this is not found in the Budget and needs to be provided. But the provision of a scheme of residential schools, one for SC boys and one for SC girls, in each Block of the country, as recommended by the Group of Ministers on Dalit Affairs under the Chairmanship of Shri Pranab Mukherjee in 2008, has been again ignored.

Other schemes for educational equalization of SCs and STs ignored.

Arrears of Post-Matric Scholarships to the tune of Rs. 11000 Crores, as I have pointed out to the Finance Minister vide my e-letter to him dated 9.9.2016 and in my pre-Budget letter to the Finance Minister dated 31.12.2017, has not been provided for either in the RE 2017-18 or in the BE 2018-19.

Such accumulation of arrears is contrary to the basic feature of this scheme, that is “open-ended”, which means whatever amounts are required for any number of SC and ST Post-Matric students shall be released in time and formalized in the subsequent RE. Breach of this condition and accumulation of arrears has resulted in a large number of SC and ST students being forced out of the institutions for non-payment of fees.

Measures for prevention of loss of tribal lands and restoration to STs of lands previously lost continue to be missing.

Gross deficit continues in the provision of adequate allocations, not less than the population-proportion of SCs and STs, for SCP and TsP, essential for securing the objectives mentioned above and schemes such as those mentioned above.

Correct methodology of provision of SCP/allocations for SCs and TsP/allocations for STs continues to be evaded, viz., setting apart the share of SCs and STs as an untied corpus and undertaking within this corpus such schemes which will enable the SCs, STs to reach the level of Equality as explained above and be liberated from their basic vulnerabilities.

Out of the total Budgetary outlay for 2018-19, the outlay for Central Sector Schemes and Centrally Sponsored Schemes is Rs 1014450.79 Crores. Out of this,

the outlay for SCP/allocations for welfare of SCs at not less than 16.6% ought to be not leas than Rs 168398.83 crores, but only Rs 56618.50 crores (5.58% instead of 16.6%) has been provided; and

the outlay for TsP/allocations for welfare of STs at not less than 8.6% ought to be not less than Rs 87247.77 crores, but only Rs 39134.73 crores (3.86% instead of 8.6%) has been provided.

Compared to the requirements at 16.6% and 8.6% respectively, there is shortfall of Rs 111780.33 Crores in the outlay for SCP/allocations for welfare of SCs and of Rs 48108.04 Crores in the outlay for TsP/allocations for welfare of STs, as can be seen in the following Table:-

Shortfall in SCP/Allocation for SCs and TsP/Allocation for STs in Central Sector Schemes + Centrally Sponsored Schemes in Budget 2018-19

Total outlay for Central Sector Schemes + Centrally Sponsored Schemes (Rs Crores) Allocations ought to have been made at not less than 16.6% for SCP and not less than 8.6% for TsP     (Rs Crores) Allocations made

(Rs Crores)

 

Shortfall

(Rs crores)

1014450.79 SCP Not less than 168398.83 (16.6%) 56618.50

(only 5.58%)

111780.33
TSP Not less than 87242.77   (8.6%) 39134.73

(only 3.86%)

48108.04

 

 

 

Even these provisions for SCP/TsP do not follow the correct methodology of including in SCP/TsP only outlays for schemes/programmes which exclusively benefit SC and ST individuals, families, households, habitations and institutions etc. and which will enable them to reach Equality as explained above and be liberated from their basic vulnerabilities, and instead is a result of arithmetical-statistical jugglery as in the past.

Print and electronic media, with their focus on matters like personal income tax and return of long-term capital gains, have ignored these vital aspects of the Budget pertaining to the SCs and STs; such stray and casual remarks as some of them have made are superficial and misleading.

My detailed Paper, as in the case of past Budgets for many years, elaborating these points and also continuing neglect of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes will follow shortly.

    1. 2018

 

This is preliminary analysis exposing understanding of BJP‘s scholars and Bhakts directing Economic Survey and Budget formulation in the light of Sovereign, Socialistic, Republic and Democratic India

 

In the year 2014-15 Rs. 20,513 Cr and in the year 2016-17 Rs. 4,499 Cr remains unspent from the welfare fund of Scheduled Castes.

For Scheduled Tribes Rs. 12,466 Cr remain unspent in the year 2014-15 and in the year 2016-17 it is Rs. 2,195 Cr.

Percentage of allocation from total Budget 2018-19 is less (SC-2.32% for SC and 1.60% for ST)  than that of the year 2014-15 (SC-2.82% and ST – 1.8%).

Prepared by Delhi Solidarity Group from Union Budget documents.

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Rajasthan, West Bengal Bypoll : Congress and TMC perform clean sweep, BJP routed

Amid the excitement of 2018 Union Budget, bypoll results for five seats in two states were announced on Thursday. The Congress and TMC performed a clean sweep in Rajasthan and West Bengal respectively, while the BJP failed to open its account in all seats, including three it previously held in Rajasthan.

Two Lok Sabha seats and one Assembly seat were up for grabs in Rajasthan and one Lok Sabha seat and one Assembly seat was contested in West Bengal.

Congress’ Rajasthan sweep wins praise from Rahul

In a spectacular showing, the Congress won the Mandalgarh Assembly seat and the Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha seats, sparking wild celebrations.

Hundreds of Congress activists burst firecrackers and danced to drum beats outside the party office in Jaipur as its candidate Vivek Dhakar trounced Bharatiya Janata Party‘s Shakti Singh Hada by 12,976 votes. Many among them distributed sweets.

While Dhakar netted 70,146 votes, Hada secured 57,170 in the by-election held on 29 January, Election Commission officials said. The election followed the death of BJP MLA Kirti Kumari due to swine flu in August.

In Ajmer, with 61 percent of the votes in, Raghu Sharma of the Congress had 391,754 votes. The BJP’s Ram Swaroop Lamba was at 313,706 votes.

Alwar saw a clash between Yadavs: Congress’s Karan Singh Yadav defeated BJP’s Jaswant Singh Yadav by 1,56,319 votes. According to News18both candidates are doctors from the Yadav community which holds significant sway in Alwar. Jaswant conceded defeat and blamed the delay in the announcement of his candidature for his loss.

Congress candidates led from the beginning in vote count in both Lok Sabha seats and edged past the BJP in Mandalgarh after initially being in second place. The BJP Rajasthan chief Ashok Parnami, in a press conference, acknowledged defeat and said his party respected people’s mandate. “We will work harder and form government in 2019,” he said.

Meanwhile, Congress president Rahul Gandhi also praised the state unit on Twitter:

Forty-two candidates were in the fray in the three seats, all of which were held by the BJP. There were 23 contestants in Ajmer and 11 in Alwar. The elections to the Lok Sabha constituencies were necessitated by the deaths of Sanwarlal Jat (Ajmer) and Mahant Chand Nath Yogi (Alwar).

With Assembly elections scheduled later this year in Rajasthan, Congress leaders insisted that the verdict was a rejection of the BJP. Congress leader and former Union minister Sachin Pilot demanded Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje’s resignation on moral grounds. “It is a victory for people, party workers and all leaders,” Pilot told the media.

He said the BJP, after failing to woo the voters on the strength of religion, tried to polarise voters on caste lines but failed to fool the young voters. “Young people in this country have realised that the politics of polarisation doesn’t work,” he said. “The high-handedness and arrogance (of the BJP) has been rejected.”

Congress leader and former chief minister Ashok Gehlot said the results were a precursor to the 2019 general elections. “This by-election is a vote against BJP’s divisive politics.” He took a dig at the state BJP government, saying apart from changing the names of Congress-era schemes, the chief minister had done nothing concrete for the people in the past four years.

“Unemployment is hurting the youth. Today’s trends can be seen as precursor to not just state Assembly polls later this year but also to the next Lok Sabha polls,” Gehlot said.

TMC wins big in West Bengal

In a formidable showing, West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress wrested the Noapara Assembly seat from the Congress and retained the Uluberia Lok Sabha seat.

In the Noapara bypoll, necessitated by the death of Congress legislator Madhusudan Ghose, Trinamool’s Sunil Singh won by more than 63,000 votes over his nearest rival Sandip Banerjee of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Left Front-backed Communist Party of India-Marxist candidate Gargi Chatterjee finished a close third, after running second in the initial rounds of counting.

In Uluberia, the BJP surprised everyone by taking an early lead, but eventually TMC candidate Sajda Ahmed surged ahead and registered an emphatic win by a margin of 4,74,023 votes against Anupam Mallik of the BJP, who got 2,93,046 votes.

In the 2014 general elections, Trinamool’s Sultan Ahmed defeated his closest opponent Sabir Uddin Molla of the LF-backed Communist Party of India-Marxist by a little over two lakh votes. Sultan Ahmed’s death necessitated the bypoll, with the Trinamool nominating his widow Sajda.

Molla, who is the CPM candidate this time also, was in third place, far behind Mallik. Three years ago, the BJP managed only 11.55 percent of the votes in Uluberia. Congress candidate Goutam Bose finished a distant fourth and forfeited his deposit in Noapara, which the party won in the 2016 Assembly polls in alliance with the Left Front. In Uluberia too, Congress was in the fourth position.

With inputs from agencies

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